214 Days

That’s how long I have been away from work. But it all changes one week from today.

I am nonplussed to say the least. It’s not to say that I don’t love being a nurse, but when I’ve been away from work as long as I have, it becomes somehow difficult to go back to ‘that life’. It seems somehow foreign now. I suppose I will pick up where I left off, wearing my manager’s hat, but my heart will be back at home. Fortunately, I am only returning to TWO night shifts per week, Saturday and Sunday, 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. and nothing more. This fantastic schedule allows us to dispense with the cursory daycare that most working parents have to deal with, and in turn saves us upwards of $2,200 per month.

Yes. That’s right, folks. $2,200 per month. That is not a typo.

In any event, I shouldn’t complain, and I won’t complain. But, I will pout. Just a little bit. I’m easing back into the workforce, and I’m hoping that it goes smoothly. I couldn’t ask for a better person to be with Julia in my absence, and I know James will roll with it and relish the times he gets to spend with Julia one-on-one. As dark and depressing as those early days of Julia’s life were for me, I cannot imagine life without her, and I remember this familiar comfort as my baby gets older each day, becoming more interactive, revealing more personality. These days remind me of when my son was her age. Everything is new, and every day is filled with the possibility of new skills and new discoveries. I am honored, humbled, fortunate, lucky, and happy that I have been with both of my children during these early days.

Two 12-hour shifts per week.

Easy breezy.

I can so fucking do this.

No drama. No muss. No fuss. No bitching. No complaints. I realize how lucky I am to be in this enviable position. I will only work two nights per week, yet maintain the same pay and benefits as before.

Shit, I better end this whiny post now.

One week from today I will add ‘working mother’ to my list of accomplishments.

Living The Dream

It’s been a while since I have posted. I always have these grand ideals, fantastic blog post ideas, and then one thing leads to another, and weeks and weeks pass with no entry.

Life is good. Really good.

I have been enjoying every single day at home with my little gal, and I am once again feeling like my old self. I bid my Zoloft a fond farewell over a month ago, and I haven’t looked back once. Honestly, once I stopped taking it, I didn’t feel any different than I did before. Whatever. It was either effective, or it had one helluva placebo effect.

I am typing this as I finish my lunch with Julia swinging contentedly in her swing, surrounded by her best and most-beloved buddies in her arms. I can’t stop looking at her.

I look at her near constantly.

I know all mothers think their babies are beautiful. I think we moms are hardwired to only have eyes for our offspring, but honestly?

She really is beautiful.

I have watched her transform from a small newborn, doing nothing more than cry, poop, pee, and sleep, to an interactive, fun, hilarious infant. Julia is a good-natured baby to say the least. She rolls with it. She goes with the flow.

Breastfeeding has been an amazingly transformative experience for me. I will save those thoughts for another post. Suffice it to say that I now completely understand why some women choose extended breastfeeding. The bond is indescribable.

My husband is still fucking amazing. He continually surprises me with just how much he shows affection and adoration for our daughter. I sometimes catch them having their own private conversations after she has awakened from a nap or first thing in the morning upon rising for the day. The only thing that tops the way he looks at her is the way she looks at him.

In the past few months I have overcome my almost irrational fear of going out with Julia to going out somewhere every single day, even if it’s only to fuel my ongoing love affair with Starbucks iced coffee. Julia just smiles and goes along for the ride.

Things are very different this time around. I no longer obsess about a nap schedule or even whether or not Julia gets a nap. I don’t care if she happens to break a long-standing sleep-through-the-night streak with a freak 2am awakening. Who cares? I don’t. It’s probably due to the fact that even if every single day looks different, there is one thing that remains the same:

She just smiles and squeals.

That’s not to say that Julia doesn’t have her moments, but those moments have become far and few between. Julia has transformed into one of those babies who cry when they NEED something: a dry diaper, a nap, a change of scenery, or a boob to pacify and feed her.

I am savoring this.

