Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Things I Love

A couple of weeks ago I added a new profile picture to my Facebook page. It was important in the fact that it was just me, eyes right at the camera. My old smile and plenty of new freckles. All in black and white. Just me. Even though I had breastmilk stains on my large shirt, and my hair was pulled back and I was in between bath and diaper changes... it felt like me, even for just those few short moments that it took to take the picture. One of my good friends Joy commented under the picture,"Hi, there! I know that lady! She loves beautiful things, old friends, and coffee." I read it and thought, "Yes. Yes I do love those things. That is me." I almost felt as if putting up the picture had been the question itself and my good friend Joy answered it in one simple comment.

It is easy to forget the things I love. Sure, I love being a mom, and I love my children. But I think that is a known. Of course I do. But in my first born perfectionist tendency... I have tried to make myself the perfect mother. The one that tries to never be annoyed or to hear her children cry. And maybe it took three of them four and under... but it is no new news now. My children annoy me. And they cry. And I need breaks. Because sometimes changing diapers and making chicken nuggets is not my favorite thing. And this is not to say I am not thankful for what I have. Because I can be thankful and also know myself and that sometimes, I need a break. So on this journey of motherhood I have started telling myself it is okay to admit that it is hard work, and that it is nice to have breaks. And also, children cry. I can be the most loving parent around, but they are going to cry. Really the words that actually come to mind some days are "bitch and moan." They are children. Babies really. I am the one in charge. I cannot be defeated by my own fragile spirit. My children are at tough stages, an infant, a toddler, and a barely out of the three "threenager" stage. I am realizing that to be a good mom I need to take time for myself. And not just allow it. Push for it. Make it happen. This will help everyone.

So back to the things I love. I really do love coffee. Coffee is the old lover that never left when I had children. He still greats me several times a day. But for those other beautiful things... I have to search for them. And find them.

We went out of town this last weekend to meet up with all of Andrew's family. We stayed in an old 1930's home on a beautiful plot of land with old sheds and barns and a pond. I could have spent a month there. I could have laid on a blanket and wrote in my journal and read books for several days. But instead of focusing on what nursing a three month old did not allow me to do, I'll instead focus on what I did do. With the help of Andrew and also his mom and sisters, who either wore Foster or talked sweetly and smiled enough to him that he didn't notice I was gone... I found and remembered some of the things I love.

I love taking pictures
I love going to new places
I love to discover

I love waking up first thing in the morning and looking out the window to a brand new place, the sun hitting the dew and frost, to me as if for the first time.

I love not stopping for coffee or even breakfast but running out the door with my old flannel shirt and camera to hurry not to miss the sun saying hello.

I love old things
I love wondering what life use to be
I love water and how when it is cold enough the air dances on top of it in the morning

I love quiet
I love beauty

I love things to look perfect, even if just for a short time
I love the sound of dirt and rocks sliding under my shoes as I walk on new paths

I love character but also charm
I love my cheeks feeling cold but rosy from the morning air, and coming into an old and beautiful house for coffee

I love family
I love my babies

I also love realizing that I was made to be so aware of my own environment, that I will notice things like drops of water on an old fence.

Being there and having that morning to run out and take pictures reminded me more of who I was. And it also showed me why my life can really be hard sometimes. I notice so many little details. When I'm not shooting sunrise photography alone those little details are more like crumbs of food on the floor. And toys out of place. And my ideals are so far gone. But I am growing. I am learning how to remember who I am and what I love. And to try to let go of the things that bother me... or learn how to cope as best as I can. Either way, I plan to write more and share more pictures. But these were some of my favorites.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Make Sure to Use the Words "Postpartum Depression"

How is it that each time I have a baby, time stops and progresses all at the same time? Each time I have a baby I should be thankful for my two hobbies of photography and writing, because without them, I am sure I would remember nothing about these days. When I look at the pictures of October, I still look beside the computer at the calendar to see that it is in fact only the middle of November. And I visualize a calendar in my mind, showing Foster being born on August 31st. And I tell myself, "So that is just the month of September and October that I have been doing this. And now it is November..." almost as if I am learning my days the week and months of the year as a small child. But it is a tired me, wondering if there is perhaps a secret month in there that I am in fact forgetting. 

