Baby Blues

Summary: My story on post-partum depression

I’m a private person, so only a few people know about my struggle with post-partum depression. This is one of my most honest blogs and it wasn’t easy to write, but I think it’s important to share my story.

Before the birth of first child, I’ll admit I knew nothing about babies. I hardly ever babysat, and I had only changed one diaper. As if I wasn’t anxious enough, the baby was breech and wouldn’t turn, so we had to schedule a C-section (more about that in a later blog). On December 10, 2010, at 6:11am Maddex burst into the world kicking, screaming, and peeing.

It’s a strange experience watching a baby being pulled out of you and then whisked away. I was stuck on a table being stitched up, in some strange out of body experience. I got a quick look at him and then he was gone.

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Maddex just a few hours old

After an hour or so, once I was all settled in the room and hooked up to a million tubes, the nurse finally handed me Maddex. Immediately, I was told, by a nurse, to try feeding him. Silly me, I thought breastfeeding would be this magical, natural moment, but it was difficult. Somehow, after much frustration and stress on my part, I managed to get food into him (more on that in another blog).

Later that day as I lay in the hospital bed, I remember looking over at my son in his bassinet and feeling indifferent. Everyone talks about the love and immediate connection you feel toward your newborn, but I didn’t feel that. I watched him from across the room as if trying to figure him out, but I wasn’t antsy to hold him. I let other people take care of him. I would nurse him and then hand him off.

When I came home, I was exhausted, hardly able to keep my eyes open for more than twenty minutes at a time. My mom came to help for the first few weeks, and I’m glad she did. I felt like I would never get over this exhaustion. I would sleep for hours at a time only waking up to feed the baby. It hurt to move because of the C-section, it hurt to breast-feed, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open for the life of me.

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There I am looking a bit exhausted

I felt the depression coming on almost immediately. Was this how my life would be now? Would I ever feel normal again? All I wanted to do was sleep.

The first night at home felt strange. He was sleeping in his bassinet and I missed him. I missed him being in my belly, and I felt an aching emptiness. All these feelings felt strange, like nothing I had ever felt before. I found myself crying a lot, in the night or the shower, anywhere I was alone. My emotions were all over the place.

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Grandma and her boy

The day my mom left, and I was alone with Maddex for the first time, I cried. I had no idea what I was doing, I was anxious and scared, and I still didn’t feel an emotional bond. He felt like a ‘job’ to me, like laundry and the dishes. It sounds harsh to say it, but that’s honestly how I felt.

There is a reason moms don’t talk about post-partum depression. We are supposed to immediately feel connected to our babies and then perfectly care for them. If you feel indifferent, then you must be heartless and probably a bad parent. Society puts too much pressure on women and how we are “supposed” to be. The reality is that bonding can take time. Not to mention, most first-time parents don’t have a clue what they are doing.

It is perfectly normal to feel the way I did, but no one told me that. I thought I was supposed to fall in love and have this amazing bond from the first moment I saw my baby. All the feedings and diaper changing were overwhelming.

Over time, the anxiety and self-doubt began to ease. I healed from the surgery and slowly regained energy. Things began to normalize. One day, I looked at my son and I felt a love I had never felt before. The feeling finally hit me and though it hadn’t been immediately, it did come. He was no longer a “chore”. He became my world, and, in that moment, everything changed.

Being a first-time mom is hard; it is the most intense on the job training one can ever have, but we learned together. I still get anxious and afraid I’ll do something to mess my kids up later in life, but I do the best I can.

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I was well into my second pregnancy before I realized I had experienced post-partem depression. I hadn’t understood exactly what it was. I thought it meant crying all the time, being overly emotional, and avoiding the baby altogether. My experience was more about feeling anxiety and helplessness, mixed with a sense of dread.

I was afraid I would have post-partum depression with my second child. I sought help and went to see a counselor for several weeks leading up to the birth. I felt much more confident the second time around. My experience with Mila was completely different. I felt a bond almost immediately and I was more hands-on. I didn’t have any post-partum depression with her.

