because of them

Oh November, you bring with you such a mixed bag of emotions and moods and thoughts for me.

I love fall.  I do. I love crisp leaves and pumpkin spice lattes and leggings with boots and scarves.

But you make it so hard to really love those things with all the other stuff you bring with them.

With daylight savings time, you make my world darker, making me consider a SAD lamp every year. But I am cheap and delusional that I can get away without any SAD this year.

You also bring the end of the first marking period at work with it’s fluster of GET ALL THE THINGS DONE NOW week, so you know, stress and anxiety kicks in.

You also have the election.  Even when it’s a non-presidential election year, there is still something that we are supposed to vote for and people get jazzed up and political commercials take over the TV where there should be commercials for erectile disorder and tampons.  You know, light topics. And try as I might to ignore it, know my own beliefs and not get sucked into the opposing view, I do anyway.

And then there is that other thing about November.

That thing that was supposed to happen five years ago, but didn’t.  And then again four years ago, but didn’t.

I never know how to talk about my miscarriages.

I think I am in the minority of miscarriage survivors when I say that I don’t think of them as people that weren’t.  At least not most of the time.

I think about how our life would have been different if, five years ago, we started our family.  And I like to think that the spirits that were possibly in those small balls of cells…if there were souls in them…are in heaven with Cort’s dad.

But I don’t think of them as ever being full-fledged babies.

I don’t think of them looking like anything.

I don’t think of them and wonder about their futures…because they weren’t meant to have one.  That was not the plan.

That sounds harsh, doesn’t it?  It sounds cruel and insensitive.

I don’t think that about other people’s miscarriage.  Especially those who have suffered so many and have never had the blessing of a full term baby.

I read in my devotions not that long ago that everyone has a purpose in this world.  The ones who die young fulfilled their purpose quickly…even if we don’t know that purpose.  If the purpose is never revealed to us, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one.

I try not to play the “why” game.

I gave up on that game when Cort’s dad died.  There just wasn’t an answer that I was allowed to know.

I mean, I can conjecture from what I see has become of our life and how certain things wouldn’t be as they are without those tragedies, but I can’t say that was for sure the purpose of losing two pregnancies.

As I told my therapist last week, I never even thought of them as babies.

I’ve tried to.  I’ve called them babies, but after having Eddie and Charlie, that just didn’t feel right to me.

The first never progressed past a couple cell divisions before it quit.  It was my body that didn’t get that message.  My bodythought it was pregnant.  Had my body not mixed up that message, it would have passed without me ever knowing it was a miscarriage.

The second was a small dot on a screen.  But we never saw a heartbeat.

However, if I am being honest here, even seeing Eddie’s heartbeat for the first time didn’t convince me he was a real baby.  I know now that was probably a defense mechanism on my part.  And I am in no way saying anything about when I believe life starts (goodness knows I don’t want to start THAT debate here…this is about me and my experience only), I just don’t really grieve those lives that never were anymore.

I have a small box next to my bed with two hearts in it that represent those two pregnancies.

They were hugely important in my life.

The first convinced me I did, in fact, want to be a mother.

The second showed me my own strength and that I could get through physical pain that was greater than anything I ever thought I could endure.

Both pregnancies opened my eyes to who I am…a person I didn’t know I was.  A woman who was stronger and braver than I knew.

Both pregnancies are a puzzle piece to how our family was shaped.  How our attitudes toward loving each other fiercely and not holding grudges was fashioned.  How our persistent to be open in communication and our love for one another was created.

I know that those losses created an urgency of love and appreciation and living in the moment with those we love.

I know I am different because of them.  I know Cort is too.

I know Eddie and Charlie are seen through different eyes and loved with different hearts than they would had their not been loss before them.

But I don’t spend my November thinking about babies who weren’t born in this month.

And now, with the addition of my sweet new niece, Maria last weekend and the other niece, Lilly due in a couple weeks, I have two babies births to celebrate this month.

I don’t forget what I lost, but I don’t mourn it anymore either.

Instead I say a prayer of gratitude for all I have been blessed with despite the losses we have endured.

And we just are.

 

the penny reminder

Tuesday after dinner I had to go out to our local Mejier (much like Wal-Mart in the whole department store thing, but unlike Wal-Mart in the whole skeeze thing) for some supplies for a baby shower I am giving this weekend.

As Cort cleaned up dinner, Eddie announced he wanted to come with me.

Cort told him, “That’s up to mommy. ”

Normally, I would say, “no. it’s too close to bed time.  I won’t be gone long and you’ll have fun with daddy and Charlie.”

