Channeling some Aesop

Recently I’ve been musing over the Aesop’s Fable of City Mouse, Country Mouse. If you’ve never heard it, essentially two mice living in different habitats switch living spaces for a bit so they can experience life a different way than what’s become routine and ordinary for them. In the end, they discover that they’re better off staying in their own homes, and they appreciate it more. Something like that. In my mind, I’ve been applying it to mothering situations. The working mom and the stay-at-home mom, and the idea that we’re all susceptible to the idea of the grass is always greener somewhere else.

Because of teaching, I’ve gotten a taste of both since Birdy has been born. I went back to work, but I’ve gotten the summer to be with her. Today starts my last week of being with her, and it’s bittersweet.

There have absolutely been times this summer when I’ve felt so stir-crazy. When as much as I love Birdy, I’ve been weary of how much she needs me all day long. When I’ve been desperate for some adult interaction. Being a stay-at-home parent is HARD. Anyone who says otherwise is likely sugarcoating the truth and/or has never actually done it. It’s beautiful, but it’s difficult. It can feel isolating and emotionally draining, and just from my brief time in the parenting world, it seems like the stay-at-home parent doesn’t get nearly as much credit as they should. To those of you who do this 24-7/365, I have so much respect for you.

Even before I got pregnant, with Charlie and with Birdy, I knew I would be a working mom. I knew that teaching was a part of me, a calling rather than a job, and I knew I wouldn’t give it up. I also knew that I would be a happier mom, a better mom, if I continued to pursue that passion and show my kids what that looked like. And now, a week away from returning to work, there’s a part of me that’s truly looking forward to it.

But despite that, and despite the moments this summer where I’ve been exhausted by being a stay-at-home mom, there is also a part of me that wishes I could continue to stay at home with her.  Because I wouldn’t trade a moment of the summer we’ve had together. I love that I’ve had this time to get to know her more, to continue to bond, to have her smile and laugh, learn to roll over and blow raspberries, have baby babble conversations with her, see her get adorably messy as we began to try baby food, to find her amazing feet, to feel the sweet weight of her on my chest as she succumbs to sleep. Getting to marvel at her exploring her world has been such a gift.

And so enter the thoughts of the city mouse and the country mouse — the idea of living life from another side. But I come to the same conclusion the fable does (well, ish); that my life is best lived with the way it is — as it pertains to working or staying at home. Best for our family. So while looking forward to rejoining the ranks of the working parents, I’ll always be grateful that my work allows me to be a SAHM for two months a year.

Sorry not sorry

After Birdy was born, there were a whole host of things I felt guilty about. This was before we realized she was dealing with colic and I was dealing with PPD/PPA, but at the time, it was just so. much. guilt. I felt awful that as much as I loved her I just wanted her to stop crying. That I wanted to be able to put her down. That I craved sleep above almost all else. That I missed the relationship I used to have with Hubs, because I just couldn’t give him the same attention that I gave Birdy. That I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from being super-vigilant all the time because I was so worried something would happen and we would still lose her (ahem, PPA). That I couldn’t do it all, that I needed help, that I was already failing at being her mother (thanks, PPD). And on and on and on.

It seemed like, and still seems like, the only things I didn’t feel guilty about, didn’t feel the need to apologize for, were the things society at large kind of passively aggressively tells new mothers they should feel bad about.

Namely, for me, the big two of how I gave birth and how I provided nourishment.

I decided very early on in my pregnancy that I wouldn’t be breastfeeding. It’s my body, it’s my choice, and I shouldn’t have to defend it, but I did have my reasons and had they asked I would have had no problem laying it out for them. I’m about to get all kinds of personal, so brace yourself: my nipples have always been extremely sensitive. I mean to the extent that often during our adulting I have to declare them off limits to Hubs, and that an accidental graze can be painful. So I knew that breastfeeding would be an awful experience for me. I knew I would dread it. And I also knew that Birdy would be able to feel my dread and I didn’t want feeding her to be a negative experience for either one of us — that wouldn’t allow for a lovely bonding experience at all. I know all the benefits of breast milk for an infant, but I also know that many infants have been formula fed due to choice or circumstance and turned out just fine. Like me. So I did my research and found a formula that I thought would be best for Birdy as far as nutrients, development, digestion, etc. and that’s what I went with. But oh lordy the looks I got when I said “no” to the question of are-you-breastfeeding in the hospital. It was a lot. Multiple times a day. Even in my haze I wanted to ask, “Isn’t this on my chart? Shouldn’t somebody have written down that I said no a bajillion times already?” A part of me thought that maybe they believed if enough people continued to question me I’d break down and do what they wanted.

