Monday, August 22, 2011

Babies

I want another baby someday, but I'm afraid.

Truly.  I so very much want to have another sweet little one, another pregnancy (for all its ups and downs), and I want A to be a big sister.

But I'm afraid.  I am afraid of those moments when I feel like I've gone "'round the bend" as Alice would say (we've been watching the Tim Burton version daily, sometimes more than once).  The things I've been through paralyze me with fear of having another--the stresses, the worries and sleeplessness, the anxiety and classic post-partum OCD thoughts...

Those things made me feel, and still do at times, like a failure of a mother.

But you know what?  I am a good mom.  I might even venture out there to say I'm a great mom.  There are certainly things I'd do differently and areas I still want to work on presently, but I feel like someday, when Ayes is all grown up, she will look back and know I did the best I could for her.  I hope that she will feel that it was not just enough, but it was just what she needed.


Still, that rational thinking doesn't make the irrational go away.  The what ifs.  The agony of both physical and mental anguish I went through following birth.  The breastfeeding failure and guilt over (as cliche as it sounds) not being able to do the one thing a mother 'should' be able to do.  The inability to get myself out of bed in the middle of the night and the guilt about the wonderful man next to me who would, without complaint, get up most nights, most every time.


And then of course are the other factors...time and money, neither of which we ever seem to have enough of.  Surely if we all waited to have time and money, our species would die out.  

I want another baby someday, but I'm afraid.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dear Ayes...

I promise you, I will protect you.
I will not let you down.
Things will be better.
I won't give up on that.
Just five more days.
Tomorrow, please bring me an answer.

Love,
Mama

Friday, August 5, 2011

There is no shame in asking for help


This week's Phenomenal Mom has asked to remain anonymous.  What I can tell you is that she is a wonderful mother, and I admire her courage and strength to speak out about Post-Partum Depression (PPD).  It is a very really illness, but many studies find that moms don't get help because of the stigma.  When I read her story, I got the chills because many of her words felt as though they were my own.  Thank you to this old friend of mine for bringing this into the light and giving hope and knowledge to so many. 

