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

When Creativity gets Squashed by Survival Mode

When dealing with postpartum anxiety and depression and then adrenal fatigue and chronic exhaustion, I was stuck in survival mode.  Survival mode is not a great place for creativity to thrive in, or even show up.  A handful of days are that way now, occasionally, when I get insomnia or something else incredibly stressful comes up.  But for the most part, things have improved so much that I marvel at the contrast.  Maybe the following sound familiar to you, and I just want to give you hope that it doesn’t have to stay that way!

Some people have lofty aspirations, but at my lowest point, I just wanted to be at a place where I could be able to wake up easily not feeling exhausted and look forward to what lay ahead.  Where I wasn’t wishing each day was over because I barely felt like I could make it through.   I longed to know what being motivated and enthusiastic felt like again.  I didn’t want to be so overwhelmed that I might have a panic attack, and look like a fool when asking somebody to come just be with me and my kids because I couldn’t deal with life.  I wanted to enjoy food and not feel awful no matter what healthy thing I tried to eat.  I ached to see a light at the end of the dark tunnel within my health journey.

(I am going to pause a moment and acknowledge that some health journeys are a continuous tunnel without much light.  Although keeping hope alive is important, I know some issues are chronic, unrelenting, and desperately painful without any probability of reversal.

If you’re in that place, know your pain and your story matter.  I truly believe many of life’s most valuable lessons come from the most painful things, and you may unknowingly be the one teaching others what perseverance looks like and giving others in a hard situation the courage to go on, too.  Reach out if you feel like you need someone to help hold you up, pray for, and encourage you–you don’t have to go it alone! We were made to connect!)

I grieved for the vibrant, creative and energetic girl and woman I had once been.  I was LOW.  So I did what I normally do to cope with challenges: I read (which is hard to find time to do as a mom, right?! But I made it happen).  I was reading some inspirational mom book and it said something about having a passion or dream apart from the daily grind of parenting.

I had this numb sort of reaction, like, “That’s nice for some moms, but I can’t even imagine being in a place where my mind be able to fathom having a dream.  And besides, I don’t know what my dream would be.”  (But I do now.  More on that later.)  Have you been there?  Don’t be there alone.  Feel free to comment and share if you are in survival mode, or if you’ve discovered your dream.  What got you from survival mode to creativity again?

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, minimalism, saving money, sensory processing disorder

What everyday SPD looks like for my 3 and 5 yr olds…

My 5 yr. old son asked for another piece of pizza, a rare treat at our place since I am gluten-free and don’t usually have the energy to make it myself and avoid certain ingredients for my healthy eating standards.  He was so happy when I said sure…but when I gave it to him, he kind of stared at the piece and started to zone out as his face fell a little.

I asked him, “What’s wrong, hon?”  But I could have guessed.  You see, the pizza crust was not big enough for him to hold without getting sauce on his fingers.  The sauce went too far up.  And as much as he loves pizza, his desire to avoid that messy feeling is greater.  He knows he can wipe his hands on a napkin or wash his hands later, but he can’t do it.

I found myself thinking, Wow. He didn’t throw a fit!  He didn’t meltdown over it today! He didn’t cry or get angry!  That looks like progress to me!  And it is.  We’ve been working with him a lot about his responses.  To be frank, a lot has to do with me not getting upset with his particularities, which was hard at first because I grew up in a family where you weren’t allowed to be “picky.”  Then I married a “picky” person…but I see it’s not always about pickiness.  It can be about texture.  It can be about how tastes hit a person’s brain.  My son got a lot of the way his brain works from his dad.  They can’t deal with some fabrics (my husband won’t wear “scratchy” wool sweaters, or cotton sweaters that aren’t soft enough).  Not only are some things like that a turn-off or irritating, it can just plain overwhelm them, because of how their brains magnify, misinterpret, or translate a sensation.  I can see now they’re not “spoiled” or “bratty” because they choose not to flood their brains with highly unpleasant feedback.

