Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Warts and All

I know I'm not coping well.  Life as a stay-at-home mom has been more difficult than I would care to admit.  Oh sure I can get dinner on the table, the house mostly straightened, and a few loads of laundry done with the best of them, but it's the mental work-out I miss.  Going from the Board Room to Board Books has been quite the transition.  I had a lot of assumptions about how life would be as a SAHM.  Actually "assumptions" sounds too unicorn and tulips.  How about "delusions?"

1)  My child will be normal or above normal.  Let's face it, every parent wants their kid to be the early talker, early walker, precocious problem solver with an early admittance letter into Harvard.  Seeing that H's Mom and Dad were on the higher end of the bell curve it was easy to assume our Mr. Man would be too.  Well, and whose to say he isn't.  However his theme song should be Mr. Rodgers "I Like To Take My Time."  H didn't crawl until he was 11 months, didn't walk until 17 months (literally 23 hours before the first physical therapy appointment), and we're still hanging on for his first enunciated word.  Although people mean well when they say, "Gee, I bet your little 12 month old is walking and getting into everything!"  You smile and say nope.  Inside you are beginning the running self-battery of, "If I was a better parent he would!  Maybe it's something I did/didn't do in or out of utero that's causing this.  What if I doomed him to special ed for the rest of his life?  Etc, etc, etc."  It's a pretty ugly feeling.  Oh we have speech therapy coming 1x/week, but we have had little progress and now they are talking about getting more experts weighing in on the matter.

2)  I am Freaking Mary Poppins.  Sadly I cannot turn medicine into cherry cordial or turn ordinary chalk drawings into animated singing sequences.  In fact, I've never prioritized my time to go to the fishmonger for a nice piece of cod.  We do play tidy up the house a lot to the point that H's favorite past time is to clean.  I literally right-sized the swiffer so he can dust the floors at will.  I suppose the best part of me not being Mary Poppins is no matter which way the wind shifts I'm still going to be here for him.

3)  We will be at play-dates or the library or the gym or the park every single day.  Um, no.  H has yet to see the inside of a library and he's just barely getting into the swings at the park.  Surprisingly that outing only takes like 30 minutes of your day.  I tried extending it once by making it even more fun and getting ice cream.  I have learned it takes 2 parents to manage a 19 month old and a dairy loving dog on a hot day with sticky running goo.  Since we are a one car family and Mr Man has unpredictable naps there are days when we never leave the house.  I've learned I'm not Julie, the cruise director on the Love Boat.

4)  Surely child development is an innate skill.  Somehow I missed this.  While I elected to stay at home hoping to give my infant the 1:1 care and bonding I thought to be essential, I've learned that a toddler needs a bit more.  I'm not a child educator and cannot imagine making crafts or science projects or whatnot that is age appropriate and stimulating every single day.  I'm beginning to feel a bit out of my comfort zone and now worry that I'm doing a disservice to Mr. Man by NOT having him in a structured daycare.  (Re-read #1 and add that last line to another ugly script running rampant in my head.)  On the other hand I watched the documentary "Babies" and saw kids in Mongolia and the savannah hitting their milestones without any age sensitive educational programming.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Morning Quarterback on All Hallows Eve

After moving to Wisconsin almost three years ago, the State and city of Milwaukee have continued to woo me with it’s blue collared roots, multicultural festivals, and amazing integration of nature into urban settings. I am smitten until the last weekend of October.

The idealized and romantic notion of trick-or-treating has been decimated. Charles Schulz is rolling in his grave. I have inquired several times to our native friends of why trick-or-treating has been sterilized to city ordained set times of daylight that appear to be randomly chosen (Saturday vs. Sunday) and never on the actual holiday. The answer is typically unsatisfying. School nights? Nope, because Sunday afternoon falls into that category of unfinished homework and forgotten permission slips. Crime is lower during the day? Perhaps, but isn’t the concept neighborhood watch based on community awareness? One would think a street filled with lit up porches and adults patrolling their front doors at the same time would exemplify this requirement. Besides, I have yet to see an increase of police patrolling in my neighborhood during the current set day and time. What really upsets me are the children who run from their families minivans en mass without costumes to my door while their parents sit in the car waiting to drive them less than a mile to the next block. A costume isn’t expensive. A sheet as a ghost or a super cape would be appreciated as a token of homage before I give you a piece of the “good” candy.

