When You Comin Home Mom?

I went traveling for work over the last few days. There were a lot of things…all the feels.

I had to go for an audit. It was expected, but borne from an unfriendly circumstance. So, I mean, this was an announced audit so I had the time to prepare, but announced because of a crappy situation which is not something you want to have to prepare for. How many other ways can I explain this??? Stressful. Flights, and hotels, and rental cars, and auditors, and boss meetings and and and…I left Hannah. In good hands duh. And not for a long time. But I left her.

I was excited to have some me time. This was the first time since her conception that I have spent a night away from her and I was looking forward to the sleep, the “adulting” and the time to just do what I wanted in the evening not on a schedule…meal time bath time bed time…Not having to be quiet at 9:00. Being able to pull out the cross-stitch without protecting the pattern and securing the scissors. Having a martini, in a martini glass (which totally makes it different than just a glass of vodka with an olive) without having to hold it above my head spilling it everywhere because martini glasses are dumb or hide it on a shelf which Hannah can totally climb up to anyway. And have a full drink of anything without having to pull out a bead or paper clip or barrette before swallowing it. Just to be a person and not a mom.

But shockingly, I’m still a mom.

I know right? Idiot.

I worried about her. Is she sleeping? Is she eating? Is she pooping on schedule? Diaper rash and changing out of pajamas and not getting too much water on her face at bathtime and climbing but not too high and exploring but not too far away and experiencing things but not too overwhelmingly…

I tried to do me things, but I couldn’t even remember what me things are. The audit went really super well, and actually ended early, so I was able to get back to the hotel before 5p. My boss told me to go out and enjoy the city! But hadn’t planned any team outing which I was equal parts relieved about and disappointed by. The old me might have gotten dolled up, scouted out a fancy restaurant (it was on the company after all) or a mall or bar or SOMETHING and spent the time amongst people. Instead, I went to the fitness center with my headphones and said a small whispered “Thank You” to the empty room when I walked in and realized that it was empty and I wouldn’t have to negotiate machines with polite smiles and shamed glances at the total weight amount (or lack thereof). I “worked out” for about an hour and then went back to my room. I turned on the TV and tried to find a room service menu. I couldn’t find anything other than the late night menu so I plugged McDonalds into my GPS but realized when I got down to the car that I had MY car keys rather than the rental car keys. (Insert gigantic eye roll.) So I went into the lobby, found the full gallery menu and ordered a flatbread pizza thing. While I waited for it to cook, I did order a martini in a real martini glass. And then I took my martini and my depressing flatbread pizza back up to my room, turned up the volume on the TV, and sat in my underwear eating pizza and drinking a martini and cross-stitching and fell asleep on the couch at 9:30.

I woke up at midnight…toddled over to the queen bed about 15 feet away, checked my phone and played solitaire for 30 minutes before falling back into a troubled sleep.

Is this what I am now?

I tossed and turned the whole night. I woke up so many times. Too hot. Too cold. Is Hannah asleep? Did Shelby get enough rest? Is there water somewhere (cuz holy smokes that pizza was salty)? Is it time to get up yet? Is it time to get up yet? Is it time to get up yet?

The success I had at the audit was overthrown by the guilt I felt for leaving my family. A feeling punctuated by the purchase of stupid salt water taffy in a bag with the name of the city scrawled across it from one of those stupid airport stores. A tradition being born, a little something from Mommy’s trip.

I left you alone. No help with bathtime. Not there for storybooks and skinned knees. Not there to help with dishes and laundry. But here’s some candy in a tiny bag which should make it all better right? Even though it was no big deal at all. And you got along just fine without me. So maybe I’ll eat this whole bag of gummie bears and drink some wine and smile through the tears while I watch you snuggle each other completely content.

I started seeing someone. A psychoanalyst. A therapist. Or my preferred term, a counselor. After only one session, she communicated that she believes I am still in the miasma of Postpartum Depression. Whether she would clinically diagnose it at this point or not is still undetermined, but the symptoms are undeniable. Everything is not bad. Everything is not horrible. Everything can get better. Hannah was ok because her father and I have raised her to be that way. But her face lit up when she saw me. And she ran to the door to hug me. And she checked in several times that evening to make sure we were both still there. She will be fine without me which I can’t seem to forget; but she is not better off without me, which I also need to remember.

 

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Summer – Bleh

I remember when I was in school, any age really, and summer was the awesomest thing. Summer meant sleeping in. Beach trips. Family vacations. Pool! Camping! (Of course, one year it also meant Algebra summer school but…whatevs.)

