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Desiderata

photo (37)Rarely does a day go by where I do not think about my mother. I think I will always have a desire to have her with me in the physical form. I MISS her so much, yet feel her around me all the time. Still, that’s not a substitute for a coffee date, a Sunday brunch or a shared laugh during one of our favorite TV programs. It will be 10 years July 10 since she left me-us. Some days it feels like a million years ago- but usually, it feels like it just happened 5 minutes ago. I don’t know why that’s so. I guess it’s because I am a mom now and I’m who she was to me, for me- to/for someone else.

I used to keep journals. Like actual real life, lined paper kind. They are strewn all over nooks and corners of our condo. From time to time I pick one up and open it to a random page. It’s like a peek into the person I used to be. Reading them is like visiting an old friend.

Recently this ritual led to me finding something I had forgotten about. I read it and immediately regretted it because It left me gutted. It brought me back to the night my mom died and all the feelings came rushing back. It was like taking a million steps back in my “recovery” process. I don’t know what  is compelling me to share it. Maybe someone else has felt the same…or maybe IS feeling the same right now. Anyway, here it is. I wrote it about 5 months after her death.
_______________________________________________________________________________________
January 9, 2005

The room was so still. It was as if all the air had been sucked from the room and my body. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. I was  there, enveloped in the stillness of that room and the reality that a part of me had just died- my mother is gone.

I had experienced death before. I’d lost a friend or two, an aunt, an uncle, a cousin before. I worked at a nursing home in high school and I’d been working when a patient or two passed away. I’d seen death- but not like this. This time is was so very different. I wasn’t removed this time. IT happened to ME. It happened to MY mother.

I was afraid to look at her. I was afraid to touch her hand, to kiss her cheek. I was so mad at myself. How could I be afraid of the woman I’d spend my entire life with? The woman with whom I had shared a special bond. I didn’t know how to deal with all of the emotions. I was paralyzed. The world had stopped. My world had stopped. At that very moment, the world as I knew it, died and fear took over me and I didn’t want the next moment, and the moment after that, or the one next to come. I wanted to stay still. To just pause and exist in that single moment- forever. From that moment I knew I’d be different. I knew I would never, ever be who I was before. I was raw and exposed as so it was.

I walked over to my mom and looked at her face. It was as if I was trying to imprint it on my brain so I wouldn’t forget a single detail of it. Her skin looked so smooth and it felt like silk. Her lips were pink and her cheeks flushed. I was surprised by that because I had imagined when a person passed that they would look pale. She didn’t. She looked peacefully asleep and that provided me with an ounce of comfort in this storm.

I leaned over and silently thanked her for loving me. For being my best friend, for believing in me when I couldn’t, or wouldn’t,  believe in myself. Most importantly I told her I was okay. That I would be okay. I mostly said that part for me. I wanted to convince myself of it. I knew she wouldn’t have left me if she didn’t believe I would be okay on my own. We were like that with each other.

I caressed her hair and willed myself to walk away. I knew that this would probably be our last goodbye. Her wish was to be cremated and I wasn’t sure I’d have the strength to see her and do this all over again.

I left her room and began to walk towards the family waiting room. My feet felt so heavy, as if I had 100 lbs weights strapped to the bottom of my soles. As I walked the hallway seemed like with each step it would grow another yard. It felt like I’d never make it back. I feel like I’m never going to make it back.

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When I was growing up, especially during my teen years, whenever my mom would act a certain way or enforce some rule that I always deemed irrational and or ridiculous, she’d always close with, “One day when you have your own kids you’ll understand!” And in my youth driven naiveté I’d always think, “the hell I won’t….my kid won’t have a curfew I’ll trust them enough to come home whenever they want!” Ahhhh to be young and dumb. For the record, my mom was right… as moms usually are. Better to learn that lesson young, folks. Anyway, I have my own kid now and I DO understand.

Parenting is not at all what I expected. In some ways it has been. I expected to have an increase in responsibilities- normal parental duties like feeding, changing bathing etc. I expected the strain it can have on a relationship, “No…I can’t do (fill in the blank) I’m tired and the baby has taken all of my energy!” What I didn’t expect, and I’ve expressed it before in this space, is the constant feeling that I have to protect this little being at all costs. Does this feeling ever go away? Now I get why my mom enforced a curfew, insisted that she meet the parents of whomever’s house I was going to go play at and made sure she loved me enough so I felt I could come to her with anything. What she was good at, which I think currently I am failing miserably at, is her ability to run a tight ship, while also granting just enough room to fall, make mistakes and learn the lessons.

