Gong show

I am a gong show. I am a walking, stumbling, no-balance, poor-spatial-skills gong show. I have a long history of injuring myself while…walking. I am the queen of showing up with giant, purple, angry bruises from…I HAVE NO IDEA.¬†So, when I got myself couch-ridden last week, no one in the Sisterhood or in my life was surprised.

It all started innocently enough – a long 8-km walk a couple of weeks ago with two of the sisters, one that we had taken before and one we used as a wild-flower collecting expedition.

But on the last kilometer, just after buying supplies for the yummy breakfast we would have at Jacqui’s house afterwards, I rolled my ankle. It wasn’t a bad one (remember the long history? Yeah, also not the first one…), but it made me go down onto my knees and skin my elbow. Both Toni and Jacqui weren’t surprised to find me on the ground, but of course they were worried. I hobbled home, reassuring them that everything was okay, and after a day or so, my ankle felt normal again and happy.

That Tuesday, though, I did it again. This time I was also on a sidewalk (the most dangerous walking surface known to Julia), and I was just walking, minding my own business, but I was with Sophie. We were chatting on the way home from buying some bread and milk from the grocery store across the street from us, when I went down again. My ankle gave out, rolled, and stabbed me in the back.

This one hurt a lot. I was able to hobble home, reassuring Sophie that I was fine, but once I got inside the house with Ben, I started to sob. I so wasn’t okay. My ankle was sore and swelling, and my knee, which caught my fall, was torn and bleeding. Ben cleaned me up, found the biggest band aid we had in the house, and then left me to be a parent all day. Sugar daddies are like that. ūüėČ

This roll stuck with me a bit more – my ankle was more tender and sore, but I kept plowing through my life, as I’m wont to do. I kept mothering and walking everywhere, including wandering the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market¬†while pulling a wagon full of produce and babies, and hanging out with other mom-friends and their babies at splash pads and parks, and generally ignoring my traitor of an ankle.

But last Saturday, my ankle had the last laugh. I was sitting (SITTING!!!!), with my legs tucked under me as I always do because I’m short and can’t touch the floor, so it’s more comfortable to sit with legs pulled up than dangling down. I moved to get off of the stool I was on and my ankle twisted funny. From that moment on, I couldn’t bend it. I couldn’t stand on it. I couldn’t put any weight on it. I couldn’t move it without it screaming at me. It was all done. And so was I.

I tried to ‘pop’ it because it almost felt like the joint was stuck and just needed a bit of pressure to go back to normal. Nope.

I tried napping, hoping that my ankle would relax and be fine again. Nope.

I tried crawling around, hoping time off of it would help. Nope.

I tried getting Ben to carry me everywhere, while laughing my head off at how ridiculous I must have looked. Nope.

And then, after the babies were in bed, I tried going to the hospital for x-rays. Yep.

My ankle wasn’t broken, just sprained really, really horribly. And I was prescribed the classic athlete prescription – RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. I wasn’t allowed to put any weight on it, I had to keep it up, I had to put ice on it, and I had to wrap it in a sexy tensor bandage. Yay me! I hobbled out of the hospital with a brand-new pair of crutches and extreme worry.

Worry about walking with crutches – if I couldn’t walk like a normal person with two healthy legs, how the hell was I supposed to accomplish walking with two sticks stuck under my armpits??

Worry about the prescription – how was I supposed to complete my RICE with three babies under 7 at home??

Worry about my ankle – did I ruin it completely? Will I ever be able to walk or run normally again? When can I run again? When can I walk again? Why does my ankle hate me???

I got home, ate an ice cream sandwich because that’s what I do when I’m sad, and went upstairs to bed. Where I fell. Again. It was spectacular – I mis-crutched in my bedroom and ended up falling right back, like a tree timbering, to avoid catching myself on my out-of-commission ankle, all the way to the floor, where my head landed in the lost sock basket and my crutches flew into the air and I started laughing. Hysterical laughing. Tears streaming down my face until I actually started crying. Hysterical crying. Ben had to calm me down and literally put me to bed. Gong show.

gravity check

Of course, after a good night’s sleep, and some drugs, things started to unwind a little in the worry department. I remembered important things, like I’m not alone. I am not an island. I am a mother and wife and daughter and sister surrounded by a village of people who actually like me (they’re so screwed and crazy…). And that this silly ankle problem that HURT LIKE HELL was not the end of the world. I always think on the bad days that it’s the end of the world, that it will never get better, that this state is how things will always be. But then I get talked out of that tree and everything gets brighter.

Ben stayed home with me on Monday all day, giving me a second full day on the couch and giving us time to figure out the rest of the week.

