So pregnancy is supposed to be the most exciting time of your life, right? Yet, you are going bonkers. The train is late, the new office chair you ordered won’t be delivered on time, you just ran out of cereal and the deli is closed. This is so cataclysmic that you are seriously considering throwing yourself off a bridge here and now, because how can you possibly bring a child into such an inefficient world?! And furthermore, how will you even cope with a baby, when your husband has to physically restrain you from assaulting the clerk at Gap because they just ran out of your size in maternity jeans?
Some women sail through their pregnancies with nary a misfiring neuron, but if you have ever felt the churning anger that splashes the backs of your eyes and temporarily blinds you, or the black futility of depression, where the mere thought of rising from your bed fills you with horror, then you know what it feels like to be hormonal.
But how do you explain these feelings to another person such that they get it? Even those closest to us cannot exist inside our heads, and unless you possess science-fiction-like abilities to mind-meld, or the other person is willing to stick their finger in a live socket every time you feel a twinge, words alone will always fail to do justice to your pain, leaving the listener cold, as you blurt out generic words like “stressed” and “anxious.”
It’s a sad fact that only when we see someone else’s pain are we able to relate to it. Walk into any emergency room and you’ll probably squirm as you observe the open wounds of strangers, leaving them in no doubt that you empathize. But listen to enough depressed people whine about themselves and you would be forgiven for thinking that they were all pathetic losers, layabouts, and masters of self-pity.
When I was five months pregnant, my husband and I moved to a new city, I was unemployed for the first time in 15 years, we spent three weeks living with his parents, and I was sprouting thick dark hairs all over my body. It doesn’t take a wizard to understand that I might have been the slightest bit out of sorts. After a particularly stellar performance in a shopping mall, in which I learned that I might be more likely than my child to throw tantrums in public, I found myself trying to explain to my poor husband how I felt inside. I used broad words like “depressed” and “wretched,” but they really didn’t do justice to what the hormones were really doing to my grip on reality.
Day after day, I found myself apologizing for my behavior. My sweet husband tried to understand, but really how could he have the slightest clue?
Yet for me the pain never got old. Each messy outburst was as fresh as a newly opened wound.
And it’s never about cheese or anything else for that matter. Rather it’s a pain that inhabits you fully, inserting itself between your cells like cement and wearing your skin like a coat. And it doesn’t go away just because you ask it to.
In the end I retreated to my corner, fearful of interacting with anyone lest I offend them, or be tempted to case them around the room with a knife. Because let’s face it, when a person is going mad in front of you, you see ugliness not pain. And when they try to explain it, you see self pity not humility. How must I look to him, I asked myself. And when, in a brief moment of lucidity, I saw my ugliness through his eyes, I realized that the only way to get through this would be to keep my mouth shut, my opinions to myself, and just hope and pray that I would wake up one day and feel normal again. And, thank goodness, one day I did.