When Becoming A Parent Is Painful

postpartum depression

Remembering Postpartum Depression

We were digging through a drawer looking for something in our bedroom this weekend, and underneath the junk in the junk drawer, a piece of paper with my handwriting on it caught my eye. I didn’t recognize the paper at first, so I couldn’t remember how it got there or what was written on it.

I pulled it out of the drawer and then sunk down to the bed when I saw the date: 8/1/03.

I knew exactly what was on it. A long-ago forgotten letter I had written to myself when Girl Child was 11 months old. This was during the peak of my lingering bout of postpartum depression. All the feeling I poured out into this letter is totally foreign to me now. And yet, at the same time, achingly familiar.

 

“8/1/03

It’s been a really long time since I kept a journal. I started on my first journal (that were written in non-third grader complete sentences) here in 1986. I was 16. I kept them for several years – through college and even a little beyond, but stopped in about 1995. I just lost the desire to write about my life. When I look back on those journals, especially the early ones, I kind of laugh. It was pretty much all about boys. I wrote down poems that I liked, and song lyrics, too. Sometimes other writers could express the feelings that I was feeling.

A LOT has changed since I last kept a journal. It’s some of these changes that are compelling me to start again. I’m married to a wonderful man, and we have a little girl. She will be one in three weeks. To say that becoming a mother has changed our lives is probably the understatement of the century. I knew that I wanted a child, but I was unprepared for the rigors of what being a parent entails. It’s changed everything. I love my daughter more than anything. She is so beautiful and sweet natured. What I’m struggling with right now is that I feel somewhat like I’ve lost a sense of myself. I’m not working right now – I’ve taken the last year off. I’m finding that my days stretch out in front of me. As much as I hate to admit this, being with her is boring for me sometimes. I crave company.

Here’s the problem: I don’t have a job to focus on, I’m not a big hobby person, and I’m finding it difficult to NOT feel sort of lost. [My husband] has hobbies that take him away from home, like waterskiing, golf, etc. I don’t. I like to exercise, and want to focus on that, but I have to find childcare, which is a big pain. Juggling her schedule can be tough, too. I look at these obstacles and talk myself out of doing things that make me more ME. The weight of the responsibility feels very heavy.”

What I couldn’t find the words for, or maybe couldn’t handle seeing written on black and white, was the conflict I could feel tearing me apart inside. I had everything I had ever wanted, really. Why did I feel so trapped and heavy? Why did I feel so sad?

Shortly after writing this, I basically hit bottom. I went for several days either crying or nearly crying. I knew I needed help, so I made an appointment with my doctor. I told her, weeping, “I have everything I’ve ever wanted. Why do I feel like this?” She handed me a tissue and told me, “Because you’re depressed, and it’s not your fault.” We talked some more, and then I agreed to start taking antidepressant medication and come back for follow-up.

Within a few weeks, the fog had begun to lift, and I started to make a plan. I realized that prior to the medication, I wasn’t even able to make a plan. I was stuck.

How did I get myself back? I exercised more, I got a part-time job that involved doing something I used to love but had lost in the preceding years (singing) and started a slow but steady climb out. Looking back, I know that it was the combination of those three things that began my rise out of the dark.

Eleven years later, sitting on the edge of my bed remembering the pain in my words, I got a sense of just how far I had come. The next years weren’t without setbacks, to be sure, but I am healed. I may have times of sadness and depression again, but the difference today is that I know what to do about it: lean on my tribe. Take action. Ask for help. Reclaim something that I enjoy. Ignore the voice in my head lying to me, telling me “I can’t.”

I can. And I did.

If you’re reading this and think you may need some help, you’re not alone. Here is a link to postpartum depression resources. Please reach out.

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Growing Up GirlChild: Body Image

“Media Literacy” is a buzz term around OpEd pieces that discuss the raising of girls. I’ve been watching and learning about it for a few years now, lying in wait for the day that Girl Child begins to turn inward and worry about things like her looks, what she’s wearing, when she’ll be developing, etc. I want very much to make sure that she’s guided through the gigantic maze of body image issues. I had plenty myself, and looking back, I was FINE. Better than fine. Pretty, even. I’m hoping to spare her the same self-torture by educating her on what’s real, and what’s unequivocally NOT real.

