She Not Me

56332937_957671817f_zLast summer, I had lunch with a former law clerk of our firm – let’s call her “She Not Me” – as part of my re-entry to the local legal community after coming back from Texas.  We had actually offered She Not Me a position upon her graduation many moons ago but she turned it down in favor of a judicial clerkship.  At the time, BossMan groused that she was making a poor choice, which I didn’t understand since in my limited experience a judicial clerkship was quite the plum assignment given only to those in the top of the class and were very marketable later on.

During my Texas exile, BossMan had kept in touch with She Not Me through community service stuff and had told me at the time that he thought she had had a miscarriage in the last few years.  Fast forward a while and we find ourselves in firms working right across the parking lot from each other.  I was eager to catch up with her, especially if she was a fellow miscarriage survivor. I remembered her as being a pretty fun person.  We finally got past the waving hello stage and set a date to have lunch.

Within 5 minutes of being in the car, though, I knew it was going to be a difficult lunch.  She Not Me was not who I remember.  She was swearing like a sailor.  While I am a fellow sailor, this was a Deadwood-level of gratuitous swearing. I at least try to be judicious with my swearing, especially around people I haven’t seen in several years.  In between swearing, she was telling me all about swaggering from job to job and becoming a partner.  Kids seemed on the distant horizon for her. She only mentioned that she and her husband were going to have a lot to learn about having kids – and weirdly, about how she almost bought a car that wouldn’t fit a car seat.  No peep or hint of any difficulties or miscarriages.  She also didn’t ask me much about myself or what I had been up to for the last 10 years.  She certainly didn’t ask about my kids.  I was very disappointed.  I was really looking forward to having a girlfriend around for lunch or the occasional hilarity.

A few days later, She Not Me drops the bomb on Facebook: she was pregnant and already in her second trimester.  I was pissed off.  The girl knew when we were having lunch that she was going to have a kid and soon, and essentially lied about it to my face.  Granted, we didn’t know each other that well and she was under no obligation to share her joyous news with me (although looking back on it, I had this feeling that she might be but then said, “Nah.”), but her way of handling it did not do anything to raise her credit limit.  I totally get the desire not to divulge a pregnancy until it is safe, but in that case, don’t talk about kids, period. Let’s talk about interesting cases, bosses, whatever, but not kids. I can have that kind of conversation. I have a life outside of my children.

I remained friends with her on Facebook, anyway even though every single post made me roll my eyes in a dramatic teen fashion.  I was still pissed off about the pregnancy announcement.  It got worse with the baby sonogram, shower pictures and eventual “we’re in love with our new baby” picture.  I was  beginning to feel that my angst towards this girl was not so much about her lying, but something deeper so I finally decided to try to figure out why this girl had gotten under my skin.

It came to me while I was making dinner a few weeks ago. Are you ready? It is this:  She is who I thought I would be and don’t think that I am. How is that for a mind f*ck?

My biggest career regret is that I didn’t pursue a judicial clerkship.  At the time, I didn’t think that I was good enough and so I didn’t try.  I wasn’t on law review and thought that would sink my chances.  I also wanted to know for certain that I had a job that was relatively permanent before I started studying for the bar.  I got my wish. I was hired by the firm I am still working at – relatively unheard of in this day and age – and heard many times from my now boss that clerkships are useless.

She Not Me, of course, clerked for a justice on the state Supreme Court.

And, there is also the little issue of how freaking long it took for Mr. X and I to have Rex.  I thought, given her rumored previous miscarriage, that She Not Me and I had some common ground.  I gently floated some of the troubles that we had had and she didn’t bite at all.  Now I know that She Not Me wasn’t going to bite because she was already pregnant. And, it turns out that she didn’t suffer my pregnancy-related depression or anxiety about whether or not I was even going to have a live baby. She sailed through her pregnancy on a haze of happy Facebook posts and gauzy baby shower pictures.  So far, it doesn’t appear that she has had an inkling of post-partum depression, or at least nothing that she’s copped to on Facebook.  By the time Rex was 4 weeks old, I was all over Facebook practically begging for comfort from people I hadn’t heard from in years.

In short, She-Not-Me appears to be sailing through this motherhood thing already.

I feel like she is my alternate, more bad-ass and accomplished self and she is sailing through the same wickets of life that I kept getting hung up on.

