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.

 

 

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.

Choices

Choices

Parenting is difficult at times. Especially when it comes to discipline. Trying to find the right balance between letting your child be a child and teaching them acceptable behavior, that’s difficult. That’s really difficult. It can be even more difficult if you have someone standing off to the side telling you that you are wrong, whether that person is a friend, family member, or stranger.

Here’s my thought process on discipline. You have to be clear about the rules. You have to be consistent. And you have to, HAVE TO, no matter how much it sucks, follow through. Otherwise, the child learns that you’re just spouting empty threats and there are no consequences to their actions.

A few weeks back, I was very excited to take my daughter out for her first ice cream cone. But she misbehaved all day long and wouldn’t “put on her listening ears” as we call it, and was being defiant and acting out. So David and I decided that taking her out to ice cream after a day of behavior like that was not only a bad idea, but a terrible one. What would that teach her? It would teach her that misbehaving led to sweet treats. And that’s not a message we wanted to send, so we told her we would have to go out for ice cream on a day that she felt like using her listening ears. I honestly think that David and I were much more disappointed than she was. Being an adult can suck sometimes. Being a parent can suck sometimes.

We got that ice cream cone the following weekend, and she had a blast. Delaying it because of bad behavior didn’t scar her, or hurt her, or cause anything other than a few minutes of sad tears.

Sometimes, following through means leaving an event or get-together early, whether you want to or not, and no matter who gets upset about the early departure. Sometimes, this means missing out on something you were really looking forward to.

Yesterday, my daughter didn’t get to go to the park because she chose not to listen to me after repeated warnings and a final “you have one more chance to behave.” We also missed out on a family dinner. I was upset, but I had to follow through. I could also see that she was tired, and trying to take her to a restaurant and then to a park would only result in more misbehavior and tears. The parent has to make that call, right? Right. But someone got upset with me, and it ended up making me feel defensive, when I had nothing to be defensive about. As the parent, I needed to make the call. And I did, and it was the right one. My daughter was asleep almost before we left the driveway, and when we got home 45 minutes later, she woke up long enough to eat and get changed into her pajamas, and then she went to bed half an hour early and slept straight through the night.

But because someone questioned my decision, I spent the entire drive home rehashing the situation in my mind, going over it again and again, wondering if I had made the wrong decision. Wondering if I should have done it differently. Had I overreacted? Was I too harsh? Did I not let my little girl have any fun?

In the end, I knew I had made the right choice, and I was glad I stuck to my decision. Before I had backed the car out of the driveway, I had asked my daughter “Do you understand why we are leaving early?” She answered “Yes, mommy. I didn’t listen and I was not being nice.” And I said “I’m glad you understand.” And then we moved on to music selection, and then she fell asleep. She wasn’t traumatized. She wasn’t hurt. She didn’t even cry.

She understood. Which is what tells me I am doing something right.

Anger is my Demon

Anger is my Demon

For days and sometimes weeks at a time, I have it figured out. I rigidly control my temper, squash my first instinct, which is to yell and blather and lose control. And then, in an instant, it’s gone. And once it’s gone, it usually stays gone for a week or so while I pull myself together and regain that rigid control. And then the cycle starts all over again.

I so badly want to be the mother who is in control of herself. Who doesn’t yell at her child. No, it isn’t even about yelling. It’s about screaming. Every mother yells sometimes, even if only rarely. But screaming, losing your head completely, feeling like you are just going to explode like a volcano, or actually exploding like a volcano, and then seeing the confused fear on your child’s face? That’s not good parenting.

People defend me from myself a lot, telling me not to be so hard on myself, but the truth of the matter is, there are just some things that aren’t acceptable. And this is one of them. I do not want to be a parent that my children are frightened of. I do not want to be a parent who regularly loses control, then guilts herself into maintaining it until the next time, and then adds on more guilt each time she loses it.

That’s not who I want to be. But right now, it’s who I am.

Part of my having PTSD, part of the way that manifests for me, is feeling like I need to be control of everything around me at every second of every day. When I feel control slipping away from me, it makes me anxious, and when I get anxious, I either have a panic attack or get angry. And the wait time from me starting to get anxious or angry to me having a panic attack or losing my temper are both very short wait times. I’m a naturally impatient person, and when you throw in my PTSD (and right now, my hormones), you get a very volatile sort of mix.

