Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Mother's Blessing

As a woman you are powerful. Birth is of course only one of many amazing pieces of being female, but it is unique in some very key ways...it is a time in a woman's life that requires physical, spiritual and emotional strength. It tests the foundation of who we believe we are as women, and challenges our beliefs about our own power.--
 Marcie Macari in She Births

This weekend I was privileged to attend a Mother Blessing for a sweet friend soon to become mama for a second time. A Mother Blessing is a beautiful ceremony that gave us the opportunity to express our love and encouragement for mama to be and her baby and her birth ahead. 

We each brought a flower to be made into an arrangement for her to focus on while birthing. To remind her how much she and her family are loved. To remind her how much we all believed in her body and its capacity to give birth. We also brought a bead or charm that represented what we wanted for her from her birth. 


I brought a sunflower. I used to grow sunflowers in Oklahoma. I'd stand at the kitchen window, my hands soapy from the dishes and watch them grow taller, waiting for the flower to finally unfold. It was kind of like birth. The height of pain of the contractions keep growing until finally you've put enough work in for the reward of the flower. The charm I chose for her was the infinity symbol. Birth is messy. Birth is unpredictable. I wanted to represent that no matter how her birth unfolded, at the end she'd have a new love that would never end. 

The charms were used to string a bracelet for mama to wear during her birth if she wishes. So that with every glance at it she could remember the community of women standing behind her. Loving her. Believing in her. Supporting her not only in her birth but in all the days ahead of motherhood. 

I wish I could describe the feeling in the room. So much love. It was such a throwback to the days of a different community than those we live in now. Days when mothers and grandmothers and daughters and sisters weren't usually separated by thousands of miles. Where birth is seen as a natural event. Not a disease that needs managing. Where we all care about one another's families. I didn't know this mama particularly well before the mother blessing. It doesn't matter though. She's part of my village. My group of people I turn to when I need help in this messy journey of parenting. 


If you ever have the opportunity to have a Mothers Blessing for yourself or to throw one for a friend, I cannot recommend it enough. Baby showers are wonderful, but there is something so much deeper about this. Its so much more about the humans and less about the things. I think we could all use some of that in our lives. 

So, congratulations soon to be mama of two. You will rock this, no doubt in my mind. 



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Therapy



Since Rowen was around eight weeks old I've known something was "different" about her. She was a much less vigorous nurser than her sister and seemed to be startled incredibly easily. She was slower about meeting milestones while still technically being in the "normal" range. At 6 months her Moro reflex was still very much present. When she hit eight months and wasn't trying to crawl, I listened to my mama gut and had her evaluated by an occupational therapist and a physical therapist. They were impressed with many things about her; her ability to eat chunks of whole food at her age, bringing them to her mouth on her own with ease for one. But something was amiss. A sensory processing issue, they said. She qualifies for services, here is your list of rights and responsibilities. We'll be back in a week.

So like any parent I took to the internet. What could I find about this sensory processing disorder? A lot. A lot of conflicting information. A lot about its correlation to autism. Rowen has a sensory processing disorder but is not autistic.  Most of what I found was reassuring. A list of things to look for. Trouble feeding. Trouble sleeping. Trouble riding in the car. Check, check, check. Wow. For an infant, those three events make up a significant part of the day. And a significant part of her day had been incredibly stressful. It can be difficult to bond with a baby who spends a majority of the time unhappy. Especially when you can't figure out what is wrong. Many nights I'd nurse her and rock her and walk with her for hours until Will came home and I finally had to hand her off because I couldn't take the constant crying anymore. We'd switch off and on the really bad nights. I was thankful to have an answer as to why life seemed to be so difficult for her.

Her first therapy session was a world of help for me. Maryse, her OT is from Canada and is just adorable. She walked in the house and immediately asked me what I had read about SPD on the internet. I'll never forget her saying, "I have tools that can help you help her not become so overwhelmed, your days will start getting better. They aren't all going to be easy, but they will be better." Sensory processing issues are best explained with a spectrum. We all have little quirks, sensory things that bother us. Some people can't stand to feel the tags on their shirts, or the feel of ankle socks. It often shows in texture issues with food. These quirks are on one end of the spectrum. For some though, sensory issues disrupt every day life. Some have incredibly intense reactions to everyday stimuli. This would be on the other end of the spectrum. Rowen appears to be somewhere in the middle.  Uneven touch bothers Rowen. Support over one part of her back and not the whole thing is a huge trigger. Loud noises and fast movement she isn't expecting are also triggers. At her age stranger fear is not uncommon, but her reaction is incredibly intense.  Because she becomes scared and overwhelmed quickly trying out new things like crawling becomes more difficult. She of course started crawling right after she was evaluated. Girl is already meeting goals. 

