Tuesday, July 30, 2013

And then I woke up.

One morning, not that long ago, in fact, I woke up. I took a look around, and as I got up to make my coffee, I felt different.

But the same.

Different than I had felt in a long time.

But with an easy familiarity.

I felt…like me.

I didn’t know how much I didn’t feel like myself, until I felt like myself again.

It seems that once upon a time, I wrote a post that made a small prediction. And then that prediction came true.

As some of you may have gleaned from the tone of a few posts around this space, I have been struggling a bit over the last few months. And finally, I am willing to name that struggle.

You see, friends, I have been dealing with Postpartum Anxiety.

{Whew. There it is, out in the open. Breathe. Out.}

I didn’t really notice it at first. I thought, “Well, this just must be what life is like with a toddler and a newborn,” as I banished the thoughts of how absolutely euphoric I felt after Evelyn’s birth.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love Liam or couldn’t bond with him – that little man stole my heart the second I locked eyes with him, and I loved him fiercely, wholly and immediately.

...I just didn’t feel like me...

I didn’t know how much I didn’t feel like myself, until I felt like myself again.

As I have mentioned before, pregnancy isn’t the greatest of times for me. Don’t get me wrong I love the end result of being pregnant, but it wrecks havoc with my emotional state and I do not like that feeling.

Immediately upon Evelyn being placed on my chest, that feeling of being not quite myself ended. 

When Liam was born, I felt more like me, but not quite there. I still felt, off.

So, I threw myself into mothering two children whole-heartedly. I was doing anything and everything that I had been doing with Evelyn before, not giving myself a break or time to catch up.  I threw myself at my own identity as a mother that I had already come to know, and wondered why the heck it didn’t feel right.

(Never mind the fact that that mother I was thinking of, the mother I had just been, was the mother to an 18 month old, not a newborn and an 18 month old.)

I was already a mom, I told myself, this should feel old hat – all I am doing is folding a whole other human being into the mix. Clearly, I just wasn’t trying hard enough.

I didn’t know how much I didn’t feel like myself, until I felt like myself again.

The majority of this struggle is blessedly behind me, but this is what it looked like for a while -

I had racing thoughts. I would jump from subject to subject of all of the things I needed to do, so quickly, immediately upon waking, that it would seem overwhelming. And then it would seem so overwhelming that I didn’t know where to start. So, I didn’t. I would just sit. I knew that I needed to be up and accomplishing tasks, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

I worried. A LOT. Not just normal new mom worries. In fact, the first time that my husband took both kids out of the house (for a walk down to the park, so that I could catch up on some sleep), I was drifting off when all of a sudden I had a flash of Evelyn jumping off of her trike and running into the busy street, and her Daddy running after her with our brand new baby strapped to his chest. Horrifying.

It worried me so much that I actually called him so that I could remind him that the trike didn’t have a strap to keep her restrained and that he needed to be really careful. I tried to brush the thoughts away and thing of it as just a silly worry. Of course my husband is a responsible adult and great father, of course he already knows these things. But, what if. 

What if it happened and I hadn’t called? Then what? How would I feel? I couldn’t. I couldn’t brush it off and it consumed my thoughts until I called him.

Hand in hand with the worrying, I had intrusive, disturbing, fleeting thoughts. They happened swiftly and strongly. I never had visions of hurting myself or my children, but of awful, awful things happening to us. Now every mother, I think, has thoughts like these once in a while – but these were so graphic and realistic.

The first time I ever got on the highway with both kids in the car, I almost had a panic attack. Not the cute, haha, new mom driving so slowly and carefully with her new baby in the car scene. This was intense.

Almost immediately all of the god-awful things that could happen to us started flooding into my mind. I was gripping the steering wheel so tightly, and I knew that those things weren’t going to happen, but I could not stop those images from playing the worst scenes in my brain.

Stories from the news? They would shake me to my very core. 

It was awful, and I knew that I didn’t feel like myself – but I knew that I was getting better, and incrementally so, so I figured I could just wait it out.

Every two weeks or so, I would look around and think, “Wow, two weeks ago I thought I felt normal and had crossed the threshold, but now I feel even more normal. So, is this me – normal me – or is this just another stepping stone along the way?”

I didn’t know how much I didn’t feel like myself, until I felt like myself again.

I didn’t talk to anyone about it – not my closest friends, not even my husband for a long time. And I hid all of these things pretty well (which is not helpful, or recommended, by the by). And denied that something was wrong. I didn’t have post partum depression after all, I was happy, loved my kids…I was just overwhelmed.

I probably would have gotten past all of this a lot sooner had I sought help from my support network – I have a wonderful one – but I didn’t. Instead, I just sort of withdrew.

As I began to suspect what was going on, having had done research and reading about all of this back when I wrote that prophesizing post, I read more and more. I read some posts by some other moms that mirrored what I was experiencing. 

I came to understand (and be grateful for the fact) that what I was experiencing was fairly low on the spectrum of perinatal disorders. The frequency with which these thoughts and worries were occurring began to ebb at a noticeable rate.

I knew what was going on and could feel myself getting “better.” I could (thankfully) identify what behaviors helped me have better days, and how to adjust on days that weren’t so great. I forced myself to make the choice in the moments that it would arise, to consciously release the anxiety.

I didn’t know how much I didn’t feel like myself, until I felt like myself again.

Yes, I did this without talking to a professional, or without medication – BUT – if you are experiencing any of these same things, please do not take this as any sort of recommendation from me that you do the same. Talk to your support people, reflect, do research and decide what is right for YOU. 

