Then came the day that my husband found me sitting in the garden. Bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, dirt beneath my finger nails, I was biting into a large ripe tomato with the baby latched onto my left breast. The perfect food chain.
After an hour with my son, the counselor insisted I take him to the nearest Emergency Room. An addiction specialist, she said his underlying problem was depression and anxiety, not addiction. At that moment, he was actively suicidal.
We had badly pitched an old tent, and after whispering scary stories, the children faded into sleep. I lay awake, listening carefully to one child’s quiet wheezing, the flapping tarp, the popping of gentle rain on the roof. Beneath it all, the breathy hum of the surf rose and fell.
One night after bedtime stories, I lie next to my son and watch his eyes grow cloudy with the haze of sleep. He looks younger this way — not four years old, not a boy, but a baby.
Nina was six at her first recital. A butterfly of a girl with expressive eyes, a quick mind, and dancing feet, she was fond of red glitter shoes and clashing prints. Back then, the bullying at school was subtle: poorly disguised whispers, backs turned just far enough, laughs ending abruptly or—worse—following her as she walked by.
Even over a year after the trip to the zoo, I still thought about that baboon. Staring at my phone, after a few scrolls, the dark image of the baboon haunted me. I am the baboon, I thought. Motherhood had confined me.
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