I learned something about myself today, something new. I never had this issue before and now I do, and I didn't realize it until tonight.
I'm afraid of being alone.
Now that I've said it out loud and made it real, it makes complete sense and I'm not surprised in the slightest. Honestly, I'm more concerned with the fact that I didn't realize this change in self had happened sooner and that I haven't done anything at all to address it.
When did it start then, smarty pants? Easy. This definitely started after the birth of my first kid. Depression kicked in hard and fast. I struggled for months with being alone with my baby. If my husband needed to leave or was going to be gone for a few days - I always made sure someone else was available to come be with me, to have backup. It was survival and fear and it guided most of my decisions during that time. I didn't trust myself to be a good mom and I wanted to make sure that someone was there to pick up my slack. I never needed them there for her. I needed them there for me.
I suppose at some point I got used to this idea that I was incapable of being by myself. Having someone else there, while necessary at the time, slowly gave way to me not remembering how to be alone.
Now I find that what was once such a huge part of my existence is not only difficult for me, but causes anxiety and negatively impacts my marriage.
So I'm writing this tonight - as soon as possible - because I don't want it to linger in my head. I don't want to give myself shit because I figured out something new that I'm bad at, I just want to address it.
There's a serious lack of passion around things I used to find joy in that has lingered since having a kid. Maybe that's just a normal part of becoming a mom, maybe the depression just forced that energy into other parts of my person, maybe I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about.
Being alone now means facing my lack of passion.
I don't know what to do with myself.
I think constantly of all the things I WANT to do: read books, write more, get back into journaling, plan vacations, work out, plan meals I'm actually excited to make... I don't DO any of it. I distract myself with you. YOU reading this. I social media my self criticism into a finely packed bottle somewhere inside my chest that only fizzes over when I'm BY MYSELF.
How do you get your passion back? How do you find new hobbies or friendships that you're genuinely interested in? How do I learn to put my time into things that matter to me if I don't know what those things are anymore?
I'm a good mom. I'm a great mom even on many days.
But it seems I might not be so good at being myself anymore.
Despite a rather shitty relationship with pregnancy and infants in general, I find myself pregnant again - on purpose. It's important to note that I chose this because then I can hassle myself for choosing something I literally hate every minute of and make myself even more miserable.
Everything has been the same so far: nausea, bloating, constipation, extreme exhaustion, insomnia, weird leg spasms, cystic acne, - you know, all that fantastically beautiful pregnant woman shit.
I'M FUCKING GLOWING OVER HERE.
This time around is different though, I'm not reading anything about pregnancy, I'm not checking my stupid Ovia and BabyCenter apps every goddamn second of the day. I'm not watching lisp girl or black shirt glossy lip lady tell me about the formation of genitals or the fact that this thing has fingernails.
It's not that I don't care - I just... don't really care.
I'm already super insecure about my body again. I feel like I formally broke up with my body for a bit there, like - you know what body - it just isn't working, I don't know you anymore. I gave it some space and it came back around and it was like, 'look, I've changed.' And it did. But it did in the same way that Coke Zero did.
Coke Zero Sugar isn't the fucking same.
You know what my body felt like at its best so far after having a kid? Edgar from Men in Black. You know, the farmer who has the giant alien roach wear his skin and ask his wife for "SUGAR. GIVE ME SUGAR. IN WATER. MORE. MORE." That's the peak.
I was feeling pretty good about having a big ass fucking roach alien wearing my body as a skin suit. I mean, it was close enough just a little bigger in some areas than it used to be and a lot more floppy.
But now it's not mine again or the huge roach's. It's this baby's body and damn if this baby isn't stripping it down and plumping it up.
Nobody has really asked me what my biggest fear is this time. Maybe it's too early? Maybe people think if you've done something before for some reason you're not shitting your pants about it the second time? My fears this time are as follows and in order:
That's it. Other than that - I'll deal with whatever. I just don't want to die or go back to the darkness of depression.
I know I could crawl out from under it again if I have to, but I really, really don't want to.
There's part of me that already feels a little slippage. My thoughts are a little too quick, my sleep is a little too easily interrupted, my eyes are a little too out of focus. Small things. The days I choose to bypass them are golden, but sometimes I linger and over analyze and I think maybe I'm already drifting that way.
I'm trying to figure out how to keep myself from catching wind.
I don't want to blow away again.
