BIG NEWS! I was asked to share my story on thelifeafterbirth.com. Click on the link below to read it. Thanks for your support!
If you are visiting from thelifeafterbirth.com, welcome! Feel free to click around. My two personal favorite posts are “say grace” and “accept and embrace.” Thanks for coming!
The other day, my husband and I saw that Identity Theft had become available OnDemand. Since we are probably years away from watching a movie with real people in it in an actual movie theater, OnDemand has become our new Regal Cinemas. So, we made a plan.
That night, munchkin was asleep, the popcorn was popping, and our steely resolve to make it through two more whole hours was set. I went to rent the movie…and my love affair with Fios ended. We had been hoodwinked. Identity Theft was indeed available, but only to buy. Not to rent. Talk about false advertising.
But the popcorn was already luring me with its delicious, buttery scent. So we decided to rent a different movie. We chose The Impossible.
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you have to stop what you are doing and go watch it. Right now. Seriously. Actually, finish reading first, then go watch it. But make sure you watch it.
In addition to being a wonderful heartwarming tale with a great cast, I learned two very important things from the film. And I think what really separates a good film from a great film is when you learn more about yourself in the process. Here’s what I learned:
- Movies about natural disasters are not good for people suffering from depression/anxiety. You know why? They remind us that we have no control. In my everyday life, I can make lists, I can have backup plans for backup plans, but in the unlikely event that a tsunami crashes through my town, they will be useless. Knowing that there are situations out there that may arise in which I cannot prevent, through careful planning and preparation, something bad from happening gets my heart racing and my hands sweating. We had to pause the movie no less than three times because the dialogue could not be heard over my hysterical, frightened sobs. Four times my husband suggested we turn it off. If the beginning of the movie had not made it clear what would happen in the end, I probably would have stopped watching. The movie reminded me to be aware and conscious of what triggers both my depression and my anxiety, and to not purposely put myself in these scenarios when it is completely avoidable.
- I am a mom. Now, for those of you reading who are thinking, “Your daughter just turned five months old, why is this just now occurring to you?” hear me out. Without knowing it, I watched this movie with my new mom glasses on. I didn’t know I had them on, or even that I owned them, but as I watched it became clear. The crying I did, the desperation and sorrow I felt, the questions of “What would I do?” that I asked were all a direct result of my new status as mom. I don’t know if this movie would have impacted me so deeply if I weren’t a mom. But that’s the thing about mom glasses – you can never take them off. I’ll never know what it means to look at the world without those lenses ever again. I’ll never again hear a story on the news about a car accident, or a tornado, or a missing child without being filled with cold dread and wanting to hold my daughter tight. I am a mom. And that will color how I react to things from here on out. This is not necessarily a good or bad thing. It just means that my perspective has been forever altered. And that there are probably a lot of movies that I should avoid watching.
Has anyone else seen the film? What was your reaction? Did you learn anything?
Now that it’s been almost three months since I was diagnosed with PPD/anxiety, I’m becoming more and more aware of the ways in which it tries to seep into all areas of my brain and take control of my thoughts.
While reading Momastery the other day, I found a new term that perfectly describes how I’ve been feeling lately: momotony. My baby girl is at that interesting age where she constantly wants to be entertained, but there is not much she can do. It’s been oppressively hot lately, so outdoor activities have been limited. And since all she wants to do when she’s awake is move, move, move (wonder where she gets that from?), I feel guilty strapping her in the car seat and running errands. So we read some books, she plays on her activity mat, we sing a few songs, she jumps in her Jumperoo. I look at the clock. Fifteen minutes have passed. So we read some books, she plays on her activity mat, we sing a few songs, she jumps in her Jumperoo. Is time actually going slower? Repeat cycle, repeat cycle, repeat cycle until one of three things happens: she needs to eat, get her diaper changed, or take a nap. Has it really only been an hour since I talked to another adult? There it is: momotony.
Don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with my girl. Watching her learn more about herself and her relationship to the world is my favorite thing about motherhood. But sometimes I just get plain bored. And as I’m learning, boredom is a breeding ground for anxious, negative, and self-critical thoughts. PPD sees that boredom and attacks, usually full force and with no warning.
So I have to be smarter than it. I have to find ways to beat the baby boredom and reclaim my thoughts. But that’s hard to do when you’re on your sixth rendition of a Raffi song and just looking at The Very Hungry Caterpillar makes you want to hurl the book across the room only to realize that you don’t actually even need the book because you know every single word by heart.
