Success

Success

Sometimes, I let life get to me. The struggle of keeping my head above water on days when my PTSD and PPD make just getting out of bed hard, and I have two little people who need me to do nearly everything for them. And it’s not just the struggle to get up and take care of them, but the struggle to be present for them in the way they deserve.

Today, there was a big mix of failures and successes. I am learning that just because I failed at some parts of the day does not mean the whole day was a waste, or that I’m a failure. I’m learning, slowly, to move past the rough moments and enjoy the good ones, even on the days when there are more rough moments than good.

If you had asked me a month ago if I succeeded or failed at a day like today, I would have said, without hesitation, that I failed. I raised my voice more than once. I lost patience many times. There were timeouts and there were a couple yelling matches with my three year old when I forgot to be the adult.

But I also fed the kids three real meals and two non-packaged snacks today. And we had a mini-dance party in my room after I changed the baby’s diaper. Briana and I spent twenty minutes looking at a Mickey Mouse book that is similar to a “Where’s Waldo” book…a find it sort of book, and the look on her face the first time she found something in the sea of objects on the page without my help was pure magic. We used straws for magic wands and had a “magic fight” that mostly involved a lot of giggling and saying “hex, hex, unhex!” Bri went through three outfits today before settling on the perfect dress. The baby shared her graham cracker with me, and giggled like crazy with every bite I took.

I used to feel like all the moments I stumbled as a parent far outweighed the moments when I got it right. But at the end of the day, after I rock my snugly, sleepy, happy 1 year old baby to sleep and get her settled into her crib, and walk across the apartment to my 3 and a half year old’s room to say goodnight, she doesn’t want to talk about the moments we slipped up. She wants to snuggle up to me while I play a song for her on my phone and we sing about taking on the world. She wants me to read her a story and give her a kiss and “Please, Mommy, lay with me just a little bit longer? I need your attention. Your attention makes me happy. How about we read a story?”

Kids are great at moving past the negative and holding onto the good stuff. Somewhere along the way, I lost my ability to do that. My kids are reminding me how. Every day.

Something happened at my nephew’s birthday party on Sunday with Briana that keeps making me smile, because it shows me that, even though I may forget how to “bounce back” myself sometimes, I’m doing an okay job at teaching her how to handle her emotions in a more healthy and constructive way than I do.

Her cousin got a cool ride-in truck for his birthday, but was a little leery of getting in. So they had Bri jump in…well…she’s three. So of course she didn’t want to jump out! I went over and lifted her up out of the truck and told her it was someone else’s turn and set her down in the dining room. She was facing away from me, so I couldn’t see her face, but I could tell from my mom’s face that it was a sad one, and before I could get her turned around to talk to her, she had taken off for her cousin’s room.

I followed her and found her face down on the floor, hands covering her little eyes, crying. I sat down next to her and scooped her into my lap and she put her head on my shoulder and I asked her to tell me what was wrong. Between big sobs, she said that she wanted the truck, and she was sad that it wasn’t her turn. She was sad that it wasn’t her birthday.

I reminded her of her own birthday party, when she got lots of presents, and asked her how she would have felt if someone took one of her presents and wouldn’t let her have a turn. Her crying got quieter, and she said “I wouldn’t like that. And that’s his truck, huh? And I had a turn and now it’s his turn?” I agreed with her. She still sounded pretty teary, but she wiped her eyes and said in a trembling sort of voice, “Mommy, will you just play with me for a minute? I feel sad.”

So we sat there on the floor and played with some of her cousin’s toys, for maybe three minutes. She jabbered at me about this toy and that toy, and how they were her cousin’s toys but we could take a turn since he wasn’t using them. And then she popped to her feet and said “I feel a little better now. Thanks, Mommy.” And just like that, the rough moment was a distant memory, and she was ready to fly off and play with her cousins again, while I trailed along after her down the hall.

My three year old is better at moving past things than I am…my kids are going to teach me through me teaching them. How crazy is that? Life is crazy. But life is also good. And today, I succeeded at life.

One step, one minute, one hour, one day at a time. And each success matters, and the moments I mess up don’t take away from the moments I get it right.

I’m learning. Slower than my three year old maybe, but I’m learning.

