Mother’s Day

Special occasions delight me. I love celebrating. I relish picking out the perfect present for a loved one, love making an elaborate cake for the birthdays of people in my life, and let’s be honest–I love getting presents myself.

Mother’s Day is difficult for many people and for many reasons. Like all holidays in our society of excess it is shoved down our throats, placing demands on us rather than fostering sincere appreciation.

If we avoided celebrating everything that caused sadness and hurt in others there would be nothing left to celebrate. I feel for my friends and family who dread this holiday. I want to be able to take their pain away. But I’ve decided not to feel guilty about enjoying it myself.

On this day I’m not looking for flowers and jewelry and a meal at a fancy restaurant. If that stuff is your jam, I hope you got it! To each his own.

But Mother’s Day reminds me to think about my own Mom. My appreciation for her has exploded since I’ve become a Mom myself. I understand her so much better. She has been more than I could have imagined as a Grandma. I love watching her with my boys. Mother’s Day reminds me to look at my big boy who will be headed to kindergarten in the fall and remember the tiny peanut he was, how he gave me the gift of motherhood, one of the most extraordinary gifts I will ever receive. Mother’s Day reminds me that Z decided he wanted to have kids with me, even after it became clear that I was a crazy person. Mother’s Day reminds me of the joy mothering a second baby because you know you can do it. My love for C has a confidence in it because I’ve been to this rodeo before. Mother’s Day reminds me of the twins I miscarried, they will always be a part of me and they will always be loved. It isn’t that I don’t think about those things all the time, but a day set aside to really give them attention is a gift.

Let’s get real, Z also makes sure I get to sleep in.

This year Z asked what I wanted to do with the day and I told him the only thing I really wanted to do was get a long run in.

The other thing I do on all holidays is reflect on the last year. I think about how different we all were just 365 days ago. And on last Mother’s Day if you told me that I’d ask for the time to complete a 5 mile run in exactly one year I would have said, “You. Are. Fucking. Insane.”

And yet, here we are.

Today’s run was a mess. I haven’t done 5 miles for a few months. I haven’t made it out 5 times a week for about that long. The winter was so frigid and snowy, I got a sinus infection and the flu, schoolwork was overwhelming. These are simply excuses, but they are the truth. This week I did 4 runs and really listened to my body. Ramping up milage too fast can cause injury and I do not want to mess up and get hurt before the half marathon this October. I was sore and hurting so on the 5th day I did yoga. Today marks the start of a new week and I’d had two days of rest. I was doing 5 miles, damn it.

I did them. The slowest 5 I’ve ever done. It was sunny and in the 60s and I didn’t bring water. The new shorts with the built in bicycle pant thingies road up and I got fierce chafe on my thigh chub. I wanted to walk half way into the second mile. But I told myself I’d fix those problems next time. I told myself to keep on going. I told myself I can do hard things. And I did them.

The fact that they were ugly miles made them even more valuable to me. Because they perfectly illustrate what I’ve learned this year. I’ve learned I actually can to hard things. I’ve learned endurance. I’ve learned I’m stronger than I thought. I’ve learned to make impossible goals. And then figure out how to reach them.

Next Sunday T and I are going to do a 1/2 mile fun run at a local park. I’m proud that he is interested in running and excited we can do it together.

I couldn’t have run 1/2 a mile last mothers day. This year I can do it with ease. Day to day it is hard to see the changes we make in our lives. But what a difference a year makes.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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A shaky, dehydrated mess. But a PROUD shaky, dehydrated mess.

mother day presents

My Mother’s Day presents. By which I mean T & C’s Mother’s Day presents.  Now I know why T was so excited to give them to me.

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My Mama loving her girls on the boardwalk down the shore.

Everything Happens

In the summer of 2010 April 3rd suddenly became one of my favorite days of the year. And then I miscarried the babies that were due this day in 2011.

Three months after I lost the twins I became pregnant with C. My last baby, his almost constant sweetness-at least until he doesn’t get what he wants, his ability to morph into a tantrum throwing maniac in two seconds flat, his never ending desire for cuddles, his joy when he sees his father or me, his sweet little Tweety Bird face-the huge eyes fringed by thick dark eyelashes and delicious little mouth that hangs open like a beak, being able to stare into his eyes while I nurse him, I can’t imagine a world without him.