This time last year I was in a hospital room, in labor, high out of my goddamn mind on Stadol. (I later learned that the wonderful sense of euphoria and floating feeling only happen to 1-10% of people (LUCKY ME!)).
Ellen turns one tomorrow morning at 4:44 am.
I'm not in disbelief about it at all like a lot of moms said I might be. This year was the longest and shortest. It's a year I'll look back on and feel like I remember every single day of it.
Every nervous day.
The day I had her and I didn't know how to feed her or swaddle her.
The day we gave her her first bath.
The day she cried violently for an hour and a half at bedtime before I figured out she had gas, burped, and immediately fell asleep.
The day she tried solid food for the first time.
The days she had the flu.
The days she wouldn't eat from a bottle.
The day I went to get induced.
The day I realized I had postpartum depression.
The day I told my doctor about it.
The day I went to my first therapy appointment.
The day I pumped for the first time.
The days and days of unnecessary research for every little thing because I couldn't possibly know what I was doing on my own.
The day I left her to go back to work.
The days in the hospital and hospice with my mother in law and my family.
The day I found out my dad relapsed.
Every proud day.
The day she learned to stick her tongue out to the side.
The day she got her first tooth.
The day she learned to clap.
The day she went under water for the first time at swim class.
The day my Aunt Dinah got her to take a bottle for the first time.
The day she crawled.
The day she walked.
The day she started doing the sign for 'milk' when she was hungry.
The day she slept through the night for the first time.
The day she said her first word.
The day we dropped her morning feeding and she was a total boss about it.
The day I went to my first therapy appointment.
The days I was alone with Ellen while Travis went to Florida.
I've never been one to boast and I've never been fond of those that do, but there's a severe difference between bragging and recognizing when you've done a really good job with something.
GUYS. I'm giving myself recognition. (No, really, this is huge).
I'm so fucking proud of my daughter and I'm so fucking proud of myself.
Yes, I tore into myself, deeper than I ever have before, and I lost myself for awhile. I crawled through most of the year and walked through the rest. Slowing down to take care of myself has given me resilience and strength beyond anything I've ever known in myself.
I get to rebuild myself on this new foundation and I'm not worried about the nervous days so much anymore.
This foundation is strong enough for me.
And strong enough for Ellen.
Fuck you Norma. I got this.
On July 29, 2017 my daughter turned 6 months old.
Every moment and memory seems to be a juxtaposition of itself: reflecting on it is difficult and wonderful. It's been the fastest and slowest 6 months of my life.
I started writing this before she turned 6 months. It has taken me FOREVER. This is going to be long. It's going to be raw and without great structure. It's going to jump around a lot. It's going to be honest. It's going to help me release some things I've been holding on to and it's going to make you, whoever you are, know me a little better than I probably want you to.
My father-in-law passed away a day before my due date. I hoped and wished and prayed to Gods I don't believe in that I would deliver early. I didn't. I watched my husband struggle between wanting to be there for me, to tell me to rest, and needing to be there for his family. I puffy footed my giant body through the hospital night after night, hoping she'd come in time to meet him. She didn't. I felt so selfish. I couldn't be there for my husband or his family the way I wanted to because I was so exhausted and distracted with my own fears. I also felt tremendous guilt that my body wouldn't just let her come.
I'm not angry at my body anymore... most days, but I was. I was so mad at my body for so many reasons. I was told it's 'normal' to gain about 25 - 35 pounds during pregnancy. Oh, okay, cool. I gained over 70. OMGWAZZZ LADIES AREN'T SUPPOSED TO SHARE THEIR WEIGHT!!!
I was 135 lbs before this child rearing business. Two days before I delivered, I was 208 lbs. I watched other pregnant women at work growing their little bellies and looking cute, while I slowly evolved into the lovechild of the Hindenburg and Jupiter. I was so incredibly self conscious.
Then, I didn't go into labor by my due date. In and of itself, this wasn't a big deal. First babies aren't usually 'on time.' I just wanted so badly to have had her meet my husband's dad. Why couldn't my body just do what it was supposed to?
Then, I didn't go into labor at all. 41 weeks came and went, induction was scheduled. Induction was delayed. By the time I finally got admitted and jammed up with Pitocin, I just wanted her out. There was nothing natural or magical about it.
Then, I didn't progress. In hindsight, knowing that my mother and my husband's mother BOTH had 3 kids, all by C-section, I should have figured that would be my path. I didn't object to it. The procedure went well, but after it was over, after some time anxiously not sleeping for hours, I cried long and hard because my body couldn't do it. I felt cheated out of the birth experience I thought I might have.
