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Jan 3 2013

Interviews with Interesting Jews: Priscilla Warner

By at 2:05 pm

priscilla warnerPriscilla Warner co-authored the New York Times bestselling memoir The Faith Club, and more recently, she wrote Learning to Breathe: My Year Long Quest to Bring Calm to My Life. She was kind enough to share a bit of her journey with us, including her experience with meditation and Jewish mysticism and her reflections on parenthood.

Learning to Breathe is about your journey “from panic to peace.” You began with meditation. Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose to start there?

For years, I’d been reading about Tibetan monks who meditated so effectively that neuroscientists were studying their brains. I felt that my overactive central nervous system was totally out of whack, but these men seemed to have figured out how to put their anxiety to rest. One monk in particular, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, had battled panic attacks as a child, so I signed up for one of his semi-silent retreats. He became my first meditation teacher. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 13 2012

I Chickened Out of Preschool

By at 9:50 am

This past summer, my husband and I decided to send our toddler to Jewish preschool. We agonized over our budget to see if we could make it work. I read up on gentle separation techniques and ordered him a backpack. Since the arrival of our second baby coincided with the start of the school year, we wanted to wait until the after the new year for him to start.

January felt so far away at that point.

Fast forward to last week. And by fast forward I mean three months of figuring out the logistics of raising two kids, getting dinner on the table, and exactly how many consecutive days one can use dry shampoo without looking like Nick Nolte’s mug shot (the answer is two). And here we are at our scheduled December meeting with the preschool director to discuss my toddler joining the class in a few weeks. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 26 2012

My Pregnancy Panic Attacks

By at 4:03 pm

pregnant belly black and whiteI sat alone in a small office suite in a suburb of Washington, pregnant, but generally in good health.

Suddenly, something shifted. I felt my blood move. I became conscious of my breathing, which felt increasingly labored, and my heartbeat, which was getting faster by the minute.

I thought I was dying.

I called my husband, my best friend, and my OB, trying desperately to stay centered. The OB counseled the emergency room, and minutes later I was speeding away in the back of an ambulance, my husband headed up to meet me at the hospital. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 23 2011

After Battling Postpartum Anxiety, Finding the Mama in Me

By at 10:09 am

This piece is a follow up to Tamara’s previous story about her experience with postpartum anxiety.

I have always been high strung, a classic type A personality. I set goals for myself, reach them and instead of patting myself on the back–I examine what I could have done better and set a new goal. Most of my anxiety about things is fear-based, specifically a fear of failure or not being good enough. Motherhood is the perfect petri dish to cultivate this sort of self loathing. All of this resulted in my crash-and-burn frame of mind and a little back patting was in order.

In therapy, I worked on building confidence in my abilities to parent. After all, I was succeeding. My son was gaining weight. He was happy and healthy… and perfect. I just needed to recognize it and trust in my abilities as a mother. Each week I set small goals for myself –goals that either I could think about accomplishing, make some step to accomplish in the near future or actually accomplish.

And this is how I gradually got better.

I worked on “positive self talk.” I know it sounds kooky, but every time I would fret about SIDS, I would tell myself my fears were irrational and my baby was fine. My husband bought me a video monitor and gradually my trips back to check on a sleeping babe were fewer and fewer.

I wanted to go to the public library for baby story time, but I always had an excuse. I didn’t shower, he was hungry, it was nap time, maybe next week. Finally, one day I was done with the excuses. My baby was tired and even a little bit hungry but I fumbled with the Moby, the diaper bag, the house keys and left the house.

I was late. I was walking in LATE with a tired, hungry 3 month old. WHAT IN THE HELL WAS I DOING? I walked the three blocks to the library the entire way repeating to myself, “You suck at this. Man, you’re a shitty Mom.” It was packed, there were probably 30 moms and babies sitting in a circle. I sat close the door so not to disturb anyone and watched my son’s eyes light up for what was left of baby story time. After it was over, the girl next to me leaned over and asked if I was new. I said we had just relocated for my husband’s job.  She said, “Oh yeah? Us, too.” the girl next to her said, “We just moved here, too. Welcome.”

Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 18 2011

Postpartum Anxiety–This is What Mine Looked Like

By at 9:46 am

Tamara recently left her beloved buckeye-state and relocated to Pittsburgh with her husband and infant son. While at home, she’s decided to give writing, attachment parenting, and photography a try. And when she saw our post about depression, she decided to share her story.

The birth of my son brought about some of the craziest emotions I’ve ever had in my entire life. Happy ones, sad ones, normal ones, and desperate ones. After a pretty uneventful first two trimesters–being put on bed rest in my third trimester really took a toll on me emotionally. Then after he was born, we struggled with breastfeeding. At his two month visit when we found out that he hadn’t gained weight, my husband and I were broken to the core. The entire day is a blur, all I remember is the pediatrician shaking her head at the weight and then–as if I am a ghost in the room–I watch myself sobbing uncontrollably, tears falling on my tiny boy who is screaming at the breast. That visit threw me down a hole of self blame. This precious gift that I worked so hard to bring into this world was hungry.

