April 30, 2012
This is something we don't like to talk about. We don't like to risk shaming our children, embarrassing our spouses, accusing our friends or families... but it's true.
As this ridiculous "Mommy War" continues, I feel that this is one of the biggest unspoken issues.
Stay at home parenthood? It's lonely.
You're surrounded by your children, who you love. And you get to be there for them in an incredible variety of meaningful ways. But you lose something.
You don't get to have meaningful conversations about the things that interest you. Rather, you spend hours on end singing the alphabet song, or arguing over whether or not somebody can have waffles for every meal of the day.
You spent nearly all of your time surrounded by people who are not only totally self involved, but who's job it is to be essentially self involved. You want them to learn, you want them to improve their skills, your whole day centers around them, and they therefore learn (rightly) that as far as things in your house are concerned, they're the most important people around. Always.
You lose opportunities to make other adult friends. You lose opportunities to see your old adult friends.
And all the while, as you slowly realize that there just isn't a lot outside of the house and family for you, you begin to find ways to come to terms with that sort of loneliness.
Some parents craft, some parents join clubs, some parents decorate and decorate and decorate...
And more and more, parents are coming to find community online, with people who don't judge them for having a "life" that exists only on a computer screen- with friends and accomplices as real as any who might live down the block.
Stay at home parenting has always been lonely. It's why certain stereotypes about housewives developed. Moms who hide cooking sherry in a kitchen cupboard, and are drunk by dinner. Wives seducing the mailman. Moms who abandon their families and run off to be a showgirl in Vegas. Sylvia Plath with her toddlers sleeping and her head in the oven.
Nobody likes to talk about how hard it is to be a stay at home parent in these terms. They talk about how moms work 24/7, how they literally LIVE at work, how they are responsible for he incalculably difficult task of turning children into functional adults, how they have to be everything to everyone all at once...
They talk about the job of the stay at home mom as being one of a moral backbone. Of being the most important person in their children's lives.
They don't talk about how rarely they get to interact with another adult. How difficult it can be to arrange a schedule for a stay at home parent AROUND the schedules of their children for them to have their own playdates, how rarely they get to enjoy a simple adult interaction.
Other people make fun of stay at home parents for watching bad daytime TV, for bringing purses that double as wine coolers to the park, for dedicating so much energy to whether the living room furniture is done in a Mission or Mid-Century style. For leaving the house in yoga pants with your hair pulled back in a greasy ponytail. For "letting yourself go."
But when you're the stay at home parent, you need distractions.
This is one of those problems that gets better as the children get older. The older they are, the more time you can take away from them. By the time they're in high school, you can actually have a real conversation with your children. But only on their terms. They, rightly, understand that you just aren't as important as them. You've spent their whole lives making this fact abundantly clear.
There are no promotions when you're the stay at home parent. There are no comped lunches, there are no sick days, there are no vacation days, no coffee breaks. There is no retirement.
And nobody can do the job but you.
Parenthood is amazing. It is wonderful, and rewarding, and provides a kind of job satisfaction that people without children simply can't understand.
But it is lonely.
Stay at home parents get depressed. They get angry and frustrated. They find themselves in need of help. And they do not ask for it.
Because somewhere, there is a voice in the back of their head that tells them that this isn't "work," that they don't have "real" problems, because they love their kids. Because they love being a parent. Because they have the most important and rewarding job in the world.
What they don't understand is that these aren't mutually exclusive. You can love being a stay at home parent, you can love your kids, you can love your life... and you can still be lonely. You can still be depressed. You can still feel... isolated.
There are almost no solutions, and those that exist simply can't work for most people.
You can live in a neighborhood filled with other adults that you like who have children that your children like. This is a tall order.
You can find a group of like-minded parents who share your ideals and live close by enough to have regular get-togethers and playdates with their kids who your children like. This is also a tall order.
You can live nearby your siblings and cousins and their children, who are family and your children are therefore obligated to like and love and play with happily. This is extremely difficult as well, and you certainly can't force your family members to have kids.
You can spend a lot of time on the phone or online.
But mostly, you just get used to spending a lot of time essentially alone. Doing the laundry, the dishes, cooking, making lunches, giving baths, applying band-aids, chauffeuring, going to practices, living your life on somebody else's schedule.
There is no shame in being lonely. And yet, we as parents are ashamed. Ashamed that the company of our children is not good enough. Ashamed that the incredible job satisfaction is not good enough. Ashamed that we ourselves must therefore not be good enough.
But this is nonsense. No one thing is enough for any one person. People with "real" jobs require hobbies, and friends, and diversions.
They seek out company after work and on weekends, they spend time away from the jobs that they love in order to have a separate, "non-work" identity.
They go home. They leave work at the office.
We, the stay at home parents... we don't have that.
We must learn to be everything at once. To be simultaneously at work and at play, to be responsible and to be able to abandon responsibility responsibly. To find hobbies that squeeze into our day. To never ever stop working, even in our sleep.
There is no shame in loneliness.
There is no shame in asking for help.
There is no shame in acknowledging that this is hard, and that you are often doing it alone.
There is no shame in taking measures to take care of yourself.
Stay at home parents: Do what you need to do. For you. Don't be afraid. Don't be ashamed. Don't let your own doubts about the inner workings of the minds of other parents get to you.
Nobody knows how to do this job. We're all flying by the seats of our pants.
We must all learn, eventually, how to balance being an independent and being a parent. They don't have to be mutually exclusive.
Take care of yourselves, parents.
You have the hardest job in the world.
April 29, 2012
This one had me laughing my ass off. I can totally picture M in his epic battle to get something just out of reach- particularly as so much of his self identity is defined by his absurd height. ;)
"Help! I'm Pregnant!" - The Happy Hippie Homemaker
Yup. I'm with her 100%.
