Tag Archives: mother

A Few Thoughts On Rejection

For those of you who had the balls to go audition for Listen To Your Mother, you rock. To those of you who made it, congratulations.

To those of you who didn’t – hello, my sisters.

I have seen friends celebrate and I have seen friends react to not being chosen. Of course it’s natural to be upset. In addition to pouring our souls out through words, we then got up in front of others and *gasp* read those words aloud.

The challenge in being rejected is to not take it personally. But.. but… those are my words, you’re thinking! I READ THEM. HOW IS THIS NOT PERSONAL???

Think of it this way – you plan to sew a gorgeous quilt. You need fabric first, right? So you go to a local fabric store with hundreds of choices. You spend hours sorting through the fabric, comparing them to each other and analyzing the appearance of each scrap in the final design. You can’t possibly use every single scrap of fabric in the quilt and end up with the appearance you want, right?

That’s what the people in charge of LTYM are doing – they are creating a quilt of words and they can’t possibly use all the words they hear or read during the audition phase. So they are forced to make a final selection after browsing the most amazing “fabrics” they have to choose from. In doing so, they work to find pieces which fall into a specific pattern, pieces which will work together for the show they envision. So, you see, it isn’t about you at all. It’s all about their job to select the best pieces for the design they see before them.

I went into auditioning this year with the mindset that I wouldn’t be chosen. But if I did that, then why bother auditioning?

Because standing in front of people, reading words I wrote, scares the ever-loving crap out of me. It is beyond my comfort zone. I don’t even read my blog posts to myself after I write them if that gives you any indication of how much I dislike reading my words. I struggle to accept the compliment of “hey, you’re a really great writer!” to be completely honest.

I am genuinely happy for those who made it into LTYM shows this year. It is an honor to be chosen and it takes courage to get up in front of such large audiences and read personal stories. To those who with me in not being chosen – you are still just as awesome as you were the moment before you took a shaky deep breath and stepped inside that audition room (or connected via G+ Hangout or Skype). No one gets to tell you any different. It takes guts to do that and even more guts to cope with rejection.

Below is the piece I read on Sunday morning for my audition. I like it, they laughed, everyone who has read it has told me it rocks. But it just didn’t fit into the show for whatever reason. I’m okay with that because you know what? I’m writing way more this year than I was last year and with each audition, I’m getting better at it. Sure, it’s nice to have acknowledgements and acceptance from others but in reality the only opinion which matters of yourself is your own.

Enjoy reading my audition piece!

____________________________________

It’s a strange balance, this juxtaposition of womanhood and motherhood.

If we falter even the slightest, it’s as if someone yanked the worst possible Jenga block out of our intricately formed tower and we’re left hoping we’re as brilliant as Raymond Babbit, able to immediately calculate what’s fallen down as well as how to fix it.

As mothers, we are expected to heal everything, know everything, cook everything, be everything. I don’t know everything, I can’t heal everything, I am not everything, but I am able to cook almost everything. Except insects because that’s just gross.

When I was a little girl, I shoved stuffed animals under my shirt in the sunroom of our family cottage over on the Jersey Shore. I’d unceremoniously yank them out after a few minutes (which back then, felt like an eternity), giving birth to my “children.”

Stuffed animals made the best children in the world. They didn’t cry, they didn’t poop, they didn’t throw up….seriously. They were awesome. Plus, how on earth could you be sad whilst cuddling an adorable fuzzy teddy bear?

Fast forward about 20 years or so and there I was, in a hospital in rural South Carolina, about to give birth. It was a bit more complicated than yanking a stuffed animal from under my Mickey Mouse shirt – this time, I was screaming, pushing, and praying the epidural would magically start working on the side of my body engulfed in enough pain to convince me it was on fire.

Then, after 14 or so hours of labor, she arrived. In true Jersey Girl fashion, my oldest slid from the womb giving the doctor the finger on my behalf. I didn’t know what to do with her. She wasn’t soft and fuzzy. She was wet, naked, kicking, and screaming. The advice from the nurse about breastfeeding? Make sure you get the entire areola in her mouth – you know, the brown part. (Gee, thanks!)

I sought help at 12 weeks postpartum for depression only to be told “Hey! You don’t have PPD because at four weeks postpartum, your hormones slid magically back into place! But wait, there’s more…you’ve won a visit with our in-house therapist who will keep rescheduling!”

