Speak of the devil…

I posted about migraine relief just the other day, and sure enough, now I've had one for two days. Ibuprofen is taking the edge off, but this one is quite strong. Unfortunate that it is happening while poor little Lucas is going through teething (he's cut one tooth and the other will likely be in tomorrow or Sunday), a growth spurt (he napped today and I swear he was taller when he woke up!), and Leap 5.

The good news is that I had some awesome help today. A friend came over and helped me clean – and by that I mean she cleaned while I looked after Lucas and rested a bit myself. Tomorrow we're going to her place and doing a bunch of laundry, and preparing some freezer meals to get through the crazy next month or so.

Everyone always talks about how you need a little extra help once you've had a baby, but I'm so bad at asking for help. I always feel selfish, or like I'm taking advantage. That said, today was exactly what I needed. I had four panic attacks and a complete meltdown yesterday, and I needed someone to help pick me back up.

Parenthood is hard. Postpartum depression is even harder.

Migraine relief at last

A couple weeks ago, I took the plunge and got two daith piercings. I had heard nothing but praise for them for migraine relief, and where I can’t take many migraine medications due to nursing, I figured it was worth a try.

Since I’ve had them done, I’ve only had a couple of migraines – a significant difference for me, since I’ve had them at least every other day for about ten years! The ones I’ve had have been intense, but I would rather have a (relatively) short period of intense pain over days and days of misery.

The healing process has been surprisingly easy, too. They’re pretty painful (healing hurts more than the piercing itself did) and mine have bled a fair amount, but that is apparently different for everyone. The piercer told me that some people just bleed more than others, but it didn’t seem to be anything concerning. What I like most is how far in the piercings are. This makes it super easy to sleep on, and less enticing for Lucas to grab on to! He’s gotten a hand on them a couple of times but he’s pretty good at letting go of things when I ask him to.

It was nice to do something for myself, especially when it has improved my quality of life so much.

Edit: I found this post both interesting and timely.

Swirling Thoughts

I have been having trouble sleeping lately. This is nothing new in my world, but it's especially frustrating amongst advice of "sleep when the baby sleeps" and having a baby who actually sleeps through the night.

I can't sleep because I'm overwhelmed. The next month or two are absolutely packed, and I don't know if I have the stamina to make it through it all. Plus, I'm not sure I'm mentally ready to handle it all.

For years, I have been carefully censoring myself online in case family finds my writing and decides to retaliate. Here's the problem with that: I spend nearly half my rent every month working with a therapist to get over my past. Maybe writing it out will help with that. Maybe putting my story somewhere that it could be seen, even if by strangers, might give me some peace and let me sleep more easily at night. So, here goes.

I have PTSD. I had a traumatic childhood, and it has shaped every aspect of my personality.

I am obedient. I am kind. I am quiet. I am gentle. I am loyal. These are good qualities in moderation, but mine are much stronger than the healthy "dose". Mine are the result of years of abuse.

I talked earlier with Mark about the word "abuse" and how odd it felt. It's such a small word. So clinical. Saying "I was abused" does not even feel close to powerful enough to describe what I've been through. However, saying it out loud, where the abuser might hear, makes the word too heavy to bear.

I have lived in fear of my father for 20 years. Two-thirds of my life, I have hidden and protected the secrets of what my childhood was like. For half of that time, I have been 1,400 miles away – far from where I can be reached physically, and surrounded by people who love and appreciate me. But everything I say and share is always covered by a shadow of "what if he sees".

I have stories that seem "normal" to me and I often share them with friends in ordinary conversation, only to bring on awkward silences and confused looks. I've learned for the most part which stories are appropriate to share, and which ones are a little too real, too uncomfortable, for people to hear.

I have childhood diary entries with these stories. I have an entry from 6th grade where I am excited for a friend's surprise birthday party that weekend but I'm not sure if I'll be able to go. I stayed home from school that week with "the flu". In this case, "the flu" was bruises on my face, a fat lip, and a cut across the bridge of my nose where my father grabbed my face as punishment for an argument with my younger sister over Polly Pockets. I wrote this entry with the same casual tone as the one where I was excited to play Nintendo games with a friend. This was normal. This was one of the milder situations.

Shortly after I left home, I spent days at my retail job trying to work while fielding phone calls from my angry father who refused to stop calling until I would talk to him. Who insisted I meet his new girlfriend by telling me that he was going to wait outside my condo until I came home and "couldn't hide anymore".

A few years later, I left the country. I received a phone call one night that began with the phrase "so I hear I used to beat you". I hung up. I found out later that this was the result of a date with my previous job's HR representative who apparently didn't value privacy as much as you would expect. I had only told her that because I requested he not be put through on the phone if he called, or allowed to see me if he showed up at the office. I didn't want my past to ruin my job.

