the winding road to postpartum depression

You never really pay attention to the signs, even when they’re staring you in the face. Carlos kept asking me what was wrong. I could feel my mom tiptoeing around me, always around the corner making sure I was never left alone with the girls for too long. My dad made sure to make himself scarce to avoid my wrath. And my poor baby girls got a shadow of my normal self.

Postpartum depression hit me hard. I didn’t notice it right after Catalina was born, it could be because my sister came from Holland and I was distracted, or maybe it was something that developed later on. All I know is that in the beginning of May I started secluding myself. I hid in the bedroom under the guise that I was breastfeeding the baby but really I just wanted to be alone. I couldn’t handle leaving the house unless it was absolutely necessary, and even then every outing was full of anxiety and self doubt.

I couldn’t bring myself to take a shower because the water on my skin felt like knives. I wanted to eat any and every thing I could get my hands on. No amount of sleep was enough and so I just wanted to be in bed all day hiding, trying to sleep while Catalina slept. I couldn’t be bothered to cook or clean, let alone keep up with my own personal hygiene.

I kept apologizing to Carlos. I kept telling him I would get better eventually. I kept telling him how much I loved him and our girls but I just wasn’t myself…and I didn’t know how to get back there. And my husband lovingly replied that there was no need to apologize and reminded me that adjusting to a new person in our family was going to take it’s time.

Finally, my mom sat me down and told me I needed help. Not just help around the house but professional medical help. I broke down crying because I knew it was true. I knew that this wasn’t going to go away on it’s own. A few days later I was seeing a psychiatrist who sat down with me and after listening to me cry, rant, and rave for what felt like forever prescribed me an SSRI and told me to come back to her in ten days.

Here I am, about six weeks later and I finally feel back to normal. Taking  a shower isn’t torture, I’m working out and eating right, and most importantly, I’m able to be present when interacting with my family. I feel free.

To all my fellow mothers out there, please do not be afraid to ask for help. Do not be ashamed or bound by the stigma society has placed on depression/mental health. Finding help makes you strong and honestly will give your children just another reason to look up to you.

motherhood: defeated.

Today, I feel defeated. Today, I hid in a bathroom and cried. Today, I gave up.

PJ had her monthly check-in with her psychiatrist. We turned in her teachers report to her. Although we didn’t read the report, we know what it said based on the meeting we had with her and school psychologist late last month.

PJ has an exceptionally short attention span. PJ does not sit still. PJ likes to scream. PJ does not answer to her name. PJ doesn’t get tired. PJ is overly affectionate. 

These things we know. These are things we’ve known her whole life. When we started trying to get help for her last year these things were still issues. These were issues we had with her at daycare. And we were working with a speech therapist at the time. But we haven’t seen her since December 2016.

We’ve been having trouble finding therapists who are willing to work with PJ because of the language barrier. Last year she barely said more than 10 words in Spanish, however since she started at her new school her Spanish has flourished. But we still want a therapist that UNDERSTANDS English in case they need it to reach her when she’s stubborn or hyper. (Not charging us USD$300.00 a month and asking us to pay their vacation days whether or not those are days they would normally see PJ would be great too).

After the psychiatrist read the report, she put it down and very frankly said, “Well, after reading this my professional opinion is you should medicate her. Start her off on a very small dose and see where we go from there. Have you thought about that?” And while my response may have taken .04 seconds to come out of my mouth, in my head a whole week passed. Yes, my husband and I had talked about what would we do should anyone suggest medicating her. We always said no but at that very moment PJ was throwing the mother of all tantrums because she wanted to play with some party favor lost at the bottom of the diaper bag, and I hesitated because in that moment I would’ve done ANYTHING to get her to calm down for thirty seconds.

“No, we don’t feel comfortable giving her medication. She’s only three.”

And her very short response was, “You’re here for a reason and this is my professional opinion. It’s up to you whether you take it or leave it.” At that point PJ was sprawled out on the floor kicking and screaming. I could feel my blood start to overheat and I wanted out of there as soon as possible.

