Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wean On Me

     Rose has been up a lot this week.  By a lot, I mean she just won't sleep.  The lack of sleep is making it impossible for me to concentrate, impossible for me to get anything done, and impossible for me to produce any real quantity of breast milk.  Now, I've always had oversupply issues, so not producing that much right now doesn't worry me, really...but since she refuses to take her rice cereal with anything BUT breast milk it is a bit of an inconvenience.  The result of this inconvenience is that I'm cranky, disheveled, and always running behind.
     She has also come up with a new breastfeeding position.  I call it downward facing nipple.  It's a little inconvenient, too.

     Normally I would chalk this up to a growth spurt, a developmental stage, a funny quirk, but I have to tell you, this week I'm just done.  I want breastfeeding to be all over--even if it means giving up that breastfeeding crack hormone.  I've made it to (almost) 9 months, haven't I? I've gone through the cracked nipples, the mastitis, the cabbage leaves, and the forever-ruined tank tops.  I'm in an F-cup, for God's sake, and if you think that's sexy you haven't seen the way it translates into "uniboob" under clothing.  I'm ready to go back to my own life, where I am not the only one responsible for Rose's drinks, where I fit into my pretty lacy bras, and where I can where a non-accessible shirt if I damn well want to.  
     But Rose isn't ready.  When I try to pat her gently back to sleep she jumps out of the crib towards my boob.  She reaches for it when she's crying.  She pulls at my tank when she's tired.  It could be the breastfeeding crack hormone talking.  I could, like any addict, just be making excuses.  But it feels true.  I know this is a short span of my life...but it feels like eternity.  Any of you suck-at-home moms ready to wean? Or feel like you suck because you want to wean?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Things We Don't Talk About...or Things I'll Tell My Daughter

This was previously posted on BlogHer.

      There are so many things that we, as women, have been brought up to believe are "taboo" subjects, or at least that you don't need to share with anyone.  After going through a series of intense situations on my own, I realized one day that so many of my fellow women--my mother, my friends, my relatives, my acquaintances--had experienced the exact same thing, and had thought, as I had, that they were the only one.  Instead of "burdening" others with our problems, we had suffered in silence, in loneliness, in defeat.  
     I have decided that, when my daughter can understand (and she's pretty smart, so we've discussed some of these already), I will have these conversations with her.  I will have them before they happen, so that she won't feel silly, or alone, or a burden when she wants to talk about them.  Maybe by talking about them now, some of them won't happen to her at all.
     I've compiled a list of the 5 biggest things we don't talk about (these 5 are the ones that have made the greatest impact on my life, but feel free to share your burdens below--I bet someone else has experienced it too) in the hopes that if we share these things, we as women will begin to understand that WE ARE NOT ALONE.

1.  Miscarriages happen
I have miscarried several times.  The first time I was not only devastated from the miscarriage, but from a careless nurse practitioner who chimed, after we failed to see a heartbeat on the ultrasound, "Oh, So I guess you're having a bad day!"  (Just FYI, she was not allowed to see me in my subsequent pregnancy, and eventually was fired.)  With a miscarriage, you either aren't telling anyone it happened because it was too soon, or you're having to explain every time someone asks "so how are you feeling?" that although you feel like crap, it's not the crap that comes from pregnancy.  I have also suffered from a complete molar pregnancy.  I think it was even harder to wrap my head around the fact  that what I had been told was a baby was actually just a mound of cancerous tissue.  When asked how the pregnancy was going, I hesitated, then haltingly explained my circumstance to a friend...who burst into tears because she had suffered the same exact thing two years before, but had never told anyone.     Here's a fact I didn't know then:  miscarriages are very, very common.  They are NOT YOUR FAULT.  There was nothing you could have done, because in all likelihood the genetic tissue simply wasn't viable.  It's no less heart-breaking, it's no less devastating, BUT IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT.