We use tools like soft brushing of her skin and vibration to help distract her while she is going through sensory overload. The only consistency with a neurological issue like SPD is that it isn't consistent. The same exact stimuli doesn't always bother her. Riding in the car will probably never be her favorite thing. She may wean earlier than her sister because the constant touch while nursing isn't always enjoyable for her. Some days she absolutely loves to be worn on my back, some days she hates it.

Hearing that your child needs therapy can be a scary moment. What will her life look like? We all talk about how proud we are of our children when they develop typically and follow the pattern that all other children follow. What happens when they don't? How do we feel then?  I've had several people tell me, "I'm so glad my baby doesn't/didn't have that." Ouch. We feel blessed beyond measure to be chosen to be Rowen's parents. Undeserving, even. I actually told Maryse that I felt bad that Rowen was born into this family. Not sad for us. But for her. She has two older siblings who embody the word rambunctous. Our home is always loud. Our home always has a lot of movement. No wonder she is stressed so much. Maryse though, said it was the perfect place for her. Perfect preparation for every day life stressors that will come her way, with the addition of a lot of love. And a mama who listened to her instincts when something was "off."



Friday, November 1, 2013

She did what?!


This past week I shared a photo of me nursing my girls on the Badass Breastfeeder, an attachment parenting and breastfeeding support page. When I first posted it I figured that very few of my actual Facebook friends would see it. I forget sometimes about that handy little bar on the right hand side that shows what everyone is doing every second. When people I actually know were liking it, I started to get a little worried.

Whose feathers is this going to ruffle?

Which brought me to another thought. Why am I more comfortable sharing this photo with a bunch of strangers than with people who are my "friends?"

Within minutes I had several friend requests and was surprised to see a lot of positive comments from my friends and a couple negative ones, too.

We live in a world where stars of pornography have Facebook fan pages full of pictures in suggestive poses with little or no clothing. I can see when my friends like these images, just like they can see when I share a photo of me feeding my children. Facebook rarely bans the pornographic images but is routinely banning images of mothers nursing their children from pages like the Badass Breastfeeder and others. Is this a Facebook issue? Maybe. Probably. But its also an issue of our culture. The culture we live in shows sexually suggestive scenes on television and in movies so often its impossible to count.

Just today this photo came across my newsfeed:

 
We see things of this nature ALL the time.
Facebook has deemed it appropriate for posting.
While banning photos of mothers feeding their children.
 
 
 


When is the last time you saw a mother breastfeeding her baby in prime time?

I never have.

Which is why the breastfeeding rates in this country are abysmally low. When women don't see other women breastfeeding, breastfeeding can't be seen as the norm. When I got pregnant with my first child I never would have even known about breastfeeding if I hadn't known that my youth minister at the time was pumping milk for her little guy. I'd never seen a mom nursing in public, covered or otherwise. I literally had no knowledge. We can't keep living in a culture like this and expect that babies will be breastfed. We can't keep shaming women for not breastfeeding their children when we work so hard to hide our own breastfeeding. Its not an issue of modesty. There is nothing to be modest about. I wouldn't cover myself while handing my child a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, so why would I when I'm feeding my child from the breast? By the way, that's what they were put there for, in case you were wondering.

We're all mature enough to know that they are pretty dual purpose. But if you can't look at a woman breastfeeding her child without thinking about sex, its time to start thinking about what images you're filling your brain with.

There are a bunch of blogs and news articles about this right now. You may be really tired of hearing about it, actually. I think the poo has hit the fan so to speak. There is so much information out now about the benefits of breastfeeding. Studies show that most new moms initiate breastfeeding with their babies because they know of the health benefits. Unfortunately, that's where it stops. Lack of support causes moms to give up on nursing sooner than they planned. In part because our society tells us its something that needs to be hidden.

 Maybe you don't think it belongs on Facebook. If not, then where? Until we see breastfeeding as a normal, everyday part of life, it won't become normal. We need it to become normal again so we can have healthier babies.

