Last night, after a particularly grueling soccer game, one of my teammates and I discussed motherhood. The subject of how many kids we had wanted before we were married came up. I think my answer surprised her. I know her answered surprised me. She has two kids and I have four. She always wanted four or five and I was never quite sure how many I wanted, but I didn't think four was a desirable number. Circumstances being what they were (meeting John and suddenly wanting a large family with him were mine), we both adapted and are very happy with our results.
While telling her why I thought four children was enough for us I said "...and I suffered from post-partum depression to varying degrees, the last being the worst. That weighed heavy in my decision." Right then her eyes lit up and she smiled. Not in a way that indicated she was laughing at me, but softly, knowing. I knew right away that her smile meant she had been through it too. She nodded her head and confirmed that yes, she had, suffered quite a bit.
For the next twenty minutes we drank beer and swapped our stories back and forth. Different facts, but so much was the same. Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, guilt, sadness, worry and fear. We both had very supportive families and wondered how women without that same support coped and came through. While I was sad to meet someone else who had gone through it, sharing it made me feel great.
Before she had to leave she mentioned how easily sharing my experience with PPD seemed. To that I said "I am never afraid to share my experience and I don't sugar coat it. Not everyone understands it, but if you meet just one person who has either been through or will learn from it, there is no reason to keep quiet."
And it's true.
As my children get older, PPD clearly becomes less of an issue for me. It doesn't affect my daily life like it did two years, or even one year ago. These days I come across as a much more together and happy person. Of course I do. I suffered, but I came through. That has left me here, on the other side. I'm not an awareness advocate or anything to that extent, but I think just being able to share with other Mothers and Women says alot. Everything I learned about mothering, I learned from women I've met over the course of the last 9 years. Most of the decisions I've made were affected, somehow, but your average every day Mom, either a friend or an acquaintance. You can't put any of that in a book or on a web site.
Before you think I'm the complete downer of playgroups, it's not something I just blurt out for the sake of drama. Usually I'm the one regaling a group with tales of how gross my kids can be or their fancy use of swear words they picked up from me. It all comes out in context and it's not just post-partum depression. I try to be honest about parenting. No, it's not easy. Yes, it is rewarding. I get very tired. I feel mentally drained and suffocated. There are days where if one more person touches me or calls for me I'll shrivel up in a heap on the kitchen floor. Sometimes my kids are so adorable and sweet it actually hurts in my chest.
Overall though, I have so rarely had negative experiences sharing with other Moms that it just seems so natural to me. I've such wonderful friends who validate and support me. Maybe that's caused me to be comfortable sharing? I'm sure some women have come away from talking to me and thought "What a froot loop!" but for every one that didn't, for every one that felt a little less alone or guilty, this froot loop is grateful.