Bad Days

“So, I found a drive-thru vasectomy place.” Hub’s comment about sums up our day. The level of exhaustion anf frustration at the end of a very bad, very long kid-wrangling day is maddening.

#1 was snarky and stubbornly negotiating like a lawyer. #2 was  throwing one screaming fit after another. #3 was getting into everything and started a lovely phase of shrill chimpanzee-like shrieking.

I sit nursing #3, listening as Hubs bathes #1 and #2. It’s not going well. Both have had treat priveleges revoked for the next day and they haven’t even rinsed out the shampoo yet.

I don’t know how I’ll make it through the last half-hour before bedtime. I don’t know where I’ll gather patience for tomorrow. But I’ll do it. I always do.

Nursing session is done. Kids are bathed. Bedtime. #1 asks me to cuddle with her and tell her a bedtime story. I put my head on her chest. I feel her ribs rise and fall as she tells me which story she wants. I feel her excitement as I begin. She puts her hand on my shoulder as I reach the end. I kiss her soft, soap-scented cheek and wish her sweet dreams. “I love you!”

I am restored.

 

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Marker Mix-up

**#1 is coloring with markers at the kitchen table while I fold laundry in the adjacent room**

#1: “Raaaaar! This. Isn’t. Working. Mooommy!”

Me: “Yes.”

#1: “The pink marker isn’t working.”

Me: “Use another marker. Maybe that one needs a break.”

#1: “Nooo. It’s drawing; it’s just… purple. #2 must’ve broken it. HE broke it. Now there’s no pink marker!”

Me: “The pink marker is drawing purple? Are the marker caps mixed up?”

#1: “No. It’s just drawing purple. There’s purple everywhere!”

**I walk over**

Me: “Ummm… #1, what color is the paper?”

#1: “Blue.”

Me: “Mhmm. What color is your marker?”

#1: “Pink. But it only draws purple. #2 broke…”

Me: “What color does red and blue make?”

#1: “Purple.”

Me: …

#1: …

Me: “Let’s try this again. Red and white make?”

#1 : “Pink.”

Me: “So, if red and blue make purple, and red and white make pink, what would happen if you mixed pink and blue?”

#1: “Ummm… light purple.”

**I motion to the violet marker scribblings on her paper.**

#1: …

Me: “You’re drawing on blue paper with a pink marker so the pink ink looks purple.”

#1: “No. #2 broke it! He breaks everything…” blah, blah, blah

**I return to my laundry heap**

Some days I could swear my kids’ mission is “drive Mom bananas.”

Mean Mommy

I am the hard-ass. I make the rules. I dole out the punishments. I say, “no”, “be gentle”, “say ‘excuse me'”, and “are we being friendly?” countless times daily. I ensure vegetables eaten and hands are scrubbed, manners are remembered, and squabbles are settled.

I also arrange the playdates, ensure we do fun activities outside of the house twice daily, keep the calendar stimulating, manage camp registration and extracurricular sign-ups, plan the parties, and scope out family activities. I make the fun stuff happen but that is thankless work, the stuff of elves and magic wands.

I’m ok with that. It’s not credit I’m after but the outcome. You don’t beccome a stay-at-home-mom for the glitz, glory, and benefits.

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I know that being “mean mommy” indicates I’m caring enough about my children and their future to suck it up and do the undesirable, unglamorous, necessary part of parenting. As the primary caretaker, I consider it a method of self-preservation to have the kids see me clearly as a loving authority figure. If I had to wait until my husband was available or defer to him for every infraction or, worse yet, have my authority questioned without his immediate backing, my days would be disastrous.

That said, there’s a trade-off. Mommy is “The Enforcer” which means Daddy is “Fun.” Full disclosure, that part sucks. It just does. I mean, I want to be taken seriously but I’d also like to be picked first for tickle fights and fort-building. I’d love for the littles I birthed and cherish to glow with excitement when I walk through the door, to want to run any errand with me, no matter how dull, because it means being in my fun-filled company, to consider me top choice for preschool pick-up and drop-off. Instead, I get correctional enforcement, nutritional policing, toilet duty, and skirmish negotiations.

However, there’s one job I wold never rebuff: healing. When karma bit you, when you scraped your knee, bruised your ego, caught a stomach bug, or you just need a hug: “Moooom!” Daddy is fun; Mommy makes it better. Sometimes, being Mom has its perks.