I won't hide the fact that I'm a mother who is making a great choice for her kids. Yes, my breasts are involved. Yes, they are being used for something other than the gratification (or not) of a man. These are good things, great things. We can teach our sons and daughters that our bodies were made for more than the gratification of others.



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Home



I got to go home. Home to the sea.
 
 
 
When I was a little girl my parents ran a boat rental at Chena Lakes.
We lived in a little camper on the lake and during the summer I could usually be found running around in my ever so fashionable Little Mermaid life jacket.
 
Maybe that's why being near the sea feels like going home for me.
Maybe its why the closer I get to the water the more clear my mind gets.
Maybe I've watched The Little Mermaid one too many times but every time I go I feel like I could walk into those waves and just keep walking forever.
 
 
 
.
I don't miss the irony of the fact that I married a man who hates the beach.
I don't understand it.
But, I also haven't learned to equate sand with war.
I'm also not a fair skinned red head, so I deal with his discontent when we go.
Sometimes I just know that I need to go.

So I booked a hotel room and begged for forgiveness later.
Not really, he is used to me being completely impulsive and just thinks I'm nuts.
We drove five hours to spend one hour near the ocean.
Completely worth it.
 
 
 
Somebody once told me that home is where you feel the closest to God.
For me, that used to be a church.
Now, its here.
 
 
 
 
I hear the waves rush against the shore and know that He is in the midst of this chaos of life.
Being here is like being free.
I can't explain what it is, but when I'm near the water I'm exactly who I need to be.
Exactly who I need to be, right where I need to be.
Not striving to be better or to look differently or to learn more.
 
Just there.
Peaceful.
Joyful.
 
 
 
Maybe the best part was seeing my own children enjoy it like I have.
 
 
As a graduation gift I was given a book called, Gift From The Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
It reads in part,
"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient.
To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith.
 Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith.
One should lie empty, open choiceless as a beach--waiting for a gift from the sea."
 
 
I think we all have a place that makes us feel that we're exactly where we need to be.
Remember to take time to go there.
 
 
 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Postpartum pretty much sucks


 
If you've had a baby, chances are you know what I'm saying.
 
When the birth high ends.
 
When the adrenaline winds down.
 
 When the company leaves (if you're lucky)
 
I'm almost six weeks out from having Rowen. Technically she's an infant now instead of a newborn. And goodness is she a doll.

 

 
 A fussy, spitting-up, still-sweet-as-can-be, doll.
 
I'm one of the lucky ones.
Her birth was completely uncomplicated.
I had no medical issues, not a stitch, nothing.
 
I'm just gonna say right now that if you had a c-section and managed to take care of your baby in those days afterwards, you are my hero.
 
She took to breastfeeding right away. Thanks to having nursed through my pregnancy I had no soreness whatsoever.
 
I'm just gonna say right now if you had a hard time breastfeeding at first (most of us do) and you stuck with it anyways, you are my hero.
I've been there and it sucks.
 
Even as lucky as I was, postpartum still sucks.
There is still seemingly incessant crying.
Feeling like you are the only one that can pacify your baby is frustrating at times.
 
Our culture isn't great about taking care of moms postpartum.
Our culture seems to have this attitude that moms are supposed to be back up and running in record time.
Magazines show us images of celebrity moms, who thanks to trainers and nannies and dieticians are back to their pre baby bodies in less time than it takes the rest of us to even think about exercising again.
 
Standard maternity leave in this country is six weeks. Unpaid.
 
There is no standard paternity leave.
 
We are one of a very few countries of our size and economic status where this is the case.
 
I'm just gonna say right now if you had to take your baby to childcare at six weeks so you could work to put food on the table, you are my hero.
 
There are these expectations that life is supposed to go back to exactly like it was before birth, and the shorter the time that takes the better.
We feed these expectations and we don't even know it.
We get on Facebook and see statuses and photos of new moms adoring their sweet babies.
New moms out and about with styled hair and perfect after maternity wardrobes.
And then we feel like we need to do the same.
 
I'm guilty of it. I went to a birth rally when Rowen was eight days old.
Even managed to get on the news.
The truth is, I had no business being there that day. And the next day I barely got out of bed.
Except you didn't see that on Facebook.
 
What I really should have posted was that I was tired, sore and needed some help.
What I really should have posted was that as lucky as we were for Will to have ten days off, I needed him to take some more time to help with our older kids.
What I should have posted was that I was scared to death to take care of all three by myself everyday.
 
