Saturday, March 22, 2014

Close Quarters

I’m writing this to the sound of drills and hammers and some screaming punk music.  I’d dig the screaming punk if it were mine, but it’s not.  It’s the neighbor’s.  And for some reason he keeps changing the song every 15 seconds.  I want to scream, “Just leave it, you fucker!”  It’s not even shitty punk -- well, okay, it is, but it’s shitty punk that I like.  The problem is it’s not mine and I’m forced to listen to it whether I want to or not.  To be honest, I was feeling in more of a Naked and Famous mood today, not fucking Suicide Machines.

Sorry for all the swearing.  I seem to feel swear-y when I’ve got a sleeping baby upstairs and the neighborhood seems intent on waking her up early.  The construction site next door is extra bangy, the neighbors are extra punky, everyone and their grandmother seems to be out driving their 8000 dB beater around with no muffler.

This is my life.  And I like it.

No, no really!  I do.  I like the borrowed punk music and the arhythmic hammering.  The loud cars I could do with out, I guess -- oh look, there goes one now.  Better go make sure the baby’s still asleep.

She is, miraculously.  She’s finally seeming to get used to the close quarters of affordable urban life.  I wish I could!  Maybe it’s reminding her of her first home, a tight little cocoon surrounded by the constant swish of blood and crush of noisy organs screaming out their daily grind.  The city is just one giant body, our own womb, noisy with the flow of arteries and the deafening beats of life.

Sometimes I feel smothered by all the noise and people and the fact that I can hear the intimate details of the lives of strangers.  And sometimes I feel exposed with the knowledge they can hear all of our fun moments too, like when the baby cries at 4 am or when I fall out of my dancer pose as I attempt a little livingroom yoga (because who has time to go to a real yoga studio!?).  

But sometimes I do see it in a better light.  Those moments when the hammering next door seems to line up perfectly with the punk music on the other side.  When the muffler-less cars sound like they’re at least 3 blocks away and heading in the other direction.  When the sky is blue and the mountains white and the leafless branches of early spring let all of the glorious sunlight through.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about attitude and happiness.  Happiness is a choice, and so is stress.  Most of us have so much to be thankful for these days, but it’s somehow easier to focus on what we don’t like or what we’d like to change and stress and stress and stress about it.  Some people (like me, I think!) are definitely predisposed to more stress, but it’s still a choice.  I can look at the noise of the neighborhood as an affront to my own personal peace, or I can just embrace it as another quirky part of my life.  Which would make me happier?  

I just introduced myself to my neighbor (“Hey how’s it going?  Beautiful day, eh?”), and he actually seems like a nice guy.  (newsflash: people who listen to punk can be nice! :) )  All of my other dealings with him have been “Do you really need to saw wood at 8pm?” or “Can you please turn your music down?” or just eye rolls and glares at the wall that divides us.  I wrap myself in the stressy, smug blanket of pissed-offy-ness and I never actually have to have a real conversation with him.

But, I haven’t been feeling super happy about that.  I actually felt quite happy to introduce myself to him on normal, neighborly terms.  After all, what’s the point of living in such a densely populated area if I’m just going to glare all the other people away?  (‘BitchBus, please keep back 50 feet’)  I’m going to choose to lose the glare and, hopefully, be a little happier with what I’ve got.  Because, what I’ve got actually ain’t all that bad.  It’s actually pretty rad.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Byebye Baby, Hello Banshee

“Babe, can you open this?”  I hand the jar of honey across to David, who’s just gotten Ebba settled into breakfast.

He struggles for a half-second, the honey-stuck seal pops, and he hands me the open jar back across the half-wall that divides the diningroom from the kitchen.

All of a sudden, Mt. St. Ebba erupts.  “Brrrllllaaaargh!!!!”  Her eyes bulge out of her red face, tongue waggles like she’s doing some sort of butchered Haka, and she shrieks, pointing at the offending jar of honey.  “MMMMAH!!!  AH!!  BLAAARRR!”

I hold the jar of honey up and say “Honey?  This is just honey for me tea, sweetpea.  Eat your breakfast.  You have egg, yogurt, and cereal.”  I put the honey away.  She sees me put honey in my tea at least several times a week.  It shouldn’t be a big deal, right?

