I chose these pictures because of their promising light. This sunlight is what I crave all winter. I'm so glad it's finally here. We've been spending lots of time in the backyard, and things are getting better. This time of year, it's easier to remember that we are Promising Light.
Right before I had Chai, I wrote about how much depression and bitterness I'd observed in young (and old) parents and expressed my desire to be different than that. I even wrote something like "having a healthy baby is no reason for me to be depressed." Everyone knows everything before they have a baby, right? That disgusts me to think about now. I'm truly sorry for saying that, for thinking that. It's just so much more complex than I could have understood. Postpartum mood disorders are not some curse vested on the immature or the ungrateful. You can't inoculate yourself against them by having a great attitude. Rain simply falls on the just and the unjust. Furthermore, speaking metaphorically, not all babies "weigh" the same. You have no idea what is being carved out of someone's life. You don't know what private losses they mourn, the colors of their dashed hopes, how their experience tasted for them coming back up. Their Hard might not be your Hard, but both are heavy, and both are lonely.
I wanted so badly to do an awesome job at transitioning to having two kids, mostly because people kept telling me how much I was going to have my hands full, how having one baby is like playing house, and the real work begins when you have to juggle. My contrary nature wanted to prove them wrong, and my lazy nature didn't want to have to learn to do something terribly hard. I was so inundated with support and love for the first two months after Sparrow was born, I felt, in addition to being a rockstar, that just like during her actual birth, I could somehow "skip transition, " and, I don't know, win at life? I didn't really start to struggle until I went back to work, and got stuck in a never-ending spin cycle, which I am a total wimp about, because I don't even work that many hours, and my job is amazing!
Now I feel like the train of my life left without me, and I'm charging after it, trying to catch up, trying to get close enough to catch the railing, pull myself up and ride. I just want the train to slow down. Maybe one day I will be ambitious enough to offer to drive, or even manage multiple railroads like Dagny Taggart, but right now, my resiliency has been worn down like the enamel on my teeth and I have no time to do anything well. I feel like I’m always rushing to collect my thoughts, my wits, my babies, to show up, to write a treatment plan, to be present in a session, to grab the diaper bag. I’m longing for still, calm waters and free hours to write and figure this all out. I cry very easily these days, I’m ashamed to admit that I get very angry and full of despair very quickly.
Lately Jonathan and I have been talking a lot about embracing ambiguity and the concept that you can hold varying, even polarizing ideas about one thing and they each represent a facet of truth but don’t define it. I love my babies, but sometimes I resent the time they occupy. I love myself, but loathe my shortcomings and lately, my lack of organization. I love the playful, funny, friendly side of myself that loves being with people and laughing and telling and hearing stories. I don’t like the side of myself that thrashes like a caged animal. It’s not me, it is just a part of me, a mean, raw part that makes me feel I am failing, like I am a prisoner.
I was just nursing Sparrow and thought she had fallen asleep and then I looked down and she was just beaming up at me. I just adore her. She has the loveliest, open, giving smiles. I love her sweet, unassuming face, her gorgeous shining blue eyes, the way she was laying patiently awake in the room this morning when I went in the check on her and she hadn’t cried yet. She is a little challenging because she does not like to be put down, ever. Even when she’s full, changed, warm and happy she will sob when I put her in the chair or on the floor. It frazzles me and sometimes crackles my nerves and turns my muscles into taut slabs of anxiety. Other times it turns me into a martyr, and I feel no one else bears the burden like I do. It’s lonely and makes me feel like I can’t enjoy my life, but then at the same time I thrill at her warm weight and squishy milky cheeks and I love to kiss her face and hair and I know how much I will miss her when she’s not my baby anymore. She is GOOD.
And Chai! Oh my beloved little man! I put him to sleep tonight and my heart was so full to bursting with how much I loved laying next to him tonight holding his hand and having him pat my skin to comfort himself as he fell asleep. I told him all the things he did during the day, and how I much I loved him. He has just exploded into language and expression the last few weeks. I can’t believe how much he knows and understands. His feelings are so volatile and potent and he has the cutest voice EVER. “No, I don’t want it!” he chirps. “Really good!” he nods. “Hey, I need that! Outside? Bath? Warsh? Feed horses? Sparrow down? More mokey?” He calls me "Money" and "Rashell." When I saw him for the first time yesterday after he had just come home from the Lowes with Jonny and Jonathan showed him a train. He ran in the room wearing his too-small Brobee shirt and yelped, “Hey MONEY! Train! Big train! Black train!” He was so excited! He couldn’t stop saying “Big train!” I love that he is getting so independent and so funny. He is capable of pretending (tonight he climbed in the armchair with his bear and big bird and said he was going to sleep, curled up and began to fake snore) and talks in first person but still seizes me with wild, frantic hugs and clings on like a little monkey. I have to hold him and hold him because he is growing so long and strong. I love him, I love him!