2.  Depression can strike anyone, at any time
Nobody wants to tell their friends they are crazy.  In my case, I had such a severe case of depression that I honestly believed my mother was trying to steal my baby from the town fair.  I had stopped to get Coffeeguy some fried dough, and my mother said she was going to take the baby down to the exit to wait.  I either didn't hear her, or more likely, forgot she had said it in the mix of hormones that was rattling my brain.  I had paranoia, anger, racing thoughts, the whole shebang.  I can laugh about it now, but the horrified panic that occurred actually caused me to think: "They always tell you kidnappers are the people closest to you."  Crazy, I know.  I had lost my father the year before, and then miscarried, and then instead of waiting I got pregnant again right away, treating my body to a hormone cocktail that was sure to throw my brain out of whack.  To add insult to injury, shortly after I had Punkgirl I had to have my gall bladder removed, and then, the most devastating of all, my 31 year old brother died suddenly of meningitis.  
      We're trained that we can do everything, and that to be unable to do everything is a weakness, so needless to say I faked my way through my postpartum exam like a champ.  I held myself up at my brother's wake, as if crying would be an insult to his memory.  I was strong, I was woman, you could hear me roar.  Six months later, after a night of picturing myself stabbing a pair of scissors through my wrists, I was scared to death and left a tearful message for my physician, and then told her I was just fine when she actually called me back.  If it weren't for her call to Coffeeguy (which violated doctor-patient privilege, I think, but which also saved my life) I shudder to think what might have happened.  I remember as clear as day (even though it was nighttime) trying to convince Coffeeguy that I was fine and that we had to take Punkgirl (who was all of 6 months old) trick-or-treating, and him telling me he could drive me or call an ambulance.  My hormone-soaked brain cells were certain he only wanted to have a reason to take the baby away from me.  
     Thankfully, I was then able to talk to someone, who explained not only that I had post-partum depression, but that all of those events combined together were enough to make anybody crack temporarily.  That it would be abnormal if I DIDN'T.  My advice for you, which was the best advice given to me, is if you are feeling this way, TAKE THE HELP.  It's OK to crack, because LIFE. IS.  HARD.

3.  Marriage is worth a little work
I will be married for 15 years next month.  I am the happiest I have ever been in my marriage, and I have a very healthy sexual relationship with my husband.  Yet there was a time when I wondered if we would make it. I was floundering in the belief that he didn't want ME, and he was drowning in the surety that I couldn't want HIM.  We weren't communicating, we were living mostly in our own heads, and we were ready to call it quits.  There was no one to talk to--not even each other.  I'm pretty sure neither one of us even believed a marriage counselor would help, but we were at the end of our rope.  I'm going to share with you the benefits of my marriage counseling, to save you several hundred bucks.  LISTEN to each other, and ASK the questions that are festering around in your head.  You may think you know the answers, and maybe you do...but maybe, just maybe, s/he will surprise you, and you will be glad you asked.  Make time for each other--just like you schedule time for the dentist or work, you have to schedule time together.  Make lists.  Lists...freaking...rock.  The first one should be the top three things you absolutely need out of your marriage.  I won't tell you all of mine, but the very first was honesty--brutal, if need be.  Don't spare my feelings by keeping something to yourself--because someday, I will find out and be hurt ten times more.  Make a list of things you want to change.  It helps you figure out how, just by writing it down.  Plan dates!  Just that bit of attention to one another is going to pay off, trust me.  And if you aren't sure, go ahead and seek counseling.  You would be surprised how something you've said to one another a million times translates differently when spoken from the mouth of a neutral party.

