Category Archives: Anxiety Overload

Not My Story

If you’ve been reading me for a long time, you’ve probably noticed that I post a lot less about E. these days.

Partly this is because of lack of time. I post less about everything these days and my Google Doc file of “potential blog posts” keeps getting longer and longer.

Mostly it’s because I’ve decided that E.’s life is not mine to share.

When he was a baby, his life and my life were intertwined. Writing about learning how to be a mother meant writing about what he was doing.

He’s six now.

He’s a big little kid (or a little big kid depending on how you look at it).

He has his own thoughts, wishes, dreams, plans, questions, and opinions (this child is NEVER short of opinions).

Writing about him without his permission feels like a violation of his privacy, but he’s too young to be able to give me permission to tell a story- he wouldn’t truly understand what giving me permission means and what the ramifications are of something being published online (he’s desperate to be able to put “how-to” videos on YouTube when he makes, say, a conveyor belt out of toilet paper rolls and old linens, and can’t understand why I keep saying no).

The problem is, I desperately need someone to talk to about him, and (as I said recently) I don’t have the right kind of friend nearby.

E. is not easy to parent.

I know all kids have their challenges, but I also honestly believe that some kids are harder work than others.

Nothing drove this home more than chatting with one mum after school one day when she told me that the teacher had called her about her daughter. “That’s the first phone call I’ve had from the school about any one of my kids,” she said (she has three- the eldest is in grade four). “I guess one of them had to be the rebel.”

At the time, I was right in the middle of a months-long stretch where I touched base with E.’s teacher (bless her) every single day after school. We talked with E. about what went well, what hadn’t gone well, and what we could do to make things better the next day.

I went home after that conversation and cried.

I feel like most of this past school year has been spent trying to figure out what is going on in E’s head.

I’ve been to eight appointments (not counting follow up discussions with his regular doctor) with three different specialists.

His teacher and I have filled out questionnaire after questionnaire.

I have spent hours Googling, even when I know I should NOT be Googling.

The end result is that the developmental paediatrician thinks that E. probably does have something going on. It’s mild enough that for now we’ve avoided a formal diagnosis (because E. has made huge strides in the areas where we were concerned over this past school year), but we’ll revisit this in a year’s time as the demands of Grade One are going to be much heavier.

I don’t like labels.

I especially don’t like the label that the developmental paediatrician thinks probably applies to E. because it brings with it a lot of assumptions for a lot of people, assumptions which, for the most part, are not applicable to my son.

At the same time, if E. does need more support to be able to thrive in the school environment, and a label is required for him to become eligible for said support, then I will do whatever is necessary to make sure my child gets what he needs.

It’s hard though.

I’ve cried a lot in the last couple of weeks.

It is hard to think that my beautiful boy’s brain is likely to make it harder for him to cope with school (and with life) than it will be for his peers.

It is hard to realize that I have many, many more meetings with teachers ahead of me, that the school may not be able to look past the other stuff to see what he is capable of (and he is so incredibly bright, so capable, so curious).

It is hard to think of myself as a special needs mum, even as I recognize that I am his first and best advocate.

It is hard not to be scared of what the future will bring, especially if you start Googling.

It is hard to know that P. will be at a much higher risk for the same thing and to also know that it will likely be years before we will be able to tell whether her brain is wired like her brother’s or not.

It is hard not to think that this is somehow my fault, that I have done something wrong somewhere along the line to cause this (even as I read over and over again that it is not my fault).

It is hard not to feel guilty that he was five before we put in the paperwork to start asking questions, that we didn’t investigate earlier, that I kept telling my gut to be quiet when it whispered that something was going on, that I thought he would grow out of it or that he just needed more time to adjust.

In my heart, I know that E. is going to be fine in the long run.

Scratch that.

He’s going to be more than fine.

He’s going to be amazing.

P. too.

But the road to get there just got a lot rockier.

And I wish I had someone to talk to about it.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Anxiety Overload, Brave New (School) World, E.- the seventh year, Grief

Absence

I don’t have any friends.

This isn’t, of course, exactly true, but it’s how I’ve been feeling for the last few months.

