I’m incredibly proud to be a contributor for the new Idaho Falls Mom’s Blog, which launched today! I’m hopeful it will be a great motivator for my writing, but also a way to meet local moms. I’m useless at meeting new people and this group should force me to be social – it already has once when we took our headshots (which look amazing, btw). Writing a post or two each month for the mom’s blog means I will definitely be neglecting this site – so check out my posts over there. I plan to write about ARTitorium stuff, crafting with a toddler, and general parenting topics (next post – potty training!).
My husband recently got a new hobby. It takes him away from the house for a few hours one weekend morning almost every week. It’s making him very happy and doesn’t seem to cost too much, so I should be thrilled, but it’s pissing me off. Why? I’m not entirely sure. It could be because it means after an exhausting week of working and dealing with the kids every morning and evening, I’m left alone with them for a few hours when I could really use some back-up. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel like I get to have a hobby of my own right now. Or it’s because I’m so, so, tired and would like to take an undisturbed nap. Or have a lie-in. Or just sit in peace and quiet for 20 minutes.
Everything I do revolves around the kids: their interests, needs, attention spans, and schedules. I don’t really mind this, I even enjoy it most of the time. I’m stuck in this weird place where I’m sad that I don’t really have any friends to hang out with, but if given the choice – I’d choose to go home and hang out with my family over any kind of social event with other women/mums. And none of this is my husband’s fault – I know that he would support me going out to do something on my own. But that’s not what I want. So why am I pissed off? I think it’s because this lack of desire to do anything for myself demonstrates that I have given over my identity to that of simply “mum.” I have a job that I love, but I leave it in a heartbeat if a kid needs me for something (usually another trip to the doctor). I have Mondays off and sometimes I take the kids to daycare to have some time to myself, but as soon as I am alone I very quickly run out of things to do that aren’t housework. Who am I? What do I like to do? I have no idea any more. I don’t know how to fill my time if my kids aren’t in it. I’ve lost myself. I think I would be able to accept this if my husband didn’t present a daily reminder that he is still very much himself. With hobbies and friends and alone time. Which I know I could have but I don’t want but I’m annoyed that I don’t have. So I’m confused and irrationally irritated. Welcome to Motherhood.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Ophelia arrived and we thought she was an easy baby. Easier than Declan, for sure! Then her two month appointment came around and we found out that she wasn’t gaining enough weight. In the two months since then, we’ve been back at the doctor’s at least every two weeks (and sometimes more) for weight checks. We’ve tried different formulas, different bottles, different nipples, and different positions. We’ve given her two different reflux medicines and probiotic drops. We’re working with an Occupational Therapist and talking about whether we need to see a GI specialist. We’ve tried fortifying the formula. We started solids early. The doctors are flummoxed and I am frustrated. The girl just does not want to eat. Every time we seem to be doing better and I start to feel hopeful, she plummets again. A slight fever or shots or congestion or a new person can send her spiraling downward and my mood right alongside. I was so excited to get through those first few weeks of baby blues without signs of the depression that I experienced with Declan, but it seems it was just waiting in the wings. Ugh.
Since I have not been able to persuade my sister (who has a 1-year-old and another one on the way) to travel 4,500 miles on 3 planes to come and save me from myself like she did the last time, I have started seeing a counselor for the first time ever. In our first visit it was just good to talk to someone who is being paid to listen. She gave me some tools and tips to try the next time I felt the darkness descending. While I am struggling to actually apply these while I am feeling sad, I think we’re off to a good start:
- My biggest problem is dwelling on the negative. When Ophelia has a bad feed I immediately imagine all the worst possible scenarios. I focus on the unfairness of the situation and find myself dealing in absolutes – she’s never going to eat well again, we’re never going to get past this, I’m never going to be able to feed her in public or leave her with a babysitter (or even my husband, since she won’t eat for him!). One action to counter this is to focus on every positive thing that happens, no matter how small. I’ve been writing them down as they happen so that during a sad moment I can look back and hopefully recognize that things aren’t all bad. These can be directly about the issue at hand (Ophelia is hitting all of her developmental milestones and is a pretty happy baby; she loves solids so far and is really good at eating them for how young she is; she’s staying hydrated; she gained some weight), or can be about anything good at all (Declan pooped in the potty; we had a lovely Christmas as a family; I have super supportive colleagues).
- I need to notice when I am placing expectations on Ophelia that result in disappointment when she fails to meet them. Instead of being upset and frustrated because she should have eaten 3oz but only ate 1, I need to change my language to “it would have been nice if she ate 3oz, but it’s okay that she didn’t.” This is a particularly hard one. Rational me knows that it’s absolutely fine if she has one bad feed, but irrational PPD me is angry that she isn’t eating as much as I want her to.
- Related to that, I also need to stop making assumptions when I don’t have all the facts. One bad feed does not necessarily mean that the entire day will be bad. One bad day does not mean that she’ll never eat again. (Repeat and repeat again until I believe it.)
