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.
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 Max - 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 Max, 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 Max to Infant Santiago, 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 Max. 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: Max 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-Max 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.
I'm looking at myself too much in the mirror lately. I can't help it - I'm in that annoying phase where all my maternity clothes are big on me but my regular clothes are a bit too tight still, and so I'm in a bad spot, looking like crap no matter what I wear. Seeing the way pregnancy #2 has changed my body has me in a panic: will any of my clothes ever fit me again? What kind of boobs will I have when I'm done breastfeeding? And this poofy belly - what. the. hell. is up with this poofy belly? Seriously, I'm a mess. I am currently the most ragged, bloated version of myself I've ever been, and it's making me crazy. I'm exhausted and my under-eye circles are worse than ever. My skin is neither soft nor glowing. I could go on, but I've just made myself too nauseous to continue. Beyond feeling dismayed at what I see, I feel more dismayed that I feel this way, that I'm even grappling with some body image issues.
This isn't me. I've always had a pretty forgiving attitude about my looks/body. As a child and adolescent, I was convinced that I was downright ugly, and while it stung at times, I accepted it. Or rather, I dealt with it as best as I could, namely by focusing on being the smart and funny girl in the room, a habit I've never shaken. My mother, heaven bless her, was not the kind of mother who harped on her daughters' looks. She made sure we were always clean and presentable, and our clothes were never shabby, but this was just not a thing in our house. We had nice clothes from the places we could afford, and we were taught to always look our best, but we were not raised to *be pretty*. No value was placed on our faces, our bodies, and what future potential there might be in them and in their abilities to land a man. I credit all this for never having an eating disorder or hating my body or for the fact that I've never placed my face or body before my brains in dealing with a challenge or problem or any situation (except for skipping the line at dance clubs).
And the truth is, part-way into my teens, the pretty came. At least, I liked what I saw in the mirror and enough boys kept the phone ringing for me to believe it wasn't just me who thought so. Once I accepted myself as-is, I did so completely and with full confidence, and I've been what I am now: someone who likes looking her best and who puts in a healthy dose of effort to do so, but not overly so. I mean, I'm lazy. And impatient. And don't care enough to go nuts about all this. So when I find myself caring like this, feeling obsessed and vulnerable about it... ick. I want to crawl out of my skin and hide somewhere.
My 30's have brought all this unexpected angst about my changing body. I never thought I'd care about this; I was pretty sure I'd age gracefully and wouldn't think twice about any of it. Maybe I never cared because I could afford not to care? Yet having to deal with some health issues that caused some weight gain, in the midst of re-booting my life with someone new, has thrown me for a loop. And now on top of everything I've got this baby weight to lose, and it's all becoming more overwhelming than I care to admit. That I'm even writing about this is a sign of how bad it's gotten.
Maybe I shouldn't feel so surprised to be struggling with this issue. This is an area, after all, that comprised a considerable chunk of the damage of my first marriage. But I am surprised. I long ago made my peace with the damage, and I long ago realized how specific all that crap was to one person, one relationship. And that was it, you know? Damage sealed away and for the most part gone. Except that right now I can't help the way it's crept back up. This issue - what my body looked like and how (un)attractive it was - was such a huge problem for so long, and I'm seriously in one hell of a vulnerable place right now, and so - easy pickin's I guess. There's no point in getting into the details of how this issue played itself out (just know that I vehemently disagreed with he who judged me so harshly, fighting a great deal about it), but what is currently playing in my head right now is one line my ex would tell me over and over again, every time we would fight, when I yelled in my own self-defense, convinced that a couple extra pounds or rounder curves were no big deal, at least not big enough to jeopardize a marriage forchristssake, and certainly not love, real love: every man feels this way, this is what every guy wants. Meaning, every man wants his woman to be skinny, zero fat, good ass, toned all over - and big boobs, those really help. And she must be that way, or else...
This is crazy shit, and I know it. I know it. I know love does not demand such rigid, ridiculous, unrealistic standards, nor does it disappear if those standards are not met. Hell, that's not love, period. I know most men don't really have such an attitude, that no one who really cares for another - romantic, platonic, familial - would think less of or feel less for someone who no longer looks how they did at 20. I know all this. Usually I don't even think about these things. But right now, those words haunt me. Could they be true? Were those words offered as the truth hidden in all men, even though they'd rather die than admit it? More than that, what if it's true of everyone I know and love? This is how I know that some damage was too deep to fully be gone yet: I start to believe awful things like this are true. And if they are, my g-d, I'm screwed.
