May 132014
 

There was this art project that I used to love to do as a kid: we would take an egg and make a tiny little hole in each end with a pin. Then we would blow through one end, and all the raw egg inside would come shooting out. Once you got all those pesky insides out, you would have a perfect eggshell to decorate. It would be fragile, of course. But unlike a regular egg that would eventually fester and rot, the eggshell could last forever if treated carefully. The idea is so simple: remove the parts that can go bad, and the shell will endure. It is preservation at its finest.  But, I never really appreciated the idea of preservation. When I was a kid, I just liked blowing out all the disgusting raw egg into my friends’ faces… and by “when I was a kid” I mean yesterday.

When my baby boy was three months old, I mentioned to my pediatrician that he had a slightly odd birthmark on his back.  It was something my husband and I had noticed about him from the day he was born.  It was tiny and hidden right above his butt crack, a place no one would but a parent would ever examine closely enough to notice. I didn’t mention it to my doctor until my son was three months old because it seemed innocent enough: a cute little birthmark. The human body is an amazing thing though, and sometimes these innocent little markings are warnings of something much more nefarious.

My doctor told me it was probably nothing, but we should get it checked out to make sure. She told me that I shouldn’t lose any sleep over it.  But of course, I lost sleep over it. A lot of sleep. Luckily I had a toddler and a three-month-old baby, so I wasn’t sleeping much anyway.

After an ultra-sound, an MRI and a few meetings with a neurosurgeon, we discovered that my son had something called a tethered spinal cord, and would need surgery to correct it. A tethered cord is a birth defect, where the spinal cord is literally tethered down by something (in this case a fatty growth called a lypoma) so that it cannot hang freely as it normally would, and instead stretches and pulls, damaging the big bundle of nerves that make up the spinal cord. That big bundle of nerves is tied to many different things: legs, feet, bladder, bowels, and brain to name a few. If not corrected, it can cause any assortment of developmental and physical difficulties. In addition, that innocent-looking birthmark was actually a tract that ran directly from the spinal cord to the outside of his back. So that cute little marking actually put him at risk for meningitis and other infections. Scary right? You don’t know the half of it. At least, I hope you never do.

Before Jan 13th, I didn’t know the half of it either. But on that day, the day of my baby’s three-month doctor appointment, and the months that followed, I learned what scary really meant. And it wasn’t just sleep I lost over those months, it was everything. Sadness, guilt, anger, and THE FEAR plagued me every minute of every day. My perfect baby was not perfect. My sweet little boy would have to undergo surgery and so much more. And there were so many unanswered questions, so much we wouldn’t know until it was possibly too late. How could I sleep? How could I think of everything else?!

There was a brief moment of each day that I forgot THE FEAR: each morning when I woke up and scooped my delicious bundle out of his bassinet and looked into his smiling face, I got at least two minutes of unadulterated joy. Two whole minutes of staring at his perfect face. Of breathing in his sweet smell. Two luscious minutes of reveling in the perfection of him before – BAM!!! – my memory, and with it THE FEAR, would return with such force that it took my breath away. Every. Single. Day.

So, I couldn’t sleep at night. I would spend hours crying during the day. I couldn’t play with my wonderful daughter, or even enjoy the sweet miracle that was my baby son. All I had was my sadness, my guilt, my anger and THE FEAR. I was drowning in them all. So I did what I had to do to endure. I made myself stop crying. I made myself stop thinking and stop feeling. I removed everything inside me that was festering and rotting, and I became a shell – fragile yet enduring. It was self-preservation at its finest.

The problem with hollowing yourself out like that, is that you cannot choose what stays and what goes. You cannot remove the sadness without removing the joy. You cannot remove THE FEAR while leaving the hope. So I became an empty. I went about my daily life, of course. I did what needed to be done.  I took my daughter to school and to dance class. I took my son to his doctor’s appointments. I made dinner, I fed my children. I sometimes fed myself. I even went out with friends. I laughed at their jokes. I drank too much wine. From the outside, everything looked normal. But on the inside, I was empty.

