Category Archives: toddlers

Don’t Be Decoy Mom

Colourful jars sit atop a shelf in a misty and humid room. Running water slides down her skin as she lathers up with the latest in moisturizing body wash which promises to make her skin glow with youth. She washes her hair with shampoo and conditioner to make it thick, silky, and soft.

As she exits the shower, the drying process begins – softly – so as not to leave any red marks or heaven forbid, pull skin in the wrong direction. Pat the face dry then move down to her toes. She folds the towel in thirds and places it neatly back on the rod before she wraps her hair in a smaller towel.

Grabbing a toothbrush, she measures out the whitening toothpaste and gets to work. Rinses, then gargles with mouthwash to ensure bad breath stays at bay. Then, moisturizer. While that soaks in, she puts on her undergarments. A bra with an underwire and underwear that promises to hold in the stomach which has nurtured the lives of her children close for the past few years. She frowns. Back to the bathroom.

She reaches for the first layer of glow, then dots on concealer. Waits for it to dry before applying an overall foundation and gently blending it together to hide the exhaustion and stress marching across her face. Next up, eye liner and eye shadow. They make the eyes more open and energetic. Mascara goes on next, gently, the kind that lengthens the lashes because again, more awake and conscious. Less tired.

Then she puts on blush to cheer her cheeks up, smiling as she carefully brushes up, not down – happy, not sad, she whispers to herself.

She takes down her hair and gives it a tousle. Plugs in the hair dryer and gives her hair a once over, then pulls it into a messy bun. Walks into the closet and chooses whatever isn’t wrinkled or covered in baby food stains. Grabs a pretty pair of heels then over to the jewelry box to select accessories.

A small hand tugs on her skirt and she looks down.

“Mama? You look beee-yooo-tea-fah. Hug?” her middle daughter asks, covered in chocolate from whatever snack she just finished devouring.

So the mother leans down and gives the child a hug, knowing she will have to change her clothes. She sends her daughter on her way, and walks back into the closet, stripping as she goes. A new outfit selected, she makes it to the car with no child-induced stains on her pretty clothes.

She turns the key, unlocks the door, and slides into the driver’s seat, throwing her miniature purse on the passenger seat beside her. Exhaling, she checks her makeup one last time to be sure she looks human and not like some exhausted creature just waking up from hibernation. She doesn’t. She turns the key, starts the music, and backs out of the driveway.

Transformation into Decoy Mom complete.

Decoy Mom is a mom who goes through great lengths to hide how her life is really going – every stitch must be perfect, every thing in it’s place, nothing negative to be found anywhere. And yet, inside, everything is falling apart. Her heart, her life, her soul – it’s all cracked and crumbling.

I’m not saying that a Mom who has it all pulled together is definitively falling apart. Nor am I saying that a Mom who doesn’t have it all pulled together is well. What I am saying is that we are all “covers” when we are with people and some of us are even “covers” when we are alone. We choose what pieces of ourselves to share and what pieces of ourselves to hide. We are not expected to fully share ourselves with anyone unless WE choose to do so. But we should absolutely be at least fully sharing ourselves with ourselves. In order to be authentic with anyone at all, you have to first be authentic with yourself. Being authentic with yourself is a difficult practice but a necessary one.

Stop hiding behind a mask, telling yourself lies about who or what you are inside and outside. Take a hard look inside. Explore. Make a list of everything that is there whether it is good or bad. Work to improve or re-frame the bad (sometimes, negative traits can be utilized for positive things – are you firm & harsh? Figure out how to rein that in by using compassion and understanding). Expand the good, let go of the negative. Focus on flipping the script.

Figure out what you want out of life this year, make a list, then break it down into smaller goals. Don’t let the big things overwhelm you and don’t let yourself become Decoy Mom. Be the authentic Mom, wife, sister, cousin, aunt, and YOU that you were meant to be. Stop hiding her under layers of crap. You might find that you have more time (and energy) to BE you if you give up all the hiding.

The more things change…

“Well, spring sprang. We’ve had our state of grace and our little gift of sanctioned madness, courtesy of Mother Nature. Thanks, Gaia. Much obliged. I guess it’s time to get back to that daily routine of living we like to call normal.”–David Assael, Northern Exposure

That’s pretty much how I feel about vacations. They’re nice little “springs” in our year, but after a season, it’s time to get back to normal. To our daily routines.

