Desuppression

Seven hours of sleep, and the alarm sounds.

Seven hours of sound sleep. I could keep sleeping.

I press snooze.

Anticipating the snooze alarm.

I do not keep sleeping.

Waiting.

I could sleep like this every night.

Coughing gets in my way. It feels like a month of coughing, my abs punching my lungs to expel air at random times, at inconsistent forces. Attempting to tame a lingering tickle in my throat.

Coughing annoys, distracts. Steals sleep. I feel the tickle right now.

Breathing has been shallow lately in this past month. This morning I exhale deeply, and my ribs tighten. Sometimes the spaces between the ribs cramp. Like I have been running and I get a stitch in my side, but I cannot run through the pain until it subsides.

I am not running. I just lie here. Not sleeping.

But the cramps. Am I out of oxygen? Has it been so long since inflating my lungs through deep, meditative breaths? Have my ribs forgotten how to expand, to compensate for my body’s deficit in breathable air?

What is breathable?

Winter sits on the air, spits in it. Sometimes she brings snow and wind and chilled rains and replaces the air.

Winter is heavy and often merciless and stingy, not only with the air but also the sunlight.

I realize more than one cause facilitates my suffocation.

This early in the morning headlights slide across closed blinds: One thousand one, one thousand two. I try breathing again, and it still hurts.

Darkness penetrates the room. Darkness is space, but it does not expand. It constricts. I cannot breathe the space, but it breathes into me, occupying too much of my lungs. The pressure also surrounds me from the outside, hugging my ribs tight.

Darkness leaves just enough air in my lungs to cough. Cold medicine suppresses the cough, helps me sleep.

Now, if only I could breathe more than a teaspoon at a time without pain.

Yet when my child and my husband cough, all I want to do is absorb their coughs. They need to be cough-free more than I.

Ten minutes later. The snooze alarm sounds. I turn it off and sit up. I could keep sleeping. I could keep overthinking this cough. I slip out of bed and begin getting ready for the day, grateful at least to be breathing, albeit heavy, dirty winter air.

Grateful for the full night’s sleep.

————-

Disclaimer: Obviously I’m rusty with writing, but bear with me. I should be doing this more often and finding my voice. Beneath the coughs. Fingers crossed.

For Crying Out Loud – Two Weeks

Hey, you.

Oh, Zingerita. Look at the time flash by. It’s only been two weeks.

It’s already been two weeks.

You get cuter every day. And smarter. And definitely more vocal. The early morning cries have become routine, but I appreciate the communication. Please be patient as  your dad and I continue to learn your language. I hope we’re catching on fast enough for you.

Your crying has several levels, according to just how annoyed you are. Of course you have basic needs that you try to convey:

  • burpy
  • poopy/pee-y
  • hungry

But there are multiple levels to each of these states. For example, let’s look at hungry, which seems to be the most common cry:

  1. I’m hungry: whimper [ehhh] *squeak*
  2. I’m hungrier than usual: [waaah, waaaah]
  3. Are you guys ignoring me?: [WAAAAAH! WAAAAH! HUHNNNNNGH! NAY! NAAAAY!]
  4. GIVE ME SOME [BLEEP] FOOD NOW! : [WAAARRRRGH!] *bottom lip tremble* [WEHHHH] *open mouth with no sound and really red face and teary eyes* [WEGGGGHHHHH! HENGGH-HENGHH-HENGGHH! HEEP?! HENNNNGH!]

We try to catch you in the first two levels of any of the above states, though while we were in the hospital with you we got to hear NAY! NAAAAAY! a lot. This may as well be your first word, because you have cast a dissenting vote since the day before you were born. You quite clearly said NAY to pitocin when your heart rate dropped from the strong contractions.

That’s right, girl: just say NAY to drugs. I’m proud of you.

I’ll always be proud of you.

Speaking of crying, only a handful of people (maybe +1) have actually acknowledged and asked about my emotional state. The hormones are rampant and my emotions are everywhere. Over half of that handful are healthcare providers, and one of them isn’t even my own doctor. The hormone effects are one of the most significant parts of the postpartum experience, and it’s surprising that not more people talk about them. Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. Of course we want to coo and be excited and grateful and happy, but there are also a lot of tears.

