What I Meant to Say to that Mom

I recognized her desperation. She was trying to speak over it and tuck it behind a smile she’d been rehearsing with everyone who asked, “how are you?” and “how’s the baby?”  I know everyone asked: the cashier and the neighbor and the parent at the conference and the best friend and the random runner jogging passed the stroller and and and… They all had an answer in mind, too, one that dripped with the syrupy sweetness of every stock photo of babyhood that has ever existed in the Getty archive: cuddly cherubs in fleece, footed jammies; soft lighting; and bed time stories; and adorable firsts with giggles and coos; and baby poop that doesn’t stain.

When I asked, “how are you?” and “how is the baby” all those stock photos ran through her head like a flip book until maybe her brain would stop on one she could use to convince me that everything is just as it should be. But she couldn’t. So she said, “No, it’s good. I’m good.” And then, “It will get better.” She forced a smile.

I wanted to hug her. I wanted to reach across the table and hold on to her and say something that would make having a baby who screams all day and night feel bearable and doable. I wanted to slip her the secret recipe for getting enough sleep, but all I could think of were the platitudes and glittering generalities from memes with sunsets and silly fonts.

I knew that desperation. I spent 14 months staring at it in the mirror, trying to cover it with foundation and illuminating crème and $54 eye shadow palettes that might scream something other than “help!” I tried to drown it in coffee that I hoped would resuscitate enough of my former self to make it through another day. I gave it pep talks; you can do this! Snap out of it! Motherhood isn’t martyrdom, Em.

It’s one thing to be given lemons, as the adage goes, but it’s another entirely to feel like the lemon—wrung out, misshapen and sour.

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Would she understand if I told her I sleep in the basement now on a futon/sleeper sofa hybrid in the bowels of the house next to hockey equipment and a worn out weight bench because I realized that sleep had to win—for me, for my baby, for everyone in the house that I love most of all? Would she add me to the ranks of people who think they are parenting experts because “I am so not” I’d promise (and mean it).

Before December 23, 2014, Josephine’s birthday, I never would have recognized that desperation. Three babies into motherhood, and I would have dismissed this woman’s wan expression as exhaustion, as “oh, motherhood is tough sometimes.” We all know that because we joke about it in cards and on sitcoms because “it’s adorably funny” HAHAHAHAHA. “Time goes by so fast!” “Savor every minute” “You’ll be fine!”

Until you’re not and your chin is quivering in front cialis ne fonctionne pas of almost-strangers and you’re fighting back tears. But you bury the truth because if it falls out when you open your mouth, what will people think? Will they suck their teeth or question your devotion or doubt the depth of your love?

“I won’t,” I’d tell her.

“I get it,” I wanted to say, “but not in a way that dismisses what you’re feeling because you’re

feeling so much or maybe nothing at all and both are terrifying. Maybe you don’t recognize your internal voice anymore because it’s so sleep deprived it sounds unfamiliar, and you daydream of catching just a few hours of sleep, of peace. You chase it and fantasize about it like it’s a fix you need because you do. You need it.” But then I’d tell how to make levitra work better her that that might not be her story because her story and her baby and her motherhood might be different than mine is and was and will be.

Was. I can say “was” now because that desperation passed; it’s my past. I wasn’t brave enough to talk about it until it was “was.” But that doesn’t have to be her story either.

I wanted to hold her hand.

I wanted to listen and say the right things.

What I said was: “I’m so sorry,” and I hoped my eyes told her the rest.

But they couldn’t possibly.

5 comments for “What I Meant to Say to that Mom

  1. March 17, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Thanks for being so honest. I’m not a mama (yet). This may sound weird, but sometimes I worry about being a mama. Yes, I’m that person that worries about stuff that doesn’t even exist yet. I struggled with major depression in the past, so that’s why I worry about this kind of thing… You haven’t called what you went through PPD and I don’t want to give your experience any “labels” you have not explicitly used here. I say just for myself, that I do want to start a family in the future and am acutely aware that PPD can happen to any mama at any time. Motherhood is a blessing, yes…. but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, or so I have been told. Many mamas I know… friends, family members etc… have confessed these feelings privately. I now believe that most mamas feel this way at some point or another. It’s just not “proper” to admit it. I don’t give a damn about “proper” and for the sake of their own wellbeing, neither should any mama. Honesty IS the best policy. It is 100% liberating, that’s for sure. Here’s to being honest and healthy, of mind and body! Cheers!

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      March 17, 2016 at 8:24 pm

      Thank you so much for reading! I didn’t use the PPD diagnosis because I didn’t see a doctor. I should have. I still might, but I suspect that that is what I was dealing with. I feel so much better now that I’ve given myself permission to sleep, but I won’t be so naive and say I’m fixed. I think being aware of the symptoms and admitting them out loud to someone is key. It took me too long to share the way I was feeling. I was really apprehensive about writing it down because I felt so vulnerable–like my insides were hanging out. But I’m so glad I did in the end. I hear your fear about this, but I also hear your commitment to your health and well-being, and that is a wonderful thing. Thank you again!

  2. March 17, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    My babies are big enough to let me sleep and let me breath, and let me think about things other than them, but this post still cut right into me. We’ll done, friend. Beautiful.

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      March 17, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      Thank you so much for reading this, Amy. And thank you for commenting. I so appreciate it.

  3. March 24, 2016 at 5:28 am

    Will they suck their teeth or question your devotion or doubt the depth of your love?
    I can so much relate to this , this thought comes to my mind whenever I think of my ME Time to just be all by myself. Yes I love my baby but still. sometime I so desperately need it.

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