Monday, January 25, 2016

Subconscious Wisdom

First of all, my postpartum depression post has quickly become the most viewed one I've ever written. You are all amazing - thank you for all the support. I hope that post has helped many of you in some way.

Here's a bit of an expansion on that. I mentioned that I had two dreams that led to my decision to take meds; they were so vivid and spoke so clearly that I still recall them in detail seven months later.

The First

Tickle was two and a half months old, and I couldn't admit to myself yet that I was experiencing PPD. And then I dreamed.

I saw a drawing. That was it: a simple drawing that could have been a cartoon clipped out of a newspaper. It was an alphabet quilt, colored in brown scale on a bright white background. Each square of the quilt was its own letter, with a corresponding animal family: A for alligator, B for bear, and so on. But in each panel, one parent played energetically with the child and smiled happily, while the other parent sat by themselves to one side, either looking away or looking at the other two as they played, wearing an expression of worry or anger or sadness.

I especially remember the zebra family. The baby zebra was so happy with the little wooden train (with an expression that Spousal Unit calls "unfettered joy"), pushing it while the mom smiled and lovingly rested a hoof on his back. But the zebra dad was sitting by himself, looking away, visibly upset.

On waking, I immediately realized that yes, I'd been feeling depressed. It's not like I'm a stranger to the feeling; I've dealt with it most of my life. But I was able to acknowledge that it was more than hormones and difficulty adjusting, because the thing that struck me most about the dream was that in each panel of that quilt, a parent was missing out on his or her child having fun and growing up, unable to appreciate the good times.

I knew I had already missed out on too much and had to do something about it.

The Second

Two weeks later, I had been trying to follow a new routine, doing my best (but still failing) to actively hold back the worst of my depression while continuing to see my therapist. If I were to take meds, I had to start right away for them to have any effect before my maternity leave ended. I'd filled the prescription and even brought it home, but still felt unsure about taking them.

(Looking back, I don't know that I even remember why I was so divided. Part was probably not wanting to depend on a drug for happiness, which is a flawed view - it's more about allowing me to experience a proper range of emotions. I think it mostly had to do with taking them while breastfeeding. My doctor had given me the most well-researched prescription and assured me that any amount that might reach Tickle was negligible and harmless, but still, I worried. Because I'm really, really good at it. If it were an Olympic event, I'd take home the gold every time.)

And then I dreamed.

In the dream, Tickle was born as twins and immediately whisked away from me. Birth had been so intense that for a while, I thought it had been a dream, especially without the babies at my side; the nurses and doctors wouldn't tell me anything, either. But after repeated confrontation, they admitted what had happened, and I went off in search of my daughters in the cold, industrial-sized hospital. I finally found Tickle in the dark hospital NICU, which was lit up with awful red lights. I clutched her to me and it was clear that she had no issues at all - she was small and so very new, but healthy as could be. They had only taken her away from me because they (whoever they were) thought it was best for her. But I knew that was wrong. I knew that she needed me.

Holding her tightly, I left the NICU and encountered the hospital director and a few other staff, who had been trying to chase me down and keep me from finding the babies. I was so upset that when the old balding director provided a weak apology for the situation, I clutched newborn Tickle tightly in one arm and swung out at him with my right.

You know how in dreams, you always end up moving as though through water? Fighting is completely ineffective and you can never run fast enough. But that wasn't the case with this dream. I gave the director several solid punches, all while yelling at him and holding my little girl close. I was able to defend and protect her, because I would do anything for her.

I woke up feeling exhilarated and empowered, and knew that desire to do anything for her extended to improving my mental health. I took the first pill immediately, with a smile on my face.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Saying the Hard Things

Let me preface: I love my daughter.

I have loved her since Day 1 (however you might measure that). I'm continually amazed at all the things about her - from the way she stared at everything so intently the moment she was born to all the shifts and changes as she's become a different person over the last nine months. She's incredible and studious and smart and adorable and (yes) perfect.

I thought (hoped) it was just hormones at first. Then I thought it was just trouble adjusting to this big life change. Then I called it by its true name (at least, in my head) and tried to ignore it, and then hoped it would go away on its own. I'm sure many other mothers do this too.

I felt so guilty for having postpartum depression. I also felt angry for so many reasons: I couldn't figure out how to do it right (because surely I was doing it wrong). Spousal Unit had (still has) a different parenting style than me and we had trouble compromising (largely because of the depression and hormones). I was also angry because I love being a mom (!) so much more than I thought I would, and I felt like my entire life had been re-written with Tickle (i.e., Child Unit) as the focus ... and I was okay with it. I felt like that made me a bad feminist, or like I was betraying my old self. 

