Old News: Past Blog Posts

Friday, August 30, 2013

Just when you think you don't suck at life.

Ever have one of those days when you feel like you're totally rocking it?  Like you woke up, grabbed life by the balls and and spent the rest of the day kicking ass all over town?  

Well, despite an award-winning lack of sleep two nights ago (sleep-sucking family drama, not awesome, not discussing it further), I was in serious ass-kicking mode.  The ultimate goal was to make it to our 1pm 'Nursery follow up' appointment to get Toddler Monkey checked out by the developmental psychologist.  

Which meant, I had to start plotting my strategy during the 5am Baby Monkey feed.   

I rocketed through a non-ideal 6 am wake up by Toddler Monkey, effectively coordinating meals and naps to accommodate what was predicted to be a three hour afternoon ordeal.  Dishes were done, clothes were folded, snacks were packed, milk was pumped, and I even muscled in a 15 minute power nap and a good scrub of that drain thingy in the dishwasher. There I go again, bragging about my outrageously glamorous lifestyle --how insensitive of me.

Next, I expertly juggled about 80 collective lbs of toddler, baby plus car seat, and diaper bag (to quote my grandfather, 'It's not the kids so much as the ground support gear') and even bulleted my way past a sadly obese father-son duo on my way into the children's hospital.  

In general, the appointment went just as well as I could have expected.  Watching the soft-spoken, somewhat squirrelly psychologist present my son with various tasks (while I bottle-feed the other guy), my thoughts swung wildly back and forth between believing my child to be a purely ingenious savant to visualizing him one day waving blankly at us from the back of a short bus. 

I also tried desperately to keep my big mouth shut and avoid being one of those parents ('Come on! You do that at home all the time!  Really sir, he stacks blocks at home all the time.  Just give him another shot, those blocks are really just too small...') and let the little guy do his thing, uninterrupted by an insane and unusually pushy cheerleader.  

To his credit, when he couldn't figure out how to accomplish a task, he would tactfully try to hand things off to me ('here mommy, open this jar please so I can have that Cheerio?' ... except it came out, 'dada??'). 

By the end, I was just happy to learn that my eldest child is comfortably 'Average'.  'Regular average' for his chronological age (17 months) and 'high average' for his adjusted age (15 months). 

I am looking forward to sending him to school on a regular-sized bus and posting a number of C+ papers to our refrigerator door.  

I'll take average.  

After a quick visit with a familiar neonatologist (wait, didn't I just see you at the NICU? Can't you just have a normal baby for once?), we were out of there in just under three hours.  Looking a little like the butch-er half of a lesbian modern family, I heaved my oversized load of offspring back through the sweltering heat and piled them securely into the tiny backseat of my husband's extended cab pickup truck.

Mission accomplished.

Or so I thought. 

Now, I might look like a competent diesel dyke driving around an F-150, but my attempt to pull into our drivewa while stealthily avoiding an oncoming car proved otherwise.

As I turned, I suddenly felt the truck hesitate and stall while simultaneously being bombarded by an awful crunching and scraping sound that could only mean one thing: I had run the passenger side of the truck across the front bumper of a tiny late-model Hyndai Elantra parked unobtrusively in front of my neighbor's house.

Go, fight...lose

To make matters even worse, Ready or Not Dad was standing in our neighbor's yard chatting with the neighbor...so there was an excellent audience, but sadly, no applause.  

Wait, it gets even worse.

Playing it totally cool (as if this was all part of my usual driving routine), my husband strolled over and surveyed the damage while also assessing the best way to untangle the two vehicles.  He quickly surmised the best course of action was to find the owner and ask them nicely to back the car up and out of the poorly planned path of what now felt like a monster truck. 

The owner turned out to be a rail-thin twenty-something hipster who got to wear skinny jeans, chucks, and an ironic t-shirt to her job at the trendy Internet marketing firm located at the end of our street.  

If she hasn't been so damn forgiving, I would have hated her and her razor-short haircut right from the start.  