I’d love to hear from you. How do you beat baby boredom?
There is no better evidence of my husband and I partnering in this whole parenting thing than bath time. We are a well-oiled machine. He’s the entertainer. When our baby girl first gets in the tub for “splish-splash time” (aka wear her out right before bed), he makes silly faces and ensures she’s burning that energy while I run around grabbing towels and pajamas and overnight diapers. There are two reasons for our set roles: one, he would inevitably forget something and I would act as if this were the worst thing to happen in the world since Brothers and Sisters was cancelled; and, two, the only thing that scares me more than a tiny baby is a slippery, naked, way too easy to possibly drop tiny baby.
The bath itself is pleasant. It’s the getting out that requires skill and efficiency. Because we only have three minutes and twenty-six seconds (give or take of course), to get that girl ready for bed before the screaming-that-has-no-end begins. So we get to work. My husband diapers her and puts on her pajamas while I A&D her bottom, Aquaphor her face, and Eucerin everything else. As I slather and rub and make her even slippier and harder to hold on to, I get to take in one of my favorite parts of her little body: her smooth, silky, unblemished, flawless skin.
There’s just something about a baby’s skin. There’s no hair, no acne, no stretch marks, no varicose veins, no wrinkles, no scrapes or cuts or bruises. The only thing that gets in the way is the abundance of rolls on her thighs, but when you’re only five months old, these are socially acceptable and even considered cute. Not so much when you’re older and they’re covered in cellulite.
Rubbing that soft, perfect skin makes me so aware of her innocence, her vulnerability, her trouble free existence. Because marks on our skin are reminders of pain. The acne and stretch marks and varicose veins represent the pain of being uncomfortable in our own skin and the hatred we as woman seem to have toward our bodies. The wrinkles are physical evidence of all the stress and worry. The scrapes are cuts and bruises tell of the times we have fallen.
Her skin makes me think of all the other pains I want to shield her from: heartbreak, betrayal, rejection, loss.
I want to keep her skin this way. As if it is a testament to my ability to protect her, to defend her against all of the pain that accompanies life.
But I don’t really want to keep her from pain. Because she will miss out on so much. If she never has acne or stretch marks or varicose veins, she will also never learn to fully accept her body, flaws and all, as beautiful and strong and capable of doing amazing things. As much I hate the wrinkles around my eyes, they are simply evidence of how much life has brought me smiles and laughter (ok, they’re also from all the squinting I do because I let my husband talk me into buying the cute, trendy sunglasses that don’t actually block sun rather than the Grandma glasses my 100+SPF-wearing self wanted to buy). The scrapes and cuts and bruises will speak to my daughter’s willingness to take risks, to try something new, to get up and dust herself off and try again when she falls.
If she doesn’t experience heartbreak, then she also won’t feel the delicious thrill of being in love. If she doesn’t experience betrayal, she won’t know to value trust and loyalty. If she doesn’t experience rejection, she won’t appreciate what is needed for success.
Although her pain will be my pain (let’s not talk about the fact that I will probably call an ambulance the first time my daughter falls even though the blood coming from her knee won’t be enough to saturate a tissue), her joy will also be my joy. And knowing pain will allow her to more fully experience joy.
Right now that unblemished skin is a blank canvas. And each mark that she adds to it will tell a story. A story of a life well lived.
Recently, the wonderfully talented Jennifer of Outsmarted Mommy wrote this post about wanting to find the rewind button. Since Jennifer is a fellow blogger who I respect and admire, and who gave me support and encouragement when I faced my first hater, this thought-provoking and beautifully written piece made me really consider why I hate being told to “Enjoy every moment.” So, thank you, Jennifer, for forcing me to reflect on the advice I’ve been scoffing at. And if you haven’t read her post, make sure you do!
After reading Jennifer’s post, I found myself questioning my own desire for the fast forward button. It will be great when she starts sleeping through the night, won’t it? I will be more rested when she’s not waking up three times a night to nurse, won’t I? It will be easier to address her needs when she can actually express what those needs are, won’t it? I have to believe these things, look forward to them, even if they’re not actually true, because that’s what makes this current stage bearable. Not even bearable, but possible. How can I face every day if I don’t think, hope, believe that there is an end in sight?
