Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Where the Lost Things Go: On Lyrics, Memory, Longings and Post Partum Depression Long Term Effects

My words have flown to the place where lost things go. I used to know what I know, and now, I know I am missing pieces of what I had, that are lost in time and memory. They are there... yet not quite.

Over the Christmas Season we went with family to the film 'Mary Poppins Returns.' My feelings for the film were mostly neutral and I don't feel like writing a review, however, the song, "The Place where the Lost Things Go" caused tears to well and spill over onto my cheeks. I was hit with the precise words for expressions I didn't realize needed to be let out. Because the lyrics can be both metaphorical and literal...especially to a person who struggles on (what feels like) borderline dementia and chunks of memory taken due to PPD and other life circumstances. I don't even have memories to hold on to in many circumstances. It's odd and I feel for patients who are slowly losing their memories. I can relate to aspects of the film "50 first Dates" and often have to remind myself of whom I am and who is valid in my life and who I know on a daily basis... I feel I can express myself with help from the lyrics to 'Where the Lost Things Go' by Scott Whitman interspersed with my thoughts outside of the quotations.

"Do you ever lie awake at night?
Just between the dark and the morning light?
Searching for the things you used to know
Looking for the place where the lost things go?"

I often lie in bed, in the 'Greatest Showman' style, with a 'million dreams keeping me awake.' Many of the times it can be pleasant but interspersed and delving into depths there are troubling themes, and a sense of searching. I try to recover the things I've lost. At different stages of life the theme varies. After a death of a loved one it is often about tangible memories or pieces of them that I can honour by holding on. At other times I am searching for myself. Looking for the girl who has had stages of immense contentment, despite the trials of life, or the girl who found herself within losing herself. Sometimes it is about grief for an old phase before moving on to a natural and exciting new aspect of life. And still at others it is about recovery. Because it is much harder to recover from traumas that bring back no memories. Blank pieces of history can sometimes feel like a blanket that is rifled with unexplainable holes in the fabric. I search for the places where these lost things go.

"Do you ever dream or reminisce?
Wondering where to find what you truly miss?
Maybe all those things that you love so
Are waiting in the place where the lost things go?"
My daughter at 3 months old.

This year has been beautiful yet an overarching crisis of midlife or baby fever has encompassed it for me. I see my children growing, shooting past stages and at times I feel frantic to slow it down because I now LOVE being a mother, teaching and having my children constantly in my home every day, witnessing their beauty, helping them become themselves and attuning myself to their needs, while also being independent of self and allowing them to do the same. It is a beautiful community in our home and I see it ending all too soon. Sometimes I feel I have lived decades within one. That I have lived the lives of three in one and what else is there? This year we have gone to do our Vasectomy Reversal 3 times and then I decided against it. I don't want an empty nest at 43. Luckily friends have assured us that it will be longer and with special needs there will be an aspect that is forever, even if a different kind of independence surfaces. But it's more than that. It is a heart wrenching grief I never thought I would feel. Because I truthfully struggled with motherhood the first few years and never dreamed of being a mom. The sensory overload was enough to make we want to throw up constantly the first few years, even if I loved my children. But with each age and stage I loved it even more. My sister reminded me that I said every stage was my favourite except infancy. Unfortunately, I missed a lot of what I loved, because I was suffering the real detachment that can happen with PPD.

I truly missed many of the younger years. Years and ages I actually loved but I wasn't fully in, because my brain was almost a foreign entity. I will often refer to those years in third person because that girl does not feel familiar at all. I don't really know her. She felt taken over in many ways. I read this (CLICK) article recently about a mom who had PPD with her second baby. What she expressed hit me in the heart because, I had not told anyone this, but it was my exact thoughts upon seeing my 18 month old girl when I had my second son, "The little girl who walked through the door, nervously holding her father's hand; who scrambled up on to the hospital bed and threw herself on top of me in a wholehearted embrace, was not the child I'd said goodbye to two days before. A bizarre metamorphosis had occurred. She looked huge, suddenly. No longer a little girl at all. Compared to the baby's delicate limbs, her toddler hands and feet seemed enormous. Compared to his newborn fragility, her chunky vitality seemed almost menacing. In the space of just 48 hours my eye had become, shockingly, unaccustomed to her." Oh there is a hidden memory dredged up where the lost things go. Sometimes it is harder to actually find. Maybe it is better to, at times, be lost.

