The things we don’t talk about: Post-natal depression, Part One

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Liam on his birth day.

It’s been two and a half years since I took that photo above.  In that two and a half years, I lost myself and I found myself.

There are things that we don’t talk about much as mothers.  On the internet, I’ve found that people tend to be more honest – there are plenty of “mummyblogs” who talk about the nitty gritty of parenting, but in real life, I’ve found that many of the mothers I’ve encountered are all too willing to plaster on a smile and say that everything is fantastic, no matter what.  They’ll share their kid’s latest exploits and worst nappy story, but if you ask about them, then everything is just fine, just wonderful and they don’t mind at all giving up their lives for their children.

And for some people this is absolutely true.  I do know some mothers who sail through parenting, for whom it does come easily.  They can cope without sleep, they can ride out tantrums.  Hell, my mother is one of them – she raised three kids while barely batting an eyelid.  Her personality and patience just worked for mothering, when it came down to it (and it still does, even though we’re all adults).

For me, it didn’t come easily.  Looking back, there are a whole host of factors which fed into me developing PND (which I will talk about in a later post).  I always wanted to be a mother, and I was ecstatic when I fell pregnant.  The pregnancy was easy medically speaking, the birth not so much (but neither was it horribly traumatic).

I should have known in hospital that there was something wrong, really.  I gave birth, and I couldn’t eat.  Massive nausea whenever I tried to force something down, and my appetite had completely fled (which is a very, very rare thing for me).   It was eventually bad enough that I needed anti-nausea drugs just to be able to force anything down.  Breastfeeding was extremely difficult, since Liam wouldn’t latch and I had a massive oversupply and was in severe pain from engorgement.  My body reacted really weirdly to the hormonal changes, and I was having massive sweats, cramps and cold shivers constantly.

One thing that I am eternally grateful for is that I persevered with breastfeeding.  Every feed in hospital I had to get a midwife in to help get Liam latched, which often took up to 30 minutes.  One absolute angel of a midwife on my last night there spent half the night with me (alternating with the woman in the next room, who was having just as many issues), and eventually got me to use a nipple shield, after which I could at least latch Liam without a hassle.  After that, even if I felt look I could barely do anything for my son, at least I could feed him.  I am so, so grateful to that midwife and to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, who helped me out later at home.

And so we came home, and I thought everything would be fine.  Liam was feeding, and everything else would just fall into place, wouldn’t it?

Not quite.

It turned out that Liam was not one with the sleeping thing.  I was waking, it seemed, every hour to feed him, after which it took what felt like hours to settle him again.  He had reflux, and he spat up and he just didn’t sleep.  For the first two weeks we tried – the husband was a champion, even taking Liam out for a drive in the middle of the night to try to get him to sleep.  I was exhausted, but most of the time even when Liam was sleeping, I couldn’t.  I ended up hallucinating several times.

I was coping okay in hospital, apart from the nausea (which was chalked up to hormonal changes) and the feeding difficulties.  I don’t blame them for missing the developing PND – after all, I was only there for a handful of days, and I was cheerful and optimistic.  I do blame our community nurse who did a home visit and focused only on the fact that Liam had reflux and barely noticed that I was a mess.

My parents are the ones who noticed and who saved my life (and I mean that literally – if I had gone on the way I had been, I know that I couldn’t have coped).  The husband was doing everything he could, in case anyone decides to point any fingers there.  In spectacular timing from the universe, he’d just started an amazing new job, and was being pulled in every direction possible himself.  In better timing, my mother had a doctor’s appointment booked for other reasons, and made me take it instead.

I can only imagine how I looked to my doctor.  I have huge gaps in my memories from the first six months or so of Liam’s life (something that makes me angry and sad now), but I do know that I cried through most of that appointment.  My doctor was and is amazing, and spent a very long time with me, and diagnosed me with PND.  I went home with anti-depressants and sleeping tablets, and started on both that day.  I was very wary of the sleeping tablets, but I found that a light dose meant that I actually got to sleep when I went to bed, and was still able to wake up to Liam, rather than lying there awake waiting for him to wake.

And it got better.  Very slowly, it got better.  There is a lot of stuff packed in that sentence, stuff that I’ll get to in later posts, but for me, the medication was absolutely key.  I needed to get chemically stable before I could do anything else – before I could eat properly, before I could sleep, before I could exercise, before I could go into therapy.

