momlife crisis

I spent the past weekend at a super hardcore yoga retreat. Not super hardcore physically, because it wasn’t that. But super hardcore like 90 minutes of chanting in Sanskrit, more silence than I’ve heard in years, and a 175 degree sauna.

After a few hundred minutes of quiet, I realized something. I have totally lost my edge.  It’s like I have been in this child-induced fog where I can barely recollect that I was once a girl who drank rum straight out of the bottle, danced until 3 am, had sex with an inappropriate person, and then woke up at noon to have beer and pancakes for breakfast. That I was once accountable only for myself, and accountable only to myself. I could make mistakes without worrying that I was setting a bad example.  Suddenly, all those 50-something men who blow off their responsibilities to buy a fast car and screw their secretaries make sense to me. It’s fucking annoying to be a grownup.

Clearly, this realization hit my subconscious before it hit my conscious.  In recent months, I have taken steps toward vegetarianism, toyed with the idea of dying my hair the exact same color I dyed it in college which was such a disaster I swore off dying my hair ever again, lost 15 pounds, planned my first tattoo, gone to a yoga retreat, and stayed out until the wee hours dancing and drinking vodka sodas.  I even went out for a drink with a friend after work and purposely didn’t tell my wife where I was until a few days later, just so I could be off the grid for an hour.  So this weekend it hit me — I am acting like my 23 year old self, only I did manage to avoid having sex with an inappropriate person.

WHO ACTUALLY AM I?  I think this is what happens when you have a baby, drop out of real life, and then pick your head up a few years later only to realize that you have pumpkin spice candles and listen to Justin Bieber. I am so basic now.  I live in the suburbs. I drive an SUV.

Will I get my edge back if I get a tattoo on my arm in a place where you can see it in my work clothes and dye my hair an unfortunate color?  Or does all of this just make me Peter Pan?  I always thought I would be a cool mom, but I’m not. I’m just a mom.

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help, part 2

So, we are still drowning, in case you wondered.  And to tell the truth, for the last 3+ years, I have become increasingly annoyed at my wife for not helping me more around the house. There is a lot to do, right? There is laundry, and grocery shopping, and cooking, and cleaning, and shouting at people to do the things they were supposed to have done already, and dog walking, and teaching the 16 year old to drive, and bathing the toddler, etc etc you are all familiar with the list. And I feel like I do a disproportionate amount of it, even taking into account that I “only” work 25-30 hours a week on average. Anyway, you know how this goes, I have heard lots of moms complain about our respective partners’ inability to do stuff around the house that is actually not that hard. And in a reasonable time-frame, before toys are so lost in the long grass that they become shredded by the lawnmower and you pick your dry cleaning up only to discover that everything is out of season so that chore was a waste of time anyway.
 
So it kind of blew up this week, and I was challenged to really think about whether this was an accurate reflection of what happens, and if so, to think of ways that I contribute to this dynamic of me doing “everything” and her doing “nothing.” Of course I was like, “this is total bullshit, of course I do everything around here, she doesn’t even know, blah blah” as I was re-folding the laundry my wife folded yesterday because it was sloppy. And that’s when it hit me that perhaps I am, in fact, being a bit extra. Like, maybe I don’t let her do things her own way and on her own time, and if I could lower my standards just a tiny bit then it would be more even.
 
But here’s the thing. I don’t really want to. I like my house to look nice and be tidy and the clothes to be folded the way I like, and my wife tends to not pay bills unless they come in red envelopes and regularly misplaces school forms. But yet at the same time I do want to relax about this, because I can’t handle all that I have heaped on my plate, wanting it all done just so. And let’s be real, most of those school forms are unnecessary BS anyway, and she did actually manage to exist some 40-odd years before I turned up on the scene to run everything in my very particular manner.
So here is the question I had been asking myself up until now:  How do I get my wife to do things the right way so that I can actually let go of some things?
And here is the question now (well, questions, really): How do I relax about the small stuff? How do I even decide what is actually small stuff? Is it true that you don’t have to pay bills in white envelopes? Is it crazy to re-fold the laundry? How do I even sort through this so that I get more help, while also maintaining a certain amount of standards?  

help

A while ago, someone asked me to write about how we keep balance in our lives, as two lawyers with four kids and three pets and two houses.  The answer is that we don’t.

The big one has just started her senior year. This means ACTs, college applications, a job, 5 AP classes, cheerleading, and a driver’s license. She needs our help with almost all of these things.

Boo has started her freshman year of high school.  She has a set of friends that are all a bit entitled, and a bit fast.  The kind of entitled and the kind of fast where they are allowed to traipse around New York City at 14 years old with no adult, after having each received $100 of spending money from their parents.  She recently burst into my office while I was working, without knocking, and said, “Can you give me some money? I’m in a hurry.”  I did not give her money.  She needs to learn to navigate these friendships without becoming an asshole. She needs our help with this.

