Finding balance in the chaos of motherhood
by Karla ° Monday, January 21, 2008
Ok, apparently I failed common dentistry knowledge 101, because grinding your teeth is normal? For serious? And also, I thought a root canal meant the violent yanking of teeth from your mouth, because that’s what we’re having done to my kitty, but you know, after knocking him unconscious first with some anesthesia, despite how tempting breaking out the pliers seemed after we realized how much this is going to cost.

Another thing I have failed at, and this is something that I struggle with sometimes when it comes to blogging, is effectively communicating where I am coming from, and where I am going in a post, because the post about grinding my teeth? I think I failed to mention that I have been struggling with a myriad of anxiety issues for a while now, which, I have basically been in denial about, or ignoring.

The feelings of anxiety have been plaguing me for years. But I mean, I lost a child, so these feelings, I figured, must be totally normal. Right? But then, when I became pregnant with Nate, I started experiencing full blown panic attacks. Like, freak out in the grocery store, drop everything and leave because omigod, I can’t breath, panic attacks.

That’s when I finally agreed to talk therapy.

I was sent to see a psychologist who specializes in issues of maternal health. Her office overlooked a busy downtown Toronto street filled with bustling traffic and a sea of pedestrians. This quickly became a welcoming diversion, and natural place to shift my gaze when asked difficult questions. I didn’t like being there, and I also didn't like that her espresso-brown eyes seemed void of empathy and understanding. I think our eyes reveal so much more about us than we can ever communicate verbally, and her gaze gave me a heavy feeling of unease as she studied me, and then my body language; shifting her focus from my hands, to my face, back to my hands, and then to her notepad to scribble down secret notes about me.

I never felt like she really heard me. I would open up about something personal, or something that troubled me deeply, and then, like a broken record, just in case I didn’t hear her the first eleven times, she would tell me that I need to get out of bed, shower and get dressed every day. This was her answer to everything. Which, makes sense, except then she had to go and say that spending the day in the same yoga pants that I slept in the night before didn’t count. Ok, seriously folks, if you gave up your career to stay home and gestate a child, and had nowhere special to be, or nothing special to do, except maybe to spend an intimate afternoon on the couch with a some Rice Krispies, would you bother busting out the blow dryer and mascara everyday? I mean seriously, the Rice Krispies loved me no matter what, and true, unconditional love like that is hard to find. So why ruin it with a fancy blowout?

That’s when I knew we weren’t connecting because how can you expect me to build a rapport with someone who does not share my core philosophies about maternal comfort and the art of tying your unwashed, unbrushed hair into a knot on your head?

Welcome to the perpetual state of non-upkeep that has become my Stay-at-Home Mom reality.

Also, she referred to Ava as ‘the fetus’, which was bothersome. It’s one thing to sit through a medical discussion reducing your child to nothing more than a brain tissue specimen in a Petri dish, but it’s another thing when a psychologist, the person who is supposed to be helping you, won’t use her name. God, she wasn’t just a fetus, she was a full term baby, and she was born, to a person with feelings, and teetering hopes and crushed dreams. She was, she IS, my child.

Needless to say, after Nate was born, I cancelled all my appointments with her and told her that I was leaving the country.

Oh my god, I can’t believe I just admitted that.

Seriously though, I just figured my panic attacks and anxiety throughout my pregnancy was normal, considering I had lost two pregnancies prior. I convinced myself that I was fine. But then the anxiety never really went away after Nate was born, and it’s been growing steadily. If I had to describe it, I would say that my days are spent with a heightened state of anxiety-fuelled anxiousness. Almost like feeling overwhelmed, but that’s not quite right, because god, I am a Stay-at Home Mom to a very easy going child and a wife to a very loving husband. It’s definitely more of a feeling of nervous unease. Restlessness maybe?

Over the years, doctors have called it: Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The solution to all of these is medication. Which is fine if you really have any of those conditions, but I don’t believe I do. I just think that I have had some pretty shitty things happen to me in life, and sometimes it's hard to cope with it all, especially now that I have a child and essentially no time to myself.

I know medication is a life saver for many people, and I would never, ever, discount its usefulness and purpose in the medical community. There was a dark time in my life when I truly needed medication and was on various antidepressants as a teenager after trying to take my own life. They literally gave me a new lease on life. They work. But I am better now. And I know I am better now, because I have been on the other side of not better.

Truthfully, I think all that’s wrong with me is that I need some me time. Some time to unplug. Some time to figure out how to feel like my old self again.

That being said, I want to start running more. Running used to be my escape. And I know saying that I should exercise more sounds like such a cliché, but it’s totally a mood-boosting feeling of exhilaration for me. It makes me feel healthier, stronger. And while I totally recognize it’s not a fix-all, it’s a start, and at least that’s something. Samson and I went for a three mile run Friday night and I instantly felt better, you know, after I got home and my fingers unthawed and I was able to pick myself up off the kitchen floor.

