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30 is the magic number

God works in mysterious ways. God also likes to leave mysterious messages through uncanny messengers. Take for instance the sight I saw in my back yard one day as I sat with my daughter enjoying some mid-day sunshine.  I said, "Look, Betty! A beautiful butterfly…..hanging out on Sam's poo!" I was shocked to see a butterfly so content to hang out on our dog's crap! It was there for a good 30 minutes, just chompin' away.  Of course, as with most "messages from God", there is a good scientific reason why this butterfly was on the dog's poo. However, only God can explain why I chose to be in the yard at the choice moment to witness it.

As I watched this butterfly delicately feasting on the reconstituted remnants of Sam's dinner, I couldn't help thinking that this is something that I needed to learn from.  This butterfly was literally turning this shit into gold! It found the most value in a shitty situation (pun intended!) and that was something that I have not been doing in my recent life. It's so easy to throw yourself a pity party and dwell on the ways life has screwed you over and I have been guilty of that for the last couple of months.

Take for instance this blog. What used to be my outlet for happy thoughts of the day has turned into my delta of abstract angst. I was talking to someone recently about journal writing (OK, we actually said "Diary" writing, because no one writes in a "Journal" when they are 10), and we both admitted that we never wrote about anything that we are happy about, especially when we were little.  Everything from my diary at 10 was some crap story about some HUGE drama that was so important at the time.  Ironically, my diary at 20 is no different.  Since I have turned 30, I think it's time that the format of my recorded life needs a change!

Why is this personal phenomena part of our human condition? Why is it so easy to kvetch about the small things and forget to celebrate the good? There's a cyclical nature to life and I feel like I'm walking somewhat of a similar path to one I was walking 10 years ago.  At the time, I was so waterlogged emotionally, that I felt like I couldn't just ever lie about how I was actually feeling. I even did an art piece about it. It was all about the concept of constantly having to answer "I'm fine." or "Can't complain ." or the overly common "OK." when someone asked, "How are you?" It's polite to ask the question, but impolite to actually go into detail about what's actually going on. I only ever wanted to talk about what was bothering me and I never felt like it was right to own that feeling.

Although I feel like I've past this now, it's almost like I'm in this perpetual state of emotional wandering. -like the feeling you get when you're starving and standing in front of the pantry, not knowing what you want to eat since you haven't gone to grocery in a long time and all you have left are random ingredients to make who knows what. It's hard to decide when you feel like you don't have anything to choose from.

I recently read a birthday horoscope that said, "People born on this date want what they want, though exactly what that is has a tendency to change from day to day. November 28 individuals are often uncertain about which path to take, generally because they have so many interests. They try hard to be more decisive about goals, which can become a goal in itself!" True to my sign, I am an archer constantly trying to increase my skills as a sharp shooter, but it takes great skill to hit a moving target.

In light of realizing (and accepting) that I have life trajectory ADD, I feel propelled to correct this condition in myself. I feel guilty for not happening upon this self diagnosis years ago when I was in my mid 20's. Think of how much more prepared I'd be!!! I've started to ask myself and my guides for more concrete direction as to where I need to go from this point in my life, and from what I can gather, the message is and always has been the same:  "FIGURE IT OUT YOURSELF!" 

Although, I keep randomly seeing little signs about taking a more active role in my existence.  While standing around waiting near the microwave at work, I ended up reading these self awareness blurbs on a Kaiser Permanente lunch sack. The saying that got me was "Successful people say 'I will' instead of 'I'll try." How many times had I said that in the past? and more importantly, how much do I care about that number??? I feel like society puts so much emphasis on SUCCESS. Our focus is so much on monetary gain, material gain, and social status. The who, the what, and the where.  Never in my life have I felt more that "how well you're doing" is tied directly to the numerical amount in your bank account. Turning 30 and having a family to support adds a fire underneath that ladder to success!!!

and that ladder…It's ironic that Chutes and Ladders is a game that we all played as kids, because such is life! Who hasn't taken a ladder to the top, only to take a chute back down to the bottom of the board? The frustration of never getting anywhere in the game brings about another adage about success, "It's not whether you win or lose that's important, it's how you play the game." -but who doesn't like to win? especially when you feel like you've lost the whole season.

