Capture Your Grief, Day 22 – Dreams + Rituals

As I have mentioned before, I have a difficult time dreaming about the future. What you may not realize, is that when you dream about the future, you are doing so with an understanding that certain things will unfold the way that you expect them to. Certain people will still be in your life, everyone’s health will be in order and you will not be living alone in a refrigerator box under the interstate. You are able to dream about the future because you are confident that your future will unfold in a certain, desirable way. Some of you are nodding and see no reason why this simple understanding about the future would be a problem, but the anxious among you know. You see, anxiety is an expert in the art of taking the confidence you possess for the future, and taking a big old doody on it. Eloquent, I know.

Seriously though, my experience with anxiety has been such that, dreaming of the future is scary because I often have difficulty with the base of confidence that is required. I struggled with this during my first battle with PPA, and it has been even worse after losing Clara.

We put a lot of thought into becoming pregnant again, after my first battle with PPA. Obviously, I was afraid of my illness resurfacing. Ultimately though, our desire for another child was stronger than our fear of another anxiety battle. I felt well-supported by my husband and therapist and knew that, should PPA rear its head again, I had the resources I would need to heal. I had confidence in the future.

Receiving our diagnosis and subsequently losing our daughter was like winning the World Series and then having the title unfairly stripped away. I had been victorious! I had worked so hard towards my recovery and had been brave enough to risk PPA again in order to fulfill our dreams of another child. I was there!

And then it was all gone.

Clara was, in a symbolic way, the proof of my recovery. Losing her meant that terrible and tragic things can and do happen. The future is uncertain. Impermanence is the only guarantee.

So, how does one get the nerve to dream about the future, when you know all too well, what tragedies can befall? I’m learning that the answer is this, right here:

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Me.

I have experienced an awful tragedy. My family has been visited by grief and loss. After a victory against anxiety, I am back here, in the trenches. And yet, I am still standing. I am still living (and thoroughly enjoying) my life and doing my best to share my journey, in hopes that it helps others. My visibility of the future may, for the time being, be obscured by my anxiety disorder, but there is no doubt about my continued existence. I am definitely still here. My marriage survived the hellscape of loss and we are closer than we have ever been. My children are healthy and happy. They laugh and play and excel at school and preschool.

The future is uncertain, that is an undeniable fact, but experiencing loss does not guarantee that your future will be a bleak and painful one. Anxiety is an illness of the mind, and the intrusive thoughts and spiraling fear does not herald a future wrought with nightmare.

Capture Your Grief, Day 21 – Sacred Space

When one thinks of a sacred space, the bathroom sink isn’t generally a place that comes to mind. No hymns are sung at the wash basin. Your hand towels are no ceremonial garb. It is not these things which make a space sacred, though. What makes a space sacred is what it stands for, or what happens there. With this in mind, my bathroom sink became a sacred space last night, and I’ll tell you why.

I’ve been a step-mom for almost 8 years. My oldest son had just turned 5 years old when I began dating his father. He will be 13 this spring. Time flies when you’re having fun. I won’t get into the history of his biological parents, because it’s a turbulent story and frankly, not mine to tell. I will say, however, that I like to call him The Boy Who Made Me Real, because he changed the trajectory of my life by being a part of it.

I’ve said before on this blog that I never thought much about motherhood, but when I met my husband and fell madly in love somewhere around the first 90 seconds, I had to think about motherhood, because this wonderful man was a package deal. He came with a son.

I did not take this circumstance lightly, and spent a great deal of time thinking about what it would mean if I chose to date this man, and even more about what it would mean if we were to marry. The decision I came to is obvious, but what may not be is the way that it changed me. I’m afraid my oldest son felt the turbulence of those changes, as I fumbled my way through transforming from an independent city girl in her early twenties, to somebody’s stepmother in her early twenties. The transition was not a smooth one, but we made it.

Our relationship is unique. He is my step-son, and occasionally that distinction is something I can perceive, but most of the time, he feels like mine. He feels like mine at random moments. When I am doctoring a scratch. When I used to pack his lunches. When I taught him how to pack his own lunch. When I taught him how to do laundry, or to dust. When I attend a parent-teacher conference. When I bake pie because he didn’t make the school basketball team. We have an odd sort of relationship. A blend between mother and step-mother, punctuated by these special moments.

