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How My Baby Let Me Off the Hook

As we enter the last few hours of November 2015, I’m thinking about all I’ve been through this year…

  • Maternity leave
  • Returning to work
  • My daughter’s 1st birthday
  • Ending my relationship with her father
  • Losing my job
  • Navigating a new job as a parent
  • Losing my home

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In the span of two weeks, I went from being a bridesmaid at my child’s godparents’ wedding , to having to force her father out of our home, to losing my job two days later. I had a friend visiting during the move-out and losing my job. If she hadn’t been there, I’d have handled things very poorly indeed. She reminded me that I needed to grieve for the life I had lost: the somewhat traditional family, the coworkers I loved, financial freedom. All of it, gone in two weeks. I felt like I’d lost control of my life and I was grateful that I had the safe cocoon of my home to heal in.

It took two very long months and a lot of hard work to find my new job. In the first month, I had to call in twice due to anxiety. I’m able to do a lot of my job from home, so I was paid for one of them; the other, I said I was sick and unable to work. I might have been, I don’t remember anymore. About two weeks ago, a tree fell in the windstorm and fell on my little townhouse. It destroyed my daughter’s bedroom window, my roof, and my dining room. It smashed all the glass on my balcony. Important items were unharmed. A few things need to be replaced, but they’re just material things. The toy chest – the Tickle Trunk – my great-grandfather built me bore the brunt of the damage and came out unscathed. I can’t begin to describe how low I felt. I felt like my life had spun out of control and it was a terrible dream. All I wanted was to go home and heal, but I couldn’t. I still can’t. I might be out of my home until March.

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The top two floors are mine.

My daughter and I have moved in with my aunt, which means I have a lot of help. It also means I don’t have the space I’ve grown accustomed to. It’s lovely to have in-home laundry, though! Almost all my clothes are in storage now, and if it weren’t for an Old Navy order that arrived the day before the storm, I’d have had a few shirts, dirty jeans, wet socks, and compromised boots. My little lady and I, blessedly, had clothes. Hers were warm, mine weren’t. I’ve re-learned the art of layering – the warehouse I work in is COLD.

I feel like I can’t get back on my feet. I feel like I’m doing horribly, like a tree fell on my house because I don’t have my life together. I feel like 2015 is dragging me down to the bottom of the ocean and I don’t want to fight it anymore… I feel like I just need to ride this out and wait til the storm passes.

Tonight, I went to put my very stubborn 18 month old dictator to bed. She didn’t want to be put into the playpen next to my bed in my aunt’s spare room. I put her in my bed instead, with the sunflowers on the duvet cover. I climbed in next to her and let her play with my old iPhone that’s been re-purposed for her to play with and play her lullabies at night. It played Brahms’ lullaby with soothing underwater sounds to lull her to sleep. I gave her her beloved bear, Bernard, and she flung him aside and wrapped her arms around my neck to hold me close. She covered my face in her little, loving kisses and reminded me that she is the only thing that matters. She is safe, happy, well-fed, and so incredibly loved. I’m doing that.

I might not have my life together, but I have her life together and she loves me for it, no matter where I work or where we live.

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Our very, very close quarters

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Pre-Partum Depression: What a Sucky Illness.

For context, I have an 8 month old daughter. She is the cutest dictator the planet has ever seen. We will be powerless to stop her and her ruffle-bum leggings when her plans for world domination come to life.

I have ADHD (which everyone knows, I mean, have you met me?? I’m the freaking poster child), so I also enjoy the emotional roller coasters of depression and anxiety. It’s cool, I’ve been doing this since birth, it’s just a part of my day-to-day. So when I found out I was pregnant, I was stoked to have 9 months to prep for the inevitable shitstorm that we call Post-Partum Depression.

“NOPE!” cried Life. “PLOT TWIST!”

