December 23rd invokes different feelings in everyone. For many it is the sheer excitement that in a few days there are presents and feasts and family and delight. Perhaps your family is already together in celebration of the holidays. Or maybe, its just “two days before Christmas.”
For me, December 23rd has the same excitement and joy in waiting for Christmas, but for other reasons. And three years ago it was filled with another kind of anticipation. I was swollen with the third trimester of my pregnancy, getting more and more uncomfortable by the day. I wasn’t due until January, but every evening while I lay in the bath I would place my hands on my stomach, envision them blending through the layers of skin and muscle and fat to surround the baby. I would envelope the baby as I would a precious pearl. I pictured myself holding them close to my heart, tucked under my chin and whispered,
“Whenever you’re ready, I’m here. It might seem like a scary journey, but I promise I will be waiting for you on the other side. You are SO loved already. So any day you choose for you birthday is perfect for me.”
I would say this over and over all while feeling reassuring kicks.
At my 37 weeks appointment I was assigned a new doctor as my other one had gone on holidays to Africa. My new doctor found the heartbeat, the reassuring ba-dum ba-dum as fast as a hummingbird. She pulled out her tape and measured me. She paused. Measured again. Frowned.
“You’re measuring awfully small.”
“I get that a lot.” I said.
“You’re only measuring at 33 weeks.”
I immediately felt icy all over. That was rather small.
“I want to get you an ultrasound. I want to see the blood flow from you to baby, there could be an issue with the umbilical cord. I want a non-stress test, blood and urine.” she said quickly writing up the requisition.
The ultrasound receptionist laughed at me when I asked for something before Christmas. “How could you possibly think you could get in?” I gave a meek “Sorry,” Feeling bad but angry. I wanted to shout at her “because there could be something wrong!”
I explained my issue of being unable to get an ultrasound to my Doc upon coming in for the others tests. She sighed, shook her head and hooked me up to the machine to measure the baby’s activity.
She seemed frustrated with the results of my blood, urine and non stress.
“I want you back in two days.”
The next week was filled with hospital visits and urine cups. It was as if she had a sixth sense, an inkling something was going to go wrong and by damned she was going to catch it at the first hint. She performed a bedside ultrasound on the evening of December 22nd.
“Baby’s head and height are measuring correctly…but the little belly is small. Babe isn’t getting the proper nutrition. I don’t know whats going on..I’d rather keep them in there so they can be bigger…weight is just over five pounds..” she muttered more to herself.
“Come back tomorrow morning.” she said after wiping up the ultrasound jelly.
I packed my bags that night.
My grandfather called me, later that evening.
“Hows my great-granddaughter?” he asked. “Why didn’t you call and tell me she was here?”
“Papa what are you talking about?” I was sitting in the nursery rocking chair, jittery with anxiety and now rather confused.
“The baby isn’t here yet, I don’t even know if its a girl, and you know I would call you as soon as I have the baby.” I laughed.
“Oh..Well alright then.” he said a little miffed.
“I’m going in tomorrow for some testing, I’ll call you if anything happens…but…you thinks its a girl eh?”
“Its a girl…Night sweetie,” he said.
The next morning, the non-stress test revealed that the baby was slowing down. There was more and more time between each sleep cycle, and was staying awake for less time. My urine also showed the hint of a sign of preeclampsia as the proteins were on a steady incline.
“Go home, get your bags. I wanted to leave this baby in to cook a little longer, but I feel that perhaps they would do better out than in at this point. I get the feeling you’ll probably go in to labour around 25th or 26th but the holidays are always crazy, lets just do this before Christmas.”
Nearly eight hours later I was holding a little girl. My labour was the perfect length, enough time to adjust, short enough to not be frustrating. My nurse was kind and loving, attentive and experienced. She walked me through everything, encouraging me in the shower, giving us the space we needed as a couple, as a team. She got me through the transitions, where I wanted to give in, crying because of the pain, feeling defeated because I just could not get through one. more. contraction.
But I did. And at 9:27 there she was. Pink and puffy and tiny. No screams to announce she was there. Just calm, serene, beautiful.
