We’ve hit a portion of time known in our circle as “the three-and-a-half-year-old” stage. ohdearmotherlivinghell. The “terrible twos”? A warm up. The teenage angst? Being foreshadowed. My mental health? On the wire.
Tuesday we had what could only be referred as “a throwback to Rambo” There was yelling, fighting, dramatic throw-downs. This all in the first ten minutes of the day. She literally turned in to a fish out of water gasping for air because, ohgodforbid, her mother asked her to wipe her own bottom. That’s right, Internet, I forced my child to use her own toilet paper. IknowIknow. I see you shaking your head. Trust me. I disappoint many.
The trouble with this behavior is that I don’t so much like it. And the trouble with not liking the behavior is that it’s not much of a stretch to feel like I don’t like the kid all that much just then. And the problem with not liking the kid just right then is the guilt/shame/I’m-a shitty-mom thoughts that come with it. And the trouble with the I’m-a-shitty-mom thoughts is the previous postpartum depression.
Did you follow that?
Yea, it’s a stretch. I do that.
So I started thinking I was going nuts. I’m never going to survive being a mother. A MOTHER. You know those mom types, right? The ones who are gooey and soft and love their kids? The ones who make pb&j and cookies after school? The ones who come running when their child needs them instead of glaring at her from the other room thinking, “getoffthefloorgetoffthefloorgetoffthefloor” and contemplating have her very own matching fit. Not really the definition of MOM.
Which is why I don’t like labels. MOM. PPD. Crazy-lady. Three-year-old. It’s all so… confining. It’s almost self-fulfilling. It’s a lie.
Just because my daughter and I struggle (and struggle, oh! the struggle) does not mean we will forever. Just because I want to lie on the floor in my PJs all day wishing there was ten minutes of silence does not mean tomorrow I won’t get dressed, leave, and enjoy my children in the sun. Just because I can’t bake to save my life and never remember to seperate the darks from the whites when I do laundry (that’s so 1960’s Alabama, people! I like to think beyond color.) and just because I usually pay bills about four days after the late fees are issued, doesn’t mean I don’t care for my children and hurt when they hurt and cry a little not just because I’m annoyed (again) at the fits (again) but that I’m sad life seems so dramatic and hard to my daughter.
I’m afraid if she thinks it’s hard at three, she may look at her life at 32 and wonder what she did wrong. And that’s no way to live.< changing the topic just a wee bit ... or rather coming out of left field a little >
I’ve now enjoyed every one of your comments on the last several posts. For some reason I was not getting them via email. OHTHEHORROR! (Gee, no idea where my drama queen gets it. Shutit. I hear you snicker.) So forgive my lack of bloggy-etiquette and for not replying to you. I came to my site, read your comment, read your other comment, read a few more and by the time I hit the white square for me to reply, I couldn’t remember what I was going to say because they-were-all-good-comments and how-do-I-address-them-all and didn’t-my-daughter-just-fly-off-the-couch-on-her-brother—-again. So really, I blame gmail.
Let’s all wear a tee-shirt that says, “I blame google,” because really, I can’t wear a tee-shirt that says, “I blame my children.”
or can I?
< Even bigger topic change >
I saw this at Target tonight and giggled. I told you I’m a twelve year old boy. But comon, didn’t you immediately think, “Oh, that Justin Timberlake…” hee.
I’ve been pretty open about my past experience with Postpartum Depression (or Postpartum Mood Disorder as it’s now known as). I always thought this was important because nobody was talking about it when I was going through it in 2004. I felt alone. I was lost. Nobody told me I might not want to be around my new baby or that I’d regret having her in the first place. I assumed this made me a horrible mother. What I didn’t realize, is that 80% of new moms feel this way.
Obviously, I wasn’t alone.
There’s been a movement to make women aware of the danger signs and symptoms of Postpartum Mood Disorder. Instead of re-telling my tale here, I thought I’d conclude the helpful tips I learned after I got help.
Let’s recap: The
and 6 (Added by me): organization.
You’ll see that number 3: Sleep, is a riot. HAHAHA! SLEEP?! Yea, right, if I was sleeping, I’d probably not be K-EERAAZZYYY. And it’s true. You would be a lot better off if your sleeping wasn’t being interrupted five to eight times a night by a screaming child. That alone is enough to make someone off kilter. Add in the hormonal changes and the change in your brain chemistry and you’ve got a recipe for fun.
