Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Lady at the Dentist

Last week we sat in the waiting room of a pediatric dentist. Lily was in the baby carrier on me and I was doing that cautious-perch-on-the-edge-of-the-chair thing since we all know that babies are very much opposed to their people sitting for more than a minute. The older two were playing nearby with the waiting room toys while getting slightly mocked by a tweenager and her brother but thankfully my little ones did not realize they were being mocked. (*Insert a blog post worth of thoughts on that kind of situation HERE.*) I noticed a woman in her late forties who was sitting across from me rummage in her large mom-purse. She pulled out a tissue and dabbed her eyes.

PINKEYE!

Of course that was my immediate thought after our recent plague but upon glancing at her again it seemed more like she was crying. Oh no! Why was this lady crying in a place that was clearly not a normal crying place? And then when her almost-a-grown-up-but-still-so-young daughter (pretend like that didn't make you think of that Britney Spears song) walked out with the dentist, that mama started crying for real but at the same time kind of laughing at herself.

"Oh, I'm so sorry! I'm just so emotional! It's all these lasts! She leaves for college tomorrow and it's all hitting me at once. It's just a lot."

Oh, my young mama heart lurched at this moment of witnessing what amounted to 18 years of parenting. Her little bird was about to take flight and it was the mother's job to stand back let that happen. There I sat with a wee baby strapped to me while my about-to-have-his-first-dentist-appointment little boy and about-to-start-kindergarten little girl played nearby and I tried not to listen while still very much listening to what this older, wiser mom was saying to the dentist.

I'm in the land of the firsts but I carefully watch those in the land of the lasts. There is good stuff to learn from those who can look at parenting with nostalgia, but that good stuff sometimes needs to be filtered out.

Some of you may remember when I wrote a post back in 2011 about being so frustrated and bothered by all those comments to "Enjoy every moment! It all goes by so fast!" I wrote that when Oliver was around Lily's age and life was leaving me super depleted. I hadn't been diagnosed with postpartum anxiety/depression yet but I can see it throughout that post. Or maybe it was just extreme sleep deprivation that caused that degree of frustration, but for me there isn't really a point to trying to distinguish between PPD/PPA and sleep deprivation. They end up feeling the same to my brain. Shortly after I wrote the "Enjoy Every Moment!" post, Glennon of Momastery wrote the post Don't Carpe Diem, which went viral. I remember lying on the couch in our townhome, reading through the hundreds of comments on that post. I desperately tried to make sense of it all. I tried to take in the "This is it! This is life's climax! Your life will never be as great as it is when your children are young!" admonitions from the older crowd while much more closely relating to the "This is so hard. How can we possibly enjoy this time?" laments of the younger crowd. I don't remember many of the middle of the road comments, but I'm sure they are there. I just wasn't really in a middle-of-the-road state of mind back then.

Things got easier over the next year but never easy. Borrowing Momastery's analogy, most days still felt like a slow-but-neverending uphill climb and I was always looking for that nice plateau to reach so I could chill out for a bit. And then an encounter at a Starbucks where an older woman told me to, "Enjoy this time. It will just get harder and harder" sent me back to the keyboard for another frustrated post on the same theme: Why I Will Lie to Young Parents.

And then life kept happening and you know what? Things did get easier! A lot easier! Like for a whole solid year when Oliver was 2 and Bella was 4, I found day-to-day life really quite pleasant. The plateau had been reached and I realized that things did move pretty quickly in baby-toddler-preschooler land. I had time to rest and that time out of the parenting trenches gave me so much more energy before I headed back into baby days once again. So now with the gift of perspective (and a decently sleeping baby), I can look at this parenting gig with very different eyes.

Somehow I ended up telling my neighbor, whose 18 year old had just left on her own college adventure, about the dentist lady. And my neighbor said she could understand it. And then she gushed, "Oh, treasure this time. It will go so fast. You won't believe it will happen, but it will just slip by."

