Will it ever stop?

Y’all, 3.5 is so.fucking.hard. I’m convinced this is normal….for the most part…but that doesn’t lessen the utter and complete emotional overload. This morning I finally broke down and sobbed from sheer exhaustion. The wife’s immediate reaction was to try to fix it. I get it. I see how hard it is for her when I am a blubbering, hopeless fool. I just needed her to listen, though. And I told her as much. And we agreed that I can work on telling her that sooner into my collapse next time. Because there will be a next time.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from mothering a toddler its that the pain is inevitable. Suffering is another story, though. The thing is, what it takes to stay on top of the moment- to recenter myself in the midst of the chaos- to not suffer- is so close to impossible that… I don’t even know. I feel like that spark of light inside that encourages me to try again is like the dying ember of a fire- the tiniest, most infinitesimal flame. My hope isn’t completely gone, but its a squinter for sure.

What feels good, time and again, is to get it all out- to cry, to write, to talk. And I’ll get into these ruts where I don’t do any of those things. I’m working so hard simply not to freak out from moment to moment that I have literally zero energy to process it all. I mean, you get it, right? The whining, the screaming, the bipolar madness is INCESSANT. In so many moments – dare I say most? – there are literally no solutions. The only answer is to sit with the tantrum, breathe through it, and validate the feelings.

Or yell.

Like I did the other day through clenched teeth, “GET YOUR GODDAMN FUCKING SHOES ON NOW!”

After which I spent the entire day mired in shame, hopelessness, and fear. Fear of never being any better than my mom. Fear of never finding a sustainable way to feel the pain, but avoid the suffering.

And because now I’m feeling a bunch of shame again at the thought of sharing with everyone that I yelled like that at my innocent 3 year old, my mind has gone blank on how to wrap this up, so I’m just going to close my eyes now and press ‘publish.’

 

 

 

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On ambivalence

For a long time now I’ve been deeply ambivalent about pregnancy and parenthood. The whole endeavor is so huge and permanent and…scary. By nature I’m not a procrastinator, but this is one area in which I’ve taken a long time to make decisions and feel comfortable with those choices when I do finally make them. Because C has been absolutely certain for so long about her desire to parent and be pregnant, my ambivalence has caused us both quite a bit of suffering.

Though I’ve long thought I’d have at least one kid and have always supported C in her choices about pregnancy and parenting, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to get pregnant when I began trying. I tried because she was not having success getting pregnant. I was old enough and thought I’d eventually try anyway, so why not try now. She wanted us to have a baby already and I wanted her to be happy. I was able to accommodate her desires in a practical sense and figured my emotions would catch up- especially as I wasn’t opposed to having kids, just ambivalent about the timing. 

Turns out that the enormity of the decision does not lend itself easily to suppressed emotions. I’ve never been good at stuffing it down anyway. I’d thrown myself completely into getting pregnant- reading every book, taking every test, ramping up interventions as fast as I could. When I actually fell pregnant, though, damn. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was terrified.

I didn’t feel ready emotionally or mentally. I thought that one *should* be ready before they embark on such a huge journey. And my internalized homophobia told me that we should be *especially* ready since it wasn’t going to happen by accident. Here I was with the clock steadily ticking down to b-day and absolutely overcome with certainty that I had to get it all (the ptsd, the depression, the mom issues) fixed in time. There was no room in my head for the idea that we are all works in progress, that mothers don’t have to be perfect, that my baby would love me fiercely despite the issues that I have. 

So when I was pregnant with Olivia I did embark on this quest. I quit work, went to weekly acupuncture and chiro visits, saw my therapist sometimes 2-3 times a week, hypnotized myself through hypnobirthing, got care from the crunchiest midwifery practice in town, and ultimately gave birth without medication at their birth center. 

And you know what? I walked away from the whole experience even more deeply traumatized than before. I didn’t only fail to solve my original issues, but heaped many more on top- from physical birth injury to emotional pain from the false promises of hypnobirthing, to excruciating breast feeding struggles. I’d failed this too and though I wasn’t going to run away from what I’d already done I was certainly not going to do it again.