The problems with this conclusion are many.  The first is that I am assuming that what she is telling me is accurate and that her Facebook persona is even a marginal representation of her real life.  The bigger one, though, is my notion that I am not as bad-ass or accomplished as she is.  I don’t think this is the case.  I have to be bad-ass on a daily basis with this crazy life o’ mine and I bring it, every damn day.  I may not be as accomplished in the resume department, but I have a job that enjoy and am good at it.  It also affords me the flexibility that I need while raising two small children with a husband who works long hours far away.

In fact, she is actually probably jealous of me. Imagine that.

When It’s Bad, It’s Very Bad

I’m fairly embarrassed that I haven’t blogged all year and the year is already into month three.  I don’t have a good excuse, but I have plenty of bad ones.  Should I start with February being short? How about January being f*&$ing ridiculous with the ice and cold and FOUR DAYS of school closures in less than a week? Maybe my children wearing me down to a nub by the end of the day so that I think I am only capable of drinking wine and surfing Facebook in those precious 90 minutes before my bedtime?

No, while all are sort of contributory, none are the real reason.  The real reason is that the only time I feel compelled to write is to moan, wail and complain about how hard everything seems to be.  When things are going well and right, I just want to sit back and bask in the glow of my perfection.  When things aren’t going so well, I want to jump on the keyboard and pound out a diatribe against whatever is lousing up my day, or month or even year (yes, you got that reference, didn’t you?).

So, I finally decided to say f*ck it and write about things that are genuinely on my mind, which truth be told, are usually the difficult parts of my life, not the easy ones.  I cannot and will not be the blogger who gives you a happy ending every time. Because, who wants to read that? I personally would much rather read about other people’s struggles and how they have managed to hack their way through it, however ugly it may be, than read a nice little present with a bow on top.

Right now, what is on my mind is that this winter is just kicking my ass, and I am not even in the snow zone.  We’ve had some pretty crappy weather (see January above) but overall, we in the south are guaranteed a faster exit from winter than pretty much anyone else. No, the ass kicking has come from Little Miss.  Poor child has been averaging at least one illness per month since October.  Kidney infection, pneumonia, random fever illness, tick bite (where I had to remove the tick – OMG).  I had really hoped that when she turned 1 in November, the bug train would slow down, but so far, she’s still attracting the germs like flies.  In January, we actually managed a 6 week period of no illness only to get BACK TO BACK hand/foot/mouth in February followed not a week later by adenovirus with inflamed tonsils and high fever.  I have had to resort to sending her pediatrician a gift card to the local movie theatre to take his family out because I have been pestering him so much.

And my poor baby girl is just miserable which makes me miserable.  It breaks my heart when she whimpers and I can’t do much to help except force her to take some ibuprofen. She doesn’t understand that it will make her feel better.  She doesn’t get why she feels like crap and her mouth is on fire.  She just cries and cries and throws little baby daggers of guilt straight at my heart.  If she could use the phone, she would have the grandparents on speed dial to tell them how much we suck as parents. I can only hope that spring will bring better weather and better health for all of us. Otherwise, I may have to start hitting my pediatrician with gift cards weekly.

We Are in This Thing Together

I’ve been obsessing over ruminating on my Ex and his divorce ever since I saw him last weekend.  He was the left-ee in this situation – left with the kids by his wife.  Every time I think about it, I can’t help but imagine what it would be like if Mr. X did the same thing to me. All I can think about is that I would be without my best friend and how much that would suck.  Because, that is what Mr. X is – he is my best friend with benefits.  We are each other’s other.  Thinking about it actually makes my stomach squeeze up a little waiting for the blow.

We are in this marriage together, for better or worse, and have to weather whatever comes together.  When it comes to the kids, though, it’s been hard to put this concept into practice.  Inevitably, rather than supporting each other, we are silently blaming the other for not helping enough with the kids or the housework or giving the other enough decompression time.  It doesn’t feel like we are in the battle together but in reality are battling each other while fending off the onslaughts from the children.

