Hi Honey, I Lost the Kid!

Imagine this view from 3 feet off the ground

Imagine this view from 3 feet off the ground

It happened, and what a nightmare.

We were flying from California to West Virginia with a 3 hour layover in Chicago. Our first time flying with our new baby. One mom, one low vision dad, one 4-year-old, and one 2 month old. Surely a recipe for disaster! The Chicago airport was crazy crowded, so we should have had a clue. Shoulda woulda coulda. We were all exhausted and delirious, running on 3 or so hours of sleep because of our super early flight out of SF.

It was mid-day our time, dinnertime Chicago time, so we ordered some food to go at the airport Chili’s restaurant. As we ordered, Gavin started melting down, trying to lay down on the airport floor, and then dragging his wheelie backpack over my exposed toes several times. I followed suit with my own meltdown, snapping at him instead of realizing he was too spun out to cope and only 4 years old.

Danny insisted we walk while waiting for our food, thinking Gavin just had to run off his spare energy. I stopped at a charging station to juice up my cell phone, craving a break from the wonky family dynamics. We agreed that they’d meet me back there in a few minutes. As I watched them walking away, Danny pushing a stroller and Gavin galloping alongside them, I was suddenly filled with foreboding. I yelled after them, to say something, to tell Gavin to wait with me or to remind him to stay next to his Daddy, I’m not sure. I didn’t get a chance to say anything because they were already swallowed up in the crowd.

Maybe 10 minutes later, my phone vibrated. I answered and Danny’s voice filled my ear, saying, “Gavin just took off.”

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you. I’ve lost Gavin for maybe 30 seconds before in a department store, but that simply did not compare. Huge airport, thousands of people, all kinds of people. And a little four-year-old wheeling a mini-backpack. I imagined the worst: someone grabbing him and him disappearing forever. I imagined a life without Gavin. I imagined that I surely would never be able to forgive Danny, or myself for that matter.

Mostly, I saw Gavin in my mind’s eye alone in this huge airport, and I felt how incredibly scared he must be. I saw the noisy chaos of the airport through his eyes, and remembered how small he is.

Danny retraced his steps towards me, thinking he probably headed back to me. When Danny arrived at my spot sans Gavin, I retraced their steps back to Smoothie World, yelling Gavin’s name. We of course informed customer service, and they started paging him to come to the customer service booth in Terminal 3, as if a 4-year-old would know what the hell that is.

As I wandered the terminal, I repeated in my head, “Please, please, please.” One simple word. And I remembered, strangely, a Mr. Rogers quote. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” I reminded myself there are more helpers than hurters. And surely one of them would grab him first. “Please.”

Eventually, maybe 15 minutes later, but I honestly have no idea, Danny called my cell and told me they were paging us. They had him at United customer service. Four men comforting my little boy. I sunk to my knees and opened my arms. He ran into them. His little face crumpling into tears and his small boy voice saying, “Mommy,” in relief will be forever etched into my brain.

I am so grateful for the helpers in this world. And for this lesson and this reminder. As we adjust to being a family with two little ones, I think I tend to forget how small Gavin still is. He looks so giant next to our newborn, and my expectations of him have skyrocketed. I think I’ve been thinking of him unconsciously as a mini-adult. And he is so not an adult. He is still in the magical, vulnerable time of early childhood, and I need to remember that. I need to remember him, to pay attention and glory in his everyday growth and discoveries.

Now instead of, “Please, please, please,” I am repeating, “Thank God, Thank God, Thank God!”

Let’s Talk About Sex…or Lack Thereof


When my partner and I met, we were all about chemistry. We christened every room in the house, as well as both of our cars…many times. We made love in a sunny Arizona field and in the shade of a redwood in a public park in Vancouver. We went at it for hours on end and accomplished many, many big O’s. The pull was so strong and intoxicating that it lured me away from another man I deeply loved. We simply could not keep our hands off each other. 

Fast forward 8 years. Two small children, 6 years of cohabitation, 1,001 dances, 357 arguments and reconciliations, one million shared laughs, 5,467 cups of understanding, 34,784 mixed buckets of compromise and acceptance, and a countless number of adventures later. I feel as united with him as ever, closer to him than I have ever been with any other romantic partner. After going through childbirth and parenting with this wonderful man, I feel like we’ve been to war together, and this solidifies the ties between us like blood, making him my family as much as my mother or brother. 

And I don’t remember the last time we did it. 

Yes, we are currently 6 weeks postpartum. And yes, we have a very curious and combative 4 year old under the roof. Of course, I’ve heard all the stories that the healthy sex life disappears with young children in the mix. I’m not unrealistic enough to expect the unrestrained passion of our early days to survive the many years of our partnership. The mystery is gone, and all that jazz.

I don’t want a sexless marriage, but honestly, I don’t really want sex. In my head, I really, really do, but at the end of the day when the brief moment of opportunity presents itself, I really don’t. 

