Raining Petals

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In Retrospect

It has been 4 years and I have come a long way.

This post is looking back on the journey I have taken since becoming a mother. It is deeply personal but something I felt like I wanted to write about and record.

I know many of you will read this and might be able to understand but not empathize. When it comes to motherhood I guess you can say I feel like a misfit. Like I never quite joined the circle and fit in emotionally, physically, spiritually. I became a mother, so I was there, but to me it felt more like watching others to see how I was supposed to be feeling rather than how I was truly feeling.

The first few months postpartum I got ransacked with the comment/question, "Isn't being a mother the best thing in the entire world?!?! Could you ever imagine it would be this wonderful?!" I would usually smile politely or nod my head in agreement because that was what I was supposed to do. But in my head I was screaming and frustrated because I was not feeling those feelings. What I wanted to say was, "No! This isn't the best thing in the world. I am dying here. This is HARD. I don't sleep. I do not have even a moment of time to gather my thoughts. I am walking through life feeling like a zombie right now."

Here is the thing, I could definitely imagine how wonderful it was supposed to be. The visions, dreams, and plans I had before I gave birth were what I was supposed to be feeling and living. I disappointed myself in multiple ways and it was hard to face the fact that I was not the mother I had always imagined I was. I always told anyone who asked that I was going to have 12 kids. A big house full of kids and one that would never be empty because grand kids would start coming before my youngest even graduated from school. I imagined being very disciplined in my parenting and knowing the right way to do everything. I already knew all the things I would NEVER do...only to have several of those done and done over and over again before the first week of Carter's life had even passed. Most of things I would NEVER do, well...I guess you could say they were actually things I would ALWAYS do. :)

I have always been happy for my friends who were joyous right from the start. I wish that was me. I would never wish the feelings I went through on anybody. It was a hard time. It is a time that still scares me. I am pretty much terrified of going through that again. Part of me does not want to do it all again. To just stop while I am ahead because I don't know if I can. I don't know if I can make it out a second time. This may seem extreme, that is because it is. It was that bad. I was able, for the most part, to put on a face and "fake it till you make it". I wanted to be a good mom. I wanted people to think I was being a good mom. So I pretended as best I could. So most people who were around me at the time might not even realize most of this. I did share a lot of this way back at the beginning of blogging in a post. I am glad I did because made a friend out of it:) It also helped me realize I am not alone. There are other mother's out there who have had these feelings. Hormones play a huge role in this. It took an extremely long time for my body to even out again. I don't know why? But like I mentioned in the past post, it took a full 18 months before I actually noticed a physical change starting to take place. It felt like a big heaviness was starting lift off my chest. Happiness started creeping back in. Finally.

So, I guess you can say motherhood has been something I have had to grow into. It has taken a lot of adjusting, crying, praying, and self-talk. Seriously, if you do not talk to yourself. Maybe you should. And I don't mean out loud but by all means if you need to talk out loud go for it. You might also call it pondering. I make sure to take time to think things out, ponder, and realize what is important and what is not. I self-evaluate and set goals. I can talk myself out of feeling bad a lot of times. And that has made a huge difference. It really does work.

What excites me about writing this post is the fact that I can say that I think I have made it! I no longer have to look at other moms and wonder what I am supposed to be feeling. Now I have those feelings. They finally caught up with me...or I finally caught up with them, I think maybe they have always been there but I had to get through the clutter before I could feel them.

This last year, especially, has been HUGE! Watching Carter grow and change and become the little person he is has been thrilling. My heart swells and explodes several times a day as I just look on as he lives his little life right now. I think my love for Carter has grown exponentially in the past year and it just keeps multiplying. I love my little boy. He is my best little friend. And he is so naughty. Haha...but so sweet at the same time. As hard as this is to say, at the beginning I wanted things back to normal. Just me and Josh. I needed things to go back to how they were because I could handle that. I loved Carter as my baby but I guess at the time I couldn't handle the change. Which I hate saying. It makes me feel like I am weak. Like I am bad/evil/mental. I know it was something so much more than that just going on inside of me and I was not myself. It was not my fault. But I still dislike it.

