Motherhood & Madness: How Radical Acceptance is Changing My Life

Motherhood&Madness

 

It has been awhile! So many things have happened aside from giving birth to my son that I have really struggled to prioritize everything that needs to be done.

My son is almost 2 months old. These have been the most wonderful and challenging 2 months of my life. Around the third week after my son was born I found myself feeling very frustrated with the changes that were happening. I was sitting in the rocking chair around 3 am trying to get my son back to sleep. I was finding it very difficult and I sat in the chair saying to myself, “I hate this! I want to go to sleep!” I was coming closer and closer to tears. It suddenly dawned on me that I need to radically accept that the situation was happening. I needed to accept that I would find myself up at 3 am a lot (and I am every single morning without fail) and that my son would be fussy for various reasons. I needed to accept that my role as a parent involves sacrifices to ensure my child is fed, comfortable and safe. Radically accepting this doesn’t mean I’m ok with waking up at 3 am, it means that I am going to accept this is my reality because fighting it will do nothing except cause me pain.

I realized in that moment I also needed to change the narrative in my mind. Instead of thinking about how much I hate being awake at 3 am I decided to start thinking that these are bonding moments. Every moment I spend with my son is an opportunity to bond with him. I can see the positive effects of the hours I spend with my son such as getting his first real smiles and him looking to me for comfort when other people are holding him and he is upset. It’s an amazing connection that is worth the few months of broken sleep.

Radical acceptance and changing the narrative have made the past 7 weeks more enjoyable. I am not always successful since lack of sleep can increase emotions like sadness and anger and I am still successful most of the time as I acknowledge that this is allowed to be hard, I am allowed to be upset and that regardless I am doing the best I can for my son.

Motherhood & Madness: I could not have asked for a better birth

Motherhood&Madness

 

My son is now 16 days old! I am able to look back on his birth with memories that involve less physical pain and really appreciate how amazing my birth experience was. I would very much like to share my birth story with you and I would love to hear yours as well!

On Thursday, September 22nd, I went to see my Midwife for a regular check-up and I also was given the stretch and sweep I asked for to try and get labour started. I was 39 weeks and 1 day. While I had no medical reason for this non-chemical induction my overractive uterus (constant practice contractions that would not go away no matter what) was causing me great discomfort and sometimes pain. There were no guarantees it would do anything and I didn’t hold out hope that anything would happen (technically have no proof that the sweep did bring on labour, he may have come the day he did anyways).

On Friday, September 23rd in the afternoon, I began to experience mild cramps that felt like a period cramp. I had been experiencing these on and off for the past few weeks as my body prepared for labour but they hadn’t meant anything. These cramps started happening more frequently and for longer. Something, I don’t remember what, prompted me to put a panty liner on (I think I had felt like something was coming out and didn’t want to wreck my clothes) but I figured it was just regular old discharge. Around 7pm, I felt like I had peed myself and ran to the washroom. There was no pee but there was another liquid. My water broke! I can’t remember if it was before or after my water broke but my mucus plug also came out. I had all the signs that labour was starting!

I lay in bed and tried my hypnobirthing meditations and visualizations to help me get through the contractions which were growing in strength and gradually getting closer together. Despite everything I was trying and had prepared none of my comfort measures were working. Looking back this may have been because I had been allowed to labour alone. My midwife would later tell me that if she had arrived earlier (or if I had a doula) my comfort measures probably would have been more effective. I became the most concerned when I was in the shower and began violently shivering (I did not know that shivering is the body’s way of releasing tension during labour). I contacted my Midwife a handful of times because I felt like my contractions felt stronger despite being 6-7 minutes apart. She said that I seem to be coping well the contractions (doing my best to breathe through them) but I had decided that I wanted to change my birth plan. I was in a lot of pain and didn’t want to give birth at home, unmedicated anymore. We agreed that she would call me at 7 am on Saturday, September 24th and that would be when we could probably head to the hospital and I could have an epidural. “Whatever you want is what I want,” she said to me. My Partner and I called his Mom to see if she could drive us to the hospital. She came over (it was around 2 am or 3 am).