- With all of these, I have found that it helps to have an external voice reinforce all of it since sad me does not listen to rational me. My husband struggles to deal with me on bad days and doesn’t know what to do, so recruiting him to be my voice of reassurance helps us both! He just repeats the same points – we’re focusing on wet diapers, she’s developing normally, she loves solids, etc., etc., – but it really helps to hear it spoken out loud by someone else.
- The counselor also gave me some exercises to try when I feel overwhelmed – all designed to help me focus on physical sensations as a distraction from my emotions. These help if I can persuade myself to actually do them when needed!
Postpartum depression sucks. Or any kind of depression for that matter. If you haven’t suffered it then it is impossible to understand what someone is going through when they are in the midst of an attack. It’s not just about feeling sad. It’s about feeling so overwhelmed by sadness or anxiety or even anger that nothing else matters. It’s about knowing deep inside yourself that you are being completely irrational but being unable to stop. It’s imagining every possible worst case scenario and being absolutely convinced that they will all come true. It’s seeing yourself be horrible to those around you and being unable to stop. It’s not being able to see an end to the sadness and lacking the motivation to do anything that might help. It’s feeling overwhelmed, out of control, lost, alone.
I don’t really have a point to this post except that writing and sharing helps.
Here’s Ophelia happily eating solids to cheer us all up. Thanks for listening!
We took Declan to “Blast Off” for his second birthday. This is one of those places with ball pits, tunnels, slides, ropes, and random socks. (I think they call it “soft play” in England, though I don’t know why, because not much of it is soft.)
Declan had a blast, and we had a great time chasing after him and rescuing him from tunnels. It was busy, full of young parents and crazy children. There was a couple there with a toddler and a baby. I was fascinated by them, because she looked at least as old as me (I’m 37). I wanted to go up to her and say, “hey, you’re an old mom! Can we be friends?” But I didn’t, mostly because I was scared she’d tell me she was actually the grandma. I’m not kidding. If we still lived on the east coast, I’m sure I would know many moms as old as me and older, but here? Most moms of toddlers are in their early twenties. That’s around fifteen years younger than me. FIFTEEN. If she was in her forties, she could have absolutely been the grandma.
Being 34/35 when I was pregnant with Declan was scary enough, because 35 is when you hit that awful “advanced maternal age” line and suddenly become high risk for no other reason than your age. Now I’m pregnant again. I’m going to be 38 when this one arrives and all the risk factors get ridiculously scarier. My first trimester screening came back with a very, very low result for my Free Beta HCG hormone. This is a concern, since a low number here has been associated with miscarriage (terrifying), fetal growth restriction (baby stops growing, terrifying), pre-eclampsia (all kinds of terrifying awfulness), and trisomy 13 and 18 (beyond terrifying; do not google). I don’t even know if this result is due to my age, but when combined with my age it just compounds the risk factors for all kinds of complications for me and for baby.
We waited and waited to have kids because a) we weren’t 100% sure if we wanted them and b) we couldn’t figure out how to make it work with our schedule on the east coast (out the door by 5am, home usually after 7pm, four hours of commuting, complete inability to keep fresh food in the house…). Then we moved to Idaho, life was great, and I got pregnant within a few months.
The first few months of Declan were so, so, SO tough that the thought of doing it all again is terrifying (have I used that word enough yet?), but we would like two kids and we didn’t want to wait too long to have the second because I’M JUST GETTING OLDER. I’ve heard people say that it’s good to wait until you are older to have kids. You’re more mature, you’re probably healthier (less binge-drinking, better diet), and you don’t feel like you’re missing out on romantic weekends away, evenings out, or all the other spontaneous fun things that DINKs* get to do, because you’ve been doing all of those for years. All of that is true. But that doesn’t mean I have my sh*t together any more than I did 15 years ago. My house is still a junk-filled disaster, we don’t own any matching mugs or wine glasses, there are tiles falling off in the bathroom, don’t get me started on the state of our yard or basement, and we can only successfully cook dinner three times a week at the most (tbh, that last one actually is a significant improvement from 15 years ago when the average number of home-cooked meals in a week was zero. At least we now own an oven).
Sure, maybe I’m wiser than I was in my early twenties, but I’m also so, so much more bone-achingly tired-er. I was collapsing on the sofa in the evening and heading to bed before 10pm long before a kid arrived on the scene. The seemingly endless energy, ability to party, and nonstop enthusiasm of my twenties is a distant memory. Combine the general exhaustion with the increased risk factors of an “advanced age” pregnancy, and I think it’s safe to say that having kids in your twenties is a good idea if you can swing it.
I’ll be 40 when Declan heads to elementary school. If you’re a fellow old mom and see me in the playground, please come say hi. 😁
NOTE: this is not a pity post. I’m musing on the way things are, not lamenting. I wouldn’t change how life has unfolded for us. But I wouldn’t say no to a few positive thoughts on my current pregnancy, either, if you wanted to send some my way. ❤️
* DINK = Double Income No Kids