Over the weekend we went to a Star Wars party to celebrate (belatedly) May 4th (or for Star Wars geeks – May the Fourth be with you). During Episode III, I stared at the TV as Anakin Skywalker tried to take the higher ground from Obi-Wan Kenobi and failed. With his appendages lost to lightsaber or flames, his body sank in the gravel as his robotic arm desperately grabbed for the ash and gravel to keep himself from the fiery lava. As he lifted his arm up to grasp another rock to maneuver himself higher, his beaten body slid closer to oblivion.
The imagery resonated with me. It’s how I felt and still feel on occasion – like I’m clawing my way through the hot gravel, trying to save myself from the fiery abyss.
When am I going to get my titanium legs? When is my scarred face and body going to be reinforced with a bitchin’ body suit and helmet?
When am I going to be made whole from this excruciatingly painful experience of perinatal depression?
It’s strange to me that I feel so happy these days and am enjoying my baby boy, yet the simplest things can still trigger all of those dark and painful memories.
The flashbacks have faded, but the nightmares haven’t. I have deeply involved and vivid nightmares that sometimes wake me up in a cold sweat. I dream that I have another child. I dream that the little guy was a twin. I dream that another child is a set of twins. I dream that all of a sudden I am thrust back into that immediate postpartum world again – in a world that I can’t handle or control. Those errant dreams singe fear into my heart. I’ve just barely gotten to the point where when I see other friend’s second child birth/pregnancy announcements, my heart doesn’t start pumping erratically in terror that it could be me.
You see, I’m terrified of having another child. I’m terrified because I just barely made it out of this experience alive. I’m terrified that if we change our minds of being “one and done”, that I wouldn’t survive it. I’m terrified that while I finally don’t feel like my life was ruined, that another child would wreck my life in a perpetual and everlasting way.
Generally speaking, I am fairly good at accepting that which I can’t change or control. There’s certainly a lot that I can and do control, but if I can’t do anything about it, I can usually make myself pretty content.
But dammit, this whole motherhood thing has completely turned up my world.
I must be defective. The motherhood part of me, the part that is supposed to have all of these incredible deep feelings, the part that is supposed to feel humbled and awed, the part that is supposed to love so hard it hurts, the part that is supposed to take solace in the beauty of children when it’s hard…that part of me must be defective.
Even now that I’m in recovery for postpartum depression, I feel defeated and defective. Most days are good. Some are not.
For months, whenever someone would bring up whether or not we were going to have a second kid, fear would wash over me and I would have flashbacks to the heart of my postpartum depression. It got to the point that I had to cut people off when they asked or joked and inform them that, no, I had crippling suicidal postpartum depression and a second kid or pregnancy was not an option at the time.
I’d even tell this to strangers.
Perhaps I should have just shaken it off with a funny laugh or a knowing smile, but when I was still having the PTSD flashbacks, I wanted to make those people as uncomfortable as they had made me by simply making their cute joke. I wanted them to understand, that perhaps they should think twice before asking a rando at Target when their adorable baby was going to get a sibling.
For months, having a baby felt like a terrible, horrible mistake that I couldn’t take back. Once I was out of the depression, I was able to appreciate my baby but still was able to acknowledge that if I could do it over again, I wouldn’t have had a child. But that’s how trauma works. It takes time to heal and move past it. I love my bubbly baby boy now and I am working hard to get to the point where I can say that I’m glad I went through everything that I did. I think it’s going to come with time.
But that acknowledgement is why I feel defective.
Why does it seem like everyone else loves their new found life? Why did loving their baby come so easily? Why did they experience a love so intense that it hurts? Why did they come away from this experience in awe?
Why didn’t parenthood rock them to their core to the point where they questioned everything about themselves? Why didn’t parenthood bring them to their knees, broken, alone and afraid?
Why don’t I feel any of those beautiful emotions? Why isn’t it “worth it” yet? Why did it take me 8 months to love my baby?
I can’t solve this one – I can’t fix this problem:
Why am I a defective mother?