The doctor examined my placenta and discovered why Mila wasn’t receiving the correct nutrition: Velamentous Cord Insertion. Instead of the umbilical cord inserting correctly in the mass of the placenta, it had inserted into the membranes. It traveled unprotected by the heavy insulation of the Wharton’s Jelly where at any time it could have ruptured and she would have been a stillborn. At the time, we were all unaware of my other condition, Succenturiate Placenta, where I had a miniature accessory lobe of the placenta still inside, which would give me all kinds of issues in the coming weeks.
Aside from already feeling blessed by holding a healthy baby, I felt doubly blessed now as I tucked her beneath my chin like I always imagined and breathed in the smell of her head. I was just so grateful she had made it Earthside safely.
The last three years have been full of life, love, adversity and triumphs. Mila has grown into a fearless, tenacious, funny little girl. She loves to run and dance. She loves to be naked outside, running with her dogs, wild hair trailing behind her. She reminds me of a carefree little forest sprite. She’s caring and cuddly, shares with her brother and is so concerned when he wails. “I lay with you.” she says to me, every night as I tuck her in to bed. And I can’t help but crawl beneath the covers and breathe her in like I always used to when she was oh so small; her inhales and exhales growing longer as she fades off in to sleep.
Happy Birthday my Love. I’m so glad you picked me to be your Mommy. You’ve been the best Christmas gift I have ever got.
Five stockings. No. I’m not pregnant. No. I didn’t miscount. No. It is not for the sake of symmetry. Yes. It was intentional.
My dad thought, since it wasn’t any of the above things, that maybe it was because I was keeping a stocking as I would an extra setting at the table, for someone passing through, or who would otherwise not have a Christmas. And it is that, of sorts.
My extra stocking symbolizes the creation of ‘making space.’ Physically, emotionally, spiritually.
I’ve dreamed of three little sprites for years now. My heart has always told me three is my number; despite everyones protests and advice of being a family of five.
You’re always outnumbered.
They don’t make vacations for a family of five.
Someone is always left out, four is better.
But for me, two is not enough. Four too many. Three is just right. Unconventional. But perfect.
At the height of my depression when I felt I couldn’t cope with two children, I feared my dream would never come true. The voice of judgement went on and on about how inadequate I was, how dare I think of having more when I was already screwing up two children’s lives and so on. I love the acronym used by Gabrielle Bernstein of FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. Because none of this was true. I was gripped by fear. The fear of being a lousy mum.
I felt my dreams diminishing as the days wore on. As I sought help and balance returned, for the first time since I can remember, I actually just felt at peace. I didn’t want anything more. I didn’t want to buy or acquire anything. I was just okay, with exactly what I had, who I was, where I was. And that included my number of children. I felt so blessed with what I had and it was a phenomenal feeling.
As Christmas came closer, I pulled out our decorations and started stringing them up about the house. I came across these stockings, ones I had purchased last year while pregnant with Asher. I had been furiously searching Etsy and all the big box stores looking for knit looking stockings. With pom poms of course. And I found these, 70% off, at the grocery store, the Christmas stock clear out. Hardly the handmade look I was wanting, but good enough, and easy on the wallet. I picked up four, but then stopped.
What if we had one more?
I didn’t want them to have a different stocking. The odd one out for all of our Christmases together for all eternity. So I spent the extra three dollars or whatever it was, and got another one, for that maybe Extra.
This might seem silly, a dream, a waste of money, or maybe one will be ruined one day and actually will come in handy. But the way I look at it, it is the intention, the making of making space, preparation, for the cultivation of dreams.
I used to think, God, the Universe was just a genie of sorts. Ask and you shall receive right? But if it didn’t come in the timeline I had imagined, it was just all a hoax. Or I was undeserving, naughty and Santa didn’t deliver.
I’ve since learned that a lot goes in to the manifestation of dreams, patience, gratitude, are all key. Patience is more than just waiting, it is how you behave whilst you wait. Are you being truly patient; do you already feel as though what you have is enough; do you feel thankful and blessed?
