What #100happydays Taught Me About Self-Care

I started a little bit late (it was supposed to be the last 100 days of the year) and I missed a day here and there, but I stuck with the #100happydays photo challenge on Instagram. Which is a pretty big feat for me, and believe it or not, my mood did convince me a few times to just scrap the whole thing. All that is involved is taking one picture every day of some small moment of joy, but on some days even that was too much pressure for me.

I have about two weeks left and then I’ve reached 100, but I will probably just keep going. With or without the hashtag. It has taught me a lot of things, and helped me with my mental illnesses.

It has helped me reach full gratitude. And to understand that gratitude can come from a variety of small nooks and crannies in our lives. It is heavily suggested in therapy for depression to keep a gratitude journal, in which you list a handful of things you’re grateful for. Which always made me feel so pressured in that moment to come up with 5 really amazing, huge, fantastic things I was grateful for. And then when I couldn’t come up with 5, I felt like a failure. Which is not exactly the result you’re going for with this exercise.

I learned that gratitude can be a cloud shaped like a bunny. Catching a glimpse of the jaguar at the zoo. Seeing your infant enjoying a toy from a dear friend. Appreciating a rain shower. Literally stopping and smelling the flowers. It’s all these things combined that make for a happy and joyful life. It can’t be all new house, birth of my baby, huge bonus all the time, and that’s ok.

I also learned a very big lesson in mindfulness. I was always trying so hard to force mindfulness on myself, when my inclination is to ruminate on the past or panic about the future. So, when I’d catch myself in those moments, I’d feel shame. Again, not what you’re going for here.

I learned how to take a moment and focus on what’s right there in front of me, even if only for the moment that I snap the picture. And, more importantly, I learned that that counts. Mindfulness is a practice, and there’s no minimum for daily mindfulness. You can get it in there in bits and bops and that’s totally fine. As long as you’re noticing it and realizing it, and focusing on how happy it has made you, you’re doing it right.

And I have learned the power that lies within accomplishing something, finishing a task. It’s not as if I have never finished anything, I’ve seen quite a number of things through to the end, and kept up good habits. But, it can be difficult to remember in a low moment how good it feels to finish something, even if it felt difficult and overwhelming in the process. This is an important thing for anyone with depression to remember. That there is a great benefit to doing things just for the sake of doing them. Things you once enjoyed, but your depression has robbed you of. And also important for anyone with anxiety. It might not happen perfectly, or even be a success at the end, but you must let go of that anxiety and take the outcome for what it is.

It seemed like a simple social media game when I first hopped on board, but I have been amazed at the transformation on my mental health from this simple task of finding and documenting happy moments in my days. It holds me accountable to my social media followers, which is key for me in helping me do things, and do them well. If I am doing something only for myself, that is where I fall short and give up (self-worth not being my strong suit).

Reconsider what a small thing like this could do for your happiness. I took it on because of the advice for anxious introverts to “always say yes.” That is, say yes to invitations, new experiences, simple challenges like #100happydays. Giving up is always an option, so you have an out. But you more than likely will find most experiences to be enriching and enjoyable.

Enjoy below some of my more random moments in this photo challenge. And begin one of your own. Who cares if it’s the middle of January?

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Year in Review 2017

My yearly wrap-up post.

And what a year it was. I spent the first half pregnant with a baby I had no idea what I was going to do with. And the second half parenting a newborn, and dealing with drama in both boys’ schools. And then there’s all these THINGS that are HAPPENING around us, and it’s enough to make you want to hole up in a panic room for the rest of your life. But, we’ve made it. And a new year awaits.

1. What did you this year that you’d never done before?

Had a third baby. Had a daughter! Had a pet run away. Homeschooled. Was pregnant in 100+ degree heat. Bought my own washer and dryer. Ran an Airbnb. Went to the gem show. Saw the Grand Canyon. Camped with a newborn.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I never remember my resolutions at the end of the year. I suppose I resolved to save money, get rid of junk, the usual.

This year my resolutions read like a to do list:

Get my wedding ring fixed. I noticed one of the prongs was broken. This happened to me about 5 or 6 years ago, and the diamond fell out in the bathroom at a museum, and thankfully I retrieved it. Anyway, I took the ring off so that wouldn’t happen again, put it in a drawer and promptly forgot about it.

Get my recalled airbag fixed. They send a card in the mail every so often. They harass my husband over the phone about it. I called once and a guy was supposed to call me back and never did. I made the call, checked it off my to do list, and moved on with my life. I hate when you can’t rely on people. Anyway, I need to call back.

Get to the dentist. It’s been…a while.

Lose weight. Last January I was pregnant, and the January before that I’m sure I needed to gain weight. But this year I’m quite a bit heavier than I’m used to being. Lots of leftover pregnancy weight and combining my breastfeeding appetite with the unhealthy treats that seem to multiply in my house at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I could stand to eat a smoothie once in a while, instead of peanut butter M&Ms.

