Season of the Witch
It’s the tiredness for me. When you have a physically sick child, an emotionally battered spouse, perpetually energized animals and a home that can’t be entered due to quarantine, the tiredness that descends is like a night terror witch pinned to your chest. A cloud of brain fog and weakness that loosens your tendons. Blurry vision and tangled hair. Every nucleus of every cell just screams for your bed, without considering its dirty sheets. Dry mouth. Dry skin. No time to sit or lay or bathe. Just mandatory motion.
I never needed sleep when I had little babies. I experienced the opposite of postpartum depression, something closer to postpartum euphoria; I felt like I had a billion dollars in the bank, like I never wanted to put my baby down, like I lived detached from any personal needs, just my baby, my baby, the baby. It was most unexpected with my first son’s arrival, having previously been a relatively selfish 27 year old, and the feeling was gratefully received again with my second; I had an awareness that this was rare and special and so very lucky. I breast fed, and co-slept, and jumped out of bed each morning to feed and bathe and dress my tiny infant. I ignored my husband without a second thought, without an iota of guilt. I needed very little food or sleep. In fact, I didn’t sleep for more than two hours a night for one full month after Pasha was born.
It was much later when I learned that this lack of rest probably triggered my autoimmune hyperthyroidism, and that I was probably experiencing postpartum mania both times (that’s a thing); it was much later when I realized my body would never be the same, and that I probably gave myself long-term adrenal fatigue or even chronic fatigue syndrome. The body, pushed too far for too long, can simply give up one day, severely limiting energy production for years, even permanently in some.
I know now that I have lost some part of my energy capacity, and it has never fully returned. This is something I accept and make meaningful attempts to honor. This is something that is often temporarily overcome by inspiring work and creative exercise, which brings me encouragement and pleasure. But this is also something that can make the hard times almost unbearable, insurmountable, and devoid of all color. I lose hope. I soldier on as I must. I endure. I endure however I can. Even if I have to tap into my old ghost reservoirs. When you have sick children or a suffering partner, there is no other choice. For example–helpful friends or domestic employees or even my 80-year old father cannot enter quarantine. Sometimes you just try not to pass out, and you call that a victory, because it is, because it had to be.
I know I will have to reimburse my body and mind for quite a while after this. I plan to give her all she needs when everyone else has been restored.
But if another woman asks me about having children, while she’s making up her mind about it, I want to tell her this. No matter how strong you think you are, it will bring you to your knees in shock and blister and phlegmatic bile. No matter how weak you think you are, it will bring you to your feet as your veins flood with the feral plates of ferocious evolution. It will be the most encompassing beauty you’ve ever imagined. It will alter your iron levels and platelet count. And sometimes you might feel nearly euphoric — even if, more often than not, you become very, very tired.