Now, my baby is almost 9 years old and our bond is still strong. At the time, I had no idea that thousands of other women experience what I did. I felt alone and I felt like a horrible person. I doubted my ability to be a good parent and I struggled in silence.

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A much bigger Maddex with Mila and me at the park

My advice to others is to ask for help. Do research to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of post-partum depression. It’s okay if you don’t feel an immediate bond with your newborn, it will come as you get to know him/her better. Find someone to talk to and don’t be afraid to voice your feelings honestly. Every parent goes through moments of self-doubt, anxiety, and frustration. At the end of the day, if your child is happy, healthy, and loved, then you are doing it right.

 

A few more pictures:

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Attack of the puppies

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Maddex and Daddy

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He still eats like this

 

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Three out of four kids, not baby’s anymore

 

Trip Packing

Summary: What we pack for trips.
Lesson: Plan ahead for less stress

The Miller family takes a lot of trips, especially since we moved to Europe. We all love getting out of Dublin and exploring new areas. Packing for six people, 4 of which are children under 10, is not an easy task. I’ve always been super organized and through some heavy trial and error, I think I finally have a good system in place. Packing is no longer a stressful part of the trip. I’ve made it quick, easy, and efficient. Here’s how I do it, complete with some links to products I’ve found useful. (*I am not being paid to promote any of these products)

What We Pack

For the plane (train or car ride)( mostly for kids):

Phones: Each kid has their own hand-me-down iPhone, no SIM cards. They are full of games and learning apps. They are only allowed to play on their phones on trips; otherwise we keep them stored. Phone case from Amazon, find it here.

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The Kid phones

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All the Kids’s Phones

Toys: each kid is responsible for packing their own toys. We give them a small bag, or purse, to use. Everything they want to take must fit in those bags. We end up with Shopkins, cars, LOL dolls, Barbies, and/or small stuffed animals.

Extra: I normally pack a few coloring books and notepads with some crayons and markers in my backpack.

For the trip:

We like to travel as light as possible. We can almost always find a wash machine or laundromat and we can buy anything we may have forgot, or we might need. Kevin and I each carry a large carry-on size backpack, Maddex has a normal size backpack, and we have a few extra.

Clothing: I love to use compression bags for packing clothes. I got a 5-pack from Target on one of my visits to Washington. I got these ones. These are great, no vacuum required, and they save space. I pack 3-4 outfits per person, plus pajamas. I use the two large bags and Kevin and I each carry one in our packs.

Bathroom bag: 3 toothbrushes, Sonicare with 3 heads (Maddex, myself, and Kevin), deodorant, hairbrush, Chapstick, Vaseline, Nurofen, and lots of hair ties.IMG_0660.jpg

Ziploc bags: I have three Ziploc bags for liquids, I pack this in the front of my backpack for easy access when we get to the airport. The bags hold: toothpaste, kid toothpaste, mouthwash, conditioner, kid medicine, lotion, and 2 laundry pods.

Electronics: We have an REI pack, Flash 22 (link) pack that holds all of our electronics. Laptop (surface), phones, Switch, various cables and power supplies, plus portable phone keyboard and stand. At airport security, Kevin empties the bag into a bin; easy, simple, done.

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Sleeping Gear: We like to squeeze into small spaces. If we are stuck in a hotel, we get the double or triple room. In case we don’t have enough beds, we will pack a sleep mat with pump. If the room has bunk beds, we’ll also take a hammock. If we are lucky enough to get an apartment with enough beds, I skip this step altogether. I also have a travel blanket for each kid and portable lights they share for their beds at night.

