Monday, November 18, 2013

Dealing with PPD and PPA

Three years ago I gave birth to my second beautiful son. I was so looking forward to his arrival, I day dreamed about having him, giving Brock a brother, and completing our family.
After giving birth to Brock I dealt with the baby blues, but nothing major, life was great. Being a mommy was great, I loved every minute of it.
Having Jude rocked my world in every way. About a week after he was born I started feeling very overwhelmed. Everything was big to me, nothing was small or easy. I started to sink into myself and cut everyone, including my husband out. If you know me, you know Jude was a really, really hard baby. The word hard doesn't even come close to describing his first 18 months-2 years of life. The more he'd cry the darker I became. I saw life in tunnel vision, my whole world was closing in on me. I couldn't sleep because I was so anxious, my muscles twitched every time I would lay down to rest. I dreaded my child waking up in the mornings. The depression and anxiety consumed me. I wanted to pack up Brock and run away. I went as far as to get a bag out a handful of times. I could not handle my new reality, everything was collapsing around me, I couldn't breathe I was so overwhelmed.
Then came the time I thought I had reached the end of my rope. For several months I seriously considered ending it all, I had it all planned out. The only thing that stopped me was the thought of someone having to discover my body. I was sane enough to know that would destroy my husband or boys. Thank God I had that tiny sliver of sanity left, without it I am sure I would no longer be here.
I would lay in bed and cry every night. I heard the saying all the time, "God won't give you anything you can't handle." The saying pissed me off. Surely God was wrong, I was not strong enough, I could not physically crawl out of the dark despair I was in on my own. I was a shell of the person I once knew, I would look in the mirror trying to recognize myself.
I got on medication and I became determined to get better, and I became to determined to make something of this. It could not have all been for nothing. There had to be a reason I went through 18 months of extreme darkness. As the fog began to clear I began talking about my struggles and I found a 50/50 mix of moms astonished I'd say anything negative about motherhood, and moms who were so thankful someone was being honest about the struggles. It became clear to me then to not glorify motherhood, but to tell the nitty gritty details from the struggles to the joys. Motherhood isn't bad for everyone, but for some, it is.
Looking back on that time in my life is still very painful for me. I missed a lot. There are gaps in my boys lives I simply do not remember, I have blocked out so many things. What remains fresh for me though, is how fragile a new mom can be. How one judgmental remark can make a mom feel like she is worthless and failing at being a mom. How being a mom is NOT easy, it is rewarding, but sometimes the reward is on the horizon, not right in front of us. I feel like my life's purpose is to not only be a wife and mom, but to be a voice for the moms too afraid to speak. To be an ear to the moms that are willing to share their struggles, and to be a voice of strength as someone who knows there is light at the end of the tunnel. To tell moms it won't be hard forever, there will come a time that you can laugh again, smile again, and enjoy the simple things in life again. To tell moms it won't always be so overwhelming, you won't always feel swallowed whole by this new life. That it will, without question, get better, and they without question are not alone in what they are going through.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On Grief

Grief is such a funny thing. It is powerful, knock you on your butt powerful, but eventually it looses it's power.
Today would have been my moms birthday. Her 52nd birthday, sadly I had to pull out my calculator to figure that out. In the years right after her death the day of her birthday would consume me. I could not stop thinking about how old she'd be, what she would be doing, etc. She only had 43 birthdays. 43. That is only 15 more than I have currently had. I cannot imagine only having 15 more birthdays.
The grief when she first died was so strong I swore it would kill me. I could hardly breathe, I physically hurt from grief, my world was literally spinning out of control without me while I watched on. It has morphed since then into a dull ache that only appears every now and then. Especially when big life events happen, my wedding, when my boys were born, when my oldest son started school. The ache then was stronger, I miss her, I wanted her there to experience those things.
A few months after she died I remember crying to my dad about the physical pain and he said to me, "Amber, there is a day where you won't be consumed by the grief, you won't think about her every single day after awhile it will hit you that you haven't thought about her in days." I looked at him with the look that only a scorned teenager can give (sorry about that, dad) and spouted off, "I will NEVER not think of my mom all day. NEVER!" I was nothing if not dramatic, and I was nothing if not very wrong. He was right. I am no longer consumed with the death of my mom. Losing her suddenly when I was 19 does not, and will not define me.
The fact that I am no longer consumed with her loss does not mean I did not love her. It means I am choosing to live even though she died. Sadly, life goes on, things and people change, and those who have passed on settle nicely into our hearts, but out of our immediate thoughts.
I still think about her all the time, I do wonder what my life would look like if she were in it. There are a lot of "what if's" that I will never be able to answer. The only thing I know for sure is there is currently a pretty awesome party being thrown in heaven for her 52nd birthday.
Happy Birthday, Momma.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sweet Jude, you are 3!


