Self(ish)

I love having this blog as an outlet for my thoughts.  I am so glad that my friends and even some strangers are reading it, and that maybe my posts are connecting with them. But today I’m grateful for the fact that I am not a famous blogger, because I want to write about something that I know I’ll be judged for.

Now here’s the thing – my co-blogger Cristina and I started this blog to acknowledge that parenting is hard and we don’t always love it.  Part of that means admitting things that might not be so flattering to us.  But so far, our readers are mostly limited to people who know us, or know someone who does.  As far as those few strangers, my guess is that they are reading because they need to hear this kind of honesty.  My point is that we haven’t gotten any hate comments yet, much to my relief.

If you read any major blog, parenting related or no, there are always the trolls.  People who will write things, heinous things, that they would never ever say to a person’s face.  On the mom blogs, mom shamers come out in force.  And pretty much every mom’s secret fear is that they are shitty moms.  The amount of mom guilt that abounds in our culture is astounding and nobody needs that shit validated, even if the validater (I don’t think that’s a word) is probably a far shittier human being than you.  That’s the point of this blog.  To say hey, I’m afraid sometimes I’m a shitty mom, but you know what? Maybe you’re like me too, and if a lot of us feel like this, maybe it cancels out the shittiness and it turns out this is just the reality of how parenting is today for a lot of people.

Which brings me to my shitty mom admission.  I recently got a new job, which I start Monday (yay).  That’s not the shitty part. The job is awesome and exciting and different and I’m stoked.  My True Mom Confession is that I managed to work it out so that I had two weeks of time off in between jobs … and I didn’t give my nanny a single full day off.

This is not to say I didn’t spend any additional time with my children those two weeks.  I put them to bed every night, something I NEVER get to do when I’m working.  I spent parts of various days with them.  I stopped by Julia’s dance class to check in with the owner on how she was doing.  I arranged multiple playdates and I attended a few. I had some meals with them.

But I also did a lot of stuff for me.  I went to see not one, but two movies in the theater.  I went on a shopping spree….ok, I went on multiple shopping trips (although to be fair, I was shopping for a dress for my niece’s batmitzvah, full spring/summer wardrobes for the kids, summer clothes for my husband and getting clothes for my new job).  I had networking breakfasts in the city and lunches with friends in the ‘burbs.  I took a nap one day.  I read a few books.  I had a couple of manicures and a pedicure.  I got a chair massage.

These are not extraordinary things, but as a working mom of small children, these are luxuries.  These are things that maybe you could do one per month if you’re lucky.  And even if you get to do one, maybe you have to take the abridged version – like on a weekend when I can convince Julia to get a manicure with me. Its fun and cute, but also means I have to bring her snacks and activities, I’m not complaining about that because even that feels like a luxury – getting girl time with my daughter, relaxing, etc.  But my point is that this was truly an extended period of indulging what I wanted to do.  Putting Lisa first.

I’ve always believed that I am capable of being a good mom because I prioritize myself when I am able, but even I wonder, did I take it too far? Couldn’t I have shuttled Julia to gymnastics and sat with Luca in the waiting room?  Or maybe let the nanny go home early every day? And more so, is there something wrong with me that it isn’t what I wanted to do?

I find that piece the most confusing to me in terms of trying to understand my role as a mother.  As a mom, am I supposed to look at a two week vacation and think, I am so excited to spend all the time I can with my kids? Because I don’t, even though I don’t normally get to spend a lot of time with them. When we went to Disney I was super excited to be with them every minute, but that was because we were all doing something wonderful as a family and they were super adorable and well behaved the whole time. But real life in the role of a stay at home mom, even for two weeks, it just doesn’t…. it doesn’t do it for me.  I think you can guess now why I would worry about judgment for this post.  What I’m admitting here is that while I really love and truly adore my children, I don’t want to be with them all the time.

There, I said it.  Let the judging begin.

You take the good, you take the bad….

InstakidsYesterday I posted this photo to Instagram (and syndicated it to Facebook).  It’s one of the first times that Julia has ever held Luca’s hand in public, and it was so cute that I could barely handle it.  My heart filled with joy as a mom, and I wanted to share it with my friends. Within a day of posting it had 50 likes on Facebook and 22 on Instagram.

I crystallized a beautiful and real moment and wanted to share it with my friends.  But that’s the thing about social media – it showcases just a moment. As any parent can tell you, this parenting thing is a twenty four hour grind made up of a multitude of moments, only a few of which are this good each day.  It’s the exact reason you cling to them, the exact reason you want to share them, but it can also create a false sense of what your life is like to those who see your feed.

