August 5, 2009. Our son was born. Sweet. Little. Person. Bundle of joy and.. responsibilities.
Now a parent, I realize that another human being fully depends on me. I obsess: what if I screw up and ruin his life? For good. Forever. I panic, fall into what we call postpartum depression. I should feel thankful, but I'm not.
Instead, I feel overwhelmed, lost. I'm sinking, drowning even. I feel so much love, yet so much fear. I am supported by my husband, friends, family, yet my feet don't seem to touch the ground and my head is spinning. The pain of being in the hurricane of change strips me naked, makes me vulnerable, exposes my humanity, opens my heart. It forces me to surrender to what is.
Looking back, the one thing I am most thankful for? My pain. It led me to who I am and to where I stand today. My pain was on purpose, like it always is. My pain fueled my quest for knowing myself better and finding my life purpose. It pushed me to look within, to take a break, to accept the imperfection and messiness that come with life and.. motherhood. I couldn't live a life that looks like the cover of a glamorous magazine anymore. Instead, my pain led me to live a life filled with authenticity, love and spirituality.
When I now look at my 5-year old, my heart explodes with joy. I remember the pain that came with being a first time mother and, everyday, I am thankful for it. It makes me appreciate the unconditional love I feel for him, his laughter, the friendships he has developed, the teachers playing a key role in his development and the other children and adults he interacts with every day.
I am responsible but I am not alone. Because it takes a village. A village of peers, friends, teachers, neighbors and Netflix kids shows. My pain reminds me how precious childhood is. My pain reminds me to show compassion for the parents who may feel inadequate, overwhelmed, not good enough. My pain reminds me tolerance for others.
I strongly believe that our pain, whichever it comes from, is on purpose. It helps us grow and give birth to a better version of ourselves. It is hard to be thankful for our pain but, if we shift perspective, we realize it always brings us a lesson in disguise. My postpartum depression pain was there to teach me how to simply love more. Myself and others. Now, explore the possibility that all of the pain that you have experienced so far (whether you lost someone, got sick, felt betrayed) was exactly what you needed at that time. What lessons have you learned from that pain? Instead of asking yourself, "Why did this happen to me?," ask "Why did this happen for me?".
I am not saying we should dwell on our pain and turn into a victim of life and circumstances. Accepting pain as a lesson instead makes it not only more manageable but it also opens a world of possibilities.
To conclude, I want to add that my thankful list is long, very long. If you want to embrace a gratitude practice, do it every day. Journal what you are grateful for -- write down as many details as possible. Go beyond "I am thankful for ..." -- go deeper, live it, experience it. Add "because" and get specific. Is it the way that person smile when you say thank you, is it the way the light hits your bedroom in the morning, the sound of laughter you wake up to every day? The more precise, the more life-changing.
This blog post is part of a series for HuffPost Gratitude, entitled 'The One Thing I'm Most Thankful For.' To see all the other posts in the series, click here To contribute, submit your 500 - 800 word blogpost to firstname.lastname@example.org.