Archives for November 2015

“I’m fine,” She Lied: Part 5 – Best Imitation Of Myself

Not only is it probably my favorite Ben Folds song, it sums me up in four words. Perfectly. You see, all but a few people know that for the past ten years I’ve been doing the best imitation of myself. If you recall in this post, I thought I mastered the “ON Kerry” act in high school when the depression first moved in and set up camp. It wasn’t until after Andrew was born that I became a professional.

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doing the best imitation of myself

If you know or knew me from high school, you didn’t know what was going on with me. I guarantee you didn’t. If you knew or know me from college, you know me as the RA or from a class, or from Campus Crusade or Fellowship, and if you were very close friends you thought it was funny that I dropped classes or almost exclusively drank mint chocolate chip shakes from the Student Center. Or that I had that cute room with the pink carpet and pink couch. Or that I wrote some downright hilarious RA newsletters. Or that I was Scott’s girlfriend. If you knew or know me from MOPS, you remember the funny mom who wrote the newsletter (unless you were Beth or Megan). If you knew or know me from scrapbooking or ScrapFest, you know I love a microphone and tend to sing and love to give away doorprizes.  You know me from funny Facebook posts.

But you don’t know the Kerry that dwelled for years in things people said in school like “you’re too fat for him” or when my favorite teacher told me she was disappointed with one of the best things I ever accomplished in high school or that I tried to kill myself a couple of weeks before I started at Louisiana Tech.

You don’t know the girl who couldn’t leave her dorm for days (and lived in Snickers bars and Coke from the vending machines).

You don’t know the me that slept for hours and still felt tired after having kids.

You don’t know that the reason I canceled that lunch with you was because that day my anxiety was so high I couldn’t leave my house.

You don’t know that I volunteered when you asked me to do that thing for MOPS or PTA was because I felt the need to prove to you that I was good enough, even though I had no reason to feel that I had to prove anything. Yes, I loved my time in MOPS and (most of the time) I loved PTA, and I did my jobs and did them well, but I was trying to prove to myself that I was enough, but nothing could make me feel that I was enough for myself or anyone else.

You don’t know the woman who went to a sporting goods store in Covington, LA to ask for something and when a worker thought I wasn’t looking, he blew up his cheeks and made a motion like a Weeble and pointed to me. You don’t know that I went to my car, texted a friend and cried because grown ass men made fun of my weight.

You don’t know how much I fretted over that ScrapFest t-shirt being just right and that I had a meltdown in the parking lot of the Castine Center when the shirt came back printed with day-glow pink instead of the perfect pink I chose so carefully.

All of this is to say, no one really know the “real” anyone unless you’re extremely close. Sometimes a spouse doesn’t even know how much their loved one is falling apart. I started to really fall apart after Andrew was born. My current psychiatrist says he believes I had postpartum depression on top of regular old depression with each of my babies. But I didn’t have a psychiatrist then. What I did have was a friend named Beth, who, like I said in the last paragraph of my last post in this series, suggested I get help when Andrew was nine months old. When Andrew was seven months old, Scott was in a terrible car accident while he was working in the Texas panhandle. He had many injuries, but would be ok. His company flew his mother, Andrew, and me on their private plane to get to him and rented us an Expedition to bring him home after he was released from the hospital. Scott’s stepmom stayed with the girls and was a blessing during that time. I held it together while he recovered at home, but lost it when he went back to work. I’m very good at holding it together for other people. It’s when I’m alone that I fall apart.

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a few members of the Justice League

Once again, Scott went to work out of state. If you’re wondering why we didn’t move each time he relocated it’s because we didn’t want our kids to have to change schools over and over. And because there is no Lane Bryant in St. Croix. So, when my husband went off to work, I cycled through depression and anxiety almost like a drug addict can pull it together for a while and then go off the wagon. Or is it on the wagon? I’ve never been good with wagons.

After Beth suggested I get help, I called Dr. B.’s office and talked to one of his nurses. I didn’t know who else to call, so when in doubt, call the OB/GYN. I talked to the nurse who didn’t really know me. His other nurse knew me well. So, I talked to this nurse who called me back after I left a message. I tearfully told her that I was depressed and anxious and couldn’t leave the house and she partially covered the mouthpiece of the phone and relayed this information to another nurse (I assume), then came back to the phone and said Dr. B. might call me in some Xanax. I didn’t want to take Xanax because of addict stories I’d read. The nurse went back to covering the phone and I couldn’t make out the muffled voice. I hung up. They didn’t call back. I took this as a fail. Every time I had tried to get help before that I had been let down. When I went to a doctor in college who only wanted to sell me his vitamins; when I went to counseling at Tech; and then calling my OB/GYN’s office – all failed in helping me.

me, AB, Melissa, Lisa, and Lunchbox (Megan)

me, AB, Melissa, Lisa, and Lunchbox (Megan)

I retreated even further into my own head. What was wrong with me? Even though I was miserable, I let Megan talk me into going to a scrapbook retreat with her right after Andrew turned one. I had gone to retreats in Canada, but this one was more fun. I scrapbooked all weekend and looked back at old photos. I took tons of pictures of the kids, but I was rarely in them because I hated looking fat in photos. Although I was 300+ pounds, I never had a problem with what I looked like in a mirror. It was photos that made me feel fat, so I just stayed out of photos.  At some point that fall I got bronchitis and went to my internist. When his nurse asked me what brought me in that day I told her I had diagnosed myself with bronchitis (I used to get it twice a year, so I knew what it was) and that I was also depressed. When my doctor came in he asked me about the depression and put me on Wellbutrin. I started taking it and maybe it masked the depression. I still couldn’t step foot inside a Walmart. It didn’t do anything for my anxiety, but I was able to do more than before.

MOPS Convention

MOPS Convention

That fall, 2006, I was the MOPS Publicity person in our group. I enjoyed this because it was a great creative outlet. If I’m not being creative I start retreating into my head and the anxiety is too much to bear. I recently told a close friend that I feel that I was put on the planet to make beautiful things, whether it’s something in my house, refinishing a piece of furniture, designing a ScrapFest t-shirt, or the design of a poster – I feel at my most authentic self when I am doing those things. So, I designed and put together the MOPS newsletter, posters, etc and I scrapbooked with friends. I went to conventions and had a good time. I was able to hold it together long enough to attend events as long as I felt that I had some control over it. At MOPS convention, I knew I could leave any meeting at any time. I knew I could go back to my room and relax if it got to be too much. It was the same way when I went to scrapbook retreats with my friends if the event was held in a hotel. It also helped that most of the retreats we went to had masseuses. That’s always a plus.

500 women at ScrapFest; one of my fave shirts I designed, AB, me, Stacy, Lunchbox, Bethy Beth, Stacy, and Melissa

500 women at ScrapFest; one of my fave shirts I designed, AB, me, Stacy, Lunchbox, Bethy Beth, Stacy, and Melissa

When my friend Lisa moved to Connecticut, she asked me to step in for her at ScrapFest. ScrapFest was a production company founded by Lisa and Megan, who put on scrapbook retreats twice a year in Mandeville. I loved going to ScrapFest. First, they asked me to do the announcements for fun because neither of them liked to talk on the microphone much. A microphone is my best friend. When Lisa moved, I took over her duties at ScrapFest, plus the website and design. I had a blast doing the event and planning it. I genuinely did. I made great friends because of the event that I wouldn’t have otherwise (I’m talking to you – AB, Melissa, Stacy, Marleana, Shelly, and more). ScrapFest was my outlet and it took a great deal of energy to host the event for three days. At the height of scrapbooking, we had 500+ women come scrapbook for three days. After it was all over on Sunday mornings, I felt hungover for a week and then my outlet was over until we started planning again. I still had MOPS, which was great. I was asked to be in charge of our church’s Vacation Bible School preschool crafts, which was planning crafts, ordering materials, and getting together a group of helpers. Preschoolers can’t really do crafts, so I took a note from Megan, who had done the job before, and I made projects for the kids. More keepsakes than crafts. It was fun. It was a stressful week, but it was fun. It was an outlet. And again, after VBS, my outlet was over. I always had to have the next thing to look forward to – be it ScrapFest, MOPS, or attending another scrapbooking event. There had to be something for me to concentrate on or the day-to-day became too much and I couldn’t function.

hanging out at the OB/GYN

hanging out at the OB/GYN

Wellbutrin didn’t seem to be helping that much, so my doctor put me on another medication that didn’t do much either. It was a test and see type of thing. Stay on this for six months or a year and try something else. It was around this time in 2007 that my anxiety got worse. It crept in slowly, like all good villains do. It started to rob me of my time. My family. My friends. There was a time when I couldn’t cross a very short bridge on the highway that was off of my subdivision. I didn’t tell anyone about that. I also started having weird symptoms of menopause. Over the course of two years (starting when I was 34), Dr. B. decided I had gone through menopause at 36 or whatever. I found this hard to believe, but after my history of miscarriage and an inhospitable uterus anything was possible – right? So, I had all of these things working against me – my brain, my body, my organs. Everything internal that no one sees. Everything you can hide. That’s how I did the best imitation of myself.