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Sleep mat, Hammock, and Pump

My Purse: I don’t carry a purse often, but I do have one specifically for travel. It holds all our passports, airline tickets, Residence Card (to get back into Ireland), as well as some gum for the flight and random other things. I bought this one in Italy from a street vendor.
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Extras: We always pack 4 portable bowls with spoon/fork combos Kevin found online. Often, we will end up with cereal for most meals. These are great for other snacks as well; they make eating in the room a breeze.       IMG_0663.jpg

Anti-vomit Kit: I have two kids who get car sick and we have to take the Air Coach, a poorly ventilated bus, to and from the airport. Kevin found some kids Dramamine in the States and I ordered some “Travel Sickness Bands” from Amazon. We don’t allow phones on the Air Coach and we don’t feed them before we leave. All these things added together have seemed to solve our bus sickness issues. Just in case, I do have vomit bags which I also ordered from Amazon. Thanks Mom, she introduced me to them.

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Vomit bag, Dramamine, and Sickness Bands

That’s it, looking back it seem like a lot, but for a family of 6 its not bad. Everything fits into 4 backpacks, with the girls carrying their purses full of treasures. We still have plenty of room in case we pick up an outfit or two or find some cool items from shops along the way. We also have a BOB single stroller, which we use as a makeshift luggage cart as well as kid hauler. Its huge, but for now it’s what we need.

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BOB stroller with all our packs, plus Mila and a bonus kid we borrowed for the summer

Storage:

As I mentioned, I’m ultra-organized, so of course I have a specific area for storing all the travel items. I have several “Travel Cubbies” where all the sleeping gear and various travel items are stored. I put all the smaller travel items in a bin, which I can just take out of the cupboard to pick and choose what to pack. The electronics have their own shelf for storage as well.

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Electronics are stored here

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Travel blankets and mats

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Grab and Go bin for easy packing

Prep:

Prepping is simple. I pull the things I need from their storage space, toss it all on the table, and get to packing. It is so much easier when you aren’t running around looking for things, praying you don’t forget something important. I’m all about low stress.

The kids are in charge of their own clothes, they bring me three outfits and they pack their bag of toys. Kevin is in charge of electronics; charging and packing. I do the rest. It’s a system that has taken quite a few trips to work out, but we have it down to a science now. Packing takes about a half hour and we do it all the night before, so we are ready to get moving in the morning.

Hopefully, this helps anyone who wants to travel with kids. Packing doesn’t have to be a stressful disaster, just a little organization and prepping beforehand and it will quickly become the most calming part of your trip.

Extra Pictures:

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Our old stroller and all our bags, this is all we have for luggage

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Mila and Maddex on the train

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Hammock on the bunk bed

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Cereal dinner, using our bowls and spoons

The Broken Collarbone Incident

Summary:   In a horrible case of parenting gone wrong, I overlooked what I assumed to be a minor injury only to discover we had a broken collarbone situation.

Lesson: Bad judgements happen, don’t beat yourself up about it.

It all started on a rainy Sunday. We had guests in town and wanted to venture out to the city, crossing our fingers the rain would subside. As the children were running down the sidewalk, Khaleesi dropped a toy, turned to pick it up, and ended up flat on her back. She was in tears, but kids fall all the time (mine especially) with nothing but a few bruises. I didn’t think anything of it, picked her up, and sat her in the stroller.

She cried all the way to the LUAS stop (tram into town). As we waited for our tram, I picked her up to console her a bit. She screamed out in pain and I knew we had something a bit more serious than a simple fall. Of course, I still figured it was no big deal, she probably twisted or strain a muscle in her neck/shoulder area. That’s what it looked like, pain when moving the neck or arm and no pain when sitting still. We checked for broken bones and couldn’t feel any.

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A little read and slightly bruised

Monday, we kept her home from school because she was couldn’t turn her head without pain. I debated whether to take her to the Dr. or not, she seemed fine as long as she didn’t move her arm too much. I have never broken a bone in my life, neither has my husband, but we both figured the pain would be so much greater if she had broken something and again, we didn’t feel any breaks. We used heat and ice and gave her medicine for the pain.

