Monday, October 17, 2011

Monsoon 10.16.11

--A bit scared to hit "publish" on this post, but figured I need to come clean with the nitty gritty and down and dirty of my parenting after loss experience.--

I am totally and completely overwhelmed.

With love for this little peanut that entered our life four weeks ago today.

And with sadness for my little big man who left our world one year and five weeks ago today.

And with fatigue, with confusion, with feeling like a total and complete and utter failure - I was talking with a friend today and agreed with her when she said she feels like every mother deserves a HUGE FUCKING MEDAL for making it through the first weeks (months? years?) with a newborn.  I don't know how so many of you have done it/are doing it - competently even - I am barely keeping my head above water.

(This is not an exaggeration.  The extent of my "successes" for the day were:  calling my therapist and getting an appointment to see her on Wednesday (haven't seen her since two weeks before Owen was born); calling my doctor and getting in to go to a peripartum depression group and a consult appointment for possible meds evaluation; calling our health insurance and trying to deal with adding Owen to our coverage (why is that not automatic, seriously, paperwork with my level of brain fog is excruciating); getting my tortoise to finally eat (he's been on a hunger strike for like a week or two?), feeding myself a burrito at 4:30 pm (my first meal of the day), changing a zillion diapers and nursing a very fussy baby a zillion and two times.  I am still in yesterday's yoga pants, I can't tell you when I last showered (Saturday?), my neighbors can probably smell me at this point.  I haven't slept more than an hour or two in our bed in days (Owen seems to only sleep if he's held, so it's the big easy chair in our bedroom for the two of us every night lately.))

Anyhow, lest any of this be seen as complaining, it's not.  I know how lucky I am to have this little beautiful being here at home and in my arms.  I stare at him and marvel at how amazing he is.  And yet, I can't seem to pull it together to leave the house, to get dressed, to find a way to sleep, to take care of basic self-care right now.  I cry a lot.  A LOT.  I become anxious about doing anything new with the baby - I worry he's going to suffocate in his moby wrap.  I worry he's dressed too warmly, too coldly.  I worry that he's got a fever.  I worry that he's eating too much, or not enough.  Same with sleep.  He's got a bad case of baby acne, but I keep worrying "what if it's not baby acne but actually some rare disease that's going to kill him?"  I see how exasperated everyone is with me and my anxiety - I see how paralyzed I am - but I'm not sure how to break myself of it.  (That's why I enlisted help today, calling the doctors and my therapist, btw.  Pay someone who is makes a profession out of helping women in my shoes to help me.) I know what a treasure I have here with me right now - I just can't quite access the joy that I think I'm supposed to be feeling about all of it.

I feel so overwhelmed, like such a phony, like an impostor who doesn't really deserve to have a living baby here at home with her, and who is failing miserably at this parenting after loss gig.  At it's worst, which it was the other night, I sobbed to E, "I feel like maybe Otis knew what he was doing, deciding to leave us..."

(Note to those of you panicking about me: I know Otis didn't "choose" to leave us.  I also am safe, I am not interested in harming myself or the baby (yes, I was asked this question a few times today by a few different professionals) and I know I will survive this.)


brianna said...

Sarah, I'm only 9 weeks into this but let me say that it gets easier. Sleeping gets better, eating gets better...

Hang in there and if you'd like to talk or have any questions, shoot me an email.

Renel said...

