In two years that my older two kids have been in school, they’ve each had a teacher who has been pregnant through the school year. It’s been fun watching these energetic young women take on motherhood. Each time I’ve mostly looked on them as about ready to experience the greatest thing life could offer. But I won’t lie, there is a little part of me that holds my breath for anyone I know having a baby that they might head down a path I learned too well nine years ago. I wrote this post for them, and for anyone else about to have their first, or fifth or whatever number may bring on the depression. I wrote this in hopes that reading what I went through will help you feel less alone.
My first reaction upon finding out I was pregnant was unadulterated terror.
I had plenty of experience with kids. I had a great marriage. We had plenty of years together that involved lazy Sundays following late night Saturdays. We had a great life without kids and we really wanted kids. There was no reason to be scared. And yet, I was.
I wasn’t a good enough me yet. I was still a work in progress. I had no idea what to do with myself much less another person. I was still pretty selfish. It was worse when I found out she was a she.
What if I ruined her? What if I was a bad mother? What if I was jealous of the relationship between her and my husband? What if she turned out like me-all crazy and questioning and restless and…crazy?
I lived in denial for 39 weeks. I hated the attention and the stretch marks and the bulging belly. I hated it. How could I be a good mother if I hated this part? Then the first anniversary of September 11th came around and the memories were fresh and deep. I was sick, in my stomach and my heart. I was already worried about being a mom and now I had to be a mom in a world where buildings fall to the ground at the hand of people who hate us. I went to bed that night knowing my life was about to change and certain I was not person enough to handle it.
Sure enough, she announced her presence via broken water- not on September 11th, but five hours into September 12th. She’s stubborn that way-doing things on her own terms. We drove quickly and carefully around the DC Beltway in hopes she wouldn’t come before we reached the hospital.
She didn’t. She came quickly after we got there. She came quickly and without much fanfare in a ward that was filled with trauma that day. The morning of twin premature births and maternal cardiac arrest, She floated right into her earthly life with a little meconium and and a lot of spirit.
She doesn’t make waves. She doesn’t cause trouble. She gets the job done and goes about her day-making other people smile all the while-from day one.
As for me? I felt tired. I felt sad. I felt empty and literally deflated. I felt like I had no purpose anymore. I could eat what I wanted. I could have champagne. I should have felt relieved.
There was a steady stream of visitors and everyone was enchanted with her and they should have been as she was quite enchanting-all lashes and big puckered lips.
I was tired.
So. So. Tired.
Thank God for the visitors. Thank God they were so enchanted. Thank God there were all those people were there to love her and cherish her. Because I couldn’t. Not in the beginning. The scared didn’t go away and the tired just got worse.
Nine months. It took nine months of rote, mechanical survival behavior for me to come back to life. I should have taken medicine. I should have addressed it for what it was. But I didn’t. I thought I could fight it. I thought it was just the sleep. I thought maybe it was normal. I thought I was broken.
I wasn’t. I didn’t have It with my second child and It was mild with my third and by then I knew what to look for and how to proactively take care of it. But with The Girl It was insidious and terrifying and It made me question everything.
I took perfectly good care of her. She survived-thrived even. But for nine months I was less than what she deserved.
Yet, here we are.
I have spent nine years-minus nine months-enchanted with her, marveling at her, adoring her up close and from afar. Her father is even more taken with her now than he was that first day-when her very presence made him cry. He looks at her in a way he looks at no one else. And I am not, nor have I ever been jealous. On the contrary, their bond makes me love them both even more.
That particular fear seems silly now. In fact, all the fear seems silly.
Of course I mess up. Of course I am not perfect. But she is resilient. She will survive far greater strife than having me as her mother. We are buds. We are besties even-for now. I assume there will be a time she will hate me. But for now she adores me and wants to be me.
The feeling is quite mutual.
Nine years that I could not have imagined when I was that young, scared girl. Nine years where my heart has grown in ways I did not know possible. Nine months I will never forget. I will forgive myself for them, but I will never forget. Nine months that bring out in me a need to make them up to her for the rest of her life. Nine months of darkness that I would never change-because the result was Her.
This post was adapted from an original that first appeared on Cristie’s personal blog TheRightHandMom.com where she tells all sorts of less-deep tales about raising three kids and starting a business around wellness and balance. It’s a trip.