Jul 21 2014
Since the moment I found out I was pregnant for the first time, I have been terrified of stairs. My anxiety about falling down a flight of stairs peaked after my first daughter was born, and looking back, I see now that it was just one symptom of the post-partum anxiety I didn’t realize I was suffering at the time.
In the mental health world we refer to them as “intrusive thoughts”–those upsetting or disturbing images that seem to come out of nowhere. They’re a hallmark of depression and anxiety, and in the weeks and months after each of my daughters were born, they came on fast and furious. Most of the intrusive images involved one of my girls dying; I wrote them off as yet another symptom of becoming a neurotic Jewish mother. But I just couldn’t escape my fear of the wooden staircase inside our house. I was terrified of falling down it while holding one of the girls; I obsessively donned a pair of thick cotton socks with rubber grips on the soles each time I had to walk downstairs, even in the heat of summer in a house without air-conditioning. I would walk slowly and carefully, taking each stair as if it was covered in ice.
It’s been four years since my second daughter was born, and the anxiety has dwindled down to average Jewish mother levels, on the high end of neurotic. But I’m still scared of the stairs. I still walk slowly down them, and I can’t stop myself from reminding the girls to slow down, look ahead, and pay attention each time they step off the top step. I always feel ridiculous for doing it, of course, and I try to tell myself to calm down and stop nagging, but I just can’t seem to keep my mouth shut. Read the rest of this entry →
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 →
Sep 23 2013
My 4-year-old is absolutely obsessed with books. Mainly books about trucks–especially fire trucks. He wants me to read to him all day long. He also loves Little Bunny Foo Foo.
“Mom, can you just read it four more times before bed? Pullleeeaassse?
It does this mama’s heart proud to see her kids enjoy a book. Even if it is Little Bunny Foo Foo.
My eldest son also loves a good book, but now at 13 years old, the days where he crawls up into my lap and asks for me to read to him are long gone. I no longer pull his head close to me and breath his boyish smell of sweat and dirt and play dough. He doesn’t need my help brushing his teeth, getting dressed, or lacing up his shoes. He hates most of the clothes I pick out for him (even though I’m certain I have better taste than he does). He shrugs and feigns pulling away if I try to give him a hug, even though he has a smile on his face. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 19 2013
Chinese ancients may have something on us modern Westerners. An old Chinese acupuncturist told my husband that back in the old country, women were made to stay in bed and fed soup for two solid months after giving birth.
Old-style Yiddish mamas have a special name for the postpartum woman: she’s a kimpeturin and is chided for lifting a finger to help with housework.
Modern-day America doesn’t seem to have the same respect for the recuperation needs of postpartum women (which explains why so many of them never heal properly from the experience of hosting a live baby in their wombs and then ejecting said baby in a miraculous but painful process that puts their bodies through extreme stress and acrobatics). Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 10 2013
“Wow, you look like you just survived a plane crash,” said my relentlessly honest friend as I staggered out of bed at 9:30 a.m., red eyed and disheveled, after yet another sleep deprived night. No, blessedly no plane crash, just a 2-week-old baby who has yet to embrace the joys of sleep.
Based on my postpartum experiences, a plane crash is a pretty solid metaphor. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 22 2011
The cocktail of postpartum hormones in a woman’s system – specifically, mine – after giving birth creates a mercurial temperament, to say the least. One second, you’re walking along, feeling groovy and grateful, and the next, you’re crying and wondering why you feel so alone, only to have the crying go away ten seconds later. It’s like those crazy summer days where, out of a clear sky, a sunshower pours down for seven minutes and then vanishes as though nothing has happened. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.
All things considered, I’m doing fine. The biggest adjustment, as mothers of more than one child know, is not to the baby, but rather to the new number of children in the house. When you go from one to two kids, it entails a total recalibration of perspective and priorities. I vividly remember breastfeeding my younger son, R., and having my older son, Z, playing with a puzzle at my feet. Z is only a year and a half older than his brother, so this story takes place when he was just under 2. After about three minutes, Z looked up.
Z: Play with me, Mommy.
Me: As soon as I finish feeding the baby, sweetie.
Z: No. Now.
Me: I can’t. I’m sorry. Read the rest of this entry →