Slowly but surely, though, little cracks began to show. Maybe not big enough for everyone to see, especially because I was master at painting myself up to look the same as I was before. I began to hide out to protect myself. I shut out most of my friends, because I didn’t want to take a chance of having to talk about what I was feeling. I picked fights with my husband about anything other than what I was really upset about. I stopped writing. I quit doing anything that would force me to be honest about myself, because I felt like if I was honest, then my cracks would spread and I would break into a million pieces. I thought that if I really started crying that I would never stop. And mommies can’t do that.

But I endured. My son had his surgery almost two months ago, and he is doing great. Kids are amazing in their resilience. His scar, that takes up almost half of his back, is quickly fading. But somehow, my scars are still angry and raw. I thought that once the surgery was done and life went back to normal, the FEAR would go away and that I would go back to normal too. But I guess once you empty yourself out like that, it’s hard to fill yourself back up. I guess once THE FEAR finds you, it’s really hard to ever chase it away.

I am trying. I am trying to be brave enough to let go of THE FEAR. I am trying to be brave enough to allow myself to be filled with emotions, both good and bad. The strange thing is that I cry now more than I ever did. But I smile more too. I am repairing my cracks, little by little. I think the first step is to let my cracks show, and to realize that admitting that you are broken doesn’t mean that you can’t be put back together.

egg

 

photo credit: katerha via photopin cc

Jun 072013
 
Iron Wagon

I want off!!!

I love roller coasters. I love the excitement that builds as you climb the hill. I love the adrenaline that pulses through your veins as you reach the top. I love the feeling of fear as you pause at the top, looking down on the world below you. I love the feeling of absolute freedom as you explode from the top and race down the hill. And I love that then it all starts again.

But I guess what I love most about roller coasters is that the fear and the excitement are all controlled. You know what’s going to happen, and you know you will be safe. So you feel safe in feeling afraid.

Lately my life has been a roller coaster. Unfortunately it is one that I cannot control. Unfortunately I do not feel safe at all.

I am now 21 weeks pregnant, and about a month ago I began having some bleeding. Sorry if this is TMI for some of you, but I figure that if celebrities can flash their hoo-has to the world, that I can at least talk about mine for a moment. Plus… grow up. Okay?  Anyway, I began having some bleeding, so of course, I got worried. I went to see my doctor, who thought it was probably a UTI causing it. I was relieved to have an answer… until we found out it wasn’t a UTI. Fear returned.  I went back in to see the doctor. She couldn’t find the source of the bleeding, but she was pretty sure it was just some superficial bleeding due to a growth spurt, and now it was probably over. I didn’t bleed anymore, so I accepted this and was relieved. Until I wasn’t.

Two weeks later the bleeding started again. The fear escalated. I went to see the doctor, who again couldn’t find the source, but assured me everything was fine.  The next day, I went in for my 20 week ultrasound. The doctor there looked at my baby (A BOY!) and told me he was perfect. She looked at everything going on in my uterus and told me that was perfect too. I was relieved. No, I was more than relieved. I was elated. I felt like I could finally breathe for the first time in a week, maybe longer. Then I got the wind knocked out of me again.

Two hours later I started bleeding. A lot more this time. I called my doctor, who put me on immediate bed rest until she could see me the next afternoon. I am not sure if any of you have had to be on bed rest while taking care of a toddler, but I am sure you can imagine that it is no easy feat.  The only thing on par with the fear was the guilt.  Every time my daughter asked me to play with her, and I had to say no, I felt bone-breaking guilt about choosing the baby over her. And every time I shunned the bed rest to give her the little play time or cuddle she needed, I felt the same guilt about choosing Lyla over the baby. The fear and the guilt, along with the stress of pretending that everything is fine, was just too much. That night I had my first panic attack ever. A real, honest-to-goodness, can’t breathe, can’t see straight, almost vomiting, panic attack. And then it was over and I could laugh about how ridiculous I am… and then start panicking again because I had a panic attack, and that must mean I am going crazy, right? Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much.

