AN ARTICLE FOR SPRING ST. SEE THE ORIGINAL VERSION HERE.
Yesterday I read Chrissy Teigen’s essay about suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety and I cried. I’m so not that person! I said to myself (and anyone who’d listen). I don’t get invested in the lives of celebrities. I don’t care about who they’re dating or when they break up. I don’t buy trashy magazines or spend time speculating about their triumphs and tribulations. So why did this get me?
Last month I wrote about how Chrissy Teigen’s pregnancy helped me through my own. Her growing baby bump and Twitter commentary brought me excitement, joy and hilarity. Her daughter Luna was born six weeks before mine and since then I’ve looked to Chrissy’s social media for the same things I did while she was pregnant, namely hilarious and honest commentary on being a new mother. Chrissy is a self-professed “chronic oversharer” and her public persona made me feel like I knew her, that maybe if we somehow knew each other in real life we’d become friends. I cared what Chrissy was up to and how she was doing.
When I read Chrissy’s letter in Glamour about suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety I was shocked. We all know that social media is generally used for displaying our best self rather than broadcasting moments of loneliness and pain. But Chrissy Teigen is famous for being so open and unfiltered that I’d forgotten this might apply to her too. I felt, strangely, like I’d failed her – like she really was my friend and I hadn’t seen the warning signs. She’d been suffering all this time and I was taken in by her amazing holiday snaps and red carpet outfits. Of course she looks happy and amazing. That’s literally her job. But still, how could this happen to Chrissy?
My next reaction was to the parts of her life I could never relate to. Her amazingly accommodating work:
The show treated me incredibly well—they put a nursery in my dressing room and blew up photos of Luna and John and my family for my wall. When Luna was on set, they lowered the noise levels. They turned down the air so she wouldn’t be cold. Only the most gentle knocking on the door. Pump breaks.
Her easy access to health care:
I had to go to the hospital; the back pain was so overwhelming. I felt like I was in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy: These kids were around me, asking questions. Maybe it was a kidney infection? No one could figure it out. I saw rheumatoid doctors for the wrist pain; we thought it might be rheumatoid arthritis. I felt nauseated all the time, so I saw a GI doctor.
Her help at home with Luna:
I have all the help I could need: John, my mother (who lives with us), a nanny.
Chrissy addresses this in her piece:
I have a great life. I have all the help I could need: John, my mother (who lives with us), a nanny. But postpartum does not discriminate. I couldn’t control it. And that’s part of the reason it took me so long to speak up: I felt selfish, icky, and weird saying aloud that I’m struggling. Sometimes I still do. I know I might sound like a whiny, entitled girl. Plenty of people around the world in my situation have no help, no family, no access to medical care.
But my reaction was not what she was predicting. In fact, understanding Chrissy’s position of privilege didn’t make me think she was whiny, selfish or entitled. It just made me sadder. Here was a strong, smart, funny, empowered woman who is using all the tools available to her… and it still was not enough.
On a bad day, when I haven’t slept or showered, and nothing I do seems to please my baby, I might see a picture of Chrissy at a Hollywood event. She’ll look perfect, of course. And I’ll think to myself, If I had a team of hairstylists, makeup artists, nannies, stylists, personal trainers, etc, etc, I could look like that too. Obviously not like THAT, but I could look glamorous and stylish and put together. I could be a great mum without showing the physical cost. The sad thing is that my bad day, without my team of expert help, is still nowhere near as hard as every day was for Chrissy. So, no, Chrissy, I don’t think you’re being entitled.
There’s another aspect for me: while I was pregnant I was terrified of getting postpartum depression. My husband didn’t understand it. I didn’t have any risk factors and it didn’t seem to run in my family. My pregnancy had gone smoothly and I was so excited about my baby. But when I woke up in the middle of the night (usually to pee) I’d worry about what would come next. What if I didn’t bond with my baby? What if it was too hard? What if I couldn’t handle being a mum? These fears crystalised into a fear of postpartum depression.
It didn’t happen. Sure, I had days when I cried for no reason, times when I was overwhelmed and everything seemed too hard. But it was for hours, not even days, let alone weeks or months. And hat was bad enough.
I’m so sorry that women have to go through postpartum depression at what is already such an intense and hard time. A time with all sorts expectations, both from society and from themselves. I’m so sorry that Chrissy had to go through it and that, even with all the help and support she had available, she still felt so bad. But I’m glad she told us about her experience. I know that by being her usual open, honest and candid self, the same way she got me through my pregnancy, Chrissy will help other women suffering from postpartum depression to feel less alone.