The depression is a flu that will not abet. Most mornings, D drags himself into the living room on all fours. He lies face-down on the interlocking foam floor tiles, his upturned arms at his sides. The baby crawls over him, tugging his hair, drooling on his t-shirts. He doesn’t move.
He complains of headaches, nausea. He has nightmares. He’s cold all the time. No, he’s hot all the time. He never sings anymore when he moves through the house. Sometimes when he walks, I swear I can hear it, the depression. It’s a liquid sound. I can hear the cortisol sloshing around in his veins. I can hear the adrenaline drip-drip-dripping down the twisted cord of his spine.
D’s depression is the weather in our house, except there’s no forecast. Some days we wake to sunny skies, gentle breezes. We talk and laugh. We eat and nap. We watch the baby the way one watches a campfire, not for any particular reason, but because it is there and strangely fascinating in its combination of predictability and surprise.
Other days there are storms, rough winds, hailstones big enough to take chunks of flesh off the bone. D stomps angrily around the house. Or he stays in bed and cries. He rages, he weeps. He sleeps, or he doesn’t.
Maelstroms form unexpectedly, seemingly out of nowhere. And on the days they don’t, even when we’re smiling, listening to music, rubbing lotion onto the baby’s chubby arms, I am watching the sky. That fluffy cloud, is it a bunny? Or a dragon? Or a gathering storm?
To name it, I have since learned, is fully half the battle. So I will name it here: D suffered from postpartum depression.
I will name it here because we didn’t name it then, not in those tender months after our first baby was born. We knew there was a problem — a big, hulking bear of a problem — but we didn’t call it postpartum depression. We called it up all night and not enough resources. We called it fussy baby and reflux is brutal. We called it stress and bad sleeper and babies are hard even when they’re easy. We said we were tired. We said we hadn’t lined up enough help. We said we weren’t good at co-parenting a newborn. These things were true, but there was something else…