March 28, 2013

When PPD Strikes*

I try to keep things lights & fluffy around here as much as possible, but every once in a while, something comes up that hits me in my core. This is one of those posts. 

I will warn you that this is about Postpartum Depression. If you are suffering from PPD & do not think you can read this, I understand. It may contain some triggers. 

Two weeks ago, a woman jumped to her death, eight stories, taking her baby with her. The baby miraculously survived. We all saw the news story, but I was surprised to see it fade so quickly & not circulate around the interwebs like most shocking stories tend to do. The general sentiment was that this was a truly tragic and unfortunate event, which is absolutely was, but nobody was talking about it past then. My boss actually knew the woman (they went to high school together) so maybe that's why it was a little more in the limelight for me, but it was still shocking, when so many news stories go viral so quickly, this one didn't linger.

It was rumored that the mother suffered from Postpartum Depression. Is this why nobody wanted to talk about it? Postpartum depression can effect up to 20% of women. The "Baby Blues," which are considered normal, happen much more frequently, but the difference is that they go away. Postpartum Depression lingers, and an individual can show signs & symptoms for up to a year after giving birth.

The Beginning & Following Escalation
I'm here to admit that my baby blues did not go away. Weeks went by where I would cry for no reason. Uncontrollably. We were lucky to have paternity leave for about a week after Lucas was born, but then M went back to work. Since we live 3,000 miles away from family, our help was sparse. My best friend came to visit two weeks after Lucas was born, and I remember crying (again, uncontrollably) when I picked her up from the airport. I was beyond grateful that she was there to help, to be there for me, but I know she will attest to just how bad my Baby Blues were while she was there.

But even then, the sadness didn't stop. I haven't been very secretive about my issues with depression on this blog, and if you know me in real life, I won't ever shy away from the conversation if it comes up and I am questioned about it. But there still is some shame that I feel from time to time. Instead of going away, like they should have, the blues sort of just changed their appearance. A time that was supposed to be the happiest of my life was filled with dread and anxiety. I was insanely protective of Lucas -- more so than I probably should have been. If one thing did not go the way I wanted it to, if our schedule was off, if anybody other than me was responsible for ANY tiny aspect of his well being (my husband included), my anxiety shot to unbelievable levels. In my head, I could feel the crazy, but talking myself down from it just didn't happen.

It was months before the postpartum anxiety went away. Dropping Lucas off at our sitters was awful (no matter how much I trusted & adore the woman who watches him!) Eventually the anxiety faded but again, only to manifest itself into just a general depression. I was angry, bitter, sad all the time, and my marriage was starting to suffer because of it. True, marriage post baby is work regardless, but this was an exceptional BAD.

What surprised me the most, looking back, was the rage. So much RAGE. The anger that I experienced was more than any other aspect of the PPD, which is why I didn't recognize it for so long. When you first think of PPD, let's admit it -- you think of overwhelming sadness. Lots of tears, constantly. And while I had those moments as well, THOSE were so few and far between that I filed them away in the "new mom working full time trying to raise a baby on sleepless nights" folder. But there was a lot of anger at everybody around me, and I am disappointed to say that my husband took the brunt of it.

I hated life. I hated everybody and everything around me. Lucas was the only light in tunnel and lord help anybody who crossed either of us. I considered leaving my marriage, for a very long time, because I thought surely this is not my fault that things are this bad. Every day, for months, the thought crossed my mind. In reality, my darling husband was just trying to cope with that crazy that was going through his wife's head, the best that he could, and I was too deep into it all to see what was going on & how he must have been in complete turmoil. He had no fucking clue what was going on, because again, nobody tells you about this part of PPD. It was new, and scary, and we both were pretty lost in how it was affecting our lives.

The Breaking Point
When my grandfather passed away in February, I hit a low that I couldn't seem to pull myself back up from. It was a hard passing for me, and I hit a breaking point.It had been coming for a while -- I've been sleep deprived for almost two years. I work full time. Army life is not kind to us at times, which means I often find myself parenting solo while also trying to maintain a working lifestyle. We recently found out we will be moving, which adds a whole other level of stress to our lives.  I felt like I had been treading water for quite some time -- not quite drowning, but not quite swimming with ease, either. When my grandpa died, I felt like treading was no longer an option. I just wanted out. Not suicide out (don't get me wrong. Suicide is never the answer, no matter how bad it was) but I wanted to throw in the towel. Run away. Never look back.

