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Book Tour #21: It Sucked, and Then I Cried…

Postpartum depression is as much a taboo topic amongst women as infertility or loss.  But if you’re brave enough to admit it, others usually crawl out of the woodwork with a me-too.  And it’s strange that we make someone step forward first in all three cases before opening up with our own story.

Because wouldn’t it be better to educate each other on postpartum or post-adoption depression than force some people to feel their way through it alone?  We aren’t shy about trading tips about the best diapers, ways to potty train, or how to breastfeed.  But turn it towards the darker topics–the ones we hope never happen to us, in other words–and everyone goes quiet, even though they wish others would speak up about it too.

By which I mean we’re all guilty.

Heather Armstrong was brave enough to come forward on her blog, Dooce, as well as her book, It Sucked, and Then I Cried, and write about postpartum depression.  And while I would have loved to hear more of the lead-up and minutiae, I think the end result is that this book could serve as a great spring board for others stepping forward, telling their stories, and forming community.

Heather obviously has a very distinctive writing style that comes across in both her blog and her book. What do you think has made Heather such a famous blogger? Her writing style, honesty, or something else? Do you write with the same passion and honesty that Heather does?

Heather spoke at BlogHer 1 1/2 years ago and while I forget the percentage, she admitted that readers are getting a very small view of her life.  And while this is true of all blogs (we usually boil it down to the most noteworthy moments in a day), I think some people have more of a wall than others when it comes to relaying their thoughts.  I think I am fairly honest and open, but my story ends where anyone else’s begins unless I’ve gotten their permission to tell the story.  There are times when I change details in the story to disguise the situation and write about it–set a conversation at a dinner party rather than over the phone–but for the most part, I draw my line pretty firmly around where my arm-span ends.  And that means that I can’t be entirely open.  There have been times when I have wanted to write something because I need the support, but in the end, it is someone else’s story to tell and not my own.  This is especially true with the twins.  I’ll only write things about them that will not be potentially upsetting or humiliating later on (save for the pantyliner commentary), which means that I’ve had to hold my tongue during times when there has been so much to say.

I think Heather’s success is a combination of openness, talent, and timing.

The author talks about how she imagined her future children before becoming pregnant:

When you’re childless and young and hopeful, you have this idea of what your children are going to be like, and you make mental notes when you see other kids in public. You say to yourself, “My kid will be cute like that,” or “My kid won’t ever throw a tantrum in public like that little demon.” I had always envisioned a sweet little princess who looked just like me sitting quietly in a high chair, her pressed velvet petticoat creased perfectly as she sat and waited to be handed things in a timely manner. And then you grow up and have kids and realize that YOU HAVE NO SAY…

Before starting to try to conceive, how did you imagine your future children? If you now have children, how did your expectations fit reality?

It’s funny, but before we had kids, I imagined more what I’d be like as a mother than what they’d be like as kids (is this a sign that I am incredibly narcissistic or self-actualized?).  I don’t think I truly had a clue how parenting would actually be and I still don’t think I understand anything beyond parenting these kids and up until the age of five.  I have no clue how life will go at 8 or 12 or 18.  Or what parenting would be like with other children.

But all in all, I find temporary states such as tantrums less telling of parenting, but I love examining how the parents and children interact.

If you had postpartum depression to the degree Heather describes, would you have the courage to check yourself into a psychiatric ward? (It’s hard to say when it’s not actually happening in your own life, but I’d be curious to know if there are some people who are completely against it, some who would do it if they felt there was no other way, etc.)

I hope I would do whatever I needed to do to be healthy.  I think too many times, we’re comfortable with treating the body, but we stop short at treating the mind.  I would treat the mind if it needed to be treated.

Interested in the idea of an online book club?  Join along for the next selection by clicking here and spend more time reading other thoughts on Heather Armstrong’s book by clicking here.


1 Kristin { 10.12.09 at 11:37 am }

Thanks for the review. I really meant to participate in this one and somehow never got to the store to buy the book.

2 Sheri { 10.12.09 at 2:05 pm }

I agree that it’s more difficult to talk about issues like postpartum depression, and yet, it would be so helpful to bring people together. And…mental illness can be and is sometimes looked upon with shame whereas people rarely question physical illness. Is it that physical illnesses can be seen or proven?

I agree with your points on blogging. I can tell my story, but feel inclined to draw the line when I am talking about someone else. I also change the names and facts to “protect the innocent.” 🙂

Thanks for a great review and for hosting this book club.

3 Lavender Luz { 10.12.09 at 3:08 pm }

“before we had kids, I imagined more what I’d be like as a mother than what they’d be like as kids”

Me, too!

So it MUST mean self-actualization.

I DID get help for PADS (post-adoptive depression syndrome). I’m not sure what might have happened had I not.

4 furrow { 10.12.09 at 3:31 pm }

It was very hard for me to talk about my post-partum feelings, but when I did, I found a lot of support and gratitude for speaking the truth about how new motherhood can be. I, too, imagined what I would be like as a mother. I was a divinely patient earth mother type. And I pictured a baby who cried a lot less, too.

5 JuliaS { 10.12.09 at 3:49 pm }

From personal experience with PPD – it is very difficult to talk about. It’s very hard to admit that you are falling apart at a time when you should be on top of the world and especially so when you have dealt with infertility and most of your friends have. I always felt like how dare I “whine” when I have what we have all been hoping and working so hard for?

Then you have idiots like Tom Cruise who go on television shows and say it’s all in your head and you just need vitamins and exercise, and that taking antidepressants is just irresponsible.

6 loribeth { 10.12.09 at 6:58 pm }

I agree with your points on blogging. In some ways, I’m more open on my blog than I am in real life, at least when it comes to how I feel about loss, infertility & childlessness. But I do have some concerns about privacy on the Internet (or lack thereof), so I do try to be careful on other points.

Also true about PPD, like loss & infertility, being taboo topics. Books like Heather’s help a lot to break down the barriers, I think. Especially when you can use a little humour to make the topic more accessible.

7 Rebecca { 10.13.09 at 3:15 pm }

I loved how you phrased this:
“But turn it towards the darker topics–the ones we hope never happen to us, in other words–and everyone goes quiet, even though they wish others would speak up about it too.”
That cringingly quiet moment when everyone should speak up but doesn’t makes me sad in real life and very thankful for the blog world.

8 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 10.14.09 at 1:18 am }

“The ones we hope never happen to us”:
It seems like for a lot of people, they think that not talking about it means it won’t happen, and talking about it will draw the evil to them. Fill in whatever you like for the “it.”

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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