My husband Anthony and I have always been avid library goers. In the frugal first years of our marriage, we didn’t buy books or rent videos, we borrowed them from the library. As an English teacher, I had a voracious
appetite for books and was rarely happier than when I’d leave the library balancing a tall stack of books under my chin.
Fast forward five years ahead. Anthony and I found ourselves in the frugal forum again having just bought our first home and, months later, had our daughter Charlotte. I couldn’t imagine being luckier or happier.
Then, several weeks after Charlotte’s birth, I came down with a severe form of postpartum depression. It was around the time a tsunami hit Southeast Asia, and I too felt like I was being carried away by a tidal wave. I had unspeakable, obsessive images of atrocities being committed on my daughter. I had crippling panic attacks that left me paralyzed, housebound and sleepless night after night. I felt as though I was looking at my life from inside a black hole. I didn’t think I had PPD because I wasn’t depressed, per se; rather, I was panicked, frightened and obsessive. So I resisted treatment and grew worse. When I finally submitted to an aggressive course of therapy and medicine, I was a mere shadow of my former self.
Anthony did not stand idly by while this was happening; he was determined to conquer this together. My doctor forbade me from being home alone with Charlotte, so while my mother babysat us, Anthony went on our weekly
library trips alone. He brought home new releases by my favorite authors which went unread; I was too paralyzed and caught up in my obsessions to read. He brought home comedy DVDs that I didn’t find funny and meditation
CDs that haunted me. He brought home mindless Hollywood magazines but the fit celebrity moms doting on their babies upset me. I resigned myself to a life without reading, just one more thing that PPD had stolen from me.
One day, Anthony came home with only one book for me. Before I could protest, he opened the book to the first page of text and jabbed his finger at it.
“Please just read this first paragraph,” he pleaded. “This is you.” The book was Sleepless Days by Susan Kushner Resnick, a memoir of her struggle with PPD and symptoms very similar to mine. I read the first paragraph while still standing in the doorway and burst into tears. Then I took the book into our bedroom and while Anthony took care of the baby all day, I read the entire book. A tiny pinprick of light pierced my black hole. The next day I walked around the block by myself.
Over the next couple of weeks, I was still too panic-ridden to go out, but I began sending Anthony to the library with lists. At first, I just read books about PPD. They helped me believe I wasn’t alone and I would get better. Then I started asking for the celebrity magazines. The day I cracked the spine of a fiction best seller, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was reading again! I was ready for my first trip to the library.
It was late March and even though Charlotte was bundled into a snowsuit, crocuses were pushing up through the ground everywhere. In the library, Charlotte laid snuggly in her stroller while I pored slowly through the new releases. I sweated with anxiety, but I was there. Over the course
of an hour, I piled one book after another into the stroller basket. I could feel myself coming back to me.
One year later, I have completely recovered from PPD. Every Wednesday, Anthony comes home from work a little early and the three of us go to the library. We’re always there for an hour or two; me immersed in the books,
my husband drowning in DVD’s and then we reconvene in the children’s section where Charlotte plays with their extensive toy collection and babbles nonsense to the other toddlers. When we leave, Anthony carries Charlotte out because the stroller is laden with Baby Einstein tapes,
picture books, magazines and books on CD.
Right now I have nineteen books out and several more on hold. As a working mother, I have little time to read, but making those library trips and seeing those books stacked on the coffee table are a weekly reminder that I have healed.