Sarah~ Okay I admit it...I was smiling while I read your post. But it was a smile of love and genuine understanding. You sound, well, like a new mama. I definitely had some postpartum depression. I was so thrilled to have Kai and I loved him with all my heart but I couldn't stop crying. I didn't take meds but I probably should/could have. I don't know if I would have had postpartum depression this time around because I was in the depths of hell grieving because Camille died. Your anxiety about fevers, acne, etc...well that is TOTALLY normal and I did it too...BUT you have this added dimension of ~ Otis dying. When I have a subsequent baby...who knows the level of crazy I will go. That being said... No matter how much you feel like you are failing, no matter if you think you don't have your shit together. Your baby would rather be with you than anyone else in the whole world. The best thing you can give him is love and boob. You are doing a damn good job!!! Don't underestimate the power of you mama self to your sweet little baby Owen. I didn't sleep well after Kai was born or after Camille died. Crazy level of no sleep and I don't do well on little sleep. I would constantly wake to check on Kai and shake him awake in a panic. Yeah and that was pre-baby death. Being a mama is a learning process. There are days when I feel horrible, I have learned that if I just apologize, with tears streaming down my face to the tiny baby in my lap and now to the 2.5 year old in front of me. and say "I am sorry, I will try and do better." and truly mean it...well that is a good way to try and overcome some of the not so great parenting moments. I know you love Owen and I know you miss Otis, but those two feelings can live next to each other in your heart. If antidepressants help...take them. Crashing down off the high of hormones of giving birth is a bitch. Take what you need. The sleep will come back after your kid is 5...haha yeah I'm still waiting for more sleep myself. Anyway... I am sending you light and love. I believe in you. You, E, Otis and Owen will be in my thoughts.

Heather said...

I think it is impossible to be sane when sleeping in 1 hour increments. Do whatever it takes to get at least 4 hours in a row and you will feel amazing. Not perfect, but so so much better.

The fact that you recognized where you were and made the necessary calls means a lot. You will be ok, and I promise next month will be easier and more fun.

(I miss my girls as newborns, but it really is the least fun stage for me. I don't do well without sleep.)

æ said...

I am really loving that you are already getting such supportive comments. And I think Renel knows what she's talking about.

There are people--mothers included--who are all "woohoo I'm shitting unicorns and rainbows!!" You're not really one of those people, good day or bad. There's no good reason to expect yourself to bring that to this. It's not who you are (one of the many things I love about you).

I have a feeling sometimes that it's these excruciating points of overwhelm which DEMAND change that keep things improving. Let this demand change. Right now it says "so you need a med eval and a group and a therapy appointment." Good for you. RESPONDING to the alarm is what you do as a mama. You're doing it. This is it.

Truly, truly I do believe that you are doing a wonderful job. And truly, truly I believe that bits and pieces of sleep actually disrupt sanity.


Angela said...

You are not alone. Some days this newborn gig feels like I'm swimming in the deep end and the water keeps going over my head and there are no lifeboats to be seen. I have to remind myself that it's okay to be less than happy. Having lost a baby doesn't mean we have to be grateful for every.single.moment. It's okay to feel frustrated and overwhelmed. And I too have cried and wondered if Charlotte died because she knew how hopeless I would be as a mother. This was my break down moment:( I want to share this bit with you because you probably don't have time to read the whole dang thing:

"B needs me at my best, but how can any new mama be at her best? These are exhausting, emotional times for all, but to lose a baby - and especially your first, I think - is to be stripped of all mama confidence. The postpartum period is one heck of a hill climb without a ghost baby riding along, and with that ethereal presence sitting on one's shoulder the hill becomes a mountain."

Much love and encouragement. You're doing great, making those calls was the best thing you could do, proud of you for making it happen.

Hope's Mama said...

Oh mama, huge love to you. I can absolutely assure you, every feeling you've spilled out here, I felt as well. All of it. The sleep thing, above any thing else, is a fucking killer. Angus also never slept anywhere but our arms, for weeks and weeks on end. We co-slept in the end, not by design but by accident, as we were out of options. Even then, he never really slept well and I of course panicked we were doing the wrong thing and the do-gooding parenting police were tutt-tutting us for putting him at risk of suffocation, or some such. No matter what I did, I worried. And no matter what I did, he screamed. All. Day. Long. For what seemed like an eternity. I fed him, SO much. Sometimes it felt like all I had done was feed him.
I always hesitate to say to a new mama it gets better, because when you're going through it, you can't see a way out. But at some point it will.
We both lost our first borns, so I guess neither of us know what it is like to parent without the dark cloud of loss, but I'm pretty sure that it does add an extra layer of shittiness to it all. We can't just imagine how bad things could get it something snatched out children, we already know. We've lived it. We will only ever get to parent after loss.
No matter what, you're doing an amazing job. Even if you wear the same yoga pants all week and forgo all showers! I wish I could come and sit with you a bit.
And here comes my *one* bit of advice, get a swing (a baby swing that is!) Angus finally slept in that god damn thing, for the first nine months of his life! Whatever works!

