Saturday, April 5, 2014

An Honest Reflection

One year ago, I was admitted to the ER. Head trauma? Broken bone? Bleeding profusely? No, not any of these things. An illness of a different sort.

One year ago, I drove myself to the ER for postpartum anxiety/depression. I cried on the phone with my doctor. I cried the whole way to the hospital. I cried the entire time I was there. And I cried the whole drive home. I probably cried that whole day for all I know, maybe that whole week.

Why was I crying? Was it because I was scared? Sad? Was it because I had been fighting my greatest demon and had come out on bottom? Yes, it was all those things. But on top of that, I was relieved. Relieved to look at someone and say, "I've done everything I can on my own. I need help. I need help, please help me."

And even more than all that, I was ashamed. Guilty. Embarrassed.

I knew everything there was to know about postpartum depression. I knew all the symptoms, all the possible feelings, all the risk factors. I definitely knew that it was not the mother's fault, it was hormones, it was chemicals, it was things firing in the brain at all the wrong times.

And yet, when I was at my worst, the things I knew were not to be found.  They were buried so deeply that I could not remember. If someone told them to me, I could not believe them. My mind was turning and churning with a million other thoughts. What kind of mother am I to think those things? What kind of horrible person am I? What a worthless waste of a person. Worthless, horrible, lazy, unaccomplished...... Am I in control? What if I hurt someone? What if I'm not depressed, what if this is who I really am? What if I go to sleep, and I wake up, and Kallan suffocated in the night or was kidnapped? What if I go to sleep and the fan falls on Kallan and squishes her? What if I go to sleep, and I wake up to find out that I have killed her in the night? Am I crazy? I am. I am crazy. This is me, I'm a bad person. I'm a horrible mother for having these feelings. Horrible.  Monstrous. I should be ashamed, embarrassed. No other moms feel this way. I should be loving every minute with my baby.  I should be happy! I have everything I ever wanted.  How dare I think those things? No one but a sick, evil human could possibly think those things.

I had been battling postpartum anxiety/depression for months and months. Entirely due to weeks of encouragement from Erik, I finally called my OB to come in and have a chat about it. I owe everything to him!

But still, after getting help, I was still convinced that I could get rid of it on my own. I was sad, I was anxious, but if I changed my lifestyle, things would get better. It would go away. But no, depression is a bigger monster than that. As soon as I thought things started getting a little better, they would suddenly be about ten times worse.

Then, enter "intrusive thoughts." It was about three days after I saw my therapist and told her how much better I'd been feeling lately.  I will always remember when it first happened. I was sitting on the couch with Erik, and he was bouncing Kallan on his lap. She was laughing, smiling. We all were. And then out of nowhere, in my mind I'm throwing her against the wall, on the ground. I burst into tears, I ran to the bathroom and sobbed.  I remember feeling afraid to tell Erik. What would he think of me? Even after that, I had such a hard time just calling the doctor because I knew what I would say, and I was ashamed.  I think it took me several hours to make the call, and I think it would've taken a lot longer if Erik hadn't been at home.

"I'm having thoughts about hurting my baby." I could barely say the words, but I did. And it saved me. Not right away, but things got better.

You might wonder why I'm writing this post. I've been seeing so many of my peers becoming moms. I know what it feels like to be a new parent, the pressure and the anxiety that comes from sleepless nights and endless parenting decisions.  And I've been thinking about my depression. I've only recently told anyone besides my parents and in-laws about it. Because even now, a year later, it is hard to talk about.

But I want to help. I want to help any mom out there who has PPD and is writing it off as "baby blues" or avoiding calling the doctor out of shame, guilt, nervousness... anything. If you break your leg, it's obvious to head to the doctor right away.  But when it comes to mental health, why is it so hard to call someone and ask for help? Even when the pain is great, even when the need is clearly there, why is there such a hesitation? Why is there this fear of being judged?