I can’t help but wonder: will I really miss these things? Even though everyone tells me I will, I can’t imagine it. At 3:48 this morning, I was unceremoniously jerked awake to my baby’s persistent wails. Even though she had eaten a little over two hours before, she was seemingly hungry. At least for the first five minutes, until her hunger gave way to her sleepiness and she refused to wake up. As I sat there, frustrated, exhausted, attempting to rationalize with a five month old that if she didn’t fill her belly now she would have to get up again in an hour, a fate desired by none, I thought: No way. No way will I miss this.
Where can I find the freakin’ pause button? Or better yet, the remote Adam Sandler had in Click so that I channel my future self, who of course has by then figured out this whole motherhood thing and has all the answers, and she can tell me what exactly it is I don’t want to miss out on.
Because “everyone” can’t be wrong, can they? The people who tell you to enjoy every moment clearly recognize that they did not and apparently regret that. They were probably offered the same advice on their journey through parenthood. But they also did not heed it. Is it even possible?
Because the truth is, I don’t know how to live in the moment. When I wake up in the middle of the night to feed my daughter, I don’t know how to feel anything but bone tired or think about anything other than my nice, warm bed. Knowing I am going to regret that I didn’t enjoy these moments that I wish away doesn’t make it any easier to enjoy them now. In fact, it makes it harder. It’s an enormous amount of pressure. It makes me feel even more frustrated and anxious. It makes me feel like I am just being set up for failure.
These are, of course, the rhetorical ramblings of an exhausted new mom who just realized that she hasn’t eaten anything in over twenty hours. But that doesn’t erase the fact that I am desperately seeking the fast forward button when I need to hit pause. And I don’t know how to stop.
I guess all I can do, all any of us can do, is take a deep breath and try to enjoy as many moments as I can.
My daughter will be five months old in less than a week, and she still gets up three times a night to eat. Sometimes she goes right back to sleep afterwards, and sometimes it takes her over an hour. Some days she wakes up raring to go at 7:00 am, and some days it’s 5:00 am. Sometimes she takes a two and a half hour nap, and one of her naps Saturday lasted a whole twelve minutes. Whenever someone asks my husband or I if something she does is “normal” for her, we laugh. The unexpected and the inconsistent is the expected and consistent with her.
What makes this even harder is that I am a planner. I like lists, schedules, routines. I thrive on them. I would love to have my girl on a schedule; in fact, I fantasize about it. But while she seems to have inherited my determined stubbornness and my inability to sit still, my love of schedules not so much.
While she hasn’t slept in my arms for nap time in over a month (pause for brief and badly executed victory dance here), over the weekend she fell asleep while nursing. It was shortly after the twelve minute nap. I put her on my shoulder to burp her, which usually wakes her up. Nope. Out cold. Knowing she needed the rest, I made the decision to keep holding her.
At first, all I could think about was how much my back already hurt, how my phone only had 4% battery, how the lunch my husband had just walked in the door with was waiting downstairs and I had skipped breakfast, and how I needed to get to the laundry before her morning blowout took the life of another innocent onesie. You know, stuff regimented planners think about.
But then, she shifted. She picked her head up, opened her eyes, looked right at me, smiled a sleepy, drooly smile, and nuzzled close to my neck. It’s amazing how at moments your heart can feel so full you think it might explode. This was one of those moments. It hit me then that this might be the last time I get to hold her while she sleeps. Forget to-do lists. I decided to do what everyone keeps telling me to do: just enjoy.
What is it that they put in babies that makes their smell so intoxicating? It defies all logic. Her entire self is usually covered in a mixture of curdled milk, drool, and urine, and yet she smells divine. It won’t be too long before she won’t let me hold her long enough to breathe her in. So I leaned in close and I drank in long, deep breaths of that sweet baby smell.
I listened to the purring sounds she makes when she transitions between sleep cycles and the soft exhalations after she gets in a comfortable position. All too soon she will be talking back and telling me “No,” so I closed my eyes and listened to every tiny sound.
I could feel the peach fuzz growing on her head tickle the side of my neck. I could feel the warmth from her body heat. I could feel her little heart beating. I rubbed my hands across that perfectly smooth skin, knowing that before long those knees will be perpetually scraped, those hands will always be dirty, and those chunky rolls on her thighs that I adore will cease to exist.
I watched her chest rise and fall with every breath. I took in the look of peaceful content on her tiny face. I smiled as her eyelids fluttered and she made sucking motions. I laughed at the tiny hand that was still tightly gripping my tank top. In no time at all, I will watch her crawl and walk and run, so I cherished this moment of stillness.