To breath again.

It was after that, I made the decision to go back on my prozac. I had been on and off anti-depressants since graduate school, so I was no stranger to them. I had a prescription that I had intended to go back onto after I gave birth. The only reason I stopped taking it to begin with was because of the pregnancy, and I knew, after the Baby Blues didn't really go away, that I needed to go back on them. I talked to my midwife at my six week postpartum checkup. I got the prescription. I filled said prescription. I took them for two days and then stopped. My depression during pregnancy should have been enough for me to convince myself to go back on the meds, but I still didn't listen to my head.

"I can do this myself," I said. "I'm fine. This will pass," I told myself.

It didn't.

Had I ever talked to a doctor again about it, I am confident that they would have diagnosed me with PPD. I most definitely had Postpartum Anxiety. I SHOULD have stayed on the prozac the first time around. I hated myself for going back on it last month, but even just a few weeks into it and I can feel the difference. While no marriage is perfect and we definitely have our issues to work on, like any couple, I am feeling a little less crazy. A little less angry. A LOT less sad. Generally? Just better. And my life, as a whole, is better because of it. My marriage is better. My relationships are better. My work is better.

All in all -- BETTER. Easy? No. I still struggle, and I am sure that I will continue to struggle. I have good days & bad days. But it's manageable. Like I said, it's better.

I still need sleep. Lots of it. But that will come, right?

I didn't talk to anybody while I was going through all of this. As I said before, there seems to be some level of shame in finding out you are suffering from PPD. And that poor woman, who felt like taking her life and her baby's life was the only way out? I know how I felt, have felt in the past, and I can't imagine that dark of a place where taking your own life, and attempting to take the life of your child is the only way out.

Take Care Of Yourself
Postpartum depression can mainfest in many forms. From WebMD:

The "baby blues," which occur in most women in the days right after childbirth, are considered normal. A new mother has sudden mood swings, such as feeling very happy and then feeling very sad. She may cry for no reason and can feel impatient, irritable, restless, anxious, lonely, and sad. The baby blues may last only a few hours or as long as one to two weeks after delivery. The baby blues do not usually require treatment from a health care provider. Often, joining a support group of new moms or talking with other moms helps. 

Postpartum depression (PPD) can happen a few days or even months after childbirth. PPD can happen after the birth of any child, not just the first child. A woman can have feelings similar to the baby blues -- sadness, despair, anxiety, irritability -- but she feels them much more strongly than she would with the baby blues. PPD often keeps a woman from doing the things she needs to do every day. When a woman's ability to function is affected, she needs to see her health care provider. If a woman does not get treatment for PPD, symptoms can get worse. While PPD is a serious condition, it can be treated with medication and counseling. 

Postpartum psychosis is a very serious mental illness that can affect new mothers. This illness can happen quickly, often within the first three months after childbirth. Women can lose touch with reality, having auditory hallucinations (hearing things that aren't actually happening, like a person talking) and delusions (strongly believing things that are clearly irrational). Visual hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there) are less common. Other symptoms include insomnia (not being able to sleep), feeling agitated (unsettled) and angry, and strange feelings and behaviors. Women who have postpartum psychosis need treatment right away and almost always need medication. Sometimes women are put into the hospital because they are at risk for hurting themselves or someone else.
And don't forget to take care of yourself. I learned the hard way, and if we are blessed with baby #2, I will do things much, much differently. Here are some tips that can help you cope with bringing home a newborn:

Ask for help -- let others know how they can help you.
Be realistic about your expectations for yourself and baby. 
Exercise; take a walk and get out of the house for a break.
Expect some good days and some bad days.
Follow a sensible diet; avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Foster the relationship with your partner -- make time for each other.
Keep in touch with family and friends -- do not isolate yourself.
Limit visitors when you first go home.
Screen phone calls.
Sleep or rest when your baby sleeps!

