Tag Archives: No. 2

Perfection

14 Jan

I think it was from Brene Brown that I heard or read something like this:

You look at your newborn baby and think, ‘She’s perfect.’ And yet each of us is imperfect from our very beginning.  We are all born imperfect and will remain imperfect for the rest of our lives.

I look at my new baby, and want to think she’s perfect.  She has my nose, long pianist’s fingers (and toes), dark grey eyes, and the most beautiful little ears.  She makes a grumpy old man noise out of annoyance when she sneezes, and laughs in her sleep. And she really only cries when she’s hungry, wet, or naked (seriously, folks…I’ve never seen a baby be so pissed to get undressed).

But she’s not.  I could list a dozen things that make her difficult, and I’m certain I will only add to that list as she grows up.  She’s as imperfect as the rest of us, and that? IS BEAUTIFUL.

If she were perfect, I would worry constantly about ruining her – about messing up. I would fret over every decision being the “right” one, because perfection implies right and wrong. There would be some utopian vision of the baby, child, and woman she should be, always in peril because of my impending parenting mistakes.

My job as a parent isn’t to protect her perfection, guarding her from mistakes and pain. Instead, it’s to nurture her as a whole person, hopefully teaching her that her imperfections don’t diminish her worth. They make her real, accessible, and whole.

By the way…if you haven’t read Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection, it’s life-changing.  Honestly.

False Alarm

20 Dec

“You’re three centimeters,” he said, and I was thrilled.  “Contracting?”  Yes, I told him, for about 2 hours, but nothing I couldn’t talk through.  He kept his hand on my stomach as he asked about other symptoms and felt several contractions. “Well, I think you’re in early labor and you don’t need to hurry, but you should get No1 where she needs to be and head to the hospital.” My eyes must have popped out of my head because he helped me sit up and put his hand on my shoulder.  Then he looked straight into my eyes and said, “You can do this.  You are an old pro and you have done amazingly throughout the whole pregnancy.  I will be there tomorrow to check on you.  You’re going to do great.  I can’t wait to meet your baby.”

I walked out to the waiting room in a daze where Dr. K was telling Hubs all about the exam, leaned down to No1 and said “Guess what!? Today might be your sister’s birthday!” She gave me a huge hug and we excitedly dashed out to the car.  We dropped her off a home with my bestie, called grandma to come pick her up, filled the car with bags already packed, and headed into the city.

I did not get car sick.  Which doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment unless you’ve ever been around me in a stressful situation, riding in the car.  I had a trashcan ready at my feet.  An extra towel, too.  And I didn’t need either.  This is what it feels like to not be riddled with anxiety, I thought.

We calmly checked into L&D and met our nurse, Sue.  20 minutes on the contraction monitor verified that I was, indeed, contracting every 2 minutes and that baby was doing well.  She advised me to drink some water and walk the halls – she would check me again in 2 hours.  So we walked.  And walked.  And walked.  And I kept thinking to myself It’s so strange that all these nurses know I’m the only person out here with no underwear on.

We walked by rooms where women were about to give birth.  We heard the cries of brand new babies.  The contractions kept increasing in strength, making me lean against the walls for support.  We kissed in the hallway, excited that our time had come.  Finally, I was too tired to walk anymore.  We went back to the triage room and I laid on my side just to catch my breath.

Everything stopped.

We walked a little more and Sue came by to check.  No progress.  Still 3 cm.  Son of a bitch!  All that walking.  All that pain. All that mental preparation.  And nothing.  Early or false labor, Sue said, and we prepared to head home.

Honestly?  I was exhausted and excited at the prospect of sleeping in my own bed.  And yet the entire drive home, I stifled tears and tried to keep myself from falling apart.  When I realized that No1 wouldn’t be home because she was sleeping over at Mimi’s, it was too much.  All I wanted to was to put my arms around my firstborn.  To smell her freshly-washed hair and hear her voice tell me “I missed you soooo much, Mommy!”  When we got into the house, I crashed on the couch and let the emotion of the day wash over me in big, ugly sobs.

I knew rationally that false alarms are common, that I was lucky now to get a good night’s rest, and that all we had lost were a few hours.  But the anxiety and tension from the day had built up in my brain and needed to escape.  I was so sure we were on the right track, and so proud of myself for handling it so well.  All the logistics, the emotions, the preparations were all….perfect.  There’s the truth.  I felt like I had lost out on my chance for the perfect birth experience.  I think I felt in control all day – OB appointment confirming labor, easy no-traffic drive into the city at noon, contractions slowly increasing as we walked the hall.  It was all going according to plan.

