34 Weeks, 113 Degrees

It got to 113 degrees today. And I stayed in air-conditioning for most of it, but holy hell. It’s hot. Even now, as I prepare to publish this, it’s 7pm and still 110.

And I’m GIGANTIC.

I am 34 weeks pregnant today. I am measuring 36 weeks, according to the OBGYN. I am huge, and I’ve gained a lot of weight. I’m sweaty. All the time. I guess the technical term for it is “glowing,” but I’m sweaty, y’all. I’ve got serious brain fog from heat, and hormones, and the stress of keeping my other two spawn busy while they are not in school.

We’ve almost got everything that we need, thanks to our wonderful, generous friends and family. I forget sometimes how far our village reaches, but have been reminded. I didn’t have to buy a stitch of clothing for her (well, I did, obvs. but I didn’t have to), and what we didn’t receive in a care package of hand-me-downs delivered right to our door, we received from our Amazon wish list, almost to completion.

All we need to buy is a carseat. Ha! That’s like the ONLY thing you need to take a baby home with you. You don’t even need diapers or clothes if you can’t swing it, but a carseat you need. And that’s the one thing we don’t have! I have begun to set up a few things. We got a new dresser and I set up a diapering station on it. And I gave baby girl the top drawer all to herself. So, I’m emerging from total denial. See, here’s how an unplanned pregnancy goes. Well, for me at least, and I’m betting a whole lot of other mamas who got surprised.

Month 1: nope.

Month 2: nope.

Month 3: I can start telling people, but it’s not really happening. Nope.

Month 4: nope.

Month 5: nope.

Month 6: Ok, maybe there’s something in there.

Month 7: There may or may not be a baby coming. I can’t say for sure.

Month 8: Well, crap.

So, it’s been weird preparing for her, all the while sort of denying that any of this was actually happening. It felt theoretical. Hypothetical. But nope, she’s real. She’s real and she kicks the crap out of my ribs, and punches my bladder, and gets the hiccups in the middle of the night, and she’s coming, and everyone in her life is thrilled. Yes, even mama, finally.

Yes, once I re-learn how to breastfeed, and diaper her, and make sure she’s the right temperature all the time (because, see, this information was removed to make room for 3rd grade math and preschool snack days and the main roads in Tucson) I’m sure it will be a joy, just like it was when her big brothers came into my life.

Anxiety-wise, this has been one of the most difficult times in my life. Just when I start seeing a psychiatrist here in Tucson, just when I begin to make progress with CBT, and continue to be successfully sober, I get this giant bomb dropped on my whole life. It set me back, WAAAAAAAY back. But somehow I think I’ve come out the other end, mostly intact. Yes, I realize the hardest days are in front of me, but I’ve got a good set of safe coping mechanisms and the love of my friends and family to see me through.

I’m hoping she comes early. I’m getting an early vibe. I’ve been having contractions like crazy (I mean, the fake kind, and not in any regular pattern, but contractions nonetheless). And if my trend of having babies continues, my 36 or 37 week appointment, whenever they do an internal exam, will put me into labor. And she’ll be out in like, an hour. But, we’ll see. All babies are different. She’ll come when she’s ready.

(Which better be early.)

Thanks for seeing this thing through with me.

34 weeks

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.

My Meds and Me

This is a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time, but I haven’t been able to figure out where to start. But I was reinspired this morning when I read this piece. A fellow mom in the trenches, chastised on social media for using medication to balance her mood.

I take an antidepressant and, on occasion, an anti-anxiety medication. Which frankly I find harder to admit on here than I did to admit I was an alcoholic. Because that’s just how stigmatized mental illness, and medicating mental illness, is in this country.

Now, anxiety is not a cop out, not some new diagnosis I’m trying out. Some of my earliest memories are of being anxious about something. A thunderstorm, having to hug grown ups I didn’t know at church, the health and well-being of my infant brother, even death. Yes, at four years old, I feared death. I won’t forget this memory. My parents were watching that TV show Fame. And in the theme song, it is declared, “I’m gonna live forever…” Which, of course, they are talking about living forever because they will be famous and therefore remembered forever. But my four year old brain thought, “Can you live forever? You can’t, can you?” And suddenly, my first time struggling with the concept of death.

