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As a young girl, my mother always, and I mean always, insisted on using the air conditioning.  I suspect it is due to her being born and raised in the New Orleans, southern Mississippi area (yes, I did just sing M-I-S-S, I-S-S, I-P-P-I to get it right).

Moving to Germany required adjustments to many things.  For one, the weather here in NRW is far milder year-round than the weather in NE Ohio.  Every summer, it hits about 90 degrees for all of 3 days.  By the end of the third day, I am researching the costs of a room air conditioner, only to have the temperature drop back down to a lovely low- to mid-70s.

Normally, June is a month (as I remember) for the moderate weather. 

But this week, we jumped from a nice cool 68 degrees to over 90. 

It was miserable.

Hot.

(Not humid though – that was nice.)

But ridiculously hot. 

And not that kind of hot where instead of cooking at home you could grab a bite in a nice air conditioned restaurants. Nope.  Most restaurants do NOT have AC. 

There is no escaping integrating oneself into life with German weather.

And then, today, the rains came.  And they came hard and fast.  Soaked Bubba Joe and I through and through even with our umbrellas – which are a standard German attire – within a few seconds.

But the temperature is back down to what I call a June normal.

And that makes me feel human again.

But today marks a special occasion for me – it was my last therapy appointment.  I have been seeing a therapist for two years now.  We discuss mostly what is going on in life at the moment, but have addressed the issues in my past, including postpartum depression, preeclampsia, prematurity, feelings of guilt and the desire to fix the world.

I really liked my therapist.  She was open and honest and approachable (not what I had typically pictured as your stereotypical German therapist) and has helped me to become well, me again.

Turns out that I like me and that while I cannot change the world (why oh why don’t they do what I want them to do when I want them to do it) but I am making a change for the better in what I do and with whom I have contact with.

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Since it has been, well, forever since writing, it feels strange to start again.  But I miss writing here … so if you’re still around, cool. 

Four years after my daughter’s birth, I am finally free of antidepressents.  The weaning process sucked.  Seriously.  It sucked.  I have found bits and pieces of information about weaning off setraline but there was nothing concise.

Mind you, I am glad that I was able to tolerate the medicine and it did help me get through the past few years, but weaning was a bit of a long road.

I am now sewing.  I can’t knit much anymore because I need to have surgery on my left hand – and I have always joked that I couldn’t sew, but I could poke myself with the needles but lo and behold, this girl can sew!  

Sadly, I seemed to have accumulated 3 sewing machines in a 6 month period – making dear sweet hubby not so happy, but, but, but …

I like sewing.  I like repaing the clothes we have.

I feel so domesticated. (Of course, it might be influenced by my desire today to bake 2 pies – and pie baking here in Germany means making your own crust.)

Bubba Joe is finishing up his first school year.  I get to hang with him 2 hours per week, teaching him English because, well, he was bored out of his mind in school.  (I am thankful that the school allows me to go in to teach him – but also am a bit frustrated that this was the only real solution.)

His sister is finally finding her own way.  She is terribly shy and that has made it difficult to get her to do anything without her brother or her cousin (who is 3 months younger but very outgoing).  

She really wanted to take dance lessons but when we went in, she would just sit ON me.  That is, until I bought her ballerina clothes.  And poof! just like that, magically, she became a ballerina and all her fears fell away.  Now she takes dance two times a week and wakes in the morning asking, do I get to dance today??  Wonderful!

I am playing piano again – practicing for my audition to begin my formal Suzuki Piano Teacher training.  I know me, and I know that I work well … with deadlines.  But I also recognize that I want to re-learn these pieces as a woman with a lifetime behind her and a lifetime ahead of me – play the rests, count, breathe, take your time, listen, can you feel what he wanted from the music?  

We’ve actually started planning a bit ahead – planning in my book means booking summer holidays (whereas “Germans” would have booked their summer vacations last year).

And during all these things, I am starting to think about what I want to do, who I want to be and where I am.  I am pondering returning to work in a few years – but to do what?  Maybe teach? maybe go and get my doctorate?  There are just so many options … 

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Tomorrow is a big day for me.  I turn 38.  I am a bit freaked about the prospect of eventually dieing one day, but plan on that being a long, long time from now.

