A friend of mine recently posted a video on Facebook.
This video seemed to be some kind of veterinarian (Dr. Andy Roark) speaking at a veterinarian conference, about veterinarian things.
Only, those things were applicable to all of us and I found that his message really stuck with me.
He began by speaking about the different between joy and happiness. That joy is fleeting; it’s unsustainable. It’s an amazing feeling, and it’s often why we do the work we do, but it’s just a glimpse. And happiness is “full of pain.” He said, “Buddhist philosophy says that life is suffering.” It made me think of the far more lighthearted quote from The Princess Bride.
But I had heard all this before. The part that got me was that he said, “The best thing that we can do is choose how we suffer.” He went into an example of losing a beloved pet, and how much grief and suffering that caused him. But it was suffering he chose, and would choose again. He said, he could have chosen not to get a dog to avoid the suffering of eventually losing him, but he would’ve suffered a little each day coming home to an empty house.
And that’s when I got it for me.
Right now, I’m suffering. I’m struggling. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m happy…but, by this guy’s definition, this is happiness. It’s not JOY all day every day, (which is what too many people think happiness should be) but that wouldn’t make for a very meaningful life, for without suffering there is no joy.
There was one time when I was really breaking down about what a shit time I’d been having slogging through mommyhood, and someone said to me, “…but you’ve chosen this. You wanted this.”
Yes, I’ve wanted to be a mom pretty much my whole life. I wasn’t sure I could physically be a biological mom for an entire decade, but miraculously, here I am. I planned this, I actively participated in building this life. And man is it HARD. Did I want all the suffering that comes with this? Of course not. I don’t want it and I don’t like it, but I chose it.
I chose it over the suffering of not having kids. Feeling like there was something profoundly missing in my life. Feeling like my family was incomplete. Grieving the loss of kids not here. Having a house that was too big, too quiet. Too clean? (Maybe there’s no such thing as too clean.)
Make no mistake, though: just because I chose the suffering that comes with raising kids, that doesn’t mean I don’t get to do just that…suffer. Complain. Lament. Break down. Have regrets. Be human. So yes, I did choose this. But I get to own it, too. Just as I get to own the glimpses of joy that peek through. The hugs, wet kisses, sleepy bed-head faces.
I need to keep reminding myself that joy and suffering are not mutually exclusive. And I need to keep reminding myself why I chose to suffer this way.
How do you choose to suffer?
My kid does this thing where he behaves beautifully in public, when we’re in front of other people.
And when we’re at home, or in the car, especially when I’m the only adult around, he’ll completely break down and fall apart. Worse yet, lately he’s been misbehaving on purpose. Taking things from his sister, doing the opposite of what I’ve asked, throwing things, etc.
Let me be clear – overall, my kid is very well behaved. He’s always been quite mellow, a rule follower, compliant, agreeable. It’s great, he’s great, and I know I’m very lucky. While I’d love to take all the credit for his amazing disposition, I know that he was just partially born that way, and partially due to my (mostly) awesome parenting (plus the much more patience-filled parenting job his dad does).
What sucks, aside from me having to deal with the breakdowns (unintentional) and the defiant threenager behavior (intentional), is that my mommy friends usually just see compliant, agreeable Dudeman. This sets up a dynamic where I don’t feel like there’s room for me to complain about my situation.
It’s the little comments and compliments like, “Wow, he’s so well behaved!” or, “I could never imagine D doing something like that!” There’s a mix of emotions that comes with hearing these. On one hand, the compliments are very nice and very well received. There’s a certain amount of mommy pride that comes with the reputation for having The Good Kid. On the other hand, like I said before, I can’t complain about the bad times and feel like I am being believed because no one ever sees them. It makes me want to wear a GoPro or one of those police body cams so I can catch D-man in action and then play it for my mommy friends.
See?! See THAT?! He was just a total asshole to me!
I guess I just want to feel accepted. I want to be part of the club. I army crawl through the trenches and slog through blood and piss and shit just like y’all. Even if you don’t see it.
