Tuesday, September 20, 2011

HAVING IT ALL

ALL. It's a three letter word, but it grows to have such a profound, complicated meaning. I've quickly learned that once you transition to motherhood (and maybe, for some men, fatherhood), the big question is "Can you have it all?" And everyone's "all" is different on the specifics, but generally the same: spouse, career, home, friends, hobbies and leisure time, the latest Apple toys, and kids. It's interesting to me, though, that we typically (I realize I'm about to generalize) ponder this heavy question once the latter are brought into our lives. Why is that? I guess they bring a whole other level of responsibility, complication, scheduling, and chaos to the table. Anyway, I don't know that we explicitly and consciously ask ourselves "Can I have it all?", but the take home message always seems to boil down to that. Whether we're juggling daycare schedules with work schedules, trying to walk the dog, make lunch, and feed the baby at the same time by ourselves, or, God forbid, fitting in an eyebrow wax appointment, at some point you wonder how the hell you're going to manage it.

So, if you're going to put me on the spot and make me come up with an answer to the question, I would say, "Yes, you can have it all. But only if you're willing to do it all...and if you're willing to feel like a [tired] fool sometimes in the process." Yeah. That would be my answer. Bottom line is, you can have as much as you want, but you also have to accept that perfection will be compromised at times (let's be honest, at MANY times) and you'll have to take full responsibility for the consequences. You know, being broke thanks to blowing your monthly budget on cover-up for those dark circles, juuuuuust missing that deadline, a grumpy spouse or kid, or bushy eyebrows and unpainted toenails. Something's gotta give in the process. But, if something's gotta give in the process, does that mean we truly have it ALL? See how I did that right there? Turned it right around to say the exact opposite of what I've been preaching. This, my friends, is the reason women (and maybe men?) still ask this question.

 What do you think - Can you have it ALL?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

THE PINTO TALKS POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION

There are lots of things to be sad about, especially with the state the world is in right now, but typically, having a beautiful bouncing baby is not considered one of them. That's crazy, right? How could you be sad about what everyone calls a miracle? Last I checked, miracles are something to be happy and wonderous about, something which brings tears of joy, not sadness. Well, for 5-25% of women (depending which studies you read) there's a lot of sadness after giving birth to that miracle. The pinto, slow as she may be, dedicated a lot of time researching postpartum depression for part of her dissertation, not realizing the relevance it would have in her own life so soon. Postpartum depression is a form of clinical depression, but it happens specifically after childbirth. Just like with a major depressive disorder, common symptoms are sadness, low self-esteem, hopelessness, guilt, a sense of emptiness, no energy, social withdrawal, disturbances in sleep and eating patterns, and just not giving a damn (or anhedonia) - to name a few. When women (and sometimes men) experience these symptoms, but in a milder form, it's "baby blues," something that 80% of us have experienced after childbirth. The biggest distinction between "blues" and full-blown depression following childbirth is the transitory nature of the "blues." Having a baby is a big life transition, made worse by the assault your hormones take on your body. So, the "blues" are pretty normal if you ask me. In fact, as you could guess by reading my previous blogs, I would argue that you're crazier if you are blissful during the transition. But, anyway, I digress. So, the cause of postpartum depression isn't totally clear. Some people argue that bottle feeding rather than breast feeding has some role, others suggest that having a colicky baby is a risk factor. Clearly, a history of mood problems will also put you at greater risk for experiencing depression after childbirth. And, like with major depression, low social support, marital problems (or being a single parent), preexisting anxiety, life stress, and low socioeconomic status can also put someone at increased risk for postpartum depression. Makes sense. What's surprising (to the Pinto, at least) is that there is little evidence supporting that hormones are to blame. Huh.