Our older youngest boy is in 7th grade now. We don’t think his reading and writing are where they should be, and he is having a hard time making friends. He seems lonely, and he seems sad. He needs help figuring out why the reading and writing still haven’t clicked for him, and he needs to find his place in the social nightmare that is middle school. He needs our help in this hard time, or at least some extra attention and love.

Bumby is 2 and a half. He starts preschool tomorrow.  He alternates between shouting “I don’t like you mama! I can do it ALL BY MYSELF! GO AWAY!” and crying, clinging to my legs, and swearing his love for me, begging me not to leave him with Dada (his babysitter). His language is so developed that it is hard to remember that he has no logic and no impulse control. He is afraid of being dropped off at school; he is afraid of new friends. Sometimes he wakes in the night and calls for us, just to know we are there. He needs our help.

My wife’s job has been all-consuming for about the last year now, as she works in a highly regulated industry that has become incredibly unpredictable under Trump. She has been working late, and when she isn’t, she basically talks about nothing but her job.  She needs mental and emotional support, and doesn’t have much capacity for the day-to-day house chores.

I have been picking up lots of slack, and feeling under-appreciated. We have had two toilets break in the last week (Bumby was very excited to tell the plumber that the toilet was “TOTALLY FREAKING OUT”).  A friend has gifted us a piano that they no longer use, and I have to find someone who can move it to our house but also our credit cards are up to the max and we can’t afford to pay someone $500 to move a free piano right now, and yet I very much want to get Bumby lessons next year so we should take advantage of it (first world problems, I know). I got slammed at work on a deal for a European client, meaning lots of early morning conference calls, and my wife can’t help me cover the childcare because of her own demanding job.

For example: During a conference call last week, while I had no childcare and had plopped Bumby in front of PJ Masks on Youtube, the plumber left to go get parts and water started pouring through the ceiling from the broken toilet upstairs.  I put the phone on mute and mopped it up, and put a bowl under the leak. As soon as I sat down again, I got a text from the school that it was on lockdown due to a “suspicious person attempting to gain admittance.”  I frantically tried to reach the kids to make sure they were okay while also actually paying attention to the work call, which was actually kind of important and required me to speak and take notes. (The kids are fine, the person was caught by local police.) Bumby hit a button on the computer that caused his show to minimize, and started shouting for me.  Also the dog had refused to poop that morning and started barking at the door for a walk.  I got an email at the end of the call from my boss that said, “Will you follow up on all open points, please?”

We are drowning.

We had our 5 year wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago.  Through various complicated logistical arrangements involving 4 different childcare providers, we cobbled together a way to have a night away, sans kids, for the first time since Bumby was born. It was heaven.  We were us again.  We window shopped, and went on a sailboat ride, and drank a whole bottle of wine before dinner even started.  We ate at 10pm in a restaurant that did not have high chairs.  I felt like I looked at my wife at one point and felt like, “Who are you? You look vaguely like the woman who has been living in my house, but you actually look at me, and see me, and smile at me.” I’m sure she felt the same. In a way, this has made it all worse, because the contrast is so stark.

We need to figure this shit out, starting with ourselves.  Long, long ago, before Bumby, before the dog, when we had only one house and thought our life was so fucking complicated, we were lying in bed one weekend morning (HAHAHAHA your life is not complicated if you can lie in bed in the morning!) and we said to each other, with solemn straight faces, that our relationship was the most important part of our life.  The parental relationship, we told each other, is the bedrock of the family. The kids feel okay when the adults feel okay. You can’t take care of them when you’re not taking care of yourself. All of those kinds of things. And for those reasons, we were not going to give up our date nights, even though her ex was telling the kids that the fact that we left them with a babysitter once a month meant we did not love them.

This past weekend was like a record-scratch. We remembered this moment, and this conversation, and the sad, trite truth of it. We worked all day on closing up the beach house for the season while bickering with each other over details and alternatingly disappearing for an hour or so to go manage our jobs, and after Bumby went to bed, we poured ourselves glasses of cheap red wine, and we talked to each other.

We sorted through lots of tangled up crap and hurt feelings, and put our date nights back on the calendar. The entitled middle child is going to babysit for us — at a discounted rate — and that will be the only spending money she gets. Grandma is going to tutor the big brother, giving him adult attention and help with his writing at the same time. The oldest one is going to have to do some of this college stuff on her own, because for god’s sake she’s about to be living by herself in less than a year. Also, we will suggest she drop one of the AP classes so she can actually have some sleep and some fun her senior year. We will put Bumby to bed earlier so he is better able to cope with the changes in his life, and give ourselves some more time together in the evenings.  My wife is going to take Bumby to school on Thursday mornings so I can go into work early, and do a few loads of laundry each week.  We budgeted a way to pay off our credit cards just in time to rack them up again for Christmas.