Last night we shared another of these Mother moments, when I taught him how to wash his face. Not a quick splash of water, but a proper – Cetaphil and circular motions, focus on the T-zone- face washing. He is nearly 13, and his skin has begun to show it. It was time to teach him how to care for his teenage skin, and I gladly stepped in to do so.

This young man is a visual learner. He learns best by seeing something done. That in mind, I decided the best way to teach him how to wash his face was to simply wash mine alongside him. So, yesterday evening, while my husband was at band practice and my youngest son was playing in the living room, I could be found standing at a double sink next to an almost 13 year old, who is nearly as tall as I am, explaining about T-zones and the importance of properly washing your skin at night. For him, this was probably just another Tuesday. But, for me, it was a chance to feel like Mom.

Together, we put our hands into the warm water and dampened our faces. We each took a bit of Cetaphil and, after rubbing our hands together and paying close attention to our T-zones, used small circular movements to wash our faces. For a brief moment, we shared a symbolic acknowledgment of the dwindling pre-teen days before us, not just as teacher and pupil, but as mother and son.

All made possible by the sacred bathroom sink.

We’re Gonna Laugh About This Someday…

20160209_192846-02So, I changed the name of my blog, again. Just a teeny tiny tweak. I’m going to take this moment to just apologize for my novice status in all of this stuff. I’m a storyteller, guys. I’m a knitter. I’m a writer, but I’m not technologically inclined. It’s the simple truth. You’re going to see evidence of it sometimes, so I might as well just own it.

I write with a pencil, because I have a tendency to erase.

So, I started to have second thoughts about Misfit Mothering, and then Motherhood Misfit presented itself and I had a major face-palm moment. OF COURSE it’s better. It’s so clearly better. It flows better. It represents me better. My parents say it’s better. It’s just… better. Thankfully, the domain was available (a fact that I’m still rather surprised about), so I snatched it up and the rest is history.

The only thing left is to change my Facebook page, which they aren’t letting me do right away since I already changed it to the old new name, um, this morning. Oops. So, I’ll wait the designated delay period and then get Facebook up to speed, too.

Thanks for bearing with me as the foundation of this blog settles. I’m new to all of this, and I appreciate that you don’t make me feel bad about that fact.

In fact, I noticed that we have several new readers as of the last couple days. WELCOME!! I promise I’m not always this wishy-washy. You just caught me at a weird time. I have a great post scheduled for tomorrow, so hopefully I can redeem all this name changing with some solid blogging. After all, that’s why you’re here isn’t it?!

Thanks again to all of you, I LOVE YA!

Capture Your Grief, Day 20 – Forgiveness + Humanity

What a perfect prompt for the day that registration opens for the 2016 Climb Out Of The Darkness!  Today’s prompt is all about forgiving and finding the best in humanity. I can think of no better way to honor it than this:

Forgiveness

Dear Kelly,

I forgive you.

I forgive you for all the nights spent pacing the living room in tears for no reason other than that you were terrified for, well… no reason.

I forgive you for the times that you resented that sweet baby boy because he was hungry, and you were tired. SO TIRED.

I forgive you for being afraid of walking over concrete surfaces. I’m so sorry that you had to live with the tiny horror movies that played in your mind which caused that fear in the first place. It sucks, but I’m sure glad we can go on sidewalks again.

I forgive you for hiding the fear. I understand that it was a scary thing to experience and an even harder thing to own up to. I know why you hid it for so long. It’s okay.

I forgive you for letting the anxiety build to a point where you were impossible to be around. The tension that seemed to emanate from you was probably the vibe equivalent of smelly lines on a drawing of feet. People weren’t very keen on being around that, and I forgive you for it.

I forgive you for having trouble imagining the future. Anxiety is a thieving scumbag and the first thing it steals from you is hope. We’re going to get there, but it’s okay if the future is kind of scary right now.

I forgive you for sometimes being overprotective with the kids. You have an anxiety disorder, girl, it’s understandable. You usually find a pretty good balance and they are certainly living full and awesome lives. You don’t stifle them, so what if you’re not the parent who can handle them doing physically risky things. Let’s just hope they don’t grow up to be stuntmen.

