The day I couldn’t hold my baby

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Night time is here and as I sit here with a soon-to-be 8 month old,  sleeping peacefully in her rocker, I think back on the day’s events.  This is a routine for me.  I get my daughter to sleep, zone out for a bit reading articles/news/social media and before I get started on my work for the night I take a moment to reflect on my day.  Today I got to catch up with an old friend.  We chatted about her work, my work, day to day lives, our husbands and then my kids.  My daughter showed off her new crawling skills and even managed to kick my friend’s coffee cup out of her hand, spilling coffee all over her sweater. (This is why my wardrobe consists of leggings and t-shirts.) I stared at my daughter as I often do, beaming with pride over how fast she’s becoming so mobile, and then thought about how last week she wasn’t crawling at all.  It seemed like yesterday that I was just bringing her home from the hospital.  I shared this with my friend and before I knew it I was telling her all about labor, delivery and the horrible postpartum depression and anxiety I suffered through.  It is not my favorite part of this life I am building with my little one, but it has been an important part.  I’ve learned a lot from my suffering.

I’d been in labor for about 17 hours.  The time was finally here to push and after only two pushes, the doctor was throwing my little girl onto my chest.  I remember feeling the weight of her little body resting on me and being so relieved the pain was finally over.  I kissed my husband, cried, looked at her, cried some more… and then I asked the doctor if I was bleeding too much.  From that moment on, for the next few months — everything would be one giant blur.  The minute my body recognized I was no longer pregnant and the hormones did whatever the hormones do, I was not the same.  I obsessed over my postpartum bleeding.  I convinced myself I was swelling and that my blood pressure would sky rocket.  I called the nurse in every few minutes to examine the swelling in my feet (there was none).  My brain was on a rollercoaster that had no end.  I couldn’t stop obsessing.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I didn’t sleep for the next two days at least.

I knew that I shouldn’t have left the hospital without being put on some sort of brain medication but I was so set on breastfeeding.  I had the solly baby wrap, I had the breast pump.  I had everything I needed to be supermom.  I was going to breastfeed her for a year.  I was going to conquer this crippling anxiety because I had to.  I got home and I collapsed.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t do anything but cry, shake, panic, pace.  I couldn’t see my postpartum bleeding without feeling sick and having a panic attack.  I called the hospital nearly every night after I was discharged.  I called to ask if things I was experiencing were normal.  I called because I had a temperature of 99-something even though the handout I was given said to only call if it was above 100.4 .  I took my temperature exactly 200 times that night.  My husband grew concerned and called my parents.  I was losing my mind.  I was trying so hard to control my thoughts and feelings but they were so far gone at this point.  I was unrecognizable.

Only a week after having my daughter I got a minor infection and had to take antibiotics.  I had to stop nursing temporarily so she wouldn’t be exposed to the medication.  I started my daughter on formula.  This was my breaking point.  I hated myself.  I couldn’t do anything right.  The world was cruel in my eyes.  I’d wanted nothing more than to breastfeed and here I was, only 1 week postpartum and I was already “giving up.”  I told my parents that I was a horrible mother.  I lashed out at my husband…I didn’t want to exist.  I was so ashamed of myself.  I was so sorry for my daughter.  She deserved a mother that was so much better.  She deserved a mother that had her life together.  The hatred for myself surpassed everything.  I couldn’t even look at her.  My husband would take care of her and offer her to me.  I kept telling myself to hold her… take her… cuddle her.  I told myself to like it.  The truth was– she reminded me of what a failure I was.  When I recognized that I “didn’t want to hold her,” I knew something was definitely off.  I needed help.

For 6 straight weeks after delivery I was never alone.  I had an AMAZING support system.  My husband, my family, my friends.  They were all here.  Someone stayed with me constantly.  They helped take care of my babies and they helped take care of me.  My OBGYN called to check on me.  She saw me every time I called my doctor’s office with some new irrational fear.  She talked me through my postpartum depression.  She built me up.  My psychiatrist listened to my fears about medication and relayed to me her own postpartum experiences.  A member of her staff even came to my car to talk to me when I was sobbing too hard to go into the building.  My therapist, a Godsend, has helped me every step of the way.

