Posts Tagged ‘fear’

out with the tide

I’ve been trying for days to write about where we’re at with my son; his behavioral challenges have anted up significantly over the last few weeks and I know I need both the venting and commenter insights this space affords. However I just can’t. Maybe it’s too fresh, I don’t know. Words just won’t come. So, I’m going to punt that topic for now and try to do Peep’s birth story instead, which itself is 4+ months overdue.


I’ll skip the days (weeks!) of prodromal labor, during which I contracted sporadically during the day and regularly during the evenings, for hours on end. Instead I’ll start two days before Peep arrived. It was early Thursday morning, around 3:30 am, when the contractions hadn’t stopped all night and seemed to be worsening, that I finally woke my husband and pronounced it Go Time. We called our friends, and husband took the two big kids over to their house while I put a few last-minute items in the hospital bag.

While husband parked, I shuffled and panted my way up to L&D triage, which was blessedly slow and they got me in a “bed” very quickly. We watched my contractions on the monitor, and I felt so validated as the enormous double peaks scrawled across the paper; the contractions weren’t a figment of my imagination nor just trifling little cramps. They were real, they were strong, and they were frequent. They just weren’t doing anything much, so I was sent home after a few hours. Oh, that long, hangdog slog back out of L&D. I felt like Napoleon, slinking from Waterloo.

We arrived home just as the kids would be heading to school. We let our friends know, and that we’d play pickup by ear, and I grumpily settled in bed to continue laboring ineffectively. (I should mention, at this point, that my separated pubic symphysis prevented me from walking or exercising my way into stronger labor; any movement hurt, even rolling over or trying to sit up.) 

The minutes and hours crept by in a strange, slow blur. My mother arrived in the afternoon, and she and my husband talked in hushed voices while I tried to rest. The contractions didn’t diminish, but they didn’t worsen, either. I manuevered and re-positioned constantly, trying to find any spot that would give even the slightest relief. We decided that while we didn’t know when things would actually get going, it was best not to let the kids come home and see me in this much distress. I was having a hard time moving through the contractions, and I didn’t even want to see them and try to put a happy face on. Our friends picked them up from school and would keep them for the night. I knew they’d be thrilled to have this extended sleepover with their besties, so I didn’t worry about them too much.

That evening found us back in triage, I was contracting regularly still, and they felt stronger and more intense to me, but upon being checked – by the resident with the world’s biggest hands, just think on that for a minute – I hadn’t progressed beyond 3ish cm and so I couldn’t be admitted. 

I can’t remember if I cried. I probably did. By now it was late Friday night, I’d been awake for two days, was in constant pain, and was SO TIRED. They gave me a shot of morphine and sent me home again. By the time I was back in my own bed, the morphine was working and the contractions felt like a mere dull roar. I slept for three hours, until I woke again to pain so intense I white-knuckled the headboard and moaned – no, growled – for my husband to apply counter pressure. (I’ve heard women speak with awe and amazement at how primal childbirth is, and how our animal nature takes over, etc. That may be true, and I do truly appreciate the magical insanity that is labor and birth. However. I do not like the strange, deep, bellowing sounds I emit when in that kind of pain. It just makes the whole experience feel even more out of control and surreal.)

This phase lasted until dawn, every contraction rendering me a gasping, sobbing wreck, desperately clutching my own ass in an undignified attempt to find leverage on the pain and subdue it. At some point during the morning I decided I had to go back to the hospital, if only to get more morphine. While the thought of riding in the car was unbearable, and the thought of having to walk out of L&D again even more so, I just could not manage the pain at home on my own. The breathing, the stretching, the focal points, the meditation, the music… I’d tried it all and come up short. I needed help.

Saturday mid morning found me in the same bed in triage, getting checked by the same large-handed resident. (“That’s the guy,” I hissed at my mom when I saw him outside the door.) I dreaded what he would say, dreaded hearing that my cervix continued to clamp itself at an uncooperative number, dreaded being in labor purgatory for another indefinite, insufferable stretch.

“Well, that’s a six!” he pronounced brightly, and everyone in the room cheered. I was beyond relieved. So far beyond. I think my husband was, too. He’s one for action, and all the limbo was driving him crazy.

