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October 7, 2021

Birthing out of Darkness: 5 Tips from a Postpartum Depression Survivor.

 

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I definitely didn’t imagine myself here.

After the birth of my first son, I found myself birthed in darkness, into the true “dark mother” archetype.

And she was out for blood.

In her embrace, I found myself facing all of my limiting beliefs, greatest fears, and the dark parts of my consciousness I hadn’t had the courage to face. But by that point, there was no turning back. I was going to have to face them for myself and for him—my son. And while it took time working through a heaping pile of shame, I eventually found myself pieced together.

From that place, I didn’t imagine myself here, bringing another life into the world—certainly not consciously. But I’m determined to turn this secondary experience around. To allow this experience to birth me into my light. To show me all the beautiful parts that newborns and motherhood hold.

And so, here are five action steps I’m taking to support myself and this growing babe.

1. Grieve.

I wouldn’t have known to do this in round one. When I first found out I was pregnant, I felt expected to feel excitement and nothing less than positive emotions. However, my experience was far from that. This hadn’t been planned. It wasn’t my lifelong dream to become a mother. But rather than face the grief throughout that pregnancy, I tried my best to shove it down. Months of mourning came bubbling out after birth when exhaustion pushed me to the end of my rope.

This time around, I allowed myself to grieve. I now know what losses are coming my way (at least partially) and that it’s okay to not feel okay. I allowed myself a solid week to mourn all the losses I would be laying to rest in the coming months.

2. Find someone to hold unconditional space and offer advice as needed.

It all came together rather serendipitously. She was a former client looking to create her own path in healing. It was just before I confirmed that pregnancy that we had been in touch about healing sessions. Fast-forward several months later and she’s taken on my role, but reversed. She’s someone I can come to, unfiltered, to help sort out my thoughts. She offers advice as she feels called and with intention. I didn’t realize how badly I needed this in round one: a safe space for darkness. That’s where the magic of this lies. By voicing and sharing our concerns or fears during pregnancy, birth, and motherhood, we bring them out of the darkness and into the light. We open the space for support and ease to flow in. I’ve shared my moments—from grief, exhaustion, and sickness to the moments of joy and deep inner connection. A sister, friend, or birthkeeper is a must.

3. Allowing my needs to come first.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda—I learned this last round but alas, here we are. I love to work. I love side projects, the hustle. Serving others and creating truly fills my cup on a soul level. It allows me an escape from the mundanity that motherhood and corporate America brings. This pregnancy was a full stop. I didn’t have the energy for anything other than surrender. I was malnourished, dehydrated, and so completely empty. It was a major reflection and shifting point. I, once again, was not living for just myself, and what mattered most right now was different that what I was focusing on. I needed to put myself, my needs, and my cares first. Rather than feeling guilt over the change of action to my creative time, I napped (albeit, uncomfortably at first).

The way I listened to and communicated with my body had changed as well. Rather than following my menstrual cycle and supporting her phases, I was now flying on whim—very much opposite to my grounded nature. I tried to honor every quiet nudge I had, whether it was action, rest, or food. I began putting myself first.

4. Ask for support.

Whether you’re in the throes of morning (all day) sickness or not, growing a human is a huge energy expenditure; so don’t be afraid to ask for help. It may be uncomfortable at first, but like any muscle, it gets stronger the more you use it. And contrary to what you think, asking for help does not make you weak. We aren’t meant to parent isolated in our own homes—we need community and connection. So reach out, ideally before you reach the end of your rope. Whether it’s for a few hours of childcare, a quick meal, or help around the house, don’t be afraid to ask.

5. Prepping for postpartum.

The first time around, my brain was so focused on the birth itself that it overlooked a major player in this whole thing: the human I was about to birth and care for in the coming years. Granted, I did prepare some easy snacks and meals to keep in our freezer but I had no idea just how overwhelming all the shifts postpartum would be. In fact, I believe it was this large oversight that, in part, led to my diagnosis of postpartum depression and anxiety.

So, how am I preparing for this final round? Focusing more of my resources into the postpartum time is number one. I am setting up a meal train, cleaning crew, and childcare for my (soon to be) oldest. I dream of being able to rest fully after this second birth. A large proponent of that is coming from the choice to birth outside of the medical system, but that’s an entirely different write-up. Getting these systems in place well before birth allows me to feel more confident—and at ease—about the challenging newborn months ahead.

~

There is no one-fits-all model of parenting.

And if you’re an expecting first-time parent reading this, take those pieces that feel good and leave what doesn’t. You’ll find a rhythm that works for you and your family best.

Above all, remember that you, too, have been reborn. No longer are you in your singular, maiden self, but rather, you are a newborn yourself. A newborn mother. Be gentle with yourself, your emotions, and your needs. Don’t be afraid to follow that mother’s intuition or ask for support when you’re feeling tapped out. Bottom line here, don’t forget to pour into yourself in this sacred postpartum period. By doing so, you are not only setting yourself up for successful parenting but also a smooth, gentle transition into your new role. My hope is that you may learn from areas of my darkness to birth yourself into the light.

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