Like Nothing Had Ever Happened

It started like any ordinary day.

And that’s the thing – these days, most days were just that – ordinary.  Sure, some moments stuck out for better or for worse, but they were mostly spent in the monotony of keeping her kid safe, clothed, fed, occupied.

As she lied in bed, she could hear her son happily babbling over the baby monitor.  He rarely woke up in a bad mood.  She got up and started her usual routine of making the bed, getting dressed, dragging a brush through her hair, and then she went to go get her son.

As soon as she opened his bedroom door, the stale odor of his poopy diaper floated out to greet her.  And then she could see, under her smiling, blond baby boy, that his crib sheet was quite soiled.

She sighed.

First things first, she thought, Diaper change, then strip the bed, then laundry.

As it turned out, the leak was so bad that this kid, who normally only got two baths a week, needed a quick one from the waist down.  He was delighted.  She was already exhausted.

She got all the dirty things in a pile, shoved them in the washer, threw in some extra OxyClean, and got the boy downstairs for breakfast and to move on with the day.  And not a moment too soon, because being pregnant with baby number two meant that breakfast needed to come asap in order to stave off the dizzy spells.  And all that bending over for the sheets and bath weren’t doing her any favors, either.

Breakfast was uneventful, but since the pre-breakfast cleanup took so long, she decided to just stay home and play inside between breakfast and lunch.  Hopefully they could get to the water features after lunch and before nap.

When the washer was done, both mom and son trekked back upstairs to transfer everything to the dryer.

The toddler had run off to play somewhere and mom opened the washer to discover that the poop stains had gotten worse, not better.  Upon frustrated inspection, she found that matter from the leaked diaper had stayed inside the pajamas and had been let loose inside the washer to wreak further havoc.  Everything would now have to be hand-treated and rewashed.

Just as she was silently swearing to herself, there was a loud crash.  It sounded like breaking glass, but it also didn’t register.  What the hell could he have gotten into? was her immediate thought as she turned to find him.

He was in his room, looking stunned and standing next to a floor lamp that was now entirely on the floor.  Glass was everywhere.  Both were barefoot.

She burst into tears.

He burst into tears.

She tiptoed across the carpet, picked him up, tiptoed back across the glass minefield and immediately went downstairs, leaving everything just where it was.  Poop stains and broken glass.

Feeling completely overwhelmed, she called her husband at work and a fresh round of tears choked her words as she tried to explain what had happened and that she needed him to come home.

Please help.  I can’t do this.

A mercifully short 15 minutes later, her husband was upstairs being amazing by cleaning up the mess.

It looks like a crime scene up here! he called down the stairs.

No shit.

He explained that he looked up the proper way to clean up mercury, because he didn’t want to stir up all the yucky particles.

Oh, fuck!  The actual bulb broke, too?!  I thought it was just the glass of the lamp.  I didn’t even look.  Good thing we got out of there and I didn’t even try to clean up.  Ugh.

He cleaned.  Mom and son had lunch.  They didn’t make it to the water features that day.  Instead, they played in the kiddie pool in their yard.  Not knowing the changed plans, the son had fun just the same.  Right in time for a nap, the dad had the room all clean.  No glass, new sheets.  Like nothing had ever happened.

The dad (thankyouthankyouthankyou) went back to work and the mom spent the quiet nap time working the stains out of the load of laundry by hand. As if the stains were demons and the sheets were motherhood.

She washed the load again.  This time, the stains came out.

Like nothing had ever happened.

 

Three Years Later

On Tuesday my partner and I celebrate three years of marriage.

I want to say it’s been all rainbows and unicorn farts, but it hasn’t.  Well, there have been farts, but not those of the unicorn variety.  It’s been…loving and supportive and stable and hilarious and the kind of tenderness that brings one to tears.  But it’s also been the biggest challenge in our relationship since moving out of state and having a kid and basically having our whole world flipped upside down.  And now we’re about to flip it once again with baby number two.  Woo-boy.  I’m sure glad I have him by my side for all this.

But enough about our marriage.  The anniversary gets us thinking about our wedding and all the bittersweet feelings that go with it.  I blogged about it (read it here) to help me cope at the time and then the post got Freshly Pressed, which I initially had mixed feelings about.  On one hand, getting recognized for my writing is always nice, but I was worried that the feedback I got would just make me feel worse.

