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mothering

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"I'll Never Be Happy Again."

Have you ever thought to yourself I'll never be happy again?

Did you accept your situation and regardless continue to work at the job you hated, stay in the marriage that became a prison, do nothing to change  the body you couldn't bear to look at?  Maybe you lost a loved one and felt that a piece of yourself died with them and didn't come back.

After months and years and more years of living in this way,we forget what happiness is altogether, and then we can no longer imagine it.  And if we can't imagine a thing, we can't attain it.

I remember a time when I had given up on happiness so completely that I was convinced happy people were faking it!  I used to think they are full of shit, why are they over there laughing, wtf? Nobody is THAT happy!

After my son was born I was miserable.  Not for lack of loving him or gratitude for my beautiful child, but because I felt so horrible in my body and mind. I had no idea how I was going to get through most days.  I would literally ask myself how am I going to get through this day?  I don't know how I did it, but I know I was very unhappy.

It's not the kind of unhappiness most people can notice in you, where you are happy today and then suddenly tomorrow you don't get out of bed.  It's a gradual overcast, a cumulative effect of dragging days, subtle losses, and little disappearing joys.  You don't even notice you are there, losing bits of yourself, until it is almost all the way gone.  And many of the people this happens to never really notice.  We have all met someone like this.

I spent the first two years of my my son's life just surviving, barely keeping my nose above the water line.  I knew it was postpartum depression deep down but I was scared out of my mind to take medicine or seek help from a doctor, (Iatrophobia, the fear of doctors, a not-so-pleasant after-effect of my Christian Science upbringing) so I tried yoga, meditation, acupuncture, cranio-sacral, St. John's Wort, talk therapy, walking, jazzercise, skin brushing...you name it, I tried it.  I would feel a tad better for a little while and hope that I had found the answer but then the crushing defeat always returned.

Years passed while I tried to claw my way out of that hole.  Knowing as I did that my children deserved to see their mother happy, to feel the warmth of my true joy, I fought for it even though I truly doubted I would ever win.   I fought hardest to maintain my faith that happiness and joy were my birthright, and that I would one day own them again.

It has been almost six years since I was officially diagnosed with PPD.

I can honestly say today that I have never been happier.

So how did I get from misery to happiness?  Was it an epiphany?  A revelation?  Did I find Jesus or develop a drug habit?

Daily vigilance.  Leaping into the unknown of divorce.  Following bliss and remembering how to have fun.  Doing it anyway, even if I was too tired or too down or too broke.

Some battles don't have a clear beginning or end.  My battle with depression and unhappiness felt like a lifetime in the trenches of some far off field.  The most important thing is, never ever give up.  Never stop fighting for happiness and health.

I promise, you will be happy again. 

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On How I Never Wanted to Be a Mother and Why it's the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

MotheringWhen I was young, I never wanted to be a mother.  As a little girl I was a tomboy, worshipping my older brother and following my dad around. I don't think I ever even owned a Barbie doll or a babydoll.  I wanted to climb trees, play baseball, wrestle, and I never wore dresses.  Dresses mortified me.

Looking back I see the complex reasons why I wanted to associate with the male persona more, reasons like freedom and    going shirtless in the summertime (though that was forbidden after I was five).  Even as a child, especially as a child, I sensed the limitations and the lack of respect towards mothers held in our society.

Most of all I didn' t want to have my own children.  No, I wanted to travel the world and follow my own dreams and the message to me in my childhood was loud and clear that children are a burden and they keep you from your dreams.  Children limit you and hold you back and make you incredibly exhausted and disappointed.  No room for dreaming once they come along.

And so I lived for myself, for my own devices, going from thing to thing until one day I was 26 and suddenly I felt THE CLOCK.  Nothing so overwhelming as the urge to have a BABY.  It was a strange occurrence I never could've seen coming, until it was there smacking me in the face.  I had found my mate and it was time.

There is so little to prepare us for the complete life-alteration that is parenting.  The journey is mind-blowing to say the least, and sometimes I think so chaotic and insane that only in retrospect can we see how amazing it is.  My children are 8 and 5 respectively now and just as everyone tells you from the minute they are born (and man is it annoying how often people say this) it goes by so quickly, so painfully and heart-wrenchingly quickly.

Because I never rehearsed as a little girl nor dreamed of the children I would one day have, perhaps I bloomed late into my embrace of mothering.  But embrace it I do.