She pleasantly backed her car out of my path of destruction and barely batted an eye when we observed how part of her bumper fell away as she did so.  

While engaging in the typical exchange of information, she offered to make photo copies of our insurance cards back at her office.   

If there's one thing that will bulldoze your ego faster than hitting a parked car, it's walking into a trendy office space filled with hipsters under the age of 25, ignoring you and clicking away on their space-age computers to an obscure Regina Spektor song and knowing they probably made twice your salary last year.  

I have never been more self conscious about my post-baby thighs, outlet mall running shoes and cotton stretch pants.  

So, there you have it folks.  That's how your day can take a 180 degree turn from ball-grabbing and ass-kicking to getting smacked upside the head with the reality of your terminally uncool and clumsy existence.  

Life: 1
Ready or Not Mom: 0

Better luck next time there Stretch Pants McGee...better luck next time.



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Excuses Are Like A$$holes

...everyone has one and they all stink.

Except my excuses.  Mine are two and 17 months old and...ok, they do stink sometimes.  And they cry a lot.  And one of them doesn't sleep very much. 

But guess what? I am not interested in raising excuses.  I want to raise small people who will eventually become big people; big people who are responsible and dedicated and healthy; big people who won't blow off a commitment because they didn't get great sleep last night.  How can I expect those things of them if I don't expect them of myself?

When I was pregnant with my first, a friend complained to me that she wanted to tone her (hardly noticeable) post-baby belly but didn't have time to work out because of her job and her kid.

To me, that sounded like a statement made by someone who was gonna just have to get over one of two things: either A) her excuses or B) her waistline.

Incidentally, she has reportedly been hitting the gym recently, so it looks like she ultimately went with option A.  She looks great.  She always did (damn her).

As for myself, I believe I am a person who values fitness.  It's hard to separate that value from who I am, even as I have also become someone's mommy (and then someone else's mommy).  

And yes, that means I spend a nap time or two working out in my living room, thus breaking Mommy Commandment #1 (sleep when the baby sleeps).  

And yes, it means that a couple times a week, in order to satisfy my exercise co-dependency, I leave Ready or Not Dad in charge for a couple hours to go on a group run or to a spin class.  And yes, that means I am up as early as 4am to change diapers, nurse, and pump before class.  And yes, Daddy is then is left to sacrifice a bit of sleep or peace (or both) in my absence.  And yes, I feel guilty when I leave the house.  And yes, he works extraordinarily long hours at a job no amount of money would lure me into.  And yes, he probably spends those few hours when I leave him alone with the boys plotting his escape (or possibly my death)

But we have agreed that my present job is baby feeding and toddler herding and that job is 24/7.  And yes, it is work (we have both learned this little nugget the hard way).  So even if he works a 15 hour day, he dutifully puts on his big boy pants to give me the gift of 'no excuses' and a little respite from my mommy dungeon.

And yes, I love him for it (and for so many other reasons).

So here are a list of excuses and why they won't hold up in court.

1.  I'm too tired: Well, get over it.  I can either toddle around like a drunken zombie all day, or I can spike my energy for a couple of hours with a little adrenaline rush....then resume toddling once that wears off.  An hour of cardio is worth at least 2 cups of coffee in terms of energy boosting.  

2.  I'm too out of shape:  I know, it sounds like a ridiculous excuse, but it's one that I really struggle with right now.  It's true that when I run, I presently look like an oversized Oompa Loompa chasing a donut.  I've caught sight of it in storefront windows and frankly, it's appalling.  So yes, the fact that I would be subjecting perfect strangers to that grotesque image is a bit of a deterrent.  But I think we all know how to debunk this particular excuse without too much effort.  I either get out there and run some more or my Oompa Loompa figure quickly balloons into something closer resembling Jabba the Hut...and there ain't nobody who needs to see that guy chase a donut.  