So, anxiety has always been there. The one constant in my life. And when I got sober, my counselors and psychiatrist worked with me to treat the underlying cause of the alcoholism. Which was mostly the anxiety, peppered with depression to keep things exciting. And I took the medication as a last resort. They kept offering it, and I kept refusing it. But, you might remember from my story, I left rehab and almost instantly relapsed, and I was willing at that point to try any goddamned thing to help. And as it turns out, the medication helps. A lot.

And the medication makes me a better mother, not a worse one. In the article I mentioned at the beginning, the woman got endless negative comments about what a terrible, pill-popping mother she was. How selfish and irresponsible. And I take heavy issue with that. My kids don’t need me moping around the house all the time, struggling to find the energy to take a shower, dropping them off for school and saying goodbye with that hollow, far-off look in my eyes. They need me here, present, happy and capable of my mom duties.

And, as the woman also says in the article, the use of alcohol to “deal” with parenting is applauded and celebrated. You can’t get through one Facebook scrolling session without seeing a half dozen of these memes. “Mommy needs her sippy cup.” “Is it wine o’clock yet?” And the photo I see every mother’s day of a chalkboard sign outside what I assume to be a liquor store, urging patrons to buy their mom a bottle of wine because, “You’re the reason she drinks, after all.” I started collecting screen shots of these memes, to share with this post, but I had to delete them all off my phone, they were making me uncomfortable.

And honestly, I think my addiction took such a strong hold because I was caught up in this culture. I thought I was fine because I was just like everyone else. And I bet there are moms out there right now who think the same thing, but really need help.

I couldn’t even get myself to watch that new movie Bad Moms because of the party scene in the previews. I mean, this is the idea of what moms would do if they gave up trying to be perfect? Had a night to do whatever they want? Throw a kegger? The whole idea makes me sad.

I’m not condemning drinking here. Go ahead and have that glass of wine if you want to. But if you feel like you need it, then maybe think twice. And have compassion for those of us who struggle, and leave the picture of the coffee mug that says, “There’s a chance this is wine” off the social media.

And if you think you need meds, if a medical professional thinks you need meds, by all means take them! You will be helping yourself and your sanity, and some of us just need to exist this way. It’s not a crutch, it’s not a fad, it’s not weak, it’s what must be done. And let’s do away with the double standard here. A mom drunk on wine is more fit for motherhood than a mom that takes a Xanax once in a while? I don’t think so. And you know that’s not true, I know you do. So, why all this love surrounding motherhood and drinking on social media?

No, when I was finishing a bottle of wine a night, I was not being fun and blowing off steam and taking the edge off of parenting, I was fostering a terrible habit and putting myself and my children in danger. And when I take my medication, I am setting myself right. I am putting my brain in the right mindset. I am a better person for it, and will no longer apologize for it or feel ashamed for it. The article I read this morning has empowered me to feel proud that I’m doing something good for myself and for my family, and no amount of berating will make me feel any differently.

Take good care of yourself, my friends. If I learned nothing else through the process of recovery, I learned that we have but this one life to live. One chance to do it right. Make good choices, choices you can be proud of. Take care of yourself, no matter what that means. And treat other people with respect and give them their dignity.

There’s Nothing to Worry About

Anyone who knows me knows my love for the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I don’t watch it that often now, but when I was a teenager I watched it probably 100,000 times. Besides my love for the beautiful and wonderful Audrey Hepburn, there’s just something so earthy and real about the story, and aside from the whole Mickey-Rooney-playing-a-Japanese-guy thing, it’s a perfect movie.

There are so many great lines from that movie, I quote it all the time. Like this little scene,

Holly: What do you do, anyway?

Paul: I’m a writer, I guess.

Holly: You guess? Don’t you know?

Paul: Ok, positive statement, ringing affirmative, I’m a writer.

