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The Paradox of Equal Parenting, to a Child of Unequal Parents

29 Nov

I was raised in a home with a detached and self-involved father, and a stay-at-home mother who made me her whole world, and still does to this day.

At the age of 6, I declared that I want to have a career and liked my first boy because he wanted to be either “an astronaut or a house husband”.

I liked him because of the latter. Well – that and the fact he shared his astronaut ice cream with me.

But mostly the “house husband” thing.

These two facts are important to note because they provide the context to throw my internal struggle into brighter relief. Some of you may read this and declare that I’m ungrateful. I am not. Or you may decide that I think stay at home moms don’t have a life outside of mothering. I don’t think that. I am eternally grateful for what I have. I understand that my upbringing was an anomaly and not that norm. But that doesn’t make things simple. Far from it.

Shmerson and I made the decision to move closer to our office (we work at the same company, in drastically different departments with no overlap) a year ago. In July, we finally pulled the trigger and moved a 10 minute walk away from it.

What was once a 4 hour-a-day commute for Shmerson, and a work-from-home most days situation for me, was transformed into something completely different. My schedule didn’t change by much, but being in the thick of things made me reorder priorities, remember that meetings, networking, heels, make-up, and business trips exist. It brought me back to a very ambitious, career-minded place.

This is something I hadn’t truly felt in almost a decade (pretty much since finishing grad school tired and disillusioned).

Shmerson’s schedule changed drastically as well. Instead of coming home at 9pm long after bedtime, he gets home just in time for Bunny’s dinner and bath. Instead of dropping her off quickly at day care each morning so he can catch a train, he usually takes her in her stroller, and literally has time to stop and smell the flowers. He spends the morning with her and drops her off, I pick her up and spend the afternoons with her.

When once I was the dinner-bath-bedtime officer during the week, we now rotate. We split weekends into time where we each have Bunny separately while the other sleeps, rotating chores, and quality family time.

In short – we’re 50/50 parents. As in – we really are. Yes. For reals.

Sure there are discrepancies. I’m usually the one to make and take Bunny to doc appointments. Shmerson is the one who gets her up and ready each morning. I cook and in general plan meals. He clears the table, does dishes and most of the laundry. I do the grocery shopping, he deals with anything involving paperwork, and running morning errands like going to the post office and bank.

In the 15 (!) months since Bunny was born, and especially in the last 4, we have fought, negotiated, and compromised our way into equilibrium. We both have quality time with Bunny, manage to push forward our careers, and even grab some quality time for the two of us, and with friends.

Granted, we don’t sleep much. But we’re pretty much “in the zone.”

We fought hard to reach this place. I’ve wanted it for as long as I can remember. Before I even knew him. This is what I wanted.

Now that I have it – I’m scared out of my mind.

There are days she clearly wants him to comfort her over me.

There are days I have to work late and I barely see her for an hour.

There are mornings I choose sleep and miss something adorable she’s done. Or a new word she said.

There are things he knows about her that I don’t.

Of course, the same thing can be said of him. Of course there are nights he works late. There are words he misses. There are things I know that he doesn’t.

But –

And I’m just going to go right ahead and say this, my women’s studies minor be damned.

But I’m her mother. I’m not supposed to miss things. She’s not supposed to go to anyone but me for comfort. I should be the one putting her hair in pigtails each morning, and in PJs each night.

This is what a mother does. A mother gives everything to her daughter.

This is the only world that I know.

And now I’m living in one where that isn’t true.

I know I’m modeling a wonderful, respectful and balanced relationship for her.

I know I’m demonstrating ambition, and being a strong independant woman and all that good stuff.

I know that making myself happy is critical to keeping her happy.

I know having two parents that are involved is GOOD FOR HER.

But it goes against what I experienced. It goes against what I grew up on. My mother is my whole world because she was always there, and still is.

Will Bunny feel the same way about me? I want her to more than anything else. And I’m deathly afraid that she won’t.

Every day, logic and experience are in a constant tug of war.

Of course she’ll always love me. I’m her mother, and I’m a good mother.

But I’m not there 24/7. I’m not always her soft place to fall.

That’s good. That means she has multiple soft places to fall.

But I want it to be ME. That’s the way it’s SUPPOSED TO BE.

No. It’s just what you were raised on. It can and should be different, and for her – it is different.

What if she hates me because I’m not always there?

She will always love you, you are her mother.

Yes, but I’ve chosen to be other things as well.

 

At the age of six, I thought I knew what being an ambitious woman with no desire to stay at home meant.

At the age of 34, I’m starting to realize that it isn’t as simple as I thought it would be.

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What a Difference a Year Makes

5 Sep

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For My LiLi, On the Occasion of Your First Birthday

5 Sep

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.

It’s Just Like Paris

28 May

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.

The Only Parenting Book I’ll Ever Read (Kind Of) – Part 2

5 May

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.

The Only Parenting Book I’ll Ever Read (Kind Of) – Part 1

4 May

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…]

PPA Part 6 – Here and Now

23 Apr

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.

bunnycrawling

PPA Part 5 – Day Care

18 Apr

She’s six months old. It’s time.

I packed her clothes and labelled them. I wrote her name on her bottles with a sharpie.

It’s time.

I can’t be with her during the day while I work any more. She’s getting more active. She’s more of a handful. I need to work.

Burning the candle at both ends is becoming unbearable. I haven’t slept properly in weeks.

It’s time.

8am. I stand in the middle of the day care center. She’s in the small crib they’ve designated for her. I stand there next to her. I can’t go.

I start crying.

Great. Now I’m the weird crazy lady in the middle of the day care center crying.

I can’t go.

Crying becomes sobbing.

I’ve  been here for half an hour. I really need to go.

I can’t go.

But I really need to go.

The day care worker gently suggests I leave.

I can’t go.

She suggests I take her and try again another day.

I really have to go. She needs to be here. I have to go.

I go.

The car is parked outside. 8:30am.

9am.

9:15am.

I’ve been sitting in the car for 45 minutes. I really need to go.

But she’s in there. She’s in there without me.

I need to go.

She’s alone.

She’s not alone – she’s there with a lot of other babies.

She’s so quiet, they won’t notice when she needs something.

They will. They’ll notice. She knows how to cry when she really needs something.

They don’t have movement sensors on their cribs.

Fuck. Holy fuck.

It’s getting hard to breathe. I need to go. If I don’t go now I’ll run back in there and take her away from this place.

But they don’t have sensors.

Horrible, awful, unbearable images run through my head.

More than horrible. More than awful. More than unbearable. There are no words for this.

The quiet cry I’ve had going for the last 30 minutes starts to devolve into hysterics.

I put the car in reverse.

I need to pull off the band aid. I need to go.

Luckily home is close.

I drive away from her. Hysterics devolve into screaming in terror.

I park outside our house.

I need to get out of the car and go in the house.

9:30am. I need to go in the house.

I try to calm my breathing. I take a Xan.ax.

