From under the Duvet

Anna Vaux

  • Out Of Me: The Story of a Postnatal Breakdown by Fiona Shaw
    Viking, 224 pp, £15.99, April 1997, ISBN 0 670 87104 4

The day before giving birth to her second child, Fiona Shaw sat ‘clad’ in her overalls chipping concrete from the quarry tiles outside her cottage door. The nine months before that she had spent renovating the house and completing her thesis. She wrote and she swam every day, and went marching about in her ‘dungarees and desert boots’, with shiny hair, a huge appetite and ‘boundless’ energy. She was ‘invigorated’ yet calm, ‘a Renaissance woman’ – there was nothing she couldn’t do. Yet in the few days following the birth of her daughter she found herself crying and unable to explain it. She didn’t want to see anyone, or parade her baby proudly in the village. Her body became ‘inert, heavy and burden-some’. When her husband went for a walk she screamed with terror at being left alone. She gave up eating, and lay ‘curled, motionless’, in her bed, ‘shipwrecked ... on a rock of revulsion’, yearning for someone to look after her as she looked after her child.

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