A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Tag Archives: lonliness

The Not So Sham of SHAMing

Before the idea of having children of my own, I remember repeating the very line that so many utter: Remaining home to rear children is the most difficult employment commitment one can choose.  While this is true, I guess, there is so much about it that escapes all of the nods I participated in.

To answer the question of what I must do all day; sometimes I don’t know, yet the day ends and somehow my children are sleeping. I suppose that’s the point; our days can be filled with anything, and it is entirely on my shoulders to consider. And, really, when declaring the difficulty of the SHAMing pursuit, it isn’t so much the schedule or the explicit childcare needs, but the complete ambiguity of my existence.

Having two small children in tow throughout every day without a break, regardless of any ailment that might consume me, can be grueling. It can be even more so knowing that my child care duties often continue into the evening despite a very involved, supportive, and helpful husband; but so long has this been my life that my former freedoms no longer whisper their truths. In the beginning the tasks were a sudden torrent of immediacy, but the winds died sooner than I expected, and the isolation and loneliness remained.

As elated to have my son with me, I wasn’t prepared for the lack of human contact and complete blank slate my life became so suddenly. On the one hand I loved my time with Little Man; on the other the vacancy of an outside world carried an oppressive weight, but I was too sleep deprived to consider how to remedy my situation. Fortune smiled on me, and I did not succumb to postpartum mental health issues, but I didn’t quite escape a rut of who I was now that my individual importance diminished caring for an infant.

The intensity of my struggles with the transition is likely due to how very sure of my identity I was prior to Little Man’s appearance. Forced to forego my previous career as I knew it pushed me to reinvent myself when I was so very enamored with who I had been. But, aside from recognizing my shift in identity, I had no notion of what a reinvention should look like. My choices seeming vast, much like each day before me.

But, I managed, and by the time my son was eighteen-months-old with a daughter on the way, I entered an inroad for some notion of my new identity. My toddler almost two-and-a-half years old, I almost don’t recognize the woman returning my gaze in the mirror. She is stronger, more empathic, more content and joyful, and astoundingly more ambitious. So trite that my life isn’t about me anymore. It isn’t solely about my children either, as society assumes to be the case. My vantage point is more panoramic. My thoughts drift to my legacy and the path for the humans I birthed who will inhabit the sands I leave behind. With all of my human service involvement it took having my children to understand both notions of humanity and servitude, and with that understanding I found who I am meant to be, even if my story is only a prologue as I write this.

But, as gratifying as my process feels much of the time, I am unable to shirk awkward conversations among strangers and mixed company. When asked, how do I explain my conventionally unconventional occupation? My halted and insecure acknowledgment of remaining home often met with an immediate and ungraceful termination of conversation.

Image result for uncomfortable confused face

(“So, you say you do nothing productive with your time?”)

I often feel a compulsion to explain the choice to stay at home or describe the other pieces of my existence: the writing, the volunteering, the consulting. But, it all seems so complicated and unofficial that tending to my children full-time is my default answer.

Like many of the SHAMming mothers I speak with, my most withering challenges aren’t the concrete trials of caring for my children, but rather the all consuming uncertainty of my daily rigmarole. What does it mean to rear a good person, yet tend to my self-preserving needs, all the while in the throws of life interfering?

It is finally an honest answer that I wouldn’t trade any piece of my choice to stay home. I love it. I love the time. I love the experiences. I love who I am because of this choice, even when it isn’t quite so lovely.

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Dreams, Fantasies, and a Mommy with Game

I vividly imagined today for years, almost salivating over it, but the first month it is best to keep my fierce girl home and away from people as much as possible.  My husband returned to work from his paternity leave today, and my parents will remain in town to help for the next two weeks.  But, this girl is a reckless one living life on the edge.  Consequently, Mr. Man, the Warrior Queen, and I  were out and about all morning and afternoon just as I’ve dreamed for so long.

