Thursday, September 24, 2009

pausing to check in

A month? Really? Shit. I didn't realize it had been that long.

I have been going through some stuff lately. It turns out, the joy and wonder of having a baby does nothing to stop the rest of the world from spinning. Imagine that. The only difference is you have 10% as much time and emotional energy to deal with it as you once had.

My close friend that was pregnant had a baby boy about three weeks ago... in 8 hours, start to finish. She had about as fantastic a labor as one can hope for. She was at work when she noticed her mild cramps were starting to fall into a regular rhythm and 8 hours later, she was holding her healthy 9.5 lb. son. No meds, no drama... just a new family of three and a kick-ass birth story.

I talked to her a couple of hours after he was born and I was really and truly happy for her that everything went so perfectly and according to her plan. (I don't have to go all out explaining this, right? 'Cause you all get how you can be genuinely happy for someone else and genuinely sad for yourself at the same time and neither diminishes the other?) She was so sensitive to my feelings, she even said during that very call that she hoped her experience wasn't making me feel bad about my own. (Who is capable of that level of insight and compassion so soon after their own life-altering event?!) I told her it wasn't and that I was too excited for her to feel anything else, but the truth is that her story set off a veritable avalanche of grief surrounding my own birth experience. I was totally unprepared for it and it was so sharp and painful it left me gasping for air. When I went to visit them in the hospital the next day (the same hospital where E was born and spent his first week), I started sweating and feeling tingly as soon as I walked into the building. It was my first time back there since our experience and everything I saw, heard and smelled took me right back to that time.

I spent the next couple of days walking around in a haze. I wrote an email to a therapist but I didn't get it sent before the sharpness passed and now I don't think I will send it any time soon. Let me say at this time that I work in mental health. I know what's going on and I know I need help, but the reality of my life right now is that any buildings that aren't actively burning down just have to wait. I know it isn't gone. I'm very conscious of the fact that I've been carrying around a little extra hurt since then, or perhaps it's just more exposed. It will have to be dealt with at some point. But for now, I have too many other things demanding my attention.

First and foremost, I lost my last two grandparents during the past month. They were both 91 years old and died less than four weeks apart. I know that couples do this frequently - pass away close to one another - but this was my mom's dad and my dad's mom. Weird, huh?

One was expected - he was diagnosed with advanced metastatic cancer at the beginning of the year and actually hung on longer than I expected. I was worried he wouldn't live to see his first great-grandchild come into the world and Elliot was nearly 6 months old when he passed.

The other blindsided me completely - she had a perfectly normal, active evening, then had a stroke during the night and lived 8 more days in a near-comatose state, at home, thankfully, and surrounded by friends and family. Elliot and I traveled across two time zones to be there during that time and while it was an emotionally exhausting experience, having Elliot there lightened everyone's spirits significantly. I'm glad we were able to go. Both were cremated and will have memorial services during the next couple of months, so I still have those ahead of me.

As a result of having abandoned my normal day-to-day for over a week, I'm playing catch-up all over the place. I have a stack of documentation to complete at work, I'm behind the pace on a couple of personal projects with rapidly approaching deadlines, and I've all but forgotten how to get myself and the kiddo out the door on time in the morning. (Ha, I never really had that last one down. Who am I kidding?)

Worst of all, the complete disruption of our routine may have put the final nail in the breastfeeding coffin, and I'm feeling really sad about that. I've pumped twice so far today, for a total of about 45 minutes, and I have just under 2 oz. of milk to show for it. I'm taking supplements like crazy and pumping every time I get the chance, but I just don't know if my supply will bounce back from the week of neglect I imposed upon it. It's not like it ever showed much fortitude to begin with.

I tried to keep it up while we were gone, I really did. But Elliot has grown impatient with my supply issues and once the milk stops flowing easily, he refuses to waste his time working at it. This means I HAVE to pump if I have any hope of stimulating more production. Finding time and space to pump in a houseful of friends and family with all that was going on was just really tough, and I didn't do it nearly as much as I should have. I thought I might have been getting to the point where I could stop breastfeeding without feeling like a failure. I was wrong. Maybe I could have stopped voluntarily, but watching my body dry up against my will is hard, and it's too late now to stop and pretend I'm doing it by my own volition.

Everything that has gone on with my family over the past month really cemented the fact that we are living too far away from Home. We've known a move was on our horizon but the idea of it makes both M and I sick (we LOVE where we live now) so we just keep rolling it farther and farther into the future. Now I think we're both realizing it needs to happen sooner rather than later as none of our loved ones are getting any younger and we're the type of people that want to Be There. The idea of letting go of everything we have here; of selling a house, buying a house, relocating a baby and small fleet of pets, finding 2 new jobs and a new daycare, new doctors, new restaurants, new friends... It all makes me feel anxious and empty and unsettled. We've been talking about the move as a sad inevitability for years now, and I think the time to take the plunge is finally upon us. Blech.

