22 weeks and counting

I am 22 weeks with my baby girl. I have been so bad about posting updates and keeping everyone in the loop. But, time is slipping by oh so fast, with the other two kids to keep up with, and life just refusing to slow down.

While I am excited about her arrival (though cautiously excited because my anxiety never lets myself get too excited about anything), I have been plagued with some pretty serious negative emotions, and it’s made this whole thing very difficult. I’m panicking for two now.

My anxiety has been a constant in my life, going back as far as I can remember. But I feel like it is escalating as I get older. Partly because motherhood is, well, motherhood. And also partly because I found my way through an extremely difficult couple of years by always having a bottle of alcohol by my side, and sometimes I am afraid I will lose control again, and let myself sink to that point again. It is a constant terror of mine: that I will relapse again. My psychiatrist tells me to think positively about my awareness. That being on guard all the time will work in my favor. And he’s right. But it’s exhausting.

I am on a lower dose of my antidepressant than I was before I got pregnant. Just to keep things safe. But I can definitely tell the difference. It mostly keeps the depression at bay, but I have some pretty terrible days. Whereas before, it was a lot of fairly good days, almost no terrible days. It just feels like something isn’t right. I don’t know exactly what, but something is off. I am allowed to take my anti-anxiety medication in moderation, but even that doesn’t seem to help much. I can barely go five minutes without letting my intrusive thoughts evolve to the point that I and/or the baby and/or my whole family are dead. I can’t get it out of my mind. It hasn’t been this bad for a very long time. I’m the one-day-at-a-time girl again right now, which is working. But gosh I want to be “normal.”

The “logic” behind worrying about anything and everything is that you can prepare yourself for the worst. And if you worry about the worst, it probably won’t happen. If you go along in life all happy-go-lucky, not a care in the world, that’s when the bad stuff sneaks up behind you and side swipes you on a random weekday morning. Just when you thought everything was ok. So, worry! Worry it up. Of course, I know logically that this is absurd, life will happen as it happens whether I worry or not, so I may as well spare myself the anxiety. It’s just not quite that easy.

I find myself doubting whether or not I can handle the early days with a newborn without feeling swallowed up by the whole thing, unable to breathe, unable to move. Those early days are so hard. You’re all hopped up on hormones and lack of sleep. And not to mention the physical healing you have to go through. And with the demands of life scratching at the door like a dog that needs to be let out, you can feel very guilty and ashamed for focusing on your baby so much.

The comedian Jim Gaffigan made a joke once about having a fifth child. “It’s like you’re drowning, and then someone hands you a baby.” Which is pretty funny, I laughed very hard at that. But, I think it can also apply to a mom with serious mood disorders trying to be just a mom, just a regular mom who can do it all and be it all (even though we all know in the back of our minds that those expectations are just too high). It’s like you’re drowning in your illness, and then someone hands you your baby. Good luck, hon!

But, hey. There’s also her gorgeous ultrasound pictures. And the reassurance that she’s growing and developing wonderfully. And I can look forward to looking into her eyes for the first time. And smelling her big, bald head. And watching her sleep in my arms. And watching her brothers bond with and love her. There are positives here. I was avoiding buying anything because I was afraid I’d jinx something. But I bought a few tiny, adorable pieces of clothing. And no matter how many babies you have, it’s still mind blowing to imagine that a person tiny enough to fit into that stuff will soon come out of you. Just mind blowing.

The first thing I ever said to Bowie was, “I’m so glad you’re out of me.” And when they handed Ferris to me, I said in a hormonal daze, “I forgot how small these things are.” I’m hoping I can come up with something a little more brilliant to say to her. To my daughter. To my little fork in the road. I will be nervous, I will battle my illnesses, but I will be able to see the beauty in all of it, I just know it.

Just a little more than halfway done, and holding on. Thank you everyone who has offered kindness and support. This mama needs it.

Unpredictable

Life can be so weird sometimes. And often, when we get to a place of comfort and normalcy, something drops in our laps. Something we never saw coming. Something we never even imagined might happen.

Thanksgiving week, I found myself fainting while I did yard work. And peeing constantly. And the official nail in the coffin: not getting my period.

