Friends – this third round of PPD and anxiety really knocked me on my ass. Not that it’s EVER a walk in the park, but I fell into deeper depths with greater momentum than ever before. I opened up to a dear friend about all of this, and she gave me advice that changed my life:
“Stop acting like you’re not in the pits. You’re doing too much.”
The thought of embracing “the pits” was absolutely terrifying. Plus, how on earth was I doing too much? At six-weeks postpartum, I rarely brushed my teeth, couldn’t drive, napped any second I could, and definitely parented from the couch. I had the lowest standards for an accomplished day than anyone I knew. Until I dug deeper.
My brain. The checklists and “mom” mental notes. The expectations. Oh, the expectations. You know what I’m talking about.
The four-year-old is crabby, he needs less sugar and TV time. The two-year-old didn’t eat breakfast, hasn’t brushed his teeth, and is extra needy so I should probably snuggle him more. Physical touch is his love language, right? Gah. Husband. Should text husband and say something sweet. Remember when you were a sweet wife? Do that again. Also, walk. Get the laundry, fold it, sort it. Dinner. Meal plan. Pee. Call insurance company. Eat healthy. Chill out so you have more milk for your baby. Everyone else makes it look easy. It’s easy! BE PERFECT!!!!!!!
There was one afternoon when I came home from school pick-up with a van full of cranky kids. I made sandwiches, cooked myself a sausage, and poured milk into fun cups while nursing the newborn. I was trying to fit my new life into my old routine. TOO. MUCH.
I needed to create a carefree (and safe) environment for my whole family while I healed from the physical and emotional toll of having another baby. This was not the time for crafts and homemade paleo muffins. I was in survival mode. No expectations. No requirements. Pure survival.
I made an accessible snack drawer for my kids, accepted that they would eat too much sugar and watch too much TV, realized my husband would survive without my texts, and acknowledged that I would probably smell.
I took a deep breath and jumped head first into my pit. My only rule: say yes.
I said YES to everything.
Mommy, can we have pretzels for breakfast?
Mommy, can we watch “Moana” for the third time in a row?
Mommy, can we wash all of our cars in the bathtub?
Yeah, why not?!
Saying “yes” was liberating and fun. My boys and I played games, chatted about superheroes, ate too many popsicles, and took naps. They learned to hug me when I cried. We hugged a lot. I didn’t keep track of time. We just lived in the moment. Our bond grew stronger and our love even deeper.
I said YES to help.
Can I bring you a meal?
Yes, please. Tomorrow night would be great.
Do you need anything from the grocery store?
Yes, I could use some paper plates.
Do you need company?
Yes, I really do.
Say yes before you can say no. I learn this lesson over and over again: we are not islands. We are humans and need each other for survival. I was (still am) in awe at how generous people are with their time and their resources.
A “yes” to someone else was also a “yes” to me.
A magical thing happened when I accepted my smelly, pitiful reality: I felt better. In this newfound freedom from “no,” I restored my mental energy. My anxiety subsided when I threw out the lie of perfection. Above all, I gifted myself the time I needed to heal from the inside out.
Slowly but surely, I’m rising out of this pit. Some days I feel like a meerkat, ready for action; other days, I just want to bury my head in the sand all over again. I’m learning to honor where I’m at and say “yes” to any carefree fun, help, or hugs that come my way.
If you or a friend are suffering from PPD or PPA, please reach out to a trusted friend or doctor. Blurt out the words, “I need help.” That’s a big YES to YOU.