Old News: Past Blog Posts

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Expletive (not) Deleted


Somewhere in the last 11 days, I failed in the one job I have right now: keeping my little guys safe and healthy.

Maybe it was one hand washing too few on my part, or maybe I wasn't aggressive enough in micro-managing the hand washing or perfect health of visitors, or maybe it was the family gathering on a public patio where I felt simultaneously too obligated to attend and too clingy to leave the little man behind.  Maybe I should have kept him hidden safely under my nursing cover longer, guarded him more closely or left sooner. Maybe I should have been less passive-aggressive and more aggressive-aggressive in chasing off that lady who stuck her nosey face in his pumpkin seat.  

Maybe it was all just dumb, dumb, dumb luck.

The doctors tell us that it has nothing to do with anything we did or didn't do.

Regardless, I am certain I will spend the rest of my living days convinced that it all could've been prevented.  

By me.

Because mom guilt is a very real thing. It is palpable and it is terminal.  See, it will almost certainly cause the premature and tragic death of your previous rational self.  What remains is a sputtering, skittish, guilt-rattled version of your pre-child persona. 

Maternal mental health issues aside, here are the facts:

Over the past few days, somewhere, somehow, (I will not agonize over when and where...ok, yes I will) a nasty little virus ('enterovirus') invaded the tiny and defenseless body of my five-pound preemie.  Now the membranes housing his precious little nervous system are inflamed, angry, and reeking havoc on the rest of his pint-sized moving parts.

He's been admitted to the pediatric ICU, intubated, poked, prodded, probed, and sedated. 

He now looks less like my darling baby and more like a doll used to demonstrate medical gadgets and procedures.

There's an IV in each foot, around 4,000 leads plastered to his chest, a g-tube in his nose, and ventilator emerging from his mouth.  

Apologies to my father, who believes I already curse too much on my blog.  But there are just no other sufficient words:

Shit.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Five Things a New Mom Doesn't Want to Hear



1. You look tired. Well, I'll just say it: duh. Of course we look tired.  You try sleeping with a baby alarm pre-set to disrupt your sleep every two hours.  Those things are totally relentless.  Tired is a given.  Therefore, I feel this statement needs to be said with the same regularity as: 'Oh look! You have a nose!' 

Here's the other thing; everyone knows that 'tired' is really code for 'terrible' and no one really wants to be told they look terrible.  Not now, not ever.

2. You look great* That's right, you can't win in this department.  I recommend just veering completely away from commenting on our looks.  In fact, why don't you just promise to avert your gaze completely and save your comments for the baby?

See, we know we don't look great.  We have mirrors.  Most of us are still at least 20 pounds overweight, carrying the majority in our middle region (that includes belly, hips, and butt).  And remember the 'tired' comment?  We're talking baggy, puffy eyes that even the best concealer couldn't handle -- but who has time for concealer anyways?  Our clothes don't fit right (maternity or otherwise) and odds are we spent more time today dressing the kid than we did dressing ourselves anyways.  

So don't patronize us.  

The only exception here is for those freaky women who only gain ten pounds and shrink back into their size 2 pants after a month.  But those bitches might only exist on the covers of magazines and even then it's airbrushed.


BTW: Big kudos to the Duchess of Cambridge for proudly sporting her post-baby bump to the world. 



3. Unsolicited advice of any kind.  Let's make a deal here, you don't tell me how to raise my kid and I won't tell you what car to drive, house to buy, career path to choose, or spouse to marry.  It's freaky enough to be suddenly responsible for a helpless tiny person without everyone suddenly chiming in with how you're supposed to execute the endeavor.  Plus it's often condescending and useless information anyways.

There are two exceptions.  

A) Your advice is directly requested.  This includes board-certified/licensed pediatric medical professionals whom my insurance company and I are paying specifically for said advice.  Pretty sure that's not you, Target checkout lady!  

B) If you witness something actually harmful being done to the baby/kiddo, like abuse or not vaccinating (couldn't resist...)

