Don’t Be Decoy Mom


Colourful jars sit atop a shelf in a misty and humid room. Running water slides down her skin as she lathers up with the latest in moisturizing body wash which promises to make her skin glow with youth. She washes her hair with shampoo and conditioner to make it thick, silky, and soft.

As she exits the shower, the drying process begins – softly – so as not to leave any red marks or heaven forbid, pull skin in the wrong direction. Pat the face dry then move down to her toes. She folds the towel in thirds and places it neatly back on the rod before she wraps her hair in a smaller towel.

Grabbing a toothbrush, she measures out the whitening toothpaste and gets to work. Rinses, then gargles with mouthwash to ensure bad breath stays at bay. Then, moisturizer. While that soaks in, she puts on her undergarments. A bra with an underwire and underwear that promises to hold in the stomach which has nurtured the lives of her children close for the past few years. She frowns. Back to the bathroom.

She reaches for the first layer of glow, then dots on concealer. Waits for it to dry before applying an overall foundation and gently blending it together to hide the exhaustion and stress marching across her face. Next up, eye liner and eye shadow. They make the eyes more open and energetic. Mascara goes on next, gently, the kind that lengthens the lashes because again, more awake and conscious. Less tired.

Then she puts on blush to cheer her cheeks up, smiling as she carefully brushes up, not down – happy, not sad, she whispers to herself.

She takes down her hair and gives it a tousle. Plugs in the hair dryer and gives her hair a once over, then pulls it into a messy bun. Walks into the closet and chooses whatever isn’t wrinkled or covered in baby food stains. Grabs a pretty pair of heels then over to the jewelry box to select accessories.

A small hand tugs on her skirt and she looks down.

“Mama? You look beee-yooo-tea-fah. Hug?” her middle daughter asks, covered in chocolate from whatever snack she just finished devouring.

So the mother leans down and gives the child a hug, knowing she will have to change her clothes. She sends her daughter on her way, and walks back into the closet, stripping as she goes. A new outfit selected, she makes it to the car with no child-induced stains on her pretty clothes.

She turns the key, unlocks the door, and slides into the driver’s seat, throwing her miniature purse on the passenger seat beside her. Exhaling, she checks her makeup one last time to be sure she looks human and not like some exhausted creature just waking up from hibernation. She doesn’t. She turns the key, starts the music, and backs out of the driveway.

Transformation into Decoy Mom complete.

Decoy Mom is a mom who goes through great lengths to hide how her life is really going – every stitch must be perfect, every thing in it’s place, nothing negative to be found anywhere. And yet, inside, everything is falling apart. Her heart, her life, her soul – it’s all cracked and crumbling.

I’m not saying that a Mom who has it all pulled together is definitively falling apart. Nor am I saying that a Mom who doesn’t have it all pulled together is well. What I am saying is that we are all “covers” when we are with people and some of us are even “covers” when we are alone. We choose what pieces of ourselves to share and what pieces of ourselves to hide. We are not expected to fully share ourselves with anyone unless WE choose to do so, either. But we should absolutely be at least fully sharing ourselves with ourselves. In order to be authentic with anyone at all, you have to first be authentic with yourself.

Stop hiding behind a mask, telling yourself lies about who or what you are inside and outside. Take a hard look inside. Explore. Make a list of everything that is there whether it is good or bad. Work to improve or reframe the bad (sometimes, negative traits can be utilized for positive things – are you firm & harsh? Figure out how to rein that in by using compassion and understanding). Expand the good.

Figure out what you want out of life this year, make a list, then break it down into smaller goals. Don’t let the big things overwhelm you and don’t let yourself become Decoy Mom. Be the authentic Mom, wife, sister, cousin, aunt, and YOU that you were meant to be. Stop hiding her under layers of crap. You might find that you have more time to BE you if you give up all the hiding.

 

 

The more things change…


“Well, spring sprang. We’ve had our state of grace and our little gift of sanctioned madness, courtesy of Mother Nature. Thanks, Gaia. Much obliged. I guess it’s time to get back to that daily routine of living we like to call normal.”–David Assael, Northern Exposure

That’s pretty much how I feel about vacations. They’re nice little “springs” in our year, but after a season, it’s time to get back to normal. To our daily routines.

I’m resistant to change as a general rule. It just makes me all uncomfortable and out-of-sorts and irritable.

When we go out to eat, I have my “usual” at each location. (Bonus! Dan can order for me if I’m in the bathroom!)