And I am savoring certain moments like last night…..

I woke up around 1am for my requisite pumping session, only to be greeting with a few squeals, squawks, and light cries around 45 mins later. Ultimate irony. I had pumped 10 ounces and was ready to head back to bed.

Nope.

James did his best to get the little night owl back to sleep, but it was one of those nights when only mommy’s boob will do.

I brought her into bed with us, pulled her close and offered her my breast. Julia settled immediately. Her breathing became regular and deep. Her arm draped lazily across my breast as always. I reached down and she clasped my hand with her free hand. Tears immediately welled in the corners of my eyes.

The boob isn’t always about food. It’s about our closeness. It’s about our scent. It’s about our touch. It’s about our bond. And, unfortunately for daddy, it’s a bond that not even he can share.

In that moment in the stillness of the night, it was just me and Julia. The rest of the world melted away. As we lay there dozing together, I realized that this moment would be one that I would share with my daughter in the years to come, and I hope she cherishes it as much as I did.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a napping baby I need to admire.

Things My Mama Taught Me

I just bid my mama farewell after a 10-day visit, and it reminded me of all the things she has taught me….

 

-Sit up straight. There’s nothing more slovenly-looking than someone slouching. It doesn’t cost a dime, and it will most likely make you feel better.

-Don’t shuffle your feet. You sound lazy and look even worse.

-You can’t unring a bell. Think long and hard before you say something you might regret. You can’t take it back.

-Write thank-you notes.

-Ladies, take the time to look your best.

-If you’re on time, you’re late. Be early.

-When you remove an album from its sleeve, hold it by the edges.

-Tell the people you love how you feel. Every day.

I love you, mom.

Naked Hypocrisy

So, let me get this straight.

Rhianna can walk the red carpet in a see-through gown, but my breastfeeding photo may be reported as ‘offensive’ and possibly violate Facebook’s nudity policy?

image

Gimme a break.

Society needs to get their collective heads out of their asses and stop this ridiculous double standard.

Until that happens, I’ll be the one flopping out my extremely large, milk-filled breast to provide my daughter a meal. If you choose to look, that’s perfectly fine. I will probably smile and say hello.

I’m certainly not embarrassed that I’m the primary and solitary source of nourishment and comfort for my daughter, but you should be for thinking anything less.

I Can See Somewhat Clearly Now

I sit here and type this latest entry while my husband takes the baby for a long, much-needed stroll. My arms ached from holding Julia and rocking, fighting with an almost 11-pound mighty, crying, and feisty opponent. The sweat dripped down my back as I walked back and forth in our small apartment waiting for the telltale weight and even breathing of a sleeping baby.

I finally waved the white flag.

Uncle.

Mama needed a break. And she wasn’t ashamed to admit it.

I would love to say that a lot has changed with our darling daughter since my last blog entry, but alas that would be a lie. Julia is still quite fussy most of the day, and I just keep telling myself that this too shall pass in good time. I wish I could pinpoint the exact date so I could circle it on the calendar and then proceed to draw big black x’s on the days leading up to this milestone.

But, I cannot.

One thing is for certain: I love Zoloft and I love the departure of my pregnancy hormones. I can definitely FEEL a difference in my demeanor, my attitude, my outlook, and my interaction with my daughter. Yesterday was my first solo day with Julia while daddy went to work. I would say it went rather well, although Julia was indeed a challenge. She fought no fewer than four naps, the longest lasting a grand total of 50 minutes. I got more blissful silence as I held her in my arms in the rocking chair, as she dozed on my shoulder. Fuck it. I don’t care. She was quiet, and at this point in the game, that’s all that really matters, right?

I have to be honest.

I’m jealous.

I’m insanely jealous of those moms who enjoy ‘easy’ babies. You know the ones. Those babies that are happy to be in any number of extravagant contraptions such as swings or bouncy seats who look up at you with absolute adoration, all the while smiling and cooing and just basically chilling the fuck out. You know, those mythical babies who only ‘cry when something is wrong’ and then they are blissfully silent once again.

