Saturday, 30 March 2013

Great Expectations

As I drove home from work on Thursday I was really aware of all the traffic heading away on holiday and I started thinking about the fact that it really hadn't dawned on me that it was the beginning of a holiday weekend. I guess it's cause we hadn't planned to go away. We were planning an at home weekend with the sole goal being to get the vege garden ready for winter. I was excited about hubby being around for four days in a row, the first time since Christmas. But I had to do a bit of positive self talk as I drovem towards the beginning of the Easter weekend, to make sure I had realistic expectations.

It has taken the last three years for me to fully understand and accept that once you have kids a holiday weekend or any holiday for that matter, is not a holiday. At least not by traditional definitions. It has taken a while to change from thinking that I will be able to sleep in, read books, have some me time, go out when I like, go away camping/road tripping just cause it is a long weekend. I mean there are some very practical reasons why holidays are different now, but I have had quite a few where I have had this sense of frustration and disappointment since becoming parents.

I get crabby and short tempered. I try to give myself a break from housework but then end up feeling depressed by the mess. Ella gets bored and we all start getting at each other cause somehow we are trying to still have a DINKY (double income no kids) holiday when there is nothing DINKY about our lives. All because my expectations don't match my reality.

But not this time. As I drove home I told myself that this weekend would be great. But it would still involve the housework, cooking, caring for both kids and all the other normal, hum drum stuff. But it would be different cause hubby would be home and we could do some different things, and I could have some naps, and we might catch up with some friends, or cook some yummy meals. But I would not spend four days doing whatever I felt like. Cause holidays are different now.

I was talking to a friend who has gone away with her extended family to a bach. I think there will be three generations and a total of about 5 kids of various ages. I made a hesitant "oh" as she told me. She assured me that it would be fun, but it wasn't going to be a rest and she would be busy. She inspired me by showing me that by having realistic expectations I wouldn't be feeling a tension between my hopes and my reality. Instead I could enjoy it for what it is.

And I am. What a quiet but lovely time I am having. I have had a nap, done about 5 loads of washing, been out for icecream with Ella and now will go tidy up and do the dishes. A lovely long weekend where my expectations are met and I am satisfied. How unusual!

Weaning Mummy

For the first time in three and a half years, I am considering weaning myself off antidepressants. It is a pretty remarkable place to be in, to be actually feeling well enough that I would see a future where popping my two miracle pills each morning wouldn't be the pillar on which my life is held together.

I have been on paroxitine since about 3 weeks after Ella was born. It was like suddenly a light went on and I could see why other people seemed so excited about life and enjoyed things. Up until that point I honestly hadn't been able to see what the fuss was all about, most of the time, even before Ella. I tried citalapram before we tried to conceive another baby but my anxiety wasn't managed well on that so I switched back. Switching back triggered a relapse and I had to increase my dose to the maximum for a while. That is why the idea of weaning is a bit scary. But the confidence, self awareness and skills I have learned through therapy, pregnancy with George and since George's birth has shown me that I am strong and that I know how to look after myself. I don't need to fear a stressful day or event and feel that antidepressants are essential to my wellbeing. Well, I am hoping that is what I am going to discover through the weaning process.

Weaning off antidepressants is not something to do without a very well thought out plan and a bit of reading so you know what to expect. Most SSRIs have quite a long half life, which means they stick around in your system for a while so withdrawal doesn't kick in for a few days if you suddenly drop your dose. But paroxitine (aropax, paxil) has a very short half life and you have to take it within the same couple of hours each day or you start to feel funny. It also has some side effects that aren't too pleasant. It makes me feel really tired about an hour after taking it, you can get what feels like electric shocks in your brain that are painless but very wierd. It also limits (over sharing warning!) sexual satisfaction. After three and a half years, I am ready to see what it feels like to be me without the chemical assistance.

