It’s been a while.
Believe me, I know. Five months, to be exact.
Maybe you’ve come back checking this site once in a while to see what’s happened with Eliana and Lila and Husband in these past five months, in the Peeping-Tom, voyeuristic kind of way that blogging encourages. (I guess that makes me the online equivalent of a stripper?) Maybe you’ve been surprised that there haven’t been any updates on sleep training. (Yes, she is sleeping masterfully through the night at nearly one-year-old, from 6:45 to 6. Holla!). Or eating. (Yes, she loves eating.) Or Eliana’s talking. (“Mama. Dada. Hi! Lila. Pa. Bottle. Quack. Go. Crawl.”) Or sibling adoration and rivalry. (Lila, whispering to Eliana, as she cradles her in her arms: “Eliana, I love you with all my heart.” Lila, screaming, frantic animal-look in her eyes: “MOMMY! She’s gonna take all of my toys! Get her away, get her away!”) Or Eliana’s desperation to crawl and her final success at eleven months. (Think “Rocky” with “Eye of the Tiger” music.)
Or maybe, in fact, you are not the narcissistic asshole that I am, and well, you just moved on with your life because who really gives a shit about a blog anyway? You kept checking your Facebook page, even though in your heart you kind of realized that Facebook is really “Fakebook” because no one posts about reality as it truly exists—only when something funny, or clever, or exhilarating happens. (And yes, I fall into this category of feeding the Fakebook, so I take full responsibility for not being “real” there either because people probably don’t want to read in their six free seconds at work that re-financing is a bitch or that I think I forgot to turn the stove off or about my various neuroses.)
In all likelihood, your life went on. You continued to hang out with your family, adoring them and being infuriated by them, sometimes in the same moment. You loved your husband, or maybe you broke up with a boyfriend. You laughed at a dumb movie. You figured out what to make for dinner tonight. You read a good book. You read that Orajel could result in a “potentially fatal disorder” and nearly had a heart attack. (And if you didn’t hear that yet, well, here you go! You’re welcome.) You hung out with friends—or thought about it at least. You texted as you waited on the carpool line.
Life went on. That’s how it goes. Days pass, then weeks, then months. And with kids, it’s cliché but true, the days are long, but the years are short.
And while blogs often rely on their “tell-all” nature, and that’s kind of been my shtick in starting this blog, I have been grappling with what to do with this blog for the past 5 months since I wrote last because while I am normally an overshare kind of gal (in spite of Husband’s frequent—yes, understandable and rightful—argument that some things, in fact, should be private), the step-by-step challenges of the past 5 months of my life are not ones that I’m ready emotionally to revisit with humor and sass. Maybe some day in fifty years, as I reflect, looking back at my life as the senile but gloriously dignified and fabulously-put-together old woman I’ve become in a nursing home, I’ll be typing up my memoirs (think “The Notebook” meets “The Iron Lady” with perhaps a healthy does of Dame Edna), I will come back to these five months with perspective, brilliance, gratitude, and wisdom.
I’m not there yet.
The clinical short story is this: I weaned Eliana and then fell into a postpartum depression, literally within two weeks of weaning her, from which I am now in the process of recovering from.
To put it bluntly: I was blindsided. My whole family was.
I don’t know how, but it happened.
After meeting with a brilliant and extraordinary reproductive psychiatrist (yes, these people exist, because they know the medical reasons why women’s hormones go through a whole span of crap from puberty through menopause), I learned that apparently this is “normal”. That postpartum depression can happen, particularly after weaning, as hormones fluctuate. Apparently, “hormones” can do some weird shit to your body, and postpartum depression can slap you like you’re its bitch up to eighteen months after your child is born, which is obviously why women in the 1800s kept having children back to back to back—to keep this shit at bay. Apparently, one in eight women experience postpartum depression. And even though this never happened to me with Lila, well, it happened this time around.
And while there are a lot of things that, in life, are up to choice and free will, this was not one of them. It fell into my lap, and it felt very, very unfair to me and everyone around me, and very, very isolating, and very, very unbearable, in spite of countless statistics and blogs that suggest that women go through this all the time and survive. In spite of the ceaseless support of my family and friends. In spite of the love that was shown to me in this challenging time that I honestly feel I will never be able to adequately reciprocate. Ever.
The good news is that today, exactly a year after I went to the hospital with my false labor, I’m here. Typing. And I’m alive.
I am surviving postpartum depression, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.
Except I didn’t even get a t-shirt, but that would be pretty fucking funny if they made those.
