I’ll start by saying it first: I was an asshole for being angry at someone who was struggling with depression. Not only that, but it was postpartum depression. It is hard to even admit I had these feelings, quite frankly. And then it happened to me: After the birth of my children, I struggled with postpartum depression.
Yet somehow, some good came out of this journey.
My friend, let’s call her Jen, is like a sister to me. We have been friends since the first grade — our lives running parallel to each other throughout the years. I can clearly remember the first time I met her. School had been canceled that morning due to a snowstorm. I put on my snowsuit, boots, hat, and gloves, and ventured outside. I knew someone had recently moved in next door, and to my surprise, it was someone my age (cue first-grader happy dance). She stood outside, her purple sled in hand, and I went and introduced myself to her. From that day forward, we were pretty much inseparable.
A Lifelong Journey
Cut to 20 years later, and we were both dating the men that would soon become our husbands. Throughout the years, we’d been there to support each other’s life-changes. Marriage was another one of those life changes where we stood side-by-side. It was a time of pure joy in our lives. It seemed that everything was falling into place for each of us. But we both learned quickly that life isn’t that simple.
I remember when Jen told me that she and her husband were trying for a baby. And I also remember that I felt a pang of jealousy — I, too, was ready, but my husband was not. Spoiler: Jen basically sneezed and got pregnant — aka she was ‘Fertile-Mertyle’. I was happy for her but again, a bit envious.
About five months after her big news, my husband and I started trying for a baby. I will spare you all the details about the difficulty of our journey (though you can find them here if you’d really like to know), and I will give you the Cliff Notes version:
I was struggling with infertility and miscarriages, and she had a baby and was struggling with postpartum depression.
I remember being in such anguish over not being able to carry a child of my own, that when she was not overjoyed that she had a baby, it made me angry. I wondered how she could not look at her baby and appreciate his every facet. I just simply couldn’t understand how anyone could ever feel anything but happiness over a baby. It felt like a personal assault on my infertility. These were some incredibly ugly feelings, I admit.
I kept that anger bottled up and did my best to be there for her. But we were on completely different wavelengths, each wave one of quiet desperation. We were both drowning in sorrow of a completely different nature, and we could not grasp each other’s hands during this time. Neither of us could take comfort in the other, but we were both desperately alone. It took quite some time for us to reconnect and understand each other once again.
I eventually did have children of my own. It was only then that I found myself in the throes of postpartum anxiety and depression. It was also only then that I realized it doesn’t matter how much you work to put ‘mind over matter’ — that postpartum depression is not a choice. Ever. Over time, each of us has been working to heal our wounds.
Our conversations over the years have shifted from high school gossip to how we are each healing our trauma. I am grateful that we have each other, despite being on different emotional journeys at times. Our friendship has been an exercise in empathy for others’ struggles —that someone else’s source of pain could bring someone else immense joy, and that we don’t get to choose; we just have to be there for each other without judgment.