Tonight I sit and drink my nightly glass of wine. An all too frequent habit that I probably shouldn’t be engaging in at all. It hurts my stomach and I regret it the next day but for the few hours I feel the alcohol in my body.. I feel relaxed for the first time all day. I feel “happy.” I feel carefree …I can breathe.
Today was hard. Another set of doctor’s appointments, but this time for my sweet Claire. She was diagnosed with a rare food allergy syndrome and the swarm of emotions upon hearing the diagnosis was overwhelming. I had tunnel vision… tunnel hearing (if that is a thing). My body started to escape itself… I wanted it to not be real. I wanted to hear that I was just being an obsessive mother who was overthinking things. I tried so hard to listen to the doctor all while processing my feelings and obsessing over whether or not she could tell I was a million miles away.
And there was Claire. Rolling around on the bed in the doctor’s office, her chubby legs kicking back and forth. Ripping up the paper on the bed… bringing her left toe to her mouth to nibble on it. I smiled at her and made a clicking sound with my mouth. She returned my smile and there was the warmth. Then… the guilt.
On the ride home I was silent. Processing every real or irrational thought/feeling. I was thinking several thoughts at once. I could feel the grief and fear in my chest and could trace it to my throat. We got home and my girl smiled at me again and this time I returned her smile with tears. I changed her diaper and began to sob. The sobbing left me no room to breathe and soon my husband noticed and so did my 3 year old son. I was falling apart. The room began to spin and I sat down in a puddle of tears. My husband was pleading with me to tell him what I was thinking …but I couldn’t. How could I tell him this was my fault?
When anything goes wrong… I immediately blame myself. I should have eaten better when I was pregnant. I should have tried harder to breastfeed. I did this to my little girl and it hurt more than I could tell him. He says that my mind is leading me in the wrong direction. He said that I made this up and there is no scientific evidence to prove that those things have any correlation with her food allergies. I didn’t care. If anything was wrong with her it had to be because I did something wrong, or I missed something… or I could have prevented it somehow.
Really, there was no one to blame for it so I did what I always do. I beat myself up. I was angry, upset, scared and had no one to blame… so I took it out on myself. Only recently have I been able to forgive myself for giving up breastfeeding too early… and with this, all of those feelings of guilt came back. Could I have prevented this for my child if I had been mentally well enough to continue breastfeeding?
I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if it would have changed anything. It probably wouldn’t have…but today, blaming myself was the easiest thing to do. It was easier to lash out at myself and hate myself than to deal with anything else. I wanted to hate myself more than I wanted to fear the future of introducing new foods, etc. Hate is easier to experience than fear. Anger is easier to identify with than grief. So I jumped to those familiar feelings as a defense mechanism… to spare myself from feelings I couldn’t manage in the moment.
Tonight, I have this glass of wine. My escape. Another way of putting off feelings I don’t want to feel. And tonight, in this moment, that’s going to have to be okay.