Saturday, May 25, 2013

A photo shoot conducted by my friend Heather Hanna Glennon

Heather is a friend of mine from college (which was, like, well over a decade ago...holy crap I'm old) and just got married last year to become Mrs. Heather Glennon. However, since my daughter's name is Hannah, I can't stop calling the person I know as Heather Hanna Hannah. I have also misspelled her maiden name every time I have attempted to type it in this post so far. So there ya go.

Heather is a really swell photographer and has done Hannah's newborn and six/seven month pictures, so it was a no duh to have her do the one-year pics. She does a really great job with Hannah and I recommend her to everyone. That means you, blog reader.

Hannah's almost 14 months old now, but better late than never, I say. Here are some of my favorites from the 1 year shoot:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pomp, circumstance, and a 5:00 bed time

I am a proud wiferford. My dear husband Jason graduated yesterday with honors! He started the undergrad degree efforts in 1999 but after a couple semesters in he was a poor college student, working his tail off for UPS, wondering when it would get better. Then, it did. His uncle told him about a Microsoft training academy his well-regarded technology company was holding. Jason left college, made it into the academy, and off went his IT career. Yet, as he told me yesterday, he felt like he needed to prove to himself that he could do it. So, although his career has gone really well, he committed to finishing his degree, all while being a great husband, father, friend, son, sibling, and employee. He deserves this feeling of accomplishment. I love him so much and am insanely proud of him!

His mom surprised him by coming in town. After the ceremony, we had lunch with our family. And a few beers. And then we came home and went to bed around 5:00 like true adults. Bom, bom, bom-bom-bom, bommm, bommmmmmm.

Friday, May 17, 2013

On being awake, living with fluids, and putting the dog on meds

Jason and I had grand plans to go to bed early and actually get some sleep last night. First rule of parenting: change your expectations, or just don't have any.

Hannah went down to sleep easily, which is pretty normal. We were all settled in, it was probably a little after 10:00 when I finally turned off the TV and tried to sleep. It's hard to sleep over the sound of a dog vomiting next to your bed. Yep, Benson hacked up two piles of leftovers onto the carpet.

It smelled like sunflower seeds. I am going to attribute that to the entire pack of them that he pulled out of Jason's baseball bag and ate on the living room floor the night before. Plastic packaging and all.

Jason cleaned up the puke mounds, cussing.

Back to bed...for about 15 minutes.

Hannah coughs. And coughs. And coughs. She always coughs through the night in sequences of three. It was driving Jason mad. So, in my attempt to resolve the situation I crept into Hannah's room and tried to slip a pacifier into her mouth. It worked, until she heard the floor creak when I tiptoed out (there is only one place in the whole house where the floor creaks and it happens to be right at the base of her crib).

She started wailing.

I tried to console her, rocking her in her glider. She finally settled down, but unsettled when I put her back in bed. Jason gave it a shot. No luck. Finally, we went to the milk bottle solution. That did the trick. Back to bed. On my way back I stepped in the dog vomit wet spot.

Speaking of the dog, we were told by the vet yesterday that Benson is having an allergy problem. (We were also told that we could put him on Prozac if he didn't stop marking our carpet, which blew my mind.) This is the reason he has been scratching himself raw on his belly, licking his feet to a point of swelling, and messing with his ever-infected ears. He chose this moment in the middle of the night to have a scratch attack. Scratching, scratching, scratching, scratching, scratching...and so on. It was driving us nuts. We decided to give him Benadryl (our vet told us we could - apparently he is a big pill guy). Within ten minutes Benson was a limp pile of sleeping dog. Back to bed.

Maybe a couple of hours later, I awake to Benson standing up under the covers of our bed by my feet. I lifted the covers to scope the situation. A waft of sunflower seeds hit my nose. I put my hands down by his feet and felt around. Yep! Wet. But not vomit. Urine. Benson was so blitzed from the drugs he wet our bed.

It was 4:30 at this point. I woke Jason up so he could help me resolve the situation. In the process of taking the sheets off the bed I stepped in the vomit spot, no less than four times.

We got the laundry going and I went into the spare bedroom to sleep. Thirty minutes later, Hannah was up. Don't worry, she had peed her bed a little too. Apparently the midnight milk was too much for Pampers.

We got up and got into the bath tub. Water running, I set her in. She didn't even get all the way sitting before a tiny fountain of pee came out. Drain the tub. Rinse. Refill. We're having fun now. She wants to drink the bath water. We fight about it. I win, but she screams.

After the bath we head downstairs. Mama needs coffee. Hannah pounds on the sliding glass door. She loves to be outside. I grab my coffee and we head out. I get my feet caught in my pajama pants as I try to walk down the two concrete steps onto the patio. Coffee down my leg. I don't even care. I sit down and help Hannah down the stairs. She stubs her bare toe. Blood everywhere. I run inside quickly and get a wet paper towel to press on it. I come out and she's using her tiny toothpick finger to mess with a roly-poly that is crawling along the ground. It was adorable. I go to grab my phone to take a picture. Turn around to see her hand leave her mouth. Uh-huh. She ate it.

