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.

Faeries and Monsters

I used to believe in faeries. At least, I think I did. I know I wanted to.

I haven’t told my daughters that faeries are real, yet. I don’t want them to think that the monsters they imagine are real, too. Like I used to.

I remember hearing tales of pixies in the tree leaves, and of hell hounds in the forest at night.

I spent a lot of time dreaming, playing, enjoying, but I remember a lot of time spent worrying and wondering, too.

And some things don’t really change. Maybe they concentrate with age. I see a lot of fear in myself, still.

And I haven’t been believing quite so much, and I haven’t been playing quite enough.

I’ve been worrying and wondering about the monsters.

About the ache in the space where I used to be connected to my magical family tree.

About the time with them I missed that left me hardening my shell for the sake of survival.

About the anger that rises up inside of me when I don’t feel like I have everything figured out and running predictably.

About the fear of not measuring up and the difficulty in admitting that by asking for support.

And mostly, so often, I am worrying and wondering about my kids.

Why they are suddenly whiny, why they are annoying each other, why they can’t just share, why my oldest panics when things don’t go her way, why my youngest can’t just leave some things alone, why they both want my attention when I seem least able to give it, why they drag their feet getting ready, why they run away when I try to talk to them….

And I think, well, it must be that I have left the TV on a little too much, and I condemn myself a little.

It must be because this place is so cluttered, they can’t relax, and I feel frustrated with my inability to get on top of the never-ending mess.

I think, it must be because of all that junk food, maybe I should have made lunch a little earlier, they haven’t been eating enough greens… and I wish I had more talent and passion for food, that I could prioritize it.

It must be because they lack consistency, they went to bed too late, and I struggle to force us into a rhythm only to fall back out, again and again and again…

And when I blame the TV, I turn it off suddenly and in anger, in a great big huff.

And when I blame the mess, I rant angrily about how they have contributed to it, how they can’t seem to help enough.

And no matter what external condition I try to point the finger at, my discomfort is coming from deep inside. A pile of crumbs, a junk food lunch, those are not monsters. And what I am really lashing out at when I try to fight those things is my kids. And they are not monsters…

It’s been really hard grieving and doing this healing work while being a mother to young children.

And I catch myself feeling like I need to work so hard, strain, live up to these expectations to insulate us from harm, from fear, from uncertainty.

But the monsters still come.

The only thing making my kids act out is me. My disconnection, my anger, my impatience. My monsters.

And they don’t really need a beautifully orchestrated daily rhythm, the greatest of all foods made from scratch all the time, a tidy minimalist sanctuary, or a world completely free from media to feel content and happy.

They need me. They need me to be present with them. To accept them, to accept their feelings. To accept the ways that they show me what they need, however messy. To care for them. To stand firm in the centre of the bad days and bad feelings, and to play and to laugh with them, without fear.

My children need me to show them all about the faeries.

And I need for my children to help me remember that they exist.