Two to Two

I went to sleep in the springtime
I awoke in summer

A riot of green,
a vibrant rush,
an air of energy

My body reclaimed and yet not my own
Inside out
the protective covering of conception gone

Gaunt fingers and ankles
ghosts of padded appendages
no longer needed to sustain life
for two

Whole again
and yet suddenly separate
A new path split
in two

When does a perinatal mood disorder start?

Please read on to pinpoint when you or a woman close to you will begin to see signs of a perinatal mood and/or anxiety disorder.

  • When two lines appear on the pregnancy test
  • When pregnancy is unexpected
  • When pregnancy is finally achieved
  • When pregnancy is not achieved
  • When the mother loses the baby
  • When the mother chooses not to have the baby
  • When the adoption falls through
  • When the drastic changes in lifestyle that having a baby will induce begin to occur:
    • nausea
    • extreme exhaustion
    • no more wine with dinner or beer after a rough day
    • limited mobility
  • When the hormones at flux in the pregnant body affect thought processes
    • heightened anxiety at the amazing responsibility of growing and then caring for a baby
    • fear of the unknown or varied outcomes of gestation, labor, delivery, and aftercare
    • ambivalence over the new self the mother must create or become
    • mourning the loss of the former self
  • When medication regimens must be altered due to unknown effects of routine prescriptions on the fetus
  • When mother worries and feels guilty about continuing medication and its effects on fetus
  • When mother suffers a loss during pregnancy
    postpartum_pathways_logo

    postpartumpathways.com

    • death of a loved one
    • separation from partner
  • When the mother has no partner or support person
  • When a drastic transition occurs during pregnancy
    • moving homes and/or locations
    • away from support network
    • loss of own or partner’s employment
  • When labor and/or delivery does not go as planned or expected
  • Traumatic labor and/or delivery
    • physical trauma
    • emotional or psychological trauma
  • Complicated recovery from labor and/or delivery
    • infection
    • injury
  • When adoption is complete
  • Unexpected medical condition in infant
  • Loss of infant
  • Difficulty feeding infant
    • breastfeeding
    • colic
    • reflux
    • allergies
    • tongue tied
  • Extreme fatigue recovering from labor and caring for newborn around the clock
  • No routine
  • No schedule
  • No down time – constantly being needed, touched, suckled
  • Disappointment at real life not matching imagined version of motherhood
  • Hormones further thrown into flux after baby-growing part of process complete
  • Stress
  • Too much interference and advice from others
  • Not enough support and help from others
  • Isolation
  • Weaning child from breast (days, weeks, years after birth)
  • Being sole caregiver for a fragile, totally dependent being

After reading this list, it should be an incredibly simple and precise process to pinpoint exactly when you or a woman close to you will exhibit signs of a perinatal mood disorder. Diagnosing and treating it should be even simpler. And recovery? Piece of cake.


Hopefully it is quite obvious that the way I’ve chosen to frame this list is tongue in cheek. The individual items on the list are anything but. They are varied; some mutually exclusive and many overlapping – to show that there is no one road map for predicting, preventing, diagnosing, or treating perinatal mood disorders. Perinatal mood disorders come in many different forms with many different time lines. The one surefire tool to helping yourself or a woman close to you who is suffering is awareness. Awareness of the myriad possible causes and many symptoms that can present. And then reaching out.

To her. To your physician. Midwife. OB. GYN. Pediatrician. Counselor. Therapist. Psychologist. Psychiatrist. Friend. Mother. Partner. Neighbor.

With an illness this insidious, multi-faceted, and far-reaching, silence is not an option. The lives of our mothers, babies, and families depend upon it.

Sick Daze

My friend told me her children had been on holiday break for 17 days – 17 days!!!

I can’t believe we didn’t hear about them on the news.

No, that is not a judgment on my friend’s parenting style. Nor is it a commentary on her children’s behavior. But Good Lord, 17 days – out of routine, out of school, in each others’ faces!

Today is my first day of vacation.

School started back up Monday in these parts, but my eldest decided to vomit all over her bed Sunday night. She looked miserable Monday and Tuesday morning, saying her stomach hurt and she felt like she’d be sick again. Wednesday morning when I threw down the gauntlet of ‘no vomit, no fever – go to school’, she dressed and ate breakfast only to vomit it all over the kitchen floor. Shortly thereafter, my youngest awoke with an earache, glassy eyes, and continued congestion. My middle was not a happy camper as the only one of her trio boarding the bus that morning. She announced that she wanted a sick day. I told her we’d quarantine her as the only one who wasn’t sick.

tissue

Think you can come up with a fun word for this phenomenon? Click through for the challenge!

So today, Thursday, fourth supposed day of school – my whole crew returned to routine. I’m as giddy as a school girl myself. Well, maybe one who skipped school. For I was able to return to a quiet house, which even with its piles of detritus left from stretches of sick days (did I mention I’m sick, too?), seems somehow calmer, cleaner, more zen.

