Deleted Scene: The Concerns Of An Anxious Mother

I am working every day on my memoir Adventures With Postpartum Depression but in the meantime, here is a deleted scene that might resonate with your personal experiences.  You are not crazy.  You are not alone.

Or maybe this passage will help you understand what your loved one is going through. She’s not crazy. She’s not alone. 

My parents had a guest room with a queen sized mattress and plenty of space for Pippa’s cradle.  That was where the newly displaced Novaks should have slept, except I did not want to share a queen sized mattress with my 6’5” husband – not after five weeks of insomnia.  Nathan volunteered to sleep on a cot in the guest room – I was too afraid to sleep alone – but my parents insisted that we sleep on the king sized mattress in their master bedroom instead._

I was thrilled that I could share a bed with Nathan, but now we had a new problem: where would we put Pippa?  We had brought her cradle, and there was more than enough room for it in my parents’ room.  You could easily fit a dozen cradles in their master bedroom… but for the large, scary chandelier hanging in the middle of the room.  What if it fell?  What if there was an earthquake?  The chandelier would kill Pippa! 

I moved the cradle from place to place in the master bedroom, and my mom pointed out several places where Pippa would be safe.  She suggested a spot near the window.  Next to the window?!  What if some hooligan threw a rock through the window and it hit Pippa?  We moved the cradle away from the windows, but now it was near a side table with a large lamp.  What if there was an earthquake and the bedside lamp got flung fifteen feet across the room?  My mom moved the cradle closer to the door.  The door?!  Holy shit, why not invite the local union of kidnappers to stop by at midnight and hand them my baby.  How had I survived my childhood?    

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Deleted Scene: Postpartum Anxiety Even Ruined Baking

As I prepare my book for publication, I’m sharing deleted shares on the blog. This scene focuses on the way that I felt guilty about anything and everything. Did you know that guilt can be a symptom of postpartum depression? I had no idea! But when my hormones crashed, and I got dragged down by depression and anxiety, my body hummed with an almost constant feeling of guilt. I always felt like I was failing and disappointing everyone and anyone.

I love baking.  I love everything about it – flipping through cookbooks and searching blogs for recipes; shopping for ingredients; measuring cups of flour; cracking eggs and separating the yolk from the whites; stirring everything together; and then sharing my creation with my loved ones. 

Baking recharges my soul batteries. 

I had not baked anything since before Pippa was born – yet another failure to add to the list.  Yet another reason for Nathan to hate me.  Yet another reason to feel anxious and guilty.  

I had to bake. 

In mid July, a couple of weeks before I admitted myself to the psychiatric wing of our hospital, I baked a strawberry cake. 

As I pulled out the recipe, my anxiety clicked up several levels.  I rushed, rushed, rushed, measuring ingredients and cracking eggs as if an assassin had a gun pointed to my head and if I did not stir the batter fast enough, he would pull the trigger. 

I felt guilty that I had not baked any treats for Nathan, but now that I was baking, I felt guilty that he had to watch Pippa. 

Before the batter was ready to go in the oven, I had to take a breastfeeding intermission.  Now I felt guilty that I had chosen such a complicated recipe.  I should have hulled the strawberries the night before. 

Why hadn’t I hulled the strawberries?! 

It was just a strawberry cake, but it felt like a matter of life or death.  Everything was starting to seem like a matter of life or death.

Death was winning.

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Deleted Scenes: The Inner Monologue of a Mom With Postpartum Anxiety

As I finish up the latest rounds of revisions for my memoir about having a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, I am sharing deleted scenes right here. 

On a Saturday in mid-July, Nathan and I took Pippa to a shady park near our house for the first time.  Pippa looked around in awe at the trees and grassy hills. 

I thought that I should feel very happy and content.

I did not. 

Question after question raced through my head. 

  • Would Pippa need to breastfeed? 
  • Was Nathan enjoying himself? 
  • Had I done anything to make him angry? 
  • Was I doing everything I could to make Pippa comfortable? 
  • We did not have a picnic blanket.  I should have brought a picnic blanket.  Why didn’t we have a picnic blanket??