A few weeks after my son when I was still fighting a large uterus infection.

Reading the rest of the article I started panicking. Deep, quick breathes and I understood the term "gut wrenched" because that was what I was experiencing. I was gut wrenched because I realized that it was fully my experience. I gave my daughter half of her anxiety (she was born colicky and anxious anyway but I contributed) and I carried the same shame this mother carried. It triggered a memory of my daughter sucking her soother by my door and saying, "Mamma you are my best friend- am I yours?" Her vocabulary was strong and by two she was expressing empathy and deep thoughts. And I recall my heart crumbling at the realization that I was failing. I was failing to show connection. 
My son and his daddy back in the hospital with jaundice.

"My aunt, in whom I eventually did confide, offered wise counsel: "These things happen. You can't protect your children from life. Give it time. Love will return." And eventually it did. Not simply with time, but with hard work and conscious effort. "( Found HERE) That was my story too. It was conscious effort and now my daughter is one of my best friends. I recall using her nickname as the password on my phone messages instead of my son's out of a sense of duty to remember her. It was a constant reminder to be present to her. Now, we are the Gilmore Girls in many ways. 

"When Jessie was about seven, we went on holiday with another family. Their daughter was the same age as our son, the same age Jessie had been when he was born. Watching our friend's three-year-old daughter, I suddenly realized that I had no memories of Jessie at this age. Where her third year should have been there was a 12-month blank. It really was as if I had lost my mind, or part of it, during that time. As if I'd been suffering from some kind of emotional amnesia; a temporary blindness of the heart." Recently I asked Jessie about this time in her life and it seems that something similar was true for her: "When people asked me what I remembered about having a little brother, I used to say that my mum had been very ill and had been in hospital for two years. I think it was actually only two weeks, but that was how I remembered it: you not being there for a very long time."  She doesn't have any conscious memories of that time, but she wonders if it explains certain things, "Like how I used to hate it whenever you went out. It made me feel really panicky." ( https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/jul/04/motherhood-second-child-family
I have almost zero memories from my twenties. None actually, unless suddenly triggered by a photo, someone else or a video or if I wrote them down in blog posts (which luckily I did heavily back then.) All I have on recall are large chunks of blank spaces. I can remember my teen hood vividly, I can recall my third child's birth and then my memories come back in bits and pieces after that. My daughter had such bad separation anxiety, I used to call my dad to drop her off at Kindergarten because every single day she would cry or scream and hold on to my legs...and it was May and I was tired. Everyone told me it would quit by Christmas. My dad remembers being accosted by her and he would wait till she looked away for one moment and would quickly slip out because otherwise she wouldn't break eye contact as her little lip would be quivering and her sad eyes would be begging, "Stay." And I was part of the monster who created such a mess. And yet, I also cannot hold myself completely responsible either.
My daughter and I with first day snuggles. I was so cold and shivering all the time with high blood pressure but these moments still mattered.

