Monday, May 30, 2011

Nine Months

Dear Abe,

My boy, you are 9 months old. You are incredibly curious and extremely short-tempered. There is nothing you love better than experiencing something new. You enjoy meeting new people, new babies, new animals. Everything new is good. Everything old, ordinary, and routine is BAD. Certain days I need to work from home or get some cleaning done typically leave you a heap of screaming baby on the floor, desperately trying to convince me in your baby language that you are bored and need to get out and DO!

Speaking of floor, you can crawl; sort of. You pull up to your knees, rock back and forth as if you're revving your engine, and then you flatten out like a pancake and inchworm to wherever it is you wish to be. It's a slow, painful process to watch. But it gets you places, typically near a dog or electrical cord. You like to explore items around the house that require you to figure out "how they work". You love gates, doors, cabinets, etc. You don't really care about what's on the other side. You just care about the opening and the closing.

Your recent growth spurt left you so much more aware. There are mornings during which I put you down for a nap, you fall nearly asleep, and then pop up remembering there's a whole world out there to explore. You rarely cry in your crib, though, opting instead to talk or squawk while exploring from one end to the other. You also discovered you could bang your pacifier against the side of the crib to make a loud noise. It did get me to come upstairs a few times, but I've caught on now. Bang away, Abe. I'm not coming in.

While I don't care what you choose to be when you grow up, I can tell you that at nine months old you are SUCH a boy. You found your little friend's tea set and decided to bang the cups as hard as you could against the saucers. When a toy is nearby, you pick it up and throw it around as if to say, "I'm picking you up, I'm throwing you, I'm getting you. I'm picking you up, I'm throwing you, I'm getting you." When you need more food on your tray you slam your hand down over and over again. You explore every new person, place, and thing by hitting. And heaven forbid you get near a magazine or other paper-made periodical...

Your smile is still like gold, and your laugh like platinum. You're careful to save both for special occasions. You squeal with delight when you see your Daddy or me. You refuse to let me feed you. You MUST feed yourself. And you love pretty much anything edible, and some things that aren't.

This week I watched cousins and past students post their "Class of 2011" updates all over Facebook. It occurred to me that someday you are going to graduate. Hard to believe I could be more proud of you than I am today. You are amazing and strong and so full of personality. I love spending my days with you. And I love you. Every inch.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Different and the Same

Everyday things are different with a 9 month old. I do all the same things I did before I had a child, but I wear a different hat. I'm veiled with baby, if you will. I'm constantly thinking about where in the parking lot I can grab a cart so I don't have to carry Abe and the cart seat-cover all the way to the store front, hold him while trying to (always unsuccessfully) correctly install the cart seat-cover, and then put him in. You won't catch me leaving the house without diapers, puffs, a pacifier, extra socks, sippy cup, wipes, did I mention pacifier?, hand sanitizer, extra clothes for everyone everywhere, burp cloths, toys, blankets, and a pacifier. And that's just to go to the store. (I won't bore you with the overnight trip packing list.)
Drivers definitely tick me off like never before. Like the Ford Broco driver who is completely distracted by the cd holder velcroed to his driver side viser. It's not that I can't forgive the simultaneous display of camouflaged deer antlers and, "Horn broken, watch for finger," bumper sticker. However, while The Offspring did put out one good album in the early 90's, it does not mean blaring it out his duct taped windows is enough to warn me of his impulsive desire to move into my lane. Unfortunately, there's no appropriate way to express my exasperation for the lack of blinker or HUMAN DECENCY while my child is in the car except to mentally wish ill upon the man driving while muttering, "There's a baby in this car! Don't you know babies are on the road, too? YOU COULD KILL SOMEONE."
How about stroller etiquette? I can't tell you the number of times I have rolled up to Starbucks with Abe in tow and faced the big, glass door. Attacking it straight on never works. So I must turn the stroller around and attempt to back into the door, open it behind me (of course it has to open out), hold it open with with my free arm and pull the stroller backwards through the door with the other. Inevitably my arm isn't log enough to synchronize the "door holding" pose with the "stroller pulling" maneuver. The door begins to close on the stroller and I have to lean forward over the back of the stroller, batting at the door and trying to pull the stroller hard enough to get it out of the jam. The cherry on top of this entire scene? The person standing behind the stroller WATCHING it all happen like he/she doesn't know what to do. Hello? A little help here? I may shoot a look like, "Gosh, I'm so sorry we're keeping you from your precious coffee person who has never seen or heard of children before," which often is enough to send the hint. He or she might say something like, "Oops. Sorry," and then hold the door just long enough for me to get the front tire inside. My hero.
As crazy different as this all seems from my "former life", it also feels absurdly normal. I can't imagine how boring grocery shopping was before I had a buddy in the cart or how lonely Target could be without Abe staring at the mirror in the dressing room making faces at himself. I never want life to be different from this again. But seriously, if one more person touches my baby's face without asking, I'm going to ram them with the stroller's front tire and then coyly whisper, "Oops. Sorry."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Better than High School

