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Out of the Darkness, Into the Light
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A mother's journey out of postpartum depression
by Michelle Pier

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As a young girl growing up on Guam, I had a great fondness for family and knew that one day I’d probably have my own children. My vision of being a parent was shaped by media portrayals of what a family looks, feels and behaves like, and at the time, I did not know that we each create our own reality of what a family is. I assumed that one day, I would be happily married, with a stable income, a home, and then have children. As a teenager, I struggled with low-level depression that would come and go. Hiding this part of me had become my specialty. Most people would have described me as a generally upbeat and positive person who seemed to bounce back from just about anything. It seemed as though that was just who I was, that I would always be on-and-off depressed, wallowing in self-pity, while feeling angry and resentful toward the world. It never occurred to me that I was unconsciously making the choice to be depressed about what ever it was I felt that way about. It never occurred to me that if I did not want to feel that way, only I could make the changes to allow my happiness.

 

During my senior year of high school, I was involved in a relationship that ended in drug-related domestic violence. I learned a lot about strength and humility, and what I did and did not want in a relationship. Certain standards that were held had been broken down, and new ones built. My true sense of worth was gradually evolving. Not too long after, I was in another serious relationship. In retrospect, I don’t think I had given myself enough time to rediscover my true self before jumping into another codependent partnership. Taking a huge risk, I left my life and family on Guam to move to California with my partner and attend school there. Less than a year later, we discovered that I was pregnant with our first child. At the time, I was overjoyed, fearless, and yet terrified all at the same time. I thought to myself, “What am I thinking? I’m so young! I don’t have experience with babies, but I know I can do this. It feels so right. But I’m scared.”

 

The pregnancy was fairy uneventful, in the physical realm. Emotionally, I was a wreck. Blaming the hormones, my moods would jump all over the place. I’d be laughing and feeling giddy one moment, and then crying about something the next moment. Assuming this was normal, I didn’t think much of it at the time, except that it drove me nuts. With my tendency toward a natural approach to life, I did a lot of research, soul searching, and talking with other women about natural childbirth options. After extensive reading and communicating with other women, I made the life-changing decision to have a homebirth, without the assistance of a midwife or doctor. Few friends and family were supportive of this decision, but in my heart, I knew it was the way for my baby to come into this world. My partner was totally supportive of the decision, though he was preoccupied with the pressure to get a stable income going for our family. We struggled with unemployment, lack of communication, and we also moved to a new apartment toward the end of the pregnancy, which proved to be extremely stressful. Depression reared its head often.

 

The birth of our first son went fairly smoothly, though there were many moments of fear, anxiety, and confusion. The labor lasted about nine hours, and Every was born into his father’s arms in the privacy of our home. I experienced some hemorrhaging, but managed it just fine by laying down, drinking a lot of fluids, and swallowing a small piece of the placenta once it was birthed (the placenta is remarkable in its ability to restore many of the nutrients and hormones that drop dramatically in the mother after its birth). My body was sore and exhausted. After the initial bliss and surrealism of the birth faded, I seemed to spontaneously fall into dramatic highs and lows of postpartum depression. At the time I did not see this at all, it seemed like normal hormonal postpartum issues. Over the next several months, things just intensified, the highs were higher, and the lows even lower. When Every was about five months old, I knew that I needed return to Guam, where I hoped the support of friends and family would improve my situation. My partner did not want to move, but reluctantly did so anyway. We arrived on Guam when Every was six months old. My parents allowed us to stay with them while we figured out what we were going to do. This was a challenging time, but things seemed hopeful. A great job opportunity came up for my partner a week after we arrived, and he took it. Fruit of the Womb, my new home-based business retailing gift baskets and cloth diapers to new moms and their families, was created in between juggling the demands of an active infant. I also got involved in helping to start a non-profit organization to provide empowering resources and information to new and expecting families. It seemed like I was finding myself again, getting back into a groove. We moved into the downstairs apartment of my grandmother’s home, and finally had our own space.

 

Just as we were getting situated in our new residence and my new venture, we discovered that I was pregnant with our second child. This time, I felt ambivalent, wavering between excited and extremely worried about the near future. I was excited about Every having a sibling to play with, another person to love and get to know, to share a life with. However, I was even more worried about the toll it would take on my body, trying to give constant attention to a toddler while pregnant, and then even more so after the birth. Would our son have to wean before he was ready? What if he did not like the idea of a sibling, or having to share all the things he had to himself? Would I have to endure postpartum depression all over again? This pregnancy was more physically stressful than the first, and it was wearing on my mental state. Prenatal depression showed itself frequently, especially since I was still in a relatively isolated situation. I was, however, confident in my decision to birth at home again, and felt a little more prepared in that aspect! Our second baby boy, Kenneth, was born at home in the water, and his older brother witnessed the whole event. It was a relatively quick, but intense birth, but beautiful all the same. We had a quiet babymoon, but Every had a very difficult time adjusting to a new family member. It took every last ounce of patience I had to help him get through it. Even with all the precautions I took in setting up extra support to help me through the postpartum time, the wave of darkness swept over me like a heavy cloud with no wind. Some days I just did not want to be alive anymore. When Kenny was about three months old, I got a part time job waitressing, which helped a lot. I was able to distance myself from motherhood just enough to regain perspective. Unfortunately, the relationship between my partner and I was going downhill fast. Resentment was building, and miscommunications spiraled out of control.

 

Five months later, life as I knew it came to a halt. I made the terrifying decision to end the relationship. All that I was certain about was that the environment we had created was toxic for all of us. I lost my job, and got on public assistance. This was also when I finally got serious about seeking regular therapy, as well as getting on antidepressants. All of these major changes were terrifying and liberating all at once. I was on the road to recovery. I made the conscious decision as often as I could to choose to be happy in the moment, whatever that moment had in store. At this time in my life, I would only do what I love, and nothing less. This meant that I was determined to find a way to make money staying at home with the boys. I wanted to pursue my passion for art and writing, for enjoying life and spending time in nature on a daily basis. Many spiritual revelations and moments of absolute clarity reassured me that I was now on the right track, the one that felt good. It was obvious who I was on the inside and what I needed to do to stay true to myself. This did not all occur without setbacks, discouraging moments, and negative emotion. In fact, there were a lot of ups and downs, but it has been a gradual process of evolution; the evolution of my mind, body, and spirit.

 

Now, Kenny is just over a year old and Every is just over three years old. Signs of depression emerge every once in awhile, but I am on a mission to live a life of love and joy, so the low feelings never last long. I try my best to accept the emotions that come, and not resist them. Witnessing my low moments from an objective standpoint really helps. Staying detached, free of judgment, fear, guilt, or shame is what keeps me moving forward in a positive direction. Asking myself “What do I want in this moment?” is my key to letting go of resistance. Now, I can say with full confidence and enthusiasm, that I am enjoying the evolution of my desires and watching them come to fruition on a daily basis. I accept myself for who I am, and where I am in this moment, always. Letting go of the label “postpartum depression” is so freeing. To just let myself be, without judgment, or labeling, gives me the relief to move forward without pressure or attachment to something that is not who I truly am. Looking back on the most difficult times in this journey through life, I feel nothing but compassion, love, and understanding for myself and everyone else. We are all connected, in this life together as one, and it is much easier if we just love one another for who we are, and where we each are in any given moment. We are all unique and beautiful. Peace and joy beyond all understanding to all! 

Fruit of the Womb
Michelle Pier
P.O. Box 2844 Hagatna, GU 96932
(671) 472-1284