Category Archives: Sleep

Accountability- September

Today is my last day of work for September, my last day of work in my first month back from maternity leave.

What have I accomplished?

  • I have written just shy of 8,000 words of the first draft of a chapter for the edited volume which Q. and I are editing. The chapter is meant to be no more than 10,000. I will be over this in the first draft, but I am not worrying about that at this point.
  • I have entered all of my evidence into my giant spreadsheet, which means I no longer have a million post-it notes in several books, left over from the reading I was able to do in the spring. I’ve also read a few more authors and have added their evidence too. I am not finished collecting evidence, but I’m far enough along with the project that my argument is clear and it makes sense to write at the same time as I read.
  • I have read and provided feedback on some of the other chapter drafts for the edited volume (although not as many as I feel I should have, since our co-editors aren’t doing their work and the lion’s share has landed squarely on Q’s shoulders).
  • I am 25% of the way through the fall semester of my class. I have taught the second half of this class before, but the first semester is new to me, so there is a lot of prep work. I am enjoying the teaching and my anxiety about teaching has largely dissipated now that I have a connection with the students. (I am a very good teacher but I always feel sick before teaching a class, especially in the first couple of weeks. I think it’s a form of performance anxiety. I’m so introverted that even though I genuinely love teaching I have to consciously prepare myself to do it.)
  • I have managed a daily (almost) writing practice on work days. Four days a week, I sit down first thing in the morning with my laptop and write for ninety minutes (or two hours if it is going well). The morning is my most productive time by far and I have fiercely protected my writing time from teaching prep, marking, reading, email, life admin, etc. I have always been an academic writer who think and thinks and thinks and then writes and writes and writes. I wrote my dissertation by not writing for weeks or months at a time and then writing 1,000 words a day (or more) for a few weeks when it was time to produce another chapter. This wasn’t a form of procrastination- it was just how I operated. I thought about my ideas for so long that when it was time to write them up the first draft needed very little to be changed. It worked well with the dissertation, where probably 85% of the finished product is identical to what I first drafted, but it meant I hit a hard wall when it came time to think about making revisions for the book. Admittedly, with this current chapter, I have been thinking about it for months, but I can certainly see a difference in the way that I’m writing. My hope goal is that when I get the draft finished I will be able to just start tinkering with editing the book manuscript, since I will have established writing and rewriting as part of the daily routine. I love to write and hate to edit. I’m trying to change that as it’s become abundantly clear to me that I will never publish if I don’t.
  • I have found places I like to work, particularly a little room on the second floor of one of the smaller libraries of the university that is not mine (but at which I have borrowing privileges).
  • I have completed the first three weeks of the C25K running program (and started week four this morning). That is the most consistent running I have managed since I last completed the C25K program, right before our final FET in the fall of 2014. I have run three days a week every week for three weeks. That should make a habit.
  • I have read five books for fun and am well advanced on a sixth. That is the most books I have read in a month since December 2015.
  • I have mostly stayed on top of our life admin. I have figured out how to pay our nanny; booked a cottage holiday for Thanksgiving; ordered hot lunches for E. at school and signed both children up for activities (swimming lessons and an after school science class for E., music with her nanny for P.); read emails and (mostly) answered them; had my eyebrows waxed and my bangs/fringe trimmed; visited the dentist (twice in two weeks since I am someone who needs to go every three months and I hadn’t been in nine).
  • I went out for lunch with Q., the first of our monthly lunch dates that Q. packed into my tin lunch box on our tenth anniversary, even though we didn’t actually go to the restaurant he had planned as it was so unseasonably warm I insisted we find a patio. I went out for lunch on two other occasions with dear friends whom I never get to see often enough.
  • I ended my work day early once to go and sit in a cafe and drink tea and eat cake and read a book. It was so lovely I had to promise myself I would only do this once a month.

There are still things I am working on. I haven’t quite figured out the best way to use my time in the afternoons when I am tired from the writing and the reading and the deep work but it’s still too early to pack it in for the day. I haven’t solved the problem of how to get up from my desk frequently during the day, particularly since I have to bring my laptop, phone, and wallet with me wherever I go. My original plan was to walk over at lunch time from the small library to the big library, but it turns out I don’t like working in the big library all that much.

I do not feel like I am being a good mother, at least not to the standards to which I hold myself. I am not getting enough sleep because P. is up more than she should be at night and she gets so angry and sad when Q. goes in to try to settle her that it is just easier for me to go in instead and give her the cuddle and the milk that she wants. I am sure I would be better at managing this if I were home more during the day and did not feel as guilty. I am convinced she wakes up because she is missing that connection with me, but it is probably teeth or developmental or habit.

