When I go through the first two years of your life in my head it plays like an old movie projector displayed across the walls of my mind. And each memory holds an emotion I can still feel throughout every inch of my body when it’s transported for display. What will one day be a distant memory, lingers like the shadow that follows behind on a sunny day. And although you won’t remember what has happened I know it is as much a part of you, as it is of me.
Which is why I want so badly for this story to come from me.
But I know there will be certain times in your life when you’ll hear comments from family and friends who’ve made their own opinions, and assumptions. People who either didn’t help, had no idea what was going on, or couldn’t possibly find a solution. I won’t tell you these comments will be kind, because this story comes with quite a bit of hostility. I won’t tell you their comments will be joyous, because a joyful time in our life was filled with darkness. But without you, my dear, I would not have made it through that darkness.
From the moment that second line appeared I knew I loved you. A love that grew inside me, and a part of me for nine months. A love that came bursting out on her due date and whisked away within minutes. When the nurse quickly brought you over I couldn’t even see your face, and although she thought we were touching, I couldn’t feel you.
The thing no one tells you about Motherhood is that having a child is literally giving a piece of your heart, mind, body, and soul to another human being.
So when they whisked you away to the NICU I was left in a room full of people but felt this unbearable sense of loneliness. That’s when the darkness started to creep in. And I was the last person to meet you that night…I regret it with every fiber of my being. When I was finally wheeled up to see those tiny eyes that are just like your father’s, I felt nothing, yet my heart was full. I know it’s a strange thing to say, but that’s the only way I can explain it. Every part of me loved you but I couldn’t feel a thing, until I was crippled with heartache, despair, and worry. There was a hold on me, like a demon inside suppressing every joyful sensation.
When I finally made it back to my room I was greeted by family who had nothing but encouraging words for me. And in truth, I was still coming down from the drugs to realize how upset I was. So when my Mother asked if I wanted her to stay that night I should have screamed, “YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” But instead I reverted to my usual ‘I can do everything myself’ mode, and told her to go. As soon as they closed the door, and I settled in to rest, the tears came streaming down. I’m not sure if I even slept that evening because all I remember is crying, yearning for you, and wishing for a happy emotion to flood my body. I had just spent nine months reading about this unforgettably radiant feeling Mothers get after giving birth, but that feeling never came. So I began to search for it…
The real journey started when we brought you home and your Father returned to work. What I told myself was just the ‘baby blues’ quickly turned into a dark hole I found myself desperately trying to dig out of. And the circumstances of the first few months only seemed to deepen the hole. Every cry, health issue, frustrating moment, parenting fail, and my inability to breastfeed was just another blow to my character. I started to define myself by the failures, and I let them fester inside-spreading throughout my mind. I was able to delay an emotional response for only so long before it came pouring out like a broken faucet. Usually your grandmother would be the one to talk me through it until I could muster up the energy for a few more hours of neutrality. And although the sadness had a crippling affect on me, I wasn’t truly prepared for what came next.
This part of my PPD turned me against everyone. It’s a terrible thing to experience, your mind turning against you. I no longer spoke to myself with grace. Instead, the rage turned every encouraging word into hateful mantras inside my mind. I slowly became a person I no longer recognized. I alternated between rage and sadness like a seesaw for months. Memories, relationships, new adventures all turned into negative experiences that I could never fully enjoy. But there were these tiny bursts of light that kept breaking through. Every time you smiled at me it was as if to say “Mom, I see you.” And so I held on to those moments in each day. When I could not draw strength from myself, you were my light in the darkness. I poured every ounce of energy into you because without you, I would not be here. When you became a toddler and started wearing your heart on your sleeve-never holding back emotions, I learned to embrace all of mine. Each day we faced got a little bit easier, until the failures and frustrations no longer seemed like road blocks. They turned into little speed bumps we now cruise over without giving it extra thought. And I have found myself again. I am growing and changing just as you do everyday. Through it all I became a survivor and you have been my little north star.
My light in the darkness.
And I love you through and through. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow too.
John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Special thanks to my dear friend, Steve Walter Photo for capturing these stunning photos. I can’t thank you enough, Steve, for your support and collaboration over the last couple of years!
Written by: Kimberlee Ward
Edited by: Sara Auriemme