But I didn't. And I had a week from hell a couple of weeks ago because of it.
I was completely overwhelmed before I finally asked him for some help.
I didn't do it in the most graceful way, either. I'm sure you're shocked.
He got the following week off. I informed him I would be laying in bed nursing Rowen and letting my body recover like it needed to.
And then we found out his Dad was sick. And we planned a quick trip to Oklahoma.
15 hours away with a 3 year old, 1 year old, a newborn and two dogs.
And people thought we were nuts.
Except that it wasn't bad. I got to just sit for several hours at once.
I got to talk to my husband.
My body and mind did more healing in that 15 hours than it had in the five weeks since Rowen was born.
 
With all the expectations we have its hard to let go of this blissful newborn stage image in our heads.
The truth is though, my house is still a wreck.
Rowen still nurses very frequently and it feels like I will never get anything done.
I still hate looking at my body and seem to find a new strechmark every day.
My older children are still adjusting and we deal with jealous behavior every day.
I'm not any nicer during three a.m. feedings than I was with my first two babies.
We're still rarely on time to anything.
I still feel like Will and I get no time together and miss him like crazy even though we live in the same house.
I still feel isolated at times.
Our bed and my clothing still constantly smell of spit up.

I'd do it all again, because they are oh so worth it.
But its hard.
And its okay to say that.
 
So, if you're a new mom and things aren't going like you pictured, try not to stress.
It never does. I promise.
I'm on my third baby and I still need that reassurance sometimes.
 
If you know a new mom, help her out.
Offer to take her older kids for a few hours.
Bring a meal, if you can.
Offer to help with chores.
 
It can make all the difference.
 
 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The birth of Rowen Kate

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Have you ever had an event you were anticipating turn out so perfectly that you can't stop thanking God for it? This story was one of those times.

 It started with a miscommunication. Not a surprise around here. I had told Jameson the day before that we would take him to the Wildlife Festival they hold here in Conyers once a year. Then I mentioned it to Will who let me know he was going to have to work. I didn't want to disappoint Jameson so even though I was super pregnant and contracting on and off, we went. It turned out to be just what we needed. Its hard to get one on one time with each child and I knew shortly it was going to be even more difficult. We had a great time but by 4:45 I was getting uncomfortable. Jameson used the last of his tickets on the rides and after a couple of refused pleas for more we were on our way home. My grandparents were still here visiting and Grandma had made chicken and dumplings for dinner. I was still contracting on and off and was kind of uncomfortable and wasn't really hungry but decided to sit down with everyone and eat anyways. I wasn't worried about the contractions. I can't even describe how many days I had been having them. My midwife informed me that its called prodromal labor. The contractions were working, I was dilating, but actual labor just wasn't starting yet. As excited as I was for a non-induced water birth, I have to say I was getting worried. I was afraid that maybe my body didn't know how to go into labor on its own. I'd spent my pregnancy reading books by midwives like Ina May Gaskin (if you've never read anything by her, I highly recommend it) that encouraged me to believe that my body knew what it was doing. In the back of my mind I knew that was true, too. But when you birth your other babies 3 and 4 weeks early, by the time forty weeks rolls around its kind of a mind game not to psych yourself out about when its
finally going to happen.

I read a lot during this pregnancy. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. Spiritual Midwifery. Orgasmic Birth. Yep, you read that last one right. Interesting book, but I wouldn't describe any of my children's birth as orgasmic. One of my sweet friends, Aryn, sent me two books in early August. I started reading A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers a few days before actual labor began. Its a book based on stories of women in the Bible who changed the course of history. I had a feeling that I needed to finish that book before I could go into labor. I'm not sure why, one of those silly things I guess. It is also an excellent read. So, after dinner I took a bath and finished the last story in it.

Around eight o clock the contractions got more intense.
 I was really uncomfortable and asked Will to ask my grandparents to take Jameson and Cianna somewhere. The nice thing about natural contractions is that especially in early labor, you get breaks in between. During a contraction, Will would put counterpressure on my back and when it was over I went back to watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother and messaging with Misty on Facebook. Poor Misty. She endured every, "Oh my gosh, I'm having contractions, I wonder if this is it?!??" message for the last month. I don't remember much of what I watched or our conversation because the contractions just kept getting stronger. At about 8:45 I decided it was time to call the midwife. Of course Will didn't know their number or how to operate my phone to get to it. I was in pain and getting frustrated that we'd had nine months to get ready for this moment and here we were still panicking. He finally got it figured out and the midwife could hear me moaning in the background and said to get to the hospital.
 
