Second half of a two-parter about sorting out my shit.
I know the last post was a bit whiny, bitchy, and all-around depressing! But the good part is most of that is behind me. I started making changes weeks ago, and I have to admit—I feel better already. Based on a series of blog posts by my friend, I started chiseling out how I would feel better, what needed to change, and how to make both happen.
Take Care of My Anxiety
✔ make an appointment for mental health
✔ reach out to friends when I’m feeling overwhelmed/insecure
☐ find out what activities relieve the anxiety & start doing them
☐ check off everything else on all the other to-do lists
This one is a work in progress. I made the biggest step of them all by calling the behavioral health department at my doctor’s office and setting up an appointment for early October. I’ve been in therapy on and off since I was a teenager. I’m not ashamed of it, but I am scared of it. When you walk into a therapist’s office with the intention of discussing hard topics and answering questions you didn’t want to ask, your steps tend to be a bit hesitant. Especially when it’s a new doctor—and that is the case with me. Between the appointments I had for PPD watch and/or prevention (and then missed the last one and never rescheduled) and now, my doctor apparently finished her fellowship and moved on. I will be facing someone brand new next month. Daunting…and yet, maybe okay. A fresh start, a fresh perspective. We will see what’s to come.
I’ve also started reaching out to a few select people whenever I’m feeling anxious about certain things. I have someone I text regularly about feeling insecure. I have someone I text regularly about my anxiety related to pumping. Interestingly enough, these friends are the people I’ve met through the loss/infertility community…but I’m not surprised. I’ve already explained that I feel like emotional turmoil is a common issue among us as a group. I have my friends and family to talk to, but when so much of the anxiety is rooted in the aftermath of my miscarriages, I find it’s just easier to reach out to them. In some cases, too, it’s a “buddy system.” I reach out for help, only to find that person needed a bit of help themselves.
And finally, I think if I check off everything in the checklists to follow, the anxiety will continue to decrease. A two-for-one, if you will!
Fix the Childcare Situation
✔ create a fixed, permanent schedule with one main caregiver
✔ arrange for the caregiver to be around for extra afternoon hours
This change was already in the works before the end of summer. My cousin applied to a new program that would force her to quit her other job; my mom was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to watch Joey as often/as long once he got more mobile; and I had recognized that the current situation we had was too stressful, too unstructured, and too unpredictable.
The solution? One caregiver: my cousin. The college program she applied for had her at school every morning, Monday-Friday, so she had to quit her other nannying job. This opened her up for a daily position working just for me. We arranged it so that she would head over immediately after classes and watch Joey—even when my husband was home. This, too, was another crucial part of the new childcare plan! Even though it meant shelling out more money, we knew it would still be less than daycare and it would still be worth it in the end. And, it also took the pressure off my mom, who comes over one day a week for several hours just to play with Joey. No pressure to be there early, no pressure to be there late, no pressure to stay. No pressure at all. She gets her grandson time, stress-free, which is awesome.
For the last three weeks, my husband has had anywhere from two to four hours of free time on Mondays through Thursdays, and upwards of five hours on Fridays. He spends this time doing what he was only able to do on weekends previously and then some. (Sometimes he even naps. Or plays video games. And the best part? It doesn’t piss me off because I know he will do something productive the next day.) This is fixing three problems: his stress and anxiety, my stress and anxiety, and the state of our house! Laundry is getting done and being put away, boxes are being unpacked, things are finding their homes (or their way to the trash barrel or donations).
Is it costing us more? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. In time, we will have our finances adjusted. Until then, we will grin and bear it and relish in the silver lining.
Organize and Compartmentalize—Difficult, But Possible
✔ acknowledge to myself that I’m still in an adjustment period
✔ get in the habit of making lists EVERYWHERE for EVERYTHING—work, home, blogging, chores, Joey…
☐ leave work at work, home at home, whenever possible
Fun fact: parenting makes you forget e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.
Okay, maybe not everything. And maybe not everyone. And maybe not forever! But for me, right now, it’s just about everything. I forget things as basic as texting a friend back and as important as submitting something I worked on to another department in order to meet a deadline at work. GAH.
So, I’ve got lists. I’ve got list apps on my phone, I have pen-and-paper lists at work on my desk, I have a white board with little sections for each day of the week on my refrigerator at home. It’s all listapalooza up in this life! I’ve got my M-F job, I have this blog, I have the Rainbows & Unicorns blog and my responsibilities there, I have a baby, I have a husband, and I have a house. That’s a lot of things. Lots of tasks. So I’m task-ercizing. It’s happening.
