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

Oct 052013
 
Babies... they sure are cute, but they don't listen very well!

Babies… they sure are cute, but they don’t listen very well!

“Women make plans and God laughs.” That is the phrase that I jokingly uttered to my doctor last week as we were discussing my birth “plan.”  It became yet another shining example of why I should learn to keep my big fat mouth shut. Because, now, someone is laughing. And it sure as hell isn’t me.

I know that when it comes to pregnancy, as well as most things in life, the only thing you can absolutely plan on is that nothing will ever go as planned. I really, really DO know this. But, despite this knowledge, and against my better judgement, I had a plan for how this birth was going to happen. My parents were going to fly in from Colorado on the 19th, and I was definitely going to go into labor on the 20th. (My actual due date.) They would be here to take care of my toddler while I rushed to hospital – and it’s a good thing that they would be here, because this labor was going to go fast! That’s the way it’s supposed to happen with baby #2, right? That’s what various moms, doctors and articles all claimed. A fast and (relatively) easy and (somewhat) painless birth. This promise of an easy labor was the one thing that I clung to throughout this pregnancy. It was the one thing that got me through when everything else was so much harder the second time around. I should have gotten a money back guarantee on that one.

Ok, so where was I? Ah yes, my “plan”. So after this miraculous and joyous labor, my perfect, healthy, handsome and not-at-all-coneheaded boy would emerge into the world. My husband would hold him up above his head and all the nurses would hum “Circle of Life.” I would stay at the hospital for a couple of days, and my parents would bring my daughter to come meet her new baby brother. We would do everything just as friends, blogs and books recommend to ease the introduction between the new siblings, and my daughter would be delighted to meet her new best friend. She would hug me hard and kiss him very gently, and declare that she loves her new brother more than anything! And we would capture it all in photos and videos, and in these captured moments I would look as fresh and beautiful as Duchess Kate. And we would all live happily ever after. Are you laughing yet? Because, like I said, someone is. And it still aint me.

On Monday I went to get an ultrasound because the baby was measuring a bit small. Ironic isn’t it? I spent the first half of pregnancy complaining that I was too big and now I am concerned that I am too small. The baby is fine, thank God. Actually, he is more than fine. He seems to be having the time of his (short) life in there.

As the doctor was looking at the ultrasound, she says, “So the first interesting thing I see is that the baby is breech (head up instead of down).”  And my reaction?  “Wait, what? I’m sorry. I thought you said he was breech! Heh-heh. That is hilarious because on Thursday his head and all other body parts were exactly where they were supposed to be and I am 37 weeks along and dangerously close to giving birth and babies don’t just up and move like that, do they?”  Apparently they do. I guess kids don’t follow our plans, even when they are 0 years old.

After listening to the ultrasound doctor crush my dreams of an “easy” and “beautiful” labor with her doom and gloom predictions of a necessary C-section, and after an embarrassing explosion of tears in the elevator, complete with requisite strangers totally staring and yet somehow awkwardly avoiding eye-contact, I sat in my car in shock for a full 10 minutes. And cried. Then, realizing that this was costing me $1000 per minute in doctor’s office parking fees, I started my car, stopped crying, and did the only thing that someone like me could do in this situation… began planning.

After talking to my OB, I got a bit more hopeful. She was optimistic (although I am pretty sure that she cursed when she heard that the baby was now breech.) She had a plan. And once I had a list of things to do, I began to feel better.  I went to prenatal chiropractor, who opened my hips to make my pelvis more “inviting”. I stacked up pillows and lay inverted while I watched “Breaking Bad”. I burned incense at my pinky toes for 10 minutes to encourage movement. I talked to my baby and asked him to please turn around. Then I yelled at my baby and demanded he turn around. Then I felt guilty and apologized to my baby for yelling and gently told him that he could do what he thought was right, but I would really appreciate it if he could please, please turn around. But most importantly, I started to get right with the idea that I may have to have a C-section, or I may not. But no matter what, nothing was going to go as planned and maybe, possibly, potentially, that was ok.

And then somehow… it all worked.

He is now head down where he is supposed to be and I am tentatively excited. I don’t know what will happen now. He is small and still moving more than he should be, so there is potential that he could flip again. The doctor thinks she may have to induce next week. Or that I will possibly go into labor naturally any time now (2 weeks early). Or that he might continue to surprise us all, and hang out just a little bit longer. The only thing I know is that I can’t plan on anything anymore. And maybe, possibly, potentially it will all be ok anyway.