As I sit here nearly 8 months later I can’t help but feel grateful for my experience.  I know that probably sounds completely crazy– but its true.  I learned from my postpartum depression and anxiety that every mother’s story is different.  This idea of the perfect mother I had in my head was just that, an idea.  It wasn’t reality.  Motherhood is messy.  Life is messy.  It never goes to plan.  I was dealt a hand of crappy cards.  My hormones were out of control.  They were bigger than my obsessive need to control them.  Because I couldn’t do it alone, did not make me a failure.  The important thing was connecting with my daughter.  The important thing was being happy and healthy for myself and for her.  I wasn’t currently the mother she deserved but I could get there.  I worked hard the next few months to get on medication that helped me level out.  I made sure to get some sleep.  I meditated.  I went to therapy.  I prayed.  I survived.

My relationship with my baby is better than I ever could have imagined.  She and her brother are the lights of my life.  They are the joy I feel in my heart every single day.  I am so blessed to be their mother.  All of those days I spent worrying about the bond that would be destroyed between my daughter and I were for nothing.  She loves me.  She smiles when I smile.  She laughs when I laugh… she knows my heart.  She knows I always loved her and will always love her, even when my mental health issues overwhelmed me.  Postpartum depression and anxiety are scary, hard and exhausting.  It is so important to see a doctor, build a support system and ask for help.  They say it “takes a village to raise a child.”  My village saved me.  And because I’ve been through such a dark time, the good times are now just a little bit brighter than they would have been.  I can see how fortunate I am and feel that gratitude on a new level.   I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety.  Something I can now say without shame.  I survived postpartum depression and anxiety.  Something I can now say with pride.

 

Claire: a one minute poem 

I knew I was on the road to recovery when I felt inspired to write. I held my almost 3 month old daughter and could feel the words being created in our bond.  Postpartum depression/anxiety can rob you of a lot of things- but eventually you find your way home.  These words aren’t groundbreaking literature, but in that moment they were everything to me.  They were me breaking free from darkness and discovering my new self.  After 3 months of feelings that were hard to manage, I was allowed to feel the joys of a new baby. She was and always had been the biggest blessing- even when I had trouble seeing anything beyond fear.  I am grateful for this moment and will never forget it.

Claire

Breathe you in
Warm skin, loving lips
My hair around your fingers
Pulling me close
Covering you
Protecting you
Your skin so soft
Your will so strong
A simple kiss
A loving gesture to you
Your home and your protection
Keep me this close forever
Forever with you

Daily Prompt: Jump

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I wasn’t sure of what I would write about tonight… just that I wanted to write.  I’d forgotten how therapeutic writing is and how it always has been in recent years and even if I feel I have nothing to write about… it is important to just do it.  So here we go.

The prompt of the day is “Jump.”  Funny, when reading the prompt my mind jumped around to a million different things I could write about … including that song “Jumper” from the 90s ha.  Finally it settled on a memory that I don’t think of often but have recently for whatever reason.

My son was a few weeks old.  I was sleep deprived, hormonal, bleeding, recovering, scared… terrified actually.   I was responsible for a little life and this was sinking in.  Every decision was monumental in my mind.  It determined the health and well being of a little person.  My chest was tight… my heart was pounding.  Each day there was another new worry.  A new concern.  A new fear.  My heart hurt.  I hurt.  It was too much..

I walked outside to my back deck.  It overlooks a wooded area that is quite nice in the summer.  Very lush.  Green.  I’ve spent many days with a glass of wine admiring the leaves as they danced on the trees in the wind.  It is very peaceful.  This day I could feel the sun.  It was warm and comforting.  I stretched my arms and rested them on the railing.  I looked down at the ground and I was overcome with a desire to jump.  The thought entered my mind quickly and intensely.  I was caught off guard by it and began to analyze it.  Was I so depressed that I wanted to end it all?  What the hell was happening?  I knew I wouldn’t actually do it, but until that moment I’d never even thought about it.  I stepped back from the railing and ran back inside.