I need to get my Etsy shop up and running again. I’ve got oodles of candles just sitting around, and they sell at shows, so I’m hoping they’ll sell online too.

I should blog more often.

3. Did anyone close to you die?

A good family friend passed away suddenly.

4. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

More life balance. Less anxiety. Patience. Confidence. Free time.

5. What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory?

Finley’s birthday. Inauguration day. Labor Day weekend (I got to see the Grand Canyon!)

6. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Having another baby. The whole thing was wrought with stress and uncertainty. And the delivery was stressful. In the end she came and everything was fine, and it can thankfully all be a distant memory. It was hard work, and I made it. I did it. We did it.

7. What was your biggest failure?

Letting my anxiety get the best of me. When I don’t actively work on it, life lags. Feelings slump. I fall back into old patterns. It’s not hard to manage, but sometimes I let less important things take center stage. After a few years of doing really well, even through the big move, and an unplanned pregnancy, I sailed. Then, I crumbled. Sometimes I don’t even know why I do that, and I’m learning that it’s ok not to know, but you still need to fix yourself.

8. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Having the baby, and having my tubes tied after. And several mole biopsies, as per the usual.

9. What was the best thing you bought?

The baby. Haha! Just kidding. I mean yes, she was the best thing. But as for material goods: my new freezer. We JUST got it, so I don’t know if I can say it’s the best, but it’s a game changer. I can’t jam enough stuff into this freezer. Crock pot meals, ready-to-eat meals, treats for the boys. Baby food at some point. And I save a lot of stuff in the freezer, basically anything you can freeze. It’s going to work out VERY well.

10. Where did most of your money go?

The baby. More plumbing woes. The husband’s Jeep.

11. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Not being pregnant anymore! (Ever!)

12. What song will always remind you of 2017?

Halleluja by Leonard Cohen. Not because of its recent rise in popularity because of his death in 2016. Though that rise in popularity brought the song back to the forefront of my mind, and I remembered how much I always loved it. It’s hauntingly sweet and heartbreaking and fits perfectly with my mood sometimes.

Wild World by Cat Stevens. As I mentioned before, it makes me think of my cat Coco and how she ran away, unexpectedly. Understandably, but still unexpectedly. I had hopes she would return when the temperature dropped, but we have had temps as low as 29 degrees and she has not shown her face. I can only hope she has found a new, warm home and is being loved and cared for in her senior years.

I am Woman by Helen Reddy. It has been empowering watching women around the world take of the gloves and fight bare-fisted for things to change. Women coming forward against powerful men, and the #metoo movement. For my daughter’s sake, I hope I am witnessing the downfall of the patriarchy. Or I hope at least we’ve knocked it down a few notches.

We Will Rock You by Queen. It is Ferris’ absolute favorite jam, and he is constantly asking me to play it in my car. He has also learned how to ask our Amazon Echo to play it. I hear it a lot. But hey, things could be worse. I will always think of him at age 5 when I hear that song.

13. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?

b) thinner or fatter?

c) richer or poorer?

a) Sadder, I think. Maybe roughly the same. This time of year is always hard for me, so maybe that’s contributing. I have not been happy with the way things are going for our nation, that is definitely not as good as last year. It’s a strange thing, depression. I feel loved, and blessed, and lucky, and comfortable. Just not happy.

b) Oh man, so much fatter. I was a pant size bigger after I had the baby, and that weight has gone NOWHERE. I’m not eating well, that’s the number one contributing factor. And who has time for real exercise anymore?

c) Richer. In that we are paying much less toward our mortgage than we paid for rent in San Francisco. And the Airbnb rental brings in a substantial amount of money. Not a lot richer, but richer.

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Enjoying pregnancy. It was my last, after all. I let the stress cloud all the enjoyment. I am enjoying her as a tiny baby though. I know all too well how fast that goes. As I write this, she is just over the 5 month mark, and she is eating solids and starting to sit up on her own. She’s in size 2 diapers already, and already outgrown some clothes. Just, like, slow down, time!

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stressing. Eating. Stress eating.

16. How did you spend Christmas?

My in-laws were in town (house shopping!). They came over early and we opened gifts and watched the boys play with all their new stuff. It was 75 degrees out, so Brien and Grandpa took the boys to the park to shoot their new cap guns. (Yes they still make cap guns, and yes my husband bought some.) My mother-in-law gave me the inside scoop on these turkeys you cook from frozen in the oven, and they’re all seasoned and ready to go and everything. So we stuck one of those in the oven. And then I was supposed to make mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts, but I went to lay down with the baby so she would nap, and ended up falling asleep myself. Y’all, I got a NAP for Christmas. And my wonderful mother-in-law had made the rest of the food and set the table, and I will forever be grateful. It was a good day.

