Sunday, January 25, 2015

Once upon a time, Daddy danced.

One of the highlights of Olivia's year is easily the Father Daughter Ball. I can never afford it but I always buy the tickets anyways because it's important to Olivia. Matt hates people, socializing, events, basically hates a lot of things in life, but he never has a choice.

He's always going to these things under duress because I say so. Because it's important for Olivia to feel like her daddy thinks she's the prettiest, most special girl in the whole world. Because that kind of thing is going to count later on.

So I spent the last of the money I had at the end of December to buy the two tickets and a dress for Olivia. Which, fortunately, she was able to use for Christmas and the holiday concert at school. And she was so excited to go to the dance and asked me every weekend how much longer until the dance.

The bummer is that I didn't have enough money to get her hair professionally done, so we did what we could with my embarrassing lack of hair styling skills. But her and Matt got all ready to go. The really impressive thing? Is that Matt wore a tie. Not even a clip on tie, but he watched a YouTube video on how to tie his own tie. (Because I cannot do it. I'm such a fail to wifehood, it's terrible.)
It'd kind of a tradition that Matt and Olivia go to the dance with our friends Chad and Kennedy. Chad's wife Tammy is one of my closest friends, so it's kind of cool our daughters hang out, despite the two year age difference. I made sure Matt had some cash because the girls have a thing about kiddie cocktails.
Olivia actually danced with Matt, more than once. He said he's pretty sure that she had a great time.
Olivia told me she had a great time with her dad, that he wasn't totally embarrassing, and she can't wait to go with him next year. 

While they were gone, Jackson and I went on a date. I wasn't feeling very good but Jackson was so excited about it and had been looking forward to it all week. I couldn't tell him we'd go a different day. So he decided that we would have dinner at Applebee's, and have two desserts. I convinced him that going out to a movie was lame, so we came home to make some cookies and I let him pick out a movie on Netflix. Which wasn't a movie, instead, it was two hours of Lego Ninjago episodes. I think he was pretty happy and he fell asleep on the couch, snuggled up with me. 

Next year, we'll have Penelope in the mix. She's too young to go to a dance, obviously, so Jackson and I will have to have a special mom and son date, even with a baby tagging along. Fortunately for me, Jackson is the best little boy who is easily the most adaptable. I just want to try really hard that each kid feels like they are the greatest thing to us ever. I feel like that'll be a struggle for a little while, but I'm confident we can do it. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

January 18.

I wasn't sure how I would write about it, I wasn't sure if I should, but then I thought it would be weird if I didn't acknowledge it, because it was a tough day.

So way back in June, I suffered a miscarriage. I chronicled what it was like to lose it in the days after. It would feel strange to not say anything about what it's like for the due date to come and go and you realize at that very moment, you could have been holding a newborn.

But you aren't.

And it's tough. It's really tough because I've gotten kind of a mix of responses to my posts.

1. You get the people who are absolutely, 100% sympathetic and kind and wonderful. They are there when it's tough and they don't try to minimize what it means for you to be going through it.

2. There are the "Oh, yeah- I've had those too. You'll be fine." group. I don't think they realize how awful that sounds, and they are probably trying to be really supportive and let you know that hey- shit happens, and you'll actually be fine.

3. Then there are the people who say nothing. Or they think I shouldn't share it, that it's something that should be handled in private. I don't really understand the reasoning on this point of view, and I wonder if it's only because it makes them uncomfortable, for whatever reason.

But here's what I learned: that it's important to share good things, and it's important to share bad things. There's always that fine line on social media where you hear about every terrible detail about a person and you realize you know more about the marriage of some loser you went to high school with than you do your best friend because it's just out there all of the time. Then there is the other end where people are practically pooping rainbows and they have the BEST kids and the BEST husband and the BEST everything and go on the BEST trips, several times a year, and Jesus did it all for them because isn't he just the BEST?!

