When I looked at my reflection in our dirty bathroom mirror, one that I said I would clean weeks ago, I was staring at someone I didn’t recognize. Damaged hair, raccoon eyes, oily skin… I had never swam this far into the ocean before I became a mom. When my feet relied on the very tip of my toes to find its way back to shore, the struggle was quickly washed away with the current and seashells. It was much different this time – I drifted off into sea, far enough that I had no choice but to ask for help. Admitting that I needed a shoulder to lean on was the most difficult part in getting it started. I feared the judgement stemming from my daughters eyes. If nearing perfect was the outcome of all this pandemonium, my daughter would know that I did this all for her.
The morning of my appointment made its way around, but I still wasn’t feeling positive about pushing myself to speak up. I was embarrassed to talk about my ways of parenting. I knew that I was alone in this ugly battle… one that I wanted to face by myself… one that I thought I could handle by myself. The pressure to fight against my inner demon was becoming a priority over my daughters needs. I cuddled her during each nursing session, every nap. But I wasn’t truly there as her mom. I wasn’t giving her my all, and I wasn’t showing her the strength I gathered in preparation of becoming a mother. Everything I had worked so hard to become had vanished before my very own eyes. It was within reach, I could almost touch it. But the strain against my chest impacted not only me, but on my family as a whole.
In a waiting room full of patients, I managed to find a chair secluded from the rest. My daughter was wiggling her body in a motion to break free from her straps. I silently begged her to stay put, because the fear of judgement was making another round. Not only was I afraid to be a mom in general, but being out in public made my skin crawl. I could almost see the germs marching their way to my daughters hands. My usual anxieties attacked me right there in that office, except they became much worse from the day my daughter was placed in my arms for the very first time. I started sweating in places I wasn’t used to and my stomach ached with disgust. I was terrified of the impressions being made against me, but there I sat… judging every soul in that room like it was my job. Sickness was in the air, personalities were acting out. Anything that just didn’t seem normal made me worry that my daughter was being exposed to something I couldn’t erase from her little mind. I didn’t have that right – making assumptions about people I didn’t even know.
So why was I so afraid of the same thing, when I was guilty of that very offense?
My therapist advised me it would be best to try leaving my daughter at home while I came for my appointment. But when she greeted me at the door, she didn’t seem as pleased. Limping my way over with the car seat in one hand, diaper bag in the other, was my way of showing her that where I went… my daughter went too. I was a mom, wearing these shoes for the first time. I was still getting used to the scabs behind my ankles and toes being squished together. My body was still leaking to the sound of a child’s cry – baby, toddler, it didn’t matter. There was no solid reason for me to leave my daughters side… not one that I wanted to hear, anyway. The separation anxiety was thriving to its fullest… but also turning into something I would not be able to control in the future. That was the main reason why I sat myself into the deep, round chair. But the only thing I saw was another person trying to tell me that what I was doing was wrong. The support was most definitely there, but the curtains were shading it enough to hide from the light. Again, alone.
I was asked a series of questions to find the core of my issues. Why didn’t I want to leave my daughter? Why was I feeling like I failed, only a couple of months in? I was in her presence, watching her take notes and occasionally check her phone. But all of her information was pouring out of my ears, because I just didn’t want to hear it. Whether it was walking to the mailbox, or pre-heating my car… I couldn’t do it unless my daughter was in my sight – At All Times. Suddenly, the opinions formed against me shrunk into tiny pieces of dust resting against the office floor. I didn’t care what others thought about me. If I was that crazy, psycho mom who brought her child everywhere… then so be it. I wasn’t a fan of going to therapy in the first place, so I surely wasn’t going to let her tell me what would be in my best interests. My mental health could wait – I just wanted to snuggle my daughter at home, without the germs, without the fear of not making it back safely disrrupting my smooth drive.
My initial thought of putting my mental health on hold proved to be a wrong action on my part. The tears in the middle of the night were not just from my daughter… they came from the silhouette hiding in the bathroom shower, trying to stay quiet enough so that she wouldn’t wake up for the tenth time that night. I was thrilled to have my daughter here, but the joy was so easily underlined with a weight in my stomach.
I wasn’t unhappy, but I wasn’t happy either.
The only people whom I thought would understand, were those who were moms themselves. But even then… my echoes were bouncing from wall to wall, and I was alone in the middle of the room –
accompanied by a chair that waited for my cushion.