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Feb 2, 2013
A couple of weeks after I gave birth to my son, my husband routinely would ask me “On a scale of one to ten, how do you feel ?” My mental state was in question and I remember standing by the garden in those first weeks and answering,”About a 4″ . And then eventually, I remember reaching a 7. And it’s even been only in the last year that I felt capable of a 10.
I felt overwhelmed, incompetent, full of frustration, anger, and just plain exhausted. All symptoms of what I would soon understand was postpartum (or postnatal) depression. I did a little research recently on PPD because I wanted the half a clue this time around I apparently hadn’t possessed the last time I had a baby. Just in case.
Early on in motherhood’s delightful first weeks, 85% of women may experience Baby Blues which includes exhaustion, hormonal changes, and an understandable amount of anxiety for the upcoming event. Postpartum Depression is more severe and only 15% of women experience symptoms of postpartum after childbirth. A few men experience PPD as well which debunks theories saying it’s a hormonal level problem.. Seems that we’re talking more about where someone is, or isn’t, inside their head.
The full sixteen symptoms of postpartum Depression include, but are not limited to: Sadness, Hopelessness, Low self-esteem, guilt, a feeling of being overwhelmed, sleep and eating disturbances, inability to be comforted, exhaustion, emptiness, lack of joy, social withdrawal, low or no energy, easily becoming frustrated, feeling inadequate to take care of the baby, impaired speech or writing, spells of anger towards others, increased anxiety or panic attacks, and decreased sex drive. These symptoms occur within the first four weeks of childbirth and the sufferer becomes a different person.
A list of the predicting factors of postpartum sufferers includes those with a history of depression, low socioeconomic status, prenatal anxiety, lack of social support network, smokers, and women who fed their babies with formula. And another study showed that those who suffered from PPD often focused more on the negative events of childcare and had poor coping strategies. I suffered from all of these when I had my first child.
Only after I had snapped out of it did I receive a copy of Brook Shields’ book, And Along Came a Spider, her very honest and insightful look into her struggle with postpartum depression. However, my low self-esteem was still a major reason I felt badly about the parent I was. I remember thinking when my son was two that I had succeeded in keeping him alive thus far so I must be doing something right. And I would have that revelation a couple more times in the next several years.
In the end, the gift I finally gave myself was that of personal expression through my writing, and a therapist to talk things over with. Thanks to that, I was able to see my low self-esteem for what it was, shove it out-of-the-way to see the real me, and progress forward from there to believe in my mothering ability for my son and myself. I feel confident that PPD and the Blues won’t hit me as badly this time around. But I am not so crazy as to think that the exhaustion and craziness won’t take its toll.
I leave this post with this preponderance.
The anxiety of anticipating your inability to do something is low self-esteem.
And this affects so many facets of your life, anywhere is a good place to start looking at this. Especially is there are children involved.
Jan 27, 2013
On the phone recently, my Mom recounted a story about the last time I had a baby. She laughed as she told her version of that fateful day in the delivery room. Her portrayal of me as a labor room dictator was slightly unsettling. Stories can be both comforting and unsettling.
Storytelling impacts, creates, and continues our cultural and individual perceptions of self. I can see how I tell certain stories to remember, substantiate, and explain who I am, where I’ve come from, and what I believe. And I know other people are telling their stories for the same reasons.
And sometimes others’ stories involve me. Our parents have their own purposes for the stories they tell about us. They tell stories to accept responsibility for how lovely we turned out, or to wash their hands of what we’ve become.
Then I considered this. What if we live our lives to fulfill someone elses expectations of them? What if we recreate our realities through others’ eyes and stories about us?
Our expectations of our lives can be powerful in our own heads. But manifest destiny can go well or awry in the hands of our families. Depends on their intentions.
I proved incapable of earning the approval of one overachieving parent. And in search of the withheld approval, I looked for substitute love elsewhere. I ignored myself and what made me happiest. And luckily didn’t harm myself in the process.