While leaving the doctors office I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Are we really at that point? Is she really THAT hyper and uncontrollable? Am I really that weak that I thought, for a moment, that we definitely should medicate her? Could NOT giving her the medication hurt her? WHAT DO I DO?

I couldn’t help but look down at my tiny person and want to cry. I love her so much and want to make the best decision for her but don’t know where to begin. I plan on getting a second opinion soon. I reached out to the occupational therapist who evaluated her back in February to see if she could give me some direction in finding new therapists. I’m meeting with her pediatrician next week to see what she says as well.

We have another check up in six weeks to let her know what we’ve decided on…we’ll see what happens from here to then. I just hope I can make an educated decision for my daughter.

If any of you have had any experience in dealing with Risperidone please feel free to share it with me. 

those who can’t teach.

I would like to preface this post by saying, I was a total a**hole in high school. It was 2006, the height of all things emo. I had short hair, dyed my hair black and listened to ridiculous emo music. Keep that in mind when reading the rest of this post. 

As the school year in the Northern Hemisphere comes to an end, I can’t help but think back of my time in school. I look at my girls and hope that they have better luck than I did when it came to dealing with low self esteem, mean teachers, and bullies.

I was bullied pretty badly in elementary and middle school, so much so that I made it a point to apply to a magnet school where I would know NO ONE and be able to start fresh. Little did I know that I would never really fit in there. People tried to get to know me but I lived an hour away from most of my classmates and couldn’t form any solid relationships outside of regular school hours. Mix that with teenage hormones and repressed anger,  you’ve got yourself a staring down the barrel of depression and anxiety.

Sophomore year was when my parents decided it was time I start seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist. I tried Zoloft, Prozac, and Adderall. It was also the year I started hanging out with friends who drank, smoked, and dabbled with illicit drugs.

Junior year I was desperate. I was fat, lonely, and at the time, thought I was going to die a virgin because I didn’t have a boyfriend. I was so starved for attention from boys that I was trying to get it any way I could. And so I started talking to Toby*. Toby and I were friends who had known each other since freshman year. He was one of the popular kids at school. Always involved in extra curricular activities and on the school broadcasting channel.

We used to take the bus and train home from school together. One afternoon, during our commute home, we somehow kissed. I don’t remember the details other than he and I started writing notes to each other afterwards. At a certain point I realized that I didn’t actually have feelings for him  and couldn’t lead him on. Being the teenage idiot that I was, decided that the best way to express that to him was to write it in a note and deposit the note in his locker.

In my note I wrote about my smoking and depression and probably a bunch of other stuff that was way too personal to put on paper but didn’t have the foresight to know better. I walked into my AP Composition class and see the note I wrote to him stapled onto the class bulletin board. Needless to say, I was stunned. And while my teacher, Ms. Ruiz, didn’t say anything directly to me, she made sarcastic offhand remarks alluding to the letter. And that’s when the floodgates opened to my being bullied again in my new school.

My classmates took her lead and started laughing about it openly. I was mortified. I felt betrayed. I felt worthless. I found myself dreading school and longing for the days when all kids teased me about was my weight or purple hair. It got so bad that I had to switch schools midway through the year.

Now I see that event as blessing in my life. I was able to reconnect with my best friend. I was able to pull my grades high enough to go to college and get a scholarship. I was able to have a true high school experience filled with clubs, dances, band, and football games.

But that experience led me to be wary of teachers. I never allowed myself to open up in class again. It makes me wary of those who teach my daughters. I’ll forever be cautious of those in positions of power because this one woman, who is still an educator, decided to belittle me instead of pulling me aside and asking if I was okay. Instead of offering help, sending me to the counselors office, or even calling my parents, because what 16 year old should be smoking or drinking, she used my weaknesses against me to make me feel minute.