“NAY NAY NAY NAY NAY!!!”  She shakes her red head and thrashes in her seat, her wind-shield wiper arms trying to knock her delicious, nutritious breakfast to the floor.  She signs “more” repeatedly, which to her actually means “Give me what I want right now!” (Despite my best efforts as a speech pathologist to show her what it actually means.)

I see we aren’t going to get anywhere fast with this.  Breakfast, as we know it, has ended.  Quickly I run through my rolodex of options.  After all, I’m a child development expert, of sorts, so I should know exactly what to do in this moment, right?  No, not right.  (Or, as Ebba continues to tell me “NAY NAY NAY NAY NAY!!!”)

David, my ever-loving husband looks to me for our next steps.  What should I do, I wonder.  Should I refuse her the honey and end breakfast?  Should I give her a little and then try and reign her back on track?  Should I give her as much as she wants?  Should I put it in her yogurt?  Should I force her to eat “just one more bite” of something and then reward her with some of the delicious, delicious stuff from the jar?
I opt for option 2 and give her a small bit of the honey.  She calms, smacks her lips, smiles.  ...And then points for more.  

“All gone!” I say with a shrug.  “Have some egg.  Mmmm!”  

I can see the blood rising in her face.  It starts around her neck, then to her ears, then up across her forehead, and then she’s all open mouth.  “NAAAAAAY!  Moooore!!”  Well, at least she got the meaning of “more” right this time.

Infant Ebba's tantrums were less intense!
I look at this screaming, writhing body in the booster seat and wonder when she arrived.  When did my little baby go?  That one screamed and cried sometimes too, but usually for things I didn’t have to say “no” to, and even if I did, she was easily distracted.  I remember when she was a little baby, I looked forward to when she was “older” and I could “reason with her.”  HAH!

This thing, this newly arrived Ebba, this kid where there was once a baby, she clings to her desires.  A simple “no” can cause convulsions, and attempts to distract her are met with flailing arms and a look that says “are you freaking kidding me!?”  

She’s a person now.  She wants what she wants.  And even though I hate the scream-fests that appear to be increasing in frequency, I’m happy that she’s arrived.  It’s not what I expected, we’re certainly not doing a lot of “reasoning,” but she is so much fun.  And I’m learning everyday.

It happened so suddenly, the switch from baby to person, that I didn’t have time to prepare my responses, to set my stance.  The key to dealing with these outbursts is to set appropriate limits and to be consistent.  Everyone knows that.  But how do you do that.  You need to know where your limits are and trust your judgement.  Don’t question yourself (something I do all. the. time!).  This morning, I was all “maybe I shouldn’t have given her any honey.  Maybe I should have given more.  What was the right answer!?!?  The thing is, it’s not about a right answer.  It’s about the consistency.  So regardless of where the limit is set, you have to stick to it.  (Like...honey. :) )

And then you have to be prepared for the consequences.  A happy baby is a secure baby, or so I’ve read.  And a secure baby is one who has had limitations set in a consistent fashion.  Despite the fact that I’ve worked with the under-5 set for as long as I can remember, for some reason I thought that setting limits would not yield screaming meltdowns.  If a secure baby (one that’s had limits put on it) is a happy baby, shouldn’t Ebba have been happy and smiling when I told her “no you can’t have a whole jar of honey for breakfast?”  Shouldn’t she be elated that I have exercised my parental muscle in order to make her feel safe and loved?

She did not look very happy thrashing about, red-faced on the floor.  But I took a deep breath and steeled myself.  “I’m doing the right thing,” I told myself.  “I am teaching her what breakfast is.  I’m teaching her that I care enough about her to not let her eat only honey.  And I’m learning too.  I’m learning what Ebba responds best to and how she acts when she doesn’t get it.”

I sound like a hard-ass here, but I’m totally not.  I have made it my parental mission to never say “no” to Ebba unless there is a really good reason.  For me, a really good reason isn’t “I got tired of pushing her in the swing so I made her get out,” or “I didn’t feel like cleaning up the mess when she wanted to play with ALL THE TOYS so I only let her take out one at a time.”  But “we have to make dinner by 5:30 so we need to leave the park at 5” and “picking up and attempting to eat discarded cigarette butts from the sidewalk is dangerous” are both good reasons for saying “no” or stopping an activity.  This is my own metric, I’m sure it will differ from parent to parent.

