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.

You're welcome ... and I'm sorry: The end of our only-child family

Dear Olivia,

In about 2 months [update: 11 days] you will get the greatest gift that I could ever hope to give you: a sibling. He will be like you in many ways. His parents will be your parents. You will always have that in common. He will probably looks like you too, but different. And he will pick up many of the quirks and neuroses that we are no doubt passing along to our children.

I have always taken comfort in the fact that I have my sisters to talk to about issues related to family (mostly our weird mom and dad) (sorry, Mom and Dad). There will be times when you feel so alone, like no one else could possibly know what it feels like to be you. And that will be somewhat true. But you will have your brother. And he will have you. And my hope is that you two will keep that in mind and turn to each other when you need love and support.

Your dad and I love our siblings. But we did not always like them 100%. Like when Aunt Meggie was stubborn and wouldn't listen when it was time to clean up . Or when Aunt Amy Lou wanted to copy every little thing I did. Or when Aunt Maren would get out of doing chores because she was "too little." Bah! These were tough times on a big sibling. We knew we needed to love them, but man....it was hard sometimes.

We know that can happen. I'm not saying it won't make me a little sad. I want our house to be filled with love all day every day. But I will try to remember and understand.

Because we know that the gift of another sibling means the end of this very short era in your life. The era of the only child. Your dad and I got to experience this once upon a time, and we clearly grew wise and strong for it. But honestly we can't remember those years, and someday, neither will you probably. I'm not sure. Science can do some amazing things nowadays.

It is my hope that *I* remember these few short years, though, when you were my only little one. Mostly because I want to remember all my children's infancy and toddler years. But partly because this time has been special and unique. You made me become a mom. My own mom tells me that from time to time as well. I get it now. It is a special bond, and you happen to be my lucky first child who walked these firsts along with me. Your life changed mine forever.

I hope I remember

... rocking you in the living room for hours.

...watching you fall asleep on my chest after we had returned home from the hospital, hardly able to believe you were mine. And I was your mom.

...taking you to Baby swim time at Tamarack to do some of the first activity-based baby things we could think of. And watching every change on your face and little toes as you discovered the water.

...sitting with your dad at Bounce gymnastics, watching everything you did, and being so super attentive. Maybe too attentive. They wouldn't let us both hold your hands when we did the "mommy-and-me" activities, so we had to take turns.

...sneaking into your room at night after you'd fallen asleep, and coming back to the living room to report how cute you looked, and could we even believe we had made something so precious?

...taking turns trying to get you to eat baby food. Taking video of the whole messy adventure and sharing photos of your gooey face with everyone we knew.

...agonizing over our daycare choices. Sometimes convinced that the daycare was doing irreparable damage to you by withholding your pacifier. And other times convinced that we had nailed it by finding an affordable option that also taught you all the ABCs by the age of 2 and some sign language too!

When your brother arrives, we will be so prepared. What a fun family we have created so far. What a house full of love we've got. That is so directly tied to you, Olivia, and the joy you've brought just by being yourself.

I don't really like the idea that parents are more laid back for their second child. Nor is it fair to say that we "better" parents to our second child, or "worse." But we are different. We are more relaxed about some things that we can and should be relaxed about. We are more alert to other things. And we are all taking this leap together -- the adding of another family member.

You, Olivia, you seem like the one who is most prepared of all. You grab my belly and kiss your brother and tell him things. You think he is funny and silly. You felt him kick last night, and you told me that he was kicking just like *THIS* [ninja kick!]. Do you two already know each other? How did you get so wise about this little guy? I have no idea what he will be like and here you are, 10 steps ahead of me!

So here we go. He will be here any day now, and our family will be forever changed again. I am so glad I've got you with me for the adventure, Little O.

~ Mom

Here we are with our beautiful siblings! (Sorry Jake, this was the only picture I had of all 5 of us)

And here they are having a great time at our wedding reception. I could party with these girls for hours. HOURS. (And then I'd fall asleep)

Deciding to stay positive this late in pregnancy

Two completely un-profound things happened recently that have changed my perspective on this whole "being pregnant" thing. So I figured I would write about them. It's been a while since I've written and why not? Sometimes you need something small and mundane to push you in the right direction.

The first thing was this little moment that happened before I dropped Jake off at work. I had a tiny contraction (short in duration, but packing a pretty hefty punch). I started to cringe and whine and ughhhh... and Jake just kind of jumped into action and walked me through it.

"Breathe."

"I am breathing."

"No, with your mouth, like this... Remember?"

"Oh...yeah. Ok. [moment passes] Well, have a good day at work!"

So it wasn't like, earth-shattering, but it started this idea rolling in my head. And the idea was this:

STAY STRONG

Or more accurately, "Stay strong, you freaking wuss! This is going to get so much harder - you will WISH you had that tiny contraction back when you're 13 hours into labor on no sleep with this extra 30-some pounds we're packing around! Because this shit is real!!" (My inner critic is such a delight.)

But I needed this reminder. A couple weeks ago I had just the faintest *inkling* of a contraction along with some back pain. It lingered for a while, and the first thought that came to my mind was "Oh my gosh I'm in labor I can't do this I'll never make it I'm getting an epidural." Then it was over. So perhaps a slight overreaction. And a huge wake-up call.

