Write your autobiography- a favorite topic in elementary school.  The story of your life; I am sure we all did that growing up at least twice.  Jennifer L, born in August at night in 1984.  Two brothers, two kids that lived, a husband, a house.  That doesn’t say anything about me, but that is what people usually write about.

But two books today- “tell me who you really are.”  Maybe it is a sign, maybe it is just the books I opened.  Who am I beyond the facts? Cop out- I am someone who doesn’t think about those things.  But I hope I am more than just someone.  No more similes, more metaphors and personifications.

I am a young sapling, easily thrashed about in the wind, and trying to grow roots deep enough to let go of the chains and sticks that help me stand.

I am a river, deep in some areas, shallow in others.  I sustain life and I can drown just as quickly.

I am the frost on windows, demanding presence in the morning, but quickly fading as the day moves on.

God, this is hard.  I hate this “emotionally deep” crap.  It is hard to read, hard for me to read what I wrote because I feel it is hippy dippy trippy and overtly sappy.  But those feelings are the ones I like to read in others.  The ones that I just miss the mark on every time.

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Maybe one day I will be able to write a letter to my girls and share it with everyone.  

Back in May of 2009, my mom decided to enter crisis mode and booked two flights to New Mexico.  It was supposed to be the weekend of my baby shower- invitations have been made, but not sent when the twins died- so there wasn’t anything else to do.  We stayed in a New Mexican bed and breakfast with M&M’s containers everywhere.

It was warm, and after dinners we would wander the streets and duck into small stores.  I didn’t have any money- all of it had gone to buy a newer, bigger car for when the twins came.  They died less than two weeks after that.

“Letter to My Daughter” by Maya Angelou caught my eye.  Its circular rainbow mosaic.  The title.  My breath stopped for a moment.  Could this be it?  The answers I were looking for?  I flipped to read the inside dust jacket- Maya Angelou gave birth to one son, but never had any daughters.  This was it- I had never read Maya Angelou, not even in school, but she spoke to me.  I carried the book to the counter and spent my last few pennies on it.

And the book continued to speak to me.  Sitting on my bookshelf in our duplex, moving into the closet when we moved again, stored away in a box when we moved yet again, and back to a bookshelf, in the “writer’s section” when we moved for the last time.  I never opened it, not beyond the dust jacket.  I couldn’t bring myself to- was I afraid?  Of the answers, or being disappointed?

Today I finally read the intro and the first few essays, and it is exactly the type of book I like- the pace moves with my breath, in and out, words flowing on the page like I had written them myself.  Senses ablaze.  And the stillness- where the noisy world disappears and I move with the book.  Moment after moment, page after page.

It will probably be another few years- maybe even five- before I continue to read beyond the 20 pages.  The words in the book aren’t the comforting part- the space on my shelf it displaces is.  I might never have a daughter that stays alive, lives and breaths with me, and displaces a spot in my life.  Instead, I have this book.  Maya Angelou- some important writer along the way- said more with a title to comfort me than anyone else could.  She didn’t need a daughter to be in her life, but she could still write to one.  And maybe, just maybe, I will be able to write to mine one day.

Dropping my kid off at preschool a few weeks ago, I realized it: Sometimes I hate being a mom.  I dragged him out of bed at 730, dragging him to the potty, dragged him to get him dressed, dragged him and his little brother into the car, and dragged my ass to drop him off (mostly) on time.  But what I hate isn’t the whining that goes along with it, it isn’t the complaining, or the stubbornness of a three year old who insists on wearing his rainboots again, even though it isn’t raining.  I love that he can express himself.

I don’t hate that I stand in the doorway at preschool, trying to get his attention to say good bye to me, or give me one last hug.  I love that he is excited to be with other kids and have the structure.  I left the room with a half hearted wave as my son scurried over to the table for his piece of toast and juice.

