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.