Parker Wilson is a mom of three, including twin boys who were born in April 2020, just as COVID-19 was changing the world. But for this Inspiration Lab member and small business owner, life had already changed drastically years earlier. Here, Parker opens up about her experience with postpartum depression and how it has affected her journey through this thing called motherhood.
I put off writing this for quite a while. In full transparency, I committed to writing a blog about postpartum depression sometime in February. It took me this long to sit still, open up, and write it down. (To be really honest, it took my first flight since 2019, a two-hour conversation with a mom of a 12-year-old, and an email reminder from The Inspiration Lab to finally push “send.”)
So here we go. My broken road to a deep and everlasting love.
I didn’t immediately join my husband in the “let’s have kids” camp. While he wanted children from day one, I needed a smidge more time to get there. But when I did, I was all in.
I remember the day the “switch flipped” for me. It was like I could hear a baby crying in the room next to me and I was so ready to wear the title of mom. We bought a family car, purchased our first single-family home, and totally thought we were “preparing” ourselves.
It would take another four years, one surgery, and boxes upon boxes of medications and needles before we’d meet our daughter.
Looking back, I chuckle at our naivety – we did it all backward. In our mind, a safe car with room for our dog and a car seat and a lovely nursery were the key components of parenting. Throw in a great church community and all of our friends already parenting at least two kids and we were set. (Can you tell I’m a slight planner)?
Leading up to my daughter’s arrival, I felt grounded. I had an incredible church family, my dearest friends surrounding me, and a sisterhood of women who walked every step of our four-year infertility journey with us. When I was 30 weeks pregnant, my husband accepted a job offer and we moved to Wilmington, North Carolina.
New city. No friends. New OB. New high-risk doctor. Neat.
We made it to 38 weeks and met our miracle after a not-so-awesome emergency induction and delightfully complicated labor. While the details of that are more easily shared over wine, my labor – looking back – was a big contributor to postpartum depression. (Any medical note that says “failure to progress” will send a recovering perfectionist into a total tailspin.)
Though generally healthy, our daughter had severe food allergies and subsequent sleep-altering colic. Once the newborn adrenaline wore off, I smiled through the grit of her first few months of life, convincing everyone, even my family, that I was fine and that motherhood was everything for which I longed. I figured in doing so, I would ultimately believe it.
My husband had a new job working pretty hectic hours as he learned the ropes at a new company. I was home alone with no family or friends, trying desperately to convince myself that the four years of waiting on our daughter led us to this monumental connection point while secretly fighting feelings of desperation, worthlessness, and regret. I was holding our miracle – finally – but the weight of postpartum depression left me clinging to the side of a wave-battered ship. Let’s be real… it was more like a dingy at this point.
On a random weekday, I laid my daughter down for a nap and stepped into our garage. I held my keys in my hand and stared at my car. I thought to myself, “She deserves better. She deserves someone who knows how to be a mom, someone who has figured this out, someone who can give more of herself than I can.” At that moment, I believed a pervasive lie that became a life-altering truth: My daughter needs a better mom.
My daughter needs a different mom.
I happened to have my phone next to me with the monitor attached and saw a text message light up.
“I don’t know why, but I have a sitter and feel like I’m supposed to be at your house.”
Someone I knew as a teenager, but had spoken to only a few times upon moving, saved my life that day. She came to my house, brought dinner, held my daughter (while said daughter cried 😉 ), told me which doctors to see, and reminded me the season I was in was not permanent, nor did it mean I was a bad mom. The hard moments were just that – hard and momentary. With one person now aware of my reality, I sought help and pressed on – not to become the mom I believed my daughter deserved, but to heal the mom she was gifted.
I could probably write a few more blogs about the in-between of the next few years. It’s important to note that anxiety and depression can resurface, even long after the “early postpartum days.” I continue many practices that supported my initial healing and I’ve learned to adjust those based on the season I’m in.