The fact that my son got a little sad about not feeling like he could enjoy the pizza he was anticipating so much makes me want to figure out ways to help him cope with his SPD more.  Because sometimes, you can’t change the way things are.  But in this case, it was an easy fix because the pizza was thin crust, and I just folded it over onto itself so the back of the pizza could be more of a crust, and that worked for him.  No messy fingers.  I guess another solution could have been cutting it up and eating it with a fork, which he has done in the past, but whatever the issue, the triumph was that he remained calm and went on to enjoy his pizza.

Another instance of SPD showing occurred when he needed new shoes.  I got him some cute ones that only needed to be zipped (because he is also kind of OCD and if the shoes have velcro, he takes forever aligning the velcro just right…more than one strap? You’ll be waiting a while) and was thrilled when he put them on, ran and hopped around, and wore them to school the next day.

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After a day of school, however, with all the movements an active 5 yr. old does, he informed me they felt bumpy at the top when he knelt.  So brand new shoes that I can’t return now?  Tah-tah.  And today, I can be okay with that.  (And also thankful I mostly only buy things on sale or second-hand).  Previously, I would have gotten mad that I went through the trouble to find the shoes, spent the money, and he didn’t like them after all.  Life is better when I accept his issues and treat him with dignity instead of trying to fit him into my idea of the way things should be.  I would want somebody to do the same for me.  My husband does not get mad or rant or resent me (though it may exhaust him) when I get stuck in anxious mode and he has to hear all about my fears knowing he can’t fix me.  He makes life better for me by hearing me, understanding it’s hard for me, and loving me unconditionally.  I want to do that for my son.  

I sometimes see my son trying to mask his SPD reactions.  When we were looking for shoes another occasion, he tried to use logic to reason his way into a new pair of Paw Patrol light-up shoes.  They looked perfect!  But the first thing he said when he tried them on before I asked or anything was, “hmm, I feel a bump on the bottom.” Then seeing my face, and knowing I would not get them if he had a complaint, he immediately tried to reason it away, saying, “BUT I think they’ll be fine after I wear them a little while and get used to them!”  Experience has taught me that if it’s annoying initially, that’ll always be the case.  There were tears shed over those Paw Patrol shoes, but I wouldn’t budge.

Similarly, his little sister got some brand new PINK tennis shoes after searching many stores.   They were NIKE!  (We were given a gift card to the store).  She LOVES pink!  She tried them on.  She danced around!  She was so happy.  She WANTED them to work! But when it came down to it, she couldn’t stand them for longer than a minute every time we tried them on after that.  She’d put them on, then get stuck like glue with her bottom on the floor, not being able to get up and walk in them. It’s like her brain just shut down with them on her feet.

I am not very patient when we’re getting ready to go and people don’t have their shoes on when I asked 15 minutes earlier.  A 20 minute delay really irks me.  One day she tried on 3 pairs of socks and 3 pairs of shoes, and we were so late.  I definitely returned the pink shoes.  I was disappointed because of the amount of effort searching, and feeling exhausted and dreading that now another kid is manifesting some real SPD stuff.  (It’s SO draining for me to figure out how to do life with SPD!  And not just one kid’s particularities!  But two…If you add in their dad’s preferences, three sensory processing packages! I guess it is draining to HAVE the SPD oneself, though, eh?!)  But I was SO GLAD I know it’s just not worth it to try to MAKE something work that just isn’t going to work.  

Like the pretty dress I’d bought when she was a baby, waiting for her to fit into it.  It was a perfect Easter dress!

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too “scratchy” for threenager

She would not wear it.  She wanted to!  She put it on, excited to dance and spin in it…But it was “too scratchy,” and she freaked out and cried until she got it off.   Just like when she put on the brand new shirt with a seam across the chest (which I also had bought in advance.  I think I have learned my lesson. “Saving money” buying things when they’re a good deal doesn’t always save money.  I am also glad I can let things go by embracing minimalism and saying if it doesn’t work for me, we can pass it on, no problem.  Why waste my emotional energy on it, looking at it and feeling bothered it was supposed to work but didn’t?!)