But if the twins had lived I know I wouldn’t be able to imagine the world without them either.

Everything happens for a reason.

Bullshit. That is a load of fucking bullshit.

C isn’t some gift from the gods to make my pain from the miscarriage go away. I didn’t learn a life altering and valuable lesson, becoming a better person in the process after I lost a pregnancy that was planned and wanted. There isn’t some Divine Being rewarding us after putting us through trials. If that were the case couples struggling with infertility would eventually get pregnant. Cancer would be a really shitty illness that we all heroically overcame. No one would tragically die young.

Everything doesn’t happen for a reason. Things just…happen. Sometimes good things, sometimes bad things. Our life isn’t ‘better’ with C in it. Our life wouldn’t be ‘better’ if the twins had lived. I can grieve for the children who were once alive inside me while still loving the son I conceived three months later with my whole heart. Life is messy and unexpected and it hurts like hell and it is incredible and it is full of joy and love and hate and ambivalence and pain. All at the same time.

April 3rd is messy. Our wedding anniversary will be messy for the rest of our lives. Things will continue to happen, things totally outside our control. We will keep doing the best we can. This is a day of grief and pain, but somehow there is also room for silliness and love. T climbed into bed with me this morning and cuddled his tiny body into mine and gently told me it was time to wake up. C and I looked at the wall of pictures in our stairway, I asked where family members were and he pointed to their faces. Z and I managed to stop for a minute while rushing through our morning routine and looked into each other’s eyes and shared a kiss. Our life is full of love, but that doesn’t replace or negate the loss. The good and the bad live together. There is ample room in my soul for all four children I conceived.

april 2

Somehow a snowy morning feels right on this day.

tweety bird

My little Tweety Bird found an R2-D2 “egg” on Easter.

naked nap

Evidently, he can now undress during naptime.

Crazy, Periods, And Some Good News

This whole anxiety disorder thing is never going to go away. I know that. Nevertheless when my therapist reminds me of that fact, as she did yesterday, it always kicks my ass.

Check out this blog post, especially the second half. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Ok, I know it is from an atheist website that proselytizes against religion with the same small minded zealotry of the very evangelicals it purports to be smarter than, but the author is spot on in his assertion that those suffering from mental illness are “separated from reality” who often need the help of friends and family in order to recognize they are ill. Can I take a sec to thank Z yet again for convincing me I needed help years ago?
My separation from reality is often in the form of paranoia that is occurs when I’ve done nothing wrong, yet my crazy convinces me that everyone sees a monster when they look at me. I was not even in the room when T got his black eye. Not only did I believe that the entire faculty and staff of his school thought that I’d given it to him, I felt guilty about it. WHEN I ACTUALLY KNEW I DIDN’T FUCKING DO IT! It is exhausting and confusing and frightening to carry guilt for actions I know I haven’t taken. 
Currently there is a bigger issue that is making me more vulnerable to the paranoia. In May I wrote about being worried about the return of my period. It finally came back in August and boy-o was I right to be concerned. Listen, I feel ridiculous writing this. I’ve had my period for almost 25 years, clearly it shouldn’t be a big deal. But the terror I feel when I bleed now is suffocating. It is a textbook trigger, it brings me right back to hemorrhaging. I feel so helpless. I can’t spend 5 days a month as a complete basket case. I can’t be running to the bathroom every few minutes to check that blood isn’t pouring out of me, especially because I know that blood isn’t pouring out of me, I do know it, I swear. Evidently knowing it doesn’t prevent me from needing to check to be triple sure. 
This last period was awful, and not just for me. Z suffers when I’m in bad shape, and I’m sure the boys know on some level. Rather than enjoying the blood free two and a half weeks in front of me, I’m already stressing out about the next one. What has really crystalized for me is that another pregnancy would not be a good idea. My track record blows; T = huge clots that were dismissed by my former doc as not a big deal which were actually the warning sign that I had retained some placenta that led to a D&C 5 days postpartum. Incomplete miscarriage of twins = eventual D&C to remove “products of conception” that didn’t seem to feel like passing on their own, plus ER visit due to clots because not all “products of conception” successfully removed, followed by nearly two months of blood tests as we waited for those “products” to finally pass. C = hemorrhage of more than a liter of blood six hours postpartum. My body does not like to let go of the contents of its uterus. Why the hell would we risk it again? That said, if I accidentally get knocked up I’d super appreciate it if you guys could say stuff like, “Oh Karen, I’m sure your uterus is going to cooperate this time!” Thanks, friends.