Then we went to bed ourselves, with dishes stacked in the sink and 37 unread emails.  Things looked a bit better in the morning.

sleeping like a baby

Life has been particularly hard these days. My mom, who has MS, slipped in the shower on Monday and knocked herself unconscious.  There is some debate over whether she in fact slipped, or whether she actually had some kind of neurological event (like a mini-stroke) which caused her to be unconscious in the shower.  My mom is a fantastic denier and tried to tell me later that day that she was “fine now” because her speech was only a little slurred (the S’s were  fine, just the W’s were still giving her trouble) and she could use her right arm again, just not her right leg. Uh huh.  The same day, I found out my 91 year old grandfather was having surgery and had been in the hospital all weekend. Also, Christmas with 4 kids, and working, and having new windows installed this week. Also, my mother in law broke her wrist ice skating with our big kids on Thanksgiving weekend, and lived with us for a week until she acclimated to life in a cast. Then, last week, she had skin cancer removed from her leg and stayed with us for another few days since she could not walk her dog.  Etc., etc.  Ii have been stretched as taut as a wire, ready to snap at the slightest additional force. 
Bumby has been feeling it, I think, and his naps have been all over the map lately. Some days he does not nap at all. Some days, he does not nap until after 4pm. Some days, he naps at 9:30 am and then again at 1pm. Once, he was awake from 1-3 am.  I begged my nanny today to tell me that he pleasepleaseplease was not going to be one of those kids who drops his nap all together at like  2 1/2. She promised he would not.
You may recall that when Bumby was born, he wouldn’t sleep anywhere except on me. I held him about 23.5 hours a day and was totally fine with that, for a while. By about 6 months, I desperately wanted him to sleep on his own. I felt trapped under him every time he would nap, and was itching to get up and do other things all the time. Plus, his sleep was in very short little bursts, because he would often be awakened by his reflux.  I wanted to roll over at night instead of spending 8 hours in the exact same position because there was a little nugget (and by little, I mean like 20 lbs) who was sleeping on my chest.  I wanted him to sleep more than 90 minutes in a row. Anything, to have a little break.
Now, he’s almost two, and sleeps in his own bed. Normally I nurse him and rock him in the rocking chair until he is sleepy, then he goes in his crib with his moose and kitty cat and that’s that. Today, I heard him on the monitor at nap time saying “Mama help you with nap.” You know, to himself, so that I would come up and help him. So I did. I came up and nursed him again, and rocked him in the chair. He fell asleep on top of me for the first time in months. I tell you what, if I had any confidence that he would have stayed asleep in the awkward position he was in, I would have spent however long he would sleep trapped under that kid. I so miss being trapped under a baby, with nothing to do for 90 minutes at a time other than smell his head and stare at his face with those squishy sleeping baby lips.

in which I try the blood-absorbing underpants

Shortly after Bumby was born, when my mother-in-law discovered that we were planning to cloth diaper him, she told me about her experiences working in hospitals in the ’60s and ’70s. Disposable diapers were relatively new, and the new mothers were afraid of them. What were they made of, that they could absorb such massive quantities of liquid without feeling wet? The prevailing fear was that they would absorb all of the water right out of the baby, leaving nothing but a shriveled up husk lying in the crib.

It was with this same sense of trepidation and awe that I purchased the blood-absorbing period underwear.

In case you are not familiar, they are called Thinx, although for some reason in my head I always call them Spanx. I don’t know why. I realize that this is another brand with an “x” where there should be a “ks,” but common misspelling aside, I don’t know why I get the two brands confused. You may be familiar with Thinx because of their bizarre ad campaign involving women covering up each other’s ears and eyes:

Covering-Eyes-2

or falling to the ground:

fainting woman

I have no idea what these ads are supposed to convey (maybe she has fainted from lack of blood?). Also, the orange and brown is not that flattering.  Anyway.

Now is the part of the post where you hear a lot about my particular period. Fair warning.

