January 21, 2010

One Year

Zane turned a year old today.

I had planned a beautiful day of discovery and connection for us. I imagined cuddling and telling him stories from his birth and relating to him how long we waited and prayed for him to be with us and how utterly grateful we are that he has come into our lives. I imagined a peaceful, celebratory day.

Instead, much like his birth - it was all of that, but not at all how I planned it.

He woke up at 5am. An hour early. I sat in his room till 6am quietly "shhh"ing and trying to coax him back to sleep. At 6 we "woke" him with a big birthday song and hugs and kisses. Mr. Spicy brought him into our room and I nursed him and promptly passed out in exhaustion. Mr. Spicy was kind enough to let me sleep for an hour, but that meant I missed the "cake for breakfast" festivities I had so been looking forward to. I came downstairs to find a very happy little boy with cake crumbs all over his pj's. Very sweet.

Then, somehow Mr. Spicy and I managed to work ourselves into a stupid, nasty fight before he left for work and I was more than 30 minutes late getting Zane down for his first nap. Nice.

I had decided to take Zane to the National Western Stock Show in town after his nap, to pet all the exciting farm animals. Zane woke up a little extra clingy so we snuggled in bed for awhile which was delightful, but put us way behind schedule. I rushed us to the show, only to struggle to find parking that wasn't $20, and rushed us inside to see all the bunnies and chickens and horses and sheep and goats and pigs and llamas and donkeys.... oh my! Zane enjoyed the "petting farm" and desperately wanted to hold the bunnies, but we were both toast within 30 minutes. He was overdue for lunch and a nap, and I was way overstimulated.

So we rushed home with his favorite CD turned up loudly for distraction and upon arriving at our house, I locked our keys in the car. After calling Mr. Spicy for rescue, and being rescued by a kind neighbor, I finally got us inside, fed Zane quickly and rushed him upstairs to nap.

He woke up only 30 minutes later, hands in his mouth, complaining of teething pain. So, we snuggled in bed again and soon it was time to head out the door to take our dog to the vet for an urgent appointment.

Two hours later, we were finally leaving the vet with not so good news about our beloved pup. Zane was hungry again and I had a splitting headache. As we drove home I called Mr. Spicy.

"I feel like a total failure as a mom! I can't even manage to have a nice sweet day with my son for his birthday. I really needed this day to be special for both of us and instead it just feels rushed and stressful and it's all my fault!"

After some reassurance from my loving (and forgiving) husband, I made it home. And though I had planned to make a special meal and enjoy a family dinner around the table sharing stories and celebrating together, it was not to be. Instead, we sat on either side of his highchair, feeding him yet more cake, and two of his favorite veggies, watching in amazement as he picked up his spoon, dipped it into his cake, and brought it to his mouth as if he had been doing this all his life! We laughed with him. We told him how much we love him, how much joy he brings us. We talked about his birth.

Over peas and sweet potatoes, we celebrated. We toasted him with goat's milk. And we laughed. We laughed and laughed.

We laughed as we played "peek-a-boo", marching up the stairs to bath.

We laughed as he splashed and brushed his own wet hair in the bath.

We laughed as we prepared for bed and read our stories.

And just before he laid down to sleep we said our prayers and thanked God for this little miraculous boy and we told him once more just how very very happy we are that he is here.

Thank you, Zane for coming to make us a family. Thank you for being so thoroughly, entirely, uniquely "you". We love you so.

Happy Happy Birthday little man.

January 19, 2010

Mothering and Depression

Lately I have been full with thoughts, with words, with emotions. So full I can not seem to find a way to spill them out here, or anywhere else. But afraid if I don't somehow capture this time it will slip away, out of my mind, my heart, my memories. Afraid to forget.

Motherhood is a hard thing for me to write about. It is ripe with contradictions and cliches. Everything I have felt, or feel, is unique and at the same time completely mundane. The experience is mine, and not mine. It is my story, and the story of millions of other mothers who have gone before me, walk beside me, or will come after me. There is nothing new under the sun.

I have never before loved like I have loved my child. I have never willingly suffered as I have this past year. I have never been so full, so whole, and so empty and broken at the same time.

As we approach Zane's first birthday I find myself constantly looking back and looking within. It has been my first year as "Mama". I still feel new at this. I still feel like I am in training. Sometimes I still can't believe it.

I look at Zane and I can still see that newborn, still smell him. I can still see the first time he rolled over, can still hear his first laugh. I still feel that first kiss, the weight of him in the sling when he was so much smaller, his soft fuzzy baby chick hair. It is all still there.

