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How 'Marley & Me' Nailed Its Depiction of Postpartum Depression

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The movie “Marley & Me” was based on a book, which was based on a real life story, which I guess should make it no surprise that its depiction of postpartum depression was pretty accurate to me. If you have not seen the movie yet, it came out in 2008 so this story contains some spoilers. I will also warn you, some may have a hard time watching it. It is one of my favorite movies, but there is a part that deals with pregnancy loss that may be hard for some. And it does follow Marley, a dog, to the end of his life: but I personally love a good tearjerker sometimes.

As someone who experienced postpartum depression myself, it felt so good to relate to the main character Jennifer Anniston played. The postpartum depression part was probably only about 10 minutes of the movie, but that is part of my point. It was one thing that happened in their life. The way she acted during that time was not the person she was; it did not define her, but I could relate to her character the entire movie.

She was a planner and had her whole life planned out early on, but later in life realizes (as I have) that it is the things you don’t plan that end up being the best parts of life. She wanted to have kids, she wanted to get married, she loved children and animals and was a sweet person. But after she has her second child and is overwhelmed, she seems filled with rage. In one scene, she finally gets the baby and toddler both down to sleep, then she hears the trash man coming and knows the dog is about to start barking and wake them up. He does, and she loses it. I could totally relate, and was so relieved to see such a realistic view of postpartum depression I had not seen before, except in my own life. Her husband did not understand what happened to his former wife, until his boss suggested it might be postpartum depression. He now dreaded coming home and when he mentions the postpartum depression to her, at first she gets angry and defensive, a normal reaction for many.

They later have a heart to heart where she opens up about how much she had to give up to be a mom and a wife. Earlier in the movie, she was having more success than her husband when it came to their careers. But eventually she wanted to stay home with the kids, and gave it all up for her family. Her husband eventually became more and more successful, and he often started to wonder what he was missing out on as well at times, as he had a single friend who was always traveling and always with different women. One day he realizes how good he has it though, and realizes that his single friend is actually jealous of what he has. Even her husband in the movie reminded me a lot of my husband. Even though she chose being a wife and mother, she sometimes missed all she gave up too, which is normal of course. And she and her husband both admit not realizing how hard it would be sometimes.

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I personally was not able to stay at home, but at one point in my marriage I was the breadwinner. My spouse and I have kind of taken turns in that over the years. Once we had a small child, and both of us were trying to be managers, I chose to step down from management because it was just too hard. My husband eventually changed jobs to one with much more work/life balance too. Though it was still a management position, and he somehow he ended up making even more than he did before and having more growth opportunities, which honestly made me a little jealous. However, I still do not regret the choice I made. When I changed jobs, my daughter was just starting school, and having a job with more work/life balance allowed me to go on field trips with her, help with a class Christmas party and be involved in so many other things I would have missed otherwise.

In the movie, it goes from showing the wife and husband talking things out, and joking no more kids for a while, to years later when they have another kid and they are all in a much better place. Kind of like the movie “The Notebook,” where they do not show you how they go from passionate young lovers to dying together in their 90s. They do not show you how they got from that one point to the other, because it is a movie. And from experience I can tell you, they cannot fit all of that into one movie.

Image via IMDB

Originally published: January 11, 2021
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