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.