And now that I type this, I find myself laughing on the inside because I’ve always thought of myself as one of those moms who didn’t care if she didn’t look put together. At least, I care about sleep more than I care about looking put together…because I’m not. But, with D’s behavior, it’s not like I’m hiding anything. He’s just more likely to behave when he’s being stimulated and is around other fun people and kids, which is when we’re hanging out with the mom friends. It’s when we’re alone and sick or bored or tired or hungry that he’s more likely to push my buttons and test boundaries. Totally normal, I keep reminding myself. (More than normal, even, because he’s testing me because he is safe and loved with me) There’s just a part of me that wants to wear some of that blood and piss and shit on my sleeve as proof that I’ve been to war. Maybe a purple heart would be less smelly.
So obviously I’ve realized that, as a stay at home mom, I want a witness to my suffering and my hard work. It’s like when you want your boss to say, Great job, Janice! (if your name was Janice. If not, that would just be weird), but you’re doing the kind of work that when it’s done right and done well, no one notices. This is why, almost every day when my husband gets home from work, I insist on giving him a detailed play-by-play of my entire day. I need him to hear my struggle, see my pain, congratulate me for getting through it and being such a badass.
And now I’ve come full circle, I’ve realized, to my last post. Because I feel invisible, the work I do is invisible, and my struggles are also invisible, I find myself searching for witnesses. Empathy. Validation.
Can you smell the shit?
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).
She ran with elation, with fortitude.
The grasses licked her limbs as they parted, faster and faster as she ran.
She didn’t know quite what she was running from. From everything.
Except everything was actually unfolding before her
As she ran.
The wind became her breath
As it traveled into her mouth, down her windpipe, filling her lungs.
Oxygenating her blood.
And whooshing back out.
Again and again and again.
Faster and faster.
As she ran.
Her dusty bare feet softly thudded the earth.
Heel first, then ball, toes last, pushing off.
Heel, ball, toes. Heelballtoes.
Her hair, blazing in the sunlight, trailed behind her, furiously trying to keep up.
Her dress did the same, only it tugged as it caught on the grasses.
Tears streamed across her face, blown back by indulgence.
A warm glow ignited deep in her belly and slowly radiated out
Down into her pumping thighs, calves, thudding feet
Up into her heaving lungs, biceps, hands, fingers
Spine, neck, brain
Sparkling eyes, flushed cheeks, parted lips.
A smile spread, automatically.
Laughter escaped, bubbling up and spilling out
Like a caged animal set free.
It could not be stopped
As she ran.
Where was she going?
She only knew where she’d been.
She just kept moving, afraid to succumb to inertia.
She was desperate to remember how it felt
As she ran.
Life is really tough right now.
I knew it would be, but this doesn’t make it any easier.
People ask how I am doing, and what am I supposed to say? I tell them the truth – that it’s hard and that I am doing the best that I can – but if I truly stop and express to them just how hard and just how much I struggle, then I fear I’ll just fall apart.
I need more human contact. My son needs more human contact. It’s good for us. But getting there, getting OUT, is SO. FREAKING. HARD.
Today we got up and tried to get to playgroup. I got up around 7:45. The playgroup started at 10:30. By 11:45 I was still feeding my youngest a bottle. I texted to cancel. We ended up taking a walk, by ourselves, in the freezing cold because it was the easiest and quickest way to get outside. Yes, it was better than nothing, but man, it sucked.
And that’s the thing – I don’t expect perfection, but I feel like I am trying my hardest and that I’m still failing. At some point in the day, I’m always failing SOMEbody. Sometimes it’s me (because I can’t make social contact with friends), or the baby (because she’s screaming hungry and has to wait), or my toddler (because he’s screaming that he wants to go outside but has to wait), or my husband (because he listens to me complain and cry and fall apart).
I usually start the day off trying my best to cope, like today. But the time ticks by and more and more gets in the way of reaching our meager goals (getting to playgroup), when it finally comes crashing down because my toddler kicks me in the jaw and I burst into tears, or my baby won’t nurse even though I know she’s hungry and I burst into tears. These days, it’s rare to get through the day without feeling like the walls are crashing down on me.
