I had this vision of what motherhood the second time around would look like for me. I would be this earth mother who gently nursed and rocked her baby girl to sleep while reading books and singing songs to the toddler beside her. I would exclusively breastfeed for six months, and I would practice baby led weaning for solid food. My youngest would not have a drop of formula at all. I would have a smooth transition from a mama of one to a mama of two girls. My girls would be the best of friends. I would finally have it all together as a parent.
Cue the entrance of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Reality did not match up with my expectations. My newborn was given an ounce of formula right after her birth due to low blood sugar. Cue the bad mama guilt. I had gestational diabetes, so of course it was my fault that her blood sugar was low. I lived in a constant state of high alert. The only time I relaxed was while I was nursing my sweet baby girl. Just before my return to work after my maternity leave, my baby ended up in the hospital with a bladder infection and a diagnosis of bladder reflux. I tried to pretend like I had it all together. Instead I spent my days and nights fighting back the rising feelings of rage, anxiety, and depression.
My life wasn’t supposed to be measured in three-hour increments at work. I could barely maintain a facade of competence and efficiency as I counted the minutes until I could escape into the lactation room. In the privacy of that room, I could let the tears flow. I could let the waves of panic wash over me, leaving me sweating and nauseous. I would repeat to myself the same mantras “you are okay”. The pit of dread, anxiety and panic sat in my stomach for months.
I finally decided that I deserved better, and my family deserved better. After months, I finally typed in the search terms postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety on Google. I found Postpartum Progress, and I found this amazing community of mamas who had struggled just like me. I found a therapist who validated my concerns and struggles. I learned to adjust my expectations to match my current reality. I do not have it all together, and I never will. All I can do is my best. Motherhood challenges me every day emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It is rewarding and exhausting in equal measure. Motherhood is not like the ads or the movies. It brings me to my knees and humbles me, and I am a better person for being a mom to these two girls.
So I have a confession to make. I’m struggling with the nutrition part again. I am consuming too much caffeine, and I am turning to the sweets again. Sweets and sugar filled coffee drinks (whipped cream, caramel sauce) are my weaknesses in times of stress. I also gave into the dark side of chips again. Yep. In return my body rebelled against all the processed food. I had a heartburn flare up.
So I am turning this ship around. I am continuing to maintain my focus on exercising, but I am increasing my efforts on eating healthier. I feel so much better when I eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and just a small amount of treats. If you are interested, join me and help hold me accountable. I slack off if I don’t have friends to hold me accountable. I know that the holidays are quickly approaching, and I know where my current slippery slope is heading – dreaded holiday weight gain. Eating well is a critical part of my self-care. I need to take care of myself, and I do that through proper nutrition, plenty of sleep, and lots of exercise. Come help a gal out so she maintains instead of gains during the holiday season!
You are seven now. Your birthday was just six days ago. It feels like just yesterday that you were born. I struggle with finding the balance between giving you independence and keeping you sheltered. Seven looks like sending my sweet girl to a lock in party at her dance studio until 9:30 p.m. You are welcome for letting you stay up way past your bedtime on your birthday night. Thank you sweetie for letting me know gently when you are confident enough to spread your wings. This mama wants to keep her big girl little for just a bit more. My tendency is to swoop in and hover.
You value your quiet time to read and create, and you have shown so much maturity in letting us know that you need that time to decompress. Your kindness and empathy know no bounds. Your creativity blossoms forth in your science experiments, your reading, your artwork, and your dancing. You lose yourself in books just like me. Sometimes I call you Jennifer because some of your personality traits remind me so much of myself. It is with love that I do that. We both need to decompress at the end of the night by recapping our entire day. I feel like you sometimes save up all your words for the end of the night. I treasure that time to really connect and listen to your hopes, your dreams, and your fears.
Munch, you made Daddy and I parents. Thank you for showing us unconditional love and a boundless capacity for forgiveness. As the oldest child, you are our guinea pig. We make lots of mistakes, and we continue to learn how to be the best mom and dad for you. Happy belated birthday!
Posted in parenting
To my sweet baby girl,
You are four years old today. I stayed up late last night to write this letter to you, much like I did the night before your birth. I needed to get everything ready. I cleaned the house, and I organized our office, filing paperwork and receipts. I must have an inkling that you were going to make an early appearance. You were so ready to be born that you came a day early. I could not contain my excitement that night and early morning. I knew that I would be meeting you soon.
I loved rooming in with you at the hospital. I wanted to keep you as close to me as I could. Sometimes I worry that my anxiety has rubbed off on you. I feel this need to keep you close so that I can protect you. Your experience in the hospital with low blood sugar and then your hospitalization at Children’s for your bladder infection made your already anxious mama even more overprotective. I watch you sleep at night, and I thank God for giving me you.
