Wednesday, December 9, 2015

It Wasn't Supposed to Happen To Me: Adventures in Antenatal and Postpartum Depression

My struggle with post partum depression began before my son was even born.

            I had planned this pregnancy to a T. We got pregnant right away, and everything fell into place exactly as I had imagined. I was engaged to the most impossibly kind and loving man I had ever met, we rented a house with a big backyard and a room for the baby, I graduated from college with a little baby bump and two bachelor’s degrees, and by the time summer began, I was six months pregnant and ready to focus all of my energy on preparing for our new addition.

            I was so excited and so ready. I had folders and documents on my computer dedicated to the baby shower, the nursery, my birth plan, and my registry. I had lists for everything, from the baby shower to what I was going to bring to the hospital. By the time my third trimester had rolled around, we were all set. We had everything we needed, the nursery was ready to go, and we had done and purchased just about everything on every one of my lists.

            About a month before my due date, things changed. The perfect plan I had laid out years before began to fall apart. While the fear and frustration of not knowing when or how I would go into labor began to get to me, other pieces of my life also started careening out of my control.

            My fiancé, Max, a graduate student, was supposed to have a job as a teaching assistant during my maternity leave. This is a position he had held for the four previous years, which allowed him to make a decent salary while working very few hours. This was the job we had planned on him having so he could be home with the baby and I, particularly in those first three months that I would be on leave. Early on in the summer he found out that he wouldn’t be able to secure this position, so he found another job—one with an hour commute, five full work days, and a much smaller salary. But we would manage.

            We found out later that he would be able to get his teaching assistant position after all. We decided that it would be best financially for us if he worked both jobs at once, particularly since I would not be getting a paycheck while I was on leave. This decision was one I knew we had to make, but it left me worrying about how I would cope with being home with a newborn by myself in the beginning.  I tried not to let myself dwell on that worry and I had myself convinced that it would work out fine.

Around the same time that Max began his new job, it became extremely uncomfortable to sleep. My hips ached no matter which position I was in, I felt dizzy when I laid on my back, and the weight from my belly made my muscles feel like they were shredding apart when I switched from one side to the other. I had to use the headboard of our bed to help myself turn, and I whimpered pathetically every time I had to do it. I woke up in the middle of the night multiple times to pee and sometimes my belly would stick to my thighs and I would have to painfully peel them from each other in half-sleeping agony. The little sleep I did manage to get was turbulent, incomplete, and certainly not the quality I needed to get me through getting up at 3 AM and being on my feet for eight hours a day at work. My doctor, my manager, and I decided that it would be best to scale back my hours.

With fewer hours during those last four weeks, and with Max back at work from morning until 8:30PM in the evening five days a week, I started to lose my mind. Working, even shorter shifts, was extremely painful. My whole body ached, I was exhausted, and it was hard having to leave the sales floor to use the bathroom every half hour. But being at work was the last connection I had to the outside world. When work was over and I went home, I went home to nothing and no one. I stayed working during those final weeks of pregnancy because I had to for my sanity.

Our roommates, who had a one-year-old themselves, were home often, but they were going through a bit of  rough patch during the last weeks of my pregnancy. I was much more comfortable holed up in my room with my dogs than spending time out in the common living space. I wanted to give my roommates the space they needed to work their shit out, and I knew they needed the space for their toddler to explore. So when I came home from work, I hid.

I also hid away in my room because I didn't really have a choice. My body ached. It hurt to stand or do anything. I made new lists meticulously until there wasn’t anything left to make a list for. I completed everything on every list and I overwhelmed myself with worry that I may have missed something. Eventually, there wasn’t anything for me to do even if I had the energy or the stamina to do it.

I also began to really feel what it was like to have graduated. I had dedicated seven years of my life to academia, and now here I was at the beginning of the school year sitting in bed surfing the internet instead of going to class. I couldn’t even start looking for jobs within my field yet because I wouldn’t be able to start one until after the baby was born. Without the mental challenge or stimulation of a class full of like minds, I felt lost and lonely. My skin itched like an addict going through withdrawal. I needed to write a paper. I needed to read a text book. I needed to argue with someone over attachment theory. I needed anything.