The other parent was a underachiever. And my purpose seemed to be to stay around forever for support. In this instance, my parents’ story of me defined me in a perpetual low self-esteem kinda way.
I believe that we are entitled to tell our stories until we choose to change them. And I also believe we have to be careful to do no harm to others in our story telling process.
The ideal is to be raised with stories of guidance and faith that positively impact our lives. These stories are based on the knowledge that diversity and obstacles make a person stronger.
Eventually, I chose to follow a path and marry a partner to create a positive story for myself and my little ones. Comprehending the power of storytelling, I want to be cautious about the stories I tell to my son (and new child) about his success, his growth, his strength, and his worth. When he plays out the stories, I hope he sees possibility and dignity and pride.
In the end, this story of his potential and strength is really all I can gift him. The stories are mirrors he’ll take with him to tell himself and his family. Self-esteem is the hopeful outcome of the stories.
Dec 1, 2012
This is the second part of a two-part post entitled Trouble at the Table, in which I review and summarize Karen Le Billon’s book French Kids Eat Everything. It was actually one of those reads that changed my life and my kid’s by default. I hope I do it justice.
Neither his food pickiness nor my astonishment over it seemed to diminish as my child grew from a three to a seven year-old. “Do you know what a good cook your Mom is?” my husband kept asking him. This justified my dismay but did nothing for his food fears.
I have always been an adventurous eater. When I was a toddler, my Dad was cooking crepes from the recipe in The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, the cookbook that united Julie with Julia. Somewhere there are pictures of me eating raw shellfish at five years-old. And no one told me I wasn’t supposed to like spinach until it was too late.
As I continued to make my kid his chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I slowly admitted to myself that somehow I’d dropped the ball. My idealistic parenting expectations had been hijacked. I had given up the food bus driver’s seat to him and that needed to change.
When I stumbled on Karen Le Billon’s book, French Kids Eat Everything at the library that fateful day, I was ready to adopt whatever food rules or guidelines necessary to make my family’s food experience right again. I knew my son’s bad habits were born of my ignorance and his good habits would come from my education and confidence. I received more than I could ever have hoped for in positive guidance from this read.
Ms. Le Billon’s book is a memoir of her family’s move from Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada and the food journey she made with her two daughters’ and her husband while relocated to his hometown of Brittany, France. There she discovered she too was in need of a better plan.
The 10 French Food Rules she then devised are more like guidelines to help her and her family re-establish a better relationship with their food. And each of these “rules” holds an important and respectful key for a lifetime of healthy happy eating. Moreover Ms. Le Billon points out, “Healthy eating is about how, when, and why you eat as much as what you eat”.
Rule #’s 1, 2, 3, and 7 are for the parent to embrace. As parents, you are responsible for the food education of your children. You schedule their meals, there’s no snacking, and children eat what you eat without short order cooking for them. There are two very important lessons within these four rules.
The first concerns the goal of honoring your body and its nutritional needs. Compulsive eating, snacking, and food rewards are products of emotional eating. We disrespect our bodies and dissociate from them when we mindlessly stuff and snack.
The second point shows how the rules are helpful to the mental well-being of the family. Establishing our parental boundaries and creating routines for our children are concepts we’d give lip service to. But when it comes to food habits, I think American parents fall straight on their faces. Many parents are shortsighted reactionaries.
I am willing and able to admit that, if I had been a more confident and less anxious parent to my kid, it wouldn’t have gone so very awry. But my fears of being a lousy parent, coupled with the instinct to keep my child alive at all costs, made me a fear feeder. So these rules feel familiar, logical, and simultaneously scary to me. They were to the author as well. And she had to cope with her mother-in-law’s watchful eye too.
I always made sure I had snacks when traveling with my toddler. At any moment, I may have needed to assuage the savage hungry beast. Later, I’d ask him what he wanted to eat. I’d fill his belly to avoid conflict and then wonder why he was fussy at dinner. Mine, mine, and mine.