I am not as patient with E. as I would like to be, which is a constant battle made worse by the fact that I feel like I should have so much more patience for him since I now see him less. I have a lot of patience, but there are many days where it is not enough.

I do not always manage to have a real conversation with Q. rather than one about logistics and timings and schedules and house needs and kids needs. This morning I volunteered to take E. to school since I was going to be ready to go at about that time anyway, and then E. took a very long time to brush his teeth so I ended up bundling him out the door and forgot that I hadn’t said a proper goodbye to Q. or given him a kiss.

I still think Q. is doing too much of the housework, but every time I suggest an alternative he restates his position that he thinks it makes sense to just get it all done in one morning. He certainly is doing too much of the cooking, but I have to admit that the nights when I need to cook from scratch are frantic and stressful as it turns out there are very few meals you can cook from scratch with a toddler on your hip who is usually trying to nurse. My idea of “easy weeknight dinners” is not the same as Q.’s, so if he wants to do most of the prep on the weekends, I think I should just gracefully accept.

I am still not sure this is what I want, but I do like having the time and space to think about my research and I can see how difficult it would be to build momentum if I had any less time in which to do that. It’s also extremely difficult for me to rationalize taking any time for myself if I’m working less than four days a week, as I feel that if I’m not with the kids I need to be working, especially if Q. is at home with them.

I am still taking it one day at a time, but, on balance, I think this month has gone well.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Choose Happiness, Life after the PhD, My addled brain, Nursing, Sleep, Who am I really? (Career Angst), Writing

On sleep, work, the baby, and balance (or haven’t I been here before?)

I find myself reminded on a daily basis that sleep deprivation is a form of torture.

I am functioning, but only just. It isn’t even that P’s sleep is all that dreadful, more that she’s up twice every night so the sleep I do get is always fragmented into three blocks, compounded by her for the last week or so getting up for the day before 6 a.m.

Every morning I find the last line from Samuel Beckett’s novel, The Unnamable rolling round and round in my head (“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”)

I can remember being in a very similar stage at a very similar point during E’s infancy (I wrote about it here). The situation wasn’t identical, of course, but it was eerily familiar: I had a baby who was waking up to nurse twice a night, guaranteeing I couldn’t get a block of sleep longer than four hours, and I had a looming academic deadline. In E’s infancy it was the first chapter of my dissertation. This time around it’s the first draft of the book chapter for an edited volume.

We’re running a workshop for the volume in mid-July and all contributors are meant to have the first draft of their chapter available for circulation by the end of May. Given I’m one of the editors (and Q. is another- the book project is really his baby), there wouldn’t be serious consequences were I to miss that deadline. But that’s certainly not ideal.

When we first organized the workshop and mapped out the deadlines, I can remember thinking (this was before P. was born), “No problem. I’ll start reading and collecting sources in March and then I can write the chapter in May.”

I didn’t seriously believe, you see, that I could end up with TWO babies who would get up twice a night to nurse in the second half of their first year. Surely, I thought, by the time P was eight or nine months old she’d be sleeping better than E was. And then she was such a good sleeper for her first two months that she lulled me into thinking she’d be an easy baby.

Ha.

So here I am, with an academic deadline and a brain that feels like mush, and what really gets me is the whole thing is just so.damn.familiar.

Last time around, when I was assessing the impact of my long-term sleep deprivation, I noticed this:

I’m breaking things.

In the last month, I’ve smashed at least four things in the kitchen- a glass, a port glass, a plate, a bowl. I don’t think I’d broken four things, total, in the previous ten years. They were dumb accidents too- I’d reach for something on the counter and knock something else over instead, or I’d pick something up and drop it on something else. They were dumb enough that each time I remember standing there amidst the shards of glass or pottery, thinking, Really? I just did that?

Yep. I’ve started dropping things or being unable to properly hold them when I go to pick them up. It’s like I’m losing my hand-eye coordination.

And there was this:

I forget things.

I forget everything now, if it isn’t written down, and half the time I still forget it even if it is recorded somewhere. Given I’ve always been the memory of this family (Q. being a very clever man but a very absent-minded professor), this is quite disturbing. It makes me feel weak.

Yep. I forget appointments, plans, ideas, even words. A normal conversation in our house now looks like this:

Q. (wrestling with tangled cables): “We should set up a charging station for the mobile phones.”
Me: “Yes! I want to get one of those…things.” *gestures helplessly* “You know! The things with all the things that you can plug in.”
Q.: “A power bar.”
Me: “Yes! Fuck. I want a power bar for my desk downstairs so I can have a charging station for the iPad and my phone and my laptop.”

I have these kinds of conversations with E. all the time. My FIVE YEAR OLD fills in my vocabulary gap when I can’t remember challenging words like “gate”, “streetcar”, or “upstairs” (these are all real examples).