The car ride wasn't as bad as I was fearing. My contractions were still regular and I couldn't talk during them. A good sign that it really was go time. We pulled up to the hospital just after 9 p.m. which meant we had to enter through the emergency room doors. They asked if I needed a wheel chair and I stupidly said yes. I had several contractions in the emergency room while waiting for a wheel chair that was evidently wheeling its way there from China. In a not very nice fashion I informed the security member that they could forget it and I'd walk. She then told me that I couldn't because if I delivered my baby on the elevator, they were liable. I don't remember exactly what I said next but it was something to the effect that I'd be birthing my baby right their on the floor if they didn't get their umm, "stuff" together. I traveled in the wheel chair to labor and delivery without Will because he needed to get a visitor pass. What a joke. I was really, really mad. They were continuing to write passes for a family whose daughter was waiting to be induced because of people like me already in actual labor. He finally managed to make his way up to the room. I had been checked by the midwife and was pretty bummed to only be four centimeters dilated. I had been three the week before. I should have known better. Dilation is unpredictable. In natural births there is no rhyme or reason, other than that every woman's body is different in how long it takes. There are no mathematical formulas to determine how long it will take to fully dilate, no matter where your active labor begins. I asked Will to call our photographer (she is AMAZING, look for her site below) and tell her to take her time because I thought it would be a while. She decided though to head on up, and its a good thing she did.

My contractions were coming right on top of one another. My previous two labors were fifteen hours each and I remember thinking that if my contractions were this intense and this close together for the next fifteen hours I wasn't sure I could do it. I had planned on a water birth but didn't want to get into the tub too early. I got into the shower and contracted while Will sprayed water on my back. It helped but it was still the most intense thing I had experienced so far. My midwife was in there almost the entire time. She was listening to my vocalizations and could tell that things were really progressing. I had learned from reading that visualizations were a great way not to "fight" the contractions and with each one I imagined my cervix opening a little more. It didn't get rid of the pain but it gave me something else to focus on and I really believed it was working to make my contractions more effective.  I decided that it was time to get into the tub. It had to be filled with the shower head so I got out of the shower and labored on all fours on the bed. A big pop and my water broke. All I could say was, "that was gross." It wasn't really gross, it was pretty cool, but in the moment it was all I could think of. All of a sudden I got really hot. My doula reminded me that this was a sign of entering transition. Transition is the phase of labor usually between 8 and 10 centimeters dilated that many women regard as the toughest part. I had only been at the hospital a little over an hour and didn't think there was anyway I was already in transition.
 
 photo Rowen-3_zps09bb6c05.jpg

Almost immediately after getting in the tub, I felt the urge to push. My midwife and doula were so great during this time. They didn't make a big deal about it being time, I didn't have to be checked for dilation again. My midwife watched my body language and my doula placed cold rags on my head while Will squeezed my hands.


 photo Rowen-16_zps86fe926e.jpg

The pushing was so incredibly intense. I had also birthed Jameson without any drugs but I didn't remember the pushing being so painful with him. I think in most natural labors, a wall gets hit.
 I had hit my wall.

 photo Rowen-15_zps078c5b76.jpg


I was saying things like, "Thank God I never have to do this again."
and "I'm not sure I can do this."
 and "Why do people do this?"
And then, at the height of the pain, relief. The hard works turns to

 photo Rowen-20_zpsf948eed8.jpg



This.



 photo Rowen-21_zps6bdfee8e.jpg



And this.




 photo Rowen-86_zpse440cc72.jpg


 photo Rowen-42_zps55b57cc5.jpg


 photo Rowen-65_zps24e15ded.jpg


 photo Rowen-71_zps9cd5407d.jpg


 photo Rowen-80_zps2a000fe7.jpg

It was difficult. They don't call it labor for no reason.
 But my body was capable.
 God knew what he was doing when he made women to have babies. A nine pound baby, no less.
 I birthed Rowen.
 My midwife was there to guard the safety. Will was there to love and support me. My doula was there to remind me that I could do this.
But I birthed her.
 I reached down and pulled our baby out of the water and onto my chest.
The last two hours of hard work disappeared. Replaced with intense love. Replaced with awe at my own body. Replaced with the confidence that comes in knowing that my body worked the way it was intended to.
We all want a healthy baby. You can have a healthy baby and an incredible birth experience.

