Tag Archives: anxiety

Nerves, guilt and a dose of anxiety – Three days til Blissdom

There are so many things going through my head.

I’m way anxious about leaving to go to Blissdom on Thursday. I haven’t started packing yet (I’m totally putting it off), but we have started prepping for me being gone. It’s the first time in Noah’s 10.5 months that I will be away from him overnight, and I am scared to death.

Bobby worries that I don’t think he’ll take good care of the kiddo, but it’s not that at all. I think they will probably have a blast.

Maybe I’m a little afraid they will have too good a time. Without me. That I’ll miss out on something big (like Noah going from occasional few-independent-stepper to full-time, bona fide walker). I’m afraid when I get back that he’ll be “over me,” as I told Bobby this morning.

But I can’t let those things stop me from doing something I’m looking forward to, something for me. And it’s oh, so tempting to do that. But I think part of doing that would be for ease and comfort; it would allow me to put off facing down fears and anxieties that have riddled me since I gave birth to Noah.

I have to do this eventually. And the sooner I do it, the sooner I get back to normal living. I hope.

I think it’s probably normal to feel some amount of guilt (specifically as a mom) when you do something like this for yourself. My blogging (and even my freelance, which is not that closely connected with my blogging, for the most part) is not supporting us. It’s mostly a hobby, something I enjoy. So going to a conference like this seems sort of frivolous.

It’s times like these, though, when I appreciate fully having such a supportive husband, who reassures me that he supports me and wants me to do things that will make me happy.

I think the challenge for me is going to be leaving the guilt and anxiety behind. I think a touch of excited nervousness is OK, and when it comes to the conference itself, that’s what I feel. I’m excited to meet new people and hear speakers on topics that I’m interested in. I’m looking forward to finding an item or two at the handmade marketplace. I’m hoping to make some connections that will benefit my blogging and freelance potential for the future.

Blissdom is definitely going to be a stretch for me, but I think it’s a stretch that needs to happen. I could let myself become a social shut-in and use Noah as an excuse for that, or I can start pushing myself. One of those will let me grow as a person and actually better myself. And I think it’ll actually help me be a better mother, because I will be maintaining my identity and showing Noah what it means to pursue your passions and dreams.

So I’m nervous and feeling a little guilty and anxious, but I’m also excited. Blissdom is going to be great.

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

Do you like cute, hand-stitched/appliqued kids clothes or love to see a tutu on a little girl? Please be sure to check out my Blissdom sponsor, Eleanore’s Treasures!

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

Please be sure to stop back by on Wednesday for an exciting (at least to me!) announcement regarding The Family Math!

If you like it, put a ring on it. But what to do when you hate it?

I’ve been seeing updates about this whole Jay-Z/Beyonce baby business, and I seriously feel sick.

Apparently the music stars rented out a floor on the hospital where Beyonce had her scheduled c-section and felt the need to enact such extreme security measures that families with babies in the hospital’s NICU unit were not allowed to see their children.

As a former NICU mom, I have a hard time even describing how this makes me feel. Infuriated. Anxious all over again. A little lightheaded.

More than anything I feel such heartbreak for families who are already dealing with an incredibly stressful situation having to deal with this shit. Because that’s what it is. Shit.

I think back to when Noah was in the NICU, and we had to wait at a door to be buzzed in just to see him. We weren’t allowed to pick him up at first. I wasn’t allowed to breastfeed him. And then, when I finally was, we walked in to find a nurse we had never even seen before giving him a bottle before his designated feeding time.

We had hardly any control whatsoever over our relationship with our son that first week.

NICU makes you feel like the baby doesn’t even belong to you; it belongs to the hospital. The hospital makes the rules for when you see it, when you can’t see it, when you are allowed to touch it, when you are allowed to feed it. So for someone to be able to place even more of those rules on parents simply for their own comfort is so incredibly unfair.

I don’t care how much money you have or who you are. It’s indecent to allow someone on your payroll to behave that way. And it’s absolutely wrong for the hospital to allow this type of behavior at all just for the sake of money.

Blissdom confessions

I’ll just be honest and say I’m posting this because I need reassurance.

I’m feeling so incredibly anxious about Blissdom (for those who don’t know, it’s a blogging conference I’m attending in February in Nashville). I literally said I would be attending Twitter yesterday because I hoped just knowing other people expected me to be there would entice me not to back out of going. I haven’t even officially signed up for it yet, but I’m already getting that terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I don’t think this is regular anxiety. I think it’s PPA-related. I love meeting new people and trying new things.

