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Dark and Stormy Seas
When I was 13, we went for a family vacation in Denmark. We stayed in an adorable little beach cottage with a thatched roof not far from the North Sea. We could walk to the water every day. B., my 10 year old brother, and I spent hours each day bobbing around in the water, dunking one another, splashing our father, and trying to coax our mother out from under her jacket, long pants and blanket. Summer on the North Sea is not an exceptionally warm affair, and not many people would venture into the frigid water for long. We, however, didn't care if our lips turned blue while swimming. Aside from my mother's death threats when Dad used our camera's telephoto lens on the topless sun bathers, most of our stay was fairly uneventful. One day it stormed. I don't recall what we did the day of the storm but I do know that the next day, my brother and I were clamoring to go back to the beach, despite the choppy waves.

The water was dark that day. There was no cheerful foam dancing across the water. The surf was grey and solemn and cold. Still, B. and I were determined to enjoy the water while our parents sat on the beach soaking up what little warmth the sun could give. We splashed and swam around, slowly working our way out further and further into the storm tossed sea. I swam out far into the waves and B. followed. As always, he was tailing after the big sister he adored. I was a strong swimmer. At that point, I had been swimming competitively for about 5 years, but even I was having a bit of trouble with the undertow. I decided to swim back and when I turned around, I saw my brother to the side of me about 15 feet away and far too close to the rocks jutting out into the water. I could see B.'s mouth gulping and then moving as if to call for me, but I don't remember hearing him. He was struggling to tread water and to keep from moving closer to the rocks. I don't remember how I got to him. But when I did, he threw his arms around my neck and I could feel his panic through my arms. I started to swim and yelled at B. to kick as hard as he could. My arms were straining through the water and my legs were frantic as they scissored away. But we weren't moving. I was swimming as hard as I could just to stay in place, to keep us from being smashed against the rocks.

I was terrified.

I somehow finally felt the water catch and move through my cupped hands and bent legs. We slowly, struggled forward, inch by inch, to the safety of the shore. Our parents never noticed that we were in trouble. I'm sure they thought we were playing and we never told them anything. B. and I have talked about that day on the beach in Denmark many times. Each time it's been clear to me that B. never doubted that I would save him. He put his arms around me and put his faith in me. I don't think he's ever realized just how scared I was and just how close we both came to drowning. I've never told him.

That's me. The protector, the rock, the peacemaker, the balance in everyone's life. I have a role to play and I do it well. I never let anyone know when I'm in trouble or floundering. Very, very few people ever get inside. I am closer to my brother than anyone in the world, aside from my husband, and even he doesn't know. I can't let anyone see my weaknesses. It's not some flaw in my family, my brother, my friends. It's just the way I am. The only one who ever sees my tossed and turbulent waters is T. And even he has to fight to get a glimpse.

Since my second little boy was born, I've struggled with this whole motherhood thing. I love my children with an ache I didn't know I could have, but sometimes I feel as if they are devouring me. Their wet sloppy toddler kisses are so sweet and uplifting, but they suck my energy dry. I'm always tired. I'm always frustrated. I'm always angry. I play with my beautiful boys and I know how lucky I am. But this feeling is always there lurking. This feeling that I'm swimming and swimming as hard as I can away from the rocks. And I'm not moving. I'm not moving! If I stop swimming for even a moment, if I let my guard down, the undertow will pull me out to sea or the waves will dash me against the rocks.

I know that I can't make it to the shore by myself. I need help. I need to put my arms around T. and kick for all it's worth. But for some twisted reason it's easier for me to keep frantically treading water than to open my mouth and scream.

Edited to add - It was very hard for me to hit the publish button on this post. This blog is not anonymous. My family, a few friends, and some co-workers read this. If you Google my real name, you'll find my blog. But I need to write this somewhere. I need to write the words. But just because I do, does not mean that I want to talk about it. Does that make sense? I'd like to pretend for this post that I really am anonymous, so I ask that people who know me in real life please respect that.

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Blogger bubandpie said...

The drowning metaphor is always the first one I think of when I'm in that place. Are you getting enough sleep? I know it's only one piece of the puzzle, but it's a really, really big piece - at least it is for me.

Blogger DD said...

I have a very painful post sitting in draft status, but am also afraid of hurting some people I care about deeply. I weight that against the need to get it off my chest. I don't know what I'll do yet.

The hardest thing for someone who is always the "go to" person when things get crazy, is to find someone even more dependable than them. You've set high standards, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But, if you can last through it, and you will, those two handsome little guys you are raising - THEY will be YOUR "go to" persons when they become young men.

