Anxiety

Anxiety almost ruined my life.  What began as postpartum depression, turned into postpartum anxiety, and it lasted for six years.  For six years I suffered terribly. At the time, I didn’t know what was wrong. I knew that I didn’t feel right. I knew that I felt like I was out of control. I knew that I felt guilty and ashamed and that I couldn’t do anything right.  I believed that I wasn’t a good mother. I believed that people didn’t like me and didn’t want to be my friend.  Anxiety prevented me from attending social events.  It made it next to impossible for me to do everyday tasks like groceries and housework.  It almost ruined my marriage; it stopped me from enjoying my children; it held me back from achieving goals; it kept me from making new friends; and it just about ruined every existing relationship that I had.  It affected every single aspect of my life. It is only now, looking back, that I can see just how crippled I was by my anxiety.  At times, anxiety would take over my body, and literally stop me dead in my tracks.  I would lose my temper, start to cry, and become physically ill; the only way to stop it was to remove or avoid the source of anxiety.  So that meant bailing on social commitments at the last minute, giving up on goals, and avoiding responsibilities in order to ease the angst…which only lead to more guilt and anxiety. I didn’t seek help. I suffered in silence.  I thought I was alone.  I was controlled by anxiety for six years.  What a shame.  I have so many regrets.  I missed out on so many wonderful experiences.  I was cheating myself, and my family, out of life. I wish that I had been strong enough to tell someone that I was suffering and that I needed help.

I honestly don’t even know exactly how I started to feel better, I can’t really pin point an exact moment. Perhaps it was moving home and being surrounded by family, friends and familiar places. Perhaps it was a natural progression and maturation within myself of feeling more comfortable in my own body and being happy with myself. Perhaps it was hitting rock bottom and being faced with the real possibility that if things didn’t change that my marriage would be over. Perhaps it was reading a blog, just like this one, and realizing that I was not alone. Perhaps it was a combination of all of these things. I’m really not sure. That’s the thing about anxiety, it comes and goes. I still have moments and I still have triggers….I still have bad days. But I am better able to recognize when I feel like I am being taken over by anxiety, and I am better able to understand it, and am therefore better able to cope with it. I am certainly not free from anxiety, but it no longer controls my life.

I now know that I’m not alone.  Just about every mother I speak to has suffered from anxiety to a certain extent.  For anyone out there who is suffering from anxiety, please know that you are not alone.  Please know that you are not weak.  Please know that you won’t be judged.  Suffering from anxiety does not mean that you are failing; it means that you need help, and that is ok.  We all need help, for one reason or another, at some point in our lives.  Know that you are loved and you are important.  Know that you deserve to feel better and you deserve to have a full life.  Your friends and family love you.  They won’t understand what is wrong unless you are honest with them.  You have to be honest with yourself.  You have to make the first move.  You have to take the first step.  Do it today.  Don’t suffer for six years alone.  I can never get those years back.  I will never have another chance to make those memories.  You will get through this, and you can get the help that you need.

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xo Michelle

Why I had to be a full blown bad mom to child no.2 in order to be a good mom to the rest of my family

Kid No. 2 was all of the worst forms of torture rolled into one cute adorable dickhead. I’ve spoken about his colic, his milk protein allergy, his misery and what a hard infancy it was on him. The real pain though is the toll it takes on the rest of the members of the household. By the time No.2 was nearing 6 months I knew for certain that all of the concessions we made and rules we broke in order to have the most content baby we could were all of the  things that came back to bite us in the crotch. For instance, at 4 months it was my pediatrician telling me that he was getting a flat spot on his head that I admitted a shameful truth….son no.2 was sleeping in the Momaroo! It was literally the only way we could get him to sleep for longer than 45 minutes…and when you have a screaming baby round the clock the thought of stopping something that works is terrifying. She looked at me and I was relieved that I didn’t see judgement in her eyes because she knew how hard things were but she did give me a look that said, pull up your big girl underwear and do what you need to do.

The Momaroo retired that very day and the transition into his crib went better than I feared.  He went right back to waking up every 1 ½ to 2 hours though. He didn’t want to eat, didn’t want to be rocked, didn’t want his suss, he seemingly wanted nothing but to be miserable and make damn sure that everyone else in the house was miserable too. The result is one miserable family. I have never been so sad, anxious, exhausted, overwhelmed and fit to be tied in my entire life. I couldn’t even handle one single thing being demanded of me. The minute my daughter opened her mouth to protest anything I would snap back at her like a rattlesnake. Even I was scared of myself. It was just no way to live. I dreaded what the next hour of every single day would bring. I dreaded my daughter getting off the bus in an hour because I couldn’t possibly avoid ruining her day as well, I dreaded having to figure out what to make for dinner. I was swallowed up in this big messy septic tank of shit. And all I wanted to do was cry on my husband’s shoulder and bitch slap him across the face at the same time because at least he got to leave the house without a care in the world every morning while I was stuck at home counting down every minute of the day and praying that every nap would be just 1 minute longer.

