rain for your parade

credit: holidayinsights.com

Hmmm…we had a keg at the twins’ first birthday party and no other children were present, so I think that means we fall into the “Thank-God-We-Made-It” category. This can’t be uncommon for parents of twins. And for Sola, baby #3, I honestly can’t remember if we celebrated her first birthday or not. I could go through the 11,191 photos on our computer to jog my memory but, well…I’ve got to get some other things done today.

I’ve told you in the past that, because of the difficulty I had my first few years as a mom, sometimes when you describe your ride into parenting, I have a strange surge of emotions run through me. It’s some sort of combo of envy, anger, and sadness. Uplifting tribute to your celebration, no?

I used to keep this stuff to myself but I say it now because I’ve recently learned that even after women recover from PPD (Post-Partum Depression) as I have, they still experience PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). (I take my role seriously as a walking embodiment of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).) And, after sharing some experiences with other MOTs (mothers of twins), I have also learned that, even if they didn’t experience PPD, the nature of the experience leaves them feeling a bit robbed, as well.

What I’m saying is that I couldn’t really identify with your last post and it makes me sad. So many people say things like “Enjoy every moment!” or “You’re going to miss this when it’s gone!” without realizing the enormous pressure those words put on someone who is already feeling crushed under enormous pressure. What I remember of those first two years being a parent isn’t so much a mix of sweet and sour; it’s mostly just sour. I remember crying a lot, being constantly, irrationally afraid that something was going to go wrong with one of the babies, being kept awake by anxiety, even after the boys were sleeping through the night,  feeling alienated and isolated, and on top of all of it, feeling incredible guilt that this was how I was experiencing motherhood.

I tell myself now, told myself even back then, that when I look back, I can know I did the best I could with what I had. And I had a much more “typical” (if there is such a thing) experience with my third, though I can’t say I felt too sad to see her first birthday come and go, because each year just gets better and better and I know we have lots to look forward to. Most of the time, that works. But sometimes, I hear someone say they are enjoying their newborn so much, or things are going just perfectly, and I grieve for the time I felt was stolen from me by depression.  That first year of becoming a parent is like being born again yourself, into a new way of life, and I’ll never get it back.

I don’t mean to detract from your experience, Katie. This post isn’t so much for you as it is for any parent who has walked in a fog of depression or greif, only to feel further shame or guilt from being told, “The moment is slipping away from you.” (And, really, I think this is probably most everyone, at one point or another…)

To end on a more positive note, however, I ultimately do think I know what you’re saying, though it hit me at a different time, in a different way. I don’t mean to toot my own horn (yes, I do) but one of my essays was published in the summer issue of Brain, Child and deals with this subject. The name of the essay is “The Summer of Why” and recollects the summer I was pregnant with Sola when the boys had just turned four. Those months have been the most bitter-sweet of my parenting years thus far and, for the magazine, I summed up the essay this way:

Of the many things the baby books did not prepare me for, the paradoxical condition of grieving the child you’re losing while simultaneously delighting in the person he is becoming, is one of them. Most days, the emotional ride could be so overwhelming that I willfully ignore it.

For those who want to read the whole thing, I’ll add a page here.

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10 thoughts on “rain for your parade

  1. I actually resonate with both yours and Katie’s posts. Looking back, I think I probably was struggling with depression during the first 4-5 months of my daughter’s life. We had some unforeseen difficulties, and looking back at those months makes me want to curl up in the fetal position.Yet as much as I revel in the distance between where we are now and where we started out, the milestones are always bittersweet for me.

  2. I am The Friend in Katie’s post. I had an atypical birth experience with my first-born, and brought home a baby who had a broken clavicle, permanent paralysis, and pain that kept her from sleeping or eating well. “We made it” was a HUGE celebration. The fact that my marriage, a few of my friendships and my mental health had survived the first year were cause for deep, swooning, sincere gratitude. I’ve never ever wanted to look back. When my second was born, healthy and typical, I realized that I didn’t feel any different. I wanted this part to be over. And fast. For me, babies are life-sucking amoebas. Give me a 2 year old any day. Thanks for being faithful stewards of honesty, you two. I like that we all have different stories.

    • CB, I’m really sorry to hear about your experience. IT’S NOT FAIR! There. I said it. After I wrote this, I thought of different friends of mine: one who lost her baby to SIDS, one who has a boy who was born blind, and the many who have tried, and can’t, have children. A voice in my head said, “Maria, you self-absorbed fool, what do you know about anything?” Then, another voice (sounding much like that of my therapist’s) said, “It’s a good thing this world is big enough to hold ALL different kinds of experience.”

      Babies: Life-Sucking Amoebas. I like it. I think I’ll pitch that to a friend of mine who works for Hallmark.

      • I *loved* your published piece! 2 months in kindergarten and my little girl has grown up years. Would that I could capture her innocence so that I could always remember what is already slipping away.

        Your reply here reminded me of a friend’s post after the death of her 8-week old baby girl. She wrote, “I’ll hear of other tragedy that someone is walking through and I think, well, that would be worse. I don’t know why I do that. Its like I’m trying to convince myself that what I’m feeling isn’t the most awful thing in the world because if it was then I don’t know if I could go through it. Part of me is still trying to deny how much this hurts.” That really resonated with me. Maybe the trigger could be “worse,” but we should not deny ourselves the right to admit just how much we hurt, should never feel guilty for acknowledging how real our heartache is. You’re awesome, lady! Be sure to give yourself credit for how much you’ve overcome, and the grace with which you’ve done it! 🙂

  3. I related to both of your posts as well. In this one, I was especially nodding my head at the part about being constantly and irrationally afraid that something would go wrong, and how much pressure you feel when someone tells you to enjoy every moment. Your published piece was amazing.

    • Thanks so much, friend-whose-first-name-I-still-don’t-know. The blogging world is special. 😉 You need to get YOUR stuff out there. I see a compilation piece that is a tribute to your father being published by The Sun.

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