          When our first son was born, I was completely overjoyed. I had immediate overwhelming unconditional love for him. My husband (boyfriend at the time) and I knew right away, we wanted to have another child. We wanted our children to be close in age so they would play well together. After our son reached his first birthday, baby fever started to set in. We got pregnant for the second time when our oldest was 14 months old.
Sadly, the pregnancy lasted only 7 weeks. We were devastated, and decided to try again as soon as the doctor gave us the o.k. We were blessed with another positive pregnancy test on our first try! This time, I was very guarded, though. I was scared to death that something bad was going to happen. Everyday felt like an eternity and I literally felt like I was just waiting for the bleeding to start. And it did. It wasn’t much, and it wasn’t bright red like I had experienced before, but it was there. I remember walking out of the bathroom and being too afraid to tell my husband. I’m not sure why. It was almost like if I didn’t say anything, maybe it wasn’t really happening. I don’t know. I called my doctor right away the next morning and had some blood work done. Thankfully, an ultrasound revealed a healthy little peanut with a very strong heartbeat. What I actually had was a very small sub chronic hemorrhage, which the doctor assured me was very common and, in my case, not a cause for concern.
For the first time in months, I felt like I could start to relax a little. I didn’t really let my guard down completely until I reached my second trimester, though. After that, I was in baby heaven. I snapped pictures of my growing belly every week. I started planning the nursery and obsessed over every single baby name website or book I could get my hands on. Physically and emotionally I felt amazing. My energy level was sky high. With my first pregnancy I had felt huge and tired most of the time, but this time it was different. I felt like superwoman. Even chasing around a one year old all day long didn’t slow me down. It was a wonderful pregnancy. I loved every minute of carrying my second son. I loved being pregnant again. I loved the feeling of having a little life growing inside me. I loved every kick, every roll, and every episode of baby hiccups. Even in the last weeks of my pregnancy as the painful contractions started to set in and my son felt like he was literally going to fall out because I was carrying him so low, my energy remained high.
About a week before my son was born, I remember looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, marveling at how low my belly was hanging and thinking about how much I was going to miss being pregnant, when a weird thought popped into my head, “What if I don’t want another baby?” “What if I’m not ready?” I felt a little bit of panic starting in my chest. I stood there for a moment and then shook my head and told myself I was just getting a little bit of cold feet. People have those kinds of thoughts all the time before big life changing events. I was just being human.
The day for my scheduled c-section finally arrived. Two days before my 25th birthday, our second son came into the world. The c-section went smoothly and there were no physical complications with me or the baby. But, something odd happened emotionally when they held my new baby boy up over the curtain. I did not feel overwhelming joy and love. I did not feel anything really. I think my first thought was something like, wow, he is really small. They immediately took him over and weighed and measured him and let my husband cut the cord. I remember my husband walking over to the operating table with our boy in his arms and looking at him all wrapped like a little burrito. There he was, finally out of my stomach and in the world where I could see him. He didn’t look at all how I had pictured him. I closed my eyes. My husband went to the nursery with the baby while they finished sewing me up. They wheeled me into the recovery room and I laid there all alone barely able to move anything but my head because I was still really numb from the spinal. After what seemed like forever, my husband came back into the room with the baby. Finally, I got to hold him. This would be my big moment. He smelled like I remembered a new baby smelling and his little body felt warm against me. Still, I didn’t feel that overwhelming love. I didn’t say that out loud, of course. I just went through the motions and tried to focus on recovering from my surgery. I figured once I was able to feel a little less like I had just been operated on, I would be able to bond with him.
The day of my birthday a lot of people came up to the hospital to wish me happy birthday and to see the baby. It started off as a really great day. But as the day wore on, I started to feel really overwhelmed with all the people there. I didn’t like my oldest son sitting up on the bed with me. He made me so nervous with all the IV’s and I kept envisioning him pouncing on my freshly cut belly. I remember asking my mom to get him off the bed. It was just too stressful. The new baby was constantly crying as well.  The only things that seemed to console him were milk and running water. I just remember standing by the running faucet for as long as I could until my incision started hurting and I’d need to sit down again.
The morning before we were released from the hospital, my husband came into the room with some very bad news. Our insurance company had denied our claim. It seems they had some kind of hidden rider in our policy that stated they wouldn’t pay for c-sections. We were going to be responsible for over $20,000 in hospital bills out of our own pockets. The hospital wouldn’t even give us a self-pay discount. We were screwed. We thought we had already paid for the delivery months prior. Our OBGYN had billed us what they said would be our portion of the delivery and we paid it right away. How could this be happening? It was like a bad dream. I felt incredibly guilty. My husband was in a total panic and spent hours in the billing department and on the phone with our insurance company screaming his head off. We had been screwed over by some dip shit insurance agent, and I felt like it was entirely my fault. I felt so ripped off. We should have been spending the day snuggling our newborn son, oowing and aahing over his tiny hands and feet. Instead, I felt like a failure. I spent that whole evening crying. No, crying doesn’t even begin to describe it. I sobbed. The nurse came in to give me some paperwork, and I couldn’t even hold it together long enough to ask her to leave. I felt such a deep sadness. I didn’t sleep well that night and in the morning when the nurse came in to start our discharge paperwork, I was in a total blur of sadness and fatigue. I just wanted to go home and sleep.
The first few weeks at home were rough. My oldest son was so angry with me for having to spend so much time with the new baby. He had never acted negatively towards me before, and in my weakened emotional state, it took a huge toll on me. I cried constantly. I felt so guilty for bringing another child into our home. Once, again, I felt like a failure and was completely consumed with guilt. I felt like I needed to do whatever I could to make my oldest son feel loved again. So, I threw myself into frenzy. I tried to make everything go back to “normal.” I ignored repeated warnings from both my doctors and nurses to avoid picking up my oldest son. I didn’t care. I couldn’t have him thinking I didn’t love him anymore! I pushed myself to the limit both physically and emotionally on a daily basis. By the time my six week check-up came around, I was a complete wreck. Pain was radiating from my incision, and my back was killing me. I don’t know who cried more, me or my colicky newborn. But, when my doctor asked me how I was feeling, I lied and said “great!” I was way too ashamed to admit that I wasn’t. I was afraid of looking like a failure. I was also too afraid to admit that I hadn’t been taking it easy physically either. In fact, I lied on those mommy post-partum quizzes that they give new mothers at the pediatrician’s office.  You know, they ones where they ask if you’ve been feeling sad, overwhelmed, depressed, anxious? I should have answered with an overwhelming “HELL YES!” I should have told those doctors the truth. I wish I had.
I look back now and think about how my story could have been so different if I would have gotten help right away. I knew something wasn’t right. Everyone around me knew something wasn’t right. It was like the person I used to be had vanished, and all that was left was a shell of the old me. I was so consumed with guilt and sadness and so plagued with anxiety that I could barely function on a daily basis. It took every ounce of energy in my body to get out of bed in the morning. I started fantasizing about running away. I just felt like I was in a black hole with no way of getting out. Eventually, my fantasizing shifted from running away, to giving my youngest child up for adoption. That’s when I knew I was really starting to lose my grip on reality. I knew I needed help, I was just too afraid to accept it.
Things went on like this for almost 6 months. I kept waiting to feel normal again. I tried so hard to “get over” my depression. I tried taking vitamins, getting massages, going to a chiropractor, “thinking” positively. Nothing seemed to help. My depression only got worse. The final straw came on a trip to Omaha with my family. I desperately wanted to get away. My house had started to feel like a prison. I just needed to get out. I thought maybe a change of scenery for a few days might help me. That was the longest night I have ever experienced. I spent the entire night lying in bed, trying to stop myself from jumping out of the window of the hotel room. I thought my family had suffered enough and that if I was gone, they could be happy again. I just wanted to end the suffering for everyone. Thank God I was strong enough to realize that those thoughts were irrational. I went to the doctor as soon as we got back into town and I begged for help.
The doctor prescribed me a low dose of an anti-depressant medication. I was terrified to take it, but I knew that not taking it would be worse than any side effect the medication may have. Within a couple weeks, the anxiety started lifting. I was able to read my children their bedtime stories, and actually pay attention to the words on the page, rather than the thoughts racing through my brain. Relief was starting to set it. A light was shining at the end of that black hole. After a few months, I was starting to feel like the fog had cleared. I was able to think logical, rational thoughts. I started feeling a bond with my new baby that I hadn’t felt before. It was like a switch had been flipped, and I was back.
It took several months for me to make a full recovery. Post-partum depression had ripped through my family like a tsunami and we had one hell of a mess to clean up. My husband and I are very committed to our marriage, though, and have worked hard to pick up the broken pieces and put our family back together again. The journey was not easy, and there were definitely times when neither one of us thought we were going to make it. But I can happily report that our marriage is stronger than ever. I feel like our commitment to each other and to our children was tested and that we passed with flying colors. We survived.
Since going through the hellish journey of post-partum depression, I have decided to speak out about my experience. I want to make other women aware of the signs/symptoms so that they can get help early and avoid months of unnecessary suffering. I also want them to know that there is NO SHAME in asking for help, and admitting that you are struggling. Hormones are so powerful, and they go through so many crazy changes after giving birth. It is not our fault. Some women just need a little extra help balancing things out. It is a completely treatable disease, but one that does require medical attention. I truly believe that if I can help one person to avoid the pain and suffering that I went through, then it would not have been in vain. There is another side of the post-partum period that people don’t like talking about. Well, I’m talking! If you or someone you know has recently given birth and is showing some of the early signs and symptoms of PPD, make sure their doctor is aware. PPD can occur anytime within the first year of giving birth. Please don’t suffer in silence. Reach out for help. It’s there waiting. You CAN and WILL be yourself again.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Daycare.