But as I think about it, I imagine sitting by myself in a roomful of people who are all laughing, who all have things in common, who have met or chatted on Twitter or Skyped before. I think about breaking the “rule” that crying in the bathroom is not allowed. I think about how much I’ll miss Noah and Bobby and that I wish I could just take them both with me.

And the knot from my stomach is in my throat now.

I want to go. Bobby is encouraging me to go. I’ve even had one person (hi, Fadra) already promise me a hug.

But this little voice tells me I’m not cool enough. That people will just be annoyed by my anxiety and nervousness. That I don’t belong there.

And I want to belong there. I want to experience the community everybody who’s been raves about. And I’m afraid I’m going to be the one missing out.

Loss, PPD and the holidays

My sisters and me with our dad at Christmas in 2006. Hard to believe that was five years ago.

I’ve had this post rolling around in my head ever since I visited “home” for Thanksgiving. I don’t know why I haven’t written it yet except that it really is still hard to think about my dad sometimes.

Something that struck me about the time I spent with my sisters and our significant others over Thanksgiving was that we were able to share stories about our dad. Good memories, funny little things we remembered, even a few things we wish had turned out differently.

And I was able to reflect on my dad and who he was (and who he wasn’t, for that matter) without feeling like the walls were closing in on me.

Up to this point, the postpartum depression I’ve dealt in recent months was so much in control that I really couldn’t even think about my dad without facing a downward spiral of crappy emotions. And that really kept me from even being able to grieve for him because I basically just couldn’t even think about him. And when I did, those thoughts quickly turned to me — what I was doing wrong, how bad my life was, what was wrong with me.

This is not to say that I feel at fault for this or that I could have done anything about it at the time. But I am really glad that I now feel like I’m able to grieve for my father.

Christmas was one of his favorite times of the year. I will always remember (and this is so silly, but it’s a fun memory for me) him wrapping presents on random nights in December and then knocking on the bedroom door, indicating that he wanted me to come get them. I would race down the hallway to get the wrapped-up presents, hoping to catch a glimpse of something unwrapped on the other side of the door before he closed it. I never did catch that glimpse.

I think about being a kid and loading up in my dad’s truck, bundled up against the cold, to find a Christmas tree. We’d take a saw and drive out into the woods somewhere near our house, looking for the perfect tree. We’d decorate it with every Christmas ornament, string of lights, strand of garland and piece of tinsel we owned, and by Christmas, it would be almost hidden behind stacks of presents.

Today when I was trying to get Noah’s attention, I caught myself saying, “Psst!” That’s something my dad always used to do. He would say, “Psst!” and then when I would look at him, he’d wink. I have a feeling I’ll be teaching that to Noah.

One of the things that makes me saddest is that Noah and my dad never got to meet. Never got to go fishing together. Never rode down to the river or threw a baseball. Noah never got to see him play Santa Claus.

But one of the things that makes me happy now is that I can actually process this, and when the time comes, I know I’ll be ready to share my dad with Noah.

I think visiting family at Christmas will come with its own set of challenges, and I hope I’m ready to face them. It has always been such a special time for my family, even though it’s been different in recent years. And I want Noah to get a glimpse of what it used to be like.

I also don’t want PPD to take away from the joy of  my little boy’s first Christmas and our first Christmas as a family of three.  I’m going to do my best to focus on the good and to leave the worries behind in Tuscaloosa. I’m going to embrace the craziness of the holidays with my family and remind myself when I feel a little overwhelmed that everything is going to be OK. I will take some time for myself while allowing Noah’s grandparents to have a little extra time with him (AKA babysitting).

It’s going to be a different Christmas, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a good one. And I want to honor my dad and my little three-member family by celebrating.

I deserve better than to be judged: On breastfeeding vs. formula

I’m coming back to the beginning to preface this, as it’s turning into a pretty lengthy post. There has been a good amount of argument this week around the Internet (particularly among those on the mommy blogger circuit) about breast feeding vs. formula feeding and whether hospitals should provide free samples of formula to moms.

Honestly, I’ve stayed away from it as much as I can, because this is a bit of a trigger for me. What I have read — on both sides — has brought back a hint of that gut-wrenchingly anxious feeling I experienced at the height of my PPD. I am a formula feeder — not by choice — and, as much as I wish this wasn’t the case, I still feel guilty about it.

So if you don’t want to bother reading my story, please just understand this part. When I became a mom, my world stood still while the rest of the world continued moving around me. It would be great if we all suddenly lived in a vacuum during and after childbirth where we had an easy time making decisions, all things were perfect and we actually got to make choices about all the things that were important to us. But that’s not the case for me, for you or for any other parent in the world.

