The first time I made a plan like this, I felt it was foolproof. It was a bright sunny day at the end of a perfect summer. Most everyone was enjoying the sun. Patios were open for white wine lunches. Kids were splashing and laughing in water parks. Dogs were happy in the shade. It was truly idyllic. Everybody would be in a good mood.
It was a perfect day to die.
The plan was to drive off the neighbourhood bridge. It had one of those flimsy corrugated steel side rails at the bottom of a steep hill and curve. I always felt those railings were only a token effort to protect against plans such as this. I had spent the morning running errands and my two-year-old was fast asleep in her car seat in the back. I had installed that seat with the help of a police officer and I knew it was secure and designed to protect on impact.
I could see her in my rearview mirror and had a moment of doubt thinking of what I would miss out on. Her first day of school. Her first teenage crush. Her wedding and children of her own. I would miss them all but she would be better off without me. They all would. I knew that driving off that bridge would amount to a headache for the family. They would be mad that I put my little girl at risk but that would just fuel their fire. I had no worth, so they would get over it.
As I approached the top of that hill, I checked behind me to see that no one was there. I didn’t want to mess up any more lives with my plan. All was clear. Was I really going to do this? It seemed the only answer. No one would miss me.
Then it happened. The kick.
My son had been quiet after a day of being lulled to sleep by the constant motion and I suppose was waking from his nap. That kick saved me and my family that day. I hadn’t thought about if they had time to get him out alive or if he was developed enough to survive outside the womb. If I bled out or drowned, he would be gone too. That was more than a headache. That was murder.
My plan would have to wait.
In a rare moment of strength, I asked my midwife, almost offhand, if you could have postpartum depression while you are sill pregnant. Her ‘Yes’ saved me from my plan. She watched me cry and sat on the couch with her hand gently placed on my back. She didn’t ask about my plan. She knew. She handed me a card and made me an appointment. I got help. Real help that saved me and my children from perinatal depression. When my son was born, the plan was long forgotten.
You would never guess my struggle. I am an A-type person who always does plenty of volunteer work. I make cupcakes for the schools, run charity events, host girls weekends and am the one to make people laugh at dinner parties. On the surface, I have everything. A great family, a fabulous home. Travel, skiing, cottage. We have it all. But the emptiness remains. I must make a plan.
This time the plan is better. My kids are old enough to help out when I am gone, and they are old enough to no longer need me the same way. My daughter is a teenager and she is pulling away anyway. My husband is young enough to find someone else. I have not been a good wife in his illness, and he needs someone better. When one of my group of friends died from cancer about five years ago, we grieved, but we moved on. My extended family don’t ask how I’m doing when they call, so I know it won’t matter to them. They want an update on the kids and my husband’s health.
I know where I stand.
I have tried to get someone to notice. When I have brought up my pain, my husband really doesn’t want to hear it because he is coping with so much himself. I have seen my doctor, and the referral to a mental health specialist is expected to take 3 months. I have driven outside the hospital emergency never braving to find a parking spot. I’m not sure anyone cares if I am well.
This time I am heading for a walk with the dog down to that same river. The ice is thin enough to walk on at the edges but is flowing fast underneath. As I will get closer to the middle, the ice thins out and becomes transparent. When it gives way, my boots will fill with the cold water and I will clench my feet up in them so that the weight of the boots brings me with the current and doesn’t rip the boots off my feet. It is very cold and dark already so nobody but the coyotes would be around to see. Not far down the river it narrows and the ice gets thicker. I hope the current will take me under and I will feel the cold wrap around me and the deafening noise of the rushing water turn to calm and bring on the peace I crave.
I will have to relax and enjoy the ride. Embrace the feeling of my heavy winter coat taking on water and bringing me under the ice. I will resist the urge to fight. I want to fill my lungs with the cold water and close my eyes. I don’t want to see the ice’s edge as it hits me in the face before bringing me down. Not because I’m scared, but because I’m scared I will resist. The warmth of the blood is soon gone with the cold, dark of the rushing water under the surface. It won’t be long now. It will be over.
But then I feel it. The soft touch of the girl who I sense no longer needs me. I was unaware she was behind me. I was unaware I was crying. She places her small hand on my back and says the word I don’t want to hear, but it’s the only word that will help: ‘Mom?’ She wraps her arms around me and I realize at once how big they are and how small. She hugs me from behind and tells me it is going to be OK.
And I believe her. For tonight.