How are you doing, mama?

You want to know how I'm doing. You want to ask. But you don't know how to say what you mean ... how are you really doing? Are you sad? Depressed? Did it get you, the postpartum?

Oh the postpartum depression. I've talked about it before, you know I'm involved in the cause, and my little circle of family and friends (and me) have been waiting and watching to see if I'm OK this time. I want so badly to be OK this time. I really do. I am FIGHTING the good fight to be OK this time. And I think so far I'm winning. We're all winning--my support system and me. But the battle is not over, and this won't be the last thing I write about the topic of perinatal mood disorders. I need to leave that door open because if it gets me again, I don't want to feel like a failure. I don't want to feel like I've let people down.

How am I really doing? I think I'm really doing OK. My mood fluctuates a bit from day to day hour to hour, but overall? Overall I am actually doing pretty well. I would put my mood waves in the "probably pretty normal" camp. I'm definitely not in the "all systems down/red alert/panic time" camp. Nor am I in the "devastating sadness" or the "pulsating with anxiety" camps. I've visited there. It's awful. Not recommended.

One week postpartum, the second time around. Taking in some sunshine and some quiet.

One week postpartum, the second time around. Taking in some sunshine and some quiet.

I think about that first postpartum period often now. I compare how things are going now to how they were back then. Gosh I was having a rough time. I had such high expectations of myself and my little baby. Neither of us lived up to them. She had the colic and couldn't sleep very well...ever. And I had to fill every spare moment with job applications and job searching, and I would inevitably become interrupted, hungry, tired, and then sad. I would start the day will all kinds of hope and possibility, and end each day in tears and disappointment and a sense that things would never get better. Things would always be hopeless and we would surely go broke.

One sign that things are better this time: I know that all that hopeless despair self-talk is a lie.

If I could say a few words to my old new-mama self I would tell her that. Depression lies to you. It is not hopeless. You are a hero, and you deserve to take a break.

Sometimes I wonder why didn't anyone else tell me this? Why didn't someone ask if I was OK?

The fact is, people did reach out. They did ask, how are you doing? I didn't hear them. They would ask, "how are you doing?" and all I would hear was "Tell us about how grateful you are for your new baby." I was grateful, I really was so very grateful that it killed me to be having a hard time emotionally. I was also so tired of failing at life (it seemed) that I wanted to succeed at this one thing. Admitting anything else felt like admitting that I was a terrible mom.

Oh, old me, all of that was a lie. No one was expecting you to be grateful at all times.

Other new moms (if you are out there listening), hear this! Please, open your ears and your heart to the well-intentioned questions that people are asking. Try to focus on the voices that are reaching out. They may be muffled by the all-encompassing sound of doubt and criticism and the fear of looking like a bad mom. But the voice that is criticizing your every move, the one that tells you this crap:
...that you didn't try hard enough
...that other moms' babies don't cry this much
...that other moms don't cry this much
...that you really need to be grateful that you even get to be a mom at all
...that you need to smile more because you're going to make your baby sad.

That voice is lying. Even if that voice is your own.

Listen, mama, even if you don't believe it quite yet...trust me, you will some day soon:
You are enough.
You are the best mama for your little one.
For your baby, the sun rises and sets with you, just the way you are. Just your sweet presence warms that baby's heart.
The love will grow.
You can cry.
You can tell people that you don't feel well.
You can get help. Any kind of help you need.
Resist the urge to judge yourself and your need for help. We all need help.

You are enough, mama. Yes, yes you are.

We had a baby. [And related topics]

It has been a wild couple of weeks in the life of hmv, and now, our son, hjvv. Everyone: meet Henry Jones.

Born on October 22, 2014

at 1:50 a.m.

after a quick 2.5 hours of labor

and 40 weeks + 2 days of anticipation


I don't have the time or mind capacity to write down the full birth story, but I wanted to share some thoughts, feelings, miscellaneous findings, and randoms observations. Here we go.

1. Can you be "in labor" for over week?

I have to say that I think the answer is now, yes. I had contractions every night (and several during the day as well) for a solid week before this baby was born. I had a false alarm at work. I packed up, called Jake, turned on my out-of-office, and excitedly zipped home where .... nothing happened. My membranes were swept twice. And I had strong contractions those two days. Like, get up and take some deep breaths and lean over the counter kind of contractions. Still nothing. For 4 days I was 5 centimeters dilated. That's HALF WAY to 10cm, which is all you need to have a baby. Well, 10cm and a whole lot of pushing.

