Writing personal stories can be painful and incredibly scary sometimes because I know that when I put myself out there, people will judge me. And they do. I know some people have taken exception to an article I wrote about my experience with postpartum depression, saying that I am encouraging women to be flip about their decisions to procreate. According to my critics, the following paragraph is bad for feminism:
“When the going gets tough, the tough get pregnant Since things weren’t going great at work and I knew I wanted another baby, I did what many Canadian working girls do: I got pregnant, thereby choosing to bury my head in the sand for another year. But I found out the hard way that a year “off” with two young children is anything but a holiday. ” (Canadian Family, March 2012)
Maybe I’m taking a simple case of professional criticism out of context, but I’m pretty sure there wasn’t much professional about it. Like I said, I knew I would be judged, but I’ve always considered myself a proud feminist, so saying I was anti-feminist annoyed me. But at least it got them talking, right?
In my opinion, family planning and maternity leave go hand in hand, and I think most career-minded Canadian women would agree. A lot can happen in a year and timing one’s mat leaves isn’t something you can enter into lightly. Too many leaves too close together and your career is in the toilet before it ever takes off. As far as I can tell there’s never one perfect moment to have a baby; there’s always a promotion to strive for, debt to pay off or the fear that your job might not be waiting for you when you get back. It’s scary stuff whether you’re a feminist or not.
I’d always wanted my children to be close in age and so I took the leap and tried to get pregnant a few months after I returned to work, making my oldest children two years apart — and I have a wonderful son to show for it. I know I was lucky and very blessed to conceive quickly. I know first hand that eggs, sperm and embryos don’t always cooperate with life plans, but for me (in this case) they did. And while I certainly wish I didn’t experience postpartum depression after I had Carson, I have never, ever, wished I didn’t have him. I would have thought that the part of the article where I admitted to being suicidal for a while after Carson was born was a pretty good indicator that I don’t endorse having a child just to avoid going in to the office.
Sometimes having three kids is very hard but it’s also a lot of fun. Would I recommend four pregnancies in five years (including one miscarriage)? Probably not. It was a rough ride for me in those early years of motherhood — one that I wasn’t always up for, no matter how much I love my kids. And I do love my kids, just in case you’re wondering.
Since sharing my story, several people have thanked me for being so honest and frank about what was going on inside my head during the depths of my postpartum depression. I know I’ve helped other women who are trying to cope with the early days of motherhood because they’ve told me so. And I think that’s good for feminism.
What’s bad for it? Gossip. Because even though we’re all grownups here, we can be just as catty as we were in high school. We’ll stab each other in the back just for sport and seek out others who love to dish the dirt. I’ve certainly done it but I’m not proud — I’m pretty sure gossip is one of those things that continues to slam women into that “weaker sex” corner.
As much as it hurts to hear what these haters are saying about me and my work, I’m glad my story got them talking. Because depression is a lying bitch. It can twist your thoughts, rob you of your self-worth and leave you feeling powerless. It torments me every day, even now that I am (mostly) better. Maybe one day one of those mean girls will know how it feels to think, “Wow, it would be so much easier if I just disappeared…” And they’ll know they’re not alone.