Despite exclusively breastfeeding, I was lucky enough to start my period right away, six weeks after Bumby was born. Thanks, body, that was awesome of you. I was still sore, and did not want to wear tampons. “Fortunately,” I had a huge pack of super-sized overnight pads in my wife’s closet, and even some of those free hospital underwear to put them in, so as not to ruin my beloved maternity underwear (I seriously love and still wear my maternity underwear). I was sexy, y’all. Since then, my period has followed a familiar pattern:

Day 1 – Light flow, always a fucking surprise now that I am no longer tracking my cycle.
Day 2 – Super heavy in the morning, then gradually tapering off to something normal. Need to wake up to change tampon at least once overnight in order to avoid a murder scene in bed in the morning. Almost always ruin at least one thing because of walking all the way to the bathroom at work and forgetting to bring a tampon, or not realizing that one hour has passed so clearly I am about to start hemorrhaging all over the place.
Day 3 – Same as day 2.
Day 4 through ??? – Very light, just enough that I have to wear something all day or I ruin underwear and clothes, but not enough that I can really use a tampon because pulling out a dry tampon hurts like a mother and yet you can’t leave it in because of toxic shock and all kinds of other grossness. Usually at some point I “forget” I am on my period and just wear dark underwear and hope for the best. I never know how long my period actually lasts because my annoyance and “forgetting” ranges from day 5 to day 7 and I don’t know when it actually ends.

So, there it is. I still don’t love tampons, since Bumby was born. I just feel a little uncomfortable still, and don’t really like putting bleach and asbestos and who knows what else in my vagina more than I have to. Don’t say diva cup at me, either, I just can’t. So I thought, what the hell, I will give these things a try.

I bought one pair of hip huggers (for heavy days), two sportys and two cheekies (each for medium days). In retrospect, look back at the list above, and ask yourself why a person with two heavy days would only buy one set of “heavy day” underwear? I don’t know. It was stupid of me. Anyway, this ran me about $135.

Do they work?

Yes, they work. I tested this by pouring 1/4 cup of water into one of the pairs before putting them on my body, to make sure I wasn’t about to ruin (yet another) pair of pajama pants or set of sheets. They somehow absorb a lot of liquid while still feeling relatively dry and not getting all bulked up and weird. Science, is all I can say. For the record, I also did not wake up as a shriveled up husk. I am still a normal person with water in my body.

For my first heavy day, I wore one of the medium day underwear as a backup (the cheekies), and used tampons anyway. I was going to work, and could not risk an “issue,” plus even the heavy day Thinx are not designed to absorb 900 tampons worth of blood. The bottom line was that I could relax a little. When I walk all the way to the bathroom and forget to bring a tampon with me, no big deal. I can still take out the old one and just put a new one in next time. That kind of thing. No issues, no smell, not wet feeling, overall pleased.

The second heavy day, I was at home, so I thought I would see what happened if I just wore the Thinx alone. I decided to go to a yoga class that morning for a lot of complicated reasons that are irrelevant here — normally I do not spend my weekday mornings doing yoga, but particular day I did. At the end of the class, I had a feeling much like the feeling I had in seventh grade band class, when I did not expect my period so all that was between me and my ergonomically correct chair were my jeans and white Hanes Her Way. You know the feeling I mean. It’s a scary, scary feeling. I was like, please Spanx, please work. (By Spanx, I meant Thinx, of course.) And they did, but they could not handle what all of the twisting and lunging and warrior poses had caused. Luckily both my yoga pants and the seat of my car are black, so that unnecessary embarrassment was avoided, but let’s just say I need to do the “backup” method for the heavy days, and leave it at that.

For the light days, these things are perfect. I can just go about my business without worrying about the dry tampon problem or wearing pads like I am back in the 7th grade band class and also without ruining anything. Also, my days of waking up overnight to change tampons are over, because I use the Thinx as a backup for the tampon overnight.

Overall, 8 out of 10, I would say.

Washing: You are supposed to rinse them, then cold wash, then dry. The first time I washed them, I rinsed right away and then put them in a wet-bag (the kind you use for cloth diapers) until I had collected enough to wash. But after the fateful yoga class, I was in the shower with my Thinx soaking in the sink. Bumby was tooling around the bathroom doing Bumby things. And wouldn’t you know, that little shit threw my wife’s toothpaste into the sink where my Thinx were soaking. I didn’t even know he was tall enough to reach! Gross. Oh well, at least it wasn’t my toothpaste. So then the next time, I washed them the way I do my cloth diapers – throw them straight into the wet bag all nasty, and then when it’s time for a wash, dump the whole thing into the washer, run them through a cold-water rinse cycle first, then a regular wash cycle. Seems fine.

Now, the cost: I had hoped that these things would prove cost-effective in the long run, like cloth diapering, but because I can’t eliminate tampons all together, I am not sure that is the case. So let’s do some high-school algebra:

5 pairs of Thinx, which is enough to get me through one cycle having 2 washes = $135.

Tampons, in this stupid city where everything is more expensive than it should be = $0.36 each.

Number of tampons before Thinx: Maybe…… 30? or so? = $10.80 per cycle

Number of tampons after Thinx: Maybe…. 10? = $3.60 per cycle (and 1/3 of the bleach, asbestos, etc.)

