Parenting Can Rock

So if you’ve been reading since late last summer you know it hasn’t been a great year for me what with the miscarriage and the pretty severe flare up of my anxiety disorder.  But the thing is it also has been a great year what with the new pregnancy and the whole parenthood gig.  Yesterday we found for sure that the little guy in my belly is, in fact, a guy.  And, yet again, T is in a phase that makes me excited to be his mom every single day.
In the past few years there have been several articles published concerning studies that conclude childless couples are happier than those with children and they have gotten a lot of air time in old the blogosphere.  Heck, I cited one to Z when we were debating whether to have kids ourselves.  And I get it.  Having kids adds an enormous amount of stress to what was a fun yet reassuringly steady life of coupledom.  We are already worried about how we are going to raise our little guys with our, um, limited financial means.  We’ve come up against not having enough time for ourselves.  Z doesn’t get to take two week sailing trips with his buddies anymore.  We certainly don’t get to spend enough time with each other.  Our lives are ruled by a 19 month old who can’t control his bowels.  And we aren’t even experienced parents; we are still new to this game.  As he and his brother start to get older things will get much more stressful.  We’ll have to worry about bullying, about grades so they can get into good schools, about drugs and sex.  And we still won’t be able to spend much time together. 
But it just doesn’t matter.  The joy he brings us is so incredibly worth it all.  A year ago I was sure it was impossible to love him more than I did at that very moment, but I was wrong.  As his personality develops and he absorbs and applies new skills my love for him increases.  It has moved beyond the fierce instinctual maternal love to include a delight in who he is becoming.  When he surprises us with a new word we had no idea he knew, when he kisses my belly and says, “Baby!”, when he hears the Skype ring tone and runs to the computer shouting, “Grandma!” I’m filled with the most clichéd love on the planet.  And I just don’t care because it is new to me and it feels divine.  
So please indulge me.  I’m reveling in his adorableness and can’t seem to pare down the number of pictures this evening.  
My wonderful cousin gave us a bath alphabet when T was brand new.  It’s a great toy, I recommend it wholeheartedly.  T is learning the letters of his name, at this point he can identify T, H, and A pretty consistently. 

Bathtime is just about his favorite time of day. 

Z’s dad dug out the Star Wars cup from Z’s childhood and gave it to us at Christmas time.  T can identify Chewie, C3PO, R2 D2, and Leia by name.  Z is so proud he doesn’t know what to do with himself. 

More smiles. 

We had a major moment tonight.  T was, well he was straining if you catch my drift, in the tub.  I asked if he needed to poop on the potty and he said yes.  So we finished the bath at lightening speed and sat him on his duck toilet.  And little dude did it!  While brushing his teeth!  Multitasking at its finest.  

An Open Letter to Pre and Postnatal Medical Providers

You guys really rock.  The vast majority of my interactions with you have been pleasant, professional, and compassionate.  The midwife who cared for me during the first 33 weeks of my pregnancy with T was so fantastic and knowledgeable that I don’t understand why any woman would request an MD instead.  The lactation consultant who took time out of her busy day to mail me helpful tips to get me through nursing with stitches along my areola blew me away.  The nurse in the delivery room who knew something was wrong with the amount I was bleeding after T’s birth before we did and tried to get us help, boy did we love her.  The doctor who found evidence of the left behind placenta 5 days after T was born was so gentle and kind as he was removing clots that were blocking his ability to use the ultrasound.  He knew what he was doing was excruciating to me and as I broke down and cried from the pain he told me he was sorry over and over.  He was so extraordinary that he is now my doctor.  And the kind doctor who told us I had miscarried this past summer, well she could not have treated us with more compassion during one of the most difficult moments of our lives. 
Again, the majority of my dealings with you guys have been great.  Please accept my constructive criticism in the spirit it is given.  I know you can’t be perfect, heck that’s a big part of one of my points, but everyone (including me) can strive to be better.   So four things:
1.        1. Please be sure to listen and always remember to be compassionate.
This is really the most important part of any medical professional/patient relationship.  It is the reason that the woman who delivered T is no longer my doctor.  It sucked that she didn’t come back to delivery after she was called and told I was bleeding heavily.  It sucked that she forgot to see me in the hospital the morning after T was born, she did send someone that afternoon after the hospital contacted her.  But several days later when I was dropping huge blood clots and knew in my gut that things were not right she and her nurse dismissed my concerns on the phone and only agreed to let me come in the next day and see another doc when I pressed the issue.  I did not have a history of being a frequent caller or extra appointment maker.  I was scared and I felt like my doctor wasn’t listening and I had nowhere to turn.  I honestly didn’t give a shit that part of my placenta was left in my uterus.  Accidents happen.  My former doctor is human.  The problem was fixed with a very quick outpatient surgery.  If she had been sympathetic and kind she’d still be my doc.  She made me feel like I was bothering her and she was always in a rush.  How can doctors effectively treat patients without carefully listening?  This fall I had a second D&C after my miscarriage and all of the “products of conception” were not removed creating an incredibly unfortunate 6+ week period of uncertainty until I finally passed the material and the pregnancy hormone was out of my body.  The great news was I avoided yet another D&C, the even greater news was my doctor was fantastic to me and I didn’t think about leaving him for a second.
 
