Post post-partum depression

January 31st, 2009

This afternoon was Small Boy’s fourth birthday party and for much of the afternoon my husband was in charge of the camera which means that in addition to pictures of the party there are, for a change, pictures of me. One of them struck me so strongly that I went back to look at pictures from Small Boy’s third birthday; and one of them struck me so strongly that I am writing this post that has nothing to do with Small Boy’s fourth birthday party (which was, for the record, the best birthday party ever) and everything to do with post-partum depression.

I suffered from post-partum depression after my second son was born. Suffered. The entire world went parched and dry and barren and empty. It was an endless drought. Endless, until it ended.

It ends. It will end. You might not believe it, if you are in the middle of it, but it will end. You may be parched by the drought of post-partum depression and the seeds of your love may be burried so deeply in such barren earth that you think they will never sprout but they are there. They are there, they are there, they are there. Your landscape may be parched but the wind will shift and the soft rains of spring will come. They will come. They will come, they will come, they will come. So hold on. Reach out. To a friend a husband a lover a mother a doctor a stranger but hold on and reach out and wait. Your weather will change.

I’ve got a picture to show you. I hate to post it, I hate everything about it, I hate that I ever felt like that and I hate that I looked like that and I hate to think about what my sons missed out on and I hate to think about what my sons saw and I hate that that was me. I hate everything about this picture but I’m going to post it here for all the world to see because maybe you’re reading this. Maybe you are experiencing post-partum depression. Maybe your wife is, or your sister or your best friend or your office-mate. Maybe this will help you. Maybe you need to see this picture, and then the next one, to believe what I’m saying. Maybe you’re parched and dry and wondering if the rains will ever come and maybe this will help you, maybe this will be the first raindrop on your tongue. So here is the picture I hate. This is me, one year ago, at my son’s third birthday party.

And this is me this afternoon, at his fourth.

That’s me. Look at that. Look at my face. That’s me, that’s my face, and that’s why I can say this, say this and mean it: your weather will change. Your drought will end. Your spring rains will come and your grass will grow green again. It will. It will, it will, it will.

Your weather will change.

Primal mothering

January 15th, 2009

I love watching my second son eat; it satisfies some wordless mothering instinct buried deep within me, some ancient primal need to see my baby plump and well fed, pushing food into his mouth with gusto. My first, the Small Boy, is perfectly healthy but he is long and fine-boned and thin as a rail – as I was until my mid-thirties so he comes by it honestly at least. He is perfectly healthy, yet sometimes I look at Small Boy in the bath and I feel worry creeping up behind me. He doesn’t carry weight to spare, that one; he doesn’t eat much, my first boy. And I never understood how much it troubled some poory understood, barely acknowledged instinct until my second son started eating and oh how I love watching that boy eat.

They shouldn’t come as a surprise, these moments when my mothering is driven by some instinct I cannot name but can only feel. I shoudn’t be startled to discover that the same need to see a well-fed child that spurred my Irish ancestors to cross the waters lives in my blood too. It should come as no wonder that there are moments in mothering that are as old as mothering itself. And yet it does. Meal after meal I am struck as if for the first time by how much joy it gives me to watch my second son eat. How primal it is, as if each bite puts him one step further from some famine that my rational mind knows he will never face.

But there it is: oh, how I love watching that boy eat.

Keeping pace

January 13th, 2009

I love when my poem for the week comes to me on a Monday. Not that I can’t write poems every day of the year, of course, but the fact of the matter is with two small boys running around the house playing fireman I’m not very likey to. I’ve set a goal of fifty-two poems this year – that works out to one a week. I know there will be dry weeks and I know there will be times when the river is rushing but still, it works out to one poem a week and I wrote a decent first draft yesterday and that sends me off into the week with a certain peace of mind. I also did the recycling – we only have curb-side pick up for paper and cardboard so we have to bring the glass and aluminium to a collection station; there are two within five minutes so it’s not that hard, it’s just a matter of actually thinking to do it – and made a double-batch of bolognese sauce. Yum!

Why I write

January 10th, 2009

“What survives is only what we are able to communicate.” Stephen L. Carter, The Emperor of Ocean Park.

Shameless self-promotion

January 8th, 2009

I mentioned in a recent post that a prose piece I’d written would be coming out soon. For those of you interested, you can find it here.

Dreams of my father

January 8th, 2009

I’ve been thinking about my father a lot lately; I’ve been writing some things that call him to mind. It’s probably more accurate to say that he’s been on my mind and thus I’ve been writing about him. His birthday is approaching – he would be seventy-eight – and the birthday of my son who sometimes resembles him so. Soon will come the anniversary on which my time without him equals my time with him. It’s a startling thought, even after all these years: I have been fatherless nearly half my life.

And yet he is sometimes so near, his outline so sharp, it’s as if I could hold his hand. He is like the mountains I see almost every day as I walk into the heart of the city, run my errands, take the boys for a walk. Only the cloudiest days obscure them, and on a clear day they seem to come closer; on those story-book days when the sky is sharp and blue it seems as if I could just walk to them. Under a blue sky the Eiger doesn’t seem all that imposing. But the truth is, the north face of the Eiger is one of the most challenging and dangerous climbs in mountaineering and my father is at the top of it. And I am at the bottom. And the distance between us cannot be traversed.


January 6th, 2009

It snowed on New Year’s Eve and part of New Year’s day and then the temperatures promptly dropped below freezing and stayed there; they’ll be staying there all week. The sidewalks are sheets of ice and bumpy rutted packed snow; the elderly and the stroller crowd are not amused. The state of the sidewalks is such that today I decided it was easier to pick Small Boy up from Spielgruppe in the sled than with the stroller. I packed the Boychen up and belted him into the seat we’ve got attached to our Davos sled and pulled him along behind me to get Small Boy. On the way home, Small Boy sat on the sled behind his brother and I dragged them both home earning smiles from the other pedestrians, more than one of whom probaby wished somebody would drag them along on a sled. The privileges of childhood.

Waiting for spring

January 4th, 2009

Inspired by Jo(e).

The first word

January 3rd, 2009

Goals, resolutions. Lists. I love them. I may break them but I can’t help but make them. I love a new calendar, an empty journal, a clean page. The first day of the year – for that matter the first minute of the day if I could only wake up every day remembering this – is like the first word of a poem. It’s just starting and there is that tingling feeling in my brain and my heart and my fingers that tells me the poem is going somewhere and there is the whole rest of the page to fill and I’m writing with a new pen. The first word…a poem could take off in any one of a dozen different directions after that first word, the lines skittering off like rabbit tracks in the snow. The first day…a year could go anywhere starting from that first day.

Here’s where I want my year to go:

  • Write (at least) fifty-two poems
  • Send out (at least) twelve submission packages. At least ten of these need to be realistic journals but once or twice I can shoot for the moon.
  • Subscribe to four new journals
  • Attend one writing workshop, retreat or class
  • Read (at least) twelve new collections

The goals are mine, the specificity comes from January’s suggestions on meeting your writing goals. Specificity is a good thing. Numbers are reassuring. I’ve written one poem already, and I’ve smiley-faced it off my list.

The first word. The first word is the best word, because anything can happen next.

An ordinary day

January 2nd, 2009

I love these fairy-tale Swiss days, story book days with the mountains and the snow and the crackling blue sky so clear it hurts. Days when we go sledding and I realize that I’m sledding in the Swiss Alps. The Swiss Alps. And even after eight years, the wonder of it hits me all over again and I’m reminded of these lines from Jhumpa Lahiri:

“I have remained in this new world for nearly thirty years. I know that my achievement is quite ordinary. I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.”

Simply beyond my imagination.