There is nothing that brings me more joy and more shame, than being a mother. For nearly a year I’ve been indulgently angry at my circumstances. I’ve selfishly raised my fist to the heavens and blamed everyone but myself for my troubles. Rape survivors are never to blame. I am not even minorly at fault for being raped—true. But I am not a spotless little lamb, tossed about by life’s rough hand either.
Surviving trauma, particularly sexual trauma, severely warped my perspective. When I was in the hospital after being raped, I couldn’t accurately read the facial expressions of the doctors, nurses and police officers around me. For weeks it took me a second to correctly assess the emotions of people around me—especially men. At first glance, everyone looked angry, like they were going to hurt me. I was wrong. My mind didn’t understand things the way it should. That PTSD symptom has faded, but I still cannot accurately see myself.
Being raped made me feel indescribably dirty. It has made me feel deeply afraid, angry and weak. But I can almost always rationalize myself out of the deepest clutches of self-loathing, by reminding myself that I did nothing wrong. It wasn’t my fault. I was a good person that was unjustly wrecked by someone else.
But a different shade of shame has started to color my heart. A shame that can only come from personal shortcomings. A mother shame.
Maybe I’m the only one, but I feel completely overjoyed and simultaneously horrified that this perfect little human is in my care. My care. It seems like a sick joke that somebody trusted me with his sweet little life. Somebody goofed. My very bones ache to be everything he needs. I long to perfectly care for him, love him and protect him every second of every day—but I don’t. I am not even close. That shame is paralyzing. Nothing can break my spirit more than a mother mistake. I put him to sleep, go downstairs and forget to turn the monitor on? His late discovered cries rip through my heart.
He’s not even three months old and I’ve made more stupid, silly, outstanding mistakes than I ever thought possible. The shame started creeping in slowly and then sucker punched me in the stomach this weekend. My poor husband has had to live with zombie, sad Emily for days. I have been so deliciously bitter toward my rapist. I wallowed and seethed at circumstance. I could even blissfully blame Gabriel or family for some hardships. I was purposefully outward focused, but caring for Theodore has painfully flipped the mirror back at me, and it is a nightmare. I used to believe I was a pleasantly self-reflective person. I knew myself well. How naïve! I didn’t realize how short I fell until staring into the perfectly innocent eyes of my son.
Photo Credit: http: Rachel Joy Baransi