Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The reason why I do this.

I decided to start sharing my days and my thoughts in an effort to reach other women and moms struggling to achieve that "Amazing Mommy" award in the ever so competitive sport of parenting. All while hurling myself through life's other unpredictable obstacles. For me, those were becoming a new mom, stumbling through what I later learned was post partem depression and finding out I needed to survive and heal through an affair. 

All of it is terrifying, humiliating and induces more guilt than anyone can think they can live with. But you do. And you can. And that's the reason I started this. 

So this is my vulnerability being laid out. 

I rocked my baby, smelled her hair, felt the squishiness of her small cheek with my lips, embraced her cuddling with my shoulder while I swayed and sang her the lullaby Palmer wrote for her, which has become her bedtime anthem. I quietly answered her predictable questions of “Dada?” with “Dada’s at a friends house”. 
“Kitties are sleeping” 
“Babies are sleeping too.“

I sang her the words I’ve sang easily a hundred times now, lucky me, so that now I can let my mind wander while I press “play” on that ritual lullaby.

Tonight, I thought about the bath I gave her earlier in the evening. It’s the first bath I’ve given her myself in months. That’s because I hate bath time. I hate giving her baths. Not because of her. But Palmer said he enjoyed bath time and bed time, and I was grateful of the opportunity for Bella and daddy to bond. And the chore that I now don’t have to do. 

But I think it’s time I really come clean with myself. I don’t hate bath time. I hate the remnants of fear and loathing that still linger with it.

As a brand new mom I used to think back to my old diary I used to write in every couple of years. The last entry was from before I went to college and I was struggling with some weird form of depression. I was sailing off into a world of independence and self discovery and starting brand new adventures. Instead of the excitement I thought I’d feel, it was a cocktail of anxiety mixed with fear and a healthy dose of doubt. In this entry where I spilled my guts, hoping for a revelation as to WHY I wasn’t as excited as I should be, I wrote about my dreams. To be an art therapist, to travel and live all over the world and to find my perfect companion (meaning, an awesome husband) . But I noted that my overall goal, above all else, was to be a mom. Not just birth some children, but to be a really, really, good mom. The best mom I could possibly be. And the only thing that had got me through the darkest times of my life were those children I was determined to meet. 

The day I met Bella confirmed that to be the best decision I have ever made. 

The background story was to preempt the next part of this confession with hopefully a little more enlightenment.

Through the end of my first pregnancy,  I was plagued with this awful sense of dismay and doubt through the last couple of months. The convincing thoughts of suicide nagged at me over and over. How never, could I ever live up to the expectation I have for myself as a mom. Never, could I ever be a GOOD mom. Never, could I ever give my child and husband what they deserve and never, could I ever, be all that I need to be. How the best thing I could do for them was kill myself, giving enough notice so that they could save my baby. If I was smart enough, maybe make it look like an accident so what I COULD do for my family was give them the financial security they need.

I know how terrible and selfish that all sounds.  Somewhere inside the rational part of myself was still around to dismiss any real insanity. And after a few weeks on bed rest, baby arrived. The combination of bed rest and then the emergency life flight of our newborn to Children’s Mercy Hospital to deal with some complications ended up really taking a toll on my job as a mom so far. 
Even though nothing that happened was my fault, that awful part of myself did a good job making it feel like it. 

“The preeclampsia had to have happened because of something I did. Unhealthy diet, whatever, who cares, if was probably your fault.” 
“She was probably life flighted because you didn’t have the natural birth that you wanted. You did the research on the drugs that the hospital uses and you did it anyway for your own comfort, it was probably your fault.”
“And now you’re not breastfeeding like you had planned. You know that’s the best thing for your baby. You don’t want to have to get up and go up 2 floors every 3 hours to attempt to breastfeed her for  45 minutes at a time? How lazy. How selfish.”

That part of me really needs a good ass kicking.

