Invisibility Cloak

It’s been really hard trying to adjust to life in Oregon.

People have been telling me that it’ll take time.  Like, 2 or 3 years.  You know, to find friends and get used to the rain.

Well, it’s been 3.75 years and I’m still waiting.  Waiting to feel…adjusted.

I’ve moved before and it hasn’t felt like this.  So I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out what is different about this time and this place.

Many things are different: this move is permanent, with no end date in sight.  I didn’t move here for a reason of my own, meaning that we moved here because of my husband’s job and not because of work or school for me.  We don’t have any family close, not anywhere in state.  I moved here 8 weeks pregnant and have been largely housebound raising kids ever since.  The weather suuuuuucks.

But all this I’d been over in my mind, again and again, and nothing felt heavy enough to be such a roadblock.  Perhaps all of them put together is what is blocking my road?

Of course, there’s more.  My life is pretty unrecognizable from what it was 4 years ago.  I was working full time, not yet married, not yet a mom (of two).  I had friends and family.  Hobbies.  A brain.  A life.

Now I feel like I am getting somewhere – that along with grieving the loss of my homeland (via the move), I am grieving the loss of my identity.  Before, I was a therapist.  A partner.  Active, creative, thoughtful.  Productive.  Energetic.  Mobile.  Free.

I look at the clothes hanging in my closet, and I don’t recognize the woman who wore those clothes.  She’s not me, but I kind of remember her, the way one remembers a grandmother who died when you were a child.  I deeply miss her.

I feel like becoming a capitol M-O-M has wiped out any identity I had that doesn’t pertain to my relationship with my kids.  People no longer ask about me, they ask about the kids.  Or they ask about how I am in relation to the kids, as a mom, and not as a person.  (Because moms aren’t people, you guys.)

Edit: To be fair, my momfriends very much DO genuinely ask how I am doing.  It’s just that most often, I’m unable to answer honestly or with much gory detail because of the circumstances (read: kids running around trying to kill themselves).

Make no mistake, I’ve definitely been making an effort to integrate myself into my new life.  This introvert and homebody has forced herself to join a moms club, get to library story times, and go to various playgroups.  I’ve made friends and enjoyed some of what Oregon has to offer.

What finally hit me was something my good friend said to me recently.  I was bitching about how being a mom gets in the way of making good quality friendships because even when my momfriends and I can get together we’re still always chasing after our kids and can’t have a decent conversation.  I can’t remember how the conversation went, but I think I said that my momfriends and I mostly talk about our kids because that’s what we have in common, but we don’t share who we are as people.  And she pointed out that none of the people I am meeting and trying to forge relationships with in Oregon knew me before I had kids.  I just read back what I typed, and I can see how that may not sound so earth-shattering, but it definitely felt that way to me.  Besides my husband and this particular friend, zero people in Oregon knew who I was before children.  There’s been essentially no carryover from my old life to the new one, in every way possible.  Ugh.

As I take this thought and play the tape through in my mind, I’m seeing another layer of difficulty in trying to make new friends: not only do we lack the logistical opportunities as moms, but I am working blind.  I don’t even know who this new me is yet, and no one here knew the old me, and in that sense I feel completely invisible – swallowed up by my children (and then pooped out for me to clean up).

Label Day

Today is Label Day!

Slide1

Here are the labels I’ve chosen for myself: Feminist Mama.

I feel like these labels have chosen me, really.

Feminism has gotten a bad rap.  Although, now that I think about it, there has always been (and most likely will always be) backlash against feminism…because if not, then there was no need for the label in the first place.  The definition of feminism is simple: the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.  That makes me a feminist.  In the words of Maya Angelou – “I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.”  So there you have it.

Mama.  I’ve wanted to be one for as long as I can remember.  And then ovarian cancer made it so I might not be able to be (a biological) one.  I wish I could have known ahead of time that all that worrying about infertility was fruitless (excuse the pun), but such is life.  I am so, so grateful to be able to raise my sweet boy.  He brings the joy (and farts) into my world.

