Rowena was a baby whom I thought would take away the sadness of postpartum depression. I thought she would be my re-connection to life. I thought she would make me feel complete.
Many months after my daughter, O, was born I was overcome with the desire to have another baby. I got stuck on naming this next child Rowena. In both my head and heart I believed a story that if I just had another baby, if I had Rowena, that I would feel fulfilled.
I did not know that during this time of wild imagination that I was deep in the throws of a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD). I did not know why I felt so emotionally raw/sad/heavy/irritable/fatigued/angry/worried/unsure/disconnected/dark/overwhelmed. I just thought I wasn’t good at the whole motherhood thing. I thought I wasn’t as strong as the other moms. I thought that if I was a better mom then I wouldn’t feel so horrible. And I definitely didn’t feel like I was a good enough mother.
All I knew was that I wasn’t myself. All I could say with certainty was, “I don’t know who I am, but this doesn’t feel like me.”
So I began to imagine how life with Rowena would be. I thought it would be a better life. She would provide me with a fresh start, a re-do. A second child presented the opportunity to be a different mom than I was with O, an improved version of myself. Maybe the void in me would be filled by Rowena. I desperately wanted something that would make me feel better, and I honestly thought that the love I could give Rowena, and the love I knew she would give me, would be enough to save me from the heartache of whatever it was that had taken over my being.
Yes, I was that far gone with postpartum depression. I really thought another baby would make me happy. Surely a second chance of motherhood would ease the pain in my heart: the pain of not being enough. Another baby would magically fix things, right? I know. Now it seems ridiculous. How could pregnancy, then life with an infant, be a good idea for an exhausted, depressed mother? Even though I was riddled with guilt that I wasn’t a good enough mother, that motherhood made me terribly exhausted, and that I didn’t feel fulfilled with just being a mom, I somehow wanted more of it.
And that, my friends, is what depression did to my brain. It tricked me. It fed me stories. It disconnected me from reality.
I obviously was not thinking clearly. The depression changed my perception of the life I had and made up fantasies about the life I wanted. A clear example of this is the idea that I thought another baby would make me feel more fulfilled, when in reality another baby may have very well left me feeling more depleted. Additionally, I was consuming a very nasty poison that the depression fed me as if its life depended on it: that I was not enough. Between the disconnect from my reality, the harmful thoughts and beliefs, and the physical symptoms of depression, I was…how would you put it? Oh yes. A hot mess.
In time I realized I wasn't physically, mentally, or spiritually ready for another baby. I understood that the life I was seeking with another baby would probably bring me the opposite of that: more extreme exhaustion, increased depression, and more overwhelm. Eventually little snippets of discovery arose. I began to look inward about what I was wanting from Rowena in the first place: fulfillment, love, and connection. I realized that I was waiting for these positive feelings to come to me, as if I was a recipient and some relief outside of myself (Rowena and a Depression Cure) would be gifted to me. I wasn’t an active participant in the story, and I felt separate from the solution.
Instead of relying on something Other to make me whole again, I started to question if it were possible for me to find the relief myself. This realization ended up being a monumental gift in my life, for it opened up my world to new possibilities that didn’t revolve around Rowena. I began to think there were other options to the story I had concocted in my head, the one that said I needed Rowena in order to feel good again. Perhaps there was another story I was meant to be a part of.
So I started a project, and I became the center of it.
This project of self-love, self-development, and self-fulfillment became known as my Rowena Project. It became part of my healing regime. I tailored it to my life and used it as a moment-by-moment, day-by-day guide towards relief and improvement. The first goal for my Rowena Project was to learn how to find immediate relief on the days when I felt suffocated by depression. Once I felt that relief, I could take the next steps towards finding connections that filled my soul and provided me with the fulfillment I was searching for.
The project was a mixture of modalities that brought me to a place of greater reflection and awareness. I utilized healing practices that were offered to me inside and outside of my home, ranging from self-development work to community outreach programs. There were steps in my project that provoked stillness and ease and other opportunities that led me to move forward in uncomfortable growth.
Most importantly, my Rowena Project was a gift to myself. I fully see that now. I so badly wanted Rowena to be that gift. I wanted a cure for the depression to be that gift, a miraculous *anything* that would ease the pain of disconnect and sadness. But that wasn’t the story for me. Instead I made my own story and called it my Rowena Project. It was a gift that stretched me, angered me, asked for my forgiveness, and taught me roughly 1,397 lessons about love and self-fulfillment. The Rowena Project became my baby, and oddly enough it was this baby that helped to eradicate the mood disorder that stuck around for years.
As for the imaginary Rowena, whoever she is and wherever she may be, I am forever grateful for the project that was born out of my love for her. If she is only meant to be a part of my life in that capacity, then she has had a soul-changing influence on my life.
Thank you for letting me share her with you.
With love, Emily