Thursday, July 28, 2005

My Night and Morning

6pm - Feed the baby, hand him to Matt, and then fall asleep, not even caring about dinner.

9pm - Wake up. Jack napped in the swing for an hour while I slept. I feed the baby. I can't lay him down because he needs his meds in an hour.

10pm - Give Jack his meds, then feed him again and lay down with him. We both fall asleep.

Midnight - Feed Jack.

2am - Feed Jack. He cries, arches his back, kicks his legs and refuses to go back to sleep. I change him, then rock him in my arms until eventually he relaxes and is out.

3:30am - Feed Jack.

5:45am - Wake to the feeling of liquid rushing under me. I smell it. It's only pee, thank God. The diaper was too loose around his legs. I fix the diaper and feed Jack who is now screaming again. I then put a towel down on my side of the bed as I'm too tired to change the sheets. Please baby, just a little bit more sleep. He stops crying, but is now up for the duration. Matt gets up for work, changes Jack, gives him his meds, then gives him back to me as he leaves.

7am - I feed Jack and he finally falls back asleep, so I do too.

7:30am - Janie is up and climbing on my bed. "Good morning Jackie Jackie Jackie." Janie pleeease don't wake him up. But it's too late. I've got to get up and get myself, Janie, and Jack dressed and ready for the day.

10:00 - Feed Jack.

10:30 - Lay him down in his crib. He's exhausted. Right now he's not sleeping, but not crying either.

I don't understand what keeps him going. Yesterday he took only 3 1-hour naps, at 10am, 1pm and 6pm, and that's it. Then at night, he's up to eat nearly every 2 hours, and sometimes crying. I don't feel any new teeth coming in. A couple of times I've felt like calling the pediatrician and asking him to check him out, but I can't imagine bringing him in just because he won't sleep. Babies sleep sometime, right?

Meanwhile I'm still exhausted. Why does he eat so much more during the night than during the day? And how can he still be awake?

While Matt had offered on the phone yesterday to take Jack for the night, when bedtime came around, it wasn't meant to be. HOWEVER, Matt has the day off tomorrow (thank goodness because he's been working the past few Sundays). So tonight I will sleep in the other room and Matt will sleep with Jack. It's not as easy as that, but I've got to try. My pride, my vanity, my desire to want to be the good mother are being taken over by complete sleepiness and inability to do anything. My whole day is spent taking care of cranky Jack and not working or cleaning or doing anything else. He's my priority, but I need a break and without sleep or naps, I'm barely alive.

I don't get it. I hear him right now, still awake, starting to fuss. Hey kid, it's nap time. Sleep. At least one of us needs to.

Got to go, he's crying.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Circular Error

My grip is starting to slide again.

I had a dentist appointment yesterday. I brought Jack with me as it was during his nap time and I thought he would sleep. He didn't, instead he started to fuss. A dental assistant offerred to pick him up and I quickly had to push away the hygenist to sit up and tell the assistant that he has a bag, but don't worry about it. She took it very well, was still happy to hold him, and didn't ask any questions. And neither did anyone else. While I was relieved that they didn't (because I just didn't feel like getting into it), I got a little down that I have to worry about it. I want them to see him, and not wonder what's going on under his clothes.

I have two cavities, so I need two appointments for an hour each. As much as I hate getting cavities filled, I'm having more of a problem trying to figure out when I will set these appointments. I don't want to bring Jack in again because they shouldn't have to babysit him during my appointment. And they are closed on Fridays, which Matt sometimes has off. They open after he's gone to work and close before he's home. And it seems like so much hassle to ask Matt's aunt to come out just for my 1 hour appointments. I don't know what to do.

It seems like such a simple task, right? See, those are the killers. When I have simple tasks that I just can't accomplish. It's not just the energy or the time, it's just... I can't put my finger on it.

I didn't set the appointments yesterday since I didn't know what to do. They called today, and the receptionist had a hard time understanding what I was saying. I need to arrange sitting before making the appointment, but I don't know when to arrange the sitting since I don't have an appointment. It's a circular thing.

But really, it's that thing again. The shadows. The verge of tears for no reason thing. Looking sadly at unmade bed but unable to get myself to make it. Hearing his cries boring into my soul, but unable to help him. (Why has he all of a sudden decided that he can only breastfeed lying down? Screams and fights when I try to sit and feed him, but at the same time sucking on my neck when I hold him up. Hungry, but stubborn as hell. And as soon as I lie down with him he's calm and nursing fine.)

