After my first child who is now seven, I went back to work five weeks after a C-section. Part of it was economic necessity and part guilt over my students starting the year with a sub, but now I realize that part was a way to deal with my hormones. The scary dark and strangely anxious postpartum thoughts that made me feel guilty about not working, incompetent at parenting, and worthless as a human. And anxious. Home alone with my daughter that first month, the worry scrubbed at me. Was I doing it right? And it was not just nursing, diapering, and sponge baths. I worried that I didn’t feel correctly about my child (though I loved her passionately), that she would stop breathing at any moment (I bought a motion sensor pad for her crib), that her every cry was important (we let her sleep in a baby rocker that she seemed most comfortable in and put the motion sensor below it). It was easier to be exhausted safely at work, with my child in my husband’s large, competent hands.
We brought our son home almost four years ago now. And I was physically spent after another emergency C-section. And I felt the hormones stalking me. But I was able to do what was best for my family and for me; I stayed home five months with him. Part of it was experience with parenting; I turned out to be a good mom to my daughter who’s a great kid. And part of it was experience with post-partum hormones; I knew that the ride with the boogeyman would end.
But a large part of it was increased confidence. I was big enough to handle the impending shade and jagged anxiety. I’m bigger. After raising my daughter, growing older, I now know that I’m more than my job, my work ethic, or even my daughter’s IQ. I’m big enough to find my way out of the dark forests. I’m big enough to bounce.
A friend of mine is afraid to take her one and three year olds hiking. She is afraid they will be eaten by bears. Really. Every parent has to find their own way through the scary anxiety of raising a kid. She doesn’t stress as much as I do over whether her child is learning the correct skills at the correct pace.
Today our way involves clamming on the beach and possible body surfing for me and the oldest in the wild December waves. It’s going to be a good day.