We’ll see how it goes over the next few months (years!) while I work on setting limits for Ebba and learning from her how best to teach her as she grows older.

How have you other newbie-toddler mummies been dealing with the change from baby to kid?

It's not all tears these days though!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Other Side of the Boob

I had an interesting experience last month.  We had a girl over to interview her for a babysitting position for E, who was just over 12 months then.  E was coming down with a cold (or getting over one, or something.  It’s hard to keep track these days.), and she was getting a little grumpy and clingy with me.  So, while we continued the interview, I lifted my shirt, pulled the cup of my non-nursing bra down, and I nursed E.  The nanny-candidate didn’t flinch.  That’s not what was interesting about the experience.

What was interesting was that I felt weird.  I wondered if she thought I was strange, sitting here breastfeeding my baby who, really, was almost a toddler at this point.  I wondered, also, if E was even getting any milk, and I wondered if it mattered.  I wondered if I was messing up our relationship by continuing to breastfeed or if I was making her even clingier or if I was doing the right thing or...  

Well, that was interesting.  Interesting that I’m still nursing (seems more accurate than breastfeeding at this point).  Interesting that I feel weird about it.  Interesting...

If you had asked me a year ago what I thought I’d be doing now, I definitely wouldn’t have said breastfeeding.  Back then I counted every time I breastfed E, expecting it to be the last, waiting for her to reject the breast.  Back then I was crying over spilled 50mL bottles of pumped breastmilk that took painstaking hours to fill.  Back then, I was pretty certain that when E was 1, I’d sit around watching all of my friends continue to breastfeed and strengthen their bonds with their toddlers while E played by herself in the corner...and then went and made her own poison formula bottle and fed it to herself, you know, since we’d have no bond at all.

Back when I felt a little more desperate to nurse *
But, that’s not what happened.  And I feel like I should be elated because of it.  In some ways I am, but in most ways my feelings are much more jumbled than that.

As most of you know, I’ve had my struggles with feeding E.  I wanted so, so desperately to do a good job, to do what was best, to breastfeed my baby.  When she was 3 weeks old, I bought my first can of formula, and her breastfeeding has been supplemented with it ever since.  I just never made enough milk for her, not nearly enough.  And, no matter what you read or what other people say, it can happen.  It’s not a question of doing something wrong or not trying enough or (god, how could I believe these things!) not loving her enough.  Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.  And that’s why formula exists.  It’s not poison.

From 1 month until almost a year, Ebba’s main milk intake was formula in a bottle, with as much breastmilk as she asked for.  After 11 months, her main milk intake was cow’s milk, still with breastmilk thrown in when she wanted, though not nearly as often.

When E was about 11 months old, I thought she had weened herself. And I wasn’t sad.  I congratulated myself on lasting that long.  At 2 months, I thought we’d barely make it to 3.  At 3, I just knew we’d never make it to 4.  But the months kept coming and E kept breastfeeding.  So, when, before her first birthday she just stopped asking for the breast, I didn’t force it.  I let our nursing rituals fade away.  

Less than 2 weeks later, however, E started asking to nurse again, in earnest.  She wanted it all the time, everywhere.  She would pull and tear at my shirt and whine “boob boob boob.”  And I’d blush and wonder why, in all my infinite wisdom, had I ever thought that her learning that word was cute?

I was confused.  Sometimes I was so happy that she still seemed to feel this connection, stronger than ever.  Sometimes I felt manipulated and used. (by a 1 year old.  seriously, I know how absurd that sounds.)  Sometimes I felt embarrassed, or like I’d done something wrong, or like people were staring.  Sometimes I just didn’t want to nurse her and I’d try to distract her.  Sometimes I would nurse, but I’d sigh and say “I thought we were done with this.” As it turns out, extended nursing is as uncomfortable as all those sanctimommy and lactivism blogs say it is.  I see why they fight for breastfeeding rights.  (Or, well, do I feel it’s uncomfortable because they say it is?  I don’t know.)

