Little Shrimp (my sister’s affectionate nickname) is three weeks old. My mom kept telling me that she had things she wouldn’t be able to share until he was here, simply because I wouldn’t understand. Considering I learn best by doing things myself, however awful that may turn out, I love my mom for letting me learn things on my own. So far Terry, Edgar and I have been doing really well adjusting to each other, and it has definitely been a learning curve. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned the last three weeks, in no particular order:
Trust yourself. If something is working it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference what anyone else says. Parenting comes in many forms and what works for one probably won’t work for the next.
If you make a choice to not be frustrated every single time a frustrating or angering situation comes up it is easier to live a less frustrated life. For me this is easier with Edgar than it is with other things, but deep breathing, taking my time, and having terry sew the wipes when they need to be finished seems to help. This is something I did with my students at school too, I actively worked on not being frustrated by them and it lead to a really pleasant classroom experience. I’ll eventually learn how to sew, it’s just more difficult for me to treat myself and inanimate objects with the same kindness I provide to children.
Procrastination is the enemy! If I delay pumping my milk supply dwindles, if I delay laundry we run out of diapers and wipes, if I delay feeding my kid turns purple with anger…all of these are necessary to do on time. Something I’m hoping to apply to my schoolwork when I return in the fall, something I did apply to my schoolwork when I had school full time and a job full time. There was no wiggle room for procrastination at that time and there absolutely isn’t now.
Really process the joy in little things. This is something I already do a lot, but it’s a lesson worth learning time and time again. The green grass, the bright blue sky, a super awesome rainbow, the sound of rain, my son doesn’t have the ability to take joy in those things yet, but I sure do. Every new thing he learns is a joy too. He’s discovered his arms, he recognizes the shape of the bottle when you show him, he knows different voices and is almost at the brink of playing. I wrote about Silver Linings Playbook a while ago and this lesson was in that book too.
I’m looking forward to all kinds of new lessons, and I am so grateful that I have not had any postpartum mental health issues!
Cristi Comes, who writes Motherhood Unadorned has a regular series called “I’m not a bad mom because…”. I love this series and regularly read it to keep myself grounded. I have serious guilt some days for my inability to be more attentive and helpful when caring for my little one. My husband has been up every night with him because my Seroquel does not allow me to wake up. In fact, most mornings I’m not even aware enough of my surroundings to give Terry time to sleep before he goes to work. We are so lucky that little Edgar is a sleeper at such a young age. I use the series to remind myself that it’s only been two weeks since I underwent major surgery to remove a 9 and a half pound infant from my insides. Not only that, but this process has changed my hormones which can affect how my medication works. Also I have been adjusting to life at home having taken medical leave from school, and navigating the problem of adjusting the animals to each other and the baby. It’s been quite a journey over the last month or two, and I am extremely lucky to have an amazing support system that understands the complexity of my journey. My medical team is watching me very closely, my husband shoulders most of the burden with no complaints, my father-in-law and mother-in-law watch the baby to give both me and my husband a break, my mom calls on a regular basis, my sister is thrilled about my baby. All of those things combine to help me maintain my sanity.
Eventually I will figure out a better schedule and be more help for my husband, until then I’m not a bad mom because I let other people help me. This is a new process and we are all figuring it out day by day. I am grateful every day for those that help us and those that support us through this process. Life is really good right now, and I’ve decided to make this a “magical unicorn” new baby existence.
Last week Friday while driving back from a late night dinner and trip to the store Terry and I saw our second dead body since moving to Michigan. It wasn’t murder, people around here walk in the street instead of on the sidewalks. Usually they are dressed in all black with no reflective gear at night, so it’s most likely the man we saw did not jump in front of the car the way the last guy did. I still really wish I hadn’t seen his body, we passed the scene before the police or an ambulance was able to reach the scene.
Saturday I was alone with Edgar while my in-laws went to a wedding and Terry was at work. Terry and I were both afraid that Friday nights encounter would damage my mental well-being how the suicide affected me. Luckily that was not the case, my friend Brittany who writes Healthy in Detroit wrote a “Five Facts Friday” post I read on Saturday. It was extremely helpful for my self care that day, providing me with one distraction from the nightmares I’d experienced the night before. Also Edgar was a phenomenal distraction.
I spent Sunday participating in self-care as well. There are small events that make a huge impact on our lives. I wanted to post my own Five Facts, here are 5 positive memories that help me when I need to participate in self-care
I used to read to my brother and sister when we were kids. Around the holidays I read the Bible, I also read Dr. Seuss and some other things. It was something I usually had to force on them, but I really loved reading to them.
My sister and I used to make dance routines to the Olsen Twins songs. This also brought me great joy, though I don’t remember if my sister or I had to be forced into this more often. We almost always used my brother’s room for this because our room was very full of furniture.
When I was in college (the first time) I used to hang out in my friend Will’s room every day after class and watch him and his roommate play Madden. While it seems like a strange memory I really loved those afternoons with Will, he is an amazing guy.
I used to watch my friend Chel bowl on Wednesday nights. While all I did was hang out and eat bowling alley food, those were some of the best nights I had during that time of my life.
Terry and I used to go to the bar a lot when we were first together, there were a lot of nights where we met people we never would have met otherwise, and never met again after the night ended. We shared drinks, food, and kisses with many people, resulting in many hilarious memories like the guy who insisted he wasn’t wearing stripes in railroad pants.
