Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Baby Blues: Things That Hurt and Things That Heal

So, I feel like in the past few days I've really turned a corner. I haven't blogged much about it yet, but I've been so, so emotional. I've been wearing my feelings on my sleeve in a big way on Instagram and Facebook. Actually, it's been a really good thing- so many people have reached out and told me that they felt this way, too, and it was so refreshing to have someone be honest about it. Anyway, even though it's gradually getting better, I wanted to do that in this space, too. And also- as I've said many times- I want this place to be a record of the hard and the happy times.

 I started writing this post and I decided I wanted to share some specific things- again partly for my own memory. But it's putting me in a difficult spot. I really don't want to offend anyone or hurt anyone's feelings. These emotions are all me and nobody has done anything wrong. It reminds me of the time right after Graves was born that I cryptic tweeted about how I was afraid one of my VERY BEST FRIENDS was going to judge me over not spanking Annie. I was so paranoid and I didn't handle that in the right way at all. We got past it, but I still wish I hadn't done that. I do think this is different because I'm able to provide more clarity and I think the nuance is obvious.

Before I share more of the details, one thing that has been interesting to me is how my post-partum hormones have manifested in very different ways all three times. With Annie I had TERRIBLE anxiety (on top of what is "normal" for me) and I just worried so much something horrible would happen to her. With Graves that was better and mostly I was just frustrated and incredibly exhausted because he was pretty high needs and also (mostly) because the transition was a lot harder for Annie than I ever anticipated. It's helped to remember those times and how I got through them and there was light on the other other side. 

I do think it's hit a bit harder this time, for some reason. I told myself so many days during this pregnancy that if I could just get through the hard stuff, it would be perfect once I held our sweet new baby in my arms and sniffed that baby smell. And honestly, my physical healing has been amazingly fast and I feel such relief not being pregnant anymore. But especially that first week, my mind and heart felt very, very broken. When a neighbor came over, she asked why my eyes were so puffy. I lied and said sleep deprivation and allergies. Which, actually, both probably have some truth to them. But it wasn't the real reason. The real reason?

Here's a brief rundown of several of the things that have had me in tears over the past two weeks (and the perspective I got latter on) :

- Cookie being so far away. You guys may remember how I cried and cried worrying about her being here for this baby's birth. And of course, against a lot of odds, she was able to be. But she was here two weekends in a row and she and Conrad haven't been able to get back. They'll be here in another week or so and maybe twice in July. It will be FINE. But I had a couple of big meltdowns about not having my family all here together.

- I've actually gotten quite worked up over several family things. Minnie was supposed to come over the first day Peyton went back to work. We had talked about it earlier in the week and I reminded her the day before but I didn't specifically say that Peyton was going back to work so she thought it was just a very causal invitation. The night before it had stormed and she started working in her yard and got totally immersed in it (as she often does). And then I couldn't get ahold of her or Mickey and started freaking out. I wasn't just hurt, I was scared. She called me back in tears and apologized and it was totally fine. It actually worked out better because a friend and her two girls dropped by that day and then Minnie came the next day.

- Peyton's parents didn't visit the baby in the hospital. Truly, that was NO big deal for me. They have a lot going on with their other kids and Peyton's grandmother, they were keeping our big kids, and actually, with Graves and Annie first few days the visitors at the hospital wore me out. We had just about the perfect amount this time! But Peyton's mom was having knee surgery the day after we left the hospital and it started to look like they might not meet the baby until after it. I got so upset. Peyton reminded me that his dad was trying to give US space and be considerate and not barge in on us as we tried to settle in. But I got all worked up about it. We took Sallie over to their house and his mom said she was SO glad we had brought her by because they change so much in just a week. I realized it did matter to her as much as it did to me and they were bending over backwards to love us well and try to allow us some rest.

- Back to the hospital. I cried twice because I didn't think to get Cookie to take any video during the birth. I didn't realize it until a couple of days ago when I was looking at the pictures again, but she's only one person and we only had one camera. If she had been videoing I might have missed out on some of those shots. And they are really priceless to me in a way a video probably wouldn't be. There's just something a bit more...special....about still images, I guess?

- The day Minnie did come over she started talking about a very special pitcher of my grandmother's that she put up so it wouldn't get broken. First I got terribly upset missing my grandmother (this happened a couple of times right after Annie was born). She is the first of four successive generations of Sarah that Sarah Lamar is named for so it felt extra heartbreaking that she isn't here. Then my mom had mentioned that she would be heartbroken if something had happened to the pitcher. I thought about how rough Graves is and all the times he's almost (or has actually) broken various things at her house and mine. I thought about how much *I* struggle not to be attached too much to things- mainly in a sentimental way- and to hold them loosely. I sent Minnie a text that said:
Would you resent Graves if he had broken the pitcher? I've started to ask you to move it a hundred times. I just need you to say we're more important than things- even the most special ones. Please don't be upset at me for needing to hear that.
THIS IS SO DAMN STUPID. Probably besides me and Peyton, nobody in the world cherishes our kids more than Sarah Ann Perry. I kind of can't get over myself. But this was like the worst period sadness every in the world. It was nuts.

The last two are the hardest things...

