Having a child and having anxiety are...really fucking hard sometimes. Having kids comes with a lot of terror, including a love that there are no words for, only the piercing, agonizing, totality of it...like bright sun off clear water. You feel so full and aching with it, so grateful and terrified of it, it's overwhelming.
I think this love makes you a little mad.
For instance; I know, with a complete and utter certainty, there are things I would do for my daughter, to protect and keep her safe, that I was not capable of doing before. It's a little frightening to know these things, to know that you could be brutal and unflinching about it.
My daughter just turned one and I've been struggling with a set of fears I'd mostly pushed away with the day to day of caring for an infant.
Mostly it happens when my daughter is sleeping in my arms, little face turned towards me, lips pursed a little, eyelashes against her cheeks. They are long and soft and tipped with gold.
And I think, "I want to be here for her always. So that she never feels alone or afraid. Hurt or alone or sad."
These are impossible things to prevent. Which then makes me think, "If everything goes well I will get old and I will die before her."
This is when it gets bad.
"I won't be there for her when she is old. When she dies. When she is scared of what comes next, which might be nothing."
And my heart breaks, its pieces raw and terrified.
"I don't believe in god or anything after. So when I die I will never see her face again because there will be nothing."
I become brittle and I finally understand the enormity of what I've done by bringing a new person into the world. The responsibility. The fear. The love.
Always back to the love.
Then I go about my day again. I feed her and I make her laugh. I hold her and I love her as fiercely as I can. I love her so much I hope it can make up for when, inevitably, I won't be there anymore.
And I hate that so much I can barely breathe.
So I go back to loving her and being grateful for her face and laugh and cry.
Because it's all I can do.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Having a baby comes with a lot of changes. I realize this is like saying “water is wet” or “Viola Davis is an amazing actress” but still. Changes.
Lifestyle changes are the ones people seem to joke about most, which I largely don’t mind. Yeah, sometimes I wish I could just go to a movie or out shopping on my own but I did that for 35 years. Part of inviting a child into your life is making compromises like that. And stuff like not going to the movies and leisurely shopping are only temporary (well, theoretically).
Some things are more permanent. The changes in my skin, hair, and outlook are going to be with me until I shrug off this mortal coil. Emotionally there have been so many intense shifts I’ve felt a little like a ping pong ball.
And then there are the physical changes. Women are supposed to want to “bounce back” after pregnancy as quickly as possible, get thin, be “MILF’s”. That hasn’t been a priority of mine.
I’ve had body dysmorphic disorder since around the age of thirteen. It hit when puberty hit, like some kind of hormonal train derailment. I haven’t liked my body in any real sense since then. I don’t remember caring about it one way or another before then.
Nearly all of my body loathing focused on my belly. It hasn’t been flat since I was a pre-teen, and it was made clear to me that it wasn’t acceptable at the same time my hormones went haywire. It wasn’t a great combination. I really believed, for decades now, that my body was “wrong”. Monstrous in some way.
And then I got pregnant. I was really terrified about how I’d feel about the body changes and I won’t lie: the distortion of pregnancy was hard. I didn’t feel well, I was depressed for most of the 9 months (and post partum after was rough). I was heavier than I have ever been in my life and I felt drained and enormous. I’m not a big person at a towering five twoish and my body felt like some weird ballooning alien.
I’ve dropped nearly forty pounds post baby and I’m still not thin. My belly isn’t flat, it droops a bit. My stretch marks are still purpley and I have hips and saggy boobs.
And I like my body in a way I’m not sure I ever have.
As “imperfect” as my body may be in terms of comparison to our beauty ideals, it’s healthy. It’s strong. It carried my daughter for 9 months and gave birth to her. It has comforted and held her, nourished her, gotten up with her when she’s not feeling well and danced around with her and rocked her to sleep.
So I’m going to do something I never thought I would; share a picture of my belly on the internet.
This is how it looks, unfiltered, no attempt to make it look less than it is. It’s a small, personal thing in the grand scheme of actually Important Thing, maybe, but it’s a big deal to me.
I'm sure there are people who will think my belly is gross or the pic is TMI or whatever. I don't really care. I'm owning it the way it is and loving it for what it's done. Especially the way those stretch marks over my belly button look like horns. They are fierce just like my daughter. Just like me.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
I think that becoming a parent, from at least the moment when your child is born, makes you at least slightly insane. Or it makes you so sane that it looks like insanity to anyone who hasn't been through it. I can't tell which.
The love makes you insane. The love, the hormones, the fierce protectiveness that makes you feel like you could set things on fire in their name with just a thought. It's a kind of insanity I'm very grateful to be experiencing.
Parenting is the strangest combinations of mixed, intense, emotions. On the one hand, I never want to be away from my daughter and miss a single second of her nuances in expression, sound, or movement. On the other, I'd really like to poop and/or shower without a baby staring at me or melting down if she's away from me for a few minutes.
