PPD- The Power of Perspective

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This past July we celebrated my daughters 4th birthday and I’m just amazed at the person she is growing into. She is feisty, she is strong she is determined and this mama couldn’t be more proud. Where did the last four years go? It seems like yesterday I was waiting to go into labour and start our life as a family of four and here I am today, just amazed and how fast time truly fly’s. The days are long but the years are short has so much more meaning now than it did back then.

The other day I had a Facebook memory pop up on my phone and usually I LOVE seeing those older pictures of my babies, but this one, in particular, caught me off guard. This one photo holds a really special place in my heart and it’s only now I can look at it through a slightly different lens, a lens that four years of perspective allows me to see the things I was actually doing right versus all the things I thought I was doing wrong.

This picture is of me and my daughter at about 8 weeks postpartum. This day was actually the first day that I thought I felt a slight lift in the heavy fog that surrounded us. It was like I couldn’t truly see her. She was still a bit of a stranger to me. I never really knew what a strong bond was until I didn’t have one. It was also one of the first days I had mentioned to my family I thought I was struggling and for a brief moment, I thought it would maybe get better on its own. So there I am, exhausted and trying my best to be a good mom. Sitting in a rocking chair, which we brought outside if you hadn’t noticed, in hopes she would stay calm so that we could simply enjoy a summer evening.

She was about two weeks old when I first started my downward spiral of complete overwhelm, sadness, anger and exhaustion which lead to a very difficult experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. She was colicky, wasn’t nursing well and for a mother who previously nursed her first daughter, not being able to comfort my child with one of the best mothering tools there is, was extremely difficult. I had a toddler to care for and a newborn who cried all day and I was lost. Completely lost.

Seeing this photo four years later, on one hand, takes me right back to those early days. Those days that I thought I would never survive. That my life would be like this forever and that I must have made a huge mistake thinking I could be a great mom. The thing is, PPD robs you of perspective. PPD lies to you and makes you feel like you’re a terrible mother when in fact, you’re working overtime to do the best you can.

4 years later through the lens of perspective, I can see that I was and AM a good mom. That I loved my babies and did my best to care for them even though I was suffering. I can see this photo now and realize I deserved help. I can see that I simply didn’t have the information at my fingertips to realize sooner that PPD is a real illness that is TEMPORARY and TREATABLE. I can see now that my sweet baby loved me as she’s curled up snug with her mama even though back then I wouldn’t have believed that.

4 years later seeing this photo doesn’t make me break into tears, or at least not sad tears, because I’ve been able to learn the difference between guilt and regret thanks to the amazing Kate Kripke, who I had a pleasure of listening to at the Postpartum Progress Warrior Mom conference in Boston a few years ago. Please take a minute to read my WMC recap post for more on what I learned there. I may regret the way those early months went, and truly that first year, but I am NOT guilty of it because it wasn’t my fault.

The entire time I struggled, I knew deep down that this was happening for a reason. I think that birth and motherhood has this way of teaching us the lessons we didn’t even know we had to learn. The two biggest lessons I can take away from this extremely difficult time in my life was that first and foremost, that I need to take care of MYSELF before I can really take care of anyone else! The best way I can care for my family is to care for myself because when I’m feeling healthy and strong that overflows to them. I cannot mother on an empty tank!

The second lesson I learned is that my story matters and there is a lot of power in “me too”. My struggle created an opportunity to raise awareness and support the moms coming up next. To challenge the status quo and fight for the need to improve support for women and families across the province. It gave me front row seat to what 1 in 5 new mothers across the country are currently struggling with and now I know firsthand what women truly need to feel better. This experience has inspired me to move forward in building Family First into a strong community resource and a place where women can find the education they need to get better much sooner.

So today, if you’re finding yourself in the heat of a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder (PMAD), or maybe you’re the mom hauling a rocking chair outside tonight just to enjoy a summer evening, there is help and you are not alone.

Please check out the tools section of our site for free resources that include information about what this illness really is, how partners can support recovery and an EPDS screening tool you can use at home or bring to your doctor to discuss together. We also offer one on one social support sessions for those who are unsure of where to start and just wanted to talk to someone who has been there.

Above all, we are here to help in any way we can and just know, a little help goes a long way. You don’t have to figure it out alone!

Sara