Why Must They Grow Up?

unnamedMy son got his hair cut yesterday, all of his sweet baby hair just fell to the ground and this proper boy-looking child was underneath. Then today we had our second trimester ultrasound and say the baby in my belly for the first time, which sort of solidified the fact that a new baby is coming. Both of these things just made me feel the changes that are happening. My son only prefers me half of the time now and wants to do everything for himself. He is officially growing up and it is just going by too fast. I have spent almost every day with him since he was born and it’s still not enough. I can’t even say that I took any of it for granted because I really made sure to slow down, watch him and appreciate every stage he was in. It just keeps slipping away.

I want to stop time. In the moment when my son calls me in the middle of the night “my mama, i want my mama” and I pick him up and he snuggles on me while I crawl in his bed to snuggle him; I want to just stay in that moment.

When he asks me for help to put on his shoes and backs his little bottom into my lap; I want to let his little body sit on me forever.

Every hug is to short. Every kiss happens so quickly. When he says ‘love mama’ I want him to say it 30 more times.

He runs up to me to show me how fascinating a rock is; I never want him to stop sharing his world with me.

In the moments when he will nestle in between my husband and I, hugging us both and say “my mommy and daddy” I just want that to last forever.

His childhood is so fleeting and I just can’t appreciate this enough. I can’t seem to fully savor the moments before they fly by so fast.

He is growing up everyday; I notice this everyday. Always something new; less toddler-like and more child-like. It’s fantastic to see. I just wish it happened a little slower.

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Why I Changed my Mind About Vaccination

ImageSo if you have followed my blog you’d notice that most things I do are pretty ‘crunchy’ and you are correct to make that assumption. We use floral remedies and homeopathics, eat whole and local foods and my method of parenting is one of boundaries (not punishment) with love and respect for my sons needs. I even had a home birth and went to Waldorf teacher training. Well, along with all of these things it comes as a shock to some that I am very PRO-vaccination. Not to fear if you are not pro-vax as I won’t be bombarding my blog with this topic in the future, but I wanted to share my journey from anti-vax to very pro-vax.

When my son was born I lived in Seattle where there were a few cases of Pertussis and pneumococcal and HiB were threatening to come back, so at 2, 4 and 6 months we had only these 3 shots. I never worried about him going about public with me or frequently visiting a Waldorf school where most do not vaccinate. Now I live in Portland where 5.8 percent of kindergarteners entering school in 2013 chose vaccination exemptions; this does not even include homeschool and private school numbers! This rate is so shockingly low that ‘herd immunity‘ basically does not apply to us anymore and the risk of an outbreak is terrifyingly high.

“If enough parents in a community refuse or delay their children’s vaccinations, an infectious disease can spread among many individuals. The outbreak can threaten all unvaccinated children, vaccinated children and adults who have weak immune systems, and babies who are too young to get their shots.” (Scientific American) Do you know what this means? I AM currently in the group of those who have weak immune systems and soon my newborn child will be as well. Measles is contagious 4 days before any signs/spots occur, chicken pox is contagious 1-2 days before any rash appears and whooping cough is contagious for up to 2 weeks before- all according to CDC sites. The problem is that you can catch these illnesses and be spreading it before you know and before there are signs.

Mostly the reason why I care so much now is that it’s not just about myself and my family, its about doing my part in society to help eradicate these illnesses. Sure, you can survive these illnesses if you are a healthy person with a strong immunity, but you cannot prevent yourself from catching and spreading. There are MANY out there that cannot vaccinate because of health issues or age and these are the people I worry about. After selectively vaccinating my son the first time around with very minimal complications, I have no problem doing this with my second as well as keeping my family up to date with boosters. Even if we may be strong enough to fight these diseases, not vaccinating makes us possible carriers that could infect those who are not strong enough to fight these off. I’m Pro-vaccination because I care deeply about the people in my society and not just about my loved ones.