All in all -- do what is right FOR YOU and your family.  Seek help if you need it. Don't be afraid or ashamed to reach out to a friend or family member and talk about what you are feeling. More often than not, you just might find an ally who has been there.

March 26, 2013

Mustache Bash!

Little man turned ONE last week, and this past Saturday we had all of our closest friends over to help us celebrate! My sister, Aimie, flew in from Seattle and spent the weekend with us, which was GREAT! I adore her and it's always nice to spend time with her. Plus, she was a GEM helping me get ready for the party on Saturday!

We went a little overboard, but we sort of looked at it this way -- with our impending PCS, this may be the last time we have all of our closest friends in one place with us. So many of us are going in different directions in the coming months, so it was nice to have those that matter the most to us in one place. 

We went with a MUSTACHE BASH theme! It seemed appropriately silly & it really was a hit. Guests were provided with some fake mustaches to wear, and I'm pretty sure seeing all the little babies with these on their faces was the highlight for many!

Most of these decorations came from Three Little Monkey's Studio on Etsy. There were SO MANY other things in the package I received that we didn't even print off. Photo props. Thank you cards. Name tags for the food. All so adorable.

The little popcorn bags, the mustache straws and the stick on mustache's themselves all came from our local Party City. We kept the food pretty simple -- popcorn & hot dogs for the kiddos, hamburgers, turkey burgers, pasta salad, a green salad and lots of chips. Cupcakes were ordered from our local grocery store & we bought an over-sized cupcake for Lucas's cake smash. All in all, I think the party was a SUCCESS! We had so much fun & the kids were all so well behaved (trust me -- there were a ton of them!)

It does make me think I'll have to step it up for next year! Guess I should start working on theme ideas now :)

One Year*

Dear Lucas,

This past Friday, we celebrated your first birthday. You are officially ONE and no longer a baby (although you will always be MY baby).

This first birthday hit your father and I like a ton of brick, me more than him. I cannot, for the life of me, understand how we got here so fast. I remember your birth like it was yesterday

I adore you a little more every day, even through the trying times. I LOVE how, in the past couple of weeks, you finally understand the word "hug" and how free you are to give those hugs anytime you are asked. To me. To the dogs. To the two other kids at daycare. To Daddy? Not so much yet, but we are working on it. You squeeze my neck so tight and come in, mouth wide open, for a slobbery kiss. It is one of my favorite moments of the day and I try to get as many hugs from you as possible. I especially love how, late at night, when I am cradling you in the rocker before bed, you throw that left arm around my neck, prop your foot on my shoulder & hold on tight. There is a reason I still rock you for a few minutes every night -- that is it right there. I want to hold onto those moment as long as I can, because I know there will be a time when you won't let me cradle you like that anymore. I need to get it in when I can!

Your favorite games right now are playing peek-a-boo & "pushing" mom & dad around the floor. The giggles that we get from you when we scoot across the carpet are enough to make anybody within earshot burst into giggles. You are learning so quick & are so proud of yourself when you figure out something new. We love watching you learn & grow and while reaching this milestone has been difficult, it's a bittersweet moment.

I am pretty sure that if I let you, you would eat all day, every day. You are such a boy, in more ways than one! Food is your friend and you are DEFINITELY your mother's child -- if I only fed you cheese and pasta all day, every day, you would be the happiest kid on the planet. You play hard and love hard. We forget sometimes that some of the little girls in your life are a little daintier than you are, but we are working on those boundaries. I am sure that your daddy and I will be in a lot of trouble as you grow bigger.

We love you so much. You have been such a light in our life these past 12 months and despite all the struggles, we would not change a single thing. You are so sweet & caring -- that is apparent even now. You have been an easy child and a light in the lives of many. There are so many people in your life who love you so much. As hard as it is to say goodbye to you being a "baby," I cannot wait for this new step into toddler-hood, and cannot wait to see what the next six months and year bring.

Stay sweet baby boy. We love you.

March 12, 2013

What's Next?

With an impending move on the horizon. it's safe to say that I have sort of started to freak out.

