Postpartum depression is one of those things that’s probably different for everyone. I’m certainty not qualified to be giving anyone any advice on the matter. This is just my experience. Please don’t judge, it’s taken a lot for me to express myself but I think it is something we need to talk more about in our society.
“I’m not good enough. My baby might be better off if I wasn’t here,” I thought to myself as I scrubbed the floors. I was always cleaning in the weeks before and after she was born. It was an anxious compulsion and yet the house was never clean enough. I set my cloth back in the bucket, beckoned by her cries and I lifted her out of her crib. I held her to my breast to feed. She curled her tiny fingers around my pointer and I couldn’t help but marvel at her perfection. I didn’t want to think it but I thought again about how she deserved better than me. I felt I had failed her already somehow in my imperfections.
“When are you going to run again?” My husband asked me, pulling out my dusty ipod from the junk drawer. He’d just returned from working all day and I’d been alone with the baby and the animals. His khaki pants were wrinkled and the circles under his eyes were dark, exhausted from working two jobs and not being able to sleep but he never complained.
I was thankful for the opportunity to be home with her for the precious six weeks but I couldn’t help but be jealous of his freedom. This jealousy made me feel like a criminal.
I shrugged. I had no plans of running for a while. I did have a nagging feeling I should lose the fifty pounds of weight I have gained during the pregnancy but no real motivation to do so.
He put the Ipod in my hands and wrapped his arms around me as I stirred the vegetables we’d be eating for dinner. It was the only night he’d been home for dinner in almost a week. Usually he went right to his second job as soon as the first one ended. “I love you and you’re beautiful.” He said the words, like he always did but I didn’t feel beautiful anymore.
I had difficulty sleeping at night between the baby waking up every three hours and the nightmares that plagued me. The worst dream I had repeated in my head for days. In the dream I was walking in the woods at night. The trees were dark and I couldn’t see much but a shack in the distance. I entered the shack, the floorboards creaking beneath my feet. I looked up and saw a body hanging from a noose. The wind twisted the body towards me so I could see the face. It was my mother. She opened her eyes and I gasped. Then she began to speak: “You should kill yourself too.” I woke up screaming.
My husband took me to the local gym. I didn’t have the energy to go but he insisted. “Look, they’re waving the membership fee this month as a January special.” He pointed at the block letters in the sign. I nodded, half-heartedly. “And I get a work discount,” he reminded me. “Will you go with me if I sign us up?” I shrugged. “Come on, remember when we used to work out together. It was fun. You used to love it.” I heard the pain in his deep voice. He was trying so hard. I promised I’d go with him a few times.
He’d bought me some new work-out clothes so after we signed up we walked to the fitness center. He went to the bike and I went to the treadmills.
I stepped onto the treadmill and turned it on a low speed. Then I moved the buttons higher until I was jogging. I turned my music up and I began running in time to the beat. I felt myself smiling. I felt myself caring for my body. I felt good.
“I’d like to go again,” I told him as we left and this time when I said it, it was for me.
I began taking classes and running a few times a week.
During a barre class when I was lifting weights I noticed in the mirror that my arms were defined and it was the first time I’d thought myself beautiful in months. They must’ve gotten stronger from lugging around a car seat around and all the classes I’d been doing. As I continued to run and take classes, I lost all the extra baby weight. I began to believe my husband when he called me beautiful.
I began to invite friends to do classes with me at the gym and strengthened a support system I had been too weak to seek out. I made new friends and invited them to more classes. I began to laugh when I made a mistake in a class or when a friend told a joke while we biked together.
Now when I look in the mirror I see someone my daughter can be proud of. Someone who has worked hard. Someone who is strong and capable. But someone who is always improving.