My Partner began to pack our hospital bag and get the car seat ready. At one point my partner was in the washroom and I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to poop. I bolted up in bed and yelled, “I NEED THE WASHROOM!” My Partner quickly got out and I went and sat on the toilet. My body began involuntarily pushing. The sounds that came out of my mouth were sounds I never thought I’d make. I guess I could describe it as a grunt. I can see why people say birth is primal. I became moderately afraid that I would give birth, unassisted and have my baby fall into the toilet. I had my partner call my Midwife and after speaking to me (it was very hard to talk on the phone while experiencing painful contractions and involuntarily pushing) she said she was coming over. My Midwife arrived, along with the Student Midwife, around 5 am on Saturday, September 24th. They checked how dilated I was and I was told I was 9 cm! My Midwife said that since I only had 1 cm to go it was safer to give birth at home (home births are completely safe, I’m talking about reducing my risk of giving birth in the car) rather than put myself in a car and head to the hospital where I wouldn’t even be able to get pain drugs because I was basically ready to push. I agreed to stick with my original plan of having a home birth. By the time my Midwives had set up their equipment (about 20-30 minutes) I was dilated to 10 cm and ready to push. The Midwife in charge of caring for the baby was called and she arrived within a few minutes.

I tried pushing on the birthing stool, on my back and very briefly on all fours and ended up doing most of the pushing on my back with my legs supported. It was the most comfortable position for me. My Partner stayed up by my head and told me that I was doing a great job, that he loved me and other words of encouragement. He responded to my demands of “don’t touch me” very well (touching during a contraction felt horrible) and let me hold his finger (seriously, just one finger was all I wanted) during my rest between contractions. As time passed, I kept asking my Midwives how much longer and where the baby’s head was (I admit that I probably slowed down the arrival of the baby because I was embarrassed about pooping myself so I wasn’t pushing the way I should have). They kept saying “soon” and eventually I said, in a joking way, “You’ve been saying soon for over an hour. That’s not soon!” Once the baby’s head got past the pelvic bone I could feel the pressure and burning pain and the only way to make that stop was to get the head out. I was asked if I wanted to see or touch the head but I said no, that I just wanted to get the baby out. Eventually, the head was born, my Partner saw it, and I felt the pressure ease a little bit (a neck is smaller than a head after all). The hard part was over and now all I had to do was give birth to the rest of the body. As I pushed the Midwives got in there with their hands to help get the rest of the body out. I did stop pushing at one point and said, “Ow” because it was hurting but as soon as I was finished saying “Ow” the baby slid out and was placed on my chest.

I was shocked at this fairly large, purple and puffy baby that had been placed in front of me. We confirmed that it was a boy and he had a good cry. After about 3 min, when the umbilical cord stopped pulsing (meaning my son had gotten all of the blood he needed from the placenta) my Partner cut the cord. I was very happy he did because he wasn’t sure if he would feel like he would want to. I delivered the placenta utilizing active management with no problem (it’s now in our freezer and will be buried under a tree when we buy a house). My son was born on Saturday, September 24th, 2016 at 8:25 am after 13 hours of labour. He weighed 9 lbs 8 oz, was 21 inches long and had a 37 cm head. He’s a big boy and shares a birthday with my best friend!

One thing that amazed me was how I needed every person that was there. If my Partner or a Midwife stepped away for something I felt a little more helpless. That may sound bad but I mean that together the 5 of us were stronger and I needed every person there to make the space feel comfortable and safe. Each person helped me give birth and we were a great team!