"Because I Said So, That's Why" - Momaiku
This blogger writes a haiku a day about parenting teenagers. This one cracked me up so hard that I had to forego some of her other fabulous posts this week to bring you this one instead.
"When Wilbur Met Henry" - Daddy Knows Less
It's never too early to teach your children about love, acceptance, tolerance, and diversity. Well done to DKL for this gem.
"Bros for Life, Bro" - Preposterous Pace
Another one that cracked me up, start to finish. I freakin' hate college students. And this is hilarious.
"Fatkini 2012" - GABIFRESH
I think we could all use a dose of this kind of self confidence. I'm not saying that I'm going to rock the Fatkini... but I'm definitely tempted. She looks awesome. :)
"Defining Moments: Lea" - The Mom Pledge Blog
I know, it's an interview with me. But it's about my birth experience with DD and SI, and I'm very glad to share it.
"And There Will I Keep You Forever" - Fall of James
I think every parent has had this moment of reflection and awe.
"Oh... is for Opera: A Parent/Teacher Guide" - Departing the Text
I love this. I mean, I love opera, but this is a wonderful explanation of why it's good for children, how to introduce it to children, and what operas might be the best for different age groups. Lotsa love to Looney Tunes in here.
April 25, 2012
I've been in a near panic, vacillating between downright terror and utter despondency with brief explosions of excitement in between.
|DD- two days old and exploring the world around her|
In less than a week, this baby will be the same developmental age that SI and DD were when they were born. Tiny, but perfect. With perfectly functional little lungs, with all their fingers and toes...
Tiny, but ready to be in the world.
Less than a week before Baby X is where they were.
I've been getting the feeling that she's getting ready. I feel her practicing breathing- her back rising and falling rhythmically inside of my torso for thirty seconds or so at a go. And it feels seriously weird. But reassuring. And scary. Because if she's ready to breathe, she doesn't really *need* to stay in there and get all cute and chubby, does she? It's best- no doubt- but I don't need to worry about an early arrival hurting her.
|My baby girls|
I have a nursery with fresh paint in it, but nothing else.
I have a heap of fabric and foam to turn into curtains and a crib bumper. I have a lamp with no shade.
I have boxes and boxes of baby things that I haven't even opened from when the girls were newborns. I have absolutely no clue *what* I have.
I haven't packed a bag. I haven't even made a list.
I haven't even opened my big ol' box of nursing supplies.
I have, however, started to see that I might be in trouble.
|Taking our family home from the hospital|
What am I going to do when I just want to hold my toddlers on my lap and play with their curls? Where does a nursing infant fit into that?
What am I going to do when they follow me around the house, asking me to just come and play, while I change a diaper every two hours (or less), or run the ENDLESS laundry that two toddlers and an infant will no doubt create, or try to gently rock Baby X to sleep?
I just. don't. know.
I don't know how this is going to work.
I'm trying to cherish the time I have with my kids before the new one gets here. But I don't have time. I have so much to do for the new baby.
|One week from today, this is how old Baby X will be|
But I'm also excited. Because I love this baby. And while I know they don't exactly understand that the baby is real, and is really going to come and live in our house, SI and DD like to tell me that they love the baby, and that hey're going to take care of the baby. And I know that as much as they can do the latter, they will. And I have no doubt that they WILL love the baby. Their baby sister.
"I love you Baby Sisstoo!" they say to my tummy. And I panic. Because there is a freakin' BABY in there. Not a fetus, not an abstract idea. A baby.
I living, practicing-breathing, itsy bitsy human.
|SI and DD- friends from the start|
...waiting for just the right moment to strike.
I am not ready. I will probably never be ready. I must be ready. Because there is no stopping what is going to happen from happening.
There is no getting around the fact that this baby likes to be up at night. Or that that this baby has needs that only the adults responsible for her can meet. Or that this baby is going to be on her way out of my body and into my home soon.
We are going to be a family of five.
And I am scared out of my freakin' mind.
April 24, 2012
Pregnancy food cravings. Straight out of some wacky sitcom.
These are not like first trimester aversions, this is an all out GIVE ME ALL THE CALORIES kind of obsession.
I'm talking popsicles and goat cheese for lunch. I'm talking scarfing down a pound and a half of grapes while chugging my kids' Strawberry Quick. I'm talking, "Honey, I know it's two in the morning but can you run to the store for a watermelon and salted chocolate caramels?" My gall bladder isn't pleased.
I've come up with a few recurring food themes that I eat quite a bit, much to the chagrin of my pseudo-doula and my husband. My pseudo-doula (long story) is mortified at how little *real* nutrition I manage to ingest, while M is simply grossed out by me literally chugging down a gigantic root beer float make with dark dark dark dark dark chocolate sorbet instead of vanilla ice cream.
But I have come up with one dish that, while it sends M scurrying for the hills, doesn't bother my pseudo-doula so much. And it is salted chocolate fake bacon.
Morningstar Farms, how I love thee. They make a fake bacon product called "breakfast strips." These are really freakin' tasty. And here is how I, in all of my pregnant, ridiculous glory, have been managing to get an extra twenty or so grams of protein a day.
Plus? This is seriously fast. So fast that I am making it right now.
Step one: Melt your chocolate in the microwave. The darker the chocolate, the better. Spread your melted dark chocolate on a plate- so you have an even layer of gooey, chocolaty goodness.
Step two: Salt liberally. I've been alternating between shaved sea salt and pink Himalayan sea salt. They're both awesome.
|Salted chocolate. Simple.|
Enjoy. You are now an honorary pregnant lady.
...and today, I have an interview up over at The Mom Pledge! Check it out!
April 23, 2012
|My second year of college|
I won't technically be *done*, I still have that summer class. But THAT is IT.
