And then suddenly, it was easier…

Something clicked around the time Ronan became 14 months old. Things got…easier.

The first year was super intense. Figuring out sleeping and eating and new skills being learned and teeth and managing a baby and my own needs and my husband’s needs and trying to run a business and really intense stuff with my family and my in-laws and on and on and on.

And then one day I realized it had suddenly gotten easier.

He was walking, I knew enough about him to learn his cues and how to anticipate his needs. I had figured out the short cuts for when Andy was at work. I stopped pumping.

Part of this ease can be attributed to the new pattern for care taking. Ronan and I go to co-working 2 mornings a week and then straight home for a nap. He spends almost a full day with my mother in law and another almost full day with my father in law.

The timing between naps is longer so we can take our time getting places and doing things. We don’t have to rush back home or to the car for a nap or so I can pump.

I had a therapist make a really condescending remark about how I needed to just lighten up my standards for motherhood. I remember thinking, “Well, they’re not really that high.” She used the example of using paper plates for dinner instead of real plates. Um… you do know that when Andy’s running a show only one of us actually uses a plate?

My standards were and are pretty middling. I want to experience some joy and happiness while parenting and don’t want to make myself sick with my choices. I have a partner who is a true partner, so I never can commiserate with moms who have significant others who don’t really help.

But despite my choosing a partner who was a help, despite my sort of middling standards, things were hard. Like as a blanket statement, it was hard.

And now it’s…less hard.

A mom in one of my Facebook groups was candidly talking about how overwhelmed she was with her 4 month old and was looking for perspective about how one day it would get better. Other moms were telling her to “enjoy it, they’re only small once,” which is the worst advice you can give to a mom who is just in the weeds.

I told her about how it gets easier. They figure stuff out. You figure them out, they figure you out. You get a rhythm and a routine. And then one day you find yourself with a spare couple of hours to read and scroll Facebook and maybe do some laundry if you really feel like it, but everything feels less compressed.

Don’t know how long this will last, but for now I’m really enjoying hitting a phase of parent/childhood that seems to work with my temperament a little better. Having more help from many angles definitely helps since I can work more and remember parts of me that had to get put on hold this last year.

There are acute moments of discomfort, but for now it all feels a little bit more manageable than it did before.

Advertisements

My breastfeeding journey start to finish

When I got pregnant I knew immediately that I wanted to breastfeed my little nugget. There is so much stuff in the world about how good breastfeeding is for babies that I was like “I’ll be damned if my son uses me not breastfeeding him as an excuse for his behavior when he’s in therapy.”

Andy and I attended a class all about breastfeeding and knew that pretty immediately we would want me to pump milk so he could be part of the feeding process. We’d watched a lot of dads be shut out of the really beautiful ritual of feeding their baby because mom refused to pump or just didn’t think to share the experience with dad. I also knew that if I was the sole person responsible for keeping our baby fed I would go crazy pretty quick.

But life is fickle and we were thrown a tiny curveball when our tiny curveball was born 5 weeks early. This meant while he was born with the ability to suck and swallow (some premies lack these reflexes because they are so early), he would tire himself out easily doing so. So we quickly shifted from trying to nurse to exclusively pumping.

Some vocabulary: “Breastfeeding” refers to a baby getting any breast milk, even if it’s not yours. “Nursing” is the process of a baby getting milk directly from a breast. So when people asked me if I was breastfeeding, I would say yes. This is a “thing” for moms and the medical community. Women want to fight with other women about how they aren’t really breastfeeding if they aren’t directly nursing and some medical professionals are behind on this change in the vernacular.

The women who want to fight about the right to solely claim breastfeeding are the ones who believe moms who pump are taking the easy way out by not attempting nursing.

In fact, I got several snide comments like “Did you even try?” “Why would you not give it to him directly from the tap?” (Do not get me started on all the misogyny that gets laced into this.) “Aren’t you afraid you won’t bond with him?”

And the thing is, we did try. I tried maybe a dozen times to nurse him, each time feeling euphoric when it worked (thanks oxytocin) and sort of frustrated when we couldn’t. After a few weeks of going to lactation consultants, one of whom told me I was overfeeding Ronan–hint: you cannot overfeed a newborn–we decided that this was dumb and we should just stick with pumping and bottles. Our pediatrician was behind us and so we became an EPing family.

This made things so much easier. I started by pumping 8 times a day, roughly every 2 hours with a longer stretch at night. This was when Ronan was still only sleeping in small chunks (a whole ‘nother post for another day), so I would pump twice on my overnight shift, usually during or after feeding him (it quickly became after when I learned the logistics of pumping and feeding a wiggly newborn just wasn’t going to work out).

I got a lot of praise for pumping. Other women were in awe at my ability to do it. I would correct them at first and then just stopped trying because, the thing is, I didn’t know any other way. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything heroic or special. I wanted to give my son breast milk, I didn’t want to try nursing anymore, so pumping was the default.

And my boobs were primed to give breast milk. Holy shit.

By a month into this whole thing I was producing a massive surplus. So much so that we had to move a chunk of my stash from our freezer to my mother in law’s freezer. My body wanted to make breast milk, so I went along with it.

I think moms who don’t have supportive partners in the whole pumping thing have it the worst. Part of what made it easier on me was Andy’s willingness to wash bottles and pump parts and troubleshoot how to make it easier. We bought extra pumping supplies, more bottles, and concocted an elaborate system to separate AM from PM milk so we could do ANYTHING to help Ronan sleep in longer than the 1 hour stretches he was doing at the time. If I had had to pump, prepare bottles, and wash everything myself for those first 2 1/2 months before Ronan learned how awesome sleep is, I would have stopped much sooner if my boobs would have allowed it.

When Andy went back to work in September, he prepared all the bottles for the day and washed all the pump parts when he got home. He had this ritual where he would put on an episode of a show on his phone, prop it up on the kitchen window sill, and go to town for the 30 or so minutes it took to get through everything.

I went from 8 pumps a day to 7 pretty quickly once we learned I could produce a ton of milk. I dropped to 6 when Ronan started sleeping in longer chunks, like 5 hours at a time, when he was about 3 months old. I dropped to 5 when he would only wake once in the night for a dream feed and dropped to 4 when he started sleeping through the night at 5 1/2 months. I wasn’t pumping 4 times at night, but as he got older I was making so much milk that the need to keep up with pumping to preserve my supply wasn’t as pressing.

It got harder when I was on a weird pumping schedule that didn’t quite coincide with his naps and he was less cool about hanging out in his crib for 30 or so minutes while I pumped in the morning. I dropped to 3 pumps when he was about 9 months old, which meant I had to carry pump stuff with me everywhere (I did anyway for emergency purposes, literally in case we had an earthquake and I needed to pump) and plan to pump in the middle of the day. I got really good at pumping in my car. I also had a recurring nightmare that I was in a car accident and couldn’t move or talk and no one would figure out that I was a lactating mom and pump my breasts. Overly full breasts are so uncomfortable. Like a full bladder but times two and on your chest.

I dropped to 2 pumps a day right around his first birthday, then down to one a few weeks later.

Dropping pumpings was hard for me. My body was so ready to make milk that I always ended up leaking and with clogged milk ducts, which feels like having marbles in your breasts. I was always afraid of mastitis, an infection in your breasts from clogged ducts that produces flu like symptoms and can escalate to to needing to have milk ducts removed if they become too infected.

