DON’T PANIC

I had written here previously that I wondered what this newest child would teach me. Well so far, it’s been how to ask for and accept help.

We had a bit of struggles adjusting to life at home with our newest addition – colds all around, trouble figuring out sleep for everyone, keeping things clean. But it was overall going well, better than I expected.

But then right when Drew had to go back to work, after his two weeks off, I started to panic.

Initially it was a health concern I got really intensely focused on. I started to panic about that and was worried about it all day the first day home with the kids by myself.

And later that evening I was still feeling physical panic attack symptoms even after I wasn’t worrying so much anymore.

At some point I gathered that I was experiencing postpartum anxiety. I managed to reach out to some friends and family I could really trust and talked to Drew a lot, and after a couple of days I went to talk to my OB about it at my two week check up.

She went ahead and wrote me a prescription for an antidepressant for the anxiety, without me having to make much of a case for myself.

I felt loads better just after talking to her about it. So I’ve been taking these meds for about a week now. No negative side effects so far, no panic but still having some anxieties, odd depressive symptoms, bouts of frustration that I’ve come to realize are usually a reaction to anxieties and fears of not having control.

So now I’m looking at my whole life like I need to rearrange it, make it something I don’t so desperately need to have breaks from or escape from. How I can really take care of myself regularly, instead of in urgently needed stolen moments. How I can get to feel more supported again, and build more supports for my kids besides just Drew and I.

And as I look back I think I experienced this after both my other kids too, but not quite so intensely. I can see now how the pressure built up. Uncertainties and fears, trying to keep things under my control as much as possible, blossoming into frustration and anger when I just couldn’t keep things under control (as my middle wild-child has been breaking me open in her own way).

I’m looking at my whole life through this lens and realizing that a lot of my trouble probably has had anxiety behind it. Or depression. Maybe both, it’s hard to me to draw a line right now.

So, since starting the medication I have felt a lot better than I did when the panic first hit. But I still have my moments. And this afternoon was one of them, and after the struggle of it passed I decided I really wanted to write about it. It’s harder now that my head is not in that place, but I want to try as it seems important.

So, the light starts to fade here pretty early these wintery days. The living room was slowly getting dimmer as it only really gets light when the sun shines through the windows.

The kids were starting to get more antsy, whiny, uncooperative, loud etc as children can tend to do in the time of dinner prepping.

The baby has been extra fussy for a few days, presumably having a growth spurt, and needing to be held and nursed very often. So I felt like I was quite glued to her for most of the day.

So within the frame of about an hour, here are some of the things I experienced:

The toddler pooped in her pull up but wouldn’t let me change her for a long time. But started asking me to when the baby had woken up again, when I really couldn’t get to it, and was not sure when I would be able to.

I noticed what looked to be mold all around the bottom edge of the living room windows, because they’ve been getting so much condensation or something… The wood on the window bench looks to be rotting around the edges. And I thought I should really clean that off, and started but had to stop and wash my hands and pick up the baby again, because she had woken and started crying again.

I had to wipe up splattered yogurt drink that went across the room when the toddler put some marker lids in the bottle, then tried to shake them out. The same marker lids I’ve been struggling to put back on the markers all day so the markers don’t dry out, because they’ve been keeping the kids busy.

My oldest kept asking for snacks but not telling me what she wanted except for things she couldn’t have, and often when I couldn’t easily get up to grab her anything because I was trying to get the baby to stop crying or trying to get her back to sleep. When not immediately satisfied, my oldest has taken to making great loud screeching noises as of late.

I had to leave the baby crying in her bassinet for a couple minutes to sweep up some glass off the kitchen floor, after I jumped up and ran in after hearing a smash to pluck my toddler from the glassy terrain as she had just dropped a small Pyrex bowl on the hard floor and was about to step on a big piece when I came in the room.

I wondered about supper, wondering how many days one can realistically buy supper, at what time I might be able to start cooking supper, or if I would ever be able to conceive of cooking supper at a decent time again…

 

And this time of day is one that I know to be tricky. It’s not exactly surprising to me that it might be a struggle.

But for some reason it just really got to me today. I’ve been having more friends and family come by to help and to visit, and it makes me feel so much better and makes some things easier. But I dread this time of day now. I think that’s the time when the panic really set in on that first day home alone. And that’s a time I really don’t want to be alone, but everyone who might be able to help me through that is either working or starting to make dinner for their own kids.

