When you don’t become a mother overnight

bunny mom and baby bBefore we become parents, we all have an idea of what it’ll be like. We’ll do this, not do that. We’re looking forward to holding our child’s little hand, yet we’re scared of it, too. We all know that it’ll be hard, but if other people can manage, so can we. That’s what I thought, too.

Well, now I manage… but it took me about 3 years to get to that point. And even now, some days I think I’m going to go crazy. I’ve had a panic attack not so long ago after almost two years free of it, and it was because sometimes I feel so incompetent as a wife and mother that there’s no way to express it.

My experience isn’t quite typical. For one, most women don’t have postpartum depression; I was in the unlucky 10-15% who did. It probably didn’t help my bonding with my child, but that’s not all there is to it.

I have an immense love for people, and animals, and plants.  However, I don’t “bond” easily with anyone or anything. I’ve always been this way. I don’t know why I thought it’d be different with my daughter… it wasn’t.

IMG_0629cOf course, I loved her from the moment I first knew I was pregnant. I became extra careful about my health to give her all the chances in the world of being healthy. I endured two months of acute pain that’d make me cry in order to breastfeed her so that she’d be as healthy as possible (don’t do that, it’s stupid; if you want to throw your baby away every time you breastfeed because they hurt you too much, you’d BOTH be better off with commercial preparation). I only stopped breastfeeding when I was admitted to the hospital for severe depression, and at the time it felt like yet another failure.

I felt so incompetent. Ironically, I was the one to tell my husband everything that had to be done because he was rather clueless about babies in general and girls’ hygiene in particular. I had the knowledge… but I didn’t have the stamina or the endurance required to take care of a baby. I didn’t have the “warmth” either. I’ve never liked holding babies, and it wasn’t different with my own.

I loved her, but there was no special bond yet. I didn’t enjoy my time with her, either. In the first year, I could probably count the happy moments on my fingers. I know I had some, but I cannot remember them. Then again, during that year, the “happy” moments were relative… none of them was really happy because I was depressed.

I felt so relieved when I started working again only 5 months after her birth. My in-laws would babysit her during the day, my husband would take care of her during the night. Still, I knew I “had” to spend time with her to work on that missing bond – my husband wouldn’t let me forget it – but it was difficult. All of this combined made me feel like I was a bad mother.2014-04-29 01a

After a year, I started feeling better and the bond with my daughter grew stronger, but still, having to “babysit” her felt like a chore. She had started walking at 10,5 months and was very energetic, still is, and I was always tired, still am. And even if it wasn’t for my energy level… she’s a handful. My parents and sisters and in-laws think so too, so it’s not in my head.

However, the biggest improvement yet happened when we put the diapers away because she didn’t need them anymore. Suddenly, she didn’t feel like a weight anymore. I could go out with her and not bring a huge bag. Sometimes, I don’t even need a stroller. And I don’t need to be constantly watching her, either.

Now, I’m probably no different from most mothers… well, no more different than I am from most people in general. You probably couldn’t tell that I ever had “bonding issues”. I am practically her sole caretaker one week out of two because of her father’s weird work schedule, but we get along just fine.IMG245

My daughter “prefers” her father; he’s the “motherly figure” while I’m more of a “fatherly authority figure” and anyway girls that age tend to cling to their father. But I know that, when I’m not with them either because I’m working or because I need a break from social interactions, she’d like me to be there.

She doesn’t think I’m a bad mother, nobody does. It was in my head all along.

There are more than just one type of mothers. None of them is perfect, and none of them is the “right” type. All mothers do what they can. There are moments of joy, and there are moments of tears. But they endure and never give up.

To those strong, resilient women, I’m wishing a very happy Mother’s Day. ♥

5 things Dungeons and Dragons taught me about life

nat201 – Progress doesn’t show immediately.

In Dungeons and Dragons, the experience you gain accumulates and, once in a while, you level up: you get more powerful, learn new skills, etc. It’s the same for almost anything you learn.

There will always be a time when you feel like you’re stagnating. You’re not, unless you’re doing nothing; you’re accumulating experience and will level-up eventually. You just have to be patient and find the right challenges for your level. A challenge too formidable might kill your character (or your motivation); one too humble will be a waste of time.

IMAG0029a2 – Sometimes the dice won’t roll your way and there’s no higher meaning to it.

