No one tells you this, but it’s hard a first. Judah entered this world blue and breathless. Through panic-stricken eyes, I watched as he was plopped onto my chest and promptly whisked away a few seconds later. I remember craning my neck past my doctor who was dutifully working to make me whole again. He was blocking my view of my silent blue boy, and I grew impatient. My ears turned to listen to any sign of a whimper, any sign of life.
And then, there it was — the scream. It was the kind of scream that grounds your heart in deep relief, the kind that removes the firm grip on your lungs to allow for new breath to fill them. Suddenly, my little blue boy was a beautiful shade of life. And as he was placed on my chest again, my heart pulsed vigorously, bewildered by the screaming stranger that lay before me.
The scream. It persisted into that first night and was silenced only under loud, gulping guzzles or deep, sedated snoozes. It repeated every hour — Eat. Sleep. Scream. My mind was in a frazzled state of shock as my sleep-deprived body worked overtime to restore both itself and the scream that seemed to meet no end.
We headed home on a Monday night. I remember fumbling into the backseat with so much conflict in my heart. My body ached and my eyes yearned for sleep. We set out, the three of us. We set out toward the unfamiliarity of the most familiar place… home. And it was there, somewhere between the midnight diaper change and the 2 a.m. feeding, that I knew what it was. Depression. It had come like a masked bandit, robbing me of the long-awaited joy my heart so desperately pined for. And I felt ashamed because of it. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I WANTED this child. I prayed for this child.
Visitors came and went in those first few weeks, and I struggled under the weight of the pleasantries. My life, it seemed, was closing in around me and everyone was smiling, full of the joy I thought I would be experiencing. But it persisted — the screams kept coming along with the cascade of water that continuously erupted from my eyes.
This picture was taken three days after Judah was born. I remember it so vividly. “I need to get outside,” I told my husband. So, fresh from my shower, we walked around in the afternoon sun, each step taken with care to avoid the pain that you can only understand after having given birth. I was tired, sleep-deprived, and depressed. But I was also determined. I set my mind on loving this screaming little stranger. And, you see, that’s the thing of it all. Loving him didn’t come naturally. I had to work for it.
And so I worked at it. Night after sleepless night, I awoke to Judah’s screams with labored love in my heart. I showered him with affirmations and cradled him close with care. And as his screams got a little louder, my heart grew a little bigger to make room for him. Day in and day out, I trudged along this way until I felt it starting to lift — that wretched fog of depression that surrounded me. And that’s when the floodgates of love sprang open, devouring the gap between me and my little screamer.
This story is a difficult one to tell, but it’s an honest one. That’s life though, isn’t it? Honest, raw, messy. No one is immuned from it. But it’s a beautiful thing, if you think about it. Because just when you think you’ve been left to trudge down your path alone, you find unexpected solace in the remnants left behind from those who walked the road before you. The rich, the poor, the working class. We all go through these life experiences together.
So, to the one who is, or will be, stumbling through the fog of postpartum life, you are not alone. Hang in there, dear sister. The love you expected to feel WILL find you in time. Pray. Heal. Seek help. And then let the love devour your heart.
Because it really is such a wonderful life.