How I live is how they’ll learn

There are times I’m asked a question that literally stops me in my tracks. And this happened to me last week. Sitting at my fortnightly shrink appointment, my therapist asked me how, as a result of my experiences are now shaping the type of mother I am for my kids & what traits & values I’m stilling in them, also as a result of my life experiences. Answering this for me was simple & the qualities rolled off my tongue.

I responded: I would hope my kids are going to be humble, considerate & compassionate. I would hope that my kids are  going to think really hard before making a judgement or sizing someone up & I would hope that they are going to be kind hearted. Simple really.

Most of the qualities I wish upon my kids, I learned throughout my life, (mostly) the older I got, the more experiences I had & by the  friends I’ve had along the way. Funnily enough, it’s been my kids that have taught me the true meaning of some of these traits, specifically, humility & to refrain from judgment.

I think the most amount of learning I did was when I was admitted to the nuthouse (psych facility, parent-infant unit). I learnt that certain things in life doesn’t discriminate, most obviously at the time, mental illness. I learned it didn’t matter about my education, my background, my University degree, my relationship status, my income, my level of class in society, what car I drove, how big my diamond was – nothing mattered. I was no better than anyone else I sat with & spend my time with. In fact, I was no better than anyone in admitted to the facility then & forever. I needed help just like everyone else. It was the most humbling experience of my life (so far) & one that keep me grounded daily. I also hope my kids see mental illness as an unfortunate condition & not a character flaw, an excuse for odd/bad behaviour or social awkwardness or a result of being weak or impressionable.

It’s easy to learn not to be judgmental when you become a parent.Well it’s easy, but not necessarily upheld & practiced. You learn very quickly that what works for you & your child might not be acceptable & approved by someone else, but it becomes their issue & not yours. You learn that no child is the same (especially if you have more than one child), you learn they all develop at their own pace, you learn that they overcome challenges when they are ready, you learn that you will move mountains for your kids in order for them to be happy, healthy & safe & you learn that we all do it that way that we know how & what works for us. You learn that there will still be those that will judge you for choices you make for your kids, but that their opinions are just opinions. You learn to accept others for the choices they make, whether you agree with them or not. You may not know the other person’s background or journey or what led them to make certain decisions, but to try & just be supportive of them. I’m not naive, I know we are all judgmental, it’s human nature, but it’s those of us that have learnt to accept choices of others that tend to carry less anger, resentment & jealousy.

This wasn’t a revelation for me, however I was still surprised at how the words flowed at the time, how instant the words came & how passionate I was when answering. I don’t know if my answer would have been as passionate had I not spent time in the nuthouse, had I had an easy time becoming a mother, had I had a child without special needs or had I had a different upbringing. What I do know is that this has all shaped the person, wife & mother I am & the person, wife & mother I want to be.

My gift with purchase

The term ‘gift with purchase’ is familiar to most. Those of you with experience in advertising, marketing, retail or just seasoned shopaholics are all well aware of what it means. It’s that free product you get after you purchase an item. It’s that lip gloss you get when you buy your perfume or that extended warranty when you buy your new car.

Three & a half years ago, I got a gift with purchase after I had Orli. My purchase was of course my baby girl. My gift with purchase was my Postnatal (postpartum) Mood Disorder (PMD).

Did I see it as a gift back then? Hell fricken no! Do I see it as a gift now? I most definitely do!

Here’s why.

I truly believe I am a better mother because of my PMD. It’s as though I’m more in touch with my kids emotions because my extensive therapy teaching me how to feel. I had spent my life pretty much only feeling things on the surface but not diving to explore the rest of the iceberg. I had made myself numb to most pain & wore a mask for as long as I can remember. Throughout my recovery, I worked on allowing myself to experience emotions and learnt how to process different emotions. How would my children learn to manage their emotions without being shown or taught this fundamental life skill? Thanks to my PMD, I’m hoping I won’t have to find out.

While I was pregnant & after I had Orli I experienced many flashbacks of my childhood which were hard to revisit. I always knew I wanted to do a better job with my children (my parents did the best they could, truly, I’m not blaming them) but I could only do this if I had the tools & emotional wherewithal to do so. Therapy is making me re-explore these memories & be at peace with them, accept them or simply to move on. I’m well aware that there will be things in the future when it comes to our kids & their happiness etc that will trigger my anxieties & memories however, I’ve now got the tools to both recognise & rectify how I feel & how I let the situation affect me… if at all. Had it not been for my PMD & therapy I’m almost sure this would not be possible.