Pre-Partum Depression. I got hit early and I got hit hard. I know what you’re thinking.
“WTF, is that actually a thing?”
Umm, yes. I wanted to walk into traffic, just disappear off the face of the earth. I knew that the mood swings were more than just pregnancy hormones talking, but I didn’t know what to do about it… so I did what any educated person does about their mental health. I talked to my doctor. IT’S NOT THAT DIFFICULT. YOU JUST GO IN AND TELL THE RECEPTIONIST SHIT’S GONE WRONG IN YOUR HEAD. No shame, no shame at all. I was 9 weeks pregnant (October 2013) and my GP referred me to Reproductive Mental Health at St Paul’s. All the overwhelming mood swings and feelings of displacement and poor job performance were going to be behind me. There was going to be a 3 week wait period, which I thought was a pretty darn long time to make a depressed pregnant woman at wits’ end to wait. I was ok with that because it meant I was getting help. I was relieved. I still felt all the same horrible, low, desperate feelings, but I was feeling optimistic. Thank goodness this was all after my parents got the baby news – and, in Dad’s case, handled it horrendously

At this point, I was on the verge of losing my job because I’d stopped taking my ADHD meds (my attention span level was Medium Goldfish), so I had to tell my boss about the impending Squidlet (yes, we referred to her as the Squidlet for 9 months and beyond) 3 weeks ahead of schedule. He was so relieved that I wasn’t just slacking.
“Anything you need,” he said, “just name it. I’m here for you.”
I didn’t tell him about the depression, I didn’t feel it was relevant and in hindsight, I’m still good with that call.

Three weeks comes and goes. I’ve told my coworkers (this garnered blank stares, a thumbs-up, a look of “I’m trying to be polite, but I really think YOU being a parent is a bad call”, and an “are you going to keep it?”. Afterwards, though, they were awesome and supportive and some even got me little gifts. I told the masses of parents we work with and 99.9% were 100% thrilled (the other 0.1% thought I was 19 and were super uncomfortable until they realised I was 25). Even with all the love and support (I’d told a handful of mums weeks earlier that I was pregnant and about the PPD – they were amazing), I still felt so small, so useless. It wasn’t helping things that the co-worker who gave The Look acted as though he were my supervisor and, I feel, intentionally made things more difficult for me in our workplace. I was so stressed I thought the baby would just hit the eject button in my inter-uterine fighter jet. He was the living worst and it was so draining.

The Floor Spoon

I’d come home from work and find a spoon on the floor. My insides were so uncomfortable from this lemon-sized baby that I couldn’t bend over to get it, so I’d cry for 4 hours. The weight of the emotional turbulence and thinking this was all a big mistake and I shouldn’t be a mother… it took everything I had to cope. It wasn’t until we were gearing up for our semi-annual black belt test (I work at the most amazing Taekwondo school in town) and Christmas party that I realised something.
It’s December and I still haven’t heard back from St Paul’s.
I called my doctor in January and her fabtastic receptionist called the hospital with a great big “what the actual f—, guys??”. They’d lost my referral and could she please fax a new one?
“The wait is only 6 weeks.”
Are you kidding me? I’m dehydrated from all the crying over floor spoons! That receptionist decided St Paul’s just wasn’t the place for me and lied on my referral to BC Women’s Reproductive Mental Health clinic and said I was undeniably 100% suicidal. They accepted my referral and then didn’t contact me for an appointment. I also had to go to the ER because my gall bladder was being a jerk and slacking off on the job. In all that followed, I forgot to call them.

By this point, January 2014, I was working the lonely day shift. Just me, the radio, and sometimes my boss. I loved being off work at 2pm and walking home in the cold sunshine with my little baby belly. I hated being up at 7am. The girl we’d hired to do evenings turned out to be a really awesome ally in the fight against The Coworker Who Thinks He’s My Boss. I was so relieved. I told her about my struggle with PPD and she was amazing and supportive. Each afternoon, she’d ask how I was doing and let me vent about things that don’t upset normal people. She was aware of the fact that this wasn’t a normal situation and shouldn’t be treated as such. So simple, so brilliant, so effectively affirming!

By mid-February, I called Women’s to see what was up and got an appointment for mid-March to see a therapist. It only took our mental healthcare system SIX MONTHS to get me into a therapist’s office.

