Serena Li, Postpartum Depression
How would you explain postpartum depression to a child?
After mommy gives birth, mommy’s hormones and many other factors could make mommy go through a rollercoaster of emotions. Sometimes mommy is tired, and don’t have energy to do anything. Sometimes mommy feels sad, and life feels out of control. Sometimes mommy wants a way out, but couldn’t bear to leave you. Mommy may look tough on the outside, but inside mommy is fighting this giant monster cloud of darkness. It is very normal though, and mommy can get better. Many other mommies also face the same monsters, but their experience may be a bit different.
What would you want the world to know about postpartum depression?
For those who never experience PPD: Postpartum depression is normal, and happens to many women. We are not just sad; we are not cowards. It takes a tremendous amount of will and bravery to wake up every day and still provide for our families.
For those of us who suffered PPD, or are suffering and recovering: Postpartum depression needs help to get better. It’s okay to ask for help. Just like any illness, you may need therapy, or medication to get better, and it takes time to heal. Therapy and medication don’t make you happy or magically better immediately, but they will give you a whole new perspective to overcome the hurdles. It takes a village to raise a child, and you are more than enough. Lean on those support network, love yourself, as you are the best mother there is for your child. You can do this, wonder mama!
What does it feel like to live with postpartum depression?
For me, it felt heavy. It felt gray. At my worst, I didn’t even feel like getting up and brushing my teeth, let alone basic tasks of the day. I felt alone, as I’m the only one stuck in this never ending routine, this new life of me. I want to escape, I want to leave, but I’m so guilty. On the outside I am the bubbliest, happiest person, but deep down I have no more tears left. In the middle of the night, I often had trouble falling asleep. My mind wanders, and focusing on everything that didn’t go according to my plan. I plotted my own death, imagined every detail, as if that would give me control of my life. I had a hard time bonding with my daughter. I couldn’t find her cute. I was stressed about every little thing. I saw every mom out there being such good moms to their kids, but I felt ashamed I couldn’t even bond with my kid.
With therapy I was able to understand that the feelings and thoughts I had were completely normal. From a scientific perspective, our brains are wired to look out for the worst. Societal pressure had put so much on us. Thanks to modern medicine, recovery is not a lonely journey. It takes time, and sometimes it’s one step forward, two steps back, but it is possible as long as we give it a try.
What brings you joy?
One thing that helped me bond with my daughter and keep going everyday was our bedtime routine. We’d read, or sing, in my mother tongue, Cantonese and Mandarin. I kept the routine going long after recovery.
Today, my joy is tied to my purpose in life. Because of my daughter’s love for books, I started my own publishing company, Duck Duck Books, to make multilingual kids books focusing on social emotional skills. I am glad I came out from the other side, with new purpose, new perspective, and now giving back to the community.