In 2009, I suffered from post-partum depression. The best way that I can describe it was it felt as if the walls of our studio apartment were, literally and figuratively, closing in on me. It would have been bad enough on its own, but there was also a live nine-pound bundle wreaking havoc on every inch of my life. Not only did she need my constant attention but, she proved to be a considerable reminder of the irreparable damage I had done to my acting career that, after 15 years in New York, had never quite gotten off the ground to begin with. Oh, and I hated my husband.
The thing about your life falling apart is that it forces you to examine every inch of it. To get real about what’s most important. And, to let the rest of it fall into your wake. In my case, it came down to storytelling, truth in storytelling, and telling the kind of stories that would offer people the comfort of knowing, if but for a moment, that they are not alone.
Parenting can be incredibly lonely. And truly bizarre. Especially the early stuff: Swaddling, breastfeeding, sleep training (which I personally never had the guts to do), diaper changing and later, potty training, all of these things that are completely foreign to you prior, are suddenly the center of your universe. And, although people around the planet are going through the same challenges ALL THE TIME, it can feel as though you are the first and only person who has ever experienced it.
Motherhood also forced me to consider other means of storytelling than acting. Once I got my feet back underneath me, I started taking on directing projects at the Atlantic Acting School, where I’ve been on faculty since 1998. In the spring of 2014, I directed my first full-length play. Turns out, teaching acting for a decade and a half has taught me a thing or two about directing. It’s been like finding home in my own backyard.
In seeking a way for my creative life to meet up with my real life, I reached out to a few playwrights I knew that had also recently had children. I told them I was interested in telling stories that captured the sense of isolation and entrapment that I myself had experienced during what my husband and I now affectionately refer to as our “dark days” of early parenthood. I felt determined to find a way to tell these stories with not only a sense of truth, but also a sense of humor. I also felt very strongly that such stories would be best captured through film, rather than theater, where we all usually dwell. It would require us to step out of the familiar, into unknown territory. Kind of like parenthood.
Anna Ziegler’s Sleep Training is the first of many stories I wish to tell on the subject.
New York City