Trigger Warnings: depression, suicidal thoughts
In retrospect, I’m not sure how I didn’t see it for what it was. All the signs were there. All that I used to find interesting had become lackluster. I stopped writing. I stopped reading. I stopped finding the joy in everyday moments. Angry outbursts became a regular occurrence. Near-constant anxiety left me edgy and nervous. Sleep never seemed rejuvenating enough. And I retreated inside my own mind, clawing desperately for some sense of security. “Having a baby ruined my life.” I’d try to push the thought from consciousness, burying the shame and judgment in the recesses of my being but it was like those weeds that persist around the perimeter of a well-manicured lawn: stubborn and almost impossible to ignore. All I could think about was how my life became a chain reaction of toppling dominoes beginning with our pregnancy announcement:
I mean, if I didn’t get pregnant, we would have never moved to a bigger, more expensive house because we wouldn’t have needed more room for the baby. If we wouldn’t have moved, my husband wouldn’t have been so far from his job, and he would have been less irritable and less tardy and less likely to be laid off. We wouldn’t have felt so helpless and hopeless when the start-up I was working for decided to close its door within a few days of my husband losing his job. So, I wouldn’t have been frantically trying to find a new job so that I could shoulder the weight of providing for our family while my husband tried to get his freelance gigs up and running. I wouldn’t have had to disappear into a six-week maternity leave only a month and half after I started my new job only to panic four weeks in at the idea of finding someone else to watch my baby because I had never thought to plan for childcare in advance. I wouldn’t have had to experience profound astonishment and abandonment at the monumental responsibility that comes with raising a child and the realization that, despite a loving extended family, I’m the only mother that truly matters to my baby and who was I to be a mother to anyone, anyways? I wouldn’t have had to return to the office and jump right back into the thick of things while pretending that sales and marketing and training could ever be as meaningful as the little boy I was leaving someone else to raise while I was gone 40+ hours a week. I would never have completely dropped the ball on a part-time freelance project I took on because how could I have possibly anticipated how quickly the baby would change routines and destroy schedules and never want to be with anyone else but me at all times? I wouldn’t have had to feel completely incompetent and overwhelmed with the prospect of working full-time while insisting on breastfeeding (I have a whole new understanding of what “meals on wheels” looks like) and being a round-the-clock mother with part-time shifts and keeping house and being an attentive, loving wife and somewhere, in the crevices of time that remained, scraping together the energy to put myself back together again after such a great fall. I wouldn’t have had to quit my corporate career out of the intense FOMO that crept up when I considered all that I wouldn’t get to be there for if I were in the office and not at home. We wouldn’t have had to struggle through six months of maintaining a two-income household on just one plus the paychecks I’d earned from starting my Beautycounter business. We wouldn’t have had to swallow our pride and decide to move in with my parents so that we could press pause on all the chaos and just focus on finding our footing again. Somehow, my husband wouldn’t have totaled Paisley, our second car, the one my parents gifted me when I was a sophomore in college. (I can’t be bothered to trace this back to having a baby, but I was convinced that it fit in here somehow.) We wouldn’t have had to sell, donate and trash approximately 95% of everything we owned so that we could fit into our new lifestyle. My husband wouldn’t have been laid off from his job the day after our move because he wouldn’t have had to request a significant raise to cover our expenses in the first place. I wouldn’t have had to pry the scissors out of my own hands when they were already so close to taking me away from this reality that I don’t even recognize anymore. From the “me” that I don’t even recognize anymore. Until, ultimately, I would never have been here, standing right where I am, grappling with the intensity of a life I never thought I’d be living.
I was spiraling. It was slow at first, but then all at once, and I almost believed that
everything would be easier, so much easier, if I never woke up again. “Having a baby ruined my life,” I cried to my husband. I can’t remember his exact response because I was beside myself with grief, resentment and shame, but he said something like: maybe this is just the training I need to be equipped to live the life I was meant to lead. Languages fascinate me. In college, I double-majored in Linguistics and French, minored in Spanish and received a certification to teach English to speakers of other languages. Which is to say, when I really started to analyze the word “ruin”, I realized I needed to get to the root of the matter.
late 14c., “act of giving way and falling down,” from Old French ruine “a collapse” (14c.), and directly from Latin ruina “a collapse, a rushing down, a tumbling down” (source also of Spanish ruina, Italian rovina), related to ruere “to rush, fall violently, collapse,” from PIE *reue-
This etymological entry stopped me in my tracks. I had always associated the word “ruin” with an undesired outcome. But, there’s no evidence of that. Having a baby did ruin my life. In the most literal sense, the life I used to know gave way and fell down with the arrival of my son. So, what if my old life was dismantled so that I could play the mason and build it back up with thoughtfulness and intention? What if my old life collapsed and came rushing, tumbling down so that something even more triumphant could be fashioned in its place? Because without having had a baby, I wouldn’t not have learned so much about myself, I wouldn’t have grown and stretched and reconfigured my comfort zone. I wouldn’t have started my own business or broadened my horizons to the possibilities of life, and I wouldn’t be here, in this very spot reflecting on how far I’ve come towards the woman I know I’ve always wanted to be.
I can’t deny how painful this experience has been. My body physically aches from the toil and turmoil, and my mind has yet to find true peace in this new situation, but I’m scheduling more time for self-care, seeking out a professional therapist and confiding in my family for support. And I am also choosing to accept ruin as an opportunity to rise like a phoenix from the ashes.