It took the usual amount of rigamarole to get me up to a delivery room, and I remember upon arrival my mom and husband exclaiming over the beautiful view of the mountains, and feeling a twinge of sadness that I couldn’t enjoy it properly, what with the miserable pain and all. I decided I wanted an epidural, despite my desire to go without this time. When I had imagined myself having an unmedicated labor, I had imagined that the hours leading up to delivery would be brief; third babies, after all, have had the way well-paved. What I didn’t know was that I’d be awake for nearly 48 hours and be in active labor for more than 20 of those hours prior to delivery, and would have burned through all my reserves before the action even got started. So even though it wasn’t what I wanted, it was what I WANTED. 

My nurse was super nice, young but warmly maternal and gentle, getting all her intake chores done while making me feel like she was completely focused on me. My mom and husband called various family, letting everyone know that things were happening. I sweated and struggled through every contraction, hoping that the anesthesiologist would hustle it up already. She arrived, young like the nurse but brisk and utterly lacking in bedside manner. “Hold still,” I remember her saying, as I shook silently with the effort of not writhing through a contraction, trying to curl into the proper C-shape that would open my vertebrae. My husband held my shoulders, and as the epidural took effect, I said something about how it was weirdly working feet-first, looked up at him, and that’s the last thing I remember for a while.

It turns out the anesthesiologist punched the needle too far, into the subdural space, but didn’t realize it and injected the full drug load, which instantly bottomed out my blood pressure and caused me to lose consciousness. I was out for about two hours, which on the bright side gave me a nice break from the pain marathon, however it did cause my mom, husband and nurse a serious case of fretting. Fortunately I didn’t go into respiratory distress, which can be common in these situations; unfortunately later that night I would get the first pangs of a resulting spinal headache, something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

The return to consciousness was slow. At first I was aware of voices and sounds around me; slowly I realized they were talking about me, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. I didn’t know what had happened, or even if the baby was ok. I managed to open my eyes and my OB’s face hovered over mine. Her lips were moving, but nothing was making any sense. I must have managed to ask about the baby, because I remember finally understanding her say “the baby is fine” over and over. I think I was crying, I was certainly disoriented and scared.

As my head cleared, I realized I had no sensation in my body and couldn’t move. The perks of this situation were immediately obvious: no pain! Gradually I was able to talk and understand more about what had happened. I was still in labor – the contractions were merrily chugging away on the monitor – but couldn’t feel a thing. My OB pulled up a chair and said it was time to go over the game plan.

Up until now, the game plan had been to go for an unmedicated, vaginal delivery if circumstances allowed. My previous baby had macrosomia and shoulder dystocia, and we’d had conversations about the probability of it happening again with this baby, and what the best management strategies would be. (You can read more about it in my last post.) 

Now, the long labor and failed epidural threw me a curve ball. At least, I felt it did. The OB was honest and said she really didn’t know at this point what to recommend. A c-section would obviously eliminate the chance of shoulder dystocia, but carried its own risks and difficult recovery. However, she said, if I was going to proceed with a vaginal delivery, I had to be ok with her breaking the baby’s collar bone or breaking my pelvis to get her out, should a dystocia occur. No, I said. No. I’m not ok with breaking the baby.

I thought and thought and thought, and felt like a c-section would be the safest path for both me and the baby. I couldn’t face getting another epidural after the last one failed so spectacularly, but I didn’t think I could get through delivery at this point without one. I was afraid I didn’t have the strength to push, after everything I’d been through. I didn’t think I could squat or get into optimal positions for getting the baby’s shoulders through. I just didn’t think I had it in me anymore, as much as it hurt to admit it.

My husband told me he’d respect my decision, but reminded me how much I wanted to do this naturally, and told me he believed in me, that everything that had led us here was fate. He wanted me to try. That he had so much faith in me meant a lot, though I didn’t think fate had anything to do with anything. 

