How to create community in 793 easy steps

In the last couple of weeks I’ve realized how much I need to be around people every day. I’m by no means an extrovert, but I didn’t realize how much of a social creature I am.

This depressive episode made it very clear that time I spend alone is not helpful. I started reaching out to new people to try and build some more community so I had lots of options if I needed a sudden infusion of support.

  1. PEPS– I joined my local PEPS group in August after a fellow mom did her due diligence to get one started. There are 9 of us in the group with babies who were born between mid-May and early August. For 12 weeks we met every Tuesday from 1030a-1230p. Our babies started out as lumps and now have teeth, sit up, crawl, babble, and have personalities. This group saved me. After my husband, they were the first ones I told about my PPD diagnosis. I still see a few of them every week on Tuesday mornings. One key piece to helping us gel was a Facebook group I started for us within the first couple of weeks. It started slowly, with people asking for clear advice, making recommendations, or trying to arrange playdates. Now, we post about lots of things. After I was fired, I told my staff about what happened and then I told my PEPS group (my husband was in the room when it happened, so he already knew). I knew kids caused a lot of camaraderie, but I didn’t really get it until this group. We all have different approaches to life and work and family, but we are all bound by a similar need to do what is best for our children and are sometimes at a total loss for what that looks like. I think all of us have cried at this point and we have all shared food, the two things I think bind humans the quickest. Without my PEPS ladies, I would be in much worse shape.
  2. Online Book Clubs– After President Obama had an interview in the NY Times about the books he read while in office, I put a call out on Facebook asking if anyone else wanted to read them with me. Almost 30 people joined and we are reading one book every two months with discussion online about what we have read. I also joined a book club aimed at literature about intersectional feminism. This one is largely going to be in-person or call in for those of us who aren’t local, but whether I get to participate in the actual discussion or not, reading intersectional feminist literature and non-fiction sounds wonderful. I also joined the local moms book club, which mostly focuses on fiction. This group also meets in person and though I can never make the meeting times (they’re always on Friday nights), I still read the books along with the group. I’m also constantly reviewing my reading list from graduate school and taking on books my fellow graduates reading. So at any given time I’m reading up to 4 books, but since they are all for different purposes it’s easy to keep track of their plots or central messages without confusion.
  3. Stroller Strides– This group is still newish to me. I go to a Stroller Strides class 1-3 times a week and am still figuring out how I fit into this larger group. Most of the parents have kids who are toddlers or preschoolers and class always falls right during nap time, so I don’t really stick around much after class is over to socialize. That said, the day of the inauguration we did a Michelle Obama inspired workout and when I started tearing up over the loss of the Obamas I was encouraged to “let it out.” I also told them about my termination and I get asked every class about the state of my employment.
  4. Witchy women in general– I have gotten really close with a lot of what I call “witchy women.” These are the women who are deeply affected by and in tune with the world around them. Most of them are in disparate social circles, but on the day of the Womxn’s March, they were all out protesting or actively tracking in and talking about it on social media. Some I see very regularly in person, and some I only communicate with via Facebook. Either way the energy of the feminine is strong in this group and shows up in many different areas of communication and community.
  5. My consulting collective– After graduate school, one of my teachers started a group where graduates could come together to figure out how to spread our skills more broadly. We meet once a month and talk about everything from very in-depth case studies to new theories to social problems and how to address them. I’ve had some very challenging conversations with this group on a personal level and some very fruitful ones. I get to bring the nugget with me and he is passed around from person to person so I can get a break and he can be held by people who already adore him.

In order to get community going, I’ve found that we obviously need a common call to action, but the follow up after forming the initial group is what’s hard. Online, I have to post comments and questions regularly to get the lurkers to come out and engage. In person, I often throw out initial instances of vulnerability to break the ice. I’m sure if I didn’t, someone else would, but I’m usually game to cast the first line.

What makes it hard and why some of them peter out is that this needs to happen over and over and over again. Groups I have been a part of where I wasn’t actively cultivating them have fallen by the wayside despite everyone’s good intentions. There are some people who propose that a group needs a certain number of people to keep it going. I have seen groups of hundreds stagnate because the moderator and/or creator didn’t give it enough juice from day to day.

I have a new group for mompreneurs and work from home moms I started. There are about 50 of us and this one is having a harder time getting going. I think I need to ask some different questions, but I haven’t quite cracked the code on this one yet. In any case, some more attention and effort and I think it will be awesome. Mompreneurs and work from home moms spend a LOT of time on the computer, so I know other group members will be more engaged soon.



Our adventures with Croup

The Willhelms have had it rough for the last month. Right around the time I got fired,  Andy had his first Crohn’s flare in 8 years plus a ridiculously aggressive cold. I was down mentally and he was down physically. We tag-teamed on the whole parenting thing and it became even more clear just what an amazing baby we have. He was smiley and happy, relatively clear with his needs, totally willing to bounce in his Jumperoo while Mommy and Papa tended to our own hurts.

