From Shock To Awww

My first introduction to Motherhood was when she ran me over in the middle of the street with a Mack truck.  I have the tire marks on my nursing bra to prove it.  Our relationship did not improve after this, either.  Motherhood flitted around me like Muhammad Ali, light on her feet and jabbing me in the ribs at the first sign of weakness.  In other words, she was just a total bitch.

Those were dark times for me, people.  Times when I’m certain that Mr. X tiptoed around me like I was Voldemort.  Times when despite all outward appearances, I had a crazed gleam in my eye and could be goaded into either tears or anger at the drop of any object.  Times when I was so wretchedly unhappy that I seriously considered going to sleep with the fishes.

I wanted to be happy, too.  I wanted to be in love with my baby and wax poetic about how I loved being a mom, how naturally it came to me and how I knew that I was meant for this one role.  I wanted to be BFFs with Motherhood, walk down the street arm-in-arm with a cooing, giggling baby.  But, I wasn’t happy.  I was miserable.  And that made me feel even worse.

It continued to get worse in June and July, July in particular.  I can’t say what about that month was so wretched, but I was just drained emotionally, physically, mentally by the end of it.

And then, almost all of a sudden, things changed.  Motherhood and I reached a detente and more importantly…

I fell in love with my baby, this gorgeous creature, and it was and is wonderful.  Finally, finally, I get to feel what I have wanted for so long. I love to hold him on my lap and just feel his solid weight on my stomach.  I love to hear him laugh knowing that at least a few times, I was the one who made him laugh.  I love how when I put him down to sleep at night he squawks, flips onto this stomach and falls blissfully asleep.  I love it because I know that I had a hand in doing that – I gave him all the love and comfort that he needed to know that it was perfectly safe to just pass out for the night.

I feel that heart squeeze now when I look him and I’m just so thankful that I finally have this one final gift.

I’m That Mom

Lately, I’ve been asking myself , what kind of mother am I?

In some ways, I am the mother I always thought I would be.  In others, I am the mother that I know many people would shake their head at in disgust and disapproval because they would think that I’m selfish and cruel.  And you know what? When it comes to what others think, I can finally, honestly say, I don’t care.

Let’s get my mommy sins on the table, though, shall we? Rex hasn’t had the sweet taste of breastmilk since April, instead subsisting on the crack that is Similac (ooh, is it bad that crack and Similac rhyme?). He sleeps in his own crib, and has since we brought him home from the hospital.  If he cries in the middle of the night, I turn over and go back to sleep.  If he is happy in his crib and talking to himself, I let him stay there.  He goes to daycare pretty much five days a week.

Do these things make me cruel and heartless? Do they make me a bad mom? Nope, although if you think so, so be it.  I have excellent reasons for why I commit all of these ‘sins’ against my child, all of which culminate in the fact that they help him gain valuable skills that he will need in this dog eat dog world of ours.

You know the part about letting him cry at night? It’s because it teaches him to soothe himself and put himself back to sleep, which he can now do in under 10 minutes.  I’m certain the neighbors whose master bedroom is about four feet from his window are thrilled with that development since there were a few nights there where he was averaging 20 – 30 minutes of pure on crying (and I’m not sorry, guys – this is payback for leaving your extremely reactive dog with the World’s Most Annoying Bark outside at all hours for the last two years).

The daycare? It’s a fabulous facility that stimulates him socially, physically and intellectually far better than any regimen I could dream up or implement.   I’ve missed seeing him hit a few developmental milestones, but what’s most important is that he’s hitting them, early sometimes, and that he has someone there who is just excited about it as I would be.   And, its his daycare that lets me go back to work which I needed to do for my sanity and for our bottom line.  I need that time as an adult to be the best mom to Rex that I can.

