Postpartum Depression: Part Two

Here is a quick list of things about my postpartum depression (second baby edition). Some of this may make you uncomfortable.

It does not mean I am a bad person, parent, mother, or employee. But it makes me feel like I am.

I should not be ashamed of it, but I am.

I love my children with everything I have. I enjoy my profession and I feel a calling to help others. But sometimes I am so tired of being needed. When all I want to do is cry all day, I still have to get up and take care of them. I have to go to work because I don’t want to let my colleagues and patrons down. I have to grade because my students want their final grades. I have to do laundry and cook so we have clean clothes and food to eat. I have to pay my bills. People rely on me.

Just because I am depressed does not mean I am incompetent, but sometimes I feel like I am. For a while I was very focused on making change and improving my life, but now I don’t care.

These feelings come and go. I am still capable of being happy. I can joke and laugh. I experience joy when I am around my sons.

I don’t need sympathy. I need empathy. I feel guilty because others in my life are dealing with difficult situations, and I have not been able to conjure up much empathy. When I say I’m sorry over and over, I feel even more guilt because I can’t give the support others deserve. Or I absorb their emotions and feel even worse.

Social media wrecks me. I am anxious about the election. I hate Trump but am afraid to say anything about it because his followers might try to kill me or my children. But I still go on Facebook because I have the hope I might see something positive posted from someone I care about. It’s the only thing that keeps me going sometimes.

I hate seeing women breastfeeding because I failed so hard at it, even worse the second time. Despite the fact that I have been exclusively pumping for five months, making enough milk to donate to babies in need, I still get upset when I think about it. Jamie Oliver and his crap about breastfeeding being so easy makes me sick.

Meghann Foye’s article about “me-ternity leave” makes me sick too. Does she seriously think having a baby is a time of rest and renewal? Would she like to feel like I do for a while and see how she likes it?

This may seem like a cry for help. You may see me as weak or selfish or not the right person for you at this time. I don’t care. Some people have said I am brave. I don’t care. I just want someone to listen for a change.

Mindfulness Study: What’s Your Rhythm?

My theme for this year is renewal and rebuilding. Last year, I spent a lot of time saying yes to new opportunities. Like Amy Poehler, I love to say yes, but sometimes we have got to say no. This year, I’ve taken a step back and am using what extra time I have to study and practice mindfulness. Here are some new concepts I’ve run across. I hope they also benefit you!

Rhythm vs. balance. In Overworked and OverwhelmedScott Eblin details how we can incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives – he focuses mostly on work, interviewing CEOs and other top leaders, but there is a lot of relevance to daily life as well. He talks about finding a rhythm vs. finding a balance. This resonated with me. There are many times I don’t feel overwhelmed, because I’m focusing on the present moment. When I am able to sit with my thoughts and emotions rather than let them take over, I am able to feel gratitude for the full, rich life I live. (This thought is also echoed in The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal: a stressed life is a rewarding one.) Yet there are also times when I feel consumed by my work or by my children’s needs. There is an ebb and flow to life, and we must learn to go with it, surviving the tough times and relishing the good times.

Repetition of positive loops. This concept is from Mind Hacking by Sir John Hargrave. I will be doing this 21-day program with my staff at the library in March – it’s very cool and available for free online. One of the exercises talks about the negative thought loops we all deal with. They are pervasive and frustrating, and they seem to exist no matter what we try to get rid of them. Hargrave suggests using positive loops to replace them: coming up with mantras that you repeat, over and over, until you start to believe them. For example: I am calm. I am at peace. I am a good worker.

Coming to terms with the gravel. As my life becomes busier, my tendency to want to complete everything to a high standard becomes harder. I want to have all the laundry done now! The house should be perfectly clean at all times! I should answer all e-mails the moment they appear in my inbox! When you think about it, this is clearly not possible. And there are so many interruptions in our day, it’s difficult to focus even when things are going right. Make peace with the “gravel” – all those little things we have to do in life. Stay in the present moment while you’re doing them, even if your brain wishes you were somewhere else. Let email pile up and address it all one or two times a day. Do laundry once a week, and you don’t have to do it all, as long as you have enough clean clothes to get you through. This is also from the Eblin book.

Guided meditation.  Even after studying mindfulness, I thought guided meditation was kind of lame. I didn’t think I could focus on it. But then I tried the Headspace and Calm apps. While they both have premium content, so far I have done the free stuff, and it is great. The library has guided meditation CDs you can borrow or download too. The guidance helps my brain think in different ways, getting me out of any ruts or loops I might be in.

A new definition of leadership. This is also from Eblin. At one point, he refers to leadership as a dual responsibility: defining reality and inspiring hope. In a world where some people seem to be confused on what a great leader is, this is a standard I aspire to.

How do you find your rhythm? What are your favorite ways to stay mindful?

Don’t Call It False

I started having contractions last Saturday night. Exhausting, painful contractions. In the week that has followed, I’ve had them nearly nonstop. And the worst part is that I probably have three more weeks of this to look forward to. I’m only 37 weeks. It’s not “real” labor… or is it?

In my Internet travels, I have discovered that this is a whole different category of labor. I am not a midwife, doctor, or doula, but according to everything I have read and my consultations with birth professionals, I have learned that prodromal labor is real labor. It is NOT Braxton-Hicks. Braxton-Hicks contractions are a painless tightening of the uterus. These painful contractions start and build in waves, then ebb. They contribute to dilation and effacement. They are just… really slow. This is how my body prepares for the main event, and I need to learn to relax and deal with it.

I had these with Henry, and I remember being frustrated with them. But this time, I’m older and have a three-year-old to chase after. I’m tired. Doing anything physical causes these things to get into gear, so I have to take frequent breaks. I’m also psychologically tired. I don’t know how I will deal with three more weeks of work, but I have to work because I want to save my time off for when the baby is actually here. (Although at least I’m not scheduled for any more time on desk, so I don’t have to worry about walking patrons to the stacks.) I feel guilty because I don’t want to travel, just in case, but my family all lives far away, and I’m missing out on holiday events. I’m having trouble keeping Henry entertained. And I’m having trouble keeping me entertained – once the kiddo goes to bed, I can’t focus on anything!

So, the answers to all your burning questions: Yes, I could have the baby any day now, but “any day now” could be tomorrow, or it could be December. Yes, I’m in labor… sort of. No, contractions do not mean the baby is coming. And if you are in the same boat, this doesn’t mean you are weird, and you are not crazy! Relaxing is hard, but I’m doing my best – and enjoying what little sleep I am getting, because soon I’ll have even less!