So that’s a savings of about $7 per month. So these babies are paying for themselves within about 2 years. This is not SO bad, but it’s not going to make all the difference in your budget, either. Especially since, if I could do this again, I’d probably buy 7 or 8 pairs to space out the laundry a little more. I always have this feeling like they are a little scarce, and I am about to run out. And although you technically do not need to change them during the day, I liked to put on a fresh pair at night. I don’t know how long they will last, either — it is possible I will need to buy new ones after two years.  Although, I will have saved a lot more if you think about the number of sheets and pajamas I will have avoided ruining, and my entire family is probably grateful that instead of waking up overnight to change my tampon during a time of the month when I am not at my most patient anyway, I can now sleep through. God and Bumby willing, that is.

honey, I’m home.

I work part time. 

Most days, to be honest, I work because I “should.” I have run through this list with my wife ad nauseum as I have alternatively floated/asked/begged to be a stay-at-home mom. We like our lifestyle, which requires two incomes. It’s a good example for the kids to see working moms, killing it at their careers and earning respect in the workplace. It keeps you current to regularly interact with adults of all ages. It’s not good for the kids to be my “everything” because (wah wah) they will one day leave me to live lives of their own. Etc. 

Some days, I work because I really enjoy what I do. I’m on an interesting deal, I got to take on a role I’ve never had before, I drafted something that went straight to the client with no one else reviewing it. These days it’s easy to love work, because it involves positive feedback and pats on the head and excitement. 

Then there are days like today. Bumby has not been sleeping well at all lately, and has been grouchy and contrary as a result. Also, because he has not been sleeping, I am exhausted and have been, well, grouchy and contrary. Today I grudgingly dragged myself out of bed at 6:45, just an hour and a half after the most recent nighttime wake up, and took my shower to get ready for work. I drank an unspeakable amount of coffee, put on some clothes that were not leggings, and dragged myself to the office. 

The day wore on. It was boring. I checked Facebook a lot. I looked at online pictures of our new house and fantasized about the day I will not be too exhausted to start running again, while I ate chocolate at my desk. I bought a new nursing top from Gap.com. I did a little work. I researched “sleep schedule 14 months”. 10 minutes earlier than usual, I packed up and left the office and got on the train to go home. 

And you know what? I can’t wait. I’m excited to see the kids, both big and of the Bumby variety. I am looking forward to cooking something interesting for dinner involving leftover ham. I can’t wait to hear about their days, and I won’t even be annoyed if Bums wants me to hold him the whole time I make dinner. 

So sometimes I work (or “work,” as was the case today) just for a break, so I can actually tolerate my life again. Or even muster some enthusiasm for it.  That is ok too, I think. 

there was a day

Over the summer, I had the hardest day. We were out at the beach house, and my wife was at work, so I was totally alone with Bumby with no access to any friends or family or other support. He was in the middle of a no-sleep patch, and I was exhausted. I was trying to make the huge, horrible decision of whether to go back to work or not. It was 80 degrees but like 900 percent humidity so we were both uncomfortable and soggy all day. And Bumby would. not. nap. and give me just ten minutes to be alone with my overwhelmed thoughts. And then the dog started asking to go for a walk. 

I thought to myself, I just can’t. I can’t deal with any of it, and now this dog wants a piece of me too. I can’t. I can’t stay home with him, and I can’t bear the thought of going back to work. At that point, I had literally not been away from him for more than 2 hours, and had been away for  2 hours only once. I couldn’t stand the thought of a day without my little barnacle by my side, and I couldn’t stand the feeling that I was never alone even for a minute. We were still bed sharing at that point, so he was literally on top of me 23 hours a day, even at night. 

Also, he was teething. 

I just couldn’t deal with the dog, and the baby, and never being alone, and being so totally alone. 

And then…. I just did it. I took Bumby’s clothes off so he would be more comfortable in the heat and humidity. I put him in the carrier, and picked up the leash and put it on the dog. I walked slowly around the boardwalks until she pooped, then I awkwardly squatted down and picked it up, which I hate hate hate so much. I was miserable, but I did it. 

I went home, and Bumby caught sight of mama and Bumby, our little duo, in the mirror. When his eyes met mine, he broke into a massive grin. And with that, I was through it, and I was fine. 

  
 I put Bumby on the floor of the bathroom with some toys, and finally showered for the day so I wasn’t so sticky. My wife came home, we cooked dinner, I had a glass of wine, and it was fine. I decided to go back to work. 