Alright, now I’ve gotta run. I have birth announcements and first birthdays and preschool and college and weddings to start planning for.

photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography via photopin cc

Jul 092013
 

I’ve been off bed rest for a couple of weeks now, and the one thing that has struck me is that:

1) Bed rest sucks. It’s not restful, it’s stressful.

2) It really makes you appreciate the little things that you usually take for granted, or even complain about.

Ok, so that was two things. Forgive me, apparently my brain is still “resting.”

One of the hardest things about bed rest was not being able to do the little, every day things that I usually do, like taking my daughter to school, going grocery shopping, making dinner, and simply cleaning up the house. Yes, I missed doing those little, annoying “chores” that I usually complain about. I guess, really, I missed being busy and feeling efficient about getting those things done. Once you took away my ability to do almost everything but lie in bed and watch TV, I discovered how many “little” things I accomplish every day. Most importantly, I discovered the simple pride I feel in making sure our household runs smoothly. Coming from someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy, nor is very good at, cooking, cleaning and other domestic duties, I never would have guessed the pride I feel in accomplishing these simple tasks. Hell, I have sign in my kitchen that proclaims, “The Queen Does Not Cook” if that tells you much about my domesticity.

Of course, the thing I missed most was spending quality time with my daughter. Most of the days that I was on bed rest, I shipped her off to daycare.  And, home alone by myself, the house felt eerily calm and quiet. I truly missed her noise, her commotion, her unstoppable energy. I missed carrying her around on my hip, chasing her in the grass, and playing with her on the playground.  I missed her mess. I even missed her temper tantrums. (I think I must have been hallucinating out of boredom). Yes, I missed all the things that usually wear on me after a few hours in her presence. I missed the things that usually cause me to daydream about spending a day in bed, watching TV. Instead, I laid in bed, daydreaming about her mischievous smile.

And then, after a short time in the scheme of things, I was off bed rest. I had to take it easy, of course, but I no longer was confined to a horizontal position.

The first day off bed rest, I looked at all of these daily “chores” in a whole new light.  Even though I had to take things slowly (and still do) I was thrilled to just get out of bed, make coffee and throw a load of laundry in the washing machine. I was happy to walk around the house and tidy up, take a nice long shower without rushing to get back to bed, and to finally go grocery shopping.

In the mornings, my husband and I usually take turns on waking up with my daughter and feeding her breakfast, while the other gets to sleep in a bit a later.  Normally, I look forward to my mornings “off” and that extra bit of sleep in the AM.  But the first day off of bed rest, I sprang up (gently) at the first sound she made, and the smile on her face when I came into her room to pick her up was pure magic. We read a couple of books and then chatted over frozen waffles. It was heaven. There’s no way that an extra hour of sleep could compete with that. When I picked her up out of bed and carried her into the kitchen, for the first time in a few weeks, she smiled and hugged me tightly and said, “Mommy can carry me?  Mommy not sick?!” Tears ran down my face as I squeezed her, maybe a little too hard, and said, “No honey. Mommy is not sick.”

But, much like the appreciation one has for one’s health after being sick for a few days, slowly my appreciation for the simple tasks of life has already started to slip away. I already find myself wishing for five more minutes of sleep, fretting over what to cook for dinner, and groaning about the dirty laundry that needs to be washed and the floors that need to be swept. My daily tasks are starting to become chores again.

My hope is that I can hold on to a little piece of the love for everyday life that I felt when I first came off of bed rest.  I hope I can always feel a rush of pleasure at waking up with my daughter in the morning, walking her home from school while chatting about her day, or lifting her up to put her the on monkey bars. I hope that I can remember to feel pride in keeping my household running seamlessly – ok, well maybe not “seamlessly”, but at least keeping it sputtering along. I hope that I can continue to remind myself that the little things really are the big things in life. And most of all, I hope that I can remember this every day, not simply when it has been taken away from me.

 

No cleaning allowed. Every woman's dream, right??

No cleaning allowed. Every woman’s dream, right??

 

No entry for big-haired cleaning ladies

Jun 282013
 

Hello Stranger. It’s been a while since we talked. My last post I got all personal with you, possibly even worrying you, and then I never called. I never wrote. I never even texted. For that, I am sorry. But believe me when I say that it’s not you, it’s me.