This year I played Monday morning quarterback once again about how I would have handled the parents who were trick-or-treating for their 4 month olds in strollers, the grandparents who came to my door because it was too cold for their grandchildren who sat in the car curbside, and the children who proudly said they weren’t dressed up as anything but gladly took my candy. This year I even had one 40 year old male come to my door without children or a costume. At least the teenagers who were too old to trick-or-treat donned a Scary Movie mask. The parents have missed the point of this holiday. I found myself playing judge; a role I loathe. The kids who wore costumes got better candy and more pieces. The ones who actually said, “trick-or-treat,” and had manners got even more pieces of sugary loot. While I would have liked to have not given any candy to those who offended me, I didn’t mostly because I feared the consequences of property damage all because I didn’t give them a Snickers bar. But the real reason I didn’t is because penalizing the children wasn’t fair. It was their parents who made the poor choices and were terrible role models of entitlement and working the system.

The first year of living here I actually applauded the parents who brought their children to the safer neighborhoods for trick-or-treating. I even reframed the lack of costume as a lack of monetary resources to my neighbor who has lived in the same house for 70+ years. Go, social worker, go! Last year I became disillusioned when the first group of trick-or-treaters consisted of teenagers who had the audacity of opening my front door and taking the whole bowl of candy until J chased them down the street and they dropped it. This year I became bitter and feared what kind of role model I was becoming for my son.

What should be a fun holiday of community celebration has once again brought out my latent societal judgment of what is just versus what is fair. Most importantly it illustrates how the racial and social class differences are thriving and how each of us contributes to the divide, even if it is only in our thoughts. This frightens me as I mold and shape my son's evolving world view. I have lived in more segregated communities either by faith (Salt Lake City), social economics (Boston), and race (New Orleans). Only in Milwaukee have I ever had the concept of entitlement between the have and have-nots reinforced so strongly.

It is my plea to the elite neighborhood societies who organize their members-only trick-or-treating and the cities who publish their staggered approved dates and times to return to the roots of Halloween where children dress up, meet their neighbors, and become the ambassadors of community unity on the actual holiday during twilight and early evening hours. Or maybe I should have a get-off-my-lawn moment and suggest that if they want to regulate tradition of day and times, why not add in age limits (like Virginia, Seattle, and Illinois) as well as a costume requirement.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cue the Beastie Boys

"Sabotage" may be my theme song, or so I fear.

This isn't a new topic for me, in fact, I've probably mentioned it a million times. Yes? No? If I haven't, it's only because I've written thousands of imaginary entries in my head about this topic. What might be called self-sabotage is what I like to call, "making life more interesting." But, unfortunately it doesn't. It just adds more problems I can obsess about which is not more interesting, but keeps the pharmaceuticals in business for my anxiety meds alone.

J and I have a host of expenses this month we were not exactly counting on hitting at once. Isn't this always the case? We had the renovation post-Rocky Raccoon's eviction from our garage (aka new roof). We are also finally painting the house in Salt Lake because our family painter/friend finally got an opening in his schedule after waiting 2 years. And we decided our house in Wisconsin also needed a fresh coat or two before the snow flies. And now we can wave buh-bye to the cushion in our checkbook.

The cushion has always been earmarked for one thing or another, but never spent. It also provided that false sense of security when making impulse purchases on Zulily or Amazon (damn those instant gratification websites.) Being psychotically optimistic, the large expenditures provided us an "opportunity" to actually construct a budget for the first time since residency.

Most of the day to day expenditures fall within my domain as Chief Family Officer. You know, groceries, vet bills, keeping H clothed, etc. Last week I offered to host a play date. Being budget savvy I baked a bunch of breads (banana, apple spice, and pumpkin chocolate chip) instead of buying snacks. Yea me!! But then I rationalized spending the money we saved on the vet bill and baking to then buy a bunch of pumpkins, gourds, and mums to decorate our house for October. Booooo! (Pun intended for the season and self-judgement.)