During those final weeks of my pregnancy, I caught a glimpse of what life would be like once the baby came—once I didn’t have the chaos of my job or the stress of school to give me purpose. Of course, I knew that taking care of a baby would give me purpose and I knew that it would occupy a lot of my time, but I also feared taking care of a baby with Max away at work so much. That part hadn’t been in my plan two years ago when we planned to start our family or all those months ago when we saw those two pink lines on the pregnancy test. I wasn’t supposed to be alone.

I started to panic. I continued to come home form work, take uncomfortable naps, and then spend time waiting for Max to come home doing whatever I could to stay busy. But when I ran out of things to do, I started feeling more and more alone. The more alone I felt, the less I could bring myself to do. I started out by cleaning our bathroom, doing laundry, making the bed, or whatever else I felt was semi-productive and also within my range of abilities while I was so pregnant and uncomfortable. Once I ran out of productive things to do, I watched whole seasons of shows on Netflix and spent time trying to learn how to use the new camera Max’s parents had given us. When I tired of those things, I mostly just laid in bed, body aching, clicking around the internet, searching desperately for something to make me feel normal again.

I was too afraid to go anywhere alone in case I went into labor, and I was in too much pain to go anywhere anyway. So for the remaining three weeks of my pregnancy, I sat in bed feeling useless, lonely, and terrified of going into labor without Max there. The more time I spent alone, the more panicked I became about childbirth and motherhood and maternity leave.

Surfing Pinterest became a desperate act—like if I could just find the right hobby or the right project, or even the right blogger to tell me that what I was feeling was normal, everything would be okay. I spent hours on Facebook, reaching up and out into cyberspace for any connection that might make me feel like I was still a member of society and my life still had value. I lived in my pajamas because who was going to see me anyway? I didn’t eat much. Leaving my room felt pointless and reminded me that the outside world was still there and that I didn’t know how to be a part of it anymore.

No one tells you that depression before you have your baby is normal (it's called antenatal depression, and it IS normal). 

I could feel myself slipping, but I was also afraid to talk to anyone about it because I felt ridiculous feeling the way I did. I was expecting a baby with the love of my life. We were happy. We had everything we needed. Our families were excited and supportive. Hell, my aunt had even just bought us a new car. If you looked at any of my social media posts, my excitement and happiness gushed from every word and every photo. How could I possibly be depressed? How selfish would that make me?

The birth of my son was like a breath of fresh air.  I had thought that the birth of my son would be like a breath of fresh air.

Something I learned very quickly in the last few weeks leading up to labor was that labor and delivery are 100% unpredictable. That being said, I spent the last few weeks in a mild panic. Any day could be the day and I was terrified. I was terrified of the pain and I was terrified of what it would be like to finally hold my son in my arms and officially become a parent. After weeks of waiting, I ended up having to be induced a week late. The boy was just too comfortable. (Or maybe he was a little bit terrified, too.)

I was very lucky during my delivery. The induction went quickly and smoothly. After just 14 hours of labor and 30 minutes of pushing, with very minimal pain or struggle, Maxwell Tobias Curiel Murphey was born.

It was such a relief for the pregnancy to be over, but I soon began to feel guilty that I didn’t immediately fall in love with my son. He was mine, and I was glad to have him, but all in all, he was just a tiny little stranger with a myriad of demands right out of the gate. You hear stories and you see movies and you have this picture of the first time you’ll meet your child in your head. You expect to be bonded to him immediately, and you’re disappointed when you don’t feel that huge rush of emotions the second you see him. No one tells you it’s normal to feel a sense of detachment from your new baby. No mother wants to admit to that.

Over the next few weeks, Max and I struggled to adapt to all of the changes that came with a new baby. Getting comfortable breastfeeding, figuring out when and how to change diapers, learning what worked to get the kid to stop crying, and creating some semblance of organization amidst the chaos was just the tip of the iceberg. And sleeping wasn’t real anymore. It really doesn’t matter how many times you hear people talk about not getting any sleep with a newborn. You’ll never truly understand it until you’re up from 2AM to 7AM trying desperately to feed, calm, and soothe a newborn baby to sleep. And the longer it takes you to get that baby to sleep, the less sleep you’ll get. The less sleep you get, the more easily frustrated you are. I found myself crying alongside my son multiple times, wondering if he’d ever be full or if we’d ever get to sleep again. Apparently babies are supposed to sleep for 16-17 hours a day (16-17 hours of lies). We were lucky if Little Max slept for 8 hours in  24 hour period.