I finally accepted and faced the fact that I had to sleep train my son. I had to do it knowing that he would probably scream his head off a tonne. I had to do it despite all the articles other moms had posted about how fucking cruel and psychologically damaging it is to let your baby cry it out. Yes, I did it, I confess. I let my son cry it out so that I wouldn’t spend the rest of god knows how long imagining taking a hatchet to the forehead of anyone who asked me to care about anything.   I tried to do it as respectfully as I could. I tried to offer my voice to sooth him but that seemed to just piss him off way more. So, I left. I cried outside the door and I listened for signs of distress which when you’re so used to your kid crying is both easy to recognize and difficult to recognize in equal measure. For some crazy reason it only took 2 nights. The first night it was probably 30 minutes, the next night 15, then 5.

Then something amazing happened, I felt better. Something else happened, he was happier. He was still a spirited, high needs generally impossible to please infant but on a full night’s sleep it was all the more tolerable. I knew that despite how tough my day might be, I was  going to get a full night’s sleep, I didn’t need to carry this anxiety into my evening and I began  to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel that my whole family had found themselves in.

When our whole family got more sleep we started to become the happier, healthier family we were all hoping to be. Son no.2 still sleeps great and I am so glad I had the courage to follow my instincts and sleep already.

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xo Kristin

Toddlers are people too

Sitting in my car this morning with my toddler as we’ve done thousands of times in the past and on this particular day, he is NOT (that’s him yelling not me) interested in BEING QUIET!!!! My son is excited about going back to school to play with his friends, annoyed that it’s taking me a long time to get my shit together and start the car, and sad because we’re not going to get Timbits right this minute.

My guy is a lot of things, all at the same time. And aren’t we all sometimes? You’re goddamn right we are – right now I am feeling one million emotions and in a minute that will change! Yet – because wee man is under three, instead of having an adult conversation with some other adults over a glass of wine about his problems, thoughts and insights, he’s got to sit in the car, perfectly silent, and wait patiently and quietly and nicely all while with a smile on his face….not for his own benefit, but mine.

Well don’t I feel like a giant asshole for shushing him repeatedly. I know I don’t want it to be his voice that wakes up the neighbours, but then I realize: I care a lot about the neighbours sleeping in but I care even more that my little guy knows it’s ok to feel all of his feelings. Stifle, stifle, stifle. When I’m tired, when I’m over worked, when I’m just not feeling up to momming, it becomes very important all of a sudden to stifle the noise (which as you moms know, can be overwhelming sometimes). But that means that I’m not hearing him.

On this particular morning all he wanted was for mommy to talk to him because he couldn’t contain himself. And he still doesn’t have all of his words yet, so it was important for me to listen, and speak to him like he is my entire world… because he is my entire world. This little person I’ve created can’t communicate at the level he wants to and I have to remind myself that that is very frustrating for him at times. And although he has trouble communicating, because he’s still little, he’s a person too with person thoughts and feelings. And I need to remember that fact when I have these few moments with just him, just my little guy and I – because they are rare and important… and one day I’ll want to relive all of them.

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xo Sara

 

Part of my journey

I believe that we are all on our own journey, in life and in motherhood.  My journey happens to involve a terrible struggle with postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression after the birth of my daughter.  At times, it was debilitating.  I won’t go into detail here, as it will take many blog posts to tell that story.  What I will share is that it was very difficult for me to talk about, to admit to myself that I needed help, to ask for help, to accept help, and to recover from it (in some ways, I’m still recovering).  Hardest thing I’ve ever faced in my life, hands down.  And it wasn’t just hard for me; it was hard for my family too.

Most people probably have no idea that I was suffering.  The thing about postpartum mood disorders (PPMD) is that it’s so very different for each person.  It doesn’t “look” or “feel” a certain way.  My symptoms snuck in slowly, and worsened quickly.  Because it’s a spectrum mood disorder, it looks and feels completely unique for each person.  For me, it was a whole bunch of little things rolled into one big messy package.  I just knew that I didn’t feel right.