Tuesday, she seemed to be feeling better. I crafted a makeshift sling to help immobilize her arm which reduced the pain and we sent her to school. I talked with her teacher briefly to explain what happened and request she take it easy with no running outside and no P.E. until she was feeling better.

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The sling I made

Tuesday night, I noticed she now had a bump on her collarbone. That wasn’t there before, and my mother instincts kicked into high gear. The bump was sensitive to the touch. I took to the internet, I love to research, and realized she may have a broken collarbone. Time to go get an x ray.

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Now she has a bump, right side.

 

Wednesday morning, we went to the Swift Care. When the doctor showed us the x-ray, I could clearly see the crack in her collarbone. Luckily, it was a clean break, meaning it would heal up perfectly in no time. There isn’t much they can do for this kind of break, just keep it in a sling and try to limit movement for a week or two until it heals. Lucky for her, it only takes about 3 weeks for children her age to heal from this. The doctor told me I did the right thing making a sling, but they did upgrade us to a more stable one.

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New sling from doctor, and mad face because she has to go back to school.

Khaleesi spent the next two weeks with the sling, she didn’t use it all the time; it was a bit big on her and as she healed, she didn’t need it as much. We went in for a two-week check-up with a clean bill of health. Now she is fully healed and its as if it never happened at all.

This is only one story where I feel like I failed as a parent. I should have seen the signs, I should have taken her immediately to the doctor, maybe I shouldn’t have moved her from the sidewalk at all. All these thoughts I allowed to enter my head and fill me with self-doubt. The truth is, I’m only human and I make mistakes. Khaleesi is fine, she is healed, and only the bump remains on her shoulder (new bone growth, should go away in a year).

Moral of this story is sometimes we make the wrong decisions when it comes to our kids. We can’t beat ourselves up about it, it happens. We do the best we can with what information we are given. Kids are so resilient and unfortunately, they get hurt a lot. We do our best to make the right choices when they do get hurt. In most case, they are up and running in a matter of minutes; minor bruises or scrapes.

I’ve never been one to go to the doctor over a little fever or a small injury, not that there is anything wrong with that. I tend to assess the situation, do a little internet research, and then give things a day or two before I bring doctors into it. This is simply part of who I am, I’m a problem solver and I want to try to solve the problem on my own first.

All of this to say, I’m not a perfect parent. Kids are clumsy and aloof, and they will fall no matter how hard we try to keep them upright. My Khaleesi is one strong, brave, tough kid. She doesn’t let much keep her down, and she never let a broken collarbone keep her down. She even won Golden Rules Super Star for being brave and working hard, even with an injury.

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Award she got

 

More Pictures of the kids:

 

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She turned left-handed for a bit, like a pro

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Mila and Khaleesi on the LUAS, nothing stops this girl.

Update: 2019

Looks like its time to update the blog, nothing since 2010? Wow. Well, a lot has happened, and I can safely say its time to get back to it. I have a lot more experiences with life, parenting, and travel. I’m hoping to fill the blog with tidbits of information, from parenting to travel and how to balance it all.

The baby in last blog is now quickly approaching 9 years old, wow. I also have three more, all girls. Mila, 7, Khaleesi 5, and Roxi 3. We went from living in a fifth wheel while building a house, to moving clear across the globe to Dublin, Ireland, where we have been for the past two years.

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Our four kids

We’ve seen some big changes. You can read a lot more about that here: http://www.happymillfam.com/, where the blogs are mostly by my amazing husband, Kevin, but I have a few mixed in there.

I am hoping to be more vigilant in posting blogs and sharing my life in stories with anyone who is interested.

