The song still makes me tremble.
I’ve tried playing it in small doses to get used to it, musical allergy shots, if you will, but the violin pulls my heartstrings out and flays them bloody every time.
It was playing on my iPod when my mind and body, already bruised and fragile, cracked wide open like an egg.
Do you remember
When we thought we were immortal
And the games we played always had a happy end
But in the game of life all the roses wither
And time writes its lines upon your face *Vertical Horizon’s Lines Upon Your Face, from the album There and Back Again, 1992.
No part of me was whole as I sat there rocking back and forth in the darkened nursery letting the music pull every dark thing out of the deepest recesses of my head. The memory of the traumatic birth was fresh, and I was literally being held together by threads. The experience of birth brought forth thoughts of its twin, death, and the music unleashed images of my father in pain, coming to the hospital to meet his grandbabies the day before he started a clinical trial he hoped would buy him a few more months. I was paralyzed with fear that his inevitable death would be as painful as my grandfather’s. The babies were sleeping, and over the music in my earbuds I could hear the whooshing of the hospital grade breast pump as it sucked milk and life and joy itself from my cracked nipples.
It’s three A.M. and he’s been feeling lonely
Work’s been hard and the city’s hard too
He picks up the phone and halfway across the country
A brother listens to his blues he says *
With each verse another of the tiny fissures I’d sensed in my head since late pregnancy burst. Darkness, terror, panic, dread, and despair flooded from them, covering me.
I didn’t understand. This was why I started taking Wellbutrin again three weeks before the babies were born. This wasn’t supposed to happen. How could I fail motherhood as a novice when I had a safety net in place?
My body poured out more tears than milk, so many that my hands-free pump bra was soaked and I didn’t even bother to reach for a Kleenex. I sat rocking in a stupor, letting the pump run long after my breasts were emptied. The mental and physical pain melted together into something so red-hot, heavy, and sharp that it was all I could do to breathe.
Mark came in some time later and that’s how he found me. In pieces.
He couldn’t put me back together.
I’m not sure you can ever put all the pieces back in the right place after postpartum depression. Even if you eventually look whole from the outside, you’re forever changed by the damage.
Putting me back together took a psychiatrist using 450 mg of Wellbutrin XL and 300 mg of Zoloft, as well as Valium. Then, when the panic attacks started, Xanex. I went to one support group meeting for mothers of multiples with postpartum depression. We talked about our meds. Most of them were only on about 50 mg of Zoloft. When I shared my medication regimen with them, they stared at me in mute horror, as if I would burst into a murderous or suicidal rage any minute. I was the outcast in a group of broken women who all felt like outcasts.
I never went back again.
That meeting taught me that if any activity was causing me to crack further, it would only make things worse. It was vital for my family and for me that I put myself back together.
What else did that take? Weekly visits to my therapist and countless calls he was kind enough to take off duty, plus a husband who had known postpartum depression was a big risk but wanted to have children with me anyway. A husband who knows I’m broken but loves me anyway.
Sometimes I wish
That we all were immortal
And the game of life always had a happy end
But I know it’s not true oh time keeps passing
But I’m just glad to spend my time
With you. *
This was written for the online writers’ group Write on Edge. The prompt: One person’s Humpty Dumpty is another person’s omelet. In 400 words or less, write about a time when something was irrecoverably broken and the ensuing scramble. I’ve obviously exceeded the word limit, but sometimes your omelet turns out bigger than you planned.