Postpartum Progress: 10 Years of Magic

“Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy. But remember this – you have friends here. You’re not alone.”

- Dumbledore in Harry Potter

postpartumprogress10

This week, a group of Warrior Moms and bloggers is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Postpartum Progress. I’ve written about the site and its founder, Katherine Stone, before, because this site, and by extension Katherine, was an integral part of recovering from my experience with postpartum depression. It wasn’t the first source of help I found, but it was one of the most important.

Looking at things now, as we celebrate this milestone anniversary and all Katherine has done, it’s perfectly clear to me: Katherine Stone is basically Dumbledore.Katherine Stone compared to Dumbledore

This is no simple comparison. She’s not merely magic (though certainly there is an element of the magical about her). Like Dumbledore, Katherine isn’t afraid to say it like it is while at the same time providing much-needed reassurance.

The struggle with PPD (and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders) is a dark time in any new mom’s life. Time and time again I’ve seen Katherine reach out to a new mom and acknowledge her experience, saying Yes, this is a horrible thing. It feels dark, and it will continue to be difficult for a little while yet. But you are not alone.

There’s a reason Katherine refers to struggling moms as Warrior Moms. Fighting PMADs is tough, and it involves choices that are sometimes difficult and definitely not always easy.

It would be easy (relatively speaking) to ignore your distress and try to carry on. I tried that and it didn’t work. It wasn’t the right choice.

It would be easy to choose blind trust that a small, white (or orange or blue) pill will make everything better without doing any of the hard work that must go with it.  That was another choice I made that was the easy, but not the right, path.

It was when I finally realized I wasn’t alone and that I did, in fact, have friends in that dark place that the hard choice to fight became easier.

These are more words of Dumbledore’s that I find inspiring, and that I think link him to Katherine and her work with Postpartum Progress:

“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Katherine, thank you for being the source of that light for so many. Congratulations on 10 years.

Now We Are Six

Dear Connor,

Last night after dinner we put together the loot bags for your birthday party. They’re Star Wars themed, like your invitations, and your dad had selected a bunch of things along that theme that six-year-olds might like. As we put them together, you helped sometimes, and ran around sometimes, playing with the various extra bits, pretending you had a light sabre, and it struck me once again, in that moment, that you are six. You know things about Star Wars and light sabres and you are six.

Star Wars birthday invitations

For the last couple of months as we led up to your sixth birthday, my chest has been tight thinking about it. I don’t know why. There isn’t anything particularly noteworthy about turning six; at least not that I can think of. You might notice that this year, unlike other years, I have titled this letter, “Now WE are six.” For some reason this birthday, unlike other years, feels more like it’s about us and not just about you.

I have thought about this a lot, trying to figure out why. The closest I can come is that it has something to do with the stage Ethan has reached. At 18 months (and then 19, and then 20) it became clearer and clearer to me how different he is from how you were at that age. And in so realizing, it became clearer and clearer just how hard those first few years of parenthood were when you were a baby.

boy in skull shirt with spiked hair

My darling boy, I love you so much, but a lot of things about being your mom in those first few years just sucked. I look back on those things now and I wonder how we got through it. Sometimes I think maybe I didn’t actually get through it intact, but maybe this is just how things are and were meant to be. Maybe some of these things would have come about anyway.

You are an entirely different person now. Well, maybe not entirely. You are still full of life and energy, but you have evolved into a person who has two speeds: high speed and off. You are either moving through life at mach speed or completely still, focused on Lego, or a movie, or fast asleep. For the last couple of mornings I’ve had to come and wake you up so you could be at school on time, something I don’t actually recall ever having to do in the last six years. You were curled up in your sleeping bag on your camping cot (which you’ve insisted on sleeping in since returning from camping last weekend) and you didn’t even move when Ethan and I came into the room. And then I left the room for a moment to tell your dad that you were still totally passed out—because it really was that remarkable—and Ethan jiggled you enough to wake you up and the next thing I knew you were out of bed. You went from completely OFF to completely ON.

Hoo doos in Drumheller

Recently, I have become better at catching you in, or encouraging you into, quieter moments. I have worked on regulating my own settings so that your high-speed setting doesn’t inevitably push me straight into overdrive. Our relationship is better now than it was. Better now, I think, than ever. I can see more clearly what you need, and you can express your needs more clearly to me, and we aren’t always jockeying to each have our own needs met RIGHT NOW.

I have struggled recently with the things your birth brought into my life - things I didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. But I struggle less with you, and as a result you struggle less with me. We have found a balance, like the point of a spinning top that stays in control, en pointe, and fully supported by the forces around it. It took us a few years of working to build the strength and structure to appear to dance more lightly, but we got here. And as I look in the mirror I see us dancing a choreographed dance that we perform mostly in unison, spending less time treading on each other’s toes.

silhouette in front of water wall

I like this dance, my darling boy.