Then I started to taper down to be done with pumping all together. I wanted Ronan to get enough breast milk to make it to one year from his due date and so, knowing I had an ample freezer stash, I tapered for the month of July thinking August 4th, a year from his due date, I could turn off my pump forever.

Ha. Haha. Hahaha.

Fucking overproducing, high achieving boobs.

I basically had to stretch out my single pump by 12 hours every day. So at 24 hours since my “last” pump, I pumped again. And then 36 hours later, then 48, then 58 (didn’t quite make it that day), then 72. And I couldn’t make it past the 72 hour mark. I would start to leak so I would just pump and get an ounce in my 5 minutes of relief pumping. Stupid ounce making such a ruckus.

I eventually got the advice from a fellow mom to bind my breasts. So I wore tight-fitting sports bras for 3 days with my breast pads tucked in to collect any leaks. And, voila! It worked. So now, here I am, officially off the pump a week later, no leaking, no clogged ducts. Done done done!

Here are some things I learned in the process:

Some medical professionals, including lactations consultants, spread outdated information about pumping.

I can’t tell you how many moms I talked off a Facebook cliff about their milk supply drying up because they pumped or that they’ll never be able to produce enough to keep up with their baby. The trend I’ve observed through really scientific Facebook research is women have the same experience pumping that they would have had nursing. Meaning, if you were an overproducer, underproducer, or just-enougher while pumping, that is likely what would have happened while nursing.

Some will also say that if you give your baby breast milk that you pumped months ago, that it won’t be as beneficial for your baby. Not really. There are some micronutrients that might be in slightly different levels, but largely your baby is going to be fine.

Also that you are doing your baby a disservice because you don’t latch and therefore your body doesn’t make milk super specially formulated for your baby. Yeah, that’s false. Your body figures out what kind of milk to make by getting info about your baby when you kiss, hold, touch, or get slobbered on by them. Pumping moms’ milk changes just like nursing moms. One week we had a stash of milk in the fridge that included white, yellow, blue, green, and purple milk. Obviously Ronan and/or I was going through something.

One mom even reported to me that their lactation nurse said her uterus wouldn’t contract when she was pumping, only when she was nursing. Mmm, k.

Get all the supplies you could need.

Mom groups are ripe with women offloading their pumping supplies, often for free. I got 6 full sets of pump parts from a mom selling them for $15. I also got a total of 6 pumps for free from people, most of them never or barely used. I would give most of these away to other mamas who needed new pumps but their insurance didn’t cover the cost. Fortunately we saved 2 and I used one when my hospital grade pump, Bertha, had to get returned. The second one was used for spare parts, which was mighty helpful with the battery pack died on the first one.

If you’re a mama who has a pump that doesn’t work for you, check with your insurance to see if you can get a new one. I heard a lot of bullshit from moms saying they didn’t respond well to the pump when, in fact, their pumps were broken, or didn’t properly mimic the way their babies would nurse. I had 3 mom friends who all had pumps that legit didn’t work and they thought that it was because they just weren’t suited for pumping.

If your insurance won’t replace one, ask around in a mom group. Chances are there’s someone like me who hoards pumps and would just love to give you a spare. Also, Groupon is ripe with deals for breast pumps. Fer realz.

There are all sorts of things about pumping that freaks people out. 

Probably because anything that has to do with women’s bodies is inherently laden with misogyny, but women who pump get the same kind of ire that women who nurse in public do. It makes people deeply uncomfortable. I was pumping one day at home and had a guest, who, despite saying it was fine that I was pumping in front of her, was clearly so uncomfortable that she didn’t mention when the front of my shirt was suddenly soaked in milk because I was overflowing the containers I was hooked up to. I couldn’t feel it because my shirt was pulled away from my skin over the pump parts. Look, it’s not a spaghetti sauce stain. See something, say something. In terrorism and in breastfeeding.

Also we hear about how you need to “pump and dump.” Not so. Unless you are black out drunk, you filter alcohol out of your breast milk a little more efficiently than you do out of your blood, so if you’re ok to drive, you’re ok to pump. Some women who would prefer not to use milk after pumping either dilute it with other milk or use it for milk baths.

Some people say the rudest fucking things.

I got compared to a cow more times than I care to count. Which, you know, is an animal that women are always favorably compared to.

I was asked if I had even tried to nurse. Whether I had or hadn’t was no one’s goddamn business, but it was particularly offensive to ask me, the one who is such an overachiever that even her boobs can’t chill out, if she had attempted nursing. Uh yeah, I live in one of the most liberal hippy cities in the country, of course I did.

I was told I would have a hard time bonding with my baby. I mean, he came out of me, so I think we’ve got that covered.

I also got a lot of side eye from women checking out my bottles who couldn’t tell if I was giving my kid formula or what. Even if I was, who fucking cares? Seriously, liberal ladies, we have got to stop shaming moms for choosing formula, whether it’s instead of breast milk or in addition to.

There’s a lot more to this, but I’ll stop here for now because I want to enjoy my chocolate chai. My breastfeeding journey has been incredible. I truly enjoyed almost every moment of it, which is not something I think a lot of women can say. Not many moms know exclusive pumping is an option. My hope is that we eventually give information about it not as an aside to nursing, but as a whole, separate option for women who want the benefits of breast milk but can’t easily nurse. We have a lot of hurdles for moms to clear in the early days of motherhood, easily and safely feeding our kids shouldn’t be one of them.

 

Final total of breast milk produced: 339,033 ml or 94 1/2 gallons.

NO I’M NOT ON MY PERIOD

Y’all don’t need me to tell you this, but imma say it anyway for those who need it repeated: misogyny is just everywhere.

The most prominent way I’ve seen it lately is blaming women’s intuition about themselves on “hormones.”

I’ve been going down a bit of a black hole on hormones lately. Postpartum hormones are no fucking joke and now that I’m almost 13 months postpartum, I figured it was time to do something about the hormonal symptoms I was experiencing.

Some examples of legitimate hormonal symptoms (courtesy of the book Woman Code): insomnia, waking up during sleep, headaches, low libido, facial/body hair, hyperthyroidism, metabolic syndrome, oily skin, bloating and water retention, acne, eczema, constipation, diarrhea, body odor, night sweats, mood swings, PMS, irregular cycle, ovarian cysts, breast tenderness, PCOS, unexplained infertility, cramps, heavy periods, painful periods, missing periods, migraines, and depression.

Things that are not a product of hormones: Clinical depression or anxiety, divorce, seizures, stress, a desire to be treated well, aversions to sexual harassment, mental load.

And yet, in the last year I’ve heard all of these things be blamed on “hormones.”

When I went in for my 6 week postpartum appointment, the one where they give you the clearance to start exercising again (ha…hahahaha), I mentioned feeling “off.” Andy pointed out to my doctor that I felt angry sometimes, and while this was true, this was not what I was referring to. I felt overwhelmed, out of control, or on the verge of tears all the time. My sanity felt like a very precariously balanced thing and I did my best to describe this. But, I was told it was likely postpartum hormones and to give myself some time to recover.

I went to my therapist and said the same thing and she echoed the sentiment that motherhood was hard and not getting enough sleep was hard. Yeah…but it was something else.

My second visit to my therapist was where shit got real and I used the D word: depression. I ultimately was diagnosed with mild PPD, but the amount of convincing it took that Something Was Up was kind of insane.