I don’t know what I’ll do today. Maybe get started on pulling down those Christmas decorations that have overstayed their welcome. Maybe de-germ all community surfaces. Maybe turn over a New Years’ leaf and write some more pages of my lonely manuscript.

But right now my eye lids feel heavy. I might just take a nap – and wait for the call from the school to come pick up a sick child.

Obtaining a Passport in 14 Simple Steps

  1. Wait until the absolute last minute to apply. For instance, if the state department says processing time is four to six weeks, file your applications four weeks to the day of departure.
  2. Be sure to do all your business on a weekday. This gives you the added bonuses of:
    • your spouse’s absence
      • While he’ll miss the ensuing hilarity at the passport counter, he can contribute by badgering his fellow officemates for a notarized seal on the extra form you’ll have to present as proof you’re not trying to steal his children across the border without his consent.
      • It will also give both of you the opportunity to appreciate the true skills of license forgerers as neither one of you will be able to photocopy his likeness. *It may also make you wonder if you’ve married a vampire.
    • time constraints
      • With all postal collection agencies stopping their passport services 30 minutes-1 hour before their already conservative closing time, you have the thrill of rushing at breakneck speeds from your children’s busstop to a neighboring town – which brings me to my next point.
  3. Bring all of the children for whom you’ll be obtaining passports. The more the better. More whining in the long lines. More children crossing their eyes at the one trying to maintain a stoic face while getting his/her photo taken. More little hands to pull padded envelopes from their displays in the post office lobby. To grab the weighted blotter from the counter and wave it above their heads. To terrorize the patrons retrieving mail from their PO boxes.Not only does the passport agent need to see them, their behavior may make them reconsider this inconvenient policy.

And speaking of inconvenient policies:

  1. Be sure to choose a postal collection agency that does not have its full information posted on the link from the state department’s website – so you can wait in said line with children straining to hold in their poo only to reach the front counter to be told, yeah, we don’t process passports within an hour of closing. You’ll have to come back. Yes, with all three kids.
  2. Drive back through the two neighboring towns you passed to get here, with two children beating each other in the backseat since starvation and dehydration have set in and the third complaining about the poo in her pants.
  3. Try again the next day at a postal collection agency that’s a little closer and open a half-hour later – which you know because you’ve checked and checked again. Schlep all the children through that line, meeting clerk so nice she won’t take your application because she would hate for the state department to return the whole thing since your husband’s photocopied license isn’t visible.
  4. Curse the amazing mediterranean tan your husband gets each year, wish he were as pale as you, tuck your tail between your legs and leave the counter. *Wondering even more if your husband is a vampire.
  5. Release your pent-up rage as you pass through the parking lot since it wasn’t the so nice clerk’s fault it’s so gad-dummed difficult to get someone, anyone to just take. my. papers!
  6. Take several days off – because life intervenes, and you don’t want to be arrested for assault of a passport agent. Plus, you’ve already screwed any chances of obtaining the passports in time anyway.
  7. Take this downtime to discuss with your incredibly tan husband, who may or may not suck blood, the possibility of expediting your children’s passports – for an additional fee, of course. Why not pour all the money you saved by purposely opting for the less-expensive passport cards – and then some – into the exorbitant total cost for expediting three kid passports?
  8. Scurry around the house like nincompoops, scanning, printing, and peering at new copies of his license for what better be the ultimate passport application submission attempt.
  9. Revisit post office from few days previous, nice clerk nowhere to be seen. Dispondently hand over application materials to new clerk, who, when you mention the license issue, looks and says it should be fine, but she’ll submit both copies just to be sure. When clerk questions your departure date and whether you’d like to expedite, answer ‘no’ so quickly, she jumps back. When she reminds you the passports may not arrive in time, with a twitch of the shoulder and giggle so borderline psychotic she looks uncomfortable, tell her, ‘Well, we just won’t go then.’
  10. Hand over a ridiculous amount of checks and funds and get the hell out of dodge.
  11. Resist the urge to dwell on the fact that you’ve wasted a week of your life – especially when you discover that all your children need to pass over the northern border are their birth certificates.

3passports

All Sorts of Bombs

The hours that stretched between late afternoon and evening yesterday were tough.

I hustled my three girls off the bus and into the car, rushing off into the next installment of the ‘passport debacle’ (I may pen a frustrating short story of the same title). They were tired, hot, sticky, hungry, and probably would’ve had to pee if they weren’t so dehydrated from the high temperatures. After toting them through two venues and experiencing botched passport attempts (adding to the overall debacle), they hooted and hollered, spat and pinched the whole ride home. Home. The place where I got to give my husband a quick smooch, eat a hamburger right off the grill as I set the table for the sit-down dinner the rest of my family would be enjoying while I rushed off to a curriculum night at the school. School. The place that was boarded up tight because the curriculum night is, in fact, tonight. I got back in the car and thanked my lucky stars that I’d loaded Led Zeppelin II in the CD player so I wouldn’t go out of my ever-living mind. I promptly popped a bottle of beer when I got home and joined my husband on the porch. Trying to recount my frustration and agitation to him, I was repeatedly interrupted by our cherubs, one of whom snagged a butterfly net over my cranium, God bless her.