Things are a bit better now.  I generally nurse E when she asks (which is getting less and less again), and I try not to worry as much how much milk she’s actually getting, because I’ve realized it doesn’t matter.  I don’t begrudge her asking for it (well, not usually), and I nurse her when and where I feel comfortable.  

I think that’s the main thing about extended breastfeeding (scratch that--that’s the main thing about any feeding.)  At this point it’s not so much for nourishment as it is for bonding and comfort.  And that’s okay, as long as the mom feels comfortable too.  It didn’t feel good to me when I would huff about and whip out my boob for E with a discontented sigh.  It probably didn’t feel good to her either.  So, then, what was the point of the whole exercise?  That’s why I do set limits now on where and when I nurse.  I’ll say things like “wait till we get home,” or “I’ll nurse you over here instead.”

Why would I want a bottle when I can have this!?
Whatever circumstances you’ve gone through as a mum and whatever choices you’ve made, those are the right ones.  If you didn’t breastfeed past 4 months, kudos to you (it was probably much easier to ween then, hah!).  If you’re breastfeeding your 3 year old, wow!  I doubt I’ll be joining you for that.  If you’ve had to formula feed since birth, rock on.  You are amazing and doing what’s best for your baby.  If you’re a single dad bottle feeding.  If you’re a mom tandem nursing twins.  If you’re introducing formula to go back to work.  If you’re exclusively pumping.  If your tits just hurt too damn much to breastfeed past a month.  All of you.  Kudos to you.  It ain’t easy!!  Feeding a baby isn’t easy, no matter how you do it.  It’s also extremely rewarding and builds that bond no matter how you do it.

I see now more than ever the importance of us all supporting each other.  Because all sides are hard.  People do need to support breastfeeding, which is something I never realized before.  But now I get it.  It is hard.  It’s uncomfortable.  Some people do stare.  Sometimes you don’t want to.  It’s not easy.  

But all of those other mums out there feeding their babies how they’ve had to, or how they feel comfortable, well, we all need support.  Feeding a baby his hard.  Fighting about it makes it harder.  The most important thing is building that bond with the baby--well, okay, the most important thing is making sure the baby gets food and survives of course, but after that, it’s building that bond.  And the only way to do that is to feel comfortable and feed with love.  If we’re fighting about whether someone gave up to easily and switched to the bottle too soon or whether someone should cover up their boobs in public or whether someone’s feeding their kid when he’s too old...well, then no one is comfortable.

I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to see so many sides of this issue.  I don’t know how long I’ll continue to nurse for or how I’m going to go about weening.  I’m sure I’ll probably need support to sort out my feelings about nursing my 1 year old.  I know everyone out there feeding a baby needs support, I know it more than ever now.

So, I support you.  I support ALL of you because what we’re doing is just freaking amazing and hard, but we’re still doing it.  Feed on!

Big and Strong and Well-fed!

* A little note about the pictures:  I really wanted to include one of me bottle-feeding Ebba, but I couldn't find one!  I'm not actually surprised.  I have been so ashamed of having to formula-feed my baby that I must never have consented to a photo of it in action.  I should have.  It's adorable and cozy-looking.  Bottle-feeders out there, I'm not forgetting you!  This just goes to show how much we need to shed the stigma.

Monday, December 30, 2013

One Year and Counting!!!

Tomorrow, my baby turns ONE!!!

One year ago tonight, David made me a delicious and healthy dinner while I sat on the birthing ball and breathed through early pressure waves.  We watched an episode of Kitchen Nightmares (you know, nice, relaxing prebirth stuff. hehe) as my waves intensified.  Then I texted my doula and that’s when shit got real. :)

One year ago tomorrow, I got in the birthing tub at 3 am, and by 5:45 we had a little red-faced, red-haired baby in our arms.  And that’s when shit REALLY got real!  ...especially when she pooped in her Daddy’s lap. hah.

This year has been a long but short, hard but amazing, exciting but sometimes sad.  I never realized that having a baby meant saying goodbye every second of every minute of everyday.  But it also means saying hello to all of the new things that come along.  Babies change faster than I ever could have imagined, and the time has just flown!

