“My anxiety has calmed down a bit. I think I’m starting to level out, which is good because I have just not been myself. There’s a part of me that thinks going back to work will be good for me. I need purpose and structure outside of my kids. But there’s also a part of me that is anxious about missing the precious, little moments with my babies when I’m working.“
Around the time of my 6-week postpartum follow-up appointment, I reached out to a couple of friends and let them know I was experiencing some postpartum depression. While naming what was going on to my husband cracked the door to healing, sharing my experience with friends gave that door another good shove. My friends’ responses, while different, were both overwhelmingly understanding and supportive. One reminded me of just how common this is and that I don’t need to view myself as being abnormal despite feeling abnormal. The other said that she, too, had experienced PPD and acknowledged how hard it is, but reminded me how temporary it is in the grand scheme of things. I am blessed to have such great friends in these particular women, that they then journeyed with me through the rest of that viscous hormonal cycle, reaching out from time to time to check in or offer ways they could help.
Living in a constant state of anxiety and feeling like you do not even know yourself is so hard when you’re also trying to love on your new baby and be a good mom to your toddler and a good wife to your husband and a normal friend to your friends and a good family member to your family. I didn’t even know how to be good to myself, so feeling like I needed to be good for other people felt like a stretch I could hardly make yet one that was expected of me. Why couldn’t I just be normal? Why couldn’t I be the Mandi everyone knew? Why couldn’t I be predictable?
Near the end of my maternity leave, my husband, two kids and I spent some time in Northern Michigan at a family-favorite vacation spot. Getting away from our house and just being in a different place with no expectation to do anything other than just simply be there worked wonders on my anxiety. We got horrendously snowed in, but we made the best of it, marveling at the sight, taking overly bubbly bubble baths, building snow forts and feeling as though we were the new cast of Survivor.
In the same week, I also prepared 13 freezer meals for my return to work. I noticed that a part of my life that causes great anxiety for me even without PPD is meal-planning and preparing. I started doubling up on dinners every few nights, making one for that night and one for the freezer. While we wouldn’t even end up immediately whipping those out and heating them up, just knowing I had them available if I needed them helped ease my mind about my return to work.
In short, naming what was going on and sharing that with people made space for me to acknowledge what I needed to do to get through it. Did my PPD go away the minute I made peace with those words or shared them with my closest confidants? Absolutely not. In fact, as I recount these times a year later, I know that I still catch glimmers of it here and there even today. While I imagine some day I’ll be completely through it, I now know what it’s like, and I hope I’ll extend grace upon grace upon grace to any other woman who has to go through PPD on top of the already incredibly difficult task of being a mom to a fresh baby. It doesn’t quite seem fair that on top of your major new role in life you should also be trying to figure out who you are now, why you seem so different and why you think the things you think and feel the things you feel.
A part of me has felt like PPD was the nightcap to my pregnancy experience. Let’s finish it off with one more shot of something difficult.
In the stats:
Adjusted Age: 4 weeks, 5 days
Actual Age: 8 weeks, 1 day