Anyhow, that’s just a glimpse of some examples of everyday issues that crop up with family members with SPD.  There are more, believe me…there are more.  But I can say that with a smile.  Life is not over; it is just more interesting.

 

 

 

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

How Being Intentionally Involved Moms Invites Joy Into our Lives

Finding joy as a mother has been a long journey for me.  Yes, there was the instant joy and love during the bonding phase with each of my children as newborns.  After that, however, I really struggled with the realities of life as a mother…

Mainly, the lack of sleep.  Lots of anxiety.  The postpartum depression.  The moving (we lived in 5 different homes since my now-preK aged son was born).  Probably a lot of hormonal stuff after the first that I didn’t catch onto, but definitely after my second child to a degree we couldn’t ignore anymore.

I was surviving, fueled by love and God’s mercies, but I was hanging on by a thread.  I am honestly amazed my marriage survived the past 4 years, because it was so tough on not only me but also my husband.  Looking back, I see there were the many, many heartwarming, good times.  But the overall feeling of the last 4 years for me has often been sheer exhaustion.  I say this a little hesitantly because I don’t want people considering having kids to have fear, or to avoid it because of the possibility of struggles.  I do, however, think it’s important for those who are willing to share to be open about that sort of thing, because awareness is key to navigating issues.  I would not have realized what postpartum depression looked like (and how it can look so different for so many people) if women did not publicly share their stories, and it could have turned out much more seriously than it did, because I finally realized what was going on when my youngest was over a year old through random articles about PPD online.

I really had to fight through daily and weekly struggles, mainly my health struggles (mental/emotional, chronic fatigue, hormone/cycle related PMDD) and then my son’s sensory-processing issues (now my daughter as well), which made for intense times almost nonstop throughout the day.  One of the light spots I remember during the darkest parts of this time was that I took a ton of photos and videos of the cutest moments whenever I was able that, later on at the end of each week, I’d review late at night after the kids finally went to bed, that made me smile.

(I am so thankful for how our neurochemistry works.  That activity may be one of the key positive habits helping me make it through the darker periods of postpartum. If you like neurochemistry/psychology type stuff, check out http://www.pnas.org/content/114/9/2361.abstract .  Basically, the amygdala, or the part of the brain responsible for social behavior, motivation and emotions, of mothers produces dopamine, which creates pleasure or rewarding sensations, when they view images of their children.  Although they wore me out, my kids existence also motivated me to keep going.)

All that to say, my youngest is almost 4 now, and it’s only really been in the past year that life has been on the sunny side most of the time.  My husband and I have grown in so many ways and changed how we do things, finding healthier ways to cope with stress.  We’ve in general altered our lifestyle, especially food-wise, to promote our familial well-being.

So, to get to the main theme I was aiming at when I began typing…Finding joy in motherhood has been a long journey for me.  On the days when I did not, or occasionally still, do not have the natural energetic enthusiasm to actively engage positively with my kids, sometimes choosing to do so regardless of how I feel is the best thing to create an environment of contentment and delight.  Not just for them, either.  Intentionally involving myself in my busy little people’s worlds can be difficult when my mind is preoccupied by you-name-it…But it’s the BEST way to spark joy.  Because I was MADE for this.

(Let me clarify:  I have a ton of potential I could invest anywhere I want.  Got the degrees, got a lot of interests, talents and dreams.  I am not limited to my home.  [Hello, women’s rights movement?  All things are permissible for me…But I don’t personally find them all beneficial.]  Yet right now, I am mainly focused at home.  This is the work I want to do, building my kids’ safe haven and our family’s HQ.  I am choosing my family to invest into during this season of my life, when the foundations of my kids’ lives are being laid.  And I find I am most fulfilled and healthy when I am whole-heartedly committed to my calling.  I’ve known what I want to do since I was little, pretending to be a wife and mommy as early as I can remember, putting on my mom’s high heels, and directing the neighborhood kids in activities.  [Some may call me bossy…I like to say I just have the skills of an administrator.])

