Post-natal depression was a piano falling from the sky; exactly one week after my son was born. There was no chilly insidious tide for me; one moment I was your regular brand of nervous new mother, and the next, I was stunned, senseless and speechless.
In the months and weeks that followed, I sought help and found it in so many ways – and over time I noticed that the fabric of my healing was woven from the warmth and truth of women.
This is a story about how the simple, powerful, pagan magic of women pulled me out of my darkness.
After the piano fell on my head, I remember a phone call of broken sentences and silences that galvanised my sister into action. I knew she could hear the wrongness in me, and I knew she’d call my mother. I didn’t have to ask, and not needing to speak my hollow fears was a gift only my sister could give. My mother arrived without a clue or a toothbrush, and stayed for ten days.
The woman who hasn’t cleaned her own house in my whole lifetime, worked tirelessly around my home. Endless loads of washing, cleaning, cooking and tidying. She spoon fed me Weetbix in the wee hours while I fed the baby. She cut flowers from the garden and asked my stepkids about their day. She shouldered all my responsibilities, so I only needed to tend my tiny son. Most new grandmothers would have gleefully taken charge of the baby, and rendered me doubly useless. But not my mother. Her intuition and perception is still breathtakingly beautiful to me, and I will always be grateful.
I saw a clinical psychologist twice-weekly in those early dark days and I always have trouble explaining why she was so central to my uphill trudge towards healing. She was a short, broad, grandmotherly woman; sturdy, warm and rounded as baked bread … and I can’t repeat a single life-changing sentence she spoke to me.
Because (frustratingly) she had no quick fixes for me.
She simply taught me the basic housekeeping of my poor old mind and body. She helped me drag all my worries into the light, and showed me how to sort them out and which ones to chuck in the bin. Some worries I got to keep, but she showed me how to keep those under my boot. She taught me how to dose myself with the good, simple acts that heal – like snipping and watering things in the garden. Walking down my street.
Woman-friends gathered and I heard stories of births and tragedies and struggles. My dear friends brought their friends, women I barely knew, to tell me their stories. After each conversation, that phrase – “there is nothing new under the sun” – would pop to the surface of my thoughts, and I would turn it over and over. We strive so hard to be individuals, but when you’re in the deep ocean in the dark, hearing women you actually know – women with jobs and hair-dos and dogs and lives – have swum that same ocean and eventually found sand under their feet? Well. It just helps.
The exception that proves this rule of women was my husband.
He held my hand and my heart lightly. He loved me quietly and constantly, and let the alchemy of women work around us. He walked with me, listened to me, talked with me, snipped and watered with me, and held our baby with me. If women made the fabric of my healing, my unshakable husband was the golden thread running through it – precious, pliable and lasting.
We are now four years further on, and I have vast compassion for that poor girl with the brand new baby. One day, I hope to be part of a tribe of women resurrecting some poor soul trapped under a percussion instrument.
I’ve been writing this essay for her, for four years.
Kendall is a writer and a mother and a wife and a business owner. She is also an expert potterer, dreamer and talker.
Why are we doing this thing? Because there’s enough noise in the world telling women what we ‘should’ be doing.
We should parent more consciously, but not be helicopter parents. We should take care of our bodies, but not be vain. We should make boys pay, but demand equal rights. We should dress appropriately, but also be confident in our skin, wear what we want, but not be provocative, oh and please feel comfortable in the world’s skimpiest school bathers but then wear your jeans to the formal because last year the boys looked up the girls’ skirts and so you’ll have to be the ones to modify your behaviour. Yeah. No.
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