Z and I knew this pregnancy would be different and difficult for both of us emotionally. But I think we were both a little naïve concerning how hard it would be. Maybe we’ll feel more secure once we get out of the first trimester. Honestly it’s hard to use language like that. In my head it’s always “if”, never “once”. I wish we had a fast forward button.
Here are the bare bones: I recently asked Z to do something really big and really hard. I asked in a way that left little room for him to say, “No.” Years of therapy, both individually and as a couple, have made us into pretty good “fighters”. There isn’t a lot of yelling or meanness. And we are most often able to the root of what is bugging us. It’s a huge change from the way we used to fight (um, yelling and meanness). I’m sure a lot of couples have gotten to this place without therapy, but we needed it and I’ll be forever grateful. After a couple hours of cooling off he was able to articulate exactly what made him so mad about my request. It’s that when he asks me to do something I often blow him off, but when I ask him it is expected he will comply. He wanted me to quit smoking? My response was, “Fuck you! I’ll do it if and when I’m ready. And if you want me to ever quit you’ll never bring it up again!” Most of the time I’m not such an overt brat. He’ll ask me to do something. I’ll say yes. And I just won’t do it. And if he asks again I tell him he’s nagging me.
This all gets much worse when I’m not doing well. Being anxious paralyzes me. The house gets filthier and filthier, the clothes go unwashed, I stop making meals. I sit on the sofa and stare at the TV or the computer. And feel wretched about what a lazy slob I am. I worry about not giving T enough attention. I worry that Z has to work all day and then come home to a wreck of a house. And of course during this particular period of being unwell I’m also nauseous all the time and terrified I’m going to miscarry. I know the fear surrounding this pregnancy (Jesus Christ, this first trimester has been the longest three months of my life) is causing the out of control anxiety, but that doesn’t make it better. And if I am honest with myself, even when I’m doing pretty well emotionally I don’t respond to Z in a timely fashion. I don’t do what he asks, but I sure as hell expect him to hop to it when I ask him to do something.
Since our argument earlier this week I’ve been living with that sour and burning feeling of shame in the back of my throat. It is easy to beat myself up about this. It’s easy to think I don’t deserve him, I’m useless and unlovable, both Z and T would be better off without me. My mind goes there on autopilot. But I want to do the harder thing. I want to change. And all I can give him are the empty words that I will listen and act on his requests in the future. I don’t think he will believe me until my actions back up those words over a period of time. Hell, I don’t blame him. Clearly we aren’t a perfect couple. Partly because perfect couples don’t exist and partly because we are both very far from perfect. But we manage. He’s a good guy. He deserves to be treated better than I often treat him. He ain’t perfect, but when I call him out on his bullshit he makes an effort to change most of the time. And he puts up with an awful lot from me.
He is very into hugging right now.
Handsome even with his eyes closed.
As he tools around he looks like such a big kid from behind. It makes me proud and breaks my heart at the same time.
One more crazy symptom of crazy: This one has happened to me in the past when I have been unwell. I’ve become convinced I’m going to be the victim of a violent crime. When Z has to be out of the house at night I am terrified. When a stranger rings the bell wanting to shovel our walk for pay I am scared to open the door. When the cats knocked over the flower vase the other night I was sure someone was breaking in to kill us. I actually thought I wouldn’t resist as long as they didn’t touch T. I know it is another manifestation of the fear that rules my life, and I know it becomes manageable when my illness is under control. I can’t wait for that day to come.