I’m not writing this to ‘convince’ you about vaccinations and especially not shame you for your choices as this is not my style. I understand that you are making the choices you believe are best and respect that. If you really don’t believe in vaccines there is nothing I can say to change your mind. I won’t even try. I am sharing my story to those on the fence who are or were in my shoes. You CAN be crunchy and vaccinate, it’s perfectly acceptable to be a walking contradiction. Once you live in an area where ‘to vaccinate or not to vaccinate’ has REAL consequences it’s pretty easy to allow your mind to change towards supporting your family and your community in a different way than you imagined.

It Took Two Years – Birthday Poem for My Son

It took two years to finally feel like I’ve got the hang of things.

Two years to find a community that we needed when he was born.

Two years to find the spirituality that I so craved when he was a newborn.

It took two years before it became easy.

Two years for my husband and I to feel like ‘us’ again.

Two years to feel some independence.

Two years to get my career back on path.

It took two full years to find my own happiness again without anti-depressants.

Two years of laughter. Two years of tears. Two years of pain. Two years of awe.

It took two years to get close to my pre-pregnant weight.

Two years to get my stomach muscles back.

Two years to start to heal from the hip pain I got while pregnant.

Two years to grow my hair out after I cut it after his birth.

Two years until we actually wanted to have another one.

Two years to forget the pain of childbirth and remember the joy of it.

Two years of milestones. Two years of confusion. Two years of discovery. 

It took two years for my son to find the amount of words he needed to say what was on his mind.

It took two years to finally learn to calm down about my son tantrums and crying.

Two years to learn to not take it personally.

Two years to find inner peace that my son need from the beginning.

Two years of falling deeply in love with this little person.

Two years of the toughest and most amazing years of my life.

Two years that I will happily do again.

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Finding Faith Though Motherhood

photoYou may be asking yourself: “How does this relate to mothering?” My answer: In every way. It relates in every way imaginable for my faith is the foundation for my role as a mother.

Before my son was born I have had a long journey with my own faith in God. I was raised in a household that did not speak much of the spiritual world, though I was never hindered and always had a sense that I was protected and cared for by something greater than what I found in front of me. At some point I must have heard of prayer as I remember doing this as a child. When I went to college I never lost faith in God, but stopped turning to my faith and my prayers to guide my life. I accomplished MUCH in my early twenties owed to what I thought was my own strength with just a dash of something greater than myself. I was conceited though and mostly just thought of how awesome I was because of everything that I could do.

Then came the dark times. We all have dark times, but this is the dark time of my spirituality. I met the man that would become my husband and we never spoke of faith. The more we got involved, the more I realized that he had apathy and resistance to faith. He was very logical; I say was becasue that has changed and has since strengthened our marriage. But during these times whenever I would rely on my faith that always sat there waiting, he would have a HUGE problem with this. He did not understand how I could just assume that ‘things would work out.’ My answer was that I didn’t know, but they do always, always work out for some reason I could not explain. So I burried my faith deep within and suddenly God was worlds away, always watching me of course, but I wasn’t watching Him.

Then I went to Waldorf Teacher Training. That was a mind blowing, no, mind obliterating experience. We were challenged to deeply ponder our spiritual views through movement, art, literature, meditative work, poetry, philosophy, singing, speech and group work. During the foundation year I walked through the eye of the needle and came out what I can only describe as a more complete version of myself. I shed a LOT of the ridiculous and stupid parts of myself. I also came out knowing a bit more of what I wanted in life, which was a working and daily relationship with God. I missed Him and wanted Him back, but I still sat silently wanting….wanting something I did not have a clue how to get. I still had an inner battle with my husband who I did not feel comfortable sharing this with. Then in my second year of teacher training…BOOM…like a bomb (I literally had a dream of a nuclear explosion) I knew deep in my heart that I had a child waiting to come to us. I don’t know how to explain this, but I KNEW! Then over the next 10 months I prayed and journeled to God and to my son that was waiting. In those months I became much more open with my husband that I was spiritual and he needed to find a way to at least support me in this. He didn’t have to understand or even become spiritual but he HAD to realize that I had a connection and my faith-based decisions must be respected. Slowely he must have heard me, really heard me, because against all of the practical things in life he decided that it was time to let this person into our lives…the next month I was pregnant.