As I write this, she is laying in her crib, trying to nap and coughing in threes. Benson is sleeping under the covers in the spare bedroom, hopefully alive but not peeing. I am laying on my mattress, no sheets, in my coffee-stained pajama pants, thinking about what a shower might feel like and how I need to stop wondering why I am a little more anxiety-ridden than normal these days. I don't sleep and I spend most of my time bandaging, cleaning, sleeping in, or stepping on bodily fluids. It's so ridiculous, I laugh.

This is parenting.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A strange anniversary.

Hannah is 13 months old today. But, that's not the strange anniversary. That's the very awesome, incredibly normal and happy anniversary.

One year ago today, I finally began to feel better for a little while. From Hannah's birth on April 2, 2012 until one year ago yesterday, I entered into a traumatic war with postpartum anxiety and depression. And, I entered the hospital in what I was convinced would be my last attempt at recovering the life I used to know.

One year ago today, I started to understand some things I am not sure I want the privilege of knowing sometimes.

I'm not trying to say anything profound here. I'm certainly not trying to convince anyone that they need to "believe" in postpartum anxiety and depression as if it were a fictional creature that required an element of proof. I don't need anyone to believe in it. It's like God. I can't see it, but I felt it, and it was gripping, consuming, in charge, and very, very real.

I keep this blog because it allows me to capture time a bit, and just as I get to go back through my past few years and see how I've evolved, I plan to come back to this blog someday, especially when circumstances feel impossible and I need to remind myself of a few things.

Here's what I know: I got to go to hell for awhile beginning a year ago, and it's ugly there. I don't believe that hell is a place as much as it is an experience. A continuous push down deep underwater while you can't decide if you want to waste your breath screaming or just hang onto your exhale.

It's hard to explain exactly how it felt during that time, but I imagine it's a lot like the way an addict feels during detox. Mentally, it's confusing, complicated, frustrating, devastating, hopeless, and beyond frightening. Your biggest fear is that you are always going to feel afraid, forever. I thought I was stuck with the sensation that my skin was hot and crawling. I believed I might never get to take care of Hannah. I actually yearned to stay up with her through the night, feed her from my body, rock her in the soft, oversized chair I picked out for us, and feel like we were the only ones awake with the moon. Instead, she cried, and I couldn't do a thing.

I felt nothing but fear, all day, every day. At the time I didn't feel failure or desire. There was no room in my body for any other feeling besides fear.

The strangest thing, though, is that I can't recreate that kind of fear now, even if I try as hard as possible. It is eerie to me to think of the person I was less than 12 months ago because I don't recognize that person. That is a gift.

I met my doctor when I was in the hospital a year ago. Throughout my treatment, he thought I was somewhat of a peculiar case because I recovered the week he treated me, and then I relapsed. And then I recovered again. And then I relapsed again. I remained in a tolerable condition for a few weeks after I left the hospital. And then, it all came back. It hit me hard and kept me in that frightening place for days. Again, I couldn't budge. I knew I had recovered temporarily but the fear returned that I would be stuck there again. The last relapse I had was in July, but occasionally I still get haunted by the thought of it.

And yet, in a way, I'm better than I was before. I've identified the liar and know how to stifle the quiet voice with the devious intentions. I have been given some sort of unique posterity. A purpose I don't want, but apparently it wanted me. I have it in my heart to tell people about anxiety, and, more importantly, recovery.

I kept notes in my phone sometimes as I tried to make sense of what happened. Once, a few months ago, I was angry at depression and I began to write a note to it in an effort to yell at something that I only knew - but knew very vividly - with a few of my senses. Instead, I actually wrote somewhat of a thank you note. An excerpt:

You gave me tears, but you also gave me confidence with a purpose. Because now I've seen the darkest of darks and I know how sweet the light is. I can tell a believable story to those who feel won't be this way forever...stay strong...don't stop getting help until you feel like yourself again, and then remain committed to maintaining that help does get better, and it will. I had you, depression. You never had me. I may see you again, but this time I'll fear you less because I've defeated you before. You taught me just how strong I can be. You reminded me that there is nothing on earth my own mother, husband, family and friends won't do to keep me safe from myself when I am lost. You brought me to my knees as I screamed in my kitchen at God, begging for a way out, and you faded as I felt a quiet calm, a sense that this may not feel good but God's plan still is. I own the soul you tried to get me to abandon. You waged a war and tried to use my very own power against me. But I put on God's armour and knocked you behind me, enemy.

I am not happy that I had to experience postpartum anxiety. This was not part of my plan. But I am one of the fortunate ones. I got out. I can see the faces of silently suffering friends and strangers and know that they know something the rest of us don't, and they don't have the ability or energy to explain it. My heart is sensitive to precious, precious human beings who don't understand how they became trapped inside themselves. I ache when I witness people who have not experienced - and probably don't have the ability to experience - the isolation of depression and yet believe they have some authority to judge what it is possible for other people to feel or not feel. We do not know what battles the other is fighting. Each one of us is comprised of special ingredients that blend together to uniquely produce our reality. No two realities are alike.

I have a lot to show for the past year. I approach things a little differently now.

I sit in silence more often. I turn off the noise in the house and listen to my very own breath, and I send praises to God that I have been given the privilege of life - of raising my beloved Hannah, loving my husband, pleasing my family, entertaining my friends (and the occasional stranger), working hard, resting, feeling. I get to celebrate life, progress, change, curiosity, mystery, and many, many more anniversaries.