Girls and women are assaulted on the daily with what I call “Girl Mud Flap” body:

body image

image:http://www.flickr.com/photos/notionscapital/

What’s so insidious about trying to make this body type come to life is that it’s not even real or attainable, yet it’s presented that way through manipulation. So, here are two videos I’ve shown Girl Child recently giving her a bird’s eye view of what really goes on after the pictures are taken, and how it can affect a woman’s body image.

Love your body, ladies. Not so much for what it looks like, but what it can do, be, and endure.

(video: iGirl Television)

And then here is the one I showed her where four perfectly lovely women were photographed and subsequently given The Photoshop Treatment. Watch their reactions to the changes made and how it may affect their body image going forward. (For the better!) Suddenly who they ARE crystallizes.

(video: BuzzFeedVideo)

I am hopeful that because she was born with an imperfection and now has scars (which I tell her, “scars are stories.”) that she embrace all that she’s been through, and realizes that life is too short to not accept who you are inside and out. We are all so much more than the size of our breasts and what the tag says in our jeans. My hope is to guide her through these years and help her see herself as a whole entity, not simply the sum of her parts that she has compared to an impossible standard.

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Otterbox Giveaway….and the WINNER IS…..

First, THANK YOU MY PEOPLE. First ever giveaway on my blog, and I so appreciate the entries and see your favorite birthday presents. You guys are awesome!

I took the total number of unique responses (one per commenter – those were the rules for me) and plugged that into Random.org.

Next: the winner. Drum roll please…….

random.org

 

Jo Blyskal….COME ON DOWN!

(in case you forgot…here is Jo’s comment:

jocomment

You rock, Jo. I’ll get in touch with you via email and make arrangements. Enjoy your practically-bullet-proof Otterbox, my friend!

Huge shout out to Andy Colley at AT&T Wireless for providing me this fun opportunity. :)

So fun! Stay tuned next week for my newest installment of Growing Up GirlChild.

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Otterbox Giveaways, Birthdays, OH MY!

Sometimes life gets in the way of writing about it. That’s where I’ve been.

But…I’m baack…..with a review and a Submommy first-ever Giveaway! Why? Because I turned 44 on Saturday, and I want to give someone a present. I am old(er). I have to admit, I’m starting to feel old(er). Joints and things are starting to make strange noises when I get out of bed in the morning. I’ve contemplated a case of glucosamine while wandering around Costco.

Wouldn’t trade a single moment though. My life is really good, in spite of my creaky joints. SO! In light of the fact that I’m having a mid-forties nirvana-ish moment, some lucky reader will get a present! From ME!

I won’t give someone something I’ve never tried myself, so I’ll let you know all about it first.

First, full disclosure: I received an Otterbox to try and review, and an additional one to give away from AT&T Wireless. I’ve worked with them before and really enjoyed the experience, so here I am again.

Otterbox iPhone Case (for 5/5c/5s)

The Otterbox iPhone cases are insanely durable. It covers your phone totally and completely. The only parts of the phone that aren’t covered are the front camera, ear speaker, back camera and flash. Everything else is encased in a durable plastic and then wrapped in rubber. OH! And then you get an additional half-case with a clip on it for extra

Unless you back over it with your car, (how often does that happen, really?) nothing will happen to your iPhone while it’s tucked away in the safe that is an Otterbox.

The Breakdown:

The Otterbox is not really a snap-on and go type of case. Installing your phone in the case is a multi-step process. It’s not difficult, just multi-step. There is an inner plastic grey box:

otterbox

An outer rubber case:

otterbox

And an outer plastic case with a clip. This is optional – you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to, but it comes with it.

otterbox

Assembly:

First, I would recommend cleaning your phone with a lint-free cloth first. I’ll explain why in a moment.

Next, place the grey inner case around your phone. It snaps shut. Then, the outer rubber piece wraps around the grey inner case. (Pink is a great color, huh? Hint hint) The front screen is covered in clear plastic, hence why cleaning your phone before installation is a good idea. Little pieces of lint on the screen get trapped in the Otterbox and serves the sole purpose of annoying you. Cleaning it first solves this problem.

All of your phone’s controls are covered but accessible, including your screen. The only the exception is the bottom speakers.

