I own all the content and pictures on this site, except where noted. If you steal anything from me, and
especially if you do anything mean or inappropriate with them, I will find you. Then I'll sue you for
theft, slander, libel and any other law that applies. Then I'll ridicule you in humiliating ways
here and everywhere else I contribute to. If you fuck with me, I'll get get all Gladiator on your ass
and unleash hell. Think I'm kidding? So did my a couple of my exes, my old neighbors, as well as
some assholes who ripped me off on Ebay, and last I heard, they were all still trying to undo the
damage I caused.
Happy 10th Anniversary to the Blog I No Longer Write In
Today this blog turns 10. It's impossible to let the day go
by without stopping by here and acknowledging it, lover of anniversaries that I
am. I've spent weeks thinking about this day, wondering just indulgent I'd be -
do I recap the last 10 years? Do I explain why I stopped writing here? Do I
update on what the last few years that I haven't written have been like?
It turns out that I'm not in the mood to recap jack. It also
turns out that I've explained enough about why I stopped writing here. So maybe I'll just take a stroll through the last few years of my life (ok, so that'll definitely include my feelings about writing here and the decision to stop).
I stopped wanting to write here long before actually did. I
was aware of the feelings I've already shared here in other posts but wasn't
ready to make the call to pull the plug. I guess I also didn't want to
officially pull the plug, preferring to leave a window open in case this place
ever called me back.
Looking back now, I think the simplest way to explain it
all is that my life finally got to a place where I didn't need the solace this
blog offered. I was no longer an overwhelmed, frustrated new mom stuck in a
difficult marriage with a tense home life. I also wasn't a newly separated (then divorced) 30-year-old roiling in failure, shame and anxiety, while also feeling
guilty over the utter relief of being free of a toxic relationship. I went
from being all these things that this blog helped me cope with to being someone
whose life was upended by a surprising love and an even more surprising thing:
At first, I struggled with the stability and normalcy Jevo
offered me. Hell, I rejected it in some ways, not wanting to accept it and get
too comfortable since I sensed it wouldn't last - great things always turned to
shit, didn't they? But this stuff was going on beneath the surface, somewhere
where I couldn't access it and bring it to light. It just took time for me to
believe it was real. The closer we grew, the more we faced together, the deeper
our love grew, the more I found myself accepting my new life and wholly
embracing it. It was, deep inside, a rocky journey for me.
But as I was able to do that, I realized I wanted something
else: to protect that life. I didn’t want to expose the relationship to an
audience – there was no need, and no point. I wanted it all for me, for us, and
to experience it in real time, in real life, without analyzing it to death
later. I did feel - actually, I still do sometimes - like writing about some of
the things that were utterly normal and likely boring, but a total revelation
to me, because those needed some processing. Like how Jevo wouldn't say
something he didn't mean, and how hard that was to believe.
In hindsight, I was also struggling with some other things. For one, the nature of blogging had changed, with "mommy blogs" turning into shill factories for goods and services or totally exploiting their kids for clicks, and I wasn't a part of that nonsense. I also wasn't interested in the trend of aspirational blogging, as I am no fashion maven or healthy lifestyle "expert," nor was I about to present some (fake) fabulous life full of preaching and tips and shoulds for an audience. I'm not anything other than what I've already presented myself to be. In the evolving world of blogging, I wasn't, nor did I want to, not as "blogger" anyway.
was just grew tired of myself. My hand-wringing, my angst, my anxiety. To write and
write and write about it all had become too indulgent and exhausting. Like,
that was all I had to say? I sure felt like it, like I had lost everything but
these three same notes and was stuck there. Through this blog I had
pigeon-holed myself into someone I didn’t want to be, and someone who no longer
reflected who I was becoming.
The most important thing, though, was Max. While my focus has always been me (me, me, me!), he's undoubtedly been a big part of this blog. However much more guarded I've been about his privacy in comparison to a lot of other bloggers, to write about him, period, is to affect his privacy, and I didn't want to keep doing that. I always knew that would become an issue I'd have to address. I could easily keep writing about myself and keep him (and later, his brother) in the sidelines, but he and his privacy were very big factors to me.
Eventually all these things came together solidly enough that I knew it was time to step back. In the time before I stopped writing here, and since then, there were things going on in my life that have ultimately shaped these last few years.
For one, despite my conviction that the passage of time would improve, not worsen, the situation, co-parenting with M's dad has significantly deteriorated. I'm not intending to be a bitch and point fingers, but I'm comfortable stating that while I've wanted to and tried to move forward, he's had his own issues and priorities and thoughts about me that he's allowed to affect his ability to stick to the business at hand: working with me to do right by our son. Given that these are things I can't control or fix for my son, my focus has been elsewhere: on ensuring he has all the stability and support possible from us, in our home, and on helping him navigate his life and his challenges in an emotionally healthy way.
The thing is, I've also had to face a very big and very personal issue, too: admitting out loud that my relationship with my
son's father was one long exercise in emotional abuse. I don't know why I
couldn't call it that when I called it so many negative things, but for so
long, I didn't. I think I didn't want to call myself a victim, because I don't
define myself as the victim of anything. Even with this, it's not like I
verbalize it that way. I've just had to do the work of admitting the position I
put myself in and that living with an abuser for so long damaged me more deeply
than I was able to see. Once I started working on this, as I read more books
and learned how to cope, heal and move on (these last two are still a
work-in-progress), things got better for me. It shifted my understanding of
what he is and gave me a better perspective of my own life. I began to develop
some useful tools to help me move forward (and to help me deal with him in a healthier way). I
began to take a longer view, too, on my own healing. There was no way I could
deal with all the damage as quickly as I wanted to, and it was good to allow
myself to stop hurrying that process. Shit, it was a huge deal to realize that
I fit a profile, that I did and felt things that people who are emotionally
abused do and feel. The amount of research and learning I did about all this
has been immensely helpful and illuminating. I don't share this to blame him or make a monster out of him; there are just facts of both our personalities and behaviors and choices we've made and continue to make that I had to really face and understand and use the knowledge to put myself in a better place. It was another tunnel of darkness and pain I had to go through to come out on the other side, and this part of the journey continues. I want peace for him as much as I want it for myself, but I can only work on myself, and I am.
Grappling with this heavy stuff aside, life has ticked on
in ways both challenging and wonderful. I can't think of a single OMGEXTRAORDINARY thing that's happened, and yet, living day in and day out with my
husband and boys feels extraordinary to me.
My marriage has turned out to be a source of love, friendship, passion, comfort and stability that I never imagined existed, much less that I believed could be mine. My husband and I have had to deal
with some intense things, about family and our boys and finances (in other words, the usual), and it's brought us closer. We've also lived through
truly awful days, feeling pissed at each other and feeling frustrated about our
relationship - things anyone who's married can understand. What matters most to us is our commitment to always face things together and to keep moving forward. I can't say how many times I've slipped into despair over a fight, or an issue we just can't agree on, and he's been the one to pull me out. He is always so much better than me to extend the olive branch.
And then there's my sons. These boys are simply the light of my life. Ten years into motherhood, and I'm still awed by how intensely I love them, how full they have made my life. On any given day I feel like I'm failing at being a good mother - lord knows that when I get pissed there's no stopping the yelling - but I'm consumed by motherhood and being there for them, and helping them become resilient, independent, kind men. My intensity has been to my own detriment in some ways, in that I rarely choose "me" time or to pursue my interests or make time for all the things I want to do. We are so used to being our little clan of four that everything else feels like an intrusion, but I don't like the lack of balance.
