Sunday, December 22, 2013

Miracle of Miracles

Wonder of wonders
Miracle of miracles
I was afraid that God would frown
But like he did so long ago in Jericho 
God just made a wall fall down 

After I had my baby, this song was stuck in my head. It came from nowhere. It is not a Christmas song and I haven't seen Fiddler on the Roof lately, but the more I think about it, the more appropriate it is. A week ago I felt terrible, and since I have been depressed before, I couldn't imagine my emotional state changing into anything more positive any time soon. But after my last blog post I received so many notes of encouragement, private and public Facebook messages, and e-mails from friends, family, and acquaintances. People said they had been there, that they had empathy, that they were proud of me for speaking out about where I am and the reality of how I feel. Some people couldn't relate at all, but acknowledged that what I was going through was real. People said they loved me, that they were praying for me. Friends brought treats, they brought meals, they made solid plans to help. I never could have expected this outpouring of love and acceptance. I thought maybe one or two people would awkwardly respond, and that my depression would be ignored. People normally don't know how to deal with a depressed person, but I felt understood and blessed. What an unexpected twist.

The night before my scheduled induction, my husband and my neighbor prayed over me and gave me a blessing. Dan also fasted. He broke his fast right before they hooked me up to pitocin. I was feeling calm and well. I felt normal, but better. It was amazing.

After I had been on pitocin for a little while, my doctor stopped by to break my water. I'll save the details for another post, but the labor was fast and I had no relief from drugs. Natural labor (well- natural besides the petocin) was intense and painful, but after I pushed my little boy out they handed him to me and all I could say was "Sweetheart. Sweetheart." I loved him instantly.

When Moses softened Pharoh's heart
That was a miracle
When God made the waters of the Red Sea part
That was a miracle too...  

I was transformed. I really think it was a miracle. Sometimes I feel like I must not have been depressed, because look at where I am now. Of course, I know I was... I know what depression feels like. You just want to be swallowed up by nothingness. But I no longer have those feelings. Not even after all the sleepless nights and the pain and the water retention (I bloat up like a balloon after I have babies).

I almost feel silly about the amount of help I'm still receiving. We have more meals lined up, people are taking our kids to play during the day, people want to help with housework, etc. I feel almost like a fraud, and maybe we don't need all this help. But then I think that people enjoy serving and showing love, and that it helps us both, and that maybe all this love and support is helping keep my depression at bay. I know it can come back any time. Like I said before, depression is not something that you can control. And having a newborn is still hard.

For now I am just so grateful. I'm thankful for such a supportive group of friends and family. I didn't have any idea about the amount of people who were willing to jump in and be of assistance to me when I needed it. I also want to make it clear that I did not mean to hurt any feelings in my last post. If you did anything on my "not helpful" list please know that I do not hold you responsible for my depression. I was trying to inform, not to offend. And many people who may have been "not helpful" once have actually helped me again and again at other times in my life. And I am thankful.

I recently read a little story that I would like to paraphrase: One day a man falls in a hole while he is walking down the street. He begins to yell for help. A doctor walks by, hears the man, and writes a prescription which he throws into the hole. The doctor
continues on his way. The man still yells for help. A priest walks by, throws a bible in the hole and walks on. The man is screaming for help. A friend walks by, hears his buddy yelling, and jumps into the hole. The man asks his friend "Why did you do that? Now we are both down here." to which his friend replies "Yes, but I've been down here before, and I know the way out."

It is difficult to deal with depression. And most people who are depressed cannot express what is happening to them. Heck, I might not be able to tell anyone if I relapse tomorrow. The best thing you can do for anyone who is depressed is to notice if they are in that hole and then be there for them. Every person has different needs and different "helpful" and "not helpful" lists. Just be aware and be available. That is it. And thank you to everyone who has been there for me. You have helped me at a critical time in my life. What a gift it was to have a beautiful birth experience. What a gift it is to have the opportunity to bond with my new baby boy. I love him. I love him. I love him.

But of all God's miracles large and small
The most miraculous one of all
Is the one I thought could never be
God has given you to me.     

PS If you are ever feeling depressed and you need someone to talk to, I will always be available for you. I will try to help you out of that hole if you let me. Even if I'm already in that hole and we happen to bump into each other, we can find our way out together.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Dark and Deep

Gwen just came into my room. "I didn't hear crying anymore, Mom. So I thought to come back." She smiled sweetly and put her head on my arm. It broke my heart all over again.

