Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Endless Heartbreak

This is a post that's been rattling around in my head for a while, I've been tooling around with how to phrase it, how to frame it, how to put it together. In fact, I started it a long time ago, have come back to it twice, fiddled around with it, and then put it back down and walked away from it. It's deeply personal and terribly painful, but something I think some of you may relate to, so I feel like I should put it out there, no matter how vulnerable it makes me.

My oldest son is the child of divorce. I was married to his father for a whopping 16 months, only 4 of them after he was born. I was married to him for 4 months when I realized I'd made a mistake. To be honest, we both made a mistake. Under different circumstances I think he and I may have had a good shot together, but the circumstances weren't different and we weren't compatible. I intended to tell my ex that I was leaving on New Year's Eve - you know, make a clean break and a new start at the same time - and found out I was pregnant on Dec. 30th. Of course, you can't leave someone while you're pregnant, right? Right. So I stayed, and nothing improved but our living arrangements. He was unemployed at the time we found out I was pregnant and I was working full time in a retail job. We were living in an apartment with a roommate. By the time I was seven months pregnant, we had bought a house, he was working at a good, solid job, and I had a part-time, temporary job that was scheduled to end on my due date. Everything should have been coming up roses, but it wasn't. Our marriage was broken, it was a Thing That Should Not Have Been, and both of us knew it -- even though we wouldn't admit it. I think we loved each other, but we couldn't fix it.

Our son was born and things deteriorated. It seems cheap and somehow hollow to try to encapsulate everything that happened in that four months in those seven words, but I don't know if I can write about all of those things and expose them to the public at large. Things were said that should not have been. Things were done that should not have been. And frankly, I don't want to relive all of that right now. So I will just say "Our son was born and things deteriorated." One year to the day after I found out I was pregnant, I told my ex I wanted a divorce. I will never forget that. He was repainting the bathroom...the bathroom I had painted for him as a Christmas gift. I had done it wrong, and he was fixing it. I went in, sat on the bed, and told him that I wanted a divorce. He wasn't angry. A little shocked, but not angry.

The divorce itself was very amicable. The custody battle was not. It was actually rather epic in it's nastiness. It took four years of nasty, hateful, seemingly endless court wrangling before it was all hammered out and the judge cut our son into portions. Again, this is something that I can't write about. First, because it took four years. Nobody wants to read about a saga that went on that long. But also because it was so ...nasty. It's just something that doesn't need to be relived. We'll just say that very ugly things happened, my son was jerked around, back and forth, from one house to another... and despite the fact that my ex and I tried very, very hard not to fight in front of him (and I can honestly say that we both did try), he saw and heard things that he should not have seen and heard. My son's custody schedule changed three times, only once by our mutual agreement (with some crazy schedule we came up with - I regret that schedule)*. In the end, we ended up with a court order of sole legal and primary physical custody to me. But it was hell getting here.

I said all of that to say this - all of that drama, all of that gnashing of teeth, all of that jerking back and forth, all of that tension...all of it effected my son deeply. I never knew. I mean, I knew. I knew kids of divorce growing up. But I never really knew.

Nobody told me just how deeply and powerfully my divorce from his father would affect my son, even though he was incredibly young while it was happening.

My son has an incredibly deep and abiding fear of abandonment. If he's upstairs in his room and I'm downstairs, he will sometimes come barreling down the steps wailing, screaming that he thought I had left him. I was too quiet and he thought I had gone. At no point during this child's life have I ever left him anywhere without letting him know. But he's petrified I'm going to abandon him.

My son won't talk to me about his stepmother. At all. He won't mention her name. The only time I ever hear him mention her name is either in conjunction with his Daddy's name or if he slips up and calls me by her name when he first comes back from their house - and that rarely happens. She has been a part of his life since he was 5 months old. I don't understand this, unless he was so affected by the acrimony between us that he is afraid of mentioning her. I don't know whether he talks about me there.

Andy has a very compartmentalized life, a very compartmentalized way of thinking about things sometimes. He has Mommy's house rules and ways of doing things, and then there's Daddy's house. Things that are OK at Mommy's are not OK at Daddy's. Things that he can get by with at Daddy's are not going to fly at Mommy's. He can make a huge mess at Mommy's and that's fine, but he'd better have his clothes on, they'd better match, and he'd better have read his books. At Daddy's he keeps his room spic and span, his toys are neat and organized with all of the parts put back in the box neatly; but he can wear whatever he wants even if it doesn't match, and if he's missing his socks that's no big deal. And my son has to jump from one life to another every other weekend. He has to remember what's okay where. He has to remember where it's okay to say what, where it's okay to leave your socks in the middle of the floor, where it's okay to say "fart" and where you'll get put in time-out for it.