That’s where I’ve been for the last 3.5 years. Deeply uncertain that I’m able to do this parenting thing well. Convinced that I’m simply not equipped to love my kid enough, that I’m selfish by nature, and that I’d irreversibly mess up any more kids if I had them. 

However, at the same time little messages have come my way in this past year that at first simply made me go hmm.. but now have me really feeling like i might need to question the thoughts I once considered absolute truth. 

Firstly there’s that last point alone. Simply learning to notice my thoughts and label them as well as question them has taught me that I don’t have to believe everything I think. It’s amazing the freedom I’ve been able to experience from learning that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice. I can sit with the inevitable pain and discomfort of parenting and breathe through it, naming the feelings, reminding myself that it will pass or I can get wrapped up in it, freak out, and suffer. The irony is that naming the feelings and gently reassuring myself of the normality of those feelings makes them pass much more quickly than getting caught up in resentment for having them at all or trying to ignore them into disappearing.

This first point has led me to wonder what might happen if I questioned the thought that I’m not cut out for more than one kid. If I didn’t automatically believe this thought, what choices might I make? Then I thought about how I’d always only wanted one kid. I believed one kid would be easier. I’d have an easier time having a pleasant experience with only one kid. Well, again, I’m not sure my experience is really bearing this out! Is this really the truth, I’m asking myself.

In my life I have doubted myself a lot. I’ve agonized over choices and beat myself up for years. Hard lessons have taught me that ignoring my gut is not a wise plan. Then again, as I grow up, I also realize that the truth my gut speaks is not always black or white. In fact, it’s usually grey these days. I want to make embodied decisions as I get older- decisions that feel right. However what I’m realizing now is that doesn’t always mean that I won’t regret them later. I used to think that there was one single perfect choice out there for every dilemma and that if I did it the right way then I’d be guarunteed satisfaction and peace.

Turns out that isn’t how parenting works! Ha! I make lots of minute and big decisions these days and some of them I end up regretting later though I felt very good about them when I made them. One cannot ever know every little thing that might potentially happen. 

Which brings me to another point that I haven’t been able to forget since I first heard it. I can’t remember where it was that I read it, but someone pointed out how ridiculous it is that queer women feel like they have to be 💯% certain before they have kids. By and large, hetero people don’t hold themselves to that standard- even the ones who do have to try to get pregnant. They leap while maybe still ambivalent. Why can’t I? Do I not trust myself to build the bridge as I fall?

Well, you know what? I should! Hell, I’ve proven to myself time and again that I can. When Olivia’s birth caused me physical trauma, I rallied my support network, I got physical therapy and I healed. When I was almost laid flat by PPD, I signed up for intensive therapy and went twice a week for a year. When I got pregnant, despite the terror, I threw myself into preparation and some of those choices tangibly made my life better in the postpartum period. 

Without a doubt, I don’t give up. I own my shit and face my fears and question the truth. Why would this be any different? I’m not calling myself stupid or short sighted. Of course I have fear and trauma. This shit is hard! But I AM objectively capable. So now I am here: If it’s not that I *can’t*, is it just that I don’t want to? Telling myself that I’m incapable, as it seems, was a clever cop out from facing and owning my desires.

Always has been, eh? Was back when I used to say that I wish I could like a girl, but I just wasn’t able. Is now, too, that I say I wish that I could want more than one kid, but I just don’t. 

Life sure hasn’t turned out like I thought it would up until this point…

She’s the Boss!

Today is ‘Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day’ in the U.S. I wasn’t aware of it until Monday when I received an email from the college reminding employees that for $5 they could get their kid an “official” ID badge on Thursday. That was enough incentive for me! I quickly sent out an email to my team and let them know that I’d be bringing Miss O in for an hour in the morning on Thursday.

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My family is really lucky in that Olivia got a spot in the daycare on campus, so I work literally right across the street from her preschool. It could not have been easier to bring her in for an hour, walk her to school, and then come back to my office. As a side note, they unfortunately do not accept infants, so if another one comes our way in the future the daycare sitch won’t be nearly as easy as it is now.