Turns out, I’m not in control.  That has been slowly sinking in over the last 12 hours, and you know what?  It’s kind of a relief.  I don’t have to control any of this.  All I have to do is respond to it, which I did amazingly yesterday.  And I can do it again.  If this baby wants some more time, so be it.  I’m going to try to soak up the quiet time we have left, enjoy the holidays (and my birthday, ack!) with my family, and let this whole birth thing take care of itself.  I’ve been told it will.

Warning Signs

14 Dec

This pregnancy has been completely different from my first.  Easier.  Less stressful.  More joyful.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s been an uphill battle, and I’ve had some of my very lowest points during this journey, but with the right medical care, therapy, support, and medication, I feel like I’ve experienced a *mostly* normal pregnancy this time around.  I am so grateful for all the help I’ve received and so proud of myself for all I’ve done to stay healthy and happy.  But also?  I look back at pregnancy number 1 and want to scream in frustration over all the warning signs I missed.  I realize that I did my best last time, and even more so, that patients cannot expect to self-diagnose mood and anxiety disorders.  But hindsight sure is 20-20, isn’t it?

Because I have seen what a contrast my two pregnancies have been, I feel hopeful that my postpartum experiences can be different, too.  And like I’ve said before, this time I’m prepared.  Armed.  And I want the people around me to feel armed too.

I’ve spoken with my friends and family.  I want them to know I’m wary of the PPD returning and that I will need their help to stay healthy, but I don’t want to feel like I’m being babied or watched over unnecessarily.  Even a normal postpartum experience can include mood swings and tearfulness.  When I talked with my mom (Hi, Mom!), she said she looks back now and feels like she missed signs, too, and she wanted to know what to look out for.

What should we have seen before did we miss because we didn’t know?  What do I want my friends and family to watch for?

  • Inability to Sleep: Even when someone else was caring for No1, I couldn’t sleep.  I was too anxious and my mind spun with a million thoughts.  And the sleep deprivation was a huge trigger for me.  This time around, I’ve asked my mom to stay some nights with us early on, and I plan on being flexible about feeding No2 in a way that lets us all get some rest.
  • Control Freak: I could not let anyone else take over for me…with the baby, with household chores, Christmas shopping.  I had to do it all.  Part of me felt like I was supposed to be able to do it all, like I had something to prove.  I remember distinctly telling my mom not to do the dishes and feeling like an enormous failure when she cleaned my bathtub.  I had to pack the diaper bag because I was certain hubs could not do it well enough, and I struggled to let anyone else care for the baby.  This time, my mantra is “I’m pregnant (or I just had a baby) and I shouldn’t have to <insert your least favorite chore here>.”  I’ve come a long way in the last three years and feel like one of the biggest changes I’ve made is my ability to let go of perfection and to accept help.
  • Rage: This was the scariest of my symptoms and one I think very few people were privy to.  The littlest things would set off a chain reaction, causing me to spiral into an Incredible Hulk – worthy temper tantrum.  Missed naptimes were the biggest trigger.  The quality of my entire day hinged on how many naps No1 took and how long each was.  The anger was directed at the baby for not sleeping, at hubs for not matching the bottle tops and bottoms by color, at drivers on the road for running red lights…at anything and anyone.  And it was terrifying.  I became unrecognizable.  These days it takes quite a bit to trigger any kind of temper, and I truly hope it stays that way.
  • Fear: This sounds ridiculous, but for a while, I actually felt afraid of my baby.  Afraid that I didn’t know how to take care of her and afraid that she didn’t love me.  At times I thought she was trying to make my life difficult, and I expected way more out of her than a baby can give.  My confidence was nonexistent as a parent.  I remember once my husband telling me “caring for a baby actually isn’t all that hard, when you take the emotion out of it.”  I still think it’s a simplification, and at the time he said it, I was offended and hurt.  But you know what?  There’s a little truth in there.  My fear was making caring for No1 so much harder than it had to be.
  • Lack of Confidence:  I know new moms read a lot of parenting books.  In fact, I believe that there are an awful lot of people capitalizing off of the lack of confidence most new moms feel.  But I did more than just read a few books.  I read all of them, certain one would have “the answer”, because I certainly didn’t.  I lacked confidence in how to feed my baby, how to get her to sleep, and whether or not to use a pacifier.  Basically, if there was a book about it, I was sure I was doing it the wrong way.  It wasn’t until the fog of PPD and PPA lifted that I started to trust my instincts and it turned out, they were pretty darn good!  I’ve noticed that when I start to have an episode with anxiety or depression, my confidence is the first thing to go.  I doubt every parenting decision and the worthlessness creeps in.  What I know to be true fades into a complicated mess of confusion.  I anticipate needing advice about having two children – and I’m sure I’ll pick up a book or two along the way – but if I start to feel like I *need* them to parent, I’ll know something is amiss.
  • Inability to Deal with Noise:  This is a common trigger for many of us on #ppdchat.  Noone likes a screaming baby, but with PPD or PPA, the sound is torturous, quite literally.  These days, I can listen to my toddler holler, yell, and scream at me and as long as I know she’s not physically injured, I can walk away, put in some earplugs, and wait out the storm.  I’m sure I’ll still be triggered by the baby’s crying, but I hope this time around, it doesn’t completely shut down my brain like it did the first time around.
  • Tearfulness: This one’s tricky, because I think it’s what most people expect to see when someone they love is depressed, but it wasn’t my main symptom.  Yes, I would cry, but it was often mixed with the rage or came after an episode of explosive temper or anxiety.  It’s still something I want my loved ones watching out for.  If I’m tearful and extra-sensitive (especially to criticism) for longer than a couple of weeks after No2 is born, please check in on me.
  • Shutting Down: This one’s from my husband.  I asked him what the worst symptom was and he said it was that he worried that I would shut down when I needed to care for No1. For a while, I stopped being able to bathe the baby, go to doctors appointments, or run errands.  A pile of unfolded laundry would sit, wrinkling, because it seemed like too big a task to undertake.  The anxiety made everything seem overwhelming and my husband had to take over for me.  I expect to need help, but not for irrational reasons.

