The perfect thought at the perfectly wrong time

09 November 2014

We were headed home late last night and Shep was really in need of a diaper change. These days I don't really bring wipes with me when we go out, and often no diapers either, because I am in the habit of assuming that he's done pooping for the day after the morning and that his diaper will outlast his pee on most outings. He went such a long time (from age three months to two-and-someodd) having only one bowel movement a day, and it's hard to adjust to the new reality. Also I think I secretly am in denial that he's not potty-trained yet?

When we left and put him in the car, he started to complain copiously, saying "I poop" over and over. Sitting in poop isn't comfortable (I can imagine), and I felt terrible that he seemed to be in pain. We tried telling him if he would just poop in the potty, this wouldn't be a problem, but I don't think that helped. I had Tim drop me off at a hospital on our way home so I could go use the restroom and get him cleaned up. I figured I'd just leave him naked since I didn't have anything with me. Even though I tried to warn him, after I took off the diaper and wiped him with wet paper towels (I can't tell you how many times I have done this in public restrooms at this point), he started crying and saying, "Where's the diaper? Where's the diaper?" He seemed so self-conscious about being naked from the waist down and I felt like the mother of the year. I hope he doesn't grow up to remember this moment I shamed him.

07 November 2014

My sweet friend came to visit me today and we had a nice conversation about circumstances and living above them. I've been thinking about how hard everything feels and how oppressive circumstances are, even though I know that I have control over how I respond to something and think about something. I admired the positive progress that she talked about being able to make in her life and how it gives her hope for the future. I'm not really sure what to do about it, but I know it is something I need to work on.

pregnancy and stress

I feel like pregnancy is an inherently stressful, anxiety-inducing experience. First and not least of all, there is a human being inside of you who is dependent on your growth. And yet, it seems, besides avoiding obvious things like smoking and drinking (and you only really have to avoid doing them excessively, the research seems to say), there's very little you can do to control the outcomes. Many pregnancies end in loss, especially early on. It always feels tentative somehow. Early on, I was quite worried that I would miscarry. My first prenatal visit had me calculating my due date based on my last menstrual period (pretty accurately, I thought) for December 5. When I had an ultrasound, the embryo was too small for those dates and the heartbeat was slow. The midwife seemed to expect fetal demise. It was a relief to go back nearly two weeks later and see growth consistent with the measurements taken the first time, but it was depressing that my due date was dialed back more than two weeks (December 23)! Now I have nothing but positive indications of life to come, but it all still seems up in the air somehow. Even though I have gone through pregnancy before, I can't really imagine how my life is going to change when my womb child (a foreign concept) becomes my child on the outside. I can't imagine how fragile life, especially one that is somewhat dependent on my choices, can become stronger. My life is about to change in extreme yet unpredictable ways.

I was having a chat conversation with a friend who told me fairly recently that I consider contingencies more than anyone she knows. I don't think it is a good thing. I am the sort of person who considers the worst case scenarios, you might say, and my conception of how things will work out is quite nebulous. I worry that they won't work out well. My vision of the future often feels a little dreary. I worry about the adjustment to two and how this girl's brother is going to adjust to life with a baby sister. I already feel inadequate as a mother (I especially blame the ways in which pregnancy has made me feel limited--Shepherd has been watching quite a lot of TV lately), and I'm sure I'll be even more limited once I have to actually manage a newborn's needs. It seems odd to make such a life-altering decision to bring another life into this world. Like being caught  on a tremendous wave, you have to see it to the end and discover where it takes you, because you can't move back from it. I don't feel like I have the intuition to guide me through such things, perhaps because I want to see the end from the beginning too much.

The stress of anticipating such a big change to my life combines with a biological basis for not coping with day-to-day life stressors, it seems. And nine months is a long time. About nine months ago, I quit my full-time work-from-home job and entered the world of  staying at home with my first child. I had a fair amount of freelance work on the side at first, but that quickly dropped off to a slight trickle. A series of unexpected or unusual expenses took the place of my income: in April Shep had ear tube surgery that we paid for out of pocket (Relief did come later--we got on Medicaid and were eligible for reimbursement, but actually getting the money back from the various agencies was a months-long hassle); Tim had a few classes during the summer to take through SLCC for his teaching license and tuition was $1000; we lent money to his mother one month so she could pay rent and haven't gotten paid back (and probably won't); we owed a lot in taxes this year; we've had car problems and more car problems; compelling reasons to upgrade from a queen-size mattress to a king-size forced us in that direction; we've been trying to prepare for the birth of a new child by paying for prenatal care, baby equipment, clothing, etc. The list could go on. When we went from two incomes to one, we knew we wouldn't be saving a whole lot, but we thought we could stay within our means. It's been a struggle to do so. We haven't been able to put any savings aside, and I worry about that.