This is the face of a crazy person who is afraid of her period. Not quite sure what to do about that. 

Ready for some awesome news? My professor told me he and I should leave after the seminar portion of class next week in order to trick or treat with our kids. So I get to be on my “I’m totally responsible about not cutting class” high horse and still spend Halloween with Luke Skywalker and Yoda.

Our front stoop is ready for trick or treaters.  

 It was in the 70s today and T took advantage by doing some bike riding in the leaves.

Evidently Z and T have been doing this for ages. They are both nuts.
My sweet baby.

***Also, I cleaned up my “Stuff I Follow” list. If you haven’t posted in forever I went ahead and removed your link. I’m still subscribed in my RSS feed and if you start posting again I promise to put you back! I just thought it was weird to have links to blogs that weren’t being updated anymore. Hope I didn’t hurt any feelings! If you want your blog back on the list even if you aren’t posting email me and I’ll do it.

Emotional Pregnancy Garbage

The physical changes during pregnancy are completely overwhelming. But they are so in your face that it is easy to write and talk about them. The emotional changes are a bit more tricky and, of course, unique to each person. Successfully capturing the emotional toll of pregnancy has been alluding me. I’ve tried to write this post several times, and I’ve really struggled to get it right.

During T’s pregnancy my state of mind really bothered me because I had no idea what would happen when the baby came. I felt no connection to him. The only thing that comforted me in the “am I fit to be a mother?” department was I knew despite my reservations I did not want to lose the baby. I knew a miscarriage would be devastating, so on some level that meant I must want the baby. Several friends had warned me that I might not bond with him immediately, and judging from my prenatal feelings I was sure that would be the case. It was a delight to fall deeply and immediately in love with him.
When I got pregnant last summer it didn’t bother me at all that I felt no connection to the baby, I knew I would when he or she got here. To find out there had been two embryos and that I’d lost them both was even more devastating than I anticipated. So in a really straightforward and predictable way this pregnancy has been difficult emotionally. I’ve wanted this baby so intensely, but the experience with the miscarriage has meant I’ve lived in fear that something terrible is going to happen. Other moms who have had miscarriages have told me the fear passes when the baby quickens, but that hasn’t been the case for me. I’m scared I will hemorrhage, he will be stillborn, I’m slowly leaking amniotic fluid and don’t know it, and a million other things each more far fetched than the last. I don’t know if my fear comes from my anxiety disorder or not, but it has been my constant companion. I still don’t feel bonded to the new guy. But that doesn’t bother me at all. I will fall in love with him. Even if I don’t immediately I trust that I will eventually. 
All that emotional garbage feels pretty normal. The frightening part about this and the other pregnancies is how isolated they make me feel. It is very similar to how I felt when I was in the middle of my breakdown. My limited comfort in my own skin has been removed. I’ve never been good at sharing, the truth is I really resent it when someone else is relying on my internal organs. My body no longer belongs to me, and I feel very stingy about it. The only control I have it how the rest of the world interacts with me. I don’t like to be touched by anyone and the feeling intensifies as the day progresses. In the morning I seek Z out for our hugs, but by the evening I actually shrink away from being touched.
I hate it. Because if I am comfortable with the person I adore physical affection. And with Z it is more like a necessity. A basic part of what makes me me is gone. But the thing that scares the shit out of me is I don’t feel like a stranger. This is what life was like when I was rockin’ that borderline personality disorder. I feel like that girl. And let me tell you what, things were pretty bleak then. Thankfully, it isn’t all the time, and it isn’t anywhere as severe as it was. Every morning I wake up in decent shape and my emotional state deteriorates throughout the day. By the time I go to bed I feel like I’m becoming that person I used to despise. In the morning she’s gone, and if this transition to postnatal is anything like last time she’ll be gone for good after I get the hang of breastfeeding again. Except what does gone for good mean? Gone unless we decide to have a third? Gone until I relapse? That’s my biggest fear, especially now that I’m a mom.  
I don’t have the ability to describe how awful life was in the middle of my breakdown. When I got better, but I was still so close chronologically to the events that nearly destroyed my marriage, I would get the cold sweats every time I thought about how things had been. How could that have been me? How do I make sure I never ever go back there? The longer I’ve been better the less I think about it, but it is always there. I will never be free of the fear that I’ll suffer a clinical depression because if it happens there is nothing I can do to prevent it. Mental illness isn’t something you can control or completely prevent. The only thing you can do is manage it. I do not believe it will ever be as bad as it was. I don’t believe I’ll regress into a borderline personality disorder again because we know better. We would get me help and we would never let it get to the point where I would be so desperate.