I’m resistant to change as a general rule. It just makes me all uncomfortable and out-of-sorts and irritable.

When we go out to eat, I have my “usual” at each location. (Bonus! Dan can order for me if I’m in the bathroom!)

I am always behind on almost any given fashion trend because at the time it debuts I think “How hideous!” and then, a year later, I find myself on the hunt for the perfect pair of rain boots or gladiator sandals or shade of nail polish. (Bonus! I find them on sale at T. J. Maxx because they are last season!)

I don’t often try new things.

I need our normal.  Apparently, so does Joshua.

As we were getting ready to leave the mountains on Sunday morning, Joshua started throwing a tantrum. Most of his tantrums are over nearly as soon as they begin. This one lasted for an hour.  At one point, I actually stuck my fingers in my ears in an attempt to drown out his…noise!

WhineCryScreamWhineCryScreamNoiseNoiseNoise.

I just couldn’t do it anymore!

I felt myself on the verge of a meltdown nearly as epic as his was at that moment. And I’m sure my friends wondered why I wasn’t doing anything about the tantrum. (Though, they too have a toddler and are likely as flummoxed as I was when their son goes into Tiny Terrorist mode. Everyone just kind of stands around dumbfounded and drooling like “uhhhh…..”.)

When things like that happen, I KNOW that 97% of the time they are because our routine has been interrupted.

If we have a bad evening, something was likely out-of-sorts that day at daycare. Or we made a detour by the grocery store on the way home. Something not normal happened and our normal shifted.

One of the things that helped me the most in the height of Joshua’s colic and the loneliness of PPD was going back to work the August after he was born. Because it gave me a routine. A normal. I knew what to expect. I’d been home with him for four months at that point and there was little to no routine.

I tried. Believe me. I tried. I used the ItzBeen timer. I looked for cues that he was sleepy or hungry or wanted to play. I tried, tried, tried to get him on a schedule and us into a routine that worked. And it was a futile attempt.

When I woke up from a nap on Sunday afternoon, a nap just like I take almost every Sunday afternoon, I felt instantly more calm than I had just hours before. I felt normal. Or like I was on the way back to normal. By the time we got home from the grocery store that evening, which is part of our Sunday routine, I felt even better. When my alarm clock went off Monday morning and I got dressed for work? I was myself again.

Establishing a routine was one of the most healthy and normal and normal things I did for myself two years ago.

A quick question thrown out to Twitter had three moms in five minutes telling me that routine was incredibly important to their recovery and that they felt great frustration and anxiety when they found themselves out of routine.

Instead of wallowing in the fact that we couldn’t even manage a simple weekend trip away from home without a meltdown (and I did, eventually, melt down once we got in the car—all over Twitter and the #PPDChat mamas!) I am reveling in the fact that routine is a way that I can cope with this illness.

Does this mean that we’ll never veer from our norm? Absolutely not. But it does mean that when there is a need for us to stray from our normal, it’s not the end of the world. Joshua will adjust and so will I and we’ll both be better for having lived and learned through a shared experience.

Though I think I’m the one doing most of the learning right now, and for now, maybe that’s how it should be.

 

Postpartum Voice of the Week: @HeatherColeman’s Ignite DC speech

Ignite is an awesome concept. They organize gatherings which give ordinary people like you and me just 5 minutes to get up in front of a bunch of people with the goal of “igniting” them to action.

Not too long ago, Heather Coleman shared her story anonymously over at Katherine Stone’s blog, Postpartum Progress. Heather’s story is intense as it involves details of a Psychotic Break. But it’s also inspiring because people stopped to help her as she struggled during the darkest moments of her life.

I am glad Heather has grown bolder in sharing her story as it is an important story to share. I applaud the courage it took to get up in front of a room full of strangers to tell her story.

Thank you for walking to the front of that room, Heather. Thank you for sharing your journey with them. And with us. You rock.

Go watch her amazing video here. But first, get some Kleenex.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Milestones

This year has been a year full of milestones for our four year old daughter.