I took a home pregnancy test and got a very faint positive. I took another test: another faint positive. I started wondering if any of my medications might cause a false positive, but Dr. Google seriously let me down. As you can imagine, there was very conflicting information, and nothing regarding my specific medications. So anyway, the next day I took 4 more tests (just to be sure) and got 4 positives. Four.

And I commenced to freak the hell out. And then I had the unbridled pleasure of making my husband freak the hell out right along with me.

I was on the birth control pill. No one saw this coming. Not me, not him, not my gynecologist. We had two boys. We were done. This was it. This was our family, this was our future.

I mean, we had certainly discussed the possibility of adding one more little one to the mix. But, with all the struggles I had been through, and then with the move to a new city and purchase of a new home, we just decided that it wasn’t a good time, and that by the time it was a “good” time, it would probably be on the later side to be contemplating such a thing. So, no more kiddos.

And suddenly: baby.

I’m going to be a mother again. I’m going to go through 9 months of pregnancy. Again. I’m going to have to go through labor and delivery. Again. I’m going to be changing diapers. Again. And when I’m 40! Unless this is a super genius baby who will by potty trained by then. Finger crossed.

I wasn’t thrilled when I found out, but I also wasn’t disappointed in any way. It was a shock, and shock takes some time to wear off. I went through all the stages of grief (grief for my no-diaper, big-kid mom life) and ended up here, at 15 weeks, feeling…ok. Just ok. Which in turn makes me feel guilty. Shouldn’t I be over the moon about this? Babies are a blessing, and all of that? What’s wrong with me?

And the fretting, oh my word the fretting. I was a basket case when I was pregnant with Ferris, because he was my post-miscarriage baby. My rainbow baby. I was a nervous wreck with him. But this time, it’s so much worse. I am going to be 38 in a few weeks. That’s oooollllldddd according to the OBGYN. And everything that can normally go wrong, can really go wrong. There’s Down’s syndrome and zika and heart defects and my lord, a million other things I can’t even think of. We didn’t plan for this baby, and the prospect of something being wrong is too much to bear. I’ve been plenty reassured that the odds are in our favor. And our chromosomal testing came back totally and completely normal. But, that still doesn’t calm an anxious mind.

Oh, and then there’s the fact that we don’t have any stuff. We have NO. STUFF. No crib, no changing table, no carseat, no stroller, no high chair, no swings, no carriers, no bibs, no blankets, no clothes, nada. We were done. We gave it all away. Which I had heard is a surefire way to get yourself a surprise baby, but I just chuckled at it. Let me be a PSA for you here, don’t get rid of the baby stuff until you go through menopause. Just to be sure. Thankfully, what we do have are plenty of friends and family with small children who have lots of goodies to pass along to us. I’m so grateful for the kindness of our “village” right now.

And the real kicker: it’s a girl. A GIRL. No more Boy Mom Dot Com here. I mean, a girl is wonderful. So exciting. I’m happy about it. But, with boys, I knew what I was doing. I have no idea how to raise a girl. Especially in these crazy times we live in. Thank goodness for the big, wide Internet parenting community.

But anyway, it’s happening. I have definitely felt pregnant. Mega morning sickness, the worst of all my pregnancies. I was showing by 8 weeks, so fun when you’re not ready to tell people yet. You just look like you’ve been hitting the chocolate Hostess Donettes too hard. Which I had. So, fair enough. I have also been so tired, I nearly nod off at red lights. And gassy. GOOD. LORD. I have made a lifestyle out of crop dusting entire aisles at Target.

Cravings have been coming and going. Previously when I’ve been pregnant, I’ve avoided lunchmeats and fish totally grossed me out. This time? Give me all the sliced turkey and fish you’ve got. I know, I know. But I’ve been craving protein like mad. And turkey sandwiches were all I could stomach for several weeks. Cravings for sweets come and go. With Bowie and Ferris, I couldn’t stop with the sweets. It was all I wanted. This time, meh. Food turn offs include anything lemon flavored (but oddly not lemons themselves) and French fries (I KNOW!).

So, I’m 15 weeks and doing fine. Except for the occasional freak out about doing this all over again. And having more kids than parents in our house. Stick around, because it’s about to get very exciting over here!