I do wish that pregnancy didn’t bring me so close to who I used to be. But the absolute truth is it’s temporary and it’s completely worth it. I love being T’s mom. And I can’t wait to be a mother to New Guy. 

Today was overwhelmingly humid, and little man’s curls were going crazy. As a stick straight hair gal I was green with envy. 

I was doing some hardcore cleaning in the kitchen (nesting, nesting, nesting) when I heard the dulcimer. I’m still not sure how he got the thing on his lap, but I advised Z to put it somewhere T couldn’t reach it in the future.

My boys clinking glasses and saying “Cheers!” Z and I have a million little unobserved traditions like the frequency with which we toast each other. The thing is, they are observed now. And T wants to take part. It’s pretty damn cool.

Date Afternoon

Yesterday we decided to schedule a babysitter for this afternoon so we can go to Harry Potter and then grab dinner. At first I was so excited and happy about the prospect. Then I started thinking about the last time we’d had an honest to goodness date. And I couldn’t remember when that was. But I did remember the last time we planned a date, it was for our 10th wedding anniversary. Needless to say, that didn’t work out very well. So I started to get anxious. And then I thought about seeing HP on Friday and the anxiety attack I had during the movie. And I got even more anxious.

Of course, I’ve partially convinced myself that something truly awful is going to happen today. All things considered, I’ve led a very charmed life. The worst thing I’ve ever gone through is my miscarriage. And in my head the miscarriage is somehow tied into us trying to do something nice for ourselves. Or having the hubris to celebrate 10 years of marriage like we are some sort of experts and deserve a pat on the back. I don’t understand why I’ve had the dumb luck to be so fortunate in my life and I am constantly waiting for the, I don’t know, fates? To even things out somehow, to punish me for having every opportunity handed to me and squandering those opportunities by having an anxiety disorder.

But there is a small part of me that trying to be heard and it is saying I’m full of shit. I want to have a nice date with my husband. And damnit, I’m going to try and enjoy myself. I’m at very least going to try and not let my anxiety disorder bully me. And that, my friends, is progress.

Yesterday was stellar and that is helping me have a more positive outlook. We are friends with an amazing couple who took it upon themselves to give their Sunday to us. He arrived at 9am sharp and over the next 8+ hours proceeded to caulk, sand, prime, and paint all the trim on the 3rd floor. The work he did would have taken Z two or three days. She came by a little while later and provided me with some excellent company while I tried to clean up the living room a little bit. Then she ran out and bought lunch for the crew. All the sudden we didn’t feel like we were caught in the never ending reno. Z was able do a bunch of little jobs that got him to the place where he is ready to do a last coat of paint on the floor. As soon as that happens it’s time to move furniture in. We are really almost done. Later we had take out from my favorite place for dinner, and out of the blue they stuck a huge chocolate chip cookie in the bag with a piece of tape stuck to it on which was written “a gift”. And as soon as the boy was down a friend showed up to have a drink and some very pleasant conversation for the rest of the evening. After a day like that I don’t want my anxiety to take over. I just want to keep having days like that!

So fingers crossed Z and I make it to the 3:30 show at creepiest mall in Ameraca, good old Shoppingtown in sunny Dewitt, NY. Seriously, if you are ever in Syracuse you’ve got to pay this place a visit. And then you can feel thankful that your mall is nothing like it. Fingers crossed even harder that we make it to Pascale in Fayetteville at around 6. And fingers crossed hardest that we have a wonderful time.