I'm not sure if I have full-blown postpartum depression, but I know that something isn't right. And anyone who knows me and my current situation should be laughing right now (out of pity, of course). There are a multitude of reasons why I might be stressed or depressed. For me, I think it's a combination of unresolved grief, living really far from work, friends, and family, having my emotional rock travel for months at a time, and, well, what feels like trying to constantly fit a square peg into a round hole. ONE of those things would be reason enough to cause significant stress, but add them together and I think I just may be on my way to a proper nervous breakdown. Now here's the irony. The main thing keeping me sane is that beautiful little baby girl of mine. The one who laughs at her own burps and farts, the one who greets me with a smile when she wakes up, the one who gets bed head to rival Don King's, and the one who bounces in excitement to the jingle in an otherwise lame tv commercial. So, how does THAT work? The thing that has added to my life stress and depression is the very thing that's helping me cope. Hmm. I need to think on that....

This is where I give props to my parents, who have absolutely turned their lives inside out to help us make things work. We'll go ahead and call them the gas that keeps this rickety pinto running. I have absolutely no clue what I would do without my parents. Let's just pray that gas prices don't keep rising! LOL!

I'll end by saying that I really don't like putting myself out there like I have in my blog, but postpartum depression is a big issue that is often ignored, not identified, or kept secret. Bottom line, 5-25 percent boils down to a lot of women who are feeling this way. Asking for help is hard. Admitting you don't feel happy when, by anyone else's standards you should be, is even harder. So, if putting myself out there makes any difference whatsoever in helping women connect on this issue, then so be it, I guess.







Sunday, January 9, 2011

THE PEDIATRICIAN AND THE PINTO

The time has come for the hallmark rant about the pediatrician. Don't get me wrong, I like Leila's doc. I think this is a reflection of the larger issue that is U.S. healthcare. I'd also like to preface this with the fact that I work with a lot of physicians and understand that their position is crammed right between the rock and the hard place. The rock: patient well-being and leaving no stone left unturned (wow, what's with all my geological references?). The hard place: making money and satisfying insurance companies.

At our last visit, I had what felt like a proverbial finger waving in my face about Leila's growth stats. For those who are interested, Leila has dropped from the 90th+ percentile to the 5th in a matter of a few months. Hubby and I were prepared by the docs at Children's for the steroid-induced stunting and have since embraced the notion of raising a wild, little smurf until the treatment is completed (at which point her growth will rebound to where it should be). Back to our 8-month checkup. I felt a reaction of disbelief and quiet judgment coming from the pediatrician that we haven't been feeding Leila solids at least twice a day, if not three. I'm immediately feeling embarrassed and a whole lot guilty. Is that something everyone knows? How could I NOT know that? Shit. (I know, I know, you're sitting there thinking, "duh." Whatever, smarty pants.) Anyway, I then got internally defensive. At our last visit, it was recommended that we introduce solids at one meal a day to see how she does. If we wanted to, we could go ahead and give her more, but the message I heard was that the goal is to get her interested and to get her practicing. Ok, now I take some responsibility for not scouring the internet for a feeding schedule for my baby. But, I also expected that the pediatrician would help us out with this one - and, no, not a sheet printed from the internet with general milestones. I'm talking about one that is specific to Leila, who has been on a steroid regimen (which affects her appetite) for the past 5 months and who consistently deals with reflux and bouts of constipation. Did I mention the milk protein allergy? With all that is going on in life, that pinto brain of mine has been sputtering along just trying to stay within the lines - it doesn't have time to be proactive, much less common sensical about something. Plus, if you've read my earlier blogs, you know that I've tossed the kooky baby books. There's such a thing as an oblivious first time parent! ::hand raised high in the air:: How was I to know? Communication gets faulty. Misunderstandings happen. I get that. But I think this touched a nerve and is a sign of what things have come to with managed care. I would prefer to receive guidance and support throughout this daunting process, not a boatload of judgment followed by a request for a copay. Appointments have to be shorter, patient questions need to be succint, and responses are rapid-fire. You would be scratching your head feeling as though you've missed something, but you can't because you have an appointment card in one hand and a heavy, cumbersome car seat drooping in the other as you're quickly shuffled out the door. Again, I can't fully blame the pediatrician - I'm perfectly capable of researching things and, bottom line, I dropped the ball. But, given that I have the memory of a 90-year-old Alzheimer's patient, remind me of what I'm paying the pediatrician for? All snarkiness aside, I guess we learn from our mistakes. I just wish I didn't have to feel so inept in the process. We'll chalk this up to Mommy of the Year Moment #37.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