Esther is fearless! She runs, explores and throws herself into experiences….just as she should. She’s interested in the tiny ants on the ground and then a second later looks up and notices the vastness of the sky. It is refreshing to watch as it’s an invitation for me to reacquaint myself with the beauty around us just waiting for us to notice it. But, sometimes in her boundless curiosity she runs too fast, or doesn’t look where she is going and almost falls, or almost runs into a wall or ALMOST_____. Sometimes, she does fall. The momma part- the need protect part- then wants to make sure “it” doesn’t happen ever ever again. Also, I’ll think to myself, “It’s a good thing I was there, she almost____.”

Lately, I’ve been thinking about parenting and the impact I want to have on E. I’ve realized that oftentimes, I’m being selfish. I mean that in the sense of what I’m getting out of our relationship vs. if she’s getting what she needs from  me. Let me make it plain: I hover because it makes me feel needed even if it’s not necessarily fostering her growth and independence.

My baby isn’t a baby anymore. Fact. She is a card carrying toddler- ready to embrace the next step and I’m still stuck in the “she’s so tiny and needs me for everything” stage. I miss my baby sometimes. Yes, it was hard to wake up for feedings every 2 hours, but the physical contact, the snuggling afterwards and the look of satisfaction on her face was divine. The smell of her head was indescribable (you’d think someone would make a candle scent out of it already). Maybe it’s just me, but I would imagine that if you dig down deep enough- this is the root of most issues between parents and kids- the balance between letting them go yet hanging on enough to make sure they learn the lessons and you still feel somewhat needed. I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud.

Esther is craving independence. I can sense it and see it. This indeed means that yes, she will need me less. I should be proud because it means Jim and I are doing our jobs. The toddler stage has been challenging, but I’m starting to appreciate that each stage has its blessings and moments of sadness.

This morning at 5:30 I heard her say “uh oh” on the baby monitor. So, I went in to check on her and she was on her tummy in her crib trying to go back to sleep while reaching around her body to pull the covers over her butt – it was cold in her room.  I swooped her up and we snuggled on the ground with a pillow and a blanket .She faced me and cradled my face with her hands and said, “momma, MOMma” and it was the sweetest f’in thing you could ever imagine. I suppose this stage has its fun/sweet/tender/ she still needs me parts too. So, there’s that.

Family Portrait, Andrews, Tanisha, Jim, Esther, Burwell House, Minnetonka

Photo Credit: Julie Hruska Photography

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When you attend babyshowers, sometimes you’re subjected to games you might not be all that excited about playing. I’m sure some of you have been there. It’s a part of the tradition at these functions, and sometimes, you win cute stuff. Anyway- there was a list I came across for this purpose. You give them to attendees and they write down wishes for the baby. I loved this list and decided to fill it out for my little one as well. Here it is.

WISHES FOR BABY (the part after the “_____” is what you fill in)

  I hope that you_____Always trust your gut!

  I hope you aren’t afraid___To always be true to who you believe you are. Even if it’s very different from everyone else around you.

  I hope you love___ Life and all if its joys and challenges

  I hope you get____ Enough challenges to keep you strong and enough love to carry  you through them

  I hope you laugh___ Everyday because you don’t take yourself too seriously

  I hope you never forget___ That no matter what, your father and I will always,always  love you

I hope you ignore___ Those people who will judge you without cause or reason

I hope you become____All that YOU want to

I hope you respect___The process and trust it to lead you to exactly where you need to be

I hope you grow___Into your destiny

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I’m at the end of my first week back at work. It has been so great to catch up with co-workers and to rejoin the workforce downtown. That being said, I miss my girl like crazy during the day. I’m lucky/glad that she has enjoyed daycare. She comes home exhausted from playing, but is still her happy, smiley self. It gives me peace of mind to know she’s having fun all day. It still doesn’t make me miss her any less.

I guess I didn’t expect to feel so strongly pulled in both directions. On one hand, I feel compelled to be with her more. I feel like I’m missing HUGE chunks of her day. These babies change so fast and I want to experience each part/ stage with her. I know I get to see her in the evening and on weekends, but that somehow still feels less than ideal. Then, on the other hand, I do enjoy working and feeling like I’m using my brain for other things besides deciding if I should do a load of laundry before or after washing the bottles.

