GOOD ENOUGH MOM
There is an Eric Carle board book about a little girl who asks “Papa, can you get the moon for me?” And her father gets a ladder. When my boys were little, I read this to them. I kept it because when I see it on the shelf, I think of the many ways, as parents, we want to give it all, to make the pain go away when they hurt, to make their joy last forever, to protect them. To never disappoint them or make mistakes. To hang the moon. And also to know, while we can’t hang the moon, we can revel in its beauty. We can enjoy it. And we can parent beautifully all the while making mistakes. We are human. I am human.
Recently, I’ve become involved with an amazing group. Postpartum Progress. Katherine Stone, ten years ago, founded PP with a blog and as a survivor herself. She just did it, knowing others were suffering too. I suffered from postpartum anxiety and depression (PPA/D) after the birth of my second child. I blogged recently about it. In retrospect, I probably suffered after my first as well. My anxiety then was chalked up to my first-time mom status as well as to my personality. I already, before ever getting pregnant, was an anxious person. I was also depressed. Clinically, medically, documented. Sufferer of a chronic illness. Not one single person said a word to me about the possibility of postpartum spikes in symptoms. Not my OB, not my rheumatologist (who had prescribed the anti-depressants), NO ONE. I did not share my suffering. I got little support because I didn’t know where to go. I had a psychiatrist, my meds, my husband, but no community, no other women who understood how it felt. How it feels to have horrific intrusive scary thoughts about danger that might befall you or your baby. How it feels to cry all day and know there are always more tears. How it feels to be so tired you cannot move, not one inch but for to care for your child, you somehow do, and it’s at your own expense.
It’s been over a decade since that time. It has also been a decade since Katherine Stone started Postpartum Progress because she knew, she understood that we needed a new way to talk about what can happen to women, the feelings of anxiety, sadness, compulsion, overwhelming fear, depression. No one was talking about it woman-to-woman. Medical terms and technical words, scary intangibles psychosis (also a huge issue but different from PPD). Sensationalized cases of women harming themselves and/or their children allowed the rest of us, all of us, to distance ourselves from the vast numbers of women who do no harm to themselves or their babies. But they suffer, oh how they suffer.
Katherine Stone, as CEO and Founder of Postpartum Progress began to advocate for all of the rest of us in a new and effective way. Social media, community, personal experience, a village. This is about all the other women, men, families, doctors, therapists, who now have the information and tools to talk about what we felt, and frankly still feel. I have found myself in recovery all over again, realizing that as a survivor I will always need support, and I can always give it. And I have Postpartum Progress to thank for that. I may be only a few months in to this group, but I’m in baby, I’m in.
This. This is my friend and inspiration to tell my story of Postpartum Anxiety and Depression. I am so grateful she is in my life.
Originally posted on Butterfly Confessions:
When I came home bone tired and emotional from Climb Out of the Darkness 2014 on Saturday, my husband met me at the door, wrapped his arms around me and held me tight. As I let myself sink into the embrace, going soft in such a strong place of comfort, I heard him say, “Addye…this is you. Art and advocacy…this is it. This is what you were meant to do. After today? Don’t doubt it. This is YOU. I’m proud of you.”
Among my writing community, Story Sessions, there’s a call that’s given when we’re encouraging each other to embrace and embody our artistry and voice. “Pick up your keys,” we say. It’s almost like a battle cry, really, a battle cry to rally and go forth…do…be…
Looking back, that’s what I see happened on Saturday as I began to climb up the steps of Mt. Bonnell with my team. I…
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MY CLIMB OUT OF THE DARKNESS
I remember the day. I took my three year old son to preschool. While driving home with my newborn in the car, I felt like crying, crying and crying and crying. I was so tired. I had an eerie feeling that I could just swerve out of my lane and into the lane of oncoming traffic as a semi-truck approached. I was terrified. These are not easy words to write, and I know they are not easy to read. It has taken me nine years to put them to paper. I have barely spoken them but to a select few. Shame, guilt, fear. I have been given courage by time and by supportive friends who have also shared their stories, and by women less fortunate than I who need help. All of our help.
I managed to guide the car home and cry the day away, my husband was home with me on paternity leave, or at least part of the day, I don’t recall, and I remember saying, “I’m crying a lot, something’s not right.” I have a history of depression but I did not suffer from postpartum depression with our first son. “Oh, I bet you’re just really tired,” he said. “I don’t know, this feels different,” I said. “If I feel this way tomorrow morning, I’m calling the doctor.” “OK.” I cried all day. Took care of the baby, slept, cried, nursed, cried, cried, nursed, cried, was exhausted, felt every move would break me. The next morning, I felt like a blanket of lead covered my entire body and I couldn’t lift my arms, my legs, the weight was staggering. I cried and cried. I called my OB/GYN. “Something’s wrong, I’m scared.” I was able to admit the thoughts I’d had about the truck. I don’t remember if I admitted them to my husband that day or if it took longer to be honest with him. I was afraid he’d take the baby away. My doctor got on the phone. Not a nurse, not a PA, no one to take a message. My OB/GYN herself. She said “Are you alone?” “No, my husband is here.” “OK, don’t be alone with the baby. If you need to, come to the office and we’ll sit with you. I know a really good doctor who can help you. I’m calling him now. Here’s his name. Call for an appointment. It’s going to be OK.” I was made to check in with them regularly, they called me as well. The goal was to get me an appointment with a postpartum psychiatry specialist as soon as possible, but in the meantime, that I not be alone. And that both the baby and I were safe. They had raised the alarm.
