I am thrilled to be published in The New York Times today, talking about an issue I’m passionate about: my son and his hearing loss.
How to address hearing loss in children is very controversial, which I didn’t realize until I was faced with it in my own child. I felt overwhelmed by the pressures to use sign language, or not. I’m not here to fuel that debate or say one side or another is “right.” Truth is, every child is different and deserves to be treated that way. I do want to thank everyone who offered me guidance, even if I didn’t take your advice! Information gathering is key so that parents can make their own decisions. I just wish there was not so much internal arguing among deaf people, advocates, doctors etc — as I say in the piece, what would help families is better support for their choices, whatever they are.
Remember when I said I was going to have to have fibroid surgery? Well, it’s already happened. It’s funny how sometimes you wait so long for something and then, bam!, it’s over. Here’s how it happened.
The surgeon at my fertility practice was booked up until the fall (how does that happen?), so I started looking into other surgeons who could do it. My fertility doctor mentioned one that was not in my plan, so I had to cross him off the list. When I asked her for other recommendations, she told me to look for a gynecological oncologist. A Google search for my local hospital revealed a surgeon whose name sounded familiar—sure enough, a friend had recommended him to me weeks earlier, but I had forgotten. I made an appointment a month away.
But once we had that appointment, things moved quickly. He seemed to know right away what needed to be done—after all, fibroid removal is probably an easy case for him. Although I still hadn’t been sure if I wanted to proceed with the surgery, after talking with him I realized if I wanted any chance of getting pregnant again I would have to do it. Plus, he said there was a 50/50 chance I’d need the fibroid removed at some point in the future. So we decided on the spot to book the surgery.
He had said to expect to wait two to three weeks for the surgery, but when the nurse came in she offered us a date only a little over a week away—May 10.
And now it’s over. I haven’t been able to blog because the recovery was a little tougher than I expected. It was full-on cut-me-open surgery, much like a C-section. The surgeon removed four fibroids, one of which was on my right tube, so he went ahead and took that out, too. Two nights in the hospital, and then the rest of the week in bed at home. And it still hurts.
But the most difficult part of the whole thing was what to do with LM. I certainly couldn’t take care of him—even now that I’m feeling a little better, he requires constant wrangling and has lately been prone to hitting and kicking. And I can barely walk.
Thanks to an army of grandparents, we are making it work. To be honest, I was looking forward to having a break from LM. He has just been so tough to handle lately, and motherhood is a 24/7 job. There are no days off. So having a week or so to rest and recuperate sounded really nice.
But I didn’t count on the boredom, even depression, that comes from being stuck in bed while life goes on around you. At first it was a welcome change, but as whole days went by when I didn’t see LM, I started to actually miss him. Someone else was holding him and taking him places and putting him to bed. Someone else was playing with him and feeding him and singing with him.
After a couple days at home Foggy Daddy brought LM into the bedroom to see me. We had tried to keep him away, lest his penchant for hitting was directed at my stomach. Somehow he looked older. Somehow he sounded like he had more words and was talking more. Something was just, I don’t know, different about him.
And when he left the room, I missed him.
I realized it was the longest I’d gone without picking up my child since he was born. I was able to give him a cursory kiss, but I longed to hold him and feel his weight on me as he napped on my shoulder. I longed to be the one he called for, the one who comforted him. Did he even miss me?
I’m sure that when I get back on my feet, I’ll wonder what in the world I was thinking. I’m sure when I’m back in the routine of caring for LM I’ll want another break, and wish I hadn’t squandered this one missing him. But if anything, this break gave me a chance to pause and to reflect on my place as LM’s mother. Yes, it’s unrelenting and tough. But it’s also filled with precious moments of snuggles and kissing and brushing the hair away from his forehead. Of watching his little mouth move as he chews. Of picking him up and swinging him around. Of just pure joy.
I’d forgotten that. I’m glad one of the side effects of surgery was to help me remember.
I just spent twenty minutes searching Facebook to a link for a mom blogger opportunity I had seen that I forgot to mark as “saved.” I went back and forth, back and forth, and just couldn’t find it. I Googled it. Nothing. Awesome, another wasted opportunity, I thought. What if that was my big chance? All because I forgot to click “save”?