If you’re a teacher reading this, especially a high school teacher, know that your indifference to your students emotional wellbeing causes as much harm as the hurtful things their peers say or do to them. It is your job as an educator to uplift and encourage your students. If you can’t do that then at the very least don’t be another stumbling block in the already bumpy road that is adolescence.

*Name changed to protect myself from drama. 

#hotmessmom

Happy Mother’s Day!

This is the fourth year that I celebrate Mother’s Day as a mom and it brings a lot of emotions bubbling to the surface. Feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, awe, love, fear, and the inability to ignore my own mortality. In order to push the negatives back down to the deepest pits of my soul I decided to FINALLY buy something for myself, Bunmi Laditan’s latest book Confessions of a domestic failure. If you don’t follow her on Facebook, do yourself the favor and do it! She gives a hilariously honest view into motherhood that most women can relate to.

And while I haven’t read the book yet, I have been reading great reviews in the mommy community about it. Hot mess moms from all over the world have come together in solidarity to break unrealistic mommy goals created by Pinterest, YouTube, and social media by posting their own “mom confessions” to remind everyone that we’re all on the same sinking boat that is parenting.

Here it goes:

  1. I yell. A lot. With PJs ADHD/ASD I spend most of my day telling her to stop. Stop washing her hands and stuffing the drain with soap, stop pulling the dogs tail, stop playing with her poop, stop getting up from the table, stop waking up her sleeping sister, stop throwing things into the toilet, and by this point I’m sure you get the picture. I lose my cool and trust me, I hate myself for it.
  2. I pretend not to sweep well so my husband will do it instead. I don’t mind washing clothes, folding laundry, cleaning the bathroom/kitchen. I absolutely HATE to sweep and mop.
  3. I avoid dropping PJ off at school to avoid other parents. It’s exhausting hearing parents constantly pointing out that I talk to PJ in english or having the same conversation over again about how hyper she is. She’s an active kid. I get it. I live with her. I don’t need to be reminded of it while I’m making sure she isn’t running into traffic with her eyes closed.
  4. I don’t follow through with punishments. Taking away TV and outside time is a punishment for me as well. She’s three. She has a whole life of punishments ahead of her. So for now I threaten, she cries and a few hours later we pretend nothing ever happened for my sanity.
  5. I don’t bathe the girls daily. I hate bath time. I hate the water that inevitably gets all over the floor, the crying about the water being too hot even though it’s freezing, and the screams that come from having to get her dressed again. Baby wipes work wonders guys, just sayin’.
  6. I, not so secretly, hate moms of young kids who find time to take care of themselves. Seriously, how do you find time to shave? Or get your nails/eyebrows done? I can barely find time to sleep let alone worry about my physical appearance.
  7. I call my kids “little assholes” behind their backs. This one might be the one I’m most reluctant to share but I have to share it. I absolutely adore my kids but let’s be honest, when your kids throw their dinner on the floor in protest or refuse to sleep, you can’t help but think that they’re being little assholes. It’s just like when your husband comes home from a long day at work and says he needs his “me” time and you want to throw something at his stupid face and call him an asshole for not taking your needs into account.

There you have it. My kids are still young so I’m sure my confessions aren’t all that scandalous, but I’m sure as the years progress they’ll get to be more entertaining.

Wishing all of you momma’s out there a Happy Mother’s Day! Drink some wine and get an extra hour (or two) of sleep for me.

PJs first trip to DisneyWorld!

One of the most amazing things we did in 2016 was take PJ to DisneyWorld for the first time! It was her third birthday gift from my parents and it was such a blessing to be able to take PJ to the happiest place on earth.

We decided the best time to go during our trip would be the week after Thanksgiving so we could enjoy the Christmas decorations since Carlos and I had never been during the holidays. I probably wouldn’t suggest going that Monday after Thanksgiving seeing as it was packed but our next two days weren’t so bad.

I was actually really disappointed at how PJ was when we first got through the gates. She was so unimpressed. She hated waiting in the long lines and hated getting in and out of the stroller. Most of the first day I legit thought my kid hated me. But after getting the autism diagnosis it makes sense, she was just on a sensory overload and didn’t know how to process everything.