 

 

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Not Enough

Not Enough

I worry so much that neither of my girls are getting everything they need from me. Especially Briana. I feel like, since Chelsea has been born, Briana feels desperate for more attention. It makes me feel bad that she doesn’t feel she is getting enough. I try hard, I do, but the baby takes such short naps, and when she’s up she is my superglue baby, never wanting to be far from me and needing so much attention.

Some days I do better than others. Today I felt like I didn’t do very well.

I think it may be time to plan something for just Bri and me to do together, and find someone to keep the baby for a couple of hours. Maybe take her to the park if the weather is nice, or take her swimming at our apartment complex pool. I don’t know. Just do something with just the two of us. I miss that with her. And I know she misses it, too.

She is handling the change, the switch from being an only child to a sister, really well. But she is still only three. I was watching her sleep for a moment when I checked on her before I went to bed, and it really hit me how young she still is. She’s not much more than a baby herself, and I’m asking so much of her…I mean, not too much, not being unrealistic or anything. But it’s a big deal learning how to be patient and learning how to share toys and learning how to share your mommy and daddy when you had them all to yourself for two and a half years. I’ve started picking her up and carrying her around sometimes again, like I do with Chelsea, and it just makes her whole face light up. I can’t carry her for long though…she’s so tall and she’s getting too heavy for me, with my non-muscles from my non-workouts.

I just want both of my kids to feel loved, and lately I feel there isn’t enough of me to go around. It’s frustrating. Hopefully, as Chelsea gets a little older, she will be a little more independent and I can start spreading my attention a bit more evenly. Until then, I’ll just worry that I’m scarring both of them for life. (That’s a joke…kind of.)

I’m Still Here

I’m Still Here

I have started and deleted probably ten blogs in the past few weeks. I haven’t been able to focus. Postpartum depression is really no joke. I can’t sleep (hence blogging at 2AM), I am either eating all day long or not eating until five in the evening, and I am either being perfectly patient with my kids or going off my rocker with them…there seems to be no in between for my brain right now. I’m either happy or so furious I can barely speak, or will be suddenly overcome with tears over something relatively inconsequential. Mixing my PPD with my PTSD and sleep deprivation is…interesting, to say the least.

In short, I’m a hot mess.

I’m blogging about this because more people need to be honest about the struggles with any and all types of mental illness. And postpartum depression, while temporary, is a type of mental illness. The stigma surrounding it needs to end, so that people will seek help sooner.

I thought I had it handled a few months back…I couldn’t have been more wrong.

These last few weeks in particular, I have felt like I was drowning in sadness. I walked around with this sadness that I could literally feel in my chest, like a twenty pound weight. Like someone had put a stone inside my rib cage to weigh me down. I could paste on a smile when I left the house, and try to play with my kids, and might even manage a genuine laugh here and there…but it was just these tiny flares of light in this deep, dark, black hole I had been sucked into. I haven’t felt this kind of depression since I was about 15 years old, and it was not a feeling that I had missed.

I knew that, having suffered from depression before, I was more prone to getting PPD. And I got it with my older daughter, but it passed fairly quickly and I didn’t really seek help. I just got over it. So this time, I thought I could just get over it, too. Take a few supplements, keep myself busy, it would pass.

Wrong. So wrong.

Have you ever felt like a passenger in your own body? Like, you’re watching yourself slip further and further down into this depressive state, and the sane and rational part of you is going “HEY! You’re falling! Get help!” But the part of you that’s falling is going “I’ve totally got this.”

And then one day soon, the sane and rational part of you is watching the insane part of you yell at your three year old over something stupid or have a panic attack driving down the freeway or sobbing on the floor of the shower while the water runs cold because you’ve been in there so long. The insane part of you picks fights with people and says mean things to friends and pretty soon, the insane part is sitting in the living room in her pajamas at four in the afternoon with all the curtains closed, letting the kids watch Daniel Tiger for the entire day, surviving off of your daughter’s goldfish crackers because, while you always make food for the kids, it seems like too much effort to make any for yourself.

And meanwhile, the sane part of you is screaming “I freaking told you to go get help! Now we are stuck down here in this hole and you are too depressed to get help for being depressed.”

I saw a meme the other day on Facebook that described depression perfectly. It said something like “What’s depression like? Depression is like drowning…only you can see everyone around you breathing.” You feel invisible. No one can see how much you’re struggling. If you had cancer or pneumonia or a broken arm, people would know you were sick, and they would want to help. But everyone believes the lie you have pasted on your face, and no one knows you can’t breathe. You share the happy moments on Facebook, the good pictures. It’s an instant life filter.