You see, my fears and frustrations were all I could think about for a while. I needed a release. I needed to talk about these fears and frustrations, and you were just the right person to listen. You were sympathetic, kind, concerned and non-judgy. But in the time following, those fears and frustrations became all I could think about.  And they occupied so much space in my brain and in my life that, after a while, I just didn’t want to give them any more space. To be honest, I was just so damn tired of talking about them. But because they occupied so much space in my brain, I didn’t have anything else to talk about. So, I stopped talking.

But now, things are good. I am off bed rest and slowly returning to normal life.  Thank you to everyone who reached out to me to show their support and concern and to share their own stories. I appreciate it more than you know. Even if I got tired of talking about it.

Stay tuned next week for more of my talking…

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.

May 232013
 

In case you hadn’t noticed by my last slightly bitter post, I have been feeling just a wee bit self-conscious about my body lately.  I think that some people assume that as soon as you become pregnant, it is a free-for-all food fest and all body worries go out the window.  They assume that every pregnant woman eats ice cream all day, without worrying about the effect that it has on her body, both in the present and in the future. Oh, how I wish that were true. While pregnancy does change your eating habits, and let’s face it, some of us do spend the day eating ice cream, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have the same body guilt, and even shame, that we felt pre-pregnancy. You eat more and crave more of certain kinds of foods while you are pregnant, not just because you are entitled to “gain all the weight you want”, but because your body is not-so-subtly demanding a double-meat, double-cheeseburger with a side of M&Ms in a way that most people are unaccustomed to. A pregnant woman’s hunger is similar to a twenty-two year old man’s sex drive:  it will not be ignored, despite all logic and good sense.

So your body is telling you one thing (ie. eat that tub of Crisco. Now!) and your mind is telling you another (ie. Control yourself and eat a salad instead, fatty!).  Sometimes you listen to your mind and sometimes you listen to your body, but even when you listen to your body, it’s tough to totally shut out the negativity of the mind.

But, as the weeks go by and my baby bump grows, so does my self-confidence.  I am finally starting to find my pregnancy groove.  The irrational hungry monster inside my head is slowly settling to a dull roar, and I am becoming able to control it. I finally have enough energy to exercise on a more consistant basis. My belly is beginning to look more like a baby bump rather than a jelly roll, so I am finally starting to pull out the tighter shirts that highlight my belly, instead of shamefully hiding it under baggy clothes like an unwed Mormon. My hips and thighs might be wider than usual, but a nice, round belly makes everything else look skinnier. My ass might be twice its usual size, but hey, so are my boobs.  Finally, I am starting to accept, if not totally appreciate, my lovely (pregnant) lady lumps.

That’s not say that I have shed my all body hang-ups just yet.  I have my good days and my bad days, just like I did pre-pregnancy. Buying a couple of new, flattering maternity outfits has helped. And on a good day, with just the right lighting and a bit of make-up and some high heels, I feel almost like myself again. Like myself with just a little something extra. So yes, maybe I am chubbier, bumpier, lumpier and cellulitier (yes, I just made that word up) than I was, but there are two of in here now… and that means two of us to answer to if you even think of asking me how much weight I have gained so far.

 

 

Feb 252013
 

A couple of months ago my husband and I had a fight.  Not simply a disagreement. Not an argument. Not even a simple, clean fight.  We had a knockdown, drag-out, say-things-you-will-regret-later kind of fight.  It was an experience that rarely happens, and I am going to do my best to make sure that it never happens again.

The details of what we argued about don’t really matter, but here’s the gist:  he said something that pissed me off and I totally over-reacted (as usual), got defensive (per normal), and got angry (yep, again normal. Sigh.) Again, the details of what he said that triggered all of this don’t really matter, but what I came to realize throughout that very long night is that: truly, it’s not him, it’s me.

I got so upset because something he said touched a very deep vein of insecurity in me. Nearly everyone I know has their insecurities, and I am no exception. I am insecure about many things: the size of my thighs, the shape of my breasts, the nasally sound of my voice. Insecurity is not a new thing to me. But lately I have added a new insecurity to the list. This insecurity has shaken me to my very core, because that is what I am insecure about – My very core.  Not my thighs or my breasts or my belly or my laugh. I am insecure about Me. Mostly because I don’t know who Me is anymore.

Since becoming a mom, I have struggled to define myself outside of that title.  I used to be many things – A writer, a producer, a loving wife, a best friend, a dirty-joke-teller, a great secret-keeper, a full-time foodie and wino, a sometime hip-hop dancer. But when my daughter was born, a new me was born too, and now I often feel as though I have been stripped down to a single thing: Lyla’s mommy.   Believe me, Lyla’s mommy is really great thing to be, but sometimes I feel as though it is just not enough.

