Writing Through Motherhood

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

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This article was written and abridged for the publisher, Crosshair Press.  You can click here to read their published version.  (And, for what it's worth, abridging an article is hard work.  I think they did an amazing job of keeping the spirit of the article while fitting it into their space.)

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Sit down.

Computer on.

Open file.

Deep breath.  Cup of coffee.  Quick reread.  Fingers over keyboard.  Type-

“Mommy, can I have a banana?”

It’s the three-year-old.  He can reach the bowl where the fruit is stored, but he hasn’t quite managed the art of peeling the banana yet.  I get up and grab a banana, ripping through the skin to get him started, and sit back down. 

Another swig of coffee.   Another deep breath.  And go-

“Nanananana!”

The one-year-old has now seen what his older brother has and he’s not amused.  He casts his glances between the bowl on the counter that he’s not yet tall enough to reach and me, sitting at the table.  I get up again and get a banana; this one, I peel, slice, and put into a bowl.

Sit down.  Deep breath.  Reread the same section I’ve just read and think about what to write next.  Fingers hover and-

“Mommy, can I play on my tablet now?  I’ve finished with my reading.”

Seven-year-old.  She’s a crazy fast reader and, although she told me that she was reading three chapters of her higher-than-grade-level fiction book (which I thought would buy me a tad more time), she’s done already and lingering by the table.  She reads through the paragraph on the screen.  “What’s that word mean?” she says, pointing to the name of a demon.

“Nothing, it’s- yes, yes, you can tablet for a little while.”  I try to shoo her away without being annoyed.  She bounces to her room with a smile and, in moments, I hear a Minecraft tutorial video start.

I exhale a deep breath.  I can totally do this.  I’ve promised myself that I’m going to try and write 250 words throughout my day.  That’s about a page- surely, I can get that done.  I rub my temples which, now, are starting to throb to the beat of the catchy tune playing on the Signing Time DVD that I thought would keep my younger two happy for twenty minutes (before the banana eating began) so that I could write those 250 words.  I take the familiar position of a writer at their computer and, for the third time, reread a paragraph that now I’m starting to think I can quote by heart.

“Mommy?  Mommy?  Mommy?” 

It’s my other seven-year-old; while his twin sister was working on reading, he was working on handwriting and spelling.  As a child with autism, he tends to be very routine oriented and once his script starts, I know that I should settle in to make the correct responses.  I close the computer and vow to try again later.

Writing as a mother to young children has its challenges; writing as a homeschooling mother adds a new layer to the work-life balance.  While I am secure in the knowledge that home education is the correct choice for our family, I also feel as though I am in a constant battle between what needs to happen (schooling, play, housework, etc.) and what I need to happen (writing, preferably with coffee while it’s still hot).  The heart and mind are willing, but the flesh is weak.  If I had to select a piece of my life that I struggle most with, it isn’t the sleepless nights but rather the writingless days.

All of this being said, I do get work done.  My husband is a great source of support and he will put in a long day as a scientist only to come home and, without a break, move right into the role of World’s Most Fun Daddy.  He will take the kids to the playground or into the backyard, weather permitting, or downstairs to our family room, where they can burn off that nonstop energy all children seem to possess.  While most weeknight playtimes are enough for me to get dinner finished, those weekend Daddy Times have been the biggest help to getting more than a few hundred words written during the daylight hours.

My in-laws live close by and, for years, have taken the older kids for two mornings each week.  Recently, my youngest started going with the older three, which has given me a few hours to work on different tasks.  Writing hasn’t yet made the list, but I hope to change that!

Last summer, I even hired a preteen mother’s helper so that I could finish the final edits on my last two books.  Those eight hours each week were a godsend and my children all benefited from their summertime big sister.  When our newest baby joins us in late spring, one of my first plans will be to line my helper up for some summertime hours.

Even with the additional assistance, I find that writing takes a backseat to everything else going on in my life.  While I feel an internal need to write every day, there is a physical need to make sure that my family is fed, has clean laundry, isn’t living in squalor, and that my children are educated according to their strengths, weaknesses, and abilities.  The two “needs” don’t compare and, when something has to give, it’s writing that does. 

We have tried a variety of methods to combat this as a family.  I’ve tried leaving immediately after dinner to get writing done during the week, but if I’m hiding downstairs or in my bedroom, eventually the kids find me.  Writing in their presence, even with additional adult help, isn’t possible without the noise and interruption that young children naturally create.  Getting out of the house isn’t always feasible; while I love our local coffee shop, by the time I get there, grab a drink, find a workspace, and get myself set up and ready to work, I’ve lost at least a half hour.  Factoring in that I need to be home an hour or so later, can make the entire process frustrating. 

Part of this is me and my personality.  I’m most comfortable working in my own space; since having children, “my space” has become “our space”.  In some instances, it’s become “their space” completely.  Trying to recreate my non-mothering writing life does nothing but continue to inspire my frustration and yet, it is my fall back.  If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result, then I am the textbook image of a lunatic.  However, I find my writing habits to be some of the hardest to break.