Swell.

We moved back to be closer to his family and I toughed it out without professional help. Then we got pregnant with our second.

Second time around saw me through over forty hours of labor. Delivery was fast once I pushed. But then, she was diagnosed with a cleft palate and I lost my mind. Medication at 10 days, hospitalization at 56 days, enlightenment shortly thereafter.

I didn’t have to suffer. I didn’t have to struggle. I had forgotten to mother the most important person in my life…me.

Self-care is not selfish, it is selfless. If you attempt to pour a glass of water from an empty pitcher, it is impossible. The same goes for self-care. If you attempt to care for others while not filling yourself, you will give nothing.

My third child was born after a quick and relatively simple labor. I didn’t have any issues after his birth as I did what I needed to in order to take care of myself first. I took care of my little guy and his sisters, but I managed my own well-being at the same time instead of just theirs.

I mothered all of us.

That, my friends, that is the key to mothering. It isn’t in balancing. It isn’t in being the Martha Stewart at the bake sale. It isn’t in knowing how to solve every single issue that may or may not crop up. It isn’t in being the Joneses on the street or even in being the Mom who lets her kid do whatever he or she wants.

The key to mothering is mothering EVERYONE in your family the best you can, yourself included. You are the nucleus of the family, the center of their worlds, and they are yours. Embrace this. Cherish this. Nourish this. In the process, however, remember to take impeccable care of yourself for without this important step, all of this may suddenly disappear into a dark vortex and suddenly, you won’t be in Kansas any more.

Remember Dorothy’s mantra? There’s no place like home. Only in real life, a mother’s ruby slippers are self-care and you absolutely must remember  to click them together….often.

My Postpartum Voice of the Week badge

Postpartum Voice of the Week: The Monster Within

Every so often, I read a blog post which takes me right back into the darkness. Right back into the days spent in the middle of the vortex with the Wicked Witch flying right past my window.

This is one of those posts.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time ruminating or introducing the post.

I will say that if you’re vulnerable, you may want to avoid it. There’s a lot of showing instead of telling, raw honesty, and power in this post.

It’s why this post by Kimberly at Reflections of Now is my pick for Postpartum Voice of the Week.

Go. Read. Love.

Far from perfect

Tousled whisper thin golden hair fell softly around my face as I pulled a stuffed animal from beneath a toddler-sized shirt. Cradling the stuffed creature delicately in my arms, I leaned down to whisper a promise:

“I’m your Mommy. I’ll love you forever. You’ll see.”

In toddler years? Forever lasts two minutes. If that. I repeated this action over and over again as a child. Motherhood, you see, was my dream. My aspiration. My definition of self.

20 something years later, I grew three real babies over the course of four years under an assortment of plus-sized maternity shirts.

I learned birthing a baby was nowhere near as easy as yanking a stuffed animal from beneath a shirt. It was hard work. It hurt. It was traumatizing. And that love? It’s not always there immediately. Sometimes, it’s confusion. Frustration. Anger. Doubt. Guilt. Apologies. Tears. Overwhelming sense of failure. Depression. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Anxiety. Post-Traumatic Mood Disorder.

In short, birth and the aftermath is MESSY.

You can’t turn your back on the aftermath. There’s a creature there requiring attention when you want to sleep. Needing to nurse or feed when all you want to do is cry. Wanting to play when you want to sit. Asking questions when you long for silence. There’s this intrusion on your life, this thing to which you may not know how to relate.

What do you do?

Some rush forward, headlong into the fray, successfully.

Then there are those of us who hate those who rush headlong into the fray successfully. Because we don’t know what the hell we’re doing. We’re frozen by fear. Frozen by anticipated judgment of our decisions. Frozen by the potential for failure. The potential of screwing up our kids. Frozen by selfishness. By not knowing what to do – by not wanting to be a parent. By the loss of ourselves. The loss of our lives. Failing to integrate our lives with the needs of this new intrusion, this tiny helpless being imposed upon us. We retreat. We fall back and wonder what’s wrong with us. We wonder why we’re flawed.

But are we flawed? Is there really something wrong with us deep down? Should we be afraid of these “flaws” or should we embrace them?