Needless-to-say, J was not impressed with my choices. And well, neither was I. $80.00 doesn't seem like a lot in the grand scheme of these things, but $80.00 here and $40.00 there adds up to things that we could do like go on a family vacation or buy a second car or make extra payments to our debt. Here's the problem: like the cushion, we have all these wild dreams of what is possible without any solid agreed-upon goals with actual time-tables. So as a result we look at one another at the end of a couple of years and wonder why we have this great safety net and possibilities, but are still in debt without a second car. I know, total geniuses, right?

Because most of the day to day stuff falls on me, I have a tendency to take the blame unilaterally and begin to spiral thinking I am self-sabotaging. I realize I cannot control things like sending J to the store for just a jug of milk and he comes home with milk, two loaves of bread, some fun bakery items, dried cranberries, and a can of malted milk. Problem is, I also come home with random items like mustard because I can't remember if we have anymore in the cupboard and God forbid we run out of it while I'm trying to make something like a vinaigrette. These things add up and now we have random malted milk and two things of mustard cluttering up the pantry. We'll just shove those next to the beets that we haven't eaten in 2 years and the canned pumpkin just in case we want to make a pie one day.

This week, to atone for my budgetary indiscretion we are eating out of the freezer entirely. So far we have had homemade chicken pot pie, pasta, and frozen vegetables. It's been healthy, balanced, and economical. We won't be able to keep this pace up because we will run out of random leftovers even though J would like us to do this every week for the next 5 months. And because I will become very depressed just eating out of the freezer and pantry for weeks at a time. The pharmaceuticals don't have enough SSRIs to cover that kind of depression.

I have no idea what else we will have for dinner. I'm trying to figure out how to get creative with things we have left. For example, it can be difficult to make a coherent meal with things like frozen butternut squash, blueberries, fish, tiny servings of multiple wild rice mixtures, and a small thing of spiced beef. In all honesty, I may lose weight just because the potential creations of my options sound less than edible. But I'm proud to say we've only bought milk and bread at the store this whole week.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Why My Mom is Awesome, Reason #8762

Mom: "Well, I have to get off the phone now. I'm at the annonymous-get-your-mobile-on phone store. They see my red Jetta with the clergy sticker on and think, 'It's that crazy woman again.'"

Me: "What? Why?" Thinking, Mom should either buy stock in this company or have her own private reserved parking outside the store.

Mom: "Oh, I didn't tell you? You'll love this."

I'm wondering if the following story could be better than the Easter lamb story.

Mom: "I was showing the social worker at work how to use your phone to communicate with our Dutch lady who doesn't speak English and I accidentally turned it on to only speaking Spanish. I don't know the Spanish to turn it back to English and so I can't work my phone."

Me: "Only you." As I begin to calculate how many years it will take before I do something like this. I came up with 14 months.

Mom: "Oh it gets better. Somehow I also switched it so now the Angry Birds theme blares every time I turn my phone on. Needless-to-say, it was a bit disrupting for our conference call."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Better Late Than Never - Birthday Post

Drafted October 2010, Finished August 2011.

Somehow I have Diana Ross singing in my mind's jukebox. You know the song. You used to hit the roller skating rink to it with your neon jelly bracelets and side ponytails. "Upside down, boy you turn me, inside out, and, round and round." We had it on vinyl. Pretty hip for a wonder bread family in Utah.

It pretty much sums up my life ever since Mr. Man arrived. That was August 10th. Somehow I lost over two months in the meantime. Here's the fun story of how it all went down.

On August 9th at my 38th week appointment our beloved OB stated, "You know, tonight would be a good night to go into labor. I'm on call and it's my last call before I leave town. Did I mention I'll be out of town on your due date?" Yeah. Out. Of. Town. Not what you want to hear. We replied it wasn't going to happen because my dear J was taking his Board examination the next day.

Boy we're we wrong.

Cue the Fates, God, and Beezelbub rubbing their hands together in delight at the silly folly some chick in Wisconsin made. It was too tempting and they had to intervene. I really don't know who to blame/credit, but I envision it going down as a winner takes all kind of a thing doing something ridiculous like rock/paper/scissors.