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Our first stop this morning was Gaiser Hall, the student services hub on campus, where Olivia posed very professionally (with Miss Bunny, natch) for her official Clark College Employee ID Badge.

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I’d pre-gamed this trip with her for a few days, reminding her that we’d need to say hello to people if they said hello to us, not growl and frown (admittedly, that is what Mama wants to do a lot as well), and be on our best behavior. She was a natural! After we got to my office (I work for the foundation) we made our rounds and said hello to everyone, then settled in at my desk to work on a VIP top secret coloring project Miss L had assigned her.

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While she couldn’t find the energy to care at all about what I wanted to show her about my work on the computer, she did find creative uses for rubber bands, push pins, and sticky notes. The best part, though, was when she pointed to my phone and asked what it was. Never thought I’d find myself having to explain to my kid what a landline phone is! Lol. Kids these days…

I have such great memories of going to work with my Dad on this day every year. When I was a kid he worked as a Pastor for two different churches. I remember very clearly learning how to operate the folding machine to fold 100 bulletins for Sunday morning, making clip-art collages (literally printing each picture on separate pieces of paper, cutting them out, taping them to another sheet of paper and then making a final copy), and helping him type his sermon. In my mind my Dad had the coolest job. I told all my friends about what he did because I was so proud. For a while I even thought I’d like to go into the ministry. As it turns out it wasn’t my calling. I still think its a noble profession, though, and have several female friends who did go on to get their Masters of Divinity and enter the ministry. I admire them deeply.

The best lesson I learned from “Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day,” which used to just be “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” was that I, too, was expected and equipped to have my own career someday. Though my Mother didn’t work outside the home until I was in high school, I never thought that would be how my life played out. My Dad always expected me to go to college right out of high school, discover my passions in college, and then get a job! I’ll be eternally grateful to him for that.

Here’s one last cute video of our intelligent, creative, professional daughter typing up some urgent correspondence.

 

 

 

Color-blind?

This post over at Nonprofit with Balls really struck a chord with me today. Though I have many friends who declare themselves to be “color-blind,” I’ve never found a way that felt productive or effective to tell them how I feel about this idea. Thankfully, Vu Le has come to my rescue– wish he didn’t have to—with this genius piece that can now help me talk to my friends and colleagues in, what feels to me, like a pretty gentle way.

Allow me to begin by saying, I am in no way perfect when it comes to the social justice work to which I commit myself. I fail, like every other white person, regularly. Being called out stings and most of the time I get super embarrassed. Full disclosure, just the other day C had to call me out for something I said while trying to be funny, but which was pretty hurtful to her. I apologized, but I’m honestly still embarrassed. I can see how it would have been maybe easier for me to brush it off with an “oh, i was just kidding.” That would have invalidated her feelings, though. Whether or not I agree with her (which I totally do on this point), it helps bring us closer together when I acknowledge her feelings rather than defend myself. Feelings are never ‘wrong’ after all. I hurt her and I can’t argue with that.

Anyway, back to the point at hand. Vu posted this amazing plea to his ‘color-blind’ colleagues in the nonprofit sector and it was so inspirational to me that I wanted to share it here as well. What I love so much about this post is the tone he uses and the way he finds points of connection rather than contention. I don’t think that its the job of people of color to tend to my fragile ego. He could have been ranting and raving and his point would have been equally as valid. What this does for me, though, is provide me with a pretty awesome template for talking to my fellow white people about difficult topics.

In 2007, I took this workshop called “Interrupting Oppression” with my mentor and friend, Sally Eck, and the piece I remember still so vividly ten years later is about assuming good or bad intentions. When we assume the other person’s best intentions (which, yes, is sometimes really hard to do), we are better able to speak from a tone that can ‘call them in’ rather than ‘call them out.’

I was horrible about this before that workshop. Hell, I still stumble a lot over this piece. I get angry when people say things that are hurtful. But you know what? I say hurtful shit too. I’m no better or worse than my friend who calls for a ‘pow-wow’ at work or my friend who asks me to tell her everything about Olivia’s ‘Dad.’ I’ve simply been told why it is an insensitive term to use out of context (or lived the experience myself) and now I can do better.

