What I love about books, especially my favorites, is that each time I read them, I am struck by the power of some new phrase. Some new something in the novel speaks to me as if I were reading it for the first time. I’m finishing up my non-fiction unit with my freshmen. We’ve just read Night by Elie Wiesel.
Wiesel is a Holocaust survivor and his story, sparse in the telling, is powerful. Moving. Emotional.
I’ve probably read this novel 15 times, but never through the lens of postpartum depression.
Until this time.
“Eight short, simple words. Yet that was the time when I parted from my mother… Tzipora held Mother’s hand…my mother was stroking my sister’s fair hair, as though to protect her…and I did not know that in that place, at that moment, I was parting from my mother and Tzipora forever” (Wiesel 27).
Wiesel and his father spent a year in the concentration camps and their love for one another is often seen as the thing that drives them both to continue living. Mentions of his mother are infrequent as she does not survive.
But the memories he does share are of her strength. Her determination to care for and love her children. To not let them see her struggle with what she knows may happen to her family. To protect them from the cruelty in the world around them.
As I read this passage to my students, I thought of postpartum mothers, desperate to seem “normal” in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Wanting nothing more than to hide their struggles from loved ones. And as I read that passage, tears crept into my throat, causing me to choke just a little bit on the words.
I’d been that woman. Sometimes, I still am that woman. That mother trying so hard to show the world that I have it all together.
Monday night in the #PPDChat, we talked about what postpartum looks like for us. When it’s more than just tears. The conversation drifted away from the topic as it sometimes does and some of us began chatting about what those early days had been like.
The moment Joshua was placed in my arms in that recovery room, my love for him was immediate. Fierce. Never ending and unconditional. We didn’t bond right away, but I knew that I loved him more than I loved myself.
Now as I re-read that passage, I think of how Wiesel’s mother must have felt as she walked that path. How her bravery wasn’t really for the rest of the world. It was for her son and daughter. Had she been alone, she likely would have wept bitterly.
And then I find myself thrust from my musings back into today and I realize that this struggle to save face isn’t so much for me as it is for him. I fight so that he may never have to know what it’s like to live with mental illness. I fight because I love him. Because I want him to have a mother who is healthy and whole because that is the least that he, in all of his innocence, deserves.
I keep walking this path of recovery for him. I battle against the darkness, the despair, and the pain for him.
I have survived this not so that I CAN love him. But because I DO love him.
Miranda is a wife, mother, teacher, daughter, friend, and NOT a super mom. At best, and worst, she’s average. But with a cape and tiara? She could probably save the world. She blogs about life as a mom and wife and PPD/A survivor at the blog Not Super…Just Mom.