My therapy made me question a lot of things. I had to re-learn things, had to see things differently & had to learn how to make myself emotionally available to Orli – admittedly, tantrums & fatigue certainly tested me, however I did & still do my best to refuel & regroup & try again. Or call on Seon – because asking for help was something I had/have to learn too! Children teach you things about yourself you never thought possible. They teach you patience, they teach you to live in the moment, they teach you that the littlest gesture can mean so much, they teach you the true meaning of advocacy, they teach you strength, they teach you resilience, they teach you to speak up (when they can’t yet & while they’re learning), they show you how to remove the clutter & focus on the little things like a flower or a bird chirping, therefore, they also teach you embrace things we have long ago taken for granted. They are amazing little creatures that bring with them innocence, life lessons you never saw coming & show you the true meaning of unconditional love. If I thought I knew myself before I had kids, I was wrong & dare I say completely delusional! But I’m ok with that. Now I can say that my PMD made me look deeper & guided me to embrace so many of these deeper aspects of motherhood that may well have passed me by.

I had many therapy sessions in the nuthouse, but one of them which I still think about most days was an activity called ‘wait, watch & wonder’. We had to sit & look at our babies & share what we thought our babies were wondering about us. This was a very painful session due to my ambivalence at the time, however, as difficult as this was, it had a huge impact on me. This was a truly empowering exercise as I learnt to connect with Orli on much deeper level. For example, when she was a baby I didn’t want her passed around at social or family occasions, because if it were me, I wouldn’t like to be passed around from person to person. I just felt that people needed to have respect for her personal space & to be conscious that she could not communicate this. (I’m well aware I could be wrong about all of this, but we’ll never know, so just work with me here). Sure she could cry to try & get her message across, but as we all know, that would have been because she was hungry, tired, wet or just being ‘difficult’ in others eyes. I am using this less with Orli as she can now communicate her wishes (oh boy, can she ever), but I am most definitely tuned into Flynn. Had I not been in the nuthouse & had these sessions, I’m certain that I would not have this connection to my kids.

I have said this before & will say many times in my posts & for as long as I live. I truly believe my PMD was one of these best things that ever happened to me. I learnt to explore my own emotions, be in touch with feelings I would not have otherwise done & believe I am more tuned in to how my kids are feeling. It truly was & still continues to be my gift with purchase.

 


Mother’s Pride – What I’m proud of

I am writing this post in Charity’s name because she brought this beautiful topic to my attention. Charity, my thoughts & love are with you at this time & please know, the Army is with & behind you whenever & forever.

Mother’s Pride – What a deeply powerful topic. Where on earth do I start?

I’ll start with me. When Orli was eight weeks old we were admitted to a parent infant unit in a psych facility, a.k.a the nuthouse & were there for three weeks. In order to go to be admitted to the nuthouse, I had to admit I had a problem & then I had to do all the hard work in order to recover (the long, windy & bumpy road of recovery). For this to all happen, I had to swallow my pride to do what was best for me, my daughter & my husband.

To say that I am proud of our daughter Orli would be an understatement. My 3.5yr old threenager  has progressed so much given her severe developmental delays (rolling at 11 months, crawling at 19mths & walking at 25mths & consistently delayed with major milestones). Looking at her today there is no sign of any delays & since starting kindergarten this year, her vocabulary has improved ten-fold & her confidence has grown along with it. (I will refrain from mentioning her attitude). Orli’s a remarkable little girl who makes me completely proud to be her mum. People comment that she is such a happy & well adjusted little girl which makes me so emotional as I thought I had ‘ruined’ her given my postnatal (postpartum) mood disorder & my apathy towards her. Just yesterday she drew her first picture of a face (which I tweeted). She added arms & legs & it became the first picture she’s drawn of a person. And ‘it’ was smiling. And tears welled up in my eyes. You just can’t bottle those feelings.