So those are my chosen labels.

Tell me, what are yours?

 


nanopoblano2015lightNaBloPoMo Day 21

We’re all hot messes

I constantly remind myself that all us moms are hot messes, and that some of us are just better at hiding it than others.

I am not one of those people.

Even though I often feel self conscious when I am out in public with baggy jeans and no makeup and my kid has a snotty face and mismatched socks…I still can’t bring myself to take the extra time to make it look like I am a perfect mom.  I’d rather sleep.  Or eat.  Or blog.  Or take an extra 5 minutes to sleep/eat/blog on the toilet with the door locked.

As it is, with a kid I can’t get anywhere on time to save my life.  I find myself feeling happy…or just mildly content… for getting to the library for story time before it ends and then I look around at the other moms and think, How the frick do you have time to do your hair?  How is it that you’re wearing cute clothes and that you don’t even look like you were pregnant 3 months ago?

Sigh.  I try not to, but it’s sooooooo hard.

To battle comparing myself to others, I instead have started asking myself one question at the end of each day:

How have I made my life better today?

Usually, I can come up with something.  Sometimes, It’s that I made it to yoga.  Others, it’s that I sang to my baby and made him smile.  Once in a while I bask in the glow of finishing some project and doing a great job – like making Halloween costumes or hanging pictures on the wall to make my house feel more like a home.

Sometimes, I have trouble coming up with something.  And that’s when I tell myself that it’s ok, and that I can try again tomorrow.  Sometimes all I’ve done is maintain.  Sometimes my life got a little worse that day.  Not usually, though.

There’s always some good in my day, and I’m trying to highlight it and celebrate it with purpose.

If I can’t do that, then my days start to not feel worth it……and it gets even harder not to compare myself to the public versions of all these other moms.  But that’s the important part – to remind myself that the fact that I am a mom means my life is worth it, and that I am only seeing a small version of these moms.

I’m a hot mess.  You’re a hot mess.  We’re all hot messes.  Say it with me.

See you next week at story time.  I’ll be the one with the mismatched socks.

———————–

It’s NaBloPoMo, where I vomit some words on these pages everyday in the month of November.  Bring some paper towels!

nanopoblano2015light

Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Mama

Now that I’ve been a mama for over a year now (!!), I know all the things practically nothing about parenting.

One thing I do know is that I can’t win.  You win, baby boy.  But please don’t read this until after you’re done being a teenager, because I never said that and you can’t prove that I did.

Here are a few other things I’ve learned in the past year, because sometimes I find something that works for me and those make for good days.

1. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the harsh realities of having a child.  Nothing.

There isn’t any advice anyone could’ve given me and there isn’t any book I could’ve read that would’ve made me feel prepared.  I think I intuitively knew this already, which is why I didn’t read any books.  I just went to doctors appointments and read how big my fetus was (and what piece of fruit he was being compared to…ooh, a grapefruit!) on my pregnancy app.

Yeah, I got some advice and I went to my birthing classes and those things prepared me to a point.  But I knew then, and it’s been confirmed many times over in the past year, that there isn’t anything out there that can fully prepare me for such a profound life change.  I knew I’d just have to wing it, and that’s cool.

2. Never underestimate the power of song.

I sing a lot normally, and I sang a lot while I was pregnant.  I sing in the shower, in the car, while doing the dishes.  So, my wee babe heard a lot of my voice singing Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift and Sara Bareilles.  During the past year, when Dylan has been freaking out over diaper changes or having his face wiped clean, we’ve found that he will dramatically calm down if we sing.  It doesn’t matter what song, and it doesn’t have to be me, either – my husband sings to him and Dylan pays attention.

The hardest part for me has been to remember to sing – especially when we’re having such a hard time that I am close to tears myself – and then to figure out what to sing, which leads me to the next thing I learned.