Then on Wednesday morning the little nugget woke up crying. Normally, he greets the day with a few coos and will spend the first 20-30 minutes of the day talking to himself in his crib while I pump, so a crying babe was really unusual.

The day before before he hadn’t eaten nearly as much as he normally does, so I thought he was hungry. I went into his room and poor guy was completely stuffed up and his little cry was hoarse. I brought him into bed with me hoping the elevation on my arm would help him sleep. He fell back asleep for a hot second, but then when Andy was getting ready for the day, the movement woke him up and he started crying his hoarse cry all over again. I called the consulting nurse line for his pediatrician and she listened to him over the phone and said that it sounded like croup. Sure enough, the characteristic barking cough started about an hour after that.

Croup is a viral infection of the upper respiratory system and specifically hits the area around the pharynx, often swelling the vocal chords, which is why babies’ cough sounds like barking. This also usually comes with a fever or runny nose and the only thing you can really do is wait it out. To help relax the airways, the traditional treatment is to go into a steamy bathroom and just hold your babe while they breathe the air. Some doctors will suggest going outside in cold weather since the temperature reduces the swelling. If it gets really bad, you can get steroids to help reduce inflammation, but typically you just wait it out like a cold. We were told to look out for “oxygen starvation.” This is when a baby has a very hard time breathing and starts to have very low levels of oxygen in their blood. Signs that he was experiencing oxygen starvation would have been flaring of the nostrils, sucking in around the ribs, and his lips or nail beds turning blue. Fortunately, we haven’t seen any of those signs, just lots of snot and coughing.


(We got rid of his swing just last week, so this was our makeshift snuggle nook to keep him elevated and comfortable.)

Andy decided to stay home on Wednesday, which was great since it was just like the early days again. The nugget would eat very little, 2-3 ounces of breast milk at a time, and then sleep for 20-30 minutes. He got one, 60 minute nap in, but otherwise would wake up enough to eat a bit and then cry and then fall back asleep. Andy and I each were in the bathroom with the shower running on hot, trying to help his breathing.


It never got scary enough that we had to take him to the hospital. We just had a very unhappy baby on our hands. He went down fine at bed time with the help of some Tylenol and managed to stay asleep for the most part. No middle of the night wakings for us. **Fingers crossed**

Thursday morning we had an appointment with Ronan’s pediatrician just to double check that he was doing ok. He didn’t have a fever and after a thorough listen to his lungs and a check in his ears, she said to just keep doing what we’re doing. Apparently the little guy’s weakened immune system can mean that another bug comes on the heels of the croup, so she said to keep an eye out for new symptoms that could indicate something else creeping in.

Andy went to work that day for a bit and came home early to help me. Ronan was doing a little better, but it was so helpful to have another set of hands to pass him off to. Like the early days, I couldn’t really get anything done, including making food or using the bathroom. Since we had both of us home for the first 10 weeks, we never had much of the experience of not showering, etc. We would just pass him back and forth while each of us tended to our various bodily functions. We were also zombies because of the lack of sleep, but at least I could pee without a lot of problems.

Friday was a little tougher. Andy was at work all day and Ronan seemed to take a little dip down. Still no fever, but recovery from croup, we were told, isn’t really linear but instead has some valleys along the way. Oof. I kept Ronan home from Grandparent daycare and we met a good friend to go for a walk, hoping the cold air would help him breathe easier. Unfortunately, it started to rain just as we arrived, so we holed up in Starbucks until Nugget was done with all the stimulus and drove home. It got us out of the house for a hot minute, which was nice.


He was like this for all of 20 minutes in the morning for a little photo shoot. The rest of the day the smiles were few and far between.

Today, Saturday, I’m writing this on my computer in the parking lot of a local state park. Ronan slept a solid 12 hours last night (normally he does about 10 1/2), but was having a very hard time going down for a nap, despite falling asleep on me for a few minutes at a time. So I loaded us up into the car and used the 20 minute drive to knock him out. Now we’re partying in the car, him in the back sleeping, me in the front, journaling, typing, working on proposals…ok, really scrolling through Facebook a lot. I have ambitions to go grocery shopping, but you can be damn sure I’m not waking this sleeping baby a minute before he wants to.

7 months!


This little nugget turned 7 months old yesterday!

Some things worth noting.


Jumping. All the time. We went over to a friend’s house a few weeks ago and she had a Jumperoo for her son. I put Ronan in there to see what would happen, and he just jumped and jumped for a solid 40 minutes. And he wasn’t laughing or smiling the whole time. It was serious business, y’all. As I type this, he’s happily jumping in the Jumperoo we got secondhand from another mama. It’s a great way to burn off some energy and keep him occupied for a long time.

Breast milk. To the exclusion of solid foods. We’re trying the solid foods game and we are losing. So far he’s tried applesauce, avocado, butternut squash, egg, oatmeal, zucchini, and baby rice crackers. Now I’m taking a different approach from my first attempts with the spoon and putting purees on my finger to shove into his face. He gets about 4 bites this way and then I stop trying. Since he’s still eating breast milk just fine, we’re not pushing solid foods, but just give him something to try every day.

