until the therapist asks you the tough questions.
So, after a few weeks of uncharacteristically crazy behavior (and believe me, I'm not winning any awards for my mellowness even at my most chill) and some parenting that made me look like I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Joan Crawford School of Shitastic Parenting for the Bat-shit Crazy, I decided it was time to seek clarity and some Zoloft-y solace from a professional. So I whipped out my reliable google-fingers and located someone within walking distance. As an aside, seriously with the "walking distance". With all the walking I've done here, how am I not rivaling Nicole Ritchie in a boniness competition?? Oh. Well, it might be because as I type I am sipping an English breakfast tea that's probably more half and half than water. Oh, and eating a cookie. Um. That solves that cunundrum.
My last therapist was nice, and she was great to talk to. I have no complaints about her; she let me spill my guts about a lot of stuff while I was seeing her. We participated in more of a weekly gab-fest than therapy, I think. She never asked me anything tough, really. I don't really remember many questions at all, come to think of it. So I walked into this appointment last week expecting to just chat and give some background about myself and what circumstances had led to me getting my crazy on in the past month or so.
And for the most part, I did. I talked about our move, and how sad I am still when I wake up on Thursday mornings and realize that 3,000 miles away, so many of my friends and their little ones are at play group while Ethan and I stare at each other, trying to figure out what to do with our time, me secretly hoping I can make it to noon without bursting into tears or yelling at Ethan for, oh I don't know, thinking that it would be super cool to play target practice with the cat and his sippy cup (sippy as projectile; he can't pick up the cat....yet).
(wow. that was all one sentence? Can you tell my teaching license has expired?)
So we got through that, and I glossed over the whole PPD episode because even though she's a therapist, that sort of talk seemed more like 3rd date material, know what I mean?
But she came back to it. In a big way. With, "Are you sure you should have another child?"
Um. Wow. Can you say "shut down"? My brain clamped shut with the only reaction I could fathom having. Pure and utter disbelief and insult. I mean, really. Who asks that??!!
Oh, a therapist.
She asked towards the end of my session, so I didn't really have a lot of time to do anything but stagger through "well, we've always wanted two kids. and I'd be on medication for the PPD. and yes, two kids. Two." I'm sure the word she wrote down on her notepad was "textbook". Which I hate, because of all the things I could be described as in this world, I hate to be "textbook" (which in an of itself is probably, um, textbook).
Over the past several days, though, I've been quietly ruminating over this question, picking it apart and examining my motivation.
There is the pregnancy to consider. For some crazy, kicked-in-the-head stupid reason, I loved being pregnant. Nevermind the first three months of constant panic that somethinganythingeverything will go wrong. I distinctly recall that I didn't go to the bathroom once for fourteen weeks without checking for blood on the paper. And the two times I found it? Fear down to my toenails. And the bedrest? Fourteen weeks in bed. Two of it in the hospital. But then there was also watching my belly grow, and feeling Ethan move around in there, for the first time, the hundredth time, the last time. The thought of doing all of that again, with a toddler? Makes my head hurt.
And Ethan's newborn phase? Dark times, my friends. I hate to admit that. It's hard for me to admit just how tough it was. Very few people know, but the first few weeks he was home, I would lock myself in the bathroom, sit in the tub, cry, and wrack my brain trying to figure out how to convince Husband that we should give Ethan to my friend Karen because she and her husband had been trying for years to get pregnant with no success. Seriously. It seemed perfectly rational to me that Karen should have Ethan--she so desperately wanted a child and I had somehow ended up with one that I didn't know what to do with. (Even now I write that with a cringe in my heart that you will all be aghast and horrified; but there it is).
The tears I cried then were the tears of a woman who hated herself for not being madly in love with her baby, and they were also the tears of a woman in shock at the "no going back"ness of it all.
There's simply no way to prepare for how your life ceases to be what it once was when you become responsible for the well-being of another human being. Prior to Ethan's being born, I was, well, more than a bit self-centered and I can admit that I bordered on spoiled, in that I basically could do what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted.
