Her Bad Mother

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Visualize Whirled Peas

Her name was Svetlana. She spoke with a thick Slavic accent and wore a pantsuit, which for some reason made me think that she looked like a banker. A Russian banker. Which didn't predispose me to telling her my secrets, but still: I had promised myself that I would do this, that I would seek help, and this place, this tidy office with a worn leatherette sofa and wilting fern and shelves upon shelves of books on psychiatry and therapy and parenting, was where I had arrived. This woman, the occupant of this office, would help me.

So, she says, peering at the file in her hands, you vant harm your child?

Um... no... that's not...

She frowns. Say here, you vant harm your child... you have violent thoughts...

No, no, that's not exactly right... I just...

Is chicken scratch. I cannot to read. You look, tell me vat it say.
She hands me the file with my psychiatric referral.

Um... I squint at the inky scrawl "...reports intrusive thoughts of harming baby... reports wanting to drop baby on bed, escape home, reports experiencing feelings as violent, aggressive... denies intent to harm... denies intent to harm self... denies suicidal ideation... reports being afraid of intrusive thoughts." I cringe. I'd rather not be reading this. "Sleep deprivation. Previous treatment for anxiety. Supportive husband." I hand the file back to her. I didn't say that I felt violent. I said that the feeling itself was violent. Like a shock. It frightened me.

Is frightening, yes, these thoughts.
She looks me in the eye. I know you do not vant harm baby.

Which is as good a basis for a therapeutic relationship as any, I suppose. I could, I decided in that instant, overlook the pantsuit. I could work with this woman.

We spoke at length, Svetlana and I. Or rather, she spoke, and asked the occasional question, which suited me. I hate psychiatric therapy, I hate feeling that I'm being analyzed. I hate listening to the sound of my own voice droning on and on about can't sleep motherhood hard feel anxious yes family history of depression no not suicidal just TIRED TIRED OH SO TIRED. I just want a solution. I just wanted her to give me a solution.

And Svetlana was all about the solutions. First, we get you to sleep, no? I give you Ativan; you sleep when baby sleep. Zen, we test blood: thyroid, B12, glucose... your body, I zink, it is PFFT!... zen we meet again; we talk... is good to talk... zen maybe, maybe I give you somezing for depression. Not now. Now, you are tired. You are post-traumatic stress. You need sleep and peas. She leans forward and grabs my hand. Sleep and peas.

I had to think about that for a second.

Yes, I say, finally. Peace would be nice.

Peas is nice, she says. I help you to get peas. She drops her voice to a whisper. I tell you somezing. You are not bad mother. You are good mother. She pats my hand. Not to forget.

I say. Not to forget. Thank you.

Peas is good. Today, I will fill the prescription for Ativan and will go to bed early with that little bottle of peas while the husband takes the baby and leaves me in the sweet, sweet quiet dark. With my peas. With my peace. So that I will rest, so that tomorrow will dawn brighter, so that I'll move a step or two closer to feeling like the good mother that I know I am.


Note to you all, who do so much to sustain me: if you have e-mailed me in the last month or so and have not had a response from me, please forgive - I am completely overwhelmed and doing the best I can. I read everything. I respond as best I can, but that hasn't been enough to keep control of my inbox. Please know that I so appreciate the support and the contact. I really, really do.

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Blogger Sarah Lena said...


Went through the same cycle. Came out stronger in the end. You will too.


2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, so, so hard. Many hugs to you. You will come out the other side.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

Ah mama. You are telling my story after baby number two.

You will be stronger at the other end, and? There really is another end. It just takes a while to get there.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Yo said...

good good good good. rest and peas to you.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Don Mills Diva said...

Sleep tight Catherine and pleasant dreams.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Oh my goodness, only you would get Natasha (as in, Bullwinkle) for a therapist... I know it's not funny, but peas? I chuckled...

I hope you get lots and lots of peas. Bushels, even.

Hugs to you,

2:34 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

I will send peas-ful thoughts your way!

2:42 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

Once people start genuinely asking *WHERE* intrusive thoughts intrude *FROM* - well, then shit gets really interesting (if you ask me).

I mean - it's obviously from beyond your ego, right? Because you, your ego, Catherine as such, doesn't want to hurt the baby.

So what does? And if we start feeling around "beyond" the ego, what's the possibility of this Other being outside your body (and so IN-TRUDING with the thoughts)?

You're fucking trippy!

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please hire someone to hold the baby for a few hours a day so you can sleep. Get a line of credit to pay for it if you have to, go into debt, you can pay it back later. You must sleep.

