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?
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?
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?
When I first started breastfeeding, I was faced with many challenges, from a NICU stay due to failure to latch, to a milk protein allergy that had my doctor telling me to quit. But I persevered, and by around five months had established breastfeeding as a comforting (for both of us) routine and ritual. I loved it.
The thing about breastfeeding for me was that it helped prove to myself that my body was capable of doing something right, after years of infertility and miscarriages. It helped heal me, in a way. I was able to feed my baby, to make him grow. All that weight he gained? That was from me! It was an amazing feeling.
After I got laid off and decided to stay home, I ditched the pump and the bottle, and continued to let LM nurse on demand. Breastfeeding was a big part of our first year or so together, a way of bonding us together. This was something special only we shared.
As he passed a year, the age at which most babies are weaned, many of my mom friends stopped breastfeeding. But I didn’t see any reason to stop, so we kept going. Luckily, I faced no pressure from my husband or family to wean. They were supportive of my decision to keep nursing.
Eventually, though, in the back of my mind I started to think it might not be a bad thing if he weaned. Nursing a toddler is not as calming as nursing an infant. There is a lot of twisting, kicking, pulling, twiddling and general gymnastics going on. I wanted to tell him, “Just stay still!”
Plus, I wanted to think about having another baby, which would entail fertility treatments yet again. Now, doctors will generally tell you to wean before attempting an IVF for two reasons. One is concern about the medications, and another is that a raised prolactin level may impede your lining’s growth and make implantation less likely. But, both of these concerns are greater when you’re talking about an infant who gets all of his nutrition from nursing — less so when talking about a toddler who nurses once a day. Plus, although there haven’t been any studies on fertility meds one way or another, the little research I could find said that the drugs, which are naturally occurring in a woman’s body anyway, are safe.
There seems to be a bit of a “don’t ask don’t tell” attitude when it comes to fertility doctors and nursing. I was worried when we saw our RE (reproductive endocrinologist) that she would ask me if I was nursing, but she didn’t. I talked to a few other moms who cycled while nursing toddlers. I felt confident that I was producing so little milk that LM would not be at risk from nursing, nor would my prolactin level be too high (and bloodwork showed it wasn’t).
Then in a serendipitous turn of events, LM started weaning as I geared up for my fertility testing. The first to go was the nursing around naps. Our routine became such that he would fall asleep in the car on the way back from our morning activity, and then I would transfer him inside. When he woke he would sometimes ask for it, but after telling him no a few times, he stopped asking. He still threw a big tantrum after waking up from naps cranky, but he didn’t seem to connect that with needing to nurse anymore. Then, because he started staying up super late when he napped, we started encouraging him to go without napping anyway.
Then it was the morning. Because I’m lazy, I would generally take LM back to bed with me to nurse. But on the days Foggy Daddy got up with him, he just took LM straight downstairs. And LM didn’t seem to miss it. One Saturday morning LM burst back into our room after Foggy Daddy changed his diaper. I was still in bed, and he hopped up, asking to nurse. FD asked if he wanted to go downstairs with him. LM thought about it for a minute, said, “downstairs,” and got off the bed. He actually chose his breakfast (or his father) over me.
That left nursing before bed. It just so happened that last week my sister was visiting my parents, so we spent several evenings there. We’d change LM into his pjs before leaving, and he’d fall asleep in the car on the way home, and we’d transfer him to the bed. One night as I went to lay him down he woke up. “Mama, lay down,” he instructed. Here we go, I thought, believing he wanted to nurse. But he just cuddled next to me and went to sleep.
The last night at my parents’ house I decided to stay over. LM stayed on an airbed on the floor, and he made me sleep next to him. But, he woke up throughout the night, frequently asking to nurse. Because I had put my foot down on night nursing a long time ago, I felt comfortable refusing. In the morning, though, he asked again, and the desperate look in his eyes made me give in. A few sucks, a few minutes, and he was done. I was so tired I had my eyes closed the whole time, but now I wonder if I missed the last time he would ever nurse.
