Being someone who is a birth worker and tends to lean more towards working with women and children, I often come across many women expecting or who recently experienced the birth of their child. When I became pregnant with my son, I seemed to get to know more women who were pregnant. You can't help but love these women that you go on this journey with, whether it is for a trimester or practically the entire pregnancy. I would talk with moms about laboring, nurturing their baby, and just getting used to life as a mom. You literally become a different person. You walk away from your child's birth a different person.
Over the last nine months since Ezra's birth, I have watched as many of my friends have suffered from postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and even the baby blues. One thing I've learned from all of this is there is not nearly enough awareness. During your pregnancy you are bombarded with information about laboring, birthing, which gadgets are the best, to cosleep or not, to vaccinate or not, to babywear or not, and the list goes on and on. All of your attention is put on the baby. Suddenly everything is about your new child and no one checks in to see if you are okay. Do you check in to see if you are okay?
I have a handful of friends, close friends, who have suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. I happened to be one of the lucky women who haven't had to deal with this. The closest thing I experienced to postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety was the month leading up to my son's surgery. I felt so much despair but mostly anxiety. I wondered what was wrong with me and why I was so scared when kids go through this all the time. Then his surgery happened, he recovered, and life moved on. I suffered in silence until about we week prior to his surgery. I'm hoping that what I went through gave me some understanding- but I know what I went through wasn't the same thing.
There are so many things I want to say to those who suffer from this. I hope this comes out right & I hope you will see where my heart is!
So this my dear friends, and if you are reading this, you beautiful ladies know who you are and this is for you!
An open letter to my dear friend(s) who are suffering from postpartum depression.
How many hours have we spent talking about birth, breastfeeding, baby wearing, first foods, sleepless nights, and how fast our little ones were growing? How many times have we sent each other random questions or funny pictures with the caption "mom-fail"? How many hours did I cry to you because I was concerned about going into labor early?
I know you are suffering and my heart aches for you. I wish I could take all the depression and anxiety away from you. I wish I could stuff it into a box and ship it far far far away. I wish I knew exactly what to say or do that would make you feel better. I wish I could be exactly what you need, but I know that it isn't possible to be everything for someone.
Some of you are first time moms like me and for some of you this is your second or third child. Some of you suffered with PPD after the first birth of your child and for a few of you this is a completely new thing. We all knew that PPD was possible & almost all of us took measures to lessen the chances, such as consuming our placenta, breastfeeding, and bonding with the baby as much as possible.
I remember the day you told me that you were at your breaking point. I remember sitting in silence and feeling so sad for you but then I was so proud of you for admitting it. Depression in general is something that many people won't admit they are going through, let alone postpartum depression. I remember searching for words to say but not being able to find something that adequately expressed that I was there for you. Everyone says "I'm here for you" but how many people really mean it?
I feel like I don't always know what to say-- and when I do say something I usually end up putting my foot in my mouth. You see,I've read up on PPD & PPA. Even though I've read about it, it's not something I can fully grasp unless I have dealt with it myself or lived closely with someone who did. I have spent hours searching "How to be a good friend to someone suffering from PPD" or "How to show support to someone with PPD & PPA". Every book and article says to take a different approach. Sometimes I will try to say something like the books say to say to your loved ones, but it never comes out right.
One thing I have learned from this experience and from you, is that there is such a big misconception about PPD & PPA. The media & Hollywood make it out to be some Taboo thing or it is a hush hush thing that people don't talk about. I wish more people talked about this! I think if it was talked about more, then maybe you wouldn't have to shoulder as much of this burden. I've listened as you've told me that people simply tell you that you "need more of Jesus in your life", or "You need to go back to church", or "Just stop being depressed, get out and enjoy the sunshine-- you will feel better". Those people are uneducated and don't know any better. I'm pretty certain I've even said ridiculous things to you & not realized it. Knowing you has taught me to not be afraid of PPD or PPA. Knowing you has made me look into it further. Knowing you makes me want to understand it so I can be a better friend to you & to others.
As time has gone on since my son's birth, I've felt guilty. I've felt guilty because I am not suffering in the same ways that you are. I get caught in between trying to find the words to speak that will make you feel better & knowing that I can't just say something and "poof" you're better. I feel guilty for not talking to you as often as I had before. I feel guilty when I have exciting news and want to share it with you. I feel guilty that my postpartum experience has been pretty good. The guilt I feel at times has been so immense that I feel like it almost drives a wedge between us.
So I've done my best to be a good friend. I tell you I am always here for you if you need me. I tell you I'm just a text message, phone call, email, and Facebook message away. I try to give you as much space as you need. Sometimes I feel like my messages and phone calls stress you out more or upset you in some way. Sometimes I feel like I say all the wrong things- so I try not to really say anything. Instead, I wait. I wait for this to get better for you & pray everyday gets easier.
Throughout my own life, I have had the dark and twisties from time to time. I've dealt with depression in silence. I recently had one of those times before my son's surgery. At first I just needed space. I needed time and space to figure it all out in my own way. I had to figure out my emotions and what I was feeling. I just needed space but I wanted to know that people were there when I was ready to talk. I would cry in the shower or on the way home from the grocery store. I did a lot of praying and hoping that I would snap out of it. When I was ready to talk, some people were there. Some people flat out stopped talking to me. Some people told me to get over myself-- people did this everyday it was no big deal. Some people told me stop being sad. That was the hardest thing, people didn't want to be there for me. So if you noticed I've been more quiet, it's because I'm giving you space. I don't want to say the wrong thing. I don't want to make you feel worse-- not ever.
I have no intention of leaving your life-- none whatsoever. I don't want to lose you, I love you! If I seem distant, please know that I'm not distant at all! I'm just over here trying to figure out what to say or do. I pray for you whenever you come to mind. I am doing my best to hold the space for you and please be patient with me, as I've never done this before.
I want you to know that I love you. I want you to know that I'm so proud of you for acknowledging that you need/needed help. I'm proud of you for getting help. I'm proud of you for surrounding yourself with people who really understand what you are going through, maybe they are a better comfort to you than I can be. I'm proud of you for being the best mom you can be & I honestly think you are an amazing mom! I'm proud of you for telling me what you are going through. I feel close to each of you in a different way. Becoming a mother has given me a whole new understanding for these humans we call mothers... I will do whatever I can to help you, like wet nursing for you, teaching you about cloth diapers, donating pumped milk to you, & babysitting for you so that you and your husband could just sleep.
You might be going through a storm right now, but know that we all have our storms and the storm will soon come to an end & the sun will shine once more.
Last but not least, my dear friend, while you are going through this storm in your life, please don't forget about me. Please don't forget that I love you and that I want you in my life. Please understand my thought process in giving you space. Please know that I TRULY am here for you, just say the word. Tell me what you need from me and I will be there in a hop, skip, and a jump! I'm here for you, if you need space, then let me know. If you need a babysitter just so you can get away with your husband, let me know! I'm here for you & I really mean it! Just teach me how to be there! I will continue to pray you through, hold the space, and be your friend that never walked away.
To learn more about postpartum depression check out some of the links below!
Who am I?
My name is Jessica Kellaway! I am the earth loving, natural parenting, Jesus loving weirdo your mama might have warned you about!