In her debut memoir, Rouds tells the story of her struggle with postpartum mood disorder.
Many women are ashamed to discuss their bouts with post-childbirth depression and anxiety, writes Rouds, and she hopes to help eradicate the stigma by recounting her own difficult experiences. When the author was pregnant with her son, she and her husband eagerly anticipated a happy family life against the idyllic backdrop of Vermont’s snowcapped mountains. What they didn’t expect after the baby’s birth was Rouds’ fragile emotional health. She became hypersensitive to sound and visualized frightening mental images, or “intrusive thoughts,” such as baby John drowning in the bathtub or burning in a pellet stove. Feeling overwhelmed and desperately wanting some sleep, Rouds checked herself into a hospital, where she was placed on suicide watch. Afterward, one of her midwives talked her into admitting herself to a mental institution. Her stay at the institution is perhaps the most compelling part of the story, but it’s also the most puzzling, as she only stayed for 24 hours. The psychiatrist later said her postnatal anxiety problems were hormonal, but she did not need to be hospitalized. Ultimately, the author was helped by taking the antidepressant Zoloft, getting the right amount of sleep, following a proper diet, writing in her journal, getting family support and exercising. Although Rouds wasn’t cured overnight, her awareness of the condition made her intrusive thoughts and anxiety easier to control. The strength of Rouds’ account is her straightforward, honest voice (“If I tell someone I’m feeling anxious, will they lock me away again?”). It doesn’t always present the author in a favorable light, but it does effectively humanize her; for example, her anger at being woken up by family members staying at her house to help her may seem a bit childish, but readers will find it understandable. There are some extraneous personal details that slow the story’s flow, such as a description of a trip the author took before she gave birth, but this mostly energetic memoir has useful knowledge at its heart.
A somewhat uneven memoir, but new mothers may benefit from its information about a serious health issue.