Friday, December 30, 2011

new year

All in all, 2011 was a pretty great year. It didn't always feel like it in the moment, but the events of the year add up to a lot, and that's worth noting. Instead of reflecting on last year, I'm looking forward! Setting my intentions for 2012 and putting my mind on what is to come rather than what has passed

1. In 2012, I plan to respect my body more, and in so doing, I hope to take better care of it than I do now. This will certainly be a challenge, but it's an intention I'm setting and I'll do the best I can to carry it out. I do not plan to diet or stick to some regiment, but I will do what has always worked for me in the past: to honor what my body actually asks for in terms of food, exercise, love, and care.

2. In 2012, I hope to stop spending time worrying about all the bad things that might happen to me, to my DH, and to the kids (and the house, and the car, and my get the picture). Worrying does not keep bad things from happening, but it steals my ability to feel joy when good things are happening.

3. In 2012, I would like to work on my relationship with DH. This probably deserves a post of its own at some point...we're still relatively strong, but the day to day business of taking care of young kids has made our connection less personal somehow. I'd like to get that back. And sex? Man, I'm missing it, which should tell you how impersonal our connection feels at the moment.

4. In 2012, I'd like to do some writing. I'm not a very good writer, really, and I'd like to become better. I'd like to find a more authentic writing voice, if such a thing exists. I've become such an academic writer, a precise and careful writer, that there's no risk to the process anymore. There's no joy in it. And there's no spontaneity. See those last few sentences? That structure is one of my most common (three sentences, the third one starting with "And"). I'd like to stop writing in structures. They're unconscious at this point, but they're holding me back. Free-verse, I say! Unexpected sentence format!

5. Last but not least, I plan to pay attention to the moment. This is an intention I set every year and I figure by continuing to set it, I will continue to improve on doing so. I don't aim for perfection, but I'd like to be present for my life even more than I am now (which is not very much at all, lately).

Do you make intentions or resolutions for the new year? Do they matter to you?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

and so it goes

I've been officially diagnosed with postpartum anxiety. I kinda knew that the diagnosis was coming because I called my therapist and said, "hey...can I come by? I think I have postpartum anxiety." Three visits in, she agreed and recommended occasional talk therapy (she's kinda "on call," so I'm not going every week, but I'll email her when I feel it's getting frustrating and we'll have a visit to check in on my coping skills). She also suggested or some other anti-anxiety med, but since I'm breastfeeding (exclusively), I can't take anything now. Maybe I'll consider meds in the future if this sticks around.

The anxiety is manifesting itself in obsessive thoughts and the beginnings of ocd rituals, like using my right hand to support her head when I put her down to sleep instead of my left. Or repeating certain prayers over and over a specific number of times in order to ward away danger.  I have never had any ocd behaviors before now, so these weird behaviors are how I knew that something was up. I have experienced what I consider to be fairly normal levels of anxiety in my non-postpartum life, and I always thought of it as an endearing aspect of my personality. I imagine myself as a marginal but sweet character in a Woody Allen film. But this level of anxiety is not endearing or sweet. This current anxiety level is much higher. More acute. More painful.

I think it's under control today. Deep breathing helps. Saying things like "these are just thoughts...they're not real" is also useful. I have a list of reality checks that my therapist and I came up with to read over when I feel overwhelmed by fear.

How weird this is. I was stressed out through the pregnancy with thoughts that something would go wrong, and it didn't (except for the C section, but that's a minor inconvenience, not the kind of tragedy I was worrying about). I was stressed out during those first few weeks when she seemed tired and unusually lethargic, all of which turned out to be nothing (after multiple doctor visits and that ER trip). And here I sit, stressed out again without any real reason for doing so.

One of the things that scares me a bit is that whenever I talk to people IRL about my recent anxiety problems, people have a tendency to say things like "it only gets worse from here" and "little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems!" I don't tell them the real level of the anxiety--the ocd stuff or the way that I feel like a cloud of doom is hovering over my shoulders, but given their pat responses, that's probably a smart move. If I had some fellow new mom friends IRL, maybe I could discuss it with them, but I don't have any that I know well enough (yet). But what if they're right and I will suffer this kind of mother-related anxiety the rest of my life? I suppose it doesn't matter and I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other, just learning to manage this anxiety and accept where I am today. Breathe, Rachael, breathe.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Today, my little boy is turning two years old. And I am turning two as a mother, which seems just as significant (to me, anyway). Being two is hard!