My children are my opus, my everything.  They are my reason for waking and my reason for collapsing.  I want to hold on to every second of their lives and remember, remember, remember.  This moment, gone.  That moment, so sweet.  A series of moments tied together by this rushing river of unbounded love.

How could I know?  Was I so naive to think there was any other miracle meant for me?

So if mothering these two children is the biggest thing--the only thing--I ever do, no matter how imperfectly or awkwardly, if this is my great body of work in this world--I am 100% at peace with that.  If I never write that book or screenplay or finish the album I feel compelled to record, I will be just fine.  If I never see Africa or South America, I will be fine.

Why is it the best thing that ever happened to me?

Little hands.  Sneaking into my bed to sleep next to me.  Laughter.  Screams.  Swinging in sunshine.  Playing for hours.  Pretending.  Seeing for the first time.  I love you, Mommy.  Little feet.  Bathtime.  Learning to read.  Prayers for strangers.    Why Mommy?  When Mommy?  Where Mommy?  Candy. Treasure Hunts.  Legos.  Spontaneous dancing.  Jumping on the bed.  Skipping.  Hopscotch.  Bedtime stories.  Lullabyes.  Backrubs.  Hugs.  Kisses.  Snacks before bed.  Climbing trees.  Sleepovers.  Playdates.  Skipping rocks.  Throwing ball.  Picking up from school.  Walking to the bus.  Waving goodbye.  Running to greet me.  Kisses.  Hugs.  Good morning.  I love you, baby.

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We are spring's daughters

You are now three and my struggle is rushing , remembering to hold on to your tiny words,

pulsing between my daydreams of pressing thoughts

and the image of your silly faces

in the rearview mirror.  You make me laugh,

sing along sweetly to the radio, tell me a story

about how Winnie the Pooh dies and then goes to jail.

I am supposed to drive, steer, pay attention to the road

stay between the yellow lines,

and make enough money to fill this damn tank--

not to mention all those dishes in the sink at home.

I try to fit it all into this drive to school, so afraid to lose or fail,

and when we arrive, when you flit from the car

and float, fairy-like, to the curb

you are not looking forward,

only into this moment, the blossomed petals on the concrete.

Your eyes sparkle up towards mine and quick as a wink you

wave your hand into the pile of  ivory petals, fling them into the air

so they drift in the breeze and swirl back to the ground.

My heart rips open like a seed

who knows spring is here, right now,

and we are her daughters.

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Dear suffering Mamas whose burden feels too big to bear, so UNFAIR (!):

 

I want to give you hope

I want to speak to you from my deepest heart buried beneath the numbness, the horror, the despair of this wretched monster we call PPD.  I want you to know that you are not, and never will be, alone.  (I know it feels like you are because we are all silenced out here, drowning, but we are here and we need you, your voice, too.) 

You think you are being overtaken by this beast, your greatest foe, but in reality she is yours to conquer, yours to embrace, yours to overcome, and ultimately, yours to ride like the mightiest of dragons.  Maybe your dragon is pink.  Imagine her, imagine her being yours, and you the master of your own destiny, riding into your wildest dreams of health and peace, stronger, better, you.

I know.  It’s so f#*king hard.

I know because in 2006 I gave birth to my second child, and 8 weeks later the world was a ride I wanted to get off.  My mind wouldn’t stop churning, sleep eluded me, and though I knew love was a language I had once spoken with ease, now it was forgotten.  I drifted slowly, then suddenly, into psychosis.  I dreamed I was kidnapped, locked in a dark trunk, suffocating and screaming for my life. 

A week later that dream came true. I was catatonic, and went to the hospital for 7 days.

After all this, I remember a good friend taking me by the shoulders, on my front porch, looking in my eyes with compassion and love.  She said with gravity and rock solid conviction:  You are going to get through this and you are going to rock the world when you do.  We are going to have a party, a “Heidi-conquered-the-world-party”, and the whole world will be invited and will cheer for you.  You’ll see, you are gonna beat this and change the world.

 

I didn’t believe her.  She had no idea.  I had no hope.  How could she know that?  What did she know about this awful state of mind that robs you of your ability to feel, to love, to care, to focus, to sleep, to be kind, to be yourself

 I never forgot that moment.

 

(By the way, she was right.)

 

Don’t forget.  You are gonna beat this.  You are.

 

And when you do, I want you to climb on your pink dragon and scream to the world that you survived, and ride on, ride on, ride on!!!

 

Sending you All my ferocious love,

Heidi Howes

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