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Me and the kids on the edge of cliff south of Dublin

December 10, 2010

The big day was quickly arriving and I had so much I wanted to get done. I knew I was having a C-section and would be out of commission for a few weeks, so I wanted a clean, organized house. My mom volunteered to come up and stay with us for a week while I recovered and help with the baby. Her birthday just happens to be Dec. 9th, so having our boy on the 10th was like a really big birthday present to her. Funny fact, back in June when we decided to tell our parents we were pregnant, I specifically told my mom by saying “I’m making your birthday present, it may arrive a little late though.” She looked at me confused and my little niece Andrada was at the table with us and mentioned that was 9 months away (although it was actually 6 months). I think my older brother got it first and I told him we might deliver the present on his birthday. I then said the package was due on Dec. 16th…they finally all figure out I was telling them I was having a baby.

Anyway, I digress. My mom came out the afternoon of Dec. 9 and Kevin and I took her out to Red Robin for her birthday and for my final meal. I was feeling pretty good and only a little anxious. It felt more like a dream than anything that I was going to finally be having this baby; this baby that had been growing and moving inside me for 9 months.

The morning of Dec. 10, we had to be at the hospital at 8am. I got up around 7, my bags were already to go. We found out the previous evening that Trenton would be coming over in the morning with his grandparents and we were excited for him to be in the room when his baby brother was born.

We got to the hospital and got all checked in, then we were taken up to the room. I had to get undressed and put on this huge hospital gown (but I wore it for my entire stay). They had to do a bunch of prep work on me to get me already for surgery. This included entering an IV and taking a lot of blood. The nurse tried two times to get the needle into my vein for the IV, but my veins kept rolling away. After two painful attempts, she gave up and called in another nurse. The second nurse also tried two more painful times before she also gave up. They had to call in one of the Doctors who successfully got the needle into my hand after one attempt and without any pain. I had bruises on my arm for a week from the four attempts and it took all I had not to cry because it really hurt when they were digging around in my arms.

Once they got the IV in, Kevin’s parents and Trenton arrived and we chatted for a few minutes. At this point, I was getting really nervous. Not because of the surgery, but because I was so afraid of what to do with a baby. I had never even changed a diaper and now I was about to become responsible for someone who would depend on me for everything. It was overwhelming.

A few minutes later the anesthesiologist came in. He was really nice and patient and explained everything that was going to happen to me from that point on. Basically, I was going to be taken up to the OR where they would do the spinal numbing. Once I was all numb, the surgery would start.

Shortly after he left, Kevin, Trenton, and I were taken to the OR. We exchanged hugs with my mom and the Millers and I was already on the verge of tears knowing my life was about to forever change and anxious to meet my little boy. Trenton and Kevin got all suited up in hair nets and over coats and I was taken into the OR. Trenton had to wait outside until they got me all laid out on the table and covered up. Kevin had to sit with me while they put a needle in my back, which just stung a little bit, but was nerve wracking because you can’t move unless you want to be paralyzed.

The medicine kicked in right away. I felt my legs take on about 50 lbs, they felt really heavy and I couldn’t move them if I tried. The numbness went all the way up too my chest and it was hard to breath. I tried not to panic, but I felt like I was going to pass out and die from lack of oxygen. Luckily, after a few minutes my breathing returned to normal and it felt like something moved off my chest. I still felt really light-headed and high throughout the procedure.

Kevin came over and sat next to me and held my hand and Trenton stood next to him and held my hand too. I teared up a little and the procedure hadn’t even started yet. One of my mid-wives was there too, she was really awesome because she could see over the divider and she told us exactly what was happening as it was happening. After what felt like 5 seconds, they opened up a small window in the sheet and we were able to see the baby get pulled out. I couldn’t really see and I was really out of it so it was okay. He came out pooping and peeing and crying, so I knew we had a healthy baby boy.

Kevin was the first to hold him and him and Trenton got to help and watch while the nurse weighed and measured our baby. I was able to glance over and see my baby from a distance. When I first saw him, I cried. My mid-wife was kind enough to wipe my tears away, it was a beautiful moment.

Maddex Martin (pronounced Marteen) Miller was born on 12-10-10 at 10:05 am, weighing 6 lbs, 11oz and 20 in long.