That kind of comment feels so much sweeter to me now and I can easily take it in the spirit it is intended. I feel this parenting experience very differently and I don't give much energy to trying to make sense of it or trying to decide if this is the best time of my life and worrying that I'm missing the boat if life is feeling hard. And please know that I say this after a few very challenging weeks of really crappy sleep, lingering illness, and little time to myself as I wrangle 3 little ones. But while recent events would have once sent me fully reeling, it now just leaves me grumpy. My edges have softened when it comes to these life hiccups (though I am still quite the complainer - I will fully admit that!), I am a calmer parent and person.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I will roll my eyes at anyone who acts like they enjoyed every minute of their children's youth (BULLSHIT) or anyone who feels like a mother is doing it wrong if they aren't actively treasuring each second (DOUBLE BULLSHIT AND A KICK TO YOUR SHINS!) but the overall idea of taking a moment to breathe in the now whenever I get the chance, that I understand better. I'm less panicked about a future that will include teenagers and adult children and all the challenges that that might bring. I'm no longer scared that this is supposed to be the pinnacle of my life and that it's all downhill from here. I'm not willing to let my life have a pinnacle. My life is ups and downs but there will never be a peak that stands so very high above all the rest.

From my oh-so-smug parenting throne of having five whole years under my belt - in other words, I have had five whole years to realize I know so little - I can see how it does go so fast. I can feel why it's so fleeting. I can truly understand that urge to want to grab someone with a newborn and be like,  "THIS TIME WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN! PANIC! PANIC AT THE DISCO!" But I have also had the past five years to get very comfortable with the idea that each new stage is going to have some new good and new bad to it. So I'm firmly in the camp of "Enjoy this moment as much as possibly you can given your unique set of life circumstances and plan on enjoying the next stage and the one after that and the one after that..." Nope, you can't get this time back. Yes, sometimes these days parenting little ones will suck donkey balls and you won't enjoy it at all. Just focus on the big picture of enjoying it. String together those happy moments to savor as time goes on, let the rest fall away as you are able.

So hugs to you, lady at the dentist, as you go through all these lasts and prepare for a new world of firsts with your adult daughter. May you enjoy this change in your life while mourning the end of an era. And I will take to heart the fact that these challenging daily errands of dentists appointments and all the rest represent something so much greater than any given moment, day, or phase in my life with my children. And may I also remember to not schedule too many "lasts" in the days before my children leave for college. I can very much see myself having a big old waiting room cry in 2027.

Bella starts kindergarten in a couple weeks and it's starting to feel so real. Like keep-me-up-at-night real. Right now I'm going through my own mini version of lasts with Bella and I get teary about it at least once every day. This kindergarten transition will help me to prepare for that far away and yet so close date in the future when she leaves for real. Oh god. It hurts. But first we will start with kindergarten. Let us focus on that. We are both ready for this upcoming change to take place, scary though it may seem in the middle of the night.

So hugs to me as I go through all these lasts and prepare for a new world of firsts with my daughter heading to kindergarten. May I enjoy this change in my life while mourning the end of an era.

31 comments:

  1. Tears! I'm going to be such a mess. Great post.

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  2. So beautifully written. I loved this.

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  3. So many tears. This was beautiful ... I am very much guilty of letting things go by so fast, and not taking the time to truly enjoy it. Getting caught up in little (non-parenting) things, and then realizing, "My life is wonderful, because I have this baby I wanted for so long!" ... Jim and I have both been near tears, several times, when we talk about her growing and eventually leaving our nest. Thanks for this post ... even for the tears. :)

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  4. UGH! How in the F was I supposed to know that a blog post about going to the DENTIST was going to make me CRY??????????????????????????????????????????????? GOD. THANKS A LOT.