As you may remember, I'd been experiencing regular contractions (or "surges" as my hypnobirthing people call it) since 33 weeks. Nothing new on that front. J had taken the day off to cram last minute before the test day and somehow the familiar pressure in my belly was feeling a bit different about 4:00 PM. At 4:55 he asked if he needed to reschedule his exam. No, no, not to worry! I just headed to take a bath to reduce some of the pressure and eat a light dinner. We went to bed early, but did not fall asleep. You see, J had some massive anxiety heartburn and my belly was feeling like someone put a corset on it then cinched it every 5 minutes or so. However, I didn't want to worry him so I pretended to be asleep. Yes, I PRETENDED. By midnight we were still attempting to find Mr. Sandman.

Here's what I thought: if I could fall asleep I would relax and delay any labor advancement. Then all I needed to do was get J off to his test in the morning without having him worry anything was wrong and then I would take a cab to the hospital to check myself in. It was our first baby so certainly it will take a long time to progress and by the time his 10 hour exam was over, I'd be ready to push and he'd be there for the birth of his first child.

I realize this is flawed thinking. Now. But it seemed like a reasonable plan at the time.

At 2:19 AM J woke to find his charming wife on all fours on the bed and groaning like a dying cow. When I told him I think we should go to the hospital his response was, *sigh* "I know." As my cow impressions continued, J began packing for the hospital. Yes, yes, we were one of those couples who didn't have a bag packed even though I'd been in early labor for 5 weeks. I made my way downstairs and would instantly drop to all fours every time another contraction hit. I was groaning so much that I scared Edgar. I tried to reassure him by calling him over for pets, but another one would hit and I'd be moaning again and he would run away ears back and tail between his legs.

Off to the hospital where upon checking into the L&D, the nurse asked where the patient was. Don't mind me. I've just hurled myself onto the floor from the wheelchair for another on-all-fours mooing session. I made it to a 8 to 9 cm before I asked/begged for an epidural. The nurse (ex-miltary) was about to make J leave for the actual procedure due to potential fainting when I told her that he needed to stay. I don't think she knew he was a doc. About 20 min after the epidural I asked for the anesthesiologist to come back in and turn the medication dosing down. I didn't want my legs to be numb, I just wanted to dull the sensation a bit. He replied, "I don't know why you had me place it at all. You will call me back and ask to turn it back up." I didn't.

The nurse was, shall we say, "assertive," to say the least. Maybe more of a drill sergeant? The actual pushing began somewhere around 9:00 AM. I first tried to "breathe the baby down" a la our hypnobirthing method, but that was going nowhere fast. Turns out our child-to-be was sunny-side up and I had to rotate him in the womb. P-A-I-N-F-U-L. However I persevered. Dr. Safety OB-man was encouraging and pretty damn funny through the whole thing. I knew he had to leave his shift come 1:00 PM, so by damn I was going to get this kid out before he left the hospital.

At 12:32 our Mr. Man arrived into this world. 7 pounds, 11 ounces. 20 inches long.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bed Rest

I absolutely love our OB doc. He's a goofy nerdy guy who is about our age and has a comb-over. He has no self-delusions, is wicked smart and has one of the funniest senses of humor. One of the reasons I chose him was his reputation for being Dr. Safety. I know this because I was assigned to work on a project with him assessing the culture of teamwork and patient safety in the department. I'd been working with him on the project for about a month when we found out we were pregnant. Part of my role on this project is to assess every physician on the service. With the ethics involved my choice of physicians was pretty much cemented, which is awesome because of the built-in rapport I already had with him. In fact when I called to ask if he would be my OB, he replied, "Thanks for your vote of confidence." He's imparted a few other gems during our visits.

31w appointment:

Me: "I really, really don't want an episiotomy. I also don't want to tear. What can I do to prevent it?" I was thinking more along the lines of perineal massage or something.

Dr. Safety: "You could start smoking."

Me: "What?"

Dr. Safety: "Well, at this point you are going to tear no matter what with a normal weight kid. Smoking to keep the baby's weight down is the only option, but I don't recommend it. We don't do episotomies anymore routinely, but you will tear. I'll sew you up."

28w appointment:

Me: "When will I know the results of my glucose tolerance test?"

Dr. Safety: "I'll call you tomorrow and then you can celebrate passing."

