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Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Music Therapy

Last week, Mammywoo wrote yet another fantastic post, and made a little game we could all play. Okay, so technically it's a meme. I'm new and on the fringes of the blogging world but I understand enough to know that usually, you'd get tagged in a meme. Wellllll, I like music too much to stand on the sidelines and wait to be tagged.  I'm running out and playing with everyone anyway.

Sooo, the rules:

3 Songs
3 different artists
3 sets of lyrics that touch you in anyway you want to show

 I love music. I like to sing, I like to dance. There was a time when I would sit on my bed with the cassette sleeve unfolded and draped across my lap, reading the lyrics as I listened to my favourite songs. Since insrumentals, score just as highly in my book, I've chosen songs where the music speaks to me as much as the lyrics.

Here are my three:

1) Flogging Molly, Whistles the Wind

I listened to this a lot last year, staring blankly into space and just letting the words roll over me.  It's almost as if like pulled it out of my head...

" ....My isolation, now there's a sobering thought
A minute alone, a lifetime too long
See the face in this mirror, so pale it could crack
Desperately wanting the color it lacks

Well it breaks my heart to see you this way
The beauty in life, where's it gone?
And somebody told me, you were doing okay
Somehow I guess they were wrong.... "

Oddly enough , this song brings up a happy memory of watching this band with good friends of mine back in Boston, two of us raising our pints high and singing as loudly as we could along with the rest of the crowd.

2) Taylor Swift, The Best Day

This song makes me think of my mom.  I cry each and every time I listen to it.

"I'm five years old, it's getting cold, I've got my big coat on
I hear your laugh and look up smiling at you, I run and run
Past the pumpkin patch and the tractor rides, look now, the sky is gold
I hug your legs and fall asleep on the way home

I don't know why all the trees change in the fall
But I know you're not scared of anything at all
Don't know if Snow White's house is near or far away
But I know I had the best day with you today..."

Sometimes I make it to the last line. Tonight, when I listened to it before writing this, I was crying before the end of the first verse.

3) Street Dogs, Punk Rock and Roll

As much as the first two are quiet, slow, and sappy, for the most part I just love happy music. No deep meaning here. This song makes me smile and want to dance.

"...I want a good feeling,
Push and shove.
I want a good feeling,
Running in my blood.
I want a good feeling,
on the open road.
I want a good feeling,
Yeah lose control.

Stay up all night,
Got my friends and my music and we're feeling all right.
Gonna stay up all night,
Gonna live before we die...."

The Street Dogs always makes me feel better if I'm feeling a bit homesick. The first (and only) night out that my husband and I have had on our own since my daughter was born was to see them.  We danced. My husband moshed. He cracked a rib.  We had a blast.

Okay, there's my list. I'm smiling after writing this and I do believe that was the point. Mammywoo, thanks for the therapy session suggestion. ;-)

So how about you?  What three would you choose? 

Friday, 21 October 2011

Does Anyone Really Have it All Together?

I wonder if yummy mummys cry when they’re alone at night. 

Horrible thought isn’t it? 

Do you know what’s even worse? 

I kind of hope they do. 

I hope that sometimes they feel weak and scared and overwhelmed by it all.  It shouldn’t matter and I actually think it’s pretty damn cruel to wish ill will on anyone, but for my own sanity, when I see these wonderfully put together moms, I begin to convince myself that at some point, when they’re sure no one is looking, they have themselves a little melt down.

I know that makes me a horrible person but my brain cannot comprehend how it is even possible to have everything in life fall together that well.

To have your hair and makeup done, nails flawlessly manicured, free from chips and stains from the latest craft activity or pasta dinner. Clothes spotless and creaseless, like the laundry is always done and they have plenty of items that haven’t been drooled, snotted, or spit-up on and a body that looks good in all of them. 

I’m not talking about the moms who look perfect but haven’t spent an ounce of quality time with their children. 

I’m talking about the ones who are happily pushing their toddlers on the swing as they chat away to all their other mummy friends about the latest amazing art project they created or the completely organic meal they plan on making from scratch later.  The ones who find the time to keep the house clean while giving their child every ounce of attention they deserve. These women seem so completely distant from my reality that I have only two theories to explain it: 

Option A: They’re super women

I know a few mothers who fall into this category.  They are amazing. They rarely have a bad day and when they do, they can easily find a silver lining.  Their children are thriving and they are too.  I will not fault them for one second but I do envy them. I do not like the word envy (it is one of the seven after all) but if I’m honest, I have to admit I wish I could live life like they do – happy and completely fulfilled.

