Motherhood is never easy, but when you’re faced with postpartum depression, those challenges multiply. This heart-wrenching piece follows a new mother as she struggles to bond with her newborn son. Even with the encouragement and loving support of her husband and mother, her lack of self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy weigh on her. She has another life to care for now—one who depends on her. Will that be enough, or will her guilt consume her?
Inspiration behind the story
This piece was born during my time in college. At the time, I had no experience with motherhood. I knew very little about postpartum depression (and still am fortunate enough to have not experienced it firsthand). But I was so strongly compelled to write this story that I created a draft anyway, knowing I could do it more justice years down the line. Two events inspired this story. The first was a good friend of mine who became a teenage mother. Though the character in this story is older and is, in fact, happily married, she faces similar struggles. My friend had zero experience as a new mother, and being thrust into that life wasn’t what she expected. She spent the latter half of her pregnancy living with us and nearly died when she developed preeclampsia. She was rushed to the emergency room and gave birth to a healthy baby boy, and our whole world changed—as did our relationship. In the months following his birth, she continued living with us, and at only sixteen years old, I got to see what it was like to be a young mother. I saw the joy, the frustration, the overwhelming decisions that had to be made for this tiny life she now had to care for.
The second event was the birth of my own children, particularly my son. I was in my late twenties when I had him, but he held so many unexpected challenges, nothing could have ever prepared me for the years ahead. At just two years old, he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and within a few months, my daughter, who was three years older than him, received the same diagnosis. I faced years of sleepless nights, feeding issues, and behaviors I had no clue how to deal with. My strength, faith, and, patience were all tested in ways I could never have imagined, and if it hadn’t been for the support of my wonderful husband and mother, I’m not sure I would have made it through. We’ve undergone years of therapy for them, and we’re still in the midst of it. I deal with my anxiety disorder on a daily basis, and I’m learning to cope with this new “normal” that has become my life, all while balancing my work as an editor, my role as a mother, daughter, and wife, and my job as an author.
It’s been sixteen years since my friend gave birth. My oldest is halfway through elementary school, and my youngest is entering kindergarten in the fall. But those early memories still live with me, allow me to have experienced a breaking point that’s left me wondering if I’d ever overcome it. When you read this story, whether you’re male or female, whether you’ve had kids of your own, or whether you deal with your own demons that have nothing to do with the ones the woman in this story faces, I hope it brings you peace and comfort, a reassurance that you do have the strength to get through these trials. Because today isn’t the end. And sometimes those big life changes are sparked by something as small as a smile.