Quite honestly, I’ve done a bang-up job of recognizing symptoms over the last 9 months as they appear and asking for help immediately.  I’m extremely optimistic that should I take a turn for the worse after this baby is born, I will know it and continue to reach out to my support network.  I’ll be under the care of both my psychiatric nurse and therapist and I have the contact information from an amazing perinatal psychiatrist at MGH who specializes in postpartum mood disorders.

But.

I know that my brain overreacts to hormones and the postpartum period is an especially vulnerable time, specifically when you’ve suffered from PPD before.  PPD is a sneaky little bastard and at its worst can make you believe things that you know to not be true.  Denial is one of it’s most vicious weapons, and so I’m not going in alone.

How can you help? Please ask me how I’m doing.  Check on me.  Ask me how I’m sleeping and if I’m letting people help.  Ask me if I feel supported by my husband and if I’m connecting with my daughters. Remind me to come here and to read the blog and to take my own advice.  And if, as I hope it will be, my answer is that I’m doing well…trust me.  Let me be okay.

37 Weeks

12 Dec

37 weeks. That is all.

Ready.

10 Dec

As I drove to my 36-week appointment last week, the butterflies in my stomach started taking over.  So much so that I called my bestie because I knew her inappropriate jokes and excitement would take the edge off the anxiety.  At first I couldn’t put my finger on why I was so nervous.  The OB was planning on checking for dilation…could it be that?  No one warns you how uncomfortable that little milestone is.  But it’s a temporary pain.  I think it was something deeper.

I was no longer driving to OB appointments every four weeks, looking forward to hearing the heartbeat of a little bean I could only imagine was tucked in my belly.  Nope.  These days, No2 makes her presence known all day.  And if all the crazy baby-ninja-moves weren’t enough, I keep running my belly into the corners of kitchen counters, into doorknobs, people….basically anything at belly-level.  I’m not just a little pregnant anymore.

Reality is suddenly staring me in the face.  We’re about to have a second baby.

I know anyone would be nervous about adding another baby to their family, and my current mix of excitement and anxiety are completely normal for the last few weeks of pregnancy.  But I’m on guard.  My birth experience the first time around was traumatic in many ways.  I’ve deliberately chosen (with the guidance of my therapist) not to rehash the first time.  It no longer makes me angry to think about – I know I did the best I could with the information I had at the time, and I have a wonderful, healthy three-year-old daughter.  I’ve moved on, but the memories linger.  Rationally, I know that this time will absolutely be different.  Maybe better, maybe worse, but different.  But those memories certainly don’t make me look forward to experiencing birth again.

