Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Lights

This past weekend we went out to my parents' house for dinner. They have the yard and house decorated for Christmas. I think I always took it for granted when I was little that there would be sparkly holiday cheer all around me, but aside from the occasional curses coming from the attic when Dad was wrangling down all the decorations, I didn't know how much work it took to actually decorate.

Until I had kids.

Now I know. That's why this year, we have a tree, and that's it. I took down the Christmas houses, but I can't find a surface to put them on, and one of the bulbs is burned out anyway. Santa will still be able to find our house because our kids have been sooo good this year, so I'm not worried. ;D

Walking through the yard on Saturday night, arbors of glowing grapes overhead, brilliant blue LEDs, Christmas trees, light-up penguins throwing tiny nylon snowballs, I felt as enchanted as a little kid. C was in awe -- he took me on a walk through the yard and told me what to look at, showing me everything Grandma had shown him. His special favorite was the pair of lit penguins, who were covered with a layer of icy raindrops.

It almost made me cry, for the same reason that I choke up when I see a particularly good performance, or other work of art. I have been described as being very "pragmatic" by people who know me, and my biggest struggle in grad school was waiting to find out the practical application of all of the theory we were learning. When there wasn't one, I just couldn't get myself to care about it. But things like art, and songs, and Christmas lights, are the exact opposite. Practically speaking, there isn't really a "point" -- they take time, cost money, and don't result in anything particularly tangible. But people do them anyway. Seeing something like Mom and Dad's yard lit up for Christmas makes me love humanity, for our silly, pointless love of beauty. Is there any other species that would spend so much time and money just to make someone else smile? To try to connect, even for a minute, to that unexpressible Thing that we try to convey in art -- the feeling of being human that combines the elation of being alive with the sorrow at the fact that we won't always be; the way one moment can seem to last a hundred years, yet a decade can fly by like a commercial break. The way we love, the way we hurt, the devastating love a parent has for their child; the fact that we exist at all, that we can and do keep stringing up colored lights all around the giant flooded yard, breaking the dark of the night.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Nashes Again

A week and a half after starting to wean Norah, the difference in our daily lives is striking. I have tons more energy and I just feel happier in general. I don't know if I actually had PPD or not (I never had it officially diagnosed because I didn't want to deal with doctors trying to put me on meds for a temporary condition) but once again, just as with C, the less I nurse the baby the happier I am. I wish I had a different experience with nursing, but I guess it is what it is. I have always been a low-energy kind of person, and maybe the lactation business just tips the balance a bit and wears me out too much.

All of this makes me wonder about the nature of PPD itself, and how we think about it and label it. I have had a problem with the idea of PPD because of the way I think of depression -- I tend to think of depression as a sadness that comes without a logical reason, or at least out of proportion with the logical reason. But with PPD, there *is* a reason. As much as I love my kids, it is really hard having a kid, and you have to give up a lot, even parts of your identity, your coping mechanisms, all of it.

According to the Myers-Briggs scale, I am an INFJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging). I was looking at some information online about INFJ parenting, and I came across a list of things that an INFJ parent needs in order to maintain mental balance. It went something like this: (1) At least an hour of alone time every day (2) an area of the house which you can keep clean and control (3) lots of peace and quiet (4) regular, solitary exercise, (5) projects that have a clear, defined beginning and end.

In other words, the exact opposite of parenting young kids.

So, this is encouraging in that there is a reason why I have felt so frazzled and strung out lately, and as my brain comes back to me -- piece by piece (thank God!) -- I have big hopes and big dreams for the future of the Happy Nashes.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I have started the gradual process of weaning Norah; for now we are down to nursing only at night before bed.

It might seem a bit early -- she is only eight months -- but I have an experience with nursing that I have never heard anyone else express. I don't know if that is because there are few people who have my experience, or because mothers don't feel free to express these things, but in my experience, when I am BFing, there is a certain part of my mental function that is just gone. Parts of my brain that I just can't access. And it drains me emotionally so that if the baby wants to nurse all day, I can't stand to talk to or touch anyone else all day. Night weaning and decreasing the number of feedings seems to really be helping this -- now, I really enjoy the nursing as a sweet, mama + baby experience, and I can relax in the moment a bit more.

I feel like this is an unusual experience, at best, and I have to admit that I am jealous of moms who can stand to breastfeed their kids until they are 2, and who can successfully handle that much giving on a daily basis. I sometimes feel like there is something missing in me so that I just have less to give. Cutting back on nursing N makes me feel somewhat ungenerous from a certain perspective. It is hard to avoid the "if only" disease -- if only I could conjure more patience out of somewhere. If only I weren't so selfish. If only my brain didn't slow down a little bit more with every ounce of milk.

But then, I consider the changes in me since I began cutting back the nursing on Saturday. On Sunday afternoon, I caught myself singing and dancing with N in the living room, for no particular reason. I held her up in the air and she stuck out her fat little arms and smiled a big, drooly grin with her two bottom teeth peeking out. I realized in that moment that I had not been doing much singing or dancing for several months before.

And I know with both my logic-brain and my emotion-brain that C has been getting the short end of the stick when I have been so worn out. All my energy goes into the baby and he gets what is left over, which is not much sometimes. And it seems like a three-year-old needs interaction even more than he needs food. So giving up a bit of my mother-earth fantasy in relation to N seems worth it for being able to rebuild a good interaction with C, whom I have sorely missed in these weeks/months that I have been exhausted and "away." Feeling the divide between my beautiful boy and myself has kept me up at night more than once; okay, more than a dozen times, and having more energy to give to him is a very exciting idea for me after so much worn-out parenting.

It has been hard coming face-to-face with my limits as a person and as a mother. I wish I could do it all. I can't do it all.

But I keep catching myself in unexpected joy. After B left for music practice on Sunday I was lying on the living room floor playing with the kids, my feet resting on a pile of books that C and I had read our way through a half hour before -- which I finally had the energy and patience to do. N was scooting across the floor in her way, like a tiny fat soldier, and C set his truck down on the couch and leapt on me like a lion cub. "Mama," he said, planting a kiss on my cheek. "You're my friend."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Liquid Sunshine

After a temper tantrum on Wednesday, I spent the evening with some friends, being silent and morose I am sure, but it did me some good. The next day B helped me work out a strategy for dealing with random tiredness disease (RTD), including more delegation and more sleep. I have had two nights of 8 hours of sleep and it is making a difference. I am also taking liquid vitamins (better bioavailability, apparently) so I am not sure what part of feeling better comes from sleep, and what part comes from the vitamins, but I will take it, regardless.

The biggest part of "recovery," if you could call it that, is realizing, once again, that I need to seriously revise my ideas about how much I can accomplish in one day and in one lifetime. I feel like I have absolutely no understanding of what is an appropriate amount of things that I can do in a day. I am learning it all from scratch. Whatever seems appropriate to other people seems so, so underambitious to me. So once again I am razing the landscape and waiting to build until I know what I can afford. Minimal obligations of all kinds; lots of time sleeping. Lots of time alone. Screening my calls. Trying to figure out where this crazy life-boat is headed.

[Looking back on this post I see that it looks a bit melancholy, but my experience is very happy -- I am feeling much more myself and getting to know what I can expect from myself. Just dealing with burnout and looking at ways to keep it from happening again.]

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

...except not

Just got a call from the Dr.'s office to say that their "machine made a mistake" and I am really not anemic at all. I just have all of the symptoms for anemia, and most of the risk factors. They want me to get an EKG, but I was thinking of three different letters: WTF.