Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Mommy Diet

I'm back! Did you miss me? I missed me. But I'm back, for real. And, for real, I'm not going anywhere in the foreseeable future.

So I'm back on the treadmill again. The last time I ran was March 1, 2009. (I was pregnant and sick -- don't judge.) And then Miscellany was born, and I ran a few times a month ago, in February. This time around, though, I am committed. And it feels good. I am amazed at the mood stabilizing effects of exercise. There really is something to those endorphin thingies, I guess. After a run, I just feel better -- about everything. I can handle my children. I can handle my life. I actually like my life. And I feel somehow . . . faster. I unload the dishwasher, or fold laundry, or clean the bathroom, and my whole body is awake, present and participating in the activity. I walk taller. I work better. I breathe deeper. And I'm happy.

To capitalize on all this exercise, CPod and I have also been counting calories. Being the nerdy people we are, it goes without saying that we're approaching it scientifically: calculate your basal metabolic rate, decide how much weight you want to lose, factor in exclusively breastfeeding a 4 month old baby and estimate your activity level (how many calories does it burn when I chase GDog around the house trying to enforce a time out?), blah blah blah. Suffice it to say I do not enjoy 120 extra calories of Co'Cola unless I've done one thing or another to earn them. To that end, I record everything I eat, as does CPod, and I have noticed certain . . . disparities between our lists.

Take, for example, lunch. CPod's list is pretty straightforward:

-onion roll with three slices of ham, mustard, lettuce, NO cheese
-a pear
-10 pringles
-a handful of cocoa roast almonds
-water, water, and water.

My food list for the day is slightly more complicated:
-3 pringles (I assume, when you add up the surface area of all 17 crumbs I managed to grab)
-the peanut butter left on the knife after I made three other sandwiches
-1/4 of a pear, plus 2/3 of 1/4, plus 1/2 of 1/4, plus 1/3 of 1/4 (even for a math nerd, that's more computation than I want to do just to record my calories)
-6 almonds
-2 animal crackers
-half of a juice box (also leftover)
-1/2 serving of pineapple in lime jello (the rest thrown back in the refrigerator so I can eat it after refereeing a squabble between the twins)
-one slice of ham, as I put away what CPod left out when he made his lunch (because he thought I would use the same ingredients to make mine)

I think I spend more calories recording the food I eat than I actually consume. I mean, surely the 35 calories worth of animal crackers are burned as I fend off the interlopers who try to take over the computer and play pinball every single time I sit down to add another food to the list! Don't they cancel each other out?

Do I have to count the seven goldfish in a little baggie I found when I was cleaning out the car? How about the one peanut butter cracker left in the pack in ConMan's preschool snack? Or the chocolate covered raisins I found inside MayDay's stacking cups?

The Mommy Diet? How about the Homeless Foragers diet? The Cinderella's Mice diet? The One-Sixteenth Portion Diet? Whatever it's called, I can't believe the weight isn't just falling off of my bootylisciousness.

Oh, wait. There are some things I consume in whole portions. Blue Bell Almond & Pistachio ice cream, with a light drizzle of Hershey's syrup? That, I savor slowly, after my children sleep, whilst enjoying a book, a blog, a brief conversation with beloved husband, a bad singer on American Idol.

Dinner with my girlfriends? I can finish off three days worth of leftover calories in one fell swoop: spinach salad with gorgonzola, applewood smoked bacon, craisins, sugared pecans, and mustard-honey emulsion; or New York-style pizza with fresh basil and house-made mozzarella; or the best fried shrimp ever with cole slaw and roasted sweet potatoes, topped off with warm chocolate chip bread pudding doused in pure, unwhipped, unadulterated cream.

Have I said before that I love food? I do. Truly. Sometimes I think I do all this calorie counting and exercising just to keep myself from getting fatter. The thing is, I'm totally okay with that. I run, and it feels good. I eat, and it feels good, too. And this body? It's not half bad. I think I'll keep it.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Obsess, much?

My husband doesn't have a lot of free time. When he has some, he loves to hike and backpack and camp, with our family or with his buddies. He loves to travel, and to spend time at the lake water skiing when it's warm. There are plenty of things he enjoys. But when he only has a few minutes to spend at a time on diversions? He only has one hobby: Obsession.

He chooses a topic (usually, something he wants to buy), and then exhausts every resource he can get his hands on to educate himself about it, until he knows "enough" to make an informed purchase.

Examples? Sure. I've got plenty. Projector and 96" screen in the basement? That took three years. Jeep, and all the associated accessories? Two years. Vacuum cleaners? I'm still waiting for that one to resolve. His obsession with washing machines was accelerated by necessity, but no less intense than his serious interest in treadmills, lawn mowers, digital cameras, laptops, under-cabinet task lighting for our kitchen, garage floor sealants, minivans (also borne out of necessity), hardwood mulch, and reproductively-beneficial nutritional supplements (IVF, remember?).

