In August, I told my son about the fact that I’d had severe postpartum depression after he was born.
I did not use those words, of course; rather, I told him that “I got a little sad” and he understood it and did not understand it and it was a pretty good balance.
In January, my book came out and I told everyone about the fact that my story was much worse than what I’d previously shared on this blog.
Since that time, I have been lucky enough to have had many interviews; on tv, in magazines, the newspaper, on the radio and for other blogs. I am honored and humbled by this. In fact, because I can’t think of a better place to share this, I will speaking, on stage, about my story at this year’s national March for Moms, in Washington, DC, on May 6, in front of the Capitol Building.
This has been more amazing and fulfilling than I ever could have imagined, but…
this also means that I have had to say, over and over again, “when I was pregnant with my son, I was not OK and after his birth I lost my will to live.” It is my truth, and I share this in an effort to help others, but every single time I say this — a story that I have told for over four years now — it hurts. It hurts because of the guilt I feel and it hurts because I love him so much and I wish that, though our situation was in no way my fault, he had gotten a better version of me.
I just wrote a whole post about the things you do not know about me, but there is one more thing that I have not really shared. For a very long time, since my son was born, I have been scared of little boys. It is not that I did not trust myself with them, as I always loved my son and only wanted the best for him, even in my darkest of days, but I have had this weird mental block. I had one child, and though it was hard at times, everything was sparkly and tutu-ish. I had another child and though it was love-filled at times, everything was dim and hellish. When handed a little boy to hold and love, I have been scared, since this time in 2013, that I would not be able to.
I have been so scared.
My son and I took some time to get into a groove. We always shared a bond, but he was a daddy’s boy, or a bubbie’s boy, or a Boppy’s boy, and he would always choose me last. I was OK with this. I am sure I thought that I deserved this. He did not get the best of me, and so why should I expect him to want me? Let me be clear: if you were telling me this I would talk and talk until I convinced you that this was your own projection, stemming from unnecessary guilt.
We can always see others more clearly than we can see ourselves, right?
But, lately, we have found a place for us and only us. He and have this special thing going. They are little things, mostly, but they are precious gems; he wants me to be the one to put him to bed at night; he wakes me up with an inside joke; he invented “squeeze hugs” and “squeeze kisses” just for me. When he is hurt or sad, he comes to me to console him or to kiss his boo boo or to make him feel better. Because, now, finally, I can.
I have also learned how to communicate with this most stubborn child of mine. The trick was so simple, really: I had to go into his world. I had to learn his language. When trying to work out a problem with him, I could not try to rationalize with him in the same way that I was able to parent my daughter. I had to compare our situation to the different superheroes and supervillains, which means I had to learn about all of the superheroes and supervillains. I have even learned about Star Wars. When I am in his world, I can work out a problem while building a LEGO vehicle for Lex Luthor and, most of the time, he responds.
Today is his first day off for spring break because, yes, my children have two different spring breaks. Woo!
In some ways it would have been so much easier to have them off from school at the same time. Not only would they be able to entertain one another (which they do so well) but I would only have one week of major scheduling disruption. But, in other ways, I am grateful for this individual time that I have with each of them. Last week with my daughter was wonderful. I am looking forward to this time with my son. And it is hard. He wants to play with me, and not just roam the aisle of Home Goods looking for velvet pillows and the perfect white shower curtain. Playing takes effort and energy and he completely dictates the rules of the game. Every game.
Today, after a tricky Monday morning (because it is the Monday morning after spring break and it’s a Monday!), all I wanted to do was curl up with a movie and a mug of tea. I have a winter in my step, so to speak.
Today, however, is ice cream truck day. This means that we spent our time post-sister-drop-off playing with two, matching ice cream trucks. I went into his world, answering him when he told me what deliveries we would go on next. “Sure, boss! Nancy wants the vanilla ice cream with caramel? Let’s give her mint chocolate chip with chocolate sprinkles, too!”
Every “road” had a “not do sign” (his latest interest — he wants to know what every “not do sign” says) and so we had to figure our way out of a street closure or huge house in the middle of our route and so we invented giant horns to beep and, when it got really dicey, he explained that when the doors to our ice cream trucks open they can turn into airplanes, so they can fly.
I made the effort to get into his world and show enthusiasm, but after a rather treacherous time trying to deliver strawberry ice cream to Henry (but not “Horrid Henry” just another Henry), I needed a little break.
Perhaps it was the stress of the early morning hitting me, or the fact that I genuinely miss my children when they are not with me, or that I stayed up way too late last night or, just, other life things, but, as soon as I left ice cream truck world, I started to feel emotional. Not the best. I was bummy, and I wanted to feel better.
I came back into the room where my son was playing with his trucks by himself, and I asked him if I could hold him. I inhaled his scent, and rocked him, almost like he was a baby.
“Sometimes I need a little bit of extra love,” I explained to him. “Boppy always gives me a big hug to give me love from her heart. Do you think you could do that for me?”
“How about a SQUEEZE HUG?” he suggested. And I let my little 4-year-old hold me. And when I broke our embrace, he looked me in the eyes and asked, “And how about a squeeze KISS?”
He, quite literally, kissed my boo boo. He consoled me. We were a team, no less than any other mother and son, or loving parent, or ice-cream-truck-co-drivers.
He asked if we could play some more, and so I sat down, told him that, “I’m back from my break, boss!” and he gave me the next stop on our delivery route.
The moral of this story is not anything big or flashy. It is not something that anyone else could even see on the outside. But, to me, it means everything. It is that, despite the guilt I feel, and despite the times I missed, I did the best I could, and I am still doing the best I can, and that seems to be enough for this little guy. We can both go into each other’s worlds, when necessary. We can both be there for each other in a way that I did not realize, before.
And, this morning, all it took was a squeeze kiss and ice cream trucks.