Monday, March 29, 2010

Shifting boundaries

It was one of the things I never thought would change when we had kids. But it did.

Before boy came along, husband and I were dedicated snugglers. I really wish there'd been an Olympic category for the sport. We would have been the uncontested champs. Every night when we climbed into bed, we'd both maneuver to the middle of the delightfully massive king-size bed and wrap arms around each other to chat until we were both too sleepy to keep talking. It was always a "thing" of mine that I hated to say or hear "good night," because that meant that we were done talking. So we just talked until one of us drifted off, usually with my head nestled against his chest and his arm around me. The sense of peace I got from those few minutes each night was unobtainable in any other area of my life, and it was important to both of us to reconnect every evening through touch and whispered giggles and conversation.

And then boy was born.

My anxiety when the baby arrived was at an all-time high, due to lots of factors (like the fact that the baby was a truly sporadic and high-need sleeper, requiring lots of holding and rocking to fall and stay asleep, not to mention my OWN sleep deprivation and then, of course, the post-partum depression). As a result, I trained myself to sleep lightly, perched quite literally on the edge of the bed. Not only was I acres away from the snuggle zone in the middle of the bed, I was also turned away from it (and my husband) so that I could face the baby monitor, its green glow casting strange flickering lights on my closed eyelids as I tried to snooze and still remain on alert. Anything I said to my husband during those nights had to be tossed over my shoulder at him for him to hear it, and usually repeated once or twice to clarify what sounded like mumbling.

A great deal of time has passed since those early rough days of boy's fragmented sleep, and thankfully, over the last three months, he's turned into a great little sleeper. He goes to sleep more easily, goes BACK to sleep during the night without assistance, and generally gives us no reason to complain. It was a long time coming, and yet it couldn't have come at a better time, now that we're less than seven weeks away from our next baby's scheduled C-section. Now it's my husband who keeps the monitor on his side of the bed, since it's he who arises the one time in the night that boy awakens and needs help falling asleep. Husband sneaks upstairs, scoops our delicious child into his arms, and carries the heavy bundle of him downstairs to finish the night with us. It's wonderful and much easier on me, and now I finally have a brief respite of what should be great nights of sleep to enjoy before the next baby arrives.

You'd think I would have migrated back to the middle of the bed. That I would have learned to sleep once again facing my husband, would have reestablished our snuggle time now that our nights are so much more conducive to it. But no. I still perch on the edge of my side of the bed, facing out into the room and toward the bedroom door.

I actually caught myself doing it the other night, and spent a restless hour or so pondering the reasons why. Why do I still do that? Why am I so closed off to what used to be the most peaceful and contented moments of my day? And truly -- what am I communicating to my husband when I do this?

In an amazing conversation with him, I was able to articulate to him what happens to me in the evenings. After a day of constant stimulation and intimacy with our son, I am simply touched out. I have no space that's my own, with a two-year-old as my shadow. He comes into the bathroom when I'm using it. He wanders around me while I get dressed for the day, clinging to my bare legs and laughing while I try to step into maternity jeans. He watches me blow my nose. He comments on my toothbrushing, my hairbrushing and my choice of underwear. I catch in my hand the food he spits out of his mouth. I change diapers several times a day, along with the wrestling matches that that entails. I snuggle, I kiss, I hug, I carry, I lift, I play, I clean. And it's all the most fulfilling way I could imagine spending my energy, and I wouldn't change a thing about it.

But it's also true that I DO spend that energy. I felt so validated to see the following excerpt in Parenting Magazine this month (the article was about sex drive, but it makes sense in the context I'm using it, too):
Stella Resnick, Ph.D., author of The Pleasure Zone: Why We Resist Good Feelings [notes that g]iving your kids all the cuddling they require (even grade-schoolers need plenty) increases your levels of oxytocin, a bonding hormone. This makes you feel totally close to them -- but it also decreases testosterone, which plays a huge part in revving up your sex drive. Since women tend to spend more time with kids than men do, and have less testosterone in the first place, their levels of this horny hormone tend to drop even more after children come along. The result: By bedtime, the last thing you may feel like is even more physical contact.
When boy goes to bed for the night, I finally have a moment or two to reestablish my boundaries for myself. And unfortunately that translates into some pretty clear line-drawing down the center of the master bed. As I told my husband, I feel like the center of the bed is reserved for the boy, like it's waiting for the time of night he'll need it. And since it's boy's space, I don't want to be in it even when he's not there, because I know once he arrives, he'll be reaching out from that space to lay a hand on his mommy to reassure himself that she's there.

Thank God for understanding husbands. He said that the explanation made total sense to him, and he completely got where I was coming from. For me, though, I can see that in a few short weeks, the demands on my energy are going to increase exponentially, and that I need to (finally) take my family and friends up on their offers of help when possible. If I get some space to myself during the day, maybe there'll be less of a need for me to retreat from other people (like the man I love more than anyone else in the world) in the evening.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It's back. I guess it never really left.

The weird thing about the way I do postpartum depression is that it's so inconsistent. For months, I'll be great. Awesome. On top of things. Getting errands ticked off the to-do list, doing laundry, keeping up with the boy. And then all of a sudden I'm just ... not.

Even now, some days I'm drunk on nothing but air and laughter and gazing at my giving and supportive and freaking good-looking husband, and the sheer heartbreaking perfection of my son's long eyelashes and spiky hair. I'm happy. I feel good, like myself. And then some days, I just cry. And I can never tell why. My husband and my mom both inquire gently, lovingly -- "What's wrong? Talk to me." But there's never an answer.

I have to make myself eat. Nothing seems appealing enough to drag out of the pantry or fridge, let alone prepare and consume. I find myself eating a Luna bar as a meal, choking down some water when I think of it, making myself have a piece of toast when boy does, just to keep the pregnancy I'm-too-hungry nausea at bay.