People always said how “put together” I looked. That was no accident. I had to look put together or people would know I was imploding. Sure, I looked fine on the outside. My kids looked great and well-dressed. But my house was a disaster. At home, once the kids were in bed, I zoned out in a book or with tv, so I wouldn’t have to think. I blogged. I didn’t clean. I didn’t leave the house unless it was absolutely necessary. I slept during Andrew’s naptime. I barely felt awake much of the time. Scott would come home and everything would be ok – I’d have it together. He’d leave and I’d fall apart. It was a cycle. My doctor prescribed Xanax as needed. I rarely ever took it.

I stopped going to church. I couldn’t be in a big building where I couldn’t see windows or an exit. For the most part, I am still like this, even on medication. Add people and lights and sound and it just amplifies the anxiety. I could always do ScrapFest because we were set up at the exit/entrance. I could do other events when I was seated by a door. I had to have a sense of control or I didn’t do well. At all. Church was the worst place for my anxiety. Second was a big store. I rarely felt panicky in Target because of how bright and well-spaced out everything is. Mardi Gras was horrible. I only did the bare minimum of what I felt that I had to do for my kids. When Scott turned 40, I planned a weekend in the French Quarter for just us. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law met us for dinner at one of Emeril’s restaurants and then Scott and I started walking back to our hotel. He wanted to go to Pat O’Brien’s on Bourbon Street. It was July 30th. It was hot. There was a street preacher in the middle of the street screaming about the fires of hell and someone screaming back to him, upping the volume, measure for measure. There were drunk people everywhere. Loud music. Someone flashed the street preacher – boobs on full display. At that moment, a drunk spilled his beer onto me from a balcony above. The anxiety had been rising since the mention of Bourbon Street. I had a full panic attack. It was the first time my husband witnessed one of my panic attacks. I started shaking, my heart raced, and the tears flowed. Scott moved me to an alley or a street off of Bourbon where there were no crowds. I told him I was going to have a heart attack and I had to get back to our hotel. I kept repeating that I had to get out of there. He kept repeating that I would be fine. I ruined his birthday. In my mind I ruined everything. He got me back to the hotel, I took a Xanax, washed my face, and sat in a chair. He asked me if that’s what the panic attacks were always like and I said they were, for the most part. That particular one was exceptionally bad. He said I didn’t ruin his birthday, that he had a great time. I didn’t believe him.

I couldn’t get any worse.

I was 34.

 

Christmas & New Year phone wallpapers

Just tap to save the wallpaper and install on your phone to make your mobile merry and bright. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
 For this one, open in A Beautiful Mess app or Rhonna Designs and put your name in the tag. You can do that with any of these wall papers. Enjoy!

Thankful

 

“I’m fine,” She Lied: Part 4.3 – Waltz #2 (XO)

All four of us were moving into our rental house in Mandeville, LA which was practically around the corner from my mother-in-law’s house. I liked our rental house – it was spacious and had beautiful hardwood floors. I liked being close to family and mostly thrilled to be out of Canada and back to all things American. Once we were back, Scott started looking for a job and he worked in New Orleans for awhile before KBR called up and asked him to go work with the military in Afghanistan. We had only been back for a couple of months and Scott and I prayed over that decision and thought since it wasn’t longterm, that it would be ok for him to accept the job. The pay would be great and would afford us to build the house in Covington in the subdivision where we were looking. And it wasn’t longterm. I kept telling myself that.

imageIn August or September I joined a group called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and attended monthly meetings and dinners and stuff just for moms with little kids; other women who knew the everyday frustrations and joys of being a mother of munchkins. I needed this since I had no friends in the area. Kim lived 40 minutes away and we would see and talk to each other, but I needed friends close by. She would have her first baby, Shelby, and I was there for her birth. I so treasure that we were there for each other in those once-in-a-liftetime moments. She was (maybe for the first time) completely speechless when I told her we were having another baby on a day that I went to visit her and baby Shelby. MOPS was great – it got me involved and was a safe place to talk about things and really a saving grace for me. I met who would become great friends that were in my group. The whole group was probably 40-50 women, but we met in smaller groups within the room. We would have a speaker or an activity each month and a craft. This was right up my alley. You know how you see someone and just know you would become friends? That’s how it was with Megan, Beth, Lisa, Jennifer C., and Mandy. Beth was our group leader. She became like a big sister for me. Megan was my exact opposite (other than being just as crafty as me) – she saw a need and just did whatever it took to get the job done. She would be a lifeline for me. Jennifer and I just clicked over pure silliness and things that would only happen to us. Lisa would open a scrapbook store and we would all spend a lot of time together. Mandy was a friend who was a transplant from Georgia, trying to make a life in Louisiana; we were both in the same boat.  All of these women became like family. Especially when Scott went to Afghanistan.

I enrolled Molly in preschool and she loved it. Always the happy kid. Two weeks after Scott landed in the Middle East, I was spotting and Megan and Beth gave me the name of the OB/GYN they both loved. I made an appointment with Dr. B. and Scott’s cousin Kat babysat while I went for what would be a 5 hour appointment. 5 hours. I was pregnant and Dr. B. was the first doctor to properly diagnose my type of infertility. I had an inhospitable uterus. I laughed. Not only could I be a bitch, so was my uterus! He put me on a drug that I can’t remember the name of that would calm my bitch uterus down so the embryo could grow into a baby. I was due sometime around July 15th, 2005. I told my doctor of the problems I had with Katie and the meconium and he rolled his eyes at Canadian medicine. I would be put on light bedrest and the medicine made me woozy. Light bedrest with two toddlers is a joke, but I did my best.

imageDuring this time our house was being built. We picked the model that had the best floor plan and space and I picked all the finishings when Scott was out of the country. I started to show almost immediately. I was at my heaviest and the extra weight made an already difficult pregnancy more difficult. It was hard to keep up with the girls. I couldn’t fit in a restaurant booth. That was probably the thing that bothered me the most being that heavy. I started scrapbooking with Megan and Lisa and then Mandy. They kept my spirits up. At the Faler family Christmas party I broke down when Scott’s dad took a photo of everyone to send to Scott. I hadn’t let myself cry over how much I missed him being there everyday. It’s not just the big stuff you miss. For me it wasn’t sleeping alone. It was not having daily conversation. It was not having him there to put the star at the top of the tree. It was him not being there to help me be Santa on Christmas Eve to fill the stockings. It was having to take the trash out myself. It was being the only one to be up with the girls if they were sick in the middle of the night. It was having to ask Scott’s uncle Mike to come over and change a lightbulb I couldn’t reach. It was having to call Scott’s mom to come over and inspect Katie’s mouth when she fell on the fireplace and knocked a front tooth up into her gum. It was doing Molly’s birthday party alone. It was being the only one at home to rock and sing Katie to sleep on a wintry night and singing every Beatles song in the catalog until she fell asleep. It was having to ask Scott’s brother to come over and put our Christmas tree in the garage because I couldn’t carry the box in February because I was too depressed to take the tree down.

My parents came in for Christmas and it was nice. Then it was spring and then it was May and our house was almost ready. Megan and Beth spearheaded the packing of our possessions. My mother-in-law had already come to pack up Molly’s room, but the girls from MOPS came and packed everything in the rental house. They wouldn’t let me do anything. I just sat and gave directions. Megan put my computer in her car and brought it to my new house while my dad was there painting the upstairs bright colors in the kids’ rooms and hanging curtains. A moving company moved the boxes, but it was my MOPS friends and my mom and dad who were there for me. They were amazing. My realtor went to school with Scott and handled our closing perfectly, telling me what I needed to do, step by step. I made curtains for our extremely tall windows that you couldn’t find ready-made curtains for. We moved in when I was eight months pregnant. I could barely fit behind the steering wheel in my minivan.

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have you ever seen a more pregnant person? no.

Scott had come in once from Afghanistan. We decided to get a nanny to help out once our baby boy came. I interviewed nannies. We settled on one and she seemed just perfect. She would cancel on me two weeks before Andrew was born. I went into a dark place. I couldn’t talk about it. My parents and grandfather came down for Katie’s birthday and Dr. B. was inducing me on the 11th. We had a Cookie Monster birthday for Katie and went to Trey Yuen’s for Chinese for my birthday on the 9th. On the 10th I packed a bag for the hospital and my dad brought me to the hospital at 3 am, per Dr. B’s instructions. He stayed for awhile, then my mother-in-law came to relieve him. Dr. B. was sure I’d be ready to deliver sometime after she got off work, so she went to work that morning and my parents came up to the hospital. I can’t remember who kept the girls. It’s one of the few things I can’t remember.

