My world has been rocked.
I’m feeling all this pressure to write about the entire birth story and to post a bunch of pictures. But I don’t have the energy for that today.
This is the first day I feel I’ve been able to pull my head above the water and take a big, long, spring-scented breath.
I don’t know where the start, Dear Reader. Blogging now, I feel kind of like I’m sitting across from a dear friend I haven’t seen in a couple of years–there’s closeness but some degree of re-acquaintance is required—like I’ve come back from war with other people’s lives written across my face, and I have to start on the basis of new terms because I’m a different person than I used to be when I packed up my bags, bright and bushy-tailed, and whistling “Yankee Doodle,” skipped down the road to report for duty.
These things have a way of changing you. And I’m having a difficult time connecting with the girl I used to be.
Which is why I’m staying at my parents’ house while Seth is gone–in my childhood room. It does my heart good to see that the tiny holes in the ceiling from the time sixth-grade me hung the tulle canopy around my twin bed are still there. It’s also the reason I’m blogging now, because I need to be reminded of who I am.
Seth left on Sunday for a Wyoming job we couldn’t turn down; he’ll be gone until Thursday. I dutifully packed his clothes bag and an on-the-road lunch, all the while feeling as though I were drunk for lack of sleep. I was aware that my face was now capable of only two expressions: the limp, sagging stare of sleep deprivation and the crumpled, ugly-cry face you see frequently on four year-olds.
In the past two weeks, I’m not sure which expression I’ve worn more.
I found myself standing in the middle of the road at the end of our cul-de-sac, with the latter expression staining my face, in tentish, stretchy fat girl pants my mom picked up for me at Goodwill (but they’re SO comfy), and one arm holding in my floppy belly while the other one desperately waved goodbye to a chunk of my heart driving down our hill in the rental car.
Then, when I couldn’t see him anymore, I turned, made my way back into the house, and laid down next to the other chunk of my heart sleeping in the middle of our bed.
My heart, which until this experience, I have always kept so safe and stoppered, has been blown open. And a tiny person, who frankly does nothing but inconvenience me, has taken up residence. I’ve never before experienced this kind of love mixed with fear mixed with anxiety mixed with frustration mixed with instinct before. I would die for this person without even needing time to process the decision.
And I feel differently about Seth–looked at him like I’m looking at him for the first time. I told him a couple nights ago, between chest-racking sobs, that I loved him so much I didn’t even care about his speeding ticket.
The feelings of love for my boys is so strong that it’s kickstarted my anxiety–ironic, right? I’ve spent the last two weeks talking myself down–reassuring myself that no one is going to take my baby away from me and that I’m not going to screw him up and that my mom won’t have to raise him while I’m in the loony bin and that things will normalize at some point. And today, two weeks and a day after he was born, I’m starting not only to believe it but feel it in my bones.
And yet, all my safety mechanisms inside are telling me that this little lump of puking, pooping, crying human isn’t safe–that he has disrupted my delicate balance too much–that he is to be avoided. I’ve felt so guilty about this until I talk to other moms who’ve said the same thing. Instead of running away, I’ve chosen to press into this relationship–to bond–to not only accept my mess of a heart and my mess of a “downstairs situation” (oh yeah, that was blown apart too) but to actively cultivate relationship and healing on multiple levels.
I’ve put everything on hold–my writing, my social life, my self-improvement, my body–have sealed them in a box and put them on the top shelf of my mental closet. I can’t worry about them right now. They’re all fine and well, and I will attend to them another day.
Because I have much more primal things to think about right now like a tiny mouth to feed (and only I can do it!). And the rest of me just gets to 1) watch the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice on Netflix over and over again and, more importantly, 2)
Which is an all-day, minute-upon-minute mental exercise in self-discipline for an over-analyzing artist.
I’m looking forward to posting about the whole experience–our collective birth story (because it involves much more than just me–it took a community). But I can’t today. It’s too much, like trying to catch ten balls flying at me with my two hands. I’ll save that for another time, when I’m not so breathless from being at the edge of my experience.
In the meantime, all I can say is:
God, thank you for my family–for my boys.
From every corner of who I am (even the corners into which I’ve shoved anxiety and self-doubt and fear and trembling–the parts of me I’ve hidden away because they’re ugly because they’re vulnerable),