I like that because it’s basically the same conversation I have with anyone who asks me what I do. I don’t feel so phony and useless knowing every other writer has the same insecurities. I have titled my writing Pinterest board, “I’m a writer, I guess.”

Oh, and:

Holly: It should take you exactly four seconds to cross from here to that door. I’ll give you two.

BAM. Do you know how many times I’ve wanted to say that to someone, but didn’t have the courage? I love it.

Anyway, there’s one bit of dialogue that sticks with me always.

Holly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?

Paul: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?

Holly: No, the blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re very afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?

The first time I ever heard that dialogue I was like, “YES! Yes, Holly GoLightly, I get that feeling. I know EXACTLY what you mean!”

It just occurred to me that what she is talking about is anxiety. The kind of gripping and terrifying anxiety that I face, and many other people face, on a daily basis. The kind of anxiety that stops you in your tracks and makes you forget all about whatever it is you were doing. The kind that fills your head with panicky thoughts and makes you want to hide under the covers. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of.

And the worst thing a person can say is, “There’s nothing to worry about.” God, I hate that. I want to slap people when they say that to me. I know there’s nothing to worry about. That’s why I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that’s making me anxious, because it’s nothing. If I knew what it was, I could deal with it and move on. But that’s the ugly blackness of anxiety. You’re just anxious. No rhyme, no reason, just sweaty palms, a fluttering heart, and the feeling that something, something is about to go wrong. The mean reds.

I wish I had known 20 years ago all the things I’ve learned about my anxiety in the past year. For one thing, that I have an anxiety disorder. Because I wouldn’t have spent so many years hating myself for feeling panicky and off all the time. I’d have given myself a damn break on those days I didn’t want to leave the house, but forced myself to anyway. I would have given myself more permission to be a little irrational. I would have stood up for myself to all the “There’s nothing to worry about.” and “You’re just too sensitive.” No, shut up, I have a real disorder. This is real. Why don’t you try helping me instead?

Anxiety is a monster. And I let it run my life for way too long. It’s better now because I have a better picture of what I’m really dealing with, but I’m still not in control. I still don’t know fully how to prevent a panic attack, or really proactively deal with one when it comes. I’m still full of what ifs. They can be small, like what if I don’t have fun? What if no one talks to me? What if I leave the oven on? What if I have to pee and there’s no bathroom? Sometimes they’re big, like what if I get hurt? What if the kids get hurt? What if the house burns down? What if there’s an earthquake? What if something happens to Brien? What if we lose all of our money? What if what if what if. I can’t turn them off, they have a lot of power.

But I try. I try to get through the day, and it’s better because I’m armed with a lot more tools than I had when I was 20. But it still sucks. It sucks feeling like such a weirdo for being so worried, and it sucks feeling like your chest could explode from the worry and it sucks holding yourself back from things because you’re too afraid of all the what ifs. Anxiety is real, and it has a grip on me, and others like me, and you just can’t understand unless you live it. If you know someone (besides me) who suffers from anxiety, give them a little hug today. Tell them you’re there for them. Ask them to talk out their worries. But, please oh please oh please don’t tell them, “There’s nothing to worry about.”

 

 

The Holidays, Anxiety, and Me

This time of year makes me crazy. No, scratch that, I’m pretty crazy all the time. But, this time of year really brings it out in me.

All the lights and trees and adorable snowmen make me happy. I like Christmas, I like the winter season and everything it brings. I like celebrating with family and friends. I like getting gifts, and even more, I like giving them.

But, there’s something about a year drawing to a close that gets me down. There’s a lot of pressure to make the next year better. To become a better version of yourself. And, I like to think every year will be a better year. Except…what’s coming my way? Will it be good or bad? Will it be scary? Will I be able to handle it?

Having recently been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), it all makes complete sense to me now. All those unexplained Christmas crying spells when I was a kid, sitting alone in the living room with only the Christmas tree lighting the room. All that holing myself up in my room all winter as a teen, instead of being with friends. All that relief I felt when school would start again in January, and I had less time on my hands to think. I get myself in trouble when I think.

