My first tattoo. The dots are where we lived. The shape in the middle is Prospect Park where were were married.
From the time I understood what New York City was I wanted to be there. And when I did get there it felt so right. Every time I’d leave it I felt like I was missing something. Every time I’d come back I’d feel like I was home. Home. That feeling, that word held such significance. I went to 9 schools before I graduated high school. My upbringing was unique and in many ways wonderful, I feel lucky to have gotten to travel and living in New Zealand as I entered my teens was extraordinary, but I always wanted to belong somewhere. I wanted to know the same people forever and feel like a real part of a community.
Brooklyn provided that feeling for me. Well, Brooklyn and Zeke. I’m pretty shy at first, but Zeke has the ability to make friends with anyone anywhere. We lived in a very Italian section of Williamsburg, Brooklyn when we were married. Although we were clearly part of the wave of gentrifying hipsters (though we tried to convince ourselves we weren’t) the Italian old timers loved us. Z dresses like he is right out of 1942 and they couldn’t get enough of his fedoras and ties. And my Italian last name was enough for them. The Bangladeshi owner of the quick stop across from our apartment and his family attended our wedding. And the low level mafia guy who was in charge of our area gave us an envelope full of cash as a gift. They all took Z to a strip club in Queens in celebration. It was all so foreign to us, poor Z was completely uncomfortable about the strip club thing. But I was delighted; we belonged.
Z and I also discussed our future plans at length. I told him Brooklyn was home. I wanted to raise kids there if we decided to have them. I wanted to live there forever. Do things ever go the way you plan them? Z soured on the city after a few years and our relationship was in real trouble. I had a choice to make—stay in Brooklyn and lose Zeke or keep Zeke and lose Brooklyn. I made the right choice. But I have missed that city every single day. We change and we grow and where we live can seem like a small thing, but being a New Yorker was such a huge part of my identity. Sometimes I wondered if it was too much of myself to give up. And for the last four years I have fantasized about moving back.
Every time we visit the city Z and I fight. We lived there too long for him to have any pleasant feelings about the place. Even a short visit unleashes such venom from him, which is so unusual. My sweet husband has very little bitterness in him, he leaves that to me. And being there reminds me of everything that I have given up. I always look forward to the trips so much, but every time I leave with a bad taste in my mouth and a lot of resentment aimed at Z.
A few weeks ago one of my best friends had a baby and our little family made the trip to Brooklyn to see her and her amazing family. It was a great visit, a family they knew in their building was away for the weekend so we had our own space to stay and I had lots of time with these people that I love so much. On top of seeing them we got to spend an afternoon with another of our best friends, the guy who introduced us and who was the best man at our wedding. It was heaven.
But something heartbreaking happened. For the first time the city was too hard for me. For the first time I realized I didn’t want to live there. I had changed. I wasn’t a New Yorker and I didn’t want to be. Right now the most important thing in the world to me is Thomas. And our life in our sweet little house with our amazing yard in Syracuse, NY is right for him. We can’t provide the same things for him in Brooklyn. We just can’t afford it.
The realization was simultaneously a relief and a huge loss. I am happy to be where I am in life, happier than I can remember ever being. But letting go of a piece of who I am feels like a break up of sorts. I don’t want to let go of Brooklyn even though I already have.
Hanging out in our beautiful backyard.
T with one of the tomatoes we grew.
When T was born it seemed like a really good time to go back into therapy. Statistically my chances of developing post partum depression were greater than average due to my history of depression. I had been out of regular therapy for 3 years and we were in a new town. So I didn’t want to find myself in trouble and then have to worry about finding a therapist.
Luckily I did not suffer from post partum depression. But I think it was a good choice to go into therapy again because this year has been one huge transition. And although depression hasn’t been a problem anxiety sure has. Familiar, crippling, agoraphobic tendency inducing anxiety; my dear old friend who never quite left but is now an hourly presence our lives. I was going to say my life, but of course Z and T are just as affected by it.
