Out of Sorts/Quarter-OK-30ish-Life-Crisis-Maybe?

I realized a few weeks ago that I have spent years in the pursuit of conception, pregnancy, postpartum, or infancy survival. Literally YEARS. Surely that kind of uterus gazing cannot be healthy. So I tried to think about myself not as a proud owner/operator of a uterus or as a mother, but as an individual, and consider what I would list as a hobby or interest, if asked, (not that I have been asked, but conceivably there might be a situation in which I was asked such a question) and I could not think of a single thing.

Guys. Have I become a conservative’s dream woman, aka a walking uterus? (No, because: the gay. But still, moving dangerously into that territory.)

Maybe I’m feeling this acutely right now because I’ve been so heavily in toddler mode. (I typed out a whole breakdown of my day here but it was so boring I had to delete it.) Tammy’s working really hard on her master’s program right now, so the bulk of the childcare falls to me.

Maybe I’m having a some-time-in-life-crisis? Maybe it’s normal to feel this way as a mother?

It’s so incredibly frustrating, because I adore my daughter. She is funny, and smart, and of course stunningly, achingly adorable, and trust me when I tell you that I very clearly remember all of the blood, sweat, tears, and credit cards we went through to have her with us.

But is it so bad to want more from life? Is it so bad to want Ellie, but also want friends? Is it so bad to crave baby snuggles/board books/squeals of laughter with pretentious intellectual debates in coffee shops, hipster glasses optional? Is it so bad that I simultaneously love the expression on Ellie’s face when I go into her room in the morning, and desperately, achingly want to check into a hotel, eat and drink massively marked up room service and then sleep until noon? Is it so wrong that I love feeling her head heavily rest on my shoulder as I put her to bed at night, and feel, well, trapped by the schedule of naptime, bedtime, snack, bottle, etc., etc., etc.?

So speak to me, o wise women of the internet. How do you deal with the push and the pull of being both an individual person and a mother? Going guilt free? (how?!??) Medication? (Which one(s)??!) Occasional weekend babysitter?? (Not actually a bad idea…) School me in your ways.

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Eggs, Cancer, and Sleeping Lions

Yesterday, Ellie got diagnosed with a food allergy, and I was overjoyed.

Let me back up.

We gave her egg for the first time when she was about eight months old, and she immediately broke out into angry red hives. Seriously, she had three bites of scrambled egg and a rash developed around her mouth. Then her cheeks turned bright red like she’d been slapped. Five minutes later her body was covered in hives. She wasn’t terribly fussy, and she didn’t have trouble breathing (thankyougod) so the nurse we talked to at our pediatrician’s office told us she was probably OK. The next morning the hives had turned into small red bumps and her eyes were puffy, so her pediatrician told us to make an appointment with the allergy clinic at the children’s hospital in our city.

Yesterday was that appointment and her allergy was confirmed.

Allergy

After the scratch test confirmed the allergy we had her blood drawn to determine the best course of action (food challenge with egg baked into something? Food challenge with pure egg? Avoidance of all egg forever and ever amen?). We also had a stern talking-to by a nurse about the protocol for epi pens, cross contamination, forms for daycare, medical alert bracelets (!) and the like.

So why am I so overjoyed about this?

Well, at this particular children’s hospital, the allergy clinic shares a wing with immunology, hematology, and outpatient oncology. This meant we were sharing a waiting room with some very, very sick kids.

Now first of all, if my kid had cancer, I would be pissed that she had to hang out in a waiting room with a bunch of germy kids. Seriously, is it too much to ask for our own waiting room? Damn.

But from a (horribly, incredibly) selfish perspective, it was terribly distressing to see pediatric oncology patients. Cancer is absolutely one of those worst nightmare situations, a hypothetical that my mind cannot fully contemplate. Any time my thoughts turn to that particular nightmare, I immediately disengage and zip off in another direction, like the mere mention of cancer actually burned my brain, like the word cancer sends an electric shock deep into my psyche.

Seeing those kids brought my woe-is-me-ing into harsh perspective, because here’s the truth: yes, it does suck and it is scary that Ellie has this allergy. I really don’t have any experience with the food allergies, and I now have another thing to add to my mental list of things to freak out about when I’m trying to fall asleep: anaphylactic shock. Fun!