We cleaned out desks or lockers. The hallways were always full of trash cans and screaming youths. In college, the packing was usually very last minute, throwing all non-essential items into a giant box and hoping I could fit it in the back of the van with all the TP I intended to confiscate.

I worked as a camp counselor for several summers throughout college. After the first summer, I trained and received my lifeguard certification. I guarded the pool, lake, and canoe trips down the river. I wore a bathing suit every day. I swam every day. And I still got to ride horses and go hiking and sleep under the stars.

And then I grew up. Theoretically. And summers became just like every other day except a lot hotter and a lot more crowded. I work constantly, and don’t really like to vacation during the summer because everyone else does. A Tuesday at the beach in September is near perfection. A Tuesday at the beach in July is damn near hell. Besides, if I can continue working, maybe I can catch-up on some stuff and feel ahead of the game when the client comes back from their Caribbean getaway.

But Hannah. Oh how she loves to be outside. How she enjoys the water so stinkin much. I wish I could give her a pool membership. Or that we lived closer to the beach and I could drive her out there after work everyday. I know she is still too young to retain these memories, but I feel inadequate only being able to offer a sprinkler and bucket o water in the backyard.

And so I am equal parts genuinely excited for her and overly stressed for me that we are heading to my In-Laws’ lake house next week. I bought Hannah a life jacket so she can go out on the boat. They have a lot of land for her to run around and explore. We’ll pick up another little pool for her at Wal-Mart so even if she isn’t on the boat with us, she’ll be having a great time with Meme. And no matter what, Hannah will not go without. If I forget anything, it will be purchased for her. She is going to have a great time.

I on the other hand am going to be anxious. Stressed. I will probably have more grey from this relaxing vacation than I ever have. See, we’re getting new laptops at work, scheduled for the week I am out. Which means I have to leave my current computer in the office so it can be imaged and transferred to the new one. Which means a full week without being able to just check in, delete unnecessary communications, forward pertinent information, or just know what evil horrendous garbage I have left for my back-ups to clean up for me in my absence.

I still feel so out of sorts with this job. I am constantly confused, defensive, and trying to dig out of horrifying and so obvious errors made by the previous owners. Meanwhile, I know I am probably creating some pretty large issues myself, not billing or not following a procedure correctly or not keeping adequate records or not using the correct type of pen which renders the whole study completely useless. And it is stressful to think that someone else will be responsible for a week and catch all of these things and think me an idiot. That is really more hurtful to me than getting lectured, or fired. Someone finding out that after this long, I still don’t know what’s going on.

Summer. Bleh. Go home and give me Autumn with some pumpkin flavored crap and a hoodie.

Harumph

The weather is supposed to turn quite beautiful this weekend.

I’m acting in a show that opens Thursday.

Work is going well, for the most part.

Hannah is beautiful, happy, healthy, if a little sassy and ornery.

And yet, somehow, I’m harumphing.

Heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend…women handle emotion like balloons on a clothesline. As long as all the balloons are in some sort of balance, everything is ok. But if one balloon drags you down, the rest plummet to the newly created valley of the clothesline.

I’m disappointed in my house. My lack of ability to sustain and finance all the work that goes into running it. We are the trashy  family on the block who doesn’t have the time or energy to deal with the leaves. Hasn’t fixed the front walkway. Has the breaking apart asphalt where the cracked driveway meets the road. The waggly mailbox that someone hit. The rotting fascia. Hopefully, if the weather does indeed turn ideal for outdoor activity, I can drag Hannah outside and have her help me clean up the yard. She loves being outside. The only problem is, we need to clean the front yard, and without a fence, that baby goes straight for the street. What a weirdo.

She likes to help me gather and burn sticks. She likes to explore. She likes to pick up rocks and carry them around with her. She is suuuuuuuuuuuper interested in the magic and mystery of the shed. But she’s also just as graceful as her mother (read falls down a lot). And just as interesting to the mosquitos and spiders. And sun. And in this balloon valley, I feel inadequate at protecting her.

Harumph.

Hope your Friday is billions betters.

The Random Dreams of a Stressed out Mom of Nerves

I think I am allowed now to say, for the official record, that Hannah is expecting a new cousin to join the family in late spring/early summer 2017.

Whoop!

Commence freaking out on behalf of my sister.

My pregnancy was by no means difficult, extraordinary, or remarkable in any way. We trudged through with relatively minor discomforts, no concerns until the end, and eagerly anticipated our new arrival just about every step of the way. We were as prepared as we could have been, though have made many discoveries since our little bundle of joy arrived. I lapped up all advice from other mothers, listened to stories, read blogs, read articles, and consider myself to be pretty realistic on all accounts anyway, so everything was just as dandy as could be expected. That doesn’t stop my still somewhat anxious brain from trying to stifle all of my wisdom from exploding onto the expecting couple.

