Note: I’m not a big believer in the “letters to babies” genre of blog posts. However, in honor of Bunny’s first birthday, I’m giving myself a pass. Feel free to skip this one if you don’t feel like slogging through it. This one’s for my daughter. :-)
To My LiLi Love,
Exactly 365 days ago you came into this world, and this world became a whole lot better.
You don’t know this yet, but with time you will learn that birthdays involve a lot of “thank you”s.
You thank people for their good wishes, you thank them for coming to your party, you thank them for gifts.
But you’re not quite old enough to say thank you yet.
I’m sure the time will come that you’ll say it quite a lot on your birthdays, since your mama and aba will make sure to teach you how to do that.
But in honor of your first year, I’d like to turn the tables a little bit.
I’d like to say thank you to YOU. Because you’re not old enough to understand this yet, but for such a little person you’ve given your mama some pretty huge gifts over the last year.
So: Thank you LiLi Love.
For teaching me what it means to love another human being in a way that transcends all reason.
For every time you smile and bounce up and down when I come to pick you up from day care.
For every night that you can’t sleep, and I take you in my arms and cuddle you in mama and aba’s bed, and you promptly drift off, and keep your hand over my heart.
For every time you start dancing when music plays.
Especially when it’s good music. Like yesterday, when Queen came on and you immediately started rocking out. That made me very proud.
For your exuberant love of my cooking. Watching you passionately pig out on my chicken meatballs is one of my favorite new hobbies.
For your boundless curiosity, which helps me see the world differently.
For having the most exquisite laugh I have ever heard, and for sharing it with the world so freely.
For smiling and waving at total strangers, even when you’re tired and cranky.
For making me laugh. All the time. Because you’re freaking adorable.
For being as stubborn as your mama, and helping your mama understand that being stubborn is ok.
For giving me perspective.
For making your aba and I work hard at being good parents for you.
For grounding me in reality.
For loving me even though I’m imperfect.
For making me constantly strive to do better.
For giving me the best year of my life so far.
For being you. For being exactly you.
Like I tell you every night: I love you more than anything in this world, and I will always love you no matter what. Even if you grow alfalfa sprouts out of your ears, paint your skin purple, decide to talk exclusively in Latin, and pursue a career as a roller skating fire eater. I will always love you without limits.
From here to the moon to the sun and back. Times infinity to the power of infinity.
Happy birthday LiLi Love. Mama loves you.
Next Sunday night, I’m getting on a plane and flying to the US.
For 6 days.
2 days after Bunny’s first birthday.
On one hand – I’m SUPER excited. This is a really important move from a career standpoint. On the other:
HOLY CRAP I’M LEAVING MY BABY FOR 6 WHOLE DAYS.
Any working mommies out there have any tips for making this easier on Bunny?
And on me? Because let’s be honest – I’m going to take it harder than she will.
On a slightly different, but related note: Who’s coming to Content Marketing World?
I know you’re out there, FSM knows enough of us do this writing thing for a living. Email me if you’re planning on going!
Dear Mom Who Is Judging Me For How I Raise My Child,
It’s going to be ok. No – really. I swear. I know you’re feeling insecure right now. I understand that you question your parenting decisions, and therefore stick to them fanatically in order to quell your lack of confidence.
But really – it’s going to be ok. You don’t need to yell about how right you are. You just do what’s right for you. I promise you that you don’t need the world’s approval to parent how you see fit.
We all question our parenting decisions. It’s part of being a parent. We all feel insecure. We’re all secretly afraid that we’ll somehow break the fragile beings we are in charge of. You’re not alone.
Like the other night, when I saw that my baby girl wasn’t liking the cucumber I gave her, and barely ate her bread and eggs? I admit – I gave her a cookie. Did I question that decision? Of course I did! Does that mean I now have to go out and judge and berate every mother that chooses NOT to give her child a cookie? Hell to the no.
I also sometimes give my daughter jarred baby food for breakfast. I work full time, and I can’t find the time to puree fruit every day on top of the two other meals I cook for her.
Does that mean that I go out and give those who don’t cook at all the stink-eye? Or curse out a mother who gives their child only homemade food? Of course not.
I gave up on breastfeeding when my daughter was 10 days old. I do not go out and berate women who breastfeed until their child is 3.
I speak to my daughter in a different language, so that she will hopefully be fluent in two languages her entire life. I do not curse out other bilingual moms for not doing the same. It’s hard! I don’t blame you if you don’t do it.
I do not believe that full-on cry-it-out sleep training is right for my daughter. But I would never insult someone who does.
Because like you, my dear insecure friend, I question my parenting choices.
But unlike you – I flaunt my insecurity. I share it with my friends. I share it on this blog. I embrace it.
I don’t try to mask it by entrenching myself in my decisions as if they were gospel I needed to preach to the masses.
You know why? Because every parent ends up screwing up their kid in some fashion.
Too much junk food.
Too little junk food.
Too much TV.
Too little TV.
Ingrained racism, or sexism. Or sleep problems, or materialism. Or irresponsibility. Or messiness.
My mom was awesome – and I’m an almost 34-year-old who has NO IDEA how to properly fold a shirt.