But I didn’t, and Birdy is doing very well in her development. Sorry, not sorry.

Birdy was breech most of the pregnancy, but flipped about a month before she was born. After the Spectacular Failure of the induction (more detailed post on that to come), the medical team wanted me to wait two weeks and then try another induction. I refused and asked for other options, knowing the hospital was very proud of their low C-section rate and didn’t really want to go that route if they didn’t have to, and also knowing that that’s what they were going to damn well give me. The thing was, even though they said Birdy was doing just fine to sit tight and wait it out another two weeks, even though they were the medical professionals, they weren’t me or Birdy and they didn’t experience the induction the way we did. No matter what their tests said, I knew the induction was rough on her, and knew it was rough on me, and I wasn’t doing that to us again. I know a C-section is major surgery, I understand it comes with risks, but at that point I truly felt it was the safest way to get Birdy delivered. I was terrified that we would wait too long and we’d lose her before she could be born. I didn’t want her birth to turn into an emergency situation where we ended up having to get an emergency C-section anyway, I much preferred we prepare for it ahead of time. I felt like people were acting as though “C-section” was a dirty word, something that if it had to be uttered aloud, needed to be whispered or mumbled (which is exactly how the doctor presented me with the option after I nixed induction number two).

As it turns out, the doctor who did my C-section (different one from earlier) said during the procedure that it was probably a good thing I’d gone that route. So, sorry, not sorry.

New mamas (and in general, anyone at all, really), it’s okay to trust your gut and stick to your guns. As a neighbor said to me when I was very carefully trying to recount all this, “they may know the medicine, but you know your body”.

525,600 minutes

What a difference a year makes.

A year ago today, was the most difficult day of my life. Never before have I been as blindsided by devastation, pain, grief, disbelief, and certainty as I was that day, all at once. And love. The strength of a love that is staggering in the loss.

I went into my OB’s office expecting to see my baby growing and safe. Instead, we were confronted with our baby’s lifeless form on the ultrasound screen. No warning. But nothing could have prepared us for that anyway.

After the subsequent D&C, I wrote a letter to Charlie, my lost child. I told him the only thing I got to know about him was his heartbeat, and how much I loved him. Then I sealed it and put it him his memory box.

525,600 minutes later, my infant daughter, two months new, is napping in front of me. Charlie’s sister. Birdy is beautiful, and puzzling, and colicky, and seeing her smile and hearing her coo makes my day.

And I know that without Charlie, there would be no Birdy. If we had waited longer after losing him to try to conceive, we might have a baby –a little life that we would undoubtedly love — but it wouldn’t be Birdy. It wouldn’t be her little soul.

There’s an element of cognitive dissonance in that.

But a year after the worst day of my life, I can only be grateful. For both of my children.

Sidelined

Despite my best intentions to write more on here again, I’ve been sidelined both because Birdy has colic and because I’ve developed postpartum depression and anxiety.

Both of these issues are rough and hard to navigate. But what they have in common is that I didn’t do anything to cause them (read: it isn’t my fault) and I don’t have control over them occurring. I do have control over how I react, though. For myself, I called my doctor and made an appointment to talk about it. I then started medication to help. It’ll take 1-3 weeks for it to kick in, so until then I’m coping as best I can. For Birdy’s colic (and for myself and Hubs), I’m making myself accept help from others, which has never been my strong suit, and loving her through it. Doing these things are going to help me operate as the best me I can be.

Here’s my PSA: It is okay to accept help from others, it is okay to take medication if you need it. It doesn’t mean you less of a person or a bad parent. (I say that to continue to remind myself as well.)

Catch you all down the road.

Dear Body

Dear Body, I’m sorry.

Dear Body, thank you.

When Charlie died, I blamed you. I blamed you for not doing the one thing that was supposed to be the most natural thing you could do. I blamed you for not sending me the signals that something was wrong. I thought you were defective, that you wouldn’t ever be able to do anything right. When we started trying again, I went ahead and blamed you ahead of time in case we were unsuccessful.

When I did get pregnant again, I didn’t trust you. I held my breath for months, convinced you would fail me again, fail the new baby. When we learned the level of amniotic fluid was lower than optimal, I thought of all the ways that could be detrimental to the baby, and I blamed you for not being able to regulate the fluid. After I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I was so angry that you’d become insulin-resistant, and further placed the baby at risk. When the placenta showed signs of being three weeks more aged than it was supposed to, I laid yet another strike against you.

