Tuesday, September 30, 2008

here again.

She's upstairs talking in her crib right now and I'm down here with the baby trying to breathe normally. I dreamed about the death of family members, grief and crying and ache, and I don't know why I can't look at the world with more humor and less angst. It's gray with rain out the window, or maybe morning just hasn't fully come on yet. It's hard to tell. Yesterday afternoon and evening were difficult but maybe it's not all me... maybe I should give us all some slack, as it's hard for a 2 year old to sit in the car for nearly 8 hours and, besides, to adjust back to being w/ mom and dad after such a (relative) long time away with grandparents. Have an appointment with a counselor but not for another 2 weeks... perhaps will call and see if he can work me in sooner.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

anxiety about the possibility of anxiety

Frances comes home tomorrow. It's been a really wonderful break, a much needed recharging of the batteries. And I miss her. I've talked with her on the phone and we skyped the other night, two things that were quite exciting for me, but I'm nervous about her coming home. I've been so much more relaxed while she's been gone, and I'm nervous that once she comes home I'll feel overwhelmed all over again. Hopefully, instead, I'll be rejuvinated and refreshed--isn't that supposed to be the result?

But for the moment it's just C and me. I think he's a bit bored with me, as used as he is to the chaos that is Frances. My bet is he'll be excited to see her, excited for things to go back to the way they usually are. Will see.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I don't possibly have time for a full post because I've just come back from a meeting of "Mothers and More"--a mothers group here in Rochester--(note that I'm getting out and meeting people!) and I want to lounge and read the Marilyn article in Vanity Fair before bed (also trying to have some down time to myself!). But I wanted to post quickly and say that we went to Michigan last weekend to visit my in-laws and it was so wonderful... It was a real vacation, Mitch not working, his folks around to help w/ the kids, great weather, sitting on the veranda and watching the ripples on the lake, dozing on the hammock. The second day we were there I was completely exhausted, like I was hungover or hadn't slept in two days, and I think it was simply from finally relaxing. I didn't realize how long it had been since I relaxed. No wonder I've been having panic attacks. When you have to be on alert for extended periods of time it probably just builds up and builds up until it erupts in misguided and random anxiety. It all makes me think that perhaps my ppd counselor in Durham was right when he insisted (well, suggested strongly) that my anxiety was due to my not taking breaks, not giving myself down time, not recharging. I put a lot of pressure on myself.

When we left I was emotional. Frances kissed us each and was clearly unconcerned that we were leaving; she wanted Grandpa to come with her to the swing. As we pulled away she was already swinging back and forth and as I watched her there was an awful pain in my stomach, a kind of ache that made me feel a little sick. I think it was mama-bear stuff, some kind of primal instinct to keep her near me, like being in being away from her I wouldn't be able to keep her safe.

We're home now, and we left Frances there for the week. It's just Clark here with me during the day and let me tell you it is quiet. I can't get over how quiet. (and again I think: "what did I think was so hard about this when F was a baby??") I'm trying to get the house organized. That's my job this week. When we first moved we unpacked all (most) of the boxes but we put everything away w/out really organizing it. It's been making me crazy, the lack of organization. I mean, if this house is going to be my island, and it looks like it is, it's got to be a settled island, not like some tornado came through and uprooted all the trees. If I'm going to recharge here I need it to be a place of calm, or at least a place that could be considered calm when children are asleep.

And, despite my intentions, this looks like a full post. But I've got so much more to say! Hopefully soon--

Thursday, September 18, 2008

the benefits of lying on the floor

I've got this middle school girl from down the street who comes over now and then as a mother's helper. I pay her $2/hour (what a deal!) and all that's great but in reality I think it would be easier to do it entirely on my own. For one thing, Frances doesn't fully trust her somehow and spends half the time whining "mommy, mommy, mommy do it." Which makes me completely out of my mind. I also have to say something to the girl about not texting while she's here. Today I watched her holding Clark up absently w/ one hand and texting w/ the other. He, of course, fell over. I suppose these things aren't common sense when you're 10. That's why they make you wait until you're 16 to drive. (and maybe 18 to vote? Can't have folks w/out common sense voting...! Ahem.) But she did get F out of the bath (after I got her in and washed her hair) and put her diaper on and dressed her. That was helpful. I was trying to finish schleping the laundry up and down the stairs and also create piles for packing for the trip this weekend, and Clark was mostly playing nicely on the floor of my bedroom. But then he was done w/ that (and screeching) and Frances was STILL whining for me to hold her and Mitch called to say he was on his way and for me to get dinner ready, and I just had to lie on the floor. It was the best thing, really. I did it beside Clark so he would stop the screeching. (It's this new thing he's started, and it's most unattractive.) (I would like to comment here that the hubby's request was not such an outrageous demand as it sounds... it was the result of a discussion last night about what time things are happening in the evening and how to best get both kids in bed without feeling like we've got zero time for ourselves.) The floor was wonderfully comfortable and I closed my eyes and the sounds of neighbor kids drifted in the windows. It sounded like a regular summer afternoon from some space far off, like the space in my dreams. When I closed my eyes, it sounded idyllic. I wished I could stay there a long long time. I was still there when M got home. He said, "what are you doing?" and I said, "lying on the floor." Which was about all of it.