It was a complete 180 from who I once was. Because becoming a mother made me a different person. Is making me a different person. And it's been tough coming to grips with the facts that (a) I would completely give up everything I am in a heartbeat for my daughter, and (b) it's better for both of us if I don't, because I'm a better parent when I take proper care of myself - in all ways.

Medication and therapy have helped a lot. So have Spousal Unit's incredible patience and understanding. So has learning about PPD; it turns out that anger is one of its main symptoms. I had a hard time deciding to start taking meds back in July, but I realized that taking them was, for me, the best way to continue being a positive force in Tickle's life. Taking them was part of being a good parent. The way I felt before and after they kicked in was night and day, and it's noticeable even in pictures.

Before - June 2015, 2 1/2 months

After - September 2015, five months

It was like stepping into the wonderful technicolor land of Oz. And hearing Nessun Dorma's triumphant climax for the first time. And catching a whiff of that amazing dish your mom used to make when you were a kid, bringing beautiful memories to life before you.

All at once.

I had forgotten it was possible to feel so good. Best of all, I was still capable of feeling a normal amount of sad or angry when appropriate - a big difference from my last experience with antidepressants, 12 years ago. For several months, life was still difficult sometimes (usually due to lack of sleep), but a thousand times more wonderful. I can't imagine what it would have been like to go back to work while feeling like I did before.

While my mood isn't nearly as bad as it used to be, I've had more trouble since winter began and the days shortened. I've dealt with seasonal affective disorder in the past, and apparently having PPD doesn't give me a pass on it this time around. I've had to remind myself again that taking care of myself is taking care of my family.


Lately this means renewed diligence with taking the meds (because they're still important, damnit) and making time for my SAD light. It's hard to remember that it's okay to put myself first - when I feel like myself, I tend to give away the last cookie, do five "quick" errands before bed, and forget for an hour at a time that I wanted a glass of water. (Really - when I get caught up in something, I even forget that I'm hungry.) I need to remember that feeling well doesn't mean I can slack off on taking care of myself.

When I feel like a shadow-cloaked beast has taken hold of my soul, showering is a victory. Recognizing that the words I want to say are fueled by depression - and then holding them back - is a triumph. Through all of this - despite all of this - I have loved Tickle and Spousal Unit immensely. Even when I felt suicidal, my warped brain felt that course was the best thing for my family (again, I'm no longer feeling like this, but I still have rough days). I'm emphasizing this because of how often PPD is misunderstood. I want to be transparent about it so that others know that feeling like this doesn't make you broken. It doesn't make you terrible. And asking for help doesn't make you weak.

I almost didn't write this post because I don't want Tickle to ever think that my PPD and other depression means I didn't love her during those times. I don't want her to think she isn't enough or that anything other than my biology was to blame. But not talking about it is the easy thing, and I don't want her to think that the easy thing is the right thing. I don't want her to be shy away from doing difficult things or having complicated discussions.

I don't want her to feel embarrassed by or scared of her own feelings.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Dichotomies of Parenting

Parenting so far has been an adventure in ups and downs.

Strength and Weakness of Body

My daughter's birth went well. I was healthy throughout pregnancy and she was born with no complications. I'm still amazed at the fact that after she was born - after birthing a freaking child - they gave me ibuprofen, and it was enough to manage the pain. My body makes food for my daughter while I'm busy doing things like taking pictures or cleaning poop off the floor. I was able to function week after week without REM sleep.

That said, the first week was a trip. I don't deal well with lack of sleep, even now that I have a three-month-old. In the first week, I got so dizzy from lack of sleep and weird hours that I nearly fell over several times. It was enough to make me feel nervous about carrying her from room to room; thankfully, Spousal Unit was home during that time as well. I also got a painful infection, and later that month, I was sick enough that I had to get two liters of IV fluid just to keep from being admitted to the hospital. Once I was finally cleared to hold my daughter again (10 hours later felt like forever), I had to do it while wearing gloves and a mask. But my setbacks don't seem to have bothered her much. She's grown steadily; I marvel at her ability to do what seems like little things, like holding a toy and taking note that the stuff on the other side of the window isn't like the stuff inside the house.

Joy and Sorrow at Gaining

I was in the unique position (though probably not as unique as I think) of having to decide, quite actively, whether or not I wanted a child. (Let's not even start on the idea of more than one.) I was torn. Decision made, this naturally leaves me wondering a bit at what life would have been like had I chosen differently. Everything about this new life seems so strange at times; just the phrases "I'm a mother" and "I have a daughter" still have a foreign ring to them. (Luckily, there's Zoloft for that; see "weakness of body" above.)

