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can’t get it out of my head

You know when you have a song stuck in your head and you can’t for the life of you get it out?  You find yourself humming it while you’re washing dishes, singing it off-key in the shower, and hearing the lyrics run in your head when you’re trying desperately to fall asleep.  There are two things that are really annoying when this happens.  The first is that it is never a good song by someone you like.  For me, it always has to be Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus or someone equally annoying and untalented.  Sorry, not a Belieber. The second thing, which is completely a result of the first, is that I never know all of the words.  Sometimes I only know a line or two, so I am singing the same two horribly written lines over and over and over until I just start making up my own verses.

Something my therapist said at our last session has been running on a continuous loop for over a week now.  Except it was said by someone I respect and trust.  Which makes it much harder to ignore.

We were discussing how to put a plan in place so that I could keep my depression and anxiety in check when I return to work full-time in the fall.  She asked me to think about what I think is going to be the hardest part about that transition.  The tears started streaming down my face immediately, surprising both of us.  I answered without any hesitation:  “Missing out on my daughter’s life.”

That’s when she said it.  “You have a lot of balls up in the air right now.  And you’ll have even more once you go back to work.  You have to decide which balls to drop.  You can pick up the work ball again.  You can pick up the education ball again.  But you can never get back your daughter’s childhood.”

Ok, I’m no detective, but it sounds like she’s trying to tell me not to go back to work, right?  Which is confusing me because it was never a question.  I’ve always said I’m going back to work.  I love what I do.  And I need the structure and routine to keep triggers at bay.  I’m going back to work.  Right?

But now she has me questioning everything I thought I knew.  Am I doing the wrong thing?  Am I dropping the daughter ball?  Is that selfish?  Am I going to completely regret my choice?

So then in my mind, I used her own words against her.  She told me once that, with the exception of a very few, no choice or decision is permanent.  I can change my mind.  If I go back to work, and I realize it’s no longer the right thing for me, then I can make a change.  Because the only thing worse that could happen is that I don’t go back at all.  And then I will always wonder what if.  So for now, I’ll keep all of my balls (this is starting to border on inappropriate), and see how good I am at juggling.  I can always change my mind.

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there’s good news and there’s bad news

Four beautiful words.  “You have recovered well.”  Spoken by my therapist to me on Monday night. I let out a huge, deep breath that I didn’t even know I was holding in.  I had felt that this was true, but I needed to hear someone else say it, someone who knows what she’s talking about.

And she did.  Four months after I started going to therapy for PPD/anxiety, I was told I have recovered well.  Four months ago I wouldn’t have believed anyone if they said I could be this person again.  I felt so unhappy, so desperate, so undecidedly not me, that I couldn’t imagine things getting any better.  You know when you have a really terrible cold, and your head is all foggy, and you see people who are well and you can’t remember what it feels like not to be sick?  I had forgotten how good it feels to be me. To be happy.

She let this sink in, giving me an encouraging smile, before she dropped the bomb.  “I think we can start weaning you off sessions until you go back to work.  Because that may trigger your depression and anxiety again.”

My initial, free-association thought was that “weaning” takes on a whole other meaning once you become a mom and you really can’t go back to using the word in a discussion that doesn’t involve infant sleep or breastfeeding.  But my second thought was a cold, hard realization:  this will never be over.

I sat there, a little stunned and a lot frustrated.  I have recovered well.  Remember?  I’m done with this.  But the rational part of me was there whispering that I had known this all along.  Depression and anxiety is something I can overcome.  It is something I can defeat.  But it will always be a war that I have to fight. This was just the first battle.

And once I stopped being mad at the messenger, I realized that if I was being honest with myself, going back to work is already triggering my depression and anxiety. 

You haven’t seen a post from me in a while.  That’s because I’m in the throes of writing my thesis for my Master’s degree and preparing to teach a brand new course in the fall. And if I’m not working on one of those two things or on mommy duty, I am so overwhelmed by trying to find balance in my new life that I shut down and can’t accomplish anything.  Did I really think it would get easier come September?

I have recovered well.  And part of recovering well is realizing that I have to make the choice every day to not give in to my anxious thoughts.  To not let “working mom guilt” overtake me.  To be happy.  To get help when I need it.  To be honest with myself and those who love me about what I’m feeling.  To make decisions that are right for me, my husband, and our daughter.  To hold on to the me that I have recaptured and to fight for her every day. 