But now, my life only makes sense with Carter in it. We spend every minute of every day together and I LOVE it. There are those times when I just need a moment of alone time. When I beg Josh to please take Carter for a walk or let me go to the store alone but those moments are few and far between compared to what they used to be. Carter and I get along just fine. We play and go lots of places. He usually gets to be the Captain and chart out the plan. Yes, he is spoiled. Yes, he believes the world in fact revolves around him. Because it is true, my world does revolve around him. I love age 3 and so far I love age 4 but I do not like age 5. I want Carter to stop growing, pronto! I want him to stay my little boy and it is all going by too fast.

The other night Carter fell asleep while we were watching a movie. In a rare moment, I picked him up and laid him on my chest and just held him for about an hour while he slept. It has been a long time since I have done that. I wanted to imprint that feeling. His little body. His smell. I wanted time to stop and allow me to always be able to hold him. I imagined him as a man, like his daddy, and wanting to hold him again but not being able to. Because I can't imagine that the feelings I had right then ever change. Do they? Just because they grow up? I imagine I will always want to hold my little boy just like I did that night. But life goes on and he will grow up and unless you want a book written about you, you don't crawl into your grown son's window at night and hold him. Yeah Katy, you are right...a little creepy. haha.

I feel great. I am so happy. Life is seriously so good right now. Josh and I keep looking at each other...like we are waiting for the ball to drop. Like, what have we done to be so blessed? But I try everyday to take my life with gratitude, not for granted.

People keep asking and even saying things like, "when you have your next child". To be honest. I am in no hurry. I am enjoying ever minute with my little family and love that I can give Carter so much time and attention. I have moments of being completely baby hungry and wanting another. But I am okay with the fact that I move at a slower pace.

I really hope no one cringes at me when they read this. I hope it is read with understanding. I hope no one judges me for not having those same feelings, or maybe the same intensity of those feelings, that other moms have instantly. It is not something I chose. I would never have picked for things to go the way they did. I wanted so badly to be like the other mothers I knew. To swoon and exclaim , "YES!" when asked if being a mom was the best thing ever. I know it doesn't matter what anyone thinks about me but I hope for the health of society that issues like this are looked upon with more sensitivity and less criticism.

I wish there was more awareness of postpartum depression and resources for mothers who are dealing with it. While it was discussed and I was educated on it before giving birth, after the fact you can feel abandoned. My doctor gave me some pills but that was the extent of it. It was so much more than that and I would have liked somewhere to turn, some place to go. Thankful for my husband who stood by my side and took care of me and Carter when I couldn't. He is my hero. For my mom who dropped everything to be there when I needed her. They were the only ones I let in at the time and I am grateful they accepted the invitation as if it were no big deal to pick up the slack.

So, in retrospect, nothing worked out like I had always imagined. But what in life actually does? I have come a long way and I am so grateful that I made it to the place that I am in now. I pray it only continues to get better here on out as I grow into my role as a mother. Though I have come a long way, I have longer to go. There is so much that can be improved upon. Which is actually encouraging because that means I have a place to go and things will only get better. The road started out bumpy but right now it is pretty smooth sailing.

So is being a mother the best thing ever you ask? Yes. Yes, it really is.


julie said...

I like your honesty. I don't think I even realized how drastic it was til this post. And I don't see how any one could criticize you for it...if so, I criticize them. :)

And if it means anything, I really do believe that if and when child number 2 comes along, it will be so much easier. Maybe not perfect, but easier. I didn't really experience what you did, but your (as in one's) state of mind, attitudes, emotions, expectations, everything is just in a better place I think. And I'm finding out that with number 3 I'm getting it even better!

and lastly, I laughed out loud at the reference to that "I love you forever," book. I just imagined being woken in the middle of the night, rolling over to see a breeze blowing the curtains, the screen popped out and Connie heaving her 200+ lb son into her lap to sing a lullaby..and Brandon not noticing. I never knew that book was creepy til Katy enlightened me...and now I think it's hilarious.

Anyway...thanks for this post.

Us Bailey's said...

Thanks for your post Laura. I am glad you are enjoying motherhood now. I think this is something that lots of women can relate too. Maybe not to the extreme that you went through, but relate none the less. Motherhood is HARD! Its hard when you are not the person you always thought you were going to be. For me, toddlerhood is HARD! I have an incredibly strong willed son who puts me at the end of my rope on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. It is always comforting to know others have had a hard time too. Good luck with everything, and I bet if you asked Carter he would say you were the best mom in the world -- and I think that is what matters most!

