becoming jolie


You are not a tree.

“It feels so hard as a woman to prioritize yourself. I feel like it takes about 30 years for women to start thinking of themselves, and by then, a lot of us have made commitments to – and sacrifices for – men who are (rightfully on some level) confused when we start being less okay with putting ourselves last.” – E. Carlton

Lately Sean and I have been having a lot of conflict around our jobs and our responsibilities with kids. It’s been an ongoing project, a piece of our figurative land that we have to keep working and tilling over and over, and just when we’ve planted seeds and watered it and things look kind of green and progress-y, some rodent comes in and tears it up in the middle of the night and leaves us scratching our heads in the morning. It’s a project that started when we had our first child, and one that’s continued as the state of our working lives and family size has changed.

Admittedly, a lot of our conflicts have revolved around me picking fights. I acknowledge this 100%. I hash out the gritty details about who is doing more with the kids and the house and when and where and what parts I think are unfair. Sean is a reasonable man, and while we do fight over these things (yell, cuss, sustain dismissive silences, and then come back together) we are usually able to hear each other and find a middle path. But it’s become more complicated as the years have passed and the children have been added. Sometimes there doesn’t always seem to be an answer for me, and I can see the look of being at a loss on Sean’s face.

Lately I’ve been discussing with my close friends the wide topic of women and family and working and this whole topic of men feeling blindsided by women picking fights about things like this came up.

It occurred to me that I’ve pulled somewhat of a bait and switch on Sean.

For my entire life, I was raised under a very religious umbrella. And during that time, from age whenever-I-had-conscious-memory to around age 22 (when I became a part of a more liberal church group and eventually detached myself from the religious community in general) here are the things I was told about being a woman – the right kind of woman, the one God (MAKER OF THE UNIVERSE, NO PRESSURE) wanted you to be:

You are a helper. You are to be meek. You are to be gentle spirited, quiet, submissive.

This mentality was both overtly spoken and also covertly displayed in a thousand different ways throughout my years in church and private school. Most of the time, by people who I’m sure meant well or were doing what they genuinely felt was God’s will for them. I grew up in a church where women couldn’t lead the congregation in prayer, much less give a sermon. For years I went to an early breaking of bread service in the basement of my church. It was a more intimate, low-key event than the large scale church service that followed it, and people were free to stand and read a passage or share their heart or what God had been speaking to them.

And by people, I mean the men. Once I asked one of the male leaders what would happen if I got up and shared something, because I had some things I had been mulling over and scripture I would’ve loved to read. It probably wouldn’t go over well, he responded matter of factly.

So this is the baseline I am working with – and, if it isn’t glaringly obvious – all of these attributes I was supposed to be displaying in order to be a Godly woman were nearly all completely contrary to my natural spirit. I am assertive, confident, outspoken, and independent. I wasn’t fitting the bill, but I was trying.

Fast forward through 12 years in a private school setting where this was the underlying message for women. It wasn’t necessarily that it was always taught directly to us (though, that, too) but certainly we were taught to be Biblical literalists (or, sort of? pick and choose? I don’t know, but definitely the parts about women being submissive to the husband, women being the body and men being the head, etc. the earth being only 5,000 odd years old, etc.) so you can imagine that a young girl who is being challenged in AP classes and asked to consider what she wants to major in during college is feeling a little confused because, if I also want to get married and that means I need to be submissive to my husband who will have his own dreams, and that I will likely be the primary caretaker of my kids like the vast majority of the women I see around me, how do all those things line up? Do I pick something I really want to go after full-fledge or do I pick being a submissive wife and mom?

Working, it sometimes seemed from looking around, was only for those who were too poor not to. It was not the ideal situation for a woman, and if by chance you did want to work at something, it was a good idea to pick something that meshed well with having children. I was encouraged by several women in my life to move toward teaching or nursing, because, this was a good job for mothers. Summers and holidays off for teachers, and you could be off in time to get your children once they were school aged, etc. Everywhere I turned in my social bubble, I saw women who were working around their husbands and children. It was rare to see a woman going after something she truly loved and asking her husband and children to rearrange for them.

Most women I spoke to seemed to be very concerned that I was forming whatever ambitions I had around the understanding that being a parent would come first for me. I did not see this same thing happening with the young men in my life. At the time, it didn’t seem odd to me at all. It wasn’t necessarily that “Child rearing will be your responsibility entirely!” was being bossily communicated, but it did seem like that was what I was supposed to be excited about, that was the primary conversation piece when I projected into my deep future with others. Did I want kids? I was too young and too deeply influenced by that community to think anything of it. Sure! I want to have children. And I did! But nobody seemed too interested in the other things, or how I would blend those together.

I am not blaming my initial career path on those influences, because I did enjoy Spanish and I personally felt a general lack of direction on a career. The internal monologue for me at 17 was something along the lines of, “I’m good at Spanish, kids are ok…*shrug*, I guess I’ll be a teacher?” (Really who can blame someone at 17? What does anyone know at 17? That’s for another day…) And when I did teach, I enjoyed it. But I guess I am saying that the overarching and underlying influences I had around me led me to not take myself very seriously. It wasn’t that I was forced into pursuing teaching, but maybe that nobody challenged me to pursue anything else with the confidence that I could actually achieve it. I think my dad tried – he enrolled me in art classes and often encouraged me to take that path, but he was the only voice in that direction in a very large sea of people communicating the opposite. It was a persistent, subtle message, I suppose. And for most of the messengers passing this message to me, it was passed along in a benign way. Loving, even. We see life differently, we see how women and men co-exist differently. But I see that method of raising women as harmful, now.

