29 April 2008

A Case of the Crazies, II

In the first installment of "A Case of the Crazies" I wrote about life pre-postpartum depression.

Looking back, the signs of postpartum depression started early—probably at when Benny was around two months old. We visited my parents in mid-October. When we returned, my sleep patterns had devolved. I wasn’t sleeping at night and I could not make my body relax to take naps (not that it was that easy to take a nap in a 45-minute window, anyway). To make matters worse, Benny went through a growth spurt and his feedings became more frequent.

Concern set in when I started crying and couldn’t stop. I tried not to cry when Benny was awake, but often I would break down when he wouldn’t fall asleep for his first nap. I certainly wasn’t taking any naps at this point and nighttime sleep was spotty. My stomach was so worked up that I couldn’t eat either. I would often forget to eat breakfast and lunch and force something down when Nate came home for dinner.

These were all ingredients for the perfect storm. For two days I cried when Nate was at work and I really broke down when he came home from work. He would hang out with Benny in the living room while I sobbed in the bedroom. He was helpless. He asked, “What can I do for you?” over and over, but there was nothing he could do, aside from letting me run away.

I began to think about checking myself into a hospital for exhaustion. I just wanted a break from everything. From the crying and the insomnia and the anxiety. Soon, I began having thoughts about “accidentally” hitting Benny’s head on the edge of a doorway, thinking that if he had a concussion he would sleep more.

PAUSE FOR A SECOND. I was rational enough to know that these were NOT normal thoughts. Never for a moment did I actually think I would hit Benny’s head. However, the thoughts were enough to scare the shit out of me. It’s difficult to write this down now because I realize how horrible it sounds.

After a couple of days of having these thoughts, Nate and I decided that we would try to put Benny in his own room so I could sleep better. I had already started sleeping in the extra bedroom because I couldn’t sleep with Benny in the same room. The Wacky Shack was not a good house for children (for reasons too numerous to detail here). The bedrooms were spread too far apart and the extra bedrooms had windows of walls. Because the house was so old, it was incredibly drafty—even in Austin. But, we thought that putting Benny in his own room might help. That night was cooler than normal and Benny woke up quite often because he was cold. Looking back, we were incredibly stupid not to dress him warmer.

At around 3 a.m., I had a panic attack. I couldn’t keep Benny in another room, but I couldn’t sleep with him in my room. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think logically. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. Nate tried to calm me down. He asked me to think about things other than the house, Benny’s sleep, and moving to Denver. What he didn’t understand was that I couldn’t think about anything but those things. My thoughts raced and one thought led to another and another and another.

I went to the extra bedroom to sleep for the remainder of the night. I calmed myself down enough to get a few hours of sleep. Nate, I found out later, could not go back to sleep (could you if your partner had a panic attack right next to you?). He ended up reading about postpartum depression online all night. Luckily, he knew that he could not leave me alone with Benny the next day. He even took Benny into work to get some materials to work on while I took a nap. Sleeping, however, was out of the picture. I tried to lie down and relax. But, after having intrusive thoughts about harming Benny and then experiencing a panic attack, I knew something was seriously wrong.

28 April 2008

P.S. to the Previous Post

I've been meaning to trump up a friend's website for awhile. Amenda Tate, Nate's cousin, designs jewelry and sells it in several stores as well as on the internet. She just had a baby and isn't creating as much as normal, but check out her stuff, nonetheless...


Oh, the Challenges, Part Trois

My "Oh, the Challenges" string of posts has been the most popular with readers so far. I guess complaining about one's husband is something that resonates with people. In Part Deux, I mentioned that someone had commented on my dissertation topic - the comments were sent via email, so they weren't available to other lucky readers. Here are the comments I received:

"My understanding of feminism is that it led to the realization that men and women are inherently equal (seems pretty fundamental to being human). However, are the masculine and the feminine equal in all things? Seems like we might be limited by semantics here.