I'm here to call bullshit on the rainbow poopers because I happen to know Jesus doesn't pay your bills, you're probably in debt to your eyeballs, your husband has days where he's a jerk too, and your kid is probably going to be a mean girl in high school.

So after mulling all of that in my head, I decided to share with you what it was like to see my due date come and go. Because it's all part of the process.

It was hard.

It was really hard when I realized that this was it. I knew it was coming and somehow I kind of spaced it out the couple of days before. I wasn't feeling very well and my level of exhaustion was high and I was already feeling low on life. I woke up that morning, feeling sick as hell, having contractions, and I hadn't had my blood pressure medicine in three days because I didn't have money for it, but it was my niece's baptism, so I was trying to rally.

I managed to rally and get the kids and myself to the baptism and while sitting there, I realized that it was January 18. And I started to tear up. I could feel Penelope moving, and I had Olivia and Jackson on either side of me. I left as soon as I could, and thankfully when I got home, Matt was just getting home. He got the kids some lunch and I went upstairs to lay down.

And I just cried.

It's weird how all of these months later and it feels all the same. It feels like I just lost that baby. The only solace I've had is that I've got my little Penelope just baking away, seemingly perfect in every way. I have nothing to be sad about. But it was hard. I think the worst thing was that Matt didn't even say a word. It didn't even occur to him that the day held any significance. I tried to talk to him about it but he's kind of an emotional mute when it comes to this kind of thing.

The nice thing is that every day it gets better. I know I won't always feel sad about this. I know someday, I will maybe not even acknowledge the due date. Maybe not the day I lost the baby. Which also makes me feel guilty, I feel like if I don't acknowledge it, it's like I'm saying that baby isn't worth it. Like it didn't mean anything, so easily forgotten.

So I am going to scrapbook the ultrasound photos I do have. I don't want that baby to ever be a thing forgotten. For the rest of my life I'll have to acknowledge that I had a miscarriage on medical forms. But it'll be OK. I'm going to be OK. Pretty soon, my days (and nights) will be so full of Penelope it won't hurt as much. Heck, with her due in May, maybe I'll be too exhausted to acknowledge the one year anniversary of my miscarriage? There's some optimism.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why am I crazy and talking about hypnobirthing and such?

I got two really good emails from readers that asked if I had two good experiences giving birth, why am I looking to do something that could be considered to be radically different?

And that's actually a really great question.

Anyone who knows me knows I am the furthest thing from a hippie. I enjoy processed foods, I think fresh fruit and vegetables tastes weird, I like pain medication, I think breastfeeding is definitely not for me because I like my sleep and dad should have to do something, and I have given my kids Happy Meals when they were one. Yeah, I gave BOTH of my kids Happy Meals since they were one.

The good news is we're all alive, healthy, and fans of chicken nuggets.

But this time around I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born which is kind of Rikki Lake's baby. Mostly because it was free on Netflix that weekend and I vaguely remember it being kind of taboo at the time and something about seeing Rikki's nipples.

(Side note: you do see Rikki's nipples. They are huge. Good lord.)


So I go into a lot of these hippie things with an open mind but I'm also very practical and I just think there are some people who go the all natural route just so they can lord it over other mom's like they accomplished something far more noble than just birthing relatively pain free. Same with the breastfeeding moms, not all certainly, but there are a few who just inherently think they are better because they do it and are exhausted all of the time. For me, I tried. I tried with Olivia but it became clear that I was going to feel like a dog laying on my side letting a baby have its way with my boob and I would get next to no sleep while Matt sleeps soundly. No, I'd prefer to make him do his duty as well.


