Throughout the month of August, or so, I’m looking back at summers in my past, to see what my mood was like. I am testing a theory that my depressions are usually bad in the summertime, unless I’m doing some good inner emotional “work.”
Five years ago was the summer of 2014, and I have very little idea of what that summer brought. That was before my blog, and my journal is pretty bare for those months. I go through spells when I don’t journal for a while; some of those spells are particularly good times, when I don’t feel the need to journal, while others are particularly bad times, when I don’t have the motivation to journal. So that really doesn’t help. I was ready to give up on this post, and just say that 2014 was a “lost summer” in my history, until my son walked in the room. I suddenly realized that something pretty major happened in the summer of 2014: he was born.
I remember the night of his birth very well. A nasty thunderstorm came through around 9:00 pm, and knocked out the power. My 5-year-old daughter and my very, very pregnant wife went to bed in the dark, but I couldn’t sleep. With no power, we had neither air conditioning nor a fan, and it was so terribly hot and muggy that night. I crawled downstairs where it was a little cooler, and fell asleep on the couch.
About 1:00 am, my wife woke me up. “Dear, it’s time.” I said, “Oh, crap. Alright.” I got up, and went back upstairs to wake up my daughter, and tell her we were taking her to her grandparents’ house while her brother was born. She was so excited! The three of us grabbed cell phones and Kindles to use as flashlights, as we packed up the stuff we’d need. We got in the car, and started to drive. About 1/4 mile from the house, my wife said, “Stop!” There was a huge tree lying across the road — ah, this is why the power was out! I did a K-turn in the road and started heading the other way. Just past our house, my daughter said, “Stop!” There was an orange and white barrier across the road, apparently blocking traffic because of that tree. I was able to go around the barrier, and luckily, we were able to get to the grandparents with no more obstacles. We made it to the hospital around 3:00, and got checked in and all. My wife was doing fine, and so was I. I made a mental note to make a phone call around 5:30 or so, because I was supposed to officiate at a funeral later that morning, and I had to let my backup pastor know that he was on! Our son arrived around 6:00, and we sat in the recovery room with him for an hour or two, trying to decide what to name him. (We had narrowed it down to two names, but hadn’t decided between the two yet.)
Through all of this, I was amazingly calm. I was peaceful and controlled. Nothing seemed to bother me about all of this. I joked that it was nice to be at the hospital, because they had air-conditioning, unlike our house at that point! This peace, this calm, was completely different from the way I felt the day my daughter was born five years earlier. That day, I was a complete disaster. Everything stressed me out. I was convinced that something would go wrong with the birth, and either my wife or the baby would die. And afterward, I went into a severe depression. I did some research, and discovered that there is such a thing as male post-partum depression; I thought I had that. (On retrospect, I don’t think that was the case, but I’m glad to know that it’s real.)
So why was the summer of 2014 so much better than the winter of 2009? Well, a big piece of it is clearly because it was my second child. My daughter, my first child, was more than just a child. She was also the catalyst for a new identity for me. Thanks to her, I became “Daddy.” Thanks to her, my whole life was changed and rearranged. When my son arrived, I already was Daddy. I already knew how to change diapers, how to hold a baby, how to be a father. It was a change, but not a sea change. I wasn’t nearly so anxious about his birth, because I knew, at least in great part, what to expect. It wasn’t the unknown.
I mentioned that in the last post that my anxiety is usually linked to something new, something unknown. The lack of anxiety surrounding my son’s birth was linked, I suppose, to something familiar, something known. So while I really don’t know how my mood was throughout that summer, I know that I was in fine fettle on July 9, and that, when compared with January 19, 2009, tells me a great deal. When faced with something new, remember that one day it will be old, and you’ll be able to deal with something in the future so much easier. Going through the anxiety of new things is a great gift to my future self.