Ay. I hate feeling weak and vulnerable. I could remind myself that these have been very overwhelming months and weeks, that I've been through a lot, physically and emotionally, that I have a lot going on right now exacerbating these feelings and need to go inward and find my center again, and that I need some time to get back to normal. I could, but that would be too easy. I'd rather take my frumpy-ass self and go hide under a rock now.
Late that first day, when I was still groggy but not as much as I'd been earlier and after having been visited by what felt like 50 relatives and friends, I noticed that one particular thought kept flashing in my already-throbbing brain: the very thing I'd prayed would not happen, happened. I was fascinated and scared by this, by the way that, for the first time in my life, I'd prayed for one specific thing not to happen and it happened anyway.
I did not enter into a crisis of faith - I didn't have the strength to get all deep and existential about it. I just marveled at the realization over and over again, my brain, I now realize, addled by morphine and magnesium sulfate. But I could do nothing with it, nothing more than think, well shit, look at that. What this said about God or the universe, I couldn't fathom. And honestly, I didn't really care.
It would be another day before I realized the truth: I had NOT actually prayed for this specifically to not happen. What I'd actually prayed for was this: please don't let me go into early labor and lose the baby. And that had NOT happened. Instead, I'd gotten suddenly sick, very sick, and the only way to save my life and the baby's was to get him out. An emergency c-section later, my son was in the NICU, tiny and fragile and critical, but alive. Not lost or dead - alive.
I probably spent a few more hours obsessing over that - over the discrepancy and the way that my prayer had been honored, but barely so. I recall these thoughts, but fuzzily. Five weeks after my son entered this world, details of those first couple of days are already kinda blurry. I credit the drugs and intensely terrifying and overwhelming nature of his first 48 hours for that.
This new chapter of my life begins here: in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit, where we practically lived for five weeks, waiting for our son to grow strong enough to come home, a miracle we accomplished this weekend.
Born seven weeks early, he has been stable and subject only to "typical preemie stuff," as nurses and doctors have repeatedly told us. I don't know how true that is, if any of the issues that have come up were downplayed to spare themselves hysterical parents (I don't say that as a criticism; these folks must deal with all kinds of parental craziness all the time). Perhaps if anything had become truly critical, that would have been the time to be straight with us. I don't know; I've just had take each day as it comes, trusting the NICU staff and working with them to help my son.
My son. Oh, he is divine. He is tiny and sweet and looks a lot like his father, with a splash of his big brother for good measure. He's got a temper on him, wailing when his diaper is changed and when he's hungry. Barring that, he is calm, his vitals perfect when he spends hours in my or my husband's arms. Once he was feeding well on the tube, without spit up, they let me put him on my breast and he's been a total champ. The highlight of my day is watching him latch on and chug away. It makes all these long, long weeks of near-constant pumping (and the exhaustion, soreness and obsessing about having enough MLs for each of his feeds that comes with it) worth it.
But this is not the beginning I imagined, and part of being a new mother all over again has been accepting the unnaturalness of his premature birth. I couldn't see him the day I gave birth to him. I couldn't hold him for another two days after that. It was almost three weeks before I could nurse him. My life became contained within a hospital room - actually, to the chair next to his crib where I could hold and nurse him in full view of the security camera. There was nothing else for five weeks, nothing but the exhausting routine of getting Max off to school, driving 25 miles to the hospital, spending all day there and making it back home in time to do homework, dinner and the nighttime routine with Max. Ah, Max. There was also all the time I took from Max, especially on weekends, because he could not be with us in the NICU and I had to make the best choice possible as far as figuring out which son to be with, and when, and for how long.
