Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Good Mother

We all want to be good mothers. It hard to define and even harder to be. I've been a mother for 8 years. It gets harder every day. I wanted to be a mother since I can remember. I loved babysitting. I was cool aunt Barb for years before I decided I was ready to be a mother. I read everything. I asked a million questions of every mother I encountered. I thought I was ready. Throughout my pregnancy, it was always in the back of my head that post-partum depression was a real possibility. My biggest fear was not that I would suffer from it. No, it was that I would suffer from it and not even know it. So, being a Type A personality, I prepared my husband for that possibility. I was partly right. I had it. Big time. But, I KNEW I had it. I was terrified to be alone with the baby. I made everyone and anyone keep me company. I was overwhelmed by everything. I wouldn't take the baby anywhere by myself. I couldn't shower if I was alone with the baby. My sister-in-law sacrificed her lunch hour to watch a sleeping infant while I showered without asking a single question or passing judgement. I cried if I was taking a bath and Paul brought her into the bathroom. But, I had no idea I was crying or why. I kept an immaculate and detailed chart of her sleeping, eating, peeing, pooping and my pumping. It gave me the illusion of being in control. I thought if I could convince everyone I was in control they would think I was a good mother. Adding to the hormonal war raging through my body was mastitis. This was a double blow. I had struggled with breastfeeding and reluctantly decided to pump. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing a female can do. I got pregnant, carried and delivered a baby but could not nurse. Add that to my sense of failure and incompetence. The doctor prescribed heavy duty antibiotics and rest. In my sleep deprived post-partum depressed mind, I felt like a bad mother for sleeping upstairs while my husband and 3 week old baby played downstairs. I demanded that Paul help me downstairs and pull out the hide-bed so I could be in the same room with my newborn during the day. Isn't that what good mothers want? To be with their babies all the time? I felt like a failure all the time. I was sad all day and night. I had a beautiful and healthy baby but I was terrified, sad and overwhelmed. When she cried, it was not because that it was babies do. It was because I was a bad mother who couldn't make my baby happy and couldn't appreciate her. At one point, my mastitis got so bad, hospitalization was discussed. I was relieved. Almost hopeful of the respite because it meant that my daughter wouldn't have to sense my failure and unhappiness. Eight years later, I can remember calling a friend because I was proud of myself for putting my baby in her car seat, putting her in the car and driving to the store .8 miles down the road by myself. Life a good friend, she recognized what an accomplishment that was for me.

I was lucky, in a way. I knew I had post-partum depression. I had the support of my friends, family and doctor. I got treatment. I was willing and eager to take the prescribed anti-depressants that made me feel just a little better able to cope. At any other job, 8 years would make you an expert. Not motherhood. I am still overwhelmed much of the time. I still feel like a failure when my kids won't listen to me or have a problem I cannot solve. Sara is struggling in school on many levels. I feel like this is my fault, too. Did I not teach her enough about respect, manners, listening, self-restraint and focus? Did I fail? Why is MY child having so much trouble when other kids seem to sail through school with tons of friends, play dates and sleepovers? What could/should I have done differently? Better? What does it take to be a good mother?

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