He took me out to lunch once. I ordered a salad. He told me that was a good choice. He told me that I "used to be hot" but "now [I'm] just fat". I thought the word hot was an odd one to use when describing your daughter. He told me nobody would ever find me attractive.

I had a kidney infection one year that I was afraid of having treated because I did not yet have Canadian healthcare and wasn't sure how much it would cost. After finally visiting the doctor, I received an email saying that he had heard I was pregnant (I was not; I was just sick) and he couldn't believe I was wasting my life that way. I was 21 years old and very sick. He didn't ask if I was ok; he just told me that the only way I would be a good role model for my younger sisters is if they learned to never be anything like me. I printed that email and carried it with me for months. I still don't know why I did that.

I visited my family for three days for my sister's wedding. He paid for my ticket, despite my saying I didn't want him to. I decided it must be a favour to my sister and went anyway. He danced with me at the reception and spent the entire song telling me that he could tell I wasn't happy and that I would never be happy. That I was just lying to myself. I was two years into a blissfully happy relationship (with Mark) and had never been happier in my life.

I have spent years trying to figure out what I did wrong. Why did I deserve this? Why was it all directed at me? Why were my sisters so loved while I was so hated? I must have been a horrible child.

I can't be around anyone who plays with their belt. If I hear a belt crack, I have a panic attack. I can still feel the fear and remember the welts on the backs of my legs because I dared to flinch or cover myself when I was being punished.

I'm visiting my family in a few weeks. Mark and I are taking Lucas to meet everyone and we are going to see all the sights – where I grew up, where I went to school, where I liked to go for dinner. In these places are the ghosts of my past. The place where I used to dream about where I could hide if he showed up uninvited. The place where I tried to call 911 with bloody hands because I thought I was going to die. The place where I hid in the bathroom and tried to get pictures of the bruises up and down my sides and back to show the school social worker.

I'm being told that I need to "make an effort". That my father needs to hear from me that I want to see him. That he wants to meet his grandson. Everyone means well. They just don't want uncomfortable situations and I can't blame them for that. But they also don't know the truth.

I don't want my son to meet the man who thinks I'm a terrible role model. I don't want my husband to meet the man who thinks that nobody could ever love me because of how I look.

Most of all, I don't want to see the man who has made me feel unworthy and unimportant for 20 years.

Little Happy Moments

 You know those articles that are always bouncing around Pinterest trying to help people who rent apartments make them feel more like home? It turns out, some of that advice is actually awesome. I spent $18 on a detachable shower head and we spent 5 minutes installing it, and it was game-changing. Maybe this is because I’m a new mom (how long can I claim “new mom status? Lucas is only 4 months old so I would say I have a little while left…) who barely has the energy to take a bath, let alone a shower, but I was so grateful tonight when I was able to wash my hair from a seated position.

The other thing it helped with was my poor, bleeding ear. I got both of my ears pierced today after reading about daith piercings and their potential migraine relief effects. I’m not sure if they will work for me, but I figured it was worth a shot. With breastfeeding and the medications I’m on for my anxiety and depression, I’m not on anything stronger than ibuprofen for my migraines and that does very little for people who have daily migraines like I do.

Speaking of anxiety and depression… my postpartum depression is still very much a factor but my doctor has changed my medications and I’m still seeing my psychologist, so I’m making progress. It helps that I have such an amazing support system and the most wonderful little boy to keep me company through the rough days.

Lucas is growing like a weed! At his 4 month appointment, he was in the 97th percentile for height, which means he got his daddy’s height – thank goodness, because I barely made it over five feet myself. He’s also surpassing all of his developmental milestones far in advance, to the point where he’s already reaching 6-9 month milestones. I’m loving seeing new things “click” with him and am trying to encourage him as much as possible.

He’s also such a flirt – I think he’s going to be very sociable and friendly. He doesn’t fuss for other people (except one sketchy character we saw in the dollar store one day) and has smiles for everyone. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up an extrovert, which I will have to learn to work with. I’m an extreme introvert and Mark is a bit of an extroverted introvert (he loves socializing and doesn’t need quite as much time to “recharge” as I do) so it will bring an interesting dynamic if my prediction is right.

I have more to write about, but that will take more energy than I have tonight, so I’m going to crash instead. Maybe I’ll find a pocket of time tomorrow to write out the rest!

PPD

After seeing my therapist this past week, she gave me a book to read: “This Isn’t What I Expected“. I looked at her and asked, “so that is what these feelings are?” Because even though I’ve had my suspicions for the past little while, I was afraid to assume I was dealing with postpartum depression and not just my usual cocktail of mood disorders.