Comforting #2 at the beach

Comforting #2 at the beach

My Infertility

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I was infertile. I was in my mid-20s, married to my high school sweetheart, generally healthy, and there was no reason I shouldn’t be able to get pregnant. But I couldn’t.

We tried for six months with no success. I went to my OB/Gyn. She recommended I track my cycles. I did.

A few months of tracking and trying, it was clear I had returned to my former cycle irregularity as soon as I had stopped taking my oral contraceptive. “You’re young. You’re healthy. Let’s not waste time. I’ve seen too many women have their concerns brushed off and then age becomes a factor. Let’s get you pregnant.” She explained I, for some reason, wasn’t ovulating regularly. So, she prescribed me a low dose of Clomid to spur my body into ovulating and referred me to an infertility specialist. Disaster.

Ovarian cysts formed. I could barely walk, my abdomen was so distended I appeared to be in my second trimester, I couldn’t wear anything tighter than an empire waist dress because my abdomen was so sore from the cysts, my hair started falling out, acne flared, I couldn’t concentrate, I was a hormonal wreck. Back on birth control I went for one month to dissolve the cysts. Once off of the contraceptive, we kept trying. So many negative pregnancy tests. So many tears.

2010: In the midst of Infertility struggles

2010: In the midst of Infertility struggles

I saw the infertility specialist. She wanted to label me as PCOS but I didn’t fit in the box. She sent Hubs for testing. He came back: “super motility” with zero fertility concerns. I was clearly the problem. I ran through numerous invasive, humiliating, and painful tests; all came back spotless. Meanwhile, every pregnancy test was negative. My body was inexplicably standing in the way of our dreams — my entire life vision — and I had no explanation, no solution. Even worse: I had to remain silent.

I couldn’t tell anyone at work because a young woman trying to conceive is a liability in corporate culture. Sharing that news would’ve sidelined my career. I couldn’t tell my friends or family because I considered it a private matter that they wouldn’t understand. My family had all easily conceived; most of my friends were trying to prevent conception. A few people I did let in tried to empathize but there were unfortunate statements like, “Just relax and forget about it, then you’ll get pregnant,” and “People accidentally get pregnant all the time.” I felt so alone, so “other”, and so palpably barren.

Upon my fertility specialist’s advice, we hesitantly agreed to try one more even lower dose of Clomid. I woke up unable to walk or stand for longer than a minute. I cried in pain (I don’t cry); we went to the ER (I don’t go to the ER).

Pregnant with #1

Pregnant with #1

Bigger, meaner ovarian cysts twice the size of my ovaries appeared in the scan. The emergency room physician looked concerned and said he’d never seen cysts so big. “No driving. No intercourse. Limit walking,” he said. “If those cysts burst, they could take out your ovaries.” I started bawling. He asked me why I was crying. “Because I’m trying to have a baby — all I want is a baby — and you just told me I have two ticking time bombs attached to the exact organs I need to make that baby.” He looked at me like a confused puppy and left the room.

He returned 30-minutes later. “I talked to your gynecologist,” he said, “She’s great! She calmed me down and told me ovarian cysts can get this big. She said another round of oral contraceptive should take care of them.” He tried to give me narcotics for the pain but I refused; I don’t do pain medication. Back on birth control I went. Away went the cysts. Square 1.

Another visit to the fertility specialist. “If you don’t want to do Clomid again,” we most certainly did NOT, “you should seriously consider IUI.” She wanted to artificially inseminate me.

Hub’s and I talked… a lot. I cried… a lot. We decided to take a break from the doctors and the medicine for 6 months just to see if we could do this on our own. My fertility specialist tried to dissuade us. We remained firm. “I’ll see you back in six months.” she said. With that, a big, irritated part of me wanted to get pregnant just to spite her.

I returned to my OB/Gyn and fumed about the fertility specialist. She recommended an expensive fertility monitor to aid us in our natural conception efforts. $300 poorer and one fertility monitor richer, we were tracking and trying.

Three months later, #1 was conceived. The lonely, exhausting, painful, secretive, mournful infertility battle was over. We finally had our baby. The emotional scars will never heal. I’ll never be the same person I was before. However, I’m glad. We are more appreciative, grateful parents than we likely would have been otherwise because we experienced what we did. I am a stronger person for having had my brush with infertility. Yet others have and continue to suffer more than I. I am a lucky one.