Joy shows up when I am an active, caring participant in the lives of my family members.  You know what I despise?  Frigid temperatures.  A cold nose and fingers and toes.  (Also, being hot makes me feel grumpy, but that’s a bunny trail…).  Know what else stresses me out like mad?  The fact that getting winter gear on my daughter is a long battle filled with howling in pain (at least, her senses are telling her that she’s in pain) over “bumpy stuff” in her gloves, endless pairs of socks and boots. (We turn the socks inside out and have some other coping strategies, but I’m so emotionally exhausted after each session).

But you know what my son in particular loves?  Playing in the snow.  So I had to ask, what was more important?  Me feeling comfortable, inside and warm folding laundry?  Lack of stress interacting with my daughter (who, generally speaking, is the more cuddly, happy child)?  Or my son’s heart?  Him feeling valued, too, even though his temperament is often intense, needing lots of direction and correction to keep him calm rather than reacting with eruptions of anger or other meltdowns.

So I had a choice.  I could base my success as a homemaker on my productivity–getting the laundry done (finally off the couch!).  Or I could find meaning in my calling, using my gifts of creativity and sensitivity to care for and encourage those in my life as I am strengthened by the unconditional love of my Creator. 

It’s not easy to choose what doesn’t always feel easy.  I’m thankful for snowboarding pants to keep me from turning into a popsicle, and a seriously poofy winter coat and sturdy boots to hold me over for a good 45 minutes of outdoor winter playtime.  I steeled my jaw to face the cold, hopped into the car with a couple of ladles, and we went on a mission for fun.

“Mom!  What are you doing with the soup thingies?” My three year old asked me.  I chuckled mischievously and said mysteriously, “You’ll see, babe…Wait and see.”  And in a few minutes, my kids’ eyes sparkled.  You see, intentional moms are magical creatures in the eyes of their children.  You know what really makes us magical, though?  Seeing that sparkle in their eyes and knowing we put it there.

Turns out ladles make some pretty spectacular snowball-scoopers and are just right for carving out snow-caves in snow mounds the plows made out of a parking lot of a mere 1.5″ snowfall.

#winningatmomlife #choosingjoy

 

Posted in minimalism, Ponderings about life, saving money, Uncategorized

Aiming high in 2018!

As I take down and prepare to recycle our 8-year old, pre-lit, 4 ft. Christmas tree that slowly dwindled down to having only 1/5th of the lights working, I start to think about how I might miss out on the after-Christmas sales, where I was hoping to snag a replacement.  They’re probably all sold out by now! I worry.  (Did I mention how I am an expert? At least at worrying.  I’m trying to lose that credential lately.)  Even if they weren’t, I spent the cash, mostly piggy bank quarters, on groceries and now we’re not using credit this month! I think, defeated. 

Then I catch myself and say, as it is a new year, how about a shift in thinking?  I am determining to stay on the sunny side of life this year.  The past several years were way too wearing on me, full of anxiety and more often than I’d like to admit, negativity (which grows easily when you’re chronically fatigued), and I’m ready for an improved point of view. (And hormone health…but that’s for another post!)

My January goal, as mentioned earlier, is not using credit.  After December and gift buying, mostly on Amazon (where Discover offered 5% cash back on purchases!!), my husband showed me our mint info…and there was a lot of red.  Actually, in more than just December.  Because we don’t buy what we can’t afford, I didn’t think of it as a problem.  I’m the acquisitions expert in the family.  (Read: shopper extraordinaire).  We had money in savings. I discussed everything beforehand with my financial partner, my handsome hubs.  But with over half the year drawing from it (mostly for medical bills and health efforts like buying organic and gluten free foods), maybe it’s time to scale back in other ways?  So, thought-pattern shifting time!

I don’t really do things half-heartedly.  I’m kind of all or nothing.  So when my husband suggested we be careful the next few months and try to save, I got curious.  What if we didn’t use credit AT ALL this month?! (With the exception of buying gas, which Discover offers 5% cash back on, again…that’s making money, you know)?! How much could we save then? The possibility was rather exciting. 