"Anyway, I can go on and on (but you already know that). I just wanted to hit you back with some thoughts. Keep up the blog and I'll keep attempting to undermine everything you do ;-) Why? Because of my sense of the feminine. I'm just a bitch sometimes."

My response:

N. E., your definition of feminism is but one definition. There are many. The whole point of my dissertation is to look at why the media attempt to explain females who are in leadership positions during war and why it is natural for men to occupy those positions. I am not examining violent women, although I've done that in the past. Please follow this link to an abstract:


So, there's the string of comments - hope that makes more sense. It probably makes things more confusing.

It's nearly May. Nearly May?!? How did that happen? Is anyone else excited for spring? I love the blooms on the trees and the colors and the warmer weather. I also love that I'm not in Austin waiting to sweat my ass off in a few weeks when the humidity REALLY sets in. Sorry Austinites. Don't miss the sweat.

Time to get to work. Finally.

27 April 2008

Another Poop Story

Hopefully this is the last one, really. I hadn't planned on writing a bunch of poop stories on this blog, but the following is too good to keep to myself. Benny will be forever scared with this story.

We were in Brule for the weekend to help my parents sod their lawn. My sister, brother-in-law, and brother also joined us for the party. Nate and I have been undressing Benny about 15 minutes before his bedtime over the past week in the hopes of curing him of a nasty spell of diaper rash. Naked time is his favorite time of the day. He crawls around with his butt in the air in a position that most men would get arrested for. But, because he's 29 inches long and hairless, he's cute.

ANYWAY, he's peed on our floor several times. No problem, it's wood. On Saturday night I followed him around my parents' house to make sure he didn't shower anything valuable. Suddenly, his butt didn't look quite normal. As he was toddling around, he was also pooping (it's really amazing that he really can poop anywhere, in any position, during any activity). My mom, sister, Nate, and I all watched the deed, chasing him around the house. My mom had the worst job: she tailed this "tail" with a napkin in an attempt to catch it. My god, that kid is cute, even when he's pooping while naked.

In other news, I found about 20 articles for my literature review this afternoon. Lotso work for this week. Plus, I'll step inside the Goodall Public Library in Ogallala for the first time in years to browse Time magazine for the morning. Hopefully I'll have a good, productive week. If not, I'm sure I'll write about it.

Oh poop. It never ceases to be funny.

23 April 2008

A Case of the Crazies, I

Since people are actually reading this blog (I honestly thought I'd write on it every once in awhile as a sort of public diary that would essentially be private because no one would give a damn), it's a little harder to post stuff about postpartum depression. I've told many friends about my ordeal, but it's not something I detail often. It's a fairly long story, so there will be several posts.

I think it's important to talk about postpartum depression because 1) it's more common than you think, 2) women need to know that they're not alone, and 3) there are many many caring professionals and other moms who can help. I wish I had asked for help much sooner.

Well, here goes...

Benny’s arrival into this world was more perfect than I ever could have imagined. Before I got pregnant, I decided to eschew the “normal” birthing experience—the hospital—in favor of having a midwife deliver my baby. Since Texas laws prohibit midwives deliver in hospitals, they practice in birthing centers or deliver babies at a mother’s home. The home birth was out of the question. I didn’t think I could handle that for my first experience. But, after having nine months of appointments at the birthing center, I felt very comfortable with the center and its midwives.

Birthing centers practice natural births, meaning that they do not offer any of the “interventions” you hear many women experience during labor. They do not administer pitosin, a synthetic hormone that starts labor; they don’t give epidurals, which numb a mother from the chest down. Midwives encourage women to birth by doing what feels natural. So, when my contractions started, I walked, I swayed, I sat in a tub, I groaned, I grunted, and moved all about. It was a beautiful process and while I don’t remember the really painful parts, I would do it again without a second thought.

I was determined to breastfeed Benny for the first year. He made it really easy. He latched on immediately and ate like a champ for three months. When I say “like a champ,” I mean he ate and he ate and he ate. The first month wasn’t so bad. The lack of sleep didn’t bother me. I also didn’t mind being tied to the chair for hours and hours—I read five books in the first five weeks of Benny’s life. It was sort of a treat.