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half a year already?

My dearest girl,

You are six months old today.  I know in the large scheme of things that’s really not that old, but it feels like it.  I am so torn.  Part of me is so excited for all the new things you are learning and doing daily, and for getting to know more about your personality, which has started coming out in spades.  But another part of me is just sad.  There are things I miss already, and no matter how hard I try, time is going so quickly.

My therapist told me a few sessions ago that with each stage or milestone you reach, I have to grieve what was before I can be proud or joyful for what now is.  As always, she is completely right. 

The feeding session before bed has become our most sacred time together.  Since you don’t nurse at all anymore, feeding has been….interesting.  You want to have sole control over the bottle, but you aren’t quite strong enough to hold it yourself yet.  You want to eat, but you also want to see and observe everything that is going on around you. You, just like me, cannot sit still and meals are no exception.  You play air guitar and do bicycle kicks.  And your new favorite thing is blowing bubbles, which for some reason you love to practice when you have a mouthful of milk.  So it usually takes you about forty minutes to drink your bottle, and you and I both need an outfit change by the end. 

But the last feed of the day is different.  You’re tired, and more than once you’ve fallen asleep because you are so worn out from keeping that little body moving all day long.  You let your body fully relax for the first time all day, and instead of trying to wrestle the bottle away from me, you simply hold onto my fingers.  When I burp you, you nuzzle your face into my neck and I breathe you in.  And the only thing you want to look at is my eyes.  We stare at each other the whole time.  There are points throughout the day when I am so overwhelmed by my love for you that my chest physically aches.  And, recently, these moments we share at the end of the day bring tears to my eyes.  I snuggle you a little longer, knowing that soon you won’t need me to feed you at all. 

During these times, I sing to you, or cover you in kisses, or we talk about all the fun things we did that day.  I look at you and wonder what you will look like when you are older.  Who you will be. Sometimes I whisper to you the things I want for you.  And so my little one, on your six month birthday, here is what I hope. 

I hope you are intellectually curious.  Compassionate, friendly, welcoming, accepting, and kind.  Willing to stand up for others, especially those who cannot stand up for themselves.  Willing to stand up for yourself and your beliefs.  Confident.  Joyful.  Open to new experiences, people, cultures, and ideas.  Generous.  Thankful. Independent. Hardworking. Gracious.  Fun-loving and carefree. 

I hope you are not an anxious worrywart.  I hope you are a reader.  I hope you are creative.  Ambitious.  Optimistic.  Trustworthy. Willing to laugh at yourself.  Not afraid. Passionate. Self-aware. Secure. Determined. Un-self-conscious.  I hope you laugh. A lot.

Most of all, I hope you choose to be happy.  It seems simple enough my dear, and you may wonder why someone wouldn’t choose to be happy.  But so many people do.  Choose to be happy with your body.  Be happy with your decisions.  Be happy with your circumstances.  Let go of what you cannot control.  Let life amaze you.  And know that wherever you are, whatever you do, I will love you.  And being with you will always be my favorite part of the day.

“For what it’s worth … it’s never too late…to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”  

                                                                                –The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

All my love,

Momma 

P.S.  Don’t worry.  I’ll eat half a cake in your honor today.  Being a mom is all about sacrifices. 

3

tug-of-war

This week, I had to go back to work for a few days.  On the first day, it was extremely hard. My baby girl was bouncing happily in her Jumperoo, smiling and drooling and being her absolutely adorable self.  I must have said good-bye to her five times.  Twelve kisses weren’t enough.  Three cuddles weren’t enough.  I had to get in enough to last me nine hours!  When I got in my car, there were tears in my eyes.

When I got to work, I had a really hard time getting into the swing of things.  I felt like I couldn’t remember how to do my job, and tasks took three times as long as they would have back in December.  But, like riding a bike, it came back after a few hours, and I hit my stride. I found myself energized, excited about using those parts of my brain after a six month hiatus.  I realized how much I had missed working.

