Friday, December 30, 2011

new year

All in all, 2011 was a pretty great year. It didn't always feel like it in the moment, but the events of the year add up to a lot, and that's worth noting. Instead of reflecting on last year, I'm looking forward! Setting my intentions for 2012 and putting my mind on what is to come rather than what has passed

1. In 2012, I plan to respect my body more, and in so doing, I hope to take better care of it than I do now. This will certainly be a challenge, but it's an intention I'm setting and I'll do the best I can to carry it out. I do not plan to diet or stick to some regiment, but I will do what has always worked for me in the past: to honor what my body actually asks for in terms of food, exercise, love, and care.

2. In 2012, I hope to stop spending time worrying about all the bad things that might happen to me, to my DH, and to the kids (and the house, and the car, and my get the picture). Worrying does not keep bad things from happening, but it steals my ability to feel joy when good things are happening.

3. In 2012, I would like to work on my relationship with DH. This probably deserves a post of its own at some point...we're still relatively strong, but the day to day business of taking care of young kids has made our connection less personal somehow. I'd like to get that back. And sex? Man, I'm missing it, which should tell you how impersonal our connection feels at the moment.

4. In 2012, I'd like to do some writing. I'm not a very good writer, really, and I'd like to become better. I'd like to find a more authentic writing voice, if such a thing exists. I've become such an academic writer, a precise and careful writer, that there's no risk to the process anymore. There's no joy in it. And there's no spontaneity. See those last few sentences? That structure is one of my most common (three sentences, the third one starting with "And"). I'd like to stop writing in structures. They're unconscious at this point, but they're holding me back. Free-verse, I say! Unexpected sentence format!

5. Last but not least, I plan to pay attention to the moment. This is an intention I set every year and I figure by continuing to set it, I will continue to improve on doing so. I don't aim for perfection, but I'd like to be present for my life even more than I am now (which is not very much at all, lately).

Do you make intentions or resolutions for the new year? Do they matter to you?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

and so it goes

I've been officially diagnosed with postpartum anxiety. I kinda knew that the diagnosis was coming because I called my therapist and said, "hey...can I come by? I think I have postpartum anxiety." Three visits in, she agreed and recommended occasional talk therapy (she's kinda "on call," so I'm not going every week, but I'll email her when I feel it's getting frustrating and we'll have a visit to check in on my coping skills). She also suggested or some other anti-anxiety med, but since I'm breastfeeding (exclusively), I can't take anything now. Maybe I'll consider meds in the future if this sticks around.

The anxiety is manifesting itself in obsessive thoughts and the beginnings of ocd rituals, like using my right hand to support her head when I put her down to sleep instead of my left. Or repeating certain prayers over and over a specific number of times in order to ward away danger.  I have never had any ocd behaviors before now, so these weird behaviors are how I knew that something was up. I have experienced what I consider to be fairly normal levels of anxiety in my non-postpartum life, and I always thought of it as an endearing aspect of my personality. I imagine myself as a marginal but sweet character in a Woody Allen film. But this level of anxiety is not endearing or sweet. This current anxiety level is much higher. More acute. More painful.

I think it's under control today. Deep breathing helps. Saying things like "these are just thoughts...they're not real" is also useful. I have a list of reality checks that my therapist and I came up with to read over when I feel overwhelmed by fear.

How weird this is. I was stressed out through the pregnancy with thoughts that something would go wrong, and it didn't (except for the C section, but that's a minor inconvenience, not the kind of tragedy I was worrying about). I was stressed out during those first few weeks when she seemed tired and unusually lethargic, all of which turned out to be nothing (after multiple doctor visits and that ER trip). And here I sit, stressed out again without any real reason for doing so.

One of the things that scares me a bit is that whenever I talk to people IRL about my recent anxiety problems, people have a tendency to say things like "it only gets worse from here" and "little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems!" I don't tell them the real level of the anxiety--the ocd stuff or the way that I feel like a cloud of doom is hovering over my shoulders, but given their pat responses, that's probably a smart move. If I had some fellow new mom friends IRL, maybe I could discuss it with them, but I don't have any that I know well enough (yet). But what if they're right and I will suffer this kind of mother-related anxiety the rest of my life? I suppose it doesn't matter and I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other, just learning to manage this anxiety and accept where I am today. Breathe, Rachael, breathe.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Today, my little boy is turning two years old. And I am turning two as a mother, which seems just as significant (to me, anyway). Being two is hard!

For W, being two means talking. A lot. New words come out every single day and he's saying short sentences ("I did it!" and "Airplane is up in the sky!"). Just a few days ago, he sang parts of Twinkle, Twinkle and ABC (mostly singing the last words of each line in a complete monotone--very sweet!). He loves "chicken," which in fact is not chicken at all but is a fake chicken nugget made of soy. His other favorites are green beans, lima beans, broccoli, fruit of any kind (grapes cut into tiny pieces are a current fave), bagels with cream cheese, and "bish" (goldfish crackers).

He sleeps on his own, most of the time. Last week, he was in our bed at least once a night for several nights in a row. But last night, he slept in his crib again by himself. I think the disruption is due to the new baby--W is still trying to figure out where he fits in. And speaking of the new baby, he likes her, I think, though he doesn't seem to understand that she's a fellow person. I found him the other day poking at her eyes and it scared the hell out of me. She wasn't bothered at all, and she has a tendency to smile very wide when he comes directly into her view. He doesn't notice this smile and doesn't seem to get why this is such a big deal, but I tell him it is and hopefully he'll get it soon.

He likes the stereotypically two year old things: blocks, cars, stuffed animals, flashy shiny toys that friends have handed down to us (we don't generally buy toys for him--they're all hand-me-downs). His favorite things, though, are dinosaurs in any shape or kind. We have several stuffed dinosaurs and two big dinosaur toys that make roaring sounds and have flashing lights for eyes. I find them quite scary, but W cannot get enough. He also loves "mimic," which is his word for music. As soon as he's buckled into his car seat, he begins demanding "mimic," and in between songs, he asks "Mimic??" until the next track comes on.

My second year of motherhood has been WAY better than the first. As you all know, I found the first few months of W's life to be quite difficult. Impossible, even, though I seem to have survived which means that it only felt impossible. I remember all too well how minutes ticked by so slowly in those early months. I'm sure I've told the story before that I honestly thought one of our clock's batteries had died because the clock appeared to have stopped. I found out later that the clock was still working fine--it was just my perception of time that had slowed to a crawl. Awful. I also remember pacing the floors because W liked movement. I couldn't sit down because he'd cry, so the creaking floorboards in our house are surely due to those long, painful days.

It all got much better around four months and then by nine or ten months, it was even better. It's pretty damn wonderful now, but having two babies is my new motherhood challenge. How do people survive having two??? I guess I'll figure out. I'm two and a half months into having two babies, and as I said above, I'm still here. It helps that E is quite different than W was--much easier and more laid-back.

On a spiritual level, being a mother is like a hard-core meditation practice. It doesn't necessarily feel great in the moment--it can sometimes feel quite grueling (talk to me about motherhood during one of W's latest tantrums, for instance, which include throwing himself to the ground, screaming, and thrashing about, and I might say "don't do it!")--but over time, being a mother coalesces me into something bigger than I was before having a baby. I am more full of love and amazement and beauty than I was before.

Ah, what is it about having children that turns people into sentimental mushes? Well, it is what it is. I am a mush for my kids. In person, you'd find me more acerbic and less sentimental, I think. Maybe it's writing about having children that turns me into a mush? Maybe it's the birthday? I suppose it's so hard to describe the experience that words fail, you know? Would I have been a fabulous person without W in the world? Yes, of course. I was doing just fine. But two years ago, when W came into this world and changed our lives, I became a new person. I experienced a rebirth. And kicking and screaming at least part of the way, I became the person I am today. I suppose this is it: living with a child alters one's own perception of the world.

So today, I say happy birthday to my dear, sweet baby boy Wyatt. And I say happy birthday to the mother that I am, flaws and all. We made it this far, and I'm very curious to see where we go next!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

homemaking, or the lack thereof

I suck at it. Seriously. We went to visit a couple who has a big beautiful house and four children and I was struck by how beautifully they had decorated their house for the holidays. The kids were all working on art projects to continue the decoration. And the mother was in the midst of cooking multiple dishes (some for us and others for the week to come). The parents do it all without help--they both work full time, they have no cleaning or child care help (all the kids are school age), and they're running around with more obligations than we have. But it was lovely. They even had bought presents for W's birthday and for the holidays for both our kids.