Our dreams are being manifested and are coming our way, but how you feel, your gratuity, love, your doubt and bitterness have a direct impact on this process because they create mixed signals. You want it, but you doubt how deserving you are of it, or perhaps you pass judgment, so it sits in limbo. Wanting to deliver, but unable to due to a mixed message.
I want to remind you to have faith. How would you dream differently, believe more faithfully, if you knew that someone or something had your back?
By preparing, this act of making space, you are cementing the footings for these dreams. I am not pregnant, and I do not wish to be for at least another year or more, but I am putting out to the Universe that one more is welcome, my home, my heart has space for one more. I have full faith that exactly what needs to happen will happen, exactly as it should, when it should. Even if this little stocking stays simply an extra. This picture will forever show how much this spirit is wanted. This picture will be a physical reminder of a dream.
Because I think dreaming is essential in life, as vital as breath, as beautiful as sunrises and sunsets and rainy day kisses. Our dreams are a direct conversation with the Universe, a deep reflection of the heart. So this brings me to ask,
what is your heart saying?
Love and Light
and a very Merry Christmas, from my family to yours,
It has been three months since I sought medical help for my depression. I feel it has been a long enough time to gather an educated opinion on my experience in order to share it. If you happened to have missed my post on my Postpartum Depression, you can read it here.
I had a number of reasons for avoiding medical help in the first place despite having a deep respect for the medical field. I try to exhaust every possible preventative treatment before using actual medicine. Also, the sheer number of articles and people claiming to have cured their depression with a gluten free, sugar free, cruelty free diet was staggering. Then there was Spirit Science claiming depression was just a hoax or something. Probably just Big Pharma fucking with me. Cue paranoia.
Now while this great plethora of information called the Internet is a blessing it can also be a curse. I immediately tried to figure out what I was doing wrong, since my already rather clean diet was failing me. I tried harder; cutting more things out of my diet in hopes it would help and just ended up loathing myself for my complete utter lack of self-control. I was a mess.
I was also terrified that if I went on medications, I would never get off. I was scared it would screw up my body’s ability to produce its own neurotransmitters and I would forever be dependent on medications or be violently ill if I attempted to wean myself off.
This misinformation came from family members, as well as an ex. My ex told me, HIS ex girlfriend had been on anti-depressants for years, a high dose, and when she tried to get off them she was very ill, vomiting, bed ridden, and he thought they were unnecessary, evil, life ruining. He cajoled me to not go on them, when I was considering them back in high school to combat the sadness I had then. He convinced me to try St. John’s Wort (I was on Birth Control at the time which can make it ineffective, so I never tried it) to exercise more, it was a natural anti-depressant, didn’t I know that? Just. Don’t. Take. Pills.
So I didn’t. And I became afraid.
After my son was born, and things got really bad I kicked everything I had done for preventative medicine up a notch. I worked out more. I ate ridiculously clean until I would stress so much I would binge on sweets and hate myself more. I started doing yoga and guided meditations. It helped. But I would still feel like a failure when I inevitably would fly off the handle in a rage or have the outrageous compulsion to run my vehicle off the road. I was afraid to drive alone, because if my kids were in the back I knew I would stay on the road.
Reverse to three months ago. I was fucking scared. I was fucked up, but I was going to be more fucked up if I went on something and I would forever be on bloody pills for the rest of my life. I was 23. I didn’t wanna be on this for the rest of my life. How did this happen?
So I asked my doc, whom I trust with my life (she’s saved it a few times now) and this is what she said.
“They don’t know if medications cause the body to stop producing it’s own chemicals, or if your body has this inability to produce its own in the first place.”
She also said, “Postpartum depression is different from clinical depression/chronic depression. PPD is treatable. 6-12 months of medications and potentially therapy depending on the severity, and it is treated. Chronic is different. It’s a condition, which needs long term medication.”
Well that clears that up.
I remember sitting there feeling utterly relieved and utterly idiotic at the same time. I had listened to absolute bullshit from people who knew next to nothing on the topic. But mostly I felt relief.