I am always behind on almost any given fashion trend because at the time it debuts I think “How hideous!” and then, a year later, I find myself on the hunt for the perfect pair of rain boots or gladiator sandals or shade of nail polish. (Bonus! I find them on sale at T. J. Maxx because they are last season!)

I don’t often try new things.

I need our normal.  Apparently, so does Joshua.

As we were getting ready to leave the mountains on Sunday morning, Joshua started throwing a tantrum. Most of his tantrums are over nearly as soon as they begin. This one lasted for an hour.  At one point, I actually stuck my fingers in my ears in an attempt to drown out his…noise!

WhineCryScreamWhineCryScreamNoiseNoiseNoise.

I just couldn’t do it anymore!

I felt myself on the verge of a meltdown nearly as epic as his was at that moment. And I’m sure my friends wondered why I wasn’t doing anything about the tantrum. (Though, they too have a toddler and are likely as flummoxed as I was when their son goes into Tiny Terrorist mode. Everyone just kind of stands around dumbfounded and drooling like “uhhhh…..”.)

When things like that happen, I KNOW that 97% of the time they are because our routine has been interrupted.

If we have a bad evening, something was likely out-of-sorts that day at daycare. Or we made a detour by the grocery store on the way home. Something not normal happened and our normal shifted.

One of the things that helped me the most in the height of Joshua’s colic and the loneliness of PPD was going back to work the August after he was born. Because it gave me a routine. A normal. I knew what to expect. I’d been home with him for four months at that point and there was little to no routine.

I tried. Believe me. I tried. I used the ItzBeen timer. I looked for cues that he was sleepy or hungry or wanted to play. I tried, tried, tried to get him on a schedule and us into a routine that worked. And it was a futile attempt.

When I woke up from a nap on Sunday afternoon, a nap just like I take almost every Sunday afternoon, I felt instantly more calm than I had just hours before. I felt normal. Or like I was on the way back to normal. By the time we got home from the grocery store that evening, which is part of our Sunday routine, I felt even better. When my alarm clock went off Monday morning and I got dressed for work? I was myself again.

Establishing a routine was one of the most healthy and normal and normal things I did for myself two years ago.

A quick question thrown out to Twitter had three moms in five minutes telling me that routine was incredibly important to their recovery and that they felt great frustration and anxiety when they found themselves out of routine.

Instead of wallowing in the fact that we couldn’t even manage a simple weekend trip away from home without a meltdown (and I did, eventually, melt down once we got in the car—all over Twitter and the #PPDChat mamas!) I am reveling in the fact that routine is a way that I can cope with this illness.

Does this mean that we’ll never veer from our norm? Absolutely not. But it does mean that when there is a need for us to stray from our normal, it’s not the end of the world. Joshua will adjust and so will I and we’ll both be better for having lived and learned through a shared experience.

Though I think I’m the one doing most of the learning right now, and for now, maybe that’s how it should be.

 

Postpartum Voice of the Week: @HeatherColeman’s Ignite DC speech


Ignite is an awesome concept. They organize gatherings which give ordinary people like you and me just 5 minutes to get up in front of a bunch of people with the goal of “igniting” them to action.

Not too long ago, Heather Coleman shared her story anonymously over at Katherine Stone’s blog, Postpartum Progress. Heather’s story is intense as it involves details of a Psychotic Break. But it’s also inspiring because people stopped to help her as she struggled during the darkest moments of her life.

I am glad Heather has grown bolder in sharing her story as it is an important story to share. I applaud the courage it took to get up in front of a room full of strangers to tell her story.

Thank you for walking to the front of that room, Heather. Thank you for sharing your journey with them. And with us. You rock.

Go watch her amazing video here. But first, get some Kleenex.

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Milestones


This year has been a year full of milestones for our four year old daughter.

She blew out the candles on her birthday cake for the very first time. She belly laughed for the first time. She is thriving in an all-day pre-k full of absolutely normal kids her age. We understand almost 99% of her speech these days. Life is good.

Today, a milestone happened for us in the car.

When I walked in to pick her up from pre-k, she grinned widely, jumped up, and ran over to hug me.

The last time I picked her up? Tears. Total meltdown. Temper tantrum complete with thrashing in the floor. She is accustomed to her father picking her up and had not been informed about the change. She was NOT happy. Today she was happy to see me. We started last night to explain to her that Mommy would be picking her up from school to take her to a doctor’s appointment.

I had a snack waiting in the car. Once strapped in, I got her settled with her snack, got the tunes going, and off we went.

Halfway across town, as she snacked and I chowed down on Peanut M&M’s, a favorite song of hers came on Pandora.

