Seven Months Summed Up

Hello. It’s been 7 months, roughly 117 days since my last post. That’s how many days I was with my school kids and not my baby boy. (According to a state department of instruction teacher effectiveness measuring tool…) — this post is kinda all over….just bear with me- school, new mommying, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, etc-

Teacher life is very close to having tunnel vision and unless you exist in the school realm you are not aware of the life that exists outside of it. (At least this is what I experience, especially this time).

November 30th was by far the most difficult day of my life. Not the birth of my son, nope, not by far. Leaving Mason to go teach 24 kids and be thrust into the work life after getting to play “stay at home mommy” to my sunshine was absolutely the worst experience in my life. Not getting left and stuck behind in Russia with an expired visa (although that was terrifying), not being in labor for 3 hours with no meds (thank you nurse for nothing), not even driving and getting lost in Kensington in Philadelphia with a dead phone and no gps to get me out… November 30, 2016… my return to work, was by far the worst day of my life.

Am I being dramatic? Yes, maybe. I realize I had a lot of time off with my baby. And I truly with all my heart and soul tried to cherish, be thankful, and joyous in all those days. I know many mommies get way less time. I know some want to go back to work. I know I am beyond blessed to have the time that I did and I thanked God for each day.

If it weren’t for almost NEVER taking a sick day in 4 years of teaching (I can count them), never taking an annual leave day when there was a teacher workday, and never paying out for a personal day (save for weddings of friends) – I had saved exactly 36 paid sick days of time off (we can earn 1 day a month for a contracted 10 months of employment – so that’s 10 a school year. I could have a total of 40 days. So that’s right in 4 years I took 4 sick days…) To stay home with the babe I had to use them all. Goodbye sick, annual, and personal leave (which cost me $250 for that week at $50 a day)… And a very sweet and loving family member allowed me to stay out the extra FMLA covered time for a full 12 weeks of leave. 6 were paid only because of my accrued time off, and 6 were not. I returned November 30 with no sick, annual, or personal leave. IF I had to take a day off for anything it would remain unpaid until I could “Earn” those back 1 day at a time, each month. Thanks to December for being a whole 3 weeks and then 2 weeks off for break!!! I earned back a full 3 days – one of each kind. Every appointment we had, I had to use a half day..

You get the idea. You would think for being someone who takes care of others’ children all day, they would consider maybe giving teachers some time to take care of their own without taking their personal saved up time? No? There is no way I will have that time for baby #2 if we decide to do that… I am not working another 4 years to save up for that…Ridiculous. So any time past my sick leave would be unpaid even if it falls within the 6 weeks off…

(I know everyone processes this experience differently. This was mine. Please be kind and don’t say I am whining. Postpartum is experienced differently by every woman, and if you’re a guy, sorry you don’t get it – you don’t have the hormones or emotions surging through you like we do after birthing a baby. Save your negative or mean comments for someone else.)

The morning of Novmeber 30th…. It was raining, no pouring. The sky and weather were about the same as my soul. I dropped off the baby to the sitter, which was a HUGE MISTAKE. I drove the excruciating 18 minutes to school. I cried the entire way. I couldn’t get out of the car when I got to the parking lot. I was literally shaking because I was sobbing. I was trying to contain and control myself so I could go in with a brave face…that was not happening. So I sat, and sat, watching the minutes tick closer to when kiddos get released through the doors.

Then I saw a yellow raincoat in my window. It was one of our sweet teacher assistants. Without Paula, I would have never gotten out of the car. She thought someone had left their lights on and went out in the monsoon to check the car. God bless her sweet soul. In the rain, she consoled me and hugged me really tight, she didn’t say anything at first. She just let me sob. Then she said, “I know. I know. It’s so hard, and I wish I could take this away from you. How can I help you? Let’s walk in together,” and she waited as I slowly got my bags and we walked into the school. (All the while in the monsoon).. We said a few other things and we got into school, everyone smiled and hugged me. My face was A MESS. Red, puffy, crying. So so so attractive. The office staff are to be applauded because they too helped me feel better and said, crying was okay. Good, because that’s what was happening. The tears just would not stop.

I don’t remember walking to my classroom, auto pilot, I got in and just blinked around at the room that was not “mine,” – I hadn’t done it so it just felt so foreign and removed. I had no special first day back plans. I was not ready. My sweet first grade team was there and consoled me, but I know they were super happy to have me back finally. At least, that’s what they said, and I believed them.

