Each week, someone in the class cried. Their mountain was misshaped. Their bucket wasn't the correct color. Their curly hair was impossible to recreate with paint. Painting, as it turned out, brought out extreme emotions in all of us.
The week that I cried was the week we visited a farm. I was painting a barn and some ducks who were hanging out nearby. It was windy that day and my easel kept nearly tipping. My palette caught a gust, flew off my thumb and landed face-down in a pile of leaves, wasting all of the paint I'd mixed. And those effing ducks. How does one successfully paint moving targets?!
The point is, I too had my week to cry. One by one, painting took us all, humbling us and bringing us to our knees.
I attend a breastfeeding support group every other Wednesday and every week someone else cries. This was my week. Having held strong through the latch issues, the exhaustion, the gas problems, the puking problems, the pumping problems, the challenges of a baby refusing a bottle and much, much more, this week it wasn't even something breastfeeding-related that got me. This week, I admitted to the group that I no longer feel interesting. And then I started to cry.
I've worked my entire adult life. And before I worked a full-time job? I had summer jobs and work study jobs and babysitting jobs and way before that I got paid $2.50 an hour to be a mother's helper for the family down the street. Working has given me purpose and it's given me something to talk about. It's also give others something to latch onto in conversation.
"How's Arc going?" people would ask. "How's teaching English?" "How's working in the PR department?" "How's the babysitting business?"
Working outside the home gives others a simple topic for small talk. What, then, does one ask when you no longer work outside the home?
In my limited experience, they don't ask much of anything at all. They ask my husband how his job is going and then we skip over me to someone else at the party. Don't get me wrong - I don't honestly know what they're supposed to ask me. What would I ask myself?
Because herein lies the issue. I don't know how to explain what I do all day. Somehow it is 9am when Chris walks out the door and 6pm when he walks in the door and I have made it through via a combination of cleaning someone's butt, wiping puke (repeatedly) off my shirt, soothing and swaying someone to sleep only to have him wake up four seconds after I put him down so I can do something luxurious like eat a yogurt or turn on the TV or go to the effing bathroom. Amidst all of that, the struggling and the smiling, what could I possibly discuss that would be of interest to someone else at a cocktail party?
So this afternoon at breastfeeding group when it was my turn, I talked about how Noah won't stay asleep and how he hates his carrier and how he pukes all the time. And the wonderful woman who runs those meetings said, "Ok Jen, but what is really going on?"
And that's when I took a breath, started to cry, and admitted that I no longer feel interesting.
I'll skip the part about how the group was wonderful (they were! oh how they were!) and move on to say that I am in a decidedly better place at 8pm than I was at 8am this morning and it is all due to that group. This morning I teetered on the edge of a large void of sadness. I reread some of Heather Armstrong's earliest posts about motherhood and I understood them in a way that I never had before Noah was born. I emailed a few friends to let them know that I'm not doing so hot lately, still unable to truly understand why. I don't have the energy or strength to go back to work, but without it the horizon stretches as far as the eye can see, displaying only day after day of exactly the same things.
I don't know if I want to use the word depression; that still feels too strong. But I write this post for someone out there who will eventually have a baby and wake up one day feeling gray and like nothing will ever change again. Get yourself to a support group, breastfeeding or otherwise. I don't know if I'll wake up feeling better tomorrow, but it seriously changed the course of today and at this point, I'll take as many positive afternoons as I can get.