Finishing out my week on Postpartum Progress as part of the Warrior Mom Leadership Team, I posted there today about how traumatic my c-section was and how triggered I was for quite some time after it, especially by that show A Baby Story! It’s become clear to me (and to my therapist) in retrospect that I suffered some PTSD from that experience. As it turns out, an unplanned c-section is a risk factor for PTSD in mothers.
I am in a better place now, whenever I think about it. But for that first year or so, I cried a lot about it. I felt so raw. I could not even look at my scar. Now, I can talk about the c-section in a different way–with less sadness, less anger, more appreciation for the medical advances that sometimes save moms’ and babies’ lives. However, I do still find myself reeling every time I hear about one of my friends being scheduled for or having a c-section. Maybe someday that will change, but for now I’m just giving myself grace to grieve along with them, if that is what they are doing.
Anyway, I hope you’ll join me at Postpartum Progress if you don’t find this topic too intense or triggering for you. If you do, just know the bottom line: It’s OK to run flailing from the things that trigger you.
P.S. I also want to give a shout out to a fantastic post that was also published on Postpartum Progress nearly 3 years ago. I found it after I had written my own post. As I read it, I just wanted to hug the momma who wrote it and also thank her for providing so much information about this topic!
Distraction is my go-to device when it comes to tolerating distress. When I am sad especially, historically I’ve relied on watching television to distract me from the thoughts making me feel worse. But television isn’t the most convenient device, even with all the apps I’ve loaded onto my phone. For example, if I’m in the office (where I spend most of my waking hours per week), I can’t exactly discreetly open up my Netflix app, as much as I’d love to do that! When I’m driving, I can’t safely check out what’s on HBOGo.
Given that anxiety can pop up at any inconvenient moment, regardless of my location, I’ve had to rely on other forms of distraction.
In dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), cognitive and behavioral therapies are combined with a dash of mindfulness. In my experience with it (as a client), the terms “emotional mind,” “reasonable mind,” and “wise mind” have come up often to refer to the states of mind, and my goal has been to tap into wise mind as often as possible. (For a description of each, check out this website.)
I admit I dwell in emotional mind more than I should. And I sometimes experience anxiety as a result.
Enter crisis survival strategies like distraction, which is only one of the crisis survival strategies I’ve learned in therapy. “Crisis” sounds intense, doesn’t it? Let’s tone that down a bit to mean any level of anxiety experienced, or even negative thinking. These strategies help guide me out of emotional mind and into reasonable or, even better, wise mind.
I have a handout from the Skills Training Manual… by Marsha Linehan, who is the founder of DBT. The top of the handout says:
A useful way to remember these skills is the phrase Wise Mind ACCEPTS.
ACCEPTS is an acronym for Activities, Contributing, Comparisons, opposite Emotions, Pushing away, other Thoughts, and intense other Sensations.
My favorite example of a way to distract with activities is cleaning–typically my bathroom–which is a great way to distract yourself from anger (at least for me it is)! More examples include taking a walk, soaking in a bubble bath, making a cup of tea, journaling (such as in a Positivity Notebook), having a photo shoot with your kids, or playing a game. Sometimes I do these things on autopilot, without noticing I’m distracting myself.
Distracting with contributing includes volunteer work or performing a random act of kindness. Focusing on others can help get us out of our own heads.
Distracting with comparisons can mean reading a news item about a disaster and comparing yourself with those suffering more than you. It can be helpful to realize there’s always someone worse off than you. Even more helpful might be to compare your present self with yourself a few years ago–are you doing better now than you were then?
Distracting with opposite emotions means doing something that creates a different emotion than what you’re feeling. For instance, watching a scary movie (or other emotional movie) or enjoying a stand-up comedy performance can change your mood.
Distracting with pushing away means leaving the situation mentally for a while, putting a wall between it and yourself. A technique that has helped me is to schedule worry time for later in the day. Sometimes I find that I’ve missed my window for worrying (and that I don’t care, at that point)!
Distracting with other thoughts is actually kind of fun. It can mean counting to 10 or 100 (or any other number that intrigues you), reading something engrossing, or–my favorite–watching TV.
Distracting with intense other sensations sounds pretty cool. It means using physical stimulation like holding ice in your palm, squeezing a stress ball, listening to music very loudly, taking a cold (or hot) shower, or snapping a rubber band on your wrist.
I love the handout because it is full of ideas, which I’ve summarized above, for distracting yourself right out of a bad mood, anxiety, or pretty much anything else. Distraction isn’t always bad!
This is a page from my “positivity notebook” (for lack of a more creative, less hokey name).
I’ve been paying attention to:
What Jax eats. Fiercely. I’m trying to find food he will actually enjoy, not just tolerate, besides chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. At least I buy the healthy versions of these things (although he prefers processed nuggets shaped like dinosaurs or cars over the ones I like to buy). But this constant attention to what he’s eating–or, more realistically, what he isn’t eating–is getting to me.