I managed to fix myself in time… the bell rang… the kids came in happy to finally meet me. I didn’t know their names, their quirks, etc. I was the “new kid” and I got a new kid that same day. Don’t expect sweet stories of unicorns and cupcakes and rainbows, because there aren’t any. It was hard, difficult, exhausting, and I pumped 3x during all my teacher prep periods to keep from missing instructional time.

~When you come back from leave you’re just thrown in and expected to perform at full steam ahead without missing a beat. All the paperwork, lessons, IEP’s/PEP’s, schedules, and minutia are expected to just get taken care of. There is no “training” period. And you want to be “on” for your team. You want to help carry the load. And the parents…omg…the parents expect 100% efficiency.~

I had to process and look at things in small chunks of time: 3 weeks til break. It was mass chaos. They were trying to get to know me, and I was trying to get to know them. Redo all the rules. Redo all the expectations. Redo. Redo. Redo. Holy Bananas! How were they functioning, it was a complete zoo. Thank you Jesus for the sweetest class ever because I would NOT have survived if it had been anything like last year’s class. I made it to winter break. Quick trip to PA for a family visit. Return January. With no end in sight til March. Testing started January 3rd or so… Hello kids, back for 2 days then whammo, testing time til February 2nd. I was finally able to really start teaching reading groups Feb. 3rd. I had them for a whole 117 days and then there’s 4 weeks of testing in January, and 3 weeks of testing in May. I was able to instruct them from February, March, and April.

Let’s just talk about feeling like a failure all around.

I felt like I was half mom, half teacher…um wife, 0%, friend 0%. Thank you for my amazing husband who took care of the food aspect of life, my cheerleader, the shoulder to cry on, the ear to listen to my woes. He helped get me through. I fed the baby fully until about mid-January then my supply just nose-dived from stress and pumping…thank you work, I hate you more now. Hubby got me to see the light. Pumping at 8:45am, 11am, 2:30pm, 9pm, 12am, and waking up at 2:30/3am, then waking up to nurse baby at 6am – was NOT WORKING. Hello formula, you make me feel like I suck at being a mommy. But it relieved the stress of being the sole source of nutrition for my baby. I hated needing it because we were fine without it for almost 5 months. It ain’t cheap either. Because we also realized baby has eczema from dairy. (really? really??)

Aside because it has to be said and it fuels my redhead rage for all the mommies I know – I know many moms need and/or choose formula, I am not knocking formula, we need it. Feed the baby, period. Feed the baby. But being able to solely breastfeed, and have EXTRA, and then watching your supply dwindle because of outside circumstances you have no control over – just etched -You are a FAILURE- into my heart, even though I wasn’t, it just did at that moment in time. And to all those who side comment “breast is best,” “oh formula, (insert disapproving look)” “what’s in the bottle, breastmilk right?”  I will PUNCH YOU IN THE THROAT. Because not all of us can and for those of us who WANT to and CAN’T – YOU ARE THE PROBLEM making us feel like we aren’t the best mommy we can be. We are feeding the baby and supplying life the best way we can and we don’t need your input unless you are asked, are a breastfeeding specialist, or a doctor we are consulting…. How about we examine the contents of your pantry, fridge, and shopping cart shall we? What are you feeding your family and your body? LEAVE THE MOMS ALONE. And then they want to know if you are “STILL nursing?!” REALLY? First, how dare we feed the baby formula/breastmilk, then you want us to stop on YOUR timeline?????? How about you stop eating (your favorite thing) when I say to?  Butt out please. <Much love from all the moms> (end rant)

This is not a well-known fact – so if you know me and weren’t aware, sorry I just kept it to myself, hubby, my team, and a few close friends. I had a few panic attacks starting in January-February. Trying to balance it all, not feeling adequate, you name it.

I was sitting down on my stool at school and the first one hit me and lasted 24 minutes and my FitBit caught my heart rate spiked from 98 to 150 in the span of seconds. It was awesome. Especially with the whole class sitting and getting ready for me to teach math.. If you never had one, you do not want to experience it ever. I was able to breathe slowly and get through it,despite my throat feeling closed. My back was drenched in sweat. Then I was terrified it would happen again all day long. My team helped me out, they understood, and they talked to me and supported me after I finally shared with them. That’s hard, admitting you’re vulnerable, you’re weak, and you need help.