No, the DM (or God) doesn’t hate you. It’s probability. A car accident is a probability; a disease is a probability; being hired is a probability. You can and should do your best so as to put the probabilities in your favour, but a 0,01% probability is still an existing one; a 90% probability isn’t a certainty. All of us get our fair share of fumbles. Don’t worry, in the long run, we get an almost equal amount of critical hits.

Also: Even level 20 characters can get a fumble. It doesn’t mean they’re any less worthy of their level.

3 – Alone, you’re vulnerable.

There was that strong half-orc warrior that got killed by one of the smallest creatures in the bestiary: it got on his back and he was unable to fight against it, dying a slow death. Had he not left the party alone, any accompanying member would have been able to save him. But he thought there was no need for that.

It’s easy for people considering themselves “strong” to think they can do everything on their own. But all of us have our kryptonite. Besides, it’s so much more fun to share experiences with people.

4 – You’ll encounter bosses once in a while.Creator Dragon a

Sometimes they’ll almost kill you. Sometimes you’ll fall and your companions will save you. Sometimes you companions wil fall and you’ll save them. Sometimes, too, one playing character will die and there’s nothing you could have done differently to save them. But even then… the rest of the party has to keep moving forward.

It’s really just like life. You can get knocked down and it doesn’t mean you’re weak. The characters most at risk of falling during a fight tend to be those with the highest armour class and constitution – in other words, the most resilient. They take all the hits to protect other characters who could not endure them. Which brings us to…

5 – Diversity is essential.

While the tank takes most of the damage, the mage, for her part, deals most of the damage. The healer cast protection spells on the party and keeps everybody alive. The thief is especially useful outside of encounters as a stealthy vanguard, lock picker or trap detector.

All those characters don’t necessarily get along, but they understand the value of having different skills and point of views in the party.

IMAG0039a Centaur made using hopeso 009’s technique.

It’s good to have contacts with people whose personality or culture is different from yours. Sometimes, problems that seem impossible for you to solve seem simple in their eyes.

Diversity is precious and we must embrace it.

 

A persona of myself

selfie01aA year ago, I had this crazy idea of creating an online persona. I was going through one of these phases where I hate myself and wish I was somebody else, when I realised that with the internet I could be someone else. Nobody would know it wasn’t true.

I’d create a character for myself, the person I’d love to be. She’d be beautiful, stylish, elegant, classy, smart, sensitive… I could dye my hair, photoshop my face, use a pen name. There were no limits to whom I could pretend to be. I mean, obviously I couldn’t pretend to be famous or anything, but… I wouldn’t want that anyway.

Hannah Jane McMurray 03
Ida would look more or less like Hannah Jane McMurray

The name I chose for her was Ida. It’s made up the 3 central letters of my full name. If I was to make it big or get found out as a “fraud”, I could say cool stuff like “Ida is my core self”.

She would be a writer. Not a famous one, just… a surviving one. Ghostwriter, maybe? That would explain why her name couldn’t be found anywhere. She’d be driven, she’d know how to get things done, unlike me. She wouldn’t bother with countless hobbies like I do, either. She’d be writing, reading… maybe just… playing piano in her free time (I do play a little).

She’d be 30 something and have written several books. She wouldn’t let myself get sidetracked. She’d be quite assertive, too. And a business woman, out of necessity.

Her beauty routine would be psychotically perfect: she’d exercise 6 days a week, eat healthily, keep a steady weight all year long. She’d take excellent care of her skin, paint her nails, go the beauty parlour every week. Her house would be clean, her garden well-groomed.

Belle 03
Art by Arisbeth Cruz Hernandez

Oh, but she’d have to have a few faults, or else she’d look superhuman. So… I guess… uh… well, she’d be a perfectionist like me. And then… wait, I gave her too many qualities, she looks like a freaking Disney princess. She wouldn’t be assertive; she’d be a shyish introvert like myself. And she wouldn’t be so pretty. It’d be a bother to heavily photoshop all of my pictures anyway. There is no need for a writer to be model-pretty.

That’s when I realised the beauty to die for was the only unachievable characteristic – that is without surgery and time-consuming daily routines. Nothing was keeping me from becoming that person. I could take better care of myself. I could give up those hobbies that didn’t make me feel like I was doing anything of value.

Ida became me. I was fine with it; I was good enough. I already was who I wanted to be, all that was missing was a clear path to follow.

DIGITAL CAMERAThen, gradually, I became more like the original Ida. I became more driven; I wrote two first drafts; I gave up all of the hobbies I could; I even go to the beauty parlour every few weeks now. I still gain weight in the winter to lose in the spring; my house is still messy most of the time; my lawn is half grass, half dandelions. It’s fine. People gotta have faults, hey?

