The moment, the very second the nurse handed me my baby bundled in a soft cloth, freshly bathed and perfect, I heard The Voice.
You aren't going to be a good mom.
As I held him, gulping back the terror, the fear and the absolute astonishment that I was now in charge of this tiny gift from God, The Voice did nothing to calm me. I watched the goings on of the recovery room, felt the exhaustion deep into my bones from an emergency C-section, and looked at that tiny human as if I was watching someone else's life. I was there, but I wasn't. All I could feel was fear and all I could hear was The Voice.
I can't believe they are going to let you take him home. You are too selfish to be a mom.
That first night, as I lay quietly in my hospital bed, listening to the sounds of a 12-hour-old soul and and a sleeping husband, I tried to quiet The Voice. I pleaded with her. I begged her. I threw myself at her feet and cried uncontrollably. I wanted to love my new life. I wanted to feel excitement, joy and exhilaration. I wanted to look at that red, scrunched up face and feel nothing but love and adoration. But The Voice would not allow me a reprieve. That first night was the night I realized I might have made a mistake. Maybe The Voice was right.
Other moms fall in love with their babies right away.
Other moms don't feel afraid.
Other moms are good moms.
Days became weeks and weeks became months and still, The Voice haunted me. When he cried for hours on end, I cried, too. Not for him, but for me and for the loss of my soul. When my husband walked in the door at the end of a 14-hour nonstop baby marathon, I'd simply hand our son over and walk away. I would sit and watch television, sullenly wondering how I'd make it through the next few months, much less through another child. I mourned my old life, my old self, the old "us." I felt physical despair and the world seemed black and white. To this day, those memories seem like an old family movie reel: devoid of sound, color or purpose.
And The Voice always chastised me.
Good moms don't miss Date Night, child-free weekends and pedicures. Mothers who love their newborns don't wish they could have their old lives back.
You should be ashamed of yourself.
Then came That Day. The day that remains the darkest day of my life. The day that had started off just like all the others for the last three months and seemed like an eternity. The day when The Voice almost got the best of me. The day when I looked at myself in the mirror, looked at that bottle of Tylenol and The Voice spoke loudly.
It could all end right now with one too many pills. Good moms don't even consider doing it.
But you are.
You aren't a good mom.
As I held that bottle in the tiled upstairs bathroom, I begged The Voice one more time to hear me. To hear my fear. To hear the real me, crying out and begging to find my footing as a mother. I cried and I held onto that bottle, so desperately wanting the pain to end yet so afraid of leaving behind what I knew other people found wonderful and fulfilling. I begged The Voice to lift the darkness and to let me see my life in color.
Oh, how I begged.
Oh, how every fiber of my being needed to be heard.
And then I heard His Voice.
You are good enough because I say you are.
As I stood there, bottle in hand, mirror in front of me reflecting anguish, I made a choice. I chose me. All of me, every last messy, loving, crazy, funny, depressed part of me. I chose to walk downstairs and hand that bottle to my husband and tell him I was falling apart. I chose to let him hold me as I sobbed the fear, anger and depression into his sleeve and I chose to put one foot in front of the other and face The Voice head on.
I chose My Voice.
And I healed.
Life eventually came back into full color. Messy, beautiful technicolor.
It's been 11 years since That Day in my bathroom and while I don't think about it daily anymore, not a week goes by that I don't catch a glimpse of my children and wonder "What if?". What if I hadn't heard His Voice? What if I hadn't found My Voice? What if? Oh, God, what if.... But, in running the litany of What Ifs in my head, I realize it's The Voice creeping back. On those days when The Voice wants to find it's way to my ears, I use My Voice to quietly, strongly and firmly say "I am a good mother".
And then it's quiet. And I am happy. Beautifully messy, but happy.
Christine Burke is a coauthor of the recently released, "I Just Want To Be Alone" and the owner of the blog, Keeper of The Fruit Loops. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinning things like it's her job.