It’s 4:32 am. I’m awake again, lying in bed, listening to my partner’s deep, even breaths as I parse through the latest in my near-series of nightmares. My mind has concocted an absurd number of bad dreams lately—everything from phobias to the deaths of loved ones, being cheated on, and occasionally just struggling to see.
Weirdly, I’ve come to look forward to these dreams. In part, that’s because deep sleep comes so rarely for me these days. Most nights, after goodnight kisses and some lighthearted discussion, I dive deep into my never-ending struggle with mental health. If I’m not attacking myself, panicking about some future hypothetical, or secretly crying out the tears I’ve mercifully withheld for the past few hours, I’m floating high above my body, grateful for the temporary peace that numbness grants.
C (my partner) and I have talked about this frequently. Once, he suggested I envision a fire and throw each of my negative thoughts into it, like old newspapers. It was a great suggestion, but I quickly find myself overwhelmed by musty piles of paper.
So, for now, I allow the thoughts to come, allowing the nerves in my body to light up as I glide along the curves and edges of each shard of depraved cognition my brain affords.
But, as I mentioned earlier, tonight was a nightmare night, featuring a funhouse mirror’s view of pregnancy. In the dream, my life was turning upside down. Something was wrong with the fetus. I hadn’t told my parents but desperately needed my mother to take a genetic test. (This is rooted in truth: there is potential that we carry a disease that can cause blindness in boys.) I needed help; no one was able to help me. My stomach was expanding quickly. I was lost.
It wasn’t too hard for me to determine where that dream came from. Growing up, my mother endlessly warned me against having children. How they can ruin your life. How they strip away your beauty. How your dreams go on hold when you have them. I don’t think we ever had “the talk,” in fact—I think her solution was “just don’t do it.” She fervently preached abstinence. There was no other answer.
I don’t blame her for that. As a young mother who put her family above her education, seeking her Master's degree by night while working and home-making full time, I understand where she’s coming from. There’s a small part of me that feels a bit hurt by all those talks, of course, but I think she ultimately meant well. What disturbs me more is the fact that now, as a 28-year-old woman, I’m starting to approach the make-or-break pregnancy years. I’m going to have to make a decision soon. And I don’t know what to do about that.
My mind screams in questions with no answers. My mental state is unstable these days, and the idea of negatively affecting my children in any way horrifies me. What if they struggled with depression, poor self-image, or suicidal thoughts? What if my guidance is garbage? What if all the mistakes I’ve ever made become their burdens to bear? How will I handle postpartum depression if I’m already struggling so much in my daily life?
Can I raise children in this world? Should I? Will there be a world left for them to grow up in? Will they make the world a better place, or will it destroy them?
And what kind of woman am I to not be so compelled toward motherhood? What kind of future mother allows her nights to be filled with death and unwanted pregnancy—instead of fantasizing about the sweet laugh of her future daughter?
Tomorrow (or I guess I should say later today) when I get out of bed, these questions will fade—glow-in-the-dark stars in the ceiling of my mind. My consciousness will be overridden by my morning routine, my workday, my commute, my friends, my partner, our cats. And one day, C and I will make the decision to adopt a child, have a child, or live a full life as a couple surrounded by our friends and their beautiful families.
But for now, it’s 5:30 am, and I’m staring into the gaping maw of the future when I should be sound asleep. A part of me is wondering if all this lack of sleep is good practice for motherhood. Another begs to go back, back, back to the arms of my own mother as she tucks me into bed.
Linsey J. Morse is the Content Standard Editor and Cofounding Editor-in-Chief of Spry Literary Journal. Past lives include: Poetry Editor for Mason's Road, Student Editor for the Bryant Literary Review. Previously written work has appeared in such publications as Now What: The Creative Writer's Guide to Success After the MFA; future work includes Idle Jive, a poetry collection in progress.