17. What was your favorite TV program?

I rewatched Gilmore Girls. And Friends. I’ve also enjoyed The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce (a mid-season cancellation BOO), Flaked. Lots of baseball.

18. What did you do on your birthday, and how old are you?

I turned 38 this year. It came and went quietly, as most 30-something birthdays do. I was pregnant, and I think the boys were on Spring Break. Not notable. I will try to make the answer to this question more interesting next year.

Happy new year! Let’s hope 2018 is an upswing.

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Now I’m a Homeschool Mom?

A few weeks ago, I broke up with our preschool.

I don’t know if I had ever mentioned it on here before, but last year Bowie was expelled within 6 weeks of starting at a Montessori elementary school, as a result of “violence” from him. And I never felt the strength to fight them on it, I rolled over and took it. He’s very happy at the local elementary school so, emotionally, we all got over it. But, this time I took a chance and voiced my thoughts, and left the school.

The preschool/Kindergarten and elementary schools are in separate locations, so I was never sure if the preschool had been up to speed on what happened with Ferris’ older brother. But, Ferris had a very good year there last year, and we were feeling like it was right for him.

Ferris started acting out physically toward his peers, and I just started getting the phone calls, and the threats of suspension, and all the stuff that happened with Bowie last year, and I was not going to take it.

Elementary school was free, so whatever. But preschool costs us $800 a month, and Ferris was learning very little there, he really should have gone to Kindergarten this year but didn’t meet the September 1 birthday cut off. We had planned to put him in Bowie’s school next year anyway, and had debated skipping this year of “preschool”, but went for it anyway. It’s nice to have time away from your kids, and to have them socializing, and hopefully being educated. My kids were not getting educated at this school, they were being made to feel separate from the group, and shamed for behavior that was likely instigated by another student.

I make NO excuses for my sons’ physical outbursts, but I know from my background at the co-op in San Francisco that my kids are not instigators, they are reactors. And they need emotional support surrounding any incident, whether they were the attacker or the victim. And this school does not provide it.

When I went to pick Ferris up from school on Friday, he was in a corner alone, for having dumped toys on the ground in a fit of rage, and he was bawling. Not just mad and crying, sobbing. And I had had enough. As had my husband. Who is away at the time for work, but even remotely, he knew the whole situation was wrong.

We come from a background of being taught day after day, and through several parent education classes (required at the co-op) of Hand-in-Hand Parenting, emotional understanding, Gordon Neufeld approaches to parenting. And the Montessori style is so opposite of this, I couldn’t believe it. I figured that if he was going to be there for six-plus hours a day, and be treated as he was being treated, we were basically paying these people $800 a month to emotionally neglect our child. Instead of seeking the cause of the outburst, the merely isolate the child for the outburst and move on with their day. This is not effective discipline, nor is it the right way to treat a child.

As far as learning was going, he can write his name. Barely. He knows some numbers, and can count to 12. At the same age, Bowie was much further along. Going to preschool a mere 3 hours a day. So, obviously not a ton of practical learning was happening for Ferris.

And when they call you and say, “He pushed another child today. If anything else happens today, you’ll have to come pick him up.”, it takes a great deal of patience and cheek biting not to shout, “YOU ARE THE TEACHERS. THIS IS YOUR SCHOOL. IT IS YOUR JOB, NOT MINE, TO MAKE SURE HE FOLLOWS SCHOOL RULES.”

Ahem.

So, long story slightly less longer than it could be, we quit. We left. We broke up with them.

There are other preschools in Tucson that we could afford that could do a slightly better job. But, I can take him out and do learning activities, and do academic workbooks with him at home, for free. 

In 10 months, they will finally deem him age appropriate for Kindergarten, and he will go to Bowie’s school, and that will be that.

I have been asked by all the people I emotionally unloaded upon if I thought I’d be ok having him at home all the time. I’m not known for a past with extremely great experiences in this department. I know that. But, the prospect does not scare me. I have learned a lot in my 9.25 years as a parent, and I can figure this out. And it’s only for a while, less than a year. He will be home with me and we will just get to hang out and be together, he will not be shamed for having typical 5-year-old emotional outbursts, and we will be saving a good chunk of money. Win-win-win.

That said, I’m now a homeschool mom, I guess? On a technicality? And I’m looking for ideas on resources. Good places to go and do educational things. Good workbooks or companies with good learning materials. I’m not going to go all out here, I just want to teach him his letters and numbers, and some basic concepts. So, if you homeschool, or have homeschooled, or are just up on the subject, please pass along any applicable info. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and obviously here. Lay it on me.

