Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Easy Tears of a New Mother

I sobbed this morning after dropping Lavinia at day care for the third time.  Not sure why because on the first two occasions I was fist-pumping.

To begin with, it’s been over a month since she attended.  She was sick for a few weeks plus the centre was closed during school holidays.  My mother-in-law has been helping out heaps so I didn't feel the desperate need for a break.

That last longing glance over my shoulder, I saw my baby looking back at me.  Sigh.

The lip quiver started while I walked, baby-less, to my car. Parents weaved around me rushing to drop-off their own kids.  Not one tear between them.  I’m sure it gets easier over time. Yet still not sure about the day three waterworks? I’ve always been a slow emotion-processor (my darn stubborn-Italian half.)

I drove home among commuters with a seriously ugly, wet, cry-face. And even after a good sesh at the gym I still felt a bit weepy.  

So with sore quads, a clean kitchen, and a few nights meals socked away, I excitedly went to grab my little bug hours later. Two or three of the carers commented on Vinnie’s boundless energy one referred to her as a “pocket-rocket” (now I feel justified for being exhausted all the time!) 

They told me about her day and that they let Lavinia crawl laps outside and apparently she freaking loved it.  During the car ride home she babbled to me sternly..Telling me all about it maybe? (I always think she sounds like she’s chastising me for leaving her but maybe it’s because she’s unhappy about being strapped into her car seat).

When we arrived home she started tearing around the house making brand new sounds.....After one afternoon!  This kid is going to be speaking in sentences soon, thanks to her new friends.  No doubt childcare is good for her development, I can see it before my very eyes.

She’s still quite overstimulated and it's late in the day.  Right now she’s lying in her crib, babbling, but at least she’s not yelling and gnawing more paint off the bars.  Go to sleep kid, you need to recharge!  She doesn't seem to think so.  Guess we can live without an afternoon nap.

Overall today was a great day.  I'll chalk my unexpected emotions up to what I call, 'The New Mom Shift,' its when you cry during commercials, the evening news ect.  Becoming a parent makes you soft.  It connects you so deeply to the world that you feel like your heart is made of porcelain.

Fingers crossed, the fourth time will be a tear-free charm.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Child Care, the Benefit and the Burden

I have dark circles around my eyes and not the fun kind.  The last time I left the house was over seven days ago.

We've been forced into hibernation again.  This time the culprit is a nasty virus- barely preferable to depression....but it's lurking in the walls of our self-imposed incarceration.

I’m not sure where she picked up the bug, but it hit Lavinia Sunday evening and by midnight we were in the Emergency Room.

What started with a runny nose escalated into vomiting and fever.  The thermometer wasn't reading accurately and a house call could have taken hours.

At 3:30 am behind a curtain and beneath florescent lights I held my naked baby whom Matt just shushed to sleep, a small container poised to collect urine beneath her.  Her warm, pink body so vulnerable in my arms, it was like holding onto my insides.

My neck and back were aching from the plastic chair we perched in.  I silently begged her to pee so we could test it and take her home.  I was already covered with vomit and snot- what’s another gross bodily fluid? It was a new low point.

At least Matt was there for this, our second ER visit that week (for a possible concussion days earlier.) Unfortunately the only available target for my frustration and helplessness I shot daggers at my husband for not being able to locate the doctor.

We took our baby home at 4 am and put her to bed.

Twenty-four hours later, Matt caught the virus and by the next weekend, I had it too.

It’s possible Lavinia caught the bug from childcare.   And why deny myself the chance to feel guilty about it?

I enrolled Lavinia in ‘Occasional Care,’ a five hour session, one day per week.  I loved the idea of autonomy.  A chance to make appointments without checking with someone else first.  A break.  Time to rest.  To create.  To exercise or to take naps.  

Seemingly a stroke of brilliance, I still struggled with the concept.  It felt selfish.  I’m on maternity leave- how dare I put Lavinia in the care of strangers?  And pay for the privilege? What would people think?

My mother in law is always willing to come down when we need her- even if just for sleep, but I just can’t justify asking her to make the four-hour-round-trip so I can shave my legs and watch an episode of Orange is the New Black.  That’s not cool. 

Even so, I felt like I needed a few hours to do stupid things.  I knew something had to give when I started feeling jealous of Matt’s commute to and from work.