Missy said...

Love to you my friend, in caring for your precious little one and continuing to grieve for your dear Otis. Proud of you for taking those next steps, and knowing first hand that it isn't always easy to make those calls~

Merry said...

Co-sleeping will cure many ills I think (and none of mine are still in my bed, so you could also cross that worry off the list).

My first newborn experience was not typical, though it was not after loss. But we lost normality, because of her cleft and because we were in hospital for 2 weeks plus. I had a lot of midwife support and it disempowered me really, well meaning as it as.

I remember putting Fran down on the carpet and her head dropped perhaps a finger width and bumped on to the (very luxurious) carpet. I was convinced I had killed her :)

The only thing that is really going to give you confidence is time and experience. Luckily time passes anyway and experience comes with it - and time also makes small people easier (she says, glossing over the entire terrible twos, threes, fours, sevens and omg, teenage! thing :)

In a few weeks, with some emotional back up and all those time and experience and settling things, it will feel very different. 12lbs is a magic weight. They get easier then. Small early babies do take a while to get there.

You are doing great :)

Alex said...

oh Sarah, love, wish I was closer to come and hold that boy of yours while you could get some sleep. Lots of wise words written above me so I won't repeat what has been said, except that I hear you so very much. We do cosleep and it works well for us as Raf just could not sleep outside someone's arms. What did help for parts of the night, though, was an Amby. Does Owen like movement? Raf would and still does sleep when he's moving (thus the amby was really good for us).

You know, when I had my miscarriage this summer I really wondered how on earth I could even complain about being pregnant again... and yet here I am, pregnant again, and so damn sick and it is miserable. It doesn't undo how much I want this baby, but to deny how hard it is really doesn't work either. You can hold on to both truths - that this baby is so loved, but that it is sooooooo very hard.

I did find that even having 30 minutes of absolute ALONE time saved my sanity. Can you enlist your mum, e, friends to come on some sort of schedule? From what I know about postpartum, it's the isolation and having no distance and space that makes things even harder.

I love you, S. You're a wonderful mama to both of your boys. They know how much they are loved and cherished, of that I am so, so sure.

Groves said...


That's the main thing I remember with a new baby, thinking: "THIS is how the human race continues? THIS???!!" and "WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME!???"

I felt like there was some vow of silence all the mothers had taken, not to tell the "new kids on the block" exactly how it was going to be - because everyone would be too freaked out and that would be the end of humans.


And adding a child who has died to the "mix" - well, that means you know exactly how horribly wrong things can go. The mythical "just relax" is a whole lot more mythical when you know, SERIOUSLY know, how it feels when the whole world comes crashing down. You wish you didn't, but you do.


Thinking of you,

Cathy in Missouri

P.S. May have gone overboard with all the NORMAL - but you really, really are. And that's something I was constantly wondering as I went through it? "Is is just me?!"

Monique said...

Wise words above so will just repeat that you are doing an AMAZING job. Glad to hear you're getting help, asking for it is hard sometimes so good on you, mama.

Will add that I totally agree with Sally about the swing, I'd swaddle George super-tight with a Swaddle-Me (the kind w/velcro) and put him in the swing and he'd sleep. At night, we'd co-sleep and it made those feedings easier.