But it wasn’t the same.  I found myself stealing glances at the clock, wondering if she was taking a good nap or what books she read after her bottle.  I kept turning on my phone just so I could see her face light up my screen.  Every time I did, I couldn’t help but smile.  I wanted to kiss those little cheeks and squeeze those not-so-little thighs.  I had to swallow the lump in my throat multiple times.  I missed her.

I couldn’t wait to get home.  I got to go rescue her from her crib when she woke up from her last nap, and my heart melted as she broke out into a wide grin and started to giggle when she saw me.  I spun her around in circles and held her close and sang silly songs.

But I was tired.  Really tired. My husband had to leave for a meeting with a client.  I tried to breastfeed, but my girl wasn’t having it.  She threw a fit, thrashing her legs and refusing to eat.  I was tired, and frustrated, and my patience after a long day was pretty much gone.  I quickly filled a bottle, which she happily grabbed and sucked down in record time. 

I couldn’t wait for bed time.  I had some ideas I wanted to work on before going into work the next day.  I found myself staring at the clock, wondering how it was possible that only three minutes had passed.  I felt exhausted, and confused.  All I wanted all day was to come home to my daughter.  And now that I was there, I could barely focus on her. 

Ever since my post on the pause button, I’ve really been trying to be present in the moment.  It’s hard.  I wasn’t even sure how to do it in the beginning.  And now that I am preparing myself to go back to work full-time, I’m finding it near impossible.

When I’m at work, I’m thinking about my baby.  When I’m with my baby, I’m thinking about work, or I’m too exhausted from work to think about much of anything but how warm and soft my bed is.

So, I ask you, working moms, how do you handle the tug of war?  How do you find ways to be present in the moment when you feel guilty, torn, exhausted? 

And, please, tell me, it gets better, right?   

0

squeals of delight

With the exception of one time, baby girl has skipped right over laughing and gone straight to squealing.  Whenever she is happy/excited/possibly just plain bored, the toes start wiggling, the arms start flailing, and she lets loose with high-pitched squeals.  The first few times she did it, the noise (and probably the volume) shocked her so much she immediately burst into tears. 

My husband and I love it.  I must not smile enough, because the past few days my face has hurt from grinning widely as I watch my girl enjoy life so much that her body can’t even stand it.

But it got me thinking:  when was the last time I squealed with delight?  When was the last time I experienced such unbridled joy that I couldn’t even contain myself?  When was the last time I saw any adult exhibit elation with their whole being?

Maybe that’s also why I love watching her so much.  Because, for me, that kind of innocent enthusiasm, truly being exhilarated by life, is gone.  Why do we lose that?  Is it because, for babies, everything is so fresh and so new, and as you get older, no experience offers you that same kind of sensation, of originality, that those first few years do?  Are we jaded?  Self-conscious?  Too busy?

And how do we get it back?  I don’t know the answers to my questions, but when I see my daughter feel nothing but pure happiness, I cannot help but want her to always feel that way, and for me to feel that way too. 

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for my husband

My dearest baby girl,

When it comes to the dad gene, your dad has it in spades.  He’s just one of those guys who was born to be a dad.  He loves it.  He would rather spend time at home with me and you than do anything else.  And one day you will realize how truly rare that is. 

As I’m writing this, you are five months old and we are gearing up for the first Father’s Day (which you have already overshadowed because it is also the day of your dedication service at church, but your dad thinks this is the perfect way to celebrate his first year officially in the dad club). 

You are already like your dad in so many ways.  Some of them I love. You both have higher than average body temperatures (it must be nice to not need a sweater in July), you like to sleep with your hands behind your head, and you both think he’s the most hilarious person on the face of the earth.  Some things I wish you hadn’t inherited from him.  His love of country music and his dislike of Target for starters (both break my heart).  And what is it with you wanting to watch CNBC all the time?  Feels almost traitorous. 

And then there are the things that I hope you get from him.  Like his uncanny ability to pack the trunk Mary Poppins style when I can’t even fit half of the luggage in there.  Or his killer calf muscles. 

I hope you have his confidence.  I hope you have his willingness to try new things without fear.  I hope you have his ability to walk into any room and feel at ease, able to talk to any person about anything.  I hope you have his work ethic and drive.  I hope you have his worry-free approach to life.  I hope you have his patience. 

