Tender Digits

Dear Psychos, I’ve been learning piano for the first time. Six weeks ago, I couldn’t read music, and I had no idea what keys played which notes. Of course, I’m in the thick of stumbling around, trying to wrap my brain around junk like the fact that some idiot decided that A flat and B sharp ARE THE SAME GODDAMN THING. Also, no one informed me that I’d need to learn Italian in order to play this instrument. Not unless this outfit comes with bottomless thin crust pizza and gelato. No grazie.

I’ve often been asked if I play piano (or told that I should) because my fingers are so long and amazingly graceful. Well now, all you well-intentioned judgy people can rest easy, because my fingers are fulfilling their prophesized (spellcheck doesn’t like this work and says it’s not, in fact, a word, but I disrespectfully disagree) glorious destiny. However, in my limited exposure to musical pieces, I’ve come across some that require my pinky to be on one note (like a C) and then for my thumb of the same hand to be on yet another C an octive higher and jesus handcramps that’s hard and my tender digits just can’t reach! I’m honestly not sure how I’m supposed to figure this one out.

In short bursts, learning to play an instrument whose sound I consider to be heaven on earth is exhilarating. The first few weeks of class, we were instructed to practice the pieces we were given, and I did, but I couldn’t contain my excitement and almost immediately started looking up music tutorials on YouTube. Finding it kinda by accident, I came across the theme to Harry Potter and just couldn’t help myself. It took me maybe an hour of practice to be able to do the first few measures with little to no mistakes, and as soon as I produced those first eight magical notes (if you’re fans you know exactly what I’m talking about) I got this rush of giddy excitement. ACTUAL MUSIC WAS FLOWING THROUGH ME! Music by John Williams, no less! I learned the first minute of the song and practiced it so much that I have it memorized and didn’t even need to consult my sheet music. What excited me the most was when I found myself starting to sway as I played – the piece has such a whimsical quality and I found myself playing around with speed and intensity. After a while, the piece felt so natural. My fingers knew their places – muscle memory was successfully taking place. Insert mind-blown emoji.

After seven years of being out of the workforce and being a stay at home mom, getting to challenge my brain in a way it’s never been challenged before is both exhausting and exciting. I’ve been having dreams of playing the piano – ever more complex pieces. I’ve found myself keying (musical pun intended) into background piano music in commercials or movies, wondering what key that was in or if I could play it if I tried. I can also feel a difference in my hands. They are literally stronger, more dexterous. My fingers are more nimble and responsive. It’s like they’ve woken up from a deep sleep. I feel like my hands are finally doing what they’ve been meant to do all along. I remember feeling the same way about my boobs when I started breastfeeding my babies.

I find myself frustrated that I can’t magically play complicated pieces immediately. My left hand can’t switch chords fast enough and forget trying to make my two hands play two different things at the same time. But progress is being made, however slowly, many swear words at a time.

My ultimate dream is to be able to play Lady Gaga and sing at the same time. I’m well on my way.


Swirling Hot Mess of Emotions

My heart is just so bursting full…of everything.  Love, gratitude, depression, exhaustion, sadness, grief, body image issues, joy.

My mood swings are controlling me.  I feel like my whole life is out of control, and rightly so…because was it ever within my control to begin with?  Like when my son was born, this out of control feeling lit a fire under my usually only moderately crazy OCD tendencies.  I go nuke if something goes missing.  I clean even when I’m supposed to be doing something else.  I try and control the things in my house because I can’t control any. thing. else.

Being alone with my two kids often terrifies me.

The things my body is capable of continue to astound me.

Breastfeeding is a beast.  I’m having PTSD flashbacks around what it was like to breastfeed my son two years ago.  I hate how my entire outlook on life depends on how well our last breastfeeding session went. And they are hit or miss.  At least she’s latching better than my son did and I am very thankful to report that, for whatever reason, I am actually making more milk than I did after my first pregnancy.  Huzzzzzzah.

