20 November, 2014

The Good Parts

I was given the opportunity to reflect upon my birth and renewal today in a new parents group, and this is what I came up with. What I realized is how much birth influences the kind of mother I am, and how much of my personality influenced the kind of birth experience I had.


Motherhood has been (and this is serious and not totally romanticized) the best thing I have ever done. For the first time in my life I don't spend all day fantasizing about what I could/should be doing, or how to advance my career or life. I live, for the most part, in the moment, good or bad. I will admit to the occasional day dream of good solid sleep or carelessly flirting with my husband in the corner of a fancy bar with a drink in hand, otherwise I feel fulfilled.

*this was originally written on in April of 2010 - Oliver was four months old*

10 October, 2013

The Glass Orb

I am resurrecting this blog For Miriam and to raise awareness about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders or better known as postpartum depression PPD. I've written about my birth on the internet many times, but I am thankful that I can share it today in the context of the post postpartum depression and anxiety I experienced and we can can inspire healing together.
I gave birth to my son on the winter's solstice in 2009 he was more than a month early - I was two days into my 35th week. On that day I was broken open - my spirit, heart, and soul was so deeply entrenched in love and awe, but it was also deeply hurt.
On top of labor being a month early it was also very, very fast about 6 hours in total from the first signs of early labor. I remember having very little time to get into an emotional place to handle that it was really happening. I first had signs of early labor and called my midwife. She recommend I take a bath to try and relax. In the tub I got the period-like cramps in my lower back. I recall thinking "Oh, this is what it will be like to go into labor - remember this in a few weeks." When I got out of the tub my water broke (my cat also jumped into the FULL bathtub, but that is another story for another day). I sat on the toilet and immediately the contractions were one on top of the other - I was panicked! By the time we realized what was going on I was naked in the living room on all fours with the curtains WIDE open - I had little ability to comprehend anything else besides the intensity inside me. We had been in conversation with our midwife for a while and at that point she was on her way.
When she got there she knelt down next to me and said, "You're having a baby today and you're going to be fine" (or something like that - either way I knew it was going to okay and all the panic that I was having left me). The rest of the birth happened so fast before I knew it I was pushing him out, which took two hours and was the hardest work I've ever done in my life. When he came out and was gently guided onto the floor I just sat there for a second (or who knows how long a minute maybe) and cried and exclaimed that I DID IT! My midwife had to remind me to pick up my baby. He was 6 pounds 6oz and bright red. He looked great and our midwives were confident that we didn't have to transfer to the hospital. Our doctor came the next day and also said that same thing.
I woke up the next morning and I have one distinct memory of my mother helping me dress Oliver in his little outfit we picked out for him. I knew I should have been elated, but something inside was amiss. I hurt, my baby was here, and I no longer felt whole.
The next few days were a blur I remember trying to nurse him and he wouldn't latch on for more than a few seconds then go back to sleep - in my haze I had no idea he wasn't getting enough milk. I remember feeling so worried and panicked - and overwhelmed that my husband had to run around and go get things all over the place (a breast pump and other nursing paraphernalia). I was determined to nurse and knew we could do it I just had no idea how to get this kid to drink! I cried and cried and cried. I could hardly sit down because I had torn. I could not find any clothes that felt comfortable or any way to sit or lay down that felt comfortable. It was an endless rollercoster of emotions. I felt so alone even though I had such wonderful and amazing family and friends and support people around. It was a dark and scary place. I dreaded the nighttime when it would get dark and depressing (and it was December so it got dark at 4pm!) and everyone would leave our house. I didn't feel safe or secure. I made Ron shave off his big beard because to me his unshaven face was most familiar and comforting. I had a lot of irrational fears, worries, and most of all detachment from any emotion that wasn't dread or anxiety.
By the second (or third) day Oliver had lost weight and was jaundice. Everyone around me (including myself) went into crisis mode (but I think in the most calm way possible). It felt like we were gearing up for war. The midwives laid out a “bulk up plan” for Oliver, which included a 24-hour period of me pumping every two hours and then feeding him with a spoon or syringe (with the needle off). It took him an hour to take a few milliliters. My mother, father and a friend stayed with us that 24 hour period. I hid in the bedroom and pumped and cried, while my mother coaxed him to take as much milk as he could. I recall hearing their chatter from the living room and missed my old self who would have been out there chatting away too and enjoying my beautiful baby. That was probably the darkest day, although I look back on it now and realize the outpouring of love for me and my son from my loved ones just breaks my heart. But it did the trick to get him enough nutrients to be able to do the work of nursing and not burn more calories than we was taking in. We continued to set an alarm every two hours (ugh- to this day I can’t hear the ring tone I had used on my cell phone alarm because it is so triggering for me) and I would nurse him and then Ron would feed him pumped milk with the syringe. Our midwives would come over every day for a week (then every other day or so) we did this feeding plan until he was back up to his birth weight about a week later.
On top of this I was so banged up – I could hardly sit up or walk to the bathroom. There was so much focus on Oliver (for good reason) that we all left my healing to the wayside. I barely moved with the exception of from the bed to the rocker to nurse or pump.  As a result I developed severe gas pain a week after he was born. I had tried to walk it off and over exerted myself. At the midwife visit she saw the excruciating pain I was in and spent an hour massaging my stomach (which felt amazing) I passed most of the gas and then by the end of the midwives stay out of nowhere I spiked a fever of 102. I was freezing and sweating and could not move. That was it I thought I was going to die! I remember nursing Oliver in desperation while I imagined the worst scenarios in my mind: rushing to the ER and dying on the way and leaving Oliver a motherless child.  We all decided to let me rest and see if it went down in a few hours. I took some advil and promptly fell fast asleep for about 5 hours. When I woke the fever was gone and I actually felt rested. My body was telling me I needed rest and fluid and some nurturing.
The weeks following slowly became better physically. I had some good days, and even great days. When Oliver was four-weeks old (which was his due date) he was like a new baby, gaining weight like a champ and alert and awake (he gained 4lbs a month for two months!). But I was still in a very dark place. I still cried a lot and was afraid of going out into the world. It was like culture shock to be out in public and I did not go anywhere besides my families house or the library for many weeks. I had a lot of anxiety about driving in the car with Oliver and seeing people in general. The anxiety felt like a fragile glass orb inside of me and could shatter at any minute. I did a lot of worrying about that glass orb. I worried what would happen if it shattered. I was teetering on the edge, but I did a great job at making sure everyone around me thought I was happy and well adjusted.
Going to mom’s groups helped to rebuild my spirit and allowed me to engage with other women who were also struggling. It was my lifeline! One day my husband took both sets of keys to work by accident – it was on a day I went to the new mom’s group – I cried, and cried and told him he ruined my day – oh the hormones!!
As spring rolled around I started to feel better and Oliver was a very vibrant and healthy baby I slowly got out of my depression, anxiety, and fear and things became manageable. I still lived with the glass orb of trauma and posttraumatic stress. I would worry deeply about irrational things – car accidents, drowning. So I decided to go to my therapist who had helped me through past trauma (I witnessed a horrible motorcycle accident in front of my house a few years before. We met regularly and when I felt ready she did a (non-invasive) treatment called EMDR that helps with trauma. It helped ease the trauma and the glass orb of anxiety melted. I am thankful that it never shattered, because I don't think I would be here today if it did.
As Oliver's fourth birthday approaches I can reflect upon it with the awe and beauty it deserves. The pain is a distant memory, but one that can too easily resurface. I am grateful that I was privileged enough to have folks silently pick up the pieces for me. My family and friends fed me, hugged me, or just held Oliver while I showered. They knew little of my internal suffering because I was ashamed and felt alone. Sharing this I hope that we can raise awareness for all mothers who struggle with PPD.
In solidarity,

