Friday, August 28, 2015

Get It Out

I recently started reading this amazing book by Sandra Poulin called The Mother to Mother Postpartum Depression Support Book; an entire book filled with real stories from women who experienced this disease first hand. I wish I had something like this 8 months ago when P was born so know that I wasn't alone. Reading these womens' stories brought me back to the day that P joined our world, because through recovery, PPD just feels like a distant memory. It does not feel like something I went through. Being sad, being broken, is not who I am. I am strong. I am tough. I am independent. PPD caught me off guard. And while I read these women's stories I found myself crying. Their stories are sad, they are scary and they are honest. I wasn't crying because I was sad, but because I was so happy that I recovered. I know I am not alone in what I went through, I run an online PPD support group, but somehow seeing that someone else was able to put down on paper how I felt and the things I thought in the midst of my PPD, shook me to my core. And it made me realize that I did not want to lose those memories. They are scary, they are sad, some are horrible, but I am so proud of the progress P and I have made together that I can only thank PPD for shaping me into the loving mommy I am today. And so these stories inspired me. I think I have been sugar coating this too much throughout my blog. So hang on, let's get real for a minute.

Let's start from the beginning. I knew with a new baby I wouldn't sleep. Babies are up at all hours, crying, needing, clinging, flailing...I expected no sleep. What I didn't expect was that while my baby slept the night away in her bassinet in the hospital, that I would be sitting up in bed staring at her making sure she was still breathing. I was terrified she would die of SIDS right there in the hospital. I watched her sleep all the time. I couldn't let her out of my sight, because if she stopped breathing and I wasn't looking then I wouldn't be able to save her. (This continued at home, too. I slept about 6 inches away from her face and would often lay there making sure I could hear her breathing and resting my hand on her chest to ensure it was still moving up and down).

Then we took her home. Right after we got home we were set to go to my parents house to introduce P to some family members. Right when we got home P spit up on her outfit so we had to change her. Then she spit up on me. I hadn't been home for days. The laundry wasn't done, and now we had just gone through half the clean clothes left in the house and we were running late. I was so frustrated that I was already yelling at everyone in sight. This baby, this life, was already an inconvenience.

The next week we were back at my parents visiting. P was crying and nothing was settling her. She was just out of control. To this day, I can still remember saying to Hubs 'Can you just help out for once?" while I tried to calm our screaming child. I still feel bad about that. Hubs was nothing but helpful when P was born. And I still haven't apologized. Hubs, sensing my frustration, took P from my arms and walked around the house with her. I sat down on the couch trying to hide my tears. I wanted to break down. This baby that I didn't even want anymore was tearing me apart. My mom sat on the couch next to me and told me everything would be okay. I remember fighting back tears as hard as I could and thinking 'No it wont. I am so miserable. How could this ever get better? I hate being a mom and I don't want this baby anymore.' But instead I nodded and said 'I know.' I didn't know!!!! Everything was an unknown at this point. Everything was new, everything was scary....I had just changed my very first diaper ever the week am I suppose to know that it will all be okay?!

Clearly from the beginning I struggled. From the beginning I was ashamed of how I felt and didn't feel like I had anyone I could turn to. No one could understand. I was too afraid of how everyone else felt that I didn't care one ounce about myself. Everyone loved this baby so much more than I did that I didn't want to hurt their feelings to reveal that I, her own mother, did not. I didn't want to stir up bad memories someone might have, like death or infertility or miscarriage, or make anyone feel uncomfortable, yet I was uncomfortable everyday.

