Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Family Portrait, and other shit I hate

Ben took it upon himself to schedule the three of us for a family portrait. On Friday. Up until yesterday, he led me to believe that the appointment was for Lila so that we could get some cute spring-timey pics of her. Then he decided to just drop this on me.

"So what do you think we should wear when we get our pictures done on Friday," he asks casually, as if I had been planning it for weeks.

"Didn't you see what I picked out for her? I still need to get her shoes though." I went back to typing an email.

"No...what are WE going to wear? Don't they say you should dress in similar colors or something?"

This is where I started yelling. It doesn't take much. "OH NO...We are not one of those couples that has a family fucking portrait. NO way no how. We have not done anything traditional and I refuse to have this be something that we hang on the wall so that our friends can see what a couple of douchebags look like with their kid. No way...No how."

Ben was visibly upset. "The appointment is for three people. It is on Friday. Pick something out to wear. I want to do this. That's it"

I was obviously backed into a corner. On the one hand I absolutely hated our friends who did full family portraits and sent them out as Christmas cards or thank you notes or just because. To say that it was corny and cheesy and ridiculous still didn't quite sum up my sentiments on the matter. But then again, Ben gets roped into doing a lot of stupid shit that I insist that we do for the sake of the kid (like having her baptized Catholic this summer because my mom is suddenly worried about where the souls of babies go if they aren't baptized and something terrible happens).

"Could you at least have given me a few days to get something decent to wear?" I was obviously folding.

"I did. Today's Tuesday. In fact, here's some cash. Get the kid shoes too. Now shut up." I was obviously going to have to let him win this one. Bribing me with cash for a new shirt was a low blow, but the guy knows how to win a battle.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I have become one of "those moms"

Shit. I realized that I am one of those moms that I hate. Before I had Lila I worked at a bookstore and simply hated the storytime moms. They would come in, sometimes two or three times a week with their spoiled brat kids who never wanted to sit still and the moms would let them run wild without supervision while they perused the magazines. I hated the idea of play dates. I loathed the whole "Gymboree" phenomenon, reasoning that babies don't need social stimulation. They only need to eat, sleep and poop.

And yet, here I am, trying to get Lila to nap so that she will be all awake and chipper for storytime today and Ben is debating getting me a membership to the Gymboree so that Lila can meet "other kids her age". Where, oh where, did I go wrong?

Just after Lila was born, I realized that I have not one mom friend. And I never thought much about it. I hated being pregnant and thought that no one would relate to that because every story I ever heard treated pregnancy like it was just one small step down from God. I didn't want to talk to those moms who felt instant love the minute the little slimy thing popped out of them. I just wasn't one of them. And then Lila started being a baby and I decided I would not go back to work full time after all.

It only took about 4 days for me to realize that this whole "stay at home" business was nothing if not monotonous. Since they say babies thrive on routines, every single day was exactly the same-wake up, diaper, eat, nap, play, diaper, eat, nap, play, etc. And I had a really fussy one so "play" mostly consisted of me doing various tricks to keep her from screaming at me. Most of the time, I failed.

One day, out of sheer boredom I brought my then 8 week old baby to storytime. It was ridiculous, I know. The kid can barely see 10 feet in front of her and has no idea what is going on, and yet there I was, sitting in the mommy circle with my tiny floppy headed baby on my lap hoping that she would be, if not attentive, at least quiet. And as I looked around the mommy circle it suddenly made total sense to me. These moms didnt come to storytime because their kids enjoy it. Most of the kids ran around and yelled and ripped merchandise apart. The moms came to storytime for themselves. I was not there because Lila needed to be literate at 2 months old. I was there because I needed to identify with someone other than the blob that didn't quite smile yet, except when she was passing gas. I needed to see that I was not alone. I needed to get out of the house. I needed to talk to grown ups. And so I became one of those moms.

