The First Clue

I had heard of women experiencing post-partum depression so severe that they killed themselves and sometimes their children, a thought that filled me with terror. Every weekday morning, before leaving Dave in her care as I went to work, I discreetly assessed her mood, trying to tell myself that she was not so disturbed as this, that she’d never do such a thing. It was true of my normal Sophia, but that one was long gone and I just didn’t know this one. I had read the news articles about these murdering mothers and a frequent remark from family was that they never thought the mother would do such a thing. It’s a trust that is sometimes not warranted, with tragic consequences. Each day, leaving Sophia alone with Dave had me on edge until I saw, via the nanny cams, Emy arrive.

Sophia’s erratic behavior and suppressed emotions strongly suggested she was capable of this. Her suppressed rage suggested she was capable of suddenly exploding and making a rash decision. She was clearly hiding something enormous. Could such thoughts and desires be among them? I would never know, as secretive and deceitful as she had become, until it was too late. I couldn’t know how severe her depression was for the same reason.

I was also concerned that she would abort the pregnancy and not even tell me, or lie that it was a miscarriage. It could not have been more obvious that something had drastically changed since getting pregnant in October. Having changed her mind about another baby was certainly a possibility. It’s not like she had ever expressed enjoyment of motherhood either in words or deeds.

I assumed her therapist knew of the depression. I wanted to ask if she’d been prescribed medication and if she was taking it, but I knew she wouldn’t tell me the truth. I also suspected that medication would affect the baby, causing additional concern. I felt trapped. Medication might have helped Sophia, but it might affect the baby and not be prescribed, and yet if she didn’t get the appropriate kind of help, she might kill herself and both of our kids. After Pam’s performance, I didn’t consider her qualified for much of anything, but a doctor who dealt with physical issues and not mental ones might be superior in this regard. I had to know if there were medications that might help and not impact the pregnancy. With a sonogram appointment approaching that Thursday, I asked Sophia to mention her depression to the doctor and she agreed to so do. But I suspected she wouldn’t.

That Thursday, I attended her next sonogram appointment in Maryland, in a three-story office building, as more snow fell outside, the peaceful landscape at odds with my turmoil. As I’d suspected, she said nothing about the depression, even as the middle-aged doctor left. While the subject was hers to mention, the toll it was taking, and the severe risks I feared, made it mine, too. I had to get an answer and asked the doctor to return.

“There’s something else we need to talk about,” I began, as he closed the door. I stood to one side of the exam table that Sophia still sat on, a computer monitor in one corner of the ceiling. We had seen the sonogram images on it.

“Okay,” said the doctor.

“Sophia’s been having a lot of depression and I was wondering if there’s anything that can be done about it, something that won’t affect the baby.”

A dismissive Sophia raised her voice, adjusting her shirt with her back to us now that the sonogram gel had been wiped off. “That’s private and I’d rather talk about it later.”

“You promised to address it and didn’t.”

“It’s none of your business.” She turned to the doctor and bluntly advised him, “I’m leaving him, so that’s what this is about.”

I scowled at the inappropriate remark. “So your pregnancy-related depression is not the doctor’s business but us getting separated is?”

“The pregnancy has nothing to do with it!” she snapped, glaring at me.

“Well you were fine before you got pregnant and – ”

“Everything in my life is great, except you!” she yelled. “I’m sick of you. You’re the problem!”

Shock passed over at me. At the sudden hollering, at the idea that I was the problem despite being the one who did almost everything for her at home because she wouldn’t. At the phrase “sick of you.” That one both resonated deeply because it was exactly how I felt about her, and it was cognitively dissonant because she couldn’t possibly have something to be sick of about me. How could she be tired of me doing everything I did for our family, unless she was sick of me trying to get her to help? It almost made me want to laugh, her wife privilege. But I flushed in humiliation and anger at her saying these awful things in front of someone, putting me on the defensive against yet another attack from her. And yeah, I was the problem.

“What the hell is – ”

She cut me off, face contorted in rage as she screamed, “You caused me to have a panic attack!”

This time I stepped back, stunned by the hostility. Speechless. Disbelief. When did she have a panic attack? If I had caused one, how would I have not noticed, unless I wasn’t around, in which case, how could I have caused it? Confused, I stood in silent chaos, my expression turning to hard stone as I tried to save face, to maintain some sense of dignity, which Sophia seemed quite eager to rob me of.

“I’ll step outside,” said a very uncomfortable looking doctor, hastily opening the door and trying to close it until I grabbed it. Beyond agitated, I followed him right out, closing the door behind me and seeing a few nurses in the hallway looking sideways at me, having overheard that, I assumed. I flushed again, unbearably hot all over, anger burning quietly and growing like a raging fire.

I asked him, “Is it possible to use the blood tests you’re about to do to determine paternity?”

His sober expression revealed how awkward this was continuing to get and a fool could see he was doing his best to maintain professionalism. “No. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until the baby is born.”

I frowned because that contradicted my research, but I let it go. I wasn’t at all impressed with the doctor. I just walked away silently.

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