I’ve been pretty good I think. Offering suggestions from my experience, reiterating that their experience will be their own and there is nothing any other mother (however recent) can say that will absolutely work for their situation. I feel like I’ve been relatively quiet and have only provided details about what absolutely did not work for us and why. But all the quiet has only brought up all the things and has made my crazy brain that much crazier. My dreams are getting a little out of control.

For example, let’s review last night’s dream shall we??

First – they are not due for another 5ish months, but I dreamt they already had the baby. For some reason though, this was not early enough to cause concern and everything was just peachy. As a testament to how OK everything was, (Cor, prolly don’t want to read this part unless you want my freaking out to bleed over…) their baby was 16 pounds. 16 pounds!!! We were all together, staying in some sort of wintery zombie apocalypse hippie commune thing so were truly invested in this baby as a source for continued humanity and not just as the neat little thing a family member was caring for. (Perhaps a bit too much of the board game Dead of Winter?)

For whatever reason, I was more invested in keeping up my sister than in her baby. I was constantly hoisting my glider onto my back to put it in whatever room of whatever hut/grocery store they had fled to to try and escape me. I lectured her about timers for feedings, the importance of keeping her own resources up for the sake of the baby; her husband could fend for himself, but she needed sustenance. I confiscated the young one for several hours to ensure my sister got sleep. I posted husbands outside her door to give her the assurance she needed that she would not be attacked. I was very territorial. Even my own mother knew better than to cross me.

Incidentally, another woman at work is expecting a baby at roughly the same time. She was also in my dream. She was not nearly as important. In the hopes of not obliterating your faith in me as a person entirely, I actually at one point suggested sacrificing this woman because I believed her nutrient rich body full of hormones and productivity would benefit my sister and her newborn in ways that canned beans could not. Plus, she was just stealing resources from the rest of us in a ratio disproportionate to her anticipated due date. Thankfully, I was overruled and the species was allowed to continue.

Weird right?

This is pretty routine for my dreams these days; some compilation of almighty wisdom and surrogate parenting mixed in with  a(n un)healthy dose of weight of the world responsibility for the upbringing of a new generation. I also recently dreamt that Hannah and her cousins (all male) were the leaders of their respective clans a la Game of Thrones North of the Wall type silliness, but that all clans bowed to Hannah since she could climb the highest. Further dreams include taking over hospitals, airplanes, and 1920’s style train cars for the delivery of all newborns, leading birthing and new parenting classes at Duke University, and raising a generation of toddlers in a snake pit similar to Indiana Jones or the Chamber of Secrets.

I have “normal” dreams too, like vacationing at the beach and taking Hannah to Disney World (which we will be doing this spring). Stressful dreams of raking leaves, packing Christmas decorations, and spreadsheets. But these are being edged out or morphing into civilization saving dreams of mass importance.

Anyway, time for me to save the planet through the power of Project Management.

Weaned

This is going to be way too much information for most people, so feel free to just waltz on by this one. But if you’re pregnant, may become pregnant, nursing, or the SO to anyone who is, it’s probably a beneficial read. Or maybe not, who knows.

I’ve been pretty level my whole female adult life. Once I figured out what a period was, I kind of quickly figured out how my body dealt with that. Basically, I would have some fairly significant physical symptoms, and so I would maybe get a little more impatient and “crisp” under stress, but otherwise emotionally I’d be pretty even keel. No super mood swings. No unnecessary drama. Just a lot of barfing and general death level cramping.

Even pregnant I feel like my moods were fairly stable. Again in times of particular discomfort I might have gotten a little snippier than usual, but who wouldn’t when a giant fetus is tap dancing on your bladder while simultaneously trying to birth herself out of your ribs?

I think I documented fairly well the dip in my emotional stability after Hannah joined the world, but again it was fairly consistent. Just consistently lower and sulkier than usual.

Now – TMI Overload here – my period came back almost immediately. I had Hannah in November, so bled most of November. I took December off to, I don’t know, not die, but then started having a regular period again in January. No breastfeeding break for me. My body was like “You wanna go again? Let’s do this!”  The only difference has been that my physical symptoms all but disappeared. I don’t have debilitating cramps (maybe labor gave my body some perspective?) and generally the only warning I get that “Aunt Flow” is coming is the date on the calendar and maybe a little tinge of discomfort in my left hip.