If you have suffered, are currently suffering, or think that you might be suffering from a PPMD, know that you are certainly not alone.  Although you may feel very alone, know that 1 in 5 women will experience some sort of PPMD.  1 in 5!  My mind was blown when I first learned this.  More and more, it seems that people are starting to open up about this topic.  PPMD can be tricky to spot – in my case, my symptoms were quite obvious to my midwives, my family, and myself, but it’s not always so easy to recognize.  There are many great resources available – websites, postpartum support groups, phone support services, and the list goes on.  The important part is that you talk to someone about how you’re feeling, and get help as soon as you can.

I am very fortunate to have an amazing family – they made sure I got the help that I needed fairly quickly after my symptoms developed.  The road to recovery was long and emotionally painful.  Just as my symptoms were made up of a bunch of little things, so was my recovery.  One thing that stands out in my mind was an interview that I listened to when my daughter was about 2 months old.  Howard Stern interviewed the singer Sia, and it changed my life.  Sounds crazy, but it really did.  During the interview, Sia opened up about her own mental health struggles.  She was so honest, and she didn’t let her struggle define her; it was simply a part of her journey.  No guilt.  No shaming.  Just love and self-acceptance.  She gave me hope and made me feel like I was going to be ok, and that it was ok to have struggles and messy parts in your life.  It was exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right moment.

For the next several months, I listened to all of Sia’s music – mostly during long stroller walks with my daughter.  It was like therapy to me.  The lyrics are amazing, and I really connected to them.  Yesterday, I attended a Sia concert, and it was so much more than just a concert to me.  It was one of those wonderful, powerful moments where life seems to come full circle.  I was reminded just how far I’ve come in my journey.

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xo Leigh

Circumcision

Well this is a controversial topic isn’t it?  I honestly didn’t know just how strongly people felt about this until about a year ago when we were trying to decide what to do for our son.  It seems as though there is no “grey area” when it comes to circumcision; people believe strongly one way or the other, they are either for or against.  They are passionate in their convictions and conversations regarding circumcision can get quite heated very quickly if two people happen to disagree.

When we found out we were having a boy my husband and I were not sure what to do.  We found ourselves on opposing ends of the argument; he thought we should circumcise and I thought that we shouldn’t.  After having three girls and not having to face the decision before, we were very uneducated about circumcision.  We weren’t sure what was considered “the norm”.  We weren’t sure from a science and health perspective if one was preferable over the other.  We decided that we needed to do some research and reading in order to make the best decision, for US and OUR son, that we could.

So we did some research; we “googled it”, we talked to other parents of boys and asked them about their experiences, and we talked to health care professionals.  We found that there was information that could support both sides of the “argument”, so it really came down to what we were the most comfortable with.  We were confident that we had enough information to make an educated decision and we were happy with our choice. (And for the sake of my son’s privacy I will not indicate which way we ended up going).

A few weeks later, we were at a Thanksgiving celebration, and the topic of circumcision came up.  Someone (whom I love and trust) asked me if we had decided what we were going to do, and when I answered, their body language changed from friendly to fierce in a matter of seconds and I was immediately berated by this person and humiliated in a room full of MANY people.  I tried to keep my cool and respond to their accusations as calmly as possible and stick to the facts, but this person became more and more aggressive speaking WAY TOO loudly, invading my personal space and waving their hands around spastically.  Finally, I lost my temper and yelled back “It’s none of your fucking business.  He’s our son and it’s our decision to make.”  I felt awful that the conversation had ended that way, and it put a damper on the entire evening.  The party ended earlier than expected and I went home disappointed, embarrassed and disgusted.

Not only did it hurt my feelings and make me feel like I needed to defend myself and my unborn son, but this person did not stop to think about who else might be in the room, and if their comments were going to offend or embarrass any of them.  It is not a joke.  It is a sensitive subject and it is something that deserves to be handled calmly and respectfully.  We are all entitled to our own opinions, but we need to find a way to effectively communicate those opinions in a way that doesn’t hurt or belittle other people.  Does my decision to circumcise or not circumcise my child affect you??  NO!  Does my decision put my child’s life at risk?  NO!  So then stop the blaming and shaming and have some respect.

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xo Michelle

I never thought I would have to have this conversation with my 5-year old

We’ve all seen and heard stories of the most horrific and traumatizing thing that could happen to a child: molestation. Even the thought of it is stomach churning. I know I went into motherhood with a healthy fear of it, sure, but a confidence that I would have the spidey sense to know if a certain situation seemed off.

No, thankfully…to my knowledge my daughter has never been molested but I did have to have a conversation with her so much earlier than I ever intended to about her body and what it means to have agency over it.

It was an ordinary day last summer and I was picking her up from daycare. The usual pleasantries were exchanged: hello, yes good day, you? That’s when one of the other women asked to have a word. Oh no, the pulse begins to race a bit…did she do something bad? How was I going to explain her dropping an f bomb?