I also throw my shoes next to the couch when I come home. There’s literally a pile of shoes next to the couch. And I only noticed when my daughter attempted to put one in her mouth today. True story.
My mom was awesome, and I’m a slob.
I’ve also spent countless hours and countless dollars on intensive psychotherapy.
Because my mom tried really hard not to mess me up, because her parents messed her up. And as a result – she messed me up in a completely different, unexpected way.
And I’m ok with that.
Just like I’m ok with the fact that despite my best efforts, I will somehow mess up my child.
And it will probably come from a place I never imagined, because that’s how these things work.
My dear, sweet, insecure friend. Stop yelling. Stop posting sanctimonious preachy gifs and links on facebook. Pour yourself a glass of wine and relax. Play some Candy Crush or something instead.
Because you really don’t need the world’s approval for your parenting decisions. Just like you have no right to approve or judge mine.
And I promise you, everything will be ok.
Just start saving up for those inevitable therapy bills in the future. I know I am.
A Fellow Mom Who’s Doing Her Best
I was very depressed as a teen, and throughout my 20s. The thing is I also suffered from terrible anxiety. I guess the “upside” to that (if you can call it an “upside”) is that I never once thought about self-harm. That scared the shit out of me.
Something changed when I lost Nadav though. A dormant switch was turned on in my head.
And sometimes, to this day, a thought creeps in. An invasive thought. An awful, terrible thought.
I had a bit of a wake up call a few months ago and saw my psychiatrist, and told him that I was having invasive thoughts.
He knows I’m a girl who likes her research. So he pulled out a study about invasive thoughts and read the conclusions to me.
I’ll save you the boring details, but basically the conclusion is that these things are common, especially amongst people suffering from depression and anxiety.
And that the thought tends to linger if you dwell on it.
That if you possess it, it possesses you.
That the best thing to do, when something like that creeps in, is to push it aside, acknowledge that it’s chemical and a lie, and if you’re not getting help already, to seek it. ASAP.
I guess Robin Williams succumbed to the chemical lie yesterday. He let it possess him.
I won’t eulogize him. I didn’t know him. But you should know that he WAS my childhood. That I have been deeply saddened by what has happened.
And I’ve spent the last 24 hours – amongst the stresses of work, a baby with a fever, and very little sleep – reflecting on what has happened.
Last night, as I went to shower, trying to wash my face so I wouldn’t wake up tear stained in the morning, I looked at myself in the mirror.
And I realized it’s been a while since I did that. I’ve been avoiding mirrors again.
And I realized I may not be as OK as I’ve been pretending to be.
And that as soon as the dust settles around this latest bit of chaos I will seek out help. Again.
And that having such a bright ray of light extinguished is what woke me up to the fact that I am, once again, drowning.
That I need to find a better solution.
I hope that if anything, his actions last night will inspire more people to seek help.
Depression is a fucking awful disease.
It never really has a cure. All you can do is be vigilant. Be vigilant, and don’t let the invasive thoughts possess you.
You are not alone.
Well it was sunshine and unicorn farts for a while there, but it looks like at 11 months, we have to sleep train Bunny. She’s a champ at sleeping through the night, but getting her to sleep has become a nightmare (yes, even when we make bed time later, and after a long day).
And I’ll be honest, I have no patience for a weeks-long research and book reading marathon here – so here’s where you come in.
We want something quick and dirty, to pull the band aid off, so-to-speak. That’s the way Bunny adjusts best to change.
So – links or a quick (or in-depth!) overview of methodology would be awesome.
And I am fully ok with cry-it-out as long as it as there’s something in place which gives her a sense of security.
Also – in case you’re new here, let me make this clear: ALL PHILOSOPHIES are welcome, and any mommy war BS will be outright rejected. This is why I moderate comments, and I’m not afraid to hit “reject” if things get catty.
So please keep it civil, but have at it folks! How do I teach this girl to fall asleep by herself?
That’s how I said good night to Bunny tonight.
I was up half the night with her last night. She was crying, she was running a fever. At 6am I finally got her to sleep. At 8am I handed her off to Shmerson and got 3 hours of sleep myself.
I’m in a bit of a tailspin.
We’re drowning in boxes. But really, that’s not the issue.
The issue is that I thought moving closer to work would have a bigger impact on Shmerson than it would on me.
Holy fuck was I wrong.
I realized it a couple of days ago. Basically, for the last 3.5 years I’d been living like a hermit. And moving – it was basically my re-entry into the land of the living.
When we moved away from Tel Aviv after my first miscarriage, I started working from home. As time went on, from one loss to another, I became more and more isolated.
We lived over an hour away from most of our friends, so I didn’t see them much. I would venture out a couple of times a week to teach, or for meetings, but that was basically it.
After losing Nadav keeping to myself became the easier option. I rarely ventured out. Lord knows I had a good excuse. Shmerson started working in Tel Aviv so he would come home late every night. Apart from my mom, I rarely saw anyone.
My isolation became complete once I got pregnant with Bunny and spent 6 months cultivating a dent in the couch.
And after she was born, it wasn’t much different. I would get up, and work, and pick her up from daycare, play with her for a couple of hours, and get her to sleep.
I would still spend about 80% of my waking hours alone. I didn’t have a car, I didn’t have any semblance of a social life. It was work, Bunny, work, Shmerson.