In one year, Ebba has gone from a little curly creature who could barely move her arms voluntarily to an almost-walking little kid who can say “doll” and “byebye” and “duck” (as well as “butt” as I learned this morning, when she smacked her bare bum and said “butt!  butt!” hah).  Now, she has preferences and thoughts and jokes.  She doesn’t want this book, she wants that.  She likes this song but not that one.  She doesn’t like boiled eggs, but she’ll eat them with caviar on top (seriously!)

I’m really excited about this one-year milestone (and not just because she gets cake and we get champagne. hehe.)  I don’t think I’ve had so much change in such a short period of time ever before.  In addition to looking back on Ebba’s development, it’s been nice to look back through all of the pictures and writings I’ve done over the past year and see the change in myself as well.  After a year of massive ups and downs, I feel amazingly strong and confident.  Perhaps it’s because I had been so low that I can really see how far I have come.

On December 31, 2012, I said “I’m a mom?”  On December 31, 2013, I will say “I am a mom.”

...oh, and I’ll also say Happy Birthday of course. :)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Be Good for Goodness' Sake

I had an epiphany today, and it’s one I hope I can hold onto because I think it’s important, especially this season.  Though I know I won’t because I’m a true child of the consumerist, spoiled-brat culture, and it’s damn hard to let go of that.

But anyway, my epiphany was this:  You give what you give and you get what you get.

Not “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  Not “you get what you give.”  Both of these old adages are rooted in comparison, quantification, measuring up.  What about just doing things to do them?  And what about receiving favors and really receiving them, and feeling gratitude.

What if instead of do unto others as you would have others do unto you, we just did “do unto others.” full stop.  And “others do unto you.” full stop.  Separate things that exist without the burden of comparing them and making sure it was an even exchange.

This morning, I had to ask a friend to sit for Ebba, as my mother in law (the usual sitter of choice! :) ) was ill.  After my friend drove through the rain to my house, entertained the munchkin for over two hours, AND took ME out to lunch, I said, “I’ll definitely have to return the favor soon!”

To which he scoffed and said, “If it had been a favor, okay, but this wasn’t a favor.”

Oh...right.  Wait, what?  I had to ponder this a moment.

It wasn’t a favor.  It wasn’t something he did to get something back.  He just...did it.  Because it was helpful and because it was fun.  And gee, I think we’ve lost sight of it, but isn’t that what friends are meant to do?  Our lives have become a series of exchanged favours.  I’ll take you out for drinks because you took me out last week.  You walked my dog, so I’ll bring you a bottle of wine.  I owe you a coffee because you got the tip last time we were out.  Hell, even Santa requires you to be on the "nice" list before he'll bring you a gift.

It’s one thing to show gratitude, and I’m not advocating for doing away with all of the give and take (like, I’m sure your dog walking friend appreciated that bottle of wine! :) )  But, here’s the thing, the constant trade of items and favors takes some of the savor out of the whole process.  For example, before my friend said to me “It wasn’t a favor,” I felt a little beholden.  Grateful, yes, but also a little like “how can I make this up.”  I wasn’t fully immersed in gratitude for the kindness, as I should have been.  Half my mind was thinking of what I should do, could do, have to do next.  Would a bottle of wine be equal enough?  Would paying him be too much?  Would watching his kid in exchange be too little?

Instead, his words stopped me in my tracks.  It wasn’t a favor.  It was kindness.  And I was grateful for that and told him so.  And I’m sure in the future I will show him a kindness...and it won’t be because I felt I had to.  It will be because I felt like it, because I like my friend, and because it’s nice to do nice things.

In this season of gift exchanging and consumerist frenzy, I think we should all take a step back and look at when we’re actually being kind for being kind’s sake.  Are you doing something in exchange for something else, or because you want a favor in the future?  (Okay, I really hope I’m not the only person who does this, or I’ll be a little embarrassed. hehe.)  Or are you doing something because it feels good to make others feel good.  Because that motivation has a richness in itself, no exchange needed.

I’m going to really work on doing things for others without expecting something back or tallying up what I get in return.  And I’m also going to try and be more sincerely grateful to those who do nice things for me.

