Honey, Hand Me the Vinegar

I had heard that the first year of a marriage after a child is born can be tough.  I didn’t give it much thought at the time.  We were too busy trying to have the kid, so I wasn’t going to worry about what would happen when we had the kid.  I also figured that our marriage had already been Tested by so many things – a full house renovation, a hurricane, two kittens, five years of infertility, two miscarriages, a rescue dog – that having a baby, something that we wanted so badly, couldn’t possibly put us asunder.

Then we had Rex.  And my husband went from being my partner to being  another child constantly needing something and not helping.  At least, that’s how it felt at the time to my PPD-addled severely hormonal whack jobbed brain.  As the sleep deprivation and depression worsened and the laundry and dishes piled up, what had worked in our marriage before as an equitable distribution of the chores turned into an exercise in score keeping and endless events in the Most Tired Olympics.   It drove me crazy that he would come home from work and go on and on about how hard his day was and (I perceived) wanted my sympathy when I had been taking care of our son all day, which was the hardest thing I had ever done in my entire life, thank you very much.

Via Flickr Creative Commons by alsjhc

I see now that we were both thrown for a terrific loop when Rex was born which should not have come as much of a shock as it did.  We dealt with the curve ball in our own ways, which for all other major tests had worked fine, but for this one didn’t work at all.  One problem, of course, is that I wasn’t coping hardly at all with the loop and Mr. X was left trying to cope for both of us.  When I did try to cope I turned to keeping score on who did how many chores, how many hours of baby care, how many night wakings, etc. so that I didn’t feel like I was the only one doing anything.  I would build these ‘babycare points’ and try to redeem them for chore duties such as taking out the trash (yay! something easy that doesn’t scream!) or grocery shopping just to be able to do something that I knew I could do and do well.  I also desperately wanted to feel normal, at least for a little while.  How awful is that?

And, I felt like Mr. X was contributing to the problem, not helping.  I began impersonating a snapping turtle when I was around him.  I had an over abundance of frustration, anger and just sheer angst fueled by PPD and sleep deprivation that I would take out on him.  I couldn’t (and never had even a whiff of desire to) take it out on Rex.  In the 20/20 rear view mirror, I see that he did the absolute best that he could considering he had a hormonally challenged wife suffering from PPD, a job to hold down (including a job transfer that was foisted on him the day he got back from his paternity leave) and a newborn who did the usual typical baby things like screaming, explosive pooping and erratic sleeping.  And, bless his heart, he loved me anyways.  He must have been just as frustrated as I was but he kept holding us afloat.

Even in those dark days, though, I never told Mr. X how I felt.  I could see nothing good coming from that and I knew deep down in that tiny little sane place in my brain that I was really, really out of whack and not seeing things as they really were.  But, I did a lot of thinking and soul searching.  I addressed a lot of my long standing issues, issues that had been around long before Rex arrived on the scene but that I could ignore and still have a relatively easy life.   Now, though, everything was on the table, including how I would treat Mr. X.  I decided to make a conscience effort to just be kind to him.  No matter what.  No matter what question he asked, no matter what he messed up, no matter anything.  And, it’s been working.  It’s also been coming back to me.   I can tell he’s thrilled to have his wife back.  I’m so glad I could get back to him too.

Only the Lonely?

Rex, as I’ve written before, is fairly likely to be an only child, barring laughable flukes of birth control pill failure and steroided sperm.  I find this greatly relieving because I do not want under any circumstance to voluntarily go through postpartum depression again.  I also really don’t want to go through the newborn to about 9 month old phase either.  Been there, done that, got the spit up on my t-shirt.  And, I am just now getting my career back on track, although I’m not back to the level of compensation that I was at before.  Having another child will really throw a wrench into the now nicely balanced ride.

But, is it fair? I mean is it fair to Rex to withhold a sibling from him, someone who might be his best friend or playmate?  Is it fair to make him make that extra effort to find and make friends because he doesn’t have the built in playmate at home? Is it fair to put my needs ahead of his in this area?

By me'nthedogs via Creative Commons

I’m honestly torn.  The Insidious Mommy Guilt Monster is dragging me down into her den to have her way with me and making me write on the chalkboard 1 million times “I will always put my child’s needs ahead of my own.”  On the other hand, the Shining Lady of Mommy Must Be Happy is saying, “no problem, the kid will be fine, go get a mani-pedi and join a book club!”