So I guess this is a message to all the parents out there, and I'm just saying, I've been there. There is nothing to be ashamed of. And you're a great, amazing, wonderful, loving (etc.) mom!! Don't hesitate to get help, and you'll hear this a million times from your OB, but don't forget it! Reach out, lean on your support, ask for help. . And take care of yourself. My OB once told me that the best thing I can do for my baby is be happy myself. That is advice I won't forget.

And most importantly, you are not alone. I know you are probably on facebook and instagram stalking all the other moms and noticing how happy they seem to be. You might feel alone, but I am taking this time to let you know that you are not. Even if it's just you and me, you are not alone!


Thursday, March 6, 2014

March 5, 2014

Boy, am I glad to cross this day off my calendar, along with the big, bold letters, "KALLAN'S SURGERY." This day has been looming over our heads for so long. Even before the surgery was scheduled, the possibility was always there, the potential for any day to be THE day.

We arrived in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, and the worst thing about the whole trip was that the pool at our hotel was closed for renovations! Wah! So we went to the mall next door, and played at the play area with Kallan before meeting up with friends for dinner. Authentic Mexican food: delicious. Catching up with old friends: much needed.

We got Kallan to bed a little later than we had hoped, and then we watched a movie on our computer and attempted to do everything in complete darkness to not wake her up. But later in the night, we purposely woke her up twice to eat. Poor baby had to fast before her surgery!  We woke up, packed up, woke Kallan up, changed her diaper, and checked out. The roads in Ann Arbor were empty. But filled with an astonishing amount of potholes. They really need to do some road maintenance over there. Anyway. We got to the hospital at 6:20 am and got checked in. We had barely been sitting down for five minutes when we got called back to pre-op. We were given a little gown for Kallan to wear. It was blue, which did not help the nurses and doctors to NOT mistake her for a boy. Poor girl.. (Kallan is a girl's name, I swear!)

I knew the hospital was large, but I was surprised to see how many children were there that morning, at that time of the morning even. It made me think of how lucky we were to just be there for a relatively simple eye surgery. How many parents were there for a second.. third.. fourth time with their child? So many parents with hands wrapped tightly together. So many babies and young kids clutching a favorite animal or blankie. I remember looking around the waiting room and making a mental note to be thankful for the good health of my kids and that they have lead lives with little or no medical complication. I'm by no means saying that Kallan's surgery was without risk or fear of complication, but it could be so much more difficult and darker and scarier. And all of these families are in such expert and capable hands. Just another thing to be thankful for.

But back to the events of the day. Kallan was really antsy the whole time because, well, that's just the way she is. She also saw a lot of other kids and babies, and since she is obsessed with babies, it was hard to keep her in our little area. She kept running off yelling, "beebee! beebee!" To which we always answered, "Yes Kallan, there's a baby. Yes there's another baby." We saw nurses, nurse practitioners, and doctors, and at this point I can't remember exactly who was who, but they all asked a million questions a million times.  Kallan started getting really upset about having her vitals checked. But soon, things got underway. She was given a "pre-med" to make her sleepy before they took her back and gave her the anesthesia. She snuggled and hugged me so much, and when I found out it was time, I burst into tears. Our anesthesiologist had told us that if she wasn't that sleepy, we would be able to go back with her until she fell asleep. But apparently, his boss, who came up afterwards, did not agree, and she did not let us go back with her, even though she still seemed quite awake. Imagine this... you hand over your baby to a doctor. Nurses gather around you, assuring you that she is so groggy and has no idea what is happening. Your baby looks at you, reaches for you, and says "Mommy!" before the operation doors close. That is what happened, and that is the only part of the day I wish had gone differently. Apparently, there is some procedural rule that parents can either go back with their kids to get the anesthesia OR they can have the pre-med first, without the parents coming back. I wish they had been a bit more flexible on this, but I'm not a doctor, I don't know the reasoning so... moving on!

We walked what felt like a million miles to the cafeteria and had a much needed breakfast. Then we waited. The surgery was not long, maybe 45 minutes. Our doctor paged us for "consultation," which had me panicking like the crazy mama I am. But she just brought us in to say, everything went perfectly, it was a "textbook case." Then we had to wait until Kallan started waking up to go in and see her. I'm not sure how long this part was....because I took a nap.

