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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Screw You Folgers Commercial and Other Things That Make Me Cry

Words & Gifs by Kate

Someone once told me that you really don't find your footing in a new job until you've been there at least 2 months.  I think that's kind of how parenting is.  This mess is hard y'all.  In fact, I'd say this is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.  Forget water boarding people for torture, what they should do is deprive them of sleep for 8 weeks and wake them with a screaming baby.  I would definitely give up government secrets for 8 solid hours of sleep. We previously talked about the first couple of weeks of parenthood and how no one talks about them. We're not sure if it's because they don't want to scare new moms or because they have blocked it out due to PTSD.  Another thing no one really talks about is Postpartum Depression, or PPD.  A couple of weeks ago I was diagnosed with it.

Motherhood in a sentence.
The first week of having a baby there was a lot of crying, all around.  Labor, late nights, poopy diapers (Ella's...) and then we found out I wasn't producing enough milk to feed Ella so she was crying out of hunger. Mommies were crying too. I was also chock full o' hormones so I cried when I had a reason and when I had no reason at all. A lot. We were forewarned about this, but considering I'm a person who rarely cries, Meg was kind of taken aback.  It wasn't until Ella was 3-4 weeks old that we noticed my crying wasn't stopping.  I also couldn't relax even if Ella was sleeping.  I felt anxious all the time, anticipating that at any moment she could burst into one of her frequent fussy/screaming/crying fits (granted we went through a lot of things that exacerbated the normal crying for a newborn- cold at 3 weeks, transition to formula, gassy baby).  I felt like my insides were twisting up constantly.  When people would visit I would be on pins and needles, waiting for Ella to start getting fussy. It was challenging to enjoy our wonderful friends and family who came to visit. I also felt like my body was constantly vibrating- almost how you feel after someone comes up behind you and scares you.  I knew I felt love for my child, but I also felt great when others would take her for periods of time.  Her cry began to
make me have a feeling of seizure-like activity in my mind.  It's almost like I went haywire- I couldn't rationalize, focus or stop myself from going into a panic attack.  I couldn't sleep as I would hear phantom cries and/or I would lay there anticipating that she would wake up any minute.  And when she did she would cry.  Then I would cry.  I mourned for my life before a baby and then felt overwhelming guilt as we were so lucky to get pregnant and have a healthy baby.  And
then I would cry. See a reoccurring theme here?

It wasn't until Meg sat me down and we talked that I realized I was becoming a shell of the strong, vivacious, witty person I used to be. I didn't want to socialize, I never left the house, I lived in a state of exhausted panic. I reached out to my midwife in an email and spelled things out.  She wrote back confirming it sounded like PPD.  Reading that confirmation made me, you guessed it, cry. But I could put a name to what I was feeling and she offered me the number for a social worker at Mt Auburn Hospital to talk to. We had some next steps.

I've met with the social worker several times and we are working through my feelings. I know now that I'm not alone. She said that there's a PPD group at a local Jewish Women's Center called "I Didn't Think It Would Be Like This".  Spot on my mishpocheh.

I was put on Ativan for the anxiety and Zoloft for the depression. I also continue to see a social worker and a psychiatrist.  It's getting better.  It is a slow process, but I'm beginning to come back to the person I once was and I'm redeveloping my relationship with our child. Meg and I also agreed that I needed to go back to work earlier than planned. I needed to establish some structure back into my life and a little time away from Ella during the day to make our time together stronger.  Meg and I are also making time for just us.  Recently, Grandpa Jeff came to take care of Ella and give us our first date night since she was born.  Right before we left Ella threw an out-of-character shit fit reminiscent of her hellacious first week screamfest and we, with great guilt, left the house to start our date with Grandpa handling Ella.  We both got in the car and Meg said, "If McDonald's sold wine I'd say we should just go there, eat in the car and cry."

I know this isn't one of my typical snarky posts and we will return to our regularly scheduled programming soon.  But, like our post on how no one talks about the first 6 weeks, I wanted to talk about this as no one ever talks about how you can not be head-over-heels in love with your child from the moment they pop out of you. Sometimes those feelings you have may be more than simple hormones.  PPD is dark and scary.  It strips you down to nothing when you need to be the strongest you will ever need to be.  It takes a toll on everything and everyone in your life.  But it's not permanent.  I'm not back to normal.  I'm still exhausted. And I still am happy for you to take my child for a bit. This too shall pass. And when I go to look at the 450 emails in my work inbox I will cry. And it's ok.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ella through the ages (bonus post!)

On the day of her birth.
One month! It was hard to capture this because she kept flopping over!

Two months! So much easier to capture. No flopping over this time.

To sleep, perchance to dream

Words & gifs by Meg (I'm getting the hang of this, peeps!)

Around here, getting a decent night's sleep does indeed seem like a dream. Our adorable little 8 week old has been on a sleep roller coaster, which I hear is not unusual. For the first six weeks of her life, Ella slept in short bursts (2 hours max) and never seemed to sleep the recommended 14-18 hours per day. Never. It just wasn't happening for her. She was way too fidgety, alert and active to sleep. There was clearly too much going on for Ella to waste any of her time sleeping.

Let me tell you, her mommies were tired. Around week 6, Ella took a turn for the better. I have to fess up that until this point, we weren't doing a very good job swaddling her because it seemed to bother her and she always got out of the swaddle anyway. No matter how many times people said "swaddle, swaddle, swaddle," we just couldn't get it through our heads. Anyway, while sorting through some hand-me-downs I came across a super soft swaddle blanket called a Swaddleme, now affectionately referred to as "the baby straightjacket" at our house. This miraculous item has super strong velcro that Ella usually can't bust out of and it has seriously changed our child's sleep situation. If a Swaddleme cost $100, we would pay it, that's how amazing it is. The first time I put Ella in the Swaddleme she slept for almost 4 hours. WHAT.