The real test would be putting him to bed at home. So far, two nights have passed in which I’ve put him down without nursing. The first day he asked, settling into position in the cradle of my arm, but I asked him if he wanted to read a book instead and he popped back up.
Last night he didn’t even ask.
So this might be it. This morning he did briefly ask, but I gently redirected him and he was OK with it. I don’t quite know how I feel about it. Part of me is glad — now I can pursue fertility treatments without worrying about it. But what if I can’t cycle after all, or if I don’t get pregnant? I feel like I would have encouraged him to wean for nothing. I could have maybe had a few more months of nursing my baby.
I will miss that special relationship. I tell myself that if I’m determined to have another child, I will nurse again. Even if our second child ends up being adopted, I will try to induce lactation, or at least feed him or her with a supplemental nursing system (in which a tube is taped to the nipple through which breastmilk or formula flows) in order to experience some of the same bonding I had with LM. There is no reason a baby can’t be nursed for comfort, even if he or she gets her nutrients elsewhere. I recently read about a tribe in Africa where the fathers actually nurse the babies when the mothers aren’t available.
So maybe it’s just time. There were no (or few) tears. True, there was gentle encouragement from me, but LM seemed to be going down that path anyway.
So, breastfeeding, thank you for allowing me to feel like a woman again. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to bond with my baby in that way. Thank you for this special gift that not everyone is able to experience.
I will miss you.
(Of course, there is a chance that LM could ask for nursing again. In fact, by writing this, I’ve probably jinxed it. So stay tuned.)
Extended breastfeeders, how did you feel when your child finally weaned? Did you have to encourage your child, or did he or she do it on their own?
LM’s tantrums lately have been EPIC. He just can’t calm himself down.
I know the feeling.
I feel like I’ve been on the verge of a meltdown myself lately. I always hold it all together, even as more and more is piled on top. I’m just not really sure how I’m doing it. It almost feels like muscle memory, the way I go through my day and take care of my toddler and make phone calls to doctors and therapists and write my stories and answer emails and talk to other moms. It all still feels, well, actually, foggy.
I remember when I felt more sure of my place in the world. When I knew what was going on in news and entertainment, when I didn’t constantly feel like I was behind the times. When I was out in front of things, instead of running to catch up. When I was gliding through my life effortlessly, instead of struggling to just keep my head above water.
I felt safe and secure. I had mental spaces I could go to that were places of comfort. I had activities I found therapeutic. I felt content.
It’s weird, this parent thing. In some ways I’m completely happy. But in other ways, I’m more stressed than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Can those two feelings coincide?
In some ways I think, Oh just get over yourself. And in other ways I think, F that, I do have it harder than other parents. I’m dealing with a kid who can’t hear. It’s hard. These two different voices are constantly battling in my head as I struggle to understand and accept my reality.
On top of that, I’ve decided to embark on an Extreme Fertility Challenge. Ready? First challenge: Grow an 8mm triple stripe uterine lining for your prep cycle! Uh oh, you failed, because your lining failed to convert to the proper striped pattern (betcha didn’t know that uterine linings can have patterns, did you?). Try again!
Next up: An OT evaluation for LM. OT stands for occupational therapy, but it has nothing to do with work. Well, not work in terms of employment. It’s more like how you work in your environment, or something. I’m not really sure. Anyway, LM failed (or passed, depending on how you want to look at it) that one too. Apparently all of his jumping and climbing, plus the picky eating and clothes sensitivity, plus his out-of-control tantrums mean he has some sensory issues going on. Again, not exactly sure what “sensory issues” are, but something having to do with the way you process input from your environment. Maybe at least now I have an explanation for all those shocked looks I get from other moms at the play gym when LM performs his usual crazy antics.