I invited some of E’s friends and their parents to come on a nature walk with us a couple of weekends ago and got the start time wrong. Luckily it was a beautiful day and the family who came didn’t mind being there thirty minutes early, but still.

I had to take P’s passport application in twice because the first time I went to submit it the nice lady behind the desk had to tell me that not only had I forgotten to sign it (which was easily rectified right there in the office), but I had neglected to get Q. to sign it as well (which was not).

I cannot emphasize enough how NOT LIKE ME these types of things are.

My sense of my innermost self is built on a foundation of BEING ORGANIZED.

I am the one who is always on time for everything. Always. Even with two kids.

I remember appointments.

I fill out forms correctly.

If Q. is the absent-minded professor in our family, I am the steel trap memory.

I know the sleep deprivation is temporary- E has taught me that much.

But its effect is enormously difficult for me to cope with, not just because it makes me bleary and fuzzy and short-tempered each day, not just because it means I cannot imagine how I am going to maintain the needed focus to do the research for this book chapter, let alone actually write the thing, but because it fundamentally erodes a not insignificant part of who I believe myself to be.

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Filed under Life after the PhD, My addled brain, Nursing, P.- the first year, Sleep, Writing

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

We lost too

I am having a very hard time with the election results.

I feel like I’ve been having a near-constant anxiety attack since Wednesday morning.

Part of it, I know, is that P’s nighttime sleep is particularly terrible at the moment, and lack of sleep is a major trigger for my anxiety. I am sure I would not be feeling quite as awful as I am if I had been facing a Trump presidency well-rested.

But.

I would still have been feeling awful.

Maybe I shouldn’t be as sad and frightened as I am. After all, I am Canadian, not American. I couldn’t vote in the election. He’s not going to be my president. And I’m white, middle-class, heterosexual, and of Christian heritage (if an agnostic now). I could argue that I’m not one of his major targets for intolerance, insult, and hate.

Except, I am, of course, because I’m a woman. And as Trump made it abundantly clear during his campaign, he doesn’t care about women. He doesn’t respect women or their bodies (and don’t get me started on women’s autonomy over their own bodies). He bragged about sexually assaulting women and then normalized the assault by claiming it was “locker-room talk”, as though it is just something men do, gosh darn it, can’t help themselves.

I think he is vile.

And while he may not be my president, his presidency is going to affect and shape my country.

Not just because he claims he wants to rethink NAFTA.

If he pulls the USA hard to the right, Canada will have our hands tied on so many issues.

His poisonous platform that relies on inciting fear of the “other” could creep up north of the border.

In our last federal election, one of the defining moments was when the Conservative party (then in government with a majority) revealed their plan for a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline in which you would be encouraged to dob in your neighbour for doing strange and frightening things (translation: not taking the kids to hockey and stopping at Tim Horton’s on the way back home).

It was revolting.

It was disgraceful.

And it was decisively rejected by the Canadian electorate.

The Conservatives relied heavily in their campaign on fear and intolerance and Canadians all across the country stood up and said (politely, because after all, we are Canadians), “No, thank you. That’s not who we are.”

We gave Justin Trudeau and his Liberals a majority government, something which the polls had not suggested was within striking distance.

But.

THE DAY AFTER Trump won, the same Conservative MP who had been the face behind the barbaric cultural practices hotline, and who is now a contender for the leadership of that party, went on the record saying that Trump’s win was “an exciting message” that was needed in Canada.

I hope registered Conservatives reject her embrace of intolerance just as decisively as the general voting public did in October 2015.

I hope we do not follow the same path as Brexit, as Trump, as the rise of right-wing parties in Europe. I hope we continue to champion freedom and equality.

But even if we do, it seems like we’re going to be the lone voice crying out in the wilderness, and there’s only so much one country can do.

******

I am so sad for Hillary Clinton.

I so sad for women everywhere.

I am so angry that competence and intelligence and experience could be twisted into something negative, reasons to vote against a candidate rather than for her.

I am so afraid of the damage that can be done in four years.

******

It is a measure of my anxiety that one of the first thoughts I had on Wednesday, when I realized Trump would be president was this:

“I better get Q. to hurry up and get P.’s Australian citizenship sorted so we can get her a passport. Then at least he’d be able to take both kids and get out of the country if it came to that.”

I said this to Q. a few days later. I was trying to reassure myself, to make it into a bit of a joke.

It turns out Q. had thought the exact same thing.

Our current prime minister’s father, when he was prime minister, famously once compared Canada’s relationship with the U.S. to be like sleeping next to an elephant. He said, “No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

What happens when the elephant throws a giant temper tantrum in bed?

