Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Babies and Depression

Years ago I had a baby. I fell head over heels in love with him from the moment I laid eyes on his little frog face. But just as much – I fell in love with the me as a mama. This cynical, wise ass 36 year old woman became softer, glass half filled with sunshine and rainbows . I fell in love with the world for the first time it seemed – all the babies, all the hope and sweetness that they bring, and I was very aware of this new lens in which I viewed things.

I wanted more of that...as if I instinctively knew it couldn’t and wouldn’t last. And sure enough it didn’t. As my baby became a toddler with opinions on things – I could feel that harder, crustier me returning - the softness drying up like paint left on a brush in the sun.

Unsuccessful at becoming pregnant again, I filled the void with a horse named Faith. She saw the softness still left in me – and though she could be high strung – she was particularly soft with my rambunctious toddler.

Then suddenly, I was pregnant. The world was going to be rainbows and sunshine again. Until it wasn’t. At my 9 week appointment I saw the technician’s face draw into a thin line while she was doing the ultrasound. My baby had died, though my boobs and cravings apparently had no idea.

The softness got confused. Turned hard. Why did that happen to me?

Then almost a year later, a baby girl was growing inside of me. A vivacious one according to her heartbeat and ultrasounds. I was four months pregnant, filled with rainbows and sunshine again, about to leave for vacation with my husband and son when the doctor called. The genetic testing had come back with a giant red flag. It would take 3 excruciating weeks to confirm that my baby girl had a fatal genetic condition called Trisomy 18. And just a week before my 40th birthday, I had to let her go.

The softness was gone. I didn’t know what to do with the pain. It clung on my back like an alien with 40 arms and legs, biting into me. I picked up running, but I kept seeing my baby girl’s limbs in the twigs on the sidewalk and would almost twist my ankles trying not to step on them.

Why did that have to happen to me?

One day when I was so sick and tired from crying I googled quickest way to kill yourself. Then I would see my husband and son playing and feel even guiltier that I was so depressed. And guess what – the depression lapped it all up with a spoon. Hashtag WINNING.

The summer from hell ended but the pain was still there. I would get better – even have weeks go by where I felt okay and didn’t randomly burst into tears from hearing a certain note in a song or a movie come on that I had watched while I was pregnant with her. But then out of nowhere the pain would back, more vicious and stronger than before. As if it had just taken a break to pump weights and pound steroids for another go at me.

I began to get really worried. I looked up grief counselors but while reading about them would become really turned off by the idea. After all, some days I felt fine so why would I want to dredge it all up again?

And to boot, my toddler was now a full on little DUDE with the attitude to boot. With every tantrum I would say ridiculous things to myself like ‘Tuesday would never have done this…’

Through it all there were the horses. By now I had bought another one – a gelding I renamed Woody. He had a bad habit of avoiding loading into the trailer so we sent him to a horse whisperer for a month. When we went to pick him up we got to watch Ben work his magic.

Back at home I had been fighting Woody’s resistance with force. If he avoided the trailer I’d correct him with a lunge whip. If he reared, I would make him back up a hundred miles per hour to teach him that was wrong. And guess what – I had been doing it wrong. Watching Ben work I saw no force or anger. I saw softness.

His first attempt to lead Woody into my trailer, Woody did his usual half hop to the side followed by a half-hearted rear. And to my horror, Ben just kind of slumped next to the trailer, his shoulders melted down into his chest as he became COMPLETELY slack. For a second I thought he was having a stroke. And then Woody quieted and he calmly asked him to load again. And after a couple of hesitant steps, he did.


Ben loves to quote one of his mentors – the great Ray Hunt – who said, ‘Expect a horse to be good and they’ll be good. Expect them to be bad and they won’t disappoint you.’

I think about this every time I work with Woody now. I try and channel that softness. I tell him he’s a good boy. And he is.

The depression has waned. And now when I look back on my lost babies and think that same question ‘why did this have to happen to me?’ – I think I have an answer. I think I know what they were her for, even if just for a short time.

To remind me to be soft.

Friday, May 9, 2014

For Sawyer. And all the mamas on Mother's Day. Current, future, and figurative.

Oh boy. I can't believe I'm writing this.

Putting something on paper that had I read ten years ago, even five years ago, might have made me hate the person writing it. Or at a minimum tune out and dismiss the writer as that 'crazy baby lady.' But please bear with me for a second.