So, getting back on track, this post is really about booze. I’m not a big drinker. I don’t have anything against drinking, I just happen to suck at it. I get drunk fast. Like super fast. Then I throw up. Then I go to sleep. Then I’m hung over. The fun lasts for less than an hour and the repercussions make it not worth it. Drinking is one of Z’s favorite activities in the world. While he wishes I drank more and I wish he drank less it really isn’t a big deal for us. Ah, another example of a drinker and non drinking living in peace and harmony…
The problem is when I am pregnant I develop a secret super power. My sense of smell becomes so acute concerning booze that I smell it coming out of the pores of people near me. If you drank last night I know. I hate this super power. It makes me feel like I’m seriously invading people’s privacy. A couple of days ago at T’s doctor’s office I knew his Doc drank the night before the minute she walked in the door. And I felt guilty. It is none of my business if she wants to have a drink at night. I certainly don’t think it affects her work in any way. I think part of the reason it makes me feel so guilty is because the smell completely grosses me out. So I feel like I’m judging, even though I find nothing wrong with having a couple of drinks.
When I’m pregnant there are a bunch of smells I’m not nuts about. Raw meat sends me over the edge, changing poop diapers literally makes me gag, garbage bins do the same. But all that stuff is pretty darn standard. I don’t know if the alcohol smell thing is a common symptom of early pregnancy. I tend to be over sensitive when I’m not pregnant, both to the physical and emotional, concerning myself and others. Z thinks there is a correlation between my non pregnant sensitivity and the alcohol hyper sensitivity that develops during pregnancy. I’m not convinced. I’d wager it is a quirk that lots of pregnant ladies suffer from. Maybe it is nature’s way of telling pregnant gals to steer clear of the booze for a while. It still makes me feel like a jerky member of the drinking police. I’ll be happy when it goes away in a few months.
These are from when we were at Z’s parent’s house back in December. T loves us to read to him all the time. He hands us a book, crawls into our laps, and says, “More!”
He has recently developed an interest in dolls and stuffed animals. These were in the room he was sleeping in and every morning he’d grab them and give them lots of hugs.
There are the regular and predictable indicators that I’m not doing well emotionally. For instance, this video made me cry (What the hell? I don’t even like basketball), I sleep too much, I haven’t stepped outside my house since Friday and will only leave tomorrow for T’s doctor appointment, I’m not bathing regularly enough or wearing anything other than a robe and sweats, I have frequent and graphic miscarriage nightmares.
But there is one indicator that is plain weird. I’m sure I’ve discussed my problem with orange here before. I’m not a fan. I don’t like the taste, the smell, the color. In fact, I avoid touching it and wipe my hand (or whatever part of me comes in contact with it) off when I do touch it. Lately I’ve been seeing orange everywhere. When I shop for tissues or sponges to wash the dishes I am careful to search the multi-packs for any hint of the deal breaking orange. I went to grab a pre-screened box of tissues out of the closet a few days ago and it had orange on it. My hand tingled in the bad way where I was touching it. I quickly put it in the bathroom I use the least and grabbed the blue one in there for the living room. But yesterday I noticed it fell on the floor and as I reached for it I realized there wasn’t any orange at all, the damn thing was shades of brown. I’m actually imagining orange where there is none. Same with T’s winter hat. It is totally yellow and I’ve been avoiding touching it. Many reds have become suspect as well. And yet, while I throw away orange M&Ms or Reese’s Pieces, I can eat clementines on occasion. If I’m careful with the crumbs I can eat crunchy Cheetos. I love Cheez-Its. None of it makes sense, but as I feel worse the rules become more complex and it is becoming a cumbersome pain in my ass.
I only know two people who have attended Grinnell. But they are two of my favorite people on the planet, so I’m guessing the place regularly pumps out amazing people. They were at the school several years apart and they have never met, but I know if they did they’d love each other. They are the kind of gals you can’t help but want to be friends with.
Lovely Anna posted this on her facebook page yesterday. Read it. It will make you cry, but only because it is a beautiful story that gives you hope in humanity. Does it sound strange to say this article made me proud to know such goodness exists in the world? It made me happy as I went to bed last night, even as I was weeping so hard that Z told me I needed to calm the fuck down.
The other Grinnellian was a first year grad student when I was a first year undergrad at Sarah Lawrence. I was little more than a girl when I first met her, and she was a graceful young adult. She was and is an incredibly talented writer, and a magnetic person. I had a bad case of hero worship. Still do. But I’m grateful I get to be her friend all these years later. She is the kind of mother to her two girls that I hope to be some day, she has a popular blog, and she writes weekly articles for two websites.