Five

On Sunday, my dear sweet Ferris, my now middle child, turned five. Aside from being super mad that he can’t go to Kindergarten now, and didn’t magically overnight learn how to read and write, he’s pretty excited.

He’s as hilarious as he is cute, and he’s pretty darn cute. And he’s so unique, and not afraid to let his personality show. And a unique boy needs a unique celebration. The day started off with some birthday pancakes at Denny’s. Then, we took him on a shopping spree at Toys R Us, mainly because we forgot to get presents until the last minute, but if he asks, we thought it would just be more fun!

birthday pancakes

Then it was off to Golf N Stuff with friends. It’s a place here in Tucson with mini-golf, bumper boats, go karts and an arcade. It’s basically the best place to spend a kid’s birthday. After that, we headed to Dairy Queen for ice cream, and then at bedtime he got to play with his new toys in his for a while before going to bed. All in all, a good day had by everyone.

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birthday ice cream

He’s becoming his own little person in so many ways. Of course, anything his big brother loves, he loves too. But he’s always putting his own little spin on all of it.

He mispronounces like, a million words. I don’t have the heart to correct him, it’s just way too sweet. Some examples: kitty glitter (kitty litter), sprinkle water (sparkling water), Pandaspress (Panda Express, his favorite restaurant), flip flaps (flip flops), roaster coaster (roller coaster), Golfing Stuff (Golf N Stuff) and scream time (screen time). He also likes to tell us how he’s feeling using the infinitive. “I feel like to poop.” “I feel like to sleep.” “I feel like to have cereal.”

Favorite things: Scream time (see above), Minecraft, Legos, cats, dogs, dinosaurs, robots, knock knock jokes, salami, dirt, horsepower (when we are driving and the engine revs), Jeep adventures, arts and crafts, root beer, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, McDonald’s Playplaces, and making poop and fart jokes.

Least favorite things: not getting a turn during Scream Time, having his picture taken, the fact that his car door is still child locked, bedtime, leaving school, chocolate (weirdo), and apparently, riding in someone else’s car (we tried a carpool thing with friends and it did NOT go over well).

It’s amazing to watch him grown and become his own little man. So much of him reminds me of when my younger brother was a kid, which is very heartwarming. I’m just thankful he hasn’t needed stitches yet, very much UNLIKE my younger brother.

Happy fifth birthday to my dearest Ferris, I’m sorry you’re the middle child now, but being sandwiched between siblings has got to have some benefit to it, right? I vow to make sure I remember to douse you with as much mom love as I can. I hope you have a great year, even though you don’t get to go to Bowie’s school quite yet. Here’s to 5 and all the exciting stuff to come.

36 Weeks: Nesting and Realizations

I was officially 36 weeks on Monday. We’re in the last month here, folks. I can see, feel, taste, practically touch the end of this pregnancy.

Sunday was VERY exciting and also quite stressful. I woke up in the morning with lower back pain similar to my normal menstrual cramps. And I managed to get that pain to go away with a heating pad. But then I was having Braxton Hicks off and on. They’d only last for about 10 seconds or so, but they were consistent and pretty powerful, and I’d have a half hour on, an hour off, another half hour on, for quite a while. I laid down and drank a bunch of water and just tried to relax. (HAHAHAHA me, relax? Sure. But I tried.)

I napped a little, watched some Netflix, and then HELLOOOO I had a few real, actual contractions. The kind that hurt. The kind that last for a minute. Now, don’t fret, Internet. I only had three of them over the course of about five hours, not grounds for calling the doctor. But I did start to flip out. I was like, little girl, we are not officially 36 weeks until tomorrow, and I know the goal is to keep you in there for at least another week, can you not start trouble with me right now?

And the next day I felt fine. I had probably spent too much time in the heat, walking around. We went down to Tombstone for their “Freedom Days” Fourth of July celebration, and also because it was the weekend, we were bored, and it’s a nice little one-day getaway. But mama probably should have sat longer. I drank a ton of water, but it was still crazy hot. Thankfully the temps have settled down a bit, and our monsoon season should start anytime now.

I had an OB appointment that next morning, and she checked my cervix, just to be sure, given what happened with my early labor with Ferris, and I am only at 1cm, which is practically nothing for a third baby. Panic session over. For now.

But it did throw me into mega nesting mode. I had Brien get the bed all set up, I have the changing station all set up, I’m washing all the sheets, blankets, clothes, everything her teeny tiny body will be touching.

And after telling about a million people that she’s due at the end of this month, it has really dawned on me that she’s due at the end of this month. As in, anytime now. Like whenever. I could just be going about my day, and then TA-DA! Lights, camera, action!

OMG you guys, I’m going to have three kids.

34 Weeks, 113 Degrees

It got to 113 degrees today. And I stayed in air-conditioning for most of it, but holy hell. It’s hot. Even now, as I prepare to publish this, it’s 7pm and still 110.