Most of September was hospital time, Andrew being home, and in the whirlwind of remembering that in fact I do have three children now. I had a couple of weeks where I tried to literally pick up where I had left off before being too pregnant. I think one week in late September or early October I went to a different park with the kids three days in a row. The result was Foster crying a lot and Rosemary getting a skull fracture. Sure, she slipped on water in a splash area, which I couldn't have prevented, but it made me feel like maybe this new life with three thing was a bit more than I could handle. We stayed home and didn't do much for a week or two after that. I was trying to let Rosemary's head heal and wait for the swelling to go down as well. She was fine. She had a CT scan that showed a fracture but no damage to the brain. Just a bad fall. At some point during that time I would say that Foster "woke up." He stopped being the month early baby that took a four hour nap each day, and then decided that in fact he would make up for his month he missed being in my womb by trying to recreate it by either nursing or being worn all the time. People call this the "fourth trimester." So the first three months of life for a baby they do like to remain close and constantly fed and rocked like the womb. But I guess I get about four months of that, since he was early. Foster started seeming harder to please at the park with the girls. With the start of fall, some mornings I thought maybe he was too cold, but then the next day the Texas sun would be in his eyes and I was sure he was hot. He would cry to nurse. I would be wearing him and nursing him and helping the girls at the park. And after Rosemary's head injury I felt I really did need to be watching her better at the playground. 

So then I started staying at home more. Deciding that maybe I didn't have as much energy as I thought. There's something nice and also maddening about being in your pajamas all day. I tend to fly into extremes, out of the house every day, or not at all. I often have felt like I'm just a sleepless mother trying to take sips of coffee while its still hot between changing diapers and handing out snacks. I'm in there somewhere. But I don't have much time to think about it. There was a good week or two where I would realize I had never brushed my teeth that day. As I write this I run my tongue over my teeth and I honestly can't remember if I did this morning. It's not that I don't care to, but sometimes coffee drinking all morning makes me put it off. I started to hate how I always felt like I smelled bad. I was always sweating and had postpartum bleeding for six to seven weeks. I was starving. I could eat all day. I wasn't loosing any weight. My third baby turned out to be more high needs than I had expected. Sure all newborns have a lot of needs, but mine never wanted to be put down and I had two other kids to care for as well. My focus became the house. How clean could I keep the house. It was something I could do while wearing Foster. I could vacuum and wear Rosemary on my back and Foster on the front and put them both to sleep. Often times I would try and evaluate how much time I had when no one was crying... was it only enough time to go put on deodorant? Or could I make more coffee? I would sit and nurse Foster on the couch and feel the tiredness through my entire body. One of the first few days Andrew was back at work, I sat there exhausted at the end of the day nursing. And for once I just didn't have the energy or motivation to get up to make the girls do what they needed to do. I didn't want to stop nursing or put the baby down and hear the crying. I didn't want to try and do two or three things at once. I shut down. I told the girls to stop being rowdy but by the time Andrew was home the curtains were pulled down and our crocheted "Nycum" sign was only hanging on one nail.

Those were what I would call my hardest days. But somewhere in the midst of that and the cleaning and the long to do list that was never done I started to feel burnt out. So tired and burnt out at times that it almost felt like each little nerve in my body was a Christmas light that no longer could shine. Andrew's days off turned into the days I would just lay down as long as I could to try and not feel so achey. My body hurt. It was probably the rain. The cold front. It would be better tomorrow. I had my six week postpartum check up and talked about some anxiety I was having. The midwife gave me references and said to make sure to use the words "postpartum depression" so a counselor would get me in sooner.

I called around to two or three people. I didn't really want someone new age or too expensive. I would leave a message and get a call that she was full, and then a reference to someone else. I did this two or three times. Then I finally had an appointment. But she didn't take my insurance. No wonder some people never get the help they need I thought to myself. Then Andrew gave me a number to call that his work pays for. I talked to a man that sounded like a sixty year old school guidance counselor. He talked to me for awhile and then said he was giving my information to a counselor. She called, we had to wait until next week for an appointment, I was already going to the bouncy house with Blanche on Andrew's next day off.

I'm not sure if it was before then or after that Andrew's mom came by one morning to find me in my pajamas. I told her how my whole body hurt. I felt tearful trying to explain it all. There was a night that I felt so weak and overwhelmed I asked her to come help me while Andrew was at work. I felt funny because there wasn't anything wrong, but the thought of doing it all alone worried me. 