The last time we attempted sex (yes, it was only an attempt), I was in my third trimester. It was late at night, and we tried to sneak in a quickie. While we tried several different positions in an attempt to accommodate my humongous belly and simultaneously pricked our ears for any signs of awakening from our 4 year old in the next room, we somehow lost the desire halfway through. To say it was frustrating is putting it mildly. My partner complained that we are always rushing and there is no longer any foreplay. My big, giant pregnant belly didn’t make me feel sexy; nor was it a turn-on for my man. Sex felt more like work, something we had to do in order to, as my friend’s wise mother puts it, “grease the wheels of marriage.” 

Soon after this, D left town for a couple of weeks. I got a yeast infection. I gave birth, and I needed time to heal. I’m experiencing some kind of pelvic prolapse (sorry for the TMI, but isn’t this whole post a bit of that anyway?), and I am now a bit freaked out to have sex, at least until after I go to my postnatal follow-up appointment. I feel very far away from sex with my partner. I don’t know how to get there. I suggested we start massaging each other to “reaquaint” ourselves, yet once again, I would much rather read a book or tune into Netflix when the evening rolls around. He is starting to show me some desire, thank God, which I think will push us in the right direction. However, when I think about the act of sex, it still feels like something I should do, instead of something I want to do. 

When did sex become work?

I remember a time in my life, about a decade or so back, when I went through a sexual liberation phase. Not that I was going around sleeping with everyone or anything; I did more of that in my early 20’s before I was really sexually liberated. I read about the erotic, talked with my friends a lot about sex, generally pushed myself to become very sex-positive in every way, and explored in a very open way with my one trusted partner (or two consecutive partners, the second being my current man). I felt so juicy and inspired during this time, and endlessly enthusiastic about sex.

I want that back. I need to create space for that. I don’t know how, or when, because I just don’t have that kid of open-ended time to relax into the nectar of slow sex with little munchkins around. It is so hard to shift into an erotic space when one has only small pockets of time and very little energy. Yet, I think if I can pull it off, it will give me twice as much energy as I have now.

Maybe I need to cancel my Netflix account. Maybe I need to erase me Facebook profile, and dedicate my limited time to increasing intimacy in my partnership. Maybe I need to take it easier on myself, give us more time to adjust as a family, and understand my passion is directed towards small children during this time period.

I am really not sure. Please, tell me about your sex life post-kids, or post several years of marriage, after the shine has worn off. Let’s have a frank discussion, people, let’s talk about sex!

 

38 Weeks — My Love/Hate Relationship with Pregnancy

I have two weeks to go, and I realize I have been failing miserably at keeping this blog updated. Of course I’ve been busy working and mothering and being pregnant and all that, but I think what I am really struggling with is not knowing what this blog is about. Is it a semi-professional blog where I share information and tips on gaining psychological wellness? Or is it a personal tell-all journal that I use to process my experiences? So far it appears to be both, and I am not sure how and if they fit together. Because of this, I’ve been confused about what to write, how much to share. I have been completely neglectful, and I have come to realize I just need to write. Whatever. Just write. I can create different blogs later, but in the midst of the lack of clarity: Just. Write.

On my plate now is this miracle of a pregnancy. After two failed attempts, I am now in the home stretch. And what a stretch it is, literally! With my first son, I never enjoyed being pregnant. I was sick through the second trimester, and then constantly experiencing heartburn and discomfort through the third. This time around, I am experiencing both the ups and downs, so I thought I’d share my two lists: how much I love and hate being pregnant, the pros and cons if you will.

What I Hate:

  • So easily fatigued…so much to do and so little energy.
  • Nausea, of course. Thankfully it left (mostly) at 14 weeks this time around.
  • Insomnia. I am so tired, yet some nights I cannot sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time…all…night…long. And those nights are incredibly long.
  • The damn round ligament pain. Every time I go from sitting from standing, or sometimes when I am just walking, the sharp shooting pain in my groin. Ouchie!!!
  • Needing to pee constantly, and drink water constantly, and pee again, and drink more…
  • Pregnancy rhinitis. My nose is so stuffed up, I wake up gasping for air. I have to sleep sitting up to not feel as though I am suffocating. I am going to try some nasal strips tonight. Pray they will help.
  • Heartburn and indigestion. Again, I have to sleep sitting up. There are so many foods I need to avoid, but it doesn’t matter, because I am burping all night every night anyway.
  • So many doctor’s appointments. At this point, I feel like I live there.
  • Body constantly on display. Sometimes I just want to blend in, you know? Yet, anytime I’m in public, people stare, ask questions, and make very personal remarks about the shape and contours of my body. The worst is when strangers think it is okay to touch my stomach.
  • Constricted lungs. This combined with the stuffy nose often makes me feel as if I am going to suffocate. I feel trapped in this too full body, and there is absolutely no escape…just time to get through.
  • Hemorrhoids. Need I say more?
  • The kicks and stretches that push my body beyond what I thought its limits were = the opposite of comfort. Little guy is getting crowded in there.
  • Anxiety and worry. Even if I hadn’t experienced two miscarriages, I would still be the person obsessing about everything that can go wrong. Life is completely miraculous. How does anyone survive the myriad dangers we face every second? There is this little being inside of me. I have so little control over how he turns out, if he comes out alive and healthy, or if something goes fatally wrong. Yet, he already means so much to me. Being pregnant, beyond all else, is such a lesson and reminder of how little control I have over pretty much anything.
  • The anticipation. Not knowing when or how labor will go down. Not knowing if complications will arise. Not knowing how I will deal with any of it. Not knowing.