I kicked the day off with a shower, which of course included me falling again. This time no crutches were involved, but I fell in our tiny bathroom, and my underwear got caught on a door hinge on the way down, so that when I landed, I not only had a hurt toosh, but my underwear were up near my neck and I had a giant wedgie. Sexy gong show.

wedgie

Then, I asked for help from sisters and from my dear mom friends and my own mom.

Andreah came every morning to clean my kitchen, wrangle children, and fetch me coffee, water, and food.

My jerk of an ankle

My jerk of an ankle

Andrea and Michele ferried Sophie to her art class every morning, sometimes keeping her for lunch and play dates. Bethany took my kids for three of the afternoons, letting me rest and keep my foot up while she fed and napped and chased my babies.

McSteamy kept me company. <3

McSteamy kept me company. ‚̧

And my mom kicked in an afternoon of motherly love, which included toenail painting (including Isaac’s!).

Clockwise from the giant blue toes (mine!), we have Isaac's (who was more reluctant about the picture than the actual toe-painting), Lillian (who has Spider-Man blue and red) and Sophie (who is proud to be the kid with the most polish still intact on both fingers AND toes)

Clockwise from the giant blue toes (mine!), we then have Isaac’s (who was more reluctant about the picture than the actual toe-painting), Lillian (who has Spider-Man blue and red) and Sophie (who is proud to be the kid with the most polish still intact on both fingers AND toes)

I’m happy to report I’m walking around now, fairly crutch-free, with some tensor bandage fashion and ice-pack dates punctuating the day, versus being the day. My ankle still aches¬†and I¬†know I still have to take it easy, but at least I’m moving in the right direction, I haven’t fallen in a while and I’ve stopped giving myself door-hinge wedgies. I’m cured! At least until my ankle decides to hate me again.

~ Julia

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Leaving

We made a huge decision last year. A decision that rocked our home and our family. A decision that had been a long time coming, yet still was impossible to predict.

We decided to stop going to church.

Ben and I both come from a long tradition of attending church services on a regular basis. His grandparents went to the church that his mom and dad both attended, and he attended the same church his entire life. My parents found the church we were attending when I was less than a year old and had been members for my entire life.

Last year, we changed that.

Leaving a church is not something we had ever thought we would do. Ben and I met through the church’s youth group. Ben was a minister and head choir leader. I was crazy involved as an organist, a Sunday School teacher and leader, and a choir member. We decided to live in the city we do because of church, even though when we got married we were looking for work in other cities. We didn’t want to commute to the place where¬†we spent a third of our time. At the height of our involvement, if we weren’t at home or work, we were at church. We LIVED church. And loved it.

We had a community of believers that were living the same life we were, that had the families and the marriages that we wanted, that were the volunteers we strove to be, and were our friends.

And then we had Sophie.

I’m not blaming Sophie, but as you know (or maybe you don’t…) after you have a kid EVERYTHING changes. EVERYTHING. Think of something, anything, in your life. Now, have a kid and it’s CHANGED. It was the hardest thing we’ve ever done (as any new parent will confirm). And because I had an undiagnosed round of PPD, it was worse. And my interaction with the church, because it was SOMETHING, changed. But we still held on.

Then we had Lillian. And I broke even more because PPD with a newborn and a toddler looks vastly different than PPD with just a newborn. And in therapy I was told if I wanted to survive, to live, to keep my family together, to keep me together, I would have to take a hard look¬†at¬†our extracurricular activities, or things that we were doing or were involved in that weren’t an absolute necessity, like eating, or bathing, or sleeping. Getting dressed didn’t even make the list, so volunteering in the church, attending church services regularly, being involved were no longer options. So, we stepped back and attended when we could, and weren’t involved anymore.

And then we had Isaac. And all hell broke loose. People say that having three kids is harder than having two, which is harder than having just one, and that going from none to one¬†is by far the biggest change. In our experience, this has all held true. Having three is switching the defense from man-to-man to zone, and being outnumbered all the time, not just when one parent is out of the room. It’s hard and crazy and, now¬†that everyone is sleeping again, awesome. But, there was no way we could pick up where we were in the church, where we were in the community, where we were when we were a family of two, or three, or even four. We were five and church was a really hard thing to maintain.

This was half of our trouble with our church. The other half is a long, complicated story of intimate details I won’t go into. I love lots of people who still go to the church. I respect so many people who go to the church. And I’m not going to use this platform or any other public forum to tear apart such a personal piece of people’s lives. If you have a true relationship with God, and you have found the best place for you to worship, you know what a deep commitment and what an intricate piece of your life it is. This post is not to rip apart what other people have with our old church. It’s to talk about what it was for us.