I was trucking along in the shallow end of the happy pool for a long time. I wouldn’t say the last year and change has brought me to the deep end; drowning in my own happiness, sense of self worth, and feelings of awesomeness at rocking the working mother thing. But I would say I have made it to a weird middle, where I can still touch the ground but can dunk my head under without too much effort.

Enter weaning.

I always knew I wanted to breastfeed as long as possible up to a year. No hating on those that decide to carry on, but 1 year was going to be my limit. Given the drama I had when Shelby fed Hannah her first bottle, I firmly decided to extend the “weaning” time as long as possible. But then life caught up and got in the way as it always does and my plans got changed. Theatre.

I started by reducing the number of feedings per day. By this time, I had long since quit pumping at work as I wasn’t getting anything but sore nips. On an average work day, I was feeding Hannah 3 times; once in the morning before work, once immediately when I got home, and once before bed. Weekends and WFH days, she’d get another 1 or 2 midday snacks. I decided to start by cutting out the morning feed and letting her sleep in when she would. It would help me get to work faster (ummmmmm) and let Shelby sleep a little longer and was by far the easiest to cut out. And then I cut out the midday snack feedings on the weekends.

And then, two weeks before our target end date (which by this time I had decided was a floating target because neither one of us reeeeeeeeally wanted to give it up), Shelby’s stage manager dropped out. Suddenly I was going to need to be at the show every night. Shelby’s parents were already coming into town for Hannah’s birthday, so it worked out OK. It just meant that I would rush home after work to get a sneak feed in before heading out to rehearsal/performance. But then sometimes she had just had a bottle and didn’t need me. So a day or two got skipped entirely. And then I started to wonder about my supply. And then suddenly, it was over. I don’t even remember getting to think “this is the last time, better soak in every minute…”. It just was the last time this one time.

We haven’t breastfed in several weeks. She will still occasionally look down my shirt and raise her eyebrows at me. If she is particularly fussy or blue, she’ll put her hand down my shirt for comfort. If I don’t have a shirt on, she’ll follow me around like a tiny drunk person trying to rip my bra off. But it’s been strictly bottles since a few days after her birthday. And we switched her to cow’s milk a week after that (ish). She’s happy, healthy, fine without momma.

But this is my first cycle since weaning. I started getting a few of the physical symptoms back. My back aches a bit. My tummy hurts a bit. Nothing like pre-pregnancy proportions, but still physical discomfort that hasn’t been there in like two years. My emotions, on the other hand, are stupidly out of control and tend toward the steps at the shallow end of the happy pool, or maybe sitting on the side with a toe in, on a rainy day. It’s bleak over here.

A typical day in the past week…Wake up with the alarm, feel anxious about the day ahead but largely excited to be busy. Take a shower and start to feel clean and happy and pretty. Get out of the shower and start to feel anxious and depressed about what to wear. Start to feel fat and bloated. Start to feel overwhelmed by all the things waiting in my email. Start to feel a tear well up in the back of my throat but choke it down and stare stoically at all of the clothes I hate in my closet. Put on a skirt that mostly fits and even makes me feel a little thin and pretty. Start to regain confidence and feel like the day is not insurmountable.  Choose a sweater and feel like a sausage in a too tight casing. Plummet into shafts of self-doubt and feel ready to give up because I’m not going to be able to handle anything the day throws at me anyway.

It is like this the whole damn day. I start crying for no reason. Today, I was just sitting at my desk when an email came through. I opened it, read it, got supremely overwhelmed by the content and started silently crying. I didn’t even realize it was happening until I had to wipe my nose on my sleeve. For over an hour, tears just streaked my cheeks while I did nothing but stare at an empty google search page trying to decide what to even look for..Depression 1 month after weaning? Stupid hormones and their stupid effects on stupid post weaning moms? Is this the end of the world? How to move to St. Lucia.

Finally I decided to try working from home to see if elastic pants and the comfort of the couch would help. I walked in the door at just past 3 to hear Hannah babbling up a storm, running towards the door to greet me with a huge smile on her face, and I burst into tears for no reason. I wasn’t overwhelmed by her cuteness or the exhaustion of having to care for her. I wasn’t sad at her impending growth milestones and loss of innocence. I wasn’t even thinking she deserved a better mom, one more under control and less emotionally unstable. She was just there, Shelby was just there, and I just lost it.

This has been the hardest thing ever. I can handle the physical discomfort. I can handle the pain and nausea. I can power through cramps and frequent trips to the bathroom, but I have no idea how to navigate this emotional minefield. I have no idea what will set me off, it doesn’t seem like anything is needed. I don’t know how to exist without a constant low level panic that I’m about to shred or that something unpleasant is about to happen. Is this what most women are like every month? Because this is straight up insane.

