Friends don't always know what to do when one of their own is suffering from postpartum depression. What should they say? Should they visit often? Should they pull back until they hear otherwise? These situations are different for every mom, but what should remain constant is letting your friend know you are just there for support whatever that looks like... a visit, a meal, a phone call, or even just a text to say "thinking about you." Knowing my friends were just there in the background, thinking about me and wanting me to get better helped tremendously. Most of my closest friends still live up North. These are friends who have seen me at the best of times and the worst of times...women who I have known for over 15 years...before they became moms. I never placed any expectations upon my friends during this time. I was way too messed up to worry about others, but whenever my friends reached out, they always made me feel slightly better. They just seemed to know when to give space and when to check in. And I knew they all talked about me to each other behind my back. Sometimes they even checked in with my husband. It's true that real friends say good things behind your back and bad things to your face. At least mine do. I always took comfort in this.
My family lives up North as well. That meant my mom and sister, my biggest supporters and cheerleaders during this time, couldn't always be by my side. I was lucky enough to have a mom friend where I live who really became my person during these days of postpartum depression. I can't even begin to describe how amazing, caring, compassionate, and selfless this friend was during my struggle. She was one of my life lines.
I really didn't want to see anyone or be around lots of people back then. Socializing and going out were not my activities of choice. So having that one constant person who came to see me and called to check in frequently ended up being extremely helpful.
I never got overwhelmed. She never overwhelmed me. Since I had a difficult time leaving the house and showing my face in public, my friend always came to me. Sometimes she would just sit with my son and me. Other times, she would force me out of bed to go for a walk. Even though I fought her every time, this always kept the anxiety and depression in check for a bit. We walked to the park nearby or to Starbucks to get coffee, then turn around and walk back home.
When it was raining, she would come early and take me to the mall to walk before it opened. The first time she did this I thought she was the crazy one. "Walk the mall?" I asked her. "What do you mean, walk the mall?" Apparently, walking the mall is a thing, especially when the weather is bad. Tons of people were walking the mall for exercise when we got there...senior citizens with their socks pulled up to their knees...power moms power walking with their babies in strollers. I learned something new that morning. In the future, when I got better, I would even tell other mom friends suffering from postpartum depression to go walk the mall if they felt up to it.
One particular morning stands out in my mind. My husband and I had just re-hired the nanny we had been using for the past month. I was going to try being with my baby on my own, but I clearly wasn't ready, so we asked her back. There was a lapse of a day between when she left and when she started again. My wonderful friend brought her mother with her that morning to watch my son. While she babysat, my friend dragged me out of bed, helped me get dressed, and took me to walk the mall again. We walked for two hours until my anxiety became to much to handle.
When we returned home, she put me in bed and rubbed lotion on my feet and legs until I fell asleep. There are no words to describe her compassion and the way she took care of me that day. Not to mention, I probably hadn't shaved my legs in weeks. I told her over and over that she did not have to do that, but she insisted. Her and her mother watched my son until my husband got home from work.
I know it sounds like I was an invalid during this time. I'm sure there are some who would judge the detachment I had from my son, my husband and others...my failure as a mom who couldn't properly love and take care of her new son. But this is postpartum depression, it's very real, and it's paralyzing. I struggled to get out of bed and get dressed each morning. I was a shell of my normal self. At almost 5 months, she strapped the baby bjorn on me, placed my son in it, and made me walk around the house. There is a photo of this and I'm smiling. It's one of the first moments captured of me with my son and truly smiling.
This friend never judged, never pushed to hard, and never made me feel like a failure. She only supported and was there for all of it...the worst days, the better days, and the great days as I started to get better, bond with my son, and become myself again. She was my rock, still is, and I couldn't have survived without her. Lucky is an understatement.