Postpartum Support International says that 1 in 7 moms and 1 in 10 dads suffer from postpartum depression.
From 2014 to 2015, with my first son, I was one of those “1 in 7 moms” with postpartum depression. That period in my life, adjusting to being a new mom, as well as having a high-needs baby, was bleak.
My feelings in the postpartum period were exactly this:
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✏️ @brooklyn_rabbit : “Am I a bad mother because I woke up this morning wishing I didn’t have to do this right now?” I hear moms whisper words like this in hushed tones ALL THE TIME, so much so that I’ve made ambivalence one of the emotional “through lines” of #matrescence. • These thoughts are completely natural, yet most moms feel ashamed if they think about their mixed-feelings, let alone say them aloud. That’s because ambivalence makes us feel out of control during motherhood – it’s not good or bad, it’s both good AND bad. • Even though sitting with that confusion may be exhausting, pretending that you’re not feeling what you’re feeling — in all its shades of grey — can actually make you feel worse. So embrace the good with the bad and talk about it with other moms – I can assure you that they have felt the same way throughout the juirney if motherhood. #motherhoodunfiltered #momlife #postpartum #moms
The darkness that is postpartum depression
I was angry, irritable, tearful, and jealous of my husband’s “freedom” from not having to be attached to a nursing baby. I didn’t realize the importance of self care, so I didn’t do it. For months, I journeyed through motherhood feeling blue, but I never sought help.
I’m no expert in postpartum depression, but I would guess that different women experience it for different reasons. For me, it was probably partly due to hormonal issues and imbalances. But it was also due to my abrupt transition from working, independent woman to mother — and mother to a baby who was nearly impossible to soothe, who didn’t sleep well, who cried what seemed like all the time despite having seemingly all his needs met, and so forth.
After three months of maternity leave, I started working from home, which was convenient when my baby was having a bad day at daycare and I needed to get him. Working from home had seemed like the dream, but put into practice it wasn’t a good situation for me at the time. I didn’t eat nutritiously, exercised very little, rarely put on real clothes and makeup, and didn’t socialize with other adults.
So while I was working (and using my brain and marketing skills), something was still missing. I wasn’t enjoying life like I should have been.
Finding Fluent in 3 Months and a whole new world of language learning
One day, while my son was napping (and I of course was laying next to him because my child couldn’t sleep on his own), I stumbled upon polyglot Benny Lewis’ Fluent in 3 Months website and blog. I started reading blog posts, one after another. All these people learning languages, and so quickly–it was amazing.
Going into junior high school, I was so excited to take my first French class. Back then, I had dreams of being many different things “when I grew up,” and having a future career in languages was definitely on my list. After three not-so-great years of secondary ed French classes and a ton of social anxiety about speaking French, I decided that a foreign language related career was not in the cards for me. I did enjoy my one German class in college, but not enough to continue it. I changed majors my first semester, and because my new major didn’t have a foreign language requirement, I didn’t continue with my German then.
Reading language learners’ experiences in Fluent in 3 Months brought back my pre-junior high self. Languages, cultures, travel…oh my! I saw so many opportunities and benefits from self studying a language, and I decided that day that I would learn German as a hobby. Like pick-up basketball was my husband’s thing, language learning would be my new thing. I downloaded Duolingo on my phone and set off embarking on this new challenge.
I credit my newfound passion for language learning to lifting me out of my postpartum depression. Now, finally, I had something outside of my work-from-home job and outside of motherhood to make my own.
Is language learning a good project for every new mom?
In an Instagram post, reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks, M.D., shared, “I’ve known mothers who planned to use their ‘time off’ during maternity leave to accomplish a dream project (learning Italian) and been frustrated when those plans didn’t pan out.”
I can understand that. If you set reasonable goals (not “fluency”), however, it could be a valuable “dream project” to fill the maternity leave or postpartum time, especially on the boring days.
Building Language Preschools to evangelize bilingual education
Learning German is on hiatus for me right now. I study in chunks. I started 2018 out strong, even taking my first italki lessons. When morning sickness hit in the first trimester, early in 2018, my course shifted, and I founded this site, LanguagePreschools.com.
Language Preschools is my current passion project, stemming from my love for my son’s language immersion preschool. Someday I would like to throw myself completely into my German studies again, but right now, as a mother of two (as of this past Monday when my second son was born), my number one goal in this realm is to connect more families with local language immersion preschools.
I know firsthand the benefits of language learning (hello, stronger brain!), both for myself and for my son. It’s my mission, therefore, to evangelize bilingual education so that more parents, especially monolingual ones, take advantage of it to invest in their children’s futures. I hope, too, that an increased demand for bilingual education will also increase the supply so that the competition for limited spaces isn’t such a threat.
So long, postpartum depression
So far, with my second son, who was born earlier this week, I am in such a better emotional, physical, and mental state than I was in the first week after having my first son. That’s a good sign.
It’s not to say that I won’t develop symptoms of postpartum depression down the road, because I certainly might. This time around, though, I’m armed and ready with self care plans and a positive state of mind. And having language learning as a hobby–and being surrounded by an amazing community of language learners on social media–helps too.