Thursday, May 29, 2008

Group Therapy by Gavin Gunhold

Group Therapy

When my psychiatrist went insane,
Only six of my multiple personalities
Were cured.
The rest of us want our money back.
--Gavin Gunhold

Yesterday was my birthday. When people who called to wish me a happy birthday asked me if it was a good one, I said something like, "Well it's turned out that way..."

It didn't start off as "good". I've been having trouble when getting up to feed the baby in the wee hours -- I keep imagining that there's a man who's gonna jump out and get me (in the closet, behind a closed shower curtain, outside the window, just behind me, etc...). When I got back in bed this morning, I wasn't even sure it was Peter there in bed next to me and had to poke him to find out. Nighttime obsessions are nothing new to me -- I've had them since I was little. But this particular form is suddenly recurring, and is very strong. It feels as scary as if I had actually seen this man and had the shock of fright as he's reaching for me, and then I have to convince myself that I didn't/won't.

I tell you about my night terrors as a clue to my mental state. I've been feeling some stress lately, as all new mothers do. I'm physically exhausted most of the time, and I'm struggling with the fact that the job is so 24/7. I've been feeling a need to express myself as an individual, not just an extra appendage of the baby. Mother's day was kind of disappointing, so when I woke up this morning, my brain was ready to be upset.

I suddenly realized as I thought about getting out of bed, that I was disappointed that Peter hadn't gotten up in the middle of the night and secretly decorated with streamers and balloons. Now, this was an entirely unrealistic expectation, since I hadn't told him I wanted it -- I didn't even know myself the night before. That didn't stop me from feeling let down, though. I thought about what I could reasonably expect for the day: some cards, a present or two, and maybe dinner. I had planned to go to lunch with some old friends in Newport, but they had postponed it because of scheduling conflicts. I knew I honestly needed more, and wasn't gonna get it unless I said something. I told Peter that I needed a cake. He said, "How does one usually go about getting a cake?" (in all seriousness, he genuinely had no idea of how to achieve cakeness for me). I told him about the miracle of bakeries, but after he went to work I was still feeling sad.

While feeding the baby, I turned the TV on (another sign that my mental state was bad -- I know there's nothing worth watching at 9:00 am). I stumbled on a documentary about the plight of women in Afghanistan, and then I got really depressed. As I was putting on yesterday's "not too dirty" clothes, I realized that unless I gave myself a major attitude adjustment, I was in for a lousy day. I took the clothes off, and took a shower, leaving Elizabeth to fuss. When I got out, I put on pretty, clean clothes, and started calling friends. I told them that it was my birthday, and that I was throwing my self a last minute party in an hour, and that they and their kids were invited if they weren't otherwise occupied. I made a pineapple upside down cake (you don't have to worry about cooling or frosting it) and put the laundry away (more fussing from Elizabeth since she wasn't getting all the attention) and finished everything just as the guests arrived.

There were two friends my age, Susanna and Jen, and about 5 or 6 preschool aged kids. We dumped out a box of toys, and let them go at it, while we talked. We ate cake, sang the birthday song, and opened some presents (they were very sweet to find something to give me with so little notice). When they left, I felt much better about myself.

That afternoon, I worked on my current Manga. I don't like this one as much, so it's slow going, and I'm behind schedule. Elizabeth ate and slept on the boppy on my lap. After a few hours, I thought, "She's sleeping so soundly, she won't notice if I put her down." but within thirty seconds, she was wide awake. Fortunately, she was in one of her "Happy to be alive" moods. When she's feeling well fed and well rested, she just grins and wiggles, and the world is great! It reminded me why it's OK for my world to revolve around her for a little while.

Since she was in such a good mood, I thought I would try feeding her some cereal. The books say that you can tell a baby is ready for solids once she can sit in the chair (check) and is reaching for your food (check) and seems interested in chewing on things (double check). I had been noticing that Elizabeth makes a chewing motion whenever she sees us eating, so I thought I'd give it a try. I strapped her in, made about a teaspoon of rice cereal, and offered her some. She pushed it around in her mouth for a minute, concentrating hard, and I wasn't sure what she thought. But when I offered her another spoonful, she lunged forward, eager to get it into her mouth. A fun, messy, few minutes followed. She ate the cereal all up, but got a lot of it on her face, hands, and shirt of course. She kept trying to grab the spoon or suck her thumb while chewing. It was very cute. We'll definitely do it again.

Once her bath was done, she was ready to nurse. I got several phone calls from family members singing Happy Birthday, and Peter came home with flowers and a balloon. He wrapped the presents that had come in the mail that afternoon -- two of the books on my wishlist -- Lemony Snicket's Horseradish, and a beautiful hardcover edition of The Annotated Alice.

Then we went out to dinner at Claim Jumper, and I got their fabulous Pot Roast and Vegetables. They serve you enough food for three meals, and the flavor is amazing. I don't know why I had never thought of putting beef gravy on sweet potatoes or butternut squash, but it turns two foods I actively dislike because of their strong flavor, into two foods that I think I might cook for myself because they taste so good! The restaurant gave me a special birthday dessert too!

Though it started off a little rocky, and I needed to give myself an attitude adjustment, by the time the day ended, I could honestly say that I had had a Happy Birthday.

PS: Here's Elizabeth's first attempt at typing. She tried to grab the keys more than push them, but she'll get the hang of it eventually, I'm sure.

/33333333333333459jjjjjkkkkkk R555555 F NBBBBBBBBBHTGBHRFFF34QXC SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSFR nh9:25 AM 5/28/2008fgfgttfrg5

And here's a video of how much Elizabeth loves singing time.


  1. Aww... I'm glad you were able to have a good day. It gets hard sometimes.

    That video is just adorable. (I particularly enjoyed the Eensy-Weensy Spider.)

    Three cheers for Gavin Gunhold!

  2. beautiful photos. she just gets more beautiful.'

  3. that video is so fun to watch.

  4. we loved seeing how happy Elizabeth is when you are singing to her. And she seems to say, "keep going!!!" when you reach the end of a song. Glad your birthday turned out well in the end. Remember, more birthday is coming soon. . . .
    Love Mom

  5. That was a very brave thing to do, Karen. I'm proud of you.
    Mike Stay

  6. Good job, Karen! I'm glad your birthday turned out happy, and I'm glad you were proactive to make it so. Hmm, suddenly I had a Jean Luc Picard flashback... "Make it so!"

  7. Loved the video, AND I'm so glad you made yourself such a great birthday.

    Love, Kathey

  8. By coincidence, a friend who has a son named Gavin was looking for some poetry today that he could memorize for school. Heh.

  9. birthdays and young momhood are difficult times. I remember only too well. and i never handled it as well as you did. Love the classical spider song.