Monday, July 24, 2006

ALMOST YELLOW

Time has been blazing by this Summer. Ever since I agreed to teach during this semester, my desk has been piled with papers full of writing--not my own...My calendar is full of planning to-do lists and reminders about emails and phone calls to return...And, I suddenly look up to realize the garden is going brown with the late-July wilt of the season. The season that will be over just as I'm finally ready to sink into it.

Last week, I turned another year older--fell into a blue mood by evening because I wondered if I'd done "enough". Have I accomplished all I should have by now? Is this the question that birthdays prompt in adulthood? By the time I sank into bed, I had already worked my way out of this trail of thoughts...life isn't a clear, linear progression. It is all about wandering, getting lost, and realizing that the misdirection was, in fact, the only one worth taking.

The latter part of the week passed in a blur...my college offered me several classes for the Fall Semester. So, I finally admitted to myself--yes, you really are teaching again. It has been almost three years since I settled into the old English adjunct faculty room with the sweetly bitter scent of spilled coffee and shredded photocopies lingering like a strange perfume. When I left, I had recently given birth to my youngest and was thinking of applying to study with Natalie Goldberg. One month in New Mexico, several publications, an editorial post, and an entire (as of yet unpublished) novel manuscript later--and I am back. Now, I will have to learn how to balance things. Teaching is a creative outlet for me, but--in many ways--it is a drain on my time. So, I am learning...still the student.

Three years ago also marked my descent and slow rise to full mental-health following the vicious post-partum depression/psychosis I fell into immediately following Rosie's birth. On Saturday during my regular morning cafe writing session, I browsed the magazine rack for random bits of inspiration and saw this:



My article, "Almost Yellow" has now officially made its way to a bookstore near you and I and anyone who cares to read it...family, friends, students, bosses, strangers, and the "Mommy-Moms" lounging poolside who already think I'm a few degrees off-center. I'd been nervous about how I'd feel, seeing my experience dissected in quite a public way. But, I ordered my tea, sat down by the window seat, and read it straight through without flinching. They paired my words with some beautiful artwork, made a few edits, and excerpted my words: "How often we fail to admit a crack until the floor is littered with shards of glass; we are surprised by the darkness even as we watch the sun go down." in a sidebar. I didn't cry. I felt oddly electric...not because of the publication, but because I was revealing myself.

My-SELF. I am revealing myself...taking a risk as an intensely private person to share what happened to me. I am shattering my own personal myth of ideal motherhood. It isn't all hearts and flowers, hand-knitted bonnets and impossibly tiny diapers. Women at baby showers should be prepared like warriors--should be honored for the rite of birth and new motherhood. There is a shroud of silence here that I've held myself to "look like a good mother" to others. Now, I'm naked...it is complicated...but I don't feel a bit ashamed.

I hope my daughter will someday feel proud of her mother for opening up in this way. I hope she understands that, even in my darkest moments, my love for her was luminescent. There is a true sorrow in me for "missing" her early infancy...for not being able to breastfeed her for very long because of the heavy cocktail of medication prescribed by my doctors. When she is having a difficult day or acting out--a part of me wonders if her anger is from our initially shaky relationship. When she occasionally cries for her Daddy, disappointed when it is me who comes into the room--I feel my heart catch just a bit on the jagged edges of what our love is. But...I remind myself, every day now we laugh together. We chase butterflies and investigate pill-bugs in the yard. We hide out and then surprise her brother or sister with our loud voices. We read books and drip paint on the floor in our enthusiastic creativity. She sleeps with a clutch of silk in her hands, or one of my satin nightgowns, because even in her dreams she reaches out for me. And, what matters most...I am here now.
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17 Comments:

Blogger Amber said...

Delia, you should never feel ashamed for writing what is true. You should feel very proud, because your (always beautiful) writing will help some other woman. And I am regular reader of Sage Woman, and I think that especially the readers of this publication can appreciate and honor what you wrote!(I have been thinking of submitting something to them, myself, for some time now.)I don't think the "perfect" mommies are probably readers of Sage Woman... But I am going to go pick mine up today, as I am far from perfect, and I expect your piece to feed my soul.