There are other things too, but those are the big ones. I guess I'm just struggling a bit right now. It's no worse than times I've come through before, but no fun either.

This post was pretty light on my normal content of reporting baby stats (19lbs, 6oz and 26.5in as of 9/10/09) or whining about my birth/breastfeeding (okay, there was actually quite a bit of that) or bragging about my amazing child (6 months old already! Loving solid foods! So close to crawling! Sleeping like a champ! Talking up a storm!) but hopefully we're good enough friends that you don't mind a boring "life" post once in a while. I am mostly writing this for my own benefit - it feels good to pull it out and sort through it a bit - but also so you'll know why I haven't been writing or commenting or doing anything normal lately. It's been an inward-facing month or so, and I expect there may be more of the same before the tides turn. That said, I'm still reading your blogs obsessively and laughing, crying and hoping right along with you.


tbean said...

Wow lady. That is a lot going on at once.

I'm so sorry about the loss of your grandparents. How awful. As a 31-year old who has 4 living grandparents (I know, so lucky) who are all in their mid-80s, I can't imagine how hard it would be to lose two in just one month. Big love to you and your family.

As for the ptsd and the birth--sounds like you did get re-traumatized and I'm 100% sure that it was going to the hospital that sealed the deal. I hope you carve out space for yourself to get some help and healing around that issue soon.

As for the move? Take it one step at a time. Seriously--relocating is probably second only to childbirth in terms of change and disruption. If it feels like too much right now, honor that. When/if you are ready to move forward, start with one step. (For most people, it's looking for new jobs) and the rest of the steps (new house/sell old house/move/childcare/insurance/doctors)...they all fall into to place from there. But you can't solve them all at once and you can only tackle one thing at a time. If you love where you are now, there is no rush to leave.

huge hugs from here

nutella said...

Firstly, sorry about your losses, it's an awful lot for a person to handle in a short time.

I feel you on the reopening of the emotional birth scars. Everytime I hear of someone's short, easy, natural birth I get this horrid icy feeling in my chest and a buzzing in my ears. It's hard to imagine that it will ever truely go away. But like a kid with a loose tooth, I keep poking at it, so that in time the pain will be just become a natural part of life.

Inlocoparentis said...

So sorry you are going through so much stuff right now, and really sorry to hear about the loss of your grandparents. I also am not thrilled about the idea of you guys moving at all - at least you are still in driving distance. Please call me if you need a shoulder.

Denise said...

It's good to see a post, but I'm so sorry to read about everything that has happened recently. So much change in such a short time sounds rough.

I know your birth story wasn't simple or easy; but when I read it I was in awe of your strength and the love you had for your son and how hard you worked to bring him into the world in the best way possible. I hope that someday the pain and trauma will ease and let you see the birth in a more positive light.

You are an amazing woman. I haven't seen you fail at anything yet. You've fought so hard for what you want, every step of the way. I know you're feeling worn down from the struggle, but the fact that you never give up makes you a huge success in my eyes.

tireegal68 said...

I have so much admiration and respect for you. You have been through so much. I am so sorry about your grandparents and having to go to that dark place of re-experiencing the trauma surrounding your little boy's birth. I hope you are able to find some space and the time to deal with that at some point. I don't know how you can do that job and have a family - you are a trouper! I think we do similar work and it just about runs me ragged!
I can totally understand you wanting to move closer to family. The PPs are right - it is a lot of work, but if you have family that can help or house you or give you job leads/ help with child-care, that will make it easier. Curious to know how far you plan on moving.
It was so great to read how you are doing - you don't have to apologize for talking about what's going on with you.
I am sending you strength and hope and love:) Take care:)

Laurie said...

I'm sending you so many hugs for the loss of your grandparents. I know how painful that can be. And we are always here to read and support your posts about life! :)

SupersammyG said...

Sorry about the hospital reaction. Did you read the article in the NY times a few weeks ago about pstd in nicu parents? I found it really interesting and found it at least nice to know that I am not crazy. I too struggle with my grief about Ella's birth and time in th nicu. I don't know what my reaction to going back to visit the hospital.
As for the pumping. It totally sucks and is so hard. I imagine going from bf to pumping is really super difficult. Try to be easy on yourself about not bf. You made it 6 months and that is so great. If you are still pumping and want some tricks of the trade let me know. I think I have the whole pump and bottle feed thing pretty figured out.