Lesson: New moms (all moms) need help. You should not feel like you have to do it all alone. Don’t be a superhero. You will burn out and then you can’t help anyone.   –We have no family in the area, they’re long ways away. So being brand spanking new parents with no life lines close by is really really hard. We can’t just call the grandparents and drive over for dinner.–

I came across a quote by Lara Casey in my last month of school. The end stretch, not a bible verse, surprisingly. And it’s a twist on the popular; “She believed she could. So she did.” That is awesome, inspiring, and powerful. But it is completely all about yourself, and being self-reliant. And I just couldn’t pour out anymore because there was nothing left…

I was empty from January to April. I was in a million pieces. I couldn’t do it. I had no strength and couldn’t see past myself or to the next day. Few things brought me joy or sunshine. (Hello postpartum depression).

The short of it: I perked up for friends and family. But there were days I didn’t touch Mason except to feed him. Why? I don’t know, it just happened. I wasn’t aware of it til about the end of March, hence the teacher tunnel vision, or what I thought it was. I couldn’t understand why I was so sad when I had this beautiful baby, this amazing husband, fun loving doggies, a comfy home….I should be happy! I did the math one week I saw Mason for a whole 6 hours out of 5 days. How depressing. Then down the long winding road of sadness…..Sometime in January during a really BAD time there was a song that played…at the beginning of the pit. I got into a car accident on a Monday morning. It was my fault. I had the baby with me. (You’re a bad mom.) I had turned too far left in my sitter’s development and it was a moment. Mason made a noise and I peeked up at him in the mirror and – CRASH- scrap the whole side of the car at the stop sign. I had more damage than the other car. After all the “stuff” of that and more crying, I drove to school. And Johnny Diaz’s song, Breathe, came on. Cue the breakdown. (Go listen to it). I listened to that song everyday on repeat to school. It came right when I needed it, God knew I needed to hear it at that moment. Johnny Diaz – Breathe click that. 3:34. You’ve read this far, so please listen…

I stopped texting family back and sending pics, because I had no new photos of him. I would see him in the morning to feed him, get him back at 5pm and he would be miserable and want to go to bed by 6/6:30…so he was hungry and fussy. I saw no awesome things with this. The sitter, who I thankfully loved and was blessed by God to have message me before my leave ended, was seeing all the firsts. He reached for her first too, talk about sucking out my soul. I never cried so much as I did this year…. I knew about the whole attitude thing (be grateful it changes everything- blah blah- but then when it doesn’t…) what do you do? I did my best not to compare myself to friends and their situations, because I know, comparison is the thief of joy, and it truly is. I had to stop going on facebook during my pumping sessions because, well, I was no longer part of the hangouts and lunch dates. I was alone in that tiny room with the milk sucking machine that was getting less and less by the week. Lonely. Missing my baby more than I thought my heart could take; how do people do this?! I must not be handling this like other moms do, I’m doing it wrong. What am I missing? What am I not doing correctly? (the enemy is right there whispering the doubts into your soul, through yourself and even others…. you’re not good enough, you’re a failure, you’re a bad mom you never see your baby, oh you have a husband tend to him to, the kids at school aren’t progressing like the other classes, “you’re different this year,” “Ms. Z. I miss my Kindergarten teacher,” “why aren’t you enriching my child more,” “if Mason’s teacher was like me I wouldn’t want him in my class,” how come you don’t call anymore?  . . I could go on, but my point is this quote here….

“She believed she couldn’t. So He did.” -Lara Casey

I believed I couldn’t. So God did. (It just took A LONG time to get through my blackness, sorry if you were left out in the cold and wondered, why isn’t she texting or talking to me..if you didn’t, well that’s fine too.) I was at the end of my self and in that bottomless pit of nothingness I could feel that I wasn’t alone there. God was there, waiting for me to just hold onto His promises, which I always seem to forget about. In the stillness, being alone, vulnerable, knowing I was not a bad mommy – but I wasn’t looking to the One Who had the strength I needed. I was trying to find it elsewhere in temporary places and people. Guess what, they fail. I fail. God does not fail.

Then I heard this song…. Tell Your Heart to Beat Again  yes please listen to that too.. it’s the guy who was on American Idol, 3rd place finalist… Danny Gokey

“your journey’s just begun…”

Looking up: May came, the school year ended. The kids reminded me that they wanted me each day. They kept me busy, occupied. And poof…June 9th. Last day of school. (I make it sound super quick but it TOOK FOREVER.. nothing eventful really happened.)