And last week we moved.
And now I’m in the office every day.
Rather than sitting in my PJs answering emails, I’m in the office. Surrounded by people.
ALL THE TIME
And at home we’re drowning in boxes. And I’m not even touching on the political situation, and my devolving sense of security because if I even acknowledged that I would lose my shit.
A couple of days ago I realized I was being short with Shmerson.
I realized that I had barely had 15 minutes to myself in over a week.
It’s not like work time was “me time” when I was at home. But there’s a difference when you’re constantly surrounded by people.
To illustrate the point: I had to do laundry over the weekend because I barely had 5 work-appropriate outfits to wear. That’s how rarely I ventured out.
I was a hermit living in a leper colony, and all of the sudden, I’m getting unleashed on society again.
All of this, and Bunny. The situation here has brought a lot of anxiety to the surface and I’ve hated leaving her every day.
It’s clear she loves her new day care. but she spent most of the week pretty much ignoring me. Not making a fuss when I came to pick her up, barely acknowledging me when she played at home.
I was starting to really be hurt by it. Even though I know these things happen. I was starting to think that I was doing something wrong.
Then Bunny didn’t sleep last night, and I still haven’t gotten 15 minutes to myself (until this moment).
Shmerson spent a large chunk of today unpacking and hauling boxes. So he left me to take a nap, and I gave Bunny her bath and put her to bed.
On bad days, it takes her about 40 minutes.
Today it took her almost two hours.
An hour in, I was already beginning to lose my patience. She kept half falling asleep, and then waking up again. Sometimes screaming, sometimes laughing, wanting to play.
And my patience was wearing thinner and thinner.
An hour an 20 minutes in I couldn’t take it any more. I woke up Shmerson and told him to take over.
As he took Bunny out of my arms and took over I kissed her good night and said “Good night Baby, I’m sorry for being a crappy mom.”
30 minutes later she was asleep.
And I’m here, typing this out. Feeling endlessly guilty. I should have found the patience. It’s not like I’m with her 24/7. In practice I only really spend 3 hours a day with her. I should have found the patience.
I feel like such a shitty mom. And so overwhelmed.
And rambling, and disorganized.
And that’s about it.
Sorry – I know this was all over the place.
I watched as the new kitchen was installed when I was 10 weeks pregnant with Nadav.
6 weeks later, I lay in the bedroom hoping he would be ok.
6 weeks later, my water broke on the bathroom floor.
4 days later, I sat on the balcony. Empty. Crying and chain smoking.
I spent a lot of time on that balcony crying and chain smoking.
The room that sat empty, waiting to be filled by him ,became a guest room with paintings of flower vases on the walls.
Then we mourned. And we waited. And the gaping wounds became scars.
I cooked meals, fantasizing about what it would be like to cook those same meals for my child.
I took long baths. I listened to podcasts. I recorded some of my own. I painted. I watched a lot of TV.
We built our careers. We held our marriage together through unspeakable pain.
I spent six months making a dent in the same place on the couch. Working. Crying. Worrying. Counting kicks. Watching a lot of Dr. Who and Masterchef.
We brought our baby girl home, healthy.
I sat in the corner of the living room begging for sleep.
I sat in the corner of her room, the room that was once empty, the room that was now full of her joyous being, watching her sleep.
I cooked her first meal in the kitchen I built when I carried her big brother.
I showed her the trees from the balcony where I used to chain smoke and cry.
I watched her crawl for the first time on this floor not 10 feet away from where my water broke.
I watched her stand for the first time, leaning on the walls covered with paintings made in the service of healing.
I watched her dance for the first time, with the sunlight streaming through these windows that I looked through for all of those months that I sat here, keeping her safely inside me.
This place, which has known more joy and more grief than I ever thought any place could contain.
This place, where I laughed and cried and cooked and hugged my husband.
Where we planted a tree on his first birthday.
Where we danced around the living room with her more times than I can count.
This place, where we thought we would live for a very long time.
This place that has a magical power: It releases grief and retains joy and light.
This place, that can no longer be our home, because it’s time to move on.
This place, which I entered lost, I inhabited wounded, and I leave – found.
This place where I came into my own.
Where we came into our own.
Where we became a family.
Our first true home. Her first home.
Tomorrow it will be emptied, waiting for another family to inhabit it.
I hope it gives them as much as it has given us.
I hope his tree grows big and tall – watching over it.
I hope we find another home that will harbor us and protect us like this one has.
That will empty out grief and retain joy and light.
Somebody tell me what the fuck I’m supposed to do.
I’ve lost people I love to terrorist attacks.
I’ve seen people around me lose husbands and sons to this conflict.
I’m afraid to voice my own beliefs on this blog for fear of getting attacked for them.
Because even though I’m a moderate I’ve been called a Nazi for even believing that I have a right to call Israel my home.
So I keep my views to myself because I know that this is an English language blog, that gets read by people in the United States. And Canada. And Europe.
And a host of other places where anti-semitism is on the upswing.
A host of places I admit I wish I could move to.
Because I don’t want my daughter to lose someone she loves to a terrorist attack. Or have to run into a bomb shelter in the middle of the night. Or have to watch her government take drastic action that she doesn’t agree with.