- I'm going to be incredibly honest here and say something, but I hope everyone reading in no way thinks I feel like they've done anything wrong or should do anything differently. Okay. Ready, go. Father's Day has been really hard for me the past two years. Because of the circles we run in, most everyone on social media spends a great deal of their tributes to their husbands talking about what a strong spiritual leader their husbands are. Everybody is leading everybody else to the foot of the cross.  Because we always leaned more egalitarian, I've never cared much about Peyton being THE spiritual leader, but I do deeply miss having him as a spiritual partner. I'm actually at a pretty good place with this and I'm truly glad for my friends for whom this happiness is a lived experience. I do not, do not, do not want anyone tiptoeing around me or feeling sorry for me. It's just that comparing ourselves is a very human thing to do and when you're bone tired and drowning in hormones, every joy and every pain seems exponentially greater.

- The other main thing that has been driving my tears (and I'm planning to write further on this later) is that this is our last little (biological) baby. It's like the moment she was born the clock started ticking. I just love it so much and even though I KNOW the joy just multiplies as they get bigger, I wish this stage lasted forever. I talked to a friend and wondered if I'll be envious every time someone has a new baby. I felt guilty about that. I told myself I needed to be sure to enjoy this. I felt so much pressure to do that. I have such a sense of closure with pregnancy and childbirth and I think I will with nursing when the time comes. All the reasons I really wanted another biological child. (We really thought for a while that Graves would be our last newborn and honestly until I saw her face I kept thinking this was a dream I'd wake up from.) Peyton reminded that Cookie will have babies and by then he'll be pretty much totally early retired and I can just go move to Nashville for a bit. And that one day Graves will attempt to convince his wife to go along with his plan of having "a hundred thousand babies" and they'll probably need some help. I started sobbing and said "What if his wife hates me?". It's so comical in retrospect. P said "you are not going to hate your mother in law if she's offering to move in and help with your hundred thousand babies". We were getting way ahead of ourselves. But HORMONES.

So, that's the hard stuff. But there's lots and lots and lots of good (often tiny, as is so frequently the case) things that are sustaining me right now:

-  The footies Sallie is wearing in the picture above that remind me of lime sherbet. Seven(!!!) years ago when Annie was a newborn. I asked my friend Ashley where she got the pjs with the little tags on them (now I'm not sure why I was THAT captivated by them, though they are cute). I so enjoyed putting them on our New Girl. Actually, I've taken so much pleasure in dressing her up. Maybe more so than my other two. And if you don't know, I took ALOT of pleasure in dressing them.

- Annie saying things she doesn't realize are funny like "I wonder if Minnie has opened my surprise yet. I think surely she's home by now (she had left five hours earlier and they live in an adjacent county less than ten miles away).

- The juxtaposition of these two things and the reminder that as much as I miss the baby she was, I adore the little girl she's become. 

- The people (not always my closest friends) who reach out and tell me in vulnerable ways that this is so, so normal and I won't always feel this way.

- But also: my closest friends. The first day I was feeling like a trainwreck Carrie and Mallory both showed up at the hospital and said all the right words and made me laugh and were normal when I needed normal and dug deep when I needed deep. And they keep showing up- texting me and checking in and reminding me that I won't always feel like this. 

- FOOD. People are so generous. The chick who cuts my hair (and I mean, is also a friend, but....) brought lunch to our house today and brought two Cokes just because she knows Coca Cola is my jam. A neighbor that I really don't know all that well brought down brownies and a mom from Annie's soccer team that I became friends with dropped off muffins she made a little happies for Annie and Graves. A good friend brought some of my favorites to snack on- pimento cheese and chicken salad and strawberries, angel food cake, and Cool Whip. She knows me well, too. Annie's Sunday School teacher brought about two weeks worth of spaghetti and a ton of cut up fruit. 

- Soaking up my baby girl. In some ways, I have systems and set ups that help me be so much more efficient than I was when Annie and Graves were newborns. I just do a lot more in the same amount of hours. But at the same time, those are another thing I'm trying very hard to hold loosely. I'm giving myself lots of time to let her nap on my chest and (even if she's sleeping) if I feel like picking her up, I do. 

- Which leads me to perspective. More on this later too but let's just say I'm at a very different place mentally than I was with Annie and Graves and I have more of a long view now that I've done this for seven years. I'm really, really (like every single day) grateful for the spacing and I feel like it was all perfectly timed.

- Peyton. He's been helping me so much. When Annie was little we were fighting tooth and nail to even function as a team. And things were much improved by the time Graves came on the scene, but it was just a different dynamic. I think lots of things, but particularly the way we grew and changed and learned to serve one another in New York, have made us kinder and gentler to each other and it's been so much easier this time.

- Annie and Graves. As unexpectedly hard as the transition was for Annie when Graves was born this has been (so far!) surprisingly easy. Which makes sense as they are clearly much more able to understand what's going on and articulate their own needs, but still I was prepared for some HARD days with them. I can't say I could have hoped for anything better.  

I've cried out of joy for these good gifts not a few times, too.

So here we are....feeling all the things very deeply. And I'm already a deep feeler. So even the good emotions are a bit of a beast of burden. It's all so much. But I'm so very thankful for it. It's a very rich life, indeed and I'm glad I get to experience it so fully.



Megan said...

You don't know me, but I've read your blog for years. Sending you prayers and good thoughts as you adjust to new life with Sallie! I just had to comment because I laughed out loud at you sobbing about Graves's future wife maybe not liking you... because I have a 1-year old son, and I've cried over the same thing in the past, and my husband thinks I am so ridiculous! ;) Hormones are intense! Congratulations on your sweet new baby!

Mallory Pickering said...

This is one of my favorite things you've ever written.