Things happen. Not every mom is the same, and not every mom’s experience is the same. And these debates over which choice is right and who is a better mommy is painful. I know I put enough pressure on myself to be a good mom without a bunch of other people adding to that by whispering (or shouting, as the case may be) in my ear about how this or that decision is the. most. important. one. and if I don’t choose correctly, it’ll eternally damage my child and my bond with him.

Please, please remember, no matter which side of whatever argument you fall on, that the vast majority of us are out here struggling to do the best we can with what we have. We love our kids just like you love yours. And I’d guarantee that 99% of us would benefit so much more from understanding and support than we would from another argument.

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

I was able to hold Noah only briefly before he was taken to the NICU.

When Noah went to the NICU right after being born (a week late and weighing 9 lbs. 5 oz.), I was unprepared for it on every level.

I had dreamed of that perfect moment when Bobby and I took him in our arms and became a family of three. Noah would have immediate skin-to-skin contact, and I would be able to bond with him through breastfeeding right away.

Except it didn’t happen that way.

My doctor warned me that I might not get to hold him right away after she broke my water and found a rather alarming amount of meconium. But, she said, there was a good chance if he cried immediately that the nurse would go ahead and hand him to me.

The first words I said, and I remember it so clearly, when my son was born were, “He’s crying!”

I’m not sure if I physically reached for him — I imagine I did — but every inch of my being ached to have that little screaming, red mess of a baby laid on my chest. I had carried him for nine months, and I was ready to start getting to know my child.

So imagine my disappointment when he was almost immediately whisked away to a warmer to be poked and prodded by nurses. My doctor and delivery nurse were doing their own poking and prodding on me, and I had to ask someone to move out of the way so I could actually even see Noah.

The details surrounding precisely what happened next are a little fuzzy. I was told his Apgar scores were 9 and 9, about as close to perfect as you can get. But then there was some worry about the way he was breathing. They wanted to take him to the NICU so they could figure out what was wrong. I asked if I at least could hold him before they took him away, and someone swaddled him up and handed him to me. Bobby didn’t even get to hold his son until later that night (actually just after midnight, I think).

I had to wait in my room for my epidural to wear off. I had planned a med-free birth, but after 28 hours of laboring with little progress, my doctor and I decided to go a different route. The nurse finally came to help me get cleaned up, and I was cleared to go visit Noah.

We had to scrub in to see him in the NICU. I was sore, tired and achy as I shrugged into the sterile hospital gown that was required to go in the room with him. At that point they had him in a regular cradle, but they would soon move him to an incubator unit because they thought his body temperature was getting too low.

Bobby feeding Noah in the incubator.

The nurses couldn’t be very specific about what was wrong with him, just that he had an infection, he needed IV antibiotics and that we would not be able to hold him just yet. They were not allowing him to eat until the following day, so definitely no breastfeeding.

At some point, the hospital set me up with a breast pump, and I set about pumping every couple of hours. I was running on not near enough sleep after the long labor, and my body ached as if I had the flu. But still I pumped every few hours. The voice of Noah’s pediatrician and my doctor and basically every other person I’ve ever talked to about breastfeeding echoed in my head, reminding me how important that first bit of colostrum is to the baby and how I basically had to use it or lose it.

So I kept at it. We were able to begin feeding Noah small bottles of formula provided by the hospital after a day or so of him being in the NICU, first by sticking our hands in the incubator and eventually actually holding him. The nurses mixed in the little bit of colostrum I produced, praising me for my effort and reminding me how much that would help Noah. But still no breastfeeding. They couldn’t unhook all the wires, and it just wasn’t possible, they said.

I was released on Wednesday after having Noah late Sunday night, and Bobby and I revolved our schedule around pumping and making it back to the hospital with that before it was time for Noah to eat. We were going to the hospital every three hours during the day.

As the week went on, there was some uncertainty about when Noah would be released. First it was going to be after 5 days, then a week, then maybe an extra two days or two more weeks. And I continued to feel worse and worse rather than feeling better. By Friday I suspected it might be something more than just the normal aches that come from childbirth, took my temperature — it was 102. Bobby called my doctor immediately, and she prescribed an antibiotic. We would find out later that Noah and I had the same infection — villitis.

Meanwhile, we were finally allowed that Friday morning to meet with the lactation consultants and attempt to breastfeed Noah for the first time. I cried. It was such a sweet relief. The lactation nurse told me she could tell he was going to be a good breast feeder.