Her most recent article written for Parentdish on AOL was featured on the main AOL page this weekend. It started to get a lot of comments. Most of them were positive, but there was also a lot of nasty stuff that frankly seemed to have nothing to do with her article, rather people used the opportunity to comment to be anonymously cruel. I simply don’t get it. Online nastiness bothers me when I don’t personally know the author, but this got under my skin in the worst way. She is not only an extraordinary writer, but an extraordinary person who is brave enough to share all the pain and mess and joy of her life, and judging from the comments on her blog she has helped many people suffering from problems similar to hers. She has addressed the comment situation with more eloquence and cleverness than I ever could. But who are these people who seem to get their kicks from being unkind? Are they normal functioning members of society? Am I friends with any of them? Are you? Do they honestly feel better about themselves when they are hurtful to strangers? How do they not feel terrible about their actions? The whole episode made me grateful for my tiny readership of supportive friends and acquaintances. Thank you guys for not being mean to me. I don’t think I could handle the blogger big leagues.
T has started to pull out his dirty clothes and cuddle with them during his nap.
It’s so cute I don’t really want to move the laundry basket.
On the way to the doctor’s on Monday I was absolutely freaking out. The spotting this weekend was so frightening and terrible, but knowing I’d find out for sure if the baby was still with us in the next few minutes was scaring the shit out of me. I was talking to Z about how I didn’t think I could emotionally cope with losing the baby. Without skipping a beat, I started talking about how worried I was about how much he had on his plate. Classes were starting the next day; he is busy enough without dealing with my anxiety problems. I was worried the day would come when he was so frustrated he couldn’t cope with it all.
“Wait, wait a second,” he said, “You just went from being worried about the pregnancy to us getting a divorce in a minute. Cut it out.”
He was right. I was being totally ridiculous. But that is what anxiety is. Everything seems to be the worst it could possibly be. And while it was the first time I’d brought it up to him, I’d been thinking about how my heightened anxiety is a burden to him since it started to get bad the week before. I’m just so scared by how awful I feel, it really hasn’t been like this since I was in the throes of my illness years ago. And one of my biggest fears was that Z didn’t love me and that he was moments away from leaving me. Of course, my insistence on those fantasies almost led them to be true. The fact I’m even starting to go back there sucks.
That, along with my elevated blood pressure at the doctor’s appointment on Thursday, and the multi-day anxiety attacks made me think long and hard about a daily medication to manage my anxiety. My therapist has been telling me she thinks a daily med is the right way to go for months and I have stubbornly said no. It’s shameful to admit, but the main reason is my pride. I just can’t handle the Zoloft weight gain. I certainly haven’t lost nearly all the weight from the last time. I hate my physicality so much that I can’t bear for it to get worse. The other reasons include not wanting all my emotions dulled, not wanting my sex drive destroyed, wanting to fully be there for T and Z. And my chill pills were working.
But when I brought up the meds today she suggested trying other methods first. Frankly, it was kind of a relief. Though I’m personally not a big fan of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I’m gonna give some of the techniques a try. I told her about my friend who suggested meditation and she thought it was a fantastic idea. She also said not to try to do anything that will cause me to be anxious for the next few weeks. The trip Z wanted the three of us to take to NYC at the end of the month? I just can’t. And that is OK. Now is not the time to be overcoming the anxiety, I just need to manage it until I can pop the kid out. And take chill pills again.
T LOVES bath time. He doesn’t even want to wait until he’s undressed before he crawls in.
God, I love that tiny hiney.
And those eyelashes and the sweet potbelly.