There's no point in dwelling too much on these things, but they have been difficult to live through. I am grateful for the care he received but nearly went insane with the long weeks of waiting and fearing the worst. I spent too many nights worrying the phone might ring in the middle of the night and too many days feeling dread every time his monitor would go off. It's been impossible to feel relief every time he makes it to another day when no one can tell me the one thing - "Your son is going to survive" - that I need to hear the most. It's been better since we've been home, where we can be comfortable as we settle into a new routine, but the fear lingers - it's like I've got NICU PTSD. It'll wear off, I suppose, one day. It helps greatly that we are home and that he is healthy. I think every day that it could have been so much worse, that all things considered, we got off easy. He avoided major crises and was generally stable, and has been steadily growing and thriving. We made it home with this sweet, darling little bug that's completely won us over. We are settling into a new routine, the three of us hunkering down as a team to take care of the baby while staying afloat above the exhaustion. And so, I begin again. Say hello to Santiago:
I thought being pregnant would compel me to write more frequently here. I wrote a lot - every day - during my first pregnancy (though - ha! - on my first Geocities website and LiveJournal). I couldn't help chronicling all the random things that come with pregnancy - the cream cheese cravings, the day my beloved Earl jeans stopped fitting me, the feelings of his first movements inside me. I needed, too, a space to process all the anxiety and ambivalence and excitement.
So I figured it'd be about the same again this time. But it hasn't been. I've not felt even the slightest desire to bore anyone with every little thing that's happened, or my thoughts on much, really. I've written about some of the bigger things that've been on my mind, but overall, I've just not wanted to write. The world wide web is sufficiently littered with other moms droning on about the minutiae of pregnancy, and every time I've thought about sharing something, I've instead ended up rolling my eyes at myself.
The thing about this pregnancy that's made me
less desirous of writing is that I've spent a decent chunk of it
filled with an inexplicable rage, and it's had me feeling irritable and
impatient and downright pissed some of the time. It’s not an ongoing feeling, nor
anything along the lines of “I have a terrible life,” or “life sucks,” but it
is the feeling that flares up the instant something somewhat negative or
inconvenient happens. It’s an odd thing to deal with at a time when I’m
actually in a good place in my life, happier than I've ever been. I have no
real reason to feel this way, but I do.
Worse, it’s not like I go through a ragey fit and then feel badly – I actually
feel pretty justified in my feelings. The situations that have arisen have
sincerely struck me as others being selfish or melodramatic or plain old
ridiculous, and the key difference is that instead of sucking it up, I've been
lashing out. I mean, not crazy lashing out (except to my husband, who’s had to
be my sounding board), but I've been blunt and direct and have felt pretty fed
up and acted just so. Non-pregnant Tere has become someone who holds her tongue a lot - a lot - to keep the peace, to not be problematic, etc. But pregnant Tere is like, eff that crap, xxx (person) is being a moron and I'm not going to just sit quietly and let them get away with this shit. Sure, I rage in my head but ultimately present a much more diplomatic attitude, but I'm definitely blunt and direct and care very little for how the person might react. In some ways, it's like I'm back to how I used to be a decade ago.
I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, I'm relieved to not feel like I have to be so, so cautious and overly careful about what I say to someone, lest I inadvertently insult them and cause a problem. What I've become - my near-total avoidance of any kind of confrontation, or my extreme stressing when I know some kind of confrontation - even the most polite kind - is unavoidable - is not something I can really accept, and I struggle with it. I think it's become a necessary attitude to keep my anxiety at bay: I brush a lot of things off to not spin into over-analysis overdrive or to not waste time and energy on people and situations that are simply not worth it. There's a degree of peace in tuning someone out and letting it all slide off me. And yet, the part of me that can't handle anything that is unjust is reveling in this right now. I can't lie - it feels a bit good to (tactfully) call someone out on their bullshit or to put them on the spot. Too many times, people fling shit out at others and then run and hide. I can't stand that. And right now, something in my body is like, you can't just stand by, say something, do something! So I go through all this raging at the unfairness of it all at my husband and then filter it down to something I can less ragefully communicate to the jerk in question.
But on the other hand, I don't want to revert to the me of my mid-twenties and earlier, and I would hope that even in the middle of my increased irritability there's still a difference in how it all comes out, then vs. now. I certainly don't want to be a perpetually cranky person who's fighting against every damn thing. I don't want to carry anger within me, especially over people or situations I know are hopeless, nor do I want to put out a negative (or unpleasant or difficult) vibe out to the universe. In some ways, this current heightened indignation is a setback and I'm working on it like I do everything else.
At the very least, I don't for a second believe that this is all about my current (pregnant, hormonal) state; I'm lucid enough to understand that my current state is making it hard for me to brush off problematic people who have always been there, and unnecessary b.s. that can be avoided but pops up anyway (thanks to thoughtless or self-centered people). In other words, this stuff isn't in my head, it's real. That's a small comfort, but I'll take it. I need any piece of comfort I can get to see me through these remaining weeks, so the rage won't eat me alive.