Also, I (amazingly) did not suffer from PPD. I sort of thought I would, with my history with depression. But I DO have a lot of guilt over not being sure I am a good enough mother. Guilt that maybe I don't know what that looks like. So you touched me here, when you talked about how you feel on her off days...Ah, the damn doubt. But I say to you, what I try to say to myself; it is just in your head. Kids suffer really bad things, far worse things---and they still love their moms. Look at me! I did, and I do. I figure, if I am doing better than that, I'm not doing so bad. And the same goes for you. All that laughing? It really is what she will remember. Only you are hurting from the rest... Let it go, my friend. Forgive yourself, and really let it go.

xoxo Happy Birthday, too!
:)

11:53 AM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Your writing is so beautiful. And good for you for being so brave and honest about a difficult period in your life. Alas, that magazine isn't available in Europe. A belated happy birthday to one of my favourite writers! xo

3:48 PM  
Blogger Kim G. said...

Women at baby showers should be prepared like warriors--should be honored for the rite of birth and new motherhood. There is a shroud of silence here that I've held myself to "look like a good mother" to others. Now, I'm naked...it is complicated...but I don't feel a bit ashamed.

I loved these lines and believe they will resonate in a place that is deep and profound for every woman who reads your words. Thanks for sharing this very private journey so others can learn along side you.

Happy belated birthday! I have one this weekend and am feeling a bit melancholy about it as well. My husband will be gone on a trip and my family is trying to pick up the slack and plan something, but really, I just want to go somewhere by myself and sit in quiet! :)

5:52 PM  
Blogger deirdre said...

I'm not a mom, so I can't comment first hand on that, but I suspect that parents who are very sure of their competency are the ones to worry about. You do the best you can and keep your eyes and heart open and hope for the best. And love them no matter what.

Ah, birthdays. I always get a little sad on my birthday. Too long a story for here. It does seem to be a day of reflection and questioning. I try to find the blessings now and the sweetness. Happy Birthday to you. May the coming year bring you all you could wish.

2:07 AM  
Blogger bb said...

Brave, beautiful, honest.
I love the idea of warrior parties for new mothers.
I also think it is part of my path to shatter this corrosive ideal of untroubled motherhood.
I am writing, thinking, but not ready to share yet. For me other truths must be unfolded first. Our paths wind in different ways.
But you are a constant inspiration to me. I cannot wait to read your article in full, my sister has a copy.
Happy birthday, happy summer, to you x

6:06 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer (she said) said...

You wrote:

I didn't cry. I felt oddly electric...not because of the publication, but because I was revealing myself.

Revealing ourselves, and in this case, revealing an experience that has to do with mental health AND motherhood - two areas where people are often judged and misundertood - is a brave (and also fantastic/electric) thing to do. I want you to know that when I was experiencing a pregnancy that was filled with depression and not always joy, what helped me most were the women who embraced me for me and the writing I found by women who did not fit the standard of what a women who is pregnant or has just had a baby "should" feel.

Your words are a gift to yourself and to others and I am SO grateful that you are in a place where you can reveal yourself in a personal and public way.

I also understand the difficulty of balancing teaching and creativity as I am in that position myself (and in a doctoral program as well). Know that you are not alone in finding, needing, and claiming a balanced life.

xo
Jennifer

10:05 AM  
Blogger Madeleine said...