Ryan and Leah said...

I am so glad you are happy! Just remember you deffinatly are not alone in the way you have felt! We love you guys! Can you believe it has been 4 years! Wow!

John and Anna said...

Oh Laura! I have to tell you I first really understood about Post Partum when the girl I visit taught experienced it. It was hard to watch her go through that, and it was hard to hear your experience and not because I'm critical, but because that sounds like such a miserable time to go through.

I know for me I've been given challenges that I look back on and some of them I'm still not sure why I was given that particular challenge and there are others that in "retrospect" like you say, the answer is so clear.

I'm glad you are happy now, and I agree with the last comment. I'm sure Carter thinks you are the best! :)

Ash said...

As a brand new mother up at 4 am reading your post I have to say thank you. My emotions are all over the place right now, and a few of my sisters have really struggled with depression so I've known i need to watch for it in myself. It scares me to think about the extremes I my have to go through and even some of the thoughts and feelings I have now. The last thing I want is to be a bad mom or an incapable one, but I am so comforted by the network that is in place, the friends I have that have already reached out to be there when I need them, so it won't get that extreme. It's so comforting to know I won't be alone! So thank you for being so open, it has already helped me and I'm sure will help others too!

Cheri said...

No, I can honestly say I don't look down on you at all for how you feel about it. If anything, I just feel sorry for you. Some of my most charished memories are of the newborn days with all 4 of my children. I never want them to get bigger at that point, and it makes me so sad to see them turn from newborns to babies. Right now I'm going through being sad about Tyler turing from a baby into a toddler. I breaks my heart! But still each new stage is so fun that I always love where they are.
I wish so much that you had had that from the begining. I may not be able to empathize with you having never gone through any kind of PPD, but I can feel for what you missed out on. I've know several women who have described the same thing to me as you just did. The only thing I have to compair it to is the way I feel when I'm pregnant. I like to call it Pre-partum depression.

However, I am very happy to hear that you're fully enjoying Carter now! You only get that experiance once, so I'm glad you'll remember this time as a happy one.

Shane and Amy Jo said...

You are so real, down-to-earth, and sincere. I love that...I love that about you. I too appreciate your honesty...even though you don't want to re-live it, I really do think that it will always help someone else who has yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I didn't experience what you did. But I feel like I can somewhat relate. I'm sad that I wished the twin's newborn/baby stage away...but it was just so dang hard at the time. I do love being a mother, but I don't feel like I am one that can handle having lots of kids. I often wish that I was...but at this point I know I just need to do the very best with what I've got instead of doing a poor job with a bigger family. Does that even make sense?

Anyway, I think you are a great mom. Josh and Carter are both so lucky to have you in their lives.

Carrie said...

Great post, Laura. I hope that you don't feel alone in your struggle. I it's sad that women who experience PPD depression feel that they need to hide it. I had a really hard during the first 2 months when Max was born with thoughts and feelings that I wouldn't want to share with anyone, sadly. It was a lot easier with Evelyn just because I knew what to expect. I definitely love being a mother and think it is the best thing in the world but it is SO challenging. I have extremely attached very spirited children (one who is a bully) there are so many days when I just yearn for them to be a couple of years older.

I'm with Amy...we've found that we aren't going to be the type that can handle having a big family. And living away from Utah/Idaho- even still among LDS people- we've recognized that this is perfectly fine.

I wish so much that we could see each other more often.

Thanks for being so honest and sincere...you're the best!

Jenete said...

I wish more women would talk about PPD in the way you just did! I think it is very helpful to any mother especially those who are going through it or who have gone through it. I suffered from postpartum psychosis about a month and a 1/2 after Klaus was born. I spent two nights in the hospital and 2 nights in a psychiatric ward. Maybe when I hit the four year I will be able to write about it as you did:)

It is reassuring to know that it took you 18 months have that burden lifted. I am still working through the feelings of regret and guilt for what happened...as if I could have controlled my hormones and emotions at the time...haha. It's not as frequent but it still hits me. Returning to my cello has been the best therapy because that was something I did before Klaus was born and it defines me. Finding how to balance motherhood with my own individuality that includes my personal hopes and dreams is difficult but so important! For me it maintains my sanity and grounds me in reality.