By month two, the getting up in the middle of the night was starting to get to me. What’s more is that Benny wasn’t a great sleeper. He would nap for about 45 minutes three times a day. I was convinced that that was not enough. We also had a hard time getting him to sleep. Nate or I would dance and dance and dance with him at night to get him to sleep and sometimes that didn’t even work. It was often a two-hour process to get him down. Whoever told me that babies slept a lot was lying or too sleep deprived to notice.

By the third month, I was taking three walks a day with Benny to put him to sleep (my back was KILLING me!) and Nate drove him around in the evenings until he fell asleep. Between months two and three I became increasingly obsessive about Benny’s sleep, convinced that he wasn’t getting enough and thus not developing his brain (I was delusional and irrational). Because Benny wasn’t getting enough sleep, neither was I. I won’t blame my insomnia on Benny or my delusions that I might be able to write my dissertation proposal. In the end, I couldn’t do it all. I couldn’t be the perfect mom (breastfeeding every three hours) and read journal articles for my literature review all on three to four hours of sleep a night. The more I worried about Benny’s sleep, the less I was able to sleep myself. It was a downward spiral of exhaustion. I didn’t know how bad it could get.

To be continued...

22 April 2008

I'm too Old for This

This weekend I came to an important realization: I cannot stay up until 2 a.m. and expect to be functional the next day. Nate's dad was here over the weekend, so Nate and I decided to have him babysit while we attended a concert in Boulder. We've been really excited about this concert. Ghostland Observatory. A great band. We both have seen them in Austin (that's where they're from). They put on an amazing show. I want to dance like Aaron, the lead singer/entertainer.

But, here's the thing. I cannot party with college students. Especially with University of Colorado college students who tended to be trendy, drunk, and unruly (so, perhaps these traits can't be tied directly to CU students, sue me). Also, I do not have the energy to stand right in front of the stage. I had to split my time: enjoy the music, fend off the drunk guy wearing a checkered bandana and tight pants behind me. It was all too much. I tried to drink and dance my ass off, but I'm just not that girl any more. Was I ever that girl?

I hate to limit myself to the back of a venue or to sit-down shows, but it may be coming to that. It's Tuesday and I'm still trying to catch up on sleep!

18 April 2008

So, So White

Someone forwarded me the "Stuff White People Like" link a few weeks back. Someone else forwarded it to my husband. I read it. My response: Oh my god, I'm SO white. I'm so white it's scary. I mean sure, I'm white. I'm nearly albino. But that's my skin. I always have this secret hope that I can't be stereotyped into "a white girl." But, alas, I can and I am. Geez.

But, there are people even more white than me, believe it or not. My husband and I often get a chuckle about #87 Performance Outdoor Clothes. Of course, seeing lots of people in performance outdoor clothes in Denver is not all that uncommon, but some white people take it to the next level. I have some articles of clothing that perform well in the out-of-doors, but I not to let them dominate my wardrobe. That being said, I'm still incredibly white

Here's the link. It's pretty funny. http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com/full-list-of-stuff-white-people-like/

I'm off to weekend-ville. Next week I'm going to start posting details about my postpartum depression and my stay at the looney bin. I've been working on it for awhile. Look for the posts. I've already titled them: A Case of the Crazies.

Oh, and on a side note, my incredibly white little boy (he even has performance outdoor gear - that trumps any of the chumps I make fun of - I'm the white mom who dresses him in it) has FOUR teeth on the way, not just one. Poor little fella. Pretty soon he'll have SIX little teeth.

17 April 2008

Same Ol' Same Ol'

Sometimes I feel like the most incompetent mother of all time. Last night Benny decided to poop five minutes AFTER his bath when he was dressed and fresh for bed. He was a little constipated, so the poop was easy to clean up. However, as I was folding the diaper up, the poop fell out of the diaper and nearly fell on Benny's head. He didn't care, of course, but I was mortified. Here's my little guy, laying on the bed, smiling at me, with a turd sitting dangerously close to his ear. Don't roll over, Benny!