Our pager buzzed, indicating that our sweet patient was finally waking up. We could not get back to her fast enough. When we saw her.. she was not happy. She was still very groggy, and the nurse said, likely a bit dizzy as well. So I was trying to hold her and she was flinging herself every which way. Finally she settled down some, and napped on me before I was able to feed her. Her tears were slightly pink from blood in the eye, which was a bit difficult to see. I actually had been told that her tears would be bloody by someone whose child had the surgery also. I was expecting "True Blood" style tears, so I was actually relieved that they were just slightly pink! Her voice was raspy from having a breathing tube in during the procedure, and our nurse told us that usually the sore throat is the most bothersome part of recovery for kids.

All this time, Kallan was snuggling me. She opened her eyes and looked at me and said, "Sissy?" I assured her that we would see sissy soon. "Daddy?" Yes, Daddy is here, too!

We got our discharge instructions. Goopy eye drops (that Kallan already hates) three times a day, no swimming for two weeks, Tylenol for pain. That's about it. And we were on our merry way! We were in our car at about 10:15am. Kallan ate a ton of watermelon while we were on the road, and was soon laughing and smiling like her usual, chipper self! Her eyes were quite red in the corners, and the redness will last up to two months. In 6 weeks, we will head back to AA for follow-up. For now, we are just happy that everything went smoothly and that our little girl is happy!

Now it's just a matter of getting eye drops in and getting her to wear her glasses!

But we are hoping that she takes better to her glasses now. The problem has been that she only used one eye at a time since they were not aligned.  When she wore her glasses, it didn't make a lot of difference to her vision, so she didn't care about wearing them.  With her eye muscle loosened up some, they should be lined up, and her brain can use both eyes at the same time.  If her eyes are lined up, and she is using them both, the glasses will really improve her vision. Hopefully that will be enough for her to leave the glasses on. We will see!

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and prayers! We are glad it's over, and hopefully she won't need any surgery in the years to come.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

17 Months / 3.5 YEARS

Wow, I haven't blogged in forever! And I'm only blogging now because I should be studying for my exam tomorrow... and I am really trying to avoid doing that. Ugh. I am feeling a little burnt out in the school department this semester. I won't get into it. Can I just nap instead of going to class?!

So what's new with us?

Kallan Marie is 17 months old now. She is learning so many things, so many words, and she is just keen to explore non-stop. Anything Lyla is doing, she wants to be doing, too.  She talks all the time and is building up quite a vocabulary. I love when she says, "sissy," "Owie (unless she is really hurt)," "baby," and "mmhmm!" She was become obsessed with Lyla's American Girl baby doll. That thing freaks me out.. and now I have it staring me in the face when I'm rocking, nursing, or simply relaxing on the couch... Yikes.

I think Kallan's favorite activity is eating. She has been a great eater but is starting to get a bit more picky. She loves blueberries ("boobies".. hehe) and meat, but I think pretzels are her all-time favorite food.

She has found her favorite show in the world... "The Fresh Beat Band," which was Lyla's favorite at this age, too. She calls it "Lala" and she will find the TV remote, bring it to me, say Lala!, and then go plop on the couch for some quality tube time. If I say "No!" then she immediately says, "Dodo?" (Dora).

But of course, the biggest piece of news is that we are going ahead with eye surgery for Kallan. In less than a week!. I'll probably write about this later. Maybe.

So Lyla... 3 and a half years old! How does this happen? We just visited a preschool with her, and it's amazing how much more social she is and independent. She was chatting up the teachers and other kids, and really excited about all the activities they had planned.

As always, she is always such an amazing big sister. I love when Kallan wakes up from nap, Lyla always says... "I'd better go check on baby sis." and then she goes, "Good morning Kallan! Up? Up? Do you want up? Oh I see, oh I see!" I will say that they are developing a typical love/hate sister relationship quite quickly. They are hugging and kissing each other one second, and screaming in each other's faces the next!

Anyway, sorry for the lack of updates. Please be thinking of us this week as we get ready for the surgery!