One of the things that is worrisome to me is my job. My current position isn't, by any stretch of the imagination, a dream job of sorts. Honestly, it's the farthest thing from it. But it's money in my pocket, so I will take it. Augusta is sort of a smaller town. Not TINY, but not exactly a large metropolitan area. The job market matches that. The job hunt in our new location has officially begun and I am sad to say, it doesn't look very promising.

One of my issues in my job search is that I don't really know what I want to do. I mean, I DO. I have an education. A masters degree. A "career field" that I am comfortable with and enjoy for the most part. But when I sit down and think about what I want to do, I come up empty.

I know I want a little bit of financial freedom. I like our lifestyle, and while it's not LAVISH by any means, we don't have to pinch pennies thankfully. I don't want to give that up anytime soon. Also, I enjoy working. Yes, being a working mom is tough & has it's challenges, but I still enjoy it. At least, I enjoy it when I am feeling fulfilled creatively & challenged in my day to day duties. But this impending move has me wondering -- what exactly DO I want to do?

As a direct sales consultant for Jamberry, I have started to see things pick up with my business, to the point that within the coming months, there is a very good chance that doing direct sales (hahahaha! Something I never thought I would be doing) will essentially replace my current income. Jamberry has become so easy & with a product that essentially sells itself, it has required very little effort on my part to be successful. Is it a silly concept? Sure! I LOVE the product, but I am making money off of designer nail wraps! WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT?? It's not something I want to do forever, but for now, it seems to be working. So why not?

But what next? I have always wanted to start my own business, which would allow me to focus on the aspects of public relations that I TRULY love. I have also considered, many times over, to launch into photography full time because I also love what I do when I get to do it. Taking both of those plunges before has been scary. Giving up a guaranteed income to try and do something that might not succeed is extremely terrifying on many, many levels. But with money coming in from the Jamberry thing, the idea of doing BOTH of these things doesn't seem so far off.

I'm still applying for jobs down in Augusta, because working in an office setting is comfortable. It's what I know. Again, that reliance of income is a little less terrifying than branching out on my own. But maybe it's time. Maybe this is the sign that I need to do what I want to do. I have a lot of research to in the coming months, before we take off for this new adventure. Or maybe I don't. Maybe I just DO IT. Throw caution to the wind. Build my websites. Put it out there.

See what happens.

Cue total terror. I just don't know. I know that my fear is deciding this for me. I know my fear of the unknown is keeping me from something that could potentially be very rewarding. I like comfortable. I like planned. I like KNOWING where my next paycheck is going to come from. But the places I am getting my paychecks aren't always the most rewarding. I sort of want both. So I don't know. I have a lot -- a LOT -- of thinking to do.

This could be the greatest, or worst decision I have ever made!

March 7, 2013

Bye Bye, North Carolina*

It's official.

After seven incredibly long years here at Fort Bragg, we will be packing up and experiencing our first ever PCS (permanent change of duty station). I wish I could say we were going somewhere fun, but we are only moving a whopping three hours away to Fort Gordon, GA!

I can't say that I'm exactly thrilled to be moving to Georgia -- I always dreamed that when the day came we could get out of North Carolina that we would move far, far away from the South, not further into it. But part of me is truly looking forward to the change. We have been here for a long time, practically a lifetime in Army standards, and to say that we are both ready for a change is understatement. But at the same time, we have been here SEVEN YEARS. Our friends are here. People we consider family. People that have become near and dear to our hearts.

One of the things that I have learned in my time as a military spouse is that the ones closest to your heart don't need to be closest to your home to remain meaningful. Some of the most amazing, influential & important people in my life have been those that I have actually met online through the blogging & twitter community. But there is a familiarity and routine that we are used to with the ones who physically live closest to us. It will be weird to suddenly have that taken away from us while we figure out a new life somewhere else.

I know that we are lucky. Stability is not something you join the military for, as least not in the physical presence. Seven years at one duty station, in one job (for my husband) is a LONG time. Like I said before, almost a lifetime. There is a good chance that we won't get a stint like that anywhere else and that our time has come where every two to three years, we will uproot our small family and go where the Army tells us to go. Hopefully, someday, to one of our dream duty stations (Colorado. Washington State. Alaska. Italy.)