It is only the Western world where women must single-handedly care for young children. In "less developed" countries families of women live together to hold new babies while tired new mommies sleep. It is the only way the species has survivied.

2:56 PM  
Blogger kaila said...

Imagine Whirled Peas is my favorite ice cream - ice cream is good - you'll be just fine.
*sending good thoughts*

2:57 PM  
Blogger Goldfish said...

I've been following along. I hope you sleep. And that you feel so much better when you wake up. Sweet dreams.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Oh, C.

I am heart-burstingly full of hope for you - that this is quick, and relatively painless, and.....

good-night, sweet lady.

3:05 PM  
Blogger All Things BD said...

Good for you for looking for help. I too went on Ativan after my daughter was born. It was the best decision I could have made, for my health and hers.

Hubby used to tell me "what your baby needs most is a well rested mother". It's amazing what proper sleep can do for you.

Wishing you rest and peas.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ativan is kind of weird for sleep in that it is an anti-anxiety med, and it works differently than a sleeping pill, but I think the added bonus is that you will have anti-anxiety meds in your blood stream which should help you feel calmer. Nighty night, sweet dreams!

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for you. I hope you get some much needed rest.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

BHJ - that's such an interesting and entirely trippy question. Do the thoughts INTRUDE from the outside? Do they come from some outer place, some OTHER, as you say? Only, I suppose, if we imagine that we DO have Mr. Hyde-like shadow selves that trail us in the darkness.

The trippy thing is - they probably aren't intrusive, but extrusive - bursting out from our darker inner places (you might say id; I might say - Socratically, because that's how I roll - from the appetitive, erotic part of our soul, the part that is most concerned with selfish self-preservation - if baby keeps me from sustaining myself, why should my impulse NOT be to thrust him away?) That these thoughts might be part of us is disturbing, but maybe it's healthy to take ownership? To admit that in our weakest moments we get desperately, almost dangerously selfish?

Aaaaah... where's that Ativan at, again?

3:28 PM  
Blogger M&J Mom said...

Its good to be funny in the midst of it all. Always a good sign if you can laugh at least a little.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Issa said...

I like that woman. Sleep and peas, she makes complete sense. Wishing you sleep lots of peas really soon.

3:48 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

Extrusive makes a hell of a lot of sense. Also, you know I've always said give peas a chance.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

she sounds like a good one: yes, you need sleep, and peace. yes, you are a good mother. enjoy the dark and quiet. hugs to you and yours ...

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know that I know of what you speak. Svetlana seems like she gets it too.

Much love to you.

5:00 PM  
Blogger ScientistMother said...

Love, hugs, sleep and peas to you. I am glad you found someone like svetlana. You are a good mother.

5:10 PM  
Blogger Ms. Moon said...

I remember once when my second child was a young baby and I thought I lost her. I was frantically looking through the house for her. And the whole time? I was holding her in my arms. Scary shit.
Sleep deprivation is no joke.
I love Svetlana for you.
You are a good mother. But a tired one.

5:44 PM  
Blogger A Crafty Mom said...

Svetlana just rocks - I'm so happy it went well. Good for you for going . . . many women don't do it. Sleep makes the entire world a different place - so I hope you get some. And peas too.

5:52 PM  
Blogger worldmomma said...

Enjoy the quiet night tonight. If you and hubby haven't been using them already, try a set of earplugs. They greatly increase the restfulness of whatever sleep you might be able to get.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Momily said...

Again, thanks for blogging so honestly about "this" . . . it helps so much to stop PPD and the spectrum of stuff associated with it from being this dirty secret that no one talks about or is somehow dimished for admitting to. You are brave and incredible for doing this - really. I hope you will write about your experience with Ativan as I think many of us use a sleep aid, but don't know how it works come "wake up" time and so on. I know the truth stops here so look forward to your reviews!

5:59 PM  
Blogger ALI said...

Struck by how brave you are to share this, and hoping you know we all have those moments..

sending you big warm hugs from new england!

6:05 PM  
Blogger Bea said...

This post was so funny and vulnerable and clever - and then so tear-jerkingly moving. I think Svetlana will do. I like her.

6:17 PM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

Sleep and peas.

Spot on.

And many, many hugs and you hearing the message that you ARE a good mother. A GREAT mother. And hopefully, after a little sleep and peas, you'll remember that, too.