With my baby now in preschool and our routine firmly established, I've been working on this. Too many times I've felt frustrated by the "I don't have time for this" chant going through my head when I want to write, or design the entertainment area in our backyard, or do some kind of art or decor project, or exercise, or boot the kids out for an afternoon so my husband and I can be alone without taking extremely creative measures. I feel like I haven't any time for anything outside the daily grind and weekend time with family, and it's a mentality I'm stuck in. And if I'm not anxious about all there is to do, I'm just plain exhausted. (When people ask me, "So, when are you going for the girl?" I just about want to kick them. A third child? What crack are they smoking?)
Given that I can barely handle the idea of another child (there will be no other child, period), and that when we're on a date we're yawning and ready for bed by 10 p.m., and that I melt at the thought of one more obligation, it's safe to say that I gotta correct this lack of balance. There are bigger things I want to pursue, and that's where my journey is taking me.
So that's where I am now: seeking balance, seeking peace. I revel in normalcy. I remain in a constant challenge of doing and being better, always fighting against my own shitty tendencies. I am chasing new dreams.
The life in-between continues to unfold.
Ten years ago, it began here. I'm excited to see what remains, and when I will be back.
This is the day to reflect, isn't it? The day to take stock, make resolutions, etc. Or maybe that was yesterday so that today you're all set to go. Either way, this is *supposed* to be the time for reflection, change, and fresh starts.
Not to be all "meh" about it, but... whatever. I think my problem is that I spend too much time reflecting and trying to improve/change whatever needs work that this time of year is totally anti-climactic for me.
Still, it's a good time to think of what comes next in my life. For me it's not so much because it's a new year, but rather, because the baby will soon be a year old, and it feels like a chapter is closing and things will soon be changing all over again.
I can't even begin to make full sense of the last year. In some ways - my baby, finishing grad school, among others - it was wonderful. But in others - death in the family, ongoing issues with my eldest's father, among others - it's been very challenging. Looking back, I realize that while my mind has been non-stop with plans and goals and all that, I actually have just been in survival mode. The year has been defined by things that, while small in the big picture, really ate up my energy and attention: the nightmare of the constant pumping early on, the impossibility of producing enough milk, and dealing with a baby who wakes up freaking out every single hour throughout the night. Add to that everything else we all deal with - marriage, caring for another child with his own needs, work - and all I have to show for 2013 is this: I'm so fucking exhausted and numb.
I'm hoping to change some of the things contributing to the exhaustion and numbness. I need to move out of survival mode and into present-living mode. But as I've thought about concrete things I can do to move in this direction, I've felt the heavy presence of some shit I just can't shake, and those things, I confess, worry me a great deal. There are some issues that won't be going away, and coping with these has been incredibly challenging and draining. My heart feels sick. It's not just the issues themselves; it's the way they have eaten at me, my inability to let go. I've been struggling very deeply with this, praying for understanding and compassion, but I can't do it. I can't move past how wrong these situations are and am stuck there. I can't forgive, can't move on, can't do anything but feel angry and suspicious and indignant and despaired. It sucks. These are terrible feelings. In a life that's so full and fulfilling, these grudges are the ugly clouds that rain stress and bullshit down on me on a regular basis.
Ugh. Even my whining about it doesn't help. I just want to be free of it all. So far, the things I've tried have not worked. And as these things roll into the new year, I worry. And I continue to pray for a way through it all.
Meanwhile, I feel both the weight and anticipation of what lies ahead and what must be done. I'm anxious to get back to some abandoned projects, to stick to new, healthier habits, to once again be a mildly interesting person who can hold an intelligent conversation, to not utterly fail with those who matter to me most. I have no idea how it will all turn out, but I feel determined, and positive, and hopeful.
Too many times now I've stared at the blank page of this
blog’s template. Too many times in the last months I've sat, spaced out, trying
to figure out how get my thoughts in order and out onto the page. It’s felt
like a Herculean task.
For a while now I've been thinking a lot about the why: why can’t I write? Why does it feel
so hard? Why can’t I muster the energy or the will? Was this as simple as I've
been saying for so long that it is, that I am just too busy with life and, when
I have free time, too exhausted to write?
I finally realized that I've feared that I was losing what
has always been a vital part of me, the part that needs to write to feel whole.
I've felt the need to write, but not so strongly that I must drop everything
and do it. Why? I'm at that point where I need to dissect this to make peace with it.
The truth is, I am
exhausted. My job keeps me busy all day long, sometimes even when I’m home, and
at home, my kids keep me going until I drop into my bed, where I don’t really
sleep because my adorable infant hates sleep and would rather be up all night. And
those times where the exhaustion is somewhat abated (thanks, coffee!), and I
feel the call to the blank page, I find I’m just not able to concentrate
because my mind is on other things: that the baby will soon be hungry, that Max
needs to finish homework, that the bathrooms need cleaning, that we’re going
out to dinner and I’d rather pick out an outfit than write. I am surprisingly (to myself, anyway) focused as I handle 1,000 things but then am totally scatterbrained when I try to put it all in writing.
It’s felt – for so long now – that while yes, I’m very tired
and very busy, these things are hiding a bigger list of reasons why this blog
just doesn't do it for me anymore. Because let’s face it, I am generally always
a busy person, and motherhood is a permanently exhausting state, and in the
past I've found or made plenty of time to write. So then, why?
1. I am not now whom I was when I started this blog, nor is my life the same. I've mentioned this before and don't intend to rehash it, but there's no underestimating it. I started this blog as a very frustrated first-time mom in a tense marriage. I also much needed a space to explore whatever was going on in my life (minus the marriage, though some of my unhappiness did seep in here sometimes). But I can't deny that ever since H and I began our relationship, I've felt this particular need less. I understand now that being in a relationship/marriage that's loving, where I am genuinely loved and accepted as-is and where I feel so much respect and admiration for my spouse all but removes the need for a space like this, because my marriage is the space where I can express whatever I need to express without fear or unfair consequences. Happiness, it kills fodder.
2. I want to protect what I love most. You know, in real life, I love sharing stories about my life and the people in it. But as Max has gotten older and as time has passed, and as blogging has changed from the days when I started this, I've become more protective of what I share with a wide, unknown audience. I know I'm not the only blogger to experience this. The original inspiration for this blog is no longer a baby, and his life is no longer up for completely open sharing. My marriage is too private for completely open sharing. The baby... you get it. I'm more sensitive to privacy issues and am just no longer as willing to share.
3. I'm ambivalent about my writing and what I want to do with it. The other major reason I started this blog was because I wanted to become a better writer. I thought that the challenge or writing every day or almost every day would help my skills, and I followed that old adage, "write what you know about". So, I did. And I think I'm a better writer today than I was in 2006, so, you know, it worked. But what's my larger goal? I've never cared to be a novelist, but I did, and I do, want to be a "published author". Even as I've been absent from this site, I doodle poetry when something strikes. I have dozens of essays and short stories in the works. But I don't have a game plan. Honestly, I've just loved writing and done it. And I've written so long and so much about myself that I don't even know if the other stuff is any good. So what does that leave me with, a memoir, an autobiographical novel? Maybe. I need to get my shit together and figure it out.
There's other stuff, minor but floating in my brain. I won't list them all, but for example, there was all the crap my ex put me through because he didn't like the way I portrayed him here after the marriage ended, which was, in hindsight, traumatizing. I get it, to a degree. I was writing about my feelings, not him personally, but yeah, he looked like an ass. Then again, he was an ass. There's no way to circumvent that, and he eventually owned up to it. But the memories of those months are very bad. Stalkers in general (using that term loosely) have encouraged me to share less, because while I understand the desire and impulse to do some general snooping on someone you're curious about and have no issue with that, there came a point where it was too many snoops at once, some of them trying (but ultimately failing) to stir shit up, and it just annoyed me. People (who were at some point involved with my ex or my husband, or friends of those people) were obsessively reading here as if I was going to reveal the upcoming weekend's winning lottery numbers. It went from, I get it, it's cool, to, now you're just being creepy. It sparked that part of me that likes to do the exact opposite of what someone wants or expects so that I decided to turn this into the most boring blog ever so they'd go away. Maybe this is unfair of me - when you write for all to see you can't really dictate who the audience is, or how often they read - but... I don't care. I didn't want crappy people all up in my business, period.
