Bad citizen

I have an anxiety disorder.

Yes, yes I am.

Yes, yes I am.

This means that I am an exemplary worrier, fretter, and all around ball of nerves. It also means that I’m medicated and that I’ve done years of therapy to manage the crazy in my head, because while pills definitely help, I need to be in charge of the runaway train of fear or it will definitely be in charge of me.

Simply put, I’m the queen of inflating any situation into a hypothetical nightmare. For example, if Ben is late getting home from work, I immediately envision him dead, I start freaking out about being a single parent, a widow, and the fact that I have to plan a funeral, get a job, and deal with everything forever by myself.

Welcome to my world, Ron.

Welcome to my world, Ron.

It also means that I have to be very careful, selective, and downright anal about what I consume mentally. Television shows, books, movies, even conversations, all have to be carefully monitored and I have to be ready to turn them off, shut my eyes, or leave the room if things get too dicey.

It’s a key to my self-care and my mental health, but in truth, it makes me a crappy citizen because the very tragedies that draw people closer, bring people together around water coolers and Facebook posts and Twitter feeds, are the poison that will derail my control over my nutty brain. For me, watching the news, reading online articles, following comment threads, delving into the gory details of an accident, a homicide, a plane crash, a suicide, a child molestation/abuse court case can make it too easy to go down the rabbit hole of the worst (and least realistic in my life) what-ifs out there.

This past week we had two tragedies in Canada involving our soldiers, where two servicemen, on our own soil, were killed with no war or battle or extremist circumstance near them. This is the stuff that makes our nation stand up, show solidarity, and inspires people to line the overpasses of highways to give a fallen soldier a hero’s return home.

So moving and fitting.

So moving and fitting.

It’s also the stuff that makes me curtail my online prowling and consuming so that I only view or read on the periphery, the barest of details, and avoid the in-depth commentary, the poetic waxing on the soldier’s sad dogs or grief-stricken little boy, and the replay of the security footage leading up to and including the murders. It makes me hide when everyone else is seeking insight and discussing the situation at every opportunity.

It gets even harder when something happens involving someone famous. Celebrities these days are uber accessible and prominent, and that makes any horrific or prolific situation involving them feel like it’s happening to someone we know. When Robin Williams died from suicide, I had to shut down my social media consumption extensively – everyone was talking about it, retweeting it, Facebook posting it, sharing and becoming a community of mourners. I had to halt the thoughts of how awful it must have been for him, how awful it must be for his family and friends, because had I continued to think about all of the horribleness of the situation, I probably would have found myself immobilized by a grief that wasn’t mine in the first place, or worse, in a position of wondering where my life fit on his spectrum for what’s unbearable and what I can live through. It’s a dangerous, dangerous thing for me.

And I’m not alone. This ‘don’t invite scary thoughts in your head’ tactic is used by many, many people who suffer from mental illness. It’s the first thing on the list of things to avoid when you’re suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety by Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress, the world’s most widely-read blog on mental illness related to pregnancy and child birth. The Calm Clinic, an online blog specializing in anxiety disorders, states clearly that you should minimize your exposure to anxiety stimuli. What is more anxiety-filled than the evening news?

People are often surprised that I don’t know about current events, like the Ebola virus, or what the status is on those poor girls who were kidnapped, or the current war being fought. I’m a smart person. And I thrive on researching things (I’m the queen of googling). But when it comes to scary things beyond my control, things that will just worry me and fill me with paralyzing fear, things that I don’t have to deal with right now, or probably ever, I simply don’t think about them. I don’t learn about them. I don’t read, comment, write, or discuss them. Because at the end of the day, even if I am a bad citizen, at least I’m a healthy Julia, and that I can control.

~ Julia

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The difference a year makes

A year ago, I thought I had all the time in the world. My bag wasn’t packed. I was focusing on Sophie starting school. I was focusing on getting a not-for-profit for PPD/PPMD awareness off the ground. I was focused on loving my new niece and my broken sister-in-law. I had all the time in the world.

And then you happened.

First photo

First photo

I was sleeping in bed. Dreaming of steak, probably, because that’s all I craved with you. STEAK. And PORK. And anything barbecued. I wanted MEAT. Lots and lots of FIRE-KISSED MEAT. In my BELLY. NOW. (By the way, your dad couldn’t have been happier – I craved chocolate milkshakes and chocolate milk and fudgsicles with Sophie, and strawberry milkshakes with Lillian – but MEAT? Barbecued at all hours of the day and night? SOLD.)

First REAL clothes

First REAL clothes

And then, I started peeing the bed. Or at least, that’s what I thought was happening. Lots and lots of pee.

Father and son

Father and son

I got up, trying not to keep peeing, thinking that there was no way at 3:45 a.m. that I could have this much pee in me. I hadn’t been drinking all night long…I had gone pee before bed…and at 7468543 months pregnant, I had a bladder the size of a peanut. There was NO WAY I could be peeing this much.