Today, unlike other days, I wasn’t in a rush.  I wasn’t exhausted, I didn’t have errands to run, or a house to clean (well, I did, but they could wait).  The baby wasn’t crying, so for some reason, I lingered.  I stood out of the room, with my nose pressed against the tiny two-way mirror to watch my son.

He was sitting calming, waiting with his folded “patient hands” for his teacher to drop off his toast and apple juice.  There were kids running around the room, yelling, throwing things, and causing an all around ruckus.  As my son was waiting, he showed his friend next to him the new car tattoo he has on his arm (his “reward” for sleeping).  I could only imagine the convo they were having “see my new tattoo? it is a red car.  i like cars’… I had to stop watching, pick up the baby, and walk back to my car, trying to hold back tears.

And then it hits me: Sometimes I hate being a mom.  I spent the first year of his life taking care of him  I fed him, changed him, made sure he slept enough, socialized enough, grew enough.  The second year was opening him up to new experiences- walking changed quickly into running and climbing, and the babbles turned into half way recognizable words, and then into expressions: “outside?… juice?”  The third year of his lifee worked on him being independent, and fostering the abilities he already had.  He grew so fast- learning his letter, shapes, colors (a lot of which I give his teachers credit for), potty training, and preparing for the new baby.

Now, as he enters his fourth year, it is like he doesn’t need me anymore.  And not in the usually, oh, my baby is growing and wahawahawha things are happening so much.  I know he still needs me a lot, but it is more out of choice for him now than necessity.  So what I hate is that he is him own person, with his own thoughts and feelings and preferences.  I spent the last three years encouraging all of that, and now he has it.

What now? Last night I spent some quality time with him putting him to bed.  We read three books he picked out, and sang a bunch of songs together.  Then he said it, “Mommy, stop singing.”  Ok, got the message.  I tucked the blankets around him and laid down to snuggle.  I put my hand on his back, and we stayed like that for five minutes.

Then I moved my hand.  “Mommy, why are you moving?”  “Because I am going to have to go downstairs in a little bit.”  “Oh, ok.”  Silence.  “Mommy, please leave now.”

Ouch.  It hurt, but I said ok and kissed him, shutting the door quietly behind him.  I wanted to lay with him until he fell asleep, but he had other plans, ones that didn’t involve me.  And I don’t like it one bit.  But I do respect him, and the choices he makes.  After all, I am the one who taught him that he always has a choice.

Today I got a phone call.  That in itself isn’t newsworthy; the phone rings often.  But this time when I answered, I wasn’t expecting what was on the other side.  From the caller id, it was from the hospital where I delivered my son.  So I thought maybe my doctor confirming my follow up appointment tomorrow, could be billing, could even be my mom.  But it wasn’t- it was the post partum coordinator calling to “check up on me.”  The conversation went something like this:

Her: “Hi this is so and so from the hospital.  I am the PPD coordinator and wanted to see how you are doing.  I know I didn’t get a chance to meet you in the hospital so I am calling you now six weeks later to see what your emotions are doing and how you are handling things.”

What I think: “It’s been six weeks.  How do you think things are going?  I have two children, two dead babies, and no sleep.  Plus I am surviving on diet coke and peanut butter sandwiches.”

What I actually say: “Things are going ok.  It’s an adjustment (favorite word that I say to EVERYONE that just get people to shut up), but my family has been very supportive.”

Her:  “That’s great.  Well I am here if you need me.  Do you want me to call back in a few weeks, or will you call me if you need me?”

What I think: “Seriously?  Some random person who calls me out of the blue and wants me to pour my heart out to you?  No thank you.”

What I say: “Ok thank you.  I will call if I need you.”  Click. Done.  Another lie told.   She then proceeds to leave several more messages in the next two months- none of which I answer or return.

Maybe that approach works for one or two people, but it certainly doesn’t work for me.  I say I am fine, when I really mean I am drowning but I don’t want you to judge me because I don’t know you very well and it is easier to keep quiet.  Even with the people who care about me and whom I have a relationship with, I still don’t tell the whole truth.

