I have been trying to write a short personal essay on postpartum depression/anxiety/OCD. Last year, I wrote a book-length manuscript on it, which has been compressed as a chapbook coming out this Spring from The Lettered Streets Press. The essay, a piece I’d like to submit for an anthology, must be fewer than 3,000 words long. I am struggling to say anything meaningful or remotely self-contained in that space. I am really trying.
But containment is exactly the problem. I find myself wanting to say everything. For a year, I told the birth story over and over to the point that it became an exhaustive inventory of both big and small details. And whereas most women’s birth stories end when the baby is born, or maybe when they leave the hospital/birth center, mine grew to include the first few days, the first few weeks, the first six months. I could never pin down my experience. I still can’t, though I feel less compelled to try. I can accept the contradictions and ambiguities of it all a little more easily now.
What I want to say about it is that I struggled. What I want to say is that the process of that struggle, though it could have been easier, was central to me becoming a mother. Not in some “everything happens for a reason” way. Not in the sense that I was made better by it. But there was a huge chasm between myself before my son and the complicated identity I took on after, and as I grappled toward sense and reason in an obstructed birth, in colic, in breastfeeding pain, in my extreme emotions and fixations, in my slow physical recovery, I was also parsing out how to be the mother I am now. There was nothing glamorous or beautiful about that, but for a person who needs reasons, answers, certainties, that process was essential to, and probably partly the cause, for my postpartum journey.
How to say all this… I just keep trying, as I have been from the start.