Activity cube. Specifically he likes holding on to the bead maze on top and is just starting to figure out how to move the beads.

Dr Brown’s pacifiers. I mean he’s been into these for months now, but still worth mentioning because they are lifesavers.

Akeekah pacifier leashes. The kid basically has a pacifier tethered to him all day. This way when he spits them out then don’t go too far.

Creeper picture from baby monitor

Not loves:

Rolling over. He did it a few times at 3 months and basically hasn’t done it since. I’ll put him on his belly and he’ll just cry until someone else rolls him over. Fun.

Sitting up. “I’d rather be standing.”- My son to me every time I try to get him to sit.

Car seat. I mean he doesn’t hate it, but he’s far less enthused about it than he used to be. Still naps in it about once a day, but he’d rather be jumping. All the jumping.

Shit I absolutely love:

Boogie wipes. Kid had a runny nose and these kept me from rubbing his nose raw.

Tula carrier. When Ronan was first born we tried to wear him a few times and he was NOT. HAVING. IT. Now we’re warming up to it and he will happily hang out for a couple of hours against me. This carrier was recommended by friends who baby wear a lot, and they were absolutely right. It’s comfortable and supportive and relatively easy to put on by myself.

PEPS group at Halloween (above) and Jan 28th (below)

He’s so damn cute.

When your world implodes

Two weeks ago I was fired from my position as Managing Director for The Seagull Project.

I had only been back in the job for less than 3 months and came back in early October to a very stressed staff on the verge of quitting. I spent most of the first few weeks back just having conversations trying to convince people to stay. I had a killer team and didn’t want to lose an ounce of the talent I had procured. After I patched those holes, convincing people of the potential we had ahead and how we just had to power through to February when we could rebuild, I had to cancel our major fundraiser. Attention had been paid to another fundraising effort against the strategy I had created before I left. Then, my first board meeting was canceled because most of the board was suddenly unavailable 48 hours before the meeting, so we had no container to discuss the implications and plans for what to do next with this fundraising hole.

The first meeting I finally had with the board was in early December and it involved giving some hard news about the state of our finances. In that meeting, we did some serious reconnoitering of the budget, readjusted revenue goals, and walked out with a plan for how to fundraise with major donors and secure loans for our revenue shortfall.

The rest of December passed with a lot of other fires to put out. Prior to my coming on board, decisions were made that turned out to have serious ramifications for us. No one had adequately researched how to actually carry out some of these things, so when time came to implement them, we were lacking in some major pieces. These pieces affected our negotiations with the actors’ union and how we dealt with payroll. I had to talk another staff member off a ledge after delivering some hard news because without them we would have come to a complete standstill. We started rehearsals behind the eight ball, but everyone was getting paid and we had patched yet more holes. I was so proud of my team for continuing to plod forward solve all the crazy problems we were encountering.

Next we had some problems with our fiscal sponsor around instructions that they admit were unclear. It resulted in a delay in a funds transfer and we ended up having some bounced checks. Calling someone to tell them not to deposit a check is about the least fun thing to do. It’s even worse when they say the already have and we all hang out in limbo to see what happens next.

All of this came to a head the weekend of Christmas when no one was available and everything was delayed because of office closures and holiday gatherings.

I came to the January board meeting and outlined all the problems we had experienced and how we had solved them and what we needed next to move forward. It was a chaotic meeting where we were missing a board member for the whole meeting (who no one had spoken to in a while) and another for half the meeting. The meeting was contentious. We didn’t have board meeting minutes to reference previous decisions, we were all stressed with all the operational things that landed, plus we had the usual chaos of the holidays. I left feeling tense but like we had tangible steps to try and solve some problems.

The next evening I was fired. The exact details of the day are not important. The bottom line is I was fired without warning and without an opportunity to correct behavior, behavior that I don’t even know about since no specifics were given to me about what I did wrong. This was counter to the culture I had created among the staff where everyone was given many chances to find the job that worked for them. We were all learning and volunteers, so what good would it have done to berate someone and maybe lose a willing team member in the process?

I was sad about being fired, but also relieved. I told my staff and the conversations over the next 4 days went something like this:

Staff: What the fuck?

Me: Yes.

Staff: I am so angry I don’t have words.

Me: I understand.

Staff: I’m leaving.

Me: Ok.

Two staff members resigned immediately, one resigned effective the end of January, and as of this writing six are not planning to continue after this production. Of the 14 person staff, that leaves five people.

The exodus, overt or covert, was gratifying to parts of me. I spent a week just being numb, enjoying my new time with my baby. Before I was fired, my day would largely consist of  having to figure out how to feed Ronan and keep him entertained so I could get on the phone or answer emails or respond to texts all day. Did I mention this job was unpaid? Yeah. I was missing valuable time with my baby for an unpaid position.

Now I could spend time just making faces at him. The day after I was fired, we got home from an outing and after I changed his diaper, we just laid in bed together, talking to each other and snuggling.

