Friday, March 21, 2008

Looking Together Vs. Having It Together

The posts and comments on Ask Moxie the last couple of days, plus some emails on the side and some comments IRL, have got me thinking about the difference between looking like you have it together and really having it together.

For example, my officemate at work told me recently that she never would have known I had PPD if I hadn't told her. She said I always seem so happy and cheerful (she might have even used the word "chipper"). And I'm sure I usually do... at work. It's home where I crash when I'm feeling depressed or even just down. It's in the privacy of my own home where I melt down and cry or sit on the couch and zone out not looking at anything. It's home where Londo has to make sure I've eating something, makes sure I go to bed, makes sure I'm really honestly alright (or not).

So many of us put on our best show for the outside world. So often parents who are incredibly sleep deprived go out in the world and try to appear like they have it together, when underneath they are "hazy foggers." Since about high school, I personally have develop this habit of dressing extra nice when I'm feeling really bad. For me, it's a way to help me feel better by at least looking nicer than I feel and also to put up a facade so the world doesn't know just how rough I'm doing.

And the facade I put up is often more than just the physical appearance. One of my best friends IMed me after reading a post I wrote recently about how much better I was feeling. She said she didn't realize just how bad I was feeling. She said I kind of mention that I've not been feeling well and when she asks I say I'm fine. I realized that this is because I don't really talk about how bad I'm feeling until I feel better (with everyone except Londo). Once I'm feeling better, then I can share that I was feeling really depressed or whatever I was feeling. But by that time, when people ask how I am or if they can help, I doing better and don't need help.

For me, my depression is tied to the Seasonal Affective Disorder (and recently to the PPD), and therefore come every winter. I guess in my head, people who know this about me should simply know that in the winter I am not doing well. But people forget, and I act fine on the outside. To be honest, I don't know how else to act. I can't have a breakdown at work or when I'm out in public, because it would be putting myself on display. Who's going to want to do that? In most cases, people do act like they've got it somewhat together in public.

So when I see other moms looking like they have it all under control, I rarely believe that they really do. I never assume that everyone else handles this parenting thing just fine, that it's just me who has a hard time. I know that not all babies are as fussy as mine, but I do know that most babies go through sleep regressions, teething, sicknesses, terrible twos/threes, and just general grumpiness. Moms who look perfect and seem to be able to juggle everything with a smile--I think it's great that can look like they have it together! Do they really have it together? Maybe, but probably they are struggling with the same things I am, you are, everyone is. For all I know, I might look as put together as they do--and on occassions I might even feel that together!

But the one thing that makes me sad is when we verbally lie to each other. Now, I understand that people don't want to share their troubles with random strangers. But if someone I know were to look at me and say that being a mom isn't that hard, that they can handle everything, that they really do have it all together, I will believe them. If they are lying, that makes me sad. I guess people do it because they don't want advice or for others to think they can't handle being a parent. I understand that, but if we don't share how hard this can be with each other, how will we ever know that it is normal to struggle? That it's normal to have a baby that doesn't sleep through the night? That it is normal to feel down? That you are not alone in having PPD or other emotional problems?

I'm rambling, I know. But I'm tired, because we are in a bit of a sleep regression. I really am circling around two points:
1. I think it's important we don't judge a book by its cover. Especially when the person we end up judging is ourselves because we don't think we have it together like so-and-so.
2. I think it's equally important that we are honest with each other. We aren't afraid to say, "My child is fussy, she is not sleeping, and this parenting thing isn't easy." The more of us who are honest with each other, who put ourselves out there as not "perfect," the better we will be as a community of people.

Of course, for my second point to work, we have to be less judgemental of other people and be willing to ignore those who are judgemental. They are either lying to you or themselves or simply don't know what it's like to be in your shoes. They are not your target audience. But there might be someone listening, some other parent or soon-to-be parent that hears you and what you say makes all the difference in the world to them.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

She Wasn't Even My Child

I thought my hormone were still crazy and couldn't figure out exactly why. Now I realize it's probably PMS and the fact that I'm cutting down/out pumping. Apparently women go through a bit of a hormone shift when they wean, and since I was pumping a lot during the day and not so much anymore, I think it probably will affect my mood a bit.