Oh well. It could have been worse.

I'm not shy about bodily functions, but I have to say, having a little pooping machine certainly tests my stomach. I can now smell Benny's poop from across the room. You may think I'm kidding, but I am not. Either I have a nose for this stuff or it's just really nasty.

That's all I have for today. It will probably be a uneventful day, filled with poop, pee, spit up, naps, and some beer and wine when Benny goes to bed - yeehaw!

P.S. I posted some new pictures of Benny below. I found them on my mom's camera. What a little bear!

16 April 2008

All Growed Up

How is it that a little baby grows up into a little man so fast? I took Benny in for his first haircut in Ogallala, Nebraska this morning. The barber who cut his hair, Bud, has cut my dad's hair and my brothers' hair for years. He really only has one haircut: Super short. I nearly cried when he cut all of my baby's hair off.

Benny is pulling himself up on EVERYTHING now. The wall, the coffee table, my legs. It's slightly disturbing that if he loses his balance while climbing my legs, he pulls on the extra skin/flab to hold on. But, I digress. He's walking along things now and from object to object (chair to chair, couch to coffee table). He even stands without any help for several seconds at a time. He's not even nine months old. How did HE come out of me? A mystery for the ages.

In other news, I'm in Brule with my parents this week to accomplish something, anything. I've been searching for news articles in The Nation, National Review, and Mother Jones about Hillary Clinton, Condi Rice, and Nancy Pelosi. So far so good. This may sound incredibly lazy (and it is), but why don't all magazines put PDF files of each edition online? I wouldn't have to set foot in a library to complete this ordeal if this was the case. But, apparently magazines don't think of lazy grad students like me when they decide to publish their stuff online. Kudos to The Nation and National Review for allowing PDFs of their articles. I could drink a beer AND do research at the same time. Life is good.

Grandpa Mike is coming for a visit this weekend. I will have stories, guaranteed. Until then, I will work diligently on searching for magazine articles, gossip about celebrities, cute jewelry, and anything else I can find on the web. I am not horribly disciplined at this point.

15 April 2008

Oh, the Challenges, Part Deux

Hmmm. Since people are actually reading the blog and commenting on it (N. E., I'm talking about you), I've edited my first entry on Oh, the Challenges down.

A friend brought up some good points about the difference between my day and Nate's day and perhaps I'm being a little too hard on my husband. Perhaps. I offer this link:


My point with the previous post, which may have difficult to decipher, is that I am willing to do most of the housework. I like it clean and since I'm home I'll scrub the bathroom and the kitchen. However, I do not expect to have to clean up after and/or live with his messes. I expect that he will do that himself out of consideration pour moi.

Don't get me wrong, I love my husband. He is an outstanding friend, husband, and father. However, if you ever live with someone, frustrations will abound. A very wise friend once told me that what you fight about with your spouse now is what you will fight about in the future. Meaning, people don't change. I won't change wanting things to be picked up and Nate won't change his habits either. In many ways I understand that. In many other ways, it just pisses me off.

Thoughts now?

Also, N. E., your definition of feminism is but one definition. There are many. The whole point of my dissertation is to look at why the media attempt to explain females who are in leadership positions during war and why it is natural for men to occupy those positions. I am not examining violent women, although I've done that in the past. Please follow this link to an abstract:


Keep it coming!

14 April 2008

Revised Proposal. Check.

I finished my revised dissertation proposal on Saturday and sent it in for feedback. I'm not sure what my committee members will think. Hopefully their comments will be positive and I can carry on with this project.

Here are my questions, in case anyone cares:

It is mostly men who perpetuate violence, organize a violent response, and present the media with stories about it. With very few exceptions, women are cast mostly in the role of passive victims.