Do they really exist?

If so, it’s probably best not to tell me right now. Nah, that’s okay. I know they exist in small numbers.

I guess I figured I paid my colicky, fussy dues with Julia’s big brother, but nope. I have also entertained the idea that perhaps I genetically don’t make babies who aren’t high-strung and high-needs and high-energy. It may just be my lot in life.

Sorry, James. I should have mentioned that back when I saw those two lines on the pregnancy test.

Perhaps the biggest ‘downer’ is that with such a fussy baby, I feel a tad bit isolated here at home. I’m not that mother who can just throw caution to the wind, say ‘fuck it’, and take her fussy baby out and about, only to subject everyone else to her fits of crying. No way. Why? Because, I don’t know about you, but that’s the furthest thing from enjoyable that I can imagine. I long for those days where I can casually stroll around a marketplace, an outdoor mall, visit friends, take in activities with a calm, interactive baby.

But those days aren’t today. And they aren’t likely to start tomorrow.

So, until then, I wait here at home. Thankfully, the sun shines most days, and the days pass one by one. Please tell me I’m not alone here. There ARE other fussy babies, RIGHT?? Even if you’re lying, leave me a comment and tell me you had one.

I’m thinking I should start a business. A safe place for other moms to bring their crying babies and nobody is allowed to pass judgment. Moms can feel comfortable with their high-needs, fussy babies in this place, and of course, we will ALL have the finest earplugs made today.

Who knows? This could be a niche market that no one else has thought of quite yet. I could be rich. Or crazy. Or both.

In any event, our feisty gal is five weeks old today, and I only have a few things I wish for: longer stretches of sleep (what new parent doesn’t want this?), more calm, mellow moments of interaction so I can truly GET TO KNOW her, and yes, I wish this gal would figure out the simple mechanics of sucking on a pacifier. We have purchased no fewer than five different brands and 20 different models. Do your parents a huge favor, Julia. Suck it.

And then in between the crying jags and countless hours spent bouncing around singing nonsensical songs to calm the baby beast, Julia does this:

See? I CAN SMILE!

See? I CAN SMILE!

And this is quite possibly what saves her.

And us.

Don’t Bullshit A Bullshitter

In the days since my revelation regarding my battle with postpartum depression, I have been absolutely amazed at the number of people who have come forward with words of encouragement, thanking me for bringing into the spotlight something that others have suffered with in silence, but the best part?

Honest messages regarding early parenting and infancy.

“It’s hard fucking work. The lack of sleep is brutal.”

“When people ask how I like parenthood, I say, do you want the right answer or the real answer?”

“The crying drove me fucking insane. I used to say FUUUUUCK at the same time. No. It wasn’t effective, but I felt better.”

“I didn’t even bond with my baby for at least a month or two. I was too busy trying to stay awake.”

“I wish I would have gotten in touch with my doctor.”

“I didn’t say anything about how I was feeling. I should have talked about it.”

These are just a few of the things that were shared with me.

Yes. This early infancy IS hard fucking work. I don’t think I had an idyllic vision in my head prior to delivery, but I sure didn’t remember it being THIS difficult. Wait. Yeah. I remember. I guess I just chose to block it out somehow.

All this being said, I think there is something to be said for complete and total honesty when it comes to parenting. Do we all love our children? Of course. Do we all love being a parent all the time? Probably not. Do we all love each stage and phase of child development?

No.

I’m speaking for myself here.

I’m not a huge fan of the immediate infant phase. Yes. My daughter is beyond adorable. My son was also very cute. I am quite certain this cuteness is a direct causal Darwinian effect. They are cute so we don’t harm them. This one fact keeps our population humming along.