And I’m GIGANTIC.

I am 34 weeks pregnant today. I am measuring 36 weeks, according to the OBGYN. I am huge, and I’ve gained a lot of weight. I’m sweaty. All the time. I guess the technical term for it is “glowing,” but I’m sweaty, y’all. I’ve got serious brain fog from heat, and hormones, and the stress of keeping my other two spawn busy while they are not in school.

We’ve almost got everything that we need, thanks to our wonderful, generous friends and family. I forget sometimes how far our village reaches, but have been reminded. I didn’t have to buy a stitch of clothing for her (well, I did, obvs. but I didn’t have to), and what we didn’t receive in a care package of hand-me-downs delivered right to our door, we received from our Amazon wish list, almost to completion.

All we need to buy is a carseat. Ha! That’s like the ONLY thing you need to take a baby home with you. You don’t even need diapers or clothes if you can’t swing it, but a carseat you need. And that’s the one thing we don’t have! I have begun to set up a few things. We got a new dresser and I set up a diapering station on it. And I gave baby girl the top drawer all to herself. So, I’m emerging from total denial. See, here’s how an unplanned pregnancy goes. Well, for me at least, and I’m betting a whole lot of other mamas who got surprised.

Month 1: nope.

Month 2: nope.

Month 3: I can start telling people, but it’s not really happening. Nope.

Month 4: nope.

Month 5: nope.

Month 6: Ok, maybe there’s something in there.

Month 7: There may or may not be a baby coming. I can’t say for sure.

Month 8: Well, crap.

So, it’s been weird preparing for her, all the while sort of denying that any of this was actually happening. It felt theoretical. Hypothetical. But nope, she’s real. She’s real and she kicks the crap out of my ribs, and punches my bladder, and gets the hiccups in the middle of the night, and she’s coming, and everyone in her life is thrilled. Yes, even mama, finally.

Yes, once I re-learn how to breastfeed, and diaper her, and make sure she’s the right temperature all the time (because, see, this information was removed to make room for 3rd grade math and preschool snack days and the main roads in Tucson) I’m sure it will be a joy, just like it was when her big brothers came into my life.

Anxiety-wise, this has been one of the most difficult times in my life. Just when I start seeing a psychiatrist here in Tucson, just when I begin to make progress with CBT, and continue to be successfully sober, I get this giant bomb dropped on my whole life. It set me back, WAAAAAAAY back. But somehow I think I’ve come out the other end, mostly intact. Yes, I realize the hardest days are in front of me, but I’ve got a good set of safe coping mechanisms and the love of my friends and family to see me through.

I’m hoping she comes early. I’m getting an early vibe. I’ve been having contractions like crazy (I mean, the fake kind, and not in any regular pattern, but contractions nonetheless). And if my trend of having babies continues, my 36 or 37 week appointment, whenever they do an internal exam, will put me into labor. And she’ll be out in like, an hour. But, we’ll see. All babies are different. She’ll come when she’s ready.

(Which better be early.)

Thanks for seeing this thing through with me.

34 weeks

Two Years. And a week.

I’m a little late with this post. Honestly, I’ve just been so tired and busy and sick and busy and tired and hungry and tired to find time to sit in front of the keyboard. When mama suffers, the blog suffers. Many apologies.

Anyhow, as most regular readers know, April 22, 2015 is my sober date. So, I just earned my two-year chip. And I’m very grateful and happy, but cautious (as usual).

I remember when I earned one year sober, how excited I was. It felt like graduation day. Like a real accomplishment. And then a few weeks later I thought, now what? The idea that I had to do that, over and over again, every year, for the rest of my life, was a bit daunting. And then I went on to have one of the most challenging years on record. It was no 2013, but it came close.

It was touch-and-go when we first moved to Tucson. I was determined to make a fresh start, and leave all that AA stuff behind in San Francisco. But, I got very depressed about the move and started having thoughts. Those thoughts. So, I bounced here and there around Tucson, trying to find a good meeting, and luckily I did. Those people saved me. I needed them, and as any AA will tell you, they needed me too.

I wanted to give a gift to everyone at that meeting. For all the support they offered up, without me even having to ask. From the moment I walked in, I felt welcomed and wanted, in the way only AA can make an addict feel. And I owed so much of my second year to them, and their help.

And on the evening of my 2nd sober birthday, I was confronted with visions of my former self. Very up close and personal. It was like a message from my higher power (which hasn’t taken a real form in my mind yet, but I have ideas). “This is what it was like for others to watch you. Never forget that.” Lately I had been harboring resentment (a big AA no-no) toward people in my life who seemed, to me, to ignore the emotional pain I was in back then, and chose instead to focus on the alcohol problem. How could they not see? How could they not care? But, I suddenly realized that evening that they just didn’t know what else to do. It was the most obvious and fixable of my many issues, and a good place to start. I see that now.