But I do come back to joy again, especially when every time she wakes up, I get a huge smile and legs that kick in excitement. I remember that she will grow, is growing, and (especially after getting a few hours to remember that I am more than just a parent) I just want to spend all evening holding her and hearing her babble.

I Am a Bad/Good Scientist

I am often mistrustful of my scientific instruments. Last week, I attempted to measure my daughter's length for her three-month records, but ended up not writing it down because some part of me does not believe that she really reaches the number 23 on the yellow tape measure. The numbers are all there in stark black contrast, yet I suddenly disbelieved the tape measure. Perhaps I thought it had skipped a number, or the number order changed in the night. Despite the data, I also sometimes jump to the conclusion that if a mosquito bites her, she is definitely going to get malaria. (She's not.)

Similarly, I have a hard time believing that these two pictures are of the same baby.

Two weeks old

Eleven weeks old

Sometimes I even have a hard time looking at her and remembering that she started out so small - that I grew her. That my romaine lettuce salad turned into a heart, and a can of pineapple involuntarily consumed in one sitting became neurons and synapses firing that would eventually yield a smile.

But I am also reconsidering all the things I once took for granted - rerunning old experiments to be sure I haven't missed anything. Apparently a sweater hanging on a chair is fascinating! Who knew that the cat was such a marvel? Consider the sunlight on wood floor, and the way it contrasts with shadow. I'm documenting everything for future review.

And I find myself running the "boop your nose" experiment over and over again, just to hear her laugh.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


The beautiful label looked something like this. But more heavenly.

Long ago at work, we received an incredible stash of gifts from our Taiwanese counterparts. They were provided as we began working with them and included several delicious teas and sweets.

But the best thing of all was an abnormally sized jar of honey, gorgeous, tall and made of glass with a beautiful floral label and covered in a swooping, elegant font beyond my capacity for understanding. I didn't dare touch it; from whence had these gifts come? Were they available to all, or meant to be parsed out for those who worked on the Taiwan project? I didn't know and therefore let the shining bottle be, though an angelic choir seemed to ring out whenever I saw it.

At some point after the jar's grand opening, a label was affixed to it. A serious label, made with a label maker and declaring in bold, English capital letters beside the swooping Taiwanese that this was a jar of PUBLIC HONEY. I wondered whether, prior to the label being affixed, this had been a jar of private honey, which conjured up questions I dared not consider in the workplace lest the wrath of HR fall upon me and relinquish me of my job. (I'm an editor; they pay me to look for double entendres so they can be avoided. Stop judging me.) Nonetheless, I decided to merely be grateful for the opportunity to enjoy some tasty foreign bee spit.

It was glorious, a nectar of the gods that somehow missed its flight to Mount Olympus and wound up in the kitchen instead, between a plethora of plasticware and packets of creamer. Peach was not only this honey's flavor and scent - it was the core of its being. Where did the peach stop and the honey begin, or vice versa? There was no dividing line. The smooth texture - nay, lack of texture - blended itself thoroughly with any cup of tea. It transformed bowls of mushy oatmeal into heaven-sent ambrosia.

I am ruined for all other honey.

Unfortunately, being so thoroughly enjoyed as it was, we somehow took its presence for granted and never thought to document that such wonder had once existed in our lives, and we have no images to remind us of yesterday's flavor now that its time has passed. But it lives on in my mind and comes swooping back to memory whenever I taste an inferior blend. You, dear reader, must unfortunately take my word for it: PUBLIC HONEY changed my life for the better, and though it is gone from the jar, it lives on in my mind.

(And cell composition.)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Letter to Michael Jordan

*Following is a rather detailed discussion of bacteria and other gross stuff. Finish your breakfast before reading.*

Dear Michael Jordan,

Please be advised that I have within my possession an item that may or may not contain enough of your DNA to clone you. I suggest that you come take it away, because otherwise it may never leave the house.

Back in his wild and carefree teenage years, Spousal Unit's first job was as a country club caddy, and one glorious day, he got to caddy not for you, but for your assistant. You spent several hours gallivanting across the course, whacking some balls and talking about others (of the basket/base persuasion, I'd imagine) while Spousal Unit washed your balls.

He was thrilled, and understandably bragged about it to all his family members upon coming home. (This would have been more impressive to his brother, I imagine, if it hadn't also been his birthday.)

But back to that DNA sample, from which we might be able to engineer a better baseball player. No, Spousal Unit did not surreptitiously sneak the band aid off your finger - that would have been particularly gross and more than a little creepy. But at the end of the course, you gave him your nearly empty Gatorade bottle to throw away.

