Disappointments, Mental Illness, & Momming

Today was R's pre-recital photoshoot- where all the dancers come dressed in their recital costumes with their hair and makeup done and have professional pictures taken. I have been anticipating this day for weeks. I was nervous, because anything I do involving R and her temperamental nature makes me nervous. I was sick with worry before her winter show, and that went perfectly.

Today she woke up and was in a glorious mood as I curled her hair for the very first time and put a little bit of makeup on her sweet face. We've been talking up this photoshoot for awhile now and she seemed eager to go. She squealed in delight when I grabbed her costume. On the way over Nate and I talked about the different photo packages you could buy. We decided to go with the disk of photos, even though it was a little more expensive, because we knew we'd want endless copies.

When we got to the studio it was packed but R put on her costume expertly. She let me put the flower clip in her hair and tie on the little flower sash. She looked like a dream!

And then it was time to lead the girls into the room and when R saw that they were taking pictures she had a complete meltdown. She laid on the ground, she cried, she screamed, and she wouldn't budge. They had asked all the parents to leave and all the other little girls were getting their pictures taken like angels. Even when N came in and stood next to her she wouldn't take a picture. She kept screaming. She was upsetting the other little girls and I tried to grab her to leave without attempting the group photo but N took her away from me so he could try. I was so upset that I stormed out and sat in the car. (Ok, I didn't literally storm out- I walked out calmly and smiled at people because I could never make a scene in public.)

She didn't make it into any group pictures either.

I'm so upset about all of this I can hardly think about it. I'm writing about it here to try and release some of the emotions I'm feeling.

First off, I am disappointed because I was REALLY looking forward to having those pictures. I wanted to frame them with the commemorative recital tickets we bought. I wanted to look back and smile at the memory of her first official photoshoot and big recital. If I knew she'd be better somewhere else I'd almost consider finding another place to take those pictures. But I know she'll do the same thing again. The letdown has been crushing.

But what's really bothering me, and what triggered me so badly today, was that I saw myself in her. I saw myself as a young child, completely consumed with anxiety and fear, and that is something I have never wanted her to be. Growing up I was left out of so many things because of my erratic emotions and fear. In that empty place where R should have been in the picture, I very clearly saw all the blank spaces meant for me as a child.

And it scared the hell out of me to think of a childhood of blanks for R. There is a huge stigma surrounding people with psychiatric illness who chose to have biological children. Here are two comments I got on my Post-Partum Depression story that was posted on Jezebel:
"I can't help wondering, though, why women with a lifelong history of serious anxiety disorder- or bipolar disorder or other problems on the mental illness spectrum- feel that having a baby is a good idea for them? So many terrible, awful risks involved for all parties. To me, it seems like someone trying to be a world famous soccer player after their legs get crippled in a car accident. I mean, really, how is the whole thing supposed to work? As a counsellor I saw too many women WITHOUT the happy ending. Whose lives, finances, emotional and mental well-being, and relationships were permanently destroyed because they had a child or children while ALREADY KNOWING they had very challenging forms of mental illness that needed constant, careful management- and even with such management, as anybody here with a mental illness knows, you can go through terrible times when you're changing your meds or tweaking your meds and you don't know WHAT state you're going to be in."

"I do not see this saga as the story of antenatal/post-partum depression. I see it as the story of a mentally ill woman, a woman who was already depressed, who chose to get pregnant. I am also mentally ill, unipolar depression. I'm a 50 year old childless woman. I have been depressed for my entire adult life. During my prime child bearing years I was depressed and medicated. I managed well - progressed in my education and career, but I knew that I had no business having babies. I couldn't come off of antidepressants, so I couldn't get pregnant. Even though I don't know anyone who has not "reacted badly" to hormonal birth control, I made contraception a priority. I would not wish this illness on someone that I hate. I wouldn't risk passing it on to someone that I love. This illness ends with me."
Both people who do and do not suffer mental illness believe that people who do suffer from it, even when it is well controlled (as it is for me), should not pass on their genes, should not have kids, should not parent. In fact, I believed it myself for the vast majority of my life. I never wanted to pass along the illness that I had inherited from the selfish generations before me. I absolutely wanted the illness "to end with me."

And then I realized I'm not into eugenics.

No matter what health issues you do or do not deal with, having kids is a very personal matter. That is where I take issue with the second commenter, although I know exactly where she is coming from. The first commenter can just go to hell. :)

Now I'm not trying to speculate on R's mental health. And I refuse to do so needlessly out of my own fear and insecurity. But to be honest, all I objectively see in R is a perfectly normal toddler. She doesn't display any of the red flags that I did as a child. She has strong emotions, needs time to get comfortable in new situations, and is stubborn as hell. Just like a lot of other 3 year olds out there. She wasn't even the only one throwing a tantrum today, but it sure as hell felt like it.

