Saturday, October 10, 2009

No Mom Alone

One of the themes for MOPS this year is "No Mom Alone". That may mean different things to different people, and that's ok. I was asked to write my story of being a mom alone for our newsletter this week. I'd like to share it with you, my friends and family.

Here is my story as it was published in the newsletter:

By Janice Graham

I had very mixed feelings when my husband came to me with news about a possible job transfer to Calgary in March of 2007. Firstly, I was excited about the prospect of my husband who for the past few years had been working away from home most of the month for the past few years, being home every evening for dinner and nights of sharing the same bed. But there was also fear, sadness and disappointment.

We had recently bought our first home in Ponoka and had been working to fix it up and make it our own. Both of us being from Ponoka, we were within a few minutes drive of each of our families and had old friends nearby. I had my support team all mapped out. I was active in a parent’s group, and had been teaching in town for a few years. My roots were in Ponoka and I was quickly and firmly spreading those roots to take hold. When your partner works away, you rely on your support team to help you be a parent, and quickly become close to those you lean on.

I had visions of my father-in-law coaching my son Luca’s soccer team, as he was doing for my niece at that time. I saw Luca in the loving arms of my sister in-law, playing with his cousins when I returned to teaching. I was enjoying weekly dinners with my parents and my in laws, and loved that they were able to watch Luca grow up.

But, all that was pulled out from under me when the prospect of a new job came up. After many teary conversations weighing the pros and cons, it was decided that my husband would accept the job. We were moving to a place where I knew only one person and had to start all over again. I was terrified. I felt so alone.

Within a few weeks of moving to Crossfield, I was offered a job teaching full time in Airdrie. While great for our bank account, this was not good for me as a mother and was definitely not the best way to begin to seek out connections in my new town.

As the months went on, I began to feel more and more alone. I was not loving the new job, was missing days with Luca and was harbouring the mommy guilt that comes with having someone else tend your child for the majority of his waking hours. Plus, I found myself exhausted and sick with a new pregnancy.

When I was put on medical leave at 30 weeks into my pregnancy, I was excited at the prospect of spending time with Luca before the baby arrived and getting out into the community to meet other moms. Unfortunately, this time also coincided with the spring shut down of the programs meant for moms and their children.

With a new baby and a not quite two-year-old, I found myself very alone every day. I would see groups of mothers out and about with their children, laughing and looking like they had it all, but was too shy to try to join in. By the end of summer, I was feeling very isolated and was battling full-blown postpartum depression.

Levi was a needier, fussier baby than Luca was, and I was used to having family and friends around whenever I needed a bit of help or a break. This experience was vastly different. I found myself spending days alone in my house, resenting the move we made and my children more and more every day. I was angry and jealous of my husband, who got to leave every day, who got an hour of uninterrupted silence during his commute, and who got to eat real food for lunch in restaurants with other adults! I grew more and more impatient with my children and the longing for something else festered, becoming a monster inside me.

I would go grocery shopping in the evenings alone so I could get away. I would take my time, making an hour task stretch into two or sometimes even three hours. I began going to movie theatres alone on Saturdays just to get away and forget that I was Mommy for a while. I distinctly remember on more than one occasion, when coming back from Calgary or Airdrie, as I took the exit ramp towards Crossfield thinking that I could just keep going straight down the QEII, keep driving toward that vision of sleep, shopping, visiting, anything that I could do without kids and anything that resembled the life I left behind, an hour and a half to the North.

I felt that every day my two-year-old was defying me out of spite and that my baby was on a mission to make my life as awful as possible. I was convinced that no one could handle two children because mine, at least were the worst, or so I thought. I thought this would never end.

One evening when venting about my day, my husband kindly and softly asked if I thought that there could be something more going on than just being the tired mom of two. Taking great offence, I responded emphatically that it was not that there was anything wrong with ME, but that I had a toddler that would not listen and a baby that would not shut up. It couldn’t be me. I was doing my best. It was the other parts of my life letting ME down. I thought.