When my Son was born, it became obvious that I needed God in order to raise my child, I needed information that was fr more intelligent and divine than I had in my meager sleep-deprived brain. I knew I needed to deepen my relationship but somehow really struggled with feeling close to God, or as close as I felt I could be. As a Waldorf teacher, we work a lot with the qualities of Christ in ourselves. In the teacher training it was not necessary to become a Christian, but looking at how Jesus lived his life in forgiveness, compassion, understanding, empathy etc and trying to be like this as a teacher is essential. We must understand the children and think of them and what they need and see how we can be better for them. So intellectually I was trying to have these qualities. Then on the other side I had my wanting to speak to God. Wanting…because I don’t think I heard him then. I think I strived and was constantly wanting more. This is hard to describe but I feel that it was a slowely igniting fire that I didn’t notice until it was blazing and engulfing my life. Like in the back of my mind and heart there was this tapping that I was confused about. I was still trying to be like Christ, but I never connected that to my spirituality. Weird, I know!

Within the course of a year my whole life turned upside down. I realized that our current life in Seattle devoid of community and full of empty busyness was the opposite of what we needed to survive as a family, let alone thrive. My husband followed his insticts and we came to portland to be near my best friend’s family. I decided to work less and focus more energy on my own family and self care. We found a church that we absolutely love and I began focusing my energy on the community of people I was building around me. Now that I had time in my life I started asking how I could help the people around me. Now I finally had time to slow down and actually work on my relationship with God. I worked more with my spiritual practices and study. I found new questions to ask that led me to places that gave me more questions and more answers. I became more vulnerable and more able to really listen to what I needed to hear. Closer and closer I stepped into the part of my soul that was silently blazing.

Then, one day I saw it. Fires exploding all around me. I turned that corner in my soul and there it was all along. In that moment I knew it had always been there, faithfully waiting for me. The answer to the biggest question I had been asking God. My prayers: “Help me be closer to you. Please help me see the way closer to you. I see you standing there across the deepest chasm and I want to fly across into your arms but I don’t know how.”

Slowly I am shedding the layers of what I have been told about myself by my parents, by society and by my own negative thoughts. I see now the joy in a life lived in compassion and contemplation, a life lived in the service of others. A life where I am a vessel for good that will walk the path lit by God.  I want to become a partner with God to raise my children they way they need to be raised. I have always known this about myself but now I am truly making this decision and declaration that my spirituality, my drive and my lifes work are all connected. I am choosing to be reborn as who I am meant to be. I am of course I work in progress and will fail as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend and human being over and over, but now I have a hand to hold to find my way back.

I’ve always had faith, but it was about ME. Now it’s about others. Now it is about my husband and above all, its about the children I will be blessed with in this life. Once I found that person in my life, my son, who can only thrive when I put him above everything, I discovered that true selflessness can bring a joy that I never imagined. I always thought I needed God in order to truly see my child, but now I see that it’s more than that; I also needed my son to help me truly see God.

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Mother AND Woman: What’s the Secret to Keeping Your Sense of SELF as a Mother?

IMG_6877Where did I go?

I find myself asking this at times. My whole life has become motherhood; sometimes I completely forget that I was once a completely different version of myself.

I have always wanted to be a mother so it’s not like I have regrets about this new life or anything. I just wonder what happened to that different kind of self that I used to be; the Sydney that stayed up until midnight laying in a large grassy field just watching the stars float by or the Sydney that created multi-media performance art collaborations. I love that part of myself and I don’t want to loose her amidst the day-to-day mother and housewife routine. So I have been keeping tabs lately on what makes me feel like “mama” and what makes me feel like “goddess-woman.” When newly married I had to learn how to keep that part of my self alive and now that I am a mother I must relearn how to integrate my past passions into my current role. I am new to this (mother for only 20 months) so it’s a work in progress.

What makes me feel alive?

DANCE: Once upon a time I was really into modern dance. I danced in classes; I danced at home; I danced on my way to the bus. Everywhere I moved I had grace and beauty emanating from me. I would listen to music and feel the movement in my body. Even in my housework I’d find a sense of flow and rhythm. I must keep this alive.

PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEO ART: I was once a video/installation artist and photographer. I’m not sure if this is a path I shall pursue again, but I want to remember her; remember the girl who loved Ann Hamilton and Bill Viola; remember the girl obsessed with Margaret Bourke-White and Cindy Sherman. I still love photography, especially because now I have such an adorable and willing subject. ;)

GARDENING: It’s one thing to share in the joy of gardening with children, but a completely differnt experience to garden on my own. At dusk, I’ll kneel in my garden and dig my bare hands into the soil to make space for new seeds…new life! I always feel so close to the spiritual world while working with the elements of the earth. Dirt has such magic.

PAINTING: I used to ‘paint my feelings;’ I would pick vibrant colors and splash them onto the paper, Jackson Pollock style.  I’d paint with my hands and feel the colors streaming across the canvas. I haven’t done this in years but I intend to; I actually just installed a paint workshop in my garage. I can’t wait to paint again.

IMPROV: I absolutely love doing improv. I love being completely crazy and our of control! I LOVE laughing! My husband and I used to take improv classes and these classes opened me up to a new kind of freedom in my social life. I’m shy by the way, so doing something completely out of my norm was so very refreshing and exhilarating. I must continue to push myself in this way! BTW, I even have a few videos online of my silly antics, see if you can find them. ;)

STARGAZING: In my teens and early 20’s, stargazing was my thing to do! I cannot even count the number of times I’ve simply sat and watched the stars for hours. So many great epiphanies have popped into my head after watching the great expanse of the universe. I’m fortunate to have a large backyard to stargaze so  the only thing keeping me inside after dark is myself! I shall gaze at the stars more often.

These are just a few things that I want to find a place for in my new life as ‘mother.’ Over the years I will continually change and grow. I mean, what’s life without change? But I must remember these light and carefree things that make me feel like…well, me! One day my children will grow up and move on to pursue their own lives and I hope that when that happens, I am still grounded in my sense of self. Twenty years from now, I still hope to dance…

What do YOU do to keep your sense of self or womanhood as a mother? We are often wearing sweatpants covered in snot while we negotiate with a child about dinner. What happens after they go to bed? What makes YOU come alive?

Ten Reasons Why I Love to Nanny With My Baby

ImageBefore my son was born, I knew that I would nanny with him. I had worked with children of all ages for many years before deciding to have children so I knew that I would figure it out. When he was 3 months old we began this journey into nannying together. At first it was really hard, but then I adapted and I was pleased by all of the benefits!

1. He has pseudo siblings. Lucas gets so much friend time that it just doesn’t feel like he needs a sibling right now. Now that he is 1 1/2 years old people love to ask me when the next one is coming and it’s very easy to shrug off the question and say “who knows!” It’s great because I really don’t want another child right now but would struggle with this if he didn’t have daily exposure to other children.

2. He learns to care for others. Ever since he was a baby, he watched as I cared for the other children in my care. I often involve him in this process now that he is older, such as: “Sophia is so sad, can you help her feel better?” I am really enjoying the level of empathy he seems to have gained from this.

3. He knows how to share mommy. I can hug and love other children and he has not yet complained about this. He will often come over for a quick hug while I hug the others, but then goes on his way. I have lots of love to give and am happy that he seems to know that I can share that love.

4. He learns patience. Sometimes, he’s just got to wait. I have to cloth, change and feed other people, including myself. I feel that if I were alone with him he would not see that he AND other children are all learning to wait their turn and that is just a part of the world.

5. I learn flexibility. As I must balance everyones needs, I learn how to meet them with calm and grace. It always works out for the best and I have learned to trust this. I know my personality and if I were at home alone all day I would never go anywhere or do anything to disrupt my routine comfort. This makes me braver and I am happy to say that his infant time was filled with fearless outings.

6. I gain close parent peers. I see parents at playgroups and church, but it’s only at most once a week. When I nanny I see the parents multiple times a week and so we are better able to openly discuss the challenges and successes in our parenting. I feel like it’s closer to the type of ‘village’ that used to raise children. (Though it is nice that there are parent groups that are beginning to heal this loss of community, like the Peps Organization and Meetup.com)

7. He gets to live in the early childhood world. Adult voices can be so exhausting for small children and we just don’t know how to play anymore. When my son gets to be around other children, I feel as if he can relax more in his own peer group. He plays better and has a calmer disposition when there are these little people around that are just his same size acting in the same silly little way.