Our biggest trouble was feeling like there was a lack of support for young families and specifically young mothers. So when the bottom dropped out on our lives, we lost all the connections we had with our faith and with our worship.

I think it’s important here to describe the difference between faith and worship. It’s as different as belief in God and organized religion. There’s God, the perfect being, the One who loves you through everything and anything, and the religions that are man-made, imperfect bodies set upon this earth to help us get closer to Him. The trouble? All of those man-made rules, judgments and complications. For us, our relationship with God was there, through ups and downs, but our ability to worship and to receive support in our relationship with God was destroyed and non-existent. We loved God. He loved us (because that will always be). But we had lost our place in a community of believers. We had lost our connection through worship, which is singing, praising, working and sitting in that community of believers and hearing God’s word.

It hurt. A lot. And it just kept hurting. Until I decided that I needed more.

So I told Ben that. I explained to him that I couldn’t go on not worshiping, but that I couldn’t go back to how we had always worshiped. I told him that I wanted to go church shopping. I told him that I needed to go church shopping. And then I asked him what he thought. And then I started apologizing.

Asking someone to change pieces of their faith or all of their faith, or having someone jump ship on the faith when you have spent your entire lives and relationship believing and worshiping together, in my opinion, can be such a blow. It’s like you had a deal and the other person reneges in the worst, biggest, most awful way ever.

I needed to find a way to worship but I hated that I was asking Ben to give up everything for it.

So we talked and talked and I cried, and we talked and talked, and I apologized and cried some more, and we decided – we’d go shopping. We’d keep an open mind. We’d look for the support that we so desperately needed. And we’d attempt to find a church that would work for our little family, not necessarily one that worked for the generations of church-goers before us.

We have found a church and a community that gives us the opportunity to worship in a completely different, yet sacred way. We have found a church that is giving us support that our former church just couldn’t muster. We have found a place to sing and praise and stand in a community of believers again where it doesn’t hurt quite so much.

It still hurts. It hurt over Thanksgiving when we weren’t in our old congregation with the altar laden with harvest and the singing being incredible and feeling of gratitude overwhelming us. It hurt over Christmas when we didn’t go to church on Christmas morning because there are no services in our new church. It hurts every time I see a minister get up to serve and I know that for Ben, if we stay in this new place, that it will never happen for him again, whereas he had that opportunity in our former church. It hurts when I think about all of the people that we have left behind, people who loved us and helped us get started as a couple and as a family, people who baptized our babies and loved them like their own. It hurts.

But.

It doesn’t hurt as much as nothing or as returning to old habits that don’t work for our family anymore.

And it feels lovely to be sitting at the feet of God again, praying in a community again, loving other believers again. It feels good. And it feels like there’s hope. It’s hope-full. It’s promise-filled. And for now, for today, it’s working for us.

I never in a million years thought that we would leave our church. I watched other people leave and I didn’t understand it, I worried for them and their souls, I shook my head in disbelief.

And now we are in a place of such flux, of leaving and of looking, of trying to find a way to stay and being resigned to look elsewhere, and all I know now is that God loves us. He’s there, like always, like forever. And we have found a way for today to worship with others like us.

~ Julia

I didn’t know

I’ve adopted a mantra in recent years, brought about by my mental health journey and my miscarriage heartache, and my living a small life full of big joy as a stay-at-home mom: Tell your¬†truth. Tell it all, no matter how hard, awkward, painful, or real.

It’s a scary mantra, for sure, and is not for the faint of heart. I know many a mother, all strong, incredible women, who refuse to admit to more than a select few of their journey with mental illness or miscarriage or hardship. That talking about their truth is scarier than the truth itself. That kind of quiet, though, doesn’t work for me. And so, for me, I tell my truth.

I talk about dark days and low lows. I talk about broken brains and medicated pregnancies. I talk about dead babies and wide chasms of grief. I talk about rough patches and the fight of marriage. I talk. I talk. I talk.

I’m certain there are people who wish, sometimes or all the times, that I’d just shut up. (Sometimes I am those people.)

I also know, though, that there are people who have felt a relief that I’m a truth-sharer. That it gives them licence to share their truth – with me, with their doctor, with their partner, with themselves (sometimes, the hardest of all truth-sharing). That it gives them hope because they are not alone in their scary truth. That they are not crazy. And if they are crazy, then there’s hope because other crazy people walk among us and are living seemingly regular lives. (Note I didn’t say¬†normal¬†lives…there is no hope for that, let me tell you! ūüėČ .)

In keeping with my truth telling, I have another confession for you: I am suffering weaning depression. 

I didn’t even know such a thing existed.

I know tons about PPD and PPMD, about how they are jerks and liars and life-taker-overs, and how you have to be mega strong to fight and win over them, but that winning is possible and that having more babies after them is possible (See?! CRAZY.) and that life after is possible.