He reads "Consumer Reports" more than his scriptures. (Kidding.) (Sort of.)

He does not have a monopoly on idiosyncratic behavior. I counted yesterday, after reading Steph's post, and I have 99 books (including library books) stacked up next to my bed. (I am completely willing to post that list on this blog if anyone is interested. Any takers? No? I didn't think so. But it is a REALLY interesting list.) They are not on a shelf (although, they are separated into fiction and non-fiction, then alphabetized), just stacked next to the wall. I gaze at them fondly with greater regularity than I would freely admit, because I. Love. Books. I cannot stop. My name is InkMom and I am a Biblioholic.

I also cannot sleep if my sheets are not tucked tightly at the bottom. (This caused problems early in our marriage. CPod -- all 6'5" of him -- adapted nicely.) In the shower, I always start with my hair and make my way down, and if I forget a step, it pains me if I don't have time to start over.

When I'm trying on clothes, the outfit never looks quite right until I've tilted my head to the right. (MommyJ shares this quirk. When we were growing up, the full-length mirror in our room cut off your head, and if you wanted to get an idea of the whole package, you had to tilt.)

My love for words is near-pathological. I collect them like trinkets and try them on for size often, until they become a permanent part of my repertoire. This has spawned a need to correct any and all improper usage I encounter in a way that is, I'm sure, terribly annoying to all who have experienced my supercilious oldest-child compulsion to make everything RIGHT.

Admittedly, I have let a lot of things go since having children: the towels don't have to be folded a certain way, though I'm happier if they are (after all, they must fit in the cabinet), and while my cleaning regimen might seem a little over-the-top to some (MommyJ), I'm much more flexible than I used to be, and it works for me.

I could go on. There is a certain member of my family who, for a period of time in his early childhood, would not wear pants that touched his legs. Thank goodness for the eighties God-sent trend of parachute pants. He also wouldn't wear socks with lumps, or shirts with tags, and the milk in his cereal bowl had to come to RIGHT HERE or he wouldn't eat it. We all have our little tics.

And that is why I am not surprised to already note idiosyncrasies in my children. ConMan's handwashing needs have become so intense that we have trained him add lotion to the regimen; otherwise, his little fair-and-delightsome hands become so dry it's painful -- but still not painful enough to curb his conviction that there are germs on his hands. (I think I blame this one on his germophobe preschool. Seriously.)

G-Dog, like his mama, can't sleep if his covers aren't tucked in tightly next to the wall. And, he, like his daddy, exhausts us with a machine-gunfire barrage of questions on topics ranging from the nature of God to what kind of sticks birds use to build nests to how kaleidoscopes work. (I know, Mom. I'm getting what I deserved, after famously asking questions like, "Do mosquitoes have blood?")

Last week, Miscellany visited our beloved pediatrician for her 4-month check-up. As Dr. H. examined Little Girl, MayDay kept scaling the exam table like a climbing wall. Once atop the table, he made his way across, behind the baby, towards the counter holding the baby scale, a sink, and a wall-mounted sharps container.

He was persistent, but so was I. Each time he climbed up, I put him back on the floor. Finally, as he climbed once again toward the scale, I took his little face in my hands and asked him, "MayDay, what are you trying to do?" He glanced significantly at the infant scale on the counter next to him. I followed his gaze and suddenly, clarifyingly, knew exactly what had fueled his compulsion.

I pushed the weights on the scale back over the zero-point, and my little, chip-off-the-old block control freak sighed, and said, "Oooohh, thank you, Mommy!"

Sadly, I completely understood. And I am now, more than ever, convinced that the reason more people haven't been officially diagnosed with one psychiatric disorder or another is, quite simply, because we haven't asked.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

From Shadow to Light

Go easy on me, readers. I'm about to bare my soul here, and it's still pretty raw.

(And please note: I throw around the word "crazy" a lot in this post. This is a common word in the InkMom lexicon, and it's more descriptive than clinical in nature. Please don't take offense.)

I have a new baby. She is beautiful. Lovely. She is making me a bit crazy (there I go!) right this second because she won't go to sleep, but I adore her. My Miscellany.

I have always adored her -- from the first moment I knew her little body was taking shape and being formed inside of mine. It was the same with my sons, her three older siblings. I have never ceased to wonder at the miracle that is conception and childbirth, growth and development, emergence of personality and character.

When Miscellany was about eight weeks old, I started to feel . . . not right. I began to overreact to the normal messes and spats and needs-to-be-met that happen in a house full of little boys. I started to feel like I was drowning.

I was experiencing Postpartum Depression. Did you know it's the most common complication of childbirth? Yeah. I didn't know either.

I have a lot of people who love me. They knew something was up. My mom said it first.

