Tuesday, February 21, 2017

everyone's favorite pregnancy pastime: the triage game!

Well, I managed to freak myself right the hell out yesterday. I'd had a nonstop weekend, thanks to the ridic warm weather. I mean, it was 70 degrees. In Michigan. In FEBRUARY. Sucks for apple crops, but it definitely sparked the nesting instinct in me. (Yes, people, I understand my nesting isn't as economically imperative as Michigan's fruit crops, and sorry for making light of the situation.) On Saturday, I finally organized the four thousand bins of baby clothes that I keep shoving around the basement - a teetering tower of Rowan's old clothes, hand-me-downs from probably a dozen different friends, and random toys that I've been meaning to sort through for months. I cleaned out my car, I swept and mopped the house, I vacuumed, I even went for a two-mile walk, which is probably the most I've walked at once since the Women's March in January. And on Sunday, I finished painting Rowan's new closet (nbd just six months after I started painting it), which led to me organizing our embarrassing paint can collection (was able to get rid of 90% of them), which led to me finally setting up the miter saw and cutting pieces for wood cornices for Rowan's windows. And then staining them. And then screwing their brackets in.

Basically, I didn't sit down for two days straight. The nights weren't terribly restful, either, since Rowan has a cold and went on periodic coughing jags throughout her sleep. Sometimes they woke her up, but they always woke me up. By the time Sunday night rolled around, I was tired, I was psyched that I'd gotten so much done...and I realized I hadn't been feeling the baby move around quite as much as I was used to. I chalked it up to being on the move all weekend and dismissed my worries.

Aaaaand then on Monday morning I stumbled on an article written by a woman who'd lost her baby at 28 weeks' gestation. I don't know why I read stuff like this when I'm pregnant. The piece was moving and heartbreaking and informative and important, but not exactly high on the recommended reading list for those of us who are pregnant and have, you know, easily-provoked anxiety issues. I stopped short when I came to a line that said the woman had felt a decrease in fetal movements around 25 weeks.

I'm 24 weeks.

I remembered distinctly something similar happening right around this point in my pregnancy with Rowan, and I even found the blog post I wrote about it. For that freak-out, my OB had recommended drinking some cold juice and sitting down for a little while to see if movement picked up. (It did, that time.) I thought that was hard to manage then, when it was the third day of the summer camp I was directing, but it turns out finding a quiet place to sit down is even harder on a Monday morning as a stay-at-home mom of a three-year-old. I tried anyway, and I felt...nothing. Not only that, I couldn't really remember the last time I'd felt significant movement.

I messaged my OB, who gave me instructions to try lying down on my left side for a long time (like an hour, if I could). But by the time I got her message, I was at the grocery store with Rowan, and I had promised her we would play outside until it was time to go swimming at an indoor pool. I was freaked out enough to nix our outside time, so when we got back from the grocery store, I told Rowan we were going to have some super special extra TV time. That way, I could lay down for awhile and monitor movements without Rowan being all up in my business.

While I could feel Baby shift every now and again, it was nothing compared to the tumbles and kicks I'd grown accustomed to. Had circumstances been different, I might have driven myself to triage right then and there; as it was, Rowan didn't have preschool yesterday and was home, so I needed to find child care for her. J.J. had two crucial meetings that I knew he couldn't skip out on, and my mother-in-law was sick. Now, if it had really been an emergency, of course my mother-in-law would've taken her, or I could have called my sister, who was off work yesterday. But I was vacillating between convincing myself I was overreacting and denying that I was just afraid to go to triage and hear bad news - basically, either feeling 99% fine, or 99% horrific.

Eventually, I broke down a little, which freaked poor Rowie out. "Mommy, what's wrong?" she asked, holding my face in her hands. I told her I was just feeling a little worried about the baby. "Worried and sad?" she asked, and I nodded through my tears, feeling bad that I was upsetting her. But her eyes brightened. "I know!" she said, and she ran upstairs.

My sweet girl returned with Puff-Puff, the little stuffed dog I had as a kid, the one that I told her she could hug whenever she missed me, because he used to help me feel better when I was sad as a kid. She thrust Puff-Puff into my arms - "Puff-Puff will help you feel better!" - and I really started crying. "Happy tears," I clarified for Rowan, squeezing her tight.

Looking at the clock, I realized we had to go if we wanted to make it to swimming, which Rowan was, like, Hype Level 10 about - we couldn't skip it. I firmly decided I was overreacting and loaded Rowan and the swim bag into the car, and I did feel the baby moving around once the seat belt was pressing against my lower abdomen. I talked with my OB, who seemed satisfied at the amount he was moving (but still encouraged me to head to triage if I was worried, of course). 

I thought I was all set...but after swimming, I was driving around with Rowan for a loooong time, trying to get her to take a car nap, and I didn't feel anything. Nothing. I managed to work myself up enough that I decided I needed to go to triage, even if just for peace of mind. I didn't want to bring Rowan, though, so once we got home, I tried to set her up with a movie (which kind of blew her mind, since usually watching a movie is a Big Fucking Deal) so I could either lay down and monitor the baby again, or figure out child care so I could go to triage. 

Of course, the DVD player wasn't working. I called J.J. at work, hoping he was done with his meetings and could help me. When I heard his voice, I kind of lost it. I told him I was worried about the baby. My wonderful guy...he not only helped me figure out how to get the stupid DVD player working, he told me he was feeling sick (which made two out of the three of us down for the count with this nasty cold) and heading home, and that I could go to triage as soon as he got there. Meanwhile, I was crying a little, so Rowan found Puff-Puff for me again, which made me cry even more...I was a mess.

I hung up with J.J. and laid down at one end of the couch, with Rowan at the other end, fully equipped with her movie, a drink, and a bowl of pretzels. I completely passed out within five minutes of the movie starting and woke up probably half an hour later - to the sensation of the baby rolling and wiggling like crazy. J.J. walked in not five minutes later, and the baby was still going nuts, so I apologized for losing my shit and told him I didn't need to go to triage after all.

Batman decided to cuddle with me after I woke up,
and insisted that Puff-Puff cuddle with us, too.

GOD. Drama.

I went out for Mexican food with friends last night, after all the craziness of the day, and apparently the nap + fried avocado tacos with cilantro aioli was exactly what Baby needed to really get moving again. When Rowan coughed me awake at two in the morning last night, not only was the baby still bumping and thumping around, but I realized I couldn't breathe out of my nose and that my throat was thick and on fire (which, for those of you keeping track, makes all three of us down for the count now). Between Rowan's coughs, the baby's gymnastics routine, and, you know, not really being able to breathe or swallow, I never went back to sleep last night - but at least I could tell the baby was doing just fine. 

Thankful today for an active baby, a girl whose capacity for compassion is astounding, a husband who knows how to calm me down, an OB who's responsive and on top of things, the winter weather of my dreams, crossing crap off my to-do list, and having a few more weeks of the magical second trimester left to enjoy.

Monday, February 13, 2017

giving myself grace: happy valentine's day to me.

So I've been stuck. And I got myself into trouble this weekend.

I somehow got sucked into a cycle of getting really down on myself lately. I'm struggling to do anything beyond sitting on the couch and stuffing my face. I feel like I haven't been doing all the things I love to do with and for Rowan - playing outside every day, coloring together, teaching her board games. I'm disappointed in myself for giving up a writing position that I was enjoying because it was taking wayyyy more time than I had to offer. I made a huge mistake and way underestimated the cost of getting a new bathtub for our only full bathroom - the tub is crumbling and it's non-negotiable at this point whether we get it replaced, but I had no idea installation was going to cost thousands and thousands of dollars. I'm annoyed that I can't do the installation myself (at least of the tile surround and a new cheap floor), the way we did with the kitchen, because I'm pregnant and tired and not willing to sacrifice our bathroom for a month while I get it done in sporadic thirty-minute chunks. I'm especially pissed at myself for not bringing in enough money to our household to be able to afford the cost of replacing the stupid bathtub. I'm ashamed that I keep focusing on all the negatives of having this baby, that I can't seem to see past the inevitable sleep deprivation and stress spikes and get excited about a new squishy human to love.

All of this culminated in the worst thing of all. On Saturday night, I was running the dinner-bath-bedtime gauntlet while J.J. was at work, and I. Was. Exhausted. There was no good reason for being exhausted beyond the typical stuff - stressful week, long day, vampire fetus sucking all my strength, etc. Rowan didn't nap that afternoon, and so the evening was a series of tired tantrums for her. She didn't want what I served for dinner. She didn't want to use the potty. She didn't want to come inside from playing on the swings. She didn't want to take a bath. She didn't want to use the almost-empty bottle of bubble bath, she wanted to use the NEW bottle of bubble bath - and when I reached over to grab the almost-empty bottle instead, she jumped up and down in a fit of rage and her skull connected with my cheekbone, hard. I dropped the bottle and snapped, "Rowan! Seriously, STOP IT!" She started crying, frightened by my tone and mad that I wasn't giving in to her, and I honestly didn't care. I ran the bath and poured the bubbles (from the almost-empty bottle) in. Then she didn't want THOSE toys in the bath, and then she didn't want the bath to end, and then she didn't want the towel I handed her...

By the time I was getting her lotioned up and helping her put her pajamas on, we were both at the ends of our ropes. Rowan was wiggling and falling and turning in circles and being uncooperative, and my voice was getting louder and louder. Hers did, too: "No, I WON'T stop wiggling! I WILL wiggle!" She turned away from me, wiggled more, and pulled the one leg that we had gotten in the underwear back out of the underwear.

I finally lost it. "Rowan! STOP!" I shouted.

And I swatted her bottom.

She turned to look at me, her eyes confused and instantly full of tears. "Mommy! You're not supposed to bonk me!" she cried, her tears spilling over.

I felt like shit, wholly and immediately. I have never spanked her before, not even really come close. She collapsed in my arms, crying, and I apologized. "I'm sorry, Rowie, you're right: I'm not supposed to bonk you." I squeezed her tight. She replied, "That's okay, Mommy."

I drew back from her and looked in her wet eyes. "No, that's not okay for me to bonk you. That's not what we do when we're frustrated. I won't do that again, I promise." We hugged a minute longer, then finished lotion and pajamas and continued with the bedtime routine like normal.

But I didn't feel normal. I felt like a monster. Look, I know a swat on the bottom is not the worst thing in the world. I know there's someone reading this and judging me harshly for laying a hand on my child; trust me, I'm doing the same thing. There are also people reading this who think I'm being melodramatic, that I'm overreacting big time. They're probably not all that wrong. But I'm pregnant and hormonal and already feeling like a sub-par person and parent, and, yeah, swatting my three-year-old did nothing to help that. 

I also have to say that I know there are families out there who employ spanking as a matter of course, a regular tool in their discipline arsenal. And I know there are so many people who believe spanking is actually a necessary form of discipline, that otherwise your kid ends up a spoiled snowflake. Here's the thing, though: I am, by education and profession, an early childhood specialist. And based on thorough reviews of a variety of studies, I flat-out disagree that spanking is necessary or beneficial. A professor of mine in grad school is one of the nation's leading researchers on spanking. Last year, she published a meta-analysis on spanking that showed, as conclusively as research can, that not only does spanking not help reduce misbehavior, it also has detrimental long-term effects.

I was spanked growing up, and I wouldn't say that it did me long-term, irreparable harm. I was lucky enough to have a host of protective factors guarding against that, not the least of which was a loving and positive relationship with both of my parents. And no, I don't think one spank automatically turned Rowan into an anti-social tyrant. But still. I introduced into her innocent life the concept that grown-ups are capable of hitting children, and that makes me feel awful. She needs to know that hitting is never acceptable, and that she doesn't have to say "that's okay" just because she loves me and I love her.

I spent the rest of the weekend thinking about all the people in Rowan's life who would never dream of hitting her, or who would be angry with me for hitting a girl they adore, and feeling like a savage in comparison. I felt like I'd changed the nature of my relationship with my daughter in a real and demonstrable way. I thought about how I've never hit a child I've worked with, even the ones that hit me first - with their hands, or a sled or a block or a chair. That's all happened, but I never hit them. Of course not. I thought about how my professional life is dedicated to helping teachers and parents manage their stress and emotions, and that I let mine get the best of me. 

I did all this thinking, until, finally, I started asking myself what I would say to a parent in the same position as me. Like, what if one of the moms in my mom group came to me in tears, wracked with guilt after spanking her child? I know exactly how I'd respond. First and foremost, I'd say, "It's okay. You are still a good mom, and you didn't wreck your kid." Then I'd continue: "Yes, sometimes we lose it. Sometimes our kids are being terrible. TERRIBLE. But there are better ways to handle ourselves when we lose it than spanking. The trick is to remember that next time, and to know how you want to respond instead." And I'd counsel them through letting go of the guilt.

I'm attempting to extend the same grace to myself. And not just with regards to the spanking incident; to myself in general, the person who stays home full-time and works part-time and tries to balance a marriage and family and friendships and parenting and gestating and self-care. The guilt? This whole routine of beating myself up because I'm not living up to my own subjective standards? It is serving no good. It doesn't inspire me to change or do better; it just loops me back into the negativity spiral and keeps me stuck there. I can't take back the spank, and I feel guilty as hell about that. But I am giving myself permission to let it go. I've acknowledged that the guilt is there, and now I'm letting it go.

The point of confessing all of this is not to come off as some zen master who can pull whatever stupid shit she wants and then magically release the guilt, free of penalty or recourse. It's also not to lambast parents who do spank. But I messed up. Our family does not hit, and grown-ups in our family don't use physical force to intimidate or to impose compliance. So this is more about reminding myself that I'm going to mess up. In every area of my life, I'm going to mess up. Something I try to tell Rowan when she makes mistakes is that the mistake isn't what matters so much as how we respond to it. I'm not going to blame Rowan for me spanking her ("If you weren't wiggling around so much, I wouldn't have bonked you!"). I took responsibility for it, as well as for coming up with better ways of handling my stress and frustration. I apologized to her, sincerely, and let her know that I made a mistake. Yes, spanking her felt like the opposite of everything we try to teach in our family, but that doesn't mean it negated everything she's already learned.

And now I'm going to move on. Forgive myself. Learn from it. And let it go. Because I want to be the best person I can be, and unchecked guilt does not further that goal.

In case you need permission to do the same, here. Permission granted, grace extended, love offered. Happy Valentine's Day.

This girl ran into my arms today and whispered, "Will you be my
valentine?" Then she told me she wants to make a special
valentine for her daddy, "because he's just so special in my heart."

Monday, February 6, 2017

a really lovely new tradition full of love and peace and love.

Found myself in a sneaky hate spiral this afternoon, and for no good reason. I guess that's the whole thing about a sneaky hate spiral, how it just kind of worms its way in with tiny frustrations until you find yourself throwing something across the room in a rage. In my head, I started making a list of all the things that are just fucking annoying me right now. The list grew longer and longer, and all of a sudden I realized - I did this same exact thing this time last year, and I turned it into a blog post, and I got some of my favorite comments on that post (the post: here's a list of things I hate. for love day.). 

So let's make it a cranky, pessimistic Valentine's Day tradition! Not forgetting, of course, as I noted last year, that "it's a totally assholey privileged list of bullshit, which makes me also meta-hate the list itself." 

:: I hate that I just quoted MYSELF in my own blog post.

:: I hate that I can't seem to get back in the groove of writing regularly.

:: I hate that the snow is starting to crash down on the sunny side of the house, because when that happens after it's been icy on the roof, a snow dam forms and it starts leaking in the family room. Which means I'm going to have to get up on the ladder to break up the dam later, which I can't actually do in my "delicate" state, which means I'll probably have to call J.J. to see if he can help, which he probably can't, which means I'll have to do flood damage control until he gets home, at which point the snow will have re-frozen, making it impossible to remove.

:: I hate the paper cut on my thumb.

:: I hate that Rowan is suddenly too cool for naps. I knew it was coming, but she's SO exhausted and still won't let herself sleep. (For the record, I wrote pretty much this exact same thing in my Things I Hate post last year. Interesting.)

:: I hate that I literally stomped up the stairs a few minutes ago and shouted at her to go to sleep. Yeah, THAT helped the situation. #proudmommoment

:: I hate everyone who went to that stupid blog conference this weekend, because I hate that I can't grow this blog big enough to warrant attending a conference, and I hate that it's my own fault that I'm not actively growing it, but I still can't seem to care enough to change that.

:: I hate that I haven't been able to find Easter candy in stores yet. No, lonely Cadbury eggs from an endcap don't count.

:: I hate that I have no self-control when it comes to sugar consumption. I've made peace with that in general, but it makes me feel like a shitty fetus-grower.

:: I hate that the president does at least one thing every single day that makes my mouth drop open in horror. Oh, and I hate reading comments, and it turns out I hate a significant portion of other people's opinions.

:: I hate that Rowan has picked up J.J.'s habit of dropping the last part of each sentence and mumbling it, and that she flips the fuck out when I ask her to repeat herself - or when I give up and offer a noncommittal "mm-hmm" response. I cannot win.

:: I hate that I never do cool projects with Rowan anymore. I just want her to play by herself so I can relax. When did I turn into that kind of parent? And I hate that it's only going to get harder when the baby comes.

:: I hate that I'm the worst at responding to texts and messages. Like, the WORST. I'm a dick.

:: I hate that the basement is packed full of disorganized boxes and broken toys. I cleared a path from the stairs to the laundry area, and I'm just ignoring the rest of it. But it's there, taunting me, waiting for the nesting urge that just won't come.

:: I hate that I still haven't finished the last few tasks to finish Rowan's "new" bedroom (the one she moved into in - what, September? October?). I just need to fix the rug, paint a swatch of the closet, and build/install some wood cornices on the windows. None of it is difficult or overly time-consuming. But uggghhhhhh.

:: I hate that our trees need to be trimmed so badly. It's going to cost thousands of dollars that we don't have, but the other thing we don't have is a choice. A seven-foot branch cracked and dropped the other day in the backyard...and that's not uncommon. I hate you, black walnut trees, and your stupid walnuts, too.

:: I hate that the lady from Lowe's keeps not calling me back about our bathtub, which is crumbling and needs to be replaced, but which we can't replace until the stupid lady from Lowe's CALLS ME BACK.

:: I hate that I'm too cranky to hang out with friends tonight like I had planned, even though that's probably exactly what I need.

:: I hate that I can't just be mindful and grateful right now, because I have way more reasons to be thankful than to be full of petty rage.

:: And, lastly, I hate that Rowan FINALLY fell asleep while I was typing this - after I'd given up on it happening - because she's usually waking up from a nap now, not going to sleep, and now she's going to be awake until forever tonight, and she's also going to be cranky as hell when I wake her up from her nap. WE CAN'T BOTH BE CRANKY AS HELL, KID. TODAY IT'S MY TURN.

Let's conclude with a video of Rowan in one of her own sneaky hate spiral moments. This is from last week, and it's all about how I, being the evil sea witch that I am, don't let her see her grandma (J.J.'s mom) enough. Please keep in mind that she had just spent the night at Gramma's a few nights before this, and then gone to Chuck E. Cheese with her the next morning, and then had a play date with Gramma a couple days after that, and she was scheduled to go to Gramma's house about two hours after this video took place. I don't know WHERE Rowan gets this ridiculous self-pity from...

Awww. I do love her. A lot.

...But I still feel hatey.


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