So, what’s a writing mother of young children to do?  Is there any hope of balancing the homeschooling of toddlers and primary aged children with the work and research of writing? 

Before I had children, I had a steady writing gig for a tristate magazine and wrote a handful of articles for other publications while working full time as a branch library manager.  Being a librarian had been a childhood goal alongside writing and it felt like such an achievement to balance both.  Yet, it wasn’t easy.  I researched and wrote instead of spending time relaxing with my husband; he had his own desires and tasks, so this didn’t cause friction, but it was still a sacrifice.   I was willing to make it, as was he, in the pursuit of a byline and a paycheck.  When my twins were toddlers, I finished and published two books, thanks to part-time preschool; it took me years before I had anything publication ready after that.   

I struggled to meet my publisher’s desires and the needs of my growing household and, by the time my now three-year-old was starting to walk, I was wondering if I would ever write anything other than a sporadic blog post again.  But it was when he was a new walker that I began working on what would become the sequel to a previous novel and I started the trilogy that has fulfilled me as a writer.  Was it easy?  No.  Did it take way longer than I would have thought?  Yes.  But nothing worth having comes easy and, at least in my life, it seems that nothing worth its weight comes without some struggle.

Adding in another baby (and with his birth, a nasty bout of Postpartum Depression), I once again was in the funk of the wordless writer.  Everything suffered before I got a hold on my life again, but it was that experience that birthed my most popular article to date.  I have received letters from countless women to thank me for sharing my walk through the darkness of PPD that they, themselves, had tread.  Who would have thought that from that pain, there would have been the solace that a writer can only find through writing?

Adding children into my writing career has been hard.  The needs for my time and attention are multiplied while both are greatly diminished.  My writing resume boasts fewer lines post children than it did before and, in some ways, I suppose this can be viewed as a failure.  However, as I look at it, I see something else.  I see six books, a handful of articles, and a life well lived.  I see a stack (albeit a small one) of things that I’ve created next to the most beautiful, compassionate children- children that I’ve helped to raise, shape, and love.  Children who have done the same to me.  We often think that it is we who teach our children, but that misses the mark.  Without my children, I wouldn’t be who I am today.  Without them, my best writing would have never happened.  I never would have written my most recent trilogy, if not for our family’s introduction to the autism spectrum and all the beauty and pain it entails.  I wouldn’t have shared a journey through PPD, had I not battled through eight months of hell after my youngest son.  These are, quite possibly, my best works; without the hardship of working through the challenges, they never would have happened. 

As I write, my children play around me underfoot.  It is loud and messy.  There are constant interruptions.  The part of my brain that longs for the quiet of a library and a cup of hot coffee is annoyed beyond measure.  But the part of me that is evolving into a homeschooling mother writer- an evolution that is over seven years in the making and continues to be shaped daily- looks at the chaos with a smile.  My daughter plays with my youngest son, teaching him how to make melodies on a toddler piano.  My three-year-old splits his time between reading to his action figures and kissing my belly, telling his baby sister that he can’t wait to meet her.  My older son is practicing sign language and singing to me, stopping to use his newfound “excuse me” to show me something new every so often.  Is it ideal for working on the great American novel?  Probably not; but it’s still absolutely perfect.

Happy V-Day

Monday, January 23, 2017

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When I was pregnant the first time, at the very end of 2000, the idea that I would miscarry never crossed my mind... until I did.  After what felt like forever, when I finally got pregnant around Halloween in 2007, once I crossed into the magical second trimester, the thought that I wouldn't see those beautiful babies open their eyes or cry their first cry was never a thought.  I didn't even mark the 24th week on my calendar, because it was a no-brainer that I would get there and beyond.  I mean, sure, I'd probably deliver preemies, but it wouldn't be that big of a deal.  Multiples were born prematurely every day, spent some time in the NICU, and were fine.  It would be fine.  But then... it wasn't.

By the time I was pregnant with Alexander, the 24th week was well marked on my calendar.  Mid-January was my line in the sand.  January 11, 2009...  We would make it.  We were watched.  There were no indicators that my loss of Nicholas and Sophia was anything other than a fluke.  Right?  But wrong.

By the time I was pregnant with Bobby and Maya, in March of 2009, I chanted that 24th week like a mantra.  It was a part of every single prayer.  August 15th.  We just had to make it to August 15th.  Peter's birthday was few days prior and the only gift I could hope to give him was still being pregnant.  And finally, after TVC on board and month upon month of bedrest, there we were.  24 weeks.  With all it's fear and relief.  And then, one more day, just one more day.... September 10th, they were born with tiny cries and bright eyes, and things almost felt right in the world.

I never thought I'd have to consider another 24th week.  But then came Michael's and Lucas's  (for Lucas, I didn't even write a 24 week post... I did one at 27w.)  To say that life was different and busy is an understatement but, honestly, the 24th week, while something I knew, was something I forced myself to walk away from.  I couldn't just want that anymore.  I had to be okay with whatever happened.  I needed to be.  I knew that I'd be broken should something happen to one of the boys, but, I knew that, no matter how much I wanted to be, I couldn't be really broken.  I had the twins.  They needed me more than I needed myself.