8. He learns more! When watching the older children, little ones see how life is lived. The simplist activities like crawling, walking, holding a spoon, putting on a shoe or sitting in a chair are demonstrated much better by someone who has had recently learned all of this. (The plus side for the older children is that the gain confidence when they can teach this!)

9. He is not the center of the universe. It’s not all about him, not now and not ever. I believe that it’s crucial that we learn this as human beings; there are other people in the world that we must always consider. A little selfishness has it’s place but building good communities start with selflessness. My feelings, daddy’s feelings and anyone else in our care’s feelings matter too and the quality (vs. quantity) of the care he receives from me is what will matter in the end. When he actually has to experience this now, it’s easier than having to teach it to him later.

10. I have so much fun! Sometimes days are tricky, but mostly the days are filled with cooking, cleaning, playing, laughter and joy! It’s very fun to share this with multiple children because when something is fun, it’s so much MORE fun with each additional child! Sometimes I feel like I have bright, shiny wings and 20 arms while I dance and sing about like a pixie! I was born to be a mother and teacher of small children so this is excatly where I WANT to be.

If you are considering nannying with your own children I feel that you must ask yourself several questions: Do I have an amazing amount of patience? Do I mind being really messy all of the time? Do I have the ability to practice meditation and inner work so that I may have a peaceful and empty mental space for the children? Am I okay with my baby crying while I care for the other children? Can I successfully and happily juggle 30 things at once? AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: Will I be able to strive for really good and open communication with the parents I work with? The most important part of working with a family is the communication. Once you find a family that you feel fits your just right, then it can blossom into a beautiful experience. I have had great succes because the families I like to work with are kind and genourous families that share a similar respect for their children as I practice with my own.

See these sleepy little cuddle buddies. When I ask if he’s ready to go see the children I nanny, he laughs, nods and says “YES!”

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A Mother Never Forgets…..Her Birth Story!

207854_1025271264371_5595_nThis will be the third birth story that I am sharing this month as a gift for my little sister who is about to become a mother. (Here’s the first and second)  This is the story of the birth of my sister, dictated from a phone chat with my mom over a ‘shared’ bottle of wine. As this happened 26 years ago, you can see how to most important details are remembered. You will carry your birth experience with you for the rest of your life!

Birth Story #3: Bev and Ashley

In March of 1986, my mother gave birth naturally to her second child, my little sister. She was full term and the doctor was planning on bringing my mom into the hospital to induce her a few days after her due date. So to avoid induction, my mom (on the 5th) went to the mall to walk and walk and walk and walk to start labor naturally. My mom was SO tired from walking that they ordered a pizza for dinner and as my mom lay on the couch, (at 6 pm) she felt a strong contraction and decided not to eat because pizza is awful to throw back up (as sometimes happens during birth).

So then when she went to the bathroom and had a bloody show. When they called and spoke to the doctor they told her to come in to be checked, and then she just stayed at the hospital because it was slow and there was plenty of room for her. Once there, the contractions slowed down, so she walked and walked and walked again all night in the hospital hallways. They contractions would speed up when she walked and slowed down when she rested. The hospital was very, very quiet and peaceful and there was just one nice nurse helping them.

Towards the end of the night mom was getting exhausted from all the walking so they decided to give her some Pitocin at 4 AM. Immediately labor sped up to 3 minutes apart! (from 7 minutes apart) For less than an hour she had super strong contractions that she had to get used to fast as she didn’t have the gradual time to get used to the intensity as you would without Pitocin. She thinks that if they let her go without it she would have been fine and it just would have taken a little longer.

So then shortly after Dr. Brown checked up on her and told the nurse to get the stirrups ready as it was soon time to push. As my mom lay on the bed in pain waiting, the nurse couldn’t find the damn stirrups fast enough!!! So my mom was just waiting uncomfortably, legs dangling off of the bed, and getting really, really irritated. Finally, (after what sounded like an eternity) that nurse found them!!!