The next year of my life will be full of challenges, as every year is. But, this year I will have an infant. My third child. That alone is going to toss up challenge after challenge. I just have to remember all the things I’ve survived, and remember that this will be joyful. Stressful, but joyfully stressful.

Thanks for your support, everyone. Onward and upward!

2years

22 weeks and counting

I am 22 weeks with my baby girl. I have been so bad about posting updates and keeping everyone in the loop. But, time is slipping by oh so fast, with the other two kids to keep up with, and life just refusing to slow down.

While I am excited about her arrival (though cautiously excited because my anxiety never lets myself get too excited about anything), I have been plagued with some pretty serious negative emotions, and it’s made this whole thing very difficult. I’m panicking for two now.

My anxiety has been a constant in my life, going back as far as I can remember. But I feel like it is escalating as I get older. Partly because motherhood is, well, motherhood. And also partly because I found my way through an extremely difficult couple of years by always having a bottle of alcohol by my side, and sometimes I am afraid I will lose control again, and let myself sink to that point again. It is a constant terror of mine: that I will relapse again. My psychiatrist tells me to think positively about my awareness. That being on guard all the time will work in my favor. And he’s right. But it’s exhausting.

I am on a lower dose of my antidepressant than I was before I got pregnant. Just to keep things safe. But I can definitely tell the difference. It mostly keeps the depression at bay, but I have some pretty terrible days. Whereas before, it was a lot of fairly good days, almost no terrible days. It just feels like something isn’t right. I don’t know exactly what, but something is off. I am allowed to take my anti-anxiety medication in moderation, but even that doesn’t seem to help much. I can barely go five minutes without letting my intrusive thoughts evolve to the point that I and/or the baby and/or my whole family are dead. I can’t get it out of my mind. It hasn’t been this bad for a very long time. I’m the one-day-at-a-time girl again right now, which is working. But gosh I want to be “normal.”

The “logic” behind worrying about anything and everything is that you can prepare yourself for the worst. And if you worry about the worst, it probably won’t happen. If you go along in life all happy-go-lucky, not a care in the world, that’s when the bad stuff sneaks up behind you and side swipes you on a random weekday morning. Just when you thought everything was ok. So, worry! Worry it up. Of course, I know logically that this is absurd, life will happen as it happens whether I worry or not, so I may as well spare myself the anxiety. It’s just not quite that easy.

I find myself doubting whether or not I can handle the early days with a newborn without feeling swallowed up by the whole thing, unable to breathe, unable to move. Those early days are so hard. You’re all hopped up on hormones and lack of sleep. And not to mention the physical healing you have to go through. And with the demands of life scratching at the door like a dog that needs to be let out, you can feel very guilty and ashamed for focusing on your baby so much.

The comedian Jim Gaffigan made a joke once about having a fifth child. “It’s like you’re drowning, and then someone hands you a baby.” Which is pretty funny, I laughed very hard at that. But, I think it can also apply to a mom with serious mood disorders trying to be just a mom, just a regular mom who can do it all and be it all (even though we all know in the back of our minds that those expectations are just too high). It’s like you’re drowning in your illness, and then someone hands you your baby. Good luck, hon!

But, hey. There’s also her gorgeous ultrasound pictures. And the reassurance that she’s growing and developing wonderfully. And I can look forward to looking into her eyes for the first time. And smelling her big, bald head. And watching her sleep in my arms. And watching her brothers bond with and love her. There are positives here. I was avoiding buying anything because I was afraid I’d jinx something. But I bought a few tiny, adorable pieces of clothing. And no matter how many babies you have, it’s still mind blowing to imagine that a person tiny enough to fit into that stuff will soon come out of you. Just mind blowing.

The first thing I ever said to Bowie was, “I’m so glad you’re out of me.” And when they handed Ferris to me, I said in a hormonal daze, “I forgot how small these things are.” I’m hoping I can come up with something a little more brilliant to say to her. To my daughter. To my little fork in the road. I will be nervous, I will battle my illnesses, but I will be able to see the beauty in all of it, I just know it.

Just a little more than halfway done, and holding on. Thank you everyone who has offered kindness and support. This mama needs it.

The Story of my Relapse

It was two years ago this very day that I relapsed after coming home from rehab. It’s a story I have alluded to on here whenever I talk about my recovery, but I’ve never told the story in full. To anyone really.

I remember so vividly that it was this day for two reasons. Nobody would shut up about how it was Pi Day, and my husband had a very massive surfing accident that earned him extensive surgery and an overnight hospital stay.

The day started off like any other, really. It was a Saturday, the boys and I were having a lazy morning at home. Brien went off early to surf, as he often did.