2.       2. It is not useful to tell women that nursing does not hurt if you are doing it right.
I was told this by a lactation consultant in the hospital.  I was told it again in by a lactation consultant the doctor’s office.  I wanted to nurse so badly, but it hurt like crazy.  After talking to my mom friends I learned not only does it hurt, it often hurts with each kid.  And after a while it doesn’t hurt anymore.  It would be much less disheartening to a hormonal new mom if the lactation consultant explained that until your nipples toughen up it totally hurts.  But it is really worth it, it does get better, it provides fantastic benefits for both your baby and you.  I still don’t know why I forced myself to stick with it, but I don’t begrudge women who didn’t.  Who wouldn’t feel like they were doing it wrong?  Who wouldn’t want to give up?  I believe more women would continue if they were given better information.  It certainly was demoralizing to hear it shouldn’t hurt.  We can take the truth!  We’ve just given birth for God’s sake, we can deal with pain.  Especially if we know it won’t last forever and it really is best for our child.
3.       3. Change the practice of referring to a miscarriage as a “Spontaneous Abortion”
     I am 100% pro choice.  I am grateful for my right to choose what happens to my body.  I know the term “Spontaneous Abortion” is a medical one, but we hear you say it to each other and occasionally to us.  We see it written down.  And the pain it causes in unnecessary and frankly cruel.  How hard would it be to change the terminology?  In our society the word Abortion is so loaded.  To someone like me it means choice.  And I’ll tell you what; there is NOTHING about a miscarriage that involves choice.  In fact, it is the complete absence of choice.  It is heartbreak, it is helplessness, it is the fear that you have failed, that your body isn’t good enough, the worry that you somehow caused it to happen.  No matter what the modifier is before it, the word Abortion is the most unhelpful one I can think of when describing a miscarriage.  It’s an easy change and it would save a lot of hurt.
4.       4. If it isn’t an emergency please do not leave an unclear message on the voicemail of a pregnant lady after the office has closed on Friday afternoon requesting a phone call first thing Monday morning because a blood test needs to be retaken with no information about what was wrong with the first test and with no reassurances that everything is fine with your pregnancy.
     Tomorrow morning I’ll be explaining to the nurse practitioner at my doc’s office that she created an enormous amount of anxiety for me this weekend.  I will be kind and constructive; I don’t want to alienate her because I might need to see her in the future.  But really, what the hell was she thinking?  I had seen her earlier on Friday morning and we had discussed my miscarriage and anxiety about this pregnancy.  To make matters worse, the on call doctor for the weekend wasn’t part of the practice.  My doctor was on vacation and there was no way to find out what the nurse was calling about.  The on call doctor told me there was definitely no imminent danger to my baby, if there was I would be instructed to go to the ER.  He also mentioned he tells his nurses not to make calls like this on Friday afternoon so patients don’t get upset.  Smart guy.
Yes, these examples come from my personal experience.  But they boil down to some pretty universal things.  Treat us with compassion and listen to what we are saying.  Tell us the truth.  Avoid being hurtful at all costs.  Don’t create worry where there doesn’t have to be any.
Thank you to all the medical professionals out there for helping so many people.  And I will promise to continue to try to treat you all with kindness and consideration.  Emotions run high when it comes to growing babies.  As patients it is our responsibility to treat you the way we want to be treated even if we are scared or receiving terrible news or have just had a really shitty day.   Thank you again for doing your part.  
Sincerely,
Karen Cordano
And thanks for helping me bring this little guy into the world.  Please ignore the job I did butchering his hair.  

