Austin will be a year old on Wednesday. Half of me is consumed with relief, praising God I made it through his first year with my mental health (mostly) intact. My biggest fear as I approached his birth was that … Continue reading
I never planned on having children, so the fact that I have 3 almost feels like I’ve been punked by one of those “never say never” situations. I remember being 18 in the women’s underwear section of Target with my mother and sister, arguing with my mother that I didn’t “owe” her any grandchildren. I had absolutely nothing to do with the physical event that led to my conception; that was purely her choice and I was determined then that mine would be absolutely no biological children. I preferred adoption, if I decided to have children at all. The aspiring world changer in me, freshly graduated from high school, had her sights set on joining the Peace Corp and from there, who knew where life would take me. I wanted to be free as a bird, on the front lines of a cause, making my voice heard, putting my hands to work for others, advancing justice while rocking out to Prince. Children? Pfffft. Continue reading
Confession: My greatest fear is that I will lose my life to suicide. I don’t say that to be melodramatic, I simply state it as a fact. As a person living with bipolar disorder, it is a fear that silently … Continue reading
I’m currently taking an eCourse called Liberated Lines. I jumped at the chance to take it because not only do I love Alisha’s work (I’m a new and HUGE fan), I’m also trying to find my poetic voice again. It’s been years since I’ve written poetry, and since my goal for 2014 is to embody who I am as a writer and artist, this course is the perfect chance to jump back in, head first. I’m feeling all wobbly and rusty, but also very good to be working these creative muscles again.
Here’s today’s entry, quick and dirty, just speaking what came to mind…
“This is no ordinary love”, it whispers softly as it dances its faceted blues in the sunlight. I pause and let this truth wash away the stress & toil of marriage that collects from time to time like the grit & grime that collects under one’s fingernails. As it does, I feel my shoulders slowly sink back into their foundation and as the tension recedes like the tide, I open. To him. To us. To impromptu rendezvous and lunchtime mojitos. To connecting in the midday amidst the grind of daily living and earning to provide. I unfurl and soften as I watch the blue dance in the light. I open and let my heart stand naked and unashamed to the one who loves me like none other. #liberatedlinesopen”
Feel free to follow the #libertatedlinesopen tag on Instagram to read what words we unearth over the next 4 weeks!
I’ve been in a depressive episode for nearly 8 weeks. The decline has been gradual. There have been good days scattered throughout, but I’ve been edgy, tense, fatigued….my mind has been too loud some days, eerily silent during others. I’ve been crying off and on in my bathroom to hide my breaking from my kids…in my car as I drive from one errand to the next. I’ve had to shift to auto-pilot to just get through hard moments, root myself in detachment to keep from getting swallowed up by the stress. I’ve spent the last two weeks cycling rapidly between hypomania (marked mostly by agitation and a mind packed with too many thoughts), and a dragging depression that swallows me up and sends me into its belly for a few moments then spits me back out into the sun and air where I can breathe again. And then everything’s still and quiet…I feel “normal” and then the cycle repeats itself hourly, daily, weekly….and so it’s been for nearly 2 months now. Rinse. Settle. Repeat.
I’m still in that critical postpartum window. I just weaned nearly a month ago. My body and hormones are in flux and adjusting as a result. I hate it.