Perhaps it is my fault. Since having a baby, I quit my full-time job and now freelance part-time. I have given up most of my hobbies. I see much less of my friends. But these are all choices that I made, and I am not sure that I would make them any differently. My most rewarding job is my daughter. She is also my favorite hobby and my best friend. And that is beautiful. But yet, I still feel lost sometimes.

I used to be full of stories and jokes and opinions.  Now, I often find myself struggling for interesting things to talk about at dinner parties.  My clever anecdotes about potty training, and hilarious stories of Mommy and Me shenanigans can only take me so far.

I used to have an exciting job.  Something I worked very hard at and was very proud of.  Now, when people ask me what I do, I  come up with some sort of vague answer about how I kinda stay home with my daughter and sort of work part-time from home.  It’s as though I feel like neither job is good or exciting enough to warrant anyone’s curiosity.  Instead I steer the conversation towards my husband or a friend or someone whose life is more worthy of examination.

I used to love getting dressed up, carefully planning each outfit the day before. Now, I spend my days in yoga pants and hoodies.  I sometimes go for days without putting on make-up or even washing my hair. This is probably because I can often go For days without seeing another adult besides my husband and the cashier at Trader Joe’s.

Time passes. There are wonderful days and boring days and tough days. My daughter grows bigger and sometimes I feel as though I am growing smaller.  I get further and further away from the person I used to be,  but somehow I don’t get much closer to discovering the person I am now.

Although my fight with my husband was awful, something good came out of it.  It forced me to take a hard look at myself and realize that I need to make some changes.  I need a Mommy Make-over, and not the kind that requires a nip and tuck, or even a new hair-cut. I realized that I need to take care of my newborn self the way that I took care of my newborn daughter.  I need to love and nurture myself, and every once in a while, to put my own needs at the top of the list.

I know that it is February, and now is when people are breaking their New Year’s resolutions, not making them, but I think that any positive change can happen any time you decide to make it happen.  So this year my resolution is this: I am going to spend a lot less time thinking about who I used to be or who I should be, and spend a lot more time discovering who I am.  Who I really am. Right at this moment.  Not the “new and improved, healthier, skinnier, friendlier, better wife, better mother” me.  But just me. Right now. What I REALLY enjoy doing.  What REALLY makes me happy.  Then I am going to spend a lot less time thinking about it, and a lot more time actually doing it. And hopefully once day, when I am old and grey and I have time to think about these things, I will discover that I have always known who I am.  And it has nothing to do with any job I held, or clothes that I wore, or hobby I perfected.  Perhaps it is some complicated equation that has to do with the people I love, added to the experiences I have had, multiplied by the laughs I have shared.   But I haven’t quite figured that out yet.  So for now, I’m going to try to think less and live more.  Talk to me when I’m 80.  By then I should have it all figured out.  Maybe.

 

Travel makes me happy!

Travel makes me happy!

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

Jan 232013
 

Today has been a tough day. Not as tough a day as many people around the world are having – fighting illness, war, abuse, hunger, poverty, and the inability to use the correct there/their/they’re – but more of a day full of annoyances and frustrations. Minor in terms of the scope of problems that I just mentioned, but that knowledge doesn’t make me feel less frustrated.  And I am trying not to feel guilty about that.  Sometimes we just need to feel frustrated.  To give into to it for a minute before we can get over it.  So I am.

My daughter hasn’t been feeling well for the past few days.  She has had a fever and has been waking up through the past few nights, which then causes her to be cranky during the following days because she is tired.  So I have gotten little more than a couple of hours of restless sleep for the past few nights, which has led to me also being cranky during the day.  So when my daughter has total meltdowns because I won’t allow her to put a plastic bag over her head, or she throws the lotion on the floor-causing it to explode all over the carpet, or when she smacks me the face with the force of a miniature prize-fighter, my own exhaustion and crankiness cause me to want to have a total meltdown.  What can I throw?  Who can I smack in the face?

Here’s the thing though.  It will pass.  One night soon (please God, please) she will feel better and get a good night of sleep.  And then so will I.  And life will be good again… until it’s not.  That’s the way parenting goes.  It is tough. It is wonderful. Often both at the same time.