I finally realized this – it takes me a while these days, what with sleep deprivation and a metric f*ck ton of shit to do every day – when I was asked what thing I would give up that is only bringing me down.  I knew pretty quickly: I wanted to stop feeling like I was responsible for Mr. X’s happiness. I was getting very stressed about how I was managing the kids so that they wouldn’t make him more stressed. I was trying to control everything that could touch his life so that it wouldn’t cause him more stress than he was under.  You know how this doesn’t work, right? I didn’t.

I told myself that I was being a good partner – I was trying to lighten his burden because he was so stressed all of the time.  Of course, what I now realize is that in assigning myself the role of being his happy maker in addition to that the kids and the cats and the office and the clients, we were no longer working together. I was working for him. And when he didn’t appreciate the effort I was putting in to make his life less stressful – because we all know how easy kids are to control! – I would get angry at him and myself for the precious amount of effort I had expended on this monumental and now mostly futile task.

The person to whom I confessed this to is very wise, and also happens to have children out of the insane toddler years. She suggested that we be each other’s resting place.  The more I thought about this, the more I understood and appreciated what this meant.  Rather than trying to control the external factors of his life to make it more easy, I could instead become the person who gives him that outlet to just be or to recharge.  This doesn’t mean I will stop doing laundry or feeding the cats, it just means that I’m not going to stress about trying to make his passage through fatherhood easier. Maybe the happiness I get back from that alone will make him happier.

* And wow, two posts in one month!

** Double wow, I also forgot that I’ve been doing this blog thing for six years – twice as long as I’ve been a mom.

The View Through The Soda Straw

Myopia is a neat word, but a terrible condition. I know because I had it for many years, starting in elementary school. I could only see objects very close in front of me and everything else was just a colorful blur.  Glasses helped, but the blur bled through on the sides where there was no glass resulting in myopically good vision only in front of me. Contacts were better but sticking stuff in my eyes daily – or worse, sleeping in the contacts – was not particularly fun.  Then, in 2004, I had Lasik.  Angels sang, the heavens parted, and I could see the trees and the forest and the individual leaves.

Via Creative Commons

Via Creative Commons

While I can see everything clearly now, myopia is still ruling my life, only this time its of the metaphorical variety.  I realized recently that for some time now, I have not been able to see my forest for the trees of Little Miss, Rex, Mr. X, work, and household management.  I feel like I’ve been on a Sisyphean treadmill of laundry, dishes and poop control (dog, baby, pre-schooler or cat) and It. Will. Never. End.  Rex will never be potty trained.  Little Miss will never sleep through the night.  I will always be telling Mr. X to continue to look in the fridge for the cheese because yes! it is there! I will never be able to relax when I get home from work and enjoy 5 minutes of peace.  I will always be catering to someone else’s needs.

Intellectually, I know that this is not the case. Time will march on, hopefully magically depositing Rex’s poop in the toilet with it and encouraging Little Miss to snooze for at least 6-7 hours straight.  But, I can’t see into the future. I can’t see the light at the end of these tunnels. I cannot predict when these magical events will take place.  On the other hand, I can predict the next time I will have to empty the dishwasher (tomorrow morning), change a diaper (later tonight), or fold laundry (again, probably tomorrow morning).  I can see the very myopic view of the future and it looks a lot like the past days.

I want to see the bigger picture, though, because it helps me to appreciate the tedium of today.  I worked really, really hard to get this family and I want to enjoy these days that will never be here again.  I’m trying very hard to get the long view, to love every minute of this time because it will disappear.  Except that there is not an insignificant part of me that asks, “Do you promise?”

At any given time of the day when I reflect on these challenges, motivational slogans run through my head: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint!”, “The days are long, but the years are short!”, “It won’t always be this way!”  Frankly, they just make it worse.  I want someone to say something more like, “Hard things are hard.”  Four words that recognize that sometimes life sucks the very marrow out of you and it’s ok to be tired, to maybe whine a smidge about the hardness of it all. Sure, many people have it a helluva lot worse than I do, but these are my challenges. They belong to me and I’m the one who has to live with them.

Maybe recognizing that I have been missing the bigger picture is step enough for now.  Frankly, between all of the potty training histrionics, sleep training failures and daily living, I’d just as soon focus on a big glass of wine at the end of the day.

 

Second Birth, Not the Same As the First

Sweetpea is 5 weeks old (!) which means it’s high time that I memorialize her birth story before it becomes any more blurry in the rear view mirror.  Here goes!