So basically, yes, I'm going to go ahead and say that I was in labor (sorta) for a week. After that it all went pretty fast. But that's a story for another time (I promise).

 

Here I am with my husby, "not in labor" the day before my due date. It was fun talking the wait staff at the restaurant: "When are you due?" "Tomorrow" "Oh...that sounds about right."

 

Will this bread make me go into labor??  I did have some big contractions here. And some free creme brulee!

 

Here I am "not in labor" at Saturday market on game day. (Go ducks!) It's hard not to feel like everyone is waiting for you to hurry up and have the baby when the whole fam is in town, but our family was really very good about this. We had a fun 5-6 days of waiting together. We watched the game, went out to dinners, visited parks and apple orchards, and cleaned up the house. They SCRUBBED our house from top to bottom and it was glistening by the time everyone left.

2. Nursing. It doesn't get much easier.

So many things are easier the second time around, but nursing isn't really one of them. It still hurts your poor little nipples. It is still intensely emotional. And it's just plain hard at times. When my milk came in the day after I came home from the hospital, it was nearly impossible to nurse this little guy. Imagine trying to suck a tiny bit of water from an over-inflated water balloon. Not easy. And then imagine that you are the one with the giant water balloons on your chest. And they hurt. And they scare you with their gigantic proportions. And they appear to be scaring your tiny baby too, and everyone else around you, and the entire world.

It's hard to overstate the pain and terror of engorgement. Just trust me.

3. Thank the Lord above for the fine men and women of the Sacred Heart Emergency Room.

So, I don't want to make a big deal out of this, but it's not like every day you find yourself in the ER. In fact, I'd never been to ER, except this one time when I was kid but that was because my sister went and broke her arm and while we're on the topic let me add, it wasn't my fault.

 

This picture was taken about 15 minutes before the uterine cramping from hell hit me.

I also posted this to Facebook with some general complaint about the difficulties of nursing, and I got the nicest responses. My friends are truly the best.

I found myself in the ER because of severe uterine cramping. Or as my discharge papers so scientifically put it: "pelvic pain." It turns out that my sensitive little uterus would cramp up rather intensely every time I would nurse our little guy. Well, the nursing wasn't going very well (refer to #2 above), so I hadn't nursed for several hours. By the time I did (twice) I hadn't taken any pain killers for hours and the cramping was so intense it was like I was in labor again. It was like the worst contraction I ever had. And I have to believe this was pretty accurate on account of how recently I'd been in labor and had a baby (TWO DAYS prior).

Despite how many people told me that this kind of cramping is normal after second pregnancies, I had this nagging little feeling that I was DYING OF PAIN. I'm exaggerating, but at the time it was actually very, very scary. My husband jumped into action and called my mom and called our midwife clinic and talked to them. Minutes felt like hours and by the time the midwife called back to tell us to wait longer, I was practically yelling "NOOOOOO! I need to go to the ER."

So I went to the ER. My heroic mama drove me there and waited with me. Our incredible and reliable friends rushed over to watch our kids so that Jake could join us at the hospital. In the end, everything checked out fine and the pain medicine they gave (intravenously....holy crap! the serious stuff) was just divine. Oh thank goodness. And thank you, good people of the Sacred Heart ER. I could not be more appreciative of your kindness, your willingness to believe me and hear me out, and of course, your willingness to dispense large amounts of strong medicine.


Did I mention how amazing my friends are? Look at all the breastfeeding helpers they brought me! Thank you Leia and Carolyn!!

Welp, that's all I've got for now. On to the next nursing/diaper changing/napping session. Like I said, it's been wild times around here. More coming soon!

Here we go again...

There is a famous story in my family that goes like this: When I was 2 1/2, my sister, Amy Lou, was born. They brought her home from hospital, and my mom's best friend/my godmother, Mary, asked me, "Hannah, what did you get from the hospital?!" I answered, after a moment of hesitation --perhaps because I just needed time to process this weighted question, and perhaps because it just the moment of hesitation I needed for mischief to seep in--

"Gum," I said.  "I got a stick of gum!"

Then everyone laughs.

This was Amy Lou's actual face when she heard this story.

Despite my early reservations about being a big sister, I came around. Amy Lou and I have a great relationship now (30 years later, we did it!).

And I have a great relationship with the other one in that picture...she came along 4 years after Amy Lou in a blaze of scream-crying glory.  I have always said that Maren was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, and that is a true truth, but she was also a very VOCAL one.

