Individual Results May Vary

I have been wanting to write about motherhood, as it is after being finally gloriously obtained after so many trials and tribulations.  Seriously wanting. And, I’ve had the time. Rex is in daycare (thankyou, thankyou, thankyou) and I am back at work part-time.  Partial sanity has been regained. While, I’m still oozing with bloggy feelings, something has continued to stop me, specifically my former infertile and childless self.  I would not have wanted to read what I want to write about. In fact, I would have un-subscribed from my blog tout suite after reading a few paragraphs and wouldn’t have come back for a while.

You see, I’m still struggling with this whole motherhood thing.  I’m not feeling those thunderbolts of instant love that feature so prominently on A Baby Story.  I don’t want to spend every waking moment with my baby and I certainly don’t want to keep him awake to play with him.  In fact, I think he is most attractive when he’s sleeping.  He is so peaceful … and so quiet.  When he’s awake, I am still a little on edge, waiting for him to get fussy either because he’s hungry or bored (or, worse, both).

About this time, the guilt starts setting in.  My Inner Infertile points out how much we wanted this child and how monumentally ungrateful I am being for having these thoughts in the first place.  Then I think about those who read my blog who are still trying to have a child and how I would have felt when I was there reading this (not particularly thrilled).  And, so I just couldn’t write anything.

The thing is, I remember so vividly when we were in the deepest darkest corners of infertility how much I would give up to have a baby and I feel just wretched that now I am so damn ambivalent about the whole thing.  I feel like I have let down myself and all of the other girls who have struggled with infertility. I always thought that once I had a baby, it would be so much better and to now have that baby – who is by all measures an absolutely wonderful baby – and not feel as if I am the happiest woman in the world is an incredible shock.

In a way, I set myself up for this.  I put so much emphasis on being ‘fixed’ once we had a child, that the baby would magically fill that gaping hole in my heart.  And he has filled it somewhat, but not the level that I thought he would.  Not yet, at least. So, I am left with a hole still, and what’s even worse is the sense that it should be full but I’m just too ungrateful, selfish, and plain awful to let Rex fill it.

It is getting better, though. Today, at lunch, he was smiling that whole mouth smile that just makes you smile too.  It’s contagious, like a yawn.  He’s started squealing, which we think is a prelude to laughing.  He’s even had his first walk facing outward in the Bjorn because he can hold his head up.  All of these are amazing milestones that seemed so distant not just a few weeks ago.  The good thing about an infant is that they change so rapidly so fast that the status quo, if you don’t like it, will change and pretty quickly (although, you may still not like what it changes too).

Today, I also felt, for the first time since he was born, like I was happy.  I was walking G with Rex in the Bjorn wearing this adorable hat and it just hit me.  I’m happy. In this moment, I am happy. Perhaps there’s hope for me yet.

image: paterjt

Same As It Never Was

Ah, the joys of the postpartum body.

While I was pregnant, I didn’t give one rat’s ass of thought about what my body might be like after growing a little human and then evicting him, at the whopping size of 8lbs 5oz and over a foot and a half long through the in-door.  I knew that the tummy area might be a little jiggly for a while and I figured it would take some time for the weight that I had so thoughtfully and doggedly put on to support the little human to come off.  So it’s no surprise that the tummy is not it’s former flat self or that the hips and booty are a little more generous making my favorite jeans rather explicit when wrestled on.

I was still surprised when I surveyed my landscape, though, to notice that my boobs, not the largest to start with, had actually shrunk.  Yes, shrunk.  They have been inflated and deflated so many times through pregnancy and nursing that it’s a wonder they are still on the top half of my body, but it was still a shock to put on a bra from my previous life and see how much room there was.  Mr. X doesn’t seem to mind, but still.  I still also have those tattoos of pregnancy; my linea nigra hasn’t disappeared nor have some freckles on the mid-section that cannot thank the sunshine for their existence.

The biggest shocks however have come from the inside.  I don’t care that my OB advised that Mr. X and I could resume nookie six weeks post-partum.  We waited until 8 weeks and it hurt like a mofo for the first half and then I didn’t feel much of anything for the second half.  Common sense dictates that if you stretch something to the size of a cantaloupe, you should expect that it might take it a long time to get back to its normal size.  Common sense and I parted ways at about week 30 in my pregnancy and we have not made up since.  So, genuine shock and dismay followed. It’s getting better, at least on the tightening front, but it still hurts. A lot.