The anesthesiologist gave me my epidural around nine and I was ready for a day of contractions and visitors coming in and out. At ten I was feeling a ton of pressure and asked my nurse to check me. She insisted I wasn’t ready yet, but I asked her to check anyway. She checked. Her face went from pleasant to distressed in seconds. She told another nurse to get Dr. B. “NOW.” My mother stood up and came to stand at the head of the bed and hold my hand. I was calm. Remember, I had seen every episode of A Baby Story on TLC and read What to Expect When You’re Expecting 42 times. Dr. B. got there within minutes. His office was 5 minutes away, but I know he made it faster than that. He examined me and told the nurse to keep her hand in place. I knew that couldn’t be good. He was incredibly calm and said “we’re going to take you back, the cord is wrapped around his neck.” He told one of the nurses to lower the head of my bed – it was so low I thought I would slide off the bed. Nurse #1 sat on the bed “with her hand in place” and other nurses worked quickly around me, taking off my earrings and watch (because I don’t have babies without accessories). I stupidly said “so it’s going to be a c-section?” and the nurses all said yes, it was an emergency. Dr. B. was already out the door. A nurse told me I was super calm throughout this process. I told her watched a lot of hospital shows on TV – this seemed very important at the time, as if I had some sort of minor medical degree from TLC and “ER.” I was wheeled quickly down the hallway, nurse still on top of my bed. I remember other nurses and patients looking at me, it was completely surreal. A nurse said I was the calmest patient they had ever had after being told they were having an emergency c-section.

Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott

Once in the operation room, my favorite guy, the anesthesiologist showed back up and started deadening me with a local and kept asking “do you feel that? how ’bout now? what about now?” My arms were put out to sides like wings and I was hooked up to more stuff. I could hear Dr. B. talking in a hushed voice. I cannot express how calm he was at all times, but he was in complete quiet control. Nurses were rushing, the anesthesiologist sat on a stool by my head and talked to me the entire time. He was fanfreakingtastic. We talked like there was no emergency – we talked like we were both waiting while getting our oil changed or sitting at the DMV, how you make temporary friends with whoever may be sitting next to you. It was so rushed there wasn’t time for my mom to be in the room. She called Scott’s mom who dropped everything and got to the hospital.

Dr. B. told me what was going on the entire time. The umbilical cord was wrapped twice around Andrew’s neck and once around his arm. Once I heard that, the tears started flowing even though I was assured by everyone in the room he would be fine. Everything would be fine. But everything wasn’t fine. My husband was halfway around the world and I was by myself being cut open in an emergency that could have ended horribly. My mind always went to the worst. What could have happened. But Andrew was fine. He was taken to the nursery and I was brought to the recovery room, where my mom met me. I was freezing and couldn’t stop shaking. Nurses brought me warming blankets. Eventually I was ok. Everything would be ok.  But it wasn’t.

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Big sisters, Pappaw Glenn, and Daddy

I was brought back to my room. Family and friends would come in and out. Flowers were delivered. Nurses came in to help me get up after the epidural wore off. I was in so much pain, more pain than I had ever been in. At some point after family had left, a nurse said she would stay in my room while I showered just in case I needed her. Me? Need anyone? I never needed anyone. I could do it all myself. I had managed my whole pregnancy practically by myself. I could do it. I couldn’t do it. I called for the nurse as soon as I got my gown off. I could barely move. Let me tell you this: you have no modesty after having a baby; you have another level of zero modesty when you’re naked in a shower with your nurse. For the first time in my life (and I mean that quite sincerely because I am very vain to be honest) I did not care what I looked like. My makeup had been cried off, my hair was a red cotton candy afro, I was bloody and iodine-y, and whatever else – I was 300 pounds of naked mess in front of my nurse. She kept telling me to stop apologizing while I cried. Nurses really are the most wonderful angels walking among us. I developed a fever and had to stay an extra day in the hospital. I talked to Scott on the phone and he would be home in two weeks. He had to plan his trip way in advance, and because both our girls had been late, he booked his trip a little later than my due date.

Andrew Scott Faler was a great baby. Kim came up to see him right before I was released from the hospital. I was not used to having to rely on people the way I had to after the c-section. I needed help getting into the car. I needed help getting out. I needed help getting to my bed. I needed help to get the baby. I was not myself. I was not in control. I didn’t like it one bit.

Friends would come by, my dad would go back to Shreveport and my mom left after a few weeks, being grandmother and nursemaid and overall being great when I needed her most. Scott came home to a new house and a new son and girls that had grown a little. I’m sure it was overwhelming. He was gone again two weeks later, but I treasured the time he was home. MOPS friends would bring food and ask if I needed anything. I remember Candi coming over one of those first weeks and asking to do anything I needed her to do and she meant it. I asked if she could vacuum  for me and she said “of course!” and vacuumed my whole house. I’d told her I only needed the living room vacuumed. She did the stairs and everything. I couldn’t believe I had such caring friends. Were there really people like this in the world? People you could depend on at your worst? Was I in some parallel universe where people were kind and just did what needed to be done out of love and genuine concern? It was real. Those friends were there for me and saved me from a deeper depression I could have fallen into. Two weeks later my mom told me she asked my dad for a divorce. I was in complete shock. She moved in with my grandfather. Scott said he would be coming back from the Middle East and we would all be a family again.

Then it was August and no one would be prepared for what faced it. Her name was Katrina.

One the morning of the 28th, the mayor of New Orleans and the governor were calling for evacuations. We were in Covington. I was alone with the kids in my new house and was sure we would be fine. I wasn’t going anywhere. My husband would be home the next day. My neighbors talked in the street in front of my house discussing their evacuation plans. No one was staying. The men told me I had to get out of town, that I should probably go to Shreveport. I started throwing random clothes in suitcases. Scott’s mom had been saying all week that she would not evacuate because she worked at City Hall and had to be there. Even she decided to leave. She, Scott’s step-sister, and I packed up the kids and drove what would be a six hour drive to Lafayette to my sister-in-law’s house. There were other family members there. We listened to WWL on the radio for the latest news – the Causeway was closing, the airport – the message was clear: get out now. The atmosphere in Lafayette was half-party, half-anxiety overload.  The airports were closed and Scott had to fly into Houston and rent a car to get to us. We all camped out in the living room and watched the news. Watched as the storm missed New Orleans, going a little to the east. Everything would be fine, we would just get some wind and rain. We watched as a CNN reporter stood in front of a strip center in my town and reported on the wind that left him barely standing up. We watched as it looked like New Orleans was safe. Then we watched as New Orleans began to fill up with water due to faulty levees. We watched and wondered if some family members would have homes to go home to. We watched as people were standing on their roofs and waited for the Coast Guard helicopters to take them to safety. We watched as water climbed and climbed and neighborhoods became lakes, and we assumed Scott’s grandparents’s house was underwater. They would lose everything in the house they had called home for 40 plus years. Scott’s dad and stepmom’s town was devastated in Mississippi.

A few days after the storm came we went to my grandfather’s house in Shreveport to stay until our house had electricity again. It was a difficult two weeks. My parents were separated and tension was high in the house with my family there and my mom and grandfather. I was glad to be in town, but wished it was under better circumstances. There was no visiting of friends, no reason for celebration. Scott went back to our house to check things out. A dozen people were staying with his mom because she had a generator. The mayor of Mandeville was there, as were half of the people needed to run the town. Our house only had damage to the very top of the chimney and our fence was mostly blown down. It was all completely fixable. Three of the trees in our backyard had fallen, but it was okay.

I’m not sure when I stopped caring about things. Was it during the c-section? Was it during Katrina, during that drive? Was it when Kanye West said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” while standing next to Mike Myers on a telethon? Was it when we returned to our home only to see that only a handful of things were open and the military was handing out MREs and bottled water in front of my Target? Was it when I first went to the grocery store and there were hardly and fresh things to buy? Was it afterward when school started a month late and our MOPS group met and wondered if we could even have MOPS that year? Was it when Molly asked if we could watch something besides the news?

It was all those things. It was the depression and anxiety that had been there all along, but broke through the ceiling of happy I had built that first year back in Louisiana.

