Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Day In My Life

There are times that I wish I could fully write down that voice inside of my head. Write all those thoughts down not out of accomplishment, but maybe to just make sense of them. To see all the words written out on paper, and to grab certain ones and turn them and try to fit them somewhere, like a puzzle. Maybe if all the words and thoughts were out of my mind, and on paper I could put the puzzle together. Instead, I rise most mornings with one word in my head, "tired." So tired. Or maybe I feel more rested and begin the day accessing the current situation. Because, whether I am tired or not, there will be a situation. I ask myself these simple little questions, "What time is it?" "How long have the girls been awake?' (there are many mornings Andrew is home and up with them first). "How many shows have they watched?" "What is the mood?" 

I ask myself all of these things on the way to the coffee pot. Sometimes I am stopped by a dirty diaper or a cry that needs a hug. Normally there is a request for a second breakfast, which is almost always oatmeal. I keep saying, almost chanting, "Yes but let me just get some coffee first." My mind never stops running, yet to actually speak full sentences I have to have coffee. 

I woke up this morning feeling very grouchy about my life. About the fact that Andrew had to close at work last night, and that I didn't sleep well. When I am nursing and postpartum sometimes I get this weird cold feeling at night. It sort of feels like every nerve in my body is cold. And I can't warm the inside of my own body enough. Almost like a starving hunger. Is it low blood sugar? Is it exhaustion? It feels really awful. I normally eat to try and help the fact. But I'm never sure if its fat, carbs, sugar... what it is I need. And then I start to feel so high maintenance. But then, by the time I am in that hard sleep... I am woken by the toddler. And then the baby. And then four year old has a bad dream and wants to lay by me but I already have a baby on each side of me. And Andrew tells her if she just calms down she can have extra gummy vitamins in the morning.

I wake with more memories of the night than should be allowed. I am tired. Blanche wants to play a game that we played last night but I am just too tired to do anything. I try calling Rosemary's doctor. Blanche falls and hurts herself and starts screaming while I am on hold. I signal to go get her dad. Even though this is his turn to sleep...since we are both running on only a few hours, and he technically got up for cartoons at 5am. I hear her crying to him. I feel bad but also so tired. Oh yeah, the doctor. I talk with a secretary. Well, yes I want them to check her ears... actually I want to know why it has taken me months to try and wean her. I'm trying to get in on Saturday hours as a semi emergency even though I know her ears are probably fine and I need to wait until next week and make a real appointment. I'm on my third kid and I still have no idea what I am doing. I ramble half of this to that lady. I know I sound confused and tired. I decide to go take a bath.

I run the water as hot as I can stand and lay back and think about everything. Am I having a bad day? Or am I not really any better? Am I depressed? I access my current day, my current life. Tired. I can beat tired. I keep telling myself that eventually everyone will sleep through the night and until at least 6 am. This can't last forever. I want to cry. I want to call in sick. I want Andrew to call in sick instead of closing tonight. My head is spinning. Why is my head always spinning? Do I have an overactive brain? 

Tired. I can beat tired. I'll take them to the park. I'll let Andrew go back to bed. I will just keep going until I can no longer. Andrew sees me getting ready and says he wants to come. We rush around and I pack everyone up while he makes coffee and gets dressed. We go to the park and end up hiking on a new trail. I feel good again. The rest of my day goes like this. My head spinning and some many needs and so many people talking to me. I keep thinking about zoning out to the Gilmore Girls. I steam the floors while Foster screams because I don't know what he wants. I let the girls watch a Winnie the Pooh movie and hate how much I really do hate them watching shows. Then later as I make dinner I watch Blanche playing in an imaginary world. And I feel happy. Then I start to understand why shows bother me. Because I am afraid they won't be creative or use their imagination. But I feel enough pride watching her play that I know I will get through dinner and bedtime. We all make it. To the end. I read a Winnie the Pooh book about finding colored pebbles and think to myself how I really do like Winnie the Pooh. I hold hands and nurse. There is quiet. For the first time in my 12 hour day I am alone. The spinning stops and there's me again. I see my kids and how much I love them. I realize I probably am pretty normal. Maybe just a slightly introverted person that doesn't have a chance to be. I think too much. I am alone with my kids and sometimes I think too much.