First official photo as a couple

First official photo as a couple

When I sat on the toilet (TMI? Too bad.) a huge gush of water came out of me. My water water. It broke. I actually had a normal labour phenomena (I suck at birthing babies. Cooking babies, I’m a pro. Birthing, getting them out, not so much.)! Now to wake up my deaf (Ben takes his hearing aid out at night) husband while not spilling my innards (TMI again? Too bad again.) all over our carpet. I shoved towels in between my legs and waddled over to our bed. I poked the sleeping bear husband and got him to put in his hearing aid. He looked at me grumpily. I said, “My water broke.” He jumped out of bed. Correct response.

Official photoshoot courtesy of Close Your Eyes Photography

Official photoshoot courtesy of Close Your Eyes Photography

We called my incredible, favourite, most awesome midwife Cathy. And by we, I mean Ben, because people, I had to PACK A BAG TO TAKE TO THE HOSPITAL. With towels between my legs. Priorities. And then we had to call the mothers (someone has to take care of the current babies while we birth the next baby!).

First bath (aka his favourite!)

First bath (aka his favourite!)

Nana (Ben’s mom) came over and Cathy met us at the hospital. We had done something similar at 31 weeks. I had had contractions all day that wouldn’t go away no matter how many left-sided lie downs I had. They were able to give me the lung-boosting shots and the contractions eventually stopped on their own with two days of bed rest. But this, at 36 weeks, was leaking AND contractions. CRAP.

I love me some snuggly baby.

I love me some snuggly baby.

When we got to the hospital, Cathy told a nurse that my water had broke. The nurse asked if I was sure – sure that it broke and it wasn’t just pee, which apparently is a regular occurrence. Cathy said, “She’s got three towels in her pants (I DID, and I sat on a bunch in the van), so I think she’s serious.” The nurse was suitably impressed. I was suitably leaking.

Baptism day! Heathen no more.

Baptism day! Heathen no more.

I got hooked up to an IV, a fetal heart monitor, and a clicker for contraction tracking. Ben and I both got bracelets. This was the real deal. We had a C-section booked for 8 a.m. on Friday September 13. It was Tuesday August 27. BAH.

He's a suit man. SO CUTE.

He’s a suit man. SO CUTE.

The on-call OB came in, because although it looked like our baby wanted to come out the all-natural way, he was breech, breech, breech and with my super awesome (read: CRAP) history of getting babies out of my belly, a C-section was by far the best answer. I was in the operating room, getting my spinal and chatting with a new round of nurses, holding my breath and praying that everything would be okay, that Ben would be there in time (he had zero reason not to…I’m just a professional worrier), that our babies would be okay, that if anything happened to me everyone would be okay, that my baby would be okay.

First food. Success?

First food. Success?

At 7:11 a.m. on August 27th you were born. Isaac Earl Kenneth Mills. Our son. A boy.

You can see why I was freaked out by the boy thing, right?

You can see why I was freaked out by the boy thing, right?

You weighed 6 pounds, 7.5 ounces. You were in an incubator on monitors because of your early arrival (just days shy of being considered term) and because you were in withdrawal from the antidepressants I had been taking since my bout with PPMD from Lillian (you were jittery, but okay). You were perfect. And I got a nice little break from life since you weren’t in my room and your crazy sisters with hanging out with Aunt Toni and Grammie. It was kind of heaven.

Such a stud

Such a stud

After a few short days, we both got to go home, to reality and crazy and ramping up to Sophie starting school. The first day didn’t go as I had planned (go figure). Instead of walking to Sophie to school as a family, with a giant pregnant belly, we drove to school because I couldn’t walk that far with a new C-section incision or just after giving birth. I stood, against my midwife’s instructions, for 45 minutes, watching your sister get used to her new classroom and all the parents and children marveling at how small and new you were. Exactly one week old.

The beginning of the end

The beginning of the end

Things have changed a lot since then. I broke again and Aunt Toni and therapists (or super heroes, as Sophie calls them) Colleen and Victoria put me back together. I was in love with you from the start, which was different than the earned love I had with your sisters. I learned a lot about penis care, which is VERY different from vagina care (HOLY SCHAMOLY, who knew morning wood began this early in life?!). And I learned to love a son, which really is no different than loving a daughter at this point, but I’m told it will change, will become something unique to the love I have for your sisters.

Our almost-one-year old boy, eating dirt and taking names

Our almost-one-year old boy, eating dirt and taking names

You will be one on Wednesday. It’s been a year since we met you, a year since your punkish ways disrupted any semblance of plan we had for the transition from summer to fall, from no school to school. A whole year. And we are so blessed that you are ours and that you’re here.

Happy, happy birthday, mister. We love you.

~ Love, Mama (a.k.a. Julia)