Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jane says

I feel like I've been having a lot of conversations with my mom friends lately about how they feel about themselves, their kids, and how they act in their relationships.  I'm compelled to respond en masse.  These days it seems like I've got all the time in the world to think seeing as how my waking hours are around the clock to feed my little one.  Raging hormones and sleep deprivation are not the most clarifying factors for logical arguments, but I'll be the first to admit that not all things are based on logic.  Some need to override your head and come from your heart.  Sometimes you need to believe in something whether you have proof that it's true or not.  Sometimes all you need is permission.
I give you permission to feel sexy.  So many of us don't like what we see in the mirror.  We are too old, not the right shape, covered in stretchmarks, too short, too fat, and so many other terrible labels that we put on ourselves.  Going through a pregnancy and dealing with a post partum body seems to only amplify our insecurities.  What if I told you that you could be pregnant and feel sexy?  You can walk through a room and have everyone turn and look at you and feel like the fertility goddess that you are.  It's a choice, I promise you.  You can put on that bikini, feel good about the life inside of you, and strut around in your skin tight cocktail dress and heels.  I did.  I was surprised by the amount of men who continued to hit on me during my pregnancy.  I guess confidence is the ultimate aphrodisiac.  It's ok.  You don't have to look the way you're "supposed to" to be sexy.  You just need to be you and strut what you've got.
I give you permission not to live up to your expectations.  My dear, you need to give up on the idea that you're never going to disappoint anyone.  You are allowed to be too tired, to miss that deadline, to not do the dishes, to cry because everything hurts and you're frustrated.  You can ask for help and not have it be a shortcoming.  Lean on your friends and family.  Haven't you ever noticed how good it feels to help someone?  Let someone help you and go home knowing they made a difference.  Everyone wins in the end.  Trust me, being perfect is overrated.  I'd much rather embrace my fallibility and shrug it off and get on with life.  Chances are the only one who is really keeping score is you.  So maybe put down the score board, cut yourself a LOT of slack, and go have a drink/take a nap/go shopping.  You get it.
I give you permission to put yourself first.  Think about the safety card in an airplane.  When the oxygen masks fall, you put the mask over your own face, then help your kids. If you aren't taking care of yourself, you aren't any good to anyone.  Dead, resentful mommy is not a happy mommy.  Mommy who ditches their kids to go out alone or on a date comes home happy to see her family.  You know what?  Your kids will get over it, I promise.  They probably won't even remember you being gone for a night here and there.  But I bet they will remember their happy mom who loved them.  Don't forget about yourself.  Your family will ask for every last drop of blood because they don't know how to do anything else.  Look out for you because nobody else will if you don't.  I don't mean that to be a criticism of your partner or children.  It just is what it is. 
I give you permission to change your mind.  Remember you are never backed into a wall or routine.  You always have a choice in how you live your life and how people impact you.  If you are heading a direction and it's not working for you, stop and change directions.  Why are people so afraid of failure?  It's ok to try again.  You can start over.  Let it go, seriously.  Remember that scoreboard you put down?  Let's leave it on the ground...this is no time to beat yourself up because you decided a course of action wasn't the best one afterall.  Try again, chances are all that's going to happen is things will get better.  We can't all be right all the time.
I give you permission to be happy.  Happiness is not the result of a magical formula of things, money, and people in your life.  It means different things to different people and you can get it from so many things in your life.  Don't be afraid to celebrate the little things.  Don't dwell on things that make you miserable.  Don't let your expectations become so high that you lose the ability to appreciate what you have instead of wasting time wishing you had something else.  Most importantly, don't rely on someone else to make you happy.  You will just set yourself up for disappointment.  There are times I get lost and forget these things and I find myself depressed and hopeless.  Then my daughter struggles to pronounce a word and lose myself in laughter.  My son sleeps 3 hours in a row and I don't feel like a zombie.  Lean to celebrate, people!  Don't waste your life wishing for something you don't have, waiting for a vacation to make you happy, or hating your daily routine.  You have control of all of this--how you see it, how you respond, and the changes you make. 