Stress is both motivating and crippling for me. I can handle 10 things going on all at once with ease. It’s once the 11th shows up demanding my attention that my mind starts to split and scatter off into darker corners. I think about my life these days and chide myself with all kinds of “should” statements for feeling and being overwhelmed by all I manage on a day-to-day basis: baby is teething & raging, middle child with special needs, oldest was just diagnosed with ADHD and his enthusiasm for school has waned significantly, trying to overhaul our home and parenting lifestyles to accommodate and support their needs (like increasing structure and making our home more sensory friendly), supporting my husband while he deals with stress at work. New therapy schedules, trips to the pediatrician, and comprehensive psychometric testing have dominated our lives over the past month. Up ahead there is more testing to be done, and meetings with the school district to discuss accommodations for Brennan and evaluations and placement for Alex who is gearing up for preK this fall…
It’s not all stressful. I’m involved in birthing great projects. I’m taking my mom’s advice on avoiding burnout by feeding my spirit so I don’t fall prey to losing myself, you know? I’ve joined writing & art communities online, I’m painting at 11pm, I’ve signed up for retreats and writing eCourses, done a couple of write-ins with groups, and I’ve done a juice cleanse to try to reset my body and mind. I’m re-reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown as well as books on painting, sensory processing disorder, creativity, and feminism. I’m trying to find my way here still, in this space as far as my writing is concerned. I’m trying to learn how to embody all the parts of myself that have come alive over the past few years-artist, writer, advocate-in the midst of the daily demands on my person and time as a mother and wife. I’m trying to bloom where I’m planted. At 31, it’s still a stumbling process though.
I’m searching for my flow amidst the rhythms, rocking and swaying as the ebb and flow of my life’s current carries me throughout my days. But the stress of everything gets triggering and I find myself cycling with the ebb and flow as a result sometimes. That’s when my knees buckle and my head spins. My chest constricts and my brain starts to feel like it’s suffocating. My grip gets weak. Fatigue sets in and my steps forward get heavy. Taking care of myself gets harder, and usually becomes the last checked off item on my must do list-if it’s checked off at all. I end each day feeling as though I have no safe place to come up for air and just process my thoughts, fears, and anxiety…I end most days feeling unsettled and bottled up, stuffed to capacity and as I close my eyes to sleep I’ve found myself starting to pray like Jabez, asking God or whoever is listening for an increase in capacity…in ability…in might…
My hair is pink again with some blue added for extra fun. My hair and color are always my first lines of defense against the disorder of my brain chemistry and mood.
I visited my psychiatrist last week at the VA. This is another area that I can’t seem to find solid footing. We’ve lived here for nearly two years and I’m on my 3rd psychiatrist. Obtaining talk therapy has been a fail. The appointment scheduling system here is confusing and useless to me because I have very little say in what days and times fit into my schedule that’s already inundated with the kid’s school and therapies. I’ve had to fight to get treated, and I’m constantly having to say “but if you read this and go here, research and experts agree that….”. I feel lost in a system that I’m constantly told is for me to use and that I should trust. But the bureaucracy I face with nearly every interaction chips away at that trust. I have no confidence in my mental health care these days, in the professionals assigned to my care. And yet, at my appointment last week, I sat in front of her desk and allowed myself to become undone. Completely and unapologetically. I unloaded nearly 24 months of thoughts and stress right there in her office in 20 minutes while my smiling baby squirmed and cooed in my arms. She listened to every word. Asked some questions that dug a little deeper. Apologized for all the trouble with the system I’ve had and for not really hearing me 6 weeks ago when I told her my anxiety was becoming a problem. She admitted that lack of knowledge about medications while breastfeeding restricted her ability to really give me what I was needing. We decided now that I’m no longer pregnant and breastfeeding we could get more aggressive with my meds again-go back to finding a more therapeutic dose. So over the next two months I’ll be doing that-going up on lamictal and prozac and trying out an additional med for anxiety. I started the increase yesterday. I’m hoping by the end of the week my brain and mood will start to grab ahold and adjust accordingly.
I’ve struggled today to pick everything back up and keep walking. To push past and through. To square my shoulders and lift my chin. To turn a deaf ear to the tape playing in my head that has all kinds of lies and frenzied talk on a loop.
But I’m doing it-picking up and pushing. I’m moving forward. Slowly. The sun is shining outside despite the cold front that’s moved through. I’m working my way out into the sun, breathing in deep as I go.
This gallery contains 10 photos.