    I totally get that, and I feel like there is just such a fine line with the commentary from the older generations. I see it on the facebook pages of new moms right now, and I cringe, because there are some that seem just so... wrong - like someone asking for advice about how to deal with their kid screaming bloody murder - DON'T tell them "In a few years, you'll wonder why you ever thought this was hard!" (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SLAP! SLAP! SLAP!) But yet someone saying to treasure this time for some reason doesn't bother me. Enjoy every moment - eye roll. but I get the concept of savoring it and treasuring it for what it is. COMPLETELY agree that I do not buy that there is one peak to life. I could never EVER understand people who said college was the "best time of their life" - pleading to incoming freshman to make sure it was theirs too (I hear this on college tours every day and I want to shake them). I truly feel life just keeps getting better - I'm sure at some point it won't, and there will be ups and downs, but the perspective of time sure does help me treasure things.

    (Also - when in the heck did you find the time to write this with all that's been going on the past few weeks?!)

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  5. Also, I've sent my kids to full time daycare since 12 weeks old, and I'm still getting emotional about Annie going to PreK :-/ I think just that it's AT her elementary school, it's just as long of a day as K.... feels like a big deal!! Even though I know it's NOT that big of a deal, it's so crazy that she's going to be at the place she'll be until 12.

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    1. This right here. Mason starts Pre-K at an elementary school, full-day, 5 days a week on Sept. 2. I'm up at night worried. What if he's too scared to ask to go to the bathroom? What if he cries every day? What if he doesn't eat his lunch? Will he be OK in the first new environment without mom/dad/daycare provider since he was born??

      I know he'll make fast friends (he usually does), but it's such a HUGE change for everyone, I worry about the backlash of the first couple weeks, etc.

      But gah. I'm sick about it. (The only bright side is maybe next year's switch to K will be easier???)

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  6. Ally/Krista/Ravyn/Anna - Thanks guys :)

    Erin - LOL, almost spit my cider out at your first line. Your welcome! It's the classic dentist bait-and-switch blog post, you see ;) And so much to comment to your comment! Like the college tour kids saying this is the highlight - noooo! So sad! I remember being in high school and hearing the concept that this was the time of your life and that seemed sad to me even back then with my immature teenage brain. And I get that it would feel still hard to transition from daycare to school. It's a big change. Daycare is much more cuddly and gentle playtime while school is SCHOOL. Big kid territory where your little one is making a whole lot more decision on their own (like what to eat, making sure they use the bathroom in time, etc.) I was thinking about it last night and I think the shift in routine is also shaking me up. I don't know this school yet. I don't know the hallways or the teachers or the staff or any of that. So much feels foreign and yet I'm sending my child there for 35 hours a week! It's a lot. But soon enough it will feel as familiar as the kids preschool. Oh - and how I finished this post was in 4 spurts, most of it written when we had the sitter last weekend. I had to change the first line a few times from "Yesterday we saw the dentist" to "A few days ago" to "Last week" :) It was probably good that it was drawn out because it gave me more time to think on it.

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    1. Oh - and the subtle put-down assvice to first time moms/parents makes my blood boil. Because adjusting to having your first kid is HARD AS SHIT. And I'm pretty sure listening to your infant cry is hard or at least disturbing/deeply unpleasant to any parent regardless if it's baby #1 or baby #5. Just because it's also hard to handle threenager behaviors doesn't make hearing an infant cry any easier. Hiss to those smuggy smuggertons.

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  7. Oh man I needed this today. Not so much this actual post, but the ones you linked. I am a new mom and I feel like this horrible person for not loving every minute staying home with my 8 week old. Why do we have to make mothers feel so damn guilty about everything?

    Also, your post about PPD/PPA was exactly what I needed. I needed that kick in the ass to reach out for help and realize that what I was thinking and feeling was ok. Yours might be my new favorite blog, so thank you for writing everything I'm feeling.

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  8. This is my favorite post of yours because you used the phrase 'donkey balls.' Well done, my friend .Well done. Loved it beyond that phrase as well.

    (Glad you answered my question on how you wrote a 'deep' post like this in the midst of sickness and what not. Fist bump.)

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  9. Oh I love this. So many real and relevant words. Virtual stranger hugs to you!