In the post,  I included my #truthinparenting hashtag, which is how this blog got it’s name.  I started sharing my struggles with parenthood on social using this hashtag a few years ago, and it was those stories that drew other moms to my honesty and eventually convinced me to start blogging to spread the message further.  But I committed to myself a few years ago that I should use the hashtag for good stuff too.  If you lose sight of the good, there is no life boat to cling to on a bad mom day.

So I posted that picture yesterday because it was almost oppressively cute.  But later, I felt guilty (and yes, we should definitely talk to about mom guilt sometime soon).  I felt guilty because of all the things the picture doesn’t say.  This was taken at the spring festival thrown by our school district.  Julia and I went alone last year but I wanted Luca and Brian to join in on the fun this time.  But it wasn’t turning out so fun by the time this pic was taken.  First, Brian and I argued about the parking spot, which was technically not a legit space on the school grounds but which I was 98% confident they wouldn’t ticket us for (for the record, they didn’t).  Julia started crying in the car when it looked like Brian might need to circle the huge lot again to find something legal.  Then once I convinced him and we hopped out, it was raining and I couldn’t get Luca’s stroller to fully open.  The family, cranky and impatient, implored me to leave the stroller in the car.  Which meant that I ended up carrying not just my purse, but also a diaper bag, craft projects, balloon animals and everyone’s jackets, instead of stashing all that in the stroller.  It also meant that instead of Luca just chillin’, he was running around like a tiny wild bronco which took a lot more energy from both of us to reign him in.

I should also mention that returning to the car two hours later, we discovered that the stroller hadn’t been pushed far enough into the back of the SUV when I hastily returned it. So the remote close for the trunk had sprung back up without us knowing and had been open the entire time we’d been at the fair. Thankfully the rain hadn’t soaked the interior and no one had stolen anything from our car or the car itself, so I’ll take that one as a win.  Also, Brian did not lose his will to live immediately upon seeing this, which I will also take as a huge win. As someone who grew up in a rough-ish (at the time) part of a Brooklyn, it took him several years in the suburbs before he stopped using the club on our steering wheel and folding in the side view mirrors.

I’m sharing this with you guys not because it was extraordinarily terrible, or cancels out the bliss I felt seeing my little peanuts rocking the sibling love, but I felt it was important to keep it real with you.  Mom tip: Just remember what you see on social isn’t ever the full story, but it’s still OK to share the moments that keep you sane.

In Sickness and in Health

I had a revelation the other night. It might not be a revelation to anyone else. Maybe it was the hour (2:30am) or the circumstance (holding a crying toddler, and covered in vomit) that made the significance greater to me, but at any rate, I had a thought that struck me sideways–

That bit in the wedding vows…the part about “in sickness and health,”? That applies to your kids too. Its definitely not something you think about on that rosy day when you don a pretty gown and look deep into the eyes of your one true love as your exchange rings. It kicks in later. Many years later. At 2:30am. When you are covered in vomit.

Our family has been absolutely SLAYED by a stomach bug this week. First my youngest got it. He’s twenty-one months and while he has some vocabulary, the words “Mama, I’m going to puke,” aren’t yet part of it. So, lots of low grade crying punctuated by mercurial outbursts of rage when he clearly felt terrible and wanted something but either didn’t know what it was he wanted, or didn’t know how to ask for it. And then, you know, vomit. With no warning.

It breaks your heart to see these little people in so much distress. You hope you are doing the right thing. You second-guess every decision. We wanted to give Townes all of our attention, he was so miserable, but we suffered guilt from not doing better trying to keep up normal life as best as possible for our older son, Elliott. The constant crying starts to wear on everyone. Bickering ensues. And here is where those vows struck me.

When we said those vows we were thinking about us. Just the two of us. That we would love and support each other through sickness and health. We weren’t thinking of how those vows would grow and stretch to encompass family members (those currently existing, or those to conceive of later), possibly friends. Whether a sick child or an ailing friend or parent, we pledged to stick through it. And break out the sponges and clean up the aftermath.

I know how lucky I am. My husband works in a children’s hospital and has seen children in terrible, chronic circumstances. He has witnessed parents and relationships strained to the point of breaking under incredible stress and sadness and sickness. Our week-long stomach bug is no comparison, but it’s a good reminder of how we buckle down and ride things out together.

I fell ill next. My husband cancelled meetings and ferried our oldest to school in the mornings and Townes and I would lay listless on the couch and watch TV. I’m fairly certain that he has watched more TV in the past week than his older brother had before he turned 3. A fact I am not proud of, but desperate times, y’all. Taking care of a sick child when you hardly have enough strength to make toast is challenging to say the least.