But that's unimportant in the big picture. The three things I listed are really it, the reasons why it's time to wrap things up here and move on to something new, something more reflective of where I am now in life and am willing to share.
There's no plan, really, for shutting off the lights here. I just know the time has come.
A very dear friend of mine, having gone through a divorce and the ensuing crap that accompanies one, now finds herself in a relationship. She is in that exciting stage when everything is new and so thrilling you almost don't know what to do with yourself. It's great to see her experience this, to know she's found someone who's brought happiness and fun and sweetness into her life and who is making her feel special and desired.
Last night, she texted our other good friend and me a delicious photo: the unmistakable blue box from Tiffany's, and this: "He got me a present!" Like teenagers, we giggled about the whole thing. She, who is normally so calm and logical, is tripping out over all the attention. And this guy, I have to say, is bringing his A game to the courting. He is attentive, communicative, available and expressive. And now, he's topped it off with an impressive bauble.
I was still thinking about her and this new development this morning, about how very different it is to go through this kind of thing when you're past 30, with kids, after life experience has weathered and wizened you, when she sent us a new photo, one of her wearing the gorgeous necklace that was in that box. Again, the giggling (and innuendo, because come on, he's going to get a very special "thank you" for that).
Minutes later when I got in my car and sent one last text before driving to work, I realized New Boyfriend had pulled a classic move: the early-relationship, random, I'm-really-into-you, no-really-I-am present. I'd totally forgotten about that move!
And then suddenly, I remembered the random assortment of early-relationship, random, I'm-really-into-you, no-really-I-am presents I've received and had me a good laugh. It's been so long for me that I'd forgotten this ritual, but in an instant I remembered some of the standouts, like TFBIETL buying me a cheap bracelet on our first date, and the boyfriend whose first random present was so incredibly thoughtful I broke into tears when he gave it to me. Neither present was expensive or grand, but each was offered with such sweetness and sincerity that I treasured them.
Generally speaking, though, this present always baffled me. Early on, I would be so flattered but full of anxiety. What does it mean?? is the question that would torture me. As a kid in high school, I just didn't know how to read it - was this a declaration of love? Was I supposed to reciprocate? And just, why? What was the purpose? Later, I grew suspicious of these gifts, wondering what I was expected to give in return. Those were awkward, uncomfortable moments. I was, more than anything, kinda put off by the whole thing. In adulthood, I realized its's just a thing that's done, a ritual where a guy shows, or tries to show, that he's into you, and thinking of you, and wanting to offer something nice. I learned to not over-think it, say thank you, and just enjoy it. I've even become a practioner, putting little surprises together when inspiration strikes.
That was my morning drive today, pondering the randomness of random presents. I don't like constant gift-giving in relationships because it's too easy to overdo it and then motives become questionable. Experience has taught me that a person who is constantly giving gifts is either extremely insecure and trying to buy you, or treats you like shit and uses presents to assuage their guilt. (Experience has also taught me that some recipients don't care about these gestures and shrug them off, and it's o.k. then to stop and save it for someone who won't make you feel like crap for it.)
But that's not the same as the random, thoughtful surprise. Now that I am where I am in my life, I've come to appreciate the thoughtfulness and care of giving or receiving that random gift because you thought of someone or remembered something they liked and wanted to make them smile, just because.
That right there - "just because" - may be the ultimate reason for the random present. That's a solid enough one for me. But today, I'm just giddy for my friend, for her knowing sweetness and sincerity and getting to feel cared for and desired. Even at our age. Or rather, especially at our age.
The other night we were talking about New York City, the
Empire State Building to be specific. When I mentioned how it was once one of
the tallest buildings in the country, he mentioned the Twin Towers and how they
were even taller. Remembering the towers must have triggered something in his
head, because he started asking me about how they were destroyed. In one of
those parenting moments that you know will come and can never truly prepare
for, I found myself answering his questions and describing the events of that
day. I was honest, but kept it short and not overly descriptive. He was taking
it pretty well, though I was worried he’d have nightmares about it (we were
having this conversation at bedtime).
The interesting thing to me was that he was missing the
crucial point: all this happened on his birthday, before he was born. I kept
waiting for that, and for whatever questions and feelings would follow. Last
summer, some jackass at his summer camp (a counselor, to boot!) had taken it
upon herself to inform my son that on his birthday, a terrible tragedy where
thousands of people died took place. She failed to inform us she had done it,
and done it poorly, so that when he brought it up I wasn't sure what tack to
take. At the time, he handled it well overall but was upset and did not want to talk about it. A year
later, it seemed he was ready.
But – nothing. So, wanting to deal with the inevitable, I
asked him if he knew what day this had happened. He said he didn’t, and I said,
“September 11.” If he was faking his incredulity, he’s a good actor already,
though I doubt it, since all other times he’s a terrible fibber and his
emotions are always plain as day on his face. He was awed, actually. And just
when I noticed a shadow of understanding clouding his eyes, I told him the
other truth about September 11: “That is
a sad day, but a few years later, that also became the happiest day in my life,
and do you know why?” Before he could answer, I told him: “I became a mother
that day. You were born and I got to see you and hold you and everything
changed. It was a day of beauty and happiness, and it still is.” We talked a
little more about how happiness exists in the middle of sad things, and how
He slept easily that night.
My boy – my first-born, I can now say – is eight. And this is life with him now, this mix of his wanting to know about significant things but taking time - up to a year, apparently - to have a full discussion and absorb it all. He will revisit topics as new thoughts and questions form. He easily accepts concepts and instructions and explanations I was sure he'd resist, but will endlessly argue about the simplest, dumbest things. He is clearly yearning for more freedom and privileges but still insists that I hold him till he falls asleep.
He is a contradiction, keeping me on my toes at all times. I'm surprised he's so obedient about things I feared he'd already be rebelling about, but at the same time he will disobey about things he's repeatedly been told to ask permission for. He is overly sensitive about random things - like when he sees a relative laugh and he's so sure they're laughing at him - but will let other stuff slide off his back that frankly is worse than the things he gets upset about.
He remains as charming and funny and kind as always - the word people use over and over to describe him to me is "sweet," a description I hope will always be true in some way. He has a very, very strong sense of fairness, a trait I can wholeheartedly relate to, though his brand of "justice" often gets him in trouble.
I have started to *see* this boy of mine more clearly this last year, and rather than stress over the things in his own nature I fear will hurt or hinder him, I've been working on showing him to use his strengths to his advantage and how to better deal with his weaknesses. This is a never-ending process, but it's a big step for this mother to hold the worrying back and actively work on teaching and empowering her boy.
In a year that
has included a lot of stress both at home – my pregnancy, illness, NICU, etc. –
and in his own life – health issues, school issues – he has shown himself to be
relentlessly cheerful and upbeat. He has taken the role of “big
brother” to heart, showering the baby with love and genuine concern for his well-being. I don't hesitate to ask him to watch his brother while I run to the bathroom or get dressed. He readily does it and goes out of his way to make the baby smile and coo. As it's always been, it is Max's heart and all the goodness, love and sweetness in it that consistently shines through. That big, beautiful heart is by far the best thing about him, and I tell him so regularly, lest he forget, lest life discourage him and tempt him to close it.
