In southwest Florida during the rainy season, the storms roll in very quickly, charing across the sky like angry bulls, snorting and snuffing and sending up clouds of dust with their churning feet. All morning long, the sun shines bright and hot and the air is thick with humidity. And then you spot them off in the distance: the dark gray blue of the storm clouds. There isn't much time from when you first see the clouds to take cover. They take over the sun, the pretty blue sky, encompassing the earth in trembling darkness.
The rain doesn't just fall or pour, it pounds. Angry fists gathering speed on their way from the black clouds to beat your arms, head, back. Within seconds, the earth is completely soaked. Everyone and everything looks like it has gone swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, fully clothed. You can wait inside, trembling as the thunder crashes so loudly that your windows rattle. Or you can make a mad dash across a parking lot, heart-pounding with adrenaline and rain blinding your eyes like tears.
The clouds race on across the sky, past you and your city. The hot sun returns and the sky shines blue, unaware of what has just happened below. But the earth remembers. The air is still thick with humidity. Water streams down the streets in rivers and gushes into drain-holes like waterfalls. It takes a few hours for the world to recover, the pedestrians, sidewalks, cars to dry off. But by the time the sun is ready to paint the sky with brushstrokes of pink and orange, there is no more evidence of the late afternoon's rampage. The storm lingers only in the memories of those who care to remember and those who know it will come again tomorrow, ravaging everything with rain that pounds.
For 12 months following the birth of Abigail, 2 months following the loss of our second baby, and 5 months after Eleanor, postpartum depression pounded down angry rains on my life. When I visited the doctor 12 weeks pregnant with this baby, I was warned that postpartum depression has a way of creeping up during pregnancy. Prepartum depression, if you will. And postpartum depression that happens prepartum often looks like anxiety. I stared at her, surprised, and we talked about the dark gray blue clouds I could already see on the edge of the horizon.
I don't like taking daily medications, so we talked about all the things I did to fend off postpartum depression before: eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, taking me-time, getting out of the house. And armed with my techniques, my umbrella, I ventured into my fourth pregnancy. And for 18 weeks, I braved the pounding rains, sometimes getting wet, sometimes staying dry. But two weeks ago, my umbrella collapsed and the rain pounded on my arms, head, back. There was one very dark night. And lots of bad days. The rain was pounding so hard that I could no longer function in my life. So when I went to the doctor again yesterday, I went in waving a white flag. And the doctor, understanding and compassionate, asked some questions, determined a course of action, and handed me the materials to build myself a shelter: a prescription.
I've always been very honest about my struggles with postpartum depression. I've had a very hard time talking about the difficulties during this pregnancy. It's very, very important that the women who are outside, stranded in the middle of the parking lot, rain blinding their eyes like tears, abused by rain that pounds understand one thing:
You can struggle with depression and anxiety and still passionately love your baby.
And it's very, very important that all the people in their cars, watching the women who are outside in the rain understand one thing:
She can't just will it all away.
I start construction on my shelter this afternoon when Eleanor wakes up from her nap and we venture out to the pharmacy. I look forward to re-entering my life. I look forward to watching the sun brush the sky orange and pink and leaving the storms in the past.