The Good:

After I had it all put together, I dropped it. (On purpose!) It bounced. I appreciate a good bounce. It is most definitely durable and your phone is very protected. I really liked that the plastic that covers the screen is quite responsive. They’ve done a great job of making that feel and respond as if there wasn’t anything covering the touch screen.

I also really like that while the Otterbox isn’t waterproof, it is water resistant, and judging by the torrential downpours we’ve had this week, it was nice to have the extra protection for the weather. The case feels really solid in your hands, but it doesn’t impede the use of the phone.

The Maybe Needs Work:

The biggest critique I have of the phone is the home button. It’s covered completely by the rubber case, and in the iPhone 5s that I have, it renders the fingerprint scanner useless. That’s a nifty feature that I really enjoy using and the Otterbox doesn’t allow for it the way that it is designed now.

This is a really good, solid  case that you know you want.

Now: the giveaway

To enter, please leave a comment, telling me what your favorite birthday present you’ve ever received. I will select a winner using the random number generator on Random.org. (Appropos, yes?) WINNER CHOSEN ON FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21st.

 

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I Think They’re Becoming Friends

friendship

When we decided to have a second child, we weren’t sure what to expect. I remember being frightened when we found out Boy Child was on his way. I thought, “Can we handle this? Two? Or will I turn into a referee?” SubBro and I never fought too badly, but I had heard horror stories of siblings who hated one another growing up and have never managed to forge a decently healthy relationship with each other. It was one of my biggest fears as we welcomed our little boy to the family.

There has been plenty of refereeing since Boy Child arrived, but something has changed recently. Something beautiful.

They’re becoming friends.

Not just friendly. Actual friends. The kids went ice skating over Thanksgiving break, and Girl Child helped Boy Child along the entire time, watching out for him, assisting him when he fell, and really made sure he was doing well and having fun.

Over Christmas break, Girl Child woke up on a Saturday morning screaming because she realized that there was a giant spider right next to her head. She had a near panic attack. Can’t say I wouldn’t have, either. Boy rushed in, saying, “it’s ok! It’s ok! I’ll get the spider! Are you ok? I’ll get it!” And proceeded to comfort her for the next ten minutes. I ended up getting the spider.

Sidenote: if you knew me 15 years ago, you realize what a big deal it is for me to get the spider all by myself. Because SPIDER. Also? HUGE SPIDER.

Girl said recently, “My best friends are E, A, and my brother.”

Boy came home from school today with a book he made titled, “My Heroes.” Page one? Girl Child. He drew them holding hands. He wrote, “My sister is my hero because she plays with me.”

I’m not delusional enough to think that simply because we’re having a good stretch of getting along that this will continue indefinitely. I’m sure there is a healthy amount of refereeing my future. But there is something growing out of the fighting and the yelling and hurt feelings: love.

This fills me with hope. Because, as much as I dislike the the realization that I won’t see the entirety of their lives – I won’t be here to see them grow old – it comforts me to know that we have planted the seeds for them to be there for each other. It gives me peace to know that long after we aren’t there for them any more, they’ll have each other. Neither one will ever be truly alone in the world.  Just like my brother and I, they have a shared experience in their childhood. That’s a powerful connection that can sustain them, even if they aren’t in physical proximity.

They’re friends.

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Relax About It! (and an update on Girl Child)

relax about parenting herI’ve been on the resolution merry-go-round before. I finally decided to just get off and stay off. There’s something about a new year that lures you into thinking, “This time it’ll be DIFFERENT.”

What I’ve started to figure out is that drastic begets frantic begets nowhere.

With that in mind, I’m making this goal for myself. (Notice I said “goal,” not “resolution.”) My goal?

Relax.

That’s it. Relax. And I’m not saying relax in a way that means I’m beachside with a fruity drink. I mean relax about trying to push things in my direction without assessing the actual direction things may already be going. I know this will make me less frantic. And frantic is never good.

What brought this on was all the events of the previous month, and what’s been happening with Girl Child.

Things have been status quo with her for awhile, with a few hiccups here and there. After being diagnosed with sleep apnea and  Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder last year, the course of action we decided to take was to address the DSPD with Bright Light Therapy and pursue the apnea relief with orthodontics. We tried a CPAP for her and she just wasn’t able to tolerate it. Her jaw placement is contributing to her apnea, so, knowing that she would need orthodontics anyway, we decided to go that direction. The long slow solution. She still has trouble now and then with the sleeping, be it falling asleep or staying asleep, but for the most part we are able to put that back on track without a whole lot of effort.

