Sunday, June 4, 2017

Late night thoughts

Today she's sweaty hair plastered against her forehead from the baby fine waves that escape her pigtails as she runs around outside, exploring ants and digging holes with a stick.  She's scraped knees, and dirty sneakers, peals of giggles and exclamations of "Come back here you silly goose!" as she chases leaves blowing in the breeze.  She's more person than baby now, and every moment is a new discovery.  She relishes in exploring the world around her, would rather be outside than in, and has taken to kissing her toys goodnight.  She has begun telling me about things she loves, from books to trampolines to flowers, there is always something she is excited to tell me about.  She is learning to socialize with other children, but often would prefer to be by herself.  She holds her small friends at a distance, preferring the safety of mommy's lap or daddy's arms to the scary idea of having to learn to befriend children her own age.  At parties, she will disappear into a corner with a book or some crayons and paper while other children argue over dolls and other playthings.  When she finds another child she enjoys time with, she will talk excitedly about her time with them for days, even when they've spent very little time interacting.  She has so many opinions, and everything has to be her idea.  There is no forcing her into something she doesn't want to do, she will be the leader in her life.  She knows her alphabet, most of her letter sounds, and her numbers up through 30.  She notices everything.  She thinks she's hilarious, and she is.  She remembers plots from her story books that she hasn't had read to her in months.  She giggles as she says "Leave the goldfish alone!", a line from one of her favorite books.  She loves cats, and usually the dog, as long as he's not trying to give her kisses.

She's a new person each day I greet her.  She's grown since yesterday.  She's learned more things since yesterday.  My yesterday girl has left me and my today girl stands before me, ready to do it all over again.  She is beautiful, and brilliant, and infuriating and endearing all at the same time.  She has a temper that is rivaled by few.  She can be affectionate in ways you'd never expect.  Her smile is so beautiful that I know some day it will get her out of whatever trouble she gets herself into.  She is light, and wonder, and fascination all wrapped up into one person.

She is one of my favorite accomplishments.

I am so grateful for her.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

There are a lot of opinions

There are times in the past two years of this parenting journey where I've wondered if other people listen to some of the things that I've had people say to me.  Like, I know that everyone faces their own hardships, or their own challenges and struggle with judgmental people on some level, but I wonder if other people have experiences similar to mine.

It's been no secret that my internal struggles have been largely with feeling like I'm cut out for this mom thing.  I've had so much inner turmoil over whether I should or could be a parent that it robbed me of all appreciation of the experience of becoming a parent.  It's been an ongoing voice in the back of my head that I work to silence every day.  I am always questioning every decision.  Every piece of progress she makes or doesn't make, I wonder if I should have done something different.  Nothing is straight forward.  Nothing happens without questioning or insecurity.  I try to project confidence, but when I'm by myself, alone with my thoughts, the voice starts creeping in and I'm spending a significant amount of energy to silence it.

So, imagine how hard it is to silence that voice when you also have people around you outright telling you that you're a crap parent.  To have people say things like "Your daughter deserves better" or to have people tell you that your child deserves to know they're loved but you don't show them that you love them in any way, or to have people tell you what you would do "if you were a good parent".

My in-laws have taken to attacking me and my parenting skills.  And when I say that, I don't mean some sort of polite, passive aggressive commentary offered up in conversation.  I mean outright attacking me.  My mother-in-law told me that I don't show my daughter I love her.  My brother-in-law decided to tell me what I'd be doing if I were a good parent.  And I'm just supposed to accept that shit in an effort to be polite.  But you know what it doesn't do?  It doesn't help that voice in my head get any quieter.

The thing is, I've dealt with mistreatment from these people for years.  I know that their invalid opinions shouldn't get to me because they're awful, but it's infuriating that I have to put up with that kind of stuff, or listen to it.  And, it makes me wonder if other people deal with this kind of shit, or if it's just something special that life has chosen to shit on me with.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

If I'm being honest

I'm not ok.  I'm not.

I've avoided talking about this with anyone because I everyone in my life has either abandoned me, or if they haven't, they've made me feel like I'm somehow a burden when I actually need someone, so I've been white knuckling it, and this is my only safe space.......or, at least as safe as I can get since it, too, has caused problems when I've let a select few people in, but since it's as safe as I can get, I'm here.