And so I entered into marriage with these conflicting energies — I was passionate and driven, so I was excited to pour myself into something (teaching), but also there was that subtle undertone that ultimately, Sean was the “head of the household” and I would “follow where he led” etc. and also the whole issue of how I had never really taken myself seriously enough to boldly ask myself what REALLY lit me up professionally – and then go after it. If I were being entirely honest, I would say that a year or two into teaching, I felt pretty convinced that I would just quit once I had kids. I didn’t say that out loud because I didn’t want people to think I was a quitter, but I just didn’t enjoy teaching as much as I thought I would. Plus, that’s what women do, right? I just didn’t feel that passionate about it, so, why not just be a mom…or…whatever. (General Directionless-ness 101.)

Also of grave importance in this discussion was that I had absolutely no clue what it really meant to be marrying someone who would later be a doctor. Sean being a doctor didn’t even feel real to me until probably his residency stage, and we had been together since undergraduate, before he had even been accepted to med school. I was just so young. I had no concept of what life would look like for him or, consequently, for me. I didn’t know any doctors or what their lives looked like. So I should mention that it’s true to some degree, that part of the conflict Sean and I presently feel has nothing to do with gender and a lot more to do with professions. He is a doctor, and that required many years of sweat, money, and sacrifice – on both ends – and this same conflict would apply to some of Sean’s colleagues that are women. Their job will probably take precedence over their spouse’s despite the fact that their spouse is male (provided their spouse is not also a doctor) because they will make more money and getting them their cost the couple more, financially and otherwise.

But there was still the other aspect: that all this time I had been quietly told that I’m to be soft, the helper, the domestically busy, the second fiddle. That it is attractive and endearing and what I was made for – to enjoy cooking, to serve my husband (that phrasing was thrown around a lot) to make a home. Throughout my twenties, I grappled with a whole lot of my religious upbringing. There was a lot to it that I didn’t seem to be fitting into anymore, and most of the way that Christianity (or, in the least, the brand of Christianity I grew up with) viewed and treated women was one of the bigger issues for me. I spent my early twenties trying to force Sean to be more of a “leader” for us than was ever natural for him in most ways, and I’ve spent the latter half of my twenties working to unravel those knots I tied with my own hands.

My friend was right: How can Sean not feel a bit sabotaged now, when the first half of my marriage was me trying in many ways to fall in line, be the helper to achieve his dreams, and be generally clueless about who I was or what I even wanted on a fundamental level?

One of the fundamental things Sean has consistently boiled our conflict down to is asking me, ok but what do you really want then, if not this? And honestly — in the past few years I’ve had to stop and say, DO I EVEN KNOW? I don’t feel like I was given (or gave myself) the space to seriously ask myself such a question, really. It feels like I was just sort of pushed through the system and rocketed in the direction of “nice lady motherhood” before I even had the chance to open my eyes and look around and figure out if that’s really what I wanted. And – I know I always say this, but I’ll keep saying it so you know – Two things. I DO want to be a mother. I just also want to be other things. And, I am not disparaging the calling of motherhood or those who feel exclusive motherhood is their calling. For some women, it is. But for some of us, it isn’t. And those are both ok. Different, and ok.

So, there has needed to be a lot of learning happening, on my end, with myself. At nearly 30. What DO I want? How DOES that fit into the life I’ve already created with this other person? What does mutual respect and pursuit of passions look like here, in light of our chosen professions, our children, our responsibilities? What is ACTUALLY FAIR of me to expect from Sean, given our history together and where we currently stand in the life we’ve created?

At the end of the day, I’m left with two things: I picked a good man, and if you don’t like where you’re standing, move.

You are not a tree.




A PPD Update

Two weeks ago I was deep into a hole that felt like the darkest I’ve ever seen. I was functioning purely off of survival mode emotionally and just trying to make sure my kids were fed and had had a bath in the past four days. (Keep those standards high!)

Everything felt wrong. I felt resentful of my children and my husband. Every day it felt like a struggle to get out of bed, and even the slightest rock to my boat made me spiral out of control emotionally. About a week ago, I meekly texted my dad to ask if he could come be with me and the kids while Sean worked a weekend of nights. I spent the weekend on and off in tears and lying in bed. Sean was scared. I was scared. People tried to help me by offering advice but I was so far gone that I just wanted to cover my ears and scream. I didn’t want advice, I wanted someone to hold me and tell me it was going to be ok.

That day I lied in bed crying with Sean, I told him I felt like I had lost myself completely. I was trying so hard to find myself but it was like I was drowning in something thick, impossible to see through or get out of. I knew I was depressed but it felt like a different breed. It felt bigger than me and any efforts I made – I know this is true for many people who suffer from depression. Sean gently suggested I consider medication, if only to get over the hump of PPD.

The part that had confused me the most was that I remembered having PPD with RR, but it came on almost immediately after her birth and felt very circumstantially influenced. I felt very confused about my new role in my life and my marriage, about leaving my job, about the new dynamic between Sean and myself. RR was a difficult baby — she cried way, way more than RM (my son) does. Everything was brand new and overwhelming and the crying baby soundtrack didn’t help.