My daughter sleeps with me, curled up to me, running her fingers through the wisps of hair in front of my ears as she drifts off. When she's awake she tries to pull them out of my head. She strokes my cheek as she dozes, awake she bats at my face and pokes me in the eye.
If I could extend any moment into eternity it would be lying with her, as she cuddles with me, her belly against mine, her father pressed up against my back. I could live in those moments forever and have no regrets.
This love makes you insane. And you want every single second of it.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
The first thing you notice about her will not be the subtle scales that play across her skin like opals set with inner flames. It will not be the impossible darkness of the ever-shifting cloud of her hair, threaded with seemingly thousands of tiny sparkling gems. You will forget the light luminous green of her sleek limbs. You will not notice, at first, that she is half-naked, or that she seems to glide rather than walk across the deep jade floor. You will not realize that you have not seen the face behind that mass of deeply shadowed waves, because you already believe that she is beautiful.
Instead, the first thing you will notice about her is the delicate looking tattoo etched along her spine. It is framed perfectly by the smooth curves of that pale, sloping back, and the blackness in which she floats. It travels along each individual vertebra from the top of her long neck to the base, just as her hips curve and disappear beneath a silky, draping skirt. You never see her feet.
The lines of the tattoo are so fine that you cannot imagine what tool etched it there. It moves with her body, so much a part of her skin that you believe she was born with it, like a strangely detailed birthmark. It slithers along her spine, always moving, like a living, breathing thing.
In a way, it is a mark of her birth, though it came upon her rather later than when she slipped out of the womb. This mark of her fall weaves along her spine in coils and curls, in delicate lines and swirls, shimmering with a hint of scales. The beauty of her body is equaled only by the desire to possess it, completely. Followed closely by the certainty that you never will.
It does not matter that you have forgotten why you are here. You have forgotten all the trials that led you to this moment, all the battles, all the blood. Your sword has been abandoned, your quest a pointless task easily put past. Nothing matters but the body before you, its lithe muscles, Like countless others before you, you are drawn to the sway of her, the promise of heat and sweat.
Then she begins to dance.
Each limb becomes a fluid blur. She flashes towards you, small breasts pink-tipped and bare and free of any blemish. Her muscles move and slide with a sinewy, disturbing grace. The subtle scaling of her flesh glitters, the fair green sheen of it glowing in the dark. The tattoo seems to twist towards you with each smooth rotation of her hips. Her hair swarms about her, a wild haze of curls set with sparks.
She is shadow and light, a body of motions, a swaying skin. Each glide brings her closer, just shy of touching you. You want that more than you have ever wanted anything. Almost.
You still have not seen her face.
She spins around you and as she finally slides her startlingly cool hands up your back you sigh. Your clothes are gone in a moment. She runs palms up your spine, followed by those small breasts, finally skin to skin. Her fingers come around and over your belly. The wanting blossoms, full, hard, demanding.
She presses you down onto the smooth jade floor. She straddles you, her hair hanging over her face, swinging like living shadows. You reach to push it back and she holds you away with sinewy strength. You want to see her, need to see all of her, but you are helpless in those hands. Then you feel the heat between her legs over you and forget anything else. She laughs, then, throaty and dark.
Inside, you are lost to her slick heat. It holds you, rocks you, consumes you. You breathe for her, move for her. She lets you hold her hips as she takes her own pleasure, you watch as she comes in waves, her back arching impossibly tight, breasts thrust high. She is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. Caught within, she holds you on the brink, slowing you, taming you, claiming you.
Finally she lets you touch her, and you run your hands up her back, damp with sweat. Her spine slithers against your fingers as she clenches around you. She tosses her head and hair back as you are set free, aflame, hoarsely shouting with the violent, pulsing force of your coming.
You collapse beneath her, still filled with a wanting you cannot understand. You run a hand across your eyes feeling drugged, stung, drained. Her heat is your heat and you want her again, your hands yearn for the touch of her skin. When you look up you finally see her face.
The shifting shadows of her hair pull back to reveal eyes that ache with the monstrous, inhuman, terrifying beauty of the utterly damned. Her hair coils up, the things you took for glittering gems the eyes of hundreds of black snakes. Her mouth, impossibly red, smiles without pity. The slits in her yellow pupils regard you with a hunger that can never be satisfied.
Your last thought, as you become stone, is of that tattoo along her spine, the mark of her monstrosity. A warning and a promise of your demise.
She stands over her prey, a sad light in her serpentine eyes. She leans down and kisses the stony cheek, which cracks, splits, and crumbles. She considers the pile of dust that was once a human being before gently blowing it away. She glides toward another long hall and waits.