Delia, i am touched by this honesty. It feels me with admiration and relief that there are OTHER mothers who also share a similar perspective and perhaps a small part of the same path.
I am right behind you in shattering this unearthly illusion of motherhood.
Your daughter won't remember a cute bonnet. No it's not all about hearts flowers but real life sharing moments. She will remember your love. She will remember that you were 'present' and shared wonderful moments with her.
You sound like such a fantastic mother who carries in her heart all the best intention for her daughter. Someone who really 'sees' the whole picture. I applaud you, I really do.
Thank god for mothers like you....:)

1:40 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

i respect you enormously , D, i really do. i will search out the magazine as even just that little quote whetted my appetite - i have no doubt this will be a beautiful read. you are a magnificent mother, and the three wildies will know this always.

i can't believe i forgot your birthday - i've been off the boil a bit recently. another year older is another year of wonderful and inspiring YOU x

1:48 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

Aww. I don't have the new issue at my Borders yet. :(
Aw, well. Another excuse to go back to the book store, I guess. ;) It's only about my favorite place in the world to go. And no one even said a word about my black eyes, LOL!

:)

4:44 PM  
Blogger Mama Kelly said...

I rec'd my copy of SageWoman in the mail today and the first, and so far only, article I read was yours.

You managed to decribe what must have been a horrific period in your life in many ways and yet do it both eloquently and beautifully.

I am so glad that you came through it and that you felt safe enough to share it in such a public way.

BB
Kelly

9:31 PM  
Anonymous Lunarmusings said...

This brought me chills. Such bravery. Motherhood is not for the weak of heart at all. And truly it affirms for me the need to recapture the more meaningful side of "Baby Showers" My friends and Ihave Adornment rituals. Not just to adorn the Mother with beauty, but also with armor, wisdom, support, and Truth. The path through the doorway into Motherhood is a birth... bloody, loud, messy, painful, and transformative. You walk to the edge of life and death in order to pull new life through. Is it any wonder many women do "lose" their minds for a while? And I don't mean that in a non pc manner. I mean that truly.

Thank you for baring yourself to us. Your story strengthens you as it strengthens us as sisters, women, mothers, and daughters.

I will go get a copy of Sage Woman tomorrow!
e

12:18 AM  
Blogger Laini Taylor said...

Beautiful post! I didn't know you'd suffered post-partum depression. From what leading experts like Tom Cruise say, there is no such thing - ha! Sorry. I was and am impressed that Brooke Shields went public with her story, and I'm glad more women are doing so, like you. In past years one would hardly think such a thing existed -- it was some terrible secret! I look forward to reading your article. I loved the excerpt, and also your line about how women should be prepared like warriors. Great writing! Also, happy birthday!

1:39 AM  
Blogger Bridget said...

everyone has that guilt, and you speak to it beautifully.
i don't know if you are a fan of this type of music but you should give a listen to Iris Dement's "The Way I Should" it always makes me feel a little better about where I am.

Happy birthday!

5:18 AM  
Blogger woman wandering said...

I once wrote of my experience of a week long labour and they way I was treated by staff.

It was a dark piece, trying to just get it out of me. My ex-husband found it and was furious ... 20 years on and I'm surprised he was angry. It was a true story and I was fortunate to survive it intact, my hormones held on and I feel so very lucky they did.

Be proud of opening up on this subject, there's a conspiracy of silence sometimes, a small-town one-up-manship almost ... how long was your labour, how big was your baby, how long did you breastfeed for ... who started that competition.

I am enjoying your blog as I wander through it today :)

11:38 AM  
Blogger mamatara said...

I read your article in Sage Woman. It brought me here. I thank you so much for writing from your heart. I'm pregnant with my third and at times wonder, is this all of it, all of life? Yet I don't have the energy to write or create. Ah, anyway, thank you again. I hope to not start reading blogs because I did that and even wrote one way back in the beginning '95 when we called them online journals...and for me reading them means escaping from my own life. Blessed be your days.

Tara

10:17 PM  
Blogger mamatara said...

I failed to mention I hope I don't begin reading them because yours so pulled me in and the links to others were intriguing....

10:20 PM  
Anonymous Emma said...

I cried when I read your article. I don't have children, but I've had my own experiences with being broken open by the world. I love to hear that you felt electric reading it in print. Thank you for the gift of revealing.

5:16 AM  

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