Andy needs love. He absolutely has to have it, all the time. He begs me every night to cuddle him in his bed. He's constantly walking up to me rubbing his face on me like a cat (That drives me batty, but it's because this is the season of runny noses, and he's essentially wiping snot all over me. Which is not loving, it's gross.) If I'm sitting in a chair, he's on top of me. He craves my love and attention all of the time. And it's impossible to give him all of the love and attention he needs. I have two other children who need love and attention as well. Andy craves and needs more than they do, but I'm constantly sending one child or another away disappointed - sometimes all three. It hurts to send any of them away, but somehow it hurts most to send Andy away because I know how much he wants and needs the extra love.

It must be nearly impossible to be him. My husband and I spend between $90 and $130 every month in copays for counseling for him. He's not a bad child, he's not even really a difficult child. He's just in a bad, difficult situation. I never dreamed when I was going through the heartbreak of my divorce (and don't get me wrong, it was heartbreaking, even if I was the one who initiated it), that I would still be feeling the heartbreak of that divorce years and years later when I look at my son's face every day. I never thought for a moment that I would still be having repercussions of the decisions I made 8 years ago now. It's one of those things that either nobody told me, or they told me and I was too dense to realize or take in. It's like having your heart broken a little bit at a time constantly. And it sucks. It sucks hard.

And then there's the question every child of divorce asks his parents -- "Do you still love my mom/dad?" In movies, I had always seen the parent who was asked look distressed, then smile a wan little smile at their child and say, "I will always love your father/mother because he/she gave me you." I always thought that was a crock. Why would parents lie to their kids? Santa Claus is one thing, but about something as big as this? During my divorce and custody I worried constantly what I would say when that day came, and I thought I would have to lie to protect my son's feelings. But I couldn't lie. What would I do?

Then the day came, my son asked me that very question.  I had to examine myself, my heart, and my emotions. I had to think about everything I had been through with his father. I had to think about our ill-fated marriage and the fighting therein. I relived the bitter misery of our custody fight for just a moment.  And I realized in that moment that sometimes Hollywood gets it right. I smiled at my son, kissed his forehead, and told him the truth - that I would always love his Daddy because his Daddy gave me him. Then I went in the other room and bawled my eyes out.

This is the fourth time I've written and re-written this post. It's taken two months. I've walked away from it because it was too painful, and come back to it when I felt strong enough to face it. I'm still not sure how to end it, how to wrap it up. I think that's appropriate, though. There's no way to wrap up divorce, custody and all that goes with it in a neat little bow. It just isn't possible. There's nothing neat and tidy about dividing your child, Solomon-style. All I can tell you, the only way I can think of to end this post is to say this: As much as it hurts the spouses to end a marriage, it hurts the children hundreds, thousands of times more. And the pain that the parents feel never really morphs and changes and gets revisited every single time the subject is brought up with your child.

*If you ever are in a situation where you have to come up with a schedule for visitation, do it in blocks of time. Don't do it in "one night here, two nights here, then an afternoon here." Just don't. That's too hard on the kids and confusing for everyone.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I love you, but I don't like you. At all.

I taught preschool before I was a mom. And oh, how I idolized the kids I taught. Sure, they occasionally got on my nerves, but on the whole I worshipped the ground those kids walked on. The parents of the kids in my class could rest very comfortably knowing that their kids were well-loved in my class. I adored them and did my best for them, every day.

I quit teaching when I was two weeks away from giving birth to my oldest son. By the time I quit teaching, I had gone from preschool to child care, and my God, was there ever a difference. Maybe it was because I was pregnant, maybe it was because of the kids, maybe it was longer hours (on all of our parts), maybe it was the environment (again, on all of our parts), but by the time I quit I swore I would never go back to child care because I was afraid I would never want my own children if I did. And when he was born, the love affair with kids began again. With both of my boys, I had two years of uninterrupted bliss. My sons were the sun and the moon, and nothing would ever change that. (My daughter is slightly different, I'll get to that.)

Then they hit about two-and-a-half and shit got real. BLAM! Gone was my baby, and here comes this little wiseass Imma-do-what-I-want kid. And I found, to my horror, that there were times that I just did not like my kid. And it took me a while to realize and come to terms with something my mom had told me many times when she was upset...

I love my children all of the time. But that does not mean that I always like my children.

