I usually don't share a lot about myself on my blog. But today I am putting myself out there, on a topic that is near and dear to me. This week, May 1 - May 7, is maternal mental health awareness week. So, I thought if there was ever a time to share some of my story, this is it. So here goes...
Having, and caring for, a new baby is hard! Having a baby without a strong support system to help is even harder! When we had our first son, my husband and I lived far away from any family and friends. To say our “village” was small would be an understatement. Our village was practically nonexistent! Luckily, we had family members visit for the first month or so. But once the dust settled and everyone went home I found myself feeling alone and very isolated. If I am completely honest, there were many days when I felt like I was being pulled down into that deep, dark hole of postpartum depression.
But looking back on my experience after I had my first son, I realized that I was not alone. Yes, I had a wonderful husband, but this post isn’t about him. This post is about a surprising relationship that helped me more than anything else. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time how this relationship saved me. Oddly enough, or perhaps not oddly at all, this post is about my dog, Cali.
Oh boy, our Cali had a lot of energy! She needed time to run around and be active. If she didn’t get a walk every single day, she would be bouncing off the walls come the evening. (sounds like a kid I know).
Some of the time, her daily walks would feel overwhelming. You know, those days when the thought of leaving the house felt like just too much. But she needed it, so I went. The days when walking her sounded like torture, it was hot and sticky, or the baby had barely slept the night before. But she needed it, so I went. The days when you just want to hook yourself up to an IV of coffee or hide in the pantry. But she needed her walk, so I went. That’s what I did. Every day.
Sometimes we walked for 30 minutes. Sometimes our walks lasted for hours. More times than not, they were the best part of my day.
There were days when I was exhausted and had no motivation to do anything, she would come and put her head onto lap, look up at me with those dark eyes, wag her whip-like tail, and I couldn’t resist. I would pack up the stroller, grab her leash, and head for the door. By the end of the walk, she was usually tired and would curl up on her doggy bed. And me, I would almost always feel better. Our walks together gave me the strength, energy, and calm mind that helped me to tackle another exhausting day.
Looking back, I realize that as a new mom I took care of everyone else before myself. I told myself that she needed a walk, so I went. But really, by taking care of my Cali-girl, I got what I needed too. I think those walks saved me in those early months. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her.
I've learned that help can come from surprising places. Also, getting outside at least once a day, even if it is just for 15 minutes can make a world of difference. So if you're a new mom, make a reoccurring walking date with a friend or another mom or even your dog.
If this article was helpful to you, or you know someone it might help, please take a moment now to share this post. The more we talk about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, the less stigmatized they will be. Thank you!