During this conversation the feeling was returning to my body. The contractions broke over me in waves, bearable at first, but growing quickly in intensity. The pressure was on to make a decision. I really was leaning towards a c-section, the last thing I thought I wanted, but now suddenly seemed like the safest path. I looked at my mom; she nodded. She wanted me to choose safety. She believed in me too, believed that I knew myself enough to make the best choice.

As the decision slid into place in my mind, another kind of sliding was happening. I felt something shift and move down below, a strange but unmistakable sensation. “Oh my god, she’s here,” I gasped. “THE BABY IS IN MY BUTT.” (Because that’s what it felt like, and because my subconscious knew this birth story would need some humor later, apparently.)

The doctor’s eyebrows went up, she checked me, and it was true: I was at a 10 and ready to push. “It looks like she made this decision for us,” the OB said, and the room kind of started whirring around me, suddenly full of people running back and forth and moving things around and clanking the bed into its fully functional position. I remember looking down and everyone had white galoshes on. It’s one of the visual details from the entire experience that stands out the most.

Meanwhile the contractions were raging full steam ahead, and while I was relieved not to have to dither about what to do, I was also having an incredibly difficult time getting through each contraction. Grabbing my hips, scrabbling backwards in the bed like I could escape them, breathing through pursed lips so hard I was spitting all over everything. My husband and mom were holding my hands, encouraging me, but none of it got through. I was very near panic.

“Open your eyes,” my OB said quietly. “Open your eyes. Look at me.” So I did, and it somehow helped. “Stay here, stay with me.” She was gentle but so authoritative that I just somehow did. I still felt crazed with pain, but also more grounded in knowing that the only person who could finish this was me. I took a huge breath and started pushing.

The pain was unbelievable. Indescribable. Stretching, searing, hot, impossible. Just as I thought to myself I wouldn’t be able to do it long enough to get the baby out, the OB said, “Her head is out!” and I was stunned with gratitude. I pushed again, against the stirrups, against the pain, against the fear that had been building to this moment. I felt like a wild thing, a hurricane, a supernova: the sensation of opening was slithery and explosive and unbearable.

“It’s out,” the OB said, her shoulder is out.” Everyone cheered, and I cried, incredulous. Her shoulder was out. She was going to be ok. One final push and the rest of her slid through me, like the tide going out. And suddenly there she was, nestled in the OB’s lap, a deep yellowish purple, eyes tightly closed. I stared and stared, drinking her in. “She’s not crying,” I cried, as they lifted her to my chest. She opened her eyes. 

I don’t remember the order of what happened next. I know she spent some time in the warmer, and I got cleaned and stitched up, and she nursed, and my husband and mom held her. I know we all marveled at her, and the path her coming had taken. Mostly though I just remember holding her, looking into her face, and her looking back into mine.



*David Copperfield

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spark of life

Big news! I’m pregnant! And… due in ten days! Uh, and absolutely terrible at updating this blog. Sorry. But anyway, baby #3 is coming soon, and we’re very happy and excited about that, despite knowing full well that the impact of a newborn will be a mixed bag for our family. With a 10 year old and almost 7 year old, we’ve gotten accustomed to the luxuries of life without nap schedules, or diapers, or choking hazards, and revisiting all that will be… interesting, especially for the big kids.

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably blocked me by now, because in recent weeks I’ve gotten very vocal (ok whiny) about wanting to get this baby OUT already. I feel like an asshole about it, because I know so many people would give anything to be pregnant and can’t, or have had horribly frightening experiences with preterm birth, and that my seemingly “I’m so uncomfortable I can’t stand being preggo ANY MORE” tweets must appear shallow or offensive or both. I don’t want to offend or alienate anyone, of course, yet I can’t be disingenuous about my own truth, either.

Here’s the thing. I want this baby out NOW because I am absolutely terrified what will happen if she stays in another minute more. My last baby was macrosomic, and his shoulder got stuck during childbirth. This is called dystocia, and is highly risky both to mother and baby; because the head is already delivered but not the chest, the cord is compressed against the baby in the birth canal and the baby suffers oxygen deprivation. This can be fatal, or cause brain damage, or permanent nerve damage and paralysis, or or or. 