3.  I'll do it later: No you won't.  There is no later.  Later is a myth made up by the same evil doers who invented the snooze button.  It either happens right now, while I have two fed and sleeping children and/or a willing sitter or else it 

4.  I have too much other stuff going on:  Is that other stuff going to make my heart healthier (thus effectively battling the shotty heart disease that runs rampant in my family) or my pants fit again (thus saving me from a lifetime of maternity-wear)??  Will it give me my self confidence back and make me less hostile towards naturally skinny bitches (i.e. most of my friends)?  


Then fine, I'll see you at the gym.

It's true, excuses are a lot like a$$ holes.  But I'll be damned if I'm gonna let mine hold me hostage with it's filthy stench.  



Monday, August 26, 2013

More Tears

Hey world!  Excellent news: my rockstar friend Miss Truth gave you a gorgeous baby boy just a few short days ago.  You can thank her later.  He was born with a startlingly full head of thick black hair (thus raising jealousy in his graying 31-year-old father) and tipped the scales at a respectable 8.2 lbs.

Baby T came one week before his due date and three days before my son's due date.  

My little guy turned 2 months old yesterday and presently weighs in at 6.4 lbs when wrapped snugly in a sleep sack (ok, infant straight jacket).

Looks like we have some bulking up to do before I can confidently send the little guy into the ring with Baby T for an infant smack down.  (You look appalled, you guys don't do that??)

I got to meet the handsome little devil yesterday and I am not ashamed to tell you that I cried.  

Are you tired of hearing about my hormonal mom-tears yet?  No? Excellent. I'll press on.

So I cried for several reasons.
A) I think women may just be preprogrammed to cry when they hold newborns.  It didn't happen for me until I was a mom, but I haven't always been wired properly.   

B) Sleep deprivation?  My hubs might call bullshit on that because he pulled nighttime baby duty this weekend, but I think there are cumulative effects.

C) He's beautiful. And beautiful things make people cry.

D) For my own little boys who didn't get to bake long enough in my faulty baby oven; and for all the other rainbow babies who are too anxious to join the world.

E) For the angel babies who are too anxious to join the next world and too precious for ours.  

Incidentally, today is baby monkey's due date.

Happy due date little man. I can't tell you how glad I am that you are here and you are healthy.

Now let's get you that protein shake and hit the gym.  Baby T is toast.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

American Mom

Just the other day, a friend of mine posted the following link on my Facebook page and I suddenly felt like my world had been turned violently on it's head.   I suppose you could say that much like our friend the Fresh Prince: my life got flipped-turned upside down.  

I'll spare you the four to eight minutes it would take you to read the post (depending on which second grade reading group you were assigned to) and give you the basic gist:

Women in America are among the only women in the world who aren't provided some structured postnatal care. 

Postnatal care?? You mean, that 15 minute OB appointment you attend six weeks after expelling a person from your loins? The one where they glance at your hoo-ha, write you a birth control prescription, and with a wink and a nod, give the A-okay to go home and do the nasty again??  

No.  Postnatal care means simply this: new mothers are cared for.  

But wait, you say.  We get two whole days in the hospital.  Three, if they sliced open our abdomen.  And then, if we're very lucky, we live in a state that allows short term disability to be used for up to six weeks of partially paid maternity leave so the household finances don't completely fall apart when life is already mind-numbingly stressful. 

Everyone knows a six-week-old baby pretty much runs on autopilot anyways, so why would mom feel the need to be around those extra 40 hours a week?  Get that kid a job and an apartment already, he's practically grown!  

And those tiny little people are definitely sleeping through the night at that point, so mama is rested, revitalized and ready to head back firing on all cylinders and anxious to meet those productivity standards. 

Let's say we were savvy enough to save up those sick and personal days.  Federal law via FMLA says they can't even fire you for greedily deciding to take 12 whole weeks away from your job.  Isn't that generous?

Here's an image that will certainly drum up some bitter resentment in even the proudest, most blue-blooded American girl:

That's right ladies.  If this graphic is to be trusted, our dear neighbors to the north get nearly a year of paid maternity leave.  Yes, I said paid.  Shoot, the Netherlands gives it's mamas 16 weeks and once they're done nursing, they can reward themselves with a joint.  