Sigh. We came home after this visit to our completely undecorated house in which I was planning on offering boxed mac and cheese to W and entertaining him by watching some crappy kids show on Spr.out.

I wish I had an artistic sensibility. Or was a better cleaner. People DO say that our house is warm and inviting, but I sometimes think that's just because I light candles and occasionally make brownies (from a box) for guests. In reality, we sometimes are just struggling to get through the days. Who has time for beauty and decorating and art?

Maybe this post should be sponsored by my MIL, who is coming over today for a little birthday party we're throwing for W (with a store-bought cake, no less). She constantly digs at me about my homemaking skills. I'd love to ban her from my life, but I suppose that's not an option, is it?

Off to get a store-bought wreath or something for our front door....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


This year, I am thankful for:

- My new baby girl, E, and her big brother (almost two!), W. They are the lights of my life. I was in the car recently singing a song with W and I broke down in happy tears. I cannot believe that I am a mother.
- My sweet and abiding partner, Michael. He stands by me when I'm at my most crazy (way too often) and he's just as complex as I am. We do not have an easy relationship, he and I, but we have a real relationship with its ups, downs, and all-over-the-places. I am very grateful to know him and to be partnered with him in life and in parenthood.
- My job. I don't always enjoy it and I'm really wishing I had more time off for maternity leave (I start back at work next week), but in an economy like this, I am very lucky to have a job in my field that is relatively secure. It's not perfectly secure, of course (what is?), but I don't expect to be out of a job for the next year or two, and that's a big ass deal.
- My mother. She is, like Michael, incredibly complex. And like my job, I don't always enjoy her. But she's here and we have a relationship that I cherish, even when it isn't going well. We are doing the best we can, and given that she's in her 70s, I'm aware that she won't be here forever.
- My health. I'm about 40 lbs overweight (!!!), have arthritis in my knees and tendonitis in my wrists, and sometimes it feels like I'm far older than 42, especially when I've been up multiple times a night to feed E. In other words, every damn morning. But still: I have it. One of Michael's sisters is incredibly ill with multiple autoimmune diseases and a poor prognosis. When I feel crappy, I think of her. Life could be much worse.
- My brain. It works, most of the time, and even though I've got newborn-in-the-house fogginess, my mind is emerging slowly from the fog. I expect it to be back, eventually. I hope that when I go back to work next week, it works enough that I don't feel like an asshole at my first big meeting (on Monday, the day I return).
- And of course, I am grateful for the ability to feed my family every day without worry, for having shelter, for having warm clothes as winter sets in, and for not being too much in financial need. I'm thankful that my problems are first world problems, as they say, and I pledge again (and again, and again) to work so that others have the same sense of security and safety.

I suppose these are all fairly predictable things to be thankful for, so I'll add a few less predictable ones:
- My DVR. This one is silly. Remember when we had to be home at a certain time to watch tv? I love that those days are gone. I love that I can save an old movie for middle of the night feedings if I need it. I love that I can fast forward through a trashy real housewives episode so that I don't feel too pathetic watching it in real time.
- Faceb.ook. I know, I know. It's a major time suck and it's not *that* interesting. This is another silly one. But I love that I can keep up with long lost friends from high school and college. I was not a popular kid in HS and my college friends are sometimes people I cannot imagine being real friends with today, but it's pretty cool to see what happened to all of them. I could not have conceived of such a thing when I graduated college (in, I'm old!).
- NPR. Actually, this one isn't so silly. I value that I get to hear quality programming in the car any time of the day or night. I'm a totally junkie for NPR programs, and yes, I'm a member, so I do my part (even though I share everyone else's hatred for pledge drives).
- The blogworld: another non-silly thing I'm pleased is part of my life. I'm still a newbie in this blog world, but I'm really quite thrilled that my words go out into the interwebs and are read by people who don't live in my town, aren't in my academic field, and yet who I care about a great deal.  I value this community so much, even more now that I'm an itinerant blogger. Thank you, dear readers, for reading and writing!!!

I hope everyone has a lovely Thanksgiving, if this is a holiday you're celebrating!

Monday, November 7, 2011

words, words, words

I am loving the almost-two-ness of W these days. His language skills are exploding, right before my eyes. He repeats everything we say, he's putting together short sentences of his own making, and he is expressing his own ideas in word form. We always knew what he meant by his facial expressions and the pointy little finger he'd jab at us or at something he wanted to touch or hold. But language! It's so amazing to witness.

We had a baby naming ceremony yesterday and it was absolutely lovely. Eliza got her Hebrew name and our family and friends were very pleased. I may have mentioned this before, but I'm a secular Episcopalian and my partner is a secular Jew, and it was more important to him than to me that we teach the kids about our traditions, so we did a Bris for my son and a Naming Ceremony for her. I am totally on board with this plan, but every now and then I feel like an outsider in my own family. I don't share my partners' or my kids' last names (again, I am totally on board--I've long hated my last name and his is melodic) and I'm not Jewish. I didn't think it would matter--and it really doesn't in the grand scheme of things--but at moments like the naming ceremony yesterday, I felt that outsiderness. I don't know Hebrew, I was only marginally a part of the ceremony, and I know that when the Cantor was singing out the long connection to the Jewish tradition that Eliza is now part of, he didn't really mean to include me. He did because he's a kind and generous man, but the tradition he was referring to does not include lapsed Episcopalians who are really agnostic and spiritual, not religious or connected to a cultural heritage by birth.

In a sense, I felt out of words, not the ones I was saying, but the ones that were being said about my daughter. I feel more comfortable with the words of W--his word salad includes me. Depends on me, in a sense, and connects me to him more than either of these ceremonies did.

I am very glad we did both ceremonies and I think I will be glad that the kids have this cultural, historical, and personal connection to their father and to Judaism. But I will need to find ways to become more connected, myself, either by last name or by becoming like a secular Jew myself. Not sure where my path will lead me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A healthy baby update

Thank you for your kind words and messages (both in comment and email form). I was so freaked out when I last wrote.

That day got worse, in fact, when my pediatrician decided that the best course of action was to go to the ER to get checked out. So off we went. It was better than I would have expected. I suppose when anyone brings a two week old baby into an ER, everyone will do whatever they can to ease the parents' worry and to keep the baby safe. That's what happened. They ran a bunch of blood tests to find out if she had low blood sugar, jaundice, and myriad other disorders and conditions. All came back negative/normal. They also did an ultrasound of her brain to ensure that there was nothing structural going on to prevent her from waking up and breathing normally. Again, the results came back normal. Lastly, they gave her IV fluids because she was a tad dehydrated, and they decided to keep her overnight and monitor her to get a full picture of what might be going on. Once more, all seemed normal. Her color improved as a result of the fluids and she had no apnea or low heartrate episodes during the period of observation. They also got a report from the heart rate monitor and found that there "may" have been a few low heart rate episodes, but there were no credible apnea episodes. I forget the words they used, but it was something like "the data is very poor for apnea."

In other words, E got a clean bill of health and we were able to take her home the next day. I felt better, but still stressed. So stressed, in fact, that I called the pediatrician yesterday because I thought I saw her breathing hard and having chest retractions (a lactation consultant saw them, too, and though she said there was nothing to worry about, I couldn't get them out of my mind). I'm glad I took her in yet again, though, because after looking E over thoroughly and hearing my long story, here is what the pedi said, paraphrased, of course, but in quote to indicate that this is how it sounded to me:

"Rachael, E is a perfectly healthy baby. She's had a slightly rough start, but there is nothing wrong with her. She has been monitored more than most babies of her age and she is fine. You need to make the switch from seeing her as a sick baby to seeing her as a healthy infant. Take her home and love her--that's all you need to do. If there were something serious going on, it would have shown itself by now. Relax and stop worrying."

So that's what I'm doing: I'm trying to treat her like a normal baby and I'm doing my best to put all thoughts of her being a sick baby out of my mind. I do feel relieved that she's been evaluated in multiple ways and nothing has been found. We're keeping her on the monitor, just in case (and as the pedi said, because it will allow me to sleep a bit because I can rely on the monitor to tell me if something is wrong). But otherwise: we. are. normal.

