No Mother Is An Island: Surviving Postpartum Depression 

For the first year of my daughter’s life, while the fog of depression had enveloped me, I was positive I was alone. (Image:Thinkstock)

My daughter was just reaching her first birthday before the dense fog of postpartum depression started to lift off of me. I didn’t realize it right away, though – and I certainly hadn’t even realized I was suffering from PPD at all. 

I’d had this idea in my mind that PPD manifested itself as a dark monster that inclined new mothers to feel disdain over their child’s very existence, to perhaps cause harm to them, or worse, even.

Except I felt nothing but electric magnetism toward my own child; and more, I lived the first four months of her life in pure elation. I was happier and more fulfilled than I’d ever been. So when that four-month mark came around, and I realized the profound effect that sleep deprivation was having on me, I found that I’d already slipped deep into a hole and hadn’t the first clue how to function inside of it, let alone how to begin clawing my way out. 

My return to the workforce, which was not remotely what I wanted for myself, coincided with the realization that my baby was a boob girl through and through – she’d not take a bottle to save her life, and so it was my duty to turn from full-time mother to some form of mother-employee hybrid, baby on the boob while I tapped away at the keyboard at my desk, while I simultaneously worked toward healing my ravaged body. My breasts dripped milk steadily down my torso and thighs at any point that I didn’t have that human boob barnacle of mine affixed to me, and my vagina felt so ruined that all I could think to do was cry; having a hurricane of hormones rip through my brain just had that way about it. 

I know, of course, that there’s nothing about this picture that I’m painting that would make a single girl in her early twenties want anything to do with motherhood. At the same time, though, there’s likely nothing about this picture that would make any existing mother bat an eye. We put our bodies and our hearts on the chopping block when we grow, birth and raise these children of ours – but why is it that it so often feels so alienating? Why are we so inclined to keep our struggles to ourselves? 

Seasoned mamas, it is up to us to light the path. It is our responsibility to remind onlookers that we are not everything all the time; nor do we have any remote idea about how to conquer motherhood in a single easy step. 

For the first year of my daughter’s life, while the fog of depression had enveloped me, I was positive I was alone. While I knew that sure, some mothers had sustained severe perineal tears as I had, and that yes, all mothers had gone through intense levels of sleep deprivation, and the likelihood was great that there was at least one other woman out there whose right nipple bled and hurt so badly that she, too, was looking for a leather belt upon which to clamp her teeth while nursing, there surely wasn’t a mother out there, both living or since passed, who’d experienced the gamut of my issues all at once. 

There I was trying to balance the world on one arm while the other held and consoled my baby.

My vagina underwent two reparative surgeries over the course of five months, and I waded through the mire of new motherhood an entire country away from my family and all that was familiar to me. I convinced myself with utmost certainty that nobody on the face of the planet knew exactly what I was going through, or exactly how I felt, and so I was forced to walk this road alone. Because God forbid I should reach out for help, or even utter a single word about my uncertainty, my sadness or my fear. 

What I hadn’t realized, though, was that just beyond the line of my sight there existed swaths of women out there, both those who were drowning in this same sea mere feet from me, and those who’d found their way to shore and were readily tossing out life preservers to those who reached for them.

Because while I was crying into my soggy cereal, I was scrolling through my social media feeds and seeing image after image of clean, white backdrops, perfectly behaved children and strikingly beautiful parents who clearly had it all put together. It made me look at my own bloated, tear-streaked face in the mirror, criticize myself for wearing a puke-stained hoodie for nine days straight, and become certain that I was in the wrong for looking and feeling the way I did. I believed that I should be effectively banned to my room until I could come out looking presentable like the rest of the class. 

It is of vital importance that we hold ourselves accountable with regard to what we put out, what we take in, and what we expose ourselves to on social media. There exist so many outlets that inadvertently warp our ideas of what we’re supposed to look like or how we’re meant to feel. 

And so whether it’s because the lighting isn’t quite right in our own photos or because we haven’t yet mastered Lightroom, we deem ourselves, perhaps, ever so slightly less-than, and are by some swift and nearly unnoticeable accident pushed into thinking we’re alone on an island of tumultuous emotion.

Seasoned mamas, it is up to us to light the path. It is our responsibility to remind onlookers that we are not everything all the time; nor do we have any remote idea about how to conquer motherhood in a single easy step. 

And new mamas, as I was not, you are also not alone.

Just beyond our line of vision there exists a sea of mothers – empowered, grieving, bereaved, joy-filled, and every other sort you can imagine, with stories and strength to lend. We exist beyond and among the ideal imagery that floats around you; we are at times hard to see or hear because we’re floundering in laundry, voices drowned out by petulant, angry children on loudspeakers, or simply because we’re hiding in the closet with a bottle of wine and a bendy straw; but hear me when I tell you: we are here beside you.

We struggle, we climb, we weep and we glow. Seek us out and you will find us. 

Our only request is that you come bearing snacks and a bendy straw of your own. 

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