Ours: A story of bringing home the first baby

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I can’t. That’s what I thought.

I can’t.

We pulled in the driveway over four years ago, me in the back seat with this new foreign person, aching in every way. And I thought those words. I thought, I can’t.

I asked his Daddy to take the baby in without me, to introduce him to the dog without the excitement of me, the dog’s everything, in the picture. So I stood outside and shivered in the heat alone, looking around at everything being different than it had been just a few days before, all overly bright and textured from the pain pills. Standing there in my suddenly roomy maternity shirt, I shivered. Empty.

Ryan came out and said everything was going fine. The dog sniffed the baby and the baby slept. There were no big events as I had imagined.

I walked up the steps, not quickly because of the surgery, and passed through the door. I looked down at the sleeping child in the car seat. Our child. My child. In our house. My house.

I walked slow circles in our tiny living room, trying to figure out what to do. My Mom and my husband said that I should take a nap, but I don’t do naps. I just nodded and repeated over and over that they should get me if the baby needed to eat, and I disappeared into our room, knowing I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I sat down, frozen and staring, thinking and thinking.

The baby, I thought.

Our baby.

My baby.

Our life.

My life.

Different. Changed.

It was all new and foreign and big and too much. What was ours and mine and we and us was over and done and final and past.

There was a new ours and a new us that I didn’t yet know and it scared me.

I sat on the bed and shook with fear and tears like never before. Until I was empty. And then I called for him, my husband. The we from before. I told him the truth. That I was sad and alone and hurting and scared. That this wasn’t anything like the movies or the books and that I was guilty and ashamed for feeling so empty and alone. I told him that I didn’t know what to think of the fact that my life would never ever even once be the same again. That I was grieving that. That I was sorry. Sorry that I didn’t know I would need to do that. Sorry that I wasn’t prepared for it. Sorry that I felt sorry.

Then that tiny boy, that little sleeping guy opened his big blue eyes and asked to eat with screeching sounds. And I loved him deeply despite my shaking and shivering. So I sat for the first time on the bed that was once ours and mine with this new baby on top of that macaroni shaped pillow thing that everyone said I needed to have. I struggled to get him all lined up and open-mouthed to eat.

I struggled. And I loved him enough to share something that was mine and ours and now his.

Me.

::::

Tonight, over four years later, he was pounding on the door on those same steps I walked up slowly when we first brought him home. After playing outside with Daddy and his brother and the dog, he was screeching and wanting me. He cried, Mama! Mama! until I ran for him and opened the door. I was there like before and I asked him, What sweetie? Why the fuss?

Mama, I needed you. My hands are cold.

So I pulled off his mittens and I covered his hands with my own warm ones. Because they are mine and they are his and they are ours.

And I can.

 

{This post was originally published at The Extraordinary Ordinary in 2009 when the now almost ten year old boy, the firstborn, was just four years old. He continues to glow with magic and we are ours.}

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Passing the Bed

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He has asked so many questions that don’t have answers and I’m just so tired. I ask him to help his brother. I say, “He’s going to get hurt, can you help him?”

“Why will he get hurt?”

I answer through gritted teeth, “He just will! Just help him!” Then he sighs and his big blue eyes look sad and I wish I could find the strength for more patience and less surprising anger.

When I walk into my room to get dressed, I pass the crumpled bed and want to get in it. I want to curl up on my side and cry. I’m not sure why, but I want to do it. I start to walk that way and then I see her, the me in my mind’s eye, on her side in the bed where I am not. She looks like she’s repeating history. She is carrying this disease and she thinks she isn’t and then sometimes she thinks she is this disease. She is me and I am her and she is them and she is not.

She is so afraid that she’s given it to them.

I know that if I were to walk in and find her curled there, I’d think she should get up. I’d think she should shake it off. It’s not her fault she’s there, but she needs to get up, I’d say. Then I’d wonder if some of it is her fault, because I know memories of ridiculous choices can flood in and bring with them the funk, curling her up.

So I get dressed. I wash my face of yesterday’s make-up and I put one foot in front of the other to make sure that I’m not her or them or her past. I fight it because I know that when I do, it gets a little better.

I fake it sometimes, but strangely, most of the time I’m truly reveling in the buried joy. The miraculous happiness that comes through the eyes of my boys. We make a hideout in a closet and they are thrilled with their flashlights in the dark. I well up with joy because they are who they are and I believe we can change this. Even if it doesn’t stop, it can be lighter, it can get better. Even if they feel it, they can learn that it doesn’t define them. I will tell them. They can learn from the truths we speak over them…

You are lovely. You are worthy. You are good. Just exactly as you are. This heavy weight of sadness, it can never be who you are.

I can say it with words from my mouth, and I can say it by walking away from the bed, uncurled and dressed.

“Can we go to the park?”

He asks this carefully, and I say yes even though I don’t want to say yes. I put one foot in front of the other and he rides with training wheels beside me. He says, “You’re great, Mom.” Then through my tightening throat where my heart wells up with this mercy, I say, “So are you, little man.”

“I know,” he says.

I laugh with unleashed joy and I think, please keep knowing…please keep knowing…please…

We are sometimes sadness, but mostly we are grace.