I am hopeful that the return of some of the physical symptoms means that my emotional ones will stabilize. But there isn’t much information. Most google searches turn up with folks that are just getting their periods back after a year or more of breastfeeding. I suppose the hormonal concept is the same, but I have been “normal” for almost a year so how does that translate?

Shelby has been a champion. He’s been sweet and helpful, but I think today kinda pulled things into focus a bit more. There’s slightly blue Amanda who can still coordinate schedules with his mom and take vids of the baby for grandparents and discuss load-in and holiday travel. And then there is the Amanda who can’t even hang up her coat without devolving into a melted pool of tears.

It’s going to be OK. And if it is not OK in a few days when being a female adult human has run it’s course for this month, I’ll consider professional help. And if it is this ridiculous next month when being a female adult human comes to bite me in the butt again, well I don’t know what I’ll do. For now, I’m going to focus on being a better human for my daughter tonight. And maybe going to get a Christmas Tree tomorrow. But beyond that, I have nothing. And for today, that’s OK.

Halloween

This time last year, I was massively pregnant and desperately praying for an early delivery. That did not happen. We were moving house and all of our Halloween decorations were boxed up at my parents’ house. I was itchy, cranky, and sooooo not interested in trying to come up with a creative costume.

Not much has changed. 😉

Halloween has long been my favorite holiday. Dressing up. Playing a character. Getting candy. No gift anxiety. Parties. Magic. I’ve long been a fan of horror films and safe scaring; haunted houses and creepy cornfields. And all of the glories of the holiday are just getting exposed to Hannah.

She has no fear. She loves to be scared when she walks around corners, often waddling cautiously into the room looking side-eyed around the door-frame and giggling when you shout “boo“. She grabbed the gigantic spider decoration by the legs and shook it around, threw it and watched it bounce. She stood in front of the motion sensing crow and banged the chair to make it squawk. She took the bones we have strewn about the front lawn and just carried them around. She chewed up the grave stones.

This year she will get dressed up. I am excited to dress up as a family, with a theme (I can already hear her 8 year old self – OMG mom just stop). I think it will be fun even if all we do is walk around the front yard. She’ll stay at home with us and pass out candy. We put our house on the list at Nextdoor.com so maybe we’ll get more trick-or-treaters this year. Regardless, we will have a flippin good time watching Hannah try to navigate her costume.

Maybe we’ll get some fun adult time in before the holiday. Maybe we’ll put her to bed and sneak off to a party or something though I totally doubt it. We be old and tired.

And then a few short days later (though they seemed epic last year), my baby will turn 1. We kept her alive for one whole year. There will be partying. But first thing’s first, Scary Movie Night!!!! Who’s up for “The Shining”?

 

Fall

Hallelujah! The weather is turning. I fully expect in the ridonculous tradition of N. Carolina that we will get at least one night of frost before a 100 degree afternoon, but for now we are sitting pleasantly in 60ish degree nights and mornings and low 70 afternoon/evenings. And it is glorious.

The windows and doors are open. Sorta. I mean, literally the second I opened the back door, both the baby and the cat were like “FREEDOM” and bolted for the back porch. She is her mother’s daughter. Lord help me.

The devious bastard of a cat punched a hole in the screened in back porch so he could come and go off the porch as desired. Its mostly fine. He tore the seam right along the door frame so it’s not like a gaping hole that lets everything in, and it’s not as if the porch was bug tight anyway. The problem is that Hannah loves him so very much. And she follows him wherever she can. So when he bolts out the door, under the table, and through the screen hole, Hannah toddles after him slow and steady before dropping herself in front of the door and trying to crawl through the hole to get to him. She would absolutely fit if she could just get her coordination under control. This is terrifying as this porch door is at the top of a fairly steep 6 or seven stairs to a lower section of the porch.

*****Interjection*****

My kid just totally dumped over a plant, picked up two of the tiny little white fertilizer pellet things from the soil, and slowly shoved one in each nostril.

*********

I am very much looking forward to building a couple more fires. We live in the county so we are basically encouraged to burn everything rather than take it to the dump. We also have a crap ton of trees that like to drop logs on a pretty regular basis. I have already burned through a large recycling bin worth of debris and some pretty sizable logs that I chopped myself. But there is still plenty to go and the weather is perfect for it.

Hannah turns one next month. I can’t believe it. We’ve almost kept her alive for an entire year. Go team! We still have no idea what we’re going to do, but hopefully it will involve some cake, some fire, and some warmer clothes for Hannah because she refuses to wear socks. Grr.