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  10. My oldest is in third grade, but my middle just started (full-day!) kindergarten and my baby just started preschool on Tuesday and for the first time in eight years, I am by myself for a few hours twice a week. I have been looking forward to this for years! But when it actually happened on Tuesday and I was alone, I was SO SAD. I just can't believe how quickly these years have flown by and though they have been hard, so hard, they have also been so sweet. I've found myself really mourning the end of this season of little ones with me all the time. Mothering is so crazy - just when you think you've gotten it worked out it all changes again. Thanks for putting words to a lot of what I've been feeling this week.

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  11. I was so glad when my first one left for college because we'd been fighting all summer long, and it was a bit touching driving away, but mostly relief--you go, kid. AND I still had a herd of little kids to distract me.

    After ONE semester at college, he was so much nicer to me I actually asked him about it. He said, "Yeah, I found out all the parents are crazy. In fact Mother, you're not even the craziest one."

    Well, then.

    Wow.

    Yes, enjoy all there is to enjoy about the little years--I loved a baby tucked in the sling, giving them baths, dressing them, all the squirrely weirdness of little kids. I still do.

    But don't worry too much about life evolving away from that whole intensely exhausting scene. It's hard to enjoy it when you're in it just due to the haze of bafflement and tiredness.

    And people threaten about teenagers, how awful they are. NOT. They sleep extravagantly for extreme amounts of time, and they're actually funny if they bother to speak at all. Their friends are interesting, and they're super helpful with a lot of surprising things.

    Honestly, we'll spend more of our lives relating to our kids as OTHER ADULTS than we did raising them, and I'm here to tell you, they are about the best friends you'll ever have. Adult children are a pleasure nobody ever told me about.

    I wish I could tell the lady at the dentist not to view this as an ending--it's a ridiculously fun beginning too. love, Val

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    1. Just another thanks to Val for her words of wisdom (both here and back on Julia's blog awhile ago). We newish mamas (especially those of us without our own mamas anymore) love to hear this stuff!

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  12. After about two weeks in the grump miasma I am carrying with me everywhere - including intense aggravation that the toddler is kicking into terrible twos with prodigious enthusiasm - this was a worthy use of my cup-of-tea-kids-in-front-of-tv-burning-precious-screen-time time. Thanks. Now to muster the wherewithal to make a dinner that nobody will like. Sigh. Thanks for finding the pearl but not pretending there's no grit.

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  13. "Just focus on the big picture of enjoying it. String together those happy moments to savor as time goes on, let the rest fall away as you are able." Yes, yes, YES! I had someone call me out not too long ago for "sugar coating" life (said in a nice way, but still…). Totally made me cringe, because that isn't my intention AT ALL. There are plenty of shitty moments I could share (like, literally shitty - I deal with so much actual poop all day!), but I don't want to document that stuff. There is so much good in our days. So many moments I want to freeze in my mind and remember forever because THOSE are the fleeting moments, the "moments that go by so fast" that these older folks are talking about. And I DO want to treasure them! Desperately.
    Anyway, excellent post. I totally commiserate on sending our biggest babies to kindergarten. I never thought I'd be so emotional over it, but LORDY, it just feels so BIG.

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    1. Literal shit. I won't be treasuring that part :)

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  14. Oh man, this had me in tears, in laughter, in tears again... and on and on. So well written especially on the cusp of my own life changing so much. I feel like all parents are constantly in that battle of "enjoy the moments" and "oh my gosh, when will this stage be over?" I find these last two weeks of summer I've been trying to cram in as much Allie time as possible because it feels like she's leaving and I'll never get my little girl back. But, in her mind, she's SO excited about kindergarten and growing up and I don't want to shake that independence and confidence either. Ugh, such an internal battle. Like you said, it's best to just focus on the big picture and try to enjoy each stage along the way, the good and the bad and realize in the end each stage does have both positives and negatives! And... maybe just keep having more babies so we can keep having these firsts and sort of push off the lasts ;)

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  15. Golf claps! Enthusiastic golf claps!