“You’re working way too hard,” the occupational therapist told me. “You’re trying so hard, doing everything you can. We need to help you out.” Finally, a validation! I’m not crazy. LM is f’ing hard! There is a reason I’m constantly on the verge!
I know I struggle with how much I put on my own plate and how much gets heap on there by life. But I don’t believe in doing things half-assed. There are things I want to accomplish in life. Every time I try to chill and relax and slack off, I feel guilty that I’m just being lazy because there are so many other things I should be doing. I have a hard time carving out “me” time. The time I do have never seems long enough, and then I’m back to regular life. I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel, going around and around again. Day after day, going through the motions.
I want to be able to just turn the wheel off and stop for a moment. Ironically, LM’s issues are forcing me to pay more attention to him when he’s playing, to try to engage him, to stay in the moment. When his therapists come over, sometimes they seem to just be playing with him, and I’ll think, “What the hell am I paying you for?” But then they will explain what they are doing, how they are using play to teach him. I try to replicate that, but it isn’t easy. Or maybe I’m just not a natural at it. But it’s hard.
Sometimes I wonder what would occupy my mind and my time if LM didn’t have any of his issues. And if I didn’t have “issues” getting pregnant. If LM was just a regular kid and I was just a regular mom who could get pregnant again whenever she felt like it in the privacy of her own bedroom. I fantasize about that. I know no life is perfect. I struggle on a daily basis with realizing that, with not trying to aspire to some nonexistent existence, with trying to find a way to make it through this fog to a place where I feel comfortable again. I want to get to a state of mind where I don’t find it necessary to remind myself whenever I start to feel light and happy of all the dark things in my life that should curb my enthusiasm. I know I should be happy in spite of all those things going on. But it just feels like too much.
I’m working way too hard.
Do you feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities in your life? How do you deal?
I’m a perfectionist. Some may argue I’m high maintenance (I like things certain ways). As life has thrown me curveballs, like my infertility, I think I’ve become more relaxed about things. But sometimes my old self flairs up, the part that wants things, well, just so. Something I’ve known for a long time: I focus too much on what I think my life “should be.”
Last weekend, just before the weekend blizzard, LM got his hearing aids. I was hoping that he’d put them in and then realize all the sounds he was missing. He’d smile as he heard my voice clearly for the first time. I’d see that look of “a-ha” on his face.
Instead, he burst into tears.
The weekend was a challenge. Housebound, it seemed the perfect time to get him used to wearing his aids in a setting that was familiar. We had nowhere to go, nothing else to do. But LM did not cooperate. Although there were periods of relief in which he let us quietly read him a book, more often he was crying or clingy or pulling at his new ears.
OK, let’s try something different, I thought. Let’s go play in the snow.
This did not involve his hearing aids, which shouldn’t get wet. (This fact presents lots of logistical challenges, but I was trying not to think about those yet). For now, we’re just trying to get him used to them little by little at home.
Even without the hearing aids, though, going outside in the snow requires other demands be placed on LM. The result? He didn’t want his boots on. He didn’t want his hat on. He didn’t want his gloves on.
As I continued to struggle with him, I asked myself who I was doing this for. I wanted to play in the snow with him. I wanted to go sledding with him. I wanted to take cute pics of LM with the kiddie shovel I had bought for him, helping Foggy Daddy clear off the driveway.
But what did LM want? Was I trying to force him into my vision of the perfect snow day?
Eventually, LM agreed to keep everything on and I got him outside. And…he loved it. We went sledding in the backyard. We played in the snow. I felt vindicated — I wasn’t doing it just for me. I was doing it for him, too.
But the next day, I wanted to go out again, and LM wasn’t having it. He had spent the morning trying to rip out his hearing aids, and I just didn’t have another fight in me. So we spent a perfect sledding day, a perfect snow day, inside. I saw pictures online of my mom friends’ kids, all looking perfectly happy to be in their snow gear, and I felt sad.