Being a new mother is a mind fuck whether you suffer from mental illness or not. And I find myself spending a lot of time wondering if my feelings are normal crazy or crazy crazy. Sometimes it is pretty clear cut. I know it is not normal to cry every day. I know it isn’t normal to feel crushing guilt because I am so happy. I know I shouldn’t think it is obscene to be so happy and therefore something is going to happen to take the happiness away. And I know I shouldn’t constantly and obsessively worry that something unspeakably awful is going to happen to my baby.
The reality is that I do all that stuff. The solution is it goes on the list to talk about in therapy. The hope is being in therapy will help prevent me from getting to the place where all that stuff takes over and I cease to function. So far it is working.
But sometimes all the therapy in the world doesn’t prevent a person from having another episode of depression or paralyzing anxiety. And that is what scares the shit out of me. It is too late now, but I still wonder if it was the right choice to have a baby because I have these problems. Was it selfish in the extreme? Is it fair to T? Will my behavior damage him permanently? Can I be a good mother with the storm cloud of mental illness hanging over my head? Will he suffer from the same problems I do?
The last one is the biggie. He is so perfect to me, so wonderful and full of possibilities that I can’t handle to thought of him one day hating himself the way I hated myself during the worst of my problems. Heck, I don’t want him to experience the mild dislike that plagues me to this day. How does someone with low self esteem raise a boy to have a healthy sense of self worth?
The bottom line is I am a mom now. There isn’t any going back. And my motivation to stay well is my son. I want the best for him, and that includes the best mother possible. I know I will fail to be that mother much more than I would like, but while it was so easy to give up on myself before he was born I simply don’t have that option anymore. It wasn’t the selfless choice to become a mom, but he is the biggest motivation I have ever had to get well and stay well.
He loves sharing his food with us. Now if we could just figure out how to get him to eat it himself…
*Disclaimer: I am not fishing for compliments or validation. I am just trying to be as honest as possible about all of my feelings concerning motherhood. Promise. In fact, a future post will address my compulsion to be completely honest about the less desirable parts of myself and that this self flagellation is not done because I’m looking for absolution.
Tonight Z and I sat at our table eating frozen pizza while I sobbed none too quietly. I know I know it was very glamorous all around. At first Z didn’t know what I was crying about. He knew I had a pretty bad headache. He knew we were both exhausted because T is teething and was up crying in the middle of the night. He was doing all his regular things to make me feel better. Calling me cute, gently laughing at me, offering to watch a Harry Potter movie, “We could watch the one with Dobby!” That was a really big deal. Z hates the one with Dobby.
At first I was crying too hard to tell him anything, but eventually I got to the sniffles stage and swallowed my embarrassment. Today we figured out that T understands “Dada.” If you say to him “Thomas, where is Dada?” He searches the room until he finds Z. We also found out that he doesn’t understand “Mama.” “Thomas, where is Mama?” results in a blank stare. Don’t get me wrong, I am truly happy T understands “Dada.”, but as I told Z I am crushed he doesn’t understand “Mama.”
So yes, I am wallowing in self pity. I’m not proud of it.
At first I was able to make it into a joke. I told T until he learned I was Mama I was cutting him off-no more boob. But as the afternoon progressed and I kept making Z ask T where I was to see if he’d figure it out I started to feel worse and worse. Eventually Z told me to cool it. T would figure it out when he is ready. I know Z is right.
And I know I’m being a ridiculous drama queen. But as I explained to Z it makes me feel like T doesn’t love me enough. Or he thinks that I don’t love him enough or do enough for him. I’m a stay at home mom for fuck’s sake! I’m his go to person. He is almost 11 months old and I am still breastfeeding 4 to 5 times a day. I’m committed fully to this kid. I’d like him to figure out my fucking name thank you very much.
And there you have it. Motherhood doesn’t magically make you a less selfish person. My first impulse is always to be selfish and my fragile feelings are hurt so easily. If I’m going to continue to be selfish I guess I’ll just also have to be self aware. If I realize I’m being unreasonable at least I’ll be able to adjust my behavior and protect T from my toxic insecurity. With the never ending hope that if I’m self aware enough someday I’ll be able to stop being an over sensitive self absorbed child. Now that would be a pleasant change for Z.
T and his cousin Gabe wearing their matchy matchy PJs.