Lavinia has been to childcare twice so far.  After returning home from dropping her off the first time, I pulled into our driveway alone. I did not race to unlock the door, grab bags or unbuckle the car seat.  There were a million things I could do, free from so many burdens.  

I sat in the drivers seat.  Engine off.  On my phone. Looking at Facebook.   

Once I gathered the courage to enter our quiet home, I immediately turned my ringer on in case the carers called me.  Reminding myself to maximize the next few hours, I took a long shower (phone within reach), cooked a hot breakfast and wrote a blog post.  Next minute, it was time to go pick up Lavinia.

Giddy with excitement I drove back to the childcare center early (as planned) and found Lavnia had charmed everyone in the place.  She napped, had a bottle, a snack, lunch, and played with the other little kids.  She was so tired and happy that when we got home she took a long afternoon nap.

If you ask me, this was a successful first day for both of us.

I’m sure it will get easier each time- like a prisoner fresh out of jail, I need to reintegrate myself into the community.

I used to think that by saying; ‘childcare is good for development and social skills,’ working parents were just trying to make themselves feel better.   Now I realize it’s a true statement. 

Lavinia lit up when we walked into the place on her second day of childcare.  She was delighted at the sight of the older kids and practically leapt into the arms of a young carer. 

The "day care solution" will not fix everything.  Five hours flip by surprisingly fast but it’s a start. 

I will still have to rely on my village, but if it makes me happier, this indulgent, weekly respite will benefit my entire family.

Ahh Choo!

You look like you need a tissue Mommy

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Depression is Selfish

I’ve drawn a tight circle around myself and cannot see beyond it. 

Hibernation and pajamas for days.  Sometimes you just have to give into it.

I’m angry at myself for not being able to hang onto the happiness I felt two weeks ago.

I feel guilty for feeling bad when I have so many good things in my life.

I keep dwelling on how certain people disappoint me in such predictable ways.

I’m tired of letting past hurts soak into my daily fabric.

My daughter is incredibly happy and healthy.
My husband is patient and thoughtful.
Our home is cozy and beautiful.
There is not one material thing I want and do not have.
There is so much love in my life. 
So. Much. Love.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How I'm Starting to Feel Better

The dust has settled and once again it’s just me and Lavinia.

I worried about being alone with her again after having people around us every day for five weeks but there were only a few moments of melancholy on that first day Matt went back to work.

It’s as if being away allowed me to hit the reset button. Everything appeared differently. I believe there are several reasons why:

  • Lavinia is easier than ever before. She sleeps through the night, she can sit up, she is fully weaned (freedom!)
  • In theory, if I can survive a 24 hour journey across the world and back- I can scoot around Melbourne in my car.
  • I am continually receiving messages of support from friends and family members. This makes me feel less isolated.
  • Writing.
  • Therapy has helped me to step outside my head when I’m having anxious thoughts (work in progress).
  • Homeopathy.
  • And what I believe to be the most significant reason.... reconnecting with myself. 

In Buffalo, The first time I left Lavinia with my Mom so I could go out to lunch, I remember thinking “I don’t miss my baby....and I’m completely okay with that.”  More than okay, I was siked!

When you become a mother, your identity changes. No one seems to mention this enormous fact.  Once you finally know who you are, it all shifts the moment your child takes his or her first breath. No amount of preparation, reading, or observation can ready you for such an instant and overwhelming transition.

My identity was crowded enough- No longer 'just' daughter, sister, wife, friend and ex-pat...Now someone's Mom...dominating the top of that list.

It's so easy to forget who you were or what you did before baby. People tell you that in order to be a better Mom, you need to take care of yourself.  I'm sorry but a bubble bath during Lavinia's nap time was not going to cut it for me.  I needed Buffalo.  I needed wine.  I needed my friends to tell stories about the old days.

Remembering that I can still have fun without worrying about my darling daughter was a huge step forward. I began to amalgamate my old identity with my new one. I hope and believe this will make me a better parent.

Lavinia and I had a great first week back in Melbourne.  I unpacked, cooked, and we even took that daunting drive to Mornington without any anxious chatter in the background.

The last few days I have been feeling more flat.  Now I need to think about what to work on going forward. It's comforting knowing that a string of good days are still achievable.  More light available in my world.

Picking lemons in our sunny backyard, its the simple things...