Tina Rowley

writer + (performer) + [space left open for surprises]

then there's the other part

I think that postpartum depression and I are eyeing each other from across the room. I think it's trying to buy me a drink into which it's slipped a terrible roofie. That's the other part, that I haven't so much talked about.

I want to talk about it.

In my post about Finn's birth, I didn't get to the real hard parts. The real hard parts had nothing to do with physical pain. The first, and the worst, was during the second half of my cesarean. The first half - where they were pulling Finn out - was no problem. I was oddly relaxed, sort of bordering on euphoria. When Dave and I first heard his little cry from the other side of the blue curtain, I can't tell you the sweet shock of it. There was really a baby in there, ours, and that was his particular voice we were hearing for the first time. Dave went to go be with the baby, and since they wouldn't let my midwife into the operating room, I was left alone for the part where they put me back together.

That's where it started to get bad. I felt this horrible growing pressure on my chest that crept up to my neck, and it got heavier and heavier until it was all I could do to keep breathing. I tipped my head back to open my airways as far as I could, but it required 100% of my concentration to keep air coming in. The anaesthesiologist came over every couple of minutes to tell me that I was all right, and then he'd go back to chatting with some other man in scrubs. But I was truly scared about my inability to breathe. I felt wrong, like a fish struggling on land.

Dave came over, radiant and thrilled, and asked me if I wanted him to bring Finn over. Until the day I die, it will squeeze my heart terribly that I said no. I was having such a hard time breathing, and I was afraid that it would be so thrilling to see him that I would die on the spot. So the first time I saw Finn was on my friend Morgan's digital camera, when I was exhausted and blissed out of my mind on my dilotid drip in the recovery room. That detail has become unbelievably loathsome to me, seeing him first in that little camera square. And I can't stand how many people saw and held him before I did.

Then I was rolled in to see him in the neonatal ICU three hours later. I could barely stay awake to meet him, my eyes were rolling back in my head. I felt like this useless, grinning rag doll, scarcely related to him. Why is his wasted fourth cousin thrice removed being rolled in to see him? it felt like. Everything was bright and surreal and disappearing before my eyes as I kept falling asleep and dipping into tiny dreams.

The physical recovery from my c-section has been slow and tough, and as a result Dave has been Finn's main caregiver. Finn sleeps on Dave's side of the bed because once I'm reclined (I still can't lie down all the way) I can't get up to a sitting position by myself yet, so I can't respond quickly to his needs. Breastfeeding has been terribly difficult for us - five lactation consultants since his birth, anyone? - which is a wicked big can of worms. I'm pumping my milk most of the time, and having him at the breast when I feel the verve for it. When a feeding goes well, it's glorious. When a feeding goes poorly, it feels primally bad, concentratedly bad. I feel like I have nothing to offer him, that I'm a dud. I'm sobbing, he's sobbing, the atmosphere is crackling with tension.

I resent anyone but Dave who's able to love and enjoy Finn in a full, physical, lighthearted way, because I can't do it yet. And I'm jealous that Finn will gaze at Dave, right in his eyes. Now that he's just beginning to smile socially he's even given Dave some beautiful grins. But Finn looks right past me, or will fix on me neutrally for a few seconds and then move on.

I thought it was tough trying to remain graceful in labor. That was nothing. Trying to remain graceful and positive and loving now is taking more strength than anything ever has in my life. Bitterness is constantly rising in my throat, and I have to endlessly choke it back to bring my baby the clearest, best atmosphere I can muster.

Postpartum something may be brewing, and I find myself often in the fight for light. That's the other part. It's not always like this -I surface frequently, feel peace and joy and hope. But I'm teetering.