I made it. It was not without tears or hard times. Every now and then I catch myself cringing at the thought of next school year. The school supplies in stores. The commcercials. Ugh. I can’t get away. Career change? Maybe. I don’t know what to though. And these next weeks with Mason and pretending to be stay at home mommy again, while temporary, is the very thing my soul needs right now.

This mommying thing is hard guys. Days away from him were killing me, I was missing it all. Now I am with him, and he’s super clingy and trying to walk everywhere while holding my hands. I love it. My back and neck don’t – but I pray I get to be the one to see him take his first steps. That’s really the last of the “firsts” I think in baby world. And I don’t want to miss it. His journey of growing up there will be so many firsts and I will do all I can do to be a part of them, but I know, I will miss some. And it will be okay….

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:7

Yes, family, that verse is still going strong. I can’t see WHY, but will I go onward anyway, because …

“…we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28

That’s the one promise I am holding onto right now. I can’t really get past it to anything else. SO I will hold to those two things. Immature? Maybe. But I need these 9 weeks to heal and enjoy my baby. Please don’t ask me about “next year” – I don’t know – and my heart just can’t think about it all happening again right now. I am not out of the woods yet. I can just see the sun rays now shining through the branches.

❤ Laura

(The viral post I saw somewhere on facebook; this is what postpartum depression looks like.) This was Mother’s Day. My very first one with him on the outside- and I felt joy that day. In the midst of the sadness, there are days of happiness and joy.

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survival mode

*birth story to come, this was more pressing to get out*

Tomorrow – in less than 12 hours I will have about 24 kids staring at me. Full of questions. Excited to see me. Jumping and joyful to finally meet their full time teacher. They’ll be shy too. They’ll want to know all about me. They will all know each other. I will be the newbie. Tomorrow my maternity leave comes to a sad sad end. And I will hand my precious baby boy to a sitter (who I actually really really love – that’s not the problem).

I am not ready.

Sure – there’s the clerical junk – trying to pick up where the sub left off, emails, lessons, letters, IEP’s; and of course the meetings, meetings..and more meetings to talk about why we have more meetings..

But my heart is not ready. My emotions are haywire. I do not want to go. I feel like a toddler kicking and screaming in the store for a toy I can’t have and having a meltdown. I think I have been crying since Friday? I haven’t cried this much since I was even pregnant- the time they say your hormones make you go luny for 9 months? Yea, well it didn’t happen to me, my poor hubby kept waiting for the mood swings everyone warned him about – they never came. I was fine. I think I cried a whole 5 times? -I know weirdo – But truthfully, my transition last year into my new school was no picnic, and I had a rough class. My tears were in relation to that, not crazy raging preggo hormones. But being pregnant I think really helped me last year, surprisingly – it got me through knowing someONE amazing was coming to me in August, and would keep me from teaching a full year.. (silver linings here people).

For those who do not know: teaching is stressful. It never ends. The to-do list grows, there is never enough time, and there is never enough energy to get it all done. You have great days that go super smooth (and then no one ever sees it). You have awful days that make you fall flat on your face or sit breathing deeply in your car before driving (so you don’t have road rage on innocent drivers.) Side note: For some funny reason – those were the days admins would walk into my room.

But most people don’t want to hear it. They think I dance, sing, and color all day with my students.

This is not the case. I plan lessons, make Smartboards, gather resources, and read my notes on my students to help me understand how to teach them better. Did they get it? No? Why not? What can I do differently to help the ones who didn’t understand? (For all subjects). Then there is the meetings. Testing. Interventions. Conferences. After school activities (thankfully not so many of those). It’s not a 9-5 job. It comes home with me. Every waking moment you have nagging things on your to do list hanging over your shoulder. I want to do the best job I can for my students, that’s what they deserve, me very best. I want them to grow and develop in all areas to their fullest potential. I want to give my best.

And I don’t think I can give it to them.

How can I be 100% the mom I need and want to be? And that teacher my students deserve?  – I keep getting this verse sent to me – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” -but- I can still be sad about it. I still FEEL very sad. Sad that I have to go back to the grind of teaching. The exhaustion of being stressed and overwhelmed until June is a killer. And I do not want that to effect the kind of mom I am to my squish, or the kind of wife I am to my hubby – they deserve my best too.  I am sad, I am anxious, and I have to fake happiness most of the day. Sounds exciting right?!