I cried some more. But it was relief. It was gut-wrenching relief. Within a day or two, I don’t remember, I had an appointment. It’s not a time in one’s life, at least for me, that I want to remember detail-by-detail because it was so mind-bogglingly awful, it was so against what I had been always programmed to believe I should be feeling two weeks post-birth of my amazing second son. I was so fortunate. How could I be so miserable? But I was. It was. I went in a fog to see the psychiatrist. I still don’t remember if I brought the baby. I must have, he was nursing so often, or maybe not. I think my mom was visiting, helping. I was in a daze of shame, fear, sadness, and desperation. Details are foggy although I can remember what I was wearing: the oddest red linen shirt and black linen pants from consignment, the only thing I could fit in. Strange how memories pick their spots in our brains.
The psychiatrist was exactly who he needed to be. He was kind and gentle and he explained the fight or flight physiological changes that were going on in my body causing me to feel so overwhelmed. He prescribed a medication to calm that anxiety because, he said, as a new mom with instincts to protect her offspring, that adrenaline would continue to produce in my system and I’d be in a heightened state without the medication. But he also said I had to get sleep. Uninterrupted. Six hours. Every night. No matter what. Six hours? He gave me lots of ideas for keeping melatonin even in my system such as not turning on lights while changing diapers, and many other things. But, the main issue was the uninterrupted sleep. I was still trying to nurse, and remember, I had a three year old. I needed night sleep. With my first son, I nursed him in the morning, and then I’d fall asleep with him. Everyday. I slept every single time he slept. We’d nurse in bed, sleep for two or three hours, nurse some more, sleep some more. I couldn’t do this now. In retrospect, I probably suffered with my first, but I slept enough to shoo my symptoms away, and this was thirteen years ago. I certainly had enough anxiety to last a lifetime but simply chalked it up to “first baby syndrome.” Now, I believe it was postpartum anxiety.
Women, moms are told so many different, often conflicting things about how and who they should be. Work, don’t work, nurse, don’t nurse in public, co-sleep, sleep train. Every child is different, every mother is different. It is the judgment and lack of support that often sends us off the rails. I am fortunate to be married to a man who has essentially said, “It’s your choice” when it comes to nursing. He couldn’t bear to see me so exhausted, so used up, trying to do it all and be so perfect, and for what? So, when I told him that after four weeks, I wanted to stop nursing and start sleeping, he was overjoyed. I nursed my first son for nine months until he got so restless he would not sit still to eat facing in, there was just to much to watch in the world. He self-weaned. I nursed my second son until I needed to do what was best for my mental health, and the health of my family, so that I could sleep and heal.
My doctor, in that first appointment, promised within three days, three days, the medication would start to work, and it did. Once I started sleeping, the sun began to shine on me again and I felt like a loving, happy mom. I was still exhausted, I still cried, I still struggled, I still had to see the psychiatrist, but I did not feel helpless. I had support and help and two boys and a family. Today, I have a happy twelve year old and a nine year old who completes our family in a way I could never have imagined. I am grateful and fortunate beyond words that I got help. So many women don’t, can’t, are afraid to ask, don’t have access, are too ashamed, are alone. Climb Out of the Darkness is a way to raise awareness and money for these women so they can get the ante- and post-natal health care they need to be the mothers they truly are. Please seek help if you need it. If you have no where else to turn. Email me privately. I will help. I’ve been there.
Baby, It’s alright
Stop your cryin’ now
Nothing is here to stay
Everything has to begin and end
A ship in a bottle won’t sail
All we can do is dream that the
wind will blow us across the water
A ship in a bottle set sail
It’s finally raining today. In Austin, we celebrate the rain. We anticipate its coming with hope and anticipation. We rejoice in its arrival. As I contemplated my morning walk, driving the kids to school under dark clouds and showers, I thought, I guess I won’t go, the sky’s going to split open. But after my coffee and a brief downpour, it stopped. I strapped on my shoes and set out knowing the risk of getting caught in more rain. The local weatherman was giddy. “Sixty percent chance until noon, 100% by 5 p.m.,” he declared grinning.