But all this wasn’t just about sledding. It was that my life right now is just not that simple. Maybe no one’s is. But see other moms who have “easy” children who do whatever is asked of them. LM is just not like that.
And now besides dealing with his “difficult” personality, we have this whole other challenge heaped on us.
I’m tired of being strong. I just wanted life the way it “should be.” I thought that when we were finally able to have a baby, that was what I had waited for, and everything would be OK now. Life would settle into the well-traveled path that everyone else I knew seemed to be on. Our detour down that rough path was done.
But that’s not how things work, is it?
At least for me. Everyone else I know seems to have it so easy.
Or do they? What right do I have to assume others’ lives are perfect? Yes, it does seem like lots of other moms are happy with their obedient children, pregnant with their second baby, living in a big home, taking vacations to warm places and generally being happy. But do I really know what’s going on?
Foggy Daddy says I’m acting very “woe is me” lately. Maybe I am. Maybe I’m just dealing with the grieving process of what I thought my life was going to be like. I know this is valid. This is what parents of children with disabilities go through.
And just as LM’s personality doesn’t make it any easier to get him to wear his aids, my personality makes it harder for me to deal with the unexpected adjustments I must make. I try to be adaptable. But I still have this vision of the “perfect” life that I just can’t seem to shake.
Every time I think, if I can just get this part of my life under control, or that part, then things will be OK, I know I’m setting myself up for failure.
I have to learn to be OK with the messiness of life. Or at least with the messiness of my life. I have to stop comparing to some perfect ideal that I have in my head.
I have to learn to embrace my own version of perfect.
Are you a perfectionist? Do you have an idea of what your life should be, and does it upset you when things don’t go as planned?
We always romanticize the past, don’t we? I suppose that goes for parenting as well. But faced with all of our current challenges—hearing loss, uncontrollable tantrums, worrying about what special preschool to go to—I miss when the only thing I needed to worry about was LM. I miss my newborn.
I miss not having to worry about leaving the house. Sure, I felt like I was going stir crazy most of the time, but there was no pressure to attend activities or expose him to new things. All he needed was me.
I miss being able to lay on the couch and know that that was all I was supposed to do. Skin-to-skin contact is important. I was doing my job. My job was taking care of LM. And it meant that I had to just lay there.
I miss not having to worry about socializing him—or me, for that matter. I have gained so much from my mom group, but as an introvert, sometimes the mere act of talking to other people wears me out.
I miss nursing him as a calm newborn, not the crazy all-over-the-place acrobatics that is nursing a toddler.
I miss settling into my little nest at home and not feeling any pressure to be anywhere else. Now, if we stay home all day it is a recipe for a cranky kid with a lot of pent-up energy.
I miss not having to think about the bigger picture of the future, like where he’s going to go to school, or how I’m going to have to fight with our school district over the special services he needs for his hearing loss. True, we did have our newborn problems to work through (breastfeeding, for one), but once we got those figured out it seemed like smooth sailing.
I miss not having to worry about work. As much as I love this blog, lately I’ve been struggling to fit in the time to write. I have so many ideas floating around in my head, but I don’t have the time or energy to harness them. I see submission opportunities passing me by. I worry that I’m not pulling my weight financially. I miss when I wasn’t thinking or worrying about work at all, when my only responsibility was to LM.
I miss how newborns don’t move. LM can climb over any gate possible, so he has the run of the house now. I worry about his safety. I remember when I could just put him on the floor and go to the bathroom, because he couldn’t even roll over.
I miss the bucket seat. Getting LM in the car seat is a struggle every single time. I miss the days of just sitting him in the bucket, carrying it out to the car and clicking it in place. So much easier.
I miss that I could actually watch my TV shows and not have to worry if LM was in the room. I’d simply face the rock ‘n’ play away from the television and keep the volume low. But now, we’re fighting the battle of screen time, so I have to keep my own to a minimum.