I guess what I’m trying to convey is that this is so hard and I don’t know if there is an easy answer right now.  Maybe working part-time some day? I don’t know if that’s the solution either. All I (we) can do is take it one day at a time. I’m thinking extra hard about this today because Esther went to daycare not feeling the best today. She’s experiencing her first cold. Again, she  seems fine and it’s probably been harder on me than it is for her. She’s congested and very “snotty” but still smiling through it. What a trooper! If this is any indication of how she’s gonna handle sickness than I am so not worried. She’s been a champ. I ❤ her so.

Maybe I can just hire her as my assistant and she can hang out in my office all day!!?? No? Child labor laws? Shoot.

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I’m sitting here writing this post and listening to Esther “talk” to me. She plays this call and response game with us. It’s one of my most favorite things and I will miss this time during the day with her. I’m returning to work next Monday and It’s very bittersweet. I’ve enjoyed these months with her, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to get back to a routine again that includes working. I miss it. I’m not worried about her. I think she’ll love daycare. She’s becoming more aware of her surrounding and she craves stimulation.  She’ll be able to play with the other kids (as much as she can “play” at this age) and watch them move around her. She’ll be socialized and that’s so important to us.

I now know that all mom’s work! No matter if she’s staying at home or working outside the home. Staying home is not a vacation! There are always bottles to we washed, baby laundry to wash and fold or a baby who needs attention.

This is my last week home with her and I have to keep reminding myself that I’ll still get to spend lots of time with her in the evening and weekends. For some reason it feels like she’s going away to summer camp  or something and I won’t see her for months. I have all of these things I want to do with her this week and I’ve been getting extra snuggles in.

I’m continuing to focus on BALANCE. Figuring out how to be mom, wife, friend, co-worker, sister…and the list goes on. Something tells me this will be ongoing, but that’s ok. I’m in a much better place than I was a few weeks ago and it feels good.

It may be quiet around here again for a while as we adjust to me working outside the home. I will try my best to keep you all informed about what’s going on with Lady E.

Cheers!

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Every time I fly I always listen carefully to the emergency instructions, especially after 9/11. In the event that the oxygen masks are deployed, they always point out that if you are travelling with small children that you should put your mask on first before assisting them. I always thought that was odd, but now I see why they make a special mention of it. As a parent your natural reaction is to protect the safety of your children at all costs, even if it’s to your detriment at times. What’s so screwed up about that is that if you don’t take care of yourself first (put your mask on) you won’t be able to help your child and you both could end up paying the price.

For the past 2 weeks or so I’ve been waking up mentally telling myself to “put my mask on first”. Every morning I immediately wake up and think of Esther’s needs. Usually that involves changing her, making her a bottle  and feeding her right away. This process usually takes about an hour. Before I know it, it’s noon and I haven’t used the bathroom, gotten dressed or eaten. My needs have taken a back seat lately. While some of this is expected as a mom (esp a first time one) a lot of what I’ve been experiencing lately boarders on unhealthy and unnatural.

I have a history of depression. I’ve struggled with it since college (although I’m sure I was depressed before then it just wasn’t diagnosed). Sometimes this depression presented itself as an eating disorder, mania, or a deep dark “retreat from the world” feeling.  In the past I’ve managed this demon with psychotherapy alone, medication alone or a combo of both.

Before getting pregnant I was in a good spot. I was managing my depression on my own, meaning I found a great balance between exercise, getting enough sleep and making sure I reached out when I needed to.  I had slowly weaned myself off of my meds and at the time, I felt it was the right thing to do. Then I got pregnant. Immediately my depression was a concern. At my first prenatal appointment I disscussed this with my OB and she said that if I wanted to we could set up a course of action to make sure I was taken care of right after the baby was born. This is where I made my first mistake, I said, “Well, let’s just wait and see.” I refused the help because I thought that my new momma love for my baby would be enough. I thought that I’d meet him or her and that my love for them would superceed any feelings of darkness, sadness, anxiety. I mean who would have time for all of that moping when you’ve received this increadible gift from God? I’ve always belived (and still do) that  there isn’t a way to “wish away” true depression. It’s a medical disease that needs just as much treatment as diabetes or cancer. For some reason, though, I momentarily thought that my baby would somehow “save” me from ever feeling depressed again. Unfortunately, that’s not true.