Months would go by. People would get their roofs fixed, stores would open again, gas stations would actually have gas, and Scott would get a job and he and my dad and grandfather would put our fence back up. Everything around me was getting back to normal, on my side of the lake: on the Northshore. Things in New Orleans were still in a desperate state. Soon, I would be in a desperate state. I’m not comparing my little life to the massive loss of life and devastation of whole towns, it just happened to coincide.

imageMy house was in mass disorder. I couldn’t keep up with laundry and cleaning and then I just didn’t give a damn. Not the “I don’t give a damn” where you come home from work and don’t load the dishwasher and put on “Grey’s Anatomy.” The kind of I don’t give a damn where you absolutely do not care what your house looks like anymore. I had been through a couple of maids who wouldn’t stay or said it was too much work for a three hour cleaning. It was close to Hoarders proportions. There were paths to walk through in my home, but nothing was clean. The kids and I were clean. I would wash clothes and leave them in the dryer until everything in the dryer had been worn and then start over. No one who knew me would suspect my house was in complete disarray. That my mind was in complete disarray. Scott’s mom would come over and clean for me. She would give me cleaning tips. I would have maids over to clean before my mom would visit or when Scott would come home, so they didn’t suspect anything. But the everyday was just convoluted as my brain was.

When Andrew was nine months old I was driving on Hwy 22 and talking on the phone with Beth. I believe at that time Scott was working in Mississippi or maybe it was St. Croix, I’m not sure because a couple of years ran together while he worked away from home because there was no work for an oil cost engineer in the recovering New Orleans job market. She was the first person to say I didn’t seem like my self. Beth was the first one to suggest I may need to talk to someone or ask my doctor about medication because I didn’t seem to care about things anymore. I couldn’t go to Walmart for fear of a panic attack and my friends knew this. There were things that were just off the table because my anxiety couldn’t handle it. One day I would be in the freezer section of Winn-Dixie and have a panic attack and be unable to close the door to the frozen peas.

I was 30.

 

“I’m fine,” She Lied: Part 4.2 – July, July!

imageI was 27.

In September we moved to Fort McMurray, Alberta Canada. Or Canadaland as I like I like to say. Scott’s company flew Molly and I to the tiny airport. Scott drove our Ford Escape. All of our other possessions would go into storage in Houston. When we flew into Canada, we would fly to Denver, then Calgary, then Edmonton, then we would take a tiny plane – that you just knew was going to fall our of the sky – to Ft. McMurray. I am not a nervous flyer at all, but I am on teeny tiny planes that look like a slight breeze might blow them off course, to say maybe, Russia – I don’t know. Anyway, the company shipped our clothes (which didn’t arrive for two weeks), gave us an allowance for winter clothes, and an allowance for furniture, etc. We lived in the fancy suite of hotel for a month while waiting for our townhouse to be ready. After being in Canada a week, the first cold front came in and we didn’t have jackets or coats. Or anything remotely warm. There was one children’s clothing store in town and I bought Molly a ton of Winter clothes (they only sold expensive clothes and the child was well-dressed) and was told by the owner that I needed to order the child a snowsuit and get her boots immediately. I was all “in September?”

imageOur townhouse was ready and we ordered furniture and winter clothes. I refused to get a parka. I am a chubby southern girl and I don’t do pouffy coats. The snow started shortly after we moved in. It was so beautiful and unreal I had experienced snow probably three times in my life before this, and it was that Louisiana and Georgia snow that melted the day of or the day after it snowed. This snow was for real. It stayed for 6 months. Snow for the first few weeks or a month is gorgeous and fun to play in, easily manipulated into snowmen and fun. The worst part of snow was having to get a munchkin who was potty training dressed for zero degree temperatures. We would have to do this every time we left the house. It got real old real fast. The snow would melt a little and have this hard slippery layer that you couldn’t play in until it snowed again. Then it would get too cold to snow. And I would have to go to the grocery store with a toddler in the snow and ice. Let me tell you about the grocery stores in Canadaland (or at least Ft. McMurray), to get a grocery cart you have to stick a quarter in a little lock that unlocks the carts from each other, then when you return the cart, your quarter ejects back to you. This meant you had to make sure you had a quarter on you when you went to the store. There was also a charge for plastic bags. There was one craft store in town that was tiny. There were three decent restaurants. There was one plus size store in the mall that was a chain called Cotton Ginny and was actually really great. Once the mall had a drugged tiger in a cage you could take photos with. No, I’m not kidding. It was weird.

We were trying for another baby because it had taken so long to have Molly. Of course, I got pregnant right away. I made an appointment with the one of two doctors in town. Our town was like the show Northern Exposure with a little Twin Peaks thrown in. Both OB/GYNs were from other countries, as was every doctor I saw in Ft. McMurray. My OB was African and educated in England. He informed me on my first visit that I would be put on the Gestational Diabetes diet even if I didn’t have GD. Thanks, Dr Ican’trememberhisname. I know I blocked his hame out because my experience was so bad with him. I told him of my miscarriage history and that I was bleeding and he said either I would have a baby or I wouldn’t and there was nothing he could do. Mentally, I knew this, but it was hard for my heart to hear. His bedside manner did not exist. Once I noticed there was a thumb-sized hole in his Bill Cosby sweater and I felt bad for him. I knew how medicine worked in Canada and assumed he had to work a certain number of years in Ft. McMurray before moving to a better, larger area. You don’t get into medicine in Canada for the money. Nurses would come and go, I didn’t have the same nurse each time at his office. The office was in a strip center. The whole thing was completely surreal.

We would go to Edmonton (5 hours away) to the giant West Edmonton mall a few times for fun. It was the biggest mall in the world at the time. It was fun, but exhausting. We went to the only Mexican restaurant there and Scott ordered a chimichanga. They didn’t fry it. It was a burrito. In our town there was a restaurant called Montana’s that was okay. I ordered nachos once and they had mozzarella and ranch style beans on them. We had been told to go to the local seafood joint and get the fish cakes. I wrongly assumed they would be like crab cakes, but no, they were patties that had minced fish and mashed potatoes, formed and fried. I can’t explain how much I missed southern food. I joined the Newcomers Club, which was a Godsend. We had a bookclub and I made an American friend named JoAnn.The bookclub saved my sanity there.

imageWinter was hard. The sun would rise at 9:30 am and set at 3:30 pm. It was incredibly depressing, especially for someone who was already depressed. I slept a lot. Much more than normal. I was not okay.  I went to two scrapbook crops while I was in Canada. People would make fun of my accent. At the deli counter in the grocery store I ordered a pound of sliced turkey and they looked at me like I was crazy and asked me how much I would like in grams. I didn’t know what the hell a gram of turkey was. Should I get two grams of turkey? 30 grams of turkey? I told the guy to start slicing it and I would tell him when to stop and that was how many grams I wanted. They looked at me like I was an alien and asked me to keep talking because of my accent. I believe they thought I came right out of The Deep South and was probably related to everyone in Steel Magnolias.

I fell twice on the ice in Ft. McMurray and was sure I would lose the baby. I didn’t. Then it was spring and then it was summer and believe it or not, it gets very hot in Canada and I thought I would die from the heat. Homes that far north are not airconditioned and I was miserable. We had fans all over the place. It didn’t help that I was huge and couldn’t get comfortable. I ordered this giant candy-can shaped pregnancy pillow that was like having an extra person in our bed. It was the only way I could get any rest.

It was July. My mom came in a week or so before the baby was born. I was ten days late (same as with Molly) when they brought me in for a stress test, only to tell me I was having contractions and admitted me. Scott went home to get my bag. It was July 4th. My holiday. We were going to dinner for our anniversary and my mom would keep Molly. I was upset when they admitted me because we couldn’t celebrate our anniversary. My doctor came in and said the baby would be born by midnight and mentioned it being my American holiday. I said proudly that it was. The anesthesiologist was called in and actually told me that he was perturbed to be on call because he was in the middle of painting his bedroom. Every medical professional I encountered seemed pissed off except for one nurse I had who was Jamaican. She admired my pedicure. I liked her. I had an epidural that didn’t work. I felt everything where you don’t want to feel everything, but legs were completely numb. It was awful. There was no music playing. They were all business. Katherine Grace was born on July 5th, our anniversary. She came into the world angry. She was so late she had meconium in her lungs and was immediately taken to the nursery. It was scary, but I was assured she would be fine. She would be brought to me to nurse, then whisked off again. That night they let her stay in my room, but she cried the entire time. Literally the entire night. I knew this baby would be night and day from my Molly.

imageWe brought Katie home to her big sister and grandmother. Over the next few months, Scott’s mom and dad would visit to meet their newest grandbaby. Scott’s maternal grandmother would pass away while his mom was visiting. Scott went in for the funeral. It was a difficult time.

