When I was trying to get pregnant and failing, I would spend a pathetic amount of time in the Whole Foods tea aisle, staring at this box of tea.
Despite having friends who were actual mothers, I decided that all I needed to know about being a mom could be gleaned from this box of overpriced tea. I imagined, like the nineteen-year-old model pictured on the box, the only difficulty I would face would be holding such a chubby baby with my freakishly skinny post-baby arms.
But since I would be experiencing a state of bliss and understanding that no amount of recreational drug experimentation in my twenties (and that one? two? three? four? times in my thirties) had achieved, I probably wouldn’t even notice. Motherhood would also give me curly hair and for some logic defying reason giant angel wings.
Cut to: I am the mom to nine-months old twins. Clearly they are the coolest people I have ever met. And they can’t even properly construct a joke. Yet. But the first three months of their new lives were some of the hardest days of mine. Doctors, trained professionals and anyone passing me on the street would label this as post-partum depression. I would call it a completely legitimate response to an insanely difficult situation.
I blame that box of tea.
My life looked nothing like the peaceful scene depicted on Organic Milkmaid Tea. I was picturing cradling my chubby baby, as in singular. Uno bambino. I had two babies and no one in their right mind would have described them as chubby. A rare pregnancy complication threw me into early labor at thirty-two weeks and my girl weighed in at 4.13 pounds and my boy a leaner 4.0. They could only be considered chubby if you added them together and tossed in a Cornish game hen and a can of Spaghetti-O’s.
Let’s talk about breastfeeding for a moment. Look at the box. See how relaxed everyone is? That was not our deal. My babies couldn't even breastfeed the first couple days of their new lives because they weren’t even supposed to be born for FIVE MORE WEEKS. Our first breastfeeding session involved a physical therapist, a lactation consultant, my husband and our two reluctant preemies covered in an a network of tubes and wires that took the help of two nurses to untangle.
I’d like to see that on a box of tea.
The great news was, after four grueling weeks in the NICU, my babies were home. They were perfectly healthy and as happy as newborns can get. I was another story entirely. Due to my daily sob sessions, I didn’t have the skin of a nineteen –year old and more closely resembled the haggard old crone from Winters Bone. When I wasn’t crying, I felt guilty that I didn’t feel happier for getting what I’d so desperately wanted all those long, sad months of trying and failing to get pregnant.
Now, I’m no doctor, but my doctor is and he said this sounded a lot like post-partum depression. My gauge for recognizing this sort of thing is off since I’m also blessed with regular depression. I assumed that since I wasn’t fantasizing about slitting my wrists in the bathtub that I wasn’t depressed, so instead of getting back on my antidepressants like I should have, I just hunkered down with the big bad feelings.
In retrospect, I’m reminded yet again that I shouldn’t self diagnose since a) I don’t have a medical degree and b) I do have a mental illness.
I just didn't expect that I would feel so let down by the whole experience. Where was my new mom bliss? I’d imagined sunlight streaming through a window as I effortlessly nursed my chubby baby. Instead I had two scrawny preemies that never met a nipple they liked and needed to eat every two and a half hours.
After feeding, changing, and putting them down to hopefully sleep, I would have about thirty-minutes, thirty-five on a good night, before it all started back up again. In that infinitesimal window, I’d pump for twenty minutes, eat something, shower, and go scream into a pillow.
Let’s talk about domestic duties. No one told me motherhood was seventy-five percent mind-numbingly dull housework. Or if they did, I was not paying attention because I was busy enjoying the ridiculous amount of free time I still had. It feels like I've lost years of my life with that fucking bottle washing scrub brush in my hand.
I resented my husband, who seemed to be handling everything so much better than I was. It probably helped that he wasn’t attached to a soul sucking hospital grade breast pump seven times a day that mercilessly tugged on his tender nipples until they resembled baby carrots. Plus, he had the nerve to leave the house. Every. Single. Day. Just so he could go to his job that was supporting us. Can you believe this guy?
I was jealous that he was able to retain some semblance of his former life, while mine seemed long gone. I felt abandoned, lonely, and forgotten. I felt like the world didn’t need me anymore, which was ironic since in reality, I had never been more needed. I write jokes for TV, it’s not like I’m a brain surgeon. But my babies were literally depending on me for their survival. That’s slightly more important than a boner joke.
So why was I was mourning my old life? Well, in my new life I was sad (der), sleep deprived, fat, and pee just leaked out of what I assumed was my permanently broken vagina. And as much as I loved my two new little babies, I longed to be out of the house pitching the aforementioned boner jokes to a room full of frowning TV executives.
One thing’s for sure, my investigation of motherhood was not that thorough, i.e. a box of tea, so I was unprepared for how difficult it would be in those first few months. But is there really any way to prepare for it anyway?
The six-month mark was a turning point for me - the babies started sleeping through the night, I stopped breastfeeding and most importantly I went back on my meds. I’m still trying to figure out what my life as a mom looks like; every day has moments of unadulterated joy, and other types of moments - like picking human shit off the floor with my bare hands.
I've stopped mourning my old life and I’m settling into a new one. It's a mostly happy, always messy, often complicated life that doesn't get to be about me, me, me anymore and weirdly that’s kind of a relief. Now when I gaze at that box of tea, I don’t feel anger, I feel a sense of peace. Peace in the knowledge that someday I will find that lovely young tea model and jam that box of lies up her bony ass.