It was only days after my second beautiful boy was born. He was so tiny, quiet, beautiful, everything the “perfect” baby should be…and yet I didn’t want to hold him. Having him in my arms felt so foreign. I wasn’t connecting. I felt sick. How can this be happening? What kind of mother am I? It had taken me so long to get pregnant, the pregnancy itself had been pretty torturous, and now it was over. I had the baby I had hoped and prayed for. Why couldn’t I be happy?
Unfortunately, mine is just one of many stories of new moms suffering with postpartum depression.
My mom was there after the baby was born and saw my struggle from the outside. She quickly recognized the signs because she has struggled off and on with depression. My father was also challenged significantly by bipolar disorder during my youth. I knew what depression was, but experiencing it myself was completely different. It was hard to know I “should be happy,” as all of my dreams had come true, but instead putting on a fake smile for visitors and family and always toeing the line of breaking down and sobbing. I just wanted to sleep through my life and forget I had a new baby. It was a truly horrible, gut-wrenching experience.
To make things worse, my depression was affecting my oldest son, who was almost three at the time. I wanted to explain it had nothing to do with him, that I was okay, that this would pass. But how do you explain something as complicated as depression and feeling sad for no reason to such a young child? This was the question that inspired me to write a children’s book.
After I was able to get help for my depression—thanks to my amazing mother, wonderful husband, and a talented doctor—I channeled my inspiration. When I was growing up, I had always considered writing a children’s book about parents with depression, or anger, or bipolar disorder, but it wasn’t until I had experienced it fully myself that I knew what to say and how to say it. Thus, Mommy’s Imaginary Friend was born.
Mommy’s Imaginary Friend is a story told by a five-year-old boy. He tells us about his imaginary friend, Leon, with whom he often plays…and his mother’s imaginary friend, Marvin, who makes his mommy sad. The boy explains that when Marvin is around, his mom only wants to sleep or watch movies. He says he is sad that his mommy doesn’t want to play with him as much when Marvin is around, and explains that his mommy visits a doctor who teaches her how to ask Marvin to leave.
It is a sweet short story for 3–6 year olds meant to start the conversation about depression in a context that such young children may better understand. It’s a little fantastical, full of imagination, and holds a lot of truth for many of us.
I completed the manuscript for this book only a few short months ago and am currently in the process of getting it illustrated by talented artist Melissa Mae of The Cheeky Whale. My goal now is to get it published and distributed to anyone who suffers from mental illness, not just postpartum depression. I need to raise some funds to be able to do this, so I will be creating a Kickstarter campaign.
If you would like to support this project, please like and share my Facebook page to spread the word. Visit the Mommy’s Imaginary Friend website to receive updates, find information about the Kickstarter campaign, and preorder the book!