At the time nothing was as it should be. We closed on our home-sale the day my water broke and we were packing up our belongings on no more than two hours of sleep each night. I was struggling with pain from some postpartum complications and my body was weak and still recovering from bed rest. And to top it all off, I hadn’t finished writing our thank you notes yet.

We were living amongst boxes.
We were worrying about money.
We were moving to a city where we had no friends or family.
My baby was hungry.
It was too much.

Looking back–all that was probably too much for almost anyone.

I cried, a lot. Every day I cried. I cried because I couldn’t pump enough milk. I cried because my baby wouldn’t latch. I cried because we were leaving a home we loved. I cried because I felt I had no business being a mother.

Other people saw us struggling. We asked for more help than we ever have in our entire lives in that three month time span. It was like my husband and I were shells of ourselves just going through the motions of our hectic life. Everything we knew was being changed, all at once. Everything. Our friends, where we lived, our jobs, our marriage, our finances. And we were responsible for this new little person who didn’t happen to arrive with an instruction booklet. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 19 2011

What To Expect When You’re Expecting, My Ass

By at 10:50 am

I can tell you what I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect to be having my first panic attack ever, and to be wandering around and around the circular driveway in front of my house, at 4 in the morning four days after having given birth to my daughter. Did you know that 4 am is when most people run their sprinklers? It didn’t occur to me, but now I know.

Why the panic attack? It came out of the blue on certain levels. I had my baby last Wednesday morning and she is beautiful and perfect (I may be biased). The delivery…well, let’s just say all’s well that ends well (my obstetrician showed up at 11:02. Baby delivered 11:13. Can you say “cutting it close”?), and take up a collection to send the anesthesiologist back to school for some refresher courses in Epidural 101.

But after having this baby, a few things happened that were new and wonderful. Like looking at my husband just after we heard her cry for the first time, and watching each other cry as well out of sheer joy. So this is what it feels like, I thought (ignoring the goings-on of my placenta at the other end of the table), to be totally and completely overjoyed. Another wonder: by the end of the day, I was walking around, footloose and cramp-free and feeling amazingly happy, as though I should be followed around by the Katrina and the Waves classic tune “Walking on Sunshine.” And a third: less than 48 hours after I delivered, my sister gave birth to her own little girl right down the hall from me. We took pictures of the two new cousins in their plastic bassinets. Pretty awesome.

In short, it’s been an amazing week and I could not be more grateful. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 4 2010

You Know You’re in Trouble When…

By at 12:35 pm

Before I got hitched to an Israeli guy, we flew to Israel to visit the kibbutz where he had grown up. The smell of grass and cigarettes outside the kibbutz pub made me heady, and drunk on a lot of cheap wine and possibility, I told him, “I’d totally love to live in Israel someday.” Well, three years, and two kids later, he’s calling my bluff. We’re moving half-way across the world with our infant and toddler to live next door to his mother. And I am not happy about this.

Sarah's moving to Israel to live next door to her mother-in-law.

I’ve been struggling with depression for years.  Sounds kind of romantic. Sound’s almost… epic. But believe you me, it isn’t. This isn’t some teenage Emo angst. This is real, and it’s been my nightmare for years.

But, for the last year and a half, I’ve been OK. Mostly. Yeah, I got kind of weepy after Little Homie was born, but that was only because I forgot that you should avoid all reflective surfaces during the first month, and I happened to catch a glimpse of my sorry, saggy self in the mirror.  Nekkid.  But still, I managed to turn that experience into blog fodder, so clearly I survived.

But, with the stresses and strains of the upcoming move to Israel, the depression is back.  Pulling, pushing, pinching me.

B. and I just went in for our physicals.  Our doctor ordered blood, and B.’s red blood cell count and hemoglobin are slightly–just a hair–below normal.

My throat constricted as I read the results: Something is wrong with my husband.

So, for the last few days, I’ve been living on Google:

“CBC and red blood cell count”

“Anemia” (which led me to an article on Britney Murphy and Simon Monjack.  After 15 minutes that I’ll never get back spent trying to find an autopsy report and reading TMZ and People Magazine, I felt my heart stammer as I clicked back to Google and typed: “Killer Mold”)

…Which led me running and screaming back to the doctors, dragging B. by the hand as I threw around words like “stachybotrys” and “pulmonary embolism.” Our doctor, in turn, threw around words like “panic attack” and “antidepressants.”

I think she’s right. After all, you know you’re in trouble when the only reason you want to have sex is to check your husband for testicular cancer.

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