I forgive you for the OCD ticks you developed. I know it’s embarrassing, but it’s not altogether surprising. Plus, I’m super proud that you didn’t hide that stuff when it started cropping up. The second you realized what was happening, you brought it up in therapy. That took guts, girl. Good for you.

I forgive you for the times you have anxiety about taking anxiety medication. It’s kind of funny if you think about it… but usually only after you’ve taken your medication.

While we’re on that topic, I forgive you for having anxiety about having anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle, but you are putting in the work and I know you can get through this. Hell, you are going way beyond putting in the work, you are straight up noisy about this stuff, and I’m proud of you for it!

I forgive you, for all of it.

Keep climbing.

Kelly

Humanity

To all you Mamas out there who have or have been through a postpartum mood disorder, I’m talking to you.

I see you, and it’s okay.

But don’t take my word for it, take a moment to forgive yourself today. See what comes out.

Once you’ve done that, head on over to Postpartum Progress’ Climb Out of the Darkness page and find a climb near you. On June 18, the longest day of 2016, we will join together to shine light on maternal mental illness. Come out and meet other moms who have walked in your shoes. Let’s continue to drive momentum towards better, more accessible mental health screening and mental healthcare for mothers everywhere. Let’s Climb Out of the Darkness.

If you are in the Chicago area, I will be at my local climb with my family, and I would love to meet you!  I’ll be wearing a Motherhood Misfit t-shirt and would be delighted if you stopped me to say hello!! If you can’t join a hike, but still want to donate to the cause, please use this link to make a donation.

Here’s to you, Mama!  Here’s to Us!

Print

Drumroll Please…

Introducing…

Motherhood Misfit!

That’s right!  As you may have noticed, we’re undergoing a bit of a makeover here at the space formerly known as Grief to Growth. A total makeover, as a matter of fact!  The entirety of this makeover isn’t complete yet (I have some more fun stuff in the works), but the name change is officially in effect!

So, why the change? Well, in keeping up with the momentum that has been happening here on the blog, I thought it was time to purchase a proper domain and tweak the identity to better match what is actually happening in this space. While this blog was born out of my grief, the content is not limited to that topic. In fact, all kinds of things come up on this blog- Whether you are a mom with a postpartum mood disorder, navigating grief, parenting after bereavement, or you’re just plain marching to the beat of a different drummer, we’re all misfits around here!

If you’ve been here from the start, thanks for sticking around!  You won’t notice anything different in content. It’s still the same old me, writing about the same old stuff!  If you type in the old address, it will automatically redirect you here. You will notice some visual and aesthetic improvements happening here and there, and some other fun things will be rolled out in the near future, but the heart of the blog is still the same.

One final note – some people may associate the term “misfit” with a negative connotation, but that is definitely not how I see it. My “misfit” qualities and interests are what have allowed me to meet and connect with the most important and impactful people in my life. When misfits get together, it’s a powerful thing.

Sending all you misfits some serious love. Thanks for being along for this crazy ride!

P.S. – I hope you all don’t mind, but I skipped today’s Capture Your Grief prompt, in order to be able to roll out the name change today.

 

 

Capture Your Grief, Day 18 – Seasons + Symbols

Little Moon

Once, I held the moon inside me
In my womb, it grew
Not twinkling stars, nor blazing sun
It was the moon, I knew

A little lunar lovely
To call our very own
But bad news came a-knocking
Into chaos, lives were thrown

I held my moon, my baby
In the quiet of my womb
My arms never knew her
But, in my heart, she has a room

These things, they do happen
And no one can say why
I know one thing for certain, though
The Moon can never die

She was just too big for life on Earth,
As any moon might be
So back into the sky she flew
To shine over you and me

I love you, Little Moon.

 

Capture Your Grief, Day 17 – Secondary Losses

In the United States, Spina Bifida affects approximately 1 in 1000 pregnancies. This incidence doesn’t sound as rare as one might think, but it is important to note that in many of these cases, the baby will have Spina Bifida Occulta, which is the least severe form of Spina Bifida, and generally causes no complications or symptoms. So, of that number, incidence of Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele, which is the most severe form of Spina Bifida and the one that Clara was diagnosed with, rates are lower. Furthermore, many cases of Spina Bifida are related to larger genetic disorders, such as Trisomy 18 (Edwards Syndrome). In our case, blood work showed no such genetic disorders, meaning that our specific case of Spina Bifida was likely just a simple physical mutation. A fluke.