In a rare moment of calm, I said to him, life would be so much easier if we hadn’t had them.

That’s one of those statements you know you probably shouldn’t say out loud; that you know was a mistake as soon as you see your spouse’s face.

In his ever-present magnamity in the face of my melancholy, he replied, but we wouldn’t have the joy, either.

I know, you’re right, I sheepishly yet grudgingly replied. Still, my days the last week or so have been fine – until I have to get them off the bus.

And then – not with a lightning bolt, but with a gradual blossoming like a-bomb footage on slow mo – I realized that I’d have had depression anyway – with or without them. If left to my own devices, depression would’ve snuck in in the quiet moments, seeped through the cracks of career dissatisfaction, cycles of stress and PMS, self-loathing and pity.

abomb

Life with three little people is insane. It would be so easy to pin my struggles on them. It’s hard to see anything else, to even draw a spare breath. And the tenor of my life with them did seem to kickstart whatever this alternate mental atmosphere I’m living in is – but in that one absurdly clear and dissonant moment, I saw my struggle, my illness, my self for what it is.

That doesn’t make it any easier to raise three littles in the midst of all that. But it makes it easier not to resent them and their needs. And to love myself – faults and all.

First Day of School

These last few weeks of summer, my own personal atmosphere is experiencing an unsettled weather pattern.

I still don’t feel like I’ve reclaimed my house after my dear friend’s family vacated it. The hole they left is yet unplugged. As are some of the items misplaced by little hands (from both families) and those shoved into disused corners by my and my husband’s as we prepped for their arrival.

The grains of beach sand are quickly slipping through my fingers as time marches on toward the first day of school.

Anxious as a student, who then stupidly served as a teacher for several years, this time of year always winds me up. There are the residual effects of that: feeling as if I need to fit.every.last.experience.in. before the all-consuming task of education took over. (I used to punish myself on one-week school vacations as well; attacking a back-log of to-do lists from the previous semester/s/years) This year, however, there is the added ennui of two big first days of school in the life of my children and in mine as a parent.

My youngest starts kindergarten; my oldest starts middle school.

In perhaps my subconscious’ grandest scheme of self-preservation (um, denial), I hadn’t thought it was a big deal until my mother pointed out that my babies are growing up. Seriously, it hadn’t even occurred to me that I should be freaked out until she mentioned that. Now, as I think about the combination lock I haven’t bought my oldest, the seemingly huge backpack on the little frame of my youngest, my insides are positively vibrating. When I think of the two new student orientations I need to attend next week, I want to vomit.

If I was anxious as a student, now I’ll be hit three-fold. Three little pieces of my heart will be tromping onto the school bus this time two weeks from now.

And what was once met with jubilation – the thought of a six-hour unencumbered stretch – now is also part of this quivering mass of anxiety.

What now?

There will be no one on whom to blame countless hours of Caillou-watching. There will be no warm body that needs snuggling on the couch. There will no one keeping me from doing the things I’ve always dreamed of doing.

Into this void, will rush all my hopes and dreams. All the plans paused in various states of being. Mixed with the lonely ache of missing my now three school-aged children, will be the uncomfortable mania of not knowing where to start, what to do, how to function.

I told my husband I wanted to take some time when they started school to get back to center; that it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the land of the living. He said, you never really left, Jen.

It feels like it’s been a long, twisted, disconnected dream – that I can’t even say started with my first days of motherhood. The more I traverse what seem to be ‘normal’ days, the more I realize that the upside down, inside out period I keep waiting to come out of – is actually life.

So the fact that I’ll now be the boss of six unassigned, unencumbered hours of each of my days is a little frightening. Overwhelming, at least.

It’s time to choose what really matters; accountable to no one and for every one of my actions; to work for what I want even when it scares the hell out of me.

It’s an auspicious day for momma, too.

from An Overdue Adventure

from An Overdue Adventure

A Place to Land

Not so long ago, maybe a generation or two back, all things were black or white. There was no middle ground. Expectations were clear. One either fell on one side of an issue or the other. The thing was – there were people who fell in the middle. People who had no defined spot. They were neither here nor there – so they were nowhere.

No one deserves to be no where.

Nowadays, in our generation, those children desperately coming of age as parents of their own children, everywhere we look there are different shades of gray. Fifty is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many nuanced pitfalls to navigate.