On Monday, my sweet girl started "school" aka daycare.  When we took her in there, she walked right in, started playing, and didn't notice when we left.  However, when I called to check on her, she'd been crying on and off throughout the day.  I ended up picking her up about 5 hours after we dropped her off since we weren't officially back at work.  We mostly took her to help her (and us) transition a couple days before headed back to work officially on Wednesday (today).  When I picked her up, she was napping.  After finally opening her eyes, she started whimpering and hopped right into my arms.  She told me she painted, but she also told me "See Daddy.  See Boo.  See Oskie."  We talked about her day on the drive home.  I asked her if she felt sad at school, and she said, "I kai...Mama."  (I cry, Mama).  Meaning she was crying for me.  That broke my heart.

Tuesday's drop off was different for sure.  She was very reluctant to go in, and she wanted us to hold her.  However, we scooted out the door pretty quickly, and her awesome teacher Miss B was great to hold her and distract her by playing.  Ayes nose got all red like she was going to cry, but she didn't.  Of course, she cried a few times through the day.  When we got there to pick her up (B came with), she came running full speed down the hall (where they were having indoor recess-type time) before we even said a word.  She was smiling, but the good news is she looked to be having fun before she noticed us.  She showed us her stickers and was very happy to go home and "See Boo, see Oskie" again.

