There’s a Person In There

For as much as Rex resembles a human, his ability to communicate in the English language has been understandably lacking.  Even I, who believes that he is only months away from SAT prep, understands that grasping the spoken word can take a while when the mouth is unused to working with the tongue to form words, let alone put those words to concepts.


During this time, I’ve lumped Rex in the same category as our animals – an adorable enigma with whom I will never be able to have an intelligent, spoken conversation.  While the cats meowed and the dog barked (and barked, and barked) to tell us whatever they felt was necessary, Rex cried to express his thoughts (tired! hungry! pissed! pissed on! poopy!).  Even when his cries evolved into different cries for different situations, there was still that empty space of the one-sided conversations I would have with him.

Today, Mr. X brought Rex home from day care and reported that Rex can make the figure of a circle with his finger when you say “circle”.  He is also beginning to understand ‘down’.  He is trying to say the word sock when we tell him that we’re putting his socks on.  He is trying to say “ball”.  He says dada and mama.   My child is no Helen Keller, but damn do I feel like Anne Sullivan.  There’s a person in there! And he’s learning how to speak our language!

I feel such an amazing sense of accomplishment at this. It’s not that I am responsible for his development – I am one of a whole host of other people.  My sense of accomplishment is that I stuck it out through the infertility, the miscarriages, the post-partum depression, the sleep deprivation, the adorable enigma crying phase, to get to this point where I get to have the interactions that made me want to have a child in the first place.  I get to start communicating with and getting to know a new little person who is mine.

Baby Blues After the Non-Baby Blues

Postpartum Progress, that fantastically wonderful Nobel Prize-worthy site about post-partum depression, asked on Facebook yesterday for stories from ladies who had post-partum depression after infertility.  No arm-twisting required here. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass and I’ll tell you about what I consider to be one of the more nasty secrets about infertility: the shame of having post-partum depression after you’ve worked for five years to have the baby.

I’ve written before that while I was trying to have a baby, I was very focused on actually having the baby.  I was not concerned with what happened once the baby arrived. Either I didn’t believe that there would be a baby or I didn’t want to jinx the run of good luck that got me pregnant and cooking said baby.   So, no thought whatsoever was given to the post-partum period of life.

And then, I had the baby, the wailing, lung-strong, hungry, tired baby.  The (very normal) baby who woke us in the middle of the night with his fire alarm screams, who spit up on every non-washable surface, who was like the crazy roommate that you question your sanity for inviting into the house.  I felt like I had the world’s worst case of buyer’s remorse but I couldn’t tell anyone about it because I had done just about everything possible to (literally) buy this bundle of joy.

There were many times in those first few months when I wanted to give him back – back to whom I couldn’t articulate. I just wanted to return him, say “Sorry, made a mistake, lost the receipt, please take him back, he’ll be so much more happy elsewhere,” and we’ll go back to our regularly scheduled programming.   I would feel terrible for having these thoughts, and then feel doubly terrible because I had wanted this experience so badly. Talk about a vicious cycle.  Bad thought, bad thought for having the bad thought, rinse and repeat.

It never occurred to me at that time that having been through infertility I would be more prone to having post-partum depression.  If I even began to think about having PPD, I quickly concluded that I wasn’t allowed to have post-partum depression after infertility.  Yes, I wasn’t allowed because I had begged to be a mother.  Rex wasn’t an oops or even a timely planned baby.  He was way overdue by the time he did arrive so much that I was afraid he wasn’t going to show at all.  So how on earth could I then have the feelings that I was having?  This could not be a rational world where I was allowed to have these thoughts and not be utterly ungrateful.

It took me a  long time to recognize that I wasn’t ungrateful for having Rex.  I was normal.  I was a normal new first time mom who had been through the wringer for longer than recommended and was still trying to find that new comfort zone.  And, I had PPD.  And the PPD was treatable.

I’m so much better now.  There were so many moms who told me that it would get better and I thought, “maybe for you!” but they were right.  It got so much better.  I really enjoy being a mom now and I think I’m pretty darned good at it, too.