And that really bothered me too for some reason, that in these isolated homes we can end up so separate at a time that would probably go so much more smoothly with more people around to share the tasks or guide the children through.

So I sent a big rant to my mom, and among the things she said, she mentioned my baby carrier. A friend mentioned it earlier too… So i brought it out and tied it on myself, ready to go… But the baby kept sleeping in her bassinet anyway.

I managed to start cooking supper. Lit some candles in the dark and dreary living room – only having to relight what the toddler blew out a few times.

I did get the toddlers pull up changed. And I ended up wearing the baby while we ate supper, which did get finished at a half decent time.

And I did manage to finish cleaning the window ledges – not spotless but sprayed and wiped in a way that seemed sufficient for now.

And the girls settled down eventually. Not an early bedtime tonight,  but not a huge struggle.

And here I am with a baby sleeping on my chest with a bit of time to sit and write.

So… I guess the hard times still pass. I feel like I can only look at one day at a time right now. There’s so many things I want to work on. So much routine and rhythm I still want to build. And I’m not sure how much of that is important, how much of it is just a hopeless struggle for control…

 

But, we made it through this day. Drew and I got to catch up with each other ever so slightly,  but in a needed way, I got to visit with a great friend and our kids got to play, and the girls actually played very well together most of the day, and entertained themselves very well. I didn’t have the TV on as much, so when it was on it was like a novelty again. The house is not spotless but isn’t a complete disaster, I found a bit of time to clean up some of the many toys scattered around…

I guess that’s all I have to share for now, perhaps I’ll have more structured and purposeful tales to share next time. There is just so much that wants to come out!

Out of Control

So, I’m about 37 and a half weeks pregnant. Third child… So this is not completely new to me, but since I first learned I was pregnant I’ve been worried about stacking more and more on top of the struggles I’m still having in adjustment to becoming a parent to each of my first two children.

I have learned a lot. So much. And that list is growing all the time, still. My first opened up a lot of lessons about trust – in myself, in her, in the world around us. My second has compounded that with lessons in patience. Both of them together teach me so much about surrender and initiative, communication and support.

And there is still so much I don’t know, so much I don’t have figured out. And I expect that is the way it is meant to be,  in parenting and in life. It just seems the lessons and the challenges come packed so much closer together in the early childhood years, with so much on the line and so little time to adapt.

But I have grown a lot, too. I think the greatest thing I’ve noticed lately is that I am growing into the uncertainty and lack of control that I must allow at times. And I don’t welcome it very often still, but I’m learning to recognize that it’s unavoidable, and I’m learning more about all the parts of myself that still want to resist. And one at a time or sometimes in many ways at once I am learning to heal, to tame and to teach those parts how to deal.

But here I am, nearing the end of my third pregnancy. Thought I had finally reached the plateau after a long climb towards discipline in routines and housekeeping, clearing space so that I could do the work required each day to keep from drowning under half finished chores, neglected personal projects and plentiful requests for help and attention.

But now I’m tired. And just today, I feel my body has stretched past it’s threshold for this extra weight and the work I was trying to do with it. And my back is starting to hurt, and my legs and my feet have been so stiff and my body doesn’t want to do the work anymore.

And this could mean that labor is imminent.  I feared it was coming last week, but I’ve been hoping for it any day now. Or it could mean that I have a few weeks to spend not being able to bend over to pick up the toys and the clutter, or load the dishwasher, or pick up little bodies wanting to feel close…

And if that is the case, I’ll be in for many days of watching rather helplessly as all the work I’ve put in to make my house feel tidy enough for my mental well being is undone. Watching things pile up again, falling behind after finally crawling out of that place of feeling like I was perpetually catching up, but never quite getting there.

And there is something poetic about that for me, that as I grew more worried about how I was going to physically keep up with the tangible work that needed to be done, that I will be forced to surrender to complete inaction and just have to deal with it that way. That makes sense. I know that’s one way that I can be forced to make peace when I’ve been fighting with myself.

But it doesn’t seem fair, at all. Because I do think I was stressing just a bit too much, but I’ve really needed the discipline and the results that I was pushing for. I really needed to know that I could keep things up. I really needed that much clear space and order to make myself feel like I could handle this, like I am indeed cut out for the life that I have taken on.

I really need the energy and drive to get my kids to bed at a decent time when I start to burn out at the end of the day. I really need to know that I can have some time to reconnect and decompress at the end of the day, without staying up into the wee hours of the morning and wearing myself down.