The next morning we were hopeful that Noah would be released. I still felt terrible, but at least I knew what was wrong and had medicine. I had been pumping successfully for a week, and even though it seemed like my supply was not growing like it should, I would be able to actually breast feed like normal soon. We planned to go for Noah’s first feeding that morning so I could attempt BFing him again. Bobby dropped me off at the door about 10 minutes before the scheduled feeding time, and I scrubbed in, put on the hospital gown over my clothes and bopped on over to Noah’s NICU suite with my Boppy pillow in tow.

And when I got there, a nurse I’d never seen before was feeding him a bottle. And I LOST it.

Bobby seriously had to pull me away from Noah’s room and the nurse who was feeding him, because I was sobbing. It was like that whole week’s frustrations and all the hopes and fears about finally bringing our child home all escaped at once. I sank into a chair in the NICU nursing room and buried my head in my hands. Bobby went to grab Noah’s bassinet and pulled him into the room, which was probably the only thing that saved the scene from getting even uglier.

Noah's first day home

We did end up taking Noah home that day, much to our relief. Some things got easier from there, and some got worse. Bobby and I were new parents with no idea what we were doing. We weren’t getting sleep, and suddenly I was up every few hours trying to cram my boob into the mouth of a screaming baby. Difficult even when you’re at 100%, but I was still recovering from the infection that had raged for almost a week before I got treated. I was running a fever every day, and Bobby would tell me months later that I had actually deliriously tried to leave the house “to go feed the baby” in the middle of the night one of those nights.

I tried breastfeeding Noah as often as I could and pumped when I couldn’t. Adding to the stress was the fact that because of Noah’s NICU stay we were still having to take him to have his sodium levels checked about every other day. That particular part of this story is a bit of a blur, but just trust me when I say it was ridiculous and probably never should have even happened, but his doctors wanted to be very cautious.

I set up a follow-up appointment with a lactation consultant because we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, and this was the one bit of advice most everyone seemed to agree on. Again, the lactation consultant commented on how well Noah latched on and that she thought he would do just fine as a breast feeder once I got the hang of it.

Then after I was done nursing him, she placed him on the scale to see if he’d gotten enough. She looked at the nurse with her with pursed lips before she looked at me. She told me it looked like maybe we had better supplement with the bottle of formula I’d brought with me because he’d only consumed about 8 millileters.

I’m surprised I didn’t break down then and there.

Meanwhile the rest of the world spun on around me. My father had been sick for quite some time with lung cancer that spread to his brain, and I knew he was nearing the end of his life. Those people who say that at least it was expected? They really don’t know what they’re talking about.

I knew if I could just make it to Noah’s two-week follow-up with his pediatrician then I could get the all-clear for him traveling and see my father before he died. I wanted him to meet Noah.

Noah’s appointment was at 2:30 on a Monday. My dad passed away around 11 that morning.

Bobby insisted that I pack up and go be with my family, and he was right. I looked him in the eye and asked if he knew that this would probably bring an end to breastfeeding for us, and he said yes. I told him I couldn’t handle the added stress of pumping on the road and in the midst of grieving family members and funeral arrangements. I would return to pumping if I could, but I didn’t pack the pump. What I did pack? As many bottles of ready-to-feed leftover hospital sample formula as I had left.

That trip was hard. My mother had lost her husband of 40+ years. My sisters and I had lost our father. Noah had lost the Papa he never met. My Aunt Merilyn offered to keep Noah at my mom’s house during the visitation and funeral, and I nervously accepted.

My emotions threatened to overwhelm me during this time. I was mourning the loss of my dad, but there was also something else that kept returning to the front of my mind, that kept my shoulders in a perpetual slump and my head down: I felt so guilty. I felt like a failure. I constantly questioned whether I should have brought the pump, whether I should have Bobby bring it with him when he joined me in south Alabama on the day of the funeral. Maybe it wasn’t too late. Maybe I could change my mind. The constant questioning, the pressure, the guilt — they all made me feel as if I could never possibly be the right kind of mom for Noah.

Once we arrived back home after my father’s funeral, I pumped one last time. I didn’t even pump 10 ml. I was done.

The pumping and breastfeeding part might have been over, but the guilt and self-doubt had only just started. Every time I sat down to give Noah a bottle, my body physically yearned to have that breastfeeding connection with him, and I couldn’t do it. I don’t know how many times I cried as I fed him.

Less than two weeks after my dad passed, I would find myself sitting in the hallway of my home, Noah in my lap and a bottle in my hand as tornado sirens went off in the distance. I think the distraction of feeding him was the only thing that kept me from realizing that train-like noise that was roaring outside our house was actually the EF-4 tornado that destroyed a large part of Tuscaloosa.

My mom called, and I answered, not realizing the scope of what was going on. She told me she was watching coverage of Tuscaloosa on the Weather Channel and that they said a huge tornado was hitting the city. She wanted to know if we were OK. We got disconnected.