Correction: if it involves me having to drag my poor tired bottom out of bed at the not-even-light-out-yet-dawn, then it does actually require effort.

So, Girl Child got braces on last spring, and a few weeks ago was fitted with a twin block appliance. Fast forward to the week before Christmas, and her sleep medicine doctor sees the placement of the appliance in her mouth and wonders if it might be pushing her tongue back, thus exacerbating the apnea.

This caught me off guard. So off guard, in fact, that I got that horrible panicky “gotta fix this now” feeling.

When I see a problem on the horizon, I have an overwhelming desire to get it fixed RIGHTTHISSECOND. And yet, every time I push all of us to get “it” – whatever “it” is – fixed, I find road blocks in my way at every turn, keeping me from what I think  is the right direction/fix/hurry-up-and-make-it-go-away bandaid.

This situation was no exception. I hustled around getting her a sleep study appointment, an additional orthodontist appointment, and went into my usual “Fix It Mom” mode. Why I slip that switch when faced with these types of dilemmas I don’t really know. The thing is, it’s never been “fix it quick” with Girl Child. I’ve never slipped into Fix-It-Now mode and made any real progress whatsoever. Her life has unfolded relatively nicely, with guidance and a fair amount of stress, but she’s a happy kid. With pre-packed luggage, mind you, but a happy child. In fact, she even said to us at dinner one night when all of this was swirling around her, “You know, I have all this stuff, like the apnea, and the hearing and stuff, but I’m really happy.”

Point.Taken.

After talking with SubHub, I cancelled the sleep study appointment and just let her have a chance to relax herself over Christmas vacation without me pushing a solution on the situation like I so badly want to do. A solution will reveal itself in time, and I will be able to handle it and guide her appropriately with patience.

Life is teaching me a lesson. Apparently I need to have the lesson taught repeatedly. I DO learn eventually.

Relax about it.

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Another School Day, Another Shooting

I wrote this last year after the Newtown tragedy.

In light of today’s events in Colorado, I wanted to post it again. We can talk all we want about gun control; we can argue until we’re blue in the face about whose fault it is, what’s wrong with kids, what’s wrong with parents, what’s wrong with us…..as if there was one simple answer to the layers of sadness and desperation that surround us. Maybe there is a simple answer, but it won’t be legislated or broadcast on cable news in a split-screen debate.

There Is No Absolute

Children, who were essentially the same age as my children, were gunned down in school yesterday. We scream and cry, “how could this happen?” As parents, our greatest fear bubbled violently to the surface of our consciousness on Friday, and we are left fumbling in the dark for answers.

I don’t think there are any.

How could there be? It defies logic to any person whose brain is working the way it’s supposed to. And there’s the divide: brains working the way they’re supposed to.

I’ve seen so many say, “Gun control is the answer!” I’ve seen others say, “Evil reigned yesterday because we have become a Godless society!”

But the raw, ugly truth is that there is no absolute solution. You can’t force a person to believe in God. You can’t legislate sanity or courtesy. People are messy. We are all different.

At the same time, though, here’s what we CAN do: Love one another. Think before we speak. Teach civility, live civilly, and act on the impulse to reach out to others who are hurting. The people we reach out to may not reciprocate. Reach anyway. It’s worth the effort. People, no matter what their circumstance, are worth the effort, regardless of whether or not your efforts are appreciated. Try. Teach our children to try.

Peace in all of our hearts and minds will come when we truly understand that the essential nature of human beings is connection. Love combined with action drives out darkness. The person you avoid because they are so very different than you, could be the person who needs you the most.

“The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.”

~Mother Theresa

 

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Growing Up Girl Child: Let’s Talk About Dating Violence (#2 in my little series)

Last time we discussed When Should I Start Dating? I think this naturally lends itself to “What Should I Do If Dating Goes Wrong?”