But since it was only just after 6pm, I said, “finish your dinner and you can come with me. But only if you can be a good helper. Can you be a good helper?”

“Yeah, Mom! I can! Let me go wash my hands and face!”

So off we went.

For anyone who has been around for awhile, you know I have a generalized anxiety disorder along with PPD/PPA.  After Eddie was born I was paralyzed with fear to go out with him alone.  Not because I thought he would get hurt, but because I was afraid I couldn’t handle it.

It was easy to avoid going out alone with Eddie.  When he was 4 months old, Cort lost his job and became a stay at home dad for a year and a half.  He did most of the errands during the day and had no problem taking Eddie with him.  In fact, he planned it so they would get out of the house at least once a day.

If I went out for anything, it was to pick something up on my way home from work.  Alone.

When I had Charlie, I had over a year of therapy to work on my anxiety and I had discovered baby-wearing. Charlie and I got out about once a week to do all sorts of things.

It was still rare that I took Eddie out alone though.  Not because I was anxious, but because we didn’t have tons of alone time.

So Tuesday night when he wanted to come along, I figured it would be good for both of us.

When we got to Meijer, Eddie insisted on holding my list.  As we held hands through the parking lot, he peered down at it and said, “yet’s see…hmmm.  what is first?”

I almost melted right there.

Once we were safely inside, I crouched down and asked if we could look at it together.  I pointed to the first thing and I said, “this says we need eggs and strawberry soda.”

“Hmmm,” he replied.  “yup, mom. You’re right! It says it riiiiight here.”

(I should remind readers that Eddie is 3 and cannot read, but we “pretend” to read often as a form of “play learning”.)

So I let him help me pick a cart and off we went.

I let him run a bit ahead of me and didn’t get panicky or yell to him to slow down or wait.  I trusted that he would.  And he did.

He would get a certain length ahead of me and then stop, turn around, and wait for me with a smile on his face.

I let him choose which package of sausage we would buy.  And then I let him “fix” the rest in the display so they were nice and neat.

He put strawberries in the cart and helped me pick the “right” paper plates.

It took longer than if I had zipped through the store on my own, but it was so SO much better this way.

A few people commented on how it was nice that we worked together to do the shopping instead of my just having him be there.  Each time we found something on the list, I would get down on my knees in the aisle so we could look at the next list item together.  He held the list the whole time.

At checkout, I let him unload the entire cart (except the eggs).  The belt was not as neat and organized as when I unload (I have a method of what gets grouped together for bagging purposes), but he did it all on his own.  Luckily for us, the cashier smiled and talked to him and told him what an awesome helper he was.  She said it was nice to see someone using a trip to Meijer as a “learning” tool instead of a battle between mother and child.

On our way out, he wanted to ride the penny pony, but I didn’t have a penny.  I felt sad for him as I watched him hang his head in disappointment because he had been such a great helper and he deserved a spin on the pony.  Just as I was telling him that I promised I would bring TWO pennies next time, a lady in the check out next to us bent down and handed Eddie a penny.

“OH THANKS YOU!” he beamed at her.

“You are very welcome, young man.  I saw you help your mommy.  You are quite the gentleman!”

“You too,” Eddie replied.

To which we both chuckled while I thanked her.

As we approached the pony, we saw that someone had left three pennies next to it.  Eddie asked if he could use one to take a second ride, and I let him.

When we were done, he asked about the other two pennies.

“Are those for other girls and boys?”

“Yup, someone left those there for good boys and girls so they can ride the pony too.”

“If they don’t have pennies they can use them?”

“That’s right.”

Just then a little boy, smaller than Eddie, walked up.

“You has a penny?” Eddie asked him.

“no. I can’t wide it.” The little boy said, “I just looking.”

Eddie reached down to the extra pennies, and handed one to the little boy.

“Der you go. Now you can ride too!” And he patted the horse.

As the little boy ran back to his mom to show her his new treasure, Eddie and I walked to the car.

“That was very kind of you, Eddie.”

“Yup. Dat boy can ride duh pony now too!”

“That’s right.  Thank you for being such a great helper and such a kind boy.”

“I yuv you, mom.”

“Aw. I love you too, Eddie.”

I am beyond stressed out and way overly exhausted.  But these small moments…just 30 minutes out of my day on Tuesday, made me smile.  It made me forget the deadlines and the calendar conflicts and the have-to-do’s for 30 minutes and just focus on my older son.

I was able to spend quality time with him encouraging his fierce independent streak in a positive, healthy way.

I am an overworked working mom.  But I am a good mom.

