I pitched this to a magazine not long ago, and it was accepted. Just found that out today. But. I declined. Far too personal to pimp my life story out to a chick mag. I wrote it a while back, maybe even a couple years ago, so I’ve updated it a little bit. It isn’t normally something I would post on this blog, and the blog I originally posted it on, I have allowed to die. I don’t need it anymore, though some of my writing there was brilliant, and this is a small part of it. It’s very different than the snarky, superficial bullshit you might be used to on this blog, but it is a very real part of me, just one I don’t advertise. But I am not ashamed of it.
I know there is one person in particular who may appreciate it. I am not going to call her out, but I’ll just hope that she perhaps comes across the link on Facebook and knows she is not alone.
I’ve never liked babies. When I hold a baby, I assume I must feel much the same as a long-haul trucker. Not the real long-haul trucker who eats rewarmed biscuits and gravy from a roach-infested truck stop on that ghostly stretch of nothingness of I-40 through the bowels of Oklahoma. But the badass, tattooed trucker who secretly listens to Harlequin romance books on tape and can do a downward dog in his sleeper cab. The kind. If you can imagine for a second that kind of comical maladroitness, then you can see how having my own babies would have knocked me a bit….out of my comfort zone.
Now, add to that the fact that I was in a deep denial regarding my mental health. The first time I saw a psychiatrist, I was 5 years old. It was also the last (for many years), and I will never forget it. Before puberty, before boyfriends, before marriage, before adulthood, I was already deeply psychologically unstable, though that is another story entirely. Now, add severe postpartum depression and toss in ridiculous doses of Depo Provera, and it’s utterly amazing that I never pulled an Andrea Yates.
From somewhere deep in my defective brain, I found a little maternal ability. I did truly and completely adore my children, I just didn’t really know what to do with that love. I went through the motions of being the mother of babies. I did what I was supposed to do. I nursed them. I held them. I bathed and changed them. I snuggled them. I smelled their little baby hair. But the second their needs superseded my 18-year-old ability to give a shit, my husband swooped in to rescue them from my apathetic clutches. Thus, no Andrea Yates.
It should be fairly clear by now that I was not a doting mother who would have, if Facebook existed at the time, inundated my wall with fat baby-cheek pictures, professing that my new hatchling was “my whole world” with exclamation points and text hearts.
After my youngest child was born, I did try to get help. I began with a sad attempt at talking about my problem with my obstetrician during my first postpartum checkup. It was simply impossible for me to even consider seeing another psychiatrist at that point. I was so ashamed, so terrified. Though I was desperate enough to squeak out a mousy-sounding “heeeeeelp,” I was far too weak and scared to storm the fortress and demand it. So, with no explanation of my psychiatric history, my OB just tossed me a little Zoloft and sent me on my way.
Little did I know at that time, someone with my underlying issues taking SSRI antidepressants and hormonal contraception is almost as disastrous as someone who is allergic to penicillin….taking penicillin.
But I didn’t know that. And I was far too ashamed to expose myself enough to find out. So, I popped some Zoloft and surrendered to the zombification of my anima.
And, for the subsequent 3 years of my life-
With the Zoloft and Depo Provera, I proceeded to gain about 50 pounds. I reached my highest weight, as sickening as it sounds, many months after my youngest was born. I eventually packed 160 pounds onto my 4’6″ Lilliputian frame. I slept. I ate. I lamented the approaching event horizon of misery that had become my life- the point of no return. I could feel it coming.
Along with being altogether disgusted by the hollow image staring back at me in the mirror, I also became disgusted at the thought of my own husband touching me. I became incapable of having an orgasm. Absolutely physically incapable. It was nothing less than soul crushing.
So I continued in this vein for 3 or 4 years. For a while, the rage and explosive episodes that had become me since the day of my birth became dormant, and that rage was the one thing that, unlike the frigidity or apathy, depression or lack of self-worth, really did the most damage to those around me. I was truly grateful that it was gone. But sooner than later, the blackness began to creep back into my deep self, and once again, those I loved were feeling the heat of my incessant solar flares.
With my husband in the Army, I was alone with my children quite often. I can’t even begin to speak to what was going through his mind during this time. I’m not even sure if I want to know. The confusion and fear he must have felt, incapable of helping me, not even knowing how to begin…..I know now, all these years later, that he spent many hours on the phone with my mother trying desperately to understand me. They both tried so hard to reach me. But I was drowning from within myself, far too deep in the trenches, and the immeasurable weight of all that disjointed logic continued to shove me farther into myself. It shoved, and it shoved, and it shoved.
The memories I have of that period in my babies’ lives are vague and smokey. When I think of Mother Me, I only see ghosts and shadows of a woman moving in slow motion through her day. I think of a woman lying in bed at night beside her husband, pretending to be asleep so he wouldn’t touch her. With the Zoloft and hormones coursing through her veins, I can see her dragging her feet through the muck in her dirty pajamas…..filling sippy cups….changing diapers….forgetting to brush her teeth….banging her head against the wall at the sound of a crying child….locking herself in the bathroom and crying into her hands. I see a desperate woman, an empty woman, pasty, fat, asexual, and alone.
But all of this- my tragedy, my wallowing, my darkness, my selfishness, my rage- all of it came to a fulminate end the day I almost hit my child.
He was such a tiny thing. Certainly not the 5’11” and 200-pound monstrosity of a 19-tear-old boy working through his second year of culinary arts school. No, he was just a whisper of a thing. A 5-year-old little boy. Tiny little naked legs, standing in the hallway of our house only wearing his little Power Rangers underwear. Leaving nothing unsaid, I remember him standing there in front of me. Looking up at his mother with his wide, scared eyes. His hands were clasped together, pulled tightly next to his naked chest, almost as if he had begun to pray. And I. His mother. Just stood there screaming at him. I screamed and spit my visceral hatred only inches from his soft baby face. Even now, I remember the tears on his cheeks as he backed away from me until his path of escape was blocked by the wall behind him.
How dare that little mother fucker back away from me.
And in that moment, I raised my hand to him. With a closed fist. I towered above him, saw him flinch and turn his head, bracing himself for the inevitable- his mommy was going to punch him in the face. He knew- this little naked child with his bony knock-knees squeezed together, his hands holding each other, his precious hazel eyes squeezing out more tears than any 5-year-old child should ever cry- he knew he had done something so bad that his mother wanted to punch him in the face.
But she didn’t. That day, a day no different from any other miserable day in my atrophied world, my hand was stayed.
I spent the rest of the evening locked in my bathroom vomiting into the toilet. I was physically ill at the thought of what I had almost done. The depths to which I had allowed myself to sink disgusted me. I disgusted me.
It was the next day that I crawled through hot coals on my hands and knees and begged for help. I sat in a psychiatrist’s office for 3 hours that day. I eviscerated. I regurgitated my entire life to this woman- from my earliest memories of pulling out my own hair and screaming until I lost my voice, all the way up to the day I almost hit my child. And she listened. She gave me tissues when I needed them. She let me rest when I needed to. She calmed me down when I shook. And, most importantly, she told me I was worth it. I was worth her time. I was worth helping. I was worth listening to. I wasn’t damaged beyond repair. And I could become a good mother. A good person. A person worth loving.
I like to tell myself that my son doesn’t remember that day. That same teeny little child is an incredibly badass 19-year-old young man now. Happy, smart, quick-witted, talented, and remarkably well adjusted, along with his 17-year-old little brother. We certainly have the kind of relationship in which he would not hesitate to bring a memory like that up in conversation. But he never has.
If he remembers, I am ready.