Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Compare and Contrast, Part Two

1) A fellow shopper at Whole Foods yesterday afternoon, after remarking that she'd noticed me, Sydney and Evan several times throughout the course of her shopping: "You have such well-behaved children! That's amazing!!"

2) Sydney, in time out for the fourth time this evening (calling from her bedroom upstairs): "Mommy, I peed myself! I peed all over myself!"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

To Sydney, On the Occasion of Your 3rd Birthday

You, my love, are a wonder to behold. Your Dad often remarks that you are "super," and I think that really sums it up--the force of your personality, the extent of your kindness, the extraordinariness of your being. You've grown so much in the past year that I am at a loss to describe and document all of the changes, so I'll just start by listing the things you like, which are many and varied and sometimes wonderfully surprising.

You love to play. All kids love to play, of course, but the quality of your play is so imaginative, so exhilarated, that it is a thrill to watch you. You're a leader on the playground, the creator of scenarios, the referee of your own narratives. A favorite these days is Big Bad Wolf--a game, as far as I can tell, that mostly involves running around screaming "big bag wolf!" at the top of your lungs. The other kids follow along with dutiful enthusiasm. Another favorite game which you recently invented, and which is mainly played at home, is something you call "Halloween," in which you load up your plastic cart with every toy and baby doll that will fit and, with Mommy in tow, trot from corner to corner, collecting "trick or treats" from imaginary neighbors.You are clearly practicing for the big night and I just hope you don't burn out before it's actually here.

You love your baby dolls, of which you have many. They are a source of comfort when you are distressed, but you also love to take care of them: you feed them, dress (and undress) them, walk them in their strollers, put them down for naps, fetch their blankets and put them in Time Out when they act up. A few of your favorites are Papa Baby, Baby Nu-Nu, Blue Baby, The Twins, and the plush Eeyore that Grandma bought you at Disney last Christmas. I used to fret about dolls, wondering if I somehow, subconsciously--despite my rejection of tradition gender roles--pushed them on you, but now I understand this to be a beautiful and natural extension of your personality, your love of life, your natural kindness and compassion.

You love to read. This makes Mommy and Daddy very happy, of course, but you do seem to come by it honestly. You lose yourself in a good book, as every bibliophile does, and pepper the reading of every story with questions. Why did so-and-so do that? What is going to happen next? Why does that boy look angry/sad/happy? Or, as you often ask: Where is so-and-so's Mommy? (Dad tries to make you wait until the end of the page to ask your questions, but I think he's fighting a losing battle.) A few weeks ago we took you to the public library for the first time, and you got your very own library card--something I hope you will use often and with much enthusiasm over the course of your lifetime.

You are a WONDERFUL big sister to Evan. You are very protective of him and are quick to inform everyone who seems curious that they make look but not touch. When Evan cries, you say "Mommy, your baby wants milk." If Mommy can't get to him right away you lay down next to him and pat his belly, or sing to him, or assure him that "It's okay, Mommy's coming." You have been so generous with our love, with our time, with our attention, which just a few weeks ago you had all to yourself. Evan is a lucky boy to have you in his life.

This has been a hard year for you, in some ways. Mommy's pregnancy caused you some anxiety, but you have emerged from your struggles with a new kind of confidence and security, a steadily increasing sense of self that I now understand is my job to nurture, to protect, to pay close attention to throughout the coming years. I can only promise to do my best. I have a feeling you'll let me know if I slip up.

It is a gorgeous day today, unseasonably mild and cloudless--a perfect day to celebrate your birth, the person you've become, all the manifestations of you we will have the privilege to witness. I am so lucky to be your mother, to share in your experience. We love you so much, Sydney, and I hope you carry that love out into the world every day, for the rest of your life.

Happy Birthday,


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Compare and Contrast

1) The sweet but painfully young salesperson at American Eagle, where I found myself a few days before Evan was born, on a desperate search for the elusive button-down-the-front but not-too-frumpy pajamas: "Are you looking for back-to-school clothes for your kids?"

2) The nurse at my dermatologist's office this morning, after spending the requisite moments gazing and cooing over Evan: "So are you babysitting, or are you a nanny?"

Monday, September 15, 2008

Heal Thyself

Evan is six weeks old today. I should be attending my post-partum check-up this week but that won't happen for awhile, on account of my belated request for an appointment (apparently my OB has other patients). Funny how different things are the second time around.

Take my mental health, for example. Last time, around this time, I found myself sobbing in the midwife's office, a dreadfully dramatic response to an innocuous and routine question. "How is everything going?" she'd asked, and I'd broken down, confessing the nearly constant crying, the panic attacks, my dread and uncertainty, the nearly crippling anxiety and sorrow I had assumed just came with the new-mommy territory. The sweet woman listened, nodded, and sat back. "Do you think you might be depressed?" she asked.

The question was rhetorical, of course, though I actually considered my response before answering in the affirmative. Yes, I supposed that I was. What had been staring me in the face for 6 excruciating weeks yet had remained maddeningly obscured suddenly became clear: I had something resembling post-partum depression. It wasn't debilitating but it was damned near coming close, and when I returned to my mother's house later that day with a vial of Lexapro I only paused for a moment, tablet in hand, considering my options. What effect would this have on my baby, my milk supply, my sense of self? I made a deal with myself before swallowing the tiny white pill: I would give it a shot, keep an eye on the baby for signs of distress or behavioral changes, would monitor my own behavior to try and gauge the effects, if any, of the medication. If I noticed anything different--like, different in a bad way--I would stop taking the medication. Simple as that.

The funny thing is, I never once considered that the medication might actually help, which it did, and almost immediately. Within days I felt tremendously better, no longer crazed with a sorrow I couldn't name, a terror that wasn't grounded in reality. Sydney went about her happy business of growing fatter and we all lived happily ever after, even when I stopped taking the Lexapro six months later.

I discussed this with my current OB before Evan was born, when she took my history during one of our first appointments. She was smart enough to bring it up occasionally throughout my pregnancy, in a way that didn't feel intrusive or judgmental, but responsible and attentive. In the hospital after Evan was born, on the morning I was discharged, she brought it up again, reminding me to monitor myself and to remind Cade to monitor my behavior for signs of depression. Amazingly enough, despite my training and experience, I sort of brushed her off, thinking that my situation last time was so terribly different--what with that silly Storm and all--that depression wouldn't be an issue this time. I mean, I had my house to go home to, my family waiting in the wings, all the creature comforts anyone could ask for--how could I possibly become depressed?

And yet.

I called the doctor when Evan was 8 days old. The symptoms were returning--the crying, the anxiety and fear, the despair and guilt. Only this time, the stakes were higher: I had an older child to attend to, someone who relies on me to provide safety and stability. And dammit, I knew better. I had experience with this and a tried and true way to alleviate my own suffering. What kind of asshole would deprive herself of that?

This time around, I didn't have to wait 6 weeks to feel better. This time around, I am enjoying every moment of my baby's new life, and I am a better mother to my older child, who needs me now more than ever. This time around, I'm not ashamed to admit that the medication helps, that it is the right choice for me, for my children, for our family.