I love your spunky spirit. Your default setting is happy and smiling. You would rather dance, skip, run and sing than just walk. You love to be in constant motion. You love to sing, and you love to listen to music. I am so proud of you. Your kindness toward your family and friends never ceases to amaze me. I cannot wait to see what this next year brings for you. Your biggest milestone this year has been writing out your entire name which astounded and thrilled me all at once. Happy birthday to my sweet girl.
One of the most popular posts on my blog is where I discuss my intrusive thoughts. The majority of search terms that come up for my blog are questions about intrusive thoughts. I wish I could soar through the ethernet and give a real hug to the mama who is desperately searching for answers. I want to take her hand and look in her eyes to let her know that it will be okay. You will get better, I promise.
I remember barely daring to hope that it would get better. Yael, Robin, Lauren, Katherine, and so many other friends promised that it would. They were right. I remember wanting to believe their words. I read blogs that inspired me with their messages of hope and perseverance. I clung to those words and those stories. I dared to hope. I got better. It took lots of work on myself. I went to therapy, and I participated in online support groups. I read as much as I could on postpartum mood disorders. I took, and I still take medication. I did not give up on myself, and I kept hoping that I would get better.
Baby steps, small wins and small successes are how we Warrior Moms measure recovery. Celebrate each one along the way. Recognize when you begin to recognize and appreciate the beauty and love all around you. When you notice how beautiful your child is and how lyrical their laugh is, that is a sign of recovery. Know this. You are not alone. You will get well. There is help. Never give up hope.
September is all about transition around here. Both girls are now in school together. Skeeter is adapting well to the new school, and Munch is adoring first grade. With fall comes the new year of dance classes. Skeeter is taking both ballet and tap this year. Munch is taking ballet, tap, jazz and hip-hop. The girls love their new teachers at our studio, and they can barely sit still without dancing around the house during dinner. The girls have been more tired and cranky as we adjust to our new normal.
I, on the other hand, stink at transitions. These transitions cause me so much anxiety. This month has not been kind to me and my mental health. My anxiety was ramping up way too much. I stopped my weaning efforts entirely, and I upped my dosage of my antidepressant. I heard a wonderful talk regarding how transitions cause anxiety and that this is normal. I feel like I do my daughters a disservice when I cannot manage my anxiety. It has been a year since I got into a car accident that resulted in the return of my intrusive thoughts. When my husband mentioned that anniversary, it made so much sense how heightened all these transitions and changes were making me. I struggled with daily panic attacks for a week. I could not figure out why everything was affecting more. My self-care routine had remained the same. In fact I was exercising with more frequency and more intensity. This did not seem to diminish the feelings of panic. I need to realize that I need to give myself grace and kindness as the summer ends and the school year begins. I am giving myself lots of room and space to understand that medication is a necessity for me. I need this medication to regulate my brain chemistry. That small pill is key to my mental health and my self-care routine.
I cannot believe that it has been a week since I ran my race. The 7 a.m. start time was a little rough as evidenced by this photo. I had a bit of coffee, but it was not enough to prevent the spaced out stare. Meeting up with my friend Rachel who ran the half marathon for this race was fantastic. She had run this race last year, so she gave me amazing tips to prepare. Since we raced at Miller Park, the traffic around the stadium became crowded very quickly. I left at 5:15 a.m., and I arrived at the stadium with plenty of time to spare. I checked my gear, and then I met our training group. We stretched and took a few pictures. My only goal was to run the entire time and have fun.
cue a bit of panic right as the race was starting. I am so petite that I could not see exactly where I got into the starting corral. The 10K runners started at 7:00 a.m. in corrals A through D, and the half marathon runners started at 7:15 a.m. in corrals E through Z. I made it into my corral, and we were off. Technically I did not start really running at my pace until I crossed the start line. Since it was such an early start, I didn’t have my family come to be my cheerleaders. My sweet friend Rachel found me right as I got going, and she shouted out my name. That set the tone for the entire race for me.
I settled into my pace, and I ran all but the last half mile with one of the women from my running class. I do not run with music because I like to be present and attentive to what is going on around me. My Runkeeper app on my phone kept me updated with my pace and mile markers. I experienced my first taste of food during a race. I used some gummy chews around the fourth mile, and I made sure to sip my water. I sprinted the last half mile right as we left Miller Park stadium. It was very cool to get to run around the entire ballpark although the dirt is slick.
I felt so proud that I accomplished my goals. Contrary to popular opinion and peer pressure from my running friends, I have no plans for a half marathon. I would love to run another 10K next year. Running has made me so much mor comfortable in my skin. I feel powerful and strong when I run. Running with groups keeps me accountable to friends and to myself. Running brings me so much joy. I love races because it gives me a specific goal to achieve. What I was not prepared for was the exhaustion. I took a two-hour nap the afternoon after the race, and I lounged on the couch all day long. Kudos to friends who run longer distances and triathlons because I cannot even imagine the exhaustion. Now where is an appropriate place to wear my race medal? At work? I think maybe a tiara is in order as well with the medal. What do you think?