This is what I do. I push and push and push myself and then can’t forgive myself when something falls through the cracks. When I can’t be everything to everyone at every minute. When I feel like I’m not good enough at feeding LM the right foods, or teaching him enough skills, or getting him on a better sleeping schedule. When I feel like I need to pitch more stories, promote my work more, submit more, write more. When I think about how someone else is a better writer than me, a better mom than me, a better friend than me, a better wife than me.
I find the smallest thing — so what that I didn’t save a FB link? Is it the end of the world? — and turn it into something major, as if I’ve missed out on the greatest thing to come my way ever.
This weekend is Mother’s Day. I’m not doing anything special, as far as I know. Maybe my husband has something planned. Maybe not. But it shouldn’t really matter, because that’s just looking for more outside validation, for someone else to tell me I’m doing a good enough job.
What I really need is to tell that to myself.
I need to forgive myself my little faux pas and flaws. I need to accept that I’m not going to be able to keep every ball in the air. Some are bound to drop.
This is OK.
I know we’ve all heard about “mom guilt” and how we have to accept that we can’t be the perfect mother. I know that rationally. But emotionally, I’m still struggling. I don’t think I quite believe that I am good enough. I focus on every mistake I make and blow off my successes. I’m doing it now, for God’s sake — I’m critiquing myself for my habit of critiquing myself!
Where does it end?
Maybe some moms have figured out how to get off the merry-go-round of guilt. Maybe they’ve managed to side-step the downward vortex of perfection seeking. But I feel like I’m being sucked in, and I’m drowning with the pressure of it all.
So, this Mother’s Day I need to stop. Just stop. At least for one day allow myself not to be perfect. And what’s more, to not even attempt to be perfect. Just have total acceptance of myself. As a mother, as a wife, as a writer, as a person.
I can’t be the only one who feels this way, right? Who feels like it’s just all too much and I can’t keep my head above water? OK, so I know I have additional challenges: LM’s hearing loss and everything that goes along with it (don’t even get me started on fighting with the school district about preschool). Trying to have another child (still in limbo on that one). These are not things that all other moms have to deal with.
Other moms also have housecleaners and gardeners and money to redecorate and nannies to watch their kids so they can go to the gym more than once a week and lose that extra 15 pounds they’ve been carrying since they had a baby and just can’t seem to get rid of. Maybe they have huge houses and swimming pools and finished basements with movie rooms. Maybe if they do have deaf children they can afford to move to the rich town where the school for the deaf is so they can be in the right school district and not have to fight to make sure their kid gets the best education.
Wait, I’m doing it again, aren’t I?
Stop comparing yourself. Just stop. Some other moms will always have more than you — but some will also have less. Much less.
Ugh, so you’re saying I’m an awful person for wanting a bigger house because other moms are living in poverty? I’m so selfish.
Yes, you are selfish. But it’s OK to be selfish. Everyone is selfish.
No they’re not.
Well maybe not everybody, but it’s a natural reaction in life to want more, isn’t it? Some people just have this drive in them, which is good because it propels them to achieve things. But it’s also bad because it never ends. When you achieve a goal, you just set a new one. You think you can reach the top of the mountain, but it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
So what do I do?
I don’t know, I guess it’s about finding balance. A balance between accepting your life and striving for more. Between being happy with what you have and recognizing that it’s human nature to feel bad about what you don’t. To realize that everyone has their hardships in life, and so you just can’t compare. You are not perfect. They are not perfect.
This is what I’m trying to give myself this Mother’s Day. Permission to not be perfect, to want to be perfect, to feel bad about wanting to be perfect, to feel good about striving for perfection, to recognize it’s not necessary to strive for perfection.
I’m going to try to see myself though LM’s eyes. Through my husband’s eyes and my family’s eyes and my friend’s eyes.
I’m not a perfect mom. But I’m a good enough mom.
What gifts are you giving yourself for Mother’s Day?
When I first heard about this year’s National Infertility Awareness Week theme, I admit I was a bit confused. Who exactly is supposed to “Start Asking”? Is it the fertile people who already don’t have a clue how to talk about infertility, and often ask the wrong questions anyway?