I turned it up, she squealed, and we sang as loud as we could together.

Then, it hit me.

We?

Were a mother and daughter rocking it out in the car.

Just an average, everyday Mom & daughter totally grooving together.

I had to stop singing because I started crying. Furiously blinking back tears so she wouldn’t see me and swallowing my tears so I could sing with her again, relishing the normalcy of the moment.

My four year old and I did not bond when she was born. She was born with a condition known as Pierre Robin Sequence. At just 9 days old, she had major surgery and was in an induced coma for a week as the swelling went down from her surgery.

When she was 56 days old, I was hospitalized.

When she was 7 months old, I stopped exclusively pumping and stopped resenting her for all the issues she brought into my life.

When she was 3 years old, she had to have another surgery and I was forced to return to the same hospital she was at for her NICU stay. We bonded that week, the two of us, and have been growing closer ever since.

But today? Today was really the first time I felt that miraculous mother/daughter bond with my daughter.

I cried not only because it had finally happened but because it took nearly five years to happen.

You know what though?

TOTALLY worth the wait.

Just Talkin’ Tuesday: The High Toll of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders


Original photo "DSC07197" by poodlerat @flickr.com

#PPDChat tonight got me thinking about the toll of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders.

A mom with a PMAD is Ground Zero. Her immediate family is in the blast zone, at highest risk for developing their own mood disorders, depression, or other accompanying issues. Extended family is just outsize the blast zone and quite often bowled down as they absorb the shock which reverberates as she flails for survival.

As Mom recovers, Dad may sink into his own dark pit, unaware of what is happening, unwilling to admit his own demons in the dark. Why? Because Dad is the rock, the hinge on which the moon is hung. His family needs him. Depression is a sign of weakness. It does not happen to real men.

Oh, but it does.

Just as Mom has cleared her last hurdle, Dad sinks even further away. He is angry. Frustrated. Hopeless. Lost.

Mom questions her own recovery as Dad lashes out. He is incapable of giving her space in which to grow. Incapable of recognizing her growth, her recovery.

Anger quickly eclipses any rejoicing.

Stress and angst fill the air of the home, adversely affecting their children, their lives, their relationships with friends, families, resulting in isolation.

Their marriage spirals downward. Their children act out.

Their lives fall apart.

Granted, the above does not happen to every PMAD family. But a PMAD affects so much more than just Mom. It truly affects the whole family. My PMAD’s damn near destroyed my own marriage. My husband self-medicated after our second daughter. That did not fall out until after the birth of our third child. What a spectacular fall out it was though. I nearly walked away. Instead, just as with my PMAD, I chose to turn and fight. Fortunately, so did my husband. We were supported by members of our church, our Pastor, and family members as we fought savagely to save our marriage. I wanted to give up several times. So did my husband. We have shared this with each other and in doing so, moved to a new level of communication and trust. It has been a long, bumpy road.

One worth traveling.

While I would not want to do it again, I would not change a thing about my past six years of hell. For they have hewn me into a strong woman, a strong Christian, a strong wife, and a strong Mother. I can finally say I am blessed. God saw me through my storm. I know there are more storms brewing out there. I’m okay with that. Bring it. I am ready to tell those storms just how big my God is these days.

However; if there was one thing I would like to toss out the window it would be the exposure to anger, arguing, and stress for the kids.

I did not choose to have a PMAD. But they certainly don’t deserve to suffer from the ripples set in motion from my experience. I think this is one of the biggest things I struggle with as a remnant of my PMADs. The anger, guilt, rage over their exposure at such young ages to such a harsh environment. Sure, it could have been worse. But they certainly didn’t do anything to deserve it. Neither did I, but they truly are the innocents in all of this. And for that, I am remorseful. Resentful even that my PMAD’s stole their infancy and my enjoyment of their infancies from me. If I could toss one thing in a toll booth bucket and be forever done with it, it would be my remorse and resent over what my PMAD’s did to my kids. I wonder every time they misbehave if it is because I was depressed. Do my daughters have ADHD because I was depressed? What about my son? Are my daughters resentful that he and I have a stronger bond because I didn’t have a PMAD with him? Will they be able to rightfully accuse me of having a favorite? How will I explain myself down the road?

It’s enough to make you blink back tears and choke back anger all at the same time. Nauseating, really.

SO. As I take a deep breath and choke back some of that anger and blink back tears, what remnant or part of your PMAD do you wish you could just toss away and be done with forever? Get it off your chest.

Let’s get to Just Talkin’ this Tuesday.

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