Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hanging in there

Hello, incredibly neglected blog readers.

I'm still here. 

I'm still having a lot of anxiety, a lot of intrusive thoughts.  I've spent a lot of time crying lately.

It's so stupid because I want this baby so much (we tried for a year!), and I love my family, and I'm so, so lucky...  I don't know why I'm ruining it for myself. 

It is what it is.  It is not in my control.  I don't choose this.

I'm spending a lot of time reading about anxiety, particularly anxiety during pregnancy and postpartum.  I'm spending a lot of time doing breathing exercises.  I'm doing housework, because when the house is a mess, the anxiety gets worse (in the form of "I'm a terrible mother, look at this house!  What a failure I am!" etc.). 

It's weird that at my most-crazy, my house is cleaner than ever, isn't it?  I've made my bed every morning for over three weeks - I didn't ever do that before.  (Part of it is because our bedroom is downstairs now, but still.)

I've realized that I was probably misdiagnosed last time - I think it has always been anxiety.  I don't think it was ever classic postpartum depression.  I could go into the reasons why, but to mentally tally them up so I could list them would be hard right now, so I won't.  But I think this is the same as what happened when I was pregnant with Mary Grace.  And it must just be part of how I do pregnancy.  With Claire, I could focus it on her because I had ICP and there was a risk that she could die - so I had an appropriate outlet for my anxiety (not to mention 100 mg a day of Zoloft!).  Now, because this pregnancy is healthy (and I'm so grateful that it is!) I don't have that appropriate channel or outlet.  And as we get closer to the point at which it all went wrong with Claire (32 weeks) the anxiety gets worse.  I'm waiting for the ICP shoe to drop, or the preeclampsia shoe to drop, and it's maddening.

I'm not sleeping well, or resting well during the day.  I'm taking the kids out a lot less.  Most afternoons we stay close to home.  Thank goodness they have friends in the neighborhood, so they aren't completely bored out of their skulls.  I'm going to try to take them to get new shoes this afternoon.  We'll see.

The midwife and I are meeting every two weeks, now, in light of what's going on.  She gave me her cell phone number today.  I told her I'd try really hard not to call her at 3 am to ask stupid questions.  She's so great, though, she probably wouldn't mind if I did.

This is temporary.  I just have to keep breathing for the next 3 months, and then the first 6 months after the baby comes, and after that things will be fine again.  I know they will.  Things got fine again after Mary Grace was born, and I never thought they would.  They'll be fine again by next summer, next fall at the latest.  This is just a season.  I'm managing it all so much better this time than I did when I had Mary Grace.  I'm not being stubborn like I was then, when I refused to admit that I was struggling.  I'm getting help to manage it.  I'm leaning on BJ, and on my family and my friends.  I'm learning new ways to cope with intrusive thoughts.  I'm being proactive, and not waiting until I'm at my wit's end to react. 

I'm doing everything I can. 

I've only gained 5 pounds (at 26 weeks!).  I'm measuring one week ahead (27 cm).  My blood pressure is fine.  I did the glucose tolerance test today (yuck!) and we drew a liver panel, too, to check on the ICP.  I've got another blood draw tomorrow for bile salts, but for that one I need to fast, so we couldn't do them all at once.  The baby, thank goodness, is healthy and strong, his or her heart rate was 140 today in spite of the massive dose of glucose.  Everything would be going perfectly if I could just get out of my own head.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I'm Being Very Brave

I was concerned about Mary Grace's class this year (OMG, someone run and tell the school right now!) because there are 16 boys and 8 girls (oh, you thought I was going to say something controversial?  Neener neener!!).  Only one girl moved on to the 4 day pre-k class with her from her previous class, and I was afraid that she would have a hard time making friends.

Hah!  Have I even met my kid?

Within 10 seconds of getting out the first day, she told me all about her new friend Brooke and how cool Brooke is and what a good friend she is and how much she loves her and Mommy can we please have a playdate please Mommy please please please?

Well, considering that we've had a very medical couple of weeks - with dentists and eye doctors and every other kind of appointment - it's no surprise that today was the first time our schedules aligned and they were able to play.

