It has been good for me, I think, to spend the 20 minutes or so each day that I can manage writing about my daughter. But this morning I realized how many days behind I am and my chest constricted; my hands even shook a little. How can I catch up, I worried. How can I catch up? A panicked feeling that I have become all too familiar with in the last few weeks. Where will I find the time? I am falling behind, behind, behind…
I am unravelling. I am coming apart. I am weepy and pale and anxious. I have told several people now that I am nearing the end of my rope. Mostly what I hear back is what a good job I’m doing, taking care of my children, teaching my classes, managing the chaos. But, it is not reassurance that I’m seeking; I’m looking for someone to see me, to understand how close to the edge I am.
I look at my situation objectively. It is not that bad, I tell myself. I prep for and teach one three-hour graduate class a week, hold an office hour, spend 6 to 7 hours a week teaching online, and mark papers. I am also writing a book review, and two articles for publication with my former supervisor. I am volunteering with an organization about which I feel passionately. I applied for a post-doctoral fellowship. I wrote a zillion shorter and shorter summaries of my dissertation for an award for which I was nominated. I look at this and ask myself, ‘What is your problem? Why are you struggling so badly?’
I want to be able to take E to kindergarten and pick her up, play with her after school and talk about her day, tuck her in at night. I want to be able to sit with my son and soak in his newness, pay attention to each new thing he can do and to how his face changes daily from newborn to boy. Sometimes the work that piles up pulls me away from this and it upsets me so much. I know lots of moms work and take care of their babies. I ask myself again, ‘What is your problem?’
The other day, driving up to the university, I cried in the car because I realized that I had gotten myself into this predicament, this situation of feeling snowed under, buried and suffocating, because I had planned my life as if my baby, my M, would die, too.
When they asked me if I would teach two classes in the fall, I thought, ‘Well, if the baby is born alive, that might be a bit more than I would like to do. But, if the baby is born dead, I will need to be getting on with my career, because that will be that and I have lost too much time to dead babies.’ I said, yes.
When R and I talked about him taking parental leave while I worked part-time, I thought it all sounded just fine because I could not imagine, could not hope for, a living baby. This part of my life – May and beyond – wasn’t real to me at all; I pushed everything about it into the furthest corners of my head and heart; I will deal with it later, I thought.
But is that really it, either? Am I dramatizing this situation? Making it harder than it has to be? Is it really so bad? I think: I am just feeling sorry for myself. Buck up. Things will get better.
Except that last night I thought: if I walked in front of a bus, maybe I would not get killed but just badly enough injured that I could take a break, check out for a bit. That is not a normal thought for me. Over the last few days, I have ended each day in tears, desperate for sleep and rest and a break. I see the psychiatrist for a regularly-scheduled check-in on Friday and I just know that as soon as she asks me how I am doing, with that concerned look on her face, I will collapse in tears. Just thinking about it, I start to cry.
I have worked so hard since Anja died. I finished my dissertation, worked as a research and teaching assistant, taught a class, presented at conferences, published papers, survived a subsequent pregnancy, shepherded a pre-schooler through trauma, kept the house clean and food on the table. Now, I am working full-time, raising two kids and grieving for one. It suddenly just all feels like too much. I want to crawl into bed and avoid it all.
I wonder: would I be feeling this way without the grief? Would it be so hard? And, I don’t think so. I think the grief weakens my resistance to stress; it depletes my resources. I want to use it as an excuse sometimes. ‘But my baby died.’ But I was raised not to make excuses, and even though a part of me recognizes that a dead baby is not an excuse but a trauma that must be acknowledged as such, I tell myself, it’s been nearly two years and you must just keep going.
I fantasize about being ‘independently wealthy:’ not needing to work, living on acreage somewhere, spending the long days with my children. I would still be sad, I know, but would I feel like walking in front of a bus?
Sometimes I wish I had not always been such a competent woman. Too much is expected of competent women. I wish I had just fucked off, like my 35-year-old brother who treeplants in the summer and then spends the winter on employment insurance putting on crudely allegorical dance productions with his hipster friends.
I googled postpartum depression last night. It is probably too soon to say that’s what this is, but if things don’t change for the better, if I don’t change for the better, in the next few weeks…
It surprises me. It has caught me completely off-guard. To move from the tremendous relief and elation of his birth, his safeness, into this.