I don’t have a car, so bussing all the way out there was just as stressful as battling the illness I was seeking help for. The therapists were great, but once my daughter was born, I didn’t feel they were helpful anymore. I stopped going, but was so grateful that I was finally able to have at least one trimester of healthy mental standing.

Things didn’t get resolved like clouds parting to end a storm in a fairy tale. It was hard work and I relied heavily on my friends and family. I feel like I was a serious burden, emotionally and (sometimes) physically, but I wouldn’t have made it through otherwise.

Next time: Post-Partum Depression: I’ve Been Expecting You.

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Oscar Night in Canada

Things I loved about the Oscars:

 

– James Franco, according to Dane Cook, looked like a security guard who sees you stealing and just doesn’t care

– Best Supporting Actress dropping the F-bomb (and the look on her face when Kirk Douglas called out her name)

– the orchestra trying to play the non-actor winners off the stage.  Ever notice how there are 2 hours of the award show and only 4 categories for actual actors?  Play off the actors, not the people who do EVERYTHING ELSE.

– Anne Hathaway acting like, well, me, in front of about a billion people.

– making my mother laugh with my insights and Jewish mother impressions

The King’s Speech.  Enough said.

– Kirk Douglas.  “You know…”

making fun of Celine Dion

James Franco’s grandmother.  “I just saw Marky Mark!”

– Anne Hathaway’s mother.  “Stand up straight, Anne.  Mr Steven Spielberg is here!”

– the pretty dresses

– the ugly dresses

– being able to throw things at the TV without being escorted out of the building by security

– that the saddest part of the tribute reel was learning Celine Dion is still alive.  Seriously, how did they get her to leave Vegas hidey-hole?  I don’t think that woman knows where Canada is anymore, thank God.  She might try to come back and live among us.

– that every Canadian film in the “foreign film” category is in French.  This is why Americans think we all speak French.

– explaining to my mother that because we live in a world where Marky Mark’s film is nominated for Best Picture and Christian Bale beats out Geoffrey Rush for Best Supporting actor, we can’t have nice things.  Bad things are happening, people.  Someone has time-travelled to the past, changed something, and now we’re suffering the tiny consequences.

– tearing up for no real reason other than the fact that I’m elated that a person I’ve never met has had a life-long wish come true and won a little golden man.

 

 

After the show, mi madre and I made grilled cheese for dinner (because we’re classy… and the roast beef was on Saturday) and watched Letters to Juliet.  Yes, I made fun of it the whole way through… still managed to somehow tear up towards the end, though.

 

Oscar night is a good night.

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My First Love Letter

I’m a Christian.  I’ve been a Christian since August 2003.  Before January 2002, I believed in God, but wasn’t sure what the deal was with that Jesus guy.  I didn’t get the whole “died for our sins” stuff, or that God could be down-to-earth, not stuffy and surrounded by pomp and circumstance.  Between January 2002 and August 2003, I decided God just didn’t exist.  He wasn’t real and he certainly didn’t give a flying frack about me.  My great-grandfather had passed away, on his 97th birthday, and I was royally pissed.  We were close, he and I.  I had so much more to learn from him – about him, me, our family.  That summer, my mum sent me to a Christian summer camp (which made me really angry), but I left there feeling like there might really be something to the God thing.  He had let me venture out on my own and was letting me find my own way back.

The next year, possibly earlier in the very day I decided to follow Jesus for realsies, our counsellor read us a letter in bible study.

“It’s a love letter,” she said.  “From God, to the world, about you.”  Me?  There are roughly 3 billion women in the world and God has an opinion about me.  I was all ears.