 

 

 

I am the Face

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. And I always try to write a little something about that. Why do I write every year? Because every day, more and more women experience this loss, and I know that in the early days after my own miscarriage, I was desperate for information and desperate to know I wasn’t alone.

I never considered myself a candidate for a miscarriage. I was incredibly misinformed, and I had already had one normal, healthy pregnancy. I think it’s fairly common for women to not know it’s a possibility, and also to think that it’s rare and that no one wants to hear about it or talk about it.

So, I write. I write to let women know that you’re not alone. You’re not responsible for what happened. And there are those of us out there that are glad to listen and willing to talk. And also to let you know that you are free to grieve for as long as you need, and that no matter what happens, you will never forget the baby you lost. My miscarriage was over 5 years ago now, and I still think about that baby every single day. This is normal, and totally fine. But also, you will learn to move on, to put the loss behind you and live life again.

Take time out of your day today, or any day, and think of your friends who have gone through a loss. Give them an extra hug. And send your most positive vibes out for those women you don’t necessarily know, and those who suffer silently.

iamtheface_boy

Some Tidbits

I couldn’t come up with a whole post, so here’s some Cliff’s Notes on things right now.

1.Ferris is having trouble adjusting to his new school. Every morning at drop off it’s like I’m leaving him forever and moving to Venus. He cries and carries on, and I have to slither out of the gate while a teacher holds him back. It sucks. It has been better lately, but it still sucks. He is used to the co-op where I worked there at least one day a week, usually more, and I’m not there at all now, plus he’s there for twice the amount of time each day than he used to be. I could get him at noon if I wanted to, but I’m trying to be tough, it’s better for both of us. It’s a good school, I know he’s in good hands, and he’s always in a good mood when I pick him up. If we could just get the drop off to go a little more smoothly. Open to suggestions.

2. Bowie was made to leave school early on Thursday because he was gesturing at other kids with scissors and then with a sharpened pencil. So many things about the situation bother me. But mainly 1. While there is no excuse for behavior that puts other kids in danger, I know that often he does it because he is being provoked in some way. And because he is so sensitive, sometimes the provoking is probably pretty subtle, and a teacher doesn’t notice it. But rather than investigate the situation, they just punish him. 2. Sometimes he does this kind of stuff and thinks he’s being funny, and just needs it explained to him that it’s not funny and he needs to be more respectful. And because he was given a warning after the scissors, and then the pencil thing happened, I have a feeling no one sat him down to have a conversation with him. It’s a small school with a bunch of teachers, it can’t be that hard to have someone sit with him for a minute and hash it out. 3. I understand that a school has rules and we all have to follow them, but it is their responsibility to watch after him while he’s there, and I feel like they dumped the discipline on me, and didn’t do a thing about it. As I said earlier, I doubt anyone had an actual conversation with him, it was more of a robotic response. And sending him home in the middle of the day? That benefits no one. Ugh, in the end I know what he did was wrong and rules are rules. But just, ugh.

3. We got a new kitty! As if life around here weren’t hectic enough, we added to our happy family. His name is Wrigley, and he’s 5 months old, and he loves to play, and he follows Coco around like a big sister. He fits in perfectly with our crazy family, and it makes me feel happy to have adopted an animal. My kitty Nashua who passed away in 2013 was a farm cat, a gift from my Great Aunt. And Coco was found in a tree. So I’ve never done the dirty deed of buying a cat, but I had also never adopted before. And he had just recently been surrendered by someone, and I just felt so bad for him, probably wondering why the heck he ended up there. It’s nice to know we’ve given a deserving animal a good home.

wrigley

4. I am getting more and more used to life here. But the weather still eludes me. When it’s hot, it’s so very hot. And when it rains, it pours and floods the city. And now we’re supposed to pay attention to the dew point to figure out when we need AC. The dew point! I don’t even know what that is, but now for some reason I care about it now. And even when it’s not that hot out, the sun still blazes like nowhere I have ever lived before. So, it’s stay inside, or slather myself in sunscreen like I’m going to the beach. Because, well, melanoma.