Then, healing was a bitch. I HATED recovering from the surgery. Everything hurt and I felt incapable of doing anything more than existing. The Jupiter tummy I had gotten so uncomfortably used to was now just a plobby flop of self consciousness lingering on my front.
Then, I hurt. I stayed stagnant for too long, probably from the depression, but also out of habit... and because I had a fucking baby. I dealt with constant leg pain for months before I finally went to the doctor to talk about it. I've been in physical therapy ever since for hip/sacrum issues. Basically, I'm crooked and tilted. Yep.
The first thing I did when they set my daughter on my chest was throw up. I went my entire pregnancy without throwing up. THE ENTIRE THING. After they jostled her out of my uterus, they took her to her little baby Sterilite drawer and did all the stuff. (You know, like having my husband cut the cord, giving her her first test score, and forcing her to puke up all of the junk that normally gets squeezed out of them like a zit when they exit the body that has been hosting them). I watched all of this, tearing up, so looking forward to meeting her. As soon as they placed her on my chest for some skin to skin time, I immediately got nauseous, they took her off of me, and I turned my head to puke into one of those little hospital puke sacks. You know, because I couldn't sit up.
That's how I met my daughter. Not quite what I expected or imagined. Much less bonding, much more vomit.
One of the nurses totally knew I wasn't right. She was the one who helped me to the bathroom the first time after my c-section. My doctor told me I could leave, but that I could also stay another day if I wanted/needed to. I chose to stay. The nurse told me she was really glad I decided to stay, with the most sincere face I've ever seen in my life. This is one of my clearest memories from my time in the hospital.
I HATE some of my memories. I took the time to write down some things on one of my darkest days. I haven't shared it before and it hurts me to read it back now. I think it's important to put it out there, because it's raw and factual and maybe it'll help someone feel less alone, or maybe it will make me seem fucking crazy. I don't really care.
I still don't feel good at being a mom, and I feel worse at everything else in my life too. Having a baby really pulled the rug from under me. I had delicate little sandcastles of confidence built on that thing, and they all got knocked over and muddle together. I can't separate the parts of my life the same way I used to, and thus, I am not great at any of them anymore.
I don't want to write this anymore. I'm feeling much better, but still having trouble.
The next thing I write will be cleaner. I promise.
I had my first therapy session this week.
I knew I was going to cry, but I was surprised at how quickly I was able to gain my composure. I was able to say some things out loud that I've been keeping in my head and that felt better than I expected.
I've already been given some tools to help change my thinking patterns and been presented with the idea that perhaps some of this is persistent because of OCD. I admitted to some OCD behavior and came to realize I had more than I thought I did (nail biting, skin picking, counting, and now potentially obsessive/repetitive thoughts). It makes a lot of sense.
As a mother I'm still feeling incredible inadequacy on a daily basis. Some days are really good and I get glimmers of confidence. Some days are really bad and I throw things and scream. (Yep. If you know me you're probably having trouble picturing this, but it's true. I've also punched a few walls. Yay overwhelm!) In my mind I'm constantly questioning myself and my competency. I'm still convinced on most days that Norma would be better than me.
Who is Norma?
Norma is the fake woman in my brain that my family would be better off with, and the reason I often think about driving away forever or into a busy intersection. She's basically perfect and 'normal,' hence 'Norma.'
Her heart expanded and her life had a hole filled when my baby was born. She couldn't imagine life without her. She knows what to do when baby won't stop crying and she has all the patience in the world. Her presence is soothing and loving. She is naturally nurturing and confident. She recovered brilliantly from childbirth and she loves babies. She has never regretted having a baby. She's basically a manifestation of everything I think I lack.
I try really hard not to think about Norma.
As a wife I feel useless and like I should probably be replaced. Having a child is exhausting and being anxious and depressed is exhausting and by the time I've gotten kiddo to sleep, dried my tears, and calmed my racing thoughts... there's nothing left. There's nothing left for him and there's nothing left of me. I'm an empty shell that falls asleep on the couch at 8pm. I don't understand what he could possibly be getting from me and our relationship at this point.
I love him. So so much. He is so incredibly supportive of me despite everything... If he cheated on me I would totally get it.
Norma would have the energy for sex.