There will always be others.
There will always be others.
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
New parenthood is hard. Anyone who tells you it's not is lying to you or themselves. Something being hard doesn't mean it's not also awesome, worthwhile, and rewarding. It's just also hard.
I'm a work at home mom, which means I'm raising while daughter while also working, usually in the same space. It's challenging. I feel guilty when I put on a show to occupy her while I check emails or do some writing. Most of what I get done happens during her naps. I love having her with me but I do sometimes wish I had help, even if it was just a few hours one day a week. I rarely get a shower to myself. Childcare just isn't affordable for us right now, though, and I'm glad I can be there for her. I know I'm lucky.
One thing I've learned is that while I'm teaching her a lot, I'm learning a ton myself. Especially to trust myself and my instincts.
This past weekend we decided to try the "cry it out" method on the advice of our pediatrician to get our baby to sleep through the night. I was honestly reluctant, she's never been a great sleeper and just has a hard time to working herself down. It's just how she is and while the "cry it out" method isn't as harsh as people think, I just wasn't convinced this was going to work for her.
In fact, it didn't work so spectacularly that she vomited from crying. Twice. And it's not like we let her cry for hours or anything. I know the idea is that they'll "work themselves out" and just go to sleep. Our daughter has really never done that, not without HOURS of frustration before then. She just isn't the kind of kid who shuts off like that. She has to be really tired, but she can still keep herself awake for a while before she finally shuts down. That's not helpful to anyone, least of all her, and it makes that particular method just completely useless. Because she isn't going to get the message, she's just going to be miserable, so we'll be miserable, and no one is sleeping.
I've read up on the vomiting thing and it's "normal" for babies to get so upset with crying they throw up. For me, that's just not acceptable. And the thing I had to remind myself is that I have the right to make decisions for myself and my daughter that I feel are right. That work for us. I know a lot of people whose kids didn't sleep through the night until their 1st birthday and beyond, regardless of methods attempted. It's just how it is. I don't think there's any one "right" way to do any of this, beyond the obvious like making sure they're fed and growing and loved.
There are 4 times my daughter has slept for 8-9hrs at a stretch, and nothing about any of those times has been any different. She wasn't out more during the day, she didn't play more, or eat more (or less). She just slept for that long. I've wracked my brain trying to see if there's any difference but there isn't. I never had to soothe her those nights to get her back to sleep, she simply...slept. If going out was the trigger, then the day we went to the beach should have resulted in a longer night. Nope. If more day feedings was the key, then the day she ate 32 ounces should have done it. Also nope.
Look, I trust my pediatrician. I'm pro vaccine, I don't think I know more than doctors, and I'm all about researched science. I've read all the stuff I could on childcare techniques for feeding, sleeping, all of it.
But I've also listened to parents, including nurses who work in pediatricians offices, and some kids just...do things at their own pace. That's it. You can make yourself nuts or you can accept it. And you can learn to trust yourself that you know your child and that it's okay to do things differently than what you're advised when it just doesn't fit. Obviously make sure what you're doing is safe, and don't ignore medical advice in favor of "homeopathic" nonsense. But if you know your kid just isn't going to sleep without a bottle or a cuddle, well, that's how it is. Trust that you can do this.
And trust that though you WILL mess up, it won't ever be because you didn't love them and didn't try to do the "right" thing. It's just that what's "right" for your child may not fit any "technique". That's what makes them little people that you're learning about as much as they are learning from.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
You are growing so fast, nearing 6 months already. Every day you do something new and amazing to me. Your smile lights up my life and makes my heart full and aching.
We have our rough patches. You desperately want to stand and walk but your little body just isn't ready yet. You're not great at sleeping, you want to experience the world all the time. You cry and I want to gather you up and protect you from everything that will ever hurt you in any way, even when it's out of love because you just can't launch yourself off a lap or stick whatever comes into view in your ever questing mouth.
It must be so strange for you, daughter, this world and being alive in it. I hope I am helping you learn and grow, I hope you can feel how much I love you even when I'm tired and frustrated and wish you'd go down easy for your nap.
Your face is beyond beautiful to me, but more than that, it is fierce and sharp and determined. It is not superficial prettiness, but a strength of will even though you are barely past being born. I will do everything I can, everything that's in me, to make sure you never lose this utter sense of self.
As your hair grows from brown to a fair, white blond, I hope you stay as defiant as the curl you were born with, that refused to fall out, and always know that I love you with all I am and more.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Like most of my posts lately, this one will be full of mom feels and probably way more information than you ever wanted about my personal bits. It's a blog, so, you know. This is what they're for.