And then you hit rock bottom. You tell your friend you want to run away or die, and you don’t care which.

And you didn’t even realize you were feeling that way until the words come out of your mouth, and then you burst into tears, because you’re a mom, and you’re not supposed to think things like that, and it makes you feel like a terrible person and an awful mother, and you just feel…defeated. So defeated.

But somehow, putting it into words, realizing where you are at, lets the sane part of you reach the insane part. You pick up the phone, and you call to schedule an appointment with your doctor. You start talking to everyone.

You know that some people are going to think you’re doing it for attention, and in a way, they’re right, but not for the reasons they think. You’re doing it for attention, because you don’t want to disappear without anyone noticing. You don’t want to do anything you’ll regret later. You don’t want them to go, six months from now, “Whatever happened to…” You don’t want to be invisible anymore.

And, funny thing.

The good friends don’t judge you.

The good friends suddenly blow up your phone with text messages like “I had no idea you were struggling so much. What can I do?” Or “I want to get you out of the house, so lets take the kids out tomorrow.” Or “Lets have coffee next week.” One person sent me a text that said “I love you. I’m here for you. Don’t ever get so lost in your mind that you forget how many people feel the same way I do. You’re a good friend to so many people…let them be good friends to you, too.”

My favorite was this message from my best friend that lives out of state.

“Like a shattered mirror
You’re beautiful,
Refracting the world around you in a dozen different ways.
You are perfectly imperfect, a chaotic storm of deepest reds and blues.
Your heart is huge, your emotions deeper than the oceans.
I don’t even have the words for you.
You’re more than I can describe.
You’re amazing.
Beautiful.
A Disney freak to the highest degree, and loyal to a fault.
You carry the world on your shoulders, and pick yourself up when you shatter.
Stronger than you know, just remember, that I see you.
I know you.
And you are wonderful.”

I love the line, “You…pick yourself up when you shatter.”

I have talked to more people and been invited to more places in the last week than I have been in probably the last year put together. And I’m not blaming the people doing the inviting. It’s hard to get a depressed friend to want to do things with you, and even when you manage to make plans with them, there will be a lot of last minute cancellations. I’ve canceled a lot of plans in the last 9 months especially. I’m just mentioning it because it surprised me how many people cared enough to issue an invitation.

Just…if you have a friend with depression (whether PPD or otherwise), please don’t give up. Keep making plans. If they don’t want to go out, go to their house to watch bad movies and eat popcorn. Keep trying. Because the fact that you care enough about them to love them even when they aren’t necessarily a bundle of laughs means the absolute world to them. I promise.

My appointment is on Tuesday.

I am very nervous about it.

But I keep reminding myself, it’s a step toward feeling better. I want to feel like myself again.

I’ve been writing in my journal again every day. There have been three days this week where all I could bring myself to write were three words…but they’re pretty important.

“I’m still here.”

 

Warning: Melodrama Ahead

Warning: Melodrama Ahead

 

This is a venting blog. You’ve been warned…

My insomnia is worse than it has been in years, and I am averaging three hours of uninterrupted sleep on a good night. I am not a person who functions well on three hours of sleep. Or five hours of sleep. Eight hours of sleep MIGHT be enough, with coffee. I’ve just always been a person who needs a lot of sleep to feel rested. I don’t know why.

Life has been stressful. The freelance editing I’ve been doing to try to help out financially is great, but in between jobs it’s not helpful. And finding new clients is difficult, because a lot of the people I know already have editors, and the ones who don’t aren’t ready for an editor yet. Our lease is almost up at our apartment, and they are raising the rent to a ridiculous amount, so we need to find a new place to live, which means moving expenses and packing and change for our three year old, which means extra stress for her which means extra stress for us.

I haven’t been able to focus on anything lately. Cleaning and even cooking feel really overwhelming. I lose track of what people are saying when they are halfway through a sentence, and it’s not because I am trying to be rude or space out, it’s just that focusing on a story long enough to get to the end feels impossible. I find myself nodding and saying “yeah” a lot, when I have no clue what we are talking about anymore.

