Archive for the ‘ Post-Partum Depression ’ Category

Love and Affection

I don’t believe that every mother loves their child or children. It’s a fact that many people don’t like to think about, yet sensationalize when stories of women leaving their children for partners, killing their children while suffering from post-partum depression, or simply leaving, happens. And that doesn’t even take into account cruel and unusual punishment inflicted on children.

This post isn’t about tragic realities. Have you ever been in love with another person? And you know how you walk around, smugly thinking, “No one could possibly be as in love with another human being as I am with this person?” Well, you’re wrong. You’re also right. It’s only your thoughts and experiences and there are infinite more combinations and realities.

The same holds true for children. Someone can look at a parent yelling at their kid on the playground and think, “Wow, they clearly don’t love their child as much as I love mine.” And maybe they’re right. Or maybe the kid is being a total snot and the parent is running late to pick up a sibling and she works two jobs. The answer tends to be simple and not so simple.

Giving birth to Miss Red and seeing her for the first time rearranged every atom in my entire being. It was powerful, scary, challenging and everything and nothing of what I thought it would be. I remember my first trimester of pregnancy, around week 15, something in me clicked, and I started loving the little creature in me. I shared that with my BFF and she was so excited. I started talking to the growing person inside me in my head, and imagined a warm, amber-colored light always shining inside. While taking prenatal yoga, in each pose I would chant in my head, “I am Divine. I am Divine.”

I loved Miss Red immediately. Absolutely. After 44 hours of labor and delivery, I would have done it again in a heartbeat. And that love has only grown. It hasn’t stopped yet and I know it won’t. I just do.

What surprises me about being a parent is that she loves me. It’s not that I don’t feel worthy of love; that’s not it at all; it’s that I’ve created a bond with someone based on circumstance. In teenager or adult love, you choose whom you love. With this, she came to us. She jumps into my arms after I put on her pjs, wrapping her arms around my neck, giving me a big squeeze, “Mama, I yuv you so much!” Really? Me? But I get to be your mama.

"Mama, I pick you a flower."

I will never take this love for granted, in a way that I can take CH’s love of me for granted. I think this is typical of people who have been together for nearly 11 years – there is a true devotion and deep love for one another, and even though we express our love for one another daily, we’re not jumping into one another’s arms or run toward one another in excitement when we come home. Having Miss Red is a reminder that there are such different forms of love, such different ways to share emotion.

My parents separated when I was little and soon after started dating other people. This gave me great anxiety, and I remember repeatedly asking my mother, “do you love me more?” And she would say, “there are different kinds of love.” I didn’t get that then, but can understand now. I don’t feel that way, but I understand. And who knows if she would give the same answer today. While I always knew that my parents loved me, and showed me great affection, I didn’t always have as much attention as I needed, but I also have a tendency to pull inward. But then there are kids who have a lot of attention from their parents, but not the love or affection. Or love and attention but not affection.

My hope for Miss Red? That she always, always knows that her mama loves her, cares about her, and has arms open for her whenever she’s ready to jump.

– MD


Charting the Course

In March Miss Red started preschool at a fantastic place. Really, we are very, very happy. We had a rough week of transition, but she’s now well-entrenched in her preschool life, telling us great stories at the end of each day.

We were beyond fortunate that for two years she attended the most amazing in-home daycare. The woman who ran it had a background in early childhood education and loved the children, deeply and truly. Each day held adventures for them, and they would walk to a nature sanctuary, spend an entire day outside or make the most memorable crafts. I cried when Miss Red left.

One of the hardest transitions for me to preschool is that we don’t have documentation of her daily schedule. Her childcare provider sent us home with a sheet each day, detailing what she ate and when, diaper activity, and whatever else they did. We would read them over dinner and if CH left them in the car, I made him get them so I could review them. It was something that we studied carefully when she was a baby and measured her food in ounces, then cubes of food we made, but then just read to stay abreast of what her day was like.

Now, when I drop Miss Red off, and when she is picked up, there are different teachers at either end. So CH and I never talk to the same person, and alas, there is no note. We’re working on potty training, and it was nearly a week before we learned that Miss Red had been sitting on the potty at preschool. As chatty as she is, she does not share this information.

I like information, and as much as I speak to her teacher in the morning, I don’t want to be overbearing, so I don’t ask for a note. But I really miss them. In fact, I saved the one from daycare when she first went to the potty. There is a big smiley face and underlines and exclamation points on it. It’s on the refrigerator.

I wonder if I’m thinking about it too much. It makes me think of Mary Kelly, an artist who is best remembered for saving one month’s of diapers in an installation about the female/motherhood experience. Her project is difficult to explain, so here’s what her gallery says:

MARY KELLY’S “Post-Partum Document” (1973-79) upset a lot of people when the first of its several sections were shown at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art in 1976. In the manner of a pseudo-scientific study, it inspects the relationship between a mother (the artist) and her newborn son during his first years of life. The subject is common enough in the last thousand years of Western art, thanks to the Madonna and Child. (Kelly went to Catholic colleges before she chose art school.) But the connection between them had never been considered quite like this.

Part 1 of the multipart work — “Analyzed Fecal Stains and Feeding Charts” — is probably its most infamous segment, as the subtitle might suggest. Think Dr. Spock crossed with Dr. Freud. Flanked by graphs and tables, the work comprises 28 framed paper diapers chronicling the month of February 1974. A list of what Kelly’s baby consumed each day — 2 teaspoons cereal, 1 teaspoon carrots, 1 ounce water, etc. — is carefully typed on each diaper. The list is a caption just beneath a ghostly brown or yellow stain.

Mary Oliver's "Post-Partum Document" (1973-79)

Yeah, not exactly Monet, but says something about a need to chart, graph, make sense and plod and plot along. I only have the one note saved. I have even failed at keeping a baby book for Miss Red, but the daily record of her rhythms is no longer recorded.

I remember soon after I had Miss Red and was so upset about her not breastfeeding, my mom shared a story with me about a women she had encountered in her work who suffered from such extreme post-partum depression that she saved every single diaper. She was young, single, didn’t speak English and felt trapped in her apartment with a new baby, unsure of how to manage. I cried when I heard the story, my heart breaking and stitching together for this woman, knowing how close some of us can come to coming undone, and thankful it wasn’t me.

– MD