Of course, in a corner of my own heart he is my baby still, and always will be. But in all practical ways, he is a growing, thriving boy with dozens of adventures awaiting him.
He is now, as always and forevermore, everything to me.
Now everyone dreams of a love lasting and true But you and I know what this world can do So let's make our steps clear that the other may see And I'll wait for you If I should fall behind Wait for me
-- Bruce Springsteen
The first rule of blogging is, don't blog about your marriage (or your job). If you value what you have and don't want permanent damage to settle in, just. don't. write. about. your. marriage. Not in real, serious terms anyway. Certainly not to complain about your spouse, and definitely not to air your crap all over the place.
But I'm going to write about my marriage anyway.
At least a little bit, because it's been a year now since we took this plunge, and my mind and heart have been deeply immersed in this milestone, looking back over the last year, meditating on what I can do better, and wondering about all that lies ahead for us.
As far as first years go, it's been pretty damn challenging. I generally think the first year of marriage is so very hard because even if you've been living together, it's nonetheless a huge adjustment (worse without the co-habitation). There's all these expectations, all this personal wondering about what now?, that amid the fun of being a newlywed lies considerable disappointment and very sudden, very stark instances where you realize that marriage can be brutal.
Our most brutal challenge this first year was, of course, the premature birth of our son. There are details about that time and how my husband and I dealt with it that are seared in me. I remember us crying together when he first took me to see our boy; us holding tight to each other, right before and after my operation, whispering reassurances that we would all be o.k., and that there was no one else in the world we each could imagine going through such a thing with except each other. I remember hearing him tell people that I was strong and amazing throughout the ordeal, words that meant so much because in the middle of all that happened, I couldn't believe he'd noticed anything special about me. From hearing his heartbeat for the first time the day before we married to this very moment, our sweet boy has strengthened our bond and commitment to each other.
Then, there have been the times where one of us has looked at the other - in the dead of night while the baby wails, or after a long Saturday of negotiating and arguing with M - and said, "this sucks." Because sometimes, it has sucked. The drudgery of the day-to-day is inescapable, and just as there have been sweet, uneventful days, there have been days where we've barely had a conversation, the mind-numbing exhaustion too deep for us to do more than the absolute essentials and then pass out. Those are the days where I've felt it most essential to connect to him somehow, and I typically get moody and introspective and wonder, what is marriage, anyway? It's then that I've reminded myself that we can't let the grind excuse a lack of affection. We usually catch ourselves and stop, have a moment for ourselves, then pick back up where we each were. I know he's as aware of this, and that we can each acknowledge it and at times joke about it is good, but even so, I don't want to let the current madness in our lives ever be an excuse to create distance between us.
But distance is sometimes unavoidable. You live with someone day in and day out and share so many intimacies, that when hurt happens, what then? For me, I know I grow a bit distant. If I've learned something pretty clearly about myself this last year, is that I do, in the face of hurt, take a step back and seal myself off some. A protective move, I know, but it seems essential somehow, like I must step away and into myself to force a stop to whatever's happening and to give myself a chance to get past my initial rush of emotions. I've developed an awareness about this and think about it a great deal. It's not something I want or believe will ever grow too big and impenetrable between us, but it's there. I know it. It can happen with the minor, annoying stuff that touch a nerve, or the big things. As it is, there have been a couple of things this past year that have caused problems, and in trying to work through them, I've had no choice but to face the feelings it's brought up in me and how I've tried to deal with it all.
And of these feelings, I've realized more than ever the role that shock, which fuels a great deal of my anger and obsessiveness, plays in it. If I feel I've been utterly blindsided by something, if I discover something I'd just never truly considered (which is saying a lot for someone who devotes way too much energy on preparing for as many scenarios possible), it's then that I flip my shit. And it's happened this last year, and my husband has seen me flip my shit, and - whether he ultimately understands how I feel or not, and whether he agrees with me or not - I make no excuses for my feelings. There's no room here for me to fake the depth of my feelings, be they positive or negative. He will argue that I go from fine to not at all fine without warning, and that then I can drag out my questioning and arguing for days, which I don't necessarily disagree with. But as I've told him, I've learned to not just react and say the first things I feel, because they will always be terrible and un-erasable, and so I need time to process things and really get at the heart of what I feel, which I then do just bring up seemingly out of nowhere, and from there, more stuff always comes up. We have yet to find a middle ground between my need to process before speaking and the way I continue processing and his need for me to speak up from when I first feel upset so that the issue can be swiftly dealt with, once and for all.
Anyway, this year there was mainly one thing that has caused me a lot of pain, that caught me off guard and filled my head with new worries, and, given that from time to time I still feel the sudden sting of that hurt, and that doubt lingers around the topic, it's clear to me that the fears this planted in me will loom in one way or another into the foreseeable future. Then there's been (again, out of nowhere) family stuff that has been extremely eye-opening and has left me full of a lot of worry and a fair dose of wariness moving forward.
Thinking about these things, I understand that this is how it is. This is marriage. If I've taken some things way harder than others, or than I or my husband would like, it's due mainly to how incredibly off guard both things caught me. I'm so not good with that what hellish way left field did this shit come from feeling, ever. And yet, what better ground to test all I believe about marriage and the commitment it entails? All those tropes about marriage being hard work, about it requiring facing a lot of unpleasant and painful shit, about having to have ugly, uncomfortable conversations if you want to get past things, is true. And I am no more exempt from that than anybody. I don't yet really know if these problems of the first year are actually resolved (well, the family one is not for sure, but the other one), if fighting was merely about the feelings caused by the issue, or if the fighting made it an issue no more. That remains to be discovered in the second or third or fourth year. For me, ultimately, the shit that sets me off and makes me feel scared and worried is all stuff that I fear will get in the way of this being a good, honest, close, real marriage, because I know that I will just permanently move out of a place of trust and openness and just close up, shut off my emotions and lock up into myself. And the only thing worse than being that way is having to live with me when I'm that way.
This is just a slice of the last year. The majority has been the push and pull of the every day, of starting to define who we each are as wife and husband and as parents: learning to understand each other better, settling on routines and chores, creating new habits and traditions. I've gained more insight into myself and my own needs. I've experienced many a-ha moments, where suddenly I get a new perspective on something - or where I finally understand my own reactions and can try a new approach to things. There have been the pleasant surprises when something's not turned out how I feared it would, or when he has responded in a way that makes me realize anew how right we are for each other. That's been an awesome gift of this last year: seeing over and over again how we value the same things and have the same priorities and put a lot of effort into being good to and for each other.
More than any of this, though, is the way my love for him has deepened this last year. I am more in love now, and the disagreements and ways he's annoyed me or flat-out pissed me off have just served to bolster my feelings for him. There is who he is: good-natured and solid and intelligent and dorky and silly - and who he has been in our marriage: devoted and giving and dependable and enthusiastic. I have loved him for baring so much at crucial moments, for being my source of strength when I just didn't have it in me, for backing me up and placing me/us first, for working hard at this and putting in genuine effort, for saying yes more than no, for cheering me on every day in Jeopardy! even as I kick his ass, for being a father to M, for letting himself be opened and transformed by Santiago, for accepting my whims and weaknesses and tolerating me when I'm insufferable, for wanting me and telling me I'm beautiful and meaning it, for his good moods and ability to not punish me for my bad ones, for his affection, for valuing our lunch dates, for doing chores I hate doing and not berating me for being more lax than him about housework, for seeing the best in me, for saying (and meaning!) those magic words: "you are right", for truly believing we are a team and treating our marriage as such. He told me on our anniversary that I make him a better person, and the feeling couldn't be more mutual. From here, the life we're building only looks beautiful and raw and immense. It is more than anything I could have wanted.