Hello, dear readers of Butterfly Confessions. Lauren of My Postpartum Voice here. I’ve recruited some of Addye’s friends to write posts for her blog while Addye babymoons with hear new little one. This letter is the first guest post and it’s written by the fabulous Susan of Learned Happiness. If you’d like to submit a guest post to be published while Addye is babymooning, email me at mypostpartumvoice (@) gmail with “For Butterfly Confessions” in the subject line!
Without further ado, I present Susan’s lovely words for Addye…..
My Dear Addye,
You and I have been friends for 3 years, now. And in that time, I have watched you transform into a wholehearted woman. You took chances with your life and made huge leaps of faith – faith in yourself more than any one person. You have learned to be honest with yourself about who you are and who you want to be. Your integrity has been hard-fought and is well-deserved. You honor me with your friendship.
You said when you married Bert and took his name that it was the beginning of a new life – one written by you and you alone. One that speaks to all you hold sacred and points to a fulfilling life with your family. And this baby? Is a part of that new life. I can see it in your eyes – in the way you look at him and hold him. I have experienced the hope brought by a new baby birthed in joy and a sense of calm. It renews the spirit. And I couldn’t have wished a better birth experience for you.
Remember that no matter how good your birth (or how much you love that amazing tiny man), having a newborn is a special kind of torture. The nights are long and the days are even longer. And no matter how happy you are, it’s okay to be exhausted. It’s okay to be emotional. And it’s okay to still need help. This is not a test of your spirit. You are not being graded on how gracefully you weather the fourth trimester. There will be beautiful moments and there will be unbearable ones. And your tribe? Will be standing beside you for both.
I hope with all of my heart that the darkness you fear is blotted out by your joy. But if it’s not, if it all becomes too much, you are armed and you are never alone.
With all my love,
I woke up at 5:24 this morning and stumble-waddled my way through the dark for yet another trip to the bathroom.
I sat there, on the throne, looking at myself in the bathroom mirror through vision hazy from sleep, and whispered out loud, “It’s almost over.”
As soon as the words left my lips and drifted off into space, a mix of varied emotions weaved their way up from my toes to my belly where my hands were interlaced. My fingers tensed as each emotion swept through and around me, each one squeezing tightly and then releasing me much like the contractions I’ve been having the past six weeks.
So many contractions. 2 trips to L&D. Body pumped full of medications to stop them but they’ve refused to surrender. They are tenacious and stubborn, insistent on being present. Stronger and more frequent than Braxton Hicks, but not productive enough to fully initiate labor. They last for hours, pulsing and squeezing, tightening and releasing me sometimes one to two minutes apart, at others three to five, and at their slowest every twenty to thirty. They are overwhelming and tiring at their most frequent intervals and annoying at their slowest.
They are altogether frustrating, and their constant presence since week thirty have taken a toll on my psyche. At times they are all I can think about, my nerves on edge, trying to decide if I should call the nurse line and go in or just ride them out. Confusion and doubt often set in, intermingling with the pain, setting my OCD senses tingling and on high alert. My thoughts often ruminate during the more intense rounds and I often can’t tell if I’m losing my mind, responding mentally and emotionally as any pregnant woman in my situation would, or just being melodramatic & hormonal.
The past two weeks they’ve been accompanied by nausea, cramps, back aches, loose bowels, loss of appetite and a drop in weight-all of your textbook signs of your body preparing for birth & early labor. “Your labor will most likely be very slow in the beginning, much like your last,” said my OB last week. “Which we want, because we want to keep him in just another week or two longer. Your cervix is stubborn, which we need it to be right now. Hang in there. Let’s see what happens-hopefully next week we’ll start to see some big changes!”
So here I am, sitting on the toilet at 5:24am, at 35 weeks and 7 days, staring at the start of week 36 with an aching back and pulsing thighs…nauseated….exhausted yet mind abuzz with energy….body contracting physically and emotionally….forcing myself to whisper words to counteract the anxiety that has separated itself from the emotions pulsing around my belly and wound its way up to my chest, squeezing my heart until it feels as though it will burst from the constriction.
