Everything AND the Kitchen Sink ~ Jen

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It started with Annie screaming us awake at 12:45 am. When I got to her room, she was standing in vomit and looked like the phantom of the opera from where the pasta had congealed on the side of her face.

We spent the next three hours on the floor while she puked up everything she has ever eaten in her short life. We ran out of clean linen, so at the end, I just folded the towel over the puke and we fell asleep.

No surprise that 36 hours later, I was laid out with the worst case of stomach flu I have ever had.

I felt it coming and isolated myself in our room to protect the innocent. Shea slept downstairs. No matter. Thirty six hours later I woke up to the sound of him puking in the kitchen sink.

My OCD reared its ugly head and escaped the Zoloft prison. I sent Shea upstairs to the sick room, reached deep into the cupboard past the safe and natural cleaners, and pulled out the big guns: bleach and Lysol.

Dana laughed at me in a text: “This is no time for green cleaning, huh?”

Hell no. There’s a woman with an entire blog devoted to stopping the stomach flu.  I got on board her crazy train without a thought and covered my downstairs in bleach followed by Lysol. Every stinking surface. I was possessed. One time won’t hurt us, I told myself. One time.

When the kids woke up an hour later, my hands were raw and my downstairs was sanitized. I handed out the marching orders: Wash your hands! Don’t touch me! Don’t touch the baby! And for the love of God, don’t breathe too deeply!!!

Thirty six hours later, Gabe was puking.

I knew there would be a post in all this.

First, I thought it might be about husbands who puke in kitchen sinks.

Then I thought it would be about how when you are elbow deep in vomit and out of clean towels, you are not interested in hugging any God-blessed trees.

Then the kids got sick anyway.

So this is it: I had a crazy, hysterical fear of the stomach flu tearing through my home and in an attempt to stop it, I sprayed poison everywhere. For naught.  Norovirus triumphed.

And we lived. A week later, the laundry is done and put away, our appetites have returned and Shea and I both lost 7 lbs. What is so stinkin’ scary about that?

Kids get sick. Thank God they don’t get sick the way they used to a hundred years ago, but that’s not because of Lysol. It’s because we know more about handwashing and treating illness. I can’t stop them from getting stomach flu. Silly mama. Stomach flu happens.

Next time, we change our protocol. Hand washing is the most effective way to stop the spread of stomach flu. We will continue to “hanitize”. But I will use vinegar and hydrogen peroxide to sanitize surfaces. And—in what might be the best ever use of cheap liquor—vodka to disinfect upholstery. I know, right? Freakin’ brilliant.

We will be revisiting appropriate places to puke: toilet, check. Trashcan, check. Bathroom sink, check-ish, emergencies only.

The kitchen sink is way off limits.

Husband of mine, are you listening?

Postpartum Anxiety: It’s Not Your Fault. You Will be Ok. ~ Jen

Grace
This post comes with a warning. May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. I am going to talk about some dark moments after the birth of my third baby. If you are feeling sad or scared today, you might not want to read this.  If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

This is the most important thing I have ever written. And I am asking you to share it with everyone you know.

Last year, after the birth of my third baby, I had postpartum anxiety/OCD, bad enough that I needed intervention, meds and therapy. It started in my third trimester, but leveled me at four months postpartum, which is prime time for this kind of thing.

Annie hit a growth spurt and wanted to eat every two hours. At first, I was able to fall back asleep at night. Then one night, I didn’t. It happened again the next night, and the next.

After a few days, Annie settled down. I did not.

It was like a switch had been flipped and locked to “ON”. She would go down at 8 and sleep until midnight or 1. I watched her, heart pounding, thoughts racing, songs playing over and over in my head.

I just knew that the moment I fell asleep, she would wake up.

I started having 10 pm meltdowns, pacing and sobbing. I’d eventually tire myself out, and sleep for a while.

I felt like a mirror that had dropped and cracked into a thousand lines.

My primary care doctor was hesitant to prescribe anything because I was nursing. The pediatrician said she would really prefer me to “Try a hot bath and a warm cup of tea”.

Her complacency lulled my husband Shea, but I knew I was in trouble. It was hard to ask for help in the first place, and it seemed that no one was listening. I felt so alone.

Then this day happened:

I had not slept more than two hours together for a week, and the previous night, not at all. I was in a place where the fear of not sleeping actually powered me through the day. It was the third day of Shea’s new job, so even though he was worried, he had to go. My parents were in Europe. My girlfriends were here, but I had lost the ability to communicate.

I took my kids to the mall. My phone rang, but I ignored it. I sat at the playground, holding the baby, thinking that my kids were the only ones who loved me. They were all I needed.

On the way home, I thought about driving right on through and disappearing. That would show everyone who was against me, which was clearly everyone.

But then a jolt of fear ran through me that even if I ran, I would still not sleep.

I thought I cannot live like this.

Then I thought I cannot leave my babies alone.

And far, far, far away from this being a reason to live, I suddenly understood how it is that a woman kills her children before she kills herself.

She cannot live like this anymore. And she will not leave her babies alone.

