babies

Postpartum Depression Has a Face- It’s The Woman Standing Next To You

 

I wanted to write this post for a while now. I started it several times, and walked away. Now that it’s over it’s difficult to look at how bad it actually was, but I think there’s a part of me that will always see my life as before and after this.

Our world of visuals and social media pours out an onslaught of information and pictures, and yet there’s still this misconception that depression looks sad, that mental illness is easily recognized, that the person sitting next to you is exactly what you think.

But sometimes depression looks like this:

Or this:

Or this:

I had this picture in my mind of PPD and it never included me. I pictured it as somehow being directed toward my baby, but for me it wasn’t that way. 

Depression looks different on different people. 

Sometimes postpartum depression is sitting in a room full of people and feeling totally alone. It’s smiling, and chatting, and saying all the right things, while your mind is screaming out, “Can’t you see this? Can’t you see what’s wrong with me?” Sometimes it’s gasping for air and crying so hard your body aches. Sometimes it’s being afraid to be alone, but then desperately wishing all these people weren’t around. Sometimes it’s like watching yourself from outside yourself and feeling like a shadow.

Postpartum depression doesn’t carry a name tag.

Sometimes it looks like this:

Or this:

Or this:

It’s clinging to that loving hand that wants so much to help and fix it, but he can’t. And knowing that he wants to and can’t makes you feel even worse, and even more depressed. Or on another day, not wanting him anywhere near and resenting that he can’t understand what’s going on. And then more guilt that there was resentment when he’s trying his best and is so confused. It’s feeling panic one moment, and not caring about anything at all the next. It’s feeling totally suffocated by basic tasks like washing a dish or making a phone call – and then feeling overwhelmed by all the things that didn’t get done.

It’s lonely. Depression is so desperately, horribly lonely.

I went through all the motions, I followed all the rules, I thought if I could just get through the day, tomorrow would be better. I smiled. And I smiled. And I smiled. I kissed my husband goodbye every day, and parented alone for hours and days and nights. I held my babies, and read them stories, made them snacks, took them to parties. Kind, good, wonderful people everywhere. Surrounded by people and I felt invisible. 

I quickly realized that some people were easier than others to be around. Some people would leave my heart feeling rested, and I found myself trying to be near them, and avoid others. There were women who lifted me up without knowing I had fallen. There was love there, there was good… I can see it now so clearly, but I couldn’t then. 

People told me I was such a good mother, such a good wife, such a happy person. And I wanted just one person to ASK. “Are you okay?” I wanted just one person to notice what I couldn’t find the words to say. (A lot of them actually did notice, and when I  started to open up, they ended up telling me so.)

I couldn’t understand. The depression I’d experienced during pregnancy had passed. Cassandra was born and that cloud had lifted. I was myself again. The weeks passed and everything felt normal – as normal as life ever is with 4 kids! And then when she was about 3 months, it came crashing back in with a fury, and I couldn’t stop the waves.

Tomorrow will better, tomorrow will be better, tomorrow will be better.

Days worth of todays and tomorrows, stuck in a box of horror, and I couldn’t find the door.

And then tomorrow came, and I found myself standing in front of the mirror, tears streaming down my face, a weight on my chest that I couldn’t remove – and in that moment, I understood.

I stood there in the quiet house, my husband at work, my babies sleeping peacefully. And I thought, for the first time in my life, that it might be better for my sweet loves if I wasn’t here at all. It seemed, in that moment, so unfair to all of them, who mean the world to me, that they should have someone like me in their lives. It seemed like such a reasonable option to remove myself from their lives and at the same time escape from this horrible, torturous prison in my own mind.

It’s hard to even write those words. It’s terrifying to realize how the mind can turn on itself and betray the body it leads.

I texted my friend. She saved me that night. I told her everything, and she understood. She’d had it, too. She knew. She could finish my sentences as I was describing what was happening.

I texted another friend. Her practical suggestions and information made things feel manageable, and the path to healing began.

Sometimes postpartum depression looks like this:

Or this:

Or this: 

I went to the doctor. I got the help I needed. I opened up to trusted friends and family. The baby is almost 7 months now, and the depression has gone. I can hope it has gone for good.

