28 May 2008

What Kind of Sick Joke...

I've had all the symptoms all month: voracious appetite, larger breasts (or so I thought), fatigue, late cycle. The only one that was missing was nausea and I probably could have feigned that symptom too. I was so convinced that I was pregnant that I began planning ahead so that if I was pregnant again I could be mentally prepared for it. Because I am not READY to be pregnant again. I've even been very fastidious about taking the pill, which is something I'm usually nonchalant about.

The little blue line on the little white stick, however, said I have nothing to worry about. If that little blue line on that little white stick had been a person, I would have kissed it so hard. It's not that I don't want to have another baby, but another baby now might push me over the edge. Talk about a close call.

Here are a few reasons why I'm not ready, not to mention the lack of sleep a newborn brings with it.

I was having a fantastic chat session with a friend of mine (and another mom) the other night. We were discussing, among other things, what I call the sick joke of motherhood. Here's what people tell you about being pregnant, giving birth, and having children:

1) Being pregnant is hard, but it's worth it in the end. You can eat whatever you want and people will look at you and say "awww, how nice" because you are procreating.

2) Giving birth is like a gift. It hurts, but in the end you'll have a cute little baby to love and snuggle.

3) Motherhood has it's challenges, but in the end, children are a blessing, cute, full of life, etc.

While all of these are true, they only represent half the truth. Yes, in the end everything is "worth it." But here are the not-so-nice aspects of going through the parenting process:

1) Being pregnant is the equivalent of climbing a mountain every day. The first trimester sucks because the fatigue is enough to kick you on your ass. Not to mention the morning sickness. And the "awww, how nice" thoughts give way to, that woman is enormous - how does she stand up without immediately falling over. Plus, no one likes to look at a bloated lady with an enormous stomach (particularly the pregnant woman herself.

2) Birthing is a magical, lovely process. Although, when the baby moves through the birth canal and through your va-hay-hay it burns. It burns BAD! The contractions aren't so pleasant either. Nor are the pains post-pregnancy of trying to pee, poop, or any other normal human function.

3) Motherhood is infinitely rewarding. Benny lights up my life everyday. But, see the previous post. Also, no one REALLY tells you how being pregnant RAVAGES your body. And when I say "ravage" I mean messes you up forever!

In the end, it is worth it. But I haven't gotten to the end yet and I could not handle another pregnancy right now.

A Different Kind of Bear

Benny has been putting a new meaning in his name, Bear, lately. By new meaning I mean he's being difficult. I'm not sure if it's because he's frustrated that he can't transport himself by walking exclusively (although he's getting much better) or if it's because he's getting some new teeth in. No matter, he has not been what I would call an easy baby this week. He's been pickier about what he eats (and by that, I mean he's been spitting a lot of his food out), he cries when he's not walking, then he cries when he does, he rubs his face like he's tired all day. I love the Bear but these past few days have worn me out!

In some more positive news, I'm nearly finished with the "data collection" phase of the dissertation process. I'm sure I'll run into a few snags during the analysis process, but I only have about one more year of time to scan and then I'm DONE! Speaking of, I left my different kind of Bear with papa for the evening and I"m supposed to be working. I best get to it!

27 May 2008

A Case of the Not-So-Crazies

So, here's the sixth and final post about my postpartum depression experience. I figured it's about time. I haven't had any problems with postpartum depression since mid-January. I stopped taking my medication in March. I stopped going to support group two weeks ago. In short, I've been "normal" for some time. Not that anything goes back to normal after having a child, but you know what I mean.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I attended support group meetings with other moms who have experienced postpartum depression. These meetings were more helpful than I ever could have imagined. By the time I started attending meetings in Denver, things were improving - not just with my mental state, but with life in general.