About that writing more frequently thing…turns out I feel like a humongous pile of shit all the time. When I have a free moment during the day I choose to nap. After I put T down for the night I pop a Benadryl (unable to sleep through the night without one) and try not to vomit until it kicks in. Actually, I spend most of my time trying not to vomit. And I’m not being terribly successful about it. I’m still horking almost every day. And here’s the super glamorous thing about throwing up after you’ve given birth: you pee a little. Or at least I do. Pregnancy is one humiliation after another. I don’t do it with a lot of grace. Until the kid comes out I physically hate it. Don’t get me wrong, I want this child. I want it more than I have wanted anything. But I truly hate pregnancy.
On top of all the usual pregnancy crap it would seem I am also going crazy. Like really going crazy in a very bad way. My anxiety hasn’t been this bad in years. Zeke thinks it is the fact that I don’t have structure in my life like I did when I was pregnant with T. Working during that pregnancy did help me tremendously. But I don’t think that is it. I didn’t lose my shit like this during the miscarriage pregnancy and I was more than 10 weeks along when we found out I’d lost the baby. I think the miscarriage itself is the difference. I feel so completely frightened and unsure about what is going on with my body. Yes, I’m sick. But I was sick this fall after I’d lost the baby and before I’d found out. So clearly I just can’t trust my body. And now that we have a heartbeat, if I lose the baby, well, I actually can’t stand the thought. But I don’t know how to stop thinking it all the time.
And then this weekend I spotted a little. Twice on Saturday and once on Sunday. So the whole weekend was like an extended anxiety attack. Rather than get weepy and loud, I got quieter and quieter, which Z said he finds much more terrifying. Because when I was really ill I was basically catatonic. Z would talk to me and I would take more than a minute to even answer. He’d beg me to focus and engage him, I just couldn’t. I never want to go back there again.
This morning I called my doctor’s office. The nurse I spoke to told me to come right in without any hesitation. She said they’d do an ultrasound and make sure everything was fine. Thankfully Z had the day off work, because I couldn’t face bad news without him. And it turns out there was no bad news, everything is fine. Z said the best thing about my doctor is he didn’t just reassure us it was all cool, he told us exactly why I was bleeding and then told us exactly what would happen if there really was a problem. The cervix has much more blood flowing to it during pregnancy and the veins get bigger and more sensitive, so any time it is knocked around the edges can bleed a little. He said the vomiting causes the uterus and cervix to jerk around and that could be all the bumping needed to start a little blood flow. So puking can cause me to bleed. Didn’t see that one coming. He said if I was bleeding enough to need a pad it means I need to call right away. I know the gory details aren’t really fun reading, but I’m including them just in case anyone has the same stuff happen to them. I’d love to save someone from freaking out the way I did.
As soon as the ultrasound located the baby it was clear there was still a heartbeat. Z held T up to the screen and showed him his new sibling to be. The doctor let us hear the heartbeat again, and he kindly told us the little blob on the screen was beautiful and healthy. And we go back a week from Thursday for another quick look at that fabulous heartbeat. On Wednesday of this week I go back to my shrink. I haven’t seen her since early December; she doesn’t even know I’m pregnant. Hopefully she and I can start to get to the bottom of the crazy thing.
More of my boy on Christmas morning. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith
You know how they told you in Sex Ed that it only takes one time to get pregnant? You know how you really didn’t believe it back when you were 16? Well, in December I proved it to be true. Yes folks, I’m pregnant. Seven weeks and four days to be exact.
This morning we went to the doctor’s for the first visit. We saw the same doctor who dealt with us so graciously during the miscarriage. She very kindly cut to the chase and got the ultrasound machine. And then she quickly located the embryo and told us there was a heartbeat. And I started to cry. She told us it was a strong heartbeat and managed to give us some audio, which is unusual this early along. And I started to cry harder. She was very positive about the whole thing, which made me feel particularly good. It was all such a fucking relief.