Turns out, it’s us, the infertile community, that should be asking the questions, according to RESOLVE, the organization behind NIAW 2016, April 24-30. We should be asking for better insurance coverage of fertility treatments. We should be asking the media to cover infertility in a real way, instead of a sensationalized one. We should be asking our family and friends to support us.
This is all so important, and I applaud RESOLVE for putting forth these questions. But going back to my original presumption—what about the fertile people? I would argue that instead of putting the onus on the infertility community to promote awareness, we extend that to fertile people as well. What about that annoying aunt who asks when you’re going to have children? What about those clueless friends who wonder why you won’t come to their baby shower? These people don’t understand what to ask, or how.
I wrote on this blog about the most ignorant question, and later posted it on The Huffington Post as well. The piece, “It’s None of Your Business How Many Children I’m Having,” got over 300 comments on the site. People argued about whether or not this guy, a stranger who asked across a table full of people whether and when I would be trying for a baseball team, was in the right or the wrong. “Can’t people ask about anything anymore without offending someone?” people lamented.
The thing is, there are times and places for everything. In fact, in that very same piece I discuss how a similar question had been asked by the colorist at my hair salon. But because she asked gently—”Do you think you’ll have more children?”—in the relative privacy of the hairdresser’s chair, my hackles didn’t get raised, and I felt comfortable revealing that I’d love another, but we’d had trouble getting pregnant.
So it’s really not about whether you should ask but rather about how you should ask. And when you do ask, don’t ever assume. Don’t assume a woman isn’t currently pregnant and just not ready to reveal it. Don’t assume a woman isn’t currently going through a miscarriage. Don’t assume that people can have babies and want to try the reproductive feat of achieving a sports team. Don’t assume a couple even wants children in the first place.
I would argue that the criticism against my HuffPo piece—that we live in a culture where no one is allowed to talk about anything—is the exact opposite of how I feel. In fact, I feel like maybe a better theme for NIAW might have been “Start Talking.” Because that’s the real problem: No one talks about infertility. People don’t even really realize it exists. It’s something that happens to others, so people assume those they know and talk to can actually have children. True, people generally can have kids. But that’s the point of “awareness:” People become “aware” that infertility exists for one in eight couples. Maybe it exists for your sister or your coworker or your friend or your neighbor. Or the person you just met sitting across from you at a crowded table.
Infertility awareness can be about inspiring infertiles to make a difference. But it can, and should, be about getting others to understand and to promote it as well. Wouldn’t it be great if fertile people joined in the cause too? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they also posted on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word and hashtag #NIAW and #StartAsking? That’s where we should be headed. After all, not everyone who wears a red ribbon has AIDS or who does a run/walk for breast cancer has it themselves. The people who do those things maybe know someone affected (a mom, sister or friend who had breast cancer), or maybe they are just recognizing the importance of a cause and are jumping on board.
That’s what we should want. That’s what I’m going to #StartAsking for.
How aware are you of infertility among your family and friends? If you are infertile yourself, do you wish you had more support from fertiles?
Dear ones (that’s how Elizabeth Gilbert addresses her Facebook posts, and I have a bit of a writer’s crush on her right now),
My book signing for Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It went really well. As my last post indicated, I was super nervous. I used up so much emotional energy that the next day I crashed, unable to do much of anything or even get out of my pajamas.
What’s the big deal, you ask? It was only a fifteen minute speech and a few questions afterward. It wasn’t like I was giving a day-long presentation at a medical conference or presenting at the Oscars.
You’re right, dear ones. Maybe it wasn’t really that big a deal. But why it was so difficult for me is that I am an introvert. Some people might be surprised to hear this. I am, generally, pretty friendly. And as the book event shows, I am not bad at public speaking.
But it’s all a lie.
In middle school, I was painfully shy. It was incredibly hard for me to make friends. I always felt like I was on the outside looking in at everyone else having a good time, flirting with boys and feeling part of a group. Although I wasn’t friendless and I generally wasn’t picked on, I was something possibly even worse: I was invisible.