Do people really want to hear it?  I say, “Things aren’t easy, I have having a difficult time with both kids.”  People nod in agreement, and say something like “You do have your hands full.”  But they don’t say, “Do you want to talk about it? I have time to listen to you.”

Here’s what I would say if I had the courage to tell the truth:

Things suck.  I cry at night, I cry during the day.  I crumble into a ball and cry so hard that my three year old mistakes my sobs for laughs.  I want nothing more than to stay in bed all day, over medicated, and not feeling anything.  I can’t stop the scary thoughts from entering my mind.  I am afraid to go near the knives.  I am afraid to bounce the baby to step cause I can picture accidentally smashing his head against the door frame when I get up.  I swallow eight pills in the morning, and another ten at night, plus more to get to sleep if I need it, and I don’t think any of it is helping.  

That’s when they would look at me, sadness in their eyes, but I can’t stop.

I thought my twins died because I wouldn’t be able to handle two children, and it turns out I was right.  I can’t handle two kids.  I wish one of them away- basically which ever one isn’t sleeping at the moment.  I AM trying to get better, but it is hard when I don’t have anyone to talk to, and I am afraid of venturing out with two kids by myself.  I don’t want to be alone, but find I am constantly alone with my kids, with my thoughts.  

That’s what I would say.

One day I will write about all the things I should have known because I am a doula.  Or rather, all the things I learned about being a doula because I had another baby.  But for now, I am going to write about one thing in particular- postpartum depression.  There’s a lot I could go on and on about, but I will try to stay focused.

Being this is my third pregnancy, and I am a doula who educates other women about ppd and other mood disorders that can crop up, you would think that I would be an expert on it.  Well, I am not.  I don’t really think I ever experienced true postpartum mood issues.  After the twins, I felt like everyone was pushing me to have a depressive episode.  They were certainly treating (and prescribing) me like I had one.  In retrospective, of course I was depressed.  But the depression stemmed mostly from the grief and the huge loss and life shift I had experienced.

After Joshua, my support system prepared me for having “ppd.”  I had consults with some of the best doctors, a good plan in place, and I even went to meetings.  Did I get depressed?  Not really.  Again, in retrospect, all the emotions were from normal new mom adjustments. (On a side note, I definitely have anxiety and depressive tendencies, but those were from far before I ever had children).

But this.  Now.  After Baby Dan.  Wow.  Is this what “normal” postpartum depression is?  I have always given myself the Edinburgh test, and laughed through the questions.  Doesn’t everyone feel that way sometimes? But last night, I read through some of the symptoms on the postpartum progress website.  Bingo. Almost every single one of them.

When I was going to the ppd support group after Joshua was born, I remember meeting a mom there.  She came into the room the first time, and just sat and cried the entire meeting.  In fact, for the first month of meetings she went to, she just cried and cried.  I remember thinking, “At least I am not that bad…”

I firmly believe that everyone has their own tolerances for “that bad.”  I always downplayed my feelings and emotions, because I figured I could control them, and as “bad” as they were, I was still (mostly) functioning.  Other moms could be experiencing what I was experiencing, and not be able to handle it or function.

But now, I am “that bad.” I can’t sleep.  Or I sleep too much.  I yell at my older son.  I want to yell at the baby, but I know that won’t accomplish anything.  I see the piles of dishes on the counter, and I don’t care.  I see the piles of smelly laundry on the floor and I don’t care.  I hear my older son talking to me; I barely lift my head to acknowledge him.  I am slow responding to the baby.  I am checked out.

My husband, the pediatrician, my therapist, my parents, my friends, everyone tells me I need to take a break.  I claim to have tried- I go lay down in my room and shut the door.  But that doesn’t stop the baby from crying or Joshua from crawling into bed with me.  I try leaving the house, but that doesn’t stop the guilty from overwhelming me- they are my children, I should be able to take care of them.  It doesn’t stop the anger I have at my self, and it doesn’t stop the tears from falling out.

I keep my emotions closely guarded and don’t like letting them out,  I have a hard time asking for help or showing that I am struggling.  After the girls died, I cried.  All I did for days and days was lay in bed and cry. Sobbing, heaving, wet heavy tears over and over again.  I would calm for a moment, and then remember.  I would fall asleep crying, and the one day I woke up not crying, thinking everything was ok, then I would remember.  And cry some more.

Death is different than postpartum depression.  I couldn’t do anything about the twins dying.  It was permanent, and final.  No amount of anything would do anything to change it, so I cried.

Now crying seems so pointless, but it still happens.  The tears fall quietly, as I reprimand myself for crying.   But my mind isn’t working; I can’t tell myself to just get up and get over it.  I have tried the “fake it until you make it” approach, and it isn’t working.  I am just faking it until I exhaust myself.

Sometimes it is necessary to look back before moving forward.  Most of the time that is bullshit, but it seems like one of those things that wise people say.  Back in 2006 (for reference, that was when I was dating Brian, before we got married, aka SEVEN years ago), I made a list of things that I wanted to accomplish in life.  I decided to make that list because several years before that (let’s say 2003-ish, aka during the brief stint I was in college), I was doing a Bible Study group.  Stop laughing now… Ok, I can barely stop laughing thinking about it now but that’s besides the point.

During one of the sessions, the “leader” (aka someone older and wiser than us college kids) started talking about goals.  We all had to share what our goals were.  It was a small group, maybe four or five other college kids, so my turn came up fast.  And I passed instead of answered, because I didn’t have an answer.  Here I was, 19 years old and I didn’t have a clue what I wanted from my life.  And more importantly, this was the first time someone had really asked me that question.

Obviously that night has stuck with me.  I did come up with one goal that night that I shared at the end of the session (see #10 on the list).  And that goal hasn’t been crossed off yet.  I last updated the list in 2008, and I figured it was time to update the list again.  Cross some more things off (yay!) and come up with a few more goals for my life.  Things are completely different now in 2013 than they ever were in 2008.  In 2008 I hadn’t even gotten pregnant yet.

So here is the original list, with updates from today:

;

1. Learn how to make homemade bread
2. be with brian
3. get a good set of knives 
4. get a magic bullet
5. go snorkeling in a coral reef
6. move out
7. have my own apartment
8. get a house 2013
9. have enough stuff to fill that house 2013
10. start the book
11. finish the book
12. have kids 2013
13. finish school
14. get a GOOD dslr 2013
15. start a garden (ok, stop laughing)
16. buy High Fidelity (the dvd. so when people say they haven’t seen it, i can whip it out of my back pocket)
17. get rob thomas’s new cd 2013 (no idea what CD it was, but I think I have enough of his music to qualify at this point
18. get a camera phone 
19. make enough money to stop worrying how i’m going to survive each week
20. get really nice pots and pans (ok.. i should just get married and register some where and then i would get all this cooking stuff ::coughbriancough:: ) 
21. get a lap top 
22. go on a cruise to the south of Europe and Greece

Only five things to go!  I doubt #13 or #22 will get crossed off in the next five years, but who knows.  #15 is becoming a possibility with the new backyard we have, and #10 & #11 are just a matter of getting my butt in gear.  As far as adding new goals to my list, that is the thing that I need to start working on, start figuring out who I am again now that I have gone through yet another life change (here’s looking at you new baby).

 

I’ve never, ever, felt the need to stand on a soap box before.  Your opinions are your opinions, and mine are mine.  I know I’m not going to change your mind about anything, and most of the time you aren’t going to change mine.  However, I am being to understand what passion is.  There’s a burning need inside me to say what I need to say, just for the sake of it being said.   I’m believing in myself, and I believe that helping women and their partners is important, and will make a difference in the world.  Every life starts with birth.

 

I don’t tell my birth stories very often.   Birth stories are a popular topic of conversation around new moms.  Even with old new moms (my kid is 15 months old now!), the topic always seems to come up at some point during a play date.  Or maybe it’s just my backyard that somehow invokes the telling of the labor story.

Most of my friends (I think anyway) have a general idea of how Joshua entered this world.  I had a failed induction, followed by a second induction about 36 hours later.  On the second induction, he was born that night.  If people ask me details, I will answer them.  No, I didn’t tear.  Yes, I had an epidural that ended up wearing off.  No, I didn’t push very long.

I am very proud of how my birth experience with Joshua went.  There were a lot of difficulties that I encountered, but looking back, I wouldn’t have changed anything.  Not even driving home at 7 am, sobbing, with a baby still in my belly.  So if I’m so proud of it, why don’t I share the details?

I’ll just say it- I had an elective, scheduled induction at 39 weeks and 5 days.  There’s a stigma about elective procedures when it comes to birth.  There wasn’t anything wrong with me or my baby when I choose to schedule the induction.  Yea, I was uncomfortable and contracting every night for weeks.  Yes, I wanted to be done being pregnant as the hot summer days started to pile up.  That’s not why I did it.

The reason I did elect an induction was because of my first birth.  For those who aren’t aware, my first birth was a stillbirth at 27 weeks.  The risk, however infinitesimal, of having a stillbirth again was not worth the benefits of spontaneous labor.  I’m sure there are people out there who would argue with me, because it is true- a previous stillbirth is NOT a medical reason to have an induction.   Unless those people have left the hospital with a baby either in their belly or in their arms (or a stroller, or a car seat or strapped to their chest in a baby carrier), I won’t listen to them.

I did what I needed to do to have a healthy baby, and a good birth.  So despite the failed induction, and the need for additional interventions, I did have a good birth.

 

end soap box.  Thanks for reading.

I started this blog the day before I sent the email to start the Muchness, and I was so busying going down that path, that this one was neglected.  But I need this- I need to put my words out there, and I need to have the accountability that a blog and a plan offers.

I’ve been searching for my bones.  What are bones?  Everyone knows what they are- they are the framework to a structure, or being.  They are what give shape and strength to an object.  Yes, bones can be broken, or lost.  There are some people who dedicate their lives to finding bones (archaeologists).  Why?  To learn something about the creature.

Well, I need to learn about the most important creature in my life- me.  I need to see what I’m made of, find some direction, and go with it.  I started with the 30 days of muchness, and I’m trying to keep up with the joy and light in my life every day.  Not everything can have a rosy hue to it though. Sometimes I fail, and somethings that I have gone through are crappy no matter which way I view it.  I can keep trying, and keep hoping for better, and keep exploring myself and everything around me.

I finally decided that I needed something more from my life.  I’m going to search for the bones to my life, and once I find them, hopefully I will know how to put them back together.

After my twins died, I spent time with an amazing woman in New Mexico, who told me the story of LaLoba , or wolf woman.  The wolf woman spent years of her life, searching for wolf bones.  Once she finally for all the pieces of the skeleton, she laid them on the ground, and sung to them, and danced over their bones.

In New Mexico, I discovered that my bones had been scattered.  After any major event, the self is no long the same, and time is needed to rebuild and rediscover who the self is.  I need to find all the pieces to make me whole again.  It’s never going to be the same as before, as things are always changing, but maybe once I have the bones to me, I can sing again.  And maybe learn how to dance.

Scattering ashes in New Mexico

My 30 Days of Muchness is finished!  The journey has begun.

So I’ll start here.  I’m doing the 30 days of Muchness challenge, and I’m searching for inspiration, but it is sorely lacking so far today.  I guess I will have to search hard, go deeper, explore those hidden parts of me I don’t want to tap into. 

Once Joshua gets up from his nap, we’ll go exploring somewhere.  I’ll take my camera, maybe a journal and a crayon, and find something to write about.  Stop stressing!