International Woman’s Day a Day Late

Yesterday was International Woman’s Day and the ladies who run the blogs Any Other Wedding and One Cat Per Person sent an email to some women bloggers and asked them to contribute a piece about women’s rights or what it means to be a women in 2011 to be posted on their blogs in celebration of the day.  It was the first time that I have received an invitation to share my writing on another blog and I did what I’m best at and ignored it because I was scared.  Yesterday I felt really angry at myself for missing an opportunity, particularly one I felt strongly about.  So while T was napping I wrote something and sent it along to Angie at OCPP.  It seems like there were a couple of other ladies who sent along late contributions and Angie was gracious enough to offer to post them today.  Mine will be going up on OCPP at 1pm if anyone wants to check it out.  I encourage you all to check out the sites regardless.  A lot of interesting stuff was posted yesterday. 
Of course, I am pretty unhappy with what I wrote.  I felt flustered yesterday and couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say, so it is a sort of rehash of many things I’ve written about over here.  And it’s pretty self critical.  Perhaps someday I’ll get over that, but for now it feels like part of the honesty thing.  I don’t like a lot of what I do and think and I can’t help but put that uncomfortable crap out there. 
Now that I’ve had a day to think about it I know I’d write about the bill introduced into the Georgia Legislature that would criminalize all abortions and it would require proof that any miscarriage was spontaneous and not induced.   Those unable to prove their miscarriages were spontaneous could face prosecution.  I’m not going to get into the abortion end of this bill today except to say I feel every woman deserves the right to choose what happens to and in her body.  And I would like to acknowledge that I think there is no chance in hell this bill would pass.  But the man who introduced the bill, Bobby Franklin, was elected by the citizens of Georgia to represent them; he is currently shaping legislation in the state.  He is in a position of power and I believe he is dangerous and anti-woman.  He is the same man that wants the terminology changed from “sexual assault victim” to “sexual assault accuser” pre trial. 
I’m sure that my visceral response of horror and disgust to this bill has more than a little to do with the fact that I recently had a miscarriage.  I believe women are equal in every way to men.  I believe they have the right to choose whatever happens to their body, they have the right to not  be raped, they have the right to carry a baby to term or not carry a baby to term, they  have a right to work outside the home if they so desire, they have the right to vote, to own property.  It is amazing to me that they didn’t have these rights when the country was founded a short 234 years ago.  Miscarriage is the one thing I have experienced (yes, I have led a very charmed life) in which I felt my freedom of choice was completely taken away from me.   I could not believe that my body was betraying me, not when my mind and my heart wanted and loved what had died inside me so completely.   My uterus clearly wanted the baby as well, it held on to the embryo for weeks after it had died and eventually I needed a D&C to remove it.  The D&C procedure is similar to that used to abort an embryo or fetus in the first term.  One of the hardest parts of my miscarriage was letting my future child become medical waste.  It might have been dead inside me, but at least it was where I knew it was loved.  Because nothing is straightforward for me not all of the “product of conception” was removed and I had heavy bleeding and clotting for several weeks after.  There was an ER visit and discussions with the doctor considering whether I needed another D&C or if we should just hope the uterus would just shed on its own.  We went with the latter, and I finally got the all clear about 8 weeks after the D&C.  I cannot imagine going through that terrible process filled with desperation, self doubt, and loathing while facing an investigation in which I was required to prove that I didn’t cause the miscarriage.  Because you know what?  I second guessed every move I made during the pregnancy trying to figure out what I had done to cause this to happen.  I felt like a complete and total failure as a woman and I felt like I could never trust my body again. 
Yes, I don’t believe this bill will pass.  But I don’t think I’m being a hysterical liberal by saying I believe women’s rights are being attacked in this country right now.   I think we need to speak up, and use our votes.  It is an honor and privilege to have the right to vote, and a responsibility.  And it is the least we can to do help protect ourselves.  
This is the pretty lady who lives on my shoulder.  She is my favorite tattoo.  Yup, voting is that important to me.  This was taken when she was brand new.  I should get someone to take another one that isn’t so scabby.  