******

Friday was Remembrance Day. I bought E. a poppy and he wore it all week. We had lots of questions from him about the symbolism of the poppy. I told him over and over how lucky we were to live in a safe country, to enjoy freedom and prosperity. E. said he didn’t like thinking about the reason we wear the poppy. I agreed with him, but said it was important to spend at least one day every year remembering those who fought and died so that we could be free and safe. I told him it was a reminder of how terrible the world wars were and a promise that there would never be another one.

I have always, always believed that.

Now, I’m not so sure.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Grief, Sleep

Baby Sleep Bootcamp, Redux

E. started school last week, which means that P. and I now have about six hours a day together. I’ve spent the last week helping P. learn that she is able to nap in the bassinet (after eight or nine weeks of exclusively napping in carriers).

I know I said I wasn’t going to compare the two of them any more (or at least I was going to try not to), but it is honestly funny how identical this process has been.

I’m using the same routine- white noise machine, lullaby, shush/pat until asleep, and then place in the bassinet with enough awkwardness that her eyes pop open again so (hopefully) she will be eventually able to put herself back to sleep at the 45 minute transition mark.

And P’s reaction has been just like that of her older brother (which I described in detail here). From the shrieks of outrage, telling me that she is NOT TIRED, MUMMY! CAN’T YOU SEE THAT? punctuated by huge yawns to the desperate last attempts at socializing right before falling asleep. In this respect, at least, she is exactly like her brother.

The main difference, I think, is in me.

P.’s napped a couple of times a day in the bassinet every day since we started the baby sleep bootcamp. It’s impossible for her to have all of her naps in there because I have to take E. to school. So the first nap is usually in the carrier and the final late afternoon catnap is too because by then E. is home again and I can’t be sure I’ll get the uninterrupted time I need to get her down.

She hasn’t slept longer than 45 minutes yet, but it’s early days.

At this stage with E., I was basically hysterical. I felt he was so over-tired (true) and I worried he would never learn to sleep properly (did not turn out to be the case). I worried all the time that he wasn’t getting “enough” sleep or the “right” amount of sleep for babies his age.

With P., my reaction has been more along the lines of: “Look at you sleeping in the bassinet while I ate my lunch with two free hands and checked my email! You slept for 45 minutes! You’re doing so well!”

I am taking the long view, and I have confidence in both myself and P. that eventually she will be able to sleep on her own, just like E. eventually did.

Sometimes I wish I could have been a second-time parent the first time around.

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Filed under P.- the first year, Sleep

Boxes

I think of my worries in boxes now.

I have so many of them, I can’t let them all come out to nag at me at once.

There’s the “worried about my Dad” box, which is huge and overflowing. It resists my every effort to close it. Sometimes I manage to get the lid down a little way, but it always springs open again.

Now there’s the “worried about my stepfather” box, which is smaller than my father’s worry box, although growing rapidly (much like his tumor). The worries were there before but they were mostly lumped in with general worry about my family. But now, after Thursday’s CT scan, he has a box of his own. A subsidiary of this box is the “worried about my Mum” box, which is really attached to the “worried about my stepfather” box, because what I am mostly worried about with my Mum is how she will cope if my stepfather dies. No one has said to me that my stepfather is going to die, and certainly the doctors are quite confident that there are things they can do, but I think the odds of this cancer killing him (or causing another cascade of medical issues that eventually prove fatal) are much higher than they were with his first bout, and I am very very worried.

There’s the “worried about the baby” box which has fluctuated in size significantly over the course of the pregnancy, reaching its maximum size after the anatomy scan. The follow up scans this past Thursday showed that everything continues to go well and that the right kidney is bigger than would be expected at this stage, suggesting it is doing exactly what we hoped it would- growing to compensate for the missing one. I had just about succeeded in wrestling that box closed until I learned that my stepfather is in renal failure because of the way the tumor is encroaching on his kidney. It is not that I think it all that likely that my baby will also develop colon cancer that will affect the kidney when s/he is approaching 65, more that this is a situation where it is a VERY GOOD THING that my stepfather has a backup kidney, and this of course reminded me that our baby has no backup. So I am back to worrying irrationally about the baby, although I am trying to curb this because I can only worry so much for so long without losing all ability to function.

The “worried about the baby” box also contains the usual post-infertility worries about the baby dying at birth or just before from a cord accident or some other tragic, incredibly unlikely occurrence that somehow feels not all that unlikely right now given my family’s current strike rate for freaky, fluky, unexpected medical disasters (see: my father being paralyzed for life by a wave as exhibit a, and my stepfather’s colon cancer that is not behaving like colon cancer usually does and is thus a source of great interest to his doctors as exhibit b).

And then I worry that all this worry is bad for the baby, because s/he is certainly not getting an optimal uterine environment right now. So that’s in the baby box too.

Then there’s a “worried about work” box, which is only allowed to get my attention when I have to do something related to the very next class I have to teach. Marking and seminars and conferences are not on my radar right now, even when they should be. I am very much in survival mode and just taking these last three weeks of the semester one day at a time.

My general worry box about all the other aspects of my life (E., Q., the cats, the house, the rest of my family) has been shoved to the back of the stack because I just cannot open it up right now. We still have not entirely sorted out the vomiting cats issue (in fact we think the food change has stopped one cat from vomiting but caused another to start getting hairballs), but I cannot put any time or energy into fixing it right now. I am vaguely aware that I am asking an extraordinary amount of Q. at the moment, but cannot rouse myself to try to rebalance. I try to be present for E., but it is harder than it should be.

It is all starting to become more than I can cope with.

I am either numb or exhausted most of the time.

I am not depressed- I have been depressed before and I know what it feels like- but I am struggling, even more so than I was a month ago. It is unrelenting. There is no end in sight.

And now I am officially worrying so much that it is affecting my sleep. For the last week or so, ever since my Dad had a conversation with my sister where he was able to express his own worries about what is going to happen to him and how the decisions will be made, I have been waking up at 5 a.m. or earlier and I have not been able to get back to sleep. This used to be standard operating procedure for me, but I fixed this well over a year ago (or possibly two years ago- I have lost track) by taking my mother’s insomnia advice of refusing to get up or do anything else but lie there and wait to fall back asleep. I retrained my brain and my body and I have slept exceptionally well ever since.

Now I wake up for no reason in particular at some stupidly early hour and my brain immediately tries to fix the worst-case scenario. Typical would be waking up to have my brain start planning how we might convince my mother to move to our part of the province if my stepfather dies and whether she would be able to afford to buy a condo and would she want to be in a condo and what would happen with my grandmother but it would be great for my mother because she would have all the support and access to good transit options to go see her siblings when she doesn’t want to drive, etc. etc.

This is not something I should be trying to fix. This is not something I should even be thinking about. But my anxiety has always manifested itself as catastrophizing- I jump to the worst-case scenario and try to fix it. So I know this is my anxiety seeking an outlet, because I am bottling it up as much as I can during the day to get through. But it is impossible to turn your brain off and go back to sleep once you are engaged in thinking about worst-case scenarios, even when you know that they will hopefully NEVER HAPPEN and you are completely wasting your time thinking about them.

I am really good at planning and organizing. It is one of my strengths.

At five in the morning, though, I’m coming to realize it is also one of my greatest weaknesses. Because my brain seems to think I can plan and organize my way out of these crises, that if I can just get enough details sorted out and enough ducks in a row, everything will get better.

I don’t know how to make my brain understand this isn’t helpful.

And right now I’m too tired to even try.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Family, Grief, Me? Pregnant?!, Medical issues, Sleep

Rest Easy

One of my resolutions for my Happiness Reset project was to “Make Time for Exercise”.

Worst.Resolution.Ever.

I am now in my third month of my reset (a full update to come soonish, I hope) and I have YET to wake up early to go running, like I had planned to do.

It is no longer dark and cold and miserable like it was back in January and February.

It is a beautiful time of year to be running.

I’ve been choosing sleep instead.

A funny thing happened over the last couple of months.

I’ve been saying on here for years that I don’t need as much sleep as I did before E. was born. Here’s a typical quote, from this post in November 2013:

I’ve been convinced for close to two years now that I don’t seem to need as much sleep as I did before E. was born. Give me six hours in a row, and I’m good to go for the day. I hate waking up in the night to use the loo because if it’s after 3 a.m. I usually don’t get back to sleep, and prednisone just makes my disordered sleeping so much worse.

At Christmas that year, I had a long chat with my mother, who also has terrible problems with insomnia. She told me the only thing that worked for her was just to refuse to get out of bed until it was 6 a.m. Didn’t matter how awake she was, or what time of night it was, she would just lie there and not do anything interesting. And eventually she started going back to sleep again, and gradually it got easier.

I tried this. It took months, but it honestly worked. I started to be able to go back to sleep when I woke up at 3 or 4 a.m. At first it took me an hour or longer, but gradually my body relearned how to fall asleep.

Now, eighteen months after I first started using my mother’s strategy, I’ve realized that my sleep needs HAVE NOT CHANGED since E. was born.

I was just coping really well with constant sleep deprivation.

I was used to disordered sleep patterns.

I was getting so much more sleep (and good quality sleep) than I was when E. was an infant, that I figured I was good to go.

But it turns out, I’m still the same “eight or eight-and-a-half hours a night” girl I was before I had E.

And that’s why I haven’t been running.

I’ve chosen sleep instead.

And it has been GLORIOUS.

Because Q.’s been under less work pressure, we haven’t had to set as many early morning alarms. We’ve been able to wake up more naturally, with the light. There were nights where we slept for over nine hours, but I think now we’ve mostly caught up our deficits. I’m starting to wake up right around the eight hour mark or a little before. Sometimes I’ll be woken up (by E. or one of the cats) at 5:30 a.m., and I just go right back to sleep! This is unheard of for me (at least the me of the last five years).

I miss morning runs, but I’m just not ready to disrupt my body. It knows what it needs.

It’s about time I started listening to it.

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Filed under Choose Happiness, Running, Sleep

It’s the most miserable time of the year

I’m depressed.

Not clinically, at least, not yet. But I’m definitely in a major slump. I’m crying a lot and sleeping a lot and I feel tired all the time. Everything exhausts me.

Part of it is weather-related, because this time of year is always so dark and cold, and even though it’s not all that cold right now, it is so dark for so long.

Part of it is lack of exercise because I stopped running during the tww in our last FET and then didn’t start up again because (see above) it was cold and dark in the mornings and E. started waking up unpredictably early.

Part of it is Christmas burnout. This is the first year I have really, really not wanted to be buying presents. It’s just felt overwhelming. Q. and I have decided to do “presence, not presents”, so we’re each in charge of organizing six dates over the the course of 2015, which I’m excited about. I’m also in discussions with my family to stop gift exchanging (other than for E. of course). Anything we really want/need we can afford to buy ourselves, and I’m so tired of buying stuff to give to people because they’re going to buy stuff to give to us. We have so much. Too much, really.

Part of it is trying to engage with the end of treatments. Today I packed up a duffel bag of clothes and three bags of books and toys for the son of a very dear friend from high school (we’re going to see them over the holidays). I felt both happy and relieved to be able to give them these things and heart-broken that we were able to give them away because we were never going to need them ourselves.

Part of it, a big part, is missing the little person who was supposed to be here but isn’t.

And part of it is finishing the PhD. I didn’t think this was going to affect me as much as it has- I handed in the final draft of the dissertation in early October and I didn’t touch it again until December, so I thought I’d had a break from it. But I was clearly still focusing on it, even unconsciously, because ever since the defence (and the celebratory party the day afterwards), I’ve been out of sorts.

I haven’t googled it, but I would bet money that feeling depressed after finishing a PhD is completely normal and probably expected. After all, I’ve spent the past six years working on it.  It’s not helped by the fact that I’m not starting a new job immediately afterwards. I’m still figuring out what I want to do and what will work with our family. So there’s a lot of uncertainty and not a lot of answers right now. I know that will change, but the here and now is a challenge.

I’ve been trying to push everything down until after Christmas, but it’s not really working. So, as of today, I’m trying something new: acknowledging that this probably won’t be my best Christmas, but there will be other years ahead when I won’t feel this way. I’m giving myself permission to grieve, to mourn, to feel adrift. It is a year of endings, after all.

And now that I’ve dumped out how I’m feeling, I’m going to turn off the computer and go for a run while the sun is still shining.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Friends, Grief, Life after the PhD, Loss, Mirror, Mirror (Body Image), My addled brain, PhD, Running, Second Thoughts, Sleep, Three's Company

It Gets Better

Dear Turia,

I thought of you yesterday, when I was watching E. help his Daddy fix a section of the fence. I was standing there, watching E. hold the tape measure, asking his father twenty-five questions with every breath, and I remembered the summer Q. built the fence, the summer E. was born.

You spent a lot of time watching Q. build that fence.  Partly it was because Q. was an adult and you were desperate for adult contact and conversation- when you weren’t watching him build the fence you spent a lot of time in the late afternoons loitering on the front porch waiting to see if any of the neighbours were around and up for a chat. Partly it was to show E. what his Daddy was doing, even though E. wouldn’t have appreciated the rarity of having a father who is a tenured academic but who can also build fences. E. had only recently discovered he had hands at the point Q. started work on it.

But mostly it was just an excuse to get out of the house, away from the overwhelming anxiety you were feeling when the baby you loved so much wasn’t eating or wasn’t sleeping or wasn’t doing any of the things you thought he was SUPPOSED to be doing at that particular moment. So you’d scoop E. up, often in floods of tears, and take him out to watch Q. build the fence, and you’d cry and rant at Q., and he would say something undeniably true but not particularly helpful like “Babies do crazy things”, and you’d be so full of frustration and fear that you weren’t doing this parenting thing RIGHT and E. would be hopelessly damaged because he wasn’t sleeping enough or nursing enough. But it would be sunny outside, and warm, and eventually you and E. would both be quiet and happy and calm, and you’d pull yourself together to struggle on.

And so it went.

I wish I could walk past that fence, look at you in your sleep-deprived haze, clutching that tiny, fractious baby, with an air that I would like to say was equal parts exhilaration and panic but was really mostly just panic, and catch your eye. I wish I could give you a smile and a big hug and tell you what I know now.

It gets better.

I know you were at the end of your rope. At this stage three years ago, you’d only just started to transition E. back into his crib for naps, rather than strapping him to your chest in a carrier and pacing around the house non-stop. E. responded by refusing to nap for more than forty-five (or, if you were very unlucky, thirty) minutes at a time.  Carrier naps? He’d happily sleep for two hours, nestled in nice and cozy. You’d only just started to get his bedtime back to an early enough hour that you didn’t feel you had to go to bed as soon as he did.

You didn’t know what was coming down the pipe. You knew that he had a really gassy tummy in the early hours of the morning, but you were still months away from figuring out the MSPI issue. You were thrilled to have achieved even some semblance of independent sleep during the day, but you had no idea he would be ten months old before you no longer had to stand in the room, holding him on his side in the crib until he fell asleep. You didn’t know that there’d be phases where he would wake up for the day, every day, at 5 a.m., or that he would sleep so lightly that going to bed would wake him up, even if you and Q. brushed your teeth downstairs and tried to sneak up the stairs. You didn’t know that you would still be nursing him, twice a night, until after his first birthday, even though he wouldn’t nurse during the day.

E.’s sleep in his first year, in a nutshell, sucked.

I remember when you read a post on a friend’s blog, where she commented on how amazing it was that her son (who was older than E. and had also been a totally shit sleeper as an infant) would now tell her that he was tired, how wonderful it was that she could go into his room to check on him at night before she went to bed herself.

You cried.

You never, ever, believed you would reach that point with E.

Turia, you did.

Your son has slept through the night consistently since he was sixteen months old. He usually sleeps twelve hours or a bit more. He tells you when he’s tired and sometimes asks to go to bed early. He goes to sleep with little or no fuss, and needs no further parental intervention after one round of being checked on when he’s first tucked in. (You always ask the same three questions: “And how are you? How’s your nightlight? And your animals?” and E. always gives the same three answers: “I’m fine. It’s working. My animals are fine and I’m fine and my nightlight is working and everything’s fine.”) The routine didn’t change when you switched him from a crib to his medium-sized guy bed last month. He stays in bed when you put him there (at least until he wakes up the following morning).

Here is what you can do when you go into his room to check on him before you go to bed. You can pull back and adjust the covers. You can lift him up if he is too close to the edge of the bed and resettle him. You can put his head back on the pillow, or give him back his best bunny or his newest best friend, his puppy. You can put away laundry. You can adjust the curtains if he’s opened them while falling asleep. To be honest, you could probably have a conversation in there with Q. while jumping up and down and E. wouldn’t wake up.

Most of all, you can smooth back his hair from his forehead. You can give him another kiss. You can tell him that you love him. You can stand there, in the dark, and watch him sleep and notice how long his legs are getting and marvel at the little boy that fractious baby became.

I’m not sure we’re ever going to get a “do-again”. No one gets a “do-over”- E.’s infancy is finished and his and your experiences of it are set. But you often think, standing there in the dark, that it would have been nice to have a chance at a “do-again”, to go into parenting knowing this time that things change, sometimes overnight, and that eventually, eventually there is a light at the end of the sleep tunnel.

It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, unfortunately. I can’t go back and find you watching that fence being built, so I’m writing this instead, hoping that someone else might find it one day and read it and feel, for a moment, maybe a little less alone and a little less frightened.

Because it gets better.

It does.

I promise.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Baby, Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), E.- the fourth year, MSPI, My addled brain, Nursing, Sleep

(Not) Feeling Groovy

All my blog posts right now are about the emotional side of things. I thought I should jot down some bullet points on where I’m at physically (although the emotional stuff will creep in again. It always does.):