Three years ago you came screaming into our lives. For the past two years I'd say, "And here you are still screaming!" But not this year, my Bug. This year you have grown and changed into an amazing, sweet, slightly cautious, non-screaming (hallelujah!!) little boy.
This is one of my favorite pictures from the wee hours of the morning after you were born. In that moment it was just me and you. I held you and memorized all of your features, you amazed me how much you looked like Brock, but yet were so different.

In true Jude fashion you cried while eating your first birthday cake. We couldn't help but laugh as you kept shoveling in cake while screaming.

As your second birthday rolled around things were beginning to get easier, you were coming into your little personality. It was a lot of fun to watch you grow into your own person.

Now you are 3, my Bug. I am not quite sure how it went from counting down the months until your colic would be over, to suddenly you being 3. I feel like life was fast forwarded this year in a big way. You started school, had language explosions, went from a crib to a big boy bed, potty trained, and went on vacations (with and without mom and dad!) It has been a BIG year for you.
Things you love:
Your brother, he is your #1 most favorite thing. Your 2nd favorite thing is your daddy. You are a daddy's boy through and through. You also love your dogs, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, your "b's", the ocean, bacon, tractors, and horses.

You are a cautious little one who likes to evaluate the entire situation before you dive head first into any thing. You try so hard to keep up with your big brother, and succeed a lot of the time. You are sensitive, and you get your feelings hurt very easily. You love to cuddle and just be still, which is a huge difference for us, Brock was never still! You have a kind heart, you are quick to say please and thank you. You are stubborn, oh so stubborn, you come from a long line of stubborn people. I hope you do great things with your strong will and stubbornness later in life.
Your smile and laugh make my day, I am so, so glad to be your mom. You have taught me so much about life and what true, unconditional love it. You have taught me to love when it wasn't it easy. You have made me grow and stretch in ways I was not expecting but I am so glad for all of our challenges. It was through those challenges that our bond was forged and there is nothing that will ever be able to break that.
I love you to the moon and back, my bug, you are my sunshine!
Happy Birthday sweet boy!!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hi, my name is Amber, and I am a yeller

If I had to choose one thing about myself that I hate above all else it is that I am a yeller.
I didn't used to be one. My mom yelled at me a lot and I vowed to break the chains and not do that to my kids.
I had Brock and life was grand, I loved every moment of motherhood, even the hard moments. We found out I was pregnant with Jude and I was ecstatic. We were going to give our sweet Brock a sibling, complete our family, and have everything we ever dreamed of.
Jude was born and we faced so many challenges with him, I had postpartum depression and post postpartum anxiety. My sweet Brock turned 3 and was no longer all that sweet, he became defiant and pushed buttons. As for Jude, well, he cried. A lot. As in all day, everyday. The only time he didn't cry was when he was asleep.
I was in such a dark depressive state yelling became my coping mechanism of sorts. I was scared, hurting, and felt so alone (though, I had a lot of support I didn't see it at the time) yelling became my norm.
Now I yell, well because I have been for the past three years. I yell then feel horrible about it, rinse and repeat. I have told myself several times over the years time and time again I need to quit, but yet I don't.
A few weeks ago a great friend, Mallory, told me about a no yelling challenge. I wasn't ready then, yelling makes my boys snap to attention and listen. I needed yelling to survive, I didn't think I could stop. Until I took note that when I say Jude's name in a loud tone at all, he covers his ears. When I talk to Brock he immediately thinks he's in trouble.
Then yesterday happened. The boys were being boys, loud, rambunctious, and defiant. I was at my wits end by 9:45AM. I lost it, I did the crazy mom scream until I was purple in the face, while my husband watched. About five minutes later he came up to me and said, "No. Never again do I want to hear you yell at our children like that. You told me if you ever acted like your mom I needed to tell you, and well, you are acting like her. You told me how bad she would make you feel about yourself and now, you are doing it to our children."
It was like I was slapped across the face, but it was the truth, he said it with love, and it needed to be said. I have known for a long time that I need to stop, so I am trying. You have to start somewhere so here I am, day one of the challenge.
Why am I putting this out there on the internet for all to see? Accountability. Plain and simple. I have talked with friends about it, and my husband about it. For me to break the habit I am going to have to be held accountable. I will update here when I can about my failures and triumphs I am pretty sure there will be plenty of both.
Here is the blog Mallory introduced me to that I will be following and getting ideas from on other ways I can discipline my kids without yelling at them.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sleepless nights