Next – daycare. This one has been hard to come to terms with, because being a Stay-at-Home Mom was a choice that I made, that Mark and I both made. It was something we talked about all the way back in high school actually, and while I have absolutely no regrets, I don’t think I ever could have anticipated how hard the whole being ‘on’ seven days a week, 24 hours a day can be. And by the time the weekend arrives; between alternating weeks for the Grandparents to visit, squeezing in some time for Mark and I to reconnect, and the intense demands of Mark’s bustling career, which often requires him to be at work on the weekends too, which means no diaper duty breaks for me, I feel drained.

Starting next week, Nate will be in daycare one day a week. And I am done feeling like, because I am a Stay-at-Home Mom, I should be ashamed about that.

Deep down, I think all I really need is to find a tiny piece of the me I used to be before I became the me I am today, with a past shadowed by the death of a child and a miscarriage and a present littered with never ending diapers and the perpetual filling of sippy cups.

The highs are really high, but lows can be really low, and finding a way to balance it all, this thing called life, this thing called motherhood, for now, is a work in progress.

I know that I am not alone when it comes to having those days where it's a struggle to keep your head above water, so thank you for listening. And thank you also, for your open and accepting arms, and for making my little home in this small corner of the Internet feel oh so cozy and warm.

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Comments:


You are a woman of amazing strength, Karla. And by the sounds of things you are very objectively introspective and are making a continual effort to evaluate where you're at in the healing process and take steps to make yourself even better.
 

I think putting him in daycare one day a week is probably the best thing you could do for yourself. Only other mother's understand that it is way more than a full time job. No other job ever expects you to be on duty 24/7 for years. Everyone needs a break. I am finally to the point now that I don't feel like I'm crawling out of my skin every day (my son is 27 months old). The thing that helped me the most was going to the gym every single day for the excercise and the daycare. I would have loved to be able to send him to a daycare one day a week, but that wasn't an option for us.

Good luck getting a handle on these issues. I would be a giant ball of anxiety if I lost a child like that. Just thinking of it takes my breath away and my heart pound.
Posted by Anonymous Carrie :  January 21, 2008
 

holy crap woman... I could have written this post verbatim from my life... except not as eloquently and instead of SAHM insert part time working mom and BAM its the same same same.

It gives me some peace to know I'm not the only one - but at the same time freaks me out because I was toying with the idea that maybe if I was just a SAHM all would be solved. I know thats not a real solution for me - as I'd be in the same stressball anxiety driven state regardless of whether I sat down at a desk to work or stayed home to change diapers.

If you find peace - please let me know where so I can look under the same rock in hopes of finding light.
Posted by Blogger Elizabeth :  January 21, 2008
 

Good for you for deciding to put Nate in daycare one day a week. I work p/t so my daughter is there 3 days a week and she LOVES it. I'm sure Nate, easy-going boy that he is, will adjust soon, too, and you will both be better for it. Good luck fitting more "you time" into your life - we're all rootin' for you.
Posted by Anonymous Fawn :  January 21, 2008
 

Hmmm, while I don't think I hit your same lows, I recall a similar low time in my life with a small child that wouldn't stop whingeing and wouldn't sleep during the day and a house that needed so much and a car that needed alot too and a spouse that severed his achilles and needed a drive to and from his work in the opposite quadrant of the city and I ended up finding a sitter and just going away from my home. And it sure did help, even if you do nothing. Even if you go out, get a coffee and read the paper or, better yet, the latest gossip rag. Even if you sit in the car, just down the block from the house/day care and cry because s(he)'s in someone else's care and does that mean failure as a mother? Even if that's all you do, it's your time, your space and your choice. A good one for your mental sanity.
Posted by Blogger Mama T :  January 21, 2008
 

I think it is important for each of us to find the balance in our lives, and YES moms need Me time, don't you feel bad! I think it is in depriving ourselves these things that we do loose it. I don't get much ME time, and it seems like once a month I loose it and my husband literally kicks me out of the house, and the feeling I have when I come home is amazing.

I have been reading, but haven't commented in awhile. Nate is still getting cuter and cuter.

Hang in there, You can do it.
Posted by Blogger Donna :  January 21, 2008
 

We don't have any children yet... still trying. But the whole SAHM thing... it's tough. We've discussed if someone is going to stay home, and if I'm being honest, I just don't think I can do it. I don't think that's how I can be my best as a mom. And every woman/man is different.

Please don't feel guilty about putting your son in daycare one day a week, or whatever it takes. If getting a break 1 day makes you a better mom the other 6 days of the week, that makes it worth it.
Posted by Blogger Tajalude :  January 21, 2008
 

I think daycare is a wonderful idea. Honestly, I have been trying to find a program for Porgie too. Although I still won't have any free time (because I'll still have Izzy with me), I think it will be great for my sanity and for Porgie's development.