Elliott came down with the dreaded plague last night. Just when I thought we might have skipped over him. At four years old, he has all the vocabulary to tell you just exactly how awful he is feeling, which makes it all the more heartbreaking.

Seven days and counting here. And about seven times that many loads of laundry. I’m here to tell you that you can live on orange Gatorade, and it definitely helps to know my partner in crime knows how to yield Chlorox like a pro.

 

 

 

Facing the (ec)topic

A little before Julia turned two I finally got comfortable with the idea of having a second child.  Although having two kids had always been my plan, the PPD and general difficulties adjusting to parenthood had left me with a big question mark on the topic.  Finally I crossed the bridge from fear into acceptance and was ready to try.  I think it had something to do with Julia being slightly more independent – she was walking, talking, understanding the things we were saying, and I was starting to have more fun.   Ready to take the leap, I stopped birth control. With Julia, it took me around a year from when I stopped taking birth control pills to get pregnant, so I wasn’t expecting anything quickly with my second.

A few months after we started trying, I passed out on the subway.  Brian was with me and managed to drag me off the train at the next stop and onto the platform before I collapsed into his arms.  It happened suddenly and dramatically, but after stopping into a cafe and drinking some apple juice, I felt much better and I even went to work that day. I thought I might have had something called vasovagal syncopy , a fainting episode that can happen for a variety of reasons including low blood sugar and is relatively harmless. I chose not to worry about it too much and didn’t got to the doctor.

Then the next week, it happened again, also on the subway (weird, right?).  This time I was alone and felt the same sensation that I was going to lose consciousness. I leaned forward to brace myself and ended up smashing my head into the pole in front of me, which happened to have the benefit of propping me up.  Someone quickly gave me their seat and after I put my head between my legs for a minute or two I felt fine.  But two times in a week seemed odd, so I made an appointment with my primary care physician for a quick check in.  She asked some questions, ran blood work and didn’t find anything out of the norm, so she told me to let her know if it happened again.

That weekend Brian and I were scheduled to go on our first solo trip since Julia was born.  It was just two nights in Philadelphia in October, not exactly a tropical vacation, but we had lined up a bunch of fun stuff to do, including the Mutter Museum, which I’ve always wanted to visit.  It’s a museum of medical oddities, something I am really into (don’t even get me started on conjoined twins). I remember one display there was of a fetus at every week of development during the first trimester.  This was not the most unusual thing (they had giant tumors, casts of medical anomalies and an enormous collection of skulls) but the tiny little fetuses stuck with me as a mom.

Within a day of being in Philly I got terrible heartburn and stomach pains.  We had to stop at a drugstore to pick up Tums and Zantac to try and alleviate my symptoms.  I have celiac disease and although I am vigilant about not eating gluten, I occasionally get cross contaminated or accidentally ingest traces which can lead to symptoms like this.  Not fun, but not worth cancelling a trip over. While we didn’t get much romantic time, we still went sight seeing, ate some great food and generally enjoyed being childless people for a few days.

The day after we returned I was due to get my period but I didn’t.  I thought maybe the heartburn and weird stomach aches while we were away could be early onset symptoms of pregnancy so I took a test which confirmed I was indeed expecting. This was pretty crazy news to process, as we hadn’t been trying for long and I was taking a really exciting work trip the next day.

I would be flying to San Francisco to go to a Facebook conference at their headquarters.  I would also get to drop in on the Twitter headquarters  and it was to be my first trip at both.  I was seriously jazzed about going, in particular because my company sending me was an indication of how seriously they were taking my role in growing our social practice.   The morning of the trip my stomach felt worse than it had before, and more than that, it felt weird.  I’ve had a lot of medical problems in my life, but this was a feeling I hadn’t experienced, both dull and sharp at the same time and in multiple locations.  But I just felt couldn’t very well pass up this super exciting opportunity.

I met up with my coworkers at the airport but we were all split up on the plane.  During the flight, I passed out four times.  I didn’t even know you could lose consciousness when you are sitting down, but apparently you can, because I did.  I’d get this wave really fast of knowing it would be about to happen, my head would drop, and then I would come to a few seconds later, feeling tingly and sweaty.  One of my co-workers stopped by my seat to say hi mid-flight, and I told him what happened, but played it off as if it was a weird, lighthearted thing and not at all a concerning development.  When we got off the plane, I didn’t even mention it to the other two.  I was traveling with all men, and in retrospect I think this affected a lot the way I handled the situation.  I didn’t want to show any signs of weakness, especially since they were all in more senior roles at the company than me.

