Slideshow: Ten Perfect Transitional Summer-to-Fall Pieces.
A couple of days after we brought Goldie home from the hospital, I was sitting on the couch feeding her and my son announced that he wanted to go kick a soccer ball outside. “Why don’t we wait for Mommy?” Kendrick asked him. “She wants to come too.”
“Mommy doesn’t like to go outside,” Indy said, and my heart broke.
That quickly – in just days – I had gone from being my son’s primary playmate and general partner in crime to the “un-fun” parent, the one who “didn’t want” to run and kick balls, or go swimming, or play hide-and-go-seek.
I want to do those things so badly. And all of a sudden, because of breastfeeding and recuperation from the birth and the fact that now we have two children and if one wants to go outside while the other is sleeping, we need to split up and that’s just how it has to be…I couldn’t do those things.
I missed him so much I felt it like a physical pain, a tightening in my chest when I thought of all the time we spent this summer adventuring together, picking strawberries in fields or just sitting in the sun and eating pancakes, and wondered whether we’d ever have that again.
When I was pregnant, virtually all of my friends who had more than one child told me that in the early weeks, at least, what was going to happen was that my husband was going to basically take charge of our toddler while I took care of the baby. So I knew that this was the way it was going to be, but still: in those first few days after we got home I missed Indy so much that I could hardly stand it. I scrolled through the photos I’d taken of our last trip to the zoo, photos of him sitting on a ride and smiling bigger than I’d ever seen him smile, and they made my heart hurt. Because now it was his dad making him smile, tossing him up and down in the water while I watched from the shade. It’s not that I didn’t want Kendrick to get that special time with his son – of course I did – it’s that…I guess I felt a little left out.
I don’t want to stop being a part of making our son laugh. I don’t want to be the parent sitting on the sidelines in our son’s – or our daughter’s, for that matter – memories of childhood.
It didn’t surprise me that it hurt to suddenly spend so much less alone time with my son…but you know what did surprise me? How quickly the adjustment went from painful to really, truly okay. I can see where the future is headed, and there’s time with all four of us, time alone with my son, time alone with my daughter…just time. And watching Indy with his sister…what she brings to his life – and he to hers – is worth everything. Watching him stroke her head when she cries and say “Ssh, it’s okay, it’s okay,” watching her snuggle into her big brother’s lap…it’s just worth every single rocky moment that’s happening in the right-now.
So while we adjust, I’ve been looking for ways to make the transition feel a little easier on everyone. It’s been two weeks now, and I’ve taken Indy out for a quick mom-and-son playdate a couple of times – just twenty minutes at the playground across the street, or a run across the beach while Kendrick and Goldie wait in the air-conditioned car - and even those mini-outings have felt like taking a dose of medicine, helping me to remember that we’re all still trying to find our footing in this new life as a family of four, but that my relationship with my first baby is still there, same as it always was. Things are in flux right now, and right now the fact is that Kendrick is the one throwing him around in the pool and running with him through parks…but I’ll be back running alongside them soon.
And in the meantime, there is this:
When we drive home from camp at the end of the day, Indy usually likes to sit quietly and listen to the radio. But yesterday, he said “I want to talk to you.”
What about? I asked him.
“I love you so much,” he said. “I can hold yours hand?”
So I reached back, and held his hand the whole way home.
DIY Message In A Bottle (great wedding favor idea!)
I went into the birth of my second child absolutely convinced I’d experience at least some degree of the postpartum depression I dealt with after Indy was born. It was something I brought up at my very first appointment after finding out we were expecting, and something that I touched base with my doctors about over the course of the next few months. I didn’t want it to catch me unguarded and without a plan in place, because with a toddler and an infant to think about, being that emotionally out of sorts even for even a day didn’t feel like an option.
My primary concern: you know how I’ve written extensively about my insomnia (which is largely related to my anxiety)? Well, when you have a newborn, you sleep even less. And less sleep = a greater chance of suffering from PPD.
At the mid-point in my pregnancy, I went to meet with a psychiatrist (which I should have done a long, long time ago), because even though I didn’t want to start any new medications while expecting, I figured you know what? I’ve been dealing with this problem long enough. I’ve tried lots of different things – some that have worked for a time, and some that haven’t worked at all – and if there’s a longer-term, more stable solution, I’d like to find it. What we decided: that I’d start on an extremely low-dose daily antidepressant immediately following the birth. I don’t suffer from depression, but apparently this kind of medication can help to shut off the sort of ruminative thinking that characterizes my particular type of anxiety.
(As a side note, this decision to try medication wasn’t something I was going to talk about here – it feels so, so personal – but then I realized: am I ashamed that I suffer from insomnia and anxiety? No. Am I ashamed that I’ve tried lots of different things over the years, and that now I’m going to try this? No. And I know that these are issues that a lot of people suffer from, and that a lot of people feel ashamed about, and I believe with all my heart that there is no shame in being open about your struggles and seeking out help wherever you can find it.)
So that’s how we’re (hopefully) dealing with the longer-term problem…but it still didn’t address what I was really worried about: those few weeks immediately postpartum, while I was still waiting for the medication I’d been prescribed to “load” into my system (which takes about three weeks). I didn’t want to take anything unnecessary…but I also didn’t want to find myself melting down during a time when I very much wanted to be standing upright.
And so, in keeping with my whole Act As Your Own Advocate ethos…I spoke up, and told my doctors that I was worried, and that I wanted to take steps to address the potential problem before it even arose.
And do you know what happened?
The moment that I mentioned that I had suffered from PPD with my first pregnancy, the entire team who helped me through the birth and recovery – and I mean everyone - didn’t just acknowledge my worries…they were proactive about them. I’m not exaggerating when I say that at least twenty different people – from social workers to psychiatrists to nurses – touched base with me about whether I was feeling symptomatic over the course of my hospital stay, and provided me with resources to help me should I develop symptoms after I left.
As it turns out, though, I’m not just “okay”…I’m sort of…great. Maybe it’s just having done this all before, maybe it’s my brain giving me a break from all that worry so I can enjoy my daughter, or maybe I’m just having a really, really wonderful time out here this summer…but whatever it is, I’ll take it. It’s still early, of course, and of course there are lots of things that I’m struggling with (mostly my worries about spending enough time with my son; more on this later, because it’s a big one), and of course I’m tired and cranky from time to time…but the hopelessness? The “everything-is-wrong-and-I-don’t-know-why” feeling that left me so at sea during the weeks following my son’s birth?
It’s just not there. Which is a relief, but even more of a relief: the knowledge that there is so much help right there waiting for me should something change.
All I have to do is ask.
Today on RG: So-so family portrait attempts, Russell Brand’s must-read piece on Robin Williams’ death, an incredible (and affordable) fall jacket, and an accessory I seriously think you should skip.
And more, obviously.
The post-baby body (and what to wear when you are suddenly required to be semi-nude in public situations with relative frequency).
Such good shoes; so on sale.