An infertility struggle and a traumatic delivery gave us #1

An infertility struggle and a traumatic delivery gave us #1

Keep it Simple

My morning with my boys

Morning with #2 and #3

I am a planner. I plan playdates, research extracurricular classes, arrange activities, and schedule outings. I pressure myself to make our non-school time fun… to make it count. However, yesterday I was reminded that simplicity can sometimes be best. That just being in the moment and enjoying one another’s company can be greater than any planned event.

Yesterday morning a potential playdate fell through so I took #2 to the playground solo (#3 strapped to my chest, of course), while #1 was at school. Not a soul was there, except for us.

#2 and I pretended to be Disney characters, we played chase, we bounced on the seesaw, we examined “baby plants”, we identified shapes and colors on the play equipment, but mostly we had fun. We laughed and horseplayed, and genuinely enjoyed one another’s company.

As we walked out of the playground holding hands, I turned to #2: “Thanks for playing with me, buddy! I really liked spending time with you. You’re fun!” #2 looked up at me and said, “My like it too” and kissed my hand.

The simple memories are the best memories.

My Superpower

#3 nursing away a fever (10mo)

#3 nursing away a fever

Nourish, comfort, protect, heal… breastfeeding is my super power. It’s amazing to be able help my little one fight off viruses, regulate a feverish body temperature, and provide nutrient-dense, easily digestible food straight from my body when teething makes chewing painful or an upset tummy doesn’t allow anything else to stay down.

One does not realize the full-body effort of nursing until the morning after an all-night nursing binge. Despite providing sustenance for hours straight, your breasts are engorged and ready for more.You wake up exhausted in every way, starving, thirsty, sore, achey… it’s as if you ran an overnight marathon. What did you really do? Lie on your side as your little one nursed like a piglet All. Night. Long.

Breastfeeding is messy, it’s laborious, it’s taxing, it’s beautiful, it’s miraculous, it’s a gift. Keep on nursing on!

Mom Wars

Judgment… I actively try to avoid partaking in it but I am, admittedly, still a work in progress. When my mind takes on a critical tone regarding another’s parenting choices, I stop and refocus on the notion that we parents are all different, each child is different, lives are different, needs are different, and there is no way I can know everything about someone — nor should I — in order to effectively judge her. And let’s be honest, who am I to judge? My mom guilt list is never-ending. I screw up daily.

There are so many choices and differences when it comes to parenting. Discipline, feeding, school, bed routines, vaccinations, body modification, etc. The mom wars flare over these topics. Friendships build and burn over them. But why?

We pin our egos on our own selections and rage against the opposition, as if those who don’t follow our precise parenting algorithm are deeming us unfit. Why are we so self-absorbed that we assume others’ parenting decisions have any connection to us? What does rampaging and ranting do? Why do we view ourselves as so virtuous that we feel it justifable to shame, judge, and belittle others over their parenting choices that do not affect us or our own offspring in any way?

If a mom halfway across the country rocks her circumcized babies to sleep using formula and introduces rice cereal at 4-months-old, will that affect you? If a dad decides to be a stay-at-home father so his partner can work full-time and he chooses a stroller over baby wearing, baby-lead-weaning over jarred food, and cry-it-out sleep training over bed-sharing, will that put a wrinkle in your existence? If a single mom chooses to co-sleep and babywear, homeschool, and partake in extended breastfeeding, will that change anything for you? No. So why do we get riled? Why do we add extra stress to our already humming lives over the parenting decisions of others? Does adamantly disagreeing with others make our path more righteous? Do memes and sanctimonious catch-phrases make our lives more fulfilling, our children well-rounded, or our relationships more harmonious? No.

I am trying — very hard and very imperfectly — to overcome my own tendency to judge, to remember that I am neither perfect nor omniscient so I am in no position to tisk-tisk others (even if just in my own head) for their parenting choices. As long as the child’s emotional, physical, and emotional needs are met, that is what matters. My opinion does not.

Let’s take down our banners, ditch the verbal arrows, wipe off the war paint, and dock our egos. We’re in this together.

 

Growing Pains

#2 and #3 wore these. Will I ever cuddle another babe close in these?

#2 and #3 wore and outgrew these. Will I ever cuddle another baby close in these fleece footies?

It never gets easier, packing away my children’s outgrown clothes. Folding and boxing memories. I tearfully hold up footie pajamas to see the outline of my growing child’s former frame. I touch the worn cotton of favorite shirts, feeling memories seep through the threads.