Molly loved having a sister. She wanted her to play and didn’t understand why the baby couldn’t play. Almost immediately, we realized there was something wrong with Katie. She was breastfeeding and couldn’t keep anything down. She had horrible reflux. After we were home for a few weeks, a nurse from the hospital came out to visit (as they do in Canadaland) and suggested that it was because she was lactose intolerant and that I go lactose-free and introduce a soy formula in addition to nursing. So I did. It didn’t help. Her pediatrician said she may have some rare condition she would need surgery to fix. I went into the anxiety I had when Molly was a baby. I just knew this little angry baby wouldn’t be okay. That she would always cry and vomit and have to have surgery. It turned out that she didn’t have the condition – that she just had horrible very bad no good reflux. She barely smiled and constantly threw up. She would go through 4 or 5 outfits a day and numerous bibs. It was ridiculous. Completely ridiculous. We went home to Louisiana for Christmas that year and Scott went back after two weeks. The girls and I stayed at my parents for another couple of weeks. It turned out not to be a good idea and my sister and I had words. She basically said I was a lazy mother and didn’t care much about my girls. She was still living at home with my parents and her three year old. It was a very hard time and my feeling were incredibly hurt.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care about my girls or that I was a lazy parent. I knew from the beginning when Molly was little and I saw other mothers at playdates and other mothers. In short, I was not a “mother-woman.” In high school, I read one of my favorite novels, The Awakening by Kate Chopin. In the novel there is a mother who sees herself as more than being a mother and as a woman who never saw myself as being a wife and mother and not a big city novelist or writer, I understood this more and more as I had my second child.

From The Awakening: “If one of the little Pontellier boys took a tumble whilst at play, he was not apt to rush crying to his mother’s arms for comfort; he would more likely pick himself up, wipe the water out of his eyes and the sand out of his mouth, and go on playing. Tots as they were, they pulled together and stood their ground in childish battles with doubled fists and uplifted voices, which usually prevailed against the other mother-tots. The quadroon nurse was looked upon as a huge encumbrance, only good to button up waists and panties and to brush and part hair; since it seemed to be a law of society that hair must be parted and brushed.

“In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman. The mother-women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.”

I was simply not a mother-woman. I didn’t swoop in the second a pacifier was dropped. I didn’t run to pick up Molly if she tripped over her feet in the grass. It wasn’t laziness, and if that’s the way people viewed it, then that’s their problem. I was just not THAT mother. Now mother-women are called “helicopter parents.” That is not who I am. I never have been. When we took both kids to West Edmonton Mall for the weekend in the spring, we went to the indoor water park. It smelled of chlorine and the pasty white patrons acted as if they were at Disneyland, when it was really a barebones water park. Nothing fancy, just enough. I was was sitting in the water with baby Katie and looked up and Molly was gone. My anxiety set in. I screamed for Scott. We couldn’t find her for probably 7 minutes. A man walked up holding her hand and she was fine. In my mind, I already had her kidnapped and having to call our family and tell them and going on the news as the horrible American parents who lost their three year old in a water park. That’s how my mind works. Expect the worst. She was fine. Of course she was fine. There was a bar across the street from our hotel called Filthy McNasty’s and that night in the hotel, Molly kept flinging the curtains open to see the neon sign across the street. She was three and she was happy. She loved Blues Clues and would only talk to her grandparents on the phone if they pretended to be Blue the dog. I couldn’t have asked for a better toddler.

imageWhen Katie was 7 months the reflux suddenly stopped. We went to Breckinridge for my sister-in-law’s wedding on the slopes. Katie was crawling. Then walking at 9 months. She was suddenly a happy baby. The first 7 months were miserable and I had been miserable. It had been winter and it was dark. My outlook was dark. I barely left the house. I hated Canada. I grew to hate the snow, the people who asked me to repeat what I had just said so they could hear my accent, not knowing how much things would cost in Canadian money, I hated the fact that they called their two-dollar coin the “twooney.” I hated that the main coffee/donut shop, Tim Hortons, rarely had chocolate for my mochas and that the fast food restaurants had weird Canadian offerings like Poutine (french fries with gravy and cheese curds). I hated that there was no Popeyes and that KFC didn’t have macaroni and cheese, but had macaroni salad. I hated it when the only plus size store closed in my town.

I started blogging. That was 13 years ago. I mainly posted photos of the babies for family to see, then crafty stuff I was doing. I didn’t blog about anything very personal until we were back in the U.S. I missed my friends. I missed everything American. I hated our Mountain Time Zone. I missed the American Food Network. I got letters from friends, but not many phone calls and it was extremely isolating. My mother told me that she saw that Will had started his own medical practice, so I Googled (or in truth, probably used AskJeeves.com) his name and found some random email address that had to be his. I emailed a short “congratulations, I’m proud of you” type note and was surprised when he emailed back. We asked how each other was doing, I sent him the photo you see of the four of us above. Our emails went back and forth for a few weeks.

imageIt was spring, then it was June and Scott’s job was complete at a mega oil plant. The company was happy with him and I  was happy to be going home . They paid to ship whatever we wanted back home, so I decided to take our bedroom furniture and kitchen table. We sold off everything else and had a garage sale. Scott made the drive back to Louisiana. He didn’t have a job to start at that time, so we decided to live in Mandeville, where his mother and brother lived. His grandparents lived across the lake in New Orleans. The girls and I flew into New Orleans a few days before Katie turned one. We would have her birthday party on the 5th at my in-law’s and my family would come visit too. My still bald baby was one. She was happy and she was one.

It was July. We were rid of Canada. Thank Sweet American Baby Jesus. My 22 month exile was over. I would be back amongst my people and I would be okay. Except that I wouldn’t. I would be worse.

I was 29 the week after Katie turned one.

“I’m fine,” She Lied: Part 4 – Kid Things

Note: If you haven’t guessed, all of my titles for each entry (except for the first) are song titles. I may post the songs, we’ll see.

I was 25.

IMG_1737.JPGWe moved into our new home, bought new living room furniture (which I hated as soon as the pregnancy hormones wore off. Do not make major furniture purchases while preggo. Just don’t), and I convinced Scott we needed a dog. Specifically, we needed a basset hound because I’d always wanted one, since the days of The Dukes of Hazzard and Smokey and the Bandit. I found a breeder in the Atlanta area and we stayed with Scott’s brother Chris and his wife, Candice, in Marietta while we picked out our new puppy. We picked out this almost all black puppy I named General Beauregard of Atlanta ( I like our animals to have titles, like our current basset, the Former Governor of the great state of Mississippi Lucille Brown). Beau was adorable and tripped over his ears a lot. He was our first baby. Our practice baby before the real one came.

We traded in my Corolla for a Ford Escape, my favorite of the smaller SUVs. It was big enough to accommodate the dog’s crate and baby’s car seat, stroller, and everything we’d need for a road trip. We were doing everything right.  One day while getting gas, a seagull flew into my car, flapped around for a few minutes (it seemed like an eternity) and then flew back out. I have never quite gotten over the seagull incident.

Beau liked to sit on the sofa and rest his head on my belly before I was even showing. He was something else. We were doing our usual wait-to-tell with the pregnancy and I was trying not to get too excited. I was working for this Christian Correspondence school that I thought was shady, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. A husband and wife team ran the school and it was like the blind leading the blind. When I came along, the owner was convinced they were upping their game since I had worked for the bigtime correspondence school. He had taken some courses and frankly, I thought they were laughable. They were the courses my old coworkers and I would make fun of that no one took. I’d written their typing textbook while I was there, which I thought was kind of cool. I would grade essays and do just about whatever they needed me to do at the new school. It was okay.

One night I was home with Scott and I started bleeding. My new OB/GYN knew my history and told me to call at the first sign of threatened miscarriage. I called or Scott called, I don’t remember – and got her service, it was after hours. Dr. G called me back pretty soon and assured me that I would come in the next day for an ultrasound and that she was pretty sure all would be well because the week before our little tiny thing had a strong heartbeat. I cried and Scott did his best to console me. The next day I  went in for an ultrasound, not knowing what to expect. Almost instantly we heard the woosh-woosh-woosh washing machine sound of the baby on the ultrasound and there Baby was – heart beating and very much alive. I was relieved. Beyond relieved. Dr. G put me on light duty and told me not to take it very easy. I listened. I started getting dizzy some days and would have to lie down. I missed work once. When I came back I told my boss I was pregnant and he asked if I planned to return to work after the baby was born. I was pretty sure he legally wasn’t allowed to ask this. I said I wasn’t sure (which was the truth). I did my job. I did my job well. I brought up things that needed to be changed in the school and my advice was taken fairly well. Their website was a joke. They still typed things on typewriters, with virtually nothing saved on a computer. It was like the stone ages and it was only 15 years ago. The boss’s wife began to hate me and I figured this was because she had graded essays before I was hired and my boss and a coworker fussed over me once they knew I was pregnant – getting me water, giving me a stool to put my feet up, bringing me the mail from my box. One day I called in before work and said I just couldn’t make it that day. I was too dizzy to drive. Later that day my boss called back and fired me. I was pretty sure this was also illegal. I had only missed one day of work prior to this. I went to the Department of Labor and found out nothing could be done because the business filed as a religious organization. I remember thinking how Christian it was to fire a pregnant woman.