I hope you find a little piece of the old Karla.
Posted by Blogger Christy :  January 21, 2008
 

I was in the depths of anxious despair a year ago. I seriously am finding my way back to the person I always knew I wanted to be now that I've found some time for me. If I hadn't focused attention on starting my photography career and putting my kiddos in the care of someone else twice a week, I would most definitely be asking my fellow ward mates if they could lick a Skittle and tell me the color. ALL Day. Every Day. Skittles.

You are so moving in the right direction, and Nate will benefit from the time with other kiddos. You'll be amazed at what your perspective becomes when you realize that you are in there somewhere.
Posted by Blogger B :  January 21, 2008
 

I was so glad to see that you are putting Nate in daycare for atleast a day. If you worked outside the home you would be given two days off so daycare for a day is not only completey reasonable, but probably a necessity. Everyone needs time to do their own thing, and not being "mom" for one day can do wonders for your sanity. Nate will probably love being around other kids and learning to socialize. It's all positive. Good decision!
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  January 21, 2008
 

I have been there. I understand. You are not alone, and you are finding solutions that work for you.
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  January 22, 2008
 

Karla? You. Are. Amazing.

Also.

If Matthew did not also work from home? I would put the kids in daycare to have a break.

Do not let anyone knock you on this. Preschool kids are HARD. You need a break. Take what you deserve :)
Posted by Blogger Angella :  January 22, 2008
 

You are on the right track :) Daycare will be good for Nate..good for you!

Teresa
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  January 22, 2008
 

Shite, I am so glad you decided to never see that psychologist again! Although a nice "f-off" would have been good to throw in there as well.

It is wonderful that you are taking steps to getting where you need to be. So many people don't have the courage to even begin them.

Go Karla, go Karla!
Posted by Blogger Gina :  January 22, 2008
 

First of all, I hate that psychologist. Second, I think it took bravery on your part to admit these fillings not only to yourself, but the world. A lot of people would have buried them deep down inside only to have them resurface later as something negative. You do what you have to do.
Posted by Blogger Julia :  January 22, 2008
 

Hey Karla,

Have you thought of joining the YMCA. I know sounds simple, but with 5 little ones at home its my escape. We can hit the pool all together in the morning. Then I can pop them in the daycare (which is wonderful) for $2 an hour, while I work my frustrations out on cardio equipment. The kids have fun, I'm not stressed - its a win- win.The best part is I can wear my lululemons and feel awesome.(Plus there are all sorts of programs Nate can partake in from 18 months up! I truly believe stay at home moms need time for themselves everyday-It makes us better moms. Clearly you have had more hardship than most.You will get through this, and man your little boy is beautiful!
Posted by Anonymous Heather :  January 22, 2008
 

Blessings to you Karla. It's brave of you to be this honest. And it's brave of you to recognize what you need and refuse to feel guilty for getting a regular break.
Posted by Blogger Heather :  January 22, 2008
 

Karla - I am a lurker but have finally decided to comment because of this post. Our lives are so different, but the feelings we feel are the same. I had my little monkey 5 and a half months ago. I am a WOHM and was forced (by my boss) to come back to work much sooner that i wished (thats a whole 'nother story). But, I feel much like you do. Then, add to my anxiety, the stress on the fact that i am never home (so i feel) so it is completely wrong to want to to anything. My deal is nothing is ever done. There are always more dishes to wash (oh, and a 6 and 4 year old), laundry to do...i don't have any answers. all i know is what i do to get me from one point to the next. sometimes its going to the gracery store BY MYSELF that seems to do it. Othertimes it may need to be more like getting my hair professionally cut (yeah, where i had to pay someone - imagine that!). If you find some secret anti-anxiety fountain thingy, please let us know. Otherwise, i'll be hanging on here...getting my hair done and buying lots and lots of groceries. Best of luck to all of us!
Posted by Anonymous Jen :  January 22, 2008
 

GOOD FOR YOU! Being a mum doesn't mean you stop being a woman. I'm so happy for you in the decision to put Nate in care for a little YOU time. Never doubt that you're a wonderful woman and fantastic mother.

