Guest Post: @momgosomething – “You Never Know What Lies Behind a Perfect Smile”

There aren’t enough words in the universe powerful enough to explain how I feel about Kim from All Work and No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something. We met on Twitter, through #ppdchat. She’s become one of my friends, even though we’ve never met in person. (God, I love the Internet for that!) She is real, she is honest, and the girl can write. She’s hilarious. Also, obsessed with Chuck Norris, which is just awesome. I’m honoured to have her writing here for Mental Illness Awareness Week. Without further ado, here are Kim’s words.
It was 9 in the morning when she had called and asked if she could come see him. I looked down at my pajama bottoms and the state of my kitchen. Bottles stacked one up against the other waiting to be sterilized, breakfast dishes left on the table, and his swing covered haphazardly with a blanket speckled with spit up.
“Of course you can come over,” I said with an exaggerated chipper tone.
She said in 2 hours.
In those 2 hours I cleaned the kitchen.
I dressed myself, including doing my hair and make-up.
I dressed my son in the finest clothing that was hung neatly in his colour coordinated closet.
I made the beds.
I swept the floors.
I got on my hands and knees and plucked out any noticeable lint and dog hair from the carpet.
I had just finished wiping down the bathroom with antibacterial wipes when the dog started barking at the door.
There she was.
My Aunt held a bouquet of daisies, my favourite, and an outfit for my son.
She immediately swooped him up in her arms and looked me over.
“You look so beautiful. I mean that. When I was 2 weeks postpartum, I was still in the same pajamas I had worn home from the hospital.”
She roamed my house with my newborn son, holding him tightly on her chest.
I watched her anxiously, looking for any indication that she had figured out that there was something seriously wrong with me.
“Your beds, they’re made. Kimbers, your house is absolutely spotless. Did you hire someone to do this?”
I bowed my head, “No. I do it.”
“Kimbers, you should be resting when the baby rests.”
I nodded in agreement.
When she finally left, she told me she was proud of me; that I was “rocking” motherhood with ease.
And as her car pulled out of my driveway, I took a breath of relief.
I fooled another person into believing that everything was ok.
In the days following, I went to great lengths to conceal my internal struggle.
If I looked perfect, if my son looked perfect, if my home looked perfect, no one would know.
It was so easy to hide my internal battle behind the cheerful facades that I had created.
And why did I do this?
Because I was scared that I would be labeled as a terrible mother.
Not to be trusted with her child.
For weeks, and even after my diagnosis, I still kept a perfectly pretty barrier between me and my personal hell.
When I finally admitted to friends and family that I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, they all had the same reaction:
“I had no idea. You looked like you had everything under control.”
Postpartum depression and anxiety does not have a face.
People cannot see it.
What they do see is what is portrayed on television, in the newspapers, tabloids, internet, etc.
They see monsters, psychos, nuts, disheveled, with twitches in our eyes and all the other horrible words and images that are associated with mental illness.
This sort of exaggerated misinformation breeds stigma like a wild fire. This is why so many men and women suffer in silence when they don’t have to.
Just like I did.
That’s why we have to stand up. We have to use our collective voice to teach others about our illnesses.
They need to understand that the way we experience depression looks completely different from everyone else’s.
This was me at 4 weeks postpartum.
Can you tell that I was crumbling inside?
More importantly, we need to keep talking to Moms. We need to ask those difficult questions like, “Are you ok?”
Even if they get offended, just ask them.
You never know what lies behind a perfect smile.
You could save a life.
Kimberly is a Registered Nurse, Mom and wife to a beautiful 4 year old son. She is a 4 year postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety disorder.

She writes on her personal blog, All Work And No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something.

21 thoughts on “Guest Post: @momgosomething – “You Never Know What Lies Behind a Perfect Smile”

  1. Janet

    Hi Kim – Nice to see you here! I know your words here will help many women.
    What you wrote made me recall a time when my son was just an infant, and my sister came to visit – and she knew how sick I was – and she commented that my bathroom was always “spotless”, even though I was really crazed. I realized that even though my sister knew of my illness, it was important for me to keep up that “last bastion” of sanity – the CLEAN BATHROOM. It’s incredible how powerful these “rules of sanity” are in our lives…

  2. Katja

    I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression and can’t imagine the difficulty. I can simply empathize.
    I had postpartum blues following my first baby, which is not in the same ballpark, but I also remember putting on a front of perfection when inside I felt incapable and lost. Friends and family only came to call when invited and I spent days and weeks feeling lonely while my husband was at work. When I was pregnant with my second I warned everyone around me that I wasn’t about to allow myself to drift that way again, and that I expected to see them daily, unannounced, and with my house in disarray. It worked to deal with those blues.

  3. Mirjam

    This is exactly what was on my mind today.
    How I used to hide behind that perfect smile, until I could smile no more.
    I love you for always speaking up, because it never gets easy to speak up,
    but it means so much to do so.

  4. tranquilamama

    Kim, my MIL said the same thing when I told her about my diagnosis. I thought you were handling the adjustment so well. I thought if I kept up appearances, no one would see that I was so miserable on the inside. So now I ask and really listen when I talk to friends to see if they are really okay.

  5. Cloudy WIth a Chance of Wine

    Fabulous post. Funny – I was never diagnosed with PPD, but I spent most of last winter indoors. I was stressed about everything, and it took so much energy to go out that it just didn’t seem worth it. Then, once my daughter hit the 1-year mark, things started to get better, and I feel like myself again. Not completely, but mostly. But like you, I just sort of hid it from everyone – I controlled my feelings by making everything else perfect.

    But I’m in a MUCH better place now. I just wish I had reached out to other people when I was going through it as it probably would’ve made me feel a heck of a lot better.

    Can’t wait to read more of your blog!

  6. Kande

    I used to do home visits with new Moms. The ones with the clean houses ( and no house keeper, and husband back to work) were the ones I paid the most attention to! With kindness, intuition, and the right questions and/or time, it is not overly hard for an experienced professional to distinguish between ” normal” togetherness and ” I am silently screaming” togetherness. Which is why it is such a shame that free home visits are not a mandatory part of postpartum discharge … after two weeks home ( or sooner at Moms request). It may be a weird thing to write on a resume, but I am as assured in my ability to make a postpartum mom crack her facade as in my ability to soothe a screaming baby …

  7. aladyinfrance

    I warned my sister who is doing just fine. But a friend of mine (whose son is that same age as mine so it was a long time ago) hid it for a long, long time. She was sure they would take her baby away. Now I want to tell everyone.

  8. katery

    well, you did better than me, i was not capable of pulling myself together to pretend. in my opinion, the reason people have the wrong idea about postpartum depression/anxiety is that the stories the read in the paper and see on tv are usually those of women whose postpartum depression went left untreated and manifested into postpartum psychosis, you don’t see postpartum success stories in the news,only failures on the part of the medical community who don’t screen enough for it, or mothers who are too afraid of the stigma, but they weren’t failures, they were victims.

  9. katery

    sorry, i didn’t mean to imply the entire medical community is failing mothers with postpartum depression, there are many who care, including, thankfully, my doctor.

  10. Andrea

    This reminds me so much of how it was for me too. I look at pictures from that time & I can’t believe how big my smile was. And it’s hard to believe by looking at the pictures from back then that inside I was haunted by intrusive thoughts & hurting so bad. You are so right, we never really do know what lies behind a perfect smile. Thanks for sharing Kim. xo

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