But this time, the first 8 weeks were smooth sailing. I mean, all things considered. I definitely had my moments but overall I felt okay, like I had dodged the PPD bullet. And it was so, so confusing to feel it hit me at two months.

Several people suggested I take out my IUD — which I had absolutely considered. But, I have used hormonal birth control for years at a time before and never had issues, so I was hesitant to get it out only to find it wasn’t the issue – at first the PPD felt manageable, so I wanted to keep the IUD in and give my body some time to adjust to it. I had briefly used the pill after RR, but decided it was too difficult to take it responsibly (with nursing, I had to take it literally on the hour every day in order for it to be effective, and, yeah. Haha! No.)

Anyway – I have never had issues with birth control and depression before, but also, I didn’t take into consideration that this was a different type of birth control, and that I was mixing it with the mess that is postpartum. So two Saturdays ago when I was lying in bed feeling like I just wanted to fall asleep and not wake up for a solid year, I told Sean, I am getting this thing out of me. I have to get as many variables off the table as soon as I can to figure this out because if this gets any worse I’m not sure what we will do.

I am not against medicating depression. Please hear me on that. But I also am aware of what hormones can do, and I wanted medication to be the route I pursued only after I’d exhausted all other efforts. By the time I called my OB’s office the next day, I was absolutely desperate to get the IUD out – anything that could lighten my mental load at that point was an action I needed to take immediately. They told me they could get me in in two weeks. I cried on the phone and said forget it. So I messaged my OB through the email system her practice has and said I was double checking with her that she really couldn’t get me in before then, and that if she or her partners truly couldn’t, I would go ahead and remove it myself. (Lol! That sounds insane but it really isn’t. I had spent the evening before surfing Mirena forums of women who had done it and texting a friend whose husband is an OB. They all were like, just pull it out like a tampon! No sweat!)

My OB, who is a hero, contacted me within a few hours and met me at her office (she wasn’t even in that day. Praise for this woman abounds.) I sat on the exam table weeping (AGAIN) and she put her hands on my knees and listened. I have this fear that people in the medical field don’t take women seriously. I mean, certainly there are many medical professionals out there that don’t,  in regard to hormones and menstruation, etc. Anyway, I ran through the list with her. I talked about how this wave had only enveloped me about two weeks after the Mirena was inserted, and that despite being quite particular about everything in my life that could exacerbate PPD or depression in general (I had just completed a whole30, I was getting relatively decent sleep for having a 4 month old, I got out on walks, I was taking vitamin D, etc.) I felt like I was quite literally going under and I was terrified. She agreed that at the least, I had some PPD that was being exacerbated by hormones. At the most, it was all the IUD and either way we could absolutely take it out to see.

I was aware that I would probably have some placebo effect. And I did! Just seeing it physically out of me was enough to give me a sigh of relief – if that was the root factor here, it was OUT, and I could move forward. I walked with a skip in my step to the car.

But I have to tell you, it’s been a week and I am a NEW. DAMN. HUMAN BEING.

I remember my sister and my dad both trying to help me out on the phone in the weeks leading up to me getting it out. They gently presented the idea that perhaps my expectations for myself are just a smidge too high. Maybe I should set down work for awhile. Maybe I shouldn’t expect my house to be spick and span 24/7. Maybe I shouldn’t feel pressured to do whole30 or cook dinner for my family every night. Maybe I should turn on the TV for RR and go lie down.

And they are right, and I immediately began heeding their advice. (Last week the dinner menu was things like frozen vegetarian chick’n bites and frozen french fries.) But in my heart, I just knew. I knew it was more than that. I knew it was something beyond life management, and I was right.

I didn’t even realize how bad it was until it was out of me for a week. My baseline patience is back. My joy is back. My love for my husband and kids is back. I haven’t spent every waking moment barking at RR or wishing she would leave me alone or sitting and staring or waking up and wishing I could just go back to sleep. I haven’t spent inordinate amounts of my time wondering what the hell I am doing with my life or how I will make it another day, another week, another month. I haven’t cried out of frustration or anxiety or anger once in the past seven days. That is miraculous in and of itself.

I am me again. I found her.

Post Script: Of course, I am giving myself more time to figure out if that was the true root of my PPD issues. I’ve also connected with a counselor which, can I recommend enough that every human being see a therapist? It’s like taking your car in for a tuneup and it feels GREAT. DO IT. Life is not all butterflies because I got it out. I’ve still had moments of frustration. Life is still tough with two small kids. But it’s manageable again, and I’m having way more wonderful moments than hard ones.

I am so, so grateful that I was able to find what seems to be a relatively simple solution for myself, but I want to say one more time: this is neither a condemnation of medicating depression or of hormonal contraception. Not everyone finds that their PPD or depression comes from their birth control, and I feel honestly really lucky that it was as easy of a fix, it seems, as that. Those of you medicating your depression, I salute you for finding what works for you and I’m so happy you have found something that fits your life and your situation. I just felt, after the fact, that I was sorely under-informed when it came to what could potentially be the outcome of a hormonal IUD, and it really, really ruined me for the two months that I had it in. It scared the shit out of me. I know a few people who have IUD’s and who LOVE them. And I am thrilled for them that it’s working!