After the park, we decided to drive to our favorite deli in downtown Los Angeles and pick up sandwiches for lunch.  Pippa had eaten recently, and I thought we could make the forty-five minute roundtrip to the deli before she got hungry again.

Nathan drove, and I sat in the back of the car so I could attend to Pippa’s every need.  She fell asleep almost immediately. 

Nathan and I talked, and a stream of questions continued to unspool in my head. 

  • Was I talking too much? 
  • Too little? 
  • Was I boring him? 
  • Did he hate me for dragging him out of the house on the weekend? 
  • Did he hate the music we were listening to? 
  • Should we change the radio station? 

Then we grinded to a halt on the freeway. 

We could see smoke in the not too far distance and hear the wail of fire engines.  A tanker had set fire, and a freeway between our house and the deli had been closed for the fire trucks. 

It would take hours to pick up our sandwiches.  Nathan called and cancelled our order, maneuvered through the crawling lanes of traffic, escaped the freeway, and drove home. 

I wanted to vomit. 

Nathan had so little free time, and we had wasted a precious hour on a doomed mission to a deli.  I was a terrible, thoughtless wife. 

True, Nathan had proposed the field trip, but I should have known better.  I should have known that there would be a freak accident, forcing the fire department to shut down a freeway. 

Nathan did not need any additional aggravations.  Having a wife with insomnia was aggravation enough. 

As we drove home, I willed myself to be invisible.

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Deleted Scene: The Roller Coaster Ride of Postpartum Depression

Oh, happiness, I am so close to finishing up my memoir about postpartum depression for publication. In the meantime, enjoy a deleted scene! 

On the first day of July, I took Pippa to Target and bought towels and pool noodles.  It was summer!  We were going to swim every weekend! 

Target is less than five minutes from my house, but it felt like a voyage to Antarctica.  The excursion was exhilarating but exhausting.

I was fighting the depression with every fiber of courage and strength I had in me. 

It felt as if something inside my body had broken, and I wanted to fix it on my own.  

I did not want anyone else to know how I was suffering. 

I did not want anyone’s help. 

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Deleted Scene: Postpartum Anxiety Felt Like An Unwanted Appendage

I am getting closer and closer to publishing my memoir. (Insert happy dance right here.) In the meantime, I am sharing scenes that did not quite make the final cut right here on the blog. 

One weekday morning, I left the house to take Pippa on a walk about twenty minutes after Nathan embarked on his morning constitutional.  Our paths crossed, and I stopped him to say, “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry that I’m anxious.”

Nathan hugged me.  “Babe, don’t worry about it.  You have nothing to worry about.  Everything is fine.” 

“I know,” I said.  (But I didn’t.  Nothing felt fine, and nothing was going to ever be fine again.) 

I tried to explain how I felt.  “It’s like I’m carrying around a backpack and it’s filled with anxiety.  And I want to put the backpack down but I don’t know how.  It’s welded to my back and I don’t know how to get rid of it.” 

I paused.  “But I’ll figure it out.  I promise.  I will find a way to put the backpack down.”

Nathan hugged me again and said some more reassuring things before walking home to shower and go to work.  I watched him walk down the block and felt a fresh surge of anxiety and guilt. 

I had just promised my husband that I would stop feeling so anxious, but I had no idea how I was going to manage that.    

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Deleted Scenes: If Only I Could Buy The Right Things

As I whip through revisions of my memoir about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, I’m sharing deleted scenes. Even though these scenes do not make the final cut, I do believe that knowledge is power. Something from my story might relate to your story, and if this helps just one person, I want to share.

I thought everything would be fine if only I bought the right things.  Specifically, I needed a fabulous nursing wardrobe, a magical diaper bag, and The One True Sling.

I ached to leave the house but thought it was impossible unless I acquired clothes that would make breastfeeding in public a breeze.  There are nursing covers that you can drape over the baby.  I bought one.  It made me feel hot and sweaty, and I could not see what I was doing or make eye contact with Pippa.  I used it maybe three times. 