And it wasn’t magic, not by any means.  I suspect I was still clinically depressed for much of Liam’s first year.  I don’t remember a lot of that time still.  I do know that I didn’t feel really bonded to him until he was about eighteen months old.  That makes me so sad to type, but it’s the truth.  Now, at two and a half years of age, I am constantly amazed that this little boy is my son.

Hugos Challenge 2012: Leviathan Wakes

 

Humanity has colonized the planets – interstellar travel is still beyond our reach, but the solar system has become a dense network of colonies. But there are tensions – the mineral-rich outer planets resent their dependence on Earth and Mars and the political and military clout they wield over the Belt and beyond. Now, when Captain Jim Holden’s ice miner stumbles across a derelict, abandoned ship, he uncovers a secret that threatens to throw the entire system into war. Attacked by a stealth ship belonging to the Mars fleet, Holden must find a way to uncover the motives behind the attack, stop a war and find the truth behind a vast conspiracy that threatens the entire human race.

I’m honestly not sure about this one.

There is some amazing science fiction in here – stuff which makes me see why this book is getting nominated for awards.  Some of the plot near the end of the book, in particular, was amazing, and totally worth getting through the first half of the book.

But.  You knew there was going to be a but in there, didn’t you?  I found it very hard to connect with any of the main characters.  For me to really get into a story of any kind, I need at least one character that I can connect with, resonate with, if you will, and I just didn’t get it here.  The action was enough to keep me reading, and I’ve ordered the second book, so I didn’t hate this one.  It was just kind of meh for me, especially when you compare it to the other shortlisted books.

So not on my list for this year.  But that’s totally a personal thing.  I will, however, be foisting this on the husband when he finishes his current stack of books, because space opera is totally his thing.  Not that it’s not mine – I adore Peter F. Hamilton’s books, for example – but just not this one.  Still, I’m going to keep reading the series, and we’ll see – maybe it’ll gel more for me on a reread.

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And this is the end of the novels for me.  There’s always a chance that I’ll magically find the time to read my way up to A Dance with Dragons, but it’s probably not that likely.  I feel bad about that, but I’m just going to do the best I can to cover the shortlists.

Links try very hard not to suck

The Secret to Writing 

Alexandra Sokoloff asks Two books a year? – is writing only one book a year being lazy? (I have Opinions on this, but they will wait for another day)

Jeff Vandermeer talks story reprints.

Peter M Ball on four words all creative practitioners should live by.

Don’t believe it – become a fitness skeptic.

Six simple ways to gain more time in your day.

 Some amazing science fiction books for your kids.

Using setting as character.

Biphasic sleeping.

The four story pillars.

Nova Ren Sum talks writing productivity.

102 resources for fiction writing.

The 22 rules of storytelling, according to Pixar.

 

And so my writing week is done

It always feels kind of strange to sit here at 1:30pm on a Friday and declare that my writing week is done.  Technically, it is and it isn’t.  I’ve finished the part of the week where I sit with Scrivener open and work on Never, but I have a lot of other work left.

As an aside – I still kind of love that reading is pretty much work to me.  It means that I do end up reading some things that I wouldn’t always (I like to keep up with what’s popular, for one thing, just to try to figure out why, even when the book or series isn’t something that I’ll actually enjoy completely.  Hence the recent reading of the 50 Shades of Grey books, which you’ll have seen if you follow me on Goodreads.  There will be a post on them coming up soon, once I organise my thoughts).

And that was a long aside.  Heh.

I’m working slower on these Never rewrites than I’d like, to be honest.  I’ve crested 10k on this draft, but I feel like I should be about double that.  I do rewrite in a time-consuming manner though, by retyping the whole draft (am I the only weirdo who does that?) and I am making a good deal of changes to the beginning of this book.  I’ve been pushing my daily wordcount from 1k to 1.5k consistently, which is awesome.  I’m aiming to get that up to 2-3k if I can.