I wouldn’t advise against an IUD for anyone, because if it can jive with your body, it’s truly amazing. But I did want to share my experience so that anyone considering it can go into it with the knowledge to be mindful of its effects. And please, trust that YOU KNOW YOUR BODY BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. If you feel like something is affecting you, trust yourself. I wish I wouldn’t have waited even the two months that I did, because my body knew what was up and it was right.




postpartum depression

Yesterday I sat in the bathtub, half-filled with lukewarm water (all three other humans got to the bathroom before me…) and listened to Sean put the babies to bed. As the stairs groaned under him as he made his way downstairs again, I quietly got up, water dripping, to gently tip the bathroom door shut with my foot. Just as I lowered my body back into the water, they let out, fast. Hot and wet down my face. I felt so much shame. I was falling apart, again. I was failing. This was the third time in a week.

I didn’t even have the energy to wonder what was wrong. I knew I wouldn’t be able to give a good answer. Nothing? Everything? Everything felt out of control. Here I was again, feeling like I was thrashing about mercilessly at the end of another long day. He is tired. I am tired. And we have about, oh, just the rest of our lifetime to go?

Lately, it’s all I can think about: how positively endless it is to be a parent. Sean and I were talking the other night, and we agreed that somehow, we felt just a little hoodwinked about entering parenthood. By who, we aren’t really sure. But we certainly didn’t understand exactly the kind of binding contract we were entering into. Sure we “understood” – we wanted a child and we “knew” what that meant. But, you know. Also we didn’t know. We had no idea. It makes me laugh when I see non-parents criticizing parents who are struggling. When they say things like, “Nobody made you have kids…” or “You should’ve known what you were getting yourself into,” I just keep my mouth shut and laugh on the inside. Because NO ONE can be prepared for what parenthood is. It’s impossible to understand until you do it.

And so lately…man. I’ve been finding myself at the end of a long day, just standing in the kitchen washing bottles thinking, fuck. I mean, just. Fuck! It’s nearly tomorrow already and today took everything out of me – can I muster up the energy to sit on the couch and devote even 30 minutes entirely to myself in the first quiet moment of the day? And then after tomorrow there is another day after that, and another. Just an endless winding road of days unfolding ahead of me where two human beings need me more than I am able to give. At any given moment, I could spit out a list as long as my arm of things that should be tended to, but haven’t been. (The kitchen floor, the back of the refrigerator, my kids closets, my email inbox. To name a small few.) In the span of one day it feels like every ounce of my energy was issued out to help the children, to keep the house, to tend somewhat to my business, and just as you’ve finally tied up the ribbons on that day, SMACK. The next one is in your face.

With a normal bad mood, after my bathtub tears I would wipe my face, get on my clothes, and be on with it. But as I sauntered into our bedroom last night, I threw my towel onto the bed and sank down onto it. I didn’t want to get dressed. I didn’t want to divert my attention. This is how I know it’s more. The despondence. I think maybe tears were coming again. I felt so tired and bored with it washing over me again that I can’t even remember, really. When this happens, there is always a sliver of what feels like Actual Me left, buried under a hundred layers of anxiety and sadness, that is trying her best to pep it up. “Come on, it’s fine. Just get up! Get yourself dressed! Go have a glass of wine…” but when I’m this deep, the weight of the PPD weighs out. I want to lay and stare.

Mental illness runs pretty deeply in my family. Throughout my early adult years, I thought that because I was overall such a fantastic human being (HAHAHA) that I had evaded all that. I liked to say that I was against the stigma of mental illness, but deep down I most certainly was still carrying around the judgment reserved for those who seemed incapacitated, or had to fall back on medication. Then I had my first bout of depression. Then, after R*sie, another. Then, in my first trimester with R*ys, another. And now, the fourth time.

Each time, it is so markedly different than any other bad mood or simple funk I’ve found myself in. It is all-consuming. It is debilitating. It takes a woman who has a lot of drive and incapacitates her until she is a quiet figure lying on the couch, tears welling up in her eyes, wondering if she will be able to do all of this (this = life, parenting, adulting) again the next morning.

The strange thing about depression, at least for mine, is that it comes and goes in waves. One moment, I am fine. The next moment I’m wondering if there is any feasible way for me to somehow escape my entire life. Amidst the emotionally chaotic moments I am describing are a thousand moments that are really, just fine. Or even, really great. But I’ve realized that once the postpartum is around and I’ve identified it, it’s really always simmering under the surface, and usually only needs the slightest wave to set it off. The baby’s bottle leaks on my freshly changed sweatshirt. R*sie breaks down over getting grapes instead of blueberries. My mother says something benign that I interpret as criticism. Panera forgets my husband’s sandwich in our to go bag and I have to drive back. The grocery store not having my favorite granola bar. The list goes on of innocuous situations that a normal person should be able to roll with, but that seem to set me into a spiral in an instant.

But the waves of I’m-fine-we’re-fine-it’s-all-fine and then my-shit’s-hitting-the-fan-and-quickly — the waves are what make it hard. When people I know hear that I have postpartum depression, they either ask in a very hushed voice, “Are you okay?” or, when they see that I am dressed and out with my family, they say, “Oh! But you’re doing so great! Look at you all! You’re doing fine, don’t worry.” Someone doesn’t have to be captive in their house looking like death to be suffering, and conversely, someone who is able to put on a face and get life done (because, what other choice do I have? Let my kids go hungry?) isn’t necessarily doing alright mentally.

