The dark side of motherhood is a lonely place, dangerous for those who sink too deep. When the clouds descend, most fight their battle alone, but if they’re lucky, they’ll know the steady and unfailing presence of someone who loves them. My husband held the pieces of our family together and was the anchor that steadied us when I was too fucked up to lead the way. He is my someone.
My second daughter was born 17 months after my first, and the sheer exhaustion of having two babies left me limp and zombied out. Diapers were my life, and it was fascinating how unbelievably huge my eldest daughter’s ass was in comparison to that of the newborn.
I also faced the challenge of trying to keep my her out of trouble while I nursed the baby. She pillaged kitchen drawers, pulled dirt out of houseplants by the fistful (and ate it), and did what toddlers generally do. I longed for Go-Go Gadget tits that would stretch around the room, allowing me to chase her down while still attached to the suckling baby. I was so fucking tired.
A year or so into our parenting adventure, we were foolish enough to go on a beach vacation with my parents and my sister’s family. The mayhem of five small children, six adults, and sand every-fucking-where was too much for my flailing emotional state. Enforcing naps and bedtimes morphed into events requiring the stamina of an Olympic athlete, meals were a complete shitshow, and trying to keep a semblance of order was impossible. I was drowning, and even though I was surrounded by family, I had no idea how to find help.
By day three, I was feeling dangerously unstable and the anxiety of coming unhinged had me wound uncomfortably tight. I was not okay. That night, after dinner, I snuck off and walked across the street to the beach. It was empty aside from a few random joggers, and I sat there on a small dune, watching the waves and wiping silent tears that had no end, when finally he came.
My husband came to me in my dark and pitiful hour, silent and present, and he sat with me.
I could tell he was unsure of what to do, so I began to speak. In hindsight, my concerns were all normal for a woman in my position, but the state of my emotional health compounded the intensity of motherhood’s vague and relentless dread and pulled me down into a frightening darkness.
I told him I was tired. I told him I didn’t feel supported. I told him how he was falling short as a father and husband. I unleashed my anger and hopelessness and he took it all in without a word. He intuitively knew to stay silent — there wasn’t a thing in the world he could have said in that moment that would have made anything better.
I hope he knew that no one, no matter how perfect, could have prevented me from saying those things and feeling those feelings. My anxiety and exhaustion, the state of my mental health, and the grief I felt from losing myself to two tiny beings was more than any person could have saved me from.
My someone gave me the space to be a fucked-up disaster, allowing for the pain to drain from my body. After some time, he asked how he could help. I was at a loss, but I knew he was there and that he would stay.
Our kids are older now, 6 and 8, and his presence has been unfaltering as I continue to grapple with motherhood. At times I’m resentful of the grind and unending needs that pummel up against me, and though my children are more independent, anxiety has followed me from year to year, ever-changing with the times. Are they napping? Can they read as well as the other children their age? Will they make the competitive soccer team? Why don’t they have more friends? Life will continue at a relentless pace and wear me down like an old stone in a river if I let it.
When I spin my mental wheels, there stands my husband, the steady and equable glue that holds our big picture together while I gather myself and rally once again. I am grateful for this man who dances in the kitchen with my daughters and laughs at my vulgar humor. Emotionally, he is a man of few words, but he is present, he provides a safe space, and he loves us very much. He is willing to follow me into the darkness, waiting for me to resurface with outstretched arms and strong hands — hands that each mother needs and deserves as she finds her way to the next tomorrow.
I am lucky. I am loved.