If I were to describe my life with a generic picture, it would be the theatrical masks.
The comedy/drama, the happy/sad masks. I became very good in my life at putting on the mask that I thought I needed for whatever circumstance. You need the extroverted, fun-loving, life of the party girl? No problem, I have that mask! You want the quiet, no opinions on anything girl? No problem, that mask is right here! At times, I learned to lose some masks but seemed to pick up others.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I thought it would be like the movies. You know, you are the glowing pregnant lady where everything’s just wonderful and then one day your water breaks peacefully and you go to the hospital to push three times and have a beautiful baby that you immediately love and connect with and you live happily ever after.
I tried to wear that mask at times while pregnant even though I was enormous and uncomfortable and ready to go back to “normal”. My pregnancy was relatively routine. No real complications. BUT I didn’t enjoy it! So I put on the mask. I was induced at 38 1⁄2 weeks because my son was already around 8-9 pounds and my doctor knew how uncomfortable I was. The movie dream was gone. I ended up having to have a c-section and had some complications before going into surgery. I was scared to death but tried to put on the brave face mask. I thought we would get back to the movie dream though. “This can work out! I can still have the perfect, beautiful baby that I immediately love and care about!” I said to myself.
The doctor showed me and my husband our baby that he had just yanked from inside me. In my head I said, “He’s a cute baby, but he’s not mine!” It felt like I had been given the wrong order at a restaurant. “No sir, I’m sorry! That’s not what I ordered. I ordered the baby that I will have an immediate connection with. Not this one that I feel nothing for!” The baby cried and my husband leaned over and said “I never thought a baby crying could sound so wonderful!” Huh?!?! It’s a baby crying! What’s beautiful about that! I put on the mask of the happy, new mother. “Yeah! I completely understand!” I did this for weeks. In public – “Oh yes, it’s wonderful!”, “I love being a mom!” “Everything’s fine! I don’t need any help!” “Yeah nursing is difficult but we are working it out!” At home – hating everyone, not caring that the baby is crying but needing to do something because I was the only one home, not having any connection with my son.
With my third child, I thought I would be just fine because I knew what to look for and with my second everything had been fine. But then that little monster reared his head in another way. I was putting on the mask that I had this whole mothering thing figured out. Life was wonderful, but not really. I was completely and utterly overwhelmed. I gave up at home. In public, I did everything I needed to do but the minute I came home I gave up. I couldn’t figure out how to make life work. Finally… I asked for help. I couldn’t keep putting on the masks that everything was fine. I had to come to the realization that my “movie” was not other people’s movie and that’s ok. I had to have people in my life that I could show myself to without the mask. I had to be able to say “This is hard!” “ I am overwhelmed!” “I am having a hard time connecting with my baby!” and most importantly… “I need help.”