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There was a time when I was not capable of being happy for others, particularly when they were expecting a baby. I tried my best and pretended I could be happy for them, but I was so darn broken inside it wasn’t possible to feel anything other than pity for myself. I couldn’t see beyond my own pain.
In hindsight, I can now see I went through a period of serious depression. It lasted about two years following our miscarriage. I felt very little emotion, least of all happiness or joy for others.
I’m so relieved to discover that this has changed. I can congratulate others for their accomplishments in an authentic way. I can be genuinely happy when I learn of a girlfriend’s pregnancy, or when I meet a new work acquaintance who says she’s just back from maternity leave.
This past weekend, I nearly shocked myself when I found myself hugging and kissing our friends’ kids. It was completely spontaneous and joyful, but sadly, I’d never done that before. I wasn’t capable.
The whole notion of happiness is an interesting one. As children we are taught to strive for whatever we want and it is implied that we shouldn’t be happy until we achieve it. We see what others around us have and assume they are happier. We believe that filling a certain void will solve all problems and automatically make us happy.
It’s not necessarily true. I’ve discovered some scary truths about being a first-time mom and trying to maintain a solid marriage. I don’t know if other mothers talk about this, but I want to say, for the record, our first year with baby, while one of the most joyous events of my life, also brought immense misery at times.
I’m referring mostly to my marriage. We’d managed to hold things together throughout the bumpy ride – and therapy certainly helped us see the important work we had to do to continue to honour each other and not let resentment get the best of us.
But the therapy stopped not long before our daughter surprised us with her presence. We haven’t been back. I remember the therapist saying, “You will be parents one day and I hope you’ll continue to come see me then, because there will still be issues you’ll need to work through, including parenting an adopted child.”
Boy, was she right. It’s been a tough road. I don’t think either of us know what the root of our problem truly is. We ignore it until it explodes, then we acknowledge it and try to change. Then it creeps back up. Repeat.
I want to fix it but I don’t know how. How do we get back to happy? How can I be so deliriously happy to be a mother and so fed up with my husband at the same time? It’s really frustrating.
In other news, we’re meeting with birthmother today!
I feel like I’m on a torpedo jetting towards 2011 and nothing I do will slow it down. I can’t seem to cope. The joy I know I should be feeling this time of year is nearby – lurking under the bed or somewhere in the piles of laundry…and when I can catch it, I hang on for dear life.
But that’s the thing – it’s the most wonderful time of the year – and I’m just barely clinging to the merry ho ho of it all.
And so I smile a lot and pretend a little bit. All the other new moms are vibrating with the excitement of baby’s first Christmas…and I play along. Facebook friends’ statuses are brimming with baking, wrapping and holiday preparation…and while I’m trying to get with the program all I really want my status to say is: What in the hell is wrong with me?
I know enough about mental health issues to know that depression can hit you at a time in your life when you “should” be the happiest. A good friend of mine has had lots of experience with depression and anxiety so I have been chatting with her about some of the feelings I’ve been having. It’s not that I’m having destructive thoughts; it’s more about trying to cope. I have been weepy and irritable; feeling sad and hopeless, lethargic and un-motivated. I don’t feel like I’m giving our daughter – or my marriage – the best part of myself.
This absolutely kills me. I’m ashamed to be writing it. I was even reluctant to write this post. I can remember reading woe-is-me blogs from new moms in the past and I admit it, they infuriated me. I can clearly recall wanting to scream at my computer, “YOU UNGRATEFUL WOMAN! HOW DARE YOU!” I’ve even deleted blogs whose authors weren’t thanking their lucky stars for every moment they’d been given with their baby. And yet here I am, coming clean…and suddenly understanding that life isn’t as black and white as I once thought it should be.
I truly don’t want to upset anyone who is still waiting to become a parent. But I want to be authentic and share my true feelings. I am so grateful for our baby it overwhelms me – not a day goes by that I don’t wonder what we did to deserve such a precious angel. I need to make it clear that I’m able to separate our good fortune and the gigantic amount of love for this child from the icky feelings that have got me feeling lower than I should.
To be fair, it is the time of year where the weather and the lack of light grabs a hold of my sunny disposition and tackles it to the ground. I write about it every year. I know this. I miss being outside. I miss the sunshine. I miss our carefree days at the cottage. Knowing that I’m affected strongly by the seasons helps a little, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m fighting a daily fight to keep it all together. I have known for a while that deep down, it’s not just about the dull greys of a Canadian winter – there’s something else going on.
The other night I dug out the book, Unsung Lullabies, which should be a familiar title to anyone who has dealt with infertility. I wanted to revisit what its authors say about parenting after infertility – and found this:
For infertile couples, the arrival of a baby, through birth or adoption, may be the first time in the grueling infertility process that you let down your guard. Only after you have a child can you comprehend and grieve the ordeal you have been through. It is not that you are unhappy about being a parent or feel dissatisfied with your child – far from it. It’s that now, after the nightmare has finally ended, the grief can – and does – come pouring out. So along with the challenges of new parenthood you may begin to release all the tension and grief that has been pent-up for years. Couples are often taken by surprise by these feelings that arise well after the difficult experience they’ve been through. But delayed grief is to be expected.
Delayed grief. I do feel as though I’m in mourning, some days. Perhaps I’m a textbook case study for the passage above? In any case, it’s time to explore some ways to try and clear the fog that is surrounding me.
Update: I started this post 4 days ago and am happy to report I’m not quite so low today. We’ve been getting out of the house more, decorating and just generally having a good time. I have the option of NOT publishing this post, but I will just to demonstrate the rollercoaster ride one can experience, even after finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Other Mom’s thoughts are welcome. Has anyone else had bouts of grief, tears or hopelessness while your pride and joy flips through Very Hungry Caterpillar and shows you the butterfly with the biggest grin possible, making you wonder if you’re losing your mind?