And, as this pregnancy with Anna has gone forward from week to week, I have four little ones who need me to live for them, regardless of what could happen.  And yet, here we are.  24 weeks.  Viability day,  If Anna were born today, a hospital couldn't turn us away for life-saving help.




It hurts to think that yesterday even, a hospital could have opted to not save the life of this bouncing baby girl who kicks and dances and responds to her siblings as they read to her and snuggle against my belly. But today, the game changes.  Today, she is considered viable.  The odds would be stacked against her, no doubt, but they would try.

Less than 4 weeks from now, we will be where Bobby and Maya were born.  Less than 100 days from now, she will be here.  At this point, we are looking at a 38-39 week delivery.  So, early May.  I've already started clearing my schedule of things; most everything is over in April for me, just because, as much as I 'think positively', I also can't shake fully my history.

But in many ways, I choose daily to let go of the fear.  As Michael's pregnancy showed me and Lucas's reinforced, there is not much that I can do, outside of live. 

And so live we do.  Each day, every day, moving forward until the day that this very special little girl enters the next phase of her journey, here on the outside, with us.

We Need To Talk

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

3 comments
I am humbled by the emails and messages I've received from women (from all over) sharing their stories of Postpartum Depression.  Over the last few days, I've read each one and have mourned for the months and, in some case, years, these moms have lost to the darkness.  Some of the stories have haunted me and I've found myself crying for them and what they are suffering through.  One mom shared that she was contemplating and arranging her own suicide when she happened to read the Scary Mommy article, and that she was writing me, in tears, because she knew she needed help but just didn't know where to turn.  Several people, including friends, shared how their loved ones took their own lives due to their PPD struggles.  And yet there are more emails from survivors, telling me that my words defined their lives for a period and that they are grateful to finally be on the other side, whether just stumbling forward into the light or basking in its warmth.  Family members have opened up about their journeys- things that, from the outside looking in, I never saw, that none of us did.  And perhaps that is the most telling.  Friend after friend telling me how sorry they are for what I went through because they never knew... They never saw me struggling, that they thought I was doing a great job and had no idea that I was barely holding on.

This, I think, is one of the saddest things of all.  When we need help the most, we hide that from the world.  We suffer in silence, alone, when there are those who would throw us the rope, drag us into the light, or even sit in the darkness with us, convincing us to walk forward.  When you think of how much effort goes into the face we put on for fear that someone- anyone- might see the cracked fa├žade and how much our PPD is destroying us, it becomes all the more sad to realize that by putting that effort into reaching out, we might be saved.  But in the trenches, it is impossible to see.  Now, I can say, "yes, I should have reached out.  I had so many  people who would have helped me."  Yet, months ago, that thought was unthinkable.  All I knew was that they would judge me, think I was weak, think I was an unfit mother, want to take my children from me.  And, even though I felt worthless and not good enough for my kids, the idea that I wouldn't have them... that they would be taken from me... that thought was too much to bear.  It doesn't matter that the thoughts were unfounded; those were the reverberating, echoing thoughts in the pit and, surrounded by that voice in my mind, there was nothing else.  There was no choice but to soldier on, to struggle, to nearly lose both the battle and the war.

Another comment that I've received by more women that I want to believe is that they did reach out to their care providers.  They called OBs and GPs; they told their doctors that they were struggling and wanted to self harm, and they were turned away.   Let me say that again: these women went to their care providers with their PPD and they were sent home.  They were told that, because they didn't want to harm their children and only wanted to hurt themselves, that it wasn't really Postpartum Depression and that they needed to take a break and get more sleep.

This.  This is appalling.  It makes me sick to my stomach.  What an everlasting failure- and not just to these moms, but also to their babies, their older children, and their spouses and partners. 

I have felt enormously lucky to have an OB who follows up and calls to check in during the postpartum period, and that wasn't enough for me to reach out, even though I know that I could have and he would have helped me.  We've been together nearly ten years now and, in addition to trusting him with my care (and that of my children), I have seen a doctor who really cares.  He knows Peter and I- our interests, our likes, even our drink preferences.  Seeing and talking to him isn't just another doctor's appointment, and it makes a huge difference, both in the level of care but also in the level of comfortability with my care and the decision making process.

I feel fortunate enough to be part of a community of wonderful midwives and mothers who care and reach out, not just to bring meals when someone is sick or to get together for playdates, but to be those hands that link together to pull you out of the black hole.  Having a baby with the practice isn't just another day at the office; these midwives reach out over and over throughout the mother's postpartum and the monthly mother's groups give moms a time to come together, to share their happiness and fears, and to have a safe place to share the ups and down of motherhood, parenthood, wifehood, and life.  These communities exist all over, and yet, for many women, they are nonexistent. 