So, I am not writing this post to ask for advice on how to get through this.  And I am certainly not writing this post to give advice on how to get through a similar situation.  I am simply writing this to remind everyone that Tough happens.  It happens to the best of us.  And to the not-even-close-to-the-best-of-us.   It happens in big problems and small annoyances. And sometimes we let our frustrations get the best of us.  Sometimes we even throw things or have meltdowns. And sometimes that’s ok… as long as you are not at work.  Or at a restaurant with tablecloths.  Or the grocery store.  Or on public transportation.  Or really anywhere in public if you can help it.

Image

I am woman, hear me roar!!! (in the privacy of my own home, of course.)

photo credit: Darwin Bell via photopin cc

Dec 122012
 
Whoever made up the phrase "sleep like a baby" obviously never had one!

Whoever made up the phrase “sleep like a baby” obviously never had one!

Sometimes I get insomnia. I have always had trouble sleeping, even as a kid, although back then my insomnia dressed itself up as an imaginary friend who would keep me up at nights, pacing around my room and asking tough questions like, “What do you think happens when you die?” and, “Why does Santa hide all the Christmas presents in your parents’ closet?” I guess I had more of an imaginary Barbara Walters. Anyway, the point is that I have always had trouble sleeping, but it has only gotten worse as time goes on. I guess because as I got older, I discovered more things to worry about. (Though I am still up most nights trying to figure out why Santa hid all the Christmas presents in my parents closet!)

Then once I had a child, a solid night of sleep became a distant memory. Now there are numerous lists to make, hundreds of things to prepare for, and gazillions of irrational fears to worry about. It is a wonder that I am not a total zombie. However if you are reading this and there is something that I forgot to do for you or there is something that I did to otherwise piss you off… it’s because I am a zombie.

The past week or so, I have had another bout of insomnia. I either go to bed early, hoping to catch up a bit on sleep, or I stay up late, afraid to even try to fall asleep. Either way, the result is the same:  toss and turn for a few hours, move to the couch, toss and turn, move to the guest bedroom, toss and turn, until finally I drift off into a fitful sleep a few hours before it is time to wake up.  Last night I tried the stay-up late technique. Instead I watched The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Bad idea. You should never watch anything so frightening before trying to sleep. Finally I crawled into bed, exhausted, only to spend another couple of hours tossing and turning, before finally managing to fall asleep around 2:15 am.

Then my daughter woke up crying at 2:30 am.

My daughter is a pretty good sleeper. If she wakes up in the middle of the night, normally all it takes is a little pat on the back and kiss on the forehead, and she is back to dreamland and I am back to sleep and/or tossing/turning/worrying. Last night, however, I gave her a pat and a kiss and then stumbled back to bed, but she did not fall blissfully back to sleep. Instead she cried until I went back into her room. After trying this a few more times with the same result, I decided that perhaps she had insomnia too. I hope that she never has insomnia the way that I do, but sometimes it amazes me how in sync the two of us can be. So, I covered myself up with her little quilt and laid down next to her crib.

She would close her eyes for a few minutes, then peek her head up to make sure that I was still there, smiling at me before putting her head down again. After a while I saw a sweet, chubby, little hand poke through the bars of her crib. So I took it. We held hands like that until she finally drifted off to sleep. And then, amazingly, I did too. I slept for an hour there. The most solid hour of sleep that I have had all week, right there on the cold, hard floor, with my daughter’s soft, warm hand in mine. I finally woke up and went back to my bed. Of course I had a hard time falling asleep again, but this time because I was happy, not worried or stressed.  And I woke up this morning tired, but with a new clarity.

I think that this is exactly what parenting is all about:  Holding your little one’s hands, and then only later realizing that maybe it is they who were really holding your hand.
photo credit: thejbird via photopin cc

Nov 142012
 

Babies are the new black.  Seriously, babies are so hot right now.  Everywhere you look (as long as, like me, the only place you get your information is from trashy magazines) celebrities are showing off their cute little baby bumps, parading their children around in tiny clothes that cost ten times what my adult-sized clothes cost, and flaunting their ridiculous baby names (I’m looking at you Uma Thurman!)  But the most annoying thing that celebrity mommies are flaunting these days:  their skinny, toned, stretch-mark free post-baby bodies…just weeks after delivering.  What’s even more annoying is that when questioned about this crime against nature, most of them say that the “weight just came off” or all they did was “breastfeed.”  Seriously?!  If breastfeeding got me abs like Miranda Kerr or an ass like Gisele, I would breastfeed my daughter through college.

