Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One Breath

Every so often life reminds me of how fragile my illusions of luck and happiness are. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it sucks the breath right out of my body, makes me quiver, and creates a spasmodic grip in a hug - I hold my loved ones one second longer.

Bridger has been eating solids now for three months. He's been flying right through fruits and veggies of all different varieties, enjoying them all. Except peaches. Really - what's not to like about peaches? He's tried chicken and yogurt, and had not a problem with wheat. So on Monday I mashed up a bit of hard-boiled egg yolk with some steamed broccoli and carrots, and he ate the mixture with gusto. His doctor had ok'ed egg yolk, but advised me to wait on the white until after he turns a year old. That was at 1:30, around 3 I sat down to nurse him, and noticed he was a little fussy and rubbing his eyes. He was on the lower production side, so I thought maybe he wanted a 'higher-flow nipple'. As I switched sides, his head fell back, and that's when I saw the hives. Enormous white welts in a bright red blanket. I stipped him naked and he was covered in them. My head started to spin - the symptom of post-partum depression I struggled most with was an overriding, irrational fear that some harm would come to my children. I would obsessively get out of bed every five minutes all night to check his breathing, not allow my husband to carry him down the stairs in case he tripped, things like that. And now something bad was happening. To my baby.

I called my doctor right away, and they told me to give him Benadryl, and go to the ER if he got any worse. It being Marathon Monday, I was at a friend's house for bbq, and one of the other parents there had an allergy kit for her son. She crushed a fast-melt tablet in water, and we syringed it Bridger's mouth. He was a little otherworldly - not remotely like the son that I know. He was dull and unengaged, so unhappy. The 45 minutes it took for the red to turn pink, and the white to fade felt so long. I sat in a chair with him limp against my chest, and watched his face through tears. I had to ask my friend to evaluate him - I couldn't be objective. I kept thinking about the what-if's, what if I had fed him on my way to Vermont - would the drive have been long enough for him to stop breathing? What if I hadn't noticed? It's all unthinkable. I am so thankful he is alright, but my God I still don't want to put him down. I spent all day yesterday on the couch snuggling my kids. Because we are all just one turn, one decision, one breath away from living very different lives, or not living at all.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Bucket List

No, I haven't seen the movie. But here is my list - writing it down is the first step in making them all happen.

Run a marathon
Run Boston
Swim with Dolphins
Ski Tuckermans
Own a yarn shop
Teach yoga
Bring a horse to Grand Prix
Hike the Appalachian Trail
Learn to Telemark

Friday, April 3, 2009

For Baker

Today marks the first anniversary of Baker's birth and death. Please join me in sending healing thoughts to his family, at their blog, on this difficult day.

Dalene, Chris, and Baker's little Brother - may the love of your friends and family be a beacon for you today. I know Baker is with you, always.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Living in a Swamp

Thank god for Zoloft. Now that I have some distance and perspective from the swamp that is post-partum depression, I can look on it and perhaps appreciate my family a little bit more, find joy in even small silly moments. And be so very terrified of where I just emerged from.

I had expected trouble when my daughter was born. I knew from early in the pregnancy that I would be a single mother, but had thought for a few months at least that I might have a co-parent in her biological father. When it became evident that was not going to be the case, and the feces hit the fan, I was put on meds prophalacticaly. I had mulitiple risk factors - incredible situational stressors, a history of depressive episodes, and an erratic, useless ex. And I did get blue after Isabella was born, but I functioned. I worked two part-time jobs, took care of her, and managed to have the where-with-all to have a safety plan. The stress took it's toll - no woman 6 months post-partum should weigh 20 pounds less than when she conceived said child (not when she started out slim, anyway). I ultimately decided that it was best for us both to move back home, close to my family, where I would have more support.

This time around I thought it would be smooth sailing. I was in an entirely different life situation; married, with both my parents and my in-laws close by and totally supportive. The father of this baby wanted him. My labor was much shorter, and not in the presence of a) the nastiest l&d nurse ever, and b) my estranged ex's parents. My son's birth was everything I had ever hoped for, and then some. We were home that night. He was healthy and beautiful and I thought everything would be fine. God damn brain chemistry...

At around 4 weeks I though it was funny that I felt, kind of detached from the baby. In retrospect I think I was afraid to really let myself love him, it felt a little like betraying my older child. And I felt wholly incompetent as a mother of two kids. I could not possibly make them both happy at the same time, and by noon each day, I had been unable to feed them, myself, and get dressed. There was a big learning curve. At the same time, Rob was swamped at work. There was a 4 week stretch that he worked 80 hours each week. And of course that meant that with B cluster feeding all night, and Isa needing me all day, I started sinking. But I kept limping along, thinking I could will myself into being ok. Even though all I could manage to do was nurse B, and change his butt. Anything else was so overwhelming it made my head spin. I cried constantly. It was horrible. I felt like a complete failure. And at some level I felt like I didn't have a right to be depressed. There were days where I would sit clutching B, sobbing, and read the loss forums at MDC. Those women had a reason to cry, and there I was with a healthy baby, needing to read their stories to give my tears a reason to fall. I started on meds in early november, which gave me a glimmer of hope, but it would be several weeks before they would take full effect.

And then Rob lost his job - and with it, our benefits, with no warning. Isa got an ear infection that night (thanks, Murphy!). A friend called it the Wiley Coyote moment - you're running along, when you look down, there's nothing there, and BOOM! down you fall. That weekend was awful. And I had the most frightening thought of my life - 'I want to die. I can't die, my kids need me. Ok then, I'll just take them with me.' Even now I find it hard to put that out in the ether. It took a week to say it out loud. Good mothers don't think those thoughts. Bad brain chemistry however makes good mothers think those thoughts. Needless to say at that point I knew that was very unhealthy thinking (understatement of the year). So for the next two months I made sure I wasn't alone with either kid, or by myself, while we got the meds right. Thank god for my doctor - she was always kind, supportive, and non-judgemental.

I think that's what I needed most, the lack of judgement. As I've slugged through the mud of this dark place, that is what has kept me quiet - it's not ok to admit to having trouble to adjusting to motherhood. My doc likened ppd to surgery, or any other illness - nothing to be ashamed of, just something that needs treatment. But I am in truth scared to go to Nationals this year, and explain why it took 6 months to return to work. I'm scared to take on too much, for fear that I might slide back to where I came from. I know that I never want to be pregnant again, because I cannot risk being that close to the edge again. I love both of those kids with a fierceness that I didn't know was possible, and I am so grateful that I finally feel like I can BE with them, and enjoy even the gritty of our life. And maybe when this is all a distant memory, I can recount this story without shame, and give some other mother permission to cry for no reason. I want to tell her that being in the swamp doesn't make her a bad mother, and it doesn't mean she doesn't love her kids. I want to give her the courage to ask for help before she thinks she needs it.