This has been a hard week for two of my mom friends – and indirectly been a hard week on me because I worry about them so much. Their lives are drastically different from one another’s, like some remixed urban version of Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” centered around two African-American women connected by a peculiar protagonist (me) who irreversibly links them in ways we’re yet to discover. In the meantime, what I have discovered is that their depression, worry and weariness is as a direct result of the number of children they each have – being one – not their marital status as they both may suppose.
Let’s see…what shall I call them to conceal their identities? Let’s call the single mother with the infant daughter “Margo”, and the married mother with the toddler son “Mrs. Banana-Hammock”.
Margo’s daughter is not sleeping through the night. She’s 8 months old and running her mother ragged. Margo was impregnated and abandoned by her Douche Bag boyfriend just before the baby was born, although he begged her to keep the baby. Now she’s struggling to make ends meet on a $13/hr wage. Although hoping to have a mate help her raise her child in the future, her immediate need is just to get some sleep. Her daughter sleeps no more that 2-3 hours at a time each night before she goes looking to nurse. She’s been doing this for almost a year now.
Mrs. Banana-Hammock has the opposite problem. She’s married, but her husband keeps a tight rein on their funds, which is virtually crippling her. Fiercely independent and accustomed to taking care of herself and her own finances, she’s struggling to deal with the new normal of being newly married, unemployed and caring for a child who just recently turned 2. She’s still battling postpartum depression, compounded by a depression caused by outward and ‘alien’ forces controlling and steering the events of her life.
Both these women sought me out, not necessarily for advice, but for a listening ear. I have what many term the “ideal” situation: I’m married, with a doting (and very helpful) spouse and children who do not often disgrace me outside the house. “How did she get so lucky?” I’m sure they wonder.
I wasn’t always so “lucky”.
As many of you guys know, I did a short 6 month stint as a single mother (like Margo, my Douche Bag had left me high and dry to take care of my baby on my own) too before I got married to Marshall. In those 6 months, Nadjah pretty much got away with murder…or as much as a 6 month old baby is allowed.
I was so depressed.
I couldn’t go anywhere without taking her in tow. I was always late getting to where I needed to be because I had to suddenly change a diaper or change my whole outfit because I’d been thrown up on. My body, that I’d spent 2 years crafting, was in shambles. All my discretionary income was being spent on diapers and formula. I was insane from not sleeping. Instead of planning evenings out with my friends, I was planning weekends in because I was too scared to take her out because she was born a preemie. I hardly ate, and when I did, I did not eat properly. There were times where I would go days without a shower because I was afraid she might cry while I was IN the shower. She was always in my face and I was always in hers.
I was so depressed.
By the time we had Aya, Marshall and I were married and had a good structure going. I bathed and ate regularly. I was no longer depressed. Well! It would seem that all I needed to do was getting married to set all my wrongs to right.
My depression had nothing to do with my marital status. It had everything to do with the birth order of my children. Nadjah got away with as much as she did because she was my first and I didn’t know any better. Whereas Na spent many months with me in bed (she STILL shows up in the wee hours of the morning), Aya was banished to her crib in the next room within months of her birth.
Nadjah would get scooped up if her face bore the resemblance of discomfort. Was that a tear? Oh my God! – I have to pick up my baby!! Rarely did she ever get a full blown scream out. Liya, my forth child and poor soul, crawls forlornly around on the floor, wailing and waiting for someone to pick her up while we do our household tasks. It took years for me to realize that crying never killed a baby… that and I have to wash this raw chicken off my hands before I pick you up, otherwise we both end up with e-coli.
Nadjah still gets away with many things that escape my mind right now. The biggest one we’re dealing with right now is her inserting herself into adult conversation. It seems like I left that behavior unchecked for years (she’s been speaking fluently since she was 18 months old) and now it’s coming back to bite me in the butt. I’ve literally had to stop in the middle of a conversation to rip her head off. She ought to know better! I think to myself. Well how could she? I never nipped her interruptions in the bud. In turn, my 3 other children will most likely never have the opportunity to do half the things that Nadjah has done…and if they do, they will most likely be better at not getting caught or bringing it to my attention.
It all makes sense now. My brother is the worst of us lot (he’s the youngest), but I can’t actually prove that. No one can point to a single one of his infractions – he’s far better at concealing his transgressions from our parents than I ever was!
To my depressed mommy friends, I say again: Take heart. It’s hard right now because this is your first and only child, and you’re so eager to do what’s right that it’s running you ragged. You have 2 options 1) Choose to be practical or 2) Have another baby and have practicality forced upon you.
I’d like to see you continue as you are with more children in your care!