These two photos, almost four years apart, depict a private moment between a mother and her daughters. It’s hard to believe that the first photo was so long ago when I can remember that moment as if it were yesterday. I can remember her weight on my abdomen, her delicate little hands placed gently on my chest and her leaning in to give me that little kiss you see. This was around the time she first started passing out kisses and Alex captured the moment, frozen in time. A memory still fresh in my mind.
The other photo was mere weeks ago and again, Alex was the sneaky photographer. You are looking at us through his lenses and what he sees on a daily basis. I was talking to Indiana, getting her ready to fall asleep when she reached up and rested her fist on my cheek. She does that to this day when I’m speaking quietly to her, as if she’s saying “I hear you, Mumma.” Although she doesn’t speak right now, I can read what she is saying with her eyes and this photo captures the very essence of that.
What is unique about these two photos is how different I was/am as a person, as a mother. They are identical in the love between mother and daughter, it’s clear I am close to both. However, in the first photo, I was in the midst of a terrible bout of postpartum depression. The second, I haven’t felt a trace of it within my mind, body and soul. I was afraid during this particular pregnancy as the risk of PPD is higher when you had it once before.
The first three months of Quinn’s life was a very difficult time for myself as a new mom. They say the first three is the hardest part of being new parents and then it gets much easier. It’s not so much the case when you’re in the heavy world of postpartum depression. Quinn was a baby who did not like to sleep as well.. like ever. So you can imagine the hours we spent pacing back and forth with a screaming baby, begging her to sleep until she finally passed out. Or bouncing on a yoga ball while she fell asleep in the infant carrier because that was how desperate we were and it worked. When I gave birth to Quinn, I did not feel that instant bond with her as I assumed. I had an emergency cesarean because she was a week late and in distress during my labor. I was pumped full of drugs for the surgery and also, she was never placed onto my chest. I loved my daughter very much, I felt that within me but when I looked at her, I was still confused.
Without the initial feeling of that bond, I did not feel like I should have. I was upset of how the labor and delivery ended up – everything that I wanted to happen, went the exact opposite way. There were days I just sat and cried on the couch, letting her cry for a few minutes in the crib before picking her up. There was even a point where I was so deep that I felt like she wasn’t mine. The weirdest part about all of this was I had NO idea that this was happening to me. I had read about it prior but, because I was SO confident I’d feel it right away. I suffered from PPD for a whole year before realizing that it actually was.
I did finally feel bonded to her once I figured it out and the feelings dissipated. The love I felt for her grew even more over time – how I would kill anyone in an instant if they hurt her. Instead of being a sad lump I became a lioness, protective over my little cub. I felt exactly how I was supposed to feel back when I gave birth to her a year ago. Despite how difficult all of that was, I would not change a moment of it. It made me stronger, more prepared for the next pregnancy and this time be aware of the symptoms of PPD if it reared it’s ugly head again. I believe this time in my life was to prepare me for the next baby.
Indiana was a smooth, by the book labor and delivery. I managed to make it almost to the end without an epidural, which I received very little of. I ended up having a successful VBAC and she was even placed on my chest right away. With Indiana I felt an instant bond with her and those feelings of postpartum depression never showed up. I was relieved about the feelings I felt after giving birth to her; I felt happy, calm, relaxed, proud.
I thought after the initial diagnosis of her ventricular septal defect, my mind was going to get cloudy again and PPD would take over. So did everyone else. I could see it in everyone’s eyes as we discussed what was involved with Indiana’s condition. I won’t lie, I myself wondered when it would strike and take over, rendering me useless to my two children for god knows how long. Would I feel those familiar feelings of helplessness and heaviness in my body, mind and soul? Thankfully, no.
Instead, the lioness has taken over and the protective nature is stronger than ever in regards to my children. Anything that would remotely try to harm my kids will answer to me. Armed with a fierce mother’s love, I will raise my girls to be good people with a bit of fire within them. I will teach them that they do not have to answer or explain themselves to anyone (excluding us because, parents). That they should not let anything stop them from achieving what they want to do in life.
When I look at my kids, I think “I would do anything for them.” and would follow through if possible. When I look at my kids, I think of how lucky I am to be given such gifted and magical girls. When I look at my kids, I think of how I couldn’t possibly love something as much as I love them. I would fight for them in any battle they find themselves swept up in.
Having a congenital heart defect is going to be Indiana’s biggest battle – and it’s for her life. As a baby, she will go through more than many adults would go through their entire lives in just the first year of her life. She will take medications for her heart, have her feedings be monitored and eventual open heart surgery within the next 4 weeks. Indie will have a long road to recovery, with many follow up cardiology appointments and we’d need to keep a watchful eye as she grows up. There is no cure for what she has; just treatment and management throughout adulthood. It’s going to be her first and the longest battle in her lifetime.
And to that I say, staring in the face of CHD:
You walked into the wrong lion’s den.
Keep your Heart strong.