Since you can’t control how much your new infant sleeps, the other things become that much more important. Nutrition becomes a priority. If you let your cravings take over during pregnancy (let’s face it, who doesn’t?) it’s time to get back on track. Make sure you eat. Eat protein. Eat healthy carbs. EAT. Depression can suppress your appetite so that you won’t eat which spirals your blood sugar down and your mood along with it. So please, eat. Even if it’s a royal pain in the ass (and it can be). Do it.
The creative portion can be a tough one, too. While you’re caring for your newborn, you might forget that you are an adult, not just a parent now. You have ideas! You have thoughts! You know things aside from sleeping schedules and feeding times. Tap in to your previous hobbies. Write. Blog. Paint. Play your musical instrument. Maybe even find a new hobby, something to focus on like knitting? Playing the guitar?
And, number six, added by yours truly, a type A specialist in todo lists, organization. Depression, as I was told, creates a sense of overwhelmed-ness (is that a word? No? It is now. Look! I’m being creative! With the English dictionary, no less!) I suffer from this even in the best circumstances. I take on too much and then can’t remember what I was doing. It’s become especially bad since having Baby O. My brain? It is fried. I barely remember what I was working on when the next task pops in to my head and I’m off to do said Next Task.
What was I saying?
See… it’s ok to become an idiot. It’s a THING. It’s called Mommy Brain. Learn it. Love it. Use the excuse. It’s real. But don’t spiral in to a catatonic state. Make a list and check it twice. You’ll find control in something again. Since that tiny person has so much control over you, it’s important to feel like you are still in charge.
Please join us today as an act of making this mood disorder public. Speak out. Tawlk amounst yourself. And if you are participating, please sign the Mr. Linky here. Please? Let’s reach as many people as possible.
*Please check back later today for a podcast on Mamas Pod about our experience with PPD. Three out of Four friends has some experience of various degrees. Come identify with us as we share our stories. (Coming 4pm PST)
For some time now I wanted to do a series about preventing/combating Postpartum Depression. I have a shrink, (gasp, what? You DON’T?! Don’t you know everyone has a shrink? How uncool of you..) that I saw before I even had Baby O. After my last experience, I thought I better have someone in my pocket in case I decided to lock myself in the bathroom and cry for a few hours a day. If you know me, that’s not anything near my normal self and not someplace I needed to visit again.
My (tres hip) shrink had some good things to say. In fact, she gave me five things to work on to help me through the first year of postpartum shifts, otherwise known as hell. These five things have helped immensly and even helped me not need to speak to her. I think she may re-think giving out such good advice since I no longer require her services.
In the course of the next five(ish) posts, I’d like to share with you the five key areas to focus on when adjusting to life after having a baby.* Ready? Here we go.
#1: Social Inter-Action with Adults.
That’s really the end. I mean, you know what to do with that. Social Interact. GO FORTH and meet other parents. Go out with your friends for coffee. Go to lunch/dinner/desert with your husband. Whatever. Just go. Talk. Be around people during the day. Join a mom group. Go to playdates.**
Or, in my case, go forth and make an ass of yourself in front of The Seattle Mom Blog. (And this is where I share with you my experience of Friday night and prove to you why I am, in fact, going forth in front of other people and not just my own family, or my tile in the bathroom. But oh, if I happen to need to lay on my bathroom floor, at least now it will smell like grapefruit.)
Michelle and I went to a Seattle Mom Blog event on Friday night. It was not, in any way, a pushy sells gig, so they said, but was sponsered by Method. These people are brilliant. They provided drinks (in abudnance), free, pretty products and a promise to an environmentally friendly and yummy smelling clean home. They don’t need to push a damn thing. They had me at “Sangria?”
I met Jenny, who I emailed about .3 seconds after
Michelle dropped my drunk ass off gushing over my love for her. I mean, really, if anyone can live up to her fun reputation, it’s her. Really. And then there’s HolaIsabel who I’ve read and pretty much adored for evah (who I will have to go have a drink with soon. I know, I know you are jealous. You should be.) and Working Mom, who is adorable and fun and grabbed those last two drinks with me. And all the people I couldn’t even tell you how much I love that I live in the same city with. Here. In Seattle.
