Did your parents ever tell you to clean your plate because there were kids in Africa starving? To stop whining about sharing a room when some kids don’t even have a roof over their heads?
I only recently realized the flaws in this approach.
But just because someone else is starving doesn’t mean you have to continue eating when you’re satiated. Just because someone else is struggling within a tougher environment than you doesn’t mean you’re not struggling. It doesn’t mean you don’t deserve help. We’re all worthy of living the best lives we possibly can. We’re all worthy.
I remember nursing newborn Little Darcy, rocking him gently in the glider as I scrolled Facebook at 1:30 AM. A friend had commented on a mother’s update on her son’s journey with cancer. The eight year old was in hospice care, living out his final wishes. I read the post and was directed to many more like it—sick children enduring intense pain, families living through Hell. I clung to my sleeping son and swore that I would appreciate every moment, because how many of those mothers wouldn’t give anything to have a moment like this, a quiet cuddle with a healthy, content little bundle.
They had it so much worse than I did. And yet.
I was unhappy. And ashamed that I was. I had friends fighting with every resource they had to become pregnant, to carry a baby to birth, and here I was. Undeserving, unappreciative.
I had just about everything six year old Emily could have asked for—an adoring partner, a precious baby, her dream teaching job. A comfortable home, loving family. Even a cat (although Luna’s not orange and her name isn’t Ginger–she’s still a cat).
What the fuck was wrong with me?
I was depressed. That’s easy to see, easy to say, now—a year later. But at the time I just felt like a twenty-six year old spoiled brat. I had everything I wanted and I was still pouting.
So many others were in worse situations. So many others were more discontented than me.
I didn’t know that it was possible to be insecure about being miserable enough.
I was coping, I was managing. Later my therapist summed it up perfectly, saying that I was “surviving, not thriving.” And that’s exactly how it felt. I was eating enough to breastfeed, but I didn’t care what I ate. I slept enough to function, but I was still tired. My body ached, especially my joints—but it wasn’t unbearable. I took care of Little Darcy, The Engineer, our home—but there wasn’t much meaning behind the actions. A robot with a to-do list. It wasn’t that bad. I could handle it, I could get through it.
But did I have to? And did I want to?
Just because you have a cold when someone else has the flu doesn’t mean you’re not sick, too. And you’re worthy of help, of medicine, of care.
I don’t want to “get through” motherhood. I don’t want to “survive” my life. I want to savor it, to embrace it, to enjoy it. I want to thrive.
Click here to read my next post, “My Own Advocate,” where I share my challenges with access to health care.