Thursday, May 29, 2014

finding my way back


Hi again. It's been awhile. 3 months, actually.

Hugo arrived 13.5 weeks ago and it's been a blur. I honestly feel like I'm living in the Twilight Zone, never quite knowing what day it is, never totally sure if the story I'm telling to someone took place the day before or the week before. It's a completely surreal time.

The last 3 months have been filled with all the usual stuff-- breastfeeding hell for the first month, many sleepless nights, enduring the first infant illness, as well as so many laughs and cheers as Hugo learns a new skill or smiles his enormous smile, a million cuddles and kisses, a love deeper than I ever thought possible.

And then there was the postpartum depression.

It's actually misleading to call it postpartum because, now, looking back, I realize how badly I was suffering from anxiety all through my pregnancy. Essentially, the last year has been dominated by near-constant worry and fear and sadness so bad that it robbed me of much of the joy that I was "supposed" to be feeling as a pregnant woman and then as a new mom. I started seeing a counselor several months ago, in my second trimester, because my OB was worried about my anxiety level. I exercised, meditated, ate well, saw friends, watched funny movies. I did everything I knew to do to avoid going on antidepressants until, finally, one month after Hugo was born, I knew I hit bottom because my husband told me he was scared. Not concerned, not worried, but SCARED. So, I swallowed my pride and my fear of pharmaceuticals and saw a specialist. And, here I am, 2+ months later, on an antidepressant for postpartum depression and anxiety, and I feel human again. I wake up actually feeling optimistic about the day. I feel calm. I found my sense of humor. I have perspective. And I realize just how much of my life I have missed out on for the past 12 months.

I've always been a worrier. It runs in my family. I'm also an emotional gal, who feels things very deeply. But I gotta say, the level of anxiety I've experienced this past year totally knocked me on my ass. Never before have I felt so completely incompetent because I couldn't just think my way out of the darkness. Never before have I felt like such an enormous burden on my husband and family as I sank lower and lower into a place from which I wasn't sure I could emerge.
But I'm back now, and I'm finding my groove in my new role as mom/wife/creative person/business owner/friend/daughter. It's definitely a balancing act, and I have a newfound respect for all those (unbelievably amazing) single parents out there. I have NO CLUE how they do it.

Since becoming a parent, I've also learned the meaning of the word "guilt."

I've never been a person who carried around a ton of guilt but, man, has that changed. I feel guilty that I love my work so much and that I have missed my time away from it. I feel guilty that it's hard for me to spend hours on the floor dangling toys above my baby because I'm so freakin' BORED. I love Hugo SO much, and yet some masochistic part of myself thinks that I should be enjoying every single minute of this whole parenting gig and the fact is, I don't. I love Hugo more than pretty much anything, but I also love my creative time, my work, my friends....the rest of my life.

Intellectually, though, I know that I am a much better mom when I am paying attention to the other parts of my life, so I make sure I do that. And having Hugo at an older age has, I think, made me more balanced overall and not at all interested in trying to achieve some unattainable ideal in mommy world. In other words, I pretty much trust my gut on things with my kid and don't really care what a lot of the "experts" or other moms are doing. But all that being said, I still struggle with doubt sometimes.
Isn't that just part of the job? :)

So, what happens now?

•I'm making a new list of goals and plans for my business, my workshops and my studio, and I am PSYCHED to implement those things.
•I'm gearing up for a busy summer of photo shoots and family time.
•I'm learning how to be okay with getting less done in a day.
•I'm continually reminding myself to appreciate every single second with my baby because he changes by the minute.
•I'm learning how to spend more time in gratitude because I am so lucky that I get to spend as much time with my kid as I do and still do the work that I love.
•I'm learning how to let things go. (Well, at least I'm TRYING.)
•I'm learning how to be more forgiving. Especially of myself.

I'll be back soon with non-baby-related photos and news but, for now, thanks for reading.

(Thank you, Lily West, for the B&W photo of Hugo and me. xoxo)


Annie M. said...

Clare, though I can't personally relate to a lot of what you have experienced in this huge transition, I am glad that you have found your way to a solution and that you are starting to feel better again.

One thing that struck me in your post was your mention of getting bored sometimes during play and feeling guilty about it. This is really common and there was a great collaborative blog series about this a few months back. I think you might enjoy it (and even though most of the references are to slightly older kids than Hugo, I'm sure it will be relevant to you soon enough.) I found it really interesting and nice to see that I'm not alone in sometimes feeling that way. Here's the link if you are interested:

chriselda said...

i wish someone had told me when i was pregnant and had had the baby (and even now that he's 9) that parenting is tough. and it's emotional. and physical. and the million things in between.

the feeling of anxiety. stress. worry. concern... that makes us good parents. because we know that life is different and it isn't sunshine and lollipops. having a baby is a very real change in life. to feel like you can't acknowledge it... is silly.

everything you feel or say or do or... don't... that's normal. every bit of it is NORMAL. and people need to know that.

you are a talented individual with passion and energy. this will pour over into your motherhood in it's own revealing.

i applaud you for your openness and for sharing. this will bless many people (including you and hugo) in the future!