Yet by establishing boundaries and routines, everybody knows what to expect and when. Karen Le Billon points out that not only are the meals consistently set as breakfast, lunch, a pre-dinner snack, and a late dinner, but these meals contain more nutritionally satisfying items that are eaten slowly with the family when physically possible (rule #s 8 and 4). There is no negotiating, impulsiveness, or tantrums when the rules are known and followed because the child is confident their needs will be met in a timely and satisfying fashion. The feeling of confidence and entitlement to be in charge is a trickier act to pull of for an anxious new parent like I was.
As I read and said “Aha’ again and again, I began to comprehend the error of my ways. I endeavored to adopt a new way of thinking and planning meals for our family that supported healthy eating and my being in charge as the family food director. I liked rule #6 very much. You don’t have to like it but you do have to taste it. It felt like a realistic baby step. As my kid’s food neophobia (fear of new food) had gotten the best of all of us, this rule allowed for the opportunity for us to praise him. And for him to build bravery. He still waivers a bit but it’s sooo much better.
Lastly, rule # 5 and #9 have to do with the nutritional value of the food and your body’s digestion: Offer a variety of vegetables over and over, eat food that is real and not processed, and eat more slowly. I thought I offered veggies and variety lots of the time but admittedly, as Karen confessed as well, there are times when I realize I haven’t planned well and fall back on the perennial carbohydrate-laden favorite.
I now have a habit of posting my upcoming meals on the fridge so I can see what my cooking choices are. We always eat together and make it special with candles and some sort of gratitude exert at the beginning. This feels respectful to both our family and all the people whose efforts have made the food on our table a reality.
At no time throughout Karen Le Billon’s charming memoir does she sound preachy. She weathers the cultural bruises and commendably applies the knowledge she gains step by step to her refrigerator, herself and her girls. I had great admiration for her courage to move and change. And for her diplomacy as she dealt with the judgments of the community she would eventually move away from to return to Vancouver.
Simultaneously, I also learned about the country of France whose values of family, nutrition, and their farmers are practiced instead of talked to death. I have surmised that the American parenting model is in serious trouble as is the health of our children. There were many other fascinating facts like “high satiety” foods, appetite is what you feel like eating, and the French government that supports locavore-ism. It was hard to choose to leave them out but they are future food for thought.
I highly suggest you check out Karen Le Billon’s book at the library as I did. Or just ask for a copy for Christmas. Here’s a sneak peak on Amazon. Additionally, if feeding and cooking for your children is something you are interested in, Hana at A Happy Adventure posted a nice list of child related cookbooks on her blog here. She was kind enough to offer me more titles if I wanted them. Maybe I’ll take her up on it someday as my second chance at parenting is due to arrive at the end of February, 2013.
Poisson purée anybody?
Nov 24, 2012
My family’s tomato soup episode was one of those final moments when I knew we were in trouble at the table. I had heard the husband strike a bargain with our 7 year-old Picky-a-saurus. Whatever treat the child was requesting could be had after he ate and finished his cream of tomato soup. OK, the kid says. And I know this will not end well.
Sure enough, there were tears aplenty and extra drama( partly from hunger) all for the fear of this unknown food. And it was one of the most uncomfortable un-enjoyable meals I have ever endured. It was a train wreck in which I avoided eye contact with both parties. The child would surely throw me a “Save me Mommy” look and I was furious at my man for orchestrating the ruined dinner.
In the end, my husband won and ultimately proved he was in charge. The kid ate the soup and I was slightly impressed. He had submitted to my husband’s authority. Although I still didn’t think this was the way to prove who was in charge, I admitted he’s gotten us over a hump. And what did the child learn? He will forever hate tomato soup, you do what your parents tell you or else, and food has nothing to do with nourishing your body or your soul.