All of these memories seem inconsequential, and kind of make it seem like I have a very sad existence not really participating in life. I assure you, these memories are simply a small snapshot of my life. I participate in my life as any healthy person should, but these small seemingly inconsequential memories remind me of things and people I love. These are things through my whole life that made my life happy, my Five Facts that I use for my self-care.
I’ve taken a small hiatus from this blog in favor of my family blog because on Monday April 8 little Edgar Murphy was born! We ended up having a c-section for reasons I won’t get into here, but he was 9 lbs 8 oz and our announcement and gender reveal could not have gone more perfectly. The real part of the whole process I want to talk about is my medication and how my schizo-affective disorder was handled by the staff. I’ve read all kinds of horror stories about hospitals treating people horribly for needing to treat their psychiatric disorders during pregnancy. I’ve written about the devastating reactions people have had to my illness and my choice to have children. Strangers are even more vocal about my decision to be medicated during pregnancy. I have an amazing medical team and home support system. They have supported me and educated me through the whole process of this pregnancy; I couldn’t have made it through without them.
I had to switch hospitals three-quarters of the way through this process. Fortunately, I didn’t have to switch OB offices, just doctors. I would recommend the office I went to for anyone going through pregnancy, high risk or not. I’ve heard all kinds of judgmental comments about my medications and how they were going to affect my unborn child from strangers in the medical community and in the general public. I was really nervous that the staff, who had only met me a few times, would make assumptions about me based on my diagnoses and medication. It sounds really scary to leave a newborn with someone who has a tendency to hallucinate. Even worse to leave them with someone who has a problem with frustration and anger stemming from a mental illness.
The staff were kind to me through the whole process of my c-section surgery, my husband was there and they recognized how much help he is to me. He kept me calm through the fear of the surgery, he took the pictures that I wanted so badly, he comforted me and cared for Edgar simultaneously immediately afterwards in the recovery room. Over the next few days he took the lead in caring for Edgar and never left my side for the two days I was in the postpartum recovery room. The nurses saw that. I honestly believe it made a huge difference in their decision to call social services or not. The last day I was in the hospital my nurse sat and talked to me for a few hours about breastfeeding, which it turns out I can do even with Seroquel, she expressed concern about the stress breast feeding can cause new mothers. I’ve decided that I’m not going to be stressed out with my new baby. We’ve gotten so lucky that we have a calm baby that sleeps quite a bit, I’m lucky that my husband is so wonderful and cares for our baby through the night, we’re lucky that we live with my in-laws who are amazing. As a result I’ve been able to be the calm mother that I want to be and the hospital told me I would be.
I’ve been so worried about postpartum psychosis this whole pregnancy, the medications and the medical team have come together at exactly the right time. Honestly, I do a lot better mentally when I have something or someone to care for, my cats have saved my life more than once. I have been taking great care to do things that might initiate frustration when people are around and can help me if I start to lose my cool. So far at one week old life is good for both parents and little Edgar.
I have yet to see this movie, mostly because it isn’t at the dollar cinema where I live yet, but after reading the book I’m scared it will not be as good as I hope. It’s a silly fear, but any time a book really gets me I feel this way. I’m someone who has read a lot of memoirs. They’ve been mentioned on my blog, writings from Kay Redfield Jameson, Ken Steele, Terri Cheney…they all affect me in such an honest and profound way. The effect of Silver Linings Playbook was no different. I absolutely loved being provided the perspective of Pat Peoples. Seeing his family through his eyes, the way he was treated through his eyes, and with his limited ability to read emotions was spot on for how I feel when I am in my own “bad place”. While he only mentions the bad place in reference to the hospital, I identified that with the bad place my brain escapes to when I’m not doing well. We all get trapped in ourselves, we all hold on to hopes that are unrealistic. The process of coming out of that is extremely similar for everyone, mentally stable or not. We have to shatter our expectations, anticipate our lives going in a different, learn how to accept that and grieve for what we thought we needed. While I wish I had known about this book much sooner, it was a perfect thing for me to read it while I’m in this time of my life. I identified with having uncomfortable personal relations at home in a way that might have been detrimental before I went to inpatient treatment in January. I don’t know what the result will be for me from this book and movie, I’m so susceptible to external forces. I ran away from home while reading Ken Steele’s book, Terri Cheney’s book started a manic phase, Night Falls Fast by Kay Redfield Jameson landed me in the hospital for sucidal ideation, but there are a number of things that I’m choosing to take away from this book.
“If clouds are blocking the sun, there will always be a silver lining that reminds me to keep on trying.” – Giving up is not a real option. Life continues and sometimes you need to readjust your plans or thoughts, but dark times don’t always mean dark things coming.
“Life is hard, and children have to be told how hard life can be…So they will be sympathetic to others.” – This is a lesson I very much want my child to learn. Everyone has their hard times, everyone has things you don’t know or understand. Kindness can go a long way.
“You need to make time for your family no matter what happens in your life” – Family is family. Period. Sometimes it’s the family you create, rather than those you are born with, but it is always important to reach out and maintain a relationship with them. They will help keep you grounded, they will love you, they will try to understand.
“When she needed help most, she was abandoned–and only when she offered help to others was she beloved.” – Reaching out to others in their time of need is vital for remembering there is suffering outside of yourself. People recognize true sympathy and kindness and will repay that with love and respect.
“…I am now watching the movie of my life as I live it.” – Live life, don’t watch it pass you by. Be an active participant and be present in the moment.
“I am practicing being kind over being right.” – Sometimes right isn’t important. Kindness works equally well for helping people understand things that are messy and not easy to comprehend.