Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I have a confession to make: I am not handling maternity leave as well as I had hoped. It's not postpartum depression--I've been on the lookout for that, and I've been very honest with myself that if I start to notice symptoms, I would call my doctor. No, the big factors can be summed up in two words: anxiety and guilt. And they go hand in hand.

Guilt #1: Sophie. We have been very cognizant of the fact that Sophie would have an adjustment when Josh was born. We worked hard to prepare her while I was pregnant, we made sure that she had plenty of time with me after Josh was born, and we've even made sure that every time we've opened a present for Josh, she's had a present too (really, our family/friends have been great about this, so we haven't really even dipped into the emergency gifts we bought her, just in case).

The pediatrician told us at her two year checkup that she would act out, and it would be at the worst possible times. The first week, we didn't really notice anything. Other than the first day Josh was born, she's gone to daycare every day to keep her routine. We debated keeping her home, but every person we talked to said keeping her routine would be best.

The second week after Josh was born, we started noticing the acting out more. She was defiant, she'd have crying fits/tantrums for no reason, and we started hearing reports from school that she was having trouble listening without getting defiant or physical. It peaked this past Saturday. We talked to several people at daycare and said that time outs didn't seem to be fixing the problem. They suggested we take things away (TV, book before bed, etc) if she didn't listen. We started that this past weekend, and by Sunday night, it seemed to work.

Now, generally, we haven't had too much of a problem getting Sophie to school. She doesn't like to be woken up, but once she's up, she's fairly agreeable. We felt like yesterday was an improvement: getting to school was fine, and she was only in time out one brief time for not listening (way better than her average from the week before), and when she was home, she was fine. No major meltdowns.

Thinking maybe we had made a breakthrough, we were happy that we had stuck with her routine.  And then I picked her up today. Tim was working late (more on that later), so I left Josh with my sister, who had kindly come up to help me. I walked in, Sophie came right over to me in an apparent good mood, and then went to get her coat. While she was doing that, her main teacher pulled me aside and told me things weren't going well. Sophie had apparently cried for hours in the morning that she wanted mom/dad/to go home. She said the teachers had called an informal meeting about it amongst themselves, and they all thought it would be good if I could find a way to keep her home while someone else watched the baby so we could have some bonding time.  At this point, other parents were coming in, and another issue called the teacher aside.  I left with Sophie, holding back tears.

I've tried very hard to spend one on one time with Sophie. We've made it a special point. And here were her teachers, telling me I wasn't doing enough. I know they meant well, but it just cut me. And Sophie was an angel all night--she didn't act out once.

And to top it off, here I was, debating going into work Friday night/all day Saturday/Sunday morning. Those are three of the best times I have with Sophie, and I was going to give them up. Why? Because of guilt #2.

Guilt #2: Work. This has, by far, been my biggest mental stressor (until today, anyway, when I felt like I was emotionally neglecting my daughter). Long story short, I had hoped to have all experiments done before I went on leave, and I wanted to have my paper written and submitted. None of that happened. A good part of that is because so much gets in the way during the week. I'm not trying to make excuses, but there are enough departmental/lab things that are either scheduled or pop up that getting solid time to do experiments takes an act of God. I did get almost everything done, but I didn't totally finish. And delivering a week before my due date cut into some of that time. From the pregnancy standpoint, induction was a good thing. For lab, not so much.

So I have experiments and the paper hanging over my head. That's why I was in lab for the entire day on Sunday the 25th, the day before I delivered. I wanted to get done. Unfortunately, those experiments haven't been entirely cooperative, so I have to run more.

And the paper. Oh, the paper. To give you an idea, I sent out an email birth announcement a week after Josh was born. My boss responded immediately and asked that I call her as soon as I could so we could talk about the paper. I begged off, asking for more time. And I felt guilty for it. I had just had a baby less than a week earlier, and I felt guilty that I hadn't gotten any more work done on the paper.

My sister graciously agreed to come up today so I would have a few hours to work on the paper. She watched Josh, made dinner, and cleaned it up. And I tried to write. I did. But it took me hours just to get organized. I haven't looked at this in weeks--I've got to do a lot of re-reading before I can even start the writing again.

So now my guilt has turned into anxiety. And I'm paying for it. My GI system is a mess, I have horrible headaches that won't go away with medicine, and when I have the opportunity to sleep, I can't. When I'm not working on the paper, I'm thinking about it and stressing. And when I'm trying to work on it, I'm stressing even more that it isn't moving as quickly as I want it to.

And then tonight, my boss emailed me and said she wants me to call her tomorrow so we can talk about the paper. She suggested me calling during a nap.

Part of me wanted to email back and say: do you understand I had a baby three weeks ago? Can I tell you that unless I hold him, he only sleeps for ten minute increments during the day? Did I mention he's a crier? Oh, he'll cry bloody murder for an hour if he wants to. And how about the fact that he's eating every 2-3 hours, and those feedings can take almost an hour? So my day consists of feeding, burping, changing, crying, brief periods of sleep, and then having the cycle start all over? During which of those points would you like me to call?

But that's not what I said. I haven't responded yet. And I feel guilty about that.

