"Babe, did you wash your hands when you got home?"
Daniel has just walked in the door from work. I am loading the dishwasher and turn around to see him hoisting Edie onto his shoulders. Instead of feeling warm fuzzies at the sight of my two loves enjoying each other, I am immediately overcome with anxiety. It's flu season. Edie is young and her immune system isn't fully developed. What if what if what if? I'm terrified.
And then I'm annoyed. I'm annoyed with myself for sounding like a mom to my husband, I'm annoyed that I'm still seeing so many moments where this anxiety is controlling me. Because I know it has nothing to do with flu season or my husband's more relaxed nature or this particular moment at all. It has to do with what happened last year and the way my brain perceived it as trauma and made my daughter seem so fragile. It has to do with me wanting, NEEDING to save her and not knowing how and grasping at anything and everything I could reach.
"Of course I feel this way."
This is what I'm supposed to tell myself in these moments, per my counselor's advice. Instead of beating myself up for not being over it like I think I should be, not being the carefree wife and relaxed mother I hoped to be, I'm supposed to just let myself feel what I feel. Because apparently the brain registers perceived trauma and real trauma the same way and the only way to get over it is to be present as I work through it. And that means feeling what I'm feeling.
It means showing myself grace for feeling this way, too. Of course I feel this way means it's okay to feel this way, even though it looks nothing like the standard I hoped for myself and my family. I am not invincible like I planned to be; I am broken. That ugly season last year broke me and as I was drowning I tried to grab onto anything I could to feel some sense of control. And it turned into some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder I feel uncomfortable even writing out. I'm embarrassed every day by it.
But of course I feel this way.
Because they told me my baby could be dying. They told me I was wrong. They said she was failing to thrive. They told me it was this. They told me it was that. They told me that test was negative. They told me they didn't know. They told me I didn't know what I was talking about. And they told me all of this while I was in the thick of a crazy postpartum hormone dump that very well could have sent me into a dark place on its own, without all of the hospital visits and x-rays and needles and sweat tests.
What I do know now is that she's okay, which is what several of my loved ones have tried to tell me over and over when I explain why I carry this anxiety around with me like an ugly purse. It's because I never know when I'll feel the need to reach into it, even though I hate it and am ashamed to be seen wearing it. I KNOW in my head she's okay, but my heart hasn't quite caught up.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I know I'm crazy. I'm sick. I'm sorry."
I've heard myself say this a lot in the past few months. I've done a lot of apologizing to my husband, because this nagging germaphobe is not who he married. This woman who lives and breathes in fear is not the wife he chose for himself.
But that's who I am today. Shortly after finding out Edie wasn't actually ill we realized I had developed an ugly disease. We can call it postpartum depression, panic/anxiety disorder, or post traumatic stress. Some days giving it a name like that makes me feel a little less insane and a little more like yes, other mothers have been there--it's not just me. Whatever we choose to call it, though, I've learned I have to acknowledge it if I'm going to stay married, get through it, keep my friends. Because I almost lost it all. I acted like a fool and shut everyone out for months and had friends texting me like, "Since you had your baby I feel like you want nothing to do with me. I know you're busy, but I thought you cared about me more than that..." and I can't even tell you how many times my husband has said something along the lines of, "You only care about her now." This isn't me, guys. I'm sick. I'm sorry. This isn't me pushing you away. I love you. Can you love me through it?
"Can you love me through it?" is something else I've heard myself say several times recently. This isn't an easy question for me to ask. I hate being weak. I hate being off my game. But who wants to be married to a nag who can't humble herself and admit she's struggling? I wouldn't want to be. I've learned the only way through this is to call it what it is, ask for grace and give myself grace, too.
For too long I thought if I ignored this thing it would just quietly leave, but the opposite happened. I got more lonely. I got more crazy. I got more obsessive. I got more anxious. I lived less. I feared more.
If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't have nurtured the whole supermom idea when I was pregnant. Look at me, I'm Jordan, I'm not lining up anyone to come help me at all when my baby is born!
Because doing that meant I was totally alone when she went through an unexpected health scare. Telling everyone else, including my husband, to "Move--I got this," from the get go left me with no tribe when I realized I didn't "got this." And that left me in a panic trying to do the job of an entire village during a tragedy. I am a mother, yes, but I still only have two hands. I can't rebuild an entire town on my own.
So that's where I am today--rebuilding. With the help of counselors, a handful of other mamas I met through La Leche, and patient friends and family who have so lovingly said "Yes" to my question, "Can you love me through it?"
Motherhood will always be heavy, but I don't think it has to be back-breaking.
Luckily, bones heal. I'm told hearts do, too.