    I was tearing up until PANIC! PANIC AT THE DISCO! and then I had to laugh because I panic at my own disco everyday with this 99%-sure-you're-our-last baby! Stop being so big! Stop doing things! Stop being huge! Quick! Someone give me a new newborn!

    Moral: Beautiful post!

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  16. Loved this, of course. I ponder this passage of time and all the warnings we young parents we receive often. Yes, time flies. It goes by in the blink of an eye. But compared to what? And how else is time supposed to pass? If we could make the choice to have it pass slower, would we? No matter what, I don't think we'd be satisfied with how fast or not fast time passes. But that feeling of panic is so real, so often - these years are so precious!! Savor every second!! My babies are growing too fast!! And yet, that's what makes this time so special and amazing. (And also, not.)

    I don't know. Being a parent is just gut-wrenching, on so many levels. And yet we know, too, what a privilege it is to even be able to experience that constant gut-wrenching, ya know?

    These are beautiful, sweet days as we raise our young kids. But I'm also in Erin's camp - life just gets better and better as we grow up, and I can only hope that continues, even as our kids grow up, too!

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  17. Crying here too. I've been feeling all summer that this is the very best time of my life and scared of it ending with the arrival of baby #2, winter, etc. This is just a piece of my larger dread of being in my mid 40's with teenagers who want nothing to do with me and at the same time not even getting to feel young and attractive... menopause, yikes. Seems too far off to really REALLY worry about, but a nagging thought in the back of my mind. I liked Val's response here, will have to check out that blog =)

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  18. Oh, what a great read. So timely, too! After a rough last week with my toddlers, I came back to this blog and sought out those exact posts you linked to here! I re-read them for comfort, including the comments, and--lo and behold--you've been thinking them through again, too! Same wavelength.

    I ramp up the anxiety about enjoying every minute, though I know it's impossible. Apart from last week, I feel like I'm constantly staying mindful and aware and appreciative for these healthy little kids and our days together 24/7. It's almost to the point that any new change ahead feels like a doomsday threat since (supposedly) these tiny years are "the BEST"! But, I see how they just might really be the best, which ups the anxiousness to cherish it all and the sadness of each baby thing slipping away. It's just my default mode to think everything we have now must be as good as it gets because we're healthy and happy and tomorrow is sure to bring change (nooooo!!). Bottom line: if things are great, how could they go anywhere but down? (See what "Cherish every moment!" does to a person?!)

    Anyway. THANK YOU SO MUCH for writing this blog. These posts are wonderful. After days of just myself and little kids, it is so comforting to feel connected to a like-minded person, even if across the internet.

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  19. A- All your fears are so understandable but at the same time I'm sure he will do fine, especially since all his peers will be in the same boat. This will all be so much easier once that first week is under our belt and we know what's what.

    Carly - Yes - talk to someone! I let it go way too long and I regret that. Wishing you the best and congrats on the baby :)

    Julia/Lisa/ - Thank you!

    Sarah - I can see that happening to me. I will get what I want (more time) and then it will feel way too open and jarring. But luckily we shall adjust to it quite quickly :)

    Val - I was hoping to see you in the comments on this post. Your blog post on Julia's blog and your comments on my blog over the years have honestly helped shape my outlook so much. THANK YOU. And congrats to you on the newest addition you are expecting in the family :)

    bokholm ; "finding the pearl but not pretending there's no grit." = perfect

    Nicole - Yes. And yes again to the poop. So. much. poop. So many bums. So little time :)

    Jodi - Yes we are very much in the same place right now. How did our babies get to be 5 year olds?!

    Kate - GO ENJOY YOUR BABY AND HIS TEETHING! ;) Thanks for the comment :)

    Erin - Hear, hear! Life will just keep getting more awesome.

    FVM - Pretty sure you in your 40s will be an awesome, sexy, YOUNG woman. Just saying! (Must be the vegan diet ;)

    K - What a sweet comment. You are very welcome and I hope your toddlers mellow for a bit to give you some calmer parenting time. And yes to the insane circular thinking with enjoying parenting. OY!