Bullocks to the ladder I've been on! 

I've reached the Twilight Zone portion of mine where I don't know where the ladder is heading. It doesn't feel like an upward direction anymore. -or a straight direction for that matter. I feel like I'm in a constant zig zag, but apparently that's normal. Recently, I heard a bit on NPR about how it's scientifically impossible for any human being to walk in a straight line beyond a certain point. There's an apparent and unfounded point in which we all turn. 

I feel that I have reached that point in my life. This is my moment to turn away from the path I've been trying to walk for so long, one that I chose when I was younger, naive, and with more to prove. Life is so different now, so precious. No longer do I feel the need to pretend that I am invincible. There's something comforting to me in knowing that I am not.   -fitting that this moment can help me mold a New Year's resolution: "I must enjoy the life that I have and not be bounded by the things that I can not control. I have to revel in the things I can change and be pro-active in how I achieve my core goals. Live to enjoy life, not just get through it." It's also ironic that 2011 is a 7 year in numerology for me, meaning that this is a time to retreat and re-assess my life and where I am headed. For a change, I am looking forward to that challenge and the road in front of me.

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Maternity Leave in America SUCKS!

Let's just get it out there, shall we. I am NOT happy about returning back to work after being on maternity leave! Granted that I took 12 weeks FMLA and some vacation time to boot, I still can't bring myself to the point where I can be comfortable leaving my baby and going to work. The earliest memory that I have is from when I was probably 6-9 months old. I was sitting in a chair, watching my Mom walk away from me. I am convinced that this is the start of the animosity that I had towards her when I was little about not spending enough time with me. Of course, I've gotten over it by now, but I'm still secretly paranoid of the scars I'm going to leave on Betty during her childhood. It doesn't help that I'm REALLY into astrology and read in my "Secret Language of Relationships" book that Betty and I's worst relationship pairing would be parent-child.

*pauses*

...Maybe this is the time of my life that I should put all of this astrology shit behind me. If anything, reading that our relationship could potentially be challenging should be more of a "reminder" to me that life, especially parenthood, is about patience, empathy, and understanding. -More reason to keep my volcanic nature in "dormant mode" as I venture into Mommy-dom.

I digress. So, since Pat is laid off and his Dad is sick, he's going to be Mr. Mom for a while. We had originally hoped for Pat's temporary contract job would turn into a permanent one, but things just didn't work out that way. I'm kind of glad because we would have had to put Betty in daycare right away. As daunting a scenario as it is going down to one income and unemployment again with a baby, I am thoroughly glad that I don't have to leave my infant with complete strangers at a day-care....yet.

Although I have postponed a potentially scarring "mother moment", I still can't help thinking about how much better I'd feel if I had more time with my baby. It still boggles my mind that our country is considered to be so advanced, yet our maternity rights are so behind other countries. Namely, we STILL don't have the right to paid leave!? We are one out of FOUR countries in the WORLD that don't get some kind of paid leave. The other countries must be like England or Australia or something, right? -Countries with some semblance of our economical standing? Ah, no. The other countries are Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea. I can guarantee that most people in America don't even know where the hell those countries are.

The Swedes get a FULL YEAR of maternity leave that you can share with the father! The unfortunate trade off is that it's really hard to get executive positions if you are a woman, because of the maternity laws. Sweden's top earners are all men. (Although, my source for that is old...I wonder how different it is now!) Financially, it makes sense to me that you should only be able to take up to a certain amount of time to take care of your baby without your uterus bringing about the demise of a company. However, I think it's ludicrous that we can't get at least 6 weeks paid!

Googling "maternity leave in America" brings up sad results.  However, I did find an article that says there is a bill , the Federal Employee Paid Parental Leave Actthat is trying to be passed in the senate.  This bill would allow federal employees up to four weeks paid leave.  Although that sounded like a promising start, I'm miffed that this doesn't cover people who are NOT a federal employee.  What about the rest of us who don't work for the govt.??? I found no current articles saying whether or not the bill was passed in the senate. I guess not, since the passing would have been plastered all over the news! Another article says some people blame the US Feminist Movement for the reason we are so behind other countries. They rallied for equal rights, but now that we have them, we are paying for it with our lousy maternity leave!!! Really?? Is it really a "have our cake and eat it too" situation that women should have equal rights AND the right to not lose our standing with our jobs just because we want to reproduce?  What are we doing (or not doing) as modern women in America to let this go for so long? How have we become so complacent, that none of us are dong anything to change this? Are we too busy being full time employees and full time moms?

