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 heart...you 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.