Unsparing account of the actress’s experience with acute postpartum anxiety disorder following the birth of her daughter in 2003.
Shields also shares details about the pressures and frustrations of her struggle to get pregnant, her joy at finally conceiving, her uneventful pregnancy and the long labor that ended with a C-section. But the central story begins in the operating room, where the sight of her husband holding newborn Rowan filled her with “jealousy, fear, and rage.” Recovering in the hospital, she assumed that her feelings of misery and alienation would change, but when her baby was brought to her to nurse, she felt no bond with the infant, whom she regarded as “a complete stranger.” At home, physical exhaustion was accompanied by panic, dread and enormous sadness. Shields pulls no punches in describing her profound detachment from her child. She had no desire to pick up or care for Rowan, she admits; what she wanted was to run away. In the weeks following the birth, it became clear that Shields was suffering from a condition much more serious than “the baby blues.” The antidepressant Paxil helped some, but her decision to go off it cold turkey was a serious mistake. Trying to reconcile motherhood and an acting career added to the pressure. (Shields’s awareness of herself as a celebrity gives this memoir special interest.) She finally pulled out of her unnervingly severe postpartum depression with the help of psychotherapy in combination with other antidepressants. Educating herself about the condition and reading about other women’s experiences also helped, as did the simple passage of time. In addition to her personal story, the author has included solid information about postpartum depression; an afterword lists helpful books, Web sites and hot lines.
Shields’s forthright admission of feelings that many similarly afflicted new mothers deny could well spark valuable discussions about “this large white elephant sitting in the room that no one was supposed to talk about.”