My Pink Elephant

“Write about what you have been struggling with.”

Oh, where do I begin?

It all comes down to anxiety.  I can tell you that I’ve had my fair share of issues with it, but none of those compare to what it has been like over these last nine months.  Anxiety, for me, is like… knowing that things are ok at the end of a scary movie and then getting a phone call and only hearing heavy breathing on the other end.  Or, being late for an important interview and getting stuck behind a slow driver and trying not to let the road rage peak it’s ugly head out.  Or, to be specific, knowing that my child is perfectly safe but having an overwhelming fear that I will never see him again.  Anxiety, for me, is the giant pink elephant in the teeny-tiny room that nobody wants to address.

My sweet child is 9 months, going on 10.  Raising him has been such an amazing (and to be honest, slightly tough) experience.  It wasn’t until recently that I considered what I was going through to be postpartum anxiety.  I mean, I had heard of postpartum depression.  I even considered at one point that I had it, I did after my first child.  I took a quiz online that I had found – I was considered “borderline” to  postpartum depression and if I had just one more point they would have suggested talking to a professional.  The thing is, I was talking to professionals but felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously.  A couple of weeks ago I took a psychology assessment and scored highest in generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and panic disorder, lower in depression but still a little high, and didn’t score anything in bipolar disorder which was surprising to me considering that is what I have been diagnosed with since I was 11 years old.  So I made a list of what has been going on with me:

1. Since the beginning I haven’t liked to ask anyone to watch my baby for me, not even his dad.

2. I am literally afraid to have baby out of my sight because something bad could happen to him. (This was the case for the first 6-7 months after he was born).

3. I am more irritable than usual.

4. I constantly felt like baby’s daddy didn’t love me anymore and was trying to find a way out and take baby from me.

5. I would argue with baby’s daddy about house duties and parenting styles and start to panic when I felt like I wasn’t being heard and validated.

6. I spend a significant amount of time researching ways to interact with my baby and different things I can be doing with my baby to support his development because I worry (A LOT) that I am not a good parent.  In fact, I have convinced myself that I am not a good parent.

7. I get frequent migraines.

8. I have actually vomited on a few different occasions thinking about how badly things could go wrong when he’s been out and about with his daddy.

9. In the first few months I was so worried that something was wrong with my baby.  I thought he had a sunken fontanelle, I thought he was sick every time he cleared his throat, I thought he was dehydrated, I thought he was spitting up too much… I was a hypochondriac in a way I suppose.

I am sure there are other things, but I get upset enough thinking about the things I already listed.

I don’t know if it is the small town vibe, or if there was something wrong in the way I went about getting help, but not being taken seriously has damaged my faith in the mental health system and even a little in humanity.  I have an appointment tomorrow with a different professional and I can only hope for the best.  I am hesitant on taking any medications right now.  I don’t necessarily believe I need medication, but am still open to the suggestion… What I do need is a strong support system.  I need people to listen to me and believe in me.  Mostly, I need guidance in letting go of things from my past so that I can cope with my anxieties of the present and start to make plans for my future without all this f@*$ed up sh*+ getting in my way.

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I love my little pumpkin patch kid ❤

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Just the Small Things

With a new baby on the way there has been a lot of different things that run through my mind.  One of the thoughts that keeps coming is, am I ready for this?  There are plenty of reasons why this particular thought is on my mind.  Am I ready to be the mom of a new baby, the mother of two now?  Am I ready for labor, again?  Will I remember how to breastfeed?  Most importantly, do I have all I need to be ready for this? 

It gets a little stressful thinking about all this.  Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond excited about the new addition!  Its exciting for my son to have a baby brother and I love the daily bustle of having a newborn.  It’s been five years since the last time I was pregnant though.  I don’t know what has changed since 2010 and I’m afraid I’ve forgotten things.

