Day Nine

By Amanda Munday

Day Nine
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A harrowing memoir about a woman’s struggle with postpartum depression.

Nine days after the birth of her daughter, Amanda was involuntarily admitted to a Toronto psychiatric ward for postpartum depression. The typical hold-and-release process in Ontario is seventy-two hours. ... Read more


Overview

A harrowing memoir about a woman’s struggle with postpartum depression.

Nine days after the birth of her daughter, Amanda was involuntarily admitted to a Toronto psychiatric ward for postpartum depression. The typical hold-and-release process in Ontario is seventy-two hours. She stayed eighteen days.

New parent sleep deprivation is familiar, but Munday’s tumultuous experience with depression is one rarely discussed within parent communities. Any mental illness comes with a strong public stigma, and with mental illness connected to motherhood, the judgments run deep. Through her experiences, Munday presents the harsh realities of new parenthood and the quiet suffering postpartum depression commands.

Day Nine is an intimate memoir that reads like a freight train, revealing how common life transitions — childbirth and parenthood — can unravel into a medical emergency few new parents are prepared for.

Amanda Munday

Amanda Munday is an advocate for women’s rights. Her work has been published in the Globe and Mail, Quartz, and the Toronto Star. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two children.

Excerpt

June 18, 2014

I sit in my living room rocking Fiona in the car seat while Gordon makes phone calls to three sets of parents — his mother, then my father and stepmother, followed by my mother, who left us a few hours earlier. I can hear my mother’s tears when he puts me on the phone to assure her I am doing okay. I’m sure she’s upset with me, but I need to centre myself tonight. I’m a mother now, too.

It’s time to go to bed. Four hours ago I was throwing up into my lap in a delivery room, and now at 1:00 a. m. I’m thinking about how to sleep with this tiny human in my arms. Gordon suggests we try to set up our co-sleeper bassinet between the two of us in our queen-size bed so we can all sleep together. He gently lays Fiona down on her back in the bassinet. We leave her wrapped in the receiving blanket and clothes we brought her home in.

Twenty minutes pass and I can’t sleep. Why can’t I sleep? I’ve been awake for close to twenty-four hours. I delivered a healthy baby girl. I did it. The worst is over. I’m exhausted. Gordon has fallen into a deep, snoring sleep. I look down at Fiona — she’s also quietly sleeping. My mind starts to reel. What do I do if she wakes? Do I pick her up? Rock the bassinet? I need to make sure she doesn’t get upset. I won’t know what to do. I scoop the sleeping baby into my arms and take her down the hall into her bedroom. Sitting in her dark, unfamiliar, and newly painted nursery, I am stunned by this immediate transition to motherhood. Maybe I’ll never sleep again.

All my shifting and rocking in the chair wakes the baby, and she begins to cry. Her cries get louder. I try to breastfeed her, but I can’t quite get the hang of placing this new human onto my breast. Desperate for a solution, I stick my pinky finger in her mouth and she suckles for a few minutes, calming down. I stand in her room, swaying back and forth, awkwardly holding my daughter, this stranger, in my arms. I’m still in the same mesh hospital underwear I was given days ago, holding an overdressed baby in total darkness. This is motherhood, I guess?

I head back to my bed and return her to her bassinet. Gordon is still snoring loudly, though, and I wince at the thought of him waking her. I scoop her back up immediately and head downstairs to our living room. I decide to set up the pull-out couch as a bed, then maybe I can get a little sleep downstairs with her. She starts to cry again. I feel panic, realizing I can’t pull out the couch unless I put the baby down. Where can I put her down safely? I spot the bucket car seat and gently place her in it. Then I quickly pull out the couch, scoop her back up, carry her back over, and sit down. She fusses a little at being moved. As Fiona falls back asleep, I realize I’m stuck in this sitting position upright on the couch. I didn’t think to lie down before she fell asleep, and now that she’s stopped crying, I don’t want to move. Even if I did lie down, she might fall and be smothered! I’m not that tired really, I tell myself. I can wait till the morning’s arrival. When the sun comes up and my mother inevitably arrives, I’ll know I’ve survived this night.