It never went beyond that flash of understanding. But the fact that the path from here to there looked like level ground was terrifying.

I came home, said a prayer and sent an email to my friends. One of them said “Call your OB”. Dr. Selinger told me to come immediately. She held the baby. She gave me a prescription for Zoloft, assured me that it is ok for nursing moms and told me to call Postpartum Support International (PSI). She said none of this was my fault, and I was going to be ok.

The first lady I spoke to at PSI spent 45 minutes on the phone with me while I sobbed, telling me none of this was my fault, and I was going to be ok.

One of their therapists called me on a Saturday—she talked to me for an hour, told me that none of this was my fault, and I was going to be ok.

She gave me the name of a counselor skilled at handling post partum issues. Lisa returned my phone call that same day, Saturday. She too told me none of this was my fault, and I was going to be ok.

Lisa is trained to deal with postpartum issues. She helped me see how much my family history of anxiety and OCD, and my thyroid issues, played a role in what happened to me. It really wasn’t my fault.

And now I am ok. I am more than ok.  If I ruled the world, everyone would take Zoloft. I didn’t realize how much of my life was affected by anxiety until it eased.

Shea went into counseling as well—something suggested by the folks at PSI, where they have an entire section dedicated to helping the husbands. What we went through was traumatic, and our marriage and trust in each other needed some healing.

I really believe that after calling your OB/GYN, PSI is the most important phone call a mother, husband or family member can make. They will help you. They helped my cousin, in Canada. She called because she knew I was not right, but she didn’t know what to do. They told her what she could do. This organization is phenomenal. They are saving lives.

I’m not ashamed that I was broken, or of those very dark and scary feelings I had. No one should be ashamed.

May is Postpartum Depression/Anxiety Awareness Month.  Postpartum depression and anxiety affects over a million women a year, almost 20% of those who get pregnant. It can happen to anyone, across cultural, socio-economic and educational demographics.

If a pregnant or post-partum woman tells you that she is hurting or sick, listen to her. She is asking for help AND warning you. Don’t hope that she will help herself. She probably can’t.

Not all counselors are created equal. PSI can find you someone skilled at handling PPD/PPA. I believe this is really important. Lisa knew how to help me.

If it is happening to you or someone you love, call this number: 1.800.944.4773 (US and Canada).

Visit this website: www.postpartum.net.

Email support@postpartum.net

Tell your OB/GYN.

It’s not your fault.

You will be ok.

<div align="center"><a href="http://postpartum.net/Join-Us/Maternal-Mental-Health-Awareness-Month-Blog-Hop.aspx" title="PSI Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month Blog Hop"><img src="http://unexpectedblessing.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/psi-blog-hop-badge.png?w=104" alt="PSI Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month Blog Hop" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

Joy wins ~ Jen

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Joy: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying

The last few years, anxiety has become a constant in my life. The doctors speculate that this is partly due to the stressors in my life, the synthetic thyroid hormones I take to replace my missing thyroid, and my fine family history of anxiety and OCD.

I am better now. The kind of better that helps you see how bad it really was and for how long.

In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown nails my anxiety on the head. She calls it foreboding joy. Every time something wonderful happens, or a moment of deep satisfaction or gratitude, it is followed by a sense of dread. What will happen to balance this? When will the other shoe drop?

I lived in fear and didn’t realize it. I felt joy, but then the forebodings crept in and my fear made me feel out of control. I got angry and demanded order. Once everything was in its place, I felt some sense of control again.

On birthdays. Anniversaries. Vacations. Holidays. As you can imagine, this was very fun for my family.

I’m tired of fear winning out. The constant tension between enjoying my life, and being scared to lose it. Trying to control everything so we are predictable, quiet, safe.  This cannot be my best life.

A month ago I asked myself a question: Can I choose joy? Is it that simple?

I made myself get inside my fears. I have never done that, because of my superstition that if we say things out loud, we call them to our lives. Now I realize that if I let them lurk in the corners, they are always threatening me.

Then I had to face down what I really believe about how God loves me. I have issues with Christians who camp out in the Old Testament, as if Jesus never made a new covenant through his life and death. But I did that, too. Fearing the vengeful God of the Hebrews, the God of Job. I can’t just say that I accept God’s love for me. I have to do it.  And I have to know that God loves Shea and my three babies even more than I do.

And I have to live Here. Shea and I like to dream—five years from now, ten years from now. But I always take it a step further and start planning. Planning for ten years from now. And the planning causes me anxiety, because there are so many variables and I can’t plan for all of them. Then I worry about things that have not happened, and probably won’t.

This steals my joy. I do it to myself.

So enough. Enough planning, enough anxiety, enough fear.

I think we can make this choice. I think we can say that fear doesn’t win. Even if the last few years have been hard. Even if there is sickness, or failure, or betrayal. The fear costs us too much. It costs us sleep and health and relationships. It costs us opportunity. It costs us love. What are we doing?

I say, let’s be brave. Let’s choose joy. Let’s choose to be joyful Here.

I don’t think it’s easy, but I know we can do it. We can choose joy. And when we do, joy wins.