I had the privilege to attend the 28th annual conference of Postpartum Support International in Plymouth, Michigan on June 26 and 27. George Parnham, attorney for Andrea Yates was the keynote speaker. George ended his emotional presentation with the quote, “Every child deserves to be raised by a mother as free of mental illness as possible.”
A few moms responded that this quote made them feel guilty because they were currently struggling with postpartum depression. That was certainly not the intent. Rather, the quote was intended to encourage moms to get help and become well. I did note that a few PSI members changed the quote to “Every child and every mom deserve a life free of illness and full of love.” I like that one too.
As a postpartum psychosis survivor, I had a 25-year guilt trip because I was not the perfect mom to my second son during his critical first year. I blamed every flaw during his growing years on my failures as a mother, especially during the first few months when I was taken away from my infant in a straight-jacket and spent two weeks on a mental ward. I was not able to breastfeed my son, found it hard to love him, and remember laying rocking on my bed and ignoring his cries. Of course I felt guilty.
But as I look back on our photo album of that first year, I realize that there were a lot of happy times. I made a relatively quick and complete recovery. I was the best mother that I could be during his growing years, even though I was overly protective at times. I did eventually learn to let go. I was always trying to make it up to my Jeff, and said that I would carry him up a mountain if that was what it took for him to be successful in life. But I didn’t have to carry him. Jeff discovered scouting and eventually became an Eagle Scout. We hiked together as part of his scouting program, and he was strong and resilient. Jeff grew to be a man that I’m proud to call my son.
So don’t let guilt keep you from enjoying motherhood. Every day, be the best mom that you can be. And that will be good enough.