Brooke's mom has two older daughters who are in school, and said that it would be no problem to just pick Mary Grace up when she picked Brooke up, take them out for a playdate, and bring MG back later.  Then she very graciously offered to take Claire too! 

So, I let someone I barely know, who I've talked to a few times in the school parking lot, pick up my children and take them from school in the midst of dealing with a pretty serious anxiety thing.

I know!

So what if I'm obsessively checked my phone every 30 seconds?  I'm doing ok.  The kids won't know I've checked my phone a thousand times.  They're probably having a blast.  BJ and I went out for lunch, and I made a joke about cruising the parking lot at school to make sure that Brooke's mom had everyone, but I was mostly joking.  Mostly.  I didn't do it, anyway.  I've been at work all morning, actually accomplishing things and able to complete thoughts and not worrying too horribly much about the fact that it's pouring outside and no one in this college town knows how to drive.  Brooke's mom drives a tank.  They're fine.

They're fine.

They are fine.

This is how I do things, how I deal with things.  I acknowledge them, I face them head on, and I barrel right through them.  I am not the sort of person who hides from fear.  Not me.

Along a similar vein, I've been facing my fear of water.  I signed the girls up for semi-private swimming lessons with Karen's son Cameron and a teacher who is a high school student (BREATHE, Amy!).  We went for the first time last Sunday.

I probably didn't blog about the time I went with BJ to the lessons we did over the summer.  For eight of the nine lessons, I made him take them alone.  I went to one.  They made me sit behind an 8 foot spiky fence, which meant that if something happened I would've had to go over the fence, through the fence, or (most likely) around the fence, into the building, through the locker room, along the long side of the big pool, all the way to the baby pool, through the gate, and only then would I have been able to get to them.  It was not a good set up for me.  Not even a little.  It was a 20 minute class.  I made it about 5 minutes before I burst into tears.

I have this thing about water...

So we show up for swimming on Sunday, and the kids are stoked and I'm feeling very much like I'm going to throw up, but I'm ok, until the high school aged teacher says, "The water over here is really cold, so we're going to the other pool, by the diving boards."

The diving well is 17 feet deep.

I died.

The teacher took the kids, and I told Karen and BJ that I had to go to the bathroom, and I went back into the locker room to hyperventilate a little.  But I got myself together and I went back out there and put on a happy face, and I cheered on my kids who were so proud of themselves.  And wouldn't you know, they learned more in that 45 minute lesson than they had in 2 weeks of daily 20 minute lessons this summer.  I only had to white-knuckle the bench a few times.  I didn't throw up.

The therapist I saw last week told me to hire a housekeeper, have people bring in meals, and go to bed for the next 6 - 9 months.  I'm not going back to her.  I can't go to bed for 1/2 to 3/4 of a year.  I need to face this thing.  I need to stare my deepest, ugliest monsters in the face and then beat the shit out of them.  I don't know any other way of being, and I know that I wouldn't be me if I ran and hid under the covers. 

Because I AM very brave, even if I have to chant, "They're fine, they're fine, they're fine," to myself for the next hour.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


It's back.  I've been trying to deny it for weeks, now, but the more I try to deny it, the worse it gets. 

I'm such an overachiever that I get postpartum depression before I give birth!  (They're calling it "Perinatal Anxiety and Mood Disorder" now).  I had it when I was pregnant with Mary Grace - back then I was so convinced that I was going to die in childbirth that I wrote BJ a very maudlin letter and gave it to his best friend, just in case.  I spent days crying.  I gave myself high blood pressure, worrying, and got put on bedrest.  She was born in August of 2005 (and I lived!) and I didn't get help until April of 2006.

I'm stubborn like that.  And stupid.

I got pregnant with Claire in July of 2006 - about 20 minutes after the Zoloft started working.  I stayed on  meds until my third trimester, then went off of it abruptly after I read a scary news story about the effects of antidepressants on fetuses and newborns (stupid!), then went back on it immediately after Claire's birth.

I can't remember when I decided to go off of it, or why, but I've been off for a long time.