Jude has been going through a phase of refusing to nap. Because of it he has been overly tired and having night terrors. There was one day last week that was exhausting, I was done with being a mom for the day and needed a night of no whining kids. Lo and behold right about the time Clayton I were crawling into bed Jude starts crying.
I got up to get him and if I am being honest I was very annoyed with the whole situation. This was the 2nd or 3rd night that week he had been up and I was over it. I went into his room and scooped him up and he instantly calmed down, which is not normal with his night terrors. I turned to take him into our room to get him settled and of course banged his poor little head into the door. Screaming ensued and my nerves sky rocketed. I laid him down in our bed and curled up next to him. The moment I got close he quieted down and fell asleep in my arms.

I looked down at him and my heart skipped a beat. I was reminded, yet again, sometimes all my kids need, is me. My touch, my words, my love, simply my presence. I laid looking at him for some time, long enough that Clayton looked at me and asked if I was ok. With tears in my eyes I nodded and continued to gaze onto this precious human being that has been placed in my care. I fail as a mom so many times, but moments like that night let me know I am doing ok.
There are of course the nights he wakes up crying right when Clayton and I go to bed and Jude starts crying, I pull him into our bed to sooth him and he lays in bed giggling at us.

Life is not perfect, or a fairy tale. I raise my voice too often the kids fight more than I'd like. But with each little kiss and, "I love you, mama" I am reminded just how lucky I am to have this life, my two little boys and one amazing man that makes it all worthwhile.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dear Brock

Dear Brock,

You are now 5 years old. Where the time went I am not sure. When you were born at looked at you with such awe and wonder. I was curious about what you would look like at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on. I could not imagine it. You were my sweet bundle of all boy and so incredibly happy all the time. I say you were born smiling. You were such a curious and alert baby, and you continue to be so as a kid. When you were born the doctor held you up and much to everyone's surprise you turned your head to look around the room. You didn't want to miss a single moment and you haven't stopped exploring, learning, asking questions, and refusing to sleep in fear of missing out on excitement since then.

When they took you to get you all cleaned up you started to whimper and cry like most newborns. That is until your daddy took your hand and told you he was there and it would all be ok. You grasped onto his finger, turned your face towards him and became silent. It's like you knew at that moment that all was well. You were going to be loved, adored, and cared for always.
The first year of your life is somewhat of a blur. You changed so quickly from month to month seemingly day to day at some points. I would write you a letter each month "birthday" you had letting you know what you were up to and what you meant to me. I cherish those. They are a moment frozen time that I can look back on with a smile knowing although it seems like it flew by I soaked in every moment. I rocked you every night until you were 13 months old, got up with you throughout the night for just as long. You made me a mom and I loved learning and growing right along with you. You taught me so much about life and love that first year of your life.

I cried the night I put you to bed as a 11 month old. I somehow knew as soon as you turned one time would speed up and there would be no stopping it. I was more right then I ever knew. You started to demand independence that year, being an early walker, and a very good talker I often forgot just how young you were. You have always seemed older than you are. Around 18 months the "terrible two's" hit you did not throw fits over not getting your way, but over being told to do something different than you had in mind. From very early on you were determined to do what you wanted to do, when you wanted to do it and we better watch out. You are stubborn, set in your ways, and so strong willed. I know when you are a man those qualities are going to make you excel in everything that you put your mind to, but for now man it is hard!

