Thursday, August 27, 2015

Echos of Criticism, Within and Without

I had post partum depression after the birth of my baby. I am not alone, or even unusual in this. It happens to many women.
For me, the worst aspect of my PPD was the inner voice that lied to me. That voice, the voice of my disease, told me that I did not love my child. It told me that I was an unfit mother. It told me that my daughter would always know that I was incapable of loving her healthily and well.
In recent months, I have been criticized as a mother. It wasn't constructive criticism: that is, it wasn't helpful advice that offered practical action steps to correct specific flaws. It was a blanket condemnation of me as a mother.
What makes this so particularly painful for me is the memory of my post partum depression. Although I have fully recovered from PPD, the echoes still sound in my mind. When my child cries, no matter what the reason, my PPD pokes me, wondering if I am capable of responding properly to her tears. And now another voice rears its head, poking me a second time. Perhaps, it whispers, even though you are recovered from PPD, you are still an unfit mother. All the harsh lies that my PPD told me are repeated in this new voice, doubling my efforts to stay sane and centered.
The thing is, I'm not a bad mother. It may not be in good taste to admit it, but I am a good mom. I've spent hours with a family therapist for the last 8 months. She repeatedly affirmed me as a mother. My daughter's godmothers tell me I'm a good mother. My husband believes I am a good mother. And in the final analysis, my daughter believes I am a good mother. She trusts me. She confides in me. She shares her fears and angers and joys with me.
It's so easy to remember the criticisms we hear, both from ourselves and others. And it's so difficult to remember the praise. Mothering is the hardest task in the world, and our tendency to only hear the criticisms makes it even harder.

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