I miss not having to worry about food. LM is such a picky eater and mealtimes are another battle. Having a newborn meant whipping out the boob. That’s it.
I miss being up in the middle of the night with him. What, am I crazy? Maybe, but it was like another world, where only the two of us existed.
I know, I know, this is all rose-colored glasses, right? Don’t I remember the sleep deprivation, the crying, the overwhelming, all-consuming life-sucking rabbit hole that is life with a newborn?
Yes, but knowing what I know now, it was easy compared with life with a toddler. Wait until you get to life with a teenager, you say. Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.
Sometimes when I’m putting LM to bed I sit with him in the glider and I remember how it was. My mind is so full right now, but then it wasn’t. There was one, and only one thing I needed to worry about. My baby. Everything was for my baby. All that extraneous stuff didn’t matter. I was utterly focused.
I know it will never be the same. Even if we have another baby, it won’t be just me and a newborn. It will be me and a toddler and a newborn. Something tells me that will make it very, very different.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my toddler. But I miss that newborn baby bubble. I miss it ever so much.
Do you miss life with a newborn? Or do you prefer the stages when they are older?
LM has a hearing loss.
I don’t even know exactly what to call it. His hearing is not normal, but he’s also not deaf — although I did see on this one deaf community website that anyone with any degree of hearing loss should be called deaf. Or maybe it was Deaf, capitalized. I don’t remember.
Maybe I’m coming at this all wrong. I can hear, after all. I don’t know what he’s going through, or what he will be going through as he grows up in a world around him where people can hear. What challenges will he face? How will he identify himself? Will he feel that he’s always trying to keep up in a hearing world, and it’s just too tough? Will he feel that he’s not good enough, that he’s “disabled,” that he’s somehow less worthy than people who can hear?
But at the same time, I don’t want him to feel abnormal and only able to “belong” in a closed community of other people who can’t hear. I feel like that would be limiting. But maybe it would be liberating. I don’t know.
I see so many parallels with my infertility journey:
- No, it’s not life-threatening. But is that the only consideration when figuring out how to deal with your much-altered life?
- “Oh, he can just get hearing aids,” sounds a bit to me like, “Oh, you can just adopt.”
- Negotiating with insurance companies who seem to be making it purposefully difficult to find out any information at all.
- Services that are not covered or not covered fully: IVF, hearing aids. Yup, hearing aids, FOR CHILDREN WHO OTHERWISE WILL NOT LEARN HOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH, are not fully covered.
- Only able to relate to a small, close-knit community because no one else understands what it’s like.
I’ve received different reactions from people when I tell them that LM has been diagnosed with hearing loss. But pretty much everyone reassures me that we are — he is — going to be “fine.” I know he will be fine. Sort of. He has a life-long, permanent disability. He is going to come up against challenges you probably wouldn’t think of: How to talk to girls at a party when he can barely hear (even with aids, noisy places can be tough), how to spend a day at the beach without getting his aids wet, how to deal with teachers who don’t know how to use (or don’t want to) the FM systems they have to wear to make it easier for him to hear over classroom noise…
One thing at a time, right? You don’t need to tell me that. I’ve been here before. This is all too familiar.
I’ve also been told that this is our “new normal.” That we thought we were on a plane ride to Italy but we landed in Holland. I’ve seen videos of kids wearing their hearing aids for the first time, how their faces light up. I saw the viral photo about the dad who got a hearing aid tattoo to match his daughter’s device. It’s all so “feel-good.”
I know I shouldn’t be putting my junk on LM. He’ll come up with enough baggage on his own. I don’t need to saddle him with mine. But that said, I admit that I have been feeling more isolated. Friends post videos of their kids doing all kinds of cool things, or saying things, or funny conversations they had. I can’t have conversations with LM. His behavior is lagging behind because he can’t hear. We are not searching for fancy preschools like the other kids because we will end up in the town special ed program, or, if we’re lucky, a school for the deaf.
We are different.