Incredible birth experiences aren't just water births.
 Its hospital birth. Its home birth. Its induced labors. Its Ceasearan sections.
Any birth in which women do research about their options for birth and make their own choices for the well being of themselves and their baby is an incredible birth experience.
 
Doing something you weren't sure you could do is one of the best feelings in the world.
There is a lot to be said for having to go through a difficult time to get what you most want.
 Its really a metaphor for life.
Hard work leads to amazing things.
And then when the work is done:

 photo Rowen-81_zps21a9ea9c.jpg




All photos are courtesy and copyright of katey.elliot.photography.
You can find more information about her on her blog at http://kateyelliottphotography.blogspot.com/

Friday, August 9, 2013

I've deleted this a dozen times...


I went to a La Leche League meeting last night. Its basically a bunch of currently breastfeeding moms, soon to be breastfeeding moms or moms who just support breastfeeding in general. After the meeting was "officially" finished we all broke off into side groups and began talking. And someone brought it up.

Postpartum depression.

 Ouch. I sort of hate when it gets brought up in conversation. Mostly because there is so much I'd like to say and so much I don't want to talk about all intertwined in one. According to the Office of Women's Health, an office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 13% of new mothers and pregnant women have depression. I am one of those women. I'm 95.3435% (just a guess) through with my third pregnancy and I've suffered from either prenatal or postpartum depression each time.

Why?

I didn't know for a long time. Was it hormones? Was it circumstance? I still don't completely know. According to the Office of Women's Health it appears to be a combination of both. Hormones that work to change brain chemistry along with anxiety about difficult life situations work together to create feelings of hopelessness, lack of motivation and loss of interest in everything in general. The prenatal depression I suffered while pregnant with my first child made sense to me. I was soon to be an eighteen year old single mom, fresh off a difficult break up. I was trying to continue to go to college, being the only pregnant girl in my dorm at Southwestern. I've not always made great choices, but they've always been my own. My circumstances have been a direct result of the choices I've made, that will never change. So I saw my depression as a sort of punishment. I never sought any medical help either in the form of talk therapy or medication, the two typical ways that depression is treated. I basically told myself that I had made poor choices to get in this situation so I deserved to be feeling the way that I was. What I didn't realize at the time though was that my depression wasn't just affecting me. It was affecting my family, my friends, and after my son was born, my baby. I became pretty unlovable. Maybe if I had realized then how difficult it was for the people who loved me to watch me change into someone I wasn't, I would've sought help. I want to point out that I wasn't treated rudely during my pregnancy, either. My wonderful church supported me, didn't judge and even had a wonderful shower for me that I didn't feel deserving of at all. My great grandparents and my son's grandparents did everything they could to support me and make me feel accepted and loved. Many women in my situation didn't have that luxury. Nevertheless, I felt the way I felt. Too many tears, too much anxiety, too much isolation.

I thought once he was born the sun would come back out, so to speak. And it did, for a little while. I loved him immensely, instantly and probably a little too intensely. What I look back and realize now is that your baby should need you that intensely, but it was not as healthy for me to need him as much as I did. My family jokes a lot about how I never let anyone else hold him. Except that its not really a joke. I really did hate letting anyone else hold him. Not only was I so anxious about not having control for those five or ten minutes, but my arms literally ached in an unhealthy way without him. My depression didn't end once he was born. I wanted to sit on the couch and hold him. And that was it. Thank God for my grandparents who did the laundry and the cleaning and cooking for me and making me eat it; looking back I'm not sure what would have happened if I hadn't had them. Breastfeeding was so, so difficult for us. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was too intimate for me. As much as I wanted to hold him, nursing him felt too close for comfort. I tried. And tried. I felt stressed and nervous and he did too. He'd cry while nursing because neither of us could relax. He began losing weight. And then he was a whole pound under his birth weight. And I cried the first time I gave him formula. I even attempted to relactate when he was 7 months old and the fog had lifted. It was too late, but I had finally begun feeling better. I got a great job that I loved. I went on my first date in over a year, with a man who I had no idea at the time would become my future husband.

