Today is my birthday.
I don't say that for celebrations or presents (although I will take both) but to explain why it is that I am feeling so introspective.
Today is the beginning of the end - of my 20's, that is. The last year I can be considered a twenty-something.
As I look back over the past year, I can't believe how much I've grown and changed. At least, internally. I'm not sure that anyone would consciously be able to see it, but it's there. I've changed.
I started Year 28 with a a baby boy. . . and what I now recognize as mild depression.
Call it postpartum. Call it hormones. Whatever you call it, it was depression.
And that sucked. It sucked to have this awesome baby - really, he was remarkably easy - and still be depressed. To have this baby and still cry every day for weeks. I have many pictures of my newborn baby boy, but very few of myself with him. I ran from being in pictures - ashamed of my fat body, my unwashed hair, the circles around my eyes. The few pictures I do have, I am smiling, but not my smile. Not the one that crinkles the eyes and in thirty years I will regret for all the lines around my mouth. No, this smile is a caricature of my smile.
I'll never know if I would have felt the same had I had a vaginal birth. But I didn't - I had a c-section; a horrible, painful c-section. I know that this was a large part of my depression.
I cried whenever I talked about it. Whenever I thought about it. Whenever I looked in the mirror at the scar I thought would never heal and the belly I had heard would never go away - all because I had a c-section.
I cried when my cousin, after hearing that I had a c-section, said, "Oh, you won't pee when you sneeze like other moms do!" as if that is supposed to make me feel better.
I cried when, after asking to hear my story, my friend said,"But isn't it just important that you have a healthy baby?" as if I shouldn't be feeling this way.
I cried when other mothers talked about their natural births, and when I asked how they could do it without drugs, they replied,"Oh, I had an epidural. I just didn't have a c-section." as if the way I did it was so un-natural.
I still cry sometimes thinking about it. But now I cry because of all the time in the past spent crying. (Crazy, eh? But that's the nature of feelings! There is no rhyme and reason.) I am upset that I don't feel like my friends did after their babies. I never felt like harming my baby or myself (as so many postpartum mothers do), and I was never a danger to anyone. But that feeling of overwhelming love and devotion, that solid glow of happiness - I didn't feel that until much later.
Much later. Months later. It took until I went back to work, and stepped outside of Mommy-dom for me to look at myself and my life and say "I was depressed." And to began to pull myself up.
But depression isn't like the sadness you get after your boyfriend breaks up with you. It doesn't last for two weeks of eating ice cream and watching 'Clueless' on repeat. Sometimes it swallows you up completely while other times it lingers, not completely gone, but far enough away that you might not even see it in the background of your Christmas picture. It mutates with your life.
But no one talks about it. I told a friend recently that I think I might have been depressed and she looked right at me and said, "Yeah, I thought that, too."
I wanted to scream at her "Why didn't you help me?" but I know I wouldn't have listened. I didn't listen when my husband wanted me to see a doctor, to talk to someone, so why would I have listened to her? Another friend felt bad because she didn't see it - she didn't know. But that's the thing about having out of town friends. It's easier to hide the tears over a telephone. Or a funny blog post. You can hide anything behind humor, can't you?
As I look back over this year, unfortunately, I see depression. But looking further, I see a whole lot more.
I see a husband who stood beside me even when the sadness lasted far longer than he could have ever expected. Who let me take things me at my own pace and didn't get upset or angry when I repeated the same feelings and behaviors over and over. I know that this is what marriage is all about - not the date nights or the cuddly Sundays, although those are great too. But marriage is about sticking through when things are rough and coming out shiny on the other end. It's not all fun and games, and I have a man who realizes that, and wants to be with me for me, not because I am always happy or silly.
I made some pretty good friends after I had Bjorn. Some of the friends went through situations similar to mine and felt pretty much the same that I did, and because of that, I felt that I didn't have to pretend with them. Because, you see, no one wants to ask a new mom how it's going and hear 'OK, I guess.' They want to hear how great motherhood is, and how you're not getting any sleep, but that's OK because your baby is just beautiful. Hearing that you cry when your baby breastfeeds and you can't even get into a car because your stitches broke open again and it's been three months and you can't even talk about your birth story are at the bottom of the list of things others want to hear. But having someone who wanted to hear how bad it was because she felt that bad too actually helped. It's true, misery does love company. And for me, miserable company helped in a way that a sympathetic friend who had never experienced postpartum couldn't. I am grateful for my friends.
I have a baby who I appreciate so much, partly because I know I didn't appreciate him as much as I could have at the beginning. I can see that each day I spend dwelling on the past takes away from a day spent playing with him. I also can see that by being a SAHM, I was being buried alive under diapers and self-doubt, and the best thing for both of us was for me to go back to work. I love my kid more than I ever thought I could. But I wish mothers knew that it's not a Hollywood movie - that wonderful mother-son love doesn't always come in a rush right at once. Sometimes it is gradual and flowing.
So yeah, I've grown. I feel I have had to grow up this past year. Becoming a mother. Struggling with postpartum. Those are two very very big things, and while I'm not glad for the depression, I am glad for what it taught me. And for what I know about myself now.
All in all, even with everything, Year 28 was a good year for me. I got to see my baby grow and walk, babble and laugh. That's enough of an achievement sometimes. And I can't wait to see what Year 29 has in store.