Murphy’s Child Outtakes

If you’d like to further tempt fate and play the odds for a surprise child, here are additional steps you can take.

  • Purchase a big family vehicle with one seat more than number of children you currently have. When your father-in-law comments that ‘you have room for one more’ and asks if you’re going to fill that seat too, say “Nooooooo! Not planning on it!”

    stocking

    (llbean)

  • When looking to hang the precious Christmas stockings your mother bought for each member of the family, you must have identical hooks. Be sure to buy the unique,weight-balanced ones, regionally made, sold from but one supplier – and only in sets of two. So when you outfit your last baby, you can tuck the extra hook into the storage tote, telling your husband, ‘you don’t think keeping this ensures another stocking (child) to fill it?’ You both laugh heartily at your superstition, but perhaps a little too much.
  • While giving visitors the dime tour of your new, larger, family-friendly house, point out the proximity of the bathroom to your side of the bed. Be sure to quip, ‘Too bad I got it after I walked down the stairs in the middle of the night for the three other pregnancies!”
  • Tell everyone about that woman you knew in your early twenties who surprised everyone, included herself, by getting pregnant at forty. She’d just joined a gym, replaced her wall-to-wall carpeting with refinished hardwoods, and sent her youngest off to middle school. Be sure to add significant shock and awe to your retell.
  • Try not to micromanage and embrace life in all its iterations. And you and Murph will get along fine.

Not Mutually Exclusive

There is no need to shame a control-freak, God-fearing Catholic. There is no need to add to the torment she has already inflicted upon herself.

Yet, that is exactly what I found a quote from Marianne Williamson doing last night.

It has been six years since I started medication therapy for my postpartum depression and anxiety. Six years of low dose, slight increases, attempts at doing without – and it still serves me. And yet, a small part of me still questions my need for it.

Why isn’t this glorious life God has given me enough reason to rejoice? Why aren’t the three gorgeous gifts of heaven that are my children a daily cause for celebration? Am I not grateful enough for God’s blessings that I need an antidepressant to merely function, never mind embrace this life?

Catholic guilt is a strong force, but not one I blame for these thoughts. I confessed to my pastor that I feared my mental struggles were tied to a crisis of faith. I worried that turning to secular talk therapy turned me away from God’s gentle care. I fretted that medication was a crutch that kept me from leaning on God’s healing power.

My pastor told me that spirituality is an important piece of one’s healing, but not to the exclusion of other beneficial treatments. My trained counselor was helping me process my feelings without judgment and not keeping me from turning to God for quiet reflection. And if prescription medicine existed in God’s world, created by one of the people He put on this earth, why would I not avail myself of this beneficial tool? Most importantly, my pastor told me that God did not cause this suffering to befall me. It was not a punishment for some wrongdoing or turning away on my part. If I gleaned something good from the experience, perhaps God allowed the growth in me, but He certainly did not beset me with these troubles.

As always, the rational mind, while fully aware of such life-affirming and freeing arguments, still can fall prey to its irrational side. I thought I’d have no problem reading the social media post that started a furious online debate about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. Yet, as I did, I felt some of the angst I’d been slowly putting to bed for the last six years come creeping back up.

marianne williamson

This statement plays to all the fears of the postpartum mother.  The guilt of needing medication to enjoy the miracle of life and her role in it.  The fact that she can’t come to terms with ‘normal’ changes in her body chemistry.  That she has somehow failed by not meditating enough; praying enough; eating healthily enough.  And then to judge her own success by the love of others – something over which she has no control.  Or does that speak to the love she fails to feel for her child?

I am only living a modicum of successful motherhood because of the very real diagnosis of postpartum depression and its treatment with medicinal drugs.  And yet, this statement still elicits a shameful, guilty feeling in me.  After SIX successful years of such treatment.  

What of the mother just beginning to wonder if she is struggling postpartum?  What thoughts and feelings assault her when she reads this?  She is already doubting herself and ‘succumbing’ to the crutches of medicine.  She already thinks she’s failed.  And now to tell her it’s all a ploy by ‘Big Pharma’?

‘Big Pharma’ is not issuing me any big paycheck.  I’ve written thirteen different posts about the decision, pros/cons of taking psychotropic drugs, most notably Happy Pills.  When the news initially hit that new recommendations called for all pregnant women and mothers to be screened for depression this was my reaction:

duh

I never dreamed news that was so obvious to me would be seen as a negative by others.

