I remember the exact moment that I decided I wanted to become a mom. My then boyfriend – now husband, and I were laying in bed. I rolled over to my side, taking away the comforter from my mouth so that I could talk to him.
“I want to try to have a baby.” I spat out. My eyes waited for his response. I blamed my desire to start a family because he was older than me. I figured if I had the notion of wanting to be a mom at twenty then he must surely have the desire at twenty-four. Our three year anniversary was approaching. We’d been living together for over two years. I didn’t question my decision on starting a family at a young age because being a parent with him felt natural. But, at that moment, I didn’t see the darkness that was waiting.
He agreed. And we started trying right away. It was our little secret. We weren’t going to tell our family that we were actively trying to get pregnant before marriage. They were still adjusting to the fact that I was living with him. Plus, I read online that it took months for couples to get pregnant.
Two months later, I was pregnant. Pregnancy was spectacular. I glowed. I rocked the belly. I never had morning sickness. My family was happy and supportive. And, I became a wife. My husband and I didn’t argue over nursery themes, baby gadgets, or names. That year was magical. Everything pointed towards bliss.
Birth. It was hard. It was unpleasant. It was exhausting. It was rewarding. My son was here. I had no idea that when I held his body against my breast, smelling his scent, months to come, I would regret being his mom.
At first, I wouldn’t sleep. I was afraid that if I did while my son was asleep, that he would never wake up. I would miss his struggle to breathe, and his death would be on my hands. My exhaustion brought paranoia. He couldn’t wear anything without washing it. I was confident that a toxic residue would eat at his flesh. The fear of his death morphed into my mortality. Was this bruise an indication that I had HIV? The pain in my calves, as I walked up and down the stairs, was a clot breaking and making its way into my lungs.
Daytime would blind the fear of death. It was a low simmer of fear that haunted my thoughts. I masked the paranoia with playdates, adventures, and get-togethers. As the sun set and friends returned home, loneliness crept in. I would lay awake, in total darkness, staring at the ceiling. I didn’t want to be a mom anymore. My mind was tired. I was a pathetic mother. I was weak. I was drowning, and it felt easier to succumb to the water.
My hidden fate was unraveling in front of others. My mask was breaking. My anger was growing. His neediness became annoying. His cries elevated my desire to run. My end was near. My husband heard the screams that vibrated throughout the house. I laid in a fetal position, on the raspy carpet in front of our bed. The screams escaped with no fight. Motherhood broke me.
I wish I could write about what happened those days after my breakdown. I remember feeling lethargic as if I was underwater fighting against the current to breathe. Days later, I was sitting on the couch of a psychiatrist. My husband sat right beside me. His weight shifted my body to the left. I grabbed his hand. The psychiatrist was a small framed woman. Her desk was a shrine of paperwork for the people she fought to help. I exhaled.
She asked, “How are you?”
My eyes closed. My chest vibrated against the labored breathing. My husband’s hand tighten around mine.
“I can’t do this anymore,” broke through my lips.
I needed the support of my husband but was ashamed to share my thoughts. My head dropped in defeat. My shoulders rolled forward with the tears that fell from my eyes. I didn’t know that being his mom would bring sadness. I didn’t know that being his mom would alter my whole being. I didn’t know that being his mom would suffocate me. I didn’t know that being his mom would bring fear. I didn’t know that being his mom would make me an outcast. I didn’t know that being his mom would destroy my happiness.
I answered her questions with anguished sobs. I was too tired to decipher my thoughts. But, she had the code. It was Postpartum Depression. Her petite body twisted towards her desk, placing the paperwork she had in her hands, onto it. Her chair scraped against the carpet as she stood up. She sat to my right and put her small hand on my shoulder. It radiated energy. She calmly explained Postpartum Depression while rubbing my shoulder. Every movement of her hand uncovered the truth. The truth that I wasn’t a failure. The truth that I wasn’t an embarrassment. The truth that I wasn’t alone. The truth that I could fall and there would be a safety net.