But tell me – what the fuck am I supposed to do?
I can’t leave. I’ve lived outside of this country before. I’ve been hated and cursed for being Jewish. For being Israeli.
Yes. I have. I have stories that would make your skin crawl.
But I don’t talk about that on this blog.
Because I know there’s some asshole out there who thinks that I don’t deserve to live because of the place where I was born and where I live.
And another asshole who would think I’m self-hating because I don’t support my government’s decisions blindly.
And another asshole who thinks that me thinking that I have a right to live in this country in peace makes me a bad person.
So tell me
What the fuck am I supposed to do?
I can’t up and leave. I can’t leave my family. Leave my friends. Leave my job. Leave a life I’ve worked so hard to build.
I can’t go anywhere else because anywhere else I’m different. Anywhere else I’m hated.
But how the fuck am I supposed to raise my child in this? How the fuck am I supposed to live in this reality?
Where my country is under siege by a group of monsters who use their women and children as human shields.
But that means that my country hurts those women and those children in the name of protecting us.
And as I sit here and type these words all I can think about is how every Israeli right wing fundamentalist will read this and curse me out for being a traitor, and every anti-Israel nut job will read this and say that I’m a criminal simply for living here. For having my child here. For building my home here. For belonging to this country.
But this is my home.
So tell me – what the fuck am I supposed to do?
Stay silent. Wrap myself and my child in a bubble of denial.
But she’ll be old enough one day to understand the things that are going on around her. She’ll be old enough one day to be afraid. To ask questions.
This never ending war. It’s been going on since before my parents were born. How long will it continue?
How long until EVERY HUMAN BEING in this region will feel safe in their own home?
How long until I can stop shedding tears for the grief, fear, and sense of insecurity that my daughter will one day inevitably feel?
But I can’t leave. Because this is my home. And I’m hated and shunned everywhere else.
Yet I’m hated and shunned here. And I’m hated and shunned for living here.
And I don’t see how my daughter’s fate will be any different.
So tell me – what the fuck am I supposed to do?
*tap tap* is this thing on?
- Things have been INSANE. I don’t even know where to start!
- Meds: No sir, I did not like them. I was on them for 4 weeks and saw that the drawbacks outweighed the benefits completely. I’m officially off them as of yesterday. Going to try an extended release Xan.ax regimen and see how that goes.
- London, baby! Shmerson and I survived 4 days away from Bunny – all in the service of seeing Monty Python’s first live show in about 30 years. Yep – we actually did that! It was AMAZING and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We were acutely aware of the fact that this was most likely our last time away as a couple for a long time to come, so we did our best to make the best of it. And I only lost my shit twice because I missed Bunny! Otherwise denial was my friend. As was an ungodly amount of shopping (clothes and toys for her, an irrational amount of Dr. Who merchandise for us). Bunny loves her new Dalek plush. He now kisses her goodnight during our bed time routine and tops it off with an EXTERMINATE! For good measure. It’s her favorite doll. Yes, we are dorks.
- Speaking of being away from Bunny – I will be going to Content Marketing World 2014 in Cleveland in September! I know a bunch of you do the content thing for a living. If you’re planning on attending, drop me a line. We can network and/or find out together if there’s anything interesting to do in Cleveland in the evenings. Now I just need to figure out how to manage 6 days without her and Shmerson. YIPES!
- And now for the biggest news (and the main reason for my chronic MIA status): We’re moving! We didn’t manage to sell our place (the real estate market here is currently just WEIRD). But the commute has been killing us (Shmerson is on the road 3-4 hours every day and always gets home long after Bunny is asleep, and I make the same commute twice a week), so we decided to rent out our place and rent a place closer to work. Today the agreement was signed and we’re moving in TWO WEEKS! We will be a 10 minute WALK from the office. This will do wonders for our quality of life. I cannot wait.
- I’m sure some of you have been watching the news and see that the fit has hit the shan once again in the region. I NEVER talk politics on this blog, and I’m not about to start. I’ll just say we’re safe, but having to endure missile sirens and a fair amount of anxiety. Hoping the current crisis will pass soon.
- And Bunny. Oh my flying spaghetti monster I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing she is. She’s babbling, standing (almost!) on her own, crawling around like a mad woman and waving “hello” to everyone and everything, which is the cutest thing ever. She’s also starting to show signs of similarity to her momma: an irrational love of carbs and a stubborn streak that is a force to be reckoned with. I am doing all I can to savor and enjoy every single moment with her. She is a ball of pure unadulterated joy.
- Alas, dear readers, now that Bunny is a bit older I’m afraid her father has become more paranoid about my posting her pictures in this space. So I will leave you instead with a blurry picture of the stage at the O2 theater in London, about 10 minutes before Monty Python stormed it with th energy of 5000 killer bunnies with big pointy teeth.
- So that’s the long and short of it! How are all of you guys doing?
So I know I’ve been away for a bit. Things are their usual insanity, but the truth is I’ve been going through some stuff.
I spoke about it here quite a bit lately – postpartum anxiety. I’ve been treating it with Xan.ax. But the truth is, like I wrote here in the past part of my way of dealing is taking care of Bunny with a bit of emotional detachment.