Increasingly, studies are showing that dating violence happens to 1 in 10 girls when they are in high school. HIGH SCHOOL. Ugh. Efforts are being made to introduce the subject earlier, before dating truly begins. You know, middle school. Where Girl Child is right now. I don’t think I’m quite ready to show Girl Child this video, and I don’t think she’s quite ready to see it, but I think it’s worth putting out in the world and sharing it. I believe both girls AND boys should watch when they are ready to take it in.

Take the time to watch this, please.

And you thought 2 am feedings were sucky.

 

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On This Week’s Episode Of Things That Only Happen To Us: Pants

noshavepantshunt

Wooly mammoth no-shave man hunt for pants.

We’re Thankful For Pants

We, SubFam, decided that we would do something different for Thanksgiving this year. We’ve never left town just the four of us for a holiday before. We’ve been married for 14 years, and together for 17 and always stayed around with our extended families for the holiday. We thought it would be fun and different to spend some time together, relaxing, hanging out, and just being a little family of four.

Everything was going exactly as planned. We left early Thursday morning, after we had the kids pack up their bags the night before. Shortly before leaving, we went through our usual “going out of town”checklist. We were right on schedule to make our dinner reservation at McMenamins Old St. Francis School. Buffet. Yum.

Note: I’ve been trying to be less helicopter-y, as I’ve mentioned before. So, with minimal intervention or assistance, I let the kids pack their own bags. I asked them, “did you pack _____?” etc. All answers were yes.

We start our little road trip, in our comfy travel clothes, which for the kids includes things like jean leggings and basketball shorts. All is well. Or so we thought.

Getting changed for our nice dinner, BOTH of the kids realize that NEITHER ONE OF THEM PACKED PANTS. Yep. That’s right. No pants. A four-day road trip without any pants, in 25 degree weather.

See? That’s the kind of stuff that only happens to us. Like the great car keys vs. the tree lot of 2008.

For some crazy reason, Girl Child had a random pair of nice leggings in the car already. We haven’t figured out how they got there or why, but at this point: whatever. Pants.

Which leaves Boy Child hanging out in second-hand basketball shorts.

I realize that we live in a pretty casual part of the country, but used basketball shorts at a nice Thanksgiving dinner is pushing it, even for Oregon.

So we race into the town where we are having our nearly-pantsless dinner and thankfully the Fred Meyer, which carries clothes, is still open, for another 20 minutes. For any time I complained about stores being open on Thanksgiving: consider me humbled.

The extra bonus? Black Friday pricing.

I’m shopping in the kid’s section and I get a text from SubHub: “Pick up a six-pack of beer while you’re there.”

Yes, friends, I wandered around the store looking for pants and beer on Thanksgiving. I can’t make this stuff up.

And yes, Boy Child wore the same pants all weekend long. Thursday through Sunday.

Can’t wait for Christmas and what wardrobe malfunctions might be awaiting us then.

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Mission: Growing Up Girl Child (Part 1 of a Series)

Girl Child has reached an age where her emotional and mental maturity are starting to come together. And then you know what happens? Hormones. That’s what.

We are keeping an eye on what we think she is ready to hear and know about, and what she isn’t. This is harder than it sounds. We’re pretty open with her about all things human, but parsing out complicated details as we think she’s able to process them is a balancing act. She’s in the world. We want to help keep her innocence but not her naiveté.

Parenting is hard, yo.

Growing Up Girl Child

So, I’m starting a little series on this blog to help me: Growing Up Girl Child. I’m combing around the internet looking or sites and videos that I post here, and will hopefully serve as a reference of sorts for her (and possibly anyone who stumbles on this blog) that she can utilize.

First up: “When Should I Start Dating?”

I’m going to let the good kids at Blimey Cow help out with this one. Blimey Cow is comprised of two brothers and their friends (one brother is married, so she is part of the fun, too.) They post videos weekly on a variety of topics that are great for young people. They’re pretty good for older people too, because let’s face it, I need all the help I can get with this little project.

Visit their sponsor, while you’re at it, so they don’t send me a cease and desist order for sharing the video: Audible.com.

Stay tuned for more tween growing up fun. When she asks me tough questions, like, “Mom? Why did Adolf Hitler kill people?” Or, “Mom? I don’t understand what’s going on with me. Why do I feel like THIS?” I can actually come up with a half-way decent answer. Maybe. Hopefully.

Parenting is hard.

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