My son is kind and helpful not because he just knows to be that way, but because we have modeled that for him.

We have taught him to share what he has, even if all he has in that minute is a penny and a helpful nature.

These small moments also remind me that I am not raising boys, but men.

Men who I hope will bring good to this world instead of sadness.

Watching my son share a penny made me hopeful that I am achieving this goal.

advocacy vs avoidance

Over the past week, five totally unrelated people who know nothing of each other’s existences asked me similar questions:

“Do your students know about your blog?  What do you do if they find it?”

“Do you think your students know about your mental issues?”

“What if parents or administrators found your blog?”

“How can you advocate for being open about depression and stuff on your blog, but not talk about it in real life much?”

“You don’t talk about depression at your school, do you?”

In a nutshell, no I do not advertise my blog at school, but I like to think I write in a way that if a parent or administrator were to find this site, there would be no issues.

I mean, when you google “Katie Sluiter” I am the entire first page of search results (at least I was the last time I checked which was not just before I wrote this, so things could’ve changed).

But yes, kids find it.  Usually while we are in the computer lab doing something that has nothing to do with google searching your Spanish or English teacher.

This is how it usually goes…

Kid: Hey Mrs. Sluiter!  I just found you on google!  You have a blog?  HA HA HA HA!
Me: Yup.
Kid: What’s it about?
Me: It’s on your screen; read it.
Kid: Looks like mom stuff.  BOOOORRRING!
Me: Are you done with this part of your assignment that you should have had done 10 minutes ago?
Kid: Wait. What are we supposed to be doing?
Me:  O_o

And that is all I hear.

Except when I hear this:

Kid in hall to me when no one else is listening or after school in my room: Um, Mrs. Sluiter?
Me: What’s up?
Kid: I saw you had a blog.
Me: Oh yeah. I do.
Kid: I like it.  You have really cute kids.
Me: Aw thanks.  Yeah, they are handsome guys.
Kid: Um, I like that you talk about your depression.  I am on celexa (or other antidepressant) too.
Me: Oh yeah?  Small world! I hope it’s helping.
Kid: Yeah. It does. {insert longish, awkwardish pause} I like that you wrote about it.  Thanks.
Me: No problem. It helps to write it out.  You don’t have to put it on the internet like I do, but it does help.  You should try it.
Kid: Yeah. Maybe I will.  Thanks, Mrs. Sluiter.
Me: You are always welcome.

I have had a total of one parent comment on it.  It was a parent/teacher conferences and it was one of my writing students.  One of the coolest, most supportive moms I have had the pleasure of working with.  She told me she loved my open, honest writing and that my school and students were lucky to have me.

I’ve sent the link to my principal so he knows it exists.  Pretty sure he has never read it, but maybe he is just silent about it. I don’t know.

I don’t talk about my depression and anxiety in school at all.  Sometimes with a few co-workers, but not with students unless they bring it up.  And I never stick my hand out to parents and introduce myself as the English teacher with PPD.

Consequently, I don’t talk about it much with my family or friends either.

They either read the blog and know about it, or know about it because they have been made aware of it.  Either way, it’s not a conversation we have much.

I’ve been accused of being hypocritical because I don’t shout it from the rooftops.

I am all about breaking down the stigma.  It’s why I talk about it here.  But I don’t know how that translates into “real life”.

It’s uncomfortable to bring up out of no where with people, but if someone asks, I am good about dispelling myths or telling them what my experience is like.

But I don’t go to restaurants and order my burger and then tell my server about my PPD, PPA, and OCD.

I don’t let the dressing room attendants at the GAP know I have Generalized Anxiety.

I don’t let the cashier at Target in on my PTSD.

And I sure as heck don’t put any of that stuff in my syllabus in the About Mrs. Sluiter section, nor do I introduce myself that way in my welcome email to parents.

If someone asks about it, I don’t lie.  I mean, duh. The google search.

Do I hide it?

Do I fear stigma?

Am I afraid parents won’t want their kids in the class of someone who suffers from depression and anxiety?

Do I think parents/students would blame ME when their child gets called out for behavior because I am the one with a problem?

I guess yes a little to all of these things.

But only as much as I feared these things being a pregnant teacher too.

Kids all the time would say, “You’re just mean because you are pregnant.”

No, I am being mean because you have been talking to your neighbor ALL HOUR WHILE I AM TEACHING.

You see what I mean.

So where is that line?  It seems to be a mighty light, hard-to-see line between being ashamed and being an advocate.

For me, it’s easy to “talk it out” here because I am not talking out loud to a face.  I can think about my words. Pace myself.  Say things exactly how I want to.