“It’s almost over.”
“Hang in there.”
“Pregnancy is a shitty and invasive force of Nature that always biologically beats my body into submission, but it’s worth the end result.”
The end result being my third child, another boy.
After the anxiety passes my interlaced fingers tighten their hold on my belly and I feel the other emotions that remain creating a sense of heat around my womb, both inside and out.
Yes it’s almost over and there is excitement. There is anticipation. There is a desire for joy to meet me at the end when I peer into his eyes and behold the mystery behind them for the first time; the first glimpse into him, this tiny stranger, an extended combination of my husband and I that has been growing and squirming restlessly within me for nine months. There is hope. There is an eagerness to begin this new season of my life as a mother to him and his brothers, a mother of three. There is a shout wanting to shoot it’s way from my soul and burst forth from my lips in exaltation at what a year it’s been for me, for my husband, for the boys individually, and for our family as a whole. This child, this boy, is the culmination of the new life we set out to build for ourselves back in April of 2012; when my husband and I sat in an IHOP in Philly, allowing restoration to heal our broken relationship. He is the embodiment of our new life as a whole unit, and the cairn directing our steps towards yet another new way forward for our family.
I’ve had each of my children during life altering transitions and significant periods of growth in my life, and timing of this child’s birth will be no different. What he embodies and signifies in my life at this moment are special to me, just like his brothers. Brennan healed my heart from my past, he is my empathy, my reincarnated self given another chance at a peaceful and full childhood, he showed me that I was good, and clean, and capable at motherhood and life. Alex is the one who challenged me in new and painful ways that were unexpected but oh so necessary. His entrance into my life dug itself deep into my core and unearthed in me things I had yet to see, and shone a harsh light on what I need to face and finally deal with. He shifted me as a woman, a mother, a believer…with him I was forced to throw all I thought I knew and carve out a new way of living and thinking. Alex taught me how to take care of myself and make my well-being a priority-a first for me. Alex pushed me out of the stagnant, boxed up life I had been living and out into a world I hadn’t let myself explore. He pushed me up and out of the rubble of the past 29 years and into wholeness-into my real self. I am the woman I am right at this very moment because I gave birth to him.
And here I am with this one. I know what he means to me personally, as a mother, and our life as a family in one sense…but he remains a complete mystery to me in another, which I find exciting and my being twinges with eagerness to learn and explore the world through his eyes as I have through his brothers.
And yet there is also fear of what’s to follow once we make our way back out through the hospital doors, and back to our home where the adjustment and shift of our family dynamic will begin to take shape; permanently rooting itself in our lives, our family.
Will I relapse? Will I catch it before it sucks me in? What if I can’t get appointments or calls in to my therapist and psychiatrist because of how slow and overbooked the VA appointment system is? How will I handle the hard and the overwhelming task of meeting the needs of three children, who are all at very different stages and seasons of life? My husband being unavailable due to work obligations? Fluctuating hormones and fatigue?
And the boys: how will Alex adjust to the change and new presence, both as a three year old, and as a child who struggles with change and disruption of routine on the sensory level? Will his ABA based preschool be enough of an outlet for him? How will Brennan feel, as the oldest? So much of the focus has been on Alex and his therapies these past months, I often wonder if I’ve given him enough attention, and now with a newborn….
There is fear…despite all of the knowledge, support, and awareness I have, despite knowing that I’m at a much different place in life than I was when Alex was born and suffered through that first year…there is a lurking fear that sits and stares me directly in the eyes, making me all the more aware of the reality of my illness and how stress, change, and motherhood trigger it.