I  take a little comfort in the fact that I too was an only child and except for my fundamental inability to share (“MINE!”), I turned out ok.  I can function in society, make friends, blah, blah, blah.  The thing is that my main memories of childhood are that it was lonely.  Depressingly lonely.   I so wanted additional family around (but not siblings, Dear Lord No Siblings!) who I didn’t have to worry about constantly trying to remain friends with or who I could just hang out with and be myself.  This isn’t to say that I didn’t have friends growing up because I did.  But the supreme effort that was involved in finding, cultivating and maintaining friendships was just exhausting.  Was it like that for all kids or was I just weird?

I’m terrified that Rex will be lonely like I was growing up.  I know, deep down, that he is not me and I am not him and that he has a lot more family near him than I ever did growing up.  One set of grandparents is a mile away 6 months out of the year, and the other set is a mere 2.5 hours away.  His cousin, who is 2.5 months younger than he is, is 3 hours away.  He has so many honorary aunties and uncles in town that it’s an embarrassment of riches.  And, most importantly, he interacts with other kids pretty much five days a week.

But, and there’s always a but, what if he is missing out on this magical amazing sibling experience because of me?  I’ve heard from many other people that having siblings isn’t a guarantee to having a built-in friend nor do they necessarily make life easier or smoother.  The problem is that I have no experience in this arena so I can’t be a good judge.

I can judge that it would be a terrible mistake for us to have another child right now and probably ever.  I know that when Rex is older and asks why he doesn’t have a brother or sister, I will have no guilt telling him that it was because we got it so right the first time we couldn’t possibly have done better than him.  I know that I will do my absolute best to make sure that he has lots of opportunities to be with friends and family so that he doesn’t have the loneliness that I did growing up.  For now, that’s going to have to be my best.

All Linked Out

I’m a somewhat half-hearted member of Linkedin.  I say half-hearted because I have literally a dozen connections, two of which are with co-workers.  I haven’t used it to its full potential by any means.

Nan Palmero via Creative Commons

I recently got an invitation that I’m pretty certain will not help me realize LinkedIn’s full potential either.

It was from none other than Dr. Salsa.  My RE. The man whose face I gleefully peed in, who harvested my eggs twice, wanded me more than a TSA agent, and finally impregnated me.  That Dr. Salsa.

My first inclination was ah, no. No, not even with a cherry on top.  The man has seen my private parts way too many times for me to be able to accept his invitation without blushing.  He saw me at my most vulnerable, on multiple occasions.  He literally has a map of my uterus.  How can I possibly be publicly linked to him?

It took me a few days to realize that a) it’s very unlikely that anyone who sees that we are linked would assume that the only reason was because he was my doctor; but b) even if these facts weren’t advertised on Linkedin, I would know. I would know everytime that I saw that we were in the same network that the only reason I know him was because he helped me to get pregnant.  I’m not embarrassed by this – I tell people all the time that we had trouble conceiving Rex.  I just want to be able to have that conversation – or NOT – at my choosing, not because a prospective client sees that I am linked to an RE.   Would they necessarily assume that’s the only connection? No. There are several other legitimate reasons why I might be networked to Dr. Salsa, but there would always be that question in their minds.

I’m all for being friends and sharing, but as Nancy Regan taught me, I think I will just say no this time.

 

Thankful to Feel Thankful

I’m a little late for a thankful Thanksgiving post, but I was rather occupied over the holiday overeating and chasing after the now vigorously crawling Rex (“no, not the fireplace, Boo Boo!”).  And, I had a hard time summoning the blogging mojo after all was said and done.  But, I wanted to share with all of you lovelies who still indulge me.

I have so much to be thankful for, but you know what I am most thankful for?  I am most thankful that I can feel thankful.

Via Creative Commons by Kyle Steed

Because, there was a time not so long ago when thankful was the last thing I would have felt.  Overwhelmed, sad, tired, tired, trapped, anxious – these were all things I felt.  I was so afraid that I had made the biggest mistake of my life becoming a mother.  I didn’t recognize my life anymore and I longed for earlier days when life was boring and predictable and, yes even infertile, because at least then I wouldn’t have to deal with such constant uncertainty and upheaval.  Yeah, really.