Matt called and offerred to sleep with Jack tonight so I can sleep in the other room. He called it preventative maintenance. While I should be happy about this, instead I feel like a bad mother. I can't do what he needs. I'm not strong enough. I'm not good enough. Yet, I do need the sleep and I feel guilty for wanting it. It's not so much Jack who has been keeping me up lately, but some insomnia. Thinking about all that I'm too tired to do, which makes me too tired to do any of it the next day.

See the circles? I need to get better to get better. I need to be strong to get stronger. Yet, if I could do that I'd already be doing it, now wouldn't I?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Ever see the movie Groundhog's Day?

At 3:51am Jack rolls towards me to breastfeed. I reach for him and touch squishy. Bag leak. Yuk. In the bed. Yuk. And we had just changed his bag a few hours ago. So now I had to lay there and let him nurse while trying to hold the bedding up with my elbow and keep my poopy fingers towards the sky. Meanwhile my eyes remained closed and my mind drifts in and out of thought. Can a person sleep with poopy fingers in the air while simultaneously pointing top shoulder down so as to direct breast into baby bird's mouth? For a few minutes, yes.

Eventually I get up. I must wash hands first, and don't touch anything. Then pee. Then wash again. I start gathering supplies for the bag change. There wasn't a new one cut (has to be custom cut to fit his ever changing stoma), I sit on the corner of the bed with my template, needle point nail scissors, and pencil. In the soft glow of the bathroom light, trying in vain not to wake the baby, I draw the design from the template onto the back of the pouch. Then I poke in the scissors to start cutting a hole, but I accidentally poke all the way through and puncture the pouch. Start over.

Get a new bag. Draw the design. Carefully poke in scissors. Work on cutting out the hole. I wonder if my kids will be ostracized in school because their mother is an atheist. They won't really be atheists since they wouldn't have made any educated choice yet. Not at that age. So what would they really be? Religion ignorant? Kids don't know what that is. But how would the kids know I was an atheist since I'm still mostly in the closet about it? Hold it over him to see if it fits. Needs to be a little bit bigger here on this end. Use scissors to cut hole larger. Crap. I cut that part straight through the pouch. Damn. Start over.

Get a new bag. Draw design. Carefully poke in scissors. I'm not going to... Damn! I poked a hole in the bag again. This never happens to me. To Matt, yes, but not to me. If this continues, I'm never going to sleep And I'm going to run out of bags. Start over.

Get a new bag. Draw design. Carefully, carefully poke in scissors. Work on cutting out the hole with some extra size. I wish elementary schools went all year round so I could take the kids for long winter and spring vacations. Summer is great, but why have three months in the summer when you can have one in the summer, one in winter and one in spring? It would be so much better for the kids and the parents. Who would oppose it? Teachers? I'd think they'd want the breaks stretched out too. Seems like the school year can get awfully long. The teachers and kids both must get burned out in the spring. Check it, perfect. Thank goodness. Remove old bag. Clean baby. Put on skin protectant. Use stoma adhesive (caulking), "just like icing a cake", only it's 4:15 and I'm icing a stoma on a wide awake, smiling and kicking baby. Someday I'm going to ask the ostomy nurse how many moving cakes she's iced at the crack of dawn. Put on new bag. Attach closure. Done! Change his diaper, clean up area on bed, wash hands, then back to bed for more feeding. Please Jack, go to sleep, Mama's reeeal tired.

About 90 minutes later, Matt wakes up and sees all the discarded bags. What happened?
4am bag change. Oh man. Mmm,hmmm. Roll over, peek out eyes to aim nipple into waiting mouth of newborn rooting puppy, and feed again. Try to sleep in side position as I wait for him to finish. I wonder if he will get a bald spot or worse yet a flat spot on the side of his head because I'm always on his right. tomorrow night I'm going to have to remember to sleep on his left. Switch sides now and then. Suddenly the alarm goes off. Is it morning already??? Okay. Might as well get this day started. But first let me feed the baby.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Can't just get a haircut

I finally got my hair cut today! 3 inches gone and finally some style, besides the pony tail or harried look I've been sporting lately.