I had postpartum depression after Gwen was born. It took me a while to come to terms with how bad it was. Eventually Dan convinced me that not sleeping and crying every night and not being able to stop my body from writhing were abnormal behaviors. I really wanted to be able to take charge of my emotions without medication, but it just wasn't working. Things were getting worse. And admitting to needing drugs made me feel even more helpless and like less of a person. I cried in the doctor's office. I was on medication for about 6 months or so, I honestly can't remember. The pills helped to dull what was happening to me, but I still felt like a failure and I didn't feel creative at all. I kept doing the things I was supposed to be doing, trying to enjoy life. Sometimes I was fine, but I was never normal. One day, about a year after I had Gwen and I had been off the pills for a while my husband said "You did something the other day... I can't remember what it was, but I thought 'she used to do that.'" Like, yay- it has been a year and I'm finally sort of kind of coming back to normal. Things got better. And that experience brought me wisdom and empathy for people who suffer from mental maladies. Also, after this experience we weren't sure about having a bunch of kids- because going through that was the worst, for me and for my family.

But after a few years we decided to try for a third. I was feeling good about being pregnant with this one. I was. I thought "Ok, it looks like I'll be having this baby in early December, if not November! My body is getting so ready... and Gwen was two weeks early after all." So when the baby didn't come and didn't come and people were always asking me about it, I felt a loss of control. Like I am supposed to have this baby and I'm not accomplishing the one thing I'm supposed to do. And it was getting harder and harder to move. I hurt more and more. I mean, who walks around at a 4 (a 5 now) for weeks and doesn't feel uncomfortable? I was doing less: not cleaning. Not cooking much. Not doing anything except walking around and waiting for this baby to come out. I was sure it would be any day. People predicted the 4th. That day came and went. No big deal. But as my due date approached, I felt it coming. That old relentless monster: Depression. I prayed and prayed and recruited other people to pray and prayed that the baby would come out so that I could stave off that Beast. But it didn't work. My due date was terrible. I stayed in my room all day crying on and off. I cried in the bathroom, I cried in my closet. I cried in bed and I cried in the shower. I sobbed all day, but that didn't start contractions. 

Let me be clear, I've tried everything there is to try when it comes to naturally triggering labor. I've done acupressure, essential oils, induction massage, all the textbook physical stuff, taking evening primrose oil, eating the stuff people swear puts you into labor... I even had my membranes stripped. Twice. I've been doing these things for weeks. When I was given the induction date of December 17, I cried. I made it out of the Doctor's office, but I got into my car and sobbed. This is not what I wanted. 

And now, I've been trying to maintain some sort of positive outlook. It works and then it doesn't. I haven't gone to church in two weeks because I don't want to see or talk to anyone. I'm usually good at putting on my happy mask (who says you don't use a theater degree?)-- but I can't right now. Dan has taken over drop-off and pick-up responsibilities with our kids. The thing I hate most of all is how I feel towards this baby. (Please keep in mind that I am trying to cling on to sanity here.) I hate this baby. I don't want it. I could give it up for adoption and never see it and that would be totally fine with me. Before my due date, I loved this baby. I was excited. Now I just think of it as a burden and a thing that is putting me through a lot of unnecessary pain and anguish. I see it as the reason for my loss of control. I cannot imagine a good birth experience at this point. The aftermath of birth is painful and disgusting. Also, I know that once the baby is born it will rob me of sleep, sanity, all of my time, and it will make me fat for a year at the very least. I have enough of a rational mind left that I feel shame at these thoughts. I know I love my children and that I prayed for this baby. I know these dark thoughts are not acceptable. But I cannot imagine feeling good when they place it in my arms. I don't even want to hold it. How am I going to make it through labor if I don't even care about what I get at the end? 

And I am most certainly depressed right now. Just in case that wasn't clear. I've been wearing the same ugly ill-fitting clothes for two and a half days. I've been crying. Depression is something you cannot control through force of will. I cannot "just think happy thoughts" or "chin up" or "put on a happy face." So if you tell me these things, please know you are contributing to my depression. When I am depressed it also makes me feel incredibly guilty. And during the holidays? Triple the guilt. This is December, for goodness sake. I'm having a baby right before Christmas, isn't that the best present ever?!?! I should feel excited and all Christmas Cheer-y. I don't. I hate it. I didn't want to have a baby right before Christmas, and being pregnant and overdue has kept our family from participating in all kinds of holiday activities. Not to mention this kid is going to HATE having his birthday right before Christmas. This has been the unhappiest December of my life.

