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Kangaroo Spotting

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What puts you at Risk for PND?

Sara Heidinger Photography

Some common post-natal depression risk factors:
  • Lack of practical or emotional support
  • Isolation
  • History of depression
  • Difficult relationship with your own mother
  • Abuse
I have all of these contributing factors, and there are certainly may more.

The relationship I have with my Mother has always been challenging. I find comfort in the idea that children choose their parents before they arrive on this Earth. Well damn, I was ambitious because every day has been a learning experience if that's the case.

My Mom loves as hard as she bites and has a very selective memory about the later. She wanted to toughen me up. I get that. It’s just that she didn't need to use a jackhammer to tenderize the sensitive little piece of meat that was me. Parents, please choose your tools wisely.

No mother-daughter relationship is perfect and I’m lucky enough to have a mother- and she does mean well, and she does love me. Growing up, I witnessed some parenting strategies I’d like to emulate and many I would choose to avoid.

It’s tricky if you disagree with the way you were raised. Trying to parent in the opposite way can lead to an extreme on the other side of the spectrum- which can be just as damaging. Finding a balance between the two styles is the real test.

Balance. A lifelong assignment never finished.

But back to the PND risk factors, based on the conversations I've had with my peers, I have to wonder if we should add ‘independence’ to the list.

Many of my friends are waiting until their 30’s to have children.  We are educated, have careers, traveled, and have carefully chosen our partners. We are realistic about motherhood- I did not romanticize it at all.  I can’t count how many times I heard, “Having children will be the hardest thing you’ll ever do.” That didn't scare me.

Then it happens, you become a mother. All that independence... gone. Everything I learned about self-sufficiency is thrown out with the dirty diapers. My newborn could care less that I know how to live out of a suitcase or open my own jar of pickles. 

Being a parent is not a one person or even a two person job. My husband is an incredible father but unfortunately he works 12 hours per day. I could probably manage the tiny, new human in our house but one can only survive so long when you have to choose between eating, showering and sleeping. Not to mention dealing with the hormonal roller-coaster. This is where ‘the village’ needs to  step in and assist new Moms!

And if the village can’t read your mind, you can always ask for help.  An exercise in humility itself but trust me, it’s worth it to have an extra pair of hands.

A few months after my daughter’s birth, I found myself at a low point. I felt isolated and drained.  I worked up the courage to ask someone for help. This person appeared surprised, told me that they never once asked anyone for help with all of their own children. It stung briefly like the hot tingle after a slap. I thought, "She didn't mean it that way." When the conversation was repeated again, a few days later, I felt resentful, humiliated, but I promised myself I would show nothing but gratitude for the help I felt like I begged for.

We did make it through that rough patch. It’s all a lesson, lessons everywhere.   

From infancy and until age two, children experience growth at an alarming rate. As parents we should consider ourselves to be on the same trajectory. Just like our little offspring, exploring the world every day, parenting is the same type of hands-on experience. Learn your kid, learn your parenting.

None of us are perfect but if we keep open minds, and respect our children and ourselves....I think we will all be just fine.

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Thursday, May 22, 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.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How I'm Starting to Feel Better

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

When you become a mother, your identity changes. Instantly. No one seems to mention this enormous fact when you're pregnant.

It's like you finally feel like you know who you are and it all shifts the moment your child takes their first breath. No amount of preparation, reading, or observation can ready you for such an immediate and overwhelming change.

My identity was crowded enough before shoving 'Mother' to the top of the list- daughter, sister, wife, friend, colleague and ex-pat...Now someone's Mom. The most important label, one I didn't even really earn.

The dust has settled after our trip to the US 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 in the US allowed me to hit the reset button. The light is different now and makes everything appear differently. I think this is mainly because I am different.

These are the reasons why-that I can pinpoint:
  • Lavinia is easier than ever before. She sleeps through the night, she can sit up, she is fully weaned (freedom!)
  • If I can survive a 24 hour journey across the world and back- I can scoot around Melbourne in my car and let anxiety take a back seat. In theory.
  • 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, it felt completely foreign. I felt odd without my baby but it also felt wonderful. I remember thinking “I don’t miss my baby....and I’m completely okay with that.”  I didn't worry about what it meant because there was wine!

