SCREAMING: Opening a vital dialogue from tragedy

Lisa Gibson’s obituary was published today.

It describes a warm young woman who loved her children and her family. A woman who ran marathons, who loved the theatre. A woman who threw herself into her work. A popular, straight-A student.

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As we learned over the past week, she’s also  a woman who battled dark demons behind closed doors that many of us can’t (and hopefully won’t) have to face ourselves. A woman who bravely smiled in photos with a chubby-cheeked toddler.  A woman who is the subject of front-page newspaper stories that have simultaneously riveted and haunted readers coast-to-coast.

We’re all familiar with the details of this nightmare of a story by now, so I won’t rehash them in this space. I simply want to express how deeply sorry I am for Lisa’s family and how my heart breaks for her.

For better or worse, her tragic death and those of her children have opened a vital dialogue about postpartum depression — and its raging monster of a cousin, postpartum psychosis. Women have taken to social media to write heartfelt open letters to Lisa and others like her, sharing their personal stories and, most importantly, lending their voices to a struggle that too often is silent. A struggle that remains stigmatized. Because people still had to ask that loaded question: “What kind of mother would hurt her children?”

Because it’s often underground, so to speak, postpartum depression is very tricky to diagnose. In a time wracked with anxiety and sleep deprivation, it’s hard to know what ‘normal’ looks like. New moms also tend focus on the health and welfare of their baby, natch, as opposed to looking out for themselves, which also makes seeking treatment difficult. In opening up the lines of communication, perhaps more new moms will say, “Hey, I feel like that, too,” and seek the help they need.

While I believe talking openly and honestly about postpartum depression is half the battle, I think society could probably stand to treat our new moms better. You know, like maybe not run tabloid covers about Kate Middleton’s “deflated bump” and DESCRIBE IT AS A DEFLATED BUMP. Maybe not lay on the ridiculous pressure to get your pre-baby body back. And that’s to say nothing of all the sanctimonious parenting blogs out there.

Maybe we could just acknowledge that being a new mom is FUCKING HARD WORK and that it can be and often is, from what I hear, a really scary/draining/exhausting/confusing time for everyone, regardless of what it looks like on Facebook.

I’m 28, so I’m officially at the point in life where my friends are getting pregnant on purpose. I’m always overjoyed for them, but I’m always secretly, selfishly fearful that I’ll never see them again. After all, we’ve all heard the same lines many times before: “She fell off the face of the earth when she had a baby” and “all she talks about is her baby” and “we’re just in different places in our life.” And while I think many new moms definitely board an express bus to babytown and never look back, I think there’s just as many left wondering where all their friends went.

To that end, I think we non-baby having ladies could do a better job when it comes to maintaining our friendships with new moms (myself included). Because, real talk, your girlfriend just pushed a screaming person out of her vagina. Her entire life has changed forever. I think she gets to talk about that. A simple, ‘Hey, how are you holding up?’ goes a long way. Especially if this isn’t exactly the happiest time in her life — again, regardless of what it looks like on Facebook.

I’m certainly not suggesting Lisa’s friends dropped the ball in any way. I’m just saying that it would do us all well (myself included) to remember that being a new parent can be a very isolating time — and appearances can be incredibly deceiving.

A candlelight vigil in memory of Lisa Gibson and her children will take place tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Forks.

Jen Zoratti blogs about  feminism and pop culture at Follow her on Twitter @JenZoratti.