I hate talking to lactation consultants. They mean well, but man they hit me squarely on my breastfeeding shame trigger. On one hand, it’s my fault that I can’t feed my kid. The simplest thing ever, just feeding her so she doesn’t die. I’m not doing the right position, or I’m not making enough milk, or I’m not pumping enough, not getting enough sleep.  Take your pick.  On the other, it’s her behavior that’s getting in the way because she pushes and claws and bites and thrashes around and screams.  And I resent her for it. Damnit. Either way, horrible mother. And in suggesting I try something different, like massage the breast, use a hot compress, nipple shield, football hold, pump, pump, PUMP – the lactation consultants just seem to highlight the fact that IT’S NOT WORKING and somehow it’s all my fault. You see the spiral.

In order to get through days without falling apart, I’ve had to work hard to disconnect myself from my feelings. It feels so yucky to just numb out like that, but the alternative is to burst into tears while listening to a voice in my head that is wailing, “It’s noon and we just finished breakfast! We can’t do this! How are we supposed to be able to get outside today? Or brush your teeth? Or put on pants?!”

Instead, I have to force myself to listen to the other voice, the emotionally sterile voice saying, “Hey. Now we need to feed the baby. Your toddler can wait to eat, but she’s screaming. Go on now, first things first.”  It’s a constant struggle, but it works.  And some days are easier than others.

When I look back, I realize that 2015 was the year when nothing happened.  I know I blogged about how it was the year a grew into being a mom, and I am so glad that I had that time with my son.  That year, we didn’t change marital status.  We didn’t move.  We didn’t change jobs.  We didn’t get pregnant or have any babies.  Things were stable and boring.  Yay for boring!

My hope is that 2017 is like that, too.  I’d like the time and space to develop a routine with my kids, a relationship with my daughter, and a new relationship with myself as a mom of two.  As for 2016…that was the year when things got progressively harder.  I got pregnant, I got tired, then I got huge and tired.  I slowed down while my toddler sped the fuck up.  I had daily pain for a while and I could barely bend over to pick up things my toddler had dropped…or thrown.  We still managed to have a lot of fun in 2016, though.  We went camping and (barely) survived.  I applied for a job I didn’t end up taking, but it was nice to put on professional clothes again.  We took our son trick-or-treating and he loved it.  We took him to the snow and had mixed results.  We took a trip to California and had fun seeing family.  We took our first family road trip and D danced at his first wedding.  We successfully became DAYTIME POTTY TRAINED, people!  We went to the zoo and hunted for Easter eggs and went on a train and picked strawberries and saw a parade and ate ice cream and played in the water features and went to the planetarium and went to the pumpkin patch and toured a cheese factory.  Whew.

I’m glad I just typed all of that out because, according to that list, 2016 wasn’t all that bad.  We were a family!  We really got to enjoy my son being a fun age.  My hope for 2017 is that things just get better from here on out.

Even though my current days are often dark, I can totally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Part of it is because I’ve been through this once before.  I know a little better what to expect, and we’ve already adjusted how we’re dealing with raising a newborn since the first time.  Another part is that I’m done making babies.  This is it; this is my family, and it’s beautiful!  I’ve gotten everything I’ve ever wanted, and I feel so amazingly (hashtag) blessed, as cliche as that sounds.  But it’s true.

And with that, this blog post has come full circle.  It’s a swirling hot mess of emotions: welcome to my life.  My beautiful, imperfect, perfect life.



End of the Boob Train

My little boyman is now 6 months old.  Someone please tell me how the frick that happened.

In many ways, I feel like we won the baby lottery.  I got exactly the features I had hoped for (dad’s blue eyes, my strawberry blonde hair, overall cuteness). He’s always been a champion sleeper.  He’s never been picky about bottles, formula, or pacis.  Most of all, I am amazed at how happy his default disposition is.  He’s usually making eye contact, smiling, cooing, laughing, but what amazes me the most is that even when he’s crying or whining or just generally upset, we can usually still make him smile or laugh, even if it’s just for a moment.  He wants to be happy even when he’s so hungry or tired that he’s cranky.  I love this guy and he amazes me every day.

That said, our hardest struggle by far has been breastfeeding.

Dylan didn’t latch with any consistency until day 8, and up until then he would only latch in front of the lactation consultant.  She manhandled my boob and smashed Dylan’s face into it, and for some reason it worked…but the second we got home and I tried the same rough technique, he’d push and struggle and kick and scream at my boob for 20 minutes until I was crying and gave up.