I’ve been slowly gathering baby essentials.  I have the Baby Bump app which has a checklist of what I’ll need.  I have been finding all kinds of stuff on baby classifieds on Facebook.  In fact, just yesterday I got a steal on a brand new, never been used, bassinet – I got it for 60% off the retail price!  I am surprised at some of the things I can find on there.  However, I have to be careful because sometimes you think you are getting a good deal but in fact you are paying for junk.  It’s kind of fun gathering baby stuff, but it can be hard too.  New baby stuff can get expensive, so trying to find bargains has been helpful.  Family and friends have also been helpful. 

The one thing that’s driving me crazy is waiting for the baby shower.  I know I’ll get some of what I need, but I constantly am wondering if it will give me enough time to get everything else I need.  In fact, I already had one for my significant other’s family and got some very wonderful and thoughtful things for the baby.  I’m having another one in November that my family and friends in my hometown will come to.  The idea of a baby shower really helps out the parents-to-be in so many ways.  So why am I always freaking out about not being ready??

To be honest, there is nothing to be worried about.  Absolutely nothing.  My family and friends have been taking good care of me.  My love and I have been doing what we can with what we have.  We’ve been preparing for the big day in all kinds of ways.  I just have the hormones going and tend to make a big deal out of something so small or nothing at all.  There is one thing I’ll save for another day, pregnancy hormones, the horror!  Other than the hormones though, I have everything under control. 

The anxiety really sucks though.  Especially my anxiety about labor and breastfeeding.  I start prenatal classes at the end of October that I am hoping will ease my nerves.  I am planning an all-natural hospital birth.  I had a homebirth with my first son that went well.  Breastfeeding started off well but then I wasn’t producing enough after awhile.  I just want things to run smoothly.

I’m actually overcoming a fear by having a hospital birth.  I am deathly scared of things not going my way because of pushy nurses and doctors.  I know they are there to help but it’s frightening to me.  There are specific things I want that I know I could get at home and not so much at the hospital.  Plus, hospitals creep me out.  They are full of sick and dying people. 

As far as breastfeeding goes, all I can do is take a class and read some literature and hope for the best.  I want so badly to be successful at breastfeeding.  I think it’s the best way to give a baby nutrition and I want to be able to offer that.  After six weeks I’ll introduce bottles but I still plan to nurse.  I hope that using an electronic breast pump this time instead of a manual will help keep up production.

I’m hoping the anxiety goes away the further along I get (I’m already 6 months)!  It’s honestly kicking my butt.  Like I said though, I’m doing everything in my power to prepare for the big day.  It’s definitely nerve-wracking but this is such an exciting time for me!  There are all kinds of things to worry about, but I’m having another baby!  It’s going to be awesome!

-Ari Swan

A Great Time to Celebrate

It is fall.  It’s finally cooling off outside!  The leaves have turned and are falling.  Apple’s and caramel are on sale.  Pumpkins are out.  Halloween is in the air.  I am thankful.

I love Autumn!  It definitely has to be one of my favorite times of the year.  Winter is my all time favorite but it is a close second.  There are so many reasons as to why I love this season – with cool air, falling leaves, caramel apples, pumpkin spice, Halloween and Thanksgiving being just a few.  How could anybody not love it?

As I am sitting on the couch, cozied up in my hoodie, there is one thing in particular that I am thinking about that takes place in the fall.  That would be my son’s birthday.  Every October I am beyond thrilled to celebrate Yuri’s birthday.  It is something that only happens once a year, and this year he is turning five!  I want his birthday to be special.

I would like to take a minute to reminisce about the night I went into labor…

It was October 23rd, 2010, and I had just got home from a prenatal with my midwife.  I had twelve days left before my due date.  After an hour and a half of driving (my midwife was in another town due to there being little options when it came to home births) I had to pee like no other when I walked in my door.  I noticed something strange after going to the bathroom though.  I didn’t realize it at the time but I found out later that my mucous plug fell out!  Gross huh?

That night I was meant to celebrate a good friend’s 21st birthday.  The minute I walked into her house an acquaintance took one look at me and announced to the room I was in labor.  My lamaze instructor warned me about the denial stage in labor, but I was in complete and total denial!  I just couldn’t believe it was already time.  I continued on with the get-together.

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Here is a picture of the night I went into labor!