"Do you think you might have some postpartum depression going on?" she asked me one day, after a long crying jag when I tried to convince her I couldn't possibly be a good enough mother for my children.

My husband was next. Three days a week, his commute home is exactly one hour. That same night, fifteen minutes into his commute, I called him and unloaded: the kids did this, then that, and I just can't do it any more and you have to get home right now. Needless to say, he was worried. He told me later that he was baffled, because all of those things I listed were pretty much the norm for our kids: a little wild, a little intense, but totally under the umbrella of average behavior in the InkMom & CPod household.

I saw my doctor, and PPD it was. She did not recommend medication for me, but she made me promise to give her phone number to my mom, my sister, my husband. If things became more severe, I might not be objective enough to ask for help, but they could make the call. We talked; we worked on some coping strategies. And I went home.

The last couple of months have been hard, but I finally feel like I have emerged from a fog. This is what I wrote to a dear friend during the worst of it:

"This has been the hardest thing I have ever experienced. My husband says he remembers a little bit of baby blues with MayDay (my third) but nothing like this last time around. I have had days where I have done and said things that make me not recognize myself. There are many days I feel like I'm flirting with the edge of an abyss of blackness, and it wouldn't take much to push me under. Most days, it's much better than that -- although I've never before in my life even known that an abyss of blackness exists in the world, and now all of a sudden I'm painfully aware of it even on my best days.

"I had never before entertained the possibility of PPD. I just thought I was crazy, and the crazy just sort of came out when I was stressed by my kids. When my husband and my mom mentioned to me that they thought it might be PPD, suddenly I became . . . lighter because there was a reason I was feeling so rotten all the time. Somehow, naming it made it more bearable -- naming it made it not my fault.

"Talking about it helps a lot. I am VERY lucky to have my sister, who talks me through some very difficult days. There are days when she talks to me for hours on end, and helps me get through the craziness of three little boys without hurting anyone, or yelling too much. I am grateful that she is not only willing but sane enough herself to help me see reality with some clarity. 

"I also have a wonderful husband. My husband DAILY helps me to remember who I am. He literally holds onto me for dear life and tells me what he knows I am capable of doing, and how much he values me, and how grateful he is for the sacrifices I make to care for our family. He does this every night. I can't tell you how much this helps.

"My mom lives nearby, too, and she is available at the drop of a hat. She will rearrange her entire busy schedule if I need her to take over because I'm no longer capable. She checks on me regularly. Sometimes hourly.

"PPD has made me question the validity of my feelings. I have to really think now -- when I'm upset about something, I second-guess myself and wonder if this is just the PPD talking, or if I really have a reason to be upset. 

"This is hard. I'm a highly logical person -- I don't usually get upset about stupid stuff. Sometimes I have a visceral reaction and it takes me some thinking to figure out what the root of it is, but I always figure it out and structure my arguments accordingly. Yeah. Isn't my husband lucky? He hates to fight with me because I am so darn good at it. Now, I find myself retreating into my internal space and having a crazy person's dialogue about whether or not I'm upset. This is a degree of insecurity that I am not used to -- because insecurity of any type is not exactly a common theme in my life."

And here is my friend's experience, which prompted me to write all that stuff in the first place:

"My little sister delivered her first child in January and is now experiencing some severe postpartum anxiety.  There have been panic attacks, a lot of crying out for help while desperately trying to keep it a secret, and an overwhelming shift of life from 8 childless 'bliss-filled' years of marriage to this new mysterious and daunting present.

"I'm struggling with the balance of reassuring her that everything she's experiencing is normal and common among many women (in other words, she's NOT a freak), but at the same time helping her to recognize that it's serious enough that she needs to seek professional help and reach out to and allow help from others." 

My friends, I know I'm not the only person out there who has experienced something like this. It's estimated that 15-20% of moms suffer from some sort of perinatal mood disorder. Why didn't I know that? Postpartum depression is temporary and treatable. How many suffer in silence because they don't even know their feelings indicate a legitimate and treatable disorder? Why are we not talking about this more?

Well, today, we are. Go over to Mormon Mommy Blogs, because the topic for Discussion Wednesday is Depression in Motherhood. Go. Read. Comment. The more we talk about this, the more prepared we will be to help our loved ones through it, or to recognize it in ourselves. The more we talk about this, the more we do to advance the cause of mental illness treatment and awareness.

I do not presume to understand what it's like to deal with the pain of depression on a daily basis, but my experiences with PPD have certainly given me a new appreciation for the fortitude it must take, for those of you who suffer from mental illness, to keep going. God bless you.

And -- if you or someone you love is suffering from a perinatal mood disorder, and you haven't gotten help yet, please do. You can find more information here:

Postpartum Support International


Jenny's Light

See you over at MMB, where I'll be reading and commenting all day.

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