Thankfully – this worked out for me, and my issues managed to resolve themselves rather quickly, though at times I wondered if I would ever feel like myself again.

I am at the point now where I can chuckle about the fact that I am just getting around to mailing Liam’s birth announcements.

Yes, he is almost six months old – Surprise! We had a baby! {Ha! That’s a joke! You can laugh now. No, really.}

A few months ago, it was not so funny that the reason they hadn’t been ordered yet was because my computer deleted my current address list for my family and friends somewhere between Christmas and Liam’s birth, which is a pain to anyone. 

But, to me in those days, the tasks of obtaining those addresses again, sitting down and writing out thank you notes and addressing envelopes, hell, even settling on a design that I would be happy with seemed absolutely insurmountable. There were so many choices and I had so much to do, how would I ever accomplish all of that without letting the rest of everything fall to pieces?

It seems silly now, but it literally seemed like such a big deal, I just…didn’t do it.

I didn’t know how much I didn’t feel like myself, until I felt like myself again.

I really wrestled with whether to write about this or not, but at the end of the day, I wanted to get back to blogging and writing more authentically this year, sharing the good, the bad and the in between, and other moms stories helped me so much to see that all of this falls on a spectrum. You can have a little or a lot of a whole variety of symptoms – this was just my part of that spectrum.

Additionally, there was a recent study done showing that mothers are more likely to experience anxiety than depression. 1 in 6 new moms - 1 in 5 first time mothers. Yet, you don't hear about it. 

So, here I am, sharing my experience. 

I have no idea how or why this particular thing hit me this go round and not after my first pregnancy. I have no idea if it will come around again on my next – or if it does, if it will even look the same.

I am going to link all the places that were helpful for me {Baby RabiesPostpartum Progress}, even though most of them were already linked through my first post about all of this, here.

Visit them, support them, and help raise awareness levels of all of this. This could affect you, your sister, your best friend, or your coworker. The more you know, the better you will be positioned to offer or find support.

Evelyn Rae is TWO years old, Liam is five months old

...and now that *that* is out of the way, let's get back to the fun stuff.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Five Months

My little Liam,

I must admit, we have fallen a bit behind on these photos. This month wasn't really our fault though, because we didn't get back from Wisconsin (and your first big trip!) until after your actual 5 month mark. But, you have again grown and changed in leaps and bounds since our last update.

As you can see from these photos - you are sitting much more comfortably and strongly than you have in the past. You really like sitting up for short periods because your sister seems to pay more attention to you this way, though you sometimes complain and fuss about sitting - my sneaking suspicion is that it bothers your little tummy by putting too much pressure on it. You are still quite the spit upper and our huge stash of burp cloths is never too far from reach.

We have been pretty adventurous in enjoying the spoils of summer this month, with plenty of outdoor time for you and your sister. We hung by the pools of some different friends in the beginning of the month and you definitely got plenty of outdoor time in Wisconsin. With all the pool and lake time, you have become quite the little water baby! You enjoy your bath time a whole lot more than you used to, smiling and laughing and splashing away.

You did extraordinarily well on your first big road trip with us, and you slept like a good little baby. You did not, however, sleep quite so well on your first couple of overnights without Mommy and Daddy. We went to a wedding in Long Island for a few days while you and your sister got to hang with Grandma Barb and Grandpa John, and you were none to happy about not having Mom to snuggle up next to while we were gone. It was only two nights, but I have a sneaking suspicion that your grandparents were ready to just be daytime snugglers once again.

 While we were gone though, your Grandma confirmed my absolute worst suspicions. You are definitely scootching. What the heck, son. You are only five months old and you are trying so hard (and achieveing successes!) on the mobility front. I thought perhaps I was just imagining it, but nope, your grandmother informs me that you were indeed on the move. I think you are trying to chase after that crazy sister of yours as you become more and more interested in anything and everything that she is doing.

Speaking of your big sister, she is pretty adorable with you. She calls you "baby brother" and pronounces your name as "Yee-um". She gives you lots of hugs and kisses and is super concerned about where you are and what you are doing all.of.the.time. She hears you over the monitor or crying and says "Baby brother awake!" or "Baby brother sad! Help Mommy!" She is consistently excited to help with you and has really started to love being my sidekick when it comes to caring for you. Naturally, you adore her and all of the (completely age inappropriate) toys that she brings to you in a steady stream, though now that you can grab for toys when she is playing with them, she is starting to eye you a bit more warily.

Your teeth are working really hard on cutting through, your bottom teeth that is. I can feel them both under the surface, so we are playing a waiting game to see which pops up first! You are still relatively insatiable and love your long and lingering nursing sessions. We will start you on solids next month (!) and given your general interest in everything and anything that is on anyone's plate around you, I am pretty sure that you will take to it like a duck to water. 

You are growing so fast and so big, my little man. I can't seem to see it happening day to day and then I have moments where I look at you and get a jolt of the toddler and child you will too soon become. While I am terribly excited to meet that kiddo, I am enjoying the snuggle bug that you are right now. You still think the best place to sleep is in anyone's arms - especially Momma's - and most of the time I don't mind that one bit.

Keep growing and exploring and discovering my adventurous boy, just don't do it too fast.

I love you with every bit of my wildly beating heart.

All my love,


Evelyn Rae is TWO YEARS OLD, Liam is five months old

...and here are some extra (sort of kinds of really blurry, but I still love them anyways) pictures of those baby blues.