Mothering Through the Darkness: Anthology of the Postpartum Experience


“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.

That is why this anthology, Mothering Through the Darkness, edited by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger of The HerStories Project is such an important book. It would’ve been a lifeline for me.

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.

25 thoughts on “Mothering Through the Darkness: Anthology of the Postpartum Experience

  1. I’m so happy your story is in this amazing collection. I’m so happy HerStories published a book like this. You know I feel your pain and wish I had this many years ago. But it’s here now and I will spread the word. ❤


    • Sarah, thank you so much! I have never been more hopeful about placing an essay in my life and feel so grateful that it made it in. I nearly didn’t submit anything because I thought my experience didn’t “count.” Then days before I reread the guidelines and was like, ok this has to get written.

      Sent from my iPhone



  2. Dana, I can relate to this post. I too was never diagnosed, or really even sure I had a form of PDD. It wasn’t until my daughter was born (fours year after my first pregnancy) and I felt such elation that I realized I’d been depressed and anxious. Your essay in the book is beautiful I was also afraid that reading the essays would bring me down, so I’ve been treating myself to two a day. The similarities and differences are amazing.


    • Allie, thank you. I just read your essay and am blown away by what you went through. It doesn’t surprise me that your bonding was difficult, and you so beautifully and painfully describe the need to protect your heart. So glad those sweet boys made it through their harrowing beginning, and you too.


    • Thanks so much Nina! Stephanie and Jessica really have their finger on the pulse of what matters. I’m grateful for the work they do, and what they offer to both readers and writers.


  3. Wow. I am so glad I just read this. When I saw calls for this anthology, I never thought to submit. I didn’t have diagnosed ‘postpartum depression.’ When I read your words, though, our journeys sound so similar. I was filled with sadness, frustration and self-doubt for years as a new mother. I had two colicy and refluxy babies who cried more than they slept. I was in a state of severe sleep deprivation for years and often terribly unhappy. I am off to order this book right away. All these years later, I know it will help me to read the words of others.


    • Stacey – our stories sound so similar! Right down to your hesitation to write an essay for the anthology. I literally waited until days before the deadline to give myself permission, and even then, felt a little like a fraud… I’m so sorry you had 2 colicky babies. That is just torture. Sleep deprivation is a serious problem for new mothers, especially when it is extended by YEARS, as it was for us, and I’m sure, many others. Thank you for this comment. The essays in this book are part of the continuing healing process for me, and perhaps for you. Let me know what you think!


    • Thank you Julie. It’s funny, I felt kind of goofy for quoting Green Day (!) but that line immediately popped in my head and I had to do a web search to even realize I was cribbing from them 🙂


  4. Pingback: “Mothering through Darkness” | Maria Holm

  5. How I wish that book had been available when I was a new mom. I was in exactly that same place. I just wish someone else had told me it might not be the magical, joyous, sublime experience that everyone told me it would be. It was the hardest time in my life. Thanks so much for sharing your experience, as it will DEFINITELY help another mom going through the unexpected and jarring experience of sadness/depression in new motherhood. Cheers.


    • Thank you so much for your comment. I think you’re exactly right – we’re all fed the mythology of the blissed out new mom. Sure, she’s tired and maybe a bit strung out, but mostly she’s HAPPY. It was the hardest time of my life, too, and I felt abnormal, even though I know now that was untrue. Reading the book now, almost eight years after the birth of my daughter, has been healing. I feel seen and understood by the other authors in the book. I do hope it helps new moms, and less new ones, like us.

      Liked by 1 person

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