I wasn’t liking it. And it was starting to bleed into my other relationships. I was getting more detached for longer periods of time. Finally, Shmerson said that he thought it was time I check in with my therapist. So what if I don’t have the time. I need to MAKE the time.
So off I went, and it was truly a wake up call. I don’t want to go into it here, but the long and short of it is that 20 minutes into the session she said she thought it was time I get back on anti-depressants.
I credit cym.balta with saving my life. I also credit it with a huge chunk of my weight gain, and with obliterating my sex drive completely (though 3 miscarriages and a stillbirth obviously did their part to contribute).
But the fact is she was right. Sure I am super-functional right now. But overly so. I’m functioning so much I’m forgetting about living. I function to deal with things. I keep myself so busy I don’t have a moment to think or reflect.
And the moment I did – at my therapists office – I had my first panic attack in months.
Don’t get me wrong, things are truly very very good. It’s just in moments of quiet, anxiety sneaks in. When I’m alone with Bunny, if I’m 100% connected to her, I get overwhelmed and can’t deal.
That’s not good for me, and that’s not good for her.
It’s partly emotional, yes. But the truth is that when I step back and examine it, a lot of it is chemical.
I left my therapist’s office, called my psychiatrist to make an appointment, and called Shmerson to break the news that I most likely have to get back on my meds.
He was of course super supportive, but also a little sad. He was hoping we were past this. He was hoping things were good enough that I wouldn’t need meds.
In the week that followed, the realization that I had spent the last couple of months basically repressing everything brought a lot of things back up to the surface. I had more trouble sleeping. I felt more anxiety. My eating was back to being out of control.
At my psychiatrist’s I told him what was going on. He actually wasn’t incredibly concerned. He gave me two options: Go on a very low dose of cym.balta or just continue dealing with things on my own.
I was truly debating what to do. I hated the decreased sex drive and how hard it was to get off of these pills once you start taking them. I told him that my big concern was that cym.balta made me feel like the volume on my feelings was turned down very low. Like I was always not 100% present.
He answered: Well, that’s how you’re dealing now, isn’t it? You’re making yourself emotionally detached in order to deal with your anxiety. This will do the same, only in a more controlled way, and without you having to work so hard.
I asked him what he thought I should do. He said he could go either way. It was up to me.
So I thought of Bunny.
And I thought of the fact that 90% present is better than o% present.
And I realized that I’ve never taken meds when I wasn’t in crisis mode. That maybe- just maybe – they can help me get to contentment, and not just survive the latest trauma.
Maybe they would let me enjoy my daughter more. And free up the energy I’ve been using to try to control my anxiety to be used in healthier, happier ways.
And worst-case scenario: If I don’t like it, I can stop.
So I did it. I bit the bullet.
On Friday, I took the first pill.
Now it’s two weeks of fuzzy brain while I adjust to the pills again.
And we’ll see where we go from here. We’ll see if a chemical helping hand will be what it takes to tip the scales over to contentment.
Wish me luck.
Wow, no posts for almost 2 weeks and then a flood. I guess consistency isn’t my strong suit as of late.
When Shmerson and I were together for about 2 years, a bit before we got engaged, we went to Paris.
At the time, I was the #2 person at a small startup company that was launching an international cable channel. My salary sucked. But I loved the job.
Shmerson and I went to the airport to go home, and realized we left our passports in our hotel room safe. We were out of cash. We made a couple of (expensive!) phone calls and a cab was on its way to the airport with our passports 20 minutes later. We had to pay a ridiculous ATM fee to get the cash to pay the driver. My bank account balance was painfully lighter after that debacle.
In line to check in, they announced that they were looking for people to give up their seats on the flight. They were willing to pay each person 400 (!) euros and cover a hotel for the night.
One more day in Paris, a free hotel, and 800 Euros if Shmerson and I stayed.
But there was this big meeting that I had to prep for at work. It was supposed to happen three days after. I was nervous about it. I had a presentation to put together.
So we said no.
800 Euros and an extra free night in Paris.
We. Said. No.
Even my boss at the time, when he heard the story, said it was a dumb move.
No shit. To this day I cannot for the life of me understand why that meeting felt so urgent at the time. But it did.
So we said no.
5 months later, the economic collapse happened and the company went bust.
I was unemployed.
And I had given up 800 Euros and a free night in Paris.
I can say I have a lot of regrets – but that – giving up that all for the sake of one meeting for a company that no longer exists – that is one of my biggest. To this day I facepalm each time I think about it.
Stupid, stupid move.
And I know – I know it’s not really the same. I know there are reasons. There are really good reasons why I work. And I’m not at some dinky 4-person startup. I have stability. We have stability. We need that.
But some days, when I sit in front of the computer, answering emails, knowing that Bunny is a 10 minute walk away being taken care of by someone else…
It’s Paris all over again.
Anniversary number one was spent picking up the pieces of three losses.
Anniversary number three was spent at home, feeling fear, anxiety, and hoping beyond hope that 4 would be different…
Anniversary number four was spent laughing at our baby girl as she stood up in her crib, an hour past her bedtime, dancing around and looking very proud of herself. Finally getting her to sleep. Cuddling, while (finally!) watching “Breaking Bad”.
