Check out my new post!! The Little Things
Today has been a tough day. Not as tough a day as many people around the world are having – fighting illness, war, abuse, hunger, poverty, and the inability to use the correct there/their/they’re – but more of a day full of annoyances and frustrations. Minor in terms of the scope of problems that I just mentioned, but that knowledge doesn’t make me feel less frustrated. And I am trying not to feel guilty about that. Sometimes we just need to feel frustrated. To give into to it for a minute before we can get over it. So I am.
My daughter hasn’t been feeling well for the past few days. She has had a fever and has been waking up through the past few nights, which then causes her to be cranky during the following days because she is tired. So I have gotten little more than a couple of hours of restless sleep for the past few nights, which has led to me also being cranky during the day. So when my daughter has total meltdowns because I won’t allow her to put a plastic bag over her head, or she throws the lotion on the floor-causing it to explode all over the carpet, or when she smacks me the face with the force of a miniature prize-fighter, my own exhaustion and crankiness cause me to want to have a total meltdown. What can I throw? Who can I smack in the face?
Here’s the thing though. It will pass. One night soon (please God, please) she will feel better and get a good night of sleep. And then so will I. And life will be good again… until it’s not. That’s the way parenting goes. It is tough. It is wonderful. Often both at the same time.
So, I am not writing this post to ask for advice on how to get through this. And I am certainly not writing this post to give advice on how to get through a similar situation. I am simply writing this to remind everyone that Tough happens. It happens to the best of us. And to the not-even-close-to-the-best-of-us. It happens in big problems and small annoyances. And sometimes we let our frustrations get the best of us. Sometimes we even throw things or have meltdowns. And sometimes that’s ok… as long as you are not at work. Or at a restaurant with tablecloths. Or the grocery store. Or on public transportation. Or really anywhere in public if you can help it.
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
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.
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.
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.
I sat down at my computer today with the full intention of writing something funny. Something witty and clever and far, far, far away from the emotional and slightly sad tone my blog has taken as of late. I starting typing a blog about losses and gains – about funny things that you gain and lose after having a baby. Inconsequential things… like your mind. However, the more I started thinking about losses, the more I started thinking about loss. And, as so often happens when I am writing these blogs, my fingers began to take me somewhere that I didn’t know I wanted to go. My husband says that he learns so much about me by reading my blog, and I have to say that in writing it, I learn so much about myself. So screw funny. It’s over-rated anyway. (But stay tuned next week for the revival of my usual biting wit and thinly veiled sarcasm. Probably.)
I have had loss on my mind lately. Last weekend my husband found out that one of his good friends’ wives passed away. It was cancer. It was quick. It was devastating. I personally had only met her once as they live in London, but she was a beautiful and kind woman. She was also a wonderful mother to her two young children. Her youngest is the same age as my daughter. When we heard the news over the weekend, my heart ached for my husband’s friend who was left without a wife and especially for those two young girls who were left without a mother. But I also ached for this young, vibrant mother who will not get the chance to see her children grow up.
As I said before, I didn’t know her very well. But in the short time we spent together, I was struck by how much she reminded me of me. She was about my age. She loved her family. She loved to have fun. She loved to laugh. She loved life. We were both pregnant when we met, although she already had one daughter. She was wise and experienced and she graciously answered all of my (many, many) questions about babies and about motherhood. Since then, I expect that the past year-and-a-half since her daughter was born was a lot like mine: sleepless nights, blissful moments, more laughter than she ever thought possible. I am sure that she spent many hours marveling at the perfection of her daughter’s face and imagining the possibilities of her daughter’s future, much the way that I have.
Then she woke up one day, just like any other day, but on this day she had a headache. She woke up with plans and hopes and dreams, just like any other day, but she didn’t know that this particular day would be her last. She didn’t know that she would never get to see her children grow up, get married, or have children of their own. She didn’t know that she would never again get to marvel at the beauty of her daughter’s face or get the chance to discover who her daughters will become.
She reminded me a lot of me, and I think that’s why I felt the loss so greatly, even though I barely knew her. If it could happen to someone like her, then it could certainly happen to someone like me. None of us know which day will be our last. And as sad as this thought makes me, it is also a reminder of how wonderfully precious life is. A wise somebody once said that we should, “Live every day like it is our last.” And while I do think this is sound advice, I also think it is a bit too sad for my taste. It is hard to think of our last days without feeling a bit melancholy, and I don’t want to live every day like that.
Instead, I am going to try to live every day as if it is my first. Like a child. Full of the magic and wonder and true appreciation that comes from experiencing everything for the first time. Without the fear and regret we learn as we get older and “wiser”, and without the ambivalence that often comes with age. The world is full of amazing things and people and moments that, as adults, we often fail to recognize or even see.
My daughter’s new word is “Wow!” A bird in the sky gets a heartfelt “Wow!”; fitting the right puzzle pieces together gets a “Wow!”; seeing a dog on the street gets a “Wow!”; even my stepping out of the shower naked got a “Wow!” (It’s been a while since that happened, but I will try not to let it go to my head.) A bite of cheesecake, a big splash in the bath, my funky neon green nails, a great song, a perfect hi-five… all of these are deemed “Wow!” worthy by my daughter. And they are. Each and every day is full of these simple Wow! moments if we are young and wise enough to recognize them.
And while I hope that I have many, many (many, many, many, many) more Wow! moments left before my last day, I am going to try to live them all like they are my first.
photo credit: Frederic Mancosu via photopin cc
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.
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.
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.”
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.