Thursday, March 30, 2017

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety


I have never considered myself a writer- in fact when I started therapy as a teenager I was always so annoyed when the therapist told me to journal. However, now, and especially this past year, I have found comfort in putting my words, my thought, my feelings,  out there. I'm afraid that it makes this blog less cheerful, and maybe a little bit odd since I still blog sewing things, but this is me, and today I need to tell another part of my story.  

When Cordelia was born I was amazed by how tiny, and beautiful, and perfect she was. She had the sweetest nose, the perfect new baby smell, and the most darling fingers. I felt awed and amazed that I had grown this tiny, perfect little thing. 

The days were long, and I don't think I took much time to "check in" and see how i was doing. I knew I was at risk for Postpartum depression- because I had  a history of depression- and it was something my Dr had warned me about and something I had told my friends I was worried about when I was pregnant- but honestly I wasn't thinking much about it because there is just so much to adjust to with having a new baby. I forgot to check myself for the warning signs- depressed mood and mood swings, anxiety, trouble sleeping, crying, appetite issues, problems concentrating. 

I was able to more or less stay afloat until about three months- well sort of, I couldn't sleep at all, I was soo lonely and I worried all the time. Breastfeeding saved me because it was the only time I didn't worry- if I worried while feeding Cordelia she wouldn't eat. But at three months I got so depressed I didn't want to get out of bed, I was just so sad. I loved my baby, but I was fairly positive that there was someone else  who could be her mother who would do a much better job than I was. I really thought killing myself was a better option then letting my perfect, beautiful, baby girl live her life with a mother as flawed as I me. I didn't want her to ever know me to know how sad and broken I was.

 I didn't understand why I could have such a happy thing come into my life and yet feel so incredibly miserable- and the guilt from feeling like I wasn't "enjoying every moment" was incredible.  I found it almost impossible to make decisions because I knew that whatever I decided it had to be wrong, and what if whatever I did hurt my baby? 

 So I started to cope in the only way I knew how, I started to self mutilate again. At this point Brendon stepped in and took me to see a therapist- however when we told the therapist about my cutting she told Brendon if I did again he needed to bring me to the hospital and have me committed. I refused to go back to see her. I told Brendon I would get better on my own because I was petrified that if I went back they would decide I was unfit and they would take my baby away- or that eventually Brendon would decide I was unfit and have the court take my baby away from me because I was crazy. 

So I worked through the cutting on my own, I struggled through the depression without professional help, out of fear. Eventually, the depression eased, and I bonded deeply with Cordelia, I didn't want to kill myself anymore- but the anxiety never really went away, and I'm not sure I ever felt like a good mom.  

A little over a year ago I decided that I didn't have to live with anxiety- there had to be another option, I mean, normally people don't walk around feeling like this all the time? So we switched our insurance so I could have better access to care, I saw a Dr. and I started medication. 

A month after starting my meds I went to take Cordelia to the dentist and was told she wasn't insured (there was a paperwork problem) I called Brendon and kinda laughed about it- and then I cried because I realized that it wasn't my fault- bad luck didn't make me a bad mother and I 100% knew that in my heart. It was amazing, after five years I could finally feel like me again- a mistake was just that, a mistake, and not a sign that I was never supposed to have a kid. 

Not too long after that we got pregnant again, and that felt like a miracle. I had been feeling like God wasn't going to give me a second child because I just wasn't a good enough mother and couldn't handle having another one.  In this wonderful moment I realized that I would need to stop my medication while pregnant. During my 8.5 months of pregnancy I felt my anxiety creep back into the corners of my consciousness, my bed rest might have been a blessing because it allowed - me not to have to fight the panic cause by leaving the house.  

Things are different this time around and most of the time I can identify my emotions as irrational and as hormonal side effects. This time around I understand that mental illness is not a personal defect, and that life does not always have to feel like this.