5. Go Cubs.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

 

 

Smelling Those Roses

This time of year is odd. On the one hand, it’s summer. The kids are home and free, and the weather is nice (albeit hot here) and there’s lots of fun stuff going on.

On the other hand, school is right around the corner. It starts August 4th here. And once school starts, another year of my kiddo’s lives zips right past us. All the pick ups and drop offs and homework and field trips, and then the holidays and there’s no stopping the freight train that is time when school is in session.

I try to slow down and enjoy the days that we have. But the boys are fighting incessantly, and it’s to hot to go and do many of the things we want to. I’m simultaneously willing the school year to start, and not wanting it to at all.

The Timehop app on my phone shows me pictures from long ago, when Bowie was just a baby and a toddler. And I can’t believe how fast the time has gone, and how big my kiddos are now. Even in pictures from only one year ago, they seem so small in comparison.

People often talk about what the hardest parts of parenting are. Having a newborn. Successfully breastfeeding. Getting kids to sleep through the night. Getting them to even just lay down at bedtime. Making sure they eat healthy. Keeping siblings out of each other’s hair. But I think when we really boil it down, it’s how quickly they grow up. It happens in the blink of an eye.

Every day they rely on us less and less. And eventually, they will rely on us very little, if at all. This is the way of things, of course. We did the same thing to our own parents, and they to their parents, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

So, here’s to slowing down. Enjoying every moment. Playing Legos with them, letting them splash in the bathtub a little longer. Because these moments are fleeting. Gone in a flash. And even a good old fashioned sibling WWE match can be funny and memorable if you’ve got the right mindset.

You’ve Got This

We all want to be a perfect parent. Some of us even already think we are. We do what we self-righteously believe is the right thing to do, in any given situation, and sit smugly at the end of the day, basking in our brilliance.

Or do we?

I think the more likely scenario is that we’re thrown situation after situation that we’ve never had to deal with, nor have we ever thought we’d have to deal with, day in and day out. And we sit in a panic at the end of the day, wondering if we handled all of those situations perfectly. The way a perfect parent would.

The inherent problem in trying to be a perfect parent is that there are so many different choices you can make and still be a “perfect” parent. Breastfeeding? That’s perfect. Bottle feeding? That’s perfect. Co-sleeping? That’s perfect. Crying it out? That’s perfect. Homemade baby food? That’s perfect. Store bought baby food? That’s perfect. See what I’m getting at here?

We make choices for our children that we feel are the right choice at that time and for that child. And so long as we have our child’s best interest in mind, and are not causing our child harm, that makes us a “perfect” parent.

Another problem with this perfect parent business is that we aren’t consistent. Those of us with more than one child know that you aren’t the same parent with your second child as you were with your first, and so on and so on for subsequent children.

For instance, I breastfed Bowie until he was 13 months old. I made about 90% of his baby food at home. I started solids at 7 months. I started potty training at 18 months.

I breastfed Ferris until he was 8 months old, at which time he self-weaned, and I formula fed until he was 1 year old. I made about 20% of his baby food at home. I started solids at 4 months. I started potty training at 2 1/2 years old.

Each child is their own little puzzle. They’ll be ready for different things at different times. You’ll have more time and more attention to devote to some things than other things, especially when baby #2 comes along. And each child has their own personality. Bowie has SPD and requires a little more attention and patience sometimes. Ferris is more daring than Bowie, and was doing things at 18 months that his 5 year old brother was still too scared to try. You have to treat them as individuals, and hard and fast parenting rules don’t work.

Most of the judgment of other parents, I feel, comes from the newbie crowd and the childless crowd. Someone who has no children of their own, yet has a pretty good idea of how things are supposed to work. Or, a mom with her first infant, with a whole long list of things she deems right and wrong for parenthood, without the actual experience to back up her claims. Parenting is one of those things you are not prepared for until you are in the thick of it. In the trenches, wiping poop off of your own face, trying to calm a screaming baby in a crowded public place, balancing a baby on your hip as you wipe a toddler’s butt, having all your lovingly homemade baby food spat back at you, running after your toddler at the zoo, the park, the museum, helping your Kindergartener with homework, being begged for the 100th time for a cookie you’ve said no to 99 times.

