Tag Archives: postpartum anxiety and depression

In Which My Blog BFF Learns I Am NOT a 47 Year Old, Male, Serial Killer (and Other Neat Surprises)


Jen confessed she had been anxious to meet me.  And that her family had been anxious about her meeting me too.

In truth, I was a little anxious also.  And not just because I’m almost always anxious about everything (some people think it’s charming, I swear), but also because I’ve never met anyone from the blogosphere in real life before.

She had suggested a place on the water in the southern part of our state for us to meet for coffee or tea or coconut water, which was eventually what I chose because I’d been drinking green tea all day and was extra jittery.  It was a great choice and not just because it was super convenient for me to hop over to after having my annual physical, but also because it was beautiful, sunny, and breezy.

I got there first and scarfed down a pesto, turkey wrap.  I had purposely starved myself all day because of the annual exam, and not wanting to weigh even a half pound extra.  Because I’m crazy like that.  (Note to self:  Work a little harder on that self acceptance shit and eat a sandwich).

When Jen arrived, we did the nervous peeking at each other, and then embraced warmly like long lost friends.  I prayed to the heavens and muses that I did not have pesto in my teeth because I had planned on doing a lot of smiling.

And pesto or no, a lot of smiling I did.

I think Jen, from the amazing blog Chopping Potatoes, was immediately put at east to see I was, in fact, merely a plump 41 year old mommy blogger, and not the 47 year old, male ax murderer her family and anxiety had maybe suggested I was.

But just in case there was even a shred of doubt left in her adorable, curly head, I pointed out that male serial killers don’t usually spend quit as much time as I do writing about breastfeeding.

Or maybe they do. I don’t know.

Either way, we had a good laugh.

Then we set about trying to remember when exactly we “met” each other online.  She started her blog in January of 2012 and I started mine only seven months later in July of 2012.

One of the greatest things I’ve found in blogging is a sense of community as moms, that even as quirky moms with “issues” we are not alone.  Jen’s blog does this in a way that is graceful, articulate, warm, and well researched (wink-wink, Jen!) as she writes about perinatal anxiety and depression, maternal mental health in general, and all the other nuts and bolts of mommy blogdom.

We shared about our families and I even showed her photos of my children, which for privacy reasons I never share on my blog.  It was a leap of faith that just felt right.

Jen and I discovered that we have led oddly parallel lives for decades, since we were small.  We actually grew up within minutes and miles of one another, then lived in the same neighborhood for a time as adults–  how awesome is that?!  We went to the same college, and may have even passed one another in the dining hall at one point or another.

We talked about this era we are living in of “highlight reels” on social media, and how it can make us feel so envious and strange and pressured.  When we talked about children and behavior (and our reactions as moms to our children’s behavior), I felt kinship, but also relief that I am not the only mom out there who has primal, monkey children in the car or Target.

We were able to share in our sense of “Is life really this hard?” and talk about what it is like to live with anxiety while striving to do our Type A best as moms.

We talked about our blogs, of course, and shared the stories behind birthing them, how and when and why we post, and where we find inspiration.  It tried, albeit ineptly, to explain why I am an in-the-closet blogger to my family and most of my friends.  And she shared about her writer’s group.

We were also able to relate deeply to one another on the subject of maternal depression and anxiety, which is a special thing over which to bond with someone.  Not everyone understands the shame, guilt, and despair that goes along with maternal depression.  But when you meet someone who has been there, and gets it, it just feels like arms are opened and the universe winks and says, “It’s okay.  I got you.”

Plus, it’s not every day you can engage in a conversation with someone about intrusive thoughts and turn it into a bantering competition about who has the weirder thoughts that plague them.  And laugh about it.

The universe does indeed work in funky ways.  Which is awesome.  I felt perfectly at home next to Jen, and was my regular, neurotic self, which was a relief.  And that is how I know a person is a true friend–  when I am totally at ease saying whatever thing comes out of my lips.

Jen brought me a lollipop from a Warrior Mom conference she’d been to earlier this summer.  She had invited me to go, and as much as I would have loved to, I had to work.  But she brought me back a little treat and saved it for me for weeks until we were finally able to meet up.