We are not meant to birth in a vacuum.  We are not meant to be home alone, days after bringing new life into this world, trying to figure out how to exist with a completely dependent newborn and a body that is rapidly changing.  We are social creatures, meant to be surrounded by loving companionship.  50% to 85% of new mothers in industrialized nations experience the “baby blues,” and 15% to 25% (or more) experience postpartum depression.  This article goes on to cite major differences in how mothers in other countries are expected to rest, to be secluded from and cared for by others, and how the postpartum period is recognized as a distinct part of womanhood that is meant to be restorative for the recuperating mother.  In the U.S., however, we not only expect women to go home, usually to little or no help and, in some cases, to return to work right away, while also expecting them to entertain guests who come, not necessarily to help, but to coo and play with the new baby.

Now, I do think to argue that other countries have nonexistent PPD, as the above link describes, is unfair to the mothers all over the world who struggle with the hormonal crashes that are likely to blame for the initial step into Postpartum Depression.  As we know from more current research, PPD is a worldwide epidemic.  Citing a report from the WHO, the aforementioned site makes note that "Perinatal depression is one of the most prevalent and severe complications of pregnancy and childbirth."

What I do think is key can be summed up in this article, which states: "“A culturally accepted postpartum period sends a powerful message that’s not being sent in this country,” said Dr. Margaret Howard, the director of the Day Hospital for Postpartum Depression in Providence, Rhode Island. “American mothers internalize the prevailing attitude—‘I should be able to handle this myself; women have babies every day’—and if they’re not up and functioning, they feel like there’s something wrong with them.”"

I think that we have a serious attitude problem and it is one that is coming at the cost of new mothers and, in some cases, newborn babies as well.  We are a country that has long forgotten the "lying in" or "mothering the mother" model that used to be present.  We are a country that not only expects new moms to do it all, but we tell them that too- with our magazines and our commentaries on what they should  be doing and how they need to do this or that.  It isn't just the money making, have-the-baby-and-GTFU model of hospitals that's to blame; we as a society are to blame.  The problem is that no one recognizes the new mother as a recuperating person, and she does not see herself as one. For the mourning or the injured, we will activate a meal tree. For the woman who is torturously fatigued, who has lost one 10th of her body’s blood supply, who can scarcely pee for the stiches running up her perineum, we will not.

Did you know that death by suicide and homicide are more common than “traditional” causes of maternal mortality in the U.S., such as infection or hemorrhage?
I really could go on and on and on.  That should be terrifying.  These are just the 'mother only' top death stories in a quick search.  These don't include the mother and baby stories, which seem endless, or the stories where mothers kill their children.  Those mothers, especially, we want to throw the book at while completely missing the fact that they are possibly in need of serious help.

I don't know the answer, but I know that we aren't asking the right questions.  A questionnaire before hospital discharge is a joke; perhaps it will pick up something (and for that, wonderful) but most cases of PPD don't start in the hospital. By the time the depression hits, moms are in their own space, often well before their standard 6-8 week FIRST postpartum checkup.  By that time, it  could be too late; by that time, defense mechanisms by mothers afraid their depression would cost them their babies could be well in place, all the while these moms don't realize this could cost them their very lives.

This is a conversation we need to have.  It is one we have to have if we have any chance of getting these numbers down.  Can they be eradicated?  Probably not.  But it is lunacy to accept the current statistic that 2 in 100,000 births will end in maternal suicide.  To put this into perspective, each year, around 1,200 American mothers die in childbirth—meaning about 28 mothers die for every 100,000 live births.  That's death while birthing- 2 in 100,000 will die at their own hand after

It's not enough to say "I won't be a statistic".  We owe it to our daughters that they will not be a statistic.  We owe it to our sons that they wont be mourning the mother of their child.  We owe it to our grandchildren that they won't grow up without a mother who felt like she couldn't reach out for help.  Our generation has seen a massive increase in maternal mortality; this is a talk we can have.  We can reach out to the new moms in our community and, instead of telling them how great they look or how much they have it together, we can wash a load of dishes, bring a meal, soothe a baby so that they can shower and sleep- and then, perhaps most importantly, we can do it over and over again.  We can ask "How are you?  Really..."  and mean it.  We can look for the signs that something just isn't right and, should we see them, we can share our own struggles so that moms don't feel alone and encourage them to seek out help.  We can assure them that no one will think poorly of them or take their children; that, instead, these moms will find love, compassion, and understanding. 

If we are unwilling to do this, then we bear some of the responsibility every time we see an article of a PPD related homicide or suicide.  We have lost the village; it's time to build it back.

Thoughts on the Darkness

Monday, January 9, 2017

2 comments
Months ago, I wrote here about my struggle with Postpartum Depression, a struggle that almost led me to commit suicide.  It was a post that I found both difficult and cathartic to write, but it was something that needs to be said.  I often hear people say that they can't imagine homeschooling or having a large family or ...fill in the blank... and how I seem to have my shit together.  But in reality, I think that many of us are sometimes (maybe even often times) hanging on my a mere thread.  And that's not just hard.  It's terrifying.  I feel enormously lucky that I have friends and a supportive family to create my "village", who make things like writing and marathoning (and just having a free moment to myself sometimes) possible, but even that wasn't enough when I was under the blanket of darkness that PPD creates.  When I look back and think of what I almost lost...  It sucker punches me to the gut.  I shouldn't have felt that way for months.  No one should ever, ever feel that way.