You know when you're in your senior year of high school and every single day is one step closer to the biggest celebration of you're entire life, the one that is both the most exciting and the scariest? And with every passing class you put your head down and just go go go to get through final exams and college applications and entrance essays. And sometimes it's maddening and other times you have an amazing moment with friends or a strong teacher and realize that this isn't going to last forever. And you eat like crap and you try to join the right groups and steer clear of the drama, although there's always drama anyway, and you remind yourself every morning that one more 6am wake up won't kill you because it will soon be summer and then, on with real life. So you sing as loudly as you can in the car with your friends and you shrug your shoulders and bite your lip on the days when the shit hits the fan and laugh at anything and everything with gusto and full heart. This is kind of what life with an 8 month old is like.

Whoever gave Abraham the 6:30 alarm clock, I request you take it kindly back. That is when my day starts; with a quiet cooing from a little monster who has just noticed nighttime has ended. My husband retrieves him from the second floor and I nurse him and snuggle him in bed. It is the quietest, calmest 30 seconds of my entire day.
"Can he crawl yet?"
No, no he can't. But he can scoot. 
The scooting is remarkable really. Abe gets up on all fours and scoots his knees closer to his hands. Within a millisecond, he flings his arms forward and lands flat on his chest (he's learned to lift his chin the hard way); he'll repeat until he reaches desired object. It is neither a prompt nor comfortable method of transportation. I often don't really notice he's moved until he is halfway across the room.
I, on the other hand, am now faster than it has ever been. My life is composed of 5-15 minute increments, during which I see just how much I can accomplish before the next round of, "Guess what I figured out how to pull?" starts. If I had known years ago that I could unload, reload, and run a dishwasher in under 6 minutes, I would have saved enough time to sit and think of a way to invent a faster washing machine. I was also unaware how much I could accomplish at Target. Did you know Target carries every brand of every thing ever invented? There is no need to go to any other store. Ever. Not to mention when you're there you learn of many smaller items you didn't even realize you needed. Like picture frames. And decorative pillows.
Nights are always a mad rush to finish dinner for my husband and I, eat, feed Abe, bath him, put him down, and spend 10 minutes catching each other up on our days before we watch a show or engage in parallel reading. It's non-stop and every time it's Friday again I turn around to look back at the week and wonder what I did.
During all the madness, one every few days, there is a moment when time stands still and Abe does something he's never done before. This week it was holding himself up on the end of the bed and cruising around the corner to reach my computer. I held my breath for about 5 minutes. What I'm saying is, my baby is growing up faster than I can understand and before I know it, he is going to be ready to go to school. I am loving every minute, or at least the ones that I remember. And what makes this whole thing way better than my senior year of high school is that no one has posted signs everywhere declaring I'm a lesbian. Or a troll. Or a lesbian troll.
Life is good.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

20/20 Part 3

After googling "Zoloft and breastfeeding" (for like 3 hours), I finally decided I would try the medication. I got q-tips and birthday cards at the pharmacy so I wasn't just buying antidepressants. Maybe the pharmacy techs wouldn't notice my prescription. Because clearly I was the only woman to ever buy antidepressants before.
I got them home and I set them on the counter. I started making dinner. David came home and saw them. "Happy pills, huh?" I tried to laugh this off, but in my gut I felt so stupid that "happy pills" might be the only thing to make me happy. I decided not to take them and to try it by myself for a few more days.