I am honest when I say that I am best-suited for childrearing when children are about four to six months old and beyond. Babies go from simple pooping, peeing, crying factories to actual interactive human beings. It’s this interaction and longer stretches of quiet calm that I long for at this early phase of Baby J’s infancy. I’m not wishing away time. I’m simply looking forward to a time that I know I will be better-equipped to deal with. To each their own. If you love the newborn phase, good for you.

Stop by. I’ll put you to work.

I have always been honest about how I felt about the newborn phase. It shouldn’t come to any surprise to those who know me well that I’m not very keen on it at all. I’m not embarrassed to feel this way. I own it. I admit it. I move on and look forward to the next phase. I might not be the most maternal person in the world, but I love my children.

But, one thing I cannot stand are those who LIE about parenthood.

Please. Don’t try to paint some glorious picture of how perfect and wonderful your ENTIRE postpartum experience has been thus far. I’m going to think one of two things: You’re high. You’re in denial. Or both. Nobody has a PERFECT postpartum experience. I don’t care who you are or what you’re claiming. And in case no one else will tell you, no other moms want to hang out with you, making us feel inferior and less than able to hang on during this crazy rollercoaster ride called postpartum and infancy.

This is a hard fucking job, and honestly right now we just don’t need someone sprinkling some bullshit glitter and rainbows in front of our heavy-lidded eyes.

It’s ok. We don’t believe you anyway.

I find it refreshing and honest when other moms tell me the TRUTH. I love it when they joke about their flabby bodies, bleeding for weeks after delivery, forgetting what fucking day it is, walking around their house with their boobs hanging out until it’s time for another feeding, reliving the tears and crying jags they had with their inconsolable newborns, and yes even depression.

I’ve come to the realization that more moms than probably care to admit were feeling a bit more than the ‘baby blues’ during their immediate postpartum experience. For whatever reason, they chose to keep silent.

Until now.

Many people, some friends and family, some strangers via Twitter have reached out and thanked me for being honest and speaking up about postpartum depression. I never intended to be any sort of spokesperson, but hey, I’m happy to shed some light on a condition that has been allowed to fester in the darkest corners of new mom’s minds.

We love our children. We love ourselves. We know that what we are feeling isn’t normal, but hey, as soon as you have a baby, what the fuck IS normal? Our bodies have completely changed, our hormones resemble a zigzag line, ever-changing, crying one moment, laughing the next, making us wonder if those closest to us will consider committing us to the nearest psych facility. It’s rough. It’s sleepless. It’s emotionally taxing. It’s challenging to a relationship. It’s work. It’s not easy.

Hear that, fakers and liars?

It’s not easy. But, yes. It’s worth it. So worth it. Even in the fog of my depression and blues, I can look down at my sleeping infant daughter and cry the happiest tears, smiling as I realize how much her father and I wanted her. She is so loved. She is the perfect reflection of a love between two people.

And I never forget this.

Now, where did I put my Zoloft?

Honesty Is The Best Policy

And while that title may be trite, it’s true. And it’s never been more true for me than it is right now.

I had to finally admit something to myself that I didn’t allow myself to admit fifteen years ago after the birth of my son.

I suffer from postpartum depression.

There. I said it.

Just typing that statement felt like a huge release of emotion, baggage, and above all, it allows me to move forward with a plan.

Fifteen years ago, after the birth of my son, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I felt anxious all the time, sad beyond what may be considered the ‘baby blues’, hypervigilant, unable to relax and rest whenever my son would sleep during the day, and the inability to turn off my brain and not worry about the smallest detail. These feelings continued well into my six-week checkup, but when my OB doctor asked me if I was okay, I lied. I said all was well.

I shouldn’t have lied. I should have been honest. I should have admitted that I was having a rough time. Back in 1999, there was still a bit of a stigma surrounding postpartum depression. While I never had feelings of harming my son or myself, I just couldn’t shake the feelings of despair, inability to bond with my own son or derive any true pleasure from our new family unit. My poor husband at the time probably wondered a time or two if I was really going to make it. I still feel bad to this day that I put HIM through that.