When we were in the hospital and the doctor suggested supplementing breastfeeding with formula, I cried. Over the course of our three-day stay you’d lost 10% of your birth weight. You’d latch on and suckle only to get colostrum, which is good for you but doesn’t help you gain weight, and I was worried that milk wouldn’t come soon enough. The lactation specialist came in and coached me on latching; a night nurse came in and tried to force feed you with the brute strength of her man hands smashing my breast toward your mouth while you cried at level 4 and her commanding you to eat. Then the penultimate day of our stay, Nurse Candice calmly informed us of your weight loss and suggested a breast pump to help stimulate milk production more quickly. She said it almost in passing, but it was something I paid close attention to.

We kept track of your diapers and feedings throughout the week. It was breaking my heart to think that I was starving you, and all my inadequacies and insecurities from 37 years of life pre-you snowballed along with my doubts  of whether I could be a good enough mom to you.

Your dad and I were already pretty sleep-deprived. The effects from the IV drip were taking hold. I wanted to be able to sit up and gaze at you in the clear plastic crib-thing on the stainless steel wheelie cart without staples from the c-section poking me. You were sleep-deprived. We were all worn out.

You were patient from the beginning, though, faithful one. You kept latching on with the expectation milk would come. I didn’t want to let you down.

(That last sentence was sort of a pun about breastfeeding. I’m sure you don’t need me to explain.)

Not even an hour later on the same day Nurse Candice talked to us, I called her and told her I’d like to learn how to use a breast pump. She brought one right away. I’d use it after feedings every two hours or so, and by the next day somehow I filled a 12mL syringe of the creamy stuff, not just the thick, clear colostrum. Nurse Candice saw it and brought back only four small bottles of formula to supplement breastfeeding at home. Because she was so hopeful, I became more confident.

Right now I thrive on that kind of reassurance. The doctor weighed you last week, a mere six days since our discharge from the hospital. You gained over half of the weight you lost at the hospital. We were thrilled at the good news. Because you could now eat until satisfied, your mood improved, and you could sleep better. Your father and I were so thrilled.

One particularly powerful experience happened over the weekend. Even with our little victories that I’ve mentioned, I still could not control my mood swings well. I was having a hard time trying not to feel insecure and like I was always doing something wrong. We were out and you had started to get fussy. It was getting late and we headed back to our apartment. The car ride usually makes you sleep, but you amped it up to level 4 for nearly the entire way home.

When we finally got home, you and I had a skin-to-skin feeding session, which never fails to calm you down. Your dad and I talked while you ate. After you fed for a while, I got up to use the bathroom. I laid you down on the bed so that your father could watch you. As I walked past you, your dad said that you were reaching for me.

Man, I love your dad so much.

I turned around and paused. Your big pleading eyes looked right into my eyes. Your body formed a slight curve, and your arms stretched toward me.

When I returned from the bathroom, I picked you up and held you. I recalled the image from just a few seconds before and cried.

As a new mom I’m beginning to understand that parenting is more than keeping you alive, though I can’t help my anxious wakings to check to see if you’re still breathing. Though I try to be prepared as I can, sometimes I feel I have no way of knowing that I’m doing anything right.

But when you looked at me and turned toward me and reached out to me, you also validated me. There’s a very instinctual relationship between newborns and their parents, but you seemed very consciously to acknowledge me as your mom. You seemed to know that’s what I needed.

Those eyes.

I just wanted to thank you again for your patience. For understanding my tears.

And for a truly meaningful two weeks so far.

And for repeatedly forgiving me.

I hope one day to make you proud.

Love, Mom

Object Lessons and Objections

Object lessons are incredibly effective teaching tools, especially in religion.

There’s the one about nailing a board to a wall or a tree. If you put one nail in the board it can still spin around; the board is unstable. But if you put a second nail through the board, the board becomes anchored. This object lesson often taught the importance of the Book of Mormon, the second nail that goes with the Bible.

There’s the one about sticks or pencils. You can break one or two or four at the same time, but if you gather 10 or 15 pencils, they’re much harder to break altogether. This object lesson illustrates the importance of unity or contributing talents or time to a single purpose. Strength in numbers.

An especially popular object lesson is where the glove represents your spirit and your hand represents your body. Without your hand, the glove can’t do anything, but when the glove is on your hand, the glove becomes animated. The combination becomes a living soul.

I remember these object lessons from when I was a child. While they tend to be taught in cycles, my ability to remember them pretty well demonstrates their effectiveness.

Elizabeth Smart recalls an object lesson pertaining to sexual purity. About a used piece of chewing gum. She spoke about it at a conference about sexual trafficking, and the Christian Science Monitor reported the story.