I had fears that maybe I was just a shitty mom. Why couldn’t I handle the sleep deprivation, and the colic and the tough times? I signed up for this when I chose parenthood, get yourself together. Ridiculous, I know. I had even comforted friends who had said the same things during their struggles with PPD. But I still felt that way when it came to myself.
“It’s not your fault, and PPD doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. The moms that don’t care, they don’t get PPD. It’s the type A, caring, loving, scheduled, perfectionists, that get PPD.” Doc said.
I sighed. I knew that. Deep down I did know that. I knew I wasn’t a bad mom. I knew my perfectionist tendencies complicated things, but I was that way because I just really care.
It was hard seeing her concern etched on her face; her furled eyebrows, yet soft eyes. She was listening more intently to me than anyone had ever listened to me before. She truly cared. It was hard because she is such a serious person. She is childless; she loves her job, you can see the passion. She takes it very seriously; she’s a genius, I have never had a doctor so thorough. But her intelligence makes her a bit rough, as well as her experience. She sees babies die. She sees depression rip mothers apart and sees medications put them back together again. It’s hard to not be jaded. So seeing the care in her eyes, her face, and her body language. I had never seen her like that and it just about did me in.
For the last three months I have done a number of things to heal. I’m not trying to discourage you from attempting a clean diet in the name of a depression treatment, far from it; but this is where my high regard for modern medicine comes in- sometimes you need it, and that’s the really cool part of living in 2015, is its available, if you are willing.
I have taken both a 10mg dose and now 20 mg dose of escitalopram/Cipralex. It is a medication specifically designed for PPD. There were minor side effects listed, but to be honest I have only had one.
I don’t hate my life anymore. I don’t hate my kids and I can actually cope with stress.
I’m not angry anymore. In fact, I’m more patient than I ever have been. I’m able to be the kind gentle parent to my tantruming toddler. I taste my words before I spit them out.
I’m sleeping. This was the kicker in all of this.
“You need to get REM sleep.” She said.
“Well, duh, I know.” I said. “But how do I convince my baby I need sleep, it will be good for both of us? I have already sleep trained him.” I said.
“You might have to quit breastfeeding.” She says.
“That doesn’t guarantee me any extra sleep. I’ll just have guilt over quitting something I know I’m actually for sure good at. It’s the only thing that isn’t a struggle.”
“But you need to sleep. If you bottle feed, someone can help.” She retorted.
I sighed. Justin has always been a great dad and helper, offering to get up with the kids. I’ve always declined because he has to actually get up a work in the morning. Not that I don’t do anything. I do. But I get the liberty of doing it in my pjs. I sometimes get fortunate enough I sneak a nap. He can’t. Therefore I feel bad asking him to get up in the middle of the night with a screaming baby who wants his mom, and her bosom.
“Mothers with babies who don’t sleep longer than three hours at a time have been proven to have a higher occurrence of PPD. Sleep is essential. And if you cannot get sleep, these medications will not work.” She said seriously.
Well that was a possible reason as to why I was in this mess. Asher hasn’t slept since the day he was born. I could bore you with my sleep log, but I will make it easy for you. For the first four months of his life, he slept on me mostly, even during the day. Yes it was brutal. Yes I tried other shit. I tried everything. I don’t believe in sleep training before three months of age. As soon as I could I did though. It helped. For a while. But as they get older they get smarter. Granted he was sleeping in his own space, but after sleeping 8pm-1am, he was up every two hours. I was still only getting two hours of consecutive sleep. And more often than I would like to admit, I was up at 4 for reasons I don’t know, wide awake, eating cereal and watching Paid Programming.
Then my husband’s alarm at 4:30.
And 5:00 because he hit the snooze.
5:10 I’d beg him to turn them off. He did. But his back up alarm went off at 5:50. 6:00. He’d leave for work.
Mila is up at 7:00, just as I am fading into sleep.
Asher is up for the day by 7:30.