What I Love:

  • Maternity leave. I just started, and am really getting to enjoy this. Sure, I’m busy as hell preparing for this huge life change, but I am pulling in, focusing on my family, having time to reflect on how I want my life to look in the long-term. Invaluable, this is.
  • Smiles and kind words from strangers. Sometimes I don’t feel like being invisible. And during these times, I really appreciate the warmth that flows to me from so many strangers. I love that feeling of connection, that hope in the sharing of the sacrament of new life. Humanity can be so beautiful.
  • My changing body. I glory in the roundness and fullness. The veins I see crisscrossing my belly and breasts, carrying life blood throughout my body. Embodying the Goddess. What could ever top this?
  • The kicks and motions inside of me that remind me there is a little guy in there. I love feeling those jabs and trying to guess the body parts.
  • The miracle and mystery of this life growing inside of me. Where does it come from? How do the cells know to create this infinitely complex body and all of its parts? And the soul. Where does this come from and how does it get inside of me? Yes, I know: sperm and eggs and DNA and all that…but, the consciousness of this little being. The mystery.
  • The anticipation. It is better than a thousand Christmases. The best surprise ever. The greatest gift. I don’t know when or how, but I know it will be soon, and I hope it all goes well.

The Breakdown:

As you can see, the list of cons is much longer than the list of pros, but obviously the pros greatly outweigh the cons. Yes it’s a hassle, and it’s about the most uncomfortable thing, and I’m not even talking about labor! BUT. When it comes down to it, I think I would put up with almost anything for this payoff. Bringing new life into this world is something that goes way beyond me, and of course I have very little control over it. This is new life we are talking about, people. What an honor and what a privilege. I am humbled and in awe.

And to those of you who want this so much, but aren’t yet here. Please know I have been there as well. I have hoped and lost and grieved and wept. I have watched others go through it, and wondered if it would ever be my turn. I’ve felt that empty barrenness that is so lonely and bitter. And now I am here. Freaked out as hell that something will go wrong, still, and especially now when the stakes are so high, when I am completely and utterly invested in this new life. Please pray for me, and I will do the same for you. May we be blessed with these greatly desired babes in our arms. And most of all, may we be at peace with whatever hand we are dealt. May we find the blessing and the medicine in each lesson.

The Perfect Birth

Recently, I read this great lady’s birth story, and it inspired me to write my own. I had a natural birth, a home birth, something you hear very little about in this day and age. Some people think it’s a crazy thing to do, and can’t understand why anyone would choose this, since hospitals are so much “safer.” Me, I felt so much safer at home. Hospitals scare me. They are for sick people. Pregnancy and childbirth are not illnesses. It probably helps that I was born at home, caught by my father. Knowing my mom could do it gave me confidence that I can, too.

I want people to know that birth without medical intervention is possible. Not always. I have many friends who wanted natural childbirth, but circumstances didn’t allow it. I was blessed in this way, to not have any complications. I pray my next birth goes as well. I truly believe that it really, really helped to be in my own home surrounded by a team that completely supported me going at my own pace and reinforced the belief that my body knew exactly what to do. I also want to say that perfect does not mean effortless. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. And also the most rewarding.

July 12, 2009:

My due date. I am scared and excited and so over the constant heartburn. My boyfriend, Danny insists that we buy a birthday cake to welcome the little bean. I go along with his idea, because…why not? We head to the local bakery, where he special orders a mocha cake. We stay in that night, watch a movie, and eat some cake. I go to bed late as usual, because I’m a night owl. I don’t go into labor. I didn’t expect to. It’s my first baby, and everyone is always talking about how first babies tend to come late.

July 13, 2009:

I awaken at 5 AM to cramps. I’ve been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for weeks, but this is the first pain I’ve felt. It feels like strong period cramps. I throw up and wake Danny to tell him I think I’m in early labor. I can’t get back to sleep. The cramps come every 10 minutes, last about one minute each time, and they are difficult to sit through. This pace remains steady all day. I watch a few movies, and try to keep my mind distracted. I remember my midwife’s advice, to try to go about my life normally and ignore early labor as much as possible, because it can last a long time. I don’t go for a walk. I don’t want to even leave the house. It is really difficult to ignore what’s happening, and I don’t feel in any condition to face the world. I throw up a couple more times this day. I am a puker, as my midwife says. I had morning sickness until halfway into my pregnancy, and continued to vomit sporadically throughout the remainder of it. My midwife warned me that women often throw up in early labor, and that it is important to keep myself hydrated and nourished. We call her at some point, and she urges me to eat. I eat turkey BLTs all day, because it’s the only thing I want and can stomach. When we call her again towards the end of the day, she tells me to soak in the tub and maybe drink a half of a glass of wine, so I can relax and sleep tonight, as the labor doesn’t seem to be picking up. I follow her advice and get to sleep around 11.