As a human being I'm holding on. I'm taking steps in every right direction I can see because I don't want to feel this way. I've quit most social media, I've started reading about women who have been where I am, I've started meditating, I've started therapy. I'm attempting to simplify and I think it's starting to help.
I want to get to a point where I can say, "Fuck you Norma. I got this." Where I can visualize myself, as imperfect as I am, and know that I'm the best thing for my family.
I just need to stop telling myself I'm awful.
I've always been torn between being extremely guarded and being extremely honest. As I've aged, the honesty keeps slipping further and further into the most guarded places of my heart and mind.
I think that's my new definition of growth.
As a Mother's Day gift to myself, I'm going to allow myself to grow a little more.
Please, let me start out by formally announcing that I absolutely love and adore my daughter. It's likely that it may seem otherwise after reading this. I assure you, that is not the case, I love her as intensely as I have ever loved anything.
I was pregnant.
I didn't have a glamorous pregnancy. I didn't have a particularly complicated pregnancy either. I think it was a pretty standard, run of the mill pregnancy.
Then, I gave birth.
I didn't have a glamorous delivery. I didn't have a particularly complicated delivery either. I think it was a pretty standard, run of the mill delivery.
Now I have a baby.
Somehow, the hospital let me leave with this thing. I mean, I had to prove I could make it gain weight and that I could change diapers, (both mine and the baby's), but they totally let me take her home. I'm still shocked by this.
6 weeks later.
This is just baby blues.
The baby blues should be gone.
The baby blues aren't gone?
I'm not depressed, this is just new.
This is hard.
She's just being difficult today.
I'm just tired.
I can't sleep.
I don't think that anyone would call me an overly emotional person, but I am someone who knows how they feel despite the fact that I rarely express it. I was expressing it all over the place. I didn't realize to what extent, and I didn't realize how abnormal for me it was.
My husband's friend was the first to question my mental state. My friend, his wife, had been through this, and he recognized similarities in me. He mentioned this to my husband, who mentioned it to me.
I spent an entire evening processing, crying, researching, crying, writing, crying, crying, crying.
It didn't click at first, until it did. One visit from those caring friends and one doctor's appointment later.
I opted to get some medicine to help me while I determine what other help I might need. It worked quite well at first. I cried less, and my mind didn't race as much. The little voice inside my head became less negative and more forgiving. I felt a positive clarity, one that I didn't even have before all of this.
I'm glad someone pointed out to me that I wasn't okay. I'm glad I know myself well enough to recognize that they were right. I'm glad I'm not scared to admit that I need help.
I have Postpartum Depression.
I say have, because I still have it. It hasn't gone anywhere.
The medicine I'm on isn't working was well as it was. I'll be addressing that with my doctor shortly.
Right now, I feel as though I am present, but nothing else. Majority of the time my head feels like a quiet, absent place. I feel like if I were to walk on a marble floor with stilettos on, I would make no noise. Feeling like a noiseless version of myself isn't the worst thing, but my mind likes to make me feel like shit for it, and then I go dark.
When my head space goes dark, it's brutal. I wanted to type out an example of the thoughts that run through my head, but I'm in a decent, noiseless spot right now and I don't particularly want to spill the negative stuff all over it.
What's important here is that I'm smart enough to know that the things I'm telling myself are false. I know, logically, there isn't a reason for me to feel what I'm feeling. There isn't a reason for me to be so critical when I have evidence that I am doing well.
I fully intend on working with my doctor and adjusting my medication until it works for me. I'm also coming to the realization that I probably needed therapy before all of this and that if I want to pass this hump in my life, I'm going to need to talk through some things.
I said it before, but I truly mean it:
Learning to take care of my daughter is teaching me how to take care of myself.
I believe I was exiting the Sonic drive thru, or entering it, or approaching it, or imagining it, or sitting idly pre or post order... OKAY, so I obviously don't know exactly which part of the purchase I was in, but I was somewhere between leaving home in a car and arriving back home in... the same car. #corndogs #listeria #shutup
None of this matters.
I was in some kind of Sonic process, (can we please take a minute to appreciate how cool 'Sonic process' sounds?), when I told my husband that I feel savage. This is my one word recap of the first trimester of pregnancy. Anyway, I believe the conversation went a little something like this:
What I mean by this is that I'm a monster, and I feel utterly and completely out of control.
