A Trip Down Postpartum Lane

Although I did not fully intend to take a maternity leave from my blog, it seems that scheduling, exhaustion, and emotions have effectively accomplished that for me. The miracle of life continues to be extraordinary for those of us who brought it into being, but for those who did not, I know that reading a daily log of my new son’s eating, pooping, and sleeping schedule may be somewhat less than thrilling. Unfortunately these are the things that consume my days as of late. Combined with an ever-present struggle to maintain my sanity through the fog of postpartum hormones and little to no sleep, it has been hard to find the energy and inspiration (much less time) to sit down and write. But writing is an integral and important part of my fulfillment – and hopefully important to some of you, my readers, as well – so I am making the time. Forgive me if the subject matter is somewhat sub-par. It is where I am now and it is what I have to give.

The involuntary drugs I am constantly hopped up on – otherwise know as postpartum hormones – are a cruel and unusual reality. I know that they are the cause of much of the way that I feel (which makes me feel crazy), but the feelings themselves are real and valid. I cannot simply ignore them. Allow me to give you a tour of what goes on in my head most days lately:

I find it exceptionally difficult to separate myself from my tiny newborn son. Even now, I have his video monitor right next to me as I write and I find myself looking at it at least as much as I look at this screen on which I am typing. For nine months he and I were connected. Two people existing together in the same body but separate. And as much as I hated pregnancy there is an odd and intense separation anxiety that happens when he is no longer part of me. It feels unnatural, in a way, for him to be across the room, even though I know it is, of course, not. I am jealous and possessive of him and feel disconnected from everyone else. Like no one else really understands… or cares. And I don’t blame them. Perhaps my life has changed radically over the last three weeks, but theirs hasn’t. Sooner or later, my new baby is not the center of everyone else’s attention. But most of the time if feel like it should be, darn it!

Everyone treats a pregnant lady, especially a big pregnant lady, special. But almost as soon as the baby is born, all of the special attention transfers to him. And this too feels unfair. I had major abdominal surgery 3 weeks ago and now, for all intents and purposes, am housebound while still trying to care for both of my children. I deserve to be treated special too, right?

And my hubby, whose life has also changed dramatically, has the added privilege of dealing with all of my insanity. This often makes him withdraw, because really, what is there for him to do besides take care of all of our practical needs (which he does superbly)? He can’t even begin to touch everything that’s going on inside me. This, in turn makes me feel distant from him and guilty for making him have to deal with me. He practically had to beg me to go out to dinner with him tonight and let my parents, who are visiting, watch the boys. And yet, it feels so wrong for me to leave the baby, that I almost resent him for insisting we go. Crazy, right? I know.

And you remember those fears I mentioned a while back about whether or not I would be able to love Owen as much as Aiden, who I have adored intensely from the moment he was born? Everyone told me that I would have no trouble. That love multiplies rather than divides. They were, of course, right. I adore Owen every bit as much as I do Aiden. But the irony of it is, I sometimes find myself even resenting Aiden for demanding so much of me at a time when I ought to be able to enjoy my new baby as much as I was able to enjoy him. Thankfully, I don’t think I’ve ever shown him these feelings but it’s bad enough that they’re there. Especially since he has been SUCH a wonderful boy since we came home from the hospital and SO tender and loving with his new little brother. It is astonishing and beautiful to watch and makes my heart swell.

Then there are feelings of inadequacy. Like I just can’t handle each new step along the way – leaving the hospital; Jonathan going back to work; visitors coming; those same visitors leaving; returning to work myself… Jonathan is going out of town 3 time in June and I don’t know how I am possibly going to manage the boys by myself while he is gone. I know I will. I have to. I just don’t believe that I can.

And in the middle of all of this, I am having to search for new childcare for when I return to work. This gives me constant and recurring panic attacks. If I have so much trouble leaving my baby with my mom, how in the world will I be able to leave him with a complete stranger in 5 or 6 weeks. I have no idea.

Add to this the fact that this baby, who I am so protective and possessive of, is one giant bundle of need – perpetuating a cycle of nursing, diaper changes, gas pains, fitful and broken sleep, and repeat – and you have the recipe for a perfect storm.

I know that all of this will pass. I had many of the same feelings after I had Aiden, perhaps to a worse degree. But when you are in the midst of them, flooded with emotions and hormones that you can’t control, it is sometimes hard to remember that life will return to normal. A new normal perhaps, but normal nonetheless. So in case any of my friends are planning to come see me anytime soon, bear in mind that this is the me that exists on the inside – even if what you see on the outside is remarkably held together. And if this inside me is too scary, I completely understand. I’ll let you know when the fog clears. If not, come help me weather the lonely craziness and I’ll try to keep the monster at bay. Besides, Owen is so incredible cute and wonderful, that seeing him is worth braving me ;)

The Versatile Blogger Award

Well, I’d like to thank the Academy… I mean Stephicakes, one of the most recent jewels I’ve found in my blog surfing, for nominating me for this award. It is good to know that someone I enjoy reading enjoys reading my work as well. And not only enjoys reading it, but thinks I am versatile in my choice/style of writing topics. This is not the first time I’ve received this nomination, but, not knowing how seriously to take it and always being a bit leery of the facebook-type fill-in-the-blank and pass-it-along publicity stunts, I never followed through. But since I felt flattered when I received it then, as I do now, I figured I’d flatter a few other people and pass it along. So here goes:

The rules for accepting this award are as follows:

1. Thank the award-givers and link back to them in your post.

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

3. Pass this award along to 15 other bloggers.

4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

Seven Things About Myself:

1.) I am hopelessly in love with three men at the same time! Scandalous, I know! OK, I’ll admit it, two of them are men-in-the-making… but still. Anyone who has read any of my blog probably knows that I’m referring to my hubby and my two boys, the second of which is scheduled to make his debut in only a few short weeks. I ADORE being a mother, even if I’m not always very good at it. It has been one of the most fulfilling (and dang difficult) endeavors I have ever undertaken. And the lessons I have learned in the process are often the topics of this blog.

2.) I aspire to one day be a published author. I know, I know… what consistent and dedicated blogger doesn’t? I’m not entirely sure that I will accomplish this goal some day, but it would be amazing and wonderful if I did. I hope to write children’s books primarily and am constantly toying with new ideas.

3.) One of my biggest motivators in writing this blog (or one day attempting to get published) is the desire to leave a written legacy to my children and grandchildren. To pass on tidbits of wisdom and humility, humor and beauty, and small vignettes of what life looked like when I was young (OK, maybe not so young anymore, but youngER).

4.) Although it is a significant battle sometimes, I REFUSE to give in to cynicism. I prefer instead to believe the best of people and let them continually surprise me; to not always plan for the worst case scenario, but rather the best; and to not let the things that so easily bog us down take a more prominent seat to those that are quietly beautiful.

5.) I LOVE shopping! More specifically bargain hunting. I can’t really explain it, but it gives me a rush of satisfaction and relieves stress in ways very little else can.

6.) I adore cooking and frequently create my own recipes. I see it as a creative outlet, building dishes that are unique and interesting and satisfying out of sometimes surprising ingredients. I rarely use, or perhaps I should say follow, a recipe unless it’s as a springboard for ideas or to remind myself of something lovely I created in the past. My cooking is experimental and, although not all of these experiments are a success, I like to share the ones that are with you, my faithful readers. I imagine that you all jump to cook my most recent recipe post as soon as it comes up, and although I know this is probably not the case, a girl can dream, right ;)

7.) I host a book club once a month that has proven to be an excellent outlet for intellectually stimulating adult conversation that does not center around family and children and everyday life. It has also kept me consistently reading new and surprising books – something that has always been very important for my development both as a person and as a writer.

8.) BONUS tidbit – Although I love being a mother, I HATE being pregnant. Perhaps this is only relevant to me right now because I am enormous and uncomfortable, but it’s true. I also know many of you would gasp and think, “Pregnancy is beautiful and magical, etc. Enjoy every minute!” To those people I want to say, “You are very lucky if that was your experience, and more power to you! Pop out as many kids as you please and embrace the magic!” But for me, this will most likely be my last pregnancy.

So there are just a few things about me you may have already known, or perhaps you didn’t. This is definitely not a comprehensive list, nor is it written in any particular order other than the order in which they popped into my mind. If you are intrigued and would like to know more about me, keep reading . . . I am certainly not shy or private in my writing.

As far as who I’d like to pass this award on to, here is an incomplete list. I don’t want to pick 15 simply because I have to, so I’m picking the ones that I actually consistently read and am personally inspired by:

Life As I Know It – a blog about the many hats of a mom.

Broadside – a blog by a writer in NY who’s life inspires me and whose writing is always intriguing.

Doodlemum – a charming sketch blog that always hits very close to home.

Pomp And Circumstance – a design AND fashion blog, how can you beat that?

Utterly Smitten – tidbits of design and daily life.

The Cotton Boll Conspiracy – a history blog with anecdotes about history that are often surprising.

Redesigning Sarah – a design blog that is always beautiful and a great source for inspiration.

Xanax or Running Shoes? – an honest take on life as a working mom.

Chai Thoughts – my friend’s beautiful blog about life, photography, family, and inspiration.

Dear Photograph – I can’t even summarize this one. You must go check it out.

Jeeze, Julia! – a delightfully whimsical view into one woman’s life and style.

2 Sleeping Babies – a friend’s blog about motherhood and all that it entails.

With a Little Pixie Magic – another friend’s blog who writes about a little of everything in life that just takes a little magic.

Hope you find all of these blogs as intriguing as I do, and show everyone a little love while you’re there!

A Willing Recipient of Kindness

I am an extrovert.  Anyone who knows me would never dispute this fact. My husband is an introvert. He recharges his emotional and psychological batteries with time to himself whereas I need the ears and voices of those who will listen and contribute while I process things I don’t even know I’m thinking till they’re outside my head. Most of the time we are able to find the delicate balance between our two personalities and manage to support one another according to the other’s needs even if they don’t always coincide with our own. Sometimes, however, I have to step outside of the realm of familiar faces and voices before the monotony of daily, normal interaction threatens to drive me deep into myself and I begin to shut down without even know what’s really wrong. This unhealthy threat seems to be ever-present on the edge of my emotions while I am pregnant and hopped up on hormones, tempting me to draw into myself rather than interact and release whatever is pent-up.

Today was one of those days. But rather than give in and lay on my bed, lost in a book all day pretending I wasn’t down, I got up, got out, and got better. I told Jonathan I just needed to get out of the house and I got in the car with no specific agenda or real goal other than to shake myself free of the fog I was settling into. And I realized something very crucial as I headed home a couple of hours later. I love people. Sometimes I let cynicism or impatience get the better of me and I jump too quickly to see flaws and negativity. But, in general, I am inspired even by simple interactions, unexpected displays of kindness, and windows of vulnerability that give me glimpses into someone else’s soul. I realized that, when I am sinking, I don’t always need a long drawn out conversation over coffee with a girlfriend where I try to analyze all the ins and outs of why I may be feeling the way I am. Sometimes I just need to witness humanity in its simple beauty and walk away changed by it. The smiles of the lady in the bakery who, despite the exhaustion written all over her face, has nothing by kind and helpful things to say and who wishes me luck with the baby as I buy my bread and head out the door. The ladies in the thrift store who don’t know that I’m listening from the dressing room while they recount to each other with a mixture of pride, anxiety, and deep affection stories about their teenagers on valentine’s day. Or the man at Lowe’s who, although he was about to leave early before I arrived needing help, seemed to be a bottomless pit of helpful tips and happy energy and a willingness to be of any kind of assistance – crossing the store multiple times to get something I forgot so that I wouldn’t need to leave the register and then loading my car for me in the rain – both of us laughing the whole time despite the relative unpleasantness of our days prior to this interaction. I came home smiling and cooked spaghetti for supper at my son’s request, the entire evening transformed from what the morning projected it to be. Today served as a reminder to keep my eyes open and allow myself to see, all around, the beauty that lives in people and is eagerly waiting to come out and be bestowed on willing recipients. Let me always be willing!

Romance at Home

There is nothing that feeds affection and intimacy in a relationship like romance. Everybody knows that it is essential to a woman’s happiness. But I believe it is just as crucial to a man’s. Not only to receive it, but to give it. Even if it doesn’t come quite as naturally, the simple act of being romantic makes a man feel . . . well  . . . manly. The look of sheer pride and accomplishment on my husbands face tonight after a valiant and very successful romantic evening, said it all. He enjoyed seeing me giddy with the anticipation and fulfillment of pampering almost as much as I enjoyed experiencing it. Just before leaving work today, I received this email:

Upon my arrival at home, I was greeted first with smooches, then with the heavenly smell of made-from-scratch chicken Alfredo on the stove, and then by the sound of lovely french music and the sight of candles and wine ready to be poured. I did just as I was told and kicked off my shoes and danced around the kitchen while he finished up. And the best part was the forethought that went into creating the invitation and going to the store to buy ingredients for one of my favorite foods and doing it all himself. I would choose this evening over a 5 star Italian restaurant any day! Even the inclusion of our two-year old was no detraction. I think he could sense the positivity and happiness floating around the house and was a perfect doll all evening. He even got a glass of “wine” (white grape juice in a wine glass) and told his daddy, “I like this supper, Daddy!” Who says you need to pay a baby sitter and spend a fortune on a date to make it special? Further evidence that sometimes it is the thought and effort that accompanies a gift that makes it wonderful. Well done hubby! You’ve just raised the bar. ;)

Love and Wine and Difficult Times

Love born of complete necessity and vulnerability, either your own or someone else’s, is rich and full and robust. If it sounds like I’m describing a really good wine, that might be because in some ways they are quite similar. It is the squishing of the grapes that creates the juice. It is the age worn barrels that enhance the flavor. It is the patience required by time that helps it mature. So it is with love. It is the difficult moments when we feel squished to our limits that new fodder for appreciation and respect and care – the building blocks of love – are born. It is through the wear and tear of stressful times that love develops and learns how to survive outside of the realm of romance. And it is definitely through patience and endurance that love gains it maturity and grows to new depths.

Making Wine Island Capri Bay Naples Grape Gathering Men - Part Page From The Illustrated London News. C1842-1900.

One of my most poignant experiences of this truth occurred after the birth of our first son. I had a difficult and complicated 22-hour labor that turned into an emergency C-section. Giving birth, under normal circumstances, is a harrowing experience, but under these circumstances was nearly unbearable. During the two hours in which I tried to push out my fully crowned baby, I burst many of the blood vessels in my face and most of them in my eyes, leaving very little white visible. When I expressed later to my husband that I was pretty sure I got hemorrhoids in the whole ordeal, he simply said, “I know.” There was a whole collection of people that saw all my business and experienced me at my most wretched and most vulnerable. And to finish it all off, I had major abdominal surgery that made it extremely difficult to move, much less accomplish the basic necessities of myself or my new-born baby. I could not use the bathroom by myself or dress myself. I could not bathe unassisted. I couldn’t lift our new baby or even walk without trying to hold my own abdomen together. I felt like I had lost all dignity, beauty, and respectability. But this was a time that my husband looked at me with AWE. He was so tender and attentive and amazed at what I had been through and accomplished in order to bring our new family into being. Rather than losing respectability, his respect for me multiplied in those days, as did mine for him. The love we had for each other in that time, born of my need and his care, was immense and unmatched. I am both terrified and excited to experience it again in a few months.

Just moments after he was born.

More recently, and somewhat less potently, we experienced another example of this type of love birthed from vulnerability. This past weekend (and on into the week) my whole family caught a terrible stomach bug that had all of us, but perhaps most pathetically my sweet little boy, in need of some extra TLC. Although this is not the first time that this has occurred, it is obviously freshest in my memory. And it is truly amazing how much you can push yourself to manage when your loved ones need you. Being five months pregnant, running on very little sleep at the tail end of the holidays, and suffering from the same bug myself, I found, somewhere deep within me, the ability to continue to get up and care for my baby who could not care for himself. And because of that care, even though he is better now, he has been positively glued to my side in a bittersweet appreciation. I cannot even tell you how many times today he hugged my legs and said, “You are a beautiful mama!” “I love you, Mama!” He feels that same gratitude and respect that we as adults feel in these circumstances and this is how he expresses it. It makes the dire reality of the week we’ve just experienced seem a little less terrible. If only it were easier to see the beauty while still in the struggle. Perhaps the more we remind ourselves of these truths the more we will begin to see them as they are happening, through the pain . . . savoring the harsh tannins as part of the flavor that makes the wine great!