Discovering Christmas Joy with Postpartum Depression

As I sit in my living room, admiring the twinkling lights on my beautiful Christmas tree, I notice the room brings a pure, blissful silence. It has taken me a long time to fully enjoy silence. No, it has taken me a long time to actually be able to enjoy silence. Creating inner peace has been a challenge that has taken me a long time to achieve. I am still finding new ways to strengthen this new me. I smile in response to the comforting silence around me. The Christmas lights and the delightful holiday smells do not trigger me as they once did.

Thinking about the list of things that I still need to do to prepare feels more manageable now and I can be present with the activities of the Christmas preparations.

Capturing the simple moments and pausing to create a pocket of joy is what I have learned to do to get through a hectic day.

The holidays and the craziness all wrapped up into a short few weeks can make anyone want to hide. It doesn’t matter if you are Mrs. Claus, ready to hang that wreath up the minute midnight strikes Thanksgiving night or if you are Mrs. Scrooge, dodging every holiday event you can, donned in your grumpiest ‘ba-humbug’ face.  Either way, the holiday frenzy hits us all differently. The presents, the holiday cards, the baking, hiking up steep hills to find that perfect tree, school vacation, a house full of company and your own emotional overload (never mind the kids…is it me or do they get louder everyday?).

Somehow, through the insane list of things to get done, we always count on the magic of Christmas to be there for us. Or can it stop being magical for some of us?

Like when you are suffering with postpartum depression. For new mothers, holding your precious new baby with that magical Christmas vibe around you doesn’t always feel so magical. Most of the time, we moms love to see our children light up during the holidays, eyes sparkling with excitement. It’s a beautiful thing! When I watch, my oldest daughter write her Christmas wish list, I can feel her excitement glowing right through me. But has it hasn’t always been that way for me.

Suffering with postpartum depression during the holidays last year after the birth of my youngest daughter and the year before that when I had just given birth to my stillborn son, made the holidays feel like a dark tornado. In fact, at times I could hardly breathe, let alone find a way to smile at my family during Christmas dinner.

Everyone wants to have an enjoyable holiday and parents have the added pressure to make sure their children have a beautiful experience as well. Throw in your everyday stress and demands and the pressure is overwhelming. Holding my youngest daughter last Christmas, with everything swirling around me and trying to keep a smile on my face while I was crying inside made my depression worse.

I love Christmas and to suffer with PPD during my favorite holiday was incredibly heartbreaking. It was isolating to see happy and smiling moms around me, receiving their cards and seeing how put together they all seemed for Christmas.

It was a lonely storm I found myself in.

One day, when I was with my Mom buying gifts for my nephews, I saw matching Christmas pajamas. That morning was spent doing countless loads of laundry; just of bibs alone as my daughter suffered reflux with constant vomiting. The poor baby couldn’t stop crying in between her constant spewing. I was so upset and felt so helpless amidst my own suffering, that I seriously considered getting in the car and driving. To somewhere far away. Between the baby crying and the sadness I felt inside, I just wanted to run away.

While I had come a long way in my healing, I truly felt like a failure being 7 months past her birth and I still couldn’t manage the simplest tasks. Sometimes picking out socks for the day set me into a flood of tears. Never mind preparing for Christmas.

So, when I saw those adorable matching pajamas, I paused, something that I was not able to do very well. I stared at them and for the first time that holiday season, a smile broke out on my face. I realized this was not only my daughter’s first Christmas but it was the first Christmas both my girls were together as sisters. The matching pajamas were like a symbol of their beautiful sisterhood that they were forming. Their love was immediate and I hadn’t been able to fully enjoy witnessing the countless times they smiled at each other and how happy my oldest child was to finally be a big sister.

However, this moment, this small single moment, helped me to experience that love.

For a few minutes, I was able to be in a small, pocket of joy, envisioning the two of them wearing those pajamas. As I found their sizes and added it to my cart, I walked away with a small sense of peace. It didn’t last too long but it was a start. And I realized that albeit small, it was a powerful moment.

The demands of Motherhood are enough to test any new mom and make her feel like she is running in a race that will never end. Postpartum depression is like someone just put 50 pound weights on your ankles as you run that race. The race never really ends as Motherhood is for life. Trying to find joy in the holidays with postpartum depression is no easy task.  Seeing the matching pajamas in the store made me realize that you don’t have to feel joy all day. It is pockets of joy that support you as you get through each day.

So, stop putting pressure on yourself by thinking that you must love every minute of your entire holiday season when you are suffering with PPD, just small moments along the way will give you what you need to manage so that you can reflect on this time with a smile someday. I don’t remember most of the holiday season last year, but I remember small moments of bliss that I can share with my girls for many years to come. It is in those small moments of joy that we see the hope again for a better future.

By taking a deep breath, looking at the twinkling lights on the tree, inhaling the smell of evergreen and feeling peace in the silence is all you need.  Small pockets of joy…one breath and one moment at a time.

Happy Holidays to all you Beautiful Mamas!

Lindsay Gibson, Editor/Writer
Beautiful Births & Beyond