It is in these moments that you make certain decisions. Decisions you didn’t previously think you’d make. Jarred baby food, formula, delayed potty training, kid leashes, fast food, bribery, all those things you swore off, they suddenly become very attractive offers. And you decide that in life, there is give and take, weak and strong moments, and you know everything’s best in moderation. So you do what you have to do to survive, to stay sane. And that makes you a perfect parent.

A Letter to my Sons as I Move them 800 Miles From Home

Dear boys,

I moved around a lot when I was a kid. I moved every single year in grade school. New school, new neighborhood, new friends, new everything. Every time we moved we had to start all over again. Sometimes I had to give away pets, which was so sad.

I also moved a bunch of times in middle school and high school. We just changed houses in the same city, but it came with a lot of the disruption of a long-distance move. And I switched houses every year in college.

I always told myself I would find a place I loved living and never leave. And I found San Francisco. And it has been the most amazing 10 years of my life. This city is amazing, and I felt so fortunate to be able to be raising my family here. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one city, and I consider it to by my home.

The one caveat to living in such a great city is that it costs so much. We are throwing so much money at food and rent alone, it’s a miracle we have anything leftover for other stuff. And we looked into buying a house here. Hahahahahaha. Not only would it cost us in the neighborhood of $1 million, but we’ll still be living on top of each other in one of these tiny row houses.

So, mommy and daddy decided to expand our house-buying horizons, and now we are moving to Tucson. Which you guys seem totally stoked about, but I’m afraid for the feelings that will come when reality sets in for you. And I’ve got all these childhood memories flooding back to me of how it felt to move. To be the new girl once again. To have to make a new room mine again. To have to get used to a new city’s way of doing things.

I’m sorry to be moving you to a new city. San Francisco is where you were born, and the only home you know. And I hope you’re old enough to remember how awesome that was. But, Tucson is great too. And you’ll find lots to do, and tons of new friends to hang out with.

I understand now how my mom and dad felt each time we moved. How hard it must have been for them to uproot us all those times. But, they were following opportunities, and they knew they were making the best decision. And as parents, that’s all we can do for you guys really, just close our eyes and jump into the abyss and hope this is really as right for our family as it feels right now.

We are going to make the absolute best of Tucson. It’s a fun place to live, very vibrant and beautiful. We are going to make new friends together, we are going to find our new favorite restaurants and parks and museums. We are going to get a new library card and find a new swim school. We are going to be able to do what we do here, it will just be a little different at first. But we’ll get the hang of it.

Let’s also try to enjoy our last three weeks in San Francisco. Let’s go to all of our favorite spots and say goodbye. Goodbye for now, because it’s not as if San Francisco is going anywhere, we can and will visit.

It’s going to be awesome, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. I love you guys.

Mom

Someday You’ll be Taller Than Me, But I’ll Still Hug You When You Cry

Bowie is about to turn 8. And most of the time he’s pretty grown-up acting. He mostly doesn’t need help in the bathroom anymore. He can shower himself, dress himself, and do a lot of his own homework. He can even make himself certain foods.

But, there are still those moments when something in this cruel world didn’t go away, and I find myself hugging my crying baby once again.

I thought the other day, as I just thought about how fast they grow, and the genetics of my family, and how more than likely my sons will both be taller than me. Before I know it.

And I want them to know:

I will always hug you when you cry. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be embarrassed. If other people shame you, come find your mom. I will always be there for you to let you cry, to support you, to offer advice when you want it.

When I brought you into this world, I took on the role of mother, a role that never ends. I am your mom forever. Even if something happens to you, even if something happens to me, I will always be your mom.

And right now, you are small. Coming to me for a hug when life sucks comes pretty naturally. But as the years go on, you will come to me less and less. But, I hope you never stop coming to me when you need me. You’re never too big or too old to get a good comforting hug from mom, to cry on mom’s shoulders, to get the love you need when the world isn’t giving it to you.

Someday you’ll be taller than me, but I will still hug you when you cry.

The Way Things Are Supposed to Be

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, my older son Bowie has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). He’s also emotionally volatile and fragile, likely as a result of his condition being misunderstood for so long, but he’s also just a sensitive guy.