If Australia in 2011 can get 18 weeks paid, then I don't see why we can't we get paid leave too.  After all, who wants to be the cheese that stands alone? If and when Australia passes this law, the US will be the only industrialized nation that doesn't make it mandatory that their citizens get some sort of paid leave.

I really hope that some day there will be something like the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act that will be passed for all parents. I'd love for my husband to have the right to take time off to spend with his baby too!  It's hard to believe that Dads haven't had that right for a long time.  America, or the world for that matter, just can't embrace the idea of Mr. Mom. I can't find one parenting magazine, floor mop ad, or baby product ad that is geared towards men.  It's like today's advertising execs still think that men don't know how to mop a floor or take care of a baby. How can they still be so blind? With the economy in the toilet, there are more and more families have stay at home fathers who probably mop a floor and change a diaper during their day to day routine!

I'm glad to see that there are some stay-at-home Dads who are networking together and trying to give more exposure to the Mr. Mom trend. However, I'm not sure that I approve of how some of them are going about it. There's a local Atlanta DJ that put together a group called "Dads Between Gigs", a group "for unemployed dads to network with other unemployed dads while giving their kids something fun to do". Am I wrong in finding something backwards about the title of this group? I feel like it perpetuates an air of antiquity when we could otherwise be embracing this time as a chance to take a step forward in how we view modern family life. After all, there would NEVER be a group called "Mom's Between Gigs"! Why is it hard for modern society to accept the role of fathers as primary care givers?

I can see why this is a hard topic to sort out the pros and cons, but I find it really surprising that there aren't more bills being passed to remedy the shortfalls of our parental leave laws. Today's American parents need to reverse the notion that we all can't have a great career unless we are childless and willing to forgo taking time to raise a family.  What is it going to take to get the US to jump on the bandwagon and allow our citizens to have their reproductive rights honored by making it mandatory to provide paid time off to raise our babies?  Until we get this answered, I, like the rest of American moms, will be returning to work and leaving my baby all too soon.
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"B" is for Baby, Bottles, and Brain Tumor

One of these things are not like the other. Some of these things are kind of the same...

Little did I know that as I was writing my last post, I really was in the twilight of my non-parent days, because the next evening, I went to the hospital for "False labor"! I say "False" because two hours after I was told to go home, "real labor" started. Then just TWENTY hours later, my beautiful baby girl, Betty, was born on 01/11/10 (kind of cool that it's the same backwards and forwards!). She is perfect in every way!

CAUTION: This is the part of my bloggery where I talk about my labor. So if your eyes glaze over labor stories and you'd rather not hear about it, please skip to the "***".

So, we went back to the maternity ward only five hours after we'd been there before. The same nurse who sent us home looked at us like we were crazy. I could have beat the shit out of her when she checked me again and said with all certainty in her voice that I'd likely be sent home again, since this had to be false labor for the second time! False labor my ass! If feeling like I was getting hit with a baseball bat in the uterus every 5 minutes is false labor, then I wanted to know what was real.

After Jedi-mind tricking the nurse to agree that I was certainly NOT in false labor, she told me to walk around the maternity ward for a while to see if that would progress things. The maternity ward was oddly quiet. There was no screaming and no babies crying anywhere. Pat and I seemed to be the only ones there! We walked around for maybe 30 minutes. I started out being able to walk the whole ward without stopping. Towards the end, I had to sit down during every contraction. After being checked again, we discovered that walking (er, waddling!) alone had helped me dilate another 2 centimeters. So they finally carted me off to the delivery room at 6 in the morning!