You might say we were just unlucky.

To that, I would reply “No shit.”

What this unluckiness means, however, is that something terrible, rather unlikely and somewhat rare happened to one of my children. This sentence is important because it is comprised of all of my worst, most anxious nightmares.

Before we lost Clara, my anxiety disorder was under control. After going undiagnosed for 2.5 years, I had finally gotten myself to a great therapist and had been working hard, using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, to get back to living my life without the shadow of paralyzing fear.

Losing Clara, and the reality of it being to a generally unlikely cause, was like rolling out a red carpet for my anxiety to return. Most of the work that I had been doing in therapy was reinforcing the improbability of my fears. I was convincing myself of the irrationality of it all. The problem is that when you conquer anxiety by convincing yourself that your fears are unlikely, and are then confronted by an unlikely nightmare coming true, well, it’s easy to see how I very quickly lost control of my mood disorder.

The way that my anxiety works, is that I am, and have been since the day he was born, absolutely terrified of losing my youngest son. Every cough, every fever, every bumped head is enough to set me into a tail spin of fear about what might be happening that I cannot see, and cannot control. I am terrified of lurking, undiagnosed illness. I am paralyzed by thoughts of the unknown future. In fact, I have a very difficult time dreaming of my son’s future, because I have trouble trusting that it will be full of wonderful things and not certain doom. I know. It’s awful. One of the techniques I am using to combat this fear of the unknown future, was given to me by my mother, who had the exact same problem when I was a child.

SCIENCE BREAKMood disorders such as Anxiety and Depression are generally thought to have a hereditary link, and people with parents or siblings who suffer from them have a much higher likelihood of experiencing Anxiety and Depression themselves. What’s more, researchers at Johns Hopkins conducted a small study a few years ago which uncovered that when specific alterations are present during pregnancy within two particular genes, they were able to reliably predict that a woman would develop postpartum depression. We still have a lot to learn, but one thing that this does tell us is that if your mother experienced a postpartum mood disorder, such as PPD or PPA, you are more likely to develop one yourself. This isn’t a doom and gloom message, though, because what this knowledge does is empower you and your doctors to be on the lookout for symptoms of postpartum mood disorders. When you are aware of a possible genetic pre-disposition, you can catch the signs faster and begin treatment sooner! Knowledge is power!

Back to our regularly scheduled blog post…

Anyways, my mother told me that she used to practice a specific meditation when I was young, which helped her to cope with the fear of losing me. She simply imagined me as an old woman. She would close her eyes and imagine what I might look like as a grandmother. She imagined what I might sound like, and what things I might like to do. It sounds simple, but it’s not!  So far, I have only been able to imagine my youngest son as a middle aged man. I have been slowly aging him in my mind, however, and eventually I am sure that I will be able to picture every wrinkle on his face. For the time being, I imagine him as a 30 something, with 2 kids and a loving partner. My son is obsessed with baseball and does seem to have a bit of natural talent, so I like to imagine him as a professional baseball player. A pitcher, specifically. Sometimes, I close my eyes and imagine that my husband and I are at one of his games, sitting down the 3rd base line, with both of his children, our grandchildren, in tow. His children have white-blonde hair, just like my son, and in my mind we are joined by his wife (though I’d be delighted with a Son-in-Law, too and don’t mean to assign a sexual orientation to him, I just keep seeing a female partner), whom I love and get along with grandly. Sitting just above the dugout, we are, the five of us, cheering him on as he approaches the mound, fit and strong and gorgeous as the day he was born.

I can picture this so easily, and the more I practice, the closer I get at being able to imagine him as an old man. This technique helps more than simply working to convince myself that my fears are unlikely. That argument has rather lost its potency after our experience with Spina Bifida. Instead, I am teaching myself to trust that the future holds wonderful things for this child, my beautiful youngest son.

So, while I may have lost control of my anxiety after losing Clara to Spina Bifida, I am working hard to regain the upper hand.

Play ball!