I struggled to act normal on the way to the hotel  and immediately called Brian crying from my room.  “Something’s wrong, and I’m scared”.  I remember trying to convince myself that I didn’t need to go to the doctor, because then I might miss the dinner scheduled with our Facebook team (um, seriously?).  He insisted I go to the doctor, pointing out that being pregnant made it literally twice as important.

As luck would have it, there was an urgent care literally next door.  When I stopped at the concierge to get walking directions there, I must have looked like a hot mess because the hotel insisted on sending someone to walk me there.  I shot a super casual email to my co-workers. “Hey, I’m going to run over to the urgent care as I have a minor medical issue I just need to check out before dinner!”

At the urgent care, my pain was intensifying.  I thought maybe I had an ulcer, or the world’s worst case of heartburn.  Once I got into the exam room and the nurse realized I was pregnant and checked out my current state and symptoms, she looked at me like I was crazy. She refused to let the doctor see me and insisted I go to the hospital and called me a cab. I really thought she was overreacting (denial is not just a river in Egypt, folks). I called Brian with an update from the cab, and he was getting more worried, but I still figured it would turn out to be something minor.  I am the master of random but not serious medical maladies.

At the hospital, I wasn’t allowed to get out of a wheelchair because I was a “falling risk” due to the fainting.  They took some blood, and while waiting for the results, the decision was made that I needed an ultrasound. They had to give me IV saline to pump me up with enough fluid to take a look which is rough because I am someone that has to pee ALL THE TIME. The IV saline was killing my bladder, plus the pain was making the need to go to the bathroom worse somehow.  I begged them to let me pee, but was told that doing so would likely extend the time until the ultrasound because they’d have to fill me back up.  I held off as long as I could but eventually I just had to go.

Not too long after I peed, an ultrasound tech came over to get me.  I told her that I wasn’t sure if I was ready because I had just peed and she made it clear that they had to do the ultrasound NOW.  Nobody said anything during the exam but they spent more time on one side than another.   I wondered if maybe my appendix had burst or maybe I had a kidney stone.  Quickly after the exam I was brought into a private room and given the news.  I was in a more advanced state of pregnancy than I thought.  I wasn’t just a day or two passed a missed period, apparently I had been pregnant as of the previous month, but because I got a light period and my temps had gone back down I never tested.  But here was the triple whammy: I was eight weeks pregnant, the pregnancy was ectopic and it had ruptured.  I was bleeding internally and likely had been for a few days.  They were amazed that I wasn’t septic already.  They said I required surgery to remove the fetus.

This is how you’ll know I was in shock: My first thought was that I was going to miss the Facebook conference.  Next, I asked them if I could wait until I got home to have the surgery.  As in, fly back across the country.  The doctor looked at me like I had two heads.  “We have to do the surgery RIGHT NOW.  Immediately.  You are lucky that you came in when you did or you could have died.”  I had to call my husband and tell him that we were losing the pregnancy and that I would be having emergency surgery while he was across the country.  There was crying on both sides.  He assured me he’d find a way to get the first flight out there.

Here’s the third piece of proof I was in shock: My Facebook rep and my boss’s boss stopped by to check on me in the hospital on the way to dinner (I had sent them a follow up to my earlier email informing them that I was in the hospital and might be late to dinner) and I decided they should take a picture of me in my hospital gown giving the thumb’s up sign to post on Facebook in order to be meta.

lisa hospital

Let’s examine some layers here.  1) I posted a hospital photo of myself to Facebook.  2) I was giving a thumbs up.  3) I neglected to remember that despite my parents being on vacation in Australia, it was the modern era, which meant that they had internet sporadically and therefore the ability to check Facebook (they hadn’t been notified of my condition like the rest of my family had because we didn’t want to worry them on vacation)  4) I was losing my baby.  To my credit, if there is anything redeeming about this action at all, it’s that I didn’t actually tell Facebook that I was pregnant.  I just said I was bleeding internally and needed surgery. But still, but still, but still.  Have I ever mentioned I’m an oversharer?  Also, as it turns out, even though I am an obsessive thinker and can spend hours turning over a conversation or decision in mind, I literally turned my brain into a blank slate of denial and repression to deal with this situation.

My husband arrived the next morning after the surgery was over.  The surgery went well; they had to remove one of my Fallopian tubes because the damage was too severe, but otherwise everything went smoothly.  I was able to fly home the day after that, on the original flight I had planned to take home.  Amazingly, the seat next to me on the plane was free and we were able to book it without having to deal with it at the airport.  I cried some on the plane when Maxwell’s cover of Kate Bush’s song “A Woman’s Work” popped up on my playlist (it’s a song that was written for the movie “She’s having a Baby” about the scariness of childbirth) until my husband made me stop listening to moody music. Then I mostly slept.