Blogger Adrienne said...

Thank you for saying what some of us feel. Motherhood is the most amazing experience in the world, but there are days when the undertow of the experience is almost enough to drown you. I wouldn't change my life for any other, but I wish I could change how I'm dealing with it...I'm trying.

Blogger Alpha DogMa said...

I've had this screen open for about 10 minutes trying to think of something to say. This was a very moving post.
Sometimes the answer is not a definite choice between sink or swim. Sometimes you just to need to float. Even for a second. I hope you are floating now. I hope posting this has brought you a moment of buoyancy that lets you regroup.

Blogger Zuska said...

I was absolutely positively there when my kids were small. No doubt about it. I had recurring dreams about tidal waves. I did a little research that told me that dreams of tidal waves were a portent of death, but I knew that wasn't true - I knew I was just overwhelmed, and swept away.

My kids are much older now. They're 8 and 10. My life is 100% easier and happier. I do not look back on the days of being a mom to small children with much happiness and really zero longing. I love my daughters so very much - but I found that stage of my life/their lives to be very difficult.

I'm sorry I don't have any real advice, as I don't know that much about your entire situation. But if you want to drop a line to somewhere who's been there (and who doesn't know your real name!) ...

This post moved me to tears! Just when I thought I could not like you more, you go and write such an eloquent and thought provoking piece. There is much more I want to write, but I am going to see if your email is listed on your profile. In case it is not, know that you are NOT alone....and knowing you need some help is a sing of strength and not weakness.

Did I mention I hardly took a breath when I was reading about the water?

No email on your profile...which, considering some of the ones I have gotten, is not necessarily a bad thing! :) If you decide you want to "talk" with someone who doesn't really know you and certainly will not judge you......my email is: miller9405@bellsouth.net.

If not, I will still be around...because you are so incredibly AWESOME! :)

Hey, Me again! How have you been? Kids growing up? ( Haven't you ever done that when you call someone three times in a row!)

I have a very good reason for being back here AGAIN! I nominated you for Hottest Mommy Blogger on the Blogger's Choice Awards! You deserve it!

Blogger slouching mom said...

Oh, babe. I have SO been there. The need sometimes, it's overwhelming. One more "Mommy?" on some days, and I think I'll start screaming and never stop. The underbelly of parenting, for sure.

As for the beach, how odd. A week or so ago I posted my own scary beach story. Only it was I who almost drowned.

Hugs to you.

Blogger PunditMom said...

I can totally relate to this post. So many of those same feelings I have kept to myself for so long. It's hard to see all the happy, smiling mommies at the playground, wondering if they have the same, dark feelings about their mother status. I am so fortunate to be PunditGirl's mom, but I struggle with dark feelings more than I care to admit.

(BTW -- this post IS the evidence that you are a wondeful writer!).

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

B&P - Sleep is definitely a part of it. I need my sleep. Lots of it. And we all know that motherhood & sleep deprivation go hand in hand. At least for awhile.

DD - I started to well up thinking about my little guys all grown up and letting me lean on them. It's nice to remember that, even though it's hard while your slogging through the early years.

Adrienne - Yes, like you, I wouldn't change anything about my life. It's the how to deal with it that's giving me a bit of a problem lately.

AD - I do feel better, having written this down. It made me articulate exactly what I've been feeling.

Zuska - Thank you. I sent you an email.

Queenie baby - You have your own nickname now. That's what happens when you try so darn hard to cheer me up! Thank you for the nomination. AND for the Thinking Blogger nomination. You made me cry.

SM - (Trying to refrain from adding in & between your initials!) We must be channeling each other. I'll have to go read all those posts that have been sitting in Bloglines for the last week.

PM - Thank you. You're so sweet. I swear I wasn't fishing for compliments with my last post.

It's so nice to know that everyone has been there at some time. And talking about it does help. Today is a better day.

Blogger Gwen said...

Did PacBlogger munch my comment? Flech! Still, trying again:

The whole time I was reading the water story, I was repeating, "Please don't let her brother drown! Please don't let her brother drown!" My heart was pounding.