THEY COULD'VE MENTIONED THAT - PART DEUX

Well, I'm back from another hiatus from Blogtown. No good excuses really - just no time and no creativity. I went back and read my previous blogs and, let me tell you, things have drastically changed. Well, except that I'm still dog tired. And, I feel like I have no time to myself. Oh, and I have no clue what today's date is...erm, so maybe things haven't changed that much. As I had suspected, over the past number of months, I've come to realize more things that I wish They would've told me. Again, feel free to add to my list, whether I'm at that stage or not, because that false sense of preparedness really does wonders! So, without further ado...

They could've mentioned that....

1. Poop can wreak havoc on a family. Constipation, I'm talking to you.

2. The pediatrician will always find SOMETHING for you to follow up on, no matter how big or small. I'm convinced there's commission involved somewhere.

3. Even when you've got things covered, time is still spent on wondering how things might not be covered, or how they can be better covered. Let it go, mediocrity is the new perfection.

4. Babies do quirky things and look weird sometimes. It doesn't necessarily mean there's a developmental issue.

5. Even though you very much know that most people are not as invested in your baby as you are, you still have that desperate urge to post a zillion pictures with hopes of acquiring a few converts who appreciate the awesomeness that is your baby (deep down, though, you realize that this is likely not the case).

6. Babies claw like rabid animals.

7. Even though they're tiny, babies are resilient little creatures.

8. Babies are little weebles with very round bottoms. Weeble + soft bed + nimble movements = Hello, Floor. Good thing for #7.

9. While you are clapping and making a fool out of yourself that your baby is now crawling, pulling to stand, what-have-you...you will also be thinking in the back of your mind "please, no."

10. Even though you survived childhood with cardboard boxes, keys, and balls, you will feel the urge to buy that fancy $40 plastic toy with all the bells and whistles because the experts say how great it is for bringing out your child's inner savant. Too bad you know that your savant is just going to drool on it and smack herself in the head with it, but alas, you buy the damn thing anyway.

11. "Pregnancy brain" is a misnomer. That mental fog and memory deficit you feel while pregnant and then on maternity leave is actually your new brain taking over. That's right, you just traded that sharp lamborghini brain of yours in for a pinto.




Thursday, September 23, 2010

CALL ME CYNICAL

It's no secret that I'm cynical. It's part of my charm, I say. Not only is it my way of viewing the world, it's my way of coping with it. So, it's not surprising that my blog today is written with the cynic in mind. But bear with me because beneath my cynicism is a real issue. I was talking with a good friend tonight about some of the tribulations of motherhood. It became clear in our conversation that too often we experience women who romanticize motherhood. Now, that's not to say that motherhood is torturous, so how could anyone NOT complain. But, I AM saying that many women seem to feel the need to minimize or dismiss the frustrations of motherhood in order to appear like they've got their sh*t together when, in reality, they struggle to maintain their sanity at times, too. In general, my personality is to call BS when I hear someone talk all positive or all negative - it just isn't real. And, most importantly, it's annoying. When I really think hard about why the all-or-nothing attitude bothers me, it comes down to the fact that it totally minimizes and invalidates other people's feelings. It's isolating and it makes people doubt themselves. So, let's keep it real. The women who paint a rose-colored picture of parenting (and, ironically, I have found my cynical self guilty of this at times) don't realize that in the process of convincing themselves and others that they can handle anything, they make those of us who struggle with the stresses feel bad about ourselves. In my opinion, women shouldn't feel guilty for acknowledging when things are tough or overwhelming. We get too focused on not wanting to look like the complainer, wanting to look like we can do it all, or, worst of all, potentially being perceived as not loving our children. Of course we love our children. Acknowledging the poo doesn't mean we love them less, and maintaining that everything is perfect doesn't mean we love them more. Bottom line, I have learned that there are aspects of parenting that are just unpleasant, unfortunate, and unfair. That's not to say that everyday should be a bitchfest, but I am a believer that if we can talk more openly about those hair-pulling moments with each other, a lot of guilt and the incidence of postpartum depression would decrease. [Did anyone else hear those violins in the background?]