Take, for instance, my Charlie. Charlie is three-by-God-years-old. In just the time it took to write the above paragraphs, Charlie has:

~smacked his sister
~poured apple juice on the couch
~pulled babywipes out of the container and thrown them like confetti and
~climbed on the recliner and jumped off.

Now, granted, Charlie is an extreme example, because, well, you'd have to know Charlie. Charlie was born 4 weeks early because he was trying to kick his way out of my uterus and I couldn't take the pain, climbed the steps at 8.5 months old and has barely stopped moving since conception. He's always been a ball of energy. But still. I'm not digging this kid right this minute. At all.

But there are other times you don't like them and it's not their fault. There have been times that I've not liked all three of my kids and they were completely innocent. Like when they were newborns and getting me up every three hours, screaming until their faces were red while my tits ached and leaked.

Or when I looked in the mirror after losing all of my babyweight and then some, but saw my stomach that looked like a deflated balloon that a cat had scratched all to pieces, and realized that no matter how good I looked in my clothes, I'd never ever be able to look good in a bathing suit again. And in that moment, vanity won. I was not okay with the tradeoff. (I was very soon, but we all have our moments.)

Or when one of those rare moments of all three kids being asleep at the same time happens, and I go lay down to take just a quick powernap, and as soon as I close my eyes, one of them wakes up. DAMMIT!

These are not things that you have to like. Guys, we don't have to eat shit and grin about it. This isn't Caillou. (I hate that show.) Now, I'm not saying scream at your kids when you're frustrated and you don't want to be around them. That just ain't good parenting. I'm just saying that it's a completely natural thing and a completely natural feeling to not like your kids sometimes. Not just the things they do, but the way they act and the aspects of their personality. It's okay to not want to be around them. It's okay to want to leave them in a room and want to be alone.

You don't have to say it out loud. You can just say it to yourself, inside your head. Sometimes the tiny little pleasure of saying it in your head with gritted teeth is enough. The one thing I would caution is that you add, either in your head or out loud in your mutterances: when you say "I really don't like you," make sure you add "right now" to the end. My mother, while she was relatively frequent in letting us know that she didn't like us from time to time, she never ever said that without letting us know she loved us and putting that "right now" on the end. She said "I love you, but I don't like you right now." We always knew we were loved, but we'd pissed her off and we knew that, too.

And we knew it a lot.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Boo Hoo Hoo

I'm a fairly emotional person by nature, but I don't cry inappropriately at much in books or movies. I mean, yeah, when Jenny dies in Forrest Gump (even though I hated her character), I cry. Steel Magnolias tears me a new one from the moment when Shelby collapses til the closing credits. I cried openly when both Sirius Black and Dobby died. Both book and film. (I was too outraged when Dumbledore was murdered to cry.) But most of those are places where you expect grown adults to cry.

Here's the thing, though. There's something monumentally unfair afoot here, and it's something that sneaks up on you and you don't expect. Hollywood producers are sneaky bastards, and they've done something that I never expected and wasn't warned about. It took me completely by surprise.

Nobody told me that I'd be weeping like a schoolgirl with a broken heart over the TV shows and movies my kids watch. 

It's true. I can admit it. Now, I've always cried during Dumbo. Even as a child, I cried during the scene where his mother rocks him from inside the jail car and the song "Baby Mine" plays. But then I grew out of watching kids' TV, and I was spared watching that stuff. Now I'm back to watching all of these shows, and whoa. If Dumbo were the end of it, that'd be fine. But no. Oh no. Disney just can't leave it at that. And the people at Pixar are flat-out sadistic. I think they ENJOY making us weep like sniveling little bitches. At the very least, they've got some kind of backdoor deal with kleenex. I have yet to see a Pixar movie where I didn't leak from the eyes at some point during the film. Hell, I didn't make it 5 minutes into "Up" before I was blubbering all over the place.

But I'm certain there are psychologists employed at Disney who are specifically hired to determine how to yank the heartstrings of us poor suckers parents. I didn't come up with this conspiracy theory until I sat down with my kids yesterday to watch "Pooh's Heffalump Movie" and cried. I mean, seriously. "Pooh's Heffalump Movie?"  This is getting ridiculous. And yet, there I sat, wiping my eyes on the shoulder of my shirt because I was sitting under two toddlers. Who were not crying. At all. Just me. Mom the sucker.

Charlie, 3, turns around to me and says "Mommy, are you sad?"

No, honey. Mommy's not sad. Mommy's just a victim of Disney's corporate tear factory for parents. That's all.