Anne said...

Clare, I applaud your self-awareness and bravery. I can relate to so much of what you have recounted here, and it's just the worst. Ever. What is great, is that you caught it so early in Hugo's life, so you can enjoy him---and life. And that boredom thing, hoo boy. Totally get that, too. The balanced life (work, friends, etc.) is the way to go. Sending you hugs.

Caroline said...

I dug the opening lines of this recent book review:
"I have a friend, the mother of twin boys, who recently confessed that the only way she had survived those early parenting years was by pretending she was someone else: a long-distance athlete in training, say, while jogging behind a double stroller before work; or a sexy, spaced-out au pair at the playground diddling on her iPhone during lengthy afternoons; or a bearded Bushwick mixologist whenever the clock struck 5. Any of these roles felt more endurable than her own."

Molly said...

Clare, I am so happy for you, and SO glad you wrote about your experience with PPD. I say all the time, to everyone who will listen, that we need to talk about this stuff! So many women experience PPD, but few talk about it. As Chriselda wrote, everything you mention here is normal. So normal. The transition to motherhood is huge, and it comes with so many conflicting feelings. Cheers to you for talking, for writing, for giving yourself permission to do what makes you happy, and for taking good care of yourself - and your family, by extension.

P.S. I too decided to go on an antidepressant, and like you, I found that it just made me feel like *me* again. If you ever want to talk about this stuff, I would be happy to. We all have to look out for each other. xx

Kathleen said...

You are brave. Every time a woman shares this struggle, it lessens the stigma for others. I'm glad you're finding solid support and help. Asking for help now and learning to lean into it will be a tremendous asset throughout motherhood. I learned it after a few hard crashes and still sometimes get painful reminders when I try to be too independent.

(PS- My experience of motherhood is something like 70% monotony, 15% joy, 15% anxiety/stress/hair-pulling. There is A LOT of boredom & potential for loneliness & isolation in the early months. You're not alone in that feeling.)

Karista said...

I always feel funny commenting on such a personal post, especially when I don't know you personally. But I must say, what a wonderful gift you've given others - being able to share the emotions and challenges of being a new mom and PPD.

I'm an "older" mom now and my babies are almost grown. We didn't have the resources then that we have now and I applaud you for sharing!

I remember those first few years when I felt I had completely lost myself and my identity, unrelenting anxiety and guilt, compounded by a chronic illness that was yet to be diagnosed.

Rest in the comfort that you are doing everything right! Hugo is so lucky to have such an insightful, caring and good Mom.

tea_austen said...

First of all, because it must be said: Hugo is so amazingly CUTE. What a sprite! And that picture of the two of you--such love!

I am so glad you are able to talk about this publicly. So many struggle, and the silence just makes it worse. Having and raising children is really what makes me think we should live more tribally--it's not a 1-2 person job! Everyone needs more support than they get (and it's hard to have the perspective to ask for it, or to even know what you need). I'm glad that you were able to do so.

Sending all best, as you find the way that works for you. xox

Paola Thomas said...

The main thing I always mention to new mothers - and maybe I even mentioned it to you - is that nobody ever talks about how BORING babies are. Because they are mind-blowingly tedious, however cute and adorable they might be. And especially when compared with your own creative stuff.

Fortunately for them, they do become more interesting and communicative over time, but newborns...

And post-partum depression. I wish they didn't call it that. I call it a perfectly natural and normal human response to the fact that you're being tortured on a daily basis. Literally. The sleep deprivation, the lack of fresh air, the confinement, the boredom, the lack of meaningful mental stimulation, the lack of time to do the stuff that's important to you. It's actually healthy and natural that you should feel that way.

I'm really glad you've got some help with medication, but please don't feel guilty that you should somehow be 'enjoying' this phase and that you're not. Because it's basically NOT that enjoyable and based on my conversations with friends, the mothers who do end up truly relishing it are few and far between.

Instead we all muddle through as best we can, feeling guilty because we're not consumed with the unbridled joy that motherhood is supposed to confer.

But like the baby boredom, it too gets better. MUCH better. Just hang on in there and know that basically these first few months SUCK and it's not you...

Donna Hopkins said...

What a refreshingly honest and sincere blog post. We have never met and likely never will, but I admire your photography and your spirit. I've been a young mother and an older mother as my two sons are 10 years apart, but mothering never changes. And the feelings you feel are yours - and I've felt them, too. So proud for you that you sought help and are feeling more like the happier side of yourself. There's not much use in pretending - parenting is a joy but it's still a roller coaster ride, too!