Gradually I worked through my insecurities. Even as an adult, though, making friends remains a challenge. I am not one of those people who talks to people sitting next to them on airplanes. I do not make friends easily wherever I go. I often still feel awkward, uncomfortable, unsure of what to say. But I’ve gotten really good at faking it, at putting on the friendly mask of an extrovert. This has helped me make a lot of very good mom friends.
I don’t mean to say that I’m fake. I am genuine in my emotions, the stories I tell and the interest I show in others. It’s just that it doesn’t come naturally to express those things. I have to force myself to come out of my shell and relate to others directly instead of through words on the page, at which I am infinitely better.
Maybe all my years of being an outside observer served to make me a better writer. But they didn’t help me feel like I was participating in life instead of watching it. So now, I’m trying to forget my fears and insecurities and to take that wall down between my internal self and my outward expression.
To quote Forgetting Sarah Marshall: “Dude, get out of your head, it’s really nice out here!”
How am I doing?
Are you an introvert? How do you deal with making mom friends? How do you deal with professional presentations or other work-related speaking?
Some photos from my book signing for Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It:
The day has come, and my first publication in an anthology is out. Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It is probably my biggest professional accomplishment so far.
But although I’m proud, I’m also super nervous. I know I shouldn’t turn something good into something worrisome, but, hey, that’s what I do. I have a book signing event this weekend and I’m kind of a mess over it. What have I gotten myself into? No one forced me to do this — in fact I wanted to. But that doesn’t mean it’s not nerve-wracking. I read an article today by a writer who said she’d rather get a mammogram than do a radio interview. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.
Here’s more from my conversation with myself:
What if no one shows up? What if tons of people show up and I have to speak to this giant crowd? What if my speech ends up sounding forced? What if it’s too long? What if it’s too short? What if my dress is too short and you can see up it when I sit? Wait a minute, what am I wearing anyway?
I’m not sure that I self-promoted the book enough. I’m just not that up to speed with social media. Why didn’t I get an article in my local paper? Who am I kidding, I’m not that interesting anyway. Yes but other authors were interviewed by their local paper. Maybe there is nothing else going on in their town.
What if no one likes the book? What if I revealed too much about myself? What if I didn’t reveal enough?
What if absolutely nothing comes of this? Silly, even if nothing comes of it, no one can take away from you that you were published in a book. Yes but I want my own book. Sigh. Just enjoy this, will you!
So yeah, that’s what’s been going through my head. This is on top of having some other assignments and having to do my taxes. Procrastination! I still have to get some pens to use.
If you want to come to see this potential disaster, here are the details:
Book event and signing with Tina Donvito, one of the authors of
Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It
Barnes & Noble in the Livingston Mall
Saturday, April 2 at 3 pm
Hope to see you there!
People have said to me, “I don’t know how you do it,” referring to the balance of writing and parenting. To be honest, I don’t know how I do it either — that sounds like a humble brag, but actually, I don’t even really believe that I “do it” at all.
Yet no matter what is thrown at me, I seem to also possess that maddening inability to say no. Today I have a really bad cold, but did I turn down the Fit Pregnancy assignment I got, due tomorrow? Nope. Did I say no to the offer to cover the new season of Orange Is the New Black from a publication I’ve never worked with before, even though I’ve actually never seen an episode of the show? Nope! Guess the next two weeks will be spent binge-watching Netflix.
What about LM’s therapy appointments, and his audiological testing? What about my gyno appointment tomorrow and trying to figure out about scheduling surgery for my fibroid? What about having play dates and trying to keep up with my friends? What about not being able to update this blog as much as I feel I should? Oh yeah, what about that book signing event for Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It, which means I have to finish reading the whole book, probably re-read Eat Pray Love just to make sure I remember it, craft a 10-15 minute speech and be prepared for any questions that might arise by April 2? (BTW, if you are in the northern New Jersey area, visit the Barnes and Noble in the Livingston Mall April 2 at 3 pm to support me and the launch of the book!)
I get how this sounds. Apart from the medical stuff, it’s all good. I should not complain to be getting more work. And I’m not. I’m grateful for it. It just makes it hard to figure out how to balance things so I’m not up until 1 a.m. every night (which I usually am anyway).