I give you permission to write your own ending.  Life doesn't have perfect fairy tales wrapped up in a bow for each little girl to pick up and take home and carefully unwrap.  There are no fairy tales because there are no perfect people.  We are all a product of everything that has happened to us. We are a bunch of jaded people doing the best that we can.  So I ask you to believe the most positive truth about the person you are with when you question what is going on in your relationship instead of letting your damaged past assume the worst.  See the good in people and try to be the best part of yourself.  Try and try again.  Sometimes it's a day to day effort and sometimes it feels hourly.  Not everyone is willing to try and not everyone is willing to believe the best in someone.  I think we all take turns demonizing each other.  At the end of the day, you will find your own path to what hopefully amounts to happiness instead of sabotaging ourselves by being too proud to let people in or too scared to be who we really are.  To me, there is no bigger loss than hiding your true self.  My sister once told me that kids can keep their young love and she'd rather have the deep love that comes from years of trials.  I couldn't agree more.  The love and respect gained from years of honesty and openness is worth so much more than anything you get from a new lover.  And don't get me started on how good it feels to have someone truly know you and love you for it.  It's what dreams are made of.
This is your life and you are allowed to live it however you want.  Be yourself, find your happiness, feel good about yourself, and don't apologize for dancing to your own happy tune.  Hug your babies, go put your heels and lipstick on, turn up that music, and drag your partner out to dinner, make out in the car, and leave your responsibilities behind for just a few hours.  Not possible?  Just try one little change and you'll thank yourself later, I promise. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Tiny toes

Introducing 8 day old toes :)

Turn it up

I've been sitting in silence for too long.  This past week I decided it was time for music to make a comeback in a major way in my household.  I got out my new speaker and cranked it up. Kesha, Dev, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, and anything else that is loud and happy and makes me dance around the house with my son.  I welcome all the memories that come flooding back to me of my single days running around listening to this music at all hours.  It was the soundtrack of my travels around the country.  My wild and free days.  Kesha: The Harold Song still makes me cry my eyes out.  I can almost taste the whiskey and cigarettes when I hear Dev.  I'm trying to figure out how I feel about all of this.  Do I miss that life?  Maybe parts of it.  Would I trade my new life to get that one back again? Absolutely not.  I think I needed a few wild years of freedom to heal from my divorce and figure out who I was.  What I came up with is that I'm a mommy deep down and what I truly crave is the stability of a house and family.  I think I move through natural cycles of being social and being a homebody.  Maybe a three year cycle of freedom has concluded and now I'm content to sit still. I'm not sure.  I think it's more than that now. 
I started out as a person who had a husband who a best friend and we were a very exclusive club of two.  When he left, I was alone to the point of panic.  I ran.  Granted I only had 2-3 nights a week to run because I had a daughter and she came first, but on the nights when she was with her dad, I completely let go and lost my mind.  I was like that for a long time.  After about two years, I became tired of my intentional split personality disorder and I wanted more stability.  I got married again and had another baby.  Now what?  There is a part of me that misses flying to a different state every month and visiting so many people's lives.  I honestly don't know how I moved around so much so often.  It sounds exhausting just thinking about it.  How did I even afford all of those plane tickets?  I guess when it's something that you need to do to figure out who you are, you find a way to make it happen.  And I needed it.  I know deep down that I couldn't have found myself without that adventure.  I am eternally grateful to all of my friends and family who were there for me and welcomed me with open arms along my lost, wandering days and nights.  We did make some crazy memories, didn't we?  Naked mineral baths and yoga in Big Sur, family vacations to beach destinations, drinks and bars in cities I don't remember, and weekends with almost boyfriends.  I got plenty of use out of my luggage.  Not to mention all of my local guys and friends who came over, went out with me, and met me with our boots on for a shot or two and dancing all night.  I was so aware that my condo was temporary. I felt so free. So dislodged from life. 
Now I've bought a condo. I have another baby, who happens to be in my lap sleeping as I write this in bed and wait until I can pick up my other little one from school.  It's mad science day at her school, didn't you know.  I have to have her fundraising in by Friday and I donated new magna-tiles to her classroom.  Because I'm mom and this is our home.  I'm still working on figuring out how to join my life together in a way that works.  It's unstable ground for me, but it's coming together.  Turns out we all sing Katy Perry and dance around while we make dinner.  I teach her to line dance and she wears mommy's cowboy boots and heels.  My dancing friends exist outside of bars and loud music.  They come over, hold the baby, bring me food, and make me cry grateful tears because I don't know how things always come together.  But they have to, right?  One day I'm sure I'll make it out dancing again, but I doubt I will ever be picking up kids in their 20s again. 
I don't know why I did so much of those kinds of things--the drinking, traveling, and sex.  Was I mad that I missed out on all of the partying in my 20s because I was always in a relationship?  I didn't think it would make me younger.  It wasn't going to take away any hurt or betrayal.  I certainly wasn't trying to punish or hurt anyone, myself included.  Maybe I was just lost and it made me happy in the moment.  There may not be much more to it than that.  I look back on it and smile.  I see all my well loved spiked heels and mini skirts and I can't help but laugh.  Look at those tiny bikinis that led to way too many inappropriate selfies on facebook.  How obnoxious, especially with all of these stretchmarks.  And then I just turned around and got married and pregnant like I had every right in the world to change my mind on a dime.  Well I did, didn't I?  Don't I deserve to do exactly what I want and what I need to in order to be happy?  I think so.  Maybe I'm just trying to find my way back to wonderland.
Today the keeper of my heart and stealer of my sleep is my son.  The man who has no insecurities, needs my help, and loves me intensely for simply being near him.  Ah the thankless job of motherhood that really has every award imaginable and every hardship as well.  And I'm so in love with his little face, his wide eyes in the middle of the night, and the way my daughter looks at him.  So I sing Miley Cyrus: Adore you to him and I cry happy tears because it's finally true again.  I never thought I'd love a man this way again and to be honest, I love him much more than I've ever loved another male in my life.  In the midst of loud music, unpaid leave, fast food, breasts swollen with milk, sleepless nights, and healing stitches, that love is what puts solid ground under my feet and brings me peace.  And with that, I think I'll go nap with my son.  I think I'll let the music play in the background.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Circe

Circe has always been one of my favorites mythological personas.  Exiled for killing her husband, she turns men into animals and keeps them as pets.  Swine, docile wolves or lions...whatever she chooses.  A self-professed English nerd, I've always happily declared Homer's Odyssey as my favorite epic and Circe's appearance certainly plays large role in that.  There's a sign outside my door that says "The witch is back". It can't all be a coincidence.  I ordered my new iPhone 6 plus to take pictures of my son in the highest possible quality and he decided to show up before my phone arrived, premature at 37 weeks.  I aptly named my new phone Circe.
Today my son sleeps in a carrier to my right and I'm finally sitting on my bottom typing out some of the hormonal fury that governs my much more complicated life.  He was born last Monday after 45 hours of labor and 15 minutes of pushing.  Can you tell I wanted him out?  I've been a basket case ever since.  So much so that I'm not sure where to start, but I know I need to say something before I completely lose it.
When you have a new baby, people tell you to rest.  Sleep when they sleep, ignore the laundry and cleaning.  Clearly they are talking to parents of first borns.  I, however, have a child that needs to get to school on time, three meals prepared, laundry clean, and a home routine to remain intact.  I also am in a situation where I have two different dads for my kids.  Apparently there is no set instructions available for how to navigate this situation, so let the games begin.  I don't just want to sit here and complain.  I have a lot to be grateful for and I feel like I need to start focusing more on that to save myself from slipping into certain depression.  First off, I have two healthy kids that I love more than my own life.  I sing love songs to them.  I feel my energy run through both of them, connecting us.  When I see my daughter comfort her little brother, my heart fills to the point where I think it will burst.  This is what life is supposed to be--love, togetherness, and understanding with way more patience than I thought I would ever have.  Patience for my children and I'm still learning patience for myself, especially in healing from child birth and figuring out how to take care of two children at once.  I think I waited 5 days after birth to take both of my kids to the park by myself.  I think we can agree that I was pushing it too hard, but that's not a surprise to anyone who knows me.
I love my new condo.  It feels like home.  I feel so lucky I drive a new Volvo to protect my kids.  I couldn't be more grateful for my job and work family who support me constantly and send me encouragement in any way they can.  Even my doctors are amazing.  I was having trouble nursing and the lactation clinic rescued me from despair and got us both back on track.  My sister flew in from PA once I went into labor with zero notice to make sure she was there for the birth of my son, even though she has two little ones at home.  When my son was born, she held my left leg, his dad held my right, and my coworker/big sister held my head and shoulders.  How many people does it take to birth a baby?  Apparently four.
I couldn't have felt more loved when my little boy was welcomed into the world.  It was exactly what I'd always wanted and I feel like I finally understand what love at first sight feels like.  It took me a long time to warm up to being a mom and fall in love with my daughter.  I loved my son before I ever saw his sweet face.  I don't mind getting up in the middle of the night, the sacrifices seem small in exchange for him doing well, and I'm happy to stay home for a bit and bond with him knowing that my job will wait for me.  I have left someone off of this list: my baby daddy #2.
Originally my plan was to just have another baby. I had no interest in getting married.  In fact, even before I left for NYC my counselor asked me one last time why I was doing this when I don't like being married and I am such a single person.  Ok, first off all, it's not that I hate being married.  I was with baby daddy #1 for 7 years. 7 happy years, as in even if we were fighting, I was happy to see him.  I was with my best friend and someone I loved, respected, and liked hanging out with. I know what it's like to be happy in a relationship and happily give yourself to someone every day.  Did I overdo it with him and lose myself? Yes, it wasn't the healthiest of relationships.  Today we are good friends and I am very glad that I still know him because it reminds me that I have been happy and our daughter is a perfect representation of that love and happiness.  I don't look at her and miss her father, but I do see the joy in her heart and know I had it in mine once.  Really, I think I should give him more credit than I do.  He helps me so much and has managed to not become jealous or insecure with me getting remarried and introducing a step father into his daughter's life.  That isn't easy.  I know because I feel it with him being engaged to his girl, who will eventually have a step mother title as well.  In the meantime, they both basically threw my baby shower for us and we all go out of our way to make our daughter feel like she has one big family.  It's not easy, ever, but it's always worth it.
I think my current husband is struggling and he doesn't know how to deal with it.  He has this insane possessive and jealous streak, mixed with insecurities when it comes to relationships and children.  He doesn't seem to see anyone's point of view or feelings over his own suffering.  I know it's hard to put someone first, but kids really do need to be in that position.  The difficult part is that I'm asking him to put his son and my daughter there, when one isn't actually related to him.  I know he's waited a long time for a baby, but that's not an excuse to not want other people to see/hold his son, visit me at home, spend time with us, and be insecure that some other man will take his place as dad.  I seriously don't know where any of this is coming from.  What I can tell you is that it makes me feel like a possession when he gets mad because he thinks men are hitting on me, makes me feel like I have to ask permission to have visitors, and devalues what I've been going through in general by complaining about how tired and stressed he is, as if I wasn't the one who just gave birth and is nursing.  It's more than frustrating.
Let me be clear when I say that I need people in my life to help me.  I am not shy about asking for help and I worked hard to get to that place.  When there is someone that I trust, I don't hesitate to take advantage of generous offers to help.  I will admit, I don't know how these family structures are supposed to come together.  All I can do is try and explain the best I can to all involved that we're just family and so we stick together.  The same blood and energy that runs through my being also holds my kids close to me.  There is no "half" or "step" in my vocabulary.  Those are my kids, 100% and anyone related to them is my family, period.  Both of them.  That means if I trust you to watch one, I trust you to watch both.  It means that if you love one, you will love both.  Or you will go away.  Believe that.  I have zero tolerance for anyone who treats my kids differently, and that includes from any dads that are around.
#2 has been struggling with the idea of #1 helping watch his son.  Our one year wedding anniversary is on Monday and he had wanted a date night.  The people who make the most sense to stop by for a couple hours to take care of my daughter and hold the baby are #1 and his fiancĂ©.  Obviously because they know how to take care of our crazy kindergardener and are familiar with newborns.  This crosses into interesting territory for me because it's turning into the feelings of the husband vs the protective instinct to make sure the kids grow up in one family where everyone loves them both.  I can't do that if we create separation.  Now I'll admit, I'm an asshole.  Hearing #2 say he's worried that #1 will replace him makes me insane.  It sounds completely illogical to me because #2 literally replaced #1 and it's #1 that should feel threatened.  Fearing your son will call someone else's dad "Dad" is beyond retarded to me.  It's like he's never had a friend with a father before.  Did he not grow up with cousins who had a dad that he called Uncle?  How is there a threat of confusion?  I could literally beat my head against the wall and it's causing me stress and making me depressed.  I feel like he's trying to rip the family apart that I've worked SO hard over the years to stick together.  Nothing has changed since we had a son.  The rules are the still the same and so is the situation.  We talked about all of this prior to getting pregnant or even getting married.  I hate feeling regretful over things like that and I don't mean to sound threatening to anyone, but my kids come first and I'm going to come right out and say that if you try to marginalize one and ignore someone's needs, you will be dismissed.  As nice as the idea was of getting married and having a traditional family setup for one of my kids, I don't care about it enough to emotionally damage anyone.  My kids come first.
Having said that, couples counseling continues.  I keep trying to be nice through my hormonal rage and be a wife and not just a crazy mom.  It's just very hard to keep that up when you feel constantly attacked for who you are friends with, how you look, and how people respond to you.  I don't know why I'm feeling bad that I've lost so much baby weight so fast.  The husband makes me feel bad about it, like I'm flaunting myself around when I'm just trying to survive.  I have literally had no control over my weight this entire pregnancy and I think that's ok.  I think it's amazing that #1 made me feel as ugly and gross and #2 makes me feel sexy and desirable, even if it means he's jealous.  Pregnant is pregnant, right?  Apparently not.  Those two men are so different it blows my mind sometimes, which is ok.  Honestly I love that #1 is just my friend again and really wish #2 would acclimate to the husband title and become more secure in that so I could be more grateful than frustrated by him and his presence.  What I can say is that he loves his son to death and he's already turning out to be a completely fearless and competent father.  Always good for my heart to see.
Today I am focusing on the little toothbrush that sits next to mine.  I am grateful every time my son latches on successfully.  I am taking it one day at a time.  Hormones have to eventually settle and people have to adjust.  I decided a long time ago that I was not going to let anyone take my happiness from me, no matter who they are and this is no exception.  I refuse to feel like I have to ask permission to have visitors and I don't care who they are.  I am not a hostage and my son is not property.  There are no dotted lines around children and the second you give birth, you no longer own them.  I am committed to letting everyone love them who wants to and being a secure, welcoming, loving mother.  After all, I'm Mom.  Nobody can take that from me.  Same goes for Dad, guys.  Own that shit.  Take it from me, you can handle the world on your own, but it's so much better when you ask for help and focus your time and energy on enjoying the good stuff.