About 4 a.m. the next morning I woke up because my a  water had broke.  It took until about 8 a.m. for my midwives to get there from Missoula.  I pushed and pushed until 12:38 p.m. on October 24th.  I delivered Yuri on my kitchen floor.  He was the most perfect little being I had ever laid my eyes on. 

His tiny hands and feet took my breath away.  I couldn’t believe I had just done that!  It was a huge thing.  The biggest moment of my life was on that day.  To be honest he looked a bit like Frankenstein at first because he had a hematoma the circumference of his head right on top.  I still adored him (and the hematoma popped shortly after and left a little sore on his head).  The only thing given to me for pain during labor was spoonfuls of honey!  When I talk about it now I wonder why I was so brave.  Every ounce of pain was worth it.  I was one proud Mama!

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This little face is the highlight of my life.  He was the highlight of 2010.  He is also the highlight of my fall.  After all the things to look forward to in fall I have this little ones birthday to celebrate. 

Every year for his birthday I also make a Halloween costume.  One year he was Yoda.  This year he wants to be a super hero vampire.  He got the idea from his favorite show, “Mona the Vampire”.  I’ve had fun making his cape and he is so excited for the end product. 

This time of year is just as fun for him as it is for me.  We get to decorate the house.  There will be a pumpkin patch we attend in the near future and pumpkin carving.  We get to go to the Museum of the Rockies for a birthday celebration.  Can’t forget the trick o’ treating.  Then spend a wonderful time with the family celebrating Thanksgiving.  This will be a great fall for us.

~ Ari

No More!

Bullying. Do you remember hearing that word in junior-high? Not from teachers really. At least I don’t remember any teachers saying much about bullying… Except that one time in 8th grade. Other than that, the teachers didn’t really give bullies a second glance. Although we didn’t hear much from the teachers, there sure was a lot of it going on.

It was during Breakfast Club and I was in the 6th grade. It was my first year in middle school. I was there with three other friends from Whittier Elementary School, and there was a grip of other kids from different elementary schools. There was one other girl from Whittier in the club that I remember not having any friends. The club was once a week before school.
The girl with no friends was usually the first to leave the room. This day was unusual though. When she got up to leave there was a puddle of thick, red liquid in her seat. One of my friends said something rather vulgar, just loud enough for her to hear – the rest of us burst out into laughter. That was when the girl with no friends began to walk towards the office rather fast.

While I look back at some of the stuff I was involved in I feel somewhat ashamed. I never thought I was a bully, but I also didn’t stand up against bullying as much as I should have. When we look at the before-mentioned story, I did participate in laughing at the unfortunate event of the girl starting her period without knowing. Yes, that was a true story and I am to blame for enabling a bully by laughing at her mean joke. I shoul have told her to stop… Maybe I could have told her to shove the chair up her @$$, but that would be mean. I wish I would have done something different though.

“Can we write, HAC, one your hand? See we all have it.” “What does it stand for?” “Hate Arian Club,” and the bunch of ’em all started laughing when all I could do was stare at them. Why were they doing this? I’m popular. There is only one person who could have started this.

The school officer ended up having to drag me down to the school in his police cruiser. I didn’t want to show my face ever again in that school. Not after the entire 8th grade and at least half of the 7th grade joined in on the hate club. That was when the school had a bullying assembly and they played that country song, “Don’t Laugh At Me,” along with a PowerPoint. They brought me in to have a mediation with the three girls who started the hate club – three of my friends. I hadn’t gotten out of bed for three weeks. After all the hate mail I just fell into a depression. I didnt want to go to that school anymore. I ended up changing schools. Having to change schools just because I went snowboarding without the most popular girl in school. True story.

Maybe it was karma. I wasn’t ever a bully, exactly, but I didn’t really do anything to prevent the bullying. Maybe that is why I was bullied in 8th grade… Who knows.

I am terrified of sending my own child to public schools though. Kids can get mean, and he shouldn’t have to deal with the same bs I put up with. At one point I was terrified to leave my house! How could I put my own child in that kind of situation?