Sometimes I think I shouldn’t be bothering with any work at all because it distracts me too much from LM. I should be focused on taking care of him, especially with the additional challenges his hearing loss presents. He’s only going to be young for a few short years. Don’t I already feel like his baby years went by in a blur? Do I want that for his toddler years as well?
But then I feel that drive in me, that part of me that wants something of my own, that wants to work. The part that just can’t say no, that can’t resist putting another helping onto my already full plate. I overload it until there’s no way it won’t spill over.
There are great things about being a freelancer. I work when I want and where I want. I don’t really have to answer to anyone else except myself. But therein lies the hard part, because I am a difficult boss of myself. Without set working hours, I always have this feeling that I should be doing more. And because I can work anywhere, work follows me wherever I go. No matter how many good things come my way, I want more. And the pull for that is hard to get away from.
And then other times I feel like this is just how life is. This is the pace of life of being a sort-of working mom, the parent of a child with hearing loss, a writer and a wife and a homemaker. But I feel like I do all of these jobs at a level that’s just enough to get by, when I should be either able to handle them all with ease or just reduce them to the ones I can devote myself fully to.
It’s hard, this balancing act.
Do you feel like it’s hard to balance work and parenting?
Well, metaphorically, anyway.
Before I was a mom I took lots of trips. I love travel, and not being able to pick up and go has been one downside of having a baby. My wanderlust has been acting up recently, and I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a travel blog, or at least venturing into the world of travel writing. So I decided to take the plunge with one of my favorite places on earth: Ireland. My story, “Trekking Through Irish Culture in Doolin, Ireland,” was selected today as the top featured blog post on The Huffington Post! Check it out, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day! I’ll hopefully have more travel experiences to share soon.
Do you love to travel? Where has been your favorite place to visit?
All the talk among my mom friends lately has been preschool. Although LM has technically already started in a two’s program, I don’t know if it can actually be called “school” until he hits the age of three. Plus, the facility he’s currently at is labeled a “preschool alternative,” whatever that means.
So, my Facebook feed is now taken up with questions about preschools, how to select them, which are the “best” and which are recommended by other moms. Some moms are very interested in “curriculum,” others that the kids be allowed enough time for free play. When I read the hilarious satire on the criteria parents look for in preschools, It’s Preschool Open House Season, Motherf**kers, I could help but laugh. (Other moms didn’t seem to find it funny.)
But maybe mine was just jealous laughter. Because LM is deaf/hard of hearing (what exactly am I supposed to call it? That’s a subject for another post), he qualifies for free preschool. FREE, you say? Amazing!
Sort of. Yes, it’s cool we won’t have to pay for preschool (although we did have to shell out thousands for his hearing aids, not to mention his therapists, doctors and audiologists). But we also don’t get much of a choice of where he goes.
This is how it works: As LM transitions out of the early intervention system, we meet with the school district. His EI team makes recommendations for what kind of accommodations are needed for an appropriate learning environment. The school district either says they can meet them or they can’t, in which case they will send LM out of district to a more appropriate school.
Through early intervention, LM has recently started at a school for the deaf, in addition to his “alternative preschool.” I wish this had happened months ago, but again, that’s a subject for another post. This school is awesome. He gets to see and socialize with other kids with hearing aids and cochlear implants. He gets to be taught how to listen, speak and interact with his environment in a setting geared for his needs. His teachers are all specially trained to work with kids who have hearing loss.
The school district’s teachers, on the other hand, aren’t. They lump all the “special ed” kids together in one class. Maybe they have an FM system, in which the teacher wears a microphone so the sound can go directly to LM’s hearing aids. Maybe they consider that sufficient.
But it’s not.
I get why they wouldn’t want to send LM out of district. It costs money. And maybe I’m selling the district short — I haven’t toured their facilities yet so I don’t actually know what they offer. But my initial thought is that LM doesn’t belong in a class with kids who have mental disabilities. LM’s disability is physical. Yes, it affects the way he learns. But I don’t want him lumped in as “special ed.”
I’m not trying to be snobbish about this. I understand that each kid has individual needs and that there is nothing wrong with being considered “special ed.” I just don’t want that for my kid.