It was a new stylist. We talked about our kids and pregnancies. I remarked about how he was so huge, I had problems breathing and ended up on some asthma inhalers during my pregnancy. Just small talk. Later during the conversation with the stylist I remarked about how I was still not getting much sleep. She countered that I needed to force him to a schedule. Just don't feed him at night. For some reason I just had to reply that he's had health issues so I can't.

Next thing she is guessing that the asthma medications I took during pregnancy must have caused it. When I said it was genetic, she asked then why my husband and I don't have it, or my daughter. She told me that they were probably saying it was genetic so that they wouldn't get in trouble for the medicines I took during my pregnancy. (Never mind that my ob/gyn and the pediatrician/neonatologists aren't connected so have no reason to cover for one another.)

You'd think I'd be upset by her words, but I'm not. I know she's wrong, just uneducated. She doesn't know about recessive genes. I'm a little ticked, but mainly I feel sorry for her.

This just proves my point that it always comes back to the mother. If something goes wrong, I must have done something to cause it. I think it comes to people wanting to separate themselves from bad things happening to them. It must be something I did or took or maybe the IVF or ICSI or my age. It can't be that sometimes bad things just happen to good people. There must have been something I did to deserve it, and as long as they don't do it, it won't happen to them.

Thus old wives tales are born. Don't raise your hands over your head while pregnant or you may strangle the baby with his cord. In this case, don't wear maternity pants that don't stay up or else your baby will get hirshsprungs.

Hey, something bad happened. I didn't cause it and I couldn't prevent it. And, it is so rare, it won't happen to you so don't worry. Actually, compared to the fact that he almost died, I feel pretty damn lucky just to have him. There are worse things than colostomies.

When I was pregnant with Jack, I had an amnio which came out normal and perfect. The two genes connected with HD were just found 3 years ago. They were discovered by a Johns Hopkins study on Old Mennonites (Amish - and no, we don't know of any in our families) who have a HD rate of 1 in 50 instead of 1 in 5000. HD is just not checked for in an amnio, and neither are many other things that are genetic.

If I'd known about it, I wouldn't have ended the pregnancy. I get unnerved when people connect amnios with terminations because amnios are really about deciding to know and be able to make choices. If I had known about the HD, I would have still kept him. The difference would have been that the doctors could have treated him starting at birth. He wouldn't have had to endure so much in his first 6 days. And I would have had plenty of time to learn about HD before his birth. My NICU experience would have been very different.

OR - and this is what I want from science - OR...
They discover it during the amnio or PGD or such, and because of stem cell research they are able to give him the ganglion cells he needs while still in utero to complete his system, so he's born with a fully functioning colon. HD would be fully treatable before birth. Heck, I'd take even after birth.

This won't help Jack, but I can't help but see some hope in stem cell research for babies born with HD.

Of course I'm not a doctor. I don't even play one on tv. What do I know, right? Except that I harbor some optimism that the future will be better for kids with HD, hopefully in my lifetime. I wish I had more ideas on how to get the stem cell researchers now gathering here in California to spend some of that fabulous tax money on using stem cells to fix HD. Anyone with ideas or experience?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Anticipation, It's Keeping Me Waaaaiting

Isn't it funny how you get to know people you've never met via their blogs?

My boss once told me about her friend who had HELLP and I replied that my friend did too. I was referring to Julie at A Little Pregnant. I've never met her, seen her picture, or talked to her, but I felt sick when her baby was born early, and ecstatic when he got to go home.

There's so many other women with blogs who've had babies this year that I've celebrated. Infertility is Funny, Life's Jestbook, So Close, RE's Muse, Can't Be Broken, Rabbit Lived,... and so on (and some I'm still waiting on.) Sure, maybe it's all fiction. Or maybe I'm nothing but a voyeur. But I feel part of their lives. I feel like they're my friends.

And now Chez Miscarriage GettupGrl herself is having her baby. YAY! The idea that she's about to go through the greatest kind of joy has me over the moon. Again, a stranger somewhere is probably at the hospital as her surrogate is in labor and here in California I am smiling big enough to have tears. Incredible.

As the writer of my own blog, I feel very close to anyone who reads or comments. I love you all and trace your blogs. (My own list of blogs to the left needs serious updating to reflect what I'm actually reading now. Half those links don't even work anymore!) I feel like you're my friends and have referred to you when speaking to my husband. "One said..." You've given me so much encouragement and love and advice. It makes me think of myself as more than just a fan of the blogs I read.