Option B: It’s an act

I know a few others like this too. Frankly, I fell into this category for a while there in the beginning when I was trying to convince myself everything was all fine and dandy. I was sure that as long as I ticked the ‘tidy house,’ ‘play with child,’ ‘prepare meals,’ ‘exercise,’ ‘teach child,’ boxes, that all would fall into place and I’d stop feeling so weird and detached about things. However, while I might have been pulling all of these things off on the outside, on the inside I was an absolute disaster, just ticking my way closer and closer to complete and utter destruction.

When I first admitted to my health visitor how I’d been feeling and postnatal depression was explained to me (the real symptoms, not the crazy extremes we see on TV) I felt nothing but relief. 

I finally started to give myself a break. 

So here I am, at the end of a weird day.  Not one of my worst but not one of my best either.  The beginning of the week threw some serious triggers my way and I just barely managed to hold it together. (Thanks once again to the amazing #ppdchat support!)  Today my daughter has been a little more high maintenance than usual.  I struggled to keep my cool at times and to not cry in front of her at others. When her bedtime came, I felt like a failure, still having no idea what is wrong with her. 

What if she is really ill and I’ve missed the signs? 

What if I didn’t give her enough attention today and she just needed a bit more love her way?

 I then took stock of a mental to do list and realised I had to clean the shower.  Yes really. 

On a Friday night.   

It needed it that badly.   

I have neglected it that long.

It’s clean now and my daughter is sleeping but I had myself a little cry and have cracked open a beer.

So that brings me back to my theory:

If I need that cry, and feel the need for a take out or a cheeky beverage after a day like today, those yummy mummys must feel the strain at some point too right?

Honestly I do hope those women fall in the supermom category as it’s nice to think that sometimes, if everything falls together right, life can be downright amazing. 

However, I do hope if they have taken option B, that they learn to cut themselves some slack. I hope these women can stop for a second, don sweats and grab a bowl of ice cream or go for a nice long run, whatever they want to do just for them, not for what they think the world wants to see.

I hate that sometimes I still feel the need to take Option B. I doubt anyone would mistake me for a yummy mummy but in everywhere but on Twitter and this blog, I try to keep moving like everything is just fine.

It isn’t.

I am a mom of a toddler and I have postnatal depression.  Those two stack up to some really shitty times. 

I had to let go of my perfectionist tendencies just so I’d stop feeling like a complete failure each and every minute of each and every day. 

I cry when I need it. 

I run when I want to not because I feel I need to.

I let the housekeeping slip.

I rely on my husband to pick up the slack.

I have learned that I shouldn’t feel guilty about this. (But sometimes I still do)  I have an illness and it takes a lot to get better.  Without the illness, it still takes a hell of a lot to be a parent.

If you know a supermom, be sure to tell her just how wonderful you think she is.  I bet she doesn’t hear it very often so even she may have doubts at times. 

For those of you who have taken Option B, be brave and tell someone when you are feeling overwhelmed. I bet you are surprised by the response you get. 

If, like me, you feel like you’re on the outside constantly looking in, you are not alone. We are not alone.  There are thousands of us fighting this fight and although it feels like everyone else has it all together, not all of us do.

I certainly don’t.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

These things I've learned...

I turned another year older this week so couldn't help but sit back and think about how the last year went. Of course, the difference is, this time last year I was just barely beginning to come out of the deep dark fog of postnatal depression. I struggle to remember what I did last year for my birthday much less how I felt at the time.  The answer, most likely, is numb. That’s the odd part about all the days I have now where I’m sad and weepy or impatient and completely pissed off at the situation – that’s actually progress.  That numbness? That was the ppdemons winning. Emotions?  That’s me.  A sappy romantic whether I want to admit it or not. Lately I’ve had a few glimpses of my feisty old self and it’s nice to know she’s still in there and that she’s fighting her way back out again.  I’ve even had some good belly laughs with my little girl recently.  Ahhh, my humour. Now that is something I’ve missed.