As I was getting out of the shower, I heard the doorbell ring. At that time, we had a gate on our house and you had to unlock it with a key, or get buzzed in. Brien did not bring his keys with him when he surfed, so I was pretty sure it was him. I told Bowie to let daddy in. Instead of pushing the button upstairs, he decided to go downstairs and greet daddy.

As I was getting dressed, I heard Brien yelling my name. And saying, “Bowie, go back upstairs, it’s too scary.”

I went down there and Brien was covered in blood, and his nose was…not where it should be. “I think I broke my nose,” he said, cool as a cucumber. “I need to go to the emergency room.”

So, off we went. And the boys and I waited in the waiting room for a while after Brien got checked in, eating breakfast from the vending machines. I got texts from him every once in a while with an update, but he didn’t know much. Eventually he told me we might as well go home, it was probably going to be a while.

And then I didn’t hear from him for hours. When he did text he said he needed surgery, he’d text when he was able to again.

In my mind I’m like SURGERY. Dammit. Is my husband ok? How much will we have to pay for this? I was going into what I can now recognize as Panic Mode. A state that, once I am in it, I have a hard time regulating my thoughts and emotions, and I have a hard time coming back down to earth.

Hours and hours later, I still hadn’t heard anything. I took the boys to the park to get my mind off of things. And, I talked myself into having a drink. I figured that rehab had “fixed” me. That it was ok to have a little wine to take the edge off. I went directly to the grocery store and bought a bottle. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Afterward, I regretted it, of course. But I didn’t crave more, so I still thought I was ok. But, I did crave more in the days that followed. Every couple of days I’d have more. Until eventually, I was right back where I started.

My dad and younger sister came to San Francisco for a visit a few weeks later. I drank my way through their visit, using it to “calm my nerves” or whatever nonsense alcoholic thing I was telling myself. Meanwhile I made a fool of myself and ruined their whole visit. I regret it deeply.

My husband and my rehab counselor urged me heavily to return to the rehab house for a short stay, get my feet back on the ground, try some new strategies. I refused. I insisted that I was fine. Everything was fine. Just a slip up from the stress. I was ok.

Except I was not ok. One afternoon, I picked Bowie up from his OT appointment and as I pulled away from the curb and realized I had a flat tire. A totally flat tire, not the kind of flat tire I could have limped home with. So, I pulled over and called Brien to come help me.

I can change a flat tire. I know how and everything. It’s just that…I was in no shape to be changing a flat tire that afternoon. He knew it, I knew it. Bowie’s OT knew it, everyone at Ferris’ preschool knew it, it was one of the lowest and most humiliating moments of my life.

I went back to rehab for 10 days. I was terrified. If rehab couldn’t work on me, then what hope was there? Would I ever be able to get over this? Would anyone ever want to speak to me again? After a few days of drying out, I was able to see very clearly how and why I wanted to stay sober.

Seeing life as it could be, with me feeling happy and strong, and then returning to that dark and awful place, showed me that it was the happiness I wanted. Everything they were teaching me at rehab suddenly made sense. And I finally, finally took the advice of three doctors, two rehab counselors and dozens of friends and accepted medication for my depression and anxiety.

When I returned home, things were very tense between me and Brien for a while. I didn’t know how to interact with my kids. I didn’t know who knew my secrets, who was mad and judging me and who still wanted to be my friend.

But, I got a part time job, and I went to AA regularly, and I soldiered on. Turns out the majority of people didn’t know, and the ones who did know didn’t judge me. The ones who did judge, they were few, and I knew my life would go on without them. I had help, I had support. I made it to a year without a hitch. That day, as many of you know, is April 22.

I would not recommend a relapse to anyone in recovery. The fall is so much harder than the first time around, and the pit is so much harder to climb out of. It is a very, very dark place. You will regret it.

But what I will say is that for me, personally, it was one of the best things that could ever have happened to me. I finally fully hit rock bottom. Before that, I had been hovering just above. I had my eyes opened to the damage my addiction was really making. I was aware of the control that alcohol had over me, and I was determined to regain that control. I finally admitted that maybe my mood disorders were too much for me to handle on my own. And by taking medication and seeking therapy, I was among so many other people doing the same thing.

I hate Pi Day, for what it represents for me and my family. It was a dark, scary day and I have a lot of bad memories of all of it. And worst of all, I caved to my addiction, which I still feel pretty ashamed of, even though they all tell me not to be.

I learned a lot from the whole situation. I’m not proud of it, but I also can’t discount the benefits it created, ironically. They say that relapse is the rule, not the exception. Not to condone relapsing, but to remind those of us who have relapsed that we are still ok, we can still beat our addiction, we are still worthy of recovery and still worthy of love.