Someday there will be a better term for this close friendship with strangers. In the meantime 'friend' will do.

And Grrl, you go!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I trip on crack in the sidewalk

There is no warning really. There is no learning from experience or expectation of history. In other words, I should know better but I'm always surprised. Because I think I know better.

Today was the appointment with the ostomy nurse. This is not to be confused with his appointment with his pediatrician last week for immunizations, or with his surgeon last week for post-op wound review, or with his cardiologist tomorrow for his heart. We hadn't seen his ostomy nurse since he was in the NICU. She's the one who taught the class on changing his "appliance" and ordered our first set of supplies. She's professional, she's smart, she is enthusiastic, but not cotton candy-ish, just not going to feel sorry for us, which is good. She's everything I want and need her to be, and yet she sets off a panic in me.

I hadn't expected it. I've been changing his bag for 2 months now. It's a fact of life, something that must be done, and although not my favorite thing. It is part of having my son so I try to do my best. I'm not blind to it. It would be hard to be. When it was hot and he was sleeping next to me in just his diapers, it wasn't just him lying against me but also his bag. And in pictures of him with just a t-shirt, the bag hangs out the bottom, so I try to crop it out, or just dress him in onesies next time.

We hadn't seen the ostomy nurse simply because we didn't have an appointment with her. I had one with everyone else, but not her. Meanwhile Jack has been growing and as he grows so does his stoma. While cutting a hole in his bag to custom fit over his stoma, I've been getting closer and closer to the line marked "do not cut above this line." So I made an appointment to see her.

After checking him out, she went digging around in her cupboards pulling out every size and sort of pouching system that there is. "These have a great flange feature." "These are like those but smaller." "These have a special closure at the bottom." "These have a special pour spout." "These are more one pieces, and these are the two piece systems." And on and on. Meanwhile I stared at the flange one and blinked back tears. I tried to paste a smile on my face, but I don't think it mattered because she was too busy finding ever more variety of bags.

It was the flange that got me. (Flange. Flange. How many times can I say flange.) The 'system' is huge, like it would cover his whole stomach. She didn't have the small size but wanted me to try the flange system and if I like it she can order smaller. The flange is like a large circular gasket. You cut out the hole, then put the moleskin on with the attached flange. Then the bag pops onto the flange. The flange lets you pop the bag off and put a new one one without removing the moleskin. It's not really called moleskin, I don't know what it's called. It's just the velvet-bandage part that glues to the skin. It has to have a really good seal so that stuff doesn't get on his skin and make a mess.

To me, it seemed a strange contraption. Large, almost the size of my fist. Circular. Looked sort of like an automobile part but in a fleshy tan color. And I'm supposed to put this on my baby.

It's probably a fabulous invention. So helpful in changing of bags. So efficient. But it was a horrible reminder that my baby is not normal. He needs this stuff. Even after his final surgery he won't be back to normal or good as new. He'll be missing half his colon and have some nasty scars on his tiny belly.

Over the 4th, my brother and I were both staying at my Mom's house with our kids and babies. His daughter is 3 weeks younger than Jack. After changing her diaper but before dressing her, he put his hands on both sides of her belly, put his face down, and gently blew a raspberry on her tummy. She laughed and smiled so he did it again. At that moment I realized I had never blew a raspberry on Jack's tummy. And I had never kissed his belly button or the long scar from his biopsy. And I'm his mother. If anyone is going to kiss his belly, I should have, at least a million times already.

Am I treating him the same as if all was fine? No. I don't let him cry long. I let him snack and wake me up frequently. When we're going out, I empty his bag so that it won't get super puffy and become noticeable under his clothes. And when someone else goes to hold him, I wonder if they're thinking about it. If they can hear it crinkle when they pick him up. If they are afraid of it. It. The bag.

I hate that bag. I do. Here it is keeping my son out of the hospital and I hate it. If it were just his heart having problems, you wouldn't see anything. He has to take his medicines but otherwise he looks fine. With Hirschsprungs, now we've got tangible evidence that there's something wrong. His stoma and the bag that covers it. A clear bag, usually with a silly sticker Janie put on it, and on the inside you can see his liquid poo. Pretty disgusting isn't it? It isn't pretty. Neither is a dirty diaper, but with that you just clean the child up and he's good as new. Clean and miles away from the poop.