Yes, there are parents who suffer from Mental Disorders after the birth of a child. I know, I was one of them after the birth of both my daughters. I apologized to my first daughter when she was 7 days old for not knowing how to talk to her. As if she had already memorized Merriam Webster’s entire dictionary, Mother Goose, and Hans Christian Anderson. I refused to leave the house unless I had to because EVERYONE judged me with just a glance. (They didn’t, but inside my fishbowl head, they absolutely did.) I cried. I screamed. Horrible thoughts zoomed in and out of my head.

But I learned.

When my second daughter arrived, we recognized symptoms sooner. Help arrived quicker. Yes, I was hospitalized but it was necessary. I recovered much faster despite the additional complications of her special needs and NICU stay. I started to heal.

Then her brother dropped in as a surprise. I quickly worked on advocacy and care for myself. I was the complication, not the baby. Already experienced in advocacy for others, advocacy for self came naturally. My doctor worked with me, not against me. He treated me as a trusted partner instead of a subordinate. I developed a Postpartum Plan for myself. Handed it to my everyone involved in my life and in my care. I thrived and had a successful Postpartum experience until three months after his birth when all hell broke loose in another area of my life. But because of my careful planning with my postpartum experience, thankfully, I had everything in place I needed in order to deal with this dam break.

I still failed with the hell which slid my way after his birth though, because instead of diving in to advocate for my own care, I waited for someone to dive in and help me. I didn’t ask for help. I waited. Like a fool. I focused on daily living while I waited. Only the necessary – just enough to get by. I buried my issues with the situation at hand and moved forward without dealing with it. I failed to reach for my scalpel and explore the problem. I didn’t dig around to figure out the landscape. So it festered until it exploded, my marriage along with it.

Instead of accepting responsibility for this explosion, I shifted it to everyone else when in reality, I failed to deal with the issues appropriately. Yes, the source rooted elsewhere, but my failure to deal with the aftermath appropriately is ultimately what caused the explosion. No one is responsible for my actions but myself.

Life is messy. It’s not some neatly wrapped package to be displayed in a store window during the holidays like a Norman Rockwell painting. It’s more like a Jackson Pollock piece in progress. Somewhere, eventually, someone will think it’s fabulous and want to buy it. But most will simply see the mess instead of the passionate art deep within.

Bernard Baruch once stated, “The art of living lies less in eliminating our troubles than in growing with them.” Life is art if you just let go of expectations, of definitions, and learn to LIVE instead of satiate the constant needs of others. Selfish? Yes. But ultimately selfless. How? By letting go and living for YOU, you give more of yourself. You learn what brings you passion, you learn your flaws, you recognize them as beautiful, you recognize that yes, even your weakness is beautiful and not something to be hidden away.

For a very long time, I’ve wrapped my problems in wrapping paper, placed them gently and neatly on a shelf inside my head, then walked away. It worked until the room overflowed and the door burst open, dust, paper, and all my issues flying every which way. I’m sitting in the middle of my brain these days, cleaning house. Step by step. Inch by inch. Face to face with issues I thought I dealt with ages ago.

I don’t know who I am completely these days. I’m not sure where I’m going in life.

But I do know one thing – that room in my head? The one with the shelves? Won’t be rebuilt.

Instead, I’ll be grabbing my scalpels and digging around in my messes in the hopes of understanding them before moving on. Yes, it will be chaotic and unrefined. But it will be resplendent imperfection.

I’m far from perfect. I will make mistakes. I will fail. But I will learn from those mistakes and failures. And that? Makes my life the most beautiful piece of art I will ever have the honour of witnessing.

Go.

Thrive.

Be messy,  imperfect, and blissful.

Make your life Art.

There’s no other way to live.

A love letter of sorts

Dear #PPDChat Mamas,

I know yesterday was all sorts of hard for some of you.

That it was particularly hard for one of you in particular.

Just as last time, we rallied around you. We loved you. We tried to protect you and keep you safe. We did what friends do when they see a friend struggling. They reach out to anything they can in order to keep the car from crashing. To keep the crisis from escalating. We were not alone in our reaction. You are loved. By so many. You matter. To us. To others. To your children. To life. You.MATTER.