Before yesterday we weren’t even sure if the carpet was going to get off of the stairs this summer. Now the stairwell is painted and the steps are waiting for their first coat of paint. 

Three weeks ago that wall did not exist. 

Oh my lord, I love the menacing look on his face as he wields the 5-in-1 tool. And yes, we supervise him while he handles Z’s tools.  

This chalkboard hung in Z’s grandmother’s kitchen for decades. Last summer he made it into a coffee table with a hidden drawer for chalk. I asked T what he was drawing and he said, “Daddy playing guitar!”

Happy and Trying to Stay That Way

Out of the blue I keep being struck by the fact that I am happy right now. I love my life. I love our home. I love our little family. I love the smoker Z got for his birthday, we are on a pork shoulder smoking jag right now. I even love that we are in the middle of a little home reno project to make room for New Guy.  If any of you ever have to visit Syracuse make sure it is in the summer. This place is off the hook amazing. The highs vary from 80s to 70s, there is usually at least a thunderstorm a day, the nights are in the 60s, all that rain means it is as green and lush as a jungle. And most of the students are gone. It’s heaven on earth.

Everything feels better here in the summer. I don’t even mind how overcast it is because all the green makes up for the darkness, and the weather changes so fast there are usually a couple of minutes of sun a day, which is an improvement over the never ending darkness of wintertime. We have people over on the weekends. I love to cook even though I keep telling Z I’m getting too big and I’m ready to slow down in the kitchen I send him to the farmer’s market with lists for local fruits and veggies with all sorts of recipes in mind. I keep thinking things like I won’t get a chance to do a strawberry pie with local strawberries till next year if I don’t make one now. And I’ll tell you what, that pie was worth the body aches I had on Sunday night as I tried to ease myself into bed.

In the past, when my anxiety and agoraphobia have been severe I’ve sat on the sofa in a semi-catatonic state for hours at a time, remote nearby and computer on my lap. I didn’t make dinner, I didn’t clean up, I did manage to meet T’s basic needs but not much beyond that. I felt like a weight was pressing down on me, physically preventing me from getting up and taking part in life.  I haven’t felt that way in several months, it feels so removed from my life right now that I can’t believe it was me.

One of the insidious ways my anxiety works is to plant little thoughts in my head and no matter how hard I try to dismiss them they come back over and over. I am happy most of the time right now. And I’m grateful for that. Back during the great breakdown of the mid aughts I couldn’t enjoy happiness at all because I was sure it was fleeting. As I’ve gotten better I’ve been able to enjoy the happiness while it lasts and swallow the terror of what will happen when it inevitably passes. But even though I’m loving life right now I also can’t shake the dread that has accompanied this pregnancy. I’m still scared something catastrophic will go wrong. The change is I’ve also started to believe everything is going to be OK and I will deliver a healthy baby boy on or around August 28th. So when the fear hits it feels especially shocking. I will be living my current happy life, making plans for this baby I want so much, and the certainty that I will deliver him stillborn, or go into labor two months early, or that he will be born but will have a significant health problem (though our genetic testing looked terrific), or any other of a million terrible scenarios will happen take hold of me and won’t let go. My nightmares  are never ending. I wake up because I need to pee and when I fall back to sleep I’m back in the same awful dream and unable to get away.

Anxiety is smart, much smarter than I’ll ever be. Maybe this is its way of letting me know who is always in charge. Now that I’ve gotten past its threat of future unhappiness when I’m feeling good maybe it is just shape shifting into the worst fear I currently have. My feelings of inadequacy and failure surrounding the miscarriage last fall and my fear I lack the ability to carry another healthy baby to term certainly are ripe for the picking. Maybe I just need to figure out how to fight this particular demon. The discouraging thing is it feels like no matter how many times I learn to manage the current situation my anxiety will come up with a new one that I am completely unprepared to battle. It knows my deepest fears and exploits them with frightening efficiency.

It is weird to feel so happy and so fearful at the same time. But I do feel stronger now. When I was seriously unwell I didn’t believe in Z’s commitment to me. I believe it now. I didn’t have the responsibility of a little boy who is counting on me. It is so much easier to fight for myself now that I recognize there is so much to fight for. Yes, the unrelenting anxiety is overwhelming. Part of me just wants to give up. But the mom and wife part of me is stronger. And that rocks.