Hirschsprung's is not an easy diagnosis. I don't yet have a 30 second elevator-ride explanation. Instead I usually say that my son has GI issues, and is on heart meds. I don't want to say Hirschsprung's Disease because it's not a disease but a genetic birth defect. And I don't want to say Hirschsprung's because they wouldn't know what it is anyway. To say that he's missing ganglion cells in his colon is not a better option. The more I explain, the closer I get to having to say something about his colostomy and I just don't want to. Besides, all anyone really wants to hear is how he'll have his final pull-through surgery and be moving his bowels normally and will grow up normal, the end. A happy ending. All the loose ends tied up with a pretty bow.

Meanwhile, we're not at the happy ending part but at the part where I've got to keep track of my sampling of these many appliances so that I can find the one I "like". Maybe I'll like it so much I'll brag about it to all my friends. Or maybe I'll like it so much that I'll want to get one for myself. Or take pictures of it. Or show it off at parties.

Okay. My own pity party must end. I can't afford to dwell in this place. Time is short. My baby is beautiful, alive, and relatively healthy. He's home, he's sleeping, and what more could I really ask for anyways? A final sigh, a sip of diet pepsi, a look out the window at the sunshine and blue skies. It's time for me to get back to myself. I can't let a little whitman's sampler of colostomy bags derail me. I can keep it together. I will give him a great life. And someday, I will look back at all of this and wonder what the big deal was.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Adventures without baby

The thing about travelling without my baby is that I look at every baby at the airport and miss him more. And I get jealous that these travellers have their babies and are probably travelling somewhere fun for pleasure than to the hottest place on earth for work. Of course when I took Jack with me on my last trip I was jealous of every solo traveller who got to read or sleep on the plane, and move so unencumbered and light. Truth is, it was nice to fly alone but once I got there I felt too far away from him. Without checking him with my bags, I can't see how I'll ever get to have both.

I spent two days and one night in a very sunny Arizona. Work was work. The night without the kids went by very quickly because I mostly slept through it (YAY!). Matt told me everyday how Jack was sleeping long naps, eating big meals, and generally being a very happy baby. Maybe it was the fortified breast milk or maybe it was the break from the frazzled mother, but part of me wishes he had the more usual irregular Jack.

The first morning I was gone, Matt called me to tell me that Jack rolled over. Several times. My little one chose the moment I left the house to do one of his firsts. Isn't it just like that?

When I got home, I walked up to him as he lay in the bed, awake and knawing on his hand. I smiled at him and he burst out into a huge cry. Oh baby. Did you just realize I'd been gone, or are you that upset that I'm back? His next two feedings were very difficult as he fought off the breast, cried, then would suck like mad on his pacifier before spitting it out in disgust. My little boy loves the bottle. Sadly for him, I'm not ready for him to give up breast feeding and I'm not about to add pumping to the already full schedule, so I didn't relent until he was feeding normally again.

All in all, I can't believe that's it's Monday again. I feel like grabbing the sun and forcing it to stay still in the sky, or perhaps to shove it backwards to the east to give me another day off. Time is relentless and has no pity for me. Where were all those slow days when I was pregnant and counting down the minutes?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Hierarchy of Needs

The strangest thing happened this weekend. Matt wore the sling.(!) I swore to him I would not take a picture or tell anyone we know. I don't consider telling the whole blogging community to be contrary to that promise. Go figure.

My husband is the picture of the blue collar guy. His job is to work high on the power poles (he cringes if I call them telephone poles), working on the wire. He loves to climb the poles rather than use a sissy bucket truck. His uniform is worn jeans, long-sleeve button-up shirts, and work boots. His hands are calloused, some kind of tough guy thing, too cool for gloves.

(When Jack was in the NICU, Matt didn't work for 3 weeks and had to constantly scrub his hands and arms to go in. While my hands got red and dry, his hands got softer. All the tiny cuts healed and his nails looked almost manicured. I fussed over his hands and repeated how much they reminded me of his college hands. So much softer for holding and a turn-on for a woman who just wanted to be held. Of course eventually he went back to work and those hands were history again.)

I digress. Sorry.

Anyway, he was wearing his jeans and a Berkeley t-shirt, and then the sling. I think he finally got what I was saying about Jack loving the sling and decided to try it. He put it on and realized how quickly Jack became quiet and happy. His hands were free, the sling was comfortable, and I couldn't stop smiling. Aaaah, help has arrived. Thank you. Really. Thank you.