Which is why I am beyond honored that Scary Mommy shared an adapted and expanded article based on my post Returning From the Dead, both on their webpage and with a link on their Facebook feed.  The article, as well as the blog post, describe what PPD felt like to me and how I almost most an irreversible choice as a result.  It also mentions that, in spite of knowing the symptoms, I didn't seek out help.

As I thought yesterday about the fact that my battle with PPD would be considerably more public by sharing it with SM, which has a massive readership of moms (and, from their Confessions page, dads and nonparents, too), I couldn't help but think about what my kids will one day think.  Will they, especially Lucas, whose birth was the impetus for my PPD, think that he is to blame?  Will he feel sad?  Will he realize that it was his smile, his laughter, his being here, that saved me from the edge? 

More than that, my thoughts led me to ask "Why?"  Why didn't I seek out help?  Why, in my moments of lucidity, when I could see that I was falling fast, didn't I reach out? 

Recently, my newsfeed has been full of articles of mothers who have taken their own lives after private struggles with PPD; some of them have killed their babies as well as themselves.  A common theme from those left behind is how they didn't know, how they would have tried to help.  So then why? 

I've read through the comments posted by readers and they break my heart. 
"I felt the same way." 
"I still feel robbed [of motherhood]."
"No one would have ever known."
"I look at photos but cant remember when they were taken."

I've gotten comments in mom's groups that I'm a part of, on my own FB page, and from strangers via FB messenger, telling me that my story was their story. 

I am humbled by their words and kind thoughts for me, but more than that, I find myself deeply disturbed by the epidemic of hidden PPD by the "survivors".  I don't want this for Maya or Anna, should they become mothers; I don't want this for my mothering friends.  I don't want this for any woman.  The stigma, the shame- those of us who have suffered through this nightmare and those of us who know someone who has must take a stand.

I watched the kids play in the snow the other day and I worried that they might one day find this article and think me weak or be ashamed.  But today, I hope they find it.  I hope they realize that their mother walked through her own private hell and made it back to them.  I hope they see, in my sharing this publicly, that they have nothing to be ashamed of in their own struggles and that there is never, ever shame in reaching out for help.  I hope they see just how close I came to the edge and that they always know they can reach out and my hand will be there willing and waiting to pull them back from their own ledge.

I don't only hope this for my own children, but for yours.  And for you. 

Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Psychosis, Antepartum Depression... These mental health issues that impact women when they are carrying and delivering the future of the world should not be hidden. 

We shouldn't be afraid to reach out for a helping hand or to seek medical treatment when needed. 

We shouldn't worry that someone will take our children from us or think we are weak, unworthy, or unfit. 

We have to realize that, in our darkness, we are strong- we are finding the light, pulling at it, refusing to let it go. 

We are warriors. 

We are survivors.

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If you think that you might be suffering from postpartum depression or if you can't (or won't) put a name to how awful you are feeling, there are resources available.  You can find anonymous help at http://www.1800ppdmoms.org/ and http://www.postpartum.net/.  Many hospitals also have lines that you can call to speak with someone.  While my PPD didn't present as wanting to harm my children, if you feel that your children may be at risk, please reach out to a friend, neighbor, family member, or even your local police department, and find a safe place for your children until you are able to get help for yourself.  You are not just a mom; you are the  mom.  You are worth more than you know, and not just because you are an irreplaceable mother.  You are worthy in your own right; please seek out help if you need it.  Don't wait until it's too late.





Mama Down

Saturday, January 7, 2017

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With a stomach bug, it's bound to happen.  First, the kids fall like dominos, then the parents.  In our case, it was Lucas then Bobby then Maya... Michael got skipped... and Peter and I fought with it off and on.   Maya had the worst of the fever and uncomfortableness; Bobby had the worst of the puking.  Then, Friday hit and Peter was sick to the point of taking the day off from work, which he rarely does for himself.  Last night?  Mama's turn.  The last two days, I've been in bed until nearly 11am.  Today, I didn't even get out of my bathrobe after my shower until, quite literally, moments ago.

Yuck.

Nothing says fun like dealing with the joys of a stomach bug while pregnant and trying to parent.  God love Peter, he got Lucas to nap and then took the older three out in the snow for some playing (and shoveling), so I had a nice forty minutes of quiet and no touching.  Since then, I've been covered in touching and have pondered the differences in being sick sans kids and being sick with them.

Before kids, when I got sick, nothing got done.  Now?  Those dishes still need washing and people still need feeding.

Before kids, you could literally stay in bed all day.  Now?  Even if you are in bed, someone will be with you.

Before kids, you could watch whatever you want on tv, while lounging.  Now?  I'm on the couch watching Bee Movie while covered in one sleeping toddler and having another child who wishes he were  toddler crawling on my legs.  (In fairness, Bee Movie ended an hour ago and since then, I've been subjecting the family to the NFL Playoffs).

Before kids, you could not eat and not care.  Now, you have to make dinner, no matter how crappy you feel, because other people depend on you to eat.

