I’m not a terribly competitive person. I love to play games, but I don’t really care if I win (well, unless I’m playing Catchphrase. Then, I must destroy the enemy). I just want to have fun. I was an athlete in high school, but it wasn’t a competitive sport...there was nothing to win or lose (except for the spot on the team...wherein I did sort of get crazy).
But with every game I’ve ever played, there’s been the option to win, the possiblity of succeeding. Even if I don’t care about winning, I want to know that my winning is at least possible.
Life, shockingly, is not as simple as a board game or a soccer match.
Sometimes, it feels like there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that I’m going to win. It’s like I’m in the Olympics and I have to compete against Simone Biles every day, knowing I’m going to lose (and lose hard), but I still have to go out there and do my best. I can’t even somersault, nor can I just quit.
That’s what the last couple months have felt like for me.
It started when I decided to do a workout challenge. I loved every second of it. I was working hard, pushing myself to do things I never thought I’d be able to do. I was eating much healthier and feeling so much better. But despite all the work (and even losing several pounds), I never lost a single inch. In fact, I gained two inches (in my thighs. What kind of sick joke is that?!). All I wanted from this challenge was to drop a pants size. Losing baby weight is friggin’ hard, but I was 15 months post-partum so it was time to start getting healthy again.
Then I went to the doctor for my yearly check-up. Post-partum depression has really kicked my ass, but I’ve been wanting to wean myself off Zoloft for a while to see if I can do life and motherhood and marriage without medication*. So I talked to my midwife and got a bit of a beatdown. “It’s not really normal to have to stay on medication this long, post-partum.” I didn’t really know what to say. I figured it was perfectly fine to keep taking Zoloft for as long as I felt necessary. So she put me on a plan to start weaning myself from the meds. I’ve done well, but there are definitely days that own me.
The final kick to the lady balls was my daughter. She’s amazing and I love her more than I could have ever possibly imagined. (Don’t all paragraphs about obnoxious, hellion children start this way?) But she’s been so mean to me lately. It’s like she legitimately doesn’t like me. She falls down and screams at me. I change her diaper and she shrieks. I pick her up and she flails to get away from me. I rock her before bed and she slaps my face and scratches my neck. I make delicious food and she throws it. I make boxed macaroni and she throws it. If she gets scared, it’s my fault. She has absolutely no desire to snuggle me or be comforted by me or even be around me. Some days, she looks at me with what can only be described as “contempt” in her eyes. It’s heartbreaking. I can’t even describe how painful it is.
I am playing a game I cannot win right now and yet, I’m required to get out of bed every morning and act as though the last 24 hours have fazed me in no way. I have to wake up, cook for, and clean up after a child that doesn’t (seem to) like me. I continue to eat well and work out. And I have to do all of it knowing that today may very well be just as bad as (if not worse than) yesterday. I can’t just say, “I really suck at this game, so I think I’m going to try another sport.” I have to just accept that I have to stay in the game with the knowledge that the opponents will sometimes get easier, but will most likely get more challenging.
I am not the first mother to experience any of this, nor will I be the last. But I am the mother that is experiencing this right now, in my own head, in my own heart, in my own home. While I’m certainly not the only person to experience any or all of these things, sometimes I need to feel like it’s all unique to me. I need to be taken care of. And that’s a really hard thing for an intorverted, headstrong woman to admit. When you’re used to putting on a strong face and taking on any challenge life throws at you, it can be difficult to finally say, out loud, “I’m hurt. Please help!”
That’s where my tribe comes in. My crew of mama-friends quickly become my motherhood “alternates.” They take over the game (or, at least, part of the game) for a few minutes. They give me much-needed water breaks, they tape up my wounds (no matter how big or small), and they smack me on the ass, send me back in the game, and say, “Go get ‘em, champ!”
Motherhood is a really hard game to play. We need to be on each other’s teams. We need to have each other’s backs. When one of us hurts, we should all hurt. That’s probably just true of womanhood. Choose your teams well. Choose women who will help when you ask, but who will also just show up without any prompting. Life hits us hard sometimes. But we don’t have to play any of life’s games solo.
*PPD is awful and real and hard. If you’re a woman that needs medication every day for the rest of her life to stay even keel and feel like life isn’t destroying you, stay on the meds. If yoga or running or CrossFit is your jam, do that. If you have PPD, please reach out to your doctors and your tribe...you’re not alone.