In real life I am awkward and nervous and can’t look you in the eye well when I talk about it.

Here I bring it up. Over and over and over.  Mostly so I can process it and document it, but also so YOU can feel less alone and YOU can know how your best friend, sister, wife, mom, whomever is feeling.

In real life I don’t bring it up, but I definitely don’t run from it.

Here it is natural.

In real life it is awkward.

Why is that?

Heavy Alphabet Soup

Two weeks ago I had an episode that made me terrified my PPD was back in an ugly horrible way.

One week ago I admitted it here.

Wednesday I saw the psychiatrist that my therapist referred me to for re-evaluation.

Dr. D.

I was a nervous wreck going in.  I had no idea what to expect and that drives me all sorts of crazy.  No pun intended.  Ok, maybe a little intended.

Dr. D is a man.  My therapist is a woman. I have never ever had issues with having a man as my doctor for anything until I started therapy four years ago with a man whose name I no longer remember, but refer to as Dave Thomas when I talk about him with Cort.  Because that is who he looked like.  A total grandpa in a cardigan.

How in the heck to you talk about major anxiety and anger or woman stuff with Grandpa Dave?

You don’t.

So you quit therapy because you figure you can manage your Generalized Anxiety Disorder with all coping techniques you’ve learned.  And you would be right…until you have a baby.

Ok…enough with the second person…I was doing great managing my anxiety for about a year and a half…until Eddie was born.

Nine months after Eddie was born, I was diagnosed by my General Practitioner with Postpartum Depression (I’ve written about those horrible 9 months).  I was put on Celexa.  A few months later, I was also given Ambien to deal with my lack of sleeping due to Postpartum Anxiety.

Everyone in my life noticed a positive change once I grabbed my diagnosis and attacked the plan to make myself healthy.

And then I got knocked up with Charlie.

My OB really wanted to see me give up the Celexa while I was pregnant.  My therapist and my GP didn’t think it was a good idea.

For some reason Because I put Charlie before myself, I tried to go off the meds.

I failed horribly.

But instead of being down about it, I looked at it as proof that the Celexa was still doing something, and I agreed with my therapist and GP that a healthy momma would be a MUCH better momma.

Then I started my rounds of Progesterone to help sustain the pregnancy.

Then I started barfing my face off on the daily and needed to take Zofran.

Then I went through a super ugly bout of Antenatal Depression that thankfully dissipated during the second trimester.

And then other than being uncomfortably pregnant and worrying about a placenta previa, things went smoothly.  Charlie was born via a wonderful planned C-section, we bonded immediately and fiercely, and I experienced a joy I only read about on other people’s blogs.

I have raved that this time has been better.  And it has.  Hands down.

Charlie is an “easier” baby than Eddie was which means my anxiety hasn’t had a chance to sky-rocket.  The times it has all centered around things not going my way or as it was planned.  I did have a few anger issues with Eddie (never violent and I always removed myself when I could feel it building) and twitchy eye moments with stuff not being EXACTLY how I wanted it.  But I was managing.

My therapist has mentioned that she thought I might have a bit of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder still lingering from Eddie’s emergency C-section since it was as much as an emergency with my health as with his. And possibly even from my miscarriages. But I didn’t think too much about it.  I mean, it had been three years ago.  Surely that had worked it’s way out or you know, whatever.

Anyway, that brings us to the episode in which I couldnotavoid it happening (although the thing I almost did, I didn’t do, but it was terrifying nonetheless).

So here we are. In Dr. D’s office.

He was nice, I guess.  I mean, he didn’t try to get to know me since it was just an evaluation. He didn’t laugh at my lame attempts at jokes, so I sort of rung my hands the whole time, but he wasn’t a jerk or anything.

It was all just very clinical.  He asked me questions about symptoms that I assume he was pulling up from his computer because he was staring at it and typing every time I would answer (or he was on twitter talking about me to his followers. “this lady is CRAY, yo!” whatever). And I would answer as best as I could.

It was sort of like the checklist of stuff you fill out with a new therapist, but instead of just checking the box, I got to explain it.

His office was also very cold and boring. I am not sure why I feel like I need to say that, but it was painted this stupid blue color which I am assuming is supposed to be calming, but there was NOTHING on the wall or on his desk to prove that he wasn’t a machine.  It was…odd.  But the furniture?  WAY more comfy than in my therapist’s office.  Which is also strange to me.

And yes, he had a couch.  But no, I didn’t get to lay on it.