Before kids, your bathroom moments were private.  Now, there is the enduring of puking and pooing while explaining to your kids that a) you are okay and b) yes, it's gross and c) yes, it stinks.

Before kids, you were blissfully alone when you felt like crap, with no one to care for.  After kids, you are blissfully aware that your kids love you, as they snuggle all over you, tell you to get better (or, are like Michael, who demands that "YOU ARE NOT SICK!!!"), and try to take care of you while also taking care of their own needs that they can.

On the note of feeding the masses, I'm informed that people are hungry.  Good times.  Here's to hoping my cornbread lunch stays down!

The Struggle

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2 comments
I've made no secret of my eating disorder and weight struggles.  After the twins were born, I tried to rope in my issues and completed my first triathlon when they were 11 months old.  It took another month for me to choose to work on my eating disorder, but by the time they were 2 years old, I was in the best health of my life.  I think that, had my life stayed the same, I may have been able to continue on that journey easily (at least I like to think that) but life doesn't stay the same.  The only constant in change.

In 2011, I had my TAC placed and had a quick, 1 week recovery; in 2012, I ran my first marathon and was in the best shape I'd been in since high school.  I was a size 6 and carried a muscular 160 pounds on my 5'7 frame.  I felt great.  I looked great.  And then, I got pregnant.  Very unexpected and quite the shock.  I ran the entire pregnancy, completing my last race at 35 weeks.  Michael was born 2 weeks later.

I had put on about 30 pounds with his pregnancy, which wasn't considered problematic.  No problem... I was breastfeeding, I was running- I even ran the NYC marathon when he was 4 months old!  But the weight never came off, and that led me back down the dark spiral of disordered eating.  In spite of running, teaching fitness classes, and logging my diet, nothing seemed to help.  Everyone told me that breastfeeding would melt the pounds off but no... no melting.  And then, I got pregnant with Lucas.

Talk about being in shock and denial!  I still ran and taught 4 fitness classes a week, but by 28 weeks, I was exhausted all the time and by 30 weeks, I resigned from my teaching position and became a pregnant couch potato.  I had only lost 5 pounds of my Michael weight and then gained 20 more by the time Lucas made his 38 week appearance.

After Lucas, there was struggle.  A lot of it.  My eating habits went completely out of the window because I just felt like shit all of the time.  By the time he was 4 months old, I found myself across from a doctor saying that I just didn't know what the hell was going on.  My body was falling apart.  My joints ached.  I couldn't get out of bed in the mornings.  Peter literally had to get up to help me go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  At 36 years old, I felt 96 and I just.couldnt.do.it.anymore.  Testing revealed the antibodies for RA, which, in conjunction with my Hashimoto's was the culprit in making me feel like death made over.  After talking to Peter about the current pharmaceutical options on the market, I opted to try 6 months of a GF/DF diet and see if I had any pain relief.  It took 3 months, but I finally felt better physically.  After 6 months, I was able to reintroduce sheep and goat dairy, and then (in limited amounts) raw cow (and now pasteurized also) dairy.  I'm still GF and, in spite of attempting two different reintroduction attempts, that doesn't seem in the cards for more without a huge increase in swollen joints, pain, and hives.  I'll pass on that.  Oh, and then I got pregnant again!

I've talked about my struggle with PPD post Lucas, so I won't rehash that, but suffice it to say, that didn't help with my eating disorder, and so, finding out I was pregnant with this baby back last fall, after having only lost about 10 pounds from my pregnancy with Lucas in spite of running and breastfeeding, continued the downward trend.  I would throw up after each run, so after the second month, I gave that up.  Thankfully, 20 weeks saw me able to run again and I've been able to knock out 2 miles at a time without feeling terrible.  For a marathoner, I think the mental issue of "only 2 miles" is the worst of it.  I'm finally just so happy to lace up again that I can beat down the negative voice.  With the running came the ability to start regulating and logging my food again, although it's so much harder.  Lest anyone think I'm trying to diet, it isn't about that. Eating disorders are a mental issue; I tend to self punish with food.  Feeling like a crappy parent today?  EAT.  Crappy wife?  EAT.  Crappy in general?  EAT.  Sad? Angry? Frustrated? Exhausted? EAT EAT EAT EAT. Logging my food, regardless of calories or anything else, is a visual representation of my humanity.  It causes me to see myself as a person worth caring about.  Didn't eat breakfast and it's 10am already?  Stop and eat something.  Already eaten lunch and only an hour has passed but you find yourself in the kitchen because homeschooling is frustrating?  Try a glass of water instead and reevaluate... You haven't drank enough (because the app shows that) and you might be dehydrated.  It sounds like a small thing, but in the midst of the disorder you can't see it when it's there.  And the simple activity of recording the data is a step for me; it's the therapy, the plan, the walk towards remission.