Phew. I'm feeling like I'm still dodging ppd here. I'm planning to call my therapist to check in and chat about the stress of all this worry--hopefully it will allow me to release some of the tension. But for now, I'm mostly sane and relaxed and hopefully, we're moving forward.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I am overwhelmed with anxiety and stress at the moment. E's apnea monitor has been going off lately, especially at night. When W had the monitor, most of the alarms were false and we knew it. The monitor would be beeping and we'd be watching him breathe and move--clearly not a real indication of a baby not breathing. After a month, the monitor went back.

But with E? The alarms are real. The instruction is to gently touch the baby when the alarm is going off, and hopefully, the touch will prompt the baby to breathe. It's worked, obviously, but it's terrifying to hear an alarm signaling that E hasn't breathed in 20 seconds. And then, for another terrifying few seconds, I'm holding my own breath to hope that the alarm goes off and she breathes.

This morning, it happened three times in five minutes.

On top of all this, E is an incredibly sleepy baby. She's awake for no more than two hours a day. Two. I should enjoy having a relaxed baby, right? But no. This sleepiness adds to my fear. Why won't she stay awake? Is it related to the apnea? Is something seriously wrong with my sweet little girl?

She's all snuggled up on my chest right now, sleeping (of course). It should be a happy snuggly peaceful tome, but all I do is cry and worry. The one saving grace is that she is eating, but I have to wake her to do so. She is making the right number of diapers.

I really am terrified. I had hoped that I could avoid any concern for ppd, but this stress is starting to eat away at me. I imAgine thus is normal--how could any mother not feels wiped out by this stress?

Sorry to dump all this out, but just writing it out is easing my mind. I'm going to call the dr now to check in. That's what they are there for, right?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

She's here!

Well, I meant to post long before this, but things are always more complicated than I expect them to be. First, let me announce the great news: the baby, a girl named Eliza (I'll call her E in future posts), was born healthy and happy on 9/23. She was 6 lbs, 9 oz and came into the world with a loud cry. She is absolutely adorable and I'll post a picture as soon as I can download my camera and get organized (ha!). Really, I will post a picture soon.

Nothing about labor and delivery went well. I was induced during week 39 because the MFM doing my non-stress tests noticed that her heartrate was dropping during my minor contractions. No big deal, really, but during the second NST where this showed up, I was sent over to the hospital for further monitoring. Sure enough, the pattern continued and the midwife called it: it was time to get this process moving. Now, on the one hand, I did not want to be induced again. I had seriously hoped to go into labor on my own this time around, but figuring that it was 39 weeks, I agreed. I really trust my midwife practice and I like the particular midwife on call that day, all of which made the decision clearer.

The induction was awful. No cervi.dil this time around--that's what was used in my last delivery and I found it to work wonderfully--kicked me into labor all on its own (no pitocin needed). This time, the hospital has switched to cy.totec, and this drug did absolutely nothing. I started the process of induction at 1 cm and 50% effaced, and after three doses of cy.totec, I was still 1 cm and 50% effaced. Stupid drug. It did, however, intensify my contractions and make them more real and painful (gee--thanks), and as a result, her heartrate kept up its plummeting during each one. They gave me oxygen, turned me around and around to see if we could dislodge her (going on the assumption that she was lying on the cord in a weird way and could be moved to stop the heartrate problem) and nothing worked. Finally, they hooked me up to pitocin to see if we could just speed things along and the heartrate got worse. A different midwife, someone I liked but didn't know well, came in and said that after conferring with the doctor on call, it was time to move on to a c-section. In everyone's opinion, something was going on with baby girl and since we couldn't fix it from the outside, it was time to intervene.

Cue the heartbreak. I cannot believe that I made it through my first labor and delivery without the threat of a c-section (I was so proud...again, I say: ha!) and yet for my second labor and delivery, I was going into major abdominal surgery. Everyone had promised me that the second baby was so much easier--I had spent hours (yes, hours) talking to the midwives about my desire for a different kind of coaching than I had gotten at my first birth, and I had visualized it many times in the hopes that it would all go smoothly. Nope. Next thing I knew, I was signing a release form of some kind and heading into the OR. It was not an emergency section, thank goodness, but it sucked nonetheless. I was freezing the entire time, shaking from the spinal, and terrified that I would somehow not survive the surgery. I know this sounds morbid, but one of the things I did in preparation for giving birth this second time around was to joke with my husband about not surviving this time. I made lists of things that he doesn't know in case I wasn't around. I showed him how to make W's favorite tofu dish. And it was all in a joking let-me-release-my-anxiety-in-a-silly-way. As I lay on the table, I thought about how unfunny it all was.

Obviously, and very thankfully, I lived. And so did Eliza. I am incredibly grateful for the skill of the surgeon and the medical community at large. I still hate that I had a c-section, but I don't think I was pushed into it. I think it really was medically necessary and in the end, I'm thrilled that we came through it alive and healthy. I have plenty to say about c-section recovery, however, but I'll save that for another post. No. Fun. At. All. Seriously.

Eliza is a delightful baby. She sleeps far more than she's awake, and yet when she's awake, she has such an amazing variety of faces, many of which remind me of a little old lady. All is not rosy, however. Breastfeeding was going wonderfully until we had to go back into the hospital--one day after being sent home--because her bilirubin number was too high. If you've read my previous posts, you may recall that my son had very serious jaundice and high bilirubin, and so it all felt like I was watching the same movie play out again, only in slightly lighter form. Her jaundice was not nearly as bad as W's, but there are other similarities: because they had her under lights for two days and on all kinds of monitors, they noticed that she has some apnea, just like W did. As I write this, I'm checking the heartrate monitor that they sent her home on to make sure that she's breathing and that her heart is beating without fail. I'll try to write about the heartrate monitor sometime--it's not as bad this time as it was last time, but it's given me deja-vu to carry around a tiny baby with cords coming out of the bottom of the swaddle attached to a blinking monitor.

The problem with breastfeeding is that while in the hospital, she got very used to the bottles of formula (the hospital had no place for me to stay overnight, so I had to agree to bottle feeding--some of formula and some of my expressed breastmilk). She got home on Friday and was clearly annoyed that my breasts were not like little spigots dumping milk into her mouth without effort. I think it's getting better, but I can't tell. I feel like my breasts have dried up completely as a result of the lack of suction (I should have pumped, but didn't want to get too I would give anything to feel engorged again!). Argh. Who designed this crazy system? I'm going to stick with it, but it's definitely provoking my anxiety.

I have other posts in the works. One about the weird grief I've been feeling for the change in my relationship to W--I adore Eliza, but I desperately miss the days when it was just W and me against the world. He's had a slightly rocky adjustment, too, and I'll write about it. I also have one about the many anxieties that plagued my last few weeks of pregnancy--they were very different this time around, and more intense, and I couldn't write about them in real time because they were, well, too real. Now that she's here I feel more free to express them out loud and in writing. I'm home for maternity leave for the next seven weeks (whoo hoo--I just wish it were longer!) and hope to get these posts finished and posted. In fact, my plan for writing is to continue focusing not on the new baby and how cute she is (of course she is...what baby isn't adorable to its mother!). Instead, I want to meditate on how all these external changes--babies, motherhood, work, politics--are affecting my sense of self as a woman, a person, a member of several communities. I hope to write more, think more deliberately about myself and my position in the world, and take care of a newborn, all at the same time. Should be easy, no? ;)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

nothing to see here

I am still here, I swear, and I'm reading all of my usual favorite blogs. I wish I could say that I'm on vacation or taking a summer hiatus, but I've actually been working a lot since I last wrote. I'm teaching a summer class ("The Short Story," which has been a blast--9 students, all of whom are interested, talkative, and smart!) and am working with our university's Teaching and Learning Center to get ready to teach other new teachers about pedagogy. And on top of all that, I'm doing my regular administrative/faculty job of hiring adjunct instructors and helping to run our program.

