My Child is a Gift of Therapy
My baby is asleep. He’ll be one next week. Maternity so far has been the most humbling experience of my life. The joy and the love my child brought into this world cannot be matched. The more-than-words-can-say love is something every parent experiences. That’s not what I want to talk about. I want to share my experience of how therapy before having a child changed me and shaped me as a parent.
The Perfect Poster Child
This is not a sob story. I wasn’t abused as a child, I didn’t have violent parents. I had none of the classic go-to issues that trigger depression and anxiety. I grew up in a typical household for a communist country (you can read between the lines, the very concept of communism is actually traumatizing).
Until going to therapy, I thought I had a happy childhood. I was always number one in everything. I was a stellar student and spoke my native language plus English, French, and Japanese by the age of 14. I used to draw professionally, having lots of exhibitions. The biggest drama for me at that highly competitive time would have been not to be the best at something. I later graduated from two universities, earning two master’s and graduating magna cum laude. Then, I got a highly esteemed job for a 21-year-old. It all looked good on paper, and everyone envied my success.
At 18, I had my first panic attack during a class on the philosophy of law. Something about freedom triggered it. That was the first in a long row of anxiety that followed me along the way, keeping me from enjoying my life entirely. But I always thought I could handle it on my own. I learned how to manage my panic attacks, and I trained myself to avoid stressful situations and stepping out of my comfort zone. The turning point was when I changed my job and had a breakdown. It was too much to handle. I had to get help.
How Therapy Helped Me Be a Better Parent
I started therapy. I found out that my childhood was not that happy, that even though I hadn’t been abused, the fights in my family had an impact on me, the pressure to always be the best was not easy. Looking carefully, my great drawings were a cry for help and depressive as hell. It was a lot to take in, think about, forgive, and heal from. I realized that the feelings of never belonging and inadequacy were justified by my pressured childhood.
Therapy helped me not to apply the same model in bringing up my baby. Before therapy, I had this idea of the perfect child that I would have, that would be the best at everything, just like I was. I would have raised him exactly like I was raised. I would have pressured him in all aspects of his life. I already had an image of him covered in medals.
I was lucky enough to receive my child after two years of therapy, after I was partially healed. I understood then that he came as a gift to me, to fully heal my childhood wounds and bring me a kind of happiness I didn’t know existed. I knew the timing was right and that he would be a unique child. Even at the most challenging parenting moments, I try to remember how incredibly blessed I am to have such a wonderful child.
I believe the fact that my baby is always smiling and feels welcomed into this world is a result of my process and of the fact that I made peace with myself and accepted him with an open heart. Usually, children trigger our own repressed childhood memories. Had I not gone to therapy, I would have already screwed him up. I like to think that I know better now and I can identify negative behavior and deal with it.
I see around me similar models to the ones I grew up in. I know that probably everyone has childhood wounds. They keep on perpetuating them. For a new mother, the pressure of criticism, dressed in compliments:
“Your baby is having trouble sleeping? Mine slept through the night from day one.”
“He’s 8 months and isn’t crawling yet? Mine was crawling since he was 5 months.”
Damn, I even heard about a baby who could say a 30-line poem at 18 months. But I know my child is fantastic the way he is. I don’t want him to ever feel that he is not good enough. And every child is the same: a wonder of life.
Get Help if You Feel it’s Too Much
What I want to tell every mother out there is that motherhood is challenging, hard, and exhausting. If it ever seems too much, go get help. It will do you a mountain of good.
Don’t be afraid and stay open to the idea. I, for one, will forever be grateful to my therapist who helped me rediscover myself. This way, I at least get a chance at trying to be a better mom. Without it, I am sure I would have screwed it up from the beginning, and it would have been my child 30 years from now on that couch. Of course, there are no guarantees, but at least I am consciously doing my best.
At any point in life, reach out to talk to someone – before having a child, after having a child, when your child is all grown up, whenever. Self-awareness and healing will give you a new mindset. Don’t perpetuate your childhood wounds and pass them on. Heal and try to be a better parent for your child. This mental paradigm shift has also changed my life and allowed me to more fully appreciate my greatest gift: my son.