But you know what is awesome? How incredibly, shockingly lucky we are.

We have access to world class doctors at a hospital entirely devoted to children that is five minutes from our house.

We can afford to pay to be seen by those doctors.

We can afford medications that will keep our daughter alive in the event of a severe reaction.

We send our daughter to a daycare that will take her allergy seriously and have members of the staff trained to administer epi pens as needed.

We are educated enough to understand her diagnosis and treatment.

We are empowered enough to advocate for our child.

It is a food allergy. Not cancer.

So last night, Ellie and I put on our dancing shoes and had a dance party in the kitchen while we made our (egg free) dinner. Our song came on, and we kicked up our heels to the mighty jungle and howled at the moon and the peaceful village and toasted our good luck and great fortune.

 

Onederland

My baby is one.

The morning of her birthday, Ellie woke up crying at 1AM. We looked at her on the video monitor (which is the #1 most useful baby gadget we have, hands down) and noticed that her crib sheet seemed awfully wet. We usually give her a few minutes to cry if she wakes up at night to see if she’ll settle herself back down (nine times out of ten she puts herself back to sleep within a minute or two), but we thought maybe she had leaked out of her diaper or something so we went right in. As soon as we opened the door the vomit smell hit us like a ton of bricks. Poor baby had puked everywhere. In addition to her sheet being soaked, puke was smeared all over her PJs, all over her face, in her hair, in her ears.

Tammy and I changed her and wiped her down as best we could and then I rocked her and sang to her and told her I loved her. At first she was tense and straining against me, agitated and exhausted and confused. But soon her little body was relaxing and growing heavier and so I laid her down in her clean crib. I stroked her face and her fuzzy head and as I pulled my hand back to let her sleep, her little fingers reached up and grasped mine, and so I sat there, hand in hand with my girl, as she fell asleep.

hands-istock-infant-holding-mothers-hand-bw

Happy Birthday to my spirited, joyful, funny and beautiful not-so-baby girl. Thank you for making me a mother. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for holding my hand in the middle of the night. Welcome to onederland.

Remember November

November is a bad month for me, because it’s the month I lost my first, desperately wanted pregnancy.

November is also a beautiful month for me, filled with gratitude for the honor of watching my daughter grow.

I wrote THIS last year about the miscarriage, and it still rings true for me. Memories are still triggered that bring back the drowning feeling of despair. There’s a bit of cognitive dissonance as I bathe my daughter in the tub that two years ago I floated in, feeling the waves of pain envelop me. As I rake leaves in our backyard and remember wondering what “it” would look like, even knowing my daughter is napping inside.

I am so, so grateful for my girl. Beyond grateful. Privileged and in awe that she is here.

But having Ellie also brought into sharp focus what I lost, and what could have been

fall-leaves.

An Unworthy Cassandra

I’m officially full term today, by anyone’s standards! 38 weeks!

Those sentences are about as cheery as this post is going to be, so if that’s all you’re here for (you must come here…infrequently) you can quit reading now.

I’ve had two episodes so far of thinking “maybe…could this be…am I imagining this?” Both episodes involved me waking up in the middle of the night to cramping and contractions – and a full blown panic attack. Last night was the most recent one, and it was preceded by a whole day of period like cramps, an evening of irregular and far apart contractions, a teary panic attack, and then the nighttime wake up.

I feel absolutely ridiculous. The nursery is ready. The car seat is installed. I’ve passed off 90% of my work at the office, my out-of-office message is primed and ready. We’ve got tons of food in the freezer. My parents are on stand-by. I am physically uncomfortable and desperately anxious to meet our baby girl. So why the panic? Why the tears?

Well, for one, because it hurts.  And I lay there, watching the minutes tick by (3:34….3:35….3:36…) and think to myself, “Ouch. Fuck. That actually kind of hurt. Ugh, I hate period cramps and this totally feels like period cramps. Now I feel like I’m going to barf. Awesome. Wait, THAT feels like my stomach has been put into a vice. FUCK. That HURTS. FUCK THIS SHIT. TAMMY WAKE UP OW OW OW.” etc. And then I remember that, hey, I’m not even really in labor yet. Regardless if it is early labor (unlikely considering I’m not having contractions now, and only super mild cramping) or false labor, things are going to get a whole lot more painful before I’m done. And, to be brutally honest, I’m not sure I can stand it.