So what do I do? I might have a fight ahead of me. I might need to hire an advocate or a lawyer if the district stonewalls me. I might be labeled as the “problem parent” for the rest of his school career, when and if he does mainstream in district.
I just want the best for LM. I want him taught appropriately with other kids who are like him. He’s different, yes, but his disability is one that can be overcome. He will be able to live a full, independent life—if he gets the proper education.
So while other parents are worried about curriculum and picking the best preschool (I’m reminded of that scene from Baby Boom in which a mom is devastated her son didn’t get into one top preschool, and therefore has lost all hope for a good college), my challenges are very different. It’s hard for me, as a competitive person, to take myself out of the race and feel comfortable on another track for my son’s education. But comfortable or not, I don’t have a choice.
It’s Transition to Special Ed Preschool, Motherf**kers.
Do you have any special challenges to face with your children? How do you accept them?
**Warning: possible TMI ahead**
I am using “bloody” here as both the literal meaning and the English curse word.
As part of my testing to see if I can get pregnant again, I had a saline sonogram, which is like a regular ultrasound except they squirt fluid up into your uterus, which somehow gives them a better picture of what’s going on in there. It’s kind of uncomfortable because they have to stick a catheter up through your cervix, and then you have some cramping afterwards because your uterus is thinking, “Get this stuff out of me now, please.”
I didn’t really expect for my doctor to find anything. That seems oddly naive and optimistic of me, especially in hindsight. But I had passed my second shot at a prep cycle (I failed the first), so I felt like things were looking up. Maybe I could even cycle in the next few weeks.
But the doctor did find something. A four-centimeter fibroid that is pushing into the cavity. She said she would consult with the surgeon and let me know, but it would probably require a hysteroscopy. This is a procedure in which they go in through the vagina and clean you out. It involves anesthesia, but you go home right afterwards and recovery time is minimal. There is no actual cutting involved.
The next day I got a call from the doctor. She tells me that the surgeon thinks I need to actually have real surgery to remove this thing. “Like a laparoscopy?” I asked her. I had a lap six years ago to remove endometriosis. It was an outpatient procedure that involved four small incisions, through which a camera was inserted and the surgery was performed. “No, a laparotomy,” the doctor replied. “Like a C-section.”
So, as I understand it, this would mean actually cutting me open and going at the fibroid from the outside of the uterus. It would involve a couple of nights in the hospital, two weeks until I can drive and at least two or three months until I can try to get pregnant. It’s that last bit that is killing me. I don’t want to wait anymore. Now our timeline just got pushed back almost half a year, by the time we will actually be able to get this thing scheduled (apparently the surgeon is very busy).
Foggy Daddy said that maybe this is a sign we should go with adoption. Except that I don’t believe in signs (and, I thought, neither did he). Maybe he just meant that this is evidence that pregnancy is not the best route for us to have more children.
OK, so say we sign up with the adoption agency whenever it is that they start letting in new families (they told me “spring,” whenever that means). Then we have to get all our paperwork in order, have our home study, etc. Then we wait. Who knows how long it could be? What if we are waiting for a year or more? Then I’ll be thinking, Damn, I should have just had the surgery.
But on the other hand, what if it takes a while to get pregnant? Or what if it doesn’t happen at all? Then I’m going to be thinking that we should have gone with adoption, which at least has a definite end point. There will be, at some point in the future, a baby for us through adoption.
Once again, I have to make a decision without all the information.
So then I descend back into anger. I hate my stupid body. I hate my uterus more than any other part, because that stupid organ killed a bunch of my babies and now it’s preventing me from having more.
I suppose I should be grateful for it, because it gave me Sam. But it grew him sideways in such a way that he had to come out with a planned C-section. He was wedged in there so well they had to call in another doctor. They called him a “difficult extraction.”
I saw a blog post once about a woman who was having a hysterectomy. The title was “Die, bloody bitch” (I googled but I couldn’t find it again). For some reason that line has always stuck with me. I have had endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids, you name it. I don’t know how I ended up with such a messed up reproductive system, but I have a feeling somewhere in my future, after I am done with all this trying to get pregnant business, a hysterectomy awaits.
And I will be glad to see it go.
Have you ever felt you “hated” a part of your body?