A few hours later Abe was screaming, the dogs were barking, and I burned half the dinner I was cooking. I turned around and like a movie camera I zoomed in on the pill bottle.
Fine, I thought. I'll try it.

So what's the irony of reading every possible side effect of Zoloft and breastfeeding? Not reading the possible side effects for the person who's actually taking the drug. Abraham slept for 8 hours that night. I, on the other hand, did not sleep a wink. At about 4am, I googled "Zoloft side effects." Guess what was #1?
I decided to wait a day and the start taking the medication in the mornings.

It took about 2 weeks. One morning I woke up and felt less cloudy. I had forgotten what it felt like to wake up feeling anything but cloudy. It's what I imagine someone feels like after they lose their glasses and find them after 6 months, put them on, and suddenly remember that trees are made of individual leaves and branches, not just a big blob of green and brown up high.
Day after day, I felt further and further away from sadness. And one day, Abe began screaming in the grocery store (for no apparent reason other than to emabress me). I hurried along getting the groceries and holding him while simulataneously shoving a pacifier into his mouth. We got into the car and I sang him songs on the way home. I nursed him in his room until he fell asleep and laid him down to go unload the groceries. It was that day I realized I was better. A few months ago, that epiosde would have put me so far down the rabbit hole that I likely would have forgotten the groceries in the car and laid on the bed until my husband got home or the baby started screaming, whichever came first. But instead, it was like water off a duck's back. Babies cry. They scream, even. It's a little bit of a bother, but it's not the end of the world. Not like it used to be.
I guess my point of all this is that it's hard to know when you're suffering from postpartum depression. A lot of women have a few days of blues, some crazy hormones for months, and many are terribly affected by sleep deprivation. But if you've never felt postpartum depression, you can't know how to tease out the side effects of a having newborn from the side effects of something more serious that you can't control. Looking back, I truly had no control over my feelings. I was sad, and all the things I tried to do to "fix it" didn't work because it was past the point of anything I could do on my own.
Today I am so madly, passionately, crazy in love with that kid. I want to squeeze him until he pops, kiss him until he's 18, snuggle him so long he can never learn to crawl away from me. This is what I was meant to feel. And for all the lies I told about being in love with him during his first 4 months and glorious fibs I told about how great life was, I feel so fortunate that NOW it is real and I can truly understand what people are talking about when they say they never knew they could love someone so much.
If you think it's even remotely possible that you suffer from postpartum at any point during the first year of your child's life, don't wait as long as I did. Just chat with your doctor about it. Even if it turns out you are just sleep-deprived, it's better to know that than to find out you could have been the mom you wanted to be 6 months ago. Either way, give yourself a break. Remember, WWAWIATD? She would ask for help from her friends.

Monday, May 2, 2011

20/20 Part 2

It wasn't until Abraham was 5 months old that I started to realize there might really be a problem with me, not Abe. He was eating well and feeling fine, sleeping most of the night, and even smiling all day long. And I was miserable. I put on a HUGE smile and big brave face. I made fun small talk with people at the grocery store and made jokes about my new role as a mom to all my friends. I wrote blog after blog about how funny all this was. And only those people closest to me knew how bad it got. Anxiety attacks, sweeping bouts of depression, and fly-off-the-handle anger. When Abraham would hit a new milestone, like sitting up or holding his own bottle, I would experience a temporary high thinking, maybe that was it. The cure. So I began waiting on the next milestone like an oxygen tank underwater. And when each one came and went, I felt amazing and then worse than before when I realized I was still miserable.
I tried exercising. I began walking, jogging, lifting weights, dance classes. I started taking time to myself while my husband took the baby. I talked to a therapist regularly. I even tried changing my diet to include more Omega-3s. No dice.

