So a lot of people I know are having babies for the first time. And that got me thinking about the somewhat odd first conversation I often have with first-time moms…”Congratulations! Are you suicidal?”
Okay so I don’t exactly ask that directly. But I almost do.
And here’s why.
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child I was 22 years old, a senior in college, very, very wild, and very very not ready to be a mother. I had the kid because I loved the father (and by golly I still do) and I didn’t realize how immature I was, because I was immature. All immature people think they’re mature. Bit of a vicious cycle really.
I mean I think that’s why I had her. I don’t really know why exactly. The alternatives just didn’t feel right.
So I began the journey and holy shit was I pissed.
And pissed again.
You can read about all that fun here.
So when she finally came out things got a little bit funky. I loved her instantly – would have laid down my life for her the day she was born – could never imagine my life without her. But I was also R.A.G.I.N.G inside, at times. Or at the same time. Concurrently.
It’s really freaking weird. That postpartum depression thing is whack (to use the medical term).
I didn’t know what was happening and nobody mentioned it and I got sicker and sicker. I got so sick I thought if I told the doctor how I was feeling, the doctor would take my baby away. Those were some of the saddest days of my life. Terrifying.
Yep, people, that’s the way it rolled for me.
And then one day my toddler baby daughter cried and cried and wouldn’t sleep and I couldn’t take it one more moment and all those days of sorrow and insanity exploded inside me and I pinched her on the leg in anger. Then I fell to the ground with her in my arms, weeping and begging her to forgive me, realizing in that moment she would probably be better off somewhere else. I had intentionally hurt my baby and I didn’t care if the doctor took her away. (Incidentally, it didn’t even leave a mark on her. But it left a mark on me.)
So I went to the doctor and the doctor said “no more monkeys jumping on the bed.” No, she didn’t. She said “here’s some Zoloft. Take one a day and call me in a month. You have borderline postpartum psychosis but you’ll be fine.”
So I took the pills and I got much better and I survived. The end.
But…given this joyous history, I feel compelled when my friends or even semi-close acquaintances have a baby for the first time (because that first time motherhood is really somethin’) to talk about THEM, as individuals. How are YOU? I can see the baby is fabuloso. But you. Do you want to shoot yourself in the head? Are you wondering when your body is going to go back to normal? Are you searching for your identity?
Are you fucking flipping out?
Because in my case, I felt guilty and insane to have the feelings I had – everybody kept talking about how lucky I was and blessed and whatever – and what am I supposed to say? “Yeah, actually I’m drinking a 1/5 of vodka every night to cover up the fact that I’m really not digging this motherhood thing and if I had my way I’d be shooting pool shit-faced at the pub whilst smoking cigarettes and flirting with my man, as opposed to sitting here at this goddamned mother’s group talking about spit-up and nap schedules and tummy time with a bunch of overjoyed women I can’t relate to and who intimidate the hell outta me because they appear to have been blessed with the mothering gene that I am, obviously, lacking.”
No, I wouldn’t say that.
I’d smile and nod and act okay.
And get sicker and sicker and sicker, alone.
Because nobody talks much about how it sometimes effing BITES to have a kid for the first time. Nobody talks about the death that occurs with the entrance of this new life.
Yeah, I said it. Death.
And if you’re a mother, you know exactly who dies. The old you. The woman you’ve been your whole life. The identity you’ve nurtured and cradled. Your individuality (to an extent). Your freedom (to an extent).
You are a mother now. You live, all the time, just a little, for that baby. Even when you’re not with them, you’re with them. You may be at work. You may be at school. You may be 10,000 miles away.
But you are not alone. That baby is still with you. Your life is not your own anymore. Not entirely.
No matter where you go, you are tied. Forever. Forever.
Suddenly and completely and irrevocably.
And that, my friends, is fucking intense. No matter how “prepared” you are.
Don’t you think?
So we say goodbye to our old selves. The women we were. The little girl who became a teen who became a woman and then, a mother. Never the same. It takes a little getting used to.
And it’s okay. It’s all exactly as it should be.
But some of us aren’t quite ready for that change.
I remember thinking I had ruined my life. Thrown it away. I wished I could just go back to my old body and my old life and my old existence. My old state of being. Selfish? Yes. Immature? Yes. But real. And serious. And true.
So I mention it to my friends. To give them an out, a window of opportunity – a chance to say “holy fuck what did I sign up for? I’m dying here.”
And I’ll understand.
And that time I spent in silence and pain and despair can be put to some good use.
Because in the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not one single bit of it.
Plus, I had two more, so it can’t be that bad. In fact, it can be downright lovely. And that’s the real message.