So at the end he looked at me and he told me this:

“So I would say that you have Generalized Anxiety, Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, a bit of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, what we will call “regular” Depression that is somewhat in remission at the moment, and you show significant signs of having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.”

This is what I saw fly out of his mouth:

GA, PPD, PPA, PTSD, and OCD.

Alphabet soup.  Heavy Alphabet soup as a twitter follower pointed out.

Then he talked about doubling my Celexa dose and giving me “on a need basis” anti-anxiety med that I am a little bit terrified of, if I am being completely honest.  I am terrified of the drug and I am terrified of what could cause the need for me to take the drug (another episode like two weeks ago), and I’m terrified that he thinks it might happen again so it’s best if I have the drug.

I’m even a bit scared of this doubling my Celexa.  Is this permanent?  Why does it need to go up?  Will it ever go back down?  How will we know?

I am sort of looking forward to talking with my therapist about all this in a couple weeks.

I am proud of myself for stopping when the episode happened and reaching out immediately to Cort to let him know something happened. I know that getting help is what is best for me and my family.  I know from experience I can’t just handle this on my own.

I just very much struggle with what I KNOW and what I feel.

I still feel very angry that I have to deal with this at all.  I don’t want it.  Any of it.  I don’t want to be on meds, not because I don’t want to be better, but because I don’t want to have all these letters.

I know they don’t define me.  But they are part of who I am. They are part of my biological make up.  They are chemical imbalances in my brain.

Just like I hate that my best friend is diabetic and will be on insulin her whole life, I hate that I am a jumble of mental illnesses and I will be on medsmywhole life.

It’s not fair.

And that is what I am struggling with right now.

ashamed of reality

Yeah, y’all know what it is
Sometimes you gotta push through all your obstacles nah mean
No matter what the options are
There is no lose, there is no fail
Let’s go

I’m  not ready to tell you what happened.

But it was bad.  Almost.  Which made it bad to me even if the bad that happened really didn’t happened, but almost happened.

I can’t type the words yet because then I will have to look back at the and it will be real.

And I am ashamed of that reality.

Seem like life go lighting speed
Slow it on down just to breathe
It’s cold outside, adjust your sleeve

Today I am navigating life a little more slowly.  A little more cautiously.

Each moment hits my skin and I allow it to sizzle through me.

I feel it wholly.

Since Friday I have felt even my blinks be more deliberate.

It’s like something shifted.

Heart made of stone and I can not cry
Hand on the glass I can feel the rain
You don’t want to fight and I feel your pain
But I gotta go hard / gotta go far
That don’t mean we gotta fall apart
I’m gonna stand, tall, for all of us

I met with my therapist and said the words out loud for the second time.

(the first was to Cort, without being able to look him in the face).

I knew nothing she said would help what almost happen be erased.

There was some reassurance.  I did not have a psychotic episode.

But there was frustration.  Sadness.  Grief.  Anger.

At what was and is and will probably always be part of my life.

Fate on the phone and they calling us
Came from the ground and we crawling up
You can feel it in ya fist when you ball it up

I have another appointment on Wednesday.

This time with a psychiatrist.

An evaluation is needed.

I hate this.

If the sky turns black – It don’t matter
We know the sun is coming up
Built so strong – it won’t shatter
We were born to run!

But yesterday Eddie gave me the best hugs.

And today Charlie nuzzled me until he fell asleep.

And Cort swatted my behind in the kitchen.

And Eddie made me laugh so hard with just being himself that I was a pile of tears.

And Charlie’s soft warm hands found my face with giggles and coos.

And Cort’s fart jokes made me chuckle in spite of myself.
Sky turn black – don’t matter
Built so strong – won’t shatter
We were born to ru-ru-run
We were born to ru-ru-run

I still hate it.

But I will be better.

I hate that I have to “get better”.

But I love that I will be better.

Because I am strong.

Even if I am broken.

Hand on the glass I can feel the rain
You don’t want to fight and I feel your pain
But I gotta go hard, gotta go far
That don’t mean we gotta fall apart

I’m gonna stand, tall, for all of us

Friday I wanted to give up.

Saturday and Sunday I wanted to pretend Friday didn’t happen.

Monday I wished I was someone else.

The rest of the week I slowed down to notice the light getting closer.

And feel the warmth spread over my face.
If the sky turns black – It don’t matter
We know the sun is coming up
Built so strong – it won’t shatter
We were born to run!

I am broken.

I am.

But slowly I am gathering the pieces.

*************

Lyrics by 7Lions from “Born 2 Run”

Put Us In The Zoo

Last week Tuesday I pushed down my social anxiety about bringing both boys out in public at the same time without Cortney with me, joined 3 of my friends and their kids, hopped in a van, and carpooled and hour and a half (each way) to the zoo.