Five weeks ago I talked to my midwife about the possibility that it might be coming back.  This time I'm not afraid that I'm going to die, though.  I already know I can survive pregnancy and birth - I've done it twice.  I'd even go as far as to say that I'm really good at birth!  No, my very adaptable brain has found something new to torment me - something I'm not sure I could survive.  I'm having extremely intrusive and graphic thoughts - anxiety - about something hideous happening to one of my kids.

The best/worst example is from several weeks ago - we headed up to Grammaland after school and I got them Happy Meals to eat on the way up.  I became obsessed with the idea that one of them would choke.  I could see myself, in my mind's eye, pulling up at my mom's, finding Claire's blue, lifeless body strapped into her car seat, trying and failing to revive her.  Screaming.  Having to tell BJ...  This scene played over and over and over in my head, until my adrenaline was coursing and I was sweating and basically completely freaking out.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't stop the images or the story playing over and over in my head.  So, I flipped the rear view mirror down and watched them more than I watched the road (stupid!), until they were done eating.  No one choked.  It took me the entire 90 minute drive to get myself together, though. 

That's when I realized that I might have a real problem.

I told my midwife, five weeks ago, that I was struggling, but I wanted to wait and see if it got better when school started.  It didn't.  So at my last appointment I decided to go back on Zoloft.  I started the dose too high (at 25 mg) and had some weird side effects (have you ever experienced three conflicting emotions at once?  It was weird, I didn't like it.  I felt very out of control).  I was also having trouble sleeping, which is DEFINITELY not going to help.  Since I backed off to 12.5 mg I've been much better, I feel more calm and patient, more in control.  I'm going to stay at 12.5 for a week and see how it goes before I try 25 again.

I was on 100 mg before.

It's hard for me to write this here - knowing that most of the people who read this blog know me in real life.  It's hard for me to admit that I'm struggling, that my house isn't as clean as it used to be, that my thoughts are all over the place, that I spend hours every day imagining all the ways that my kids could die and I can't stop it.  What kind of a mother does that?

But I am writing this because it is not my fault.  This is NOT a character flaw.  I am writing this because someone else might be struggling, and might find these words, and might need to know that it's not her fault either.  I am writing this because I need you to be patient with me for a while - I may not post often, or I may forget important things, or I may be selfish.  It's certain that my house will be a wreck for the foreseeable future, so try not to judge if you come over.  I have to hover over my kids more than usual to stop myself feeling like I'm going to find them dead somewhere, so I don't have the time to clean (while they're outside playing, for example) that I used to have.  I'm focusing on resting and taking care of myself and my family, so the other things I take care of might fall by the wayside for a while, and I'm sorry, but this is the best I can do.

I'm proud of myself for not denying it for the better part of a year, this time, before getting help.  I'm proud of myself for leaning on my family and friends more than I'm truly comfortable doing, because I know it's healthier than trying to do it all myself.  I'm proud of myself for admitting that I'm not perfect, and doing what it takes to get better, even though it's hard. 

I don't live with this because I'm weak - I survive it because I'm strong.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The thing about HFCS

I've mentioned before that we actively avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup in this house.  That link contains a video which explains why in excruciating scientific detail.  Bottom line:  it's bad for you, y'all.  Now I'm reading from several different sources that they (whoever "they" are, probably the companies that make HFCS) want to change the name to "corn sugar."  You know, to show us that it's just ... sugar.  Made from corn.  Nevermind that it is not chemically identical to beet or cane sugar, and that it is metabolized differently, or that obesity and diabetes have increased dramatically since its introduction 20 years ago...

Here's the thing, even if I'm wrong - even if HFCS and sugar are identical in terms of their impact on health... by avoiding HFCS or "corn sugar," I'm avoiding things like soda, prepackaged cookies, white bread and buns, and a bunch of other heavily processed low-fiber cheap junk food.  I'm avoiding high calorie salad dressings, but I'm still eating salads.  And they taste better!  It's not any hardship to read the labels and buy a barbecue sauce without HFCS.  Heinz has even come out with an HFCS-free "Simply Heinz" ketchup.