We moved out of the Wacky Shack without a penalty. We may have stretched the truth a little to get out of our lease. OK, so we outright lied, but we could not live there any more! I stressed about our move to Denver. It was a big deal - especially considering my mental state! I didn't know how Benny would ride in the car for five to six hours a day or how he would sleep in a hotel bed. He was amazing on all accounts. And, it helped to have my mom with me. We stayed with my great aunt and uncle while we looked for a place to live in Denver. They were life savers. They cooked for us, made us feel very welcome, and fell in love with Benny. I think they were disappointed that we found an apartment so quickly.

Four days after we moved into our new apartment Benny started sleeping through the night. He went from waking up three times a night to no times a night in less than a month. Perhaps giving him formula and his own room helped. Whatever it was, it was fabulous to have a full night's sleep again!

Denver is a great city. It's close to the mountains and close to my family. Everything went from overwhelming in Austin to completely manageable (and even enjoyable) in Denver.

So, by Christmas, things were returning to normal. We settled into our new apartment, we drove to Iowa for a pre-Christmas celebration, and we returned to Denver to start the new year with a fresh start. But, those support group meetings gave me something to do every week. And, the women there were so supportive (no surprise).

There you have it. My entire journey through some serious mental agony to the present. Although I'm terrified of going through this again when I have another baby, I now know what to look for. As another mom told me, I'm entering the battle with a full set of armor.

22 May 2008

A Small Step for Man

But a HUGE step for bear-kind! Benny took his first steps last night. He was hanging on to some keys and just walked and walked and walked. OK, maybe he didn't master walking in one night, but he did walk quite a bit. We have it on video. Check it out on my links. So far, he hasn't repeated the feat today, but we'll work on it.

Oh, my little bear is growing up!

21 May 2008

Stuff from All Over


Good news, faithful reader... The data-gathering phase of the dissertation process is nearing completion. I only have about two more years to scan in Time magazine and then I'll scan The Nation and National Review, which won't be nearly as time consuming because they are monthly, not weekly, publications. So far I have a stack of copies sitting on my kitchen table. At least that's something!


My little bear is now standing by himself for minutes, not seconds, at a time. He takes little baby steps once in awhile. They are more like baby shuffles, but he's getting there. Last night Nate put Benny down at 7:30. He still wasn't asleep at 8:30, so I went in his room to check on him. I was greeted simultaneously by an enormous smile and the stench of a diaper full of poo. I can't say that Benny was excited to see me. He was probably just excited to see me because it meant that he wouldn't have to sit in his dirty diaper any more. It's gotta be rough being a 10 month old!

Once the diaper-changing duties were completed, I carried Benny to the living room to say goodnight to his papa. He smiled, and smiled, and smiled. So, we had him hang out with us. And he was a treat! He held on to my hand and walked circles around me for at least 10 minutes while screeching with pleasure. Then I put him in bed and he passed out less than five minutes in his crib.


Because I stopped breastfeeding so early and still feel guilty about it I'm trying to make sure that Benny only gets the best possible solid food. I make most everything he eats. And, after sampling stuff from the jar and the stuff I make, I have to admit, my stuff is far superior. It tastes fresh and yummy. Nate and I were discussing our favorite Benny meals. My all-time favorite is asparagus and carrots with a bit of whole grain cereal mixed in. It's so delightful that I save a spoonful for the end of the meal so I can taste it. Nate combined mango and avocado last night and raved about the meddling of flavors.

It's no wonder Benny is so chubby!!!

20 May 2008

A Case of the Crazies, V

In this postpartum depression journey, I’ve written about not sleeping, going crazy, realizing I was going crazy, and admitting myself to the looney bin. Although I have plenty of stories from the looney bin, they’re mostly bitter, bitter recounts of a three-day weekend. All in all, I went to the hospital to get on mood and sleeping drugs and to put my family through the ringer (oh, and to get over billed for sub par care).

So, I will fast forward to the day I left the looney bin. It was a gorgeous October day: The kind of day Austinites wait for all summer—sunny, but only with a hint of humidity. I won’t lie, I was kind of scared of getting out. I was still crawling out of my skin with anxiety and I didn’t know what kind of recovery I was in for. Nate and Benny picked me up in the morning. Being outside was a huge relief (there’s a policy at the looney bin: don’t let the crazies outside—the fresh air might actually help them).

