a special kind of amnesia

18 Apr

In my first three days of neurology, I’ve attended a lecture and a morning conference on cognitive neuroscience; both talks focused primarily on how our brain encodes, stores, and retrieves memories.  The process varies by type of memory (short-term, long-term, procedural, etc.).  And then Megan sent me this article and, for the first time in a couple months, I’m wondering how our minds are so capable of forgetting the unpleasant.  My dad once told me that, when you’re sick you clearly remember what it feels like to be well, but when you’re well it’s immensely difficult to recall with any accuracy what it feels like to be sick.  Fascinating, right?

Part of why I chose to document Ari’s birth story was so that I wouldn’t forget the hard and yet, when I reread, I noticed some of the special bits I forgot–like when the pain was so bad that I kept trying to vomit.  A nurse pressed an emesis basin against my right cheek, and I kept pushing it away because the stimulation was too great.  I remember thinking that I would rather vomit all over my face, to the point of choking, than have any one or thing touch me.  I had forgotten this part.

I’ve had a number of friends ask me about whether I experienced any baby blues or postpartum depression.  While I’m not sure I did, there’s a memory I’ve managed to hang on to from the first two weeks.  When recalling, it almost feels like I’m playing a movie clip of a woman who’s not me.  John got home late from work, and I shoved Ari into his arms.  I retreated to the kitchen to throw onions and zucchini, the only food in the house, into a pan.  As John happily watched television with a now sleeping, peaceful Ari in his arms, I sat by myself at the kitchen table, engulfing my overcooked meal, choking between sobs, and watching my own tears fall into my plate.  It was so pathetic, but I truly cannot remember ever being so tired in my life.

I was fortunate to have a band of new moms not only warn me about the challenges but also emphasize that it does get better…and it did.  After Ari’s first uninterrupted night of sleep, the day after Christmas, I remember thinking, Okay, this is okay.  I can totally do this again.  Imagine that, one night of sleep and I was practically ready to get knocked up again.  Since then, literally every week feels better than the last.  For the first time in my adult life, I wish I could stretch time, make this time last longer.

Being away from her for 11-12 hours a day has been another new challenge.  Thank you so much for everyone who has reached out to remind me that this too will get better.  Right now I’m trying to soak up the 90 minutes I have with her at the end of the day.  Walking in the house at the end of the day, greeted by my happy, cuddly girl, is my new favorite.

Photos below from our long supper in Akko, Israel.  A few months ago, I could have never fathomed that she would have let us enjoy this relaxed kind of meal:

IMG_3432 IMG_3434 IMG_3436

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One Response to “a special kind of amnesia”

  1. Tina S. April 18, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    Oh Anna, I hear you. I have had my share of these moments, especially with our first child, and I’m guessing that just about every (new) mother has. One particular night that I remember from almost three years ago, Colton must have only been a few weeks old, my husband and I had some very unkind words for one another, using certain profanity that we had never used in the 4 years we had been together. I can also recall many nights that I cried myself to sleep because I was so exhausted and tired, but always subconsciously vigilant, waiting for the baby to cry so I was having insomnia as well. Remember, sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture by certain groups around the world. It messes with you.

    But, I’m so happy to hear that things continue to get better and that you guys are finding what works for you. A small word of caution, while it will still get better each day, don’t get too comfortable. Babies have a way of throwing you for a loop just when things seem to be “almost perfect”, either by having a growth spurt, getting a tooth, getting the sniffles, or just one of the psychological milestones like separation anxiety. They’re going to happen inevitably and they’re all really important, but sometimes you just want things to stay “almost perfect” for a little longer 🙂

    You little girl is just adorable. I can’t wait to meet her in person.

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