Monday, October 18, 2010

venting venting complaining and venting

I know I do a lot of complaining on this blog. I would like there to be more questioning and celebrating and a little less complaining, but there it is. Perhaps that was part of the blog's initial intent anyway--a place to vent. (That's not true. I hoped it wouldn't be just a place to vent--that's for journals and coffee shop napkins--but a place to examine concepts with some consciousness.) One of the reasons I've been absent here for the past short bit is because I couldn't come up with much to write that wasn't complaining: about the strep Frances and I had (deargod did that hurt) or how although she seemed well within 5 minutes of starting her antibiotics it took me days and days of lying in bed without the energy to lift a spoon of soup to my lips; about the two-kids-and-one-me air travel which wasn't actually so bad and involved only a moderate amount of screaming ("Sit down, Clark. You must sit down on your bottom." "AAAAaaaahhhhhaaaahhhhaa!") and only one spilled drink in someone's-not-mine lap and seat, and I even had a change of clothes handy; about how I mistakenly thought that traveling by myself wasn't going to be the same energy expenditure as regular single parenting because we were going to see fun people and do fun things, but in fact it was rather exhausting; and now--now!--after coming home to my sweet sweet husband who not only greeted us at the airport with a rose for me but also straightened the whole house--our first weekend back and the excitement of being with Mitch because it's fun and because it gives me a hand, and Mitch spent most of the weekend in bed with some unidentifiable illness. Sigh.

I mean, really. My life does not suck. I do not live in war torn Serbia. I do not support these kids by myself with two low paying crappy jobs. I am not alone, abused, hungry. I live in a very nice house with a wonderful and supportive husband and disposable income. I have the freedom to choose whether to work or stay home with these children. My family are all healthy. Yet still I complain.

While we were in North Carolina I talked with one of my oldest friends about this: about the frustration and underlying general dissatisfaction that seems to come with caring for young children. My therapist assures me it is particular to this stage of my life and theirs; that staying home with small children is isolating and frustrating and makes you feel the loss of self, of identity, and that eventually the kids will grow and need me less, and things will all change.

Not that I need to tell this to anyone who has ever had a child, but it's just so emotionally exhausting. The crux of the thing is that you're never off duty. Even when they're finally (finally!) asleep in their beds and you and your glass of wine are settled on the couch for some mindless entertaining 30 Rock, they could resurface at any moment. You still have to listen for their calls, their cries, have to be ready to console or convince or clean up vomit, can't drink too much of that wine lest someone wakes with a fever of 105 and you have to drive to the hospital. You listen in your sleep, always ready and trained to act.

I've mentioned before my friend Sylvia's comparison of parenting to the trenches of war: hunkered down, ready to act, sleeping with one eye open. I really don't want to make light of war experiences, but it is a funny way to think about it.

I'm done. I feel much better.

No, one more thing: when will Clark stop flinging across the room everything he touches? When will he stop shrieking in response to any form of correction or suggestion or coercion or discipline? When will he actually play with toys rather than just dumping tubs of them on the floor and walking away? These things will pass, right?

Okay, now I'm done.

And since I'm done, I will tell you one uncomplaining thing: I set up my painting studio! I bought paints and funky gel texture mediums! I can't wait to get up there! I just have to find the time... and that's just a fact, not a complaint.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Got an IUD. While I know that our contraceptive decisions may not be of any interest to you at all, I tell you this because 1) it brought back some pretty strong emotions and memories from our infertility days when I had to have that horrific test done where they tell you it might feel "a little crampy"as dye is shot into your uterus, and in fact you end up nearly coming off the table, and 2) it hurt like a motherfucker. Really hurt. Really. For several hours. Even though the gynecologist told me it would feel nothing like the dye test, liar she is. I'd even taken six (six!) ibuprofen an hour before. The plus side, besides contraception, is that it could help enormously with my PMS and mood swings (which, for everyone involved, are more trying than I want to tell you) and even with my headaches. I'll take almost any help with my headaches.

I didn't start this blog until Frances was 8 months or so, so I wasn't blogging when we were going through the 4th circle of hell, otherwise known as Infertility. Before I participated in that particular train wreck, I didn't understand when people said it was hard. Hard how? Why would it be hard? We didn't end up having to go the distance: Frances was conceived on our fourth try with Intra-Uterine-Insemination (IUI) rather than In-Vitro-Fertilization (IVF), so I still tasted the bitter pill, but didn't have to injest bottle after tiresome bottle. There are people out there who do a better job talking about it than I... the blog A Little Bit Pregnant is wonderful (and very funny) in exploring what infertility does to a person and how one slogs through it with some amount of sanity intact.

It's Hard because it makes impersonal and clinical something that should be the realm of story and fable, something surrounded by deep heart desires, by yearning. It's a private thing, this desire for children, for creating history, for connection and relation and love, and here you are on a table with your feet in the stirrups.

Also, you have no control.

But not only that: the logistics of infertility treatments provide a lovely roller coaster of hope and emotion. The third day of my cycle (day 3 of my period) I would begin taking oral hormones, and I would nurture this tiny sprig of hope that perhaps this time... Every few days I would go in for an internal ultrasound (a rather phallic wand, not very comfortable) where on the screen I would see the number of eggs developing that month. There they are. Hope. Each time I was there they would get bigger and bigger, until it was time. Then I would give myself a shot at home which guaranteed ovulation so precise the doctors knew the moment the egg was released. Hope hope hope. The insemination part was a turkey baster type of thing, just at the right time, no better opportunity, and now just up to the swimmers to get there. I didn't have to--as with IVF--have my eggs "harvested", removed and fertilized in the petri dish, a painful detail from what I'm told. After the insemination there was the waiting. Waiting. Ten days, which might seem short but absolutely is not. Then. After all that, after you're up up up at the top of the hope hill, you wake up one morning to the bright beginning of your period, and down down down you come. But lest you get too comfortable down there in the pit of hopelessness, in two days you will start another round of hormones and "this time," you think. "Maybe this time."

Oh god it's hell.

Why was I telling you this? Oh yes, the IUD. Well, enough about that.

A Little Bit Pregnant brought up an interesting question recently: does going through infertility hell make you a better parent? (ostensibly because of the sheer gratefulness of finally being pregnant.) But I say no. Grateful as you may be, blessed as you may feel, success granted through all the times you pledged to be a perfect parent if you could only become one forgodsakes, regular day to day parenting still puts you in that spot. That spot without much forest for the trees. You still have the regular frustration of unending care for someone else, and the needs of these little people are great as well as immediate.
The abovementioned blog says it nicely:

I don't think infertility has made me a better parent.  If anything, it's made me acutely aware that I am an average parent.  If I'm more grateful than I'd otherwise have been -- and whether that's the case is utterly unknowable -- well, so what?  Sometimes the only thing the gratitude buys me is the knowledge that I should do better, and the sadness when I don't.
Which sounds like a big damn downer.  But I actually think it's beautiful.  Isn't this what we all hope for when we seek to become families?  The chance to try, maybe fail, and then grow?

That's an awfully nice way to frame it. Yes, I believe that no matter what you go through to get here, here is where we all are. Welcome! I think I'll stay awhile.