4.  Any bragging or one-upping about your miracle child.  The last thing a sleep-deprived new mom wants to hear is about how your angel slept for eight hours the night you brought him/her home.  This also goes for the 'who has it worse' game. Don't get caught up in that mess.  

News flash: you don't get an actual award for being the first back in your skinny jeans or for having to stay up 36 hours straight with a gassy newborn.  Once you start trying to prove you have/had it worse or better than the next new-mom/dad you've officially moved into d-bag territory and honestly, nobody wants that.

5.  You think it's bad now? Just wait until...
Let us at least *think* there's a light at the end of the relentless baby-alarm tunnel.  We know our babies will eventually become stubborn toddlers and later ornery teenagers, but we don't need you raining on our post-partum parade in order to point that out. It's like telling someone that the shiny new car they just spent nine months saving for will eventually start refusing to take gas and later quit wanting to be seen with you in public.  Plus, statements like that make you look like an ungrateful and overly pessimistic parent, and ultimately land you over there in d-bag territory with the one-uppers.  



*NOTE: please don't be offended if you have payed me what you believe to be a sincere compliment recently.  I am not trying to be ungrateful, just making general statements about how us new-moms tend to feel about ourselves in the first few weeks.  I will feel better about the compliments in 6 months when I (hopefully) do look good enough to justify a compliment.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Netflix, Tibetan Monks, and Parenting



'The Tibetan monks make [mandalas] out of dyed sand laid out into big, beautiful designs. And when they’re done, after days or weeks of work, they wipe it all away. Try to look at your experience here as a mandala, Chapman. Work hard to make something as meaningful and beautiful as you can. And when you’re done, pack it in and know it was all temporary. You have to remember that. It’s all temporary. Surviving here is all about perspective.'

-Yoga Jones
Orange Is The New Black 
Episode 1.01



Orange Is The New Black: it's the reason for my recent blogosphere absence... Well, that and the whole new baby thing.  If you didn't already know, or let's say you're an idiot, this infant thing is exponentially harder when also chasing a toddler around the house.  

Anyways, if you have access to streaming Netflix, waste no further time reading this entry.  Grab some snacks, find this show (Netflix original series, just released) and go ahead and kill the rest of the day watching it.  You have my permission.  I'll even write you a (PT) doctor's note if necessary. 

Oh, you're still here?  Well, I will do my best to comfort you in your time away from the television.  

That's a lie. Instead I will lecture those of you who aren't willing to spend eight bucks a month on what I am beginning to think of as a household necessity.  Those geniuses over at Netflix even give you a 30 day free trial.  I can only assume the marketing department is chalk full of ex-drug dealers (the first one's free!). It's not at all a wonder that these people have single-handedly taken out the business of video rental.  RIP Blockbuster!

And don't you dare tell me that you 'don't watch TV'.  People who say that are either assholes, liars, or both.  
 
Now, I will go ahead and assume it's been three days and you're just now coming up for air and human contact, returned to this post and are dying to get my take on the show.

I won't get into too many specifics about this show (created by the creator of Weeds...who apparently has a thing for strong female characters living outside the law) other than to comment on it's sheer brilliance at times, especially in it's writing.  The quote I posted above about everything being temporary hit me like a Mack Truck and resonated so perfectly that I had to transcribe it, commit it to memory, and spend an hour yammering on about it to you fine folks.  

I tell ya, it's nearly enough to send me traipsing into the Himalayas to hang with the monks and get my life figured out.  Or maybe the first part of that quote is BS and the people I really need to see are the writers over at Orange Is The New Black.

Whatever the case, it got me thinking about how all of life's moments are so very brief and fleeting.  Next to death and taxes, it may be the only thing you can really count on in this world.

These sleepless nights?  They'll be a distant memory in a year.  

The crazy unfocused and (I swear!) skeptical glances I get from little man #2?  They'll soon morph into bright smiles and the toddler giggles I can't seem to get enough of.  

Being trapped on my couch by paralyzing fear of the logistics necessary for transporting two fragile, non-ambulatory and non-verbal little people without backup?  Well, that business will pass eventually as well.

The chipmunk squeals and chirps of my littlest guy?  Soon enough, they'll become babbles and crocodile tears reserved for use in response to the word 'no'.