The Similac Crack? Several different reasons there. One, the child has the appetite of an elephant.  There was just no way my itty bitty titty committee could keep up and I really detested pumping.  Two, frankly, I wanted my body back.  I gave him 110% for nine months, just as I gave my two previous pregnancies the best chance possible with following all of the draconian food and beverage restrictions of pregnancy.  The way I see it, though, I’ve let others have my body for the last five years – through the initial wonderment phase of trying to conceive, to the trenches of treatment.  My body did everything that was asked of it and I limited, restricted, cut back on whatever I needed to get the job done.  Once Rex was born and I had safely delivered my perfectly confected cargo, I knew that I would want my body back to do with as I pleased.  I knew that it would be sooner rather than later.  I just knew.  In the end, he got four weeks of breast milk, which I am happy with.  I had some wonderful moments with him breastfeeding and I’m glad for it.  He’s growing like a weed on the formula and thriving.  So it’s costing a small fortune.  It’s worth it if it means that Mr. X can drag his ass out of bed at 3 am and feed Rex without me having to do anything but give him an encouraging shove.

Rex sleeps in his crib because I was initially terrified about rolling over on him in my sleep and looking forward, I don’t want a three year old in my bed.  It’s hard enough to sleep with Mr. X throwing himself around (I don’t care what you say, Tempurpedic with your damn wine glass demonstration, I still feel him moving all time) and the cat wedged up at my head let alone a three year old throwing himself around the bed too.   No, I wanted to nip that one in the bud (or bed?) ASAP.  And, when Rex wakes up in the morning, I love to hear the sound of him chirping as he talks to himself and grabs at his little footsies.  He  babbles, raspberries and coos to the ceiling fan.  He’s learning to amuse himself, which again, is a terribly valuable skill, especially when it means giving mommy and daddy that extra 30 minutes of sleep.

I used to fret that I was too selfish to be a good mom.  Now I know that the question is not whether I am too selfish, but if I am selfish enough to let him grow and develop in the way that is best for him.  The answer is a resounding yes.

The Root of My Evil

Dear Pfizer:

I am the poster child for better living through chemistry.  My OCD is controlled with Prozac, my child was conceived with the use of multiple injectible drugs, my pregnancy with him was made easier with Zantac and Flonase and he was delivered quite comfortably once I had a fabulous epidural.  So, I obviously have no problem with drugs.

What I do have a problem with, however, is your drug, Zoloft, which I went on because I was breastfeeding. Only now, after finishing up my course of it and switching back to my beloved Prozac do I realize just what a wretched drug Zoloft is for me.  Let me tell you what happened.

Four weeks post-partum, I began having stomach issues.  Constant, uncomfortable and rather embarrassing stomach issues.  They didn’t go away.

My head was surrounded by a giant fog that refused to lift. I’d sit down to read a book and wouldn’t be able to concentrate.

Also starting around the four week mark, there was not a day that went by that I didn’t think about suicide.  I envied dead people. I would think about what a release from the grind of it all it would be.  I would be able to sleep.  Finally and consistently sleep.  I wouldn’t have the anxiety and uncertainty of anticipating the needs of a newborn.  I fought it, though. I fought it hard. I reminded myself that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  I would look at my son and will myself to hold on for another day on the promise that it would get better.  I reminded myself what a terrible impact it would have on him. I thought about how Mr. X would be alone and how much I would miss him.  I thought about how angry everyone would be with me for being selfish and taking the easy way out.  But, the thoughts were still there.

I finished the pills a week and a half ago.  Within days, the stomach issues improved, the thoughts began to go away and the fog lifted.  I began to feel like myself again.

The only conclusion that I can reach is that your drug screwed up my digestive system, put me in a fog and made me want to kill myself. Way to go.

