Monday, August 8, 2016

Getting back on track

About 8 years ago, in a period of about 6 months, I lost 3 people incredibly dear to me. Right after that, I was laid off from my job of 5 years. For much of that time, I was a wreck, and I found myself crying randomly and a lot. I've always dealt with some level of depression and social anxiety, but with the skills I learned in therapy, could usually find my way back to the surface. This time though, I was so deep into my sadness that I could find no way out on my own, and I knew it was time to get help - so I went on an anti-depression/anxiety medication for the first time in my life. My plan was always short-term, a year or so, along with therapy, to get back on track. I did get back on track. But for sure 1 year turned into about 3. Then I decided I wanted to have a baby, and figured with the odds already stacked pretty high against me I needed to try to get as healthy as I could and part of that was to go off the meds if possible. All of this I did with medical and therapeutic support, and it worked, and I felt fine.

Now, 3.5 years into being a mom, I've faced some of those feelings again - for a few months now - and have been considering going back on the meds. Until recently, I've been able to bring myself out of the deep, so I reconsidered. But in the last couple of months it's gotten increasingly worse, and deeper, and is much harder to bring myself back to the surface. So, again with the guidance and support of my therapist and doctor, I have made the decision to go back on the meds.

I write all of this here not for any reason other than this is part of me and my life, and as a mom now, I am responsible for so much more than just me. I need to be the best possible version of myself for my family, and to be clear, that is not who I've been over the past few months. I do not want my son to remember his childhood with an impatient, angry, shrew of a mother, and I've slowly devolved into just that. Part of it is that he is living his crazy 3's, but my responses have been far more reactive than he deserves or than I want. Another thing I am becoming increasingly aware of is that as an adoptee, I have lived much of my life unknowing certain things about my genetic history. I know a lot more now than I used to, but I think I have always felt that my depression and anxiety have been fixable, and self-induced rather than being genetically predisposed. I have a different idea now, after having had some kind of contact with various members of my bio family for the last 16 years. I am looking at things differently this time, and possibly considering the longterm. We'll see.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


On Friday night last week, after a seemingly normal pick up from preschool and dinner, my son came limping out of his bedroom and told me his "foot wrist" (ankle) hurt. I didn't really give it much thought and sort of figured he was making more of it to get a bit more of his cupcake. By the next morning we were headed to the ER, where they determined he has a broken ankle. No obvious trauma, and I have no idea how it happened, or when. And, apparently it's typical for the x-ray to not really show much in kids his age, because the foot isn't totally formed yet. But that since he refused to put any weight on it, they consider it a high likelihood of a break. He charmed the staff at Children's, got a boot to immobilize his foot - and some stickers - and away we went. 4 weeks of boot wear ahead of us, and by day 2 I was already exhausted. He has enormous amounts of energy normally and I keep him really active to burn it all off by bedtime. Now, however, he is overwrought by the end of the day and all that extra energy is keeping him from sleeping well (and me too, as it turns out).

I have an elevated sense of stress and anxiety about him right now, partly because my baby is broken, and that's just no good; and partly because it throws a wrench into our already fairly precarious routine. He's ornery and not sleeping well, which always makes me the same. I am hopeful that he'll get used to the boot, and I'll get used to him in the boot and we'll move through the next few weeks with ease.

Monday, June 27, 2016

No more shame

Yesterday I took my son swimming at a local indoor pool. The one half-hour weekly swim lesson has just hardly seemed sufficient time in the water for my boy, especially noting that in the last couple of lessons he has started to have fear of the water, which was a new development - and I attribute it to not enough exposure. I have relied on my brother to take him a few times, and he's always had the best time. My brother is a swimmer and a great teacher, and just very patient. I'm not really. And most of that has to do with feeling absolutely body-ashamed in a swimsuit. I actually love to be in the pool, and have missed out for years. Because, again, I am ashamed of my body. In the past few months, however, I promised myself that I would do everything I could to both love my baby-producing body at 41 and gain the courage to try again, at least for my kid and maybe also eventually, for myself. It wasn't easy, in fact it was terrifying. But other than the chaos that comes with managing a 3 year old through a locker room to a swimming pool, it was okay. Sometimes having this active child to focus on and no time for personal care, is a bonus. I literally had only the presence of mind to keep him safe, not hold in my stomach. The world didn't end. No one pointed or made fun of me (at least not out loud) and we had fun. Only for the hour-long family swim, and thankfully, not very many people were there because it was a stunningly beautiful day outside. But still, I did it. And I'll do it again.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Finding Balance

When I was trying to get pregnant, I would think of all the things my child and I would do and experience together, and all the opportunities and activities I would make sure he/she had access to, just as soon as he was old enough. Then when he was an infant, I was excited for when he was old enough to start lessons for sports and music, when he'd be reading, when he could count. And now that he is starting to be at that point, I am finding myself pulling up those reins and trying to slow it all down. Of course. Now, when I fill up our weekends with activities and visits and events, we get to Sunday night exhausted and I wish I'd taken the time to just be together, to rest, and recuperate from the long week before. Striking the right balance is hard. And because he's an only child, anytime we have the opportunity to sustain or build our village, I just feel we have to take it. I actually get anxious about missing out on time with friends and family, and mostly on his behalf. But as we approach summer and all the fun things that come with it, I am trying to strike a better balance, and to advocate for it for him - and even with myself for me. It's a challenge. I'm learning that 30 minutes of play by himself, with his toys, in his room, is absolutely critical for him to decompress; that he still digs a stroller walk at 3.5 because it's just the two of us and it's relatively quiet and relaxing; that popcorn and a movie from the couch is another form of quiet time together; reading stories on his bed helps him learn but also helps him concentrate. All of these things are equally critical to exercise and activity and social interaction. So now I strive for balance, for us both. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Single Mom? Are you really?