Even if HFCS is no worse for us than sugar, avoiding it is a good way to make sure that I'm not eating too much processed, cheap crap.  So even if they change the name to "corn sugar," I'll continue to avoid it.

How about you?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Minute for Minute

Mary Grace was up for two hours during the night on Sunday night. Two hours. So, on Monday afternoon, I said, "You owe me two hours of sleep. You need to go to your room and stay there until the timer goes off." I set the timer and went to bed.

Claire needed sleep, too, since MG woke her up during the night, so she went upstairs for the duration. I added time to the timer when MG got up to come talk to me about how mean I am, but I didn't make Claire serve that time. MG got really honked off when Claire was allowed to come downstairs, and then she got supremely pissed when the school bus brought all her friends home, and she still had 30 minutes to go.

Well, wouldn't you know it, but she only came down ONCE last night? HUGE improvement.

She's serving her 15 minutes now (because that's how long it took me to go back to sleep. She's not sleeping, she's up there reading books, but I don't care as long as she knows that for every minute she takes from me during the night, I'm going to take a minute out of her day.

Added bonus - making her stay upstairs during the day by herself is helping to eliminate her (completely irrational and unfounded) fear of being upstairs alone.

Cross your fingers that this solves the problem, because I would really like to get a couple uninterrupted nights of sleep before this baby is born.

In other news, I saw my midwife today. I have gained a total of four pounds in the 24 weeks I've been pregnant (WOO HOO!!!) and my blood pressure is holding steady at 118/62. I go back for the glucose tolerance test (yuck) in two weeks. I could do better with drinking enough water. I did much better with hydration in my previous pregnancies, back when I had time to worry about myself. I've had some contractions, and some headaches from being dehydrated, mostly because I'm a twit.

Since school started last Tuesday, I have remembered everything. This is no small feat, as we've had appointments and both the kids were "helper of the day" so they were responsible for snack for the entire class, and then the school sends stuff home with them overnight that needs to be returned the next day. We've had appointments and playdates and birthday parties... In spite of all this I have remembered to take everything and everyone everywhere that it or she needed to be! Of course, pointing this out is going to jinx me, and I'll forget something really important any minute now, but it bears pointing out that sometimes I completely rock.

Major progress has been made in the rearranging of the rooms, thanks to BJ. Aside from the enormous pile of stuff to take to Goodwill, most everything is back where it belongs. Once we get the office squared away (which is mainly up to BJ because I don't know what half of that stuff is) we'll be ready to start on the baby's room. I can't believe we're really close enough to start making a room for the baby. Woah. The carpet in that room is kind of brownish gold, which is going to be a challenge. I need to think seriously about window coverings, too.

There's a lot to do between now and December, but right now all I really want to do is nap. Maybe I'll put in a movie for the girls and do just that!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Upstairs, Downstairs

My five year old still doesn't sleep through the night, and I'm about at the end of my rope.

Our Cape Cod Style house has four bedrooms, but two of them are upstairs and two are downstairs. When we moved in we never expected to have three kids in this house. It was supposed to be our "starter house" in which we'd build "sweat equity" so that we could build our "forever house" after about 5 years. Well, with the way the housing market is, we should have the money to build our "forever house" right around the time that Baby Gozer leaves for college.

So when we moved in, we took the largest bedroom (upstairs). When Mary Grace was born, the second upstairs bedroom became hers. The downstairs two have been an office (in the front) and a guest room where BJ has kept his stationary bike and weights (in the back). When Claire was born, we decided that she and MG should share, and that's worked just fine, but now that Gozer's coming, we've reached critical bedroom mass. We can't have three kids with three beds and three sleep schedules in the same small bedroom.

After kicking around every possible combination of people in rooms, we finally decided to leave the girls in their room, to put the office and the exercise room in our old upstairs room, we took the downstairs front bedroom, and Gozer will be in the downstairs back bedroom. Guests will have the option to sleep on the couch in the family room or at the Motel 6.