Now we are partners.

Now we are six.

I will love you always and forever,

Mama xx

Quiet at the Car Wash

Sometimes moments of quiet appear in the oddest places.

car wash entrance

I’d been staring at my horribly dirty car for a few weeks, feeling like finding the time to get it washed was one more thing I couldn’t fit in. Maybe even the one thing that would put me over the top from managing to it’s-all-too-much.

You know how sometimes it’s the silly, stupid, small things that do that?

I decided not to let my dirty car do that.

Last weekend I had a window of time on Sunday afternoon. I had some other errands to do that would take me in the neighbourhood of the car wash and decided I’d run through while I was out. But instead of just tacking it on to the end of a series of errands I decided to use it to my advantage.

I took a magazine with me, turned off the radio, and sat in the quiet. I waited in line at a time when I would normally have felt rushed and I just…sat.

Self-care at the car wash. Who knew?

iPPP button

Join Greta from Gfunkified and I for #iPPP (iPhone Photo Phun), a weekly link-up that requires nothing more than a blog post with a photo from a phone camera (any phone camera, not just iPhones). We want to see your funny, your yummy, your heartfelt, your favourite phone photos of the week. 

A Thousand Years

Ethan ready for sledding

You know how sometimes you look at a picture of your child and your heart does that thing where it tries to burst out of your chest? This photo does that for me.

I’m not sure what it is—maybe it’s that he looks like a Gerber baby in this photo or perhaps because he was so willing to let us put him in his new sled without knowing quite what it was all about—but I look at this photo and I think, “My god I love this kid.”

This morning Ethan sat with me while I had a late breakfast (three cheers for weekend sleep-ins) and we sang.

“I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more”

I often sang this song to him while we danced around the living room when he was really small because I like it and it made him smile. I had forgotten about it until I heard it in a mall yesterday and I thought it was time we listened to it again.

“And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more”

I looked at him while we sang and thought, How could I have ever thought you’d never come to me? I’m just still so very grateful for him – my small, blond Gerber baby with the big laugh. I’ve loved him for so long.

(And PS: He loved the sled.)

 

I’ve joined Greta from Gfunkified as co-host of #iPPP (iPhone Photo Phun), a weekly link-up that requires nothing more than a blog post with a photo from a phone camera (any phone camera, not just iPhones). We want to see your funny, your yummy, your heartfelt, your favourite phone photos of the week. Link up below!

GFunkified

Now You Are One

Dear Ethan,

A year ago today, just before we left for the hospital and about three hours before you were born, it snowed. It was the first snow of the year and it came down lightly, the snowflakes glinting in the street lights on the side of the road.

It was a sign of a new season, both literally and metaphorically.

There is so much about you that I didn’t anticipate. You were wanted and planned for, but I didn’t expect you to enter our lives a month after I started a new job in a new city. But we were ready, and I guess you knew that.

I spent the next months trying to imagine you – who you would be and what you would look like, but I couldn’t. At the time I couldn’t even begin to picture a child different than the one I already had.

But you are so very much your own person. When you decided you were ready to enter the world, you did so determinedly, and a couple of weeks early. When you were born you were so small we had to borrow preemie clothes from your cousins because everything we had left you buried in rolls of soft cotton.

Ethan-newborn

I looked at you and wondered how you could possibly be so small and quiet when everything about your brother was big and loud.

My first few days with you, in the hospital and then at home, were filled with nothing but awe. But it was a different sort of awe than I felt as a new mom the first time. It was a feeling of calm, a feeling of peace. It was us settling in to one another.

mom-kissing-newborn

That settling has let me observe you and see things I want to capture in the palm of my hand and never let go of.

You are joy and happiness and laughter. You have a huge smile. You give really, really good hugs.

smiling-highchair

Everywhere we go someone comments on how happy or easygoing you are. You are both of those things, and blissfully so, except if someone takes away something you’re playing with and then WATCH OUT.

I’m used to your brother’s big personality and sometimes I have to remind myself of you because, truly, you are quiet enough that people come into the room and don’t know you’re there.

And then, suddenly, you will light up. You’re a talker and you wave your arms wildly and repeat sounds and mimic us. You want to be involved and you make sure that you are. When you start to talk or laugh you become the centre of all things, because how can we not listen to and look at you?

Ethan-airplanes

A year into this journey I’m not sure I know what it is to be your mother. You are my little babe, my duck, my blondie. I want so badly to stop time and stay with you a while, just as you are. I want to hold your soft hands and watch you sit on the floor and kick your legs in excitement. I want to watch you dance.

But just as the seasons change, so must you. And I must let you.

I see amazing things for you but sense that my role is simply to guide you and watch you soar.

So do that. Dance on, darling.

I will love you always and forever,
Mama xx