There are a few things the medical team can do to help free the stuck shoulder, including breaking the baby’s collarbone (GAH, I KNOW) or performing something called the McRobert’s maneuver on the mother: pushing her knees up somewhere behind her ears and then applying significant pressure to her pubic bone to release the baby’s shoulder. The latter is what they did in my delivery experience, resulting in a perfectly healthy baby, thank the stars, and a separated pubic symphysis and dislocated pelvis for me. This took months and months to recover from, was extremely painful, and limited my physical activities (such as, you know, walking) severely. But I eventually recovered, and life went on, save for the occasional modified yoga pose so the teacher wouldn’t get sued if I dislocated my hip.

Flash forward to this pregnancy: pubic bone separation begins around month 7, which, ow, but ok, I’ll try to work with it. And then an ultrasound at 36/37 weeks shows the baby is already clocking in at eight and a half pounds, “on track” to be a little more than 9 and a half pounds by my due date (same as my son was), according to the doctor. I sputter something about margins of error with ultrasound sizing and am reassured that a previous history of macrosomia reduces that margin. Not to mention, a previous delivery with shoulder dystocia significantly increases the odds for a repeat scenario.

So. My pelvis is already destabilizing, there’s a giant baby percolating in my belly, and she’s likely to get stuck. Obviously the risk to her scares me, obviously I’d prefer not to dislocate my own bones to get her out, obviously this is a double-plus ungood scenario and excuse me if I feel perfectly justified in eating pineapples, eggplant and sriracha in an attempt to jumpstart labor. Yes it’s early and generally not recommended, but: macrosomia, dystocia, pubic symphysis — maybe not on the same panic scale as preterm labor and NICU stays for some people, but definitely waaaay up there on mine.

We all have the lens of our own personal experience that colors how we view the experiences and decisions of others, and I am not guilt-free when it comes to judging others based on my singularly anecdotal evidence in some situations. But lately I’ve felt guarded in expressing my fears and frustrations with remaining pregnant, because the common party line is that it is always better to wait for a fully cooked baby than risk getting her out early, and I feel like people must thing I’m some kind of shallow idiot to want otherwise.

I’m lucky that my OB has made me a solemn vow to do everything to protect both the baby and I no matter what happens, that we will make decisions together as a team, that my fears are completely valid and if the baby gets stuck we can try some other techniques first (for example the Gaskin maneuver) if time and circumstance allow. She supports my idea that going without an epidural will give me greater flexibility to get into positions that could reduce the risk for dystocia and promises that the nursing team will also be very supportive in helping me get through an unmedicated labor. She gives great and reassuring hugs at the end of each visit and I feel safe in her hands. I wish I felt just as safe in talking about it out in the world at large, but the truth is, I don’t. 

And I know that’s part of the joy of living in a world of free & unfettered speech; that we don’t always hear what we want to hear, or get validated in the way we hope. That people may not agree with or even disapprove of our ideas. That even a civil and respectful dialogue about it may still hurt. I know all this, and yet, a part of me wonders if my body isn’t releasing the baby yet because my heart is still in its own infancy and needs the validation and support of entire, multiple communities before it can let go and fully trust that all will be well. 

This self-doubt, it’s frustrating. And also oddly reassuring; I’m just one little human, trying to make another. Wish me luck?

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wonders in the deep

If you follow me on Twitter you may know I’ve been ensconced in the throes of a drama entirely too comedic and youthful to be my real life. On the evening I was due to remove my Nuvaring, I discovered it missing. Tormented by visions of it floating lazily, Saturn-like, somewhere in my abdominal hinterlands, I phoned the doctor the next morning. Much embarrassing discussion resulted in an appointment for the next day, and, on her own thoughtful initiative, a prescription for Plan B. Which, as supportive as I am of the existence and availability of Plan B and many choices for women and family planning, I elected not to take it. My father always said not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and one may suppose that goes for any prize chute, including fallopian tubes. So, uh.

A rousing game of speculum peekaboo revealed I’d indeed been correct in my assessment of the situation, and even worse, it had probably fallen out a week or so ago, meaning the, ahem, relations I’d had with Monsieur Shriek more recently had been of the very unprotected sort and a biological supernova could quite possibly now be taking place Within. I bought an EPT at the pharmacy on my way home from the doctor, and have been staring apprehensively at the box for the last twenty or so hours.