Just don’t think about the sensor. Don’t think about the sensor. Go in the house.

10am.

I go in the house.

PPA Part 4 – Doctors

13 Apr

“Trust your gut.”

But how will I know if it’s something serious?

“Trust your gut. You know her best.”

(I know her best.)

(Of course I know her best.)

(I also know that I can’t trust my gut.)

So what are the warning signs?

“There aren’t any. Trust your gut.”

 

My gut tells me that doctors can’t be trusted.

My gut tells me that when doctors say “everything will be fine” nothing is fine and I lose my son.

My gut tells me to be afraid. Always be afraid. Always expect the worst. Always.

If I trusted my gut, I’d never take her to a doctor.

If I trusted my gut, I’d be at the doctor’s office twice a day.

Then there’s the history. She’s registered under my health care plan. Her medical history is my medical history.

5 pregnancies. One premature labor. High-risk pregnancy. No other living children.

So the pediatricians. They know. They know I’m scared. They know I’m anxious. So they don’t take me seriously.

But I’m trying to trust my gut. My baby’s not eating.

“Sometimes babies don’t eat.”

But she screams when she has a bottle in her mouth.

“Don’t overreact.”

I’m not overreacting.

“Here – try this formula”

It’s helping but it’s not enough.

“It is enough (stop being so anxious).”

It’s not enough. Should I take her to a specialist?

“Trust your gut.”

But how do I know that thee pediatricians aren’t right? That I’m not just being anxious?

“Trust your gut.”

But my gut is what makes me scared that it’s not just what I think it is – that it’s something 100 times worse. That even the specialist is wrong.

“The doctors say everything will be fine. The specialist gave her a prescription now. They say everything will be fine. ”

Fuck doctors. Doctors are not gods. Doctors can be wrong.

Doctors have been wrong.

Doctors have been so fucking wrong.

“So trust your gut.”

But my gut is even more wrong.

My gut is scared shitless. My heart is scared shitless. My head is scared shitless.

I’m scared shitless.

I’m her mommy. I’m supposed to know. Where does the fear stop and the knowing begin?

PPA Part 3 – Dinner

9 Apr

Bunny is 3 days old. It’s our first night home. We are in pure bliss. The post-labor high hasn’t quite worn off yet. We give her a bath. We take the cutest pictures ever. I can’t stop smiling.

Bunny falls asleep and we order pizza.

Blessed pizza.

I’ve been waiting for pizza for 4 months. It was off limits because of the gestational diabetes. I’ve been wanting this pizza more than anything.

Ok – almost anything.

Blessed carbs.

I have a slice.

Something doesn’t feel right. I feel hot. I run to the bathroom. I bend over the toilet – gagging.

It’s nothing. It’s my hormones acting up. This is supposed to happen around three days postpartum. It’s my body not being used to the junk food. It’s me being tired.

It’s nothing.

Bunny is 4 days old. My milk has come in. The high has worn off. Happiness abounds, but the lack of sleep is starting to reach crisis point.

I make spaghetti.

A few bites in and I can’t stomach it. By the end of dinner I’m once again gagging.

Maybe it’s just too heavy for me.

 

 

Bunny is 5 days old.

Sushi. I waited 10 months for sushi.

Gag. Sputter. Gag.

 

When I was a teenager, my parents used to joke that they knew when I was anxious, because they would hear me cough.

That’s where I used to feel my panic attacks – in my throat. They used to start in my throat.

But not any more. That hasn’t happened for years and years. These days they’re supposed to start with my eyes. With my ears ringing. With a weird buzzing around my head.

 

Bunny is 6 days old.

I have started a very low dose of a an anti-anxiety med that is safe for breastfeeding. But it’s skittles compared to xan.ax. Does it do the job? Not really. But it helps. It took headphones on at full blast, bunny in another room,  and complete darkness – but I slept for two hours.

Chicken meatballs and rice.

Gag.

Without thinking – I grab a skittle pill.

 

Right. This is what this is. My body has decided. This is how I panic now. Again. It’s back in my throat.

The skittle helps and I finish dinner.

 

New Years Eve. Bunny is 3 months old. We have been to a good friend’s house. Eaten good food, drank good Lambrusco, had an amazing time. Bunny is asleep at her grandparents’ and we are walking distance from our beds.

Shmerson reflects on where we were last year. Announcing my pregnancy to the same people we just celebrated with. Two years ago – pregnant with Nadav, taking it easy. Three years ago – on a break from trying – at a restaurant with friends. Four years ago – planning our wedding – no idea what was to come.

Today. Look at us today.

I realize that there is a baby waiting for us – five minutes away.

A baby. She’s ours. She’s mine.

Gag. Sputter.

I have to stop and catch my breath.

Gag. Retch. Gag.

People walking next to us are starting to stare.

Gag. Gag. Retch.

I lean on a tree. Bend over.

Gag.

I try to breath deep. I start rummaging through my purse, crying.

Gag.

Here it is.

Gag.

Good.

I build up the spit in my mouth between gags. Pop the pill and swallow.

Xan.ax.

Blessed Xan.ax.

 

PPA Part 2: Cognac

8 Apr

It’s 2am. I’m sitting in a rocking chair in the corner of our living room.

My shirt is pulled down, nursing bra exposed. I don’t really care at this point.

It’s Monday night. Bunny is 5 days old. Practically to the minute. She’s fast asleep in my lap. We just had another failed nursing session. She really likes to fall asleep while eating.

I’ve been doing everything to keep her awake. EVERYTHING. Nothing is helping.

I haven’t slept for 8 days.

8 days. Not a wink. Ok. One wink.

Not for lack of trying.

In the hospital I was riding the oxytocin high. I stared at her face for hours. I would just hold her endlessly. I didn’t care about sleep. Sleep meant she would go to the nursery. Sleep meant I would miss out on a moment with this miracle.

When day 4 came around the hormone crash kicked in.

The bliss was still there.

But reality had re-entered my radar like a mac truck.

I need some sleep.

When we go to bed for the night, I’m too afraid. Her bassinet is right next to me. Yes – the movement monitor is on. But it’s not enough. I stick my hand through the bars and put it on hers. I need to feel her movement. The monitor is not enough.

Shmerson takes her to the living room. Maybe if she’s not in the same room I can block out my constant need  to see her breathing.

I lay in bed, and my body begs to succomb to a few hours of blissful darkness. But as my eyelids droop – I jump up – startled.

Maybe it’s because I still hear her gurgling. The headphones come on. Once again – I drift. Only to jump up second later in a panic.

Something is not letting me sleep. It’s no longer in my control. It’s animalistic. It’s a never ending chemical loop.

I’ve managed to get half an hour total – between 4am and 4:30 am on Sunday night using the following configuration: Bunny is on one cushion on the couch. I’m curled up on the other. One hand on her chest to feel her breathing.

Half and hour of blissful sleep. Until she woke up, and my neck hurt.