The baby is going through a stage where she doesn’t ever want me to put her down, walk more than a foot away from her, hand her to anyone else (even her dad), or do anything without her. I always have her on my hip or in the Ergo carrier, bouncing on my lap or sleeping in my arms. On the one hand, I love the snuggles, and it’s nice to feel that needed. On the other hand, I feel like I am going to lose my mind if I don’t get some time in the day where I don’t have a child attached to me. Bri went through a clingy stage, but she would still spend time with her daddy or grandparents without complaint. In fact, I remember being jealous sometimes of the big smiles and laughs that her daddy would get. Chelsea is different. She wants me ALL. THE. TIME. And it’s absolutely exhausting. It’s been going on for weeks now. She’s always been clingier than Briana, but now it’s at a whole different level.

Add into the mix that Briana has been testing boundaries lately. Acting out. Pushing all of my buttons.

I know she just wants attention, and I try really hard to remember that. When I finally get the baby down for a nap and Bri immediately starts tugging on me and jumping on me and demanding hugs and demanding to twirl and demanding that I dance with her, I try really hard to remember that she doesn’t understand personal space. That she doesn’t understand that sometimes people just feel touched out. And I try really hard to give her those hugs and dance with her and let her climb all over me. But sometimes I just have to tell her no, and when she gets upset and jumps on me anyway and I say no again, she gets angry, and when she gets angry at me, I get angry at her for not understanding. I get angry at her for not giving me five minutes in the day where I don’t have a small person pulling on me. And then I get angry at myself for getting angry.

And then there are the bedtime battles. Briana has not ever given me so much trouble at bedtime. She goes to bed at 8:00, and then it immediately starts. We hear “I need to go potty” six times an hour. After each trip to the bathroom, we have a battle about her wanting a snack or asking for water. If we say no, she starts screaming that she needs to go potty again. I am at a loss. I don’t want to tell her no, that she can’t go to the bathroom. I feel like that’s not right. But at the same time, I KNOW she doesn’t need to go six times an hour. And the snacks…ugh. I tell her no most of the time, but I hate hearing her scream and cry. So even when I say no, I end up going in to try to calm her down, which only adds to the asking for snacks or telling me to stay with her. I know she wants extra one-on-one time with us, but the baby doesn’t go to sleep until 10:00 (at the earliest), and since the baby doesn’t want anyone but me right now, I have to listen to her screaming the entire time I’m trying to spend time with Bri.

Last night, we put her to bed at 7:45. She was awake until 12:30. She doesn’t nap anymore. She’s up at 9:30 every morning. I’ve tried getting her up earlier, and it actually seems to make the problem worse. If I wake her at 7:00, all I get is a really angry, tired kid all day, and she still doesn’t go to sleep at night, and by bedtime we have an over-tired, wired, pissed off kid. We have a set bedtime routine (reading and lullabies and snuggles before lights out) and she doesn’t eat sugar, other than the occasional cup of juice or treat. We don’t give her stuff with artificial flavoring or anything like that. On the rare occasion that she takes a nap during the day, we don’t let her sleep longer than an hour.

I don’t believe in letting kids scream and cry. I don’t care if they’re three months old or four years old or ten. If they’re crying, they need something. (And I’m not talking about fakey crying, like “boo hoo I don’t want to go to bed so I’m going to pretend to cry” crying, I’m talking about real tears, real distress.) That’s just not the way I choose to parent. I just…I’m running out of ideas.

Maybe if I can manage to give her more attention during the day, bedtime won’t be so difficult. I just don’t know how to do that when I have Miss Superglue Baby needing me all day long. I am so emotionally exhausted. I am so physically drained.

There’s so much stuff going on right now, and I feel pulled in a thousand different directions nearly every second of the day. Laundry and dishes pile up, the Christmas decorations still need to be put away, and I am drowning in toys and blocks and kids books. There are bills to be sorted out and debts to pay and groceries to buy and floors that haven’t been swept or vacuumed in an embarrassing amount of time. My neighbors probably think I’m a psycho with as much yelling as I’ve been doing lately, and I just feel…I feel like a complete failure in almost every aspect of my life.

So there. That’s my melodramatic woe-is-me blog for the day. I’ll come back and actually write about the children another day. When I have time, and there’s not a baby sleeping on my shoulder.