I started going to college when I was 15. It was my mom's idea. My high school had a new dean who had changed a lot of policies... policies that were why I was there in the first place. Suddenly, I wasn't learning. And I wasn't challenged (very related). And I stopped going.
For the first time in my life, I brought home a report card filled with negative comments, bad grades, and truancy. And when I told my mother why, she said, "Just drop out. We'll tell the state we're home schooling you, and you can go to community college instead."
And that is just what I did. I enrolled for two classes my first semester. I loved them. The next semester I enrolled full time. I didn't know that I wasn't allowed to do that- apparently, you can't enroll full time in college unless you've graduated from high school. But... nobody noticed that I was young, nobody noticed that I was actually a high school student hanging around the community college... and so I did. And I loved it.
Each semester I got more ambitious. Not about what I was going to do after college. I don't think I ever spared a moment's thought to that. I got ambitious about what I could learn right then. I took every class that appealed to me. I switched majors. Twice. I became a regular fixture in the advising center to get permission to take more than the normally allowed 18 credits. I took summer classes. For the heck of it.
|Me as Magenta in the Rocky Horror Picture Show|
I only slept for two hours a night, most nights. During "Mash," from 5-7am. I finished the semesters with seven 'A's and a 'C.'
Then I transferred, with a scholarship, to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. And starting on the day of orientation, I began to think about the future. About what the hell I was going to do once I was done being in college. I was an eighteen year old junior. I took a few master's level writing classes. I got in fights with my professors about the "correct" size for a collage.
I left art school and joined AmeriCorps as a VISTA, and I spent most of a year working in the Chicago slums.
After AmeriCorps I went to fashion design school, on a scholarship.
I left fashion design school and went back to community college, only this time in Chicago- majoring in philosophy.
|Prepping a mural on Chicago's south side|
While I was in City Year, I learned about a brand new undergrad program- starting the next fall- in Urban Policy and Public Administration.
And I got into that.
I was a twenty three year old junior.
My fiance was diagnosed with brain cancer. I got married. I got pregnant. I had twins. I got pregnant again.
And now, five years after I started, after watching every single student to ever be in that program graduate, I am finishing.
|These things kept me from finishing... for a while|
I am actually going to graduate from something. I think. Probably. Unless some sort of epic disaster strikes.
I'll still have one class to do, but I can do it. I can do one more class.
One more class. And a new baby.
The end is in sight.
April 22, 2012
There was a lot of great stuff out there this week... as every week. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
"A Defining Moment" - The Mom Pledge Blog
Elizabeth of the Mom Pledge has started a two week series on giving birth. It's amazing how awful moms can be to each other when it comes to something as simple as how your child came out of your body and into the world. Each day the Mom Pledge Blog has (and will) feature another birth story. I highly recommend checking it out!
"Willa Dawn's Birth Story" - Super Mom Blog
I love birth stories! Summer is a mom blogger I've been reading for some time- and I've been anxious for this post since she announced she was pregnant... a few weeks before I was getting ready to announce I was pregnant. So happy that she has welcomed her newest daughter into the world!
"National Public Gardens Day" - Toddling Around Chicagoland
This is a great event. We did it last year, and had TONS of fun. Find out what public gardens are near you and participating, and celebrate the spring outside. In style. :)
For some reason best known to herself, this mommy blogger's three year old has started planking. No explanation. Just... planking. Yes, there are pictures.
"Rock, Paper, Scissors" - The Hossman Chronicles
There's a new sheriff in town at the Hossman house. I love this post, first of all because of how well Daddy Hoss deals wish issues like marital strife and the bittersweet realities of children growing up, but also because I have Mommy Hoss-like rock, paper, scissors skills. And I can imagine this someday happening to my family. Sort of.
"The Potty and the Pussycat" - Misadventures in Motherhood
Jenn cracks me up on a regular basis. This post has a trifecta of my favorite humor elements. Terrifying public toilets, random friendly animals, and attempts by Americans to get by in a foreign country in the native language.
"Attention: Baby" - Happy Hippie Homemaker
Rachel is due about two weeks after me. It's always nice to share in the vicarious misery, excitement, and fear of a new baby, and this incredibly brief post sums it up perfectly.
M and I have conversations like this. Except there are no dragons involved.
"Dog" - Life With Gemelos!
I am so jealous right now. As you might already know, I really want a dog. Unfortunately, it doesn't make a lot of sense to get a dog right now. Period. So many reasons. While I don't want a German Shephard (believe it or not, those just aren't big enough for me), I would LOVE IT if we lived anywhere near a breeder. Taking the girls out to play with puppies? PLEASE???????
This week marked Yom Hashoah. This is one woman's personal account of how her family has been shaped and changed by the events of the Holocaust. She's writing from Israel, which adds a different kind of flavor to her perspective- in the United States the day passes almost unnoticed. In Israel, it is a Big Deal.
"The Post That Never Should Have Existed" - Poop And Other Things Moms Talk About
And now for something completely different. Moving past the awesomeness that is the title of this blog, this post is hilarious. All about bad days as blog fodder, and when the line is crossed between, "This will be hilarious," and "Dear God get me out of here."
April 20, 2012
|The Ghost of Birthdays Past|
Mom- when you read this- thank you for gestating me, for no doubt handling going into labor at a seder with dignity and grace, and for being an awesome mom. Really, my birth is much more your accomplishment than mine.
My last birthday before the girls were born, I wanted a big hurrah. Something to acknowledge me, because I knew that I was going to have a couple of kids who wouldn't learn to give a crap about my birthday for probably a decade and a half.
I was wrong.
They are SO excited about my birthday. They are going to get cake, they are going to get pizza.
They've been talking about it for weeks.