Perhaps even worse, having to care for a squirmy, demanding, screaming baby is made even more challenging with a recovering body. Little Max tore me up on his way out. I lost a lot of blood and it was difficult to sit or stand for a long time while I healed. This, combined with a severe lack of sleep, gave me sunken eyes and pale skin like a heroin addict.  I had a new respect for single mothers and fathers. Doing anything like this without the support of a significant other is something I can firmly say I could never do. Having Max by my side to help with caring for Little Max was one thing, but having him there for emotional support helped me maintain what was left of my sanity, too.

A week after Little Max was born, Max went back to work. I had foolishly thought I would have hours of free time during my maternity leave, and I had made all of these plans to keep myself busy. But I quickly learned that free time was now a luxury. I spent almost all day in bed, nursing every hour or two, sometimes for hours at a time. Breastfeeding was a struggle, and I was only able to do it sitting down with Little Max lying on a pillow while I held him with one arm. I couldn’t do anything with one arm but click “play” to begin another series on Netlifx.

People will tell you to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” but I can honestly tell you that this advice is almost impossible to take. When he did sleep, I had to frantically do laundry, take care of the dogs, clean what I could, and reorganize my feeding station so that it would be ready when the baby woke back up. I found it hard to remember to eat, and self-care in general went out the window. I was too nervous to shower without Max home, in case the baby woke up while I was in the shower. Because of this, I showered approximately twice a week. There were too many other things to do for showers to get in the way. And I was stuck inside all of the time anyway. No one was going to see my greasy hair or smell the stale breast milk on my skin.

I remember one day, after a particularly good night’s rest, I felt up to leaving the house. I only had two outfits that were easy enough to remove for nursing, and I was starting to feel gross wearing the same clothes every day. I decided to make the ten minute trip to Old Navy with Little Max and look for a new outfit or two. This trip was supposed to make me feel good about myself. It was supposed to make me feel normal again.

The moment we pulled out of the driveway, the baby started crying uncontrollably. When we got to Old Navy, I got in the back seat and tried to console him. I even took him out of the car seat to soothe him. Nothing was working. He wouldn’t stop crying. I decided to go back home. He continued to cry for the trip home, and for an additional hour or two once we got home. He wouldn’t stop crying. Nothing I did for him worked. That’s when I really came to terms with the fact that my life wasn’t mine anymore. I didn’t deserve new clothes. How could I have been so selfish, thinking that I did? I decided that motherhood meant that none of my needs really needed to be met, and that I couldn’t be or do anything that might make me feel good about myself. At least not while Little Max was a baby.

From that day forward, I started to let myself disappear into what I thought motherhood was supposed to be.

When I noticed myself slipping into darkness, I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t think I had time to feel depressed about my new life. Feeling the cold grip of depression was something I had experienced before, but this felt different. It felt wrong to be depressed at a time when you’re supposed to be filled with joy. But how is any new mother expected to avoid it? In an instant, her life is no longer her own. Her body is aching and running on two hours of sleep, she’s un-showered and still in pajamas, and someone is screaming at her constantly and she can’t figure out why. 24 hours a day. Every day.

And the screaming may be the worst part. You want so desperately to be able to help your child. Seeing them struggle and watching them clearly in pain from crying so hard isn’t easy. Sometimes there is no solution to this problem, and you get to feel like a complete failure for a little while. Sometimes you may even resent your little bundle of joy, and that makes you feel even more like a failure.

Feeling the weight of failure motivated me to fight for my sanity. I fought hard. I saw a therapist. I made myself shower every day. I got dressed in clothes other than pajamas and did my hair most days, even if I wasn’t going anywhere. I plucked my eyebrows. I called my mom. I went outside. I took time to hold my baby and enjoy him when I could, because it’s easy to forget that the screaming, pooping tyrant is your child and that you love them. 

Every day is a struggle. It’s hard not to feel like a vending machine sometimes, and it’s hard to feel like I’m still an autonomous citizen of the world. At the end of a day, I'm often overwhelmed and I end up getting angry with Max for leaving me home with the baby every day (even though I know that by working, he is contributing).  I find myself having to stop and remind myself not to take out my frustration on him, because even though it feels a little better to be able to blame someone for how shitty I feel, it really isn't anyone's fault and ultimately we're a family and we're in this together.

The one piece of advice from other moms that I keep getting is that “it will get easier.” I believe them, of course. But words like that are pretty meaningless at 3:30AM when you’re staring into the red, wide-mouthed, squinty-eyed face of an inconsolable infant.