I tried. I really did. I googled things to do with P even though she was only a few weeks old. I would lay her on her changing pad and make sounds and faces at her because the internet said she would like that, but as she laid there staring up at me I would burst into tears and bawl uncontrollably for an hour. After awhile, I was crying because I was crying, and I was crying because I couldn't figure out why I was crying in the first place. It would just happen and I couldn't get it to stop and I never felt better. (The first time P ever napped in her crib, I was sitting on the floor next to it crying so hard I could barely breathe....for two hours straight). I would kiss her and hold her little hand, I would show her toys and play her music, but none of it made me feel better. It was emotionally painful to be near her. I was afraid to leave the house with her. I was too afraid to go more than a mile or two from the house if I ever did muster up the courage to leave. I was a prisoner in my own home. I couldn't eat. Eating was painful. I would go a week without changing out of my pajamas because I just didn't care. I rarely showered. I just didn't have the energy. And when I did muster up the energy to shower I usually threw up from the stress. I lost 20 pounds in the first 2 weeks after P was born. I tried pumping, but I just couldn't. I did it three times before completely throwing in the towel. Mentally I was unable to function, yet physically I was on auto-pilot, going through the motions without really having control over them. There were times I would leave P in her crib or her rock and play and sit in the bathroom with the door closed, because I knew if I had to look at her any longer I might do something I might regret. I didn't want to hurt her; I had to protect her from myself. This self that wasn't really me, but the new self that took over when she was born. I was nervous driving so I didn't want to do it. I felt like I was doing it wrong when she was in the car with me, like I wasn't remembering correctly how to signal or how the wipers work; I'm pretty sure I didn't drive over 23 mph the first few months of her life.

But relief. Relief came when I realized I wasn't alone. Relief came when I stumbled upon my online support group that I ended up becoming so active in I was asked to help run it. Relief came when I met more women, in person, that had been where I had been. Relief came when I discovered a local mom group and networked with other young moms. Relief came when I stopped feeling ashamed. Relief came when I read this book.

Relief comes when you stop being afraid of how everyone else will feel and put your own health first. Recovery happens in those moments. And recovery is beautiful.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

New Mommy Rule

Rule #1. Get yourself some mama friends.

Real mama friends. Not mom friends, mama friends.

What's the difference?

Mom friends are friends you have with school aged children. These moms 'remember' that having a young child was hard at times and challenging, but they don't remember exactly why. They don't still feel that frustration, feeling that tired, feel tied down, feel weighed down by the weight of little friends don't even always have their kids with them because their kids are old enough to stay home or go to a friend's house. Because of these, mom friends don't always want to do something with other peoples young kids, forgetting that you really don't have a choice but to bring them with because hello, they're 100% dependent on you. But don't neglect these friends. You need them too. They are the ones that are experiencing everything before you, so when that first day of kindergarten comes around they can fully prep you, they give you potty training trips, they comfort you on those nights when your teen comes home way past curfew. Yes, these friends are important too.

But right now, you need mama friends.

Mama friends are friends with children under the age of 2. They are in the here and now and they are in it with you. They were up just as late as you were last night, maybe they didn't sleep at all, they have puke in their hair and boogers on their shirt. Their back hurts from carrying around a 30 pound child all day and they too can eat a steaming hot meal within 35 seconds without it even phasing them. Mama friends are passionate about their kids still, not to say that mom friends aren't, but mama friends are still excited. It's still new. They take their kids to the park, the zoo, playdates....they understand meeting up for drinks on a weeknight after the kids have gone to bed, even if they do have to work the next morning. Mama friends encourage you to ask for help and advice. Mama friends make you wanna be a better parent because you're all comparing your own parenting style; you pick up on things, take in new ideas, and maybe even learn some do's and dont's. You can ask and share anything with no fear of judgement because they probably felt that same way yesterday and if they didn't then they know they will tomorrow.

So do yourself a favor. Stop being afraid. Stop being afraid of meeting new people. Put yourself out there. Get some mama friends. No one else will understand you more than those women. No one else is willing to hear your complaints and take your side through it all like a mama friend. You need them. Your kids need them. And your husband needs you to have them. Your mama friends are you tribe.

Dedicated to all my mama friends, because it seriously takes a village to raise these little minions and you have all helped me more than I could ever explain.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Pampers Moment

You know that irritating Pampers commercial? You've seen it. The one where the perfectly put together mom is swaying peacefully in the middle of the night with her newborn singing 'Hush Little Baby,' making everyone who has never actually had a baby smile and wish they did? Yep. I hate that commercial. I hate that actress. I hate you, Pampers.