As I step off my soapbox, I will preface my List below with the fact that I love Leila more than I can put into words (which, now that I think about it, is probably why my blogs focus on the cynical stuff), and I happen to think that, overall, I'm a pretty good mom so far. I just need to get a few things off my chest. So, here we go. It is totally UNFAIR that...

1. I can describe, in detail, the pattern of shadows the moonlight creates on the nursery wall at 3AM.

2. Only a mere 12 months after celebrating my doctoral degree, do I feel like I can only have coherent conversations about baby spit up.

3. My "friends" blatantly lied to me about this "4-month hurdle," after which things magically fall into place and parenting an infant becomes an easy, blissful experience. Well, Leila's 5 months old - is it me, or is it just as damn hard as it was a month ago?

4. Getting ready to take Leila to the babysitter's looks like I'm packing for a week-long trip to Paris. Well, minus the passport. And Paris.

5. After only spurts of sleep here and there, the next morning I have black circles under my eyes while Leila is a perky, happy, rosy-cheeked cherub of a bebe.

6. My social life has dwindled down to ".com"

I really could go on, but it's 4:42AM (I'm sure I could work that into the list somewhere). Feel free to share your own "UNFAIR!" moments. When all else fails, they at least provide mommies everywhere with a good laugh!

Friday, August 20, 2010

STEROIDS: THEY AREN'T JUST FOR BASEBALL PLAYERS

Leila's treatment for her hemangioma is officially underway. We decided to go with treatment via a research study at Children's Hospital because, well frankly, it just made sense. Here's why: Hemangiomas have historically been treated with prednisolone with great success. However, the corticosteroid has lots of unpleasant and scary side effects (vomiting, chubby cheeks, temporarily stunted growth, irritability, insomnia - to name a few). And let me tell ya, when you've had a chubby-cheeked baby with reflux and colic due to milk protein allergy, the idea of having a crankier and pukier baby who sleeps even less and has chipmunkier cheeks is really frightening. There's another medication, propranolol, that has accidently shown some efficacy in treating hemangiomas, but it doesn't have a well-known treatment history like prednisolone does. The benefit of the propanolol is that it has relatively few side effects, so that's comforting. Bottom line, Josh and I couldn't make up our minds about treatment because for every pro there seemed to be a con. Aside from Leila's situation, participating in the study seemed like the right thing to do given that my career is centered around doing clinical research to help children get better. I felt like it would be kind of hypocritical to not consider helping other kids in the process of treating Leila's hemangioma. So here we are, participating in a single-blind clinical trial of both medications. We were randomized to the prednisolone arm of the study and we're now one dose in. We had to take her in to the hospital for an ultrasound, blood sugar check, and to get the medication. Josh and I hated every minute of it. I actually cried during the ultrasound. To see such a little peanut pinned down with a wand over her face and goop running into her eye just seemed cruel. The fact that she was wailing so hard she was purple didn't help. Fast forward to today - so far, we've had a good day. Leila has been smiling, resting, cat napping, and occasionally crying (well, I hear babies do that from time to time...). If we don't see any progress in the next 2 weeks (aka the hemangioma doesn't shrink), we'll be taken out of the study and switched to propranolol. We're keeping our fingers crossed that the medication is effective and she (and we!) doesn't have to suffer many side effects.

On a lighter note, Murphy is now bonded with our little Roger Clemens. From here on out, they'll be known as "The Steroid Siblings." Or should it be "The Prednisone Pair" ?? :)

See my feet! My blood sugar was normal - 82.

Mommy is beyond tired. I mean, look at her! By the way, this fist tastes great...nom, nom, nom...

Daddy walked me around to make me feel better. It worked!

Friday, July 23, 2010

"CHEEEEEESE!"