She blew out the candles on her birthday cake for the very first time. She belly laughed for the first time. She is thriving in an all-day pre-k full of absolutely normal kids her age. We understand almost 99% of her speech these days. Life is good.

Today, a milestone happened for us in the car.

When I walked in to pick her up from pre-k, she grinned widely, jumped up, and ran over to hug me.

The last time I picked her up? Tears. Total meltdown. Temper tantrum complete with thrashing in the floor. She is accustomed to her father picking her up and had not been informed about the change. She was NOT happy. Today she was happy to see me. We started last night to explain to her that Mommy would be picking her up from school to take her to a doctor’s appointment.

I had a snack waiting in the car. Once strapped in, I got her settled with her snack, got the tunes going, and off we went.

Halfway across town, as she snacked and I chowed down on Peanut M&M’s, a favorite song of hers came on Pandora.

I turned it up, she squealed, and we sang as loud as we could together.

Then, it hit me.

We?

Were a mother and daughter rocking it out in the car.

Just an average, everyday Mom & daughter totally grooving together.

I had to stop singing because I started crying. Furiously blinking back tears so she wouldn’t see me and swallowing my tears so I could sing with her again, relishing the normalcy of the moment.

My four year old and I did not bond when she was born. She was born with a condition known as Pierre Robin Sequence. At just 9 days old, she had major surgery and was in an induced coma for a week as the swelling went down from her surgery.

When she was 56 days old, I was hospitalized.

When she was 7 months old, I stopped exclusively pumping and stopped resenting her for all the issues she brought into my life.

When she was 3 years old, she had to have another surgery and I was forced to return to the same hospital she was at for her NICU stay. We bonded that week, the two of us, and have been growing closer ever since.

But today? Today was really the first time I felt that miraculous mother/daughter bond with my daughter.

I cried not only because it had finally happened but because it took nearly five years to happen.

You know what though?

TOTALLY worth the wait.

Just Talkin’ Tuesday: The High Toll of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders

Original photo "DSC07197" by poodlerat @flickr.com

#PPDChat tonight got me thinking about the toll of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders.

A mom with a PMAD is Ground Zero. Her immediate family is in the blast zone, at highest risk for developing their own mood disorders, depression, or other accompanying issues. Extended family is just outsize the blast zone and quite often bowled down as they absorb the shock which reverberates as she flails for survival.

As Mom recovers, Dad may sink into his own dark pit, unaware of what is happening, unwilling to admit his own demons in the dark. Why? Because Dad is the rock, the hinge on which the moon is hung. His family needs him. Depression is a sign of weakness. It does not happen to real men.

Oh, but it does.

Just as Mom has cleared her last hurdle, Dad sinks even further away. He is angry. Frustrated. Hopeless. Lost.

Mom questions her own recovery as Dad lashes out. He is incapable of giving her space in which to grow. Incapable of recognizing her growth, her recovery.

Anger quickly eclipses any rejoicing.

Stress and angst fill the air of the home, adversely affecting their children, their lives, their relationships with friends, families, resulting in isolation.

Their marriage spirals downward. Their children act out.

Their lives fall apart.

Granted, the above does not happen to every PMAD family. But a PMAD affects so much more than just Mom. It truly affects the whole family. My PMAD’s damn near destroyed my own marriage. My husband self-medicated after our second daughter. That did not fall out until after the birth of our third child. What a spectacular fall out it was though. I nearly walked away. Instead, just as with my PMAD, I chose to turn and fight. Fortunately, so did my husband. We were supported by members of our church, our Pastor, and family members as we fought savagely to save our marriage. I wanted to give up several times. So did my husband. We have shared this with each other and in doing so, moved to a new level of communication and trust. It has been a long, bumpy road.

One worth traveling.

While I would not want to do it again, I would not change a thing about my past six years of hell. For they have hewn me into a strong woman, a strong Christian, a strong wife, and a strong Mother. I can finally say I am blessed. God saw me through my storm. I know there are more storms brewing out there. I’m okay with that. Bring it. I am ready to tell those storms just how big my God is these days.

However; if there was one thing I would like to toss out the window it would be the exposure to anger, arguing, and stress for the kids.