On a particularly bad day, I began googling postpartum depression and found a "postpartum hotline" of sorts. You could call or email and this doctor would help you. So I emailed and waited. I received a response fairly quickly and after listing my symptoms, the doctor told me she was surprised I was so honest and definitely felt as though I needed help. She told me about a postpartum group in the area and asked me to join. She also told me I could make an appointment with her anytime and that she knew some psychologists in the area as well. I thanked her and then didn't write back again. I never mentioned to her that I lived in a completely different state. I guess I wanted an unbiased opinion. And I got one.

Finally, at my 6 month postpartum check up (which I had scheduled for 5.5 months postpartum), my gynecologist asked me how I was doing. I began to ramble about Abe not sleeping and being so busy and blah blah blah. She looked at me and asked how my anxiety levels were. I shrugged. "Normal for a new mom, I guess." My doctor doesn't know me well, but well enough to know that I probably wasn't being forthcoming about everything in my head. By that point it had gotten so bad I think I subconsciously made it pretty clear that I was in desperate need of help. "What do you think about taking something for it?"
"No," I replied. "I'm not taking medicine."
"Ok, no problem. It's just a suggestion to get you through this time. I've got a dear friend who has 6 babies, birthed them all at home in a tub. She has been on antidepressants since #2. Her hormones just can't swing back after she has a kid. It happens to a lot of women."
"Yeah. That's tough."
"Do you want to give it a try?"
"No," I said. "I don't think so." I paused. "Maybe just write the prescription so I can think about it."
"Sure," she replied.
I sat at home with the prescription wishing this wasn't what it was going to take. Can I really not do this by myself? It's embarrassing. I tried for months to have a kid. I saw specialists. I prayed and cried. And when I got pregnant, I worked my ASS off to stay healthy and deliver a healthy baby. Now I battling the feeling of not even wanting a baby. I loved him so much, but didn't want him. I felt so conflicted. Was it all a huge mistake? And the only way to feel better is in this pill bottle? I don't want to rely on pills. Will I tell my friends? Will I tell my mom? Will I blog it?! There was so much to think about.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Ok peeps. We're getting honest again. They say hindsight is 20/20. I say postpartum is sneaky.

I started looking at pictures last week. First pictures of my big old belly, then of Abe's birth, and then of the subsequent weeks and months. I stared for a minute at one particular picture. This one:
So, so beautiful. But I don't know who that child is. I don't remember him. "Oh the first few months are hell but you forget it all and then you'll have another one in a few years." But I didn't experience that kind of "forget". I remember vividly lying on the couch with Abe asleep on my chest wishing someone would just come take him away. I remember punching pillows in the middle of the night when Abe woke up for the billionth time. I remember screaming and crying one evening when my husband came home and wishing I was a drug addict or an alcoholic so I would have some way of escaping it all. I remember asking a friend, "When did you fall in love with your baby?" and hearing her say, "Oh, the minute I saw her. The minute I brought her to my chest," and then feeling thankful that my head isn't made of glass and my thoughts weren't visible for her to see.
Those are the things I remember. What I forget is Abe. He doesn't look like anyone I know in his early pictures, let alone anyone I recognize as mine. I spent months assuming that I was just sleep-deprived and overwhelmed with new motherhood. Friends invited me out and I always came up with an excuse. My husband offered to help me but I often refused. Other mommies recommended fun baby classes to go meet other moms, but I always commented on how much I hated "small talk" and didn't want to go. Everyone kept reminding me that it would get better, but it didn't. It got worse.
I started demanding one day that my husband find the money for a nanny because I "couldn't do it all." I couldn't work from home, raise a baby, take care of the house, cook his meals, etc. Mind you, my husband wasn't asking me to do any of that except for raise a baby. But he agreed that I needed some help and got me a nanny. I think he was hoping the same way I was that she would help ME, not just the baby. She was truly amazing with Abe and, to be honest, I spent most of the day asking her questions. How do I get him to sleep, eat, be happy?? What I really wanted to know was why wasn't I happy?
As much as I hoped having someone else in the house with me was going to take the edge of this constant pain in my chest, it didn't. I was stuck with this pain for as long as I had Abe, and that would be forever.  There was no way out...