I am sorry if we upset you. But you see, it was out of love. It was out of caring. It was with good intention. I realize these are just words. That they may not change how you feel about what so many of us did together yesterday to SAVE YOUR LIFE.

To those of you who did what you could to save a life, do not place blame on yourself for the outcome. For the reaction. You did the best you could with what you had at the time. You rose above what most would ever do when faced with someone who so clearly stated suicidal intent. You bravely ran toward the crisis screaming STOP, gathering an army along the way.

The reaction? The outcome? Is not yours to own. It is hers and hers alone. You can still love her. You can still care for her. But she must process what happened to her in her own way even if that means walking away from us, walking away from Twitter. She needs to own that, not you. I’m not saying it will be easy. I’m not saying anyone is right or anyone is better. I’m just saying that all of us are only responsible for the behaviours of ourselves, not of others. As long as you know in your heart you did the best you could with what you had at the time and it was with good intention, rest easy. You’re not responsible for the outcome. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to let someone else own their behaviour when you feel you had a hand in causing it. But right now? Let go. Breathe. Know we have done every thing we possibly can to help. And now? It’s time to breathe. It’s time to let ownership lie where it may.

We’ll still be here should she ever decide to come back. With arms full of love, hearts open and willing, and minds free of judgment. I hope she does come back. In the meantime though, I wish her all the best. I wish her healing, peace of mind, and a stop to the downward spiral she feels stuck in at the moment. I know it’s dark there, we all do. Don’t ever forget you are loved. And don’t EVER forget that YOU.MATTER.

We love you. No matter what.

Love,

Me

Once upon a time

Once upon a time I was just a girl with a dream. A little girl who shoved stuffed animals under her Mickey Mouse shirt as she toddled across the living room. Then I’d pretend to have my baby, love it, and eventually abandon it in a corner for a different toy.

Then I grew up.

Had a real baby.

Learned really quickly there’s no abandoning a real baby in the corner. Even when I wanted to because every new scream or shriek caused debilitating anxiety or a new flood of intrusive thoughts.

No, real babies, unlike the stuffed animal variety, demand and require attention. They need to eat, they need to have their diapers changed, they require love and interaction. It’s hard stuff for a mom without a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder. Even harder for a mom struggling to keep the mental illness wolves at bay. By the time baby is ready to finally settle down for the night (even if it’s 2am in the morning), our brains are so fried from all the self-talk we’ve done throughout the day just to convince ourselves “Yes, I CAN make it for just 60 more seconds,” all we can do is sit there and stare at the wall. Like Zombies. Sure, moms without PPD are Zombiefied every once in awhile too. Motherhood is HARD.

I look back at the depths of my hell and wonder what I could have done differently. I examine it, searching for the one thing I did wrong – the one thing I should have done differently. What if I had asked for help here or what if I had educated myself as intensely before my first two pregnancies? Built in more social support? What if…

Here’s the kicker… even if I identify the ONE thing I could change? Would it matter? Who would I be today? Would I still be the Mama Bear I am today for families with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders? If I changed just one thing to clear my PMAD experience, would I be doing more damage than good?

Hindsight sucks when we look upon it with a longing to change things. Hindsight can be a beautiful thing if, instead of looking upon our past with a longing to change it, we look upon it with a desire to understand why we are where we are and how we’re going to get to our next place in life. Our past is full of building blocks regardless of how dark and negative. When we learn how to slide them all into place like a Rubik’s Cube, we solve the puzzle of our life and empower ourselves to move forward with an unparallelled strength.

Don’t look back in regret. Look back with a desire to understand and then launch yourself into your future. You’ll be amazed at how far you can go.

A Father’s Insight

What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails
That’s what little boys are made of !”
What are little girls made of?
“Sugar and spice and all things nice
That’s what little girls are made of!

Snips and snails, and puppy dog tails grow up to be stoic and fearless, handymen expected to fix everything. At least that’s the hole into which society attempts to place men and has for some time now. Men are our rocks. Our shelter in the midst of the storm. Our protectors. As such, emotions are off the table for them. No tears. No anxiety. No fear. Fixers of all.

Men are human too. Capable of emotion. Sure, they may not process it out loud as we women so often do but they are capable of emotion in the face of life’s events. Men love. Men suffer heartbreak. Men hurt. Many may be silent about their loss or their pain. But every so often a man exposes his heart and offers invaluable insight into a man’s emotional world. When this happens, it’s important to pay attention.