I can also still feel the weight of sleep deprivation, the frustration and anger of waking for the fifth time in a night, the pit of darkness that swallowed me in the worst nights of depression. I remember the thoughts that I was failing as a mother, that my husband and child would be better off without me, that I couldn't take it anymore. It is all still there.

Today, Zane is a toddler (or technically a "crawdler", if you will). He is rich with expression and opinion and independence. He is a delight, he is a challenge. He is my greatest joy.

Today, I am a Mama seasoned by my experiences, my small victories and failures, rich with both insight and questions, and filled with humility.

I have struggled with post-partum depression more often and to a greater depth this year than I have had the strength or courage to admit here, or to many people in my life. There were 3-5 months that felt like I was walking through darkness, feeling my way. There would be patches of light, of hope, and beautiful wonderful moments, whole stretches of days when I would breathe fresh air and feel the sunlight and love my life. But then a few rough nights without sleep, travel, illnesses, or various other disruptions would send me back into the cave.

Looking back, I have a lot of regrets. I miss those months, weeks, days, hours, that ppd took from me. I am sad that although I fought hard to be present and whole with my son, I know I didn't fully experience him in the ways I longed to. I know I missed a lot of moments. I regret that I couldn't or wouldn't be more open with people who love me, or even just here for starters. I am sad that sometimes those who did know weren't always able to be there for me in the ways I needed, or just didn't understand. I regret that I wasn't always able to receive the help from those who did know and understand and wanted to be there for me. I wish that such a large portion of my first year as a mother and Zane's first year of life wasn't tainted by my illness. I wish I didn't still feel like I failed somehow.

All that being said, I have a lot I am grateful for and proud of as well. I am thankful that my partner and I (and a dear friend who watched Zane every week) made it possible and a priority that I had time with a kind and experienced therapist every week, which was truly life-saving for me. I am grateful for the night shifts my partner took so that I could get the sleep that was so crucial to my recovery. I am humbled by the prayers and support of an estranged friend who fought her own long battle with ppd. I am proud that even in the depths of the darkest hours, I fought hard and for the most part was able to stay present with my son, to celebrate him, to comfort him, to play with him, to teach him, to be consistent - and that when I felt unable to do so, I stepped away to recompose myself to come back to him more whole. I cherish that my son is so obviously well-adjusted, secure, and filled with joy and adventure, in spite of my depression.

I know there is no guarantee that my ppd won't resurface. I know for a fact that I still have much work to do to fully heal. But, for now, I am grateful to feel this recent freedom from it. I am looking forward to the year to come. And whatever regrets I have about the year that has passed, I look at my son, and I know I have mothered him well, as well as I am able. I know without a doubt there is nothing I would not do to be a good and healthy mother for him. That is by far the biggest accomplishment of my life thus far. I am reminded that there is far more good in me and a greater capacity to love than I have ever given myself credit for.

Motherhood is a long journey. This was just my first chapter. What a way to start.

January 01, 2010

Small Miracles

Happy New Year!

So much to reflect on, so much to celebrate and acknowledge. In many ways the best and hardest year of my life. I hope to explore this more in the days and weeks to come.

But tonight I just want to share a few moments and mini-miracles from our holidays.

Today I caught my 11 month old son carefully unloading the dishwasher, piece by piece, placing each utensil carefully and directly into the garbage can. A year ago he wasn't even here (at least not on the outside). Now I see this toddler standing before me, wide-eyed and full of adventure. This feels miraculous and wonderful. I truly cannot wait for the moments to come.

Today, during bath time, I noticed my son standing in the tub beginning to poop (again). Without a single thought I quickly reached out and caught it in my hand. My husband and I laughed and he chuckled, "Wow, you really are a mom!"

On Christmas Eve, in bleary-eyed sleep exhausted hopefulness, I mentioned to my husband that perhaps we would receive a Christmas miracle and our son would sleep through the night, finally. He slept a record nine and a half hours straight that night to our complete bewilderment and gratitude.

We have embarked on actively shaping Zane's sleep habits with the intent of helping him to sleep through the night and fall asleep on his own (we are using methods mostly from this book). Not only has he given us nights of ten and a half hours of sleep (new record) and seven hours of sleep (literally unheard of in months!) but tonight, after our bedtime ritual and kissing him good night, I sat in our rocking chair and watched my baby quietly and peacefully fall asleep on his own without a single tear. This feels like a miracle and a place I nearly stopped believing we would ever see. I am so proud of him, and of us.

We are all embarking on a new chapter together. A new year. A new decade. I feel hopeful and blessed.

2010....bring it on!