It was March, 2015. I woke up early—earlier than usual. I showered, put on make-up and blow dried my hair. As I swiped my lashes with mascara, I wondered how long it’d been since I’d gotten ready to go somewhere so early. Two years. It had been two years since I’d gotten ready to leave the house with a sense of purpose.
In the basement, I could hear my toddler belting out his version of “Let It Go” from Frozen. “Loodle LOO! Loodle LOO!!” he sang. I pictured him dancing around the living room like he always did when he pretended to be Elsa. I imagined the fuzzy blanket from the couch thrown over his head so he could have long hair too. Every morning, before the sun had a chance to wipe the sleep from her eyes, my boy was up, wide awake, singing his heart out to his favourite song.
Upstairs, I slid my legs, one at a time, into a pair of dress pants. They were old, two years or more, and completely out of style. I remembered wearing those pants once a week (twice if I could get away with it) back in the day. I sucked in my stomach and coaxed the button into the hole. I let out a defeated sigh as I looked in the mirror. “Who are you?” I asked the foreign reflection staring back at me in the mirror. I peeled the pants off opting for a pair of tights instead. “Baby steps,” I muttered.
I was on my way back to work after, not one, but two years of maternity leave…two pregnancies, two healthy baby boys and two rounds of postpartum depression, anxiety and insomnia. The metamorphosis into motherhood had not been gentle on me, particularly after my first child.
I didn’t want to go back to work; I had to go. We were broke after living on a fraction of our income for so long. I was on unpaid leave with my second child as I hadn’t built up enough hours to draw another maternity leave, and my husband was on paternity leave so he could be with me in the event I relapsed into another round of PPD (which I did).
But there was another reason I didn’t want to go back—a more pressing reason. I did not want to leave my son. Not my baby, I knew he was fine. I didn’t want to leave my oldest. I stood in the doorway and zipped up my boots. I got the zipper caught on purpose and wrestled them off.
“You’re stalling,” my husband said.
“I know,” I said.
“We’ll be fine; you go. I’ve got this,” he reassured me.
And I burst into tears.
“I can’t do this. I can’t leave him,” I bawled.
I was in a comfortable stage of healing with my second round of PPD at this point. I was seeing someone regularly and was loaded up on all kinds of delightful meds. We knew the warning signs of a relapse, and I was forthright with my family and my doctors when I felt myself slipping the second time. I had a strong bond with my second baby. I knew he was okay. I knew he didn’t blame me for what happened.
It was my oldest son I couldn’t leave. Along with the symptoms of a PPD relapse, I was also struggling with overwhelming guilt related to my first round of postpartum depression after my oldest son was born. I couldn’t process what had happened. I had perpetual drifting thoughts wondering if I damaged my son’s wellbeing by being so ill myself. I was constantly seeking his approval. I shied away from disciplining him. Not a week passed where I wasn’t crying to my husband about what had happened after our oldest was born.
And so, on that mat in our front entry, because I didn’t know what else to do, I prayed. I was already on my knees pretending to wrestle with my boots, so why not? I prayed to God to show me how to let myself off the hook. I asked Him to give me a sign—nothing ambiguous. I didn’t have time for that. I was about to be late for my first day back to work for Christ’s sake. I begged Him to crack me over the head with a sign that everything was okay, that my son forgave me and I could let it all go.
And He did.
I could hear my toddler thumping up the basement stairs coming to say goodbye and wish me good luck. I quickly wiped the snot and tears away and tried to mash the mascara back up where it was supposed to be. As he made it to the doorway, the chorus from his favourite song kicked in. And my little boy, my little gift, grabbed my cheeks in his hands and with the most fervent intention in his little Smurfy voice, he roared, “LOODLE LOOO!!!!! LOOODLE LOOOOO!!!!” right in my face along with the music (perfectly in tune I might add too).
He was giving me permission to let it go—to let myself off the hook. And that is what I needed. I needed it to come through him and from Him. And it did. I’d like to say that from that moment on, I completely understood all the complexities of my postpartum depression and everything was perfect after that, but that would be a load of horse shit. I spent a lot of time on this issue with my counsellor and I still rely on those delightful meds, but on that day, my first day back to work, “Loodle Loo,” was exactly what I needed to hear to get me through.