TEDx talks. Today, I’m listening to this one as I enter author corrections at work: Shannon Paige – Mindfulness and Healing Try the exercise around the 12:30 mark and the 7-day challenge around 15:50.
Elephant Journal, which my friend Jen introduced me to today. In particular, I’m scouring the articles in the Wellness tab.
Hype Machine blogs on Spotify. I love them! Here’s one I’ve subscribed to. This is sometimes how I discover new bands! I can’t get enough of Spotify when I’m at work. Here’s my Starred songs, if you’re on Spotify and want to check out what I love.
My Google Reader. I can’t bear to let my unread posts get past 100. I feel like I’ve been a bad blog reader lately, and my Google Reader typically reflects this. So I’ve been trying to do better, reading a few posts each day instead of waiting until there are 300+ unread posts in there, which I skim and then feel bad about marking as read.
Twitter lists. When you follow over a thousand people, creating lists is necessary. That way, I can be sure to not miss tweets by my besties (who are on one list). I even created a list called “Feel good,” where I’ve lumped together all the accounts I follow that are positive & uplifting.
I’ve been ignoring (or trying to ignore):
Facebook. Too many graphic images in my news feed lately. Too much negativity. Too much passive aggression. It’s just all too much sometimes and I need to take a break from it. Except from my groups. I love the groups to which I belong, so my Facebook activity, for now, is limited to checking posts within those groups and updating my blog’s page.
Candy & coffee. But I need to try harder! I’ve always had really great willpower–until lately. As for the constant need to pick at the candy leftover from Halloween, I suspect it’s simply stress eating, although I’ve never been a stress eater before. I think tonight I will dump what remains of the candy. Nobody needs all that sugar! It isn’t even tasty. I’d much rather have a second helping of dinner than a candy bar! (But hopefully I forego that, too.)
My positivity notebook. Not by choice, but because I haven’t had time for it. And I’ve noticed a negative effect on my moods as a result. So I need to do better at making the time to doodle in it and jot down uplifting lyrics, quotes, and messages to myself using all my pretty pens. Writing things down, even other people’s words, always makes me feel better.
Television. I just don’t really care about it at all right now. I’ve been playing with Jax & reading more to fill the (very minimal) time I used to watch tv.
Well, this concludes this totally random post I banged out in about 5 minutes while on a work break. I’d love to hear what you’re currently into or not into! Leave a comment & share!
Yes, you read that title correctly. And go ahead, you have my permission to mock me, but just a little.
I admit, I glean a lot of life lessons from pop culture, music and television in particular. And why not! Pop culture comprises the best and worst perspectives of what the human experience is all about–certainly the most interesting, anyway.
Last week, I finished watching two television series I’d been watching for months–Dawson’s Creek and Friday Night Lights. But let’s focus on Dawson’s Creek, shall we? I was a fan of Dawson’s Creek when it originally aired a gazillion years ago (1998, in case you’re wondering), so it was fun to embark on another bout of nostalgia and rewatch it now as a woman with a shit-ton of responsiblities, rather than as the late adolescent/early-twenty-something college girl I was in the 90s.
Back then, I probably didn’t dwell much on the show’s message but rather focused more on whether Joey would end up with Pacey or Dawson. For the record, I’m Team Pacey all the way. Always have been.
This time around, the series finale induced the ugly cry. A full-force flood, actually. If you haven’t watched the show and plan to, maybe stop reading here (spoiler alert) and definitely don’t watch the videos I’m posting below.
In the finale, there were two moments that impacted me most. First, Jen’s video to her daughter Amy, recorded just before Jen’s death. Here is the transcript (from iMDb), with my favorite parts bolded:
Hi, Amy, it’s mom. Well, by the time you see this, I won’t be here anymore, and I know how much that sucks, for both of us. So seeing as how I won’t be around to thoroughly annoy you, I thought I would give you a little list of the things that I wish for you. Well, there’s the obvious. An education. Family. Friends. And a life that is full of the unexpected. Be sure to make mistakes. Make a lot of them, because there’s no better way to learn and to grow, all right? And, um, I want you to spend a lot of time at the ocean, because the ocean forces you to dream, and I insist that you, my girl, be a dreamer. God. I’ve never really believed in God. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to disprove that god exists. But I hope that you are able to believe in god, because the thing that I’ve come to realize, sweetheart… is that it just doesn’t matter if god exists or not. The important thing is for you to believe in something, because I promise you that that belief will keep you warm at night, and I want you to feel safe always. And then there’s love. I want you to love to the tips of your fingers, and when you find that love, wherever you find it, whoever you choose, don’t run away from it. But you don’t have to chase after it either. You just be patient, and it’ll come to you, I promise, and when you least expect it, like you, like spending the best year of my life with the sweetest and the smartest and the most beautiful baby girl in the world. You don’t be afraid, sweetheart. And remember, to love is to live.
I could not watch this part of the finale without thinking about the things I wish for Jax, which include the same things on Jen’s list–the same things on all of our lists, I’m willing to guess. Reminders that life is short and that the future is not to be taken for granted get me in the gut every time.