I spent most of the last trimester feeling like I was in limbo, so worried that you wouldn’t be able to sustain her until birth. I was so grateful when they finally induced me — but when the induction failed, it was another in a long list of things that was your fault. Why couldn’t you just get things right?

Body, I’m so sorry. For blaming you again and again, for being so angry, for the times I felt like I hated you. I was so filled with fear that I couldn’t see all the gifts you were giving me.

When Charlie died, there was nothing you could have done to change it. But you tried. You didn’t send me signals that anything as wrong because you were trying so hard to make it not so. You were trying to keep Charlie safe and warm inside for as long as you could.

When we started to try again you got ready right away, and almost immediately Birdy came into existence. While I worried about you failing, you persevered every day to help Birdy grow. You battled the low fluid, the gestational diabetes, the placental lakes, the aging placenta, and my fear — and you did it all while keeping Birdy safe.

Oh, Body, you must have been so tired. And then the induction happened and I willed you to let her go so I could have her outside. The process further exhausted us all but you wouldn’t give up on her. And though I was devastated, your stubbornness meant she got more time to develop those lungs and prepare for the wild world.

Even with my lack of faith in you, you never failed me — never failed us. You have worked so hard this year. Even in my anxious moments, please know I marveled at how you carried her life.

Body, thank you. Thank you for more than I know how to say.

You look different now, you feel different. The stretch marks, the saggy skin, the scar that will come; these are all reminders of what you accomplished for me. Once again you are working hard, this time to help me recover.

I’m sorry I doubted you. Thank you for your strength. Body, you are a warrior.

Bringing Birdy Home

It’s hard to believe I haven’t really been on here since January, but at the same time, not that hard to believe at all.

Though the past couple months have been chock-full of stuff to write about, the most monumental and literally life changing is that Birdy was born!

I tried my best to fight for what was best for her all the way up until she took her first breath of air, and thankfully she is doing well. But let me tell you, mom-guilt is real and (at least for me) kicked in before she was even technically born.

Right now, we’re getting into some semblance of a routine as a new family of three, and Hubs and I are learning how to operate on less than optimal sleep (which I know is par for the course). So often I look at Birdy and still can’t believe she’s here, that she’s real, that we made a tiny human, that not too long ago she lived inside of me. I get that it’s biology, I understand how it scientifically happens — but that doesn’t change that to me she is some kind of miraculous.

While I’m on maternity leave, in addition to spending much needed time with her, I’d like to pick back up my writing on here. My idea is that over the next couple months I’ll write some new posts that chronicle the last couple months of pregnancy with her, her entry into the world, new mama-dom, and throw in some book recommendations, etc. as well. We’ll see how far I get on this, because obviously Birdy-time is my priority; but as I’ve been told by multiple sources it’s still important to take care of myself as well, and I think this could be part of how I do that.

(From the unfinished drafts archive) — I am 1 in 4

(I started this post back in October, because it was pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I never quite finished it, but it’s real for how I felt at the time (and some days still do) so I thought I’d share it with you):

I am 1 in 4. I never wanted to be. I never thought I would be. I never got a choice. I never got a reason. And I never will. But I’m stuck in the flippin’ club no matter what.

I constantly struggle with whether to speak or keep letting others just swim along. I started this blog because I didn’t feel like I could be honest about everything I was going through on Facebook. I still don’t feel like I can be on that platform.

But 6 months and a second pregnancy later, the ignorance of people when it comes to miscarriage still angers me.

Placental lakes are not a vacation destination

Have you ever heard of these? I certainly had not, until this week. Because apparently, I have them. Yippee for me. Want to know what they are? Pools of blood in the placenta. Lovely.

Guess what else? I have low amniotic fluid and in almost a month it doesn’t seem like Birdy has changed positions.

She’s growing, thank goodness, for now — but these new developments are pretty effing concerning and I’m kind of pissed at the universe. Come on! Couldn’t you just have tossed me a gimme for this pregnancy? Couldn’t you have let us get through it with the anxiety we already possessed and not piled on more? COME ON!

So I’m off work for two days while I continuously guzzle fluid and rest to see if that makes a positive difference in the fluid level. Because with the way this school year is, there is no way I could meet that criteria and still go to work. We go in for another ultrasound shortly to see if it’s made any difference.

The placental lakes, it seems, are there to stay — nothing to be done.

Just slightly unnerving.

I’ll be busy trying to avoid the internet rabbit hole of information that will terrify me.