Overall, the good outweighed the bad and I felt so validated knowing that many, many other people felt similar letdowns as a result of their weddings.  My comment section became a big virtual group therapy session.  We shared horror stories and shared what helped make us feel better.  I thanked people for reading and supporting and commenting.  People thanked me for writing because it made them feel less invalidated, less sad, less alone.  I am glad that I wrote what I wrote.

What interests me now, and what prompted me to write about this again, is that that blog post has been by far my most popular post.  To this day – almost three full years later – it still gets about 3-10 hits a day, on average.  Every day.  And occasionally, people still comment with their own stories.

It makes me feel so sad when I read what people have Googled to get themselves to my wedding blog post.  Things like, “my wedding was a disaster,” and “I can’t get over how my wedding went,” or “I’m depressed about my wedding.”  This sucks!  Part of me feels validated because, again, I am definitely not alone in how I feel about my wedding.  However, part of me feels like a sucker.  I fell for the whole wedding-industrial complex.  I got wrapped up around expectations that were handed to me (and that I readily accepted) by society, spent a hell of a lot of money, put tons of eggs into the basket of one blissful day, only to have it crash down all around me. What does this say about our society that this post-wedding blues phenomenon is so common?!

Would I do things differently?  A few, but not many.  I admit, even now, I still just wanted the fun, expensive party that I could enjoy with all my friends and family.

In the months following my wedding, I responded to the many comments readers posted.  Some were unsolicited advice (one of my least favorite kinds of feedback), others were words of sympathy and encouragement, and many were similar horror stories.  Because I was going through my own grieving process, I found it difficult to respond to others who were suffering as I was. Reading those comments brought up my own yucky feelings that I was still wading through (or trying to forget – depending on the day) and it was uncomfortable.  It stung.  Each new story was a reminder that I’d always look back on that day with some amount of sadness, grief, regret.  Even today, a random comment that gets posted brings it all back, just a little bit.

While responding to these comments, I found myself wanting to slip into a therapist role as I typed.  Of course, that role feels natural to me, and it also protected me because it created distance between myself and my feelings.  Now that I am much more at peace with how my wedding went and how I feel about it, reading and answering the comments is easier.  Easier, but not pain-free.

My brother made us a wonderful video from the raw footage a relative took at our wedding, and only recently did my husband and I muster up enough courage to actually watch it, almost three years after the day.  Of course it brought back some of the yucky feelings.  The grief.  But.  It also reminded me that I actually managed to have fun that day.  And the ceremony was wonderfully moving.  And I looked beautiful.  And we were so in love.  I couldn’t deny it – the proof was right there on camera!  Whew.

In all the discussion with readers about how to heal and move on from these experiences, we often talked about having a do-over.  A “corrective experience” as therapists put it.  I pictured the two of us on a beach in Hawaii with an officiant and a photographer.  No one else.  I have flowers in my hair.  The wind is whipping my white cotton sundress around.  The sun is setting.  We’re laughing and holding hands.  And no one can take away our joy.

Maybe someday.  I say maybe, because I don’t want to get too hung up on expectations.

 

What to Expect When You’re Exhausted

I’m going to need some seriously awesome suggestions for family Halloween costumes, you guys.

Cuz my seriously knocked-up self is going to be pretty huge by then, so I gotta take full advantage of this costume-wearing opportunity.

Yup, you heard me.  I’m preggers again and it hardly feels real.

Well, so far it just feels exhausting and I doubt that will change for a very, very long time.  I wish I could go back to my pregnant-for-the-first-time-self and tell her how easy she had it.  She could rest and nap whenever she wanted.  She could eat whenever she wanted.  She could watch whatever she wanted on TV, whenever.  And she didn’t have a demanding, energetic toddler to waddle after.  Ugh, this is hard.

And the scary thing is, I only see it getting harder.  How do SAHMs take care of a toddler and a newborn?  I don’t see how it’s possible, and I have no idea how I’m going to do it.

I worry about my mental health.  It’ll be winter, it’ll be cold and rainy.  I’m not going to want to go anywhere, and I’ll feel alone.

I have hope in knowing that this phase will be temporary.  That I got through it before, and I’ll get through it again.  That I have some good mommy instincts and that I have some great tools and experience under my belt that I didn’t have the first time.  That the kids will grow and change and gradually become more independent from me.  And at the same time, I don’t want to already be wishing away all the cuddly newborn snuggle time.

So there you have it- exciting and terrifying all intertwined.

But seriously – ideas for Halloween???

 

You Are My Sunshine

I had just started taking Dylan out to story time at the library on a regular basis.  He was about 2 months old, so this was about a year ago.