The goals?  Save for our kids’ next year at a private school, be able to afford plane tickets to visit my brother on the other side of the US, and budget for a dog (wasn’t that like $1,000 a year including vet bills?).

So, no impulse buys this month.  Empty our pantry.  Get creative with meals, only use gift cards ($40 to Target, $25 to Amazon, and the rest of our cash, which was about $20 in bills, and $10 in coins) to restock the empty fridge with fresh milk, fruit and veggies for the kids after returning from Christmas vacation.  Put all “wants” on a list for next month.  I got this.  So I think.

Stay tuned. 

P.S.  Back to the Christmas Tree…I changed my thinking to more outside the box.  I’ve always wanted a little 2-3 ft. live one that come in cute little pots at Lowes!  So that’s my plan.  Next year, we’ll have a tree/bush to plant outside after adding some live greenery to our home.  No artificial one in storage(we don’t really have storage spaces in our home) for me!  How’s that for a step towards minimalism? I should pat myself on the back for that triumph out of decor-tragedy!

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

Postpartum resolution?

I’ve been thinking of writing this post for a while.  I’ve been hopeful but hesitant to say “I’m over it.”  The postpartum days of no energy.  No enthusiasm.  No respite from anxiety, frustration, irritation, random and intense anger at minor things, and feelings of isolation and panic.  But spring has sprung and with it, my excitement and zest for life.  As the freezing weather’s ice and snow melt into memory, I am feeling a renewed vitality.  Thank God that though suffering endures for a season, joy comes in the proverbial morning.

(BTW, Psalm 4 was a true comfort when things really stunk. Praying this scripture for myself was encouraging for many reasons.  It talks about God hearing our pleas and giving relief from our distress.  In verse 8 it says “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”  While dealing with insomnia and intense fear and worry over something possibly happening to the kids or hubby or myself, this prayer was awesome.  Verses 6-7 talk about God being the one who can show us good, and that he can fill hearts with great joy.  What hope that was for me!  My desire this year is to better understand and know that God-given joy.)

Does this mean I don’t have bad days?  Oh, those still come occasionally.  Usually after low sleep or an emotional bump in the road (like disagreeing with my hubby, discouraging attacks from “friends” emboldened by the distance social media provides, and others’ struggles I don’t know how to distance myself from).  But they are far less frequent and feel more survivable.  Sissy is 10 months old, has 6 teeth, has been crawling for a while and the other day even stood up wobbily.  (I think wobbily should be a word, even if spell check disagrees.)

One thing lately that I’ve found renewed interest in is exercise.  There’s a 90-day fitness challenge Youtube series I’m  doing (sort of…no pressure) that’s designed for moms (so that means kids might be around while you’re working out, and workouts are short and sweet though still challenging).  I decided my munching had gotten out of control when I had to go back up a pants size.  I am less fit now than 3 months postpartum (I had a wedding to be in that had motivated me then)!  Some of the extra muffin-topping might have to do with either using food as a comfort when I’m frustrated with the kids (rather than blowing up) or with the fact that I’m not worrying as much.  Anyhow, the other day I asked Hubby if he’d come home for lunch two days a week so I could do a quick jog around the block without the kids as Sissy napped and my little fireman either ate lunch or watched a show.  So thankful Hubs agreed!  But also…so very sore as a result.

Another thing that has gotten me all excited about life again are all the creative opportunities out there.  The spring displays in the stores, especially bulbs and plants and gardening stuff (even though I don’t really garden at this point in my life), spark a lot of daydreaming as I grocery shop. 🙂  The sprouting bulbs and other flower shoots in my yard got me itching to get dirt under my nails.  While the kids played nearby, either blowing bubbles or discovering sticks to gnaw on (ok, so I didn’t have an eye on Sissy every single second), I got my little shovel down in the soggy soil and scooped up stray plants. Here are the results of my recent spring-spiration (hmmm…not sure if that word works…what do you think?  Spring+inspiration?) :
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I’m not entirely sure I will keep the wreath that way, but after my winter leaves and berries dried up and I took them off, I didn’t want to pitch the wreath I had covered in moss from my yard.