Saturday morning Matt took the baby and Janie and let me sleep a little while. I still have to feed him so it wasn't any large uninterrupted period, but it was extra sleep. Glorious sleep. I woke feeling stronger. Not at my full strength, but no longer hearing Scotty yelling from the engine room that "We're giving it all we've got Captain. There's no more power." Or in more realistic terms, the shadows have relented for now. They'll be back. They're very patient.

Matt wore the sling many times over the weekend. On Sunday his cousin watched Janie for a few hours so we went to Costco and then I went went to the grocery store ALONE. (Oh what an adventurous and exciting life I lead.) I think it's hilarious that what cheers me up is a solo trip to buy food when that used to be such a chore.

I think of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. This is a pyramid with Physiological at the bottom and Self Actualization at the top. The idea is that you can't get to the next highest level until you have fulfilled the needs at first the bottom steps; i.e. someone who is starving could care less about their self-esteem. In this case, when get so low on sleep, I fall down to the bottom of the pyramid, unable to get a basic physiological need taken care of. Nothing else matters until I can get that covered.

I thought about this pyramid and rewrote it for myself. It's upside down...

Physiological – Sleep, Glorious Sleep
Safety Needs – Money
Social Needs – Isolation from being home with baby
Esteem needs – Post-partum body completely prevents this
Self Actualization – Ability to have incredible sex again - Just forget it.

So when I got to go grocery shopping alone this weekend, it was temporarily reaching the social needs level on the pyramid (as however pathetic that is to reach it at Safeway), and made me happy. What a sap I am.

Jack is crying. Hungry and tired, poor little guy. Must run. No time to think at any higher level because my biggest job now is to take care of his most basic needs.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Jealousy & PPD

I've come to the conclusion that Post Partum Depression stems from the growing realization that you won't be sleeping anytime soon, and resentment towards a husband who is getting his full uninterrupted 8 hours.

Sure, there's biological reasons for PPD such as the drop in hormones and probably some brain chemicals. And there are many contributing factors such as increased isolation, change in life, and significantly greater responsibilities. There's also the body's refusal to drop any more weight, the dark stretch marks, soft belly, too tight clothes, and unfamiliar chest, with all the accompanying self flagellation regarding said disappointing body. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to a little rest.

Right now I'd probably leave my husband for a man who offered to help me unpack from the weekend and watch the kids for 2-3 hours. Why can't there be some mandatory eternal courting by the chivalrous knight that evolves into something we really need and not the flowers or box of chocolates (although either is always accepted)? Does any man know the power of such actions? There is no greater aphrodisiac for a woman with a small baby than a few moments to rest and collect herself. Not every night, let's not talk crazy talk, but just once in a while.

I find myself taking long showers just for the relaxation of it all. Time to be alone, with hot water and the inability to hear anything outside the bathroom. The key is to lock the door, and to actually find time to do it. So I begin to resent my husband for taking his shower every day after work as it is his default and any other priorities (like child or baby) have to wait until this important task is accomplished. If only my showers were held to the same high regard. It is hard for me to imagine for myself the luxury of a daily shower. Once I got in there, I might not come back out. Good thing our jetted bath tub is out of commission. It would be an irresistible siren.

I feel powerless to take care of everything in the household. I can't get to my laundry or the kids' laundry, and while the kids have plenty of clothes, I am nearing the bottom of my short stack of non-maternity clothes I can squeeze myself into. Today I'm wearing workout clothes and won't be working out. There are also those suitcases, physical reminders of all that I'm unable to get done. One from the Arizona trip and two smaller ones from the trip to my mother's for the 4th. While I can understand having to unpack myself, why is it my job to both pack and unpack the children? When do they become our children?

And I guess that is the crux of it all.

Yesterday Matt asked me about my proposed trip to Arizona next week. After all that occurred last week, I still haven't bought the tickets, yet I would really like to go, and really should go. I have to be there for 2 days, one of which is his normal day off. During that time his parents will be visiting. He asked what I was going to do about child care for my trip. I? Why is it I have to make the babysitting arrangements when we are both going off to work? But I didn't answer him with this very logical question. Instead I calmly stated that I will be simply going to work. Much like he does every day. Just going to work and assuming that someone will watch the children. So with a big sigh, he said he'll take the day off. I didn't ask why his parents couldn't watch the children. And I didn't acknowledge his great sacrifice. Afterall, he doesn't recognize any of mine.