But enough about the workplace. I could literally go on an on for hours before I fall off my soapbox in an exhausted pile of postpartum outrage; and that's before I'd dust myself off and get back up shouting about nursing moms and pumping at work. 

Where was I again?  

Oh yeah, postpartum care.  So let's pretend that working is not an issue (even though it is for so many of us).  Let's just focus on how new mothers are viewed by society and by themselves in these great United States.  

The link posted on my FB page was really a response to an article in the Daily Beast where author Hillary Brenhouse compares American postpartum practices to those in other countries.
Upon reading this article, I was flabbergasted.  Remember that Fresh Prince analogy? I may as well have just been sent by my momma to live in Bel Air.  

Brenhouse opens by pointing out that Colonial Americans believed their new mothers should spend the first 3-4 weeks (or longer) engaged in what's called a "lying in" period.  During that time, they hardly lifted a finger.  Instead, they focused on feeding and bonding with their babies and on recovery and healing while they were cared for by a team of women volunteers (some family, some friends).

Well sure, you say.  That was back in the days when women were considered too fragile and/or dumb to vote or hold public office or join the workforce.  Birthing babies and raising them was their only job, so why not do it right?  

Get this though: Brenhouse tells us that in parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and even Europe (gasp!) some version of 'lying in' still happens today.  In China and Mexico, she reports that new mothers are given between 30 and 40 days of "restful confinement."  In France and other countries, women stay nearly a week in the hospital after childbirth.

So WTF America??  

Granted, my babies have proven to arrive early, haven't weighed more than a half gallon of milk, and required several weeks in the NICU so maybe I'm not the most perfect example.  But here's a rundown of my postpartum experiences.  

With #1:  I spent two days in the hospital and returned to work a week after my delivery.  This was necessary in order to accumulate more time off once my little guy came home.  I worked five days a week, bouncing between work and the hospital, and waking every three hours during the night to pump breast milk until my son was discharged from the NICU at five weeks old.  

With #2:  After two miserable months being told not to exercise, I was running again a mere four days after delivery.  The following week, I worked three days before my family talked me out of it.  Two weeks post-partum, I was assisting my husband in building 160 feet worth of fence in our backyard; lifting and carrying the heavy panels because our other helper (a neighbor) had back surgery two years ago.  

I am presently home with both my boys (ages 2 and 17 months old) while my husband -- a high school band director -- works up to 15 hour days.  And naturally, because the poor guy has to work so many stinking hours (and with teenagers, yuck!), there's no chance I would ask him to step in for any part of the midnight baby action.  In fact, I sleep on the couch downstairs so the squeal machine and I don't disturb him.  

Because I am a product of our win big society, I have decided not just to bare-minimum parent but to go for the Gold.  I leave no dirty dish undone or dirty sock unwashed in case the judges for 'mom of the year' show up at my house.  We go on walks, to the park, and on play dates.  I work out almost daily for my sanity, but also because I fear for my 'night job' as a fitness instructor (who wants to take a spin class from a woman who needs an oxygen mask and could stand to lose 40lbs?)

Sure, I could send my toddler to the sitter, but we barely have enough money to pay for our Netflix account, never mind our exorbitant student loan repayments which essentially amount to a second mortgage (see above rant about maternity leave).  

Plus, it just feels like a cop out to me; like I would be ducking out of a marathon at mile 18 or 20.  Not to mention, the toddler is the real entertainment around here.  He's learning to walk and to tease us and his giggles are positively contagious. Why not enjoy him while he still likes me back and before he turns into a resentful teenager?  

Plus, I'm an American woman dammit.  We don't want to cut out of the marathon early.  We want to win the damn thing, or at least place in our age group.  And then we want to go home and cook dinner and act like it's no big deal.  