As calm as I try and stay, outbursts like these trigger me both because of my childhood and the fear I will always carry that I've passed on my illness to her. However, I'm also a perfectly normal mother who wants her child to behave dammit! I think just about every parent has unrealistic expectations of their toddler from time to time (and non-parents do this constantly!) You don't always remember that toddler brains are not adult brains. They can't always control their actions and outbursts and they react to things differently.
Today was a no good, very bad day. It was disappointing and ended up spiraling out of control when I let my emotions get the best of me. But parenting isn't just about teaching your child, it's about learning yourself. And I hope I did learned something today, because lets face it, R is going to be screaming in front of cameras for awhile.


  1. Hey there! I am new to your blog, so this is in part my "Hi there, I'm new here and just going to jump in..." post.

    But upon reading, I always want to say "Uhh... seriously?!" About the people whose comments you posted, I mean. Couldn't that be said for ANY mental illness, physical issue, etc.? I'm 30 and have no kids (not for lack of wanting - everyone assumes I don't want them since I'm "so old" and childless. No, I would adore having kids. I just want to meet Mr. Right and get married, and have a baby or three). Though I do sometimes think about things. I have an irrational fear that I'm going to die at 55 (like my mom did) and leave behind still-young-ish kids (like my mom did. Well, I was 16. But I still very much needed my mom). And then I worry that whatever gene gave her cancer will also pass onto whatever kids I have, and they'll die early, and isn't that terrible of me?

    And the thing is.. people have kids ALL THE TIME. Kids are "normal," and kids have "issues." ALL THE TIME. And frankly, when I am lucky enough to have a kid, I am going to love the hell out of it no matter its physical, emotional or mental "issues." I'm not going to NOT have a kid because maybe something somewhere will go wrong. What a horrible way to live ones life.

    Screw what those people said.

    1. Yay thanks for jumping in!

      And thank you- I totally agree! There is definitely a hereditary element to mental illness, but it's never a given. And it's also never a given that people who don't have a history of it will have kids that don't have it either. It's 100% like any other physical issue. It's like saying people with epilepsy or diabetes shouldn't have kids because those diseases can be hereditary and debilitating for the parent. But people rarely say that because there isn't as much of a stigma/ misunderstand of those diseases!

  2. I think you handled the day better than a lot of parents would have.
    And working in a grocery store I have seen many toddler tantrums for many different reasons. It happens, they don't totally know how to express themselves.

    1. Thank you! Tantrums are just a normal part of life for toddlers, especially sensitive ones which R is in some ways. A lot of people expect toddlers to be perfect all the time, and that it's a symptom of bad parenting if they aren't, but their little brains just aren't developed enough to be rational all the time. It's something I have to remind myself!

  3. I actually had a therapist say that to me once. That I shouldn't have children (I was institutionalized at the time) and a lot of good that did me. It's all nonsense really.

    1. Uggh that is so awful. My mom actually told me constantly that I shouldn't have kids because of my issues and the fact that I wasn't very nurturing/ motherly growing up. And now if there's one thing that isn't lacking at all in me it's being nurturing to my daughter. People can be so sick sometimes.

  4. I agree, the first commenter can go take a long walk off a short bridge. It really drives me crazy that people can "say" whatever they want on the internet and think that it's cool.

    R is such an awesome little girl, and you are doing such a good job with her. I'm sorry that you guys missed out on the pictures, but there will be plenty more opportunities later I'm sure :)


    1. People really can be mean online! I was really lucky that with such a vulnerable piece I didn't get too many mean/ trolling comments. Those were the two that stung the worst because they were about an issue that's always been sensitive to me, but I also had a guy claim I didn't really have PPD and just had an "American victim complex" and should have "gotten outside and exercised more"! Like, what?! And someone on Facebook said my piece was "whiny." People are such assholes!

    2. Oh and yes, hopefully there will be more opportunities for pictures! I am still so bummed out but I'm trying to get over that, haha. When my sister-in-law isn't so busy I might ask her if she can get some pics of R in her costume (my SIL is a professional photographer!)

    3. Wooow... "American victim complex".... what an idiot. I don't even really have words for that one.

      Lucky you to have a professional photographer in the family!!

  5. First commenter can absolutely go to hell. The fact is that you have a child, a beautiful little girl who may or may not suffer from the same problems as you. I think that right now, she is just a normal little girl throwing a tantrum, which happens to everyone. I can think of plenty of people who should not have children for many reasons - you don't make that list at all!

    1. Thank you! And I totally agree. Time will tell what she does or does not have to deal with but right now she is just a normal, cranky pants toddler, haha.