I am different.
I remember how it was to drift away from my friends who started having kids when I was still struggling. To gravitate toward other “infertiles,” who were the only people who understood. There was a divide that grew with my fertile friends as we could no longer relate to each others’ lives, and as my jealousy around what they had and I didn’t grew. This won’t be the same — I am grateful for my Little Man. Nothing will change that. But I am jealous of other moms who don’t have to face these challenges.
It could be worse. I’ve heard that one before too. I was infertile — I didn’t have cancer. So I wasn’t allowed to complain.
I have, though, also been told that I need to allow myself to grieve. To grieve the life I expected, to grieve that my child (and I) will have more hurdles to come. Part of me is just keeping calm and carrying on. And the other part of me is screaming, crying, Why me? Why us? Haven’t I been through enough?
Sorry if you think I’m being dramatic. But really, you don’t know what it’s like. You don’t know how it feels to walk in my shoes.
Have you had unexpected challenges in life? How have you found the strength to cope with them?
Lots of heavy stuff going on in my life with LM right now…but it’s Christmas Eve, so let’s do a fun post of holiday movies. I haven’t gotten around to seeing all of these this year before Christmas, so I deem it perfectly OK to celebrate Christmas past December 25, right through the end of the year. Isn’t Christmas supposed to be 12 days, anyway?
As a Christmas movie aficionado I feel myself qualified to name the movies you should watch, and ones you should skip. It will be tempting to share these all with your kids while they are home for winter break and driving you nuts, so I’ll include some parental advisories.
Do you agree with my list? In no particular order:
Love Actually: This is definitely one to watch after the kiddos have gone to bed. Lots of cursing and (possibly unnecessary) nudity. And some latent sexism. But despite all that, it’s hard not to love the spirit of this movie. How can you not feel a rush as the kids put on “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” or choke up as Colin Firth declares his love in broken Portuguese? Despite it’s flaws, for pure Christmas spirit, this one makes the list.
Elf: Will Ferrell goes all in, in his hilarious portrayal as a human adopted by elves who comes to New York to find his birth father. It may bring up some questions about adoption for kids, but everything is presented positively. The clash of Buddy’s pure innocence and his father’s New York cynicism is a great combo. So many great lines, it’s hard to pick a favorite, although “Santa, I know him!” comes close.
Holiday Inn: I’m not a huge fan of White Christmas — I prefer a younger Bing Crosby and the original version of the song, performed in Holiday Inn. Yes, there is a very unfortunate blackface scene (which is usually shortened for television). One could argue that’s just a reflection of the times, although that doesn’t completely excuse the bad taste it leaves in your mouth. But if you can move past that, this wonderful movie starring Fred Astaire shows off dancing and songs from the golden era of Hollywood.
Christmas with the Kranks: OK, you might think I’m a little crazy for including this comedy with Jamie Lee Curtis, Tim Allen and Dan Aykroyd. But after discovering it on cable a few years ago, I can’t stop watching. Why? I think I’m intrigued by their neighborhood, which, although for most of the movie is extremely nosy and all up in the Kranks’ business, at the end comes together to save Christmas. I wish I felt that way about my neighbors. As JLC says at the end, they have shown her “the true meaning of community.” Love that. Oh, and “Free Frosty!” Hilarious.
Meet Me in St. Louis: This year-in-the-life movie takes place in turn-of-the-century (you guessed it) St. Louis. I want to live in their house, a grand old Victorian. I want to wear those gorgeous dresses. Full of nostalgia for a time that probably didn’t even really exist, this movie features my favorite Christmas song, Judy Garland’s original “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” And the family dynamic, four sisters and one brother, makes me want to be part of a brood of five kids.
