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Tag Archives: parenting

Owning It

26 Jun

Never for a moment did I think 4 months would pass in silence here.

Or maybe I did.

This space lies dormant as my life is a wonderful whirlwind of challenges, triumphs, travel, and motherhood.

Are things perfect? Not even close. I struggle daily as my career has gone from zero to sixty, and I find myself leaving Bunny far more often than I ever thought I would.

I struggle to understand my role as a mother, both amidst my ambitious, careerist nature, and the legacy of loss that has brought me to my wonderful little girl. I originally wrote “baby girl” but she’s not really a baby anymore.

I would post 100 pictures of her here. But she’s too big now. It no longer feels right. She has found her own identity.

As have I.

I have re-embraced my drive and ambition and “leaned in” with all of my might. At the same time, trying to push away the demon that is my ingrained image of what a mother is supposed to be. One who only has her children, and nothing else. That is what I grew up with and I am working like hell to break loose of it.

I am carving out a path that is far different than the one my mother demonstrated. That of an equal partnership, equal parenting, and being a strong, ambitious mother who is building a career.

I can only hope that what I’m modeling for my daughter will be an inspiration and not a hindrance. I assume, like all parents, I’ll most likely be responsible for hours of therapy sessions and countless issues.  I have to be ok with that. Because every parent messes up their kid. They just do it differently than their parents before them.

I’m muddling through it, working on embracing motherhood. Working through the anxiety of being different and trying to balance it all. Working through what it means to raise my daughter, while being who I am naturally, but also recognizing the fight and legacy of loss that brought her into my life.

And coming into my own.

For the first time – most likely ever – I feel comfortable in my own skin. I feel absolutely grateful for what I have, and I’m trying to embrace this contentment.

My mother-in-law commented today that I keep on losing weight.

I told her I actually haven’t lost a gram.

Maybe it just re-distributed?

Nope. I’m the same size. Everything fits the same.

So what’s changed?

I hold myself up – just a little higher.

And everything I have at this exact moment? It would not have happened without everything that had come before it – for better, for worse.

Will I return here more often? If I were a betting woman, I’d say yes. But not yet. Not quite.

There will be a moment, sometime in the future, when we will decide it’s time to try to make us a family of four.

And when we decide to jump back into that freezing ocean, I hope this place will continue to be a warm retreat.

And I hope some of you will still be around.

In the meantime, we are basking in the sun, and embracing chaos, routine, and contentment.

I wish all of you the same. I’ll see you again soon.

 

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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.

Questions I’ve Been Asking Myself

24 Sep
  1. How is it that tomorrow I turn 34, and I still feel 14?
  2. Bunny is over a year old and I still sometimes don’t feel like she’s real. Is that just me or is it normal?
  3. Will I ever find the willpower to get my weight down?
  4. Is what I’ve been feeling lately contentment, or emotional detachment?
  5. What do I really want to be when I grow up?
  6. Am I dividing my work/family hours right? Because I keep on feeling like I’m not?
  7. Should I shut down this space and move to someplace less anonymous?
  8. If I don’t shut it down, is it fair if I only update here occasionally?
  9. If I open up a new, less anonymous space, should I promote it here?
  10. If I keep on travelling for work, will it affect Bunny? Will she be mad at me? Or traumatized?

Answers welcome, but not mandatory.

Not Freaking Out at ALL

29 Aug

Next Sunday night, I’m getting on a plane and flying to the US.

Alone.

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!

An Open Letter to a Battling Mommy

22 Aug

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.

Sincerely,

A Fellow Mom Who’s Doing Her Best

The Inevitable Has Arrived

5 Aug

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?

Thanks guys!

 

“Good Night Baby, I’m Sorry for Being a Crappy Mom”

2 Aug

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.

That’s it.

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.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

20 Jul

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?

Bullets on Bunny – Holy Crap This is Overdue! Edition

11 Jul

*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.

IMG_0222

  • So that’s the long and short of it! How are all  of you guys doing?

Back in the Saddle

15 Jun

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.

 

Protected: Leaning Sideways (Part 2)

26 May

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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…]

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

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.

Infertile Parenting 101 (Month 1)

9 Oct

(Bla bla I haven’t posted in a while. Bla bla stuff about babies being hard. Bla bla more rambling about the future direction of the blog, followed by the statement that I will just be winging it and a promise not to abandon it. Bla bla, apologies to those still in the trenches, with an understanding that they don’t have to keep following if they don’t want to. Bla bla bla.)

So being a parent after 3.5 years of longing for a living, healthy baby is kind of a surreal experience. Since I’ve been doing it for almost 5 weeks now  (which obviously makes me a pro, right?) I thought I’d share with you some pearls of wisdom. Because let’s face it – though parenting is similar for everyone, parenting after infertility and loss comes with its own set of challenges and revelations. I’ve labelled this post “Month 1” because this may become a regular monthly thing. Then again, it may not. Because lesson 1: If you have a newborn, you really shouldn’t make promises. Lesson 2: If you have a newborn, you will find yourself typing out cliches like the one you just read.

So here we go:

  • You will most likely not break your baby. It’s kind of hard to believe, but once they’re out in the world, they become fairly durable. So chances are if you, say, accidentally bump their head on the corner of your laptop while you’re typing up a blog post (this is a purely hypothetical scenario of course), then you will most likely not cause any brain damage. And no, the fact that they keep sleeping because they barely felt the bump anyway does not mean that even more serious damage has been done than you initially suspected. Babies sleep, and they don’t really care if their head occasionally grazes a laptop corner (hypothetically, of course).
  • You will wish your baby had one of those collars like the dogs had in “Up.”  Babies can’t talk. That becomes incredibly frustrating at times because you really want to know what they want/what they need/what hurts/etc. Therefore you may spend your very rare spare moments fantasizing about acquiring a fictional collar from an animated film.

Source
  • You will realize that constantly making sure that he/she is still breathing while they are asleep is impractical. Eventually you will understand that you need sleep, and that chances are that your baby will keep breathing even when you’re not looking. And the worst-case-scenario: You have that high tech monitor you spent way too much money on to alert you if something goes awry, FSM forbid.
  • You will apparently never be able to post cynical things on Face.book ever again. If some of your FB friends are even remotely aware of your struggles, their unbridled “I’m so happy for you!” sentiments will be the rainy cloud over any of your attempts to be a cynic about your newfound status as a parent. So if you post a status asking people to ban you from their feeds if you discuss your child’s digestive habits publicly, you will get very few lols and lots of “you do whatever you want! You deserve it! Yay you!”s. And though you will appreciate the sentiments, there will be a small part of you that will quietly wish that they would just appreciate your cynicism and lingering bitterness and no longer single you out as being different. Though another part of you does think that yes, you are different, and how awesome is it that everyone is celebrating? This scenario is purely hypothetical, of course.
  • You will walk into baby stores and actually enjoy shopping there. You may as well get used to it. The places you spent so much time and energy avoiding all those years will now be taking all of your money.
  • You will see other people with babies and smile at them rather than avoid their gaze. At first this will surprise and even anger you. Then you will get over it.
  • You will find yourself doing all the annoying things you’d never thought you’d do.  Shamelessly showing pictures of your baby to total strangers? Check. Discussing their bowel movements and other digestive habits with anyone willing to listen and some who would really rather not? Check. Dressing the baby up in adorable outfits with “gender appropriate” color schemes? Check. Being all “Wait until you have kids and then you’ll know what tired is” to people, even if you only think it and don’t say it out loud? Check.
  • You will find yourself parenting via google. And most of your search queries will be somehow linked to either eating or poop.ing. Because you don’t have one of those handy collars from “Up” so you read your baby’s digestive system as if it was a pack of tarot cards.
  • You will have an app for recording your baby’s bodily functions. And you will use it. All the time. See above.
  • You will feel guilty. A lot. Did you wait too long too feed them? Did you not wait long enough? Why aren’t they gaining more weight? Are you giving them enough stimulation? Is it ok that you’re watching “Top Chef” while you’re feeding them? Is leaving them for 5 hours to run errands and get a manicure evidence that you are a horrible mother? The last two scenarios are purely hypothetical, of course.
  • You will feel pressure to constantly be happy now that you’ve achieved what you’ve wished for. Whether that pressure is self-inflicted or external, it will be there. And I have no words of wisdom to make that feeling go away. Just make sure you’re taking care of yourself.
  • You will not be constantly happy. And that’s ok. There is a whole new person that’s invaded your life. And they’re not really a whole person yet. They don’t make eye contact, they only smile when they’re gassy, and all they do is eat, sleep, poo, pee, and cry. Taking care of this whole new person is hard. And sometimes you have a hard time grasping that this person is yours. And sometimes you’ve barely slept and they’ve been fussy and you just want to cry because you don’t know how to make things better, and you really just want to sleep for longer than three hours at a time. Apparently, it’s normal to not be overjoyed 24-7. You can be tired. And frustrated. And anxious (OMG so anxious). And yes, even sad sometimes. Really and truly – it’s ok. And taking care of yourself during those times is ok too. (I need to remind myself of all of this constantly, and you should too).
  • You will still feel like you’re different.  Your past losses, frustrations, and traumas will not magically go away. They will get a different perspective, yes. They will change color and tone. They will morph into something different. But they will still be there. There will still be moments that you remember and cry. You will see that a friend of yours, who was married a year and a half after you, is already pregnant with or raising baby number 2. And it will sting, because deep down inside, you will know that though most of the world thinks your baby is “baby number 1”, it’s not. It’s number 5 of 5 pregnancies. Or the second baby you physically gave birth to. Or the 9th embryo transferred. Or the first successful cycle after 25 failed ones. Or the 3rd time a birth parent chose you. Your losses are still your losses. And it could be that no one understands that except you. Don’t bother explaining it. Let them celebrate your “first”. You celebrate your strength to make it through and bring this baby home. And I’ll say it again: Always, ALWAYS remember to take care of yourself.
  • You will find yourself doing things you never thought you’d be capable of doing. Like organizing the baby’s room, doing a load of her laundry and folding it and putting it away. Or washing bottles. Or tidying up the living room. All while a baby is strapped to you in a Moby (that you magically figured out how to use). And you never did these things before. Ever. You would leave your clean clothes in a separate hamper that the cleaning lady would fold when she came every two weeks, and then you would still keep those folded clothes on the guest bed and not bother putting them in a closet. You would leave things in piles everywhere. Now you’re all – ORGANIZE ALL THE THINGS! And even though you still suck at it, you’re making an effort. Which is just plain crazy. These scenarios are purely hypothetical, of course.
  • Nobody is coming to take your baby away from you. Chances are that because of the time you’ve spent wanting to have a baby, and because of how hard you’ve worked at it, you’re pretty much as emotionally ready to be a parent as anyone can really be. Which means that you’re most likely a pretty decent parent and no one will come and take away your baby. You will find yourself standing in line in a department store, holding a pair of swaddle blankets, and swaying your hips back and forth. Then you will realize that your baby isn’t currently strapped to you, and is in fact back at home with her grandmother. But she has become such an integral part of your life that you instinctively rock her, even when she’s not physically there. And then, for a moment, you truly get that she’s yours to keep, and what a fucking miracle that truly is.

That’s a purely hypothetical scenario, of course.

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