Monday, September 29, 2014

Being OK with PPD (even just a little)

I feel like I'm going to be OK.

I walked out of my office after doing a just a little work and said to my husband, "We have a nice little life."

I looped my arms around his waist and held on as he continued on making microwave nachos.

I feel like this is me. Me is not all postpartum depression sadness making me go to sleep as soon as the baby's down. Me is working hard at everything I do, and today I did. Maybe I didn't do it all perfectly, but I did it. And my girl is happy and sleeping and wonderful.

As I was cleaning the kitchen, I thought to myself, "So what's changed? Why am I feeling better?"

Nothing's changed. Because nothing had to. PPD is not about being sad because something in your life isn't right.

It's a chemical imbalance brought on (or made worse) by creating life and giving birth.

OK, so maybe one thing has changed: I sought out—and accepted—help. I'm not sure if I'm going to go back to my counselor. But I'm better. By a lot, most days. And maybe some of it's time, too. My baby's almost 8 months, and they say generally PPD doesn't go past the first year postpartum.

And I'm back in my home office, doing work. Not thinking ahead, not worrying about how I might have failed as a mother today (because I'm sure I could find something I failed at) but being here, now. Typing. Listening to Mumford & Sons, noticing the warm grain in the hardwood floor, the resistant clicks of the keyboard, the tang of the cheap zinfandel in the wine glass my cousin got us as a wedding gift, the all-too-good scent of Swiffer pads on my hands from cleaning.

I hope you're OK, too.

P.S. I made a button. I'm a super beginner at playing with Adobe Illustrator and wanted to make a reminder—whether to you it means "I have PPD and I'm OK with it," "I'm going to get through PPD," or "I love someone with PPD and it's not the end of the world," I hope it makes you smile even just a little.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What Keeps Me Zen: Talking to My Plants

OK—this is crazy. And it certainly comes off that way when you're picking at a plant's dead leaves and softly saying, "Positive thoughts, man. You grow from positivity and warmth."

But you know what? It actually feels good to talk to your plants.

Some background: I've never, ever been good at keeping plants. I somehow fuck up the (supposedly) easy task of getting them the right combination of sunlight, water and...well, that's it. And now that I realize it's only two things (two!) I feel even sadder about it.

And I swear I'm not superstitious. But for our two-year dating anniversary, my now-husband got me a money tree. It was a sweet gift. I don't know why he chose the money tree, but they're pretty. They typically braid the trunk like bamboo and the rest grows green and lush if you're lucky.

I killed that money tree. Must've been either the water or the light. Right? I replaced the money tree (partially out of a mild belief in a superstition that our personal finances are tied to the well-being of this particular species of plant...keyword: superstition. Like I said, crazy.)

So what do I do? I talk to the money tree. Remembering something I read about saying happy words around plants, I tried to verbally coerce the money tree into being super healthy and robust in the hopes that we would be, in the words of Parks & Rec's Jean Ralphio, "Fu-luuuushh with caAaAayyysh."

But in the process I learned that really, saying things like, "You're growing, your leaves are beautiful, I hope you feel good today," to no one but a plant actually feels pretty good. Maybe with the right combination of sunlight, water and positive thinking, we'll all be alright.

Oh, and this plant? It's doing awesome.

photo credit: origami_potato via photopin cc

Monday, September 15, 2014

5 Misconceptions About the Mom Haircut

I chopped my hair at the end of July (literally chopped it, myself, which is another blog post) and I've been loving it. It's so easy, my daughter can't pull on it (for the most part) and it looks better than the stupid bun I wore every day while my hair was long.

I've gotten compliments, though I'm sure the misconceptions about what having a mom haircut means are still out there. I'm here to put them down.

1. You're boring.
If you count being in my daughter's nursery by 7 every night, rocking her to sleep after a bedtime story... well, yeah. Starting over.

1. You're lazy.
I prefer to look at my lack of desire to dry and style 17 inches of furry softness on my head as NOT motivated by laziness but by a need to be doing approximately 132,410 other things at every moment.

2. Your sexual orientation is related to the length of your hair.
(Just no. Get with it.)

3. You've given up on your appearance.
It's a matter of priorities. Showering and the whole ritual used to center around looks. Now, it's more about getting the stink out when I have a second to clean something other than the kitchen, the high chair, diapers, the diaper genie, and of course, my baby.
That, and making sure I don't have mashed bananas in my hair (which is, like, statistically much less likely when you have less hair).

4. You have to be thin to pull off short hair.
Ah, the old "long hair lengthens your fat face" myth. Don't carry around extra hair that you don't care for just because you think it slims your face. It doesn't.

5. You can find me in the mom jeans.
Ahem, it's yoga pants now. They're the new mom jeans, and I am totally proud to be a part of this mom generation. I wear them happily, as if I were going to work out (good one), because every day as a mom is a workout. Fact.

If you've thought about taking the chop and getting rid of hair that's (literally) weighing you down, do it. The deciding factor for me was a conversation with my kick-ass mother. Thanks, mom. Hope you didn't take offense to the mom jeans thing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Save Money on Decor: DIY


Seriously. This happened.
(This never happens.) You can do it, too.

Step 1: See this piece of art at Target.

Step 2: Want this piece of art from Target.

Step 3: Tell your husband you want it and then realize you've been spending way too much money at Target.

Step 4: Walk away.

Step 5: Find a crate. Any old crate.

Step 6: Tear apart the crate. Carefully. (I started trying to take this crate apart with a jigsaw. Ha. It scared me, all vibrating and whizzing and sharp and all. I put the jigsaw away. Then I stepped on one part while pulling another part away. This worked. I was not injured.)

