Sunday, September 30, 2012

Illuminate Week 3 -- Grateful

Illuminate Week 3 -- I Am Grateful For

This has been an extremely rough month, both emotionally and physically. I'm having a hard time healing from Marshall's recent delivery, and my mind is a complete mess of rampant thoughts and emotions. Just when I thought things were finally settling down, I got mastitis. Bad, bad mastitis. I dropped to the floor and cried. Because of the excruciating pain. Because of the disappointment. Because of the feelings that as a mother I was already letting my baby down.

I cried. And cried. And cried some more. I cried until I didn't think there was a drop left in my body.

The next morning as I was feeding Marshall, I wrapped us in a quilt from Grannie Eva. I pulled a book, The Pokey Little Puppy, from the book shelf. And I tried to calm myself, rocking and reading to my baby. When Marshall had fallen back asleep, I sat there looking at him, marveling at how amazing he is.

Then I looked around at my little corner. Andy's quilt, almost like my security blanket, covered the back of my recliner. The quilt covering us was crocheted by Grannie Eva as she earnestly prayed during my entire pregnancy. The book was from my mom. It was one of my favorites as a kid, when my mom read to us every night. Brake's urn sat just out of arm's reach, next to a bouquet of some of my favorite flowers.

In that moment, I remembered my own childhood. All the hopes and dreams my parents instilled and encouraged. The love, the hugs, the bed time stories. The self-esteem and confidence built at a very early age. In that moment, I realized how far I have come. And how many wonderful people have come this far with me. They may not have walked the same agonizing steps as I did, but they were there to help me, to pray for me, to hold me, assuring that I was never completely alone for a single step of this journey.

Of all the small things that make me happy, like sweet tea and sunrises and autumn leaves, I think these realizations, these people, their unwavering love and support, mean so much more. I think grateful is probably an understatement.

For the photo assignment, my 100 steps took me down the sidewalk to what's left of a flower garden:


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Illuminate Week 2 -- Light

Lilly died in the middle of the night, in the middle of the bathroom floor. I became terrified of the night, of the dark, of the bathroom. I tried desperately to immerse myself in as much sunshine as I could. I wanted sun, bright lights, open skies. Anything but darkness. I never wanted to see the night again. And even more than that, I never wanted to go into the bathroom again.

I went home for a visit when I was on medical leave. I took flowers to my cousin and childhood best friend, F, at the local cemetery. I had dreamed of her, holding my Lilly. F is buried under a huge oak tree, which I found very fitting for her, though I'd much rather she not be in the cemetery in the first place. Oak trees are known for their strength and endurance, and they look so noble and beautiful standing tall in the sunshine. I told myself I wanted to be strong like that oak tree. I wanted to stand tall and soak up as much sunlight as I could....and I never wanted to see darkness again.

After Lilly died, I was transferred to a new duty station on the other side of the country. Within a few months of settling in, we found out we were expecting again. I was still terrified of the dark, and especially of the bathroom. Five months later, Brake died, in the dark, in the bathroom. I was spiraling downward, quickly, and I tried so hard to hold tight to the image of that huge oak tree. I wanted to hold on to that sunlight and soak it all in, but I was failing miserably and my fears of the dark were escalating.

When I returned to work, I had a hard time adjusting. I wasn't sleeping well. I couldn't concentrate. I wasn't getting along with people very well. So I was moved to a midnight shift. I left for work around 10 PM and I usually got home around 8 AM. There's something about the flight line at 2 AM. It's cold. It's almost always raining. And it's so very dark. I was stuck in what I hated the most, and it was pulling me in. Many nights the darkness felt so thick and heavy that I might suffocate just from walking into it. Even when the skies were filled with stars, there still wasn't enough light to save me.

The deeper it pulled me in, the darker everything else became. I became like a robot, a machine. Go home and sleep all day. Get up and go to work all night. Go through all the motions but never really feel anything. I never saw the sun anymore. I don't think I noticed it even when it was there. I started having nightmares during the day. I started having flashbacks at night. It drove me to the point of a nervous breakdown in the middle of the flight line....on more than one occasion. I didn't realize it, but I was slowly and painfully shutting down.

One day I decided that I wanted to start painting again. After high school, I had a scholarship for art school, so I thought maybe picking up with the creative stuff again would help work out some of the emotions. I bought an easel, some canvas, and some paints. But they just sat there, waiting.

I was late coming home from work one morning, so I was awake to see the sunrise for the first time in a long time. (Or perhaps it was just the first time I was coherent enough to notice it.) I took a picture of the sun's reflection in my side mirror, still framed with ice from the night before. I posted it to Facebook, and a friend commented how we have the most amazing sunrises up here. I sat on the front porch the entire morning, staring at the sky, at the colors and the light.