The one thing I have learned in my life is that while it is good to make plans and preparations, it is better to be flexible with them.

We are in the process of adopting.  Well, we are in the beginning stages.  BJD has flip-flopped a bit – but that is mostly his fears and lack of familial support.

During our first visit, the woman asked if we would be interested in fostering.  I said no.  I don’t share well.  We definitely wanted to adopt – a younger sibling at that.

See that?  Plans in place.  Preparations being made.

What do you think has happened since?

Bubba Joe has a friend.   His mom is a single-parent.  His friend was needing a foster home.  (Do you see where I am going here?)

He is now with us.  It has been a bit longer than a month with many ups and downs.  We have not had the support we hoped for from social services but we are confident in our capabilities, kinda.  It seems to be working more than it is not working and for right now, that is enough.

Our adoption plans are still in place – BJD has a second meeting today to discuss his fears and concerns.

And, drum roll please … I have decided what I want to do with my life.

I have worked in many industries, have my MBA (remember me talking about how presumptuous it is to speak of grad school and differentiating that from undergrad?) and have seriously been considering getting my PhD – though in what I don’t know.  My undergraduate degree was in Applied Music (basically theory – because I chickened out of a senior recital).

I have contacted the Uni-Münster about studying for my PhD there – and the process seems pretty straightforward.  But then what do I do with a PhD?  I don’t really want to work full-time.  I enjoy volunteering … and knitting … (I do NOT under any circumstances enjoy cleaning – a clean house, yes, but cleaning no way!)

And so, I have decided to become a certified Suzuki piano teacher.

It is the method in which I learned at the age of 3.  And it is the ear training that has helped in learning to speak German.

So I have been practicing again … on the piano we purchased with the money my dad left when he died – a beautiful baby grand with an amazing tone and touch and feel.

I am home again.

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I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have thought about what I would blog when I took the time to sit down and actually blog. 

But then, life got away from me.

A quick run-down …

  • I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand last year.  It was horrifying to see my hand after surgery (I watched BTW) but one year later and I love my right hand!  Now I am procrastinating getting my left hand fixed.
  • Henry has started school.  Here it starts at the 1st grade.  He is struggling with not wanting to do homework and has even had a fight at school.  But his teacher insists that he is doing okay and we have faith in her.
  • Speaking of faith, religion here is pretty basic – Lutheran or Catholic, with a strong tendency towards Catholicism.  Anne Catherine Emmerich is buried at the church that was associated with Henry’s preschool.  I have been seriously considering converting to Catholicism as for me, it is most important to give our children a base than it is to give nothing because there is no Methodist church within reasonable distance (the closest is 1.5 hours away!)
  • Sofia, as it turns out, is much like me.  Quite shy.  Shy you say?  Yup, I am surprisingly uncomfortable in new surroundings and my mom insists that she sent me to multiple preschools to help me in my separation anxiety.  She is doing okay at preschool, but would absolutely prefer to be home with me all.day.long. 
  • Given the complexity of my pregnancies, we have decided we will not have anymore biological children.  I was surprised when Alex told me last year that he wanted to look into adoption.  Turns out, the process here where we live specifically, is pretty straight-forward.  The process has started …
  • I am still knitting like a fool.
  • I have begun playing piano again.  I also have it in the works to begin the process to become certified to teach the Suzuki Piano Method.  It is the method I was taught when I began playing at the age of 3.5 and I really want our kids to play.  (Plus it really seems a shame that the baby grand we brought here with us – my dad’s last gift to me – doesn’t get use!)
  • Alex is doing well professionally.  He travels quite often – and brings small treasures back.

I guess that’s enough for now … let’s see if I can keep up with this for a while more …

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As I continue to write about my experience with PPD I am amazed at how many women feel the same as I do, or have.

To me, the worst part of PPD was not how it destroyed every last bit of me that once knew. No, it was that not every day (or every moment depending on the day) was a bad day.