I have a dear friend who regaled my mommy support group with the tale of how she was having eclamptic seizures a few days postpartum. When she called 911, the paramedics arrived and took her pulse and blood pressure, both of which were really high, and instead of treating her for, you know, a medical condition, told her “Being a new mom is hard.” This woman is a nurse and she was like “yah, no shit, now get me to a hospital.” They got her there and after more patronizing and gas lighting from male doctors, she was eventually seen by an OB who knew immediately what was going on and got her treated immediately.

Yesterday a mom in one of my mom FB groups posted about how she has felt distant from her husband for over a year and really wants to ask for a divorce. But, every time she tries to get some support in the process of leaving him from a friend or family member, she gets told that it’s just her hormones that are making her feel off about him and that eventually she’ll like him again.  When I said it’s not hormones this is what it feels like to have legitimate and scary feelings, she explained, “But I’m breastfeeding.” Sure. Pregnancy hormones and postpartum hormones are fucking insane. But they make you want to get a burrito (and a muffin and a smoothie and an ice cream sundae and a block of cheese…you eat a lot while breastfeeding), not a divorce.

This systemic gas lighting of women and their experiences is ridiculous. When someone says covertly or overtly that what they’re experiencing is a product of woman-ness, aka hormones, instability because of hormones, or a lack of mental clarity bc hormones, it’s misogyny.

Let’s try on something new and just believe women when they say something that involves a fair bit of intuition and soul-searching. It is likely because of our ability to be deeply intuitive thanks to our hormones that has helped us to draw this conclusion. Ok so yeah it’s because of hormones, but it’s not because HORMONES. Our biology is something to be celebrated, not in the least because we produce literal life, but also because it is precisely our ability to find deep meaning and connection in tough moments and tough decisions that helps the world keep from being a burning pile of garbage.

I’m sure I’ll have more of these stories and more rage about the way women are treated. I promise my rage is not because I’m PMSing. I’m just mad.

Birth Story Part 4: Labor and Delivery…Part 2 (Final, I swear.)

Want to read Part 1 or Part 2 or Part 3?

When last we left our intrepid heroine…

I was about to get my water broken in hopes of kicking me into actual labor. I was 6cm dilated, relatively pain free save for a very rude Cook catheter.

I asked Dr Flum, the doctor on call that day, if I could shower and have breakfast before we got started. I was showing no signs of problems from the magnesium, so she thought it was a good idea.

Ok, a little bit of transparency into my life: Andy and I love to shower together. It’s never a Thing, but more an opportunity for us to check in, say hi to each other, hang out, like watching Netflix but also getting clean.

Back at the hospital, Andy got his swim suit on and acted as my lifeguard in the shower. I showered with the dumb portable fetal monitors on, Andy holding onto one arm the whole time. Moving was very hard at this point with the fetal monitors, Pepe (my IV stand), some weakness from the magnesium, and the whole being pregnant thing, plus I had been essentially bedridden for the last week and was feeling the soreness and stiffness in my muscles.

I emerged clean and ate a hearty breakfast while Andy and I chatted with the nurses and my doula, Kim. My Labor and Delivery nurse for that day was Joy. I kept wanting to call her Amy because I swear she looked like Amy Schumer. But she fit her name, Joy, and was an absolute pleasure to have around.

After breakfast, at 10:15a, Dr Flum arrived with one of the residents who had been with me through most of the journey, Edie. Dr Flum pulled out what looked like a long crochet hook and had me lean back on the bed. I felt absolutely nothing except a giant rushing of warm water all over the bed. Dr Flum said she’d check back with me later.

15 minutes later, it started. The contractions came on stronger. I was breathing through them, Kim pressing onto my low back while they crested, Andy holding my hand or talking to me. It was a strategy we worked out in our birthing class. I took deep, yogic breaths, trying to steady my body. I thought, “Yeah, I can do this. I can do this.”

3 hours later, it got decidedly more uncomfortable. It wasn’t comfortable before that, but it felt like the kind of cramps I experienced when I was in high school before we knew that hormonal birth control would make the first few days of my period easier on me. I knew this feeling so I would breathe and breathe and breathe. It would dissipate and I could relax.

This new feeling was un-fucking-believable. It hurt so much. My back, my thighs, my belly, my chest, everything would tighten up and I would have to work so hard to get a breath in. I remember when I was 12 and I took a really bad fall during a ski trip and tore my meniscus in my knee. I remember the feeling of not being able to catch my breath because of the pain where the only thing I could do was sob and hope my breath would come back.

This was worse than that.

Kim suggested I try different positions. I had a sense of what would have felt good, but all the cords and wires and this goddamn belly meant that I couldn’t really get in the position I wanted. Plus my feet and hands were still swollen, so putting pressure on them was unbearable after about 5 minutes because everything would fall asleep, not good while in labor.

At 1:30p Dr Flum did a progress check, 8cm along. They decided to put an internal fetal scalp electrode on my son’s head to monitor him better. I could be free from the external monitors and have slightly more mobility. I had 3 things hooked up to my keychain, what was another wire coming from my vagina? This turned out to be a great idea. We could hear his heartbeat and track the contractions better.

I remember looking at the clock around 2:15p and thinking, “This has to be over soon. I want pain meds, but we have to be coming to the end.” Part of all the discussions of pain medication, we had been told that if they thought I was within an hour of delivery they would not give me an epidural or fentanyl. The magnesium was going to make my son floppy already and the pain medicine would make him even floppier, possibly making it difficult for him to breathe.

I kept going.

I found myself constantly saying, “Come on.”

I would say this to my son, “Come on, enter the world.” To my cervix, “Come on, open up.” And to this fucking intelligent designer, “Come on, really? This is what I have to endure?”

I vividly remember clutching the side of the bed and thinking, “I am never doing this again.”

We found a position with me sitting on the corner of the bed, my head against Andy’s chest. I would hold his hands and breathe, breathe, breathe, through the contraction. Then the swell of oxytocin would make me so sleepy, I would close my eyes and sometimes doze against him.

Over and over I did this, Andy at one point just holding my head and saying, “I am so proud of you. You are so strong.” This was the encouragement I needed.

At 3:30p Dr Flum did another progress check: 9cm. How did I have another centimeter to go???

At 4p I said, “I need to push.”

I can’t explain the feeling of this. It was so overwhelming, so all-encompassing a feeling. Pushpushpushpushpush.

I was told to hold, wait for the doctor.

It was like holding in a giant poop after I had food poisoning, only worse because I had my whole body telling me to push, not just my digestive system.

20 long minutes later, Dr Flum arrived. I had a little lip of my cervix left, which she manually moved aside. This was more rude than the Cook catheter. She felt a contraction while that was happening and all I could do was moan and try and keep still.

At 4:22 I made my first push.

Sidebar: During all of this talk of gestational hypertension and preeclampsia, the thing I kept hearing is that I could have a seizure. I didn’t know what this would be like, but Dr Hannon, a doctor from earlier in the week, told me that I wouldn’t feel anything, I would “just wake up and not know what had happened while the rest of us worried about you.”

After my first push, my son’s heart rate plummeted and the put an oxygen mask on me. I thought for sure the oxygen mask was because I was going to have a seizure. I started to panic but listened for my doctor’s voice. At this point about 6 people were talking to me, so I just kept trying to hear what Dr Flum was saying.

“You’ll have to get him out in one push,” Dr Flum told me. She asked if she could use a vacuum to help and I, of course, said yes because, duh.