Emotionally, I’m a complete and total wreck. I’m cognizant enough to know it all comes from a place of fear. Fear of labor and delivery. Fear of the recovery. Fear of postpartum depression. Fear that I won’t somehow recognize my daughter. Fear that I won’t love her. Fear that Tammy won’t love her. Fear that she won’t love us. Fear that my relationship with Tammy will deteriorate. Fear that all those instincts you hear about just…won’t exist in me – that my trouble getting pregnant was some kind of indicator, some kind of Cassandra warning that I should have heeded.

Fear. Sickening, gut wrenching fear. Somehow, the birth of my daughter only became real in the past week or two. All through the months of fertility treatment and all through this pregnancy I never really allowed myself to imagine holding my child in my arms. And that fear, the fear that my dream would never happen, was awful and soul crushing but it only made me double down and grit my teeth. I was bound and determined that I would have a baby if it was the last thing I ever did. It became an all consuming obsession. Now that I’m faced with the reality of that obsessive, angry, steadfast drive coming to fruition, I find myself staring into the abyss – one of pain and darkness and I am unworthy of this.

Baby girl, please come out and prove me wrong.

Year in Review – 2013

Oh, Christmas. Always such a delightful pull and tug of thank-you-JESUS-I’m-on-vacation and holy-mother-of-god-I’m-going-to-kill-my-family. Some highlights for me this year include Tammy’s mother disowning her children (really); my sister and I spending the entire week squabbling over seriously stupid shit; and me, at almost 9 months pregnant making Christmas dinner from scratch for 6 adults (and thinking the whole time, this is bullshit, this is bullshit). The best part about Christmas this year was that it wasn’t last year. Reading that post makes me sad. I was so depressed and so angry and so deep in my own shit I could barely breath.

Since the post from 2012 was so damn depressing for me to read, let’s dive into the 2013 Year in Review, shall we?