Can't wait for Wreck-It Ralph. *sigh*

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ignorance is Bliss

First let me take a minute and apologize for my absence. I've been really sick. And when I say really sick, I mean REALLY sick. Like, verge-of-hospitalization, can't-get-out-of-bed-or-be-left-alone sick. The last time I can remember being close to that ill was when I had mononeucleosis at age 15...and even then I bounced back remarkably quickly. This had me down for the count for well over a week. Today is the first day I've been alone with the kids for any length of time in just shy of two weeks, and the vast majority of that time I've spent in the bed, flat on my back. I don't do that very well. My mom, the nurse, is fond of telling me what a shitty patient I am, and we butted heads several times (when I had the energy.)

We all have people who we think are cooler than we are. For me, that happens to be everyone, since I am supremely uncool. But today, someone who I happen to think of as really, really cool had their first child. A post appeared on Facebook stating that he and his wife had had their first child after an incredibly short labor, and listed the name and weight. Of course there's a picture of him holding his infant son, looking at his newborn as if the child has come to save the world from the Mayan apocalypse in 5 months. And in that moment, I looked at this man's picture of him looking at his newborn, all doe-eyed, this man who I admire and would never have the nerve to speak to, and thought to myself, "Bless your know so much about so much, and right in this moment you're so frickin' ignorant you can barely function."

And then I immediately hoped to God he never found out I thought that, because the reason this guy rose to popularity was by cursing people out for money on Fiverr. And I don't want that.

And then I immediately came to blog my thought on the internet for all the world to see.


This wasn't a malicious thought. Every parent in the world, at the moment they have their first child, thinks they have it all together. Most of them have read all of the books. They've got the room ready, the clothes washed and laid out. They've decided on a birth plan, the bags are packed for the hospital, everything is ready to go.  They know all about meconium, circumcision, breastfeeding, rooming-in...all of those things you need to know about in the first days. They're as armed as they can possibly be. And then....then it all happens. IT HAPPENS.

I remember that moment for me. My oldest child was an emergency c-section and had some breathing issues after his birth (which is relatively common. Frightening, but not unusual.) He was incubated for a short time, and kept in the hospital for a little longer than most newborns. At his two-week checkup, which was the first appointment of the day, they did a chest x-ray to make sure that everything was cleared up in his lungs. At lunchtime, I got a call back from the doctor's office telling me that I needed to get back to the office with the baby right away. I called my then-husband, and we met there. They had a room ready for us, we didn't even sit in the waiting room. Within a couple of minutes, our doctor came in to tell us that our 15-day-old had an enlarged heart, it was a very dangerous situation, and they were making arrangements for us to be flown to Duke University Medical Center on a life-flight helicopter while she conferenced with neo-natal cardiologists. My husband and I just sat there, shell-shocked while our newborn sucked his fist and slept.

We made calls - our parents and his work - and made arrangements to be gone for a couple of days. Then the doctor came back in - Duke was confident enough to let us drive down to them (an hour and 20 minute drive), we wouldn't have to fly. Well, that's swell, but neither of us was in any fit state to drive right then. We went on making more arrangements to get to Duke. We called a family friend to go to the house and pack clothes for both of us and the baby for two days. We notified more family. We alerted prayer lists. We prayed ourselves. We looked at each other and wondered just what on earth was happening. And then the doctor came in again...the NeoNatal cardiologists felt that we could take Andy home and drive to Duke first thing the next morning. We left that office after closing in a daze, after begging them to let us go to Duke right then. Please don't send us home to wait. But wait we did.

That night was the first realization of just how ignorant I was as a parent. My son was two weeks old, and so far, although I had been taken by surprise by the c-section and its aftermath, I'd felt competant and knowledgeable. The books and my friends had prepared me. But this time, there was nothing to prepare me for this experience. And all of that lead up brings me to the point of this post.

Nothing could prepare me for the helpless, desperate, gut-wrenching fear of not knowing what's wrong with my baby, and what I could do to fix it.  

(To finish the story, I watched my son all night, every breath. I had some minor psychological episode and refused to allow anyone else to hold him the entire time. The next morning, we went to Duke, the cardiologist saw Andy and said that he was perfectly fine, someone had misread the X-ray, they did a full exam, and my son has a completely normal heart. He has never had to have any follow-up exams.)