I never wanted to end my life.  Not then, not now.  I care too much.  I love too much.  The thought that entered my mind was a cry for help from myself… to myself.  I needed to relax.  I needed to step back and enjoy the blessings.  I was suffering from my own obsessive thoughts and worries.  They were killing me.  This thought of jumping… was shocking to me.  I had no desire to die so why did I picture it?  That’s the great thing about the brain.  I needed a moment.  I needed a wake up call.  I needed to be shocked into reality.  The reality was that I had a beautiful baby.  I was now a mother and there would be really difficult times… but there would also be amazing times.   Since that day I’ve thought back to that moment several times.  I’ve been thankful for the ability to determine that jumping wasn’t actually what I wanted to do … or what life was telling me to do.  I know that some aren’t so lucky.  I’m beyond grateful that I am on this journey of mental health and wellness.  I pray that I can continue to see life for all of its blessings and wonderful moments and learn from the ones that aren’t so great.

Jump

The best, worst conversation

Well, its September.  So far, September hasn’t been so bad.  We’re 6 days into it and I’ve had one night away from the kids (which was good and sad.. lol.  I miss them so much when we’re apart.)  I’ve been somewhat stable mentally (just riding this high while I have it) and have had some good conversations.

Yesterday my husband told me that he has been largely effected by my mental illness over the past 6 months.  Of course I knew that it would get to him at times… how could it not?  However, I didn’t know that it was getting to him so badly.  He explained to me that he spends so much time trying to talk me down.  My mind goes from one crazy thought to another.  He told me he feels an immense amount of pressure having to be the only sane individual in the house.  He let it all out.  He told me everything.  He cried a little… I could feel every word.  They were laced with sadness, love and fear.  He didn’t want to tell me this because he didn’t want to add to the stress… but it just came out.

My initial reaction was to run.  I wanted to just drive… scream…punch a wall.  Anything to get my anger out.  I was upset with him for holding all of this in for months.  I was upset with him for not being stronger than I am ALL of the time… and I was just so sad that I couldn’t get my life together so he could have a better one.   These feelings lasted a few moments and then I felt better than I have in a little while.

That probably seems really weird.  It is.  For one, I felt happy that he took the time to tell me.  He risked my fragility to tell me that he was hurting and that it was in part because of me.  This told me that he trusts me… and he thinks I’m stronger than I think I am.  Or stronger than I think he thinks I am sometimes.  I felt like we were partners in this …I can tell him my fears and thoughts and he can tell me his.  He can tell me when he’s depressed.  There was something so wonderful about being completely open and honest with each other.  It actually lifted my mood.

In addition to this feeling… I also felt really relieved.  My husband is human, not a super hero.  Life can be too much for him too.  It validated some things for me.  The past year has been REALLY hard.  Calling 911 for both of your children in the past 3 months is REALLY stressful whether you have mental issues or not.  Seeing your son VERY ill for an extended period of time and then get a rare allergy syndrome diagnosis for your daughter is tough.  Postpartum anxiety/OCD and depression…are HARD.  Finances and schedules and work… are difficult.  These are not just things I torment myself over because I am “crazy.”  These are hard for everyone.

Finally, I felt a push.  I’d become lazy in my quest to get better.  I started to become fearful of my medications again.  I started to not trust my doctors… and thought I could make the best decisions for myself.  I was reminded in that 30 minute conversation that I am a long way from that place.  I need professionals to help me.  I need medication. I need therapy.  I need to find something that works… soon.  I can’t put these things off.  Too many people that I love are counting on me to get better.  I felt the sense of urgency that my husband felt in that moment and it has stayed with me.

