Category Archives: Health

Excuse Me, My Crack is Showing

There was this art project that I used to love to do as a kid: we would take an egg and make a tiny little hole in each end with a pin. Then we would blow through one end, and all the raw egg inside would come shooting out. Once you got all those pesky insides out, you would have a perfect eggshell to decorate. It would be fragile, of course. But unlike a regular egg that would eventually fester and rot, the eggshell could last forever if treated carefully. The idea is so simple: remove the parts that can go bad, and the shell will endure. It is preservation at its finest.  But, I never really appreciated the idea of preservation. When I was a kid, I just liked blowing out all the disgusting raw egg into my friends’ faces… and by “when I was a kid” I mean yesterday.

When my baby boy was three months old, I mentioned to my pediatrician that he had a slightly odd birthmark on his back.  It was something my husband and I had noticed about him from the day he was born.  It was tiny and hidden right above his butt crack, a place no one would but a parent would ever examine closely enough to notice. I didn’t mention it to my doctor until my son was three months old because it seemed innocent enough: a cute little birthmark. The human body is an amazing thing though, and sometimes these innocent little markings are warnings of something much more nefarious.

My doctor told me it was probably nothing, but we should get it checked out to make sure. She told me that I shouldn’t lose any sleep over it.  But of course, I lost sleep over it. A lot of sleep. Luckily I had a toddler and a three-month-old baby, so I wasn’t sleeping much anyway.

After an ultra-sound, an MRI and a few meetings with a neurosurgeon, we discovered that my son had something called a tethered spinal cord, and would need surgery to correct it. A tethered cord is a birth defect, where the spinal cord is literally tethered down by something (in this case a fatty growth called a lypoma) so that it cannot hang freely as it normally would, and instead stretches and pulls, damaging the big bundle of nerves that make up the spinal cord. That big bundle of nerves is tied to many different things: legs, feet, bladder, bowels, and brain to name a few. If not corrected, it can cause any assortment of developmental and physical difficulties. In addition, that innocent-looking birthmark was actually a tract that ran directly from the spinal cord to the outside of his back. So that cute little marking actually put him at risk for meningitis and other infections. Scary right? You don’t know the half of it. At least, I hope you never do.

Before Jan 13th, I didn’t know the half of it either. But on that day, the day of my baby’s three-month doctor appointment, and the months that followed, I learned what scary really meant. And it wasn’t just sleep I lost over those months, it was everything. Sadness, guilt, anger, and THE FEAR plagued me every minute of every day. My perfect baby was not perfect. My sweet little boy would have to undergo surgery and so much more. And there were so many unanswered questions, so much we wouldn’t know until it was possibly too late. How could I sleep? How could I think of everything else?!

There was a brief moment of each day that I forgot THE FEAR: each morning when I woke up and scooped my delicious bundle out of his bassinet and looked into his smiling face, I got at least two minutes of unadulterated joy. Two whole minutes of staring at his perfect face. Of breathing in his sweet smell. Two luscious minutes of reveling in the perfection of him before – BAM!!! – my memory, and with it THE FEAR, would return with such force that it took my breath away. Every. Single. Day.

So, I couldn’t sleep at night. I would spend hours crying during the day. I couldn’t play with my wonderful daughter, or even enjoy the sweet miracle that was my baby son. All I had was my sadness, my guilt, my anger and THE FEAR. I was drowning in them all. So I did what I had to do to endure. I made myself stop crying. I made myself stop thinking and stop feeling. I removed everything inside me that was festering and rotting, and I became a shell – fragile yet enduring. It was self-preservation at its finest.

The problem with hollowing yourself out like that, is that you cannot choose what stays and what goes. You cannot remove the sadness without removing the joy. You cannot remove THE FEAR while leaving the hope. So I became an empty. I went about my daily life, of course. I did what needed to be done.  I took my daughter to school and to dance class. I took my son to his doctor’s appointments. I made dinner, I fed my children. I sometimes fed myself. I even went out with friends. I laughed at their jokes. I drank too much wine. From the outside, everything looked normal. But on the inside, I was empty.

Slowly but surely, though, little cracks began to show. Maybe not big enough for everyone to see, especially because I was master at painting myself up to look the same as I was before. I began to hide out to protect myself. I shut out most of my friends, because I didn’t want to take a chance of having to talk about what I was feeling. I picked fights with my husband about anything other than what I was really upset about. I stopped writing. I quit doing anything that would force me to be honest about myself, because I felt like if I was honest, then my cracks would spread and I would break into a million pieces. I thought that if I really started crying that I would never stop. And mommies can’t do that.

But I endured. My son had his surgery almost two months ago, and he is doing great. Kids are amazing in their resilience. His scar, that takes up almost half of his back, is quickly fading. But somehow, my scars are still angry and raw. I thought that once the surgery was done and life went back to normal, the FEAR would go away and that I would go back to normal too. But I guess once you empty yourself out like that, it’s hard to fill yourself back up. I guess once THE FEAR finds you, it’s really hard to ever chase it away.

I am trying. I am trying to be brave enough to let go of THE FEAR. I am trying to be brave enough to allow myself to be filled with emotions, both good and bad. The strange thing is that I cry now more than I ever did. But I smile more too. I am repairing my cracks, little by little. I think the first step is to let my cracks show, and to realize that admitting that you are broken doesn’t mean that you can’t be put back together.

egg

 

photo credit: katerha via photopin cc

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Roller Coasters

Do you like roller coasters? I used to… until I got on one that I can’t get off.

Check out my new posts on my new page, including Roller Coasters.

Have a great weekend!

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My Lovely Lady Lumps

Got Lumps? Me too. Check out my new post!

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Sleeping Like A Baby

Whoever made up the phrase "sleep like a baby" obviously never had one!

Whoever made up the phrase “sleep like a baby” obviously never had one!

Sometimes I get insomnia. I have always had trouble sleeping, even as a kid, although back then my insomnia dressed itself up as an imaginary friend who would keep me up at nights, pacing around my room and asking tough questions like, “What do you think happens when you die?” and, “Why does Santa hide all the Christmas presents in your parents’ closet?” I guess I had more of an imaginary Barbara Walters. Anyway, the point is that I have always had trouble sleeping, but it has only gotten worse as time goes on. I guess because as I got older, I discovered more things to worry about. (Though I am still up most nights trying to figure out why Santa hid all the Christmas presents in my parents closet!)

Then once I had a child, a solid night of sleep became a distant memory. Now there are numerous lists to make, hundreds of things to prepare for, and gazillions of irrational fears to worry about. It is a wonder that I am not a total zombie. However if you are reading this and there is something that I forgot to do for you or there is something that I did to otherwise piss you off… it’s because I am a zombie.

The past week or so, I have had another bout of insomnia. I either go to bed early, hoping to catch up a bit on sleep, or I stay up late, afraid to even try to fall asleep. Either way, the result is the same:  toss and turn for a few hours, move to the couch, toss and turn, move to the guest bedroom, toss and turn, until finally I drift off into a fitful sleep a few hours before it is time to wake up.  Last night I tried the stay-up late technique. Instead I watched The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Bad idea. You should never watch anything so frightening before trying to sleep. Finally I crawled into bed, exhausted, only to spend another couple of hours tossing and turning, before finally managing to fall asleep around 2:15 am.

Then my daughter woke up crying at 2:30 am.

My daughter is a pretty good sleeper. If she wakes up in the middle of the night, normally all it takes is a little pat on the back and kiss on the forehead, and she is back to dreamland and I am back to sleep and/or tossing/turning/worrying. Last night, however, I gave her a pat and a kiss and then stumbled back to bed, but she did not fall blissfully back to sleep. Instead she cried until I went back into her room. After trying this a few more times with the same result, I decided that perhaps she had insomnia too. I hope that she never has insomnia the way that I do, but sometimes it amazes me how in sync the two of us can be. So, I covered myself up with her little quilt and laid down next to her crib.

She would close her eyes for a few minutes, then peek her head up to make sure that I was still there, smiling at me before putting her head down again. After a while I saw a sweet, chubby, little hand poke through the bars of her crib. So I took it. We held hands like that until she finally drifted off to sleep. And then, amazingly, I did too. I slept for an hour there. The most solid hour of sleep that I have had all week, right there on the cold, hard floor, with my daughter’s soft, warm hand in mine. I finally woke up and went back to my bed. Of course I had a hard time falling asleep again, but this time because I was happy, not worried or stressed.  And I woke up this morning tired, but with a new clarity.

I think that this is exactly what parenting is all about:  Holding your little one’s hands, and then only later realizing that maybe it is they who were really holding your hand.
photo credit: thejbird via photopin cc

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The Requisite Thanksgiving Post – But This One is GOOD!

I am thankful for those who drink as much as I.

I love me some Thanksgiving. What’s not to love?  Family and friends all gathered together. Delicious food and the ability to eat as much of it as you want without feeling guilty because everyone knows that calories don’t count on holidays. Same thing goes for drinking. Everyone knows that alcoholism doesn’t count on holidays. Plus, how the hell can you cook without wine? Or survive an entire day with aforementioned family without wine (Except for mine, of course. Happy Turkey Day Mom!  Thanks for giving me life!)

Unlike some other holidays lurking around this time of year, Thanksgiving is pretty stress-free (unless, of course, you are dumb generous enough to host.) There’s no gifts to be painstakingly purchased. No gifts to be returned, only to panic when the giver of said gift comes to visit and wonders where are those lovely ceramic figurines with the creepy, giant eyes that follow you everywhere, even your nightmares. There is no planning of a night out awesome enough to close out a great year and make all your Facebook friends jealous. Nope, none of those annoying holiday stresses. Thanksgiving is all about eating and drinking with friends and family and giving thanks for it all. Oh yeah, and I think it is also about Pilgrims, Native Americans and a giant Pumpkin who terrorizes children.  But don’t quote me on that.

However, as much as I love Thanksgiving and think it is important to give thanks, there is one thing about Thanksgiving that I dread:  the moment when all the food sits before you on the table, and instead of allowing you to dig in, the well-intentioned hostess asks everyone to go around the table and say what they are thankful for. Seriously?!  That is the right moment for that?  How about starting the giving of Thanks during the five hours when everyone is eating dip and dry carrots and waiting for the damn turkey to be done?  And why is it so hard to come up with something that I am thankful for at that moment? Perhaps it is because I am dizzy with hunger due to the fact that I starved myself all day to make up for the sick amount of calories I plan to consume. Or perhaps it is because I am drunk as I started drinking at 6 am without eating anything besides the cold, wet stuffing I snuck and ate with my fingers out of sheer desperation. Or perhaps it is simply the pressure of putting a whole year of thankfulness into a few words.  Whatever the reason, when called upon, I usually break out in a cold sweat and blurt out something like: “Iamgratefulformyfamilyandfriendsbecauseilovethemsomuchohyeahandmyhealthandmyfamilyandmyfriendsdidialreadysaythat.”

So, this year I am going to do things differently.  Firstly, I am going to make more of an effort to give thanks all year round.  Secondly, in order to bypass the paralyzing moment of Thanksgiving pressure, I am going to take the time to lay out some things that I am thankful for right here and now.

THIS YEAR I AM THANKFUL FOR:

Everyone who has read this far in the post.  For those of you who stopped reading after the first paragraph or who totally ignored this post: I hope you choke on a turkey bone or gain ten pounds, whichever is worse.  Just kidding.  But to those who read my blog:  THANK YOU!!

My amazing, smart, hilarious, charming daughter.  Sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am.

My awesome family. I know you think your family is awesome, but my family kicks your family’s ass in my book.  Sorry.

My wonderful friends who support me, challenge me and love me no matter what.

A husband who makes me feel smart and funny, and who still likes to grab my ass.

Having an ass that someone still thinks is worth grabbing.

Girls trips.

Nap times.

Date nights.

Family days.

Push-up bras and Spanx:  Some people call it cheating. I call it branding.

Good red wine.

Cupcakes:  The perfect cake to frosting ratio.

My daughter’s amazing, obnoxious, loud, boisterous laugh.

Mixologists.

Wedge heels: Almost comfortable.

Movie theaters that let you pour your own butter on your popcorn.  Yes!

Skinny lattes.

Stretchy jeans:  I refuse to call them jeggings.

Vacations.

The health of me, my family and my friends.

Baby Tylenol:  Helped my daughter through a lot of crazy fevers this year.

Girls days with just my daughter and I, when I have no work, no chores and nothing to do but be with her.

Pumpkin spice…anything.

And the one thing that I am most thankful for…

Laughter:  Curer of everything that I am NOT thankful for.

So there you have it, My 2012 List of Thankfulness!  Hostesses take note:  this hereby exempts me from the torture of participating in this tradition this year, and possibly for all subsequent years.  So back off and let me eat overcooked turkey, already!  But just because I will not be participating myself, doesn’t mean that I won’t be watching this unfold. As much as I hate doing it myself, I love watching other people sweat at that inevitable moment when the person who goes before them takes the exact thing that they were going to say.  I love that moment!  In fact, you might even say that I am thankful for it.

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The F Word

Babies are the new black.  Seriously, babies are so hot right now.  Everywhere you look (as long as, like me, the only place you get your information is from trashy magazines) celebrities are showing off their cute little baby bumps, parading their children around in tiny clothes that cost ten times what my adult-sized clothes cost, and flaunting their ridiculous baby names (I’m looking at you Uma Thurman!)  But the most annoying thing that celebrity mommies are flaunting these days:  their skinny, toned, stretch-mark free post-baby bodies…just weeks after delivering.  What’s even more annoying is that when questioned about this crime against nature, most of them say that the “weight just came off” or all they did was “breastfeed.”  Seriously?!  If breastfeeding got me abs like Miranda Kerr or an ass like Gisele, I would breastfeed my daughter through college.

Did breastfeeding do this? I think not.

Alas, for us mere mortals, this is not the reality.  No, my baby weight didn’t exactly fall off as easily as a celebutante’s undies.  And while breastfeeding allegedly burns 500 extra calories per day, when I was breastfeeding I was ravenously hungry and still eating for two:  One for me, and one for an entire football team.  I must admit that looking at celebrities like Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Heidi Klum and Kristen Cavallari (I use the word celebrity loosely) who looked beyond amazing right after having their babies made me feel bad about myself.  I would huff and puff my way through 45 torturous minutes on the elliptical, followed by round after round of lunges and sit-ups, and then look at myself in the mirror hoping to see some instant, radical change.  Hoping that I would like what I saw again.  Then I would dejectedly look down at my saddle bags and pinch my still flabby tummy and wonder what I was doing wrong.  Why was it taking it me so long to get my body back?  Why don’t I look like those celebrities?

Then one day it came to me:  What I was doing wrong was simply not being a celebrity. I wasn’t devoting my life to my figure. I wasn’t working out 4 hours a day, 7 days a week with a $500/hr celebrity trainer. I didn’t have a personal chef or nutritionist or even a meal delivery service. I never looked like a supermodel in the first place.  And all of this is ok because looking good isn’t my job. I don’t have a movie to get in shape for or a modeling gig to slim down for.  I don’t have paparazzi chasing me and magazines pointing out my every flaw. The world isn’t watching my every move, hoping that I will fail. Hoping that I, too, will have cellulite and stretch marks. And thank god for that.  If they were, than I would sure as hell be shelling out for the personal trainer and delivery meals.

I was looking at it all the wrong way. Instead of feeling jealous of how quickly these celebrities were able to whip their bodies back in shape, I should be feeling sorry for them for having to whip their bodies back into shape so quickly.  Now, I know that it is hard to pity a rich, beautiful, famous movie star, but don’t forget that they are moms too. Imagine how stressful it would be if you had 6 weeks to lose the baby weight before your next movie.  Imagine if, on top of having a new baby, you also had to spend hours and hours working out each day because that is your job. Imagine if paparazzi stalked your every move, trying to get an unflattering photo.  Imagine if, a few months after having a baby, people called you the real F word. The worst thing a celebrity, or most women for that matter, can be called: Fat. And not just behind your back, or even to your face, but proclaimed on TV shows and splashed across magazine covers.  I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy… or even that bitchy, high-and-mighty mom at the baby music class. Well, maybe her.

Us non-celebrities have the luxury of taking the weight off slowly, or maybe not at all.  We have the luxury of exercising when we can, and resting when we can’t.  Of wearing yoga pants and baggy T-shirts day in and day out.  Of eating an entire box of cereal when you can’t sleep after waking up to feed your baby at 3 am (hypothetically.)  We have these luxuries because we live in the real world.  And in the real world, no one would dream of telling you that 6 months is too long to take off the baby weight.  In the real world, no one calls a new mom the F word. And if they do, then F them.

So ladies, give yourself a break if you don’t lose the baby weight, immediately or ever. In the real world these things take time. Stop comparing yourself to models and movie stars or anyone else for that matter.  Every woman has different goals, needs and obstacles. Aim to live healthfully and to feel good about yourself. And please stop using the F word! Don’t use the word “fat” when talking about someone else, and most definitely don’t use it when talking about yourself.  But feel free to use the word Fuck all you want. It’s fucking fun.

Annoying or inspiring?

Here’s an idea: When you see a movie star’s kick-ass post-baby body, let it inspire you instead of shame you. Think of it this way – apparently it really is possible to look completely amazing after having a baby! If I had a trainer/nutritionist/dietician/stopped eating/sold my soul to the devil perhaps I could look that amazing too. But in the meantime, stop letting their amazing bodies make you feel bad about your own. Have I gotten there yet?  Not totally. But I am working hard to stop comparing myself to anyone else, especially movie stars and supermodels.  However, I refuse to stop making fun of their odd baby name choices.  Hey, I’m no saint, and Alicia Silverstone is asking for it by naming an innocent child Bear Blu.

And for the record, I worked my ass off (literally) and I did lose the baby weight. I don’t look like Gisele or Jessica Alba, or even Jessica Simpson for that matter, but I do look like a pretty damn good version of myself. Now, most days I feel happy with the way I look, and on the days that I don’t, there’s always Spanx. Just ask any celebrity.

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Good Mom = Bad Everything Else

It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote a solid post, and to those of you who plan your life and all major decisions around my blog posts, I sincerely apologize. To the rest of you aka all of you, I apologize as well. As you may have gathered from my mostly short yet bitter posts over the past few weeks, I have had a bit going on. My daughter got Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, which was an agonizing week of high fevers and Contagion-style quarantine. She was recovered for approximately two days before she spent a night throwing up for reasons unknown, and then miraculously recovered again for about a week. She then got Erythema Multiforme related to the HFMD virus, which caused even higher fevers and horrible hive-like lesions and sores all over her little body, including the inside of her mouth. Fun for the whole family! After a week of that madness, she recovered for a day – just long enough for us to overconfidently decide to celebrate with a weekend getaway. On the first day of the vacation she got a nasty cold complete with, yes, a high fever.

Needless to say, it has been a tough month.  Definitely the toughest month since my daughter was born.  And it feels like maybe the toughest month since I was born.  I have had some hard times in my life, though admittedly not as hard as many.  I have had my fair share of illnesses, surgeries and hospital stays.  Somehow though, it seems more difficult to take when it is happening to my daughter rather than directly to me.

Of course, it hasn’t been all bad.  There have been some great moments when she is feeling better and all seems right in the world.  I have learned a lot of lessons.  I have gained a bit (ok, a teeny, tiny bit) of patience.  I have discovered that I can be stronger than I ever thought I could be.  However, I have been working so hard to be a good mom that I haven’t had much time to be a good… anything else.

I haven’t had much time to be a good friend. Many a phone call, text and email has gone unreturned in the past month.  And when I do manage to find the time to chat with my friends, it’s mostly just to vent.  I end up talking so much about what’s going on in my life, that I rarely ask what’s going on in theirs.  Jerk!

I haven’t been a good worker.  I have turned down a lot of work simply because I just can’t take care of my daughter and take care of work too.  I had a choice to make, and as a freelancer, I was in the position to make it, so I chose my daughter.  I wouldn’t change those decisions, but it doesn’t exactly make me the most reliable person to hire.

I haven’t been a good homemaker.  Not that I usually excel in this arena, but my usually feeble attempts at cooking, cleaning and hosting have gotten beyond pathetic – we’re talking frozen dinners/baby stuff covering every surface of the house/turning my underwear inside out so I don’t have to do laundry – pathetic.

I most definitely haven’t been a good wife.  When I am stressed, sad and angry at life, or even when I am frustrated with my daughter, I have to take it out on someone.  I obviously can’t take it out on my daughter and I don’t have life’s email or phone number, so the back-up choice has been my husband.  Fortunately I picked a partner who doesn’t usually feel the need to take his frustrations out on anyone, but who understands me enough to know that I do.  And so he lets me.  Usually.

And out of everyone, the person I have treated the worst is myself.  I have stopped exercising, managed to take stress-eating to whole new level of disgusting, and some days have decided to forgo even the most basic levels of general hygiene (I guess I should apologize to my husband for that one too.)  And as a general warning to anyone who encounters me on the street, I am prone to break down in tears for no reason, and just as likely to start muttering to myself in a scream-whisper.  Oh yeah, and there’s a strong chance that I will be wearing a dirty bathrobe.  At first I thought I might be pregnant.  Now, I realize that I have slowly been losing my mind.

I am a half step away from ribbon roll earrings and rollers in public. Next stop: Eating my own hair.

But things are looking up.  My daughter is finally recovering from the latest installment of Outbreak 2012, hopefully this time for longer than a day or two.  So, there will be no more excuses.  No more of the selfish friend who only talks about herself.  No more of the wife whose husband is slightly afraid he will wake up in the middle of the night to find her standing over him with a butter knife.  No more main-lining red wine/coffee/entire sleeves of Oreos.  No more half-assed work.  No more depressing blogs (for now). No more messy house…Ok, ok. Who I am kidding? I have a toddler.  The house will always be messy.  Deal with it… or you may wake up to find me standing over you with a butter knife.

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Round and Round

I swear that being a parent is the craziest roller coaster in the world.

My daughter is sick yet again, for the third week out of four weeks. This time with a nasty cold and again with a fever hitting above 104. She was up at midnight night crying inconsolably. Probably because she was tired but couldn’t sleep, scared because she couldn’t breathe, and angry because Mama couldn’t fix it. She was screaming and crying, and I was crying because I couldn’t help her. And I was tired because I haven’t once slept through the night in the past month.  And it was midnight. And I was thinking, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.”

Then, morning came. And the sun was shining. And my daughter woke up feeling a bit better. And she hugged me tight and said “Lub you” in her little, hoarse, stuffy-nosed voice. And I thought, “I don’t know what I ever did before this.”


photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc

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Life is a Real Dick Sometimes

My daughter is sick, yet again.  Fever spiked up to 105.7 last night.  Hives covering her entire body including her face, and it makes me want to weep every time I look at her.  No sleep for many nights due to fever and hives.  One car with a busted transmission even though it only has 60,000 miles.  The other car I used to sideswipe a parked car in the street in front of the doctor’s office today.  Hey, my sick daughter was crying in the back and did I mention I am tired.

All I can say is that life is being a real dick right now. So if I don’t return phone calls or clean my house, or if I polish off an entire bags of chips in one sitting (hypothetically of course) or yell at inanimate objects (also hypothetically)… don’t blame me, blame life.

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