Turns out, my hunch was right all along. I started reading the book during one of Lucas’s naps, and when I got to the checklist of diagnostic criteria, I checked all but one of the items on the list. It’s weird to me because I absolutely love Lucas and love being his mother. He fills me with a sense of amazement and this overwhelming love that I never expected could be quite so strong. But I still feel frustrated, like I’m failing horribly.

I have a hard time getting my feelings out, too, because I’m so conflicted. It’s almost all internal stuff – I thought I would be able to clean more and cook more and spend more time doing things that didn’t involve nursing and napping, and then I wonder why other women can do it when I’m obviously not able to. Right now, while I sort out my feelings, I’m focused on nothing but keeping Lucas happy and healthy.

Let’s face it – if there’s anything that can pull me out of the pit of depression on a particularly dark day, it’s the smile and giggle my little man gives me when he spots me from across the room. Depression or not, I’m madly in love.

Sleep regression sucks.

Lucas is currently so interested in the world around him that he no longer wants to nap! He fights it until he can’t physically stay awake anymore, then he sleeps for 15 minutes, and is back at it. This is making for a very cranky little man, which is causing a cranky mama too! I’m lucky he’s so sweet in between his grumpy moments, or else I might lose my sanity.

I’m slowly trying to get back to my own life and hobbies while also trying to be an attentive mom. I know it will get easier as he gets older and more independent, but sometimes I feel like I’ve completely lost who I am over the past year or so.

Some friends and I went to see Wonder Woman the other day. Have I already mentioned that here? It’s possible – I can’t keep things straight in my mind anymore. Regardless, the movie was amazing and I was surprised and impressed! It was a wonderful afternoon and I needed the break from being home all the time and to just shut my brain off for a few hours.

Luckily, I have mobile gaming to keep me company during the frustrating times. If Lucas wants to nurse for comfort and is there for ages (seriously, the boy can EAT!), I can just hang out on my phone behind his head and keep myself entertained. I take lots of time to talk to and comfort him, of course, but half the time he’s asleep and nursing so I don’t want to disturb him. Everyone needs something to keep them sane, and I guess right now this is mine!

3 Months

Lucas is 3 months old as of yesterday. Three months! How has it been so long? On one hand, it hardly seems like any time has gone by at all. On the other, it feels like he’s just always been a part of our life here.

He’s still so wonderful. We managed to make an amazing little child, and he impresses me every day. He’s still pretty far ahead on all of his milestones, but honestly his personality is the most surprising part to me. He has little quirks, likes, and dislikes, and he has nagged to communicate them to us despite not speaking our language yet!

For example, his favourite thing in the entire world is music. I joke that I could sing him the phone book, and he would be content. He has favourite songs, but as long as we are putting something to music, he loves it. Now that he’s found his voice, he tries to sing along with whatever it is we have on!

He also smiles so much. I wish every person could be so blissfully happy as a baby with their needs met. My favourite smiles, though, are the ones he gets in his sleep when he hears my voice. They melt my heart every time.

I’m still adjusting to motherhood. My anxiety and OCD are still very much a factor and I’m not sleeping particularly well. I couldn’t imagine going back to work yet and I’m so grateful to live in a country with real maternity leave! Right now my life is spent in one-hour cycles of napping, nursing, and playing, and I think it’s exactly what we both need.

All in all, I am loving this experience. Being pregnant wasn’t my favourite, and giving birth in my case was far from easy, but I wouldn’t change a thing if it meant I got to have this amazing little human next to me. I’m just so in love!

OCD

You know those people who use OCD as an adjective to describe themselves for being a little bit particular about things being tidied up or in the right order? Yeah, I’m not a fan of that. I’m not so particular about it that I go out of my way to correct people, but it is in the back of my mind.

I’ve dealt with OCD before, since it seems to flare up during high-stress periods of my life. Up until about a year ago, I was counting my steps, insisting on ending every walk I took on my left foot, and waking up in the middle of the night to ensure I had flushed the toilet. I thought that was bad, until this postpartum period came around and brought with it a whole new collection of fixations.

My apartment is getting cleaner and cleaner, which is nice. I wish I could owe that completely to just enjoying a tidy home, but it goes much deeper than that. I can’t leave things out at the end of the day. I can’t have a mess in anything I have previously cleaned. Tonight, I nearly had a panic attack when I realized I had gone to bed without the dishes being done. Lucas needed me, so I fought it and stayed in bed to comfort him, but it was not an easy task.