I don’t have a cute resolution to wrap up this post. I don’t know. I usually hesitate to share how deeply I am dragged down when depression hits me, because it seems most people’s solution is, “You seem so busy and overwhelmed, you should stop working!” And, maybe it’s my current emotional instability, but hearing that honestly flames up my chest. Perhaps it’s another whole can of worms? But I feel angry when that is the first solution presented to me.

Yes, work is hard. It’s much harder with two children. Right now I am choosing  a path that is making it really difficult on myself, keeping the baby home while I continue to work. Eventually, I’ll have to work that out in a better fashion than I am now. So for now, it’s messy. I’m messy. I don’t know how to do this so I’m just winging this and, sometimes, I’m winging it the wrong way.

But, I have hope in a few things. I know that I’ve been through this before, and I made it to the other side. I know that a lot of this, a HUGE portion of this, has to do with the enormous adjustment that comes, not just with having a newborn, but also with having a newborn and toddler. I know that laying down my pride and seeing a therapist helps me, personally, in a great way. And I know that there is a lot of good practice to be had in not running away from the waves of PPD when they crash on me. Pema taught me that — that emotions are part of the human ride, and acknowledging them as they come is immensely helpful.

I think I wrote this all down without a direction in mind because as I was sharing some of these things with my small circle of friends on snapchat yesterday, a few of them told me how alone they had felt in their own similar emotional journeys, and how healing it was to hear someone else say the things they were experiencing out loud. It makes me sad that it’s “SO BRAVE!” to say you’re struggling. I don’t know, maybe I’m off on this, but I’m pretty sure most people in the adult world are struggling. Or like, all people. If not perpetually than for sure at certain points throughout their adult life. I know I do, and, from what I gather, most people consider me like, successful and functional or whatever. Which, lol.

There is power in not hiding when you feel like you’re flailing and feeling like you’re not getting it right, not even a little. So – hey. Here I am. I’m flailing and I’m not hiding.


A Day.

A few of my favorite bloggers have done one of these recently – a play by play narrative of their day. Tonight, with a dead iPhone, I decided I had the time to jot down a diary of today. Looking over it, it seems a bit tinged with…I don’t know. Frustration? I have great days and I have not so great days, and I have lots of just somewhere-in-the-middle days. Today was somewhere in the middle, I suppose. Still working on that delicate balance of contentment, three months into being a family of four…

2AM The baby is fussing. I get up, half awake, and fish in the blue light of his monitor for a loose pacifier in his crib to give him. We are working on cutting out this feed, and sometimes, the pacifier works. I give him the pacifier and go back to bed, two times over, and it works. Sleep, glorious sleep.

5:40 AM I wake up to the baby squeaking and chirping. He is always early, but always happy. I look over to see Sean next to me. I must not have heard him come in; he worked a swing shift and came home after I was in bed. I shuffle into the baby’s room to feed him a bottle, and he is delighted to see me. I lay him down and try for another hour of sleep.

7:07 AM RR is calling for me. I open her door and tell her to get in bed with daddy, I need to change the baby’s diaper. Reluctantly she goes, after peering into the baby’s room to make sure I was truly busy.

7:35 AM I slug down my coffee smoothie (the only way I’ve found to pump caffeine into my body on whole30, not even whole30 legal but, at this point, I don’t care) while I put on one of my three gray dresses in rotation and a little bit of makeup.

8:03 AM RR and I leave Sean and the baby at home to drive the mile to daycare and she is all chatter, jumping from topic to topic at the speed of lightning. When we get inside, she is quiet and a little sad today as I peel her off of my leg, until her teachers offer to get out the sand, her favorite activity. I slip out to the car unnoticed as her tiny friends join her.

8:30 AM Grocery shopping keeps falling on weird days at weird times. I often go to multiple stores, and prefer to go it alone if I can. Since Sean’s schedule is erratic, this week’s trip fell on a Monday morning, when he could be home with the baby. I spend too long looking for water chestnuts, combing the canned vegetable aisle, the Asian food section, and the canned aisle again. Upon asking the produce man (the one I singled out because he is so kind and so interested in produce, I swear) he smiles and takes me back to the Asian food aisle. He talks with a thick accent. I think it is New York? Like Larry David. Is that just Jewish? Am I racist? No, just dumb.

9:10 AM I unload all of the groceries. The baby is upstairs chattering and Sean went back to bed since he worked late. I have no idea if the baby slept yet or was fed before he was laid down. After I get all the food put away, I go upstairs to check on him. He seems awake and he is kicking his feet. I’m still not sure if this is code for I’m so happy to see you, mom, or, hey, there is the person that feeds me, get excited.

9:30 AM I attempt to feed the baby in case he is hungry. I am having an angry inner monologue about how it is now 1.5 hours past the start of my self-inflicted work day schedule and I have yet to work, which is the recurring theme at this point in my life. Squeeze work into the cracks when you can. The baby is doing his typical I’m-not-that-hungry routine with the bottle, where he slowly sways his head back and forth and I weakly try to follow with the bottle. I call it the Stevie Wonder. RR did it too, at that age.

9:45 AM I give up on trying to have him finish the bottle, and plant him in his cove in my office. That is, under my work table on his boppy pillow. I have strung bakers twine around the table and dangled some toys for him. He seems genuinely pleased to slowly tap his soft hedgehog toy – just the week he learned to reach out and touch it, ever so meekly. I plant myself at the desk to print off some shipping labels and get packing.

