But I Can Imagine Life Without Her

There’s this thing we do with unexpected blessings. We say, “Now, I bet you just can’t imagine life without her!”

But I can imagine life without her.

In that life I’m a more robust partner to my spouse. He doesn’t have to watch out to save me from despair. I don’t have to be relentlessly vigilant against the resentment that builds between partners as logistics take the place of deeper connections. In that life I can be left alone at home with the kids. Instead, we have a family rule that I can’t be left alone with the baby, or the baby and Boy Woww—the two youngest—because I’m likely to be lying on the floor catatonic when my husband returns, having tried to make dinner but instead been destroyed by whining, tugging at my clothing, screaming, and gnashing of teeth.

There’s a dark side to maternal mental health that we wash over with things like “But they just grow up so fast and in the blink of an eye they’re gone,” and, “Life just wouldn’t be the same without them.”

And we put things into extremes: either you’re a selfish mother who aborts a baby, or you are stalwart and your life is better for your gentleness and morality.

None of it is true.

Or maybe all of it is true. I’m increasingly holding two opposite beliefs and reckoning with the fact that both are true.

I would be the selfish mother to abort a fourth baby. It would destroy me, but I would do it to save myself, my marriage, and my family. Things I consider to be sacred. But at the same time, I chose life with this baby, and I wouldn’t wish her away even for a hillside full of horses and a kitchen overflowing with bacon and ginger.

I want her. She took my heart of stone and cracked it open. She was made in God’s image and her life is precious.

Being a mother defines who I am. I feel a deep sadness imagining a life with my spouse without children. But that doesn’t mean that motherhood hasn’t almost broken me.

We make hard decisions. We make mistakes. We try to survive. We have to stop pitting one group of women against another, when it’s all true. Given the right circumstances, we are always the other whom me judge.

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One response to “But I Can Imagine Life Without Her

  1. Oh, my friend. I love you so much and there is so much I want to say about this. Both are so very true. My oldest is 12 now and just today I was lingering over pictures of him as a baby and wishing I hadn’t let it all go by so fast. And yet when I was actually neck deep in those earliest, exhausted days, it was all I could to survive on three hours sleep and no moments alone. If I’d had a surprise third (or fourth) pregnancy, I honestly don’t know what I would have done — but I do know it would have required a decision, it would not have been automatic, even without having experienced PPD in the way that you do.

    I also read your post as a daughter whose mother has (for decades) significant depression, anxiety and probably other (undiagnosed) mental illnesses. I know she loves me without a doubt, but it’s so hard to feel like she avoids me and keeps me at arms length because she’s so sick. And there’s nothing I can do to fix it for her. I love you for your honesty about all this and for talking about it out loud — and especially for wrestling with it all instead of just going into hiding (even though you may want to or even need to at times).

    There’s more to say, but just know that I love you.

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