It’s funny to be on the other end of the stick – in years past, I couldn’t wait to test because my hope of two pink lines was so overwhelmingly great it nearly undid me. I wouldn’t say my hope of a negative this time is in equal proportion, but. We are done. Or – we were done. Our two are so wonderful and amazing and impossible that adding another seems absurd. Unfair, even. With the youngest’s developmental issues lately, even the oldest has gotten shafted in the time/attention department. What would a squalling pooping sleepless infant – even assuming (ptui ptui) a normal, healthy one – do the two who are already here and struggling for secure and happy childhoods?

It’s an infinite loop, this line of worrying. And I am trying to give it up. What dreams may come, et cetera. I cannot know how it would work, only that that we would work, my husband and I, to make it the best it could be. We have our struggles, this family, yet more and more what they reveal to me is that we have enormous strength in love. Even as the world seems to be collapsing around us, my faith in the human heart grows every day. And perhaps even a new heart grows within me, too. I’ll let you know.

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At pickup one afternoon this week, my kindergartner’s teacher asked if I could stay and chat a few minutes. I turned my kids loose on the playground, and followed the teacher inside. She talked about how he has been acting out, how he is so easily angered, how he hits and pushes and yells and threatens. How he’s been sent to the principal’s office because his level of disruption was just plain unfair to the other students. She also talked about his sweet side – how he engages with the work, helps her with various things, asks interesting questions, cooperates in joint tasks.

It was clear to me that she really sees the whole child, and wants to work with me to be his advocate. He’s not a problem, she said, but he does have problems, and we are all going to help him. She’s already spoken with his private therapist, and arranged for him to have regular pull-out sessions with the school counselor. She reads books with the class about feelings. She told me she can see that I’m doing all the right things, that this isn’t my fault. And then she looked at me with such gentleness, such concern, and said, “You must be so worried.”

Of course I started crying. Mostly with gratitude – that she understands, that she really sees him, that she’s not writing him off or giving up on him. She suggested trying some approaches that she has used successfully with autistic kids (“not that I’m saying he’s autistic,” she quickly added), some activities that can be calming & therapeutic for kids with sensory issues. She loaned me a book. She described how she would modify some expectations for him in order to build his confidence and let him experience success. I felt so hopeful about the potential for helping him this year, that maybe, even, with love and understanding and help on all sides, he could become a “regular” happy and healthy kid.

And then at back to school night, several parents accosted me with tales of my son acting out. I couldn’t tell if they innocently thought whatever they witnessed was an isolated incident, just a quirky kid getting all up someone’s grill kindergarten-style, a fun and amusing little anecdote. Or if they truly see my kid as That Kid, the jerky, out of control one, and were uncertain how to tell me this directly so instead relied on a lame, jokey delivery. What was clear was that people were noticing he’s outside the bounds of expected, acceptable behavior, even for 5 year olds. I put my best Stepford smile on and thanked each one for letting me know. “Boys,” they all laughed. “What are you gonna do?”

Good question.

I came home and told my husband, and he reminded me that we have to have faith, that we’re doing everything we can, we have support and professionals on board, and most of all that we love him. He’s right, it’s all true. So why do I feel so sick?


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forever dimly seen

I’ve spent the summer telling myself “he’ll settle in, it just takes time” and while I still believe this to be true, it is now also clear that it will take a lot of time, and a lot of help. He’s been seeing a child psychologist for the last several weeks, and I met with her recently. The nutshell is, I’m not crazy, he’s not crazy, but he has… issues. Problems with sensory integration. Emotional development deficits. It is possible these things are contributing to his rages and his shutdowns, to his violence and aggression. She – the psychologist – is still exploring possibilities. (It is amazing to me what she can extrapolate out of a sand tray.)