And then there’s the postpartum period.  The sleep deprivation.  The constant diaper-changing.  That newborn scream.  Oh, and breastfeeding.  What a disaster last time around.  But I’m confident we’ll figure all that out, just like we did before.  The only thing that makes me really nervous?  Is that the PPD will come back.  And yet….This is not my first rodeo.  This time, I have so many tools at my disposal: a neighborhood of support, a local best friend I can be myself with, the ability to ask for and accept help, my online #ppdchat army, and KNOWLEDGE.  I am a wiser, calmer, more introspective woman because of my first experience with PPD and my success battling antenatal anxiety this pregnancy.  I have learned that all you need is a tiny nugget of hope – and from that you can regain your life.  I know now how strong I am.

I don’t expect myself to get through these last few weeks of pregnancy, or childbirth, or that “fourth trimster” gracefully.  I don’t need to do any of it perfectly.  I’ve told myself all along that all I have to do is grow a baby, get her out somehow, and then feed her and keep her clean.

I can do this.  But even better?  I think I can do this and be happy.

35 Weeks

2 Dec

Only a few more weeks to go.  I have so many blog posts rumbling around in my head…about how hard it is to accept help, about how I keep from yelling at my ever-more-frustrating threenager, and about how much I love this little girl who is about to join our family.

But alas, I’m spending my free time sleeping these days.  I forgot how hard the last few weeks of pregnancy are and my hat is off (once again) to pregnant women everywhere.

I’m done.  So very pregnant and uncomfortable.  So ready to be full-term and for a little girl who will hopefully come just a smidge before Christmas.  I’m nervous about all the big changes about to rock our family.  But I’m also really good – calm, prepared, letting go of my need to have everything perfect, and feeling *normal*.  Any mom who has suffered with PPD, antenatal depression, or anxiety will understand how valuable normal is.  It’s a beautiful thing.

So I’m trying to soak up these last few weeks – because this will be our last baby – and I will miss moments like this:

Invisible Wounds

20 Nov

I recently encountered a mom who took one look at me and assumed I had it all.  And y’all?  I can’t lie.  I have a wonderful life.  I am 34 weeks pregnant with a healthy baby girl.  I am fortunate enough to work from home and for myself, doing a job I adore.  My amazing husband is currently working on his PhD at an Ivy League school, has job security, and is home almost every night for dinner and to bathe No1.  And my first-born is a thriving, energetic, bright little girl who is mostly well-behaved.

I know it must look perfect from the outside.  But like @Hopin2bHappy said to me the other night, “Sometimes I wish I could just open my brain and show them the broken parts. ”

Because sometimes?  I feel like I have no excuse to be struggling with antenatal depression and anxiety.  I think people glance at my life and see the house and the cute preggo belly and the crafts and the swept kitchen floor… and decide that I can’t possibly be struggling.  How dare I?  Look at how great my life is, how much I accomplish, how pretty I am, and how my floor and countertops are clean.  (Really, folks, I can’t tell you how often people comment that my floor is clean.  As if I’m sweeping my floor not because I have an anxiety disorder that compels me to sweep every day lest I feel out of control, but because I want to make them look bad.)  I know I shouldn’t care what they think, but it gets to me.

There are days I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt.  Guilt for having so much going right in my life and for not always being able to enjoy it.  So I remind myself of the truth.  Women struggling with PPD or PPA (or any kind of mood or anxiety disorder) are strong, successful, talented, and loving.  We have passions: we bake, we sing, we write, we craft.  We parent the best we can and reach out to help others despite our pain.  We work: for ourselves, for companies, for our families.  We are normal people dealing with an extraordinary situation.  The depression strikes despite all we have going right in our lives.  It literally prevents us from being able to enjoy our blessings and windfalls.  That’s why it’s called a mood disorder.

I realize that if you haven’t walked in my shoes, it’s impossible to truly understand where I’m coming from. I get that it’s a complicated subject, and often uncomfortable for people to discuss.  I’m managing the antenatal depression and anxiety well these days, but it is what I spend 80% of my energy doing.  They are always humming in the background, challenging my daily tasks with their lunacy.  My wounds are invisible, I know, but they are so very real and so when asked, “how are you?”  the answer is “I’m okay.  I’m in survival mode, but I’m doing okay.”  I choose authenticity, and I hope in response you choose compassion.

Disconnected…and glad.

24 Sep

When I was pregnant with DoodleBug, I lived every moment as a mommy-to-be.  I couldn’t wait to wear my first maternity shirt, I was constantly aware of the baby, and every decision revolved around my growing belly.  It’s embarrassing to admit that I aspired to be like the women on the cover of FitPregnancy Magazine.   Every movement of the baby immediately caused me to stop in my tracks, and any period of time without a movement threw me into a panic.  I was more than just a woman who was pregnant…to an extent, the pregnancy defined who I was for those 9 months.

