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Postpartum Depression… Why The Shame?

I don’t recall a lot about the days immediately following the birth of my first child. Even as I write this, my feelings are hard to retrieve, tucked away and hidden in a faraway place. My safe place. My,I-don’tpull- these-memories-out-to-fondly-embrace place. I don’t like to share my inadequacies or my fears — to hold these moments up to a harsh, unforgiving light. But I suspect stories don’t flow until they’re ready to be told and in sharing this, I may help those who feel the same way I once did; those who feel untouchable when it comes to being swallowed whole by consuming sadness. Back when I was pregnant for the first time, I recall reading about emotional elements that could unfold after childbirth and declaring, “I don’t get sad. I don’t fall prey to feelings of depression and all that crap. And if I do, I’ll just count my blessings and slap myself back to reality.”

Big talker, slow walker. The first day home from the hospital, hot tears of shame washed my face, as I inwardly burst over the loss of my old life, my freedom, the relative safety of never exposing my heart in this magnitude, all while addressing my feelings of ineptitude and the utter betrayal of maternal instincts. As I cradled this new, little being, it dawned on me that I had perhaps forgotten how to love someone that fiercely— I was terrified of being that vulnerable, reluctant to bare my soul that openly at the risk of looking foolish. I desperately needed my mom; I was certainly not ready to become one.

When you have children, your significance is altered. Accepting where you are and what you’ve become, feeling blessed for what you have, seeing your entire existence reflected back at you through the eyes of a child… absorbing that…completely and utterly understanding that we are just a part of something much bigger than ourselves, well, let’s just say it hit me like a bat upside the head. You know what else I learned? That it’s perfectly all right to want time to stand still. Just for a while. To say to those around you, “You go ahead. I’ll catch up in a bit.” Yes. Sometimes all you need is a moment or two to catch your breath, that

moment to find yourself again.

Being in the presence of my children humbly reminds me of how far we sometimes drift from our divinity, how our innocence quietly slips away without our noticing, how we forgot what’s truly important, and how we crumble at the feet of true beauty. Could it be that our children grant us an all-access pass to glimpsing eternity? I’d like to think that.

Mercifully my foray through the darkness was brief. My dark, twisted sense of humour is usually enough to make light of any situation; normally, I can find humour in the smallest of things. Let it be said though, the amusement of wanting to slam your head in the cupboard door every hour eventually grows thin. After doing a little research, I learned that a very high percentage of women experience postpartum depression, particularly in the first few days following the birth. It’s a hormonal imbalance, which I never would have believed to be true. But I get it now. Lesson learned. It’s only after we’ve met the monsters that we grow fearful of the dark.

I don’t have a tattoo, but at the ripe old age of 36, pardon me, 27, I’d like to get the following quote inked on my body. My mother will faint. (But not before telling me how silly a tattoo will look when I’m 80.)

“Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity. And so we ask ourselves, will our actions echo across the centuries? Will strangers hear our names long after we’re gone and wonder who we were? How bravely we fought… how fiercely we loved… ” — from Homer’sOdyssey

As for my children, I won’t be here to witness their entire journey, or see how their story ends. This is as it should be — I can only pray I’ll be gone long before them. But I hope they never forget how fiercely they were loved. Because in the end, all ego-related issues will be laid to waste; our pride, our quest to be perfect, our attempts to hide our weaknesses. In the end, none of this will matter. I’d like to think all that’ll matter is how deeply we loved.

JanitaVandeVeldegrewuponafarmnear Mariapolis,Man.Sheholdsabachelorofscience degreeinagriculturaleconomicsfrom theUniversityofManitoba,andhasworked forafinancialinstitutionsincegraduating. ShelivesinRegina,Sask.,withherhusband RoddyandtheirchildrenJackandIsla.Her firstnovel,PostcardsNeverWritten,was therecipientoftheSaskatchewanReader’s ChoiceAwardandalsolistedbyCBCasone ofthetopfunnybooksin2009.Shedonatesa portionofproceedsfromthesaleofherbook toWorldVisiontohelpthoselessfortunate. Formoreinformation,ortoorderherbook, visitherwebsiteat www.janita.ca

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It’s only after we’ve met the monsters that we grow fearful of the dark

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