I posted about it on Facebook the Friday after it happened. I received 5 job offers within 2 days. All were paid. It boosted my confidence that I had desirable skills and was a worthwhile person to work with. Because I don’t know why I was fired, I couldn’t do any productive self-reflection or even if the decision was justified.

Then about a week later I hit a major slump. My postpartum depression had been relatively well managed, but this pushed it from “mild and managed” to “major episode.” I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t thinking clearly. I was addressing Ronan’s needs but would start crying for no discernible reason.

I scheduled an emergency session with my therapist. We sorted some things out, largely that if this position had been paid I would have an easily winnable wrongful termination lawsuit on my hands.

Now all I’m left with is unanswered questions AND a sense of relief. This job was hard to do even before I was a new mom dealing with PPD. I was contacted multiple times while on maternity leave to return because of how things were falling apart. Given the outcry to my firing, I can see that decisions made by the board are largely based in emotion, not logic or what is actually best for the company or the people who work within it. Now my days are more loose and I can focus on things I enjoy, like my sweet, sweet baby boy.


But open loops are tough for the human brain. It’s like having an itch you can’t quite scratch, but isn’t so awful you seek out a corner to wiggle against. The catalytic action of the firing and the subsequent depression episode just suck. I get indignant and wonder if this kind of suffering is what my boss wanted when he fired me.

For now, I work to keep my health on track. I’ve started and joined lots of online communities, I get out of the house every day, I’m back to working out almost every day, and I do my best to focus on what brings me joy and reduces my suffering. I’m lucky that this is the worst I have to deal with. The pending quality of all that is happening with our political system gives me a huge sense of unease, but at least, for now, I have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and a happy, healthy family that offers me home and hope when I need it.

PPD Check In

Yesterday the little nugget turned 6 months. Some moms would say, “Oh my goodness it went by so fast!” but to me it felt exactly like 6 months. Some days dragged by so slowly, and some just were over in a blink.

Given that I’m halfway through the first year I wanted to stop and take stock of how my PPD is doing.

The previous symptoms I experienced were anxiety attacks, trouble sleeping, my appetite being all over the place, a disinterest in activities I used to enjoy like working out, a hard time focusing, and anxiety about leaving the house.

My anxiety attacks have completely disappeared. My biggest anxiety producing moments are very specific, like how to manage a work phone call in the 20 minutes before nap time. Largely my co-workers are chill about the noise or realize that I may just have to go, or I just don’t time things then. Amazingly, the world turns.

I still have a very hard time sleeping. Work has been rough, y’all. There has been a lot of stress as my theatre company finally starts rehearsal for our upcoming production of The Cherry Orchard. We had several huge problems coalesce at once and I spent a lot of nights awake at 3am and having a hard time going back to sleep. I’ve started integrating meditation again, which really helps. I know whenever I read that I think something like, “Sure it does. Weirdo hippie pushing your meditation.” But the truth is IT DOES. I use the Calm app and do a 10 minute meditation right before bed. I realize in hindsight that while this would have been a smart piece of prevention early on, my brain was so gooey from having a baby and being so sleep-deprived that I didn’t think I could possibly find 10 minutes to meditate. I would plan to do it while pumping, but it’s hard for me to get to a zen state when my boobs are being tugged on. So now I do it right before bed and that tends to help.

My appetite is still all over the place, but I think that’s largely because of breastfeeding, not PPD. Some days I have “hollow leg days” where no food is enough. And some days I eat what is probably a normal amount for when I wasn’t breastfeeding. I’m now trying to focus on getting good, nutritious food into my body. I was relying too much on ice cream to get me through the longer days, but now I’m turning back to finding veggie-heavy meals so I can get better nutrition. The cycle is pretty clear that if I drink enough water, eat well, and move a little, I sleep better, which in turn allows me the brainspace and energy to eat well, drink enough water, and move a little.

I’ve joined Stroller Strides, which is just hilarious to me. I was a hardcore gym bunny before I got pregnant. I would workout 5-6 days a week and do a combo of strength training, dance, walking, yoga, and high intensity interval training. Now I aim to get to stroller strides once a week and consider it a cherry if I can get an extra walk or something else in.

I still have some anxiety about leaving the house, but for the most part once we’re out, we’re fine. It takes a lot of mental checklists to get us out the door. It’s a lot to hold in my head and I get a little overwhelmed with the prospect of what could happen if I forget bottles or diapers (both of which have happened…and we totally survived).

I think I’m doing better. I’ll do other check ins as things develop, for better or worse. Hopefully better.

Sunday Fun 12.4.16


A light smattering of delicious morsels this week.

I made a stovetop simmer of orange, cinnamon, cloves, and star anise. The house smelled delicious and it’s all thanks to this recipe.


A video about actors’ dialects in movies. Some are super obvious that they’re terrible, but it was fun to learn what about them didn’t hit the ear in the right way.

My mom hates eggnog, so I assumed I hate eggnog. Truth is that I like it in small quantities and would love to see what this cake tastes like.