I've talked with a counselor twice now. The first time I got lost and was twenty minutes late. We talked a lot about anxiety. I felt stuck in an anxiety attack the rest of the day until that night when I started drawing on my journal. "Escapes" she calls them. Thats what I need. Little ones through the day. Go to the bathroom alone. Take a hot bath after Andrew is home. DON"T CLEAN DURING NAP TIME. That's a really big one for me. I am currently trying to "let go" of the messes sometimes. To sit and watch Netflix or Star Wars. To realize that in fact the laundry will never actually be done and that it is okay. 

I have started to spot when the anxiety starts to creep all over my body. It is usually when I am holding the baby and chaos begins, or Foster is screaming and other children are whining. All the little tiny things that I might be able to handle okay one at a time... add up to three or four or five things all at once. This is when I have to try and stop it in my head. I can't keep repeating the struggle that I'm in. I tell myself something happy. Or positive. I say a prayer. Or speak in the calmest voice. Sometimes I yell instead. Or I'll go outside instead of being inside. I will change my environment. 

My counselor told me that suffering from anxiety can cause your body to feel the extreme fatigue and exhaustion it is being put under. Once I realized I had a bit more control than I thought over some of my anxiety, I think it gave me a sense of power that I wouldn't feel like this forever. And that as Foster grew I would probably have even less anxiety. Things would get better. I can do this. I realized today that I often make my days busier or crazier by rushing the girls along to different activities. Or even my language to them of spelling out to do lists that are completely unnessacry. I am trying to just be. To be in the moment. To be calm. To teach my children calm. Perfect isn't an option. But calm can be. 

I keep thinking back to my last session with my counselor. I had told her how I knew I was a sensitive person. But I was also glad for it. Because the morning after that anxiety attack I felt I couldn't shake, I woke up fine. I felt strong. I had my coffee outside on a cool fall morning. The girls had their apple slices. Some heirloom variety that were crisp and sweet. The sun rose through the trees. Blanche had on her fairy costume. I had to take a picture. I look back on it and cannot believe the amount of beauty that has been given to me. After I told my counselor about the picture she held up her hands horizonatally like she was holding a large invisible sandwich or something. She said, "This is where most people probably lie in their ability to feel highs and lows. To sense the joy but also feel the sadness." And then she stretched her hands to double the size and said, "And this is probably you. A lot of people might see what you saw with your girls outside and simply say, 'Yeah they are having a snack.' The goal is to keep the feeling of joy higher than normal, but to try and bump up the feeling of sadness to not have to get so low. Or at least, to not become stuck down there too long." I know that has been the struggle with many creative types. And the idea is to stay true to myself, and instead of changing myself, rather to become stronger in knowing myself better and knowing what I truly need. 

I write all this because lately I feel so many of us live behind the veil of our social media accounts. I truly believe we are mostly all doing the same things. So many of us mothers feeling in over our heads. But we keep taking pictures of the beauty. We don't want to forget it. But somewhere in the midst of capturing the beauty I fear we can often miss the opportunities to encourage one another. I'm not saying each person is called to write out their life on instagram. But there might be another person like me. Who keeps having really hard days. And doesn't get together with real people in real life very often. And maybe that other person is like me and starts to think that no one else feels the way they do... maybe in way over their head. But we aren't alone. And in my own vulnerability I am stronger. Just as I apologize to my own children and pray out loud in front of them to do better next time. Because if we don't admit we are all human early on, then all we will be left with is pretty pictures with no real story behind them. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Foster's Birth Story Part 3

I was just about to sit down and write that I knew a time would eventually come where I would be able to sit down and write, but then Foster started crying. So now I'm nursing and writing. And I think most of the time my drive to write is all in my own head and not about the circumstances. I've written posts with children at my feet or laundry piled high, but there has to be a certain level of consciousness for me to even feel like writing. And that's why writing with small children and a newborn can be difficult. Andrew told me while I was talking to him today that I was very "looky outty" today. I laughed. He said he was glad I laughed. Because that's what he tries to do when he knows I'm tired and in my own head. I always people watch when out and about, but today I guess I kept looking out and not really returning as quickly. I actually completely zoned out watching a girl at lunch that I completely missed Andrew saying a prayer for our food. I'm probably just tired. Actually I have been tired for quite awhile now.