The middle of this night is scary. The quiet creeks of our house startle me. The earlier storms are causing power disruptions. I hear the power go out. Even though the lights are off, when the power shuts down, our street swallows the city’s rumble and leaves us in heightened silence. I can hear my next door neighbours’ steps when the air conditioning and house appliances shut down. With the power off, the baby’s breathing is surprisingly loud, reminding me of a subway train passing through a station. I can’t put her down and try to sleep. I can’t even lie back. I sit straight up, with no support for my back, and hold her in the powerless dark and wait. I sense my exhaustedbrain getting cloudier and cloudier. I wait for the baby to wake up so I can shuffle in my seat. Every second feels like hours. The power flickers on, then off again. She finally stirs and begins to cry. I try to latch her onto my nipple, but I can’t get the hang of the perfect seal Rose demonstrated while also holding Fiona’s tiny head. My hands shake as I shuffle the baby in my arms, pressing my nipple to her chin, hoping she will guide us both through this. Breastfeeding feels unnatural. Isn’t this supposed to be one of nature’s most instinctual acts? I let her head fall away from me and try to squeeze a little milk out of my breast and into her mouth. I’m hoping if I squeeze my sore nipples hard enough I can get a drop of milk to fall out and land on her lips. She squirms impatiently and I’m so frustrated that I can’t settle her. Why can’t I do this?

After another seemingly endless crying and rocking interaction, she finally settles back to sleep and I move into a more comfortable seated position on the pulled-out couch. The power is back on; I might as well send an email from my phone.

Sent: June 18, 2014, 4:07 a. m.
To: Mom
From: Amanda
Subject: I need
Depends or the thickest pads you can find
Some kind of soft battery transportable nightlight. Our lights are too bright and the power went off four times tonight waking her up. I need an easy way to move rooms. Maybe Walmart?
Watermelon and more fruit please

I wait for her reply. She’s probably awake. Aren’t all mothers awake at 4:00 a. m.? It doesn’t come for over an hour, but the ding of my phone makes me feel better. I peel myself off the couch with the baby and head back to our bedroom. I have something to keep me distracted in bed until the sun comes and I have permission to be awake again.

Sent: June 18, 2014, 5:15 a. m.To: Amanda
From: Mom
Subject: Re: I Need
NP
Keep thinking of more stuff you might need. I’ll leave here after rush hour this morning.

Sent: June 18, 2014, 5:15 a. m.
To: Mom
From: Amanda
Subject: Re: I Need
Advil regular strength
Cold compress for my stitches — I’m in a lot of pain
Cold cuts — salami and buns
Something else with protein

Sent: June 18, 2014, 7:20 a. m.
From: Mom
To: Amanda
Subject: Re: I Need
I’ll probably leave here after nine.
How do you spell Fiona’s middle name?

Sent: June 18, 2014, 7:25 a. m.
To: Mom
From: Amanda
Subject: Re: I Need
Fiona Adrina Munday

This is the first real conversation I’ve had with my mother since becoming one and it’s nothing more than barking orders between 4:00 a. m. and 8:00 a. m. A few weeks ago, Gordon and I agreed that he would be the point of communication with all of our family members once the baby arrived. Communication would be something he could own while I rested. I created an email mailing list of all our family members and close friends for him.

Reviews

An intimate and honest portrait of a family’s journey through postpartum depression. This book will be a godsend to any mother who finds herself stuck in a swamp of anxiety and self-doubt and who is struggling to find her way out.

Amanda Munday’s memoir Day Nine is a remarkable example of a new mother’s resilience. In vivid prose, Munday poignantly examines her experience with postpartum depression and other heartbreaking situations. She demonstrates how it’s possible to move through agony to create a fulfilling life. Day Nine is an inspiring account of perinatal mental illness, grief, joy, and recovery.

Day Nine takes you through the overwhelming & palpable experience of being trapped by mental unwellness while highlighting the glaringly obvious disconnect of health care for the mind and body. So moving and hard to put down.

In some ways, Day Nine is a very personal story, but in so many other ways it’s a story of what happens when life – particularly motherhood – don’t go according to plan. I found in these pages the same thing that has always kept me going as a founder and a mother: the innate resilience of women and mothers born out of the power of all-consuming ferocious love. Day Nine is at times messy and horrifying, but it’s also a beautiful and inspiring ode to the power that’s found within our weakest moments

Few social identities come with more expectation and baggage than motherhood, and Day Nine is a stigma-busting, beautifully written record of what is so often suffered in silence.

I believe that Day Nine should be read by anyone that plans on becoming a parent and/or works with parents-to-be. Amanda Munday bravely takes us into the eye of a storm that many mothers have experienced – and have done so alone and in silence. Munday’s writing style pulls you in and gets you comfortable with the uncomfortable. Day Nine provides its readers with invaluable lessons on the power of community, healthy boundaries and the importance of re-imagining the family structure. "

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