Depression, anxiety, mental illness – they don’t come with casts and bandages, they don’t ring a bell and give their name. They smile and laugh and talk about the weather.

I’m often told that I’m “so happy.” And I am. I believe, I will always believe in the good. But there were days, so many days in this past year that brought me to my knees. Days that I had to quite literally CHOOSE joy and choose love, when everything inside my mind and body was telling me to give up.

Postpartum depression has a face. It’s your neighbor, your friend, your sister, your daughter, your wife.

It’s the woman standing next to you.

Xoxo,

Anna

(PS. If any of this sounds too familiar, or you’re struggling, PLEASE reach out. You are not alone, you are not invisible. You are loved and you are needed. Call a friend, call your doctor, don’t wait. Xoxo)

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The Beautiful Ordinary 

I’ve seen a few different posts floating around social media that seem to be written solely for the purpose of a giant YES! THIS! from the 20 or so people that already agree with it. 

Reasons why millennials aren’t having kids. The importance of DOING ALL THE THINGS before being weighed down by boring life. Life choices that seem unimaginable, argued for in the most degrading language, and desperate terms.

The hopelessness, the anger, the bitterness that poured out managed to shock me, and for several hours the words stuck in my heart, with a vague distate that anyone could write this way, never mind feel it.

Sometimes I think that our photo-filled, “adventure-seeking” world has forgotten how to live, because we’re all too busy running, impressing, buying. There’s this constant expectation that to be fulfilled we must be EXCITING!! Travel! Get a hobby! Try new things! Start a business! Be this, be that! And while we’re all running around trying to do everything and be everything, life is passing by without anyone actually living it.

 Excitement and adventure are good – one part of a well-balanced life. 

One part. Not the whole. 

Excitement without rest becomes stress. Adventure without routine becomes monotony. Self-focus without generosity becomes narcissism. 

Here, in my heart and my family, I am always looking for the balance. I’ve learned to say yes to some things and no to others. I’ve learned that calm in my own mind and soul inevitably trickles out into my home and the hearts around me. 

I look around me and see ordinary – everywhere. In our tiny home, our minimal possessions, our simple food, and our careful budget. I see the faces – all those little faces, and the face of the man I love – all these loved ones that are part of a life I’d dreamed of for so long.

For me, this ordinary life, motherhood, marriage – this is beautiful. In the ordinary, I have found love and a contentment I had never known.

 In this beautiful, ordinary life – I have found everything that matters most to me. 

Xoxo, 

Anna 

 

All The Love In My Heart

Sometimes I look at them and wonder how on earth they’re all mine. 😉😜👦👧👦👶

True story –  I started counting down to bedtime around 4:00. I totally skipped pages when I was reading their book. (To be fair, their book of choice was non-fiction about space travel. I mean… what’s wrong with some good old “Curious George” or fairy tales? 😂)
I fed them dinner on paper plates, and I’m not sure who brushed their teeth and who didn’t.

I ran from room to room, answering calls for water, potty, kisses, blankets, and – not for the first time – I wished for my husband to have a “day job” that would leave him home to parent with me for the bedtime hours.

I rushed from child to child, until I heard one small voice call out: “Mommy, you’re the goodest mommy. When I’m a Mommy I’m going to show all my love in my heart like you.”

Oh, you guys. I’m not the goodest mommy, and I was barely feeling like an okay one today. But somehow for them, I was “showing all my love in my heart.”

If I do nothing else in all my life, here, in this home, there will ALWAYS be love.

Some days, we’ll make cute Pinterest desserts, and some days we’ll eat hot dogs on paper plates. Some days, I’ll laugh, and play and read every book in the pile, and some days I’ll skip pages in the one book I read. But always, always, always – I will show them all my love in my heart.

Today and every day – I will show them my love.

Xoxo,

Anna

I Was Here

 

I want them to remember that I was here.

Sometimes I was here in big, exciting ways: hosting parties and holidays, arranging surprises, planning vacations, and doing Pinteresty projects.

