Anna-Leena Harkonen



From Darkness to Love

When we think of childbirth, we usually think of joy and happiness.

However, according to the Cleveland Clinic, between 50% and 75% of women are impacted by the baby blues in the first couple of weeks after childbirth.

One in seven new parents, including men, will experience postpartum depression, a far more serious condition that involves feelings of worthlessness, guilt, worry, and sadness, and thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby. 

FINNISH AUTHOR and actress Anna-Leena Harkonen and American actress Brooke Shields document their experiences with pregnancy loss, infertility, and postpartum depression in their autobiographical works Faint Lines and Down Came the Rain.

Their voices are unflinchingly honest and bravely introspective as they examine the darkest memories of what should have been, according to our societal expectations, the happiest months of their lives.

ANNA-LEENA WAS rushed out of the hospital after a premature birth without proper guidance and a support system. When she brings her son home from the hospital, she sadly reveals, “I have lost connection to my child. I have lost connection to myself and this world.”

She quickly realized that her emotions were not in her control. She felt she was a devastatingly incompetent mother who would end up destroying her child’s life. She found herself thinking the unthinkable: it would be better for the baby if he died. She hoped “that the baby will sink under the water and stay there.”

ANNA-LEENA FELT overwhelmed and helpless, even with a husband, friends, and family. Again and again, she was led to believe that her instincts would be enough and that her emotions and thoughts were normal.

She knew in her heart that her self-destructive thoughts did not arise from exhaustion, nor were they “normal.” She worried that she was losing her mind and would not survive.

Without therapy, she believes she would have been hospitalized or fallen into psychosis. Through her journaling and therapy appointments, she was able to look at her situation from the outside.

Her recovery began, and by six months postpartum, she writes: “Sometimes I feel incapable of receiving so much love. I feel as if all the love is crushing me.”

BROOKE SHIELDS experienced a traumatic birth after grieving the loss of a miscarriage, enduring the hardships of infertility, and losing her father.

Brooke recognized that what she was feeling was more than simply the blues: “This was sadness of a shockingly different magnitude. It felt as if it would never go away.”

She lamented that “my profound detachment made me suffer unbearably, and I believed I had nowhere to turn. I remember looking out of the bedroom window and envisioning myself jumping.”

THIS MORBID imagining of self-harm was, in the moment, “extremely rational” in Brooke’s mind. While she understood that her thoughts were unhealthy and not normal, she was convinced that “postpartum depression was plainly not something that affected someone like me.”

Fortunately, she began to realize that “not only did I need medicine and someone to teach me how to care for the baby, I also needed to talk to a professional.” 

With the assistance of a psychiatrist, medication, a baby nurse, her husband, and her family and friends, Brooke was able to recover from her depression and enjoy her role as a mother as she had always dreamed.

AS IS SEEN in Anna-Leena’s and Brooke’s stories, therapy and the guidance of medical professionals were necessary for the women to make full recoveries, and their paths to recovery would have been smoother if they had been diagnosed earlier as having postpartum depression.

Their courage to advocate and share their difficult stories gives a voice to so many women who feel invisible and powerless.

Katie Brownfiel

New Terrain Press 2024. All rights reserved.

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