I asked for help. This was hard. But I did it, at the request of my doctor. People helped me when they could, it didn’t always work out, but I asked, and everyone did the best they could.
I stepped up the sleep training. It worked. We now successfully sleep through the night, getting up once to eat, and sleeping until morning. (Teething recently has been a bitch, but that’s part of the whole infant thing. I can handle that.)
Call me a bad mom for sleep training or whatever you want to call it; but something I find odd is, we are so adamant about educating our children, yet when it comes to sleep, this is off limits because it is ‘damaging.’
Sleep training is simply sleep education. You are educating children how to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own. Why is it so bad that everyone gets a good night sleep? Why do we make people feel so bad for choosing not to suffer all night? Because Facebook told you, sleep training destroys your child’s brain? Puh-lease. If you’re interested, read the book Bringin Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman; in it she studied French parenting and describes how the entire country of France essentially sleep trains their infants from birth. So if it were so bad, the entire country of France would be fucked up. Granted they do eat a lot of fois gras, and are “rude” to our standards, but I digress.
Anyway, by my personal experience, my degree of suffering and self-sacrifice does not make me a better mom than So-and-So.
Let me repeat that.
Mom martyrdom does not make you the “better” mom.
It makes you a sleep deprived one.
I was already taking time outs for myself; saying eff the dishes and giving myself a pedicure. Having a bath. Essential oils. Reading a book. Doing stuff I loved. This is important as mothers. Don’t leave yourself on empty. Love yourself. Fill yourself up. Do what you love, alone, child free, whatever it may be.
Get outside; for at least a half an hour. Feel the sun on your face. Bundle up the kids and yourself and feel the cold winter air. It will do you wonders. It tires out the kids. Fresh air and nature are essential in healing; just as much as medications.
Exercise. This can go hand in hand with outside if you decide to go for a walk. Exercise does not have to be at a gym, or be intense. Walk to get the mail, or groceries instead of drive. It doesn’t have to be hours of your day. Simply incorporate it into your life. And if you love the gym or running, well bonus. Do that.
Meditate. I think that our opinions of this are very jaded. If you think meditation is for yogis and monks, you’re wrong. You don’t have to chant OM SHANTI SHANTI OM SHANTI SHANTI- to meditate. But you can if you want. That’s actually a good mantra. You don’t even have to sit cross-legged, or join an ashram, or smell like patchouli (love patchouli, just an FYI). You also don’t have to do it for hours a day, although there is a quote that if you think you don’t have time to meditate, you should do it for an hour.
Meditation is as simply as connecting to your breath, as I have mentioned before in another post. Do it for one minute. Right now. Focus on your breath, going IN and going OUT. For one minute. That’s easy. Do it on the train, at a stoplight, while you’re out for you walk. Just be present. Wash the worries away, the to do lists and the fears and think about your breath.
Sitting not working for you? Do walking meditation. Be aware of where you are stepping. Take in absolutely everything you see around you. If you think you are already present, I will ask you this.
When you go for a long drive, can you recall absolutely every moment from the time you left to the time you arrived?
That’s because you’re in your head. When we go for a walk, we often do the same thing. So when you go for your walk which gets you outside for your 30 minutes a day, be present for it. Look at that, just killed three birds with one stone.
Do Yoga. Yoga is a moving meditation. People feel energized after doing yoga because of their presence involved with the activity. You exercised, you meditated, and you feel good. This goes back to killing two birds with one stone. Three if you do it outside.
Eat well. Nourish yourself by eating straight from the Earth. Quitting sugar did not fix my depression, but it sure does help my body function at a greater capacity. You feel and look better when you don’t eat these things. Avoid empty foods; highly processed foods, fake foods with high sugars, salts and fats. You are doing zero benefit to your body or your condition. We all know we can make better food choices.
I made a lot of choices when it came to treating my depression. I didn’t just meditate. I didn’t just try holistic or medicine. I did it all. And together, it integrated into this amazing support network that has helped me cope with this.