I get to the library late that day, which is normal.  Good thing the organizer, Shannon, always starts late.  She says we’re on “baby time,” so it’s wonderful to know that she totally gets it.

I’m still trying to learn the words and movements to all these songs we do here.  It makes me feel like I am the new kid at school and no one has given me a tour.  I kinda hum at half volume and make my mouth look like it’s forming words.  At least none of the other moms care; they’re all focused on their own babies.  Which reminds me, as I look down at Dylan- is he even enjoying this?  Is he hungry?  Did I remember to change his diaper before we left?  Oh, new song.  Hummm, humm, hummmm.

Now it’s time for the book.  You Are My Sunshine.  Ha, that’s fitting for the Pacific Northwest.  I glance outside, and it’s lightly misting.  Sigh.  All these gray days blur together.

You are my sunshine (turn the page)

My only sunshine (Ugh, I started singing too high.  I sound like crap…turn the page)

You make me happy (Aw, it’s true…turn the page)

When skies are gray (Gray like today…my eyes start pooling tears and my voice gets a little wobbly…turn the page)

You’ll never know dear (turn the page)

How much I love you (He’ll probably never know…because I don’t think I even know yet…turn the page)

Please don’t take my sunshine away (Wipe away tears from face before looking up from the book)

I look around the room through my wet lashes…Did anyone else feel that?

That overwhelming, hormonal, postpartum flood of emotion?

My tears spill over, soaking the front of my shirt and quickly saturating the carpet.  I shield Dylan’s head so it won’t get wet, but soon the room fills with salty water, like in Alice in Wonderland.

Even though he is wet, Dylan’s body stays warm, and he feels like a sack of grain in my arms and lap.  I hug him close.

His dense little body acts like an anchor for us.  He keeps us from getting tossed around in the growing waves like the other moms and babies all around.

I look up and my eyes and ears come into focus.  We’re singing a new song and everyone is back in place and bone dry.  Blink, sniff.  Hummm, hummm, hum.

I feel like I understood that song for the very first time.

When it’s all over I pack up and leave like nothing happened.

—————-

It’s day 3 of NaBloPoMo!!!!  How will I ever get through this?!

nanopoblano2015light

Love Me, Pet Me, Feed Me

Sometimes I feel like a rockstar mom and sometimes I feel like a shitty mom.

Actually, I feel like a rockstar mom some days.  Or maybe some hours.  Some moments, really.

And I feel like, too often, I am trying to push away the shitty mom feelings.

On the bad days, I’m not able to step back and gain perspective on the day until Brian gets home and I can separate myself from the kid, breathe, and take a break.  When I finally do get that perspective, often times I realize that the D-man is just having a rough day and it has nothing to do with me.  Just because I can’t calm him, just because he won’t nap, just because he follows me around the house screaming and begging to be carried doesn’t mean that I am a shitty mom.  But man, it sure feels shitty.

Today was one of those days where I didn’t get a break.  Dylan only naps once a day now, but that’s because he sleeps like a champ at night so I’m good with that.  But today he did the thing where he chose to nap during a car ride and not while I could actually relax and take some time for myself.  This means I am literally watching the kid for the entire day, including while pooping.

I chose to go get some pictures framed today so we can actually start decorating this house we’ve lived in for…10 months now.  These days I have to force myself to get out of the house and run errands because I have this mental block on doing things like that with a baby.  They seem so hard.  I always feel rushed.  There’s so much stuff to pack.  Often, it hardly seems worth it.  But today, I went.

He was cranky, even after the car nap.  The saleslady was being super helpful, which I appreciated.  We finished just as Dylan was reaching his limit (his diaper was also reaching its limit) and so we headed to the bathroom.  Here’s the thing: Dylan hates public bathrooms.  He’s scared of the sound of the industrial flushing of the toilets.  Imagine being in Powell’s bookstore, which is a crowded madhouse on any normal day.  Try doing this with an infant in a stroller.  Try doing this when there’s a line out the door for the women’s bathroom and only one changing table…that’s currently in use.  With several stalls (meaning several toilets) and the 10 minutes it took for the woman in front of me to change her baby, that equals roughly 183556738 flushes.  Dylan was screeching and is forever traumatized.  So today, upon entering the bathroom, despite us being the only ones in there, he started whimpering.  He was screaming by the time we were done.