As a part of my GAD, I also have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). A disorder that affects people specifically during this time of year. It is attributed to the lack of sunlight and shorter, darker days. So, it’s like adding fuel to already very raging fire. I’ve been told that “SAD is a bunch of crap.” I say, tell that to someone who suffers from it.

It helps to have kids. There’s nothing more magical than a kid at Christmastime. The wonder and excitement in their eyes as they dream about what Santa will bring. My kids don’t know the beauty of snow, and truthfully I never really liked the stuff. But, every year when the first flakes fly, it’s very magical and exciting. And the pure, unfettered happiness when they see a house all decorated with lights and wreaths and a big, shiny tree. With their help, I can see beauty in this time of year.

This year, armed with the knowledge that all my sadness and anxiety are due to chemical imbalances in my brain, I can relax and enjoy life a little more. When I start getting sad or panicky, I can recognize it for what it is and calm down. I have found ways to make life easier on myself–minimizing Christmas shopping, keeping the decorations at a minimum, keeping the gifts simple and heartfelt, keeping get-togethers small.

There’s also the fact that 2015 was about as low of a year as one can have for me. While my anxiety still has me on edge about what 2016 has in store for me, I’m also very happy to welcome it with open arms. A whole new year, a whole new, blank slate for me to fill with happy things, new challenges, new adventures. 2015 is in the past, and that feels good.

I feel like holding hands with all of you, in one giant circle, and stepping into 2016 together. We can do this together. It feels less scary when I allow other people in, and work together to make things happen.

So, have a wonderful holiday season, and come with me to 2016. May it be the best year any of us have seen yet. No pressure though.

xmascard

“Worry is literally betting against yourself.”

Before I even had children, I was worried about how I would pay for their college education.

I’m serious.

I’ve always been a worrier. I worry about pretty much everything. Like, all the time. And, despite helpful tidbits of advice from non-worriers, such as “just stop worrying!” I still do. I can’t help it.

I’ve received a lot of help over the years for my worrying, really my anxiety, but I still tend to worry. A lot.

When I did have my first child, I was told by someone, or I read somewhere, that as a mother, “It’s your job to worry.”

But, I’m here to tell you that’s not true. It’s your job to enjoy their childhood before it’s gone. It’s your job to feed and clothe them, and provide for them. It’s your job to provide them with emotional support. But, it is not your job to worry. If you don’t worry, you’re not being a bad mother (or parent). You’re just a heck of a lot better at dealing with reality than us worriers.

Where did we get it in our heads that it was not only our responsibility to worry, but our job?! As if we were getting paid to be worried. If that were true, I’d be the richest woman on planet earth.

This is where helicopter parenting comes from: worry. Worry that they will fall down and get hurt. Even though when we fell down as children, our parents were like, “Are you bleeding? Don’t get it on the carpet.” Kids get hurt, it just happens. No amount of worrying will prevent it.

And we worry they won’t do well in school. When in reality, all kids do well in some subjects, and not so well in others, and it’s up to us to find the weaknesses and help our children in those areas. Not to accost the teacher and demand that they raise our child’s grades just because. We can help our children, but we cannot learn for them, and no amount of worrying will help us in that area either.

We worry about their health. But this too is pretty pointless. All we can do is take the proper precautionary methods, and the rest is up to the environment. We can try to shield them from germs, inoculate them against diseases, get regular check ups, watch for early signs of trouble. But, they will still get sick, regardless of our worry.

And of course we worry about providing for them. In a world where resources are growing scarce, and money isn’t always there when we need it, we worry that we can’t get what we need. But, there are resources if we really fall into trouble. All we can do is get through one day at a time, making sure we have what we need, and hoping for the best tomorrow.

Me telling someone not to worry is the very definition of the pot calling the kettle black. But I’m going to tell you anyway: stop the madness, stop worrying yourself sick. We can’t sit back and enjoy their babyhood and childhood while it’s here if we’re busy looking at what might or might not happen to them in the future. And we worry ourselves into a tailspin of negative emotions. We get so caught up in fear and worry that we start to be worried for other people’s kids too. And then it’s just too much.