This is all good, I guess, but I'm feeling pretty run down and am wishing I had a bit more time to rest and relax. I'm not sure what I'd be doing if I were relaxing. W is in daycare three days a week and on the other two days, I usually have my husband here with me and W. We play outside, we go for walks, and we watch a bit of Street. And even those "off" days wear me out. I mostly want to sit on the couch and do nothing other than snuggle with W, and he's not in a snuggly mood. He's in a run around the house and play kind of mood.

The biggest news is that I'm feeling ready--really ready--for this baby to come and there are still 7 weeks left (i'm 33 weeks pregnant as of tomorrow). I didn't feel this way the first time around, and what I've learned is that second pregnancies are physically harder in many ways. One, I started up 10 lbs higher than I did when I was pregnant with W. It may only be 10 lbs, but I feel much bigger and more stretched than I was before. Two, round ligament pains are WAY worse the second time around. As the midwife recently said, "it feels like a knife stabbing in your side, right?" Yes, yes it does. They're so bad I was crying a few weeks ago thinking that it was premature labor. Nope. Just ligament pain. Three, chasing a toddler around is next to impossible. I'm much more tired than I remember being last time, and my breathing is already way more labored than before. I seriously sound like I'm having an asthma attack most of the time. So even though I want her to stay in, keep baking until she's ready to come out, I've about had it with the discomfort. Working full time while I'm carrying all this weight and working so hard really sucks. There's just no way around it.

I'm still thrilled to be pregnant, to be relatively healthy, and to be headed into these last few weeks in a relatively good space, albeit a tired one. I suppose it's like running a marathon, not that I've ever done that, of course. This may be as close as I ever get to a marathon, in fact. But if this is a marathon, I must be in mile 17 or 18, right? I must be closing in on the end. Maybe I'm just hitting the dreaded "wall"?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

writing the perfect comment

There are some great posts about commenting in the last few days. Jjiraffe, for example, has a wonderful series of posts that have got me thinking and wanting to comment more often than usual. And in the earliest of her posts, you can see links to some other commenting posts--all worth checking out.

I love commenting. The biggest barrier for me to commenting more often is my own anxiety about writing. I tend to overthink and overwrite, and so a simple "click" to say "great post--I agree!" turns easily into a two hour process of drafting and revising. Ridiculous, I know. But true. I've gotten better and better, though, not necessarily at writing, but at just pushing through and cutting off the revision process. When I want to say "great post," more often than not, I say just that, even if it's short and cryptic. These are baby steps--I'm working on being less judgmental of my own writing, and commenting has been a meaningful way to do so.

I love getting comments, too. I'm not a heavy-duty blogger (as if I needed to tell you that!) and I'm inconsistent (see above: overthinking and overwriting adds up to lots of draft posts and few published ones). I also have absolutely no community to speak of. I read several bloggers who have long-time friends through their blogs, who have connected with a specific group or set of friends, or who have dedicated readers. Again, I'm not one of those people. I have yet to talk to a blogger one-on-one, and I often feel like a schoolgirl with blogger-crushes. I have a feeling, though, that I'm not alone. I bet there are more bloggers like me out there, but we're all kinda kicking our toes in the dirt on the side of the playground hoping that someday we'd be able to play hopscotch with others.

I also have "Conscientious Avoider" tendencies. I work a lot and much of my free time is spent hanging with W and my DH. I read blogs quickly (though with respect and purpose) and if I stopped to comment every time I really wanted to, I'd have to cut down on my work or family life. It's not that I'm busier than anyone else--man, do I admire those of you who maintain active blogging/commenting practices while also working and being a mom--but it's that I'm not quick enough. I'm a slow thinker and responder, and so not only do I revise endlessly, I need time and space to decide what I really want to say. And, true to Avoider status, I worry a lot about hurting a blogger with words that come out wrong. Further, I know that being currently pregnant means that if someone blithely clicks my profile and ends up here, they could find me and my blog upsetting. This would be the absolute last thing I'd want. I'm not an IF blogger nor am I a mommy blogger. I don't know what I am--my reading of blogs straddles many boundaries and categories. Sometimes those categories clash. So I read, think, and sometimes, I avoid  joining in the discussion, not out of dislike, but out of deep respect.

I've been reminded of two important things as a result of reading these posts on commenting. One, I need to be less afraid. The playground is huge and even though I sometimes feel like I'm left out of the cliques, it's really okay. I need to do less revision, less hesitant writing, and less worrying about whether my comment is good or not. I need to be a zen commenter. I also probably need to do less avoidance. Yes, my words or my existence might offend someone, but honestly, that happens without my even knowing it sometimes. I can't get better at this unless I jump in.

Two, I'm really interested in the commenting-back option. I get a few comments in dribs and drabs, and I always read and appreciate them (more than you know). But I don't always respond, I guess because I never thought it was acceptable practice. The big bloggers I've read in the past certainly don't do it, and even the small bloggers I read don't either. Recently, I've noticed a few who do respond either with a direct reply-comment or by commenting on my blog, and I think it's a great way to acknowledge the connection. I'm going to start doing it, in other words. Replying could take less time than a usual comment, I think, and it would make literal the actual appreciation I have for people who take a moment to write to me through the blog. It creates an actual relationship where there wasn't one, even if that relationship is just for a moment. Beautiful.

So I want to thank everyone who has read my both to thank the bloggers I read and to remind myself yet again that commenting is valuable and that I should be

Thursday, May 26, 2011

blogger commenting

Is anyone else having trouble with commenting because of Blogger? I've lost tons of comments I've written for ICLW because Blogger keeps asking me to log in (even though I'm already logged in). And then, after logging in, it erases my comment and brings me back to the log in page.

Frustrating. And I suppose no one will be able to comment on this message because of the Blogger mess. Ugh. This is putting a serious cramp in my ICLW week; I may extend ICLW past the 28th to make up for all my lost comments.

Just had to rant for a moment. I just lost three comments in a row on some awesome blogs I found from the big list. Boo, Blogger!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

staying motivated while working at home

I cannot imagine how people who work from home full time do it. I admire that they have so much motivation and focus. I, however, am a mess when working from home.

As I've mentioned in the sidebar, I'm a college professor (non-tenure track if you know anything about the academic life--it's not relevant to this particular post, but I'll talk about the non-tenure track someday, I promise). Summer is both a blessing and a curse for me. I love that I have a flexible work schedule. This week, for instance, I went in yesterday from 9-2 and that's it. I can work from home all the other days. And my work load? It's much reduced from the load during a regular semester. I'm not currently teaching, so there are no students to confer with or grade papers for, and my work projects aren't due in any immediate fashion. I can work on them slowly and over the next few weeks/months whenever I feel like it.

The problem: I just don't feel like it. I can find a million other things to do. I'm halfway through the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy, I'd love to work on the backyard, I have plenty of trashy tv on the dvr to catch up on, and there are movies to get to, both in the theater and on dvd. Man, those work projects seem pretty low on the list! I haven't even mentioned the internet (my most significant time suck). I have done almost nothing today. I conducted one phone interview with a potential instructor for fall and that's it.

I suppose I need to learn some tricks of the WAHM trade, like making myself a schedule, planning my long-term projects by breaking them down into smaller pieces (and giving myself interim due dates for these pieces), and limiting my "fun" time during the day. I've done this before...when I wrote my dissertation, I broke the chapters into little chunks and did what my friend and I called "hits," which were small increments of time to write that, if I met my day's quota, would be rewarded with a matinee or a take-out dinner. Without this strategy, I would have remained ABD forever. Not so incidentally, it was during this dissertation-writing time that I discovered I had adult ADD, and this "hit" strategy is one that I've since read about in books as one strategy that works well for people with limited attention spans. I wish I had realized the ADD thing earlier in my adult life. (Strangely, I don't think I had problems with ADD as a child/adolescent...could it have developed in college sometime? Hmmm.)

Let's just start today. Here is my list of things to do before 4:30 when I pick up W from daycare (none of which are work-related, I know, but at least they'll get me up off my butt):
- clean up the deck in the backyard, but don't linger. Just get it done. Tomorrow, I'll work on planting some flowers in the deck planters.
- vacuum. sigh.
- clean up kitchen (mostly clean, but needs a sprucing)
- grocery shop (milk, butter, cookies?)
- do my ICLW comments for the day (joy!)