Anyway the sensory stuff, even though I know about it, even though I read many of you describing your children with sensory issues, even though he has sensory-induced freakouts on a regular basis… it never once occurred to me that he has sensory integration issues. Not once. Now, of course, the hindsight makes a neat little clicking noise as it all falls into place: the faucet is too loud, the fan is too loud, the socks are too bumpy, the fleece is too scratchy, the sunscreen is too gooey, the light is too bright, the car is too fast, the peanut butter is too smelly, TAKE IT OFF GET IT OFF ME MAKE IT STOP TURN IT DOWN DON’T TOUCH ME I CAN’T EAT THAT. How did I possibly miss this? He was so obvious in his distress, so unable to cope, so much in his world was and is completely unbearable to him and I wondered why he had so many tantrums?

And the emotional deficits… you guys. He can’t recognize emotion in other people. How did I miss this?? I am a feeeeelings kind of person. I always acknowledge feelings, whether they are mine, my kids’, other peoples’. I name them, I honor them in that way only a child of the 70’s can. And he… just never connected with that. Certainly I knew he couldn’t talk about his own feelings, but I assumed that was because he was having such intense and painful emotions that he was unwilling to deal with them head-on.

Right now, I’m trying to identify and reduce his triggers, the therapist will keep working with him and trying to uncover more of the pieces contributing to the picture. I don’t know what it will look like in the end. This feels like a jigsaw puzzle without the box to refer to. I’m stomach-clenchingly afraid of what it will reveal, and at the same time relieved to know we’re in good hands and there will be more and more opportunities to help him. It is agonizing to realize what a struggle each day is for him. But I am so hopeful we will learn how to work through the challenges, that one day he will be happy, and comfortable in his skin. I have to be, right?


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a stronger creature than this

Well hello! I seem to be on a 3.2 posts per year trajectory here, but I’m not going to fret about that and suspect you aren’t, either. Onward.

The nutshell catch-up is: my husband got a job in another city and has been living there for two months. Once school is out and I’ve packed up the house we will move up there to be with him. This is supposedly happening in three weeks but I am not entirely certain I will be able to pull it off. It’s like that tablecloth trick. Only there is an entire house on the table.

My littlest, my boy, my baby is in a pitched battle with me to win the title of Most Freaked Out By This Crap-Assed Transition Business, but I started taking Prozac so I think he is going to win. Seriously, after years — years — of my doctor gently and less-gently suggesting it, I finally filled the prescription because I recognized that my ability to cope gracefully with Life In General is a delicate matter to begin with, and coping with A Difficult And Stressful Albeit Temporary Situation trends even further towards the nonexistent side of the equation. I was becoming a menace to all that is good and sparkly in the world and becoming one of those angry driver people and rude to customer service people and annoyed with everybody for everything all the time people, and man I hate being one of those people.

So anyway I’ve been taking it for five days and thus far can discern no effects whatsoever excepting the inability to open my eyes in the morning until half past coffee and even then they don’t really open all the way or, you know, see things for a goodly chunk of the day.

I fervently hope it kicks in the helpful chemical goods soon though, because my son’s state of freakage is really derailing my sanity and my faith in myself as a parent. I think it would be easier to work through this with and for him if I weren’t completely paralyzed by guilt. I don’t even know how to describe what is going on with him. But that such a wee person, only five years on this earth, could hold such darkness and despair is… horrifying. That he thinks he is bad, and undeserving of love is… I think the worst thing I have ever heard in my life. The psychologist says this is not outside the bounds of a developmentally appropriate reaction to a stressful situation (Dad living away from home, house in semi-packed shambles, mom frazzled and trying to keep up) and that it is certainly not my fault.

I am not convinced. But even so, even if it is my fault, I just want to know what it is. This darkness, this rage, this despair. He says when his brain turns red that he is bad. That he wants to hurt people. That he hates people. That he knows he is bad, that the red brain tells him he is bad. And that no one loves him.

He. Is. FIVE.

I want to go to sleep and wake up in a different world where my beautiful boy does not talk about red brains and hurting people. I want my beautiful boy to live in a world where he knows he is loved. Right now I am living in the world of finishing up at my job, packing up the house, wrapping up the school year, and feeding/bathing/clothing two children who need emotional anchoring in a world that has gone crazy around them. I am trying to get to that other world by being calm and loving and reassuring, but kids are smart and they know when you’re lying.