The next stage of labor was mind numbing. All that panting you see on TLC? That's real!!!! -Although, I wasn't the cussing, moaning, and bitching pregnant lady I thought I was going to be. I was in a pain trance. I barely spoke and couldn't really open my eyes, because I couldn't focus on anything else other than the contractions. We all threw Pat under the bus saying that he couldn't take the pressure, but he was awesome through the whole thing. He got me everything I needed and made sure that I was feeling ok, even through delivery! I had planned to see how long I could go without an epidural. I actually only lasted about 10 hours, but that 10 hours was LONG ENOUGH!!! I couldn't imagine going through that whole thing without it! I was really worried that the epidural would slow my labor, but it progressed steadily. I kept calling Betty our "overachiever", because we were always progressed further than anyone expected and Betty was always in the perfect position.

By the time I hit 10 cm., there was a lot of activity in the maternity ward, just not so much in my delivery room! I was told over and over again that the doctor couldn't come check on me because he was performing an emergency cesarean surgery. It seemed like I was the only one who wasn't delivering by c-section! Also, the awesome nurses that I had all day were M.I.A. Apparently, there was a "problem" with the delivery of a baby, meaning a baby died. No one wanted to tell me that this was the case, but I figured that's what happened.

I had been in labor for nearly 20 hours by the time my parents and family had arrived. It was a big relief to have my Mom and Pat at my side when it was time for me to push! I really needed their support in the delivery room, especially since things were going so crazy! I had gotten a fever from being in labor for so long and was put on an oxygen mask. Also, a FREAKIN' FIRE ALARM was blaring in our ears and didn't stop until after I delivered Betty. I was also nervous, because there was a shift change. I had a brand new staff of strangers that I didn't get to know before hand and all of them seemed to be assholes! All three of my doctors were also conveniently M.I.A. as well. However, I was assured that he was "the best" on staff that day.

There were a NUMBER of things that I didn't expect about delivery and the aftermath:
  • Pushing for more than an hour. I feel like I could have pushed for a shorter amount of time, but everyone had to get "ready" which took FOREVER! In the movies, it always seems like you push for 5 mins. and the baby's out!
  • Not feeling like I trusted anyone in the room except my family & not generally feeling in control of my labor
  • Not being the first one to hold my baby (She was not poetically put on my chest like I've seen on TLC. I am still bitter about this!)
  • Discovering later that the nurse from the 1st shift "saved" me from a cesarean by convincing the doctor that the new nurse was wrong in suggesting to him that I was unable to continue with my vaginal birth....REALLY!!!
  • Not realizing that I was getting an episiotomy until I heard scissors snipping (The life of my vagina flashed before my eyes! It was like witnessing the devastation of Hiroshima. I am still slightly scarred by this event!!!)
  • Realizing that the baby will be in your care pretty much THE SECOND it is born. There's no waiting around until you mentally recover from birth. After they check out the baby for any major health problems, they cart the baby to your room and PARENTHOOD BEGINS!
  • Realizing the after pains of delivery will KICK YOUR ASS!
  • Swelling up like a balloon after 2 days of being on IV meds
  • Developing a rash from oxytocin overload
  • Stretch marks, stretch marks, STRETCH MARKS!!!
  • Realizing that none of the above really matters when I look at my daughter and know that she more beautiful and perfect than I could ever have imagined!
The first month after my daughter was born was equally awesome and rough. I didn't sleep for most of it, but Pat and I were extremely happy! Betty was a little jaundiced when we took her home, so we gave her lots of morning sun baths. Which are GREAT for photo taking!



The jaundice probably came about because my milk didn't come in until 4 days after Betty was born. So I basically starved her for a while. Of course, this is pretty normal since most babies lose weight then gain it back. But for some reason, I was having some kind of "postpartum psychosis" and cried A LOT about the fact that my breasts were preventing me from obtaining my Breastfeeding Badge of motherhood. The best was when I broke down and cried in front of the nurse at the pediatrician's office. Thank -god that portion of time only lasted a few weeks! I thought I was having postpartum depression. I ended up having to supplement my breast-feedings with formula, which eventually turned into formula bottle feedings that I supplemented with breast milk! If I were to start the whole breastfeeding thing over again. I would have started completely differently. I NEVER would have given Betty bottles. I should have spoon fed her or something. It was like I gave her the option of drinking through a straw or a coffee stirrer! My breasts never won. :o( I really think that the stress of giving birth had a lot to do with my poor milk production. Of course, the most important thing is that Betty is happy and healthy! Looking back on all of this, the things that worried me the most were chump change compared to what was actually in store for Pat and I.