It was worth the wait.

Someone gave me a picture frame once that said, “A friend is a gift you give yourself.”  That’s exactly how I felt after meeting up with Jen.

Jen, thank you for all you are doing to normalize and empathize with women who struggle with stuff.  You are amazing and I’m so honored to be your neighbor and your friend.  Until we meet again. . .

About the Time I Tried To Sell My Newborn On the Internet, Or, Postpartum Depression

Jack's few-day-old feet

Jack’s few-day-old feet

I’ve ruined my life.

The thought thundered, endless as the tide, in my ears.

I’ve ruined my life.  I don’t know how to do this.  I just want this creature to go away.  

I was a week into my new existence as a new mom.  What was supposed to be the most precious time, full of adoration and cuddling a darling new baby, was turning out to be the darkest time of my life.

Upon birthing a tiny human, everything was suddenly different.  Routines in which I’d been comfortable for decades were altered by the nonstop needs of my son.  I couldn’t find time to brush my teeth or drink a cup of tea.  Being out of work and home alone with a baby felt isolating and scary.  I missed being alone with my husband.  I hadn’t slept in days, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to balance my checkbook.

I sat, at our dining room table, trying to make sense of the numbers in front of me– a chore I’d done hundreds of times in my adult life.  I knew the shapes in front of me were numbers, but there were black holes in my brain where I was supposed to know what to do with them.

In desperation, I looked up as my husband appeared in front of me with Jack in his arms.

“We have to sell the baby!”  I cried.  “I can’t make these numbers make sense.  We’ll never be able to afford life.  Do you think we can sell the baby?”

It is a fortunate thing I married a level-headed individual.  “We don’t have to sell the baby,” he said calmly.

My eyes were bleary from not sleeping as I looked at him.  He swayed with our son in his arms.  Why was Jack so peaceful with him?  I felt clueless when it came to comforting him.

Nursing was excruciating, not at all the tender and nurturing experience I fantasized about while pregnant.

In fact, nothing about motherhood was what I expected.

My pregnancy with Jack had been idyllic.  I had never been happier or more emotionally balanced.  I slept great and was barely uncomfortable, even at full-term.  In all honesty, I could have stayed pregnant with Jack forever, it was so awesome.

But now he was on the outside, and I felt devastated.

His cry sent me into tailspins of panic the likes of which I’d never known.  Somehow, my husband had the patience to rock and coo at our son in ways that calmed him, but instead of reassuring me that it was possible for us to have a content baby, it infuriated me.

It was like the two of them were conspiring to make me see what a failure I was as a mom.

“It must be nice being the fucking father of the year!” I sobbed, enraged that my husband was already a better parent than me.

It is another very fortunate thing I married someone who didn’t take this sleep-deprived insanity personally.

And we were so very sleep-deprived.  We hadn’t slept more than 45 consecutive minutes since my water broke at one a.m. and a 22 hour labor and birth ensued.  I was totally prepared to follow the advice of “sleep while the baby sleeps,” but Jack did not sleep for more than an hour at a time, and it was shocking how much he wanted to nurse.  My nipples were inflamed and raw.  This pain plus sleep-deprivation equaled the revulsion I felt towards this tiny being who never ceased caterwauling.

I felt a despair at being a new mom and it was shameful.  Fury grew as I internalized it.

I never wanted to hurt my baby.  Never.  I did adore him.  I thought he was the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen.  But sometimes when I couldn’t get him to stop crying, I just kind of wanted to open up the window and quietly slip him out.

I felt like the shittiest person in the world for feeling these awful feelings, hence my desire of looking into selling Jack on the internet, which at the time seemed like a totally plausible epiphany.

Postpartum depression is a complex combination of factors.  As a social worker, I could give you a bunch of clinical jargon and criteria.  But I’d rather talk to you as a mom who has been the fuck through it.

For me, a hormonal roller coaster met my history of anxiety and depression, acute sleep-deprivation, and the result was a sense of epic failure.  Though I have no evidence to back it up, I also believe having pain meds during my labor complicated my recovery and was an impediment to successful initiation of breastfeeding.  The poor breastfeeding relationship fed insecurity, and deepened my sense of failure.