Step 7: Staple pieces together with a staple gun.

Step 8: Paint the back side for practice.

Step 9: Paint the front for reals.

Step 10: Love and hang. (I haven't finished the "hang" part yet, but I'll update when I do.)

And you just saved $30. That's a lotta baby food.

A few notes about the lettering: I used the end of a flathead screwdriver to paint the lettering. Not sure I'd recommend it, but it works in a pinch.
See the yellow post-it there next to "most?" I used that bad boy as a kind of ruler for size reference, so that the block lettering would be an (almost) uniform size.

Now go on, get crafty! What phrase would you paint on something like this?

Friday, September 5, 2014

I'm Sorry, Other Moms

A friend had her baby today, three weeks early.

Baby is having some breathing problems. I'm nervous and waiting for photos. I'm hoping. I'm praying.
And she and I are not even that close.

I feel bad for having told her about how (relatively) easy my labor was. For telling her it would all be good.

I've felt bad all day. And I just realized why: I used to be proud of myself for how my labor went.
I'm embarrassed by this. I don't even know why I'm telling you this.

In some private, closed-off place, I felt that I'd done a good job at having a baby. And maybe I did—but I was working with what I was given. Factors wayyy outside of my control allowed me to do as well as I did. Even though I know that I had nothing to do with how well things went, a little secret part of me has probably thought that I am extra-good at having babies. As if it's a skill. And while going through postpartum depression has been (suuuper) humbling, I still held on to that sly little bit of smugness. I'd done it. And I'd done it well.

Today, and all the mamas I know whose babies are or were breech or early or just flat-out refusing to enter the world on mom's terms, has made me realize that I am nothing more than lucky. Blessed. Lucky to be blessed.

Maybe that's why we gave our daughter the middle name Grace.

Grace—(in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

This is my apology to those I've shared my labor story with and seemed proud of myself. It was, simply and truly, grace. Unmerited, undeserving, incredible, powerful grace.

While we all should be proud of ourselves for surmounting the incredible challenge of giving birth, we should be equally proud. No matter how things went. Whether baby was breech, delivered by c-section, whether we got (and loved) the epidural, whether we needed pitocin or our waters broken, whether we felt weak or strong or mostly just angry at our partners for ever convincing us this was a good idea.

This may be as religious as I get on the blog, but please pray for my friend and her little family, and while you're at it, say a prayer to the Big Guy in the Sky for all the new mamas and brand-new babies out there who could use a little grace.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

4 Insane Things a Mom's Body Does

New, wonderful symptom of postpartum depression: Hands tingling.

It got me thinking about all the insane things my body's done since becoming a mom. Everything it does without needing your mental permission; without you needing to say, "OK, body, have at it."

After it's done building life out of sperm and egg, then pizza, pickles and ice cream, prenatal vitamins and lots of water (that goes out as quickly as it goes in) into a baby ready to take on the world, it gives life. Which is its own (several) blog posts. Then...then? No one talks about what happens then. Here's a couple nutty things.

1. It makes your hands tingle. 
This was further confirmation to me that postpartum depression (and mental illness, in general) is not simply psychological. It all has a physical basis. My body is doing some crazy shit right now, and apparently sending the proper amount of blood and sensation to my hands is pretty damn low on the list of priorities (see #2).

2. It feeds life.
Last night, I pumped after my daughter went to bed. Of course, because of this, she un-characteristically woke up as I was trying to go to sleep at 10:30. I had no milk. But she latched on and persisted. A minute or two of that, and I felt the let-down. And I heard her gulping. Ask for milk, milk you receive.

3. It tells you what it needs.
When I was first home from the hospital, all I wanted was chocolate. Dark chocolate. And as it turns out, chocolate can help your milk supply.* I wish I could say I'd known that, but really I was just listening to my cravings.
After the sweets bingeing was (mostly) over, I craved meat. This from a woman who would order "just fries" or cheese sticks from restaurants as a kid to avoid having to eat burgers. From a woman who was vegetarian for years. My grocery cart was now regularly filled with whatever meat was on sale. This time, my doctor told me I was likely craving meat because of how seriously depleted your body's iron stores are after birth. WHATTUP.
Sometimes it's hard to listen to your body, sometimes it's not. Listen.

4. It gets you by on very, very little sleep.
Last week, standing by the stupid decision to move our living-room furniture into our just-finished basement rec room ourselves, my husband and I removed the latch from our exterior entry door to fit it all through. At 1 AM, I went upstairs to put the latch back on the door. No dice. Seems the anti-jimmy hooziwhatsit bullshit trigger switch had flipped, never to work again.
I drove to Wal-Mart instead of leaving a gaping hole in our door for the night. I slept less than three hours and expected to call in sick to work the next day, thinking I'd be useless. Nope. I felt the same the next morning as any day as a mom (which is not to be compared to any day pre-motherhood). I drank my coffee and went about things just as I would had I gotten my now-normal 5 or 6 hours of sleep.
Thanks, body, thanks. Thanks for making sleep the ultimate luxury and no longer a necessity or even an expectation. I really, really appreciate that, buddy. Chief. Pal. Friend.

And through all this, we wonder how new moms aren't always exactly feeling their best? Now if I could just get rid of this hand-tingling shit.

*I tried to find a source verifying this, but really, all I've got is my sister-in-law saying this is true. Good enough reason for me to keep eating chocolate. At least my love of chocolate is consistent with pre-motherhood me.

What would you add to this list?