Sometimes it can be helpful in a way – I am so relieved every morning when I wake up to a tidy apartment and can move on to deep cleaning the next section, or just rest with my little man. However, there are times when it is far more intrusive. As an example, whenever I get extremely anxious, my face starts to feel oily. It can be dry as anything on the outside, but my brain interprets it as ridiculously oily and I feel the need to wash it. The other day I gave in to that urge and ended up washing it for a half hour… until it was completely raw.

People focus so much on the depression part of the postpartum period that I can honestly say I didn’t expect this to hit so hard and so quickly. I’m lucky that I have a good team – my doctor is adjusting my medication and my psychologist is helping me work through it mentally. I would hate to see what a mess I would be otherwise!

My first Mother’s Day

I hadn’t given a lot of thought to Mother’s Day leading up to it this year, despite being a new mom. It’s just so weird to me that this holiday applies to me now in this way. I know I’m a mom, but sometimes little things remind me of it when I least expect it. Like when Lucas is nursing and nestles his feet into my belly, or when he sees my face and lights right up.

I told a friend earlier that it’s especially weird because as adults, we don’t remember the days when our mothers were everything we needed all in one package. Don’t get me wrong, the dads do a lot too – Mark has saved my sanity more than a couple times and Lucas adores him! But he still has moments where he just needs me to snuggle him or sing to him, and I’m his sole source of nutrition. It’s a huge responsibility, but an even bigger privilege.

For Mother’s Day, Mark and I went to visit his mom and after I dropped the boys off there, I was sent for an hour-long massage. It was fantastic and surprisingly set to a 90s playlist! If you know me at all, you know that the music from the late 90s/early 00s would be infinitely more relaxing to me than any other kind of music they could play.

After that, I had a nice long nap while nursing Lucas, then we had some supper (Chinese food!) and just spent the rest of the time relaxing. I got some cleaning done once we were back at the apartment (at my own request, despite Mark telling me to take it easy) and everything felt so good.

I’ve been dealing with a lot lately. Everything has caught up with me over the last three months – the end of pregnancy was not easy, my induction was long and complicated, childbirth was fairly traumatic for me (Lucas was fine, but I was in an awful state!), and I’ve had a bit of family drama since. The combination of all of this and sleep deprivation has triggered my anxiety 10x worse than normal, and brought back some of my OCD behaviours.

I knew I needed to see my doctor about it when I realized that I spent a half hour scrubbing my face because my anxiety made it feel like it wouldn’t come clean. Sure, the obsession and fixation with cleanliness has the apartment looking great, but it’s not good for the brain or the soul.

My doctor has decided to double my dose of Wellbutrin (I’m on that as well as Cipralex) to see if that starts to help, and I’m back to seeing my psychologist regularly to help sort out my thoughts and feelings. I hate that my brain is going through all of this, but I’m lucky to have an awesome team of friends, family, doctors, and mental health professionals to help me beyond just the medication.

On top of that, Lucas makes it better. Sure, I get frustrated when he’s upset and I cannot figure out how to soothe him, but then the storm breaks and his eyes light up and he gives me this enormous toothy grin and I know I can handle it for another day.

Overstimulation

Poor Lucas is going through so much right now. He’s in the middle of a growth spurt, the period of purple crying, and a pretty big leap in mental development. Because of this, he has had such a rough time keeping himself calm and not getting overstimulated.

Today was a particularly bad day for the both of us. I’ve been fighting off a nasty migraine that hit its absolute peak today, which was certainly not made any better by crying or lack of sleep. I took the Tylenol that I can have (since I’m nursing) in hopes that it would take the edge off, but I spent the day wanting to sleep, throw up, or tear my eyes out… not necessarily in that order.

I just kept trying to calm the little man, but any time he started feeling ok and relaxed, something would catch his eye and he would get stressed out again. He refused to nap for the first time ever, and even kept interrupting his nursing to cry and wail.

Once Mark was done working, he took Lucas for a little while and fed him some of the milk we had stored away in hopes that it would help, and I headed into my “Ang cave” to try and have some quiet time to clean and organize while clearing my head. They headed out and got some groceries while Lucas was calm, then when they got home he was back at it, so I tried to comfort him some more.

Finally it dawned on me that I might have something new to try. I took him into the bathroom and sat him in the tub with me, with the lights off (we have a night light) and the door mostly shut, with just a little bit of warm water. I nursed him for about half an hour and just sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to him and talked very quietly until he fell asleep.

We moved him to the bedroom, where he woke up a bit and had to be nursed back to sleep, but after two more repetitions of this, he was finally out for good. I spent a good hour in the other room, took an excedrin migraine, cleaned to my heart’s content, and came back to bed where both Lucas and Mark were sound asleep.

It was a rough day, but somehow we got through it. Like I said before, it’s all about the little victories right now.