My point is my daughter and I, well, we’ve come a long way baby.  In light of the old me coming out to join the new me and in celebration of the beginning of my new year, I’ve decided to compile a list of the things I’ve learned since my daughter was born. It’s by no means complete, but it’s a start. (Note: She’s 20 months, not a year, but bear with me, it’s all a bit of a blur)

I’ve learned that…

…. if you let a newborn sleep as long as they’d like in the day, their empty tummies and brand new lungs will make you pay for it at night.

…. meconium is one of the stickiest, hard to clean substances known to man. 

…. baby poo is actually relatively inoffensive until you start them on solids

…. one does actually get used to being vomited on regularly.  There were times I not only continued to wear a shirt that had been spit up on but that I put it on again the following day. (It was only milk after all…)

…. a baby really does have different cries for tiredness, hunger, fear, frustration, and wind.

…. you can never have too many muslins/burp cloths.

…. cloth diapers come in handy as towels, change mat covers, and burp cloths too.

…. stain remover for cloth diapers is an excellent way to get out stains, especially that crazy yellow newborn poo.
I've learned that...

…. it is actually possible to take thousands of photos in just a few short months.

.... a baby can start teething long before one actually manages to cut through. 

…. having a spotless house isn’t always a first priority. In fact, it’s actually lowest on the list right now and the house is still generally tidy and organized.

…. there are few things better than having a baby that can soothe herself to sleep. 

…. a lot of good can come from baby books. I’m not sure how I would have managed without consulting “The Baby Whisperer” on a regular basis.

…. it’s handy to have a stroller and a baby carrier or sling of some sort.  They both have their advantages and disadvantages.

…. it is a lovely feeling to have a little one snuggled in close and dozing on me while I walk around town.

I've learned...
…. that despite my deepest love for my baby girl, it was still possible to feel nothing for her.

…. that no matter what I do, I cannot get back those days I lost when I was suffering from a most evil and heartless illness.

…. that I must learn to forgive myself for those darkest of days. That it wasn’t my fault.

…. That it is possible to smile, to laugh, to interact even when I am feeling nothing.

…. that my little girl is funny and happy despite that fact that her mother has been battling for all 20 months of her tiny little life.

I've learned that...

…. my little girl is so decidedly textbook that those “what to expect from your baby this week” blurbs are almost always right on.

….”Dada” will almost always be said before “mama.”

…. babies’ first rickety, jittery, teeter, tottery steps are at once hilarious and exciting.

I've learned that...

.... even when you know you need it, asking for help is one of the hardest things to do in the world.

…. even once you get the help you need, there is no quick fix, and certainly no easy options, when it comes to battling postnatal depression.

…. try as I might to be strong, this illness has had a profound effect on my husband, my family, and my close friends.


I've learned that...

.... my husband, my family, and my close friends are some of the most amazing and supportive people anyone could hope for.  I love you all. You have been my saviours. xx

ShowOff ShowCase

Thursday, 6 October 2011

My Year as a Milk Machine

Before becoming a mom, I was relatively indifferent when it came to breastfeeding.  I was a formula fed baby but I had no big ideals that swayed me one way or the other.  I figured I’d give it a go but if it didn’t work out, we’d switch to formula. At the end of the day, it was about finding the best way to give my baby the sustenance it needed.

My little girl was just minutes old the first time I breastfed her.  It wasn’t magical and no sparks flew. However, I was amazed that by mere instinct, two novices were able to get things lined up right so I was actually feeding her with something from my body. 

It absolutely blew my mind.

It turned out things weren’t quite so perfect that first feed and I ended up sore for days because of it.  While I was in the hospital, I asked a midwife for help every time my daughter needed to eat.  Usually a modest person, I stripped from the waste up and let them show me what to do.  It was still awkward, but by the time I left I was relatively confident I could continue with breast feeding when I got home.

Then came DAY FOUR.  The day my milk came in.  I was exhausted and an emotional disaster and at some point my daughter forgot how to latch on.  

I sent a text message to my sister and she called with some life (sanity) saving ideas. 

Within five minutes, baby was eating like a champ.  I will be forever thankful for that phone call.  I am also grateful it worked out that easily for me.  Feeding problem solved.