And today, as I struggle to get Lila down for her morning nap in time for her to be rested enough to go to story time, I get frustrated-not because she will freak out if we veer from the routine- but because I will freak out if we veer from the routine. I need to have her out around people so that I can blank out for a few minutes while other people goo and gaa to her. I need to get her out of the house so that she is tired enough for her afternoon nap, because the truth is that it is REALLY difficult to amuse a 7 month old for 8 hours straight until dad comes home.

I hope that today is a day where she does something incredible like crawl or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. But in all likelihood, it will just be a day. And hopefully I will make it through it with the help of Miss Marty's storytime.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More fun from the front lines

I am tired of fighting with my daughter. This is really sad because she is only 7 months old and already wants to NOT do whatever it is that I need her to do. Whether it's eat or sleep or play or scream...when I want her to do it, she refuses.

I was afraid of this. I was terrified as soon as I heard I was gonna have a girl that my mother's curse ("someday, you'll get it all back one-hundred-fold") during my troubled teen girl years would come to fruition. To say that I was difficult is like saying that Hurricaine Katrina was a "rain storm" and I expected to have a kid that was stubborn and contrary. But I didn't expect it until after she talked.

Lila fights me. She hates to be tired so even if she can barely keep her eyes open she growls and grunts and wriggles around trying to stay awake. Even when she's starving and chewing the lead paint off her toys, as soon as I try to feed her she spits and frantically waves her hands until I leave her to her own devices. When I put her down, she yells to be picked up but when I hold her she tries to get down.

She wants to play and then when I try to engage her she looks away. Then she screams for attention.

Everyone says motherhood is the hardest job in the world but no one REALLY told me how hard it is. I feel like there is some conspiracy out there trying to force women into reproducing by talking about how WONDERFUL pregnancy is, and how GLORIOUS motherhood is. Both are lies. Straight out bald faced lies.

Remember that girls the next time you think about having unprotected sex.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The "I am the worst mom ever" journal.

I am someone who has battled "the crazies" all my life. So it should have been no surprise when suddenly the hormones went apeshit and the crazy struck with such powerful fury and depth. But it was a surprise. And it was terrifying.

Here are 2 pieces I wrote in August when Lila was about a month and a half old. At this point, I was pretty sure that I was going crazy and I was a total mess. This is what Post-Partum Depression was like for me.

I hope you find comfort in knowing that it all ended okay...I don't want to say that it's all happiness and sunshine, because I am posting a blog called "Because Motherhood Sucks," but this was the darkest time.

Sunday, July 29, 2007
- Fucking Hell Child Cometh
It's happened, just as I knew it would. After two and a half weeks of being sweet and cute and wonderful, suddenly the kid has sprouted the figurative horns and turned into Hell Child.
It was so easy in the beginning. They trick you like that you know. She slept a sleep that only the new and unknowing could sleep. She woke up lightly and showed us she was hungry, not by crying - like most inferior children- but by frantically trying to shove her whole hand in her mouth. It was cute. And she would suck down what we gave her and drift into this coma-like state again until several hours had passed, and the time came and we heard her little belly rumble and she would stir and need more sucking time.
We cuddled her endlessly and tried (what were we thinking?) to get her to wake up and hang out with us. We tried the swing and bouncy seat and nothing worked and we would put her back in her little bassinet and watch her eyes roll around and her facial expressions change as the little angel that we had made dreamed.
And then suddenly she woke up crying at 2 in the afternoon. And she cried and we fed her and she calmed down, but didn't sleep. And she fussed, and grunted and fidgeted. And then she cried some more. So we picked her up. We rocked her. And at first that worked. But then she cried some more so we walked her around the house. We played soft music. We played loud music and ran the vacuum. We begged her to stop and we fed her some more. We wrapped her tightly and we changed her diapers obsessively. And she would calm down, and drift off to sleep. So we would set her down, ever so carefully...
And then she started screaming again.
The doctors have us trying different formulas. And that's great if you have like $23 to waste every 2 days and don't mind having a baby whose gas smells worse than her fathers' and who still screams all day until she wears herself out at at night.
My mom will be leaving next Sunday. And I worry that Hell Child is just getting started. What will I do when Ben goes to work and leaves me alone with the beast who demands my constant rocking/bouncing/walking/feeding/singing? How will I eat? How will I pee? And how do you let a baby cry, even for a few minutes, who seems so obviously uncomfortable and appears, by all accounts, to be in some kind of invisible pain?
The experts online and in books and at the doctors office tell me that "luckily" it only lasts until about 3 or 4 months. ONLY THREE OR FOUR MONTHS!!!! To which I want to say, "okay...I will drop her off for a few hours each day and you let me know how fucking interminable those "few" months work out to be". What happens when I need to go back to work? How do I leave a screaming monster with someone else?