Jessica

14 October, 2012

Our Fall in Photos


This could be our new work spot!

Ollie realizes how much work we have to do

Or he is just tired and wants to go home!
We've had lots of cousin time






Cheers!

29 August, 2012

Eclipse

From my journal:

August 29th - Wed - 2012

As I was driving home this evening the sun was just setting and the full moon was shining brightly. I thought to myself that this would be a great night for a walk. Then I recalled a memory from childhood.
We were staying at my great aunt's house on Cape Cod. I was no more than 8 - but more like 5 or 6. I was asleep in the attic room with my older sister when my Dad woke us up and whisked us out of bed and into the car - leaving my younger brothers still asleep. He excitedly mentioned the moon and eclipse - a word at that time that I didn't understand. I watched the moon - big and full and bright - follow us all the way to the beach. I can recall this moment as if it just happened tonight. My soft, blue cotton night gown with lace ruffles along the edges. The mysterious quiet of the night and that big, full moon following us though the cool, damp summer air. I don't recall much about the eclipse or the beach, but I do remember thinking how magical it all was - and even then I appreciated - and understood - my father's impulse to wake his slumbering children and jump in the car.

17 June, 2012

Spring Bounty

Oliver and Ron at the Comstock Ferre Plant Sale in Wethersfield, CT


Cousins digging for bugs in the yard

The Peace Pagoda Levrett, MA


Our lives have suddenly become so full. On top of new work schedules and the lovely spring weather, we've been (most often) happily busy. Visiting all the lovely places and events that our  little valley has to offer when the weather turns mild and springy and lovely. Most often we're content just hanging outside in our little yard enjoying the company of friends and family. And of course gardening, weeding, mulching, and harvesting some of the early spring bounty our little garden has to offer. The only thing I haven't taken photos of yet is our garden, this year it is beautiful.

03 April, 2012

Where's the Baby?


Oliver does a lot of lounging lately. Sprawling out on the couch, futon, floor, the green, green soft grass that is sprouting this spring. As relaxing as this all looks, in reality, we've been really busy here. More on that later.