And compartmentalizing well has never been my strong suit. When I’ve done it in the past, it’s often been in a bad way. When things were falling apart in other aspects of my life, I would shove it all away in a dark corner and devote all I had into one or two other aspects of my life…like work, or school. Being able to leave things where they are in a normal way is hard for me. But I know if I’m going to remain a sane person, I have to try. Therapy might help with this. I’m hoping it will! Being able to trust my baby is being taken care of and will be okay while I work has been a slow process. The more defined childcare schedule has helped. Knowing my husband’s stress is a little less and things are getting done a little more around the house has helped. And being able to leave work at work and not stress about things while I’m home with my family is important, too!
Do More “Me” Things
✔ create a happy/safe/work space
✔ find time in (almost) every day to do something that makes me happy
✔ find time every weekend to do one non-everyday chore
Since we moved in, the room beside the nursery has been filled with boxes—my office. Every day I walked by it, and the cluttered mess just beyond that door frame, and it would drive me crazy. The living room was where I spent most of my time; but where I would normally have my laptop and writing things, there was a “pumping station.” My books, my MacBook, everything cluttered the space around the couch. It wasn’t comfortable for me to sit there and work. It wasn’t private; I didn’t have my own space. Before I returned to work, I purchased a nice office furniture set (and then didn’t get to work from home, but I digress). For months the furniture sat in boxes. I was determined to get in there and build it myself—and I almost did. I got the desk started. But the never-ending cycle of trying to play catch-up every weekend kept me from completing the job, and I finally asked my husband to finish it. So there’s a finished desk in there just waiting to be used. I went to Target a few weekends ago and stocked up on some office supplies. All that’s left to build is the bookcase, and then I’ll need to unpack boxes of books and other office things.
Soon, I’ll have that “me space” I’ve been craving for months. A place that—when I don’t want him to—the baby won’t be allowed in. The place I’ll retreat to when my husband is around and I have blog things to take care of, or need to have some time to myself. A safe, quiet, productive place that I can call my own. Just knowing I can go in there now if I wanted has made some anxiety disappear.
Finding time in every day to do something that makes me happy sounds easier than it seems…and harder than it seems. So many different things make me happy: reading, writing, blogging, relaxing on the couch and catching up on TV, playing with my baby, talking to friends. The key here isn’t finding things that make me happy—I have that figured out already. It’s the making me happy bit. I can do these things over and over until the cows come home, but it won’t make a difference if I don’t allow myself to be present in that moment.
Tonight, and last night, I actually spent time with Joey without an ulterior motive—like getting him to eat, or stop fussing, or go to sleep. We just hung out. We stretched out on the couch (or my bed) and played with toys, tickled, giggled, made faces. I watched him explore the fabric of my shirt and pick at my engagement and wedding rings. I refused to let my mind wander to all the things I could be doing if I put him in the swing or in his Exersaucer, and just enjoyed my time with him. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve watched my husband do exactly this with our son, and feel jealous because I felt too much pressure to be doing other things. But now I know there is time during the day for my husband to take care of some things…now I know I will have time over the weekend to take care of a thing or two that needs my attention. I can just enjoy myself. I can just have fun with my baby.
Is it always going to be this easy? I’m not stupid. There will be at least one, if not more, day a week when I am overwhelmed and can’t stop thinking about things that need to get done. And it’s okay if I focus on tasks or chores that day. But the following day, I need to set out some time for myself. Half an hour, an hour. Even ten minutes. Read one chapter of the developmental leaps book. Take a minute to jot some blog ideas down. Get some editing for the Rainbows & Unicorns blog done. And I can’t feel guilty about it—I won’t allow myself to feel guilty (or at least, I’ll try).
Every weekend, I want to be able to get something done that isn’t part of everyday stuff. Dishes, picking the toys up off the floor, that stuff doesn’t count. I mean clean the living room floor. Wash down the kitchen counters. Put away some of the random crap strewn about the master bedroom. I spent maybe three hours total, broken up into chunks of as little as ten minutes’ time, cleaning this past weekend. I cleared the end tables in the living room of the crap and threw away, put away, or found homes for most of it (the rest is in a pile I’ll tackle when I can). I attacked the dining room table—which had become yet another piece of furniture on which we dumped everything. It’s not completely cleared, but you can see the tablecloth! I put away some things that have cluttered the island—it’s not completely cleared either, and it certainly isn’t clean by any means, but it’s getting there. My husband swept the floors. And by Sunday night, I felt good. I felt energized! I could sit on my couch and not feel overwhelmed by the “stuff” everywhere. I felt the tension in my shoulders fizzing out.
