Kelly and I had our first babies around the same time so it was great to be able to exchange thoughts and text each other things like “my kid is doing this/that, is that normal?!” It was comforting to have a friend walking the same path and figuring things out just like I was (and am). Maybe thatʼs what this series means to me. “I Wish Someone Had Told Me...” means “I have no idea if this is normal”, which can sometimes feel extremely isolating.
My big “I Wish Someone Had Told Me” egg is the olʼ postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety. I do believe that PPD is becoming slightly less taboo and most women are told to watch out for it after having their babies. But postpartum depression/anxiety is a monster with many ugly heads. I didnʼt even realize I had PPD until a few months ago because I GOOGLED IT, which, as Iʼm sure you would guess, isnʼt the best way to find out that you have something! I didnʼt think I had PPD because I didnʼt have the typical PPD symptoms: I didnʼt have hypomania or dysthymia. I felt bonded to my baby and I didnʼt feel overwhelmed about all the stereotypical hard stuff us moms are warned about when pregnant (sleepless nights, breastfeeding troubles, etc). But I was experiencing some other symptoms. Symptoms I never heard anyone talk about.
Here are just a few of the things I Wish Someone Had Told Me...
I Wish Someone Had Told Me that after I had my baby I might be so utterly depressed about the WORLD that I would feel guilty for bringing a baby into it. Having a baby has made me acutely aware of my pessimistic worldview. After having my first child I started noticing the barbarity of the world like never before. I am constantly fearful that something tragic might strike the thing I hold closest to my heart and care about more than anything; my child. If you have time, this article so eloquently describes what Iʼm trying to say. Hereʼs a short excerpt: “Two of parental loveʼs major active ingredients are fear and guilt. Fear of the vast and bewildering spectrum of terrible things that might befall the object of that love, and guilt that you might not have done enough to prevent them.”
I wish someone had told me that becoming a parent might make me feel so much sadness for the pathetic reality of our existence that I might feel my heart literally breaking with sorrow. Unlike the author of the article quoted above, I have a more hopeful thought than just not reconciling the strangeness of pessimism and parenting. My hope is that Godʼs plan for creating humanity in the first place will be worth all of this pain. That, in a nutshell, is Christianity. The world is crap but Jesus said “I know itʼs crap but just wait because Iʼm going to redeem the crap and right now you canʼt possibly understand how but I promise it will all be worth it!” So I hold onto that. When Iʼm ready to throw in the towel and give into my pessimism, I hold onto the fact that Jesus gets it. He FELT it. He asks me to just hold on and keep the faith, and then try to help others do the same.
I Wish Someone Had Told Me that I might be totally fine (joyful even) during the day but at night I might suffer from panic attacks. After the babies are in bed and things slow down for the night I might not be able to stop my mind from playing out horrific scenarios of my children being in pain. That I will lay in bed and plan out what I would say at their funerals because I just know something bad is going to happen. I just know it in my heart and bones. I wish someone had told me that anxiety twists your intuition until youʼve convinced yourself something bad will happen itʼs just a matter of what and when.
I Wish Someone Had Told Me that I might incessantly worry about my kids for quite possibly the rest of my life . The worry (anxiety) of are they getting enough to eat, are they sleeping enough, what if they catch this, what if they catch that, what if they fall and have to get stitches, what if a bully picks on them, what if theyʼll just never go pee in the friggin toilet ever (currently an issue for us over here), what if Iʼm not doing this right,
what if, what if, what if. Itʼs exhausting. PPD/A is exhausting. If youʼre experiencing such anxiety talk to your doctor, your partner, your friends, your parents; all of the above!
Once I diagnosed myself with PPD I went to the doctor and unloaded all of this on her in one big long breath. She said “I think if youʼre not feeling at least some of this when youʼre a new parent than you arenʼt awake.” (yes, my doctor is awesome). So in other words...This. Is. Normal.
I Wish Someone Had Told Me that having a baby might cause a somewhat-mid-life crisis. I donʼt know if itʼs the having of the children or the getting older but some real existential shit has been hitting the fan for me in the last two years. Iʼm guessing itʼs probably a little bit of both, but I think having a child is playing the bigger role. Becoming a parent has spurred me into Part II of my life. Itʼs caused me to question foundational pillars of my faith and, frighteningly at first, let some of them go. Itʼs put me on an exciting journey of enlightenment. I feel like Odysseus trying to find the way back to Ithaca! Luckily, there is some amazing literature out there to help with the existential crises that might accompany parenthood. Hurray! Iʼve recently read some great works that have lifted me out of my philosophical fog. In the interest of keeping this post on point, I will restrain from listing all the great books/podcasts/articles but let me know if you need some suggestions because I will ecstatically bombard you with my recommendations.
These are just a few of the experiences I was not prepared for when becoming a mother. I realize these are some pretty negative waves and I am (at least I hope I am) in the minority with my despondency. I recently talked to my mom about all of this and she told me she didnʼt feel remotely this down and out when she had me or my brothers, which is good or else there might not be as many of us!
So now...to those of you who are pregnant... Iʼd imagine that this might have freaked you out just a tad. But if anything stays with you let it be this: while I was unprepared for the depth and severity of these feelings, I am very grateful for them. As I said before, itʼs because of all of this that I feel my eyes have been opened! An enlightening is happening! Theyʼve given me a new, profound understanding for the relationship between God (parent) and Jesus (Son). Theyʼve given me empathy. Theyʼve set my feet on a path that would not have been found otherwise.
And to those of you that might have just had a kid or have had one for a while and are feeling all the feelings...I hope this makes you feel less alone, more normal and above all hopeful.