Every week, Preen tackles motherhood sans the rose-tinted glasses. Our columnists L. Juliano, Marla Darwin, Monica Eleazar-Manzano, and Rossana Unson tell their personal experiences like it is—at times frustrating, oftentimes confusing, but always enlightening.
The clinically white ceiling in the recovery room was blurring out of my vision. After 11 hours of labor that ended with an emergency C-Section, there I was lying flat and unable to move anything from my waist down. I couldn’t stomach my mom’s worried gaze and fidgeting. She called the nurse and asked why blood was flowing from my catheter. I tuned her out, focused on my toes, desperately trying to move them to no avail. It was happening again: My heart pounding in my throat, constricting my breathing. I gasped for chunks of air. I felt the sensation of a thousand ants crawling on my hands, entering my nails. Postpartum depression was settling in.
The roller coaster of emotions was a very familiar but uninvited guest. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at four years old. My anxieties turned into obsessive spells on little things—anything from the perpetual ringing sound in my ears to my fashion choices. I wasn’t able to attend therapy sessions after my parents separated. My mom had to raise three kids without help and I was unaware then that she herself was battling the very same condition.
I carried the anxiety with me every day, but there were weeks where I’d be so debilitated from the condition that I couldn’t function. This happened on a yearly basis until I reached college. It greatly subsided then. I thought it was just a long phase that I was finally over with. Three years and some difficult family issues after getting married, however, I spiraled out of control like I never did before. It took two years to get my self out of that rut.
I met with a holistic counselor who helped me through it. A balanced diet, exercise, and increased levels of certain vitamins helped me recover slowly. But other than my physiological needs, it was self-acceptance and my faith that saw me through. I couldn’t grasp what loving yourself meant until I had to force myself to. I was always my own biggest enemy, and to accept every nook and cranny of my identity was harder than dealing with the crazy anxieties and obsessions that haunt me.
I learned, and continuously learn, what pushes my buttons. Having a child was one of them. I was aware of the hormonal haywire pregnancy would make me go through, and I knew the crazy world of motherhood wasn’t for me. But as fate would have it, after years of infertility, I got pregnant. The process from pregnancy to childbearing, to now raising a rowdy toddler, is teaching me every day the very thing my counselor has been pushing me to embrace: to accept the uncontrollable.
Sure, the first months were particularly challenging. There were days when I would burst into tears for no apparent reason. I’d look at my loose skin and my hideous scar and feel completely out of sync, like I was staring at someone else. I feared my hubby would never look at me the same way again.
Late at night when little bub would lay on top of me, with my wound still painful and the tummy wrap constricting my breathing, I’d lay awake obsessing about an itch. I’d look at my helpless crying baby and drown in fear for the unknown—is she experiencing pain she couldn’t express? It would make my heart race, my breathing shallow, the anxieties inescapable.
But because I have familiarized myself with my condition, completely accepting it as a part of me, I understood what I was facing and that I just needed to ride it out. I also equipped myself with the knowledge to get better without any immediate expectation to recover. I made sure I snuck in some shut-eye when little bub would nap, sunbathed in the morning (Vitamin D is very helpful with postpartum depression), drank Omega-3 with my multi-vitamins, and supplemented my diet with extra servings of soymilk.
If there’s one thing motherhood has taught me, it’s that love is greater than my understanding. From the minute the nurse wheeled little bub into the recovery room after I gave birth, every ounce of worry slipped out of me and was replaced by overflowing, pure, selfless love. I had always have been told to stay inside my comfort zone to avoid attacks, which as tantamount to telling me that I was unfit to be a mother. But if anything, motherhood was the catalyst that racked my perceptions about myself. It proved that I am capable of so much more, of acceptance and ability that I wouldn’t have embraced if not for the very situation that keeled my life over.
My days are far from being the ideally scheduled, organized, and stress-free, which were what I was always advised to have. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wouldn’t be as happy as I am now if not for this new phase in life.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Dorothy Guya