The next day I went in to see the doctor and again she told me that it was most likely coming from the cervix, which is the best case scenario.  But again, she told me I need to be careful and rest until the bleeding stops. That was two days ago. It still hasn’t stopped. And again, the fear rises.

So here I sit on bed rest. I am lucky that I have an amazing husband who is doing his job and mine without complaints. He is working, and taking care of me, and playing with Lyla, and making dinner, and everything else that two people can barely fit in a day. I have friends who have helped immensely, by taking Lyla for play dates and offering help when I need it most. I have a daycare who can take Lyla extra days, which helps with the guilt. I am lucky, I know. But I am bed-ridden, and the fear is starting to mount again and what do I have to do but complain about a very private thing on a very public forum.

Everyone says that I should enjoy this opportunity. I know it’s true. I mean, how often do I get to lie down for a week with no cooking, cleaning, laundry or chores to do and often no daughter to take care of? I know that I should be in heaven. Some days I daydream of  just an hour of this luxury. The thing is, all of these things still need to be done, I just can’t do them. I wish I could do the laundry that is piling up. I wish that I could cook my husband a nice dinner. I wish that I could play with my daughter instead of sending her off to school to play without me. I don’t feel sick. I feel like I could do all of this, plus 45 minutes on the elliptical and maybe some weights while I am at it. I feel like I could do everything. But I can’t.

Oh yeah, and it is summertime, so there is no good tv on. Only reruns of crappy TV that I have already seen twice. So there’s that too.

Most of all, I don’t like feeling fragile. I like my muscles and am proud of my strong body. I like my stubbornness and am proud of my strong mind. But right now I feel weak. I feel like I am going to break, both in body and mind. Every move I make, I feel like I am somehow injuring the baby. I sneezed yesterday and almost peed my pants out of fear that the sneeze harmed the baby. And then I freaked out because I almost peed. Oh, did I mention that peeing freaks me out too? And don’t even get me started on #2.

This weak body of mine is weakening my mind as well. All these emotions and all this fear can’t be good for you.  I have been on the verge of tears for almost a month now.  I am losing my mind.  I know that I shouldn’t be so scared. I have been to the doctor almost every day this week and she assures me that everything is fine. But she also tells me that it is not normal, and it is certainly not good. And every time it happens, I have to go back in to check and make sure everything is still fine. So every time it happens again, I live in a constant state of fear that this will be the time that everything is NOT fine. I usually like roller coasters. But this one is literally making me sick to my stomach. I want to get off.

The one good thing is that any thoughts I had of not connecting to this baby, are gone. I am connected to this little boy. And, in true motherly fashion, I am worried sick about him already.

Jun 062012
 

Ok kids, gather ’round because I’m gonna tell you a story.  Names and dates have been changed, but the facts are real.  Well, mostly real.

Once upon a time there was a little Princess.  The little Princess was happy in her ranch-style castle in Colorado, but she was cursed.  Some wicked witch… or possibly genetics… had cast a spell that made the little Princess unable to see very well.  So the little Princess was again cursed… this time with glasses.  She didn’t mind them too much at first, though the big thick glasses (with pink-tinted lenses because the misguided Princess thought it made her look like she was wearing eyeshadow) got in the way of her playing sports, and they were constantly sliding down her face.  She didn’t mind that a few kids made fun of her and called her “4-Eyes,” because it made her tough like a knight.  And she didn’t mind that she wasn’t really a beautiful princess because she thought that if she couldn’t be the fairest in the land, she would be the funniest.  She learned that laughter is the best self-defense, stronger than any sword.  She learned to make fun of herself before other people could.  And she began to learn one of the most valuable skills that any princess or knight could ever have… not to listen to what the court fools say about her.  But this, my children, this is a skill that takes a lifetime to perfect.