I’m lucky to have been surrounded by an extremely supportive community, and to have a team of people working with me. Some are not so fortunate, but you can be an advocate for someone who is suffering. You can’t force anyone to recover, they have to be ready to do it on their own, or it won’t work, it just won’t. But, you can let them know you’re there for them. Millions of other addicts have gotten better. There is help out there.

Unpredictable

Life can be so weird sometimes. And often, when we get to a place of comfort and normalcy, something drops in our laps. Something we never saw coming. Something we never even imagined might happen.

Thanksgiving week, I found myself fainting while I did yard work. And peeing constantly. And the official nail in the coffin: not getting my period.

I took a home pregnancy test and got a very faint positive. I took another test: another faint positive. I started wondering if any of my medications might cause a false positive, but Dr. Google seriously let me down. As you can imagine, there was very conflicting information, and nothing regarding my specific medications. So anyway, the next day I took 4 more tests (just to be sure) and got 4 positives. Four.

And I commenced to freak the hell out. And then I had the unbridled pleasure of making my husband freak the hell out right along with me.

I was on the birth control pill. No one saw this coming. Not me, not him, not my gynecologist. We had two boys. We were done. This was it. This was our family, this was our future.

I mean, we had certainly discussed the possibility of adding one more little one to the mix. But, with all the struggles I had been through, and then with the move to a new city and purchase of a new home, we just decided that it wasn’t a good time, and that by the time it was a “good” time, it would probably be on the later side to be contemplating such a thing. So, no more kiddos.

And suddenly: baby.

I’m going to be a mother again. I’m going to go through 9 months of pregnancy. Again. I’m going to have to go through labor and delivery. Again. I’m going to be changing diapers. Again. And when I’m 40! Unless this is a super genius baby who will by potty trained by then. Finger crossed.

I wasn’t thrilled when I found out, but I also wasn’t disappointed in any way. It was a shock, and shock takes some time to wear off. I went through all the stages of grief (grief for my no-diaper, big-kid mom life) and ended up here, at 15 weeks, feeling…ok. Just ok. Which in turn makes me feel guilty. Shouldn’t I be over the moon about this? Babies are a blessing, and all of that? What’s wrong with me?

And the fretting, oh my word the fretting. I was a basket case when I was pregnant with Ferris, because he was my post-miscarriage baby. My rainbow baby. I was a nervous wreck with him. But this time, it’s so much worse. I am going to be 38 in a few weeks. That’s oooollllldddd according to the OBGYN. And everything that can normally go wrong, can really go wrong. There’s Down’s syndrome and zika and heart defects and my lord, a million other things I can’t even think of. We didn’t plan for this baby, and the prospect of something being wrong is too much to bear. I’ve been plenty reassured that the odds are in our favor. And our chromosomal testing came back totally and completely normal. But, that still doesn’t calm an anxious mind.

Oh, and then there’s the fact that we don’t have any stuff. We have NO. STUFF. No crib, no changing table, no carseat, no stroller, no high chair, no swings, no carriers, no bibs, no blankets, no clothes, nada. We were done. We gave it all away. Which I had heard is a surefire way to get yourself a surprise baby, but I just chuckled at it. Let me be a PSA for you here, don’t get rid of the baby stuff until you go through menopause. Just to be sure. Thankfully, what we do have are plenty of friends and family with small children who have lots of goodies to pass along to us. I’m so grateful for the kindness of our “village” right now.

And the real kicker: it’s a girl. A GIRL. No more Boy Mom Dot Com here. I mean, a girl is wonderful. So exciting. I’m happy about it. But, with boys, I knew what I was doing. I have no idea how to raise a girl. Especially in these crazy times we live in. Thank goodness for the big, wide Internet parenting community.

But anyway, it’s happening. I have definitely felt pregnant. Mega morning sickness, the worst of all my pregnancies. I was showing by 8 weeks, so fun when you’re not ready to tell people yet. You just look like you’ve been hitting the chocolate Hostess Donettes too hard. Which I had. So, fair enough. I have also been so tired, I nearly nod off at red lights. And gassy. GOOD. LORD. I have made a lifestyle out of crop dusting entire aisles at Target.

Cravings have been coming and going. Previously when I’ve been pregnant, I’ve avoided lunchmeats and fish totally grossed me out. This time? Give me all the sliced turkey and fish you’ve got. I know, I know. But I’ve been craving protein like mad. And turkey sandwiches were all I could stomach for several weeks. Cravings for sweets come and go. With Bowie and Ferris, I couldn’t stop with the sweets. It was all I wanted. This time, meh. Food turn offs include anything lemon flavored (but oddly not lemons themselves) and French fries (I KNOW!).

So, I’m 15 weeks and doing fine. Except for the occasional freak out about doing this all over again. And having more kids than parents in our house. Stick around, because it’s about to get very exciting over here!