 

Worn Out Mama

Stillness

Stillness

Tonight, I went to check on Briana. I always do before I go to bed. But tonight, I sat next to her bed on the floor and watched her sleep for a while. During the day, she is a whirlwind. She never sits still for long, and even when she is sitting, she isn’t still. 
Tonight, there was something about her face I couldn’t make myself walk away from, and it took me a few minutes to figure it out. I could see baby Briana in her face tonight. Something about her expression and the way she was laying, she just didn’t look like her normal three-year-old self. She looked younger.

And any parent knows, your kid looking YOUNGER than they actually are is a rarity. Older, sure! But not younger.

So, I sat and I watched her. And I thought about how when she was a baby I was always so excited about the next milestone, wondering when she would crawl, walk, talk, and on and on. I thought about how it used to just be the two of us during the day, and how much time we would spend cuddling on the couch or playing peek-a-boo.

I thought about how heartbroken I was to go back to work, and about how she was just two months older than Chelsea is now when that happened. I remembered how much I worried about leaving her with someone else, and how much she absolutely didn’t care that I left her that first day. 

I realized that at some point since her baby sister has been born, I’ve stopped looking forward to milestones. I am still delighted by them when they happen, I still cheer my babies on. But milestones make me sad, too. Because I know that tomorrow I will wake up and both of my babies will be a day older. I will have one day less of them being babies in my future, and one day more of their lives will be in the past. 

Briana has grown and changed so much in the three short years I’ve had the privilege of being her mommy. And her sister is racing to catch up with her. 

So tonight I sat by her bed and let all the sweet memories play through my head. And then, just before I got up off the floor, I kissed her nose, right between her eyes. I’ve kissed her there since she was a baby, but haven’t done it since the baby was born. I don’t know why. Maybe because Chelsea tolerates my kisses between her eyes better than her whirlwind sister. 

I kissed her, anyway, and she snuggled deeper into her pillow and smiled in her sleep, and my heart melted…just a little bit. So I kissed her again. She frowned and rolled away from me with a little huff…and I had to stifle a laugh, because even in her sleep she is a sassy little thing. 

Hold onto the precious moments of stillness. I have the feeling they get even fewer and farther between.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression

I’ve been wanting to blog for a while now, but haven’t had the energy. I was going to say “haven’t had the time,” but I’ve spent too many nights zoned out in front of the television, watching Netflix for hours on end, to honestly say “I haven’t had the time.” So, we’ll say energy.

Truth bomb: postpartum depression is not fun.

Another truth bomb: I let it get to a pretty scary point before I sought help.

There’s this taboo when it comes to talking about depression or postpartum depression or any sort of mental illness. But I refuse to follow the rules, because the more people who are open and honest about it, the more people will feel safe and comfortable reaching out to friends, family, or their doctor for help. So, there it is. I have PPD. And it hit me like a ton of bricks.

At first, I was just tired all the time, no energy, and given that I was still adjusting from having just one child to having two, that’s to be expected. Then came the brain fog…I was missing appointments and having to reschedule things because I just couldn’t remember anything. I ran two stop signs in the same day (luckily there were no other cars) and didn’t even realize it until someone pointed it out to me.

There was the numbness…I was going through the motions, doing what everyone expected me to do, saying everything everyone expected me to say, and not feeling a darn thing. I mean, I knew I loved my girls, and that I should be happy to have another baby, and I smiled whenever anyone asked me and said everything was amazing. But the truth was (and still is some days) that I wasn’t feeling any of it. I felt like a robot. And then I would look at my beautiful girls and ask myself what the hell was wrong with me, that I couldn’t appreciate what I had and ENJOY being home with my girls, something I’ve always wanted to do.

The insomnia. Oh LORD, the insomnia. I am blessed with perfect sleepers, both my girls have slept very well from 6 weeks on…but I’m regularly awake until 4:30A.M. I just can’t sleep. Nothing I try helps. I either lay awake in bed, annoyed that I can’t sleep, or I lay on the couch watching shows on Netflix, knowing that trying to sleep will be useless. Here I am, blogging at 2:30 in the morning, because I am WIDE AWAKE, and nothing I do will change that. I didn’t even realize insomnia could be a symptom of PPD until I looked it up the other day. Insomnia is a jerk, and the struggle is real.

