A Shared Story
My son was 6 months old when I braved the crowds and my constant anxiety to go shopping. How easy shopping was before kids! I simply parked the car, grabbed my purse and went along my merry way. Now there was stuff.. lots of stuff!
I entered the restaurant with my baby luggage, pushing the stroller and balancing lunch. Thankfully, my son was napping one of those comatose naps that we all pray for so we can rest (ha!) or clean up. Where to sit down? I desperately scanned the crowded restaurant and eventually, my eyes landed on an older woman pointing to a seat at her table. My gratitude spilling over, I sat down and exhaled the breath I had been holding.
After 5 minutes of the niceties "how old is he", "who does he look like" "he's so handsome" she asked me how he is sleeping at night. Before I could think, I answered, "he's sleeping like a champ, but not me". I don't sleep, and when I do I wake up, its in a panic in the middle of the night and drenched in sweat. I've been diagnosed with postpartum depression. None of the medication is working and I sleep very little. I feel like I live on the tip of a spinning top, My world is spinning around me and some days I feel like I'm in it and other days I'm just watching.
She quietly looked at me and said "I had postpartum depression with all 3 of my children". Of course, back then, they didn't know what it was. I never slept and wanted to constantly runaway. My family didn't know how to make sense of how I was feeling and were frustrated with me. They told me to just "get over it"." I looked back at her and felt a palpable connection. "Oh and the thoughts!" she said. I kept imagining horrific scenarios in which my children would become harmed and I would feel immobilized with fear and would just sit there holding them." Yes!" Is she psychic how does she know this? She continued, "I felt guilt and shame and carried that with me for decades". I couldn't believe what I was hearing. That is me.. I mean I am you. I felt seen, understood and filled with acceptance. Our lunch did not last long, maybe 30 minutes, I was trying to shop with a baby after all. We didn't hug or cry, although tears did fill my eyes,
As I think back on this years later and why this is a pivotal moment for me, I have come to understand that it was the first time someone else got it.. really got it. Our lives may not intersect in a lot of ways, but in common experience there is cellular understanding. She is my people. I have had many more random moments of significant connection. Parenthood provides more opportunity for sharing. However, for many, with depression or anxiety (approx. 21%) during pregnancy and post birth, we don't speak about it, we hide because it isn't what we thought or what others told us. Research in neuroscience indicates that we are biologically wired to soothe our nervous system through connection. In whatever way feels comfortable, reach out for support. A therapist, group, friends, parenting class or online community. You may find that it is one moment in time that changes you forever.