As far as postpartum depression goes, all I have to lean on is empathy and my imagination to gain an understanding of what it must be like. I did not carry a baby for 10 months, I did not experience the wild fluctuations in hormones and emotion, and I honestly can’t say I’ve been depressed for even a moment since the birth of our baby girl.
And to be perfectly frank, not until I read my wife’s post on postpartum depression did I even know how deeply she has been affected. She’s a rock. She’s a rock that sometimes cries and rips into me for imagined offenses and the things I do in her dreams, but she’s still a rock. Despite everything she wrote about her feelings, she gave no outward signs of postpartum anything, besides happiness and pride.
What I can write about, though, is something remarkably similar to one aspect of her anxiety: the illogical fear of horrible things happening. It’s a fear that creeps in through the edges, through the gap that exists where your waking mind is supposed to be sealed from your dreams and nightmares, to cloud your thoughts. I had experienced it before, right after meeting my wife. The impact she had on my life, immediately, was to revive it and help it finds its equilibrium. From that moment on I feared only one real thing: that I could lose my wife in a heartbeat. I could lose her to a traffic accident, a house fire, a freak meteor shower…literally anything could jump up from the earth and take her life without a moment’s notice. It would overturn my world and reduce me to nothing, to lose something of that magnitude of importance in my life.
That fear becomes exponentially heavier once you lay eyes on your first baby. If something were to happen to her…my wife and I would die. Maybe not physically, but spiritually and emotionally. Once I saw her fragile, helpless little frame I knew that I would be spending my entire life keeping her safe, but I also knew that even my utmost and tireless efforts could be erased by one careless driver, a rattlesnake, a falling tree branch, a loose stair board, an electrical outlet…literally almost everything has the ability to snuff out this tiny little flame.
The weight of knowing something like that either has to be compartmentalized or rationalized in some way, but that only works if your mind is cooperating with you.
To be in a position where your hormones are working against you, making you more emotional and susceptible to these fears, is like having your internal defenses just up and abandon post. There have been times, most notably in Iraq, when I was so damn tired and miserable that I could not help but play host to fears like these. Those were honestly the worst times. Even if the streets were quiet and no one was actively trying to kill us, I was exhausted, hungry, and depressed.
Even those of us that weren’t religious would negotiate with God in times like these, saying things like “If I have to lose a limb, please make it below the joint,” or “if I die today, please don’t let my children end up with a bullshit abusive replacement father.”
I can’t imagine what it must be like to live like this, to not even enjoy the ability to shower, eat a hot meal, and then sleep it off. Waking up into a horrible depression, when you’re able to sleep at all in the first place, must be like living in a mental prison. I have a deep respect for every new mother that lives through this, but still soldiers on and does what mom’s do. That takes some heart. Some courage.
Mad ups, moms.
All I can do for my wife when she is feeling like this is comfort her. I will be her shoulder to cry on, her sounding board, her punching bag… I will do whatever it takes to march alongside her all the way through the dark times back into the light. There is always a light.
That’s what I told myself, anyway. And it was true.
image sourced from this site. No photo credits provided.