Tuesday, May 31, 2016

This Isn't the Way it's Supposed to Be

I wrote this piece for an audition to participate in a local production of Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) which was created by Ann Imig and held annually across the country.  LTYM gives motherhood a microphone, giving people from all walks of life a chance to share their stories regarding the many different sides of motherhood.  My story wasn’t chosen for our local production of LTYM this year, but that’s ok, there is always next year and there are more stories for me to tell if I choose.  If this story helps even one mother in some way, then I feel it has done its job.

This piece has been writing itself for 7 years, 7 years before I even had the courage to share or the opportunity, or for it to be finished, only to realize it will never be finished.  I wrote this piece in my head and in my heart long before I ever touched a keypad.  It is real, it is truthful, it is a story…..my story and I am ready to tell it. 

“This Isn’t the Way It’s Supposed to Be”

“I’m pregnant” I said to my husband one early morning in September of 2008, from that moment on my life would be forever changed.  The moment the words left my lips I knew instinctively that the baby growing inside me was a girl.  From then on I knew what to expect, the nausea, the cravings for onions….but only from McDonalds and only on a cheeseburger, the swollen ankles, even the complications but what I didn’t know was that depression was also right around the corner.  I had a “normal” pregnancy with my son just the previous year, no signs of pregnancy depression or post-partum depression so I had no idea of the emotional rollercoaster that was heading my way.  For the first few weeks after we found out I was pregnant we just sat on this piece of information thinking it was just a dream that we would wake up from, or that maybe the home pregnancy test was wrong.  I mean how could it be right, weren’t we the same couple who had just been told by a fertility specialist that our chances of conceiving on our own were pretty close to zero? Weren’t we the same couple that endured shots and nasty hormone therapies just to have our son?

Slowly we began telling people of our news; I remember telling my best friend, sitting on my couch while my son played at our feet.  Immediately she sensed something wasn’t right, she sensed the lack of excitement in my words, she knew what was happening.  As we told more people I remember thinking “maybe now it will seem real”, only that never happened just as it still didn’t seem real at the ultrasound or when I first felt my baby move.  As the pregnancy progressed family and friends were getting more and more excited, and all I could think was “why am I not excited?”  I vividly remembered the way I felt when I was pregnant with my son, how happy I was; wasn’t that the way every pregnancy was supposed to be?  As the months continued zipping by and my belly continued to grow my feelings of disconnect for the baby girl I was carrying did also.  There was no excitement or happiness; instead there were growing feelings of sadness and despair.

I wasn’t able to share my feelings with anyone except my husband and my midwife.  The little bit I did share was greeted with a “oh you’ll be fine” or “don’t worry everything will be OK” even “just wait until you see her”; all I wanted was to say “FUCK can somebody, anybody justify my feelings, can’t anyone see I’m drowning here”?  This was not an enjoyable way to spend any amount of time, especially not during the 9 months of carrying an innocent baby.

At last, the day came, May 14 2009, a day I was dreading and looking forward to at the same time.  I was scheduled for a C-Section and hoped that everyone who had been reassuring me was right, that the minute I saw my baby girl all those feelings I had would disappear and be replaced by feelings of love and joy.  Instead, the first time I saw her over the curtain in the OR she spit up all over me….not quite the blissful moment I had been hoping for.  After an uneventful hospital stay and my husband being home for a week, I was alone.  Alone with her, (and my son) you see I was ok as long as there were other people around, people to do all the things I should’ve been doing.  Holding her, changing her diaper, snuggling her late at night, now it was all me.  Only thing was I had no desire to do those things, I mean how could I after all I didn’t even like her?  Still the whole time day in and day out I kept hoping these feelings would disappear, you know after the sleep deprivation wore off, or I got used to a new schedule, or heck even while nursing her…..all this time I was hoping that these feelings of drowning into this emotionless relationship would disappear, knowing that they weren’t “normal”.  Instead of magically disappearing I was the one who disappeared, becoming like a robot just going through the motions.

There were parties, and meeting friends, holidays and family dinners, conversations and silence and through all of these nobody could hear me crying out “HELP”.  People would say “oh she’s so cute” or “how is she sleeping” all the familiar nice things that are always said when a baby is born.  All I wanted was someone to say “how are you” and the courage to answer them honestly.  That moment never came, so instead I continued to “fake it until you make it”, all of the smiles, the happiness, the jokes…all faked, which can be quite tiring on an already sleep deprived depressed mother.  This manner of faking it continued, and continued, yes there were occasional moments when I could let my guard down and say how I was really feeling, what was really going on but they were few and far between. 

With every passing milestone, every fleeting day, I would hope this would be the one thing that would snap me out of this funk.  Yes, there were counseling efforts made but when it came time to decide to pay my counseling copay or buy my baby the specialized formula she now needed I paid for the formula.  As the days passed there were moments I could see the old Michele returning, the Michele who cared about other people, and the Michele that felt pretty after a haircut.  It’s hard to say when exactly these feelings left, or if they really have just turned into feelings of acceptance.  Acceptance that she is my daughter, she is stubborn, hard headed, loving and helpful.  She is smart and loves her family, she likes to dance and cuddle, she is just like me. 

The thing I remember hearing during this time was “how can you not love her”, “how can you not see her as your daughter”, as if I could control it or caused it.  The one thing I do not remember hearing was “it is OK not to love your children the same exact way” or “you are going to feel overwhelmed” or even the truth “depression is a chemical imbalance, lets help you”. 

There is so much more to my story, so many more feelings, so many more details that I haven't revealed yet.  There are days when I think I beat postpartum depression, that I am a Warrior Mom, and there are days I find myself reliving all those emotions and feeling guilty, days when I think I haven't beat this but rather it has just become part of who I am.  Recently (2016) someone, a family member blamed me for causing my postpartum depression and said "you wanted children so badly", as if I had a choice in how I felt in the months and years after my daughters birth.  The pain and the guilt may never go away, but I will fight until my last breathe for my daughter and to resolve the feelings I felt and the depression I feel everyday as a result of her pregnancy and birth, that I promise

On June 18, I will be participating in a local Climb Out of the Darkness  to support Postpartum Progress and raise awareness of post-partum depression.  This post and this walk are the first time I have talked about and acknowledged my struggles with both my pregnancy depression and subsequent postpartum depression publicly.  I hope that someday these subjects won’t be hushed and “brushed under the rug” or have such a negative taboo around them, but rather spoken about in a healthy way.  I hope that this post helps make a difference to even just one mother, or anyone who know someone that may be suffering in silence.  Please consider clicking on the above link and making a donation to help spread the awareness of postpartum depression.

Edit: This post was edited to reflect the 2016 climb and appropriate links

1 comment:

  1. Keep sharing!! Your story is a gift to others.