Don’t let fear take over your life, especially not where your kids are concerned. Your job is to love them. That’s it, really.

worry

My Favorite Day

“What day is it?”
It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day,” said Pooh.” 
― A.A. Milne

I have been through the wringer lately, a story I will share with you another time. But, the experience has taught me to truly treasure the present moment. To open my eyes and take in every little detail I can, and recognize that once a moment is gone, it’s gone forever.

I tended to live in the past and the future a lot. I would constantly agonize or chastise myself over past events. I’d go over and over the event in my head, making a list of what I did wrong, what I could have done, what I could have said, how a different outcome could have affected my present day life.

And I’d do what’s known as “future tripping.” I agonize over what will happen to me and to my loved ones 10 years from now, 5 years from now, 1 year from now, in the next hour, whatever. And I was always in Worst Case Scenario mode. So, one moment I’m signing a permission slip for my older son to go to the museum, and the next, I’m imagining him having an untimely and grisly death in a giant bus crash. Ridiculous, I know. But, this is how my mind, namely my anxious personality, works.

I’ve learned how to deal a little better with all of that. To tell myself to just CTFD and sit with my feelings as I am having them, here and now. And to enjoy the precious time I have with my boys while they are young. I can already see that portions of Bowie’s “babyness” have gone away for good. He is maturing. Slowly now, but it will pick up pace. I can almost imagine him as a teenager now.

And as my boys have been on summer vacation, I’ve found myself wanting to flit and fly here and there with them, and just experience everything we can. Do what we want, when we want to. The moments are even more precious, now that I’m working part time. It’s only a few shifts a week, but that’s 3 or 4 bedtimes I’m missing, chances to wish them happy dreams and tell them I love them before they drift off.

I’ve learned outings with them don’t have to be huge productions. Full days at the museum, complete with dropping a small fortune on lunch there, and making sure to see every single exhibit.

These days, I’m content to sit and watch them run along the beach. Or go to the museum, see one thing, and when Bowie says he wants to leave, I say okay. Or we hit up the park with friends from school. Or we sit on the couch and read books together. This simple stuff fills my cup as much as any grandiose and overly complicated planned-out day.

And I’ve realized that it’s ok if they get dirty. If their clothes get dirty. If they have ice cream too close to supper time. If they fall asleep in my arms late in the day and I know bedtime will be a bitch, I let them snooze anyway. I soak up that beautiful moment and bank it away. I’d rather have memories of them laughing and having fun and being kids, than having to be the “don’t play in the mud”, “no sugary treats before dinner”, “it’s 7:oo, you should already be sleeping” mom.

A lot of people, especially older people, will tell you to “enjoy every minute” with your kids because “it goes by so fast.” Well, duh. But, this is about more than just my kids. It’s about enjoying moments with my husband. Sitting next to each other on the couch, making fun of Naked and Afraid contestants, sharing ice cream from the pint. This isn’t “special”, really, but I know in 20 years it sure will be.

And it’s about me too. Personal fulfillment. Not acting like a new day is something to be endured, but instead something to be enjoyed, and filled with purpose. I got a part time job. I have met new people. I enrolled in school to become a Vet Tech. I am reaching out to family more. I am making something of each day, and at the end of the day, I feel accomplished and satisfied. I used to feel like I was crawling to bed every night, and I didn’t know how I could get through yet another day. I read something somewhere (I can’t accurately give credit) that said basically that the phrase “tomorrow is another day” to a person with depression or anxiety is not a promise, but rather a threat. And I know that was true for me.

But, with the help of therapy, medication, supportive loved ones, and my will to carry on, I’m enjoying today. I’m not listening to yesterday and I’m not afraid of tomorrow.

my favorite day

 

Trust

I worry. I’m a worrier. I mean, I WORRY. To say I kind a fret about stuff is an understatement. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been tightly wound. Very anxious. Just pretty tense, for the bulk of my existence.

