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.

“Me Time”

I seem to have started a new routine for myself without intending to.

We bring the little man to bed around 10, and I nurse him to sleep, which usually guarantees he will be out for a couple of hours. Once I know he’s fast asleep, I tell Mark that I’m going to take a bath and disappear for a while. I take my phone and my pump (and sometimes water and/or a snack) and sit in a hot bath for about a half hour.

When I was recovering from my surgery, I think the thing I missed most was the ability to soak in the tub. It has been my go-to for pretty much anything that ails me since I was young. Everything from menstrual cramps/endo pain to migraines to just feeling a bit down… they can all be treated with a hot bath. It doesn’t always work as a cure, but it improves the situation enough that I can take the next steps that I need to take.

I also find that since it’s quiet and I’m relaxed, I can pump much more effectively during this time. I worry sometimes that Lucas will wake up and I won’t hear over the water running, but otherwise there’s no interruptions and no distractions – just me and total relaxation.

I have a feeling these baths will be my sanity savers during the rest of my maternity leave – and maybe longer!

Mini Victories

I’m all about trying to celebrate the small victories these days.

I’ve been feeling pretty down – I’m not sure if its postpartum depression or baby blues or my normal anxiety and depression or even some combination of the above. Regardless of what it is, it is horrible and mean and lies, as most mood disorders do.

It tells me that I’m not doing enough or what I am doing, I’m doing wrong. It tells me that I should be more careful with putting Lucas down for tummy time. It tells me that I should have him on an actual sleep schedule instead of just following his cues. It tells me that I should have him sleeping comfortably in a crib instead of co-sleeping and waking to nurse through the night.
In a conscious effort to fight these feelings, I am silently congratulating myself for what I consider to be small victories. For example:

  • There are currently no dirty dishes in the apartment.
  • I managed to pump a couple of feedings’ worth of milk today despite not being on a proper pumping schedule.
  • I sorted a bunch of childhood photos by year and put myself in a position to organize them further and scan them.
  • I just changed Lucas’ diaper without waking him.

These victories sound silly when I type them out or say them out loud, but each one feels monumental in my head. Each one is like a lighthouse shining through the fog of depression.

Of course, there is also a foghorn in this metaphor: baby giggles. I’m convinced that if you could bottle baby giggles and the amazing sweet, milky smell of a baby, you could solve so many problems at once.

Who knew that becoming a mother would turn me a bit more optimistic?

2 months.

It’s 12:30 in the morning here, which means Lucas is officially two months old.

What a difference a month makes! This month, he has made such incredible leaps and I am so proud. He now giggles and “talks” to us, and he has grown physically – he’s no longer “short”, and he’s finally growing into his rather large head.

One of the best things we have discovered the past few days is that he likes the “You’re Welcome” song from Moana. He giggles and babbles along with it whenever it’s on! It’s so adorable that I don’t even care that I’m listening to it nonstop – even when it’s only playing in my head.

My mom and grandma came to visit for a few days this month, too. They were such a huge help while they were here! They got to meet Lucas and visit with me and Mark, and then they set to work cooking and cleaning. I now have a freezer full of Polish food and a tidy apartment! Now I’m able to start tackling the projects I’ve wanted to for ages because I’m no longer paralyzed with indecision about where to start. My main focus right now is the “Ang Cave”. Once I have it finished, I will be sure to share some photos here!

Life is starting to feel more “normal” again. I do have some depression/baby blues on and off, but it’s pretty well tempered and I have a great medical team and family for support. It’s nice knowing what a wonderful little life I’ve carved out for myself after all I went through when I was younger! Ten years ago, I would not have foreseen any of this.

Motherhood is one giant contradiction.

I’m having a bit of a hard time today. I had some family drama go down over the weekend, and my heart hurts to think about it. I’m sure it’s all for the best, but everything is still pretty raw and I’m not quite mentally well-adjusted enough to fully process it. I’ve made an appointment with my therapist, but sadly she was booked up until mid-May, so this might pass by then.

The stress of it all even got to my dreams, which set the tone for my entire day today. Last night my dream was all about the many ways I could fail Lucas as an infant – from not knowing what items to buy, to him not wanting to sit with me, to my nearly suffocating him. I woke up in a panic and haven’t quite shaken the feeling off yet.

He’s growing so well, though. Every day he seems to be more and more advanced, and I think he’s going through the first of the “wonder weeks”. He’s infinitely more aware and awake, but also quite a bit more frustrated while he learns to adjust to the world being much bigger than it was previously for him. I’m grateful this is well-documented online and in books, or it might fuel my fear that I’m going to mess him up somehow.

I know that these feelings are normal and that they’ll most likely pass before I’m too deep into them, but it’s hard to feel this way and also try to be a normal human for everyone around. The last thing I want is a giant pity party, but hearing that I’m “dealing with it just fine” feels dismissive at the same time. I’m currently a walking contradiction.