I’m going to imagine that Williamson’s comments were born of the assumption that those standing to make a financial gain would encourage a mindless mass to pop a pill and forget their troubles – and a meaningful life.  I do not encourage anyone to medicate their troubles away without also doing the hard personal work of introspection and spiritual growth.  Meds are not successful in a vacuum.  They must be supported by close medical monitoring, therapies, and lifestyle changes.

Choosing medication is not a mutually exclusive option over meditation, prayer, and love.

I fear that the way Williamson’s stance has been presented, the ensuing social media storm will portray just that.  God-fearing people do not fear medical marvels.  God-fearing people do not judge others for decisions they make concerning their own care.  God-fearing people would never want someone to suffer needlessly while thinking it was a fatal flaw of character.

Point of Contact

I entered the world of mental health advocacy kicking and screaming.  Some days, quite literally.

Studying English?  Easy, I loved literature and writing.  Teaching?  A way to purvey that love to another generation while parlaying it into a paycheck.  Motherhood?  An extension of the love my husband and I shared.

Postpartum depression and anxiety?  A most unwelcome and unpleasant recalculation in my life’s journey.

For years, I looked for reasons.  I hadn’t recalibrated my compass, had I?  What had happened to lead to this catastrophic turn of events?

I am not the grand cosmic poomba of all things so I cannot answer those questions with any sort of certainty, but I do know that my struggles awakened a raw, yet steely inner strength I’d never had before.  They fostered an empathy of a whole new level for others’ suffering; for the mantle of motherhood and all its ‘come-withs’.

I had to polish some ragged rock I’d gotten caught up on and dragged along on my journey into at least a burnished gem.  Something positive had to come out of all that suffering.  And perhaps even prevent another woman from travelling the same path.

I started this blog as a way to tell my story, which very few knew.  I thought, with complete disclosure, I might open the dialogue for others.  At least become an ally in an all too commonly silent struggle.  Perhaps I didn’t tackle postpartum directly enough – for many of my discussions and observations were integrated with my life.  However, I still haven’t decided if that was/is a failure, for mental health struggles quickly become an intimate part of one’s life, touching all parts of it.  It also hinted at some version of depression/anxiety becoming part of my ‘new normal’.

And with my ‘new normal’ so different from my old one, I began to develop further plans for burnishing rocks into gems.

I knew what I wanted to do, but with no clinical experience, I had limitations.  I could not mention the word ‘therapeutic’ in any official capacity.  I was petrified that if the programs I had in mind reached the end of my personal experience and empathy, that I wouldn’t be able to help someone in crisis.  

I embarked on a series of webinars offered by Postpartum Support International.  The Social Support Training series, one session every other week, stretched from January to June of last year.  While many of the participants were clinicians in the field of maternal mental health, the course was user-friendly and aimed at individuals interested in starting and supporting groups of mothers in various presentations of mental health.

The Social Support Training was the perfect first step toward a solution.  It offered a wealth of information – statistical and anecdotal, researched and proven – paired with the assurance that social support people are not meant to be clinicians.  They are meant to offer a safe place for mothers to gather and vent, ask questions and talk, discover resources and camaraderie, and just be.

I finished the series a few weeks before I headed to Boston for Postpartum Progress‘ first annual Warrior Mom Conference, the first ever maternal mental health conference for survivors of PMADs.  With my new-found knowledge and training, I looked forward to building on that momentum and connecting with other moms doing the same.  While I did that, I also found parts of me that hadn’t fully healed.  I realized I still had my own work to do and how very complex maternal mental illnesses are.

That fall, my PMAD baby started full-day kindergarten and, though scared as hell, I began formulating plans to kick my ideas into high gear.  I applied for a scholarship offered by Postpartum Progress and the National Council for Behavioral Health to be trained in Mental Health First Aid, which I was awarded a few weeks after discovering I was pregnant with my fourth child.  I faltered, wondering how I would enact my plans with a newborn baby.  But then, they were never my plans anyway.  And now I would have the full-circle experience informing my advocacy.  Up until now, I’d only ever experienced the postpartum piece of mental health; now I could speak to both pre- and postnatal.

I spent two days in New London, Connecticut with two fabulous humans from Child & Family Agency of Southeastern CT learning how to assess and support a person’s mental health status.  Again, the trainers stressed that we were not expected to diagnosis the individuals we come into contact with, but to assess their situation and determine whether they need additional help.  We then must help them feel comfortable and safe until such professional help is acquired.  The trainers helped me gain even more practical ways to help those in need as a civilian, a concerned individual, an advocate.