On Facebook over the past few days, many people provided links with important conversations about sexual purity, abstinence education, and reassuring victims of sexual assault that they are not sinners/dirty/impure. Here are a few of the links I happened to click on:

Religion Dispatches

Blogs: Flunking Sainthood

Experimental Theology

I’ve read these articles and many of the accompanying comments. Being a victim of sexual assault, I think back to the object lesson with the chewed gum. I wonder what specific connections I made when I was a young girl. How could I have made sense of my worth when the person who had supposedly “taken away” my virtue was the same person who presented the object lesson at a family home evening nearly 30 years ago? Would I have been able to overcome my confusion without therapy?

That reminds me. Because I am May, and this is my month, I should remind you that May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Maybe we can come up with different object lessons that help and inspire instead of harm and instill fear.

A Sequence con Sequence

1. I read this article and watched the video.

2. Then I read this article, which is part of this book.

3. Then Reilly and I watched this movie.

4. Then Reilly put the book on hold at the library. Then he checked out the book when it became available.

5. Today, I finished the book. I wrote this little review on Goodreads:

Conversational, thoughtful. Balanced; I forgive the author because she admits her biases. Covers and interweaves three main discussions: bullying, being a good parent/concerned adult/assertive innocent bystander, and mental illness. There’s also an exploration of solutions and encouragement of ongoing conversation, which I wholeheartedly support.

6. At 12:05pm, I decided to write the author of the book. Because that’s what I sometimes do.

Ms. Bazelon,

I finished Sticks and Stones about ten minutes ago, and I found it fascinating. And infuriating. And heartwrenching. And, at times, relieving. I appreciate your huge undertaking of a project such as this, your first, book. Yay!

Your interview with Stephen Colbert (as featured in Slate–about time somebody made him cry 😉 ) piqued my interest in the book, but first I watched the 2012 Weinstein documentary you happened to mention, Bully. So many times people or media want to point a finger at something more concrete, more visible, such as bullying. But when I hear of suicide, I almost always think first of mental illness as a possible cause. I’m glad you explore this subject, and as I read Phoebe Prince’s case, I was disappointed that the right people didn’t consider her psychological issues. It’s always more complicated than people usually perceive.

On the other hand, the ones who were able to pull through–the ones who found new friends or went to new schools or where school administration implemented effective bullying prevention–those kids were became incredibly insightful, self-aware, and empathetic. The way they grew up really impressed me.

Anyway, I loved the book. There’s so much more I could mention! Congratulations on your success, and may we all continue in courage to have these important conversations for our families, society; humanity.

7. At 1:39, I received this reply:

What a lovely note–thank you so much! If you’re inspired to share your feelings on Facebook or via email, please do–I need ambassadors! And I am up for calling or Skyping into book groups, for parents or teachers or anyone.

All the best, thanks again,

Emily

Replies do not always happen, and I was thrilled when the message landed in my inbox.

Thing is, as I read the book, I couldn’t help thinking of the young man who took his life in front of his schoolmates just north of here. I wish there were greater awareness; I wish people weren’t too scared to acknowledge and address mental illness and to examine all the causes of bullying and not just label these kinds of events “bullycide.”

It would be great to have a constructive discussion about this. Because my husband is a school teacher, I would love to organize something to see what steps are in place in local schools to help reduce bullying. It would be so wonderful to set up a call with Emily and maybe some school administrators and some ladies at church to have a heartfelt conversation about safety for our community’s children.

I always feel drawn to the underdog. It’s getting harder just to stand by and do nothing, and feeling helpless is no longer an excuse.

8. – ∞

Guns, You Guys

I don’t even know how to formulate a decent argument about this, you guys. You would think I would learn what not to do by observing all the sloppy, lopsided “discussions” out there. I think I know a good argument when I see one. I try to consider opinions I disagree with; I try to understand why I disagree with certain opinions.

I recently watched this appeal by Senator Gabrielle Giffords. They gave her the floor, they let her make her powerful point in 13 sentences, but I wonder if her efforts are futile. I wonder how many people dismissed her or even the idea of her once she finished speaking.

I recently read this essay by Stephen King, which felt like a pretty even argument and a realistic perspective on what to expect with gun legislation.

I recently saw that David Mamet recently published his opinion about the gun issue. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to, probably tonight.

ETA: I read Mamet’s essay, and it definitely provides contrast to Stephen King’s perspective.

It’s impressive that the gun conversation has lasted this long. More children have died in the meantime. It won’t be as impressive if nothing ends up getting done about it. I wish I could argue this decently; I wish more that I felt that I didn’t have to argue this. I wish I understood those who insist on doing nothing. I wish the argument could lead sooner to a real solution than to more of an argument.

