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Pickle Me This

November 11, 2010

"Love is a Let-Down"

I spent the first six weeks of my daughter’s life amazed at her fabulousness, but also spectacularly miserable. It was really truly the worst time of my whole life, which was far from what I’d expected from my intro to motherhood, and I really thought that there I’d just gone and destroyed my entire life. I remember being terrified that my husband would leave me, which had never crossed my mind before, but in the awful stupor of that time, I couldn’t think of  single reason why he’d stay. I remember crying with the windows open, with the hope that somebody might pass by and come in to take the baby away.

I maintain that I didn’t have post-partum depression, but just a bad case of the baby blues, but moreover that life with a newborn is generally awful. And though at the time I feared my bad introduction to motherhood might set the tone for everything that comes after, it didn’t. They were so right, those friends who told me that the first three months are all about survival, and they were so wrong, those other people who told me to make sure I “enjoyed every minute”. Ha.

Anyway, life got much much better, but I began to notice a pattern. Whenever anyone I know had a newborn, I’d speak to her around the one-week mark, and she’d tell me that things were going okay. She’d note that she was more than a little sleep deprived, and I’d recognize a slight waver in her voice. And then I’d confess that at the one-week mark, I was more unhappy than I’d ever been before or since, and the person I was speaking to would breathe a sigh of relief then, that she wasn’t the only one. That these feelings she was experiencing were more common than she’d thought. I’d assure her that things would get  better, and she wouldn’t believe me at all, but as the weeks went by, she’d come to see that it was true, and soon she’d be out on the other side herself, and we’d even laugh about it.

I wrote my essay “Love is a Let-Down” this spring after a friend of mine had been suffering through the awful, and our conversations had brought up everything about new motherhood that I’d actually nearly forgotten. I entered it into The New Quarterly‘s Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest, and was so happy to discover in August that it had placed as a runner-up. And I’m happy now to announce that my essay appears in TNQ 116, which is out now or soon, and will be available at your favourite bookstore. I urge you to pick up a copy, because it’s a piece that I am really proud of, that is terribly important to me, and I think has the potential to help somebody who’s where I was then.

Also because the fantastic issue contains work by some great writers, a disproportionate number of which have been interviewed on Pickle Me This: — Jessica Westhead, Rebecca Rosenblum and Kerry Ryan. I’m also looking forward to Sarah Selecky (of Giller fame!) and A.J. Somerset (of the Metcalf-Rooke award).

Update: A lovely post up about my essay at the Utne Reader Blog “Great Writing”. Which is definitely some nice feedback. And a nice blog.

9 thoughts on “"Love is a Let-Down"”

  1. Congrats: I hope you continue to get good feedback and publicity as the days pass!

  2. m says:

    I’m curious to why you don’t want to label your experience as PPD? So much what you describe sounds like it.

    I was just having a conversation with a friend this week about PPD. She had a bad case of it with her second child. I was lucky as I didn’t have it for either, but I think that was partly because my midwives were hypersensitive to it with me as my Nana’s twin had Post-partum psychosis, which is both terrifying and meant I was sensitive to both. I was lucky.

    It’s not talked about nearly enough. It needs to be. It’s very much part of our collective experience.

  3. Kerry says:

    Perhaps it was PPD, but I’m not sure what difference it makes, and for me, labeling it PPD undermines the experience, puts it in a little box that everybody thinks they understand, but I don’t think it’s so simple. Also, experiences like mine are so common that I’m not sure how it’s an affliction. In retrospect, it makes sense as a very normal process as life (very dramatically) changes from one thing into another– particularly when new mothers have so little support, and circumstances are different from years ago (babies rooming in with mom, breastfeeding, out of the hospital asap). I was defintely not prepared for motherhood (though I don’t know how I could have been…) and so it took a long time to put life back together again. But then I did. 🙂

  4. m says:

    Interesting. I can understand why you believe that labelling it dismisses it to a certain degree, but I would argue that labelling it is helping others understand PPD even more, as I really don’t believe many people understand it at all. It’s mysterious and scary and there is so much silence around the issue. But whether or not you want to own the label is your prerogative, and regardless simply writing about your difficult experience will help other women out there.

  5. Patricia says:

    I agree with M. How does one undermine an experience if it can help others? Is all experience so unique that it can defy explanation and classification? Why is there such a defiance of science and observation? I hope that eventually you’ll come to look at your experience and take it for PPD. I found it odd that in your essay, although you called for greater awareness to this delicate sort of plight, you didn’t go far enough and perhaps shot your call back when you made sure to say it wasn’t PPD. You’re quite lucky – it won’t return, like in manic-depression (unless you have another child and learn about the brain and its hangovers).

    1. Kerry says:

      Hello. I didn’t want to claim PPD because I was never diagnosed, and had symptoms that were nowhere near as longlasting or extreme as some women experience. So for me to claim that I know what PPD is all about would be false representation. (Like annoying people who like to claim they have ADHD). I maintain that for me, my experience was an awful but necessary adjustment to a whole new level of responsibility and demands. That there is a middle ground between PPD and being over the moon, and a lot of us have been there (never claimed to be unique)– we can’t *all* have been ill. But I am only an expert on me, not an expert on PPD– perhaps you are, and know something I don’t.

  6. Ellen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I will hit the 7 week mark tomorrow with my little girl and it has been the hardest 7 weeks of my life. she isba beautiul, healthy girl who i am thankful for, but this time has been more emotional and difficult than i ever imagined. Everyone loves to say, “enjoy it, the time goes so fast.”. i’m convinced they all blocked thistime from their memory. Thanks again, it’s always helpful to hear a story that lets me know i’m not alone in this.

  7. Danli says:

    It’s beyond my description how appreciated I am that you wrote this great piece. I read the essay five years ago when I was single. Honestly, I didn’t feel much about it. I was only surprised that motherhood is hard. Then I read it yesterday, about seven weeks after I had my beautiful daughter. I almost cried the whole time while reading it. I realized I’m not alone nor sick, somebody understands me and supports me. Thank you so much!

    1. Kerry says:

      There is so much goodness ahead! Keep on going and best of luck getting through the storm.

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