It is late morning in October 2013. I’m lying in a darkened bedroom in a house that is not my own, in Whitehorse, Yukon. My breasts are engorged and while my newborn boy nurses on one side, the opposite breast leaks, dampening my shirt. My eyes leak tears. My mom comes into the room, holding back tears herself. She kisses me, tells me she loves me, and then she is gone, off to catch her flight back to Ontario. I wail into the empty house while my baby sleeps at my breast.
I am standing at the kitchen counter in our cabin, the baby wrapped tight on my chest while my first born watches Nemo for the second time that day. My fingers fly over the keyboard as I vent to my sister online. I’m crying again; it seems like I haven’t really stopped since my mom left a few weeks ago. My husband has escaped into town to work, and my closest neighbour is several kilometers away; they keep mostly to themselves. I keep mostly to myself, with only babies and dogs and whiskey jacks for company.
I am stumbling in the dark of post-partum depression and I can’t admit it to anyone. I try to be strong. I never ask for help. I yell at my two year old with his baby brother in my arms and then we all cry together.
It goes on like this for more than a year, into a third pregnancy. I’ll believe I’ve turned a corner and then something drags me back down again.
We move back to Ontario. We move in boxes sent through the mail, in suitcases on the plane. We move in uncertainty and desperation. We hope things will be better.
It is late morning at the end of May 2015. I’m lying in a bedroom full of light, in my own home. My baby girl nurses, my breasts leak. My mom comes into the room, smiling. She kisses the baby’s soft dark hair and then she packs up a change of clothes for the boys, taking them to her house for the day, a 5 minute drive away. When she brings them home that evening, she cooks us all dinner and helps get my boys into bed.
I’m sitting on the squishy blue couch across from my therapist. The baby is asleep at my breast. Through tears I tell her I’m having a shitty day, that I want to run away. We talk it out while the pile of crumpled tissues grows at my side. On this day I’m sad, but I’m getting stronger. I’m learning to be gentle with myself, with my kids. I’m learning to ask for help and to accept it when it’s offered.
I take my three children to the park. I wave hello to my neighbours, chat with other mothers at the park while the boys play. It feels simple, and easy. I smile at the sun and am thankful.
When we hear about a “healing birth”, we imagine a previous birth marred by some kind of trauma, followed by a birth that empowers, smooths over, satisfies. We don’t usually think of it in the context of what comes after the birth. But for me, this third post-partum period in my life has been incredibly healing. Finally, I am experiencing what it’s like to take care of myself and to be supported and cared for from all sides. I am able to drink in these newborn days without overwhelming sadness, grief and anger haunting my every moment. They are there, spectres lurking in the shadows of my mind, but I hold them at bay.