4.  Money Money Money (Or Lack Thereof)
I had a friend come home from where he's living in another country, and I was so thrilled at the prospect of seeing him that I was willing to go out with people I hadn't seen since high school just to have a chance to spend some time with him.  Unfortunately, they were meeting at a restaurant with $50 meals and pricey bottles of wine.  I couldn't afford to go, especially not when there would be two of us going.  Neither Coffeeguy nor I wanted to come right out and say we couldn't afford it, but I also worried that if we didn't give some indication he would think we didn't want to see him.  We invited him over for dinner, and even that blew my food budget for the month.  For the next two weeks, we were trying to find creative ways to feed the kids (not easy with Punkgirl's and my required gluten-free diet!)  I truly at one point contemplated contacting a food shelter, but we just (barely) managed without it.  
The following week my girlfriends, who I don't get to see often enough at all, wanted a girls' night out.  They talked about where to meet, and my heart sank, realizing they probably meant a restaurant.  I debated whether or not to tell them I was just plain broke, because it was embarrassing.  Then it dawned on me.  It SHOULD NOT BE EMBARRASSING to say you just can't afford it.  I gave up a $35,000 a year job (which may not go far in Massachusetts, but is a lot to give up) to be there for my children, who desperately needed me.  I have a new baby, we have one income, and I work fucking hard, I just don't get paid for it.  I shot off an email, biting my nails as I heard the whoosh of it being sent...and my dear, lovely friends made me feel "normal" again, by stating that they too were broke this month (dental bills etc) and that a pot luck dinner in-house was better for everyone.  (Side note: I love those damn girls.)  My advice here:  be honest.  You work hard, whether you get paid or not, and if they're friends worth having, they WILL understand.  They may even be in the same boat as you, but nobody wants to say it.  

5.  Sex, Baby
      I know what you're thinking:  this is a new millennium, not the 50s, and women talk about sex all the time (just turn on the radio.)  But there's a difference between talking about sex in the general terms and talking TO someone about sex.  Specifically, talking to your significant other about it.  There was a time (and not that long ago) where I would still blush horribly if Coffeeguy talked about sex anywhere outside our bedroom.  But over the years, I have realized that it is well worth it to tell him what I like (and if you just can't tell them, show them!) and what I don't like.  There is nothing wrong with feeling good about sex! (As long as you're old enough, it's consensual, and it's not with someone else's spouse.)
If this were an actual conversation with Punkgirl, she would be a little older, and I would just have to add, as sort of a series of side notes about sex...your vagina is a magnificent creation, and anyone who doesn't appreciate that is not worthy of you ...nothing should hurt (unless you're into that, which, as your mother, I hope you're not--but I'm not judging)..if you don't finish first at least a third of the time you need to be more selfish...it's ok to ask questions, and if your partner doesn't understand that then they're being selfish, and are again not worthy of you...and last, but certainly not least, when you are feeling alone, like a freak, like the only person this has happened to, call your Mommy or your Nana or your best friend (because I trust that you've picked a good one.)  You are not alone.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Adventures of Punkgirl and Happyboy

