"Yes, Mother. I can see that you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me."
In just over a month, it will be Orion's first birthday. The one year mark since I became a mother, and it has been a winding, hilly road for me to navigate. But with each step I take along it, with each stumble, perceived failure, each small victory and giant toothy smile, I am grateful to be on this journey. Grateful to be the mother of this boy who is as changeable as the Seas near which he was conceived.
Surprisingly to me, motherhood has not just been a discovery of love and caring for another person, but has been a rediscovery of how to love and care for myself. It drove me deep within my heart and mind to sort boxes of cobwebbed memories, hurts and baggage and to perform a healing burn. It's taught me that though I may love this little soul unflinchingly and without judgement, that I need to love myself more. Otherwise everything else which I strive to build will ultimately crumble around me.
As he has grown, so have I. Yet, had you told me this while I was pregnant, or even during those first sun soaked, milk damp, sweet skinned weeks of his being with me I would never have believed you. My focus was on being a good mother, a better mother, perhaps a perfect one. With endless wells of patience and reserves of calm that would inspire awe. With honey sweet words, thousands of kisses and never a sour word or askance look at the little piece of my heart I held tightly against my chest. Always trusting my intuition, never doubting, never letting anyone's criticisms get under my skin. I'd pace the floors endlessly as he wailed if needed and be grateful for the opportunity to do so, so much more grateful for the fear of not being able to conceive and the marathon of strength and endurance that was his birth.
I was so prepared for all the light and perfection, that reality threw me directly in to the waiting maws of the Darkness. With each pain that shot through my back, with each tear that stung my eyes when he rooted at a raw and bloody breast, with every whispered prayer to the Universe for some motherfucking sleep my heart was torn asunder by strong waves of guilt. When my illusions shattered around me, I hated myself as much as I loved my son. I was a failure, a horrible excuse for a mother, I didn't deserve this blessing that so many other women wished and prayed for. I felt like I was betraying the sacredness of motherhood, like I was letting my son down, like I was letting my husband down. I felt so very weak, small and unworthy.
How could I expect to raise him up to be strong, confident, free spirited, happy and emotionally healthy when I couldn't even keep the promises I had made waiting for him to be born? How could I teach him the skills he'd need, model how to approach emotions in a healthy manner when I was so ruled and ripped apart by my own? Crying with joy and guilt at the drop of a pin for the better part of most days? How could I interact with him and help him to develop properly, when I was adhering to unrealistic expectations to perfection that I couldn't seem to let go of?
I didn't expect Motherhood to leave me raw and wounded, but it did. I remembered the promise I'd made to myself, to Joe, and our unborn child months before when I'd said that I was worried my depression could lead to PPD and I sought help. And now the wounds are healing and I'm discovering new parts of myself sprouting from the scar tissue cracks that pepper my heart and mind. I'm softer, kinder and more patient. Not just with my family, but with everybody. I'm less negative than I can remember being since my incredibly jaded teen years. Slowly, but surely, the Darkness is dissipating. More slowly than I'd like, to be sure, but the very best things in my life have been worth waiting for - I waited for both of my boys for difference reasons - and so, I will keep doing the exercises my therapist recommends, keep eating as well as I can, keep sneaking in sleep and me time when I'm able and let the dishes sit in the sink for the night. Even though it drives me bat shit crazy. Because the moments I spend with my family and with myself are far more valuable than a clean sink. And I know I will never regret those, though I may regret missing something in favor of a daily chore.
Postpartum Depression scars deeply though. Not only am I having to heal from the day to day effects of it, but I need to heal from the deeper wounds it's given me. Namely regret, guilt and sorrow that I wasn't the mother I am now when Orion was so very small and new to this world. That I can never get those days back, can never change the way that I felt when sadness and oh gods, even resentment, washed over me. I can never be the mother I wanted so desperately to be, because that level of perfection is unobtainable. And though I know it's an evil fucking fluctuation and imbalance of hormones, that it's not my fault that this happened, I wish to hell that I could change it. That I could go back and hold my own hand at 2 months postpartum, that I could whisper in to my ear to get help NOW because in 9 short months I'd be missing all of these little moments and sobbing with guilt.
I think I finally understand what people mean when they talk about a soul wound. Postpartum depression has wounded my soul.
But, it will heal in time. Because the love I have for my son has kindled something new in me, a flicker of love for myself. And as I tend this fire of self love, I know I can find forgiveness.
And one day, those pictures of that wounded woman holding my newborn son won't make me sob with guilt, but with love for them both.
I've been writing a lot recently about postpartum depression and the state of my mental health. There are a few reasons for this:
1) I am fucking proud of myself for reaching out for help, for not trying to tough it out and for making progress. Pride in myself is sort of a new feeling for me, so I'm shouting it down from the rooftops to anyone who will listen.
2) It helps me to rationalize it all and to heal to get it out. And months from now, when I reread this it will serve as a benchmarker of my progress.
3) It may help others know that they aren't alone and that it's OK to talk about it. I felt so ashamed of the way I felt, but I reached out to a few very close friends to talk and was shocked that most of them had suffered similarly. And that of those that had, most had not sought help and wished they had.