There have been many, many other times that this helpless feeling has washed over me...every time they start crying and you have NO idea why. When they refuse to be soothed. That fever with no origin. The inexplicible grumpiness. And then there are the times that they're upset and crying and the reason is something so simple, something you  know  you always check first thing, but just this one time, you didn't, and that's what's bothering them. Or when they're sick and you've done everything you can but there's just nothing more you can do. It's a horrible, stupid feeling. I always thought I was terribly smart - until I had my children. And now I feel like my IQ drops every day....but I blame part of that on The Fresh Beat Band.

There's comfort, though. For every moment that you feel like the most ignorant piece of shit that ever walked the face of the earth, there's a moment where your child looks at you like you are the greatest human being who ever lived - and to them, you are. For every time you want to tear out your hair because they're trying to communicate something to you, you don't understand, they're frustrated and crying and YOU'RE frustrated and feel like crying - there's a moment when your little angel will come toddling to you, arms up and smiling, and that will communicate love like nothing you have ever imagined. For every tear, there's five smiles. For every temper tantrum, there's a game of peek-a-boo (or my children's favorite, "smell my stinky feet.") I'd like to say that it all balances out, but it doesn't - the good far outweighs the bad. I would just be a complete asshole if I let all the happy-goody fun times get listed and didn't mention the crappy, sad, where-did-I-sign-up-for-this-parenting-gig-and-how-in-the-almighty-hell-do-I-get-out-of-it times. There ARE those times....but on the scales, for me, the "I love being a mommy" outweigh the "kill me now" times.

Most of the time.

Catch me again the week before school starts.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Oh, you're sick? Well, f*** you.

First, let me start this post by saying that I'm in a lot of pain. Like, a lot of pain. I'm lying on a heating pad and waiting for my pain pill to kick in as I type - and I DON'T take prescription pain meds. It's one of my (many) odd little quirks. What's causing my pain is yet to be determined. We think it's my kidney, but we're not even sure about that. I was in the ER (something else I never, ever do) until the wee hours of Friday morning after making a trip to Urgent Care (Thing I Never Do #3) Thursday evening. The general consensus is that I have a kidney stone, but I'm not so sure. Neither was the ER doc. Her initial diagnosis was a kidney stone, but the CT scan said 'no', so she diagnosed me with a urinary tract infection and sent me home with a bagful of high-powered drugs that don't jibe with a simple UTI. In any case, I have an appointment with a real, live urologist tomorrow morning, and I'm actually a little excited about this.

I said all of that to say this - I'm probably going to be a little less delicate than usual today. For that, I beg your forgiveness in advance. Unless, of course, it's funnier/better writing. In which case, I totally meant to do it.

My kids have been pretty great while I've been sick. As great as they can be at two and one, anyway. When I'm crying, my two-year-old will come and give me kisses and say "I love you too, Mommy." My one year old just climbs on me indiscriminately. They both demand to be fed and loved. The diapers still have to be changed, because shit still stinks. Which brings me to my point.

Although people told me this, it never sunk in until it happened to me. There are no sick days when you become Mommy. It doesn't matter how bad you feel. Your baby's needs, no matter how trivial they seem, come first.

Now, I really, REALLY don't want to trivialize non-parents. I don't. I remember many, many times that I went to work sick, did shit I didn't want to do when I didn't feel like it, and did it with as minimal complaint as possible. But there was the option. Nobody's actual existence depended on whether or not I showed up to work.* But with my kids, their lives depend on whether or not I take care of them, especially at their tender ages. They can't change the pissbags that hang around their waists. They can't fix their own food or give themselves their own baths. They can not take care of themselves. So it just doesn't matter if I have a rock trying to work its way out of my peehole. I have to take care of my babies. Kidneys be damned, I have to be Mommy.

*I fully recognize that some people have jobs where other peoples existence relies on them.

When I came home from the hospital with Katie, she was a preemie who had difficulties breastfeeding. I could not get her to latch for love nor money. Therefore, I ended up pumping every three hours around the clock, and then bottle-feeding her the products of said pumping. I was also having problems producing enough milk for her and she was not gaining weight, so I had to supplement with formula. Two bottle feedings every three hours. Plus pumping each breast. Every. Three. Hours. Every 24 hours. I was not sleeping (when did I have the damned time?) and my mental health was slipping, so after 9 weeks of this (NINE FUCKING WEEKS) my doctor patted me on the back and said, "That'll do, pig. That'll do." And I got to hang up the breast pump. Hallelujah.

