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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.