But for now, we start the process. I don't even know where to begin, in all honesty. First and foremost, most likely, will be a very long list of things that will need to be done to the house to make it rent-ready. Then a massive purge of all the unnecessary crap we have in our home. Followed by tons of packing. I am sure there will be some frustrations along the way & I plan to share them here. We have never PCS'ed as a family before, so this could get interesting.

All in all, this will be a good change. A change we are ready for. Augusta, GA is a very nice town. We have visited friends there before and with Gordon being a very small installation, it will be a welcome change from the hustle & bustle of Bragg.

Here's to a very busy next few months!

March 1, 2013

Sleeping Through the Night? What's That?*

Every once in a while, I get jealous of all the parents who brag about their kids sleeping through the night so early on. There are some parents out there who boast about the six-weeker who is already sleeping in 8-hour stretches, or how Parenting Style X is the secret to all your sleep woes. Despite all that, it never fails -- I shake my head, roll my eyes as far back into my head and think to myself "just wait. It's not going to last forever."

We've all been there. We've all had those days where we were up six times the night before and the mere THOUGHT of somebody bragging on their kid's awesome sleep habits is enough to make you want to punch them in the throat. DON'T DENY IT.

I truly am no different. My kid did awesome for the first four months of his life. He in no way came close to sleeping through the night, but we could get through a long stretch with one early wakeup. Then four months hit, and it was all downhill from there.

We have yet to recover.

I blame this on teething. When Lucas was five months old, he sprouted his first tooth. It was every two to three weeks after that for quite some time. By Christmas (nine months old) he was the proud owner of EIGHT pearly whites. While not completely uncommon, he definitely was above the curve in that aspect. At six months he started crawling. Seven months he started pulling himself up. Nine months, full blown walking. The kid grew & he grew fast. I would imagine major milestones & constant teething without a real break will keep a kid from sleeping.

In January I thought it had finally happened. For two weeks, he mostly slept through the night. To bed at 7:30 every night and up around 5:30 or 6. But the two weak teaser was just that, a tease. Now we wait for that first molar to make it's way down & it seems to be taking it's sweet time, as I hear molars often do. At least, I'm assuming it's a molar. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out WHY we are having a sleep pattern like this.

But it is what is it. Yeah, it sucks. And I have a permanent IV drip of coffee into my veins (god I wish!) but it's just that ... it is what it is. Personally, I have never understood the rush to get a baby to sleep through the night. That is completely my opinion. But I read all the books. I have done the research. I watched the webinars. I asked questions to the sleep experts. On paper, I have done everything that you are supposed to do. And here I am, shouting from the rooftops that at eleven months old, my kid STILL wakes up at least once a night. Often in an inconsolable, standing up in the crib manner. Not just a manner that would allow him to sooth himself back to sleep. One that always requires mom to get in there and get him back to sleep.

I have never been a fan of Crying It Out. Personally. Mostly because I'm a sucker, and seeing my kid cry for more than a couple of minutes was never my thing. Plus, bedtime is not our problem. He knows what to do, and while he may fuss for a couple of minutes, he's fast asleep within five. I KNOW he can sleep through the night because he has done it, and the thought HAS crossed my mind to just let him cry at night and put himself back to sleep (this has also been suggested to me by other) but I just can't bring myself to do it. He's will usually eat at least a couple of ounces, never a full bottle anymore, so I know he's not waking up because he's hungry. I know it's just routine. However, we also both work so being up for an hour in the middle of the night while Lucas figures it out and cries himself back to sleep isn't ideal, either. Ten minutes out of bed to feed/rock/get back to sleep is much better in my book.

I am sure that I could obsess over it, spend more time doing research on it, try everything that another book says, or ask for more advice from other moms. But that's just less time with the kiddo or the husband. I am just keeping the faith that SOMEDAY, my kid will sleep through the night. I am truly hoping this is not a life time of sleep problems for him!

When did your kid start sleeping through the night? Any other late bloomers out there like mine?