Motherhood, at least initially, changes that so completely that I think a lot of those tears were withdrawal symptoms, grieving the old me, to make room for the new me. She is, in fact, a better version of me, and I'm so glad to have made room for her. I have seen a lot of moms fight the rebirth of self they go through after having a child and I'm glad that, though it was painful, I let myself go into that cocoon and come out on the other side. And, having done that once, In a way, i don't expect to go through that sense of loss-of-self as intensely a second time around.
Stephanie talks in her book Sippy Cups Are Not For Chardonnay about being the mom who doesn't fall madly in love with her child from the moment s/he come screaming out of your body. I was that mom. It took me a long time to feel that intense love. It took me a long time to feel anything but exhaustion, frustration, disconnectedness and resentment. That? I don't want to feel again. If I knew there was no way around that feeling again, the answer to the therapist's question would be a resounding "NO. I should never, ever, ever do that again."
And I won't. Not that. The reality is that having a complicated pregnancy and a newborn IS tough. It is mind-numblingly challenging. And I'm sure with a toddler in the mix, it is exponentially more fraught with craziness-inducing difficulties. But back then? I had no identity as a mother.
Pregnancy and new motherhood forces you into roles for which you can't prepare, for which there is no personal compass. Sure, you can read every book ever written on the subject, but it's no substitute for experience. And now, at least to some degree, while I'm not old Mother Hubbard, I've had some experience, and I know, at least to some extent, what to expect of myself and of the journey.
And beyond all of what I know now, Husband is going to be the PPD police. You can be sure of that.
(And just so we're clear, I look at Ethan now and I can't fathom that there was ever a cell in my body that didn't just hurt with love for him. There is a little piece of guilt tucked away in my heart for always that I didn't immediately know just how phenomenal he was and that I didn't beam with love for him from the very get-go. But that love, when it does (finally, thank god!) take over, is the most intense emotion I've ever felt. I'm not sure I can imagine how my heart could grow enough to love another one as much as I love him, but I've seen it happen, so I have to believe it's possible.)
I also don't think our choice to have two children is based on the idea of having two babies. For some, babyhood is the part you have to go through to get to the "good stuff". Don't get me wrong, I do look forward to having another sweet, tiny, cuddly newborn wrapped in receiving blankets and nursing at my breast. Many of the things that caused me such angst then have smoothed out around the edges in my memory. No, I didn't sleep more than an hour or two at a time, but I laughed at Conan O'Brien a LOT during those first few months.
For us, having two children is about having two children, not about going through pregnancy or infancy twice. Yes, we have to do that to get to where we want to be. But it's the kids--playing together in the backyard, horsing around under the dining room table under a tent of blankets, building sandcastles together at the beach, and probably beating the snot out of each other on a daily basis for several years. That's why we want two kids. It's about watching two people learn from us, each other, the world around them, to see who they turn into and watch that development in the coming years; hopefully contributing to it in some positive way.
It's so that over holiday dinners years from now, they can tell stories to their wives or husbands and children about what crazy things they did to each other as kids. If they are like Husband and his sister, they will commandeer each other's memories so that wild and unresolvable arguments about whose memory it actually is will ensue to the point of absolute hilarity. It's so that when we are old and they are faced with losing us, that they should have each other to lean on. So that they are never alone.
I couldn't put all of that together when she first asked if we "should" have another child. All I could do was stammer and read her question as a condemnation of the depressed woman who shouldn't torture herself, her husband, toddler and newborn with her own craziness at going through the process again. And I'd like to promise that I won't go through any of that again. That next time I will breeze through it all with the grace and aplomb of a natural earth-mother. I'm not sure I will, though. There could be some craziness in the forecast. But just like now I know the colic will stop and the exhaustion will stop, I know the feelings of darkness can come with new motherhood will also stop, and that I can do something about it before I ever find myself crying in a dry bathtub trying to figure out on whom I can pawn off my newborn (especially since Karen has her beautiful and perfect Sammy now).
So, yes. I should. We should. And hopefully, we will.