I never struggled with depression before giving birth to my son, which is one of many reasons I let my postpartum depression go unchecked for so long. I truly didn't know what was wrong with me. It was a shock to me that I could be anything less than great at this motherhood thing, because it was something I longed for so deeply. Because of many things - the insecurity I felt, the stigma about mental illness I was conditioned to believe, the still deep and abiding love for my son - it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I even had postpartum depression. It took me much longer to forgive myself for being in that place, even though it wasn't my fault. In fact, it is something I still struggle with today, especially in the wake of my daughter's birth.
It is hard to overcome the tremendous amount of guilt I felt knowing my baby got less than my best. Knowing that he had a mother who cried and yelled more than she smiled and laughed. Even though we are in a good place now, and that time is already erased from his limited memory, it is still painful for me. I missed a beautiful time in my life - in his life - and I will never get that back.
I feel that sharp pang of guilt all the more when I look at my daughter.
I am at a point where I feel I can say with some certainty that I am not suffering postpartum depression again. The first six weeks I was on high alert, waiting for the pin to drop and for the most part nothing happened. There were a few emotional episodes, but they were brief and manageable. Only one evening did I feel that darkness creep back up on me - the switch flipped and floodgates opened - but thankfully the cloud had lifted by morning and has never returned.
I have spent these early days with my daughter wholly and completely enamored with her. Our time together has given me hope that I will never see that sad, lost side of myself again. I am patient with her. I smile at her often. I speak softly with her, always. I am deeply, deeply in love with her. And yes, it makes me feel guilty.
I see the stark contrast in the way I handle my daughter and the way I once handled my son, and I am not sure how to reconcile the way it tugs at my heart. The fact that I was not capable of controlling my emotional state during his infancy does little to assuage that guilt. The fact that there was a disease to blame does not make it fair to him, to us, and it never will.
I know that someday my children will see the words I have written. They will read my struggles and know where I've been, and I won't be able to hide it from them nearly as long as I'd like. So how do I explain to my son the disparity between my weakened mental state during his infancy and this joyous time I am enjoying with his sister? How do I show him that my love for him was just as strong, when so much evidence seems contrary?
Quite frankly, I don't know. All I can do at the moment is continue to love him from the depths of my heart, with a strength he cannot fathom. I can show him love in the way I treat his sister, and tell him, truly, this is how I loved you too.
This is how I will always love you.