The other day I was off from work, so I took the baby to meet Cameron for lunch at Costco and do a little shopping. We perused Christmas toys and she ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the twinkly lights on display. She ate all the samples they were giving out and even convinced me to buy a bag of veggie stick chips after being so interested in them. On the way home we stopped at a playground near the house because it was so beautiful outside. Bean laughed while I pushed her on the swings and played in the sand area and went down the swirly slide all by herself.
And I realized, as I was driving home, that I was happy.
This kind of revelation probably shouldn’t be a surprise, but it was for me. It’s been a difficult year in a lot of ways. Nearly 6 months of unbearable PPD and anxiety that at one time had me terrified to leave my own house, with or without the baby. Trying to adjust to being a new mom among all the other things that life throws you. This summer was tumultuous and honest to God left me wondering if my whole life was about to implode.
So to take a moment and realize that I made it through all of those things and I’m happy now is a bit of a big deal for me. Because pretty much for the better part of a year I’ve been faking it, one way or another. And part of it wasn’t conscious, it was just normal, until I looked back on the situation and wondered how I ever fooled anyone, least of all myself. But it’s better now. I have a job I like and feel confident in. I’m getting closer to finishing my manuscript. Cameron is finally in a job that doesn’t require his attention 24/7. Bean is happy and upbeat and doesn’t need constant attention. Sure my house isn’t always clean, sure we don’t always sit down to a home cooked meal every night. But we’re still enjoying a beautiful life together. And that’s worth everything.
What a month this has been. Easily the longest so far (I know, we’ve only had 3, but mamas, you get the idea.) in terms of the amount of “stuff” that happened. In the last month, I had to make the difficult decision to stop nursing and bottle feed, and though it completely changed our colic fight, it proved very difficult for me to cope with, and I was officially diagnosed with postpartum depression a few weeks ago. I have a feeling this would have happened with or without the ending of the breastfeeding, it was already there, it just so happened that that decision really was the trigger that made both Cameron and me realize that I wasn’t just dealing with the baby blues anymore, and it was time to address it. I’m on meds and in counseling now, and I am feeling a lot better, but depression is a moving target and I don’t anticipate being off this bus for some time to come.
Anyway, I am happy to say that the Bean is doing so much better with the colic. It’s basically nonexistent now. She really is a changed baby.
I don’t have official stats for her this month, since we don’t have another doctor’s appointment till her 4 month checkup, but we believe she is finally over 10 pounds! She still wears mostly newborn size clothing but is finally able to fit in some of her 3-month clothes. Weirdly, the 0-3 month clothes are usually waaaay too big on her regardless of the brand or style. Her eyes are still dark gray and she has one brown spot on her left eye. Her hair is starting to thin out a little in places, and is lightening significantly (I didn’t realize it till I looked at some of her newborn photos) but she is still rocking the mohawk up front. It is so long now it almost hangs over her eyes!
The Bean is, as of now, a formula-fed baby. For a little while I was pumping and giving her breastmilk bottles, but my supply slowly started to dip regardless of how many times a day I pumped, and it was giving me anxiety (another PPD signal). I was constantly worried about having enough for her or feeling like I had to be home in so many hours to pump another bottle for her. So a few weeks ago I finally just made the decision to switch over to formula (I’d already been supplementing due to the low supply) and I immediately felt better, though I still had to deal with the nasty voice in the back of my head that kept telling me how awful I was and how bad the formula was for her–another post for another time about how I came to terms with that particular problem. She drinks 4-5oz every 4 hours or so, every 6 hours at night, and doesn’t seem to mind the formula one bit. For a while I was continuing to pump a few times a day so that I could give her at least one breastmilk bottle, but it seems like that is about to come to and end since my supply appears to have finally kicked the bucket.