I had no perspective on my life, no measure to determine if I was really foundering as much as I felt.  I thought I was a terrible mother to Rex.  Sure, I met his needs, but I wasn’t as much fun as daddy or as loving as his grandmother.  I was pretty certain that he didn’t like me very much and I realized that I agreed with him. I didn’t like me very much either. I could not see how Rex could love me since I didn’t see anything really worth loving.

I made a decision – I could continue down this road of being my own worst enemy or I could slowly begin to love me for me.  I took baby steps in the beginning – no more nasty thoughts about myself, no more worries about what other people thought about me.  In the end, I don’t have to live with them for the rest of my life, but I sure as shit have to live with myself, so why not get along with me?

And I began to feel such peace.  Peace with me, peace with my life.  I accept my life now, all of it.  I embrace it, warts and all.  I see the joy in it and I also see the mundane.  And both are ok.  And, I’m becoming friends with me.  I like myself more.  I put that nasty little voice in a box and sit on the lid. And at the end of each day, I sit back and go over my day thinking about the highlights – good hair day, wonderful moment with Rex, good conversation with Mr. X, delicious glass of wine, and savor those moments.  I congratulate myself on successfully navigating situations that would have earlier brought me nothing but angst.

And, I feel thankful. Thankful for my wonderful family, for this beautiful boy who I grew and nurtured and now get to watch every day interacting with the world. Thankful that I persevered through the dark times to get to this light.  Thankful that I made the conscious decision to be present.

Do I Know You?

In those first few years after Mr. X and I were married, there were times when I would find myself looking at him thinking, “Who is this guy and how did we get here?”  For as much as I knew him, physically, emotionally, intellectually, he was still sometimes this strange person in my house who I didn’t recognize from my former life.

Peek A Boo

If I had those moments with a man who I knew for three years before I married him, then you can only imagine how many of those moments I am having with Rex.  Let’s just say lots.  Part of the difficulty is that I have a hard time seeing me in him.  He is the spitting image of his father at this age.  I knew even on the 18-week ultrasound who he took after in the looks department.  Seriously.  The chin, the profile, it was Mr. X, which of course prompted a little IVF humor – at least we know they didn’t use the wrong sperm!

Even now, at almost 8 months, Rex is a bit of a mystery to me.  I’m still having a hard time reconciling the baby I knew for 9 months on the ultrasound screen, and then later through the belly Olympics to the one who is starting to crawl and wants to eat the dog’s tail.  He is his own little person who is slowly, but surely, developing his own personality.  The good news is that it looks like it’s a wonderful personality that is a joy to see emerging each day a little more.  And, he is starting to have a sense of humor, playing peek-a-boo or giggling while being tickled (his baby love handles are a particularly fertile spot for giggle induction).  I’m also starting to see me in him, particularly the eyes.

While this getting-to-know-you phase still sometimes makes me panic – oh my God! I’m sharing my home with this little strange alien creature who shrieks and emits foul smells and it feels like it’s going to be this way for the next 17 1/2 years! – I’m making a concerted effort to take a more positive spin on the situation:  he’s like a gift that we are slowly unwrapping; a flower blooming; a volcano erupting (er, or maybe not).   Each day, we find something new.

We are getting to know each other as people do.  I have to remind myself that he is getting to know us (and all of human kind at the same time), too.  So far, he’s doing a pretty darn good job of it.  I know that sooner rather than later, it will seem as if we have known each other forever and that was the way it was always meant to be.

Putting the ‘F’ in Fun

My father and I were driving Rex home from daycare the other day and he told me something that I found very interesting: “You were so much fun when you were little.”  

Fun? I had a really hard time wrapping my brain around this – although not because I doubted that I was fun. By all accounts, I was a laugh riot when I was a kid.  What I had a hard time getting was that babies can be fun.  My overwhelming experience thus far with Rex could not be classified as ‘fun’.  Anything but fun.

image: Duncan Creamer via Creative Commons

A few days later, my parents baby sat Rex for a few hours while Mr. X and I went to a classic car auction.

When we returned, my father reported that Rex was great fun to be around.  And, I began to see him through my dad’s eyes.  His excited little leg jig when he wanted something.  His giggle when tickled in just the right spot.  His overall zest and joy for life.  Rex is fun alright.  He is truly a joy to behold.

