Several times over the past week I sat down to write about the serious topics at hand and it just didn’t work. I thought I was ready, and I am, but life as it tends to do had other plans.
When it comes to writing, I’ve learned not to force it. It’s no good if I do. The words will come when they’re ready. When conditions are right. Like the weather. Or spring blooms. Or a good bowel movement.
“Mom, why is there poop on the carpet?” the six-year old asked loudly. She had been doing everything loudly on this particular day. “Right there below Julian,” she yelled. “It’s running down his leg too!” She was practically giddy. We’d just bought one of those baby walkers for him to sit in and practice his drooling while he figures out how to use his legs over the next few months.
Tony and I spring into action. Poop has a way of doing that to grown-ups. He sprinted for the paper towels, and I grabbed the baby and ran for the tub, leaving a trail of poop drippings along the way. I don’t know why I’ve never thought to change a blow-out in the tub before. Clean-up was so handy. Not like on the center consul of the truck or on the hand-braided rug at my Grandma’s house. Once the poop is up their back, it’s best just to start laughing. Poop gets on all the clothing, usually in their hair, on my hands and forearms. It’s everywhere. I can think of a few military acronyms that describe the situation perfectly.
Ten minutes later, I’m finishing up the bath. Tony announces that it was a pretty big puddle and only stained the carpet a little bit. Iris is off in some other part of the house playing loudly, her gleeful discovery all but forgotten. She’s singing the same three lines from some annoying Disney song that she’s been repeating literally all day.
The absurdity of it all and the perfect normalcy at the same time tickles my funny bone. I’m watching baby Julian play in the bath, his fat little legs kicking mightily as he lays in the shallow water. The Little Mermaid song mocks my sanity in the background. Life is so weird. So wonderful. Poop is so gross. And yet so funny. I start laughing, and then I’m howling, and soon the tears blur my eyes.
No one hears me and it’s this private beautiful moment between an oblivious Julian and me, between my past selves who never thought I’d be so domesticated and my Now self who gets ever-lengthening glimpses of just how perfect and oh, so funny these moments truly are.
Last summer, my thoughts were with death off and on. Pregnant again after a sad miscarriage, mother to a bubbly five-year old and more-in-love with my partner than ever before, I’m the first to say that it makes no sense. But mental health issues aren’t sensical.
I was making the trip to town regularly for the UPS route, and as I’d meet the semis running back and forth to the peat bog, a swirl of dark thoughts would overtake me. I remember one day, I had to put both hands firmly on ten and two and focus with all my might on the road ahead. The thoughts to swerve into the oncoming semi were so powerful.
That night, after dinner, I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
I told Tony.
“I would never do it,” I sobbed, “but I keep thinking about it. I keep having the thoughts.”
I sat there crying, my hands on my growing belly and watched as the words dug themselves into his brain like a worm parasite likely never to leave. I remember his eyes going wide and the fear that took over his face. We sat for a long time without speaking and he finally had to get to his feet to move the roiling energy around. “What am I supposed to do with this?” he asked, his throat hoarse. He didn’t wait for an answer. It was too much. Too big. Or so I thought.
For the next many nights, he held me with a ferocious tenderness, as if willing the force of his love alone to be the salve for my mind’s ailing. A day or so later, emboldened by having told him, I had the same conversation at my prenatal appointment.
I had never asked for help before, not from anyone but God. My doctor got me connected with Behavioral Health. And there, I talked about mistakes and consequences and loneliness and what to do with it all.
But it was the telling that was the true therapy.
I’ll never forget the physical heat and the sweat that washed over me as I willed myself to say the first words to Tony that night at dinner. It was a battle for my very soul, and the temporary fever was self-induced, a biological weapon that would slay the internal demons wanting me to bare the load alone. Spitting out that first word was like walking off a cliff. The sparkling water is there to catch you 30 feet below, but willing yourself to take that single, irreversible step is so very hard. I knew I needed to tell him, but it was truly the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. I would be showing him a piece of me I could never unshow him. The worst and the weakest part of me. The most unlovable.
But he did what I believe most everyone would do if someone confided in them about thoughts like mine.
He simply loved me.
I imagine when I look back years from now, that moment will stand out as one of the great turning points of my life. I had dealt with suicidal thoughts before, but never like those and never with so much to lose. I imagine I’ll continue to “get better” from here on out, dealing with past hurts and current truths no matter how painful. I imagine the best outcome just a tiny bit more than I imagine the worst, even while I understand there’s a lot more to the story. There are deep, dark tendrils waiting in the recesses of my brain for a new time when I’m most vulnerable, for the time when I might listen to them.
But, if those thoughts do come back with the same force, …well, I think I know what to do now. I’ve cliff-jumped before. I landed well.
Despite the terror, I opened up and asked for help. Because of that, I get to be here, listening to Ariel on repeat and cleaning up baby poop. I get to be surrounded by my Beloveds.
(First published in the March 5th issue of the Warroad Pioneer)