Some of my reaction makes sense in hindsight.  We moved 6 months into the pregnancy and I had to stop working as a teacher.  The teachers out there will understand how much working in education can define who you are – I felt more than a little lost without my teacher identity.  And in a tiny apartment across the country, I had hard time feeling at home.  The pregnancy just kind of filled in the void.

But also?  I thought that was the way pregnancy was supposed to be.  All-consuming.  Magical.  Beautiful.  Perfect.  I was determined to do it right.

Now I often go for hours without thinking of Baby Girl.  The other day I actually ran my belly into a piano student because I forgot about it.  And when the cafeteria cashier at Harvard asked me “do you know what you’re having?” I answered, “pizza and some fruit.”  I was totally baffled when she repeated herself.  I feel like this time, instead of being a pregnant woman, I’m a woman who just also happens to be pregnant.

At first, my lack of intense focus on the pregnancy scared me.  I felt guilty for not paying more attention to Baby Girl’s kicks, having a name picked out, or being obsessed with planning her nursery.  I wondered if I was in denial, and the anxiety of fitting a new baby into a family that was working so well trumped the excitement.  I felt awful…guilty…almost disconnected.

I asked my girlfriends.  I confided that I was feeling a little disconnected from the pregnancy.  I shared that I was worried about how I would love two children when I was so used to loving just one.  Each one nodded along as I shared my truths.  Turns out, they all felt the same with their second baby.  They told stories of being too busy to focus on the pregnancy and being freaked about adding another little one to the family dynamic.  And one friend said something that resonated in my core: Not being worried or obsessed about the pregnancy does not mean I don’t care.

What a powerful truth.  As an anxiety sufferer, I’ve learned to equate worry with affection and concern.  I think that somewhere deep down, because I’m not as worried about this baby, I thought I thought I didn’t care as much.  But maybe, just maybe I’m just not worried as much this time around, period.  I’ve been through this before with beautiful results to show for it.  I have an amazing support network surrounding me.  We’re settled in a home we love surrounded by people who care about us.  I found a medication that works with my body. It makes sense that I’m not as worried or obsessed this time around.  It’s kind of a beautiful thing.

Maybe it’s supposed to be this way the second time around. What the pregnancy misses in attention is made up for with a calm, positive energy. When Baby Girl gets here, she’ll certainly get her fair share of attention.  And although I know it will be an adjustment, it’s one we will be able to make. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy these last few months I have with hubs and DoodleBug as a family of three.

It’s Official: This Is For Real

13 Sep

Lately I’ve been grappling with baby names.  For the life of me, I can’t seem to find a name that fits (and that hubby hasn’t vetoed).  Honestly?  I kind of hate naming babies.  It’s torture for a perfectionist to choose something so permanent, not even knowing who the little person will be.  Deep down I know it’s not that big of a deal.  It is just a name.  I’ve done it before, and it worked out well.  We love DoodleBug’s name.  Still, I’m struggling.

Family names?  Mildred.  Boyer.  Lois.  All too old-fashioned.  I mean, I’m a traditional-kind-of-name girl, but those are just a little too…stuffy.

And then there are the names that past students have ruined forever.  Amber.  Alyssa.  Natalie.  Those names will forever belong to those girls…and not in a good way.

It’s a complex process for me.

The little therapist who lives in my head (Anybody else a member of this little club?  I believe membership is free after you’ve been to actual therapy.) says that even if I found “THE” name, I still wouldn’t be able to commit.  I suppose she’s right.  Once we pick a name, it all becomes a little more real.  Somehow, even with the baby paraphernalia blanketing the house and Baby Girl kicking inside my ever-growing stomach, I manage to  live in denial about the change that is coming.  My girlfriends with two kids tell me it’s a familiar feeling – you are so busy with life, the second pregnancy ninja-sneaks by you, until BAM!  You’re holding a newborn in your arms and repeating the words “gentle, please” so often they have lost their meaning.

Am I ready for this to be real?  I suppose I don’t have much of a choice, seeing as Baby Girl is doing this:

 

The reality is that avoiding naming her isn’t keeping her from existing.  I so want her to exist, but I’m terrified at the same time.  So, I’m gonna take a deep breath, accept that this is scary and new (and that’s okay), and pick a name.  I can do this.

p.s.  How hot are the sweatpants?  I mean, really.  My belly pics just keep getting sexier and sexier.

Wordless Wednesday

7 Sep

20110907-085500.jpg

By popular demand…a pajama belly picture! Okay, so no one requested the pajamas. That part was my idea (or at least the result of laziness). I’m 23 weeks, folks! Just shy of six months!!!

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