It’s a problem that has come to a real climax lately in my life, and I’ve finally reached out for some help, and some relief. It’s slow going. I mean, after white-knuckling it for 36 years, the habit can be hard to break.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a new part-time job. As it goes with most part-time positions, the schedule varies. And with school being out and all, sometimes it’s hard to finagle the whole child care thing. Sometimes my husband can be around, sometimes my sister-in-law can watch them, sometimes a fellow school parent can have a playdate. But, there are those days I need a sitter. And I’m shopping around for a regular one that we can afford.

In the meantime, I’m using one of those online services to book a sitter when I need one. Generally this has worked out well. But I always get that familiar worried gut, heart palpitating, can’t breathe feeling when I sign on to bring a stranger into our home and trust them to keep my kids safe and alive while I’m away.

The old me would have just said, “F it. I’ll just quit my job.” But, the new me, embracing life, working through my anxiety, relying on other people for help, I now say, ok let’s think about the reality of this.

On the site, you can see how many families this sitter has worked for. And how many of them really liked him/her. How many of them rehired him/her. You can choose one in your price range. You can ask the sitter questions before hiring them for the job. There have been safeguards put in place for me, I don’t need to worry about this to the extent that I am.

The other day, the sweetest most amazing gal showed up right on time (early, actually), learned my boys’ names right away and even started breaking up their brotherly-love scuffles before I’d even left the house. She was perfect. I asked her if I could hire her on as our regular, which she declined (dammit). But, it was such a relief. I went to work that afternoon walking on air, I was just so relieved that I could leave them in her care and focus on my own stuff.

I still worry like crazy when I have to leave them with anyone. But these sitters are actually better for my kids than I am. I mean, I sit at the park on my smartphone and lose Ferris half of the time. Sometimes I forget to cook them lunch until they ask for it. Some days we laze around the house instead of going to the park or the beach and blowing off some of their inexplicable energy. Sitters are great for all of that. They’re getting paid to look after your littles, and look after them they shall.

What about you? Do you get nervous about it or are you totally chill? Are you one of the types that didn’t hire a sitter until your child was like, 5? Are you a full-time working mom that relies on a nanny? I’d love to hear your childcare experiences, and if you can relate to my worrying.

The One Where I Kinda Bum You Out

I suppose if I’m going to hog this domain name, that I could actually blog once in a while. Thing is, along with all the hubbub and running around and preparations we make for the holidays, I’ve also got this looming dark cloud over me lately.

I am really out of sorts right now because recently, one of my favorite teachers from high school passed away at age 52 from breast cancer. I was a student of hers for many years, and she was a warm, wonderful woman and a great mentor. I had always meant to pop into the school and visit her, but never did. Something beat me to it: CANCER.

I think her death reopened something inside of me about my own cancer that I had locked up and buried deep, deep below layers and layers of myself. All of a sudden it hit me like a brick to the forehead: I have had cancer.

Living in the online world, cancer touches you from far and wide. I was reading that a blogger that I follow who was treated for stage 3 melanoma only to find out she had stage 4 ovarian cancer, has had her ovarian cancer return for the third time. And her story now has me really worried about the BRCA gene mutations. These mutations are commonly known as increasing a person’s likelihood to develop breast cancer, but can also mean increased likelihood of other cancers, including malignant melanoma. I don’t know if I’ve been tested for this mutation or not, I plan to ask my dermatologist if this was part of the blood work I had done in March. But, I would make it my (uneducated hypochondriac) guess that if you get cancer under the age of 35 then you might have the mutation.

So cancer has been on my mind lately. REALLY been on my mind. Not just because of these things, but also because I’m looking back at the last 10 years of my life and thinking of all the abuse I put my body through. I didn’t really take care of myself at all. Junk food, diet soda, alcohol, no regular exercise, heavy anxiety, all of this takes its toll. And only NOW am I realizing this.