But, I still miss my old freedom, and my young face, with a heart-pounding desperation. I think how twisted it is that we're not supposed to be materialistic, but we are promised eternal young and beauty in heaven. What if there is no going back? (There is no going back.) Why did I give it all up so soon, why did I trade away the chance for a few honeymoon years with my Jonny for this mess, this mess of pottage that admittedly is delicious but every bite is salted with anxiety? Then I feel guilt and self-loathing for having those feelings. I have wild moments of joy and I think I've finally broken through, I Am Zen, there is balance in the Force, and I am to be commended for my efforts and I'm perfect just the way I am. Then I realize how thin and damaged my resiliency is, because some small disappointment will occur and my Zen explodes into the chaos of devastation, and I can't believe how little patience I have, how fried I feel, how fast I lose my calm. Once the crisis is dealt with I sheepishly take my emotional yoga pose again, brush it off, apologize, resolve anew that I will do better, I'll start planning meals at the beginning of the week and going running every morning before the kids get up. It's exhausting being this intense (read this link by the way, I could write a whole post just about this article).
I don’t think I’ll be like this forever. Today I’m thinking about the SMBC comic that talks about living 11 lives and also thinking about the Mary Oliver poem that doesn’t know what a prayer is but asks “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I want to love. I want to, as the comic suggests, dedicate my lifetimes to asking why and caring for my dear sweaty sticky-skinned smiling babies and becoming a better therapist and a birth doula, getting a PhD someday, speaking Spanish well again, being an advocate and activist for the miserable, the lonely and depressed, and maybe doing something small and intuitive with my writing, I want to listen to music, I want to walk alone outside, I want so much to find my Jonathan again and have time with him, I miss him and I want him, he’s the only one.
Here is another embarassing confession. I used to think parents, not just my own parents, but people around my age who had kids, were sooo boring. They were always harshing my buzz and being all serious and responsible. I won't get boring, I thought. I'll be so chill and laid back, I'll remain "fun". Today while I was "out with friends", holding a screaming Sparrow and chasing an errant, gleeful Chai, the thought struck me that those people weren’t boring, they were just probably just miserable and/or miserably busy. Especially if I saw them at a party or a social activity, I was enjoying myself with all the time in the world while they were running around with a kaleidescope of quickly evolving angst and imminent duties. Probably they missed the freedom they used to have. too. They were constantly stressed out and anxious and battling that treacherous balance of creating a healthy, happy life for their children and not being crushed by disappointment when it turns out that even their already much lowered expectations were too high. I thought of the times my mother said she didn't care if she got to go on a ride, or see a movie, or have dessert, when there wasn't enough to go around or someone had to stay home with a new baby. I'm so amazed now at how I took all that for granted, how I didn't even see her. I'm so sorry.
I struggle a lot maintaining the balance between selflessness and selfishness. I may be a person who is able to sacrifice more happily if someone acknowledges my sacrifices. I may just have to let my right hand know what my left doeth. That’s where I am. So how do you balance giving with an open heart and not counting what’s given in return, not even expecting any reciprocity, how do you balance trying to be a good mother and trying to deal with the person in you who is still a child and wants to cry on the floor bleating for freedom and be given things and taken on walks?
I’m learning a lot. I feel the way my upbringing informed my perception of parenthood has been both positive and negative, but I swallowed a lot of the pre-anti-depressants about my role as a mother being Everything. I don't believe that anymore. Being a mother is enormous and I treasure and adore my babies, but I recognize that it's part of the whole that is Me, not my destiny, not my essence, not my razon de existir or raison d'être. I’m just a human being, motherhood does not define me anymore than daughterhood does, or sisterhood, or girlfriendhood, or social workerhood (or growing up in the hood). All these things and their evolving dynamics are part of me, but I’m just a person who has children. They come through me but are not me, like this poem by Gibran. I love them dearly and I see that we’re the same, small, struggling, needy, trying, loving. I’m just a little further along in years than they are.
I don't want to wrap this up with some kind of smug conclusion, because I haven't figured anything out, I'm just exploring, and I guess, sharing what I'm experiencing right now. It feels good to be heard. So thanks for listening. Besos.
"You're a boomerang, you see...you will return to me
You will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will. You, you will."