An old friend sent a message via Facebook the other day, having read my last post on this blog, and asked if I’d tried therapy to recover from my c-section. At first I replied back saying something like, oh yeah, I’ve tried two different therapists, and they helped some, but I live far away from plausible therapy since I was once a social worker in my small town and know all the therapists here on some sort of professional level, so don’t feel comfortable seeing anyone locally and the commute to the city is too long and so on and so on. And then, later in the night, I thought – what the hell? Is she implying I’m depressed? Do I sound that bad? Maybe my friend meant something else entirely, but still, I read the blog again and thought, maybe I do sound depressed.
I think therapy is extremely useful and a great way to practice self-care – I mean, I get to talk about myself for an hour, what’s better than that? (Writing that makes me realize therapy is like blogging, but with more instant commentary.)
For four years when I was a social worker, I went to a therapist as part of my professional responsibility. A lot of personal growth happened for me during that time, the end result of which was a determination that, though I might have been a good social worker, really what I wanted to do was write and teach people how to write. So I quit my cushy job and went back to work as an underpaid teacher, thusly ending my health insurance and the therapy.
After the birth, when I knew I needed help for my delayed post-partum depression, I sought help from two different therapists, neither of who lived up to the work I did with my former therapist. With one, for example, I just couldn’t quite wrap my head around paying her two hundred bucks to guide me through a personal visualization, even if I did process some feelings. I stopped seeing each of them after only a few sessions. Nowadays, I still don’t have insurance and I’m not teaching at all; there’s just not a lot of money in our house for perks like therapy.
But if I did have the money or insurance coverage, would I go? Actually, yes, I would. Because I think therapy allows for personal growth – it helped me quit a job that was ultimately bringing me down – and helped me discover and uncover myself so that I could be in better service to my community and family by being more content. But I’m sure if I went to therapy, the c-section wouldn’t be all that I had to process about. There’s so much more in my life that’s important – like my desire to actually make a useful amount of money with my writing, in order to show my daughter dreams are possible if we work for them. Or to improve the relationship I have with my husband, which while pretty great, isn’t perfect, like any marriage. I’d probably still have something to say about my parents and what I garnered from them. And certainly I’d talk about being a mother, especially now, being a stay at home mom not earning income for the first time in her adult life.
There are other options for personal growth and healing besides therapy, and I’ve done many of them since my child was born: exercise, massage, eating well, meditation, sleeping, talking honestly with friends and family, and even that woo-woo energy stuff I’ve done with my healer friend. All of it is helpful and the more, the better in order that I can feel serenity and peace when, say, my daughter wakes up at four in the morning, or wakes up before I’m done working, like she might be doing right now as I listen to the rustling noises in the monitor. My point here is even after all that self-care, sometimes I have to cry about having had a c-section. I don’t know if I’m depressed, but I know I grieve. And grieving, contrary to the sound of the “five stages of grief,” doesn’t come neatly or clearly or on schedule.
When I was a social worker, I helped teenagers, “at-risk” teens, whose lives at home were difficult at best, and, more likely, abusive and violent. I remember one time a tough-ass girl stared me down in our group, her hair black, her eyes darkly lined. She said to me with a growl in her voice, “All of this processing stuff is stupid, because we just have to go back home again where everything is the same.” I looked at her dark, sad eyes and said something I learned to say more often: “You have the right to grieve the loss of the childhood you wanted.” She didn’t break down crying nor have a great catharsis but I could see surprise in her face, her eye widened and her tensed lips softened. She also turned quite quiet. She may have been taken aback by hearing she had the right to anything at all.
And that’s how I feel about grief from c-sections: we have a right to it. In our own time, in whatever messy way grief comes. I’m a Pisces by birth and I’ve been a walking nerve ending my whole life; I’m used to crying and feeling feelings even at the silliest of moments, like lately every time I hear India Arie sing the ABC’s with Elmo. But I’m glad I’m sensitive, because feeling my feelings, I think, fends off serious depression, which would be easy to fall into with all the crazy shit happening in this world. I want to be the kind of mother who teaches my girl to know she has the right to feel all the tough stuff – the grief, the sadness, the anger – and if she has to go to therapy to feel all that, fine. Just as long as she gets to experience what waits on the other side: joy.