About a million times the week leading up to it my anxiety tried to give me excuses to back out.

But Eddie was so dang excited to go to the zoo.

And I kept feeding him that excitement.  Because I knew, no matter what excuse my brain came up with, it would not be good enough to squash that energy and excitement.

And so we went.

This guy saw a total of zero animals.

And then my older son climbed on all the things.

Giraffe feeding for all…who have a dollar for the lettuce leaf.

 

My child made those giraffes EAT!

Thanks the heavens Trisha brought the sit and stand.
Eddie may have called her his “other mom”.
allegedly.

One of the bazillion pictures I have of Eddie brushing every.single.goat at the zoo.

And this is when Eddie cried, “but mom! there are no more humps!”

This guy had a bad attitude.

not this guy though! He was great so he earned popcorn and a lemonade at the end of the day!

Why do kids love the NOT REAL ANIMALS in a ZOO??

eight kids + four adults = a zoo within the zoo
not pictured: Charlie

There were moments when Eddie’s listening ears got lost.

We had to stop and have chats about not running too far ahead of the group.

There was screaming when he needed to have lunch and then again when he was getting super tired after missing nap.

Charlie was whiny when he needed to eat and when he was tired and wanted to be held, not pushed in a stroller.

I had to pound my peanut butter sandwich because I was busy feeding a baby and tending to a toddler and didn’t have time for a leisurely lunch.

Eddie peed through his pull up.

But these moments were fleeting, and while I felt a little overwhelmed at times, I took a deep breath and soldiered on.

Because it was fun, dang it.

We were making memories.

my flaws, my beauty

“How old is he?  Wow! You look so great!

In the past week this has been said to me exactly three times.  And yes, I remember each time because each time they were words I so desperately needed to hear.

I do not feel good in this body.  At all.

Just like with Eddie, I immediately dropped all the weight and then some.  My friends joke that if I want to lose weight, I just need to get pregnant, wait nine months, and boom.  20 pounds lighter than I started.

Seriously.

But it only lasts five minutes.

Then I get the real postpartum body.

The droopy skin.  The new spider veins.  The new stretch marks that didn’t look so bad on super stretched taut skin, but on loose flabby skin, no thanks.  The pimples.  The bald spots from hair loss.

Each time someone tells me I look great, I have to swallow hard to just say, “thank you,” and not try to talk them out of the compliment that they just gave me. 

Because I am paranoid that they are lying to me.

It’s true. I hate my body so much right now, that I am carrying around a lump of anxiety and paranoia that people are judging me.

“Be kind to yourself, you just had a baby.”

Just? I don’t know about just. It has been 13 weeks.  Charlie will be three months tomorrow.

Maybe it’s Hollywood’s fault. Maybe it’s because I have tiny skinny friends who went from pregnant to hot mom in 12 seconds.  Maybe it’s because I feel like everyone in the world is prettier than I am.  I don’t know.  But what I know?  Is that I feel so ugly lately.

I told myself I would give myself my 12 week maternity leave before I worried about weight.

And I feel like I did a pretty good job of just focusing on being comfortable and happy for 12 weeks.

Then I went back to work this week and saw people.

And felt like they were looking at me.  Not just looking…but scrutinizing.

They probably weren’t.

But I feel like they were.

I feel like everything I put in my mouth is judged by someone.

It’s probably not.

But it feels like it is.

My mind is creating whispers that aren’t there (or are they??): She looks bigger than she did before the baby. Sheesh, she still looks pregnant.  Someone get her some spanx!  She should probably order water and a cracker, not the enchiladas and a diet coke.  What was she thinking wearing that? Does she think she looks good?

No. I don’t.

“You look great!”

It’s so hard for me to hear…and yet…I need those compliments.  And I so badly need them to be real.

I find myself searching the face of the compliment-giver to see if she is being sincere. I listen intently to the tone.

Please don’t say it if you don’t mean it.  My heart can’t take it.

I find myself even wondering how Cort can continue to call me “Pretty Lady”.

My body image insecurity is peaking right now.

And then I found this picture that Cort snapped last week.

I remember when he took the photo, but I didn’t know I was in the picture.  I thought he was just zooming in on Charlie.

I distinctly remember feeling flabby and icky that day.  I was on Day 2 hair (you know, the shower, but don’t wash the hair kind of day) and I was frustrated trying to cover the sun damage on my face.

I had been very tired this day after running around all day and I was grateful to finally cash out with the small one for a bit.

