Quick Personal Update

Hello! I have always wanted to blog more regularly about maternal mental health, and after publishing my memoir in April, I actually started doing that. But I am now in the process of recording the audio version of my book. I’m not doing a fancy-schmancy audio book (hopefully someday!) but I am sharing it FOR FREE on my podcast.

Today I uploaded Chapters 6 and 7. I just finished recording Chapters 8 and 9 and will post those soon.

I have so many things I want to blog about, especially tips and tricks for writing your postpartum story, but sigh, one thing at a time. So this week and next, I’m focusing on the audio version of my book. In July, I’ll turn my attention back to blogging.

Adventures with Postpartum Depression: The Audio Version

My book is now available as an e-book and paperback on Amazon (or check out the link for your free book on the homepage!) But I’m a podcaster. It feels like there should be an audio version.

I’ve never created an audio book. I did some research online and concluded: this is not the right time in my life to make an audio book. To make an audio book, I would either have to (a) spend thousands on dollars on production or (b) do it all myself, which would involve a steep AF learning curve.

I don’t want to do Option A because I’d rather spend the money on different things. Sorry not sorry. I’m a writer and I’m writing my first fantasy novel, so my next major expenditure will be on an editor for that project.

Someday, after I have made money as a writer and podcaster, I will invest the money in a proper, formal audio book version of my memoir. But that day could easily be five years away.

So that leaves Option B, do it all myself, but I don’t have the time. Sorry not sorry. I have limited Me Time, and I need to use the time I have to do the things that fill me up. Right now, that means writing, lots and lots of writing, podcasting, exercise and the occasional pedicure or massage. Figuring out the logistics of creating an audio book? That would drain my energy, so I’m not going to spend my limited Me Time that way.

So that means no fancy-schmancy audio book, but hello, I have a podcast. So I have decided to record my book as a series of podcast episodes. Since it’s not a formal audio book, I’m just figuring it out as I go. I’m not rehearsing. I’m not re-recording any chapters if I stumble over the words. It’s just me reading my book out loud as best I can into my podcast mic. But I figure the podcast version is better than no audio version at all.

I have to admit that I spent months and months worrying about creating the audio version of my book. It’s so liberating to accept that the audio version is not in the cards for me (yet) but I can embrace imperfection and share the podcast version instead.

The Prologue and Chapters 1-3 are now available on the podcast, right after episode 72. Enjoy!

My Motherhood Superpowers

I love my book’s cover:

Print

The cover has a superhero vibe, but even though I named my podcast and book Adventures with Postpartum Depression, I must confess that I never thought about the superhero angle until my cover designer sent me this beauty. I know, weird. When I was writing my book, I always had in mind an adventure from a fantasy story like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. But now that I have published my book with this cover, let’s pretend that I was always trying to evoke a superhero vibe.

I recently read the novel My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederik Backman. The protagonist is a little girl, and the little girl thinks about people in terms of superpowers. Like, so-and-so has a superpower of staying quiet when there’s nothing that can be said. Or, so-and-so has a superpower of giving hugs when hugs are most definitely needed. Ever since reading that book, I have thought about myself in terms of my superpowers.

Or, more accurately, I think about my non-superpowers.

Superheroes have powers, but they only ever have a few. Like Spiderman can climb up buildings but he can’t fly or make himself invisible. Iron Man has an ass-kicking suit and is ridiculously smart but he can’t breathe fire like a dragon. And the Hulk can use his rage to good effect but he’s probably not good at tasks that require a delicate touch.

I like to remember that as a mom, I’m a sort of superhero, but that does not mean I have unlimited powers. It means I have two or three strengths but otherwise, I’m just human.

These days, my superpowers are snuggling, reading books with my children, and hugging them when they are upset.

And these are some areas where I am decidedly human and non-superpower-y:

  • Laundry. Always amassing. Never conquering.
  • Tidying. No matter how many times I clear off the kitchen island, nature truly does abhor a vacuum.
  • Remembering what to pack for outings. I only survive with checklists. Checklists are my equivalent of the Batmobile.
  • Getting knots out of Pippa’s hair. This job requires magic provided by a special brush and detangler that my mom hunted down.
  • Managing sibling fights. I often hear them starting to get aggrieved but I rarely intervene in time. Oh well, they are learning about the art of social interactions.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

The next time I’m beating myself up for being a lousy mom, I’m going to try to remember that even Batman has limited powers.

Episode 72: Personal Update

This week, I shared a personal update on the show. I’m currently working on two big things: (1) improving my physical health and (2) learning how to scream less at my children. Both are adventures!

On the physical health front, my primary goal is to lose weight, but several months ago, I noticed some evil PMS. Not wanting to jump back on Zoloft, I saw a new primary care physician. She is a naturopath, which means she went to medical school and passed all her boards but rather than fire off prescriptions, she suggests supplements and ways to naturally take charge of my health.

I’ve been slowly getting back results from various blood tests. I learned that I have hypothyroidism, which means my thyroid levels are low. My doctor explained that this often happens when a person gains weight; and then, the hypothyroidism lowers metabolism and makes it difficult to lose the weight. Hello! So I am now taking a medication and supplements to get my thyroid back to where it should be.

My cholesterol is also too high but hey, my vitamin D is exactly where it needs to be. Yay, I’m getting enough sunshine, and that’s good, because time outside combats depression.

I’m currently taking eleven different supplements but the long-term goal is for me to just take a probiotic, vitamin D, and a multivitamin (but only one or two months a year.) This is manageable. Eyes on the prize!

