I spoke with one of my best friends the other day who just had her second baby about a month after Carter was born. She is at a very different place than me because she has two babies under the age of 2. After we spoke she sent me the nicest text telling me that she hopes our conversation didn't make me feel bad for "kicking ass as a mother." She reassured me that she finds my posts inspiring.
I was so glad that she let me know that. Because I've been posting lots of cute pictures of Carter and his big sister and brother these past few months. And honestly, I do feel pretty darn good about how things are going. I really am doing a pretty good job of taking care of all of us - myself included. But that is not the whole picture - and when will Facebook or Instagram or a blog post ever depict "the whole picture"? (Spoiler: NEVER!)
The honest truth is that in some ways I am really struggling. Not the same ways that I struggled when I had two "littles". No - I'm not sleep deprived like I was the first two times.(Someone, knock on wood quick! Because that is one thing experience teaches us - things can change at any time!) I'm also not grappling with what the "right way" to parent like the first two times - no angst about breastfeeding, no hiding the fact that I adore cosleeping, no worries about spoiling my sweet, little guy.
This time I struggle with despair. With a heart so heavy and achy that I feel it, like a living rock lodged in my chest. There is a gnawing pit in my belly some days that no amount of food can fill, making me physically nauseous. Some days I struggle with the motivation to do things, but most often I am able to carry on just fine. I keep smiling and getting food and I tell myself it will pass... and it does.
It's hard to talk about. I do a little bit, in fits and bursts. I tell my mom I've been feeling "low" or "down", I tell Mike that "I'm feeling sad today" but it doesn't really describe the depth of the feelings. I don't talk about it for a lot of reasons I guess. Maybe it partly is my ego and wanting to appear like I "have it together". But I think it is more because I don't want people to worry. I am "ok." I am NOT depressed (at least that is what I tell myself!) If were depressed I wouldn't be functioning at such a high level, right? If I were depressed it would last longer and not "pass." No, I don't think I'm depressed. I'm just struggling on some days.
So why share at all? Because honesty is important to me. Because sharing actually helps. Because I think it's normal and I want other people to feel like they can talk about their feelings too - because it DOES help.
Why do I feel despair? Honestly it is a "state of the world" kind of thing. I've always kind of considered myself an optimist, but I've been "moody" since I was a baby (ask my mom!) and the idealist in me wants to solve the world's problems even though I know I can't do it all. I cannot stand or understand how horrible we are to each other sometimes. It kills my spirit.
I feel despair because I've felt such great joy. I had the beautiful homebirth that I imagined and now I long to be back on that day again - safe, loved, cherished... I want to experience it again and know that I probably will not have that particular experience again. I miss my midwife and her assistant and then I feel like I'm very strange for missing them when my life is so great. I was so focused and happy during my pregnancy and now... it is over.
I finished reading The Continuum Concept and there were so many wonderful stories that fill in so many holes for me - so many pieces that fill in this strange, sometimes awful (and sometimes wondeful!), modern puzzle we've created. It made clear to me why we are all seeking and longing all the time and how we fill that need in different ways.
What if we weren't meant to feel this way all the time? Is it possible that the "norm" could be a peaceful, joyful state? I think it is. But I do not feel guilty for the despair either. I know I must let myself feel it.
And every day the joy too. Every day seeped in bitter-sweetness so strong I can taste it. I see the joy and the overwhelm reflected back to me by my kids and I do my best to be a role model of how to handle it. I realize (again and again) that I need to protect myself sometimes - as I did when I was pregnant - because sometimes I cannot bear everything that is coming at me from the outside world. I remember how to take care of myself - to eat well and rest and go to yoga each week and create and write. I breathe. I embrace the rawness of this time, knowing that someday - not long from now - things will heal and change and grow and I will have new feelings, new blessings, new challenges and new joys.