The Truth About Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders
My beloved daughters,
I love being your mother. One of my greatest pleasures in life is watching you grow and mature. Having the front row seat to your wonder and imagination is incredible. I never knew motherhood could be this wonderful.
But this joy is hard-won, because before it came depression.
My pregnancies were easy. I had no morning sickness, no complications, and though tired, I could function.
Your births were all fast and smooth. Nothing ever went wrong and recovery was quick.
But postpartum was always different. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) were my companions every time. Sometimes they were pervasive — like when driving to church in the months after our car accident felt like a death sentence, and when depression made me constantly doubtful, irritable, and distant. Other times, PMADs were like an overcast sky, something you hardly notice until one day the sun comes out. After each of you were born, I wondered if motherhood with one, two, then three kids was just like this. Once the acute anxiety or depression had faded, I thought maybe I wasn’t as happy and easy going as I used to be because motherhood was just hard. But there has always been a time when the fog lifted and I suddenly couldn’t imagine anything on earth better than our little family.
I don’t want you to feel guilty about my depression and anxiety. But you need to know, because just as easy pregnancies and deliveries can be hereditary, so too can PMADs.
What I experienced was not your fault. PMADs may have come after you were born, but you didn’t do anything to cause it, nor was the depression an accurate picture of how I felt about you. Even at the times I felt disconnected from you, I loved you and longed for more. I knew what I was going through was not the way things were supposed to be.
I don’t blame you at all. And I’m not bitter that I went through the darkness after you were born. It brought me closer to you, closer to Papa, closer to God. It’s not a path I ever would have chosen, but it was worth it to have you.
I love you more because of PMADs. When I look at you and remember the heartache of depression and the terrors of anxiety, PTSD, and OCD, I’m filled with gratitude that I’m better and filled with joy at how today is so different. The Mama Bear in me holds you closer because I suffered to have you. You are much more precious to me because of PMADs. You are a reminder to me of the good that God can bring out of our sorrow.
But because of me, you are at risk for PMADs. It doesn’t mean you will have PMADs, just that you are more likely to have them. I want to prepare you well for that possibility, even for how your monthly hormonal fluctuations may affect you. I want to help you learn to ride your emotions well. I want you to know that God is there for you in every difficulty.
You don’t have to tell me your struggles, but you do need to know that I am always here for you if you want to share. I will always love you, no matter how you transition to motherhood.
Most of all, I want you to know that God can redeem and bring light even in the darkest times. PMADs or any other suffering you go through is not the end, even if sometimes it feels like it. God may seem silent at times, but he is always faithful.
I love you.
Kyleigh Dunn is wife to Ezra, mother to three young girls and obsessive reader seeking to spread awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders in the church and apply theology and biblical encouragement to moms experiencing them. Kyleigh blogs at www.thesojourningdunns.wordpress.com and can be found on Instagram @kyleighrdunn or Facebook @thesojourningdunns.
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