Summertime is typically a bright, happy time. When you're postpartum, it can feel dark and isolating.
Both of my children were born on beautiful, sunny days during a long period of beautiful, sunny weather. As someone who annually battles seasonal depression, I was thrilled to learn that both of my children would be due during late summer/early fall instead of the depth of winter. I wasn't prepared for the struggle of feeling the whole range of postpartum emotions—especially when none of those feelings matched the season.
With my first daughter, postpartum depression and anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks. I'd never struggled with an anxiety disorder before, and I was a wreck.
I didn't know what postpartum anxiety was, or that I was in the thick of it. But I did know that the bright sunshine that blared through my windows felt foreign and wrong, and there were many days I'd close the blinds on a bright, warm day to stay inside with my newborn.
"Oh, you guys need some fresh air," visitors would say when they saw me, still in my pajamas, holding my swaddled baby inside in the air-conditioning. It only made me feel worse, like I was already failing my baby because I didn't want to sit in the warm sun.
I made myself go on stroller-walks that didn't make me feel better. I felt like I should be enjoying the unseasonably summer-like weather in October. I packed up my tiny daughter and took her to visit family even though my anxiety was internally screaming at me, writhing against every minute of forced socialization.
Everyone was happy, enjoying the season. All I wanted to do was stay indoors, holding my baby where I didn't have to worry about whether she was too warm, too exposed to the sun, or being passed around between family members and friends. I felt exposed; I was convinced everyone could see I was faking the smiles. I felt weird for having my curtains were drawn on a 75-degree day in the middle of the afternoon.
It took months to my hormones and emotions to balance out, to gain the confidence I needed to know what was best for us, for her. To not worry about what others thought. It was one of the most difficult, isolating experiences of my life. But it was temporary—as all things in parenthood are. I got the help I needed by relying on my husband and sister, and seeking therapy once I was able to recognize I needed it.
My second daughter was born in the summer, and while I experienced the highs and lows of postpartum hormones, second-child guilt, and the imbalanced emotions of those early weeks of new parenthood—I knew I didn't have postpartum depression or anxiety.
Once again, my feelings didn't match the sunny season. But this time, I didn't feel bad about it. Because I knew whatever I was feeling was temporary, and that whatever I needed to do to get through the day was just fine. I knew how to say "no" to gatherings I wasn't comfortable taking a newborn to, and I didn't punish myself on the days I felt blue.
If any of this resonates with you, please know it's always okay to not be okay. Recognize who your people are and let them help you. Doing what you need to do is what's best for you, and what's best for you is what's best for your baby.
You'll find the sunshine again. I promise.
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