I really could not have asked for a better birth. It was exactly what I wanted. Am I going to rush to have baby number 2? Hell no! Pregnancy and birth are a lot of work and the recovery time has shocked me! While some may be able to get up and do everything they want after giving birth that was not me. I had some tears so moving and walking were very painful for awhile. I still have some pain but mostly feel it if I sit down to quickly, sit on the toilet, walk slowly or stand. If there’s one thing that gets to me it’s feeling this pain and having the bleeding. While all of it is normal, it has made it difficult for me to interact with my son the way I would like to. I am getting there though and plan on setting up a little play area for him today so we can do some quick tummy time when he wakes up!

B has been a massive help! He took two weeks off work and while I thought the two weeks would be great bonding time for B and his son, B has also been an amazing support to me while I have been healing. These past 2 weeks have been a special time for our little family. Tomorrow is my first full day by myself with my son. I am nervous but excited. My Mom will come by at some point and I do have some outings and appointments that will keep us both active.

Please feel free to share yours in the comments. Good or bad, it is important to own our birthing experience so if you did have a traumatic birth you can recover from it and learn about how you may want it different if you choose to give birth again. Sharing our birth stories also teaches others about birth. While nothing really prepares you for what birth will be like, it is good to read others experiences to get an idea. Thank you so much for reading my birth story.

Motherhood & Madness: He is here!

Motherhood&Madness

 

I may be especially absent over the next few weeks because my son is now in the world! Needless to say, all of my attention is on him and healing my body (which I for some reason did not think would hurt the way it does…silly me).

When I have sorted through some of my other work I hope to share my birth story here. It is probably the proudest moment of my life and one that has left me feeling stronger.

For the privacy of my son I will not be sharing his name, initials or pictures.

I finally have a therapist to see through the psychiatric program that specializes in women with mental health issues and pregnancy/postpartum. I have this therapist a lot later than I thought I would but I’m glad I have one now because I was ready to leave the program.

I look forward to sharing more of this adventure with you and hearing about your adventures with your own children!

My DEAR MAN was great, the response was not: Accepting that I cannot control others

Please check out my recent blog post in Dialectical Living about my first time using DEAR MAN. It did not go over well but I still came away with a very valuable lesson about not being able to control others.

I have found it frustrating over the years that I have learned so much about how to become a more improved version of myself and yet these skills do not always translate well to others due to their inexperience with them. It has always fascinated me that I have learned self-reflection, mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal skills because I was deemed to have a deficit and yet I am surrounded by people daily who demonstrate the same deficit, they just are just not labeled as “mentally ill”.

Have there been moments when you have practiced a skill with someone and it didn’t work out? What about moments of when the skill does work? 

Motherhood & Madness: A Guilty Parent

Motherhood&Madness

I am 38 weeks pregnant today. My baby can come any time now! This is a happy and scary time as any day could be the day that labour starts. Unfortunately, I have been battling a mild form of irritable uterus. This is not officially diagnosed but when I saw my midwife yesterday and continued to describe my symptoms she started using language like “overactive uterus” and “irritable uterus”. Researching it, I find it fits my experience. For about 3-4 weeks I have been experiencing frequent uterine contractions that cause tightness and pressure in my belly. This is very uncomfortable and is causing me to become inactive, have difficulty sleeping, and making me very unhappy. The suggestions of staying hydrated, emptying my bladder, lowering stress, and limiting movement do not work at relieving the contractions. It is especially difficult to manage the hydration and emptying my bladder is impossible. I have found some relieve with laying on my side with pillows behind and in front of me and trying to truly relax.

Where does the guilt come in? That’s why I wanted to write this blog in the first place. When I saw my midwife yesterday and told her about my continued experience with my uterus, she offered to do a stretch and sweep.  This procedure is non-drug way to kick start labour. While in the office, B encouraged me to get the procedure done but I was so overcome with fear and guilt that I said I would think about it and if I decide to do it then I would do it next Thursday at my appointment. I trust my midwives to offer me non-medical solutions to my pregnancy woes and they would never force me to do something unless my life or my baby’s life were at risk. There is nothing wrong with having a stretch and sweep at 38 weeks pregnant. I still found myself feeling like a horrible mother for doing something to my body to make my body arrive before he wants to. I feel like I am being selfish for wanting to get him out because I’m uncomfortable. It also made me nervous that doing the procedure means I have an idea of when my baby could be born versus right now where I have no idea. This baby is still an abstract idea to me and the potential of having him arrive hours to a few days after a stretch and sweep makes my head spin. I feel a lot of emotions and I would like to cry.