Today's drop off was...horrible.  Brandon does drop off duty, but with such a big change for my precious girl, I want to be there these first few days if I can.  Today started off totally different because we had to be up earlier.  She didn't eat breakfast, which she hasn't been this week since usually she plays/watches a movie, then eats.  She drank her milk, probably a bit too fast judging from the spit up (really, 2 year olds can spit up!) and need for a change of outfit.  When we got to school, we knew her teacher Miss B wouldn't be there yet since her shift starts later.  Her safe person, the one person she's really seemed to connect with, wasn't there yet.  Really.  We went in and a teacher she/we didn't know wanted to take her from us.  I wasn't comfortable with that.  I know it is important to leave quickly, but I also want to make sure I hand her over to someone she's remotely familiar with.  We tried to get her to color, then play with plastic food.  She said, "Mama play?"  I told her we had to go.  Even when we first arrived, she was laying her head on me and holding me tight.  It was heart wrenching when finally Miss M leaned in to ask Ayla about the owl on her shirt and in that instant took Ayes right out of my arms.  I wanted to take her back and hug her.  Of course, I know that Miss M knows what she's doing (she's one of the head honchos), but it didn't change the fact that Ayla was screaming and crying, reaching out for us as Miss M walked her over toward the window to watch us go bye-bye.  My eyes filled with tears and Miss M said she'd be okay.  

I heard her screaming and crying even after the door shut behind us.  Literally.  I could hear her through the window.  It broke my heart.  I don't know that I've ever experienced such pain.  Logically I know she's in a good place, she's safe, she'll be okay, blah, blah, blah.  But she is my baby.  Baby.  I felt like I totally let her down.  I had that feeling that I've heard moms talk about-where you worry that your child feels as though you just abandoned them.  It hurt my heart, it hurt my soul, and it hurt my face from the bawling I did in the parking lot.  And more crying when I got to the parking lot of our welcome back breakfast.  And more crying inside the bathroom and then the restaurant as several friends gave me the "sad face" and asked me what was wrong.  Note:  Don't make the sad face or ask me what's wrong when I've obviously been crying.  I am totally incapable of stopping the water works from starting up again.

I know it will get better.  After we left, she had a much better day than yesterday or Monday.

It just hurts.  It hurts to hear your baby tell you, "Stay home Mama, Papa."  It hurts to be unable to do the one thing your little one really wants you to do.  She's going to love school and learn so much, but she also loves me and her Papa and would be glad to stay home watching movies and going on play dates and Gymboree outings if we could.

I worry that people think I'm weak when they keep telling me, "Oh, she'll be fine."  I know that, and I know people mean well.  Its just such a weak, vulnerable feeling, and I'm used to putting on a tough face.

I hope Ayla knows that I'd never leave her, that I always come back.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Migraines

Migraines are the bane of my existence at this moment.  They rob me of so much...the ability to work out, the ability to run and play with my daughter...the ability to function properly.  

I often wonder, when seeing an advertisement for migraine remedies, why do the models look like this...
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Or this...
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And this...
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Seriously folks, I don't look like any of these lovely ladies on a GOOD migraine-free day, so why on earth would we depict a migraine like this?  It looks somewhat glamorous.  It looks less than painful...more of an irritation or annoyance.  Anyone who suffers any kind of headaches/migraines/tension headaches/cluster headaches/sinus headaches knows that a migraine looks more like this...
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 And this...
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I swear the next time I'm writhing in excruciating pain, I'm going to have Brandon snap a few photos so that people can see what a migraine really looks like.

I find it extremely disheartening that the medical community doesn't seem to care.  There aren't any "find a cure for migraine" bracelets or 5ks or fundraisers that I know of.  If there are any, they aren't very well known.  I understand the importance of curing terminal illnesses, such as cancer and AIDS, but I have to ask: what about quality of life?  When you are in so much pain (not exaggerating, like some people think...migraine sufferers are the toughest people I've ever met) that dying seems to be an acceptable option, how rich is your quality of life?  And speaking of terminal illnesses, did you know a study shows that 1 in 5 cancer survivors experience chronic pain, sometimes lasting an indefinite amount of time?  Pain also leads to extreme depression in many, due to the lack of understanding, support, and the things it robs people of (social experiences, relationships, work success, etc.)

Pain is a problem our healthcare system fails at solving.  I say this boldly because I've experienced such medial atrocities in my 15 years of suffering, it isn't excusable.  When are we going to wake up and stop treating people with REAL physical problems that cause unbearable pain like suffering humans instead of mental cases?  When will we get it right?