About a week ago I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. The stress at work had come to a head, the fears and worry about Boof starting classes in a week, the fact that Potamus has consistently REFUSED a bottle for the past 6 weeks (leaving me running all over the county on outreaches and then running back home again within 3-4 hours to nurse him…or having Boof drive around the county following me so that little mister can eat), the fact that I am maid of honor in my best friend’s wedding and am throwing her a bridal shower and bachelorette party…200 miles away, the fact that both of my sisters-in-law are getting married 2 months apart and we are in FULL wedding planning mode around here, the fact that laundry/dishes/yardwork/searching-for-new-job-work has all been pilingpilingpiling up in stacks on the table and in corners and my mind is crammedfullofsomuchstuffthaticanbarelybreathe.
Who wouldn’t have a nervous breakdown with that kind of stress, really? So I started in on self-care, big time…writing group, sleeping as much as possible, eating healthy, trying to walk…crying. It’s amazing how freeing crying can be, and how I realize that I hold so much stuff in, trying to be the strong mama raising a strong child and bearing the brunt of the bread-winning at the same time.
But then there are these sweet break-in-the-clouds moments, where the sun pokes through and I react, once again, to my kiddos in crisis with the mantra “they are in crisis, i am not in crisis.” For a minute that statement wasn’t true, but for right now it is. I have driven almost 1,000 miles in my new little car and life is feeling back to a somewhat okay balance. Sure that could change tomorrow, but for right now I am learning that a little wobbly balance is okay. And that’s a lesson I’m learning from Potamus.
Today is day 2 of him sitting un-assisted. It’s amazing to think…he will never NOT know how to sit again (barring any major head trauma or amnesia). And today he grew in leaps and bounds, as I got to see him sit, and swivel, and reach forward, and catch his balance with wide-eyed-stare, and look so proud when he didn’t topple over. He’s learning. I’m learning. And it feels so sweet.
My brother and his wife had a baby about 3 weeks ago. I went and saw them a few days after the birth, and then yesterday I learn that my brother was in a car-accident.
He has been drinking again.
And apparently taking her prescription pain pills.
And they have been separated for a week.
My heart hurts so much. I am looking at pictures of him holding his sweet daughter and I can’t help but ache for him, and his daughter, and his wife, and the pain that addiction brings into our lives here on Earth. To be honest, their relationship is tumultous at best, volatile at worst, with a combination of her bi-polar and his addictions, but it’s always been the two of them working through it. They’ve been separated more times that I could probably count in the short 5 years of their marriage.
But now there’s a baby involved.
A sweet, innocent bundle of dark hair and love, that is here on Earth experiencing turmoil from the beginning. I feel sad. And angry. Angry at my brother for his choices, at his wife for hers, at God and the World for all of the pain we must endure in this lifetime.
I look at my sleeping boy and think back to times when Post Partum Depression has raised its ugly head within me, and the stress that Boof and I have been in, and under, with work and life and love, and yet this pain we have experienced in our own little world does not seem to compare to my brother’s pain.
Not to mention, I go to work everyday with families on the brink of collapse or implosion or explosion. It all seems to much to bear at times. Like I want to curl up and sleep forever, with the sweet breath of my baby on my face, my dog curled at my feet, and my love holding my hand.
Will I ever stop crying for all the pain I see around me and in me?
I am surprised every day with all of the changes that Potamus is going through. At 12 weeks he is officially out of newborn clothes (I tried one on him the other day just for a laugh.). He is smiling a lot, making multiple jibber jabber noises (my favorite is ‘ah goo”) and showing much more motor control (he lifted his squeeky giraffe Sophie up to his mouth to chew on it!). All of these little moments and changes are like meditation for me.They take me out of the big concepts I think about (world peace, the presidential election) and back down into the little sweet moments that really matter in the long run. He’s making eye contact while breastfeeding and doing silly tricks with his legs (nursing in chairs with arms is out, since he practically rips my nipple off with his kicking off the side of the chair). I had no idea when I was pregnant that these were things I would care about or share with others. Part of it is being so damn proud that MY kid can do these things, and part of it is simply experiencing the wonder that is watching a life unfold before my eyes.
It comes out of nowhere, and yet, in retrospect I guess there are signs and symptoms of the spinning. Like when you’ve been drinking tequila shots all night, thinking you’re doing fine, and then BAM on the dance floor you are suddenly completely wasted and you wonder to yourself “how did this happen?” Of course, there ARE warning signs, but it’s hard for me to see them in the moment. The ramping up of my irritability that becomes more than sleepy, middle-of-the-night frustration at a poor latch and moves into an uncontrollable, unexplicalbe anger-bordering-on-rage,that makes absolutely NO sense, and leaves me despondant, detached, with feelings of incredible guilt after the episode passes.
It didn’t start out this way. There was a mostly blissful bubble, punctured by perfectionism and my desire to be the best mom ever, get my kid to latch on without a nipple shield, exclusively breastfeed to get him back up to birth-weight (rather than supplement with formula given by our pediatrician), to lost the baby-weight, to be up and around entertaining people post-partum like a combination of Wonder Woman and Betty Crocker. I had showered a mere 1.5 hours after birth, was wearing mascara and eye-liner during our first pictures with baby, and had an awesome amount of energy in the first few days that felt brilliant.
There were a few little moments of irritability that left me concerned enough to at least mention it to my midwife and husband that I was afraid I was heading into a tunnel. Nights were particularly bad, but not always bad. That’s the dangerous part of all of this, is that there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the nights with spinning thoughts, irritability, despair, guilt and the nights where I nurse with ease and we go about our sleeping business with relatively little interuption, 1.5 or 2 hours at a time, before we begin our little routine of nurse-burp-change diaper-nurse-burp-sleep, again.
So last night, when I woke up and the only language I could must were “fuck yous,” I handed the little one to Boof and curled up in bed. I thought of dying. I thought of running away. I thought that everyone would be better off without me. I felt worthless and detached and angry. And then I felt sad. And my thoughts spun rapidly out of control down this horrible rabbit hole into a nightmare of Wonderland proportions. Though I am experienced with depression and anxiety, I have not felt this level of despair in years. And then, after almost an hour, it went away and I nursed with ease, and slept like a rock (until we did our routine again). My humor and sweetness and ability to communicate returned as switftly as it left, which should comfort me, but actually scares me more than anything.
Because, when drinking tequila shots and getting out of control wasted is a choice, and while I can’t necessarily know if 8 drinks will cause that out-of-control drunk space, I can know that 1 drink, or 0 drinks, will not. But this feeling of spinning isn’t caused by alcohol or drugs. It is something more sinister, inside of me, that turns on and off without any apparent reason. Though I suppose I can begin to analyze the ramp-up to the point at which I had to hand our child over because I couldn’t be quite sure that I was safe enough for myself, let alone to be a mother.
And just like being drunk, the incredible next-day embarassment and walk of shame, facing my husband who triaged the situation, lingers inside my mind. Human guilt and mom guilt colliding as I wonder “what the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I get it together?”