Wanna hear a story of caramama's crazy emotional rollercoaster? This one isn't bad, I promise...

I help out at a neighborhood children's choir that my mom put together. Just general things like make sure chair are set up, the kids get their name tags, the kids stay in the room, the kids leave with their parents. Stuff like that.

The other evening, when all of the littler ones were marching around in a circle to keep the beat and sing a silly song lead by the vocal director, one of the girls started crying. She was probably about 5 or so, and my mom got her and lead her out of the circle with pretty much no disruption to the rest of the group. (I later asked my mom what happened, but she didn't know and the girl wouldn't tell her. Maybe she felt left out, maybe she got her toe stomped on. Who knows.) Luckily, this girl's mom was still there, so she was able to get her. She held the little girl in her lap and let her sob. And the girl was sobbing. Her mom rubbed her back and whispered to her. After a little while, the girl felt better, and her mom got some paper and pencils and sat on the floor to draw with her.

So, let me tell you my reaction. When this little girl was sobbing in her mom's arms, I literally started to get tears in my eyes. I was so upset for her, and she wasn't even my child. But that is how emotional I get when kids are hurt, physically or emotionally, lately. I am mush.

How will I ever deal if it's my own little girl?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

I'm having a little trouble keeping up with everything. It's just that work has gotten so busy... and we still are catching up around the house from house guests and the party... and the baby was going through a sleep regression... and I was really into my book and had to finish it last night... and my carpel tunnel has been really bad lately... and I'm trying to make time for Londo... and Easter is this weekend... and there is just TOO MUCH TO DO!!!

And I'm determined not to stress out about blogging, because it's such a help to me that I won't make it into a hindrance. So instead of worrying about posting every day or worrying about coming up with interesting topics and well-written posts, I'm going to go a little easier on myself. I'm also going to try to start posting at night instead of waiting until the day to post and try to read all the wonderful blogs I love at night, but we'll see how that goes.

There are a bunch of thoughts I have that I need to get out. I will work on them tonight. Until then, why not enjoy today's great post on Ask Moxie about feeling lonely and isolated as a stay-at-home-mom and a working mom.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Memory Is Not That Good

I got a few comments last week about how great it was that I remembered all those details about the Pumpkin's first year. Well, here's my confession: I had to look most of it up.

I am part of an online buddy group on a message board that started when we were all pregnant and due in March 2007. But the message board sometimes eats the posts after you type them all up and hit the submit button, so I learned to type it all up in a Notepad file and then copy and paste the text into the message board's thread for our buddy group. About halfway through my pregnancy, I realized that I should be saving these Notepad files because I was really documenting my pregnancy, and later my daughter's life, in this thread with these ladies. I am very proud of myself for realizing this and actually saving the files with the date I wrote them as the document name.

To write up the Pumpkin's year in review, as well as some of her annual assessment, I scoured through each Notepad file to remind myself of what was going on. That is why it took me so long to write them up.

Do not be impressed by my mommy brain, which is as befuddled from a year of sleep deprivation. But you can be impressed by my great idea of saving these posts by date, keeping up with my buddy group, recording important milestones as well as day-to-day stories, and thinking to use them and sum it up in a review of her year. Also, you can be impressed by my wonderful writing skills.

But most of all, you can be impressed with my modesty. It is perhaps my best quality. ;-)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Question of the Week - Birthday Traditions

As I told you all before, I took off on the Pumpkin's birthday and took her to the zoo. We had so much fun looking at the birds (she would get this excited look on her face, point and bounce, and say "bur"), visiting the elephants, watching the hippo, seeing the tigers play and observing the gorillas and orangutans. It was nice weather and good exercise for Mama.

We had so much fun, I started thinking that maybe I would do this every year. I will definitely take off work every year on her birthday and maybe we'd do the zoo every year. I think I'm going to make that her birthday tradition!

Question of the Week:
What is your favorite birthday tradition?

It could be one that your parents or friends did for you, something you do with your kids, or even something you read and think is a great idea.