3. I can make a song out of anything or adapt any song to fit my needs.  Seriously.

I sang Katy Perry’s Firework as a lullaby and Dylan loved it.  I changed the lyrics of Madonna’s Express Yourself to go: “you’ve got to make him express your milk, hey hey hey hey!”  We’ve sung the classics to death – some favorites are the Wheels on the Bus (Brian added the vital missing verse that goes: “the drifters on the bus go stab, stab, stab…all day long!”), You Are My Sunshine, Black Socks, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Bingo (where we sing: “there was a family had a boy and Dylan was his name-o!”), etc.

But the best skill I’ve discovered is my ability to make a song out of any stimuli in front of me.  The best example is Crotch Food (the term we use for food that lands in Dylan’s crotch during the course of a meal).  I don’t think I’ve ever sung it the same way twice, so it’s the song that keeps on giving.

4. Formula makes a great substitute for coffee creamer.

It’s chock full of DHA – what every new-mom-brain needs!  It’s iron fortified!  I was out of milk and/or cream!  Need I say more?!

5. My mama bear instincts are fierce.

I’ve gradually learned how to advocate for myself, and now those skills just naturally spilled over onto my son, covering him with gooey, fierce, sticky mom love.  I’ve learned that if you threaten my ability to do my job as a mom, or judge me or undermine my authority as the mom that I will do whatever it takes to get Dylan and I out of that situation.  Because rawr.

6. The most challenging part of having a kid has been making sure caring for him doesn’t get in the way of my relationship with my husband.

This has been huge.  We’ve had to figure out how to divvy up household tasks and childcare, and it’s very easy to feel like the tasks aren’t equal or fair, even when we’re both working hard to keep our household running.  We have less time to connect and more stress and it’s been very hard not to build resentments and feel unsupported.

I’ve had to remind myself that my husband and I are on the same team.  We made Dylan together, we’re raising him together, we’re a family together, and we’re on the same team.

7. I’m still trying to figure out who I am now.

It’s like I am going through adolescence all over again.  I’ve been through several major life changes in the past two years – getting married, getting pregnant, moving out of state, transitioned from working outside the home to inside the home, and I’ve been home with my kid for the past year.  It’s been disorienting, depressing, isolating, challenging.  I’m having to make new friends, which is hard for me.  I’m having to get used to my new body and grieve my pre-baby one.  I’ve been grieving most of my old life, honestly.  It’s been so weird and surreal to embrace my new identity as a “mom,” and I’m still not used to it.

8. Dr. Seuss books make me feel stupid.

Seriously, you try and pronounce all them non-words in Oh Say Can You Say? on little sleep.

9. I need to keep trusting my intuition.

He’s my kid and I’ve been with him every day of his life.  I know this little guy pretty damn well.  I also trust my judgement a lot.  I need to keep reminding myself that I am good at caring for my little man, that mistakes are ok, and that at the end of the day we’re both going to be just fine.

10. Keep finding the humor in the small things.  The ridiculous things.

We laugh when Dylan farts.  He laughs at his own farts.  Farts are funny, you guys.  We just bought these new knock-off Cherrios for Dylan and some of them are brown and wrinkled and look like buttholes.  It’s hilarious!  It looks like my kid is eating buttholes!  And those are only a few examples; I could go on.

Fight Club and Yoga Pants

The other day:

Brian: You look like such a mom right now.

Me: Excuse me?!

Brian, sensing danger:  You know, very…motherly.

Me: What makes me look like a mom?

I look down at myself.

Brian: Well, you’re wearing your hot yoga pants and-

Me:  THESE ARE YOGA KNICKERS!  THEY STOP JUST BELOW THE KNEE! And I just came from yoga, so I’m not lazy.  And these aren’t even stained.  NEXT!

Brian:  And, and you can see that black fabric just by your neckline…

Me:  You mean my sports bra?  Being able to see my bra makes me look like a mom?  I think you have me confused with a hooker.  A very sporty hooker.

Brian:  Well, you look great carrying Dylan around.  I love you.  You’re pretty.

