So High I Could Cry
Today I spent one of the best days of my life. Exaggeration? It doesn’t feel like it, but Ill put it into context by saying it’s one of the best days I’ve spent as a mum. I’m writing tonight as Ive arrived home from 11 hours of bliss and Im so high…I have emotions coursing through me that are overwhelming and exquisite. I don’t want this experience to end – its what Ive longed for, searched for. It’s the way it used to be, should be, could be? Its right, true and easy. Easy. Yes! Its so easy. I feel deep within me that Ive known this before. It feels like I always dreamed it could be and in my bones I know it’s the way it has been – I have been mourning this feeling for months yet tonight was the first real experience of it. How can that be? Im being cryptic, I know. Let me explain.
I have never felt so lonely. I know Ive eluded to this in past posts and I talk of it often. Ive been planning to write about this topic for sometime but it upsets me so much. So tonight, while I am high as a kite, Ill write in the positive. Ill write about community. We all live in one, we may belong to several, but what does it mean? I thought I had a great community of people in my life before I had Faith. I know all the neighbours in my street by name and we have street drinks every Christmas. I can walk in and borrow things, have a chat or call up a favour any time of day or night. I have family. I have many friends. Im community rich, if you will.
But something happened when I had Faith that I wasn’t expecting and still have sorrow around, and that is, that nothing happened. No-one brought me food (expect one dear friend), no-one popped in to see how I was doing. No-one called. No family visited, no neighbours shared dinner with me. Of course I am excluding the first 2 weeks when everyone comes, and everyone brings food and gifts and love and affection. The first 2 weeks. And then….it stops. People get back to their lives, their families, their children. I guess what surprised me about this, is that given I don’t have my mum or dad and given that Craig was interstate 2 days every week, I kind of thought I would be remembered for just a little bit longer. “If you need help, you have to ask for it” I recall someone once telling me. I asked, I got reasons and excuses but I didn’t get any help, company or food. I was upset and I felt embarrassed in front of myself, if that makes sense, for expecting more. I thought that I meant more to more people and instead of feeling overwhelmed and connected I felt alone and more separate than I had ever felt in my life. I would hear about postnatal bliss and happy hormones and I wondered what happened to me? Was everyone lying or was it just me saying how perfect everything was while holding back tears? I have no doubt I had postnatal depression and I was so angry at myself for not managing my expectations. I called my dad out of desperation – I needed to hear the loving voice of a parent. Why I thought that was a good idea is beyond me. I got nothing. I called others, same response. I stopped calling as my heart was broken, crying, screaming for someone, anyone to talk to, to hold and cry with. I walked everyday. I walked to the main street maybe 3, 4, 5 times a day. I would go into shops and pretend I needed something just so the shop assistants would talk to me. I would smile at old people and pray they would comment on my beautiful baby so I could linger and talk and maybe they would offer to be in my life? Maybe they were lonely too and we would fulfill each others needs! I was so disappointed when they would tell me about their grandchildren. Damn. Next. I would walk home and cry and cry and wish I had my mum. If only she were here to hold her, to hold me. To spoil me and take me to Kmart for some new PJ’s and a hot chocolate on the way home. Maybe she would stay and make us dinner? Maybe I would go to her house and she would call the neighbours over and they would fuss over Faith and I could have a bath. Maybe she would spoil Faith and buy her a special treat from the beautiful new overpriced and totally gorgeous baby boutique that opened in Stirling – target market: Grandmothers. Maybe she would call me just as I was having the breakdown over Faith being unwell – or over being tired, and make everything ok. Maybe she would know how to work the damn car seat. Maybe I wouldn’t have to call my neighbour and feel jealous as I pull her away from her family to come and hold Faith for 10 minutes so I can go into the bathroom and cry on my own. If mum were here it would all be ok. Wouldn’t it?
Its taken me 19 months to come to the conclusion that no, I don’t think it would all be alright. It would certainly be better, but it would still be somewhat empty. I remember the day I broke down and told Craig that I thought I had post natal depression. In the moment I felt worse, deep in shame and heavy with the weight of 1000 heavy judgements. The next morning though, the weight had lifted. As though speaking the words and admitting my state had been what was necessary to untie the load of bricks from my back and have them float away light weightless balloons. I felt lighter, freer, I could smile. But mostly I could see that it wasn’t me, or my family or my community that had let me down. And it wasn’t that I wasn’t loved. Its not as personal as that, which is part of the problem. Its that we, collectively, do not live in a community the way a community used to be. We no longer have clans, we no longer live in extended family homes. We are all separate and as a western society, we aim for it from birth. We, as humans know it and feel it. We seek connection out on Facebook, on Twitter, in casual sex, in festivals and so forth. (Here is where I would normally rant about cot sleeping, controlled crying, prams and mothers heading so quickly back to work as ways we teach our newest community members that they need to be independent). We crave connection, networks and to belong.