Once the stirrups were set up it went so fast that within an hour Ashley was here!!! My Mom never had an ultrasound (as was common in the 80’s for normal healthy births) so it was such a surprise. My mom got to hold her right away for a bit before the nurse took her to be cleaned up and weighed. She weighed in at 6 pounds 7 ounces and was born around 7 AM on March 6th.

One of the things my Mom mentioned the most is the contrast between her first birth (me) and my sisters birth. The first time around she had so many nurses and family yelling instructions at her that the second time, in a quiet and calm environment, she was a pro on her own. It was really peaceful and quiet and definitely the preferable way to go. With me, it was just SO CRAZY, with the yelling and the bright lights and everything! (I am amazed that my mom could actually give birth in that environment!)

My mom found breath control to be really, really helpful for her labor. She says that she does not think she could have given birth without it. She specifically mentions Lamaze a lot thought there are other methods as well. Being aware of your breathing in labor can actually be extremely helpful on many levels; it occupies your mind, keeps good oxygen flow in your body and keeps you calm.

The way my mom talks about birth is very inspiring for me. Natural birth to her seems to just be the way you do it, not a big deal, just something you do in life. She is such a tough lady and very strong and courageous.

Love, Respect and Disagreement

I don’t have to agree with you to love and respect you.This is a phrase that I have been pondering lately. I find that it applies to two areas in my motherhood, my relationship to children and especially my relationship with other parents, caregivers and friends.

With children, there are many things we disagree with on a daily basis, like whether or not shoes should be worn outside, or if we should feed the dogs our dinner, or if it’s a good idea to eat bugs that are found in the dirt. “I don’t want you to do that.”  Is a phrase that I say more often, but I would like to start saying “I don’t agree with that.” I like the latter because in that instance it implies that both myself and the child have opinions that matter. When I simply say that I don’t want something to happen, while being honest, I am still never allowing room for negotiation when it’s appropriate. There is never negotiation when it comes to health and safety, but perhaps eating bugs is something I can learn to understand even though it is SO gross to me. I have a boy, so I will have to learn to tolerate the gross. :) As Magda Gerber of RIE says: “Respect is the basis of the RIE hilosophy. We not only respect babies, we demonstrate our respect every time we interact with them. Respecting a child means treating even the youngest infant as a unique human being.

With adults, there are always things we disagree on, especially when it comes to parenting philosophies. We will never be in complete agreement with anyone because there are so many intricicities to parenting, well, to life actually! This is where it is important to say to another person, “You may not agree with this point of view and that is okay.” With all of my experience and information I have a great deal of opinions and ideas about parenting that I love to share, but this does not mean that I am ever right or better in my views. I recently had a conversation with a good friend about spanking and how I am not at all for spanking and she is. I really wrestled with this for awhile (and still am) but I am determined to come to a place where I accept and trust her point of view on the matter. I still love and respect that mother dearly, and her choice is her own. As a mother, teacher, nanny and friend, I will always strive to view any other parents choices in a positive light and come to peace with their choices.

I very much believe that our children come to us for a reason, for all of our good and all of the mistakes we will make as parents. It is our job to love and respect our children unconditionally throughout their lives, even when we completely disagree with their actions and our job as grow-up children to strive to see the good in our own parents. Perhaps we can work to extend this task to our parent peers as well; to learn to respect other parents choices and strive to remove our judgement of them. In doing this, our hearts may be lighter and our children may learn from our effort to be better human beings.

Here are a few GREAT books for working with your children: Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect, By Magda Gerber and Bringing up Bebe, by Pamela Drukerman.

Here is a great book that will help remove judgement and cultivate love: The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. (Or read brief summery here)

Those are only a few books and I would LOVE to learn about more books to help me on this quest.

 

What are your thoughts? Does this seem like an impossible task to you or something to strive for? What would be something that you would struggle with in others parenting choices?

Finding Community: Why I’m Moving to Portland Today!

Today we are officially leaving Seattle and moving south to Portland, OR and I could not be happier! My husband and I have lived in Seattle for 6 years now and have had many major life transitions here. We got engaged and then married, I completed my journey through Waldorf Teacher Training and finally, we had our son and he lived his first year here. We’ve always had an inkling to leave the city after my training was completed as that was our reason for moving here, but over the past year we have felt the conformation for this change.