And then, by the time we got home, the outing had taken long enough that it was time for him to eat again.  (Eating has become a whole other ordeal, since he now grabs the spoon and flings puree everywhere in an effort to feed himself.  And finger food goes everywhere but his mouth.  But, I digress.)  And even after eating he was still clingy and fussy.  Around this time of day, the cat also starts screaming at me for food, and today was no exception.  Picture me standing in the kitchen, looking down at my two monsters – one furry, one fleshy, both on all fours – crying up at me.  Love me, pet me, feed me.

I’m not really sure where this post is going or how to end it.  And, honestly, I have mixed feelings about how today went.  On one hand, we got a lot done.  On the other, it was stressful.

I did my best

I did my best

I did my best.

Don’t Tell My Kid Not To Cry

Parents are supposed to work super hard to keep their kids happy, like, all the time.  If your kid is crying in the grocery store, then something’s wrong.  If your teenager is depressed, then you’ve failed as a parent.  If your child is angry and frustrated, you’d better punish fe because that’s just unacceptable.

Okay, so I exaggerated to make a point, but I think all the above is complete crap.

Popular rhetoric often says “I just want my kid to be happy,” and I think that’s a horrible goal – because you’ll fail.  We all will.  It’s also just not the point of life.

Unfortunately, I hear this (or read it) all the time.  What’s even worse is that I hear the negative side of this message (“Don’t worry!”  “Don’t feel sad!” and “Ooh, don’t you cry!”) to which most of us don’t give a second thought.  I suppose it makes sense to me that we would wish someone happiness, but I hate it that in the process, we too often demonize sadness and the expression of more so-called vulnerable feelings.

Like everyone else, I want the best for my kid.  I want him to have it all (whatever that means).  I want my kid to have a normal, rich life and that means experiencing the full range of emotions on a regular basis.

All this essentially boils down to: Don’t tell my kid not to cry.

You may think this message [being told not to cry] is harmless, but I assure you, it’s not.  By telling my kid not to cry, you’re telling him that his feelings are invalid.  You’re telling him that sadness is bad…or weak…or embarrassing.  If he internalizes the message as he gets older, he may interpret that he is bad or weak for feeling such things.

As for right now, he’s a baby.  Crying is normal.  (It’s also normal for humans of all ages, for that matter.)  Crying is how he communicates that he needs to be cared for.  As a parent, it is not my job to stop my baby from crying; it is my job to develop a tolerance for it.  And I suggest you do, too.

There’s a diaper commercial that I saw recently that promises that if you use their product, your baby will “always be comfortable.”  And I was like, “Are you kidding?!  Babies are hardly ever comfortable!  They sit in their own pee and poop and they get horrible gas and colic and they have huge teeth shoving their way through their hard gums…no one would be comfortable with all that going on!”  But the implication is that, as parents, it is our job to make sure that our kids are always comfortable.

The Princess Bride had it right: “Life is pain, Highness.  Anyone who says differently is selling something.”  Like diapers.

But back to that commercial.  What crazy high standards!  Nye, impossible standards!  And dare I say it – unhealthy.  As humans, we are meant to feel emotions – all of them – so we can bond with each other and learn from our mistakes and protect ourselves and live full lives.  I desperately don’t want my kid to feel self-conscious about living an authentic life just because other people may be squeamish around tears.

The other layer that plays into this issue is gender.  Although my son can’t express his gender yet, chances are he’ll identify as male, and little boys get the “don’t cry” message far more than girls.  This double standard scares me, and I hope to give my son the much more powerful message that he should be able to feel sad for any reason and express his sadness at any time.

I also want my son to know that whenever someone tells him not to cry (or whenever someone invalidates any of his feelings) that it says more about that person’s discomfort around authentic displays of emotion than it does about him.  Because as long as he’s being authentic, and as long as the way he chooses to express himself doesn’t hurt someone else, then he’s one brave little man.

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!

Ripped Open

Someone once told me that becoming a mother had ripped her open, both emotionally and physically.

At the time, I had an idea of what she meant, but now I have a much clearer sense.

Never have I felt so wide-open, so vulnerable.  It’s exhilarating and exhausting.

I cry much more easily.  I cry at diaper commercials.  Sometimes I cry when my son cries.  There is also such joy.  Pure, radiant bursts of joy.  My son’s smiles.  Watching my husband lovingly change a diaper for the first time.  Crying at diaper commercials.

The lows are lower and the highs are so much higher.

For me, becoming a parent has slammed me into the present like nothing else.  I am so overwhelmed, and my son’s needs are so immediate, that I am forced to focus on right now and little else.  Right now, he needs to eat.  Right now, I am going to sleep.  Right now, I am changing a diaper.  While I wipe his butt, we’re the only two people in the entire world.  He stares up at me and watches my face as I concentrate and hurry to finish the job.  I catch him looking at me and we share a smile.  Then we’re on to the next right now.

