Each October, I think about those few weeks in late 1990 when I felt as if I was being sucked down into one of those frequent waterspouts we used to see when we lived near Tampa Bay.
Now in the Midwest, we struggled at our jobs, tired from the sleepless nights of new parents. Though our baby boy was sometimes colicky, he was healthy and fat and five months old. Still, we needed time off, and planned a week off in Florida, where we lived for six years.
We paid for the two plane tickets on our Master Card, only two because of us could hold the baby. Within a week after buying the tickets, I found out I was pregnant again.
How did this happen? I wasn’t breastfeeding, and I popped that mini-pill out of its dial case every morning, religiously.
But it did happen. And I was about eight weeks pregnant.
We couldn’t afford another baby; we could barely afford to pay for the needed trip to Florida.
The week before our trip I started spotting, that horrible indication of hurtful things to come.
Before our son, I had two miscarriages. Worried, I hightailed it to my doctor’s office where I was a frequent flyer. After a quick vaginal ultrasound, the doctor gave me the grim news. Little Otto did not have a heartbeat.
When I found out I was pregnant again, I named him Otto for no real reason.
Little Otto had no heartbeat—only the remains of the developing fetus right there in black and white on a tiny screen.
I was going on the trip, and nothing was going to stop me. My doctor scheduled a D and C on Friday. Against medical advice, I got on the plane Saturday and flew to Florida.
The week was supposed to be relaxing, but it was not. Friends wanted to see the baby. We ran all over Pinellas County — every night coming back to our hotel room exhausted.
By Thursday, I was so wiped out I cancelled dinner with our friends, friends who sent a giant stuffed Peter Rabbit to the baby. I wanted to see these friends. But, something was happening to me.
I wasn’t in physical pain, but I could feel something pulled at me. It certainly was not an emotional pull – it was like a ghostly pull into a place, a downward drag somewhere I didn’t want to go.
The tugging and jerking lasted through the fall and winter and into the spring.
I’ve been thinking about those days and the spring that followed, days and weeks and months of being in darkness, unable to move. It was like being in a well where you can hear voices at the top—happy, chipper voices that have no idea you are close, and yet you lack the ability to reach up for them, and no help comes down to you.
For five months, I did not want to pick up my son when he cried for me.
For five months, I could not and did not want to eat, and I lost nearly half my body weight.
For five months, I could not show any emotions to my husband, who was providing all the childcare, taking the baby to the sitter, cleaning the house, and working his job as an instructor at the local college. He was two years away from an assistant professorship, five years from tenure, and we just bought our first house — above our meager means at eight percent interest on a thirty year fixed mortgage.
And I just didn’t give a damn.
One April day flowers bloomed in the front yard and I was better. Just like that. I had meds and treatment and friends and family and everyone pulling for me. I had a son who needed his mother, which seemingly by itself, wasn’t enough to pull me out of the well.
Now, it is the subtle light of the autumn day that reminds me of this deep place, a place I never want to see again. When daylight savings time goes away, darkness comes quickly. On some level, I am drawn into the vivid blackness of the night, tempted by the darkness.
I will escape the darkness; I will not go to that place.
I am as confident of my ability to fight off the depression demon as I am that the new spring will always bear new light and flowers