I am far from 'that crazy baby lady.' I didn't even have baby dolls when I was little. The closest I got was a Cabbage Patch Kid but let's be honest - they were half groceries. I was more into horses and catching minnows and collecting stray dogs and any other animal within a mile radius of my house.

If I'm being honest babies still kind of freak me out. So why am I writing this? Because a friend came over last week who I hadn't seen in several years and while visiting with me and Sawyer reminded me I told him five years ago I didn't want kids. He wasn't lying. I probably said that to a lot of people. And meant it.

I was too cool, too busy, too free. When I thought of having kids all I saw was a Blob-like, paralyzing freeze over my entire life. I thought of friends who couldn't go anywhere after 8 at night because their baby was already in bed. I thought of the first time I saw a friend riding in the backseat of a car with her baby and thinking - wow! She's relegated to the back seat! 

But then I had Sawyer and literally had my mind blown and my heart explode over and over again like an endless string of fire crackers going off inside my chest. This was like my most favorite pet I ever owned only a thousand times better. Why didn't anyone tell me it was like giving birth to a pet? This was the high of falling in love the first time, over and over again and again multiple times a day...only they couldn't break up with you for some hussy (not for a good 13 years at least.)

Overnight I became that person I would have despised just months before. I wanted everyone I knew and loved to have a baby STAT. To feel what I was feeling.

But of course I didn't say this to anyone. One of the reasons I will never utter the words, 'Hey - go have sex and make something you'll treasure more than your nice apartment, swinging night life, adorable dog, etc.' is that we don't always know what's bubbling beneath the surface. It's never as simple as 'to have or not have' when it comes to kids.

So all I will say to anyone who thinks having a baby is the worst idea ever is what I would say to myself all those years ago.

Babies aren't a web-like freeze over your entire life - they're the opposite.

You know the Namaste closure at the end of a yoga class? 'The light that lives within me bows to and recognizes the light within you.' How it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and makes you walk out of the class like you're on a cloud?

Imagine getting to hold the light in your arms. Getting to feed it, talk to it, to see it grow and change at such a rate you wish you could freeze it just the way it is until you're ready for it to grow again.

A baby is literally the best heart opener there is. And you don't have to do a downward dog to get to it.

And as for that girl relegated to the backseat next to her baby? Don't feel sorry for her. She's having the time of her life. At least until the baby pukes.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sawyer at Six Months and Going Paleo

I still can't believe I have a baby. It was just last year during the holidays we were told the baby forecast might not be so sunny then - TIME WARP - here I am with a six month old.

I still catch myself looking at him wondering aloud 'where did you come from?'

Here's what Sawyer is into these days:

*His hands. He prefers his thumbs but any finger or better yet the entire fist will do.
*Your hands. He started this at almost four months and the trend continues. If he's not in the mood for his own fingers he'll be perfectly happy gnawing on yours. But because he's generous, he'll offer you his fingers to put in your mouth too. A perfect afternoon for him would be trading hands and 'gnawing' on each other's phelanges.
*Dance parties. Put some music on, give him a helping set of hands to hook onto and watch him move. And move. And move.
*Baths. He's always loved them but now there's a new twist. An obsession with his man bits. Pretty much goes straight for them as soon as he hits the water. Dad oscillates between being proud and alarmed by this. I mean he really likes his manhood (Sawyer that is.)
*Crawling practice. Sawyer always loved to 'stand' even way before that was supposed to be happening (I suspect because of his reflux and not wanting to be laid down.) But now he'll go from 'standing' while you hold him to a belly flop anywhere and everywhere to get his 'swim' on. Crawling is coming. God help us.
*June Carter, our Chihuahua/Terrier mix. He adores her. In fact she's his number one. The first time he giggled was at June (she was just sitting there doing nothing but apparently it was HILARIOUS.) His first emotional outburst was at June. An angry cry/scream I'd never heard before (again she was just sitting there but apparently the telepathic dialogue back and forth between them was pretty intense.)
*Patterns on wallpaper, tee shirts, posters, whatever. Future art director like his dad? We'll see.
*His play gym. Fisher Price I will hand it to you. The random 'jungle theme' makes no sense to me but apparently you know what babies like.
*Anything dangerous within arm's reach. Knives preferably (shiny!) but a beer, vase of flowers or anything breakable will do.