It's the quenchiest! (Source)

Yes, Spousal Unit kept your backwash-filled Gatorade bottle. He didn't even dump out the liquid (which looks like a biohazard even before adding spit to the mix). And he has kept it for fifteen years. For ten years, I've had to either look at or simply be in the presence of this filthy old bottle contaminated by your lip gunk and sweaty palms.

After the most recent move, I "forgot" to remove it from our battered old car, and it remains on the floor of the back seat along with a frisbee, an ice scraper, and various coinage and dirt. (I considered including a picture, but I don't even want to look at it to aim the camera properly.) However, with an infant soon be added to that mix, I worry that this old bottle will contaminate my child with its fifteen-year-old bacteria just by its mere presence on our property.

I don't blame you in the least for Spousal Unit keeping it, but there remains the fact that despite my repeated begging and disgusted requests, he will neither relinquish it nor dispose of its contents. I'm of the opinion that he's unlikely to do either unless prompted by your holy self. Please have delivered some worthy replacement item that I can at least surreptitiously wash when he's not looking.

Not a germophobe but just rather grossed out,

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


It's been busy at the abode. Spousal Unit turned 30; he threw me a surprise party; I turned 30.

We gained a furnace and a fetus. Oberon had bladder and jealousy issues (he apparently doesn't like my new hormones). We discovered a wasp nest the size of a volleyball (abandoned) and the neighborhood trick-or-treating status (decent). Work has been insane for both of us, to the point where it's a perpetual madhouse.

But we manage. The anxiety of having a room dedicated to the new stroller and baby clothes is balanced by the excitement of having finished the Tickle's first sweater (Spousal Unit named it; don't worry, that will change).

Child's Placket-Neck Pullover by Joelle Hoverson

The worry of whether I'm eating enough omega 3s is balanced by the joy of steak. (I promised myself I'd pay attention to my cravings in case they're saying something important. To quote Spousal Unit, the Tickle doesn't know I'm vegetarian and doesn't care.)

Steak AND lobster!

The stress of whether there will be enough money for three months of maternity leave is balanced by the quiet daydreams of imagining myself out in the garden come springtime, little one in its carrier as we enjoy the sun, however briefly.

The fear of slipping on our now-icy driveway is soothed by a big bag of salt and imagining this time a year from now, when the Tickle is more than just a light flutter, old enough for its attention to be captured by snow.

And exhaustion is eased by Spousal Unit's excitement. That's one of the best things about all of this so far: he's so clearly thrilled and devoted and full of love for this little person who's barely half a pound right now. He tells it bedtime stories, calls me his "pregnant Norwegian queen," and jumps to help with anything at all when I so much as sigh (and he helps with visible joy).

With that in our lives, we will be more than okay.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Letter to OreIda: A Modest Proposal

I'm a fan of potating.

Dear OreIda,

I write to you with joy in my heart after having consumed half a bag of tater tots. These crispy, chewy, lightly salted pinnacles of starchy excellence are often the highlight of my weary days, when I make it to dinner time only by keeping thoughts of their golden perfection in mind (often accompanied by a heavenly choir).

It can come as little surprise to you then that I write not only to praise tater tots, but also to request a nationwide french fry ban.

No, I am not one of those obsessed with calling them "Freedom Fries" instead. I do not stand before you with a flag as my Cape of Justice and a trusty eagle sidekick on my shoulder. I merely wish tater tots to have the rightful respect that is due to them. They deserve a place beside every hamburger, every sandwich, everywhere. For what are french fries but an inferior, long-legged imposter?

I also request this ban of the inferior potato so that the infamous Spud War of 2014 can at long last come to an end. My Spousal Unit has fallen on the side of evil and is a championer of all things french fry. I narrow my eyes and eat with relish every baked tot in an effort to show him that he's missing the best part of life on this earth. However, he continues about his misinformed lifestyle, and we have not known a peaceful night's rest since this war began yesterday evening. I do not wish to see him succumb to the ways of shepherd's pie and potato soup.

Should I have the wherewithal and the necessary sticking power, I will one day seek to ban all other forms of potato as well. For who would want the sad squish of mashed potatoes when there could be a crispy, golden tower to illuminate a steak? Who would seek the excessive crunch of hash browns over this starchy idol of all spuds everywhere?

I begin, however, by eliminating my enemies one at a time. Hear my plea: Stand up for all that is right in the world. Stand up for that which is good and right and perfectly textured.

Stand up for the tater tot.

A proper starch aficionado,
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...