The other day this girl came to my door to sell magazines, employed by one of those charitable yet money grubbing inner city youth work companies. Because she was so sweet and well spoken and was trying so hard, I bought some of her mags (and then immediately donated them to a charity). She asked me what life advice I could give her. I stood there hemming and hawing, wondering which of my many golden nuggets of wisdom I could offer from my treasure box (ha! as if!) until I finally settled on this one: "Nothing lasts forever." Yes, I know it's as dripping in treacly cliche as a bromide can be and yet the knowledge that this, too, will pass has gotten me through many a bleak parenting moment. Everything changes, the good, the bad, all of it.

Like your quote above says: you just gotta feel the wave.

Blogger PDX Mama said...

That brought tears to my eyes. A very powerful post.

I'm sorry you're struggling right now. I do believe we all feel that from time to time, so please don't feel alone.

I relate very much to being "The protector, the rock, the peacemaker, the balance in everyone's life." Always have been to everyone in my life. It's a very heavy load to bear and it's just unreasonable that we do that to ourselves.

I sense you are probably similar in this respect - being a fixer - I want to say something that will be helpful. Is there anything you do that is just for you? A hobby? I don't mean to be overly simplistic about any of this, but I know for me, the world has gotten a little more rosy since I've taken up running. It's something just for me, I enjoy it, I look forward to it, it gives me a chance to make goals, etc. Of course, it has physiological benefits too - but I've been pleasantly surprised by the psychological ones.

Take care.

Blogger Justice Fergie said...

I was trying to spare your blog and send you an email, but I don't see an address for you so here goes:

I'm running out the door but I wanted to comment since, as soon as I step in the door from work I enter my own rough waters...

I think we can all truly say that we have felt the way you do at some point or another in our time as moms. The question is, do you constantly feel as though you are treading water? Or is it just every now and then? If it's a constant feeling, you may want to take the step in going to "talk" to somebody. I was (am) in your shoes about 2 months ago when finally I felt like I could no longer tread water and was drowning. And it was affecting those around me, especially my husband. I'm now going to weekly sessions to find ways to relieve stress and balance responsibilities, etc. and it's helping. I was also given a depression screening test (on which I scored surprisingly high) and subsequently a prescription for meds. This is my first week taking them.

You can't go on like this forever. Something will give. No matter how much we want to be, none of us are superhuman. Plus, if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to properly care for those around you.

And I completely understand about the "anonymity" thing. I still haven't posted about my struggles/meds/etc. for the same reason.

Anyhoo, thanks for sharing your feelings and sorry for the long post!

Blogger JudesMommy said...

Tears on a Friday afternoon over here...

What a beautifully written story of near tragedy. I'm so grateful you shared it. I'm another one who can relate to the dark feelings that swallow us like waves at times while we're keeping others afloat.

Thank you for the reminder that life is precious and difficult and threatens to overwhelm and that we're all here together.

Blogger Mary G said...

Oh my, yes. I've always been the 'go to', and I was where you are once.
Steps to take -- can you get out from under for even a day? Leave the little ones with their father and go somewhere peaceful? My man was always amenable to something like that and I realise that he was more aware of my stress than I thought he was.
Two little ones are hard, physically and mentally exhausting. And the easiest admission to make and help to ask for is about physical exhaustion.
I am holding good thoughts for you -- and yes, it's worth it.

Blogger Treadmillista said...

As others have said, this was an incredibly moving post. I know I have moments when I feel like my kids are my life but will be the death of me at the same time. I couldn't bear to live without them, but the constancy just seems so overwhelming. I wish I could give you some advice, but just know that you aren't alone, and it doesn't have to be so hard. Seriously, letting your DH in might not be natural for you, but I would guess it will be beneficial.

Blogger jen said...

oh. wow. you know, i almost don't feel like i should comment because we haven't really had the chance to get to know each other (although i admire you from afar all the time) but when i read this all i could think was how brave you are.

how brave we all are when we can admit that we really aren't. there is strength in that alone.

i can't pretend to know how it is to manage two, but i know that having one almost wrecked me for awhile.

i am going to imagine with your very thick skin (i can relate a lot to that) that you don't want or need sympathy or advice, so instead i wanted to let you know that i am listening.

Blogger Julie Pippert said...

I hear you, I understand, I empathize. 100%. You aren't alone. In fact, I just wrote a post about crying...so instead of going on and on here about how much I totally get this, you are welcome to peruse this:


We get it, the other mothers.

And you have courage for sharing this. Someone, somewhere just read this with a huge sigh of relief, "It's not just me, I'm not unnatural."

I don't know that I can offer anything other than empathy...but I can say when I felt *too* swamped, worrying how could I, could I make it...I had to find some outlets. And that helped.

Anonymous Elizabeth said...