Motherhood seemed a trap in which I had ensnared myself and my husband.

Nothing prepared me for motherhood.  I had worked with children for over 15 years, but nothing prepared me for the exhausting onslaught of new responsibilities.  Jack was what you would call a “high-needs” baby.  He wanted constant holding, needed lots of soothing, and was incredibly alert.  Meeting the needs of this kid while still recovering from birthing him was intense.

I really can’t over-state how fucking miserable sleep-deprivation is.  I’m not talking about pulling an all nighter, staying out partying until 3 a.m., or having an occasional bout of insomnia.  I’m talking about not sleeping for days and nights on end, to the point where your nerves are so frazzled if you actually got a couple hours in which to sleep you would be too anxious to even put your head down.

Sleep-deprivation has been used as a form of torture, and I learned first hand why it is so effective.

It was like I could hear Jack crying, even when he wasn’t, and it would startle me out of my skin, flood me with anxiety.  I’m sure this hyper-nervous state also did nothing to help my milk supply, which in turn frustrated my ever-hungry baby.

Two weeks after Jack was born, my husband had to return to work.  He had really been holding me up through this disaster we were calling- air quote- parenthood, and I dreaded him leaving us, even for a few hours.

I paced around the house and refused to hold Jack.  It pains the deepest core in me to admit this, but I wouldn’t even look at my beautiful, new boy that morning.  I wouldn’t nurse him.  As luck would have it (not) I had burned off half my areola in an unfortunate attempt at using my breast pump, so I had no pumped milk for the critter.  My husband had to mix and give him a bottle of formula.  Jack guzzled it down in breathtaking cooperation, but I sank deeper into the abyss of self-hatred.

I want to note this intense refusal to parent my son lasted a few hours at most, but it was awful.  I still feel guilty when I remember turning away from Jack to lie on the couch, my breasts engorged and soaking the front of my tee shirt.

Jack was never alone, my husband or other family held him, and I know that connection to other humans was really important.  I can’t help but think of other women who don’t have this kind of support network, who suffer without help, and who’s babies claim the unfortunate side effects of maternal depression.

Jack and I were lucky.

Of course my husband could not leave us like that.  Something had to be done, so he basically shoved me into an intensive therapy program where I went, with Jack, every day for two weeks.  It was almost immediately helpful.

There was a poster on the wall that said something like, “It isn’t always about stopping your baby’s crying, but learning to tolerate it.”  Seeing that poster was an “ah-ha!” moment for me.  I slowly learned to stop taking it so personally when Jack was crying, as long as I was attending to his needs and he was safe, warm, fed, and in dry clothes.

I saw a psychiatrist and was started on a very low dose of an SSRI, considered safe and compatible with breastfeeding.  Jack and I were evaluated by a competent lactation consultant who diagnosed a tongue tie in him and mastitis in me.  Once we got these issues treated, we were on track with our nursing, and my self esteem soared each time I put him to my breast without pain.

I participated in group therapy with other women and their newborns and learned I was far from the only woman experiencing this crazy confusion.

I also learned it didn’t make any of us bad mothers.

Medication and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy went a long way, but another thing that really helped was learning to sleep in shifts with my husband.  We altered our schedules so I would go to bed each night from seven to midnight.  If Jack needed to be fed during this time, my husband would give him a bottle, which allowed me to get at least a five hour chunk of sleep.  Then he would bring Jack to me and I would nurse him whenever he woke for the rest of the night.  This allowed my husband to get a chunk of sleep before he had to get up and go to work the next day.

It was amazing what a few hours of sleep did for all of us.  Within a month of Jack’s birth, we had gotten into a routine that was not altogether convenient, but did work.  I continued to attend weekly therapy, which helped me keep my thoughts in check, and also helped me feel supported and connected.

A couple other things were really helpful for my growth as a new mom.  At the suggestion of my best friend, who’s daughter was three months old at the time, we signed up together for a baby yoga class.  It was a fun way to interact with our babies, and was great for getting us out of the house and among other new moms.