And so, as I finish ruminating and look ahead to year two, I do believe that, yes, I'll keep the husband around. It can only get more exciting from here.
These are my favorite sunglasses. My most favorite, most beloved sunglasses. I bought them for $5 at Old Navy in early 2004, and I wore them with a vengeance (with joy! with swag!) until just the other day. It turns out these glasses were not made to last forever, and for the last year, I've used them even though they were incredibly scratched up. Like, I can't even see through them scratched up. If I was driving, I'd look through the top of the glasses, where there weren't many scratches. All other times, I just dealt with everything looking blurry.
I loved the hell out of these glasses, people. First of all, they were white - a non-bright, slightly pearly white. When I bought these, white sunglasses weren't trendy, and so they stuck out, the only ones in the store, and the only ones I'd noticed anywhere. I was drawn to how different they were. Then, there's their perfect shape. I don't even know exactly what style they are - wrap-around? - but they fit me perfectly. I love, love, love how they look on me, which is saying a lot because I usually look like a mosquito in sunglasses. These always seemed to look right, no matter what I was wearing or how I styled my hair. As time went on, I realized that I very deeply loved these glasses, but they weren't going to last forever, and what then? I couldn't bear this, couldn't initially accept that I wouldn't be able to wear them forever. So I started to get protective of them, keeping them in a sleeve, with a soft cloth, instead of tossed anywhere in my car. If I was doing any kind of activity - say, riding in boat - where losing them for good was a possibility, I wouldn't use them. It got to a point where I refused to travel with them for fear of losing them far from home, so I had a couple other pairs that I would take on trips.
Midway through this year, they were so beat up that I had to snap out of my denial. It had become hazardous to drive in them, and even the blurriness was way too much.
So, I reluctantly set them aside and started the hunt for something new. But with all that's happened, I haven't had time to go shopping for sunglasses. Given that aforementioned mosquito problem, I can't just walk into a store and come out 10 minutes later with something I love. It takes time, a lot of time. So I decided to order a couple of cheap pairs online, thinking that if they looked terrible, it wouldn't be much of a loss.
What's actually happened is that I've compulsively been purchasing cheap sunglasses, in different colors and different styles, and now have a big pile tangled together in my car. What I wear depends on my outfit and my mood. One is coming out as a favorite, but really, I've committed to none of them.
I'm now just like guys when they get dumped and deal with it by whoring out with any (or every) piece of ass that flirts with them. I am as lacking in taste and discrimination - any will do! You're a pretty, cheap pair of sunglasses? Come over here and let's have fun. But no, I won't take any of you seriously. I'm still waiting for The One.
For I do believe there is a one, that one pair that I'll stumble upon - color, style, price unknown - that will be so perfect that I will dump all the other pairs without a second thought.
I miss my old pair (safely stored away). The memories almost hurt. But I know the next right pair is somewhere out there, because yes, I still believe in love.
And here is but a sampling of all the happiness we enjoyed together:
Oh hey, I have a baby, y'all. I've been gazing so deeply at my navel that the poor delicious thing has been non-existent here.
Can you believe he's six months old already?! I can't. To me it's like I just had him three months ago, more or less. A lot of it has to do with the five weeks we spent in the NICU, which was time where we could not be home adjusting and were instead in the weird limbo of praying and waiting. Once he got home, time flew, and soon enough I was back at work. Thinking about it now, it's really been a whirlwind.
This baby, people, is such a character. His face reflects constantly changing emotions, from his sweet half-smile whenever someone talks to him to his comically furrowed brow when he's intently staring at something. He is so ridiculously loud and intense when he's pissed that it's hilarious. He's developed a habit when he's sleeping to wake up by crying but the second he opens his eyes and sees one of us, he instantly smiles. He is alert, quietly taking in everything around him. I love how interesting and funny he's become. I also love that he seems to be getting an idea of who we are, how you can tell that he recognizes us (husband, Max and me). There have been a few times where I've left the room and he's started to cry. I totally love that! I think I'm finally more than just breasts to him, and that's been gratifying.
The freaky thing is that he has my eyes, and it's such a strange feeling to look at him sometimes. I recognize the expressions, the contortions of his face, the slight frown. It's not like looking in a mirror, obviously, but it's like looking at a version of me. A tiny, bald, male version of me. Many times I'll look at him and remember a baby photo where I look just as he does at that moment. It makes me feel a sort-of kinship with him, beyond mother-son.
I remain pleasantly surprised at how much I am enjoying his infancy. The never-ending exhaustion aside, I'm better now at managing my worries and anxieties, and it's opened the door to my being able to relax and enjoy the experience more. I think some part of me is very aware of how this is for sure my last chance to have this, and the finality of it all makes me more appreciative. It really was so different with Max, which has only made me very sad whenever I think back to that time. I gave that boy all of my love, affection and attention, but I was so permanently spent. I guess the adjustment was just a lot harder than I expected. The intensity was most days more than I could keep up with. And so many times these last months, I've wished for a do-over, wished I could apply what I know now, be whom I now am, to that first year of his - almost eight years ago now.
Of course, I can't have that, nor can I keep feeling guilty about it. Still, I've been thinking a lot these last few days about how Max's own world has been turned upside down by the baby, and how I'd like to do a better job of helping him adjust and figure out his new role in our family. He has taken to being a big brother so sweetly. He adores the baby and is helpful, even when no one asks him to be. He can be clingy and overly worried when the babe cries, but I'd rather that than apathy or anger. It's obvious, too, that the baby is intrigued by Max, staring at him, following him as he plays, grinning widely whenever Max stops to give him some attention. They're very sweet to watch together.
We're all just incredibly in love with this creature. He's been the perfect addition to our family, and every day is full of wonder and joy, thanks to him.
In light of all the doom and gloom I've thrown all over this blog, it's time for some of the good stuff to be shared.
As the PPD has gone its merry way, other things also have improved. Mainly, I'm almost hot again.
The pregnancy weight is gone and I'm back in all my old clothes. This is a huge relief, but I admit that I need to get in better shape from here. I don't even know how that's going to happen, because seriously, I don't know who these moms are who have a baby and have time to exercise, but they are not me. I'm up at 5 nursing every day and from there have to start the morning routine, only to get home from work and nurse, and handle dinner, baths and bedtime. The husband obviously splits the duties with me, but even with that, neither one of us has time for anything more. We are ready to crash in bed by 8:30, and many nights, that's exactly what we do. So I try to squeeze stuff in at work, walking a lot and climbing stairs. Whatever, it counts.
Also, by some miracle my bout of postpartum hair loss was mercifully short and it's done. My hair is once again full and thick and all there. Plus, my skin is not stuck in postpartum ugly hell anymore, meaning that it's back to being nice and normal. Really, there was a while there where I was a bedraggled mess, with hair constantly falling out and skin that was dull and ashy. Now I'm all glowy and smooth and wonderful.
I got this far a couple of days ago before having to stop for some reason or other. I don't remember where I was going next with this, but in the meantime, this happened:
I got a call from my doctor yesterday: my latest blood shows my TSH has swung all the way around from where it was about 50 days ago, and now I'm in the hypothyroid stage of postpartum thyroiditis. This is exactly what's supposed to happen, but I'm more nervous about this than I was about stage 1, mainly because this can become permanent, and because hypothyroidism can deplete my milk supply. I'm struggling enough with that as it is without adding a problem like that to the mix. I'm also scared of the weight gain hypothyroidism can cause, because from the research I've done, it's very hard to prevent or take off even when you're eating right and exercising. I need to look more into that, but the thought makes me feel helpless.