It wasn't until about 6 weeks after having my daughter that I realized that I'd had pretty severe pregnancy depression. It's not that uncommon and it makes a lot of sense when you think about the crazy hormone cocktail going on in your system as you gestate a new human being. Not to mention the nutrient drain and physical effects. And there's the fact that pregnancy is kind of terrifying and emotionally difficult (or at least it was for me) due to body changes and the fact that your life will never, ever, be the same.
It reminded me of what I felt like, in some ways, when I was a teenager and had depression that was most severe around my period. In retrospect I may have had PMDD, but it was the 90's and I don't know that that was even a diagnosable thing yet. I don't generally self-diagnose, but from what I can remember, it was bad. Not quite suicidal bad, but that sort of depends on your definition. I certainly fantasized about being dead a lot. And since I also developed a restrictive eating disorder around age 16 or 17, you could argue that I was...just by slow degrees. Because what you're doing when you restrict your food is denying yourself what you need to live and it can be a slow (or fast) slide into starvation. In any case, it's certainly self-destructive behavior.
It wasn't until I was 30 that I was officially diagnosed with depression and anxiety, both mild to moderate, and treated. When I got pregnant my German doctor refused to let me come off my medication gradually even though it was safe to do so and instead I had to go cold turkey. It wasn't pleasant but I got through it. And all the old familiar symptoms came back with it. Obsessive thinking, constant negative thoughts, massive body dysmorphia which was not helped by being pregnant and actually becoming physically distorted, etc.
I worried a lot while I was pregnant that I would fall back into ED habits, but I didn't. I ate when I was hungry, I ate mostly healthily (I'm not sure but I think I may have eaten all the cantaloupe ever grown in NY), and I actually gained a totally reasonable amount of weight although I wasn't thin to begin with. My pregnancy was extremely healthy but I felt like utter shit the entire time. I had all day sickness the first trimester and I never got the 2nd trimester "boost" of energy or hormonal "bliss" other women got. I just felt tired and achey and frankly, pretty miserable. The last trimester, however, was the worst.
I tried to talk to my various doctors about this but even the good ones sort of just nodded and said that's how it is, even with my history of depression. In retrospect I should have been more assertive that this was NOT okay and that I was really struggling. Should maybe have gone back into therapy. Because in the last trimester my hormones made me mentally foggy, extremely tired, and at a certain point pretty much unable to think clearly or coherently. My emotions were a complete mess, I felt weirdly numb one minute, sad and angry the next.
After I gave birth it was like a switch had been flipped. My brain no longer felt like something heavy and fuzzy was sitting on it. I was tired, but not exhausted in the same way, like I'd been drugged. I had the terror of a new baby to deal with and my body was a sore wreck for over a month, but mentally I felt like a different person.
Right up until the post partum hit like a vomitous club of hot mental garbage.
I wrote up a thing about the specifcs of my PPD that I still can't look at. It's too ugly and raw and awful. I know a lot of other mom's who have had a similar experience. I had been waiting for it to happen because of my history so I thought I'd be "prepared". Which is laughable now. Like pretty much everything involved in pregnancy and parenthood there is no way to be "prepared" for some things. You just have to experience them to understand.
For me, post partum was like taking my obsessive, negative thinking and ratcheting it up into some kind of new and horrible stratosphere. I had a lot of "What if I...?" thoughts that terrified me so much I didn't leave the apartment or even open a window. I had to ask my husband to come home early from work one day, I couldn't stop crying, and it was upsetting the baby. I kept looking at her and these awful thoughts would just ooze up, things I would never do, but that my brain had even come up with them was too much for me. I love her so much, those kinds of thoughts were like being stabbed and then having it twisted again and again.
I didn't let this go on for long, I called the doc within two weeks and got on medication. Which made me feel like I was at least doing something even though it takes about a month for meds to fully kick in. It gave me a bit of a placebo effect, where I thought I was doing better than I was. It also allowed me to regain a sense of control over my emotions and at least start using the techniques I'd learned years ago again to break the cyclical thinking problems more consistently.
Like the pregnancy depression, I look back on the post partum now and it feels like I'm looking at a different person. The things I thought are not the "me" that I know.
In the middle of that I got my first real period since giving birth. So I ended up with PPD and PMS at the same time! What fun! Not since my teen years have I felt so emotionally weird. And I didn't realize what was happening until I actually got my period and suddenly didn't feel quite so intensely about a lot of things that had previously seemed Very Fucking Important. That whole switch being flipped thing again.
These days I feel better but I'm still wary. Post partum can last more than a few months and I'll be honest, I'm not sure how long it will take me to get over a bunch of the things that happened during it. Especially the kinds of thoughts I had. I feel very betrayed by own brain.
A lot of people will tell to look on the bright side of things and I get that, I really do. And it's sort like, yes, being stabbed in the eye IS worse than being punched in the eye. But a punch in the eye still leaves a bruise that lasts awhile. That's a bit like how this feels.