Day 5. And it’s 2am. And I know I’m in an endless chemical loop and only one thing will save me: Xan.ax. But I can’t. I’m breastfeeding. Failing miserably. But breastfeeding. I’ll be a horrible mother if I can’t feed my child.

I’ll be a horrible mother.

I look at Shmerson and I burst into tears. Not the sad tears. The kind that are tinged with panic. That can spiral into terror at any moment.  He tries to help me gain control.

I just need to sleep. I need to sleep.

I need to sleep.

I go on twitter. He goes on google. We look desperately for a solution. Finally we hit on it – alcohol. I can breastfeed, have a drink, and by the time Bunny feeds again it won’t be a big deal. I’m a lightweight anyway.

I get excited. Yes! Alcohol will do it! Alcohol will make the panic loop stop!

I rouse bunny for another pathetic feeding session – filled with moist towels and foot tickling  – begging her to stay awake.

Back to sleep she goes. My glass of cognac awaits.

A blessed glass of cognac.

I hate cognac.

But this will make the loop stop.

I hand Bunny over to Shmerson and drink the entire glass in a minute flat. Then I head to bed.

My eyes droop – my body longs to succumb to the darkness.

And I jump up with a start.

The loop didn’t stop.

Maybe I’ll be able to get another half an hour on the couch.

If my neck can take it.

PPA Part 1: Empty

7 Apr

Thank you all for your support on my last post. “Coming out” so-to-speak has brought on a renewed barrage of inspiration. This is a first in a series of slightly more abstract posts that have come to me. I’ll get to the practicals later. I’m still in the process of writing these, and it is cathartic. I hope you stick around to read them. 

Empty

Bunny was born three hours ago. I barely held her. Barely registered her being and they took her to the nursery. That’s what they do. They need to monitor her. She’s a gestational diabetes baby. They need to monitor her.

The nurse that took her at 4am – I asked her to let Shmerson come too. She said he could come, but couldn’t stay. I was upset. I don’t remember how, but somehow someone told her about Nadav. I didn’t want to leave my baby alone. She promised she would hook her up to a heart monitor. Just so I could feel better leaving her without us.

Just so I know they’re making sure she’s breathing. But that’s my job. I need to make sure she’s breathing.

4:15am. Shmerson texts me a picture of this wonder – this miraculous creature who I only got to hold for a few minutes. She’s hooked up to a monitor. They did what I asked.

I send him home to sleep.

5am – I get wheeled into the ward.

“When will I see my baby?”

“Probably around 7am. You should get some sleep”

Yes. Sleep. It’s Thursday morning. I haven’t slept since  Sunday night.

“Ok.”

I get to my room.

6am – A nurse helps me out of bed so I can rinse off two days of induction and a hard-fought labor.

“When will I see my baby?”

“The doctor checks them between 6am and 7am – then there’s a shift change. They’ll probably bring her to you around 8am. Get some sleep.”

Ok.

In my room I stare up at a ceiling and close my eyes.

And I do what I’ve done 100 times before in the last four months – since I felt the first flutter.

I start to count. 10 in an hour. But usually with Bunny I get ten in 15 – 20 minutes. I wait for a kick.

A kick doesn’t come.

I start to panic. I put my hand on my stomach.

Where is she?

She’s here. She’s just not with you. But she’s here.

I start to cry. Is she really? Is she really here?

6;30am.

I jump out of bed. Barefoot. Wearing a half-open gown. Traces of the last 48 hours still all over my body.

I don’t care. I run to the nursery.

The door is locked. The doctor is checking them. The door is locked.

The panic rises. I start to cry. I start to pace back and forth, back and forth in front of the sliding doors. Waiting. Panic tickling my throat.

My hands are on my stomach.

I feel so empty. Where is she? I’m empty.

An eternity later the door opens. A nurse sees me. She sees my distress. Nobody is supposed to come in at this hour.

I cry. I beg. She lets me in. I walk up to the bassinet. Bunny. She’s here. She’s here and breathing and sleeping. She’s here. She’s breathing.

But the nurse says I have to go.

“Can’t I take her with me?”

“We’ll bring her to you at around 8:30.”

“No. I want her now.”

“We need to check her blood sugar again.”

I see the small bandage on the bottom of her foot where they drew her blood. Tears well up again.

“When will you check it?”

“Very soon.”

“Then will you bring her? Please. I can’t wait until 8:30. Please bring her to me.”

The nurse looks at me with pity. With exasperation. With something.

“Ok. Try to get some sleep.”

Sleep. I haven’t slept since Sunday.

I go to my room. 7am.

Sleep? Who can sleep?

7:30am – my amazing, miraculous, beautiful baby girl is wheeled into my room.

I sink into three days of blurry, sleepless, unadulterated bliss.

Bullets on Bunny – Obvious Costume Edition

22 Mar
  • Thanks everyone for your support on the last post. Basically Bunny’s reflux meds pooped out, and it was a terrible week. We FINALLY got her new meds today and already the difference is palpable. She’s actually eating without any pain. That’s a huge win right now.
  • In general it’s been a week of Murphy’s Law haunting me. From missing trains, to being LATE ALL THE TIME, to making absolutely stupid mistakes out of sheer exhaustion. I get in the car when I’m short on time, it needs gas, I get to a gas station, the pump doesn’t work, I get to where I need to go, I can’t find parking… On and on. ALL WEEK.
  • It was Purim this week (AKA the Jewish Halloween) and Squish said that it made sense that this week was upside-down, considering the costumes Shmerson and I wore on Sunday. She’s probably right:

IMG_1218

  • I guess when you start the week as Alice things remain a bit crooked for a while.
  • Bunny being sick brought out ALL THE ANXIETY. Seriously bad. I have a lot to write about this. But not at 2am on a Friday night. I promise to post properly soon. Things have just been nuts.
  • I also somehow managed to fit in apartment hunting this week. Sleep will be welcome this weekend. Alas – we have not found anything yet. But that’s yet another post.
  • So that’s basically it. Alice and the Mad Hatter, reflux getting sorted out (hopefully!), Murphy being a douchenozzle, and no sleep. I just wanted to pop in and give a quick update, and most importantly – share with you the third participant in our family costume:

bunny as bunny

 

You can tell she’s not feeling her best. But she still played along. It’s her first Purim. Something would have been wrong had I NOT dressed her as a bunny.

Hope you all have an awesome weekend!

The Perfect Storm of Urgh

13 Mar

So. Bunny started day care.

The first day I dropped her off, I literally sat in the car, outside the day care center for AN HOUR AND A HALF crying like a baby. It brought every single anxiety I’ve been feeling to the surface.

I called my brother and he reminded me that my mother not letting us find our independence is a huge reason we’re both a bit messed up.

That thought and a mixture of emotional detachment and xan.ax got me through week one. It was clear that I was the one who needed adjusting. Bunny seemed to like it there. Shmerson (who did the majority of the dropping-off) commented on how he could hear her do her happy squeal as he was leaving.