Smooches,

Mrs. X.

image: K’vitsh

Individual Results May Vary

I have been wanting to write about motherhood, as it is after being finally gloriously obtained after so many trials and tribulations.  Seriously wanting. And, I’ve had the time. Rex is in daycare (thankyou, thankyou, thankyou) and I am back at work part-time.  Partial sanity has been regained. While, I’m still oozing with bloggy feelings, something has continued to stop me, specifically my former infertile and childless self.  I would not have wanted to read what I want to write about. In fact, I would have un-subscribed from my blog tout suite after reading a few paragraphs and wouldn’t have come back for a while.

You see, I’m still struggling with this whole motherhood thing.  I’m not feeling those thunderbolts of instant love that feature so prominently on A Baby Story.  I don’t want to spend every waking moment with my baby and I certainly don’t want to keep him awake to play with him.  In fact, I think he is most attractive when he’s sleeping.  He is so peaceful … and so quiet.  When he’s awake, I am still a little on edge, waiting for him to get fussy either because he’s hungry or bored (or, worse, both).

About this time, the guilt starts setting in.  My Inner Infertile points out how much we wanted this child and how monumentally ungrateful I am being for having these thoughts in the first place.  Then I think about those who read my blog who are still trying to have a child and how I would have felt when I was there reading this (not particularly thrilled).  And, so I just couldn’t write anything.

The thing is, I remember so vividly when we were in the deepest darkest corners of infertility how much I would give up to have a baby and I feel just wretched that now I am so damn ambivalent about the whole thing.  I feel like I have let down myself and all of the other girls who have struggled with infertility. I always thought that once I had a baby, it would be so much better and to now have that baby – who is by all measures an absolutely wonderful baby – and not feel as if I am the happiest woman in the world is an incredible shock.

In a way, I set myself up for this.  I put so much emphasis on being ‘fixed’ once we had a child, that the baby would magically fill that gaping hole in my heart.  And he has filled it somewhat, but not the level that I thought he would.  Not yet, at least. So, I am left with a hole still, and what’s even worse is the sense that it should be full but I’m just too ungrateful, selfish, and plain awful to let Rex fill it.

It is getting better, though. Today, at lunch, he was smiling that whole mouth smile that just makes you smile too.  It’s contagious, like a yawn.  He’s started squealing, which we think is a prelude to laughing.  He’s even had his first walk facing outward in the Bjorn because he can hold his head up.  All of these are amazing milestones that seemed so distant not just a few weeks ago.  The good thing about an infant is that they change so rapidly so fast that the status quo, if you don’t like it, will change and pretty quickly (although, you may still not like what it changes too).

Today, I also felt, for the first time since he was born, like I was happy.  I was walking G with Rex in the Bjorn wearing this adorable hat and it just hit me.  I’m happy. In this moment, I am happy. Perhaps there’s hope for me yet.

image: paterjt

Same As It Never Was

Ah, the joys of the postpartum body.

While I was pregnant, I didn’t give one rat’s ass of thought about what my body might be like after growing a little human and then evicting him, at the whopping size of 8lbs 5oz and over a foot and a half long through the in-door.  I knew that the tummy area might be a little jiggly for a while and I figured it would take some time for the weight that I had so thoughtfully and doggedly put on to support the little human to come off.  So it’s no surprise that the tummy is not it’s former flat self or that the hips and booty are a little more generous making my favorite jeans rather explicit when wrestled on.

I was still surprised when I surveyed my landscape, though, to notice that my boobs, not the largest to start with, had actually shrunk.  Yes, shrunk.  They have been inflated and deflated so many times through pregnancy and nursing that it’s a wonder they are still on the top half of my body, but it was still a shock to put on a bra from my previous life and see how much room there was.  Mr. X doesn’t seem to mind, but still.  I still also have those tattoos of pregnancy; my linea nigra hasn’t disappeared nor have some freckles on the mid-section that cannot thank the sunshine for their existence.