This first day of early labor is one of the hardest parts of labor for me. I feel like I am about to fall into a rabbit hole, and I can’t fight it, and have no idea where it is going to take me, except that it will be painful, very painful.

July 14, 2009:

I wake up at 4 in the morning to stronger contractions that are happening closer together. They are too strong to sleep. After suffering alone for a while, I wake up Danny and tell him I think it’s picking up. I sit on the yoga ball, and he works pressure points on my lower back through the contractions. It hurts. We are timing the contractions, and they are happening three to four minutes apart, lasting from 45 seconds to a minute. Sounds pretty active, right? Well, we think so, and call my midwife around 5 or 6 to let her know. I’m on the phone with her, describing what’s happening when I feel a contraction coming on. She says she’ll hold on until it’s over. I breathe through it silently, as I’ve been doing to manage the pain. When it’s over and I get back on the phone, she asks me if I had the phone on mute. I tell her no and she says, “You were kind of quiet. I didn’t hear any moaning or anything.” I tell her, yes, I was just breathing, and she replies, “You’re not in active labor yet. I know it’s hard, but try to get some more sleep and call me in a few hours.”

I am amazed and disillusioned. If this isn’t active labor, how bad is it going to get? I gather a mountain of pillows and lay in a kind of elevated child pose on top of  my bed. I keep breathing through the regular contractions. I actually manage to sleep for a few hours. Gradually, I find myself getting into a zone. I wake up for the contractions, breathe through them, and then go back to sleep until the next one. By 9 AM, I am on the floor of my room, with pillows, still in child pose, still sleeping between contractions, only now I am moaning a low hum and counting slowly through them, because they are definitely getting stronger. Danny keeps timing them, and checking on me. He suggests several times that we should call the midwife again, but now I don’t want to. I don’t want to see anyone or deal with anyone except for this. I am in it. I put him off again and again, fine to be on my own alternately sleeping and moaning through unbearable but transient pain.

My midwife calls me at 9:30, but I don’t pick up the phone until she calls again at 10:30. She needs to let her team know what to plan for the day. We let her know the labor does seem to be moving along. She listens to me through another contraction and agrees. She shows up at about noon, and checks my cervix. When she sticks her fingers in, I watch her face shift from resigned to hopeful to sure. She then tells me that I was only at 1.5 cm, but she was able to pop me open to 4 or 5 cm. She explained that often women may have scar tissue that slows the opening of the cervix, and a little bit of manual touch can help one to move past that. She told me my active labor had just begun, as I was now past 3 cm. I continue to disagree. It had been happening for hours!

From this point on, my memory is very general and a bit hazy. My explanation for this: endorphins. My good friend, Serina showed up soon after the midwife. She is an acupuncturist and masseuse, and she and Danny worked pressure points for pain through every one of my contractions. This didn’t take the pain away, not by a long shot, but it helped. I was groaning a low animal groan through the increasingly painful contractions. They were coming very regularly, and after every one, I would feel so much bliss that the pain had passed.

Let me talk for a minute about the pain. I cannot remember it on a physical level, because of the special powers of selective memory. I can tell you I have never felt anything like it before. In the pit of my core was a pain, a wrenching, a squeezing that was all-encompassing. It was amazing, this pain, and I was completely awed by it. The only saving grace of this pain, the only thing that made it bearable, was that it was transient. Also, my body found a way to deal with it. Endorphins do not numb pain, but they did put me in a trance-like space that got me through it.

My midwife Cindy checked me again, and said I was at 7 or 8 cm, moving right along. Throughout the active labor, I was sitting on a big leather chair under the window in our upstairs hallway. I seemed to not want to move from that position, nor was I able to tell anyone where I wanted to eventually birth. I could not think that far ahead. Eventually, we decided to move a futon to the floor in front of the chair, so I could birth there. Cindy’s first assistant showed up around this time, and we decided to call my sisters, who were planning to come, when it was time to start pushing.

Cindy asked me a couple of times if I was feeling the urge to push. She also said it seemed like I may be getting close because I was “a little less with them.” I suddenly did feel the urge to push, and Cindy said she would check my cervix. Just then, my water broke, onto the chuck pad and leather seat, and it was clear. The urge to push passed for a while, then, which Cindy said is normal after the water breaks.

At some point, my sisters and Cindy’s second assistant arrived. I was naked and surrounded by seven people, completely uninhibited. I could care less what anyone thought of me, which is funny, because I think this is one of the things I was most nervous about before I went into labor. I was afraid of losing control, afraid of where I would go and who i would become, and who would witness this. When the time came, I felt like the belle of the ball. All of these people were waiting on me, and I was this magically amazing birthing woman, as beautiful as I will ever be in my life.