Like her brother, Sweetpea was induced.  Unlike her brother, she was not induced due to size.  Hers was a scheduling induction due to my maternity leave length and the time we had parental assistance scheduled to be around.  But, we did wait for her to be fully cooked at 40 weeks before pulling the trigger.  Still, it’s kind of bizarre picking your kid’s birthdate.

I had to show up the night before the induction at midnight for an insertion of cervadil with monitoring.  Mr. X came with me to get me settled and then I sent him home to get one last night of uninterrupted sleep in our bed.  My doctor thoughtfully prescribed me an Ambien so that despite being hooked up to machines and IVs and lord knows what else, I slept like a log.  I don’t remember when I woke up the next morning, but I called Mr. X and he showed up for the adventure of the day.

We had to wait until 1pm to let the cervadil do its thing after which my OB came to visit.  We discussed breaking my water or just starting pitocin.  I voted for just the pitocin since the water breakage with Rex was a nightmare.  So, pit was started and contractions came on, but not terribly fast or hard.  At some point, I heard a pop and felt a gush of fluid – my water broke on its own!  I was so thrilled not to have to deal with having it broken.  Of course, things started to get more intense after that.

I made it until about 3:30 and 5cm before asking for the epidural. It took another hour for the doc to arrive to administer it.  Unfortunately, they sent Mr. X out of the room so I had to hug on the surly OB nurse all the while my supposed best friend did his thing.  Epidurals are naturally uncomfortable to begin with but this one was particularly so because I had to pee badly and the contractions were continuing with their thing.  Sitting still so as not to be paralyzed was supremely difficult.

Once it was in, Mr. X was allowed back in, Surly Nurse catheterized me (ouch!) and the bladder pressure eased a bit.  But, while I started getting that super warm tingly feeling in the lower extremities, the actual discomfort of the contractions didn’t get any better.   In fact, it got worse, like very strong pressure on my pelvis.  This coincided with Sweetpea’s heartrate decelerating with each contraction.  Surly Nurse began moving me from side to side and I was given oxygen to help Sweetpea.  Neither of us was doing well at that point.  I knew something wasn’t right, almost like she was being pushed into my pelvis with each contraction.  My OB appeared at that moment having been alerted to Sweetpea’s distress and told me that it could be a number of things including her cord wrapped around limbs or worse her neck.  I was pretty certain this was not the case, but I still knew that Sweetpea wasn’t going to handle a vaginal delivery well.   I told my OB that I didn’t want to chance it and to go ahead with a c-section.

Flurry of activity at that point once the decision was made.  I lost track of Mr. X briefly but he reappeared in the operating room in time for the main event.  Since I already had the epidural, there wasn’t much to do before my doctor started slicing and dicing.  If I never experience someone manipulating my innards while awake, it will be too soon.   Mr. X could probably have lived a very long and pleasant life without seeing my innards manipulated.  But, he did get to see Sweetpea enter the world.  I have vague recollections of her crying and then hearing the nurses laughing because she was peeing and peeing all over them as they were doing her Apgar scores.

I spent a little longer on the operating table because I elected to have my tubes tied.  Why not have it done while I’m already open?  If having your innards manipulated wasn’t weird enough having doctors discussing mundane topics while operating on you while you are awake is just plain bizarre.  My doctor, though, was nice and efficient and I was in recovery in a matter of minutes.  There were some issues with pain control as the morphine just wasn’t doing the trick.  The nurse finally gave me liquid ibuprofen which did the trick.

Sweetpea was brought in to me and I got to finally get a good look at her and saw how absolutely beautiful she was!  She had wispy hair with frosted white tips, just like mine when I was born.  She also latched on like a champ and got some good colostrum before conking out.  I don’t remember how long it took to get me in the post-partum room, but we were all pretty exhausted at that point.  We sent her to the nursery so all of us could sleep but she was brought in to nurse.  And nurse. And nurse. And nurse. It seemed everytime I had just fallen asleep, there was the knock at the door and the sound of the bassinet being wheeled in for another feeding.