I did not choose to have a PMAD. But they certainly don’t deserve to suffer from the ripples set in motion from my experience. I think this is one of the biggest things I struggle with as a remnant of my PMADs. The anger, guilt, rage over their exposure at such young ages to such a harsh environment. Sure, it could have been worse. But they certainly didn’t do anything to deserve it. Neither did I, but they truly are the innocents in all of this. And for that, I am remorseful. Resentful even that my PMAD’s stole their infancy and my enjoyment of their infancies from me. If I could toss one thing in a toll booth bucket and be forever done with it, it would be my remorse and resent over what my PMAD’s did to my kids. I wonder every time they misbehave if it is because I was depressed. Do my daughters have ADHD because I was depressed? What about my son? Are my daughters resentful that he and I have a stronger bond because I didn’t have a PMAD with him? Will they be able to rightfully accuse me of having a favorite? How will I explain myself down the road?

It’s enough to make you blink back tears and choke back anger all at the same time. Nauseating, really.

SO. As I take a deep breath and choke back some of that anger and blink back tears, what remnant or part of your PMAD do you wish you could just toss away and be done with forever? Get it off your chest.

Let’s get to Just Talkin’ this Tuesday.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Postpartum Depression formal screening not worth the cost, BMJ study says

According to a recently published study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Postpartum Depression Screening is not…. brace yourselves. Worth the cost.

That’s right.

NOT.WORTH.THE.COST.

In their cost effective analysis, the researchers used “A hypothetical population of women assessed for postnatal depression either via routine care only or supplemented by use of formal identification methods six weeks postnatally, as recommended in recent guidelines.”

The conclusion was that overall not using a formal screening method was much more cost effective as it eliminated false positives.

So the mental health of a woman which will then affect her child, her family, her community, the world at large, are just not worth it to the National Health System of the UK. The EPDS scored out at about $67,000 per quality adjusted life years while no screening method scored at a price tag of just $20 – $30,000. No value for the money was found to exist when using the formal identification methods.

Did these researchers not read Murray & Cooper’s Controlled trial of the short- and long-term effect of psychological treatment of post-partum depression which explores the effects of postpartum depression treatments on children?

There is SO much more at stake here than the dollar value to the National Health System.

There’s the potential for broken families. The potential for children growing into their own mental health issues, the potential for continued need for mental health treatment due to an undiagnosed episode of postpartum depression, potential for increased incarcerations due to untreated mental illness, continued sadness, the continued stigma, continued and perpetuated lack of education on the part of physicians in regards to Postpartum Mood Disorders.

The most interesting aspect of this study is that it focused on screening for Postpartum Depression in the Primary Care setting. Primary care physicians are not always comfortable or knowledgeable in screening for mental health issues. If a patient were to screen positive, that physician is then morally responsible for referring them to a specialist. Often times, at least here in the states, a Primary Care physician is unaware of where to refer a patient for help with a Postpartum Depression Disorder. Therefore, they become afraid of screening because they fear what will happen if a positive were to occur. What would they do with the patient? Where would they send them? How would they respond? Are they familiar enough with Postpartum Mood Disorders to recognize a false positive?

I think the key to the results of this study is not so much in blaming the high percentage of false positives but in urging that Primary Care physicians receive more training to enable them to recognize a false positive through more in depth questions after a positive is scored via the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.

original photo/graphic "Hand holding necklace" by K.Sawyer @flickr

A stronger safety net involving a stronger communication between midwives, Obstetricians, Pediatricians, and General Practitioners is so desperately needed to keep women from falling through the very big cracks which currently exist in the system.

Let’s think about this for a moment, shall we?

A woman gets pregnant. She sees a medical physician to get the pregnancy confirmed. Most mothers seek OB or midwife care for their entire pregnancy. Unless they’re depressed – depressed and mentally ill mothers are less likely to take good care of themselves during a pregnancy, making specialized care even more important even when baby is still in utero. Once mothers give birth, they are then shuttled off to the pediatrician’s office for the bulk of their medical contact. One six week or eight week visit to the midwife or OB to ensure mom is healing properly then an annual PAP visit unless something arises in between. Many Pediatricians focus on babies and not mother. But the tide is changing as more and more Pediatricians are taking into account the family lifestyle and well-being. My own Pediatrician does this and I absolutely adore her for it.