Lying on the floor was healing in some way. Just giving up--realizing that I don't have to pack or get dinner or respond to F when she wants wants wants me. I don't have to do these things; my world will not melt. These are, of course, things I'd like to get done, but they are not essential. The are not the sum of ourselves, the measure of my life; they are just things.

I sometimes think that if I had the time and space to have a proper meltdown where I could lie in bed and not bathe and not eat and listen to self-depreciating indie rock, then I could recoup some of this energy that dribbles out like rain from the gutter seam. I'm reading Franny and Zooey right now, the first time probably since college, and I'd completely forgotten what it was even about. For those of you who don't remember either, Franny is in the middle of a nervous breakdown, a kind of spiritual crisis. She has the luxury to lie on the couch and cry and refuse her mother's offers of chicken broth. I'm a bit jealous. It was, however, what I spent most of my 20s doing. I'm due to move on.

But having the kids (and not just one!) keeps me from doing that. It keeps me from doing nearly anything except what it is we do: pour a bowl of dry cereal and slice a banana for F's breakfast, change diapers, breastfeed, change diapers, spoonfeed Clark pears or avocado or carrots, clean up spills, wrestle shoes on F, help her pull off her pants and diaper to sit on the potty, reclothe her, pour sippy cups of milk and water and juice, fill zippy bags with raisins or cashews or goldfish for snacks, make peanut butter sandwiches, keep F from yanking toys away from her brother, put her in timeout when she whacks him over the head, let the dog out, let the dog in, feed the dog lunch, clean up more spills, fend off requests for more more more t.v., breastfeed, change diapers, bargain w/ F to eat some of her lunch, read a book and sing a song before nap, listen for the crying to stop, carry Clark around while I make a sandwich and put some dishes in the dishwasher, breastfeed, change diapers, walk walk walk a crying Clark to get him to go to sleep and hope he doesn't wake Frances so I can please god get a short nap myself before they're both up again. All that's by one pm.

For awhile I was panicked thinking that my life would always be like this. So tiring, so constant. Several mothers reminded me that sooner than I'd like it will change and my kids will be so grown up. They won't even want me around. At first I was relieved, knowing eventually I will have space again to myself. But lately I've had this new panic (trading one panic for another! Awesome.) that I can't slow the time down, that their babyhood will be too short, that I'm not paying proper attention, that I can't box and keep it.

My mother called a few minutes ago and I didn't answer the phone because I knew I wouldn't be a good conversationalist just now. So she called my cell. I didn't answer that either. Then she called Mitch's cell (which I heard vibrating on the desk since he's gone to the gym) which meant she thought something tragic had perhaps happened to keep me from picking up a call. So I called her back simply to tell her I was alive and not bleeding in a hospital (though metaphorically?) and that I didn't want to talk. A minute later M's phone rattled on the desk again and it was she, this time calling to say how sorry she was that I'm not feeling so great and to suggest perhaps I need more sunshine. Seriously--sunshine. Ah, yes, that's the problem. (sigh.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

yay for preschool!

We need to leave earlier for preschool. We were almost late Tuesday but things went pretty well. Frances wanted me to stay with her but she didn't cry, and once I told her I was going she sat down at the playdough and seemed to be enjoying herself. I stood in the hall watching through the glass in the door. After a few moments a woman came over, smiled at me, and introduced herself as the center director. She shook my hand and asked which child was mine. I started to point out Frances but then suddenly I couldn't say anything, my throat all closed up with crying. I felt so ridiculous. The woman (who I'm sure has seen that plenty before) said, "I know. It seems so aggressive, doesn't it? It feels just as aggressive when they go to college."

Aggressive is the right word. That's how it feels.