Remarkably, my second pregnancy was mentally what I consider my easiest. I had a great job, had figured out how to be a Mom, as much as anyone can figure it out anyway, and once the shock wore off I was feeling pretty good. I quit worrying about whether people were judging me for having a second baby out of marriage. I worked hard and had a happy and healthy son whom I had raised to the age of two without too many major complications. I realized there were certainly worse people in the world to be having another baby, married or not. Unfortunately, the loneliness I felt during my first pregnancy came flooding back eventually. Will was deployed to Afghanistan. He did everything he could from a world away, calling often, sending gifts for both kids, it was certainly more than I had expected. Still though, he wasn't able to be there. I dragged various friends to ultrasounds and went to most doctor appointments by myself. Once again I didn't seek help for my depression. Compared to what I had felt during my first pregnancy it didn't seem "bad" enough to warrant bringing it up. And again, I had made the choices that caused my circumstances. This time though, I was living on my own with Jameson and it was easier to put a smile on while I was out and act however I felt once I got home. Despite my depression I managed to take good physical care of Jameson. I carry around guilt for not being the happiest, most playful mom I could have been for him. Once my daughter was born and my hormones truly did level out it was like the fog had been lifted.

The truth is I had no idea of the severity of prenatal/postpartum depression until my current pregnancy. A month after moving here, right before Will returned to work from time off for our move, another two pink lines. Right after FINALLY getting the baby weight from my daughter off. Right after FINALLY completing Insanity. All the sudden I was home alone with the kids from 6 am to 9 or 10 pm every night. Nauseated. Watching the scale climb. Isolated. Again. And the depression was back. Except it was darker than I had remembered. Each time before I always knew it would end. This time I wasn't so sure. I wasn't used to waking up and not having to be anywhere in the morning. I started finding it difficult to get out of bed to feed the kids breakfast in the morning. I always did, but it was literally dragging. The difference this time was that I had someone around to really notice that I wasn't myself. I started hating to be touched. Not such a good thing for newlyweds. I started being sarcastic and snarky and just plain rude because I was angry about his hours away from home. Hours that weren't his fault. I was becoming pretty unlovable, pretty fast. But he still did. He even felt guilty because he was the reason we left everyone and everything we knew and I felt so isolated. Some days were okay. Some days were really, really bad. I'd go sleep on the couch at night so I didn't wake him up with my sobbing. I'd never considered self harm during any of my other struggles with depression. And even this time I never truly considered it, but did for the first time realize how someone can get in that mindset. When I thought clearly about that I decided it was time to get help. You see, my family has been through this before. My uncle committed suicide several years ago. A smart, talented, funny guy with some difficult life circumstances made a choice that shook our whole family. Not only did I have my own beautiful family to feel better for, but I knew that I couldn't continue to let these thoughts spiral into something that would hurt my family who had already been through it once before. My midwives were incredibly supportive. I was frustrated because I knew I needed PEOPLE not PILLS, but meeting anyone in the mood I was constantly in was seeming impossible. I was scared to take anything during pregnancy. I didn't want to harm our baby and I'd learned enough in college to know that there were no truly completely safe medications to take during pregnancy. I realized though, thanks to my midwives, that I had two already born children who needed me to be at my best. A husband who needed a wife who could handle this lifestyle. This person I was during depression was not me. I always did what had to be done, but I knew my kids were missing their happy mom and I knew my husband was definitely missing his happy wife. They recommended a medication that has been extensively studied in pregnancy. I was still scared, but realized it had to be done. It wasn't an immediate change, and I can't even say that all the changes were the result of the medicine. It did help me get out of bed. It did help me feel like I wasn't in a bottomless pit. In turn feeling this way allowed me to show my real self more often and get the confidence back to meet new people. Most days I wake up feeling pretty great. I have made the decision to wean off as delivery time draws near to avoid any possible withdrawals (although these are extremely rare, and my midwife told me it was completely unnecessary.) I've also been learning new ways of working through my depression. Its a sad thing that in our country it costs 90% less for me to take medicine than it does for talk therapy (counseling) that works just as well. I "practice" yoga and meditation and am totally awful at both but keep trying. I exercise when my hips don't feel like they are going to fall off and I make a list of what I'm grateful for often.

I didn't write this post because I feel the need to get this all out. Been there, done that. I wrote this post because I hate the stigma that comes with depression. No one wants to talk about it. Especially moms. We think we aren't good moms if don't feel blessed and happy every minute of every day. So not true. Chemical imbalance in the brain is a real thing. Having trouble coping with difficult life circumstances is a real thing. The worst thing though would be not to talk about it. If I can encourage one person going through this to seek help and not have to spend another day feeling the way I did, its worth it to me to put my personal life out there. We all see the happy times. We all see when people have it all together. What we don't often see is this.