I sat on my couch in my trusty yoga pants and held the five-day old answer to so many prayers. She was perfect and pink and I loved her more every minute. I felt so happy. A strange sort of happy that I was almost sure felt almost…sad. That is about the time I felt the cold fingers of post-partum depression grip my happy fairytale.
A spindly weed in my garden of happy and it seemed to have very deep roots.
The clouds came every afternoon and brought with them the unexplained tears. I explained away my feelings as normal and hormonal. My limited knowledge of Post-partum depression involved angry mothers doing unspeakable things in their pain. I was not that. I was happy to be a Mom. But the sinking softball in my stomach remained.
Seasoned parents shared with me the swaddle blankets to wrap my babe in and the proper football hold– but no one told me this could happen. No one told me I could have a perfect daughter and a husband I loved and all my dreams coming true.. and feel grief. Unexplained grief, sure. Grief with no path, but grief all the same, with its hollow stomached, heavy-chest inducing nausea. When the waves came, every breath felt laborious and smiling often took more energy than making the bed.
I had never heard a single word about how good, Jesus-loving- Mamas could be miserable for no good reason, except that they just are for a time. I never knew that I could want every bit of what I had and still feel completely lost in my new motherly skin. I looked in the mirror and saw someone else, almost literally someone else behind hollow eyes brimming with salty confusion. I just knew that I had failed somewhere along the way. I blamed my lack of faith and gratefulness. Because isn’t that what we do sometimes? Instead of dealing with our pain and getting help, we hang it all up on our guilt and suffer alone. In silence. We assume we are alone, and so we remain that way.
After several days of this sad carousel with no exit, I heard footsteps on loose gravel and a soft rap on our door. Lance covered the steps of that little apartment in long, easy strides. He swung open the door to reveal my other best friend. She stepped over the welcome mat and pulled the sunshine in with her like a bunch of balloons.
My friend smiled at me like only one who knows your weepy insides can and crossed to the tiny kitchen to set down her trademark items of perfect Iced Tea, Chicken and Rice, and Chocolate Chip Cookies. I cried again, but this time from that place which holds the relief of being deeply known and loved in spite of runny faces and mismatched socks.
We shared our plates cross-legged on the comfy couch. Green eyes looked into my own weepy brown lashes as she told me I was not crazy. In the quiet between bites, we laughed to hear soft snoring coming from the Moses basket. By the time our plates were empty, life felt a little more survivable. Brighter. Every deep breath brought me closer to being able to laugh.
And — almost seven years later, I simply cannot eat chicken and rice without remembering that night.
She showed up at my lowest, my poorest of spirit— and offered me a plate of warm comfort and acceptance with a side of hope— Being loved right where I was helped me take a small step towards healing and wholeness. Though my friend had not yet walked down that particular road, she left her own path to come walk alongside me for awhile, and it made all the difference. She did not understand my grief any more than I did, but she understood my need to be known and loved.
Yes, food is one of our most basic needs, but the need to feed our soul with the table comfort of those we love—- is every bit as vital for life and life abundant.
Because rarely, if ever— is it just food. Especially when it is served with a long warm hug and a glass of “You’re going to be ok.”
When a new season finally cracked through the clouds, I recognized that I did not arrive at wholeness over night. One casserole brought by one lovely friend did not remove the season of hard. But it helped. My seasons with PPD came with both of my girls. They were each different and brief, though they did not seem it at the time. Looking back, I know that I needed many things, and being loved closely by those who wished they could remove my pain was at the top of the list.
If you are struggling with unexplained sadness or emotional confusion during the beautiful, bleary-eyed early days of motherhood, can I just tell you as she told me– You are not crazy. You are not alone and you will come out of this. But please friend? Do not suffer alone. Find your people and tell them you’re struggling.