 Regrettably knowing whats going on only helps so much, I struggle to remember to eat, I often can't sleep, I get angry and anxious, I have an extremely hard time calling people back and talking to them, and the depression can be so soul crushingly bad I sit in my empty bathtub and cry, and I often have to fight the idea that my family would be better off with a mother who didn't struggle so much just to keep her head above water.  But I know I will make it through this, my family loves and supports me, and I know that after i figure out what on earth happened to my insurance I can go back to taking a medication that helps correct the imbalance in my brain. 

However, here comes the part of this post where I ask you to do something:

Please, please, know and understand the symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. Help the mama's in your life out by being present- visit, call, check in with them, let them know that everything will be OK, share your own struggles with PPD but don't ever tell  their feelings aren't real or they should just "get over it". Bring them a meal, invite them on a walk or ask if you can just sit on the couch and stare at the baby with them. People ask me all the "what can I do to help" and honestly I have no idea what to tell them- but just be there. I have a wonderful support group, please, please be part of that support group for someone else too.

 And if you are a Mama who is struggling, know that you are enough, know that no one loves you as much as your baby, know that you are stronger than this, know that you are important, and know that I will always be here for you. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Three Months

Today's post is a happier one than my last post- and because of that its taken me a little while to focus and write it. Today I am sharing photos of Adeline at three months. The past couple sets of photos my sister edited for me and I had a much easier time keeping the number down- but I edited these and it was a struggle! I also found that because she is so much more awake these pictures are so much more blurry- I guess it's time for me to learn some more about my camera and how to take non blurry photos of wiggly babies.

This month Adeline has become such a little talker! She coos, squeaks, and chuckles! Gosh her little noises have really saved me on my sad days. I have multiple videos on my phone of her noises because I never want to forget them, they make me so happy. It is also hysterical to play these videos for her because she will sit and chatter at them!

Adeline- who we call Smush, have I mentioned that on the blog? Smush still wakes up multiple times at night but she is such a happy baby and she is super alert. She spends so much time watching the  world around her, I always like to try to figure out what she is looking at. She especially likes to look at the glass balls hanging up at my mom's house- I like to think that maybe before she was born my Pop Pop told her all about them so she is thinking of him (I know it's silly, but I wished he had lived long enough to meet my daughters because he loved babies, and I often imagine my grandfathers and my dad telling Adeline stories before she was born). 

The cats at my sisters house still want to know what this tiny noisy thing is- but our cats at home love to sit on her, and if not on her at least close to her.  

Smush likes to hold soft things, like her jackalope stuffed animal, her purple octopus, her clothing, spit rags, my clothing- pretty much anything soft she can grasp. That being said, I think her favorites are her jackalope and her octopus (and the octopus she didn't get until after when this post should have been written- so more on that in the four month post).

Bonus points if she can grasp it and she can get it to her mouth. She enjoys chewing things (and has started sucking her thumb too). 

I like how she sticks out her tongue
 and sometimes she forgets to put it back in too. 

Adeline seems to enjoy listening to Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and dancing to oldies with her Papa. She turns to find her sister in the room because she loves to watch her. And despite being happiest on her belly she figured out how to roll from her belly to her back two days before her three month "birthday". I feel very blessed that we have Adeline, she is such a happy giggly baby. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Home means different things to different people- my husband always tells me, that to him home is just where I am, which is terribly romantic, but I must admit that to me- home is a place. Home is a place filled with, and surrounded by, the people you love, decorated with things that make you smile. Home is a place where you are safe, a place where you can be yourself- it is a place of true calm. 

Brendon and I started living together just about ten years ago. I have spent ten years turning our rented upstairs apartment into our home. We painted the walls, added our large and eclectic collection of art to the walls, we moved the forks/cups/plates all around the kitchen until they found the most natural places to live. We bought bookcases, couches, and lamps over the years. We cooked dinners together- and we learned that we shouldn't actually cook together. We learned how to be adults, we learned how to make marriage work in the space between these walls. 

Besides just that we brought our two daughters home from the hospital to our home. We taught Cordelia how to skip on the front walk, how to hit a baseball in the back yard. We have loved each and every one of Adeline's smiles in our home. There is not a spot I can look at in our home that doesn't hold a memory- nothing that doesn't hold feeling.  