Fast-forward to two weeks ago. I felt those same feelings creeping in as soon as we arrived home from the hospital with Baby J. I shrugged it off, thinking it was just a case of the blues, and that I would bounce back just fine. I mean, hey, my husband is going to be home with me for a MONTH. What the fuck is there to be depressed about? I’ll have plenty of help with baby.

But, it’s not quite the type of help I need. I know this now.

As the days passed, and the lack of sleep began to rear its ugly head, I could feel those familiar feelings once again. The anxiety. The hypervigilance. The inability to rest well during the day. The complete lack of coping when it came to bouts of inconsolable crying by Baby J.

Cue the tears. Cue the hormones.

As if we women don’t have enough shit to deal with, we have hormones. We women really do get the short end of the stick. Our bodies completely transform and we begin the hormonal rollercoaster during pregnancy, only to have it completely freefall shortly after delivery. This shit is real.

I can’t stop crying. Sometimes I cry for no discernable reason. Sometimes I cry then I forget what I’m crying about. The tears flow hot and heavy and my face begins to resemble a prizefighter who has just been knocked out in the 10th round. So. Many. Tears. The four walls of the apartment seem to close in on me. The monotony. The passing hours of clock-watching, planning for the next feeding. The mere thought of venturing out with our daughter sends my anxiety level to such heights, I can’t possibly wrap my mind around enjoying it. The thought of taking my newborn out in her stroller through a populated outdoor area makes my heart pound. Why? The crying. Always the crying. Even when I try my best, and pull out all the best tricks, sometimes she won’t stop crying. And yes, that stresses me out beyond belief. If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you he doesn’t give a shit what other people think about OUR crying baby. I wish I had that mindset. I really do.

But, I don’t.

To my husband’s credit, he has pushed me in small ways to move beyond this irrational fear. We went for a nice stroll last week, and while Baby J screamed bloody murder for the first 10 minutes or so, she eventually settled down and slept for a few hours even after we returned from our walk. He encourages me to get out on my own sans baby to the store, get a manicure, pick up a coffee. He says it’s not optional. It’s mandatory for me to be someone other than a set of boobs for food.

I love him.

I should back up a bit. When my son was just weeks old, he cried. A lot. I mean, he cried upwards of 18-20 hours a day. Completely inconsolable. It felt like it lasted forever, but in reality, it probably lasted 4-6 weeks. With this experience forever etched into my subconscious, I tend to think that ALL postpartum experiences will be this way, even though all babies are different, and all experiences are different. This history does nothing to help my current state of mind.

So, with all that said, I have done something I should have done fifteen years ago.

I reached out to my doctor for help. I refuse to believe there is any shame in asking for help. I don’t want sympathy. I want solutions. I want to be better for me, my husband, and most of all my beautiful baby daughter.

I implore all of you who read this to reach out to someone you think might be suffering from postpartum depression. Offer to be a listening ear. Offer to stop by and share adult conversation. Offer whatever it is the new mother might need. But, don’t offer your opinion on what you think might be wrong, other than depression. Chances are, this mother doesn’t want to hear it. She also doesn’t want to hear from other moms who claim their postpartum experience was a breeze, and their babies never cry unless they ‘need something’. I’m convinced those mothers are in complete denial, or they are the biggest fucking liars I’ve ever met.

Life is too short for regrets, and I want to fully enjoy this beautiful baby girl that I have brought into the world. I want to be happy. I want to feel as if I’m functioning on all cylinders and most of all, I want to know that I did the right thing by reaching out and asking for help.

None of this would even matter if it weren’t for the loving support of the man by my side. My husband is my hero. He has lifted me up when I didn’t feel capable of doing it on my own. My husband is my rock. He inspires me to be a better mother. My husband is my best friend. He listens to me without judgment or disdain.

It feels good to come clean. It feels right. It feels like the best thing I could possibly do for myself and my baby girl, but most of all it feels good to come clean after all these years.

We will survive and we will all be better for the experience.