So, I’m taking it one minute at a time, hoping against hope that the Prozac will help make it true. True that I’m ok, and that things will be ok, and that the red brains are not in charge.

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the epoch of belief

So. I went to the doctor and based on my complaints he was thinking gallbladder with a side of thyroid. Off I went to the lab and suffered the usual indignities: I had to refrain from asking the phlebotomist who shook worse than Loma Prieta if he’d logged enough time on his orange before graduation. I got a nice hematoma as a reward for my patience. And my ultrasound tech, while cheerful and lovely in every way, was a student. I think they must have drilled them in class not to be afraid of really getting in there with the wand, because she was merciless. My pancreas is now likely embedded deep within my liver due to her exuberant probing. I was on the table for an hour. An hour.

My follow-up appointment was today, and the good news is my labs and ultrasound were all unequivocally normal. The not-as-good news is that I’m likely having either a long-winded virus or an IBS flare or both, either of which will go away in their own sweet time. Prescription: rest. Oh ha ha ha. But then a strange thing happened. “Let’s talk about depression,” my doctor said.

Me: blank stare.

Him: steady gaze.

Me: uncomfortable hemming and hawing.

Him: steady gaze.

Me: sudden tears leaking quietly everywhere.

He talked about how some people are genetically predisposed to depression (check) and how sometimes things happen in our lives that can cause situational depression (two deaths in the family, child’s health scare, unemployment, marital strife, hmm, I’d say that’s a check) and how especially, when those things combine, the depression becomes a steep-walled crater that is very, very difficult to climb out of. And then he offered me a rope. He suggested that I take that rope. And he handed it to me, and on the rope was the word Prozac.

I’ve thought about it before, medication, and I do take Xanax on occasion when anxiety gets the best of me. But something about going on a steady diet of anti-depressants feels, in a way, to me (and let me be clear, I judge no one else for whatever psych meds they take), like succumbing. Like saying I give up, I can’t do this anymore. I’m too tired. It’s too hard. Like my kid gets about her homework. Like it’s, I don’t know, trivial, but I’m just not applying myself. I also worry that by taking the pills I’m somehow negating my blessings. That I’m pathological in my inability to enjoy and appreciate my children, my home, my privileged life of organic food and a car to drive and shelter and school. And when I say pathological, I think I mean spiritually pathological: that it is a fault, a lack, deep in my psyche, that I could fix if I truly wanted to, if I really tried.

Several of you very kindly twittered with me this evening and reassured me that it’s ok, there’s no shame in needing help to manage these things, that you take pills too. I’m so grateful for the support, and  I’m going to keep checking in with you about this, because I need that support and reassurance, and I need it from people like me — mothers, writers, people who understand this life of domestic drudgery and the angst of trying to meet internal and external parenting standards and identity crises and baby blues and all the rest. I’m going to talk to people in my “real” life also: my parents, my sister, my best friend, because I need that part of me who is in the physical world to also own up to and get over these feelings of inadequacy and shame. I’m going to find a therapist, because even though I feel like I have already done so much therapy, clearly there is so much more.

But here’s the even weirder thing: I start my new job next week. Yes, I am once again gainfully employed, doing something I think I will love in a company whose mission I believe in and with hours that will still allow me to pick my kids up from school. My morale immediately shot up when I got the offer, and I’ve been buzzing ever since. So, as my husband wondered, do I even really need antidepressants now? Will I be happier and more fulfilled working outside the home and being a contributor and a person of tangible value? (And, please, do not for a minute think I think SAHMs/WAHMs don’t have tangible value, merely that sometimes they — I — don’t feel validated. There is a difference!)

I don’t know. I certainly don’t want to start crazy-head meds my first day of work and turn into some seemingly coked-out free-associating chatterbox of nonsense or pass out altogether (have you read the list of side effects for Prozac? I wish I hadn’t). So I may wait. But looking at this piece of paper, this prescription, and remembering the stealthy flood of tears that came in the doctor’s office . . .  I think they were tears of relief. I think I was ready for someone to throw me a rope, and to climb up into the world again.

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