But Frances had a great time. When I came to pick her up the teacher said F didn't shed one tear and never once asked for her paci or blanket. In the car on the way home F told me about the playground--the slide and the tunnel. She even said she wants to go back.

That was Tuesday. Today she was anxious about going, said she wanted to play in the yard, wanted to go to the mall, wanted to watch t.v., anything. Once we got there she clung to me a bit again but then she started to make "coffee" at the play kitchen. When I watched through the door from the hall, she was cutting a plastic hamburger with a plastic knife. This time when I came to pick her up she had her paci and blanket. The teacher said she was fine until about 11am when it suddenly seemed to dawn on her that she was missing these things. And she cried. I feel no pain about that, by the way. She was just fine when I got there. The aggression of the situation seems to have limited itself to the first day--the actual transition in my life, going from having a baby to having a toddler who goes to school. We need to note these transitions in our lives. I suppose I did it by crying in the hallway.

BUT what interests me about all this is how much I am enjoying having her go. When there are sitters here I have a little space because they are entertaining her, but she's still here. When I come home with C after dropping her off at preschool, the house is so quiet. I have all this space to think and breathe and make a nursing necklace, like I did today. (I'll try to post a pic of it if I can muster up the energy to take and download one.)

I'm feeling a bit better at this moment. Yet, this seems to be the nature of my illness right now: it comes and goes. This is why I keep getting confused and thinking I'm fine. But this moment, home after preschool with both kids napping, I am fine. It's a nice thing to be.


In the spirit of full disclosure I'm going to tell you all that I've got a smidge of postpartum depression. I haven't been blogging about it because (honestly) I didn't want my mother to call repeatedly and say, "How are you feeling?" with that fearful tone in her voice. (Mom, I still want to talk to you on the phone and I know you want the best for me--want me to feel well. I'm doing my best. For awhile, just assume that I'm not going to be fully myself.) I've wondered for a bit if I'm struggling with something under the surface. My approach was just to keep doing all the things I knew I should be doing as a well person--going to the gym, cleaning the house, meeting new people. But it just kept getting more and more tiring to do these things, took more and more energy to get me up and going. I do think these things have kept me from falling fully in the hole--that and the anti-depressants I'm already on--but I feel like I've run out of all the reserve I have to keep doing them.

My postpartum coordinator in Durham emailed a link to another blog about ppd (postpartum depression) and reading her experience and her frankness about the way she's feeling motivated me to write also.

And let me say, before we get rolling, that what I'm dealing with isn't the bottom of the barrel. At the ppd support group I used to go to in Durham there were a few women who had really tumbled down the hole. Their experiences were something entirely different than what I've got going. I'm just circling the drain. Most days I function (fairly) normally and only feel moderately crappy. What I'm scared of is completely falling out. For awhile I think I believed that talking about it (or blogging about it) or even thinking about its being ppd would somehow make it more likely. But that's silly. What I was, in fact, doing (I now believe) was ignoring it in the hopes that it would go away.

Yesterday I talked with my ppd coordinator on the phone and one of the questions I had was--is this ppd? Is it just regular adjustment stuff, the regular results of major life changes? Does it matter which? He pointed out that yes, it was quite reasonable for me to be experiencing all kinds of emotional crappy crap because--hello!-- major move, new baby, new job for hubby, trying to finish dissertation, abandonment of career for me, uprooted from everything that's familiar, etc etc. Yet what I described as the struggle seemed to him to be particular to the fact that I'm a new mom.

I've been obsessing. About stupid things. Not sleeping kind of obsessing. Like about which photographs to order of the kids. And then, once I'd made the decision, intense panic that I'd decided the wrong thing. And the gym thing still has me all in a muddle. I'm still going, but I get so anxious around anything to do with it--driving there, taking the kids to kidtown, being in the gym. My ppd fella (interesting that he's a fella, no?) suggested that being a new mom brings forth a desire (or need) to hunker down, to nest, to provide a safe home space to be in with the kids. Perhaps this is why the anxiety came on full force when we were traveling last. I did pretty well until we'd been gone about 10 days, but then it was all too much. Ever since then, ever since we got home, I've been struggling. Now Mitch wants to go see his folks 8 hours away and the idea of another big trip makes my throat close. He got really frustrated with me the other night, saying that I was being so negative about doing things like this, and that's when I started to question myself--why was I being so negative? I liked the idea of the visit, so why did it make my stomach hurt? And it's all made worse by the fact that I can't find the time (and now energy) to organize this house. We're still not fully settled in because when is that supposed to happen??? I have this great big house that I can't clean up or fill up and it's my only island of safety.