The biggest shocks however have come from the inside.  I don’t care that my OB advised that Mr. X and I could resume nookie six weeks post-partum.  We waited until 8 weeks and it hurt like a mofo for the first half and then I didn’t feel much of anything for the second half.  Common sense dictates that if you stretch something to the size of a cantaloupe, you should expect that it might take it a long time to get back to its normal size.  Common sense and I parted ways at about week 30 in my pregnancy and we have not made up since.  So, genuine shock and dismay followed. It’s getting better, at least on the tightening front, but it still hurts. A lot.

And then there is the weird problem: to put it simply, there’s trouble in my alimentary canal.  About four weeks postpartum, I started having bad digestive problems.  I’ve always had a sensitive stomach so I figured it was just something I ate. But, the problems didn’t go away.  They have been so persistent (going on six weeks now) that I have earned myself the Old People’s Test – a colonoscopy! If you ask me nicely, I might even post pictures.

To recap, the boobs are smaller, the tummy is lumpier, the sex is painful and I get to have a camera placed in the other location where the sun doesn’t shine because of continuing troubles down below.  But, Rex is almost on the verge of laughing and can put himself back to sleep in the middle of the night.  I think that’s a fair trade.

Point of Origin

Ferreting out the root causes of my PPD has helped me immensely in dealing with the thoughts and feelings that I’ve had.  I got the idea from Brooke Shields of all people.  I read most of her biography, Down Came the Rain, and despite not being a model, Princeton grad or Hollywood actress myself, I found that Brooke and I have a lot in common: we both suffered through infertility, miscarriage and PPD.  So, I found her book very helpful, particularly the process that she went through to identify the root causes of her PPD.

I’ve thought long and hard about what caused my PPD, particularly in the middle of the night while rocking Rex back to sleep and being half asleep myself.  Here is what I have discovered.  Some of it will sound very familiar, other parts not so much.

1) The Mother of All Hormone Hangovers: I vaguely remember hearing in Childbirth 101 class about the sudden drop in the hormone cocktail once you give birth, and frankly I think I was actually relieved because I was pretty tired of the hormones at that point. They wreaked havoc on my joints, my head, my GI tract, and my emotions.  I was one cranky lady toward the end, and lot of it had to do with those wonderful hormones.

So, how is it that I could still feel like crap after they had gone? How is that fair?

2) Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes:  Nature abhors a vacuum. I abhor change.  Both are constants.  And, what does having a baby do to one’s life in literally an instant? Change it. Big time. Like every conceivable (ha!) facet of said life.  Intellectually, I knew this.  Emotionally, I really thought that people were making it sound a lot more awful than it really was.  They were right.

Here I was with an 8lb ball of Change and I was struggling mightily against his current.  I wanted something – anything – of my old life back because this new one was completely alien to me.  At one point, I wasn’t even sure I was in my own home – everything looked the same, but it was completely unfamiliar.  Being the geek that I am, I also couldn’t help but feel like I was in that episode of Star Trek where Kirk is in an alternate universe and they are all bad – including fabulous Evil Spock!  I was waiting for Mr. X to sprout a goatee overnight. He didn’t shave for a few days, but there were no goatees.

While I hate big life changes with every fiber of my being, I do eventually grow to accept them.  With this one, it was a matter of just plodding through each day and recognizing that I was still there, this was still happening and I had better get used to it. Who knows, maybe I would even begin to enjoy it. The shock of the change has worn off and there is enough now of my old life interspersed with this new one that I no longer feel like a stranger in my home.

3) What Does this Nipple Do Again?:  One of the quickest ways for me to get really upset is to be put in a situation where I have to accomplish something and I have no freaking clue about how to do it.  Add screaming infant who depends upon you for his very life and the pressure is really, really high.  We took Baby 101, and practiced swaddling and changing the diaper – on a plastic, non-moving, non-screaming baby.  In the hospital, all of a sudden we were expected to do this on a squirming, screaming, red-faced little infant who did not care that you had no prior experience.

