Friday, February 19, 2010


One powerful thing about experiencing personal pain is that it can open us up to the suffering of others (that's the exact definition of compassion, actually--"to suffer with"). I am grateful that CODEPINK let me write this week's alert about Afghanistan in my own voice. You can read it here and hopefully follow the link to write to NATO to ask them to stop bombing innocent Afghan families.


Salon recently ran an essay about a woman's experience with PTSD following childbirth. It was only about a year ago that I realized I had a touch of PTSD myself following Arin's emergency c-section 19 years ago; I used to have obsessive thoughts daily about the c-section and everything leading up to and following it (especially waking up in recovery not knowing if I had a boy or girl, not knowing if the baby was alive, the recovery nurses not knowing, either.) It got better over time, but it was really only Hannah's birth, three years later, that healed that situation for me completely.

After reading my last blog, a dear, wise friend suggested that I might have some PTSD following my mom's suicide. I hadn't thought to label it that, but it makes perfect sense. Her death and all that led up to it were definitely traumatic, and I've had similar obsessive thoughts about it since. Another dear, wise friend told me that I had been blindsided by my mom's death and often when people are blindsided, they become hyper-vigilant, hence my sudden germ phobia. This also makes perfect sense. There is a therapist in Redlands who does eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, which is supposed to be helpful for PTSD (yet another dear, wise friend found this very healing after she couldn't stop thinking about a murder across the street from her house); I may give it a try.

Asher's cold has morphed into pneumonia, which is so scary--in fact, it's one of the things I had been most afraid of. As a writer, I often want to move toward the things that scare me most, but that doesn't mean that I want life to hand me the scariest things! He is doing remarkably well, given the circumstances; he is still full of smiles much of the day, which is a huge relief. We caught it fairly early, so hopefully the antibiotics will kick it in the butt now. The doctor also detected a heart murmur, which he said could be from a small hole between the chambers of Asher's heart. Of course the thought of anything being wrong with my sweet baby opens up a huge hole in my own heart, but the doctor and my dear, wise midwife sister have tried to reassure me that this is common and usually self-healing and I shouldn't lose any sleep over it (unfortunately I already have, but then again, I lose sleep much more easily than I find it). He wants us to see a pediatric cardiologist once Asher is feeling better, and hopefully that visit will set all our hearts at ease. I'm pretty tapped out in the trauma department as it is.

In happy news, it looks as if we're set to close escrow next week. I'm very excited! I so look forward to being in the new place and making it our own, a place of comfort and calm and fun, a house that will embrace us through every season of life.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Asher has been feverish this week, and I've been a nervous wreck. He's doing okay--the doctor at Urgent Care (the first doctor he's ever seen in his life) thinks it's just a cold; his ears are fine, his lungs are clear, etc. I should be relieved, and a good portion of me is, of course, but I find myself catastrophizing the situation, thinking of all the horrible things that could happen to him. I did this to some extent when Arin and Hannah were little (I remember having awful obsessive thoughts about accidentally stepping on Arin with ice skates when he was a new baby) but it seems worse this time around. I have become a real germaphobe, freaking out inside if someone coughs near him or touches his hand and he puts his hand in his mouth before I can wash it. I want to keep him safe and healthy and happy and it makes me crazy that I can't protect him from everything, that all it takes is a tiny little bug breathed in at a supermarket to wreak havoc.

Of course I realize that this is coming from dealing with the utter chaos of my mom's death (and the weeks preceding it, which were also chaotic and scary as her delusions got progressively worse). I find myself wanting to keep things as simple as possible now. My nerves are still so raw, so blasted open, and I cringe at the thought of any further upheaval (plus it breaks my heart to think of Asher suffering in any way.) I have never been the type of person who wants to be in control--I have always been more of a go-with-the-flow gal--but right now I want to be in charge, be a superhero, keeping germs and other mayhem at bay with the force of maternal fierceness. And I know there is little I can do but remember to wash our hands. We are ultimately so small in the face of the world, a fact which often gives me comfort, but which also sometimes creates a hole for me to fall into.

Suicide of course is an attempt at control. A way of choosing one's own fate. It's been hard today to hear about the suicide of Alexander McQueen (my daughter's favorite designer) especially because he chose the same method of killing himself--hanging--as my mom. I imagine his death was more premeditated than my mom's, which appears to be have been an act of desperation, in a parking garage far from home, but it's similar enough to give me chills (and the fact that he did it so closely after his own mother's death gives our stories a strange connection, as well. Not that I have felt suicidal since her death--if anything, I feel more of a mandate to LIVE, as fully and openly as possible now.) There is so much pain in the world, and ultimately the desire for control leads to more pain, I believe. But how can we not want to keep our loved one's safe? How can we not do whatever we can to keep chaos at bay for as long as we're able? We offer infant Tylenol, offer a breast. We whisper and sing words of comfort. We pace the floor for hours. We wait for the fever to break.

Friday, February 5, 2010