It’s a process.

I can’t sleep.

It happens a few nights a month now, when my body turns itself to brooding (in the literal sense – the figurative sense isn’t limited to only a few nights a month). I’m exhausted, heaviness infusing each limb, each eyelid – but my brain won’t shut off and no amount of just lying there wishing for sleep will make it come.

When I was pregnant, it was like that every night. Three trimesters spent with my brain and body discordant – wakey when I most needed to be asleep, sleepy when I most needed to be awake.

We’ve since discovered, Doc and I, that it’s my hormones setting the scene, chemical messages misfiring. “You’ll likely be this sensitive to your hormonal balance for the rest of your life”, Doc told me a few months after childbirth, when we were starting to finally figure my crazies out – the whole growing a baby no longer masking my condition. Great.

I was talking about pregnancy with my very pregnant friend a few days ago (a gravid gravitation). This is her third, true courage if I’ve ever seen it. She mentioned in passing that she and her husband had been discussing the number of children their various friends had (I being one of the uni-children family varieties), and the topic of my hard time had come up. She’d said to me that she couldn’t really remember what my story had been, just that she’d shuddered many times upon hearing it. I sidestepped the conversation somehow, shuddering myself at retelling it, reliving it, remembering it. But it’s stayed on my mind, and now I can’t quite stop. Especially on this night of nights, when my body is literally reliving it, tossing and turning.

It wasn’t any one thing. It was everything.

And it still is.

I was overhearing some childbirth horror-story-telling from the next cubicle over today, a first-time mom with her pregnancy just recently announced now sitting there. The mature mom in the conversation was trying to describe to a childless male colleague what labour pains feel like (in front of the horrified and mesmerized mom-to-be, oh the traumas we inflict) – and all I could think of was how labour was such a small part of the unending pain for me. Just a single day amidst a year of days. As painful and long a day as it was, at least on that day, we kind of knew what we were doing. We understood the possible outcomes. We were surrounded by medical attention and options and I was supported in every way. Boy, do I have stories to tell about that day, ending up with an emergency birth due to both my son’s and my life being in the balance, but they are stories of just one day. If all I feared was another traumatic birthing, I’d be over it already, and have had another child or one on the way at this point.

Everyone always seems to focus on this, on the experience of childbirth, as if it is the only thing women really go through.

I’ve been drawn very much lately to the topic of telling secrets, of taboo subjects. I’ve just finished reading an incredible novel on the Armenian Genocide in Turkey at the beginning of the first world war. I watched an astounding interview by an Iranian woman author detailing the conditions in Iranian jails in the early 1980s the other day. I lent my ear to a friend admitting to me in a whisper that she feared she might be suffering from post-partum depression, struggling with coping with a 5-week-old who wasn’t gaining weight or sleeping (not to minimize whatsoever the reality that she might very well be suffering from PPD, but can’t we also talk honestly about the fact that weeks of unrelieved sleeplessness is an acknowledged torture technique, and that all human bodies go nuts under those conditions – let alone while also recovering from surgery, experiencing roller-coaster lactation hormones, and being utterly responsible for maintaining a new human life?).

It stuns me on a daily basis that pregnancy and its aftermath are not talked about, not really. Oh, we mention the aches and pains, the inconveniences superficially. We laugh about the absurdities. But we don’t really talk about, don’t admit the fear. The hijacking of our brains. The unending, ovewhelming physicality. The demands. A life sentence of monthly sleeplessness.

I don’t fear pregnancy and childbirth and infancy themselves. I fear who I will be during them.

How will I parent the challenging child I already have while barely holding myself together with the demands of growing, birthing, nurturing another? When I’m barely holding myself together now without them? When my depression is hormonally-directed (and has become a permanent, though fluctuating, state), through a year of guaranteed hormonal flux?

What I’d tell my friend, if she were brave enough to ask again, is that the reason we don’t have more than one child at this point is that my story never ended. It continues. I haven’t recovered yet. I’m still limping, both figuratively and literally, still wracked by all kinds of pain.

I’m going to try again to sleep now, and hope that some relief will come. Of any sort.


1 comment so far

  1. Moosilaneous on

    Very well said.
    You have well explained your fear of being at the mercy of a chemical cocktail – one that is entirely unpredictable in its timing and effects.

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