I don’t feel ready to go off medications yet; although possibly in the New Year, depending on what my doctor says. Honestly, I feel okay being on them. I feel really good. I’m hopeful, I’m clear headed, and most importantly I am the mom I’ve always wanted to be to my kids.
After going on my medications, I realized that I am that mom I always looked up to, the one I dreamed of being. It was shortly after starting my medications I sat down to play a game with Mila. I was patient, present, kind. I realized in that moment, that I couldn’t remember the last time I had done something to this capacity with her, not trying to catch a nap, gazing into my iPhone trying to fill my mind with something, or trying to become one with the mattress and disappear. I had to bite back tears because I couldn’t remember the last time I had played with her, yet here I was, playing Little People and even enjoying it.
I was 100% there, loving every minute of it, Asher at my side gnawing on a toy.
And by God, she was too.
So in summary,
If you think you are suffering from Postpartum Depression, depression and anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, please do not to hesitate to contact someone; your doctor, therapist, a family member, a friend, or me. You can contact me ANYTIME. The door is forever open.
I found the following literature helpful in the decision to seek help. This was forwarded by my best friend, my ‘soul sister,’ fellow mamma, and nurse, Laura. Much love to you L.
I’ve been meaning to post every week, and had one in the making but I was unable to finish due to the level of suck-age this week has reached. Asher started showing signs of coming down with something Sunday when he had two very long naps (why am I complaining? Well, this is the kid that has never slept, so when he does, while I take the damn blessing, the length of naps worried me.) He also couldn’t keep his eyes open that evening, falling asleep in the car to the family’s house. Falling asleep in my arms while there. Then sleeping all night.
Monday I wondered if he was suddenly narcoleptic, the kid couldn’t stay awake and if he was he was whining and rubbing his eyes, miserable, but still unsure what exactly was causing his sleepiness. Early Tuesday morning, around 3am he got sick in his crib, so I finally knew he had some kind of flu bug. All day Tuesday, and now Wednesday he has slept on and off for most of the day. Been bombarded with a persistent fever and has had dose upon dose of Tylenol just to keep it down and him comfortable, as well as two baths a day trying to cheer this little water baby up.
The crying, and sleepless nights for me have worn on me. I called my mum crying this morning, begging her to help me, and in her calm “mom” voice she answered my prayers,
“I’ll shower and be right over,” she said.
I’m not the sick one, but I just really needed my mom.
And a nap. Which I later got.
I have been unable due to circumstance, do much in the name of self-care, which I am adamant about. My arms and back ache from holding my squirming baby and doing no yoga. My neck is tight, my jaw strained from clenching in my sleep as most of my sleeping hours have been done sitting upright in my rocking chair. But what I really wanted tonight, aside from my baby to feel better, was a cookie. So I turned to baking therapy, nearly my favourite past time.
I’ve been baking gluten free, and sugar free lately, but tonight, no. There was no way in hell I was baking healthy. I needed some good old-fashioned sugary goodness in my veins.
These Chocolate Snowflake Cookies, are both festive, easy, and a family favourite. My mom made these every year around Christmas, and we gobbled them up, much like anything my mom makes. So if you’re looking for something fun to make with your kids, this is a great recipe for little hands too- especially the rolling part.
Chocolate Snowflake Cookies Yields 24 small cookies
1 Cup of Flour
1 Cup of Sugar
½ Cup of cocoa powder
1 Tsp baking powder
½ Tsp salt
4 Tbsp of butter
1 Tsp vanilla extract
Icing sugar for topping
*** Because I am dairy and egg free, I subbed coconut oil, softened, for the butter, and flax eggs (1tbsp ground flax: 3tbsp of water) for the eggs. ***
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Mix together your dry ingredients, whisking well.
- Then add your wet; butter, eggs, and vanilla. It will be a firmer dough, but if you feel you need to, you can add a splash of milk/almond milk, but don’t make it too wet.
- Form little balls of dough and roll them in icing sugar.
- Set on parchment papered cookie sheets. Bake at 400, for 8-10 minutes.
Cool and enjoy! I washed mine down with a cup of Vanilla Almond milk. Happy Holidays from my family to yours!