So after all that, we weren’t off to a good start. Once her umbilical cord fell off and we could bathe her, I noticed how uncertain and scared I felt doing it alone. And then I had an awful nightmare where I accidentally drowned her in the tub. The image from that dream still nauseates me. Her 3 week old form, swaddled and floating face down in the bath. And it was my fault.

From then on I begged Palmer to bathe her. I begged him not to make me do it alone. He didn’t understand and I could hear in his voice he thought this was silly, and I didn’t blame him. I just thought “If you only knew. If you had only seen what I saw in that dream. If you could feel how I feel right now, you would know.” 
And things got so much worse.

I loved my baby. I knew I did. She was my dearest thing. She was what I was alive for. She was why I was on this Earth. But…there was something wrong. It was almost like….I didn’t LIKE her. There was zero connection. Someone else could have picked her up, said she were theirs and left with her and I would have believed them. And of course, I blamed myself. 

“It’s because you didn’t have adequate skin to skin contact” 
“Because you didn’t breastfeed well enough”

Blah. Blah. Blah. It was my fault.

As the months went on, that overwhelming love I was supposed to feel starting taking better form. But as the months went on were also when the day dreams of hurting her started.  I HAVE to try to make other people understand this. These were not thoughts of hurting her, making her suffer because I didn’t like her, or that I wished that on her, this sweet little baby. They were intrusive thoughts of accidental harm. They would interrupt our times to the park. Our times at the mall. Our times just being at home. It was like someone was forcing these images on my mind. I would become so sick. I would become so angry. I would wish harm on myself just to make it stop. But this caused me to fear myself. What if?? What if these are things I could actually do?? I absolutely couldn’t live with myself if I could do that to one of my children. Or ANY child. I absolutely couldn’t take that risk. What kind of person was I to even have to worry about this?? 

I loathed myself. I was already failing at #1 goal for life = be a good mom. Scratch that one off. I think thoughts of killing your baby immediately disqualify you from achieving that one. 

These thoughts finally started calming down and eventually fading away completely around her first birthday. I think by that point I was able to have proven to myself that I was capable. And not only that, that I absolutely, head over heels, life over death, adore and love this baby more than anything I have ever known. Even if those abrasive thoughts assault my mind, the smile on that precious girl’s face could convince me of anything. She could smile and tell me that she could explain the meaning of life in a sentence and, aside from my astonishment at her speaking abilities, I would believe her. 

This nagging sense of necessity to share this deeply secret, dark and embarrassing part of my life has overcome my utter terror of people knowing it. When people say with a smile and nudge, “Bella needs a sibling!” I smile and stay silent because the thought of going through this again can bring me to tears. What if this next time I’m not so lucky? What if next time any one of those things happen again but don’t end the same? It’s so scary.

And now, not only that, but everyone knows. Everyone knows what that awful dark passenger of mine says. My poor husband doesn’t even hear about that part of me. Now everyone’s heard. Everyone will see me different. My life different. My little girl different. My next pregnancy different. My next baby different. But then again, maybe that’s my dark passenger talking.

I’ve been working very hard this past year to be a really good mom. To make the absolute most of my time with Bella. To make the most of my life with Bella. To give her as much of myself as I can. And hopefully, THAT is what will make me a good mom. THAT is what people will see when they see me. 

A good mom, who loves her babies more than herself. Who makes every day worth living.

I didn’t write all of this for fun. I felt nagged over and over for months to write about it. And something just clicked one day and I decided, just like that, that yes, I was going to write it all out. And not only that, I would post it. There have to be other women out there carrying around this baggage. This guilt of this supposed evidence of poor mothering. Not just poor, but flat out bad.

Please reach out to someone if you’re thinking or feeling anything debilitating. You may not even realize how debilitating it is, but I promise you that reaching out for help now will save you more pain later. If you are someone who can relate to any part of what I shared, I pray for you. I pray you reach the point of safety that I feel like I’m slowly gaining sight of.  

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