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, that woman sounds so wonderful! She knows you are a good mother in just the first meeting. And she knows you need rest before anything else.
Good for you for knowing you needed a helping hand and advice. Enjoy your sleep and peas. Any possibility a trusted friend or hired nanny could continue to help with childcare so you can get some peas daily? I remember what just a nap would do for me when I was so very sleep deprived and caring for 2 little ones. continue to take care and thank you for sharing with all of us...

6:21 PM  
Blogger Tania said...

Sounds like a good start. I know you'll be ok.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Cloudy said...

I hope you get your peace; this seems like a good step in that direction.

I sought therapy once and my therapist turned out to be the daughter-in-law of Ronald Reagan.

6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sending lots of positive energy and sweet, sweet, dreams

6:45 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

She sounds vondervul. Peas to you.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautifully written account of your appointment.

Ditto everyone's comments about the Russian sounding like a good egg and you getting peas and sleep.

6:58 PM  
Blogger O'Neal (The Woman In Charge Around Here) said...

I don't know how the health care thing goes up there or if it is as expensive as is it here in the South. But my offer still stands, about bitching to each other and calling it even. We won't even have to leave the house or get dressed! And I have bottles of whatever you need, no charge, no pharmacy lines ;). One way or another you will get the rest you so dearly need! ;) Totally trying not to incriminate myself...

Anyway, I am SO glad you got in and got some answers. Hopefully your world will be right as rain ASAP! My Dr, however, is STILL giving me the run around. I was to start my meds this afternon in their office and then attend group therapy meeting right after. 5 oclock traffic and 4 pharmacies later, NO ONE had the meds he wrote so I came home and dropped it off at MY pharmacy on the other side of town and will *HOPEFULLY* have it in hand tomorrow and start Saturday. Sorry for all that boring personal TMI , I just needed to get it out and the hubs is all blank when I try to talk to him about it...

7:01 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

ONeal - It's Canada. Healthcare is universal. So I only pay for my prescriptions. For this? I am grateful.

But you're welcome to whatever bitching you'd like. You know where I am ;)

7:04 PM  
Blogger Listen Up, MoFos! said...

I am actually crying right now. I have been there, exactly there, although her name was Adair. And I take my Prozac and Ativan every day. Last night was hard, I felt so angry at my daughter for not wanting to go to sleep, not wanting cow's milk instead of her usual soy milk, at my husband for leaving the damned soy milk in the car that he then took to work!!! And it is such an ugly feeling, that anger. And I know it's not her fault and that I should be a good mommy and not hurt her feelings with my anger... but sometimes I am only human. And so are you, Catherine.

Much love.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Manager Mom said...

We are all behind you. You will find yourself again through all of this.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

She sounds great - get the sleep and self care stuff sorted out first; THEN, do other stuffs if needed.

Sweet, sweet dreams...

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bless her, bless her, bless her. And the ativan. And the sleep.

My doctor said she wouldn't have any patients at all if everyone drank enough water and got enough sleep. She's slightly overstating it, but not by much.

Love to you. xoxo

7:15 PM  
Blogger brandi said...

{{{HBM}}} who is SO not a BM. I wish pecks and pecks of peas upon your house.

If you get a few extra pecks could you pass them down my way though?

7:32 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Well I am glad that you are going to give peas a try. Lots of hugs! xoxo!!

7:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And even here you write so beautifully and so honestly. Wishing you peas as you move through this valley.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Wishing you sleep and peas.

7:42 PM  
Blogger brandi said...

Oh, if your husband is on the night shift you might want him to get you up briefly at some point to pump. Say, after he's taken care of the baby already so you are not too awake or tempted to nurse him, thus loosing sleep.

Not for the baby, I'm sure you have stock in the fridge for him, but for your poor boobies. Waking from a blissful sleep b/c your tits are bursting is so not the best wake-up you could wish for.

If your husband is really up for it you could show him how to pump you himself. You know, so you don't have to be conscious at all, if the meds work really well that is. You could even call it research for PETA.

frickin' weird suggestion, I know, but it could work and allow you a few extra hours (45 min?) of sleep.

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Her bad mother is not a good name for this blog...

You are an AMAZING mother.....

Cheers to Svetlana, ativan and sleep...

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She's right ... you are a great mother. Sleep and peas is what I wish for you dear Catherine.


8:49 PM  
Blogger Mandy said...

I often think that asking for help is the hardest thing to do.

Why is that, when we are so willing to try and help others?