 

Yesterday, Rex shared with me some of his capacity for fun.  He was on our bed, on his back (in his cockroach pose, I call it – arms and legs in the air swinging madly because he wants to get over on his hands and knees) and I was shaking his little bottom by swinging his legs back and forth.  He LOVED every minute of it – from the shake to the slalom.   And, I admit it: I had fun with him. His little old man heh-heh-heh laugh made me laugh every time which sent him into further paroxysms of joy.

Then, I had this overwhelming urge and held him close to my chest while kissing him on his big fat cheek and I thought, babies can be fun. Who knew?

Tempus Fugit and Forget It

Rex turned seven months old on Sunday.  In response to a picture of Rex I posted on my Facebook page that evening, one friend said, “didn’t he just turn six months?! Time flies it seems for everyone.

Except us.

These last seven months have been some of the longest of my life, no doubt in part due to the fact that I’ve been awake far more during their waking and non-waking hours than I would care to think about.  Even after we all started sleeping for longer periods, though, the time alternately dragged or flew.  I think this is because our lives are still in a state of flux as Rex grows and changes almost literally before our eyes.  Time seems to fly when things are routine, but when things are constantly changing, you don’t have time to get used to the new normal, let alone get into a groove that lets the time fly by.

But, why would you want time to fly, you ask?  I read so often new mothers with babies of Rex’s age and even younger wanting to keep their babies this age for all eternity.  And, I frankly have to admit, I don’t get it.  I really don’t.  I can’t wait until my child can feed himself and begin to communicate with us even if it’s sign language for “give me food, bitch!”  He has already started being able to give himself a bottle and it’s been this side of heaven for me. Look Ma, no hands! I can put him in the boppy with a bottle and gaze lovingly upon him as he stretches out like a fat cat nonchalantly sucking down his Similac Crack.

Still, there’s that little voice in my head that says, “remember this time. It will be gone before you know it and the kid will be 5 and no longer suffer your hugs and kisses.”  Right now, the overwhelming part of me says, “please, let’s get to 5. At least then he can wipe his own behind.”

Part of my antsy-ness to get him out of babyhood has to do with the fact that even though I’ve been taking care of an infant for seven months now, I still feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.  Sure, I can diaper him up in 15 seconds while lecturing him on proper changing table etiquette (twisting one’s body to get to the baby lotion is not acceptable while mommy is trying to cover your boy parts) and I can feed him a jar of pureed chicken and rice without getting too much on him or me.  But, I still don’t feel competent, in charge, in control of the situation.  And boy does that bug me.  Still.

Part of me thinks that once he reaches that age that I can talk with him, I can at least try to have a conversation with him in which we can discuss such serious topics as poop, pee and other topics of inherent interest to the below 3 set.  For now, he is full of grunts, screeches, screams, and singing notes going over several octaves.  He’s right where’s supposed to be developmentally. I’m just the one with the itchy finger on the fast-forward button because there’s still not a whole lot that we can do together.

Remind me of this, will you, when I’m lamenting that he’s 5 and I can’t believe how the time has flown?

image: Monceau

Little Do I Know

A few years ago, when we were well into the infertility and miscarriage slog, but Rex was no where in sight, I happened to look out my window at home and see a touching family portrait: mom walking her little girl in a stroller while sporting an obvious baby bump.  As usual, my blood boiled and I mentally cursed the universe for subjecting me to this scene at such a low point in our lives.  I didn’t know the neighbor, they had moved in a few months before. All I knew was that they had one kid and were on the way to having another and that was more than I had or could even imagine having.

That second child was born in October of that year, right around the time of both of my prior due dates.  Mr. X and I happened to be taking a walk one afternoon, shortly after the new baby came home and we met him, being borne around in the arms of his proud papa.  I made all of the right congratulatory noises even though I was still just as pissed inside.

If I had known then what I know now:

That their first child was the product of IVF.  That the second child was an oops only 8 months after the first one since they didn’t think they had a chance of conceiving naturally.

I found this out from their next door neighbors (really, in our neighborhood, there is no such thing as a secret, depending upon who you talk to).  Their daughter also dealt with infertility and just had a baby through a surrogate, using IVF.

I could have learned this information much sooner if I had been more outgoing during our struggles.  But, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, least of all mothers of small children.  They would be just like all the rest of the fertile population – blissfully unaware of the difficulties of life and telling me that having kids has been the greatest thing they could have ever done with their life, blah, blah, blah.