There were so many factors. I look back now and realize my birth with my second son was natural but traumatic to me. He had to have the vacuum because the cord was around his neck and in the hurry the nurses dropped the vacuum (and later my afterbirth which then looked like a bloody war zone) and it was shoved into me without being disinfected. I suffered nine weeks of clots the sizes of oranges, high blood pressure, heavy bleeding and high fevers and anxiety until finally I had a D &C to clean me out. Luckily, at that time I did not have access to Internet to research or find out that I was actually close to serious death a couple times. Antibiotics and the D&C saved me. The vacuum saved my son. He also was re admitted for severe jaundice and had to be put in the incubator his first week of life. I was already depressed from my first birth (and didn't know it) because it was 36 hours of hard labour, culminating in a moving epidural, the drip, and hours of pushing that resulted in feeling nothing more than the initial joy when I finally held her but attachment took longer. I was kept in the hospital for 5 days with high blood pressure probably from gestational diabetes ( that did not happen with my other two.) No one explained what was happening or that it was serious. I had no idea until recently reading all of these articles.
The first time I saw her face.

I thought she was beautiful and I recall being struck by her eyes but then I wanted my husband to hold her after a time spent gazing. I felt a deep love for her but I also felt a bit of disconnect as well. More of a concern for myself. Which was vastly different from my need to hold both my sons without any drugs involved. There are so many issues for women and childbirth that are complex and need to be addressed. (Read the article for more on that found HERE.)
I suppose some of the lost memories are a blessing because when I suddenly recover some of them, I can be immobilized by a sense of lost opportunities, grief at what could have been and horror at the close calls that were not fully dealt with. But on the flip side there are also beautiful choices, moments of sweet innocence and witnessing of wonderful firsts that I miss too by the lost things. 
"Memories you've shared, gone for good, you feared
They're all around you still, though they've disappeared.
Nothing's really left or lost without a trace
Nothing's gone forever, only out of place."
7 months pregnant comforting her.

Only out of place...I was out of place. In the theatre I looked over at my daughter while this song was playing and her face was crumbled in a sob. We took each other's hands and held on tight. I think we both knew what has been lost and what has been found.

I also read her the above article in between quiet tears as she gently cried. We talked about what we could remember and the effects we have, the responsibility each of us bears today, and the weight it will carry into the future.

"So maybe now the dish and my best spoon
Are playing hide and seek just behind the moon?
Waiting there until it's time to show.
Spring is like that now, far beneath the snow
Hiding in the place where the lost things go"
Last summer with my daughter

I love the lyrics above. They are hopeful. Currently our frozen ground is harbouring Spring, and metaphorically this is also true. Sometimes, memories hide until we are strong enough to face them. I have been researching babies, stages, breastfeeding, birthing, post partum, miracle vasectomy stories, and reversals constantly. I have been obsessed since last Spring. I cry with each cycle. I beg to undue what was done. My husband agrees and then I question myself. Am I just wanting what was lost? Am I looking for a re do? I know it is more than that. I have a huge list of motivations- some are good and some are less noble. I have a LONG pros and cons list. It is deeply personal. 
I was 9 months pregnant here and exhausted but felt so guilty about my daughter I recall forcing myself to bake with her and it took all the energy within me. I was also anemic.

But one aspect stops me each time from going through with a plan to naturally birth more, even though my biological window is closing and I love motherhood and have wanted a bigger family since my third was born. My doctor can recall me looking at my husband right after and smilingly saying, "If it is like this, I would like more." But my husband wanted to end on a good note. And part of me, faced with some failures of the past and scared of history repeating itself, allowed the decision. It was mutual. And I can't fully regret it because I was a baby making machine and I know I would have many by now...which isn't bad, but I did need a large break to find autism/Aspergers, to find my children and know them in a way that I could handle, and to catch up on sleep and find patterns that worked for us. But each time I start to wrap my mind around pregnancy and infancy (both of which were not my favourite times) and justify them as an ends to a means ( beautiful children and more of what we have) I stop at the post partum period. Because maternal death is still alarmingly high for the times we have. READ HERE. Because you can still die from post partum pre eclampsia up to 12 weeks later and I would be paranoid that entire time. I didn't realize I had minor forms of deadly experiences. But mostly because I can't put my daughter (or sons) through any sort of detachment again. Even if she is older. Even if she says she will understand and can handle it. It stops me with panic every time. I am older, wiser, and set up for a better go...but what if it is traumatic again? What if I am triggered into that state of being? And with this realization, I end up sobbing because I can not bring into fruition what I wish to... because of who I am. Which is hard to face. To see your disabilities and limitations and realize that they hold you back from some great life choices. 

