Friday, November 13, 2009

"Don't Call Me Mother"

Excerpted from Elizabeth Elias' book: "Don't Call Me Mother" available here, and also on Amazon.

It's on my wish list for Christmas.



(I'd prefer the real life book, not the ebook, thanks, because then I can dog ear it and feel it and put it down and pick it up, etc. ;-)

What the hell had I signed up for? I had heard with my ears that my life would completely change and that I would not get much sleep. But I had not actualized the information and now I was living it– not very gracefully.

After the first few nights of sleeping for two or three hours here and there, I was over it. Darkness descended upon the land. My mother reached out to help me with advice. I became allergic to it and pushed her away. I did not want anyone’s advice, especially not hers. She had managed it somehow, to be the loving mother, while I was flapping my wings and flailing. I wanted to claim this new role as my own. But I was not the image of mother that I thought I would be, nothing was as I thought it would be.

Our new son wanted to eat every three hours around the clock and it took an hour to feed him each time. There was no space left to sleep, eat or bathe myself and this depleted me. I turned on my baby. In my mind I put him out in the garage at night where I could not hear him and I fantasized about sleeping uninterrupted again. I daydreamed of calling the adoption agency up and asking them for a refund. Adrian worked twelve hour shifts and I envied him for it.

One evening while he was away, I could not sooth my baby. I had fed him and changed him and still he cried. I swaddled him and rocked him and sang to him, but he did not hear me through his wails. My hands began to tremble and my face changed to mirror his grim one. Carefully, I carried him to his beautiful room and lay him down in the crib. He laid there, bundled, eyes shut, mouth open, noisy. I backed out quietly and shut his door. Listening to him I walked to my bedroom and shut that door too. What a terrible mother, unable to sooth her baby, leaving him all alone. Surely if the agency could see, they would take him back. I retreated further into the en-suite bathroom and closed that door too. I could still hear him though three sets of doors separated us. I turned on the shower and stripped off my clothes. I climbed in and sat on the cool bottom of the tub and turned the taps. There, now it was silent. My tears rinsed away before I could taste them. I folded my arms across my chest and pretended the stream of water hitting my skin was pure forgiveness. I needed forgiveness. I needed distance. I needed perspective. This was not the mother I wanted to be. I sucked.

I struggled on and a couple weeks into our new roles as parents Adrian and I were driving in the car. I needed to know if he felt the same way I did. “Do you love him? Does he feel like he’s yours?” I prodded.

He answered without hesitation, “Ya, I do. I think I probably would walk through fire for that little guy.”

I thought about that. I could not relate. I might have felt potent mother love sometimes for a few moments, especially when he was asleep, but mostly I felt tired and frustrated and overwhelmed. And stupid. And guilty.

This was what I had struggled so long for? I felt guilty I didn’t feel closer to him. I felt guilty that I wanted to sleep. I felt guilty that I was entrusted with his care to love him and I just wanted to have my own space back. I felt bad that I was not that mother who gave unconditionally of herself without needing to refill her own cup. I was not her. I now hated that idealized role of mother. It did not fit me. I had to find another way. I had to carve a new version out for myself.

I cringe at Elizabeth's honesty, and then breathe a sigh of relief: it's not just me. She writes about PAD being an illness, not my fault, nothing to be ashamed of. Still, I'm not there yet. I still feel shame and that I should have been strong enough not to succumb to it, that I should keep it a secret and not let anyone know how I feel. Which makes writing about it on this so very private INTERNET scary to me.

Coming up soon, some pre-existing conditions that may be red flags for PAD.


Rebecca said...

I read your blog but rarely comment...but I wanted to comment today to encourage you. I'm glad that you are putting it out there and writing about something very personal. Because just as you read this excerpt and felt 'not alone', someone is reading your blog and feeling like they're not the only one with these feelings.

I actually hadn't heard anything about PAD prior to reading your blog. I read your first post right before a friend called me to talk about adoption. She has suffered with depression in the past and is worried about having a biological child. She knows that a lot of people suffer from depression after having a child and knows your hormones can go crazy. She said they were seriously considering adoption so they could bypass the chance of depression. I told her she should research PAD (because you had mentioned it! thank you!). I'm definitely pro-adoption, but I also want to be realistic about it.

Kudos to you for being transparent. I appreciate your courage.

E said...

Hey I know her! She's a cool chick ;)

sko3 said...

wow. What a powerful excerpt.

Calmil2 said...

You are being very brave and I applaud you. All moms are not the same. I have one friend that is like mother nature and will probably breast feed and wear her baby until she's 10. I have another friend who has a whole address book full of babysitters and uses them regularly so she can go to the gym and shopping. And they are both happy and both of their kids are GREAT. If momma's happy, everyone's happy. And we all feel like we should be better, but we're doing the best we can.

Anonymous said...

Again, this is not at all different from a birth mom's feelings. Really. And excuse me for adding some levity, but when her husband said how bonded he was a la de da dee, I thought the next line was going to be something like, "And then she wanted to spear him with a fork--or a diaper pin." Dcuz

Anonymous said...

I have to say thanks for bringing this to light. While I have felt many of the same ways, I never really knew what to call it. It compounds the problem when I have 2 biological children that I never felt this way about. I am definitely going to buy this book.