Often people try to reduce their dosage during holidays or at a time when they have lots of support. I have learnt the hard way that I need to be living my normal routine and not do it when I have lots of important events or possibly stressful situations, such as Christmas, or major changes in my life. So now is actually a great time. Life is in a pretty straight forward pattern right now and I am feeling no sense of pressure to do this in a certain time frame.

So I have done some reading and am planning a very slow withdrawal process by only reducing my dose by a quarter tablet, two weeks at a time. Hopefully that way I can avoid some of the awful side effects paroxitine withdrawal can have. And I will be able to keep a close eye on my state of mind so if things start to slip I can stop and let things stabilise. If I find myself feeling down or anxious I will just stop. In the big picture, needing to take a pill or two each day is a small price to pay for wellness and joy in my life.

It is pretty confronting to think about the fact that I am physically dependent on medication to avoid going potty. It can feel very shameful and I have moments where I feel like I am flawed and pathetic. But then I remember that choosing to be well and live well is actually empowering, and if that means taking antidepressants, then that is a positive choice. Everyone has their battles and health issues. Some people take blood pressure meds, others need insulin for diabetes. It is better than using other substances such as alcohol or illegal drugs to self medicate. I still reserve the right to use food sometimes!

So after Easter the process begins. Wish me luck and hopefully there will be no going down the rabbit hole.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Awhi Mama

I am really excited about a new blog I have started. . I have wanted to do something more to support teen mums, like those I teach. So the blog Awhi Mama is one way to do that. Please check it out if you want to know more about teen mums in New Zealand and the challenges they face. I hope the blog informs and gets more people passionate about the "issue" of teenage parents. We have the highest rate of birth to teenagers of anywhere in the developed world so we ignore it at our peril.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Be where you are

This year i have been enjoying being where i am. Or at least learning to. We moved to our own home in a new suburb about 18 months ago now. We are quite far from where i have lived most of my life. We love it. It feels like a small town.
This year i am aiming to live local. So we go to a local mainly music class, ella starts dance classes this week and we have started going to a local church which is walking distance from home. Each week we walk up to the village shops to go to the library and have a picnic in the park. It is really helping me to feel settled here.
Another way of "being where i am" is surrendering to the season of my life and the circumstances i am in and not fighting them. Life feels very busy and it seems there is no end to laundry and housework. I have been wrestling with this. But this week something clicked.
Suddenly i could feel myself surrendering to it and pressing into it. No Facebook has helped cause i am no longer distracted by what other people are doing. Also, because daycare is more expensive this year, i can't do extra days at work. This is hard to accept cause i love helping out when things are pressured (the extra time was voluntary), and need to fit work into the evenings after kids are in bed and housework done. I have also dropped all the groups i was involved with last year and before George was born. That has been hard and there has been some grieving, but life is more simple and i am enjoying more time at home. Now with two littlies, pottering at home is so lovely and as long as we get out once a day, i avoid cabin fever.
Since becoming a mum i have also struggled with how to do my Christian faith in a way which isn't just desperate prayers when i am losing it. I think i have read my bible a total of less than 10 times in the last 3 and a half years. It is pretty hard to stay in church for the sermon with managing kids who don't like going to Sunday school on their own. Oh that's if we ever get to church. I have felt guilty and lost. All the advice seemed to be "try harder" or set up a conflict between my kids and time for spirituality.  But yesterday i suddenly realised that this is where god has put me right now. This is where i am. He knows my circumstances and it has to be possible to have an authentic and rich relationship with managing Jesus while being in this season and without escaping it. So listening to worship music in the car and at home, praying and praising while i hang out the washing and delighting in ella and George are how it is right now. And i am even managing to give up tv time at nights to spend some time reading the bible.
By being where i am and accepting both the limitations but also the joys i feel so much more at peace and can really get into the moment.
I don't know what the future holds for all the ideas and dreams i have but right now i am being right here and it is good.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

No more "please rescue me"

The reality of life with two kids has well and truly dawned on me. I am back at work two days a week and with a baby still waking and the other normal stuff like laundry, cooking, more laundry, keeping everyone happy and healthy etc. things are feeling pretty overwhelming. Today I remembered the overwhelming sense of responsibility for Ella that I felt when we first brought her home. And I realised that a lot of my depression at that time was due to feeling that I just couldn't do it. I couldn't be everything she needed and do everything that needed doing. And so I thought she would be better off without me.