At the risk of jinxing myself (didn’t I say this last month?), she is still sleeping great. At night she has been going 5-6 hour stretches pretty routinely. We get her down for bed usually between 7:30 and 8 and she will sleep usually till 2 or so, have a bottle and a fresh diaper, and crash again until 7 or 8. She has also been napping consistently, typically going down around 10 or 11 in the morning for 2 or sometimes 3 hours, and then again between 2 and 3 in the afternoon. I have (mostly) figured out her patterns, and can tell that if she’s been up for 2 hours or so and is starting to get cranky, it’s time for a nap. In the last week I transitioned her out of her swaddle for nighttime sleep and she now sleeps in her sleep sack (or snugglie as we have been calling it) on her tummy the same as she does for naptime, and it is working pretty much like a charm. I put her in bed with her binkie, her pink froggy, and her nighttime music (usually Enya) and she conks right out. Every so often if she won’t go back down in the early morning I will bring her into bed with me, but for the most part she sleeps nightly in her own crib in her own room with the door closed and rocks it.
This month, patterns and favorites really started to emerge. We have a daily schedule pretty much locked down that involves getting up, sitting in her booster seat on the counter for a morning bottle while I have my coffee, usually a short snooze in her chair, then some playtime on her mat, and then a nap. After her first nap she gets up, has a lunchtime bottle, more playtime, (if it is nice out we will take a walk or run an errand) and then another nap. We are still ironing the kinks out of the evening routine, since she usually gets tired before we are able to put her to bed (I have rehearsals 4 nights a week so sometimes nailing down the right bedtime is wonky), but she is typically good throughout the dinner hour and then goes to bed. We learned this month that she adores Michael Jackson, and sometimes now if she is being fussy we will throw the “Smooth Criminal” video on the tv and dance with her and she is happy as a clam. Most music will engage her or calm her. She loves her pink froggy, her hanging birdy toy and her plastic keys the most. When she spends time on her playmat now she will reach up and grab the birdy, which I was super stoked about. She can hold onto her keys if I hand them to her, though she hasn’t quite figured out that when she moves her arm, the keys go with it, which has resulted in smacking herself in the face a few times with them. She also smiles all the time now. At her toys, at us, when being tickled, she’s just a smiley girl. She isn’t quite giggling yet, but she does have a definite sound that indicates she is amused or excited.
She still isn’t too crazy about having her clothing changed (onesies that go over the head are pretty traumatic), having her nose sucked out, and long rides in the car, though those seem to depend on the day. I recently took out the infant insert in her car seat and she did pretty okay the next time we were in the car, so maybe it was an issue of not fitting right. I have finally started to overcome some of my anxiety about taking her places by myself, so in the last couple of weeks she has visited Babies R Us and the grocery store. She even got to wait in line in the post office with me for the first time.
I love my little Bean and can’t wait to see what this next month brings! If we get a nice day of weather we might take her down to Denver to visit the zoo or the aquarium for the first time. Part of my dealing with the PPD means getting out of the house and taking her places more often so that I won’t be so terrified of it–like I said, moving target and all that. In the meantime, I have a stack of boxes that means I need to start packing up this house. (Still no word on where we might be going to but we need to be prepared for a fast transition.) Yikes.
For some reason, the last few days have made me feel like blasting Ray LaMontagne. I don’t know why. Maybe because his music always makes me feel like he’s responding to some great sadness. Maybe that’s what we need right now.
I’d like to move on from the events of last week but it just doesn’t seem possible. As horrible as it is, I think it’s important to continue talking about this. That’s the one theme I’ve heard repeatedly in the last few days: let’s talk. And I’m glad for that. Because this needs to be talked about. Whether it’s talking about making change to gun control, or change to mental health, or whatever, let’s talk. When bad things happen, I firmly believe that one of the most important methods of coping is to talk. Get those feelings out. Because if they stay inside you, they start to multiply and take over like a virus. And that’s when explosions happen. That’s when those feelings bust out and sometimes it’s dangerous.
I’m not saying this as a psychologist or a therapist or anything. I’m none of those things and I’m not trying to be. I’m just saying this as someone who has experienced the depths of pretty serious depression and I know what personally helped me. And I think it’s something very simple that could help many people especially when we deal as a societal collective with tragedies like this.
