Did you notice that? A flash. A glimpse? An unexpected swell.
Olive is due within weeks, if not days. All of my emotions have settled directly into my chest and occasionally push the breath right out of me. When I least expect it, they flood upward, into my face. They cloud my vision and fill my ears with a buzzing that drowns out everything else. They aren’t always the offspring of hope and desire.
Those moments make me afraid that I will present with postpartum depression after Olive is born. That I will land myself the big fat PPD diagnosis. Again.
I have never written about my postpartum depression (PPD) after Goose was born because I never knew what to do with it. Long after the symptoms subsided, I was left mildly disbelieving that it could have been an accurate diagnosis. Coming on the heels of Hurricane Katrina, it seemed too muddled.
Not to mention that the nature of “mom blogging” brings us into contact with so many stories of postpartum depression that it can leave you feeling muddled yourself. Your own story doesn’t seem to match up to someone else’s experience or you aren’t comfortable with traveling alongside that seemingly crowded bandwagon.
Such is the irony of our social media existence. That which is rarely discussed openly in our real lives is hashed out so thoroughly online that it begins to sound trite.
Dooce, one of the pioneers of “mom blogging,” has written openly about her experience with postpartum depression and has been widely heralded for her bravery. Before her, I honestly have no idea how women online approached the subject, but much of the taboo seems to have dissipated thanks, at least in part, to Heather Armstrong’s efforts.
For that, I commend her and thank her. For a community of women that felt their voices could not gain traction, she became their icon.
However. However, I do not commend her readers for how some of them have taken up her battle as their own personal shield, to wield on her behalf against any perceived criticism of her. Criticism of her regarding, frankly, anything under this broad blue sky.
For example? Should Heather Armstrong invoke her Power of Dooce in an effort to force an unresponsive company’s hand in replying to a consumer complaint of her own, I notice her readers tsk tsk and suggest how horrific it is for Big Box to ignore a woman with Postpartum Depression. Should she come under criticism herself for any number of opinions or choices completely independent of her previous PPD diagnosis? The Dooce-ites descend with their mighty PPD Shields and cry foul, attacking the critic for removing their kid gloves when dealing with a woman who struggled with PPD once, years ago.
I personally fell under such vehement attacks when I criticized her husband for something years after Dooce suffered from PPD. Her husband. It had little to do with Dooce and absolutely nothing to do with her parenting. Or even her being a mother. Hell, it didn’t even have anything to do with her being a woman. It was about him and choices he was making. The response? “How dare you attack a woman with PPD?!”
First of all, I’m not entirely sure that Dooce would even want you to use her PPD as a shield against her critics or critics of people that know her. All reasonable defenses aside. I can’t imagine that her story was ever meant to be used to that end.
Second of all, I’m not so sure I want to put myself in a position of being identified as having ever had PPD, lest some reader choose to use that as a defense on my behalf. Or worse, should some reader hesitate to criticize me some day.
Since when did postpartum depression become a shield? Since when did it become an all-access pass for bad behavior? (keep in mind that Dooce was seriously not using it as such in the above example, but her readers were.)
Exchange “postpartum depression” for any diagnosis and my argument is the same.
Thus is the conundrum when choosing to share a struggle with those around you. At least it is for me. I don’t share it in order to create a shield or as a suggestion that you should break out your kid gloves.
I share it because I both need to talk about it myself and I want to open the door for you to talk about it from your perspective, if you so choose.
This reminds me of arguments I’ve had with my husband. I’ll share a struggle with him and he will immediately go into “fix it” mode. So quickly, in fact, that I’m not entirely sure that he’s heard me. Sometimes I just need you to listen, honey. You don’t need to fix it.
Though I can understand his desire to fix it. Particularly when not fixing it means that he may come to physical harm. Not fixing it might mean having to go to work with scratches running down his face.
One night, after Goose was born, I found myself rocking him in his beautiful plush brown glider and filling with an unknown rage. My anger was never focused on my children or anyone around me, save one person. It was always focused on my husband.
Rarely for any identifiable reason. Or, I should say, any rational identifiable reason.
That night, Maguire entered the nursery, said something offhand, and I silently rose from the glider, handed Goose to him, and then raked my fingernails down the sides of my husband’s face, drawing blood as I went.
The most deplorable part is that Goose was still so small that I knew Maguire would be afraid to move to stop me, for fear of dropping the baby.
We were both horrified.
The next day, I went to my OB and asked for help.
This post is not a cry for help. I very honestly feel quite fine. But every now and then, my pregnant hormones rise up and remind me of what it felt like to lose control. They hint at that night just enough to make me fear it happening again.
In these last few days of preparation, I sort through my personal and emotional checklist, making sure that everything is mindfully noted and cared for before Olive arrives. This includes all of my concerns and fears, worries and anticipation. The glory and blessings of it all, absolutely, but life is rarely that simple. If you are paying attention.
I would be a fool not to remind myself to be aware of myself.
So I share. I share with you because writing about how I am feeling has always been a part of me, long before you were there to listen. But now that you are, I share with you.
This is not an invitation to bash Dooce. I hope you have grasped that this is not about her, just as much as her readers using her PPD as a shield was not about her. It is about us, as a community of readers and a community of writers.
It is about us as a community of those who listen and those who share. Under the best circumstances, we are one and the same.
I can not be anyone’s icon. In these days of personal inventory, all I can be is forthright and threadbare. If it loosens some of the threads of your own story, I welcome your voice.
At most, I simply ask that you listen as I prepare for a more gentle pair of eager and loving hands to rub away at my velveteen.
Images purchased at istockphoto.com