I recently met Jeremy on Twitter. He blogs over at 2 Baby Dad about life as “An Expectant, Already Dad’s Blog.” His wife suffered a miscarriage. As we chatted, I asked if he would be willing to write about his view of his wife’s miscarriage. He agreed and posted his insight today after emailing it to me so I could read it over.

Jeremy’s account is raw, insightful, powerful, and honest. As I read through it, I felt the emotion building. By the time I finished, there were tears and my heart felt full as I exhaled. His words, the rhythm, the way he opens and then closes his experience embraces so vibrantly the experience of a father when it comes to fatherhood. There are emotions, even if “concealed by a wall” as Jeremy says.

I strongly urge you to go read Jeremy’s piece entitled “A Father, His Wife’s Miscarriage, and a Lost Unborn Child.” Share it with the men in your life. With the women in your life. Communication is key between husband and wife in the midst of any crisis. The better we understand where the other party is coming from, the better our communication with them will be when crisis hits. Please read this and pass it on to as many as you can.

My breasts, my sanity, MY CHOICE

Yesterday afternoon, the tweet you see to your left was sent out by a friend of mine. Of course I clicked. Then I waited for my phone to fully load the page. Once it loaded, I scrolled through the article. With each new point, my rage increased. Not until the end of the article did the author even begin to show a shred of compassion for mothers who rely upon formula in medically necessary situations. Even then her compassion was thin and failed to mention mothers struggling with postpartum depression. A few back and forths about the article then Karen Kleiman posted a rebuttal. So did Ivy Shih Leung over at Ivy’s PPD Blog.

And now? I give you mine.

My mother nursed my brothers and I for 18 months each. Or that’s what I’ve been told. I’m sticking to it. I grew up thinking breastfeeding was normal. I grew up used to seeing my mother nurse my brothers. It was how they were fed. It wasn’t weird. Or strange. I wasn’t scarred by the experience. I was six years old when my youngest brother stopped nursing. Closer to seven, actually.

When pregnant with my first child, I knew I would nurse. Because breastfeeding is how babies eat. She, however, had other plans that first day. Not interested in the boob. Didn’t eat at all in the hospital. We were sent home with barely any instruction but by god, they sent a bag with free formula samples. Which I used when she was screaming at 10pm that night and I couldn’t get her to latch. We used three of those samples the first night. I woke up the following morning determined to make breastfeeding work. For us, it did. She latched and we didn’t look back for 16 months when she finally weaned. Breastfeeding was the ONLY thing I did right with her in those early days. I failed at everything else. I couldn’t handle her screaming. She nursed for an hour every two hours so I stayed on the couch. No outside support. I was modest, didn’t want to nurse in public, etc. Quick trips in between nursings became the norm for us. At three months postpartum, my doctor asked me how important breastfeeding was to me as my daughter screamed in her carseat next to me. Seriously? I left his office even more defeated than when I walked in. I left with no help. Clearly I had to do this on my own. She thrived, I broke down.

My breakdown continued into my second pregnancy, leading to an early delivery. Our second daughter was born with a cleft palate. Once again, I expected to give birth, nurse, and go home. I had higher hopes for starting nursing this time. Instead, later that evening, I was trained in how to use a Medela Symphony and clutched cold hard horns to my poor not yet full breasts. No one explained colostrum’s small production to me and the nurse even laughed at what I got that first try. Again, I was defeated. My biggest moment of defeat? When the nurse asked me what kind of formula I wanted our daughter to have.

“But, but.. I’m going to nurse her. She’s getting breastmilk.” I stammered.

“Honey, until your milk comes in completely, she needs to eat. What kind of formula? We have Enfamil or Similac.” the nurse stated.

“Enfamil.” I sighed and cried when she left.

And that was just the first day.

Let’s visit the day I was in the pumping room at the NICU and my daughter’s nurse started a feed with FORMULA just minutes before I exited with well over 8 ounces of fresh Mama milk. I made her stop the feed, dump the formula, and start a new one with my milk. Oh hell yes I did. Or what about the day of her G-tube and ear tube surgery when the nurses spilled 5 oz of her milk as they tried to get the Kangaroo pump to work? I was not nice.