So I watched the documentary and surprisingly enough, I really agreed with a lot of the highlights. I'll be honest, I still really feel like I got great care both times I've gone. I have a great OB who answers my questions and I really enjoyed almost all of my nurses and medical staff. I say almost because I totally had a bitchy, awful nurse when I came in for Olivia who was just rude and you could tell I was a pain in her ass at 1 a.m. Like how dare I go into labor. Which, I get it, I also was annoyed because I was tired and I'm not at my best when I'm tired. But overall, I really had positive experiences. Something mentioned in the movie was that no matter what, a woman will never forget her experience while delivering her child(ren), good or bad. And that's so true. I'm 9 and 7 years out and I can remember every detail of both births like it happened yesterday.

But what prompted me to try for something different was the piece about how, while in labor, your body starts delivering oxytocin to your brain and that basically is what signals your mothering instinct, so to speak, but it also gives you this natural high to help get you through the most crucial pushing phase but also this elation at the end.

And I feel a little cheated that I haven't had that.

With Olivia, I got my epidural as soon as I could because I was absolutely certain I was going to die. I had been dilated to 3cm at my last appointment (38 weeks) and I went into labor right at 39 weeks (on Labor Day no less!). So I was pretty excited to know that I didn't have to wait it out, I could get an epidural right away. I also wondered why would anyone willingly go through pain when you can be pain free? I slept through all of my labor, and then I was threatened with Pitocin because the nurse apparently never checked me and assumed that my peaceful sleep meant nothing had happened. Fortunately, Olivia is a champ and this uterus can get things done because she was crowning when they checked me and she was born minutes later. But I had NO idea what I was doing and she was a vacuum assist, and when they handed her to me I just felt... tired. I really just wanted to go back to bed and I wasn't sure why everyone on shows were all teary and emotional. I was just tired and annoyed that it was such a big deal.

I also then had a little more than a year with post-partum depression.

With Jackson, I ended up being induced on my due date with him because he wasn't moving as much as I felt he should (turns out he's just lazy) and they said because this was my second baby, I could just induce. Which was fine by me, I was ready to be done. But being induced is intense and I'll be honest, I would never do that again unless I absolutely had to.Those were hands down, the worst contractions ever. I got an epidural again and it was super. For an hour. Then that somabitch wore off. It wore off.

It wore the fuck off.

I delivered Jackson not longer later with no epidural helping me and I fully understand now when women scream that it burns and I know why there is mention of a "ring of fire" in pregnancy books. Because it honest to god feels like someone has lit your vagina on fire.

But the thing about his birth was that even though I was pretty drugged up, I felt a lot different than I did with Olivia. I was weepy and reluctant to hand him over and I felt like finally- I get, I get these cry babies on these shows because I am a cry baby!

This time my whole premise for going as intervention free as I can is because I really want to feel like I did it. That I told my uterus who is really the boss and feel like I've accomplished something. I want to feel what it's like to be high on love immediately after pushing a little bean of gooey cuteness out.

The only thing I'm really worried about is that the fact I'm already in a hospital will make it easier for me to just scream for an epidural when it gets tough. I really wish I could afford a birth center because I think that would really set me up for success. Sadly, I can't do that and they don't accept payments. I also can't afford to hire a midwife or doula to help me, so I'm stuck with Matt.

So that's my reasoning. It's not that I'm turning into a hippie. Don't worry. I am still going to be that mom who has her husband smuggle in french fries and Pepsi immediately after I give birth, rules be damned. I'm also going to utilize a nursery at night because this chick is already counting down the days of TWO NIGHTS of uninterrupted sleep, meaning I won't hear Matt snoring or have pets sitting on my face, etc. It's like a vacation. I'm so excited just for that. Even if my girl parts are drippy and sore for weeks. I mean, it evens out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Where Have I Been All My Life

Here's a book I was surprised I was interested in, but then found myself completely intrigued.