Is it wrong to constantly count the hours of sleep your husband gets? I can only go to bed after Jack's last meds at 11pm, then getting up every 1 1/2 to 2 hours for feedings. The nightly dance of the comatose mother, hearing the baby fuss, reaching my hand out blindly until I hit the touch lamp, balancing myself on my side with the boobie angled just right so that he can feed while I close my eyes, unable to sleep but not awake either. This morning the alarm clock woke me only to find that dear husband left without changing the baby. Jack's bag is an inflated balloon, tight with a night full of gas, threatening to leak toxic waste over all my bedding. Is it any wonder that I'm a little cranky? And isn't calling it PPD just a way to deflect any responsibility off the husband for how the wife is feeling?

Many women experience PPD, and I did before starting approximately 2-3 months after the birth of my daughter, exactly where I am now with Jack just turning 3 months old. I can feel the undertow grabbing my ankles and trying to pull me under. It hasn't taken over and it's not constant, but I can feel it threatening. How can I be sad when I finally have my babies? And why should I try to blame everything on everyone else? I need to break out of this box and just get things done. Yet, it is not that easy. There are other priorities, and there's something that keeps me from making it right. I can't put a finger on it, and I'm fighting against it. Maybe a nap would help or a walk or some unpacking, but I'm just too tired. Nothing serious here people, just trying to fight off the blues with a little anger and jabbing commentaries towards the person I love. I guess that's my "go to" in times like these.

While trying to fight off tears, I wonder why he doesn't recognize my bitterness for what it is? He didn't before either. Only Valerie did and after a month she flew in and saved me. How? She talked to me, made me laugh, helped me tackle some of those impossible tasks which were my daily defeats, and took me out for a day away from the baby to have some fun. She can't do that now. And I know that my husband, despite both my subtle hints and outright statements, can't figure that I should have any issues with tiredness or sadness, or figure that I need any help from him. He's not a Randy Yates, but part of me wants to start crying hysterically while punching and kicking him and yelling at him for not trying to help me when it's so obvious that I need him. My calm outward appearance hides my need for him. And because he doesn't see it, and because he doesn't help me, I slip further towards that black hole, and my tongue turns sharper towards him. Even when I flat out tell him I need help, he doesn't hear because he responds that he is so tired, and drags himself off for another 8 hours of uninterrupted slumber.

On the other hand, maybe I'm right. Maybe my PPD is just the manifestation of that growing resentment towards living in the same household with someone who gets all the same joy but minimal change in life or responsibility for our children. And even if it isn't the cause, it still doesn't seem fair.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Advice from a SAHM

I just got back from my traveling adventure and am so disappointed that I can't comment on Julie's blog. Damn.

Jack and I flew to Arizona for my work. On both flights he cried at take-off and landing, but slept the entire flight. Hey, I think that's pretty good. I'll take it.

Jack stayed with my friend Valerie for my first day of work. Because Valerie has two other kids (2 and 1), she also had her mother and aunt over to help. On my way home from the office, I called Matt to tell him how wonderful it was to be away for the day. My productivity had been high. I got to talk to grownups, wear grownup clothes and grownup shoes (which killed my feet), and get lots of work done. I had training and meetings and loved it. Then I got to Valerie's and found out that my little angel had screamed all day. Hours non-stop. And each time he'd cry, her 1 year old would cry, doubling the crisis. And they tried everything to get him to stop, but couldn't. And I felt like crap.

In my arms, Jack was calm and happy and sweet. He melted and fell asleep immediately, apparently exhausted from his day of torture. The least I could do was buy dinner so after getting him off to sleep, I handed him over to Val's mother and Val and I ran to the sushi place to get some take-out. (He slept the whole time we were gone.)

This should have been a fast trip, but it ended up being an hour. During this time, Valerie and I shared some wine and talked, or at least I let her talk. She'd had quite a day at the hands of my child, so she was free to say whatever she needed. I was there to listen, like I always want Matt to do when I've had a rough day.