But that’s not all!
No, yours truly not only stared directly at An Ordinary Mom’s boobs (I hear this is a blogher thing to do? I must go next year!) but also had someone shout “alcoholic!” in reference to my drink (so they say).You think this would embarrass lil’ ol me? Oh, hellzno. I proceeded to pick up a man (yes, you heard me.. this is caps worthy, I PICKED UP A MAN) for my friend Nicole and directly BROKE A GLASS (Yes, I’m shouting over your laughter now) whilst talking. That’s right, people. It’s all true. I am THAT good.
To distract you from the farting laugh you are now engaged in, I post pictures. Look! Over here! PICTURES!
(No, I was not paid to do this. Unless you call getting sloppy on organic mixers payment, which I almost do.)
And, here I am, very pleased with the lovely stove-top the Grapefruit All Purpose Cleaner left me. YES. They WORK! And I officially am finished with Soft Scrub.
I am not, however, pleased with the “EXTRA LARGE” tee-shirt that fits just right. This resulted in the weightloss war I set up that starts next Monday. Join us, won’t you?
*This information is given to me by a professional. I do not claim to be a Postpartum Mood Disorder specialist, just a woman who got wacky after her first kid and decided to fight back on the second.
We all have those days. You know the ones? I’m willing to wager that you’ve experienced days that make getting a root canal a vacation. In fact, I went to Target sans children minutes from the store closing and considered it a vacation. Tar Jay? Is. My. Vacation.
:: shakes head ::
It’s not that I didn’t know these days would happen. I had these days before kids so what would make me think I’d feel like June Cleaver when I was Maggie O’Connel before kids? I fantasized about living in a cabin in Alaska with my rugged boyfriend who happened to resemble (strongly) John Corbett. (YUMMM)
Oh, hang on, BoyChild is screaming.
Ok. Now? Now I’m…
Hang on, GirlChild needs “SQUEEZE YOGURRRTTTT.”
Now I’m just trying to make it through each day showered, dressed and, if things go great, my wits still with me at the end of the day. On a good day I won’t clean up more than three puddles of pee on the floor and get spit up on more than five times or put the SheChild in timeout more than four times.
Compare that to a weekend camping with the skydivers at the hanger at SkyDive Spaceland and, well, it seems a little dull. And I’m ok with dull most days. Dull is fine. In fact? Right now? Dull would be PREFERABLE. Dull would be bliss. Dull would mean there is no arguing or tantrums or hours of overtired infant wailing. Dull sounds a lot like a trip to Target at 8:30 PM. Dull sounds thrilling.
I guess this phenomenon is what happens when you reach your thirties, pop out a few kids and “settle down.” (Someone PLEASE explain to me how this happened because I don’t remember much of the last three years and, frankly, think I’m a born-again virgin. So, really, birth control? Who needs it! But somehow these people keep showing up and calling us Mommy and Daddy.) I’m touched by all the people who write and comment that they have those days, too. I know we all do. It’s just not at the height of the conversation to confess you’ve got one shoe out the door and the kids ready to get dropped of at their daddy’s work because OHMYGODHOLYHELLMOTHEROFALLTHATISHOLY.
And then the most amazing thing happens. He laughs. And you put your shoes away and grab the camera.
I’ve been thinking a lot during these last few weeks. My thoughts swing from “GET THE DAMN BABY OUT! NOW! OUT OUT OUT!” to “This is the last time my daughter will be an only child.. the last time she’ll get every ounce of my attention; aside from the blog and the laundry and that shiny thing over there, that is.” Lately I’ve been romanticizing every aspect of her tiny little person because look! We made a tiny little person! Who turned out to be pretty damn incredible! Don’t we rock?
We somehow survived those first few months of reflux, screaming, not sleeping. We made it through the first winter with our newborn, we figured out how to feed her, to swaddle her, to get her to sleep. I remember sitting with her in various locations feeding her and telling her I loved her, even though the words landed on an unresponsive baby who couldn’t comprehend what I said any more than I could. I remember those first few months of struggle, telling myself this is what I wanted, I wanted to be a mom, I loved my daughter, I really did. I just wasn’t so convinced at first. I remember the guilt I felt over admitting those feelings and how relieved I was when so many others confessed the same thing.