I don’t picture extravagances with my life visions.  Sure, I cultivate possibilities with my career type things; some goal or ambition.  But, my day-to-day life fantasies are usually mundane with all of their imperfections.  So, when thinking of growing my family, I don’t imagine grandiose relationships and activities.  I crave the common interactions and experiences; the tantrums, the laughter, the harried diaper change when I’ve forgotten a replacement for an empty wipes container.  I envision a life in all of its imperfections and joy; I think of my life as full of all the pieces that allow me to look back knowing something will not be missed because I wasn’t brave enough to take a risk.

So, while my daughter will be with my half of her grandparent sets for a couple more weeks until our routine begins, the temptation of an uncommitted today was too much for me to keep my twosome home for the day.  I contacted a couple of friends I’ve been unable to see since I blew past second trimester in the rearview mirror, and soaked a taste of my future humdrum life.

Surreal butterflies after my husband left for work.  The Warrior Queen slept in her swing.  I read book after book to my son who cuddled next to me under a ratty blanket I’ve had since college.  He insisted on carrying his sister’s bottle from the fridge to the sofa as he usually does, helped me feed her by gingerly touching the end of the bottle while I hold the bulk of the weight, and we were off to the races…Sounds perfect and touching, right?  Ah, but this is life, so how can I leave off my son not quite ready to eat breakfast and deciding to demonstrate this very day that he can, in fact, open the gate we trust will protect a portion of our downstairs from the reign of toddler terror?  It wasn’t a fumbling by chance accomplishment.  Nope, he was more successful on his first real attempt than I was when it was first installed.  Mr. Man had a plan too.  My husband removed my daughter’s play mat to our dining room/living room area because Little Man was doing what he does best with toys, ensuring they comply with rugged quality control standards.  So, this morning I’m preparing breakfast for the two of us, and hear the gate rattle open and his pitter-patter of feet on the way to retrieve this latest delight, dragging it back to where it belongs next to his sister’s swing, but not before raking it along our walls.  My son, however, knows that the gate should remain shut, so he made sure to close it behind him as he passed through each time…so conscientious of him.

But, this initial time passed, and I readied my children for our first stop to grab a snack.  I rocked the house with my organization and efficiency.  The diaper bag was arranged to perfection.  I situated the baby carrier on my person in preparation for the day’s events.  My daughter was fed and changed…Little Man was wearing a clean diaper, and waited patiently in the car for me and his sister.  I secured my fierce girl into her bucket and lifted her travel apparatus handle.  Warrior Queen spits up just enough for me to have to change her outfit and clean the bucket with water and a rag.  Exit the house attempt, take two…

Our first destination passed without incident.  Little Man didn’t break or suckle random drink bottles that I would have to purchase and subsequently throw away.  He even held my hand entering and exiting our favorite local coffee shop.  There is a first time for everything…

The second stop began just a strong, a music class at a local library.  We arrived at just the right amount of time before the program began.  One friend joined us, and I ran into a couple more.  My little girl was snuggled in the carrier; my sweet boy was having a grand time exploring the toys until the activity began.  Mr. Man continued to enjoy himself until the remaining five minutes of the program, then he wanted out of the room despite the arrival of a parachute.  My prodding to remain for an activity he loves yielded him diving onto his belly and initiating an impressive tantrum in the doorway that he managed to open…I guess gate mastering is not be his only skill achievement today.

I’d like to say that taking him  up in the elevator diffused a temperamental demeanor.  It didn’t…because my son is a toddler and periodically becomes a possessed bridge to the demonic afterworld.  I spent what felt like hours, but really was ten minutes chasing Mr. Man around attempting to have him relinquish toys he was schlepping like a nomadic hoarder, as well as just trying to contain him in an area that would cause minimal disruption.  In the process, the Warrior Queen mostly fell out of the carrier, so I was herding my son one handed.  Somehow I managed to hold my sleeping girl and both carry my son screaming down two flights of stairs and finally lift him into his car seat, but not before he unbuckled the car seat buckle that affixes his seat to the car.  But, despite the drizzle that was beginning to pick-up during the five minutes we were outside, and my son who decided to become persnickety at this specific juncture, we were off to the third and final location to meet another friend I hadn’t been able to see for months; an extra bonus, I would get to meet her two-month-old son.  Both of us having two cherubs with a similar age gap are now in the same boat.

