Hospital time

Sleepily watching my father sleep in what appears to be the most uncomfortable bed ever made. Actually forgot it was New Year’s Eve until I overheard two nurses discussing their evening plans. I plan to squeeze my three-year-old little man extra tight. Maybe watch some fireworks on tv. FaceTime with the hubs and babes. Then bed by 8:30.

The complete boxed set of family drama is closing in on me from both ends today. I feel like I’m being squeezed by a giant accordian of love and fear and gratitude and sadness until I just can’t breath another breath of thank you or I’m sorry. 
I wish I lived closer; I wish I’d come sooner; I wish I could stay longer; I wish there was no reason for me to be here at all.

No babies part 2

I’m now sitting in the airport. . . with no babies (at least none that are mine). It’s exhilarating. Yet, I can’t quite shake the feeling I’m missing something, something really important. The constant mommy vigilance is hard to turn off. Poor Henry. I’ll probably start trying to bottle feed and burp him any minute now.

I didn’t say a proper goodbye to the littles this morning. I knew I couldn’t handle it. There perfect, warm, compact little bodies melt me with every snuggle. And they slept extra well last night, making them even more lovable than usual. So, I basically ran for the door, pulling Henry along, and yelling instructions and thank yous to the au pair over my shoulder.

It’s such a short time away. And it will be good for the hubs to have some more one-on-one bonding time but damn I miss my nuggets already. Badly. Even if they are terrible eaters and nappers who spend a fair portion of every day yelling at me for no apparent reason. I guess getting away is a good way to remind myself I actually do love even the hardest parts of my life. Must tuck that away for future reference.

Another big benefit to the trip. Time alone with my little man:

I’ve missed him these past four months as I’ve spent most of my waking hours tending to the babies’ needs. I’m so glad we get to do this together, even if the ultimate reason for the trip isn’t the happiest. We will make it happy.

No babies

I’m leaving tomorrow for Idaho to visit my family. I’m mostly going to visit with my father who is in the hospital with an infection. Because of the infection, I am not bringing the babies with me. 

This will be our first time apart since their birth. I am simultaneously grief-stricken and elated. 

I will be gone approximately 52 hours. The babies will be with their father and grandparents. Still, I’m just on the verge of a panic attack. How will they know to do ALL THE THINGS that I do, the way I do, day and night, every single day? 

Bottom line. They won’t. And yet the babies will be fine. I’m like 99 percent sure of that. 

Lest you think I’m getting off easy, I’m taking the threenager with me. Flight-wise I think we’re good because we now have sustained iPad attention. And honestly I’m thrilled to have even a couple of days to get to concentrate on my first born without always having the babies’ needs to attend to as well. I miss hanging out with him, even if he is kind of a brat these days.

Negotiating the logistics of this trip has really brought home to me the difficulty of having both very young children and aging parents. Both require a certain amount of flexibility, spontaneity, and a great deal of emotional investment. If one needs you you cannot necessarily go to them because the others need you too. 

There’s never been a time before in my life when I felt I couldn’t just drop everything and go to take care of my family. The week before I started law school, I drove to Oregon to be with my mother while her mother died and then turned around and flew to Idaho days later to be with my father while his father died. I didn’t question whether I had the time or the resources to do these things, I just went; because they needed me.

But my family is so much different now. We live in different places and we have such different needs. And while I am still my father’s daughter, I am also a mother of three small children who need me very much every day. 

So I cannot drop everything to fly to Idaho at a moments notice, but I can plan a trip weeks in advance to get away, no babies, told my father’s hand, for a few days at least.

Being married to a not-depressed person

Thankfully, I married way above my pay grade in terms of mental health. My spouse is a pillar of calm and reasonableness. He rarely gets angry or upset, with me or with anyone else. When he curses, you know it’s serious. When I curse it’s usually because somebody cut me off, or I’m just trying to be funny.

Being married to a not-depressed person has many perks. He’s excellent at steering my crazy train back onto the rails. He’s gentle with me when I need him to be. He’s also learning to be not so gentle when I need a kick in the ass, although this has taken some practice.

But there’s a fine line, and I can’t really imagine how hard it must be for him to walk it, when it comes to my mental stability. Some days he can do everything right and I will still fall apart; some days everything in the world goes wrong and I’m fine.

The thing is it doesn’t really have anything to to do with him or anyone else. It really is all in my head (not in a derogatory sense, but a factual one). And depending on what hormones and meds and chakras and chi and whatever other nonsense is spinning around in there on a given day, I am either OK or I am not. And sometimes I am really not OK. And sometimes I am great.

I watch my spouse struggle: to say something or not. To reach out or not. Because he never knows what might happen in response. I’m a minefield of unpredictable responses. Having been together nearly 15 years now it’s enough to give anyone PTSD and, frankly, I’m surprised he’s been willing to stick it out with me this long.

The good times are really really good. And God we love each other like crazy. But we have come close to breaking in the past. And now that we have three small beings to care for in addition to ourselves and our marriage, things aren’t looking to get easier anytime soon.

Having kids has made us closer but also raised the stakes. Fights have wider implications; we have others to think of besides ourselves. On days when I feel so crazy that the only sane solution seems to be to either run away or kill myself I feel paralyzed by grief. Because I know neither of those things is an option, that there is no backing out, no starting over, no turning back. This is my life now. For better or worse. Forever.