Looking at these pictures my first thought is how I wish I could be one of those girls who really looks pretty much like herself after having a baby, with maybe just a bit of weight added to her. I'm always puffy. Actually really puffy with Blanche and this time with Foster. Which is a sign of preeclampsia. My hands and arms were swelling, and my doctor was always worried about my face. I told one doctor when I was being put on bedrest that every time I looked in the mirror I thought my nose looked funny. So when I looked at pictures of myself in the hospital I did not want to post them. I don't see myself as much. I can see my swollen hands in all the pictures. But, in the end, it is an honest part of the story, and part of the beauty of the sacrifice it takes for me to bring life into this world. And really, I've come to really like the first couple of pictures Andrew took of me nursing Foster.

Trying to think back to our time in the hospital feels like work a little bit. The other night I was trying to remember even the day after we got out from the hospital. I kept thinking in my head that I knew I was drinking coffee, but I honestly couldn't recall enough about my day to remember where I had bought the coffee. When did I get that coffee? I just remember carrying it around the ER waiting room while they checked Foster's bilirubin count. Then I remembered all of the sudden. We had been at Target between grabbing lunch with all three kids and then heading across the city to the children's ER to check his numbers. Because it was Labor Day and other offices were closed. We were buying a bottle for Foster. Because in the chaos of it all no one could find any bottles that had been saved from the girls. We had all these little bottles of formula from the hospital, which while there we had little plastic nipples that went on. But then once we were home, where were those plastic bottle nipples? Where were the old bottles? We were told we needed to supplement for a bit longer to really push fluids and help his number come down. So basically, my first day "home" from a week at the hospital was spent running around the city with three kids. And now I know why no one really remembers these days that well. Because by the time the day is over, I just want to go to bed. I don't have a lot of time to rethink the day. Or maybe I don't even want to.

Our week long stay in the hospital and NICU felt similar. The days went by fast and slow. Anytime I would try and nap two or three people would end up needing to come in and talk to me. Our time there really was not long at all, and now that it is all over it feels almost anticlimactic to even really go into too much detail. There were lots of talks with doctors and nurses and just wishing to go home. There was just always so much unknown. I never knew really if I'd be leaving Foster or staying with him. I wanted all of us to be together. The girls and all of us.

I could never be too ungrateful though. Because Foster's bed was at the end of the NICU. In his own little light room. So that meant after scrubbing down we would walk through all the tiny little babies in their incubators and hear all the beeping of monitors. Each baby had their own nurse. Life felt so very fragile. It made me very thankful to turn the corner and see my baby at over six pounds, even a month early. And to see him sucking away on that little orange paci. Healthy and alert. Well, besides getting a few things under control. And now with him on my lap and becoming more alert each day, I know that these newborn days will feel very similar to the hospital. I will remember I was tired, and there were so many things to do, but I'll be thankful... and I'm sure it won't even really feel all that bad.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Foster's Birth Story Part 2

Foster is three weeks old today. He's asleep on my lap on top of the boppy pillow just like Rosemary use to do not that long ago when I would write. I have wanted to write out the rest of this birth story for awhile now, before it gets too far behind me. But of course, life with a newborn has made my brain foggy and there is laundry piled high and I hardly feel justified to write anything.

But, tonight is the end of Andrew's first six days in a row back to work. I'm tired of all the kid time. So many little people all over me all day long. I was laying in bed nursing and cuddling Foster tonight while the girls were wildly tossing and turning instead of trying to sleep in their own bed beside ours. They both napped today, but were awake by three, so I figured our normal routine wouldn't be too rough. But it's becoming a bit of a fight tonight. And Andrew was already laying there. So I excused myself to go hold Foster here at the computer instead of in the dark listening to little voices. Except our house is so small I can still hear every word alongside my typing. Rosemary has been saying "awww" like "aww come on" about anything she isn't happy about. She got that from Blanche. I've already heard a few cries for mom and a few awws.