***

The Friday Pat's Dad was admitted to the hospital started out like any other Friday. It was just one month after Betty was born. I was, as usual, sleep deprived but happy. Pat called me from work like he usually does, but he had a bit of panic in his voice. He wanted me to call his dad to see if he was ok. His Dad had been feeling kind of weird the past month and wasn't acting like himself by not being able to talk as much as he usually does. That day, he thought something may have been really wrong with him, since his dad wasn't making out complete sentences and had just mentioned being let go from his job. When I talked to him, he seemed fine. However, while he was on the phone with Pat's Aunt, something about the way he was talking made her really scared for him.

Within the next couple of hours, the shit hit the fan. Pat's aunt was so worried about his Dad that she called an ambulance for him all the way from New York. The ambulance drivers ruled out a stroke or heart attack, but still couldn't explain why Pat's Dad couldn't talk right. By the time he was at the hospital for a couple of hours, his Dad couldn't even write or say his full name. After doing some tests, the doctors gave Pat and his brother a horrible prognosis. His dad had a Glioblastoma Multiforme, otherwise known as a Big Ass Brain Tumor! Of course, doctors have to give you an expiration timeline whenever the words "cancer" leave their lips, and he wasn't given a long one. 2 months without treatment. 1-5 years with treatment.

Pat was devastated. There was no rhyme or reason for this added chaos to our lives. Any way we tried to stack up the events based on the "worst thing about the situation", it was always bad any way we looked at it. Was the worst thing about it that Pat had also lost his Mom to a freak cancer 10 yrs ago? or that his Dad may never be the same again after the surgery? or that his Dad wouldn't have enough time to see Betty grow up or spend with his family? or that since his Mom and Dad got cancer before 60, both he and his brother may have the same fate?

It didn't take the doctors long to decide that they need to act immediately and remove as much of the tumor as they could. As the surgery progressed, Pat kept getting progress reports from the surgeons. Fortunately, they were able to remove a large portion of the tumor, only leaving a small part around his brain stem. The doctors were really positive about the whole ordeal, and seemed to lengthen his "timeline" every time they spoke to Pat. In the end, they said that the tumor they removed was the size of a GRAPEFRUIT! His Dad came out of the surgery, almost doing a 180 on his condition.

The weeks after that day are a blur to me. So many friends and family came to visit. It was sad that we were all reuniting because of Pat's Dad, but everyone was really happy to meet Betty. She was the silver lining in all of this. Since the surgery, Pat's Dad has been living with us, and is doing much better. He's retained all of his mobility and is getting better and better with his words. The doctors even gave him the ok to drive again. He's started his chemo treatments and a number of other meds. He's doing so well, that I often feel like this was some really awful joke that someone has played on us, just to see if we were all paying attention!

These situations always make you stop and wonder why? Why is God smiting us??? But it really has nothing to do with God. It's the way life was designed. Life could give a fuck about your feelings of comfort and stability. It wasn't designed for you to enjoy sunshine and happiness every day of your life. In fact, Life WANTS you to be unhappy. Why? BECAUSE IT BUILDS CHARACTER!!! Uncomfortable moments make you discover new things about yourself. Thus, rounding out the whole "human experience" and teaching you how to cope with these events....so you can live a longer LIFE!

Although I understand why these things happen, it does little to console me in dealing with how close together these life changing moments keep happening to me. After all, we DID just get married, AND buy a house, AND struggle through a job loss, AND have a BABY! If these things are designed to give me character, then I have enough to fill the cast of 4 crappy Lifetime movies! My life seems to be nothing but days upon weeks upon years of these moments, that I guess the day I'm done dealing with them is the day that I'm ready to die. Looks like I need to suck it up if I want to keep living! I feel the biggest lesson to be learned here is that my life will never be perfect or go as planned. I will always have to make the best of things as much as possible. After all, life is cyclical. There WILL be better days than this and I have a beautiful baby girl to take care of and laugh at when she craps all over herself in the cutest way possible!
That is worth living a crazy life more than anything else.

 
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