The mall I brought my lovelies to has various things for children, which compensates for the general yuckiness of the environment.  To be fair, it’s gotten better over the last couple years, and it’s free…  My daughter continued to sleep in the carrier that I freshly adjusted.  My son had a fantastic time running around, and I mostly had the opportunity to chat with my friend.  It was only when our rhythm was halted feeding my fierce girl that things started to unravel a bit.  My son discovered the junk jewelry store I’m sure has special meaning for girls in middle school…and toddlers apparently…  He entered and started pulling cheap sparkly things off the jammed display racks.  Eventually, I apologized to the salesgirl and left the articles on the floor because trying to restore the items was creating more havoc than it was worth.  I ultimately lifted Mr. Man and dragged him kicking and whining from the store.  But, don’t feel too bad for Little Man; he became distracted by other things once the shiny trance was in his peripheral.  This pattern repeated itself in the electronics store and almost at a pastry shop…so glad I didn’t have to buy a box of cinnamon rolls…not sure I’d have the strength to toss those…

The morning and afternoon flew, and, before I realized it, nap time approached, so we took our leave.  My sweet boy allowed me to lift him in his stroller, and we made it home uneventfully.  Mr. Man gave me no argument about his sleepy time.  My daughter settled into her swing and slept after another of her bottled meals.  The day was everything I hoped and could have possibly asked for.

What does quicksand feel like?

My primary hope writing this is coherence, as I usually wait some time to have semblance of bearings with difficult things.  But, how do I even talk about this when I’ve always been such a failure at person-to-person discussions regarding things that are troubling for me?  I’ve been trying the last week using likely the wrong supports most of the time, but they are around during the day when I either have time to think about or look at my beautiful boy knowing this experience is not the same on such an important level.

I retook my three-hour glucose test, which was an experience generally less heinous than the last; probably a consolation for the eventual news that I’m still diabetic, but at least my values make sense.  They are different values this time.  For simplicity it is easier to name them, and I apologize for the air of droning such description entails.  This second round my fasting blood sugar lower, 76, but considering the last test had me at 80, I’m still a rock star on that front.  Whereas my first test had my first hour draw within range, yesterday’s was 207…well above anything remotely desirable (I think the maximum level allowed is 180).  My first test had my second hour draw nine above the range, but dropping as it is supposed to.  Yesterday’s rose to 217.  For my final draw three hours after chugging the drink that somehow missed its place in the history of noteworthy culinary excellence spiked to 180 when it should have been close to fasting levels.  That was the rub that had me retake the test; apparently with a fasting level of 80, such a spike is not possible.  Yesterday’s third draw level dropped off a cliff to 86.  The range would have respected a 140 level.  My dad said it’s strange to drop like that, but it sounds like it’s nothing that indicates a problem with the test.  Other than knowing there is a problem, I couldn’t describe much else.

The referral from my Ob-Gyn’s office is in transit as we speak.  I was told to call later this afternoon to make an appointment with the diabetes clinic.  So, there it is.

I can’t stop myself from crying about this whole situation; it’s been like this for a week now.  I’m not even sure why that is, but I’ve had plenty of people telling me not to worry about it because it will be fine (translation: You’re behaving like an overly emotional child.) or it’s for the health of the baby…maybe I’ll be added as a footnote (translation:  You’re behaving selfishly about your objection to experiencing this entire process.).  The thing is, I know all of this, and I can’t tell anyone why I’m so upset.  Yes, the prospect of stabbing myself with a needle seven times a day to check my blood sugar (I asked my endocrinologist to look at my blood work in the system, even though she will not be involved in the treatment.) leaves me nauseated with anxiety.  Apparently, it really isn’t a big deal as EVERY FUCKING PERSON begins to describe in great detail the specifics of the sugar checking experience and how minor this entire situation is.