My company was kind and generous in paying for expenses as well as offering as much time off as I needed, but I went back to work quickly from home, because I couldn’t bear to be alone with my thoughts.  Surprisingly, I didn’t mourn the loss of the pregnancy much.  I had only known I was pregnant for 2 days when it happened, and hadn’t begun to attach myself to the idea of a baby in my mind.  In addition, because I knew it was not viable, it helped me feel that it could never have been my baby.  Mom tip: Just because I didn’t struggle much with the loss doesn’t mean that is the experience of other moms who have gone through something similar, or any other kind of pregnancy loss.  It hits every woman differently and there’s no right or wrong way to feel.

But a few months after the ectopic, during the time it began to sink in that I might not be able to have a baby, I struggled pretty hard with something similar to PTSD.  It was as if the realization that I almost died just smacked me in the face one day, and I became terrified.  I withdrew emotionally, I cried a lot, I had way more anxiety than usual.  Everything I had closed in my brain just opened up and started spilling out.  This seems to be a bit of a pattern for me – I handled my postpartum depression the same way, not actually recognizing it until after it had been going on for too long.  One thing that helped was my doctor explaining to me that having one tube doesn’t reduce your chances of pregnancy by half, as women don’t consistently ovulate.  Some women might only ovulate from one tube, some might alternate every month, and some can ovulate on one side for three months and then switch.  He said I should trust my body to do it’s job and that I was still young enough to have a good chance of a happy outcome.

luca bearMy story has a happy ending, as you likely know if you’ve read my blog and remember that I have two kids.  Despite having only one Fallopian tube left to work with, after getting permission to try again after three months, I was able to get pregnant within a year, and that’s our delicious Luca.  And every year I make a donation to the Stanford Hospital in California as a reminder of what I’ve lost and what I’ve gained.  It’s because of them that I’m alive and I have my boy.

A moment of levity

All of my blog posts so far have been a bit on the intense side, so today I bring you a moment of levity.

Nanny dynamics are interesting, to say the least.   I have TONS of very dramatic, intense stories about nannies that I will share in the future when I am ready.  But recently I had a very comical, yet serious exchange with my current nanny, who has only been with us a short time.

“I need to show you something” she said to me, her face concerned.  Cue instant panic. I did not like the sound of this.  It’s like a boyfriend that says “We need to talk” or a doctor who says “We found something”.  It’s not going to be that she found a thousand dollars in the closet or that my daughter is able to recite the declaration of independence by heart at five years old.  I tried to stay calm.  The best I could hope for was that maybe she had broken something  that was not expensive and/or we didn’t care about.

“I found it on Friday, but I wanted to wait until I could show it to you, because, well, here it is.”  She went to a shelf and picked up a small plastic packet.  Inside were a number of smaller plastic baggies, each filled with a white, powdery substance.  I immediately knew what they were, but from the look on my poor nanny’s face, I realized what she thought they were.

I started to laugh, which might not have been the best move.  She looked at me wide eyed as I started to explain.  No friends, we didn’t have baggies of cocaine hanging out in the kids playroom.  That’s the good news. The other good news is that while I knew what the baggies were, I’m not quite sure what they are made from, so it was still best to get them into a safer place (ie. away from toddler hands).  I realized with a bit of paranoia that there is still a chance she might not believe me.  I tried to stay calm because while I knew I was telling the truth, my keeping her as my nanny really depended on whether she believed me.

These mysterious baggies are actually part of a fairly complicated art project Julia received for her birthday called Aqua Illusions.  You fill a tray with water that you mix with this white powder.  It creates a gel base that you can then squirt and drag paint over to create a design.  You then make a print of the design by placing a piece of paper flat onto the water and pulling it out carefully with plastic tongs.  It’s quite the commitment for a five year old, but we tried it a few weeks ago with one of her friends. It came with extra bags of powder, and when we put the project away that day bags must have fallen out of the box.

But imagine if you found tiny baggies filled with white powder in someone’s house.  Wouldn’t you assume it was drugs?  That poor woman must have been worried that not only were my husband and I cocaine users or even worse, drug dealers, that we had left the cocaine out in our children’s playroom.

The nanny relationship is one that is based on trust from both sides – and that can be really hard for both parties.  You need to feel a strong level of trust in the person who is taking care of your kids every day, and they need to trust that you’ll give them a stable and secure environment to work in.  Considering we’ve only had her as our nanny for a few months, I’m glad she at least asked me instead of quitting on the spot or reporting us to child services!   So, while I have plenty of CRAZY stories to share with you in the future about the complexities of childcare, at least this one ended in a laugh.