Fortunately for me, that post-partum episode did turn out to be self-limiting. I never wanted to get back on that manic roller coaster again. I have the occasional sleepless night, but I am careful not to let that happen twice in a row. There have been periods when I have felt sad and overburdened. I have recently discovered that my thyroid level is low, and a medication to treat that condition alleviates these symptoms of depression. (I have learned a bit about how the thyroid gland sometimes goes berserk during and after a pregnancy, and I wonder whether hormones played a role in my experience.)
Luckily, in 1971, no one told me of the risk of a recurrence of psychosis with a second child. In 1974, Stewart and I had a second son, John. We did many things differently, including an epidural during delivery. The birth experience was not traumatic, and the period of adjustment afterwards was normal.
During the first year of David’s life, I managed to type up my thesis while he napped in the afternoons. A few years later, I took a creative writing class with Guy Owen at NC State, during which I wrote an account of my post-partum breakdown.
When both our sons were a little older, I was able to find excellent child care and to have a career teaching English in North Carolina’s community college system, along with being a Cub Scout den mother, cheering from the bench at little league ball games, and carrying out the usual maternal responsibilities, which I enjoyed. I also managed to find the time to write a textbook, articles, reviews, and plays. My sons now say that they think I found a good balance between watching over them and respecting their independence.
My marriage withstood that crisis and some other trials, thanks in large part to my husband’s patience. We are now enjoying our retirement together and pursuing our passions—Stewart’s for gardening and mine for writing. Both our sons have careers in the arts—David as a visual artist and John as a jazz musician. Their lives have not been without trials, and I sometimes worry that the trauma of his birth or of my craziness during his first two months had a negative impact on my older son. I’ve been told quite firmly that such notions are nonsense, but they don’t entirely disappear.
My relationship with my mother became more cordial and relaxed, and I came to appreciate the obstacles she had overcome in her life and all the good things she had done. After her death in 2000, I helped to care for my father during his final years.
In 2014 I learned about an organization called PSI, Postpartum Support International, which was having a conference in Chapel Hill, where Dr. Eagle’s practice had been located. I attended the conference, heard a number of stories of postpartum mental disorders and recovery, and made connections with the staff of the organization, who encouraged me to share my story. Because of that encouragement I have transcribed and posted this account. They provide information, hotlines, local support groups, and training for health care professionals. http://www.postpartum.net/