Three years after our daughter was born, we welcomed twin boys. This time I was far more prepared for the warning signs of anxiety and depression and received early intervention as a result. By now I’d also developed a very close relationship with my OB, which made asking for help much easier. However, access to good postpartum care is not currently the norm. Insurance typically covers one visit six weeks after delivery. As a result, pediatricians often become the next line of defense to the life-changing consequences of untreated postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Until our health care system more proactively supports new parents, the first line of defense is our immediate community.
Another critical note: These challenges are often present in the lives of parents who have given birth and parents who have adopted. The impact of a massive change – one that frequently requires selflessness and sacrifice – leaves many families reeling. Without the women who stepped up to guide me, I would not have sought the help I so desperately needed. If you find yourself in a place to support new parents, I implore you to take action and fill the gap of postpartum care.
Here are a few dos and don’ts for those of you interested in supporting new parents.
Do not wait for a request. The worst piece of advice you could ever give a new parent is this: “All you have to do is tell people what you need.” News flash – when a human has exited your body and you are responsible for feeding said human every couple hours (or even more frequently), “healing and resting” to become your “very best self,” and striving to continue the maintenance of the world you once knew… there is no more room to create a list of all the needs. Brain power is at a minimum, so in order to support parents, show up with a smoothie, send a babysitter (or yourself) for two hours so mom or dad can take a walk, let us have a shower or take a nap. Make it simple on the parent and act before you’re asked.
Do not show up expecting to spend time with the parents or the baby. When we first had our meal train, I was so grateful for food/help/conversations. However, there were many times when I was in severe physical pain or bursting at the seams to get to my pump. I did not know how to gracefully exit conversations and felt tremendous guilt trying to tactfully exit stage left. Show up with the expectation to help – in whatever way that may be. Do not assume every new parent wants to engage in conversation.
Do not give unsolicited advice. When your entire body is wracked with severe depression and anxiety, hearing advice is crippling. We actually cannot hear it. We cannot carry it. We cannot digest it. Ask questions. Listen with intention. And if you sense a problem that requires medical intervention, make the hard call and intercede on the mom or dad’s behalf.
Do send texts normalizing the hard things. “You are doing this with strength and courage. It’s okay if this stage is not your favorite – it’s okay for this to feel hard. It’s okay if you’re not okay. Coffee will be on your porch in the morning.” Whatever words you feel compelled to share, share them. Random text check-ins can be such a gift. (And remember – if the parents don’t respond, it’s all good. Send without the expectation of receiving ☺)
Do show up four months later, six months later, and one year later. Postpartum depression can hit at various times in motherhood. Continue checking in, being present, and staying connected. Quick messages often work wonders.
No parent should journey through the postpartum period alone and yet almost every person I meet feels they are (and yes, postpartum depression impacts men as well)! The more we connect on this, the faster we can open healing avenues within our community and, ultimately, shift our health care to preventive instead of reactive.
Too often, when I see happy newborn photos or moms with a deep connection to their children almost instantly, I am quickly taken back to the dark days of isolation and confusion in which I found myself with my first child. Of course, now I too take the happy photos with my kids – the memories of disconnection and isolation keep me grounded in the reality of motherhood’s challenges and actually further my deep connection to my first miracle child, rooted in gratitude for her life and my healing. The Lord redeemed those broken days, and I am thankful for all they taught me…. and what they created for the two of us. Our story was not defined by the hard. And thanks to my community, our story is still being written.
If you’re a brand-new mom – hi, you. Gosh, you amaze me. Please know something. Behind every perfectly captured photo with smiling kids and a seemingly put-together mom are a few of the following: 239 blowouts, terrifying trips to the ER, heartbreaking doctors’ appointments, countless sleepless nights, pangs of regret, about 1,591 trips to a secluded room to sit down and say “what am I doing I need a minute,” and mountains of guilt. (Don’t panic – it gets better. Sometimes it has a minute again, and then it gets better again 😉 )
In addition to the wild and tough, there is the goodness. In the quiet and sacred moments holding your child, there is a restoration of belief – in your capacity, in your connectedness, and in the possibility of what’s ahead. Instead of looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, I pray you find the women to steady your walk and shine the flashlight on your behalf.
You are my hero. Keep going.