I have glimpses of hope and reminders that life gets better. I try and hold onto those. But living in the moment requires breaking down, because the here and now is often unbearable. That’s why I am always on my damn phone – if I can just check out for a minute, maybe I can regroup and reenter my life. Or just pass the time; maybe when I lift my head, things will be different. Better.
So I’m coping. At least I am getting more sleep these days, but I am still choosing sleep over most other things. I choose sleep over chores, over human interaction, over getting out of the house. Because if I am not moderately rested, nothing else matters. That may sound dramatic, but it’s true. Here’s the catch, though: if I’m not a zombie physically (sleep deprived), then I’m a zombie emotionally (isolated). It’s like I can’t win.
Not to mention that this winter, everyone and their mom is sick. Everyone in my family was sick a month ago, including my newborn, and that was pure hell. Less sleep and meeting with other people all mean a higher chance of getting sick again…so perhaps hunkering down is what we just need to do right now, even though I don’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter at the moment. I suppose all these circumstances just mean I super prioritize what get togethers we try and attend.
Lest I begin rambling, I will simply repeat my point in closing.
Life is really tough right now.
I can say that having a newborn the second time around, for me, has been easier than the first time. That leap from non-parent to parent was so intense and life-changing, and nothing could have ever prepared me for that experience.
This time, though, I’ve realized that the only thing that can prepare you for baby number two (if anything) is…baby number one. And it’s not the baby that’s doing the preparing, exactly, but it’s the experience of being a parent, of having to care for a newborn. This time, I knew to expect the extreme sleep deprivation, and what that felt like. I knew to expect feeling isolated, feeling trapped inside the house, feeling resentment at my baby, at my husband, at everyone who wasn’t me and didn’t have my issues. I also knew to expect that this newborn phase would pass (and quickly), that there was definitely light at the end of the tunnel. I had done this before; I could do it again.
Because of this previous experience, I think I was able to fall in love with my baby a whole lot sooner than with my first. This time, I had already given up my freedom, my childless status, my sanity, so there was no resentment. I had little else left to lose! I’m already crazy, baby, so you can’t even come close to rocking my world (in a negative way) the way my first one did.
And this time, this baby made my family complete. Because she’s my last kid, I figure I had better enjoy the good parts while I can. I also did this with my first, to be sure, but it’s different when you know something is the last time going in.
Another point is that we already had all the baby crap. There wasn’t new stuff to research and buy and worry if you’re getting the right thing, or enough things. We had all the things! They just needed to be washed, is all. Easy-peasy.
This time, it’s been a little easier because we, my husband and I, have more balls to just smile and nod while our baby’s doctors tell us to do impossibly time consuming and unrealistic things, and then go home and do what we know will work for us. Namely, we’ve been told with both babies to wake them up to eat every 2-3 hours. We are blessed with babies who love their sleep. Waking them up made them pissed (like me) and they didn’t want to eat. It wasn’t working. We killed ourselves trying to comply with the doctor’s orders for baby number one. For this one, fuck that. We’re letting her sleep, and guess what – it’s working. And that’s only one example, but it’s an important lesson to just follow your gut because it’s made all the difference.
This time around, my physical recovery was easier, which may seem counterintutitive. I was anemic with my first, so I felt weak, tired, and out of breath. This time, although my labor and delivery was crazy amounts more intense than the first (that’s another post entirely), I’ve felt more energetic and sooooo happy to have my body back.
One of the biggest reasons why this is more manageable: my husband and I have already hashed out how we deal with all the baby-related chores. This may not sound like a big deal, but trying to figure out who does what and when and how and what feels fair is the biggest deal of them all. It’s so easy to feel alone, unsupported, and resentful when you don’t feel like your partner is doing their fair share of the work. We got through all those sleep deprived, tear stained arguments two years ago, so now we’re good. Feeling the ease of routine and the support from my husband has been incredible.