I found out I was pregnant on December 16th. When we found out we didn’t feel happy, we just felt terrified. It was like if we didn’t let ourselves get excited we wouldn’t be heartbroken if I lost the baby. But of course we would have been. It’s been a rough month. During the miscarriage and its aftermath writing and then putting that writing out there helped me work through it more than anything else. Not having that outlet was bad enough, but I felt like a terrible liar every time I posted something that didn’t scream I’M PREGNANT right at the top. It’s part of the reason I didn’t post very frequently. And living life while worrying about miscarrying every moment was and is awful. Every single time I pee I am seized with terror; sure I’m going to see blood. At the same time I started to puke on the 26th, and have continued to do so every day or at least every other day. So I’m scared and I feel like shit emotionally and physically. I know I should be happy. And if this baby is born on or near August 28th I will be. But it just doesn’t feel safe yet.
It is still way too early to go public with the news, but if we lose the baby I will most certainly write about it. So what is the point of keeping the secret? And I’m hoping that writing about it will help quell the anxiety I’ve been experiencing. Yesterday, in anticipation of the appointment, I had an anxiety attack that was unusually in its severity and its length. It basically started in the morning and didn’t let up until today when we were in the car on the way to the appointment. I explained to the nurse that I’d been anxious when she was taking my blood pressure. Her eyes got really big when she looked at the machine to get the results. She said, “You are really anxious, aren’t you!” I said, “Yup.” And she advised me not to look at my numbers. Usually curiosity would have gotten the better of me, but I just didn’t want to make things worse, so I have no idea what it was. I do know high blood pressure isn’t ideal for a pregnancy, and since I can’t take my chill pills right now I need to figure another way to calm the fuck down. Posting here just might be it.
This is some kind of manual saw that was in the barn at Z’s grandparent’s home. As long as he weighs less than the machine it’s a pretty fun to watch him jump on it.
I don’t know what the deal is with his tongue. He really doesn’t want to keep it in his mouth.
Saturday was a big day for me because I was able to do two things that made me really uncomfortable. What were the events that made me feel so victorious? Going to a restaurant with Z and T that I’d never been to before and going to a birthday party for a one year old. I was sincerely excited about successfully venturing into the real world, but as I write it down I’m feeling rather foolish. Sometimes, if I’m not paying close attention, I think I’m doing a good job with the anxiety. And then I realize my progress is embarrassingly minor. The restaurant was a short drive away, and the party wasn’t even a two block walk from my front door. And I’m all proud of myself for getting to these things? It’s really kind of sad.
And the party wasn’t even a real victory. Though it was hosted by a couple I like very much and want to know better, and though it was attended by several families I know (including my closest friend in Syracuse) I was uncomfortable and on edge the entire time I was there. Big events are pretty unbearable to me. My body seems to swell to three times its normal size. I become clumsy and just don’t know where to put my bulk. And I completely lose the ability to chat like a normal person. My face becomes bright red, my stomach knots up, I have to tell myself, “Just a couple more minutes until I can bolt,” the entire time I’m there.
I feel like shit about it. If the hosts of the party knew how I felt it would be humiliating. They graciously invited me into their home and my reaction to the party was most ungrateful. My bad behavior began before we even made it up the block. Z wanted to take T in the awesome sleigh we have that belonged to his great grandmother when she was a baby. It turned 100 years old last year. There was certainly enough snow on the ground to use the sleigh, but I begged him not to bring it. It is big and showy and I thought it would draw attention to us and be in the way. I was seething as we walked over, several paces behind Z, T, and the sleigh. And, of course, no one even saw him put it on the porch. If I’m being completely honest about it, it isn’t even that big. We aren’t going to have unlimited opportunities to use it, even if we do live in Syracuse. But I couldn’t think reasonably about it. Gearing up for a social event unleashes the batshit crazy. I don’t know why Z tries to get me to participate in them because he is often my punching bag as I struggle to come up with an excuse to get out of going, or as I become more and more unbearable as we get closer and close to the event.
Bottom line: I’ve still got a shit load of work to do when it comes to getting better. The good thing is I’m lucky enough to have the support and resources to get that help. I wish all Americans had it so good.
The sleigh during a storm last winter. T is buried under those blankets.
T has started to put his little ear against the guitar as his Daddy plays.