Probably less.

I needed a dress that I could tug down, just so, and then handily feed Pippa while eating sushi and chatting with my socialite friends.  (I do not have any socialite friends.)  I had a vision of myself in the perfect wrap dress: shapely calves, glossy hair, rosy cheeks, and a flat stomach.  The perfect wrap dress would vanquish all my extra pounds, help me sleep better, turn me into a productive cheerful whirlwind, make everything I said sound witty and smart, and give me a charmed life.  Above all, it would make breastfeeding easier than brushing my teeth.

I ordered several different dresses from several different online stores.  Each time I clicked the BUY button, I knew that this was the wrap dress that would make my life perfect. 

Then the dress would arrive and break my heart. 

One was made from cheap flimsy fabric that practically disintegrated when I tried it on.  Another had weird ties in the back.  The blue one made me look like a cow.  The red one made me look like a pregnant prostitute.

I put the dresses back in their boxes and stacked the boxes in the living room.  I would return them later.

My dream diaper bag also eluded me.  When I was pregnant, I did not buy a diaper bag because the whole idea seemed silly to me.  I was just going to use a large tote bag. 

Then postpartum depression rewired my brain AND MY LIFE WOULD END UNLESS I FOUND THE MAGICAL DIAPER BAG.

The magical diaper bag would turn me into an all-star mom.  I would be able to fit inside its pockets everything I might possibly need for an outing: pacifiers, plural, even though Pippa never used them; diapers and wipes; two changes of clothes in case of a vomit or poop attack; a light cardigan in case it was a little chilly; a heavier cardigan in case it was very chilly; a backup cardigan in case it was chilly and the vomit/poop attack damaged the cardigan; toys to amuse Pippa; a notepad and pen in case someone told me something important and I had to write it down; my phone and wallet; a large water bottle; two swaddling blankets; Purell; a special pad for diaper changes; bags for soiled diapers; and hand lotion to counteract the drying effects of too much Purell. 

The magical diaper bag needed to house all these items and still only weigh two pounds.

I spent hours reading descriptions of diaper bags and agonizing over The Optimal Pocket Situation.  This was not a mere numbers game.  There was also the question of size and placement.  Were there pockets on the outside of the bag?  Did they have zippers?   Was there a special pocket with a hook for my keys?  And another pocket to sequester the unused pacifiers that Pippa shunned at home but might decide to use as soon as we left the house? 

Everything had to be waterproof, urine-proof, poop-proof, and vomit-proof, and above all, the diaper bag had to scream “COURTNEY IS AWESOME.”    

I added multiple bags to my Amazon Wishlist and looked at them several times a day.  I spent more time debating which diaper bag I should buy than I had spent choosing a law school to attend. 

How was I supposed to carry my magical diaper bag?  Over my shoulder?  My back still hurt and a diaper bag would aggravate that injury.  I needed a diaper backpack!

I finally ordered a diaper backpack with a pink pattern.  I convinced myself it was practical and stylish. 

It was hideous, cumbersome, and all around awful.  But it was mine, and the idea of returning it was unbearable, so I convinced myself it was awesome and turned to my next quest.

Deleted Scenes: Even In The Darkness, There Were Good Moments

As I whirl through revisions and get my book about postpartum depression ready for publication, I am sharing scenes that are not making the final cut because hey, does anyone want to read an 800 page tome about my adventures with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders? I thought not.

I have told you about my anxiety and compulsions.  I have told you how I felt detached and numb and how I was overwhelmed by people, but that is not the entire story.

Even as the postpartum depression demons were haunting me, I still felt all sorts of good, wonderful feelings: contentment when Pippa nuzzled my neck; wonder and amazement when she kicked her feet or reached for a rattle; joy when she cooed and gooed during a diaper change.  I even laughed every night with Nathan while we binge-watched The Big Bang Theory.

I felt these good, glowing feelings every day. 