A lot of cell phone towers were destroyed by the storm, but I would eventually get word to my sister through a text message that we were OK and our house was fine. We were just without electricity and clean water — not exactly conducive to taking care of a baby.

We loaded up in the car in hopes of finding a hotel with electricity nearby. We had no idea what we were setting out into. I will never forget merging onto the interstate connector near our home and the only light being the eerie red glow from hundreds of tail lights. I fed Noah a bottle in the car on our way to stay with friends whose home had been unaffected by the tornado.

Finally back home after staying with friends for several days after the tornado.

If my father’s death hadn’t put an end to breastfeeding for us, the tornado certainly would have. It was impossible to escape the devastation in the following days and weeks because it was everywhere. And all those negative emotions that had been building? They went into overload.

It would be several more weeks before I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. The pressure I put on myself, the guilt, the shame, the feelings of being a terrible mother all combined with the mourning of the loss of my father and the destruction of the city I called home to put me in an incredibly dark place. Losing breastfeeding was one of the issues at the center of this dark universe, and it continues to cling to its place there.

So where does that leave me now? I’m surviving PPD, and I’m learning to accept the fact that breastfeeding just. didn’t. work. out. It’s not my fault. I did what I had to do, and I shouldn’t have to be ashamed of that. Because I am surviving. And I have a happy, healthy six-month-old that I am a GOOD mother to.

Six months old, and THRIVING. And Mommy isn't doing too bad either!

If you made it through this, I hope you know that if you are making the best decisions you know how to, then you ARE a good mother, no matter what anyone else says. These topics people love to argue about aren’t going to go away anytime soon, and even if they did, new topics would just replace them.

If you need help, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it. If you have questions, you shouldn’t have to fear asking them. And there are most likely people out there who have faced the same or similar things as you who know better than to judge you for not traveling the exact path they have.

On depression, fear and anxiety

I’m afraid to come off my anti-depression meds.

There. I said it.

If you’ve been reading my blog for the past few months, you may remember that I was diagnosed with post-partum depression and began taking anti-depressants as a result. And I’ve felt good for the most part. The meds really seem to do the trick. Yeah, I still have my down days, and I still get sad and feel normal emotions, but they are just that: Normal.

About a month ago, I went through a period like a lot of people probably go through when they are on anti-depressants; I thought I was over it and that I could just skip a few days here and there until I was ready to come off the medication completely.

That led to me sitting in my car at a gas station on the phone with Bobby crying and confessing that I had stopped taking the medicine, apologizing for being so terrible and moody and promising that I wouldn’t stop taking them again. I knew I had spent the days prior fussing at him, getting angry over the smallest thing and generally being little miss sunshine.

Since then I’ve been more consistent with taking them, and I feel … better. More balanced. Better than I felt before I even got pregnant.

Whoa. Hold the phone there.

Here is where I have begun to feel a little concern. I find myself thinking that I do feel less off-balance emotionally than I’ve ever felt. Things don’t bother me the same way. In some ways I feel more logical. And I don’t want to give it up.

I’ve always sort of suspected that I’d battled depression in the past, but it was the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of fight. I’d never really given any thought to seeking treatment for it. I think at least part of that was because I knew my mother would frown upon it — even though I’m fairly certain now that she has had her own battle with depression for years.

The other thing that scares me is the anxious thoughts that creep in sometimes even now. I will start thinking about something terrible happening to Noah or Bobby or me, completely out of nowhere with no real foundation. I’m able to shrug the thoughts off and go about my business. But what if I wasn’t on anti-depressants?

One of the worst parts of my post-partum depression was the anxiety: being afraid to leave the house because I was afraid Bobby would be mad at me or lose his temper with the baby; being afraid to go in public with the baby in case I couldn’t get him to stop crying; being so terrified I wouldn’t wake up when Noah cried that I couldn’t sleep at all. If you’ve never had that type of gut-wrenching fear overcome you day in and day out, count yourself lucky.

I don’t want to have to go through that again. But I’m worried to continue using something that I could probably get through life without. I feel like I should want to stop using the anti-depressants, and right now, I really don’t want to stop using them.

My last refill on the medicine was this month, so I will have to have a discussion with my doctor about this regardless. She mentioned at my last appointment that she wanted me to stay on them for at least six months, which would mean beginning the transition off them at the end of October, but she also said I should consider continuing them through the holiday season since it’ll be the first Thanksgiving and Christmas without my dad.

I hope I can voice all these things to her. I’ve never had an easy time talking about this kind of thing.