I had to remain in bed for 24 hours after the c-section so I was captive to the nurses and anyone else who came in.  Apparently this hospital is also a teaching one because student nurses from the local community college came in All. Day. Long. to check my fundus, ask about my gas (is it passing? yes), look at my incision and take my blood pressure.  Thank goodness I was on pain medication otherwise I would have not been as humoring.  I appreciate they have to learn, but I wish I had been given a choice about whether they would learn on me.  Luckily, the next day they weren’t around and I could recuperate in peace… except for the demolition work going on down the hall.  The joys of an older hospital!

We were all released on three days later and Rex finally got to meet his little sister.  Asking a 2 and almost 3/4 year old his impression of his new sibling is not going to yield a useful answer so I didn’t bother, but I could tell that he was freaked out by her.  He’d seen babies before, but not ones that were now going to live in his house 24/7.  Luckily, we had grandparents around to help him stay grounded and he went to daycare as usual for more normality.

Five weeks on and we’re all settling into the new new routine.  He’s still doing a great job being gentle around his sister and enjoys giving her kisses on her downy little head.  He also likes keeping an eye on her while we change diapers.  He asked to hold her the other day and when I started to put her in his arms, he told me that she was too heavy and ran off to play.

I can’t believe I have two kids.

Tunnel Vision

In law school, grades were determined by attendance and your final exam.  Miss too many classes and you weren’t allowed to even sit for the final exam.  That little gem has caused countless nightmares for me over the years and I’ve been out of school for ten years now.  Knowing that the entire success of the semester depended upon my performance on a three hour test made me a little nervous.  Given how important the final was, the period after Thanksgiving and up through final exams and again after spring break through finals became known as The Tunnel.

Tunnels exist for you to go through to some other location, but in going you have to travel the dark, rather scary interior that is not very well lit and full of hazards if you dare go too fast.  The promise of course, is that you will emerge on the other side in the light and will have traveled to some new location that you were seeking.  In law school, this meant the end of constant studying, worrying, and the chance to be a normal person again who wasn’t expected to process a semester’s worth of information and knowledge on a three page exam.

I had forgotten from Rex’s newborn phase that this fourth trimester is yet another Tunnel.  I’m hunkered down, plowing through Sweetpea’s newborn days as best as I can waiting for the sunlight (a social smile perhaps? maybe a coo?) at the end of the journey.  We planned a little better for this tunnel, though.  We have more help – both of the family and hired kind – and we also know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that it will get better, lighter and easier.  All I have to do is look at Rex and remember that he too was a squwaking infant not all that long ago and now he’s telling us about his day at pre-school and who was put in time out and then sleeping through the night.

To her credit, Sweetpea is a real treat of a baby.  I never had those snuggly feelings with Rex thanks in part to the whack job of PPD and in part because he was never a snuggly infant.  He was a bruiser of a child even when he was born and not very compact.  Sweetpea, though, is tiny in comparison to her brother in his infant days and is like a feather to carry.  She fits perfectly in the crook of the neck and has extremely kissable cheeks.  Getting to dress her in onesies with kittens is just icing on the cake.

She even has done us the favor of waking up to feed only twice in a night already.  She’s also having more periods of awake time, watching her brother’s antics and following our movements.  Most importantly to me and my anal retentive heart, she’s being rather receptive to getting into somewhat of a routine, as much as a newborn can have a routine.  It was the disruption of the routine with addition of newborn Rex that really threw me for a loop and I recognized the same feelings coming back once we got Sweetpea back home.  But, again, I know this time that a routine will be established, one that has a place for all of the creatures in the house and even some time for Mr. X and I to enjoy each others company over an episode of Game of Thrones.

Rex, for his part, is doing better with the newest addition. We’ve been very proactive in making certain he knows that he’s still important and loved and part of our home.  He loves to supervise sister’s diaper changes from his stool that he keeps by her changing table and is very good at picking out outfits for her to wear when she needs a change.  He likes to kiss her fuzzy little head and then go back to watching Backyardigans.  He still goes to daycare and gets a good deal of structure and stimulation there so he’s not completely wound up at home.  Weekends are still a challenge, trying to figure out how to work everything that we need to do into the day with Sweetpea’s napping needs and Rex’s playing needs.  But I know that it will come.

Just like in law school where the calendar showed the last day of finals and the end of The Tunnel, I can see the end of the transition and can take a lot of comfort in knowing that while difficult and painful, we are not in a permanent state of flux.