A few weeks back, a young mother in San Diego wrote to the Dear Abby column, complaining about her lack of "motherly" feelings, stating she hated her new baby girl, that her husband wouldn't allow her to give her daughter away and that she was on the edge, emotionally. She signed it, "Going Crazy In San Diego." "Dear Abby" immediately responded by urging her to, first, seek help for her emotional state, and then, to find , right away, a "couple who would love her child." Of course, I saw red on that one.
It was obvious to anyone with half a brain that what this mom needed was NOT to lose her baby but to have immediate and aggressive attention given to her very bad case of post-partum depression, and the Abby column got a ton of mail to that effect, my email among them. Unfortunately, there was also a lot of mail with the same knee-jerk reaction as Pauline's ("Abby"), whose family has a history of adopting, that urged her to surrender her child before she hurt the baby. I was so concerned that this woman was going to lose her baby to the ignorance of the adoption-besotted reading public that I refused to read the column for a long time.
This morning, in my Orlando Sentinel, the signature on the first letter of the "Dear Abby" column caught my eye. It read, "No Longer Going Crazy In San Diego." Thank Heavens, the mom in question had received help and support from all sides, including the military as her husband is in the service, and was back to being a normal young mother. She is also now on anti-depressants...good drugs if used right and too much maligned. She apologized for what she felt was her trespass of "upsetting" so many people. She also mentioned that her daughter's colic is soothed by the sound of her mother's voice reading to her, so she now reads to her child, daily. My prayers were answered and a sacred bond was preserved.
If those around her and those that wrote in had not urged her to get the help she needed, I hate to think about what might have happened. I honestly don't think the child's physical safety was ever in jeopardy. But I can imagine how this mother would have felt after the depression passed if she had followed some of the more specious advice she received and surrendered her baby daughter for adoption (I can just picture the facilitators and PAP's salivating and rubbing their hands together in glee). She would have been another one of the walking wounded, another mother who lost her heart to endless grief because someone helped themselves to her baby instead of giving a helping hand to the mother.
This brought me back to the days when my first raised child was born. She was a little blond, pink and white angel and had killer colic. My breast milk was not good enough, I thought, but the fact was that her little tummy had some issues that only time and growth would help. I was in an unhappy marriage and was also very intimidated by all the messages I had received when I lost my two oldest children to adoption. That "unfit mother" crap can hang with you for a long time. I put her to bed one night and muttered, "I think that you just wait until I get to sleep to wake up and cause me grief." I fell into bed, exhausted.
Sure enough, about 2:00AM, I heard the little grunts and whimpers from the crib next to our bed. I had been through 2 months of this and was right on the edge. I was fighting back tears as I pulled my protesting body out of bed and trudged over to the crib and said, "OK, what the Hell do YOU want NOW?" At the sound of my voice, her little head jerked around, her eyes lit up and her first real smile split her face from ear to ear. I melted. If, at that moment, she had found a voice and asked me to sever my arm from my shoulder, I would have done it...for her. I changed her, wrapped her up and walked into the other room to nurse her. While she nursed, I softly let the tears from exhaustion, frustration, worry and self-doubt flow freely. I didn't sob, I just let them come. I could feel the tension in my body ease and I think she did too, because she nursed until she was full, burped twice, smiled at me once more (after much cajoling on my part) and went back to sleep until 8:00AM.
No that wasn't the end of the colic. She was 6 months old before she was able to sleep all night without a tummy-ache. But she ate, she put on weight, and when her tummy wasn't bothering her, she was a total delight. What did end that night were the feelings I had that I was no good for her and worth nothing to her. That smile was for ME. She was happy that I was there. She knew ME and wanted ME, her MOTHER. Not long after that night, my doctor put me on medication for my depression and my daughter on the bottle with a special formula for her tummy and the colic did improve. I worked at getting along with my, then, husband and was able to face life knowing that I was worthwhile as a mother.
That was all it took....that smile and the realization that I wasn't a total screw-up as a person or a mother. I was badly damaged from my adoption losses and I would not deal well with that all the time, but I grew a little bit with that experience, enough to start thinking about feeling better about myself and a journey that took a lot of years really began. That's all that "Going Crazy" needed..just some assurance that she wasn't an unnatural monster and that there was help available. I am so happy for her and for her daughter.