Wrestle

18 Apr

 I lost my mind last night, a seemingly monthly occurrence. Everything builds up to this tidal wave of fear, rage and sadness, and finally spurts out-usually at 1am. 

What came out was my lingering guilt at how I treated Rosalyn when she was born. I cannot shake it, and it colors every interaction I have with her now. Tell me it’s just postpartum depression. Tell me it’s not my fault. Tell me to let it go, to get over it, to move past it. I know all of these things. I know them well. And yet I cannot find a way to wear them.   How do you let go the trauma of wanting to murder your child? How do you move past the vivid movie that still plays in your head of walking into the woods with her and never ever coming back? How do you soothe the guilt of wanting to adopt your child out because you didn’t want her? 

How do you fix a heart that broke itself? 

 It’s complicated by the fact that Rosalyn could be me-she looks as I did as a kid, she certainly acts like I did. So it’s like I’m living as my mother did, but without the benefit of her experience. I’m struck by this constantly-how much miss her in the little moments, how I ache for a mother in my life. How I’m lost in my grief without a guide post. I imagine that she could somehow fix me, help me. She’s the only one who could convince me that on some level, I’m not a bad mother. She’s the one that made my tummy better long ago, who panicked at my fevers. She knew how to fix things. She’d be able to fix me. Or maybe she wouldn’t. Maybe she would have believed that I was a horrible person-spurning the one thing she couldn’t have-a baby of her very own. Maybe she’d chastise me for my pain, for my agony, for my needless depression and anger. Maybe she’d tell me it wouldn’t be so bad if I believed in god.  Do I really need to get over this? Should I want to carry it with me? Why do I feel the need to punish myself over and over and over again? 

What stops me from really letting go of it?

She was no longer wrestling with grief but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts. George Eliot

7 Responses to “Wrestle”

  1. Missy April 18, 2007 at 6:22 pm #

    I was reading that second paragraph and I thought of my oldest son.

    You’re making me cry.

    16 years later, it still brings me pain.

    Let’s just get over it (she said wiping away a tear).

    Great quote, by the way. I forgot how much I loved George Eliot.

  2. katsplace April 18, 2007 at 7:57 pm #

    If I had to take one moment out of my parenting – the worst moment – and decide based on that whether or not I was a horrible person and not fit to be a parent, I would have to judge myself as unfit. I could find whole handfuls of those moments. I could list them in appalling number to you. I could point to impressions my older girls have of me and marriage and sit and cry.

    I ocassionally really beat myself up over this. The one thing I didn’t want was to pass on my own shadows. I had all but told myself that I SHOULDN’T be a mother – that I was too fucked up. There are still days when I think that. That I am too damaged to not terribly wreck these precious lives in my home.

    My point, We can beat ourselves up. We can be our own worst enemies and let the pain of the past and our fuck-ups take a huge role. We can dwell on what we have done wrong and how we have scarred our children in ways we may never be able to mend. Or we can move on and let that pain take it’s place in our lives. We can be victims or we can choose to be survivors. In being a survivor maybe we can teach our girls and other women how to survive and help each other to survive.

  3. Jennnifer April 18, 2007 at 11:54 pm #

    There is no need to beat yourself up. Most people would be lying if they said they never hated their child at some point, or restrained themselves from harming them.

    That being said, what is the point of continuing to beat yourself up? Don’t you think you’ve paid your dues? Do you think you might be doing yourself further harm?

  4. Marcy April 19, 2007 at 7:30 am #

    Belief or not, you might read the story of Jacob wrestling with God or his angel or whoever it was. Joe and I have talked about how wrestling is a form of intimacy — it’s not avoidance, it’s not running away, it’s not apathy, it’s not indifference or ignoring or anything else like that. It’s very close interaction. So go wrestle with your grief. The bout will end someday, but as long as you need to wrestle, go ahead.

    And remind yourself that what goes on in your brain during PPD or PPP or PPOCD or whatever is a biological thing — it sounds and feels and tastes like your own thoughts and voice, but it’s not. It was not YOU who wanted to get rid of her.

  5. Netter April 19, 2007 at 9:20 am #

    I’ve had some horrible thoughts in the throws of PPD, but I find that I can compartmentalize it as part of my disease. It’s hard to let go of the guilt. We’re bombarded with such unrealistic images of parents. Claire Huxtable wouldn’t have wanted to drown her baby. Elaine Keaton wouldn’t have thought about driving off the road to kill her and Andy. But, the most important thing is that they were just thoughts. You didn’t act on them. Being tempted is not the same as sinning.

  6. Caitlin April 19, 2007 at 12:54 pm #

    I agree with Netter that we have too many unrealistic images of perfect mothers. Real moms get overwhelmed and they have moments where they could cheerfully walk out that door, and never look book.

    And for the tv moms with young kids, you’ll notice they’re never around unless they’re delivering a cutesy one liner or it’s “very special episode”. The newborn baby sleeps through the night after the first episode and only spits up/has exploding diapers when it’s humorous. Tv moms can talk to their husband or friends without their toddler climbing all over them and screeching for the phone/daddy.

    For whatever reason, you’re not ready to let go. Maybe you’re waiting for someone to mete out a penance for those thoughts, so you can do that and get absolution. From what you’ve written, I think you’ve already done your penance and then some. You also made something good out of it (well, a few somethings, actually). And as others have said, they were thoughts you didn’t act on. You can’t control what pops into your head, only how you act on it.

    You’ve made a place where moms can see that they’re not the only one wishing they could adopt their child out, drop them down the stairs, or pull a Hansel and Gretel and it’s ok to admit to those thoughts. And I think that also goes for bipolar and PPD.

  7. Gwen April 19, 2007 at 2:07 pm #

    I’ve been pondering for a day what to say in response to this, and this is the best I could come up with: the way you let go of it is to realize that it wasn’t you who did those things. It was your brain on drugs. It’s not the same thing at all.

    And I’m sad that you don’t get to have your mom around to help you out. 😦

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