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3 Unexpected Gifts Postpartum Depression Gave Me

I wouldn't wish postpartum depression on anyone. I remember too well how the morning light reminded me of all the hours that stretched ahead until my husband returned from work, the nights of pounding anxiety, the intrusive thoughts I had about hurting my new baby. And yet looking back, like many other difficult times in my life, I gleaned some positives from my time with postpartum depression.

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1. Friendship

Postpartum depression hit me hard and fast after the birth of my son, and I slid from those first days of baby blues into a dark and desperate place. Fortunately I quickly learned about resources for me, including a facilitated postpartum adjustment group that I started attending when my son was about 3 weeks old. A few months later when Dorota walked into the group for the first time, I recognized the sleep-broken, lost look in her eyes. When she shared about her daughter's inability to piece together more than two or three hours of continuous sleep, how bleak and mundane her days felt, and the deep need for time to herself, I related immediately.

Having lived through PPD, I can empathize more deeply with other people experiencing it.

Dorota and I started meeting for playdates. As sensitive, creative introverts who found motherhood to be one of the most intense challenges of our lives, we had plenty to talk about. We sat on her couch or mine, nursing our infants and chatting about our struggles. Later, as our babies morphed into toddlers, we battled to complete a sentence before one of our kids needed wrangling. Now my son is 6, and though our kids are in school, we still get together whenever we can. Dorota is the best kind of mom friend—the kind I would've been friends with even if we didn't have kids the same age.

And I wouldn't have met her if I hadn't had postpartum depression.

2. Perspective

The Terrible Twos, Threenagers, and the F$@%ing Fours all came with their moments of anguish. But nothing to date has been worse than when I was depressed, exhausted and wondering if checking into a mental hospital might buy me some sleep. With postpartum depression, I not only was navigating choppy emotional terrain, but simultaneously trying to master breastfeeding and newborn care, all while still sore and bleeding from my son's birth.

Without the cloud of depression and the steep learning curve making everything feel bleak and impossible, parenting continues to get better and better.

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3. Compassion

While I struggled with depression long before I became a parent, postpartum depression is its own unique beast. The challenges of being suddenly responsible for a helpless newborn while feeling hopeless—and while most people are expecting you to be celebrating the joys of new parenthood—are different from other bouts with depression. Having lived through PPD, I can empathize more deeply with other people experiencing it. I can share my experience without shame, and hopefully give other people a spark of hope that they too will survive.

Image via Twenty20/irapoe

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