My happy face was partly happy, but it was mostly a disguise. It was good to see my boys again and to know I was going home. Nate seemed so relieved to have me back. And he and Benny had obviously bonded a great deal while I was away for three days.

But, we all knew that I wasn’t “fixed.” In fact, Nate told me that he was so excited to have me back, but then realized that the next few weeks would probably be harder than having me locked away. Zoloft generally doesn’t kick in for two weeks, so I just had to wait. Nate also took the week off of work. I’m not sure if I would have survived that week without him. After all, there was a 10 pound stranger in my house whose crying sent shivers up my arms. To top it all off, the Ambien I was taking for sleep only knocked me out for about four hours. Nate and Benny slept in our room and I slept in the spare bedroom so I could sleep undisturbed. But, between the short-lived Ambien and pumping, my sleep was infrequent and anything but undisturbed.

I had some delusional notion that I would only be on Ambien for about a week, everything would be better, and I could start breastfeeding again. So, I pumped and pumped and pumped. As it turns out, when I was still in the “preparing for mommyhood” stage, I had planned on breastfeeding for the better part of Benny’s first year. With that notion in mind, I bought an “occasional use” breast pump. It was electric, but it had a tiny little pump with a tiny little motor. Pumping once a day may have been OK for the little guy, but pumping BOTH breasts SIX times a day proved to be too much. I burnt out the pump on my breast pump in less than a week! For anyone who has breastfed, you’ll understand my reference to rock-hard boobs. I ran around town for an entire day trying to secure another breast pump, which is another story entirely. I was convinced that I was going to clog a milk duct and die from the infection that ensued.

Long story short, I rented a breast pump, hoping that I would be able to breastfeed again. After two and a half weeks on Ambien with no signs of better sleep, I decided that this battle was far from over and that I should focus on getting well. Even if that meant never breastfeeding my little bear again.

One of the biggest issues I have with my care at the looney bin is the after care. The problem? There was no after care. The doctor gave me a prescription for three drugs, the social worker encouraged me to write in a journal, and they discharged me. I’m no mental health care expert, but I’m fairly certain that they should have encouraged therapy or a support group or something. Luckily in my research of postpartum depression, I learned about a postpartum support group in Austin. Although I’m sure the drugs played a part in my recovery, the support groups in Austin and then in Denver really, truly got me through some very difficult weeks.

I’ll end this section with a resource every mother should have on hand: Postpartum Support International. It's a sort of repository of support groups, therapists, and information about postpartum depression. Check it out at www.postpartum.net.

18 May 2008

Another Day...

It's Sunday, yet again. I'm at the library, yet again. I've had some productive days in the last two weeks, of which I'm very proud. Granted, I'm not really writing anything yet, but I'm gathering all of my data. Here's the tally thus far...

The ladies of interest in my dissertation include Condoleezza Rice (whose name, it turns out is a reference to musical score), Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi. I'm interested in coverage post-September 11, but I started looking in 2000 since Clinton was elected that year and Rice was appointed that year. Not surprisingly, Rice is winning in coverage about war. But, I'm on the year 2005 right now and I think it's going to be a big couple of years coming up for the ladies. Rice is appointed to the Secretary of State position in 2005 and in 2006 Pelosi is named the first female Speaker of the House, and Clinton starts exploring a bid for the White House in 2008. Yes, a busy couple of years indeed. I haven't really read through any of the stories, so there are no interesting tidbits I can provide.

However, I had a moment of brilliance last week as I was mulling over my introduction chapter. I was in a version of the play Lysistrata when I was in high school. The play is about women in ancient Greece withholding sex from their husbands until the men agree to stop the war. It's much more complicated than that, but you get my drift. I thought: "How brilliant! This says so much about how gender is constructed during wartime - even in ancient Greece!" It's a perfect way to tie everything together. Well, it turns out that it's not so obscure. Peace activists have been putting on plays within the Lysistrata theme for years. I'm still going to use the reference, but it may not be given such prominence.

