Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Hardest Week

Both of my children were born prematurely. The weeks following their births were spent in the NICU in Flagstaff, AZ. My postpartum body ached and screamed at me as I demanded it to be available for the new lives it had brought forth. My mind was exhausted from having to process so much in so little time; adjusting to giving birth earlier than expected, figuring out how to pump and breast feed, trying to understand how to take care of a premature baby. These experiences had been the same for both of my children, born four years apart. Both times of becoming a new mother, I remember the first week after birth as being the most challenging week(s) of my life.


Moving to Phoenix would be a close second.


Corey's sudden decision to move right away took me off guard, for starters. It was unexpected and had a similar effect on me as an unexpectedly premature birth. Both were major life changes that I had very little (if any) control over and were very abrupt. Both events were physically, mentally and emotionally taxing on me. While they were positive changes, they were challenging to go through none-the-less. While giving birth had it's own demands on my body, the lifting, and carrying that accompanies moving strained my physical body to its outer limits..


My mental state did not go unscathed, either. After birth, I was processing what had happened, trying to acquaint myself with the tiny person I was holding, and accepting the fact that parent hood had come on its own, without my consent. This move required that I sort through 80% of what we owned and decided what to keep and what to toss (or donate). While that may sound like small beans, making decisions about what to let go of is almost as exhausting as the packing, lifting and carrying. Having to pick up each item, decide on where it should go in our lives, then putting it there was the Mount Everest of packing. Slowly I ascend the mountain, item by item. Putting it in a pile, distributing the pile, or running the pile to Goodwill, or labeling the pile for one of the two garage sales I hosted in preparation for the move. My brain reached a point when it just couldn't make any more decisions about anything. It was just done.


While the physical strain is palpable and obvious, and the mental effort had tangible progress, the emotions that accompanied these challenges flowed within me, like a quiet river carving out a deep canyon.  When my son was born, my emotional health had to be set aside. I had to just become "mom" and care for the human who had joined us 9 weeks early. My feelings about his early birth laid dormant, still there, but not accessible, until he was 6 months old. When Corey was fired from his job (on his birthday, no less) it was the rock that broke the dam. All of my emotions and feelings that had been bottled up and unprocessed for the past half year came pouring out of me. I had post-partum depression and didn't even know it.


After moving, the following week was spent expressing anger and impatience at every turn. I felt my nerves were on edge all the time. If my kids bickered, I would erupt at them. My temper was short with Corey after he would return home from work. Yes, it was nice to be with him under one roof again, but that didn't stop me from making rude comments about what he was doing under my breath. I felt like anything less than total competence and cooperation from anyone was unacceptable, and they would feel my wrath as payment for their ineptitude.


Part of the emotions associated with both of these events, moving and birth, are both expressions of grief. Grief is the feeling associated with loss. We most commonly think of grief as being a "death only" emotion, but it's actually the emotion expressed when we have been forced to let go of something. When my children were born, I was forced to let go of pregnancy. I wasn't ready to, but my body and my children were ready, in spite of how I felt about it. When we moved, I was not ready to say goodbye to my friends and community yet. Even though I had every other reason to leave, and I was OK with it, the timing of the transition was what felt forced. Even though I knew that the change was pending, the unexpectedness of it all happening so fast left little time for farewells.


Thankfully, though, my friends that I have left behind in Sedona are the most supportive folks I have had the pleasure of knowing. They rallied around Corey and me as we packed our belongings into a U-Haul van. I also had the forethought to plan a going-away party. Even though it will be after we have already moved, it's almost better that way. We get to share with our friends the joy we have found in our new location. We get to miss them for a short while before being reunited with them. We get to see the people we know and love, and bring that love back with us to our new home when its all over.


I remember the weeks following the birth of both of my children as challenging, and exhausting, as well as joyous. With both of my children, there were baby showers after their birth. With each party, our new baby was still in the NICU, so our friends in attendance did not get to meet them, but we were able to share with them the joy we felt as new parents. Our moving party is like that. The event we are "celebrating" has already occurred, but is none-the-less special because we will always have our network to come home to.

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