A is for Apple, B is for Baby, C is for Cat, and D is for Depression (Whoops! I mean Dread. Dammit! I mean Dog!! )

Loving a little person with your entire self is exhausting. Also, the part where your sleep cycles are constantly interrupted doesn’t really help put any pep in your step. I feel like I was a ball of stress before Ivy was born, and now the volume of my stress rivals the world’s largest ball of twine.

Plans that used to be fun often fill me with dread these days. It’s as if my current existence revolves around making sure my kid has a good day because A. I can’t stand it when she’s crying (I instinctively pull her right out of a person’s arms when she starts) and B. When Ivy has a good day, then I’m more likely to have a good day. When she doesn’t nap well, it has a domino effect of making each attempt at sleep harder and harder as she gets overstimulated. Basically, she’s hyperactive and insane and sometimes has a meltdown. It’s not fun to witness, and it means she’ll likely sleep shitty that night, which means mom sleeps shitty too.

I recently traveled with Ivy for the first time where we spent a night away from home . She did really well…except for the part where she hardly slept and I got 2 total hours of sleep that night. Since then, I’ve been in a shitty mood, and I attribute these feelings with the fact that when my sleep deprivation reaches a certain peak, it creates an energy crisis that makes some version of depression inevitable.

In addition, I’m bored as shit with our daily routine. Cleaning the house, doing endless loads of laundry and dishes, and caring for an infant leave a lot of room for rumination (AKA dwelling on thoughts). I used to work at a library, which I enjoyed for the first year of employment. After that, the dull tasks of checking in and shelving books started driving me mad. If my mind is not forced to be engaged in activities that require thought, things get very bleak very fast.

I wish the solution was to put Ivy in childcare and go back to work, but I hate that option too. I wouldn’t make enough money to offset the cost of daycare, and I’d feel guilty and sad to hand Ivy over to a stranger on a full-time basis when we can afford not to.

I don’t eat as often as I’d like to or should, because I don’t have the energy to prepare anything or go anywhere. The advice to “take care of yourself” by well-meaning folks is easy to say, difficult to implement when you’re too tired to make yourself a sandwich.

I spend too much time being isolated (with Ivy). Derek doesn’t generally get home from work until about an hour before Ivy’s bedtime. He gives her a bath and reads her a story, and then I attempt to nurse her to sleep. After that, I often try to squeeze in a little “me” time, but sometimes I’m so depleted, I just go to bed at 8pm. Since Derek works full-time, I’m the one getting up with Ivy whenever she stirs in the middle of the night. I do get the occasional break during the week (when I know I NEED the distance to not completely lose my shit) and for a few hours every Saturday and Sunday. But more often than not, I’m with this kid 24-7.

My best metaphor for depression is a dragon, a huge beast that you are too weak to fight off. He blows fire down your path of escape, and in your altered state, you somehow have to navigate your way out. If you’ve met the dragon several times before, you might have some skills tucked away to help you win the battle. Once this monster has his claws in your psyche, you can barely summon the motivation to try when you feel so small and hopeless. And yet, you know if you just lay down and accept its presence, you’ll turn into ash.

I can’t imagine how I’m going to deal with grief someday. It seems like daily living is hard enough to trudge through with any continuous grace.

In essence, if I have a bad day, I just tell myself Oh well, tomorrow will be better. It usually is, but when it’s not, I’m like…Shit, am I going to have to fight that goddamn dragon again? And now that I’m a mother, the stakes are even higher, because I have to protect my baby from the fallout. Ivy deserves the best version of myself (and so do I, goddamn it!) but it’s hard when the cards are stacked against us.

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Chronic Pain + Child Rearing = Whose Idea Was This Again?!

As stated in a previous post, I suffer from fibromyalgia. My symptoms first started about 10 years ago, right after I (finally!) left a very damaging relationship (for good). So you see, childbirth was not my first flirtation with trauma. Hence my insistence on sticking with one kiddo rather than taking a gamble on a second attempt at a “normal” birth experience. I have been in survival mode for awhile now. Switching back over to a martyr model is a bit like picking at old scabs. Only in this instance, the scars are worth it and more meaningful. Ivy is more deserving of my affections. Regardless, the self-sacrifice of parenthood takes a heftier toll because of my past and the illness it brought forth.

Fibromyalgia can be so much more debilitating than a Lyrica ad projects. Treatment is a total crapshoot. Unlike taking an antibiotic to treat an infection, trying to find the right medication(s) for taming chronic pain can be quite the feat. Personally, I prefer to steer clear of Big Pharma for multiple reasons. Most notably because I believe that the side effects often create even more issues and sometimes are worse than the illness itself. Many if not most of the medications used to treat fibromyalgia are not suitable for pregnancy or breastfeeding anyway. Basically I’ve always preferred massage, Extra Strength Tylenol, hot showers/heating pads, and most of all sleep (ha!) as my go-to treatments for getting back on my feet during a flare.

What is a flare? My illness is always in the background, sort of hovering. But every once in awhile, it likes to remind me who is in charge (especially if I’ve had a decent period of feeing fairly normal again). This is when it reaches a certain level of intensity in which I no longer have the luxury of ignoring it. The hallmarks of fibromyalgia include fatigue and pain (sometimes in specific areas, sometimes all over). But beyond those, there’s numerous ways that a broken nervous system can affect you: anxiety/panic attacks, random bouts of depression, brain fog, gut issues, and a lower threshold for sensory stimuli (to name a few). Do you know what else can cause these symptoms?

A lack of quality sleep ☹

The newborn phase was particularly harsh. Recovery from childbirth, less sleep than I thought was possible for a human to survive off of, and breastfeeding in numerous awkward positions all contributed to the worst neck pain I’ve ever had. I couldn’t turn my head all the way in one direction and one night my eyes went blurry from nerve pressure. When I laid down, my neck would throb through my pillow. It was beyond terrible.

So having fibromyalgia and caring for an infant (who does not sleep well!) is a double whammy that I’m trying to adapt to. I am saved by the knowledge that we are done having kids, so I will never have to relive this time again. In addition, I just keep telling myself One day at a time…I just have to do whatever I need to do to get through today. It’s kind of working, I guess. I’m not terribly depressed, just depleted as hell.

I feel a special kinship with my baby. Her nervous system is immature while mine is defective. When I’m tired and we are in a crowded loud place with bright lights,  I   feel overstimulated. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to not have the power to leave that type of situation. As a result, I am hypersensitive to Ivy’s cues when she’s had enough and feel more inclined to help us escape whether or not it’s socially acceptable on any given occasion. “Wait! I didn’t get a chance to hold that baby yet!”  And you’re not going to today. Sorry, not sorry.

Some days a migraine leaves me throwing up while Ivy cries in her crib. Other days, we take a 2 hour nap together, and life seems a little brighter for a bit.

In a nutshell, chronic pain makes you want to drop out and shut down. Unfortunately, taking care of a baby does not allow that sort of thing.

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, life goes on…