My endocrinologist thinks I may very well need insulin; who knows…It isn’t like I have a handle on anything anyway.  Let’s just add to the situation because more is really moot at this point.  It’s just a flood of what the rest of this pregnancy will be like until I actually start the process.  I suppose I should feel sick by how dire my second opinion was regarding my results; honestly, I’m not.  I told my dad; he doesn’t understand her assessment, saying no one has a blood sugar result under 120 one hour after eating.  When you look at the test range, the lab agrees.  My gut tells me she wasn’t careful looking at my results for something she didn’t order and doesn’t routinely do; not the first time I’ve had this problem with her, but appreciate her willingness to help.  It was worth a try for some clarity before my first appointment with the clinic.  The desperation for a foothold I’ve been feeling for a week borders pathetic.  Maybe what bothers me so much is that I was too eager to reach out for something I knew would likely be unhelpful, but wanted so very much to believe that  maybe someone in this moment could give me a structure to clutch as I feel myself sink.

Yet, when I read her message, the floodgates opened, and I can’t control the weeping.  Why is that?  I’m not worse or better off than I have been.  Nothing is relieving this horrible pit feeling.  It’s just more waiting until the process begins.

I don’t know why this is so difficult.  I suppose I should have some deep Mommy dramatic crusade that I worry for the life of my daughter, but I don’t.  She’ll be fine, and behaving like a pain in the ass around our house in no time.  I’ll have to make whatever lifestyle changes this process requires; fine.  I can’t imagine it will be anything so dramatic that I’ll look like the lost tribe that managed to find civilization centuries later.  Okay, I have to do something about my chocolate intake; I’m sure I can figure something out as an alternative.  I’ve already cut it back almost entirely once I found out I had a problem with my glucose levels.  Sure, I don’t know what the specifics of my diet will be, but I’m fairly certain virtually freebasing anything from the cacao plant is out.  I’ve mentioned the needle thing; whatever, I’ll deal.  It likely won’t be the most painful or unpleasant experience of my life even if you disregard the blessing of vaginal childbirth.  I can’t imagine I’ll need insulin.  I haven’t found much online that is helpful, but the few message boards I’ve perused described women with more significant glucose issues who were managed with diet.  I have a friend having her second round of pretty severe and hard to control gestational diabetes; she didn’t need insulin.  I’ll get a handle on the appointments and classes and whatever else I have to schlep a toddler to who will undoubtedly save his best tantrums for such occasions…Do they make baby Valium?  Maybe I should take my own and let him do his thing…He’s cute; they’ll deal…

So, why am I an absolute mess when I think too much about all of this?  What is my problem because it very much is my problem, which I am reminded fairly frequently when I start trying to talk about it?  I know the people who love me have the best intentions, and it’s hard to know what to say.  Maybe it’s loneliness.  Maybe it’s fear, but I don’t know what I’m afraid of.  Maybe as much as I know I didn’t cause this to happen with this pregnancy, didn’t I on some level?

My son knows Mommy has not been her best the past week.  He gives me pats on  my thigh and sweet looks when I’m staring off into space.  He cuddles me and pats his sister with his delicate, small hands.  The Warrior Queen, however, gives me a strong jab, “Suck it up and push through.”

 

Sugar and Spice, but Not So Nice

I am a lot of things right now, but it’s all such a rush that I can’t place exactly what I’m experiencing.  Maybe the specifics don’t matter because it isn’t good.  I was an idiot for my one-hour glucose screening; perhaps too arrogant.  My appointment was at three, so I wouldn’t be fasting like I did with my son.  I should have opted for a first thing in the morning appointment…coulda, should, woulda…  Without thinking ate three servings of chocolate before heading out to my appointment.  Even though I had a bit of a drive to the hospital and an ultrasound first, both were surprisingly efficient.

I failed the test and sentenced to the unpleasant three-hour glucose test.  I’m fairly phobic of needles, but felt optimistic with the nurse who drew the first of four; it was virtually painless.  Just as she wrapped my arm in a fancy way that eliminates bruising like magic, she informed me someone else would be taking my last three blood samples.  I knew this other person; she is terrible.