So, thanks, friend.  Not only did you help me out this morning when I was in a bind and then take me out for lunch, you also inadvertently taught me a major life lesson.  Feel free to remind me of it regularly. :)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

How I Realized that I'm Perfect

I am the perfect mum.  No, really, it’s true.

Over the past 10 months, I have spent a lot of time lamenting the fact that I’m not perfectly perfect, and attempting to quantify my exact perfection percentage.  On days when E naps well and I bake cookies and take her to the park and change her nasty poopy cloth diapers without even saying “ew,” I get 90%; 10% docked for not breastfeeding, of course.  On days when neither of us has slept well and we’re both cranky and I forget to bring E’s bottle with us to the park and she cries and gives me a cleavage hicky all the way home - 5%; only more than 0 because I’m not physically abusive, of course.

Is it??[The blog where I got this is just one of many glimpses of perfection, as I see it.]

And, I’m not alone.  There appear to be a lot of blog posts about the “futile” effort most of us mums make to be perfect.  I’ve written about this numerous times, on some occasions blaming other mums, sometimes blaming “society” for putting all this pressure on us new mums.  And sometimes blaming my own guilt.

But, I had a profound moment while contemplating this last week.  I was looking at my amazing daughter as she crawled around our livingroom drooling soggy apple pieces that I thought she’d swallowed during lunch (where are these hidden pockets where she keeps food for hours??) and I realized - Holy Shit, I AM the perfect mum!

We all are.  

(You know, barring any abuse, neglect, etc, but knowing most of my readers, I’m sure I don’t have to specify that.)

But, really, I think this is the thing we all need to realize -- not that “perfection is unattainable” or that “we should resign ourselves to our own mediocrity."  No, what we need to start telling ourselves is that we already are perfect.  We already are achieving the highest level of our abilities.  We already are the way we need to be.  Now, we just need to sit back and enjoy it, bask in our, and our babies’, perfection...because it is fucking amazing!!!

The problem with the old “perfection is unattainable” adage that’s supposed to make us feel better is that, well, it doesn’t make us feel better.  It acknowledges that there is some ideal out there that we will never measure up to.  How fucking depressing is that?  I haven’t heard anything so depressing since I was a child who, because of a crush on a boy (hah), joined a Baptist youth group where they told me we all were born sinners and had to spend our whole lives trying and trying and trying to be like Jesus -- even though we all knew we never could.  I didn’t believe that, right off the bat.  And I was just a kid!  So, why then, do I accept this similar argument about motherhood (“here is maternal perfection, but you’ll never achieve it, so suck it up accept your mediocrity”) without even questioning it?  I mean, what if mediocrity is perfection?  Has anyone asked that question?

When we believe that there is a formula out there for the “perfect mother,” then whether we like it or not, our own mothering gets contrasted against that perfection (the Jesus character of mothers, if you will).  Therefore, everything we do as a mum ends up falling short, being painted in the negative.  Like, 

“I use cloth diapers most of the time, but we use sposies at night.  Don’t tell anyone.”  Or, 

“I tried to breastfeed, but had to supplement with formula.  So not perfect.”  Or, 

“I wanted to hold and cuddle my baby all the time, but my back gave out and now I frequently use the stroller.”  Or 

“I wanted to love every minute of motherhood, but sometimes, like when my toddler has just eaten an ant and spat it back out and eaten it again and then spat it in my hand, or when my baby decided to spray-shit all over the bathtub, or when my 10 month old is up from 3-6am for no reason except an apparent hatred for me, I swear under my breath and wish I were a kidless 30-something gallivanting around the world and living in a cheap roach-infested flat because it ‘has great light’ and I can paint nude portraits of hot young college students there while sipping endless bottles of wine and smoking cigarillos.”

But, you know what?  We need to shed this whole comparison to perfection thing.  Because it’s doing us no favors, as I’ve pointed out.  We need to reclaim motherhood, real motherhood as perfection.  We don’t need to make excuses for not breastfeeding or for using disposable diapers or for sometimes letting our child cry.  Or even for sometimes wishing we weren’t parents or that we had more freedom and less responsibility.

Not only are all of these things mothers do, they are things perfect mothers do. We don’t need to apologize for them.  Why should we apologize for perfection?