I've been there. Truly.

After I had my third baby, I went to three doctors convinced something was wrong with me. I thought I was dying. I thought I was losing my mind.

And each doctor kept saying: "You're tired. You've just had three babies in three years. Your body is exhausted. You need to take time for yourself."

I thought they were crazy. Stupid doctors, can't you see there's acutally SOMETHING WRONG with me? Find the cancer or whatever it is that's killing me!!

Turns out, they were right.

I was depleted. Exhausted. Worn thin. Sleep-deprived.

This year my youngest turned 4. It has only been in the last 8 months that I have finally regained "myself." I feel sane again. I am getting good rest. I am not drowning anymore.

All this to say, it's ok to ask for help. I think as moms we get this idea that we're supposed to do the whole thing by ourselves. But I've discovered there's no shame in asking for a life-jacket.

My husband realized this, too. We hired a housecleaner and a babysitter and he started taking me out for dinner once a week.

Sorry for the long post, but I just totally feel you! I've been there.

And it does get better. But in the meantime, ask for the life-jacket.

It's OK. You are still a good mother. Even strong swimmers need life-jackets sometimes.

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Gwen - I don't think I could breathe while I was writing it. I still get a bit panicky even thinking about it.

Everyone, thank you for your words. It *is* nice to know that everyone else has been here. I started to go on & on here in the comments and then realized I should probably just post a follow up, so I will do that. But thank you all for just listening.

Blogger Butterflyfish said...

Delurking to let you know the whirling black vortex sucks. It was a brave and honest post. Thank you for it -- put it into words better than I ever could. And I've been there, kicking for all its worth, too.

Blogger ECR said...

This was such a vivid post, and very easy to relate to. I look forward to hearing more about how you navigate the waters of motherhood.

Blogger Mad Hatter said...

This is sometimes how blogging can offer a salvation. The ability to write these feelings and the ability to swallow hard and publish them. That alone does help, I find. Having so many amazing women who know of the feelings you describe even though none of us have experienced them in your particular way. I have been in this emotional place A LOT of the time since my daughter was born. It became so bad this winter that I booked a ticket to get away from my family for 48 hours. That trip is just two weeks away and I oscilate between excitement and guilt.

I hope the waves recede a bit and let you catch your breath. The story of the summer in Denmark was harrowing and very well-written.

Blogger PT-LawMom said...

Great post. I've been there several times and always feel guilty torn between enjoying being the "go-to" person, the loved Mommy, the treasured wife and feeling like they are draining every bit of "me" out. It's hard. I don't have any answers -- at least none that would expound on what the ladies above have already said. (((HUGS))) Just know you're not alone.

Anonymous Jenny said...

Oh sweetie. I so feel this post that my heart is pounding and I just want to hug you.

You are not alone. I feel that way too. More often than not.

Blogger D said...

oh, Miss LM there are days (more often than not these days) that I can totally relate.

Blogger Vampdaddy said...

It takes great courage to write the words you've spoken here, but you speak to what I think is a "taboo" yet common reality for all of us. While my wife and I are dealing with unique circumstances regarding our son, since he was born I have struggled with those moments of feeling consumed. It can feel like a dark and lonely place to be, because we are trained by our culture to "suck up and bear it" as parents. But it is by recognizing the truth of what's beautiful and difficult about parenting that we become better parents.

You are not alone

Blogger CPA_Mom said...

I'm sorry I'm just getting around to catching up with you and I was not here for you. I'm going to email you.

I just found your blog. I wanted to say thanks for sharing such a personal and powerful post. This brought tears to my eyes. I feel overwhelmed a lot with my two kids, working, and trying to fulfill the wife, mother, sister, daughter role. I'm a perfectionist and lately I feel like everything is just nuts in my life. I'm making a big change to my work schedule and I think that is going to help a lot.

Being a mother can be very overwhelming! Take some time out for you and, as the others have said, don't be afraid to ask for help. I think by just writing about this you have done a lot. I hope you find that peaceful balance.

Anonymous rivergirlie said...

fantastic post, lm, and utterly compelling and true. i absolutely understand what you mean. stoicism is the style in my family, and it's agonizing to show anthing other than a brave exterior. you're so very brave to do so.

Blogger Mrs. Chicken said...

I have that role, too, or I used to, before my family fractured after my dad died.

I feel like this so often. So angry! So helpless. And so very, very alone.

Maybe if we hold hands, we can get through it.

Thank you for being so brave. It helps me remember my own courage.

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