Here in America, I’m sure each of us knows, and probably cares about, someone with a food “problem”. The American eating model is disrespectful of our bodies, our boundaries, and our earth. It seems something was broken while we busily prospered. We zipped and zoomed and became disengaged from prioritizing our health and families. And I was seeing these problems surface right there at my dinner table. And I had a problem with that.
While I passed the new books section at the library, my eyes were ensnared by the title of Karen Le Billon’s shiny new book, French Kids Eat Everything. I thought I’d learn a tip or two perusing this tome. I was wrong. This book would mean more to me than a tip or two. Despite my lack of time for reading, not only did I read it cover to cover, I would adopt a whole new philosophy on feeding and parenting in the process. And I learned that, despite a propensity to be bossy rude know-it-alls, the French have a happening food philosophy and system that is respectful of their bodies, their families, and their land, and their economy. Sound too good to be true? It is and I want it all.
This post is a prelude to a review cum series of the new(ish) book by Karen Le Billon titled French Kids Eat Everything. Rarely do I come across a book that makes me go “aha” so many times and I felt this one was worth sharing as much of as I wanted. Her personal family food journey, moving from Vancouver to Brittany, France and back, is both an honest memoir and an education of how to take back the authority you never saw yourself giving away. Moms, ask for this book for Christmas!
Next Saturday: The Ten French Food Rules and why Americans wouldn’t think of them. Or something to that effect.
Oct 21, 2012
As today marks the year anniversary of the return, after a weeks abrupt absence, of our cat Butthead, I felt the urge to share the story once more for those who missed reading it the first time. It’s a good one. Enjoy.
At 9am on a mid-October Saturday, my husband had called me at our home in Denton from his cell phone. Neither of us recalls the reason for this call. Before the line went dead, he utters the equivalent of “Freaking cat” and probably more unheard expletives. Our cat Butthead had stowed away in the back of a moving truck loaded with lighting equipment bound for a wedding at the Tidewater Inn, twenty minutes away Easton, MD. It took me five minutes to grab my kid and run out the door.
This near twenty pound terrified cat charged out of the tailgate opening like a locomotive, tore across the parking lot, and bounced off M. Randall’s shop window on the opposite side of Harrison Street before he disappeared. After searching for more than an hour, we endured my kid’s soccer game, informed Talbot Humane, and headed home.
As we drove home on Matthewstown Road, a squeak escaped me as I held my tears. He must have heard me because my son wailed,” I don’t want him to be gone. I still want to play string games with him. He’s my brother”. “I know you’re sad and I’m so sorry” was all I could say. I was painfully aware I could make no promises for his return. Helplessness is hateful.
I made a flier, ran it off, and we returned to Easton to commence the ‘Bring Home Butthead’ campaign which would gain a following. As I went from door to door with my lime green fliers, I was overwhelmed by the support of so many fellow pet-owners as they acknowledged the hole I felt. Butthead bugs us as only he can. My husband says spend a day with him and you’ll know where he got his name. But he’s still family and like a dog, he waits for the school bus with us.
By Wednesday, I had done all I could. I’d even walked through Spring Hill Cemetery one night and paid for a radio ad. I didn’t know where to stand now. If I stopped my search, I would be giving up. I contemplated the inevitable lesson in letting go of control, grieving, and entertaining acceptance. I revised my promise to myself. I would have to deliver thank you notes to everyone even if I didn’t find him.
My cell phone rang the next Saturday night. Her name was Ria and she was standing in the Historical Society’s garden petting Butthead. I sped out of the house knowing the search was over. I hugged Ria and her friends after I’d shoved Butthead backwards into the carrier. My thank you note to everyone I’d spoken to read, “7 days and 12 hours later, Butthead came home. Thank you so much, each and every one of you, for your kind words and support as we searched for our cat this past week. I am grateful for and humbled by your concern and community. Sincerely relieved, Shalagh Hogan, Butthead’s Mommy”. And there was a resounding “Yay!”.