I'm not ok.

I have spent the last two years battling a lot of things that I've been burying and pretending didn't matter, and pretending weren't a problem, but lately I've been reading a lot of stuff, and I'm realizing that everything I've been burying is cropping up when people talk about their issues and it's becoming apparent that I've been in the same boat as them. For example, this week's essay by Chrissy Tiegan hit home.  Sections like this:

"I had never, ever—in my whole entire life—had one person say to me: “I have postpartum depression.” Growing up in the nineties, I associated postpartum depression with Susan Smith [a woman now serving life in prison for killing her two sons; her lawyer argued that she suffered from a long history of depression], with people who didn’t like their babies or felt like they had to harm their children. I didn’t have anything remotely close to those feelings. I looked at Luna every day, amazed by her. So I didn’t think I had it."

So I started doing some digging, and apparently undiagnosed PPD can last up to three years.  And suddenly, so many things started to fall into place.  Some of the crazy I was feeling, some of the struggles I had early on, and have continued to have.  I started looking up symptoms and while not all applied, there were some that just......damn. 

  • You feel guilty because you believe you should be handling new motherhood better than this. You feel like your baby deserves better. You worry whether your baby can tell that you feel so bad, or that you are crying so much, or that you don’t feel the happiness or connection that you thought you would. You may wonder whether your baby would be better off without you.
  • You don’t feel bonded to your baby. You’re not having that mythical mommy bliss that you see on TV or read about in magazines. Not everyone with postpartum depression feels this way, but many do.
  • You feel irritated or angry. You have no patience. Everything annoys you. You feel resentment toward your baby, or your partner, or your friends who don’t have babies. You feel out-of-control rage.
  • You feel hopeless, like this situation will never ever get better. You feel weak and defective, like a failure.
  • You feel disconnected. You feel strangely apart from everyone for some reason, like there’s an invisible wall between you and the rest of the world.
  • Maybe you’re doing everything right. You are exercising. You are taking your vitamins. You have a healthy spirituality. You do yoga. You’re thinking “Why can’t I just get over this?” You feel like you should be able to snap out of it, but you can’t.
  • You know something is wrong. You may not know you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but you know the way you are feeling is NOT right. You think you’ve “gone crazy.”
  • You are afraid that this is your new reality and that you’ve lost the “old you” forever.
  • You are afraid that if you reach out for help people will judge you. Or that your baby will be taken away.
Check.  Check.  Check.  Check.  It's much of my life has been this, for two solid years. 

And then I think about how hard it's been, because I've been doing it solo.  Because while I spent several months feeling like a crazy person and playing desperate person attempting to break through that invisible wall between me and the rest of the world, that became too much for some people, and in the time I most needed people in my life, they all left.  And it's stayed that way.  And I haven't had anyone to talk to.  I haven't had anyone to understand any of this.  I haven't had......anyone.  I've been so incredibly focused on putting up this fa├žade of a person who has everything under control, and who was easing into all of this without much struggle, and it was forcing me to just bury everything.  But, over time, it's gotten harder to bury, and harder to pretend I'm holding shit together.  Furthermore, it's harder to actually hold my shit together.

Then, when I think about all of those items in that list that I've been fighting for so long, and I couple it with people telling me my daughter deserves better, or that my daughter deserves to know she's loved and cared about but I don't adequately do that, or what I'd do if I was a good parent, it's sort of shocking that I haven't completely lost my shit before now.  But I've held it together through all of that too.  Through the times when I needed people to support me, and they chose to do harm instead.  Though, since it has never felt really safe to fully discuss this with anyone around me, maybe it's not their fault.

At this point, I'm getting to where I just don't care about anything, at least not in a way I should.  I don't really care about keeping the house as clean as I used to.  I don't care about hosting gatherings.  I don't care about going to gatherings.  I'm physically exhausted all the time.  Most nights I just want to go home, curl up on the couch and sleep.  I don't necessarily want to play with my kid.  Everything feels like a chore, and everything feels like it'll take way more effort than it needs to.  And I don't care about most of it.

