There are about 8 hours left in the year 2011 and frankly, I’m not sad to see them – or it – go.
This was a big year for our little family. In fact, I’d be willing to go on record as naming it the single biggest year (in terms of change) I’ve ever had. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Here’s my wrap-up:
- I fed my child another woman’s breastmilk this year. After finally coming to terms with my low supply and B’s subsequent poor weight gain, I reached out to Human Milk 4 Human Babies (formerly Eats on Feets) to ask for donations from moms who, unlike me, were blessed with an abundant supply of the good stuff. I’m grateful for the donor milk – and for the newfound friendship in the woman who shared it – but I could never quite shake the feeling of failure. This was my tipping point for the peak of my PPD/A.
- I suffered from acute postpartum depression and anxiety (PPD/A) this year. Technically, I suffered from it in 2010, too, but 2011 was the year I faced it head-on and got myself into a therapist’s office to do something about it. Confronting this truth was painful and ugly and difficult. And I didn’t make it through the full 52 weeks without smashing a few things and crying myself to sleep on occasion.
- I quit my job this year. To be more accurate, I quit the entire professional workforce this year. After evaluating our life and what we considered to be really important (such as a happy marriage, time with our daughter, my mental and emotional health), my husband and I made a bold decision to let me stay at home to raise our child. It took many long conversations, debates, late nights, and tears, but Mr. T and I eventually agreed that the best thing for me was to jump ship. We knew that this decision held unpleasant consequences, but the benefits outweighed the risks as far as we were concerned. Which leads me to the next highlight of 2011:
- My husband and I walked away from our underwater mortgage this year. When we bought our house five years ago, we thought that the market was as low as it could go, and were assured as much by our realtor at the time. As the months and years ticked by, though, we watched our home’s value drop dramatically, our property taxes increase exponentially, and our hopes of ever selling our “starter home” to move on to bigger and better things crushed under the weight of the botched American dream. We tried to do the right thing and short sell the property but were hijacked at the last minute by the insurance company who held our Private Mortgage Insurance, AIG. They demanded $22,000 from us in order to allow the sale to go to closing. Obviously, for two people who could no longer afford the mortgage in the first place, this was out of the question. So we’re now in the midst of a fine foreclosure mess. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a blip on our radar. I mean, so what? So we got foreclosed on. Big deal. So have tons of other people. But it’s hard not to feel ashamed sometimes, to wonder if we did the right thing.
- I peed on a stick in a Kmart bathroom back in June and found out, then and there, that we were pregnant again. (At the time, our daughter was only 9 months old.) I cannot begin to describe the whirlwind of emotions that followed that moment but, in brief sum, it looked something like this: terror, shock, elation, worry, excitement, acceptance, fortitude, joy. And that was all within the first 24 hours of the positive test.
- The joy didn’t last for long. Before I even had a chance to dig out my old maternity clothes, the rug was pulled out from under us when I started bleeding. All day. Every day. For almost a month. (Sorry, this next part is going to get a bit TMI-ish.) I passed huge clots and, each time I did, I was certain they were tiny little embryos or placentas. I called my midwife nearly every other day, crying and worrying and asking what we could do. Eventually, I saw a perinatologist who tested my progesterone levels, confirming that they were low and that this was the cause of the heavy bleeding. Because I was still nursing B at the time, my progesterone levels hadn’t regulated yet and were being suppressed by the nursing. The doctor put me on progesterone supplements and advised me to stop nursing my daughter. I was not given great odds that, even with these efforts, the pregnancy would continue. So I took only half of her advice and continued to nurse B. I was distraught enough as it was over the idea of miscarrying; I couldn’t then handle the emotions that were sure to come with a weaning process that, quite frankly, neither of us wanted. So I took a gamble. Eventually, the bleeding did stop once I’d made it into the safety of the second trimester and the placenta was developed enough to produce progesterone on its own for me. And I’m still pregnant. 31 weeks today, to be exact. But damn, that first trimester was a physical/emotional/mental doozy.
So that’s that. My year, in a nutshell. Pretty shitty, right? A breastfeeding failure, a PPD mess of a mother, a job-quitter, a foreclosure statistic, then knocked up again – years before we were ready – only to come this close to suffering a traumatic miscarriage. Oy.
Except, let’s spin this a bit:
- Breastfeeding failure? How about breastfeeding SUCCESS. I mean hey, I didn’t quit, right? In fact, I still haven’t. 31 weeks pregnant and am actually nursing Big Sister-to-Be as we speak (er, type).
- Postpartum depression SURVIVOR. As in, I’m better. Happier. More aware of what to look out for this next time so that I can get treated right away if it shows up again. That’s a huge advantage to have.
- Job-quitter, yes. Also, though, a life-restructurer. Not long after I quit my job, I dove headfirst into doula training with Birth Arts International. I’ve already had two birth clients and am eager to take on more once I’ve given myself some maternity leave for O’Baby.
- Yes, I am a foreclosure statistic. Again, though, this was part of a restructuring of our entire lives. The roof over our heads – and whether it was owned or rented – was just one small piece of a much larger puzzle. I’ve come to terms with this one. We were proactive about it and made the decision that was best for our family; not the one that was best for the mortgage company.
- So I almost had a miscarriage. But I didn’t, did I? I may not be having the easiest pregnancy in the world (Braxton-Hicks since 20 weeks, daily morning sickness well beyond the first trimester, out-of-control heartburn, insomnia, I could go on and on), but I am, in fact, still pregnant. And having that too-close-for-comfort brush with the unthinkable made us realize just how badly we really wanted the baby that we didn’t think we wanted.
I suppose putting things into perspective like that makes 2011 look not so bad. I’m actually pretty grateful for these experiences. Good ones and bad ones alike; for the former gave us happy memories and the latter, lessons learned. They’ve each laid the groundwork for a happier, healthier 2012 and beyond.
May your New Year be chock-full of all kinds of experiences.