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I don’t remember what kind of little bulb this was last year, but I didn’t want it to get mowed over this year so I rescued it from the random spots in the yard. (As an aside, isn’t the play set my dad built the kids from scratch and discarded playground pieces like the slide and see-saw-type swing, plus water-barrel-turned-tunnel AWESOME?! Big bro is enjoying what he calls his “fireman ladder” a lot lately.)

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This last one I did today with an assortment of yardage (or so I call it), but it’s kind of sad looking.  I’m hoping it perks up but until then, I have make-shift plant stakes (see the brown-twiggy things?  That’s the leftover stems and stake for artificial flowers.  Organic-looking yet keeps my wilty bulbs propped up. 🙂  I feel smaht for coming up with that one!)

I like moss, so it is usually featured in the outdoor projects I do. 🙂

Lots of rain lately.  I kind of like rainy days, but mostly when they are separated by lovely warmish days we get to go outside during.  Soon, I’d like to turn a mint green sink my friend passed on to me into an herb garden planter.  Rather keen on that idea.  Just need a good chunk of time.  Maybe this weekend?!

Friends have been having babies and I’ve been doing nap-time sewing projects for gifts.  That’s always fun.  My favorite gifts are the ones that don’t take very long but the babies love, which are the taggy jingle or rattle toys (probably would also make a good cat toy if stuffed with catnip. haha)  Another quick project are these binkie clips.  Sissy’s not a binkie baby but Big bro sure was, and I found these quite necessary for outings, or boy would we be in for it!
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A friend took me to a fabric store in town I’d never been to.  Sensory overload!  Everything was way over my price range (I don’t want to pay more than $4/yard if I must buy fabric new), but I was very inspired.  I have some fabric projects in my think tank now, including a dress for the little miss.

I made vanilla again recently, too. Also bought some soap-making supplies.  Soap-making has always sounded like too much work, but I would truly enjoy learning how to do it now that I’m building my essential oil collection after learning to make chap-stick last year.  Got back into cloth-diapering (it’s day 2.  No promises) after feeling like I’m not so overwhelmed with everything.

I’m optimistic about what the future holds.  Even if there are potholes in the road ahead, it’s good to be excited about traveling down it again.

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.

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

Postpartum Life

I tend to be sporadic in my blogging. Oh, so you noticed. 🙂

Well, this time it was because life got really busy and unpredictable really quickly. We found out our Whirlpool Duet is one of those washers that repair guys get called up about a lot, and they usually can’t repair them, according to the repair guy. Can’t say I was thrilled with going to the (expensive!!) laundromat with an almost-2-yr. old! But I was glad we had purchased the extended warranty on the washer, which afforded us a matching washer/dryer set of a different brand, top-loader but still energy efficient.

During the MONTH+ (yeah, let’s just say repairs where I live in mountain-land don’t get done quickly when contracted out from the chain home improvement store we had to work with) without a washer I had to stop cloth diapering my son.  Then with the new baby shortly after that, we kept using disposables and I’m currently working up the gumption to get back into cloth diapering. My now 2 yr.-old is potty training (as in, he asks to go on the big potty seat sometimes but sometimes refuses when we try to get him to sit on it) so I’m hoping he’ll be out of diapers soon anyhow.  But for our little girl, who is now 3 months old and almost 12 lbs., I would like to start cloth diapering again soon.

However, I had to come to the realization (and it happened pretty quickly…right after grandma left) that the transition from having only one kid to having two under two at once just was not an easy thing for me. When friends around me were doing so well at it, I wondered what made it so hard for me. One reason was that though my son adored his new sister, he did not adore having to share Mommy and Daddy, and really started acting out.  My formerly smiley, sweet boy was now screaming for 45 minutes in the morning when he saw me carrying Sissy downstairs instead of him first, or whatever reason or non-reason he had for it.  At playgroup he started hitting, pushing, pulling hair, in general being a big bully–totally uncharacteristic for him formerly.  At church a nursery worker even commented that this was not the same kid he used to be.  It was heartbreaking for me.  I didn’t like him very much for those first few months though I love him unconditionally. I think things are getting better with my son’s behavior due to a lot–and I mean a lot– of consistent discipline and intentional parenting.  I think he’s come to see we aren’t going to forget about him and he even gets to have a lot of fun, just on a different time table than before.