Me: "Celebrate? On what? I'm pregnant."

Dr. Safety: "I just wrote you a prescription for pain killers on your costochondritis. Take one of those."

I must have looked shocked.

Dr. Safety: "I'm kidding!"

33w appointment:

Me: "I'm swelling."

Dr. Safety: "That happens. Uh...how long have you been itching your belly?"

Me (mindlessly scratching the belly bump): "I don't know. It itches. I take benadryl."

Dr. Safety: "What about other places? Legs, feet, palms of your hands?"

Me: "Yeah, usually at night sometimes."

Dr. Safety: "Let's put you on the fetal monitor."

15 minutes later

Dr. Safety: "Um, do you know you are contracting every 5 minutes. Do you feel that?"

Me: "Yeah. Didn't know it was that close. It just feels like tightening."

Dr. Safety in disbelief: "Tightening."

I nod.

Dr. Safety: "You just bought yourself a pelvic exam."

10 minutes later.

Dr. Safety: "And you are now 50% effaced and 2 cm dilated. You win an admission to Labor and Delivery. I'm afraid to do anymore tests because you've failed every one I've given you."

Me: "Shut up! You're joking."

Dr. Safety: "Not remotely. You are in active labor."

Me: "You mean false labor."

Dr. Safety: "No. I mean active labor as in pre-term active labor."

Me: "But I just came in for swelling!"

I must have repeated, "I just came in for swelling," about 15 times to anyone who would listen as they wheeled me off to L&D. I told the transport person, the guy who held the elevator, the nurse, the tech, the desk clerk, etc. Think I was shocky? No, what would give you that idea?

Since Dr. Safety is by the book and literally quotes recent medical journal articles from his photographic memory he imparted that at week 34, there is no need to stop premature labor. Since I was still 33 weeks for another 8ish hours, they would give me the drugs to stop labor until midnight and then just stop. Stop? Yes, stop at the arbitrary cut off time of midnight when I turned 34 weeks. In went the smooth muscle relaxant drug, the antibiotic, and the steroids to quickly develop the kiddo's lungs. And there I sat for another 24 hours watching my contractions come and go.

By late morning of the next day I was contracting less regularly so they allowed me to go home. However, I was on strict bed rest. It's like a recurring nightmare from karma-land for me: how to be still and not do anything. It always involves something medical like an appendicitis or a back surgery and now a kiddo. I was also informed that any subsequent pregnancy I will automatically be considered high risk and put on bed rest. Oh Goody.

For the past 3+ weeks I've laid low. I've read books, surfed the net, tried to work clandestine from home, talked to girlfriends, and played the Wii. This was a challenge as the nursery still isn't painted, furniture is haphazardly relocated into other rooms, chaos reigns, the lawn continues to grow, and we're now considering anything frozen from Trader Joes as Gourmet. My exciting outings include car rides to the grocery store parking lot or the dry cleaners or to pick up Edgar's dog food. Seriously, they were the highlights of my weeks!

On Monday at my 37w appointment I was released off of bed rest. Now that I have a semi-greenish light to move ahead with my to-do list, my energy level won't cooperate. It's like revenge of the first trimester.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Pre-Labor for the Labor

When we announced our pregnancy to our families in January we were met with unbridled enthusiasm. We were sent home with various items and well wishes including a set of gently used pregnancy and child development books. They proved to be extremely helpful roadmaps on this journey of ours.

Girlfriends, sister in laws, and other moms proved to be an extraordinary resource of advice and wisdom so far in my 7.5 months. While I was warned that the What to Expect book was written for the sole purpose of scaring the expecting mother to death, it was the sole choice my insurance company sent me once I registered with their pre-natal department. One girlfriend recommended I get The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy for the real scoop on what to expect. That was some wise advice. If I have any kind of odd question I go there first. While at Costco, we picked up Dr. Oz’s latest take on the owners manual of your body with bambino. That was the most unhelpful book thus far. This tv man assures me that the kid can taste what I eat thus learning to like the veggies or pizza I put in my mouth. Really? As J put it, “Why don’t you write to him and ask him to explain the pathophysiology behind that statement.”