...there is a little confusion. SI is sure that the only cakes in the world are cupcakes. We're not having cupcakes.
DD is pretty sure that a birthday is something you eat, not that it involves delicious things that you eat. She keeps telling me that she's going to eat my birthday.
What are we doing?
Pretty much nothing.
After all, turning 28 just doesn't matter much to me. And there are so many other reasons to celebrate all of my me-ness in the near future.
I'm graduating. There will probably be some sort of shin-dig to memorialize that. I should probably think about putting one together.
My wonderful friends Aunt K and Aunt Texas are throwing me a baby shower two weeks after that.
And a few days later... me and M's anniversary.
I don't need a birthday extravaganza to start all of that off. Instead, I'm entering a cake baking contest next weekend (comic themed cakes!) and tonight having some friends over to play canasta.
Sound boring? Maybe to you. To me it sounds like an awesome evening.
My present to myself? I did a little tweaking on my blog layout, in case you read this elsewhere. I've simplified. After all, my life is about to be a little fuller... my blog might as well feel like a more peaceful space. :)
So, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to anyone else out there born on this day, and a Very Merry Unbirthday to the rest of you!
April 19, 2012
|April 1, Kristallnacht|
Today is Yom Ha'Shoah.
"Shoah" is the Hebrew word for "disaster," or "calamity." It is also the word that Jews the world over have been using since the 1940s (and probably earlier) to describe what happened in Germany, Poland, and throughout the spread of the Nazi movement, to the Jewish people.
Here in the United States as in many places, we call it, "The Holocaust."
But "holocaust" means "burnt offering." It's a title that I, personally, find... distasteful.
Because a burnt offering is a sacrifice. And because the burnt offerings of those years were corpses at the alter of the ideal of Aryan superiority. And to call that a sacrifice is not accurate- it was different from a sacrifice. It was not a choice, or an obligation, or even an inevitability.
But it was a disaster. And a calamity. And a horror.
As my mother helps her parents prepare to leave their house after decades, she has come across some interesting objects. One of these is a doll.
My great-great-uncle Hy found that doll in a concentration camp. He was looking for his family. He was looking for the people that he knew and loved, that helped define him and shape him, and connect him with his past, his future, and his history.
I can't imagine what was running through his mind while he searched that camp. What he found was a doll. A small, homemade doll. He picked it up, and he mailed it to the only little girl he had any connection to anymore. My nine year old grandmother. Sending her that doll must have felt like the closest thing he would ever get to reuniting his family.
The Shoah began before what we think of as the Holocaust- it began decades before. Centuries. Millennia. When my family fled Spain- when Columbus was sailing the ocean blue, Jews were packing their bags and leaving after Ferdinand and Isabella's edict- there was already a precedent in place.
Many of them went to Poland, where they were given religious freedom by King Boleslav.
They felt safe in Poland, and there they remained. Spreading their roots, building their communities. Not just in Poland, but around Poland.
It was over two hundred years that they lived, somewhat peacefully, with the Polish people. And then the pogroms began- systematic killing and violence of Jews. Over the next few centuries, this violence drove the Jews into Germany and Prussia.
It was 100 years later that the rise of sentiments and policies that lead to the Nazis would begin.
And that's where my family was. In Poland, in Lithuania, in Germany. My great-great-grandparents. My great-grandparents. My ancestors.
The people who's names and likenesses I and my parents and my children bear.
My great-great grandfather (on my mother's mother's mother's side) fled Poland and established himself in the United States.
My great-great-grandparents (on my mother's father's father's side) managed the same feat.
I know nothing of my father's lineage this far back, but the names I've seen printed and etched at Ellis Island. I do know that all who remained are now gone. Whole swathes of my family, of my history, of the story of how I came to be and who I am... they are gone.
The name we have chosen for Baby X is my great-great-aunt's name. I never knew her. She was my great-grandpa Abe's youngest sister.
I grew up with her story, though. When the family was fleeing, they hid in the false bottom of a hay cart in the wee hours of the morning while a friend smuggled them to the docks, to board a boat to America.
Soldiers with pitchforks stabbed at the hay. They were looking for people just like my family, Jews, trying to escape. Through the ordeal, the children (and there were many of them) all miraculously remained silent. Including Baby X's namesake. She slept peacefully through the ordeal, only a baby, never waking or crying.
She grew up, fell in love, and married before dying young and tragically.
It was a fate she never would have enjoyed if she had remained in Europe. She would have died young and tragically, but not in the freedom of the road and the company of her husband. She would have died almost anonymously, one of millions crowded into camps and systematically annihilated. Her name replaced by a number on her arm. The name my daughter will carry on.
Today is Yom Ha'Shoah, the day of Remembrance.
I might have had many more cousins.
I might have had a family so large and and so close, the sort of family that my husband has. I might have had a community in my mind of names and faces and laughs and idiosyncrasies of the people connected to me through blood.
Instead, I have memories of museums. Of empty shoes and coarse, striped fabric. I have memories of my great-grandfather's silences, of stories he would write down but not discuss with me. I have memories of dates and of events that occurred before I was born, but which are etched into my soul.
As we say each Passover... in each generation there are some who would rise and try to destroy us.
The Assyrians. The Egyptians. The Persians. The Greeks. The Romans. The Christian Crusaders. The Inquisitorial Catholics. The Cossacks. The Nazis.
I have no doubt there will be another some day, and I will probably live to see it. It will probably take the form of military action against Israel.
I'm not a Zionist, I don't believe that Jews are entitled to that land or that it's even necessarily a good idea to have a "Jewish State." But regardless of what I believe when it comes to Israel and war and genocide, I believe that it is my job not only as a Jew but as a human being to remember the lesson of the Holocaust.