"Time to close your eyes, so sleep can come around
For when you dream you'll find all that's lost is found.
Maybe on the moon, or maybe somewhere new
Maybe all you're missing lives inside of you."

My dreams have been fraught with babies, birthing, pregnancy, nightmares, threats and disconnect...and I am hoping that soon they will slowly fill with the good again. I didn't realize post partum depression still affected me today. It was off my radar for years. I had no desire to delve back into talking about it nor did I wish to think too much upon it's longer lasting effects. Maybe my daughter and I have such a good relationship because of our rocky start and intentions? Maybe what is bad turned into something good? But there are still those lost chunks of childhood I missed. There are still aspects of life I grieve for. I didn't realize I would have to face them years later as my children grew.

I didn't realize that they held me back from some life choices I would otherwise have. Maybe in my dreams or somewhere I previously knew... I will find that what I am missing and that it lives inside of me...but right now I just feel it's missing. And the longing for a pregnancy, labour (yes even labour if it's like my third) and child (not baby exactly) are my mind's way of trying to remedy that? I can't figure out if I am choosing the possibility of it as 'a no' out of fear or out of bravery? Sometimes it feels brave that I am saying no to a deep desire out of repercussions for the children already in my care. Sometimes it feels cowardly because I am scared of death, body long term effects (like fallen bladder or other labour related tragedies) and mental harm (post partum depression.)
Six months pregnant holding my daughter

A good friend encouraged me to birth creativity instead. I am a strongly creative person and thrive on various changes I make. I have done this in many ways and it helps but it's not ending my obsession. When I read the article cited above about the mom and her daughter, I spent the next day resolved in my heart to just concentrate on what is in front of me. Being a future orientated person that is not easy- I like to plan. So I painted my son's room. Then I painted some more. Then I re arranged the living room and read 5 books...I see now why sometimes my Aspergers gets mixed up with Bipolar mania. I do have phases...yet the creativity helped save my sanity. (I can relate to my Bipolar friends a lot and I feel for their journey yet they teach me more about the sanctity of life than many neurotypical people at times...)
She loved kissing her baby brother in my belly and feeling him kick.

"So when you need her touch and loving gaze
Gone but not forgotten is the perfect phrase
Smiling from a star that she makes glow
Trust she's always there, watching as you grow

Find her in the place where the lost things go."

I love that these last lines can be about a physical person lost yet found or an idea...or a past self. Right now it applies to my past self, that 20 something gal who didn't realize how much trauma affected her. Maybe she is smiling at who she became? I often picture myself coming alongside her at those birthing times and saying, "It will be hard, some moments you will fail or wish you could have chosen something else. At other times you will be so fulfilled the greatest films could not express your joy, but you will become, dear one. You will live through this too to see them grow into beautiful people. You will even find yourself while the lost things go and hide until you are more able to deal with them in a softer glow of safety. "
Moments with her.

When I look at photos I see immense joy and satisfaction. I know I struggled but I also know that within that, I came home to myself when I held each of my children. I wish I could have made the earlier years less about me and more about them in regards to less anxiety over bodily complications. I wish I could have been less tired, but don't all mothers? I wish I could have a do over with the same children and hold them even longer. I know without a doubt I savoured what I could. It was ever present on my mind and heart. Motherhood has been my sacred struggle and sacred Being. I never knew it would be the role of my lifetime.

Last week.

Maybe what I'm missing is inside of me? Maybe we will eventually add more children in some way or another? Maybe we never will and find new ways to grow, but regardless, I have to honour the places where the lost things go. And when they are found it is important to speak about them, process them and find replacements to some while holding on or letting go of others. I have no answers for myself right now but I have a song of expression...and that helps. A little at least.