And then there is the weird problem: to put it simply, there’s trouble in my alimentary canal.  About four weeks postpartum, I started having bad digestive problems.  I’ve always had a sensitive stomach so I figured it was just something I ate. But, the problems didn’t go away.  They have been so persistent (going on six weeks now) that I have earned myself the Old People’s Test – a colonoscopy! If you ask me nicely, I might even post pictures.

To recap, the boobs are smaller, the tummy is lumpier, the sex is painful and I get to have a camera placed in the other location where the sun doesn’t shine because of continuing troubles down below.  But, Rex is almost on the verge of laughing and can put himself back to sleep in the middle of the night.  I think that’s a fair trade.

Point of Origin

Ferreting out the root causes of my PPD has helped me immensely in dealing with the thoughts and feelings that I’ve had.  I got the idea from Brooke Shields of all people.  I read most of her biography, Down Came the Rain, and despite not being a model, Princeton grad or Hollywood actress myself, I found that Brooke and I have a lot in common: we both suffered through infertility, miscarriage and PPD.  So, I found her book very helpful, particularly the process that she went through to identify the root causes of her PPD.

I’ve thought long and hard about what caused my PPD, particularly in the middle of the night while rocking Rex back to sleep and being half asleep myself.  Here is what I have discovered.  Some of it will sound very familiar, other parts not so much.

1) The Mother of All Hormone Hangovers: I vaguely remember hearing in Childbirth 101 class about the sudden drop in the hormone cocktail once you give birth, and frankly I think I was actually relieved because I was pretty tired of the hormones at that point. They wreaked havoc on my joints, my head, my GI tract, and my emotions.  I was one cranky lady toward the end, and lot of it had to do with those wonderful hormones.

So, how is it that I could still feel like crap after they had gone? How is that fair?

2) Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes:  Nature abhors a vacuum. I abhor change.  Both are constants.  And, what does having a baby do to one’s life in literally an instant? Change it. Big time. Like every conceivable (ha!) facet of said life.  Intellectually, I knew this.  Emotionally, I really thought that people were making it sound a lot more awful than it really was.  They were right.

Here I was with an 8lb ball of Change and I was struggling mightily against his current.  I wanted something – anything – of my old life back because this new one was completely alien to me.  At one point, I wasn’t even sure I was in my own home – everything looked the same, but it was completely unfamiliar.  Being the geek that I am, I also couldn’t help but feel like I was in that episode of Star Trek where Kirk is in an alternate universe and they are all bad – including fabulous Evil Spock!  I was waiting for Mr. X to sprout a goatee overnight. He didn’t shave for a few days, but there were no goatees.

While I hate big life changes with every fiber of my being, I do eventually grow to accept them.  With this one, it was a matter of just plodding through each day and recognizing that I was still there, this was still happening and I had better get used to it. Who knows, maybe I would even begin to enjoy it. The shock of the change has worn off and there is enough now of my old life interspersed with this new one that I no longer feel like a stranger in my home.

3) What Does this Nipple Do Again?:  One of the quickest ways for me to get really upset is to be put in a situation where I have to accomplish something and I have no freaking clue about how to do it.  Add screaming infant who depends upon you for his very life and the pressure is really, really high.  We took Baby 101, and practiced swaddling and changing the diaper – on a plastic, non-moving, non-screaming baby.  In the hospital, all of a sudden we were expected to do this on a squirming, screaming, red-faced little infant who did not care that you had no prior experience.

That was just the tip of the iceberg.  We didn’t know how much he should eat or how often he should poop or even how much he should sleep.  We were clueless to the highest degree possible.  We overstimulated that child for a week easily before someone explained to us that babies get overstimulated super quick and once they do, you have an easier time getting an active volcano to stop than a screaming overstimulated, tired baby.

What is amazing is that I am usually extremely well informed about just about every major thing in my life.  I research and read anything I can get my hands on, but up until we brought Rex home you would not find a single tome about parenting in my house.  Why? My infertility.  I refused to allow myself to even look at parenting books let alone read one lest something terrible happen and we have no baby.  So of course, when it came time to deal with the real thing, I didn’t know which end was up (well, almost. I could tell one end from the other, even though liquids came out of both ends sometimes).  Mr. X was equally clueless.  I was shocked that they let us take Rex home from the hospital.  Didn’t my look of utter panic give them any clue?