One day, the 4-eyed Princess got magical contacts, and her whole world changed.  She could do many of the things she wanted to do without worrying about her glasses, and many of the knights in the kingdom began to look at her in a new way.  But, this new power did come with a price.  Her eyes were often red and sore.  Sometimes she would lose her contacts and the King and Queen would lock in a tower to punish her. (I need a little drama here.) And she still couldn’t do some of the things she wanted to do, like swimming in the ocean, for fear of losing her contacts.  But despite all of this, the Princess was happy.  And eventually she met her Knight in Shining Armor, and they lived happily ever after.

Until… a few years later the Princess had a little princess of her own.  And amazingly, she was able to feed the princess from her own breast.  This was also an amazing power, but it, too, came with a price.  You see, this magical power can affect you in ways you never imagined, and it made the Princess’ eyes very dry.  This, along with little time for the Princess to rest her eyes, combined with wearing contacts for many, many years (more years than the Princess would like to admit) made her tired eyes begin to reject the magical contacts that had so changed her life.  And the Princess, once again, found herself cursed with glasses.  And though her Knight in Shining Armor assured her that he loved her glasses, the Princess did not love them.  They made it hard to all the things she loved to do, like exercise, play outside, and go to the beach;  and the little princess would constantly pull them from her face.  But the hardest part was that after so many years of having magical contacts, the Princess’ thick armor now had a few chinks in it.  Now she found it more difficult not to care what the fools might think of her. She no longer was a knight who paraded around confidently in her glasses.  She was now a peasant who slunk around, hoping that no one would notice her.  And the Princess didn’t like herself very much.

One day, the Princess went to see a magical Eye Wizard, in a very, very fancy castle in the greatest kingdom of all… Beverly Hills.  The Wizard told the Princess that his magic could make her see again.  But she would have to be very brave.  And pay most of the gold in her vault (almost more gold than she had paid for car).  The Princess was frightened… mostly of the dragons of her own making.  You see, she is very scared of doctors and hospitals, and has an almost paralyzing fear of needles.  She was no longer a knight, and even if she was, her humor tactic wouldn’t help her here.  (Trust me, the Princess tried, but apparently most Eye Wizards don’t have a sense of humor.)  Her Knight in Shining Armor helped her face her fears, even though she was scared (and also pretty sweaty) she went to Wizard’s castle and had him cast his spell on her.

When she awoke from her slumber, the Princess was very surprised and very, very happy to see that she could… well, SEE.  She no longer had to hold her alarm clock directly in front of her face to see what time it was.  She could look at her Knight, and see that he was smiling at her. (Although, when he is frowning the Princess might still pretend that she cannot see his  face.)  The Princess was finally FREE of her curse.  She was proud of herself that she had faced her dragons.  And though it was the Eye Wizard who had cast the spell, it was she (and her gold) who had the courage to break the curse.   Once again the Princess felt like the knight she once was.  Like she could do anything.  And she lived happily ever after…

especially when she finally met Sir Ryan Gosling, who fell immediately in love with the brave Princess and her new eyes.  Of course, she already had her Knight, so she let him down gently, but he swore he would never love another (especially that hideous witch Eva Mendes).

Hey, this is my fairy tale…

THE END.

The Princess and her curse

May 312012
 

I know you will be sad to hear it, but this week you will not be receiving your highly anticipated dose of wise witticism in blog form… at least not from me.  Today I am having a minor eye surgery – almost like Cataract surgery (because I am 92 years old) where they implant a lens into my eye –  and I need to rest my eyes for a few days.  In fact, I am really not supposed to be on the computer right now, but lucky for you I have one last insight to impart.

Even though it is a minor surgery, I am terrified.  Way more terrified than I probably should be, and way more terrified than I would have been a few years ago.  Why?  Because if something happens to me… it happens to my daughter too.  And that worries me more than anything. If something went wrong with the surgery (however small the chances) she could grow up without a mom, or with a blind mom, or worst of all… with a hideously ugly mom with a terrible wandering eye.  But we can’t live our lives guided by fear.  And we definitely can’t stop living our lives because we are afraid.  Especially when it comes to our children, because I have a feeling that never goes away.

With that… here’s your quote of the day.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Dale Carnegie