I want to be the mom that encourages her kids to flavor cereal with honey, that has kids who’ve been raised to prefer books over television, that has a cupboard full of herbs and tinctures and the know-how to use them. I don’t want to be a crazy mom.
I sometimes feel very confident that I’m going to be just the kind of mom I want to be. I thought of this as I ate a bowl of cereal flavored with honey this morning and, again, as I prepared a homeopathic remedy for my infant daughter’s gas. Our house is filled with wholesome foods and we believe in sitting down together for a home cooked dinner at night. We started reading to Mabel weeks ago and she loves storytime. My cupboard is full of tinctures and herbs and I’m coming along in the know-how department.
Sometimes, though, maybe even more of the time, I am convinced I’m not going to escape bringing my own brand of crazy into motherhood.
I feel guilty for every moment that she’s awake and not being somehow entertained or interacted with. I worry that we don’t go outside enough and feel guilty for the lack of motivation to do so. I feel personal responsibility when she fusses too much to allow someone other than me to hold or comfort her. I feel horrible and question my decision to stay at home with her when I realize just how hard of a time I’m having being one-on-one with her so much of the time. I feel terrible when my husband has to work half days during the week so that he can provide me with some relief, and worse still when I find myself resenting his ability to come and go as he pleases. I second guess my decision to go back to work one day a week, convinced I’m going to do some sort of irreparable damage. I’m already worrying about what will happen when my daughter finds this blog and finds out all about me. I tell myself all the time that I should be much better at all of this.
Although I have yet to fully accept the diagnosis as accurate, I worry that I’m going to bring the highs and lows of bipolar living into motherhood. There are some days where all I can manage to do is the bare minimum; rock the baby, feed the baby, change the baby. Yesterday I watched five episodes of my favorite guilty pleasure TV show and kept the baby alive, but didn’t bother trying to tackle the mess in my house, to answer the phone, or to seek out an adventure for Mabel and I. Today’s a little better but some days are a little worse. No one can tell for sure what tomorrow will bring. I worry that my old method of coping with whatever is broken in my brain – alternating hibernating cycles, where I hide on the couch and do the bare minimum, with productive cycles, where I get everything done – isn’t going to work now that I’m a mom. Sure, Mabel is mostly content to snuggle on the couch all day now but that won’t last much longer. I worry that, without the coping mechanism that I perfected over the years, I might lose control of my moods. I worry that Mabel will have memories of a mom who is depressed and lethargic for a few days every now and again and that those memories will tarnish any of the good stuff. I worry there won’t be enough good stuff.
There’s so much to worry about, so much of the time. I understand that much of this is normal new mom stuff. I accept that some of it is the hormonal veil of postpartum blues. Yet I also acknowledge that some of it could very well be real and deserves my attention sooner rather than later.
Still, even after a day of low emotion where I can barely muster enough voice to greet my husband when he gets home, Mabel’s toothless, soundless giggle can pierce the fog and I find myself grinning in response. There’s just no joy like kissing her sweet smelling, milky mouth when she finishes nursing; there’s no contentment like the weight of her head pressed to my shoulder and against my neck as she snuggles to sleep.
I’m afraid of our future, but I keep trying to remain in our present. The truth is, I can’t guarantee what kind of mom I’m going to always be and what kind of memories Mabel is going to have. I remind myself of simple truths: to take each day one at a time; that taking time to take care of me will help me to be a better mom; that if I do what I can to make the best of the good times, maybe Mabel will forgive me a few bad times.