Monday, May 14, 2012


I'll take "Mathematical Symbols I Hate" for $1000, Alex.
I'm not very good at change.

I approached changing school buildings (in 6th grade and 9th grade) like I was going off to war.

I remember hearing about some sort of violent crime at my university before leaving high school, and telling my mom that she was sending me off to get killed.

Our first year of marriage was ... challenging.

A friend once conducted a Powerpoint presentation for me on how I wasn't likely to get killed if we moved to L.A.  He looked up crime statistics and compared them to here, and had charts and graphs and lots of compelling data.  I didn't care.  (As you might already know, we didn't move to L.A., mainly because I was terrified.)  It's no surprise that I live in the same state I was born in, and I don't have any intention of leaving.

Looking back over my life, it's pretty clear that I've always had some kind of anxiety disorder.  I have always been a worrier and a magical thinker (when BJ flies I watch his flight on one of the online trackers and I feel like I'm holding him in the air with the sheer force of my will).  It only gets worse during pregnancy, and it wasn't properly diagnosed until I was pregnant with Jack in 2010, even though it started with my pregnancy with Mary Grace in 2005 and continued through my pregnancy with Claire in 2006 and 2007.  That's a long time to be crazy.

Perinatal anxiety and mood disorder (a term I didn't even know until I was pregnant with Jack, but which explained everything) made my transition into motherhood ... challenging.  There was a lot of crying.  A lot of desperate phone calls to my mom telling her that "I just can't do this anymore!"  I told our doctor that Mary Grace and BJ just wouldn't be okay unless I got as far away from them as I possibly could.  (I talked him out of putting me in the hospital that day, but he did give me a prescription for Zoloft right away).

So it was hard this weekend, watching my sister and her husband transition so beautifully and, at least from where I was sitting, effortlessly into parenthood.  I went up there this weekend expecting to help them, to give them the kind of help I needed when Mary Grace was born, and I mostly just sat there and enjoyed the baby.  I heated up some leftovers and Megan let me get her a bottle of water once.  That was about the extent of my "helping."  I was probably completely in the way, but they were really sweet about my being there.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they're not having a hard time.  I wouldn't wish what I went through on anyone, much less my beloved sister.  But watching them made me feel so stupid for making it so hard on myself and BJ seven years ago.  I wished I could go backwards and do it again so many times this weekend.  I'd like to believe that I would do it better if I knew then what I know now.

I was talking to BJ about it last night, and he said sarcastically, "Oh yeah, we need a do-over because Mary Grace is just ruined..."  She's beautiful and confident and talented and so stinking smart and clever and such a joy to be with...  Of course, in my anxiety I replied, "Is she that way because of me or in spite of me, though?"  (Science hasn't solved the nature vs. nurture debate, so it's unlikely that we would settle it in our kitchen at 10 pm, but BJ gave it his best shot.)

I don't regret anything, because I wouldn't change a single thing about any of our kids or our life as it is today, but I wish I hadn't made everything so hard on us.  And I am glad that it's not hard for Megan and Trey, even if it does make me feel stupid.  In our next life, I call dibs on being the confident capable little sister who always has her act together.  And I get to be the thin one, too.


Rob Monroe said...

AMY! Stop that! You did not KNOW, and really could not know in the living of it, that there was a different way. Do not second guess things that happened so long ago. BJ is right - MG is clearly none the worse for wear, and clearly you and BJ are doing well, too. It was hard then, but you can make it better now, and you are.

Also, do not doubt how much help it is to get bottles of water or heat up leftovers - it's the little things that go the distance in life. You know this, just remember it will ya??

Kim said...

There are going to be an entire lifetime of things you will wish you could "do over". But settle on regretting the things that turned out poorly. BJ is right. MG is confident, capable, self assured, independent and self reliant. What if you were a perfectly MODEL first time parent and she had turned out dependent, needy, clingy, nervous and timid because of your complete saneness when she was a newborn? (Hey, it happens!) Everything is as it should be. And you are a terrific parent. Just as your sister is. You may have different tools as a first time parent, but I am quite sure that some of your experiences have influenced your sister's calmness.

And I wish I had had an older sister with newborn experience with me when I had my first child. Even if it was to just go get me a bottle of water. It's the PRESENCE that helps. There may be fears and anxiety you can't see that you were there to assuage. Don't underestimate your value.