Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a modern house at the edge of suburbia.
One of her favorite things was a trunk filled with dolls and stuffed animals from far away lands. She would open the trunk slowly, and carefully select a few toys with which to have tea.
Her favorite was a stuffed panda bear from China. There was nothing shiny or sparkly about it but the panda bear fit just so in the crook of her arm. When she wrapped it in a blanket, the bear transformed into a baby. She would rock it for hours after tea, whispering sweet nothings into its ear and smoothing the fur in between its ears.
Then, at night, just before bed, she would tuck the bear back inside the chest, telling it good night and wishing it happy dreams.
The little girl would clamber into bed for a night full of happy dreams about things she could do the following day with all her perfect toys tucked ever so neatly into the fancy trunk at the end of her bed.
As she grew older, she had different dreams. Dreams of a real baby of her own. The trunk grew dusty and the panda bear stayed inside, asleep for years and years.
Eventually, the little girl had a child of her very own. She wanted very much to hold it, rock it, and whisper sweet nothings into its ears. Kiss the sweet innocent cheeks and tuck it away for the night as she slept too.
But it did not work that way, the now-grown girl discovered. The sweet nothings were trapped deep in her heart, quelled from bubbling to the surface. The now grown-girl was sad, depressed, and anxious instead of being happy and carefree. What was this? How could she make this go away?
Then she remembered a story her father told her – about an enchantress in a forest far, far away. This enchantress turned sadness into happiness with the mere flick of a wand, something her father showed her every time she cried, imitating the enchantress’s wand with his finger as he carefully wiped her tears from her cheeks. So the now-grown girl decided to make the journey. She set about making preparations. Food, check, baby strapped to her chest, check. Unicorn to ride, check.
As she rode away from the castle, an uneasiness settled over her heart as she wondered if she would be able to make the journey all alone, with no help to care for her child. But she pressed on because she did not know where else to turn.
She rode for days until she saw the edge of the forest in the distance. As she settled in for the night, she snuggled her child close to her and stroked its hair. In the morning, she whispered, things will be better. You’ll see.
As the sun rose, so did she. She gathered up the things spread out from camp the night before and once again, strapped her wee one to her chest before flinging herself upon her unicorn. They galloped toward the forest. After a short while, she heard more hooves on the road behind her. Glancing back, she saw hundreds of other mothers, all with infants strapped to their chests, riding on unicorns. They too, were headed to see the great magical enchantress for the were exhausted with fighting against wave after wave of emotion.
Surely, one wave of a magic wand and they would be whole again.
They grew closer to the forest by the end of the day but could not quite seem to reach it as the sun sank in the sky behind the towering trees. So all the women dismounted and set up a great big camp not too far from the edge of the woods.
Together, they prepared dinner, they sang, they laughed, they shared caring for the babies they held. Then, at long last, they slept peacefully for the first time in months as volunteers took turns tending to the babes at the mothers’ sides. In the morning, breakfast was prepared and shared amongst the camp.
As the sun rose higher, the women, having been lost in their camaraderie, finally realized the forest had again shifted even farther away. But no one made a move to pack up and ride onward. Instead, they went about their business, laughing, crying, sharing, and helping where they could in the camp.
For you see, you do not need a magic enchantress with a magic wand when you have the support and compassion of those around you.
While peer support has been proven to heal women faster as well as prevent severe cases of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders, it is not often the only tool one needs to fight back. You may also need to see a health care professional to discuss more serious and intensive care methods such as therapy or a variety of medicine approaches – whether it be pharmaceutical or homeopathic. If you or a loved one are struggling with a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder, know that you are not alone. Reach out to Postpartum Support International to help locate resources near you.