The Longest Shortest Time

EPISODE #42: Peeping Mom

This is what it looked like in Philadelphia the morning my daughter was born.


It was February 2010, the snowiest winter in Philadelphia history. But in Chicago, winter gets even snowier. And grayer. And colder. And it lasts for way longer.


Writer Megan Stielstra had her son Caleb six years ago in the middle of a frosty Chicago winter. She didn’t have paid maternity leave, so her husband picked up extra hours to make up for her lost income. Which left Megan trapped inside with the baby, spending all day long trying to figure out how to breastfeed. For the first time in her life, Megan felt depressed. She was crying all the time. And obsessively worrying that her baby might spontaneously stop breathing in his sleep. But she didn’t think she had postpartum depression because she thought postpartum depression meant wanting to jump off your balcony, and she wasn’t feeling quite that dark. Megan just sort of hoped the feeling would pass. But it didn’t.

Megan and Caleb in the dark newborn days

Megan + Caleb in the dark winter days

Megan + Caleb after the thaw

Megan and Caleb after the thaw

One day, without meaning to, Megan figured out how to feel better. She spied on her neighbor. Listen to this episode to find out how it all went down.


More About Megan
The clips you hear in this story are excerpted from Channel B, which was produced by ABC Radio National’s Creative Audio Unit and was featured on the show Radiotonic.

“Channel B” is one of many great essays in Megan’s book Once I Was Cool. The essay was first published in The Rumpus, and was also included in The Best American Essays 2013, edited by Cheryl Strayed.

Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Resources
Megan now knows that there are lots of shades of postpartum depression, and she feels certain that she had it. Lots of new moms also get postpartum anxiety—like how Megan was constantly worried that the baby was not breathing. Postpartum anxiety can also look a lot like OCD, like the mom obsessed with weighing her son in episode 21.

Postpartum Progress is a great resource for women with postpartum depression and anxiety, and they have a really helpful list of symptoms for both.

Postpartum Support International provides support for all kinds of moms, including military moms, incarcerated moms, and grieving moms. They even have this map that will help you locate local support for PPD.

Dropping the Baby and Other Scary Thoughts by Karen Klieman and Amy Wenzel is a book with info on postpartum anxiety for both moms and therapists.

The Worry Box Project is a really cool interactive website where you can read other moms’ worries and submit your own. It probably accomplishes the same kind of voyeuristic healing that Megan got from spying on her neighbor. Except without the spying.

Have YOU ever had postpartum depression or anxiety? What helped?
Or are you still in it? Tell us all about it in the comments. And if you have any local favorite local PPD resources, post them there too.

Photos: Christopher Jobson

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