Who Needs Tough Mudder When Motherhood is Tough Enough?

Tonight, I spoke with two old friends of mine. One is a biological mum, the other is a stepmum. One reached out to me directly, the other commented on a Facebook post. (For all its failings, Facebook is a remarkable thing)

Each conversation existed around the same thing: anxiety. The “what if” of it all and the fears that come with being a mother. We opened up about our worries and found such a beautiful thing…

… Someone who felt the same.
None of us go through life with unique feelings. Our experiences and perspectives are unique, yes, but no one has felt a feeling that’s never been felt. I reassured my friends that they weren’t alone; I shared my fears and experiences and I was amazed by how alone motherhood makes us feel.

We think that our negative feelings are a singularity, that we’re the odd one out. My friends and I each had the same fears about expanding our families. The stepmum worried she’d love her biological child too much and isolate her stepchildren – or vice versa. The variables involved are concerns I have myself about my own blended family. Would I connect with a new baby? Too much? Too little? At all? Would Maggie feel left out? Would she and I cocoon ourselves away in an effort to preserve the relationship we have now? I know now that these are not unique concerns. Reaching out and breaking our isolation helps us resolve these feelings. Doing research, gathering facts, sharing experiences… These are the things that help us grow. This is part of the “village” required to raise a child. Finding out you’re not the only new mother who hates the idea of a second baby because you’re having such a hard time with just one is so damn liberating. Saying it out loud and not feeling ashamed is so damn liberating. 

Connecting with others is how we break the cycle. I just wish it weren’t so hard to reach out and speak up in the first place.


Life’s Little Surprises

Life is surprising.

It changes so quickly and how it makes you feel is completely hinged on how you choose to accept it – or not.

In my last post, I talked about how my little girl, then 18 months, made me realise my failings as a parent weren’t failings at all. They were just life. I decided to accept that life dealt me a shitty hand and I was going to have a positive attitude about it. Sure, I was depressed, and emotionally, things were so hard, but I wasn’t going to let it own me.

A month after the tree hit my house and I moved in with my aunt, one of my “friblings” (or sibling-like friends) took me out to see Star Wars on opening night. I got his wife’s ticket, as she wasn’t up for a late showing. Another friend was supposed to bring her girlfriend, who also bowed out; a mutual friend came instead. He and I are now getting married next year.

Yes, married, and it’s all because of Star Wars and my refusal to feel sorry for myself.

I decided to accept that my life was pretty crap for now, and work on building the foundation I needed to better my life. I went out, I was social, I made attempts to focus on my hobbies. I went to Star Wars and sat next to a man I’d met 4 years earlier and had an immediate crush on. That longtime crush – and his unattached status – overrode my insecurity and anxiety, and I asked him out (unofficially) the next day.

Within a week, I knew I’d found the love of my life, and he’d found his. We met each other’s families within two weeks, and the immediate approval was overwhelming! I felt so lucky to be turning over a new, amazing leaf for 2016.

I lost my job in early January and still haven’t found work. Rob is supporting the three of us, now that we’re all back in our little townhouse, so we’re always broke, but we haven’t been so happy in such a long time! He is the best stepdad and is fully involved in Maggie’s life. I forget sometimes that she’s not his.

We can’t have the highs without the lows; that’s just the way things go. I’m glad I didn’t let November consume me and I’m so excited for my little family’s journey!

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.


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.


Our very, very close quarters

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.