Postpartum depression doesn’t define you as a mother.
Just like the newborn phase of your child’s life doesn’t define you as a mother.
Just like the baby phase of your child’s life doesn’t define you as a mother.
The truth is, who we are as mothers is defined by a lifetime. It’s defined by who we were before we had children. It’s defined by our child’s (or children’s) early years. It’s defined by the decades that follow the birth of that child.
When women express atypical experiences during pregnancy and postpartum periods, we look at those women and wonder about what’s wrong with them. Or at a minimum, we just assume that they’re just not ‘into the baby thing’ or in more extreme cases, they’re just not ‘into the whole having kids thing’.
So what are we doing? We’re writing those women off. We’re determining who those women are, based on a scant two years (more or less, depending on the severity of the perinatal depression or anxiety) of experience in the role of ‘motherhood’.
When you think about that in the life of a child, it’s ridiculous. It buys into this myth that life isn’t about change, growth and redemption.
Children grow over many years until they reach adulthood. As they grow, different events, conditions and experiences shape them. Sure, you can bring up the whole nature vs nurture argument, but if you believe that nature trumps nurture, well than it really doesn’t matter what type of parent you are, period. So we’ll assume that nurture plays a role.
Children change. I like my baby a lot in this stage that he’s in. It seems like each month gets better as I get glimpses into what makes him tick and I watch him explore his world. When he was a tiny baby, I didn’t know who he was. I still don’t, but with each passing day, I’m getting a better idea.
I don’t worry about how those first months will impact him. He’s like a sponge. He absorbs new and different things each day. While his mother may not have been able to be there for him, his father was. His grandparents were. His friends at daycare were. He didn’t lack for love – not a single bit. But even if he did, I’ve got days and months and years to make that up to him.
I feel like I’m starting to hit a stride as a mother. Who I was six months ago is completely and wholly different from who I am today. What I think about motherhood is completely different now than it was months ago. I expect that I will continue to change as my child changes too.
I’m also not the only person who will impact the man that my baby will eventually become. He will be profoundly impacted by his peers, his classmates, his teachers, his coaches and mentors. These experiences will shape him and create who he is as an adult.
I almost wonder if it’s arrogant to assume that we, as parents, completely shape our children’s lives…that every little thing we do has a resounding impact on them. While it’s certainly true that we have an overwhelming role in shaping our children, our role is finite as our child does not exist in a bubble. Much of our influence isn’t even within our control, when we consider the traits of ours that our child inherits. Given this vast world that our child will move through, our presence is a mere piece of the puzzle that will give our child the tools to move through this world. All we can do is hope to give our child the tools to be successful, resilient and content.