My heart grew three sizes that day

Not that I was a Grinch before, but at 38 days postpartum, it is still my biggest surprise.

I knew my life would change. Everybody tells you that. I knew my priorities and perspectives would shift, my house would fill with stuff, my marriage would become more important and less important at the same time, sleep would be like a drug I crave constantly, and my body would be, well, stretchier.

But the feels? For everything, all the time? It’s been my hardest adjustment.

Upon leaving the safe cocoon of our hospital room, it felt a bit like we were pushed out of the nest. My husband was unshowered and sleep-deprived, I was swollen and still drugged up, and our baby was screaming about everything. We were a hot mess.

As we launched into parenthood face first, we eventually found solid ground as a little family of three, and celebrated our survival minute by minute. But as soon as this felt somewhat comfortable, my husband returned to work, and keeping our tiny baby alive fell solely on me. What a kick in the nuts that was.

I knew enough about postpartum depression and anxiety to know the signs and to talk about them with my husband and my doctor if needed. I read articles and checked in with my husband about his thoughts on my state of mind. I’m not totally in the clear yet, but I’m doing okay. Seriously though, the sleep deprivation alone is enough to make anyone feel batshit crazy. Add to it lack of time to eat anything normal, healing from birthing another human being, creeping quietly around a dark house all day, and giving your all to a screaming tiny human, and it’s no wonder we fall and need some help getting back up. Jesus.

Aside from my routines changing pretty much completely, I wondered if the physical changes would make me feel sad. Would seeing a stretch mark make me cry? Would having a softer stomach make me feel ugly? Would my husband think my post-baby body is in need of improvement? The answer to all that, for me, is no. Even though I was confused by some of the random places my skin chose to show it’s stretchiness (seriously, did my thighs really GROW that much during pregnancy?), it’s all good. And my husband, I’m pretty sure, is still in awe of all the work I did, from pregnancy to now. He doesn’t have time to consider all the ways my body has changed because he’s too busy polishing the pedestal he’s placed me on for birthing a human fucking being. His human being.

The biggest change in me has been to my heart. For sure. It’s like my heart grew to make room for all the newness of our baby – every cute face, sleepy stretch, and every grasp of my finger. My heart is a mom heart now, and it’s bigger and better than before. And as much as I knew this would happen, it still took me by surprise. More startling was the connection I now feel to my husband, who’s no longer just my partner in life but the father of my child and the only other person who loves our daughter the same way I do. Sure I was committed before, but now? Damn, he permanently has a piece of my heart that he carries with him. A pretty big piece. Which explains why I feel a bit empty unless our little family of three is together.

At 38 days postpartum, my body and my mind are still making room for my bigger heart. My mom heart allows me to feel more deeply and love more openly. It might mean more tears over seemingly silly things and so much empathy that you can physically feel someone else’s mood, it also means a fuller life.

August 1, 2016. My heart grew three sizes that day. Here are all the pieces:

heart

 

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Oh, Genetics

Since finding out that we are going to have a baby together, my husband and I have spent a fair amount of time talking about what our baby will be like.

Will she be like me? Like him? Quiet? Loud? Curious? Patient? Girly? Tom-boyish? A mix of everything?

And what the heck will she look like? We talk about this a lot. Last weekend, we were talking about genetics and the role they play, and we had a conversation that went something like this:

It started when Andy was crazily scratching his knees due to dry skin (dry skin being one of the many fun skin irritations he has).

Me: “I hope our baby gets my skin.”

Andy: “Me too.”

Me: “And I hope she gets my eyebrows.”

Andy: (laughing) “I hope she gets your nose.”

Me: “Me too!”

And then it hit me.

Me: “Oh my god. Your laugh.”

Andy chuckles (quietly, at least for him.)

Me: “Can you imagine a little girl having your laugh? That would be brutal.”

Andy laughs really, really loudly. (If you know him, you know what I mean.)

A few minutes pass by.

Me: “So really, what are you bringing to the table?”

Andy: (without hesitation) “Personality. I hope to god she gets my patience.”

Me: “Good point.”

The more I think about it, Andy is bringing a lot to the table. The most important trait obviously being his dimple. If our baby gets a dimple like his, she will literally be the cutest thing alive. Let’s just hope it ends up on her cheek where it belongs and not under her eye like my ridiculous misplaced dent.

Oh well, genetics will do as they please. The bastards.

My belly is my new favorite body part

I have never had to listen to my body as much as I have these last 15+ weeks. Lately, my body generally tells me about five different things:

1. Drink a lot of water. And then go pee. And then repeat.

2. Eat everything in sight. Except things that could possibly be icky in sight/smell/taste/texture. And if it is in fact icky, then be prepared for a gag-a-thon.