This lady has her shit together. It's the middle of the night and her baby is awake (not screaming),her hair is done, she's happy (not exhausted), and she even had time to throw on a robe before tending to her little one. What am I missing? Am I doing something wrong? I sure as hell resemble nothing even kind of close to that in the middle of the night. No, I look like some haggard lady that just ran 14 miles and can't see straight. And never once have I felt like singing in the middle of the night. Sorry. I'm just not in the mood at that time of day to sing.

How deceiving can we be? We're all the same. We all have babies, they all cry and poop and keep us up all night. They all fight sleep and wake up 10 seconds after we lay them down, they all puke on us the second we get dressed into our nice work clothes and pull our favorite necklace off and throw beads all over the floor. But why do some of you really have your shit together???

It's deceiving. The commercial, the actress, that quiet little baby, and even your friend that just had her own baby. We are all faking it. Some of us fake it better than others. Don't get me wrong, I do have my days where it really feels like all my ducks are in a row: the baby is happy, the dogs are happy, a healthy home-cooked meal is on the table, dishes and laundry are caught up, the house is picked up, the lawn is mowed....damn, we're pretty good at this whole parenting thing. I like those days. But then there are days when the dogs are happy and the house is clean and the laundry and dishes are done, but that baby is so pissed off for no apparent reason and just brings down the illusion of a perfect home right in front of me. Those days are frustrating. I've cried on those days before, not because I am sad or regretful, but because I feel like I am losing my shit, and I'm just not about that.

Today kind of felt like one of those days. It started off with P diving head first off the couch onto the hardwood floors and me crying because I am such a horrible mother that I let that happen to her. Then, the dog took a huge crap in the middle of the kitchen floor, I ran out of clean bottles, my A/C just isn't working right and I am seriously sweating balls, and to top it off I never got to finish that hot cup of coffee I made myself this morning. I was really looking forward to that cup of coffee, too. P stayed up two hours past her bedtime and was bitching and complaining the whole time about it and dear Lord, I am sick of this. I am over today. I am so fed up with this overly tired and cranky baby. I turned all the lights off in the house. I turned off the TV. I aimed a fan towards the rocking chair to try to find some relief, grabbed that baby, shoved the pacifier in her mouth and played some Israel Kamakawiwo'ole on the good ol' YouTube on my phone and started rocking her slowly, back and forth, brushing back her (three) hairs and quietly shushing. That's when it happened. The clouds parted and there it was....The Pampers Moment.

There I was, peacefully rocking my baby girl to sleep with nothing but a cool breeze, smooth swaying motions, relaxing music and the faint light from the fish tank illuminating behind us. Her eyes closed and she was out within minutes. The world was quiet and we were the only two people in it. I didn't want to let go of this moment even though for the last two hours I wanted nothing more than for her to be asleep and in her crib. But this moment could last forever. Unfortunately, I could only stretch it out for about 40 minutes before my hands fell asleep and I had to go lay her down, but in that 40 minutes an entire days worth of crap was fixed. In that 40 minutes I realized that yes, some days will be a struggle, but you know what? I really do have my shit together. Maybe I don't always feel like I have my shit together, but at the end of the day I really do. Parenting isn't easy, and it certainly isn't filled with Pampers moments, but P went to bed tonight happy and healthy, and I still have enough energy left to lay on my couch and watch TV so I can get up tomorrow and do it all over again, and if that isn't the definition of having your shit together, then I don't know what is.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Dear Daughter

There are so many things I want P to know, but I know the day will come when she will go out of her way to not listen to me. I'm waiting for this day, I'm prepared, but I am still dreading it. There are so many things I want to teach her and to tell her, but when the time comes I know she will not want to listen to what her mom has to say. I get it. So maybe, if I'm a little proactive, I can get all my advice out to her in writing beforehand, and then maybe one day she'll see it and listen to me. Maybe....