During that period of time that I was pumping eight times a day, bottle feeding eight- to sixteen times a day, and not sleeping at all, I still had a one-and-a-half year old and a five-and-a-half year old who needed my attention, too. I couldn't say to them, "Oh, hey, yeah, I need you guys to go take care of yourselves until Mommy gets this shit straightened out and then I'll get back to being your mother." Sometimes I wish fervently I could put my kids on hold - particularly when I'm in the bathroom. But I couldn't, and I had to make do. My kids watched WAY more than the reccommended 2-hours-a-day of TV, and they didn't play outside or one-on-one with Mommy nearly enough. I was too busy sucking milk out of my boobs, and that pump is a bit cumbersome for use during Thomas The Tank Engine play. I have terrible guilt about it. But I did what I could, and I'm doing what I can now.

And that's the bottom line. There are times, as Moms, when all you can do is all you can do. Even not as a mom...All you can do is all you can do. Think about that for a second.  Do what you can and what you have to, the rest will figure itself out.

If we did everything by the parenting books, we'd be perfect, our kids would never misbehave, we'd feed them perfectly prepared balanced meals every night, they'd never watch more than 1 hour of perfectly educational television a day, and we'd put therapists out of business. And really, who would want that? Personally, I'd die without guilty pleasure TV, fishsticks and mac&cheese, and therapy.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cutsey-wootsy phrasey-poos

Four days since my last post, wow. I know it looks like I've been slacking, but I promise I haven't. Another little facet of my life is that I run an etsy shop ( and travel around to craft shows on weekends that I can to sell my wares. (Doesn't that make me sound old-fashioned? "sell my wares.") Anyway, that's my contribution to the family as a stay-at-home-mom. I make earrings and headbands, and I sell them online or at craft shows. Well, in the past four days I've made and listed forty earrings and/or headbands. It's been hectic, and I got distracted. I'm sorry.

Back to the show!

I don't follow many blogs for the same reason I don't look at other crafters' jewelry shops if I can help it - I don't want to be accused of cribbing. But there IS one blog that I follow religiously, and I even pariticipate in an online discussion about it. It's the blog of a pagan grifter who makes all sorts of rediculous claims, including that she is married to certain gods and that Freddie Mercury comes to her as a spirit and refers to himself as "Auntie Freddie."

Now. I have absolutely nothing against paganism. As a matter of fact, through the discussion thread I've been a part of for several months as we've followed this blog, my perception of people who are pagans has changed. They're just folks like anyone else, and just like in every religion, there are salt-of-the-earth type people and there are kooks. What I DO have a problem with is someone being a grifter and robbing people blind through manipulation.

But there's something about this person that the others have a problem with, and it always makes me squirm. The writer of the blog we follow uses words like "yummy" and "tummy." When the other participants are railing about how obnoxious those words are, I always shrink a little. I use those words.

Which brings me to my point. When you have children, No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, cutesy words and phrases are going to seep their way into your everyday vocabulary.

Before I was even pregnant with my oldest son, I swore I wasn't going to be one of those moms who did babytalk to my child. I felt like it wasn't good for their development and I told myself I wouldn't be a babbling fool. For the most part, I stuck to it. I used adult words instead of nonsensical words and avoided babbling. But yummy, tummy, butt-butt, and other various cutesy bullshit worked its way in there. I'm still not sure how. But I found out how deeply it had entrenched itself one night in a most humiliating fashion.

There was a period of time after my oldest, Andy, was a year old that I was single. And being single, I went out very occasionally. On one evening, I was out with a girlfriend, Mitzi, and I had a bit much to drink. She was driving me home, and I suddenly felt carsick. I rolled down the window to get some fresh air. She kept asking me if I was alright and I assured her that I was fine. Suddenly, though, I was not so fine and asked her to pull over the car.

"Mitzi, pull over."

"Mitzi, pull over."


Yes. I said "Quick like a bunny." To my friend. Who is an adult. Who thought it was hilarious.

But that's not all. I have a diploma (that I don't use) in medical transcription. Both of my parents are registered nurses, and my mother has been a nurse for 39 years. My entire life has been drenched in medical terminology and medical knowledge. I am not medically ignorant, not in the least. I've almost always had pleasant experiences with doctors and nurses, and I think it may be because I have at least a slight idea what I'm talking about and can use the correct terminology.

So I went to the doctor for what I thought was a gall bladder attack. My doctor came in and asked me what the problem was, and I proceeded to tell him what my symptoms were, rattling them off without putting a lot of thought into what I was saying. Then I noticed him looking at me a little funny, and I realized what had just come out of my mouth. I had just told him I was having pain not only in my upper right quadrant, but also in my tummy like I was about to have a really yucky poo.


Did I really just say that?