Go Have Your Fun

Travel with me, back to about the fall of 1996, but please – do not mention my eyebrows.  I had not yet discovered waxing, that depilatory wonder. That would happen the next year.  I was a junior in college having a phone conversation with my dad about plans for Thanksgiving.  I told him I wasn’t coming home to the most boring place on earth Maryland for the holiday because I was going to spend it with friends nearby.  Dad, wanting to guilt me for abandoning them on that most American of holidays, responded thusly: “Well, fine. Your mother and I will go to Paris!”

Via Creative Commons by Kadodee

“Have fun,” I told him, and thought nothing more of it.  I had no desire to go to Paris in November, no more than I wanted to go Maryland in November.  November is a month best spent in the south with palm trees, ice cold Bud, and a deep fried turkey.

I learned later that my dearest dad, upon hanging up the phone after our conversation, realized that the only way to save face out of this exchange – because God forbid he not save face – was to actually go with my mother to Paris. And, so they did and they loved it, of course.  This started their annual Thanksgiving holiday jaunt to Paris which grew into annual fall and spring trips which then slid into fantasizing about purchasing real estate in Paris and living there six months out of the year after they retired.  Fate decided that at that point, they should meet another American couple in Paris who had in fact fulfilled this fantasy.  This couple enabled my parents to bring their dream to fruition by introducing them to two lovely ladies who make these kind of arrangements for Americans in Paris.  About 12 years after that phone call, my parents were the proud owners of a tiny 400 square foot apartment in Paris.

How does having an apartment on the Continent work whilst maintaining a residence in the US? It’s called The Good Daughter Service.  That first summer, they still had their home in Maryland so I just handled the mail.  They had a nice young man to take care of the house and car while they were gone.  After that first summer, though, they finally made good on their threat promise to move down South to live near yours truly and the brood. They arrived permanently in November 2009 while Rex was cooking in the oven.

While Rex was cooking when they got here, he was in his full newborn glory by the time they left for Paris that next May.  I will not sugar coat what this was like when they left: it sucked. It sucked in every way possible. Two large pillars of support that we had during those crazy infant days and maternity leave haze were gone just like that.  To top it off, I was now responsible not only for my house, cars, mail, husband, and animals, but I was also responsible for their house, cars and mail.

I really resented them leaving that year.  Not only was I getting all of this extra work, I felt like they were abandoning us.  They weren’t there to see their only grandchild grow (and grow and grow) or reach those baby milestones of sitting up and crawling.  They weren’t there to see and help me be a mom. This was that first major life event of mine that they weren’t around when I felt I needed them and it hurt.  On my darker days, I was very angry with them for leaving me knee-deep in spit-up covered clothes, binkies and their AARP newsletters to frolic in Paris.

This year hasn’t been as bad simply because we have the hang of the Rex thing, we’re all sleeping pretty regularly and I’m not dealing with PPD.  But, I still find myself getting annoyed at what I have to do for them and the New Yorkers that are threatening to take over my desk.  I find myself not wanting to give them Rex updates to punish them for choosing Paris over us.  Why should I send them pictures or videos when they can’t see the real thing because they decided to live the Gallic life? Childish, I know, but I feel it nonetheless.

To them, of course, this was and is the penultimate accomplishment of their post-working lives: they are literally living the dream.  I don’t begrudge them that for a second because I know how hard they worked for it and how much they truly love it.  And, they helped us so, so much while they were here last winter.  I remind myself of this when they tell me how tired they are from trips to other parts of France  and I feel like they expect me to sympathize with them about this awful turn of events.  Or, when we Skype with them while its evening there and they are drinking large glasses of wine while I have a large glass of toddler in my lap who is trying to break my keyboard and the wine is under lock and key for another five hours.