I hope you have his desire to know as much as you can about as many different topics as possible.  I hope you have a variety of interests and hobbies and skills like him.  I hope you have his ability to see the positive in situations, to handle obstacles with a clear head, to not let the unexpected fill you with dread.  I hope you have his way of looking at the world as completely open to you.

There are things I want you to learn from him.  Watch closely.  Learn how to change a tire and put in hardwood floors and take care of things yourself (it’ll save you a lot of money when you realize the shape your first house is in too).  

Learn how to make a person feel like the most important in the room just by your smile.  Learn that you can have a successful career and still make family your first priority.  Learn that it’s ok to be silly, even in public, and that what other people think really doesn’t matter. 

Learn what a husband should really be.  Watch him reach for my hand whenever we are out.  Watch him kiss me as soon as he gets home and tell me he loves me randomly throughout the day.  Watch him tell me I’m beautiful and offer to make dinner and let me sleep in and surprise me with small gifts and indulge my Target addiction.  Remember these things when you make your choice. 

I read the other day that the single most important relationship in determining the kind of person a woman will be is the one she has with her father.  I spent that day really studying you two.  The impromptu dance party he threw when you got really cranky, the funny faces and noises he made while changing your poopy diaper that ruined the fifth outfit of the day.  The kisses he gave you as you two played on your activity mat, the dance he did to make you laugh when you were in your jumper.  How excited he was to get you when you woke up from nap, and the smile that lit up your entire face when you saw him. 

In other words, baby girl, you won the daddy lottery.  And I hope you come to that realization on your own one day.  I hope you see how much he adores you, and that you never stop adoring him.  I want to tell you not to take him for granted, but you will, of course.  It’s just a part of it.  But one day, when you have a little one of your own, take a moment to stop and watch your baby interact with her dad.  It will hit you then.  How blessed you were.  How much your dad influenced the woman you became.  Call him and tell him.  I know how much he loves to hear your voice. 

 

 

3

i’ve been rejected

The past couple of weeks, my daughter has begun rejecting the breast.  At first I thought it was just normal five month distraction.  Too busy to eat kind of stuff.  But now every feeding session has turned into a struggle in which I end up frustrated, confused, crying, and dreading the next feed. 

The sessions usually go like this.  The first two minutes are great.  She eats like a champ, focused on the task at hand and guzzling away.  I allow myself to hope that maybe this “stage” is over.  But then the fussing starts.  It’s quiet at first.  Pulling away, grabbing at anything and everything with those chubby, dimpled little fingers.  Then the body starts to flail and the crying starts (hers at this point, mine comes after).  She sucks for maybe two seconds, then pulls off wailing.  Repeat, repeat, repeat until we are both miserable and I show her a bottle.  Which she instantly grabs for, puts in her own mouth, and slurps happily down.  No tears.  No jerky movements. The only sound is her swallowing.  And me dying a little on the inside.

I know that this is normal around her age.  I know that, considering the control freak I am, being able to hold her own bottle and look around as she eats gives her the independence and power she craves.  Intellectually, I know that this really isn’t a bad thing.  But as I watch my milk supply dwindle and I more frequently run to Costco to stock up on bulk cases of formula, I can’t help but take it personally.  It’s not just my breast that’s she rejecting; it’s me.

And so I stare out the kitchen window, my back to my baby and my husband, as I furiously scrub with the bottle brush and try to get rid of that telltale formula smell coming from my sink.  And while I do so, hot tears stream down my face. 

It’s not just about the breastfeeding vs. formula debate.  It’s not just about the fact that I am frustrated because I know my body is capable of keeping hers healthy, strong, alive.  It’s not just about those moments when she looks up at me while she’s nursing and strokes the side of my face.  It’s that, already, at five months, my baby girl is pulling away.  Asserting herself as separate from me.  And if I cry quietly in the kitchen now, how in the world am I going to handle the tween and teen years?  Is this what motherhood is?  At every turn, every milestone, do you simultaneously feel pride and joy while also feeling rejected and heartbroken?  I’ve obviously had my fair share of both of the latter, but I would take getting picked last for dodge ball any day.  This hurts.  

So tell me, moms, especially those of daughters, how do you handle the rejection?