Then there's life with a two-year-old. I love it and hate it at the same time. It is really fun to see Shep developing language, imagination, and a sense of humor, and it's fun to embark with him on this discovery of his personality and the world around him. It is really not fun to feel constant antagonism. It seems he's always resisting my will or I'm always resisting his, and usually he wins because I don't have the energy for a battle. I suppose life with him has sort of always been that way to a degree, but now it's more pronounced because of the emotional force behind it. Instead of being a helpless infant who has no decision-making power, his demands seem almost maliciously designed because there is some amount of negotiation and reasoning surrounding them now. Little mister is sleeping in the bed as I lie on the other side writing this and his innocent state of unconsciousness has me feeling a bit guilty for complaining (complaining? I don't mean to complain, exactly) about his wakeful behavior. He really is a sweetheart and I honestly can't regret his existence, even though I'm constantly doubting whether I'm doing the best by him.


05 November 2014

an outlet right now

I think I've avoided this space somewhat as a consequence of too many considerations about audience, but who reads this blog anyway? I'm going to revisit it as an outlet for expression, maybe, and see how I feel about it.

I am approximately 34 weeks pregnant right now. That is a little generous maybe because it's probably closer to 33, but I am in need of a little generosity on pregnancy timeline right now. Six weeks doesn't seem like much, really, in the scheme of things, but pregnancy always feels interminable, it seems. My mental health hasn't been too great of late. I guess antenatal depression is a thing for me? Pregnancy is really the pits. I honestly don't know how I'm going to get through the next six weeks (to nine?) when I think about them in a lump, but I try not to do that. One day at a time is the way to plod through. Maybe I should do some more long-term future planning and considerations, but sometimes decisions are too much and deciding not to decide and trying to go with the flow is a little bit more manageable.

And today has been an okay day.

08 September 2014

oh and sorry about . . .

I sent my brother, who is staying with us, on an errand to fetch my husband from the TRAX station. I think Jon is usually a little reluctant about doing my bidding (although to his credit, he's often compliant), but I'm sure it didn't help when I said, "ok thanks and sorry about the barf i left in the civic."

18 August 2014

a clumsy, costly time

I can't tell you how many kitchen implements that I've broken or irreparably damaged in the past two months or so, but I'll try to list them:

  • 2 VitaMix blender jars (one wet container and one dry container), not covered under warranty
    est. cost for replacement: $250-300
  • 1 Victorinox chef's knife
    est. cost for replacement: $30
  • 1 large stock pot
    est. cost for replacement: $30
  • 2-3 glass mixing bowls
  • 1-2 ceramic dinner bowl
  • 2-3 mason jars


03 July 2014

adventures in breastfeeding II

A very few people have expressed interest in more of my thoughts on the topic of breastfeeding. Despite having a lot to say on the topic, I don't often go into it. It's a sensitive subject for many, and often an intensely personal one, and I respect that people have different experiences with it. I believe a lot of the judgmental opinions that get tossed around about it don't help people who want to nurse their babies be successful.

Breastfeeding successfully was important to me as I anticipated having a newborn. I had heard many stories about it being hard and not working out. I felt like it was akin to labor and delivery, where you could hope and dream it would go a certain way, but really you had little control over the outcome. I felt really lucky when we seemed to establish nursing successfully.

So began my transition. Before having a child, breastfeeding was a foreign concept. I remember seeing a friend sitting in an audience pull out a nursing cover and feed her newborn without getting up to leave, and witnessing her feed a tiny baby under a cover somehow caused me to feel uncomfortable and question her judgment a little. Then I had a kid. One who really really likes nursing. There were days when my newborn was latched to the breast for 12+ hours at a time. Sometimes that was the only thing I could do to stop him from crying constantly. And now as a two-year-old, he has never really fallen asleep another way.