I also took Jack to an infant massage class, and learned some new ways of bonding with him.  Since it turned out Jack had reflux and was a bit colicky, massage was a great way of comforting him when he was uncomfortable, and proved to me that I could meet the needs of my child.

In this process of childbirth, postpartum depression, treatment and recovery, I learned many women share a similar experience.  My depressed brain drowned me in the belief that I was the only shitty person who had ever thought she’d ruined her life and would never learn how to be a good mom.  The truth is, none of us are shitty, and many of us struggle.  It isn’t an easy world in which to be a mom, what with all the constant judgement, scrutiny, and pressure to balance everything and look sleek and sultry doing it.

And experiencing postpartum depression does not mean we stop loving our babies or love them less for even one second.

The good news is we are getting better at recognizing and treating postpartum depression and anxiety.  The bad news is there are still tons of women who struggle and feel too stigmatized by cultural notions of mental illness or ideas of what makes a “good” mom.

In retrospect, I could be pissed with the nurses who breezed in and out of my hospital room while I sobbed with newborn Jack in my arms as depression stole my soul mere hours after his birth.  Or I could hold a grudge with the crappy lactation consult who gave me about four seconds of her time and didn’t recognize Jack’s tongue tie.

I could berate our shitty system of managed care that has women pop out babies and then tosses them out of the hospital in a remarkably short time span.

And I could rant about how in this country, it is a crime against the human family that women are pushed back into the work force to support their families merely weeks after giving birth, when nursing relationships are barely established.

I could grieve those first few days I “lost” with Jack.

But I’m not going to go there.  Not today.

Instead, I’d like to focus on the small victory of all those who championed me through that dark chapter of my life.  I’d like to celebrate all I learned about myself, motherhood, and the strength of my family at this time, and the fact I birthed another baby and did not have even the slightest twinge of PPD with her.

I’d like to share this story in hopes that it might light someone else’s way.

Finally, I’d like to pat myself on the back for not selling my baby on the internet, tempting as the idea seemed at the time.

There’s hope.  Don’t be ashamed.  Get help.  Know you can and will do it because there is nothing in the universe quite as strong as a mother.  And please don’t sell your baby.

It does get better.  We have not ruined our lives.

I’d love to hear from you. . .  Have you experienced PPD?  How did it affect you and your family?  What did you learn?  What was helpful?  What advice would you give a new mom who is depressed?

If you or someone you love are struggling with emotional issues beyond the “baby blues,” please talk to your doctor today and learn what is available in your area for help and support.  

The Mean Time– How Depression Looks As A Mom


I’m clinically depressed.  20140118-082848.jpg

The thought comes and goes like a wave, reaching in to the shore of my consciousness, then receding.

Here’s the deal.  I’m a child and family therapist, so I know all the signs and symptoms.  Irritability and a very short fuse with those around me.  Anhedonia, or lack of interest in the things I normally love, like blogging, talking to friends, or spending time with my family.

Change in sleep.  I want to sleep all the time, but when I am in bed my rest is not restful.  Change in appetite.  I want to eat all the time, but everything that passes my lips tastes annoyingly like sandpaper.

Worries about everyday things like finances and the behavior of my children take on new, sinister shapes like monsters in a dark room.  My thoughts become obsessive, intrusive, and disturbing.

I withdraw from people then feel awful loneliness.  I lack energy to tend to the things that need tending to like the dishes or clogged tub.

I have no emotional fortitude.  A tissue gets into the laundry and the world fucking falls apart.

I feel agonizing hopelessness things will ever be any better.

And then the thoughts:  You suck.  You’ll never be any good at anything.  You are a horrible mom and you screwed up your children.  There is nothing that will make you feel good.  You ruined your life by becoming a social worker.  You ruined your life by becoming a mother.  It will never end.  They would all be better off without you.  

Of course I know that like every other feeling, depression is just that- a feeling.  And feelings by nature are temporary, changeable.  I won’t feel this way forever, but in the mean time (and it is very mean, cantankerous, angry time), it sucks pretty bad.

I know a lot about depression and anxiety, not just because of my profession, but also because I have struggled with it on and off for the better part of my life.  I had severe postpartum depression after my first child was born, received excellent treatment and have basically been in remission for the past five years.  One thing I can tell you–  mood and anxiety issues blow, but they blow even harder for me as a mom.