In this city, I don’t have many close friends and family and when I say close, I mean within a mile of me! I of course have my wonderful PEPS group which is helpful, but not the same as family! It is too hard to drive 20-30 minutes to meet the almost daily needs of family when you have children. Especially in Seattle with all of the lakes that you must constantly work around and the crazy traffic! Going to Bellevue where a very dear friend lives is only a few miles away but is the biggest chore ever because of traffic and tolls! So I needed more; I needed a second family within walking distance that I would see all of the time and in Portland, this is what I will have!

I grew up with a girl that lived down the street from me. We met when we were around 6 or 8 and I saw her daily in the summer and most days during the rest of the year. Only now as an adult and mother I see how this benefited our mothers to be able to have a second family to support you just down the street! I’m told stories of how our mothers conspired with each other to get us out of the house for mom breaks, chores and errand running and this was much to our delight! We would make cookies with her mother and we would do art projects with my mother. Our childhood joys were keeping our mothers sane!

So now I will be living less than a mile from my childhood friend that also has a child 4 months younger than my son. (who, by the way, I can hear chatting in his sleep while I write this early in the morning of our move, too excited to sleep) I will regularly care for her child and see their family all of the time. We have plans to cook together every week, have monthly game nights, go on family vacations and generally see each other on a very regular basis. Having this community will not only benefit my sanity by allowing socialization but it gives me a fluffy pillow of support knowing that if I am truly struggling (like my challenge with ppd) I will have help and that I will be able to offer that same support to her family.

Raising children without this kind of support is very common these days and it is so unfortunate. My biggest wish is that one day all mothers can find a support system to help them and a community that children can be a part of. When children reach school age you do gain some of that community, but the first few years can be particularly isolating for new mothers and fathers. Fortunately, there are many resources that can help match you up with that support. Ideally, I would site the many resources, but I am moving today so I will have to leave that to you for now and update this later. For now, this is a great site with tips on finding the community you need.

What support systems did you find helpful for your new motherhood? Or is this still a struggle? I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Grass is Greener on the Other Side: My Struggle with Postpartum Depression and How I Prevailed

I’m laying in bed on a Sunday morning while my husband gets ready for work. I can hear my son fussing and crying while my husband changes him and gets his breakfast ready. I know that in a few minutes I will be on duty as a mom and I cannot bear this thought. At this moment, I hate being a mom. The sound of my child’s fussing is like nails on a chalkboard and I want nothing but to be left alone. This is something I cannot have now, I must find a way to be a mother today, find a way to cope. I come out of the bedroom and my husband wraps me up in his arms while I sob and beg him to stay home from work. He cannot because he has already called in the last two days because of my sleep deprivation and sadness. He kisses me good-bye and shuts the door behind him and I crawl up in a ball and continue sobbing. My son watches me anxiously and then finally, tired of being ignored, cries out for me. I get him from his high chair and then we sit on the couch together while I cry…about nothing. “There is nothing wrong with me” I tell myself over an over; “there is nothing wrong with my life and no reason to be like this, I just want to be happy and enjoy my life and my child.”

This was me in January, February, March, April, May and June of 2012. I was battling postpartum depression, and loosing the battle. Everyday I would wake in fear for the day and every night I would battle sleep as my mind filled with every possible anxiety and worry. Everyone said I was fine, that life was hard with a baby, but was it supposed to be this hard? I never really told anyone how bad it was for fear of appearing vulnerable or weak. I used to be so strong and positive all of the time and now I felt like I was drowning in my own life with absolutely nobody to rescue me. I never thought of killing myself or hurting my child, but just mothered with a sort of apathy and intolerance for my son and his needs. I tried to trick myself to be happy; tried to train myself to think positively and tried to exercise to raise my serotonin. People said to balance my adrenals with nutrition and to cut out foods from my diet. For 6 months I battled alone and then finally, one sleep deprived day,  I had had enough.

I sought help! I went on medication! Within 2 weeks, I started feeling better!

