Upstairs in my bedroom behind the always-open closet door sits one of my prized possessions. It is an art print on canvas of a mother nursing a baby. This thing has been through a lot – I would venture to call it “weathered.” Over-stretched, it looks like a pair of wrinkled khakis under the glass. There is a large water stain at the bottom that suggests it survived a flood. Still, the print is stunning, and subject is something very near and dear to my heart. But that’s not the whole reason that this thing is so special to me.
I had postpartum depression with my second child (probably with my first too). I actually had a pretty good start – a smooth birth, a relatively easier time breastfeeding than with my first. But the twilight zone feeling of the first few weeks never quite left me, and I cried for hours some days. Nights were even worse. I was so exhausted and so inexplicably angry at my baby for needing so much from me. I mean, of course she was going to be needy – she was a BABY. I felt like a horrible, unforgivable person, a completely unfit mother.
It was clear by the time my daughter was two months old that I needed help, but I was far too immobilized to initiate this process by myself. In the end, a special friend made an appointment for me, and the next day I found myself in a tiny therapy office with my baby.
My therapist was a kind older women who had piles of papers on her desk just like I always do. We chatted about my family, my older daughter. And then when I couldn’t stand it anymore, I spilled my guts. She listened patiently, handed me tissues. At the end of the hour, she said, “I do think it’s postpartum depression.” I left with a prescription and an appointment card.
I returned to therapy the next week and the week after that and the week after that. I kept going through all those highs and lows of the first year: forming friendships, taking vacations, returning to work, learning to be a mom of two. I almost always brought my baby and almost always nursed her through most of the session. It was the only way to keep her still! Eventually I started going every other week, then even less often. I hit my stride, had more good days than bad. I started to feel like maybe I didn’t need the help anymore.
One day in November, I walked into the office toward my usual seat on the couch, and I saw it. Directly above the couch on the wall was a stunning art print of a mother nursing her baby.
“Has that always been there?” I asked, incredulous. How had I managed to look past this for all these months?
“Yes! And actually, I’m retiring – would you like to have it? I think it would actually be perfect for you,” my therapist replied.
It was one of those weird, tingly moments, when I knew that something important was happening. It was sort of like she was passing the torch of my mental health to me. Transferring control of my life and happiness to me and me alone. I walked out of the office that day with the print and the certainty that I had just won the battle of my life.