But I did not feel them as strongly as I could.  I could never completely enjoy the joy and contentment, the wonder and love, because my nerves were always in HOLY FUCKING SHIT mode, always crouching behind a rock, hiding from a vampire, waiting for the tsunami to crash and drown the world. 

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Deleted Scenes: My First Neighborhood Walk

I am getting closer and closer to sending my book back to my editor and then, hooray, publishing it. Hopefully by Fall 2017!  But in the meantime, here is a scene that is not making the final cut. This is what postpartum anxiety does to a simple stroll around the neighborhood.

Life was monotonous and claustrophobic. 

Nathan was at work most of the time.  My parents, thanks to the L.A. Traffic Gods, only visited during the brief window in between rush hours.  I had friends but my brain concocted dozens of excuses to avoid them: they might be sick; they were busy with work; they were not interested in babies; they probably did not like me now that I had a baby (assuming they had ever liked me at all). 

Pippa was adorable, sweet, cuddly and fun — but rarely awake.  When she was awake, she spent most of that time breastfeeding.  When she was done with her meal, I talked to her, changed her diaper, forced her to endure tummy time, and entertained her with rattles and picture books.  This was lovely, but I wanted to introduce Pippa to the world and maybe have a conversation with a person who could say something – anything – more complicated than “ah gooooo.”  

I had spent enough time letting my body heal.  By Jove, it was time to take Pippa on neighborhood walks. 

The first time I bravely ventured forth, I was chaperoned by my husband and father-in-law.  It took me at least fifteen minutes to push Pippa’s stroller a whopping two blocks but every minute was dazzling. 

Sunshine! 

Sky! 

Birds! 

A barking dog!

Holy shit, I had not heard a dog bark in almost a month and Pippa had never heard one during her entire month on earth.  She had heard muffled barks in utero, but never the sharp staccato of a terrier defending his turf.  How magical!  It was as if I myself was hearing a dog bark for the first time.  My body tingled with joy. 

Yet even as I reveled in the wonder of Pippa’s first neighborhood stroll, an undercurrent of anxiety contaminated my joy.  I could not keep myself from worrying.

Was my father-in-law bored?  He must be bored. 

Was I walking too slowly?  I was walking too slowly. 

Was Nathan annoyed with my insistence on taking a neighborhood stroll?  He must be annoyed. 

Was I pushing the stroller correctly? 

Was the sidewalk too bumpy? 

Was that jolt too much for Pippa’s head? 

Was she in danger of brain damage? 

We were using our brand new, pumpkin orange jogging stroller with rugged tires that glided over bumps, cracks and curbs.  My father-in-law said, “That is quite a stroller.”

Nathan said, “Yes, strollers these days have all the bells and whistles.”

My anxiety ticked up a notch. 

I asked my father-in-law, “What sort of stroller did you have when Nathan was a baby?”

He laughed and said, “I do not even remember owning a stroller.”

Guilt flooded my body.  Was our stroller too fancy?  Too expensive?  It was, it was, holy shit, it was.  What had I been thinking?  Why had I squandered our money on something fancier than a $10 drugstore umbrella? 

EVERYONE MUST HATE ME!!!

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Deleted Scene: Breastfeeding Boot Camp

I am getting closer and closer to publishing my memoir about postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum OCD. Breastfeeding plays an important part in my book because breastfeeding aggravated — maybe even caused — my symptoms. But I can’t include all the scenes I have written about breastfeeding, so here is one that is not making the cut.

“As you can see, for the first six weeks, breastfeeding is more difficult than formula.  Formula is denser than breastmilk, so formula newborns feed less often.  And of course, anyone can give the baby a bottle, so mom does not have to get up so often during the night.”

The teacher, a lactation consultant and doula, clicked to the next slide.

“But in the long run, breastfeeding is easier than formula.  There’s no need to pack bulky bottles when you go out.  When the baby is hungry, you just sit down and start nursing.  You don’t have to waste a ton of time preparing the bottle.”   

The teacher clicked to the next slide.

