Dooce: It Sucked and Then I Cried
Exclusive interview with infamous mommy-blogger Heather Armstrong
With a second daughter due in June and a memoir out about her first pregnancy and subsequent nine months of motherhood (which involved a short stay in a mental hospital), famed blogger Heather Armstrong of Dooce.com doesn’t think things suck quite so much these days.
But suck they did, and big time, as her new book reveals, all in the same controversial Dooce style that has garnered Heather’s blog status as “the most popular personal blog on the web.” And as a mother of three myself (who has read her share of parenting books and has also been medicated for her own depression issues), I found It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita to be one of the truest and bravest books I’ve ever read about motherhood.
I met Heather Armstrong before her book signing in Chicago, and immediately gave her points for not being the kind of woman who gives up her Diet Coke during pregnancy. We chatted about babies, books, breakdowns and blogs:
Stephanie Elliot: I love that in this book you don’t sugar-coat ANYTHING about pregnancy.
Dooce: I didn’t want to sugarcoat. I had a mom who could have told me, a sister who could have told me … NO ONE EVER TOLD ME about what happens during pregnancy; I felt I was completely blindsided by the whole experience.
SE: I think maybe we’re supposed to forget, so that we can go on to have more babies, which, your next baby – a girl – is due when?
Dooce: June 14th.
SE: Which pregnancy has been harder?
Dooce: The physicality of this pregnancy is much harder, because I’m five years older. With Leta, the smells were so bad, I lost 20 pounds the first trimester. I’m already past the weight I was when I gave birth to her. This pregnancy’s easier, because I know there’s an end to it, and eventually I’m gonna have another 5-year-old telling jokes.
SE: Do you think your breakdown was more than just a result of postpartum depression? In other words, do you think you would have still had a breakdown if you hadn’t had a baby?
Dooce: I look back at my childhood and see myself as a depressed person. I got medicated in college and only went off medication to get pregnant and I was already predisposed to falling apart in stressful situations. It was the sleep-deprivation … it was seven months of not sleeping. Which would drive anybody crazy, and for someone who wasn’t medicated properly, and sleep deprivation and a baby who cried incessantly … she was just a grumpy kid … it was just a perfect storm for me to go crazy.
SE: Do you have to be off your medication during your pregnancy now?
Dooce: I’m on my medication and I’m very open about that. I called the doctor who treated me for postpartum and he said, “Stay on your Prozac.” I was on a cocktail and I went off half the cocktail and I’m on that now and I will continue to be on that.
SE: What do you want to say to moms who resist medication as a cure to the problem?
Dooce: I would never push medication on anybody. If you think there are other ways to help yourself, by all means, pursue those ways. If you think prayer’s going to help you, pray. If you think vitamins are going to help you … But I got to a point where there was no other option for me. I was exercising, I was eating right, I was trying to sleep. I was taking sleeping medication to sleep and I couldn’t sleep. There was no other option for me.
SE: When you went into the hospital what were you thinking?
Dooce: It was a last resort. I didn’t know what else to do. I wanted to feel better so badly and I didn’t know what to do. For me, going to the hospital was if that doesn’t work then nothing will work and it was me sort of jumping into their arms and the hope that this would work. And the first night I was in there, it was the worst night of my life because I didn’t think it was going to help. It wasn’t that I needed a break from the baby. It was just please someone, fix this thing in my head.
SE: Are you concerned about postpartum depression this time around?
Dooce: I’m actually not worried about it. If it does happen, I have a million tools around me to look to for support. Jon went back to work after Leta was born after three days. My mom wasn’t there, I didn’t have any help and I had never taken care of a baby before. So it’s a different situation this time in every aspect.
SE: What are you most looking forward to with the second baby?
Dooce: This is going to be kind of a schmoopy answer but it’s real. I’m so looking forward to the moments that were sort of stolen from me by the anxiety the first time around. You talk about sitting there and looking at your baby and counting their toes and inspecting their nose, and we did that with Leta but there was always this monster hanging over me, making me nervous about everything, so every moment that I had with her when she was small was overshadowed by this sickening nausea and anxiety and I’m looking forward to spending those really quiet moments with the baby not freaking out that my milk is going to dry up and not freaking out that she’s going to die when I put her down. And being free of those monsters and demons. That’s what I’m looking most forward to.
SE: Your critics, people either really love you or hate you?
Dooce: Yeah. The majority … overwhelming majority of the feedback that I get is really supportive and (thank you, thank you, thank you!), the two percent – the one or two percent – that’s really angry at me …
SE: They’re really mean, aren’t they?
Dooce: Really, really angry at me. Yeah.
SE: Why do you think that is?
Dooce: I’m a woman, and I’m successful at what I do, and I’ve done it on my own, and they want to tell me what to do and they can’t control me. And it is kind of controversial … some of the things I talk about and the way that I talk about them. The big cry is that I hate my child.
SE: It’s obvious that you don’t hate her. Speaking of Leta, is she excited about the new baby?
Dooce: She’s really, really excited. However, I don’t think she has the concept of what it means. I think she thinks the baby’s going to come out speaking, reading and dancing.
SE: And not just crying and needing all your attention?
Dooce: We’re preparing for the worst.
SE: Any weird cravings during your pregnancies?
Dooce: It’s all very normal. Doritos with Leta, and then with this pregnancy, it’s all about Mexican food. This baby’s going to come out in the shape of a burrito.
SE: And then regarding that “much needed margarita” you had to have – would you take it frozen, on the rocks, salt, no salt?
Dooce: On the rocks, salt.