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December 29, 2010 / Melissa Yuan-Innes

Post-partum mood swings

“untouchable” by D. Antonia Truesdale, The Midnight Orange

“The Great Secret of Death”
by Rainer Maria Rilke; translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

The great secret of death, and perhaps its deepest connection with us, is this: that, in taking from us a being we have loved and venerated, death does not wound us without, at the same time, lifting us toward a more perfect understanding of this being and of ourselves.
Joanna Macy
» download (mp3, 4:00)

Letter to Countess Margot Sizzo-Noris-Crouty
January 23, 1924

Okay!  Why am I awake at 4:30 am?

Because I nursed at 2300 and then my husband woke me up at 01:50 to do it again.  And I can’t fall back to sleep.  Everyone else is sleeping, including my kids and dog, but I cannot.

I Googled post-partum hypomania and I’ll track down the best links for you: one on bipolar II disease and what meds are safe; one on how late night sleep deprivation can elevate your mood.  Yup, it can make you giddy.  That’s me for two days!  I wrote a ton, I danced, I made up secret signs with my husband and giggled at my own wit, I called a friend and read _Hand Wash Cold_ aloud to her because “this IS you,” I assured her (I was right, but I hadn’t talked to her in weeks before I said, “Merry Christmas!  I have the perfect book for you.  Can I read to you?”).

Two days before that, I realized I felt down.  Fat because I couldn’t fit into my skinny jeans or other cool pre-pregnancy gear.  Blah because I hadn’t made it outside all day because it was too cold for a 5-week-old.  I wasn’t suicidal or even majorly down, but I finally understood why my family doc kept checking if I had post-partum depression after Max was born.  Since I’m not well-tuned to psych issues, I was impressed that she knew enough to ask, but I was happy, not depressed.  I finally told her, “Why would I be sad?  I have a baby.”

I have a baby again.  I love her.  She sleeps better than Max did.  Matt is helping me 24/7. For example, he sleeps beside her while I hole up in another room, because I don’t want his snoring or her gurgles to wake me up one second more than I have to.  Then he changes her and brings her to me to nurse and, after I’m done, I bring Anastasia back and collapse into bed.

Yesterday, I kissed A. all over her face, concluding with one on the lips.  I thought, You’ll never die never having been kissed on the lips.  I welled up.  And then I suddenly, consciously remembered that when our firstborn died at 20 weeks, one of the last things I did was kiss Isadora on the lips and think, You will not go to your grave without having been kissed on the lips, even if it’s just by your mum.  I had forgotten that.

Obviously, I have some healing to do still.  Also, after reading the medical articles, I got the news flash that sleep deprivation was making me cuckoo and so, even though A is a good sleeper and Matt is a good husband and Max is an amazing big bro, I MUST SLEEP MORE or I will go round the bend.  Sorry, I can’t be a supermom or even divide sleep duty evenly.  Matt sleeps beautifully.  It is one of his superpowers.  We must profit from this or…cuckoo!  cuckoo!  (or at least wacky.  Whack-a-mole-y).

I like to ponder things, so I must recommend this podcast.  This octagenarian, Joanna Macy, talks about how she went from a CIA agent to an anti-nuclear Peace Corps activist/Buddhist, with plenty of Rilke to illustrate how God can be envisioned as an organic part of the natural world instead of a guy with a crown (although I think that’s okay if that’s how you roll, I have never been able to buy into it).

I have been putting the finishing touches on the book I wrote for anyone who’s lost a child.  It’s called Your Baby Is Safe and I’ve paired up with the brilliant D. Antonia of The Midnight Orange to illustrate it.

One of my three beta readers called our book “sappy and sentimental,” although she hastened to say that “people like that sort of thing….I think it should sell well.”

I respectfully disagree.  About the sappiness, anyway.  I hope it does sell well.  My text is only about 400 words, so it’s simple and to the point.  I chose images from D. Antonia Truesdale’s sculptures that demonstrate everything from delight to despair and back again.  If D gives me the all clear, we will publish the e-book and let the readers decide for themselves.

If you have ever experienced loss, I think you will understand our book.  And if you have processed some of your grief, you will know how darkness [can] be a bell tower/and you the bell.

So I don’t see our book as sentimental. I see myself as a bell, ringing my loss so that those who recognize

its chilling peal might feel less alone.

“Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower”
by Rainer Maria Rilke; translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

» download (mp3, 2:12) 

Joanna Macy reads “Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower” by Rainer Maria Rilke.

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29

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