Forever is fucking terrifying. Not necessarily in a bad way but in an exhilarating way, in a super vulnerable I can’t wait to see what happens next but I’m so scared I might have to cover my eyes and peek through my fingers kind of way. There is just so much potential for wonderful and so much potential for horrible; so much joy and so much sadness and no way of knowing which is going to happen or when or why.

Given these circumstances, I am so thankful to have joined my forever to my not-depressed love, my compass, my way home. There is no one else I would rather spend forever exhilaratingly terrified with than him.

Not fit

Feeling a little bit better today but this is where my mind has been the past two days :

I’m not fit to be a mother. Truly. I don’t have the patience, the kindness, the mental and emotional stability. I will ruin them somehow. Make them sick like me.

Bah humbug 

As a child a LOVED Christmas. Could hardly sleep the night before. Bursting with anticipation over presents to be opened, candy to be eaten, toys to be played with.

As a parent, I’m having second thoughts. This was our first Christmas with a child old enough to understand the whole present getting scheme and to be honest it felt sort of awful. He screamed and cried starting about 5 am, demanding we open gifts. I tried the “you can open your stocking now but the rest has to wait until after breakfast” ploy; it worked, but only briefly.

Of course, it was an absolute joy to watch his excitement and silliness as he open the gifts addressed to him (and just about everyone else). But then, he didn’t want stop, to play with all of his new things, to enjoy what he had received. He just wanted MORE presents! 

I felt terrible. Like I had unwittingly created another monster of American consumerism, who just acquires shit for the sake of acquisition and doesn’t really care what it is or where it came from or who was considerate enough to purchase it. A monster that just wants for the sake of wanting and buys for the sake of buying and that’s just f’d up, especially given how many people out there have so little.

To be fair he’s only three. And maybe this has to do as much with poor parenting on my part than as else. I mean, my husband and I weren’t really any better. We weren’t up crying for gifts at 5 am but we both bought each other too many gifts this year. Nice, lovely, thoughtful gifts but in the end just more stuff to fill up our already very full home.

I told my husband I want to change things for next Christmas, when the twins will be almost but not quite able to understand. Each family member can ask for one present they really want. That’s it. Or even better, maybe we do a family gift, like a trip together. I’m still working out the details but I’m convinced there has to be a better way. I don’t want to spend another Christmas feeling sick with shame as a parent. I owe my kids better than that.

What scares me about having a daughter

Me and my little girl.

If you’ve been keeping up you may be starting to sense a theme here . . . But it’s true. I am scared. When we found out we were having twins, I expected and was actually quite content to have two boys. I’d already had one and he seemed to be turning out relatively okay. A girl just seemed like a minefield of potential mistakes. 

Mostly, I was and am afraid she might turn out like me. That I will perpetuate my worst tendencies (the obsessive-compulsiveness, anxiety, depression, constant worrying, pessimisim, impulsiveness, impatience, lack of self-compassion, lack of self-control) by modeling them for her. 

I understand mental illness is genetic and there may not be much I can do about that part of it, but I am determined to show her how to protect and care for herself in ways I have only recently come to understand.

Looking back over the past 36 years, on the big list of do nots, I would include:

  • Numbing – whether with food, no food, drugs, alcohol, sex, work, exercise, whatever. Do not use these things to compulsively and chronically avoid feeling whatever it is you need to be feeling at a given time in your life. Let the hurt, the fear, the anxiety, the sadness, come, if it needs to, and then let it go. Don’t wallow but don’t run away.
  • No boy will ever love you enough to make you love yourself. Only you can do that. The boy is beside the point.
  • Try your best not to compare yourself to those around you. You don’t know their lives and they don’t know yours. Besides, it’s not a competition. No one is handing out grades at the end and there’s no curve to beat.
  • Bows before bros. Seriously though, think long and hard before pursuing any type of relationship with a boy that you suspect will cost you an important female friendship. Rarely, if ever, is the boy worth it and truly good members of the sisterhood are hard to find and even harder to keep.
  • Don’t hold it in. If you are unhappy, say so. At work, at home, in a friendship, in your marriage. Saying it doesn’t make it real. It is real. And if you don’t talk about it, it will find another way out and that way will no doubt be more insidious and threatening to your relationship than even the most difficult conversation.

On the big list of dos, I would include:

  • Cultivate friendships with like-minded women. Nurture those friendships and they will sustain you.
  • Learn to be comfortable alone. Whether for five minutes or five years. You dont have to mediate or take up yoga (although both are helpful) but you should learn to be still and breathe. It really does help.
  • Talk to a professional. Once in your life or weekly, whatever makes sense for you. But talk to someone who is not otherwise invested in your life, who is there to listen to your side and help you figure out your shit in the way best for you. 
  • Get your heart broken, multiple times even. It will hurt like hell but you will learn so much, including how to recognize the truly right person for you when he comes along.
  • Be adventurous. Try new things. Travel. Live alone. Live with roommates. Sing in front of people. And dance too. Work at different jobs. Live in different cities, states, countries. Try out different ways of being in the world. And remember, you can always change your mind.
  • Be kind but not subservient. Being a woman, daughter, wife, and/or mother does not mean being a martyr. You are not here to be the stewardess in other people’s lives (thank you, Anne Lamott)

I am sure there is infinitely more wisdom that I owe you as your mother, but this will have to do for start. Know that I love you, always and no matter what; please surround yourself with people who feel the same.