Praise God Sissy has been an incredibly easy baby.  However, I’ve realized another reason life after baby #2 has been difficult is that I have been struggling with postpartum depression. I am pretty sure I may’ve even struggled with it after the first one!  I think I didn’t recognize it immediately because I could still see the humor in some things and didn’t feel down 100% of the time.  But the other symptoms in lists I was reading about postpartum depression described what was going on with me quite accurately, such as:

  • Intense irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Overwhelming exhaustion; feeling “heavy”
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness or despair
  • Fear of being a “bad” mother, or that others will think you are
  • Fear that harm will come to the baby
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of panic

With my first baby, I didn’t get much rest not only because he was colicky, but also because I was afraid he would stop breathing in his sleep so I would constantly stop what I was doing or wake up to make sure he was alive.  I even had a flashlight next to my hand at night to check on him.  This time around I’m more relaxed and trusting God to take care of what I cannot control, but I do often check Sissy’s breathing during daytime naps.  Force of habit.  I’m afraid of walking too close to the stairwell for fear of losing balance while holding her.  The other day Hubby hadn’t called to say he was on his way home and it was about an hour later than usual, the kids were being particularly difficult to manage alone, and I found myself having difficulty breathing with panic setting in.

The mood swings have by far been the most destructive thing in my life lately.  I don’t like the person I’ve been recently.  I’ve snapped at my toddler and been way harsher than is called for.  I’ve been intensely angry at my husband for so many things and he could sense I was volatile.  I’ve been an emotional, crying, ugly mess. And I thought it was just me–I was so flawed in character or something.  Well, I know it’s true I’m not perfect and I have much room to grow.  But when I concluded this is NOT the normal, well-rested, well-balanced Aim, life started looking less bleak.

Since reading up on postpartum depression and talking with my husband a lot about it all, we’re doing so much better.  He’s understanding what’s going on in me and I feel very supported now.  I used to feel like I could barely survive the day with my crazy toddler and crying baby.  Ok, so I still feel like that sometimes and have to call my mom to calm down.  But now I think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  The me I like is returning slowly after I’ve been getting some help and working on lessening my stress, getting more exercise and eating healthier.  It may take a while for the postpartum depression to disappear, but I feel like I can breathe easier now.  I may cry a lot, but I have waterproof mascara, so I can look good when I do! haha.

Besides my husband and mom’s encouragement, I am so blessed to be surrounded by a group of uplifting friends that happens to be my son’s playgroup mommies, among others.  That is SO helpful to staying afloat when struggling.  The reason I shared all this is because I bet there are many more moms out there thinking things could not be worse and feeling alone in that.  You’re not.  We may be struggling, but we’ll make it!  You may not have a physical group in your life right now to bring you positivity, but there are other ways to get that like finding online groups.  For instance, on facebook you can “like” Hearts at Home, FamilyLife, Thriving Family, Proverbs 31 Ministries, Focus on the Family, MOPS International (Mothers of PreSchoolers) and other groups that will bring uplifting content for moms to see on their newsfeeds.  I’m sure there are lots of other ideas out there I just haven’t discovered yet.

One last thing.  This has helped me a lot.  You may feel you’re doing a miserable job in life lately if you’re going through this too.  But I challenge you to write several things down that you DID accomplish and choose not to tally the things you didn’t.  For instance, I’m ignoring dirty dishes tonight to revel in the fact that I was successful in encouraging my son to clean up his toys without either of us getting upset!  I changed–no kidding–SIX poopie diapers from just two kids today!  My son skipped his naptime but I kept my cool and we had a good time reading truck books over and over again!  Life is good.  I just have to be determined to see that.  And today, I succeeded.