I guess above any advice, the most important thing I try to remember day-to-day is that being a new mom isn’t easy for anyone and it’s okay to feel things. It’s okay to feel scared. It’s okay to feel alone. It’s okay to feel frustrated. It’s okay to feel a little detached. It’s okay to feel like a failure sometimes.

Someday, I’ll re-enter society and feel a little more normal again, but for now I’m allowed to feel whatever I need to feel to get myself through the hard part.

And to get through that hard part, I have to keep fighting. I have to be okay with failing a little bit. I have to understand that sometimes I will be overwhelmed and that it's okay to ask for help. I have to let go of my prior expectations of motherhood. I have to take time to shower and pluck my eyebrows.

Above all, I have to fight hard to keep whatever is left of my old self, while still allowing myself to adapt and change in positive ways.

I refuse to disappear into motherhood. I am more than that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

And Then There Were Three

Maxwell Tobias Curiel Murphey was born on October 1st, 2015.  

We named him after his dad and after our dog. (Yes. Tobias is our dog. And he's my best friend in the entire world and he... you know what? I'll write a post explaining this decision later.)

I'm still planning on picking up this blog again once I feel like my life is running at a steady pace again.

For right now, I'm a little over a month into my maternity leave and Little Max's schedule is all over the place. It will even out for a couple of days, and then it will be completely different with no notice (obviously, because he's an infant...). It's been overwhelming, exhausting, and amazing. 

While I heal and get my shit together, I probably won't be cooking anything new or exciting.

But here are some pictures of my adorable son for now!!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Baby Talk

I've been pretty absent from blogging over the past six or seven months because...

I'm pregnant!!

Boyfriend and I are expecting a baby boy in late September!

Everything went according to our plan:

We got engaged in D.C. in December.

After three months off the pill and three months of taking prenatal vitamins to prepare my body, I began ovulating the first week of January. We were very lucky and we got pregnant right away!

It was particularly challenging to motivate myself to keep up with this blog for a number of reasons. For one, I had pretty bad morning sickness and really low energy levels during my first trimester. I was sick all of the time, I was repulsed by many of my favorite foods, and finding the energy to cook was just out of the question. Boyfriend did a lot of taking care of me while I  tried to keep it together enough to make it to work and school.

After my first trimester passed, I was thrown into a whirlwind second trimester, which also happened to the final quarter of my undergraduate education. I was working my normal job, going to school full time, working part time at a family services organization internship, working as a teaching assistant for psychological statistics, and working on two separate research projects with a couple of my professors. Luckily my sickness had subsided (mostly!) and I had enough energy to pull this off before graduating. It was all worth it, and at the end of June, I walked away with two degrees. I walked across the stage at graduation 5 months pregnant, with an extreme need to pee. 

That brings us to the here an now. I'm 30 weeks pregnant, just went to the first of three baby showers for the summer, and I'm really starting to feel like a baby hippo.

Now that school is out, Boyfriend and I finally have time to start getting ready to bring our son home in ten weeks. I even found a second to make a blog post! Maybe I'll actually find time to cook or bake something before I shoot this kid out, too!!

This blog has always been mostly for me. Its always been a weird way for me to document the most important adventures I have and to keep an online recipe book. Occasionally, I'll post an idea or two for Pinterest, but mostly it's been a way for me to remain accountable to myself while I let all of the other parts of my life pull me in a million different directions. This blog is a simple way to keep me in a solid state, I guess. 

So I'm going to try my best to keep up with occasional posts, even if they're not food-related. Because once this baby comes, I'm going to need a way to stay solid and grounded more than I ever have in my entire life.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Sausage and White Bean Gratin

I'm slowly building my cookbook library (and by "slowly," I mean that I own three books total...). For Christmas this year, Boyfriend's mama got me Food & Wine's "Best of the Best." This is the first recipe I've made from it and it. So far, so good!!!

I'm not a huge fan of beans, but I'm pretty sure this recipe changed my mind!

