Intro by Liz Kent : This month, I am excited to share Kelly's story. I actually first knew Kelly because we grew up in the same neighborhood, though we were in different grades and didn't cross paths much. A couple of years ago, I ran into her at church and got a glimpse of her story. She is a wife and mom to a 5 year old daughter and one year old son. This is her story.
Q: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
A: “A mom.”
Since I was a little girl, no matter what additional dreams I had for my future, being a mother was always at the top of the list. After five years of marriage (and a Netflix binge of Parenthood), my husband and I decided to give it a go. Fast forward to eight months later and I was pregnant with our daughter.
Despite bouts of moderate anxiety and depression throughout my life, I was not expecting to experience anything like that postpartum. I had an easy, happy pregnancy and an unexceptional delivery. But after I gave birth, nothing felt normal.
I woke up the next morning without an appetite. I struggled to sleep even when my baby was sleeping, and yet I didn’t want to get out of bed and do anything. I spent my days crying, wishing I’d never upended my life, and wondering if everyone would be better off without me. Thankfully my family recognized this all went beyond the usual “baby blues” and called my doctor to get me help. I went on medication, reconnected with my counselor, and started to get better. After a few weeks, I was actually enjoying motherhood!
Before our daughter turned one, my husband and I decided we’d try again. It felt a little fast, but as a twin, I wanted my children to experience the joy of a sibling close in age. I also knew it had taken us a bit longer than others to get pregnant the first time around, so I figured we may as well start early.
Long story short, it ended up taking us three years to get pregnant. We were diagnosed with unexplained secondary infertility, which meant we didn’t have a clear answer for why we couldn’t conceive again (*super* helpful for warding off all the suggestions people lobbed our way.) I felt entirely defective. After years of trying and a failed IUI, we decided to attempt IVF. I was waiting for my next cycle to start so we could begin the process when I discovered I was pregnant with our son. He entered the world on Christmas Day 2017 - a true gift to us after a long, painful journey.
Postpartum depression and infertility were unexpected and terribly difficult seasons of my life. I can’t put into words the ways they challenged my notions of motherhood and my sense of self. I’ve had to (and continue to) work through feelings of shame, inadequacy and failure. And I have grieved a lot. I have grown through these experiences, but I would never wish them on someone else.
If you are going through either, I encourage you to open up and talk with someone about it. Counseling made a huge difference in my life, but so did having one or two people to share with who had “been there.” If I was laid up on the couch with cramps and just found out another friend was newly pregnant, I needed the outlet of a friend who understood all my mixed emotions without explanation! If you don’t have any friends who are in the same boat, join a support group online or read some blogs or books - anything that helps you feel less alone. And if you are going through PPD: please, please, please reach out for help. You do not need to be ashamed and you do not have to suffer in silence. It can and it will get better!
If we are honest, I think we all carry scars from this parenting gig - maybe especially in the areas where our story veers off the typical path. But at the end of the day, you are more than your experience of motherhood. You are beautiful and strong and loved whether you have one, five, or zero children; whether you conceived on your own or with help; whether your children have your DNA or not; regardless of how you delivered and how you fed your baby; no matter if you love or hate that newborn stage, that toddler stage, or any stage to come. This journey is not easy and it is not one-size-fits-all, but we are in it together. I hope you feel encouraged today!