The seemingly endless pumping and nursing?  Even that will end.  
(And boy will those extra calories be missed!)

Like those crazy Tibetan monks, I know I should work hard to make these days as beautiful and meaningful as possible even though these delicate moments are only temporary.  It's hard to remember that goal when half the day is passed chasing and feeding and entertaining and cleaning before I realize I should maybe get dressed.   

The challenges of this crazy life we've chosen are all just temporary stepping stones to the next thing...which will disappear just as quickly.  

Thanks Netflix.  Your wisdom has brought me new prospective, wisdom, and countless hours of round the clock entertainment during this elastic pants, sleep-deprived, hermit-period of mommy-hood.   


Monday, July 22, 2013

A Contract With Myself


I acknowledge that my children are many things.  They are a joy, a wonder, a challenge, a mystery, smelly, messy, my world, and my top priority. 

They are not an excuse.

I acknowledge that I am a happier, healthier, more energetic person when I spend quality time boosting my heart rate and kicking up some endorphins.

I acknowledge that being happy, healthy, and energetic makes me a better mommy.

I acknowledge that the dishes, the laundry, the weeds in the garden, and the Real Housewives aren't going anywhere.  They will all still be there after a good 30-60 minute sweat-fest. 

I acknowledge that I want to raise health-conscious, disciplined, competent and ambitious individuals and they will need role models.  

I pledge that I will find a way to be that role model.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Why I cried.

We got our discharge orders.
I called my husband.
I went down to the hospital cafeteria.
I sat down.
And I started crying.


Why?

-My new mom hormones crave a good cry, like 100% of the time.

-For all the women whose babies  were born as angels and left the hospital alone.

-Because I'm tired and anxious.

-Because I'm not ready.

-Because I can't wait.  

-For my parents who give me nothing but unconditional love and support and I somehow keep acting like an ungrateful 14-year-old.

-Because the doctors and nurses have been so full of kindness, compassion, and comfort and I don't know how I could ever thank them for that.

-For my sons who will never know how beautiful they are in my eyes. 

-Because I know my boys will someday treat me poorly (they will eventually become teenagers, right?) and I will love them anyways. 

-Because the hospital photographer set my little one's pictures up on a slideshow with sappy music and quotes (that sneaky bitch!)

-Because I don't know what I'm doing.

-Because I just don't have enough space for all these heavy emotions and maybe tears will free up some room for something else.





Friday, July 19, 2013

Man plans, God laughs

Two really exciting things happened this morning which reminded me of a phrase I first heard 16 months ago, after the birth of my first son:

Man plans, God laughs.

It's so relevant to my life at this point that I think I might have it carved as my epitaph.

The first really exciting thing was that I received a phone call from a good friend of mine reporting that she had just had her baby.  The second (even more) exciting thing was learned that my littlest boy will come home for the very first time tomorrow.

(Eek!!)

These two things happened in a timespan of approximately 30 seconds.

And now, you couldn't pry this grin off my face with a crowbar.  

But please don't try.

These two events also solidify my suspicion that God (or whatever entity is actually in charge up there) sits around chuckling at us mere mortals and our grand plans.  

In the case of my friend, she had carefully planned to deliver her little one in the comfort of her home aided by a midwife, a doula, and her husband.  She had even rented a tub in anticipation of a good old-fashioned water birth (and endured my insensitive taunts about swimming with her placenta).

Instead, she called me this morning from her hospital room to report the happy arrival of her son via c-section following 40 brutal hours of labor. 

Our case was quite different, but no less a deviation from the master plan.  My husband and I spent seven months congratulating ourselves on conceiving our first child with such precision that he was scheduled to arrive the week before summer vacation at the school where my husband teaches.

He arrived instead the first day of spring break.  

Apparently someone didn't read the memo correctly.

Eight months later, my menstrual cycle returned with a vengeance after a 15 months hiatus.  Let me just say that it was brutal. Apparently, the vengeful bitch had spent that entire time 'off' plotting to kill me.  As the days stretched out following her initial attack and Aunt Flo had not returned to inflict more abuse, I began to worry about our *lack* of planning.  