I’m afraid I’ve done things to my body that I can’t take back, and can’t fix. Because my lymph node came back clear last spring, they ended up not giving me a full body scan. I did have a chest X-ray, so I know my lungs are clear. Which is a good thing. I also had a physical with my gynecologist over the summer, who said everything looked and felt fine to her. But I have the nagging, nagging, NAGGING feeling that they’ve missed something, overlooked something. Because I’m so young, they’re not looking hard enough, not taking things seriously. Of course, I’m way too chicken to go in and ask for the scan. Not only can we not afford it, with $3,000 left from our $15,000 owed out of pocket from the past 2 years, but also I’m afraid they will find something. Which, yes, of course, it’s better to be informed. But being informed means not living in ignorant bliss. Though I would not call my current state of being “bliss” either.

I think when they told me I had cancer, even though they had caught it in time, and it hadn’t spread, I’ve been treating that diagnosis as the beginning of the end. I am now headed to the end of my life. Rather than treating it as the new beginning that it should be. I know that kind of thinking isn’t normal, but I can’t really help it. I need to figure out how to change how I view life and death.

After the cancer diagnosis, there was the actual surgery, which was pretty much the beginning of the end of me breastfeeding Ferris (which if you’ll recall, I had to stop doing when he was 8 months, because he was confusing me with the bottle and biting me until I bled). And there was the false alarm, where the surgeon told me the melanoma had spread to the lymph node, only to call me a week later to say, “No, whoops, sorry about that. You’re good.” That was very difficult. And I’m still wondering, “Are you sure? ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY SURE?!”

I’m trying to focus on 2014. A new year brings new hope, new promise, new life. But, for a person with anxiety issues, a new year also brings new challenges, new problems, new struggles. I barely made it through this year. What if next year is worse?!

I have some changes in mind for 2014, things I can do to better myself and my life, and hopefully help the year not be worse than this one was. I’m trying to be optimistic, and I’m trying to dig myself out of the dumps, if only to not be such a bummer. I want to get the anxiety under control, I want to change the diet a LOT, I want to get past this depression, or whatever funk I’m in, so I can enjoy every day. Every hour. Every minute.

I knew a blogger that found out she had melanoma, and died just months later. I’ve been given a longer time than she was given. Knowing that I need to do more with my time is obvious, but actually following through without feeling so down and so sorry for myself is another game. A game I plan to OWN.

Thanks for sticking with me, folks.

 

 

 

Anyone Have a Pattern for a Suit Made of Bubble Wrap?

One of the hardest parts of motherhood for me is dealing with my anxiety, and trying to raise a child that’s not as anxious as me. It’s a constant struggle for me, trying to find balance between encouraging Bowie to spread his wings and try new things, and holding him back from potential dangers. And if I feel this way when he’s only 3 1/2, I don’t want to think about how difficult it will be when he’s 13 1/2.

The world is a big, wide, scary place with so many scary, scary things lurking around. But, it’s also a big, wide, beautiful, wonderful place bursting with new experiences, waiting to be had.

Kids have to go out into the world and experience life. But, they will inevitably get hurt, scared and disappointed. This is essential in the learning and growing-up process, but it’s hard for a mama to see her babies going through that. That quote that gets tossed around (and I’ve seen attributed to 3 different people, INTERNET. Ahem.) about parenthood being similar to having your heart on the outside of your body is no more true than when you talk about this. Your kid is sad, you are sad. Your kid is disappointed, you are disappointed. They hurt, you hurt. All parents know what I mean.

I know I should be nudging him forward, but my instincts, paired with my sometimes-crippling anxiety, brings out the protective mama bear in me, and I just want to be by his side, deflecting sadness and danger.

But I can’t! Not only is it impossible (we can’t possibly be everywhere at once) but it’s also not healthy. I don’t want to raise a nervous, clingy, anxious child. I really don’t want that for him.

Right now, I’m still working on finding the balance. REALLY working on it. But, the steps I’m taking are 1) letting him take more safe and calculated risks, which I know sounds like an oxymoron, but there is a way to do it; and 2) trying to teach him to think through his actions and imagine the possible consequences. He’s so young yet, but we talk through it. “If you ride your bike down the steps, what do you think might happen?”

Do you struggle with this too? What have you done to help find balance?