Saturday, April 18, 2015

Spring cleaning

It only took a few hours for the postpartum depression to overtake me.  At first, it came on like a numbing blanket, then crashing anger and cascading sorrow.  It will be gone in six months, I told myself.  I can handle anything for six months.  Six months came and went.  Any day now, I thought as I persevered through the fatigue and bitterness. When my son blew out the candle on his first birthday cake, I checked the clock.  He is one.  It will be gone soon.  But it did not leave.  In many ways it escalated.  I began to forget what happiness felt like.  Behind my smiles and kisses, I was hollow.  So hollow.

I often sat on the floor in that miserable, blue townhouse, staring blankly at the gray walls day after day.  With hands draped limply over my legs, my mouth hung open slightly as if begging for air since I lacked the energy to breathe deeply.  My children crawled over and around me, screaming, squealing, and crying for my affection.  My vacant, blue eyes, pillowed by dark bags of skin, moved lazily to observe the madness without engaging.  Indifference permeated the air so thickly that if I could have willed my body to free my spirit from this hollow existence, I would have gladly done so.

For twenty-two months, I battled these thoughts.

For twenty-two months, I faked my way through motherhood.

For twenty-two excruciating months, I lived a boo-boo-kissing, baby-food-making, stories-before-bed, I-love-you lie!

Then, the sun rose in the east on a crisp, spring morning, just as it had the day before.  Except that morning, while making my children breakfast, I felt something I couldn't quite describe.  Was it peace?  It was hard to tell.  I sat at the table and watched my son peek at me through his cheerios. Unfamiliar tinges swelled in my heart. Was this amusement?  I was unsure.  Annie asked for milk, and while I filled her favorite pink glass, she danced in the kitchen and hummed a Taylor Swift song. My mouth pulled up into a smile involuntarily.  How strange.  We finished breakfast, and my children began to play, dumping out buckets of toys that clattered onto the beige carpet.  Shrieks of elation filled the room, and I noted my lack of irritation.  Then, Sam knocked over the primary-colored block tower his sister meticulously built.  Annie ran to me in tears, and I wrapped my arms around her narrow shoulders and nestled my face into her silken hair, waiting for the imminent anxiety to join us for this special moment, but it did not. I felt kind of alone, but for once, not lonely.

The next day brought similar feelings, as did the day after. Two weeks passed, and the sun was spending a little more time in the sky, nurturing the new grass and budding trees.  The air slowly warmed and the smell of fresh mulch and damp payment wafted through the air as if to announce the blooming flowers.  On a breezy but bright afternoon, my children and I walked to the playground to experience these sights and sounds after a stagnant winter.  Sam dug in the dirt while Annie played pirate.  I laid in the grass, soaking up rays of sunshine as my hair whipped back and forth across my neck.  Warmth blanketed my face and sent kisses down my arms.  Windy whistles tickled my ears and soothed me like a lullaby. The beauty of the moment was intoxicating, and I allowed my mind to fill with a florescent haze of-- what was it?  Annie jumped on my back and wrapped her arms around my neck.  "How are you?" I asked her.

"Happy!" She replied as she combed her fingers through my tangled mane. Happy. . . yes.  That is what it was.  It had happened.  I was finally free of that great beast of burden. As spring warmed the earth and brought life back into the world, it also brought life back into me.  I could breathe again.

Today I cleaned out my closet.

It was the elephant in my room-- always looming, like a dark, twisted presence, housing years of regrets and bitter memories.  But I was ready now, eager to let go of the past and embrace this second chance at joy.  I touched the old clothes from my pre-children life.  I ran my fingers along the rows of buttons and slim waist bands and was flooded with memories of my innocent self.  I missed days filled with praise and people.  I missed feeling young.  Gently folding and placing the clothing in a box, I reminded myself that I am not her anymore, and it is okay.  Who I am now is a woman with greater sympathy and understanding.  I have joined the ranks of warriors who fight battles and come out with scars and stories.  I am still afraid sometimes but also more courageous than I've ever been.  But most of all, I am happy.  Life is good.

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