Sure enough, I was pregnant again.  

Let that be a lesson for you kids out there: wrap it up.

I shouldn't have been surprised when things got complicated at around 21 weeks.  Turned out my cervix had competence issues and despite all sorts of valiant efforts (Procardia, progesterone and pessaries, oh my!) I ended up delivering my second son at 31 weeks and one day, just one day shy of the gestational age of little dude #1.  

One can only assume someone is handing out eviction notices in my uterus at 31 weeks, giving all fetuses no more than 48 hours to vacate the premises.

Today, after 24 days of giving the NICU nurses hell, my little man was cleared for takeoff into the big scary world five and a half weeks before his due date.  

Man plans
God laughs 
Woman gets to be mommy in spite of it all.

















Wednesday, July 17, 2013

'Someday Mom' Soapbox



Rewind eight or nine years. While building my MySpace profile (remember MySpace?) I arrived on a question about children. One of the drop-down joptions was 'someday'.  Presumably, now all those appealing potential Myspace suitors would have the knowledge that I didn't presently have excessive baggage, but was willing to consider acquiring some. 

I didn't really hesitate before choosing the 'someday' option. But I felt very certain that this was not something that would happen soon (I was a mere child at 22 or 23).  A couple years later, after breaking up with completely unsuitable boyfriend, a friend of mine (a guy, imagine that!) asked me if I wasn't now more concerned about my "ticking clock".  

SIDENOTE: who the hell decided that women's genitals come equipped with a timepiece similar to a time-sensitive explosive?  The analogy brings to mind the image of a sweaty SWAT team member hunched between a women's legs agonizing over whether to clip the red or the blue wire to disable her ticking clock and avoid a devastating blast of hormones and unrealized dreams of motherhood.

Ridiculous.  

As for my concerned friend?  There was no hesitation before laughing his face.  I was barely 25 and light years away from considering stashing my eggs in a freezer.  And, I most certainly wasn't going to waste my time dating a jackass just so I could procreate.  

Being a mom with something that was always seem to be in the vague and distant future.

Even once I was married and my close friends begin to have children, being a mom still didn't seem like something that needed to be addressed immediately. If it weren't for my schedule-conscious husband who didn't want college tuitions to disturb his planned retirement date, I would probably still be childless and perfectly happy.

Oh, snap.  Did a mother just admit that life would still be worth living if she'd not had babies?  

Don't get me wrong, now that I actually *have* children, I have zero intentions of giving them away and would be devastated if they were suddenly gone.  I'm only saying that had the opportunity passed me by, I would have surly found other ways to feel fulfilled.  

So there's me: a woman who happily admits that life could be satisfying and enriched with or without small people who initially lack bowel control.  And then there's also crazy people on both side of the baby-producing fence.  

I once read a really beautiful blog entry about mothering a first, second and third child (Glenon Melton, follow her  -- you won't regret it)  Buried in the comments section, I stumbled upon this:

'I made sure that I will never be the biological father of a child. there  are far too many people in this finite world already. if I get the feeling  that I need to be a teacher, I will teach. otherwise, I would say,  having children just to increase YOUR quality of life is a little* selfish.

*a lot.'

NOTE: Nowhere in the blog entry, does it state or even imply that Ms Melton had children for the express purpose of increasing her quality of life.  

In the book I'm reading (Sisterland, a pretty great read so far and set in good ol' St Louis! what what!), the protagonist's sister makes the claim that, "children are nothing but a problem people create then congratulate themselves on solving".   

On the other side of the baby-fence, we find an un-ending war waging, Game of Thrones-style between the following camps:  SAHMs vs working moms, vaccinate vs morons (guess which side I fight for?), organic food vs convenience, private vs public schools, breast vs formula, cloth vs disposable....the list is literally endless.  

So apparently we can't all comfortably appreciate the virtues of *both* parenting and living a diaper-free life.  And even once we make the decision, we still find ourselves dodging all sorts of mud-slinging. 

