Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, Ponderings about life

Postpartum Life, III

Perhaps I turned a corner and had some really great days in a row…but somehow I ended up back on that corner. Well, I admit: I stayed up late painting one night and another night talking with a friend. Neglecting my sleep probably had something to do with it. The early morning insomnia and grouchy mommy-me came back. (And yet I’m up late again, here, typing. Blah). So here I am all contemplative and I’m going to get something off my chest on behalf of all women dealing with any form of postpartum disorder…or any struggle. Here goes:

STOP GIVING US UNSOUGHT ADVICE!!!! Or little quips of (unwittingly?) insensitive positivity. Just give us help or a hug or a listening ear if you want to give something! (I feel badly that in the past I’ve probably been one of those people. I hope I’m learning.)

I love the gal I’m about to tell you about. She once said if ever I needed anything, to call her up. (Has anyone ever told you that and you think to yourself, “Yeah right, as if anybody ever means that!”? Well, this gal seemed sincere, I think she was…so I decided to trust her). Well, one day my son was having a meltdown, he’d just yanked on his sister’s arm after I fought for an hour to get her to sleep, I was overtired and knew I needed to take a break from him. So I shut myself on the other side of the door separating a hallway and the playroom. I needed to calm down. But that door doesn’t latch and my screaming toddler wanted to make sure his meltdown was being witnessed, so he barged through and came to hang on me while screaming at the top of his volume (which is exceptionally loud…ask my friends). Then I had a panic attack from feeling so overwhelmed and alone facing two screaming kids. I remembered the kind words and called “Elaine” and ask her to come over as she lived only a short distance away.

She came and found my son still hanging on me, screaming, as I cried and the baby cried in a safe place nearby. And she asked what exactly was the problem? Couldn’t she see? THIS!! I guess she probably just wanted to know what she could fix. I felt embarrassed that I had no “reasonable” answer. After I calmed down, I could see she was uncomfortable, not knowing what to say. I said that I guess the reason I called her was I had an anxiety attack and didn’t know if I could handle the kids alright just then. But I wish she hadn’t asked what the problem was. Because I feel like it’s me. I wish she’d asked how she could help, if she had to ask at all. Really, all I needed was for her to be there so I wasn’t struggling alone. In the awkwardness of me sitting there with tissues, her holding my baby, and my distraught toddler on my lap because I can’t peel him off me (I feel so badly that this affects him, too), “Elaine” nervously chatted with me. Which is fine. Some people can’t handle silence and just be there with you, quietly. Except she came up with solutions to my situation.

“I know what you need! You need to make time for yourself! Go out more!” Etc.

Then she went home after I assured her I’d be fine until my hubby came home. I got a haircut that evening, needing to do something drastic to get my head in order. I wasn’t taking her advice: I was running away for a while. Hubby finished bedtime routine with the kiddo and I fed the baby, laid her down to sleep, and went to Great Clips (they cost less after 7 p.m., and you can check their waiting time online…which was zilch that late).

For about a week I didn’t see “Elaine” and I somewhat felt we were both avoiding each other. Then she came by and waved one day, commented about my new short hairdo, and I knew she was wondering how things were after “the incident.” I said I think things were going better. (I’d hired some help temporarily for a few hours twice a week for a few weeks. Never mind that my toddler screamed for the sitter the first hour so I was the same amount of stressed as if she wasn’t there).

Then she started talking about the daycare in the area and saying how my son would love it there. She had a few other ideas of where we could go to “get out of the house more.” I was thinking it’s actually pretty stressful trying to go places with a toddler and a baby. The biggest challenge is getting everyone and everything in the vehicle, especially when the toddler acts like a noodle or a board when I’m trying to buckle the booger in.

I recently was out of town for a few weeks, so Elaine didn’t hear anything from me, and came knocking at my door. How sweet of her to check on me. Aaaand then she started saying she thought maybe I’d gotten a little job to take a break from my kids, that could clear my head, help with the…mental state I was in…
I smiled and said that actually, a job and leaving my kids sounded more stressful to me.

Another thing said to me more than once: “You seem just fine to me.” Ok, I just bothered to open up and say things are not just fine. I’m not just making it up. For the most part people know that it makes others uncomfortable sometimes talking about sensitive issues, so often if we’re struggling we put on our best face. Sometimes we don’t even have the strength to put up a front, but if we do, we often will, usually out of not wanting to be judged or make people feel uncomfortable.