3. Sit down. Don’t move for a very long time. Except if it’s to go to bed. Or pee.

4. Only pay attention to me. I don’t care that you have a full-time job.

5. I do not want to be touched, unless it’s to massage my aching back or scratch my itchy shins.

Well, body, I hear ya loud and clear. 10-4.

The neat thing about listening to my body is that I’m growing fond of its needs. Even on my worst gag-a-thon, bone-deep exhaustion, migraine-yielding days, I know it’s serving a purpose. And that purpose is deep inside my belly.

I’m so in touch with my body and the amazing life force growing inside me, that it is literally ALL I can think about sometimes. And I’m okay with that.

Every part of my body has been renewed with meaning, because I no longer feel empty. I am full. In every sense of the word.

Belly. Mind. Heart. I am full.

Your ugliness is showing, better cover up

This past weekend marked a monumentous event for my family. After seven years of dating, one house bought, one baby born, and over a year of planning, my sister and her husband were finally married.

As expected, it was beautiful and classy and so much fun. Just perfect.

What was unexpected were the ugly guests who decided to crash the wedding by spreading misery and judgement to everyone who attended.

I think we can all agree that there is a basic etiquette expected of the wedding guests. That etiquette includes showing up on time with a smile, being happy that you were even invited, and enjoying the celebration while keeping your focus where it should be –  on the bride and groom.

That etiquette does not include showing up almost two hours early (while the wedding party is still getting ready), demanding to be let in, arguing over who should be inside the venue before the ceremony begins, and attacking innocent people about the damn seating chart. It also does not include being downright nasty to the people who, without their dedication and loyalty, the wedding would not have come together at all. Who the fuck do you think you are?

While I still am not sure what your nasty attitude was attempting to accomplish, let me tell you what it did do. It proved that your ugliness is your true character. It proved that you cannot be trusted to show up and be happy for someone other than yourself. It proved that your heart is in fact ice cold and should be kept far away from the rest of us. And it proved that even with your attempts to sabotage an otherwise delightful day, you failed. The day went on, the seats stayed the same, and the people who matter had the grand pleasure of watching two deserving people celebrate their love.

One more thing. To anyone who stood behind this ugliness, silently agreeing or not speaking up against their vicious attacks, you own it too. Their ugliness is your ugliness.

For the rest of us, we’ll remember November 7th as a lovely, gorgeous, memory-filled day. We’ll enjoy talking about the good times, looking at the pictures, and continuing to celebrate their lives together.

And we’ll do all of that without you. And that’s just fine with us.

Today, marriage is awesome

My Thursday started like most any other summer day. I slept in a little bit, cuddled with Mocha, watched some of the Today Show until it got annoying, checked both of my blog’s stats, and did a fair amount of yoga. I was feeling good and strong.

And then my uterus, a day fucking early, decides to start falling out of my vagina. I knew it was coming, it was no secret, but still sucked nonetheless. We’re officially at a year and a half, if you’re keeping count, and we’re no closer to a baby. THIS fact made it harder, because shit, something must be wrong for it not to happen by now. (Don’t worry, we’re looking into it.)

Anyway, the rest of my day went as follows.

When Andy got home from an appointment late morning, he immediately knew what had happened (me laying unshowered on the couch with my heating pad burning a hole in my stomach must have given it away). I ugly cried while he hugged me. We didn’t say that much to each other, just hugged.

After I was done feeling sorry for myself (I gave myself a time limit), I finally showered and knew I needed to get busy doing something. Andy and I went into town to do some errands. I purchased a new shower curtain (our other one is moldy and gross because we’ve had it longer than we’ve been married), two more pairs of yoga pants (because, yoga pants), a gift for my sister’s engagement party (because gifts say congratulations), and Andy got some more white t-shirts (because well, he needed more white t-shirts).

I Facebook messaged with two of my sisters for a while, which was nice and made me smile.

We stopped to do my summer job. I’m a dog walker for Gus, whose fur-mom is a traveling nurse. Today was my last day with him though, as they are moving on to their next adventure. Andy and I had a lot of fun playing with Gus, and he snapped a really sweet picture of us before we left.

Then Andy and I decided to have a fire to end our crappy/happy day together. Watching shit burn is pretty therapeutic. We ordered pizza because I refused to cook anything, and we laughed at stupid ringtones he was downloading on his phone.

It was one of those days when Andy and I just mesh, because we know what the other needs and we do it happily, without reservation or complaint.