It’s probably because I’m his mom, but his sweet little face totally undoes me. 
 Visiting Z at work. Is there anything cuter than a toddler in a Hawaiian Shirt? Thanks EF for the hand-me-downs! 

 He was so excited to discover the clamps hanging exactly like they do under Z’s workbench at home. 

Foxx Amendment to H.R. 1216

The last few weeks have been crazy and busy and rather wonderful. Of course, the busier one is the less time he or she has to sit down and blog.  And I do want to write about my RI friend’s visit, Z’s birthday, my Aunt and Uncle’s trip here, my computer dying, T’s sudden and enthusiastic entry into the world of temper tantrums, and the most embarrassing thing that has happened to me as a parent in public thus far.  I plan on getting to most of that stuff, but today I read something that has me in such a tizzy it motivated me to get back to posting.

Let’s be honest. Writing about politics is not going to win me a lot of friends.  And much of the political blogging out there is just preaching to the choir, which is a colossal waste of time in my opinion.  Most of you guys reading are my friends who share a lot of the same political beliefs as me, and I wish there was a way for me to reach those who disagree, but I honestly have no idea how to do that.  And yet my horror and frustration are so acute that I can’t help myself and I’m preaching to the choir anyway.

I am pro-choice.  This does not mean I am pro-abortion.  I have known several women who have used abortion as birth control, and that cavalier attitude towards pregnancy sickens me.  I have also known several women who were careful, still became pregnant, and made the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy.  Probably because I went on the pill before I was sexually active for medical reasons and stayed on it for 15 years I have never had to contend with the impossible decision of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.  Yes, T was unplanned.  But we were working towards starting a family, or more specifically Z was working hard on wearing me down.  So I have no idea what I would do if faced with an unwanted pregnancy, particularly if  I was young and single.  But no matter what my choice would be I am grateful to live in a country where I am free to make it myself.  And I am worried about the current attack on reproductive rights of American women.

My problem with the proposed provision on stripping federal funding for abortion training extends far beyond a women’s right to choose.  And this problem is what I would like to share with those who are pro-life.  If this provision becomes law there will be a generation of doctors who are not trained on a basic procedure that saves women’s lives.  If a surgical abortion is performed in the first or early second trimester it is either 1. suction and scraping, or 2. dilation, suction, and scraping.  The latter is referred to as a D&C.  And over a period of 13 months I received two of them.  Because D&Cs are not only used in abortions.  They are used when part of the placenta is left behind after childbirth, and they are used after missed or incomplete miscarriages.

When part of the placenta is left in the uterus after childbirth a woman can start to experience heavy bleeding, which can lead to passing huge blood clots, which can lead to hemorrhaging, which can lead to death.  I only got to the huge blood clot stage before seeking help.  And I was nowhere near death, but it was scary enough and I was grateful that my doctor was able to perform the procedure to fix the problem.  This complication happens in 2% of deliveries.  What if doctors were not trained in how to perform this procedure?  The mortality rate for complications from childbirth would skyrocket.

My miscarriage was in the “missed” category.  My embryos had stopped developing weeks before the miscarriage was discovered via ultrasound and blood test.  The D&C was performed in order to save me from the emotionally and physically painful experience of passing the “products of conception” myself after a waiting period of an undetermined amount of time.  Was it a life or death medical necessity? No. But it certainly made the indescribably awful experience of losing a pregnancy slightly more bearable.

This legislation goes beyond the abortion debate and attacks the rights of all women in America.  Would any pro-life person want to deny women suffering from the issues I experienced access to this procedure? I truly am shocked it is happening in the 21st century and appalled it was proposed by a woman, Rep. Virginia Foxx.  What if she had a retained placenta?  What if her mother or daughter did?  Do we really want to punish all women over proposed restrictions placed on a legal procedure?

OK, that was kind of heavier than usual.  So how about some pictures of T to lighten the mood?

He thinks all screwdrivers are chisels and uses them as such. 

 He’s at the shop at Z’s work. He loves hanging out there.