I’m struggling. It’s hard to admit that. Having a new baby is magical. I love my daughter so much it’s sickening. Really, I’m obsessed with her. Probably to a fault. Being a new mom (first time?) is hard as sh*t!! I wish more moms would share that. Sure- it’s the best thing you’ll ever do, but it’s terrifying at times, frustrating, and like I said…hard as f*ck!! And I have HELP! My husband is here and willing to help-  I just struggle with letting him. This is where my depression and anxiety is creeping in. I feel this need to be around her 24 hrs a day or else something bad could happen to her.

I’m exactly the kind of mother I didn’t want to be. My fear of having a child was that I’d pass on my “crazy” to him or her. I feared that he or she would observe some of my unusual behaviors and someone discern that the world was a bad place. I want Esther to be confident in herself, trusting of others and overall a well  rounded person! I felt I used to be that person and someone lost my way a bit. Anyway, for the past few weeks I’ve slowly watched some glimpses of my previous (depression and anxious ) self return. For example:

1) I really didn’t leave the house with my baby for the entire 1st month of her life. Except to see the doctor

2) I didn’t want anyone around her (some of this is warrented b/c I was advised to keep her away from germs and people in general because of RSV, cold and flu season).

3) I’d have an overwhelming feeling that she would get sick and have to be hospitalized

4) She would somehow get RSV or something else, be hospitalized and die

5) Then if she died, there’d be no way I could live without her

6) I’m obsessed with knowing she’s ok 24 hrs a day. So much so that 90 percent of the time I take her in the bathroom with me, in her bassinet, when I bathe or shower. Oh, and this is when Jim is HOME and could easily watch her

7) I only feel comfortable leaving her with Jim, and I barely do that for fear he’s going to break her

I’m not proud of any of the above behaviors. Rationally, I know it is “nuts”. I still can’t help myself.

Today on a walk I finally said something to Jim about it. He said that I was acting like a single parent when I’m not. Something about that shook me. I realized that I needed help NOW before things get worse. I know that in a few short weeks I’ll be returning to work and Esther will have to go to day care. All of this has been coming to a head because we have to find someone to help raise our daughter (that’s how I look at finding a day care provider because really, that’s what they’ll be doing). I thought to myself, “How am I going to leave her with someone when I barely trust my husband to take care of her.”

Today I put my g*ddamn mask on already!! I called my internet to re-fill my meds (as a back up). I called a psychologist who was listed on a postpartum website as a coordinator for my area and she was able to talk to me on the phone today. Coincidently I was a patient of her’s in the past when I was 25 and feeling like I was having a quarter life crisis. It was actually nice to chat with her and she remembered me- which put me at ease a little bit and made me feel like I’m headed in the right direction. I have an appointment with her right away Monday morning to talk about course of treatment/action.

I’m doing this because I don’t have a choice. I cannot let myself fall into a dark place. It’s not fair to me, but more so to my sweet little girl and husband. I’m getting a mammogram soon because there is a family history  I don’t want to get breast cancer and leave them alone. To me, my mental health is just as serious as that.

I’m sharing this, this very personal thing, because I hope it helps someone- specifically a new mom.I think sometimes we don’t want to talk about the struggles that come along with being a new mom because it’s supposed to be this happy time- and it IS, but it’s also challenging and it’s ok if you’re struggling.  Just don’t struggle in silence and by all means put your mask on ! You need to be  your best self for this new little person in your life.

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Early Friday Morning: January 27

I bet some men choose to become anesthesiologist who specialize in giving epidurals because they want to know what it feels like to be worshipped. To show up in a laboring woman’s room and feel like he’s prince charming. When my prince charming showed up it was like he floated in pushing his white cart of magic juice and everything one else disappeared. At that moment he was the most important person in the room. At one point in my pregnancy I actually thought I would skip the epidural because I was so scared of having something injected/placed in my spine. I feared the pain and what would happen if say I moved or the doctor missed and I ended up losing feeling in my legs. Ya know, totally practical things since I never over worry about anything (: Anyway- I was no longer afraid of any of that. He could have placed the catheter in my iris and I would have been okay with that. Any pain would be better than the pain from the contractions I had been having without any medication. My sweet nurse offered up her hands for me to squeeze as the epi was placed. The entire procedure took about maybe 20 minutes. After the epi kicked in (which took all of 2 minutes or so) labor was a piece of cake. Almost immediately I was a different woman. I could actually think and breathe. It was amazing. I couldn’t feel my legs at all. Well, I could feel  them, but they felt like they each weighed 400 lbs.