Today, marriage is awesome.

july23rd

Sperm Have Tools and I Might Steal Your Kid

For some of you, seventeen months might be a way that you would describe the age of your child. You know, another way of saying almost a year and a half. For me, it’s the way I describe the length of time my husband and I have been trying to get pregnant. Unsuccessfully.

Now before I go on, don’t get all huffy thinking this is another blog post complaining about my empty womb. This is just my way of expressing all the shit that piles up inside and needs to be let out. It will be honest and raw and probably sarcastic. It’s just what I need to do. (Side note: If you don’t want to read about sperm and babies and sex, you may not want to continue reading. You’ve been warned.)

Okay, first. How many years did I try not to get pregnant? Answer: A lot. All those years of health class and sex ed make you believe that it is so figgin’ easy to get pregnant. Like if you even think about a boy, his sperm will magically jump inside your uterus, hunt down your egg, and fertilize it.

Or the time my high school boyfriend’s mother told us this horrifying story that she swore up and down was true: after fooling around, this guy splooged on this girl’s leg, and instead of cleaning it up, she let it trickle down her leg toward her vagina and she ended up pregnant without ever having sex. (In retrospect, I’m not sure if this was a story she heard or the story of how she ended up pregnant herself.) Anyway, growing up, adults all over the place would have you believe that sperm have these special tools to break into your uterus and attack your helpless egg, knocking you up and leaving you to live as a single mother.

Well, I call bullshit. Never in my life did I think I’d be trying so damn hard to get pregnant. Do you know how many times my husband and I have had unprotected sex since we’ve been trying to conceive? Answer: Hundreds. Do you know how many perfectly good sperm, with tools intact, have been released inside me? Answer: Probably buckets full. Still, Aunt Flo comes knocking every 28-30 days, smiling and bearing flowers that I just want to bash her over the head with.

Also, I just have to vent about all the people who accidentally get pregnant. I can’t even. I know I’m not supposed to compare my journey to anyone else’s, but come on. This is just ridiculous. People who are not physically or emotionally healthy, they somehow make babies.

Or, and I preface this by saying I really am happy for you, the people who have been trying for less time than my husband and I. Again, I’m not supposed to compare. But it’s happening so get over it. There’s a very irrational part of me that thinks, wait a minute, we were in line ahead of you, we’ve been waiting for longer, how come you get to go first? That’s not fair.

And that’s when anger shows up. I expected the sadness and frustration, and even the hope and despair. The tears and the ‘I’m not going to cry again’. But anger, that surprised me. I find myself getting angry for all sorts of reasons. I get angry at people who are pregnant, who have been pregnant, who talk about their pregnancy in positive or negative terms. I get angry at people who have kids, who talk about their kids, and especially at people who talk to me about not having kids. I get angry at my body for failing me. Basically, there’s no possible way you can win. It’s irrational and it’s no one’s fault. Anger is an irrational emotion, and it comes from a place of hurt. I know that. (Another side note: I feel the need to say that I don’t hate pregnant women or mothers at all. Go ahead and talk to me about your children, because they’re beautiful. It just gets hard sometimes, you know?)

And then crazy creeps in. There are times when I think I might just, you know, take someone else’s kid and call him/her my own. That would work, right? I’m not talking about adoption. I’m talking about stalking the cutest kid at a public place, waiting for the moment that his/her parent is preoccupied with something else, and go in for the grab. Oh, wouldn’t my husband be surprised to come home and find me trying to soothe our new child (who would no doubt be terrified and traumatized). Obviously, I’m kidding. You don’t have to keep a close eye on me around your children, I promise.

All I’m saying is, this whole trying to conceive thing is hard. And it brings out the ugly. It’s one of those hot button issues that no matter what your beliefs or what you say, you will somehow be wrong. Each person and each couple experiences it differently. I can’t give you advice on how to be sensitive to someone you know who’s struggling to get pregnant. What I can do is be honest and say that there are days when I’m really, really ugly about the whole thing. It’s not rational and it’s not cute. But it’s part of the deal.

I don’t have a rainbows and sunshine way to end this. It’s another day, another try, and another load of sperm.

Such is life.

We don’t need to hear it

We have been trying and trying. We have been patient and poised. We have been hopeful and cheerful. We have been relaxed and we have been stressed. We have listened to a lot of sympathy, advice, and stories from people who are trying to help. We need you to please realize, this is our journey. And it’s delicate, and it’s hard, and it’s OURS.

Perhaps my words may help you understand someone in your life who is struggling with the same thing, or perhaps it will help you. Either way, I need to say this.

We don’t need to hear about your friend who spent four years trying to conceive before she did so successfully. This is not helpful. It only causes added anxiety about how long we may struggle ourselves.