That’s why I titled this survival mode. I’ll do what I can for my students. I will try to juggle it. But I won’t kill myself if it’s not EXACTLY perfect or how I want it to be. I will plaster a smile on my face. I will pretend.  I will fake my happiness for them, because they deserve that, to think I want to be there. I will be honest and tell them I miss my baby, and if I cry it is because of that. I have 15 days until Christmas (cough: Winter) break. And one of those mornings I have to take my baby for his 4 month shots. So, technically 14.5 days because I have to take a half day to bring him. (Again, silver linings). I will miss him every waking moment when I am at school. If they ask me if I am happy or excited to be there – sure – I am happy to BE with them. (BUT I would rather be home with my baby.) I can’t really share that part. No parent wants their child to come home from school and say, “So my teacher said she doesn’t want to be there and wants to  be at home with her baby instead.” Talk about phone calls to the office and angry emails to me. No thanks.

Confession: I think that’s why I have been staying up so late these past couple nights. To prolong each day? To make this next day seem like it won’t come sooner. If that makes any sense?

Sure sure, I am complaining. What do you want me to say? Yes, please someone else watch my baby for me, so I can go do a job that stresses me out every single day? Not every mom wants this. Some moms need to work or want to work, and that’s ok! I didn’t really ever consider not working. But now that I have tasted what it can be like to be home with my squish, I loved it. I loved seeing him every morning. I loved relaxing with him. I loved walking, reading, talking, changing him, and yes, it also has it’s struggles. But it was no where near the stress teaching brings to me. I loved meeting my new mom group friends and having playdates. I will miss that.

Maternity leave is cruel in this country. (Let’s not open that Pandora’s box now, all jobs are different.) Let’s just say here’s a quick drive by of my experience: I got my 6 weeks paid leave time because I had enough sick days, annual leave days, and personal days accrued to do it (now I will have zero – and go back to earning one a month.) Oh, and I had to pay to use my personal days ($50 a day to pay the sub, YUP, that’s a thing in NC). I was able to stay home the full 12 weeks of FMLA because of a gracious and generous gift. And I am thankful. I am grateful. I am filled to overflowing with gratitude for the extra time I did have and know most do not have the chance or opportunity to get that time with their new baby, but I am still sad it has to end. I would have had to go back October 12th and he would have only been 36 days old. That’s beyond cruel. We just finally got a great rhythm between us with him breastfeeding. And now I will throw him to the sitter with bottles and pray that my milk supply doesn’t diminish. I have been able to solely feed him these 12 weeks and I love it. I love how comforted he is by it. And now, I will nurse him maybe 2-3x a day? The morning feeding, when he comes home from the sitter, and bedtime – and it breaks my heart. It’s a sad reality that mothers have to do this. Some much sooner. I can’t even imagine it. God bless you if you had to go back at 2 weeks. God bless you if you are a single mom, I do not know how you have the strength to do it. I will see him for maybe an hour in the morning, and hopefully 2 in the evening before he goes to bed. So every day I will see him a whopping 3ish hours. That’s cruel. I will see other people’s kids more than my own. I can’t really think about it. Makes me sick.

I am thankful to all my sweet family and friends who have been texting and messaging me today. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated and needed.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

I can do them with His power; but it doesn’t say anywhere that I can’t be sad about it.  The first 2 weeks are the hardest I am told. How can it feel or be different after 2 weeks? Guess I will let you know.

Trying to find joy. Trying to be positive. Trying to see silver linings. Will like seeing my team everyday, I do miss them too. They got me through last year! Praying my students help me find joy while with them…

Silver linings: Dec 17 for his appt, 15 days til Christmas break, 2ish months til spring break,  2 months til summer. (Yes- I am fudging a bit with the 2 months part, it’s longer but I can’t think that now).

I leave you now with some of today’s happy memories. Hubby was so good and trying to help me feel happy, trying to savor all our good moments together. We went for a walk at a pretty park. This is one of my dachshunds: Sawyer. The other one Beth is not pictured (she’s afraid of moving docks!)

Sawyer Maternity Leave EndsMaternity Leave Ends 2Maternity Leave Ends

Night All ~L