Studies show that one in three moms struggle with depression, and as many as two in three working moms struggle with mood issues.  OK, who am I fooling?  I totally made up those stats.  I’m way too depressed to do research for my blog, but it sounded good, and it sounds accurate based on anecdotal data I collected.

As a mom, and a working mom no less, the pace of my life is relentless.  I take care of anywhere between seven to nine clients during my work day and have a short commute home to take care of the little people who need me here.  I don’t get a break until they are in bed and I can collapse on the couch for an hour or two before passing out myself.

Before marriage and children, I could take to my bed on weekends to rest and restore for an entire day if I wanted.  I could go for a long ride by myself to the ocean, music blaring, to get a change of scenery and sense of perspective.  I could go out drinking and dancing to reconnect with my vitality.  Now, there is no break.  Sure, my husband and I take the slack for one another here and there, but in general it just never stops.

A friend and I recently chatted about this and she said, “without kids you don’t really notice it as much. . .  but we are stretched so thin as it is, and the mental health stuff doesn’t have as much room to just be and causes more issues. I was fine being depressed when I wasn’t a mom. I mean, not fine…but like I managed.”  And that for me encapsulates why being depressed and anxious as a mom feels 40 gazillion times worse than when I was just a self-indulgent single lass.

It isn’t just me anymore.  My mood and behavior have a direct impact on my children.

While I’m not actively suicidal or homicidal, I fantasize about being on a desert island because I just can’t handle it around the reality corral.

And that’s probably the scariest, worst thought- that I just can’t take care of everyone for whom I need to care, and I’m probably screwing them up by not being as available emotionally, or by having intrusive images of them being eaten by bears because my obsessive/compulsive anxiety is also off the charts.

Things light up my day like my son singing along to a song on the radio in the car, or my daughter wearing sunglasses and eating a yellow lollipop.  But the moments are fleeting.  Elusive.

It’s a very lonely place to be.  My husband doesn’t “get it”.  He thinks I’m being histrionic when I rage about the millions of legos left out all over the house because one of the acute symptoms of my depression is a nearly obsessive/compulsive need for order.  Maybe he’s right.  Or maybe he’s depressed too.  Either way, he doesn’t get it.  Other than him, I have no family I can reliably turn to (Jesus Christ they all have their own issues yes they do where do you think I got it from in the first place), and the feeling of my lips making words to describe this shit to my friends sickens me.

So, I fake it.

I smile and accomodate coworkers.  I treat my clients like they are the center of my universe for 50 minutes each.  I titter and giggle with friends.  I place plates of sliced up fruit and glasses of milk in front of my children.

I fake it until something insidious slips out.  I fucking hate everyone and everything.  Oops, did I really just say that?  Hahah.  Then I get anxious and clumsy.  Drop things.  Swear.  Watch my hands fly up into the sky in front of my face like frightened birds.  I give up!  I’m done!  

Not to put words in your mouth, but you’re probably shaking your head and thinking, damn girl, get a grip.  Yet another post about your feelings and depression?  Why don’t you get yourself some help?  Maybe get on some medication?  

You make good points.  So, I’m considering the medication, much as I hate to.  I know it would help because I’ve been there before.  I also know it will make me gain weight.  But the chemicals would tighten things up in my head, tone down the negativity so I can make lunch for my daughter without feeling the scary need to get down on all fours and start scrubbing the grout in the bathroom with a nail brush.

As far as counseling goes. . .  well, it would maybe be palliative and supportive, but my insurance has a really high deductible and copays for MH treatment are exorbitant, and I kind of need to spend the money I have on groceries and gas.  Plus, when would I ever go?  This money/scheduling dilemma is just another facet of the complexity of depression as a mom.  If I did have the time and money for counseling, I would probably take a yoga or dance class instead.

It is a crystal clear winter day with copious sun.  The skeletal trees are reaching up to tickle the bluest sky.  My daughter is napping and I’m sitting on the couch, writing this.

I’m clinically depressed.  