Never again can we stand idly by as a people are willfully destroyed. Religions, cultures, races, sexualities, these are not only abstract concepts by which we can divide masses into categories- these are people. Aunts and uncles and grandparents and sons and daughters. Jews and Gypsies and Catholics and homosexuals. Hutus and Cham and Armenians and Kurds.
Piles of corpses that survivors sift through, hoping and fearing to find a familiar face.
A face that looks like it could belong to them.
Today is Yom Ha'Shoah.
|October 1, 2009|
My pregnancy was anything but ideal.
I walked into my OB/GYN's office, happily pregnant, and informed the nurse that I was having twins. My regular GYN already had a full list of pregnant patients, so she couldn't see me. I was referred to her junior partner. The junior partner was very, very excited. She had never delivered twins. She wanted to schedule my c-section that day.
I left and never looked back.
I went out and researched a local practice that specialized in multiples- every single doctor in the practice had multiples as a specialty. It's just what they do there. As a result, the office was a zoo of women like me- pregnant with multiples and trying to see the experts. I never built anything like a personal relationship with the doctors there. I was just pregnant lady with twins number eight or twenty seven of the day.
An early subchorrionic hematoma put me on bedrest, and the moment I finally stood up, the symphasis pubis dysfunction (SPD) took over. It was excruciating. My OB was completely unconcerned. I was obviously fine, the babies were obviously fine, if I could do something for the pain, great... but if not, whatever. Every other time I went in, she asked when I wanted to schedule a c-section. I always told her I didn't, and she always said, "Great," and that was that.
But I was determined to have a natural delivery.
I started looking for alternatives.
A friend of mine offered to doula for me, and I bothered her nearly daily. She gave me an impossible to follow diet (vegetarian Brewer diet for twins) that I tried and tried to accommodate. I just could not eat that much food.
I went to physical therapy and used moxibustion to help the babies get into position.
I learned to absolutely love acupuncture.
Through the intense rituals of creating familiarity between me and my babies, position wise, I became certain of who was who. What they were like. We began to develop a rapport.
But as the months wore on, my doula and my OB and even my chiropractor began trying to make me face facts- I was probably going to need a c-section.
|Five months in...|
My babies might be healthy and entertaining and awfully cute on ultrasound, but they were stubbornly transverse.
For those of you unfamiliar with the lingo associated with pregnancy and birth, "transverse" means that, rather than being head down (ready to exit as we all hope they will) or breech (butt or feet first), they were laying sideways, on top of each other.
No baby comes out sideways.
I tried. Oh how I tried. But I began to make peace with it. I would have as "natural" a c-section as possible. I wouldn't schedule one- I would wait to go into labor (probably early) and I would get an epidural, and I would at the very least be conscious for the birth of my children. I wasn't thrilled, but I was beginning to make peace with it.
And still I tried. Still I hung out upside down, shone flashlights into my lady bits, burned herbs next to my toes, spent hours and hours on my yoga ball.
I was so determined. But I had changed my focus a little.
I stopped worrying quite so much about the c-section, and started worrying about pregnancy milestones. How many weeks before the twins were viable. How many weeks before the twins would experience no lifelong health issues if they were born prematurely. How many weeks before they would be likely to just come home with us.
Every other week was a milestone, and held up the next one in front of me- "Just stay pregnant another two weeks. In another two weeks, they'll be so much better off..."
This was complicated by the fact that I started feeling that something was wrong. Something seemed not quite right with DD, and I couldn't exactly put my finger on it. I insisted on the OB checking it out, and as a result every few days we went in for an non-stress test (NST). While these are only *supposed* to take an hour, they could never keep both babies on the monitor. It was our twice-a-week-or-so seven hour long routine. It was awful. And every time the end result was that the babies were both fine, that there was nothing to worry about, and that I could continue being pregnant.
But I hated being pregnant. Oh, how I hated it. I was in so much pain, my gall bladder was shutting down, I had heartburn peeling enamel off my teeth, I couldn't sleep... I was ready to be done.
I started making really awful jokes about it. I started shouting at my belly to GET OUT OF THERE!!!!!
And then, after one long evening of making incredibly tasteless jokes and complaining that my children could evacuate my womb any time thankyouverymuch, I went home and went to bed. That was 11pm.
At 2am, I woke up feeling a gush of warm fluid between my legs. I was about 99% certain that I hadn't just wet the bed, and I shook M awake. "I think my water just broke!" I managed to get out. He practically jumped out of bed in his haste to turn on the light. I closed my eyes against the glare of it, and heard him say, "The bed is covered in blood..."
It was. There was so. much. blood.
Blood was dripping off the bed onto the rug on my side. It was pooling between my legs.
I jumped up and called my OB's emergency after-hours number. I got a call back two minutes later. In those two minutes, I had run to the bathroom, and discovered something sticking out- something sort of fleshy but... wrong. I couldn't feel any fetal movement. I was desperately trying not to panic.
M was sopping up blood as I took the call, the OB told us to head straight to the hospital, to bypass triage, and that we were going to be admitted directly because they were now waiting for us. The moment I hung up, the thing came out. It was bloody and red and fleshy and about the size of my fist. But it wasn't a baby, and it wasn't a baby part, and so I managed to calm myself enough to rinse the blood off my legs and throw on some clothes for the trip to the hospital.
What was normally a half hour drive took us closer to fifteen. In that time, I had called my doula, who said would come as soon as she could. I had called my parents, which was a disaster. My mom was on ambien and had no idea what I was talking about and couldn't register the urgency in my voice- after all, I wasn't due for weeks. I called my sister and left utterly panicked messages on her voicemail. And I sat in the car, trying not to panic.
We got to the hospital and bypassed triage, just as we were supposed to. But we still needed to wait for our room. And because we had bypassed triage, they sat us down in the labor and delivery waiting room.