My little boy and I had a playdate with a recently divorced girlfriend and her two kids the other day. We actually had some time to talk (thankful for cafe with the tables of toys) and the conversation got around to dating. Or rather, the conversation got around to getting around to dating. As she finds herself single again, but this time with children and an ex who is still frequently present because of the kids, she's trying to figure out how dating works now - how to find the time and capacity to date. She in turn has a girlfriend under similar circumstances with kids who seems to find no problem dating, but who also declares that she's now a struggling, single mom. And as she starts to navigate the world of divorced moms, she has become totally aware of the differences between single moms - by choice, and single moms - by divorce or separation. It's something choice moms often struggle with when trying to relate to other moms.

Most of the time when having a child with someone else, the natural (and often legal) result is co-parenting and shared finances, a divvying up of responsibilities to each for the household and care of the children. There are obviously some for whom this doesn't happen - some parents are left behind to shoulder it all. But mostly, even if contentiously, there are 2 parents and each is involved to a degree. When you choose to become a mom (or dad) on your own, you are literally on your own. Even with promises of, and actual, help and advice from family and friends, every single decision and responsibility are yours. All of them, all of the time. There is literally no break from being the solely responsible person for your child's life, ever. And that is a lot to shoulder. So it's understandably frustrating to hear a divorced, co-parenting mom say that she is now a single mom, or even more frustrating to hear from a parent who's partner is, say, traveling for work, suddenly announce on Monday how tired they are because they're a single parent for the week, or from the mom who's husband is physically present but emotionally checked out of the marriage say she is doing it all on her own. Parenting is hard all of the time, regardless of partner status, but it is a very different thing to choose to solo parent with zero financial, emotional or 'parenting' back-up from another.

I hear this kind of thing a lot, but I got over correcting folks a while ago, probably because of my own lack of capacity. So it was really heartening to have my friend acknowledge that she knows the difference. She sees it and understands it. And in turn, I understand she has her own set of mama struggles. Some similar, some different. We all do.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sleepless Nights

It's the morning following a night of little sleep because my toddler woke up WIDE at about 2am and didn't settle down until about 4 or so. He's a great sleeper and always has been, so this is somewhat unusual, but when it does happen, getting warm under my bed covers generally works to send him off to sleep. Not. Last. Night.

He was wide awake: singing, playing, talking, wiggling - all of that at his energy level usually reserved for 10am. I'm not sure why it happened, but I know I therefore didn't sleep either, and today is rough. But nights like these serve me well in a couple of ways: First, I'm reminded that he's always been a good sleeper so I've been lucky - far luckier than most moms I know; Second, it reminds me that he's still so young. There is a tendency to assume he's more developmentally advanced than he really is, because he's an amazing conversationalist. A M A Z I N G. And has been for a long while already. But when he's awake in the dark, next to me cuddling with me and his soft baby owl toy, holding my hand, or putting his face in my hand, I'm reminded of what a baby he still really is, and it helps to be reminded. All those milestones we are waiting to reach, patiently or more often impatiently, also make it easy to blow quickly through the stages at hand. We want them to grow, to expand, to explore, and it's hard, especially these days, to just let them "be" for a minute. I'm reminded to do just that, as much as possible.

Now, I need more coffee.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Another year gone by...

It's been almost a year since my last post. Time just gets away from me. Parenting, especially single parenting, is all consuming and when I have a chance at "down time" or a break, I go a little catatonic - not productive. My boy turns 3.5 today. It's shocking how fast the last 3 years have gone, and yet while in it, it's hard to believe we'll ever get through some of the daily slog.

I was on a FB SMC thread the other day, supporting new mamas with my experience or whatever I had to offer, when it occurred to me that the only way to get through this without also feeling like it's passing me by, is to truly be present for all of the experiences and moments with my boy. I work full-time, he goes to preschool full-time - so for many hours in the week we're apart. But when we are together, I find that as exhausting as it can be, staying present with him is the way I feel like I'm not missing anything. I want to spend my time with him, I want to talk with him and play games with him and feed him and bathe him and give him all my attention. The hardest part of absolutely wanting those things is that I don't take care of myself the way I should. There just is no time. And then my time with him can be full of frustration and impatience.

I hit 45 a few months ago, and for a couple of months we were struggling with a family health crisis, and the loss of my birthmother soon after the time of my birthday. But once things started to settle down, it also started to feel like things were crumbling down around me. I have NOT been taking care of myself. Physically, emotionally, socially - none of it. I'm not exactly drinking a fifth under the table after bathtime, but I don't think emotionally eating a bag of chips for dinner is all that far from causing the same kind of health damage. And it not only makes me feel bad physically, the guilt and hit to my self-esteem is totally damaging. Thoughts of my own mortality, and my son's subsequent well-being are churning around in my head constantly. I needed to find a way to put my own well-being somewhere near the top.

So, back to regular therapy, back to prepping salads for the work week lunches, and I started the Couch to 5k training program (with the help of my roommate agreeing to stay home with my boy 3 nights a week for 30 minutes or so). Two weeks in and I'm grappling with just how to actually put myself somewhere near the top of priorities. But two weeks in is much further along than I've ever been, so there's hope?