Friday, August 29, 2014
I handled my first baby well (I think, I actually have 4 months of amnesia where I have absolutely NO recollection of what went on). I don't recall any major trauma, my birth was not what I had dreamed it would be, but at the same time, I felt confident that what went down needed to go down that way (planned home birth turning into a hospital transfer and eventual c-section after a long labor due to poorly positioned baby). I always felt at peace with my experience.
After my second child was born (my dream birth, unmedicated VBAC), I dealt with some postpartum depression although my predominant negative emotion was anxiety. I didn't feel sad, but numb with panic attacks sprinkled in, so it took me a while to identify that this was indeed postpartum depression. I remember going to my OB/GYN for my pap smear when my baby was 6 months old, being sooo high strung that I couldn't even relax enough for my milk to let down to feed my baby. A breast exam is pretty much impossible when your breasts are engorged with milk!! I told her, I couldn't sleep, I was having panic attacks, and I needed help!! She looked at me and said "You are going to be okay, we can tell when people aren't and you are going to be okay". I did NOT feel okay, and she humored me by sending me home with prescriptions for ambien, xanax, and zoloft.
I never took the zoloft, but carried it around in my wallet for months and months (probably expired) just in case. The ambien helped me sleep a couple of times, but one night I stayed awake all night after taking it and I never took it again. A person suffering from anxiety can NOT handle staying awake after having just taken a sleeping pill!! What helped the most was 1 xanax before bed. I only had to take it a few times and never finished the bottle, but it would chill me out enough to allow me to fall asleep. On paper, it doesn't look like it was that bad, but let me tell you, I have never felt so terrible in my life. I couldn't laugh, I couldn't cry, I didn't even know what joy was, I would obsess about scary things happening, and there were so many nights when I would stay awake all night wracked with panic attacks.
As time went on, I started to learn what my triggers were and how to manage it. At the same time, I did A LOT of spiritual work and A LOT of research about anxiety. I lived and breathed Echkart Tolle's books The Power of Now and A New Earth which explained a lot about the psychology of what was happening and introduced me to my ego and my pain body. In addition, I read numerous books on anxiety especially in women and books on Buddhism and meditation- I wanted to understand what this was because after all, I was VERY sane and this shouldn't have happened to me. These books were my life line and helped me learn how to handle the panic attacks when they happened and eventually, notice when I was being triggered before I would actually have a panic attack so I was able to prevent some of them.
In a nutshell, what I learned was we all have our neurons lined up a certain way. Any big stressor or major life change can amplify these patterns and give your brain a fast track to your fight or flight response. Before, what may have taken a pretty big event like a bear chasing you, can now can be triggered by nothing in particular.
The more I learned about what was happening, the easier it became. I truly do believe medication can be life saving and necessary people. I wouldn't have hesitated to take something had these patterns re-emerged after I had Anna. But they didn't... I am not sure if I did such a good job doing "the work" that I was able to bypass it, or if postpartum depression is random, or if maybe when I hit menopause and my hormones go crazy it will all come back. What I do know is that what I have learned changed my life and I LOVE talking about it. If we learn the skills to cope during these hard times we can even amplify the beauty in the easier times. I feel like I live a more enriched life now because of the skills I learned during that time.
I think that is why I am drawn to new moms and all moms. I want them to know I never thought I would be one of those women who had postpartum depression, but I did and it was the hardest time I have experienced in my life thus far. It is hard to reconcile that during a time when you "should" just feel grateful and joyous for being blessed with this sweet baby, instead you are screaming inside. I just want any mom out there who is feeling similar to know that you are not alone and I am always happy to listen.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
This time I swore, I would not do that again. I would remain cool, calm and centered.
6 year-old Ryan had a stomach bug this weekend but had been 24 hours without any "incidents" by Monday morning so I sent him on his merry way to school with the instruction to let his teacher know if he doesn't feel well. I got a call at noon from the clinic stating Ryan wasn't feeling well. I immediately felt guilty like I shouldn't have sent him to school, but reminded myself that I followed directions. As we got into the clinic, I see that sweet shiny face smile up at me a perkily exclaim "Hi mommy!". Hmmmm... I may have said "Hi" back, or I may have just said- "You don't look like you feel sick" to which he replied, "I am just happy to see you!" Shenanigans I tell you... I took him home and bored him to death by making him watch Super Soul Sunday with me and only allowing him to eat BRAT diet things. Didn't want him to get the wrong idea about missing school.
The next day he woke up cranky. My sweet child Ryan is tricky, he is the sweetest most affectionate kid you could ever meet, but when he doesn't want to do something, he will NOT do it. This is what usually triggers Erik and I. What does a wannabe conscious parent do when your child flat-out defies you??... So instead of fighting him, I got him dressed (literally), and held his hand to the bus stop. He went to school without too much of an issue and the day remained school-nurse-call-free. That evening was soccer practice. There is a running discussion in our house about whether Ryan actually likes soccer or whether he does it because Reid plays and Daddy loves it. Reid lights up when he plays soccer, you can TELL he is enJOYing it. Ryan that night, was acting like it was the last thing in the world he wanted to do, he was letting other kids go in front of him so he didn't have to kick, goofing off, moping around etc. I had to run back and forth a few times to get Reid to his practice but we got through the night and Ryan half-way participated.