So, that's the story of my weekend. I've had a good one. Productivity with a bit of drinking, birthday celebrations, babysitting, and napping mixed in. All in all, much better than last Sunday!

14 May 2008

Not So Bad

After a rather depressing post, I figured it was about time I count my blessings.

At least I have the money and security to live a comfortable life. At least Benny is not a middle schooler in China where he could be one of the many dead children that perished in this week's earthquake. At least I have amazing friends and family who visit often and support me and my boys. At least I'm healthy and active and live in the mountains. At least I could get treatment for my postpartum depression. At least it wasn't as bad as it could have been. At least I have a husband who supports me and is a great dad.

There are many things to be thankful for in this messed up world. And although this may seem random and inconsequential, at least I don't have as many messed up problems as Amy Winehouse. I was listening to her on the way to Brule today. She's an amazing artist, but damn, she's seen better days.

Benny and I are in Brule for the rest of the week after hanging out with our Pretty Girl friend in Denver. Time to get some work done - even though it's becoming more and more difficult as Benny gets more and more active every day. One day he'll just take off walking and then he'll be graduating from high school. Oh well. At least I have this time with him. And for that I am thankful.

12 May 2008

A Case of the Crazies, IV

This is the "looney bin" chapter of "A Case of the Crazies." It seems so hard to believe that I was actually a patient at a mental hospital now. But, I was. And here's the story...

To catch any new readers up: I had a spell of postpartum depression when Benny was around three months old. Nate and I went to a mental hospital in Austin so I could have a mental health evaluation. The psychiatrist who gave me an evaluation recommended that I check myself in. Eek. Double, triple eek.

Nate and I cried. A lot. We waited in a small room in the hospital while I was admitted. Benny, the ever amazing baby, didn't seem to mind at all. Nate left about an hour later so Benny could have a nap and I waited and waited and waited in the lobby. I had my evaluation at 11 a.m. and didn't get checked in until 5 p.m. I have a lot to say about the quality of care I received. None of it is positive - even six months later when I've had time to think about it.

When an orderly brought me down to the "psyche" ward, I was greeted by a head-twitching woman, a crying woman, and several people in line for dinner. The walls were mental hospital green and florescent lighting brightened the room. It was straight out of a movie. But much scarier because I was actually a patient there.

I had no idea what to expect, but I was too tired and anxious to really care. I asked a nurse for some sleeping medication straight away. I was there to sleep and relax. The nurse told me that they did not distribute medication until the 9 p.m. because they didn't want patients to get off their sleep schedule (what sleep schedule? everyone there had some sort of sleeping disorder). So, I sat and waited for visiting hours.

In the meantime, I had a physical to ensure that I wasn't pregnant, etc. It took less than 5 minutes. I'm still trying to get my insurance to pay the $250 bill for the physical.

Children weren't allowed on the fifth floor, but the hospital made an exception for me since I was breastfeeding. Nate showed up at around 6 p.m. with Benny. It was very surreal. Here I was, a new mom, with my husband and child in my semi-private room (which I shared with a angry anorexic teenager - semi-private my ass). At the time of my breakdown, Benny still hadn't taken a bottle. Not a big deal until his mom went crazy and checked into the looney bin. Nate and I had no idea what to expect, so I fed Benny more than I had ever fed him before. Nate had permission to visit at any time in case Benny didn't take the bottle, but neither of us wanted him to visit in the middle of the night for an emergency feeding. It turns out that that was our last breastfeeding - a memory that still makes me tear up. No mom wants to remember the last time she breastfed her baby - at a mental hospital with a angry anorexic teenager on the next bed. Messed up.

I worried about Nate and Benny. I didn't know how they would do - especially with the bottle. They stayed at a friend's house that night and we will forever be indebted to her. Nate just needed to know that someone else was in the house to help if he needed it.

