Postpartum Depression: A Letter to my Son
Your tiny baby grunts nudged me from a deep sleep. You rubbed the drowsiness from your eyes with your small soft fists, and stretched with conviction. You laid in your bed quietly for several moments, staring at the clock on the wall as you always do. At some point you heard me stir or felt my gaze, and when you turned to me, eyes alight and smile wide, you looked different. Your cheeks had lost some of their roundness, and your eyes sparkled a tad brighter. Your usual bald baby head now dotted with brown hair; the unintelligible gurgling of sounds seemed to more closely resemble words, and you looked into my eyes as you spoke your secret language as though we were having a conversation. When I laid you in your car seat, the head rest was too short and the straps too tight. Every day I look down at you and soak it all in; your sweet scent, your gummy grin. And every day I tell myself I'm not going to let today pass by without every moment seeping into my skin. But somehow, sweet boy, time has gotten away from me. Today, you look like a big kid. You've started grabbing fistfuls of my hair to hold you steady when you stand, and you can pull yourself to a sitting position when you're on my lap. Your tiny fists shake with excitement when you stand or sit up with my help. It's a happiness that confounds, that squeezes my heart with the aching reality that this time is short lived and will soon be only a memory.
Amongst this excitement though, mommy struggles with a sickness. It's called postpartum depression. It's not like your tummy aches or sleepy pains. You can't see it like a scrape, or a bruise, or a bump. It aches more deeply, discreetly. Even when I smile at you, I often feel like my legs may decide to detach from this drowsy form and I will crumble to the floor and stay there. Somehow, you seem to know. Yesterday I cried while I changed your diaper. You didn't smile like you usually do with the anticipation of a dry bottom, or kick in excitement, chatting at me in your foreign language. Instead, you laid quietly and studied my face with furrowed brows, as though you were trying to understand the whole world.
There are peonies on the tv stand that your daddy bought me. In the morning the sun gleans off their damp edges whose faces widen more each day. One of those flowers though, is falling behind the rest. It isn't greeting the light, it's slowly wilting away, falling in pieces to the tabletop like unnoticed tendrils of hair on the bathroom floor, only to be tracked around, unseen, invisible. I feel like that flower, Arthur. Shrinking, fading, closing in on itself, browning in the daylight when it's so clearly meant to blossom. You're so young, you shouldn't know this, but you do, somehow. You noticed. You haven't yet discovered that there's a world outside of your momma's arms, but you will soon enough.
Sometimes I wonder if I can be strong enough for you; if I will be able to hold it together to care for you. I worry that one day the darkness inside of me will swallow me whole and I'll leave you alone with your daddy. I think about how broken I am, and how broken you both would be, how I would damage you if I left you alone in this world without a mommy. My sickness would snuff out your glow, leaving only a trail of smoke as a sign that I was there. But then you look at me with those eyes, my eyes. They are so deep and full of thought, and I can't help but think that you would be okay. You would make it. And then I realize, sweet boy, that although I am YOUR momma, I am not the one who is saving you, nurturing you, giving you life. You, you, Arthur, brought me back to life. When I think I can't go on, when I'm wading in the cold waters of self doubt and destruction, you show me how to climb out. You look at me and my anger, my frustration, my dark cloud - it melts away. When I think I can't do it anymore, I just look at you, and I know I can.