On the screaming frontI want to stop yelling because I know it’s not ideal for my kids. But also, it’s bad for me. I feel shit lousy after I yell and my body feels rattled for hours and hours after. Most recently, I screamed at Pippa on her last morning of preschool because she did not listen to me and go to the bathroom when I asked but instead waited until I told her it was time to go. I got outraged because I had a babysitter watching Julian, and Pippa’s delay was eating up my precious minutes of Me Time. But even as I started yelling, I knew I was overreacting. And yet, I could not stop myself. I felt a bit possessed.

I didn’t like that feeling. And I didn’t like how I felt agitated for hours after screaming.

So I wrote about it. I journaled and journaled and I know that if I pay attention and get really curious about the who/what/when/where/why of my screaming attacks, I’ll get to the bottom of this issue and find a way to better manage my feelings. Right now, this is a work in progress. As is the rest of my life. I suppose it would be awfully boring if I ever got all my shit together and could just hit the cruise control button on life.

 

 

Anatomy of a Mother

Becoming a mother of two has changed my anatomy in some serious ways.

I used to have one stomach to feed. Now I have three. Except my brain only has a direct line to one of the stomachs, so I have to speculate as to the hunger status of the other two.

I used to have two feet. Now I have six, four of which are rather mutinous and like to run in all sorts of directions, especially if there’s a parking lot involved.

Let’s not talk about the miles and miles of intestines I have acquired. But we can talk about my three bladders, which all together, seem to have the capacity of a walnut.

I have three tongues, each with its own set of taste buds. My first tongue is an omnivore that loves all sorts of cuisine. My second tongue is an herbivore that subsists almost entirely on strawberries and crackers. My third tongue is a carnivore that comes running if there’s even a rumor of hot dogs.

I have six hands. It’s incredibly how I’ll be using two hands to clean up Mess #1 while the other four are making Messes #2-999.

I only have one third of a brain.

During the summer, I have enough skin to cover an American football field.

And my heart? I still only have the one, but it has doubled-tripled-quadrupled in size and feels love more infinite than infinity.

Despite its strangeness, I would not change one detail of my bizarre anatomy.

Courtney vs. The Chainsaw

Hello! As I write this, I’m at my parents’ house while my kids are at home with the babysitter. I thought I was going to record a new podcast episode and then start recording the audio version of my book. But no, the neighbors across the street are having their trees trimmed and a noisy chainsaw has interrupted my plans.

Seriously, every time I come to my parents’ house, there is either a chainsaw or lawnmower or some other mechanical monstrosity ruining my sanctuary of silence.

There’s a lesson in that, right? Right!

Life is uncertain. We can plan and plan and prepare until we think we have managed every variable, but still, we cannot control the universe.

I have a choice today. Choice A: I can let the tree trimmers’ chainsaw ruin my day. I can throw tantrums and call my husband and whine about the cruelty of life. Or, Choice B: I can be flexible, take a deep breath, and do something else. There’s a lot of things on my To Do list, so it’s not like the entire day is lost.

I have to be honest. For about ten minutes, I went with Choice A. I didn’t call my husband, but I did rant in my journal and then text my dad about the noisy tree trimmers.

Then I realized I was clinging to the river bank. Last year, when I was in weekly therapy, my therapist and I often used the metaphor of a river to talk about life. I realized that when I cling to the river bank, and resist the flow of the river, my energy clogs up and I feel generally miserable. When I let go of the river bank and surrender to the river’s flow, I enjoy my life and discover that things that seemed like catastrophes – e.g. the tree trimmers across the street – are actually little serendipitous blessings in disguise.

So now I am on Team Choice B. I am no longer clinging to the river bank and have instead climbed into a sturdy inner tube to enjoy the journey. Who knows what will happen today? I didn’t plan for it, but the journey is much more exciting when I let the river show the way.

 

Gift Ideas For A Mama With Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbirth. Even if you yourself feel great after giving birth, chances are very high that you know someone who will experience a maternal mood disorder.

Let me be frank: as a human being on Planet Earth, you already know tons of women who had postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD or some other fun maternal mental illness. Thanks to the stigma of mental illnesses, most of these women will conceal their diagnosis. Many of them will also never seek help and never receive a former diagnosis.

But let’s say you know a mom and she tells you that she has postpartum depression. Or, you hear it through the grapevine. and it’s public knowledge. And let’s say you want to do something nice for said mom. If you live near said mom, then there are lots of things you can do to help: bring a meal; take the baby out for a walk; or take mom to get a cup of coffee so she gets out of the house.

If you live far away, though, you might want to send a gift as a token of your support. But what?

  1. Flowers. Simple, beautiful, and touching. After I was hospitalized for postpartum depression, my Aunt Nancy visited and brought me flowers. The visit and flowers both meant a lot. I knew I was loved and knew someone was rooting for my recovery.
  2. Art supplies! When I was hospitalized, I discovered that art therapy energized me. My husband Nathan bought me crayons and coloring books so that I could continue the art therapy after my discharge. The fact that he bought the art supplies showed that he wanted me to continue doing things that helped me feel like my best self. Coloring books and pencils probably work best. No need to overwhelm mom with something elaborate or messy.
  3. A book about postpartum depression, such as Postpartum Depression for Dummies or my memoir Adventures with Postpartum Depression. Moms with postpartum depression often feel guilty about spending money on themselves, but they need information and stories to make a full recovery.
  4. A gift card for a local meal delivery service. Or, if you know what her favorite restaurant is, a gift card from there. Cooking dinner is overwhelming with a newborn. Throw in a bout of postpartum depression, and it can feel impossible.
  5. A notebook and pen for journaling. Writing is so therapeutic.
  6. A fancy fun To Do list, like this one. Postpartum depression zaps mama’s brain. Keeping lists helped me stay sane. I also felt an enormous wave of satisfaction every time I crossed something off my list.

Does a gift sound like too much work? Send a card! The cards I received when I had postpartum depression were very encouraging and helped me get through the darkest months of my life.