A real life postpartum story from a fabulous woman….
Here’s how I’m feeling, I think. I feel like I have a spiritual path that I’m intended to take. There is a person that I see myself being at the end of my life. Someone who finds it easy to forgive. Someone who can spread love in the face of hatred. Someone who loves and forgives herself completely. Someone who sees the bigger picture and greater purpose in all things. Someone who is predominantly at peace, even in the face of adversity. It’s a tall order but it pulls me.
I was doing a lot of work on moving in this direction right up until Clara was born and then it all went (seemed to go) to hell. Her birth was difficult and I am still dealing with the ramifications of it. It exhausted and drained me so completely that I felt so numb when she was first here. I have a lot of grief over the fact I wasn’t able to marvel in the wonder that was Clara in her first days and months. I deal with feelings of failure over my lack of joy in being a new mother. In going through the motions while being so completely exhausted and out of it. I see pictures of her as a little baby and I long to go back and have it to do over. To be able to sit and stare and appreciate the wonder that was my daughter in her first days. It’s something big that I deal with still, almost 3 years later.
I also have a lot of regret over her entire first year. She never slept so I never slept. I felt right on the edge of insanity all the time. I was often angry, sad, frustrated, exhausted. I had this beautiful daughter and while I had many moments of joy in her existence, I also had many that were dark. The sleep deprivation made me a shell of the woman I believe I am and made me a person I’m afraid of ever becoming again. No patience, unable to see the bigger picture, unable to see the bright side in anything. Often angry at this little person who would never sleep, even though I must have known that it couldn’t possibly be her fault.
I didn’t ask for enough help, with her birth and with her first year. I know that now. After reflecting on it, I am more aware of the enormity of what I took on. It can take you to your very limit. Handling an infant’s constant needs or handling chronic sleep deprivation might both be manageable but putting them together is enough to rock anyone’s foundation. It’s something I need to keep telling myself until I believe it and am able to forgive myself. Forgiving myself has not been easy for me, I still have much regret.
I have also come to realize that society has had its part in making this more difficult for me. All around me, in the mothers I meet, in the magazine articles I read, women talk of the ease and effortlessness of the journey of motherhood. Nobody seems to want to talk about the difficulties, lest they look less than grateful or like a bad mother. It has made me feel isolated and alone. Like the only person who ever struggled with this process. You also hear people talk about “easy” and “good” babies. I think these are terms that pierce the heart of mothers who do not have what would be deemed a “good” baby. My baby never slept and was often cranky. Did that make her a “bad” baby? Did it make me a bad mother? It’s something I think every time I hear someone talk of their good baby. It’s something I need to resolve in myself. Being able to sleep does not a “good” baby make. All babies are good babies. Some just require more care than others. I must come to terms with this.
Clara is almost 3 now and she is smart and beautiful and so much fun. She sleeps very well and has handled many transitions with ease. I am feeling like my normal self again, but I’ve been rocked. I have issues with worthiness and self-esteem. I don’t have the confidence in myself that I used to. I ache for a more solid foundation, for a spiritual life and purpose but wonder if I’m worthy or capable. That scares me a little, I always felt so self-assured.
I think 2009 and the way it has unfolded has happened for a reason. I think I’ve been sitting idle now that the chaos of young motherhood has past, afraid to make a move in any direction that would require strength of character and belief in my self worth. I’ve been “traumatized” for lack of a better word into non-action. I think this year has unfolded the way it has to shock me back into motion. Life is short, it is fleeting. If I want more out of it, I cannot sit idle. Any day could be my last day. I can’t wait until I resolve my problems before I seek out a more spiritual life. I should seek out a more spiritual life and use the strength I gain to resolve my problems.
To that end, I have felt the need to get quiet. To go inside and hear my thoughts and try to reacquaint with myself and understand myself a little better. Over the last 3 years I almost feel like who “I” am has become a stranger. As such, I have signed up for a meditation class to begin next week. I have also registered for a yoga retreat in the country, all by myself, for a weekend next month.
Lastly, I have made a pact with myself to be honest, with myself and others, about who I am and how I feel, regardless of what is viewed as an acceptable way to feel by those around me and around the world. I am who I am and pretending to be different does not do me any good and perpetuating the belief that everyone should be fine inside does not help someone around me who might also be struggling.
I think I went through all the things I’ve gone through this year for a reason, not as an interruption in my spiritual journey, but as a part of it. Maybe I needed these experiences to go deeper and reach higher. Perhaps I can use what I have learned to learn more about the depth and breadth of all that I am. Perhaps I can use what I have learned about myself to help other mothers. I’d like to think that.