  • 2/3 cup panko or dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb sweet italian sausages, casings removed (I used spicy turkey italian sausage)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 scant tbsp fresh time leaves
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1-1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • Two 15.5 ounce cans white beans, such as cannelloni or Great Northern, drained and rinsed
  • pepper
  • 4 large handfuls baby spinach

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Combine panko and melted butter in a small bowl and set it aside.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until it just begins to smoke. Add the sausage and cook until it has evenly browned. This should take about 5 minutes. 
  4. Remove the sausage from the skillet, leaving as much oil in the skillet as possible. Set the sausage aside. 
  5. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the onions and garlic. Saute until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant, about 8 minutes or so.
  6. Add the tomato paste and thyme and stir until well incorporated.
  7. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Simmer, scraping up brown bits for about 2 minutes.
  8. Add broth and simmer. 
  9. Add beans and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Simmer until reduced by about half. There should still be some liquid in the mixture.
  11. Add spinach and stir until wilted.
  12. Spoon mixture into a baking dish ad top with panko/butter mixture.
  13. Bake for 15 minutes. 
  14. Remove from over and let rest for ten minutes or so before serving.

Shrimp and Potato Cakes with Kale Braised in Chile Broth

Day 2 of my New Years resolutions for 2015:

Haven't started trying for Baby Murphey just yet. We are having a very belated Friendsgiving/Christmas tomorrow and I'd like to be able to drink alcohol without worrying that I may be pregnant.

BUT... healthy dinner night number 2 was a success!

I ate kale and I didn't hate it!!

Shrimp and Potato Cakes with Kale Braised in Chile Broth
(Adapted from Food and Wine)

Shrimp and Potato Cakes


  • 2 baking potatoes (1 1/4 pounds), peeled and halved lengthwise
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped, plus 1 thinly sliced scallion, for garnish
  • 2 serrano chiles—stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 3/4 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Cotija cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • Kale Braised in Chile Broth (recipe follows)


  1. In a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and simmer over moderate heat until the potatoes are just tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and return the potatoes to the saucepan to dry and cool completely. Using a box grater, coarsely grate the potatoes into a large bowl.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the finely chopped scallions and the serranos and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the scallions and serranos to the potatoes and let cool.
  3. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Add the shrimp, egg, 2 tablespoons each of Cotija and chopped cilantro and 1 teaspoon of salt to the potatoes and fold gently to combine. Form the mixture into 6 patties, a scant 3/4 inch thick and transfer them to the baking sheet. Refrigerate the cakes until just chilled, about 20 minutes.
  4. In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/2 inch of canola oil until shimmering. Add 3 of the shrimp cakes and fry over moderately high heat, turning once, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the cakes to paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining 3 cakes.
  5. Spoon the kale into shallow bowls and top with the shrimp cakes. Garnish with Cotija, chopped cilantro and the sliced scallions and serve right away.

Kale Braised in Chile Broth


  • 4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 2 guajillo chiles, stemmed
  • 2 dried árbol chiles, stemmed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds kale, stems discarded and leaves chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Kosher salt


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the stock just to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the guajillo and árbol chiles and let stand until the chiles are softened, about 20 minutes.
  2. Transfer the chiles and stock to a blender. Add the oregano and cumin and puree.
  3. Strain the broth through a fine sieve back into the saucepan.
  4. In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the kale and garlic and cook over moderately high heat, stirring often, until the kale just starts to wilt.
  5. Add the chile broth and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer over moderately low heat until the kale is tender and the broth is slightly reduced, about 15 minutes. Season with salt.

Asian Chicken Meatballs with Brown Rice

Happy New Year! I've been really lame about posting this year, and I definitely regret it. But it's been a crazy year for us here at Casa Murphalielann (Murphey, Curiel, Phalen, Brann)! A baby was born, I'm in my last year as an undergrad, and Boyfriend and I GOT ENGAGED!!!!!

Happy New Year from our furry family to yours!

Our nephew Rowan: AKA- R'wan, Babyman, Chunk, Fatty, and Chubbs


Dat ring doh.

And guess what? Our New Year's Resolution is to get pregnant!

So, obviously, we need to get our shit together as far as eating healthier and exercising. But who says eating right has to be boring?

As the first meal of the year, we're doing a flavorful twist on a classic meatball with chicken! Enjoy!

(And New Years Resolution number 2 is to update this blog more often!)

Asian Chicken Meatballs

(Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine)


  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup minced scallions
  • 3 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  2. Lightly toss together all ingredients.
  3. Form into 1 1/2 inch balls and arrange on baking sheet
  4. Bake for 13 minutes.
  5. Serve with rice and chile sauce.