I also caved and joined the Online Writing Workshop, which I’ve been toying with for far too long.  I have one awesome beta reader reading along with me as I write Never, but I kind of wanted some new eyes on it.  Plus working on my own reviewing skills is also a good thing.  I’ve posted the first chapter of Never and gotten one really lovely review.  Just need to review a bunch of stuff so I can post more now 🙂

Lessons from the slush pile

I’ve been reading slush for Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine for a while now.  As an aside – I highly recommend slush reading for anyone who’s learning their craft.  It gives back to your community, and you get to learn a lot about writing in general.

We’re pretty lucky in general with the quality of submissions that ASIM gets.  I rarely see anything that is truly dreadful – mostly people are good about checking their spelling, getting formatting right etc.  It’s pretty heartening, actually.

However, in my experience, while I’ve rarely seen anything absolutely awful, it’s also pretty rare to see something that is truly amazing.

And as an aside, you may be reading this and thinking that you want to take this post with a grain of salt.  Go ahead.  I’m still learning the craft of short fiction writing myself, and though I have a handful of short stories published – some of which I am pretty darn proud of – and I’m willing to admit that I have a lot to learn.  See my first paragraph about learning from slush reading.

I’m thinking that I want to make this a bit of an ongoing thing.  I’m not referring to any specific story, by the way, in case anyone is worried about that.  These are just going to be things that I’ve noticed again and again.

How to make it through the slush pile, in three parts:

  1. If your first line is poorly crafted or downright boring, I will not be compelled to read on.  I will read on, because that’s the way I slush, but unless I am interested by at least the end of the first paragraph, the story is not going to be a win for me.
  2. Rewriting Biblical stories, especially Adam and Eve (even if they are in space) has been Done.  I don’t know if anyone can make this work any more, even the best short story writers (and please, if you know someone who has, let me know!).  I have no problem with allegory, but when your story literally ends with “and they were Adam and Eve all along!”, you’re going to want to rethink it.
  3. Ditto for most of the myths and stories that everyone knows – if you think you can do it well, go ahead.  Just be aware that many of them have been done to death.  And again, allegory can be fine, just make it original.

To be continued and added to…

This is when it gets hard

I don’t want to blog today.  But I have committed myself to blogging every day, and so blog I shall.  Even though it feels most of the time like throwing words out into the aether.

I don’t want to blog because I am vaguely sore from impending Weather (though the pain has actually let up a bit now, which indicates that the barometric pressure has risen a bit), I still have a lingering head cold, and I’ve just finished a writing session and I feel like I have no more words.

There’s a lot of stuff I want to blog about, and I will.  I want to talk about my experiences with postnatal depression, with parenting, with writing.  Sometimes it feels like I’m the All Chronic Illness All the Time channel, and yanno, that can get pretty damn boring.

So I have written, and I have run errands (including seeing the aftermath of someone driving their car into the side of the shopping centre – no one hurt, thankfully, decent amount of property damage and a driver in serious shock).  And soon I will go and read and meander about the net a bit, refilling the well.  Later, weather providing, there will be a walk.

The husband and I watched the first episode of Continuum last night.  Which has potential, but was a bit eh at this stage.  I’m happy to give it a few episodes.  It makes me a bit sad that so much speculative television series end up being mediocre, and I think I always have high hopes.  We’ll see, though.  I’m interested, but not really hooked as of yet.

Hugos Challenge 2012: Embassytown

In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.

Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.

When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties—to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.

This was another reread for me, and one that I happily undertook.  I love Mieville’s work in general, though none of his novels yet have really resonated enough with me that I can count them amongst my ultimate favourites.  Embassytown comes pretty damn close.

This was easier on a reread, mostly because I was more familiar with the world and its setup.  On first read, I found myself a bit overwhelmed by the world and its complexities (which probably says more for the fact that I tend to read too damn quickly than anything else).

I love so much about this.  I could go on for a very long time about how awesome Language is, and the Ariekei.  I love the idea of the Ambassadors in general (though they do remind me in some ways of the Paratwa from Christopher Hinz’s books, which are woefully underrread IMHO).

This is actually pretty close to being an excellent book for me, apart from a couple of things.  Avice as protagonist I found quite frustrating – she just seems to be there as a cipher for the plot to revolve around a lot of the time, and I actually found her actions fairly unbelievable near the end of the book. The ending of the book in general feels a bit all over the place to me, anyway – things seem to wrap up too quickly and it all just feels a little messy, even on a second read through.