Here’s the thing—in spite of the challenges of these past five months, and I never thought it could be possible, I can be happy again! In a weird, bizarre way, this whole thing feels like a horrible, horrible nightmare…and then I woke up, bleary-eyed, but able to remember what real life is like. I can enjoy my family again, seeing them finally once more through eyes that aren’t tainted by pervasive, suffocating, ruminative anxiety and depression. The world looks brighter again and no longer constantly feels like a burden I cannot conquer. I feel joy again. I can rely on myself again, instead of leaning on my parents, husband, sisters and friends as if their slightest movements would lead to the collapse of my universe.
When this chapter of my life opened five months ago, I thought it would be a tragic one, because that was how it felt—yes, literally every second of the waking day.
But as it turns out, this chapter of my life, which, thank God, feels like is now ending, turns out, in its weird conclusion, to be a happy one. Because in spite of all of this, or maybe because of it, I’m able to feel what I couldn’t the first seven months of Eliana’s life.
Here it is: gratitude. Real, honest, deep-in-my-soul gratitude for the littlest things that normally, in regular life, I would have taken for granted without realizing how fucking lucky I was.
Sometimes you need to get smacked down really, really hard to realize that if and when it happens? You can actually stand up again.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude now in bits and pieces throughout my days. Before this all began, life was rushed, frenetic, about getting dinner, getting the kids to sleep, getting my work done, getting life in order, getting the lunches packed, getting the bills together, getting the forms signed, getting the assignments graded, getting the job done. Yes, I still have to do all of those things. And I’m not going to Fakebook you here and tell you that life is perfect now. Because that’s absurd. Life is imperfect. It always will be. And it always has been. And anyone who tells you otherwise is likely an idiot or a charlatan.
But now, and this is different than before, I seek out the moments to be grateful for, particularly when I feel down, and you know what I realized? Even in your darkest hour, there are many moments, and while you don’t get to choose what happens to you, you do get to choose what you remember. More often than not, it’s easy to focus on the bad parts. But when you are strong enough, and you can focus on the good stuff? There’s more than you ever thought possible, even when your life seems to be falling apart.
There’s Eliana’s toothy grin—six teeth and counting.
There’s her constant babbling, the words that sneak up on me unexpected, reminding me what it’s like to rediscover the world.
There’s her crawling, finally, after my months of worrying that she couldn’t do it.
There’s Lila, in bed, her hair still silky and wet from the bath, showing me that she is teaching herself how to read. (“M makes a mmmmm sound. Like Mommy!”)
Lila, giggling maniacally, as she runs into our bedroom bursting with pride from having dressed herself.
My daughters’ laughter as they share a joke I can’t understand. (Still, I don’t know why Lila sings “Q-S-F-A-N-O-Y!”, what it means, or why Eliana finds it hilarious.)
The feel of Husband’s hand cradling mine on our ninth wedding anniversary, when a year before I was having contractions and could barely eat my meal.
Taking the girls together to the beach for the first time, and looking at Husband, knowing that I would freeze this moment forever if I could.
The ceaseless love of my own family, specifically, my mother, who listened and talked and cooked and cared for my family every single day. For three months. The moment in May when I looked at her and realized finally that this—this—when it’s not all perfect—this is what being a mother really is. Staying on for the bad parts, and never giving up, not ever.
The hundreds of text messages sent silently to neighbors and across states to friends who were willing to listen and to type, making me feel less alone and deeply grateful for their friendship in a way I never could have felt otherwise.
The sleepy look in Eliana’s eyes before bed when she reaches across me towards the bookcase and says cheerfully, “Buk!” pointing and laughing until I give in with one more story.
Watching the girls in the rearview mirror of the car as Lila sings along to the song Husband and I walked down the aisle to at our wedding.
Giving in and letting Lila wear toenail polish, and the look of wonder in her eyes at seeing her toes so sparkly.
Eliana needing me to use a duck puppet who sings “Quackadoo” to her to distract her so that she’ll eat her morning yogurt, and how that song that I’ve invented gets stuck in my head for hours.
The softness of Lila’s arm draped around my neck at bedtime, followed by an unprompted, “I love you, Mommy. You are a great mommy.”
And believing her.
So the story, in spite of its twists and turns, as it turns out, has a happy ending. And the happy parts are the ones I will choose to remember.
In the meantime, I am going to disable this blog for some time a month after Eliana’s birthday. And just live. Feel free to subscribe…who knows, maybe some day I will start this up again.
For now, I will live my life, and you will live yours. And we will remember that we’re never alone, even though people don’t always talk about what’s really going on. Because in spite of not knowing each other, all mothers know every other mother, because our lives, however different, are the same.
So, as dear old Dr. Seuss puts it,
“On you will go, though the weather be foul.
On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike.
And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.
And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)
So be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordechai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!”
And with that, I’m on my way.
Happy first birthday, Eliana!