I don't know where I need to go from here.  My life doesn't currently have time for therapy, or help, really.  And I'm sure there are a lot of people who are going to roll their eyes and say "There is always time to take care of yourself", but those people can shut up because they don't understand how my life is structured and they don't understand how hard it is to take time.  I could probably talk to my doctor and pop some anti-depressants, but without therapy I think that's just a Band-Aid on a problem.  So, the reality is that since everything is indicating these issues can last up to three years but I hear nothing about it going on for longer, maybe I'll just wait it out. 

My knuckles are already used to being white anyway.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Reading and thinking

The past few weeks have had me feeling a bit down.  It might be the mid-winter blues, or maybe I've given in to feeling sorry for myself a bit, or maybe everything I've shoved aside is becoming apparent.  I'm not sure.  Regardless, I feel like I've been on the struggle bus, and I've spent a lot of days on the verge of tears over the stupidest things.  I've whined to a co-worker far more than I ever should.  I've been grasping for a sense of connection, and not finding it.  This isn't new, it's just sort of weighing on me at the moment. 

This morning, the poor co-worker I've been whining to sent me this blog, and I had to read it in pieces, because reading it all at once threatened to send me into tears while sitting in my cubicle.  Sometimes it's odd, to hear what feel like your words, coming out of someone else's mouth.  Or keyboard, as the case may be.  When I got to this passage, I felt like I was this blogger for a moment:

"...supporting my husband while he went back to school. The more I gave, the more was asked of me, and the stronger my guilt became when I wanted anything: a night out, a haircut, to go to the gym, to be left alone for five minutes. I was…. An inconvenience."

This.  This more than anything is how I feel a lot of the time.  Last week I spent an evening away from home.  My husband picked up our daughter, and I went to happy hour with some friends from work.  Then I met my cousin for dinner and drinks, so I didn't get home until nearly 10:00 p.m.  The entire time, I felt guilty.  I felt like I didn't deserve that time away.  Never mind the fact that my husband spends evenings away at class twice a week, and I handle everything at home pretty much on my own while he's in classes or teaching.  Never mind that I do bedtime literally every night and have for at least the last year, barring being out of town for work.  Never mind that I cook dinner every night, and I spend literally  every waking moment that I'm not at work with my daughter.  Never mind that I probably earned an evening away.  I still felt like I didn't deserve it.  My husband told me to go, to have fun, that he had everything under control.  And he did.  I knew he did.  But....for me, it felt like wanting something just wasn't ok.  That me needing a night to breathe was unacceptable.  Like I was abandoning my responsibilities.  It was also coupled with the guilt of knowing that when my husband has evenings away, he's in class, so it's not like he's out enjoying himself or having a good time.  He's basically working, so I don't feel like I deserve to have my time spent frivolously when he doesn't get to do that.  This is all self imposed guilt, but it's hard to shake a lot of the time.  And, that feeling of being an inconvenience, of being invisible, of being somehow unworthy of what everyone else seems to get so easily, that gets hard to shake after a while too.

Which led me to that feeling of needing to connect.  Needing to be able to confide in a person, and feel like I'm not burdening them with myself.  As I was thinking about this, someone in my Facebook news feed posted this article, which had some stats in it that made me feel pretty sad.  Like this stat, for example:

In a survey given in 1985, people were asked to list their friends in response to the question “Over the last six months, who are the people with whom you discussed matters important to you?” The most common number of friends listed was three; 59 percent of respondents listed three or more friends fitting this description. The same survey was given again in 2004. This time the most common number of friends was zero.