Tim asks what he can do to help, and I tell him I need 4-6 hour blocks of uninterrupted time to write. He tells me I should write at night, after Sophie goes to bed. First, on nights when he works late (like tonight), Sophie might be in bed, but I still have Josh. Second, Josh needs to eat regularly. Third, by the time I actually have my hands free (like now), it's after 11. I've been up all day, I get little to no sleep at night, and I barely know my name. Trying to focus and write a paper is impossible. Look at me, I can't write a cohesive blog post. Imagine if I was trying to read and synthesize scientific papers.

I feel for Tim, I do. I know work is busy. But when he works till 9 (like tonight) and then has to go in early (like tomorrow), that means that I have to find a way to pick up/drop off Sophie at daycare (usually with Josh in tow, like tomorrow), and that I have two kids to my one set of hands. Thank God Jen was here today. Joe was around for a bit too. At least I could leave Josh with them and go get Sophie on my own. Last time I dropped off Sophie when I had Josh, one of the infants had hand, foot, and mouth disease, so I had to leave Josh in one of the front rooms (with someone, of course) while I took Sophie back. That's awesome.

So, I have guilt about emotionally damaging my daughter, guilt about not working during my maternity leave, and then lots of little guilts: guilt about some of the resentments I am feeling at the moment, guilt that I can't even keep up with the house/cooking while I am home, guilt that I am spending more than usual for groceries because I haven't had time to clip or match up coupons, and guilt that the one thing I want most in the world right now is a few hours to play in my garden. But then I'd just feel guilty that I am using that time for something that isn't higher on the guilt priority list.

I am worn out. My body is telling me I am worn out. Josh is much more work than Sophie was as a baby, but I'm trying to accomplish more. With Sophie, there are days that we wouldn't leave my bedroom. I'd hold her, feed her, and we'd watch movies together, all day. With Josh, I was up and moving the day after we were home from the hospital. It's a necessity. I don't have the luxury this time of staying in bed for the day.

So, that's part of the reason for the sparse posts. I hate being negative. I wouldn't trade Josh for anything in the world. But I wish I could clone myself to do all of the things that need done.

Before I went on leave, I had high aspirations. Now, I just feel like I am crappy at everything. I don't feel like I am doing one thing well at the moment.

And Tim keeps saying to let the work stuff go (meanwhile, he's spending more time there). If I want to go back to med school on time, I can't let it go. My paper has to be accepted three weeks before I defend my thesis. I need to defend before I go back to med school. Best case scenario, it only takes one try, and a few months, to get accepted. That means it needs to be in by June 1. It's May 18, and it isn't even completely written yet.

I am so screwed.

And every day that I don't get something done on this paper is one more day that is pushing me away from starting medical school in the fall. That's the ultimate goal.

I wish I had time to do one thing really well. Instead, I'm messing them all up. Hopefully I'll get my act together in the near future. I don't really have the option not to. No one is going to do this for me.

(PS: I know anxiety and guilt can be part of postpartum depression, but it is baseless anxiety and guilt. I think I've got solid reasons I am feeling those emotions. And I have no ill feelings towards Josh, and I don't spend my days crying. Really, from the outside, it looks like I am holding things together pretty well.)


  1. Nikki2:21 PM

    My suggestions:
    1. Call/email the boss. She's a woman right, with kids? Although, they can forget, she was in your shoes once too (probably with less stress than you have). Tell her that you will be uploading what you work on to goggledocs - that way you can both work on it at the same time. (I'll email you the details incase you haven't used it before)
    2. You are the oldest of 5 kids...your parents didn't scar you, you won't scar Sophie either. I'm sure it's unbelievably hard to hear that she's acting out from the teachers, but I'm sure she'll come through it. You're a good mom, don't forget that!

  2. As soon as we get this car thing settled, I'll start coming up daily. I can help with the kids and cook or whatever. I really planned on doing that but we went from 1 car to no car and I've been trapped here at home.
    You are a good Mom honey. You just need a little help right now. I didn't work after you kids were born so I could just go with the flow and stay in my pj's if I had to. Aunt Patty was home with Megan & Kara at the same time. We would call eachother and just laugh because we were making dinner in our jammies AGAIN. You are more normal than you think. Just hang in there. Help is on the way.

  3. Bridge,

    I would like to formally invite you to join a special group I created: the KIMA society. KIMA stands for KIss My A$$. Members of our group look at the world around them and simply say "KIMA" any time someone else gets too demanding or unreasonable.

    Nasty boss? KIMA!
    Dirty house? KIMA!
    Excessive flatulence? KIMA!

    You get the picture.

    There are a lot of stressors out there in the world, but I think the biggest ones are the ones we put on ourselves. I hope we can help you see what a wonderful person you are in every way: as a daughter, wife, mother, student, researcher, scientist and plain human being. You have always striven for perfection, achieving it often and coming close almost all the time.

    IMHO, now is the time for you to allow yourself to sit still for ten minutes, close your eyes, exhale and reassure yourself that everything will be fine. No matter what it is, "this too shall pass."

    A day WILL COME when your last paper has been written and accepted. A day WILL COME when you go back to (and then graduate from) med school. A day WILL COME when Sophie and Josh will act like "normal" kids, with your biggest concern being whether they will eat their veggies. And believe it or not, a day WILL COME when you can sit down, veg out and be totally non-productive without guilt.

    Until that day DOES COME, the answer is "KIMA."

    I love you sweetie!