I kept myself busy with painting the baby’s room a soft green with a white picket fence and decorated with a Beatrix Potter theme, putting up framed pages from her books on the walls. One day I had sciatica so bad I couldn’t get up from the floor for a few hours. Another day I was giving Beau a bath in our tub and couldn’t get up from the floor again. He and I stayed in the bathroom for a couple of hours. He, of course, couldn’t jump out of the tub. It was kind of funny except for the fact that I was in tremendous pain. Other than that, my pregnancy was going well. My mother told me that she saw in the newspaper that Will had married his girlfriend, Molly, he’d dated since before prom in 1992.  She and I had gone to middle and high school together and somehow never had a class with her, but I’d always heard she was nice. I was happy for them.

I craved IHOP all the time. And orange juice, which was weird because I hate juice of any kind. Still do. I found it had to dress my plus-sized preggo body because no one made cute plus-sized maternity clothes. I bought everything Motherhood Maternity had in a 2 and 3X. I worried about everything. What to Expect When You’re Expecting was my Bible and I consulted it daily, as well as Babycenter.com. And I bought What to Expect the 1st Year in advance and read the first few chapters. I watched A Baby Story on TLC everyday. I knew more about labor and delivery than most medical students, I’m sure.

My Shreveport baby shower, Aunt Kim, Aunt Darla and Uncle Chris, Mammaw Patsy, and cousin Peyton with Molly.

My Shreveport baby shower, Aunt Kim, Aunt Darla and Uncle Chris, Mammaw Patsy, and cousin Peyton with Molly.

Darla asked Kim and I to be bridesmaids in her wedding and I had to decline because I would be past the point of being able to fly when she had her Christmas wedding. I was so disappointed to miss it. She asked me to address her invitations because my handwriting is so purdy (ha) and I did. Dar came to Brunswick and we shopped for extra wedding things, hitting the antique store. We had a great time. Kim and I threw her a shower and I made a wedding cake shaped cookie cutter because I couldn’t find one for sale anywhere (remember, I was Martha Stewart in my head). Darla and Kim threw me a baby shower in Shreveport the same weekend as Dar’s shower. It was lovely. Lovely for the baby girl we were expecting. My sister was also pregnant with a boy. Peyton would come into the world six weeks before our Molly. 

I was due January 15th, 2001. Then Dr. G changed it to the 10th, then to the 20th. It was like musical due dates. I would be induced on the 24th. Kim came in, as did my parents, Scott’s mom and grandmother (complete with fur coats), and Scott’s brother and our sister-in-law. I was a nervous wreck. The hospital was nice. I was induced with a cervical gel. Later that morning, my doctor realized I had asthma and was not supposed to have the gel that made asthmatics have complications. So, that was great. They started me on an IV of pitocin and had me walk the halls. My mom walked with me. After our second of third time down the hall I felt like a bowling ball was going to fall out of my vajayjay. I spent the rest of my labor in bed or in a rocking chair, until I was finally given an epidural. Epidurals are great. I would have one right now if I could. Before the epidural I was craving Taco Bell and made Scott go to Taco Bell. By the time he got back, they had given me something to take the edge off and I was completely out of it. Kim made fun of me. I do remember that. The baby was being stubborn and I wouldn’t dilate. Finally at 6:14, Molly Kathleen made her debut to “Who Let the Dogs Out” on VH1. The funny thing about having a Birth Plan, which is what all the books tell you to do, is that everything goes out the window when you’re in pain and drugged and just want the baby out of you at 6am. We forgot to turn off the tv. While in the middle of a contraction, Dr. G asked me if I’d ever had a mole on my extreme upper thigh looked at. I’ll never forget that.

Molly and Marlaine, Donald, Jan and Scott with Molly.

Molly and Marlaine, Donald, Jan and Scott with Molly.

After she was measured and weighed and cleaned off and the family all got their chances to hold her and left the room and I was alone with her, I unwrapped her swaddled little self and looked my perfect baby, formed in my womb, finally in the world when I thought I would never have a baby of my own. I would do that with all three of my babies.
We went home, family left after a few days, and it was mainly just Molly and me at home. Scott was learning the business of being a daddy and I was settling into a routine with our little munchkin. We would figure out the mommy thing together. I would make lots of mistakes. All of the fears and anxiety that I had at the beginning of the pregnancy came back once she was living and breathing on her own. I had read too much, seen too much online, heard too many horror stories of things that had happened to a friend of a friend of a friend. There was a line in What to Expect that said if you couldn’t figure out why your baby was crying, look to make sure a hair wasn’t wrapped around one of her tiny toes that could be cutting off her circulation. This became something I would become obsessed with when she cried. If she wasn’t hungry or wet, I checked those toes – just because of one line in a big book that I was fairly sure was written to scare new moms to death.

My grandparents, Glenn and Patsy; Scott's - Mike and Miriam; Scott's - Francis and Shirley, our little family.

My grandparents, Glenn and Patsy; Scott’s – Mike and Miriam; Scott’s – Francis and Shirley, our little family.

The anxiety got worse. I didn’t let on to Scott that it was going on. I was scared she would drown in the baby bathtub if I looked away for half a second. I was terrified of SIDS. I would go into check if she was breathing at night if her baby monitor was quiet. I would check on her during naptime. I wasn’t sleeping. They say to sleep when the baby sleeps, but you can’t do that when your anxiety is telling you something is wrong with that perfect baby.

And she was perfect. She was easy going and breastfed well, slept well, napped well, tolerated going places well, did fine in the church nursery (when I let her go to the nursery because what if something happened there?). I stayed terrified something bad was going to happen. Until now, I have only told one other person about the feelings that I had, only AnnaBess. Not even my husband knew of the anxiety I had. I couldn’t explain it. It sounded crazy. I would sound like a crazy person. I stayed up nights thinking about how I would tell my parents that something happened and Molly was dead. This played through my head constantly. There was nothing wrong with her. Our pediatrician said there was nothing to be concerned about other than she was in the 25th percentile for growth. The pediatrician said this was nothing to worry about, that she would probably catch up during a growth spurt or over a couple of growth spurts. I was not at ease. I didn’t believe him.

I was 26

IMG_1750.JPGThen we got news that KBR was moving us to Houston. Baytown, specifically. Molly was 9 months old. We were warned that few apartments would accept dogs and I now had that to worry about. A friend of Scott’s offered to take Beau, but something about them didn’t set right with me. Then Darla and Chris said they’d always wanted a basset. I warned them that Beau was extremely protective over his food and had bitten Scott, but otherwise was a great dog. I loved him. He was sweet and would take Molly’s socks off her feet when she was in the baby swing. He was silly and would roll over in clover when Scott walked him. Dar and Chris said they would love to take him in. I cried when we they met us at Scott’s mom’s house to take him, but I knew they would give him the best home possible. Dar and Chris loved Beau and a couple of years later would get another basset named George. There’s just something about a basset hound.

A moving service packed all of our things and our things went into storage while we looked for an apartment. KBR put us up in a very nice executive apartment in Clear Lake while we apartment hunted. It was a nice apartment. Molly slept in her pack and play and played in front of a big floor length mirror. We had only been in the temporary apartment for a week or so when I was watching the Today Show one morning and they said a plane flew into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. Shortly after that the second tower was hit. Suddenly, America was not the safe place I knew it to be and the anxiety over something happening to my baby girl became anxiety about everything. I called my grandmother. She said President Bush was headed to Barksdale (where I had hung out for a few months when I dated this pilot named Fred while I was in high school) to address the nation. This was all too close to home.

The nation went about getting back to normal and we found an apartment in Baytown. We found a pediatrician and started going to a local church. It was all very normal. Until one day when I went to the Super Walmart while Scott was home with Molly and had a panic attack on the bread aisle when there were approximately eight family members arguing in Spanish near the hamburger buns. Everything felt like it was closing in on me. The aisle became very small and narrow. I started to sweat. I could feel my heart beating hard and fast and I knew I had to leave immediately. I left my basket and went to my car. I couldn’t get out of the store fast enough. Once in the car, my racing heart started to calm and tears flowed from my eyes. The radio was on, but I couldn’t hear it – I could only hear my heart beating loud in my ears. And then it went away. This was the first time I knew it was a panic attack. I’d read online about them while I was in the middle of the move.

Now, looking back I can put check marks by all of my early panic attacks: in the Student Center while eating my taco salad at Tech; the time we were at an Olive Garden on my birthday and the servers started clapping and singing for someone else’s birthday and I was terrified they were coming to our table; when I had to leave a Saints-Falcons game in the dome in Atlanta because it was so big and there were little blimps floating around and I thought I was was going to die in our upper mid-level seats. All of those times I was convinced I was having a heart attack, but my doctors all said my heart was fine when I went in. All of those were panic attacks. I would not be diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder until 2006. I tried my best to manage the panicky feelings and racing thoughts and did a pretty good job of it for a while.