The story of the attacks on America on September 11, 2001, conjures up many images about gender—especially with regard to the observations about gender and violence above. While men largely perpetrated violence, organized a violent response, and presented the media with stories about violence, some women in powerful leadership positions have provided support and opposition to the violent conflicts that followed that fateful day, now known as conflicts in the “War on Terror.”

Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, and Hillary Clinton all occupy public leadership positions and have weighed in on the “War on Terror.” Other female public servants have also played important roles in expressing support or dissent for state-sponsored violence—typically a masculine endeavor.

The purpose of this dissertation is to expand on Liesbet van Zoonen’s questions about media and gender: How is gender discourse constructed in the various “moments” of mediated meaning production? And “Which meanings are available in media texts and from which discourses do they draw?”


Based on the comments and suggestions I received during my prospectus meeting, I would like to focus on the following questions:

  • Which images of gender (and race) are allowed to surface in the media during a state-sponsored war?

  • Are media constructions based on patriarchal definitions of femininity and masculinity? Or do the constructions challenge the dominant definitions of femininity?

  • How can images of these women be situated historically when compared to other women in leadership roles during times of war?

  • Because the subject of media coverage of women soldiers and victims of war has been well-studied, how do media constructions of women leaders compare to these constructions?

I'm hoping to begin collecting data this week while I'm in Brule with my parents. My dissertation calendar predicts that the collection process will be completed by May. Yeah right. We'll see about that.

On the Bear front, Benny got his highchair this weekend. Nate's boss gave us his son's old one. It's enormous and reclines. What are people thinking when they design these things. Oh well. It was free and used, two things I agree with. And it's six years old. It's amazing how much baby stuff changes from year to year. We bought a used BOB running stroller that is only two years old. Already the design has changed and really rich parents are touting the newest BOB strollers. Seriously. I don't understand all this consumerism for stuff that a baby will use for no more than a year or two.

BUT, the Bear is working on his third tooth (top right). His bottom two are nearly all the way in now. He looks like a reverse beaver! He's been a bit fussy for the past two days, so hopefully that damn tooth breaks the skin soon!

One day I really will be working on the dissertation full time and I won't be tempted to write on this everyday. Hopefully that day arrives soon!

12 April 2008

Oh, the Challenges

Guess where I am right now, at this very moment. A coffee shop. Yay! Time to work on the proposal. Gonna get the revisions knocked out this weekend. But, before I start... A little venting.

Ever wonder what the most challenging part of being a mother would be? I guess I didn’t. I figured the whole job would be challenging. Benny can be a handful sometimes—either he wakes up in a bad mood or is frustrated because I’ve taken a toy away from him or wants to be fed NOW! And, yes, he is a little messy. But he’s a baby and I can handle it.

No, it’s not Benny who is the most challenging part of being a mother. It’s my husband, Nate. I believe marriage is a partnership and I believe that, as partners, we must both have responsibilities and must be considerate of each other, within reason. IN THEORY Nate believes this too. In practice, however, it’s a different story.

Post truncated

11 April 2008

The Momentous Events Explained (Sort of)

Since the dissertation is mostly stagnant right now, I’ll explain why the events in my first post qualify as “momentous.”

ONE: I ran the Chicago Marathon in October 2006. Enough said. It was brutal—unseasonably cold (read: below freezing). Thinking that I would be running in pleasant fall weather, I wore running shorts and a T-shirt. No one has ever complimented me on being over-prepared. But, beyond that, it was a fabulous experience. Chicago is a wonderful city and I enjoyed running through it (except between mile 17 and mile 20 when I felt like my knee cap was going to fall off, literally). I spent the next two months in a walking boot because I fractured a bone in my foot during or shortly after the marathon. Yeah, I’m a hard ass. Don’t be jealous.

TWO: A pregnancy test read positive in November 2006. Nate was sitting at the computer while I was watching the test turn from blank to a little plus sign in the bathroom. He found out that he was going to be a father when I said, “Ummm, Nate.” Classy.

