I could write a thousand poems about the moments my eyes fill with tears, at a thought, a feeling, a realization. It seems so frequent, so often that I feel the need to release pain that I worry there may be nothing left if I do; I will dry out and slip between the floorboards to nothingness.
The pit of my stomach is a constant battleground, too busy throwing these emotions across the stormy seas to really comprehend how best to calm them. It is a magic day when I don’t feel my heart drop out of my chest. The white flash of panic for a moment, I can feel my pulse race, as if it is already running up the path without me, chasing my demons to fight them down without telling me first. My hands shake, my breath catches, physical manifestations demonstrating the turmoil of my mind.
This past year I have felt incredibly lonely. It’s hard to explain to someone that life is this hard, that this wonderful relationship, experience, and challenge is too hard. To see yourself fail in front of your own eyes, to feel your spirit crushed by your own hand, your soul seep out until you can’t even remember what it feels like to not hurt, to not be numb, to be present and happy.
It is hard to be defined by yet another label, another tick in the box, gay woman, mental health survivor, and now parent. I like the title, it fits well, I’ve counted the moments to meet my baby, I’ve felt her kick my wife, and me, she’s soothed by my stories, by my voice.
After three and a half years of trying for a baby, seven losses—seven times we had to pretend for two weeks that there was a baby growing between us—we got lucky. Try eight brought us life. We were lucky, I know that, and that somehow makes it harder. Knowing how I “should” feel, how overjoyed at parenthood I should be, and yet, here I sit many months into a postnatal depression diagnosis, countless months into moments I won’t get back because my mind has overridden all the things I want to feel only to leave doubt and fear behind; a tailspin I can’t find my way out of without help.
It is hard to explain to someone how, the thoughts and feelings you have crushing your spirit, aren’t because you grew that tiny human inside of you, aren’t because you had hormones coursing through your veins, aren’t because the birth took 24 hours and was perfect in its simplicity. They aren’t because of any of those things—and that’s the problem. No part of my body grew her, no part of me is linked forever to her blood. I was a bystander, it was a trick of the light, the work of my imagination. That is what postnatal depression does though, irrespective of whether you are the birth mother, despite all the literature about being the blood mother or father according to a heteronormative guide, postnatal depression kicks you so hard in the stomach that you can barely catch your breath.
It’s easy to say that I’m alone because this situation is new. People can discredit me, look at the definitions and try to wipe me out by adding more weight to my soul. But I’m not alone. Just because my voice is merely a whisper doesn’t mean that someone can’t hear it. I write it down, in poetry, in prose, in muddled letters to no one; I write to my love, to my best friend, to the trash can, but still I say it. I admit it. I’m honest about the pain and numbness I feel coursing through my veins because I am worth getting through this, finding a way to fight. I am just a little lost, not stranded. No one may know exactly how it all feels, but it’s my story to tell, my words to write down, and perhaps one day someone else might look at this and feel less alone.