But then as I sit here typing I realize that its often the moments when I give in and stop thinking so hard, that I do best. Like when the girls were fighting over the same books and I made it into a game of "library." All I did was make a beeping sound while "checking out" their books. I gave them an imaginary receipt. They smiled so big. Blanche would go into the living room and actually look through each book before "returning it." 

Just learning how to be. That is my struggle. I ride my days so often on my own emotions. Or maybe my kid's emotions. And now after feeling like I was really in a slump for a while, I think I tend to over analyze myself. This is what I have been working on all along. To allow myself to be me, to be creative and sensitive but to not be stuck in my mind or emotions. To really live my days. 

I have realized three things that help me do this... to be present in the midst of chaos. Hearing my counselor call my life with three young child chaos was freeing. To know that actually is what it is sometimes. And that I can still be happy. The first thing though, is Grace. Grace to give myself and my children and my husband. Honestly, I really would love if we never had the tv on or shows playing. I like reading or hobbies or being outside. But I am learning that life doesn't always go like I would like it too. And an hour or two of cartoons while we lay there semi-unconscious is really not that bad of a problem. And if that's "the worse part of the day" well, I guess we are pretty lucky. I have to learn that even when things are going well they will not be perfect. It will never be perfect. That is really hard for me. 

The second thing is Positivity. I have to remain positive. I have to tell myself to go to the park or take a walk. Even when I want to curl up in a ball and not do life that day... I have to. Positivity in motherhood is a lot like perseverance. Getting out of the bathtub and telling myself that even though I want to escape... I am going to face the day head on, is a lot like that feeling when you really want to stop running but you don't. You actually push harder.

And the third is Simplicity. This works for almost every element. From meals, to getting dressed, to the simple little games I play with the kids. Having such young children is the perfect time to learn about simplicity. Because I often try and give my children so many amazing experiences. But sometimes being the librarian after dinner or playing tag in the front yard is actually all my kids want. I get so lost in my own mind and thought and worries... and all my kids want is a silly game. 

So, to be really cheesy... I have sort of made it a little saying in my mind. My "GPS of Motherhood" ... I know I warned you it was cheesy. But, I honestly think that these three things (along with begging God for patience and love and strength) are the keys for me to fight the "I can't do it" feelings I often have. I know I have a beautiful life. That's why I take pictures of it. But sometimes my own tiredness and emotions can leave me feeling really stuck. But when I give myself grace and stay positive and just do a moment at a time... It gets better. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Acceptance Speech

I will never forget the feeling I had one day when Andrew was leaving for the closing shift at work. I felt helpless. I literally felt like I couldn't do it. This mothering three kids thing. As I hugged him goodbye I remember tears building up and such a sting of loneliness. I wanted him to stay. I didn't want to be left to deal with the chaos. I remember lying in bed, texting my mother in law. Asking her if she had any plans for the evening. She so graciously came and had dinner with me, and helped me while I did the bedtime routine. I could have done it alone. I would have made it. That's what feels so confusing about postpartum depression. I knew somewhere deep down, in my head or my heart that I was just the right person for the job of raising my children. And maybe for me it was somewhat hormonal, maybe exhaustion or anxiety... All I know was that it was a great combination of things, all adding up to make me feel as though I could not do it.

Foster is now four months old. I wouldn't call him a laid back guy, but he is comforted for a few minutes by having a sister lay next to him. Sometimes he sits in his bumbo chair and watches the action. He is growing. Things are changing. There are still hard elements, like his nap never lasts more than 45 minutes. I also think he literally doesn't know what to do with himself. But I think that's part of being four months old. Either way, I think I can safely say I am on the other side of the hard things I have been going through. That doesn't mean I don't have moments of anxiety or really hard days, but I think I am out of the slump. I am almost me again.