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After PJs umpteenth tantrum, I remembered that Disney offers disability passes so that you don’t have to physically wait in line but come back later after the current wait time. This was seriously the BEST thing we could’ve done with PJ. Even though we spent much of the wait times walking her around in circles or browsing through the gift shops, PJ wasn’t confined to a slow moving line which limited her fussiness. My 28 week pregnant self also didn’t mind limiting the time on my feet either.

Once we managed to get our hands on that disability pass PJ truly enjoyed the rides. Her favorite being Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid. We rode that ride every day, two and three times because she was in awe every time. I knew my baby was a Little Mermaid fan but didn’t realize the extent of it until our time at Magic Kingdom.

PJ had already met a few of the characters but she would scream and run away in fear every time they tried to approach her (Seriously, sorry Mickey if I would’ve known I wouldn’t have made her come in…however it is kinda weird that you talk now). But I decided that I would try just ONE more character before forever swearing off making PJ meet them. When she walked into Ariel’s Grotto this kid lit up like a firework on the Fourth of July. Walked right up to her and hugged her and kept on saying “Wow…” and tried touching her hair and, awkward to say, clam shells. Ariel was a sport considering how touchy PJ was but it really made her whole experience.

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PJ hugging Ariel for the third time during her Meet and Greet.

The biggest disappointment was that Haunted Mansion was closed during our visit! PJ had just gone through a Halloween/ghost obsession and I knew she would absolutely love that ride but it was closed the three days of our visit.

I won’t bore you guys with a huge list of things to do and not to do considering there are hundreds of them all over the internet. However I will say for parents with kids with ASD: GET THE DISABILITY PASS. Even if you don’t end up using it because the lines are short or you’ve done well with FastPass+ it’ll be nice to have it handy. Also, get the MemoryMaker photo option. I know it’s pricey but we got some AWESOME shots of PJ and we were able to focus on being present in her experience rather than fidgeting with our camera. And it’s true what people say, the photographers take way more pictures with their cameras knowing that you’ve already paid for the service than when they use your camera.

*If you ever find yourself needing a place to stay in Orlando with your family, I HIGHLY recommend considering AirBnb with Barbara. For whatever reason I wasn’t able to leave her a review on AirBnb’s website but my goodness this was the best thing we could’ve ever decided to do. The place was huge and modern, we totally took advantage of the pool and onsite playground, and PJ loved taking a bath in the jacuzzi every night after our days at Disney. The hostess has put so much thought and effort into the property, honestly couldn’t ask for anything better. Assuming she’ll still be renting her property in a few years time, we will definitely be staying there again.

 

Our new adventure with Autism.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before but PJ has a speech delay. She’s always been hesitant to speak or communicate in ways other than grunting/screeching and pointing.

I started noticing the delay when she was about 18 months old and still hadn’t said,”Mama” on more than one occasion. Whenever I tried to share my concerns everyone brushed them off and said things like, “Kids develop at different speeds/So and so didn’t start talking until they were 5/You’re just being paranoid she’s fine.” But deep in the pit of my stomach I knew that things weren’t fine.

When PJ started school last year I always asked the teachers how she was doing and I was constantly being told that she didn’t really interact with the other kids or that she would immerse herself in her own activities and not participate. They thought she might have an ear problem so we started taking her to appointments. We had a few meetings with the school’s psychologist but she never suggested anything more than what we were already doing.

After months of appointments of hearing tests and figuring out that her hearing was in fact fine we were directed to see a pediatric neurologist. She prescribed an EEG which took us MONTHS to finally get because PJ kept getting sick whenever we had it scheduled–after 5 months we finally got it done and everything was normal. The neurologist also suggested we start seeing a speech therapist to see what we can do. And so, PJ started seeing a speech therapist twice a week for 50 minute sessions.