Sunday, August 12, 2007
- getting by...
Lila has had a couple of good days. Thursday afternoon she slept for a few hours straight and didnt have a fit at all...
Friday was a great day and I even took her out for a few hours without incident.
Here's the thing. So the Doctor had us switch from Soy formula to this hypoallergenic crap that smelled awful a few weeks ago because she was getting really grumpy and crying alot.
As the days progressed, the crying got worse and that was when we got her the medicine and it seemed to not be doing much, but the doc told us to hang in there and that it would take a few days. He was concerned about the fact that she was only eating 2 oz of the hypoallergenic formula at a feeding and thought that she would eat better (and sleep better) once her belly felt better.
Thursday, Ben (in a moment of pure parental intuition) wanted to see if she would eat more of the Soy. And she did. She ate 4oz of it. So we were back to the regular soy, and by that afternoon she seemed to feel quite a bit better. And like I said, Friday was great.
Saturday morning Ben gave her a feeding with the hypo-allergenic stuff. She hated it, and only ate a little, and cried afterward. We went back to soy with her next feeding and she was good until later on in the day, when apparently all hell was breaking loose in her gut and she started crying and fussing and being irritable again like she had been before. NOT AS BAD...She is quite a bit better, but she was PISSED OFF...
Because I am trying to keep it straight in my head.
I wake up every morning with anxiety about the day. It gets better as the day progresses and I have no trouble taking care of her once the day starts, but there is this utter dread that hangs over me. I physically feel terrified, even though I know rationally that there is nothing really terrifying happening.
I am trying to not get my hopes up that we found the "cure" to Lila's problems. I am trying to take it one day at a time and remember that even if she is better, she will have bad days. I am also trying to remember what I used to have to tell myself at work when there were 1000 things going on and it seemed like it would never get finished… "This will happen whether I get all upset about it or not…so why get all stressed out?"
I am trying to be all Zen-like and live moment by moment, telling myself "right now the baby is calm…it doesn't matter what she will be like in an hour…I will deal with that then…" and yet when I imagine the rest of the day (any day) I am filled with tension and scared to death.
Ben has been wonderful. Seriously. It kind of pisses me off that he is so natural with her. He doesn't get frazzled and is not bothered by her crying. He actually lets her cry a little because he says he waits to see if she will calm herself down (she usually doesn't). He has given me mini "days off" where he does all her feedings and attends to her so that I can relax, nap and get out of the house. The only catch is that I still do all the night feedings because he goes to work so early.
Once we get her feeling better, we can start trying to get her on a schedule so that maybe she will sleep for a 5 or 6 hour stretch at night. Until then, I just have to try to keep functioning through the fog, running mostly in survival mode trying not to let the fact that I really only get a couple of 2-3 hour naps at night that are supposed to pass for sleep make me crazy.
12:37 AM - the worst mother ever...
Is it wrong that when the baby cries I stop to get the camera and take a picture before I attend to her???
You have to's funny...
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
4:47 PM - Fucking meltdown
I am not okay. I had a meltdown yesterday and called my mom and asked her to come back out here and rescue me.
I am so nervous and cry for no reason. I can't eat and I have gone into the sleep thing. I am a fucking disaster. But I know it. And I am working on it.
I feel totally clueless as to how to deal with an infant. Even when she's not crying or upset I still feel like I have no idea how to handle her. It seems really easy to everyone else.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
7:04 AM - Another day
Its 7am and the baby is asleep still. I want to sleep too but I am so fucking terrified of being alone with her all day. And I don't know why.
I am perfectly capable of taking care of her. She is getting a lot easier now that the tummy stuff is under control and now that I can put her down for naps and know that she will cry herself to sleep after a few minutes and so I have little breaks.
So why then, am I still so fucking upset. I wake up with knots in my stomach and cry and beg Ben not to go to work. And it's completely irrational because like I said, I know I am capable of handling it. I can't nap when she does because she naps in these short bursts unless someone is holding her, and then she can sleep continuously for ab hour or more. So by the time I get her down and she finally falls asleep, and I lay down, I generally have 20 minutes to half an hour and it takes me that long to fall out. So then she is awake.
Even when Ben is here and he is tending to her I lay there, half awake waiting for her cry. And when she does, even if she is in the other room and it is muffled by the closed door, I get this panicky terror feeling when I hear her. And of course, when I go to her, everything is fine and there is nothing to be afraid of.
I am afraid of wanting to hurt her. Let me make that clear. I don't have thoughts of hurting her. I am afraid that at some point I might have thoughts about hurting her. How fucking twisted is that???
My mom is dropping everything to come back out here to rescue me. And I am even nervous about that. Ben is really pissed that I am so needy, like I should be able to just buck up and handle it. I can't make someone who has never been depressed or plagued with this kind of anxiety understand. But I have a feeling that if you are reading this, you get it and you've been there.
I made an appointment to see a shrink Monday. And the fact that I am doing something is a bit of a comfort for me. Like I am at least not just giving up. Not that I have a choice...

Thursday, August 16, 2007 11:07 AM - Baby
My mom will be here today and now I am feeling a little less terrified. But this also opens up new things that worry me.
I don't think my mom will be okay with our choice to let Lila cry it out for naps throughout the day. Ben is upset that we can't get a nice family routine down before I go back to work. And even worse is the idea that I have to go back to work.
Part of me looks forward to the interaction and getting away, but the other part doesn't want to leave the baby and even more of me worries that my emotional state will cause me problems (I have been there before, but now I don't have the luxury of just bailing out on a job because I don't feel like going).
I need to tell everyone what I intend to do as far as hours and scheduling and coordinate with the lady that has offered to watch the baby for a few hours a day, and I just feel so hesitant to do anything. I don't think I can make a good decision or even a bad decision. I don't feel like I can even think about what happens in a couple of weeks.
I didn't cry yesterday at all. But my nerves are still a mess. I wish I could get a hold of myself and just "suck it up" which is what Ben recommends I do...
Easier said than done.
Friday, August 17, 2007
8:19 AM - Mom to the rescue
My mother flew back out here yesterday for me. I feel stupid because she thinks I need help with the baby but the truth is that I just want her here. I can handle the baby. I think...
I am a mess myself. I am really nervous. I am angry and upset all day. I feel unhappy with everything in a very non-specific way. Like I am not interested in the new role or new path that I am taking. I don't want to have to revolve my life around anyone else. Let alone a little blob that screams at me for reasons that I can't make out.
And yet in some ways I am thrilled. I have meaning and responsibility and purpose that I didnt have before. And that's fucking terrifying. It's overwhelming. This is a job with no "out." I can't just give it up. This is my life now and forever. I will never be just me again. I am me with this part of me out there that I also will need to tend to, because I did such a good job of tending just to myself and all...
I was miserable alone. I was miserable and clueless and directionless. And now I have this thing that is a defining aspect of my life and I am hesitant to follow it. I don't want to. I want to send it back and be back to just being me. I want to be just me. I want to be alone and just me.
I am sad that I feel that way. I am sad that on some level I want to reject her because she is so fucking worthy of my full love and attention. I am sad that I want to run away and pretend this never happened. I am sad that it is real.
A part of me understands that I am allowed to feel like this and that it is just an adjustment that I am making. A part of me knows that in a few months life will be "normal" and she will be the center. But getting to that point is scary for me. I want to be able to stand up and take on the mom role and be supermom without any question because Lila deserves that.
I just don't really think I can.

Saturday, August 18, 2007 8:22 AM - Something good happened...
Yesterday was a good day. I am still waking up nervous and sick, and I am still having these crying jags for no reason. I am still saying I don't want to be a mother. But yesterday afternoon something happened.
The baby found her thumbs. This sounds stupid, but she has a hard time going to sleep unless she is sucking. Apparently, sucking is very soothing to a baby. And at one point I put her in her little swing and she popped out the pacifier and got all upset and before I had the chance to get back to her she had stuck her hand in her mouth and realized that if she stuck out her thumb she could suck on that. It only lasted a few minutes and she started waving her hands around like a maniac again, but it was exciting when about 20 minutes later she did it again.
That's not all. She is gaining control of her head. When I hold her up to burp her, she refuses to put her head down. And she is learning not to be so floppy with it. It's cheesy but I felt so proud of her because they learn coordination from the top down (i.e. Head control, then they sit up, then they stand up). She isn't even 6 weeks and she is becoming human.
Finally, last evening, I was finished feeding her and we were just sitting in front of the window. I had her on my lap facing outward and was playing with her little legs, making her dance to the music I was making up humming to her. She turned her head up toward me, and took a minute to look at my face, then smiled this huge smile. She stared for a few seconds, and started making noises like she was happy and trying to talk to me. She smiled some more. And she wasn't pooping or anything (thats how I got the pic I am using as my default). She just recognized me.
That was the coolest fucking thing that has ever happened in my whole life...

6:38 PM - A shrink and a crying kid
Right now Lila is screaming at Ben. I am okay though because I took a Xanax.
I had my appointment today with a Dr. for my post-partum crazies. I was apprehensive because of the whole drama of making the appointment. Basically, I called every shrink on my insurance and he was the only one accepting new patients, but he answered his own phone and then told me the secretary would call me right back. Then he called me back a few minutes later to tell me she would be calling me in a few minutes. I was confused as to why he seemed so desperate for my business, but he was the only doctor taking new patients so I went with it.
His office is a dumpy little place in an 80's style office building in Tempe. When I walked in there was no receptionist and as a new patient I was told to arrive early to complete my paperwork. The office had terrible blue industrial carpets and some severely faded bad art depicting sailboats on the wall. After sitting in the waiting room for 10 minutes across from a rather large hispanic woman who was breathing heavily and reading People magazine, the doctor himself came out. He called her name and told me the receptionist will be right with me.
A few minutes later a tall 40 something blonde biker-esque woman comes through the door, presumably from her lunch break and hands me a stack of papers to fill out. I do so dutifully, as I am desperate for some relief and really just need someone with a license to write a prescription. I don't care that this office makes me feel like I am having a nightmare or that the smell of the coffee burning in the coffee maker in the corner is making me sick. I will never understand why there are 6 different forms that ask for the same information about insurance only in different formats, but I fill them all out.
When the doc calls me in, I am appalled by his office. Between the peeling paint, the thick layer of dust and the stacks of papers, I can barely focus, but he instructs me to sit in this rather uncomfortable and tiny chair and when I sit in it I sink to about a foot from the floor. The chair is a pattern that you see in cheap furniture stores, all velour and forest green and maroon and plum with shapes on it. I feel like some kind of dwarf and feel like this is a psychological tactic to make me docile but who knows. I suppose he sees real crazies there and not just sad moms who hate their babies.
The thing is that as we got talking I really liked him. He's a genuinely nice guy. He was very interested in things other than just what he could prescribe me and in fact said that he refused to over-medicate me and wanted to error on the side of caution and not up my dosage too high right away. He told me about his sister, the Roman Catholic nun and I told him about my demon child. He joked about exorcisms in the area (if you dont watch the news you won't get that one) and I assured him that even though my kid was likely the spawn of satan I would not hurt her. He reminded me of Robin Williams's character in Good Will Hunting. Harmless, a little vulnerable maybe, but smart.
He offered me bubble gum. And he blew a bubble himself. Why I found this comforting I do not know, but he made me feel like in a few weeks I would be fine. He sent me out with a prescription and orders to call him in 2 weeks with my progress in case he did indeed need to raise my dosage of happy pills.
He told me to get some sleep and prescribed something for me to take. He insisted I ask for help and take it so that I could rest a little.
Why I feel so at ease now probably has more to do with the drugs than any actual improvement in my situation. Like I said, the kid is pretty pissed off still, and is still crying, despite the fact that I have been typing for 10 minutes now. But I don't care. I will let Ben deal with her. I know she'll be fine. Maybe I'll even be fine.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 11:44 AM - Another day...Another day
I feel so shitty that I don't like my kid. And that isnt even entirely true. She is adorable and cute and wonderful and she smiles at me and makes faces and tries to coo at me. And I love her for it.
But the mundane day to day of holding her and feeding her and changing her and attempting to figure out what the fuck is wrong with her when she cried suddenly for absolutely no discernable reason is exhausting. I feel like a failure at this mother thing. And I am doubly disappointed because for the first few weeks it seemed so natural and I felt so into it. I was in the moment and I was her mommy and I jumped when she fussed and wanted nothing more than to make her happy.
Now I look at her and think "please sleep all day so that I don't have to deal with you."
What the hell kind of person am I? Have I failed at the most natural thing a girl is supposed to do? What if I never really feel like she is mine? Like she is some visitor that has overstayed her welcome and I want her to go home already? She has no where to go. And when I think about this, I wonder, "would I even miss her?" Is that what I need to feel something for her? To be away? Or would I enjoy my freedom so much that I could abandon her forever? I never imagined I would be feeling this way.
Maybe I should have myself committed. Its sad when you think that the mental hospital is appealing as a vacation spot because it somehow absolves you of the responsibility for feeling and being present in your own life. No one would blame me for taking off if that is where I landed. I would be considered "sick" and people would rush in to help me and to tell me how no one would be mad at someone with cancer for needing a hospital stay, even if there was this completely dependent little being at home who needs me endlessly.
I just pray that this gloom lets up a little bit, and soon. I pray that she never has to know that I feel this way about her. I pray that someday I stop feeling like she has taken me away from myself and turned me into this "other thing" that remembers the old me and mourns for her. I hope that someday I stop resenting her for being so needy. She's just a baby. She's just a baby.
I am the grown up here. I have to pretend I am okay for her sake, right? Or does it even matter? She won't remember me like this. And maybe by the time she knows what is going on I will have mastered the art of wanting to be her mom. Or at least I will fool myself into believing that its what I want. Even as I type it, I feel that somewhere in there, I actually do want that. And that I could be good at it, if only I didn't feel so fucking unreal.

Monday, February 18, 2008

WHAT??? How could you?

Motherhood is full of moments of sheer joy and love. But everything in between those moments is awful. Sure, my kid is learning new things and it's magical to watch, but that happens a couple of times a day. The rest of the day is filled with screaming and power struggles and spit up and shitty diapers. I love being a mom. I do. But I have to tell you that like any other jobs there are times when you just want to quit.

Here's the thing. When I first started feeling this way I wrote it off as Post Partum Depression. When I continued feeling this way, I anonymously searched around on the web looking for other people like me. I didn't find much. I questioned myself and thought I should just send the kid off to therapy now because I am obviously a horrendous mom. Then I brought it up to one of my closest friends who is now in her third year of mommy-hood. And what do you know. SHE SAID THE SAME THING!!! Not only had she felt that way but she was afraid to talk about it. So I started asking around and I found that except for those who are heavily medicated or feel the need to always put on a smily face, almost all mothers I know feel like this.

And it's weird because you want to take a break. You want a day off. But then you drop the baby off at a sitter or you leave him or her at home with Dad and you find yourself missing the little bugger so much that you can't enjoy yourself.

My point is that motherhood is not all baby lotion smells and happy rainbows. It's hard. And it often (mostly) sucks. But if you give yourself permission to feel that way and stop expecting to feel whatever the hell a mom is "supposed to feel" you can slow down and accept all of it, as difficult as it is.