After another night of discomfort, knowing there is something I could do to bring on labour and make the discomfort stop, I decided to call my midwives to see if I could come in sooner than next Thursday. I am waiting to hear back. I still feel immense guilt. I am trying to manage this guilt by reminding myself that my baby is ready to come out. Babies can 100% survive outside of the womb at 38 weeks (I believe I was born at 38 weeks). I think some deep breathing and meditation is in order as I do not need the added stress.

Thank you for reading this post. I really needed to get this out. There is a lot about pregnancy that we keep to ourselves and I think more needs to be known about the physical and emotional things that happen.

After “World Suicide Prevention Day”: 4 events I’m glad I lived to see

This past Saturday was World Suicide Prevention Day. Please take the time to read a blog post I wrote about for Dialectical Living, a peer-based DBT organization based in Toronto. In the post, I share 4 events that have happened in my life that I am glad I got to experience. I was able to experience these events because I did not die when I tried to back in 2005.

I would love to hear how you celebrated World Suicide Prevention Day, your thoughts and feelings and anything else!

http://www.dialecticalliving.ca/after-world-suicide-prevention-day/

It’s not a fantasy, it’s one possible reality

Photo: “One day you’ll wake up next to the love of your life in a pretty house with puppies and cute kids and all the hard things happening now will be worth it.”

 

I saw this picture this morning and it warmed my heart. I was waking up next to the love of my life, with my son moving around in my belly (he’s due this month) and my cat wandering around our apartment. All the hard things I went through were worth it for this moment. Scrolling through the comments on the picture I saw that a lot of people were not happy about this photo.

“Hate to break it to you, but this is not a guaranteed outcome! I use to fall for this sort of thought process/mentality…”

“Fantasy is not a good coping mechanism for mental illness.”

“Doesn’t sound like people are impressed with the false hope idea. Besides, unless you face and fix the underlying issues now, all that “puppies, kids, etc” won’t help much. You’ll still be struggling, expect now you have more to lose than before.” (although to the credit of this comment the person went on to say that if you do find these things in your life you have more to fight for which is good)

I get it. I really do. I have been in the mindset that I will always be suffering and that I cannot have what I want and need. It pains me to read comments that illustrate to me that many people think they cannot find things to make them happy, find the things that will make their horrible experiences worth it. It shouldn’t be a “fantasy” to live happily ever after in whatever form that may take for you. There are many possible realities and we can find the one that suits us. It is productive to have goals about how we want our life to look and it is very good for our mental health to have goals.

When B and I first started dating it was my goal to become more in control of my emotions to improve our relationship and my relationship with myself. I knew we wanted children and I would not put a child through my emotional chaos while I had no coping skills. I spent about a year learning and practicing DBT. Our relationship went up and down because that’s what happens and when we finally decided to try and have a baby it came from a strong and confident place. Even in the early spring of this year when our relationship briefly ended I modified my goal and began to work towards it while also managing the extreme emotional pain of a breakup. Our relationship, fortunately, was repaired so I know that my reality will constantly be changing. There are no guarantees to how your life will turn out and there never will be. We can only do what we can in the moment to try and create the best possible outcome.

We decide what is “worth it” in our lives. To think that reaching that satisfied moment in your life is a “fantasy”, “false hope”  and something you “fall for” is what will probably be a part of what stops you from finding and getting what you want/need. I know I am probably making it sound like this is easy. I know it is not. I have been on this journey since I was around 12 years old and I am still young. I have fallen down many times and almost didn’t get back up. I have had to push myself, accept the pain and find the lessons to help me become better.