My milk came in rather late, and even then I wasn’t making very much.  All this created a yucky feedback loop/catch 22: Dylan wasn’t latching, and so my production wouldn’t increase, but my production was already late and low, and so Dylan didn’t want to latch cuz he knew he wouldn’t get much.  Talk about frustrating.

I did everything I could to increase my supply and nothing helped very much.  Nevertheless, I kept at it and Dylan and I slowly worked our way into a routine that worked for us that included breastfeeding, pumping, and formula.

After 6 months of hard work, I think we’re at the end of breastfeeding.  My supply recently dipped even more, and lately Dylan’s been getting frustrated.  The experience isn’t fun or cuddly anymore and I have done all I could to get him this far.

I’m pretty sad about stopping.  Before giving birth, I had assumed that I’d be breastfeeding as long as I was at home with Dylan during the day.  I’m currently fighting guilt and telling it to take a hike.  I’m frustrated with my body, for not doing what I expected or wanted.

There’s a part of me that feels some relief about the decision to stop.  Breastfeeding and pumping has been hard work and very time consuming, and I am looking forward to daily life being that much simpler.  But, I’m gonna miss the cuddles, the oxytocin rush, and the feeling of motherly pride that came with it.

I keep reminding myself that Dylan’s gonna be just fine.  Like I said above – he’s crazy happy.  He’s such a good kid.  We also just started solids and so far there isn’t a food he hasn’t not liked – that’s my boy.

And…now that I think about it, I’m gonna be just fine, too.  Just like everything else, we’re getting through this together, my little boy and I.

Was breastfeeding hard for you, too?  I’d love to hear your stories.  Thanks for reading!

Mommy “Blogger”

So, all you Mommy Bloggers out there – tell me how you do it.

Cuz I have no idea how to fit all the things to do into my day, plus blogging.

It’s quite ridiculous, really.  All the things we’re told we should be doing as mothers.

I’m supposed to feed the squid every 2-3 hours.  But first I have to change his diaper to help wake him up and/or calm him down before feeding.  On a good day, this takes 5 minutes.  On a bad one, he pees all over himself and then projectile poos all over the clean diaper I had waiting for him.  So, sometimes “changing a diaper” can take 20 minutes.  Then we breastfeed (The fact that we’re actually breastfeeding now is a whole other story.  It used to be 20 minutes of let’s-scream-at-mommy’s-boobs-and-kick-and-squirm-fun-time.  Not fun.) maybe 10-20 minutes each boob.  And then, since I don’t make much milk (sad face), we supplement with formula, which takes another 10-20 minutes.  And then he’s probably got himself a wet diaper (or worse) that needs attention.  And THEN I try to pump, if he doesn’t scream when I set him down to do so.

By the time I am done pumping, he’s maybe asleep.  Maybe.  If he’s not, I start over to figure out what his boggle is.  If he is, then I have a decision to make – do I try and sleep?  (note the word “try.”) Or do I fold laundry?  Or wash the bottles?  Or cry in the bathroom?  So many choices…

And then, it’s time to do it all over again.

There’s no time for it all.  Do midwives and nurses and doctors hear themselves when they’re telling you to do all these things?  Because I haven’t even mentioned the walks I’m supposed to be taking or the sitz baths or pooping or eating lunch or training for American Ninja Warrior.

And then there’s blogging.

So hang in there with me, Psychos, because I don’t plan on going anywhere.  I just may have to start blogging during my scheduled crying-in-the-bathroom time instead.

Spell check doesn’t know how to spell ‘mammaries.’ True story.

Two Time Magazine employees are having a conversation at the water cooler.  In their doubled-up paper cups is wine, straight from the cardboard box in the fridge down the hall.

Time Maggy:  So, I have this great cover story on attachment parenting that people find controversial.  What should we put on the cover?

Time Zany:  How about a nice white woman lovingly holding an attractive, blue-eyed baby.  That sounds lovely, don’t you think?

Maggy:  Not nearly shocking enough.  I want this cover to say, “I’m a smug, trendy, extreme parent.  I parent better than all y’all and I am all up in your face about it.”

Zany: Hmm… how about sexy, pouty chimps doing that social grooming thing.  We could put them in bikinis.  I guess we’d have to wax their legs, though.