Eventually, the urge to push came back. Cindy checked me again and found a little cervical lip. And the hardest part of labor began. Cindy tried to open my cervix while I pushed once, but my cervix tightened around her fingers, so she immediately backed off, and told me not to push anymore. I guess if you put too much pressure on the cervix before it is fully dilated, it can swell up and prevent the baby from passing. She then told me to go take a shower with Danny. In the shower, I got nauseous and threw up. Luckily, one of the assistants got there in time with a bowl! I got out of the shower and leaned on the bathroom counter.

This is when I got hit by one contraction after another, with no breaks. Complete hell. I wanted to crawl out of my body. I had a very visceral sense of being stuck between a rock and a hard place, squeezed so tight with no way out. There was no comfort, and I couldn’t do it, and it would never end. Then I was anguishing on my hands and knees on the bedroom floor. I remember Tiffany, one of the assistants, saying to me, “You’re almost there,” and I was thinking, “Screw you! I am never going to get there!” Something felt very wrong. This kind of sensation couldn’t be right.

Luckily, it was temporary, even though at the time it felt like forever.

They helped me back to the futon in the hallway, and I panted on my hands and knees to keep from pushing. Cindy kept saying she would check me again, but kept holding off. At some point, I yelled, “I’ve gotta push!” Cindy told me to let it happen if I couldn’t resist, so I did that for a couple of contractions, not actively pushing, but not resisting it either.

After what seemed like an eternity, Cindy had me roll on my back to check me again. She was happy to report that I was fully dilated and the baby’s head was RIGHT THERE! I laid partially reclined on my back, with Danny sitting behind me for support. I pushed for about 30-45 minutes; it took a while to get the hang of it. I had to learn to stop vocalizing and instead focus all of my energy down there. They propped up a mirror so I could see the head, and everyone around got really excited, and kept exclaiming about seeing him crowning, but I could care less, honestly. I just wanted him the fuck out of me.

Finally, I felt a sharp pain, as his head popped out, and tore me just a tiny bit. From there, it was smooth sailing. Cindy turned him so his shoulders slid out easily, and suddenly he was in my arms!

It was all worth it immediately. I fell in love with his little face, and could not stop saying, “He’s so cute!” I had been a little bit afraid to meet this little being growing inside of me. I’d never been comfortable with newborns, and was afraid I would feel weird with him, and that he would be blue and cone-headed and ugly. It was kind of like a little alien growing inside me. But that all changed the moment I saw him, completely. I was surprised that he was pink and his head was a normal shape and he was perfect. Complete bliss, as I have never felt before, oceans of love engulfed me.

And they have never left.

The placenta came out painlessly with the next contraction. Once this was complete, Cindy relaxed, and stated with satisfaction, “The perfect birth!” After I held our baby skin to skin and got him to latch on for a bit, they had me hand him off to Danny so they could sew up my small tear. They brought me food, which I ate ravenously, with the hunger of a starving animal. I had eaten very little all day (maybe some yogurt and ice chips basically), and if you’ve paid attention, had slept very little for days. I was famished and exhausted like never before.

My mom and stepdad came over after I was sewn up and showered. We weighed the baby, and then celebrated with champagne and the rest of the birthday mocha cake. Gradually, everyone left, and Danny and I were alone in the house with this tiny little being. And then the real adventure began…

Gavin, 3 days old

Gavin, 3 days old

 

Don’t Take Anything Personally

the-four-agreements-1

I know I’ve mentioned recently that I have been using hypnosis to help me stop grinding my teeth. There are a lot of theories as to why people grind their teeth. The ones I have heard the most are: an unaligned bite, stress/anxiety, and repressed anger.

I think all of these apply to me, but the one I have found myself wanting to explore the most is repressed anger. Earlier in my life, I was pretty passive, and I had to learn through experience to stick up for myself. Part of this was owning my anger. I realized that anger is raw passion, waiting to be harnessed as a powerful creative force. I learned to listen to my anger, to let it tell me where my boundaries lay, to let it teach me how to protect myself from predators.

Time has passed. I have grown older, stronger, and more confident in myself. I have moved beyond individuation and into service. I felt good with myself, satisfied with my own personal quest, and decided it was time to give myself to my career and my family.

I had a baby. And I fell in love looking at his innocent face in those early days, and was sure he could do no wrong, ever. I would look at older kids, making trouble, and knew my kid would never act like that. Nope. Not my angel.

He’s changed. I mentioned before that I think he just got his 4-year testosterone flood a bit early, and I am having a really, really hard time right now. The yelling in my face, the hitting, the throwing. The, “One more chance,” pleas a countless number of times. I have been trying everything I have up my sleeve: offering incentives, using consequences, talking, asking him what he needs, giving more attention, behavior charts…I could keep going. In short, I have used everything I know except physical discipline, but I have to admit, there have been plenty of impulses to use that, too. It is only my personal pledge and plenty of willpower that stop me from going that way. And my husband, of course, who grabs the wheel when I feel myself going off course.

I don’t know if I am being too hard or too soft. Should I just never give him any second chances, maybe? Have I leaned on that too many times, so that he does not respect the limits I am setting? Or maybe I am being too hard. He’s in his room crying right now, way past his bedtime. I put up the gate and let him know that one more hug means one more hug, and he needs to go to sleep now so Mommy can unwind.

I feel so bad, seeing him stressed out and alone in his room, just wanting closeness and comfort, and I wonder if I should just let him come into my room so that he feels completely safe and supported, because, you know, that’s what the attachment parenting method preaches. And I feel incredibly frustrated because I just need some down time, and I am not getting it, because he is testing me to my core.

Back to the repressed anger and the teeth grinding. Yesterday, I was having a great day. Great mood, optimistic, productive, grateful. Last night with the little guy was a wringer. I can’t even remember right now, or don’t want to, but I ended up using every consequence I have yet to use. We are in this standoff right now, it seems, regarding who’s the boss, and I know he needs authority, but I also feel like I am breaking his spirit.

Anyway, by the end of the night, I noticed my jaw was incredibly tight. Talk about repressed anger. I can’t throw my anger at my child, I know, I need to keep a hold on it, and it is ending up in my jaw. I have been getting incredibly frustrating with this little guy who has somehow already learned exactly how to press my buttons.

And then there’s compassion. And taking a step away and seeing things from a different angle. I’ve been thinking (after he finally gets to sleep), that maybe it’s not about finding an outlet for repressed anger. Maybe it’s about not getting angry in the first place.

A while back, I read a book called The Four Agreements. I am sure that many of you know this book. One of the agreements is, “Don’t take anything personally.”

A lot of this getting angry stuff is all about me taking things personally. A lot of the stress and anxiety is about me taking things personally. In fact, I may even go so far to say that ALL of the anxiety, stress, and anger I experience is completely about me taking things personally.

A client at work likes me, or doesn’t like me, or does well, or fails horribly, and I take it all personally. I hold myself responsible for all of this, doubting that I am good enough, skilled enough, knowledgeable enough to be a resource for them. News flash: it’s not about me! And when I indulge in these anxious self-doubts, I am taking away from the absolutely BRILLIANT work that I do with these amazing, totally capable individuals.

My kid acts out, testing limits, as is completely developmentally appropriate, and I think, “He is doing this to me.” A car cuts me off in traffic, and I get pissed about them disrespecting me, instead of thinking maybe they’re just in a big hurry, or maybe they’re just generally inconsiderate, and does it really have to ruin my moment, this moment that I will never have again? Do I really need to miss this speck of time when my son will be this small, because I am busy brooding about how he is acting disrespectfully? Maybe, just maybe, can I give him limits without engaging in a power struggle in which no one can win?

So, I pledge it now, and I will hold myself to it. Do Not Take Anything Personally. Nothing. It is not about me. Even if someone has a problem with me, it’s not me. It’s just one of the traits that I exhibit. Constructive criticism is merely a tool I can use to refine my character. It is not about me. It is not about me. It is not about me.

By the way, in the middle of this post, I did finally go make peace with my son, and I think (dear God, hope!) he is sleeping.

Wish me strength, readers, and lots of patience. 🙂

Bedtimes conversations with a preschooler

Gavin: Mommy, where did you live when you were a kid?

Me: I lived in a house in a place called Indiana.

Gavin: Ok (nods head knowingly).

Me: I lived with my mom, who is your grandma, and my dad, who is pop-pop, and my sisters and my brother. Then, we all grew up and we don’t live together anymore. But we do get together for holidays and birthdays.

Gavin: Mommy, but you will always be my mom.

Me: Yes.

Gavin: And I will always live with you.

Me: Well, when you grow up, you might want to move out. A lot of people do when they grow up.

Gavin: Ok, I will…but where will Daddy live?

Me: He’ll live with me.

Gavin: I will stay and live with you and Daddy forever (smile).

Generosity

I don’t donate to charity regularly. I don’t like to stop and talk to people asking for money to give to whatever organization. I’m not in the habit of passing money to homeless people on the street. Honestly, I don’t really know why. Maybe I think I can’t afford it, or I grab on to the stereotype that they are going to use it on alcohol or drugs. I tell myself I give back through my work at a non-profit (except, I get paid for my work, so I am also benefiting). Mostly, I am uncomfortable opening my wallet to pull out money, maybe because it highlights the fact that I have and they do not have. And that is a reality that is hard to reconcile. I feel like, to really face the fact, I would need to give everything. So instead, I give nothing.