Where at 2:40 in the morning, there was a crowd of ecstatic grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews to-be. It was full of balloons, and flowers, and... happiness.
And we sat there for a few minutes. Me, bleeding into a maxi pad, M holding me, trying to separate whatever was happening to us from the joy in that room. Because we just didn't know what was happening, or what the outcome would be.
After about ten minutes, I couldn't take anymore. I left the waiting room and demanded that we be allowed to wait somewhere else. The lady at the L&D waiting room desk was less than helpful. She eventually agreed we could just stand in front of her desk while we waited. She wouldn't even offer me a chair.
Finally, we went into our room. I was quickly hooked up to all sorts of monitors and an IV, and for the first time ever the nurses had no difficulty at all in locating both babies, and seeing that both of them were just fine. Normal heart rates. No signs of distress.
The OB (the one on call, not my regular OB) explained that they had no idea where the blood was coming from, but that as long as I wasn't having contractions (I wasn't) and the babies were fine, I would just be staying there.
...that it might be as long as a few weeks.
Me? I had just had the most self controlled full blown panic attack of my life. It had been six hours since I'd eaten. My blood sugar was crashing. In my relief and the expectation that I was now moving into the hospital, I asked if I could have something to eat.
They told me... no.
No, because I might have to have a c-section at any minute.
But, I thought, I might be here for weeks. Am I not supposed to eat anything the entire time?
Eventually, once they knew what was going on, they said, I could eat.
Until then, no food. No drinks. Nothing.
So the waiting began. Hours passed. I was starving. "Can I eat now? Can I just have some orange juice? Anything?" I asked them over and over and over again. Nothing.
As my blood sugar continued to plummet, I started having contractions. Excruciating contractions. Nothing like what I had anticipated, but that didn't matter. When I'm having a blood sugar crash, everything is the worst that it has ever been.
I was desperate. I knew that if I could just eat something I would be fine. But they wouldn't let me.
I finally asked for something for the pain. It was what they had been waiting for.
"If you're in that much pain, we need to get those babies out. Now."
I wasn't ready. They weren't ready. I tried not to cry. I was exactly 35 weeks pregnant. I had one more week to go until I thought everything would be fine.
And then the OB dropped a bomb on me. She explained because they didn't know why I was bleeding, they couldn't do an epidural. I would have to be unconscious.
I freaked out. I told her that there was nobody else in the hospital right then- almost true- and that they could RUSH the blood work. That they could do something. I don't know why, but it seemed to finally get through to her. Maybe it was because this was a different doctor- she'd just changed emergency shifts with the OB who met me when I was admitted- and she actually understood how much terror I must be experiencing. Maybe because she didn't know what was going on with the previous OB. I have no idea. But she said, "We'll try," and directed the nurses to get me ready for surgery.
M was moved to wait for me in the recovery room. I was wheeled into surgery alone.
Anesthesia is bad for babies, so they don't give it to you until the last possible moment. That meant that I was fully unsedated for all the pre-op nastiness. The catheter, which HURT, the mail line insertion... all of it. Finally, I was laying down, surrounded by doctors and nurses who informed me that as soon as my OB entered the room, we would begin.
|Still numb, but holding my babies for the first time|
She leaned over me and said, "I just got your blood work back- we can do the epidural. They'll go get your husband scrubbed in right now- and then we'll begin."
The next two minutes were a blur. The epidural was inserted, and I went completely numb from the chest down. M came in, looking both terrified and relieved. He stayed next to me with his hands on my shoulder while the procedure began, and then...
...they invited him to look over the curtain for the birth of our babies.
I'll never forget the sound of his voice. It was high and cracked, he sounded like he might faint. "Oh my god, I see her. I can see head now..." and then I heard her cry.
A few moments later, the next baby was out.
They took the girls away from M and me to clean them up, get their Apgar scores, weigh them... while they did that, they stitched me up. M got to hold them first. I couldn't quite register what I was seeing.
8:34am, SI- 4lbs 6oz. 8:36am, DD- 4lbs 14oz.
Once they had finished cleaning me up, I was propped up a bit and handed my children.
Surprise surprise, their blood sugar was low.
I agreed to giving them bottles of basically sugar water to see if that would help. SI got hers first. As a result, when they checked her blood sugar again, it was perfect. DD's wasn't, so they insisted on sending her to the NICU. By the time she made the trip via elevator and had her blood sugar checked again, it was perfect. They started telling me that any time now I would have her back.
It would be almost nine hours before I finally did.
In that time, my doula, and then my parents arrived.
As soon as DD was back with me, life was perfect.
I had my daughters, they were healthy. They were tiny, but they were healthy.
I still look back on those days as one of the best vacations of my life.
Recovery from the c-section was not what I had expected. I wasn't in as much pain as I thought I would be, but the muscles in my abdomen never fully recovered.
|"I missed you."|
It turned out that I had a partial placental abruption, caused most likely by the blood clot that was responsible for my subchorrionic hematoma during my first trimester. That's what had passed in the wee hours of October 1, 2009. It was DD's placenta.
I learned that my instincts are good. I was probably right about my blood sugar, but I was definitely right about DD. There was something wrong. Not wrong enough for it to cause her any damage, but enough that I knew.
I have felt judged by other moms for having a c-section. Judged enough that I always say emergency c-section, to make it clear that it wasn't my choice- that it wasn't my idea.
|DD and SI|
My daughters? They're as perfect as children come.
When Baby X is ready to arrive, I will have the confidence to assert myself, to say, "I know me better than you, I know this baby better than you, and these are the facts. Now give me some damn orange juice."