Sometimes I was here in quiet ways: drying tears, reading books, cuddling during thunderstorms, making snacks, folding laundry, budgeting for necessities and fun, driving them to the activities and friends they love.

Sometimes I was barely here at all, just going through the motions of the day. Watching the clock and wishing it would move more quickly so that I could call for bedtime.

Sometimes I wished I wasn’t here. When the heavy weight crushed down on me, when the enormous responsibility of this motherhood life felt too overwhelming – then I would cry hot, aching tears that didn’t stop, terrified that I was not the mother I am supposed to be, resentful of the freedom that was no longer mine.

But, my sweet loves, Mama was here. Always here. Here for the good and the beautiful that I love to share, and here for the darkness, too.

Remember that Mama was here, that Mama tried and tried again, and remember –  always – that you are loved with every part of my heart.

Xoxo,

Anna

Happiness Now

 

“Happiness – not in another place, but this place… not for another hour, but for this hour.”

Sometimes bedtime is quiet and snuggly, with lullabies sung and stories read.

Aaaaand sometimes bedtime looks more like this, with wrestling brothers, my 3-year-old jump-dancing, and the baby left to watch the show from the floor.

Many nights, to be honest, I rush through the bedtime routine, anxious for that tiny break before the night time calls begin. (Even so, with all the calls for “water/kisses/one more/cozy me!!” multiplied by 4 it’s never quite as fast as I’d like! 😂)

  But some nights, their laughter is too precious to interrupt, and the minutes tick by with no one caring.

Happiness now, in this place, in this hour. Not tomorrow, or next year – now.

Because this moment is all I am promised with them, and in this moment, I choose love.

Xoxo,

Anna

No Regrets

No Regrets

The other day, a woman I know, a mother of 12 (!!!!), asked me how I was. “And how are all those beautiful babies?”

I usually just smile and say I’m great, but today I told her, “Mrs X, I’m SO TIRED. I’m always tired, and then I’m tired of being tired, you know?”

She smiled. She put a gentle, wrinkled hand on mine, and said, “I do know. I remember feeling exactly the same way. You’ll be tired for a while more. You will have days, weeks when you feel like there’s no end in sight. But I promise you, one day you will sleep uninterrupted, and they won’t need you this much.

You’ll look around and be surrounded by so much love, that YOU helped create, and I’m here to tell you, you will never regret a single tired day.”

Holding onto that today, you guys.

“Creating love.”

Holding onto that with all my heart.

xoxo, Anna

A Star Wars Party & Mikey is 6!

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Mikey, 6 years ago, you made me a mother. In these 6 years, you have taught me more about life and love than I could have ever imagined. You showed me the importance of gentleness, the power of words, the beauty of the every day. Your thoughtfulness makes me think, and your compassion has softened my own heart. You challenge me to see the world in a different light, because that world will one day belong to you. Your strong spirit, your intelligence, your kind heart, and your silly humor add so much to our family, and I am forever grateful to be your mother. Mama and Daddy love you!!!!

Excuse my mama moment, but that needed to happen. 😉
Anyway, like pretty much every 6-year-old boy right now, he’s obsessed with Star Wars, and requested a Star Wars theme for his birthday party. We only do “big” parties for 1, 5, 10, but every birthday deserves a celebration. Also – who am I kidding – I absolutely love putting little theme parties together. 😆

Mikey asked for a Darth Maul costume. He put it on as soon as we gave it to him, and started acting all tough. Ha.

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A few free food labels found on Pinterest, some Dollar Tree decorations, and DIY Jedi robes made him the happiest kid around… and kept things nice and easy for me! #winning

Table photos! 😉

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I found an “easy DIY pattern” for jedi robes, which of course, wouldn’t have been easy for me at all.  I can’t sew to save my life. But I took the pattern to my aunt, who whipped up a whole bunch of robes with her usual awesomeness. Huge hit with the kids. Lucas offered to model one for you. 😉

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So many smiles, so much laughter, and another day of memories added to my mama heart.
Happy Birthday, son of mine. You are so very, very loved!!

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Xoxo,
Anna