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 within whatever time constraints you have. I'm sorry but a bubble bath to treat myself during Lavinia's nap time was not going to cut it for me. I needed Buffalo. I needed my friends to tell stories about the old days so I could remember that I'm still someone apart from being someone's Mom.

I began to amalgamate my old identity with my new one. I hope, rather I know, 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 my formerly unruly mind.

The last few days I have been feeling a bit flat but that's a step up from 'down' or depressed.  Now I need to think about what else I can work on going forward. It's comforting knowing that a string of good days are achievable.  More sunshine is penetrating our little world.

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Vows to My Little Girl for Mother's Day

Photo: Sara Heidinger Photography

I am the vessel through which she came.

I will be one of the biggest influences in her life however she does not belong to me.

She is a unique, beautiful soul who belongs only to this world, only to herself.

To the best of my ability, I will guide her with a mix of logic, emotion, compassion and intuition.

I won't get it right every time but I promise to do my very best.  And only when I am too lazy or selfish to do my very best, will I consider myself a failure.

I will learn from her and with her.  I will help her.  I will love her.

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Flying Solo

Photo: Sara Heidinger Photography

Dragging a baby halfway across the world is silly and brave. I'm proud of how well Lavinia coped physically but I was surprised at how challenging it was for me mentally.

The low-point was arriving in California. That is when LAX threw down the gauntlet.

Lavinia slept three hours during the first 14 hour leg- which meant no sleep for Momma. The exhausted baby finally fell asleep on me, in her carrier, when we were waiting in line for US customs.

I couldn't believe it. No crib, no comforter, no white noise and not on schedule. My perfectly crafted routine- abandoned. This was the first time I realized that like any human, if she were tired enough, Lavinia would eventually crash.

This may seem like common sense to most people. I was far too tired for common sense.

At customs I got grilled for not having a letter of permission from ‘the father’ to prove I’m not kidnapping my own child.

Then my favorite part- retrieving our checked luggage in order to immediately re-check it for the next leg. A nice man offered to help me with my suitcase. I had him grab the same bag and let it go three times before I realized that it actually was MY bag. I was so fuzzy I forgot what my own suitcase looked like.

While awkwardly leaning backward to avoid disturbing Lavinia’s sleepy head, I had to drag my large checked-bag in one hand and carry-on with diaper bag in the other...up a long ramp. My lip started quivering and eyes welled with tears. I tried to stop the abusive thoughts.

Who is this mother I had become? She was not at all what I imagined. She was nervous, stressed, and she lived and breathed according to a schedule. She didn’t trust herself or her instincts. And worst of all- she constantly berated her efforts with negative and critical thoughts. Not exactly a role model.

I must have been a sight because an airport staff member saw me and offered to help me with my bags. I gratefully accepted.

Lavinia woke up just as we were going through security a second time and we both made it to our connecting gate. My mother met us there and flew with us to Toronto. She held her granddaughter while I surrendered to a few hours of sweet sleep.

And we all survived.

This was just another step in the process of letting go.  Letting go of the illusion of control.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Baby Flies to the Other Side of the World

Flying to the USA with my six-month-old was more difficult for me than it was for her.  It taught me a few things I thought I already knew.

Travel is part of the journey.  No matter what happens.  I learned this during a disaster 20 hour trek from Milano to Stuttgart (perspective: it should have been a one hour flight).

Lavinia was too interested in the people sitting beside us to sleep.  She wanted to take it all in and practically jumped into the lap of the Irish, Facebook sales-woman sitting next to us.

The few times I tried to put her in the bassinet for sleep she got upset- who wouldn’t?  The thing looks like a dog’s cage.  I freaked- I felt like a terrible mother for dragging her across the world.  What on Earth would happen if she didn’t take her naps at her scheduled times?  Would we both implode?

Lavinia was born wide-eyed.  She started out staring at things intently before she could even focus her little newborn eyes.  She would open them wide, rather than closing them in fear, when a shadow passed over her face or a new person came into view.

My curious little girl develops this trait further as she grows.  She knows what she wants to examine and persists until something even more interesting distracts her.  

The result of her staying awake for most of our journey from Melbourne to  Buffalo? She was so tired that she adjusted to the 15 hour time change within three days.  I had worse jet lag than she did.

I need to trust my daughter more.  This seems like a very important lesson in parenting.


Los Angeles



Back to Melbourne Like an Old Pro

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