How toddlerhood changed everything
If you've known me for a little while, you know that I battled postpartum depression. If you've been there, you know it's a kind of pain that is only understood if you've been there; if you haven't, it's the kind of pain that is devastating in nearly every way.
Something I distinctly remember thinking when I was going through it and taking care of Ella was maybe it'd be easier if she could just react or talk to me (and at the very beginning) laugh or smile. Maybe if she gave me the littlest of mom affirmations, a drop of that internal storm would clear.
Of course, as an infant, she could only offer little, but I held out hope that every giggle, or half-smile, or yawn would be enough to take away my pain. I remember looking at her as she kicked in her Snug-a-Bunny and thinking what I am supposed to do? The only feelings I felt were detachment, loneliness, and isolation; I'd tend to her as I needed, and then I'd hide myself away and cry.
I've had a lot of therapy, medicine, and another child between now and then, so much has changed, and no one single thing is to credit for getting me out of that low-point. But one thing has helped significantly over the course of these past couple years in my healing process and that's the development of Ella's personality.
The first time Ella said something hysterically cute, my heart took off and I remember pausing and thinking...there it is. Since then, every time she sings, dances, repeats a line from her favorite Mickey Mouse episode in a situation that makes absolute no sense (like "the dinosaurs won't get you" when I'm putting her to bed) my spirit is lifted no matter the circumstances of that day.
I'm proud of myself for making it through that time, because I think it's the most sacrificial love I'll ever offer to anyone. Every day, I woke up, fought against my body and mind and made a choice that I was going to love my daughter even though I wanted my own existence to disappear.
I write on this, because Ella is talking more and more...and more as of late and, on more than one occasion, it's taken me back to that place on my couch in our first apartment with used tissues crumpled all over the floor and me, a new mom hunched over longing to feel connected to her little girl. Recalling this, I can't help but to physically ache for anyone out there who may be facing a similar experience.
If you're hurting and happen upon this post, know you're a total warrior who is loving in the purest way even in the face of immense trial. You're going against every definition of love our current society has given us and offering your service and self for the good of the most vulnerable in your life. It's commendable, under-appreciated, and brave what you choose to do. If you're waiting to feel like your days are worth something, the moment is coming. I promise.
One day your little one will throw her arms around you as she lays in her toddler bed and whisper in your ear the dinosaurs won't get you and you'll think every damn crumpled tissue was worth picking up off the floor.