The anxiety is a given. Panic attacks. Feelings of worthlessness. I told my husband I felt like everyone would just get along better and be happier if I left. I wasn’t being dramatic, either, I really did feel that way, 100% honestly. I was sobbing, and just completely and absolutely convinced that my girls would be happier if I wasn’t there, because I am so depressed and not handling life well. I have literally never felt so worthless in my entire life as I have been feeling these last few weeks.

There’s the “what if” thoughts. They come out of nowhere and won’t leave you alone. “What if there’s an earthquake and we don’t have anywhere safe to take the kids?” “What if we get in a car accident and one of us is badly hurt?” “What if Briana got away from us in the parking lot and got hit by a car?” There were several days where David would get home from work and I would immediately bombard him with demands that we buy this safety kit, move that furniture, do this or that or the other thing to keep this random event from happening. He listened patiently and nodded a lot, and then promptly ignored my demands. I felt like I was going crazy. I was obsessive. But I couldn’t stop. The thoughts are intrusive and unwanted and horrible, and you can’t make them stop.

The biggest thing is the anger. It’s so…pervasive. I literally feel as if I am trapped in a cage in my head, watching this crazy person yell at everyone and say the most hateful things, treat the people I love the most horribly, make my toddler cry, scare the baby, and test the limits of my husbands patience and understanding. Several times I have stopped in the middle of a tirade and desperately told my husband, “I don’t want to yell, I don’t. I don’t know why I’m yelling.” And then I’ll try to calmly discuss whatever had set me off, and five seconds later I’m in full blown monster mode again. It’s…terrifying. To me, I mean. I hate feeling like I’m not in control of myself. I hate scaring my kids. I hate hurting people’s feelings. I have spent a lot of time apologizing to people around me in the last few weeks.

Briana will say “Mommy, you’re freaking out. I love you so much. Are you okay?” It breaks my heart. David says Bri still loves me, and that everything is going to be okay. I try really hard to believe him.

I have spoken with my midwife and emailed my doctor, and we have a plan of action to tackle this head on and get me feeling better. Truthfully, I would have spoken up sooner, because I could TELL what was happening, but I was a) irrationally afraid that someone would take my baby away because I “couldn’t take care of her” like I should be, b) I didn’t want to be put on medication that would prevent me from breastfeeding my daughter and c) I had convinced myself that I just needed to “snap out of it.” If I just acted like everything was okay and kept a smile on and posted happy things on Facebook, everything would be fine.

I was wrong.

I’m sharing this, my experience with PPD, because I want people to know they aren’t alone. I want other mothers going through it to know that it’s okay to ask for help. I want their family and friends to know what to look for. I want people to be aware that sometimes, it isn’t just the baby blues, and the mom is going to need help and support to get through it.

I want people to know they’re not crazy, they’re not horrible mothers, they’re not robots. I want them to know that even though they feel like everyone’s life would be better if they left, they’re wrong. You’re going through a rough time right now, but reach out for help. You’re going to be okay.

I’m posting some links with some information about postpartum depression. If you think you have it, call your doctor right away, so you can get the help you need. Life will get better. You’re a good mom. Breathe. Everything is going to be okay.

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/the-symptoms-of-postpartum-depression-anxiety-in-plain-mama-english

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/basics/symptoms/con-20029130

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/postpartum-depression-facts/index.shtml

Please note:

“Only a health care provider can diagnose a woman with postpartum depression. Because symptoms of this condition are broad and may vary between women, a health care provider can help a woman figure out whether the symptoms she is feeling are due to postpartum depression or something else. A woman who experiences any of these symptoms should see a health care provider right away.”

(As stated on the National Institute of Health’s website.)

No More Momster

No More Momster

I had planned on writing another blog much sooner than this, but having two kids really does take some getting used to.

Briana is slowly starting to adjust to not being the only child in the house. She never acted out towards the baby, but she sure as heck let me know she wasn’t happy. There were many days and nights where I ended up in tears, she was acting so angry, and only toward me (not so much toward her daddy). There were at least two “I HATE YOU” statements thrown my way, and both times I had to walk away so she wouldn’t see me cry. But that was a couple of weeks ago, and I feel like she’s getting a lot more affectionate toward me again, especially in the last two weeks. I’m getting hugs and kisses again, hearing “I love you mommy” at least once an hour, and loving every single second of it. I missed her so much. For a while there, I felt like (excuse the drama) I had lost her forever. She was here at home, but so emotionally closed off to me that I felt like my daughter had been taken from me.