That was just the tip of the iceberg.  We didn’t know how much he should eat or how often he should poop or even how much he should sleep.  We were clueless to the highest degree possible.  We overstimulated that child for a week easily before someone explained to us that babies get overstimulated super quick and once they do, you have an easier time getting an active volcano to stop than a screaming overstimulated, tired baby.

What is amazing is that I am usually extremely well informed about just about every major thing in my life.  I research and read anything I can get my hands on, but up until we brought Rex home you would not find a single tome about parenting in my house.  Why? My infertility.  I refused to allow myself to even look at parenting books let alone read one lest something terrible happen and we have no baby.  So of course, when it came time to deal with the real thing, I didn’t know which end was up (well, almost. I could tell one end from the other, even though liquids came out of both ends sometimes).  Mr. X was equally clueless.  I was shocked that they let us take Rex home from the hospital.  Didn’t my look of utter panic give them any clue?

4) The Power Struggle: I hesitate to add this one, but I know that it played a part.  Since both Mr. X and I were clueless, it meant that we had to learn the quick and dirty way with on-the job training and boot camp.  I assumed that we would be doing this equally.  It became pretty clear rather quickly that Mr. X was very uncomfortable with holding, handling and doing pretty much anything with Rex.  It was not for lack of desire – it was because he had never done this kind of thing before and didn’t know what to do.  My inclination in those situations is to just do it and see what happens.   His inclination is to opt out.  Unfortunately, with an infant, you can’t opt out (much as you’d like to sometimes).  So, I would ask if he could do some task just because I really needed a break and he would get this look of combined panic, pain and general discomfort which would make me feel even worse.

This became a real problem when he went back to work and I stayed home with Rex.  I was of the opinion that if I had to be home with an infant who demanded constant attention, the least I could expect would be a break when Mr. X got home.  He didn’t really see it that way, mainly because he was still rather clueless when it came to infant care and had spent the whole day at work.  A whole day at work then sounded like a day at the beach to me – no infant to be constantly on the watch for, no mind-numbing television, and no stealing food on the sly before said infant wakes up.  I would have killed to be at work.  But, the balance of power for getting a break was not in my favor since I could sleep during the day (rather difficult when you are on pins and needles waiting for the baby to wake up and you have no idea what you are going to do in that situation) and was not expected to be conversant with adults on complex topics in a work environment.

We both underestimated what the other was doing and this contributed to the feeling on both sides that the other was not fully appreciating what each had gone through.  All he wanted when he got home was a break and all I wanted when he got home was a break. Unfortunately, we couldn’t both have our way at the same time.

In the end, we both gave a little – he became more comfortable with Rex, I wasn’t as on edge at the end of the day (thanks to Grandma who would come over for a few hours each day).  Rex, for his part, also helped by getting a little more predictable and helpful in letting us know what he needed and when.  But, I was disappointed by him and that really saddened me and added more to my overall difficulties.

Knowing now what I do, I can see that it was a perfect storm a-brewing when we brought Rex home that would cause me to have PPD.   I’m just so glad that others saw it, talked about it and helped me through it.  I’ll still have little moments, but they are just that – moments.  And, every day, I have more moments snuggling with Rex where my heart swells with love and I want to just breathe him in for as long as possible.

Let There Be Light

I cannot begin to express my thanks to all of you who took the time to comment on my last post – all of you helped me see that I am not alone, crazy or ungrateful because of these thoughts that I’ve been having.  Once again, the IF community has been a source of get comfort and support. Thank you, thank you.

Since Rex* was born, I have been seeing my therapist and taking Zoloft, since it is approved for nursing mothers.  But, the sadness, the feelings, all of it was still there.  So, I dug a little deeper after I made that post.  I began to read accounts of other women who have suffered PPD and found myself nodding vigorously at the thoughts that other women were having.  It felt so good to hear other women vocalizing what I had been thinking and to know that those thoughts are classic manifestations of PPD.  I finally realized the extent to which I having problems and I began to look for ways to help myself feel better.

