Mommy as a Human

Battle with PPD: Won

After I had Miss C in June 2015, I was hit by paralyzing postpartum depression. I was angry all the time, mentally and physically exhausted, and honestly didn’t want to be a mom anymore. I wanted to run away from everything and everyone and not be in charge of a superglue baby who needed me every second and a toddler girl who was feeling a bit displaced by her baby sister.

One night, I had been trying to get Miss C to bed for literally hours. She would not stop screaming and crying. She was about 7 or 8 months old, and I just hit a breaking point.

I walked out of my bedroom and handed the baby to my husband. I was sobbing. I choked out “I don’t want to be a mom anymore.”

I grabbed my keys, purse, and phone, ignored my husband’s bewildered questions, and I got in my car. I turned on some music and put the volume all the way up and hit the freeway headed south. I sobbed as I drove, feeling like a horrible mother, a horrible human being, and an awful wife.

I just drove and cried and sang along incomprehensibly to my music through my sobs.

I pulled off the freeway when I saw signs for the airport. I didn’t have any money, so I couldn’t really “escape my life” by getting on a plane, but the airport is a good hour away from my house and I figured I needed to stop and regroup.

I parked in the cell phone lot and texted my best friend, who lives all the way across the country. I broke down. I confessed I had been super depressed and that I didn’t want to be a mom anymore. I told her that I resented my baby because I couldn’t get any sleep and I couldn’t give my toddler the attention she needed. I told her that if I had money I would be getting on a flight to South Carolina. I told her everything. I told her I didn’t care if I died, and some days, I wanted to.

She didn’t judge me. She listened. She talked about what we would have done if I’d actually gotten on a plane and the Target run we would have had to make to buy me a toothbrush and some clothes.

As we talked, I watched planes take off and land and taxi around and people parking and then leaving as whoever they were there to pick up arrived.

She gently joked with me until she made me smile, and then she made me promise I would make an appointment with my doctor to get some help. She helped me realize that PPD was making me feel that way, and that I needed help and that I really did love my kids and things would get better for me.

She was right. I needed help, and I got it.

I was put on an antidepressant. I met with my doctor every few weeks to make sure I was doing okay. And when I unexpectedly ended up pregnant just a couple weeks after starting my antidepressant, my doctor and midwife both spoke to me about the risk of me going off my medication versus the benefit and let me make a decision and supported my decision.

I truly believe that my friend and my doctor saved my life. I do not believe I would have survived without my friend pushing me to get help, and without the help my doctor gave me. Postpartum depression is very real and can be deadly if it goes untreated.

Over the last few weeks, with help and guidance from the same doctor, I have successfully weaned off of my antidepressant. I may end up needing something for anxiety, I’m not sure. But right now, I’m doing okay.

I asked my doctor if we could try weaning me off the meds because I have gained a ridiculous amount of weight while on them – a side effect of the meds I was on was an increase in appetite, and I literally felt hungry all the time.

Now, I feel hungry until I eat and then I don’t feel hungry anymore! It’s weird after three years of literally feeling hungry all day long.

So far, me being off the meds has been going well, but I’m checking in with my doctor often to make sure all is well. I’ve actually had a bit more energy since I’m off the meds – they made me feel a bit sleepy a lot of the time. I laugh more, too, so I wonder if the antidepressants had made me feel a bit robotic or if that’s just my imagination.

Either way, I’m glad to be feeling more like myself without the assistance of medication. We will see how long this lasts.

Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out for help if you are feeling sad, depressed, or anxious. It could save your life.

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Mommy as a Human

Life is Nuts

This blog has been on my mind lately. I’m not sure why, since I can’t seem to commit to writing on any sort of schedule. Maybe it’s because being a mom has been such a struggle lately.

Not because of my kids. Kids are crazy, that’s part of life. Just because I’ve got a lot going on in my brain.

I’m trying to help my five year old navigate the big emotions that come with having friends in a Pre-Kindergarten class. She is very competitive, and that’s causing her some stress with her (also competitive) friends. I’m also trying to prepare her for kindergarten in September, and keep my patience through her “that’s not fair” stage.

I’m trying to help my two year old prepare for starting preschool in the fall, and I’m trying to get the whole potty training thing going for her.

My almost 17 month old is going through a hitting/scratching/biting phase.

I’ve got a mountain of laundry. We moved in February and still aren’t unpacked. My husband injured his foot/ankle during said move and has an MRI scheduled soon to try to figure out what the heck is going on with it. He is in a walking boot and using a cane. They’ve done X-rays and it’s not broken, but a regular sprain should have healed by now. He isn’t very mobile so the household chores he would normally be helping with have fallen to me.

The girls are getting used to their uncle living with us, and he’s getting used to living with them, so adjustments on all sides.

I went back to work in October and then ended up leaving in February, for a variety of reasons. So we weren’t really adjusted to me being back and then I was home again and the kids are readjusting to that. My five year old keeps asking me in a worried voice if I “have to leave her again” to “go to work and not be home for her bedtime.”

I’ve started looking at going back to school. We are paying off debt and trying to get financially stable. I’ve started joining some committees and getting more involved with the preschool – and next year there will be two schools to be involved with, in two separate districts, since the preschool is in one and kindergarten is in another. I’m sure that will present a whole new list of challenges.

It’s just life. It’s nothing special. But when I think about it I start to feel overwhelmed and my patience grows thin and then parenting gets harder.

I’m hoping once we finally get everything unpacked and I make it through the mountain of laundry and figure out whether I’ll actually be able to go back to school and we know what’s wrong with my husband’s leg…maybe I can breathe for a minute.

I have two play dates scheduled for the kids this week, and I’m thinking about braving the Children’s Museum and the library to get the kids out of the house and doing something different.

I’ve also been thinking about doing some more work on my blog and maybe sharing recipes or fun stuff I’ve done with the kids. We shall see.

Until next time…hopefully sooner than ten months from now…

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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

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.)

Mommy as a Human, Uncategorized

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.”

 

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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.

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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.