We waited for another contraction. This goddamn contraction took 6 MINUTES TO ARRIVE.

Finally, Dr Flum told me to push, we couldn’t wait.

I pushed as hard as I could, I paused to catch my breath and everyone was screaming, “Push push push!” I pushed again…

And my son literally somersaulted out of me. His head landed in her hand and his legs flipped over his head.

4:34p, Ronan Lon Willhelm made his entrance into the world. Wassup, kid? We’ve been waiting for you.

I learned later that Dr Flum called me one of the best pushers she’s ever seen.

I’ll take it.

He came out screaming. Dr Flum cut the cord, Andy trimmed it at the warming table, and my son was deposited onto my chest.

Someday I will write more about this moment. A lot happened for me in the 20 minutes I held him. Edie stitched up my one first degree tear, I delivered the afterbirth, Andy looked lovingly on at me and Ronan, tears streaming down his face.

They took him up to the NICU at 5p and I had dinner around 6p. I got text updates from Andy about his progress, his measurements, what was happening.

I updated Facebook.

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 5.13.34 PM.png

Since this post is already almost 1500 words, quick summary of the aftermath.

I had some dizziness when they were trying to transfer me to the postpartum wing. Turns out my uterus had clamped down pretty fast after delivery and a clot got stuck in my cervix, so my uterus was still bleeding and filling with blood. The doctor that evening had to remove the clot, which is how I ended up with the most expensive painkiller in the hospital: Liquid Tylenol. Yup. Turns out that puppy is the most expensive and largely reserved for people like me who can’t have more intense painkillers because of blood pressure issues.

After he removed the clot (fingers in my newly raw cervix, blood everywhere, fun) I lost over a liter in blood. They were going to monitor me but chose not to give me a transfusion.

We went up to the NICU to see our baby. He was a monster compared to the other babies, who were all barely larger than a good steakhouse potato. He was beautiful. I wanted to keep holding him. I did not have that “in love” feeling people talked about, but I didn’t want to let go of him. Andy and I would eventually have to have a very serious discussion about holding time since we both wanted to hold him all the time. We eventually left the NICU around midnight so I could get some rest and would return around 6a to do some more holding and feeding. Moms with complications like mine are encouraged to rest more than anything so we can be adequately recovered to actually care for our babies.

The funniest thing happened on our way up to the NICU and on our way to postpartum. Apparently word got around that after 3 days on magnesium sulfate and 2 days on Pitocin, I didn’t deliver with any pain medication on board. This, apparently, warranted all the Labor and Delivery nurses, including those I had never met, to come and give me congratulations. I didn’t have the heart (or brainpower) to tell them it was purely my own idiocy assuming we were close to the end that prevented me from asking. I would have wanted the drugs.

Andy was adorable and told anyone who didn’t outright congratulate me about my feat.

We stayed in the hospital for 2 more days, Ronan would stay for another 11. We brought him home on July 10th, spending most of our days at the NICU, holding our son, me pumping breast milk every two hours for him, eating lots of sandwiches and pita chips and chocolate with hazelnuts.

And that is the story of how Ronan came into the world a little over a year ago.

Birth Story Part 3: The labor and delivery…Part 1

Want to read Part 1 and Part 2?

When last we left our intrepid heroine, she was hooked up to Pepe via her keychain ready to get an induction started.

For women with high blood pressure and preeclampsia, Magnesium Sulfate is administered to reduce the risk of stroke during labor and delivery. Most women experience fever-like symptoms: feeling flushed, body aches, weakness, etc. This is because the medication replaces the calcium in your body with magnesium (not all of it obviously). Calcium not only makes up your bones, but is one of the main chemicals used in brain activity and muscle movement. You’re at a heightened risk of falling while on magnesium because of this.

The nurse that evening started the magnesium sulfate. She put an icepack on the injection site to reduce the burning as it entered my blood stream. I was really nervous about this. Labor and delivery is hard enough when you have all your faculties. When you have essentially a flu at the same time, it sounded unbearable and made sense why many women who had to have magnesium sulfate quickly got epidurals.

I had to have magnesium on board for a full 24 hours before they would start Pitocin, the drug that would mimic labor and kickstart my uterus into contracting.

I also received misoprostol, which is a cervical ripening agent. Yup. Cervial. Ripening. That’s how it’s described.

The night was uneventful. I keep the ice pack on my arm all night to reduce the burning feeling. I woke up in the morning to my twice daily blood draw. I was feeling good, fine even. For me to use the bathroom, a nurse had to be called to essentially act as a spotter in case I fell. I stood up and felt no more or less steady on my feet than I had the day before. I certainly couldn’t stand for longer than 15-20 minutes, but they wanted me in bed as much as possible anyway.

That afternoon the new doctor on call, Dr Salemy, decided to put in a Cook Catheter. This is a figure-eight shaped balloon that gets inserted into my cervix and presses on either side in hopes of mimicking the pressure of the baby’s head and encouraging opening.

Holy shit this part suuuuuuucked. I was crampy and uncomfortable the whole time. The insertion was the worst part. I hadn’t experienced pain and pressure like that before, which makes sense because why would anyone be trying to open my cervix?

This stayed in for 12 hours. The hope is that it opens enough that it falls out on its own before that point, but my cervix was feeling stubborn (appropriately so because we were 5 weeks early) and didn’t open as far as we were hoping. At the check around 7:15p, I was 4cm dilated thanks to the catheter. That evening they wheeled me up to the delivery room and started the Pitocin.

The new doctor that evening, Dr Flum, suggested that we break my water the next morning to try and get things moving along even further. I was interested in this possibility since it seemed like it would bring us to the end of this faster. The main risk to this is that if I’m still in labor 18 hours after breaking my water, I get a C-section. We wanted to avoid a C-section because recovering from major surgery while caring for a newborn is, I imagine, fucking hard. I didn’t really want to find out.

With that in mind, we went to sleep.

Andy posted this on Facebook the next day:

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 4.05.22 PM.png

Around 2am the catheter was removed. The nurse I had that evening was new and obviously having some issues finding my son’s heartbeat. Once I got the Pitocin, I had to be hooked up to a fetal monitor at all times. They monitored contractions to determine how much to elevate the dosage. My uterus was stubborn (again, appropriately so) and the contractions were small. I felt like I had minor period cramps, but was able to sleep through most of it. My poor nurse, though, kept waking me up trying to move the fetal monitors. She had me shift position multiple times at night, which meant my already interrupted hospital sleep was even more interrupted.

The next morning the new doctor was the one who had given me false hope of going home and, keeping on trend with changing the plan against all other doctors’ better judgments, decided not to break my water. Andy and I talked to my doula, Kim, about it. Kim knew this doctor and said she was known for a more conservative approach, but to trust her. I was feeling a little stressed about the changing plan coupled with the very interrupted sleep.

I had had a dozen different nurses at this point and asked my daytime L&D nurse to please make sure I had a more experienced nurse on that evening. If I was going to have another night before my son arrived, I wanted it to have as much sleep as possible.

That night my cervix was checked again and nothing had changed. I was still solidly 4cm dilated. The doctor decided to pause the Pitocin, give my uterus a chance to rest, and then restart it early in the morning.

This is where I caused another medical power struggle. The summer time is a very busy time for baby delivery and the charge nurse saw my paused Pitocin as me taking up a bed that could be used for a mom actually in labor. The doctor wanted me to have a full 8 hours off of the Pitocin, so it was turned off when I went to bed around 10p and was supposed to be resumed at 6a. Looks like there was a tiny power struggle because at 4:30a, the Pitocin was turned back on.