Today has been a good day.  I can’t say that about a lot of days.  But today, my son was excited about school… my daughter let me get some work done.  My coffee was exceptional.  The sun was warm.  My kids laughed…a lot.  I painted with my son after dinner.  I took a long shower.  I listened to kid songs and sang them with my little ones.  I made a conscious effort to keep the peace.  It worked.

Thank God for the days that show you that your life can be better than the way you feel your life will ALWAYS be when you’re in your darkest times.  Thank God.

Collapse, relax, breathe

I’m exhausted.

Today I got to catch up with a good friend.  She had a baby in June and our kids were finally able to get together and have a playdate.  (As much playing as can happen with a 5 month old, 2 month old and 3 year old.)  As we spent time reflecting on the past couple of months we started to talk about Claire and her allergy syndrome.  I realized when talking to her that this whole thing is getting to me even more than  I thought.  –Which I thought was impossible really.

So what am I afraid of?  I think that is what I should get out.  Maye if I confess my fears I can become more at peace with them.  I don’t know.  I have to try.

I’m afraid of more hospital visits.  I’m afraid of a more severe reaction.  I’m afraid to introduce any new food.  I’m afraid of everything that goes along with this. I’m afraid of the unknown.

Presently I’m afraid of her brother smearing peanut button on her, or her getting her hands on bread crumbs… or her paci going in her mouth after her brother has put it in his and eaten something.  I’m afraid her bottle may touch something on the counter she shouldn’t have.  I’m afraid of EVERYTHING.  I struggle so much with OCD anyway, and now this diagnosis has kicked it into overdrive.  I don’t even know if these things are real threats or dangers… but I feel like my girl is so fragile.  I feel like being overprotective is the only way to cope.  I have no idea actually how to cope.  I don’t know if my fears are rational or irrational.  I never know where that line is.

I’ve been constantly dealing with these fears… these thoughts–all of it.  It feels so intense because its my baby.  She is everything.  The pressure is …so much.  I wish I could accurately express how this feels.

My therapist always asks me to identify my feelings physically.  I feel them in my chest and in my stomach.  It feels tight.  Really, really tight.  The more my mind races the tighter my teeth clench and the tighter my stomach feels.  Eventually, they collapse.  They relax.  Briefly.  Recently, every day has been this way.  I get to a point where I have to make my muscles relax… it feels like defeat.  Letting my guard down feels like failure.  Relaxation feels like laziness.  How do I continue this way?

Daily Prompt: Carry

via Daily Prompt: Carry

I like to look through these daily prompts and try to get inspired.  Specifically when I don’t feel especially inspired.  Its funny, every time I leave therapy I feel most inspired to write.  However, I go home to a house full of kids and don’t get the chance.  I’m not complaining.  They are wonderful.

So here we go… Carry.

I’ve carried two children.  I’ve carried two beautiful children inside of my body.  I’ve cradled them in my womb from their first heartbeat until I heard them cry after hours of labor.  I’ve carried pieces of my heart in these two children and will carry them forever.

Carrying a child is a really beautiful thing.  If I didn’t carry the worry with pregnancy, it would be one of the best experiences of my life.  Unfortunately, I carry the worry so intensely.  I carry it in every single muscle.  Every breath is laced with it.  I carry it with me and it weighs on every bit of excitement I should be experiencing.

After having my daughter I thought that I could quickly get these worries under control.  I thought that I could overcome them.  I thought I had the power to do this.  The minute she was born I was overcome with such relief, joy, gratitude and fear.  The fear was intense.  It became my sole focus.

This would be the next 3 months of my life.  Every minute has been consumed with fear.  The first 6 weeks of her life I had to have my friends and family spend every day with me.  I couldn’t breathe.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t be a good mother.  I could simply exist.  The guilt you feel when this beautiful life that you’ve created depends on you to be everything and you are …nothing.  You are weak, you are depressed, you are scared, you are out of your mind.  I carry that guilt with me to this day.  I knew that I had to call on those I loved to help me in this time and they did.  My baby was well taken care of and she was always loved.  I love her so much and always have.  I loved her so much I had to work through every single difficult moment to make it to the next.  The next was usually better than the last.  Over time it has become easier.  I am still working and I will never stop fighting to be the mother she deserves.