And thankful. So very thankful that despite heartbreak, loss and unending sadness, we made it to the other side.
Marriage can mean walking through hellfire and coming out the other side scarred and bruised, but still holding hands.
Happy anniversary to my rock. My love. My family. The father of my children. Those not with us, those to (hopefully) come, and the precious daughter that we fought so hard to bring into this world, together.
I love you Shmerson. More today than I even thought possible.
Bunny turned 8 months old on Monday.
And all around me, people who have given birth around the same time as me, or perhaps a little before or after, are either discussing, working on, or already pregnant with baby number 2.
When it was starting to be clear that my pregnancy with Bunny was going to have a happy ending, Shmerson and I had a discussion. He was worried that I would want to jump directly to baby number 2 after Bunny was born. He was afraid that no time would pass and I would feel the pressure – and pressure him – to start trying again.
I was pretty sure that within months I would want to go again. As much as he didn’t trust me, I didn’t trust myself either. And logically we both knew that if nothing else, my body needed time to recover.
So we made a deal: No discussing baby number 2 until Bunny was 18 months old. That felt like a really long time for me. I thought for sure that even with that promise, I would never actually be willing to wait that long. I assumed that by the time Bunny would be about 6 months old I’d be hiding the condoms and peeing on sticks.
Now that everyone around me is back on the Baby Crazy Train, I thought for sure I would want to hop on board with both feet. I was waiting to have that itch to go again.
Monday night was Israel’s Independence Day. It’s holidays like these that make me look back and reflect, and also look ahead. We went to my parents’ place to get a good view of the fireworks. Bunny was asleep in the guest bedroom, and Shmerson and I hugged on the balcony and watched.
This time last year, we hadn’t quite reached viability yet. I was going absolutely stir crazy and I was TERRIFIED. Looking at those fireworks, I couldn’t quite believe how far we’d come.
There are days I still feel like she’s not real. That I just look at her in awe. That I feel like my head is about to explode because holy crap – this amazing creature is mine to keep.
So on Monday night as we watched the fireworks, I looked ahead to next year and did the math: a year from now Bunny would be 20 months old. That’s two months past the 18 month “green light”. Will I be pregnant again?
Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks: Will I even WANT to be pregnant again?
The truth is that the answer is “maybe not”.
When we first got on the Baby Crazy Train I wanted three kids. There are days I still think that I want 3. But then I do the math. I’m almost 34. 35 is considered advanced maternal age and we already needed some medical intervention to conceive Bunny. So if we want 3, we can’t really take our time about it.
And getting pregnant for me is just the beginning of an ongoing nightmare. How many tries will we need to make another baby stick?
And say that baby sticks – that means another cerclage. Most likely bed rest at least for part of the pregnancy (even if it’s voluntary and just for my sanity). 9 months of anxiety again.
And this time we have Bunny to think about.
When I put that all together – I’m not quite sure I want 3 any more. I’m not quite sure how much more I can handle.
My body and my soul have been through the ringer. I NEVER want to go back there again. I will never again spend 3.5 years straight either pregnant or trying to get pregnant in pursuit of a baby.
I can’t do that ever again.
Yes – I want to bring Bunny a little brother or sister. Yes, perhaps 2 more would be nice.
But will we even be able to make it happen?
And even if we can…
I want to enjoy my baby girl. We have to move and get some more stability and cut down our commute. I want to continue to get my body back. I want to continue to get to know myself. I want to get back to enjoying my husband and my marriage. I’m working very hard on getting a life right now and I’d like to keep it for a while.
All of those things are important. All of those things would be pushed aside in pursuit of number 2.
So on Monday night, as I contemplated where we’d be a year from now, I literally felt dread at the thought of being pregnant.
Dread. This is how much I’m NOT ready to think about number 2.
And I don’t think I’ve ever surprised myself more.
Even with everyone around me working on it. Even with my dwindling fertility and the ever-ticking biological clock.
Maybe when we hit 18 months I’ll be ready. Heck – maybe I’ll even be hungry for it by then.
But for the first time in a long time – I’ve taken myself out of the race. I don’t feel the pressure. I don’t feel like I want to play catch-up with anybody.
I have chosen not to hop on this Baby Crazy Train.
For now, I’ll hang out at the station and play a game of peek-a-boo with Bunny.
And I’m just fine with that.
You may now pick your jaw up off the floor.
Read part 1 here
During the first week of February, Shmerson and I were watching “The Colbert Report”. I admit – we generally skip the interviews, unless either of us finds the person intriguing. This time, we watched just because it was late and we weren’t quite ready to go to bed, but didn’t want to start another show.
Colbert interviewed an author named Jennifer Senior. If you’re in the US, you can watch the interview here.
Now, just for context, I’ve been watching Colbert since he premiered almost a decade ago. I’ve barely missed an episode. And there was a time that I did watch almost every interview as well. During all this time, there have only been two instances (out of what I assume are hundreds of interviews) where I was compelled to buy a book because of an interview on Colbert. The first was “Freakanomics“, the second was “Blink“.
The interview with Senior brought me to instance number 3.
It started when Senior said the words: “Joy is very hard to tolerate.” My ears perked up. I looked up from my game of Candy Crush (don’t judge me!). That felt true.