4) The Power Struggle: I hesitate to add this one, but I know that it played a part.  Since both Mr. X and I were clueless, it meant that we had to learn the quick and dirty way with on-the job training and boot camp.  I assumed that we would be doing this equally.  It became pretty clear rather quickly that Mr. X was very uncomfortable with holding, handling and doing pretty much anything with Rex.  It was not for lack of desire – it was because he had never done this kind of thing before and didn’t know what to do.  My inclination in those situations is to just do it and see what happens.   His inclination is to opt out.  Unfortunately, with an infant, you can’t opt out (much as you’d like to sometimes).  So, I would ask if he could do some task just because I really needed a break and he would get this look of combined panic, pain and general discomfort which would make me feel even worse.

This became a real problem when he went back to work and I stayed home with Rex.  I was of the opinion that if I had to be home with an infant who demanded constant attention, the least I could expect would be a break when Mr. X got home.  He didn’t really see it that way, mainly because he was still rather clueless when it came to infant care and had spent the whole day at work.  A whole day at work then sounded like a day at the beach to me – no infant to be constantly on the watch for, no mind-numbing television, and no stealing food on the sly before said infant wakes up.  I would have killed to be at work.  But, the balance of power for getting a break was not in my favor since I could sleep during the day (rather difficult when you are on pins and needles waiting for the baby to wake up and you have no idea what you are going to do in that situation) and was not expected to be conversant with adults on complex topics in a work environment.

We both underestimated what the other was doing and this contributed to the feeling on both sides that the other was not fully appreciating what each had gone through.  All he wanted when he got home was a break and all I wanted when he got home was a break. Unfortunately, we couldn’t both have our way at the same time.

In the end, we both gave a little – he became more comfortable with Rex, I wasn’t as on edge at the end of the day (thanks to Grandma who would come over for a few hours each day).  Rex, for his part, also helped by getting a little more predictable and helpful in letting us know what he needed and when.  But, I was disappointed by him and that really saddened me and added more to my overall difficulties.

Knowing now what I do, I can see that it was a perfect storm a-brewing when we brought Rex home that would cause me to have PPD.   I’m just so glad that others saw it, talked about it and helped me through it.  I’ll still have little moments, but they are just that – moments.  And, every day, I have more moments snuggling with Rex where my heart swells with love and I want to just breathe him in for as long as possible.

Certainly Uncertain

You would think that after five years of infertility I would be used to uncertainty.  In fact, I was used to uncertainty – uncertainty about whether or not we would have a child.  Once that was resolved, it didn’t occur to me that uncertainty would most certainly once again be part of my life.  Silly girl!

Of course, Rex is a constant source of uncertainty for me.  Each “wwwwwwwwaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!” raises the usual questions.  Is he tired? Hungry? Cold? Hot? Bored?  Not one to make it easy, he of course provides few to no clues as to the source of his angst and instead ramps up the crying as if to say, “Schnell, woman! My needs, they must be met! Now!”  If I’m really missing the clues and not responding correctly to his desires, he shrieks.  I seriously question sometimes the wisdom of evolution in making infants the most annoying at the time that they are most dependent upon their caregivers.

Then there are the questions about whether he eats too much, sleeps too little and gets enough tummy time, interaction, fresh air, SAT preparation, and Mozart (kidding on those last two, but not really).  I wonder when I should start trying to get him on a sleep schedule and whether it is a pipe dream to even hope that he might sleep for six hour stretches at night by the time he’s three months old.

Unfortunately, Rex does not corner the market on uncertainty in our lives right now.  Mr. X’s employer has seen to that.  The day after Mr. X went back to work after Rex was born, Big Company informed him that it was going to transfer him (and by extension, us) to a small city about four hours from here.  Away from family and Big Company’s fabulously awesome daycare center and our friends and a decent airport, etc.   I was shocked, but not surprised – we knew that this day would come and the location could have been a lot, lot worse (think town with a population of 2,000 people).  I came to terms with it and we started talking about when we would have to put the house on the market.

Then, they mixed it up – now the assignment was temporary to permanent meaning we couldn’t even sell our current house or buy a new house – we’d be in limbo for six months.  Hopefully, we can push back on this particular part of it because what’s the point of making it temporary to permanent if you know that it’s going to be permanent?! Just make it permanent from the outset and we’ll all be a lot happier.

As with all drama we’ve had in our lives in the past, we’ll get through this too.  But, that doesn’t mean I won’t complain till the cows come home about it.