I think maybe I'm definitely feeling very sad
It has taken me two months to write this post.
I started writing in late April. I thought okay, I can do this. I sat at my computer, my mean old breast pump attached to my sad, chapped nipples, and began to type. Tiny trickles of milk pooled at the bottom of the pump bottles. It had been 30 minutes and, while utterly exhausted, I had only collected a mere total of 2 ounces of breast milk. Just for context: my beautiful, growing boy, drinks approximately 40 ounces of milk a day. Welp, bad time to start trying to supplement with formula, I said to my clinically depressed nipples, then shut my computer down for the day.
Then it was early May. Alright, take two. Once again, I sat at my computer, ready to get some thoughts, any thoughts, down on the page. But then an alert popped up on my phone about the Supreme Court voting to overturn Roe, and I curled up into a ball for a minute, until my four-month old started semi-choking on his own drool, turning to me and saying, in perfect baby babble, “Bitch, fix this.” So I closed the computer yet again.
Then it was mid-May. We rented a house in Joshua Tree for the week and I was determined to get some rest and writing done. Idiot. My husband, sitting next to me, bouncing our baby on his knee, began coughing then wheezing and we all looked at each other and gave the we 1000% all have covid nod. Just as I went to google, “when should you start panicking about a baby with covid?” I stumbled across a headline about nineteen children and two adults killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde County, so I threw my computer across the room and sobbed-breastfed-coughed for the next five days.
So now, here I am, in mid-June, typing this post at 2:19 am on a Sunday, my eyes glued to a little speck on my ceiling which may be mold, or dust termites, or just a figure of my anxious imagination, and although the nightmares in my sleep are only marginally worse than the ones playing out in real life right now, I can’t give myself the satisfaction of maybe getting some rest.
I am not okay. The things that are happening all around me are not okay. And I really don’t need anyone to even attempt to fix it. I just need you to believe me.
Lately, I’ve been playing a game with myself called, is it postpartum depression or a very appropriate reaction to the current circumstances? game.
Here’s how you play. Just ask yourself questions like:
Am I crying all the time because my hormones are fluctuating and I haven’t had a full nights sleep in 5+ months, or is it because, objectively, there are many things happening in the world to absolutely cry about?
Is my fear that no one cares about me paranoid thinking, or does evidence suggest that this country, does, in fact, very much not care about a person with a uterus?
Am I feeling completely isolated from others because my brain is trying to trick me into believing I’m all alone, or is it actually really hard to feel genuinely connected to others after 3+ years of social deprivation?
Am I having delusional thoughts that something horrible may happen to my baby, or is that a very real fear because children are being murdered daily in this country and it doesn’t look like that will be stopping anytime soon?
And I’m one of the lucky ones.
I have a million resources at my disposal. I am employed. My husband is employed. My husband is a white man. My son is (as much as I try to deny it, more on this later) very much white/Cuban passing. Through my work, my son and I are both covered by very premium insurance. We have a pediatrician on speed dial who we love and trust. We live in a beautiful, newly renovated house. We own and live in a beautiful, newly renovated house. A beautiful, newly renovated house, that is located in a *safe* neighborhood, although, lately the neighborhood listserv (yes, we have one of those) has been buzzing about more car jackings. I can nominally worry about car jackings mentioned on my neighborhood listserv as the worst crime I’ll likely experience in my neighborhood. I am educated. I am attractive, by narrow, superficial standards of beauty. I have light skin. People generally want to help me and see me succeed. I am often tokenized but never criminalized.
I carry a whoooole lot of privilege, and yet, my body is so porous right now, I feel like the smallest squeeze in the wrong direction could send my insides oozing out. I am terrified. I feel extremely lonely - a loneliness I don’t think I’ve ever felt before, maybe once or twice while I was a freshman in college, but that feels really trivial to write about now. I am very sad most of the time, despite how happy I make myself appear to be. I know I have a support system, of course. But I feel more and more distance between myself and my peers. It’s like I’m floating on an island, all by myself, with people nearby to wave to, but it’s only a minute before they hop on a yacht and zoom off to do fun looking things with their way cooler friends. I know there are other moms out there who feel very similarly to me- but I’m not quite sure how to access them and their experiences in a way that feels comforting and consistent right now.
And yet at the same time… I also have times when I feel immense joy. It catches me by surprise - lying in bed first thing in the morning, so exhausted, with my son cradled in the nook of my right arm, and my husband in the left nook, both looking up at me with the biggest I love you eyes. A wet open mouth cheek kiss from my son, his little feet twirling with delight as he slurps up my breast milk. Watching my parents and in-laws become grandparents for the first time - feeling like I’m witnessing some of the deepest adoration that has ever existed. Overhearing my sisters talk about how they will “literally kill" anyone who tries to touch the baby without asking first. Having my best friend simply yet so graciously scoop my son up, no questions asked, so I can take a much-needed hot shower. Feeling an unspoken comradery with every single mother I pass on the street - like I SEE YOU MAMA, WE ARE DOING THE DAMN THING. Visiting places I haven’t been since being pregnant and remembering how scared I was then - how I was certain this baby would never make it out alive - and being proven wrong, again and again, in the best way possible.
The day before we realized we most definitely had covid, we took Baby Wes for a sunset hike in Joshua Tree National Park. I untied the strings of his little giraffe hat and let his spiky hairs bristle in the dry, desert air; his hip cradled against my hip — his thick thighs kicking wildly.
As the most incredible orangey-blueish-yellow sunset began to engulf the sky, I looked down at my perfect baby boy, then out at the trees, then over at the sunset - repeating this rhythm several times. The Joshua Trees are dying I thought to myself. By 2100, scientists predict that Joshua Tree National Park will lose almost all of its Joshua tree habitat to climate change. If Wes comes back to Joshua Tree when he’s my age, these trees may not even be here anymore. I looked down at my baby, feeling too depressed to cry, as he nuzzled closer into my chest, and we waved goodbye to the sun for the day, telling him that, despite all odds, it would rise again in the morning. This was such an encapsulation of what motherhood feels like to me — the most intense, painful intrusions of sadness and grief, being cradled by the most beautiful, breathtaking slivers of life and hopefulness for another day just like this.
Reasons to Live Through the Apocalypse by Nikita Gill
Sunrises. People you have still to meet and laugh with. Songs about love, peace, anger, and revolution. Walks in the woods. The smile you exchange with a stranger when you experience beauty accidentally together. Butterflies. Seeing your grandparents again. The moon in all her forms, whether half or full. Dogs. Birthdays and half-birthdays. That feeling of floating in love. Watching birds eat from bird feeders. The waves of happiness that follow the end of sadness. Brown eyes. Watching a boat cross an empty sea. Sunsets. Dipping your feet in the river. Balconies. Cake. The wind in your face when you roll the car window down on an open highway. Falling asleep to the sound of a steady heartbeat. Warm cups of tea on cold days. Hugs. Night skies. Art museums. Books filled with everything you do not yet know. Long conversations. Long-lost friends. Poetry.