In thinking back, I’m sad for my first-time-mom self. I’m sad that nobody said it’s OK to cry on the bathroom floor and it’s OK to become so insanely over-protective and it’s OK to bottle feed because your boobs can’t squirt more than three drops of milk. Maybe people were telling me it was OK, I don’t remember, I just remember the loudest voice of all was my own guilt, my own fear, my own self-loathing.
That voice got quieter and my mom voice got a lot louder.
We learned we could still do the same things we loved. We found out it’s so much more fun to go to a park with your child, to watch her swing with such a joy, you think you’re flying. We celebrated her first birthday in awe and relief; somehow we managed to become parents that first year. We took our collective gene-pool and created a person we loved to show off, to let see our places, we let in to our hearts.
We created standards for her life. We collectively pulled together as a team, the parental unit, and came up with a secure home with lots of love and respect but also high expectations. We waited a whole year before letting her try her first beer. We made sure it was classy.
Even during the toddler years, the struggles of being two, the independence that takes a two minute task and turns it in to a three hour event (called “Getting Dressed”), we still somehow found a way to mesh. The three of us make a pretty fine team. She makes us laugh with her expressions. She comes up with stories on her own. She is still incapable of lying and tells on herself almost daily. “LB? What are you doing?” “I’m pooping on the carpet! That’s a NONO!” I respect her honesty.
LB, during the past two and a half years we’ve come a long way together. We fell in love, we conquered the big issues like eating and sleeping. We taught you how to talk and walk and you taught us how to be parents with high standards and a classy kid. You’re someone we can take to your dad’s work and be proud of how well you handle your tiny two-year-old self. We’re proud of how often you choose to listen to us even when we know you’d rather not. We are amazed at how much you can do on your own now and how helpful you are to me during the day. I’m so proud of how well you’ve accepted your new role and how you already set aside one of your favorite stuffed toys for your brother. You already hand me your Yellow Buddy and tell me it’s for Baby O. Your kindness is inspiring. It’s because of all this that I know you’ll be the best big sister ever. It’s because of all this that I know you’ll always be someone we can respect and rely on. It’s because of all of this that I know you’re going to handle doing all of this over again so well. I hope I handle it even better than last time but honestly? It didn’t turn out half bad. And I have you to thank for that.
I love you.
Recently, a really good friend of mine asked about the “joy” of motherhood. She asked when, exactly, it hits because nursing every two hours and not sleeping for four months is not exactly “joyful.” And it’s not. I think people who tell you those first few months were a joyful time in their lives are either lying, don’t remember, or they’re God.
I sure as hell am not God.
Her question stuck with me for a long while. It found its way in to the pit of my stomach and sat, festered, and grew in to fear. I was honest when I answered her. I was honest to say that to this day I do not exactly embody a “joyful” mom. We have joyful times. We enjoy life more now as she’s older and can interact with us. We mesh a little better. But joy? It’s kind of a stretch most days. And, honestly, the days I find “joy” are the days LB takes a long, long nap after having a lovely morning out with fresh air and playing.
Does it say something that my most joyful times are after an hour or two of alone time? Does that mean I am an awful mom? Does that make me a selfish person who should never have procreated? These are the questions I struggled with after I initially answered her weeks ago.
To women who do not have children yet, and I speak from my own thought process as I transformed from woman to alien incubator over two years ago, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to find joy in your children. There is pressure to have children because that is the meaning of life. To procreate. To be a MOTHER. Everything maternal is idealized and you feel the expectation of society breathing down your aging uterus. I struggled with my own fear of being able to conceive a baby, having never even tried. I struggled with waiting too long, with being too selfish, with enjoying the “pre-kid” time too much. I felt that if I didn’t jump on the mom wagon, I might miss my chance. So I jumped. I got knocked up. Then I really fell to bits.
Even as I waited, in those later weeks, for LB to arrive, I had a preconcieved notion of how life was going to be. I was going to glow with pride. I was going to have my daughter, my go-baby, and we were going to be out doing together. She’d be an extension of who I was merged with my husband and I couldn’t wait to take her out to see the world. Reality was such a slap in the face that I reeled for months struggling with post partum depression and wrestling with the demons of expectations. I had to distance myself from friends and family to keep from hearing “She’s so wonderful!” and “What a blessing!” I remember visiting an old church of mine and introducing LB, at nine months old, to the Pastor. He looked at her and said, “I bet she brings you so much joy.” That sentence struck me so hard I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach to this day. “Joy?” Interesting.