Maggy:  No way America is ready for that amount of leg hair, so true.  But seriously, we need to think of something over the top.

Zany:  Well, breastfeeding is over the top.  I mean, I lose my lunch every time some crazy mom decides to use her mammaries  the way they were intended.

Maggy:  You mean displaying them prominently in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition?

Zany:  Bizactly.  And at Time we have to compete with that shit.

Maggy:  I’ve got it!  We’ll compete by showing one of the most natural, loving acts known to mammals in an unsmiling, hands-on-hips, no-nonsense kinda controversial way.

Zany:  And to make our audience even more uncomfortable, which means they’ll just have to buy the issue, we’ll replace the baby with a full-grown man.  On a stool.

Maggy:  Stay right there.  I’ll get the stool.

One of my mom friends suggested I write my reactions and opinions to this Time cover story making waves in the media.  She said that she’s interested in hearing the point of view of non-moms (or momily-challenged, if you prefer), and I thought that was an interesting idea.

First of all, I think they did a great job of taking a controversial photo that we all agree was meant to get attention and sell magazines.  Bravo.

What I find ironic about the photo is that it’s supposedly supposed to portray attachment parenting, and yet, I see emotionless faces.  Sure, they are literally attached at the boob, but they aren’t even looking at each other.  The kid is awkwardly standing (and I don’t know about you, but I don’t know ANY moms who prefer to breastfeed while both parties are standing up) and the mom looks more focused on challenging other moms out there and less focused on her kid…which I thought was the whole point of attachment parenting.

Shame on you, Time Magazine for the not-so-subtle mom blaming going on here.

Before talking about the parenting method itself –  full disclosure – I am not a mom.  I do have my own mom.  I also have some training in a certain variety of attachment parenting meant to be used with kids who have witnessed or been the direct victims of sexual and/or domestic abuse.  I have taught parenting classes to moms using these techniques.  This is not the same attachment parenting that is described in the Time article, but of course my training and experience is going to flavor my opinions.

I am a big fan of not going to extremes.  Being an attachment mom purist does not sound like fun to me.  I can’t imagine quitting my job to spend 24/7 raising kids, having them sleep next to me every night, having them in a sling every second.  For one thing, (according to the Time article) this method seems way too sexist in that it seems to assume that only mom can provide the great, nurturing parenting.  Dads are encouraged to help out by doing the dishes so mom can focus more fully on breastfeeding.  While that may work for some people, I don’t see that working for me.  I envision my future co-parenting life to be as balanced as possible, given work schedules and biology.  And that’s another issue – what happens if a kid is being raised by two dads?

Do I imagine using a sling with my kids?  Yup, sometimes.  Do I want and plan to be able to breastfeed?  Yes.  Do I consider the possibility of co-sleeping?  Perhaps.  Do I also imagine date nights away from the kids?  You bet.  Do I envision handing the kids to dad so I can go on a drunken bender?  Oui, oui.

To be fair, I really don’t know what it will be like or how I will feel once I have kids.  But I do know myself and I know my values.  And for me, it’s all about balance and flexibility.  I don’t like any rigid set of rules I’d have to follow.  I don’t like the mom blaming that results from not following said rules.  I say do what works for your family, and you let me do what works for mine.

And now for a rant on the problems our culture has with breastfeeding that were so beautifully triggered by the above Time cover photo.  First of all, it drives me insane when people sexualize the act of breastfeeding.  I don’t care what you say, Freud!  It is not obscene and it is not a sexual act.  It is nurturing, it is bonding, it is a woman using a part of her body the only way it was naturally intended to be used – to feed her frickin baby.

Somewhere along the line, our culture sexualized the breast and that got all entangled with breastfeeding.  Somehow, we’re more comfortable seeing breasts doing nothing but being hung out, pushed up, and squeezed together all over the place than we are seeing a breast feeding a kid.

What bothers me the most is when people who are uncomfortable being around breastfeeding moms try to make their discomfort the breastfeeding mom’s problem by saying that mom needs to cover up or go away or whatever.  It is my view that this is not the mom’s problem.  If you’re uncomfortable, I urge you to take a moment to wonder why and to find another way to manage your feelings other than mom blaming.

As for me and future parenting styles, all I can hope for is that my kids stay off the crack on weekdays.