For W, being two means talking. A lot. New words come out every single day and he's saying short sentences ("I did it!" and "Airplane is up in the sky!"). Just a few days ago, he sang parts of Twinkle, Twinkle and ABC (mostly singing the last words of each line in a complete monotone--very sweet!). He loves "chicken," which in fact is not chicken at all but is a fake chicken nugget made of soy. His other favorites are green beans, lima beans, broccoli, fruit of any kind (grapes cut into tiny pieces are a current fave), bagels with cream cheese, and "bish" (goldfish crackers).

He sleeps on his own, most of the time. Last week, he was in our bed at least once a night for several nights in a row. But last night, he slept in his crib again by himself. I think the disruption is due to the new baby--W is still trying to figure out where he fits in. And speaking of the new baby, he likes her, I think, though he doesn't seem to understand that she's a fellow person. I found him the other day poking at her eyes and it scared the hell out of me. She wasn't bothered at all, and she has a tendency to smile very wide when he comes directly into her view. He doesn't notice this smile and doesn't seem to get why this is such a big deal, but I tell him it is and hopefully he'll get it soon.

He likes the stereotypically two year old things: blocks, cars, stuffed animals, flashy shiny toys that friends have handed down to us (we don't generally buy toys for him--they're all hand-me-downs). His favorite things, though, are dinosaurs in any shape or kind. We have several stuffed dinosaurs and two big dinosaur toys that make roaring sounds and have flashing lights for eyes. I find them quite scary, but W cannot get enough. He also loves "mimic," which is his word for music. As soon as he's buckled into his car seat, he begins demanding "mimic," and in between songs, he asks "Mimic??" until the next track comes on.

My second year of motherhood has been WAY better than the first. As you all know, I found the first few months of W's life to be quite difficult. Impossible, even, though I seem to have survived which means that it only felt impossible. I remember all too well how minutes ticked by so slowly in those early months. I'm sure I've told the story before that I honestly thought one of our clock's batteries had died because the clock appeared to have stopped. I found out later that the clock was still working fine--it was just my perception of time that had slowed to a crawl. Awful. I also remember pacing the floors because W liked movement. I couldn't sit down because he'd cry, so the creaking floorboards in our house are surely due to those long, painful days.

It all got much better around four months and then by nine or ten months, it was even better. It's pretty damn wonderful now, but having two babies is my new motherhood challenge. How do people survive having two??? I guess I'll figure out. I'm two and a half months into having two babies, and as I said above, I'm still here. It helps that E is quite different than W was--much easier and more laid-back.

On a spiritual level, being a mother is like a hard-core meditation practice. It doesn't necessarily feel great in the moment--it can sometimes feel quite grueling (talk to me about motherhood during one of W's latest tantrums, for instance, which include throwing himself to the ground, screaming, and thrashing about, and I might say "don't do it!")--but over time, being a mother coalesces me into something bigger than I was before having a baby. I am more full of love and amazement and beauty than I was before.

Ah, what is it about having children that turns people into sentimental mushes? Well, it is what it is. I am a mush for my kids. In person, you'd find me more acerbic and less sentimental, I think. Maybe it's writing about having children that turns me into a mush? Maybe it's the birthday? I suppose it's so hard to describe the experience that words fail, you know? Would I have been a fabulous person without W in the world? Yes, of course. I was doing just fine. But two years ago, when W came into this world and changed our lives, I became a new person. I experienced a rebirth. And kicking and screaming at least part of the way, I became the person I am today. I suppose this is it: living with a child alters one's own perception of the world.

So today, I say happy birthday to my dear, sweet baby boy Wyatt. And I say happy birthday to the mother that I am, flaws and all. We made it this far, and I'm very curious to see where we go next!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

homemaking, or the lack thereof

I suck at it. Seriously. We went to visit a couple who has a big beautiful house and four children and I was struck by how beautifully they had decorated their house for the holidays. The kids were all working on art projects to continue the decoration. And the mother was in the midst of cooking multiple dishes (some for us and others for the week to come). The parents do it all without help--they both work full time, they have no cleaning or child care help (all the kids are school age), and they're running around with more obligations than we have. But it was lovely. They even had bought presents for W's birthday and for the holidays for both our kids.

Sigh. We came home after this visit to our completely undecorated house in which I was planning on offering boxed mac and cheese to W and entertaining him by watching some crappy kids show on Spr.out.

I wish I had an artistic sensibility. Or was a better cleaner. People DO say that our house is warm and inviting, but I sometimes think that's just because I light candles and occasionally make brownies (from a box) for guests. In reality, we sometimes are just struggling to get through the days. Who has time for beauty and decorating and art?

Maybe this post should be sponsored by my MIL, who is coming over today for a little birthday party we're throwing for W (with a store-bought cake, no less). She constantly digs at me about my homemaking skills. I'd love to ban her from my life, but I suppose that's not an option, is it?

Off to get a store-bought wreath or something for our front door....