I was fine. 

my biggest fear

Before I was pregnant, I knew how much I wanted to be pregnant. I had always wanted to be pregnant. From the time I was about 16, I was envious of pregnant women I saw walking around in public. Being pregnant! How lucky.  What I never thought much about was the baby part. I knew this was an error, but I couldn’t help myself.  I sometimes thought of myself like those twenty-something year old brides, consumed with the wedding but not a thought about the lifetime of marriage. This is analogous, because there is nothing quite as life-long as becoming a parent. So, my biggest fear was that I was going to absolutely love being pregnant, but not be able to love the baby.

I love sleep.  I love time to myself. I do not like to be touched much.  I get cranky when other people eat a food item that I want.  Maybe I am selfish, too selfish to be a parent, I would sometimes think. I would see these other parents with their kids hanging all over them, sharing what was on their plate (often the best thing! The thing with cheese!), laughing about how when you become a parent, you never sleep again, and I would think, I can’t do that. I won’t be able to do that. I am going to get pregnant, and it’s all going to be fine, and then the baby will come and my life will be over. And because of it, I will resent the baby. Or hate the baby. Or just not love the baby.  I was pretty confident I would not love the baby.

I have been a parent before, yes, but the kids are bigger.  I can explain my boundaries to them, and while they might not understand them all the time, they do their best to respect them. I am still me, you see. Who does not like to be touched much and who wants you to knock before you come in the room. And who wants the cheesey thing for myself.

Recently, one of my besties posted on facebook about how harmful it is to bombard new parents or parents-to-be with negative messages about how life as you know it is over when you have a baby, and you will never sleep again, and all the trite things we tell each other about how horrible new parenthood is.  I guess I didn’t realize how much I had internalized all of that, because this fear loomed larger and larger as my belly grew larger and larger. I was not excited to have the baby. When people asked me this, in a small-talk kind of way, it was like a punch in the gut.  Haha no. I don’t really want to have the baby, thanks for asking. It can stay inside, thankyouverymuch. I love those little kicks and flutters, but not so much what’s about to come after.

I didn’t tell anyone about this. Not my wife, not my therapist, not my new mom friends. It seemed too big and too dark and too scary to admit it to anyone.  What kind of pregnant woman thinks she is not going to love her baby?  Especially after taking nearly a year to get pregnant in the first place.

And then he was born.  I have really, legitimately, never slept again (although many parents do by now).  Some small guy is already grabbing at my food with his grabby little grab hands.  I am almost never alone, and when I am, there is a corner of my brain, an edge of my heart that is elsewhere, where he is, following him, a little distracted.  Even when I’m supposed to be sleeping, there is sometimes a 23 pound weight on my chest and/or shoulder, cutting off the circulation to my arm and giving me chronic back pain, or at a minimum, I have one ear on the monitor for his eh-eh-eh that comes before the cry. Breastfeeding was painful and hard at first.  I once cried in the night, while he tried to nurse, and woke my wife up just to yell at her for having the nerve to sleep when SOME OF US were trying to BREASTFEED OVER HERE. All of this is true.

And I have been filled with the most awe-inspiring, heart-exploding love for the last seven and a half months. It is more than I can even put into words. Sometimes I want to cry because my heart is breaking into a million pieces because it has just exploded from so much love.

I don’t give two shits about the food.  I love having him hanging off of me like some kind of little primate. I don’t even notice all the ways he touches me, unless he has cut the inside of my nose with one of his sharp little claws or has pulled my shirt down in public. I am pretty fucking tired, yes, but I already know from experience that this actually will get better at some point, and frankly, I have amazed myself with my ability to cope with sleep deprivation. I love nursing, and if I didn’t, I would stop by now.

I even love my wife more, because if my heart explodes from watching that little baby try to pull himself up to standing but failing because his fat little foot is stuck on his blanket, my heart doesn’t stand a CHANCE against the woman I love more than life itself untangling that foot and laughing with him as he gets it right for the first time.

So yeah, I would say it’s pretty damaging to tell new parents or parents-to-be how awful parenthood is. I could have spent that last month of my pregnancy excited instead of afraid.  I probably would still have been a little afraid, but more in the sense of how is this 9 pound ball of baby getting outside of me without ripping a hole in some vital organ, and less in the sense of what if I can’t love him because he takes too much of me and parenthood is horrible.

So I am here, from the other side, to tell you.  I am still me, and I am still a pretty selfish person.  But parenthood is not horrible.  Parenthood is the best thing that ever happened to me.

the OB swap

Starting around 20 weeks pregnant, I became worried about finding a good birthing class. I really want to try to have a medication-free birth if possible, so I feel like to need a class that focuses more on natural pain management, rather than medication. All of the classes offered by my hospital are one part Lamaze, which I’m not crazy about, and one part medication focused, so they didn’t feel like a good fit to me. I thought about Bradley classes, but we just don’t have the time to commit (they seem to be 3-4 hours a week for 12 weeks). Plus, since we share custody of our kids, we really like to be home on the nights we have them. Suddenly, I thought to myself, “This is stupid. I’m sure my doctor’s office has a list of classes I can take home and pick from.”

