“My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me. My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating. Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me. Til then I walk alone.”
– I Walk Alone by Green Day
I felt so lonely as a new mother. Isolated, ashamed, angry, and ungrateful. None of which was appropriate since I had gotten exactly what I wanted – a healthy baby girl.
Looking back, it was shame that silenced me. How dare I be miserable when I was holding what I wanted in my arms? So I swallowed it all, and it ate me up.
I loved my baby. Deeply. During moments of peace, when she was sleeping and I wasn’t crying with exhaustion or despair, I’d stare at her beautiful face and trace her features with my eyes, wanting to memorize every curve, every angle. I relished the shape of her sweet bow lips, the delicate slope of her nose, the way her chin met her throat, the way that throat would undulate with milk, even in her dreams.
I loved my daughter. But I didn’t love myself. Many days I was full of self-loathing for failing at motherhood. For not loving it enough. For not feeling grateful enough. For not excelling at it, acing it, as I had many things in life.
All around me, other women seemed to have it together in ways I did not. As the months went by, and years, this grew more apparent and deepened my shame.
I never sought help and I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression. I answered the questions the midwife asked at my check-up and came out “clear.” But my perceptions of PPD were wrong. Just because I didn’t feel compelled to injure my daughter or myself didn’t mean I wasn’t hurting deeply.
What I needed was the voices and compassion of other women, other mothers, reassuring me I wasn’t alone. I needed the kind of help my father and husband couldn’t offer me, though they tried.
In a marketplace where there is a glut of books about prenatal and infant care, where are the books about mothers? Where are the books about PPD in all its nuances and variations?
Now there are thirty-five stories, including my own, “Afterbirth.” Writing it helped release years of pent up pain and shame. I cried as I typed, the words pouring forth, as if they had been waiting for a way out.
When the beautiful book finally arrived, I was thrilled, but a little hesitant to read it. Would I be triggered by my co-contributors’ painful stories?
To my surprise, the answer is no. If anything, I am buoyed by our similarities, by the facets of my story that I recognize in theirs. The commiseration that I longed for seven years ago has been gifted to me now.
If you know of a woman in the maelstrom of new motherhood, or recovering from it, please consider letting her know about this book. Or perhaps, pick it up yourself.
No one should walk alone.