At 9 p.m. sharp I lined up with the rest of the mental patients for my meds. They put me on Zoloft (for depression and anxiety), Xanax (for anxiety), and Ambien (for sleep). I laid down and slept for six straight hours before waking up to pump. Since my pump had a plug, I had to find an orderly to unlock it for me (I could have hung myself with the plug - or so says the policy). Luckily, the weekend orderlies were much more lax than the weekday orderlies and they let me pump in private. I didn't sleep well the rest of the night.

The rest of my three-day stay followed a similar pattern. Waiting for meds, pumping, waiting for visiting hours. I also got to talk with some people who were much worse off than I was and it opened my eyes to mental health. The head-ticking woman ended up being a lovely human being who was just incredibly depressed. She loved Benny's visits and couldn't stop talking about him. The woman who was crying had twin girls and had pushed herself to a breaking point.

During my stay, I saw my psychiatrist for a total of 30 minutes (and that's a very liberal estimation). I'm still trying to get my insurance to pay his $1,000 bill. What a load of crap.

Benny and Nate survived the night. But that's a story for another post, as is a description of the rest of my stay and recovery.

11 May 2008

Call Your Mom

Happy Mother's Day! It's my first and it's been fantastic. Nate watched Benny last night so I could go out with a friend for mojitos - yummy. Today we went and picked up some house plants at a fantastic garden store called City Floral. If you live in Denver and want a great hole in the wall garden spot, this is it! Then we drove downtown to a little vegetarian pizza place and had a fantastic lunch (with even better Americanos). I was a little bummed yesterday because I didn't think Nate was going to acknowledge the day, but he did. He may get a bad rap every now and then, but he's a pretty fabulous guy.

Now I'm at the library. You could point out that I'm not working, but I will be. Soon. I worked quite a bit yesterday. It seems I've found a streak of motivation and I'm going to ride it until it dies. Hopefully that won't be for awhile. Unless I kill it, which is a strong possibility.

Don't forget to call your mom. I bet she's pretty special!

06 May 2008

Hurricane Benny

It’s amazing to watch Benny grow and develop everyday. He’s getting into everything now—cupboards, shelves, books, the stereo, food on the floor, my backpack, my purse—really, anything within reach. And his reach is expanding dramatically. He stands and walks along the furniture, reaching ever so carefully for a set of car keys, a magazine, a used tissue, anything that looks interesting. He’s even saying mamamamamama with such joy that I can’t help but think that he’s starting to link the sound to me (it’s wishful thinking; he does the same thing with dadadada, abooo, nananana).

The learning process, however, is messy, as any parent will tell you. It starts in the morning. Nate typically gets up with Benny, changes his diaper, and then brings him into our bed for some good old fashioned family time. It’s such a bright part of the day for Nate since he doesn’t get to spend much time with Benny. Then we bring him out for breakfast. I encourage him to get into his toy box while I make him breakfast. Note: this is the only time of the day Benny is actually interested in his toys. He eats with deliberate concentration (he hasn’t eaten in over 12 hours—a long time for his little belly). We get dressed. Well, I dress Benny and I’m lucky if I can keep him occupied long enough in my room to get dressed myself. I usually wear things over and over and over because I don’t have enough time to pick out new outfits everyday.

And then, the eye of the storm arrives. Benny crawls around for about an hour, exploring anything and everything in his path. He loves stuff that rolls now (balls, my lotion containers, his snot extractor) and chases it all over the apartment, pausing to climb on the coffee table or find cheerios on the floor. And then the storm abates for nap time (precious, precious nap time).

When Benny wakes up, we go through nearly the same process over again (usually getting him dressed again after some food or poop accident). And it goes on all day.

I’ve gotten in the habit of complaining, whining, detailing how I don’t get anything done on my dissertation. My advisor, who is a wonderful mother of two little boys, wrote me today and told me to stop being so hard on myself. She should know. She wrote her dissertation with a little baby as well. But, instead of taking the easy road of textual analysis (comme moi), she carried out an ethnography with a baby in tow. Not a small feat. After going through my day with Benny, I really appreciate her support. She’s right. It’s not like I’m completely unproductive all day. I’m lucky enough to watch my baby grow right before my eyes AND manage to put clothes on at some point in the day.