So, mommies, go forth and own it.  OWN your perfection.  Stop saying “I was gonna, but...” or “I wish I could..., but...”  Say, “I did this, and it was perfect.”  There’s no need to compare yourself to anyone else or, worse, to any mythical ideal.  Perfection needs neither comparison nor excuse.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Postpartum Depression Series: Part 2 Getting Better

As a follow-up to my post on postpartum depression last month (ugh does it really take me this long to write a blog post! :) ), I promised to write more about my own recovery, and the supports that I found so helpful.  Though I again have the words “Postpartum Depression” in the title, it should be noted that all mums (notice, I didn’t say just new mums) need support of some kind, regardless of their mood.  Therefore, I’m going to talk about all levels of support I received, and also supports I know about that I didn’t myself experience.

It’s kind of like a video-game.  You complete all the tasks in the level, and if the mum still is feeling down, then you “level up!”  Eventually, you get to save the princess.  :)

Level One: (defeat the Goombas)
There are a few things every new mum needs.  This is my short-list of things I received that I probably could not have done without:
  • a hug
  • some space
  • a bath
  • a hot meal
  • to be able to drink my tea hot at least once a week
  • fresh flowers on my table
  • snacks, everywhere
  • honest support (but not advice!) from other mums who have “been there.”
  • ...and maybe someone to clean the bathroom every once in awhile. :)

Level Two: (defeat the koopa paratroopers)
After all of the congratulations, wonderful kindness, and hugs that were showered on me, I still felt very stretched thin and still pretty sad.  (This might have something to do with the fact that I was attached to a breast-pump 8-12 times a day...That would stretch anyone thin!)  At this point, hot meals and a bit of space alone weren’t cutting it for me.  I needed more.  These are some things that helped me at that stage in the game:
  • I continued to lean on my great friends for support.  Sometimes, being able to email them whatever and whenever I wanted was even more of a help than talking face to face. 
  • Getting out -- I got out a bit on my own, but it was always nice to have another mommy friend to come out with me, or a non-kidded-up friend to come and actually help me out! :)  It was always easier to get out the door on time if I had more hands to ready us.  Sometimes even going for a walk with my husband and the baby at the end of the day was enough to lift my mood.
  • Meditation -- I didn’t do this nearly as much as I should have, and even still I only set aside time for it like once a month, which is not enough.  Sometimes people need help meditating (like me!!).  Since we had used Hypnobabies for our birthing, I downloaded the Hypnobabies “Relax and Feel Confident” script (and a few others I think?  I can’t remember :) ) and started listening to it.  While this is called “hypnosis” and not “meditation,” I found it to be pretty much the same thing.  There are also a bunch of free guided meditation podcasts on iTunes that are great for this!  (As well as some free 10-15 minute yoga sessions, which are great for some nap time namaste!!)

Level Three: (the princess is still in captivity! Kill another boring False Bowser)
Well, at this point, I was getting out, I was having friends over.  Hell, I even took my 6 week old swimming.  I was sleeping relatively well, eating well, and doing all of the things they tell you to do to combat PPD: take baths, get a massage, have a break, snuggle your squish.  But I felt lifeless as I did these things.  I needed more still.

My first step was to tell a friend.  Somehow, that alone lightened the load.  I mean, I was talking with friends before then, but I never actually mentioned the depression or anxiety by name.  Once I did that, it made it feel more real.  However, rather than that real-ness feeling even more overwhelming, it suddenly felt manageable.  I could see it and touch it and hear it and talk about it, which also meant I could finally do something about it.

So, my second step was to tell my doctor.  It was a regular check up for the little squishy-pants, and at the end I just sort of mentioned, “I’m not really dealing so well with this feeding thing.”  And my doctor, bless her heart (yes, I actually did just use that phrase), stepped back into the room with me, closed the door behind her, and sat down again as though she had all the time in the world.  She asked me to tell her more and I just started crying.  She calmly told me that she would refer me to Reproductive Mental Health, and she told me “everything will be fine” -- not in a hollow, hush-yourself kind of way, but in a way that made me feel she really knew and believed that.  And it made me believe it too.