After only two months of therapy PJ was able to say more than one syllable words. She started asking us for things as opposed to grabbing us by the hand and taking us to whatever she wanted. She was able to put tiny phrases together like “Momma come!” or my favorite at the time “Shake, rattle, roll!”

Don’t get me wrong, PJ knew things. She knew her alphabet. She knew her numbers. She knew the difference between her vowels and her consonants. PJ knew her animals and what noises they made. Everyone, including the doctors and teachers, said PJ was brilliant and knew more than most two and a half year olds but she just didn’t know what to DO with that information.

When we took PJ to Miami, coincidentally right after she turned three, she had an intense mental growth spurt. She was able to answer “yes” or “no” to our questions and she was able to more or less communicate with her cousins. She would talk to us about things she saw or specifically ask us for things like “Mom, we go to cousin house?” I must’ve cried so much on our trip just seeing this new light in her eyes, the excitement of being able to communicate. But she still had her little quirks of isolating herself, not answering to her name whenever she was too immersed in something, or even organizing toys by size or color.

Fast forward to last week when we had a meeting with a new pediatric neurologist. This time we were (unknowingly) meeting with the head of the department at our hospital. She spent almost two hours with us interviewing us and observing PJ play in the corner of the office. For the first time someone asked us, “Have you ever thought that your daughter could be on the spectrum?” I wanted to break down crying because finally someone wasn’t ignoring it. I had spent months trying to get someone to acknowledge that it was a possibility but every therapist and doctor said we hadn’t crossed that bridge yet.

To sum up the meeting she recommended we start taking PJ to meet with an occupational therapist as well as her speech therapy. She was calm and patient, she explained that PJ obviously isn’t on the more extreme side of the spectrum (whatever that means) but that she just had things she needed help with. She assured us that PJ would lead a normal life; which kinda made me roll my eyes because obviously this isn’t a death sentence but I guess not every parent sees it that way.

However I will say that this couldn’t have come at a more stressful time. Trying to set up an appointment with a therapist in the middle of Uruguayan summer is next to impossible since everyone is on vacation. We still don’t know PJs school schedule for the upcoming year so we can’t really schedule a set therapy schedule until the end of February. And then of course we have the new baby coming. We’re going to do everything in our power to get PJ the help she needs but it’s not going to be, for lack of a better word, easy.

Right now I just ask for positive thoughts and prayers as we navigate through this new parenting journey. That God place us where he wants us, with therapists that will help her, with teachers that will be understanding, and as always continue to bless us with people that love and care for our family.

Holiday blues…

Since I was seven years old, the holidays have never been easy on me or my family. Those who know me intimately know that since 1997 I have spent most holidays with friends or just sitting around watching movies with my family.

Don’t get me wrong, I have fond memories of spending Christmases and New Years’ with my middle school “squad” or spending it on the couch watching TV with my mom and sister–my dad worked all the holidays–but once we had PJ I realized that we would have to bring the magic back to Christmas.

This year was especially hard because we spent Thanksgiving with Carlos’ family in the States. Apart from the expected family drama, it was pleasant trip. PJ got to spend a lot of time with her cousins. They have the sweetest relationship which made it really hard for us to want to leave. Every day since we’ve been back she has asked for her cousins and every day we have to break it to her that they live very far away and we can’t just get in the car and go to their house.

Since we’ve been in Uruguay, Christmas doesn’t really feel like Christmas. We don’t have extended family to celebrate with and since it’s just us we don’t see a point to dressing up or setting up an elaborate table.

This year we ate Christmas dinner in our pajamas and Skyped in my sister while PJ opened her Christmas gifts. Then we Skyped with Carlos’ side of the family so the kids could show off their gifts to each other, which made me cry because duh my kid kept looking at me asking to go to their house. It was rough to see her want nothing more than to be playing with them. But it gives me hope that she’ll get along with her little sister come February–surprise! We’re having another baby! But that’s a post for a different day.

All I can say is that I hope one day Christmas will go back to feeling magical and bright, that we can make new traditions even though we’re not with all of our family and friends…