But, setting aside the melodramatic statements about lost children, she’s opening up again, and her temper tantrums are slowly losing their intensity and going back to normal not-getting-her-way tantrums instead of her-world-is-falling-apart tantrums. She is showing true affection for her sister and loves to help out in any way she can…which is sometimes not actually particularly helpful. Like two days ago when Chelsea was peacefully sleeping in her Rock n Play Sleeper and Briana decided to “help” by shoving the pacifier into the baby’s mouth despite her very vocal protests. Her heart was in the right place, anyway. Or today when she kept coming over to wipe the baby’s face even though, after the first time, there were no bubbles or spit up to be seen. And Miss Briana is always watching to see if Chelsea has thrown up so she can let me know, “Mommy, she got sick!”

I know that seems like a random thing to say, but Chelsea has acid reflux, which is a new thing as a parent for me to deal with. You’d think that the second time around with a newborn I would feel more at ease, but it turns out not all newborns are alike, and some of them have medical problems that your other child didn’t. Who knew, right? Babies as individuals! What a concept! (Sarcasm…)

This reflux thing is actually sort of scary for me. She doesn’t just do baby “spit-up” that just sort of dribbles out of her mouth and down her front. It’s explosive. It comes out of her mouth with force, and it comes out of her nose, and it blocks her airway and she can’t breathe. We can’t lay her down flat to sleep. I was really bummed about that at first, because I had wanted to co-sleep with her, was really looking forward to having her in the little by-your-side co-sleeper we bought to go in between us on the bed.

But the reality is, you lay this kid flat and you’re inviting disaster. She chokes, and it sounds absolutely terrifying. And when she’s laying flat she can’t clear her airway on her own. I have to sit her up and sometimes hold her on my arm, parallel to the floor, facing down, so she can cough it out. Even in her Rock n Play (which she’s sleeping in because it keeps her on an incline, which we were instructed to do by her pediatrician), I have been woken up many times by the sound of her choking. Sunday morning, I heard her start to choke, rolled out of bed and took two quick steps, sat her up, and watched what looked like an entire feeds worth of milk pour out of her like a faucet. Then I had to listen to her heartbreaking little wail of pain. That’s the worst part, knowing that it’s hurting them.

Sunday night, I literally did not sleep. She was choking and gasping for air every couple of minutes, throwing up and coughing while she slept. I was afraid I would sleep too deeply and not hear her choke, so I stayed up, listening for her. Several times I considered taking her to Children’s Hospital, just putting her in the car seat and going. But she never turned blue, she was getting air, she just sounded awful. So I waited it out and called the doctor as soon as the office opened and took her in today.

She has been on medication for her reflux for a couple of weeks now, and it hadn’t done much for her. The first day or so it seemed like a miracle drug, and then it just stopped doing anything. If anything, it almost seemed worse. After last night, I was scared. Getting her into her car seat, she threw up three times. On the fifteen minute drive to the doctor, she threw up twice more. I knew she was okay, because she was screaming bloody murder, so I kept driving. I just wanted the doctor to tell me she was okay.

It turns out, my little baby Chelsea caught the cold her sister and I had over the last few days. It didn’t even occur to me she might be sick, because she throws up so often anyway. The doc said that her reflux was being exacerbated by the extra mucous and stuff created by the little cold. Briana pretty much only had a runny nose. I had a runny nose and sore throat. I’m mostly over my cold after two days, and Bri is mostly over hers as well. So I’m hoping Chelsea gets over it quickly. When I told the doctor that Chelsea’s reflux hadn’t improved on the meds even before the cold, she upped her dose to three times a day instead of two and said we’d check back in four weeks. She is concerned about the slow weight gain caused by the reflux, so we have to go back for a weight check next week.

Before the reflux started up, Chelsea was in the 81st percentile for weight. Now she’s in the 58th. She is still gaining, but it’s much slower than they want her to be gaining. It’s frustrating and scary, because I know she’s getting enough to eat. They sent me to a lactation consultant to be sure the weight loss wasn’t a feeding issue (I’m breastfeeding). They did a before-eating and after-eating weight check for Chelsea while we were there, and my gorgeous girl ate 3.5ozs in less than ten minutes. The acid reflux is definitely the culprit of the slow weight gain, and it makes me sad.

