Postpartum Depression in Literature

Postpartum Depression in Literature

After Noah was born, I was starting to feel not like myself. I would feel very detached from him, especially when he cried. I didn’t care about him; I just wanted it to stop. At the time, I didn’t know if it was because I was a brand-new mom or sleep deprivation or both. Now I’ve learned that it was both of those things combined with a mild (I think) case of postpartum depression. While I was in the throes of PPD, I tried looking for answers and examples in a variety of places. TV shows didn’t help. They always seem to show the extreme cases of postpartum psychosis, and that certainly wasn’t me. Naturally, I gravitated toward books. I didn’t just want clinical definitions of what I had; I wanted someone in a novel to describe it to me in ways that I could connect to it. The thing is…there really isn’t any out there.

I was looking for books about this topic recently, and I found one. Just one (it happens to be Go To Sleep by Helen Walsh). That astounds me. I had figured this would be an interesting topic to discuss in literature. Please let me know if anyone else finds something!

Most depictions of motherhood show two kinds of women: the ones who have it all together and the ones who don’t. The put together women have their homes spotless, a gourmet dinner on the table every evening, and perfect angels for children. The not-so put together women look frazzled; their homes are a mess, they’ve burned dinner, and their kids are running around like crazy. Both of those are extreme archetypes of motherhood. What I want to see is the mom who is really confused about her feelings, the one who doesn’t really like her kids but will always love them, the one who needs to go to the doctor because she doesn’t know why she feels this heaviness in her soul about her kids, the one who cries on her husband’s shoulder because she wants to feel connected to her children but she doesn’t. If we see anything about PPD, it’s usually a crime story about a mother who kills her children. That’s not always the case with PPD.

Literature has come a long way in its descriptions of women. Stories are more believable and relatable now because women are depicted as having thoughts and feelings and ambitions. So why stop with that? Let’s show women at their strongest and most vulnerable. Let’s talk about women’s mental health. Let’s show that motherhood isn’t just rainbows and kisses. Sometimes motherhood is a dark and scary place.


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