That's an easy list, right? For crying out loud, I can do this! If anyone has suggestions about how they manage to get things done when they're working at/around/from home all day, they'd be sorely appreciated. I am clearly not good at this timte management thing and could use all the help I can get.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sensitivity in the Supermarket: How to be sensitive in public with a kid (or kids)

One of my favorite things to do with W is go to the supermarket. He LOVES it. His little squeals echo down the aisles, there are many things to touch and see, and the aisles are perfect for an almost-running toddler to practice his stride.

However, and paradoxically, one of my least favorite things to do with W is go to the supermarket because it reminds me of what life was like when W wasn't here and I was in a difficult place with babymaking. I remember all too well how it felt to go to the market, a place I *had* to visit to buy food and toilet paper, and see someone's bratty little kid running around giggling. Why? I didn't have a bratty little kid of my own. And during a miscarriage, the last thing I really wanted to see was a happy mother and baby in public. I felt like a horrible person about it--why couldn't I just be happy to see them? Why couldn't I delight in the idea that maybe I would one day be that mother? Answer: I just couldn't and it was okay and fair to feel that way. Even now, I feel that same sting, sometimes even as I'm holding W in my arms.

The supermarket (or, the world) is a contradictory place.

So yesterday, while we were wandering the supermarket aisles, I started mentally compiling a list of things that I could/should do when in public to be sensitive to others, especially fellow infertiles who might need or wish for a little space. This is certainly not the first time I've thought about this--I think about it almost every time I'm in a public place with him.

Here is the list--feel free to add other thoughts or suggestions in the comments!

1. Be humble and apologize if the kid runs right up to someone else's cart with joy, even if I'm not sure whether the cart-pusher is unhappy or not. Humility never hurt anyone and it can ease the mind on both sides. I remember appreciating parents who did this when I was TTC or going through a rough time. I hope I can do the same for someone else.

2. Try to keep the kid in the cart (or calm and not squealing) as much as possible. For me, it's possible for almost 3/4 of the supermarket trip. But at some point, W squirms and whines to run and play. I think parents should always do the best we can to keep the child in our control in places like supermarkets.

3. Don't force interaction between the kid and other shoppers. I've been the unfortunate recipient of a forced interaction where a mother was encouraging her son to say "hi" to me, and all I wanted to do was get away. Instead, I had to wait as the cute kid attempted to say hello, and I had to be cheery and sweet in response. Ugh. If a shopper wants to interact with my kid: fine! If the kid is starting the interaction, lead him away unless it's absolutely clear that the shopper is welcoming the interaction. Otherwise, remember #1: humility.

4. Remember that supermarkets do not belong to children and families. I know this seems like common sense, but toddlers think that everything belongs to them, and so it is the job of the parent to teach the child where and when those feelings of entitlement are appropriate. This means that one or two squeals down the aisle are enough. Then, it's time to redirect and let others have space. Singing songs in line is cute for a minute, but then it's enough. Bring toys and open the bag of cookies to fill the kid's mouth with something to (quietly) pacify him. Supermarkets and other very public places should be safe for all people, and it's a parent's job to make it so.

5. Smiling and being happy with the kid is fine. But don't be obnoxious about it. There are 23 other hours of the day to grin with joy at my child, and I don't need to do it so openly in public places like supermarkets.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

having it all?

I'm working on my big post about being a work-out-of-the-home mommy, and it should be ready soon. I'm writing it mostly for me so that I can keep figuring out who I am as a mommy, as a teacher, and as a person. But in the meantime, I have a confession to make: although I am an English professor who teaches writing, I am a terrible blog writer. Want a 25 page academic article on an obscure pedagogical theory? Give me a weekend and I'll bang it out. Want a one paragraph blog post every few days? Hmmm.... Let me work on it and I'll get back to you in 10-15 days. Ugh. How do you people do it so well? I'm in awe of those of you who post regularly and write so beautifully on the fly.

For today, I'll just share one thought about being a work-out-of-the-home mommy. Even though I love working, and it feeds my soul in so many ways I can't imagine not doing it, I desperately miss my baby when I'm not with him. This thought is brought home today because W is in daycare and I'm working from home (my car is in the shop and I couldn't get to campus easily). In other words, I'm home and my baby is in daycare singing little songs with his friends and doing arts and crafts.

I miss him so much. I couldn't keep him home because I really had work to do, and I knew I wouldn't get it done if he were here. But oh, man, do I miss him. When I'm at work, it's not that palpable--I'm busy, I'm working with colleagues, and I'm speaking to students in my office. I think about W every few minutes when I'm at work, but I'm able to remind myself I'll see him soon. At home? It's a different story. I see his toys, I miss him. I make lunch and realize I don't have to make him lunch, I miss him. I check email without having a 17-month old toddler wailing for the computer mouse, I miss him. I'm literally counting the hours until I can go get my car and get him. It happens when my husband takes him to the park or something to give me a break--I usually end up not enjoying my time alone and instead, I spend my time wondering whether W is enjoying the swings or if they're stopping for ice cream.

I suppose this is the paradox of working outside the home and being a mommy: many of us want to work and enjoy being out of the home and doing non-baby-related things, but we also desperately want to be with our kids. I never wanted to "have it all," and in fact, I used to make fun of people who claimed to want it all, but I think I finally get what that phrase means.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

still breathing

First, a quick update. We got the second and final round of sequential screening results and they're much better than the first. For Down syndrome, it's 1 in 2,800, for neural tube disorders, it's 1 in 6,500, and for the other trisomies, it's 1 in 10,000. Much better. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I was really getting ready to do the amnio and was feeling panicky on a daily basis, but these numbers have allowed the demons to retreat a bit (for now) and for me to start enjoying the pregnancy again. Yes, this baby could be the 1 in any one of those scenarios; as they say, someone has to be that one. But I've breathed a lot in the last few weeks, I've read more about Down syndrome, and have accepted that this baby will be who it is and we will love it unconditionally. That's what unconditional means, right?

My meditation group has been a great help to me, not because I've shared any of this with them or even expressed my rampant anxieties. It's just been great to have them there, week after week. As they breathe in and out, so do I. And life goes on and on. We just finished reading Momma Zen, which I enjoyed quite a bit, and we're on to read something else about parenthood and buddhism. Keeping me sane.

I miss blogging. I've been blogging off and on in some form since 2000, and I read blogs obsessively. Those of you who stop by to read every now and then: I DO read your blogs and I appreciate your willingness to keep reading mine from time to time. I'll figure out what I'm doing here soon enough. But really: I'm reading and am walking this path with you. Thank you for sticking with me, a new blogger on the scene.

By the way, I have a new post germinating in draft form about working full time and being a mom. It started as a rant but I'm refining it into a statement of purpose, and I hope to get it up later this week. Honestly, the thing that stops me from having time to blog and comment more often is work, damnit.

Friday, March 25, 2011

a reminder to myself: breathe

I'm prone to worrying, so it's no surprise that being pregnant again is raising my anxiety level. I did pretty well there for a while, just not thinking about it and letting it happen as it would. But the earthquake and tsunami in Japan brought all my fears back home to roost. It's not that I fear either of those events happening where I live, but that the media coverage of the suffering has been overwhelming. I've spent hours crying, at this point, and feeling alternately lucky and scared (when will I have to face crisis again?). The scared feeling is winning.

The current big set of fears is about the health of the baby. I know--it's predictable and it's a completely fair set of fears for any pregnant woman to have. I went through the NT scan last week and while it all looked good (NT=1.49mm; nasal bone present), the first set of odds were 1 in 320 for DS. These are fine odds, in fact, and they mean "screen negative" (a.k.a. no recommendation for an amnio or other invasive testing). For an old broad, they're really not bad. According to my testing center, a woman my age (42 at delivery) has a 1 in 32 chance for a child with DS, so my odds were improved by the low NT score and my first set of bloodwork. All this is relatively fine.

Except, this is me we're talking about. Me who worries daily about the idea that the cat has trailed some toxop.lasmosis in on his little paws. Me who stockpiles water in her basement in case of disaster (and who regularly updates that stash of water so that it's shelf life is always good). Me who can spend hours obsessing over odds and dangers and twinges.

