Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rabbit Hole

I have always treated my depression as an addiction. It is something I fall into when the world is too much. It is something I turn to. I identify as a person who struggles with depression. I openly acknowledge the postpartum depression I had with Cohen, first right after I had her and then again when I stopped breastfeeding 18 months later. I recognize traces of postpartum now with Merrick, only this time I better understand what is happening.

The hormones involved in pregnancy and nursing have taken my depression to a new level. Before children my depression would weigh on me like a wet wool blanket and beneath it I could do nothing but wait for it to dry so that I could move again. The hormones make depression more like someone sneaking up behind me with a blanket, throwing it over my head, spinning me, dousing me, and then making sure that I know this is my fault as it never would have happened had I not left that blanket and a near by bucket of water lying around.

I don't care to share these things. Not because you are reading it but because it is hard to write down.

I don't know what I expected from motherhood the second time around. I don't know why I thought I knew what I was doing when all I really mastered was going through the motions. I know how to breastfeed, to nurture, to cook a square meal and get a toddler down for a nap. I know how to get to the library, the good parks. I not only know which equipment my kid can play on without getting hurt but I know how to get her to want to only play on that stuff. I know how to stay calm at 2 a.m. when I haven't had a good night's sleep in 6 weeks. I know how to go through the motions so that I am a loving wife who empathizes with my husband even on the days I really feel completely alone and isolated. I am skilled.

I told Dan last night that the longer I am home the more I feel my confidence slipping away. Having these children has set back my "plan" by exactly 5 years. I remember thinking that I would be okay with being old in law school because I wouldn't be done until I was 30. Now I am 31 and a year out from starting grad school. But I am skilled. My children and my husband did not just happen to me. I needed them, sought them out and brought them each into my life. Now I struggle to identify myself by no fault of theirs.

My aunt told me while we went for a walk last week, "It took me a long time to realize I was more than just the things I did. I was more than a mother, I was more than a job, and it has taken me a long time to see that."

All the struggling we have had to go through with money because I decided to stay home and raise the children. All the weight that Dan has carried to care for our family when he knows as well as I do that I could return to work and double our income. Still he has never said a word. We talked about this last night, about how "having children" means different things to different people. To me it meant being home, being the one that wakes them, feeds them, soothes them. I do all of these things. I am skilled at this.

But being a mother is only a compartment to a woman. Time is cruel to a mother. It runs out and your children leave you and you have no skills, no babies, and nothing but stories to tell about who you were before you were a mother. I am transitioning. Preparing for school, a career, looking to get back to work earlier with Merrick than I did with Cohen.

I am struggling to identify with something I prefer. This part of motherhood, the part with a newborn is like falling down a rabbit hole. I know there is another side and I know I am going to come out on it, possibly even land on my feet, but I am falling none the less. The trick seems to be to let go, to relax, to have enough faith in myself to know that where ever I end up I will be fine.

I just don't have words for what this is. I can't write today and yet I try to keep this blog for my record and for my readers. I try to be honest so that if any of you ever feel this way you can see you are not alone. Because right now the alone part is the worst. I just need a success story. I just need to pull through to the other side. I just need to remember that the sleep will come back and I will be able to take my test and I will pass and I will be a student again. In the world again. Valued for something other than breast milk and story time again. Because being a mother to my children is forever demanding more of me. While now they need stories and diaper changes, soon it will be cell phones and clothes not from Wal Mart, cars and college. And I will provide those things. That is my job. That is my gift to give.

All of this I struggle with, this is my drug. My choices have led me to my options and despite what frustrates me I know that I am lucky to feel safe and loved while I press on. Thanks for that.


The Kandles said...

I truly believe that you can trust yourself enough to end up ok on the other side. Not just the universal 'you', but you, Lawton. I don't think that it is about strength, but just about your individual spirit. You'll always be just fine when it's all over with. But what is ever over? Just transition. Yeah, you know. You'll be a great lawyer, you'll need this time now to draw on then. I love you ever so much.

Maggie May said...

This is a very satisfying post to read- because of your self-awareness, honesty, love, and search for answers. i am the mother of three, 34 years old, and started at 19 having babies. the breastfeeding especially changes things. i nursed each baby for two years, my daughter almost three. the hormonal changes alone are powerful, and when coupled with the emotional and physical reality of a mother with young children, you are in a 'new dimension'.

i have had severe anxiety, and i really like how you liken those altered states to addiction. it's very empowering and probably has a lot of truth to it. it is our mind's way of turning away from what hurts us. but it can also be terrifically worsened by very physical realities: lack of nutrition and excercise are huge. a simple daily dose of fish oil did more for me than many other things i tried.

transition is hard, for children and for mothers. hang in there, you are NOT alone.

Lawton said...

Thanks guys - I didn't mean to come off all lost and gloomy but I wanted to be honest about why I've been posting less. I keep moving. B.C. I really liked the idea of pulling from this experience later, I had never thought of that.

Megan said...

I hear you! I can tell you that there is another side to come out on. My kids are 3.5 and 2 years old. It has been a zaney couple of years. They are finally at a stage where they can relate to each other and play together and generally occupy each others time for little bits at a time. Freeing up a smidgeon of free time and space for my own soul. Any little bit helps.

It is the alone part that is so so difficult. Brice just doesn't get it. When I voice my frustration he thinks that I am trying to say that going to work is fun for him. Which is not at all what I am trying to say, but it is a social experience with actual adults. I finally joined a Mothers of Pre-schoolers group. MOPS to be specific. They are a little churchy, but they don't shove it. I just replace their terms of spirituality with my own when it arises which is not that often. They are really focused on providing a community of mothers who can discuss issues like how to nurture yourself, find your identity, create and nurture adult relationships, etc while emerged in the challenges of mothering small children.
It is tough, but there is an end to the tunnel, I am finally getting glimpses.
Thanks for your beautiful and honest expression of a state we all find ourselves in on this path of raising children.

Anonymous said...

You are indeed a wonderful mother, but first and foremost you are and always will be the beautiful, inspirational individual I chose to spend my life with. When you feel alone please remember this. You are my wife and my partner in this mixed up crazy life and I love you with all my being.

Lawton said...

Thanks babe. Mostly for reading this blog where I forever expose you, but also for loving me indiscriminately.