10:15 AM Sean comes downstairs. He smiles at the baby and I grumpily request that he leave a note next time he goes to bed so I can be sure of when the baby ate or slept. Immediately, I regret making that our starting point for the day, and redirect to telling him about a work development. We start to discuss a consultation meeting I had to streamline my shipping process. The conversation takes a negative turn and ends with us both getting short with each other and fading into our own rooms and activities. Some days we laugh until we cry on the couch and make out in bed, and other days, we are both just tired and irritable, annoyed to be doing the Adult Thing again, wiping butts, wiping floors, over and over. C’est la vie?

10:30 AM Sean takes the baby to the basement for awhile and I spend a good hour wandering around packaging websites, trying to find a more efficient way to package my mugs. I feel like I am wasting precious time, but it’s a necessary evil. I take breaks to do other administrative tasks, like email.

11:50 AM I peel myself away to make a half-hearted whole30 lunch so I can get back to work. I am also feeling grumpy about whole30, as it is nearly done but without the traditional effects I’ve felt in past rounds. The last few pounds I’ve set out to lose refuse to come off. I suspect I’m hoping for too much too soon. I am also fed up with removing perfectly viable sources of health like whole grains and legumes, and resolve that the next time I do a 30 day stint, I will leave those two in.

12:30 PM I try and feed the baby again. He has been snacking, 2 ounces at a time, all morning. I am too tired to care today, so I allow it. Sean is busy vacuuming with his headphones on. When he’s done, I bring the baby to him and set the bottle down, reporting he hasn’t had much but will maybe want some a little later.

1:15 PM I settle back into the office to work on other stuff for my business that feel like wasting time: new stickers, brainstorming a more effective and/or professional way to package some of my products, designing the new packaging, emailing, chatting with customer service. It’s not that I mind these tasks so much as I feel that any time invested in one task takes away from time at another.

1:30 PM I reach for my phone for the 80th time today. The battery died two days ago and I am waiting on a replacement kit. Normally I use it as a calculator, or to get on snapchat when I need a social break. Man, I am missing snapchat with a dead phone!

2:10 PM Sean comes in to tell me he is leaving (another swing shift). He has fed the baby and he’s napping in the swing now. He will probably take a good long nap, since he only hardly cat napped in the morning.

3:30 PM After another hour designing packaging, finishing shipping, and finalizing a new product, my shoulders feel hunchy and tense. I feel tired all over, and my spirit does too. I think I have some postpartum depression. I tell myself that I need to slow down, lower my expectations, so I  go upstairs to draw a hot bath. I’m reminded of how Sylvia Plath agreed that a hot bath can cure just about anything. I sit in my bath and read a few pages of The Bell Jar. I feel so sad for Sylvia. I am not suicidal by any means, but as I imagine her in her small apartment in the dead of winter, alone with two small babies, it doesn’t seem so strange as to why she stuck her head in the oven. The poor woman – it’s all I’ve thought about this week as I’ve read her book.

4 PM I gather a snack for RR and get a bottle ready for the baby. I feed and change him before we leave to get RR from daycare. He snacks again, only 2 oz. I would be mad, but as he drinks he stops and giggles at me, catching my eye and smiling with his. He is the sweetest baby, only upset when he truly needs something. I can do nothing but smile back at him. I nuzzle him and sweet talk him and then we get ready to go.

5 PM I pull into daycare to see RR playing. She squeals to see me. Her teacher reports that she had a great day. She didn’t want her macaroni and cheese but ate all of her baked beans, and took her nap. We discuss how I can’t comprehend that someone wouldn’t like macaroni and cheese.

5:15 PM We head to the north end of town to pick up one of those door frame baby bouncers I found on a Facebook selling page. They always looked fun to me and I never got one for RR, so when I saw a nearly new one for $10, I figured, why not. RR was happy as a clam with Frozen (soundtrack) playing and a snack for the drive. I really play it up as a fun adventure so she’ll cut out the whining. It works.

6PM Home in time to get RR some dinner. I get her settled at the table and then change the baby and get him to bed.

6:30 PM RR is mesmerized by the new doorframe bounce seat. She immediately gets her baby doll and sets her up, with a blanket, a burp cloth, and several toys. She instructs me to be quiet while the baby rests. I make myself a quick dinner and then answer a few more emails as she becomes engrossed in Word World, a show where all of the objects and animals are illustrated using letters to spell the word that they are. The baby cries a few times and then finally falls asleep.

7PM RR and I cuddle for a few minutes before I announce it is bedtime. We go upstairs to brush her teeth, change her clothes, wash her face. She really wants to read a Christmas book, I really don’t. She never wants to read the Nancy Tillman book I bought her (that I love.) We settle on a dog book, and with that, two songs, and a refill of (must be fresh) water in her cup, she’s in bed by 730. A must when I’m going solo at bedtime.

7:30 PM I pick up stray items around the house and get the dishwasher going. I feel regretful that Sean and I were snippy to each other, and wonder if I’m just becoming a horrible person now that we have two children, or if it really is postpartum depression. I tell myself that I will for sure make an appointment with a therapist once my phone is functional.