Slowly I noticed that situations that used to make me fall completely apart, were completely manageable! I noticed that I was happy and I enjoyed being a mother again! I felt like myself! I still got grumpy and sad, but it was a surface feeling and deep down, I was content and my old positive self. I cannot tell you exactly why I waited so long to seek professional help. I think perhaps I didn’t believe in medication. Or maybe I didn’t want to admit that I was actually depressed because of the social stigma. A big part of it was that people would tell me that what I was feeling was normal “because I had a lot on my plate and my stressed reaction was appropriate.” I can assure you now that THOSE FEELINGS ARE NOT NORMAL!

I am sharing this story with you because I feel it is important to know what postpartum mood disorders look like. It is important to know that this happens to 20% of women after giving birth. It’s important to know that you are most at risk 3-6 months after giving birth and after weaning. Mostly, It’s important to know that you can get help and that IT DOES GET BETTER.

The good news is that if you have Postpartum Depression, there is treatment available. In addition, here are some things you can do to take care of yourself:

  • Get good, old-fashioned rest. Always try to nap when the baby naps.
  • Try and take breaks for some “me” time.
  • Stop putting pressure on yourself to do everything. Do as much as you can and leave the rest! Ask for help with household chores and nighttime feedings.
  • Talk to your husband, partner, family, and friends about how you are feeling. Don’t be afraid to speak up as it will help immensely.
  • Do not spend a lot of time alone. Get dressed and leave the house – runan errand or take a short walk.
  • Spend time alone with your husband or partner.
  • Remember that babies are fussy and cry and that if you need a break from that, it’s okay. When they cry they are communicating and you are not failing.
  • Talk to your health care provider about medical treatment. Do not be shyabout telling them your concerns. Not all health care providers know how to tell if you have Postpartum Depression. Ask for a referral to a mental health professional who specializes in treating depression.
  • Talk with other mothers, so you can learn from their experiences.
  • Join a support group for women with Postpartum Depression. Call a local hotline or look inyour telephone book for information and services.

Here is a list of resources that will come in handy if you have PPD or another postpartum mood disorder.

If you live in Washington, this is an amazing list of support groups that will help.

Postpartum Mood Disorder Support provides warm, understanding, effective and private support and professional referrals for new mothers and their family members. 1-888-404-7763 (PPMD)

Best on the Web Blogs, a list of PPD blogs that could be helpful.

Postpartum Support International is dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression, the most common complication of childbirth.  1-800-944-4PPD

Pacific Postpartum Support Society provides telephone support, weekly women’s support groups, partner education sessions, community trainings and resource materials. 1-855-255-7999

Mama Eve writes that “bouts of depression are often associated with the post-partum period and the intensity of caring for a newborn, but I think the roots of it can definitely be found during pregnancy as well.” Here on her blog she shares her challenges with depression or “blues” during her pregnancy.

I had this worry that if I went on medication it would affect my son, but according to Thomas Hale, PhD LLL: “The effects of an untreated depressed mom on the infant are significant and hazardous; but the marginal effects of any medication usually are less hazardous than those effects. Treating a mom with postpartum depression (PPD) is much preferable to not treating, since a baby has a better outcome generally (as measured by Bayley scores, measuring interaction skills and speech and language development) when being cared for by a non-depressed parent.” According to this study, “Infants exposed to Paxil and Zoloft had undetectable levels of the antidepressant in their blood.” This needless worry of mine caused me 6 months of suffering that could have been avoided had I acted sooner with medication.

One thing to know is that 1 in 10 dad’s can experience postpartum mood disorders as well. The difference between depression in women and men is that men may be more in denial than women and refuse to seek help. In this article it states that “while Dad’s depression may take a different tone, with more irritable and angry behaviors, than Mom’s, it is likely to be just as detrimental to the child.” Here is a great resource for how to help your husband if you sense that he may be suffering from any postpartum mood disorders.

Now that I have sought help, I don’t feel that I “lost the battle” or “gave up” by going on medication. I feel empowered that I finally made the choice to care for myself, and in turn, care for my family.

I feel that this experience happened to me so that I can openly share my story and hopefully help other women suffering from postpartum mood disorders. This is a common challenge for new parents and we can help remove the stigma by talking about it openly as well as offering support to parents that struggle.

Please share your comments of your own experiences with postpartum mood disorder as well as other resouces you may have surrounding this topic.