My Love Languages

Almost three years ago, after I gave birth to my third child, I think I went through a little postpartum depression. My daughter was born in the middle of summer 2021 and covid was still a big thing. People were being pretty cautious around the elderly and babies, but families were finally getting back to vacations and activities after the 2020 summer of nothing. Thus, between people being busy enjoying their summer and not wanting to expose a newborn to germs, we had almost no visitors outside of immediate family. I can look back at this now and understand it. But at the time, I was honestly devastated. I felt like no one cared at all that I had just had a baby. Yes, she was my third kid, but aside from a bunch of Facebook congratulatory comments, almost no one was even checking in on my to see how I was doing. I cried a lot during that first month after she was born and I am tearing up now just thinking about it.

It didn’t help that an acquaintance who was expecting a couple months after me was frequently posting on Facebook about all the gifts she was receiving for her baby who wasn’t even born yet. I had to mute her stories because it just reminded me over and over again how I didn’t have that. I remember telling Paul how I felt forgotten by most of my friends and his response was complete indifference. He told me that no one ever cares about your third kid and I shouldn’t feel bad about it. I know he wasn’t trying to intentionally invalidate my feelings, but it made me wonder if I was overreacting and so I didn’t tell anyone else that I was feeling upset.

I am not writing this in order to shame anyone for not being a good friend. I’m sure I presented myself as being happy and adjusting well, so my friends wouldn’t have had reason to believe that I was struggling. And I actually was adjusting pretty well aside from feeling sad. I was in love with my new baby, I was enjoying the first summer in our new neighborhood, and I loved watching my older kids bond with their little sister. That’s the funny thing about depression I guess. You can be leading a wonderful, enviable life and still feel lost and broken.

I spoke to a virtual therapist for a couple of months and that helped. She made me see that I was not in control over other people’s actions and feelings, only how I responded to them. Most of my friends had no idea I was feeling this way and I could either be mad at them for not realizing it, or I could acknowledge and accept that my feelings were hurt and then move on from it. I also recognized that there had likely been many times when a friend of mine was struggling and I didn’t show up for them. That didn’t make me a bad friend, just like my friends weren’t bad people for not realizing that I craved more from them that summer. I decided that I needed to forgive them and move forward.  

I also made a vow to try to be a better friend myself. While I have always enjoyed giving gifts, I have since been trying to be more aware of when someone needs a pick-me-up. I’ve taken flowers to friends who have been going through a rough time and meals to families during sickness or surgery. I try to make people feel special and thought of on their birthdays. And I’ve found that I truly enjoy it. It is good for my soul. However, it has taken some hard work and self-therapy to accept that my good deeds may often go unnoticed or unreciprocated.

For anyone who has read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, you may be unsurprised to know that my top two love languages are words of affirmation and gifts. Basically, I express and feel love by giving and receiving gifts, and then I crave affirmation that what I did was kind and appreciated. There have been times where I was very excited to do something nice for someone and then I’d be discouraged when the gesture was barely acknowledged. But then I hear a little voice in my head reminding me that even if the friend didn’t respond in the way that I had hoped, it doesn’t mean that the act or gift wasn’t appreciated. I can’t let the disappointment of not being recognized take away from the joy I get from being kind. It isn’t always easy, but I’m working on it.

Since summer of 2021, I have done a lot of self-reflection and I’ve also been more open with my closest friends about what I need from them. I shouldn’t be surprised, but they have been very receptive and have made a big effort to speak my love languages even when it hasn’t come naturally. I’m so glad I was able to let go of the resentment I felt three years ago and instead funnel those feelings into becoming a better friend myself.  

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