I’ll quote my high school friend Brian who perfectly expresses my frustration: “It bothers me that this argument always boils down to ‘I could kill a bunch of people at a school no matter WHAT you do.'”

Keeping Warm this Wretched Winter

When I got out of work this evening, there were actual puddles on the relatively snow-free sidewalk, evidence of molecules moving, releasing heat. Wispy clouds veiled parts of a blue sky, and the air didn’t make my teeth hurt.

Yet I looked at the forecast earlier in the day, and Saturday’s weather promises “areas of frozen fog.”

Weather, what the HELL is that? I chatted with a friend today, and she said frozen fog sounded dementoresque. She said I should catch a dementor. So that’s what I’m going to do on Saturday. I’m going to tame it and give it a clever name.

The air has been frigid these past couple of weeks. Near zero degrees. Sometimes it rises all the way up to the 20s, sometimes a warm winter front comes through and dumps two easy feet of snow, dragging a hawkish train of more bitter coldness.

I do not get along with this weather. I fight it, stand up for myself. Here’s how:

poster2

  1. Thermals under my pants. My coat isn’t quite long enough to cover all of my legs, so these help.
  2. Two pairs of socks, because there’s nothing I hate more than cold feet. I can’t sleep or work properly when my toes are frozen. I get mad at Frontrunner more easily when my toes are frozen.
  3. A wool layer is good for shielding the cold and trapping heat. I’ll wear this over a shirt, which I’ll usually wear over thermal tops. When I say I like being warm, I don’t mess around.
  4. TWO scarves. I unfold one and wear it like a cape over my shoulders. I’ll wrap the other one around my neck then over my head so that it covers my ears. I also hate when the cold pierces the insides of my ears.
  5. Another layer, usually waterproof and looser-fitting, over my pants. It helps to shield the wind that tries to wrap around my legs. In your face, winter weather!
  6. High, insulated, waterproof boots. These come just below my knees, and I pull my snowpants over them. This combination prevents my feet from getting wet. I’ve had to plow my way through foot-high snow on the sidewalk next to my work building.
  7. The coat is the final layer. I zip everything up and seal everything in. I’m ready to wait for the bus and/or the train. This picture looks like there’s an alien creature pushing through my stomach, but no, it’s other layers that keep me nice and warm.

Not pictured:

  • Gloves: Having cold hands is almost as bad as having cold feet.
  • Earmuffs: Again with the ears, but they ache if they’re cold. And then I cry.
  • Aliens keeping me warm from the inside.

The ultimate goal is to layer up so that I’m like Randy from A Christmas Story and I have to say, “I can’t put my arms down!”  and Reilly will say, “Well, put your arms down when you get to work.”

So far this system of layering has worked this winter. I haven’t yet gotten sick, and it seems that my fist just now shot out in some sort of reflexive action to find the closest wood-like surface to knock on. Bring it, January. I’m ready. Dementor, I’m coming for you.

I hope everyone else is keeping warm.

This Feels Good

Today after work, I did a favor for my friend Amy and let her give me a massage. She’s a licensed massage therapist, and she really knows what she’s doing.

Amy and I met in New York City, and she has to be one the smartest people I know. She learns quickly and thoroughly, and she often offers a different perspective if you go to her with a problem and ask for advice.

Massage is not her first discipline. She knows communications/marketing and web design/consulting. As a Renaissance woman, it only makes sense that she would study and practice massage.

She lives in Salt Lake City, mere blocks from where I work. This is the recommendation I wrote on her Facebook page. I’m not sure if I did all that alliteration on purpose:

Amy is a confident, competent, and conscientious massage therapist. Her sensitivity, strength, and savvy have ensured me as one of her many loyal customers. Her massages have relaxed and revived me more than many a night’s sleep. See for yourself what Amy can do!

Amy gave the hour her full attention. She asked how I liked the pressure, the stretches; she kept the room temperature just right. She warmed the massage table with a heated blanket and had soft music playing when I entered the room. The sheets and the face cradle cover were clean. She definitely took precautions to ensure this experience would never happen to her clients.

If you’re in the Salt Lake City area and would like an amazing massage, visit Amy. Go to her website, look around, and see what she has to offer. Take advantage of her various promotions. If you’ve had a massage from Amy and think that her expertise would make a great gift, give someone a gift certificate.

She thanked me for the chance to work on me, but she actually did me the favor. I’m more relaxed, my joints are less stiff, and I feel like a new person. I can’t wait for my next massage.