I was woken again at 6a for my morning blood draw. At this point the crook of my elbow was covered in little bruises from the blood draws. I don’t know how women who are on hospital bedrest for months deal with it.

Dr Flum, the doctor who wanted to break my water, arrived around 8a and said basically she wasn’t leaving until I had a baby and they were definitely going to break my water that day. I liked the way she put it, “This should be harder for you by now.”

The Pitocin pause obvious helped since when she checked again I was 6cm dilated.

Up next, a broken bag of waters, my idiocy, my son’s arrival, and how I got the most expensive pain medication in the hospital.

Check out Part 4!

Birth Story Part 2: Hospital to actual labor

Want to read Part 1?

Andy and I went on a baby moon from June 13-17. We used our annual anniversary trip to Whistler to also use it as an opportunity to have a final vacation as a couple pre-baby.

It was a wild departure from our usual active vacation, which typically includes lots and lots of hiking. Instead we would sleep, swim, eat, and watch TV. I would nap at least once a day and take a bath in the deep soaker tub in our condo. Someone had given me the advice to take epsom salt baths to handle the intense swelling I was dealing with as a result of the high blood pressure. We bought huge bags of the salts and I would dump easily a pound or two into the water and almost float with the buoyancy.

My belly would make getting in and out of the tub a little treacherous. I felt constantly off balance and had to move slowly. The blood pressure medicine I was on also gave me very low energy. We’d take a leisurely walk around the Village or on an easier trail, but it was usually 20 minutes at most. The last visit to Whistler had included a full 8 hour hike with a picnic in the middle, so the contrast was stark.

We came home from Canada and Andy had a weekend of work ahead of him, which I spent doing low key activities like prenatal yoga and lots and lots of couch time with my feet raised.

That Tuesday, June 21st we had our now usual non-stress test followed by an appointment with my OB (it was an OB week, the week before vacation was a midwife week). A non-stress test is where they put sensors on my belly to monitor the baby’s heart rate and movement and track my heart rate and blood pressure. The last few I had passed with no problems. This one the technician thought was a little high, even though the readings were roughly the same as they had been in the weeks before.

She brought it to my OB, Dr Story, who told me that I was going to be sent to Swedish hospital again for observation and there was a very good chance that I was going to deliver. This was a full 3 weeks earlier than our even earlier due date. I started to cry. Like I said before, I couldn’t recognize why at the time and thought it was purely fear. Now I know it was a sense of failure for our son. Dr. Story told us to go home and pack a bag and then head to the hospital.

At home we quickly put our hospital bag together. Fortunately we had been talking about the contents for weeks (ok, I had been talking) and it was relatively easy to actually put together following our vacation.

We arrived at Swedish and I walked to the triage area where I was admitted and given the battery of tests including being hooked up to a fetal monitor again. Shortly thereafter we were given a room in the antepartum wing. It was a big, gorgeous room with a huge window that looked out over downtown and the water. The unfortunate thing was how much damn heat would come in, so after the first day, we would close the blinds as the sun would come in and try to keep the room cool.

The first day was all about getting a baseline of information. They were appropriately concerned that I would develop preeclampsia. Dr Story told me later that for most women with gestational hypertension (as I had), preeclampsia can develop and become critical in a matter of hours, which is why close monitoring was so important. I had to pee into a bowl so they could monitor my liquid output. For real. Fluid retention was a big concern.

Nothing materialized that day. Except my blood pressure being high, it was all normal.

Wednesday my best friend arrived from LA. Our baby shower was going to be that weekend, so he and my family from Florida were coming to celebrate. We had one scheduled for Saturday morning and Sunday evening. I kept my hosts updated on the progress and my friends quickly decided to cancel the Saturday event. We weren’t sure if I was going to be in or out of the hospital, but they seemed to think canceling was the right thing to do.

I was hopeful I was going to be out and could attend the one on Sunday evening with mine and Andy’s families and my best friend, who was going to be my son’s godfather. Wednesday also proved uneventful. We just spent the day watching West Wing, meeting nurses, getting lots of consultation from doctors. A team of doctors came in at one point and said “If we were on call tomorrow, we would induce you.” The evening doctors would come in and say, “We want to wait to induce you.” Basically every 8 hours when I would have a new doctor, the plan would shift.

At one point on Thursday I had a doctor tell me that there was a good possibility I could go home if I could keep my blood pressure stable. This woman would turn out to be the naysayer of all the other doctors. Doctors would come in and make a plan and she would be on the next shift and change it back. I got my hopes up about going home and being on bed rest at home. It turns out there’s a joke with the nurses at Swedish, “No one comes to a hospital to get sleep, they come to get well.” We were not getting any sleep and I wanted my big, cozy bed with the bedroom AC on at home. I was barely moving during the day because nurses and some doctors were scared of me being out of bed for laps around the hospital floor. But I knew if I stayed in the hospital room I would go fucking insane. The lack of activity made sleeping at night even harder.

On Friday my doctor, Dr Story, was finally on rotation at the hospital. He came to my room and I told him about how the doctor the day before had said I might be able to go home. He delivered the news that I was not going home until I had a baby. This is when he gave me the info about how preeclampsia could develop very quickly and at this point they knew it would come for me, they were just waiting until it got bad enough to start an induction. I told him I needed some stability with the planning. I told on the other doctor and how she had altered the plan already a couple times and could he please tell everyone to stick to something so I could prepare appropriately?

He agreed that the back and forth was likely the most stressful thing for me and had a lengthy chat with the other doctor. We heard from the nurses later that they actually had a bit of a public argument over my care and Dr Story laid down the law about keeping it consistent for me.

Saturday morning, after arriving late the night before, my mom, brother, and sister-in-law came to visit. We had a blast chatting and checking in. My sister-in-law was coming to the end of her first trimester so they kept activities low key and would visit twice that day.

Sunday morning the doctor on call, Dr Flum, saw my numbers were becoming elevated. My BP wasn’t getting any better, despite a high dose of Labetalol, and there was now elevated protein in my urine.

We would start the induction that evening.

All throughout this, Andy and I were routinely calling Kim, our doula, to give her updates. She came to the hospital almost every day to check in and we practiced birthing positions with things like all the fetal monitors and the potential for an epidural in mind. I was not interested in being in pain for long and was constantly reviewing my pain management options with the doctors and nurses.

That Sunday evening my sister-in-law, Malorie, Andy’s sister, moved our baby shower to the hospital. We had dinner and cake and opened gifts. Andy and I watched Game of Thrones with my brother, his wife, and my mom afterwards.

My nurse let me take a shower and then we got set up. I had an IV in my wrist with 4 ports that I lovingly called my keychain. My IV stand, Pepe, was filled with Magnesium Sulfate and Saline. We were ready to go.

Up next I’ll give the play by play of my almost 3 day induction and how we finally met our baby.

Check out Part 3 and Part 4!

Birth Story Part 1: How we got from decision to hospital

We’re coming up on the first birthday of the nugget, so I wanted to capture for posterity and curiosity what my birth experience was like.

First, let’s start with how we got here.

Andy and I knew we eventually wanted to have kids, but wanted the timing to be as ideal as possible. We got married while I was in graduate school and decided to start trying once I was out of school. I had an Implanon birth control implant in my arm and had it removed in January of 2015, just after graduation. We were going to give my body a chance to recalibrate to making babies and agreed to start trying that September.

After removing an implant it can take a few months for the body to re-regulate, but in April and May I had two periods like clockwork. Then I had irregular periods for a few months. Some very close together, others very far apart. It made it difficult to time when I would be ovulating, so we kept using other forms of birth control. Then in early November we “pulled the goalie” just to see what would happen. A few weeks after our first real attempt, I went to the doctor to talk about the possibility of having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I had a lot of the symptoms and thought this might be why I was having irregular periods.

I met with my amazing doctor who said that I did, in fact, have PCOS. We agreed to let me try to get pregnant naturally for a few more months before trying on medication to make ovulation predictable. I got some blood tests done to check in about what variety of PCOS I had, meaning what hormonal levels was I dealing with. The results came back on the same day I was having some breast tenderness and on a whim I decided to take a pregnancy test. Turns out I was two weeks along and had been pregnant at the appointment with my doctor. The results were flagged and showed nothing about PCOS but everything about me being pregnant.

I remember I was laughing and crying at the same time as I read the test. Andy smiled when I showed him both the tests I had taken, but he was reserved and wanted to get an official result from my doctor before we got our hopes up. We drove to the GroupHealth building and I took, to my surprise, a pee test not dissimilar to the ones I had done at home. 10 minutes later we were in the car driving home and I checked my email. I found waiting for me my test results and confirmation that I was pregnant.

I remember calling my mom who also laughed and cried at the same time at the news. My brother said congratulations and how happy he was for me. My dad commented that I guess we didn’t need to get the turkey baster. No idea what that was about.

My symptoms started immediately. I had intense food aversions. I had nausea when I was in a car and sometimes during the day. I mostly wanted burgers and sandwiches and I wanted someone else to cook them for me. All during my pregnancy I would have aversions to water, vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat, cheese, and fish. This is where Andy and I would start joking about how the concept of “Intelligent Design” was bullshit. What intelligent designer makes reproduction include an aversion to water? Mostly cooking was what would cause the biggest reaction. Andy perfected his scrambled eggs and I got clever with water consumption using flavored fizzy water and adding citrus to my water bottle.

More than anything I was tired all during my first trimester. I would want to be horizontal most of the day. I would wake up and move to the couch, sometimes nap, but mostly just lay. My brain was foggy so I would have to be very judicious about working and fortunately only had to cancel one client meeting as a result of pregnancy symptoms.

Then, in the second trimester I went to a routine prenatal appointment and my blood pressure was high. I assumed it was stress because of work and a huge fight I had had with my dad. I was hospitalized for a day and had a few experiences that made me extra grateful that I had choses midwives over an OB. My biggest fear was receiving some sort of inappropriate treatment because of my fat body (though I am decidedly Lane Bryant fat and not the kind of fat that causes staring on the street, so I definitely experience I bit of privilege there).

While at the hospital I had a doctor tell me to eat more vegetables even though I said I was having aversions to them. She also told me it was important to exercise, which I was still doing regularly despite my growing pregnant belly and exhaustion. I was also working a job that had me on my feet about half the time, so I was getting more activity during my regular workday than the average American. It highlighted for me how this doctor made a lot of assumptions about my health based on my appearance rather than actually asking questions about my health and lifestyle. At one point when she asked how much weight I had gained and I said 30 lbs, she told me I should have only gained 20 at most. As if I could have changed it at that point. This subtle fat shaming in medical treatment is something I don’t experience with my regular doctor and hadn’t since moving to Seattle, so I was surprised by how this interaction went down. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth and made me desperate to continue my care with the midwives because of their natural assumption that I was doing my best to keep me and my baby healthy during the pregnancy.

I was released and had to start taking a regular dose of a blood pressure medicine call Labetalol. I also brought an OB onto the team, who turned out to be one of the most caring and compassionate men I have every met. He seemed to understand the fear I had for my baby and me and was aware of the drastic shift my pregnancy had taken seemingly overnight. The original due date was August 4th, Barack Obama’s birthday. Because of my new gestational hypertension, I would undoubtedly be induced around week 37/38 in mid July. Longitudinal research had shown that mothers and babies who were experiencing high-risk pregnancies would fare better if labor was induced early. I was emotional about it. Because getting pregnant had been relatively easy, I assumed my good reproductive genes would give me an easy pregnancy like my mom had had and the hospital visit was a blip in an otherwise normal pregnancy. At the time I didn’t recognize it as feeling failure, but in retrospect that is definitely what I was. I felt like I had failed our baby since I couldn’t carry him to term.

We hired on a doula at that point, too, realizing we would want some help navigating the  decisions we would have to make with the new course of action we were taking. We brought on Kim James, who I have talked about before.

What I didn’t know is that this would ultimately be the beginning of a really challenging journey with my health that would give me some incredible perspective on the kind of body I had and how lucky I had been up to that point. Next post I’ll talk about the hospital stay up to the start of my labor. It was a doozy and something I still think about regularly both from the perspective of a patient and an organizational development consultant.

Check out Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4!

I’m a fortunate lady in that my husband and I don’t spend months apart from each other. Neither of us are in the military or travel for work or even have 24-, 48-, or 72-hour shifts for work. We almost always have a guaranteed day off together.

But…these past couple of months have been hellish in a way I can imagine starts to approximate what these families feel.

Andy was in tech for his last show of the season. It’s a disco musical about Imelda Marcos called Here Lies Love. I saw the show on Tuesday and had some feelings about it, mostly good. The process along the way did not leave me with good feelings, both as an organizational development professional and as a spouse.

Here was my Facebook post from Wednesday morning about it:

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 4.10.51 PM

Andy was in tech for essentially 2 months. He worked roughly 8a to 10p, 11p, or midnight Tuesday-Sunday until opening.

“Oh, but the money must have been really good,” is usually the response I get.

That’s not the fucking point. I actually really, really like my husband. I wouldn’t be a parent if I didn’t have him to parent with. I would have happily remained single with a cat in my studio apartment for the rest of life if it weren’t for this dude. He made me understand what a true partnership looks like and the desire to be a mom was mostly fueled by the thought of being a parent with him.

So going this long without him was uncomfortable in a way that is hard to describe.

For one, we have a lot of messages in this country that tell moms that they should be able to suck it up. Work is king and parents who want to be with their children are missing the love of work and the almighty dollar. How many characters in pop culture glorify work to the detriment of personal relationships? My favorite women on TV are CJ Cregg of The West Wing, Liz Lemon of 30 Rock, and Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation. All of whom love their work and are rarely seen having romantic relationships or children.

So there is a lot out there telling women that if their (often cis- hetero- male) partners work a lot, well then they should be able to handle the house and the child(ren) and maybe even their own careers…or not, we are conflicted as a culture about how we feel about stay at home moms.

During this extended tech, Ronan experienced his first bought of stranger danger/separation anxiety. This meant that a kid who was previously ok to sit and play by himself or bounce in his jumperoo now needed to be carried and held and taken everywhere with Mommy. Even putting him on the floor next to me while I worked at the kitchen sink was no good enough. He need to be in my arms all the time. Of course this meant that there were many, many tears shed so I could prepare food or pump or fold laundry. He learned a lot of lessons about how you won’t always get what you want from Mommy because she has shit to do.

I spent a lot of time talking to him, explaining what I was doing. Whether he understood it or not, it clearly made no difference since it often meant he would just cry harder.

He also went through a sleep regression. We’re lucky because his sleep regression don’t upset nighttime sleep except to make it a little shorter sometimes, but it makes naps harder or much, much shorter. So when he would need a nap he would cry and cry and I would have to choose, do I go in and try and soothe him to sleep or do I just let him cry himself to sleep? A few times I would get him in bed with me and sleep with him. And by “sleep with him” I mean he would fall asleep next to me and I would lay in the dark contemplating how much I hated theatre or I would try and read articles on my phone with the screen turned away from him so the light wouldn’t wake him up.

I tried to visit Andy at work as often as possible. We’d go and have dinner with him a couple of times a week. So in the 168 hours in a week, we would see him awake for maybe 12. Most of these would happen on his day off where I would take Ronan out of the house on Monday mornings so Andy could sleep in. We’d reunite around 11a after a morning nap and then would have lunch together and maybe run an errand or two before retiring at home for the evening.

Maybe this kind of interaction works for people who feel poor to middling about their partners. For us, this was hugely devastating. We have developed a household that requires an interdependent partnership. While I can do dishes and keep the house sort of clean without Andy around, there is no joy in it. I felt both listless and buzzing with untapped energy. Caring for a baby 24/7 took a lot out of me and down time was not spent working on my own business or projects, but rather trying to relax and recover from being attached to Ronan all the time.

Ronan also started to really take to solid food during this time. Rather than do what I used to do and just make meals of smoothies, scrambled eggs, and yogurt, I wanted to make sure I developed his taste for a variety of foods and had to cook every meal for both of us. The benefit is he got on a very regular eating schedule and was able to halve his milk consumption, so I dropped from 3 to 2 pumpings per day and am now dropping down to 1.

Putting my personal life on hold during this time was the worst. I was lucky as a new mom that I never felt fully like I lost myself. I had to deal with a lot of new feelings, but felt firmly rooted in my personality during the early days. During this process I sacrificed working or had to work during time I wanted to be with my family and had no time to get ahead on marketing and sales or to write.

So not only was I missing out on personal expression, but I couldn’t even access the self care tools to managed that lack of expression.

Workout out went out the window because I was so fatigued. Not exhausted, which implies a physical lacking, but fatigued. My brain was constantly fried from all the logistics and while I’m sure a good workout would have helped, I could not muster the energy or wherewithal to put a DVD in while Ronan was napping. Working out would mean having to shower, which would mean dealing with a baby who would scream about separation, even if he was in the shower with me.

I didn’t and haven’t meditated since this process started. Any attempt could only be right before bed and I would fall asleep immediately.

I think I ate maybe 5 vegetables the whole time? I don’t know. Not many vegetables were eaten.

I envied moms who could go to work during the day, but then thought this was an example of the grass being greener. They likely envied my ability to be with my son all day.

I just wanted a fucking break. Many days I still do want a break from being the lynch pin in my family. So much revolves around me to keep everyone healthy and happy and at their best. I can’t imagine not doing it because doing things like tracking toothpaste and stressing over a lack of vegetables is just what I do. I was raised to do this both by my family and my culture. So when I was complaining to a friend and she offered that I “just not do it,” I honestly couldn’t imagine that.

Did I mention our cat died during this?

Yeah. Our sweet almost 17 year old kitty took a sudden turn on a day when I had a phone interview for a job I really, really want and I had to schedule a vet appointment in the 10 minutes before the interview and then rush him over there after. I called Andy on his dinner break and we decided to put him down. It was awful in a way that words cannot capture.

1426197_10103894833733823_814343307_n
One of my favorite photos of Gus trying to stay warm

I thought a lot about the cost of art during this. We joke about artists suffering for their art. People imagine van Gogh cutting off his ear or the deep depressions and slight eccentrism of characters like Beethoven in Immortal Beloved. But there is a point where the cost is too high. I think this is my upper threshold. Art is worth it provided mental and physical health doesn’t end up on the line, as it did in this situation for our family.

What kills me is that my work is all about making organizations as effective as possible and I consistently saw and heard things that made me cringe thinking about the wasted money and effort on certain aspects of this show. I heard about lighting in greater detail, so I can’t even imagine what was happening in other departments at the same time. Organizations like the Rep that want to grow seriously need someone like me on retainer, or at least to come in after things like this to run postmortems. Otherwise little learning gets done and we are doomed to repeat the same (preventable) mistakes.

Now the show has been open for 2 weeks and we are just now starting to feel like normal. Andy and I had a day date yesterday where we split a burger and took a leisurely walk on the beach while the nugget was with my mother in law. I no longer feel desperate or fearful when he leaves the house–a symptom of my postpartum depression that I managed to keep at bay. I no longer feel deep irritation over small things because he is now reintegrated into the management of the household. We’ve even made some progress on small projects around the house and I have had 2 successful job interviews and started working with 2 other clients.

Parts of me are still very, very angry about this situation, as evidenced by the nearly 2000 words in this post. I desperately want a call from the powers that be at the Rep to bring me in to help them do better and actually learn. My knowledge of the people, the process, and love of the organization would make me perfect to facilitate this.

But, I know that the Willhelm household will be running our own postmortem one of these Mondays so we can hopefully be better prepared the next time a show of this magnitude and impact comes along, as it very well should if we hope to see theatre in Seattle grow.

Claiming Stay-at-Home-Momhood

I went to my therapist a few weeks ago for a check in. I had scheduled the appointment after my emergency session following my termination thinking I would need additional tuning up a few weeks later. Turns out I had managed to emerge from the hole relatively well and was in less acute crisis.

One thing came out of our conversation that I think is worth sharing.

I called myself a Stay at Home Mom for the first time.

In our country, being a Stay at Home Mom is a wildly polarizing thing. Women write whole treatises defending their Stay at Home Momness. They describe how tough of a job it is, how thankless it is, how people assume they sit all day at home watching TV and have no fucking clue what happens in the day-to-day life of raising children. And all of that is true.

Unless you are a mother, you do not understand the profound loneliness of motherhood. You have a little person with you all day, but you never have a real conversation, never get to be fully who you are, and are constantly keeping tabs on this other being to the point that even when you are asleep and they are asleep you sort of have one eye open waiting for a cry to tell you to spring into action.

I quit being a stage manager largely because of this constant vigilance. You have to be on always and even in the moments of down time, you are not truly down. You’re always at a low hum. Mothers are exhausted because of how they are always having to monitor, run a program in the background, taking up CPU and RAM. I call it the iMommy app refreshing in the background.

One thing I can say with confidence is that when I go to work, I don’t have this program running in the background. When my baby is with my in-laws or my husband, iMommy turns off and I feel palpable relief at not having to track Ronan.

Work for me is about 9 hours a week over Wednesday-Friday while he’s at Grandparent Daycare.

As a Stay at Home Mom, I am always tracking him, always monitoring his mood, his reactions, his feelings, his hunger, his diaper, his everything. Everything. I am the subject matter expert on my son and he is a constant equation of input (food, stimulation, sleep) and output (poop, temperament, health). I know all if it always and adjust the equation every day to fine tune how to keep his output as pleasant and palatable to the rest of the world as possible.

Some people have a predisposition to doing this well and with relatively low impact on their CPU and RAM. I do not have this predisposition. Or maybe I did at some point, but it was used up when I had to track the mood/temperament/input/output of my parents and their own pathology. So not only do I not particularly like this constant tracking, but it’s also a little psychologically triggering for certain parts of me.