I made her… she is different. She is unique. With LOVE I formed her in her mother’s womb. With LOVE I fashioned her with great joy. I remember with great pleasure the day I created her. (Ps. 139: 13-16)

I LOVE her smile. I LOVE her ways. I LOVE to hear her laugh. And the silly things she says and does. She brings Me great pleasure… this is how I made her. (Ps. 139:17)

I made her pretty, but not beautiful, because I know her heart, and she would be vain. I wanted her to search out her heart and to learn that it would be Me in her that would make her beautiful… and it would be Me in her that would draw friends to her. (1 Peter 3:3-5)

I made her in such a way that she would need Me. I made her a little more lonesome than she would like to be… only because I need her to lean and depend on Me. I know her heart, I know if I had not made her like this, she would go her own chosen way and forget Me… her creator. (ps. 62: 5-8)

I have given her many good and happy things…. because I love her. (ps. 34:11 and Rom 8:32)

Because I love her I have seen her broken, hurt… and the tears she has cried alone. I have cried them with her, and had a broken heart, too. (ps. 58:6)

Many times she has stumbled and fallen alone only because she would not hold My hand. So many lessons she has learned the hard way because she would not listen to my voice. (Isa. 66:2)

So many times I have sat back and sadly watched her go her merry way alone only to watch her return to My arms, sad and broken. (Isa. 66:2)

And now she is mine again…I made her and then bought her… because I LOVE her. (Rom 5:8)
I have to reshape and remold her… to renew to what I had planned for her to be. It has not been easy for her or Me. (Jer 29:11)

I want her to be conformed to My image… this goal I have set for her… because I LOVE HER! ( 2 Cor 2:14)

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The Importance of Being Erica

The CBC has a show, Being Erica, about a woman whose life is so not going the way she’d hoped and is offered a chance to rectify the regrets that got her to this point. In the pilot, she gets fired and dumped on the same day, then has a near-death allergic reaction to a Starbucks sample. In the hospital, she meets Dr Tom, a man I find unbelievably irritating in an “I’m-not-here-to-give-you-the-answers-so-figure-it-out-yourself” kind of way. Dr Tom uses quotes from the wise and well-known (as well as the ignorant and infamous) to guide Erica through her unorthodox therapy.

Time travel.

The Many Faces of Erica

Erica gave Dr Tom a list of her biggest regrets. During each session, one regret is discussed and Erica – usually on the defensive – tells the good doctor off by telling him what she’d do differently. And BAM! She’s back in 1992 at her grade 11 formal to undo her regret of getting stumbling drunk and making a fool of herself in front of everyone. While Erica makes different decisions, she usually comes back to the present having achieved the same outcome – she still made a fool of herself in front of everyone at the formal – but those decisions she made in the new past shed new light on whatever situation she is in in the present. For example, the grade 11 formal situation taught her that it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks of you as long as you’re a good friend and person. Erica humiliated herself by appearing – in her underwear – in the middle of the dance to get help for her friend suffering a seizure in the locker room. Her boyfriend dumped her, the whole school thought she was a skanky lunatic (why else would she be in her underwear if she wasn’t having sex with some guy?) but none of that mattered to her this time around because she knew her actions saved her friend’s life.

Erica's list

This got me thinking… After watching two seasons of Erica righting her wrongs, shouldn’t I do the same? No, I can’t travel back in time, but I can make a list of people I have wronged – My Name is Earl-style – and make good. Go for coffee with a friend I treated poorly. Own up to my mistakes in a failed friendship. Apologise to a bullied classmate…

On that note, I’d love to be on the receiving end of that apology. I realise it’s been 10+ years since I was last truly bullied, but it still means something to me to know that the people who made my life living hell for years regret their actions. I’d like to hear it from them, though, not the grapevine. I like to think that, as adults, we’ve each learned to be a big enough person to own up to the wrongs we committed at 7, 9, 12 years old.  Children can be cruel and exposure to that kind of cruelty can change a person in their soul.  Only by the grace of God have I been able to keep myself from being a bitter, jaded, black-hearted person, angry at the world for what happened to me.  Or keep myself alive, for that matter.  But that’s a different story.  This is about righting wrongs I have committed, not my screwy childhood or my beliefs or what I want from other people.

While I have very honestly come to terms with many of my regrets, I want to learn something from Erica – learn from my regrets and move on from them.  I don’t see the point in dwelling on what we can’t change, but I do see the point in allowing what we can’t change to enlighten us and accepting the opportunity to act differently the next time around.  But just because you made a mess doesn’t mean you can’t clean it up.