Depression taught me that the best gift I could give my son was a realistic view of motherhood; full of surprises, mistakes, healing, hope and teachable moments.
When I gave birth to my oldest son, I wasn’t prepared for the postpartum depression that followed this joyous experience in my life. Raised in a culture that was not sensitive to mental health concerns, I did what I know best: I hid my thoughts and feelings. The dark days and months that stormed my life was so painful that I couldn’t find any words to express what I as going through. My daily thoughts ranged from running away from home to just not wanting to wake up.
Thankfully, I never reached a point in which I wanted to harm myself or my son, but I did feel hopeless, helpless, tired and scared of life. No one had talked to me about postpartum and when I spoke to other moms I felt like an alien because they look so happy, composed and confident. As a black woman, I’d been reared to be strong, have faith and take control, despite the delicacy of my emotional life. I didn’t know how to tell my family and friends that I felt incompetent and unworthy of such a beautiful gift. I felt disconnected from life, yet I put on a brave front trying my best to prove that I could do the job of mothering.
If anyone suspected that I was depressed, no one spoke up. I can’t blame anyone because I did a good job of being a supermom. My son was my first priority. I made sure he was a happy and well adjusted baby. I wish I could say that some miraculous event happened in my life to help me with my postpartum depression but the truth is I weathered through each pain filled day.
I prayed, I cried, read self-help books and did everything except ask for help. In my mind, asking for help was for the weak. It never occurred to me that the real weakness was pretending to be fine when I was an emotional wreck. I thought I was doing my family a favor by being a wonder mom. I thought that he would appreciate that he had a strong, capable and competent mother. I thought he would benefit from a mother who as always ready, willing and able to play. Every day, I put on my mask and faced the day as if I had everything under control.
I don’t know at what point I realized that I wasn’t doing my son a favor by not addressing my postpartum depression. I just remember feeling the need to get better for him. I remember looking at my son and knowing that he deserved a mother who was living her truth. I knew that he would compare all the women who came into his life to me. If I made him believe that women are weak for asking for help, what would be his perception of women. If he thought that crying was a sign of weakness, how would he deal with his emotional pain?
Would it be fair to a future daughter-in-law to make her feel that she had to live up to unrealistic expectations as a mother and wife? I didn’t want to leave a legacy of lies. I didn’t need my son to worship or admire me because of my strength. I wanted him to appreciate that I was imperfect, fragile, and real.
I had to be honest with myself in order to be the mother my son needed and deserved. That honesty led me to seek help and to break the cycle of shame. I wish I could say that my life turned around for the better right away. I struggled through getting better. I also made a commitment to myself to not allow society’s expectations of motherhood to distort my role as a mother. I learned that the best gift I could give my son was a realistic view of motherhood; full of surprises, mistakes, healing, hope and teachable moments.
Want the best of The Good Men Project posts sent to you by email? Join our mailing list here.