Love this Trump survival guide based on astrological signs. As a Virgo I felt mine was pretty accurate.

Hufflepuff PSA.

More HP: An essay about toxic masculinity and how Fantastic Beasts… showed us a new kind of male hero.

My husband and I constantly remind ourselves that everything is temporary with our nugget, both the good and the bad.

Sunday Fun 11.6.16



Sunday is Friday in the theatre world. I use Sunday to read through all the articles I saved during the week. It’s my version of the Sunday Times. Here are some things I liked.

I grew up in a meticulously clean house. My dad had OCD and we would have epic battles over chores and sometimes would skip family outings because the house wasn’t clean by his standards. This drove home that a clean house can sometimes have unseen consequences.

I didn’t have pain medicine during my labor. I wonder how much the pain contributed to my own PPD?

For my fellow non-profit unicorns. Quotes by famous people if they had worked in nonprofit.



I love these granola bars! I’ve made them 3 times now and love that they’re a sweet treat but doesn’t actually have any sugar in them.

I’ve been using this tip for falling back asleep after middle of the night feedings with Ro.

How well do you do in this Informed Voter Quiz?

A great summary on the parts of our culture that teach men to be unable to recognize sexual assault. Everyone should read this.

Want some help remembering that your life could be so much worse over nothing? Read this about the battles of vegan YouTubers. Whoa.



Photo credit

Mild PPD

When I first met with my doula, Kim, I told her that I wanted her to be on the lookout for signs of postpartum mood disorders after I gave birth. PPMDs include postpartum depression, made famous by celebrities like Brooke Shields, and postpartum anxiety, less discussed and diagnosed, but also frequently co-morbid with PPD.

I had never had a mood disorder, but I have a very long history of mental illness in my extended family. At one point my whole immediate family was on antidepressants. For me, it was because I had heard about its appetite-suppressing side effect and wanted to lose weight. I told my family’s psychiatrist about that and he wrote me a prescription, no questions asked. I took the pills for a year until I realized I wasn’t losing weight and any appetite suppression was me willing myself not to eat rather than true appetite suppression.

There was something about pregnancy that was making me feel a bit unhinged despite the lack of true mood disorder in my personal medical history.

Prior to getting pregnant, I underwent a seriously rigorous graduate program. I got my degree in Organizational Development, which had a big basis in humanistic and organizational psychology. I got this degree alongside a cohort getting a Master’s to become therapists, so there was a lot of internal “work” and soul-searching to find what events and situations would cause us to be triggered (getting inappropriately emotionally involved in a situation and losing the ability to help clients because of internal trauma).

As a result of all this internal work, I walked away feeling emotionally wrung out. I could process feelings quickly and went from crying all the damn time to crying only when digging deeply into childhood traumas with my therapist. I could identify what was problematic for me emotionally and quickly address it so I could stay present in the moment with clients or friends.

When I got pregnant, I felt like my ability to emotionally regulate got waylaid. I was still processing feelings well and swiftly, but I occasionally had outbursts of crying that didn’t have a root reason. Lots of people brushed this off as typical pregnant woman stuff, but I was unwilling to accept this as a justification for how I was feeling. I knew hormonal moodiness from my teenage years and this didn’t quite feel like that.

Giving birth to my son was very different than I had anticipated. There was a long hospital stay that ended in me being induced 5 weeks before my due date. The birth was not traumatic in the sense that I wasn’t listened to or had an experience largely different from what I wanted. It was traumatic in that we walked out the hospital without our son, as he had to be in the NICU for anther week and a half, and had to make the massive adjustments that come with parenthood a full month before we thought we would have to. I don’t know if that month would have actually changed how we dealt with parenthood, but it felt like a world of difference at the time.

We brought Ronan home when he was 10 days old, just over 5 1/2 lbs. The first few 6 weeks were totally typical of what you hear about parenting a newborn. Lots of funny sleep patterns, staying at home a lot while our little preterm baby’s immune system caught up to him, and doing all we could to keep him and us comfortable. It was a miserably hot summer and recovering from childbirth and pregnancy in a house that was 80* was not comfortable.

After 6 weeks, I had my first taste of a day at home without my husband’s help. I managed ok in that my son was still alive at the end of the day, but I was stressed and started to understand why a lot of moms need a glass of wine at the end of the day. My drug of choice was ice cream and so I ended the day with my husband, Andy, with a milkshake in one hand. “Ended the day” is a hysterical phrase to me because with a newborn there is no real end of the day. It’s all a constant cycle of eat, sleep, soothe, diapers, etc.

When Ronan was 10 weeks old, Andy went back to work. The week before he was scheduled to start I was reliably having a meltdown at 4p every day. It would usually come as I was tending to some menial task like a diaper change and I would start to  anticipate his return to work and the long stretch of hours ahead of me with just my son. I found I would stand in his nursery tears welling in my eyes, my heart rate picking up, and a feeling of hopelessness as I thought about my life being an endless cycle of bottles, diapers, and an inconsolable baby.