During nap times I’ve gotten better about reading journal articles and taking notes for my literature review. In the past week, I’ve read over 10. That’s progress. Slow progress, but progress. And tonight I’ll be visiting the library for the first time. But before I go to the library, I must complete my day with Benny.

Today was a bit of anomaly. I was very productive during a long morning nap. I thought I could repeat my performance during a decent afternoon nap. Today was the day Benny decided to take a 45-minute afternoon nap. Since he’s had a bad case of diaper rash, we’ve been letting him gallivant around sans diaper. Usually he pees a few times. Not a problem. Today, in the span of 45 minutes, he peed three times on the wood floor before peeing twice on the rug. Then, going for the world record, he peed again on the wood floor, POOPED on the wood floor, and then peed on my shoe while giggling. Yes, he was giggling. And after I said, “Oh Bear!” I was giggling.

All the while I was making him some pears for dinner and managed to cut my finger because the peeler was in the dishwasher and I was using a steak knife. Then Nate walks in, scoops up Benny, and Momma gets herself some rest.

And, that is a day in the life of a graduate student mother.

04 May 2008

Super Sunday

Lazy Sunday mornings and afternoons are like a gift. Often I wile them away with naps and reading the newspaper and by the evening I'm so pissed off that I haven't done anything productive that lazy Sundays seem more like a curse than a gift.

I drafted a calendar of tasks that I must complete every week until my dissertation is finished. Guess how many tasks I've completed this week? Go ahead, give me the benefit of the doubt. DO NOT GIVE ME THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT. I have completed zero, none, nada on that calendar. In my own defense, I have been reading journal articles and taking notes for the literature review, but when it comes to gathering data, I'm way behind. This process is overwhelming. I will probably continue to bitch about my procrastination techniques until I graduate - if that ever happens.

Socially, though, life is pretty rocking. Nate and I made some new friends last night. We invited our neighbors over for some wine and ended up talking until nearly midnight. Good times. See, if drinking were an important part of writing, I'd be finished with this dissertation in no time. Must see how I can incorporate libations into this process and avoid drunkenness and hangovers. That's definitely on my calendar of things to do for this week!

02 May 2008

A Case of the Crazies, III

As the title of this post implies, this is the third installment of my "case of the crazies" (i.e. postpartum depression). I spent three days in a mental institution and I don't have the time or the space to describe how messed up that was. But, I'll try ... in another post. Until then, may the suspense build.

Our birthing instructor had warned us to keep an eye out for the symptoms of postpartum depression. I rooted through all of our materials from the class and began reading the list of symptoms. My problems over the past couple of weeks lined up with almost every symptom. By the time Nate returned home with Benny, I had called a postpartum depression hotline. I told the woman on the line my story, she gave me a test, and after looking at the results, she encouraged me to get help right away.

For a couple who has never dealt with mental illness in any way, Nate and I were at a loss for what to do.

Ideally, I would have scheduled an appointment to see a psychiatrist asap. Unfortunately, there is a serious lack of psychiatrists in Austin. I couldn’t get in for over a month. That left us with few options. I could visit the ER and hope to see a psychiatrist. Or, I could visit the local mental hospital and have a psychiatrist perform a mental health evaluation. Our insurance company suggested the latter option.

Nate drove the family to the mental hospital (what I will refer to from here on out as the “looney bin”). When we arrived, he told me that they would not provide outpatient care, only in-patient. If they deemed necessary, I would have to voluntarily check myself in.

After a psychiatrist evaluated the state of my mental health, she recommended that I check myself in for at least a day so I could begin taking medication and get some much-needed sleep. Are you kidding me? I was not in the right mind to tell her to boink off. The recommendation hit us like a freight train.