At the same time though, I had to be okay with my daughter getting formula in those early days. Yes, I thought formula was evil. But when I couldn’t be there or have enough stored breastmilk at the NICU, if my daughter didn’t receive formula, she would have DIED. We had a toddler at home. The NICU was over an hour away. I couldn’t be there 24/7. So formula had to be okay. It wasn’t evil. It wasn’t non-nutritious. It was saving my daughter’s life. I needed to not feel guilty about what my daughter received. I needed to not think about how it was changing her gut flora. I needed to not be judged because damn it, I was trying as hard as I could but the pump only removes so much milk. I pumped around the clock – every three hours except for a luxurious 5 hour stretch in the wee hours of the morning when I let myself SLEEP. Sure, I could have stayed awake around the clock and made more to avoid the evil formula but again, I had a toddler. One needs sleep when attempting to care for a toddler. Or they win. Everything. And that, people, can get ugly fast.

I pumped exclusively for our second daughter for seven long months. During those seven months, I was hospitalized in an Acute Flight risk Mixed-Gender ward. I pumped every three hours there too. Pumping fed into my OCD. Clean, sanitize, run the kangaroo pump, pump, repeat. Every three hours. On top of caring for a toddler. On top of a husband working 70+ hours in the restaurant industry. On top of two dogs who ALWAYS waited to need to go outside until right after my let down whilst pumping and usually had an accident in the house. I made peace with a lot of things – lowered my standards for a lot of stuff. Because my daughter needed my breastmilk. I threw myself down the rabbit hole and wallowed there. I resented her. I hated her for what I had to do.

At seven months, I stopped. For my sanity, for my relationship with my family, for my daughter. We weren’t bonding. I was going crazy. When it’s a question of my sanity vs. breastmilk? My sanity will ALWAYS win. I cried when I bought formula. Expected to be judged and would have had a serious conversation with the person judging me. Possibly would have offered to invite them to my home to see just what it was I dealt with on a daily basis.

As I stated in Don’t Judge me, the manner in which baby is fed doesn’t matter. As long as everyone is thriving, that’s all that matters. Yes, we should be educated. But education does not have to come in a harsh form as it does in the “Pushing Formula is EVIL” article. State the facts. Be honest. Forthright. Respectful. Don’t make me feel guilty for my choices. If you have to preface an article with the following:

NOTE TO MOMS: Don’t read this if you are feeling vulnerable, guilty or overstressed. NOTE TO ALL: I’m not a therapist but a researcher in child development.”

Chances are you shouldn’t be writing it. I preface things with “vulnerable” here. But never with guilty or overstressed. And based on the article, it’s clear the author isn’t a therapist. If she were a therapist, she would have been far more compassionate and understanding. If she had read recent research stating “Postpartum Depression and difficulty Breastfeeding often go hand in hand” she may have been more compassionate.

Depressed moms may use formula more often than other moms. Breastfeeding is tough for us. We struggle with touch. We struggle with throwing ourselves under the bus because quite frankly, we already feel run over by the damn bus.

Motherhood is about making the right choice for our family. Not making the right choice for someone else’s family. Not about judging others for their decisions. Not about filling people’s heads with unresearched facts in a demeaning manner.

For the record? My daughter is extremely bright. She tested almost off the charts in verbal comprehension at four. So did her sister.

When their brother was born, he nursed like a champ. But then I had emotional crisis at 3 months. My medication combined with my stress killed my supply. He was diagnosed as failure to thrive at six months having gained only four pounds since birth. The pediatrician suggested I pump. I knew where that road led. I closed the milk factory and he switched to formula in just two days. He gained weight, I was less stressed, and we thrived.

Formula worked for my family. It wasn’t evil. No one pushed it on us. I made educated decisions to use it. It saved my second daughter’s life. It saved my son’s life. It saved MY life. The author states that if one cannot breastfeed, a wet-nurse or milk from a milk bank is an acceptable substitute. I agree. But at the time, I couldn’t even get my insurance company to pay for what I felt was a “medically necessary” hospital grade pump. How on EARTH would I get coverage for milk-bank breastmilk?

Don’t ever tell me Formula is evil. It saves lives. The end.

My breasts, my sanity, MY CHOICE.

BOOM.