By Amanda Aardse
“You still there, hon?”
The walls are the colour of the inside of my skull, bland and jumbled, fuzzy thoughts tied in knots. I hate waiting rooms. My palms are all sorts of wet and I can’t sort myself out. It took two whole days to work myself up to the phone call, and the receptionist was on the other line, sounding bored.
“Yeah, I’m here, um, is there someone else I could see? I just need a referral to a psychologist.”
The words drench me in shame.
I gave birth three months ago. Motherhood. That should at least earn me just an inch of kindness, but so far all I find I get is reproach. You wanted this.
Everyone thinks I wanted this. That I spent my early morning hours for one long year being poked and prodded intimately by nurses who would yawn behind their gloved hands, sip their coffee during the internal ultrasound. That I pumped my body full of hormones it lacked, that I cried over an empty womb month after month for this.
No, I did not want this. I thought motherhood would make me feel fulfilled, beautiful, so in love I couldn’t stand it. This just makes me feel achingly alone from everything and everyone, even my former self, whoever she was.
I’m just Mom now.
“Well you really should see your doctor. She’s on holiday for the next two weeks, did you want to make an appointment for then?”
I picture her in the sun and sand, enjoying her two beautiful children while I have not taken a shower in three days, while my heart jitters with too much anxiety and caffeine. My eyes well with tears.
“Is there anyone else I can talk to?” I whisper and feel the eye roll on the other end of the line.
The nurse calls my name and I scatteredly grab my things. I’ve been staring at the magazine table rehearsing my lines – you need to do this, to advocate for your own health when others won’t.
The desire to be seen as more than just Mom is overwhelming.
She lets me into the doctor’s room. I’m explained this isn’t my regular doctor, he’s just taking her emergency patients. Am I an emergency? I wonder. What did the receptionist say about my teary phone call?
Well, that’s just having a baby, the receptionist informs me. A gatekeeper who mocks me. I use google instead, get confused by conflicting advice, and cry on the floor of his nursery while he joins me in wailing harmonies.
I sit on the chair beside the desk. I refuse to sit on the weird papered examining table like a patient. I came to get a referral. That’s all. A name and I’m out.
He enters the room and introduces himself, not smiling, barely making eye contact. I smile too widely to show I’m a happy, loving mother, that there’s nothing wrong. That is what everyone tells me they need to see. That, if I’m struggling, I must hate motherhood, must just not be good at it. I want so desperately to be good at it.
He begins to open fire. I am reduced to five questions, taken apart piece by piece and examined. Unfitting. Ill equipped. I feel mechanical, unhuman.
How often do you sleep? Well, not often, but I have a newborn, nervous chuckle.
Do you engage in my regular hobbies? If I could find the time or energy, I spiral, scrabble
Are you having regular intercourse with your husband? I – I pick at the skin of my nail until it bleeds.
“How would you say you feel?” He turns to look at me at last. I heave a sigh of relief and decide for honesty.
“So incredibly tired. Some mornings I don’t want to get out of bed. I vomit before I’m able to accomplish anything. I love him so much, but he won’t stop crying, I just feel like I’m losing bits of myself…” I trail off and begin to dissolve.
He hands me a tissue and turns back to his computer, begins talking about prescriptions. How I’ll feel worse in the beginning, but it’s the right choice. I want to open my mouth, I just want someone to talk to, to ask if I get a choice, but I’ve withered.
Do you want to harm your child?
Amanda Marie Aardse lives in Waterloo, Ontario with her husband, toddler, and pleasantly round cat, where she is the third generation in her family’s custom woodworking business. She has spent her days riddled with nail biting anxiety and has nothing but a beautiful life to show for it.