One of the first things I did was wean myself off of pumping.  Rex has been having formula from day one, but I was also breastfeeding.  Once it became clear that he was a grazer and I would likely spend up to 12 hours a day with him attached to my boob (2, 3, even 4 would be fine, but not 12 – that would really send me off the edge), I switched to pumping so that he could still get all of the benefits but I would be tethered to a machine for 20 minutes and not to a baby for hours on end.  I realized that one of the big factors that was causing me problems was the feeling that my body still wasn’t mine – it belonged to Rex since I found out I was pregnant and it was still his even after he was born.  Stopping pumping let me get control of my body again letting me eat, drink, etc. whatever I wanted and it felt so good.  Rex got a good four weeks straight of breast milk which under the circumstances was the best I could do.

I also have talked with my OB and she has turned out to be a great resource for help and support.  I had my 5-week post-partum visit with her last Wednesday and she prescribed me progesterone cream to help and ordered blood work to test my thyroid and Vitamin D levels.  Both could be a potential aggravating factor.  The results should be in next week.

Perhaps the greatest help she gave me, though, was to tell me that I needed to go back to work sooner than I had planned.  And she is absolutely right.  I need that intellectual pursuit right now to help me feel more normal – because that is what is most difficult for me about this whole process. I don’t feel like myself yet.  But, getting back into things I did and enjoyed before I had Rex has really been helping me get back to that feeling of normal.  I really think that going back to work will help move this along. Rex will head into daycare at a wonderful facility on site at Mr. X’s office.  He will be well taken care of and I will be able to have the time and distraction that I need to be a better mother to him.

I don’t know when I will be free of my PPD, but I’m taking it one day at a time.  Still.

* Rex is the name I have chosen for our little one on this blog.  He truly is king in our household.

Rude Awakenings

What I am about to say will likely either resonate with you or really piss you off.  Either way, I have to say it:

Right now, I do not like being a mother.

This makes me feel terrible – not only because it seems as if I should love it from the beginning but also because I went through so much to get here.  I’m not a 16 year old who got knocked up by accident.  I pursued motherhood the way many people approach climbing Mt. Everest. How could I go through so much to get something and then not want it when I got it?

Unfortunately,  I never spent much time while we were trying to get and stay pregnant thinking about the details of what would happen if we actually had a child.  I mean, it just seemed so distant, so alien, so … not going to ever happen that I did not want to torture myself with thoughts of what we would do with an infant.  Then, once I was pregnant this last time and it looked like it was actually going to stick, I didn’t want to jinx myself by thinking about the future for fear that something terrible would happen.

So I was seriously unprepared for the utter shock and awe of the introduction of a newborn into the household.  I knew that there would be disruption and sleep deprivation, but I didn’t know that taking care of an infant day in and day out would be such a soul-sucking endeavor.  Because, right now I have a baby that does what any almost 4-week old does: eats, cries, sleeps, poops, pees, and repeats.  No smiles, no giggles, no cooing.  It’s just not in the developmental milestones yet.  Which means that I am a janitor, waitress, chef, and nanny all rolled into one with not even a little smile to break the monotony.

There is at least one moment, each day, when I want my old life back or when I fantasize about getting a full-time nanny to whom I can give him whenever he cries or when I want to sleep.  Whenever I get out of the house by myself, I feel as if I am on parole but still required to return to the prison after a few hours.  Everyone tells me that it will get better, but that was like telling me that I would eventually get pregnant when we were dealing with infertility – it did nothing to help me at the time. I’m also afraid that these feelings mean that my dad was right all along: I’m too selfish to be a mother because I do want my time, my sleep and my freedom, still.

That being said, I am slowly accepting that this is my new life.  And, I still look forward to those little milestones – longer sleep, the first smile, the first day we can put him in daycare.  I’m also trying to find some enjoyment in this period – I don’t want to look back and regret that I didn’t enjoy it more.