Then, she quoted a psychiatrist that she interviewed for her book. I later learned his name is George Valiant. The quote was: “Joy is grief inside out.”
When I heard that sentence I paused the show. I wrote it down. I swallowed it whole. I felt how poignant and true it was for me.
I even used it in a post a few days later, not yet knowing its attribution.
Then I went on Audible (no time to read, a long commute, and a problematic attention span has had me mostly in audio books over the last few years) and immediately bought Senior’s book: “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood”.
It took me a couple of months to get to it, but finally – a few of weeks ago – I finished it.
I finished it. I processed it.
Unlike the fake, temporary parting of the clouds that Mrs Whisperer’s book created, now having given myself some time to take it in, I can sincerely say that Senior’s book has profoundly changed me. It has changed the way I parent. Inside out.
But here’s the thing – it never once told me how I should raise Bunny. Not once.
What this book has done is made me change the way I understand parenting. Which has made me a profoundly different parent.
“All Joy and No Fun” is a book about context. It covers everything from newborns to older children leaving the nest, to losing a child. It covers these things by telling personal stories of real parents that are parenting today. How they’re parenting, why they make the choices they do.
Then it takes all of that information and puts it into a larger historical, sociological, and psychological context.
I’ll give away the twist, because Senior gives it away pretty early on herself:
Parenting as we know it has been around for less than a hundred years, and is trying to replace traditions and norms that were around for centuries.
Parenting equally between spouses (or the attempt to) has been around for even less time.
Which means that for the time being, we’re all pretty much flying by the seat of our pants. Where there once were rules, traditions and norms, now there are none. We are the pioneers. We are building new rules. And building new rules – especially in this day and age, when our world is evolving at the speed of light – is freaking hard.
Senior reminds us of that. Acknowledges how hard it really is.
At the same time, the stories that she tells and the research that she cites somehow managed to make me feel less alone. Less confused. Less like I’m walking through a dark tunnel full of landmines.
Senior talks about things that we refuse to say. She brings to light the darkest thoughts, the hardest feelings. Those things that parents (I think perhaps especially those parenting after infertility and loss) are afraid – even on these anonymous blogs – to say out loud.
Senior’s book – in short – is a parenting book about how to deal with being a parent.
With every chapter I found myself cheering, and crying, and nodding along.
And as I listened on I found that I was going through a profound transformation.
I was forgiving myself. I was forgiving Shmerson. I was becoming more understanding of why he is the father that he is, and why I am the mother that I am. I was becoming more tolerant of our differences.
And most importantly – I was becoming more tolerant of myself.
Because if Senior’s book has done anything – it’s made me understand what a shaky, scary, yet rewarding road I’m on. And that I’M the one on it. That parenting Bunny is just as much about me as it is about her. I deserve to feel it. I deserve to experience it.
I also deserve to build a life outside of it.
I think anyone who reads this book will most likely come away with something different. It may change you profoundly, it may give you a sense of belonging, or it may just give you some historical context. I don’t know.
But I do know that it’s worth your time. And I swear nobody is paying me to write this. I sincerely feel that every mother – whether she’s single, working, stay-at-home, married, divorced, young, or old – should read this book.
I will most likely never read another parenting book. I still think that my original thesis is right: Books that tell you how to parent are silly. Now that I understand how new and evolving our concept of parenting is, these books seem even more silly to me.
This, however, is a not a book about how to parent. This is a book that tells you WHY you parent.
And that makes all the difference in the world.
This one’s a long one, so I’m splitting it up into two parts. Happy reading!
When I was pregnant with Bunny (and every pregnancy before her) I was terrified. I was way too terrified to read anything about parenting. I justified this by saying that I don’t want to stick to one doctrine and I’d rather learn by experience and through community and friends.
This did lead to a few embarrassing situations, since Bunny was born on a holiday. I didn’t even have the basic newborn care class they give to new moms at the hospital. The result? A diaper rash when Bunny was four days old was the way I learned that you need to use diaper cream every time you put on a diaper.
The discovery of a thick layer of dirt at two weeks old is how I learned that washing behind the ears is not just a cliche that 50’s moms told their kids.
But generally I muddled through, and really didn’t feel the need to get into a parenting book.
Then came the inevitable: I was going back to work, Bunny was moving to her own room, her daytime sleeping habits were terrible (even though she was sleeping 6 hour stretches at night) and we had NO SCHEDULE. So I caved.
When Bunny was about 3 months old I read “The Baby Whisperer”.
For about 3 days there I felt like the clouds had parted and I knew ALL THE THINGS. Here was the best way ever to solve every problem Bunny had and everything will be sunshine and unicorn farts because this woman knew EVERYTHING.
Sure – the book was slightly condescending. Sure – there were a few annoying things about her tone. But hey – she made SENSE! SHE EXPLAINED STUFF! SHE GAVE STRUCTURE! (Apparently she also made me type in all caps).
I picked out a couple of choice chapters on sleep and establishing habits and made Shmerson read those parts of the book too.
Then a week passed.
Then 2 weeks passed.