The List

On Saturday I grabbed one of the many small pads of paper we have hanging around to write a grocery list.  This particular pad was on top of the fridge and I hadn’t laid hands on it since last September.  How do I know?  The top page was a list of questions written for our first trip to the Ob-Gyn when I was pregnant over the summer.  And along with the questions were the answers the doctor gave.  At that appointment we did all the talking before the ultrasound.  So it represented the exact last moments I believed I was still pregnant and all the happiness and contentedness that went along with it.  As soon as I realized what I was holding I started crying.  When Z figured out what was going on he said that he knew it was there, but he didn’t know what to do with it.  Then he tore it off and threw it away.  I almost stopped him, but realized keeping it would only be a way of torturing myself.  It’s hard for me to let things go, even painful things.  But in this case it was necessary. 
I know I should believe in my current pregnancy.  I’ve made it to 15 weeks and all signs point to things looking pretty damn good.  But I am still bracing myself for bad news.  Even though I have felt the baby move I still convince myself it has died every single day.  The miscarriage was so devastating and somehow I feel we were tempting fate by reveling in the joy and delight we experienced with that pregnancy.  I feel like we were punished for our presumption that the baby we lost would be fine.  I feel like if I let myself be happy for a moment this time it will all be taken from me.  The small part of me that is still able to use reason knows my worries are total bullshit.  Sometimes really sad stuff happens.  I didn’t miscarry because I did something wrong or felt too happy.  There was something wrong with the baby and it couldn’t develop properly.  Yes, I know that with my head.  But mental illness means the head isn’t in charge.  I am not motivated by reason or logic, I’m motivated by anxiety and fear and I am trying to protect myself from further pain.  Unfortunately anxiety and fear do not do a great job as protectors even though they mean well.   
Emotionally my current pregnancy has been a nightmare.  I’m not OK.  Writing here at the blog was one of the most helpful things I did to get through the miscarriage, but I haven’t even been able to get it together to indulge in what I know is a great comfort very regularly this time.  Leaving the house has become an epic struggle, frankly getting off the couch has proven beyond my ability most days.  It has put a dreadful strain on our marriage.  When I am unwell I shut Z (and to be honest everyone else) out.  The only way he can spend time with me is to sit on the other end of the couch in silence.  Shockingly it drives him crazy.  On top of that I’ve let the little housekeeping I do go completely.  So Z is now providing for us financially, he’s our emotional glue, and he’s in charge of everything on the home front as well.  I am reminded why I worried about becoming a mother knowing full well I suffer from mental illness.  I wonder if it was fair or right and how it will affect T both in the short and long term. 
So last Thursday Z and I had our first couple’s therapy session.  A very good thing.  We both have been to this rodeo before and this time we were able to recognize we needed help dealing with my sickness right away.  I’m still in individual therapy, of course.  But my behavior is affecting Z in such a huge was that he needs to be a part of the therapy as well.  I’m thankful he is evolved enough to find therapy a useful tool to try and help get me better.  I’m thankful he is willing to play an active role in the process.  I’m still hopeful I’ll eventually be secure in this pregnancy.  I don’t hope for the joy we felt last summer, I think once you’ve miscarried that joy is always tempered, whether you are crazy or not.  But I do look forward to hope.  I already have hope I will get better emotionally.  Because whether it was fair or right or not I did become a mother.  And T is the strongest motivator I will ever have to get well.  I know I will fail him again and again, but I will always try to do better and not make the same mistakes.  I will always want to get well for him.
Yes, it is March 7th.  Yes, we got about a foot and a half of snow in the last 24 hours.  No, we are not amused.  
T was a little sick a few days ago, but he was still captivated by Ernie singing ‘Rubber Ducky’.
His new favorite book ‘I Love You, Stinky Face’ was a Valentine’s gift from his Aunt Sara.