So I am here at 5:24 in the early dark of morning, with foggy eyes squinting through the bright bathroom lights at my pregnant self, fingers tightly interlaced across my belly. Body and mind are engulfed in emotions that jar against each other, breathing deeply and staring back at what has been, and into what lies ahead. Feeling new life roll and jab in a space that is becoming too cramped and ready to be birthed. Ready but yet not ready. Craving for it to be over, yet continue on because what’s on the other side is still dark and unseen in a few areas. On the brink yet still stuck in the space and feelings between old and new. Waiting.
I’m going to keep this short and to the point.
No ranting. No giving you my opinion of the GOP or politicians in general. I’m not going to be political about this because there really isn’t a point, and there are millions of others out there saturating the Internets with their opinions, anaylysis, anger, bias, and what have you.
I’m not going to give you politics. Instead I’ll give you something personal and leave you with a plea for tangible, effective action.
When I separated from the USAF in Nov 2006, I was 7 months pregnant with Brennan, who you know is my oldest, my boy genius. Having been a military cop in service, all of the jobs I had applied to in early 2006 in preparation of my discharge were security or law enforcement related: Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police Department, and positions at various security firms in the Maryland, DC, and Virginia. My plan was to go to college and work full-time, doing bartending and security until I graduated w/a degree in Communications & Journalism.
I had to terminate my applications and job search in June 2006 when I found out I was expecting. I started trying to scramble to come up with a back up plan when Brennan’s father refused to “be a part of something he didn’t agree with” because I refused to get the abortion he wanted. He shut me out completely, as did many members of my squadron, so while I had a few friends remain by my side I was basically alone to fend for myself. Going back home to my mom & stepdad’s in NJ wasn’t an option either. So I scrambled, tried some things that didn’t work out, some smart, some completely stupid (ie an engagement to a complete idiot I shouldn’t have trusted) and upon discharge I was practically homeless, staying with friends but not having anything permanent in place for when I had Brennan.
Finding a job at 7 months pregnant was impossible in the civilian sector. I was too far along. No one was going to hire me only to see me go on maternity leave 2 months later-I was told as much during interview after interview, phone call after phone call.
After serving 4 1/2 years, I was entitled to unemployment for at least 9 months, but once it was discovered that I was pregnant I was denied because it meant I couldn’t really look for work, which was a requirement. I had to appeal and it took exactly 71 days before the decision was reversed and I was afforded $592/month. My first check came 2 days after I had Brennan- February 24, 2007. I didn’t even have a bank account anymore and had to cash it at a check cashing place.
During those 71 days, those last months of pregnancy, I had no money. NONE. My friends did what they could to help. I also had no prenatal care. My disability and compensation claim with the VA had just been filed and wouldn’t be processed until March of 2008, so I had no way of even getting healthcare services through that system, and at the time, they didn’t cover prenatal care anyway from what I had been told. I applied to medicaid and for other social services, but the application and approval process took nearly 60 days, despite my being in what they considered an “emergency” situation. The only application that processed fairly quickly was my WIC application.
I had no health care. No money. No job. Barely had a place to stay-a friend’s couch. But I had WIC. My WIC experience had some negatives to it, which I’ll discuss at another time, but I can tell you right now, were it not for WIC I wouldn’t have had anything to eat during those months right before Brennan arrived.
Thanks to the WIC program I could use vouchers to buy bread, milk, eggs, peanut butter, cereal, juice, beans, and fruit from the one farmer’s market in Prince George’s county, Maryland that I could take the bus too. (I had a car, but didn’t drive much, because gas=money I didn’t have)
That was the ONLY food I ate. If I found a dollar in change, which happened I think 2 or 3 times, I splurged and bought a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s off the dollar menu. Twice, a friend took me to grab a bite to eat, but that was it. My WIC vouchers were how I ate the one (small) meal I had every one of those 71 days I waited for an appeal on my unemployment case. Yes, I had ONE meal a day. At 8 and 9 months pregnant. That was it. The fact that Brennan was and is healthy is pretty much a miracle if you ask me.
