Dear Mae

You turned seven months old this week, and your first tooth broke through. I wouldn’t have known it without accidentally brushing against something sharp as I fed you a bagel that you were begging for. You want everything mommy and daddy are eating and drinking, so we let you gnaw on bagels and hold our glasses. And then your gummy grin lights up your entire face with pleasure and mischief. Really, child, you smile with your entire body.

When I get home from work, it usually takes you a few seconds to process who I am and what it means. You slowly take me in and then your entire body wiggles and shakes with glee. Whoever is holding you, has to hold tight because you almost jump out of their arms with excitement.

You love to twist your wrist back and forth. It’s something you do when you’re happy or drinking a bottle. It looks as if you’re in a pageant half the time though! You wave and wave, mesmerized by your hand’s movement.

When you are pleased with the world, you also do a happy gargle. It’s hard to explain, but it’s my favorite sound.

You’ve learned to reach for me and dad, and you know just a little grunt will get you picked up and held.

You loooooove your outdoor swing and stroller rides. We live on the back porch and gets tons of fresh air.

I like your focus and observant nature. Nothing gets by you! Your Tutu also says that you’re patient for a baby. You can spend a good amount of time playing with one toy. This is SO your daddy’s side of you.

You have his lips and eyes, but when you smile big, I can see me for a second. I don’t care who you look like though because you’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen. We drink you in each day, Maebelle.

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Tell A Mom (Dad) Tuesday

So I know I set aside Tuesdays for praising moms, BUT I’m in the mood to praise a dad, and it’s my blog, so that’s what’s happening this week.

I know I’ve discussed my postpartum anxiety in detail on the blog, but I haven’t been able to fully explain the support my partner and husband gave to me during this time.

Jimmy and I discussed how we would handle postpartum depression when I was pregnant. We decided that it would was important for him to watch closely for signs since I probably wouldn’t admit or accept this diagnosis.

I had my first panic attack the first week of Mae’s life, but I was able to fight off more for a while, and I was sleeping, some. Jimmy and I both thought I had the normal “baby blues,” and we just kept trudging through the fog of the first few weeks. Weeks 4-6, I should have been improving, but I was getting worse, but so was Mae and our feeding issues, so we attributed my anxiety to those situations. At seven weeks postpartum, I wasn’t sleeping or eating. Jimmy would have to fix me food or remind me to eat, which he did constantly. He would take Mae on walks or outside to try to help me sleep, but I would stay awake, my mind racing. Finally, he made me tell my midwife about my lack of sleep and overwhelming worry. At this point, even when I could fall asleep, I would wake up having a panic attack.  Jimmy would hold me during these times. He’d reassure me. He couldn’t fix me, but he was there with me, and he never made me feel guilty for my anxiety even though it put a lot more pressure and responsibility on him.

Jimmy too2014-02-17 07.19.55k additional time away from work to help support me as I recovered. He knew I desperately needed sleep to recover, so I pumped breastmilk and he got up every night with Mae for six weeks. Yes, he did nights on his own for six weeks, and he never made me feel bad about it. He wanted to do this because he couldn’t stand to see me suffer, and I could feel that. I wasn’t a burden; I was his wife, his family, and he was there to care for me. Mae and I were both solely his to nurture and care for; it is more than I could have handled, and I don’t know how he did it, but I’m so thankful he did.

They say you don’t truly know a person until you observe them handle a crisis. Jimmy and I have been through what we would have considered crises before my postpartum anxiety, but this was a whole new level. And Jimmy shined. It was like he had superhuman strength; he kept trying to lift me up, again and again, and I was so heavy with worry. I can’t explain it very well because I’m in awe of his behavior still.

I had a village supporting me through this time, but I believe that I would have ended up in the hospital if it wasn’t for Jimmy. He saved me (he would say I saved myself, but I couldn’t have done the work without him), and now that I’m getting better, we can keep saving each other through this first year of parenting.

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Postpartum Mood: The In Between Place

After talking with one very candid and amazing mom, who is only six weeks postpartum, I got to thinking about the in between place, the place just beyond the baby blues. I’m still processing this idea, so consider this a “thinking out loud” post, and I welcome your comments.

First, I’ve officially come to hate the label “baby blues.” It sounds so benign and harmless to me. Here’s a list of the baby blues symptoms via the Mayo Clinic:

Signs and symptoms of the baby blues — which last only a few days to a week or two — may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Crying
  • Decreased concentration
  • Trouble sleeping

What new parent isn’t experiencing decreased concentration and trouble sleeping? Those two are totally unhelpful. This list is difficult to interpret amongst the hormones of postpartum, at least it was for me.

the gapSo what about women who are experiencing these symptoms and they don’t begin to improve until six weeks? Is this baby blues of postpartum depression? It lasted for longer than a week or two. I find from talking with women that they are often told to “wait it out” when they’re in this in between place. They aren’t having panic attacks. They are taking care of their baby. Wait a little while and it gets better. And it does for those who aren’t clinically anxious or depressed, but the waiting is torturous because you don’t know that ending is coming.

So what is this in between place? When women have fantasies about leaving and not coming back? When they can’t stop the relentless feelings of resentment about losing their old selves?

I think we need a different name for the baby blues and maybe the step between that and postpartum depression. Maybe “this-is-completely-overwhelming” for the baby blues and “I’m-teetering-on-an-emotional-cliff” for the step beyond? I don’t know how to create these labels, but I think healthcare providers need to see beyond them.

Tell A Mom Tuesdays: Mamas of Newborns

Dear Tired One,

It’s so, so hard right now. And no one, not even me, can understand it, because we block out how very hard it is. But, I’ll tell you this: I remember some of those nights vividly. I remember being on my hands and knees and rocking Mae’s cradle and almost throwing up from exhaustion. Right now, you are a warrior, and this is the true labor, these first few months.

I think of you every day, and I send you a little prayer.

Do whatever you need to get through. Eat peanut butter out of the jar. Let the laundry fill up your closet. Let the baby hang out in just a diaper all day. Guess what? You are doing an amazing job. You are doing something that feels impossible. And the new responsibility of this little being is relentless. It never turns off, even when you get twenty minutes to yourself at the grocery store. You are carrying a new weight, and it’s wonderful, but it is so heavy.

I know it doesn’t mean much right now while you are in the thick of it, but it gets better. It does. And to those people who say things like “don’t wish this time away,” they are idiots and don’t remember at all how hard this time was. You do all the wishing you need to. You hold your baby or put your baby down. You are transforming into a mother, and it takes time. Growth is always painful and beautiful.

We love you and
think you are doing amazing work.

Motherhood and Teaching

I’m three weeks into the semester. The chaos has begun. I am super busy, and I don’t yet know how to do it all, BUT I’ve found that something has changed in my teaching, or more so, the way I interact and see my students…I’ve given up control.

Mae put a big fat bomb to any beliefs I had about being in control. You think you can make me sleep? Nope! You want to breastfeed? I don’t. Oh, you think I should fall asleep in the car? Never!

And I’ve also seen first-hand how a person comes into this world with certain characteristics. He or she is an individual and a unique person, and you might as well try and enjoy it or at least don’t fight it.

This acceptance has really helped me in the classroom. It’s not that my class is chaotic now. I just don’t try and control what I can’t. Man, is it less stressful.

So thank you, Mae, for helping me give up control. Everyone is much happier this way.

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Shit Gets Real: Putting the Labor in Labor Day

Mae has her first cold. She’s pitiful and cranky. I’m tired.

Then she surprised me with a shit-plosion that she flailed herself around in, which required a shower, and she was also hungry and tired during this spray down. Fun times.

Then, as Jimmy was putting her down for the much-needed nap, I went outside to pick up and grabbed a bottle of bubbles and the top wasn’t on and bubbles spilled ALL OVER the table. Icing on the cake.

I’m now listening to 2Pac and drinking some wine and trying to get my game-face on for post-nap time.

#shitgetsreal

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WW2D? What Would 2Pac Do?