This morning, after reading the news and checking my social media feeds, I decided to take a quick look at what is going on in the celeb world.
I saw all of the serious, tragic news stories (the ones that I have been following on the serious news outlets) featured on People.com, but I stopped when I saw a story with the headline: “Hayden Panettiere Shuts Down Relationship Trouble Rumors”.
Hayden Panettiere has, most recently, been a face for postpartum depression advocacy, after coming out with the story of her struggle and sharing her holistic treatment for this affliction.
During that time, she has been quoted as saying,
“The postpartum depression I have been experiencing has impacted every aspect of my life…”
So, apparently, earlier this week (in a story that I did miss), when she was spotted, reading on a stoop, while not wearing her engagement ring
the internet started talking.
Her relationship must be over. Or at least in crisis. Is it because of her postpartum depression?
And I want to say that while it is none of my business, I can understand how her struggle with postpartum depression may (or may n0t) affected her marriage.
Because, and this is something not often addressed, marriage is one of the silent casualties of postpartum depression and, I would venture to say, all major mental health issues.
I say this with some trepidation, but in an effort to help others I will say that my prenatal and postpartum depression–and the period that has followed–has had an effect on my marriage.
In some ways, it has changed us for the better. I will get to that. But first, I want to be brutally honest in sharing how it has rocked us, knocked at us, and, at times, divided us.
I am not going to go into every detail, as that would be agonizing, but I will say that it was my husband who first noticed that something was not right with me, about 10 days after the birth of our son.
That is when he said the now “famous” (to us) quote, “Are you ok? I am worried about you. I see the light starting to go out in your eyes.”
While in the hospital, after my difficult c-section, major blood loss and failing the postpartum screening test, a social worker came in to speak to us. Among other things (that I have talked about at length on here, including long-term birth control), she told my husband to make sure to “check in” with me. “Reality checks” she called them.
And that is what he was doing that morning in early November of 2013. He was doing a reality check. But he already knew the answer.
In the first year after my son was born, my husband had to be two parents, as I was dysfunctional and unable to help; he had to sleep in the hospital for days with our 8 week old son, who was on oxygen treatments for RSV; he had to take me to doctors and therapists; he had to watch me hurt myself, something that I have not previously shared but have written about in the book, so I figure that I better get used to opening up about it; he had to cope with my being hospitalized. He watched me fade away, physically and emotionally. He watched me act out.
And through it all, he didn’t go anywhere. He was by my side. If he made any movement at all, it was closer to me.
He was the most solid of rocks.
And I put all of my weight on him for so long, and when someone who is (albeit physically tiny but emotionally) extremely heavy leans on a rock, relentlessly, endlessly, that rock, no matter how solid, will start to crack, as well.
My husband’s story is his own, and not mine to share, so I will respect his privacy. But, I will say that my illness had an incredible impact on him. He was not the “identified patient” yet had to suffer as much as I was, and sometimes, probably more. The only thing worse than going through a devastating illness is watching your most cherished loved one go through it, I believe. And for him, it was so, so hard.
But he stayed. Cracks and all.
However, he became more of a caretaker to my sick person as opposed to the loving partner to my own loving partner self. I was not one. I was distant and strange and erratic and not the woman with whom he had fallen in love.
He could not longer see me as the strong woman he had once known, because I had lost all of my strength; I was fragile and had physically withered away.
And he had to deal with this while simultaneously taking care of two children, working as our breadwinner at a very busy and important job and trying to meet his own basic needs.
There is an equation in here somewhere, and it isn’t scientific or exact, but it goes something like this:
Romantic love + incredible stress + illness + pain + hurt = less romantic love.
If I am being brutally honest, which is what I tend to do, I will say what I was hinting at above: if this experience showed me anything about my husband it is that he is there. Rather, he is here. If I am in hell, he is going to go right down into the depths of hell with me, no matter how scorching it is, and even if his clothing gets burnt off and he can’t breathe in the smoky, soot-filled air.
But do you know what hell is not?
A great place for a date night. Or an ideal spot in which to try to connect.
Hell is hell.
I had a really interesting conversation with a dear friend recently and it has been on my mind ever since.
It was right before we moved, and it was during the time when we were about to officially sell 511, but before we bought the new house, and so we were staying with my parents, while we finished packing up our old home.
My friend and I were talking about marriage, and how it is wonderful but also hard.
(Kind of like parenthood? Or, I don’t know…life?)
And I opened up to my friend about the fact that while my husband and I have so many strengths, like an incredible friendship and similar interests and coinciding values, I sometimes wonder about passion.
And my friend looked at me and said something that I did not expect.
“It depends on how you define passion. I am not sure how you two define it, but to me, I know that your husband just let you nap while he came over here and packed up your entire closet of clothing, put all of your shoes into trash bags and took care of your things. To me, that shows a level of deep love. And maybe that is passion.”
He was right. I was tired from the moving process and so I took an evening nap as soon as the kids went down, and while I slept, my husband did my work for me. I did not ask him to. It wasn’t fun. But he did it.
Is that the passion that is shown in movies and written about in romance novels? Not even close.
But is it love? Absolutely.
When I think about Hayden Panettiere and her husband, I can only imagine the struggles that they must have endured during her darkest days. Having a baby is hard enough, and being a celebrity adds an increased amount of scrutiny and pressure. And so was he her rock during this time? I have no idea.
And is that why she was not wearing her 6 carat rock while reading on a stoop last week? I don’t know the answer to that, either.
Will they continue to post family pictures proclaiming their love and happiness and then later announce their split? Only time will tell.
But I will tell you that postpartum depression is insidious in nature, because it is extreme devastation, packaged along with an incredibly cute baby, whom you’re supposed to love and adore. And feel lucky to have. And do you know what is worse than feeling deep depression? Feeling deep depression when the world tells you that you are supposed to be happier than ever. Family photos from that time so often belie the realities. That sleepless nights cause couples to bicker with exhaustion and newborns take up so much time that there is little time to foster a romantic relationship.
I wish Hayden the best. If her marriage is fine and has withstood this arduous test, then I am thrilled for her. If it could not, there is no shame in that and I hope that they find peace, together or apart.
I am not here to say that postpartum depression means that all marriages get weaker or stronger. But I believe that postpartum depression does impact everyone around the situation, because it did for me. I lost friends and found incredible closeness with others; I have leaned on my family in ways that never thought possible; my marriage has changed.
Once you go to hell with someone, it is impossible to just forget the trip as if it never happened. Even when you reemerge your clothes will likely still have that smoky smell, you may have bandages from third degree burns and, well…you’ve just been to hell.
So you find a new path. And that path doesn’t always lead to the same place. But the best you can do is to get on that path and start walking. Hand in hand, or on your own two feet or whatever is the best for you and your family.
All I can tell you is that my husband and I are both survivors. I was the one to give birth and to experience the acute symptoms of my affliction, but he was right there with me, a solid, but sometimes-cracking rock. And I am eternally grateful for all of that he has given and all that he has done.
Marriage is complicated and can be difficult in the best of circumstances.
Thank you, K, for being my rock. If I had to be in hell, there is no one else with whom I would have rather had by my side. Because when we were down there, down at the very bottom, where the worst, scariest things are kept, you gave me your jacket. You put it around my shoulders, wrapped me up and made sure that I was protected from the fire, as flames licked your exposed body.
You are an amazing human being. You put my shoes in trash bags. You could even say you rocked it.
And the world should know.