The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.
On March 9, 2004, the day my first child was born, I became forever changed. As I held my newborn baby, I recalled a moment, nearly two years before, when I was hospitalized for a second time in my life for depression. As I stood waiting to be discharged, I vowed to get better, to never return physically or mentally to that place. It was on this day that I made a promise to myself to do whatever it took to overcome this debilitating illness so that I could one day be a depression-free new mom.
As I built my new life, I went to counseling, twice a week at first, and less frequently over time. I worked on my counseling exercises at home. I read uplifting books, exercised, ate well, and began to interact again socially with others. I started a new, part-time, low-stress job where I felt I was making a difference. Months later, to my delight, I became pregnant. And for nine months, in preparation for first-time motherhood, I continued to improve upon my mental state of mind.
Then the day came when my baby, Diego, was born. It was like a scene in a movie. The doctor set him upon my chest, and I looked in awe at this tiny creature who moments before had been nicely snuggled within my warm womb. I soaked up his essence, the tiny fingers and toes, the soft, damp skin, and something inside of me clicked. My old self faded away, and a new person emerged: “Michelle the Mother.” At that moment, I knew in my heart that those turbulent, depressed years were in the past. I was now a mother, responsible for taking care of a helpless, innocent baby, and I wholeheartedly accepted this job. My focus was now on providing the most wonderful environment I could for this precious one that God had entrusted into my care. I knew then that I would love this baby with all of my heart and soul, and that I would continue to keep my mind healthy so I could be the best mother possible for him.
As the days passed, I sang him made-up songs. Cheerfully, I woke up in the middle of the night to feed him. I gently rocked him when he cried (which was often!). I had fallen completely in love with my angel. Many of my family and friends saw the change within me. My mom said my face looked different. I “glowed.” “Michelle the Mother” was a title that suited me well. But as much as motherhood had changed me, and as happy as I felt, I knew that I was predisposed to postpartum depression. I vigilantly kept a check on my state of mind, doing whatever I could to stay healthy, allowing me to remain a depression-free new mom.
Becoming a new mother has proven to be the most positive, life-altering experience of my existence. While there are times when those clouds of depression still threaten to overwhelm me, my love for my children propels me forward. My two angels have rekindled my inner light and left me forever changed.