My ideology gradually adjusted to the reality of humoring a nursing-obsessed child. Now, the fact that the subject of breastfeeding is even a controversial one, subject to opinions and commentary from all sides, is sometimes quite startling to me. I kind of forgot about the rest of the world and how weird I became. I felt like it was just my kid and the way he jives. Nursing is such a big part of his life and thus my life as a mother that it's beyond normalized in my head. I'm genuinely surprised society hasn't transitioned as fully as I have.

But speaking of breastfeeding commentary, this satirical piece that someone shared on Facebook yesterday made me LOL: "How to Breastfeed Appropriately"

24 March 2014

choosing not to "have it all"

I'm reading Jennifer Senior's All Joy and No Fun and finding it so incredibly relevant. I just finished a section about working from home. Senior writes that on the one hand, there is the camp who says that women are their own worst enemy when it comes to professional and life achievement and they need to stop acting oppressed, and the other camp that believes that society and the system have made things rather impossible for women.

I love what Senior has to say about this: "There's truth to both arguments. They're hardly mutually exclusive. Yet this question tends to get framed, rather tiresomely, as one of how and whether women can 'have it all,' when the fact of the matter is that most women--and men, for that matter--are simply trying to keep body and soul together. The phrase 'having it all' has little to do with what women want. If anything, it's a reflection of a widespread and misplaced cultural belief, shared by men and women alike: that we, as middle-class Americans, have been given infinite promise, and it's our obligation to exploit every ounce of it. 'Having it all' is the phrase of a culture that, as Adam Phillips implies in Missing Out, is tyrannized by the idea of its own potential" (pg. 41).

Senior discusses the unique dilemma of working from home, as well. The flexibility of working from home is undeniably advantageous in many ways, but Senior points out many of the complications that result from trying to parent and work from home concurrently. The everyday minutiae of child care involves both anxiety and boredom, and without a structured environment, one that provides rules, goals, and feedback, it's hard to achieve a sense of success, autonomy, and satisfaction that we find so rewarding. If your job is good at providing the structure for you to succeed, and even if it isn't, then working on its own in a dedicated time and place can be a lot more attractive and pleasant than staying home with your kid in a lot of very real ways. Children have limited attention spans, their needs are always changing, they are always around, and they are completely uncivilized by the standards of adult society. Senior quotes Csikzentmihalyi, who says "Being a parent consists, in large part, of correcting the growth pattern of a person who is not necessarily ready to live in a civilized society."

The non-physical but real borders between work and family life are fundamentally dissolving, and it's stressing us out and putting us on literally endless guilt trips. This is what really spoke to me about Senior's discussion of the trouble with working from home, and ultimately it's why I chose to quit and stay at home with my child. At times when I am feeling the boredom that goes along with spending most of my time in the company of one very inarticulate two-year-old, I think I should be doing more. I should be filling all of my time with productive and important things, no? I think, "Maybe I should be working and earning money right now! If I'm not, I'm worthless!" And I feel bad that I'm not contributing as much to the family economy by bringing in a full-time income. (Although I do feel like I need to justify myself often and at this moment in this discussion by noting that I still do freelance work on the side and am not completely absent of any income or work-life conflict as a result.)

But me working from home, especially as the demands at work seemed ever-increasing, was too much for me and my family. Even though theoretically, my child's needs come first, often work's call was more urgent and essentially easier to respond to. Constant interruptions and multitasking disrupted my sense of accomplishment to the point that I felt like I could never relax and call a day "finished." Work never went away and the boundaries were hard to establish for myself and maintain. I always felt guilty that my work was negatively affected by having a child around with his own set of constant demands. I won't try to lie, either, and say that it wasn't affected. I was a better employee before I had a kid, I think. Maybe the quality of my work was still competent by others' standards once I became a work-from-home mom, and considering how hard I tried (not a little because of my guilt about it), my work was probably very comparable to coworkers' from an objective standpoint. But having a child and trying to work from home at the same time and in the same space does inevitably mean that both pursuits are negatively impacted.

At its core, I believe this arrangement is unsustainable, at least for me and my family. I guess I can't say so about society at large, but it seems like a precarious establishment. I want every mom I know who works from home to join me, because even though we're low-income now, I'm not living with constant guilt and stress hanging over my head all the time. I hope I'm a nicer wife and mom for it. I'm grateful, in a way, for a kid that has been relatively high-needs. His temperament and needs made the conflict between work and parenting even more profound and potent, and ultimately I think it was my sense that I wasn't meeting his needs that prompted me to take the leap and seize any opportunity to remove that conflict.