Sweet dreams.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I the only person that thinks that occasional `crazy` thoughts are normal? My goodness- you`re sleep deprived, seemingly still working your butt off and, oh yeah, you`ve just sacrificed your body to another human being who doesn`t understand what you`re doing for him and as such will not try one bit to make your life any easier. It upsets me that moments such as the one you experienced make you and other mothers feel like there might be something wrong with you. I`m happy for you that you`re strong enough to know to get help when you feel that you need it, but I certainly hope that you know that it doesn`t mean that you`re becoming a `monster` and you shouldn`t feel any shame for the frustration you`re experiencing. I know well that feeling of anger. I thought that I was a terrible mother and a terrible person when my daughter was the same age. Only after coming out of the dark of depression did I realise that the problem wasn`t me- it was the situation. You`re doing a fabulous job- I`m sure of it. Give yourself credit and take all the time to sleep that you can- you deserve it.

9:33 PM  
Blogger Maria Melee said...

I admire you so very, very much.

9:50 PM  
Blogger moplans said...

ahh whirrled peas.
I like Svetlana.
I've just booked a flight.
NOT with westjet....

10:00 PM  
Blogger Sheryl (papernapkin) said...

Dude, I feel for you. I had such oppressive PPD with every single kid. OY. Things will get better. Rilly. Lord it's so hard.

10:14 PM  
Blogger Run ANC said...

Sleep and peas might just become my new mantra.

Sleep well, my friend.

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sleep is good.

It's my favorite pastime that I have hardly been able to partake in.

Hang in there. It all changes as they get older. It doesn't make it better for now, just know that there's light at the end of the tunnel...

For now, shut out the light. Turn off the computer. Go to sleep. Peas.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

I'm glad you are getting some sleep tonight. Tomorrow will be brighter (or at the very least less exhausting)

11:12 PM  
Blogger ~Molly~ said...

15.5 years ago I had an emergency c-section and nearly died. My son was born dead but revived by a very attentive assistant to my doctor. I had undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic and Anxiety Disorder and Post Partum Depression. It went undiagnosed until my second child was about 9 months old(almost 3 years).

Since the first one's birth, I had intrusive thoughts that I wasn't my son's real mom, that his parents were going to come get him and I was just a baby sitter. Another intrusive thought was that I wanted something to happen to him so I could start over with a better experience. It was an AWFUL time in my life. I felt like a robot. After the second kid came along it was overwhelming and debilitating because I also developed agoraphobia and couldn't go anywhere!

I went for a screening on the National Depression Screening Day even though I didn't think my problem was depression. We took a little test and I was referred to a couselor there who said it was most likely anxiety and she made me an appt to see a psychiatrist.

My doctor prescribed Xanax and Paxil and within a few months I was feeling more normal. After about 2 years on the meds I weaned myself off, having moved away from this doctor and not having insurance to continue seeing someone. I got pregnant again and have the most wonderful birth(another c-section but not an emergency life or death situation). I've not had any problems since then and she's 8.5 years now.

Hang in there, it will get better, I promise!!!((((((hugs)))))))


11:26 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

Good for you! Much peas to you too!

12:14 AM  
Blogger Rachael said...

She sounds like a really nice woman. Good job on getting help - now go get some sleep!

1:06 AM  
Blogger Sandra said...

P.S. there's a HUGE reason why sleep deprivation is a great torture weapon. We aren't meant to operate without enough rest...

9:06 AM  
Blogger Mama V said...

Wishing you much peas and sleep.... ((((((HUGS))))))

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She sounds quirky, yet gentle. Everything you need to heal from this, you have within you. You are on the right track. Sleep, pea soup, some more sleep, love, family.

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your honesty about everything you are going through is a lifeline for other women. Don't forget that.

My first thought was that only a good mother would take the time and energy to seek help. So the remote possibility of being a bad mother is immediately dismissed.

Sleep and heal. As your body gets stronger, so will your mind.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It takes alot of courage to do what you are doing! Especially if it's so distasteful for you to do! Go for the peace, you deserve it.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Vodka Mom said...

wow. That was some post. I can't even be a smart-ass. It was both hard and a pleasure to read.

you rock,

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sending you peas and sheep to count. Lots of love and get much rest. Good luck dear.

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

catherine so glad you are getting help. and svetlana sounds wonderful..

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also so glad you were able to get past the inital hesitation with Svetlana. Talking is good, taking time for yourself is wonderful. You are a good person, and have helped so many people by being honest about your feelings.