Anyways, the point is, having sisters is great. It is absolutely one of the most enriching, rewarding relationship of my life, it's wonderful. In the long run. In the short run it is new and different and therefore terrifying. From the parent's perspective, I think it is the scariest, bravest thing you can do. Having another child literally doubles your work. Some say it is more than double. But those people are very mean and should keep comments like that to themselves, or surely we will never repopulate the Earth.

So basically, that is how I feel about having a second child: it is the most wonderful thing ... it is the scariest thing.

But here we go... we're doing it! And I have some concerns.

I worry a little about Olivia taking on the role of the big sister. I worry about the little fights they will get into, the times that O will be jealous of the baby's attention, the days when O will wish she had her mom and dad all to herself again. Although I don't worry about these things too much for some reason. I don't think she will treat her little sibling like a discarded piece of gum. She has more love in her heart than that (not sure where she got it from). She talks about babies a LOT, and she loves to help take care of them at daycare. She talks about her sister too (she thinks we are having a girl, she is pretty insistent on that). She talks about where her sister will sit on the couch, which toys she will play with, how she will take a bath in the same tub as Olivia does. And I hear stories from my friends about how sweet it is to see their kids' sibling relationship blossom, and all of this makes me really excited. It sounds absolutely wonderful and adorable and heartwarming. Almost enough to make me throw myself into this adventure with total carefree excitement.

But not quite.

When we first found out that we were pregnant again, I think we had two simultaneous emotions: the first one was total excitement of course. There was never a doubt that we wanted to have two children, but we never assumed it would just happen.  So we were very grateful that we were able to get pregnant again, and so quickly too. But our second emotion was fear...fear of the unknown.

I don't know how we are going to do it all. I don't know how anyone does it all. We barely get out the door before 8am as it is right now. We are constantly a few chores behind. Our house is always almost-clean. But never all the way clean. Never ever. Call me crazy, but I don't think that adding another child to the house is going to move us into the totally tidy category.

I really like my job, and there is no chance of giving that up, but I will have to return to work sooner than I did the last time around. With Olivia, I stayed home for over 6 months. This time it will be about 3 months off, and then a quick transition from part-time to full-time work. Will that be enough time for me and the baby? Will we be able to establish a strong breastfeeding relationship and carry that on as long as we would like?

And that is just the unknown.  What about all the things we DO know this time? Newborns are SO hard. They eat, they cry, they sleep (from time to time), they poop and then they cry because they just pooped and how could you not KNOW that and also they are HUNGRY now! On this topic I have found that it is best to not focus on what you know. Just focus on the enduring hope that this child will be different than the first one and they will be an easy baby because they love you and they know that you need this.

Lastly, I have this one other little itty bitty fear. Postpartum depression. Women who have had PPD have a 50% chance of experiencing it again in later pregnancies (for all women the odds are 20%). So while I am not "doomed" by any means, it still hits me in the gut big time. It is hard to deal with this reality. I don't know just want to do with it, but I am trying to prepare for the possibility. 

...More on that topic later. Suffice it to say, it is one of the fears that I keep in my little bag of fears. 

One of goals during this pregnancy is to be open and honest and nonjudgmental about my feelings. Every single person I have spoken to who is expecting a second child has expressed pure and total joy. Including me, at least at first. It is really the only acceptable thing to say. "We are thrilled!" "So excited to be having a sibling...our family is growing!" "Of course it was planned!!" 

Haha...it actually was totally planned in our case, but you know. That doesn't mean you've thought it all through!

So now I try and tell people that yes, we are excited, thrilled, eager to start this new chapter and meet this new little guy. And we are also a little terrified. We don't know what we are getting into. We feel in over our heads sometimes. But other times we don't. Other times we listen to Olivia explaining which toys she will give to the baby to play with, and our hearts melt. My hormones go into maternal bliss overdrive and I feel a sense of calm. This will all turn out OK somehow. I know some of those friends were actually totally scared too (they told me later when it was safe). And they are all doing pretty darn good now. Their hearts grew big enough to accommodate the love for both kids. Even when they run out of sleep, or energy, or money at the end of the month, they never run out of love.

And neither will I. 

18 weeks and oh we have a belly!

Backyard fun - this girl loves the sprinkler, and I love watching her


My friend and fellow blogger from And Then They..., suggested that I should follow up this post with another after the baby is here, when I can really see how it is having two little ones.  She wrote an excellent post on that very thing, which I love.