  • 17 days after the D&C, and I’m STILL spotting. My clinic told me to call them if I was still bleeding after 12. I haven’t called yet, but am starting to think maybe I should. The spotting has stopped at least three times for a day or so, and then it starts up again. The longest gap was actually right after the D&C where I had a fair amount of bleeding the day after, then spotting, then nothing for three days, and then, just when I thought I was in the clear, it started up. It’s not heavy, but there are days where I probably should have gone for a pad rather than just a panty liner. Sometimes I get cramps or a deep ache. Mainly it is just depressing to be constantly seeing blood on the toilet paper, in the ‘loo, on the panty liner.
  • My clinic told me not to have sex until the bleeding had stopped. I just want to be able to feel close with my husband again. The last time I thought it had stopped for good, I told Q. that this meant we’d be cleared for resuming marital relations. “Do you think we’ll remember how?” asked Q., only half joking. My f/s only gave us the all clear for sex at the eight week appointment. The last time before that week had been before the retrieval in mid-December. I’m so tired of our intimacy being controlled by my clinic.
  • My face is breaking out again. In retrospect it started to get bad around the nine week mark, which now makes me wonder if that was a sign that things were no longer going well. Clearly pregnancy hormones were helping to fix my face, and now I can’t rely on them anymore. It’s bad enough that I had to get my youngest sister to teach me how to use foundation so I won’t feel like a leper when I leave the house. I know in the grand scheme of things this is meaningless, but I am struggling with it. I used to have such beautiful skin. Seriously- I got to 34 and a 1/2 before I had to learn about foundation. I hate wearing makeup every day, but I hate how my skin looks if I go out without it even more.
  • I am sleeping ok. It is the one blessing- I have retained my ability to fall back asleep. I started (while pregnant) following my mother’s own rule, which was she simply won’t get out of bed before 6 a.m. She won’t read either- she just lies there. Eventually she managed to retrain her body to fall back asleep. I think I’m making progress on this count. I’ve only been up in the very early morning once since it happened. I still wake up at 4, or 4:30, or 5, nearly every morning, but I’m fighting through it and refusing to get out of bed and eventually my body just gives up and goes back to sleep. And then I have really weird, frightening dreams.
  • I feel disgusting. I am ten pounds heavier than I would like to be (despite ceasing my burrito and poutine diet I appear to have gained more weight in the last two weeks than I did while pregnant). I want, I NEED to start running again, to start (again, sigh) the Couch to 5K program, but I have enough sense to recognize that this simply isn’t going to happen while this ridiculous winter continues. I never used to run when it was below -15 when I was running half-marathons. I’m hardly going to start running in those conditions now. Maybe we’ll catch a break in a couple of weeks. I’d like to get the Couch to 5K over and done with in enough time before we go to Oz to actually feel like I have some momentum to continue while we’re away. But in the meantime I feel fat and ugly and soft and gross and I need to stop eating my feelings, especially when nothing tastes as good as I need it to.
  • Yesterday we went out to lunch with friends and I realized that I don’t want to spend time with other people who don’t know, and whom we’re not planning to tell. They are all childless academic couples, and I don’t want to talk about my dissertation right now because if you ask me about it I freak out and cry (which has been the state of things since July of last year). I felt like I had nothing to say to them if I couldn’t talk about my work. I couldn’t sit there and make small talk and natter on about random things or current events when the whole time all I wanted to say was “My baby DIED and my heart is shattered.” But they weren’t good enough friends for that. So most of the time I said nothing, and the rest of the time I talked to E.
  • I am SO angry. I am angry pretty much all the time. I don’t know if I am angry at myself, or at the universe, or at the baby for not being a good baby after all. But I am just filled with cold, quiet, rage. It occasionally boils over, especially when E. is pushing my buttons. It is exhausting, being this angry, but at least it means I don’t have any energy to feel anything else.
  • I have reread every single Guy Gavriel Kay book I own, and when I finished the last one I went online and used up a gift certificate from my birthday buying the three books he’s written that I don’t already own (technically I do own one of them, but it’s the first book in a two-part series, and I hate having books in a series with covers that don’t match, so I felt it was worth spending another $12 for symmetry). When they arrive, I’ll read them. Then I’ll have to think of something else. I’m not yet capable of working in the evenings, so I do one of three things: I read, I obsess over E.’s room, and I write here. Or I cry, of course. It turns out playing “Into the West” from the LOTR: Return of the King soundtrack over and over and over again just tends to lead to more tears. Given the song used to make me cry on a good day, I probably should have anticipated that.
  • In the moments where I am not angry, I am so very sad. The sadness, the grief, catches me off guard, like a deep, cold wave from the ocean that rears up and slaps salt water hard into my face. Then I push it away again, and the surface reverts to stillness, and I can be grey again. I feel transitory, ephemeral, like I am only gliding through the world, like I am not of it. It feels like an out-of-body experience, except I am always very much present in my body, even when I would most like not to be. But it is as if this reality is so alien, so unexpected, that I can’t quite center myself in it, as if I keep finding myself tucked around sharp corners, blinking through mirrors at my reflection, only to raise an eyebrow in surprise each time at the sight of who is looking back. Is this really me?

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Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, Anxiety Overload, Blogging, Grief, Loss, Mirror, Mirror (Body Image), My addled brain, PhD, Running, Sleep