Finally, one afternoon in late August, I called my husband at work and told him through tears and sobs that he needed to come home or I was going to lose it. I had been crying for hours at this point and wasn’t even able to get off the sofa to do anything more than the necessities like changing a diaper or giving my kids something to eat. I had finally admitted to myself that I was not coping with the changes that had taken place in my life. I loved my kids, I did, but I didn’t like them and that broke my heart.

When I visited my doctor (who has known me and my family for years and is acutely aware of the familial susceptibility to depression) she so gently confirmed what deep down I had known to be true; I had postpartum depression.

Going through the list of symptoms, I realized that PPD was affecting more than my ability to be a patient, engaged mother. Normally an avid reader, I was unable to focus to read more than a page or two and even then rarely remembered what I had just read. I was withdrawing from my family, who I normally spoke to at least once a week, sometimes daily. I was now avoiding their phone calls and requests for visits. I had absolutely no interest in being intimate with my husband, preferring to sleep instead. But, let’s be honest, what new mom doesn’t want to choose sleep? I thought this was normal. I was experiencing intense anxiety attacks over minor things, to the point of being afraid to leave my house some days for fear of getting caught in a storm, for example. Things that used to bring me joy were no longer appealing to me. I was unhappy, I was not myself. My doctor prescribed antidepressants with the warning that it would take a few weeks, possibly a month to begin to feel better.

The light peeking through the darkness came a few long weeks after I had seen my doctor. A few things came together at just the right time. I joined MOPS with my best friend of almost 10 years, who had just moved Crossfield. Not only did I have my best friend just down the street, but I was hoping that MOPS would not only give me a much needed break for a few hours every few weeks. And that maybe, just maybe, I would begin to make friends and feel like I belonged.

I began to count down the days until the next MOPS meeting. Slowly, I was building friendships with others in town. Once in a while I had a coffee date with another mom.

I had almost forgotten what it was like to have friends nearby and to be able to talk to other moms going through similar phases with their children.

When the opportunity to join the MOPS Steering Team came up, I jumped at the chance to be even more involved and to hopefully foster deeper relationships with those that I had begun to know.

The year after I moved to Crossfield was one of the worst for me emotionally and psychologically. I don’t think I realized the importance of having relationships with other moms, other women, sisters in this walk of life that we call motherhood.

I can safely say that it was MOPS that helped pull me out of my depression when I was the mom that was alone.

Not only is MOPS a great place to get a break from your kids, but it is a fantastic place to create and build friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. I have been so blessed to feel like a part of a community and to feel the loving arms of the members of MOPS.

It is my wish that every mom who might feel alone or just need friendship and a place to talk will find that in MOPS. Being with other mothers has helped to make me a better mother and has taught me that I still need to take time to be the woman that I am outside of being Mommy. I am now regularly enjoying time out to do my own thing such a scrapbooking, shopping, visiting, exercise - and I’m not wanting to keep driving when I am on my way home. Now, I am recharged and refreshed when I come home and ready to spend another day with my children, whom I love very much.

MOPS changed the path my life was taking and for that I will be forever grateful.

P.S. Thanks to Tom, my wonderful brother in law and an amazing writer for helping me to edit this. You're the best, Tom! :)


Poltzie said...

That was nice Janice. Knowing that someone else felt like I did helps! I think I will always feel comfortable around you. When I was in "that" place, I felt so alone. It felt like all of the other new moms I knew were loving every moment. I wish I would have known you then!

Thanks for being so honest. you are amazing and I'm glad I know you!

ps. Your kids are pretty wicked cute too!

The Tompkins Family said...

Very well written. Before I had kids, I had NO idea how important a mom support group would be. It really is an amazing lifeline and I would be lost without all the incredible moms in my life!


Karyn said...

a heartwrenching essay. I'm so sorry you went through such a difficult time and wish I had been more aware. I'm so glad you found a 'lifeline'.

I'm sure this article will help others who may be going through much the same thing.

Love you so much!