We don’t need to hear that God has a plan for us. We respectfully request that you keep your beliefs to yourself. Pray if it helps you but we will decide when and if we want to accept any sort of religion as part of our journey.

We don’t need to hear you say that it will happen for us when the time is right. For us, the time has been right since we started trying.

We don’t need to hear your advice about what we should say to our doctor or which tests we should have done. If we want your advice, we will ask you for it.

We don’t need to hear that trying is the fun part. This comment is completely insensitive and untrue. Anyone who has struggled with infertility knows that trying, unsuccessfully over and over again, is not fun.

We don’t need to hear that your pregnant friend only wants a boy, or only wants a girl. What the actual fuck?!?! And while I’m on the subject, do not ask us what we want to have. WE WANT TO HAVE A BABY! That’s what we want. Gender is meaningless to us.

We don’t need to hear you say “just wait until you have kids” while we are in the presence of children. We ARE waiting to have kids because that is all we can do. This isn’t going to scare us out of wanting to have children. Also, our kids will be different because they will be ours (I know all future parents say this, but it’s true).

We don’t need to hear you complain about how your body is changing during pregnancy, or morning sickness, or difficulty sleeping, or just wanting it to be over. Please know that some women would give anything to experience these “problems” and some men would be glad to help their partners through it.

We don’t need to hear your repeated sympathies. Once is enough. And please, for the love of all that is holy, do not give us anything baby related. This is incredibly hurtful.

What do we need to hear? Nothing. If we want to talk about it with you, we will. If we want to share a part of our journey with you, be glad and just listen. Be respectful of our boundaries and keep what we tell you private. It is not your journey and it is not your information to share.

It is our journey.

We know you are trying to help us feel better about all of it, but please realize, this is a sad and frustrating thing and we need to be allowed to feel sad and frustrated. It’s part of the process. We know you care and we know you are thinking about us. We appreciate your love and your quiet support.

We don’t need to hear it. We can feel it. And that’s enough.

Ready or not, here comes change

This has been a weird week. So many things have happened that I feel like I’m being pulled along with a giant knotted rope, and I’m skidding by all kinds of life changes, just trying to hang on and not fall flat on my face.

There were the little things. Like finally donating some old and “I never wear this” clothing to make room in my closet. And having to use a new brand of all-purpose cleaner (when I find one I like, I’m sad when it’s over). And experiencing the embarrassing split-in-your-pants sound when you kneel down (luckily, this happened at home, but it was my favorite pair of jeans and I’ve had them, for like, ever).

There were also the big things.

Like deciding, after a lot of pros and cons list making, and crying, to accept a new job. I’m still uncertain and scared, because, whoa, it’s a huge change.

And, for the first time in the year that we’ve been trying, thinking that I may actually be pregnant. That my husband and I may actually not have anything wrong with us and we might actually get what we want. And then, after the excitement of a positive pregnancy test, the plunge downward when we found out it was a lie. It was like a slap in the face, a titty twister, and a gut punch all at the same time.

And then, perhaps the biggest change of all, my sister welcomed her first baby into the world, making me an auntie. Knowing that it was coming soon doesn’t take away the excitement and surprise of hearing the news that he was born, healthy and happy, ready to change my entire family’s lives, forever. And most importantly, changing my relationship with my sister because she’s not just my sister anymore; she’s a mother to the most amazing little boy, my nephew.

I slept for almost twelve hours last night. All the changes caught up with me. This week has been a roller coaster of some low lows and very high highs.

But here’s the thing. Change is scary, yes. But it’s also inevitable. It happens whether you want it to or not. Some changes happen to you and others happen because of you. This week has had a little of each, and it has forced me into letting go of the things I cannot change, which is perhaps the hardest of all.

Ready or not, here comes change. Make way.

We’re already parents

It was a clerk at Rite-Aid who was the first person who got me to admit that I was actually trying to get pregnant. The interaction was short but emotionally charged. And so, I remember it well.

It was three months ago. On my way home from work, I stopped at Rite-Aid to pick up two things – a box of tampons and a bottle of prenatal vitamins. The vitamins were my first purchase towards trying to conceive.

As I approached the counter, my stomach was fluttering from nerves. As the clerk bagged my items, she suddenly stopped and with a confused look she said, “Wait…tampons and prenatal vitamins?!”

I almost died right there in the store. Did I really have to explain my story to this stranger? No, I decided I didn’t. So I smirked and said, “Yup!” Her confusion cleared and she said excitedly, “Ohhh, you’re trying?!” Again, I almost died. Instead, I practically started crying while I choked out a “Yes.” She smiled wide as she said “Good luck!” I ran out of the store and threw my bag in the back of my jeep. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

That was three months ago, after almost seven months of trying to conceive.