The funny thing is… she is blissfully unaware of any struggle I am going through.  She is 5 months and all she has to do is see my face in the morning and her smile is so warm.  When she cries and I pick her up she is comforted in my arms.  She loves me and I carry that with me during every struggle.

I carried her for 9 months and she and her brother have carried me every day since.  I love them more than I thought I could ever love anyone.  I am so thankful.

The parenting side of things

I shared this blog with a friend and she gave me some constructive criticism.  I was happy to get it.  She told me that I should include how I cope with anxiety and OCD while parenting and what strategies I could share.   I thought about this for a second and realized that I’d been pretty self absorbed in the blog so far… talking about how I think and feel everyday without including much about how it effects my family or how I deal with it in regard to my family.

So here it is… this is my strategy.  I don’t really have one.  Here is my answer:  I don’t have one of those either.  This is how I do it:  I’m not sure.  I really don’t know a damn thing about parenting with OCD and anxiety…I just know how to get through each day.  I don’t know that I’m not doing irreversible damage to them.  I don’t know that I’m not projecting every crazy thought onto them.  I don’t know that I haven’t passed down these genes to them. I only know that I have  a lot of guilt when it comes to this, but I also have goals.

My parents raised me well.  They instilled values into me …they were as loving as they could be.  They fed me, clothed me, gave me my own room with lots of toys and helped with school work.  They gave me rides… and put me in piano lessons and dance lessons.  They are good parents.  With that being said, they battled their own demons.  I’ll dive into this a little more later, when I’ve got more time and feel like I can handle it emotionally.  Long story short, my parents had nervous breakdowns- within months of each other.  I was about 12 or 13 when it happened.  I have never told them how I felt during that time.  They have never asked.  I have talked about it for over 10 years in therapy.  I am STILL figuring it out.  I am still dealing with it.  They couldn’t help it, but I still suffered.  They suffered and in turn, I suffered.  I think they knew I was suffering but it was easier to not recognize it.  It was easier to turn a blind eye and afterall, they had so much on their plate.  I never understood that until I had my own kids and have had to parent and cope at the same time.   You have to do both when you have these issues.  You have to do both when you feel like you can’t even take care of yourself.  You have to find the balance.  Everyday is about finding the balance between coping with things and parenting your children… and its extremely hard.

So now that Jack is 3 and absorbing EVERYTHING at a rapid rate… I am having to watch myself a bit more.   I am finding that trying so hard to shield him is making it worse.  I am more anxious, more upset, more guilty.  God, the guilt.  The guilt wrecks me.  It physically hurts me. I very well may have passed these genes down to them.  It is a very REAL possibility.  Sometimes the day is too long and I am too weak and things get to me and it shows.  I can see my actions and reactions impacting him.  It hurts so much.  I never ever want to hurt my children.  I never want them to feel like this.

With that being said, I am 30 years old.  At 30 years old I am going to try the hardest I’ve ever tried in my life to get my OCD and anxiety under control.  I am going to fight it for myself and more importantly, for my kids.  I am going to give them a fighting chance at dealing with this.  I am in weekly therapy sessions and have agreed to take my medications.  I am in regular contact with a psychiatrist and don’t see this changing.  I have started meditating and hopefully can get back into exercising soon.  I am going to try everything I can to make myself a better person, and in turn be a better mother.  I am doing it for myself and for them.  Even when it feels like too much, I never forget how precious my children are.  They are everything to me.  I want to be well for them.  I want to be a mother that they think is loving and caring and present.  I want to experience life with them instead of just passing through each day while life happens to us.  I have a goal and I have to make it.  For them.