So what to do? I don't know. I need to find a counselor. That's one of the first steps. And I think I need to respect my anxiety about going out of my comfort zone. For awhile I was forcing myself to do things (go to the gym, visit other folks I barely know for playdates, berate myself for not wanting to go on a roadtrip) but now I'm going to try to keep my anxiety to a minimum. Perhaps my body knows what I need better than my brain does. Perhaps after a bit of time staying in my safety zone I will feel a bit more confident venturing out of it. That's my newest theory, anyway.

I'll keep all you friends updated. I think it will help me to write about it, to admit what's going on. It still feels like a failure of a kind, though I know intellectually this isn't the case.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Things here have been changing a bit. Used to be that Frances stayed with sitters a couple of times a week and she loved it. But in response to my recent anxiety about hiring sitters and figuring out which hours I need them, I got rid of them all together. (I know, I know, a bit extreme.) It's been nice being home with her, frankly, and we've finally been able to get into a routine, of which the lack was making me crazy. But now M and I notice that F is suddenly more dependent on me, sometimes to the point of not allowing even her dad to soothe her. She hollers, "No! Mommy! Go way Daddy! Mommy!" and wants only me. She doesn't want me to leave her in the kidtown at the gym, though before she had no problem and would in fact wave at me and say, "Bye bye Mommy." Now she gets this panic stricken look and holds her arms out to me. It breaks my heart, though my resolve has gotten more steely and I just smile at her like it isn't happening and say, "Have fun, Frances. I'll be back in a little while." The first time it happened I thought I would melt right there on the linoleum and considered turning around and taking her home. M reminds me that exercise is not just for me but for her too because it makes me a healthier person and better mom (both of which are more true than I can express here). But that's hard to remember when her lip is trembling and she's huddling around my legs for protection.

So we've decided two things. One is to continue on with the preschool (perhaps I forgot to say in my last post about it that it's only 2 half days/week--a total of 6 hours for goodness sake) and in addition, get a sitter for her one afternoon. I think she needs both. M pointed out that having someone other than me (or him even) is what she's used to--having someone else to comfort her, pay attention to her, soothe her, discipline her. Being only with me is a change in her life, something to which she's had to adjust. I've always been so pleased with how little separation anxiety she's had, how easily she goes to other people. So we're going to try to fix this recent regression.

ALSO--I want to say something about comments on the blog. I think I didn't realize the protocol about blog comments--that I should be responding to them here on the blog rather than privately to you, when I do. I love comments. I heart them. So please feel free to leave them, and I will now post responses to them here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


C can sit up! By himself! He's like a trick pony! When he teeters to the side he can even sort of catch himself. He also, of course, can propel himself forward flat on his face. It seems to me that all this development stuff is happening faster than it did with Frances. Not that he's ahead of where she was developmentally, but that time is going by more quickly. I suppose that's probably the case, since when she was a babe I was sitting around staring at her and waiting for her to do nearly anything, and now C is changing despite my divided attention.

F has started potty training on her own. She frequently asks now to sit on the potty and she wants to do it all herself--she goes to the bathroom and pulls down her pants and takes off her diaper and climbs up onto the toilet. If I come to help her she hollers, "Go way Mommy, go way!" And then when she needs my help getting her clothes back on she shouts, "Come back Mommy, come back!"

From her car seat in the back of the car she says, "Know why, Mommy?" I say, "Why?" and she starts in on a paragraph of babble: "Doodle skook namina gambi do lala," which perhaps is what our explanations sound like to her.

So big. So big so quickly, and I'm the parent of a short person, not a baby anymore.

more to obsess about

Frances is supposed to start preschool Tuesday. I've been having second thoughts about it all, at first wondering if she's ready and obsessing about whether I should keep her out another year. I've moved on to admitting that it's not her readiness that's the issue; it's mine. Maybe I'm not ready for her to go to school. Maybe I want her all to myself awhile longer. I don't know don't know don't know. We finally have a little rhythm going, a sweet schedule with the three of us (baby included) that involves library time and walks and feeding ducks at the canal. Isn't that enough? I think the answer is yes, it's enough if I want it to be. The answer is that there is no right answer and no wrong one either. School would be good for her in some ways, but it wouldn't do her damage to wait another year. Maybe school would give me some space with the baby and myself to get things done (or just relax). Or maybe school would make me feel (already!) like our lives are scheduled and rigid and lacking in joy. (Okay, an overstatement.) On I agonize.