The thought and its accompanying label almost bring me a sense of peace, like maybe I could make friends with it.  Maybe I could get really close, really fast to it, and do everything with it, and write about it, and think about it and call it up a hundred times a day.

Until we are sick of one another.

The Crappiest Attachment Parent On The Block



There are moments when I think I have this parenting gig down.  Moments when my children are happy, cooperative, and participating in some life enriching activity.  Moments when I have infinite patience, compassion, and energy.

Those moments are few and far between.

More often than not, I look around the maelstrom that is my life and think, “Holy crap.  What is going on here?”  I am struck with the urge to scrap everything and start from scratch with some new parenting philosophy that will make my life, and more importantly the lives of my children, better, happier, more fulfilling.

During my idyllic pregnancy with my first child, Jack, I made the requisite list of all the things I would and would not do as the “perfect parent.”   My child would only consume breast milk.  I would never yell or belittle my child.  I would encourage his independence while remaining totally grounded at all times.  I was destined to be the poster mom.

I was particularly attracted to Attachment Parenting.  According to Attachment Parenting guru Dr. Sears, Attachment Parenting  (AP for those of us in the know), “is a style of caring for your infant that brings out the best in the baby and the best in the parents. . .   implies first opening your mind and heart to the individual needs of your baby, and eventually you will develop the wisdom on how to make on-the-spot decisions on what works best for both you and your baby,” (www.askdrsears.com).

Proponents of AP promote baby wearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, and spending lots of quality time with your kid.

The poster mom for AP does NOT want to leave her newborn on the steps of the church across the street from her home, which is exactly what I wanted for much of the first month of my son’s life.

Huh?  What went wrong?  I was totally confused.  Why wasn’t I rocking this party?

I got really depressed.  Hormones and sleep deprivation contributed to a case of postpartum depression, complicated by telling myself how much I sucked at being a mom.  I wasn’t feeling the right feelings or doing the right things.

With support from my family, I got through this phase, and proceeded to form a strong, loving bond with my son.  But I was deeply humbled by how profoundly difficult it was to be a new mom, and to NOT be the mom I had dreamed of being.

Flash forward six years.  I have yelled.  I have belittled.  I have questioned and raged and done all of the things I swore I would never do as a mom, but I have done them to myself more than I have ever done them to my children.

Some days I beat my mother-self from the moment I get up until the moment I go to bed.

A while back, I wrote a post entitled, “Screw You Attachment Parenting, I Just Want My Kid To Do What I Say.”  I did not press the publish button on that post for fear of being thrown out of the Mommy-Blog Community on my ample ass.  But what I felt when I wrote that post is relevant here.  I was feeling confusion and despair over my failure to manage my strong-willed six year old.  I felt failure to juggle my home, family, and career.  I did all the AP stuff, so why was my kid still angry and aggressive?  Why was I not feeling more satisfaction with my parenting and my relationship with my children?  Where had I failed?

Sure, there are many times I could share which illuminate how I was NOT  the model AP.  Times where I shouted.  Times where I threatened to cancel Christmas.  Times when I had to sit on my hands to keep from using them to swat at a surly child.  But I’m not sure those times are exactly what makes me a crappy AP.

One morning, while packing my son’s lunch, I realized I only had one piece of fresh fruit in his lunch box.  I usually like for him to have at least two offerings of unprocessed, fresh food in his lunch box to balance his sandwich, cookies, and juice box.  “If I were a good mom,” I thought, “I would have bought more fruit at the market over the weekend.”

I suddenly became mindful of this refrain, “If I were a good mom. . .  ”  I became aware I am almost always chanting it in my head.  “If I were a good mom. . .”  Sometimes I hum it to the tune of that Fiddler On The Roof song, “If I were a good mom, a yaddadeedadeedayaddadeedadadadeedadum. . .”

I joke.  But I think that statement is at the crux of my confusion and frustration with parenting.  I think that statement is what makes me a crappy Attachment Parent, because it is really hard to have and instill unlimited empathy in another when you are so down on yourself.