Joy came. Joy left. Joy came back. And left again. We’ve enjoyed times in her life more than others. There are honeymoon phases in her life where she seems in balance, were we seem in balance, and things click. There are other times we all seem to clash and the lack of sleep or growing teeth or tantrums cloud the harmonious memories. Just last week I turned to Mr. Flinger and reflected on how much more fun she is right now. We’ve turned a corner. I don’t know if was finally getting over the hump of turning two, adjusting to our new home, or climbing out of the exhaustive first trimester, but we both seem to have a little more patience for one another and find things a little more funny than we did two months ago.
I’m trying to be realistic with coffee bean. I’m trying to not put so much pressure on myself to have to tell everyone how much I love new babies. I’m trying to remind myself that the bad times don’t last just like the good ones wont. Motherhood is about more than showing off your children. It’s more than bragging about them, about telling everyone how much you love them, about the mask you put on when you step out the door. It’s about being someone your children can count on, depend on, find strength from. It’s about being real to your children and showing them how to deal with hard times as well as happy times. Mr. Flinger reminded me once that LB is going to see me depressed, and angry, and crying. If I try to hide those emotions from her she may grow up just as disillusioned as I was when it’s time for her first child. Instead, I try to show her emotion, allow her to have her own emotions, and find a way for us to be individuals sharing a daily routine that sometimes doesn’t mesh.
And even on some days, to find joy in each other. Because even if I’m not June Clever, I still enjoy my child. I’d like for her to know that because she feels it, not because I tell her.
I suffered from Postpartum Depression after having LB two years ago. I spoke of it, at times, here on my blog but always in a past-tense tone. “I had postpartum depression,” “I got help,” “I’m ok now.” And it’s true. I did have it. I did get help. And I was ok for a long time.
I remember being in Borders when LB was two months old. I went searching for books on Post Partum Depression and found disappointedly little. Brooke Sheild’s book didn’t come out until months later and, still, I haven’t read it. I think I am afraid it will remind me of that dark place that I never truly talked about. The place where I used to walk on the far side of the hall in the two story mall because my mind would not stop picturing me tossing LB over the half wall to the floor below. The place where I used to sit in the dark closet and pray for God to kill me or kill her so we could go back to what life was like before. The place where I got in the car at 12 am one night and left my family, briefly, before guilt drove me back home and in to my husband’s bed before he even knew I’d left.
It was horrible and I never told a soul.
I’m able to talk openly about it now because once I was ok again, I found out many women felt the same thing. I found out several moms in our playgroup went through the same thoughts, got help, and could share their stories in past-tense, too. I found out not only was I not alone in that dark place, there were women from every nationality and religion sitting in the closet at their own house praying to their God to take them away. The closet is such a lonely place to be, even when there are so many of us there.
I’ve been taking Celexa since LB was three months old. I remember vividly telling my Shrink (I have a shrink and I know that makes me tres hip) that I honestly couldn’t say I loved my daughter. I would sit in the car and tell Mr. Flinger, “I can SAY it but I don’t MEAN it.” This was the hardest part of Postpartum Depression for me. I wanted to love her. I just didn’t. My Shrink reassured me that it was as normal as crying in the bathroom for an hour and a half and she could fix that for me. She did. I fell in love with my new life and my new family and got just cleared up enough to realize I was ok, I was a mom now, and I’m going to fail miserably at times, at least I’m doing the best I can.
This is all fine and good until one gets knocked up again. I stayed on my medication during the last pregnancy and without any real reason as to why I miscarried, I felt strongly that I’d like to get off the meds this time around. I thought why not give this bean the best chance ever? Why not give it a fresh start? A good uterus? A clean blood supply and maybe a vegetable or two? So I weaned off Celexa three weeks ago and have been crying in the dark ever since.