Me:  Look.  If you ever see me trying to buy a pair of mom jeans, tear them out of my hands and burn them on the spot.  You got me?

Brian:  But what if you tell me how comfortable they are?  And that they’re on sale?  What then?!

Me:  Distract me with chocolate and then burn them.  And if I say those things, just remind me that I said I would say those things.  You know, like in Fight Club.

Brian:  But I thought the first rule of Fight Club was-

Me: -to never let me buy mom jeans, yes.

Brian: And to not let your stuff end up owning you?

Me: That too.  Now tell me I’m pretty.

Brian:  You’re pretty.  Here’s a muffin.

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.

A Day Not Entirely My Own

Today is my birthday, and this birthday feels different.

I have realized how giving birth has changed my entire perspective on birthdays in general, but especially mine.

Up until now, I’ve always thought of my birthday as belonging to me; it’s my day.  The anniversary of the day I was brought into the world.

But really, the passive voice of that last sentence is misplaced.  In actuality, my birthday is the anniversary of the day my mom brought me into the world.  My mom worried and labored and felt pain and sweated and cried and felt crazy beautiful joy and relief.

I guess I couldn’t really get it until I had done the same thing for someone else.

My mom was in labor with me for 24 hours.  My dad drove her to the hospital, which was about 30 minutes away from home.  My mom remembers being pissed that my dad’s breath smelled like potato chips as he led her in the Lamaze breathing in which they had taken classes.  My parents talked about a very insensitive nurse who couldn’t get some medical reading because my mom was writhing in pain during a contraction.  I would like to be able to track down that nurse and punch her in the ear, exactly 32 years late.

At some point during the labor, my mom announced she wanted an epidural.  Apparently, someone informed my dad that it was too late in the process for an epidural to do any good, and so my dad ended up lovingly lying to my mom, telling her the pain meds would be coming any minute now.  I can only imagine how much of a champ my mom was for getting through the remainder of the laboring process completely unmedicated.

And so I came into the world at about 2:15am on February 10th, a Thursday, head first but facing up.  At that time, few parents knew the sex of their baby before birth, and my parents were no exception.  My mom wrote in my baby book that I was alert and had strawberry blonde hair, which are the exact same phrases I ended up writing in my son’s baby book.

So today, I celebrate my first birthday as a mom even though it’s not entirely my day.  And in six months, my son will get to smash his face into sweet, damp cake for the first time, but it won’t really be his day.  Not all the way, at least.  That will be a day when I’ll be telling anyone who will listen how I brought this perfect creature into the world.

…maybe that will be a day when I should make myself my own smash cake.

And by smash cake I mean celebratory booze.

Jim Beam: Kid Tested, Mother Approved

So I went to my parents’ house this weekend and Saturday morning I woke up in my childhood bed, stumbled down the stairs and opened the cabinet to get some cereal for breakfast and this is what I saw:

Boozy-oh's: Breakfast of Champions!

Boozy-oh’s: Breakfast of Champions!

Alternate captions for this picture include:

“Cirrhosis Toast Crunch”

“Honey Bunches of Jameson”

“Captain Morgan Crunch”

“Scotchy Charms – They’re magically delicious!”

(Now accepting additional submissions for boozy cereal photo captions in the comments section!)

——

I’ll have you know that when I was living at home, this cabinet was full of sweet, delicious carbs in the form of sweet, delicious cereal.

After taking the above incriminating photo, I confronted my mom.

Me: Mom, what happened to the cereal cabinet?

Mom: Why, is it broken?  Did you break it?!

Me: No, it’s full of booze.  It’s now the booze cabinet!

Mom: Oh, that.  Well, I need to take tonic water to calm my restless legs before I go to bed.

Me:  …

Mom: And sometimes I need something to take away the bitterness of the tonic water, so I add some whiskey.

Me:  You take away bitterness…with whiskey?! 

Mom:  *quiter* …It calms the legs.

Next she’s gonna tell me that she replaced the candy in the candy drawer with meth.