I’ve co-slept, breastfed, baby worn, and done all the other wonderful, beautiful, crunchy things that APs do.  And for the most part, I’ve loved doing them.  But since I am human, there have been other times when I kind of wanted to go sit on the steps of the church across the street from my house just to get away from it all.  Hey, at least I don’t want to leave the kids there anymore, right?

As women, aren’t we always trying to live up to some ridiculous expectation for ourselves?  It seems there is a societal message that we have to be super models and super moms.  I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted by it.  These unrealistic expectations do not inspire me or make me want to be awesome.  They make me feel defeated and depressed.

It works like this:  the more psychic space that is filled with self doubt, anger, criticism, and depreciation, the less space I have for being calm, happy, centered, patient, and empathetic–  both with my kids and with myself.

So now, when I catch myself saying, “if I were a good mom,” I re-think that thought by saying, “I AM a good mom.”

I’m coming around to the notion that it is okay to just be me.  I don’t have to be a super model.  I don’t have to be super mom.  I don’t have to be on any poster for any parenting style.  All I have to do is love my kids and try not to screw them up too much.  But I’ll let you in on a little secret:  I’ve already screwed them up, because it is unavoidable.  Even the most skillful AP in the world still screws up her kid just a little.

And that’s okay.

I’ve also learned that for every moment where I was not the ideal parent, when I didn’t listen, tune into my kids’ needs, or open my heart, there is another moment here and now when I can do just that.  It’s never too late to start fresh, although it is not necessary to scrap everything you’ve learned or done along the way.

I am the mother I am, and I am trying to be better all the time.  I may be a neurotic ball of crazy, but there is no one else on this planet who could love my children any more than I do, even if my execution of that love is sometimes sloppy or half assed.

And that just might be the new parenting philosophy that will make my life, and more importantly the lives of my children, better, happier, more fulfilling.

What do you need to forgive yourself for as a parent?  What are the things you say to yourself that bring you down, and how do you bring yourself back up?  How could you be kinder to yourself as a person and a parent?  


Healing Hands


Many moons ago, in one of my many past lives, I was attuned in Reiki.  I took a beginner course and was taught Reiki level one.  For a little while I used it, and then for a long while I didn’t.

Reiki is an ancient Japanese method of healing.  It involves laying hands on self or someone, and transferring healing energy.  There are different chakras where energy can be moved or manipulated to facilitate healing.  My teacher taught that Reiki was “universal love energy.”  I was also taught that once attuned, Reiki never leaves you.

Recently, I decided I was not using all the tools at my disposal to work with my son, Jack, and his behavioral issues.  This week, I started doing a couple new things.  First, I started giving him a relaxing back massage and/or foot rub while he watches TV, or during another down time.  HE LOVES IT!!!   It is also motivating for him (eg.,” if you take your shower, you can have a luxurious foot rub”).

I figured this would have a double whammy of relaxing him while also teaching him the power of loving hands in an attempt to decrease his aggression.  So far, so good.  I am happy to announce that I haven’t been whacked yet this week.  Woot!

But back to Reiki.  Tonight, I put Jack to bed.  This is usually my husband’s realm, but he had a lot of work to do, and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to spend an extra few with the boy.  Jack was a bit riled up from doing Star Wars Mad Libs, which BTW are a sure fire way to get any cranky six year old to bust a gut laughing.

I put my cupped hand on his solar plexus.  It wasn’t long before I felt heat under my palm.  He seemed to like it, so I put my other hand on the top of his head, or crown chakra.

He started to simmer down.  I told him I was giving him “the good energy,” and to be nice and still so he could feel it.  He moved my hand up to his heart chakra.  He squirmed a bit before settling again.  I explained to him what I was doing, and gave him my teacher’s definition for Reiki, that I was giving him universal love energy for healing.

“Can I do Reiki?” he wondered aloud?  I explained to him that when you go to a Reiki class, the teacher draws a sacred and secret symbol on your back with their finger, that Reiki is passed down from generation to generation of teachers from the ancient times.

“Well let me try,” he said.

He sat up in bed and put his hands on my back.  I instantly felt a buzzing heat through my two layers of clothing.  “Wow, Jack,” I said.  “That’s amazing!  You must be a natural!”  He knelt up in the bed, raised his hands over his head like a mad scientist, and declared, “And now we will begin!” before bringing his hands down onto my head.  We stayed like that for a moment, me fighting the urge to laugh at his antics.