So, I guess at least I'm not alone?  But, doesn't that suck?  Doesn't that say so much about who we are as a species where there isn't anyone you can talk to about your life?  It's's depressing.  But the fact that having a weak social circle is as detrimental to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day is even more depressing.  Because I have basically no social circle.  No support system.  I have one friend who has been around for a long time, and I cherish his friendship, but at the same time, he's not always the guy you can go to with your dark, unhappy thoughts.  And that's ok.  He's always there when you need someone, and that alone means a lot.  It just also makes me feel like a circle isn't two people.  It's not binary, me and you.  There needs to be more.  Often, I find that I'm really seeking a sense of family, of acceptance.  I'm seeking relationships where you can disagree on a topic and still be friends.  What I've realized in the past several years is that I don't have time or patience for people who just ghost you and disappear, or outright tell you there's no problem when clearly there is and they stop talking to you, or who claim to want to amend things and don't put in any effort, or who just decide that you suck without bothering to tell you why so you have a chance to try to fix it.  People who act like you've misunderstood the relationship, when the reality is that they're trying to separate themselves from any guilty they may feel for having hurt you.  Or people who just seem to think you can't be hurt, like you have no feelings, or that because you have a tough exterior, it's ok to just shit all over you because you can take it.  Unfortunately, those are the only people I really know.  Those are the only people I seem to come in contact with, and I'm beginning to wonder if there are any other types of people out there.  I often wonder if this is just it.  And so, I read that article thinking "Well, this would be easier if people weren't all a fistful of assholes".  That also becomes a barrier, because it means you can't force yourself to trust anymore, you don't care about making an effort for something that's going to die or hurt you anyway, so you sit, isolated and alone, and at that point you might as well be smoking 15 cigarettes a day for all the good it's doing you.

I don't know what the point of all of this was.  I just needed to clear my head.  Reading seems to give me a lot of things to think about.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A wealth of useless information

I was talking to a co-worker the other day about the things that worry her about becoming a parent, largely whether the balance of responsibilities will tilt too far to one side.  She said something about how she doesn't want to be the one who has to remember everything all the time.  I told her that once you're on the other side of that parenthood hump, remembering everything isn't really a choice.  It's just a weird habit that you develop and hold onto.  It's this mass of swirling information in your head that doesn't necessarily make sense to anyone else but your brain is holding onto it in case, at some point, you find you need it.  Spoiler alert: A lot of times, you never need it.

That's just how it is, though.  You think about stuff and realize that your own wealth of useless information grows with each passing day, and you can answer the most random questions.  Like, right now, these things can just be pulled from my head:

  • The cat only has one can of cat food left
  • My daughter needs an appointment made for her next checkup
  • My living room's paint color is "Earl Gray"
  • There are no diapers left in the diaper basket, but there's a spare box next to the arm chair
  • There are no diapers upstairs on the changing table
  • The Snurtch book is downstairs in the book basket instead of upstairs in the bookshelf, so if she freaks out that she can't find it, that's where it is.
  • We're out of Swiffer cloths
  • There are three pairs of socks with no matches in my laundry basket
  • The dog only pooped once yesterday, which seems weird.  Must watch to make sure there's not some sort of issue with him.
  • I have half a bottle of dish soap left, which means I'll probably have to buy a new one the week after next.
  • The HOA needs paid, but I want to wait until it's past due because I find the HOA useless and resent paying them so I pay late every year.
  • The Disney Junior book is hidden under my daughter's crib.
  • The Paw Patrol Christmas book is hidden behind the sofa.
  • My husband's phone charger is still sitting on the counter at home, which means his phone will be dead by the time he leaves work.
  • I have to text my friend at 4:30 to follow up on how her interview went.
  • The purple shoes are upstairs under the rocking chair, but the dress shoes are downstairs under the coffee table.
  • There's still a load of laundry in the dryer that needs to be folded.

All of this can be rattled off at a moment's notice.  But can I remember that we already have two containers of parmesan cheese in the fridge?  Nope.  Better buy another....

Monday, January 16, 2017

What's missing, and what's not

Over the last couple of weeks, my world has been able to shift a bit.  My husband had a break from classes, and with the return of free time also came the return of social interaction.  It made me notice a few things.  First and foremost, I miss social interaction.  Beyond that, I think I might need social interaction.  Up until the holiday everything felt like it was too much work.  Too much effort, too much work.  All of my normal enthusiasm for gatherings, and party planning was gone.  It was like I was just zapped of my ability to care about that kind of stuff.  Then the holiday season happened and suddenly there were social gatherings back in my life and it was like I got recharged.  Then, I realized that maybe my lack of ability to care about social gatherings was due to the lack of actually having them.  So, that led to wanting to continue having that social interaction, but life picked back up and I think those are off the table for the time being.