WIC is considered “non essential” during a government shutdown, meaning applications aren’t processed, case managers don’t work, families can’t stop by WIC offices to pick up their monthly vouchers for formula, milk, and food. Any breastfeeding support a woman is receiving via her WIC office stops. Families who rely on WIC to help them purchase specialized and expensive formula to feed their infants with health problems? Same thing. Do you know how many school aged children rely on WIC for breakfast? With SNAP benefits being decimated last week, imagine being a parent already struggling to put food on the table and now facing the reality that two very crucial resources you depend on have been gambled away, gutted, halted.
Whatever your political leanings are I urge and beg you to flood your food banks and organizations that partner with WIC offices with donations of food, baby formula, and baby food. Diapers even. Grocery store gift cards. A monetary donation, which help food banks even more sometimes than donations of physical goods. Whatever you can. Hunger is a real problem in this country and we need to take it more seriously than we do.
Politicians can play their games, claim victories for their childish and stubborn agendas, and we can’t do shit about it but gnash our teeth, word vomit our frustrations, theories, and opinions on social networks, and vote…two years from now. That’s it. This shutdown is out of our hands, our control, and beyond anything that WE the people can tangibly do to fix….BUT we can do what Congress isn’t right now and serve ourselves, serve each other. WE can be for the people and by the people. We CAN do something, have some control in this situation-and that’s by ensuring our neighbor, our coworker’s kid, our elderly, our servicemembers, our disabled, OUR people, are fed.
We can do that….can’t we?
WIC saved me and mine during a very horrifying and unsettling time in my life. Help me do for others what it did for me. Donate to an organization or food bank. Please.
Now what? What do we do now? Where do we turn? Who do we turn to, except each other to grieve and travail as despair and fear grip our souls mamas?
What do we do women of color? Jim Crow’s ghost is laughing at us, reminding us yet again that it is a crime for our men to even exist, reminding us yet again that ever since they were first chained to ships bound for these shores, our men are not worthy of life and freedom.
Black & brown manhood has once again been demonized, criminalized, and deemed a threat to humanity, and allowed to be stalked and hunted like prey by predators blinded by fear, insecurity and delusion.
Profiled in broad daylight.
Hunted in the dark.
Killed by them and by each other. Every. Day. By the hundreds.
What do we do now? What do we tell our babies? How do we raise our sons? How do we dress them? Where can we send them to keep them safe from urban violence and from the suburban neighborhood watchman with a gun?
What is enough? Education? Income? Manners? No…seems like it was for awhile but that got ripped from us tonight. Again.
How do we change the system if we can’t become it because they’re closing our schools and putting our men in prison? How do we fight systemic legal and cultural oppression?
When will our voice be heard? How much longer do we have to go on killing ourselves everyday? How many more of our futures must be killed and destroyed by violence? By systemic and cultural oppression?
When will our anger be deemed righteous and worthy enough to receive and initiate effective change for ourselves and our men? Our baby boys?
Not guilty. What do we DO now? Except hold our sons and feel the crushing weight of guilt for bringing them into a world & society that doesn’t value their personhood shatter our hearts?
I am a wailing woman tonight. A woman travailing in despair for the lives of brown boys and brown men in this country. For my sons. For my husband. For my brother. For your men, your sons.
What do we do? What do we tell them to encourage them to be who they are when who they are is on trial every day? Misunderstood, demonized, criticized, devalued, and dehumanized on a daily basis?
What do we do besides hold our babies tonight and feel hopeless and terrified to send them out into the world and see pain and maybe death too soon in their future?
How do we fight? Where do we fight? WHO do we fight? When will our fight for them and their fight for themselves matter?
When will brown men and brown people matter in this country? We haven’t since Columbus set foot on this continent. We have been fighting genocide and for our existence for that long. When will the fight for survival end?
A brown man can be sent to jail for fighting and killing dogs. But if he fights for his life after he’s stalked and confronted? He goes on trial for his own death and his killer is handed the gun that ended his life as he goes home. Free.
What do we do?