Dearest P,
I want you to know that growing up seems like the hardest time of your life, but trust me, it isn't. This is the easiest time. You have no responsibilities except for your own future. Do not worry about anything else, for I am taking on those worries for you. Let me stay up late at night tossing and turning, wondering if the kids at school are being nice to you, whether or not we can afford to pay that speeding ticket you got, if you're going to do great on your SATs (you will), if that boy that made you cry will get what's coming to him....please, let me.

And P, let me tell you that not everyone you meet growing up will matter to you as an adult. Those bullies at school and mean girls that taunted you, you will be better than them and you will forget their names and faces over time. The teacher that marked up your paper with red ink will be proven wrong. The friends that didn't invite you and hung out with you behind your back will be replaced by true friends that will literally drop everything to bring you a bottle of wine because you had a bad day. And the long days at that shitty part time job you're working will seem so distant when you're putting in hours at a job that brings you a sense of accomplishment and happiness.

And P, not everything will work how you want it to. The boy you thought you were going to marry will break your heart. You might fail your driving test the first time around and your best friend will stab you in the back. You will spend nights crying, but you will spend even more staying up late laughing. You are going to struggle in school and moral dilemmas. You will lie, you will stretch the truth, you will hide things from me, at times you might be too honest with me, you will hurt feelings and regret decisions you made, you will make me cry and tell me how much you hate me, but's okay.

I will love you more than anyone could ever think they could love you, and my love will stay unconditional no matter how hard your adolescent self tries to break that, and I will hug you and hold you as long as you let me. And if the time comes when you feel you no longer need me, know that I will still be here, waiting for you, supporting you and loving you, and giving you advice even when you no longer want it.

Friday, August 7, 2015


The memories are fading. Each day they seem further and further away.

At the time, the depression seemed to hold me so tight I knew it would never let me go and I would be stuck like that forever. Time stood still. Food had no taste. It hurt to smile. I cringed when I had to hold my daughter. I feared sleeping because I knew it wouldn't last. Everything felt unnatural. In that moment, those feelings were real. They were raw and they were my life. Now, those memories, those feelings, feel so far away. Sometimes when I think about them, it doesn't even seem like that really happened to me and I wonder if maybe I made it all up. Was life really that bad?

I know it was. I was there. Hubs was there; I'm sure he remembers too. And P...surely at the time she felt that her mother wanted nothing to do with her. I am lucky P will never remember those feelings I gave to her, but I feel burdened that I am beginning to forget. I don't want to forget those dark days, because in those days I was weaker than I had ever been. I was lower than I could have ever imagined and was convinced that was my life now. And then I recovered. The memories of those days are all I have to remember how strong I am, how much I overcame, and basically how kick ass I am.

I am a warrior mama. I earned that shit. And I don't want to forget why.

So it makes me sad that those memories are fading and those feelings from months ago aren't as vivid. I grieve that strong mama I was because I know I will never overcome something so extremely difficult again. I will never accomplish something so heavy, something that had the potential to take away everything, ever again. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to re-live those days or feel those feels ever again, but I want to remember how strong I am, how brave I am and how I got to the place I am today. I'm proud of who I am now. I'm proud of P and the progress we've made together.

I was once told that we are chemically wired to forget the true pain and agony of childbirth so that we are willing to go through it again, because if we didn't no one would keep having babies. I laughed at the time. Surely no woman would forget the feeling of a knife being plunged into her gut and wiggled around and then being ripped in half and having to learn to walk and create a bowel movement again. Nope. Not buying it. Who can forget that???

But I don't laugh anymore. It's freaking true!!! I remember it was painful and it sucked and I was uncomfortable and for a week after P was born I feared sneezing or coughing or sitting or walking or standing or inhaling or exhaling.....and maybe that's why my memories of PPD are fading away, for if I held on to them too tightly I would never be willing to risk that challenge again. I remember it sucked, but I honestly can't remember why I ever thought life was so bad, but at the time, life was more painful than childbirth.

So maybe there's nothing I can do but to keep writing, keep positive and keep helping other mamas. There is nothing else I can do. I am chemically wired to forget so that I can move on.