As I sat in that auditorium, surrounded by empathetic professionals and persons, I flashed back to an article I’d read a week and a half earlier.  “The Community Maternal Mental Health Professional” on The Burnout Cafe (click image for link) discusses the gap between women who need help and the services available to them.  While the central point of contact in this graphic from the article lists a woman’s professional caregivers, and a woman certainly does see these people quite frequently both before and after the baby is born, I would argue another layer of contact needs to be added.  If practitioners aren’t well-informed or comfortable dealing with maternal mental health issues, the assessments, diagnoses, and referrals needed will not occur.  Having been down that dark hole myself, I am well-versed in those discussions.  I can help normalize the feelings a woman may be experiencing, yet not want to admit for fear of retribution to her or her child.  I can point her in the direction of practitioners specializing in the exact type of care she so desperately needs.

ppd1

“The Community Maternal Mental Health Professional” as point of contact (via The Burnout Cafe)

With my personal experiences and new-found knowledge via recent trainings, I am a point of contact for mothers.  

My plans may morph and grow as my own life and family does, but the end goal is the same:

Helping Mothers Get the Help They Need.

Recovery Contd.

In an online forum, a mother asked if she was the only one who thought about her experience with postpartum each and every day since she had given birth four years earlier.

I am six years out. While it’s not an everyday occurrence, it often comes to mind. In many ways, it has and continually shapes who I am – as an all-around human, not just certain aspects of motherhood.

Though I wouldn’t recommend it as a means of self-discovery, my postpartum experience taught me a lot about myself. I realized, that while I had been managing it, I’d been suffering from low-level depression and anxiety for years. What I thought was a failure to contain, control, was actually the event horizon of a long-simmering beast’s debut.

So I find it hard when people talk about postpartum recovery. I don’t feel as if I’ve recovered from postpartum depression. I feel like I’ve learned to manage it, but it’s the new normal. While I took an extended hiatus, I’ve returned to my therapist. I never stopped taking my meds. I still have low points that make me wonder if I’ll ever be healed; that make me seek out new treatments and pray for cures.

A cure lies somewhere within the intersection of self-acceptance, medical marvels, and divine intervention. I think it’s impossible that any one will work without the combination of the others.

I need to accept that this may (notice I’m not quite ready yet) be how my chemical makeup operates. That I didn’t fall short on some courage or stick-to-it-ness factor. That I didn’t fail to attract good things through my thoughts. I cannot will myself better with positive thoughts. Though my heart works that way, my mind simply is not wired for that.

Taking medicine to augment your mood is okay, even acceptable. It’s beneficial to your quality of life. It quiets the rage and keeps the nervous energy at bay.

And to fill the gap that always is – there is God. A spiritual dimension to the healing process is essential – and one I was missing for a long time. Unfortunately, this is not a one and done. I must continually seek this solace.

All three spokes of the wheel need continual attention. They all need periodic tweaking and developing. Much to my chagrin, my recovery and learning to live a full life is not a mountain to be scaled and topped with a banner of victory. I have to drag that flag with me wherever I go. As long as it still flies, I guess, there is still hope.

flapping_cloth1

barkergroup.info

Dirty Diapers

Do you need any help finding anything?

Simple query. Standard clerk operation. Yet her question left me speechless. I stared blindly at the shelves in front of me for a moment before I answered.

A staccato collection of tongue-in-cheek conversation ran through my mind in that brief silence, but I finally said, no, I didn’t need help.

For I realized that anything more than that would be too much information for this clerk stocking some manner of geriatric product next to the baby care section.

She didn’t need to know that my prolonged, slack-jawed stare at the array of diapers on display (which admittedly wasn’t even that extensive) wasn’t due to a lack of knowledge on my part. It was the realization that all that inane diaper information I’d chucked to the back of my brain, thinking I’d never again need to know how many pounds a size 3 diaper fit, would now need to be retrieved; that Pampers smell like poo before the kid even fills them; that Huggies now come in swaddlers and movers and shakers and trapeze artists. I peered at the tiny kg/lbs ranges under the big numeral sizes like an old woman who’d forgotten her glasses.

I did remember that the mommy-to-be for whom I was buying the diapers wouldn’t need newborn size since the hospital would send her home with a boatload.

There are some parts of motherhood that are like the proverbial riding of the bike.

However, there are some things not even a conscientious, helpful clerk can help an expectant mother find in the baby care aisle. A cure for her feeling that she was done with this a long time ago. A settling of the ambivalence toward starting the whole process all over again. A certainty instead of the disbelief at the surrealism of it all.