Sometimes it feels overwhelming to feel so needed by so many. Of course I love them and do like being needed. My hospital experience still feels almost unreal in someways because it was a completely different life for a week. Before having Foster, I had only left Blanche for two nights in a row when Rosemary was born, an occasional night with Gigi, and had never left Rosemary at all. Well, the first night I was admitted in the hospital I had to leave them. But they fell asleep with Andrew on the drive home. My hospital stay was seven nights where I wasn't there. Going from bedrest to the hospital was another step removed from their lives a bit. Which I know on these occasions learning a bit of independence is good. But what wasn't fun about the hospital is I didn't know how long it would take or how long I would have to stay. It all felt so much longer because each day I was trying to guess whether or not we would go home.

I'm trying to sit here and write my birth story. But for some reason it just isn't flowing out quite like I would like. Maybe it is that tired and foggy brain. Maybe there are just so many things to process that I am having trouble putting things down into words. That is not to say that my labor with Foster was really intense or crazy. Actually it was probably the easiest labor yet. I say that because I just felt so bad going into it, that I really didn't want to work for it. Maybe thats why I am having a hard time writing it down. I have always thought a home birth or natural birth at a birthing center would be great. But maybe this time I just realized that I have had issues every time. And that natural or home birth wasn't going to happen for me. I think in my mind I debate myself. I read natural labor books and stories of midwives. I know the "snowball" effect of the hospital. I know c section rates are too high. But I guess in the end I trust the hospital. I trust the doctors. Especially with pre eclampsia and high blood pressure issues. I will be fine one minute and then the next appointment things are no longer fine. And every time I have had to trust the doctors to help me stay safe. So this time after being on bedrest and not feeling well, and knowing my body... (my blood pressure only rises while in pain and under stress) I chose to say yes to being induced at 36 weeks, to having petocin, to having an epidural... and it actually all went great. My epidural actually kept my blood pressure low. I was able to relax and rest until it was time to deliver. I had a great doctor who knew what she was doing. I was told to keep using the bathroom, eat breakfast, stay calm and wait for my body to really become in active labor before being given an epidural. I had a great experience being helped by an awesome medical team. I pushed Foster out during one single contraction and didn't have a tear. He was put on my stomach immediately, they did delayed cord clamping, and he was given to me to nurse within the first twenty minutes of life.

So this time maybe I don't really have a long and heroic tale of how I birthed my child. But I did it. I made it through my bedrest and feeling awful and had my baby. Any woman who has a child, no matter how she has that child is strong. And stronger for going through it.

I'm glad my labor went so well. Because immediately after I had to be given a magnesium treatment, use a bedside commode  (you know get out of bed and use the potty right beside the bed... while my nurse came in and out) and then had time being wheeled back and forth from the NICU. My time at the hospital was filled with highs and lows. Like any postpartum woman.  Andrew and I had our share of good times. We spent a lot of time watching the food network and HGTV. We discovered we loved the show "Fixer Upper" that had a cute married couple and four kids on a cute little country home. I debated moving to Waco just so JoAnna could find me an old farm house and make it adorable. Andrew would do food runs and found an awesome boba tea place. We laughed a lot when Andrew would "drive" my wheelchair to the NICU. I'm sure it was lack of sleep, but it always felt like he was running when he pushed me. My hair would blow in the wind. I had an almost hysterical meltdown in front of a doctor because I was told all day by a nurse that I was being discharged... and then once my girls were at home waiting for me and it was 7pm I was told I had to stay because my blood pressure wasn't good enough. My emotions were all over the place. I was use to my kids being with me for twelve hours straight a day. And then both girls were gone and my new baby was over in the NICU. I was stuck eating, laying in bed and watching tv. Which does sound awesome now... but at the time not so much.

Thinking back to all of the moments and all my emotions I am just glad it's over. I am so happy Foster is here and we are all together at home. In the hospital I wished so badly for just a day of my old life back. Where I was mama and the girls played. Now I have that back but with a newborn and I am probably not as thankful as I should be.  Life is just hard when you are tired. Like I posted the other day on instagram from Amy Poehler, "Sleep helps you win at life." Lack of sleep can make things hard. Its easy to wish away the beginning days and want a bit of normalcy. Or you know, lunch without nursing through the entire thing. But, I have a really sweet baby on my lap. So tiny and three weeks old. And one little girl who is fast asleep according to her daddy and another little girl who is still waiting for me to come back to bed...