I am proud of myself for deciding to take the tablet to dry my milk up just after I gave birth to Flynn. He was 36wks (just like his sister) & very little & I knew the chance of his suck reflex not being developed was high. I also was well aware of the difficulties trying to feed a baby that tires easily requiring top ups & need to be woken for feeds. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. We were back at hospital a week after our discharge as he was considered ‘failure to thrive’ only gaining 50g in a week & were there for nine weeks where he was finally diagnosed with Laryngomalacia. I know the way my mind works & I know & I would have blamed myself for his ‘FTT’ status & readmission had I been breastfeeding him. It was a stressful enough time & having to express each day & night would have sent me over the edge (like it did the first time). I’m proud of myself for putting my needs first. It was NOT an easy decision, one that I went back & forth on for, well, eight months, but I am proud for not succumbing to peer, nurse, midwife & societal pressure.

I am proud of my little boy who beat the odds by surviving his birth (I had a bi-partite placenta, placenta previa & vasa previa). It’s still painful to think of the things he endured during our nine week hospital admission (being fed nasal-gastrically & having the tube changed each week & each time he pulled it out by accident), the x-rays, the barium swallow, the urine & blood tests, the brain ultrasound, the ECG, the Echo, the nine different formulas, the constipation & the medication for that, the many suppositories & his reflux & violent projectile vomiting that went with it & the medication for that. His little body going through so much & it broke my heart many times over. And then at ten weeks of age (six weeks corrected) he smiled at me & my heart breaks a little more, because despite everything, he was happy. And he has not stopped smiling. He is the happiest little boy & smiles all the time, at everyone & at anyone. Whenever he looks at me, he gives me his gummy smile. And this makes me so proud I could explode.

I’m proud of myself for not allowing my fears of slipping into a PMD again, to dissuade me from having another baby. I’m just so very grateful I can feel proud of anything really, because there were days that I never thought I would be able to feel anything towards my baby, let alone have another one! I’m so very blessed to have two happy & beautiful kids & am so proud to be their mum.

Thanks Charity for allowing me to share this.

Does anyone else want to share your mother’s pride?

The Baby After PPD Survivor Series

Last month I was a honoured to join my BAPPD (Baby After PPD) mamas on Katherine Stone’s Postpartum Progress website. The seven of us met in the Twitterverse when Amber Koter-Puline (@atlantamom) sent out a tweet saying she was going to start up a support group for PPD survivors thinking about having another baby or pregnant. We kept in touch & supported each other throughout our journey & then put our stories together for all to see. It was an extremely cathartic experience for me as I had never told or written my story or gave the details of the hell I endured after having Orli.

If you missed it, here it is again. I’ve separated the days so you can read one at a time.

Day 1 http://postpartumprogress.com/7-postpartum-depression-survivors-share-their-stories-of-having-more-children

Day 2 http://postpartumprogress.com/postpartum-depression-survivor-series-day-two

Day 3 http://postpartumprogress.com/postpartum-depression-survivor-series-day-three-the-husbands

Day 4 http://postpartumprogress.com/postpartum-survivor-series-day-4-what-happened-after-the-next-baby

Day 5 http://postpartumprogress.com/postpartum-depression-survivor-series-day-5-coming-together-around-a-new-baby

Many thanks to Amber for putting this all together & for asking Katherine to feature it on her website. And thanks also to Katherine for allowing us to share our stories.

My Post on PPD to Joy

The beautiful & wonderful Yael Daphna Saar of PPD to Joy fame Postpartum Depression to Joy & I met over Twitter via the #PPDChat hashtag & the weekly chat forums. Our friendship has grown over the webisphere & mutual love & respect has grown exponentially. Yael’s mission through her website is to help those struggling with PND/PPD to learn to both disarm guilt & teach self-kindness. She runs a monthly SpeakEasy support phone chat where mothers domestically & globally meet, share, vent & care over the wires. It’s a truly wonderful & safe place that Yael has created & hopefully, if the stars align, I will be joining Yael & all the other mums that call this Wednesday March 14, at 12.30pm (AEST).

Following my posts on Postpartum Progress last month, Yael asked me to write a guest post on her blog about my battle with PND/PPD within the confines of the Jewish community in Melbourne & how my background affected my illness & recovery.

After years (literally) of typing to each other we finally met over Skype last week just as this blog post went live.

Here it is:

Yuz Takes off the Mask

I hope that we have the opportunity of sharing many more posts on each others blogs in the future.