Oh, how we are own greatest enemies.  I could have found additional support from these ladies (well, maybe not the lady with the grown daughter.  She was a bit …. much).  I could have seen that the world isn’t nearly as black and white as I had made it out to be – and me being a lawyer, too, for shame!

But, that time is gone and I’m glad that I do know, even if it’s a little late.  I was able to share with this neighbor our struggle to have Rex and how we too benefited from IVF.  She got it, even though we both have the families that we wanted, she still got it.

And I learned that it’s never too late to reach out.

image: Steve Took It

I Am Not Extraordinary

My parents were masters of making me feel like I was the smartest most fabulous kid out there.  In hindsight, I see that I was the only fish in their pond and so of course, I would have all of these superlatives thrown at me. Plus, I was quite the over achiever and they were “modern parents”.

As I grew up and waded into larger and larger ponds, though, I began to realize that while I was still pretty darn special (special in a good way, not in a knowing wink-wink way), there were literally thousands of kids just like me.  What was worse, there were thousands of kids who were smarter, more talented and more everything than me.  That was hard to realize and even harder to accept.

These days, I am mostly comfortable with who I am and what I’ve accomplished.  I finally realized that I needed to compare myself only to the plan that I had for my life, not with the accomplishments of others. On that scale, I’m doing pretty darned well.

Some days, though, that’s hard.  Like when you hear an interview with a woman who is your age and has just won a MacArthur Genius Grant.  What have I done with my life that would warrant a $500,000 no strings attached grant?

Nada. Zilch-o. Zippity-Do-Nah.

And you know what? That’s ok.

I admit, it did burn a little, even though I desired to be a marine biologist for about 5 minutes when I was 7 (although what girl didn’t dream about being a marine biologist when they were younger? I swear, for a few years there  it was the stock answer to the question of your future career).

Mr. X and I discussed this question of extraordinary-ness on one of our recent evening walks with Rex (who added to the conversation by babbling and gurgling from behind his little red stroller curtain).  He is very wise, Mr. X.  He reminded me that the measure of my life is the love that it is in it and what I do to make me happy.   Rex raspberried at that moment, probably to reinforce this.

He’s right. As usual.  Right, right and right.  And I know that I am happy with who I am, whether or not I’m given $500,000 for being fabulous.  Maybe I should start playing the lottery, though, just in case.

From Shock To Awww

My first introduction to Motherhood was when she ran me over in the middle of the street with a Mack truck.  I have the tire marks on my nursing bra to prove it.  Our relationship did not improve after this, either.  Motherhood flitted around me like Muhammad Ali, light on her feet and jabbing me in the ribs at the first sign of weakness.  In other words, she was just a total bitch.

Those were dark times for me, people.  Times when I’m certain that Mr. X tiptoed around me like I was Voldemort.  Times when despite all outward appearances, I had a crazed gleam in my eye and could be goaded into either tears or anger at the drop of any object.  Times when I was so wretchedly unhappy that I seriously considered going to sleep with the fishes.

I wanted to be happy, too.  I wanted to be in love with my baby and wax poetic about how I loved being a mom, how naturally it came to me and how I knew that I was meant for this one role.  I wanted to be BFFs with Motherhood, walk down the street arm-in-arm with a cooing, giggling baby.  But, I wasn’t happy.  I was miserable.  And that made me feel even worse.

It continued to get worse in June and July, July in particular.  I can’t say what about that month was so wretched, but I was just drained emotionally, physically, mentally by the end of it.

And then, almost all of a sudden, things changed.  Motherhood and I reached a detente and more importantly…

I fell in love with my baby, this gorgeous creature, and it was and is wonderful.  Finally, finally, I get to feel what I have wanted for so long. I love to hold him on my lap and just feel his solid weight on my stomach.  I love to hear him laugh knowing that at least a few times, I was the one who made him laugh.  I love how when I put him down to sleep at night he squawks, flips onto this stomach and falls blissfully asleep.  I love it because I know that I had a hand in doing that – I gave him all the love and comfort that he needed to know that it was perfectly safe to just pass out for the night.

I feel that heart squeeze now when I look him and I’m just so thankful that I finally have this one final gift.