My plan is to fight this and do whatever I can to heal my thyroid, so everyone cross fingers that this remains temporary and passes without much damage.
Even though this thyroid issue is a big deal in my life right now, I physically feel fine, finally over the c-section. I feel stronger. It could be that symptoms develop, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.
Seriously, though, the thyroid lobby needs to start throwing money at me for all the work I'm inadvertently doing for them here.
Thyroid craziness aside, I'm mainly happy to feel closer to my regular self. I suppose I'm getting used to our new routine, and maybe I've just given in to the exhaustion and drudgery of it all. I've also given up on caring about the house being a perpetual disaster zone. I've got a wedding anniversary and birthday coming up, too, with a massage, fancy dinner and beach vacation to celebrate them all.
So many things that are good, others that are getting better. This is so very nice.
And the Main Reason I'm So Exhausted: Because my Breasts Hate Me
Go figure, this was the one thing I didn't at all bank on. I could almost laugh, really, at how in my near-mania to imagine and prepare for every possible scenario, I left a huge one out.
Such as, the one where my breasts fail me and breastfeeding becomes the biggest challenge of having a baby.
Which is exactly what has happened.
I took it for granted that my previous experience with BF (essentially, awesome, because I had an abundance of milk and Max nursed wonderfully and thrived) had guaranteed me a similar situation with Baby F. I worried about the *problems* I'd had with Max, namely, that milk would shoot out every time the baby pulled away, or that milk would soak through even my breast pads. I prayed that I wouldn't again have thrush or mastitis. I couldn't even consider that, having been so lucky the first time, the second time wouldn't be the same, or better.
Instead, I'm pretty sure that the premature delivery wonked my breasts out, and I've been struggling with a host of issues that, more than being discouraging, are really just. so. incredibly. exhausting.
1. I delivered a baby that I could not nurse for a little over three weeks. I spent those weeks pumping every two to three hours. In time, my nipples were raw and in constant pain, something that has not gone away. I was never able to get a single ML more than the baby needed, so an already-stressful situation was made doubly so by my inability to pump a significant amount. Every day I'd leave in his NICU fridge the exact amount he'd need until my arrival the next morning, and more than once I was in a total panic, stuck in traffic as the clock ticked closer to his feeding time. In fact, a few times I needed my sister's milk (she was still BFing her youngest), and later, milk from a kind donor. "Stressful" is too weak a word to describe that situation.
2. But finally, the baby was allowed to nurse, and he did well from the start. He latched well, took milk, and nailed the whole suck, swallow, breathe process. The thing is, in order to do so he had to use a nipple shield, which is apparently pretty common with preemies. It seemed like we'd just be on the shield for a while and that was it. I wasn't, while we were home, supplementing with pumped milk, and he was growing well.
3. But then I went back to work, and here's where it all went to hell. It was quickly evident that I couldn't pump all the milk he needed in a day, just half the amount. The immediate solution was to secure more donor milk, and I was so, so, so lucky to have my other sister's help in finding some for me (I'm now an expert in pasteurizing milk, btw). So while the baby wasn't going hungry and didn't have to have formula, there was still the issue of my poorly pumping breasts. Still, it's not easy to come by donor milk, and this can't be a permanent solution.
4. Luckily, when the baby nurses, all is fine. He gets what he needs and is satisfied. However, we realized that he has a tongue-tie that's preventing him from fully draining my breasts, which is likely not helping with the low pumping output. This also explains why it's been so hard to get him off the shield. Every time I've tried, he latches on for a short bit and ends up protesting, only to nurse normally when I put the shield back on.
So what have I done about all this, besides feel totally stressed and despaired? You name it, I've tried it. I tried a bunch of supplements that I had to stop taking after my thyroiditis diagnosis because fenugreek is contraindicated for thyroid conditions. The foods that boost lactation and drinking lots of water: check and check. Warm compresses, massage, frequent pumping: check, check and check. I've listened to music while I pump, done guided visualizations (hilariously, the first one I tried in the NICU was narrated by Ben Stein, and I just could not sit through it), and looked at pictures and videos of my sweet baby. My pump and all its pieces are fine. And all this time, I get no more than six ounces a day. Even when I add in extra pumping sessions, I just get fewer amounts each time that add up to six at the end of the day.
Most recently, I've arrived at my last-ditch efforts: the baby's tongue-tie was clipped last week, and I've started goat's rue, which is safe for me to take and for which I've read really promising testimonials from moms with problems similar to mine.With the tongue-tie clipping, the goal and hope is that baby will have a better range of motion which will allow him to really drain each breast at every feeding, which will be good for him and will hopefully boost my supply (along with the supplement). He's already nursing without the shield 80% of the time, so things look good there, but my supply is unchanged.
And what if these latest efforts don't work? I'll die.
Actually, I'd still like donor milk, though looking through the local resources, it doesn't look too promising, especially since I need milk stat (like, for next week). So likely we'll make a slow start on solids and see how that goes. Formula is honestly a very, very, very undesired option, so I'm not even putting it on the table.
It amazes me how incredibly consuming this situation has been, the source, as I said, of the huge bulk of my exhaustion. This is mentally and emotionally draining, but it's also physically draining. I absolutely love settling down with my boy to nurse, but it's frequent and intense and when we're done I'm about ready to pass out. Pumping is painful and time-consuming, taking 30-40 minutes each time just to get two measly ounces, and it has simply become a negative, unpleasant experience for me.
And yet, I am at peace with this. This is what is best for my baby, and that's that. I generally feel pretty discouraged, and so very exhausted, but I'm committed, and since I'm pretty tenacious when something is worth it to me, I'm not looking for a way out.
But honestly, I can't help looking forward to the day I stop pumping, at least six months from now. And I really do wish this whole situation was easier, and that I could enjoy it. It sucks that what I looked forward to the most has become the source of so much stress and pressure and frustration.
I'm O.k. with the Exhaustion, but I Hate It So Much
One of the cyclical things that happens in my life is this:
something’s coming up, something I know will require changes and adjustments,
and I devote way too much time for prepping for it. This is how I am – I need
to prepare well for certain things, or I risk my emotions (and therefore
actions) careening out of control.
So I prepare. I come to accept and be o.k. with what I know
lies ahead. It’s all good, really.
And then the thing happens, and I inevitably find myself
overwhelmed or bothered or saddened by the very changes and adjustments I’d
prepared for. Even as I’m thinking, I
knew it’d be like this, I am engulfed in my emotions as if I’d never
prepared in the first place.
This was crushingly true when I had Max. I resisted for so
very long all the small adjustments I’d had to make. I was cool with not having
a social life, with forgoing all kinds of things so the baby would be
comfortable and happy. I chose to do some things in ways that were inconvenient
for me but best for him.
And I was truly o.k. with that. But I was constantly
overwhelmed by the loss of myself and the inability to get anything at all done.
The relentlessness of parenting felt at times like it would kill me. And Max himself, he is a relentless human being. I knew I
had to surrender, had to give in to the deeper ways in which I could no longer
be or do or have. And it took me a long time. I resisted so much because I felt
that I was already giving and doing so much, so much more than I thought I
could or would, so much more than most people did, and I couldn't see why the
very little bit I wanted for myself, I couldn't have.
In hindsight, there were other things. My maturity level,
for one. Also, the fact that while parenting together went well, the rest of my
marriage was a constant pressure-cooker of unexpressed expectations and the resulting hostility at my inability to read minds and change who
I am. So, you know,
there was other stuff contributing to it all. Those things didn't help because I was in a constant state of worry, tension and frustration.