During these first few months with three I have been in survival mode. Like so many new moms, I have mostly fed my kids and kept them safe. (Or should I just say alive since Rosemary did happen to fracture her skull?) So much of the beginning has felt like feeding the older two snacks while nursing, wiping someone's bottom and lining the other one up for a diaper change. And even though those things seem unimportant, they truly are important. Sometimes when I lay Foster down to change him and he is crying, I think back to a pamphlet I was given after Blanche was born. It talked about attachment and connection. And that when your baby is crying, and you meet the need, something happens in the brain. There are connections and emotions in that tiny baby's brain. He is not only feeling loved, but his brain is developing and registering the care. Often times after Foster is in a dry diaper he smiles, and I kiss his belly. This is important. It is all important. And so, I really think I started right there, and have slowly climbed my way back up. One simple step at a time.

It started with meeting their physical needs, and my own. Giving Andrew the kids and going to a coffee shop. Sitting there and writing and drinking my latte until that fuzzy feeling in my brain went away. I also started watching Gilmore Girls every night while Andrew put the girls down. Sure, judge me. But to me, there was something I connected with. The three generations of women and their complicated love and relationships. I think this for me was allowing myself to zone out. Foster needed to be rocked and nursed, and I allowed myself to relax and let the dishes go for awhile. It really was what I needed. I am sure there were so many little things like this. I remember throwing a ball with Blanche outside. And how happy she was. Andrew rearranged our entire house too. And actually, I feel like ultimately that was the turning point. Almost every item in our house was moved. The next morning everything just felt different. Now, I'm not saying rearranging my house cured my postpartum depression. It simply gave me a new look. I had always been pushing the girls into their room "to go play." Once we moved their play area into the living room, I sat there drinking my coffee and watching them play. And for once, the thought "Hmm what should we do today?" came into my mind. I wasn't just trying to stay above for air anymore. We went to the park. I posted it online, and another mom told me about meet ups that she and other moms have at that park. And then, all of the sudden, I had a new connection. A new successful experience and hope for the future.

It was really just a hundred small little things. Just leading me in the right direction. And maybe I am just rambling. But I can feel how good it really is to do so. As life has become a bit easier (not to say the chaos has left... because it hasn't) my mind is starting to clear. Simple ideas and solutions are coming back into my mind. This last week we have sang a few times during lunch and the girls loved it. All we did was sing. Or we throw juggling balls into a basket. Or play pretend campfire and roast pretend smores.  These are simple things, but big in so many ways. When I was in the midst of trying to find our new rhythm I remember just sitting down to play with a mind that was completely blank. So blank that I felt like I didn't want to be there with my kids. Not that I didn't love them, but that I didn't want to play. Or do anything. I told my counselor this one time and felt guilty. She simply responded, "That just sounds like someone who is exhausted." And that completely freed me. Yes, exhausted. I am. When things are hard so many things feel hard and unsolvable. I become like a small child before nap time.

All I know now though, is I'm so thankful for those hundred little things. I'm thankful for my mom and her phone calls and funny stores. For my mother in law and her physical presence and love in our lives. For the trip my dad, step mom and meme took to see Foster. And how we had a shopping trip, just me and my stepmom and meme. For our get away weekend to San Antonio. For my dear friends, those two especially with newborns who let me text them all day when things were hard. For my other friend from Arkansas, who figured out how to have a latte delivered to my doorstep. For friends who prayed and my husband being the greatest and most loving supporter I have ever had. Yes, this is my acceptance speech. But I want to remember these things. I want to remember how hard it was but what it felt like to come out of it again. For the new friend and her weekly hikes at the Wildflower Center. And for the Hike it Baby group I get to reconnect with. Life is chaotic but good. At first every day was hard and I was really just trying to get through the day. Then, I started mentally keeping track of my good days versus bad days. And then, the good outweighed the bad and I stopped counting all together. Sure, I am a work in progress. But I am thankful that I now can understand even just a small part of what many people go through with depression and anxiety. It is so hard to explain what it felt like for my brain and body to be doing its own thing... almost seeming out of my own control. But, with so much support there's always hope. All these pictures of Christmas and the New Year just show so much of the happiness in my every day. And as cheesy as it may be, I love starting the New Year with hope.