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Babies & Spring

Spring makes me think of babies.  Despite the fact that there are no spring birthdays in our house.  I think its because animals have babies in the spring right?
Or maybe because everything feels newly birthed after the travail of winter. 
Perhaps for me it's because I remember my first spring with my first baby, Meredith.
Meredith was born in the depths of January.  Nine years ago.  I remember staying cooped up in my house for several weeks.  After a traumatic birth and extended hospital stay, I was met with a dark an unexpected bout with post partum depression. I ached for spring.  When Spring broke through the bleak slate of winter I felt hope.
I remember that spring because I forced myself outside as much as possible with my new baby.  I needed natural things like sunshine and fresh grass to bring me back to life.  I had never experienced until that point that depth of personal darkness. A darkness I couldn't break on my own.  I tried to be brave and pretend all was well, but the anxiety that I couldn't explain and the dark thoughts terrified me. 
It took me four months before I felt like I could do this thing of being a mother.  I did basically everything myself, but I did it gripped with anxiety and weighted down with depression.  Like slogging through a field knee deep in mud everything took all my energy and focus to accomplish.
I was ashamed for the unexpected struggle.  I had always pictured that my love of kids would undoubtedly mean that I would have no issues being a mother.

Slowly as March unfolded into April and then opened up to May my soul awoke and I bloomed into being a mother. A smile returned to my face.  My emotions leveled and I was able to hold my baby against my chest with peace. My mind stopped racing.
I remember Meredith's first Easter and the head band I tried repeatedly to crown her perfectly rounded head.  To no avail.  She hated head bands. All the pictures I snapped of her laying on patch work quilts in the spring sunshine, her eyes so deeply blue. 
I can remember my first mother's day  and the way my husband signed a card from our baby saying, "Thanks for all the milk, Mommy" :)

About six weeks ago in the first week of March three families we know welcomed new life.
All within forty-eight hours of each other.
As we sat in the hospital room with our friends passing their tiny five pounder around the miracle of life silenced me.  Holding a newborn baby is a reverent thing.  You examine all the features of the newly formed baby, marvel at their tiny fingers, and smell that heavenly fresh smell. (That smell evaporates in a few months so drink all of it in that you can)
The moms all look exhausted and the dads not much better, but a proud excitement about what is to come and who this fresh- from- God baby is permeates the air.
Discussions about the labor and delivery whirl around the room mixed with comments about who the baby looks like and what his first hours have been like fill the silence.

Our next door neighbor is one of the new baby mamas.
I enjoy holding her new baby with the shiny gold hair and hearing this brand new mama discuss everything about her baby while the baby deeply sleeps in the crook of her mom's arms.
It really is funny how your life boils down to feedings, laundry, and diaper changes. Especially if you are new to the game.

A few thoughts....
If you are a new mom and have just had your baby my heart always smarts a bit.  I want everything to go smoothly for you and you to be nothing but joyous and like the fairytale you always wanted.  If you're adjusting and blissfully smitten with your baby and being a mother, great!

But I know that's not always the case...
I say this because once several years ago I ran into a friend of mine who had just had a baby and I saw the same look in her eyes that my eyes previously wore. 
I wanted so much to say to her, "It will be aright."  I wanted to bring her food and speak to the anxiety and fear I saw but I hesitated.
Later I decided to write her some words of encouragement and I dared to tell her a bit of my story.  I felt silly and scared because I never liked admitting that I knew what it was like to not be happy new mom, but a mom going through an intense struggle with depression and trying to make sense of it while not feeling like a complete failure.
After I sent the note I felt nervous.  Had I overstepped?
Days later I got a short reply.
Months later I got a longer reply, "Your note reached out to me.  I felt like I was in a deep dark hole I couldn't get out of even though I'm hopelessly in love with this new baby."
She then described the struggle she went through and the relief she felt now.
The struggle was a season of darkness that eventually ended.

So if you have birthed a brand new baby and spring still hasn't bloomed for you. If it feels like your trapped in a dark winter internally there is hope.
Definitely talk to your doctor and tell him really what is going on. He may prescribe you medicine.
This is really important.  Be honest with how you really are. 

Here are a few things that I did to help me
- Get out of your house (It seemed to take great effort at first, but sitting alone in my house days on end was the worst thing for me.  I took my newborn to every local park I could find, despite the fact she slept through almost every stroller ride. Because I needed the time outdoors)
- Talk to friends  (Don't isolate, if you are depressed you'll want to.  I kept ignoring phone calls from my best friends.)
- Take showers and put real clothes on.
- Do not diet (You need to eat well to nourish a baby and your tired body and mind)
- Start exercising when you can
- Make time somewhere to do something you enjoy
- Find someone to help you.  You do have to sleep eventually. 
- Open up to someone about how you're feeling. Someone who won't shame you or stare at you like they can't recognize you - For me it was my mom strangely enough. 
One day after I brought the baby up the front porch stairs into my mom's house I crumbled and started crying. I hadn't expected to let all the fear out, but it came out in a torrent on a dark February afternoon, "I don't know what on earth is wrong with me?" I said tears coursing down my cheeks my hands stroking my baby's soft cheek.
I had finally let my secret out that had been festering and frightening me.  My mom was able to help given her lifelong experience with depression. I hadn't expected that she would be the one to help me.  But she was. 

Lastly, know that things will not always be this way, one day life will resume and the dark clouds will dissipate.  Those early months are so transitional and temporary even though when you are depressed they seem so long. 
Spring will come. As sure as it comes every time the year completes another journey around the sun. 
For me it was a slow thaw from the winter of post partum blues. 
With each healthy choice I made a little bit more of my mind was freed.
By the time Mother's day dawned I was at ease and back to myself mostly only I was holding a new baby decked out in a ridiculous frilly pink dress. 
My babies are the deepest joys of my life, a gift like no other and the hope of a forever soul forming and growing to fulfill their unique purposes on this earth.
Sometimes though the start isn't glorious but grueling. Not what you thought it would be.
That's okay.
Wait for it.
You will blossom into being a mom with every diaper you change and car seat you buckle and the fragrance of your love and that new baby smell will drip down into all the crevices of your life like a fresh April rain. 


Baby Meredith

Enjoying Meredith

Comments

  1. Hi Somer! First I love how you transitioned to the new templates for your blog! :) (I'm still debating if I'll switch over or not!) Even though I'm not a mom, I love your words about transitioning through seasons, which all of us go through. And I loved your story about reaching out to a new mom with a note and wondering how she received it and second-guessing yourself -- (I do that too!). But you are such an inspiration to young moms, I'm sure you have a far greater impact than you could imagine! xo

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