Ronan was prone to fits of crying. Not colic, just 15-30 minutes of eardrum-rattling wailing. Usually the poor kid was uncomfortable because of his immature digestive system no knowing how to pass gas or poop. This is when I would panic even more. Usually I could rock him for about 10 minutes before I would need to pass him off to Andy, who could hold him, despite the screaming, until it stopped.

I would troubleshoot about what I would do when he wasn’t around and had to acknowledge that sometimes I would just have to stomach my crying baby.

I had a session with my therapist around that time and told her about my daily crying jags and new ennui over the major shift in my life. I told her I was nervous about snapping one day. I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but whatever it was I didn’t want to do it. She told me to keep an eye on it and to schedule a follow up with her soon.

I got screened for PPD at each of my postpartum appointments, which were held at 1 week postpartum to assess my blood pressure, 5 weeks postpartum when I had some strange spotting, and 6 weeks postpartum for the normal 6-week follow up. Nothing was noteworthy to me, nurses, or my OB, but, again, something seemed up. I had a hard time finding the words to describe the feeling of off-ness I had without causing my concern to be brushed off as typical new mom stuff.

About a month ago I met with my therapist when Ronan was 14 weeks. I described the continued off-ness, the anxiety, and, a new symptom, being unable to go back to sleep after middle of the night feedings. Ronan was waking 2-4 times a night. My husband and I would alternate who would tend to him and I found that when it was my turn, despite being exhausted I would lay in bed, toss and turn, and think about nothing of great consequence, just couldn’t fall back asleep. I had a migraine at one point from the lack of sleep, which is tricky when you have an infant to care for at the same time.

“I think I have some sort of postpartum depression,” I said. “Though it’s not nearly as bad as what I read about. I don’t want to harm myself or Ronan. I just feel a little crazy all the time and really tired. More than what I should be feeling from lack of sleep.”

“I think you may be right,” she said. “I think you have some mild postpartum depression. Let’s figure it out.”

1 in 7 women experience PPD. These are the women who often have the more severe symptoms that don’t fit into the narrative of new mom anxiety or hormones.

How many have a milder form of PPD like I do but receive no acknowledgement for their suffering? We hear a lot of moms describe the feeling of losing themselves; their sense of self disappears as they reorient around this new being. It is the starkest shift that will ever happen in a woman’s life, and we think we have a sense of what “normal” looks like. “Normal” is feeling overwhelmed, undersupported, untethered, and anxious. But, I find it hard that despite these words describing what is “normal,” we don’t react to them with more mobilization. Have we normalized a woman’s sense of disconnect after childbirth? What sort of sexism would you call that where women’s experiences of overwhelm and anxiety is considered “normal” and ok? I feel that if any woman expresses these feelings (ever, not just postpartum) she should be met with resources for support and care, not a brush off as that being “normal.”

I’m a resilient and resourceful woman. I have a loving and supportive husband and a gracious and caring family and friends who are family. If I had these feelings even with all of this, what do women with less experience?

I also have an amazing amount of self-awareness, yet despite my description of feeling off, it wasn’t until I said out loud “I think I have postpartum depression” that someone finally took notice.

Since declaring that, I’ve made some adjustments. My diet and exercise habits have shifted and I routinely lay down for a cat nap every day while my son is sleeping. I wouldn’t do this before for fear I’d miss him waking up, but I lay down with the intention of closing my eyes for 20 minutes, often on the couch next to the swing in naps in, knowing that if he needs me he’ll let me know. I also meditate (almost) daily, even if just for 5 minutes. I make it a priority to take a shower. And, my personal favorite, I keep the sink clear of dishes. I think my mental state is appropriately reflected in my kitchen.

But it took a few weeks of concerted troubleshooting to figure this out. Troubleshooting with an infant sucks. There’s no space for self-reflection and with PPD I found that I felt I needed to do laundry more than sit and take a breath. Now, we affectionately call our laundry basket “the second closet” and I feel better, though not fully recovered.

I know that at some point I will feel fully in myself again, probably when a full night of sleep comes along again. Until then, I rely heavily on this new label to remind me that I can’t help my son unless I help myself and take extra permission to slow down even more than having a new baby requires.

Sunday Fun- 10.30.16


Sunday is Friday in the theatre world. I try and catch up on links I’ve saved throughout the week and treat this reading time as my version of the paper and coffee on a Sunday morning.

Here are some of my favorite things from the week:

I am so fucking excited about the Gilmore Girls mini-season coming out November 25th on Netflix. The show’s last 2 seasons were shit, so maybe with Amy Sherman-Palladino in the writer’s room again, we’ll get some the sparkle the show started with. I’d like one of these to show my fangirl status. 

I like reading my horoscope every week and think I embody a lot what is typical of being a Virgo. So I’m a sucker for anything divided by astrological sign and now want to check out Pilates as a result of this.

As an activist of body positivity and health at every size, I loved the description of true body love Isabel Foxen Duke describes here.