To say I am lucky to have a healthy, happy baby (as cliche as it is) is an understatement. I am in complete awe of him. When he's really tired and laying in my arms and his little underbite is in full force he looks like he did when he was just born. I don't know how many more flashback glimpses I'll get like this so every time it happens I just hold him as long as my arms will allow and soak up as much of the moment as possible.

But even though I am beyond thankful and in love it has not been easy. And the main reason I'm writing the rest of this is to hopefully help other new moms or moms experiencing baby feeding issues for the first time.

The first two months of Sawyer's life, he cried a LOT. I really didn't know any better having had no baby experience but my mom, Kris' mom and anyone with baby knowledge knew something wasn't right. We knew he had reflux (he's taken medicine for this since almost the beginning) and I diligently avoided any citrus/tomato/etc. that would aggravate his condition but it still plagued the poor guy relentlessly. He spit up so much at one point I was going through five outfits a day and him even more!

By month three, I was starting to lose my first baby high and the crying was starting to get to me. It is an indescribable feeling when your baby cries out in pain. For hours. And there's not a damn thing you can do about it. The only thing that got us through was walking with him.

I kid you not - you literally could not sit down with him. Walking was the only thing that calmed him, using the 'colic' hold where you carry them like a flying baby airplane, stomach-down on your forearm. If you were lucky enough for him to stop crying, the minute you'd sit down he'd start again and you'd have to start the whole process over again.

The emotional and physical toll were bad enough but just before Christmas things got real when he started having blood in his poop.

Now for a little backtracking. Early on my doctor had told me he was likely sensitive to dairy. Which meant he was sensitive when I had dairy because I was nursing him. A little more backtracking. My goal with nursing was to be psyched if it worked out for me at all. I had full intentions of trying but if it didn't work out I had promised myself not to freak out and go straight to formula.

After he was born and nursing panned out pretty damn well for us there was only the hiccup of being told he had the symptoms of being dairy sensitive. Even Kris noticed almost from the get go he sounded very 'wheezy' when he breathed at night and always had a crazy amount of boogers. The excess spit up was another sign although there was no doubt he had reflux so I chose to believe it was just that.

And here's where I'll fess up. I really tried to ignore this whole dairy thing. Telling a newborn mother who is starving all the damn time from nursing that she can't have cheese or milk (pretty much my favorite things) was literally something I couldn't register. Give up dairy? Pizza? Pasta? No thanks, hippies!

So I did a modified version of 'giving it up.' I switched to almond milk. I avoided anything made with cream or creamy sauces. I gave up soft cheese but held onto Parmesan for dear life. Oh and I still ate butter with my toast at brunch on Sundays. Mother of the year over here!

But then the blood started showing up in his diapers. Not a lot but enough to scare the living shit out of new parents. We called the after hours doctor line the first time it happened and guess what the on-call doc said? 'I'd bet money your baby is sensitive to dairy. And just so you know, lots of babies that are sensitive to dairy are also sensitive to soy.'

Damn it. No getting around dairy this time. I felt awful. I MADE this happen to him by choosing to eat what I wanted. And now soy? Not as big a deal, I thought. I don't drink soy milk and I'm not much of a fan of tofu. I do love me some edamame but I could live without it for a while if need be.

Oh the joyful bliss of being an idiot. You see just like it took me months to comprehend that BUTTER WAS DAIRY, it took me a few days to process this also included soy sauce. I know how dumb this sounds. Judge away (I would!) Anyway, there went stir fries which had recently become my go to dinner as a new mom as they're so fast and easy.

I had no idea that giving up an entire cuisine was just the beginning. What I didn't know was soy is in literally almost everything you put in your mouth. Seriously look at the next thing you pick up to eat and check the label. 99% chance it has soy in it. Chewing gum (soy lecithin), tea bags (even the fancy kind - soy lecithin!), Pam spray, crackers, bread, bagels, snacks, chips, salad dressing, condiments, any kind of prepared food (again even the fancy organic kind including every single Kind bar on the market) and the kicker of all kickers - all that 'healthy' vegetarian stuff you're forced to like after you've already been made to give up dairy.

Eating out was already a challenge to say the least. Now it was basically out of the question.

The past few months I've been eating a diet I wouldn't have believed was possible before this happened to me. No cheese on sandwiches. No hamburger buns at burger joints (there's dairy or soy in most.) No sushi. No pizza. No pasta with cheese (the only kind worth eating.)