As Cordelia grew up our home began to expand beyond the walls of our apartment. Our home began to include Hyattsville itself, in the familiarity of our favorite community stores and restaurants, and to me most importantly, in our neighbors. 

Our home has the most amazing neighbors. Neighbors who wave and say hello as they ride their bikes home from work or walk their dogs. Neighbors who let my kid knock on their door and invite herself in so she could chase their pets and climb into their cat beds. Neighbors whose kids learned to walk with Cordelia- I remember when they would try to walk and hold hands but they would unbalance each other and fall over. We have spent endless snow days with these families enjoying each other's company when our kids were too young to care who they played with. We have neighbors who have became friends that we can txt on a bad day who make us smile. 

 Hyattsville is lucky because even the parents who don't know each other personally help each other out- handing down and giving away kids items for free, asking questions on our list-serve and giving advice and help. Hyattsville has parents who volunteer for one of the strongest PTA's I have ever seen. Our home is in a community of amazing people, except it's not our home anymore. 

On Tuesday we found out that we have to move by June. It came as a shock because we didn't even know that our house being sold was even a thought, and honestly we had even been told on multiple occasions that it wasn't. Our dream has always been to buy the house that contains our apartment, to make this our forever home. We have spent evenings laying in bed figuring out down payments, what colors we would paint the walls and how we would finish the basement. We talked about the best way to fence the yard for a dog and if we would have to worry about Cordelia sneaking out the window onto the porch roof. Unfortunately we are a year or two short of being able to make that dream a reality, and now our house is no longer a home, just an apartment with a nearing eviction date. 

Coming home to this apartment fills me with sadness and ties my stomach into knots. I am overwhelmed by the memories, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of packing our life into boxes - of trying to figure out what needs to be purged because ten years makes for a lot of things. I am saddened by having to take Cordelia away from such a wonderful school where she has made such great friends, I am saddened by the thought of leaving my neighbors. I am fearful because I am not sure where we are going from here. 

What was once our home, our safe space, is now full of negative emotions. It is now a place without calm. It is now a place where I feel betrayed because we were so blindsided. Brendon and I differ because he so often expects the worst of people so he is always surprised when people are kind but he is never surprised when they do something less than kind, I however expect everyone to be good, thoughtful, and kind- which leaves me heartbroken when they don't live up to those expectations.  

Right now I am heartbroken in a way I cannot describe. After such a rough past several month it feels like life will never be calm, like we will never catch a break. Poor Cordelia has had the hardest year- she lost her cat, her Great Grandfather, and her Grandfather. She started kindergarten and had to learn how to function in a structured environment. She spent months watching her mommy be sick every day- and saw me in the hospital stuck full of IV's and attached to monitors. She got a sister and had to adjust to not being the center of attention anymore. Now she is losing her home, her school, moving away from her friends, and she knows she might never see her Great Grandmother ever again when she is used to their special time together. I know as a parent I cannot protect my children from the challenges of life- I can only prepare them to deal with them, but it hurts me to see her have to deal with so very much. 

  I read a quote on pinterest by Lao Tzu that said "New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings". Please hope for us that this is true because right now this is a painful ending, a painful ending to our home.  

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Straight Stitch Designs, Bryant Top

I took a break from testing patterns because life had just been so chaotic- and honestly while I was pregnant I was just too sick! I missed testing a lot because I am super motivated by deadlines, and I enjoy being part of the process. All of the designers I have worked with put so much time into drafting and perfecting their patterns and they really take into account the tester feedback- which I find wonderful. For full disclosure I did receive this pattern for free because my work testing it- but all of these opinions are my own.   

When Kimberly posted that she needed one more tester in my size I jumped at it- and honestly I hadn't even seen what design top she was working on! But truthfully I have that much faith in Kimberly, her ascetic, and the time she puts into her designs. My all time favorite t-shirt pattern was designed by her, and I figured no matter what the top was I would love it.     