I didn’t want my picture taken.

And now, looking at it over a week later, I see a small glimpse of why people tell me I look great.

It has nothing to do with how much I weigh.

It’s because I am happy.

I am loving being a mom right now.

And it shows.

Through all of my flaws and perceived “uglies”, through my bad skin and hair, through feeling fat and icky…

I am a beautiful mother of two.

Did seeing this picture erase all the bad feelings?

I wish, but no.

Did it take away my paranoia about people judging me?

No.  I am still sure others are looking at my waist wondering why I don’t have at least some semblance of one back yet.

I think it’s my stupid anxiety that does that to me, but at least until I can make a dent on the flaws, I know I am not a lost cause.

There is beauty amongst the flaws.

*************

Hey! I’m reviewing…and giving away…a product package from Brica! Click on over and enter!

fighter

Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter*

The beast crept in while we were still in the hospital.

It saw it’s opening when every other person in the world held my baby rather than me.

It sneaked in as I encouraged Cort to hold him and snuggle each night in our hospital room, and it stuck to me as the nurse came and wheeled him out to the nursery as Cort left for the night.

It disguised itself as normal as I spent more than the allotted “normal” time crying about everything.

Then the baby started crying…screaming, rather.

And didn’t stop for three long months.

The beast wrapped itself around my brain and whispered in my ear that I was not enough.

That I couldn’t be what this baby needed.

The beast robbed me of my memories of the good times when the baby did not wail.

It put blinders on me so that I could not see myself learning to mother.

Rather, I began to believe that the baby would be better without me.

The beast moved into my chest and preyed on my heart.

It tried to tell me to leave this baby and my husband.

All I did was cry.

I was so mean to everyone.

I couldn’t even mother the baby right.

Why did I even try anymore.

As the beast had it’s way with my heart and mind, something kept me going…

kept me rocking in that chair with that tiny anger ball of an infant…

made me get up in the night and provide nourishment and love…

wouldn’t let me leave him to feel alone while he wailed…

something made me keep trying to be a mom…

something put a sheila over my soul…

or someone.

Until I could get help.

And even now, in the days when the beast sits crouching in the corners of my mind,

and in the crannies of my heart…

someone shines a light on it so it scurries away.

Or at least reminds me that I am not helpless.

I can claw and scrap and kick at that beast.

I do not need to be passive.

When I think that I cannot,

his smile tells me I can, and I will.

He didn’t let me give up.

He made me fight.

If Charlie healed me, it’s because Eddie made me a fighter.

Already my sons are protecting their momma…

and they don’t even know it.

our mad-we're-not-gonna-take-it-anymore faces. otherwise known as "Llama Faces" 'round here

*lyrics from Fighter by Christina Aguilera

*************

Where else I’ve been this week…

Thursday I guest posted at Naked Girl in a Dress…I Ain’t Afraid of No Teenagers.

Today I have TWO posts up on BNV:  Placenta: It’s What’s For Dinner and the next in my school series: Getting Schooled Part II: Private Schools

in this moment…i am healed

This moment…

I am unshowered at almost 2pm on a Thursday.

I have barely eaten anything, and only peed once since getting up this morning.

I have no make up on.  In fact, I didn’t wash my face last night either, so maybe I have some smudged leftover eyeliner on.

I’m still in my jammies.

I could fall asleep if I wasn’t typing these words.

and I feel healed.

Because also in this moment there is a small gift snoozing on me.  smiling in his sleep.  frowning in his sleep.  sighing. stretching.

we are draped with a blanket a knitting club from church made for him.

The TV is off and instead a mix I made for my ipod is playing softly from the kitchen while we take up resident in my chair in the livingroom.

and I feel healed.

It’s been 2 years since I wrote about my depression.

It’s been almost 3 years since I had a wee bundle in my arms.

Despite all that I have accomplished in the past three years, I still carry guilt and hurt in my heart that my experience with Eddie during his first year fell short of wonderful.

Had I been unshowered and idle under a sleeping baby on a beautiful sunny day three years ago?  I would have cried the whole time.  I would have felt incapacitated.  I would have stored up anger and resentment in my heart and taken it out on Cort as soon as he walked through the door.

But today?

Today I could totally put the baby down.

I could do laundry and change sheets and scrub floors.

I could shower.

I could pack us up and run errands.

But I am choosing not to.  I am choosing not to.

Colic is not choosing for me.

Depression is not choosing for me.

Anxiety is not choosing for me.

I am choosing for me.

In this moment, I am sniffing a baby head every few seconds.

I am closing my eyes and letting myself rest.