It's hard.  It's so damn hard sometimes.  But just as I looked at the twins when they were not yet one and noticed them watching me eat... picking up on those hidden cues and nuances....I see it now.  I look at my kids and know they are watching.  I know that disordered eating has a large environmental influence.  For children with autism, eating tends to be a sensory stim and, with Bobby being so much like me in other ways, I worry about him.  At 7 years old, he is a massive, 12 year old sized boy.  He is proportional for his height and weight, and is built like a solid linebacker.  But that is only part of the equation.  I don't want him (or any of the kids) to see my disordered food relationship and think that is normal.  For the other kids, they may question it; but I don't know that he would.  Especially if the stimulation of eating was a pleasure (which we all know it is).  I find that I struggle to take care of me for me but when it comes to trying to recover for my kids, it becomes a necessity.  I can't let them see me like this, not if it means they will emulate it.  They can see me struggle.  They can see me fight.  They can see me falter and fail- and get back up. But they can't see the demons win.  If that happens, then they may feel like that's an option.

And it's not.

It can't be.

Not for them.  And not, because of them, for me. 

So, I will continue to struggle every damn day.  Every second, I will fight the romance of the food and the sugar and even, at times, the gluten which sounds nuts but man, drop that from your life and all of a sudden it's all you want. 

I will continue to get up and take the 20 minutes or the 30 minutes and do some sort of physical activity, even on the days when I'm too tired because kids were up all night or I don't feel good or I' swamped with crap to do.

I will force myself to make the better food choices even when the kids can't see me because true strength is created, not when others are watching, but when we know that only we ourselves can see.

I will be strong because they are strong.  Because they need me to be strong.  Because, even when I feel like I don't matter, they believe that I do. 

Christmas rolled around this year and, as most parents (and moms, I think, in particular) know, the whole gift giving aspect is more about your kids.  The tree was decorated, pretty packages were underneath the tree, and suddenly, one day, Maya appears with a little package she wrapped herself, complete with a construction paper card that she made.  I had no idea what she possibly could have done, seeing as Peter hadn't taken them shopping (and, in truth, since this new laptop I'm using was my gift from the kids, knowing that he wasn't taking them out for other gifts).  My mother-in-law told me that it was something Maya had asked her for, so I assumed it was some sort of heirloom but still... what in the world could it possibly be?

Come Christmas morning, I open this delicate card, slightly wrinkled from other presents being placed on top of it.


"For a very good mommy"... The last thing I feel most days is a "very good mommy".  But something my good friend, Typheni, recently shared with me, is that our kids don't remember the struggles, they remember our snuggles.  I think I need to take that to heart more. 

She drew our living room, complete with the tree and her gift underneath.  And what was the gift? 

Action heroes.

She gave me circa 1970s Star Wars action figures that were Peter and Robert's when they were kids: Han, Chewbacca, and Yoda.  Because they were my favorites.  I can't remember when I told her that... maybe it was when we did our Episode IV, V, and VI marathon for NYE 2015...  But somehow she took that to heart.  Later she told me that Yoga is smart, Chewbacca is strong, and Han is tough- "just like you, Mommy."

Smart. Strong. Tough.

I keep them, along with the card, on my night table as an ever present reminder that not only can I do this, but I will.

3 to 1

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

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So, Michael has, thus far, been the only child spared from the sickness.  Around 3am, Maya started throwing up.  As sad as the entire thing was, by that point, Bobby had been puke free for 2 hours and he got off the couch (where he had been since the last throw up session) and waited in the bathroom with Maya, then snuggled in bed with her.  Autism has many struggles; empathy in general and a fierce love for his twin sister are not among them.  When she went through her several hours of pukefest 2017, he was by her side.  And, when she was awake and just hanging out, he was snuggling with her. 

Lucas crashed for the most part during the early morning hours, thank God.

Michael crawled into our bed and I snuggled him off and on from around 2am-5am, when I finally went to sleep.  He stayed with me until 9am; but no puking and he seems to be fine.  So yay for that. 

Peter slept off and on with Bobby as he slept from 10pm-1pm, getting up whenever there was puke, then he was pretty much up the remainder of the night, with some dozing here and there.  I was on laundry and clean up duty, and laid down to snuggle Michael during the 2am time slot when he woke up, but didn't go to sleep until nearly 5.  That being said, I did get to sleep until nearly 11 this morning.  Michael was with me until 9am, and then my MIL took the three boys, who all were fine (YAY!) to her house.  Maya came into bed with me and we slept until 11am.  We went to the couch, where she put on football (a girl of my own heart) that was DVRed while I made her some soup that she didn't eat.  She's the first to have the stomach bug with a fever (102.2, poor thing). 

Peter actually went into work this morning because he's the biggest trooper I know.  He came home around lunch time, brought me some Tom Yum soup (I love it always but when I'm pregnant, I could literally eat it all day, every day), picked up Lucas from his parents (Lucas is now asleep in his crib), and then snuggled Maya, who had been asking for him.


I hated to wake him up, but he had mentioned having stuff to do in the afternoon at work.  I know he's exhausted.  But he never fails to put on the "World's Best Dad" hat when the kids need him.  Whether it's taking a long lunch to meet us on our field trip and catching up with paperwork late into the night, or slipping into the lab on a weekend so that he can take a day off during the week to celebrate a milestone, or something like this where he builds coming home to give his sick little girl feel better cuddles, he's a dad first.  It's something that people don't always see about him if they don't know him, but it's one of the things that touches me most about who he is.  The world could fall down around him and he wouldn't care as long as he could take care of the kids. 