What I heard from her I didn't expect, although maybe I should have. First, a little background information before I get into what we discussed. When she was pregnant, she planned on returning to work part time while her husband worked from home or her mother watched her kids. Instead her daughter was born with down syndrome, so she did not return to work. She has therapists who come to the house 4 days a week, every week of every month. Her daughter also had open heart surgery, so there were/are multiple doctor visits. Her husband figured out he could not work at home and care for children, and Valerie surmised that no one could care for her special needs baby as much as she could, which is true for every child to different degrees. It was a sacrifice, but she'd never call it that as she doesn't call it anything but doing what you have to do.

Like I said, she didn't go into any of this because she never does. What she did say was that Jack was too young to be left while I worked in an office. Not only that, but I shouldn't be working so much when I'm home with him. He needs someone who will care for him all the time. If I Have to work, then cut it back to part time, but only if I Have to work to help pay the bills.

Valerie is a SAHM, and I don't know too many of those. Actually, she is the only one I know besides my MIL. And I have heard of the SAHM versus WOHM war, but I have never been a participant. Working in the home, I've never really felt entirely part of either group. Besides, what I want is the best of both groups. So, Val is a SAHM but she wanted to return to work part-time but chose not to. I never put her into that militant SAHM group who look down on those who work in an office. I saw her as part of the SAHM group who said 'this is what I do because it works for me, your mileage may vary.'

Maybe she's been home too long, I don't know. I just didn't expect her to find fault with me going into the office 2-4 days a month. And working from home, she knows that I sometimes have Matt's aunt here to help, or Matt here, or my mother. Generally I can get my 40 hour job in over the 7 day week in bits and starts whenever Jack lets me even if that's at night or I have someone to help. And it takes shorter than 40 hours. I've only brought my son or daughter to her or her family to watch because they would ask me to, and I've always paid them well.

She didn't have a problem with me working with Janie, or if she did, she didn't say anything. I don't know if the problem stems from the fact that she wasn't a mother then and she is now, or that Jack is colicky. Maybe she's been listening to Dr. Laura too much.

I'm glad for her frankness, but it did drive a mental wedge. No one likes to be told they are doing the wrong thing. No one wants to be judged. And by their best friend. I'm not her and she's not me. It's obvious to me that she doesn't understand how I feel about my work, and she thinks that I'm a lesser parent. Only our friendship kept me from just getting up and walking out.

In my mind, I start justifying myself. The truth is, I'm only working full time for July and August. This year I will be switching to part time when the school year starts. This has been my plan, and I think it's a pretty good one. I don't say this outloud because she already knows it, and finds fault with it. I'm one who avoids the argument, so I just listen and sip my wine rather than say, "where does this come from all of a sudden, or have you been thinking this all along?"

The second day in the office, I worried. I worried because there were other things Valerie told me. Jack screamed so much that her two year old told him to 'shut up.' He wouldn't come up with that on his own, he heard it from her. She told my baby to shut up. And yet I went to work. And felt horrible for it. Horrible not for working, but for leaving my baby with her when she clearly wasn't up for it no matter how much help she had. I worried for my little one. I knew he wouldn't be hurt nor neglected, but that he wasn't being loved. I was near tears all day and called about 4 times, each time with a good report. Yet, I couldn't relax. How could I possibly?

During that day I met with my boss. I told her that my child care arrangements in Arizona had fallen through so my trips there would be more infrequent. I also reiterated my request to work part time in the fall. She then recommended that I get a nanny. She told me that her friend was hiring one in Arizona for $17/hour. I wanted to but didn't respond that her friend makes twice what I do and is married to a doctor. Plus, at Bay Area rates, too much of my salary would be going to the nanny and since I'd be working only part time anyway, why not just quit altogether?

When I got back to Valerie's that night, she told me that he had been a normal baby all day. That day she finally listened to me about Jack. She tried out the sling and learned he loved it, and when he started crying more than she could handle, she put him in the swing and he immediately fell asleep.

Then she asked me if I talked to my boss about quitting or starting part time now. What I didn't tell her was that I didn't agree with her conclusion for my life. Instead I responded that my boss recommended a nanny. Valerie also found the nanny idea unworkable but hers was the SAHM response of "then why bother having kids." I felt like I was talking to a stranger and I couldn't wait to get home.

I feel like trust has been shaken. I never worried about my kids with her, and now I do. And I never felt judged by her, but now I do. Although we're friends and have gone through some incredible things together, it appears we are moving in different directions. And, I won't be bringing Jack with me to Arizona again without bringing my own sitter with me.