Birth Days

Yesterday was Charlie’s due date. What was estimated to have been his birthday. I’m not sure why, but lately I’ve been thinking of Charlie more as a boy. Having a pronoun to use is comforting, so I think I’ll just go with it for now.

I’d put in for a personal day for 11/7 almost as soon as school started up again. I didn’t know how I would feel on his due date, so I thought it best if I just stayed home. That way, no matter how the day ended up being, I wouldn’t have to struggle to keep it together all day long.

What was funny, in an odd and unexpected way, was how I didn’t feel devastated or bereft all day long. I had intended to spend time looking through the box I’d put together of the small amount of things we had that represented his short existence, but I didn’t. I may still do that today though. If he had been born yesterday, it would have a been a beautiful autumn day for him to enter the world.

I’ve been thinking too about how this sort of loss just becomes a part of you. My baby died. And when I think about that, I don’t think about it in terms of “fetal tissue” or whatever clinical terms exist. He was my baby, and he died, and when that happened, I had no idea how I would make it through the darkest grief I have ever experienced. I knew I would, but I didn’t know the path to get there. To get here. Where I can think about him, and what happened, and not break down.

My baby died, and there is absolutely no getting around that. It isn’t something that can be fixed, and it isn’t something I will ever have an answer for. I still get sad, and angry — of course I do. Those are pieces of me now, just like Charlie is. I still feel guilty. I think about things we did last spring, when he had already died, but we didn’t know it. I wonder how the hell I didn’t know. And even though there isn’t a single thing I could have done to change what happened, I am still so sorry.

Oh, wait. Here comes the crying.

If Charlie had lived, his birth day would have been a monumental event. A defining point in our life. I’d be completely exhausted from labor, and, I like to think, completely elated and in love with the new life I’d brought into the world. Instead, I’m fighting like hell to get his sister here safely. To do for her what I couldn’t do for him. And it’s a weird juxtaposition.

Happy Birthday, my first baby. I will never stop wondering who you would have been. But I am so grateful for the time we had you, for making my way through your loss, for everything I’ve learned because of you. I love you always.

 

The uphill of the downhill

Based on a bunch of reading from blogs and baby-focused websites, plus doses from “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (the book, not the movie), I’ve gleaned that the second trimester is supposed to be the easy one. The downhill stroll before the third trimester rolls around.

But my downhill is still pretty uphill, and not because of a ton of un-fun symptoms. I mean, I have some. But none that are debilitating. To be honest, this pregnancy has been pretty “easy” overall, physically at least. And while I appreciate that part, the whole pregnancy has been very difficult because of the emotional aspect. Not even the heightened emotions bit, just the ever-present fear of losing this baby, too.

I know, because of Charlie, that no matter what I do or how I try to “steel” myself for a potential loss, I will still lose my ever-loving mind to grief if it happens again. But a part of me still braces for it, because as much as I want to believe Birdy will end up happy and healthy in the world come March — and as much as I try and even sometimes convince myself that that will absolutely happen — there’s still a part of me that can’t trust that.

And I’m so jealous. I am. Of all the people who don’t have to think about that while they’re pregnant. I’m happy for them, but I’m jealous of them. I want the bliss. I yearn for it. And I have big, big hope. But I don’t get the bliss that comes from ignorance. That comes from knowing about other people’s stories of loss, but not having them really touch me. Not that blissfully pregnant people are bad people — they aren’t! That’s not what I’m saying! I just — well you get it, right?

Another thing that’s been rolling around in my head lately, is that I still kind of feel like I’m not quite allowed to be excited about Birdy out loud. At least not with people who aren’t my nearest and dearest. Most people don’t ask about the pregnancy. My bosses didn’t even acknowledge they got the email I sent them informing them I would be gone for maternity leave around early March (I finally asked one of them three weeks later, just to be sure they got the email and knew they would have to find a long-term sub — they did). And again, it’s not that anyone’s doing anything wrong. I suppose I just realized that I still feel the weight of stigma from miscarriage — whether it’s truly there or not. As though because I couldn’t get Charlie safely into the world, no one should really bring up Birdy until she’s actually here.

So, clearly, I’m still kind of grappling with some guilt. Ha. Likely that won’t ever completely go away. Logic versus feeling.

But she is here. Every day. And for as long as that lasts, maybe I should let myself celebrate her whenever I damn want. Or, at the very least, not think I should be keeping my head down about the pregnancy.

I’m aware I’m kind of talking in circles. Well, writing. But at least I’m expressing!