“There was a situation today,” she said.

“Ok, what?”

“Well, she pulled her pants down.”

“Whaaat?” I asked with shock. “You saw her pull her pants down?”

“Well no, when I spotted her they were already down.”

I had no idea what to say…it didn’t really make any sense to me. She sensed my confusion and continued. “Well, here’s the thing. We immediately told her very calmly to pull her pants up and asked her privately what had caused her to pull her pants down. She was playing with another little girl at the time and remarked to me that the other girl had told her: ‘That’s what happens when you don’t follow my rules’…and so, being the good little compliant kid that she is, she listened.”

Fireworks went off in my brain, giant red flags were nearly blocking my ability to see anything.

I asked what was going to happen with regards to the other child involved and the employee mentioned that they would be speaking with her as well. Now…how in the world was a going to discuss this with my daughter without making her feel any of the following: shame, embarrassment or self-consciousness? I waited awhile in the car until a song came on that we both loved and began singing along to together. I vowed to keep it really light and easy breezy…no pressure, maybe even a little humour. “Hey doll…I heard you pulled down your pants at daycare today?!!” With a little more enthusiasm than I felt inside. “Yes” she said and I could see a bit of shame begin to creep in. “Not to worry my love, you’re not in trouble at all.” The relief was evident on her face. We casually discussed the day’s events and I explained that no one, and I do mean no one has any permission ever to see her private body…not her belly, not her bum and not her vagina. I asked her to repeat what she should say if anyone asked her to remove her clothes: “NO!” she cheered emphatically on the 10th round through!

Despite the fact that I felt good about the conversation I had with my daughter and despite the fact that it wasn’t this traumatizing event I still had a very sick feeling in my stomach. The focus began shifting off my daughter and over to the other child involved. Like the airplane instructions where we’re to draw from the oxygen mask first before passing to your child. A five year old doesn’t just come up with phrasing like that: “That’s what happens when you don’t follow my rules.” She ‘must’ have been told that. I felt the nausea return and a panic that I had to do something.

I didn’t want to hurt anyone and but I also couldn’t be the chicken shit who’s afraid that I might offend someone. I spoke to the director of the daycare the next day. They contacted CAS and that was that. Never heard what happened…I still see that child all the time and want to squeeze her. I hope the worst didn’t happen to her.

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xo Kristin

Finding your groove

Right now is my favourite time in motherhood so far.  C is super sweet, curious, smart, funny, affectionate, spirited, stubborn, and fiercely independent.  She’s got such a big personality.  I predict a future class clown (which she comes by quite honestly!).  And the memory on this child – it’s exceptional.  She’s my little bestie.  We have definitely found our groove together.

While I was pregnant, and even beforehand, most people I spoke to told me that I would love being a mother (which I do).  They told me that I would love every minute of it, and that it would be the best thing I ever did in my life.  This is partly true.  Let me explain.

Perhaps it was because everyone told me that I would love every minute of motherhood, or perhaps it was because that’s what I was expecting that led to my big reality check.  Immediate bliss was what I was “supposed to” feel.  I had this expectation that I would feel fireworks and heart explosions immediately upon laying eyes on and holding my new little bundle.  I’ve always been told I’m a maternal person, so I figured that motherhood would come naturally to me.  Not so much.  I definitely did not love EVERY minute as a new mom (insert major mom guilt here).  I mean, who loves every single minute of daily life, whether you’re a mom or not?  I had delayed bonding and a lot of anxiety, which I felt extreme guilt about.   More on that in a future post.

When you’re trying to navigate your new role as a mother, you might feel like you have to figure it all out, right away.  I remember feeling very anxious that I didn’t have it all figured out immediately.  Perhaps it was the perfectionist in me that surfaces sometimes.  I needed to give myself a big break.  It’s a brand new relationship between mom and baby, and it can take some time to get to know one another and figure things out.  As a first-time mom, you don’t have the benefit of hindsight, so you really don’t know that things will get better in time, and that you will figure out all the things.  The tough moments will pass, and new challenges will present themselves.  And you’ll get through all of them.  I promise.

The first few weeks and months in motherhood are not necessarily indicative of the type of mom you are, or will be; nor is it reflective of the relationship you’ll have with your child.  Things evolve over time, as you get to know one another, as any relationship does.

I am definitely loving most moments of motherhood these days.  My heart explodes when my daughter smiles at me.  It explodes when she hugs me.  She kisses me on the forehead and cheeks.  She wants to snuggle at bedtime.  She wants to hold my hand.  She asks me what my favourite colour is.   Her little fairy angel voice makes me swoon.  She’s the best.

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xo Leigh