Feb 25 2014
Bedbugs began to invade my imagination two months after my daughter was born. I was readying to attend a conference when a friend casually mentioned the hotel was featured on the Bedbug Registry. Bedbug Registry? What was that? I headed to the website and started rooting around. I researched bedbugs. And that was when life would be divided in half–before my daughter was born when bedbugs did not exist for me and after the birth of my daughter when bedbugs were everywhere.
Granted, I was poised for calamity. As a hypochondriac daughter of a doctor, I have been anticipating diseases since I was 8 years old when decided I had cystic fibrosis. (That would be followed by brain cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis, mad cow disease, and schizophrenia). All that pent-up anxiety was lying patiently dormant until I gave birth to my daughter in the dead of winter. And then, as if a portal had been opened, all the fears seeped out at once.
Typical Google searches while breastfeeding in the middle of the night: “SIDS,” “suffocation,” “lice,” “preference of daddy over mommy,” “eczema,” “attachment disorder,” “arsenic in drinking water.” And then, after a quick perusal of the Bedbug Registry, I added “bedbugs” to the list. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 7 2014
This post is part of our Torah commentary series through the perspective of a mother. This Shabbat we read Parashat Tetzaveh. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
I’d like to say that I’m the kind of woman who’s never given much thought to clothing and what I wear. I’d like to say that I’ve always just sort of thrown something on, and effortlessly, look pulled together all the time, or don’t, but either way, no matter. I’d like to remember my child-self as one who didn’t think tights were scratchy, who didn’t notice if her undershirt was tucked in, who didn’t have an obsessive penchant for the colors purple and orange, who didn’t mind wearing headbands, two-piece bathing suits, or ankle socks.
I’d like to say that I was and still am highly unselfconscious.
Except I am totally self-conscious, and have always been a bit of a nut when it comes to clothes. I’m not talking in a clotheshorse kind of way, where I’m off spending money on labels and status pieces. No, I’m talking about the much more existential and far less useful ways in which I obsess about how I look. I’ve never worn a bikini, I don’t really enjoy being photographed, and often notice myself fidgeting–with my clothing, my hair, whatever. While my neuroses are (mostly) in check, a healthy dose of anxiety runs through my bloodstream at all times, just to keep me on my toes. And often, this delightful kind of crazy rears its ugly head as I try and dress myself on any given day. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 30 2014
Depression and motherhood do not mix. Before I was married I was aware that my offspring could possibly carry the same genetic predisposition that I have for depression. I don’t mean the “blues” or feeling sad for a couple of days; what I do mean is months of feeling hopeless, helpless, sleeping in excess, and feeling completely alone.
Unfortunately for me, I produce a low amount of serotonin which is needed to maintain a cheery outlook, and to just feel balanced. Add some generalized anxiety to this and you’ve got what has been my life for the past 20 years. I have learned great skills in dealing with it and know when I need to re-group. I also have very supportive family and wonderful friends. I am actually lucky as I have only dealt with a few instances of clinical depression and have come out the other side each time. What works for me is talking and medication. There it is…no stigma.
2. My Daughter
My daughter is one of the happiest people I know. I constantly watch her in amazement. I see her easy-going demeanor and I wonder, where the hell did you come from? My husband is not exactly laid back and I bring the depressive/anxious traits into the mix, so how did we end up with this happy, sparkly child? It baffles me on a daily basis. She is not overly dramatic when something does not go her way and accepts things in a positive way. She is by no means perfect, but I can’t imagine her ever being sad for a long period of time. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 4 2013
What’s the worst that could happen?
It’s my mother’s favorite hypothetical, though she means it literally. And while the answers remain unspoken, the preemptive nervous energy abounds.
I’d remained oblivious to her anxiety in my coddled childhood, and dodged it after college when I lived alone in midtown Manhattan, accepting drinks from strangers and letting potential serial killers escort me home. But as soon as I got married to a nice Jewish boy, priming my womb for babies, Mom began finding solutions to “the worst” before I even perceived a problem. Sketchy first apartment? Better move to a nicer block. Leftover Chinese food? Better not eat it. It’s a boy? Better hire a baby nurse to care for the circumcision wound. Can’t be too careful…it could get infected. Our family had moved within 10 minutes of my parents before my baby was 6 months old. With my mother’s vigilance and diligence, my own reflexive panic began to show.