      Punkgirl and Happyboy are twelve and ten, respectively.  Punkgirl is my Joplin-loving, record-listening, knee-high-sneaker-wearing writer.  She has super short hair and a super long memory, she is snarky and smart, and if I were a kid she would be my idol.  Happyboy is her younger brother, and he has idolized her since birth.  Over the years, he has developed his own personality, though, and now, instead of wearing cute things that his sister would wear, he wears cute things that he likes for himself.  These range from pretty butterfly cardigans to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle t-shirts, so needless to say his taste is unique.  The emergence of his own sense of style and his own sense of self has caused some troubles in our house, mostly because his older sister and he both have control issues (and gee, I have no idea where they got them from.  Ahem.)  There are times when I watch them, and everything jells, and they hit that groove.  In the groove, they are so creative and funny and loving together.  And then there are the normal days.
     On normal days, they correct one another constantly, tell each other what to do, and the word stop (which becomes stooo-ooop) is repeated more times than I can count.  There are times where I think they can't stand it when the other breathes, and it just kills me.  Having lost my youngest brother at the bright young age of 31, I feel every snipe and every sneer like a sharp knife in my heart.
     At the beginning of the summer, I started giving them "challenges" to get them to work together.  Eight out of ten times they got frustrated and angry because neither wanted to compromise on a project.  It became a struggle between them and I began to despair.  But eight out of ten became six out of ten.  By last week it became four out of ten.  They're finding the groove.  
     For my brother and me, it was comic books.  We could fight all day, but take us to the comic store and we were the best of friends, picking out the best issues that we both could agree on (for you fellow geeks, it was Avengers, Xmen, Thor, Iron Man...occasionally Batman, though I had my concerns with the slim coverage Batgirl was given in that comic...) For Punkgirl and Happyboy, it's creativity.  I give them the camera and a theme, and before I know it there are costumes and props and can they use this or that.  I tell them they need to make a comic book and they are on the computer, heads together, the argument they had ten minutes ago about Happyboy constantly singing instantly forgotten as they come up with graphics and snappy dialogue.  They hit the groove.  I don't have to worry then that they might grow up disliking each other...these moments are proof that their sibling love exists.  I cherish them, those moments, more than I could possibly say, and I miss that bond with my own brother keenly but bitter-sweetly.
      I suck at being a stay at home mom. But sometimes, even I get it right.  That's when we're in
the groove.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Boston Comic Con and Other Adventures

     This was Adventure Week, and boy, was it ever.  I gave Punkgirl and Happyboy the life skill challenge of navigating the bus system, and we made it to our destination (a local crafts store) after a somewhat rocky start (Happyboy had read the wrong bus schedule.)  Rose demanded to be breastfed in the middle of said store, so I had the dubious honor of taking my boob out in a back aisle to placate her.  It was an experience, and the trip itself made me realize that we needed to spend more time on the local T.
     My favorite challenge was the spy training, though.  I wove a web of red yarn back and forth through the hallway to make "laser beams", and had them start from opposite ends, forcing them to cooperate to get by one another.  Then we did a few campy pictures for our Camp Awesome scrapbook.  At the end of the day they made Coffeeguy make a hilarious attempt at maneuvering the overs and unders and small spaces.  I'm fairly certain it was a favorite challenge for everyone.  
     Although the spy challenge was a fave, my favorite reward was a trip to Boston Comic Con.  I am a geek's geek, and I love the things you can see and do at Comic Con.  My brother and I collected comics for years, into our adulthood, and just the sight of those characters coming to life brings a warmth to my heart.  Although it is hot, and packed, and often difficult to maneuver (more so with Rose's giant dino-carriage), people are so happy to be there, amongst their own kind--geekdom--that it's a pretty friendly crowd.  The kids love it too--it has a way of letting them feel their individuality, and it leaves me with that feeling of "ok, I'm raising them right!" (rare for me, so it's a bonus!)
     The one thing that did make it difficult was that, as a Mom, it's tough to go in costume.  I did--throwing together a hasty Scarlet Witch (Avengers) look, but I felt kind of foolish, with my three kids in tow.  As a younger woman I frequented many a convention in costume, without a bit (well, ok, maybe a teensy bit) of embarrassment or hesitation.  As a Mom, you suddenly feel like you should be more grown-up, and that you don't have time to do the silly, fun, extraordinary things you once did.  You don't have a lot of time to put the effort in either, so while you may feel a little brave for putting the costume on, you also have this overwhelming sense that the real costumers are snickering--I can assure you, they are not,
but it doesn't stop the feeling.  My cardboard headpiece looked sad and pathetic next to another SW, who had a little hand-crafted leather piece.  Ahhh, I digress into geekdom again.  But I'll tell you, the guy who stopped me to take my picture made my day--thank you, guy. (But no thank you, guy who wanted to take it while I was breastfeeding Rose!!)
     Bottom line, great week!  But now Rose is fussing (for the tenth time--not sure if this is a growth spurt or what!) Suck at home moms, how do you fit in the things that made you you?  Or do you?