FOUR HOURS PEOPLE. We thought for sure she had suffocated, but alas, she was just enjoying her straight jacketed sleep.

Ella continued sleeping for 3-4 hour stretches at night and 1-3 hour stretches during the day with the help of the Swaddleme, even through our Christmas craziness. There's still no way she was sleeping 18 out of 24 hours in a day, but it was better. Then around week 7 something crazy happened. Ella slept through the night! Well, sort of. She slept from 9:30pm-4:00am. Then the next night she slept from 10:30pm-6:30am. We started to think someone had replaced our baby with one who loves to sleep.

The night after that, just for fun, she threw a giant hissy fit from 9:00pm-midnight and then slept from 12:30am-4:30am. Last night she basically refused to eat or sleep until 12:30pm, but then slept straight through to 6:30am without a peep. We're not quite ready to declare ourselves victorious, but nevertheless we're hoping Ella is on the right track.

You have to stop swaddling a baby when they can turn themselves over, a milestone that we're headed for. I'm a little nervous about how our sweet pea will sleep without the straightjacket.Any and all suggestions are welcome!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Becoming a Parent, Legally.

Since my post on "paternity" leave was popular, we also wanted to talk about the extra steps we will have to take to ensure I am officially recognized as Ella's parent.

Here's a little 411 on the situation. Since we are lucky enough to be legally married in the state of Massachusetts and our anonymous donor relinquished his parental rights way before we ever had anything to do with his DNA, I am automatically considered Ella's second parent because I'm married to her biological mother. This would be the case even if I was a man, married to a woman who was impregnated with donor sperm (or sperm from a man who relinquished his rights). Anyway, I'm on Ella's birth certificate so that's all good. I carry her birth certificate with me all the time, just in case. Do I wish I didn't have to? Yes. Am I grateful that I can? Yes.

Sometimes, what gay rights feel like...
The problem is that not every state and country recognizes our marriage, therefore they might not recognize my parental status either. If we were traveling to or through a state in which our marriage isn't recognized and (God forbid) something happened to Kate, I would technically have no right to Ella. This sounds crazy, but if you look around the internet just a little bit, you'll find lots of horror stories. Most of these stories include crazy grandparents who refuse to let the non-bio mom have custody of the child, which I'm quite sure would not happen in my case, but if it comes down to a time sensitive decision, I want to be the one to make it, no questions asked. I should also say that we have wills in place that would make all of this clear, regardless of my legal status. We feel like we just can't be too careful.

Enter the second parent adoption (SPA). Thankfully, with a little bit of paperwork and a couple of bucks for a notary, I can complete a petition to adopt Ella. Here's a public service announcement for any other same sex parents out there- you don't need a lawyer to complete a SPA. Save yourself the couple thousand dollars in fees (!!) and fill out the paperwork yourself. It's really not that hard. A lawyer I contacted about doing it for us told me, honestly, we didn't need him. Now if a lawyer is telling you that you don't need a lawyer...

So anyway, we're almost done getting all the paperwork together and we'll submit it to the courts ASAP and get a hearing date a few weeks after that. I am both grateful to have the opportunity to
adopt Ella and heartsick that I have to. From the first moment I met her there was no doubt in my mind: she is mine, I am hers. I assume her adoption day will feel like any other day in the life we share together (eat, poop, sleep), except afterwards we could travel to Kentucky together, if we so chose. Yee-haw!

Have Baby, Will Travel

Kate and I are so blessed to have wonderful, large, extended families to spend our holidays with. Even pre-baby, our collective Christmas celebration has always been somewhat of a circus, deemed affectionately "The Connecticut Christmas caravan." For the last several years, Kate's parents have joined my family in CT for our usual Christmas chaos, starting with Christmas eve at Grandma's house, continuing through to Christmas dinner at Dad's house and finishing with second-Christmas with the step family. This year we also added stops with each of my god parents and a meet-and-greet with Ella and some of my high school friends. Oh, and we went straight from the CT Christmas caravan to my mom's timeshare in Lee, MA. I'm tired just thinking about it, and we haven't even started talking about what it was like to do all of this with a baby.

Being away from home for a week with a 6-week old baby is...interesting. Getting all the baby gear into our sedan is...even more interesting. It's impossible to know what to bring and what to leave behind. Today the baby loves the swing, but tomorrow she might not care about it at all! Do we really need three different swaddles? She might sleep flat in her fold-up bassinet....she might not. To pack or not to pack, that is the question.

The long and the short of it is...we did it! Packing the car was a little bit like playing life sized tetris, but we worked it out. Who needs more than one pair of pajamas anyway? Two pairs of shoes, you say? That's just crazy talk.

Taking a baby who rarely leaves the house in the car for more than her usual 10 minute trip felt like tempting fate, but Ella did ok in the car, though her limit seems to be about 90 minutes. We've officially fed, diapered and burped a baby in a rest stop parking lot, so we feel legit now.

It was great to have so much family support and so many people who were excited to meet Ella. There were many aunties and grandparents and others to hold her and feed her and give her mommies a break! On the other hand, we had just sort of (kind of? maybe.) started to get into a rhythm at home, and then we left. It was a bit unsettling for parents and baby, I think.

We're home now, getting back into some kind of baby management groove and it feels good. I have to admit the Christmas caravan was a bit of a blur, but a happy blur at that. We're already looking forward to next year when we'll ask ourselves... does she really need three stuffed animals? Will she want the jumparoo or the baby walker? Does the pack and play fit in the trunk with the stroller? We need to ask santa for a bigger car...