Body image. Nurturing healthy sexuality without encouraging oversexualization. Self-concept. Independence with a modicum of obedience. Utilization of technology while maintaining human interaction. . . .
 

Instead of yes or no, everything is up for discussion. We don’t want our children to do a particular thing, make a particular decision, live a particular lifestyle, but we cannot condemn it – for we run the risk of offending someone. We do not want our children to condemn others or other points of view – so we skirt around topics instead of facing them head-on. We live in a constant haze of gray.

But if everything goes, everything is everywhere – does that not leave all of us nowhere?

Our children will not know where to stand if we place everything in front of them with no guidance, no discussion, no sense of right and wrong. There is a difference between open, informed dialogue and an all-you-can-eat buffet of sociology.

If the pendulum trended toward the restrictive threat of ostracization before, it has now swung toward the promiscuous promise of floating in the wind. There must be somewhere in the middle.

Floating in the wind is nice – until you tire of it and realize you’ve nowhere to land. A place to land – we owe the next generation at least that.

from nuji.com

                from nuji.com

Heaven or Hell

 

This is heavenly.

 

That was the thought and feeling that flooded through every part of my body as I sat under a grove of trees a few miles from the shoreline yesterday.

 

I was with two women I didn’t know particularly well, my children playing with five other children, only two of which they knew particularly well – but so go play dates when you join a new group, I suppose. At least I could relish the gorgeous weather and spot for what it was. A quintessential coastal breeze in the shade of old growth trees. An hour of my three children not waylaying each other and my own ear drums and patience.

 

How odd, then, that conversing with these two women, watching our children twirl and loop around us, that I made the decision to love my life.

 

I’d asked them the ages of their children, which led to a clarification of grade levels just completed, and then, a conversation debating the merits of forcing kindergarten for children with birthdays on the cusp of the cut-off and/or waiting an additional year. I’ve had this conversation countless times the last few years, starting with other people’s children all the way to my own four year-old. It’s never cut and dry and the anguish is always apparent on the parent’s face – that they might somehow harm their child’s entire educational career for the sake of a start nine months too early or late.

 

But that’s not what this post is about.

 

I’ve come to terms with our family’s decision to keep our precious little pea home another year for the sake of six lousy days.

 

It’s the nature of that additional year that this conversation affected. The nature of life now.

 

There will come a day when I have to work outside the home. When I won’t be able to see my babies at 10 AM just because. When I won’t be able to sit at a park with virtual strangers/possible friends and discuss issues for the age and stage we’re all at.

 

There will always be dishes and laundry. There will always be exhaustion. There will always be the guilt of the unwritten chapter lurking somewhere behind the keyboard. It will always take more energy and effort to pack the kid(s) and all their crap up and go on an outing than it will to stay home.

 

But there won’t be the brush of feathery grass on the backs of my thighs. The rustle of wind through green leaves. Legs long and lithe, short and compact, darting and weaving. The call and answer of hide and seek. The heavy weight of a tired child solid against my side.

 

We travel through this world from start to finish regardless. It is totally within our determination to make it heaven or hell.

 

 

4270x2816

image from wallpaperscraft.com

 

Only YOU can prevent Burnouts

 

refill-your-cup-300x300

Read this article for tips on how to do just that . . . Peace to you.

 

Hold on Loosely

I dropped some balls.

Not all of them. In fact, there were some added ones more involved than the usual ones. I’ve been getting a lot accomplished, doing a lot. But it’s hard to see the progress when some of the more essential tasks have fallen by the wayside.

Sleep. Sinus health. Writing. Clean dishes.

It seems like the mania that accompanies summer weekends has followed me into fall and beyond. And chock full days are not conducive to sleep, when late nights are the only chance for a quiet respite. And hay fever season compounded by a deviated septum and lack of rest, forcing of fluids, and neti-pot usage is just nasty.

The treadmill I’m on seems to have unrolled and stretched to the horizon like a ribbon of roadway.

I need to say no. I need to relax. I need to prioritize.

But, aside from the mundane daily requirements, a lot of what we’ve been doing is fun.

I was bone-tired by the end of last week and the attendant bunkbed mania that ensued. And I’m still digging out of the misplaced objects and displaced duties that occurred as a result. My chi is not where it needs to be. And it snowed for the first time today and my husband is leaving for a business trip. And I’m a worry-wort who does not take things one at a time.

But I stayed in my pjs till early afternoon yesterday and wrote an exciting short story in its entirety. I’m catching up on laundry and the pile of dishes in the sink is not as high as it was. Only one half of throat hurts now and I’m not drowning in mucus. My daughters are thrilled with their three-quarters of the way done big top bedroom. And tight squeezes from beloved family members feel even better when your body is battered and broken.

After all, the object of juggling is not to hold all the balls at the same time, but to rotate and transfer them, holding each one only lightly at a time

%d bloggers like this: