Goodbye to Two

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June got mad at preschool today — really mad. For her, anyway.

June, Henry and I go to a mommy-and-me preschool type thing right down the road from our house, and all of us love it. It gives us structure, it gives Henry exposure to other kids, and it gives June some much-needed socialization. She’s usually introverted and shy to the point of catatonia. But not today.

Today we were sitting in our semi-circle with all the other kids and their mothers for story time. Instead of a story, the teacher pulled out a wooden Melissa and Doug birthday cake and we sang Happy Birthday to the three kids who had turned four over the weekend. Apparently, June was not having it. She left the reading circle, sat with her back toward everyone else, and crossed her elbows, clearly pissed.

“I NOT singing that song, Mommy,” she said. “I just NOT singing it. It’s MY birfday TOO.”

“No, sweetie, it’s not your birthday until next month. We’ll sing happy birthday for you next month. Right now it’s their turn.”

“NO.” She said, sticking her feet straight out in front of her, in defiance. “It’s my birthday NOW. I three NOW.”

And it hit me: Whoa. She’ll be three soon. One more month, and I’ll no longer have a two year old.

And, ouch, my heart. On the way home, trying to hold it together, I made a mental list of things we’ll be saying goodbye to, when two is officially over: This is the last year she’s going to reach for me to hold her when we walk down the steps. This will be the last year she’ll plop down on my lap and kiss me on the lips and say “I yuv you!” without provocation. This is the last year she’ll pronounce frustrating as fushing! God willing, this is the last year she’ll eat ONLY CEREAL for every single meal.

“Mommy, can I have some — ” NO

I’m not ready.

I want more.

I know everyone tells you not to “wish the days away,” but the newborn days suck, and I definitely wished them away. All of them. I would happily hold them in my belly until the twenty-fifth trimester so I could avoid the nursing-for-a-half-hour-every-forty-minutes stage. (Otherwise known as the is-that-blood-jesus-christ-my-nipples-are-bleeding-again-somebody-please-anesthetize-me stage.) It’s not my favorite stage. I cherish my sweet newborns, I do. I hold them and kiss their milk-lips and nibble on their cheeks when they’re sleeping. And then I toss them in their baby swing and run like hell so I can take a shower and ice my nips.

And I’ll probably get crucified for saying so, but anything before eight weeks is so boring. They’re cute and everything, but it’s just a lot of work for not a whole lot of payoff: How’s the baby? Uh, he weighs, like, ten pounds now, I think? He nurses a lot still. He really likes playing with this kleenex box full of scarves. He doesn’t *quite* hold his head up yet — but maybe soon! Wow. Riveting. All that excitement totally makes up for the ninety cumulative minutes of sleep I got last night.

Oh, yes, it will. But we parents of newborns call it “the scare ball”

When I think of being pregnant again, I inwardly groan, because pregnancy. And newborn stage. And bleeding nips. But when I think of having another one- or two-year-old, I could have a million of those and never get sick of it. Two is when some of this parenting stuff actually feels like it’s starting to pay off. Two is when you can opine on their personality instead of run through a laundry list of boring milestones.

I am not a weepy, emotional mother by any means (unless I skip my zoloft for five or six days and then let’s just say I’ve been known to binge-watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians all afternoon and cry when Kim loses her earrings in the ocean). I am not nostalgic and I never cried when my babies reached their milestones. I never told them to slow down, you’re growing up too fast! I told them to hurry up and sleep through the night, so I don’t feel like killing myself!

I am guilty of wishing the days away. I am lazy. I don’t like work. Motherhood is hard. Sacrifice is really really hard. Having bleeding nipples and no sleep and wonky anxiety hormones sucks so badly. I’m not nostalgic for these moments. Probably because I’m in the thick of them.

Truth. And I’ll scrapbook WHEN I’M DEAD.

But two is the exception. It’s kind of throwing me for a loop. It’s so very challenging and so very, very joyful. Even when I’m scolding her for throwing her underwear at me yet again, or when I’m leading her by the hand, screaming, into Time Out because she threw a toy at her brother (“FINE, I SHARE!”), and I just want five minutes where she doesn’t ask me for another bowl of goddamn cereal, I feel so much joy and love in my heart that I catch myself smiling when I shouldn’t be. I sneak upstairs where my husband’s working and relay everything naughty she’s done and hold back laughter until my abdomen aches.

I’m not ready to say goodbye.

I want more.

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As long as it’s healthy. But what if it’s not?

Six months into our pregnancy with Henry, after our spina bifida diagnosis, my husband and I would make regular treks up to Park Ridge to see the Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist, who kept us abreast on how the baby was doing in-utero. Since I’m extroverted and I adore small talk, I started chatting up the receptionist as we were filling out some paperwork, post-appointment. At this point, we had already been told by two separate doctors that Henry would be totally paralyzed from the waist down.

We started talking about her kids — three girls! — and I asked her if she preferred girls, or if she might try for a boy. We both quickly agreed that the baby’s sex wasn’t really that important — boy or girl, they were blessings.

“Oh, I like girls, but it doesn’t matter to me!” she exclaimed. “You know, as long as they’re healthy and running around!”

I felt it and Lou felt it, simultaneously — that hot knife of grief in the belly. I think he actually winced. I laughed, bewildered, and said something like, “LOL I KNOW RIGHT? HAHAHA OTHERWISE IT WOULD BE AWFUL, WOULDN’T IT, IF THEY COULDN’T WALK???” and then slumped back to the waiting room with my paperwork.


Later, on the ride home, Lou bristled. “She works for a maternal-fetal specialist,” he grumbled. “What was she thinking? Healthy and running around? What the hell?”

That phrase has haunted me, ever since we found out that our child would be born with a birth defectAs long as it’s healthy! People chirp at you, when you talk about finding out the gender. Boy? Doesn’t matter! Girl? Who gives a shit! Nothing else matters but perfect health! And once you discover that your kid isn’t healthy, it almost feels like a threat.

Because what if it’s not healthy?

What then?

That phrase terrifies me. Because we’re talking about our children — an arrangement that’s supposed to be unconditional — and as long as they’re healthy! is alarmingly conditional. Everyone’s happy for a new baby and congratulations are in order — but only under certain criteria. Right? And if baby doesn’t meet that criteria, well, all bets are off. All the congratulations vanish. Your support system bottoms out from under you. People start whispering. Doctors start talking about going in another direction. Changing the course of the pregnancyDisrupting the pregnancy. Termination. Because, clearly, if your child isn’t picture-perfect, a SWIFT DEATH is preferable.

It’s not wrong to want a healthy baby, make no mistake. Nobody prefers a medically fragile baby. Nobody wants to see her child suffer. So we wish for health. We make ominous, defensive, vague statements. Everything will be okay — unless it’s not! 

Let’s retire that phrase. Shall we?

It’s time to stop putting health on a pedestal.

Is health important? Uh, yeah, duh. Is it the summit of our human experience? Is it the sole quality off of which we should determine the worth of our children? No.

We need to move past this fatalistic attitude we have that says a life with a disability is tragic and hopeless. We need to get over the idea that a handicapped baby is better off dead. We’ve had handicapped presidents, for God’s sake. We’ve had handicapped olympic medalists. One of the most sought-after motivational speakers on the planet has neither arms nor legs, and I’ll bet you a hundred bucks he’s smarter and more physically active than I amFor the love of God, one of the most poetic and well-written books in existence was written by a man who could only blink his left eye.

And when we say as long as it’s healthy!, we’re negating all the unlimited potential we have as human beings. We don’t need to be “healthy” to be heroic. And we shouldn’t need to be able-bodied to be considered human beings.

And when we say as long as it’s healthy!, we’re telling parents that our support as a society is conditional. Have a healthy baby, and you’re golden. Come back from your ultrasound with a special needs diagnosis, and we’ll need to start discussing your options.

Come on, society. We’re better than that.

Baby Terror. And Agoraphobia Terror. And Just Plain Terror.

Lou can tell when I haven’t been taking my zoloft, and his accuracy is alarming. It never ceases to astound me how totally chemical anxiety is.

Without getting too detailed, having another child is almost a physical impossibility for us at this point. We’ve decided we won’t be having any more kids for some time, and knock on wood, there won’t be one. But that doesn’t stop me from peeing on a pregnancy test every single month, even though pregnancy is nigh-impossible and my husband is rolling his eyes in exasperation. There’s no way we could be pregnant this month right? I ask, three times in a row, rapid-fire. Without fail, he raises his eyebrows in a ‘you’re insane’ way. No, he says. Have you taken your zoloft? So there you go.

 But I can’t help it. I think it’s how your hormones shift after you ovulate. A doctor drew it for me on a napkin once, after I told her that during ovulation, I feel amazing. Great! Stable! No anxiety here! Depression? What’s that? And then a week later, I am hyperventillating, crying, obsessing, and generally wanting to hide in a hole.

Go figure that your hormones (progesterone, I think? And estrogen) plummet after you ovulate. And when your hormones plummet, you start to feel like shit. Your anxiety (or depression, or both) comes back in full force. You go from thinking, hey, life is pretty great! to over-analyzing completely everything. When I’m ovulating, I think, you know, having another baby wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe in a year or so…? We’re in a good place right now. A week later, I think of having another baby and my heart starts pounding. Oh Jesus no, I think, no no no, please don’t send me another baby, I couldn’t mentally handle it. 

Truth be told, another BABY wouldn’t be so bad. Pregnancy and birth are what I hate. I have an intense fear of vomit and some vestiges of medically-related PTSD that makes birth and pregnancy a whirlpool of uncontrollable anxiety. A pregnancy without antidepressants is not possible for me, but now that I’ve had a child with a neural tube defect, I’m so terrified of taking anything during pregnancy, in case it was a medication that caused it. I start skipping my zoloft after I ovulate — you know, on the near-impossible chance that we actually did concieve a baby and on the premise (which is not evidence-based, by the way) that the zoloft actually caused his NTD somehow. Anyway, I’m terrified. And the terror convinces me to skip a dose or two. Which makes it worse. Which means until I start getting some mad therapy (and until we get, like, our own house, obviously), there are no babies on the horizon.

If it were morally licit and I had a zillion dollars, I would totally have a test tube baby. No vomiting for months on end. No danger of me poisoning the baby with my very-much-needed antidepressants. No painful, terrifying birth. No danger of a post-partum hemorrhage. I would have like ten test-tube babies. I would have my own Jurassic Park full of test tube babies.

Literally a conversation my husband and I have had, post-delivery.

So it’s with alarming accuracy that Lou can tell whether or not I’ve been taking my meds. I start sounding a little bit like Shoshanna from GIRLS, hyper and fast-talking. I start talking over and over about things I can’t control and I start imagining worst-case scenarios. An example: I was pinning away on Pinterest the other night, dreaming of having our own condo and what it might look like. For some reason, people like to pin pictures of trap doors in houses – trap doors under the stairs, hidden rooms behind bookcases, that kind of thing. I’ll admit it’s pretty cool, but when I haven’t taken my zoloft that day, I start imagining myself as a Jewish woman in 1930s Germany, cowering with my children while Nazis tear through the house. Or I imagine I’m Jodi Foster in Panic Room, and I have to corral my child in a safe room while intruders try to coax us out. Basically, I start running through a billion scenarios in my head where my children are in danger and I have to protect them. And then my heart starts pounding. And I have to shut off the computer, take my medicine, and go to bed. All because of this:

OH JESUS, YOU CAN TOTALLY SEE THE HINGES, THE NAZIS WILL FIND US

I also, ever since being diagnosed with PTSD, have struggled mightily with agoraphobia. When I skip a few days of my zoloft, and then convince myself I’m miraculously pregnant, and then skip more zoloft so I don’t poison my imaginary baby, and so on, and so forth until I’m literally incapacitated by anxiety, it is hard — nay, impossible — for me to leave the house. This was a phenomenon I never really understood until a counselor sat me down, opened up the DSM-V, and showed me the part of the book where it spelled out explicitly what agoraphobia is. I half expected to see my picture next to the description.

Avoidance? Well … I only avoid class because there might be a shooter or something. And I avoid Devon Avenue because it reminds me of India. And I can’t walk to CVS without a buddy because there might be a stabber on the loose. But other than that, I’m cool!

Restricted Travel? Not really. Except I haven’t been able to take the train in three months without a panic attack. And I’m late for class every day because once I muster up the courage to go to class, I have to walk three miles to get there. That’s normal, right?

Fear of being confined? Uh, duh! If I’m confined, I can’t escape if there’s a shooter!

This is the picture they’d use, too. Because CRAZY EYES!!!

I can safely say I no longer have PTSD. But I very much still struggle with agoraphobia. Even with medicine, it is hard for me to voluntarily leave the house. I can’t tell you how many times we miss Wednesday Rosary at church because Henry pooped his diaper twice this morning and he might do it again when we’re out! or June is potty-training and she’ll pee everywhere! or there might be rain — the sky is cloudy!. It’s not logical. It doesn’t make sense. But, I guess, the anxiety I have makes me have an incredibly low tolerance for anything surprising, or unplanned, or anything from whence I can’t immediately flee. At the height of my PTSD, I couldn’t ride in a car because if I had to pee while I was driving, I couldn’t immediately get out and pee. I would have to wait and find a gas station or something first. That terrified me. Legitimately. One night, on our way to a friend’s party, I suddenly had to pee while we were on the highway, and we had to drive around looking for an exit, trying to find a Burger King where I could relieve myself. We found a gas station within fifteen minutes, but by then I was a sobbing, hysterical, hyperventillating mess. Because what if I had peed my pants?

Believe me, it doesn’t make sense, and I lived through it. That’s the funny thing about anxiety. Your brain takes situations that, to anyone’s right mind, are no big deal. Wearing a dress. Riding in a car. Going to Wednesday Rosary. And it takes those situations and warps and perverts them until they become insurmountable obstacles. You start thinking this dress is too tight! I’m gonna asphyxiate and die! I have to pee and I have to find parking before I get out of the car! I’m gonna have to hold in my pee forever and I’ll die of uremic poisoning! And on. And on. Until you’re a crying mess.

Whoever drew this knows what’s up.

By the way, the anxiety is never really about being in a dress or going outside. The anxiety is about things happening that you can’t control. The anxiety is about the fear of having a panic attack. It just feels like you’re freaking out about something mundane.

 Even worse, sometimes anxiety manifests itself as a physical sickness. Ever wonder why people go years and years with untreated anxiety or depression? It’s because sometimes anxiety or depression doesn’t look like a humorous personality quirk. Sometimes, back in college, I would start coming down with the flu. Achey limbs, runny nose, sore throat, headache. And then I’d cancel my plans and all my flu symptoms would go away in an hour. That’s weird, I thought, and thought nothing of it. It took years and years to realize that, oh, this feels like the flu, but it’s not really. It’s kind of like having a twinge in your stomach and then finding out it’s cancer. It kind of tilts your world on its axis.

 Anyway. I guess my point is that it doesn’t matter what your triggers are. Anxiety triggers look different for everyone. And they only very tangentially make sense. And your anxiety symptoms will probably not look like the next person’s. And they might change over time, as well. (Ask me about the time I developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome and I couldn’t go anywhere without the fear of crapping my pants! Actually … don’t ask me.)

But my point is that anxiety is debilitating. And elusive. And it makes you crap your pants.

And all you can do about it is suck it up, take a deep breath, and try your best to make it to Wednesday Rosary. Even if June pees her pants on the way there.

And get some zoloft. Sweet, sweet zoloft.

 

This Time Around, part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot about the next baby. Namely, the next baby coming out my va-jay-jay and what comes immediately afterward and how much that’s going to suck. People say you’re not supposed to remember birthing pains or much of the delivery after the fact, but let me tell you that that’s some boo-shit. I remember EVERYTHING.

So I’ve been thinking. And I’ve been making a list of things that are going to be different this time. I’ve learned from my mistakes, you guys. My many, many mistakes.

1. Leaving to go to the hospital. For some reason, I haven’t been able to let this go. Maybe it’s because my husband and I have frequent conversations about listening, and communicating, and how he pretty much does neither, and leaving to go to the hospital was a prime example of this. (In his defense, if you knew how much I talk, and often about shit that doesn’t matter, like the name of Beyonce and Jay-Z’s baby, and which on-screen celebrity couples are actually married in real life, and which high-value coupons I’m trying to find on eBay, believe me, you’d have to start filtering out some information too.)

But leaving to go to the hospital to deliver June was a sore spot for me, for many months. (And I guess it still is, since I’m writing about it fifteen months later.) Since 35 weeks in my pregnancy, I had planned meticulously for the hospital. My bags were packed before the baby had even fully engaged in my cervix. I had the hypnobirth tapes, clothes for the baby, Frasier DVDs in case my labor stalled or I got an epidural and we got bored  — hell, I even had spare change in case one of us wanted to run to the vending machine during or after labor. There was not one thing I had overlooked. And since I’m nothing if not insanely prepared (one instance where having an anxiety disorder actually comes in handy), I had extra clothes, pajama pants, boxers, and toiletries for my husband, as well. And several times over the course of the next four weeks, I would look at him dead in his eyeballs, right into the windows of his soul, and list everything I had packed in my hospital bag, including the things that he would need. This way, when it was really and truly time to go to the hospital, there would be absolutely no delay. When I pulled the trigger, I wanted this gun to go off.

So fast-forward to the evening of June 22nd. Thanks to a pretty thorough cervical check, I had been having regular contractions, about 1-2 minutes apart, for a few hours. They weren’t horrible, like bad period cramps, but (TMI) I kept leaking something that I highly suspected was amniotic fluid. Either that, or I was peeing myself a tiny bit, every time I had a contraction. Wanting to find out what the hell was going on, I turned to Lou, popped a xanax, and said, it’s go time. We need to go to the hospital. Now. And he says, let me start the car. I’ll be right back.

So he heads downstairs and I hear him rustle around in his office for a few minutes, run out to the car, and run back in. Then I hear him in the kitchen. Then the bathroom. Then our room. Then the bathroom again. Still rustling. In the back of my mind, I’m wondering what the hell could be taking so long, but since all of my focus is on not having a complete panic attack and talking myself through these contractions, I hug my body pillow and say nothing. More rustling. I’m slowly counting to eight, and then back down to one again, like the Hypnobirth instructor taught me.

After ten minutes of this, the xanax still hasn’t kicked in, and I call downstairs (in my trying-to-be-patient-but-strained-voice): “WHAT are you DOING down there?”

“I’m packing some stuff for the hospital.”

….

I’m packing some stuff for the hospital.

I’m PACKING SOME STUFF FOR THE HOSPITAL.

I’M PACKING 

SOME STUFF

 FOR THE HOSPITAL. 

My head, at that moment.

Needless to say, I did not have the most mature reaction. I think it was something like “SERIOUSLY? SERIOUSLY? ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW? SERIOUSLY? WHEN I HAD THIS SHIT PACKED FOR LIKE A MONTH YOU’RE SERIOUSLY GOING TO STAND THERE AND SERIOUSLY PACK SOME SHIT THE MINUTE I NEED TO BE IN THE HOSPITAL WHY DON’T I JUST HAVE THIS BABY ON THE FLOOR”. Shamefully, my dad was upstairs at the time, watching us get ready to leave, and white with nervousness. He and Lou embraced on our way out the door, and, already outside and halfway to the car, I remember glancing back and screaming “LET’S GO!!! GET GOING!!!” I may have even called him a bitch. That part is hazy.

This time around, there will be no such mistake. His bag will be packed months in advance. I assure you.

2. Imma get me some nipple cream. Let me let you in on a little secret, if you haven’t had a baby, or haven’t managed to breastfeed: Breastfeeding hurts. It hurts so bad. It’s like having someone stand next to your nipples with a lighter and just flicking that thing on every time the baby wants to eat. Pre-baby, when the doctor would ask me if I was planning to breastfeed, I’d be like of course I’m going to breastfeed, why wouldn’t you breastfeed? Formula costs money and also getting off the couch to make a bottle. I’m poor and lazy. Let’s do this thang!

I don’t even have a kid, and I’ve already figured everything out! Self-five!

So the baby is born and I’m like, wow, this is easy! Her mouth is always open and you just mash your boob up to her face and she starts going at it. Awesome! I’m the best mom ever!

Yeah! Grrrl power!

Fast forward just a few days later, and it’s starting to feel like this:

JUST LEAVE ME HERE TO DIE

I’m not exaggerating when I say it felt exactly like having your nipples burned off. In comparison, childbirth was a walk in the park. At least childbirth took less than twenty hours, for me. The excruciating, mind-numbing pain that came from breastfeeding took three weeks to die down. And for two of those three weeks, I didn’t even know how to un-latch the baby — I literally just pulled her off my boob like velcro tape. Needless to say, I got mastitis. Which sucked even more.

So, this time around: There’s no such thing as “breast discomfort.” The nurses and lactation people will tell you that “if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.” And maybe other mothers might try to encourage you by saying that they breastfed and it didn’t hurt, not even a little LOL! And to that I will say

It hurts like hell. It’s torture. Stock up on some lanolin, put an icebag (or six) in the freezer, and ride it out, baby.

Or just have your husband go to Walgreens and get some formula. Whatever.

To be continued.

In which I reminisce about being a racist stalker

June and I hung out all day in the loft yesterday because my husband works and I don’t have a car. I guess I could go outside with her stroller but it’s in the trunk of our car and also it’s cold outside. So we stayed in the loft and played with her light-up snail that’s annoying as shit.

This bastard.

I confess that I have the TV on sometimes when the baby and I are in the loft. No, she doesn’t watch it. She’s not allowed to look at the screen either because I’m like High Expectations Asian Father in that I don’t want it rotting her brain and giving her ADHD. I, on the other hand, already have ADHD, so when she’s nursing or otherwise completely occupied, I flip channels for something to watch.

We actually came across an old 90’s movie today called Opportunity Knocks. I hardly remember the movie now, but I used to watch it all the time back when Blockbuster was still a thing and my dad took my brothers and I out to rent movies every Friday night. I should have just bought it. I don’t know why I didn’t.

Anyway, this movie sucks and makes no sense. It’s basically just an excuse for Dana Carvey to do a bunch of racist impressions (that I’m sure I thought were hilarious in fifth grade). But I used to love it and everything else he acted in because I used to be obsessively in love with Dana Carvey. Not only would I rent all his movies from our Blockbuster, but I actually would print pictures of him off the Internet and paste them in a scrapbook. Seriously. I had this photo album where I’d post old family pictures and totally hilarious 90s catchphrases that I saw on the Internet (like this), and in the very back of the scrapbook there was a two-page spread of Dana Carvey pictures, like some psychotic ex-girlfriend voodoo shit. I even remember which picture I thought was the dreamiest:

This was in the middle of the scrapbook. And it was huge. 

So far, June does not seem to give a shit about Dana Carvey, which is cool with me because he’s not really that cute anymore and kind of looks like a fifteen-year-old lesbian.

Super cute, you guys! 

I was a fucking dork when I was a kid. I literally cringe when I think about all the dumb things I used to think were so cool. For some reason, I brought the Dana Carvey scrapbook to school and would show my friends how dreamy he was and talk about how I was seriously going to marry him when I turned 18. I don’t remember their reactions but they were probably like, you’re a total idiot n00b.

(Side note — I cannot wait to see what kind of boys my daughter is going to crush on. I can’t wait to see the person she’s going to be in general, really, and I have to stop myself from wishing she’ll hurry up and get bigger so we can bond over this type of thing. I heard a saying once that is so true — that babies are like presents that open very slowly, and I have never, ever been good at waiting to open my presents. She sat up by herself the other day and I was like HURRY UPPPPPPP I want to see the person you’re going to become! Start talking! I don’t want to be one of those “cool moms” who try to seduce their daughter’s boyfriends or something, but if we could bond over our mutual 90’s-era-Dana-Carvey crush, I think that would make me the happiest mother in the world.)

Probably every kid thinks he or she has the monopoly on what is culturally relevant and cutting edge, now that I think about it. I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV when I was younger, but one day (I probably “rebelled” and turned it on, I don’t remember) I saw the music video to Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” and I thought this made me the most hip person in the history of the world. I would go around being like, so have you seen Soundgarden’s new music video? Yeah I thought it was pretty great. I saw it on MTV when my parents were sleeping, so, you know, I’m pretty cool or whatever.

I was also stupid as hell. Seriously, I was not smart. When I was five or six I was obsessed with the Babysitters Club series and all its characters — especially Claudia, who was funky and wore bizarre dangly earrings and loved to draw. Claudia was Japanese-American, which was like a martian as far as I was concerned, and I used to pray that God would make me Japanese-American too so I could be funky and exotic and good at drawing (racist much?). When it became painfully clear that God was not going to turn me into a Japanese girl, I literally would stand in the bathroom with the lights off  so that my hair would darken (my hair bleached in the sun). And if that were’t the most retarded thing you’ve ever heard, while I was standing in the bathroom with the lights off, praying to God that He would make me Asian, I would tape my eyes back to make them squint, like a Japanese persons’. MOST RACIST LITTLE KID EVER. And I seriously thought that if I did that long enough, I would look as authentically Japanese as Claudia Kishi.

Claudia’s dad was probably like this though

Let’s just hope June has her father’s genes.

Things that suck about being post-partum

June is no longer an infant and it rules. I’m sure I’m going to look back on her infancy and get all teary-eyed and yearn for those days of yore. That’s why I made this list:

Things that suck about being post-partum: 
My body proportions are completely out of whack.
Breastfeeding makes your boobs look huge (or maybe they just make my boobs look huge, I have no clue). For this reason, my enormous rack creates the illusion that I have a really tiny head. Whenever I look at myself in the mirror I see:

Yeah, GET REAL, Barbie! Unless you’re Post-Partum Barbie or something. Then you’re a little too real.
And not only do you have a huge rack and a shrunken head, you still have a big floppy pregnancy gut hanging off your midsection and a shitload of extra skin. Oh, and your feet grew a full size during pregnancy. So have fun looking like Pale Man.

“Aren’t you glad you have your body back?” UM, NO. 

I don’t have an excuse to get fat anymore.

I gained 35 pounds when I was pregnant, and the last 10 pounds I gained is what I like to call “Taco Weight.” When I was pregnant, we didn’t eat out very much at all. But every once in a while we would drive to our parents’ houses in the Chicago suburbs for a visit, and with traffic the ride would take usually two hours or so — which was an hour longer than my tolerance for not eating, so I’d insist we swing by Taco Bell for a “snack.” Sure, it wasn’t really healthy, but it’s not like I wouldn’t gain weight anyway, right? If I gained five pounds because of umbilical fluid, or five pounds because of two Chalupas, who would ever know the difference?

I had the baby five months ago, and now the difference is painfully clear. The weight you gain from growing a placenta and developing umbilical fluid — that goes away. The weight you gain from eating Chalupas? That sticks around. On your ass. Probably forever, since I don’t exercise. So now I’m fat and the worst part is that I can’t even blame the baby. I’m fat because I eat Taco Bell, not because I’m pregnant. Baby’s out. Taco Weight is still hanging around. The jig is up.

Also, Taco Bell meat looks like June’s poop. So it’s not even as enjoyable as it once was (lie).

Picture this inside a diaper. 

You get a monster period.
I don’t want to get all graphic on this blog, and normally I wouldn’t talk about my bodily functions and fluids because that’s fucking disgusting, but I have to bust a myth here. When you give birth, you don’t just push out the placenta and that’s it. You bleed. For WEEKS. And it’s not just some “spotting” like everyone is going to tell you beforehand — you get a SIX-WEEK-LONG MONSTER PERIOD.

 What I didn’t anticipate was having to wear ADULT DIAPERS until J was two weeks old, and then bleeding steadily for a month after that. Like, damn, enough already.

Like this. For six weeks. 

Some people I know only bled for a week or two. And by “people I know” I mean random bitches on WebMD.

You cry — a lot.
Crying is probably my least favorite thing to do besides passing kidney stones. I’ve found that motherhood messes with your hormones in a major way, but at no time is it more intense than in the first two weeks of your baby’s life. By some miracle I did not have postpartum depression, and yet I would start tearing up if my husband made fun of me for putting potato chips on my chicken salad sandwich. Everything makes you cry like a bitch. Baby smiles up at you? Cry like a bitch. Husband falls asleep while you stay up and nurse? Cry like a bitch. Milk stains all over your adult diapers? Cry like a bitch.

And God forbid you’re ever exposed to something in the postpartum period that reminds you of your baby. On a trip to Target when June was still an infant, I made the colossal mistake of wandering through the book aisle. I saw a book that my mom used to read to me when I was little and I made the EVEN MORE COLOSSAL MISTAKE of opening it up and skimming through.

More like CRY LIKE A BITCH FOREVER

I literally panicked and ran home so I could watch my baby sleep before she GREW UP AND LEFT MOMMY FOREVER. This book is the saddest shit in the world and I have no idea why parents want to read this to their children — as though the thought of them growing up and leaving home and never coming back to visit is something you want to drill into their subconscious every single night. Plus how can you even read this to your kids without sobbing uncontrollably? Because I sure can’t. The baby grows up and becomes a man! He rocks his mother when she’s super old! And then he sings the song to his own baby daughter! I CANT EVEN. 

“As long as I’m living my baby you’ll WAHHHHHH…”

If I could even read this book long enough to deconstruct the thing, I would be really weirded out by the whole thing. This mom raises her son like a single parent — the dad is never mentioned anywhere in the book — and the son is pretty much a thankless turd throughout. He trashes her house and is loud and obnoxious and shit. Doesn’t stop her from crawling in his bedroom when he’s fifteen and rocking him like an infant. And this continues well into adulthood. She drives over to his house and climbs in his bedroom window and rocks him to sleep, WHEN HE’S FORTY. No wonder he moves away and doesn’t come back home to visit until she calls him up and is like hey, I’m gonna die soon. It’s a weird, weird family dynamic. I still cried. 

You turn into a dairy cow.
I was lucky enough to successfully breastfeed June, and it’s been incredibly gratifying to see her plump up, knowing that it was my body — all mine! — that nourished her to the pinnacle of health. That said, every time she latched on for the first three weeks I wanted to kill myself. Breastfeeding was an excruciating nightmare where I literally felt like my nips were on fire and I winced whenever she eyed my boobs. And the pain isn’t the half of it.

This is what happens when you google “milk explosion.” Trust — this is not a milk explosion. You’ll soon know what a real milk explosion is. 

Until your milk “regulates,” you’re going to be soaking wet every time you hear the baby cry. Or whenever you think about your baby. Or for no reason at all. I have no idea if this is something that happens with the first baby only, or if it lessens with every subsequent baby, but there came a time when I was so sore and leaking so much milk into my nursing bras that I literally just sat upstairs in the loft with no clothes on and watched Keeping up with the Kardashians and iced my boobs with bags of frozen vegetables. I don’t even remember where the baby was.

So keep that in mind, future-self. When you get misty-eyed and baby-hungry, remember the boobs. Remember the nipple-fire and the lanolin cream and calling your lactation consultant like ten thousand times. Remember the NO SLEEP and the monster periods and wringing milk out of your yoga pants.

And then remember getting pregnant means having an excuse to eat tacos, and get pregnant anyway.

**No I’m not pregnant. 

Meth, milestones, and public breastfeeding

My husband and I are bona fide hermits, especially on the weekends. Our favorite pastime, second only to drinking beer/eating pizza, is finding new TV to watch on Instant Netflix. We’re addicted, and even more so since we’ve discovered the mind-melting awesome that is Breaking Bad. Every night this week we’ve stayed up until midnight watching this damn show. And after every episode we kept saying, Just one more. Just one more hit! It’s exactly like being addicted to meth. I’d imagine.

So that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing all week. We finally finished the third season on Friday night, which meant we had no idea what to do with ourselves for the rest of the weekend since season 3 is the last season that streams on Netflix right now. Fortunately we have a child that needs to be changed and played with and occasionally fed, so that gave us something to do while we endured Breaking Bad withdrawal and racked our brains for something else to watch.

While we were tweaking like a couple of meth-heads, here’s another thing that happened:

Oh hey Bruce Willis, what’s up?
The baby is sitting up — unassisted, for the most part! Four days ago she could hardly balance herself enough to sit upright for longer than a minute or two, and I had to supervise her constantly so she wouldn’t fall forward on her face at a moment’s notice. That was four days ago. Now she can sit on the floor and play with her toys like a real live little girl. Her favorite thing to do now is to sit in front of a spread of toys and pick them up one by one and lick them, so that’s what she did while we found a movie to watch. 

(We ended up going with Bad Teacher, by the way, which was a terrible non-movie that tried entirely too hard. I guess they thought that vulgarity would be funny just for vulgarity’s sake, and I’m not really sure why because this isn’t Victorian England and hearing a grown woman say the world ballsack has no shock value to it anymore. Plus Cameron Diaz is starting to look like someone’s mom, so we didn’t really buy into her whole sexed-up, frat-boy persona.)

I still totally look 25, right? RIGHT YOU GUYS?!

We also made a special trip to grandma’s house, went to the library, and ate at a new sushi restaurant in our town’s business district. I took a picture of the food before I ate it so I can relive the memory anytime I want.

(Oh, and I actually fed the baby in public successfully for probably the first time ever. For the record, I cover up in public when I’m breastfeeding because I don’t like strange grown men staring at my fun-bags. I would love one of those Michelle-Duggar style nursing covers, since whenever I try to discreetly feed my baby, she always manages to unlatch at the worst possible moment and reveal my boob to anyone who happens to be looking over at us. And since she has a habit of grunting and screaming if she doesn’t get the boob in her mouth fast enough, she pretty much guarantees that everyone in our proximity will be looking over at us. Not cool, baby.

I don’t agree, however, that because I’m nursing I should retreat to a dark corner or something. Sometimes that’s what I do because that’s what makes me comfortable personally, but I’m so over the notion that I’m supposed to remove myself from society completely and feed her in a bathroom or something. And yes, there are people who totally think that’s what needs to happen, like the owner of this shop in Dekalb, IL who kicked a nursing mother out of his store because she was breastfeeding, calling it a “disgrace.” Seriously. I’m willing to bet this homeboy isn’t going to kick someone out of his store who happens to be wearing a low-cut shirt or a push-up bra, but nursing mothers are “obscene” and his “rights” are being infringed on, and God, and the Bible. Makes total sense. I so desperately wish I would have been nursing at the time of this protest so I could have joined these ladies and owned this guy with his non-logic.

And for the record, I have fed June in a bathroom before — but only because we were in Mass at the time and I’m a total breastfeeding novice. For the first few months of breastfeeding at least there is screaming and crying and finagling and re-arranging and milk squirting everywhere, and I felt like it was just a common courtesy to do that somewhere other than a quiet church. But I still hated it. Feeding a baby next to a toilet is effing disgusting, and I would pray to the baby Jesus that there weren’t poo particles floating around infecting my child with E-Coli. My point is that choosing to breastfeed is cost-friendly, emotionally beneficial, nutritious, and it’s been proven to reduce the risk of about a million diseases, including SIDS. Mothers need to not be shamed into thinking it’s unnatural or deviant or that it’s on par with taking a shit.

That’s my spiel, as the Jews say.)

Anyway. Right now I just drank a bunch of caffeinated iced tea, so I’m all hopped up and queuing up a bunch of songs on a YouTube playlist (that’s what poor people do, instead of buying them off of iTunes). My music playlist right now is wack. I have no discerning palette whatsoever, so I literally just listen to anything that sounds catchy. Right now on my YouTube channel I’m listening to a compilation of the White Stripes, Beyonce, and a bunch of random shit (like this song by Enya). I used to listen to this song all the time when I was five or six. On the weekends I would steal this CD from my mom and blast it in our living room and run around in circles pretending I was a ballerina. As though ballerinas just run around waving their arms in the air and yelling the lyrics to “Orinoco Flow.”

LET ME SAIL, LET ME SAIL, LET ME CRASH UPON YOUR SHORE

And that was the weekend.