And so now I find myself feeling the same at times. Not so much that they would be better off without me. but that there is only one Mum and its me and even when I would love someone to come and rescue me from the sense of responsibility and burden I feel at times, it ain't going to happen.

Now don't get me wrong. I love my kids. But being a Mum is tough. And I am not going to lie about that just because you somehow aren't supposed to say that it isn't much fun at times. But if I am honest, what makes it tough, apart from all the usual realities like lack of sleep, loss of time for me and hubby, kids being sick or issues with behaviour. Oh the list could go on and on...
is having unrealistic expectations of myself and my underlying fear that somehow I am going to hurt my kids  in some awful way.

And so I keep thinking I need rescuing because the pressure I put on myself is so huge. And when I am able to step back and get some perspective, I realise I am doing a pretty good job. But it is so easy when I wake up feeling bleary and tired from an interrupted night, to feel incapable of looking after my kids. And not just surviving through the day, but giving them childhoods which build them up and prepare them for life.

I hope that this is just a part of growing up. You know, putting your money where your mouth is, as it were. I chose to have kids, I love them. Now this is the time where the rubber meets the road. I have to get on and do it. Not worry about doing it "wrong" or over analyse it all. Just do it.

I keep repeating to myself "I am the Mummy and I decide how we are doing it" when I have those times of doubt and confusion and just don't know what to do or keep second guessing myself. Often I am having to filter what I have read, or heard, or the way people I know approach a parenting issue. We are all bombarded with so much advice and research and dire warnings about what we should and shouldn't do as parents, and I think especially as mothers.

I have always been so influenced by others and struggle to accept that there is not one right way to live and do things. Blame my perfectionist tendencies and Christian upbringing maybe. Ironically there is actually very little in the Bible about the details of raising kids. That explains why "Christian" parenting reflects exactly the same continuum as we see generally in Western society.

Having two kids to juggle and their needs as well as my hubby's and my own, has really solidified the fact that I need to stop considering anyone else except those who live under our roof, and that compromise is a given. Things can't stay the way they were with once child and I can't do things the same way. I thought I had made all my parenting decisions up to the age of three. Turns out I haven't. George is so different from Ella, our lives are different and we are different. So I have to choose again. And no one is turning up at the door to tell me what to do and give me a gold star for doing it "right". So that is up to me, both the decisions and the gold star.

I know deep down that this is something I have needed to truly learn for years and this may be the way I learn it. But it is hard and painful and quite scary. And at about 3pm when I am hanging on for hubby to walk in the door and rescue me, I am learning that it doesn't actually work that way. I am still Mum and I am still in charge and if I don't cook dinner, or do the dishes or whatever really needs doing, then it probably won't happen. Until tomorrow, when I still have to do it. And if hubby and I don't decide to deal with Ella taking over an hour to get to sleep each night, then no-one else is going to.

So I am hardening up I guess, in a growing up kind of way. Hopefully love and grace can be the path I follow as I build up my Mum muscles.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

I lost George today

Now that title is attention grabbing! And before you panic, I found him a few seconds later.

George has started commando crawling like a pro. He inch worms around the place and has discovered the house is bigger than his small, regular spot on the lounge floor. I was doing idshes in the kitchen and things had gone a bit quiet. That is never a good sign. I walked back into the lounge and George had disappeared. I called him and went into a total state of panic. How can an 8 month old just up and vanish? Calling to him was pretty silly since he doesn't talk. I started looking under furniture and then went into the bathroom. There he was on the floor beside the bath looking so proud and happy.