Oh, FFS.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rules of Possession

I went to visit my mom Thursday in my hometown, an hour away from where I live now. She was keeping my nephew, who happens to be two weeks younger than my 2-year-old. Since I was there (and I'm not there all that often anymore), my brother stopped by our mom's house to eat his lunch and see my kids. He set his food out on the counter and my nephew climbed up on the barstool next to him, dutifully. My mom gave Asher (my nephew) something to eat - even though he'd already eaten - and the two dug right in. And then I heard this very one-sided exchange...

"Asher, that's Daddy's ketchup."

"No, Asher, leave that alone, that's Daddy's ketchup."

"Asher, I said no, that's Daddy's ketchup. You have your own ketchup. Leave Daddy's ketchup alone."

(like a frustrated child) "No, Asher! That's DADDY'S ketchup!"

"Fine! Have my ketchup. I'll just use your ketchup."


And so it goes. You think something is yours, but it's not. That's what nobody told me. Once you are a parent, nothing is ever completely yours again. You must share everything or surrender it to parenthood completely.

That sounds much more dire than it actually is. It's not all horrible, but it's certainly frustrating. Let me give you another example from my own life - today at lunch.

I fixed my children's lunches, scrambled around to make sure they were fed, and cleaned up afterwards (not something I always do. I'm not the best housekeeper, to say the least.) After all was said and done,  the children were sitting in the living room quietly and happily watching Special Agent Oso and picking their toes. So I made myself a simple peanut butter & jelly sandwich then sat on the couch next to the laptop. Suddenly, they were there. And I don't just mean nearby. I mean on top of me.

Before I'd taken my first bite, Katie, my daughter, started actively pulling on my clothes and limbs, desperately trying to get into my lap. Charlie, my two-year-old, was actually on top of me making chomping sounds and trying to get to my sandwich. I let Katie take a bite first and then Charlie, and Charlie pulled a third of the sandwich back with him - apparently he has somewhere learned to rip his food like a T-Rex with a gland problem. I allowed myself a single bite, but before I had swallowed Katie had her mouth open like a baby bird and Charlie was chomping again. They each got a bite, and then I got another one. Charlie's third bite was the last of the sandwich, and he tried to take part of my finger with him (there's still a mark there.)

From the minute your child is born, the contents of your pantry and refrigerator subtly change. Where there used to be 7 types of gourmet beer, now there are 6 tiny little bottles of breastmilk. Your pantry now has 8 strained vegetables and 4 pureed fruits instead of 4 varieties of olives for that AMAZING dish you used to have time to make. As the kids get older, instead for the Kashi you like and used to eat (But seriously, does anyone like Kashi? really?), there's Cheerios, Kix and Trix. These aren't terrible changes, and they're worth it because of your little heathen angel, but they're different.

Parents, you've been there. The greedy little eyes every time you take a sip of your coke. Sticky little hands in the popcorn bowl. The baby-bird mouth when you're eating an ice cream bar. You walk away from you pop-tart and come back to crumbs. You've all been there. Tell me you've been there and I'm not just raising gluttonous little heathens. Please?

So what do we do? Well, as I see it, there's not a whole lot we CAN do. We could piss and moan, of course, but that won't do any good. Swallowing it and pretending it's the greatest thing in the world won't either. It's a big, steaming hunk of crap sometimes to have to give up part of just about every meal to your kid. As much as you love them, sometimes you want to act like them, stamping your feet and screaming - NO! That's MINE! Mine mine MINE!

My advice - find something you like and claim it as your own. Share if you want, but mark your territory and make damn sure that yours is yours. It's as good for them as it is for you, actually - kids at school don't generally walk up to each other and take bites of each others' sandwiches. As for me, I share my food with my kids all day long (obviously), but I don't share drinks. It has nothing to do with germs, it has to do with claiming something as my own. And as they get older, I'm getting better about claiming the occasional two bites of food in succession as my own.

Maybe, for their birthdays in August, I'll treat myself to three bites of cake right straight in a row.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Mommy by any other name

My two boys had speech delays. Neither of them really started talking until well after they were two, and I spent more time praying and worrying that they would never talk than I can tell you. I practiced with them, sitting in front of them in their high chairs and car seats saying things like "Say 'Mama.' Come on, baby, say 'Mama.' If you just say 'Mama,' I'll buy you a car. Come on, big boy. Come on..." To this day, I can't believe how abysmally stupid I was to offer to buy my kid a car if he had said "Mama." I mean, really.

Then, all of the sudden, they were talking. And they didn't stop. THEY JUST. DIDN'T. STOP.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Nobody ever told me that "Mommy" would ever be anything other than the most blessed word in the English language.

