Motherhood is hard, and one of the only ways we can fully accept how hard it can be is through vulnerability. You never know where it’ll lead you.
To me, vulnerability was gross.
I couldn’t let you see me. I needed you only to see what I wanted you to see: a tough girl who can carry the whole world on her shoulders without breaking a sweat.
You would not see me falter.
Then I became a mom. And I not so gracefully faltered…and couldn’t hide it.
Facing forced vulnerability in motherhood
I had never been more confused in my life. I kept punishing myself for how I felt.
Why do I feel so emotionally weak?
Why couldn’t I get my act together?
Why don’t I feel any maternal instincts?
Why is this so scary?
If my mother could do it, what’s wrong with me?
Why don’t I feel any attachment toward my baby?
So I began to ask questions in a sort of frantic way when I was among mom friends. I wondered if they, too, felt like they were losing who they were. I asked if they also resented their child coming into the world.
I asked if they wished this had never happened and hoped to wake up from whatever terrible dream/curse this was. The mystery was that they just smiled awkwardly and told me it was hard, but they loved their baby.
Yeah, that didn’t help me. Being vulnerable was out of the question. So just be smart, keep it all inside, and tell myself to “be the tough girl you tell everyone you are. That oughta do it.”
And then I realized what was happening; a friend with depression saw the signs:
- Intense highs and lows
- The inability to bond with my baby
- Physical aching in my body
- Random bursting into tears
- Feeling like things would never get better
“Have you ever considered that you might have postpartum depression?”
I. Was. Offended.
I never had a mental health issue in my life. How dare she just walk around telling people they’re depressed? But I trusted her, so I took a breath and continued to listen.
She told me of her struggles, which was everything I had been feeling. I felt seen for the first time since becoming a mother.
Maybe she was right. Maybe I had postpartum depression.
Facing the music: Is it postpartum depression?
Knowing that I could be experiencing postpartum depression gave me grace for all of my strange thoughts that I couldn’t reconcile with the analytical part of my brain.
I began to understand that my depression was lying to me, and those thoughts didn’t have to carry any value and were indeed not true. I could see that I was going through a hard time, and I needed to ask for help.
Oh no. Do I have to ask for help? I must tell people what’s happening and be honest about my needs.
Step one is admitting there’s an issue. Admitting it to yourself is one thing, but telling my husband I’m not okay was harder.
Sadly, it came out in the worst way possible. He asked if I just wanted to leave the baby and experience what I accused my son of taking away from me. It was the most horrendous thought, and I couldn’t believe my actions were so severe that my husband thought I wanted to leave.
It was my moment to get real.
“I’m not okay. I think I have postpartum depression, and I don’t know how to deal with it. I need help. Please.”
And thus began my healing. I could not heal if I were not honest with myself and my support system about what was happening inside me.
Using vulnerability as a strength
But back to the first step. Sometimes, we are not vulnerable, even with ourselves.
It takes a lot to look in the mirror, past the facade of the tired woman who hasn’t yet brushed her teeth today, the wife who doesn’t feel like a wife, and the expectations you put on yourself of what you thought this would all be.
Can you look and see, really see the heart of who you are, and sit in your feelings without judgment?
Can you acknowledge that this isn’t what you expected, and you’re shocked, and that’s okay? Can you find enough love for yourself to be vulnerable with the girl staring back at you, asking to be loved and seen by you more than anyone else?
Strength comes from being vulnerable in this challenging time. It comes from sharing with others and receiving their power in return.
But to truly embrace our postpartum experience and share our vulnerabilities with others, can we first be brave enough to turn inward?
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Suzanne is an author and advocate for mothers with postpartum depression. Her debut, dark comedy memoir, 'Post Pardon Me', has become an Amazon best seller as she sheds light, through comedy, on this heavy topic. When not writing, Suzanne loves playing the piano (she isn't very good) and reading. Her first love was acting, but her forever love is her husband, Kasim and their two beautiful children, Sammy and Ronan.