So, at my 24 week appointment, which was really during my 25th week because of my crazy work schedule, I asked. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I was wondering if you had any information about childbirth classes. I really want to try to have a natural birth (I hate that phrase, by the way, because what exactly is an unnatural birth? But it was a short-hand). I looked at Bradley classes, but the time commitment is too much for us, so we were looking for something a little more low-key.
Dr. Condescending: I really don’t like Bradley method. Let me tell you why. They are very anti-doctor. I’m an excellent doctor. I know what to do. I’ve won (some random award I don’t give a shit about) for being so great. So I will tell you what you should do. I’ll tell you when to have the epidural, you don’t have to worry about that. I’ll tell you when to push. Etc. (I sort of stopped listening here because it was all just the same.)
Me: Okay. But I didn’t want to do Bradley classes. I was wondering if you had any information about other classes. And I really wanted to avoid an epidural if I can.

You can imagine how it proceeded from here. It was basically a monologue by Dr. C at this point because I was speechless. Some gems include:
“If you wanted a birth like that, you should have gone to a midwife or some kind of Chinese medicine, not come to a doctor’s office.”
“Just take the class at the hospital.”
“Stop worrying about this stuff so much and try to enjoy your pregnancy a little more.”
“You’re in the significant minority here.”
“Only 10% of women can give birth without some kind of medical assistance.”

He wrapped it all up with a delivery horror story about another doctor who did not force his patient to have an epidural against her wishes, and how she ended up in all kinds of pain. The story concluded with, “Maybe it’s true what they say about male OBs but I don’t like to see my patients in pain when I know I have the power to fix it.”

All in all, it seemed to me like he had some kind of God-complex. Like he was the bringer of life and I was some kind of extra, wandering around the set and getting in the way of the drama he was starring in. I left the office without saying anything, got in my car, and called my wife sobbing. I wanted to switch practices.

A couple of things about my wife. First, this was the first and only appointment she didn’t come to. It was supposed to be an easy one! Second, she has given birth three times, all of them with an epidural. So while she is supportive of my desires, I am more firmly in the trenches on this one. I’m not an idiot, however. I’d rather have an epidural if there is a chance of having a c-section, because then I am awake. I would have an epidural if my labor was really stalled and they thought it would help me progress. I don’t want to do these things, but I will. I want the baby to be healthy, right?

So we devised a plan. Rather than switching doctors at 25 weeks, we’d meet with one of the women in the practice. We would explain what was said to me, and what we wanted, and they would reassure me and everything would be fine. And Dr. C would not deliver our baby, no matter what. I could live with this, I thought. Also, I got the sense that my wife thought I might have been overstating things just a bit. So I was willing to give it a try with her there to help me out a little.

So at the 28 week appointment, with the one female doctor that was more senior than Dr. C, I launched into it. I didn’t repeat verbatim all the really nice offensive things that were said to me, but I did throw in the bit about Chinese medicine, because it was too good to leave out, and I think gives a good sense of the tone of the conversation.

She started out great, with some nice words about how that is horrible and of course it’s my body, so no one can make me have an epidural if I don’t want one. But then it shifted a little. She started lobbying me to change my mind. She told me that most people can’t handle the pain, even if they go into it thinking they can. She said that many labors stall, and the epidural is the only way to get them started again. She made a joke about a woman who brought a birthing ball. She said she didn’t like birth plans, especially if they requested no pitocin after the birth, because “most women need it to stop the bleeding.” I didn’t say anything, because my mind was pretty made up at this point that I wanted to change practices.

After all of this, my wife threw her a softball. “But she gets to consent to anything, right? So for example, you wouldn’t just do an episiotomy?”

“Oh, we do them all the time. Otherwise you tear. We don’t really ask about it, there isn’t time.”

And with that, we were done. We thanked her, and left the office without making my next appointment. It wasn’t so much what she said, but the whole attitude of the office. No one has ever mentioned nutrition to me, other than once when Dr. C said, around 12 weeks, “don’t get fat, and you’ll be fine.” No one has mentioned breastfeeding. No one suggested a flu shot, or any resources to educate myself about anything.

In the car, after the appointment, I think my wife was more surprised than I was.

So that is why we changed. I found an all female OB practice that uses the same hospital, since I really wanted to deliver there. They have a midwife on staff. I made an appointment and walked in 32 weeks pregnant to meet my new doctor, with a horrible feeling in the back of my mind hat it was totally possible that she would be just as bad as the practice I left, and I would still be searching for a doctor, four weeks more pregnant than the last time I did this.