"But Lauren! Pregnancy is a #blessing and just, omg it's going to be so fine, and no, none of the terrible things you read will happen to you... except some of them! Only some of them! Look at the bright side, at the end of this you get a baby THAT YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO TAKE CARE OF, BUT I'M AN EXPEEEERRRRTTT ASK ME ALL THE QUESTIONS!!@!!@!!$!!" (Obviously this person's voice becomes deeper and deeper until the end of the sentence, at which point we all discover that it is none other than Satan).
Yea, other moms, you are Satan now. Congrats. No exceptions, all of you: Satan.
Onward, there are bullet points needed after all.
Overall, I give the first trimester a 2/10. Hands down, this is one of the most unresearched and questionable decisions I have ever made. I don't regret it, I know the end result is this whole family thing that I want. It seems to be getting better, but I will require heavy convincing and/or bribery to go through the last 3 months again. Fuck that shit.
As true as the heartburn coursing through my chest, I am currently pregnant.
Yep. Just over 2 months into my sentence. (You can try to get me to speak in terms of weeks, but I'm not a fucking lunatic. I'm a grown ass woman (1568 weeks old!) and I'm converting to the greatest unit of measure, like I always have).
I understand, after reading every article I could find on the topic, that determining when to tell people you're pregnant is a very delicate thing. Everyone has different advice, and that advice, try as it might, will never be right for everyone. I'm guessing that is a common theme with everything to come... hooray opinions!
For me (us), the right thing is to put this out into the world.
Since everyone seems to love posts where I do bullet points. Here are the main things you should know or might be curious about. Save me a conversation, you know I don't really care for those if I don't know you well.
If I'm right about you, (and I am, because I am you), you're probably wondering, 'How the fuck did I get this letter from myself?' You didn't. This letter is just a symbol of my relationship with my past self and a reflection on how I've lived my life. BUT! If through some magical event this gets this into hands of the internet dwelling insomniac I was at 19, I'll write it anyway. Plus, Facebook told me to, (yea, social media is still a thing and yes, you're still hyper-addicted to it. It's a problem).
Anywho, Lauren, I'm almost 30. Not the 'almost 30' that a 27 year old says, but the, 'my birthday is literally in less than 20 days' type of 'almost 30.' You know, the scary kind that makes you question if you're who you want to be and all those other fun, existential things. Oh wait, you don't know, because you're 19. Fuck.
Being almost 30 is not by any means, a logical reason as to why you should listen to me.
I know that you're expecting a long rant about all the terrible choices you made up until now, and a how-to guide on avoiding them all. You won't be getting any of that.
You saw The Butterfly Effect more recently than I did. I don't want this letter to be the demise of my alternate future self. Though, technically, I suppose writing this letter at all is a risk because its existence, should it end up in your hands, could very well be the thing that throws off all of the other things...
No, you haven't stopped overthinking anything. That's still going strong.
Here's my advice: Don't do anything differently.
I could keep going, because I'm not convinced you should change anything. Every single bit of everything you do brought me to where I am.
Where I am is pretty fucking solid.
First and foremost, it is important for you to know that I hate shopping.
I don't get a sweet buyer's high from copping a sick deal. I don't enjoy sifting through a rack only to find that the one shirt that looks like the shape of my torso (oblong rectangle) is completely sold out in my size. I don't like searching for my size and finding that JUST KIDDING, this brand does things differently and now I'm a totally different size. I don't respect how 99% of women's pants are sized (what the fuck does 'long' mean?! We picked the stupid imperial system for some reason, why can't we use it to sell pants?! Last I checked I measured shit in inches, not in simple adjectives. 'Hey. How long is that broom? 'Oh, this broom? This broom is regular. Just a regular broom, regular length.') I don't want to take my clothes off in a tiny room and pretend that my pasty white skin looks good in fluorescent lighting.
I don't like shopping. I don't like shopping. I hate shopping.
Enter Stitch Fix. (THAT is a referral link, because I'm smart).
Stich Fix is this thing of when you pay some magical internet stylist $20 to send you some crap that matches your style. 'But Lauren, how do? How do they know my style Lauren, how?!' Relax, let me 'splain the whole process.
Overall, I give Stitch Fix a 9/10. I ended up with a really well fitting pair of black skinny jeans and some shirts I definitely wouldn't have picked out for myself, but that I'm comfortable wearing. The chick who styled me absolutely read my comments and catered the crap to fit my needs. For me, this service is well worth the money, especially considering the alternative: wasting my time going shopping and coming back empty handed, feeling crappy about myself, my style, and all the shapes that I'm not.