I wasn’t sure if I should post about being in a bad place at the time it happened. It sounds so, “pity me!” and “woah, life is so hard” when I’m fully aware that my life is not that hard or troubled. I do not struggle with alcoholism, I do not have an abusive husband, we are not so poor we can not pay bills. We have a lovely home, a wonderful daughter, friends and food and luxuries I almost feel guilty for. But mentally, I’m completely fucked. The combination of not working, having no day time friends around, having a toddler at our new home where things are still in total disarray, being so nauseated and tired makes my brain fritz out. It makes me crawl in to a dark corner and cry and pray for it to all go away. I actually muttered, “if I have a miscarriage now I’d be ok with that because I don’t think I can handle another baby. Ever.” I felt so bad about even saying the words that I prayed to Karma to please, oh please, don’t take that seriously because I’d really flip out if I lost the baby now. I’m invested. It’s a bean. It’s got a heartbeat and I really really want to meet it one day. Meet him one day. My boy.
I decided to fix myself because really, I’m not a glutton for punishment. I can see what’s going on (a few weeks in, at least) and realize it’s time to take action. Right now three people are suffering for the good of one. My daughter has no idea why mommy is so mad at her. She’s just trying to show off that she can button her own coat (she can’t) and doesn’t get why something that was OK three weeks ago is not only NOT OK now, it makes mommy yell. I can’t seem to figure out why my child not napping makes me angrier than the thought of North Korea having nukes. Mr. Flinger doesn’t get why I complain about the house but do nothing to fix it. We’re baffled all the while the baby is growing a brain, a heart, courage. The tiny person is trumping the rest of us. And still, even as I type this, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But we have to find some sort of middle ground. Soon.
I’ve been doing some research on taking SSI drugs during pregnancy. I keep hearing the same thing over and over, “If the risks outweigh the pluses, don’t. On the other hand, if you are a danger to yourself or the baby because you are depressed, it’s worth the 1% chance your child could have a severe pulmonary disorder that could kill him just a few weeks old.” Right. How’s that for no guilt?
Some articles discussion the subject I found include:
WebMD *this is an older article. Note the date. Newer research is more conclusive.
Web MD *2003 study
Consumer Reports *most clear and concise description of persistent pulmonary hypertension .
General Post Partum Depression Information
Obviously the choice is not easy. The decision to put your baby at a 1% risk for a serious health risk may seem small to someone but to a mom carrying and growing a person, it’s huge. ONE percent chance. ONE. That means there’s a 99% chance that nothing would happen? Still, I’m weary. I already carry enough baggage and guilt going in to motherhood as it is, do I need to wonder if I caused my child to suffer needlessly?
Am I already causing one child to suffer needlessly?
It’s no secret we’re trying for number two. And by no secret, I mean welcome to my sex life. Holy lord, I really have been a bit preoccupied with posting about my sex life as of late, yes? Well, should this month not be “the month” get ready for more. This whole fascination is something that surprises me a bit. I had a really tough first few months with my daughter. I fell into Post Partum Depression pretty hard. I would cry in the closet, in the shower, in the car just to be away from my family. My new, lovely, fuckedup family. I swore, more than a few times, there is nothing like having a baby to ruin a perfectly good marriage. Sleep deprivation is evil, people. It makes you question everything when all you really want is a good night’s rest and some quiet time. No screaming children. No pissy (and also sleep deprived) husband. Quiet. Thus the sitting in the car or the shower or the closet until mommy-guilt would set in and I’d go pick up my child and convince myself I loved her.
Like I said, it was hard.
Now, though, I’m pretty happy with my life. I love that-which-can’t-be-written-about, I found my best friend in my husband again, my family made it through some rough patches and came out just peachy. In fact, peachier than peachy. Like, grapefruit size peachy.
We’ve done our best to make this month “the month.” And now? If I’m being honest? I’m scared just a little more than shitless.
I’m afraid of those first three months. I’m afraid of not sleeping. I’m afraid of being pregnant and gaining all that weight. I’m afraid of not coming out of it like myself but some crazed mom struggling with the toddler and newborn. I’m afraid of the winter, of the nights, of the darkness that covered my every moment. I’m afraid of not falling in love with my baby until I have medicine and I’m afraid of being alone, struggling to survive, and being outnumbered by them. I’m afraid that by posting this, Karma will kick my ass (as it’s wont to do) and I will, in fact, not be pregnant, because I’m also afraid it won’t happen.
So I don’t know where I win. Or if I can. Or if I already have.
13 guests here now.