There is no solution to this problem. I've done what I can about this. I've researched the hell out of amnio (again) and am going to wait until we get the second tri bloodwork back to make a decision. I've talked to my husband about it until he's finally sick of worrying with me (he's SO not a worrier!). And I've written a wish in my little wish box that this baby is healthy and will arrive happy and alive sometime in late September/early October. I know this last thing is not exactly a "real" solution, but I've done it for years and it feels like a measure of hopefulness in my otherwise worried little world.

I've also tried to remember some of my breathing techniques and buddhist readings, as I know they'll be helpful during this rough couple of months. I've meditated and read buddhist philosophy for many years, though the meditation is spotty (at best). Life is change. We're not really in control. I should let my mind observe my anxiety rather than get caught up in its narrative. Let the anxiety be; it has it's place. I know these aren't the beautiful ways that philosophers describe buddhism, but they're the sentences that I've translated them into for myself in the last week or so. I meditated for 5 minutes this morning and will try to do so in the coming weeks at least.

Honestly, this is probably all I can do. Just sit with the fear and let it be what it is (and nothing more). It doesn't mean that the fears will be going away anytime soon, I know, but maybe they'll be more bearable.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

a reason we still need feminism

One of my favorite bloggers has written a very important post, so in the absence of a real post from me (for now), let me refer you there: The War on Women Has Got To Stop. It's such a smart, nicely documented, argument about the need for some kind of reaction to these ongoing assaults on women. I absolutely couldn't have said it better myself. No matter where you stand on feminism and its effects, and I know we don't all agree (and that's completely okay with me), I think it's worth checking out. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

spring break?

I am technically on spring break this week, but I'm not really enjoying it the way I expected I would. I envisioned lots of naps, maybe a matinee or two (my husband is working and W is in daycare three days/week, so I had free time in mind). But instead, I'm completely buried in student papers. I somehow thought that I could dash through them on Monday and early Tuesday, leaving myself tons of free time. But that didn't happen. So here it is Thursday and I'm sad to say that the pile is almost as big as it was when this so-called break began. Today, I'm trying to catch up.


In other news, W has been moved up from the Babies to the Toddlers room at day care, and I must say, it was a little shocking! Yes, he's 15 months, but usually they don't move until they can feed themselves and are closer to 18 months. But they feel that he's socially, emotionally, and physically read enough, and that he'll enjoy being with the rest of the toddlers (someone will still help feed him at lunch time). Is my baby growing up? Yikes. It's very strange to imagine him going through the activities that the rest of the kids go through, because at our day care, the babies are on their own schedule while the "big kids" have activities they attend, like exercise time, or circle story time. Apparently, W sat happily in the circle the other day, and he was even able to march around with the other kids in a line. I had no idea he was ready for structure of this kind.

I still think of him as a baby, even though he's exhibiting some toddler traits (for example, he throws minor tantrums when he can't do something--like use a spoon--or when I take away something he thinks is a toy--like a magic marker that he found on a table the other day). I guess this is part of motherhood, too, the letting go and trying to enjoy the new phases and steps in his life. Am I ready for this?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

cooking skills, or the lack thereof

I have a confession to make: I often struggle with what to make for W for lunch and dinner. Breakfast is easy. Banana. Sippy cup full of milk. Chee.rios. Maybe an scrambled egg if there's time or it's a weekend. Other meals are hard, though. We've been raising him somewhat vegetarian because I'm vegetarian (have been for almost 20 years--egad!). It's not so much that I want him to abhor meat, but that I don't want to cook it because it's icky to me. I'm way out of practice. I don't even really remember how to make chicken that tastes good.

He's not being deprived in terms of fruits or veggies--he gets lots of these at every meal. He doesn't always eat them, of course, but he's offered them and he usually nibbles. Green beans, peas, and carrots are special favorites, as are pears and apples. Blueberries are apparently a toddler version of heaven. I almost called the doctor the other day because he ate an entire pint of blueberries almost on his own; I filched a few before he had cleaned out the bowl. LOVES blueberries, just like his mama. But protein...that's what I'm worried about. Doesn't he need protein to build strong muscles and bones? This has long been a struggle for me, too, and I've resorted to eating plenty of the processed soy products as a means to ensure that I get enough. I refuse to give him those, however, because they're really just one step away from fast food. I wish I could cut down on them.

Our usual sources of protein are black beans, lentils, cheese, tofu, eggs, and yogurt. But he picks at the beans and lentils, and while he'll eat cheese like there's a shortage on the way, I'm not crazy about it as a main source of protein. It's expensive to buy the hormone-free stuff, and I think he's getting a little bored with it. One can only eat so many cheese cubes. Tofu is hit or miss. And honestly, I'm not a great cook. I have very few tricks up my sleeve, and because I work full time (not meaning this as an excuse, but as a descriptive measure), I generally don't have time or energy to figure out other ways to fry up tofu that will work.

Oh, and purees are out of the question. W refuses purees unless we're talking applesauce. He wants to eat everything with his hands. Last night, I gave up the fork for letting him pick up chunks of scrambled egg by hand because he wouldn't eat it any other way. I think we're in the toddler "I can do it!" stage with full force.

I'm not asking for advice, here, though I'll certainly take it. I'm more just lamenting the sadness that are my cooking skills. I can make a mean loaf of bread or a fine batch of cookies, but a main dish for a toddler? Meh. What I'd really like to be doing is making meals that he and I can eat together, but that's not really working, either, as my foods tend to be ones he turns his nose up. I took him to my favorite Indian buffet last weekend, only to remember 1/2way through that he doesn't like the texture of rice. He snubbed almost everything I offered except for a few peas from the matar paneer that he could pick up with his grubbly little fingers.

I suppose that like so much in parenting, this stage, too, will pass and I'll be facing a different challenge. But for today, this is it: what am I going to make us for dinner tonight? Does anyone else face eating challenges with their LO?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

holding my breath

I apologize for the long silence--I've been working on some things and have been hesitant to talk about them. I'm still totally hesitant, but if I'm going to continue to push myself to write--to write about things in my life--I have to eventually break the silence.

The good news is that today, I am pregnant. I don't know if it will continue (please, please, please...) because the usual suspects have turned up over the past few weeks: bleeding, cramping, absence of symptoms, etc. It's been a stressful few weeks. But as of now and according to my current midwife, I am still hesitantly pregnant. 9 weeks. I noticed the missed period at the end of ICLW in January and thought little of it, started bleeding (what else could it be?), and then stopped all of a sudden. Strange. POAS and sure enough: pregnant. Since then, it's been more blood, more weirdness, and yet all signs still point to me being pregnant. The next chance I get to know anything will be in three weeks when I have the NT Scan (again: please, please, please...).

I wanted to get pregnant, so this is a very welcome surprise. We had been not preventing, but not trying, either. Remember: my infertility problem is NOT trouble getting pregnant. It's trouble staying pregnant. So when I saw the positive test, I think my heart sank a little bit because I assumed that this was doomed from the start. Way to be hopeful, huh? And yet it's persisted, like the little train who could. So far, so good.

I'm tentative, though, and like the first successful pregnancy that ended in my son W, I can't imagine I'll truly feel pregnant until about 24 weeks. That's when I started to let myself believe it would work out then, and even 24 weeks is no guarantee. I hate that I know so much. I wish I could be a happy pregnant woman.

That said, I have actually told people IRL already, but only close friends. Ones to whom I've also said: I'm prone to miscarriage, so I'm pregnant now and don't know if I'll be pregnant next time I see you. I've promised them (and myself) that if my status changes, I'll call or email to avoid the awkward "How ARE you?" said with a big smile if there is nothing left to smile about. I've decided that I'd rather talk about the miscarriage possibility openly than to hide alone in my house, scared to mention what I'm going through.

I don't think I'll even talk much about it here, though it might make an appearance because it is part of my life, one way or another. I hope there is more going on than just this, however, and I'd like to talk about that stuff (like Wisconsin, my current teaching woes, W and how amazed I am at his developing intelligence and personality, family, the messiness of our kitchen right now....see I have a life outside of TTC!). So this will NOT turn into a pregnancy blog, and I also hope it does not turn into a blow-by-blow of my miscarriage. It will hopefully be what it's always been (in its short life): a blog about a complicated person who is trying to figure out what she has to say to the world. And now, I need to go take a long nap. Thanks for checking back in after all this time!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

keeping up...

