Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Becoming

Five years ago today, at 3:44 and 3:46 pm I became a mama for the first time.

I was such a mess.

I felt blessed, and relieved that they were here and healthy, and detached- as if the whole experience was happening to someone else. I was exhausted and nauseous. And above everything else, I was overwhelmed.

I wish I could have told myself then what I know now- that I would do it, that it would be hard yes, very hard, but that we would get through it. I would tell myself to tell someone how detached I was feeling, instead of just pretending everything was ok. I would take some drugs to help with the anxiety.

When I first met my twin daughters I was in awe of them. Weighing in at 4lbs 15 oz and 6lbs 2 oz, they were so tiny. I felt fiercely protective of them. I really wanted to do everything right. I went through the motions of breastfeeding, of smelling them, of kissing them, of staring into those beady newborn eyes as they fed. But inside, I was still such a mess.

For about 2 years.

That is far too long for anyone to go without help.

I would tell myself that, too. I would also educate myself on the fact that MANY drugs are safe to take while breastfeeding, and that taking something did not mean I was failing as a mommy.

We have a picture of Kate and me, when she was about 2-3 weeks old. I remember David saying "Smile" and me holding Kate's squishy tomato-head cheeks up next to my own bloated and pale face. I remember thinking to myself "You have to look like you love her."

The bonding did come. I did fall absolutely head over heals. By 1 month, I was in love, and it grew from there on. But the anxiety was still so present. I felt like I was wound too tight and that if one. tiny. thing. in my world got out of order, my whole world would FALL APART.

I felt like everyone was judging me. That no matter what, I wasn't doing it right, or doing enough, or making the best decisions. I felt like asking for help meant that I sucked at my new job. I missed my old job and my old coworkers.

Now, 5 years later, I have found my parenting feet. I comfortable with myself as a mother, with the style of parenting we've chosen, with people having different opinions about how I'm raising my children. My kids go to the store with me with messy hair, or dirty faces, and I'm ok with that. I don't feel like everything has to be perfect. I know how to let kids be kids.

Today, I even gave my baby a truffle to eat. I didn't care who saw, or what they thought. I didn't feel like I had to explain my reasoning to anyone. Because now I know that I don't have to be perfect, I don't have to let others allow me to question myself. And that a little chocolate never hurt anyone, not even a baby.

I still have so much to learn as a parent. Eee-gads-- the school years! Teenage daughters! But thanks to my husband, Treado, some great mommy-mentors, my sisters at work, my playgroup moms, and, yes, Zoloft, I am no longer overwhelmed by being Mama.

In fact, this is my element.

Happy Birthday Kate and Joan. These past 5 years, you have taught me more about love, patience, and devotion than I knew was possible. Thank you for taking me on this amazing journey.

21 comments:

Feener said...

great post...enjoy the birth day !!

Tracy said...

I am glad I am not the only one who felt that way at the beginning. It was almost two months for me before I fell head over heals. Until then, I liked her, but didn't yet have the "bond". I look back at the self doubt I had and it makes me wonder why women don't talk more. Especially about the taboo topics. Blogs are a great outlet!

d e v a n said...

That was lovely! Happy birthday to your girls. :)

Shelly Overlook said...

Happy Birthday Joan & Kate!!!

Thanks for sharing this. I wish women were more open about this happening. You know what I liked most? That you're a Doula and birth educator and still spent 2 years struggling without seeking any outside help. It drives home the point that it can happen to anyone, no matter what you know (like when my pediatrician friend's daughter throws a tantrum, it warms my heart).

Anne said...

You just couldn't have said it better. I'm so proud of you. Happy birthday (not so) baby girls!

Erin said...

This post hit SUCH a chord for me, I am crying a little. Ok. A little and then some.

Thanks for sharing this. It means so much when someone reaches out, so clearly and eloquently, with emotions I so perfectly understand. Thank you.

And happy birthday, happy birthday girls!

Kate said...

Delurking to say this is a great post. So raw. So beautiful.

Happy Birthday to your little girls!

Swistle said...