The truth is that around day four of trying the not-so-aptly-named “EASY” method I saw I was walking a precarious path. At the end of week one I started to realize that maybe said whisperer was not really whispering to me. By week two, my new mantra was “EASY my ass”.
When it comes down to it, here’s what I learned from the Baby Whisperer:
1) The best way to wrap a towel around your baby when you take him/her out of the bath is by sticking one corner of said towel in your mouth. I’m putting this tip first because honestly this most useful thing in the book. Towel-wrapping before I learned this trick was slippery, precarious, and frankly terrifying.
2) The stages of sleep for a baby. This was super-helpful in understanding why Bunny cried when she was tired, and also helped me understand that sometimes crying is just her way of falling asleep. Really awesome info. Though I could have found that by googling.
3) Dream feeding to sleep through the night. Worked like a charm and brought Bunny to 10 and 11-hour stretches. But again – google would have done the trick.
4) Establishing a bedtime routine helps get a baby to sleep more easily. Honestly – I already knew that – picked it up from a friend. So I guess she only gets credit for reminding me that I knew it already.
Here are a couple of other things I learned from the baby whisperer:
1) A baby is not a machine or a computer. There’s only so much “programming” they can take in, and some things are just a matter of temperament.
2) Bunny does not like to sleep during the day. Trying to shoehorn her into some sort of schedule, even if it’s a fluid one, will not work. She’s just a crappy nap-taker. It’s just how she is. I tried every trick in Mrs Whisperer’s playbook. Twice. Three times. I did EVERYTHING. And yet – Bunny continued to be a terrible napper. She’s been sleeping through the night since 3 months. But daytime – forgettuboutit. To this day the only time Bunny sleeps for more than 40 minutes during the day is when she’s snuggled up to me. Even then it doesn’t always work.
3) Parenting books are silly.
Yep. My original thesis – diaper-rash and crusty-ear inducing as it was – was right. I think parenting books are silly. I think that a child is a fluid, constantly changing being and there are no manuals that will teach me how to raise that being. I can do research – sure. But to think that any one book would change the way I parent completely, or would be the end-all be-all solution for everything – in my eyes at least – felt silly.
Then, sometime during the first week of February, I watched an episode of “The Colbert Report” and realized, yet again, that I was wrong.
[To Be Continued Tomorrow...]
12:57am. I’ve been looking at pictures of Bunny and crying. I miss her. It’s like I’ve barely seen her in a week.
Bunny had an ear infection and a fever all last week. It was mostly up to me to take care of her.
It was a nice healthy dose of emotional detachment that got me through it.
Emotional detachment and Xan.ax.
Because otherwise I couldn’t have withstood it.
She’s been better for 4 days. But I’m not quite better yet. Her being sick made me sick.
I have moments that I’m attached again, looking at my beautiful girl, smiling, being her usual playful self after a week of unbearable pain.
And here she is, good as new, but I’m not.
I’m detached. I detached to deal with it all, and now I have to find my way back.
That happens a lot. These days, that’s what happens more than anything.
When things get hard I detach so I can be there for her.
She’s the one who is allowed to cry.
I’m not allowed to cry.
I cry – but I try not to do that with her. With her I’m strong. I do what I have to do. I take care of her. And hold her. And hug her. And rock her. And sing. And read stories.
But I can’t help but worry that she detects the hints of detachment in me. I can’t help but worry that my way of dealing sometimes puts a wall between us.
Because if I felt all of my feelings all of the time I would not be human.
There would be no work. There would be no sleep. No food. No showers. No conversation.
Just sinking completely into her.
Joy, grief, pain. Joy. Joy. Joy. Fear. Joy. Fear.
“They” say having a child is like putting your heart into someone else’s body.
I think “They” may be right.
I’ve always felt things more strongly than most. Feelings overwhelm me. I see things in black and white.
Which is why I taught myself to shut off feelings so I can function.
Or I’d sink into her, completely. I would disappear into the lovely, amazing, miraculous person that has taken my heart into her body.
It’s cheesy. It’s cheesy because it’s true.
My heart is in her. So when she’s not here it’s not here.
I go to the office. Or I stay at home and work while she’s at day care. And I sometimes forget she’s real.
Not really forget. That’s not really the word.
But I do remember she’s real each time I see her again. Each time. I remember again.
Every morning that I wake up with her. Every time I go away and come back. Or she goes away and comes back. I remember.
She’s real. This is her.
This miraculous, beautiful, exquisite little person is mine.
And if I let myself feel that… Everything that comes with feeling that. The fear. The pain. The ecstasy….
If I let myself feel that all of the time there would be no me any more. I would melt completely into her.
So I throw myself into work. And at 4pm every day I sink into 3.5 hours of complete bliss that is my daughter.
But I always need a wall.
Or I would cry. I would do nothing but cry. Overwhelming tears of joy, of gratitude, of grief, of fear. Of every feeling that chases me each time I hear her laugh. Or hear her say mamamamamamama over and over again.
I know she’s not calling my name but I know that someday that will be her calling mamamamama. Mama.
And that’s me. And I have to be a whole person. For her.
So when I need to, I put up a wall. And hope against all hope that it’s a glass wall.
Transparent enough that she can see me, in all my undying love, devotion, fear, love, love, unconditional, unending, overwhelming love – for her.
On the other side.