I am loving ICLW, but man, it's hard to keep up. There are so many fascinating blogs and I get caught up reading the backstory and I'm not always making my quota. It's so cool to hear the variety of voices in the IF/parenting/generally fabulous women blogosphere.

Okay...I'm off to catch up for today! But before I do: did anyone else have thundersnow last night? Here on the east coast, we got lightening, thunder, and snow, all at the same time. I was stupidly excited about thundersnow. Maybe it's just the term itself? Ah, thundersnow.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Welcome ICLWers!

I've never participated in ICLW before and am ridiculously excited to flex my commenting and reading muscles. I'm a relatively new blogger, so there isn't that much to read here yet. But I really appreciate the visit and will be posting more this week so that there is something a bit more exciting to read here than this.

Happy ICLW!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Tubes (not the band), or, meditations on the medical community from a mother's (and an IF person's) perspective

First, a quick update about my last post (relationships are hard). Things have improved since last week. He apologized for being difficult and we've both backed off on the sniping at each other. I don't think things are worked out for good, of course, but they're better. We're trying to respect each other's space and habits more than we were. Phew.
Now, on to today's exciting news: W probably will have to get ear tubes because of a stubborn ear infection that has only marginally responded to three courses of antibiotics. This post is not really about ear tubes, though. My sense, from Dr. Google, is that ear tubes are used often, are routine, and aren't anything serious to worry about. If you think I should feel otherwise, please let me know. Am I missing something?
Instead, this post is about negotiating the medical system, both as a woman and as a mother, because today's visit to the local children's hospital with W to see the specialist about the ear tubes brought back a flood of memories of the first full week of W's life (in which we spent 8 days in this very same hospital for apn.ea and fairly serious jaun.dice). I haven't written about those days in much detail, but they really haunt me. Still. Even pulling into the parking lot this morning made me shudder a bit because I vividly recall pulling into the lot in the dead of night to "visit" my newborn son in the ICU.

The short version of the story is that we rushed back to the hospital on W's second day home from the hospital (after a relatively normal birth). He had jau.ndice, and even though we had done the normal blood tests for the bili.rubin (sp?) and they seemed okay, I had an overwhelming feeling that something was wrong on Wednesday afternoon (we had been released to go home two days earlier, on a Monday). On that Wednesday afternoon, as I waited for the ped to call with the latest blood test results, I looked at W and knew that he was getting weaker. I picked him up, carried him to the very cold storm door, and when he didn't react to his bare foot on the window, I started to freak out. He didn't flinch. He didn't even wake up. Yes, he was breathing, but he just wasn't right. I knew that jau.ndice would make him sleepy, but unresponsive? We called the ped, got the latest test results that said his bili.rubin was now at 19 (which is apparently bordering on severe and in need of light therapy), and the ped suggested taking him in to the hospital right away.

I'll never forget the front desk person asking how old he was, and when she heard "four days," we got an immediate room and attention from the doctors. W clearly needed to be under lights. Unfortunately, he wouldn't really respond to the doctors attempts to get him to wake up and take some bottled breast.milk. And to make matters worse, he stopped breathing while they were examining him. It's called apn.ea and even though he started breathing again each time it happened, the doctors were alarmed enough to admit us for the next 8 days for testing, observation, and massive amounts of antibiotics delievered intravenously. Oh, his tiny little veins! I'm semi-crunchy about things like medication and antibiotics, so imagine my stress about antibiotics pumped directly into him for days on end. I tried to fight it, but they were afraid he had menin.gitis, and they argued persuasively that to not treat him for menin.gitis before we knew for certain he didn't have it would be unethical. I spent a lot of time in that ICU holding his little body and whispering into his ear: "if your body doesn't need those antibiotics, just flush them on through. Just let them go. And if you need them, little body, take them and use them well." The jaun.dice got better over the next few days, the menin.gitis test proved negative, and the apn.ea never returned, though we spent a month on a terrifying heart rate monitor after we left. I also want to say loudly and with emphasis that I never want to witness another series of painful spinal tap attempts on a newborn. Awful. I know he'll have no memory of that pain or that 8 days, but they're stuck with me forever.

My instincts were right on that Wednesday afternoon. Something was wrong--severe jaun.dice--and something more foreboding needed monitoring, too--apn.ea. My instincts were also right a few days later when I was suddently overtaken by a clear feeling that W would be okay. That he was fine and would be fine after we left the hospital. I don't know why I felt this (we hadn't even gotten the menin.gitis results yet), but it was as clear as day.
When I walked into the hospital lobby today, this all came flooding back. I saw the benches where I had cried through cups of tea, and I rode again in the elevators that used to take us up to the ICU where I was never quite sure what I'd see on the other side of the doors. Would he have taken a turn for the worse? Was he hungry and my tea break took too long? Would he catch the illness of the really sick baby in the bay next to him? Did I remember to bring the milk I had pumped in the middle of the night last night?

All my life, I didn't believe that I would have mothering instincts. And to be honest, I don't know if I really believe in those kind of instincts. I don't believe that women have some kind of access to knowledge about children, even children who came out of their bodies, that other people don't. And because I never thought I was particularly good with children, I didn't think I'd be as tuned in as other mothers might be. I still think this, even though in those newborn days, I had some kind of instinct that said "go to the hospital" and then later, "he's fine."

My instincts have failed me in the months since that hospital stay, in fact, and when I first found out that W had a bad ear infection, it was when the doctor found it at W's one-year old well-baby visit. I had absolutely no idea. I thought he was fine and I saw no signs of any problem. Whoops! I also have no sense when W wakes up in the middle of the night, no second sense about W's waking or sleeping cycles. My husband regularly hears him singing at 2 a.m. or whimpering a little at 5:30 a.m. because he's half-asleep. But me? Nothing. I'm usually sound asleep. In the very beginning, yes...I heard every noise W made. Now that he's over a year old and I'm not breas.tfeeding anymore, it's like I've tuned that sense out.

I also felt, today, that echo of medical discontent that comes from my time as a former (and possibly future) RE patient. Modern medicine is amazing. It saves lives and seems to perform miracles. Many men and women get the help they need from doctors to have families. And I've benefited from medical treatments, too. I take medication for an thyroid, I just went through therapy for my bad left knee, and I get a yearly physical, just like I'm supposed to. I got rho.gam shots for miscarriages and the pregnancy with W because of my negative blood type, and I imagine it was a good thing. But there is always a shadow, for me, to modern medicine. I don't trust doctors and nurses completely, and I know that modern medicine cannot treat everything and cannot prevent heartache. The echo of my miscarriages--getting that awful internal wand to show me that the sac had disappeared, or that my ute was, indeed, once again clear and ready for another try--reminds me of this fact. My RE could not prevent those miscarriages, and she could do nothing to ease the heartbreak. Modern medicine fails as often as it succeeds. How can we trust, given this record?

I'm also just not comfortable with doctors. I've never felt like they understand what's going on, and somehow, I often sense that they're suspicious of me, as if I'm making up symptoms or describing something incorrectly. Maybe I have just been unlucky. Maybe I don't know the way to phrase my questions or answers to be clear. Or maybe I'm not listening well to what they're saying, either; it is entirely possible that the problem is on my end and not on the medical professionals' end. I spent months second guessing that original hospital trip and the massive antibiotics that W got. I have worried endlessly about W's subsequent antibiotics. I have spent way too much time reading about the vacc.ine controversy and trying to figure out where I stand (and for the record, we've immunized on schedule and I mostly feel okay about it). And for myself, I think about whether baby aspirin or some other treatment would have improved my chances of not having a miscarriage. I mostly think the RE and everyone did the right things (which was essentially nothing--it was determined that there was nothing really wrong and that I was miscarrying in part because I was old and the embryos were probably not developing properly). But do I know this to be true? Always suspicious. Always worried.