 

{This post was originally published on The Extraordinary Ordinary. What I knew was that I needed to keep going, for my kids and for myself. What I had not yet realized was that there is no shame in needing help in order to keep going. Not long after the publishing of this post, I quit self-medicating with alcohol, I started taking medication for depression, and I went to a whole lot of counseling. Passing the bed got easier, and I am so grateful for the help,  sobriety, and the peace and joy that exists in surrender.}

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Postpartum Depression: A Feminist Issue

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Do not dismiss postpartum depression with a shrug and an eye roll, Ms. Albert.  It affects one out of every seven women.  Ms. Elisa Albert wrote a book After Birth that I will definitely not be reading.  Her main premise is that women do not have enough support for the choices that they are making.  I wholeheartedly agree with that statement and the overall theme of her book.  Based on an article with the Guardian, she then contradicted the primary theme of her book as she heaped judgement and shame on women who choose medication as an option to treat their postpartum mood and anxiety disorder.

I recognize the responsibility that I have as a Warrior Mom and as a mental health advocate.  I am not a trained professional.  I offer support and encouragement to moms who are struggling.  I share what worked for me to simply encourage a mom who is struggling to have as many options as possible.  Medication saves lives; my medication saved mine.  My medication was one of the tools in my toolbox.  I utilized many tools in my toolbox to help me recover: therapy, online peer support through Postpartum Progress, support from my friends and family, exercise, proper nutrition, sleep, journaling, singing, and sharing my story with other moms.

Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders manifest themselves differently because each mom is unique.  What worked for me may work for a friend, but it may not.  Making blanket statements does a disservice to all moms.  Ms. Albert made this statement.  “The only people I know who did just fine in the postpartum period are those who score the triumvirate: well cared for in birth, surrounded by supportive peers, helpful elders to stay with them for a time.” Guess what Ms. Albert? I had all of that, and I still struggled.  I spent my entire pregnancy anxious and depressed.  With time and perspective my family and I have been able to pinpoint how these symptoms manifested themselves immediately after I became pregnant.  My antenatal depression manifested itself in irritability and rage.  I had support from both my mother and my mother-in-law while I was on maternity leave for three months.  I had a supportive network of friends and family.  I still struggled for seventeen months until I finally got the help I so desperately needed.  My baby girl was seven months by the time I realized that I was not getting better.  Do not speak for me or for the community of Warrior Moms.  Let us tell our stories.

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A Tale of Two Moms: Postpartum Rage

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postpartum depressionI hid this side of my struggle with postpartum depression from everyone but my immediate family.  My postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety manifested itself in rage.  Postpartum rage made feel like I suffered from a split personality disorder. On the outside, I appeared mostly together, just a somewhat stressed and frazzled new mom.  Cut me off in traffic, and I would go from zero to sixty in two seconds.  Rage felt visceral to me.  I could feel the heat building up inside of my body.  The tips of my ears and my cheeks would flush with anger and frustration.  My vision became like a tunnel; I could only focus on the object of my rage.  I could feel my heart pounding in my ears.  I felt the need to hit something, anything.  I threw remotes, books and phones.  I slammed doors and drawers.  My rage turned me into an out of control monster.  I could barely recognize myself after one of these bouts of rage.  Anything and everything could set me off.  My poor husband, my sweet three-year old and my infant daughter took the brunt of my wrath.  I yelled and screamed until my throat was hoarse.  I had no idea at the time that these feelings were symptoms of postpartum depression.  I believed that I was simply a horrible person who did not deserve the beautiful family that she had.

I felt like a pot constantly about to boil over.  Everywhere I looked, I saw disorder and chaos.  If my husband forgot to set something out that I needed in the morning like the bottles for the baby, that minor infraction was enough to make me lose my temper entirely.  I felt completely unhinged when I was in the midst of one of my rages.  I truly thought I was losing my mind.

My lowest point came when I pushed my husband in front of my oldest daughter.  I wanted to provoke him into rage like I was raging.  After that incident, I realized how out of control my rage was.  I felt sick to my stomach realizing that my actions spoke louder than my words to my preschooler.  How could I expect her not to hit if I did it?  I was wracked with guilt and worry that I was damaging my child.  I have not hit anyone since that time.  I felt so much guilt and shame for my behavior that day.  I regret that explosion more than anything.

I felt like I needed to rage and be angry against the whole world.  I felt so much loathing and self-hatred.  I could not understand what was happening to me as the rage took hold of me.  I felt powerless in the grasp of my rage.  I always dissolved into tears of shame and guilt after these blinding rage fits. Medication helped take the edge off of my rage.  Another key component in managing the rage was therapy. I had to put in the hard work to recognize the early signs of rage that threatened to overwhelm me.   I needed to identify the emotions that were my triggers.  I used exercise to help manage both the anxiety and the rage.  I welcomed company when I struggled with anxiety.  When rage started to build, I needed to remove myself from the situation.  Kickboxing, weight lifting and running were fantastic outlets for my rage.

Postpartum rage nearly destroyed my relationship with my husband.  I lost myself within that rage, and I needed to repair the damage that I did.  My husband and I went to counseling separately, and we went to counseling together.  It took love, support, and lots of communication to repair the cracks in the foundation of our marriage.   My husband reassured me that we pledged to love each other in sickness and health. That season of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety was my season of sickness.  Postpartum rage brought me to my knees, and it threatened to consume me in its wake.  I rose again, armed with compassion for myself and others, knowledge of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, and the belief that I would be well.

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