But weaning depression? Really?!

Things have been kind of ridiculous at the Mills’ house lately. A little over a week ago, I cut¬†this¬†guy off from¬†my boobs:

Noodle night, anyone?

Noodle night, anyone?

And it wasn’t as hard as we had feared. And it wasn’t as tricky as it seemed. And in magical turn of events,¬†he sleeps through the night now for the first time in¬†15¬†MONTHS.¬†

Guys, we won the lottery. I weaned Isaac at 15 months and there was uninterrupted sleep waiting for me as a prize. KICKASS.

But then? Then? Then I started to fall apart.

As in, the past week and a bit have been brutal. And crap.

Of course, there’s the sore boob problem. The we’re-still-making-milk-what-the-hell-are-you-doing problem. The we-look-like-we’re-surgically-enhanced problem. The if-Ben-so-much-as-looks-at-me-the-wrong-way-he’s-dead problem. They really, really hurt. I think I’m turning a corner with this, but I can’t be sure because I can’t think straight because MY BOOBS HURT. (Cue all the people who’d wish I’d shut up…it’s okay, I get it. And I still love you.)

But there’s this other problem that I don’t remember happening with Sophie or Lillian’s weaning: depression-like symptoms, rearing their ugly heads, as if I had never fought them and beat them all those months ago. As if I weren’t still medicated. As if I weren’t still working all of the steps and tools and processes that saved my life and continues to save my life today.

As if.

I feel like I’m itching in my skin again – I can’t sit still, yet I can’t do anything because everything is overwhelming and hard again. I want to scream at the babies all the time even though the hijinks and antics they’re pulling don’t bring me to my knees anymore. I want to run away from home and become a writer and a crafter and a knitter and an anything-but-stay-at-home-mom-er. I want to eat all the chocolate and butter and bread the world has to offer (Read: bring me a piece of buttered toast slathered in Nutella and you can pretty much have whatever you want). I want to eat nothing because I’m tired and I don’t want to cook or prep or clean. I want to sleep until there is no more sleep to be had. I hate sleeping because I’m having trouble falling into it and staying in it (cruel irony, here – the moment I’m given full nights of sleep is the moment I lose the ability¬†to sleep.)

I’m struggling. And I hate it.

At first I thought I was crazier than normal, like my period was on its way (SHUT UP, JULIA!) and I was PMSing (apparently, symptoms after weaning can feel like a brutal case of PMS). And then I thought I might be pregnant (I took two tests…no fourth miracle post-tubal-ligation baby for us!). And then I decided to Safe Google (i.e. not random googling, educated googling – I went to sites that I knew did less panic-inciting and more researching and educating).

Weaning depression has not been documented in many studies, but it has a lot of anecdotal evidence behind it. Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress mentions it on her blog and states that through her years of running her website she has “heard from many women whose postpartum experiences were just fine until they stopped breastfeeding.” The Perinatal Mood Disorder Awareness website also covers this topic, saying that “a¬†large percentage of Moms report experiencing mood changes related to weaning, and some Moms dip into full blown depression after weaning their babies.” I also found some fellow truth-tellers¬†(like her, her and them), who bravely shared their stories and gave me hope that I’m not simply crazy and that there are other survivors out there.

I sit here stunned. Stunned that this crappy brain of mine is giving me a crappy experience again. That the life I was kicking ass at is crumbling a little again. That my ability to handle things with little-to-no help has all but disappeared and I’m left reaching out my hand to Ben, asking him to forgive the anger and crazy that’s pouring out of my mouth all the while begging him to let me lean on him (he said yes, by the way…because he’s awesome…and a life saver).

I didn’t know this existed. Had no idea.

But, now, it’s part of my journey. It’s part of my¬†truth.¬†And it is in this vein, this spirit that I share this with you, even the ones that wish I’d stop being an oversharer already.

Feeling low after weaning happens to a lot of women. There is a theory that it is related to the dropping levels of oxytocin, the happy-hormone that is at an all-time high while breastfeeding. The low can feel as awful as a mega bout of PMS or as bad as depression. It should be treated with grace and seriousness and help, as all mental health issues should be.

And it’s happening to me.

If you are experiencing this, or have experienced this and didn’t know what it was, or are thinking about having babies or breastfeeding babies, or if you know someone who has boobs who might use them one day to feed their babies, I’m sharing my truth in hopes that it will lend¬†relief, understanding, and support to the person who feels lost and needs it, just as those brave women that I found as I Safe Googled my way through yet another gift of motherhood.¬†I’m hanging in there, so have other women, and so can you.

~ Julia