The Family Stone: This is another recent movie that might surprise you to see on the list. The characterizations are multi-layered, and I notice something new every time I see it. This year, I realized that each of the five grown kids in the family (yes, another big family) has a sweet, cathartic moment with their mother, played by the great Diane Keaton. It’s a very bittersweet, even sad, film, but it’s beautiful. Bonus points for paying homage to Meet Me in St. Louis. Some adult themes, so probably want to save this one until the kids are older.
It’s a Wonderful Life: OK, how can you beat this one? I would go far as to say this may be the best movie of all time. So relatable — the frustration at life not turning out the way you want it to. But then the realization that he did make a difference, that everyone makes a difference. Jimmy Stewart’s elation when he realizes he wants to live is so palpable, it’s impossible not to share his joy. And as he reunites with his kids and his wife, wow, such a beautiful scene. I would say, though, there is a lot of dark stuff in this movie. Not for small kids.
A Christmas Carol with Patrick Stewart: This version of the many that are out there was actually made for TV. I wrote about it when I was an editor for DirecTV’s television guide, and attended an event at the Plaza in New York. So I may be a little biased. But I love Patrick Stewart’s interpretation of this character. Watching it last weekend, I realized how timeless this story is, nearly two hundred years after it was written. How perfectly it illustrates why we should have generosity of spirit, as well as with our money. The ghost of Christmas future is kind of scary, though, and there is much reference to death and dying. I’m a big fan of Mickey’s Christmas Carol, the animated Disney half-hour version, which is more appropriate for kids, but still a bit scary at the end.
Home Alone: The ridiculousness of this movie doesn’t stop me from loving it. Beyond the pretty stupid (not to mention violent) antics of the burglars, it’s a heartwarming story about the importance of family, even as they drive you crazy. Watching it as a parent, I have a new appreciation for the mom’s desperation at trying to return home to her son, as well as her expression of pure love when she actually does.
A Christmas Story: I used to think this movie was kind of depressing when I was younger — not sure why, maybe the dark and somewhat dreary 1940s-era home, or the seeming-meaness of the dad. It wasn’t until I was older that I fully appreciated the irony that the one person Ralphie didn’t think to ask for his most wished-for present — his father — ultimately is the one to give it to him. He’s actually not mean at all! So sweet. The atmosphere of this movie, which is supposed to take place in Indiana, reminds me of Syracuse, where my parents are from and where I spent most of my childhood Christmases. Somehow I picture my dad as a little boy experiencing Christmas in Syracuse the way Ralphie does in this movie.
Miracle on 34th Street with Natalie Wood: I actually think the remake of this movie is pretty good, except that they change the ending explanation for “proving” that Santa Claus is real — why was that necessary? The original is a classic, though, even for someone who never believed in Kris Kringle. Although, I have a bit of a problem with the notion that just because a kid doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, or fairy tales, that means they have no imagination or magic in their lives. I think kids are perfectly capable of having a rich inner life of pretending and imagining, without actually believing such things are “real.” This movie, though, may bring up the question of why people wouldn’t believe in Santa Claus, so that might be something to consider if your kid does.
EDIT: Number 12!
The Family Man: I totally forgot about this great reverse-It’s a Wonderful Life, in which successful bachelor businessman Nicolas Cage gets to see what would have happened if he had married his college sweetheart. At first he thinks family life is dull, and inferior to his previous existence as a man about town, but he comes to see how it’s richer with people you love. What I love about the ending is that it sticks to the rules of the premise — this was just a glimpse, not permanent — but it is still thoroughly satisfying. It’s not totally a Christmas movie, but it is obviously inspired by Wonderful Life, and imbues much of the spirit of the season.
Close, but didn’t make the list: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (a bit too ridiculous without enough heartfelt sentiment at its core, like, say, Home Alone), The Holiday (a sweet romantic comedy but not really about Christmas), The Polar Express (never saw the whole thing, can’t get past the creepy animation), The Santa Clause (too silly).
Do you agree with my list? Did I forget any? Have yourself a merry little Christmas if you celebrate! I will be taking a bit of a holiday break but will see you in the New Year!