In our societies, families build financial lives that depend on two incomes, and that doesn't really give us the freedom to make the choice. It's always hard to go from more to less, but if you've never had more, it doesn't seem like a sacrifice. So at least for me (because no matter how you slice the pie, being a parent is tough), here's to living poor and not having it all.


11 March 2014

adventures in breastfeeding

I mentioned in a post on the other blog that I could say a lot about nursing in general. So if you're not into that topic, don't read on. Fair warning.

A couple of weeks ago, we got back from a week-long trip to Seattle to visit family. When we returned, we had so much laundry. I decided I wanted to take it to the laundromat to get through it quicker, so we went to one down the street. It was somewhat late, and there weren't too many people there. A small family with an adolescent girl were among the other patrons. At one point, Shep got tired and wanted to nurse. I nursed him without a cover, and I noticed when he was about to finish that the adolescent girl's phone was pointed in my direction and a light next to the camera was flashing. When I looked over, she quickly moved her phone away from me.

I guess she was taking a picture of me breastfeeding in public without a cover?

Shepherd is 23 months old and still nurses quite a bit. I neither encourage nor discourage it. Sometimes I really wish he'd wean, but other times I really value nursing for the intimacy, quietness, and peace with this crazy toddler who seems to love hitting and throwing things.

I used to be this hyper-modest person, so it's kind of unimaginable to think that I've transformed into this heathen who bares her boobs in public. But when you have a kid latched to your nipple as often as mine has been for two years straight, it kind of just becomes about whatever is most convenient and effective, the shocked audience be damned.

I guess my point here is that I'm not trying to be counter-culture; I'm just trying to do what I think works for my child and for our family, like every parent. I used to be among those who thought it was weird even when a woman was wearing a cover to nurse, and now I'm shocked that women use covers in darkened, private mother's rooms around other nursing moms. Why are we making it so much harder on each other and ourselves to do something that should be a fairly normal part of caring for babies and sometimes toddlers? (No wonder so many people aren't able to breastfeed successfully!) I wish it weren't such a topic of attention. Can we just get over it? I'm nursing my kid still, and I'm doing it in the middle of the grocery store, the laundromat, or wherever my kid wants to nurse. And yes, I usually am doing it these days without a cover. Because I'd rather do that than deal with a tantrum or a whiny, fussy kid, and I'd rather not deal with the hassle and attention-grabbing nature of a cover. So sue me?

27 February 2014

unemployment

I quit my job and my last day was three weeks ago tomorrow. That seems crazy to me because my life has felt like this since then: recovering from the serious disaster that I let our apartment deteriorate into (because I was quitting soon), going to Seattle, and then being sick.

I'm not sure if I feel like I have adjusted to our new normal yet.

I think I should have written about the experience of quitting more when it was actually happening, because it no longer feels like a big deal anymore. The whole process did feel kind of huge when it was happening. I mean, I was at that job for just shy of four and half years (4.38 if we want to be exact). So that's kind of a long time, right? I don't really expect to be missed much, though, partially because I took advantage of organizational transition to peace out. This means that my departure was administrated by a manager who I had virtually no relationship with before quitting. But he was actually really kind about the whole thing, and helped coordinate an effort to get me a zoo pass as a going-away gift. I will remember that.

People have asked me what I will do now that I'm not working. I guess I could have said I'm now doing freelance editing, because I am hoping to have a somewhat regular supply of freelance editing work. But I took a more vague approach (I haven't really gotten many freelance projects yet) and usually said "I don't know" while thinking in my head, "Maybe pay attention to my child?" Because the biggest reason I decided to quit was because it was so stressful to me to feel this pressure to be a good mom and a good employee at the same time, while working from home, and those pressures were converging all too often. Several of my coworkers, and lots of people in general, seem to be able to work it out. I honestly don't know how! I was always wondering "How do they do it?" And kudos to those for whom it works, but for me it seemed unsustainable.

I guess I used to care about accomplishing stuff and doing things and whatever, but the older I get, the more I think that my life philosophy should be to simplify, have less, do less, slow down, and reduce stress.

I've made good headway in this regard by wearing the same clothes every day, never washing my hair, not shaving my legs, not washing my face, not wearing make-up. That's kind of a joke, but it's kind of shamefully true, too.




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