There is a quote by Anne Christian Buchanan and Debra K. Kingsport, in the Quickening Heart: A Journal for Expectant Mothers, that says, “To be pregnant is to be vitally alive, thoroughly woman, and distressingly inhabited. Soul and spirit are stretched – along with body – making pregnancy a time of transition, growth, and profound beginnings”, that adequately describes my pregnancy journey.
My pregnancy was a beautiful experience, mostly. Take away the hemorrhoids and we have an amazing life changing event. According to my Dr. I was built for having babies because it was textbook perfect. After nine months of pregnancy glow and delights, my precious bundle arrived and my world changed.
I was told that every pregnancy is different, every women’s journey unique. I was told that after the 9 months, life will change and you will know a love unlike any other. What I was not told, was that I would end up having the greatest internal war and the most severe mental anguish of my life. I was not told I would have to war to maintain this “love unlike any other”. I was not told that, that love would war with a desire to hurt the one I love. They did not tell me that I would be pitched into a deep dark place where I battled for any glimmer of light and even when the light came, I struggled to step into that light and battled to stay there if I managed to make the step. They did not tell me that the I, extroverted as I was, would seek out seclusion and the dark. That images of me throwing the little bundle I loved to the wall will haunt me and I would be battling for my sanity and her life. They did not tell me that I was a high risk for postpartum depression because I had suffered depression before.
As I let my thoughts drift back in time I still remember sitting on the floor at 2 am praying to God to make the horrible flashes in my mind stop and to help me control my emotions. I remember loud , body shaking sobs echoing in the night as tears streamed uncontrollably down my face as I cried to God, telling him that I could not do it. The worst of it, I suffered in silence because I was suppose to be overjoyed and love this little being unconditionally. I was supposed to be her champion and protector. But there I was failing at what I was told would be natural, and failing in my efforts to hold onto to the initial love I felt when I found out I was pregnant.
It was a lonely, horrible place. I felt like a horrible person.
How did I not let the darkness swallow me? Honestly, lots of prayer. These feeling were beyond me and so I prayed fervently and passionately. There were days it was all I managed to do.
I conditioned my mind before and during the pregnancy to have the best motherhood experience ever and to give my baby the best environment for growth. But there I was fighting to connect to that mindset and the person I was before the baby. That mindset was a major tool in helping me to keep my sanity. My success was measured by how many times in the day I did not slump into despair. I knew mindset had power, but I did not know it had that kind of power. When I failed and sunk into my depressed state, my conditioned mind fought for me, pushing through the dark with a glimmer of hope; telling me tomorrow will be better and we will try again. Many nights that was my comforting thought as I drifted into restless sleep. You see, I really wanted to do right by my daughter and give her the best possible chance.
I forced myself to learn to recognize triggers. For example, her crying was a major trigger. It made me cover my ears and want to retreat to a corner. Which I did many, many times for a few seconds. But I pulled on an internal and spiritual strength and made every conscious effort to go to her instead of backing away. I needed her to be quiet as soon as possible and so I knew I needed to a take care of her needs. Her crying was a trigger. I had to learn to recognize what triggered bouts of depression and overwhelm so I could prepare myself beforehand on how I could handle it. Love made me desperate to be my best self and the desire to protect her spurred me on and kept me from hurting her.
It was a constant moment by moment battle to not succumb.
I realized that I needed help in several ways. I accepted help from genuine folks. It honestly takes a village and so I had my village before she got here and learned to turn to them. Support is critical, during these times. Your support system may not understand but they love you and baby, so they will help you figure out what you need. Good support gives you space when you need it and nudge you with love when you need that too. Find your support system and cling to it because your life may depend on it.
My husband, my mom and a couple of friends and family came through for me. My husband read everything he could on depression after a baby and depression in general and he tried his best.
Get help if you need it. If the feelings and thoughts are lingering and growing in intensity, get help. I didn’t want to miss out on anything with my baby and I hated the feelings I had and the helplessness I felt, so I decided to get help. I went to my Dr. and he did an initial assessment. He put me on birth control for a short while to help get my hormones on an even scale. He gave me some advice on resting, eating properly and talking about how I felt to people who cared and said if it didn’t help we would then have me see a specialist.
A couple of months on the pill, a husband, mother, family members and select friends with listening ears and caring hearts and things started settling out. Eventually, finding my happy space was not so much of a struggle. Consequently, I got to the place where I was happy to face my days.
Do I still struggle some days? Yes
But I am not falling into random depression and fighting images of hurting my daughter anymore.
Motherhood will throw a million things at you. Mindset will matter a great deal in the type of outcome you have. Take care of you and give yourself what you need. That is how you can then give the best of yourself to others, especially your baby.
Know your goals as a mother and no matter what comes or how many times you get knocked down get up and fight one more time to achieve them. You will be happy and so will your baby.
May the amazing, positive, life transforming light of motherhood light your path and may God, the creator of life bless you with the best of this amazing gift of life He has allowed you to carry and care for.
Your support, hand-holder , shoulder to cry on, I need to vent listener and friend
Belkis Clarke-Mitcham is a motivational speaker and spiritual life coach who helps women over 25 who have lived through trauma to identify their prisons, break free, and unleash their unique light. A survivor of sexual abuse, Belkis has risen from a place of attempted suicide to success. In more than a decade she has helped many individuals. She can be reached at www.belkisclarke.com