Becoming a parent has allowed me (okay, forced me) to let go a bit, and taught me a little patience. Not having Briana dressed by ten in the morning every single day is not going to kill me. Peanut butter smears on the couch are not the end of the world, and a spilled cup of milk is just that…a spilled cup of milk. Tantrums are a fact of life, hearing “no” from my toddler twenty thousand times a day doesn’t faze me, and potty accidents happen. It’s not those things that cause me to lose control.

But if I’m trying to get Briana ready for bed, trying to change her diaper, trying to get her dressed, and she keeps twisting away from me, trying to turn it into a game, giggling…I don’t know why, but it really sets me off. I start out keeping calm, but the more she pushes, the harder it gets, and pretty soon I’m feeling my blood start to boil, and my voice is getting louder, and she’s still doing it because she sees she’s getting a rise out of me, and I know that she is going to keep it up because she sees me reacting, but I can’t stop the reaction, and the fact that it’s my fault she’s still acting up makes me feel like I’ve lost control of the situation, and then, just like that, I’m yelling or screaming at her, and she’s crying, and I feel like an idiot jerk-face for making her cry. (Run on sentence there was intentional. Read it with a frantic note in your head, voice rising every couple of words until you’re yelling at the end…there you go. That’s how it feels!)

Or when she’s having a rough night and won’t sleep. For the first couple hours I’m fine. I go in, I comfort her, I try to soothe her, I rock her if she asks. But after the millionth (denied) request for a cookie, or watching her play with her water cup for five minutes instead of drinking it, or having her scream for twenty minutes because I finally took the cup away and told her to sleep, I feel that familiar I-am-losing-control-of-myself feeling, and I start to panic because I don’t want to lose control of myself, and then, there I go, losing it again. And then we both end up crying. It’s stupid.

It’s this absolutely vicious cycle, and I’m really not sure how to break it.

But I am trying, darn it. I’m trying harder to fix this than I’ve tried for anything in my life. I don’t want to be this kind of parent.

So, for the last couple days, when Briana says “NO” when I say “let’s go change your diaper,” instead of getting all frustrated and ending up having to struggle to pick her flailing body up off the ground to go into her bedroom where the diapers and wipes are, I say “Briana, it’s time to go change your diaper. Do you want mama to carry you or do you want to hold mama’s hand and come with her?” Nine times out of ten, she wants to take my hand and lead me into the bedroom. (The tenth time I had to tuck her under my arm like a package and carry her, but that made her giggle anyway, so I’m still calling it a win.) And when she starts twisting away from me, instead of yelling, I’ve been calmly repeating “Now is not the time to play, mama needs to change your diaper” however many times it takes, in a very neutral tone. And if she’s really being stubborn about it, I tell her she can have her diaper changed or go to timeout. She hasn’t chosen the timeout option yet.

It’s weird, but now that I’m changing the way I’m making an effort to stay calm, it’s like she’s stopped trying so hard to set me off. Or maybe I’m just not getting triggered so much into losing my mind because she’s not feeling the need to act out? Maybe I’ve inadvertently made the boundaries more clear by staying calmer instead of yelling all the time. Maybe because I am staying calmer, she is able to stay calm, too. Of course, it’s only been four days…so maybe it’s just been a good couple of days. Who knows?

All I know is, I’m not going to be a parent that my daughter has to be afraid of anymore. I won’t promise I won’t yell anymore, because I don’t want to break promises to my children. But I promise I won’t scream like a raving lunatic, wild-eyed and frightening. I don’t want my daughter to have fear in her face because of me, ever. It breaks my heart.

So, since it’s after midnight, this is Day 5 of the new No Screaming Mama. And I’ve not yelled either. Be proud of me. Every day I don’t scream at my kid isn’t just a victory for her, and it’s not even just a victory for me as a mom. It’ s me taking back a little more of the sanity I lost, taking back just a bit of power that the PTSD has over my life. It’s a victory for me as a woman, as a person, as a human being. I do not have to be in control every second of everything going on, and when I don’t have control, I don’t have to be afraid or angry. It’s the little things that feel really big sometimes.

Wish me luck.