A Red Bird in a Green Tree: Healing from Postpartum Depression

Becky Schroeder Postpartum

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It was an early spring day in Wisconsin and our frozen state was beginning to thaw from one of the coldest winters in the state’s history, affectionately called the Polar Vortex of 2013. As I stared out my living room window I thought about how the past year’s weather strangely mirrored how I felt throughout the seasons.

The previous spring, I had found out I was pregnant. As trees bloomed and birds sang, my excitement about becoming a mother was bubbling over just like my growing belly.

Next came summer, and although my legs swelled to the point where I no longer had ankles, the warmth of the sun matched the warmth I felt in my heart about becoming a mother to a beautiful new baby girl. I wanted to be a mother so badly and I couldn’t wait for her to come.

Then fall became a waiting game. Every day I counted down the days until her due date. I was excited for winter to come and daydreamed about snuggling my tiny, swaddled baby in front of the fireplace.

The day we brought her home in October it was sunny and warm. I was happy. We were all happy. And just like that, the winter came. The cloudy, gray, frozen solid winter. It showed no mercy and each day the ground froze more deeply. The warmth and excitement I was certain would linger from the summer into the fall, had vanished without warning. I was sad, anxious, disappointed, confused, and hopeless. Hopeless because I thought the winter would never end, beyond my windows and in my heart.

Depression is difficult to explain to those who have not truly felt it. Most days you can’t even begin to understand yourself what it is you’re feeling so to try to explain it to another person feels next to impossible. It’s utterly confusing and it crushes you over and over again. You feel the depression more deeply than you ever thought you could feel. It goes deep and it settles in—just like the Polar Vortex.

After having my daughter, I never thought I would feel better again. I truly believed I had changed and there was no going back to the old me before becoming a mother. I couldn’t explain why, but I had lost control of my thoughts, my feelings, and my entire self. I was gone and I was terrified that I would feel empty like this forever.

Day after day I woke up to gray skies and no sunshine. The trees looked sad—there were no leaves, no life. They just stood in the freezing wind, bare and cold and I felt that I was standing there among them, raw to the elements.

As spring approached I had done everything I could think of to try to get better. I found the right doctors and the rights medications, I met women online who had gone through what I was facing and they listened and encouraged, and I clung to my family and to my faith to get me through my darkest moments. The process was painstakingly long, just like the winter, but slowly, I began to see signs of myself again.

The leafless trees that survived the winter began to show little buds of new growth. I was beginning to feel hopeful too that I had what I needed to recover and be me again.

It was on that spring day as I stared out my living room window, that I saw color again. I noticed a red bird in a green tree and in that moment I knew I was getting better. The black and white of winter was gone and spring was returning. Everything became brighter. My baby’s giggle was louder, her smile wider, her cheeks rosier. Our bond grew deeper and deeper and just as I didn’t know the valleys could be so low; I was in awe that the peeks could be so high.

The sun had returned and so did I.

***

About the Author

Becky Schroeder

Becky Schroeder found her writing voice during her battle with and recovery from postpartum anxiety and depression in 2013. She has gone on to work for Postpartum Progress, the world’s most widely-read blog dedicated to maternal mental health. In her role she supports and advocates for moms all around the world who are suffering from a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. Her writing has been published on Disney’s Babble, Mamapedia, and she’s a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and daughter. Follow her on or at .

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