But overall, there is typically no continuity of care, no communication between physicians throughout the birth process. There should be. There needs to be. A woman deserves a team of support. She deserves to thrive. So do her children.

No matter what the cost.

Because once you fail woman and her children, you fail society.

Fail society and we fail to exist.

If we fail to exist….

Sharing the Journey with Jamie

Meet Jamie. She’s due in June with her second child. Her first brush with Postpartum Depression started during her pregnancy. Jamie felt depressed, upset and confused. Not feeling ready to be a parent, she even felt resentful when the baby moved. She even cried at her first ultrasound – proof that she was indeed pregnant.

Things went from difficult to worse after her first daughter was born. Jamie “cried constantly, was moody, and felt worthless and suicidal at times.” She finally sought help at six months postpartum. It took some time but Jamie was able to deal with the ups and downs of motherhood without wanting to pack her bags and run.

And now, I’m excited to let Jamie speak about her experience in her words. By the way, Jamie blogs too. She found me via 5 Minutes for Mom’s Ultimate Blog Party. You can keep up with her at Melody of a Mom.

Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do when you’re not being a mother or a wife? What fascinates you?

I was a scrapbooker long before I started having kids. My bookshelves hold probably 15 12×12 completed scrapbooks, four of which are full of pictures from my daughter’s first two years of life. Aside from scrapbooking, I enjoy almost anything that has to do with crafting.

After my daughter goes to bed you can find me reading or writing. I am working on a novel (which I hopefully will complete by the time I’m 30!) and I write songs which I hope to have published someday.

What was your first pregnancy like? Was it what you expected? If not, what happened?

My small amount of knowledge about what pregnancy would be like came from TLC’s A Baby Story and the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” So I guess you could say I had no expectations when my pregnancy started, and I was able to take things as they came.

Postpartum Depression can sneak up on the best of us and knock us flat on our backs. Tell us about your experience.

I would say that my postpartum depression started before I even had my daughter (I call it pre-partum depression). There were intermittent periods of time when the prospect of birthing the baby I was carrying seemed depressing and confining, like some kind of cage I was trapped in. One day I’d be excited about all the pink clothes my baby would wear, and the next day I would wish I wasn’t having a baby at all.

After I had my daughter, the depression was severe and constant. I felt like I wasn’t bonding with her…I knew she had needs and I met those needs, but as far as “falling in love,” that just wasn’t happening.

Much of the time I wanted to pack my bags and leave everything behind. I cried a lot, lashed out at my husband and family, and felt very down.

When did you finally seek treatment for your PPD? What made you realize you needed help?

I knew what I was feeling wasn’t healthy, but it took my dad calling me out before I finally went to a doctor to talk about my PPD. One day, after some incident which I can’t remember, my dad said something to the effect of, “Why are you so negative all the time?” I’m not sure why, but that was the moment I decided to try to get some help.

Name three things that made you laugh today.

My daughter and her friend played “Ring Around the Rosie” over and over and over. When they were done, they were so dizzy they fell down all over again!

My best friend just called me on the phone and called me “Stinky Pete.” She’s random, but she always makes me laugh.

Whenever my daughter catches me looking at my belly in the mirror, she says, “Mommy, you’re pregmint.” That never ceases to make me laugh.

What role did family play in your recovery from PPD?

My husband is incredibly supportive. He picked up my slack when I felt like I couldn’t do what needed to be done for our daughter.

How did your husband handle your journey down PPD lane?

He was great. He never made me feel crazy…he supported me as best as he could even though he didn’t understand what I was going through.

You’re currently pregnant with your second child. Do you think things will be different this time? Why? What are you doing to be pro-active this time around?

As soon as I give birth, I am planning on getting back on the same anti-depressants I was on before I was pregnant. Unfortunately this means I won’t be breast feeding, but it does mean I will be able to function normally during my baby’s first weeks, whereas with my daughter I felt like I was just in a depressed daze.

What do you find the most challenging about motherhood? The least?

The most challenging thing about motherhood is making those daily choices in how/when to discipline and wondering how those choices are going to affect my daughter long term.

The easiest thing about motherhood is loving my child unconditionally. Though it took me longer than most mothers to bond with my baby, she is so special to me now. Nothing she could ever do would change the way I feel about her. It’s the same kind of love that God feels for his children, I believe.