I suppose some people feel the need to defend their life decisions to the death.  Certainly, I don't think that being a parent or being childless needs to define your character or your value.  Joy can be found on both sides.  I love my mom and dad friends just as much as my child-free friends.  The child-free ones are easier to nail down for a spontaneous drink on a weeknight and the mom-friends are better for commiserating over child-proofing and sleep-less nights.   

As for me, my "someday" has arrived and I am loving it.
Sorry Myspace bachelors.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Husband lottery winner: Part 2


It's been just over a week since my husband and parents talked me out of being a crazy person and (stupidly) trying to work while scrambling back and forth between #1 at home and #2 in the NICU.  Since that time, I've had a really unique opportunity to spend some real quality time with my cool little family.  Hubs is a band teacher and presently home for his brief summer 'break' between summer school and band camp (starts in a week!)  

Here's the thing about my husband: he does not do settle into idle speed very well.   If he's not actively engaged in some big project, he is strategizing for when and how to execute the next one.  

Here is a brief list of home improvement projects he has completed in the 4.5 years since buying our 'fixer upper'

1. Ripped up yucky wall-to-wall carpet.
2. Refinished lovely hardwood floors.

3. Added custom wainscoting to dining room.

4. Installed new light fixtures in front hallway, dining room, kitchen, and upstairs! hallway
5.  Installed a half bathroom in a under-staircase hallway.


6.  Added a firepit, gravel, and sitting area in the backyard
7.  Landscaped front and backyards by adding flower beds and electric landscape lights.

8.  Installed a gas fireplace with custom mantle/built in bookshelves in the living room (this was the only item he contracted out)

9. Replaced an ass-load of hideous wood paneling with drywall (this happened early on, I insisted it was either me or the wood paneling). 
10. Painted kitchen cabinets and installed new backsplash


Yup. Just a brief list.  I know there's stuff I've left off. 

See, some folks talk a big game when it comes to home improvement projects, my husband?  He gets sh*t done.

Which is precisely why he stresses me out.

Frankly, if I had it my way, I'd be one of those people sitting around talking a big game.  You would find my happy ass anchored to the couch, eyes glazed over and fixed on the DIY network, daydreaming of home improvements that would just never come to fruition.  

And the wood paneling would probably still be staring me in the face, pissing me off more each day.  

I love that he's a get 'er done kinda guy.  In fact, it's one of my favorite qualities about him.
Still, his plans and lists and trips to  Lowes pretty much give me endless anxiety.  

I believe it has something to do with my Meyers-Briggs personality type.  

See, probably the most useful thing we did before getting married was meet with a relationship counselor at our church.  She assessed our Meyers-Briggs types then laughed out loud and said, 'well this should be interesting'. 

Turns out, we are polar opposites in all categories.  

Well that's it, I figured, we were utterly doomed. Might as well call the florist, cancel the cake, and start composing an uncomfortable email to our 300 closest friends and family.  

Luckily, the counselor was more optimistic than that.  She said it would just be important that we were aware of these differences and that they could actually make our partnership stronger in some ways.

The Myers-Briggs category that I think is most relevant in the Project execution situation is the final category, J (judging) versus P (perceiving).  

That category has to do with the way that we approach our environment.  

In my case, I'm frankly not all that motivated until the day before a deadline.  This explains my unavoidable eight-year love affair with all-nighters during collage and grad school.

The hubs, on the other hand, needs life to be orderly and under control.  It's entirely possible his love affair with making lists surpasses his love affair with yours truly.  

Early babies be damned, my husband's summer plans to replace the decrepit and increasingly ineffective fence behind our house would not be deterred.  

Somehow, his extreme organization and motivation has allowed for him to make this fence project happen, in spite of the un-predictable arrival of our second inpatient child.  

Unbelievable.  

My P-type brain will never fully understand his J-type lifestyle choices.  But I love him for it -- and not just because he makes our home beautiful and gets the bills paid on time. 

I'm so grateful him and for this time we have together right now; Even though the past couple of days have been spent covered in dirt and sweat.  

Loving my good fortune.
Loving that I won the husband lottery and that I don't even have to pay taxes on my winnings :)





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