Wednesday comes around and Ryan seems okay in the morning but is still showing some reluctance to get ready and do what he needs to do. He told me he didn't want to go to school, to which I explained that he didn't really have a choice in the matter.
The kids have a short day on Wednesday. They got home and we lazed around the house watching HGTV. I took turns snuggling with each child and felt like we were connecting. At some point everyone turned on me!! Reid was mad because (a YEAR ago) we decided to give him $5 a week instead of $1 per year of age for allowance, so he proceeded to blame me that he would never save up enough money to buy whatever it is he is trying to save up for. At some point there was an altercation between Ryan and Reid where Ryan ended up in his room, and then Anna started screaming at me too- oh and I was cooking dinner when this all went down. I told everyone to go outside or clean the house (this was very effective;). Ryan stayed in his room screaming, Anna walked in there and Ryan slammed the door. Next thing I know, I hear Anna screaming and Ryan saying "can I have a hug?" "Can I have a hug?" Reid had gone in to check on them and I look up to see Ryan is hugging Anna around her belly forcibly against her will and then I LOST it!! I screamed LET GO OF HER, YOU WILL HURT HER!! To which Ryan started screaming also and yelling "YOU SCARED ME!!" Eventually, I told Ryan to go take a shower because he was going to bed early. Reid also was told to take a shower. I finally got dinner served and everyone had calmed down by this point. At the table I told the kids that I do not know how to be a good Mommy. That they just hand you this sweet little angel of a child and you are charged with the responsibility of caring for this baby as well as ensuring they always do the right thing AND they become successful. I explained that this is hard stuff. I told them I get frustrated too and feel the same way they do a lot. Reid then generously pointed out that I also forgot to say "please" earlier. It was my way of leveling with them and though I didn't directly apologize for yelling, it was an explanation. After dinner I brushed Ryan's teeth and got him in bed to read a book (it was about 6:30). Ryan went to bed without a fuss and we read a chapter of a book.
Anna came in at some point while I was reading to Ryan and climbed on the bed and wedged herself between us. Ryan again asked her for a goodnight kiss and apparently Anna thinks kissing with your mouth closed is only for boo boos. She stuck her tongue out and went to "kiss" Ryan and then me. This got me giggling like I haven't in a long time. Ryan got this look of wonder on his face and said "I have never heard you laugh like that". Whoah!! That got me. How is it that I so rarely express joy in this way? I do think I am kind of funny some times, I enjoy good humor (even bad humor), but I don't express happiness and carefree joy very often. Oprah recently commented that she is "content" but not often happy. That is how I feel. It feels so good when when I am in joy and happiness.
I am doing the Deepak Chopra and Oprah's 21 day Meditation Experience and this time it is on Happiness. Maybe it is working on me- maybe that is where that belly laugh came from... I don't know, but I am hoping I can find more of it.
Last night, instead of drinking a bottle of wine, which is what I wanted to do, I did some tooling on You Tube. I found some stuff by Gabby Bernstein about manifesting and it led me to her website where I signed in and found a fear release meditation. This meditation was awesome because it allowed me to go back over the day and become aware of all of the fears I experienced and therefore triggered me. The fear that something was wrong with Ryan because he is still not himself a few days after being sick, the fear that my children will not grow up to be outstanding members of society, the fear that Ryan would hurt Anna, etc. Bringing the fears back up and releasing them in the context of meditation was very helpful to me. If you are like me, you see your kid have a tantrum and quickly you get into a place of resistance and fear. Instead of allowing the emotion to play out, we try to squash it- and lets be honest, what adult doesn't have a good emotional outburst periodically?? Instead of recognizing the emotion for simply emotion, we start to fear that something is wrong with our child, that they will not grow up to be that upstanding, successful, and kind member of society we always envisioned they would be! We expect them to behave better than we do ourselves!!
I spent the next hour watching two videos of Dr. Shefali Tsabury. Part 1 and Part 2. She is turning this parenting thing right on it's head. Her big idea is that our kids are here to grow US up- NOT the other way around. They are here to trigger EVERY SINGLE ONE of our little issues. We have 2 options; get triggered and continue to pass on unconsciousness or get triggered and appreciate what part of ourselves need healing and become aware.
My reaction to my children is NEVER about their behavior, it is about ME!! Most of the time when my children act out, if I am honest, they are reflecting back the emotion I am feeling. Dr. Shefali argues that if we could truly connect to our children on a soul to soul level by realizing our children are equal on a soul level, discipline would be a moot point.
Her talk is very compelling and I intend to continue to study her teachings. We all have children for selfish reasons. We have grand plans about what our relationships will look like with our children, but WOW- it does NOT look like that in real life. I have acted in ways that I never thought possible when I held those sweet angels in my arms for the first time.
I intend to continue to share my journey on becoming conscious both as a parent and personally.
Here is to growing myself up, finding my joy, and TRULY connecting to my children!!