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  20. Love this more than words can say

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  21. I can feel the weight of the changes that come with our kids getting older. Their independence from us, and the bittersweetness of kindergarten on the horizon for so many. My little guy's not headed to kindergarten, as you know, but the firsts and lasts have been on my mind too. They always have been. I don't love other people telling me to enjoy the moment because it can feel cavalier and dismissive in the context of the very real life that I lead with the boys every day. Kind of like the, "Hey, you should smile more!" comment reserved for little ladies everywhere. ugh.

    I feel like I've hit a nice stride in the last 8 months or so and as good as it feels now, things will change, they always do, and we'll find bigger highs and other lows I'm sure.

    I hope Bella loves her new school and that kindergarten becomes another happy memory for her.

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  22. I feel exactly the same way. I always thought I'd be the mom cheering when my stubborn high energy kid left for kindergarten (I know how awful that sounds), but now that its here (Tuesday!!), I tear up at the mere thought of it. Gah. And lately there has been a shift in my perspective- kind of the opposite of yours- when my husband used to complain about the chaos of our house I would shake him and say- "This is LIFE, it is beautiful!!" (Gag.) Now I go from feeling completely overwhelmed and helpless to like, down on my knees grateful for this life in a matter of hours. Can you develop PPD when your baby is almost one?!? Maybe its just the Kindergarten thing, but man, I'm a mess!!

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  23. Katoheigs, I think the flying range of emotions is normal when you're in it. Also, when I say prayers of gratitude, include "disasters averted, even ones I never knew about." (I believe there are plenty.)

    When my oldest went to Kindergarten, I had a one week old baby, and a four year old who was my sweet buddy. We were all so disoriented. The baby was just little. The school kid was proud and also very little and easily confused. The brother and I were in a fragile state, honestly.

    I don't remember that fall as being a great time in any of our lives. When I look at photos, I can see the stress in their faces, and the skinny chicken-wing angles of my own body and the big dark circles under the eyes. The baby actually looks pretty rosy and content, obviously doing better than anyone else in the house.

    It's just all confusing. I go around in a disoriented state a lot of the time. I guess I've grown used to it, though I can't say I like it.

    I've had arguments with three separate teenagers tonight, and I know I am right. Facts. Logic. Legality. Yah, I cannot consent to anything I know to be against the damned law. NO. Nyet. Absolutely not.

    Also knowing bullshit for what it is. Plus hickeys don't ever amuse me.

    But it's still not easy or fun. But I can do it. I will. It's good to be around moms of little kids too and appreciate how it all evolves because the Mom Community kind of falls apart once the kids get to be about nine or ten. Then we're all on our own, which is kind of a shame. love, Val

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  24. My son starts kindergarten in a couple weeks too. I'm having such a hard time, which I never thought would happen!

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  25. Emily - Thank you!

    Jacqueline - So spot on by comparing it to the "smile more" comment to girls/women. I've certainly gotten that and it always felt unfair and made me so self-conscious (also: I have resting bitch face.) I'm excited for you as you begin your next chapter with homeschooling Roscoe!

    Katoheigs - Sounds pretty normal to me given that you are in a time of transition, but it is possible to have PPD/PPA pop up later, or at least become aware of it later. I didn't start on meds until Oliver was around 8 or 9 months or something. Also curious if you have been getting crappy sleep for a stretch of time - that ALWAYS impacts how I feel things. Like I have been dealing with insomnia for the past month as Lily has ramped up her night wake-ups (WHY OH WHY must that go hand in hand for me) and I can feel how sensitive I am. Like I am wondering if my neighbor is mad at me or hates me because he seems sort of abrupt when I saw him recently. Had I been sleeping better I would have been like, shrug, whatever. But bad sleep means I take it all so much more to heart. Good luck to you with the change - I also relate to the feeling of "YAY! This will be awesome!" quickly followed by "OMG! What? Am I ready? Is she? What's happening here??"

    Nicole - And good luck to you making it through this transition with ease and grace, too!

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