I’ve actually uttered this sentiment to complete strangers while discussing my twins, usually after one of those inane comments twin moms hear so often; “I don’t know how you manage with two – I can barely handle one!” “You’ve got your hands full” or my favorite: “I’ve always wanted twins.”
My path down the yellow brick road to the fields of opium poppies and Lexapro was arduous, and filled with much doubt that anything was even wrong with me. I’ve referred to myself as Tom Cruise-esque in my belief that depression (post-partum in this case) is “all in your head” or could be fixed by simply wishing it away. I even once believed depression (if it was real at all) only struck those unfortunate enough to have been traumatized by some past event or form of abuse.
Then I lived it.
Day after agonizing day, with two infants to care for, and no basis with which to complain, I began to surmise I simply was not meant for motherhood. I forced myself to do the minimum amount of work required to maintain a household, and attend to two babies, but each and every action required effort, and I waited for the moment of reprieve; the girls’ nap, my husband’s arrival home, or my own bedtime. I longed for sleep all the time, even after surviving those eleven months of sleep deprivation before the girls finally slept through the night – at the same time. When I did sleep, it was restless, and I awoke feeling worse than when I lie down, simply praying for their cries to stop or hoping, against all odds, that both of them would go back to sleep (that never happened, but it didn’t stop me from hoping it would).
My restless, overworked brain went round and round trying to come up with some solution to my angst towards these ever-demanding bundles of flesh, only to reach the conclusion that I was simply too selfish to give up my entire life to motherhood. I developed a few survival tactics that kept me going – twin mommy blogs, a phone call to my mom or a drive to the espresso stand down the street. Lots of espresso.
I remember telling a close friend of mine somewhere around my daughters’ landmark first birthday, that I felt the kind of intense anger everyday that I had only experienced a handful of times in my life pre-children.
That should have been a red flag for me, but instead, I continued to assume that I, unlike billions of women before me, wasn’t meant to procreate.
Finally, when my girls were 16 months old, that same friend suggested I see a psychiatrist after I told her I was “barely keeping my head above water”. Having just had a baby herself, and being a mental health professional, she must have seen that look of desperation in my eyes, that certain quiver in my voice. Or maybe it was just women’s intuition.
Reluctantly, those little white pills followed, and I felt so infidel to my inner Tom Cruise. I heard my father’s well intentioned advice to make better use of my juicer (lest this be a mineral deficiency) go out the window.
And I started to feel relief. A missed nap no longer put me into a tailspin I could not recover from; a screaming match over a toy or bottle didn’t end with me screaming as well.
Of course, as any user of anti-depressants knows, relief didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t without its stumbles along that yellow brick path, but I can’t recall the last time I felt that plume of anger steam through me like a freight train.
I hear myself telling my daughters to “use your words” in that sickly sweet tone mothers use, and find myself staring at their delicate faces instead of the TV as they lounge in my lap. I relish every hug and kiss; I soak up the touch of their hands on my skin when they need reassurance from a barking dog or a passing train. I find myself engrossed in one of their activities, enjoying the simplistic pleasure of block stacking or pretend muffin making. I chase after them encouraging their delightful squeals over and over again. I am patient enough to stand at my daughter’s crib while she hands me – one by one – all eleven of her baby dolls that must accompany her at night, and still have the patience left over to swaddle and re-swaddle them until she is satisfied it’s done correctly.
When I forget to take a dose, those old “patterns” rear their ugly flying monkey heads – the impatience, the stagnancy to move on after an unpleasant event, the mental exhaustion, the irritation at everyday toddler idiosyncrasies (refusing to sit in their car seats, dawdling when we are in a hurry, the incessant rant of “mama mama mama mama mama mama MAMA!”)
I am enjoying motherhood like I never could unless I was on anti-depressants. And I’m okay with that.