“But after six weeks, breastfeeding gets easier.  Your baby’s stomach will get bigger, so she won’t have to nurse as often.  She’ll get better at nursing, so breastfeeding sessions will not take as long.”

I nodded vigorously, along with forty other expectant parents, and scribbled in my notebook, Gets easier in six weeks.

The teacher frowned as the next slide appeared.  “Unfortunately, most mothers give up and quit before reaching that six week mark.  They switch to formula because they don’t want to do the hard work of those first six weeks.”

Silence.  The implication hung heavy in the air: the mothers who switched from breastfeeding to formula were lazy and weak.

“But I know everyone who is here wants to give their children the very best possible start in life.  And as we saw earlier, breastfeeding is better than formula.  Those first six weeks are tough, but you are making an investment that will pay off in the long run.”

Right, I thought, it’s an investment.  I can do this.  I am strong enough.

By the time Pippa was six weeks old, breastfeeding was as time-consuming as it had been in the maternity ward.  She was insatiable and I felt tethered to the leather armchair where I did most of the breastfeeding.

I emailed a group of trusted friends who had breastfed their babies:

Hey guys!  Sorry I haven’t emailed recently, but I have another question. Pippa is six weeks old now.  I thought breastfeeding should be easier than now, but things are as demanding as ever.  Am I doing something wrong?

My friends responded individually but they each promised that the first three months of motherhood are hell but once I survived newborn boot camp, things would get easier.

The internet confirmed this hypothesis.

All right then, I thought, I just have to survive until the three month mark. 

If the pressure to breastfeed had not been so intense, would I have suffered for as long as I did?

Deleted Scene: The Pressure to Breastfeed

I am getting closer and closer to publishing my memoir about postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum OCD. Breastfeeding plays an important part in my book because breastfeeding aggravated — maybe even caused — my symptoms. But I can’t include all the scenes I have written about breastfeeding, so here is one that is not making the cut.

About twenty minutes after she was born, my doctor finally let me take my feet out of the stirrups.

“Can I have her?”

“Of course,” Nathan said.  “She wants her mama,” and he placed her back on my chest.

Now was the moment of truth.  Throughout my pregnancy, I had been brainwashed into thinking that everything — everything — depended on breastfeeding.  If I breastfed, my daughter would glow with health and intelligence.  If not, she would be fat and sickly, and her IQ would probably drop ten or fifteen points.

So many people advocated the rewards of breastfeeding: my friends; the pregnancy books; the baby books; the literature at my obstetrician’s office; the pediatrician; bloggers; magazines articles; social media; the doula who taught my prenatal yoga class; the nurse who taught my labor and delivery class; the websites that sent weekly updates about the baby in my womb. 

They all repeated the same mantras: breast is best; breastmilk is liquid gold; you pass on so many immunities through breast milk; formula fed babies are obese; and breast milk increases IQ.

Out of an abundance of caution, I bought a container of formula.  It proclaimed, right on the container: Breast is Best.  Even the formula company thought I should breastfeed.

As Pippa nuzzled my chest, she started to root around and strain towards my breast.  I worried.  Would she latch?  Would she breastfeed?  Would I do this right? 

Pippa squirmed towards my left breast.  I had done so much to prepare for this moment.  I had read three different books about breastfeeding; attended the hospital’s breastfeeding class; and studied the class handouts as if they held the secret to immortality.  Less than a week before my water broke, I visited the hospital’s breastfeeding support group and watched the mothers breastfeed their newborns. I had prepared for breastfeeding as if it was the final examination that would determine my success as a mother.  Would I pass?

I steered Pippa towards my breast.  The moms at the breastfeeding support group had made this look so easy, but I felt awkward and unnatural.  What was wrong with me? 

Pippa placed her mouth on my nipple.  Dread pressed against my chest.  What if she rejected me?  What if she was tongue tied?  What if she was allergic to my milk? 

Pippa latched on and started sucking.  A physical sensation of relief spread across my body.  I was breastfeeding my baby.  The anxiety and guilt dissipated.  I would be a good mother.