This new top is named the Bryant, and it has such a wonderful effortless chic look to it. Designed for knit fabrics and cut on the bias it skims the figure nicely- which is a plus for me since I am still a little extra fluffy in the middle post baby- and lets be honest, I probably like cookies a bit too much to get rid of this extra fluff and I'm ok with that! 

The Bryant comes in sizes 0-24 (another thing I love about Straight Stitch Designs Patterns!) and it features two different sleeve lengths. Another thing that makes this pattern so versatile is the wide range of "looks" that can be achieved with the same pattern but different fabrics. I made my top in a size 18 (with no modifications) out of a sweater knit but other testers made this top in cotton lycra, crepe knit, rayon challis, jersey, rayon knit, ITY, ponte de roma, sweatshirt knit, and double brushed polly. To get a good idea of the variety check out the tester round up, and the blog post Kimberly wrote just to address fabric selection!   

I will admit that I was a tad nervous about the dolman sleeves since it's not a look I gravitate towards, but I am really happy with the fit on this and I am all about the cuff detail- which Kimberly says was a last minute detail added to the pattern. I'm really happy she went with her gut and added it! One tester- Maria made her Bryant with a contrasting fabric on her cuff and I absolutely love it! 

My one word of advice- and it's silly really, it make sure you stay stitch the neck! I am terrible and I skip stay stitching all the time...and I did this time (originally it was a suggestion in the pattern....Kimberly switched it to a MUST because of silly people like me) skipping that one little step really messed with how clean I was able to get the boat neck on my top- so don't be like me!  Besides that one little thing, I had a lot of fun sewing this top up, and I have now added a french terry version to my "to sew" list and I highly recommend this pattern. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

In the Garden with Alice

Maryland was hit with a bizarrely warm February. It's been wonderful to see the sunshine and not have to drag coats everywhere- but it sure has me worried about the heat this summer might bring- and the bugs! 

We took advantage of one warm Sunday to walk the grounds at Brookside Gardens. I asked Cordelia if I could take some pictures of her in the new dress I made while we were on our walk and she freaked out- she has been very against pictures these days and it kinda kills me!

So I left the big camera at home, but once she caught me snapping a cell phone photo of her she relented and seemed to get into it! I can't keep up with her sometimes! I normally shy away from cell phone photos on the blog, but that might have to change because I never want to make her feel like getting new dresses from Mama is a chore.

  Now, about the dress. The pattern is another great one from Bella Sunshine Designs- I swear I don't work for her, I just adore her patterns. This is the Alice pleated dress in a size seven, with about two inches added to the hem. I saw snippets of this dress when it was in testing and absolutely fell in love with the peter pan collar.  There is an option in this pattern to include bias binding on the collar that I am very excited to try. 

Besides the awesome peter pan collar the dress has really interesting cap sleeves that can be done in a coordinating print - and the way they are sewn in makes sewing kids sleeves super easy. Also the Alice features a pleated skirt which is different from what I normally sew for her. 

Normally I talk about how easy these patterns are to sew up, but this is not a beginner pattern, you want to be familiar with sewing and take your time. The instructions are well written and clear, but there are a lot of details and steps to this dress. The entire dress is lined- sleeves, bodice, skirt- the whole thing, and it has an invisible zipper. I actually skipped the invisible zipper and used a regular zipper because that's what I had on hand, it doesn't look nearly as great as the dresses in the tester pictures but I was ok with that. 

Cordelia was very involved with this dress, I showed her the skirt fabric and she said she loved it, I showed her the pattern for the dress and she was on board, she helped pick the coordinating polka dot fabrics, but in the end I wonder if it doesn't match her personality. She said she loves it, and it fits perfect, but it hasn't been a go to and I really think it's because it's just too sweet.

I know that might not make sense, because what five year old really has a personal style- but I honestly think Cordelia does and I don't think we nailed it with this dress. So I love this pattern, but I think my next one I might go a little funkier with my fabric choice!