The anxiety about the baby grew worse. Our pediatrician’s office was on the second floor of a medical office building where the center was open. Once upstairs, there was glass that went up about four feet for safety. Every time we went to the pediatrician I was terrified somehow Molly’s stroller would go over the glass. Terrified she would fall. She wasn’t walking yet, she was crawling, but I would have never let her crawl around the track-like area around the glass. Still, I was unbelievably anxious every single time we went to that office. The glass scared me like nothing had before with my anxiety. Before an appointment I would think of how I would word telling our parents that their granddaughter fell from a second floor office. It became the white elephant of my nightmares. And it was completely illogical.

It didn’t help that it was the summer Andrea Yates was on trial in Houston for drowning her own children in a bathtub because of her postpartum depression/psychosis. Is that what I had? A pediatrician had mentioned “Baby Blues,” but this was something else. Did I have postpartum depression? I didn’t want to harm my child, I was simply terrified something would happen to her – something I couldn’t control. I could no longer go to Walmart. I could only go to the regular grocery store. And that was when I would leave the apartment. Most days Molly and I stayed in or went to the pool, but just the beach entry part where we could sit on the sand colored concrete and barely feel the water. I wouldn’t let her get in past her knees. I couldn’t let anything happen to her.

Then it was Christmas. Then it was January and I tried to plan Molly’s birthday party. But my grandmother was in the hospital and was diagnosed with cancer. We were told she wouldn’t have long. I loved my grandmother dearly. More than dearly. More than anything. When Molly was itty bitty I would nurse her while chatting on Yahoo messenger with my grandmother. She thought it was funny. Multitasking. I talked to her about a week before she died. She said she couldn’t go yet because too many people needed her. I couldn’t imagine my family without her. She had been sick when my grandparents and my parents came to help me unpack in October. We didn’t know it then. We didn’t know we only had a few months with her. And then it was January and Molly’s first birthday and then my uncle called to tell me I needed to get to Shreveport because my grandmother was dying. We went straight to the hospital after the almost 5 hour drive. She was still lucid and could see Molly and could tell me she loved me. I told her I loved her. We all did. I don’t know of anyone more loved that my Mammaw Patsy. And then she was gone. And we had to go on.

Molly started to try to walk, but wouldn’t master it until 15 months. I joked that she didn’t have to let go of a piece of furniture from her bedroom to the living room to our room. Finally she let go. And she was okay. And she would be okay.

And then I was 27. And Scott’s company started talking about sending us somewhere else. And they took our photos and we had to get passports and they sent Scott and I to visit Fort McMurray, Alberta Canada, where the sun was still up when we came out of a movie theater at 11pm in August. Molly stayed with his mom. It was our first trip without our baby and I was terrified something would happen to her. We went to a restaurant that spun at the top of a tower in Calgary. I had a panic attack in the bathroom. I was not getting better.

“Kid Things” by Counting Crows

“I’m fine,” She lied: Part 3 – Why Georgia, Why?

Note: I’ve put off writing this part because much of it will be difficult and some bits are things only a few  people know. As usual, there is a lot of humor in my pain, so at least there’s that.

 

I was 23.

We returned to Shreveport on July 11th, rented a U-haul to move my things, and said goodbye to my family and friends. It was hard. Our honeymoon was wonderful except for the sunburn I got on my back while snorkeling. Guess what? When you apply sunscreen on the boat while wearing your swimsuit cover-up, you shouldn’t forget your back if you’re snorkeling. We drove to Macon, Georgia to Scott’s apartment. We would live there for one month while waiting for KBR to send him to the next project. The apartment was what I would call “not purposely minimalist.” Scott had exactly one half-broken recliner, a computer desk, a hexagonal kitchen table with the most uncomfortable chairs you can imagine, two twin beds – pushed together, and one small dresser. I added my antique dresser and vanity to the mix. When you plugged in and turned on any appliance in the kitchen (toaster, microwave), it would blow out all the power in the kitchen. We were newlyweds and it was okay. We were about to move to Pensacola when Scott got a job offer in Atlanta, so we got ready to move to Hotlanta. I got very sick and found out I had asthma. Turns out I was allergic to Georgia.

We had a cute apartment in Duluth, a suburb of Atlanta. This would be where my job search began. While we were engaged Scott told me that we would not start out in debt and he paid off my credit cards and AT&T bills. When I got bills in college I just put them in a drawer and didn’t look at them again. He bought me my first car, a green Corolla, and told me I needed to find a job. I began my search. This would prove to be an adventure.

I interviewed at a major department store that rhymes with lizards for a position as a “beauty advisor” at the Estee Lauder counter. Turns out I wasn’t experienced enough to sell people makeup, but I was qualified to dress mannequins and work as a sales associate in the Ralph Lauren department. I was informed that if my commission wasn’t high enough I would be fired. Guess what? I was fired.

From there, I applied to a fancy preschool where a few members of the Falcons children attended. Why I thought this would be a good idea, I don’t know. I was a pre-K teacher and really loved my munchkins, especially a little nut named Catherine. She was 4 and a half and her mother constantly told me she had to be able to spell her name before she would be considered for the fancy Kindergarten she had her heart set on. My co-teacher was relieved to not be the newest teacher anymore and gave me a hard time and asked too many personal questions. It was an uncomfortable workplace. I was written up for not accurately describing how a child got a broken arm when a football player’s son fell on him on the playground. Kid slid down the slide and fell on the other kid – how is that a wrong description? That was the first odd thing about the place. The younger kids were constantly shoving pea gravel up their noses and I felt bad for those teachers. My co-teacher asked me what kind of birth control I was on and if I took it at the same time everyday. I told her I took it in the morning or at night, depending on the time I had getting ready in the morning. She told me that was how she got pregnant and miscarried when she was a newlywed. I told myself I wasn’t like this idiot who managed to get pregnant on birth control. One day we had a field trip to the pumpkin farm and the only kid who was allergic to bees was stung by a bee. One day we were informed not to release one child to anyone but the mom because of separation and restraining order. One day Catherine came up to me and pulled down her leggings to show me where her dad had hit her with “a strap.” I teared up. I knew I had to report it because it was part of my job. The next day the father screamed at me. I quit.

It was early November. I applied with what was then the largest correspondence school in the country and got a job as an Education Specialist in their high school diploma program. People would get textbooks, do work, take tests, send them in, and would get their diploma. It was a good way for working people to get diplomas to get jobs that required more than a GED. I enjoyed this job. Students would call in for help and I would advise them. I had a student named Filay Mignon. I made friends with a coworker named Crystal who would marry a man with the last name Ball later that year. Things were going great. Scott and I were members of First Baptist Atlanta and I was happy. In late November I would miss my period and find out what kind of idiot gets pregnant on the pill. I was ecstatic. A baby! We had just gotten married and were having a baby. Scott was excited but reserved. We decided to tell family when we visited for Christmas. We talked about names. Scott wanted to name the baby “Andromeda” if it was a girl because that’s totally normal. I made my first doctor appointment for the week after Christmas. I would not need that appointment. It was December 20th. Crampy feelings started. There was a drop of blood in my underwear when I went to the bathroom during church. When I got home I felt like I was going to wet my pants if I didn’t get to the bathroom. There was a “plop.” I screamed. I looked at it and looked at it. I couldn’t stop looking at it. A tiny little transparent embryo. Scott looked at it. This would be my first miscarriage. I called my mom and told her. It was a shock because we hadn’t told anyone yet. Scott had previously told me to not leave kleenex everywhere from my allergies. I cried and he said to throw kleenex wherever I wanted. We went to the doctor the next day or the day after, I don’t remember. The nurse asked if we brought “the specimen.” The specimen. It. The doctor concluded I was most likely nine weeks along. We named it Andi. We told our families. No one knew what to say, except for one of Scott’s grandmothers who had lost a baby. She assured me I would be a mother one day. I believed her.

I went back to work. I wasn’t engaging anymore. I wasn’t the same. I didn’t go to lunch with coworkers. Kim came for New Year’s Eve and we rode the (S)Marta to watch the peach drop for the new year.  We went to see Titanic. Kim helped me to feel better about the future. The new year would be better. The new year wouldn’t have a dead baby. We did all the things one does when they first move to a new city. We went to all the fun places, my favorite being The Varsity for hot dogs. We went to Braves games. One night I got very upset about not having living room furniture and prayed that we would soon be able to afford furniture. The next day we went to Delonagha where gold was first discovered in Georgia. We got fudge and came home in late afternoon. There was a gray sofa and loveseat on the lawn of our apartment complex. People were evicted and the furniture was free to whomever came first. Scott wasted no time getting some neighbor to help put the furniture into his truck. I had furniture. It smelled like smoke, but it was ours. One day I would come home from work and Scott was sitting on the steps of our apartment. He had been laid off and would start a new job search. He went back to KBR and they moved us back to Macon. My great-grandmother, Katie, passed away. I went in for the funeral.