There’s a homeless man that has been hanging out nearby my house lately. I’ve seen him a number of times hunkering down on the stoop of the business next door to my home, with a blanket covering his shoulders. He’s young, quiet, appears harmless, and wears an expression of suffering and extreme fatigue, as if he is fighting an eternal war with the voices in his head. I’ve heard him screaming at night, repeating at the top of his lungs in a agonizing voice, “Father, why have you forsaken me?!”

He recently approached me while I was in the middle of getting my 3-year-old son into his car seat, and asked me if I had money to spare so he could get something to eat. I reacted without thinking, in my habit of not giving, and my instinct of wanting to protect my son from a person who may be unpredictable, and I denied his request.

I felt awful after that. Here is this man, who is obviously ill, and in need, who humbled himself enough to ask for my help. Here I am, having everything I need, mentally stable (at least I think I am), healthy, and unwilling to share. I often complain about the illness of greed that drives the wealthiest to hold on to their wealth. How am I any different than them, when I cannot even spare a few dollars for this man to get some lunch? I believe we are all connected and need to help one another, but in practice, I don’t want any of those “undesirable elements” near my family or my home.

I have become exactly like the people I despise.

Something about this particular homeless man opened my eyes to that discrepancy between my ideals and my actions. Maybe because I started to see him as a neighbor, or maybe it is the aura of gentleness that surrounds him, but I am thankful to him. A few days later, I saw him again, and I gave him some money, and I apologized.

I want to teach my son compassion, non-judgment, and generosity; not fear and greed.

Last night, my husband told me a story that made me cry about a homeless man approaching him early one morning. The man came up to him, and asked him about his Roland bag. I guess Roland is a brand for a guitar synthesizer or something like that, and this homeless man knew that. My husband is a mortgage broker, but also a musician. I suppose he was touched that this homeless man knew this random fact that only a musician would know, because he opened up his wallet and handed the man a $50 bill.

I was shocked at this story. Yes, he was making good money at the time, when the housing market was booming (and no, he was never one of those corrupt mortgage brokers, I promise), but still, $50 is a lot of money to hand out. I asked my husband to explain, and he said, “The guy was like a brother.” He then said, that with this eye condition that he has (retinitis pigmentosa, which makes him completely blind in the dark), he always needs a lot of help. He knows exactly what that feels like, to be in need. And in this moment, it gave him great joy to help another person in need.

I am so happy that this man is the father of my child.

Connectedness in action. Humanity as one family. A great concept, and amazing practice. Giving to others, for me, is about expanding my heart. The joy that I receive when I practice generosity is more rewarding that anything I have to give. I am enveloped in warmth, connection, and faith that there will always be enough.

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. You receive from the world what you give to the world.”~Gary Zukav

Muddling Through

I haven’t been feeling so inspired to write lately, or in fact, to do anything much beyond my basic daily tasks. I work and care for my son and cook and shop and do basic clean-up. My clean laundry has been sitting for days, unfolded. My plants look very thirsty. I see clutter everywhere I look, and I keep on “shoulding” on myself.

Let me try to break this down.

Ten days after my miscarriage and D&C, I went to my OB for the follow-up appointment. I sat on the table, stripped from the waist down, trying to cover myself with the large paper towel, and the doctor walked in.

She handed a piece of paper to me, and said, without looking at me, “I’m giving you a copy of this lab report because I want you to understand. It looks like you had a very rare kind of pregnancy that can become cancer.”

Adrenaline shot to my head. I stared at the report in my hand, trying and failing to make sense of the medical jargon, while the doctor droned on about weekly blood tests and Hcg levels. I asked her a question, I don’t even remember what it was, and she said, “That’s what I was just trying to tell you.”

“I can’t hear you right now!” I answered.

I got through the appointment after coming to understand that I had a partial molar pregnancy, which means that two sperm fertilized my one egg. As far as I understand from the research I’ve done, the embryo forms but cannot survive, and the placental tissue grows too much, like a tumor. The D&C probably got it all out of me, but maybe not, and if not, it can continue to grow and has a very low risk of spreading to other parts of my body and/or turning into cancer. If my Hcg levels don’t go down in a timely manner, they will want me to do chemo as a precaution. I drove to work after my appointment in shock, my life reeling before my eyes, the realization that I am not immune.

What the fuck?

I never signed up for this when I decided to try for another baby.

I have to get weekly blood draws until my Hcg hormone levels go drop below 10. The placental tissue creates the Hcg, so having it in my system means the tissue continues to grow. The first test showed a level of 2355. My OB was worried about this, which of course worried me. (However, she knows next to nothing about this condition. Because it is so rare, most OBs have never dealt with it. I am now also being followed by an gynecological oncologist.)

After the miscarriage, we sprung for tickets to Maui, desperate for some down time and healing warm ocean waters. With this news, though, I wondered if I should even leave town. I read online about women heavily bleeding, having to get second D&Cs. The day after my first blood draw, I felt pregnancy symptoms again: a little spaced out, dizzy, nauseous. Not a good sign.