Raise your hands if you've seen the Family Guy skit with Stewie standing by the bed where Lois is lying, and he calls out "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Momma! Momma!" etc. until she raises up and screams "WHAT?!" right in his face.

Now raise your hands if you've had a moment (or fifty) like that.

Wow. That's a sea of hands.

I never daydreamed that the sound of my child calling my name would make me want to tear out my hair and scream "MY NAME IS NOT MOMMY, MY NAME IS ANYTHING BUT MOMMY, CALL ME JOAN. CALL ME BEULAH. CALL ME ZUUL FOR CHRISSAKE, BUT DON'T CALL ME MOMMY!!" But, alas, there are days...

"Mommy, what's for supper?"
"Mommy, Charlie took my toy!"
"Mommy, I want something to drink."
"Hey, Mommy, are you trying to be private while you go to the potty?"
"Whatcha doing, Mommy?" (this is especially grating after being asked and answered for the 84,000th time.)
"Mommy, can I _________?"
"But, Mooooommyyyyyy I don't WAAAAANNAAAA take a baaaaaath!"
"Mommy! KatieBug BREEEATHED on me!"


At the time I was practically begging my children to say "Mama," I had no inkling that I might one day be internally sobbing and begging my children to shut up. None. If you had told me that hearing "Mommy" all day every day would be like Chinese water torture, I would have pshawed you. I believed to the depths of my hopeful little soul that hearing my angelic little children say the word "Mommy" would open the heavens and cherubs would play harps and my heart would fill with love and Israelis & Palestinians would hug each other in peaceful embrace and all would just be right with the world. And, to be honest, the first couple of times they said it, it was like that. But damned if it didn't quickly turn into a word that almost is like a death knell for peace and quiet. I know now when I hear someone holler "Mommy!" from the next room, especially with that tone, shit's about to get real. Mommy'd better put on her bitch pants, here comes trouble.

And then you have moments like about 45 minutes ago, when my two-year-old came running up to me for no reason at all, caught me in a huge tacklehug, kissed me in a disgustingly messy peanut-butter coated kiss, and said "I love you too, Mommy!"

Awh, dammit. He made me love the word again.

Monday, June 18, 2012

First Post - Introductions

Hi. I'm Haley. I'm a mother to three angelic kids, ages six-and-a-half, two-and-a-half, and thirteen months. Two boys, one girl. In that order. God save me.

With my two oldest children, I had baby showers. I actually had two baby showers with my oldest son. And at all three of these showers, the conversation was the same. There was talk about breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding, when the baby would sleep through the night, how much help or hindrance the baby's father would be, and endless, endless discussion about cutesy stuff like clothes. There were some mentions of practicalities, like diapers and gear, but on the whole, the discussion was fluff.

Like almost every other pregnant woman in the western world, the minute I was able after I found out I was pregnant, I ran to the local bookstore and got a copy of "What To Expect When You're Expecting." This covered all the gross stuff. Mucus discharge. Constipation. Leaky boobs. Okay, that's great, but what about the practical, real-life applications? I was still on my own.

My mom, a life-long nurse, was a valuable source of information for some things, like the fact that mylecon is liquid gold (seriously, it is) but on some others, I was flying blind. And very, very shortly after my oldest son was born, I found myself crying out loud, "Nobody told me about this shit at my baby shower!"

And there you have it. The premise of this blog. There are so many things that are just never told to us by mothers and nurses and doctors - either intentionally in some conspiracy of silence, or through some kind of forgetfulness virus that infects everyone who has ever had anything to do with having a baby in the history of ever. And I'm a little tired of it. My friends pop up and say, "I never had any idea it would be like this!" and I feel like a schlub, because I was sucked into forgetfulness virus thing. Well, no longer. This blog is to examine those things that are rarely said out loud, and when they are, they're whispered at playgroups. I feel confident that I am not the only person that has experienced these things. I'm damned certain that I'm not the only person that has experienced these things. I feel 100% confident that right now, somewhere, one of you is reading this thinking, "Yes! I've thought there was some kind of conspiracy, too!"

So I'm going to talk about the things that have surprised me as they've happened with my little surprises. Some of these things are going to be out-and-out funny. Some will be gross. (Come on, face it. Kids are disgusting.) Some are going to be poignant. Some may make you cry. But I'm going to do my best to put a humorous spin on things and to, above all, be honest with you and myself.

Let's get real. Because nobody told me this shit, and someone really ought to say something.