I wish I had a "svetlana" to pat my hand and tell me everything will be ok.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear. I am so sorry for your difficulties. It seems as though you have found some wonderful help, however. Having someone understand and help find solutions is such a blessing!

1:45 PM  
Blogger HeatherPride said...

That just almost made me cry! I'm so sorry. You will get through this. Be open to therapy. I used to think it was for schmucks but then I went through counseling when I got divorced. It helped soooooo much, I can't even begin to say.

I am wishing you much peas.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Candy said...

OK Svetlana, who I was all set to hate, made me cry. Dammit! She's a winner. You're in good hands. Now go to bed.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Bibi said...

Reading the doctor's notes is what got me. So harsh. So clinical. Not compassionate enough. Hang in there!

3:25 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Reading the doctor's notes almost made me get up and leave the room. but I'm glad that I stayed.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Loralee Choate said...

When you got to the part about reading the notes I MARVELED at your strength but you are just...amazing to me.

I think the sleep thing alone would SEND ME. I thing getting that under control will make coping easier.

Next to something going wrong lack of sleep is the single biggest fear I have about having a baby again.

I love you, you wonderful, wonderful woman. All my good thoughts are sent your way.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Mama Smurf said...

zees post make me cry.

You'll get there girl. Sleep is as good a place to start as any.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

You ARE a good mother. A great mother. I'm glad you got some peas...er peace anyways.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I've been reading along, unsure of what to say only because it sounded cliche to say I've been there. But I have been there, and understand this so well.

You are a good mother. You're better than many considering how fast you decided to take action. And I think Svetlana has the right idea: sleep and peas. We could all use more of that, couldn't we?

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sleep and peas sound wonderful! I am with you on the exhaustion. My babe is just 4 months and not sleeping well. I also have a 5 and 7 year old who are my reminders that there is a light at the end. Hopefully soon :) Hang in there!

2:28 AM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

Sleep will do you good. I see brightness ahead. My youngest just turned 4 and I can assure you: there comes a day when they all sleep, and it seems miraculous and ordinary at the same time.

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peace has a way of changing the world ... May sleep change yours! Positive vibes headed your way.

12:36 PM  
Blogger BabyonBored said...

As a person, woman, mother on anxiety meds, I can tell you for shizzle that lack of sleep is what put me over the edge and near breakdown territory.

My husband started taking some overnights with BOTH babies and I slept through the night for about a week. I was a completely different person.

I don't think that the dark thoughts come from a dark side of yourself, I believe they come from the taboo of thinking them. The mere fact that we're so sure it's wrong to want to hurt our baby is enought to make us think that when we're insanely stressed and tired. And then we make it worse by feeling guilt over having those thoughts. It's just your body's way of making you seek help. Ativan is yummy.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Kaza said...

I wish I had been strong enough to see a shrink in my postpartum months. I white-knuckled it through and was miserable. I hope you get the "peas" you need from all of this. It's a tremendous act of courage to get help with this, and very, very wise.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Ernesta said...

Now you need to stop reading all these wonderful comments from everyone and go back to bed to get some sleep and peas!!!

10:01 PM  
Blogger Just Call Me Sleep Deprived said...

My heart goes out to you! No one realizes how much lack of sleep really affects you, it really can push you over the edge. Good luck getting some real sleep and peas, I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel for you even though it may not feel like it! Hang in there:)

11:04 PM  
Blogger K said...

Hang in there, chickadee, hang in there.

11:37 PM  
Blogger Ruth Dynamite said...

Get zome zleep, dearie. Thinking of you.

7:09 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Sometime the universe sends you Svetlanas right when you need them. Ativan too.

Peace, mama.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Maggie, Dammit said...

I love this. How did Svetlana know your blog name? ;)

Sleep and peas, sweet dear.

5:29 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Wishing you many peas.

This was so sweet. I recently wrote a post called Depression is an Asshole. Maybe I need halp?!?

5:32 PM  
Blogger Indigo Children said...

Oh god.

Thank you (really a lot) for your honesty.

I wish you peace


I am grateful

that I found this post today...

so many reasons why.

There is nothing so vulnerable

as sharing darkness (with the unknown).

You can't know the unintended results of your honesty.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Blog said...

Suddenly, I have an overwhelming craving for pea soup....!

4:24 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

You are very brave!
I have had that flash of anger- very scary.
I wish you all the best.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Booba Juice said...

Your peas have meant so much to me, I had to use them in my latest post. http://booba-juice.blogspot.com/2008/11/alien-invasions.html

Here is hoping that we both get the peas that we need.


6:10 AM  

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