Thursday, September 12, 2013

Too Blessed to Be Stressed

I can conjure up a healthy dose of anxiety when change is on the horizon, and I tend to stress out a little in anticipation of transitions.  I forget, for example, at the end of each summer, how I handle the logistics of work and family life during the school year, and imagine that it will be harder than ever this time.  And then the year starts, and what do you know?  I'm coping.  We're okay.  I'm busy, we're bustling, but we make time for family dinners and there are moments of hilarity amidst the homework and driving to and from lessons and practices.  Over the years I've learned I do this, cyclically:  stress out and then figure it out.

But an undertow is tugging at me again.  Call it what you will: the Baby Blues or mild Post-Partum Depression.   I just know it knocks me on my knees most unhelpfully.  I felt it with Big Sis--the joy and in-love-ness, coupled with an inexplicable weepiness and recognition of my own vulnerability.  Why did I feel this way?  Many kind friends would ask me, "Isn't this the most joyous time of your life?" Yes, absolutely!  My father, no stranger to the hormonal flux of postpartum emotions, explained that my feelings were helping create the bond that would have me throw myself in front of a train in defense of my newborn.  I found that oddly comforting.   And I eventually emerged unscathed and determined to interact with mothers of newborns differently from then on:  "No, how are you, really?"  Just in case someone else felt similarly.

Ten years later here I am with the baby I yearned for.

In the hospital, in the NICU, in Boston, my emotions had objects:  stressful circumstances, sick baby, unfamiliar and unexpected setting.  Separation from my girls and husband and dog.

But now I'm home, reunited and back in my nest.  And still I find myself wide-eyed wondering why I'm not deeply at peace.

Beyond the clarity of purpose in holding, feeding, staring, talking and smiling at my baby and hugging my girls and husband, my mind zig zags, loops the loop:  making to-do lists, questioning itself, worrying.

There's a new job waiting for me, a Big Job, which I haven't even done yet, but know I can do.  It's the Life + Job that I wonder about, that uncharted territory that I think about each morning when I wake, planning how I'll drop off and pick up and breastfeed and pump and raise my baby and help with homework and cook and do laundry and attend evening meetings and athletic events and dances...and sleep.

And then Guilt, the hair shirt that accompanies bad feelings, bristles my sensitive skin.  I'm "too blessed to be stressed," after all; let me count the ways:  my baby is healthy.  I am raising a thriving, happy family and am married to an incredibly supportive partner.  I have a wonderful new house and job.  I have tons of love and assistance--TONS.  And let me tell you, I know some people who should be crying!  I know some folks going through tough life-and-death stuff, so what is my problem? I ask myself.  There's Syria, and poverty, and depravity, and it's even the anniversary of 9/11, and I'm at home on maternity leave holding a sweet, milky-smelling baby.  Maybe my body needs to plow a field; my mind needs something really serious to focus on.  Could Post-Partum Blues be a first-world problem?

"You're not in charge," the nurse practitioner tells me at my six-week postpartum appointment.  "You can't control this, just as if you had a broken leg or sore throat."  She offers an elixir, with its side effects and promises of relief.  And I hear her, but I want to be the body surfer to this wave, plunging through the whitewash, wave and I both winning and losing, but I, emerging and whipping hair from my face with a triumphant grin.

I'm certain I can get there, and I know the lifeguards are watching.


Karen said...

A quote on the wall above my desk:

"Don't let your mind bully your body into believing it must carry the burden of its worries."
--Astrid Alauda

Stacy Hall Gomez said...

I found this online one day (it's by Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald), and have it pinned up by my desk, both at home and at work, like the previous commenter. I find these things help me sometimes; maybe it will help you. Different lines call to me at different times -- at the moment, it's the last line for me. Anyway, hang in there, and ride the wave... Sending hugs!

More faith, less fear
More mindfulness, less busyness
More compassion, less judgment
More allowing, less forcing
More calm, less chaos
More stillness, less distraction
More peace, less discord
More forgiveness, less resentment
More trust, less doubt
More caring, less apathy
More hope, less despair
More love, more fun, more joy

fer said...

thank you xoxo