I really need the ability and the will to finish things that I start, to clear things up when I am done with them to avoid intimidating, stress triggering piles of “how will I ever get through that?” so I don’t have to worry so much about the necessary messes of play and of life.

And I really need the patience and the presence of mind to clear up the extra at the end of the day so we can have a fresh start each morning. To notice what is working and what isn’t so I can respond accordingly and keep everyone’s needs met and everyone feeling taken care of and loved.

I didn’t really know how to achieve all of that without pushing so hard.

And all the things I now suspect I am being asked to let go of, are all things I thought were really important to help me get through this next challenge of keeping on top of everything I was before with yet another little person in the mix.

And it just doesn’t seem fair.

And now I wonder just what lessons this little one will lead me to, as I think of all I’ve learned and worked on in preparation for her arrival already.

This next part might be very hard, before she even comes. Her early days might be a relief or they might be the thing that breaks me right down. I’m not so sure those hard breaks are such a bad thing, now…

Because apparently I don’t really know yet how to pace myself, when to let go and how to prioritize. I know I’ve made leaps and bounds with that just recently, but…

Here I am now, very pregnant, tired and sore and feeling quite helpless and frustrated. And life just goes along anyway. Somehow we eat and play and fight and make up and love and go to sleep anyway.

I guess I can relax into that for now, but I really hope that I have truly learned from the work I’ve been recently practicing, and that it won’t be that hard to pick up again once my body and my mind have recovered.

And I hope that letting things spiral just a little out of control in the meantime won’t make me feel like a failure anymore.

To Bend or Break: a Pause

Greetings to you strange friends and friendly strangers! I took a bit of a break from my decluttering extravaganza. I spent some days catching up on other things that needed my attention and tried to include myself in that!

I feel like I have been through a bit of a whirlwind. Time is passing quickly. I still sometimes feel like I have so far to go, so much to do, but I can see more tangibly now what I have accomplished in even a short time lately, and that feels so good.

We’ve been working on establishing a bona fide bedtime routine, and we’re not quite at the sleep time I would most appreciate, but it is so much better than it was and still seems to be shifting earlier, ever so slowly. Without much strain I guess, now that the kids are usually asleep before I get too burnt out.

There are times when I decide something is really important and I just put all of my energy into it, even when it doesn’t come naturally or when it seems like a big effort. I just give it everything I have and try to make it happen. Go through the motions and strain myself to get as close to the mark as I can. And when I’m doing that and I experience any set back, any delay or any complication, it feels so awful.

And I’ve had some nights lately where I sat in the dark for over an hour waiting for a child to stop squirming and fall asleep. Nights when I didn’t want to read any stories by the time we started. Nights where I didn’t want to nurse at all, but tried to offer it as long as I could possibly stand to buy an easier transition into sleep, to be able to walk away a little sooner. Nights where I was hoping to catch up on the dishes, on my studies, on some quiet project or another after the kids were asleep, but found myself so exhausted by that time that I couldn’t do anything meaningful at all.

It’s part of that perpetual cycle I find myself in, always feeling like I am catching up or making up for something, never quite finished. Wanting to focus on one thing at a time, but feeling unable to prioritize. Because when I am going through clothes to donate, the dishes pile up. When I’m cleaning up the kitchen, toys and books are getting dumped out. When I’m cleaning up the play areas, a wall somewhere is getting colored on. When I’m working away at something stained or broken, the kids get too hungry and start fighting. When I’m making lunch, they want my attention. When they have my attention, the laundry piles up.

And there is this dance to it all, sometimes I’m paying attention to what is right in front of me and I take the right steps, things fall into place as well as they can and things are taken care of in time.

But sometimes, often really, the scope of it all is so overwhelming that I try to force things at the wrong time, or just can’t get moving on anything at all.

Management of our entire household is so full of details and nuances. I’ve been thinking a lot about the mental load of it lately. All that invisible work of noticing, analyzing, organizing, preparing, delegating. And there is so much to keep track of.

I haven’t felt particularly talented when it comes to rhythm and structure and getting chores done. I seem to have a lot of trouble finding the right way to schedule things for myself so there is time for everything. And I’ve largely been making up for this deficit I feel by focusing more and more on simplifying our lives. Trying to have less things, less demands so it is easier to get to the bottoms of every pile.

