I stood for an hour, bare toes curled around the edge of a slippery 50-foot cliff, staring down into a beautiful natural pool of turquoise water. My heart never stopped pounding, my legs never stopped shaking. What was I doing here?
A year and two months post-partum is too late to be feeling the Baby Blues, right? Also, what I felt this past summer wasn’t so much blueness as it was numbness.
I had gotten past that debilitating exhaustion of having a newborn that rarely sleeps. Now, I just accepted the permanent state of lingering, achy-body, foggy-minded sleepiness as my new way of life.
The problem was, for several months I was just going through the motions of life. Waking up early to the cries of my son, changing him, feeding him, doing housework, carting him around to this play dates and that kids’ class…
But there was no joy.
Sure, I would smile and laugh with other moms and send SnapChats of some of my son’s cuter moments. But always, always there was a voice in my head screaming the same questions: “How many more hours till Daddy comes home so I can breathe for a second?” and “Is this what it’ll be like for the next 17 years? Will I ever get out of this fog?”
I felt so guilty. I felt like a faker. Here I was, a lucky Stay-At-Home-Mom with this adorable, sweet boy who needs me and loves me. Yet every day I enjoyed my time with him less and less. I’d wake up in the morning feeling at a loss for how I was going to get through another 12 hours with him.
Finally, the zombie-like way I trudged through my day became too dark, too overbearing. I knew something had to change. But what?
I had already applied to about 100 jobs but with no success. Daycare is too expensive. So I went for the short-term, instead. I decided to spend a weekend away from my son for the first time.
As I packed up my car for the 4-hour trip to my hometown in upstate NY, I started to feel nauseous. And then I panicked. What was I doing?! I couldn’t just leave my son! He needed me to snuggle him in the mornings and read him books before naps and play his favorite games when he got cranky.
My husband lovingly pushed me out the door as tears streamed down my face and hiccuping sobs shook my body. “We’ll be fine,” he assured me. “You need this. Go and enjoy yourself.”
So I went. I considered turning around and going back home every few minutes of the drive. But I made myself keep going. At least the anxiety and guilt I was feeling was some kind of emotion – an improvement over the numbness that had previously consumed me.
You know how in cartoons, sometimes a character will be in a trance, and another character comes along and slaps the other so hard that he snaps out of it?
I needed that. Not literally a slap in the face, but something extreme to jolt me out of my funk. Something that scared the bejeezus out of me. Something that made me feel something, anything besides the numbness. Something that might bring me back to my happy, energetic, adventurous Self.
So I decided to jump off of a cliff.
Before you freak out… No, I don’t mean what you’re thinking. I was going to safely jump off of a cliff (there’s a fun oxymoron!).
I Googled “Best Cliff Jumping in Upstate New York,” selected one that looked both beautiful and terrifying, called a friend who is always up for adventure, drove out to the Boonies, clamored over slippery rocks and up a steep hill, then stood for an hour staring 50 feet down into beautiful turquoise water that looked really, really far away.
“I can’t do it.” I finally said. And something inside me deflated. I really was a boring, worn-out mom who had lost her carefree, thrill-seeking spirit to motherhood.
And then I looked at my friend, who was raising her eyebrow at me in both surprise and defiance. I thought about all of my pre-mom adventures I’d had with her: Climbing sand dunes and camping out in the Sahara, hostel-hopping throughout Europe, playing Manhunt in the middle of the woods at midnight. Allowing these adventures to come to an end would be such a defeating tragedy.
So I jumped.
During those 10 seconds of free-falling toward the unknown depths below, my mind – for the first time in over a year – was not focused on my son. And as I clamored up to the surface and pulled my way through the icy water to shore, I felt so light. Free. I laid out on the sun-warmed rocks and basked in the next few moments of feeling completely at peace – an emotion I hadn’t had the luxury of experience for a long, long time.
But soon, the dark feelings crept back, and I began to shiver. How selfish was I to be here, hours away from my son, enjoying myself while he was probably crying for his Mommy? How ungrateful of a wife was I to be asking my husband to use his vacation days to stay home with our son, when he was already sacrificing so much so I could be a stay-at-home mom?
I started thinking I should head home early. Back to my son, my husband, my dogs…the responsibilities of real life.
And then I got this text from my husband:
They were doing just fine. Better than fine. They were enjoying much-needed Father-Son time.
I took a deep, shaky breath. He was OK. I was OK. Everything was going to be OK.
Now that winter is approaching, the reality is sinking in that I can’t jump off a cliff and shock my system with icy water every time I’m feeling overwhelmed by motherhood. It’s time that I find new coping mechanisms.
My husband is great about helping me through these tough times; for example, he’ll take Baby Smoosh out for a few hours while I have ‘me time’ at home, or encourage me to go out for girls’ night.
But sometimes that numbness starts to creep back in, silent and stealth like a ninja, until it suddenly becomes so encompassing I feel like I’m suffocating.
So, readers, instead of leaving you with advice in this article, I’m leaving you with a question:
What do you do when the exhausting redundancy of parenting starts to get under your skin? Do you have any strategies to jolt you back to life when you start slipping into that coma of numbness, or the opposite, become so restless that you feel ready to explode?
Feel free to leave your comments here or find me on social media and comment there!