So it was no surprise that I didn’t know how to deal with a standard carpool request: another work-at-home parent offered to alternate days at preschool pick-up. Everyone did it, I assured my mother. (All the cool parents did it–just like the cool kids in junior high smoked cigarettes at the Exxon station before the first bell.) Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 24 2013
It was, as they say, a dark and stormy night. The power had gone out hours ago, and we’d put the kids to bed on the early side with flashlights and tiny battery-powered votive candles. That was when it was just a heavy rain.
But just a few hours later, the noise outside was cacophonous. Rain slapped the windows with a fury. Trees snapped like twigs, as gusts of wind pounded our old house and sent broken telephone poles like toothpicks scattered into the street. The dark sky lit up over and over with jagged lines of lightning, and an odd green luminosity that we later learned was produced by exploding electrical generators.
Among the many miracles of that Superstorm Sandy night a year ago: our old house remained standing and intact, and our children, including our week and a half old baby, O, slept through the night unperturbed. I, on the other hand, huddled under my husband’s arm as though he could protect me if a tree fell into our house. Submerged in exhaustion, fear and postpartum stress, I cried. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 21 2013
My father died when I was just shy of 5 and my mom struggled with bipolar disorder and drug addiction. My extended family vacillated between heroic and toxic. To feel safe, I made wishes in the form of books, writing stories from age 5 about intact families and kids who went to Disney World instead of the child shrink’s office. And I played God, too. At age 7, I remember telling myself that if I could make it home on my bike in four minutes or less, I would be safe for 24 hours.
Years later, as an adult who had carved out a life for herself and largely rid herself of the toxicity associated with family (I don’t have the secret but boy, moving to a new continent helped!), I was happy, feeling distant from the incessant fear and anxiety of my childhood.
And then I saw the two pink lines on my pregnancy test. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 19 2013
I’ve had issues with anxiety and depression all my life. According to my mother, I was the only newborn in the maternity word who refused to eat and just screamed her head off, instead. The pattern continued when she brought me home, as I never slept for more than an hour’s stretch at a time and suffered from what the doctors kept insisting was colic long past the period when colic should have been merely a horrible memory. As she remembers it, I basically didn’t eat or sleep for the first two years of my life. (“Don’t force her,” one doctor advised. “She’ll eat when she’s hungry.” My mother tried that. I didn’t eat for 48 hours. Then I asked for a slice of bread. Then I didn’t eat again for 48 more hours. She gave up.)
And things didn’t get any better once she tried taking me to nursery school. I didn’t eat or sleep there, either. I did scream, though. My mother eventually ended up pulling me out and staying home. Because, as she explained, “It’s one thing when you drop a child off at school, they scream for 20 minutes, then stop. It’s another thing when you drop a child off at school, they scream, and, when you come back eight hours later, they are still screaming.”
So, I was a high-strung little girl. To put it mildly. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 23 2013
I have “control issues.” Anyone who has spent an hour with me knows this, and loves and respects me because or despite it. It’s what makes me good at my job as a festival director. It keeps our domestic life running on track. I have learned to embrace this part of my personality, to work with it.
I used to create “18-month plans.” And yet, today I can’t see even three months into the future.
My husband is in the last weeks of his PhD, with no offers yet for the fall. And I have no idea what comes next. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 19 2013
I became a mother the same way I’ve reached many of life’s big milestones: without having planned to do so. Having been blessed with attention deficit disorder (diagnosed) and an assertiveness deficiency (in my own words), I’ve frequently sought others to make decisions on my behalf: my parents dictated where I went to college; my husband–well, he asked me to marry him; my career has meandered as I simply take whatever work makes itself available. I’ve never regretted sitting in the passenger’s seat.
And so it was with becoming a mother. After discovering that the wives of two of his coworkers were expecting, my husband began, with increasing regularity, to attempt discussions about our future. But when he realized that I would not drop my non-committal stance, he took matters into his own hands. On New Year’s Eve, at a hotel in New Mexico, I was giddily tipsy, and he saw his window of opportunity. Four weeks later, I saw the double stripe. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 7 2013
I have a recurring nightmare. It’s not a classic anxiety dream, like the ones where you find yourself standing naked at a podium with no notes or teleprompter. Mine is a maternal dream.
In my dream, my teenage daughter, my mother-in-law, and I are standing on the Golden Gate Bridge. The setting is disconcerting, as the three of us have never been in San Francisco at the same time. In fact, my teenager has only been there in utero.
My ordinarily soft-spoken mother-in-law is yelling at me. I look down and I feel queasy. Not unlike I felt when I was pregnant with my daughter. Read the rest of this entry →