Each day as I go about my life, making dinner with Faith, alone, playing with her, alone, eating with her, alone, I mourn. I try to create ways to bring a clan back into my life. Ive tried everything from sleepovers to hanging out in the day with other mums, to having the neighbours kids over, to employing a nanny to hang with us. Ive tried so hard to bring real community into our lives. Im all for feeding eachothers babies, holding eachothers babies, sharing the workload and just hanging out. But at the end of the day, we go home alone.
Today, was a very special day.
It was the Shift Festival day. Craig had been planning it for months and so Faith and I headed off to support the event at 930am. Friends arrived soon after with their little ones and we sat together. The crowd was not massive, and the space was full of love and positive energy. There was chanting and yoga, drumming and belly dancing. Live music and guitars and a whole area for kids to play and draw and dance and make kites. There was so much food, all made with love. No-one was paid for being there today. Everyone was there because they wanted to be. As the day progressed and more friends arrived the vibe heightened and more chai and cake and food was devoured! There were children everywhere – but our group of friends, about 5 or 6 of us with four little girls all waded in and out like waves, lapping each others toes and then heading off again. My hand was being tugged by Evie, Sophia and Bella. Faith was tugging on someone else’s hand. I felt like a duck; 3 little ducklings following me around. Then they were off again, dancing and holding each others hands. Holding the other mums and dads, my friends. Faith went confidently and happily with them and we held each others children as we played and bounced along to the music. We sat and ate and came and went and there was food everywhere being shared and nibbled and drink bottles were swapped and babies were crawling over all of us and we were one. We were one and it felt amazing. There were times we would all look at each other and feel it – this connection and invisible string wrapping itself around our legs and between us and binding us all together. There was no stress. There were no tears. There was no hard work or worry or feelings of needing a break or a rest from them. We all watched each other’s girls and it was easy. One glance said “watch her for me for a second”, another glance said “its ok, Ive got her.” We did everything we wanted, we shared the load. The girls were blissful, happy, content, nibbling, grabbing, playing, swapping adults like ice cream cones and displaying no favorites. Strangers looking on would have struggled to know whose baby was whose as all the mums and dads showed love and affection to them all. God it was beautiful. This is what Ive longed for. This is right. This is bliss. We did this for 11 hours. At one point I looked over and saw a 6 year old carrying Faith around. Perfect. Remove the festival setting and I see mums sitting and making food. Chatting and sharing and children playing and tugging and climbing. Mothers feeding their babies, someone elses baby who is hungry too. Mothers feeling free and not desperate to fill their weeks with activities so they get some company and the kids have stimulation. Not feeling like they have to plan the whole week just for a feeling of sanity and connection and respite from the one on one demand of being home alone all day. Its not fair for Faith to feel that she tires me. That I don’t want to read another book. Or God forbid, the SAME book again. Today each time I saw her there had been some minutes in between and so each time I welcomed her smile and beautiful innocent face with sincere and refreshed love and joy that she was running TO me from someone else in her life that she loves and trusts.
Today I felt complete. I stayed until bedtime – 830pm. As long as I could and soaked up every minute of it as Faith held hands with a group of older girls as we all swayed to Loren Kate’s beautiful songs. As I drove home and Faith nodded off tired but content in the car, I sighed and wondered how many issues this kind of living would remove. I wouldn’t battle with the question of another baby just so Faith would have a sibling – someone to play with and argue with and open up to. I wouldn’t put so much pressure on Craig to fulfill me in ways he just isn’t able to – emotionally, intuitively, femininely. I wouldn’t expect him to know what I’m feeling and needing and to race in and care for Faith as soon as he got home; there are days when I get angry at him because he gets home at 610. Not 6 as he told me – that 10 minutes is sometimes enough to send me over the edge and lose it. Sometimes we wait in the street. I wouldn’t wonder each day how different my life would have been if mum had just survived and I wouldn’t still be crying for her to come back; for me to wake up from the inconvenient and lonely nightmare of being a mum without a mum. Today were there no holes, there was no sadness.
I said Id stick to the positive as I write this. So I remind myself when I wish we lived in other parts of the world where this kind of community living is normal, that Faith chose me as her mum and Australia as her home. She chose this lifestyle and so it is. I remind myself to be grateful for opportunities like today, and for friends who embrace and cherish these beautiful days just as much as we do. I wonder if we are in this situation so that we truly VALUE the communities we choose to grow and be a part of for ourselves and for our children. I for one am eternally grateful and plan to spend many more days under the Chai tent, covered in babies and filled with love. Come and join us.