So what’s been hard? The hardest part by far has been trying to meet both my kids’ needs, often simultaneously, not to mention trying to meet my own. There’s always at least one person waiting for needs to be met, and it kills me. I feel like I owe both my kids an apology. I’m sorry to my toddler, who’s been used to having my undivided attention his entire life and suddenly has to share me and wait for things. I’m sorry to my infant who has never known my attention to be undivided, who sometimes has to wait for things. I never worried about being able to love both my kids; that part is easy. But feeding them at the same time? Goodness help me. It’s one huge juggling act.
How am I holding up? Better than with my first baby, that’s for sure. The first 6 months with him were the hardest, and if this time is anything like the first, then I definitely see a light at the end of the tunnel: come June, I’ll be getting more sleep, we’ll have found our new normal, we’ll have a routine and a schedule, I’ll feel better in my body and I’ll be ready to be more active and my god, the weather will be nicer. Walks! Parks! Bike rides!
Right now, I’m rediscovering a realization I had when my son was tiny: that good days and bad days don’t depend on what happens, but they depend entirely on how I am feeling and my ability to cope with what happens. If I am well rested and have patience, it’s going to be a good day. If I can remember to sing and dance and laugh, it’s going to be a good day. Even if that day includes a tantrum and tears and potty accidents. That all may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s huge. It makes all the difference.
Here’s to surviving the newborn phase being a mom of two. Cheers.
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.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, his movements made me come up with a word that described his personality. I blogged about it.
And now I’ve come up with a word for my daughter: mischievous.
Her distinctive move as of late is to wait until I am asleep and then wedge herself up under the right side of my ribcage. Once I wake up to pee, which is often, and feel the pain, it’s too late. Her damage has been done.
What is it with my babies enjoying the right side of my uterus?! Does it have an ocean view? Fresh paint? Hardwood floors? I guess I’ll never know.
She also enjoys dragging her pointy, pointy little elbows across the width of my abdomen, which makes for quite a show from the outside. And lately she’s been snuggling down lower and lower, which I understand is a good thing, since she’s getting ready for her big debut, but my bladder really doesn’t appreciate it. And I really hope she doesn’t start pinching my cervix like my first did, because whoa man, that shit hurts like a baby on the cervix.
And it never fails – every time I have babydaddy put his hand on my tummy to feel baby going crazy with her breakdance fighting lessons, she stops. Just like that.
So enjoy your time in there, Little Miss. I only hope I’m calling you mischievous because I’m cranky and this pregnancy seems longer and harder than the first and not because you’re gearing up to give me a hard time.
Either way, I’m on to you.
I know where you live.
My parents just left after a week-long visit and I’m sad.
The day after kind, helpful company leaves is always tough, for many reasons. One, I’ve just lost a huge help in terms of cleaning and food prep and all the energy it takes to give attention to Dylan. Two, Dylan gets very used to all the constant, undivided attention during the visit and he’s usually more needy and whiny than usual after they leave, and I’m left to deal with that. Three, I’ve just lost rational, adult humans to talk to and eat with every day. It highlights just how isolated and alone I often feel on a daily basis, despite my growing efforts to reach out and meet new people with whom I can meaningfully connect (which is a struggle and a whole other post of its own).
Plus, fourth, the leaving highlights just how far away from family we are and how much that sucks. We’re coming up on second baby’s birthing time, and I’ve had to arrange a phone tree of sorts of local friends who can keep my son alive while we wait for family to hop on a plane and get here once I go into labor. I suppose it’s time to find some babysitters in the area we can call and *gulp* actually pay to watch my spawn from time to time, but that’s just not the same as having grandma and grandpa just across town.
Not long after Bamma and Pa-pa left, I looked at the forecast on my phone. Readers, fellow Psychos, you all know how much the weather affects my mood. The last two days have been mercifully sunny and delightfully warmish for this time of year in the Pacific Northwest, and I did my best to enjoy them. We got outside and went to parks, synthesized some vitamin D and some sanity. Well, wouldn’t you know it, in a few short hours the skies are going to open up again with a series of storms with no end in sight, says my irrational sad brain. Ah, symbolism. You stormy bitch.
So, visits are hard. They are fun and exciting and something to break up the often horribly mind-numbing sameness of my days…but once they are over, the sameness I return to seems to become even more mind-numbing.