I have two sisters who are my best friends and who (finally) both live relatively nearby.

I have good friends from high school who don’t live in the same city.

I have some very close girl friends who would be my besties if they lived in the same city, but they don’t (and a couple of them aren’t even in the same country).

I have friends who do live in the city but not in our neighbourhood. They all have kids too and getting together requires scheduling and planning and many emails.

I have online friends, including one group of ladies who’ve been together since 2008. We all struggled with infertility and now we are all trying to navigate our way through parenting, work/life balance, etc. I’ve met them all in person, but no one lives in my city.

I have lots of people I talk to at school pick up and drop off.

I rarely walk anywhere in my neighbourhood without seeing someone I know well enough to stop and chat with.

What I don’t have, however, are good girl friends who live in my neighbourhood, whose kids go to the same school as E.

And this year I’ve really felt that absence.

I’ve been in this neighbourhood for long enough- this September it will be nine years since we moved into our house. Some of the mums at school whom I would most like to be friends with are newer arrivals.

But I feel like I’ve missed the friendship boat. The mums I would most like to be friends with already have other mum friends. They are friendly to me, but they already have someone to talk to when things are tough.

Most of them have been friends since they were on maternity leave.

I was on maternity leave then too.

I didn’t make mum friends in my neighbourhood. I had a group of mum friends from prenatal yoga and we hung out all the time in that wild first year, but two of them moved away and the ones who are still in the city are not in my neighbourhood.

I’m kicking myself now for not trying to find mum friends right where I lived, but the mums whom I would most want to be friends with all had January or February babies.

Four or five months doesn’t make a difference now that they’re all six, but in that first year it would have been huge.

We made some friends when E. was at nursery school, but their kids haven’t been in the same class as E. for two years now, and they have other friends too, so it’s hard to maintain a connection.

E. is not good at making friends. It’s been extremely hard for him, which makes it that much harder for me, because my best chance to make friends with these mums is when our kids are playing together. And if E. doesn’t want to stay after school to play in the playground, if getting him to agree to a playdate is like pulling teeth, if he doesn’t connect with the kids of the mums whom I like, then how can I forge a connection?

We’re all parenting one (or more) kids. Almost everyone is working. No one has much free time, so of course they’re going to want to spend the time that they do have with their established friends. And P. has certainly complicated things on my end.

The truth is, I am not good at making friends either.

I am introverted and anxious.

It is hard for me to reach out.

But I’m realizing that I’m also really lonely.

There’s been a lot going on with E. this year, on top of everything that happened to my family last year, and I’ve realized I just don’t know who I can talk to about it. It’s too much to just hand over to someone I don’t know all that well. It’s too big.

And so I smile and wave and chat with the other mums.

I talk and talk.

I never really say anything.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Anxiety Overload, Friends

Microblog Mondays: Can’t Pump- Trump

Microblog_MondaysI have a routine going where I pump in the mornings after P. has gone down for her first nap. I don’t have any set plans for this milk, but I like knowing that I’ve cleared out anything leftover from the night. In retrospect it’s become clear to me that I should have seen E’s day weaning coming because he’d been skipping and/or shortening feeds for well over a month before the strike happened- my supply would have been gradually dwindling as a result. So now I pump every morning (and more frequently during the day if P. skips any feeds) and I feel confident I’m protecting my supply.

The pumping counts as “me time” in that I don’t have any children requiring my attention and I’m forced to sit down so I can’t be doing anything around the house. I try to make sure I have a cup of tea and a snack and usually I read blogs or the newspaper on my phone.

What I’ve been noticing is that on days when I read the newspaper or a bunch of political blog posts, my milk dries up. The mere act of reading about what is happening in the U.S.A. is enough to shut my body down.

It’s a minor frustration, but, as that is usually the only quiet point in my day when I can read such things, giving them up is hard.

Has the political uncertainty crept into your life in ways you weren’t expecting?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

 

6 Comments

Filed under Anxiety Overload, Microblog Mondays, Nursing

Microblog Mondays: A double-edged smartphone

Microblog_MondaysP. was four months old before I acquired a smartphone.