So now that we have established that I am depressed, I am going to attempt to explain things that are helpful and not so helpful. Firstly, when I was going through PPD a few years ago I had a birthday brunch with some family members. They asked how my depression was going (like it was a project I was working on or something) and asked what they could do to help. It was hard to admit, but I finally told them that they could take my kids away from me for a few hours here and there. Any time convenient would be helpful. None of them ever did it. Now, I'm not blaming them for anything... but it is not helpful to ask how you can help and then not follow through. If you want to help and you get an answer of how to help, make sure you DO it. 

Here is a list of things that are helpful to me:
-Taking my kids away to play. I'm an introvert. Having time to recharge on my own is super helpful.
-Cleaning my house. But seriously, only the parts I want you to clean. If I am embarrassed by the state of my craft room, don't go in there. If you do it anyway it will cause me to feel shame and distress, which contributes to my depression. Also, do NOT organize anything. More on that later.
-Making a meal or food of any kind. 
-Dropping off a treat, a gift, or a kind note. Even if I don't want to see you or come to the door, it is still appreciated, I promise. 
-Communicating with my husband instead of with me. I'm not usually a fan of talking on the phone anyway, but when I am depressed it is the absolute last thing I want to do. If you coordinate a meal or something with my husband, I will appreciate you. And it will be even better if I don't have to talk to anyone about how I am doing and how much help I need.
-You CAN write me an email or text me. Most of the things people say aren't super helpful, but sometimes it is nice not to feel like an outcast. I don't have many friends as it is, which is kind of by choice and honestly fine, but to never hear from anyone can contribute to depression.

Here is a list of NOT HELPFUL things:
-Telling me that "happiness is a choice" or something along those lines. Sure, sometimes it is. But sometimes it is not. And I promise you will be contributing to my depression if you write or utter anything like that.
-Asking me if I've had my baby yet. Some people do this in the sweetest way, and my close friends can actually get away with it. But everyone else is running the risk of getting punched in the face.
-Seeing pictures of babies in the hospital with their smiling beautiful skinny mommies- especially if your due date was around mine or after mine. 
-Telling me how to induce labor, or giving me opinions of any kind on labor and delivery. There was a time when this was interesting to me... now it just upsets me. 
-Doing my laundry. There are a few things that I am super particular about. Laundry is one of those things. Sometimes I get really behind or someone pees on something and my husband puts a load in. Usually it is fine, but there have been a few things ruined because they weren't supposed to be laundered or put in the drier or whatever. Some stains have been permanently set in, etc. Usually it is the "favorites" that get ruined, which makes me sad. Also, laundry is something I don't mind. If you take that chore away from me I feel like I am literally good for nothing. Like I'm not even capable of keeping on top of the ONE chore I don't mind. 
-Organizing my things. Listen, I know I am a chaotic person. I'm trying to get better at organizing. But there are some things in my house that are just always messy. Or maybe things look different than the way you would do it. Or maybe you are trying to put things away and you don't know where they go. Seriously, if you are at my house, do not move anything without asking me. You might think you are doing me the most amazing favor by moving my stuff around, but that is one of the very worst things you could do. If I can't find things in my own house, it makes me feel a greater loss of control. It sets off my depression big time. Just over the course of today I went to look for two things and I couldn't find them because someone else had moved them out of love and a desire for rooms to be cleaner. I cried. I cried and cried. Something about other people organizing my stuff makes me incredibly sad. First of all, it feels very personal to have someone sort through your things without you, even if it is something as impersonal as dishes. And there is a difference by the way in throwing toys in a toy box or straightening up a book shelf or putting papers in a pile and deciding where things should live. I don't care if you put things away... if there are groceries on the counter and you see where the cereal boxes live, knock yourself out. Even if there are a pile of papers all over the place and you find an empty cardboard box and put the stuff in there for me to sort later, that is just fine. But if you start thinking to yourself "Hmm. I could sort these things for her." or "The way she has the clothes in the closet just doesn't make sense. Let me rearrange things so that everything is easier to see." Just stop right there. You will cause me a crazy amount of stress and distress if you organize things for me. I promise. Not helpful. (Sorry about the novel, but this has been done for me many times and it makes me cry every time.) 
-Telling me to try harder with my appearance. This is for down the road when I am a sweaty and fat nursing mom, but sometimes people tell me that it would make me feel better to get a haircut or buy a really cute pair of jeans in my larger size instead of waiting to lose weight to fit back into my clothes. First of all, this is annoying because it implies that I don't look good and that is somehow a terrible thing. Secondly, we all have different priorities and maybe I don't want to waste money on something like that right now. Also, I am one of those weirdos that thinks women shouldn't be killing themselves over their appearances all the time. Thirdly, do I want to look like I'm trying to look cute when I don't feel cute at all? Do I want to be that girl wearing the outfit that would look great on a skinny runway model but it looks atrocious on the sweaty fat nursing mom? No. I'll stick to sweat pants and oily hair most of the time, thanks. At least that way I just am what I am and I don't have to depress myself about trying to look cute when it is impossible. 