Over the years I’ve made my peace with undergoing blood tests; I no longer feel as though I will faint.  I must say, though, this individual gives me a run for my money.  Not only is the needle stick painful, but so is the duration of the draw.  I can’t believe I managed the remaining three like a mature adult with blasé, humorous commentary.  Although, if I’m honest, the third one left me a bit green with an aching arm for forty-five minutes.

But, I left hopeful.  I did not have gestational diabetes with my son.  My only risk factors are my age and my father’s diabetes that he manages with his diet.  I eat well and exercise religiously.  I was at a healthy pre pregnancy weight.  My fasting glucose has always been good, and it did not occur to me, or perhaps I didn’t want to consider the fact that things would not continue to move along as they should for the duration of this pregnancy.

It was Friday, and with the blessing of technology, I was able to see my results at eight that evening.  My fasting level was perfect; literally, in the middle of the range.  My one-hour was well within range.  My two-hour was a bit out of range, but falling.  My three-hour shot up to well past any of the other numbers; it was almost 200 actually.

Looking at the screen in an incoherent daze, I needed my husband to translate what was happening.  The next step was calling my father, a physician who manages his glucose effectively.  I relayed my numbers, to which he informed me that with my profile, the last value is impossible.  My father-in-law with the same professional and health resume as my dad said the same.

The weekend passes, but I felt every minute.  Apparently Dr. Google never encountered my issue…that’s comforting…

I call my Ob-Gyn Monday; It’s her day off…lovely…I find waiting exhilarating…  I leave a message for her to call me back; not a nurse.  If my last number is strange, I don’t want to wait by the phone with a vomiting child going through a hierarchical process of repetitive explanations to befuddled listeners.  I love to talk, but at some point the simple thrill of conversation is lost.

Later Monday a nurse calls…so glad communication is so effective at this practice.  She doesn’t tell me my results, rather conveys that they are referring me to the diabetes clinic as though she is offering me a cheese sandwich in such a way that I will find it mildly amusing…I didn’t.  She didn’t know I called and she doesn’t know anything about my specific results…that was the high point of the conversation.  Not only is this individual unaware that a diagnosis of gestational diabetes is not received as good news, she continues to tell me that I will be assessed by the clinic checking my sugar multiple times a day for several days…Apparently, that was the appropriate response to, “Something isn’t right about my fourth glucose value.”  Then she brattles on about all these classes and appointments I will have to attend, but she doesn’t know if I can bring my son with me.  When I attempt to ask for clarification, likely inarticulately advocating some of the challenges, she changes her tone to perfected patronization that this is important for the health of my baby.  Had I been of a better mind at the time I could have said something to the effect of, “Thank you, Captain Obvious, clearly my reaction is because of my intent to peace-out because of this minor inconvenience.”

I like to think that I’m a fairly level individual.  I’ve successfully created and run behavioral schools for adolescents that were mere months from shutting their doors.  I’ve worked with various incarcerated populations.  Suffice it to say I’ve had diverse and colorful employment experiences, and to manage those well I like to consider that I’m not a complete wing-nut, even while preggers.  But, perhaps I’ve been mistaken all these years…

My husband was out of the country, succumbing to whatever ailment of the week  my son contracted as soon as his plane landed.  My son’s stomach bug in conjunction with a snow storm keeping us homebound kept me isolated much of the week.  How many days did I receive unsolicited advice and various inquiries?  These past days were a blur with the finale having my son relapse a bit with his illness and unable to be independent.  I had such lofty plans for my husband’s return; my intent to ensure small things were completed, so he could sigh in relief in stepping through the doors.  Three guesses if any of this happened, and the first two don’t count.