I resisted the title of Stay at Home Mom until this point because, in our country, these women are patronized in the worst way. On a thread about equal pay for equal work, a man went off on a tangent to explain how being a mom is The Most Important Job in the World. It’s a common refrain I hear from women defending their Stay at Home Momness or from men or women trying make Stay at Home Moms feel better about staying at home.

Parenting is viewed as inherently feminine work. It’s something that is undervalued as evidenced by the fact that we don’t have standard paid parental leave and women take financial and career hits when we have families.

Of course, I also keep hearing we “choose” this, as if for everyone it is an option. For our family, we can’t afford traditional daycare or a nanny with my business still in the early phases of growing. So I stay with our son instead of paying for daycare. You can be damn sure if I could afford daycare he would be there. I don’t believe in the nonsense about how daycare is outsourcing parenting or any other ridiculous reason people cite for why children should not be in daycare. Fuck that. As if working parents need another reason to be shamed for their choices.

And again, as if it’s a choice! Parents who work mostly do it because they HAVE to. But also, so what if they want to? I love to work. If I could have Andy and I work part or three-quarter time we would do it in an instant. But that’s not how the world, and particularly the theatre world, works.

So saying I’m a Stay at Home Mom felt big because I was taking on all the crap that people throw at women who are staying home with their children. The stereotypes include that I’m lazy and poor and have no skills I can work with and, thus, will have to join the legions of women who rigorously defend themselves about staying home.

And.

This one feels the biggest.

Am I living up to my full potential?

My mother was a flipping rocket scientist at NASA and worked in the male dominated field of software engineering. With a legacy like that, how can I stay home and not take advantage of the work she did to pave that pathway for me?

I know my mom would never agree with this assessment. She would say that being a parent was the best part of her life and that working was a means to the end of providing for her children.

But as the end of that, it feels like I am too smart, too resourceful, too sensitive, too educated to let my Master’s degree collect dust while I plan naps and make baby food and take walks and clean up poopy diapers and do a lot of laundry.

Which is why I was resistant to claiming the role I’m already living.

I recognize that I am part of a newer type of woman. The one who is a work from home/stay at home mom. Some of us are part of those Multi-level Marketing companies that sell you essential oils and shakes and supplements. Some of us are professionals like lawyers, accountants, and consultants.

I think that being a stay at home/work from home mom is no more or less crazy-making than any other type of mothering. Of course, I will never live another lifetime like this and therefore have no way to compare it to something else. All moms are struggling in whatever their circumstances are. I am grateful that my circumstances mean I get to wear yoga pants more often than not, but I wish it didn’t come with societal stigma that tells me I should be grateful. But, as I have learned, all moms are told they should be grateful, regardless of their level of satisfaction with their circumstances. Which is a topic for another day.

Nighttime Shuffle

Ronan goes down for bed.

Goes to the kitchen to clean up until he falls asleep.

After he’s asleep, showers.

Rewards herself by sitting down for 5 minutes of internet surfing before promising to work on laundry.

20 minutes later thinks, “Well, at least I could pump while I’m on my computer.”

Pumps for 20 minutes, still surfing internet.

Thinks a few times, “Maybe I should do some of the work I need to do like writing contracts, blog posts, or proposals for clients.”

Goes back to Facebook.

Pumping ends, brings pumping stuff to kitchen.

“Ok, now I’ll work on laundry.”

“But first I need to see how my post is doing on Facebook.”

Opens computer.

Continues to surf the internet. Mostly refreshing Facebook.

30 minutes later, “I should fold the laundry.”

Immediately goes back to computer.

20 minutes later, “Phew! It’s bedtime. I’ll get the laundry tomorrow.”

Brushes teeth.

Gets in bed.

“I should go to bed earlier tomorrow.”

“I should have folded the laundry.”

“I should have done something production on my computer.”

Reads for 2 minutes.

Passes the fuck out.

 

A couple-a questions

A Facebook friend posted these in honor of Valentine’s Day. I love talking about Andy and our relationship and our family, so any excuse to talk more about it, I’ll take.

Who’s older? Andy, by 15 1/2 years.
How long have you been together? 8 years on March 1st.
Who was interested first? I think it was pretty mutual. We warmed up to each other at the same pace, but once we were official we fell hard.
More sarcastic? Both of us. It’s one of our many compatible qualities.
Who makes the most mess? Both of us…he leaves more laying around, but when I make a mess I make a MESS.
Who has more tattoos? Me. I have one to his zero.
Who’s the better singer? Me. Though he makes it funnier.
Hogs the remote? Neither of us.
Better driver? He drives us around more. I think we’re both good drivers.
Spends the most money? Me. I buy all the necessities, pay the bills, etc, and make sure we get the occasional fancy coffee and clean clothes.
Smarter? Me on humans and their behavior. Him on everything else.
Whose siblings do you see the most? His. Though mine live 3000 miles away. I have a feeling if my brother lived closer we’d see him, his wife, and his daughter a whole bunch more.
Do you have any children together? Yes! Perfect little Nugget.
Did you go to the same school? Nope.
Who is the most sensitive? I am sensitive about a lot of things. When you hit his threshold on the few things he takes personally, it’s pretty intense.
Where do you eat out most as a couple? Burger places: Red Robin, The Ram, Elliot Bay Brewhouse. Also we enjoy a good fancy coffee and pastry.
Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple? Austria.
Who has the worst temper? I slowly simmer about more. He’s explosive about less.
Who does the cooking? Me. Man has no sense of smell, but he makes a mean scrambled egg.
Who is more social? Me. Though he sees his friends every day at work so work is like social time.
Who is the neat freak? Me. We both like a clean house but since I work from home and stay at home with Nugget, I want it more clean.
Who is the most stubborn? Him. We had a whole pre-baby conversation where he admitted to his intense stubbornness. Though if I present a pragmatic, fact-based argument, I can sway him. It’s like being in debate club, but it keeps me checking to make sure, A. it’s a fight I want to have and, B. I actually have good reasons.
Who hogs the bed? Neither. It’s why we got a big bed and separate comforters.
Who wakes up earlier? Me always. Pre-baby, post-baby, I’ve always gotten up earlier.
Where was your first date? Officially? His apartment.
Who has the bigger family? Our immediate families were the same size, but now his family is bigger due to divorce/remarriage/step-siblings/nieces and nephews.
Who does the laundry? Me mostly.
Who’s better with the computer? Him. I mean I can type and deal with HTML, but he knows his way around electronics better than almost anyone I know.
Who drives when you are together? Him. I love it when he drives and so does he.
Who picks where you go to dinner? I usually offer suggestions and he picks. Sometimes my suggestion list only includes one place.
Who wears the pants in the relationship? Both for different things. Though I resent the premise of this question.
Who eats more sweets? Me while I’m breastfeeding. We both have pretty raging sweet tooths and giving each other treats is one of the main ways we show love!

Sunday Fun 2.12.17

Things that I was into this week!

Fun gifts for your feminist friend/girlfriend/wife.

This article has all sorts of resources about the general approach I am taking to food now.

“…it is very convenient for us.” I am dying.

How I respond to people who talk to me in a crowded party when I can’t hear them.

Great. Because regular alligators weren’t creepy enough.

Literally Just 100 Funny Tweets That Sum Up Parenting

This Baby Will Win Your Heart With Her Cute Transformations