What prompted me to write this post is an article I read this morning that had been posted on the New York Daily News website. (Someone had posted it on Facebook.) It was about the killer’s mother, Nancy, and how she had spoken to a friend about how Adam’s depression (and whatever other problems he suffered from) was getting much worse. And the one thing that stuck out to me was this:
““Nancy told me he was burning himself with a lighter. In the ankles or arms or something,” he recalled of a conversation they had about a year ago. “It was like he was trying to feel something.””
“It was like he was trying to feel something.”
That, right there, was what rang a big loud clear bell for me. And I’ll tell you why.
I used to be a self-abuser. A cutter. And this is not a big secret. I will tell anyone who asks the truth and the reasons why. I haven’t cut in a really long time but I feel like there is so much misconception and stigma about self-abusers and people who suffer from depression that whenever this stuff comes up and theories get thrown around I feel like raising my voice and saying something, maybe for all the people out there who don’t want to or can’t say something.
Now, before I go any farther I’m going to say this: not every self-abuser’s experience is the same. And I do not mean to generalize when I say what I am about to say. I just mean to point out what happened to me specifically, as it relates to the situation at hand.
The reason that the line from that article spoke so loudly to me is because when I was cutting, I was doing so because I felt like it was the only way I could feel anything. My depression left me in such a numb state that cutting and self-abusing was the only way for me to feel anything. It was, several times, the only thing that kept me from committing suicide. I recall quite vividly once when I was a freshman in college, driving home from school and feeling like I had to do something or I was going to drive my car off the road. It was a very powerful, physically overwhelming sensation. The thing was, I didn’t necessarily want to kill myself. But that thing inside my head, the depression, was overriding all the things in my head that made sense. So instead of driving off the road and crashing my car into the woods, I one-upped that sensation by digging my fingernails into my arms till they bled. For me (and this is very important, please remember, for me), self-abuse was my method of coping with the depression. Most people I’ve talked to, through no fault of their own, believe that self-abuse is a pre-cursor to suicide. My parents were in this category–and please note that I do not blame them for this. Some people believe that a self-abuser is about to commit suicide. And sometimes, he or she does. But several self-abusers I’ve talked to have said the same exact thing that I felt–it wasn’t a pre-cursor to suicide. It wasn’t a cry for help. I wasn’t ready to ask for help. It was simply a way to feel. Anything. Even if it was pain.
And obviously, when we examine what happened to Adam Lanza and what happened at that school, we have to consider that depression was more than likely not the only thing that he was suffering from. But the fact is that someone was aware of what was happening to him. And for whatever reason, be it denial or money or the healthcare system (I don’t know, so I’m not going to point a finger at any one reason), not enough was done to help him. Sometimes you can’t help people. But it’s the exact reason why I believe it is so important to never be afraid to talk. Talk to anybody. For me, it was talking to my teachers (in high school) and a therapist in college, because that resource was available to me. The more I kept things inside, the worse I got. The feelings and emotions dragged me down like a stone to the bottom of a pond. But when I opened up and talked, those feelings escaped me and gave me buoyancy again. Obviously this does not work for everyone. But not everyone out there has depression–but everyone out there is a member of the human race and we are all in this together.
I wrote about this because it helped me to deal with my depression when I realized I was not the only one. That I was not alone. And so my point in doing this is to hopefully create a space for even maybe just one person to read about my experience and say, “I have felt that too.” My point was to hopefully just reach out to one person out there in the cybersphere and make them realize that they are not alone. Nobody is alone. We are all members of the human race, we are all suffering the human condition. But we do not suffer alone. And so–to get back to my initial point–I hope that by saying all this, it might get that one person out there to talk to another person before they bottle too much inside them and allow it to consume them. My hope is that if people talked more to each other we would realize that nobody’s experience is unique in the grand zeitgeist of the human experience and that maybe someday someone out there will turn to a friend and talk to them about their problems instead of resorting to much worse things.