When she called me back, my wife and I stood up. “I’m sorry,” she said. “We need to see the patient alone first. Then we’re happy to meet with both of you.” I was actually elated by this. Not because I had anything I didn’t want my wife to hear, but because what if I did? What if I was secretly eating laundry starch in the closet or something? I had a safe space to talk about it. I sat down in Dr. O’s office and said I wanted to try for an unmedicated birth.

“If you’re determined, we’ll do everything in our power to help you. I had an unmedicated birth for my two sons, so if I can do it, I know you can too.” The whole conversation basically went like this. She noted in my file that I wanted an unmedicated birth and asked me to bring in my birth plan so they could add it to my file and have it sent to the hospital. The next appointment, the doctor asked me to get a flu shot, talked to me about how to keep having a healthy pregnancy, and said she had also had an unmedicated birth. It was so nice to feel like my doctors supported me.

And you know what? I never brought in that birth plan. I thought through the issues, and talked about it with my wife, but I never brought it in. I guess I will, maybe at my next appointment, but it suddenly seems so much less important. I guess when you actually trust the care you are getting from your provider, it’s a little easier to let go and see what will happen. I would feel 100% ok having an epidural if one of these doctors thought it was the best thing for me. I would have felt bullied, and pressured, and like a failure having one at the recommendation of one of the doctors in my previous practice.

Changing providers late in my pregnancy was scary, but I would absolutely recommend it if you don’t trust that your doctor is giving you the kind of care you need and deserve. Oh also. The wait times at my new doctor’s office are less than half the wait times at the old office. Just another way they treat their patients respectfully.

“vacation” (or, things that are much more difficult while pregnant)

Well, internet, I wish I could say that I missed you in the week that I was camping in the woods upstate, but honestly, I love a good technology break every now and then.  This one was driven less by a lack of cell service (which is my favorite kind of technology break) and more by a lack of chargers.  I’ll take what I can get.

We had the kids for vacation this past week, and decided to camp.  We ended up in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.  You want to know what is not as fun pregnant as it is when you’re non-pregnant?  Camping.  Getting up in the night to pee is always a pain in the ass, but it’s actually much worse when you have to get up, put on boots in the dark, walk through the mud up a hill with a flashlight, and pee in a cement building with spiders in it. While not waking up the dog.  Also, you realize that your children are actually very active sleepers when you are trying to fall back asleep afterwards to the harmonious sounds two out of three of them flailing around like fish out of water in their sleeping bags.  Also also, hiking at 1,000 feet of elevation is noticeably more difficult when you are pregnant.

I was honestly surprised I struggled so much with all of it.  Everyone says the second trimester is the best of pregnancy, and I sort of expected to feel more like my non-pregnant self.  I do feel better, but I am definitely still pregnant. This camping trip was a big reminder of that.  I move slowly, I tire more easily, and I need to eat more often.  Things that I used to do easily were a chore, and things that used to be a chore were basically impossible. So yeah. Still pregnant over here.  And bending over repeatedly to put up a tent?  Not all that easy while pregnant.

All complaints aside, there were some good moments.  The kids had apparently never walked on active train tracks before, and found it super-exciting.  Also, when they asked if they could climb down a muddy cliff by hanging on to tree roots to go swimming in a natural pool at the base of a dam, in violation of both park rules and common sense, they were totally shocked when the answer was yes, and my psychic-or-something wife had actually packed all of our swimsuits in the day pack. My wife, the dog and I also swam in the pool, and we had all just changed back into our clothes (except the dog, who wears the same fur coat no matter what she’s doing) when a group of teenage boys came careening down the same muddy cliff to illegally swim in the same pool.  Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of all of this, because let’s be honest. Carrying around a fetus and a water bottle on the hike was enough of a struggle; I wasn’t about to also be carrying around my camera.

The kids are still sort of working through their feelings about the pregnancy, so when we dropped them off with their dad for the weekend and met up with our old friends at the beach, it was a relief to let my guard down, relax and just be happy about it again.  Also, sleeping in a bed was nice.  Still, the fatigue of the week really caught up with me yesterday, and I was basically unable to do anything but lie around whinging about nausea and vague abdominal pains which may or may not be this “round ligament pain” I have heard about.

Today, I am back in my beige cube in Manhattan, slogging through the workday.  It’s tough to say that it was a “good” vacation, which is what everyone asks you when you come back from a week away, given the emotional drama with the kids and the unexpected difficulties I had with the camping trip.  But I did have time for the blister caused by my work shoes to heal, and I did actually have a day to lie around whinging without any work to do, so I suppose in that sense, the week away from work was a success.