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The Real Agreement: The Onset of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety As a Response to Love

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There were aspects to motherhood that felt natural, of course…even some genetic predisposition it would appear. Wide hips and ample breasts, a body screaming to be touched and used, a body designed to convince men of its value…its certainty. The woman behind this body will nurture your babies. She will carry them to term and birth them safely into your home and nourish them with every ounce of herself. (So much so that there will be nothing left of her…nothing left for anyone to worry about…nothing left for either of you to cling to.)

The

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challenge of getting pregnant presented unforeseen reactions – anger that this body was nothing but a facade, a promise to perform without any real intention to deliver. Suddenly, every curve is a lie. Every lie punctuated by months, then years, of single pink lines on expensive white sticks. Physical evidence of some inexplicable ineptitude—evidence that this body is not what it promised to be.

But then again there is acupuncture, and pills that probably cause cancer and books that remind you that everything around you is bad (including cruciferous

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vegetables, which you find strangely comforting but also very sad because, how many women are crying into their broccoli wondering why they’ll never be mothers?)

At least you are armed with all of the information. At least you know when to feel guilty and when to feel superior. You alternate the focus of your pity and loathing in a sort of balance-system. Yourself. The world. Yourself. It works.

At some point, you’ve paid your dues. Months without sugar or caffeine or alcohol or cauliflower, months of meditation and books and creams and

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you’ve finally suffered enough. Your value remains.

Then, there is the pregnancy and the birth and the decisions and the plans. Your body is proportioned properly for the first time, you think. You obsess and execute and it all falls in your favor, for once, evidence that maybe your body wasn’t a liar after all.

Then there is the baby and the love. A love that exists in its own stratosphere…a love so pure and perfect and deep that it cripples you … because the second you feel it, you know what the opposite of this love could be. You know

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that the pendulum is swinging in your favor now, a high soaring you to peaks you’d never even imagined existed. But what would it feel like to be sent plummeting in the other direction? The feeling hits you instantly and without warning: you have never been more vulnerable in your entire life.

You have two choices here and, almost shockingly, you make the right one: You let the love unfold.

Then one day you’re rocking him to sleep as the sun is setting and your hormones are regulating (which is to say they’re returning to the way they were

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before, which isn’t exactly ideal, but it’s something) and you’re staring at this perfect creature and you realize that you are terrified, and what’s more, that you always will be.

You begin assessing him immediately. Is he hot? Is he cold? Is sad? Was he breathed upon? Have you ruined him? Is he dead? Every wake-up over the next year will be in panic. When he is placid, you jolt him awake to be sure he is breathing. When he’s screaming, it is likely over. Every second you’re there loving him could be the last. Your vigilance will save him

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though. You are the only one who cares enough to protect him. No one else can do this for you.

This was the real agreement that you made…not that the high of love will at some point be countered by the excruciating low of some inevitable sadness, but that the fear of this sadness is an undercurrent rushing around you…forever. One misstep and you’ll both be swept away.

You feel like you’re drowning before the water even rises to touch you.

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- 1 Feb 20

There were aspects to motherhood that felt natural, of course…even some genetic predisposition it would appear. Wide hips and ample breasts, a body screaming to be touched and used, a body designed to convince men of its value…its certainty. The woman behind this body will nurture your babies. She will carry them to term and birth them safely into your home and nourish them with every ounce of herself. (So much so that there will be nothing left of her…nothing left for anyone to worry about…nothing left for either of you to cling to.)

The challenge of getting pregnant presented unforeseen reactions – anger that this body was nothing but a facade, a promise to perform without any real intention to deliver. Suddenly, every curve is a lie. Every lie punctuated by months, then years, of single pink lines on expensive white sticks. Physical evidence of some inexplicable ineptitude—evidence that this body is not what it promised to be.

But then again there is acupuncture, and pills that probably cause cancer and books that remind you that everything around you is bad (including cruciferous vegetables, which you find strangely comforting but also very sad because, how many women are crying into their broccoli wondering why they’ll never be mothers?)

At least you are armed with all of the information. At least you know when to feel guilty and when to feel superior. You alternate the focus of your pity and loathing in a sort of balance-system. Yourself. The world. Yourself. It works.

At some point, you’ve paid your dues. Months without sugar or caffeine or alcohol or cauliflower, months of meditation and books and creams and you’ve finally suffered enough. Your value remains.

Then, there is the pregnancy and the birth and the decisions and the plans. Your body is proportioned properly for the first time, you think. You obsess and execute and it all falls in your favor, for once, evidence that maybe your body wasn’t a liar after all.

Then there is the baby and the love. A love that exists in its own stratosphere…a love so pure and perfect and deep that it cripples you … because the second you feel it, you know what the opposite of this love could be. You know that the pendulum is swinging in your favor now, a high soaring you to peaks you’d never even imagined existed. But what would it feel like to be sent plummeting in the other direction? The feeling hits you instantly and without warning: you have never been more vulnerable in your entire life.

You have two choices here and, almost shockingly, you make the right one: You let the love unfold.

Then one day you’re rocking him to sleep as the sun is setting and your hormones are regulating (which is to say they’re returning to the way they were before, which isn’t exactly ideal, but it’s something) and you’re staring at this perfect creature and you realize that you are terrified, and what’s more, that you always will be.

You begin assessing him immediately. Is he hot? Is he cold? Is sad? Was he breathed upon? Have you ruined him? Is he dead? Every wake-up over the next year will be in panic. When he is placid, you jolt him awake to be sure he is breathing. When he’s screaming, it is likely over. Every second you’re there loving him could be the last. Your vigilance will save him though. You are the only one who cares enough to protect him. No one else can do this for you.

This was the real agreement that you made…not that the high of love will at some point be countered by the excruciating low of some inevitable sadness, but that the fear of this sadness is an undercurrent rushing around you…forever. One misstep and you’ll both be swept away.

You feel like you’re drowning before the water even rises to touch you.

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Amanda Sheeren is the co-founder of If Lost, Start Here (ifloststarthere.com) a guidebook to thoughtful destinations that make everyday life better.

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