I agree with you that the fear of going through that again for number 2 is scary, really, really scary. Especially when you consider that you have two windows to crawl into as an old lady;)

Bradbury Bunch said...

I admire how REAL you are! How open you are and not worried about what other people think. You've always been like that-and I love that about you along with so many other things!!! I totally agree that some Mom's say things because they're, "suppose" to say that. I can relate to this and I agree that there should be more help offered to Mother's everywhere!

You're BEAUTIFUL Laura! Carter has to be one of the luckiest boys in the world to have you as his Mommy! And I'm one of the luckiest girls in the world to have you as a friend! Love you XOXOXO

P-S The paragraph with you holding your 5 year old son for an hour brought a tear to my eye and as I was reading it I was thinking about the I LOVE YOU FOREVER book, and how I have to make sure you read it-----THEN after reading on I saw that you had read the book...and after reading Julie's comment I'm cracking up over here. However, I admit that the book brings a tear to my eye every time!!! Why can't the kids just stay little forever?????

Lara said...

Laura! I can't write anything that hasn't already been written here, but I do want to say that I am SO SO SO glad you're happy right now! Soak it all up... the days and months and years of our children being young and innocent are so fleeting!
I just know that your post will reach somebody out there who really needs it. As women I think we all have things that we need to share in order to help and lift eachother. Now you can help those who maybe most of us wouldn't be able to (because we haven't experienced the same thing).. so even though your experience was dark and painful when you were in the thick of it, it may be just the thing that will help many women in their experiences yet to come. So I totally admire that you were forthcoming with your feelings! Thank you for sharing!!

Casey Marie said...

All I could think about while reading this post is the fact that Carter never felt anything but love from both you and Josh. I know you were going through a hard time and struggled with those dark thoughts, but he was the most loved little baby boy even through all of that.
I didn't suffer from PPD, but I did have bouts of "baby blues" srping up every now and then until he was about 7 months. I think if I were to multiply those feelings by 10 then maybe I could imagine what you went through. I wish I did more to help you.
I had mixed feelings the first two weeks of Atrion being home. I loved him with all of my being and yet I felt so hollow and depressed and longed for the "good ol' days". I know I took a moment to treasure my baby, which I'm greatful for but I also know that those are the hardest two weeks of my entire life. In fact, hardest 4 months of my entire life.
I don't pity you, or feel sorry for you, or any of those things because I feel you are a better mom, sister, wife, and friend for it. I can sympathize with you, though. You are a strong, beautiful person and have nothing to feel ashamed of. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Each mother goes through her own experiences and trials, and, despite what some would love for you to believe, not one of them is perfect.
Thanks for sharing this now and other times before this because it has raised my awareness with myself and also to help others when needed.

Lisa said...

Okay this is only my 5th attempt at leaving a comment. It's a subject SO much easier to talk about in person!

Thank you for writing about this again. I know that I emailed you about my experience after your first post way back when. It's been almost seven years since I felt the full weight of PPD, but the memories are still startling clear. With that said, the guilt/regret/pain are not a burden anymore.

Like you, I was really good at faking it, and less good at letting people help. I'm sure that made recovery a little more drawn out and difficult.

Julie is right. Child number two was much easier and so much more enjoyable. Yes, I was exhausted and sometimes overwhelmed and emotional. But I didn't ever go back to that dark, lonely, and suffocating place that is PPD.

Baby #3 has been the best far and away. There are the expected challenges that come with a new baby and a growing family, but I have also felt an abundance of tenderness and joy.

We're all figuring out motherhood a day at a time. Even if our experiences and opinions are different, I love that we can be united in the desire to be good parents.

Maybe I'll take some time and go write a little post of my own...

Brandi said...

What a beautiful post. I really didn't understand the extent of your post partum until I read this. I am so glad your feeling the good feelings now! Love ya!!

Shawn and Megan Atwood said...

Laura, I am so glad you wrote about this. I am also so glad that you are at a place where you can write about it, and I am happy you are doing better. I balled while I was reading this post. I have never experienced post partum, but I did get a little bit of the baby blues after all 3 of my kids. With Liv only being a month old, I still have hard days when I wonder if I am an adequate mother to my kids. You helped me realize it is okay to have these feelings. THanks for having the courage to post, and thanks for being the great person and mom you are!