“Don’t you remember?”
“Well, we suffered. I’m not going to say it was a wonderful and terrible time all at once. It wasn’t. It was just plain terrible.”
“It wasn’t that bad.”
“Yes, it was. You had postpartum depression, you could barely get up from bed at one point. You do remember you had to stop breastfeeding, right? Remember why?”
“Okay, so I needed a few happy meds to help me a little.”
“Antidepressants, Heather, strong ones.”
“But I really want another baby.”
“No, you don’t. You just want the ‘happy family with two kids’ story.”
“But we are a happy family.”
“Yes, we are, now, but getting here was difficult and I don’t know if I can handle, if we can handle, another newborn phase, another infant phase, another toddler phase.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I don’t know if our marriage would survive. I barely know if you’d survive.”
“No. That’s my final answer. We are not having another baby.”
“You’re not listening to me.”
“No, you’re not listening to me. It’s like those first three years with Robbie have completely vanished from your memory.”
“I remember a little.”
“It’s like you have amnesia or something. This — this strange desire of yours to have two or three kids — it doesn’t take into account our past experience with Robbie.”
Heather was silent for a moment. She wanted Robbie to have a little brother or sister. Siblings were so important! It would be different this time, she would handle things differently. She was a different person now, after all. She couldn’t find the words to tell John though.
“I’m sorry, Heather. This is a dream we have to give up on.”
“John, you come from a three child family. I come from a two child family. How can you possibly imagine our family with only one child? Robbie will be so alone.”
“Robbie is fine. He’s six and he hasn’t even ever asked for a little brother or sister. He has so many friends at school, and don’t forget our four nephews. His cousins are growing up with him, and they’re pretty close, you know.”
“But nothing’s like having a sibling.”
“Heather, may I remind you that you hate your sister?”
“That’s not true.”
“May I remind you that your parents constantly compared you two?”
“So? We were still close.”
“Close enemies, that is.”
“Come on, John, it won’t be so bad. I’ve learned from my mistakes. Plus, we have enough money.”
“That’s not a good enough reason.”
“I know, but—“
“If you want a second child, you’ll have to find a different father.”
“That’s a rather drastic thing to say.”
“I can’t believe you don’t remember.”
“I already said, I do remember those first three years.”
“Do you? Do you really?”
“Yes, I do. I mean, some parts are a little vague.”
“Yeah, but with the postpartum depression, that’s normal, right?”
“Not really, Heather, not really. ”
Heather could tell John was holding something back.
“What is it?”
“It’s just— I don’t know how to tell you this. You really don’t remember?”
“What you did. What you tried to do.”
“What did I do that was so bad? Okay, so once I took a long shower and you came to get me because Robbie was hungry. He wanted to be breastfed. I breastfed, didn’t I?”
“You were in the shower for three hours. That’s not normal. And that’s not what I’m talking about.”
Heather started getting a little worried. What did she do? It’s true that her memory from that time was a little fuzzy. Maybe she — no, she wouldn’t do anything to harm herself or Robbie, would she? Her depression wasn’t that bad — or was it?
“Let’s talk about this later. I’m starting to get a headache, okay? John?”
“I just can’t believe you really don’t remember.”
“Give me a week to think about it, okay?”
Heather started thinking back that very day. Her pregnancy had gone all right, except for the many mood swings. Physically, though, everything had been perfect, both with her and with Robbie. John must’ve meant a different phase. The first two months after birth was a complete haze, she had to grant him that. Why did she start the antidepressants, again? She recalled going to the doctor, talking to a psychologist and a psychiatrist. She remembered John was with her. She remembered crying — a lot. Slowly the memories started coming back.
What did I do? What did I do? I had been crying everyday, talking about killing myself. Jumping off a bridge, yes, I talked about that constantly. “I want to jump off a bridge, John, I want this suffering to end,” I would say repeatedly. “I can’t handle it anymore. I’m not cut out for this, what was I thinking? It’s too much, too much responsibility, too much crying, too little sleep. I just, I just—”
Tears came to Heather’s eyes as she slowly remembered her words. She remembered John’s worried looks, the doctor’s serious tone, her incessant bawling. How had she forgotten? Then it struck her.
Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. What did I do? What did I do? What did I do? To myself… to Robbie? She recalled everything now, in vivid detail. She had gone to the pharmacy to pick up her prescription of antidepressants, and ended up buying many boxes of over-the-counter extreme strength medication as well. At the time, she knew what she was doing, in one way or another, she knew, even if she wasn’t being exactly herself at the moment. When she got home she, she…
Heather started crying, in the present. Now she understood why John didn’t want more children. How she had managed to block out a suicide attempt, she wasn’t sure. Maybe it was because, towards the family, they had acted as if nothing had happened. John had taken her to the hospital, they had pumped her stomach, she had slowly improved with the antidepressants. As a couple, they decided not to tell family, not their parents or siblings. So, as soon as Heather could, she started acting as if nothing had happened, and slowly started believing that lie.
“I remember. I remember what I did. What I tried to do. So now I understand you. I understand why you’re weary of having more children.”
“Heather,” John whispered, looking down.
“And, I wanted to say, I agree.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, we’re not ready yet, I don’t know if we’ll ever be.”
“I’m sorry all this happened. I should have been there more for you at the beginning. I shouldn’t have fought with you recently. I should have known better, but I was so afraid of it all happening again.”
“I understand, John. Don’t worry, none of this is your fault. Thank you for encouraging me to remember. I couldn’t live in denial forever.”
“I agree. I love you, Heather, I need you and Robbie here with me.”
“I love you too, John. I’m sorry about what I did. Let’s move on. We’re a happy family now, right?”
“Right. And we’ll face all obstacles together.”
“Together,” Heather smiled.