I also just miss them. I can’t pick up the phone and just call them, which I prefer.  The scheduled Skypes every Sunday frankly just don’t cut the mustard.  Skype may be free but the delays in audio are annoying and it’s weird having my parents’ faces looming at me from the screen.  If Rex is awake and around for the conversation, I have to keep him entertained and not breaking anything technical while also trying to have an adult conversation.  And it ends up becoming yet another task that I have to do to help facilitate their fun.

I know I can control a lot of how I see this.  I can focus on the fact that we basically have two free cars – with free gas – for the summer and an entire other house if we need it.  We’re also doing a really good thing to help those people who gave up 18 years of their life for me.  And, like everything in this world, it is not a permanent arrangement.  The next 120 days – yes, I’m counting – will pass and they will return and we’ll get some time back.  In the mean time, I think I’ll see what they left in their wine cabinet.


Oh, y’all,I have been having epic writers’ block recently – that written form of constipation that makes you think you might have something to get out, but really, you’re just going to sit there for a while and stare blankly into space contemplating what could possibly help to move things along.  It’s the kind that makes you whine to your significant other about uncomfortable you are, how blocked you feel and wish that things would just move the hell on. Yes, I really did just compare writer’s block to constipation.  No, you can’t un-read that.

Via Creative Commons by photosteve101

I’ve had plenty of topics marinating in the noggin.  But, the process of actually forming the ideas into coherent and witty prose has become an exercise if futility.  My delete button is getting a lot more action than my return button.  Here’s a typical blogging session: good idea pops into head; witty title is prepared; blank page is stared at; first sentence is written (usually starting with the very unimaginative “I”), and promptly deleted because it is a) stupid b) really stupid or c) so stupid a first grader wouldn’t want their name on it.  Two sentences are written, then deleted.  Switch to another topic entirely and repeat.  Spend at least an hour exhausting ideas and fingers writing words that will be immediately deleted for their utter lack of value.

The thing is, I know what is holding me back.  I know it like my son’s face and like the back of my hand.

I am deeply, deply afraid of offending you, dear Reader.  What, you ask, might I have to say that would offend you?  Well, I certainly wouldn’t comment disparagingly on your choice of outfit (which is lovely by the way – very flattering and the color really suits you) or your hair style (gorgeous!).  No, I’m afraid that you’ll be really, really annoyed when I … complain.  Sweet Jesus, I want to complain. But I want to complain about trivial crap.  The minute I do thought I begin to think of those poor people in Joplin who would love to have a house let alone go through renovating the kitchen.  I think about all those fine ladies still dealing with infertility and waiting for their miracle who would love to have a cranky toddler literally trying to throw himself out of their arms while they are walking.  Or I think about people who are orphans and would love to have one more day with their parents even if it is to take care of their house and cars and mail and cable problems while they are gone for six months. Overseas. Traveling. Cavorting. Having FUN. (That’s a whole other post).

You see, life is doing its normal thing here – alternating between being breathtaking (rocking Rex to sleep tonight – if I could bottle that feeling and sell it, there would be no war) and unbelievably frustrating (the tile guys leaving chewed gum on my door jam after removing my old kitchen floor and gouging my wood floor threshold with the refrigerator. Yes, really.).  But, every time I go to write about it, I imagine you – YES YOU – sitting there with one finger on the mouse going, DELETE! DELETE! That’s it, I’m done! She is an ungrateful spoiled brat and I refuse to read another post whining about overly privileged life. Or something like that.

The thing is, 90% of the time I’m very grateful for what I have. It’s the 10% of the time when shit breaks, when Rex puts on his cranky pants and cries because I won’t let him walk on the neighbor’s yard, when I have to spend 3 hours on the freaking phone with the cable company for my parents’ account because it doesn’t work, when the plumber wants to charge me $700 to install a freaking sink and dishwasher, I just want to tell you fine people about it.  So, I’ll make you a deal: you let me complain and I promise to do it in the most humorous and fabulous way possible.  I might even take the constipation analogy off the table.  Deal? A girl’s got to have her toilet soap box you know.