Anyone who knows me probably knows that I’ve said many times that I don’t want to have children. This was true. Was. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever become a mother. I never felt that urge or desire to be a mom. I knew others who did, but I wasn’t one of them. And so, I never became one.

I used to see parents out in public with their children and think oh, I’m so glad that isn’t me! Slowly, as I grew older, this thought changed to oh, what if that were me?

I used to look at my husband and only see a husband. This, too, has changed to seeing him as a father. I see all the good in him and think how amazing it would be to pass on his positive qualities.

My husband and I have grown, independently and together, since we married four years ago. A lot. The way we decided to stop trying not to get pregnant and start trying to get pregnant happened rather suddenly. Still, it started as, we’ll see what happens!

As time passed by and nothing changed, we started paying closer attention to all the numbers, signs, symptoms, etc. that go along with conception.

We kept trying.

For ten months.

Ten months of buying tampons rather than home pregnancy tests.

Ten months of the “two week wait” between ovulation and period.

Ten months that lead us to seek advice from our doctor; a painful and somewhat humiliating conversation.

Ten months of seeing babies and baby bumps pop up everywhere. Everywhere.

Ten months of fielding the overly asked yet still inappropriate question, “So when are you two going to have a baby?”

Ten months of hope, disappointment, sadness, frustration, and anger.

Ten months.

We don’t know if it’ll ever be for us. We don’t know what we’ll do if it doesn’t work.

What we know is that in our hearts, we’re already parents. We’re already naming our baby, building the nursery, and thinking of how we’ll handle various parenting decisions. We’re already thinking about how we can raise a kind and courageous child, and how we’ll be strong to enforce consequences and accountability. We’re already thinking about our baby, with a little of both of us, growing and amazing us each and every day.

We’re already parents. Empty arms. Full hearts.

What they don’t tell you about being a veteran’s spouse

I am a veteran’s spouse, although I wasn’t married to him while he was in the military. In fact, I didn’t even know him then, when he went away at age 18 just after finishing high school. I also didn’t know him when he returned from overseas, scarred in ways I can’t even imagine. And I didn’t know him when he went through the transition period back into civilian life.

I didn’t meet him until college. And I didn’t really know him until grad school. That’s the person I got to know. But I know there are parts to my veteran that I don’t know; parts he doesn’t want me to know and parts he scared to show me.

Here’s what they don’t tell you about being a veteran’s spouse….

They don’t tell you that your veteran is divided. Always. All the time. He is a civilian now but he has been a soldier. Being a soldier isn’t something that goes away. The uniform, the tags, and the weapon might, but the mentality doesn’t. This was how your veteran survived in times of war and it cannot be erased.

They don’t tell you that your veteran was part of a brotherhood so strong that it cannot be replicated in any other relationship. Soldiers’ lives depend on each other. They are connected beyond friendship, beyond family, beyond love. When your soldier becomes a civilian again and those connections fade, this will cause a void in your veteran so deep, one that you cannot fill. No matter how strong your own relationship is, the void will always be there.

They don’t tell you that your veteran is a little lost in civilian life. As a soldier, they were given orders and missions and did what they were told because their life depended on it. They were rewarded for their hard work with food and a place to sleep. Civilian life doesn’t work that way. Your veteran might be struggling to find his place and his purpose.

They don’t tell you that as a veteran’s spouse, you will know when your veteran is hurting. Not because he will tell you, but because you know him and you can sense his pain. As a veteran’s spouse, you learn to offer care even if he doesn’t accept it. And you will do this repeatedly, because someday, he might.

They don’t tell you that as a veteran’s spouse, you will see an unrelenting restlessness in your veteran that fades and sparks as time goes on. And you will be witness to many, many attempts at settling the restlessness and it may be hard for you to understand or to accept.

They don’t tell you that as a veteran’s spouse, you are accepting a third party into your marriage when you say ‘I do.’ The third party is your veteran’s experience as a soldier, and the memories, triggers, and scars that come along with it.

They don’t tell you that as a veteran’s spouse, you will feel a pain inside your own heart as you watch your veteran hurting. You will ache to soothe their hurts and know that you can’t. You will long to take away their pain and know that you can’t.

And finally, they don’t tell you that as a veteran’s spouse, you will feel a sense of honor and patriotism to your country that you didn’t even know you had inside of you. You will feel strongly about defending your country because your veteran has already given a piece of himself that he can never get back. Veteran and spouse

I love my veteran. All of him.

To all veterans and their spouses and families, because you have served too, thank you.