It was progressing slowly, but there was hardly any pain. Because of the anesthesia pumping through a catheter in my spine, I was completely numb from the waist down. For fifteen hours, I watched a little heart rate fluctuate on the Sonicade. Finally—at 6:33am on August 13th, in a sunrise-lit hospital room near the rolling hills of Northern California—Anabel Diane came out of my body and into the world. Her skin was a deep purple. She was silent and lifeless. Her heart was not beating. A cord accident nearly killed her, but the doctors were able to stabilize her within fifteen minutes, and I held her for the first time an excruciating six hours later.
Two years from the very day later, contractions were quick and difficult. Each minute they grew sharper. I pulled into the hospital parking lot at 12:30am on August 13th across the world in the mountains near Tokyo, Japan. Olive May was born an hour and twelve minutes later. She came like a freight train, her lungs full of air, her body pink and screaming. They placed her wet and warm on my chest, her strong heart racing steady against mine.
And so began the healing that my second child brought to me.
Olive let me hold her. She was ever-content, and cried in normal proportions. She learned to sleep quicker and wasn't tormented with colic. In the beginning, I had two extra adult bodies around to help adjust. Hot dinners were delivered to my door, and I was granted nearly full nights of rest. It was exactly what I needed to completely dodge the shadows of new motherhood (2.0).
But then my husband went back to work, my mom flew back to America, my toddler stopped sleeping through the night, and my newborn started growth spurting. Ana was all of a sudden pissed and hurt that we blindsided her with a sister, and days with her and the baby were wearing.
The hard part wasn't the beginning. I was just distracted in the newborn, honeymoon phase. The hard part was when everything was suppose to go back to normal, and I was left all alone with my two babies. And it was awkward. It was awkward trying to fit them and their urgent demands into only two arms. It was awkward and frustrating to kill myself to keep them alive, only to feel like I was in a marathon of inadequacy.
And that's when depression found its way in through the cracks. It didn't care for my healing process. It didn't care that baby number two was one hundred percent easier than the first. It didn't care that Olive was healthy and weight gaining, that Anabel was ultimately so happy and loved. It blinded me and convinced me that I could only give 50% of myself to each of my children, and fifty percent was not enough.
The chemicals in my brain started to get imbalanced, and it felt impossible to get out of it. It hurt to move. Life around me started to look like a Claritin commercial, before the drugs are taken. The months changed and it got cold and cloudy and my body started getting starved of Vitamin D. My upper half began sinking into itself, hunched over where my daughters once lived. My posture saying what I didn't want to admit myself, but it was obvious just by looking at me. I was was getting lost in the same fog that haunted me two years prior.
And it felt stupid and reckless to admit that I was sad. That I had been gifted two healthy lives, two perfect children, and for some complicated reason, I was sad. Hell, I watched my own mother bury her baby, and there are Syrian children falling out of their mothers' arms into the vast dark deep of the ocean. I am painfully aware of the millions of mothers who are childless, their wombs barren and desperate. So I feel like an ungrateful idiot to admit I am anything less than in love with this role of mine. And it is confusing trying to fix something that has no real reason to be broken.
My focus started to shift, and I started to lose clarity; so I woke up on a Tuesday and decided it was imperative we spent the extra hour to get us out of the house and another four hours in the car to see the autumn leaves changing near Mount Fuji. We drove through the winding roads above the clouds. It was selfish. The baby cried a lot and Anabel got car sick all over the crevices of her car seat. The leaves had all already fallen and the cold was bitter up there.
Most people visit Fuji in the summertime, during climbing season, and they climb to the very top. I could barely make it a few hundred feet before I turned around and left. My God, was it beautiful though. When we arrived there was nothing but a blanket of thick fog in front of us. As soon as the winds came through, there stood Fuji towering over 12,000 feet right above us, and suddenly I felt smaller. I've stood in front of the snow capped volcano close to fifty times, but this time? This time my soul was a little less wrecked for it. My boots felt lighter. I left some of my sadness where I stood that day.
With frigid air in my tired lungs and a sliver of light cutting through the clouds, I realized that day that I had to fight for the things that nourished me. Even though, most days I feel trapped inside of myself, I need to find a way to say out loud that there are things deteriorating me internally. I have to admit when I am hurting, to those that I love and maybe even to a professional, because the more that I do, the less these things will be able to live inside of me.
So yes. I am blessed and grateful and living a dream, but sometimes (a lot of the time) I feel tired, and weird, and sad. And sometimes I feel anxious and guilty and hopeless, too. Consider this me saying out loud that these feelings are real and persistent in my daily life.
It might be a season of take out curry, and yoga pants, and nursing bras. It might be a season of convenience, and rest, and taking bravery to leave my bed.
It might be the season of just loving my babies and doing the best I can to do the small things that make me feel more alive. It might be the season of temporary sadness, and healing, and self-love.
And that is okay,
because it isn't climbing season.
Written and photo by N'tima Preusser.