I'll spare you another bizarre bra picture, but yes, we are still talking about building a support system. But, you know, if you really stop and think about it a bra is a good analogy for how to build a support system.
Okay, I'm kidding.
Here's my real point: One of the hardest things about building a support system (besides being honest with others and yourself) is actually calling in that support system. Case in point: me.
When I was preggers with baby #3, J, I was justifiably nervous about the postpartum period. Given the fact that I pretty much fell apart after the first two babies (we were lucky if Mommy quit crying and sleeping and yelling long enough to get everybody dressed and fed--housework, cooking, and laundry were nowhere on my radar), I knew I needed to make some serious preparations for when J would arrive.
So I started cooking. I made several lasagnas, shepherd's pies, and chicken broccoli casseroles and stuffed them in the freezer. Then I made quart after quart of soup and jammed those in too. Next I organized the house. I tore apart all the closets and cleaned them out. I inventoried our food storage. Then I scrubbed everything from top to bottom. Then, while I was weighing the merits of disposable dishes during a session, my therapist asked if I had any help lined up for after J was born.
"Well, my mom's coming out for a while," I stumbled.
"Okay. What about after she's gone?"
"Um. My husband was going to try working from home a bit." I was starting to get uncomfortable.
"What about nights when he's at school?"
"I don't know."
"Okay. What are you going to do on days that you just need a break?" My therapist paused. I squirmed. She continued, "Now, I just want you to consider this. You don't have to decide now. Just consider. What about asking someone to come in and visit once or twice a week and helping with the kids? You could hire someone or you could ask a friend. Just think about it."
I didn't just think about it. I started to argue about it. I listed all the reasons why that just wasn't feasible: money, the need to pay back favors, my kids wouldn't like the person, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But, as the pregnancy came to its end I began to wonder if my therapist was right. Maybe I could ask someone for help.
Well, J turned out to be a bit of a high maintenance baby (acid reflux disease and possible lactose intolerance. Wheee!) and I suffered along as best I could. There were times, though, that he would just cry and cry. It set everybody on edge. Soon my oldest, N, was having panic attacks and E--who was not even two years old--was throwing tantrums and breaking things. I needed help. And I started to ask for it.
First I found a good child therapist to help N with her panic attacks. Then I attempted letting a friend do my dishes without "paying her back." One day I called my visiting teacher to see if she would fill in when a babysitter canceled at the last minute. I even called another friend late at night to come over and hold my screaming baby while my husband was at school so I could get the other two kiddos to sleep. The thing that amazed me the most: everybody I asked for help said yes. And they were happy about it.
Things are less stressful these days. J is on an acid reducer. N is starting to manage her panic attacks. E is beginning to understands logic and cause and effect so time outs (and hugs!) are effective. But I still have my really bad days--like the one a week and a half ago--and on those days I can't bring myself to call anyone to come help me. I don't want to intrude on their lives. I keep telling myself that if other people can handle the stress of life with three kids then I should too. I am too embarrassed about how lame I am when I am at my worst. I don't want people to see it. I'm too afraid of what they will think.
But, the other day, a couple days after I'd been down, I told my visiting teachers how rough it had been. The offered to clean my house. I said no. They said, "When do you want us?" I said, "NO." They said, "We'll be here on Friday." And I said, "Okay." And they came last Friday and they cleaned my house. It was nice. I couldn't believe how good my kitchen looked. I couldn't believe how much better I felt. Not just because my kitchen was clean but because I realized I wasn't in this alone. I had support. People would show up. People would help. I breathed a little easier.
I gotta ask, am I the only one with this problem? Do you all find it easy to ask for and receive help? What are some of the most supportive things people have done for you?