And the worry? I was constantly worried about everything, I think when you've had a child die, it's always on our mind that it could happen again. Totally normal. Hang in there mama.

Maddie said...

Sarah - your list of achievements sounds pretty long to me for someone with a newborn. All I did was feed the baby, change his nappies, eat, and shower sometimes. That was it.

It does get better and now when I talk to friends with newborns it all seems like so long ago.

You will get there. Come here, unload, and we'll virually hold your hand.

If you think you are in PND terriotry, please see your doctor and get some medication. I've got friends who've been down this path and once they were on the right medication, things improved.

We used a zip up wrap called 'Love Me Baby - Wrap Me Up' and it was great because in the middle of the night I didn't have to rewrap him and then be paranoid about the wrap getting over his face (this kept me awake a lot at the start).


Anonymous said...

Awww sweet mamma.. so sorry I am late. .my damn reader is all fucked up.
As always Ash made me laugh and you got some awesome support from the community that I imagine you might not have had time to read yet ;o)

I am so proud of you for knowing when to say when and see out help in whatever form you need it. You are amazing. I second Sally with the swing.. and also swaddle the piss out of that boy. Honest. My kids slept for 3 hours swaddled.. no swaddle- 10 minutes.max.
Grab your zzzz's whenever he is asleep. Turn of ringers, etc. If he sleeps in the swing or car seat take what you can get. Sleep is definitely NOT overrated.
XO Sarah.......

The Zoo said...

My therapist (aren't they great!?) told me that as long as the baby was safe and fed, I was doing a great job. It sounds like you are doing much more than that.

Some days I had to choose between; sleeping, eating or going pee. I would go to sleep, starving with a full bladder.

I HATED the first (I don't even know how many) months and I can hardly remember a thing (thankfully we took pictures, I was in a few of them looking kind of happy).

You are going through a LOT. Your hormones are still coming down (I was told that they start to normalize at 6 weeks postpartum).

For what it's worth, today, I took my kids to the park, ALONE for the FIRST time and they're 22 MONTHS old (and it wasn't even planned, I had to come up with something when my previous plans were cancelled).

Go easy on yourself. You're an AMAZING Mother. It shows. Life is a learning curve for everyone and that includes your little bundle. You guys will figure out what works for YOU.

We're here for you.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, I'm so sorry you're struggling, and so glad that you've reached out to the professionals. Parenting a newborn is hard work...parenting a newborn with post-partum depression and grief sounds like nearly impossible work. Sending much love for brighter days.

Roccie said...

One time I accidentally hit my breast with my hand while I was changing in the closet - first shower of the day at 830pm. Milk went shooting everywhere.

"Who doesnt know how big her own boobs are????"

Break down.

It will pass my love. Hold tight. The first 12 wks are a long hard ride filled with joy.

Owen is here to stay. Most all babies get to stay. It is so very hard when you have been on the wrong side of the numbers.

Hanen said...

Oh love. I'm so glad there is lots of sage advice above, because I don't have anything practical to say except for - hang in there and good on you for seeking some support. You are not an imposter at all - you are doing a beautiful job parenting two sons in two very different ways. Sending lots of love and wishing you more sleep soon. xxxxh

Shaina Gadow said...

Oh Sarah, I can only imagine how hard it is to parent your new boy while still grieving so much for Otis. (I will hopefully understand in four months). I am so glad to hear that you are taking care of yourself though by making the necessary phone calls and getting the support you need. Trust these other mamas, that you are normal and they have been through it to. Sending you so much love!

discoknitter said...

You may have PPD, you may not. All I can add is that it's pretty normal not to have a shower, to feel overwhelmed, not to get much sleep, to think everyone else knows what they are doing, but I am an idiot. It's nearly 4 years ago for me since Inigo was a tiny baby, but I remember all those feelings. Don't be too hard on yourself, it sounds like you are doing a wonderful job. O is a very lucky baby to have such a great mama.