Sara Barielles + Leslie Odom Jr. + This American Life + President Obama = Huge tears and a song that hasn’t left my head since I first heard it.

Bahahaha. Hocus Pocus 4Eva. I tried to recreate Alison’s slouchy sweater look for YEARS. No success.

I will be doing this. Seems like the most flexible task management/calendar system I’ve seen in a while.


Photo credit

Failing Baby Calculus?

I met with my doula today for a book return and quick check in.

Kim came into our lives quickly and fortuitously after we learned that my pregnancy had gone from low to high risk. I was going to be induced early due to gestational hypertension and we knew we would want someone to help us navigate the new world of medical interventions and all the new decisions we would have to make.

We hired her mid-June, went on a babymoon, and returned to an immediate hospitalization and subsequent delivery. It was almost divine in the timing. Initially we weren’t going to hire a doula, but with all the new problems we were encountering, having someone act as a sounding board and medical advocate became vitally important to us.

Kim asks incredible questions and has a whole demeanor that allows for immediate, open conversation. 5 minutes into our conversation I dove deeply into the world of my new paradigm as a parent and explained to her the difficulty of managing the new level of fatigue.

Fatigue isn’t just coming from the obvious source of a lack of sleep. What we don’t really talk about is the fact that our brain is rewiring as parents. Kim constantly reminded me of this in the early days with Ronan and it’s a piece of information I pass on to other new moms. In my work in organizational change management, brain rewiring, both on the personal and organizational level, is the centerpiece of what I am trying to do. In order to successfully rewire brains there needs to be a constant source of energy (glucose), a regular cycle of stress (the change we’re making), and rest.

In parenting, there are several barriers to quick rewiring. First, there is the obvious lack of sleep and downtime to facilitate rest. I type this as my son is napping, but if I weren’t I’d likely be doing dishes, laundry, responding to emails, or planning any of the 10,000 things that go into running a household and business. Even this is not rest. Rest involves a lack of stimulus like sleeping or meditating. Even watching TV or reading, activities commonly associated with relaxing, involve external stimulus that keeps our brains from truly resting.

When we rewire the human brain we need LOTS of rest. Children are the most concrete example of brain rewiring. Part of the reason why they sleep so much is because of all the new neural connections being built and reinforced through reviewing memories.

Though we new parents are doing some serious rewiring, the main source of fatigue comes from what I call Baby Calculus. This is the constant flow of tiny decisions parents have to make every day. There is well-documented evidence of decision fatigue, which is the feeling of exhaustion we get from making many small decisions during the day. Decisions in non-parental life can start first thing in the morning with what to wear. President Obama famously reduces his chance for decision fatigue by only wearing blue or gray suits. As the day goes on, we draw on more and more glucose stores in our brain as we decide how to respond to texts or emails, whether or not to go to the gym, what to have for lunch, to get water now or after the meeting, how to order our coffee today, etc.

For parents, not only do we make these decisions for ourselves, but we also make them for our tiny human. My most vivid example was just after Andy had gone back to work and I was trying to get Ronan down for a nap. We had just gotten a swing from a friend and we were heavily relying on it to soothe him during the day. But we discovered that sometimes if we left the swing on after he had fallen asleep, the movement would actually wake him up. So we had taken to turning it off after 10 minutes. But then in the last day, the lack of movement was causing him to wake up. So you can see the dilemma. Do I turn off the swing or leave it on? My baby needs a nap, but there’s a 50/50 chance that whatever I do will wake him up and could have to start the process of soothing him to sleep all over again.

This is just one of many, many decisions that get made in the course of caring for a newborn. Do I go on a walk while he’s awake or asleep? Should I put him down for a nap now or later? In 3 minutes? 5 minutes? Will this catnap affect his night sleep? Should I let him try and soothe himself back to sleep or go in and offer a bottle or paci? Was that a cry that needs immediate attention or his just making noise in his sleep like babies do?

Add to that all the decisions I have to make for myself during the day and no wonder new parents rely on food that’s easy to make and skip the gym.

Ronan is 3 1/2 months old now and just starting to show some regularity in his routine. This is akin to finding a way to automate email responses or meal planning. As his routine and needs become more regular and recognizable, the number of decisions I have to make in a day will start to decrease and hopefully give me some brain space back for eating a salad and returning to the consulting work I love so much.

Though it’s more likely that, because he’s a human, he’ll start to shift the minute I find some regularity. It’s ok, though, because my brain is rewiring, too, and starting to get better and figuring out what my tiny human needs.

Our Harry Potter meets his Sirius Black

This weekend my best friend, Mike, came to visit Seattle. Mike has been my super bestie in the whole wide world since college and, naturally, is Ronan’s godfather.

He and our good friend, Adam, came over on Sunday to hang out, eat pizza, and meet the nugget.


Ronan was actually fussy on an off all day (like a baby), so he was actually happy to meet Mike, even though this picture might suggest otherwise.