I did get caught in it. I even walked past my street as it started to drizzle, staying on my route as I let it rain on me and strengthen and drip down my face and arms; cool water finally cleansing me of the some of the sadness I’ve been carrying around. The silence and calm of the neighborhood, allowing me to let go of a resentment I’ve been harboring. And the sweet cool feeling of a strong body reminding me of how well I’ve done this week, a single parent not just handling things, not just “getting by” but rocking it with my boys. Victory after victory that included calm homework sessions with my younger son and open, genuine deep communication with my older one. Going to places as a Mom I’ve always hoped I would go. And knowing that I often have these victories but I rarely acknowledge them. Truly absorb them. And watching my boys grow into stronger people with every act of open dialogue, every act of trust and communication. And feeling grateful and blessed and amazing. It’s not luck, it’s hard work and love. It’s knowing that the wind will blow us across the water. We must be the ship in a bottle and set sail.
Baby, it’s alright
Stop your crying, now
So stop your crying, now
Be a ship in a bottle set sail
Copyright Dave Matthews
You keep lying, when you oughta be truthin’
and you keep losin’ when you oughta not bet.
You keep samin’ when you oughta be changin’.
Now what’s right is right, but you ain’t been right yet.
Now, I know Nancy Sinatra sings of an angry break-up, romance-style. This blog is not about romance. But is about lying, not truthing. And somehow, as I deal with my anger of what is about to come out on the page, this is the song that comes to mind. I love Nancy’s blonde, cherubic look juxtaposed with her anger and clear message of someday, you piece of shit liar, you’re going to get yours. Because, that is how I feel about the woman who wronged me. Us. And I know that once I get this anger out and on the page, I will no longer need to have A, for I will simply call her “A,” in my life, in my heart, in my energy field. She will be left with how she treated us, most specifically my son, and someday, she’ll pay for that. For I do believe what goes around comes around. I don’t need to “make her pay.” I don’t need to rage at her. I don’t even need my own boots to walk all over her. I like my boots, I want to keep them in good condition. What’s best for me is to, after this post, have nothing more to do with A.
I’m a planner, so when I realized we’d need someone like A in our life, I got on it. Scheduled far in advance. Summer came and A threw us the first curve ball. She needed hip replacement surgery, she’d be out a few weeks, didn’t know when. OK, I thought, we made a commitment to her, what’s a few weeks in the scheme of things? I’m flexible. We worked around it. We kept our word. That came and went, and then A began to act slightly off, in hindsight, of course– everyone’s favorite and most elusive kind of sight–red flags should have waved. A seemed frustrated with my son. She began to blame him (but she’s the adult, you say), seemed to reprimand him, when in fact, her role was to work with him in a very different, accepting capacity.
Time passed and A said nothing more to me. She allowed weeks and weeks to pass in fact, and then suggested that her work with my son would be best served if they took a break; she was more than happy to continue to work with him, but could we do XY and Z first and then we’d regroup. I was willing to do those things, despite (hindsight again) a nagging feeling that A might have addressed this somewhat differently.
More time passed. A still vowing her commitment to stay with our family. Then, an email one morning this week from A with a proposed schedule. Terrific, I thought, and I replied. “Great, I’m arranging other things around this schedule, as you know, the school year gets busy, so this is helpful.” Three hours later, A replies “Well, no, I’m still not committed to working with you.” Why did you send me a schedule, I wondered, especially after having already jumped through many hoops to make that schedule work? So, I seethed a bit. I’m a direct person. I don’t like mixed messages, I don’t like to be strung along. If you want to tell me something, just tell me.
I sent A a very carefully and kindly worded email asking her to clarify her message. I even read it to a friend over the phone to make sure I wasn’t unknowingly sending “you’re a cowardly bitch” messages between the lines. I said I was confused, she’d indicated she was happy to work with us, sent us a schedule and then said she wasn’t committed. How should I proceed at this point? We needed to know. And then a three sentence email, she quit, plus two referrals with names of people that would not even remotely work for us geographically. This vacillation from “happy to be a part of your family,” to “here’s a schedule,” to “I quit” spanned one day, eight hours. To say I was angry and felt betrayed is nothing compared to the sadness I felt for my son, who trusted this person and expected her to come back. I can handle that, and he’s young enough that he never needs to know the whole story. But shame on you, A.
Just so you know A. Just so you know, reader, this is not about me, my family, or my son. I realize this. This is about A. However, that A, an adult, a provider for children, was unable to see or say this shows an astounding level of immaturity and unprofessionalism. Good fucking riddance and you did us a favor, despite the enormous hassle you have caused in the short term. Lesson learned on my part. Even a tiny hint of a red flag that might wave in the corner of your eye . . . put on your walkin’ boots girl.
These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do
one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.
These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ written by Lee Hazlewood and recorded by Nancy Sinatra.