“Can you feel it?” He asked.

“Yeah, I sure can!”  I answered.  “I wonder if you learned Reiki in Japan?”

“Stop it, Mama,” he said.  “I was never in Japan.”

“Oh,” I said, my heart sinking a little.  “Well, okay then.”  He laid back down and asked me to give him more Reiki.  He asked if he could go to the class to learn Reiki.  I told him sure.  He asked when I did my class and I told him it was a long time ago, before he was born.  He asked how old I was and I said, “I don’t know.  Maybe 26?”  He growled when he heard this because he didn’t want to wait that long.

“What do you want to do with Reiki?”  I asked.

“I dunno.  Heal myself?”

“From what?”

“Oh, maybe scrapes or bumps and stuff,” he said.  That sounded logical to me.

I was reminded of a time six years ago when Jack was a newborn.  As part of my treatment for post partum depression, I learned to do infant massage.  Jack and I both loved it.  I recall propping him up on pillows after his bath, slathering him with lotion and doing the little routine I’d been taught.  It totally helped me connect and bond with him, but it also helped me to feel confident in my ability to care for and soothe my little boy.

Somedays now, when Jack is especially surly, it is hard to remember him as that little newborn who melted under mama’s loving hands.  Somedays, it can feel like I’ve lost my way in my ability to soothe him.  Today was not one of those days.

We chatted a while longer and I kept my hands on his head and heart.   He experimented with putting my hand on his ear to try and “hear” the energy, but sadly that was not to be.

A while later I left his room feeling hopeful and happy.  He was content in his bed.  I remembered my Reiki instructor telling me that “When you give a treatment, you get a treatment.”  Sure enough.

What tricks have you tried to soothe your little one’s savage soul?  

Mama’s Here


This morning I read a really sweet post over at SmileCalm called 5 powerful mantras of love.  This post lists some of the mantras of Buddhist poet and monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.

Although I’ve not read a ton of his work, I find the words of Thich Nhat Hanh to be so gentle, soothing, and universally true.  Check out SmileCalm’s full post (link above) for all five mantras and a little explanation of each.

The mantra which resonated for me the most today was the first:  “I’m here for you.”

When I read these words this morning, I felt instantly grounded and comforted.

I thought back to a time when Jack was newborn.  Adjusting to life with a baby was a surprising and humbling challenge for me.  My pregnancy with Jack had been a dream, and we were so excited to welcome him into our home.  I was enthralled with the idea of having a son, a beautiful boy-baby, since all the other babies born to siblings on both sides of our families had been female.

When Jack came home to live with us as a part of our family, my dream became a nightmare.  I had postpartum anxiety and depression and rapidly became dangerously sleep-deprived.

Jack was tongue-tied, and we had a lot of trouble initiating breast feeding which devastated me since my expectation was that nursing would be the most natural thing in the world.

The roller coaster of hormones had me in a state where I was convinced I’d ruined my life by having a baby.

Fortunately, I got help and very quickly started to recover.  My baby and I bonded.  I relaxed enough so we could start getting to know one another.

One night, in the very late or very early hours, I heard Jack crying and got up to retrieve him for a feeding.  As I walked up to his crib, I instinctively started to coo at him, as only a mother can, to ease his crying.

“Mama’s here,” I said.

Uttering those two words were so empowering to me.  I scooped him up, held him close and said again, “Mama’s here.”

It was almost like those two words were a magic spell which transformed me.

Since then, I have said those two words hundreds of times to both my son and my daughter.  After they wake from a nightmare.  When they are sick or injured.  When I walk in the door after a long day apart from them.  Sometimes they are said with love and tenderness, sometimes with fatigue, and sometimes with frustration.

They are words I feel blessed and fortunate to be able to say, words that bring grounding and comfort not just to my children, but to me as well.  When frustration threatens to drive me right out of my own skin, those words remind me to be present and powerful.

I was grateful to SmileCalm for this reminder today.  It might have been just what I needed to read.