My husband, my younger son and I spend a good deal of time just negotiating life with Bowie. Handling outbursts. Avoiding outbursts. Trying to give him everything he needs and deserves to be happy, healthy and successful.

I think, for the most part, we’ve grown accustomed to it. Often people passing us on the street mid-breakdown are astonished at his behavior, and that we appear to be so nonplussed by it. But there are those days when he has one too many breakdowns, and our nervous systems just can’t handle any more. Or, we get a lecture from a stranger about what a shit job we’re doing raising our shit kid. And then I just lose it. My husband appears to hold up okay, but I bet he’s losing it too.

Our younger son Ferris is around the age now that Bowie was when we first started to suspect there might be a problem. And so far, Ferris doesn’t seem to exhibit and of those troublesome traits (knock on wood). He’s a much calmer, more agreeable child. Of course he throws fits, he is just three after all, but it’s nowhere near the level we were dealing with for Bowie.

I find myself sometimes alone with Ferris and thinking, this is how it is supposed to be. This is how it was always supposed to be.

I don’t have to worry about Ferris randomly punching another child. I don’t have to worry about him yelling, “Fuck you!” at another child, or at me. I don’t have to worry that he’ll bite another child, or another parent. I don’t have to drag him kicking and screaming from a crowded public place because he’s completely overwhelmed. I don’t have to worry that he will head butt my face, sock me in the eye or kick me in the teeth.

Yes, Bowie actually did all of these things.

It’s the trouble with having your first child be a child with special needs. If you have another child, you get a glimpse into what a “normal” kid is like, and the whole special needs situation that you thought you had the hang of suddenly seems so very abnormal. 

It’s not that I wish to change Bowie in any way. He is my son and I love him 100%, difficulties and all. I never let my brain get to that place where I start to wish he were different. I stop those thoughts dead in their tracks. Because that’s not how I feel.

Sometimes I just wonder what life would have been like for us, what life could have been like for Bowie, if we weren’t dealing with SPD. It would have shaped our family so differently. But would that have been a good thing or a bad thing?

And how do people cope with larger issues? Bowie’s SPD is no walk in the park, but it’s pretty low on the scale of special needs in kids. What is it like for people who have it a little harder than us? I feel like I should just be grateful that Bowie is difficult, yes, but manageable.

I’d love to hear from other parents of kids with special needs. Or people who are friends with them. Do they ever get caught up in this “what if?” thinking? And do they feel mass amounts of parental guilt because of it? Is it taboo to talk about your other child(ren) as “easier?”

Just some stuff I’ve been musing on lately.

boys

It’s the Most Modest Time of the Year

When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money. The holidays were simple. Great! But, simple. My mom and dad always did their best, and we always had good gifts.

It wasn’t just Christmastime that it was like that. We ate simply, and I argued with my mom every single year when it was time to get back-to-school clothes. But, the hot pink dress flats! All the girls in my class will have them!

We have a lot more money than my parents did. But, I want to raise my sons to know there’s more to life than possessions. I feel like I grew up with an appreciation for things. With the ability to wait and save up for things I really wanted. How to tell the difference between something I wanted and something I needed. I know the value of a dollar.

In today’s world, this is an all but forgotten concept. Especially in the United States, kids are raised to think they can have anything they want, and be surrounded with stuff. Hardly anyone tries to raise their kids to be happy with what they have, and to be happy with less.

We keep the toy box half empty. They don’t need every single toy they see on TV. And they don’t need 1,000 different things to keep them happy. A set of blocks, a few Matchbox cars, a train set, some art supplies. This fosters creativity, and a true appreciation when we do introduce a new toy. After a while of getting all the toys they want all the time, receiving a gift begins to lose its meaning.

It’s not that I don’t want to shower them with a ton of gifts. I love my children with all my heart, and want them to have more than I did when I was younger. But, that doesn’t mean there can’t be a balance. Good, nice gifts, but not every toy on the shelf. More presents than I got as a kid, but not a gigantic pile under the tree.

What’s your philosophy? Do you get your kids new stuff all the time? If you can’t afford to do that, are you sad that you can’t get more? How do you talk to your kids about money/consumerism?