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before? The sustained pregnancy, obviously. Is that boring and obvious? Sorry. That’s basically my year. You can stop reading now! Phew!
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I actually didn’t do TOO badly on my first one from last year.  I did really well making homemade meals, at least until the first trimester barfs set in. I fell off that wagon hardcore and never made it back on. Oh well. I most certainly did NOT get back into yoga. I also did not take time to do things for myself. Resolution for this year: let go. You do not have to be in control all the damn time. Does it really matter if your mother puts the dishes away differently than you would? No, no it does not. Does it really matter if Tammy doesn’t pass that car when you would have? No, no it does not. Repeat ad infinitum.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes. I had a few close friends have babies this year. Plus my sister in law had a baby in November.
4. Did anyone close to you die? No. Quick, knock on wood and light some candles!! (Not that I’m superstitious at all.)
5. What places did you visit? [pause] Damn, did we not do anything this year? We went to the beach this summer with my family like we always do. We went to visit Tammy’s family a few times. But no, we really didn’t do anything this year. Wow.
6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013? A happy, healthy baby. A job that doesn’t require me to be available 24/7, and ideally I could work from home sometimes and (even better) be part time.
7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? All of the IVF stuff and then the pregnancy stuff. I still can’t fucking believe it worked.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? See above.
9. What was your biggest failure? Trying to control everything.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I’m sick right now with a cold. Nothing super seriously in terms of illness this year, thank goodness!
11. What was the best thing you bought? IVF. Hands down, best money ever spent.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Tammy’s always. That girl is good.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? How much time do you have? I don’t know that my own behavior was “appalling” or anything, although I certainly wish I had done any number of things differently. Tammy’s mother’s behavior appalled me, and it certainly depressed me. I would say certain politicians appalled me, but eh, it’s kind of their job to be obnoxious, right?
14. Where did most of your money go? IVF. Even though it was the best money ever spent, it was damn expensive. Why must it be so expensive??
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Being pregnant. Duh. Right now I’m really, really, really excited about the fact that soon I will no longer be pregnant, and I will have a baby in my arms.
16. What song will always remind you of 2013? Hmm. I don’t really have a song in mind. Maybe this one?
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? happier.
b) thinner or fatter? fatter. Couch-to-5k, I’m coming for you in 2014.
c) richer or poorer? Financially poorer, richer in everything else.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? I wish I’d done more to make Tammy happy. I wish I’d done more for my health and fitness. I wish I’d carpe’d more diem.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? I wish I’d been less selfish and controlling. I wish I had worried less. I wish I’d spent less time stressing about work.
20. How did you spend Christmas in 2013? We always split the holidays between my family and Tammy’s – we go to her sister’s house for Thanksgiving and spend time with my family for Christmas. In the past we’ve gone to my parent’s house, but this year we made people come to us. Despite having to make Christmas dinner for everyone (which turned out to be pretty damn good, thankyouverymuch, it was a pretty good time.
21. Did you fall in love in 2013? Fell in love with the baby. Continued to fall for Tammy.
22. What was your favorite TV program? We’re making our way through past seasons of Sons of Anarchy right now. I also started watching Scandal, which is so bad that it’s good.
23. What did you do for your birthday in 2013? Not too much. I was gearing up for egg retrieval and was too sore and anxious to want to do anything. I think we went out to dinner.
24. What was the best book you read? My mom got me into a mystery series about a Chief Inspector in Quebec. I realize reading mystery novels makes me about 90 years old, but whatever. I wouldn’t say these were the best books I read though – that prize goes to The Goldfinch. I’ve been waiting for Donna Tartt to come out with a new book for effing ever and she did not disappoint. An absolutely haunting and magnificent novel.
25. What did you want and get? Pregnant.
26. What did you want and not get? The house to get much closer to done. The number one rule of home owning – everything takes longer than you think it will.
27. What was your favorite film of this year? No idea. We kind of stopped going to movies because after paying for the IVF things were a leeeetle tight around our household.
28. Did you make some new friends this year? Nope. How are you supposed to make friends as an introverted adult? How??
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? See above about what I wish I’d done more of and less of. This question is kind of dumb.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012? Revolving around the 3 or 4 maternity outfits I own. I dare anyone to say anything to me. Go ahead. I dare you.
31. What kept you sane? Tammy. Always.
32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Eh? No one?
33. What political issue stirred you the most? Gay marriage is pretty high on the list again. Raising the minimum wage would be awesome. Providing paid maternity leave would be awesome.
34. Who did you miss? I miss my grandparents. They’ve gone over the deep end into dementia. I miss who I was before I started trying to have a baby. There’s an innocence and a happiness there I’ll never get back.
35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013. I haven’t “learned” this; I don’t think I ever will. I’ll have to continue to learn it, over and over for the rest of my life.

Gratitude

I’ve been pretty unhappy lately with the various physical realities of being pregnant. I’m super uncomfortable almost constantly; my back hurts, my hips hurt, I can’t breathe, I can’t sleep, I’ve gained too much weight, I have terrible heartburn, blah blah blah. But then I remember how I felt last year at this time. I had experienced my miscarriage  a few weeks prior and it was one of the worst Thanksgivings I can remember. I kept having to run outside at my sister in law’s house or camp out in the bathroom to cry, deep, soul ripping sobs. I felt sick, both in my body and in my heart.

And now look where I am. How privileged am I, that I have the opportunity to complain that I can’t take a full breath…because I have a baby inside me! How wild, and terrifying, and astonishing and dream-come-true.

You know that super sappy thing people do on Thanksgiving, where they go around the table and everyone says what they’re thankful for? Here’s what I said:

“I’m thankful to this family [meaning, Tammy’s family], for welcoming me and loving me. I’m thankful for my Tammy; she makes me happy every single day. I’m thankful for our baby. I’m thankful that we have the means and opportunity to grow our family.”

And now that I’m here, on my blog, I have to add that I’m thankful for all of you. Thank you for welcoming me into your community. Thank you for the support and advice. Thank you for sharing your stories with me, and allowing me to be a part of your journeys.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving.