Monday, May 18, 2015

A bit of truth

If I'm being honest, I love my daughter.  I love her probably more than I let on to others.  I love her gummy smile and the fact that most of her face is dominated by these huge beautiful eyes that spend all of their time taking in everything around her.  I love that she's a little pig who loves nothing so much as she loves eating.  I love that she's developing preferences.  I love that she's loves her jump jump, and that she likes going on walks.  I love that she keeps learning new things, and that watching her learn about life is not at all sad for me.  It's exciting.  I love that she's smart and curious, that she is beautiful and funny, and the sound of her laugh is one of the best sounds in the world.

And, if I'm being honest with myself, I think she loves me too.  Sometimes she leans toward me when someone else is holding her.  Sometimes I come over to where she can see me and she smiles.  Sometimes I sing to her after bath time and she grins and kicks her feet because she's so happy.  But my favorite, my absolute favorite thing, is that lately she just seems to want to stare at me.  There are often times when I'm feeding her and she stares up at me and just grins, like she's so happy to see me.  Yesterday, I was feeding her and she kept reaching up gently and running her hand along the bottom of my hair, eyes smiling as she touched it, then she'd pull her hand back and do it again and sigh, and I melted.  Sometimes I think that she might love me just about as much as I love her.

And I'm ok with that.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Inside my head

It's funny sometimes how things will hit you out of the blue.  Weird things that you don't think about until something strange triggers your trip down the rabbit hole of your own thoughts and then things crash on you like a ton of bricks.  The other night I found myself crying in the shower.  It was weird, and I hadn't been having a particularly rough day or week, but I was standing there thinking about struggles and regrets and I just sort of fell apart.

The truth is, my daughter's birth still haunts me.  The reasons for that shift.  Sometimes the sheer stress and trauma of it comes back to me suddenly and almost knocks the wind out of me when I think about it.  Sometimes, it's something else.  Lately, I've seen posts on Facebook or Twitter from other people who have had children and there are hashtags that read things like #likeaboss or #likeapro about how easy and amazing it was to have their kid.  Then the photos follow.  Photos of smiling moms, looking fabulous, holding their babies like they've just won the lottery.  It all seems so....right.  I guess it seems like it's supposed to be, and sometimes that stings.  When I tell people about my daughter being born, I make jokes.  I laugh things off as being casual.  I make comments like "Yeah, they decided to cut her out so she wasn't dead, which seemed like a pretty good idea" and then I laugh a little and people all think I've handled it so well.  But when I'm alone, when it's dark and quiet and all I have are the thoughts inside my head, I'm filled with regrets.  On so many levels, I wish I had been the mom with the smiling photo, looking really happy, showing off a baby for the camera.  I wish that my first moments with my daughter had also been her first moments.  I wish I hadn't been strapped to a table, unable to really see her or hold her or touch her.  I wish I hadn't had to wait almost an hour before I could really get a look at her face.  I had wanted to memorize every tiny piece of that face when I saw it, and there was a moment in the middle of the night when the nurse took her away to the nursery where I panicked that I might not realize it if they brought back the wrong baby because so much of my day had been a blur and I hadn't really had the energy to stare lovingly into that face and memorize those tiny features.  I didn't feel like I had done anything #likeaboss.  I felt mostly like I had failed.

I had such a hard time after the c-section.  I was functioning on 30+ hours of labor, and over 46 hours that I spent awake, more or less.  I was able to sort of nap here and there for 20 or 30 minutes at a time, but it was never peaceful or even that restful.  I had a blood pressure cuff that inflated every few minutes, I had monitors strapped to me, I had machines beeping, I had nurses coming in and checking on me.  I had people in the goddamn room talking and being a nuisance.  I was, in short, a wreck.  Then they did a c-section and I lost a crap ton of blood.  By the time I got to hold my daughter, I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open and coherently answering the nurse's questions.  I remember holding her, but I can't remember those first moments of seeing her face.  I can't remember how I felt about seeing her.  I remember being a little afraid that I would drop her because I felt so out of it, but I don't remember HER.  I regret that.  I regret that I couldn't be fully present to welcome my daughter into the world.  When someone came to visit and wanted to take her, I handed her over immediately because I just couldn't do it.  I couldn't look after her and care for her.  I didn't feel like I could do anything.