We moved to an apartment on the 7th hole of a golf course. It was another fresh start. We decided that we would start trying to have a baby later that year. I started a round of crazy jobs. I worked as the receptionist for a concrete plant. It was great – I didn’t have to work if it rained! I was fired because they decided they didn’t really need a receptionist. I was the receptionist/whatever they needed me to do for the local MDA. My boss was extremely pregnant and moody. I knew I had an ear infection and I was coughing like crazy. Scott made me go to the doctor when I started keeping him awake coughing at night.  He took me to the doctor and I had a really bad case of walking pneumonia and started breathing treatments, antibiotics, and had to take off work for a few days. The MDA fired me for taking off work. I found this to be hilarious, being that I was working to raise money for sick kids. I worked for a collection agency as the receptionist/data entry person who would also run credit reports on people when requested. I was fired a few days before my birthday. They had already asked what kind of cake I wanted. I filled in at a temp service for the rest of the year. Kim came in for New Year’s Eve. 1999 would be better. It had to be.

I found a good job at the Methodist Children’s Home. I was an executive assistant. It was an office job and I rarely ever saw the kids. After a couple of months they laid off a few people. Things were still good. We were trying for a baby. I took a pregnancy test in the bathroom of a K-mart. That’s how badly I wanted a baby. I had never been this baby-wanting woman, but after I miscarried it was practically all I thought about. I needed a baby to love and to love me back unconditionally. It wasn’t that Scott didn’t love me, he absolutely did – but after the miscarriage I needed a baby. Everyone in our Sunday school class had a baby or was expecting. The pregnancy test from K-mart was positive. I was cautiously excited.

We decided not to tell anyone until 12 weeks, when the chance of miscarriage was drastically reduced. I was at work one day and slipped and told a coworker. She gave me the name of “the best” OB/GYN in town and I made an appointment. At seven weeks I started bleeding. There was no “it,” no “specimen.” I went to my appointment and was examined. Another miscarriage. The best doctor in town patted me on the shoulder and gave me a pamphlet on Recurrent Miscarriage. A pamphlet and a shoulder pat. Technically, Recurrent Miscarriage isn’t until there are 3 miscarriages, the pamphlet said. I hated this doctor.

Scott and I told family about the miscarriage. Again, no know knew what to say. I heard “it just wasn’t God’s timing” or “it just wasn’t meant to be” at least 30 times from family and Sunday school friends. I didn’t want God’s timing. I wanted my timing and my timing was now. I went back to work. Early miscarriage doesn’t feel much different from a period and I had been through it before, so I felt like I could go back to work. I was laid off two days later. I got a job working in the clubhouse of the country club where we lived. It was ok. I didn’t care about anything anymore. I had lost two babies and half a dozen jobs. I hated Macon. The clubhouse was ok. I booked tee times and sold overpriced golf balls and country club shirts. I watched the Golf Channel from a stool all day. I was working on the day in 1999 when Payne Stewart’s plane went down and everyone came off the course to watch the Golf Channel’s coverage. I sat on my stool. Shortly after that, KBR moved us to Brunswick, GA. We lived in a cute duplex. It was a new start. I was going to get a cat while I waited to have a baby.

Kim and i took a trip to Tennessee and found the General Lee

I was pregnant again. I miscarried again. Now it was officially Recurrent Miscarriage. I started looking at adoption websites. I was convinced I wouldn’t have a baby. God didn’t want me to have a baby. For some reason God saved me from killing myself when I was 19 only to have me lose three babies in two years. There had to be a reason. We talked about seeing a fertility specialist. We said we could always adopt if we couldn’t have a baby. I was completely open to that. I read lots of articles on infertility. I would read the passage in the Bible over and over again where God tells Abraham his wife, Sarah, would have a baby after years of not being able to. Sarah and Isaac were 100 years old. Sarah laughed when Abraham told her she would have a baby. They named the baby Isaac, which means “he laughed.” Our landlady wouldn’t let us have a cat, even after she told me she would allow cats. I was angry and jaded and depressed.

Scott’s mom told us the pastor Jesse Duplantis from Louisiana was coming to Savannah and we should go listen to him preach. We went to the convention center to hear him. Duplantis was a Cajun and very enjoyable to listen to – lively and fun, but clearly loved God. At the end, he asked people to come forward for prayer and there would be local church members there to pray with. Scott suggested we go forward. I doubted it would help me (and I believed it was me, than it was I being punished for my suicide attempt, for leaving college, for being fired 42 times, for whatever I could think of), but we went up for prayer. A couple in their 50s asked us what we were coming to pray about. I broke down and cried, telling them our story of wanting a baby and our miscarriages. They were the only people I ever told the whole story to. Strangers. Strangers who would pray for us that night and would continue to pray for us. They told us to get a picture frame and find a picture of a baby to be our stand-in baby of the baby we would have in the future – to keep as a reminder that we were being prayed over and that God answers prayer. Scott bought a frame that said “I love Mommy.” The frame sat next to our computer in one of our guest bedrooms. I wrote a novel. I prayed and I wrote. The novel exists on a large format floppy disk somewhere either in a box from our many moves or was thrown out during a move. There would be ten moves in the first ten years of our marriage.

Kim came for Y2K. Remember Y2K? Ha. Kim, Scott, and I went to see the “Shrimp Drop” on the water in Brunswick. There was a long fishing line or string running at a slight angle from a tree or something leading to what looked like a giant satellite dish of “cocktail sauce.” People, I can’t make this stuff up. Here’s a link to the following year’s Shrimp Drop in the Jacksonville newspaper. There was a countdown, someone had to shake the shrimp loose and it crept along the line, finally landing at the dish of cocktail sauce, where it would keep jiggling, looking like a giant shrimp humping a satellite dish. Happy year 2000! Here’s your humping shrimp! It was a great time in a time when I was extremely depressed.

I worked for another correspondence school, this one Christian-based and very small. I had my doubts. Scott and I started looking for a house to buy. Our realtor’s name was Rusty Bolt. Again, you can’t make that up. We found a house on Easy Street. Seriously. And then it happened.

I was pregnant again.

We started packing to move into the new house. I was convinced this is where we would have a nursery. On Easy Street.

Scott's grandmother, Miriam, in front of our first home.

Scott’s grandmother, Miriam, in front of our first home.

I was 25.

“I’m fine,” She lied: stuff I left out, but shouldn’t have

There were things that went on in college that I left out, but shouldn’t have – only because they’re tough things to write about, but I’ve thought about it and some things need to be said. Some things we don’t talk about because they’re hard to talk about or difficult topics we’d rather forget happened. 

A girl on my floor before I was an RA in Dudley gave or at least attempted to give herself an abortion. I don’t know what happened to her. 

I don’t know what the situation was. I don’t know if she couldn’t go to her parents. I don’t know if she told her boyfriend or if there was a boyfriend or if it was a one-night thing. I don’t know if she couldn’t go to her doctor. Or if she had a doctor she felt comfortable enough to tell about her pregnancy. I don’t know if she was alone in the world and didn’t see another option. I don’t know. 

And I didn’t and do not judge her. That isn’t about being pro-life or pro-choice. It’s about being human. 

You see, there are a million ways to not see a way out of a situation, whatever it may be. And that’s not being callous or poetic. That’s the truth for many more people than you realize. 

When I was a Senior RA my next door neighbor attempted suicide. There were razor blades found in her room. It was very hush-hush. Her father was a dean of something or other. She disappeared. I don’t know what happened to her. She didn’t return to Tech before I left that winter. 

Again, I don’t know what the situation was. I don’t know why she attempted suicide. I don’t know if she had a mental illness. I do know that she was a pretty brunette, a freshman that I had laughed with in her room the week before. She didn’t seem depressed. She didn’t seem in crisis. 

So many people are hurting that you would never know were hiding something – something they believe in their hearts and minds to be unspeakable. Things that they cannot tell another person. 

I know because I’ve had hurts like that in my life. Maybe you have too. Maybe someone in your life, no matter how close or distant – maybe someone is hurting and is afraid you’ll think they’re crazy if they confide in you. The thing is, they’re not crazy. They’re in crisis. They just need to feel like there is one person they can talk to. Just one. 

This was taken two weeks before I went into the hospital last month. 

  
Do you see a person in crisis?

One week photo challenge – peace

  

One week photo challenge – one word