By the time you were 2 you fell in love with sports and everything out doors-y. We had to begin the countdown until you were 4 at that point so that you could play t-ball. You could not wait until you were older, and bigger, all the while I was silently pleading with you to slow down and to be my baby just a little bit longer. You also fell in love with all things music, man you loved to sing and dance, all the time. You were getting a little bit easier at this point as we could negotiate with you about what you wanted to do vs what we wanted you to do. You are quite the negotiator though! You were all about your daddy, peepaw, and papa at this stage in your life girls (including mommmy) were chopped liver. It hurt my heart a little, but made me so proud at the same time to see you grow and flourish. You became a big brother at 2 1/2 and you weren't all that sure about it at first. You loved to be a mischievous little guy when I would sit down to feed Jude, I found you in some interesting situations thankfully they were all funny and not dangerous. You had to grow up a lot this year it killed me a little knowing I "forced" you to grow up by giving you a brother, but I knew it would be so worth it in the long run.

By your 3rd birthday you had being a big brother down pat. You showed a love for Jude that was so raw and pure. You taught me that year what it meant to love unconditionally. You were a light of happiness for me in a year that was otherwise very dark and tumultuous. I mourned the loss of our "best buddy" status that we had before you had a sibling, but I knew I gave you a best friend like nothing else, a brother. You continued to gain independence and at the same time spunk and attitude. You gave us a run for our money almost daily but it was important for you to exert your independence. You started mothers day out that year and it was wonderful for you. You made new friends, loved your teacher Mrs. Dee and learned so much. Being so inquisitive and smart being in "school" was so good for you.

With 4 came sass like I have never known with you! Sadly, you and I butted heads almost the entire year, it made me so sad. I think 4 is just hard for a little guy like you. You weren't quite a toddler anymore and weren't a big kid yet, its a transitional age and it showed. You were finally old enough to play t-ball! Your first team was the Outlaws the whole team was 4 year old's and more than anything you little guys just wanted to play in the dirt. It was hilarious to see you in an over sized uniform on such a big field being such a little guy. This year you are on the White Sox and while there are times you still would rather dig in the dirt, you have gown so much in the sport! You are hitting doubles and triples, getting runners out, and focusing the majority of the game. We could not be more proud of you. You have been in Preschool all year with Mrs. Shannon and you have learned so much. You continue to blow us out of the water with how smart you are. You have made so many friends in school and your teacher cannot stop singing your praises. She said you have such a kind heart and you care deeply for all your classmates. It does this mama's heart good to hear that.

And now, my sweet boy, you are five. Five. I have to take a minute and let that sink in. You are truly a kid now, there is no ounce of baby left in you anymore. We had a bowling party per your request for your 5th birthday. You had to move the big plastic crocodile that is supposed to help you roll your ball. You had to bowl "for real" like a big boy. Looking at you makes my heart skip a beat. I cannot believe you are mine. That I was intrusted with your life. I can only hope and pray that I am a good enough mom for you. I love you more than you'll ever know, until you have your own kids one day long from now. My love for you has no limits and no restrictions. No matter the choices you make or don't make I will be your mom, loving you, and cheering you on from the sidelines.
Thank you for making me a mom and teaching me more about myself every single day.
As always, I love you, no matter what.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Racing towards Kindergarten

"The days are long, but the years are long"

This saying is slapping me in the face lately. I am fairly certain I gave birth to Brock last year. Alas here he is 5 months away from starting Kindergarten. Unbelievable.

I remember sitting and rocking him when he was just a few days old, staring at him in awe, and so curious about who he would become. I would imagine him as 2, 3, 4, and then school age. Now, here we are and I have no idea how we got here so fast.
His 5th birthday is next month, gone are the days of Thomas and Mickey Mouse, here are the days are Mario and Spider Man. I have a KID guys, a real kid he's no longer a toddler. He is sassy, smart mouthed, hyper, sweet, smart as a whip, an awesome negotiator, and he tells me I am beautiful every single day. Man I love that kid. His daddy is teaching him to be a gentleman so he'll open the door open for girls, and tells me, "mom, girls like chocolate and flowers." We went to a birthday party yesterday for a little girl he adores, he had to fix his hair and put on cologne. Good move Daddy, you are teaching him right.

I bought some uniforms the other day, turned in his commitment letter in to the school, and got a note in the mail about joining the PTO. Seriously, my mind is blown about all that is happening. The count down has begun. Ready or not here Kindergarten comes.