I know there are children out there who have it so much worse than Chelsea, and I’m not talking about all this to get attention or anything. It’s just new to me. I’m still figuring it all out and learning what helps and what doesn’t. I’ve cut dairy from my diet in an effort to make my breast milk easier for her to digest. If her acid reflux hasn’t significantly improved in the next two or three weeks I’m going to cut soy from my diet as well. (Goodbye Starbucks!) Cutting dairy was rough, as I love cheese and sour cream and milk and…dairy. Cutting soy will be difficult if it comes to that because soy is in A LOT of food. It’s even in some brands of canned tuna! (Who knew, right?) But anyway, moving on to the next subject…

Other than the reflux, Chelsea is a smiling, giggling, happy little baby. She thinks it’s funny when I sing nonsense words and bob my head around in front of her. She loves watching her sister, and loves being in her bouncy seat. Before the reflux got bad, she liked laying on her playmat and had even rolled from her front to her back starting at six weeks…I’m still not convinced she did it on purpose, but it was still cool to see. 🙂 She’s always so alert and looks like she’s just doing her very best to have the world figured out before she turns 3 months old. When she’s not smiling she gets this really serious expression on her face with one raised eyebrow, like “Are you sure about that, mom? ‘Cause I’m not.” It’s cute.

She fits right into our little family. She looks just like her daddy, except for the dimple in her chin. Her smile lights up her whole face. Briana loves her to pieces. So do I, and so does her daddy. Adjusting to life with a toddler and a newborn has been every bit as difficult as I thought it would be, and in some ways more difficult, but now that we’re starting to adjust, I love it. I need about ten more hands, but I still love it. I love how Briana giggles when her sister smiles, and I love that she wants so much to help me with the baby. I love that she likes sitting on the floor next to Chelsea’s bouncy seat and share her toys with the baby, or tell her everything is going to be alright, or tell me “Mommy, Chelsea needs you, she got sick.” (I don’t love that she gets sick, but I love that Briana tells me and cares about her sister.)

I love breastfeeding Chelsea. I love how she settles in and eats with this death grip on my shirt (or sometimes my skin) as if she’s afraid I’ll take the food source away. I love it when she stops nursing to smile up at me. This part of being a mom is new. I pumped and put my milk in a bottle for Briana. She was never able to latch properly, even after having her tongue tie corrected. But Chelsea and I figured it out (after fixing her tongue tie), and now it’s just so…not easy. We aren’t to “easy” yet. But…it’s so comfortable, feels so natural. It is getting easier every day, though, and I’m growing more confident every day. I am really enjoying this part of being a mom. It’s fun to have a new experience even as  a second time mom. 🙂

Speaking of experience, some things are definitely easier as a second time mom. I deciphered her cries much sooner. And when she is seemingly crying for no reason, it’s almost always because she’s tired, and a few rocks from mama, holding her just the way she likes, and this kids eyes are half closed in seconds. I know how to soothe her if she was startled, I know how to settle her in to eat if she has worked herself up, and, sadly, I know what to do when she’s hurting (because of the reflux). It feels good to know what I’m doing this time around. It is always nice not to feel lost.

After those first few chaotic weeks where I was constantly on the verge of (or actually crying) hysterical tears, wanting to pull my hair out, and getting virtually no sleep…I feel like we’re settling in. We’re getting into a routine. I feel like a mom instead of an angry and sleep deprived momster. I am working on not yelling so much (fell off that not-yelling wagon for a while), and watching my tone, since I live with a two and a half year old copy-cat. (I have a…colorful…vocabulary. It isn’t pretty hearing that vocabulary come out of my little one’s mouth.)

Another thing I’ve learned the second time around is to allow others to help me. When I was sick and David had plans on Sunday, I let my aunt and uncle take the girls for the afternoon. I don’t think I would have done that with Bri, I would have felt too guilty and not been able to rest. This time I felt no guilt at all, except for forgetting to kiss Bri goodbye before she got into the car. I can’t be perfect and let go of all guilt, but at least I let them help me, right? 🙂

Figuring out how to juggle two little ones with two very different sets of needs (toddler vs newborn – very very different!), has been an interesting journey these past few weeks. But I’m hanging in there.

I am still learning.

I am still here.

I am enough.

I am Mommy.

And “Mommy” is a pretty awesome thing to be.