I think mine is going to be a day off and a trip someplace cool, like the zoo, for the Pumpkin. But one I read about in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells, that I loved was that the mother would wake the kid up on his or her birthday with a cake in their bed for breakfast. I just thought that was so cute and a great way to make that kid feel special.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Pumpkin's First Annual Assessment

As the final post in the week-long celebration of the Pumpkin's birthday, I am blatantly stealing an idea from Burgh Baby's Mom, although I won't be using pictures like she did since I don't put pictures on my blog. Thank you, BBM, for the fantastic idea. Now, let's see how the Pumpkin did.

Disclaimer: This assessment was done by caramama as the reviewer, who assess the Pumpkin against the average development milestones for the first year. Londo does not agree with all of the ratings, as he would apparently give her "Exceeds Expectations" in all areas except Self-Soothing Skills and Sleeping Abilities.

Competency: Gross Motor Skills
Rating: Exceeds Expectations
Assessment: The Pumpkin excelled in this area above all others. Much too her grandmothers' excitement (and her mother's bewilderment), she held her head up in a controlled manner on the day of her birth before carefully laying it back down. She sat up early, crawled early, pulled to standing early and started walking at 10 months, which she had mostly mastered by 11 months, and gave her parents lots of exercise while she practiced these skills.
Development Action: The Pumpkin should continue to work on walking and progress to running in a stable manner. While the Pumpkin has mastered climbing up stairs, climbing down stairs is an area that needs improvement and should be done by backing down the stairs not blindly trying to take a forward step down and starting to fall over. To continue her growth in this area, the Pumpkin should continue to practice everywhere during every second of the day, and she should take classes at The Little Gym with her mama once a week.

Competency: Fine Motor Skills
Rating: Meets Expectations
Assessment: The Pumpkin has progressed as expected in her fine motor skills. She is able to grab and manipulate toys and food, and she practices these abilities nonstop. She has developed her pincher grasp, which she uses on toys, food and skin. Within the last month, she has finally learn to put toys in things, not just pull and dump things out of things.
Development Action: In order to master this to her parent satisfaction, the Pumpkin should learn to only pinch and squeeze her toys and inanimated objects and cease using this skill to injure her parents.

Competency: Communication Skills
Rating: Meets Expectations
Assessment: During this year, the Pumpkin's babbling has progressed to words, including dada, daddy, mama, ca (cat), bur (bird), gah gahr (good girl), hi, hiyo (hello), bah (bye and ball). The Pumpkin has also demonstrated some signs (dog, all done, more, bye) at times throughout the year, but does not use them consistently. The Pumpkin's best examples of this skill are her animal noises for lions, elephants, ducks, sheep, frogs and some others. She also excels in communicating displeaser through crying and joy through laughing.
Development Action: For the upcoming year, the Pumpkin should progress to using her words and signs more consistently, adding more words and signs to her vocabulary, and putting words together to form phrases. Also, better dictation and pronunciation truly show initiative and demonstrate a strong work ethic in this area. If she struly wants to excel in this area for next year's assessment, she will also learn to say "Mama, I love you" (saying that even one time to Mama will result in the highest rating possible).

Competency: Feeding Skills
Rating: Exceeds Expectations
Assessment: The Pumpkin latched on to her mama right away shortly after birth and has been an excellent nurser. Once solids were introduced, the Pumpkin took to them pretty quickly and has consistently demonstrated her aptitude and enjoyment for eating different types of foods. She is also able to communicate which foods she likes and dislikes, and she is always willing to try new things.
Development Action: The Pumpkin should learn to manipulate utensils correctly and to drink from an open topped cup without help. She should also continue trying new foods.

Competency: Self-Soothing Skills
Rating: Does Not Meet Expectations
Assessment: This skill has proven to be perhaps the most difficult skill for the Pumpkin, and is closely related to her Sleeping Abilities (see below). Since being pulled from the womb, she has been slow to let go of that environment. The Pumpkin has constantly needed both movement and to be held, especially in the early months. When she wakes up, she needs to be rocked or nursed back to sleep or she gets more and more worked up, which keeps everyone except the dog from sleeping. Also, she rejected almost all substitutes for mama and daddy to assist with soothing her, including the pacifier, thumb/fingers, lovey, and anything at all that mama and daddy could think of that might possibly work. She has only recently been able to calm herself down at all, and if she does not wake up fully, she is now able to fuss a little and get back to sleep.
Development Action: The Pumpkin's mama and daddy would like to see her be able to put herself back to sleep and even maybe possibly calm herself so she can get herself to sleep without being rocked or nursed. Mama and Daddy do not mind needing to pick her up when she hurts herself or is upset, but they would like her to not get so worked up simply because she doesn't get what she wants.