At the same time, becoming a parent stirred up my past.  I am remembering how I was raised.  Brian and I have discussions over how we were parented and how we want to parent.  I hear my mom’s voice, and even my grandma’s voice, come out of my mouth.  The past has been unearthed and laid over the present for me to walk through again.

Also at the same time, the beginning of life has catapulted me towards the future.  Since Dylan is our first child, and the first grandchild for both sides of the family, his existence has shifted everyone into a new life stage – a couple to parents, parents to grandparents.  It makes us all think of end-of-life issues.  With luck, Dylan will live to see us die.  He’ll see a world that I will never see.  It’s a concept that is very hard for me to wrap my brain around, and it’s both comforting and terrifying.

It seems odd to me, but the times my son just rips my heart out aren’t when he’s screaming bloody murder.  It’s when he seems bored or has this dejected look on his face.  Up here in my brain, I know that this is me projecting my stuff onto him and that he’s probably just content, or at the very worst, he’s just trying to process the world around him.  But here in my chest, my heart breaks for him, and I am not quite sure why.

Many, many parents say that they can’t imagine their lives without their kids.  I know this will happen for me at some point, but it hasn’t yet.  There are times, sometimes multiple times a day, when I wish for my old life back.  I wish to feel productive in a way that I am accustomed to.  I wish to have more free time.  I wish to have more sleep.  I wish for more predictability in my day.

When I find myself making these wishes, I reframe my frustration and ask myself what I can learn from this.  Again and again, the answer is patience and acceptance.  When I was working as a therapist, a supervisor of mine once said that we are given the clients we need.  So far, I think the same goes for kids.  My son is going to teach me, even force me, how to be more patient and how to accept that I am not in control (and I never was to begin with).

So, thanks, my baby Dylan, for ripping me open.

You’re going to teach me how to be a better person.

And I’m going to let you.

Today is my due date

I’m due today.

Holy crap

Well, actually, you’re due.

To come out.

Little Duck

We really can’t wait to meet you

Even though I feel like I know you already

You dance and hiccup and kick

And squirm your way up under my ribcage on the right side

Ouch.

You test the boundaries of your squishy little world

I can’t wait to show you my world

Little Duck

 

We’ve had our bags packed for weeks

We pretend to be ready, but we’re really not

Don’t worry, though, cuz we can’t wait to love you

and squish you

and pinch your little fat rolls

and sing you to sleep.

 

I don’t know what’s going to happen

And that’s pretty scary for me

So if you know, please tell me

Otherwise, we’ll just figure things out

together

as we go.

 

So get here soon

If you only knew the joy that is waiting for you

But then again, maybe you do

because how could you not?

So what are you waiting for

Little Duck

 

Come on out

So I can love you more

Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap

A Look Inside My Pregnant Head – A stream of consciousness

Hey everyone amazing news we actually closed on a house last week can you believe it we’re HOMEOWNERS

and not a moment too soon.

cuz immediately following getting our keys we went to the Oregon coast for the weekend to celebrate our first wedding anniversary and I can’t believe this year has gone by so freaking fast omg but the decision to go to the beach/coast was an amazing one because I am DYING IN THIS HEAT and we have to wait before we can get help to move into the new AIR CONDITIONED house which means this baby had better STAY PUT so I can labor in the house not only does it have AC, but it also has a soaking tub and a shower WITH SEATS it’s like it was made for pregnant ladies

fast forward to now where we’re moving small things everyday and waiting for the big move on Saturday and omg it’s HOT and I feel crappy that I can’t physically help pack and I have zero energy and maybe I’ll just put a few books in this box but oh I can’t do too much because what if I trigger the labor to start NOT BEFORE SATURDAY

maybe I should sit down I AM NOT MOODY SHUT THE FUCK UP

my hips hurt and I am hungry again

I am so BLESSED and I can’t believe everything is falling into place right in the nick of time and I am SO EXCITED and I still can’t believe that I am going to have a little human soon and a house this kinda makes me a real grown up now and oh crap now I’m crying

again.

that seems to happen more often these days

my feet are swelling up again maybe I should sit down and eat something WHERE IS MY FAVORITE MUG is it packed already WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO MY LIFE

no labor til after Saturday Little Duck you stay in there til after Saturday

time for a nap.