WHY IS IT SO HARD for all of us to want/need help, either human or medicinal?

Tessie said...

Oh, this is so lovely. I especially related to the part about being detached. I remember looking over from the hospital bed to AD's bassinet and thinking, "Yep. There's my baby. Huh." I was just...out of it.

Happy Birthday girls!

Marie Green said...

Swistle- YES- Human help would have been great too... yet no one (not even David, really) knew how much I needed help. I felt like admitting that meant I failed.

Shelley- yes, I KNOW- I should have known better/had more resources than the average person...

Erin- I had NO IDEA you experienced anything like this. We are sisters! =)

You know, I think the education is not in "women needing to warn other women that this can happen" but more in the "it's ok to get help. It's NORMAL to need help". I HAD heard of things like I experienced, but still felt like I FAILED if I admitted how I was feeling... I felt ABnormal and like I'd be labeled as "crazy"...

Marie Green said...

Also, in our culture, we praise women who are toughing it out on their own- "She's SO together. She's like, supermom. Wow, I can't believe how well she handles everything".

But we never praise women for getting help. Wouldn't it be great if we heard "She was so SMART and BRAVE to seek help. Wow. I can't believe how strong she is."

It's like our idea of a "great" mom is someone who is breezing through everything (and possibly suffering in silence??). Instead, we should view "great" moms as the ones who can claim their needs and speak honestly of their experiences.

Ya know?

Kate said...

I've been thinking about this since post ever since I read it last night. I'm not a mother yet, but your comment above was my thoughts exactly. Very well said.

Kate said...

Opps. What I meant to say was - I've been thinking about this post ever since I read it last night.

Maybe I should actually read what I wrote before I hit publish. Sorry about that!

Neighbor Kris said...

Such a great post and as always, so well-written. I, for one, think you are an amazing mom, and that you are raising three amazing little girls. It is so important that we all support each other in this crazy "journey" (oh, I hate that word, and yet...), and lift each other up during both the good and the bad times.
Happy Birthday to those awesome twins of yours!

clueless but hopeful mama said...

I loved this post. Thank you for your honesty and Happy Birthday to your girls!

Kelsey said...

Hi!

Thanks for stopping by to visit at my place. :-)

Harper is my daughter's "real" name, I kind of love it, too. Thanks!

And yes, we are Erin's friends. Not only is she a great bloggy person, she is one of the most wonderful people I have ever had the privilege of knowing in any capacity. Getting to know her changed the entire tone of my first year of college. She is even more awesome in person than she is through her writing.

samantha jo campen said...

New reader here and wanted to comment: I'm expecting my first child in April and worry about PPD. Thank you for your honest re-telling about the beginning. I'm so glad you found help and are feeling so much better. Now THAT'S being a good mommy!

Black Sheeped said...

This was really nice.

desperate housewife said...

Thank you so much for this post. I needed it today. Sometimes I feel SO in love with my children, and then other days I look at the baby and feel so detached, as though I were his nanny and not the woman who spent seventeen hours giving birth to him. I struggle with this, and I don't, too. I feel bad about these moments, but people like you remind me that this is normal, that it doesn't mean I'm going over the edge and am about to snap. It just means it's been a bad day and I need a break.
And I do know that if I ever feel like I AM going to snap, it's OKAY to tell someone and get some help. I'll still be a good mom.
Happy birthday, twins, and happy becoming a mom day to you!

Katie said...

Happy Birthday to your little girls!

I think more women need to be truly honest about these things. Thank you for doing that!

littlehouse said...

Hello Marie Green
You don't know me - I stumbled accross your blog via Catherine Newman's site..
I know this post was written some time ago, but I wanted to let you know it touched me, and put what I have been experiencing into words beautifuly. I am a little like you - I'm an Early Childhood Education college lecturer and a 'strong woman' who felt I was failing by feeling the way you did. My second son is now almost 6 months and things are starting to feel more settled and better for me, but I have been fearful of telling my story. Now I am inspired to add some notes to my blog, by you and all the other women here who said 'me too'!
Many thanks.