Yes, she got home exhausted and I felt like I was completely missing out on her. But I knew it would get better.

They also started giving her solids. I’d done a small introduction to them, and I was totally on board with them taking the reigns.

Then – the tummy trouble started. I won’t go into detail – but it wasn’t pretty.

Then – Bunny literally started screaming just at the sight of a bottle and has been refusing food since Monday.

It was a perfect storm – starting solids, she had just finished cutting her first two teeth, some sort of virus which made her throat hurt, and her reflux is definitely worse.

I took her to the doctor on Tuesday. He said I just had to ride it out. He suggested I talk to the gastro specialist about the new eating issues.

I’ve been home with her ever since. Every bottle is a fight. She’s miserable. I’m miserable.

The gastro specialist got back to me today and I missed his call. Once I managed to call him back he didn’t have time to talk and just said we should switch meds. Though I didn’t get a chance to tell him she’s been crying just at the SIGHT of a bottle. But we’ll make the switch and hope for the best.

But in the meantime, she’s losing weight.

AND EVERYTHING IS FLOODING TO THE SURFACE

My mistrust of doctors. I’ve been told before that everything would be fine by a doctor then it wasn’t. I no longer believe everything will be fine.

My guilt at putting Bunny in day care.

My incredible anxiety that something bad will happen to her.

And on and on.

Oh – I’m also blaming the day care for making my baby sick.  Even though I know it’s normal and it happens. I just want to pull  her out of there. It’s a perfectly nice place. I just want her home with me.

It’s a perfectly nice place that I no longer trust because my daughter refuses to eat.

It’s a perfectly nice place that gets to enjoy my daughter for the majority of her awake and energetic day. While I do what – effing internet content? Some days it just doesn’t seem to be worth it.

Logically I know she needs to stay. I just don’t know how the hell I’m going to be able to drop her off on Monday without freaking out and/or calling every 3 minutes.

It’s been a miserable couple of days. I’m seriously afraid that the eating issue and other tummy issues are not just a virus and reflux but something worse. I’ve been avoiding Dr. Google like the plague. I’ve been crying. I’ve been worried. I’ve been anxious.

I hate this. Everything is flooding me. I’m completely overwhelmed with anxiety. And I know this is TERRIBLE  for her. I need to fucking let go and relax.

But she’s not eating. And she’s in pain. And she’s paler than usual and I can tell she’s lost weight. And I feel helpless.

I hate this.

Friday

1 Mar

9am – Get woken up by Shmerson after working until 2am – reluctantly drag my butt out of bed.

10am – Leave to run errands.

10:30am – Buy Bunny a few new clothes because most of her stuff is very winter, and days are gradually getting warmer.

11:15 am – Buy Bunny her first high chair.

11:45- Buy a blender stick to make baby food.

12:30 – Grocery shopping. Contemplate store bought rice cereal vs homemade.

1:30pm – Arrive home, give Bunny her bottle.

2:00pm – Shmerson starts putting together the high chair.

2:00pm – I finally – a month after she’s outgrown them – pack up all of Bunny’s 0-3 clothes. Decide that while I’m at it I should probably put together her day care bag, because she’s starting in two days.

2:30pm –  stare in wonder at the onesies that Bunny once drowned in and now don’t fit her any more.

4:00pm  – Finish everything. Decide we should take some family pictures.

4:15pm – Send Shmerson to sleep and decide that even though it’s late, we should try out the high chair and our fourth day of our first solid food – sweet potato.

4:30pm – realize this was a huge mistake, because Bunny is grumpy and tired. Give up, clean up.

4:45pm – Give Bunny a teething ring because she’s in pain. Two teeth coming in at the same time. Bunny falls asleep in my arms.

5:15pm – Bottle. We need bigger bottles because she’s starting to need more and when I put in the formula it literally touches the cover. It’s becoming harder to mix.

6:00pm – Bunny’s in pain. Spend an hour keeping her calm.

7:00pm – Let her play. She rolls over twice in her play gym.

8:00pm – Bedtime ritual. I decide to let Shmerson handle it. Don’t know why – but I need a night off.

9:00pm – Shmerson and I eat dinner and watch an oscar nominated movie

1:00am – I’m late with the dream feed because of the movie (that needed to be paused too often).  Bunny wakes up because of it. I feel guilty but let it go – I’m getting better at that.

I give her her bottle, singing her our usual bedtime medley to keep her in sleep mode:

Easy by Faith No More

Ironic by Alanis Morissette

Hey Jude by the Beatles

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

and finish off with her favorite – Let it Be.

(Yes I know it’s an eclectic mix)

She polishes off the bottle. I put her in her crib but don’t want to stay. Shmerson goes in and makes sure she falls back asleep.

2:20am : I lose it. My baby girl is six months old this week. She starts day care in two days. She’s growing teeth. She’s learning how to eat solids. Time is speeding by. Too fast. I don’t want day care to start. I remember all the reasons we need to do it. But I don’t want it any more.

2:30am: Realize I spent most of the day emotionally detached because holy crap  – this is too much at once. I know this is all fun and exciting stuff. But this is it – this is the first time I truly start to let my baby girl grow, and be independent.

This is it. She’s too big. I can’t stay at home with her any more. I need to work. I need a sane schedule. No – WE need a sane schedule.

I’m so excited to see the person she’s growing up to be. But I’m already starting to miss things that just aren’t there any more.

I heard someone say this the other day (will find who and cite it soon):

Joy is grief turned inside out.*

Yep. Pretty much.

This was my Friday.

3:30am – I publish this post and wonder how the hell I’ll fall asleep tonight, and how to deal with tomorrow morning’s puffy, cried-out eyes.

Joy is grief turned inside out.

momandbunny

* I heard this quoted by author Jennifer Senior. The person who originally said it was psychiatrist George Valiant

Fighting a Losing Battle

25 Feb

So I don’t know about you guys, but I sometimes get really paranoid about the interwebz.

I make a living literally manipulating people to engage online (don’t worry – I never use my conversion voodoo on you guys) –  so you can say that I’m part of the problem.

But still – I’ve become a bit like one of those crazy old men wearing a tinfoil hat when it comes to what I do with pictures of Bunny. But on the other hand, I never actually stick to my own rules. So really – I’m like a crazy old man wearing a tinfoil hat who takes off that hat when he goes out in public. Or something.

Ok that metaphor totally got away from me. Back to the matter at hand.

So  – it all started with this:

This is Success Kid. He’s a meme. (Say it with me: “Hi Success Kid!”)

25 years from now, when he’s interviewing for the job of a lifetime, someone will run fancy facial recognition software on his picture and realize that this man was once a viral internet sensation. And even if Success Kid (I guess he’d really be “Success Man” at that point) gets that job, he’ll still be the “meme guy” at the office.

This is “Disaster Girl”.

She became a meme because someone happened to take a picture of her when she was making an evil “I may have done this” face with a house on fire in the background and they posted it online because they thought it was funny since it kind of looked like she set that fire.

She did not at any point set that fire.

Yet one day – when she’s up for the job of CEO of a company that manufactures fire trucks, she’ll be totally screwed.

Or if she falls in love with someone who’s got a fire phobia, that would be a huge issue in their relationship.

Or if she gets falsely accused of arson – they can totally use this picture against her.

You get my point.

Even before Bunny was born Shmerson and I were having in-depth discussions about how many pictures of her we should post online, if at all. I have thousands of pageviews a month on this blog, and he’s a mini “twitter celeb” over here – so he has a bunch of followers. We’re not huge online by any stretch – but we both have our own little bubble of followers – more than the average person. And most of them are people we have never met face to face.

Then again – those thousands of people also know our story. They follow us and know what we’ve been through. They supported us through the crap-tastic shitfest that was 2010-2013. They deserve to see the good parts too.

Then there’s facebook. Again – we have an issue there. First off – not all of our friends want to see pictures of the baby all day every day. I know how much that used to annoy the hell out of me, and how many closeted IFers and RPLers are on my friends list? And second -we’re literally creating fodder for her to be humiliated as a teenager. Think about it – would you want all of your baby pictures online for the whole world to see?

I’m not even going into their privacy policies. Those just make my brain hurt.

Then again – she’s our baby, we went through hell to bring her to this world, and we want to shout it from the rooftops.

So Shmerson and I sat down and came up with a set of arbitrary rules in a pathetic attempt to protect Bunny, but yet fulfill our duty as proud parents and show her off.

Here they are, and I assure you they are dumb and most likely useless:

Facebook: 

When Bunny was two weeks old, we had only posted 4 pictures of her total. Then both Shmerson and I published a status asking anyone who wants to see pics of Bunny on a regular basis to click the “like” button and they would be added to a privacy setting. Any and all pics we post of Bunny are only visible to those people who “opted in”.

We’ve also asked immediate family and friends to please ask us for permission before posting any pictures of her, and to keep it to a minimum.

We’ve posted 2-3 pictures of her without privacy settings, but most were ones where her face was too small in the frame to be distinguishable.

This blog: 

I only post pictures rarely, and I use a watermark that just obscures her face in a way that it can’t be cropped out. At least I hope it can’t. I’m sure if someone really wants to they could lose the watermark, but it’s a lot of work for anyone looking to steal a random baby identity. So I take comfort in the laziness of identity thieves.  Denial is a wonderful thing.

Twitter:

If Shmerson posts a picture (happens very rarely), he then deletes it no more than an hour after posting.

General Rules:

Never post a picture of Bunny ANYWHERE without both parents’ consent

If it has the potential to be a meme – it never EVER sees the light of the internet in any way. That means no funny faces, no obscene gestures, no weird perspectives.

For example, here are some pictures that have been banned from the internet (and sometimes emailed to very close friends or family warning them that if they publish or share them they will face the fiery wrath of a thousand suns):

Bunny on her stomach, pinky to her mouth, making a very clear “Dr Evil” face.

Bunny looking like she is holding a joint up to her mouth

Bunny giving a “thumbs up”

Bunny looking “thuggishly” grumpy

Bunny giving the finger (there are actually several of those).

The list goes on and on.

We’ve also stopped posting anything where she is not fully clothed.

I’ve been listening a lot to the “Cracked” podcast on my commute to work. It’s really informative and funny. A few episodes ago they had a discussion about internet privacy, and mentioned this one mother who took things just a BIT too far in my opinion. They made a very interesting claim though:

That people that are now in their early twenties, teens, and younger don’t know a world where there is true privacy. “Generation X” still saw a bit of the cold war. Still studied the book “1984” in school. We take these things seriously.

For “Millennials” these things are trivial – a part of life. Of course every minutia of their lives is recorded online. It’s just the way it is. They don’t see it as a problem or a threat. They take it as just another normal part of life.

Maybe Success Kid and Fire Girl will actually not have any problems getting hired, or finding a good relationship, or getting their depressive disorders acknowledged despite outside perceptions of their over-confidence. Whatever.  Maybe 20 years from now being a meme will be a huge selling point on the job market, and everyone will want to buy you drinks and anti-depressants.

We can’t know. So at least for now, Shmerson and I are making a very feeble attempt at finding some balance. It’s a losing battle, we know. But hey – at least we’re trying.

And on that note – I give you a glance at Bunny, because we’re overdue.

Please don’t make her a meme.

bunny

Truly Equal?

7 Jan

Oh my, dear lovies. I know I don’t come here nearly as often as I should. Going back to work has been a total clusterfuck. For reals.

Luckily, the holiday means that things are just now starting to gear up again, so miraculously, it is Monday at 11pm my time, Shmerson is asleep (long night with a fussy Bunny), Bunny is (thank FSM!) asleep. Dishes are done. Bottles are sterilized, and I for once have an empty inbox.

Miracles do happen.

A lot of posts have been brewing for quite some time now. But I think it’s time I pull this one out.

Let’s talk a little about marriage and equality, shall we?

Not marriage equality – though I’m all about that! The other stuff. The man-woman-in-a-post-feminist-world stuff.

So let’s start with this: Anybody who reads this blog knows I have a very happy marriage. You also know that Shmerson and I have been through the ringer more or less since the moment we got married.

I admit – having gone through all the shit we’d gone through – I thought we were made of steel.

Nothing like a baby to make you think twice.

Don’t worry guys – spoiler alert: We ARE made of steel. But it took a while to circle around back to it.

Let’s break it down like this:

This month marks six years since Shmerson and I got together.

Up until Bunny was born we had exactly 4 big fights.

Yep. Four.

Since Bunny’s birth we’ve had… I think it’s been 7 but I may be off by one or two in either direction. For us, relatively speaking, that may as well be a million.

Man – a baby changes things.

The thing is each of those fights has been exactly the same: I feel overwhelmed. Shmerson doesn’t help. I get pissed off. Shmerson gets pissed off because he feels like he is helping, and what the hell am I so angry about? I explain that I don’t only need practical, physical help. I need him to be more active and present. He kind of gets it. Then it happens again and we realize that he only kind of got it, and I’m being unfair and unclear. And on and on it goes.

It was starting to feel like a never ending cycle. I’m going to unpack that cycle for you guys, in the hopes that it helps someone out there. I’m going to go into some mundane detail, but bear with me. This has a point.

The fact is, that I spend more time at home and with Bunny. I work at home 3 days a week. Shmerson doesn’t. That makes me the “primary caregiver” for all intents and purposes.

That also makes my life very very VERY hard. I work a full time job. My day starts at 7am, and most nights ends at 2am, with interrupted sleep because even though she generally sleeps through the night now, Bunny still has her moments.

The thing is, it’s nonstop. 5 hours of sleep (on a good night) after NO TIME to do anything. Ever. When I’m not taking care of Bunny, I’m working. Or running errands. Or taking care of dinner. Or working. Or working.

Yeah – I work a lot. But I kind of have to. It’s a full time job. I have NO TIME during the week. NONE.

This is a sucky situation. Nothing can be done about it at the moment because Shmerson has a 4 hour commute every day, and Bunny is still too young (and it’s way too winter) to go to day care. I know I will have an easier time once she goes half days to day care, so I’m powering through till March. But I am spent in every sense of the word.

When Shmerson comes home in the evening we split things very evenly. He gets home, spends a bit of time with Bunny and then we both give her her bath. That’s quality family time. Then he dresses her and puts her down for the night while I get dinner ready. We have dinner, and put something on the TV for an hour while Shmerson does dishes, sterilizes bottles, and takes out the dog. I usually spend this time answering emails and working. Four nights a week I take night duty – which basically means giving Bunny her dream feed and waking up to her in the middle of the night as needed, and Shmerson gets the other three nights. Weekends we try to give each other time to unwind. I usually do the shopping because it gives me some time to decompress, while Shmerson takes care of laundry and other household chores, pays bills and watches Bunny. I almost always have to catch up on some missed work. On Saturdays, he lets me sleep late, and I let him get in some afternoon naps.

So really – we’re as even as we can get right now in terms of housework and taking care of Bunny. I have to do more just because I’m home more. But Shmerson really tries to make up as much as he can on the weekends. We’re planning on moving closer to where we both work to make it easier on both of us – but that’s still far away (we need to find time to house hunt. Not going to happen until Bunny is in day care).

So in the middle of the week I’m spent. But it’s as even as it can get for the time being when it comes to the workload.

But for months, I felt like everything was on my shoulders. Everything.

Shmerson and I truly do strive for an equal partnership. But when it came to raising Bunny, there were two factors impeding this:

1) I’m a very pro-active person who likes making quick decisions, and Shmerson is generally non-confrontational and doesn’t like to argue.

2) I carried Bunny and gave birth to her.

Look – I know how that second one looks. I know that’s a wonderful thing that I should be and I am very grateful for. But when it comes to equality – it’s a huge issue.

Here’s how it breaks down: I carried her, which makes Shmerson have to “work” a little differently than me to connect to her. He connects beautifully. He’s an amazing father. But it’s a different experience, and it makes him feel “less than” me. It also fucks with his confidence when it comes to dealing with her. He’s not “less than” at all. He just feels that way because he didn’t carry her. Does that make sense?

Add to that the fact that – let’s be honest – I make most of our decisions. It’s not that Shmerson doesn’t participate. I just “drive” more. And Shmerson really likes it that way. He’s very much a “go with the flow” kind of guy. It’s a win-win. I get to be a control freak, he gets to enjoy the ride. No harm, no foul

Here’s the problem: Now there’s a third person in this equation. A whole life which WE – not I but WE are responsible for. If I’m doing the driving, and Shmerson isn’t even looking at a map, it’s on my head if we get lost.

And that’s the kicker. That’s a whole lot of weight on my shoulders alone.

Health. Education. Well-Being.

Sleep training. Feeding. Medical decisions. Watching out for developmental milestones. Vaccination schedules. Deciding what we have for dinner. Figuring out what to do with the dog when the neighbors complain. I was doing it ALL.

And it was killing me. The pressure. I felt like it was on me wholly. That Shmerson was along for the ride. Not ever driving. Not ever giving directions.

So the first fight – we realized that he was insecure. At that point I backed off and made sure to leave him alone and let him take care of Bunny as he saw fit, so he understood that I trusted him. He acknowledged my lack of time and was more respectful with taking Bunny off of my hands when he got home from work so I could have a bit more time.

Second fight – we realized that there was just more stuff that I knew. In the no time that I had I was doing research. Reading up on what to do and when. Talking to people. Shmerson didn’t know where to start on that one. So I told him to go read a couple of books to get up to speed. He started reading.

Third fight – we realized that I was making all of the decisions, and not allowing Shmerson his opinion. I started discussing things more with him, and he started coming to the table armed with information so that our discussions were informed and didn’t end with “do your research and you’ll know I’m right”.

Fourth fight – I was still making all of the decisions, though now there was informed discussion. Shmerson was more informed, but he still wasn’t “getting it.”

Fifth fight – I finally managed to put into words what he wasn’t “getting.” The fact that apart from being the primary caregiver, things were all on me. That I not only needed him to make decisions with me and to get informed, I sometimes needed him to be the one to start the conversation. To come to me before I came to him. To be active in the process of raising our daughter. He needed to initiate conversations sometimes. Make decisions without being asked (or sometimes begged) to.

The next morning, when I walked into the kitchen, I found salmon thawing by the sink.

Shmerson had decided what we were having for dinner. Without me having to ask him to decide.

I wanted to cry I was so happy. It was one less thing to worry about that day. And that’s a HUGE deal.

But there were still a couple more fights to come. We wanted to be truly equal parents. That’s effing hard when one of us is the one home more often. The one with more confidence. And let’s be honest -a complete effing control freak.

I needed to learn to let go and he needed to learn to take control. Things that are completely against our natures.

Then last night – I had my trumpets of triumph moment. I finally felt like we made it to the other side.

Bunny has been acting “off” for a couple of weeks. She’s going through a major developmental leap and is becoming way more aware of herself and her surroundings. I also think she’s started teething early because she wants to CHEW ALL THE THINGS all the time. The last week or so, sleep during the day has become a battle. She won’t go down for naps, and by the time bed time rolls around, things are insane. We’ve been using the Baby Whisperer method but no matter what I’ve tried – nap time is a nightmare.

So I’ve been at the end of my rope. Putting her down for a nap, and getting her to sleep in general has been on the verge of traumatic for me for more than a week now. It’s just effing hard. I know we’ll get past it. But it’s hard.

Last night, at 4am, Bunny decided it was time to wake up and play. She’s usually a champion sleeper at night. Last night it was a freaking circus.

It was my night, so for over an hour I tried to get her back to sleep. At 5:20 am I woke Shmerson up and told him that I need to sleep so I’m doing the worst thing ever and bringing Bunny into bed with us because I’m spent.

Then Bunny decided she didn’t like being in bed with us either and started to cry. At this point I was mechanically patting her on the back and literally begging her to sleep. That’s when Shmerson took the reins.

He grabbed Bunny and ordered me to sleep. He took her to her room and spent the next HOUR AND A HALF getting her back to sleep. By the time she was asleep it was time for him to leave for work. But I got 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep after that, and woke up to a happy Bunny. We both got to sleep late.

And when I walked in the kitchen, there was chicken thawing by the sink.

At that moment, I understood that we made it. We were equal. Finally, Shmerson took the wheel when I was too tired to drive. And I didn’t even have to ask. He just did it.

And I knew I was no longer alone.

Tonight, Shmerson came home to an early dinner and a calm Bunny (it was a miraculous day today. Naps were had). I let him go to bed early and I’m taking the dream feed even though it’s his night. I also took a break from my inbox to walk the dog and sterilize the bottles, so he could get a bit more sleep.

Because he got only 3 hours of sleep last night. And I got to sleep in.

Tonight – it was my turn to drive.

And that’s ok because I know he’ll be back at the wheel when I need him to be.

I know we’ll still have hiccups. This is a huge learning process. But I think we’re finally starting to hit a balance. We’ll never be 100% equal – things will always sway back and forth because it’s life, and that’s how life works. But the weight is now starting to be on two pairs of shoulders instead of one.

And that makes all the difference in the world.

Havaya Metakenet Redux

23 Dec

Quietly and without much fanfare, two important milestones for this blog have gone unacknowledged. A couple of months ago I published my 450th post (interestingly enough, it was my official “one month” post). I am now (slowly) crawling toward post 500.

A week ago was my three year blogaversary.

On December 16th, 2010 – just a bit after midnight (so really – exactly one year and one week ago today) I published my first post (for savvy readers, you will notice it has a very similar title to the post announcing Bunny’s birth. This wasn’t by accident).  I had no readers. I had  no idea there were other blogs out there. I had just taken my first ever Xan.ax, and after months of hell trying to come to terms with two miscarriages and battling depression and panic attacks, I found some clarity. I found the drive to write again.

Little did I know what I had in store for me. What those three years would bring, and the world and people they would expose me to.

I admit, even though I was broken when I wrote my first post, I still didn’t think it could get any worse. Then it did. Then once again I didn’t think it could get any worse.

And it did again.

And then I broke into a million pieces and it was this space that kept me together. But also this space that kept me remembering things I didn’t want to remember any more.

So I denied. I podcasted. I ran away.

But then I came back. I came back here because no matter what, this space chronicles and honors the most difficult journey I have ever taken in my life. And I choose to continue to chronicle it. Because the journey doesn’t end with a baby.

When you lose so much, you cannot be magically fixed.

These past few weeks have been insane. Going back to work and trying to get back to living has been a challenge. I have been in a cocoon for so long it’s been a hard road to get to know myself again. And that road is just beginning. I am slowly reclaiming my body. I am slowly coming out of the hard shell I built around myself. Slowly. Slowly.

I won’t lie to you, it’s been hard. But it’s also been amazing. It has been – finally – one Havaya Metakenet after another. If you don’t feel like going back and reading that post – havaya metakenet is a Hebrew phrase meaning “restorative experience”. I’ve been longing for them since the moment I lost my first pregnancy (that particular post was written when this blog was about 4 months old). And I’ve been striving for them since the moment Bunny was born.

I’m not sure if it’s the end of the year, the fatigue, the transitions, or all of the above that have made me count the restorative experiences that I have had in the past few months. Lately, instead of flashing back to the most awful day of my life, I have been flashing back to the most wonderful day. That in itself is a restorative experience. It’s not that I no longer remember. I remember him. I think of him. I love him completely. But Shmerson and I told ourselves long ago that he would not want us to always be sad. So I think he would be happy that he is remembered more often now in his little sister’s gaze. Not in his mother’s trauma.

Today, while striving for a new restorative experience, I realized how many of these experiences I have already had in the past 3.5 months. It has all been so overwhelming, but today, I counted them.

  • My daughter, just out of the womb, being laid on my stomach as we waited for the cord to finish pulsing. I couldn’t see her. I had yet to see her. But I felt her breathing. I had my hand on her back. I could feel her –  tangible and present. It was the happiest moment of my life up until that point.
  • A few hours later, laying in recovery, trying out of habit to count kicks. Understanding that there were no more kicks to be counted. Getting up out of bed frantically and running to the nursery, to beg them to finish their tests so that I could finally have my daughter. Standing outside the nursery at 6am, sobbing. Waiting for them to open the door. Stepping in, being lead to my daughter. Looking at her properly for the first time. Taking her in. Understanding that she is living, she is breathing, she is real. She is mine. Well – at least trying to understand it. I don’t think I fully understand it even today.
  • Every day. Every song I sing to her as I put her to sleep or as we play. Every time she follows me across the room with her eyes. Every time she gives me one of her amazing smiles. She is so generous with those smiles. Every time we have a “conversation” with her coos. She is an open, loving, warm, happy, generous little person. I cannot believe I actually had a part in making her. She amazes me every. Single. Day.

bunny with a bunny

Nadav was born and died about a month before Purim (for those who don’t know – that’s the holiday where us Jews dress up and eat candy).

I was still broken. Shmerson had just started a new job. They encouraged employees to dress up. I still could barely get my butt out of the house. But I was determined to help him with a costume. We dressed him up like Dr. Who. I even made a homemade sonic screwdriver. I stayed at home that day. Happy that some fun was had. Broken that it was had without my son. I don’t know why those two days of making that costume stick out so much in my memory. But I feel those days. The ever-present pain, wanting to break through a facade I was putting on. Trying to be happy. Trying to live, to honor him. Barely able to do it, yet doing it ferociously.

Purim is still about 3 months away. Today I started a pinterest board. I want Shmerson to dress up as Dr. Who again. I want to be the Tardis. I want Bunny to be a little Dalek.

To add another restorative experience to the list.

With the hopes of adding many more to come.

To all of my wonderful readers out there, who have stuck it out for three long years, or who have just now found me, thank you for being here. Thank you for your patience as I navigate my way through this strange new world. I hope your 2014 is full of restorative experiences.

I’m striving to make mine chock full of them.

At Least 10%

13 Dec

Updated to add – what I write about below is my opinion about what is right for ME. Each mom is entitled to her own choices. Let’s remember that in the comments section, please.

Ok bear with me here. I have to rant. So much so that even though both Bunny and I are sick, I told Shmerson he’s on his own for a little while because momma’s gotta blog.

I’ll try my best to keep it organized, but I apologize in advance if this is a little all over the place.

A couple of weeks ago I stopped speaking with a person who I considered a very close friend. We stopped speaking because I had the audacity to suggest to her that she stop breastfeeding, or at least give up some responsibility to her husband so she can get some sleep.

She told me that this was encouraging her to “be neglectful”.

Seriously.

Today, a person who I’ve been friends with for 17 (!) years posted an article on FB about women who are proud formula feeders and in the post, she said how selfish they are for doing it. She mentioned this didn’t count for women who tried and failed brea.st feeding. Yet still, I felt like she was attacking me. You know why?

Because there’s a very good chance, that if we manage to make it to baby number 2, I will brea.st feed for no more than a month and then purposefully quit, even if it’s going well.

Yep. That’s right. I will give my baby the very important immunizations he or she will need, and then I will stop and give them formula.

You know what else? Since the day Bunny was born, I have not missed a single shower. There are also three nights a week in which I get a good 8 hour stretch of sleep.

Go ahead. Tell me I’m a bad mom. Tell me I’m neglectful. I fucking dare you. I dare you to challenge me about not loving my child enough because I have the audacity to hand over some responsibility to my husband. To go back to work. To choose to bottle feed, because that way I am not tied to a pump or to the house, and I can take my xan.ax when I need to and go back to work more easily.

And sleep through the night every once in a while.

That does not make me a bad mother. In fact, I think it makes me a fucking amazing mother.

I am painfully aware of the fact that I am the most prominent female figure in my daughter’s life. I am her primary role model. She can choose to be inspired by me, or she can choose to do everything possible to be different from me.

I can’t help but look at the relationship I have with my mother, and make the decision that I will do EVERYTHING different with my child.

My mother stayed at home. My mother gave my brother and I all of herself. Literally. Everything.

So much so that now, at the age of 64, my mother has nothing except us. She lives for us and through us.

So much so that when I am sad or upset, her reaction, before comforting me, is to say “you’re killing me.” That’s right folks – I can’t go to my mother for comfort when I’m hurting without worrying that I’m hurting her in the process.

True story.

And you know what? That is a horrible, horrible thing that is incredibly unfair to me and my brother, and puts way too much pressure on us.

My mother is an incredibly talented interior designer. She let that go to give everything to us. To this day she will skip meals if I so much as hint that I need her for a few hours. She will not sleep. She will skip doctor’s appointments. She will neglect herself to take care of me, my brother, and our children.

I hate it. I hate it so much that most of the time I avoid asking her for help if I know she has other things going on, because I don’t want her to neglect her own needs.

I’m not saying I’m not grateful. I love my mother more than anything. She is an amazing woman. But you know what the happiest times I had with her were?

The two years that she worked outside the home.

I never questioned my mother’s love for me when she worked. It made our quality time much more quality. And I admired her. She was making a good living, and rocking at her job. I learned to cook so I could help her with meals and found that I had a knack for it, which I nurture to this day. She carried herself differently. It was awesome.

Then my dad pressured her to quit and she did (they are very old fashioned that way).

And again – it was all about us. She lost herself.

I do not want that to be my daughter and I. I want my daughter to see a woman who is not afraid to take care of herself. Who rocks at her job. Who has a life independent of hers. I want her to feel free to live her life for herself – not for me – because I have a life of my own. I want her to always feel free to ask me to help her, and to know that I will not forget to also help myself.

I think anyone who has read this blog and who knows how hard I fought to bring my daughter in this world would not think for a moment to question my undying, eternal love for this little person who has entered my life after 3.5 years of hell.

Anyone who knows how I didn’t leave the house for 6 months just to keep her safely inside me. Anyone who knows that I ate the same food every single day for three months to keep my blood sugar levels perfectly balanced so as not to hurt her. Anyone who sees my face fill with pure unbridled joy at the moment I see her after being away for more than a few minutes.

But if you look at the cold hard facts of my parenting style, there are women out there who would actually call me neglectful.

Because I bottle feed.

Because I let my husband wake up for feeds 3 nights out of the week.

Because I take the time to shower.

Because I work outside the home two days a week – and yes – sometimes even stay later than planned because I’m rocking it and being really productive, and that’s important.

Because when Monty Python announced their reunion shows I didn’t think twice and I bought two tickets, knowing full well that it would mean leaving a nine month old baby with her grandparents for a few days while her father and I go to London. Because seriously – it’s Monty Fucking Python. Will I miss her? Of course I will! But she won’t remember those few days, and then when she gets older I will have an uber-cool story to tell her the first time we sit down together and watch “The Holy Grail”.

Totally worth it.

Do I miss my daughter when I’m out? Of course.  Do I sometimes think I could do a “better” job at certain things than her father or her grandparents can when it comes to taking care of her? Yes. I admit I do. But I let them do it anyway, because I realize that sometimes I need a break.

But does that make me a bad mother? Hell to the fucking no. I’m an amazing mother. I know there are times I don’t feel like I am, but when I look at things objectively, I fucking rock. I spent six months in hell to keep her safely inside me. I fought through doctors and bureaucracy for 2 months to get proper treatment for her reflux. When I spend quality time with her, she has my full attention. I never pick up a phone or look at a screen during those times. I stimulate her and educate her and encourage her and love her unconditionally. And tell her that and show her that at every opportunity that I can.

But I also love her enough to live my own life. To understand my limitations. To understand that giving her 100% of myself is doing her a disservice. I need to keep 10% for me, and sometimes even more. Because that’s the kind of woman I want her to be.

And I am her role model.

I am not her slave.

I am her mother. And I love her more than anything in the world.

And as time passes I realize one thing more and more:

Loving her – also means loving myself.

Solicited Advice

7 Nov

Ok all, since my computer is now officially dead, there are only going to be short posts for the time being, even though I have a lot to say,

Bunny is nearing the end of the so-called “fourth trimester”. She just turned two months old and is becoming more aware of her surroundings.

The best piece of advice I got before she was born was that the first three months are pure survival mode. That they are truly a fourth trimester, because the babies spend most of their energy growing and adjusting to life outside.
That as long as they’re eating, sleeping, and pooping, you’re in good shape.

Just knowing that has done wonders for my sanity.

But now the clock is ticking. We’re coming up on scary stuff like sleep routines, education, emotional development, and introducing solids (while hopefully dealing with Bunny’s eating issues).

So allow me to be honest about this: I feel clueless, yet the thought of doing hours of research online or reading up on “methods” kind of goes against my instincts.
Every good thing I’ve learned about being a parent has come from observing others, learning from their mistakes when they’re willing to share them (or when they’re just glaringly obvious), and adopting the things that are right for me. So far that has been more worthwhile than reading 100 books.

For example- we keep a loud household. When Bunny is asleep, we talk in regular tones, let the dog bark, watch tv at a regular volume, etc.
I learned that little trick while marveling at how a good friend’s 4-month-old slept soundly throughout a very long very loud dog barking session.

I think implementing things solely based on theories and books is counter intuitive, and doesn’t work for the day to day business of raising a child.

So- here’s where you come in. Sometimes I whine to myself about the fact that most of you dear readers started this journey toward parenthood with me or after me, and have long since lapped me.
Sometimes that makes me a bit sad.
But this time instead of feeling like I’m running behind, I’m going to use this to my advantage!

Though unsolicited advice is hated by all mothers, I think solicited advice is invaluable. So here’s your chance: what are the things you wish you would have known going into parenting at this crucial stage? What are your words of wisdom about eating, sleeping, bonding and educating? Do you have little tricks that you learned along the way? Are there books that are actually useful that won’t make me feel annoyed or inadequate?

You don’t need to write a novel, though go right ahead if you feel like it! I’m sure each of you have one or two things you swear by. Just like I currently swear by the “loud house” and “fourth trimester” philosophies, and that would be the advice I would give an expectant mother, if asked.

So have at it ladies! Educate me.

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