The bathroom is his favourite place in the house. Bath time is his favourite time of day and he goes almost apoplectic when he hears the shower or bath start running. He cried at the bathroom door yesterday while I was in the shower because I had the nerve to enjoy a shower without him.

It is amazing to me to realise he is already 8 months old and he is off and away. He is growing up so fast. His clothes don't fit almost as soon as he is in them and we have had to move up to 'toddler' sized nappies. This weekend we are doing a major baby proofing effort around the house.

There is sadness for me as I say goodbye to his baby baby stage. There will be no more babies in our house, at least not mine! And it is sad to say goodbye to that season in a way. But at the same time I am so excited to see George grow and change, and to be honest, life is hard yacka with an under one year old so I am looking forward to the less intense times to come.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Footloose and facebook free?

So it has been about a month with no facebook. My feelings about it and the experience are mixed. The first week was full of the self righteous glee of self denial. Before my decision to give up FB for lent, I had caught myself thinking in status updates and instead of thinking about how I felt about something, wondering how I could post it for my FB audience. This seemed to fall in the not-too-healthy box of ways of thinking. It took a while for that to fade but it seems now that my thoughts are for an audience of me and me alone. Oh and you...

Another aspect I am loving is not having this constant distraction and checking FB every time there is a second of down time. It used to feel like I was always multi-tasking between FB and my actual life. Our computer is in the lounge and I hated the tension I created between attention on FB and attention needed for my kids and my home and for me and the other things of life. Life has felt more peaceful. A phrase I really like is "do one thing". I learned it on a course I did to help when distress and depression are becoming overwhelming. It really makes a difference to my sense of peace and well being to just 'do one thing' at a time. To not have my attention and mind constantly divided and interrupted.

Another benefit is no longer watching other people's lives unfold before me and being impacted by that. Don't get me wrong. I love FB updates from my friends about their lives and photos of what they have been up to. But it is easy to start comparing my life with others and think something is wrong with mine. Sometimes it also hurts to see how other people are living and brings out the worst in me. I am really not missing that.

One of the most wonderful bits of being facebook free is the page updates from some of the pages I have liked in the past. My newsfeed would be a great way to document the changes in my life over the last wee while. I used to have heaps of parenting page updates which all featured things I was really interested in; breastfeeding, birth, attachment parenting, healthy living etc. But since George arrived I actually find most of the posts pretty disturbing or downright upsetting. I have gradually either unliked the pages or blocked them from my newsfeed but there were still a few I liked to read once in a while. But having none of the parenting "shoulds" confronting me each day has been amazing. I feel so much more in touch with myself as a parent and so much more aware of my own parenting boundaries and values. It is not that I disagree with the sentiments of the pages I was reading, but that sometimes they were a confusing distraction. Instead of parenting with my heart and head, I was trying to parent in a way that some FB page would find acceptable. For a perfectionist like me with authority issues, that is a terrible idea.

But its not all roses. I do really miss the contact with my friends and family. I am an extrovert and it provided me with the people contact I crave when life at home with the kids can feel really isolated. And at a time in life when most of the people I know are really busy and we all live further and further away from each other, I love the chance to keep in touch. I also love the little unexpected gifts of someone's words or insights or their comments. Those little suprises are really so precious on days which feel a bit dreary or tough.

So I am FB free till Easter. Not sure what I will do from then on. I think I will be back on but with some more boundaries and hopefully with it in its rightful place in my life. I guess one of the most useful parts of all of this is that I have been able to do it. That I have the self control and commitment to actually give something up and stick with it. And that is not something I have ever been good at in the past. So that in it itself is good for me. It is growing my character I guess.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

You have got to be kidding

A quick note to say that after 10 days of suffering and isolation with viral tonsilitis, I now have a gastro bug. I have no words...