No, I didn’t eat my baby (although those chubby cheeks can be so tempting). But I tasted life. I tasted the moments that make motherhood so worth it. I enjoyed every bit of my baby. I enjoyed a time I know will not last. At this stage, it’s hard to believe I will ever wish that I could just hold her for nap. But I know that one day that will come. So I snuggled a little tighter, a little longer, and I didn’t think about the pain shooting down my arm at all. Well, at least not for the first four minutes.
Yesterday, I received my very first “mean” comment. When I first started this blog, I knew that not everyone would like what I had to say, but I was naïve enough to believe that such a raw, honest, and vulnerable sharing of my soul would deter people from expressing their distaste. Well, I was wrong. Apparently “troll” no longer only applies to those creepy little dolls with the crazy hair. After spending the entire day and night crying and obsessing over this comment, I got my puffy-eyed, sniffling, pounding headache self out of bed and wrote this letter to my daughter.
My dearest baby girl,
Yesterday, someone tried to post a really mean and hurtful comment on my blog. I spent a lot of time and energy being upset about that one comment. It seemed to outweigh all of the really positive feedback I’ve gotten and all of the people I’ve helped. And as I perseverated endlessly, I kept thinking about you. About the fact that, despite how much my heart aches just thinking about it, you too will have to deal with people like this. People who want to bring you down. I won’t be able to take that pain any from you, even though I will want to. The best thing I can do for you is be a woman you can learn from, a woman you can admire and respect, a woman who doesn’t shy away from hard or uncomfortable things. So, here’s what I’m learning:
1. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to scream. It’s okay to want to be alone. It’s okay to feel however it is that you feel. Don’t try to stop those feelings at first. Let them come. Embrace them, knowing that dealing with them now will make it easier to let them go later on.
2. Don’t respond right away. Take a shower. Go for a run. Eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Sleep on it. Because even though it feels really good in the moment to say or do exactly what’s in your mind, you usually end up with regrets. This is hard to do. The Jersey came out in me yesterday, and all I wanted to do was find this person and go off Real Housewives style. But what, exactly, would that have solved? Give yourself the time and the space to gain perspective.
3. Don’t let someone else’s lies become your truth. My initial reaction after reading the comment? I felt guilty. I felt ashamed. I felt bad for you that I’m your mom too. I let myself believe everything this person was saying was true. But then I read it again. And again. And again. And a couple more times. And you know what? It’s not even close to being true. I don’t need to defend myself (even though I really, really want to). Because the only people who need to know this isn’t true are you and me. And I KNOW that we both know how much you are loved. You know who you are. Trust that. Believe that.
4. Deal with it. I despise confrontation. The thought of it makes my stomach knot up and my hands sweat. When I read this comment, the two most appealing options to me were deleting it and pretending it never happened or stop writing my blog. But you know why I didn’t choose either of those options? Because of you. Because I want you to be a strong, confident woman who stands up for yourself, for what is right, for what you believe in.
Both of those options, although tempting in their easiness, let this person (who interestingly enough decided to stay anonymous) win. To have power. And not only over me, but over every woman who has struggled with being a new mom. That kind of hateful judgment is exactly why I started this blog in the first place. I won’t give them the satisfaction of posting it, but I will call them out: Your comment was disgusting. But you didn’t win. So, even though this is really, really hard, I’m dealing with it (and adding a disclaimer to the comments section).
5. Find the silver lining. I learned a lot from this experience. I learned that I belong to an incredible community of fellow moms and bloggers who I could not have done this without. I learned that for every bad comment, there are ten positive ones. I learned that I can do things that scare me. Trust me, I know how easy it is to dwell on what’s bad. Even if the only silver lining you can find is that you made it through the day, find the good.
6. Forgive and let go. You have zero control over how people act, but you have complete and total control over how you react. So once you’ve dealt with it, forgive and let go. This isn’t for the other person. This is for you. This sets you free from letting anger, hurt, and sadness keep you down.
You are making me a better person, my darling girl. I hope I am becoming a woman you admire and respect.
All my love,
***A special thanks to the ladies at Honest Voices for their support and advice. Here is a post Jessica Severson shared with me about her first experience with a “hater.” She said it much better than I ever could: http://theseversons.net/2011/08/blogging-dilemma/.