I know a lot of people don’t understand stay-at-home-moms. I may want some autonomy from my kids sometimes, but I  don’t want to leave them in another’s care on a regular basis for more than a few hours a couple times a month, and I’m blessed I am not in a position where I must work outside the home. I’m not judging those who do, but I want my full-time job to be as a homemaker and mother.

I know a lot of people also don’t understand postpartum disorders. That it’s not always in depression form. That it can be extreme irritability and anger and look like marriage and self-control issues. That it can be serious even if you don’t want to harm your baby or yourself. That those who have lost a baby to miscarriage can experience the same emotional and hormonal symptoms as those who gave birth and are under the stress of caring for an infant. The list goes on.

But mostly, what bothers me is that a lot of people don’t care to educate themselves about what other people are going through and assume they know how to fix it and open their mouths before taking the time to actually try to understand.

Annnnyway…Now I feel like being an awareness spokesperson for Postpartum Disorder. Guess that’s basically what I’m doing typing here, huh?

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Ponderings about life

Postpartum Life, Part II

Three good days. IN A ROW! And right after a 3+week out of state vacation with the grandparents (which can be a notoriously difficult adjustment time as other parents of toddlers know!) I’m excited about that. I didn’t have to call hubby or my mom in a panic about anything. I didn’t feel like I was too overwhelmed to cope with the struggles of my past 3 days. Wondering if I’ve turned a corner. Maybe the postpartum cloud has lifted? If not completely, I’m pleased with the progress! I even caught myself singing out loud randomly again. It had been quite a while since I sang out loud other than at church (and sometimes I didn’t feel like doing even prompted singing), probably since right after my first was born and I went through a lot of postpartum symptoms with him. That realization made me think I’m starting to feel more like the normal me again.

Big bro hasn’t eased up on his tantrums the past three days; far from it. Continuing with consistent discipline is definitely wearing, but for the most part I’m able to stay calm and persevere (feels like an all-day endeavor..because it is). He seems less frustrated overall and is more dealing with lack of impulse control, like when he whops Sissy for no reason, poor dear. Sissy is 5 months old now and still the sweetest thing, even while teething.

Sometimes the sweetheart in him will emerge, too, and he’ll kiss her on the head in the middle of playing with his trucks. My son’s increasing vocabulary seems to help the situation. I try to lighten up things by sharing giggles, playing tag, or baking together. Maybe he senses I’m less tense and anxious.

I had struggled with insomnia since the last post but for the past week I’ve been able to sleep through the night. Pregnancy and parenthood so greatly increase one’s appreciation of sleep. Insomnia, oh so much more.

I’m not despairing about the future, feeling like I can’t handle tomorrow “alone”. As a Christian I believe I’m never alone spiritually, but sometimes the physical aloneness (no one to physically lend a hand when I felt so inadequate with a difficult toddler and needy baby all at once) felt overwhelming. Maybe it will feel that way again, I don’t know. People give a lot of advice when you go through a hard time, and saying to “just trust God” is not very helpful in situations like these. We may know trusting God is vital. Fear or anxiety are crippling emotions, and sometimes you can’t just shut them off even if you know God is trustworthy, strong enough to carry us through, that he has it all figured out so we don’t need to worry, and that he will never leave us.

For me I think a lot of the healing has been realizing the sources of my fear, and the unhealthy thought patterns in general. I tend to think like a perfectionist and people pleaser. We all know nobody’s perfect and you can’t make everybody happy. Try to, and you’ll be anxious. As a parent, the perfectionist tendencies really can get me worked up because, for instance, there’s no set standard or way to do things as a stay-at-home mom. I want to be the best mom I can be and not mess my kids up. As an example of this tendency for perfectionism, right now I have literally 12 tabs up with online articles to read about how to best parent my challenging child. (The funny thing is that I’ll never be able to implement all the suggestions, and some of the suggestions are contradictory from author to author, and finally, all kids are different so driving myself batty to follow somebody else’s suggestions might not even work in our case.) Giving myself permission to not earn 100% in everything is such a relief. My son won’t love me more if I’m perfect.

Realizing that even Jesus’ family had issues, and not everybody liked him though he was perfect has been a relief. Perfectionism and people-pleasing will probably be things I struggle with my whole life, but identifying them more in my thoughts is helpful to attempt to refocus on what really matters. Asking, “Am I being loving with my son?” rather than “Am I not making any mistakes with him?” is a healthier approach to parenting. Because I’m human and humans make mistakes. People might not think I’m doing things the best way, but I can’t focus on what they think, because it only matters what God thinks. And he offers forgiveness, strength, and hope for each new day and the challenges within. I’m so thankful.