(Day four was one of the worst days of my life. Someday, when I am ready, it will likely form its own post)

But it was tiring. While I had figured out the basics of breastfeeding, each session still took several attempts before she was actually eating.  According to my birthing class, feeding time was best for forming the bond with my new child so I spent each meal watching my daughter, trying to memorize her face, feeling her tiny little fingers, stroking her cheek to wake her when she dozed off.  My body did seem to instinctually respond to this.  The more I engaged my daughter, the more milk I seemed to produce. Her meals often began with milk spurting uncontrollably out of me like someone had stuck a pin in an over filled water balloon.  She’d stop, sputtering and coughing, turning her head away. It was frustrating and humiliating to have to sit there, with a cloth clamped to my nipple until it calmed down enough for my daughter to continue her meal.

I’d wake up in the morning, my breasts so engorged they didn’t look or feel normal anymore. I’d have to hand express a bit before my lady could start her morning feed.  I felt completely out of control of my own body. My entire existence seemed to be to make and to deliver milk. 

I began expressing milk when my daughter was six weeks old. If anything, this reinforced my feeling that I was nothing more than a milk machine because now, when I wasn’t feeding my daughter, I was pumping. Sterilizing bottles, labelling freezer bags, defrosting the next night’s feed, and rotating the ‘stock’ was added to my daily routine.

It was monotonous and exhausting.

As the months rolled by and the routine began to feel ‘normal,’ switching to formula seemed like it would just add more work. I was battling insomnia and exhaustion so sacrificing precious moments of rest to prepare a morning bottle sounded like hell.  I decided I’d rather sit in my zombie state for the twenty boring minutes while she ate.  Plus, it was saving us money. It was months after my “must return to work” date, and I was still job hunting. It seemed silly to add an extra expense as long as my body was instinctually producing what my baby needed. 

I also felt I had an obligation to my daughter to feed her for the first year.  It was no longer about me finding a connection with my baby but just trying to do one thing right for her. If for some reason, I wouldn’t be around for a feed, I made sure to express, worried that my milk would dry up if I skipped just one time.  I would express at night for an hour or more, just to collect (my skewed definition of) a reasonable amount of milk.  There were days when I had little or no appetite and my milk production would suffer. I’d beat myself up for it, crying at the measly amount I’d managed to collect.  Clogged ducts were disgusting and painful but I expressed my way through several of them, determined to have everything in working order for my baby girl.

This sense of obligation was bordering on obsession and part of me knew it but couldn’t stop.  If a friend of mine had told me she thought her child would wither and die if she were to have formula instead of breast milk, I would have laughed and shook my head at such nonsense. Yet I was certain this is exactly what would happen if I my girl were to miss out on the nutritious gold top (as my health visitor chose to describe it) my mammary glands produced. I was so consumed with guilt over not connecting with her that I felt the least I could do was continue to breastfeed.

I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding, even if I did give her breastmilk for a year. Expressing was a lot of work but in a lot of ways it was easier for me than feeding her. I was happy to give the bottle to anyone who wanted to feed her and I was relieved that she couldn’t care less who held it as long as she got her milk.

I felt tremendously guilty for this and tried to make up for it when actually breastfeeding.  For a long time I clung to the fact that we were connecting on a primal level even if I couldn’t feel it consciously. I needed that.  Providing nutrition for her was my way of saying I was sorry for not being the mom she deserved. Health visitors and counsellors kept telling me it showed strength that I was still breast feeding. I didn’t believe it but I wanted it to be true. Stopping wasn’t an option. 

I started weaning little miss at about ten months.  By a year we were down to just the morning feed.  A few weeks later, I stopped breastfeeding all together.  The bottle was gone a week after that.  It’s been cow’s milk in cups since.  All in all, it was a painless transition. I was so happy for that chapter to be over.  It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

I don’t feel like this now. I’m glad I managed to feed her for a year, but I wonder why I felt the need to put that pressure on myself when I was dealing with so much.  I have not once felt guilty about weaning her when I did and I can’t help but wonder what took me so long.  I wish I could have recognized that the world (or my daughter) wouldn’t crumble if I’d stopped. 

There is more to motherhood than milk.