I finally found the little boost I needed to pick up the paints. I sat out on the porch every morning, regardless of the weather. A canvas, a paint brush, my Bible, and a big cup of hot tea. Sometimes I would set it all up, but I wouldn't even paint. It just felt so good to be sitting out there, to be seeing the sun again, even though it was just for an hour or so before I had to go bed for work.

This year I was pregnant again, but I was on bed rest for most of it so I couldn't paint. I slept on the couch most nights because it was more comfortable. The sunrise would wake me up as it filled our giant windows with its golden rays. I would sit up in the corner of the couch and watch the warming light melt the fog off the harbor. Tiny little chickadees filled the feeder outside the window, and bunnies grazed quietly in the yard, both hungry and ready to welcome the new day. I always woke up just in time to catch that perfect moment in the sunrise, where the light and dark meet, just long enough to be beautiful, just long enough to paint a new day, a new beginning.

I'm definitely not a morning person, but being up for the sunrise does so much for my heart. Lately though, I haven't been seeing the beauty in the meeting of the light and dark. I feel like I'm wandering through a thick fog, with neither light nor dark to pull me in either direction. I'm not sure if it's the stress of adjusting to a new baby in the house or if it's this nasty bout of post partum depression. Maybe it's just a mix of everything, both new and old.

I go back to work in a couple weeks, and I'll be driving in during sunrise every morning. I'm hoping there will be enough sunshine to pull me through again.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Part of me says I shouldn't be writing this on here. Another part of me says that I need to get this outta me, and this is the only place I can do that.

Marshall is just over 3 weeks old. During the last 3 weeks, I have had a calmness in my heart, a happiness I haven't felt in a very long time. But in all honesty, I'm hurting. I'm hurting so bad....

Adjusting to a new baby was nothing. Adjusting to being a family, well, that hasn't been so easy. It honestly doesn't even feel like a family. It feels like a man inconvenienced by a girl and her baby. I feel like we are here out of necessity, because he has nowhere else to go, rather than because we are actually wanted.

I feel like I'm dancing on the edge of a really nasty post-partum depression.

I had a natural delivery. The first our hospital had seen in quite a long time, according to some of the nurses. Bryan was supportive. My doula was amazing. I had mild pre-eclampsia and my lady parts tore pretty bad, but otherwise, it was a perfect delivery of a perfect baby. I was told I was even laughing at some point during the end of delivery.

I cut Marshall's cord, and when they laid him on my chest he latched almost immediately. I was in shock and disbelief that it was real. I couldn't stop staring at him, not because he was perfect or beautiful, but simply because he was alive. Bryan refused to hold him. He was in such a fret over the dog not going outside that he left before things were cleaned up or the baby was done with his vitals. My doula helped me move into our room.

Our son, that we waited so long for, that I prayed so hard for, that I spent so long on bed rest trying to keep alive, was not even half an hour old, and he had other things to do. He couldn't hold him. He couldn't take pictures. He had to leave. Calling it a slap in the face is a huge understatement.

The swelling and stitches kept me from being able to move around very well. I had to have help getting in and out of bed so that I could get to the bathroom. Marshall was born during finals week, and Bryan didn't talk to his teachers, so he had to leave during the day for his tests. Marshall had to stay in the bed with me most of the day because I had no way of tending to him without calling for a nurse. Since I was alone, I wasn't getting up often enough, so I lost control of my bladder for a few days.

My parents got here a couple days after I was discharged, but I still couldn't move very well. My lady parts were the size of a grapefruit, so naturally, that's gonna take a while to heal. (Ok, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. A tangerine is probably more accurate, not that anyone cares to know.)

I wanted to rest at home with my new baby and my parents. My parents wanted to relax and help out with the baby. Bryan wanted to show them everything on the damn island. A simple trip to the grocery store had to turn into an entire family event. I cried getting into and out of the truck. I held my breath while I sat because I couldn't possibly get comfortable. I actually tore a little more because of all the moving and stretching. I wasn't able to nurse or pump for hours at a time, so I was constantly engorged and sore.

I tried to explain that breastfed babies have to eat every couple hours. I tried to explain that I have to get the milk out every couple hours, even if I have to pump. I ended up with blocked ducts that completely cut the flow on one side. Nothing would come out. Not a drop. So Bryan started pushing formula. Even if I was trying to nurse him, Bryan was still trying to push a bottle of formula at him. Even after the ducts got better.