I thought about home-schooling Yuri. Thoughts of mine that have in return received much ridicule. Too much. I honestly believe it is a great idea. I love spending time and learning with him, why not continue it? Well you can continue it while he still attends public school. He won’t get the social interaction every child needs. He won’t get the education he deserves. These concerns are just a few that have been shared with me. However anyone else looks at my concern, I feel that it is valid. Bullying in schools is a real problem not addressed by many. Parents seem to be the only ones who address the issue, and at that, not all parents do.

I am out of school now and I still see bullying taken place. There is not a whole lot I can do other than face the issue head-on with my son. Explaining what bullying is and how it affects others, in my opinion, opens childrens eyes to the problem. Telling them is just one step towards prevention. What else can I do?

Words That Need to be Said

The tears sting as they roll down my face…

……….

If only I never panicked, then you wouldn’t have to go.  The excuse, “my mental illness took over,” is no good reason for this seperation.  I wish there was someway for me to prove that you were never in danger – I was afraid of going away. I didn’t want to say good-bye.

You see, son, I never should have been driving that day.  My license was just suspended (meaning that I violated a traffic law so the judge didn’t want to allow me to drive for a little while) and I didn’t want to be stuck in Helena all summer.  I had already been planning on moving.  I thought it would be good to get away.  So when I noticed the policeman behind us I got scared because I was being naughty.

It’s even harder to explain to you, sweet child, then it was to the officers…  One of my turn-signals wasn’t working, and when the cruiser followed me my heart dropped into my stomach because I knew that I was going to have to go with them for a couple nights.  That’s when I entered another world, and I slowed down but literally, could not stop.  An invisible force wouldn’t allow it.  Now, to anybody else that would sound crazy, however, you are young and innocent and can believe in such phenomena in this nature.  To clear this up I never intended on, “getting away.”

To be completely honest, I think that I just needed a few more minutes to calm down and grasp the situation.  Anyways, I got into trouble because I was doing something I wasn’t suppose to be doing.  The policemen were disappointed in me, and even upset because I worried them a little.  With the police, if you don’t do what they ask right away they get concerned and start to think that something might be wrong.  So I was in even more trouble and that is when they let me call Papa to come get you. 

I only had to go away for just a little while, but during that time your daddy took it upon himself to make the decision for you to move in with him.  It’s been awhile since I got into trouble and I haven’t got use to you living with daddy instead of me.  Sometimes it makes me cry because I miss you so much.  It’s even harder to see you cry when I have to go. 

I don’t like to go.  It’s only for a little while.

……….

I don’t like looking back on things and calling them mistakes. I’d like to say that I live with no regrets. I am where I am because of choices I have made and this & that. I have learned my lessons enough for a lifetime though… I have done some stupid things and now suffer the consequences. My time away from Yuri is painful. Yes, I have some wonderful people over here in my corner who support me and guide me and that is great… But every day that Yuri is gone I suffer. I suffer inside because I did this and it’s pure agony.

There is more to the story, and you are free to make your judgements, but I must ask you to look at yourself first. Everyone is facing their own demons, and everyone can use one less judgement. The world would be a much better place if we instead tried to do a little more listening and understanding and a lot less gossiping and judging. That’s all.

-Ari

Saying Good-Bye to My Heart

As my mom drove away I felt as if a big piece of my heart was leaving me…

Fridays have become my favorite day of the week.  That’s the day I usually get Yuri ❤ and I am always eager to hold him in my arms again.  My [amazing] boyfriend usually gets his youngest daughter, who is Yuri’s age, to come along for the ride and we make the short trip from Anaconda to Helena.  Picking him up from school on Friday’s has become the single most-important thing for me to do.

When I walked in his school last Friday he looked at me with a beaming smile and yelled out my name (mommy).  It melted my heart 😍 to know how exicited little guy was to see me. The teacher said that Yuri had literally just got done telling them about how I was going to be there to pick him up.  He hurried to get his things and rushed out the door.  He said to me, “mommy, I missed you. Mommy, I love you”.