If I think to myself, "I should take a shower," it seems like too much work. If I muster up the energy to actually get into the shower, I never want to get out. The inertia of this depression is incredibly powerful.

I want to tell someone I feel horrible. But I don't know how. Because I know they'd say, "Why?" And there's no reason. My life is amazing. I live in a home I love, with the only man I ever felt safe with and truly loved by, one I love more than I know how to express. I have a healthy, delightful, intelligent, sweet two-year-old who tells me, "Bless you, mom!" when I sneeze, who says "Please" and "Thank you" and "Excuse me" when appropriate. I have a loving family who would do anything for me that I asked. There is absolutely no reason to feel so crappy.

With the help of my doctors, I upped my meds a bit two weeks ago. It didn't help much, so now I've nudged them upward again. I'm giving it another week to really kick in. I've been very vocal with my doctors about not wanting to go too far above what's considered the lowest possible dose of meds for my particular case, and so far I'm still hovering near the "we don't give prescriptions for any lower than this" threshold. For the baby's sake, I feel good about that. If I have to up the ante a little more, though, I guess I'll deal. Because my two-year-old deserves a better mother than the one he's getting, and so does the new one who will arrive in less than 10 weeks. My husband deserves a wife who can smile at him, who doesn't just gaze out of the car window on errand runs on the weekends. My mom deserves a daughter who can answer her phone calls with a modicum of courtesy and interest.

And I deserve to feel like myself.

I'm tired of having this problem. As much as it helps to post about it, I hate doing it, because I wonder who out there is thinking, "Again? Broken record, SHEESH."

I'm sorry, you guys. I'll get better. There's too much that's good in my life for me NOT to. I don't want to miss this time with my kids. (!!) I don't want to miss this time with my husband and family.

Just please -- bear with me. If you think of it, prayers would be awesome.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

I am worthy. ... Whew, that was tough.

I am an avid reader of, and so should you be, if a little vulgar language doesn't bother you. Her name is Jenny Lawson, and she writes for the Houston Chronicle under the "Good Mom, Bad Mom" column, but her personal blog is my favorite. She's real and wacky and honest and true, and I dig her style.

Jenny wrote an entry on her Chronicle blog (entitled "I am worthy") inspired by the amazing work of Dr. Brene Brown, who is a researcher, writer and professor in the area of social work. Specifically, Brown encourages her readers and followers this month to focus on why they are each worthy of love, acceptance and respect.

As Jenny the Bloggess points out, that's a tall order. It's easy to knock ourselves down, especially (I believe) as women. We're quick to take note of our bad habits, our flaws, our countless imperfections. But we rarely reflect on what makes us amazingly, uniquely, truly ourselves, and worthy of love for that reason.

Here's my attempt.



(Still here. Just thinking. Hard.)

(Holy crap, I had no idea this would be that tough.)

Like Jenny, I feel like I'm a "good mom and a nice person," but lots of people could say that about themselves, and it doesn't really feel like a big deal. Who DOESN'T love their child, right? So that's not really enough.


All I can think of is that I have always loved people without reservations.

If I love someone, I do it with my entire heart. I hang it out there. Does it sometimes get banged around? Absolutely. Has it been stomped on more times than I care to admit? You bet. Is it worth it? Without a doubt. I couldn't be any other way if I tried. I was in a relationship in grad school where I tried to hold back parts of myself because the guy I was dating seemed closed off, and I wanted to "protect myself from getting hurt." That was a fruitless exercise, and if I learned nothing else from that relationship, it was that it's impossible for me to love someone only halfway.

Most recently, of course, I can see this essential truth of mine at work in my relationship with my son. He's only two, but when I think about how my love for him has changed and affected me, I'm completely knocked off balance by it. Sometimes the people close to me have worried that I am too much into motherhood, that I neglect myself and my personal development, that I ignore opportunities for my own relaxation and peaceful recharging, and I have to admit that they make some excellent points. But here's the thing -- I don't get a do-over for this period of his life. I don't get to try it again if I fail him in some way. So if he's needed me to be his primary source of comfort and security, or if his growth and development have required me to attend to him when I might have been pursuing other interests to date, I can't regret my choices. If the only one I might be selling short is myself, then I'm ok with that for now.

As I read over this entry, I have no idea if I've found what makes me worthy of love or not. I think what I've described instead is the attribute of myself in which I take the most pride right now. And even though I said it wasn't enough to be "a good mom," I guess that's what I feel like I have going for me. I'm tremendously lucky to be surrounded by people who understand that sacrifice and who allow me to adapt my relationships with THEM according to what I want to give my boy. My husband, my mother, my brothers, my family, my girlfriends, my friends -- all of them have graciously allowed me to focus on being a mom, and helped me in sustaining our respective relationships in new and sometimes more fragmented ways.

So I guess what I'm saying is -- to me, what makes me worthy is in part due to what the people I love are willing to let me explore -- the life-changing, axis-redefining experience that is motherhood.

And like Jenny, I can end my entry with the following words:

"I am worthy because of you."

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Is this the definition of irony? I can never remember.

Ways in which the third trimester of pregnancy makes a woman a great deal like the newborn she is about to have:
  1. She shouldn't sleep on her stomach.
  2. She has to eat 8-12 times a day, in tiny amounts, or risk throwing up.
  3. She cries a lot. No one can figure out why, least of all herself.
  4. She can't hold her pee.
  5. People tell her she looks gorgeous when everyone involved knows they're just being nice.
  6. Her weight gain is all anyone cares about.
  7. Either that, or her quality of sleep. Because sleeping through the night? A total thing of the past, now.