As my daughter and I run through our backyard, sun overhead, arms flapping like birds, giggling with delight, I can’t help but think how wonderful life is right now in this moment.
When she was first born, I was petrified of killing her. I loved her more than I thought humanly possible to love someone, but still I worried. What if I clumsily slipped one day and dropped her? What if we got in a car accident? What if she rolled over and suffocated on her tummy and I didn’t even realize it until she never woke up in the morning? What if there was an earthquake and the roof collapsed on her? What if a burglar entered our house and kidnapped her?
Before every doctor’s appointment I would get the standard postpartum depression questionnaire with questions like how often I felt sad or if I ever felt like harming my baby. I wasn’t depressed. In some way, life seemed more perfect than it had ever been before. What no one asked, however, was if I was having irrational concerns that caused me unnecessary stress – more anxiety than depression. In hindsight, I think I had a mild case of postpartum anxiety.
As month after month passed and my daughter was miraculously still alive, my worries gradually subsided. Maybe that roof wouldn’t collapse after all, literally or metaphorically. She learned to smile, then coo, then giggle and now she knows how to make me do the same. We have a regular rhythm to our days that comforts us both in its predictability. Woven into that regularity are bursts of newness that rejuvenate us in their spontaneity — a walk outside after a rainstorm, squishing shaving cream in our fingers, or making blueberry-laden pancakes together. Life is good. Motherhood feels right.
I race across the yard, still flapping those wings, my daughter beside me, but have to stop to catch my breath. My belly big with new life, I am poised to embark on a different path in motherhood. My daughter won’t be my only. She’ll always be my baby, but she’s getting a baby sister in a few months. Life will change. Motherhood will look different.
I hope this time will be different too in some ways. I hope that instead of letting the worries boil inside that I’ll take a deep breath and let them come out. I hope that I’ll see what I really do need to worry about and what I can let go of. That roof? Probably won’t collapse today, or tomorrow or ever. Most of all though, I hope that I will seek help if those worries turn to overwhelming anxiety. WellMama makes getting help accessible with several options of groups to join, mother-to-mother peer support, and even phone and email options. And I hope that I will remember this spring day running through the backyard and thinking about just how wonderful motherhood can be.
Mandi Vance is the Managing Director of Little Hands Can, a Eugene-based non-profit helping kids help others. She’s also a face-wiping, potty-emptying, lullaby-singing, horseyride-giving extraordinaire to her toddler daughter.