“There is a roll of Bounty paper towels that sits in my mud room closet. It is a smaller roll of paper towels than any sensible person with a small child should own. It is individually wrapped which, again, symbolizes a departure from how I normally purchase practical household products. I buy bulk. Individually wrapped anything is really a total joke to me. I buy toilet paper, diapers, and disinfectant in huge quantities. I am the lady in the check-out line who is holding up the giant thing of laundry soap so they can scan it as it does not fit into a normal cart.”—Annie Carroll Maffeo
Working Through Motherhood
By Annie Carroll Maffeo
BATAVIA Illinois—(Weekly Hubris)—November 2019—There is a roll of Bounty paper towels that sits in my mud room closet. It is a smaller roll of paper towels than any sensible person with a small child should own. It is individually wrapped which, again, symbolizes a departure from how I normally purchase practical household products. I buy bulk. Individually wrapped anything is really a total joke to me. I buy toilet paper, diapers, and disinfectant in huge quantities. I am the lady in the check-out line who is holding up the giant thing of laundry soap so they can scan it as it does not fit into a normal cart.
This roll of paper towels has been sitting in this spot at the top of our closet for quite some time. Just about two years, in fact. We have gone through hundreds of rolls of paper towels in two years, yet this one remains untouched.
One time, my husband started to take it down and try to use it as we were down to our last and I balked at him doing so.
To any average person or, frankly, any parent of animals and/or children, wasting a cleaning item of any kind is kind of stupid. But to me, this paper towel roll represents a moment in my life. One that I can flash back to with such clarity that it almost makes me feel like I am back in that time.
Two years ago, in October, we found ourselves battling a small child who would only sleep for short stints (and with a wicked case of acid reflux), and two senior dogs that are full of nerves and anxiety in general. That, paired with us settling into a new home, made for some messy, messy situations.
The day we came into possession of the sacred paper towel roll, we awoke to one of dogs having developed an upset stomach overnight, me having stepped in it, and our son with his usual 5 a.m. wake-up time. As we walked around trying to clean up all of the dog messes (note the plural here), we ran out of paper towels.
In a panic, as my brain could not handle my husband being late to work and our dogs being insane and our child being a newborn, I yelled that I was going to run out and buy some paper towels just to get us through the day.
It was well before 8 a.m. and I instinctively headed towards the gas station closest to our house. I walked in and must have looked like I was about lose my mind as I sought out paper towels. The totally broken part of my brain was quietly muttering to itself, “What kind of fucking gas station doesn’t have paper towels?!” Just as I was about ready to go into the ladies’ room and steal some, my eyes finally landed on this sacred roll of paper towels. At $5 for a single roll, this cleaning product may well be the most overpriced thing I have ever purchased. But sweet relief cancelled out any feelings of hesitation as I ran up to the cashier gripping my roll and dashed out of the store.
I then started my car and burst into tears.
Was this what I signed up for? This totally insane dash to BP at 7:15 as I tried to maintain any semblance of normal? Running out of the house just for a moment of quiet? So I could sit in my car in silence?
I somehow needed to figure out how to not light the world on fire that day, and so I went and purchased that roll of paper towels.
I was so angry and so upset over things that, pre-childbirth, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash at. I couldn’t figure out what my heart or my head was saying, and it would still be a few weeks before I determined why my head was so out of sorts with my heart.
By the time I screeched into my driveway clutching my roll, my husband had hunted down another roll and was cleaning up the many messes that existed in our home at that moment. So I pushed the roll of paper towels up on that top shelf and have not touched it since.
Upon reflection, it took me a while to determine why the hell I cared so much about this whole incident. How could what is just an average day of stressful events take over my whole world? Why was it that I couldn’t stop my heart from pounding?
For me, this paper towel roll represented one of the darkest, least defined moments of my life. The edges of my days were blurred with tears; the time I spent with my son was defined by constant fear and anxiety. My relationship with my husband was turning into hurt and anger at any word uttered. And, for me, this roll of paper towels represents this darkest of times.
I wanted so much for my life to be clean and perfect and lovely, and I could not get out of my own head and hadn’t yet determined the extreme imbalance of serotonin in my body. This roll of paper towels represented the start of me figuring that out.
My ability to reflect throughout my whole postpartum journey has been a big blessing. Being able to step outside and see how much the slightly manic woman running through a BP was not representative of who I actually wanted to be, nor who I was, allowed for me to step forward. It started what would be weeks of reflection and conversations with my husband, some relaxed and some completely wrought with panic and fear, but conversations none the less.
For me, the paper towel roll symbolizes all that I was at that time and all that I needed help with.
For me, the paper towels allowed me to start to clean up the messes and cleanse my soul.
So, as a courtesy, if you are ever at our home and need to grab some paper towels, please leave the little roll, individually wrapped, at the top of our closet. Sometimes I need to see it to remember just far I have come.
Author’s Note: For additional information on Postpartum Depression, I encourage all new parents to review many of the resources that can be found here: Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues – HelpGuide.org.