Becoming a surviving writer might never possible. It doesn’t matter, being a struggling writer is good enough.

Who would have thought I’d have to create a fake identity to find my true identity?

Just be yourself. Let people see the real, imperfect, flawed, quirky, weird, beautiful, magical person that your are.
– Mandy Hale

Spring is the time of plans and projects

IMG_0842(The title is a quote from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoi.)
It’s finally starting to look like spring in Québec! Snow is melting fast, temperatures are forecasted to be around 6-10 °C all week, everybody and everything seem to be reviving… including me. Especially me.

The slump in which I had been stuck the first 3 months of 2017 has come to an end. The whole car accident thing is in the past: we got a brand new car, brand new car seat for our daughter which she loves, my husband is undergoing treatment for his neck… all that almost for free thanks to our insurance company.

What’s more, my former employer called to offer me a job as a freelancer. I accepted and they proceeded to send me full-time work for two weeks. That alone will be enough to keep my mind off money issues for a while, but I’m thinking I’ll get even more work in the coming weeks.

blue flower3In March, I’ve also received more visitors on my blog than ever before, and that pumped me to start researching blogging. It was one of my resolutions for the year, and it’s about time I got started! I’ve bookmarked a beginner’s guide to SEO, and I’ll fight hard to make time to read it. It’ll be a first step.

I’m also thinking of moving my “personal ramblings” such as this post to a Facebook page to keep the blog more focused on writing and literature.

To tell you the truth, my energy level and mood are so high that I have about a hundred projects right now, and I know I won’t have the time to do half of them. It’s alright, they’re all aimed at the same goal anyway: to make me a kickass writer.

I’ll be busy this month.

But I’m happy.
magnolia flower

A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.
– Emily Dickinson

A change of pace

cat25I don’t know why – it might be the cold temperature or the desperate need for sunlight – but typically, in February my whole body aches for a change of pace. If I was a little wealthier, I think I’d plan an annual trip to some Carribean beach in February every year.

I had a meltdown last Sunday that prevented me from editing the post written for that day. The cause was fairly minor. It was actually more the result of accumulated stress resulting from the scrapping of our car (see my previous post) and other minor bad lucks that happened after that). But it was as clear a sign as could be that I needed a breather.

At the moment, not posting anything felt a bit like a failure. I was missing a week. Then, I’d miss another, and next thing I’d know, 2 years would have gone by and I would not have posted another thing. It sounds a bit dramatic, but it has happened before, which made it even scarier.winter_essentials38

But here I am. I’m not going anywhere. I needed a change of pace, and I took it. I had a job interview last week and a few other things to do, but aside from that, I gave up my entire schedule for the week. I spent one whole day watching guilty-pleasure TV series. Then I found a Japanese language learning podcast which I started listening to intensively while knitting (my scarf is almost done!).

cat-with-yarnIn the end, I had a very restful week and I am back on my feet, ready to start Camp NaNo with my tribe (we’re doing it a month early). I’m ready to be productive again.

This year, my “change of pace” was fairly short. Last year it lasted a month – I had accumulated fatigue. I think it is healthy, at times, to get out of your routine and indulge in guilty pleasures. It can be as simple as buying pre-made food instead of cooking, putting on your pyjamas as soon as you get home from work or forget the existence of Internet for the weekend.

I think “being productive” is important to a lot of people, but sometimes, in order to remain productive, you’ve got to take a breather.

Be well, you all. Take care of yourselves.

 

A love letter

My dearest,hearts_01

It was not love at first sight. You looked perfect in every way, but I’m not one to be deceived by appearances. Were you really the one for me? I had already been disappointed by many.

Following that first meeting, you appeared before me regularly, showing your best attributes. After a while, I seemed to constantly go back to you until finally, I agreed we could give it a try.

You were hard to handle at first, but I am not one to give up so easily once I’ve started something. I went to wiser people for advice. Before I knew it, I was falling in love with you.

I didn’t flinch when you asked for a more permanent commitment. You made me whole. You supported me in my writing endeavours, and I trust you will for years to come.

I hope we can grow old together. Should it not be possible, know that I will always remember you, my precious Scrivener.

Yours truly,
Idaheart_beat

Sorry for that, haha. And no, this post isn’t sponsored by Scrivener: I do believe everything written there. Microsoft Word is good and all, but after I’d reached 20k words on a novel, I’d have a hard time finding individual scenes to switch them around (and I do that a lot).

I wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day!

snail-reverseAs a little life update: 2017 isn’t starting too well for me. On January 29, there was a shooting in Quebec City, near a grocery store I’d sometimes go to. Six men died, others were injured. I don’t watch the news because tragedies pain me too much, but there was no escaping that one. Then, my husband got into an accident last week and our car, which we both loved and had named Eli, might be a total loss. For his part, he has some neck pain, but thankfully nothing worse.

Also, I’m still unemployed. I went for a translation test yesterday, but I was sick with a cold (as I always am in the winter) and I don’t think it went too well… Here’s hoping spring will bring more job openings!

In the meantime, I cope with the increased anxiety through writing and knitting, which I learned watching YouTube videos three weeks ago. It’s both relaxing and useful, I love it! So far, I’ve made a doll scarf and a dishcloth. I am now working on a scarf for myself.flower_02 I love listening to podcasts while I knit, so if you have any recommendation, feel free to share! I especially like fiction podcasts.

Anyway, I hope you are all well, and if you aren’t… spring is coming in… 36 days! Hang on!

swan-heart-small

What’s the worst that could happen?

anxiety_by_fukari-d68lzic
Anxiety by Fukari

When you get sick, people will offer you plenty of free, well-meant and mostly unwanted pieces of advice. Some of them are good, though they often imply that you’re too dumb to use Google, they’re just… not enough. Like, if you have ever had serious insomnia coupled with anxiety, it is very likely that you’ve tried a Spartan regimen of steady sleep hours, phototherapy, heavy exercising, complete avoidance of all caffeine and chocolate and neurotic avoidance of refined sugar, and still… it wasn’t enough. It’s ok, I’ve learnt to roll with that.

My problem is when the advice is plain bad. Like when a nurse, of all people, told me that whenever I was anxious about anything, I should ask myself: “What’s the worst that could happen?”. Darling, I’m a writer. An excessive amount of traffic in the morning could end up with me getting stabbed in an alley.

That bad advice works on the premise that your mind is healthy enough to calculate the probabilities of that particular scenario to actually happen. But a) unless you’re a superhuman math genius, I don’t think anyone could realistically estimate that kind of probabilities, b) anxiety disorder is a sign that the mind is not healthy and c) an imaginative person will come up with at least a hundred scenarios or variants that all suck, which increases the probabilities of one of them or an unforeseen variant actually happening.

xmas-65-x-smallNot to mention that anxiety often comes with depression (which was severe at the time I got that advice), and asking yourself what’s the worst that could happen only makes you focus on the negative when really, the problem is exactly that everything you can think about is negative.

Another fundamental problem with that piece of advice is that when you’re anxious, it usually is not because there is any danger right now. It is precisely because you’re afraid of what will come next. So instead of focusing on the future, you should focus on the present.

For example, right now… it’s alright. We can still eat without rationing ourselves and very literally tighten our belts because that made us lose weight we didn’t have to lose. We’re not in debt, either (aside from the mortgage, but that’s not traditionally considered a debt despite its creepy name: mortgage *shudders*).xmas-64-x-small

What also helps me is keeping in mind that the situation is only temporary. I’m sick right now, but it doesn’t have to be always the case. Also, I’m doing everything in my power to get a job and I know I’ll get one eventually. I know that.

But then, anxiety isn’t restricted to the conscious mind. In fact, mine barely even bothers going there; it knows it’s not welcome. Instead, it lives and thrives in my unconscious, expressing itself through fatigue, irritability, muscle pain and poor concentration. Good luck controlling that.

an-act-of-true-love-will-thaw-a-frozen-heart-elsa-and-anna-36903902-245-150So what’s left for me to do? Accept and love. Accept that my mental health has its ups and downs, that right now I’m in a down and that it affects my life negatively; and love myself, fragile mental health and all. Because really, my illness makes me suffer enough in itself, no need to make it worse with self-loathing. Besides, loving myself is a pretty good motivation for me to take care of my health.

People think Frozen was awesome because of the feminism in it (not sure what they thought Mulan was about). I think it was awesome because it dealt with anxiety. Elsa spends most of the movie struggling with anxiety. And does that make her any less awesome? I don’t think so.

Unfortunately, love and acceptance do nothing for my physical pain, but that’s what meds are for.

Happiness can only exist in acceptance.
– George Orwell