And having that back in my life made me realize how few people there are left to invite to something like that.  I used to have a list of go-to people, and now that list consists of two.  Two people.  That sort of reminded me of why I stopped pushing to have gatherings at the beginning of the fall.  Beyond life making it hard, the idea that my guest list was two people long felt lonely.  And depressing.  And it reminded me of how isolated I feel a lot of the time.  The isolation drains me.  The lack of a village drains me.  But, it also makes me grateful for the couple of people who stayed.

I do enjoy the time I have with my daughter, though.  I think it keeps me from being depleted.  It is still draining, because it's still life with a toddler, but it keeps me from feeling completely alone sometimes.  And I'm grateful for that. 

So, in the end, what's missing is a piece of the life I used to have.  And my village.  What's not missing is something to keep me from feeling the full brunt of that, and that something is pretty great.  It makes me smile nearly every day, even on days when I don't want to.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Holiday thoughts

This past week I had some time off of work for the holiday, and it was much needed.  My husband, who has less free time than I do, was able to take some time out of his schedule and spend it with the family.  It was a rare treat for both me and my daughter, who seems to acutely notice her lack of daddy time as weeks go by.  But he was able to play with her, and read her books, and spend the time he doesn't typically have to spend with her, which I think she needed.  I also got some time with him to actually talk, and enjoy his company, and that was a nice change of pace as well.  We sat on the sofa on Saturday night and just watched movies.  Nothing else.  Just sat and watched movies together.  It's been a long time since we've been able to do that without him multi-tasking on the laptop to get work done.  I've missed it.

The holiday didn't really give us much of a chance to slow down, since we host several holiday gatherings and the house needed cleaned, the tree needed to go up, there was food to make and shopping to be done, but when all of that was over, on Sunday when I had a chance to slow down and not focus on any responsibilities outside of my average every day chores, I was able to slow down and appreciate some things.  I actually got to sleep in.  Truly sleep in, as late as I wanted, for the first time I can remember in a long time.  I try to let my husband sleep in as much as possible, because I know how exhausting school and work are, and even though I'm supposed to get to sleep in on Sundays, I never seem to get to do it.  There's always somewhere to be, or my daughter has a meltdown and I get up to help deal with it, or I feel guilty that he needs to be working and he's managing her by himself instead, so I wake up earlier than I want to and push on with my day.  But this week, I got to sleep in and as I woke up in my bed, under my very nice down comforter, in my large airy bedroom, I suddenly appreciated how nice it can be to sleep late in your own bed.  When I got up, I stayed in my pajamas for a long time instead of immediately throwing on some clothes and dashing through my day.  I wore my pajamas, and I played on the floor with my daughter.  I rolled around with her, and laid in her tent with her while she pretended to go to sleep and then made me kiss her Red Fraggle doll.  I tickled her until peals of laughter rang through my entire house, and were met with cries of "AGAIN!" each time I would stop.  I read her books, and snuggled with her on the couch.  I made her toast, and I laughed as she gave me an enthusiastic "Tank ooo!" when I handed the plate to her.  She counted to five on her own, and correctly named some letters from the alphabet in one of her books, then named off all of the colors in her book about colors except for green, which she stubbornly refuses to remember. 

When I put her down for her nap, and finally got myself showered and ready to go out to grocery shop and manage the responsibilities I had for the day, I found myself realizing that this might be the happiest I've ever been.  Not to say that there aren't struggles, I hate that my husband is never available and that his work and school take up so much of his time, and I wish there was more time the three of us could spend together.  I still struggle with having no support system, and not having anyone I can be open or honest with, and that my social interaction comes largely from a nearly two year old, but on the whole, I think this is the first time in years that I can look around say that, yes, I am happy.  I am often exhausted, and frazzled, and sometimes at the end of my patience with the world, but this life I have in front of me is pretty beautiful.  And it's not one of those mom things like "Oh, I had a baby and suddenly everything was happy" because that's not it at all.  It's just that there have been so many years of absolute darkness in recent memory, and it feels like that cloud has been lifted for a little bit, and the sun is having a chance to shine through, and the little things are easier to notice and appreciate than they have been before.  I needed that reprieve.  I needed a little bit of light.  I'm just learning to appreciate it again.