Did breastfeeding do this? I think not.

Alas, for us mere mortals, this is not the reality.  No, my baby weight didn’t exactly fall off as easily as a celebutante’s undies.  And while breastfeeding allegedly burns 500 extra calories per day, when I was breastfeeding I was ravenously hungry and still eating for two:  One for me, and one for an entire football team.  I must admit that looking at celebrities like Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Heidi Klum and Kristen Cavallari (I use the word celebrity loosely) who looked beyond amazing right after having their babies made me feel bad about myself.  I would huff and puff my way through 45 torturous minutes on the elliptical, followed by round after round of lunges and sit-ups, and then look at myself in the mirror hoping to see some instant, radical change.  Hoping that I would like what I saw again.  Then I would dejectedly look down at my saddle bags and pinch my still flabby tummy and wonder what I was doing wrong.  Why was it taking it me so long to get my body back?  Why don’t I look like those celebrities?

Then one day it came to me:  What I was doing wrong was simply not being a celebrity. I wasn’t devoting my life to my figure. I wasn’t working out 4 hours a day, 7 days a week with a $500/hr celebrity trainer. I didn’t have a personal chef or nutritionist or even a meal delivery service. I never looked like a supermodel in the first place.  And all of this is ok because looking good isn’t my job. I don’t have a movie to get in shape for or a modeling gig to slim down for.  I don’t have paparazzi chasing me and magazines pointing out my every flaw. The world isn’t watching my every move, hoping that I will fail. Hoping that I, too, will have cellulite and stretch marks. And thank god for that.  If they were, than I would sure as hell be shelling out for the personal trainer and delivery meals.

I was looking at it all the wrong way. Instead of feeling jealous of how quickly these celebrities were able to whip their bodies back in shape, I should be feeling sorry for them for having to whip their bodies back into shape so quickly.  Now, I know that it is hard to pity a rich, beautiful, famous movie star, but don’t forget that they are moms too. Imagine how stressful it would be if you had 6 weeks to lose the baby weight before your next movie.  Imagine if, on top of having a new baby, you also had to spend hours and hours working out each day because that is your job. Imagine if paparazzi stalked your every move, trying to get an unflattering photo.  Imagine if, a few months after having a baby, people called you the real F word. The worst thing a celebrity, or most women for that matter, can be called: Fat. And not just behind your back, or even to your face, but proclaimed on TV shows and splashed across magazine covers.  I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy… or even that bitchy, high-and-mighty mom at the baby music class. Well, maybe her.

Us non-celebrities have the luxury of taking the weight off slowly, or maybe not at all.  We have the luxury of exercising when we can, and resting when we can’t.  Of wearing yoga pants and baggy T-shirts day in and day out.  Of eating an entire box of cereal when you can’t sleep after waking up to feed your baby at 3 am (hypothetically.)  We have these luxuries because we live in the real world.  And in the real world, no one would dream of telling you that 6 months is too long to take off the baby weight.  In the real world, no one calls a new mom the F word. And if they do, then F them.

So ladies, give yourself a break if you don’t lose the baby weight, immediately or ever. In the real world these things take time. Stop comparing yourself to models and movie stars or anyone else for that matter.  Every woman has different goals, needs and obstacles. Aim to live healthfully and to feel good about yourself. And please stop using the F word! Don’t use the word “fat” when talking about someone else, and most definitely don’t use it when talking about yourself.  But feel free to use the word Fuck all you want. It’s fucking fun.

Annoying or inspiring?

Here’s an idea: When you see a movie star’s kick-ass post-baby body, let it inspire you instead of shame you. Think of it this way – apparently it really is possible to look completely amazing after having a baby! If I had a trainer/nutritionist/dietician/stopped eating/sold my soul to the devil perhaps I could look that amazing too. But in the meantime, stop letting their amazing bodies make you feel bad about your own. Have I gotten there yet?  Not totally. But I am working hard to stop comparing myself to anyone else, especially movie stars and supermodels.  However, I refuse to stop making fun of their odd baby name choices.  Hey, I’m no saint, and Alicia Silverstone is asking for it by naming an innocent child Bear Blu.

And for the record, I worked my ass off (literally) and I did lose the baby weight. I don’t look like Gisele or Jessica Alba, or even Jessica Simpson for that matter, but I do look like a pretty damn good version of myself. Now, most days I feel happy with the way I look, and on the days that I don’t, there’s always Spanx. Just ask any celebrity.