I am not feeling needed anywhere but right here.

I am managing my commitments.

I am staring at my baby…his tiny nose and fingers and toes and lashes.

In this moment…I am healed.

it's not glamorous, but there is no where else I would rather be.

 

Don’t forget…one of the reasons I am thriving this time is because I am taking care of myself.  I want to help YOU take care of yourself too, so enter my giveaway!

invisible labels

I don’t embarrass very easily.

Or I should say, I bounce back from embarrassment quickly and without much bruise to my ego.

I mean, really. I do not have TIME to be embarrassed!

I am routinely too loud for a situation.  Just ask Cort. It has been said I don’t have an indoor voice.

I am famous for talking about things that make my mom and dad groan and mumble, “C’mon, Kate.  Sheesh.”

I ask questions that are probably dumb, but I am hoping other people have.  Sometimes this elicits nods of agreement and relief.  Other times I am answered with blank stares and crickets to which I say, “No?  Ok then.  Just me, I guess.”

Yeah, I might turn a little red, but I brush it all off.

It’s fleeting.

It can be laughed off.

But I do feel like there is a label on me that can’t be laughed off.

One that announces to the world that I am a mess of a mother.

It all started with me announcing that this time around, I was going to ask and accept help with my baby, my family, my healing after my c-section.  I was going to do what was best for the family to keep the stress to a minimum.

Everyone seemed to think this was great.  I was finally admitting I couldn’t take everything on all by myself.

But now, 5 weeks after Charlie’s birth, suddenly I am finding shame in those choices.

How is it going being at home with TWO kids instead of just one?

I feel like people ask this question with a smirk.  Because they see my label.

And I start needlessly explaining:

Well, Eddie is still in daycare.  I mean, they do like a curriculum and stuff.  So he will be there until school is out.  He likes it better that way. Not that he doesn’t like to be with me, but you know, it’s boring to be home with mom and a baby who can’t play when he could be with his friends playing and learning and stuff.  I mean, they do crafts and lessons about letters, numbers, colors, shapes…lots of stuff.  Oh and they sing!  Eddie loves to sing!  And they play outdoors more than I would be able to because of Charlie.  And they do Bible stories.  That is important.  Not that I couldn’t do those, I suppose, but you know…it’s a whole curriculum.

Why do I do that?

Because I am ashamed that I send my boy away every day.

I carry shame in my heart that I can’t handle two kids at once.

But I do handle them both by myself.  Frequently.  So why do I feel like this choice puts a label on me saying I can’t?

The other thing I feel shame in admitting is that we have someone clean our house every other week.

The hardest thing is finding time to clean, isn’t it?

Yes. It is. Our house gets picked up and messes get cleaned, but this is not the same as “cleaning the house.”

And when my house feels yuck, so do I.  And it consumes me.

So we hire someone to do the “all at once, all over” cleaning.

Twice a month I have my bathroom and kitchen and floors cleaned GOOD.  My house gets a much needed dusting and the vacuum gets run in EVERY room at the same time.

I am very organized and I love neatness, but I let my choice to hire a cleaning lady stick a label to me saying I am incapable of keeping house.

These labels laugh in my face.

“She can’t handle motherhood.  She is a mess.  Her poor husband and kids.”

And since I am labeled a mess, my husband and boys must be labeled as needing pity.

This weighs so heavily on me, in fact, that it was the subject of a long, difficult therapy session last week.

This idea that I let my paranoia about what people think of my choices label me and my family.

But I have learned that these are invisible labels that I have stuck on us.

They are not reality.

I am not a mess.

Yup, I'm THAT friend.

I am a great mom who does what is best for myself and in turn for my husband and children.

I am a teacher who loves this time home with my new son, but can’t wait to get back to the classroom in the fall for a new adventure with new students.

I am a writer who shares the good, the bad, and the super bad because it is who I am…and maybe it will help someone else accept who he/she is.

I am a friend who might be an awkward hugger, but who will always do anything to see you smile.

I am a daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt who would go out of my way for my family (not always without grumbles, but still).

I am a wife who still gets butterflies when I see her husband’s truck pull in because it means I get to see him soon.

I am enough.

Today I am linking up at Just. Be. Enough. about what we are beyond labels.
This post has been on my mind a lot and I got the push from Julie when she posted about shame.
I realized that I was keeping my shame inside and I needed to let it go.
Thank you, Julie.

*************

Another way I am enough is in how I delivered my sons into this world.
My stories of emergency C-section and then a planned repeat C-section are featured on The Mom Pledge Today.
I’d love if you would hop on over there.

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