There are no pictures of me holding my daughter and smiling like a happy mom.  The first words my mother said to me when she saw me after the surgery was "Wow, you look like shit".  After that I wasn't really up for being in photos.  I didn't want to be seen at all, honestly.  Then I couldn't stay awake.  All day, I couldn't stay awake.  My husband sat and snuggled her for hours, cuddling her and soaking up all of that new baby-ness she was giving us, and all the while I sat there struggling to keep my eyes open.  I felt guilty.  I felt like I should be fighting to hold her and snuggle her, but I was having a hard enough time managing myself.  I constantly worry that people who came to visit in those first few hours or few days thought that I just didn't care about her.  I worry that all of those people who said "You wouldn't make a very good mom" walked into that room and thought "See, I was right" because I couldn't bring myself to want to hold her all the time like my husband did.  I contrast that with my sister-in-law, who seemed to never put her son down after he was born and she had gone through a c-section as well, and I think "What was wrong with me?".  It's hard.  I feel like I missed out on so much, and I know I'll never get those first moments back.  I have all of the moments after, but those are gone forever and when I think about it, sometimes it makes me cry.  It makes me feel like an inadequate mom.  It makes me feel like somehow she'll know that those first few days, I was selfish and needed to take care of me and that I couldn't be in love with her the way other moms are.  It makes me afraid that what I lost in those early moments of her life will be the foundation of our relationship from here forward.  She will keep me at arms length because in those early hours, I kept her at arms length.  I worry that we didn't connect like we were supposed to, and that no matter what I do, I can never repair that.

Sometimes that all hits me out of left field, and I sob in the shower.

Sometimes I hate other women who get to do things #likeaboss.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thoughts on Mother's Day

Mother's Day was this past Sunday.  Mother's Day is bittersweet for me for a number of reasons.  Firstly, because I've always had a pretty rocky relationship with my own mom.  It used to weigh on me a lot.  I used to feel like there was something wrong with me that my mother couldn't love me in the way I needed her to love me.  She was always trying to change me, to push me to be more like my sisters, to make me someone she could understand and relate to better.  I used to feel like that was my fault.  Time has made me realize that it's just our dynamic and I waste a lot of energy mourning what I don't have, or trying to make myself someone that she can accept.  I've just tried to make peace with things as they are.  I still have a hard time with Mother's Day though, because I feel like no matter what I might say or do, it won't be "enough" in her eyes and I'll continue to be a failure.

Secondly, I have problems with Mother's Day because everyone keeps telling me "Happy first Mother's Day".  Except that this isn't the first.  I've been taking care of our foster daughter for several years now.  I've been the most constant and stable mother figure in her life for a while, and yet I have never gotten credit for the work I've done there.  Not from my family or friends, or from her.  I know that shouldn't bother me, but sometimes it does.  I've spent a lot of time, energy, and money investing in her well being and guiding her into a life that is better than the one she came from, but no one seems to think that's being a mom.  And I'm always at arms length with her, since her mother is still in the picture and she doesn't want to have to betray her mom by treating me like I'm also a mother figure, so it's uncomfortable.  She's sent my husband "Happy father's day!" messages for years, but I always fall short.  I'm a bit of an afterthought.  She'll realize she praised him and then come back and say "Oh yeah, sorry I forgot about you on Mother's Day".  It stings.  I won't pretend it doesn't.  It stings even more because it mirrors my own relationship with my mother, where I keep her at arms length.  It opens up a lot of fears about my relationship with my infant daughter, and how afraid I am that she's also going to keep me at arm's length and we will just continue this cycle.

I constantly worry about whether I'm enough for my daughter.  Whether I'm a good mom.  Whether I'll continue to be a good mom as she grows and changes, and as my role changes with her.  I love her.  I do.  I sometimes look at her and feel like she's the only thing I've gotten right so far in my life, that she is beautiful and perfect and that I haven't managed to screw her up yet.  I constantly worry that I'm going to screw her up.  I worry about whether I hold her enough, or play with her enough, or pay enough attention to her because I sometimes just have other things I need to do.  Sometimes I don't want to hold her.  Sometimes I want to just sit and watch tv while she plays on the floor.  I feel guilty for that.  I feel guilty for a lot of things.  I worry that every decision I make is terrible, and that she's just going to end up hating me.  I fear that I won't love her in the right ways.  I fear that I'll repeat some of my own mother's mistakes.  I fear that no amount of love can keep this stupid cycle from repeating itself.  I am not sure there's a time when I'm not worrying about something.  I want to be good at this.  I just know myself.  I screw up everything I touch.  I destroy all of my relationships.  I am "too high maintenance" or have "too much drama" in my life.  I start to feel, over time, that I'm just not worthy of a normal, healthy, loving relationship with others because I'm fatally flawed.  My husband is still around, but I always worry it's not going to last.  I have, throughout the course of my life, lost pretty much everyone I ever let myself be close to.  I am afraid to lose my daughter too.

So for now, I'll celebrate Mother's Day.  I'll look forward to those little kid years of paper flowers and cards made with finger paint.  I will love her, and I will love those Mother's Days, because I'm afraid a day will come when those things will disappear and I'll just get a quick text message she sends out of obligation.  I'm afraid for that day.

Friday, May 8, 2015

On pregnancy and the aftermath

I stumbled across a blog today that someone wrote about women being pregnant and how they felt about their body both during and after pregnancy, and as I read it I just kept thinking "Well, fuck those guys".  Here's the thing, they all had some big long commentary about being in awe of how their body could create life and how amazing that was.  The blogger interviewed a bunch of women and posted photos of their "belly shots" while they were pregnant and had this long write up about how looking at each of those women only showed how beautiful and amazing they were.

Horse shit.

Ok, maybe that's a bit harsh, but let's be honest here, it's not like that for everyone.  Maybe I'm a superficial bitch, but I didn't go through any of that crap.  If we're going to start at the beginning, I had a TON of fear about having kids (please see early blog posts of me freaking out) and if I'm going to be totally honest with you, a lot of that stemmed from not wanting to get fat and gross looking.  If I was going to list my big pre-pregnancy fears, the order would look something like this:

  1. Totally fucking up someone else's life that I'm responsible for shaping.
  2. Gaining a ton of weight, having my body distorted and gross looking, and then not being able to lose the weight again after having the baby like 90% of my friends.
  3. Having to tell my boss and co-workers I was pregnant.

There were more reasons, but those were in the top 3, and if I'm going to be honest, 1 and 2 were running neck and neck most of the time.  When that test came back positive, I remember looking at my husband and sobbing "I'm going to get fat and look gross and I'll just stay that way forever!"  Some people might chalk that up to hormones, but the reality is, I honestly was super fucking stressed out by that.  The second I started to get any sort of baby belly, I spent 90% of my time trying to hide and disguise it.  I often cried while showering because I hated the way I looked, and I knew it was only going to get worse.  If people drew attention to my mid-section I found myself wanting to punch them in the face.  I had no humor about it.  I didn't want to talk about it.  I wasn't in awe, I was annoyed.  I didn't feel like "Oh my god, I'm growing a human and that's soooo beautiful".  I just wanted to not deal with it.  I kept viewing it as an adverse side effect to a medical condition, and I wanted it to go away.  The day I realized that none of my regular shirts were going to fit over my stupid distorted baby belly anymore, I dropped my husband off at work and sobbed like a toddler as I drove myself to the office.  No reassurance that the belly was "all baby" made me feel better.  All I saw in the mirror was something I hated.  I felt horribly unattractive.  I didn't feel like this amazing all powerful woman, I felt like a lump of crap.  I got no sympathy from other women, who would just say "Oh, I was bigger than you are!" or my husband, who told me that I was being ridiculous and that the way I felt was insulting to him because he actually struggled with his weight and it was an insult to someone who struggles to see yourself as fat when it's a baby.  That one stung.  I wanted support.  I got flamed with anger.  People didn't understand that the way I saw myself wasn't the way they saw me, and that it was a lot of change for me to go through in a short time and it was hard to deal with.  Couple that with my mother repeatedly calling me "Fat ass" or telling people how fat I was, and I basically would have been fine staying in my house and never leaving again until I actually gave birth.  There are no adorable belly photos of me.  There are no touching pictures of me holding my belly and romanticizing this process.  There were photos taken at my baby shower, but it was begrudgingly and I never intend to let anyone else look at them.  People kept telling me "You should take a few pictures, you'll want to remember this later when she's all grown up".  Except that I don't.  I don't want to remember it.  I don't like it.  I look at myself in those photos and see someone who looks fat and awful and I literally have only kept them for her sake so I can some day say "Look, you were in mommy's tummy" if she asks.  Otherwise, I'd get rid of them all together.  I love my daughter.  I didn't love looking at myself while carrying her.

Now we're 4 months postpartum and all of the women in this blog I read were like "Well, I'd like to lose the last of those pregnancy pounds but I just care about my baby right now, so it doesn't matter".

Horse shit.

People can say that, but I don't believe it.  Women are so hard on themselves that I can't believe no one actually cares.  I'm not going to lie.  I care.  My belly button is misshapen.  I have stretch marks across my abdomen.  I have a c-section scar.  My abs are basically shot, and I still have pudge there.  My boobs didn't go back to their original size, much to my disappointment.  Plus, you get the fun hormone related aftermath like losing your hair, getting tons of acne, horrible night sweats that leave you literally soaking wet.  Nothing makes you feel like you're bringing sexy back quite like your hormones betraying you all over again.  I still look in the mirror and see something I don't like.  I find myself Googling "Lose baby belly" on occasion just to be depressed by all of the testimonials on how difficult it is after a c-section because your ab muscles are wrecked.  I read about how the hair loss can go on for a year.  The acne may actually not go away for a long time because your entire hormone balance my have changed.  Basically, I dislike my post-baby body less than I disliked my pregnant body, but not by much.  I still feel like I'm a patchwork of scars and disfigurements.  I fit back into my original jeans, and I actually weigh about 4 lbs less than I did before I got pregnant, but you'd never know that to look at me.  I still don't feel like I look normal.  I don't feel good about what I see.  I'm not about to put on a dress and attempt to look cute. I'm still in that mode I was at this time last year where I'm doing everything I can to disguise and mask my body.

Do I have some control over this postpartum body image?  Yeah, I do.  I could get up every day and do a million crunches and run on the treadmill for 20 minutes (have I ever mentioned how much I loathe running?) and try to fix the flabby belly thing, but the truth is that I come home every night to immediately start dinner, eat dinner, do dishes, get my daughter fed and taken care of, and the first time I get to actually sit down for a moment is often at 8:00 and I just can't force the energy to go work out.  I'm tired.  Some days I'm so tired I feel it in my bones.  It's not one of those "I don't have time" excuses.  It's just that at the end of the day, I don't have any desire left to take care of me after I take care of work and everyone else in my life.  And, working out sucks, so it's not like I'm feeling overly motivated to do something that really sucks.

And the thing is, even if I lost the belly flab, I'd still have the scar, the stretch marks, the unattractive boobs, the acne, the thinning hair, and the night sweats, so does it really make any difference if just one of those things gets removed from the equation?  I'm not sure.

But, the bottom line is, not all women feel amazeballs about being pregnant and want all of those memories, and I hate that a bunch of stupid blogs seem to focus only on those women.  It makes other women feel kind of shitty.

I don't regret not having pregnancy photos of myself.  I do sort of regret not having many photos of me and my daughter together right after she was born.  I told my husband I didn't want a ton of photos of me looking wrecked after having a baby, so there aren't many photos of me and her.  I took a bunch of my husband with her, but I do regret that I don't have many photos of us together where I'm actually looking at the camera and attempting to look happy.  Anything I have was something my husband took on the sly.  I feel like some day she's going to ask why there are no pictures of me smiling and showing her off to the camera, and she might think I wasn't happy to have her, and that makes me sad.  I wish I'd been less concerned about what I looked like in photos with her.  I can't get those first couple of days back.  But, I don't regret for a second that there are very few pictures of me with a huge baby belly.  Not at all.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Sometimes I struggle

I've been having a rough few weeks on an internal emotional turmoil level.  There are a lot of contributing factors, but for some reason today I just find myself trying not to cry while sitting here at work.  I thought maybe if I wrote some things out, it might help.  Hard to say.

1.  I get the cranky pants
I keep struggling with this whole working and parenting thing.  I know 100% that I'm better off working than being a stay at home parent.  I'd go insane having to be cooped up in the house all the time.  When I was on leave, I'd find reasons to leave the house because it was making me crazy.  Even if it was just going to Tim Horton's for hot chocolate, I needed to be outside of my house doing something.  On the other hand, I really hate that someone else gets all of her good moments.  I get all of these glowing stories from my mother about how she's been amazing all day long, and that she smiles and laughs all the time, but then I get her home and she is a ball of cranky for me and I don't get any of that happy girl that I keep hearing about.  It makes me really sad.  I hate that someone else is getting all of her good times and I just get what's left over.