That is pretty much it. I'm sure the lists are not complete, and it is hard to write constructively about depression while you are depressed. The one thing I am concentrating on most of all right now is feeling love towards this baby. If I could change one thought in my head, it would be that. My induction is tomorrow. I am able to climb out of the depression every once in a while, and I'm hoping I can make it tomorrow somehow. It feels better just to put this out there, although it feels worse at the same time because anyone who hasn't experienced this sort of thing may be judgmental about it. Oh well. I can't control what you think. I can barely control myself. But at least now you have a chance to understand me, and if you want to be helpful, you have a rough guideline. 


Friday, December 13, 2013

Baby, All I Want for Christmas is You

I went to the doctor a few days ago... he says I am dilated to a 5 with the baby in zero position. I am mostly effaced. I've been walking around like this for a while now. It hurts. It sucks. I don't know why I am not in labor. I've been dilated to at least a 3 and 70% effaced for over a month. I've had my membranes stripped twice, and I have tried acupressure, essential oils, squats and jumping jacks, eating certain foods, ingesting evening primrose oil, prayer, and every other thing suggested by friends and websites. Except castor oil. I won't go that far.  
I am not amused. 
I took the above "selfie" over a week ago. I didn't think I could get much bigger. I WAS WRONG. I feel like I have doubled in size since then. My belly no longer looks like a pregnant woman's belly... it looks like a fat man's humongous beer belly. I imagine my baby weighs about ten pounds. And I am still going to try a natural labor... yikes!!

My mom was here for almost two weeks, but she left today to go to Sierra's baptism back in Utah. She is going to be flying right back afterward, and hopefully she will actually get to see her new grandson this time! I don't think she was planning on staying for so long. December is a busy month. But this baby has just not wanted to come out!

On my due date I was so depressed I didn't go to church. I've kind of come out of that depression, but it was really bad that day. On Monday Asher had some sort of eye/ear infection, so we decided he could stay home for two days. We tried to have a very active and fun-filled Monday... we walked around some model homes, we ate lunch at The Apple Dumpling Cafe, my mom and Gwen and I all walked home while Dan took Asher to the doctor. I taught a last minute voice lesson, because hey, why not? And then we went to see Frozen in the theaters. It was a cute movie. Asher loved it, Gwen was scared a lot.

I went to my final OB appointment on Wednesday. My doctor is very nice and I like him a lot, but he gave me the induction date of December 17th. I think if I am still pregnant on the 17th I will be wishing for death. I was so sad that I burst into tears after I walked out of the office.
We went to the Mesa temple lights on Wednesday night. They were beautiful, but I couldn't enjoy them really because walking hurts so badly right now. We went out to eat at Freddy's last night. I have stopped caring about what goes in my body... so I ate an enormous amount of fries, a burger, some chili fries (with a jalapeƱo slice, just to see if it would put me into labor) and some bites of ice-cream. I was super stuffed.

I have missed out on many things this December. We did make it to our church Christmas party on the 6th, but I didn't go to book club (in December they do a nice dinner and book exchange, and I read the book and really wanted to talk about it), the RS dinner (which I was sort of supposed to be in charge of, but of course with the timing of this baby I put almost all of the responsibility on others), and I also wanted to make it to some live theater shows. I'm going to keep missing things, but I don't care as long as the baby comes out.

On the bright side, our house looks nice and clean because my mom was here waiting for the baby. She also decorated for Christmas, which I just didn't have the energy to do. Our front rooms and our tree look amazing. And it was fun to just be with her and the kids have loved having Grandma around. She is a very helpful person and relaxing presence, I am blessed to have her as my mother. Let's hope she has something to come back for soon!