Now Sawyer is almost seven months old and I do believe he's finally getting less sensitive. I unknowingly had soy a few times over the past couple of weeks and thank you Jesus he didn't react. I'm still hesitant to go all out on either soy or dairy again anytime soon but my doctor said I can do some trial and error experiments soon.

But you know what's funny? I've still eaten some damn good food. Thanks to the Paleo movement which I LITERALLY was just making fun of a few months ago (hello Karma, nice to see you) and all the amazing bloggers out there I not only survived but have even embraced some of the thinking behind the diet. I mean it is kind of scary that soy is in absolutely everything when there's no doubt it's probably one of the biggest GMO crops out there if not the biggest.

But the best part has been seeing the real Sawyer emerge. The poor little guy literally didn't feel good for his first few months of life and looking back it was painfully obvious. He was just uncomfortable. And now he 'parties' all the time. The kid almost NEVER cries! It's amazing!

So that's where we are.

I no longer roll my eyes when I see someone at the grocery store buying five kinds of milk from coconut to almond to good old dairy. Nobody chooses to have these food allergies and even my poor baby's reaction was nothing compared to what many people go through.

I chose a few blogs to share below for anyone dealing with food allergy issues or that knows someone else who is or anyone wanting to dip their toes into a possibly healthier way of eating.

Any any new moms out there dealing with a super fussy baby that you think is just colicky - you might want to try cutting out the dairy and/or soy in a more serious manner than I did. It very well could save you a couple months of heartache and medical scares.

Paleo Resources / Dairy Free / Soy Free / Gluten Free Resources:

Against All Grain Danielle Walker's blog and books are incredible. Everything I've made has been fantastic!

The Slim Palate

Nom Nom Paleo

Detoxinista Her 'cheeseless' cheesy pasta sauce is the best I've tried and will make you run away from that 'fake' vegan cheese they sell for $8 a bag. Can't promise you it literally tastes like cheese but it is creamy and satisfying and indulgent and even my husband loves it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Hospital. Not so scary after all.

My sweet friend Claire was one of my favorite people to talk to while I was pregnant. Claire is a great writer, mom and cofounder of the awesome site Meet The Milk along with another dear friend and awesome-mom-slash-writer Lauren.

Anyway Claire had the best time being pregnant herself and is basically a cheerleader for gestation which is my kind of jam. For me there is nothing worse than someone looking at your stomach while having flashbacks akin to being at the front lines of war. Not cool.

I think it's safe to say every woman knows that giving birth will be a little more challenging than say, getting a pedicure. In fact I dare you to get through your pregnancy without some idiot bringing up the watermelon to lemon analogy (feel free to punch them in the face by the way.)

Also when you're pregnant and already anxious about exactly how this child will exit your body in a few months you'll inevitably come across an episode of Downton Abbey where the poor chick up and dies after giving birth. Thanks BBC! Anyway thankfully I had Claire. Claire told me something good all of the time. She was my go-to-good-time-girl.

But what I most appreciated was her description of her time in the hospital. Where some friends described things that had gone wrong or even emitted phrases about their lady parts I'd rather not repeat here, Claire described it as a blissfully great effing time. She pointed out that it's actually comforting to be there because everyone and their mother is paying attention to you and how you're doing. And hey I'm a sucker for any situation that's all about me, me, me so I really liked this description.

As it turned out I too had the best time delivering my little nugget. Not that there wasn't a little drama and pain along the way - you are squeezing a tiny person out after all - but on the whole I enjoyed every second of it and even wrote about it on my other blog here.

So the moral of the story is if you're scared of the unexpected or skittish about hospitals like I was, surround yourself with friends who had good experiences or at least who focus on the positive. Find yourself a Claire.

Still nervous? Well let me tell you this. I was so afraid of the hospital that weeks before I was due I had an elongated panic attack slash cry fest. I literally started crying and couldn't stop for two days. And here's the irony. You know what my ALL TIME favorite memory is? The hospital. All of it. Every single second. Pulling into the drive at 6 in the morning. Contractions in the hospital bed. All the way through. I even took home a pair of the granny panties they give you (clean ones - I'm not that cray cray) so I could have a memento!

Because there truly is nothing better than finally meeting that precious little slime-covered alien baby you've been carrying around all these months. It's a moment you will wish you could relive over and over.

So thank you Claire. I will try my best to share my good time story with other moms-to-be who are scared out of their wits like I was!

Coming up - my birth plan, what I packed for the hospital and more prepping tips!