I park in front of the barber shop and notice my little man in the rear view mirror. He’s just drifted off into sleep, after a long morning of playing “running in circles.” If I wake him now, he will be a complete basket case. My older son, understanding the situation, offers to go in first.
I wait a few minutes and begin the transfer process, from car seat into my arms. I carefully lift my little boy and carry him into the barber shop; cradled in my arms, he is still fast asleep. A golden moment-sleep is sacred, especially for toddlers. I unzip my little man’s jacket and pull back his wool cap.
I look up at my older son. There he sits, discussing various cars on the market, their engine size and horsepower. His barber happily engages with him as do other patrons; It’s a boys club and somehow I’ve earned a front row seat. He sees me in the mirror and flashes a smile. My heart is full.
I look back down at the sleeping toddler in my arms. With his hat pulled back, his hairline is visible. I notice the shape of his face, his long lashes and the serenity that washes over him. A rare moment these days. He is almost three and always on the go.
My thoughts drift as they often do and I am reminded of time. Soon, my little boy will soon be too big to be held, too old to sleep in my arms, too grown to kiss me goodbye. And while it’s exciting to think about the prospect of getting some of my freedom back, I am gutted by the idea that my boys are growing up. A wave of anxiety and sadness wash over me. I lean in and feel the pangs of my ambivalence, bringing compassion to my experience. I allow myself the space before returning to the present.
Grounding-a moment to moment practice.
I look down again at the little boy in my arms, and study the lines and crevices of his face. His blue vein sitting perfectly between his eyes, nose like a button, tiny beauty marks in all the right places. I am reminded of his sweetness. A rambunctious toddler, so still in his sleep.
I don’t want to forget this moment. So I stay engaged, as best as I could, with a renewed energy to soak up the simple moments- Soothed with the knowledge that a new chapter of connection and holding awaits. Unwavering in my commitment to bring myself back to the present, as best as I can, each and every time I get lost.
Much has been written on postpartum depression (PPD). It is well documented and common among postpartum women, experienced in varying degrees. While symptoms range in intensity, when moderate to severe, they can be upsetting, shameful, and disregulating. Negative emotions can be especially difficult to tolerate when they occur in situations that involve internalized ideals of the perfect (postpartum) experience. For example, a mother who is postpartum, may, at times, experience feelings of bliss, and a deep love and connection with her newborn, yet at the same time experience feelings of dread, sadness, anxiety, panic, detachment, and guilt, in addition to tearfulness and crying. Further exacerbating this experience are extreme hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, feeding difficulties, and the massive life change of being fully responsible for another life; change occurring in full throttle.
Again, the degree to which women feel this polarizing state varies. When "baby blues" and other symptoms (mentioned above) do not remit or worsen, a diagnosis of PPD is considered. When left untreated, some women may be left with a lingering sadness, that waxes and wanes, often suffering in silence. Although many can function in this state, it is not optimal for mother or baby, and will not go away on its own. Positively, help is readily available and treatment options are promising. You do not have to suffer; speak up, and although it can be difficult, try to discuss your experience with those you feel close to, especially your medical provider.
Together, medical and mental health professionals are openly discussing PPD and the postpartum experience with their patients and loved ones. They are working to diminish the stigma of PPD, along with social service organizations, the media, family and friends. By giving PPD and related symptoms a voice, we can reduce shame, and enable earlier detection and intervention, so that women can stop suffering and feel like themselves again.
Dr. Ariela Bellin
If you or someone you know is suffering with PPD or related symptoms, please find help in your area. Reach out to your doctor, nurse or mental health specialist.