So, three down, 1 still up.... three feeling good, 1 not so much.  But, thankfully, all Peter had was some early morning queasiness and all I've had was some long lasting nausea with no puking.  It could be worse.  And, in spite of a cumulative 20 pukes over the span of 12 hours, I can say that my living room, dining room, bathrooms, and kitchen all got some cleaned flooring, so that's a win, right? ;)

Feel better, 2017.  This isn't the way to start a new year!

Trashed

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

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I'm so tired and yet, at 11:30pm, I'm still awake... waiting on the laundry to finish so that I can throw in yet another load.

How much puke can two kids make?  At 4pm, Lucas started throwing up out of the blue.  He had been playing and then, poof!  Puke.  By 6pm, Bobby had joined him.  Unfortunately for all of us, his puke happened on the way to the dinner table, hit the table cloth, two dining chairs, Peter's leather jacket, and a significant portion of the floor.  Between the two of them, we are now up to 14 puke experiences, a half dozen showers, 5 loads of wash with at least 2-3 to go, and an empty bottle of Clorox spray.  God only knows what the next few hours will entail.  I'm alternating between praying that they are able to get some sleep and that the other two don't get whatever it is.

In general, I'm not great with puke.  I tend to be a sympathy puker and if there is one thing I hate, it's vomiting.  Being pregnant isn't helping and I'm overcompensating by being a potty mouthed bitch.  I nearly slipped on a pile of puke, to which I said loudly, "For F-s sake!".  And, of course, being Mom of the Year over here, Michael promptly repeated me.  Good work.  In addition to being a swearing, order barking, all around jerk to be around because I'm alternating between wanting to throw up myself, being super hungry, and having my body ache from carrying around a sick 15 month old or a 3.5 year old who is desperate for some attention/cleaning up puke/cleaning up everything, I'm on the verge of crying at the drop of a hat because when Peter throws that shit back at me with his own stressed out responses, I feel like he's being mean to me.  And so the cycle continues. In reality, we're just two trashed, exhausted parents trying desperately to care for sick kids, well kids, and the mess that happens from both.  That's much clearer by the light of my laptop; not so clear in the light from the bathroom sink as you're cleaning up a vomit laced bathtub.

God willing, there will be no more vomit in the 20 minutes that remains of tonight and, if we are lucky, none tomorrow.

#8 at 21 weeks

Monday, January 2, 2017

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We had our 20 week anatomy scan last week, which revealed a happy, healthy (and very active) baby girl.  We knew she was a genetically healthy girl before Thanksgiving, when the result of my NIPT came back, but opted to do the 20 week to find out if there was anything we needed to be concerned with that the NIPT wouldn't pick up.

I'm happy to say all is well!  Introducing.... Anna Maire!  EDD is 5/15/17 but we will be scheduling our cesarean for 5/8/17 at 39 weeks and, God willing, I'll get that far.
Anna Maire at 20w3d
Anna, pronounced with a soft a, /ah-nah/, comes from the Greek which comes from the Hebrew, and is for St. Anna the Prophetess, whose feast day changes and falls between Nicholas and Sophia's birthdays in February.  Maire, the Gaelic form of Mary, is pronounced /mare-ah/ and is for the Blessed Virgin Mary, as our daughter is due in May, the month for the Blessed Mother.


HNY 2017

Sunday, January 1, 2017

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I tell myself that today is  new day in a new calendar year and that I'll write every day: here, on paper, on a novel, something.  I tell myself that I'll do it because it's important, but I don't know that that is altogether true.  I want to believe it's true.  I want to promise myself that I'll write daily and mean it

But.

But I have so much on my plate.

But I have so much to do.

But there isn't enough time.

But.
But.
But.

I'm a butt full of excuses and buts.  I'm tired.  I'm still struggling with PPD and, now APD while pregnant.  It's not awful.  It's manageable.  But it's still a darkness just waiting to be invited back in.  Somedays I worry it doesn't actually need an invitation, but I tell myself it does, just to feel a bit stronger.  I'm not just tired, I'm exhausted: mentally, physically, spiritually.  This pregnancy, my kids, everything- they are kicking my ass.  I'm swimming with my head above water, but it's not pretty most times.

I find that I have less patience and I yell more.  I lose my cool more.  I have way less cool to lose.  Peter and I don't really talk like we used to.  There's simply not time and, when we steal it from somewhere, I find that the words I want to say (that I need to say) are elusive.

But it's a new year.  A time to start anew.  To burn the old in the Solstice bonfire and to believe in the hopes and dreams of a new year.  And I want to- I really do.  I want to feel like I can make a plan and make it happen. That I can find the energy and the will and the time.  That damn time that seems to slip away.

So instead of saying that I'll come back to this space every day, I'll just say that I'm going to try.  I'm going to try to make time to find myself again... Hopefully, that journey leads me to this space. :)

Happy New Year to you and yours.  May 2017 be a year of goodness and light.