This time, I'm going to try again for that natural delivery, but not for me so much as for DD and SI. I don't want to spend five days having an awesome hospital vacation. I want to have my family together. I don't want to spend nearly a week separated from my twins, I don't want to spend over a month unable to hold them because of the sutures in my stomach.
|First night at home with the girls|
But if I have to have another c-section? If it turns out that my uterus is only comfortable to transverse babies, or that there is some sort of fetal distress...
I'll have that c-section without more than a moment's hesitation. Because what matters is that all of us get through this okay. Not that I do it with my hippie ideals perfectly intact.
And I promise, In another month and a half... I'll tell you all about it.
April 18, 2012
|My uterus- well past maximum recommended occupancy|
I am happy to say that I am taking part in The Mom Pledge's Birth Story event! Rather than simply write the girls' birth story as it stands alone, I have divided the tale into two parts- conception and birth, which are very much linked not only in my mind and in the way I reacted to them emotionally, but also in the way I was made to feel regarding how they came to pass. I have linked liberally to other posts where I explain some of the details from this story, which is as complicated as it is personal (so personal that it's probably best to link up with Shell's Pour Your Heart Out as well). This is part one- Origin of the Grublings.
It was inevitable that I would be a woman with essentially naturalistic tendencies.
My parents (at least my father) desperately wanted to be hippies, but they were just a bit too young. My father was determined to go to jail for refusing to enlist for the draft. They ended the draft just a few months shy of his eighteenth birthday, much to his adolescent dismay.
They were vegetarians before they met at fifteen.
I was raised with their values- peace, love, acceptance, respect for nature...
I have fond memories of a community event for Earth Day where we picked up garbage, and I discovered that there were companies that made shoes and backpacks out of recycled tires. Yes, fond memories.
|My parents, the hippies|
My school lunch box was always filled with things like fruit leather and "Vruit" juices. My mom was into organic foods before it was hip. The other kids (and moms) thought that she was crazy.
Of course I grew up to be kind of a hippie myself.
When as a young woman I started thinking about pregnancy and birth, I always envisioned things being as natural as possible. As organic, as un-medicated, and as fundamentally intervention-free as any other animal. But my life has almost never gone according to plan.
The day after we got engaged, my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. This started a whirlwind of medical procedures... one of which was the storage of his "genetic materials." After all, who knew what the long term effects of his treatments might be? He banked sperm, and we started the long and frightening process of fighting an inoperable, stage four tumor that had lodged itself deep in his brain.
As the year progressed, we began to be truly optimistic. We were winning. We were beating the thing. Our lives could go back to... well, normal.
But not quite. Because under "normal" circumstances, we would have waited to have kids. We would have taken a few years to establish ourselves, we would have enjoyed a prolonged honeymoon of coupled bliss. But things had changed. Now, with this looming over us, we wondered how much time we had. We wondered how long M might have. And how would it be if we waited, and then the cancer came back? If after all of that, we lost him just when we wanted to start a family? Or when our children were too young to know him?
|M's boss gave him a teddy bear with a t-shirt that said, |
"My bald head is cuter than your bad haircut" when he
lost his hair to radiation. That was the same day I got this
awful haircut. I cried.
Sooner, we decided, was better. The sooner we had children, the longer we knew we would have with them. The longer M would have with them.
And so we decided to get pregnant.
We reached this decision in the months leading to the end of M's treatment. He had already been through radiation, and an experimental protocol involving arsenic that may well be the thing that saved his life, and he was finishing up a full twelve months of post-arsenic chemotherapy.
Now, chemotherapy does one job particularly well. It attacks rapidly dividing cells, like cancers.
"Genetic material" is also rapidly dividing cells.
It is incredibly dangerous to get pregnant when one party is on chemotherapy. And the damage caused by the chemo can be permanent. The doctors told us that we would have to wait between 6-24 months to see whether the "genetic material" would return to normal. We didn't want to wait that long. So, we decided to use the stored specimens to make a baby.
Unfortunately, everything happened so quickly after M's diagnosis that we didn't have a chance to store very much. There wasn't enough to go the IUI route (otherwise known as the "turkey baster method"), so IVF it would have to be.
I can't say I was crazy about the idea. It was so unnatural. It was so... clinical. But I wanted to have children with my husband, and I wanted to do it right then, so I swallowed my dissatisfaction and I got ready.
|Our first picture of the girls- the moment of implantation|
I've got to say- IVF sucks. The daily injections, the side effects of those drugs, the constant blood draws, the never ceasing saline ultrasounds... it was awful. I hated IVF. It was the opposite of everything I'd ever wanted making a baby to be. There was no love in that clinic. There was no romance. There was nothing but fear, shame, and judgement. And nearly all of that came from me.
Finally, the day of implantation arrived. Like everything before, it was unpleasant, clinical, and unnatural. The doctor explained that since I had at least been pregnant for that moment that the embryos (they insisted on two, as each had a 30% chance of "taking" and didn't want to have to try again if one failed) were implanted, I would probably test positive on an at home pregnancy test whether or not it had succeeded. So I decided to avoid the stress and just wait for the weeks to pass until I went in for an ultrasound to see what was going on in my uterus.
And there they were. Two functioning yolk sacs. I was pregnant with twins.
There was so much joy, so much excitement...
And then, the judgement began anew.
Nearly every time I told somebody I was expecting twins, they asked if I used IVF.
|Two zygotes in with their yolks|
I always felt that the question, "Did you use IVF?" was utterly dishonest. What they were actually asking was, "What's wrong with you? Why couldn't you get pregnant naturally?"
This was reinforced by the occasional person- always a woman- who would actually ask that.
I felt judged for having used IVF. I felt that other women thought of me as somehow less than for using fertility assistance. I was reminded constantly of the fear and the anxiety and the pain that had gone into the decision, that had let me and M into that fertility clinic for the first time.