I hope that these flashbacks to the early days in the hospital go away because I'm really sure we'll be back for ear tubes. Again, I don't really think I have any motherly instincts, but I have some sense that these tubes will be in our future. I don't know why, I just feel it. And I hope that as we start ttc #2 and as I continue vaccin.ating W on schedule, I can relax a bit and stop worrying so much. It's cliche to say it, but because of Dr. Google, there is so much information floating around and it's so hard to sort through it. It's so hard to know if one doctor's opinion is right and another's is wrong. In the end, mothering instincts or not, I think I'll just have to go with the flow and trust some people at least some of the time. But this is where I am--meditating on how to be myself, how to make good choices within a system that I fundamentally mistrust, rightly or wrongly so, and doing a lot of breathing in and out to relax. In. Out. In. Out.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Relationships are hard

My husband and I are in a rough patch these days. We're clashing over housework, mostly. I tolerate, even enjoy, a slightly messy house. I like piles of books I haven't read (or that I'm halfway through) in the living room, and I can handle a pile of folded clothes on the dresser. I dislike actual dirt, however, and tend to choose wiping down counters to putting away stuff. My idea of a clean house is one where I can eat off the floors or counters, but where it's clear that a happy family is living there.

M, my husband, is different. He likes things to be perfect. Everything in its place, no sign of actual people who read, eat, play, or enjoy their lives. He gets this vision from his mother. His mother's house is like a freakin' museum. I swear I wouldn't know that people live there. It always has that "model home" kind of look. It's cold, quiet, and uncomfortable.

The paradox about M's desire for a super-clean house is that he is incredibly messy. I mean scary messy. He takes socks off and they lay wherever he left them for weeks, usually one in the dining room and the other one in the upstairs hallway. He cannot keep track of a piece of paper to save his life. Just ask us about the current tax issue we could easily solve if he could find his 2009 W-2s but can't. Mine are in the file folder I created named "Taxes, 2009." He also doesn't seem to understand basic hygiene. For example, I have to routinely remind him to wash his hands after cleaning the catbox in the basement. If I didn't remind him, it's entirely possible that he would make dinner with dirty hands (I'm shivering just thinking about it). He defrosts meat on the counter and "forgets" to clean up the little puddle of ickiness that it leaves behind (oh, the germs!). I won't even get into the issues in the bathroom. If I could, I would gladly live in a house with separate bathrooms in the master suite so I didn't have to share with him. I'm just sayin'.

Every week or so, he goes through little rampages through the house where he "cleans." To him, cleaning means that he randomly puts things away in drawers, which means that we can't find anything for weeks because there is no logic to his drawer-stashing. And he can spend an hour in the kitchen cleaning, but you'd never guess it because the counters are dirty, the sink is half-full, and things are shoved randomly in the cabinets. I honestly cannot figure out what he does for an hour in the kitchen that makes it seem worse, not better.

During these rampages, which have been happening with increasing frequency, he sometimes asks for my help, but he doesn't ask in a way that feels good to me. He says, in an exasperated voice, "I can't live like this!" and then stomps around angrily until I stop whatever I'm doing to help him out. I don't mean to make him sound like an ogre--he's usually a sweetheart. But I really hate these habits of his, and his anger is getting more palpable.

His anger also pushes a series of my own buttons. I'm aware that I'm not very neat and organized, and I have some anxiety about this fact. When I was in middle and high school, my family was poor. I mean poor like we ate mac and cheese every night using water instead of milk because it was the cheapest and most filling thing my mom could afford. We (me, my mom, and my brother) lived in a tiny two bedroom apartment. And my mother is messy. Messier than I am, in fact, though that's probably debatable. That whole period of my life was embarassing. I hated that I couldn't invite friends over because I didn't want them to see where and how we lived. So I carry with me this anxiety about having a comfortable home, even though the way I'm living now is completely fine. If someone stopped by unexpectedly--right now--I'd be happy to invite them in for tea. I'd ask them to excuse the toys strewn about, but otherwise, c'mon in!

The dischord between me and M about this is big and it's getting bigger and more contentious. He's clearly worked himself up about it in recent weeks, and our discussions are less friendly and playful than they once were. They're also emotionally charged, and he doesn't do well when I make an emotional connection to something we're discussing. I'm a quick crier and can shed tears over the lamest of commercials; during serious relationship conversations when I'm feeling attacked and accused of being a "bad wife," it's a sure bet that I will cry. M was married once before me, and one of the stupid things that got stuck in my head about his former wife was that M's biggest praise of her was that she did a wonderful job keeping the house the way he wanted it. (She was also manipulative, cruel to him, and had no job, which might have allowed her the time to "keep the house" while she was plotting to take his money and leave him...I'm not bitter, though, right?)

I'm planning to talk to him tonight to remind him that I respond much better to these kind of conversations if I have some positive feedback about what is going right with us alongside what is going poorly. I know that sounds pathetic--it's like the compliment sandwich I sometimes use in commenting on students' papers (give some praise, talk about what isn't going well and needs improvement, end on a note of hope and encouragement). It works! I think it always helps me feel like M is not attacking me.

There's no resolution here--I'm not sure where to go or what to do. I think he's projecting some of his own shit onto me (for example, he knows he's terrible at picking up after himself so he's accusing me of being terrible at picking up after myself). And I think he's otherwise frustrated with things in his own life. He's not eating well, he's working a lot, etc.

Relationships are hard. Right now, my relationship feels like it's got a canker sore or a hangnail. Or maybe a broken limb. I'm sure we'll work it out, but I hope we're able to find a way to let these ongoing disagreements not consume us. I don't want to live in a house where I resent him or am uncomfortable. And last night, I barely slept because I kept running over his latest rant about it in my head.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

On being "old"

I've been reading the 25 pages of comments to the recent NYT article about the "twiblings," two babies conceived through ART and born around the same time (hence, they are siblings who are almost-twins, get it?). The article is fine and I'm happy to hear that it all worked out so well for the family. There are lots of crackpot comments in those pages, as we might expect, but the ones that sting the most are the ones aimed at "old" women who put off having babies until it's "too late." Obviously, I'm taking them a little too personally because I am one of those "old" women who apparently shouldn't be procreating because I didn't want or wasn't able to have babies in my 20s. I know, I know...I shouldn't get bothered by these random people's uninformed opinions.

If I could get those people in a room, I'd tell them the following:

- It is none of your business why a woman doesn't start trying to have a baby until their late 30s. Don't judge people without knowing their specific circumstances and lives. And even then, shut the fuck up. Being judgmental about other people's choices is a shitty way to interact with your fellow human beings.

- Women who want to have a career have just as much right to it as any man does, and this sometimes means that having a baby in one's 20s or early 30s is impossible. No one complains when men have babies in their 30s and 40s (and beyond) because they're busy with their careers, and there's no reason women shouldn't have the same privilege.

- Good parenting partners don't just fall out of the sky and present themselves in a timely manner. I honestly can only think of one of my former partners whom I might have been happy to parent with, and he's now parenting happily with someone else (good for him!). Parenting is not something to be taken lightly or done hastily. Neither is marrying or getting into a long term relationship. Maybe the commenters who complain that women should "settle down" earlier if they want children met their partners early in life (lucky them) and assume it works that way for everyone. It doesn't.

- Not all women know that they want children when they're 25. Or 30. Or even 35. I struggled with the decision long and hard before making it, and while I envied friends and fictional characters who always knew they wanted children, it just wasn't me. My path wasn't that straightforward. Many of the commenters seem to think that desiring children is something women (or men) never question. In fact, I think I'm a better parent because I struggled with the decision. I look at my son and know that I have no doubts about having him in my life.

Phew. I think that's it. I just had to get this off my chest. I find that there is rampant ageism around older mothers, and it's not only unwarranted, it's mean and nasty. I'll stop reading those comments, now.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Consolidating naps?

I think he's ready to go from two naps to one! I tried to put him down at 9:30 for his usual first nap, and it was a complete no go. He was standing, crying, and really annoyed to be in his crib. But he just went down at 11:00 for a nap very smoothly. We'll see. Seems like an important milestone somehow, even though it's probably less exciting for me (I'll miss having two uninterrupted periods of time during the day to shower or get some other chore completed!).

On another note, W seems to be teething again. Drool everywhere. Hands in his mouth. I thought we were back in reflux world (we just stopped his pre.vacid two weeks ago), but now I think I'm wrong and it's just teething. Someone I saw over the weekend seemed to think I was silly to expect it was over--teething goes on and on, doesn't it?

Parenting a one-year old is really just an elaborate guessing game. Do you want yogurt today or cheese? Are you tired or do you have an ear infection again? Do you want this toy or that one? It's kind of exhausting me these days. Perhaps I'll get better at guessing the right thing soon. Sigh. I'd really like a nap of my own.