Time and time again we hear how motherhood transcends any and all other experiences. Carrying a child is a momentous journey and there is nothing more miraculous than the moment your eyes meet for the very first time. A bond begins instantaneously. It’s beautiful.

But what about when it’s not? What happens when what you should be the happiest experience of your life isn’t? How do you cope with knowing that instead of joy you have anxiety and anger? Recent research has found that postpartum depression affects approximately one in seven mothers. I am one in seven.

I had already experienced pregnancy, childbirth, caring for a newborn and raising a child. I was confident in my innate motherly instincts. But this time it was different. This time my instincts were far from innate. In fact, everything felt completely unnatural and guilt began to overwhelm me. Guilty. I felt so guilty. Guilty that I wasn’t able to appreciate my miracle baby the moment he entered into our lives. Guilty for not wanting to hold him. Guilty for growing angry as he cried. Guilty for each and every thought I had of leaving. Guilty.

Never before had I felt such shame. Never before had I felt so afraid. But most of all, never before had I felt like such a failure.

I should’ve known something was wrong. I should’ve been able to see that there was something causing my mood swings, anxiety, anger, intense irritability, sadness, excessive crying, withdrawal from my loved ones, fatigue and thoughts of suicide. But I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see because there are no visible signs for PPD. It’s internal. It’s chemical and it’s emotional. It’s a combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustments and sleep deprivation.

“Postpartum depression is a very real and very serious problem for most mothers. It can happen to a first time mom or a veteran mother. It can occur a few days…or a few months after childbirth.” Regardless of when and how it happens, the pain is the same. But there is one other thing that is the same, the ability to overcome. I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone. Together we will overcome.

I would be lying if I said that I have completely recovered because I haven’t. It’s been a strenuous battle. Some days are great. Some days are terrible. But the days that are great are starting to surpass the ones that are terrible. I must be patient with myself, I must celebrate the small steps forward and push to avoid any backtrack, I must open up when feeling overwhelmed and I must remember that I may have postpartum depression but postpartum depression doesn’t have me.

Dear Elijah,

Today was a rather frustrating day for Mommy. I am currently 34 weeks pregnant with Ethan and I have been physically exhausted. But today, today I was more exhausted than usual. Today I was having a day. Ironically, you also seemed to be having a day. You woke up before 7am with the biggest burst of energy; energy that over time turned into not listening, talking back, some whining and even some stomping. By 3pm you seemed to have used up all of my patience for the rest of the week. Daddy wouldn’t be home for at least another two hours and Mommy really, really needed a break. So I sat you down on the sofa with a snack and put on Octonauts then silently escaped to my room. I sat on my bed, took a deep breath and just began to cry. I cannot say how long I was there but it must have been some time because you came looking for me.

You stood by the doorway, smiled and said something so powerful.
“Mommy, let’s pray.”
You walked towards me and grabbed both my hands.
“Thank you God for protecting me, thank you God for Mommy and Daddy, thank you God for Octonauts, thank you God for donuts…Amen.”
Tears streamed down my face as I embraced you in my arms.
In that moment I began to say my own prayer.
I began to thank God for YOU!

I cannot count the days that I feel like I’m failing as a mother. Despite my exhaustion, today wasn’t one of those days. Today you reminded me that I am doing something right. Today you reminded me where my strength comes from. Today you showed me where your strength will come from too. Even if Daddy and I fail at everything else, I’ll be satisfied knowing that we have already taught you the most powerful tool of all, the power of prayer.

Tonight as I write this you are just three months shy of being four years old.
I don’t know when you’ll read this…
Maybe you’re 15 and hates our guts (as most teens do), maybe you’re about to graduate high school and you’re unsure what you want to do next, maybe you’re about to get married and are having some jitters or maybe you’re a parent with a three year old of your own and seem to be having a day
…wherever you are in life, I hope that these words bring you encouragement and remind you that you’ve always known how to get through any overwhelming moment.

I love you my little angel.
Always and Forever,
Mommy