I decided to go back in for another blood draw three days after my first one, two days before our flight for Hawaii. My anxiety was up to the ceiling. It flowed down in relief when I heard back from my OB that the levels had dropped to 945.

We went to Maui, and it was heavenly. We swam daily. My little guy had so much fun in the water and the sand. I sat outside and meditated to the sound of the waves a a lot of the evenings. We enjoyed it so much that we missed our flight home, but that’s another story.

I resisted the next blood draw for a few days after arriving home, but I finally did it last Friday, and got the news Tuesday. My levels dropped to 45! Hopefully, they will continue to drop, and I will not have to get any chemo. And I will not die. Yet. Hopefully.

I’ve been a bit of a mess, honestly. I am functioning, but I feel kind of like I am unraveling. I feel old, haggard, burnt out. I’m anxious about everything. I think I should be doing so much, but feel like doing nothing. I’m angry. I’m sad. I don’t trust my ovaries anymore.

Every time I think about having another child, an edge of desperation and a huge wave of heaviness cloud my thoughts. I am beginning to ponder having no more children, and this depresses me. I have three siblings and am so grateful. As my parents age, it is hard for me to imagine how hard it would be to care for them without my sibling’s help. I don’t want to put all of that weight on one son, or deprive him of sibling love. When I think about trying to get pregnant again, I am very unsure. I have to wait for a few months after my Hcg levels drop all the way down to even try. And then, if and when I do get pregnant, I’ll be sick. I am a very nauseous pregnant person. No fun. Especially after going through this twice for several weeks with the result being miscarriage. And I will be so incredibly afraid of miscarrying again, or having another one of these types of pregnancies. I just don’t know if I have it in me. And then I think of adopting, and can’t seem to garner the energy to jump through whatever hoops I’ll need to jump through. Plus, I will need to get my husband to agree with me, and he’s been a little hot and cold on that option.

It’s all too confusing. So, I just put it out of my head, and muddle on. The days are getting shorter. Loss is a major theme in my life right now.

At least I am still dancing.

Innocence meets reality

“The only things worth living for are innocence and magic.”   ~David Gray

This weekend, we went apple picking. As we left the house, I pointed out the leaves falling from our Catalpa tree, and Gavin said, “The leaves are falling because it’s Fall!” And I told him we were going apple picking because it’s Fall, too.We drove up the coast, and then 4 miles inland into the beautiful, rolling farmland hills.

The weather was perfect, and Gavin filled up his canvas Sesame Street bag excitedly. It was his first time picking apples, and he was overjoyed that he could reach them, from the dwarf trees. D, Gavin, and I tested the apples as we picked, passing them around our circle of three. They were delicious, perfectly crisp, and sweet with just the right amount of tartness.

The afternoon was pure bliss. In moments like these, I can see through my son’s three year-old eyes the wonderment of something so simple. The unfiltered joy of biting into a freshly picked apple on a beautiful Autumn afternoon. Because he is so innocent, he still sees the magic in everything. He reminds me of it, too.                                                  Image

Sunday night, we were driving home, and the full moon had just risen, and it hovered low in the sky, big and shining brightly. Gavin was sleep deprived, ready for bed, and started whining about being in the car seat. We distracted him by pointing to the moon, and telling him to watch and see if it followed us home.

We turned a corner, and Gavin spied the moon up there, still in his sight. “It is following us!” he yelled in excitement. The rest of the way home, he avidly looked in all directions every time we turned, and he kept a running broadcast. “It’s not there! It’s not following us. There the’s moon! It is following us!”

There is something so precious about this age, this beginning to understand, but everything is so new, and there are no mental files, no past references to sift through to make sense of something new.

He has such a zest for life, and eagerness to learn, to understand, to experience. And complete trust, or a lack of fear.

I miss this in my life. I can remember feeling like this in my late teens, maybe into my early twenties. I wasn’t as naive as a three year-old, of course, but, I had this sense that there was pain and there was suffering “out there,” while my family and I were in some kind of a bubble. We were blessed. Tragedy could not touch us. I still felt immortal, almost. I knew that death would affect me at some point, but that point was far, far way, so far that it wasn’t real.

It’s real, now. It became real to me when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the young age of 62. She will turn 68 next month, and I am slowly watching her lose all of her faculties, one by one. I see my mother shrinking away. She is a tiny, minuscule speck of the lively woman she once was.

I miss that feeling that nothing can touch me. I miss the innocence I had around pregnancy and childbirth, just a year ago, when I started trying for Baby #2, with a deep trust in my body’s ability to grow a baby successfully, before I experienced the miscarriages and all of the complications that continue to accompany them.

What I don’t miss is the illusion of immortality. I am beginning to really grasp my mortality, and it makes me more alive. It makes me more like my son: appreciating every moment, eager to learn and experience, in awe, seeing the magic in “simple” things. It is scary to face death, more terrifying than anything, but so incredibly deeply grounding. It is so bitter, but then the flavor kind of grows on you, because it is medicine.

And, really, we have no choice, so we might as well embrace it.

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