A Letter to My Children about my Post-Partum Depression
To my sweet babies....
My dear, sweet babies. I wish I had a different story to tell about the past few years. I wish I didn't have postpartum depression. I wish I didn't have to write this letter. I wish I didn't have to say, "I'm sorry." The past few years have been shit, I know. Blow after blow, until I wasn't sure I could take it anymore. I was hanging on by a thread, barely surviving each day. It all began four years ago, when it was just me and you, Benny, and when Julia was growing in my belly.
Antepartum depression - depression during pregnancy - hit hard, and yet I had no idea. Our living situation was challenging at best. We were in the process of building our new home, and faced delay after delay after delay - all while I was pregnant. I was so scared we wouldn't make it into the house in time for the new baby. And worse, as a family, we were apart - with you and me, Ben, living with Mimi and Poppy, and Dad living 2.5 hours away, which was closer to his job. It broke my heart to see you missing him each day, and all I wanted was for us to be together under the same roof again. I wrongly assumed my grumpy mood and snippiness was because of this tough situation, but really, there was a chemical imbalance brewing in my body, that I didn't even know was there.
Julia, after you were born (luckily, we made it into our new house in time!), things continued to spiral, but at that point, it had been going on for so long, that I thought it was normal; That I was just a grumpy, miserable person, and there was nothing I could do about it. I figured my personality type was just, "miserable," and continued to be a horrible person to everyone I loved. I feel awful looking back at photos from this time, looking at your sweet little innocent, optimistic, loving face, Ben, and knowing you took the brunt of my illness. You didn't deserve that. I desperately wanted to be better for you, and went to bed each night wracked with the worst guilt imaginable. I am thankful I managed to pull it together a few times a week, to do a fun activity, or something with just you, but that didn't erase my guilt.
I think back to those endlessly long days - being stuck in the house, no energy or desire to entertain you, lots of screen time, and lots of yelling from the person who was only supposed to show you unconditional love. My heart breaks for that little boy, so full of love for his mama, trying every day to make her happy. Bopping around the house with boundless joy, ever-present need to please, and a love for trucks - I have no idea where that joy came from, because you were tied into my misery - a situation that you never asked for, but never complained about. My strong, sweet boy.
And my dear Julia, I wish I had taken advantage of my time spent home with you before I returned to working full-time. I so deeply regret not doing more with you and your big brother when I was home, but even more so, I regret how my depression affected you later on. While Ben is low-key and mostly dealt with me with little protest, you are strong, stubborn, and spirited. You challenged my mothering skills and pushed me to my limits, and I lost control, yelling more than I care to admit.
I'm supposed to be the calm, supportive one. I'm supposed to show you unconditional love. I am the adult, you are the child. But I acted like a child a lot, very immature, throwing my own tantrums as you threw yours. You desperately wanted my attention, love, and approval, but I was unable to give it to you in the way I wanted to.
Nothing brings me more joy than knowing we've repaired that damage, and you've become my little buddy.
And my sweet William. I am grateful that I started getting help shortly after you were born, and that my joy in life is babies, so because of that, you were mostly protected from the worst of my symptoms. Your snuggly, loving nature really helped get me through the darkest days. It soothed my soul to have you fall asleep on my chest, or watch you nursing.
I am sorry I didn't recognize the signs of my antepartum depression, and later, postpartum depression and anxiety, for such a long time.
I am sorry that I had no idea what was happening inside my mind, and thought it was normal.
I am sorry that every single thing annoyed me, from your little voices, to the hamster wheel of motherhood tasks, to your incessant questions and requests, and more.
I am sorry that I saw the sadness in your eyes when I yelled, and that I still was unable to stop.
I am sorry our days were so boring, spent mostly indoors, with too much screen time, and not enough activities to spur your imagination and growth.
I am sorry that you were living with a mother who essentially woke up yelling, and could barely get off the couch all day. You didn't deserve that. You deserve so much more.
I'm sorry I couldn't be the mom I wanted to be during those years.
What you don't know is that I went to bed every night, with a feeling of intense sadness in my heart, and deep, piercing regret in my soul. I knew this was not the kind of mother I wanted to be - some ugly jacked-up version of "Mommy Dearest" (NO WIRE HANGERS!)
I want you to know that wasn't me. That was some ugly monster inside that I was fighting to get rid of, and I am so happy I finally did. I am now so much closer to the mom I want to be for you. I have been working so hard this past year to get better, so I can be the best mom I can be, for each of you. You deserve nothing but the best, and I would bring down the moon for you.
My only hope is that we can continue to move past this time, strengthen our bonds, and grow as a family. I want nothing more than for each of you to be happy, full of joy and hope. And I'm going to do everything in my power to make our home a place where you can flourish and be filled with nothing but love.
Signed, Your mom...forever and ever.
— Excerpt from "Heather Gets Healthy"