My eyes popped open the moment I heard the frightened and desperate cry. Although groggy, I climbed out of the comfort of the warm bed and quickly made my way down the hall in my bare feet.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” I said with concern as she stood up with tears rushing down her cheeks and reached her little arms up towards me.
I gently picked her up and held her close and immediately, like magic, her crying stopped and she started to settle back to sleep in my arms, clutching her pink owl blanket and softly sucking her pacifier in quick intervals.
I sat rocking her in the big tan comfy chair, that I had spent countless hours in over the past year, and felt a surge of emotion. Joy and sadness both. I cherished the precious moment but grieved for all of the moments that had been stolen from me.
For the first year of her life, I fought a vicious battle inside of my head. I fell to the depths of postpartum depression and had finally climbed my way out of the darkness and emerged a changed woman—a woman who knows what it feels like to be broken, desperate, and afraid.
It wasn’t long before when the same desperate cry would have made me feel overwhelmed, angry, resentful and helpless. And the guilt of all of these feelings was the heaviest of all—it forced me farther and farther down into the depths of darkness.
The delicate pink and gray room, that had been so carefully planned and excitedly prepared before her birth, was lit by the gentle light of the moon. Her initials were carefully placed above her crib, a tree decal was planted on a gray wall with its pink leaves blowing as if in the middle of a gentle breeze. The art work I had chosen almost foretelling what I would desperately need to know, “Don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing is gonna be alright”. Finally, I could hear the peace in this room, which was no longer being drowned out by the clanging dissonant loudness of my thoughts, anxieties, and fears.
I held her for a long time, well after she was asleep again. I felt her soft and smooth skin, listened to her baby breath, inhaled her baby fragrance, and showered her in soft kisses—careful not to awake her.
So often I had held her while tears of sadness rushed from my eyes. This time, joy was overflowing instead. For the first time, I felt what it was like to feel bonded with my beautiful baby girl and I didn’t want to miss a thing, having already missed so much.
I slowly stood up from the rocker and carried her back to her crib, placing her gently inside what had become her own little nest. She quickly settled in and was fast asleep. I tip-toed out of the room, careful to avoid all of the places on the old wooden floor that creaked and quietly closed the door behind me.
Down the hall, my husband was fast asleep having not even noticed I was gone. I climbed into bed and I continued to silently cry, knowing that someday she, this precious little girl who needed me so much right now, was no longer going to need me anymore. She would grow up and become independent, no longer needing her mother’s comfort or wanting to hear the lullabies that escaped my lips and brought her peace.
What was taken from me by postpartum depression in that first year cannot be returned and the grief of that is heavy. We are not promised tomorrow, but we have today. And I am clutching to these little moments each day that move like soft whispers of love to an eager ear—heard only briefly in tenderness —and then they’re gone.