For the last month or two during EMDR therapy, my therapist has tried very hard to penetrate the rock-like protection I keep around my postpartum memories. These memories were so deeply buried that the strongest jackhammer wasn’t getting to them. We had made brief success by making me realize I need to have compassion for my Postpartum self and I am beginning to, but the more hurting, the more raw, the more emotional memories, were still very much deeply buried.
It was in one such session, I did slip out that I had never grieved over that time period. I never grieved for myself or for Sophia. I never let myself unravel for never getting a typical postpartum period. I never lamented the lack of love I had for my baby. Ultimately, my deeply buried memories were rising to the surface themselves, my therapist the grave digger exhuming them. When discovering this, he told me to take some time at home, alone, with pictures during that first year and let the mourning begin. Because I have been so busy, this did not occur until yesterday.
I arose yesterday already feeling different. A few days of happiness, or I should say contentment, for me are usually followed by a few Anxiety-filled days or, in this case, Depression-filled days. I was off. Irritability crept in early followed by sadness, anger, hypervigilence and the worst, emptiness. I faked any idea of normality yesterday. Since I had some spare time, I figured I would create a graphic to use for the upcoming Climb Out Of The Darkness for Postpartum Progress to try to ignite donations, using myself as the victim. I sat at my laptop and opened the file under Pictures labeled “Sophia Faye”. I then proceeded to open the folders labeled “2006” and “2007”. With each picture I glanced at, my eyes welled up with tears until finally they exploded.
For the first year of Sophia’s life, there is not one picture of me with her where I am smiling. Not one smile…
The pictures start two months after her birth. I have no pictures of her and I those first two months except for the day she was born. Because of the Postpartum Depression and Anxiety rapidly increasing in those first two months, pictures were the farthest thing from my mind. But because of this, I have no way of remembering her first Halloween, nor her first Thanksgiving. All I remember during those 2 months is how many times I had to visit my therapist and psychiatrist and ultimately how I ended up in the short term psychiatric ward at the hospital. I wish I could remember her coos, her smiles caused by gas, just her.
After these first two months, there are sporadic photos of me holding Sophia. As I held her, looking into my eyes, you can see how drugged up I was, how emotionless I was. My fake smile was more like a smirk. I was acting the part of mother and I was doing horribly bad at it. Over the next few months, the druggie face starts to fade and the smirk becomes slightly fuller trying really hard to be a smile, but it isn’t. My eyes, instead of looking like an addict, look blank and empty. I am tempting the photographer to see the real me while attempting to cover it up.
Months and months, still not one smile, one REAL smile.
It wasn’t until I came across a photo from September 2007, 11 months after Sophia was born, where my eyes were happy. They sparkled, twinkled, danced, while I held my daughter. Eleven months I spent tragically suffering from no emotion, from a type of death, from crippling postpartum illnesses. I stared at this photo in more detail. Still mostly a smirk on my face, but it slightly resembled a smile. There was some emotion behind it. I was not a zombie anymore. I was not a robot anymore. I was human again.
Eleven months I spent living a hell where my brain was playing the devil. Eleven months I spent acting out motherly duties to take care of my daughter but not remembering or even caring about any of it. Eleven months I spent looking at my daughter wondering why I was her mother instead of someone “normal”, she deserved so much more.
These pictures, these memories, were buried for many reasons deep within myself. They are hard to process. Not loving your child and being able to see it on your own face is something I wish no mother ever has to go through. I lost that time when Sophia was just beginning to discover the world around her. I can’t get it back and I will never have that opportunity again. For this I mourn, I grieve, I ache.
Eleven months, and not one smile.