All these certainly aren’t on the shelf. They’re not even in the back room. Only the mother herself is the purveyor of these goods – and they’re not one size fits all.

Diaper-debate_thumb

from healthytippingpoint.com

Sick Daze

My friend told me her children had been on holiday break for 17 days – 17 days!!!

I can’t believe we didn’t hear about them on the news.

No, that is not a judgment on my friend’s parenting style. Nor is it a commentary on her children’s behavior. But Good Lord, 17 days – out of routine, out of school, in each others’ faces!

Today is my first day of vacation.

School started back up Monday in these parts, but my eldest decided to vomit all over her bed Sunday night. She looked miserable Monday and Tuesday morning, saying her stomach hurt and she felt like she’d be sick again. Wednesday morning when I threw down the gauntlet of ‘no vomit, no fever – go to school’, she dressed and ate breakfast only to vomit it all over the kitchen floor. Shortly thereafter, my youngest awoke with an earache, glassy eyes, and continued congestion. My middle was not a happy camper as the only one of her trio boarding the bus that morning. She announced that she wanted a sick day. I told her we’d quarantine her as the only one who wasn’t sick.

tissue

Think you can come up with a fun word for this phenomenon? Click through for the challenge!

So today, Thursday, fourth supposed day of school – my whole crew returned to routine. I’m as giddy as a school girl myself. Well, maybe one who skipped school. For I was able to return to a quiet house, which even with its piles of detritus left from stretches of sick days (did I mention I’m sick, too?), seems somehow calmer, cleaner, more zen.

I don’t know what I’ll do today. Maybe get started on pulling down those Christmas decorations that have overstayed their welcome. Maybe de-germ all community surfaces. Maybe turn over a New Years’ leaf and write some more pages of my lonely manuscript.

But right now my eye lids feel heavy. I might just take a nap – and wait for the call from the school to come pick up a sick child.

2015 in review

Thank you so much to all my dear readers.  I truly appreciate you taking the time to read my mind :-)

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,500 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Music of the Morning

The distant beep beep beep of a backing-up garbage truck
Residual rivulets of rain on the roof
Ringing in my ears

A Benedictine monk was told to repeat a Psalm over and over in his head
When it was all he could hear, he asked his superior what then.
Repeat it until you become it.

Without the outside distractions of beeping and running water,
the ringing becomes all consuming.
How can I turn down the dissonance and resonate with the truth?

psalmist

thegospelcoalition

Murphy’s Child

There are some sure-fire ways to guarantee the growth of your family. None are medically proven; none are rational – but all fall under the accord of Murphy’s Law.

  • First and foremost, tell everyone who asks – even those who don’t – that you are done having children. Your family is complete.
  • Further this point by passing along all your baby paraphernalia, with the caveat that you never want to see it again. They can do with it whatever they like when they’re done with it, but you don’t want it back.
  • Sweep maternity clothes out of your home with great aplomb. Plunk the rubber tote you’ve been storing them in on your neighbor/co-worker/friend’s front step with great and resounding authority.
  • Start to enjoy the long-forgotten freedom you and your spouse can reclaim at parties and cook-outs, even when the children are present. You can sit for 2.5 seconds without rushing to pluck them from the jaws of salmonella, see-saws, or swinging bats. Up the ante by enjoying a refreshing adult beverage.
  • Dream of a day in the not-so-distant future where you may actually be able to take a family vacation. All the kids are potty-trained, done with naps, and significantly less likely to throw a tantrum. The rosy glow on the horizon – and substantial sums of money no longer going toward diapers and pull-ups – even make you consider opening a dedicated savings account.
  • Send your youngest off to her first full day at school. Look at the seemingly endless hours that stretch before you and marvel at how you’ll fill them. Begin to dream and scheme for something soul-fulfilling, personal, even professional.
  • Most importantly – and the penultimate step – is to engage in quality intimate time with your spouse. Have actual conversations, canoodle, and connect in ways you haven’t since you conceived your last child – wait, what?
  • Too late. Murphy strikes again.
tostada-1000x666

shedka.com

DJ Khalid Pregnancy Redux

All I do is eat, eat, eat no matter what

Got nausea on my mind,

man, I’ve had enough

When I walk into the bathroom

the toilet lid goes up –

and I stay there

morning-sickness

Baby Center blog

and I stay there

and I stay there

Up chuck, up chuck, up chuck

make me say, what the *$@%

These flippin’ hormones

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