But the funny thing about simplifying, that is a task, too. That can be a chore. That can be a whole category of chores. A new set of tasks to check off, projects to manage.

This time around, as I’m decluttering I have noticed more regular tasks falling to the wayside and a bit of mess piling up. But it hasn’t been as bad as I might have feared. I do feel now that I am starting to see some actual space cleared, some actual relief of needless tension, and the feeling of being a little closer to being caught up with myself.

In taking a few days here to get some other cleaning done, I’m actually starting to feel happy and content about my house, my life again.

And with a trip planned this weekend, I’m not sure how fast I’ll get through the rest of the decluttering challenges. But I’ve made a big push and I can see that we are moving! I should be able to keep this all up over this next month as things slow down a bit for us again.

I do have another area half done to post soon upon completion! But I don’t feel like I need to pressure myself to push, push, push until all those rocks are over the mountain anymore. I have a lot more faith now that we can take care of everything in time! And that is such a relief.

I hope you are all well and feeling capable and comfortable out there! At least some of the time!

Pendulum Swings in Perfectionist Parenting

I’ve been reflecting a lot on what seems to be a boom and bust cycle I have been going through, in terms of parenting and households ambitions.

There are a lot of ideals I hold. I have been wanting to practice more discipline with myself, more regular cleaning, more rhythm and schedule to our days that we can feel more confident and content within. And I had so many ideas about what I should be doing – what kind of food I should be cooking, how present I should be, what kind of days I should be guiding the kids through.

And I have been having so much trouble pushing myself to be more productive in so many different areas at once. I would get some motivation, have some days without TV, wake up a bit earlier, get more time outside, have more regular meals. But I would burn out very quickly, feel like I was pushing just a little bit too hard. And instead of easing off into moderation, I would just slack off completely and we would have times of too much indulgence, too much distraction, too much mess. And any relief I might feel from giving up on trying so hard to live up to those expectations would soon be replaced by frustration about clutter, sticky floors, kids acting out after too much media, days gone by feeling like I hadn’t really done enough.

I still can’t be sure if my discomforts at those times of rest and leisure are because I really want and need more structure to function, or just because I feel like I am not good enough when we are eating commercial food, don’t have everything organized and cleaned, and aren’t having Pinterest-worthy days full of crafts and love and magic.

Since I got past my initial parenting phase of being way too tuned into my child and not having any interests or projects outside of her, I have felt bursting with ambition and creativity to work on my own things again. And that seems to be where I have the most trouble balancing my parenting goals with my personal ones – if I want to have adequate time and opportunity for self-care as well as creative expression and to pay attention to my own interests, it seems that I need to sometimes leave the tv on, or let the kids make a mess, or let my high standard of routine and cleanliness slide. But sometimes I let it slide just a little too far, finding I want to lose myself in my own work like I could before I had kids.

This brings me to notice the divide that still exists in me, between what I think of myself as an individual, and how I see myself as a parent. I would love to work to bridge those two aspects of myself, and find ways to live a magical and creative life as a parent, instead of feeling like I need to compartmentalize everything, and totally shirk off my responsibilities to do things that make me feel good.

I am working on finding a balance, here. I am trying to be more honest and more realistic with myself about what I really need to do, what I can do. And looking more at my particular skills. I really believe that I can have a lush creative life and be more present with my kids. As long as I am not spreading myself too thin in other areas, too!

So I’ve been easing off on the push to perfect all the crunchy, connected, spiritual parent things. Trying to worry less about accomplishing the external things that I have convinced myself that I need to do to be doing a good job at this. And I have let things slide just a bit too much into indulgence, it seems, but even though I would like to do just a little better than I seem to be right now, I have been open to having a lot more fun with my kids. I have been managing to keep the house and my kids from falling apart, and I’ve still been able to get involved with a lot of crafts, writing projects and social collaborations.

I am learning to trust that movements towards healthier eating and better schedules can happen for me, without me trying to work them all out and force them to happen. But for now, I am learning to be content with my own gifts, and my own challenges, and am noticing the ways in which I am still appreciated and valued. And the ways that I appreciate and value myself! As a creative, mindful parent. As a sort of philosophical writer. As a friend, a partner, a family member.

I’ll be sharing a lot more of this journey as it develops. It is still hard for me to feel like I don’t seem to have things under control. But trying to act as if I do, to put on that show is a lot harder. And I much prefer being in the swing of things. I am really excited to see how this might work for us!