Last but not least, what advice would you give an expectant mother (new or experienced) about PMD’s?

It’s better to ask a doctor if what you’re experiencing is normal than to spend any amount of time detached from your newborn. PPD is hard to deal with, but it is fairly easy to get under control once a mother realizes she needs help.

Mommy!

Mommy! Mommy mommy mommy mommy!

MAAAAAHHHHHHHHH-MEEEEEEeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeee!!!!

CHARLOTTE HIT ME!

Mommy! She’s not sitting down!

I hong-ee Mahmee – me want ice-pop! (nevermind that we just finished a meal!)

Mommy. I’m not feeling well. Mommy. I want to lay down. Mommy – I need to take my shirt off cuz I’m getting sweated. Can YOU unbutton it for me?

Mommy! Look what she did! Charlotte! We don’t DO THAT!

Mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmyyyyyy!

But I want to

No but I want to

I wanna watch this just not the scary part mommy!

Can I go on my computer? MOMMY! I wanna go on my computer! Mommy! CHARLOTTE’S BOTHERING ME AGAIN!

Me got poopy! (yay)

Mommy! Charlotte drew on herself with the marker!

She’s touching me!

Thankful

Today I am thankful to be here. Yesterday during nap, Charlotte nearly burned the house down.

She wrapped the heater in her sheet and mattress pad. Then she knocked it over with her mattress, leaving the mattress on top. It began to smoke and overheat. I was asleep on the couch in the living room with the dogs. Fortunately Maggie woke up and went crazy when she heard the heater crash onto the floor. I got up and looked out the front door to see if anyone was here because that’s why she usually barks. No one was here so I went back to lay down

Then Charlotte called me to tell me she needed to be cleaned up. I called back and told her I’d be right there, dragged myself off the couch and headed back. I was absolutely livid at what I found. At first I couldn’t tell it was smoking because there was sunlight streaming into their room and it just looked like dust particles. But then I smelled it. And realized I couldn’t see the heater.

I have never moved so fast in my entire life. I have also never yelled so loudly in my life.

Charlotte was in time out the rest of the afternoon and unfortunately has spent the bulk of today in time out as well because she chose to remove her mattress yet again. I have a feeling I’m going to end up custom-making a mattress pad to encompass both the boxspring and mattress for her bed – complete with zippers and locks. I don’t see how else we get her to stop this behavior.

We’re completely baffled. We know she’s exercising her boundaries, testing her limits. Yet here we are. The word “No” has no meaning for her. Endangering the lives of others also means nothing to her. I’m officially scared of what she might do next and I am not comfortable being here.

Two Hours to finish a Smoothie?

My attempt at hiding Alli’s medicine in a smoothie failed miserably.

It took nearly two hours for her to finish the thing and if I had recorded the sounds she was making the entire time, you’d expect me to be announcing the birth of a child after it was all over. Seriously!

What the heck is going on here??? Why won’t my kid take her medicine? Chris says it’s because she’s got his discerning palate which means she’ll be a chef someday. I don’t care about someday, I told him. All I care about is that she take her medicine now so she can go back to school.

I just got off the phone with a very unfortunate nurse at my pediatrician’s office who’s first suggestion was to hid the medicine in some yogurt or pudding. Were you NOT listening to what I just told you about the friggin smoothie???  The medicine was hidden in blended layers of frozen blueberries, yogurt, banana, and blueberry juice. AND SHE KNEW IT WAS THERE!!!! Then the nurse brilliantly told me to hide it in some Sunny D. Listen here sweetheart, my kid’s got strep. I’m not giving her something as acidic as Sunny D. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe that’d be a bit like rubbing salt in an open wound. And then Brilliant Nurse Idiot suggested I not let Alli see me put the medicine in whatever I’m hiding it in. Really? Oh My God. Thank YOU for that brilliant tip. I HADN’T THOUGHT OF THAT ONE!!!! The pediatrician is supposed to call me back. I think I got a bit too belligerent on the phone but I’m at my wit’s end, can ya blame me?

I want to go curl up in our bed and go to sleep.  I think I will right after the ped calls me back.

Anyone have a tracking number for that Cuervo?