We figure this makes the most sense, because Gozer's going to (hopefully!) sleep during the day, so I won't constantly be running up and down the stairs to put him or her to bed, or to get him or her up. I'll be on the main floor where the kids are playing so I'll be able to listen to them while I'm nursing Gozer to sleep. Also, it eliminates having to go up and down the stairs with the baby in the middle of the night. I remember several times finding the girls in my bed, knowing they couldn't walk yet, but having no idea how they got there. I don't want to sleepwalk up and down 13 steep stairs with the baby.

We started the process of moving the rooms last weekend (which is why things have been quiet, blog-wise, for a while). It's amazing how much stuff (and how much dust!) we have. It honestly would have been easier to move to a new house, but we would barely break even if we sold right now, considering the nearly-identical house that's for sale in our neighborhood right now for $10,000 less than we bought ours for 7-1/2 years ago!

You know those puzzles with 25 squares, and one is empty, and you have to slide around all the squares to get them in numerical order or to make a picture? That's pretty much what we've been doing.

Our new bed was delivered yesterday - the king we had wouldn't fit down here, so we had to get a queen. We're working on the closet today. I'll post pictures, eventually, when we get it all done, so expect those in 2023 or so.

The biggest problem in this whole process has been that Mary Grace is not at all happy with Mom and Dad being downstairs while she and her sister are upstairs. We stay upstairs with them until they fall asleep, and most mornings BJ is up there exercising when they wake up, but she has taken it upon herself to wake up at 3 or 4 am every night to come talk to me about how unhappy she is with the new sleeping arrangement.

Claire's fine, because her Big Sister makes her feel safe (and she's been a better sleeper from day 1). Big Sister, however, doesn't have anyone bigger to make her feel safe, so she comes downstairs to register her complaint whenever she happens to fall awake during the night.

This is not cool. I am very tired and very grumpy with her. It takes me forever to fall back asleep when she wakes me up.  I tried bribing her - and she stayed in her bed all night the two nights that she knew she'd get a cupcake if she stayed upstairs, but when the cupcakes ran out, she ran right back downstairs!  I'm not going to give her a cupcake every day for the next 13 years.

We've explained to her that she can come downstairs if she's sick or hurt, if she smells smoke or hears the smoke detector go off, or if Claire is sick or hurt, but she can't just come down to "snuggle" at 3 am. 

She's not allowed to watch TV all day as a punishment for waking me up.  She may never be allowed to watch TV again at the rate we're going.

Suggestions welcome.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reason #74

Reason #74 why grandparents are better than parents - endless patience for reading stories.

GUEST POST: Gen Thompson, Pat Brown Profiler

I am entirely too cranky to blog today, so I'm putting this blog in the capable hands of Gen with a G, hilarious new blogger and high school friend.  If you haven't had the pleasure of reading her stories, do yourself a favor and click over and read.  This one is my favorite, so far.  She's awesome.  Her posts make me laugh out loud like a crazy person. 

In case you missed all the Pat Brown brou-ha-ha, you might want to read this and this first, to catch yourself up. ~Amy

I totally wish that I had gotten to read what Pat Brown, Criminal Profiler actually said on AOL because based on Amy’s posts and your comments, it sounded like it was riveting. I’m always behind on these things, but it doesn’t stop me from having an opinion. And Pat Brown, Criminal Profiler knows what that’s like. My educated guess leads me to believe she said something along the lines of this: “PPD is for pretend. I am Pat Brown, Criminal Profiler, so you know I’m right.” But since AOL was all “whoops, our bad!” and pulled her quote before I could read it firsthand, I had to go do a little profiling myself to get a better sense of the woman.

As any good investigator will tell you, if you want to be in the know, go where all the cool kids hang out. So, I went to visit Pat Brown, Criminal Profiler’s Facebook page and found two status updates of intrigue. Pat Brown, Criminal Profiler says:

“More stupidity. Studies say kids who get less sleep are fatter. Probably because they are up eating in front of the television.” AND “Woo hoo! They shot the bastard at Discovery Channel and the hostages are safe!”

