I had my third meeting with Karma Blackburn this week, the therapist that Kyle says has to be a stripper’s name. The truth is, she’s a sweet 60-some-year-old woman who gets me way more than the sassy, 40-some-year-old therapist I was referred to through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) the last go around.
Karma verified for me, “You seem to always know what you need, and I’m here for you anyway.”
It’s true, I often have recommendations for my problems that I give to the therapist and shoot down their advice, and the sessions still help. It helps to have someone affirm my ideas for myself instead of going around in circles while I question them alone in my head.
Karma Blackburn and I connected about 4 months postpartum, shortly after my return to work. I had gone through therapy twice before, and I welcomed doing it again. Still, making that call to book the appointment was emotionally harder than I thought it would be.
Maribeth, the wonderful midwife who delivered my sweet Leo, told me I’d be at risk for postpartum depression as long as I’m breastfeeding. I didn’t experience baby blues or anything worse than mild new-mom anxiety and sleep-deprived moodiness during Leo’s first three months, but as the Arizona seasons (all two of them) have changed and Leo changes and my circumstances change, I’ve noticed myself on the edge of depression.
As I adapt to this new life and all these changes, I’m still breastfeeding. My body does not feel quite like my own, and like Maribeth said, I’m at risk.
That was my biggest fear when I was pregnant – not the inevitable, natural labor or figuring out how to care for a newborn or the assumed lack of sleep – the fear of falling into depression. Really, it has been my fear ever since I experienced it in college, a fear of falling back into a helpless dark hole.
And some days now, I do feel helpless.
The helplessness surprises me in that it isn’t anything to do with the act of mothering, and yet it’s everything to do with the fact that I’m mothering. I feel helpless in my new job (because I’m already at my stress threshold as a new mom). I feel helpless in my fulfillment as a writer (because the two hours a day I used to have to write is now filled with tending to my sweet Leo). I feel helpless sometimes when Kyle asks me, “Is there anything you’re looking forward to?”
My answer is always, “Picking up Leo from daycare.”
I’ve struggled for years with confidence, and the funny thing is I’ve never felt as confident in any role as I do in the role of Leo’s mom – even though I don’t know what I’m doing the majority of the time. Even though I can’t for the life of me figure out what makes this sweet, happy, calm little boy wake up every 2 hours at night. But when he sees me and gives me that open-mouthed smile-laugh, I know I’m doing it right. And thankfully, he has smiles for me all day long.
Does that mean I might find more fulfillment as a stay-at-home mom? I don’t think so; I love Leo’s daycare too much. I love how well he is doing there and that he’s socializing and making baby friends. His instructors are the ones who specialize in early childhood care, not me. I specialize in loving Leo, and learning on the fly. Google – I specialize in Google.
Still, I often feel like I’m in survival mode, like I’m still figuring out what this huge change in my life is and how it impacts who I am, what I do, and what I stand for. I declared when Leo was born, only 10 days into 2021, that this is the year I don’t try to do anything other than learn how to mom. I’m not trying to write a book or run a marathon or volunteer anywhere. Yet, I took a job promotion, thinking I have to go to work anyway, and holy crap it’s kicking my new-mom butt.
I feel so good and awesome and confident in this mom role and helpless just about everywhere else. We moms give and give to our little babies, these huge pieces of us, and we forget how to do the rest of our lives. Or we don’t have the energy left to do the rest of our lives. We’re rewriting our identities to make room for motherhood, but motherhood dominates and we’re trying to figure out how the other parts of us fit in.
And that’s why there’s Karma Blackburn.