The word for 2014 is Reset.
Last year changed a lot of things for me. It shook me to my core…more than once. I’m not the same person I was just 18 months ago. Hell, I’m not sure I’m the same person I was just eight months ago. In fact, I rather hope I’m not the same person I was eight months ago, because that person was shattered. Utterly, completely shattered.
I’m not going to pretend I didn’t hit post-partum depression running. I saw it coming. I knew it was likely. I knew enough to talk to my OB/GYN in advance, much as I talked to her about an old back injury exacerbated by pregnancy that I figured would also rear its ugly head when Grayson was on the outside (it did).
Most of the time, for better or worse, I know myself pretty well. There was a time in my life — a longer time than I like to remember — that I was depressed enough to need relatively serious medication; eventually, the right dose of Cymbalta lifted me up enough that I could peek out of the hole I was in and climb out of it. The fog cleared a bit and I remembered that there once was a time when I was happy. It literally felt like one of those stupid cartoommercials.
I managed, with a lot of help and support and some of the best friends a girl could hope to have, to get back to happy. Really, really happy.
It didn’t come without a cost — 2008 was probably the most important year of my life so far, but it was also the last year of my mom’s life. The one thing I know for certain, the one thing a little old lady at Ma’s memorial service confirmed for me, is that she died knowing I was better. I was happy. I was me again.
2013 busted me down to my basics, and what I found there was exactly what I’d expected and less than I’d hoped to discover. Pregnancy, blessedly uneventful though it was, wrecked me. I’ve never been so tired and so….god, I was so listless. Childbirth was run-of-the-mill awful and ended the way I’d feared it might. C-section recovery was a terrifying mess of helplessness. The first four months of Grayson’s life were a round-the-clock battle with exhaustion and ineptitude and good intentions and “OMG, this is how people get to the point where they shake babies, isn’t it? This is why that’s a real thing.”
(We did not shake the baby. But there were nights when I felt decidedly uncharitable toward my helpless, squalling infant, nights when I hated myself for just being mostly normal.)
I didn’t get to the point where I felt meds were the right solution. My doctor offered, but I think I was right in my assessment. It was situational and, presumably, temporary. Plus, meds mess with breastfeeding, and that was a huge priority for me. (I fought really hard and got really lucky, which left no room for quitting.) Even so, I wasn’t prepared for the toll breastfeeding and pumping would have on me, either.
Being back at work was a total fustercluck of scheduling nightmares and getting used to being That Person. You know the one. That one co-worker for whom it’s always something. Well baby appointments. Canine glucose curves. Missed ferries, slow trains, and broken water mains. Teething. No scheduling flexibility. Bad colds. Catching up after hours because of pumping, pumping, and more pumping. I’ve never been that person before.
I love — really, genuinely love — my career, and somehow it still rips me apart to be at work instead of with my infant…and I have ZERO illusions about whether I’m cut out to be the full-time parent (I’m not). It’s an apples-to-oranges situation, really. There is absolutely no contest between which is the more important role. In the grand scheme, “Mommy” trumps “web expert,” hands down.
My priorities have shifted and I’m not comfortable with it yet. I still haven’t figured out how we all do this or why we accept it without going quietly mad.
(Or? Maybe we’re all quietly mad.)
Anyway. I’m hoping that weaning, when it happens, will reset the hormones and make it a little easier to deal with spending more time away from my tiny child than I spend with him. I’m grateful for the time I was able to take off without bankrupting our family (thank Maude for the state of California and family-friendly companies), but being away so much while he’s still so little is…hard.
I am stewing in the knowledge that no one in my life is getting what they need or deserve from me. Work is getting the best I can manage while still adjusting to this dual identity (and to a new schedule — we have less flexibility now than we used to*). Grayson is getting the best I can manage in the drastically reduced time that we have together (less flexibility means at least 90 minutes of commuting, per day, at least four days a week, which feels like completely wasted time). Graham and Rodney are getting what’s left when the nursling goes down for the night, my friends are getting used to knowing me only through Facebook, and me?
I’m…not good at me. Hot baths and the occasional pedicure are all I’ve managed recently, but my goal is to reset how I feel physically in time to start running again in April. It’s a small goal, but that’s about what I can handle right now. Grayson is sleeping (/letting us sleep) more, I’m eating better, and changing my work setup should alleviate some lingering pain. April is realistic.
This is the year for stepping back and resetting expectations — the ones for myself, for my career, and for our family — at least for the short term. What do I need? What do we need? What is more important, or less? What do I want to model for the tiny human learning from me?
Who am I now?
* This is a first-world problem. I absolutely recognize that. But the impact on a nursing mother who is also the “sighted spouse” in the household has not been inconsiderable. This deserves another post of its own, but here’s what my working from home means for our family:
- There’s a driver/extra set of hands within earshot in case of emergencies.
- Graham doesn’t have to carry the baby, the dog’s leash/bags, and his cane for the dog’s evening walk. (Remember, the dog is diabetic — skipping walks is a no-no. It’s also really bad for discipline, as is outsourcing it.)
- Groceries and errands can get done after work, or even before work or at lunch, instead of piling up for the weekends. Graham does a lot of daily chores during the week as part of staying home with the kiddo, but there’s a long list of things that are “me” or “we” tasks.
- Graham can make it to early rowing practice regularly, which is critical for everyone’s stress level. It sounds frivolous, but that’s his main thing outside the house these days. He can’t just pick up and head to Gymboree on a Wednesday, you know?
- Lots of other little things we don’t always think of until they happen.
The financial impact is also significant. Going in twice as often doubles my transportation costs. Without counting gas, that’s a $1,000 hit for the year. A few people have said, “Can’t you hire some help?” and the answer is, “Sort of.” We’re doing okay, but the kind of help that would actually be helpful is not sustainable right now. We lean hard on Amazon Prime, and having groceries delivered is an affordable luxury that can be viewed as a necessity for us…if it were more reliable. Most other services — regular house cleaning, some childcare relief — are out of reach for now.