It happens all the time.
It happened on Tuesday when I went to the hospital for therapy.
It happened when I was watching The Social.
It happens every time someone announces their pregnancy.
It happens when I spy on my neighbours across the way with their new family of three.
It happens with every person I love who tells me they want to have babies.
It happens All. The. Time.
I feel sad and worried for them. I feel engulfed in feelings of anxiety and fear for them. I want to tell them it’s a decision that is heavier than the fun they had or will have making the baby. That once they make it, they’ll never be able to un-make it. That it will be so hard. And not just hard, but the hardest. I want to say to them that they should run away, stay single, stay a DINK, do anything but become parents, have babies, make a family. ANYTHING.
I don’t of course. I smile and act happy, act excited, act enthused. I sit there and bite my tongue and cheeks and teeth, praying that my experience, my history, my perspective doesn’t come tumbling out of me and scare the crap out of them, especially if they’re announcing they’re expecting (a little late for a change of plans, you know).
But it’s my truth. It’s my experience. It’s what I know. You get pregnant and you’re happy. SO happy. You are a walking miracle. And then you have the baby and it’s awful. Your brain breaks into hundreds of fragments and only the worst parts of yourself rise to the surface. You fight every day to stay in your skin, to get out of bed, to keep tiny bundles of need alive, to not lose yourself, to not break-up your relationship with your partner, your family, your friends, to learn to love your baby, to grow into a mother instead of the monster you’ve become.
You hide because you can’t stand the thought of people seeing through the façade you’re putting on. You run away from home every chance you can because if you spend one more second in your house alone with your infant you’re not sure you’ll survive it. You seek out crowds or stay in your room. You are the extreme of unhappy in what should be the happiest moment of your life. And you have no control over anything, least of all what your brain is doing to you.
I’m not sure if there will ever be a time where I feel genuine happiness for someone when they share their stork-schedule news. I don’t know if I’ll ever get enough distance between me and postpartum depression and mood disorders to be able to conjure up anything but dread for the couple that is leaving the hospital, walking around Wal-Mart like disoriented zombies, or showing off their brand-new baby. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be ‘normal’ when it comes to pregnancy or birth announcements.
But let me be clear.
I love my babies. It’s a love that I’ve earned and that for me was hard-won. It’s a love that is complicated and messy, fulfilling and exhausting, absorbing and alienating. It’s a love and experience I wouldn’t change for anything in the world. Ever.
I wouldn’t send any of them back or not have babies. It was in the game plan since before I can recall ever making a game plan and there is no other way I would have my life or any other way that I see my life.
I would love to have anything other than a mental illness every time I had a baby, but it’s not enough for me to wish all of my babies, my loves, away.
And when you do tell me that you’re pregnant, or that you want oodles of babies, or when I see your Facebook announcement that you’ve given birth to a beautiful new member of your family, I will do everything in my power to be happy out loud for you. To recall how I felt in the seconds after we found out about Sophie, Lillian, Charlie, and Isaac, in the seconds after I got to meet them, in the days, weeks, months after I learned to love them. To focus on the moment you are sharing with me, not the moments that might be for you and have been for me. To be present in your happiness, in your joy, in the experience that will change your life forever.
Because I want to be happy for you. I do. And I’m so humbled that you are choosing to share it with me, even though I’m a walking train-wreck PSA of what not to do when you have a baby.
So tell me. And I’ll hug you and pray that your experience is what mine becomes, that your love and health is present from the start and carries through, always.