8PM In my office I take a look at my to do list for the week and cross off a few more items. I think about how bone tired I feel and consider, for a moment, going to bed at 8PM. But the thought of waking up to do this again with no free time logged in between makes me kind of sad, so I stay up to read, and maybe have a snack.

9PM Since my phone is dead, I can’t surf the Internet mindlessly like I normally do. All this silent alone time has me truly pondering the Internet and what it’s doing to my brain. The silence! It’s deafening! I decide to pick up my book and log a few more pages. Inevitably, I stop now and again to trot over to the computer when something hits my brain. A product I wanted to look up, a message to send someone (my iMessage still works, so texting is still viable) something I forgot to order on Amazon prime, an email I wanted to send.

10:30PM The baby is stirring so I go in. Overall he is improving on his eating schedule, but he always eats best at night in regard to focus and amount taken. He is quiet and cuddly and all I can think about when I feed him at night is how I love him so much that it makes my insides hurt.

10:45PM I am in the bathroom taking care of my little nighttime routine: removing contacts, washing my face, putting on lotion and retainers. I ponder how I am nearly thirty, and how old that feels. I know it’s not old, but it feels old. Thirty. (I’m not even thirty.) I am now someone’s mom, just like my friend’s moms, when I was a little girl and would go over to their house and ponder their adulthood, their grown up nail beds, their diet soda and tv shows running. I am one of those, now. Weird.




Birth Story

baby feet facebookNow that the dust has settled somewhat around here, it feels like a good time to get down the boy’s birth story, for posterity’s sake. Throughout the post I’m so happy to be able to share some photos from the birth, generously provided by Heather Arnita Photography.  Heather connected with me through my Instagram account and is a local photographer in Columbus offering birth and lifestyle photography. I was thrilled to have someone take the time (in the middle of the night!) to be there to capture the moments, and as you can see, she did an amazing job. And, not just with the pictures – she was thorough, kind, and sort of like a fly on the wall during my (sometimes very obnoxious) labor. If you’re looking for a birth photographer, she’s your woman!

Ok, onward!

For about four straight weeks before he made his appearance, I was experiencing nightly Braxton Hicks. I don’t know when they are differentiated from Braxton Hicks (random contractions that are not labor) to false labor (is that the same as Braxton Hicks?) or prodromal labor (your body actually trying to go into real labor but for whatever reason stalling out), but nearly every night since Christmas, I had relatively consistent, long lasting, but painless contractions. It would be cute except it just got so. Old. So. Fast. It was physically and emotionally exhausting. As time passed they started to feel more convincing in their duration – both the contractions themselves and how long I had them for (sometimes several hours in a row each night.) For the final three weeks of my pregnancy I was 70% effaced and progressed from 2cm at 37 weeks, then to 3cm at 38 weeks, then, by 39 weeks, I was 4cm.

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By the time the end of January was rolling around, I felt totally stumped. The contractions felt exactly how they felt when I was going into labor with RR (my daughter) but they always stalled out. I knew I was decently dilated and effaced, but I also knew that basically…that means nothing. You can progress in an instant or stay at one place for weeks, like I had with my last pregnancy. I had no idea how I was going to have any clue when I was really in labor. The only thing I kept reminding myself was that many people mentioned that true contractions will begin to wrap around your lower back, and I had yet to feel that.

My parents came the weekend before my due date, because Sean was working night shifts and I didn’t want to go into labor while I was home alone with RR. I wanted the baby to come out so badly while they were in town that I was pulling out every trick in the book. Spicy food, squatting, sex, walking (we all packed up in the car and went to Target to just wander through every aisle the day my parents were leaving town, in a last ditch attempt to get him out, no luck) I even used my breast pump, which has worked for others that I know. Nothing! Except more false labor. Ha.

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My poor parents went home and we kept waiting. The night of the 25th (the day after they left and the day before my due date) I started to have contractions around 6pm. I remember telling Sean, “Here we go again…” and rolling my eyes in boredom with the same old routine. But within the hour, I started to feel them wrapping around my back, for the first time in that pregnancy. I tried not to panic Sean, but I let him know they were wrapping around my back. We both contemplated what to do next. I was so wary of getting childcare for RR and trekking all the way to the hospital only to be told that I wasn’t really in labor. But also, several people who had as much false labor as I did said that their delivery went SUPER FAST, and that scared me. Also? Sean’s coworker had JUST relayed a story to Sean about how his wife went into labor with their second, got sent home from the hospital, and then HE HAD TO DELIVER THE BABY ON THEIR BATHROOM FLOOR. Like, words cannot express how much I did NOT want that to be our story (love you Sean, but, no.) so I was also very PRO get to the hospital in case labor went faster this time.

So we made arrangements for RR and headed off to the hospital. I already felt lame because my contractions were totally nothing. I felt them, they were wrapping around my back, but they certainly didn’t hurt. When we got to the hospital, the receptionist was like, “You must be here for an induction!” Because I was so calm and cool, lol. Mm, nope, sorry.

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(this picture makes me die laughing every time.)

When they checked me, I was still at 4cm and 70% effaced, as I had been for the past few weeks. They advised me to spend an hour walking the halls, see if that got me anywhere, and if not, I would go home. I was sort of bummed at the prospect of being sent home, because we had already scheduled an induction for just two days later (one day after my due date, so that we could take full advantage of Sean’s pre-scheduled paternity leave) and I sort of just wanted them to be like, “Ah what the heck, you’re already here and progressed decently so let’s just get the party started…” Guess it doesn’t work that way, lol.