Where Have I Been All My Life - Cheryl Rice
Where Have I Been All My Life? A Journey Toward Love and Wholeness
Where Have I Been All My Life? is a compelling memoir recounting one woman's journey through grief and a profound feeling of unworthiness to wholeness and healing. It begins with the chillingly sudden death of Rice's mother, which is followed by her foray into the center of mourning. With wisdom, grace, and humor, Rice recounts the grief games she plays in an effort to resurrect her mother; her misguided efforts to get her therapist to run away with her (or at least accept her gifts); and the transformation of her husband from fantasy man to ordinary guy to superhero. In the process, she experiences aching revelations about her family and her past and realizes what she must leave behind, and what she can carry forward with her. Poignant, tender, and sometimes hilarious, Where Have I Been All My Life? is Rice's universally relatable story of how she found sustenance for the difficult but vital journey toward love and wholeness in an unexpected place: herself. 

It's kind of self help, self discovery, but it is absolutely and completely easy to relate to. It starts with Cheryl losing her mother to a really quick bout of cancer. It throws her for a loop, especially when it becomes her mother is basically over it and ready to go to wherever we go when we die. Cheryl has basically had her entire life revolve around her mother so losing her left her in a tailspin- who was she as a motherless person? I think none of us are ever really to lose a parent, much less a mother. No matter the relationship you've had with your mother over life, it's still a bit jolting to one day realize you no longer have her.

So Cheryl decides in order to save her marriage, which kind of starts waffling as Cheryl is working through grief, she starts therapy.  Except she starts falling for her therapist and of course, that's no ideal considering she's married. I really don't want to tell you more because it does kind of ruin the book for you, but know that you reading the chapters, which felt more like short essays, make you feel like you are on this journey with her. It felt wrong to laugh during this book because this is a woman who is clearly trying to find herself and is struggling, but I did. And Cheryl feels like that one friend we all have who always says they need to find themselves and we roll our eyes because who has? What does that even mean? Well reading this kind of brought that to a more concrete understanding of what that is, though I do still feel like it's a bit hokey.

Perhaps the most useful thing I took away from the book is to appreciate what I have, right now. Not worry so much about what I am missing from life, and not give any more time to things that don't matter. Basically, not dwell on the things that have been upsetting or have prevented me from living a good life now.

Cheryl has a website and actually leads seminars and you can get more information on that HERE. Honestly, if you are looking into a book that helps you look into yourself and not be too lofty but as an easy, fun read? This is easily it. It's under 200 pages, I whipped through it in an afternoon because she writes about heavy topics with grace and humor and makes it fun to read about her struggles. Which sounds terrible, but that's the best way to describe it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Relaxing is hard.

Do you remember I mentioned I wanted to try hypnobirthing this time around? Well I've ordered a book, which hasn't gotten here yet but I expect it to this week. In the meantime, I have a mp3 file of a hypnobirthing relaxation exercise that a friend told me was really helpful for her. So now that Matt has gotten it into my iTunes, I figured I would give it a shot tonight.

And it's really hard.

I decided the best place for me to do this and not fall asleep would be in Penelope's room and sit in the rocking chair with my feet up on the ottoman. I had the lights dim, the door shut, kids in bed, Matt was out walking the dog, and things were quite in the house. So I listened to the introduction, which seemed pretty straight forward. I then went into part one of two, which was getting yourself relaxed. Part two is supposed to get you more relaxed and help you while you are actually birthing.

It was actually a really soothing thing to listen to.I was really enjoying it. And then I realized I can't stop thinking about things. I can hear sounds in the house, pets running down the hall, Olivia's radio down the hall, the sound of cars outside, etc. It's really hard to just concentrate on relaxing. I'm wondering how the hell am I supposed to maintain this calm while I'm in a hospital bed, having contractions, nurses coming in and out and people talking? I will keep trying, maybe this gets easier the more and more that I do it?

In other news, at my appointment last week, I had asked if going to a labor and delivery class was worthwhile considering I have already had two kids. My OB laughed and laughed and said yes, absolutely go because enough has changed in labor and delivery practices in the seven years since I had done this that it certainly wouldn't hurt. SO, I grabbed a calendar and had Matt sit down with me to figure out when we could go. Ideally, we'd do the 9-5:30 Saturday class but since there isn't one in March, the one in April is really late. Late enough that I'd be beyond 37 weeks and could already be in labor. That leaves us with the two night class that goes 6-9:30 each night. Conveniently enough, this is during the kids' spring break, so I am hoping Olivia and Jackson can spend two nights at a Grandma's house so that we aren't having them stay up late waiting for us.

Also not awesome? The class takes place on my birthday and the day after. So... party. I hope the other preggies aren't offending if I'm eating cupcakes during the class. HA!

In other preparation news, I have started watching YouTube videos of births and people's commentary on birth and different techniques they used. And you know what I've learned? They are all horrifying.

If I was a first time mom, this would be the absolute worst thing to do. Thankfully this is my third time around so I do know what I'm in for. So I feel like my job in the next 16 weeks is to seriously work hard at preparing myself. The other thing is I feel like my labor team kind of is lacking. I do know that Matt really sucks in stressful situations and despite being my partner for 13 years, has absolutely NO clue how to read me or determine what I need. I've decided that isn't something you can even teach a person either, they either get it or they don't. So that's where I'm at. I'm basically going to try to get myself ready to birth alone, essentially. Sure, people will be there, but I'm going into this thinking I am basically on my own. Which is kind of daunting? So we'll see how this goes. But I'm hoping that once the book comes, the whole hypnobirthing concept will make more sense to me and I will be able to do this whole relaxation thing.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pregnancy depression update

Yes, I realize that last night I gave you an update on what pregnancy is like at 24 weeks, but I failed to mention depression. Just like I said I would, I did ask about it and what I should be doing. I'm being as proactive as I can because I know what it's like to be that depressed with a new baby and I really don't want to go there again. I really don't think it would be good for any of us.

So it comes down to yes, I could take a few different anti-depressants now and it would be totally fine for me and baby. After talking about it, I'm deciding to hold off for as long as I can. Mostly because while it's safe for baby and I, I'd like to not take something I don't absolutely need right now. I can still function and I'm not suicidal or crying non stop. Things aren't in crisis mode. They are in like, pre-crisis mode. I feel like I can manage what I'm already doing a little longer. I'm thinking maybe when I'm six weeks from my due date, maybe I'll start them then just so I'm not dealing with acclimating to a new medication immediately after birth.

But other than that, things really aren't better. They certainly aren't worse, thankfully. I get very frustrated with myself when I feel like this because I feel like I should just snap out of it. I fully understand it has everything to do with brain chemistry and biological things, but it doesn't mean I don't get impatient with myself. I do know that so long as I have my lists and I can keep plugging through them, it keeps me busy enough where I don't have times to wallow and get sad for no damn reason.

You know I worry about my kids every being this way. Between me and my issues, and Matt and his issues, I feel like I've doomed them to a life of depression and anxiety. It's kind of a terrible feeling, to be honest. But I'm trying to be upbeat and not be sad around them. I don't want them to think there is something wrong with me. At the end of every day, I feel like this weight just settles right on my chest. I get them all tucked in, stories read, and as I walk down the hall from their rooms it's like a cloud settles right on me. I'm trying to just ignore it and carry on, act perky and upbeat, and honestly- if this would qualify me for an Emmy, I'd have one by now.

So that's the plan. I'm going to keep plugging on for now and then probably start medication around week 32. That's not so far away, really. I'll be OK. Then hopefully once Penelope comes I'll be OK. I just really don't want post partum depression. I just don't know if I could handle that at all again. That was really one of the lowest points in my life and I feel like I missed so much in Olivia's first year. And after having Jackson, it was really obvious all that I lost. So here's hoping things get better. Or at least a little easier.