The second moment was Pacey’s speech to Joey (from iMDb):
Joey: What’s going on in that head of yours? Pacey: You’re off the hook. Joey: What? Pacey: You’re off the hook. I’ve never had much faith in that whole “if you love someone, set them free” crap, as evidenced by everything I’ve done in my life up until this very moment, but I am determined to be happy, Joey, happy in this life. And I love you. I have always, always loved you, but our timing has just never been right. And the way I figure it, time is no man’s friend. Well, I have to get right with that and be happy now. Because this is it, this is all we got. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from losing Jen, that’s what I’ve learned. Joey: Pace, I… Pacey: Actually, hold on, I’m not done yet, because I also want for you to be happy. So I want you to be with someone, whether it be Dawson or New York guy or some man you haven’t even met yet, but I want you to be with someone who can be a part of the life that you want for yourself. I want you to be with someone who makes you feel the way I feel when I’m with you. So, I guess the point of this long run-on sentence that’s been the last 10 years of our lives is that the simple act of being in love with you is enough for me. So you’re off the hook. Joey: You know what, for the record, I don’t want to be let off the hook. Because everything I have done has led me here, right now, and the last thing I want is to be let off somebody’s hook. Pacey: Don’t miss my point here… Joey: And don’t miss mine. Pacey, I love you. You know that. And it’s very real. It’s so real that it’s kept me moving, mostly running from it, never ready for it. And I love Dawson. He’s my soul mate. He’s tied to my childhood, and it’s a love that is pure and eternally innocent. I can’t be let off the hook because I just might get the notion that it’s OK to keep running.
It might be premature to blog this, but I can’t help it (and I needed something to post today)! I think Jax has officially weaned. It’s been a few days since he nursed to sleep—since Friday night, to be exact.
And since I know you’re wondering, he’s 2 years old and 9 months.
I’m pretty damn proud of how long we breastfed, but I have to say I am also happy to be finished. And I’m guessing not a whole lot of breastfeeding, AP-friendly mommas say that.
For the record, I fully expect the sadness to kick in soon. Any bets on when you think I’ll shed some tears over being done breastfeeding my baby?
I’ve been thinking about weaning since Jax turned 1 year old—like most American mothers, as Jax approached his first birthday I felt pressured (by just about everyone I know and even those I don’t know!) to wean him. It was hard to tune out the voices and stand firm in my decision not to discontinue our wonderful experience based merely on a number or a date on the calendar.
I’m so glad he wasn’t ready back then and neither was I. I’d have missed all the fun of nursing a toddler! The gymnurstics alone were good for more than a few laughs.
But after he turned 2, I started to feel pangs of “oh-my-god-I’m-so-ready-to-be-done”-ness. I started to have little talks with Jax, hinting (and sometimes straight-up saying) that he couldn’t have “nummies” forever. I plotted and experimented with how to get him to sleep at night without nursing. We changed up our nighttime routine many times, adding and subtracting elements as I learned what settles him down and what only riles him up more. I read countless articles and blogs about weaning.
Last Thursday night as we lay in his bed with the lights out, we talked about how he’s such a big boy now and nummies need a break and he doesn’t need them to fall asleep anymore. He agreed to “just snuggle” instead. But a few minutes later, he asked for nummies and when I said no, he cried. My heart ached, and I gave in and nursed him for 5 minutes. Friday night was an exact repeat.
But then we went to Washington, DC, on Saturday. After a long day walking around, Jax seemed pretty worn out. So I turned on HBO in the hotel room and snuggled up to Jax as we watched one of the Harry Potter flicks, just to let us both unwind before bed. About 10 minutes into the movie (which obviously was wayyy over his head, but he loved it anyway), he passed out with his hand on my chest.
Last night, he asked if he could watch another movie in bed with me. I gave in because I was so tired (and I love watching television in bed, though I sure hope I don’t pass this down to my child). He did not nurse and was asleep 10 minutes into Babe: A Pig in the City.
I’m not crazy about replacing nursing with movies in bed, but sometimes you have to pick your battles. As a child (and even now as an adult), I fell asleep best with a tv on. It calmed me—the soft flickering and low volume helped me fall asleep quickly. I’m not saying I want television to replace breastfeeding for my son, who isn’t even 3 yet. I have all kinds of new anxieties cropping up about letting him fall asleep to a television, believe me.
But just for a few days until I know for sure that he has weaned, I’m allowing this new special treat with the intention of stopping the habit before it forms. I can’t help it—part of me feels a little guilty for denying him something he finds so comforting. I admit this.
I’m going to chalk this one up to a parenting lesson I am sure to be learning very shortly!
I think I might also bake him a cake to celebrate weaning. Should I make one of those boob-shaped cakes?!
I'm a first-time mom, making my way through extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, attachment parenting, PPD/PPA, a full-time job, and still trying to figure out who I am now that becoming a mother has totally rocked my world. My blog is my version of cheap therapy!
"Nurturing children through the early years of development is likely the single most important human role on the planet." - Brent Cameron