Competency: Sleeping Abilities
Rating: Partially Meets Expectations
Assessment: Through most of the year, the Pumpkin has not done well in the area of sleeping. She had trouble napping unless she was held for the first few months of her life, and she never got really good at taking naps overall. Although the Pumpkin did sleep through the night from 3 weeks old to 3.5 months old, this was due to being swaddled and (until 2 months old) being in a swing. Since she had trouble with her Self-Soothing Skills (see above) and has always been especially fidgety, she has been unable to get herself to sleep and was unable to stay asleep once she was too big for the swing and out of her swaddle. Between 3.5 months and 7.5 month, the Pumpkin's sleep (and her parents' sleep) became constantly disrupted. At the end of her first year, the Pumpkin showed incredible improvement, sleeping through the night almost consistently for a month, which gives her parents false* hope that she will continue to improve in this area.
Development Action: The Pumpkin should not only resume* continue to sleep through the night, but she should start waking even later, aiming for 7:00 or 7:30. In addition, the Pumpkin should work on falling asleep unassisted. Finally, she should transition from her two shorter naps to one longer nap at some point during the next year.

Competency: Displaying Emotions
Rating: Exceeds Expectations
Assessment: The Pumpkin is very expressive, ensuring there is no confusion as to how she is feeling and what she wants. When she is happy and having fun, she is quick to smile and laugh. When she is curious, she looks inquisitive while she investigates. When she is unhappy, she has the most amazing pout. When she is upset, her entire face and body crumble and the sobs rock the house.
Development Action: The Pumpkin should continue to express her emotions as she sees fit. Her parents would ideally like more verbal communication (see Communication Skills above) when something is wrong, and they hope to be able to reason with her some day to avoid some of the pouting and crying. But at this time, there are no action items.

Competency: Playing Skills
Rating: Meets Expectations
Assessment: The Pumpkin has developed her Playing Skills well during the year. She was able to reach and grab toys pretty early, which made for her first games. Prior to that, she did not play much. As she has gotten older, she has enjoyed games of chase, peekaboo, wrestling and climbing on and in stuff. She also enjoys playing with toys that make noise and light up. She has started to play with stuffed animals. Her favorite games for the past couple of months involve pulling stuff out of the kitchen cabinets.
Development Action: The Pumpkin should continue to enjoy playing interactive games and games with toys. Her parents would appreciate some quieter and less active games, but this is not required. The Pumpkin should begin playing a little more on her own so that her parents could do other things, like cook dinner or put away the dishes while she is around but not interferring. They do not think this is asking too much for the next year.

Competency: Cuddling Skills
Rating: Exceeds Expectations
Assessment: The Pumpkin has learned to give kisses and to give hugs. Although she longer likes to give kisses that much, she often gives hugs when she hasn't been asked. She is also extremely snuggly, especially after waking up. She is sweet to hold, when she is not squirming.
Development Action: In the next year, the Pumpkin should continue to give hugs, kisses and cuddles. In addition, she should learn to use loving phrases to go along with the cuddles (see Communication Skills above). This is an important and possibly life-saving skill that she should cultivate and use to her advantage. Her parents won't mind at all.


Overall Rating: Exceeds Expectations
Overall Assessment: Everything the Pumpkin does is just perfect. Her parents are proud of who she is and what she can do. In some areas, she seems to be ahead of the curve, and in others she is developing right on target. If she is not ahead or on target in a skill compared to other 1 year olds, than she is still just right for her. As a bonus, she is incredibly beautiful. All in all, the Pumpkin is the ideal child for her parents, and their expectations have gone out the window.

*The Pumpkin is apparently going through the 12 month sleep regression, so she is no longer sleeping through the night. But this didn't start until her birthday, so should not be included in her assessment--yet I can't not mention it. Sigh.