I was recently talking to my dear pal Miss Truth in the days before her scheduled cesarean.  When I inquired about the plans for Tiny T once Baby T arrived, she bashfully admitted that she'd arranged for childcare.  I got the impression she thought that this was somehow shameful.  Did you catch the bit about the c-section? The woman would be healing from a rather significant surgical procedure rendering her practically immobile, why would anyone expect her to spend her nights caring for a newborn and her days chasing a willful toddler around the house?  

U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A

So here's the thing.  I never felt like I couldn't do any of the arguably crazy postpartum sh*t I have gotten into.  I never felt faint or crumbled into a pile of exhaustion.  It's possible I had a few moments of mommy-meltdown (you'll have to verify that with my husband) and wasn't always winning Miss Chipper awards when it came to interacting with my husband and parents (my favorite people on which to unload my frustrations).

Still, the point here is that I never once considered that I needed to be cared for.  If, after I had given birth, someone had told me to jump in bed and stay there for a month while they took care of everything, I would have laughed in their face and gone about my business of knitting a super-mom cape from a pattern I found on Pinterest while simultaneously nursing my newborn and making faces at my toddler.  

You know, just like any other American mom slash superhero.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Incompetency Revisited

When I began writing this blog, I had just been admitted to the hospital at 30 weeks pregnant with a cervical length of 1.1cm.  We had spent the last nine weeks watching the damn thing thin out during weekly ultrasounds and now it seemed my body had just decided 'to hell with it' and I had officially gone into preterm labor.  

The contractions, which I was mysteriously unable to detect, had only been discovered a couple weeks prior; during a routine non-stress test given before the placement of a pessary.  

Oh the pessary.  Let me just take a moment of your time to thoroughly gross you out.  

When it was first described to me as a newer method of dealing with a failing cervix (more about that in a minute), I figured 'bring that sucker on board, let's do this thing.'  My doctor described it as a 'small balloon, inserted into the vaginal canal and then inflated.'  I naively pictured something the size of a dime, perhaps a quarter at worst.  

Well, have you ever seen an apple?  Yeah, it's that size. Maybe not a big apple (certainly not like NYC <--don't laugh at that, it wasn't funny) but it sure as hell weren't no dime.  

I had actually heard of this device before.  You see, the pessary was originally designed to treat what's called a prolapsed uterus.  If you're unfamiliar with this diagnosis, I'll explain. It's typically found in elderly women who have seemingly pissed off their uteruses -- uteri?? -- enough for them to migrate southward in an effort to vacate the premises. That's certainly not the most professional or compete explanation, but you get the gist. 

Anyway, when I'm not dealing with the outcomes of a faulty reproductive system, I work as a Physical Therapist - primarily with the geriatric community.  I once treated an unfortunate woman with significant dementia and an assortment of other medical issues.  One of these issues was a prolapsed uterus.  She would squirm around restlessly in her geri-chair (essentially a recliner on wheels) and frequently shove her hands in her pants.  If you didn't watch her closely, she would remove her pants altogether.  My supervisor explained that this was probably because of the pessary.  

I suddenly understood her pain in a very real way.  The pessary sucked balls and I wanted to murder it.  But because I wasn't suffering from senile dementia, I put on my big girl pants (they're the only ones that fit over my pregnant belly and my inflated vagina) and dealt with it.  

Back to my hospital admission.  

The blog was originally designed to help me cope with what I quickly termed 'my captivity.'  The goal was to stay pregnant until at least 35 weeks.  My working days were over.  In fact, it seemed that all activities minus 'bathroom privileges' had come to a screeching halt.  So I figured I could spend the next month lying flat on my back in a magnesium and depression-induced stupor (the magnesium would only be on board for a week, at which point the depression would surely take over) or I could spend that time therapy blogging and f-ing around on the internet.  

Aside from the sporadic text, phone conversation, or evening ice cream date (turns out, everyone loves an excuse to eat ice cream), Facebook became my only regular social outlet.  And so, I almost unwittingly morphed into a mommy-blogging-Facebook-phile  (who occasionally binged on ice cream). And frankly, I became a little bit bitter.  

See, this friend of mine had recently spent over two months on hospital bed rest when they discovered her cervix had called it quits about halfway through her pregnancy.  

That was the first time I heard the term 'Incompetent Cervix'.  Because at the time she was admitted, I was newly pregnant and a year before, I had delivered a 31-weeker very suddenly and for no apparent reason, my friend reached out to me in the way us non-medical doctors tend to do, to offer support and medical advice.  She also added me to a Facebook group called 'Incompetent Cervix Awareness'.

That, dear readers is where the bitterness officially began.  And it wasn't even bitterness for myself, it was more directed from my vantage point as a female with the crazy notion of wanting children of her own.

Suddenly, my newsfeed was action-packed with stories that would make even the most cold-hearted bastard's heart thaw instantly and then rip right in two.  Women post pictures of their 'angel babies' who had been 'born sleeping' and I would burst into tears on the spot.   

Ladies write about their bed rest which began at 13 weeks and left them unable to work or in some cases, properly mother their other young children for months on end.  

They post about the un-mendable heartbreak of multiple second trimester losses and the anxiety over current or future pregnancies.  

They talk a lot about treatment and the tiny number of specialists available in this particular area.  

What these women do best is comfort, support, and encourage one another through all the tragedy, pain, and anxiety.  They also celebrate each other's victories, everything from a beautiful and healthy full-term baby to making it past week 25.  

So where did this bitterness come from, you ask? If you've been reading this mess of a blog from the start, you may have guessed it already.  

Here it is: Incompetent? Really?  Thanks medical community.  Thanks for proving to be the arrogant, insensitive machismo bastards we have always suspected were standing behind those copays and lab coats.  

I was so put off by the term, it inspired my initial blog name: The Incompetent Mother @offensivemedicalterms.blogspot.com.  

Until the other day, I felt a little like I might be the only one outraged by such an insensitive diagnostic term.  But then the topic came up on the Facebook group and the floodgates came crashing open.

Ladies responded to the post in droves with all sorts of reactions ranging from the predictable outrage to ones I hadn't previously considered.  Most shared in my bitterness and expressed their dismay that the term was indicating a personal failure of some sort.  

However, one woman said she didn't care what the term was, she was just relieved to find a diagnosis with some possible treatment options.  

Other ladies joined in on my bitterness game and reported they had gleefully renamed their conditions 'asshole cervix' (which makes me think maybe the perianal area is simply having geographical problems?) or my favorite, 'flumpy' cervix.  

The most heart wrenching response was a story about a resident who reported to his patient that her baby would soon be dead and in the same breath explained that it was due to the incompetency of her cervix.  

The poor woman said she just wanted to 'punch him in the face.'  That, to me was a decidedly tame response.  My sick inclination says why stop there?  Punch that sorry mother f*cker in the face *and* the balls.  Then severe those worthless man-parts from the rest of his sorry body and serve them up forcibly into his still throbbing mouth.  
(Wow.  That was shockingly violent.  I knew I could be one angry mo-fo, but had no idea I was also a sociopath?)

I cannot emphasize enough how fortunate I feel when one of those tragic updates pops onto my FB feed.  My babies might have blasted past my incompetent mommy-parts nine weeks prior to their scheduled arrivals; but they're both here, healthy, and kicking all sorts of ass. 

I suppose that means my cervix is more competent than some.  Maybe it paid better attention in math class than those other cervixes.  

Still, as a women, I cannot help but feel that the medical community has some revising and apologizing to do.  If not for me, then for those poor grieving women on my Facebook feed.

Hey docs!  Let's just all agree to be more sensitive when it comes to defining a woman's reproductive health, shall we?

Or, as I've suggested before, we could just say 'to hell with it' and start blaming everyone equally.  

If you need me, I'll be sitting around waiting patiently to see Al Gore star in a commercial for a popular drug to manage his 'Lazy Shlong.'