The hardest part for me was in fact when I had a good day. When Henry didn’t scream so much. When Sofia’s belly wasn’t so full of air. When I actually took a shower, including shaving my pits (and giving them a good scrubbing in hopes to get rid of that funk).

Those were good days.

And they felt so rewarding.

Sometimes, it felt as thought a lightbulb went off and “click” this, I mean this was what it was supposed to feel like to be a mom.

Capable.

Confident.

Maybe not the prettiest, or sexiest. But definitely stronger than weak.

And then something, any one thing would go wrong.

And I was a failure all over again.

I used to think of depression as sitting around, moping and crying and just feeling sorry for myself.

Now, for me, that was definitely a part of my PPD, but I was angry, irritated and sick and tired of feeling miserable. It took so much energy to find joy.

I can honestly say that I did not enjoy that first laughter from either of my children.

I didn’t rejoice in their first teeth or first crawl, or the first time they ate food.

Sure, you can find pictures that I took documenting those occasions, but I did not, deep in my heart, have that feeling that *I* as a mom, was proud.

But to tell you the truth, I don’t regret my lack of pride in those occasions.

For me, Sofia eating solids was more about her belly learning to fill up and digest something other than my milk. I wanted, no, I needed to nurse her as the only thing I alone could do.

But I also needed a break every now and then.

I have begun to celebrate things that my children do.

Henry deciding to ride his bike, WITHOUT training wheels. I actually jumped up and down and screamed in joy and excitement (rather than the screaming I have done at him in the past – I write that with shame).

It never helped me in the depths of my PPD to know that others found a way to the end – all it did was piss me off. Where was my end? When would I feel bettter?

and then eventually, fearfully asking, would I ever feel normal? What if I hate the new normal?

I don’t have answers yet, because I am not yet through.

But I can tell you I have more ups than downs.

And I am learning that the downs do not have to be the end of an up.

Let me interface this – I hate roller coasters. I mean hate. I like to think of PPD as a roller coaster. One of those great ones that people stand in 2-3 hour lines in 90-degree high humidity heat at Cedar Point.

And I guess that’s why normalcy, with all its boringness and simplicity is so appealing at this point.

Normal.

That’s all I want.

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Life Lessons

Last year, we bought Henry a bike.  He had been doing so well on his balance bike that we thought he’d like a big boy bike.

He did.

That is, to look at.

He insisted the bike be built to look like the picture on the box – with training wheels.

No matter how hard we tried, he simply lacked the confidence to ride it without.  And the training wheels weren’t fully on the ground, which made it a rocky ride.

So he reverted to his balance bike.

Yesterday, he asked Alex to remove the training wheels and hold his bike, but just for a little bit.  So BJD removed the wheels.

Henry started peddling with Alex holding on.  About 5 feet into it, Henry said let go daddy and off he went.

I am so proud of my little man!

And one more video of Sofia.  She enjoys the Wiggles and has taken to this song, which she calls Ai, yai, yai … (or however you spell it)

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I don’t really know when it happened. But I know it happened.

I woke up one morning and just felt it.  I mean I knew something had changed.

And while I am generally a person that does not like change, this change came with a sense of finality, a sense of security and a sense of, well, me.

It’s been a few weeks now since I’ve known it, but having had BJD travel for the past 3 weeks, putting the burden of hausfrau completely on my shoulders, I can now say that I am turning the corner on my depression and am feeling more and more like me.

Me.

Me!

I can do things without freaking out.  I don’t overanalyze everything. (Don’t worry, I am still quite analytical and all but I don’t get all “caught up” in things like I have.)

This may not really seem like much to you, other than knowing I have struggled with postpartum depression for some time now.  Let me reassure you that “I” have been missing for over 4 years.

I don’t know exactly when the spiral downward began.  I am sure it was sometime around my father’s death.

And the uphill battle was at least recognized back in the back bathroom of my old company’s warehouse, while I was pumping away like a cow, reading Brooke’s wonderful words in her book talking about postpartum depression.

I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled, relaxed, joyful, no, how good it feels to just be me.  Not the old me.  Not a different me.  Just me.

And now … some pictures!

Bubba Joe turns 4

Teamwork

What?????

Mommy and Me

... in the garden

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