Our weekend was pretty alright.  He played with the girls some.  Saturday I took him to Discovery – I wanted to get him up there before the season ended and he had been asking to go.  He was so excited to ride the “chair-lifter” again and he didn’t want me to ride the magic carpet with him because he could do it all by his self, the big guy.  That night we rented a Scooby-Doo movie and snuggled.  After I got him to sleep I got a little sad; tomorrow he would be going back with his dad.

I am thankful for my mother.  If I didn’t have my mom I would have to say good-bye to my son at noon on Sundays.  According to [somebody I hate] it’s only fair to “collect him back” at noon since I pick him up at noon.  Yeah that’s fair alright, considering he only allows me to have him four days a month.  Luckily I have a mom who is starting to care that makes sure she gets some time with her grandson who agrees to meet up on Sunday’s.

So, last Sunday we met in Butte. The kids got some icecream cones and floats while us adults talked.  Even though I was present, I was in another world.  I was having to say good-bye to my pride and joy again.  As soon as he saw his granny, he looked at her and then he looked at me and he ran up to hold on to my leg and started to cry softly.  If any of you other mother’s out there ever have this happen?  How do you deal with it?  It’s the worst feeling I ever experience.

As we said good-bye he started crying, saying that he didn’t want to go.  The look in his eyes made me feel like I was abandoning him and I wanted to cry… But I felt like I needed to stay strong – for me and him.  He did not want to go and letting him go was the last thing in the world I wanted.  I felt empty as my mother drove off.

There is nothing stopping me from keeping my son… Except the people in my life that say it’s better for me to comply with his father’s wishes until mediation is over and we go to court.  They also tell me that Yuri belongs with me.  If he does then why are they saying that I should go along with a control-freak’s wishes?  I know that their intentions are good but I just want to say, “exactly whose side are you on, anyways,”?

-Ari

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Structured Life Sucks

Sometimes I hate waking up. I never know what to do first thing in the morning. I was never a morning person. Now that I am a mother I figure it’s about damn time I make a schedule for myself to live by so that I don’t lose my marbles everyday – because it gets tiring trying to find them day after day.

I don’t really like schedules. Growing up I always hated structure. I related it with institutions and being all about anarchy I HATED everything that had to do with institutions. Being 25 – still an anarchist – I know enough that a little structure isn’t all that bad. Done right it can actually do some good.

A friend I only see a couple times a year (if that) took Yuri and me to the movies this weekend.  It was good to just spend some time with him even though we didn’t really get a chance to catch up that much.  I started thinking about all the friends I’ve lost touch with over the years and I want to start making time… but first I have to make time for myself so that I don’t go nuts trying to catch up with everyone all at once.

I figure taking small steps at first is the best choice.  This is how it will start:

Movie Night Monday: Obviously Yuri and I will be doing things throughout the day but it will all lead up to the movie that was chosen for the night.  Sort of like a scavenger hunt throughout the day to guess what movie I have chosen for him to watch.  It’s going to be sooo fun! haha

Tunes Times Tuesday’s: I kind of already scheduled this day for music for the blog, so why not incorporate to actual life?  Every Tuesday I will have different musical activities for both Yuri and I to do.

Reading Rainbow Wednesday’s: I think this is pretty self-explanatory.

Arts & Crafts Thursday’s: This weekend I was pretty down because both Yuri and I got severely sunburned while we were out camping the week before.  Instead of sulking pitifully around all day, I came up with an idea.  Well maybe Yuri came up with the idea.  No.  Both of us did.  I was boiling some noodles for lunch and Yuri got into the noodles and started playing with them.  They are the kind of noodles that I used to make necklaces with when I was a little girl.  So after lunch I got out the water-colors and Yuri painted some noodles and made a necklace.

 

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We had so much fun with it, and I really need to set aside an entire day to my own arts & crafts anyways, so it will be saucesome!

Fútbol Fridays: Ya know, for soccer and sports and spanish and german and french and such.

So there’s my weekly schedule. Weekends will be a free-for-all because we all know how those goes. I left lots of room purposefully for a little bit of tweaking here and there. Maybe I won’t feel so dragged down all the time now. Knowing what I will be doing with my kiddo on a daily basis will, hopefully, give me some time and space to sort out some other (somewhat) important aspects of my life.

– ❤ Ari