Parenting an infant this time around is markedly different (and better!) in many ways (I mean, I actually think I'm faring way better than I did last time), but once again, here I am surprised at some of the other stuff. I
know I’m going to be sleep-deprived, that being productive is merely a dream,
and that my interests take a back seat to everything else. And yet, one bad,
sleepless night is all it takes for me to be hopelessly sour. The house grows
ever messier and my despair grows with it. My inability to be completely alone in my own house is about to drive me insane. Too many days with scraggly, untrimmed and
unwashed hair and I all but melt down.
The big one, though, is the exhaustion. I knew I would be beyond tired. It's part of the new-parent deal, unavoidable, so fine, exhausted it is. But the thing is, living it, feeling that tiredness day in and day out - it packs a massive punch. Who cares that I'm theoretically o.k. with all this stuff? The reality of living it out is a monster. I am so tired, so deep-in-my-bones tired. I manage to shake the tiredness off enough to keep everyone alive and be functional at work, but otherwise - ugh. If I'm jacked up on coffee, great, you get a Tere that closely resembles something normal. Otherwise, I can't focus, can't listen, can't pay attention, and am just too damn exhausted to put up with the needs and desires of anyone outside my home. I'm overwhelmed by the tiredness. I can't remember what feeling rested is like. I'm annoyed at my lack of energy. I'm losing sight of reality and am starting to believe this will never end. I live these days repeating my mantra: this is all a short-term sacrifice for long-term benefits. Perhaps because I've been here before and I still remember that yes, there was indeed a day when I finally got to rest more, and then another, and then another, I feel hopeful, like I can DO this and get through it well enough. That said, thank heaven this is the last child, because I can't do this again.
By my best guess, I’m surviving. At least, I’m functioning, even
if my moods and emotions are all over the place. This last month has been about hunkering down
and getting shit done, and surviving it all.
Going back to work has been both good and awful. Good
because it was the missing piece in my finding a new normal as a person, wife,
professional and mom of now two. I couldn't find my groove while I was home
with the baby because that was temporary and I was supremely aware of it. I've had to go back to work to see
what my days truly look like and to figure out how to get it all done.
But it’s been awful because I just wasn't ready to go back.
The baby was still too young (and while I have a very supportive employer, the
truth about crappy maternity leave policies in this country is inescapable, and
I’m lucky I got four months), and my body was still too messed up. Really, the
first weeks were beyond hard. I wondered each morning how the hell I was going
to make it through the day, and wished many a night that I would just fall
asleep and never wake up.
It’s been bad. The worst of it has been the way my body has
just crapped out on me. I am convinced that the trauma of a premature delivery,
especially via that brutal c-section, is to blame. My thyroid has turned on me
and once I started to feel symptoms (I didn't when I was diagnosed, but they
kicked in right when I returned to work), I entered into a special hell all its
own. Weak muscles and joints, tremors, fatigue, palpitations… I've suffered all
these all at once, and at the same time have had to keep at it with the kids
and work and home. The worst has been these terrible hot flashes (I use “flashes”
for lack of a better term, but these periods where I've felt as if my body was
on fire last hours) that have made me want to just lock myself in a freezer
forever. It’s really hard to have conversations and be attentive and honestly
even give a damn about anything when you feel like you’re slowly being killed.
So you can imagine, right, that I've been a total joy to be around. I am just so discombobulated.
The things that usually challenge me - staying focused, handling others' b.s. without getting sucked into it, remembering things - they're all doubly hard right now. My mind wanders; thoughts go unfinished, as do sentences; my blood boils over the lies and drama I am having to endure in order to keep the peace. Where I used to find a way to take stuff like this in stride, lately I am just angry and stuck in that anger. There's no way out. (And I'm not even really angry that shit happens and you have to deal, or that all families have crap to muck through - I'm angry that I just have to take this crap and shove it while the subject in question gets away with lies and hypocrisy. Gggrrrr. I stop now, or I'll blow a gasket.)
I've honest-to-god been trying to take small steps to get back to normal in all ways, and in some ways I am. At home, mainly, I'm desperate to be less foggy and exhausted and more of a partner who pulls her share. Or who can at least hold a conversation without her brain closing up one minute into it. And I'm trying to stay on track with eating well and treating my body nicely, and asking the universe to burn up my anger and frustration and pain because there's just no other way out of this. I'm just trying to be better overall, and I honestly don't know that I'm making any real progress.
But even so, the personal darkness that I was swimming in has passed, and in that way I am better. That's all I've got right now, and I'll take it.
I prop my baby boy on my legs, look at his sweet face, and promptly break into tears. It's been like this every morning this week, each day filled with random breakdowns caused by his smiling at me, my snuggling him, his cooing or his "cranky" face - anything sets me off. I am blue because I go back to work next week, and this last week with my baby has been hell on multiple levels.
A critical time in my life and in my baby's life is ending. I vacillate between sadness and guilt even as I feel anxious to get to normal. Maternity leave, in a society that does not truly honor this time in women's and infants' lives, is not normal. I've been racing against time since the moment I ended up in the hospital. I spent 1/3 of my leave in the NICU, so our time together at home has been minimal. As it is, the first days that it was just him and me at home were difficult, the boredom and impossibility of getting anything done getting the best of me. In time, though, we found our groove and it's been good from there. I have enjoyed this maternity leave more than I enjoyed Max's: it's been easier caring for the baby, and so I've been better able to enjoy the small moments and not get too worked up about the drudgery. So when I think of this time ending, of knowing that now I won't spend most of my time with my tiny boy, of realizing the whole new wave of adjusting that we're going to have to do, even though I like my job and am o.k. about going back - I feel so sad, so, so very blue.
It helps a bit that there have been some people observant and kind enough to consider what happens next week and understand that my heart is tearing all over the place. Their compassion has been something that I've greatly needed and appreciated.
Things have been extra hellish, though, because my body has been my enemy and I've physically felt worse than I did both pregnant and after the delivery. I've thought for many weeks now that my hormones have been ravaging my body. I've felt totally off - physically uncomfortable, battling terrible cravings, and feeling so sensitive I think I might crack in two. This week I confirmed this feeling, as blood tests revealed that I'm completely out of whack. While I'm relieved that there's a biological reason for what I've been feeling, I'm now worried about my health and whether or not I'll be able to fix this. I have something that occurs in five to 10 percent of postpartum women, but it's unknown if it will be a temporary thing or if it will become permanent. For now, I'm stuck with the hellacious feelings brought on by the condition and feeling like my body is not my own, unable to do anything about this (unless I get on medication, which I've not yet decided on.). The worst thing for me is that one of the symptoms is irritability, and damn, do I feel it. On top of the sadness I'm feeling, I'm irritable about my health and about going back to work. So anything on top of this, it's just like 10,000 pounds of salt in my wounds and my irritability quadruples.This whole situation, my health and the nutty symptoms, it makes me doubly blue.
I hate feeling this way, so unable to feel normal, so unable to reign in the overwhelming waves of crappy feelings. I am blue, so blue, and it seems like nothing can make it go away.
My son's skin was translucent. That was one of the first things I noticed. His head especially showed a world of veins, right there on the surface, and I was struck by how incomplete that made him look. I knew he'd be fragile-looking, but his translucence was too much to bear.
I broke down in tears - my first real cry-fest since everything had happened - that moment when I first laid eyes on him. I'd spent 24 bizarre post-surgery hours, in a sleepy haze, medicated and immobile and repeatedly asking after my baby. When Monday dawned my first words were, "When can I see my son?" and I asked that question until they hauled me onto a wheelchair and instructed my husband to push me to the NICU.
