“Okay, take a couple breaths, and we’re going to push again.”
The nurse on one side, and my husband on the other, they pushed my legs back.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 . . . . I exhaled loudly, panting, sweating exhausted.
Then I heard her cry for the first time.
“Ms. Jones, you have a baby girl.” the doctor said as the nurse cleaned up and bundled my squalling daughter.
Gently, they laid her on my chest. And then, out of nowhere, out of thirty-nine weeks of repressed fears, it flooded into me.
“I’m crazy.” I whispered. “I’m sorry.”
And I cried not just because I had my daughter, and it was supposed to be the most magical moment of my life. Not just because she was real and okay and my own heart was beating outside my body. But I realized I might have passed onto her the single thing about myself that I wished I could change.
What if she caught it? What if she was bipolar as well?
Even if she didn’t, what if I began cycling again? What if no medication would help me next time? What if day after day she came home from school to a mother sobbing on the sofa, or manically refinishing all the furniture in the house?
It could happen, couldn’t it?
When I brought her home, though, there was no time for these thoughts. There were long nights to be had, diapers to be changed, feedings to be cherished, moments to be captured for that baby book I still haven’t gotten around to putting together. And over time? I forgot to be scared anymore. When you live your life every day, there’s no time to focus on those things too far ahead to be seen.
And she’s seven now. Beautiful and brilliant and developing a sense of humor as wicked as my own. And she seems fine.
And I’m seven years older. I’ve cycled. I’ve needed medication changes. I’ve needed therapy. And I am okay. I am still there for her the best I can be every single day. And even when I am not on top of the game, I hope I am instilling in her an understanding that mommies can’t always be perfect, but they always have that love.
My crazy is giving her an empathy she may not have otherwise had towards people with mental illness, and it lets her know that if she ends up with similar symptoms, she isn’t broken. That there is a way out. It will give her more solid ground to work with than if she had had the same symptoms with two “perfectly sane” parents.
And I will keep watching, just in case, so that she can know she is understood, no matter what.