Thinking of you,
Jen
Posted by Blogger Jen & Co. :  January 22, 2008
 

Karla,
Like another commenter I have been lurking for a while. I came across your blog after the birth of my daughter a year and a half ago. Her name too happens to be Ava. When I found you I had just given birth, couldn't sleep, cried all day, felt completely overwhelmed, wanted to give her back... honestly felt like I'd made a mistake in this whole 'I can be a mom thing'. Then I saw your video for your daughter and you know what? I hugged my Ava so close that night. I cried and cried and realized that everything I felt was okay. That I needed her and that she needed me. I knew I would screw up and feel so alone some days but that other moms where feeling the same way.
I was so sorry for your loss. I wanted you to know that her life had made a difference. That she made me realize how fleeting it can all be and to hold on to the time that I have with every one that I love.
I hear your story of love and loss and the whole thing makes sense. I think that your comment about the eyes absolutely rings true, no kindness in the eyes, no kindness in the heart.
Nate is such a lucky guy to have a mom like you, a real honest to goodness woman!
All I can say is "Run Karla, run"
Posted by Blogger Bri :  January 22, 2008
 

If I didn't know any better, I would have thought it was me you were writing about!
I have suffered from panic attacks for the last 8 years. Out of nowhere, I had my first one, and for a while I was almost not functioning. I was a 22 year old who would crawl into my parents' bed because I was afraid I would die in my sleep.

After having my two kids, they seem to have subsided, although when I get frustrated I can easily start to feel anxious.
I think choosing Daycare one day a week will not only be good for you, but Nate will most likely enjoy spending time with other children his age!
Just keep telling yourself how strong you are, and what a great Mom you are to Nate (and Ava).
 

You rock those yoga pants, girl, and don't let anyone tell you any different. A little daycare sounds like a great idea. If nothing else, it is just a little time for yourself to run, bathe, eat, relax or do whatever YOU want. We all need that.
Posted by Blogger Shalini :  January 22, 2008
 

I think you are awesome. You can do it!
Posted by Blogger Alexandria :  January 22, 2008
 

I think you are one of the strongest women I have ever stumbled upon. Seriously. The losses you have endured would leave most women bitter and forever curled up in the fetal position. I love your honesty. I hope you find some solace/rest in your one (deserved) day off per week!
Posted by Blogger joyce :  January 22, 2008
 

SAHM or WOHM, we're all running on empty. I've had to take holidays off work just to walk into town and have a cup of coffee by myself. It's such a small thing, but it feels like heaven. At first there was a lot of guilt in the back of my head (you're not at work and you're not with your son!) but now I'm realizing that this makes me a better mother. If you're anything like me, this sounds like a smart move for you!
Posted by Blogger Trish :  January 23, 2008
 

I put my son in daycare one day a week to give myself a day off. It changed a lot of things: I was less depressed, I felt happier during the week. Don't feel guilty for wanting some time to yourself. It's important.
 

Karla, you are phenomenal! This post was amazing. You are an articulate woman who probably touched a large number of readers who can relate with what you're going through (in case you can't see me I'm raising my hand to demonstrate that I can relate). You run, take time for you, put Nate in daycare once a week--whatever it takes to make you feel at peace. Because I know (although I don't always practice) that mommies are much better at meeting their loved ones needs when their own needs have been met first. Take care of you, Karly! (And as far as that psychologist is concerned--you're in France flippin' her the bird. Did I just type that?). :)
Posted by Blogger shauna :  January 23, 2008
 

Karla,
I heart you.
have fun on your day off
sleep
shop
do the dishes if you want
run
enjoy
i am so very proud of you

erika
Posted by Anonymous uumomma :  January 23, 2008
 

OMG, that first psychologist was a real loser. Just reading your post I wanted to strangle her. There are better ones out there. Ones that really listen to you and hear you and feel your pain and really, really help you. You're probably too polite, but I would've blown a gasket in her office if she told me to put on make-up and tight jeans and act normal after what you've been through. Blown. A. Gasket.
 

Another lurker crawling out of the woodwork. I'm sorry you've been having anxiety issues, & had such a rotten experience with the therapist. I know you're familiar with PBSO because I found your blog through the piece you wrote for their newsletter (my dh & I are longtime clients/volunteers, & I actually recognized you at the Walk to Remember when you were pg with Nate). They can refer you to a counsellor who has experience dealing with pregnancy loss issues. I saw one a few times after I started having panic attacks when my last IUI failed,& she was fabulous. (I also grind my teeth!) Sounds like you are taking some good steps in the right direction, though. Take care!
Posted by Blogger loribeth :  January 24, 2008
 

I haven't read the other comments, so I am sure I'm repeating the others...

I don't think you should feel guilty at all about putting him in child care one day a week. Plenty of mom's take part in Mother's Day Out and things of that nature. Everyone deserves a break now and again....including SAHMs!! I understand the guilt, though, because it took me a while to realize that. Now, if I need to get out, I know that hubby is capable of watching the boys and I can sneak off. Matter of fact, the other night I made a run to Costco all by myself!!
Posted by Blogger Candi :  January 24, 2008
 

Run to Free Your Soul!

I only wish I lived closer to you, so we could run together... occasionally.
Posted by Blogger Katie :  January 24, 2008
 


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