But you know what IS surprising to me? Is that I am exhausted. Every day, all day. I don't know if it's just the stage of pregnancy or if it's depression related. Which is annoying. But I am barely getting out of bed in the morning, I'm going to bed early every day, and even still, I feel like if I could just take a five hour nap during the day I would be just dandy. But no, I can't do that. *sigh*

Do you have any experience with depression during pregnancy? What helped you cope?

Fog Island Mountains

Here's a book review that even counts as something towards my 2015 Reading Challenge under "book set in a different country".

Fog Island Mountains - Michelle Bailat-Jones
Fog Island Mountains
What if you could rewrite a tragedy? What if you could give grace to someone s greatest mistake? Huddled beneath the volcanoes of the Kirishima mountain range in southern Japan, also called the Fog Island Mountains, the inhabitants of small town Komachi are waiting for the biggest of the summer's typhoons. South African expatriate Alec Chester has lived in Komachi for nearly forty years. Alec considers himself an ordinary man, with common troubles and mundane achievements until his doctor gives him a terminal cancer diagnosis and his wife, Kanae, disappears into the gathering storm. Kanae flees from the terrifying reality of Alec's diagnosis, even going so far as to tell a childhood friend that she is already a widow. Her willful avoidance of the truth leads her to commit a grave infidelity, and only when Alec is suspected of checking himself out of the hospital to commit a quiet suicide does Kanae come home to face what it will mean to lose her husband. Narrating this story is Azami, one of Komachi's oldest and most peculiar inhabitants, the daughter of a famous storyteller with a mysterious story of her own. A haunting and beautiful reinterpretation of the Japanese kitsune folktale tradition, Fog Island Mountains is a novel about the dangers of action taken in grief and of a belief in healing through storytelling.

If there was maybe an award for book with the least like-able character, this one would certainly be in the running. The book is set in Japan, kind of in the middle of some mountains and they have a huge typhoon heading their way so people are in various stages of storm preparedness. But it starts out with Alec, who is in a consultation room at a hospital, about to get some of the worst news anyone would get- he has terminal cancer. He was waiting for his wife, Kanae, to be at the consultation and take the news with him but she's seemingly a no-show. Instead, she's off being self absorbed and basically a terrible human being, and not realizing how her actions would impact Alec. 

Very strange thing about this book is that while it does offer different points of view from a cast of characters, instead of starting a new chapter like most books, it's like every few paragraphs it's a new character we're hearing from. Granted, we have some line spaces so you could figure it out, but for me it made it harder to read and I really felt like I was ping ponging between people. Also, the story is short, we don't even come in at 200 pages, so what should have been a fast read wasn't. Between the ping ponging and the almost poetic way it's written, it doesn't feel like a fast read at all, instead it feels as heavy as the material we're reading. It's certainly not an uplifting book by any means. 

I spent pretty much the entire book feeling sorry for Alec, who is facing the remaining time of his life and hating Kanae who despite being a highly intelligent person, makes a serious of terrible, selfish choices. It would be one thing if she was just holed up somewhere prematurely grieving the soon to be loss of her husband, who she very clearly loved. Instead, she's cheating on him and leaving him to face death alone. Some could say maybe her love for him was just so huge that the thought of him being gone was not something she could handle mentally or emotionally so she chose intimacy with someone else as a grieving process, but that feels just so wrong and selfish I couldn't wrap my head around it. I really couldn't find any sympathy for her at all. 

But what redeemed this book for me was Alec. His story of grieving on his own, his process through death, and every emotional piece of luggage that comes with it just pulls at you and you can't stop reading. It really is the car wreck you can't look away from. It really feels like as a reader, you have to be there with him to the end because his loser wife isn't doing the job, and nobody should face that alone. Not ever, not for nothing. 

So I teeter between a rating of "I liked it" 3 stars or "It was OK" 2 stars, because I'm really down the middle. So for that, I guess for estimation I would round up to 3 stars. But I tell you, characters like Kanae can really ruin a book and that was a pretty ballsy move for this author to take, because I don't know that many people would keep reading once they saw the writing on the wall with her.