Bryan figured out how to change a diaper. He carries the car seat and the stroller at the same time because he doesn't want to let anyone help. He shoves a bottle or a pacifier in "the kid's" face every time he whimpers. So that makes him strong and awesome. He's constantly stroking his ego with how awesome a dad he is and how he's so great at this and so great at that.

Last week he pitched a mad fit because I told him it was too cold at the beach for the baby. So he jerked the car seat out of the stroller and stomped off to the truck. He got mad because he wanted to fix a bottle of formula, and I handed him a freshly pumped bottle, with the pump still on it. He couldn't get the pump off so he threw it across the house.

I get told I'm doing this wrong and questioned about doing that. I was told that breastfeeding just wasn't for me because I was having problems. I'm up all hours of the night without help. I've tripped on the dog and landed flat on my ass almost every night for two weeks. I do laundry, I clean the house, I bathe and feed the baby. But I'm just grumpy and "fucking shitty" all the time. I'm not awesome. I'm not doing a good job. I'm apparently not even doing things right.

Bryan's dad is in town to see Marshall. He keeps joking about taking my baby. At one point, he wasn't even joking. He said that if his ex-wife was out here at the same time, he was taking the dog and the baby and leaving. And of course, once again, I'm doing this or that wrong. I'm not able to nurse on schedule. Hell, I don't even get to see my baby until night time when I'm bathing him and getting him ready for bed.

They want me to take pictures of them while he's here, of their 3 generations. It's his dad's idea, but it's the most interest he has shown since we came home. Our son is 3 weeks old, and we don't even have a picture of the three of US together. Not even at the hospital.

I'm tired of company. I'm tired of being told I'm wrong. I'm tired of being told how to take care of my baby. I'm tired of not being good enough. I'm tired of the jokes and taking over things. I'm tired of the lack of support and encouragement. I'm tired of the bullshit arguments and personality clashes and angry fits. I'm tired of feeling like I'm not wanted. I'm tired of feeling like my son isn't wanted, like he's an inconvenience. I'm tired of all of it.

I go back to work in 3 weeks, and Marshall starts daycare. I just want to rest and love on my baby while I can.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Illuminate Week One

Illuminate's Week One Assignment.....

Dear Lilly and Brake,

It's been two years and two months since you left us, Lilly, and a year and a half for Brake. Going back to work seemed to intensify the pain. I was learning a new job, the one that played a hand in your death, Brake, and I was also learning how to live after saying goodbye to a second baby. I was moved to a midnight shift because I couldn't control my temper. I ran on very little sleep because of all the nightmares. I was always on edge at work because there was always a flashback around the corner. I had the worst flashbacks on the flight line, the worst place to have a distracted mind. 

Last summer I started painting to help channel some of the pain. I lost motivation for it after a while, but I have still managed to let go of some of it. It still hurts. I still have nightmares. I still cry. I still can't even look at a ladder or use the bathroom at night without trembling. But I can talk about you with a smile because the joy that you brought during your short time really does outweigh the pain. I just wish others would be more open to remembering you. It hurts when people come into our home and get upset about seeing your pictures on the wall.

Almost three weeks ago, Mommy welcomed your little brother Marshall to the world. It hurts me to say this, but I finally feel like a real mommy. Lilly, you were my first born, my first love, and you made me a mommy. For the first time ever. But spending these last two years without you and Brake, well, I didn't feel like much of one.

When I'm taking care of Marshall, I realize how much I missed out on with both of you. It hurts to know that you never got a chance in this world. It hurts to know that Marshall will never get to be the little brother that he really is. Sometimes at night when he's nursing, I'll catch a glimpse of something in his eyes and I'll remember how much he looks like you, Brake. And I'll break down in tears every time.

I miss you two so very much. I feel like a mommy, but I don't feel like myself. Maybe it's a bit of post-partum depression in addition to missing you, but I feel more like a hollow shell lately. I got sunflowers in the hospital, and they are all dried up now. They are still somewhat recognizable, but nothing like they used to be. That's sorta how I feel. Your dad has been helpful but not very supportive, and I think that makes it feel worse.

Even though Marshall makes me feel happier, he hasn't and can't ever replace you. I will still always love you and miss you.

*I know there's supposed to be more pictures, but I'm still not getting around that well. I'll do better with next week's assignment.*

Monday, September 3, 2012

He's here. :-)

Sorry for keeping yall waiting for so long.... 

Marshall Andrew finally made his appearance last Tuesday at 2:11 pm. 
He weighed 6 pounds 5 ounces and was 19 inches long. 


He's doing great. I'm having some pretty rough post partum issues though, so it will probably be a few more days before I can get back with more pictures and possibly a birth story. 

Thanks again for all the thoughts, prayers, and encouragement over the last 9 months. I'm still in a bit of disbelief that this is real.