As I pack away #3’s too-small clothes, I realize it is entirely possible I will never see another of my babies wear these items again. There are so many ifs… if we can manage another child, if we have another child, if it’s a girl, if it’s a boy. My breath catches and my eyes well.

It’s an odd conundrum. Part of me wants one more child… eventually. Part of me thinks that other part is bananas. Do I not have enough on my plate raising 3 children under 5 while simultaneously pumping to feed another’s baby? Is the prospect of potentially filling out a set of fleecy footie pajamas one last time so compelling that it’s worth all of the added time, stress, money (and pregnancy)?

I don’t know. But it’s sad to pack these items away not knowing if I’ll ever feel them close to me again, filled and stretched by the warm girth of my chubby baby. Infancy, babyhood, toddlerhhood, tucked away in storage bins. It never gets easier.

Imperfectly Perfect

Yesterday evening was Hub’s escape: softball. After a #1’s inner demons made a venomous appearance upon our arrival home from an afternoon playdate, just in time for #3’s “hell hour”, which conveniently coincides with dinner prep, the kids and I ate dinner then headed off to run two quick errands.

I had forgotten what 6:30pm looked like outside of our cul-de-sac. At that hour, we’re usually trudging through the last gruesome hours of the day at home. All of these people shopping, driving, some even caffeinating at this time of day… how other-wordly! “I used to be sitting in traffic cursing my way home at this time,” I thought, as #2 swatted at #1 in the backseat of the minivan. My cubicle-dwelling, kid-free days are like a past life.

We park. I free the kids from their carseats. I see #2 has mystery stains all over his shirt and #1 found a costume headband that Betsey Johnson would consider gawdy. I shrug. Off we go.

#3 strapped to my chest, #2 holding my hand and #1’s hand, we enter the store. A middle-aged woman looks at me in that smiling seeing-but-not nostalgic way I know all too well. She’s seeing herself, not me, in front of her. I smile back.

We continue. There was a minor shoe incident and a near miss with a stack of glass marinara jars, but we make it to the pharmacy counter. Prescription purchased: success!

As we get our hand holding order settled, a woman in a business suit pauses mid-stride. “How beautiful!” She says. I look around to find what she’s noting. “Your little family,” she clarifies, “The hand holding, the beautiful children… you’re adorable!” She scrunched her nose in a smile. I thank her. I’m flattered yet stunned. Did she SEE us? I mean, really. Just before we left the house, #1 was pretending to poop on #2 as #3 laughed. THIS is “adorable??”

We get side-tracked by princess cakes on our way out. #1’s birthday isn’t for months, but — according to her — one’s fifth birthday is akin to a quinciniera. So we scope out the confections.

A diligent staffer immediately steps to the front of the bakery counter and asks if we need help. “Nope, we just saw princesses. Thanks though!” She says my kids are “beautiful” — #1 and #2 are squabbling over which cake is better: pink princess cake or the “Frozen” cake — I graciously thank her but ponder internally if these people know what these “adorable” creatures are capable of. I mean, a day when I don’t have to clean poop off of the floor is considered a gold-star experience (and, no, we don’t have pets.)

We get back in the van. Load up, buckle up, gas up, then head home. Windows down, sunroof open, music bumpin’, Spring breezing through our hair… it’s a minivan dance party. In that moment, I realize this is adorable. This is beautiful. This is perfect.

 

 

 

 

“All I Wanted…”

“Gahhhh!” “But whyyy???” “Nooo!” The moment of agitation and defeat when your seemingly innocuous plans have been thwarted by your own offspring.

“All I wanted was to…” it could anything: nap, pee in peace, make one phone call without stopping to referee or assist small humans, sleep, prepare a meal without having to drop everything to feed or wipe someone, exercise, have just one bedtime when everyone stays in their bed on the first try, arrive on time, have one drama-free playdate, pump, sit on my butt for five straight minutes, poop, wear clothes without stains, drink a hot beverage at its intended temperature, etc. Some days the plan change is easier to accept than others. Then there are those days when one untimely potty joke or one predigested milk deluge is beyond your patience level. You’re tapped out, the well is dry… and they can sense it.

As if driven by predatory instincts, our cherished offspring will claw, tantrum, and spew us into submission. Then, when we mourn the shattered want before us, they look at us with their saucer-like eyes in inocent bewilderment. As if they had no part in our mommy meltdown.

You have been defeated. Perhaps tomorrow you will be victorious… perhaps.