Monday we met up to go to the aquarium. Mike got me a membership for my birthday and babies get in for free. We went with Andy and Adam. Ronan started out asleep, but woke up and Andy did a great job showing him all the cool sea life.


Ro is really into light and movement right now as his eyes start to focus more, so the backlit tanks of water with all the moving fish were right up his alley.

How flipping cute is this?


That night he was beat from his adventure, so he fell asleep on Mommy. I’m fighting a sore throat so I was all the happy for the reason to stay tethered to the couch.



Welcome to Stars Hollow

I have spent the last few weeks watching A LOT of Gilmore Girls. It’s a show I’ve watched in the past and with the new nugget at home it’s a great show to have on in the background.

See, a lot of being a new mom has entailed feeling really, really lonely. When my dad was in town he talked about the people he works with who need the TV or radio on in the background. He talked about how he was so happy with himself that he didn’t need the fake company. My dad’s personal psychology aside, the truth is that I need the fake company in the form of TV characters. I spend a lot of my day hoping that my day will come to an end, I can put my son to bed, and get 45 minutes to myself before I must to go bed to be somewhat adequately rested.

Ronan doesn’t yet have enough attention span or energy to fully interact with me for more than a few minutes, and I spend a lot of the day keeping him calm and holding my breath until he wakes up again. My days feel held hostage by my tiny human. I want to get projects done, do some work, write, read, hell even work out, but the capacity and ability to do all of that evaporates because of how unpredictable he is.

These last two weeks were particularly hard. Andy was in tech and he was gone from roughly 8am to midnight every day. I was usually up when he woke up and asleep when he got home. All the hours in between were just me and our son. I didn’t realize just how many decisions I made with Andy until he wasn’t here. It started with the simple choice of whether to leave the swing on or off during Ronan’s nap. Sometimes if I let it continue to swing after he fell asleep, he would wake up. Sometimes if I turned it off, he would wake up. What made the difference only the internal synapses of my son’s brain will know, but I had to play that guessing game every time I put him down for a nap.

And let’s clear  up that phrase “put down for a nap.” This is not actually how this process goes. Usually I would be holding my baby, feeding him, letting him hang out on his Mat of Neglect/Self-Sufficiency, and then he would start crying. I’d realize that he was likely tired so I’d start to rock him, I’d rock him some more, and more, and more. Sometimes for 30 minutes we’d rock. And this rocking didn’t happen in a rocking chair. It happened standing up, baby in arms, swaying back and forth. Do that for 45 minutes and tell me how your body feels afterwards because mine felt exhausted.

If he managed to fall asleep during that time, I’d try to lay him down in his pack ‘n’ play, a portable bassinet/crib, but because the pack ‘n’ play was helpful to Mommy and he had a sixth sense about easing up on Mommy, he would wake up about 10 minutes later and the rocking would start over.

I got desperate at one point and a friend gave me her old swing. Ronan had taken to delightful mid-afternoon screaming fits, likely because he wasn’t actually getting naps that were restorative, and was so distraught that there was very little I could do to help him fall asleep. He would sleep in my arms, making it impossible to do anything. We have all these beautiful romantic notions of motherhood. One of the primary images is a mother with a sleeping baby nestled in her arms with her supremely white couch/sheets/living room behind her. She always looks so peaceful with her sleeping baby next to or on top of her.

For me, I was getting overloaded by the sensation of being touched for so many hours a day that I would hold him and just start to cry to relieve some of the tension and anxiety. I’m sure other moms know the sensation that comes with the phrase “touched out,” but if you haven’t experienced this, it’s the physical equivalent of having to look at strobe lights all day. It’s overwhelming and constant and has very little relief. The only real cure is space from being touched. Which is why the baby who would fall asleep on me or wake up after being put down was so damn problematic.

So the swing saved the day. He would go into it and a within a few minutes be completely relaxed or asleep. These days I have to sometimes add the help of a pacifier, but it is still the magic seat.

But having to make the minor decisions about the swing added to all the other decisions one makes during the course of the day left me overwhelmed and anxious.

We talk about decision fatigue among adults in their working lives. It is well documented that if we don’t automate as much as possible people become overwhelmed and lose more and more capacity to deal with sudden stressors. I was already overwhelmed with decision fatigue before the baby came along, but I was lucky to have my partner to bounce things off of. Then I went from having help half of the time to having help none of the time.

I’ve said many times the last few weeks that nothing could have prepared me for being a parent. There is no amount of research, reading, or talking to other parents that could have helped me have a sense of what this experience would be like. So I can’t adequately explain how overwhelming it is because I don’t have an appropriate frame of reference. I now understand the great divide in our society between parents and non-parents. I don’t have animosity or even feel like I’m better than my friends who are not parents. I truly lack the words to explain the experience of going from managing oneself and all that a singular life brings with it, to managing a whole new being who can’t communicate or make their own choices and is constantly barraged with new experiences. How do you help that new being through all of that whiplash?

As it turns out, I needed Lorelai and Rory in the background to remind me that someday my new being will be grown and may even be able to have coffee and witty conversation with me.