2.  I can't fix anything
There's been a lot of unhappiness around my house lately.  The baby is going through some sort of sleep regression or something where she just won't sleep, and she's cranky and cries all the time.  I can't fix it.  I can't seem to help her sleep.  I can't seem to prevent the hysterical crying that happens as she looks desperately at me for me to fix it, with big fat tears rolling down her cheeks.  But I can't fix it.  I don't know how.  I'm trying everything I can, and nothing seems to be working.  That seems to be the story of my life lately.  I can't fix it.  I can never fix anything.  I can't help anyone who needs help, and I feel terrible not being able to.  My husband is going through his own rough patch and no matter how much I want to be able to help, there's nothing I can do.  I feel useless in my own life.  I try to be supportive in the small ways that I can, but I don't think that really matters.  I spend so much time anticipating what might stress him out, or make him upset, or bother him, because I know he already has enough stress in his life, and I work non stop to try to circumvent those things.  Being late for work is stressful, so I make sure I get up and give myself enough time to take care of getting our daughter to daycare, make his lunch, take care of our dogs, and do a quick sweep of the house to gather anything he might not have remembered to pack in his work bag (I'm usually the reason his phone charger makes it into his bag) so that there are fewer things to stress about.  He has had school work, so I make sure to take responsibility for our daughter and not ask for help on nights when he has to work on projects.  I take care of meals and dishes so he doesn't have to worry about ever having to cook.  I run to the store if we run out of something, I try to keep the house as clean as I possibly can while also having our daughter to look after.  He had to work late on a project one night and I took care of the laundry (usually his chore) for him so that he didn't have to worry about not having something to wear the next day or having to come home from class and still deal with that.  I try to anticipate everything, to the point where if something goes wrong that I didn't see coming, I feel like it's somehow my fault that I didn't get ahead of it and it has now become a stressful thing for him.  I'm not even sure he is aware of or notices the stuff that I make sure I look after so he doesn't have to think about it and have one more annoyance in his life.  I have no power to help his situation, but I forever try to make his life a little easier because it's the only way I know to be supportive at this point, I just don't know if it matters.  In the end, it doesn't seem to mean anything.  And that makes me feel like a failure too.

3.  I miss things
I kept swearing that having a kid wasn't going to change how I handled my life, and for the most part, it hasn't.  But there are some things that I've struggled with.  My husband has had classes 2 nights a week and on Saturday mornings since February.  I like that he's going to class, because I like that he's learning new things, but it also sort of hinders some things.  His Saturday class lasted until 2:00 p.m. this semester.  By the time he got home, Saturday was nearly over.  The baby would be napping, so by the time she got up around 3:00 or 4:00, the day was pretty much done.  That means I have been doing a lot of sitting around the house on weekends, which I absolutely hate.  I like to go out and do stuff.  I hate being stuck at home, but I've spent a lot of time stuck at home.  Then Sunday would be our usual chore day where it would be laundry and grocery shopping and housework, so Sunday got swallowed up too.  Aside from one trip to the zoo last weekend, I haven't really done much on weekends in quite some time.  My friends all seem to have lives that are going on without me, and I'm starting to get desperate for socialization.  Yesterday my mother-in-law said something about how we should come over and I had a moment of "Ok!" that popped into my head because I just needed to talk to other people, and then I was like "What are you thinking?!  That won't be an enjoyable time!".  But you get the point.  It doesn't help that my husband has been in classes and is in need of a break from a lot of stuff, and I've been stuck at home so now that he's free I'm like "LET'S DO STUFF!"  It also doesn't help that I have a baby in sleep regression who is a monster and can't be taken anywhere.  We were invited to a birthday gathering for a friend on Friday, and I stupidly thought taking the baby would be no big deal because she's usually pretty decent in social settings, but she was over tired and crabby and we ended up leaving at 9:30 from a party we didn't even get to until after 7:30.  But I don't want to get a sitter for stuff like that because I don't get a ton of time with her so I want to be with her, but I'd also like to have some sort of social contact.  I don't really get that at work since I live in my cubicle and don't really talk to anyone unless I have to.

4.  I feel guilty
My mother sends me text messages during the day about my daughter.  That's usually nice, but lately when she's been a total butt for everyone, it's a lot of talk about wanting to hang her from a ceiling fan and I feel guilty.  I feel terrible that my kid is being a nightmare and someone else has to deal with her.  I feel bad that she can't just be a regular happy baby.  I feel guilty that I'm asking someone to look after my monster child because I'm somewhere else.  I feel guilty that I'm sort of glad to be somewhere else when I hear about her screaming non-stop, because I don't want to hear her scream either.  But at the same time, I want to rush home and go get her and try to comfort her so someone else isn't trying to deal with it.

I don't know if that's everything, but it's all I have the patience to write out right now.  Maybe it'll be easier with it living here instead of all in my head.