An hour of walking, nothing. Add me to the club of women who thought they were in labor but weren’t and got sent home, DAMN IT! By this time it was 11pm, and we were tired and bummed. We grabbed some consolation frosties at Wendy’s and came back home to report to Sean’s mom that I wasn’t ready yet. We all headed for bed shortly thereafter.

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post-epidural straight CHILLIN

At 2:45am, I got up to pee. As I headed back to bed, I felt a lot of water trickling happening in my underwear. Ah. There goes my water! (As a sidenote, both of my babies’ water broke on their due date. Isn’t that insane? RR didn’t show up until the day after her due date, but Rhys came on the dot!) I woke Sean to let him know and we sat there wondering if NOW we should go in? I wasn’t contracting, so we decided I would lie back down and see what happened. Within minutes, I had three very real, very convincing contractions that were undeniable. It was so much like a movie labor scene that I always roll my eyes at and go, “You don’t immediately go into active labor when your water breaks, HOLLYWOOD.” Turns out this time I did, ha. So at 3AM, we got up, let Sean’s mom know we were heading back in, and left. On the way to the hospital the contractions got so strong that I could hardly talk through them. I was white knuckling the car door handle and trying to breath. Like whoa, this is going fast.

Sean dropped me at the front of the hospital that he told me was accessible and drove off to park. When I got to the doors, they were all locked (LOL / OMG / KILL ME / HELP ME / SEAN WHERE ARE YOU). So I’m wandering around in the dark entrance area of the hospital, pausing to stop and squat/sit through contractions – two doctors strolling inside SAW ME AND MADE EYE CONTACT WHILE I HAD A CONTRACTION ON THE SIDEWALK AND KEPT MOVING. Um, thanks you guys.

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A cab driver asked me if I was Carrie, and I was like nope, sorry, and then transitioned into another heavy contraction. The poor man was terrified. He was like, are you… okay? Yep, fine, just in active labor and my husband deserted me and the doors are ALL LOCKED, no big deal or whatever. He looked over at an entrance about 100 yards away and said, someone is at that door, go try it! That someone ended up being Sean, who had an employee badge to unlock the doors that I have NO CLUE WHY they were locked so, whew. Crisis averted.

When we got to triage, I was already to the point where I could barely function. I forget why, but the nurse needed to do a dry cervical check (aka HELL) maybe because she wanted to be sure my water broke? And her knobby giant hands had to feel all around to check my dilation and I thought I was going to die right there with the dry cervical check. Good god. It was only a half hour or so since my water had broken and I was 7cm. At this point, I was already Team Epidural, lol. (the whole pregnancy I was like, don’t pressure me, I don’t know what I will do, just let me decide when the time comes.) I made sure to say, I definitely want an epidural, so like, just letting you guys know.

elation 1 facebookThey wheeled me into a real room and the nurse was like, Hi I’m Tammy, I’m just going to prep for the baby right now just in case because you seem to be moving fast. She seemed very concerned that the baby was going to like, slip out of me right there so I just let her do her prepping. We got situated and I labored from 3:30-5:30AM with Sean sans medication. Toward the end I questioned if maybe someone could just bludgeon me over the head, because I was in so much pain I could hardly breathe. I had to wait for the epidural because throughout the pregnancy my platelets were low, and until they know – the day you deliver – what your platelet count is, you can’t get an epidural. FINALLY when the lab work came back to the nurse, the anesthesiologist came in. At this point, shit was dire. Like, I’m sure I looked and sounded like a total maniac. The nurse insisted on checking me before putting the needle in and I was like, JUST DO THE DAMN THING I CANNOT HANDLE LIFE WHY ARE YOU CHECKING ME RIGHT NOW. She told me I was 9cm, and as she was telling me I had another contraction and was like, I NEED TO POOP. AND PUSH. OH GOSH I NEED TO POOP.


Of course I knew what that meant. I was probably transitioning. At this point both Tammy and Rhonda (anesthesiologist) are like, look honey. You can do this without the meds. You can totally do this. Meanwhile I am like, sobbing and begging. Give me the meds, I need the meeeeeeeeds. PUT THE NEEDLE IN MY BACK NOW. STOP TALKING TO ME AND PUT IN THE NEEDLE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Once she got it in, I turned around and was like, “Rhonda. I love you. I love you so much.” She was a hard-ass lady but that totally made her smile.

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From 5:30-7:30, Epidural Jolie entered the stage and was just super, duper happy. Like, I couldn’t stop talking about how happy I was. I rested and chatted and ate ice chips, and at a little after 8:00am the new nurse on duty readjusted my position to help the side of my cervix that wasn’t complete get there. Not long after, I felt very ready to push and was holding back until the OB got there. My sweet, amazing nurse Kara had the best sense of humor and did the best job ever of preparing me and attending to me. Like, five stars for Kara, seriously. Also, she was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant. YEAH. YOU GO, KARA.

Three contractions, and a total of 5 minutes of pushing and baby boy was in my arms. It was absolutely insane. I couldn’t believe that just a few hours before I had been sent home and then here we were with our boy in our arms. I think after the initial shock and euphoria of meeting him wore off, one of the first things I said was, “I’m so excited I’m not pregnant anymore.” And dude, I stand by that statement STILL.

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