Last night my doctor called with the comment to check-in because of my fear of needles; she was equally confused.  Clarifying my concern about the final glucose value resulted in her confessing that she just looks to see if her patients pass or fail.  It’s been twenty years since her residency, and she just doesn’t remember glucose values.  Should I be pleased that she took my word for it that the fourth was amuck?  Interestingly, when I called the clinic earlier, they did not receive my blood work…an unusual occurrence?  Had I never said anything I would go through the gestational diabetes intervention without anyone looking at my actual glucose results…hmmm…

At the end of the day, I’m taking the three-hour glucose test again tomorrow morning…with the same phlebotomist.  I’m tired, waking up with hip pain every hour for the last two nights that intensified from the other two trimesters.  I’m drained and scared.  I’m many things I can’t identify, but I feel foolish.  I don’t feel particularly hopeful this will relieve my diagnosis, and after this week I don’t know how I will manage the gestational diabetes intervention.  I know I will because I have to, but what am I going to do?

 

Mommy, and the Meaning of Life

Motherhood brings about various ponderings.  Some seem randomly induced by minimal sleep, but other percolate throughout daily rituals. (I’ll call them rituals because it makes me feel better that I’ve managed some semblance of an organized structure for my toddler.).  Sometimes I like to consider my daydreams profound characterizations of my experience as a newish mom because then I feel like I have some minute trace of the thinker and problem solver I was before my son was born.  Of course, if I reflect on the happenings of my day, I am always the problem solver, but it feels so foreign that I don’t always recognize myself; not always a bad thing, but sometimes scary nonetheless.

More often than not when I have a moment to reflect, it’s what it means to be a mother, and what it means to be a woman.  Sometimes they are exasperated sighs as my son continues to wail at my feet, inconsolable unless held.  Sometimes cynical laughs as my husband has the luxury of completing chores around the house, opting out of childcare for the moment.  Recognizing that he isn’t wrong with his proclamation of their necessity, but acute awareness he is making a choice.

Reading nonfiction books about femininity and society among the glorious smut that captures my gender in its many facets, always seeming inaccurate and astute at the same time.  How is that even possible?  Horrifying historical context made even more terrifying that so little has changed.  Overt prisons of perception morphed into self imposed expectations, which seems more amorphous than the explicit messaging of earlier times, but maybe hindsight is 20/20.

I determined staying at home full-time equates to losing my identity, constructing a new one that potentially stores who I was in an attic box, only remembered in brief glimpses of the past.  As things progress and opportunities avail, I’m not sure having my pre offspring self emerge is welcome.

Sure, I am Mommy.  I am the beacon of comfort and kisses, of stories and smiles, of calm and consistency.  But, aside from my perpetual appendage for the last year, holding with him my intense love and his smiles that melt me every time they spread across his face, I must relearn the individual I was so certain of when it was easy to separate myself from others inhabiting the world.  I’m not sure how to do that, and I’m not sure where to start; understanding that the process started with our attempts to conceive.

But, alas, my musings must come to an end because the little person in my charge decided he is well rested.  He stands in his crib waiting for me to make my entrance from behind a closed door with a smile.  The humorous thing about all of my laborious perseverations on this topic is that my son already knows with great confidence the answer to all of my questions.  While his mouth cannot articulate it, he has explicit understanding of who I am, as his caretaker and as a human.

Sometimes Bill Murray let the Rodent Live…

It is weeks like this with no plans and very few interactions with the outside world that make the commitment of staying at home difficult in the best of times, but brutal if sleep alluded me the previous night. Days can lack stimulation and exist as a perpetual grind. On the one hand I enjoy the time I spend with my son, but on the other I lament the absence of interesting things to think about.

This is the ongoing battle against the dragon I convince myself I’ve slayed during better times, only to have it regenerate from a limb I carelessly left behind from my last conflict, and sometimes it grows stronger than the last. I’m not comfortable labeling myself as unhappy, certainly not globally, but there are parts of myself that I miss.

For the long term all of my pieces will fit; I will build an impressive armor of experience. Pleased I have a collection of rivets waiting to find the appropriate coverings, but sometimes weeks like these without my routine or distraction or even company, maintaining my faith of the things I want so desperately to come are just that much more out of reach.

The challenge is the big picture because so much of my life is moment to moment glazed in foggy recollections of easier times. Next week I will see my friends. And, with each day I am that much closer to other things that will remind me that I am an individual.

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