It wasn't just the sight of my tiny baby boy in the isolette, all wires and gauze and tapes and tubes, that broke me; it was not being able to hold him. It felt beyond wrong, that I could see him there so vulnerable and alone and not be able to put him where he truly belonged: in my arms. It seemed then that nothing would ever be right, that something primal and essential had been denied and our fate was forever changed. So I cried. Those tears brought with them these hopeless feelings - we were all trapped in this situation, in this room, and the most important one of us was not guaranteed to make it out of there all right, and I was a weak, useless lump in a wheelchair. This was the moment, when I first laid eyes on my see-through baby, where I felt the most devastated.
It shocks me, then, to remember this terrible moment and feel it so far away already. My brain is clearly working hard to forget.
I don't know if I want to remember or want to forget. Most days, I think it's a little of both. Given my Swiss-cheese memory, I've felt my brain doing that thing it does with every painful situation, where it practically shuts down till the whole thing is blocked away. I'm doing that with the NICU experience, and so I'm here now, writing before it's all gone, because I know that ultimately, I will want to remember.
In hindsight, it was for the best that everything happened so quickly. However stunned it all made me feel (I still feel a bit so when I retell the story), I know that if I'd had time to think about things, to really understand how sick I was or that my baby would be confined to the NICU for who-knows-how-many weeks, I would have had a terrible reaction. I would have gone into denial and demanded to go home, or I would have wailed about how very wrong the whole thing was and been bitter from the get-go. The speediness of it all was good.
Also good was the care we received. I almost enjoyed being a patient, so good were they about checking on me, fulfilling my requests and keeping me comfortable, all with a kind, professional attitude. It actually was not as awful as I thought it would be.
But not good was the rest of it, though no hospital or staff can be blamed for my sickness and its consequences. Recovery from a c-section is excruciatingly slow and painful - how a woman can actually choose that torture over a vaginal delivery is completely beyond my comprehension - and it was made doubly so by the emotional toll of having a baby in the NICU. And while there is no doubt that my baby received the best care possible, I wish they had been better about how they communicated with us, because the vagueness of everything they would tell us was maddening and frustrating. I knew that no matter how badly I needed someone in that unit to tell me that my son was not going to die, it wasn't gonna happen. But I do wish someone would have offered perspective so that we wouldn't have had to have spent five weeks living in fear and dread, when neither was necessary at the extremely high levels we experienced them.
Almost four months later, the feelings seem to have been suppressed, and the images come and go. Most of it is fuzzy and distant, except for one: the sight of my translucent baby. That one is forever seared in me.
Notes from the Underground (of the PPD that's Eating my Brain)
It's true: it's easier the second time around. Everyone who would know told me so, and they were right.
Mothering this baby has so far been easier than mothering the first one. I spend too much time playing that game, comparing things that are similar but not really comparable. Some days, all I do is compare Infant M to Infant S, and it's a maddening, pointless game that I can't see my way out of. They are different human beings, each born into this world under very different circumstances, so what am I comparing, and why? How much less sleep I had then? How truly awful S's acid reflux is vs. M's happy spit-up?
Well, yes, that is what I'm comparing. When I'm able to run an errand and the baby remains fast asleep in his car seat, therefore enabling me to get it all done with no trouble, I slip into comparison mode: I was never able to run a single errand in peace with M. When the baby is wailing for no apparent reason, and it's 2 a.m. and I'm so exhausted I could tear my hair out: M never did this, why is this child punishing me like this??? On and on, I catch myself comparing even as something new occurs to me: what if it's not the babies so much as it is me?
For I am a different mother now than I was at newly-turned 28. The despair that ate at me for so many months then is not here now. I don't feel crazy at the avalanche of thoughts and worries; now I have as many worries and can get overwhelmed by my thoughts, but it's very easy for me to rein it in and move on. Or maybe I'm just doubly exhausted and can only muster a few minutes of worrying before nodding off. Or maybe the experiences of early motherhood are buried somewhere deep inside and the lessons learned so many years ago guide me now without my being truly aware of it. Whatever it is, something in me is different and this I am truly aware of. I'd like to think I'm older and wiser, and I know I'm in an overall better place in my life, emotionally, mentally, financially, matrimonially-speaking.
So yeah, I'm a calmer, more competent, less apt to freak out mom. It is for this exact reason that I'm perplexed to find myself muddling through post-postpartum depression - all things considered, it just doesn't make sense.
I am surprised and feel caught off guard because this seems to have hit me late, a few weeks after the baby was discharged and even more weeks since his birth. My crappy feelings aren't even about the baby, really. I'm hit with these thoughts and feelings about myself and my life, and I can't really tell if they are realistic or ridiculous or typical of being postpartum or just the tip of something deeper and darker. Right now I cannot properly gauge this.
First there's all the negativity I feel about my body. It's such a strange feeling, and I tend to criticize myself whenever I slip into "oh jeebus my body is so hideous!" mode, but this problem persists. It's neither fair nor realistic to compare my post-M recovery to this one, but I do. I want my flat tummy back, damnit. I want what I've always had and am used to. I started exercising last week, these intense 20-min daily workouts that suck, but which I'm committed to. This week my old clothes started fitting again, though how, I don't know because I don't look any different than I have these last weeks.
Then there's this one incredible feeling that's been making me all kinds of crazy: I'm devastated that my pregnancy was cut short. I miss being pregnant; I feel gypped that I couldn't see it through to the end. While I felt more tired and uncomfortable than I did the first time, I loved being pregnant and wasn't ready for it to end when it did. The week I spent in the hospital, about four packages arrived at my house, full of maternity clothes I'd purchased to see me through to the end. So much for that. I didn't have a baby shower, since it was scheduled for two weeks after everything happened. I'm actually not a huge fan of these, but I was looking forward to the bonding and the fun. Belly-bump pictures? Didn't happen. How big was I ultimately going to be? I'll never know. Most painfully, I didn't have a Blessing Way, which I was looking forward to the most and during which I'd hoped to make a cast of my belly.
There were all these things, however small they seem, that I didn't get to experience. This was my last pregnancy, and these things meant a lot to me.
Finally, there's my marriage. There's nothing wrong with it, but I'm bummed at how all these things are affecting it. We're technically still newlywed, and it feels like this experience has cut into that, like we have been forced to be long-married people instead of newly married ones. And we are not long-married people, we are a couple who wants to last, to experience everything together, but who have just started this part of the journey. And for this part of the journey, I wanted a normal pregnancy. I didn't want to get sick and have the baby early and feel the fear of possibly losing the baby. I didn't want the stress of the NICU and pumping my milk 3,000 times a day and then the stress about breastfeeding and if the baby was taking in enough. What I want now is to be attractive and desirable and not so wretchedly hormonal, and I'm pissed and aggrieved at all this. Ugh. It was going to be enough to have a baby so early into our marriage, but all these other factors have changed everything for me. Maybe not in a terrible or negative way, but changed nonetheless.
Blegh, now I'm just whining.
Even so, I write now from what feels like the beginning of the end of the depression (that's a bonus of spending a good part of your life battling depression: you recognize its stages and can plan accordingly). It could be that darker days will return, and there are still days that really do feel hellish, but ever since I admitted to myself that this was happening and that I needed to factor that into my thoughts, feelings and daily life, it's all been a bit better. Better, but not resolved.
What would resolve it for me? My baby continuing to thrive as well as he has since we got home. Getting my body back, and with it my overall confidence. My marriage staying healthy and happy and growing stronger. Oh, and it'd be awesome if my hormones would normalize, too, because I'm pretty sure they're largely responsible for this craziness.
And, of course, I've written about it now. I've unleashed the demon, and as usual, that will do its part to make everything better. I hope.