One book went into the importance of a birth plan. When I mentioned this to the same girlfriend who suggested the Girlfriend’s Guide she said, “Oh. My. God. Please tell me you aren’t going to be one of those. They never work.” While every book suggests writing one, they also say be prepared for the hospital staff not to follow it. For the record, we haven’t written one yet. However, the book did spur me on to getting more tools under my belt when it came to labor. The one thing I fear the most is pitocin. That’s the drug they give you to speed labor along. I learned more than I wanted to know from a documentary and other readings. Once given, a vicious cycle ensues. The pitocin causes stronger and longer contractions that HURT, so you request an epidural and the pain meds slow your labor down which then leads to MORE pitocin and then more pain meds, etc, etc, etc. I want to avoid that drug like the plague.

As a result of my fear I looked into other ways of managing my labor. At first I looked into the Bradley method. This philosophy centers around husband as birth coach. While this sounds like an encouraging partnering method, I would like to refer back to 1992 for everyone to understand why it wouldn’t work for me.

In 1992 a combination of sucky genes and athletic overtraining landed me in the operating room with a cocky orthopedic surgeon. It was a complex surgery with a 7 inch scar to prove it. When I woke up from anesthesia, my wonderful patient mother was by my side. “Can I get you water? How about a blanket?” Instead of the soothing nurturing maternal voice, I heard a pitch like a screeching out of tune violin. It was so bad that I finally kicked her out of my room and had the nurse put a sign on the door that literally said, “No Moms Allowed. All Visitors Must Check In With the Nurses Station.” Aunts and other visitors paused to confer with my mom who was now banished to the visitors’ area. Mom had a great sense of humor about the whole thing. She got her last laugh when I was left to maneuver my groin to ankle bulky brace and crutches to my bathroom and then got stuck. I was so pissed that no one was coming to help me I finally threw my crutch outside the door while swearing at the top of my lungs. At that point Mom just looked at the nurses and said, “Yes, that is my daughter. Isn’t she lovely?” It wasn’t one of my finest moments. Somehow I just don’t think a coach will cut it when I’m passing a watermelon.

I then looked into Hypnobirthing. I will admit, it’s a little “out there,” but then again how could it hurt? Invoking the relaxation response seems natural enough. There have been studies about hypnosis/relaxation use in surgery as a substitute for anesthesia. I was worried my biggest hurdle would be J’s scientific nature. I was shocked to find he was open to the idea AND there was a certified instructor in our city! Somehow the stars aligned and we landed in a 5 week class with 2 other couples.

Let me introduce our cast of characters (names changed of course): Gary and Lisa are two PhD’s. Gary has his PhD in animal physiology biology and embodies the scientific method. Lisa has her PhD in something with the brain. She looks like she only shops at organic fair trade stores. How they met, got married and had a son is a little baffling. They embody the skeptic and Mother Nature. We also have Lindsey and Matt. Both are CPAs. She is a tri-athlete, Iron Man, marathon competitor. Matt is still traumatized by his ex-wife’s pregnancies and deliveries. They are more of the “Die Hards.” And then there is us: we’re treated as the medical experts and are go-with-the-flow.

Our instructors are a husband/wife dyad: Danielle and River. I think the name “River” is a dead giveaway. He too is a PhD in biology and specializes in invertebrate marine biology. Danielle has never had children, but is a licensed hypnotherapist, massage therapist, and Hypnobirthing instructor. River has 3 kids from a previous marriage. All were delivered naturally.

We began our first class with introductions and get to know you time, although most of it was spent with River and Danielle pontificating. There they were espousing the benefits of having a physician who is pro-hypnobirth/pro-natural and the power of belief and intention because it’s better for your baby. The computer used for the power point was propped up on the drum River uses for his male bonding drum circle and he went into detail about hormones and neuro-receptors. It was an odd juxtaposition.

We then went in to watch birthing videos where hypnobirth techniques were used. I was anticipating the other couples to squirm, but the only person making any kind of noise was the only physician in the room. It was a dead giveaway of his 100+ births he’s attended and the trauma that remains. His facial expressions were priceless as they put the blue limp baby on the mom’s chest. You could almost hear him say, “Hello? Where’s the resuscitation?!?” Yeah, we're going to be a good time.