It hurt. It hurt to remember those long talks about how old was old enough for a child to remember their father if he died. How old was old enough for there to be meaningful memories. How long I would need to prepare myself to be a single parent, how long we might have as a family.
These aren't the usual conversations couples have when they decide to have a baby.
I never knew what to say to women who did have fertility issues that led them to IVF. I wanted to say that I was sorry, and that I wasn't judging them. But I also felt trapped by their acceptance of me, like we were a support group for a condition that I didn't actually have.
|25 weeks with my twins|
I didn't feel superior to them, I felt separate from them. And I wanted to be separate, to find the other women who must be in the clinic because of chemo or cancer or some other issue that had nothing to do with them. I wanted for everyone to know that I didn't know whether or not I could get pregnant naturally, that I didn't know what my body did or didn't do all by itself. All I knew was that my husband had brain cancer, and he was beating it, but that it had nothing to do with my uterus. Or my womanhood. Or my ability to be a mother.
I felt bad for the women who had tried and tried to have a baby, and had ended up in the fertility clinic for help. I felt bad because I knew what it was like to want to have something huge and meaningful in your life, and not to know whether it would be possible.
And I felt bad for them because I knew how it felt to be judged by "normal" women who could get pregnant whenever they wanted.
I experienced other women actually bullying me and other IVF successes for using fertility assistance (ALWAYS online with the aid of internet anonymity). Because it is unnatural. Because if God wanted you to have a baby, you would have simply gotten pregnant. Because medical interventions have no place in the realm of the Goddess. Because if your body wanted you to be pregnant, you would have gotten pregnant. Because if you just listened to your body and did what it needed you would have gotten pregnant without any help. Because you didn't pray enough. Because you didn't try everything. Because you just wanted the attention of having multiples like the Octo-mom. Because some people obviously aren't meant to have babies.
I wanted to punch those ladies in the face. But it's hard to tell somebody that they're a grade-A asshole when they accuse you of all the things you already feel. When they tell you you are less than them because you failed at getting pregnant naturally. When, in some shameful corner of your mind, you agree.
|SI - 22 gestational weeks|
I didn't fail at getting pregnant naturally. I did everything I could not to get pregnant naturally. I succeeded in getting pregnant with two squirmy creatures who would eventually become my practically perfect daughters.
But I felt that I had failed, a little. Because it was so unnatural. And it was so clinical. Because, "when a mommy and daddy love each other very much, they make love and that creates a baby." And that isn't what happened.
With every complication I had, and there were many, somebody would helpfully explain that this probably happened because of the IVF. Or it happened because I was carrying twins (because of the IVF). So everything that went wrong, from my SPD to my subchorrionic hematoma to my gall bladder disease, was happening to me and my babies because I had failed.
I did a good job of silencing that voice- the one that judged me so harshly for how I got pregnant.
|DD - 22 weeks gestational age|
But every time another woman- who had succeeded- asked me "Oh twins! Did you use IVF?" what I heard was, "You are a failure at getting pregnant, aren't you?"
So through the whole pregnancy I harbored my dedication to a beacon of hope- a natural delivery.
My babies might have come into my womb in a cold, clinical way, but they were going to come out the way I wanted them to. In that, I was determined to succeed.
...knowing that my life almost never goes according to plan. Almost never.
Tune in tomorrow for the second half of the story- the Birth of the Grublings.
April 17, 2012
|This time last pregnancy|
At any rate, at exactly this point in my previous pregnancy, I was pretty much at this exact point in my previous pregnancy. All the same routines, the same worries... well, many of the same worries. And it turns out my nesting instinct runs pretty much like clockwork.
So what was I doing at 32 weeks pregnant with my twins?
Grubling Things and Other Ways In Which My Life Seems Utterly Surreal
Closer and closer... every day pushes us closer to being a family of four.
Pretty crazy, no?
We've been putting together the grubling room. Phil's moved out, and now it's just assembling furniture, rearranging furniture, and decorating.
Let me say that again, I have been DECORATING a room for my BABIES. Or at least preparing to do so. I have a huge stack of fabric which will shortly become curtains, an interactive felt farm scene, and most likely a crib bumper. We've bought a new ceiling fan to install in there- the blades are all different bold colors.
Cribs are much larger than you would imagine they'd be. That room is filling up fast. I've already picked out a few pieces of art to go in there, changed my mind on them, and picked out a few different ones. I'm extremely happy with my choice of cherry finishes and sleigh style furniture. I'm equally happy with my bright green walls. Critics be damned! And I'm happiest with the prices we've paid for all of the furniture- we're up to a total of $400. And only three items are actually used.
Now- who wants to come over and help me paint the alphabet border along the ceiling? I have a hunch M won't let me on the ladder. Oh right- I'm supposed to be on bed rest.
|The finished product|
I just don't buy this whole, "We're having babies," thing. It doesn't seem possible. And yet, here we are. With cribs. And a changing table. And... a nursery.
What the f#@* are we doing with all this baby stuff?
It's an awfully elaborate prank.
Speaking of odd moments pertaining to the encroaching reality of having babies, I scheduled a consult with the anesthesiologist today. Halfway through getting all the required info (twins, due date, medical complications, presentation, etc.) the scheduler stops and says,
"Are you... are you listening to... is that Rage Against the Machine?"
"(long pause) ...yes."
"(long pause) ...awesome."
I have absolutely no business becoming a parent.
|32 weeks pregnant with one|
I'm still amazed at how big baby furniture is. I'm still in disbelief about *baby*. And yet... here I am.
With a nursery coming together. Pretty sure I had no business having a baby.
This time last pregnancy, I was exactly where I am now.
Three weeks later, I had two babies in my arms.
...let's hope Baby X can stay put a little bit longer than that.