So, what I’ve learned: not only is Pat Brown, Criminal Profiler an expert psychologist, she is also a brilliant scientist that can explain the causes of childhood obesity by suggesting every child suffering from a lack of sleep is obviously just staying up late snacking in front of the tv. Plus she is super smart and well spoken, because she begins updates about complicated situations like the violent deaths of dangerous people who take hostages with the words woo hoo!

Very interesting. I must know more.

So of course, experts like me always make Wikipedia their second stop. This handy source tells me that, a while back, Pat Brown rented out her room to a murder suspect. This event inspired her to go into her line of work. Clearly, Pat Brown, Criminal Profiler is an astute judge of character.

So, I’m beginning to wonder, does Pat Brown, Criminal Profiler know everything about everything? Cool!

But then, I hit a bump in the road. Somewhere in my investigation, (I’m not sure where, but who needs facts? I’m Gen Thompson, Pat Brown Profiler!) I learned that Pat Brown had some babies of her own. And now I’m just utterly confused. Because I can understand and accept how a self-proclaimed psychiatrist, scientist, super smart, well-spoken woman (who is an astute judge of character AND, let us not forget, CRIMINAL PROFILER) can bend her mind and proclaim that PPD is a hoax. I mean, a lot of well-meaning people do this all the time – state their opinions as facts. But how can a MOM proclaim that? How is that even possible?

She has to remember bursting into uncontrollable tears at the slightest provocation. She has to remember hiding in the bathroom, running the shower and singing at the top of her lungs to drown out the baby’s incessant crying, if only for a minute. She has to remember a body that literally ached for sleep. She must recall the complete and utter desperation that accompanies the joy of new motherhood. Come on Pat Brown, Criminal Profiler. For real? You don’t believe in PPD?

You’re lying and you know it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Claire's First Day of School

It's nice that Mary Grace started on Tuesday and Claire started today, because that meant that everyone had her own special first day of school.

The sun was as bright as our smiles.

Claire was so excited to have her very own cubby for her "pack pack."

Big Sis was on hand to show her the ropes.

Bye Daddy!

Bye Mommy! Get lost, I have a lot to do! No tears here!

After school we went to Noodles for lunch with Grandpa Ben. The kids sang "Sticky Sticky Bubblegum" for us.  Claire showed us the worksheet the kids did about their first day of school, that showed different emotions they might be feeling (sad, scared, etc.).  I asked Claire which face was like hers.

"Happy!" she replied.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mary Grace's First Day of School

Today was Mary Grace's first day of school. 

Claire could hardly stand the excitement!

The best pictures of Mary Grace are the ones where she's spinning or jumping, so her hair is all flippy.  Here she is at her cubby, looking fabulous.

It only took me half an hour to get up from this position. 

Daddy came along for Day 1 Drop Off too, of course.

She tried out her new carpet square, then the sit and spin, and she got really dizzy.  But her hair looked amazing! 

Claire's first day is tomorrow - stay tuned!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Babble and Breastfeeding

Busy weekend for the PB family, so in lieu of a real post, I ask that you click here and read this article at Ph.D. in Parenting about Babble and Similac.

Breastfeeding is a political issue - and formula companies make billions of dollars while compromising the health of our children.  Yes, thank God formula exists for women who can't breastfeed, or for women whose circumstances make it difficult or impossible.  I agree that breastfeeding isn't possible for everyone, and that it's to everyone's benefit that there exists an alternative for women who must work, women who adopt, women who have to take medication that's incompatible with nursing, etc. etc.

I'm not writing this to judge YOUR individual choices.

However, formula companies have spent years actively engaged in the process of sabotaging healthy mothers who could choose to nurse because they make money when you choose formula over breastfeeding.  It's been well documented and it's been going on for years.  It's especially egregious in poor nations around the world.

Please take a moment to click through to see how formula companies are currently engaged in breastfeeding sabotage, and then use your voice to do something.  I'm sharing this post here and on Facebook, and I wrote a letter to the two Babble e-mail addresses that Ph.D. in Parenting listed, and I told them that they should be ashamed of themselves.  What are you going to do?