Morning sickness is real. And it’s often not limited to the morning. Let this be a warning to you if you should ever decide to get pregnant: Don’t ride in a car with an Italian sub from Jimmy John’s. You will hold your load until you get home and unleash. Trust me.

THREE: The final seven months of my pregnancy were fabulous. I often forgot I was pregnant during the second trimester, save for my expanding waistline and ass.

FOUR: OK, so the last seven months were MOSTLY fabulous. There were some not-so-fabulous points, mostly related to the incredibly horrible house we moved into in June. In May 2007 we learned that our landlord was selling the duplex where we were living. Bummer. We really enjoyed that place. In a fit of urgency, we saw a cute little house in a cute little neighborhood. When we toured the house a cute little man must have lived there because his style was nothing short of fabulous. It also camouflaged the slanted floors.

When the cute little man moved out, the cute little house stopped being cute and started being NASTY. Nate named it the Wacky Shack and we both broke out in a fit of tears on the day we moved in (hey, I have an excuse: hormones). We tried to see the silver lining about the house. We really did. We lived in a great neighborhood. We could walk everywhere, which was increasingly important because I could barely fit behind the wheel of the car. But we hated it. We really did.

FIVE: Moving on… Benny was five days, lonnnngggg days, late. When I passed my due date, I thought I would be pregnant forever—or at least two more weeks. But, I started feeling contractions at 3 a.m. on July 25, 2007. I didn’t want to get Nate’s hopes up, so I didn’t wake him up until 4:30 a.m. to help me time contractions. PAPA, THIS WAS FOR REAL! We drove to the birthing center at 9 a.m. I was seven centimeters dilated (for those of you who have not birthed, babies come at 10 centimeters). Benjamin Jasper Brown arrived at 1:30 p.m. He was the most beautiful baby on earth. I loved him instantly.

SIX: Until… my hormones got the best of me and postpartum depression set in. I won’t even go into this story now. It deserves its own post. Needless to say, six months after the fact, I still can’t believe that this happened to me. This needs more explaining. I’ll try to do that in a future post.

SEVEN: The move to Denver had been in the works for some time. But, we decided it was for the best because we’d be so close to my family (and we could move out of the Wacky Shack—seriously, that was a consideration!). And, now we’ve been here for nearly five months. I love it here. Denver is a fabulous city. I’ll save all the accolades for another post.

And finally, EIGHT: Last month I month completed my comprehensive exams, wrote my dissertation proposal, and flew to Austin to defend my comps and present my proposal. Phew! The result of all that: I am now a PhD candidate, known in the biz as ABD (all but dissertation). So, now all I have to do is write that dissertation. Eek.

10 April 2008

Life's a Bear

This is a rather arbitrary day to start a blog since there have been so many momentous days in my life over the past year.

I could have started when I was training for a marathon (May 2006-October 2006); when I first learned I was pregnant (November 2006); when the morning sickness ceased and a nice, easy pregnancy followed (January 2007); on the day we moved into the Wacky Shack in Austin (July 2007); on the day my amazing son, Benny, was born (July 25, 2007); after I was discharged from the hospital where I was diagnosed with postpartum depression (October 2007); on our decision to leave Austin for Denver, a move that seemed necessary given the recent events in our lives (November 2007); when I became a PhD candidate after passing my comprehensive exams (March 2008). Yes, it’s certainly been quite a year with lots to write about.

I guess this blog marks the beginning my experience writing my dissertation punctuated by playing at the park with Benny, watching him grow and develop everyday, spending more time with my family, valuing time with my friends, and just carrying on with life in general.

Never once did I think I would be a graduate student with a child. Never did I think I would be a mom at all. Parenthood seems like something you do when you grow up. I am still in school, for the love of god. If that’s not a good excuse to stay immature and self-centered, I’m not sure what is. That positive pregnancy test sure changed many things.

So, here I am: A mom at 30. With a husband, a Volvo station wagon, and a nearly 9-month-old bundle of laughs, smiles, wails, shrieks, and all things baby. And I’m trying to write a dissertation. What was I thinking?