This time around we are not taking birth classes, we aren't re-using HypnoBabies (although several techniques and ideas will be stolen from those materials), and we aren't planning for a natural birth, necessarily. This flies in the face of most everything we did last time, and I am very much at peace with that. But that doesn't mean that I want to be reaching for the magic epidural wand at the first sign of labor. No no noooo...I need to do a lot of this on my own...plus the wand apparently isn't even a thing so whatever. (crap)

Focus up! Only 3 weeks to go!

So I decided I need to focus up and stay strong. I do my kegels, I walk tall and engage my core, I don't complain.*

*as much

And it has helped. Today I actually walked across campus from a work meeting whilst smiling. For real. Which leads me to the second un-profound realization I have had:

STAY POSITIVE

Earlier on this particular journey, I was suddenly hit with the poetic euphoria of the great Stevie Nicks.

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
— Stevie Nicks, Landslide by Fleetwood Mac

There are many lines of that song that speak to me, but I do not know what they all mean. And I kind of like that. Songs like this mean different things at different times, and this line about the seasons of one's life, well...it really means something to me now.

Because the seasons are a'changing. Literally, too! But mostly figuratively. I am about to have a baby and be done with being pregnant. Probably forever. My body will never grow a little being inside of it again. Do I really want to end this season of life with a bunch of negativity? I want to celebrate this, I really do. My body is amazing! But ugh, it gets hard.

How do I handle the seasons of my life? How do I deal with the fact that this is ending and that makes me indescribably sad? The door on this chapter is closing. But at the same time it is hard (physically) to be so pregnant and so heavy and so uncomfortable in my own body. I am done with the backaches and the shooting pains and the constant commentary of strangers. I look at Jake and I long to be able to decide when and when not to disclose personal details about my life. Like when I'm going have another baby and how many I already have and how I feel in my uterus area and how dilated my cervix is. (Actually, no one has asked that yet, but God help them on the day they ever do....)

I have this theory that God made pregnancy really difficult at the end so that you would embrace the opportunity of childbirth, rather than fear it. It was a pretty clever trick. And it's working.

If you consider the metaphor of seasons, that makes sense too. Summer gets so damn hot. At some point you're like, listen, I can do without the suntan and the bikinis and all that. Give me some colorful leaves, big scarves, and pumpkin patches and let's move on already!

It's a natural progression. It certainly helps that at the end of this season, I get to start a new one with a beautiful baby boy. I get to start a mother-son relationship that will never end. And I get to go to the gym and really work out again and kind of get my body back. Forever.

Not that I'm looking too shabby as it is...

image.jpg

(you get that it's a joke, right?)

(cause I'm huge...but also sexy as hell)

Hmv's Guide to Fielding Dumb Questions

It's time for something light.

Lately, I've been getting lots of questions, many of them dumb questions. Now you might say to yourself, HEY there's no such thing as a dumb qu--- stop. Yes there is.

So I'm taking a break from serious matters to bring you this little public service announcement. Feel free to start applying it to your real life right away.

Question 1: When are you due?!

Answer: Don't ask this. At least, don't just come straight out of the gate with this one. You don't know me. I may not even be pregnant!

Ok, ok, I'm definitely pregnant. But still, be cautious here. You never know. Consider asking me about things in a different way:

"You looks splendid! How are you feeling?" <-- this question gives nothing away, and it has the added benefit of actually being a compliment

"You look great!" <-- how about that? It's not even a question! Now I can talk about it or not talk about it and there's no pressure. Sidenote: Don't keep pressing on if I just say "thanks" and move along.

"How's things?" <-- brevity is next to Godliness ... or some such thing

Question 2: Do you want a boy or a girl?

Answer: Yes.

I don't have a preference. And if I did, I don't think I would tell you, barista lady I hardly know. Or coworker that I know very well and will see every day until this baby is born. A person who will be wondering the whole time, will she really love that baby when she actually wanted the other gender?

Nope. We aren't going there. NEXT!

Question 3: Oh, it's a BOY, is Jake so excited?

Answer: Umm...yes? I mean, we are both excited. Do you mean to suggest that I am NOT as excited as Jake is? Or that Jake was waiting in anticipation, holding out on excitement until we got one of his kind? Now he's like, Heck yeah! I got a boy! So much for this pesky girl child. See you later, sweetie, I'm off to buy my boy some monster trucks!

Or do people say the reverse of this to women too? Because I don't remember anyone asking "Oh it's a girl, is Hannah so excited?" when O was born. Because that would be weird.

Question 4: Are you ready??

Answer: No. Oh shit ... what am I doing? What have I DONE?!!

Question 5: Look at you! I bet you are just like, SO done with this, huh?

Answer: The actual literal answer I gave to this comment was, "What? No! I'm only half way there. I'm fine." I've heard this one before, but never so soon.

And what the hell do you mean, look at me?? Look at what? My gigantic belly? I've got news for you toots, it gets bigger. It gets a LOT bigger. And then when you don't think it can get any bigger, it gets just a little bigger and then you push a 10lb baby out of your hoo ha. So deal with that. (She doesn't have kids...I definitely should have actually said this to her.)

Plus, PLUS, no matter when you are asking this question, the answer will always literally be No. No, I am not done yet because if I were there would be a baby in my arms instead of this enormous belly ball. Did you notice that?

Just let me enjoy the pregnancy too. Just leave room for the possibility that although I look uncomfortable to YOU, I may be feeling great inside. I'm growing a person in here. And that is pretty rad.