- Begin with a cup of youth and denial
- Scoop of genetics from each bio parent
- Add in anxiety during pregnancy
- Slowly introduce some paternal neglect
- Now gently mix in a divorce with transition
Ahhh, retrospection. I have to think – “How did we get here?” – in order to feel like a reflective person. I want to be vulnerable and explore it so let’s do this.
“Mom, I am getting married!!!”
Yep, that was just for starters. Spontaneity at its finest. Maybe it would have been good to respond to some of the red flags, which occurred during the year of engagement, but NOOOO, I was 26! That would have been WAY too smart for me then.
Now for some youth, ignorance and denial. I married someone who suffered from some pretty distinguishable issues. Social anxiety, inexplicable triggers for irrational behavior, misinterpretation of social cues, self sabotage, and an illness that ended up causing pain medication “dependence.” So that’s the first major ingredient to put into the proverbial bowl.
Twenty-seven was too young for me to have a baby. I found out and instantly felt nervous. However, it was truly amazing to be pregnant. I felt powerful and alive. Buuuut, I was still depressed as my situation crept up on me and became ever-so-clearly the WRONG choice. Wrong husband, definite mental and health issues, and soon-to-be financial crises. I worked, he didn’t. He became depressed and that made me more depressed. Can’t be great for a fetus to have a depressed mom, no matter how much I loved the idea of the baby inside. We lived in LA and to be candid, that was a very hard place for me. That was certainly the dark period of my life and no doubt, my friends and family got the brunt of it.
Violet was born. I fell in love. She was incredible although not what I expected. I had to WORK to get a smile. No cheerful baby giggles. She had an impossible time sleeping. I did everything on my own and was completely ravaged with exhaustion and resentment – more awesomeness to add to the “mood” of the house. She would scream for hours at the idea of a nap, but was desperately in need of sleep. I would sit there for ages rubbing her forehead, her body, massaging her hands and feet. She woke up once every 1.5 hrs for the first 8 months. I am a sleeper baby, a SLEEPER! No sleep for me = torture. And, I felt so alone. I would just sit and sob, not understanding HOW people did this?!?!
My parents visited and are the epitome of positivity and even they couldn’t get smiles from her. She just had a low baseline. She needed constant management, nothing was easy. We would go to a restaurant and she would climb out of her high chair and just dart out of the place, would NEVER sit still in a chair or a bench or a lap. I was constantly bouncing her, giving her malleable toys, singing to her, clapping her hands, there was ZERO downtime. I was so overwhelmed, my life became about maintenance, not enjoyment. I felt like I was constantly waiting to have a break and it NEVER came. I didn’t even realize that it was abnormal. I honestly thought this was just how babies were.
“Mommy – he won’t smile at me!” My heart retches as she slinks back from the living room, dejected and leaving the local dark cloud behind her. Oh Violet.
This dialogue still haunts me. My ex was so buried in his own issues, he could not surface in order to interact with his daughter. Now, I know that so little of this was by choice – no one ever advocated for him – and it makes it hard for me to feel anger. He was paralyzed. Yet, he took down some people in his path.
Insert divorce, a move to NYC and fast forward a bit. A new marriage made a new baby, another girl – Soleil. Soleil was one low-maintenance child. She never cried for more than 5 minutes, slept through the night at 3 months, ate anything. She would just sit there grinning, and giggles were as easy as a breath of air.
This is when I became truly overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by how vast the difference was between my newborn experiences. Granted, I was in a happy relationship - infatuated. I was ecstatic to be pregnant the entire time – we were dying to make that baby. But, this was the ultimate realization for me. The reflection of my first baby, to which I had been so blind. Violet wasn’t like other babies.
My mother and I talked about how amazing it was that I felt so full of the joy of motherhood. I had guilt. I looked back at choices and felt like I had made so many poor decisions. If I would have recognized early on how different Violet was, maybe I could have helped her sooner? More guilt. Could I have exited my terrible marriage sooner? Could I have spared her the paternal neglect sooner? Could I have gotten myself in a better psychological spot sooner? Could I have been more calm, more patient, more tolerant? Ugggggh, still makes me feel bad. I know now she was born with issues, but could I have done things differently? This is quintessential youth and ignorance.
I am just trying to be cognizant of what IS possible to effect. Genetics? Not yet. But there has to be some potential for avoiding ingredients, recognizing the red flags and actually DOING something about them earlier, no? This is life, we deal with what we’ve got. Can’t go back, but maybe someone else can learn from my reflection of the red flag recipe.
Here’s to honesty! (and alliteration!)
Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People ...
- Healthline.com / Article: http://www.healthline.com/health-news/women-depression-during-pregnancy-increases-childs-risk-of-mood-disorders-100913#
- Parents.com / Article: http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-life/emotions/depressed/
- TM-Women.org / Article: http://www.tm-women.org/benefits-moms-pregnancy.html
- Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education Board on Children / Resource: http://sites.nationalacademies.org/DBASSE/index.html
- Youth and Families, Committee on the Prevention of Mental Disorders and Substance Abuse Among Children / Article: http://www.iom.edu/Activities/MentalHealth/YouthMentalDisorders.aspx
- Youth and Young Adults: Research Advances and Promising Interventions / Online Book: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK32775/
- Institute of Medicine / Resource: www.iom.edu/
- National Research Council / Resource: www.nationalacademies.org/nrc