My writing friend Sheila Petre, whom I love with an undying love, wrote this piece about postpartum depression. Sheila has nine children, and knows what she is talking about. Perhaps she wrote this description for Those Who Don’t Know, but perhaps too she wrote it for Those Who Do Know, because sometimes we still don’t have words for it.
I am long past postpartum depression, with my baby now six years old, but some variant of depression often clouds my months, especially surrounding difficult circumstances that don’t have a measurable end. I found her words healing in a dark time. I thought you might enjoy them too, so I asked if I could share.
“Postpartum depression is when you are walking along and your thoughts fall down little cracks and you stand over the crack trying to pull them back out, and instead you keep pulling out little thoughts you never knew you had lost.
It’s when things that were once funny are annoying and you get all snappish at people for laughing.
It’s when nothing matters, truly, and you wonder what the point of the day is, or the point of living, or what everyone else sees in being a mom.
It’s when you finally have a day that’s an okay day, not amazing but at least bearable, (you made it through without crying), but then your husband comes home and asks how your day went and his words hit an artesian well down there and there’s no sensible way that you can explain to him that the look of bewilderment on his face over this week’s worth of grief-under-pressure splashing all around you… is exactly the way your heart feels, too.
It’s when you wish for a mom. Or a maid. For a mocha latte, a massage, a mushroom-swiss burger, or maybe just a mustache. It’s when you mourn and wait for the morning, and when the morning comes, you see it’s not the right morning yet, and you wonder how long He’ll delay His coming.
Here’s what you should know about postpartum depression: It thins the membrane between the temporal and eternal, and maybe this is why God sends these seasons. But since we don’t know for sure, we mostly spend the interval looking for the way up and out, and reaching toward the things that help us get there.
These things help: Walks in the sunshine. Talks with someone who loves you. Prayer. Song. Writing. Drinking lots of water. Little breaks from being a mom. Skin-to-skin—with baby or lover. Progesterone or wild yam can help. Doing one deliberate very tiny thing for someone else every day—that can help.
If you can manage to finagle a compliment or a snatch of affirmation out of someone, that helps. And this knowledge helps: Knowing that it’s a journey. Every day, you rise and walk through it, and eventually, always, you come out the other side, slowly, slowly like waking up from a long sleep.
And you say oh! I’m back! That was worse than I knew it was, and I hope that I never do it again, but it doesn’t matter now any more, because I can see from here how He led me all the way and how I reached the light again, safe, still His. You’ll be stronger in some ways and more dependent in others, more beautifully broken than you have been yet, joyous to be wife and His, among your favorite little ones.”
Do you know what this feels like? I’d love to hear how you made it through, or say a prayer for you if you’re still in the thick of it.
Sheila recently released a poetry book entitled Thirty-Six New & Laughably Random Poems. The images accompanying this post are of Hannah Lehigh’s watercolors from the book. It’s available for purchase by emailing or writing to Sheila. (And if you haven’t yet found your way to her earlier book, Thirty Little Fingers, please do.)
Sheila can be reached by snail mail at 9711 Fort Loudon Road, Mercersburg PA 17236. Or by email at [email protected].