After the medical staff left us to labor on our own, Jim and I napped/slept. It was great. We drifted in and out of sleep as nurses came in to turn me, check a monitor or move my blood pressure cuff that kept moving around the entire time. At around 8 or so my doctor came in the room to check my progress. She checked me and said, “Wow, you wanna know how far you are?” To be honest I really didn’t care. I was in EPI LAND and the world was grand. She could have said 4 or 8 and I would have felt the same. Well, she said the latter. I was at 8! My water had also broken without my having known it. They (my nurse and doc) decided to just let me hang out for awhile so baby could continue to put pressure on my cervix. The reasoning behind that was she would slowly and steadily make her way into the birth canal and it would lessen the time I’d have to push. Sounded like the best  idea in the world to me, so that’s what we did. We spent about two hours or so just hanging out. The nurse would come in to turn me it seemed every 30/45 minutes or so. Soon it was time to push.

It was just the nurse, Dr. Roberts, myself (of course) and my husband in the room. We were the dream team. The nurse on one side and my husband on the other. They were my coaches. During each contraction they’d tell me to “PUSH” and that I was doing a great job. Dr. Roberts was awesome too. She would say, “You can see her, she’s right there. Poop your baby out!” Yes, POOP your baby out. Isn’t that crazy! I suppose you’re using those same muscles. To be honest, I felt nothing. I tried to poop my baby out, but I was more so acting. I’d try to look like I was really trying while pushing. I didn’t want to let anyone down, but I hadn’t a clue if my pushes were really effective or not. Apparently they were because I only pushed for just under 20 minuets and then my sweet little angel was out. I remember looking at her and thinking she looked so small. She came out kicking and screaming and I was so relieved. It was as if I had been holding my breath for 38 plus weeks and I could finally exhale. I remember the doctor placed her on my chest for a moment and I just rubbed her little head and said “Hi, Hi…” over and over again. I did shed a tear or two. The whole experience was so overwhelming I cannot describe it. I immediately loved her and was consumed with a feeling I’ve never experienced before – momma bear. I instantly felt a need to protect and care for her at all costs. I feel like I met two  people in that moment my sweet little girl and the woman I now was- a mom. Jim did cut the cord. He’d planned not too and Dr. Roberts insisted that he do it. It had been a running joke (kinda) between those two for weeks. I’m glad in the end he did it. That’s something you don’t want to look back on and wish you’d done it.

This story was going to have a part 3 about our hospital stay and the following days with little E. I’ve decided not to write it because the majority of it would be negative and I don’t want to taint these moments with that. We were so dissatisfied with our postpartum experience at Fairview Southdale. I plan to never set foot in that hospital again. I didn’t feel valued as a patient and I question the medical care my daughter was given.  I LOVED my labor and delivery nurses, however, and I had a wonderful night nurse.

How do I end on a good note? Well, it’s been 6 weeks since this day and I couldn’t be happier. Motherhood has been so very hard, but so very rewarding. I love Esther so much and I can’t imagine my life without her in it. I’m forever changed and my heart is forever broken apart. I’m raw to all experiences that involve her. It makes me vulnerable in a way I never imagined. I suppose  this is what most mothers feel. I get it now. I GET it now. I’m so happy I’ve been given such a blessing.

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It Will Come…

Part 2 of Esther’s birth story is coming. I just have to find time to write it. I’ve written it in my head a hundred times, I just have no time to put it here in a form that makes sense. I need that software, Dragon, so I can speak it and it will be written for me. Either that or an extra set of  hands.  I have never worked this hard in my life and it…SHE is totally worth it. Once she sleeps during the night a bit more (which means I can then get more sleep myself) and becomes more independent playing on her own, I’ll have more time for this again.

Be back soon! Promise as I miss writing in this space.

In the meantime, here is a link to photos of our favorite girl! :

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150367698961195.397315.715686194&type=3&l=79ce358d70

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