When I got the call, two weeks later, from Reproductive Mental Health, they told me that there was an almost 2-month waiting list.  My heart sank -- could I wait that long!?  But, at the same time, the fact that there was such a wait meant there was a big need...which also meant that I wasn’t alone.  And oddly enough, that made me feel a little bit better.  Hundreds of women all over Vancouver were sobbing into their cold tea behind their baby’s backs!  What a comforting thought!  Hah.

Since I had to wait so long, the next step I took was to google support groups.  As I said above, I was getting out and doing things with the little bunny at this point, but that sometimes actually made things worse.  There’s nothing like going to a playgroup or baby-yoga class when you feel like absolute shiznit inside, and then seeing some other mums with same-aged babies bringing in their home-baked goods or showing off the new striped sweater they just knitted their 8 week old.  I was like “Who the fuck are these super-moms!?!?”  Then I’d leave feeling even worse.  I desperately wanted to surround myself with other moms like myself.  (Mediocre, normal, non-supermums who also had bags under their eyes and couldn't remember how long it had been since they'd last showered. haha)  Moms who could understand my struggle because they were there too.  (sidenote: a lot of the women in my PPD support group also had hand-made some of their kids' clothes and were way into baking or tending their flower plot or whatever awesomeness they did.  We're all actually super-moms...even if we are mediocre. hehe)  In my previous entry, I mentioned that I called Pacific Postpartum Support Services at this point.  I spoke to Hollie Hall, who I cannot say enough fantastic things about.  She spent about 45 minutes on the phone with me, just patiently listening and understanding.  She placed me in a group and I think I started that following week.  Apart from confiding in friends, calling PPPSS was probably the single best thing I did to combat my depression.  Pacific Postpartum has a variety of services, including phone support, support groups, and I believe they also do some occasional seminars.  If you’re feeling blue after a baby, these are definitely the people to talk to!

After a month, I finally got in at Reproductive Mental Health as well.  There, I saw a psychiatrist 3 times.  I was learning so much from the other mums in my support group that I was doing much better by the time I saw the psych.  However, Repro. Mental Health also has some great services worth mentioning.  In addition to their psychiatrists, they have counsellors who do talk therapy, and, more importantly, they put on a bazillion groups all the time.  Things from anger management all the way to meditation and mindfulness are covered.  Unfortunately, I was so busy by that time that I didn’t end up making it to any of the groups, but I have heard fantastic things about them!  The other thing that Repro. Mental Health provides are some free resources for self-study.  I would link to them, but they're redoing the site, so the resources are temporarily down!!

Level Four: (Kill that damned Bowser once and for all and take the princess home!!  Nevermind, she saves herself!)
I didn’t reach level 4 (of my arbitrary level system. hah) in my journey.  I got to save the princess after level 3.  But some don’t, and they still need more help and that’s okay.  Before going through this whole experience, I felt that there was no need for psychiatric medication ever.  I was very against it.  And, still, probably 80% of the time I am, as I feel that psych meds are vastly overprescribed these days.  However, now that I have been at my lowest, I can see that sometimes there is a need for medication.  If I had not been able to pull myself out of the dark with therapy and friends alone, I would have taken medication.  No one should stay feeling like that forever when they don’t have to.  Many of the women in my support group were taking or had taken anxiety or depression medication, and they said it made a world of difference for them.  As my doctor had told me when we discussed medication, it’s great to have strategies, but sometimes you need help to even get to the point where you can use your strategies.  For some people, this is definitely true.

So, there you have it.  My "road to recovery" as it's called.  I tried to include as much general info as possible, but feel free to add on in the comments!

There is one thing I can’t stress the importance of enough.  That is friendships and social connections.  Someone probably could battle baby blues or postpartum depression in a vacuum, but -- well, no, actually I’m just going to go out there and say that you can’t.  You can’t combat depression in a social vacuum.  It feeds off of your alone-ness and grows.  And it’s like an abusive boyfriend, depression wants you to be alone, so it makes it harder for you to go out and be social.  Fight it! :)  And, for those of you who aren’t new mums but know some, go visit, bring flowers for her table and snacks to put everywhere.  Take the baby while she drinks a hot tea.  Tell her about the newest meditation podcast you found on iTunes.  Give her a hug.  (then leave and let her sleep.  haha)

A small (and super important!) piece of my support network :)