And I still had time to cook for us, twice. We still had time to play with our son. We still had time to stretch our legs and catch up on some TV while the baby napped. We still had time to see my cousin and his girlfriend who came up from NJ (and my other cousin and her girlfriend who came down from Allston). For the first time in a long time, I didn’t stress about being out of the house and therefore unproductive. In fact, I was excited to get out. I felt I deserved it—because I did.
Get My Health Back Up to Snuff
✔ go to bed early during the week/get enough sleep
✔ take my damn thyroid pill every morning!
☐ take my multivitamin/all the supplements I need
☐ become a more active person (stairs, walking)
☐ track calories with MFP/track movement with Fitbit
☐ (when I stop pumping) start exercising regularly
When we brought home Joey, it was understandable that I kept forgetting to take my pills. But now, seven months later? There’s no excuse. I stopped caring. So…I need to start caring again. If I take tomorrow’s thyroid pill in the morning, that’ll be a three-day streak. I haven’t remembered to take my multivitamin/supplements once yet, but I’ve ordered a new pill case with removable “daily” sections so I can bring them with me in my purse. I’ll get there. I was militant about it during pregnancy, which proves that I can take them every day. And if I ever want to get pregnant again, letting my thyroid go to shit for months/years is not the way to do it.
The exercise part…well, I’ve been down this road with you before. I have to get back on the horse. While I’m still Joey’s #1 source of nutrition, I can’t seriously pursue exercising, but I can be more active. I can take the stairs at work; I can go for more walks in the mornings, evenings, and/or weekends. Especially with fall just on the other side of tomorrow. I’ve got my Fitbit strapped to my wrist; I keep forgetting to log calories on MFP, but I’m working on it. I’ve got accountability pals that will help keep me motivated. I can do this.
Be a Mother and a Wife
☐ be more aware/appreciative of what my husband does
☐ take time out to talk about how the week went for each of us
☐ be affectionate/loving in person, not just via text
☐ “unplug” once in a while and really spend time together
☐ go out for a date night WITHOUT THE BABY
These boxes are unchecked because I came up with this Sunday night, when the weekend (and therefore the bulk of the time we spend together) was over. I spoke about how we’ve sort of been coexisting lately. We don’t talk as much as we used to; we don’t cuddle the way we did before Joey was born. I need to treat my husband as a husband in addition to my baby’s father. It’s not that I don’t love him; it’s not that I don’t appreciate him; it’s not that I don’t want to spend time with him. It’s just that we can get caught up in the parenting part of our lives sometimes, and we forget to tend to the marriage part. I’ve loved this man for nearly a decade of my life now, and becoming Joey’s father didn’t change that—it added to it. It’s a new facet to my love for him. I need to make sure he still knows that. And for him to know that, I need to show him.
Which means…a date night. Sometime. Hopefully soon. I’ve had friends and family pushing me to have a date night since Joey was a few weeks old, and I couldn’t tell them I wasn’t ready fast enough. I might still not be ready. But then again…maybe I am. I’ve had obligations that have forced me to be away from Joey several times now, and I survived those. There are movies that have come out recently/are coming out soon that I want to see, and after the initial, “I want to see that!” thought passes, it’s followed by, “Oh, wait, I probably won’t because we can’t bring Joey.” Nobody is going to force me to go out without the baby; I’ll do it when I’m damn good and ready. But maybe that time is sooner than I think.
I know many of my blog friends are new or relatively new moms with their own situations. I sat down and wrote this all out for two very large reasons.
The first was for myself—I write because it calms me, I write because it helps me get my thoughts out on paper, I write because seeing my thoughts tethered down on paper (or on a computer screen) is easier than hearing them floating around aimlessly in my head.
The second was for everyone else. For anyone else who might be feeling a little out of control. For anyone else who could even relate just a little to what I was feeling. When I read my friend’s mini-series on setting oneself up for better self-care, which she shared for support and for the benefit of others, I felt compelled to do the same. Her ideas helped guide me in the right direction to figuring out what I needed, what my goals needed to be, what my problems were and what solutions I had to create to resolve them.
I hope someone somewhere feels less alone or a little reassured by these two posts. Or, at the very least, that everyone reading them didn’t fall asleep on their phones/computers out of sheer boredom!