It was my stepfather’s, and after he died the company forced my mother to buy the phone out (don’t get me started). Rather than seeing the phone go to waste, I took it over.

There have been some definite benefits to having one:

  • We are no longer surprised by traffic jams (this was the major reason Q. and I knew we would eventually need to get a smartphone)
  • I read (note: not answer) my emails more frequently
  • I keep up with my blog reader (although I am not great at going the extra step to comment)
  • I chat with my sisters on WhatsApp pretty much every day
  • I can send photos of E. and P. to the Australian rellies via our WhatsApp group chat and get photos of their Australian cousins in return (I can’t text picture messages internationally so this has been very useful)
  • I take more photos, especially when we’re out of the house
  • I take more videos of the kids

But I’m very aware that there are also some not insignificant negatives to introducing this new element of technology into my life:

  • The phone is always RIGHT THERE waiting for me to look at it. I’ve adjusted the settings so it doesn’t make any noise unless someone is actually calling me, and I’ve limited which apps are allowed to send me notifications, and I’ve refused to install any games or Fakebook, and I STILL have to watch myself because it is so easy to pick it up and suddenly you’ve wasted ten minutes. I have to be especially conscious of this when P. is awake or when E. is home from school. It’s like those experiments with rats where if the rat pushes a button it gets food- if the rat only gets food some of the time it will actually push the button more often than if it gets food all of the time- so you compulsively check your phone (or your Fakebook news feed or Feedly) because there MIGHT be something new.
  • I get lazy and take photos inside with it rather than doing the work with my big camera. The camera in the phone is not bad but my good camera is much much better if I put the time in.
  • I think I was a better navigator when I used real maps. Possibly this will improve as I get better with understanding the apps, but I know I have really annoyed Q. with multiple last minute “oops- that’s our turn!” statements over the past few months.
  • It’s been really really bad for my anxiety to have Chrome at my fingertips. I bought my laptop when I was pregnant with E., in December 2010. It has no battery life whatsoever and has to be plugged in at all times to work. It is slow and loud (because the fan has to run all the time) and it heats up my legs (because the running fan doesn’t seem to be effective). To do anything on the laptop takes effort. I almost never turn it on during the day with the kids because it a) takes ages to get anything done and b) is this really obvious screen that is eating my attention. But Chrome on the phone is so easy! So if you want to, say, Google, “Does my baby have cerebral palsy” or “Signs of autism in a five-year-old”, it takes ten seconds! And then you go deep down the rabbit hole of crazy. And that’s without even reading anything political.

I’ve made a conscious decision to STOP GOOGLING when on the phone, which has significantly helped. Overall, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives, but it’s clear to me that I need to exercise caution with how I use it. I don’t want it to start using me.

Do you also have a love-hate relationship with your smartphone? How do you balance the benefits of having technology at your fingertips with the phone’s addictive potential?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

5 Comments

Filed under Anxiety Overload, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Microblog Mondays

You wouldn’t think eating would be this complicated

I feel like January has entirely revolved around food. It’s gone like this:

  1. P. started to get interested in actually consuming food rather than just holding it in her hand and licking it. Upon starting to eat she almost immediately cut back on how much she was nursing.
  2. As a result of P’s fussy nursing, my supply dropped. This meant P. got frustrated and started having to wait for a letdown, which led to lots of pulling at the breast and a super-cranky baby.
  3. I finally realized what was happening, cut solids out entirely for a few days, and started pumping whenever I could.
  4. My supply came back but I now had a mental block about nursing because I was so worried that P. was going to do what E. did and try to self-wean. We’d have the same problem with switching to formula- her MSPI would limit our options. I didn’t think I could face pumping for five months. Also I really really really was not ready to stop breastfeeding.
  5. My mental block got so bad it started to hinder my letdown, which meant that P. would get fussy and impatient, which would make me more nervous and worried, which would hinder the letdown even further, and so on. I started to feel like I was having an anxiety attack every time I could feel a letdown beginning and the adrenaline would trap the milk in my breasts. P’s only good feeds for a few days were before her naps and in the middle of the night- any other time I offered she’d get frustrated waiting and waiting for the letdown.
  6. I solved the mental block by playing on my phone when P was nursing- writing out a message with one hand occupied my brain enough to let my body do what it needed to do. A letdown is a conditioned reflex and I was eventually able to recondition the reflex so that it became easy again.
  7. In the meantime, we reintroduced solids and discovered that BLW was NOT going to work for P. After one too many rounds of “choke until you vomit and then cry and want nothing more to do with food”, we decided to stick with spoon feeding for now (or finger foods that dissolve easily like those Mum Mum things which we never bothered buying with E).
  8. P was back to nursing at least 8 times in 24 hours. I was able to put my phone away and just go back to cuddling. She was really enjoying solids and was starting to eat quite a lot. Other than not being able to figure out when I was supposed to get anything done outside the house (as our days were a sea of drop off, nurse, nap, nurse, eat food, nurse, nap, pick up), I felt like things were going smoothly.
  9. Two days after thinking that, P got super constipated (again, something we never encountered with E.).

And that’s where we’re at. I’m pumping during her first nap every morning to get some milk for her cereal (oatmeal, not rice, so it shouldn’t be contributing to the constipation). And today we’ll be going out to buy pureed pears and prunes to try to sort out her poor tummy as she’s obviously uncomfortable.

This too shall pass.

But it’s been a real pain while it’s been happening.

2 Comments

Filed under Anxiety Overload, Food, MSPI, Nursing, P.- the first year

Serendipity

I am not one for believing that things happen for a reason.

I didn’t think like this even before my father’s accident and my stepfather’s death, although I have said to a number of people that if I did believe this sort of thing I would believe that P. was sent to be this horrible year’s silver lining.

Sometimes, though, I can see how it would be tempting to think that the universe every now and then has our best interests at heart.

A few weeks ago I was walking E. to school when one of his old nursery school teachers cycled past. She saw P. in the carrier and stopped immediately to chat- she hadn’t known I was pregnant.

We had a brief conversation, during which she mentioned that she was no longer teaching full-time at the nursery school but was now instead looking after children who are too young to go to the nursery school.

Here’s the thing- I am going back to work in September. I don’t really want to- I would rather be at home for another year, but it’s not feasible for a number of reasons.

Q. has agreed to take one day off a week to be home with P., and I’ll be home for another day. But even the prospect of looking for part-time care for P., three days a week, was causing me huge amounts of anxiety and guilt. Anxiety because I was worried about finding the right kind of care for her, namely a home-based setting with a native English speaker. And guilt because we didn’t need this kind of care for E.- we juggled him between us until he was old enough to go to nursery school- but we can’t do the juggling act again.

I asked her if she would be interested in looking after a 14 month old for three days a week starting in September.

She said that sounded like fun.

I took her phone number and took a little bit longer than I should have to call her because it takes me a long time to do anything right now, especially call people (because I absolutely loathe talking on the phone), but it worked out because even though word had gotten around by that point she had been waiting to hear from me before talking to anyone else. She believes that things happen for a reason, you see. She felt that our meeting had been “meant to be”.

We met up yesterday to discuss the details.

We’re still figuring out a few things, but I think we’re basically sorted. She’s willing to come to our house and she’s happy to pick up E. after school on the days she is working. This is so much better than I was expecting, as you basically can’t get a nanny who’s a native English speaker. We’d been assuming P. would be in an in-home daycare somewhere and then we’d have to find some sort of after-school care for E. And finding a part-time spot can be difficult.

She is a trained ECE.

She has decades of experience with the littlest people.

I worked with her on my duty day at the nursery school for an entire year.

I KNOW how good she is.

And now she’s going to save up all of that love and kindness and energy for my P.

We hit the jackpot.

I might be able to now stop having anxiety attacks about going back to work.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Life after the PhD, P.- the first year, Who am I really? (Career Angst)

What the mirror doesn’t show

Take a look at the Mum and baby in the mirror. The baby is smiling- she loves looking at the baby in the mirror. The Mum is smiling too, because who can not smile when looking at such a smiling, happy baby? The Mum has big dark circles under her eyes and her hair probably could use a wash but her clothes are clean and they’re not pajamas.

The baby is, by any definition, adorable.

The Mum looks like she is doing a Good Job at being that baby’s Mum.

And she is.

The baby is healthy and growing. She is fed whenever she is hungry. She is cuddled whenever she needs a cuddle.

She is loved.

The Mum loves the baby so much she thinks sometimes her heart will explode. She didn’t think she could love anyone as much as she loves the baby’s older brother, but she loves this baby just as much.

But the mirror doesn’t show how the baby gets up every two or three hours at night, every night, and then won’t go back to sleep at 5 a.m. unless she gets to snuggle in bed and nurse (which means the Mum can’t go back to sleep because she is too worried about having the baby in the bed with her).

The mirror doesn’t show how the baby gets bored during the day and fusses and frets because she is still a baby and doesn’t want to be.

The mirror doesn’t show how the Mum gets bored during the day, even though she loves the baby so very much and couldn’t imagine not being at home with her.

The mirror doesn’t show how the Mum has to choose, every day, whether she will shower or sit down and have a cup of tea, because there is rarely the time to do both.

The mirror doesn’t show how the Mum has to read every label of every item of food she eats, how the baby’s tummy still isn’t quite right sometimes even though the Mum tries so hard to be careful. It doesn’t show how much the Mum misses her comfort foods. The Mum thinks she would probably dream about cheese if she wasn’t so tired she no longer remembers her dreams.

The mirror doesn’t show how the baby’s big brother is still struggling to adjust to the demands of school, or the meetings the Mum has had with the teacher, with a developmental paediatrician. It doesn’t show the question marks that have been raised about the big brother’s development, nor how much the Mum worries about him sometimes.

The mirror doesn’t show how much the Mum worries about her mother, newly widowed, or her father, still in the hospital, still paralyzed, still (and forever) unable to breathe on his own.

The mirror doesn’t show how sad and worried the recent election has made the Mum, how hard she has to work every day to keep from being overwhelmed by the reality of the world in which she has suddenly found herself living.

The mirror doesn’t show how worried the Mum is about her sister and the baby who is coming soon. The Mum tries not to worry but she can’t shake the fear that this horrible year has one last terrible outcome waiting around the corner. She does not think she will truly relax until she hears that the baby is born and both the baby and her sister are healthy and well.

The mirror doesn’t show how the Mum has a moment before she gets out of bed on the mornings where the baby has had a particularly bad night, having already been awake for an hour or two with no tea and no breakfast, where she wonders how she will be able to make it through that day.

She does.

She gets through that day, and then the next day, and then the one after that.

She takes the big brother to school and picks him up. She helps the baby to take her naps (because who wants to nap when sleep means you miss out on something). She gets the laundry done and the house cleaned (most of the house, most of the time). She makes dinner (some of the time). She makes snacks and reads stories and answers questions (so.many.questions). She changes the baby, and nurses the baby, and sings to the baby, and cuddles with the baby.

She tries to remember that her husband is also tired.

She tries not to engage in score keeping, but to instead notice and appreciate everything that he does.

She tries not to resent him for being able to use the bathroom when he needs to, for eating breakfast uninterrupted, for going to work and having adult conversations.

Some days she is better at all of these than others.

She is doing a Good Job.

But she is so very, very tired.

She knows that things will get better.

She knows that the days are long, but the years are short.

The baby’s big brother is almost impossibly grown up now. He is losing the teeth that the baby will soon be getting.

The Mum is reminded, every day, when she looks at him that babies are not babies forever. And when she kisses him goodnight and tucks him in one last time before she goes to bed, she still smooths his hair and marvels that he will now sleep through anything, even the crying of his baby sister who has been woken up by the sounds of her parents getting ready for bed, just like he once was.

Still. Some days are very, very long.

The Mum gives the baby in the mirror a big kiss.

The baby gives one of her full-body smiles, where she waves her arms and kicks her legs and wriggles around and beams with a wide, gummy grin.

This smile is not for the other baby. This smile is for her Mummy.

The Mum smiles back.

The mirror does show love.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Choose Happiness, My addled brain, P.- the first year, Sleep