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P.S. asking about Olivia’s “Dad” (i think you mean ‘Donor’) totally negates this woman’s experience.

Here is my plea (and I’m writing it down just as much to remind myself as to remind you), the next time someone tells you that a term or phrase you used was sexist, racist, ableist, etc., please first acknowledge their feelings then really sit with what they shared before trying to defend yourself. Remember that assuming best intentions goes both ways. If they are telling you their feelings its because they care enough about your relationship to take the risk of vulnerability. Secondly, you may do some research on your own. Google is a powerful tool, y’all. Don’t expect your friend to do the research for you or to “prove” the validity of their feelings. Lastly, think about how to avoid using that phrase in the future. This may seem hard because we don’t always speak consciously. But really there are worse things to strive for than mindful speech, right?

Thank you for hearing me out, friends. I want to know what you think about Vu’s blog post today and what you think about what I’ve said here. Do you agree? Disagree? Let’s have a (civil) conversation!

Xo,

Abby

 

Death warmed over

That is what I’ve felt like for the last 9 hours. Migraines suck y’all. I haven’t suffered from migraines until relatively recently in my life, so I’m not entirely sure what is bringing them on. They aren’t regular nor tied to any premeditating factor that I am aware of. Some mornings they just hit and damn… the nausea is the absolute worst. Every time I have one I wonder again why I might ever want to try for another baby.

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The pregnancy nausea with Olivia wasn’t that bad, but it happened. I’m such a wimp when it comes to stomach sicknesses. C wants nothing more than to be left alone when she’s sick, but thats when I get the most clingy and emotional. Honestly, I came thisclose to asking her to stay home today to take care of me.

I think the issue this morning was that I took some T.ylenol Sinus before eating anything, which was stupid. My migraines masquerade as sinus headaches sometimes. Other times they are in fact a sinus headache. I just don’t know until I take one type of medication to see if its gonna work or not. Needless to say, todays headache was not sinus related. I know because after suffering for so many hours and finally being able to get some food down I took some E.xcedrin Migraine and poof! I feel like a new woman! Ha!

The truth is that I’ve been having some major baby fever lately. I want Olivia to have a sibling and I crave that sweet newborn smell again. However, I am so scared to experience the crappiness of pregnancy and postpartum again that I’ve been putting it off. Like seriously, why would anyone in their right mind voluntarily sign up for 9+ months of nausea, headaches, exhaustion, and mental instability?

Someone remind me of the payoff, man…’cause I seriously need some weight to tip this scale.

Getting to know you!

It occurred to me the other day that maybe some of my newer blog followers don’t know much about me. Because of that and just for fun, here is a tiny glimpse into the world of yours truly…

1. What is your middle name?: Denice. The tradition in my family is for the first born daughter’s middle name to be the same as the mother’s best friend’s first name. So, my Mom’s best friend was Denice and her Mom’s best friend was Louise. No, I didn’t follow this tradition with Olivia, but my little sister did. Hence, her first daughter’s middle name is Amber.

2. What was favorite subject at school?: Women’s Studies. Loved it so much I majored in it. And just for the heck of it I also earned an MA in Educational Leadership and Policy when Olivia was 2.

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Family Friendly Commencement at Portland State University- June 2016

3. What is your favorite drink?: Iced latte. Plain. No flavoring. Venti preffered.

4. What is your favorite song at the moment?: My all time favorite song is Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd. I love turning it up really loud, laying on the ground and feeling the music reverberate through my bones.

5. What is your favorite food?: Food….mmmm. I like all food too much to have a favorite. That being said, I regularly return to tex-mex, pho, and thai restaurants. One dish I’ve been craving a lot lately is spicy Pad Khee Mao.

6. What is the last thing you bought?: Other than my daily iced latte? I bought a bluetooth enabled CD player for Olivia’s bedroom. I was 16 before I got a CD player and here Olivia is with a fancy audio system all for herself at only 3 years old. Ha! 

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The Shins- Heartworms

7. Favorite book of all time?: Again, I love all books too much to choose just one. However, I’ll say that I tend toward memoir and non-fiction. One book that sticks with me still is The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.

8. Favorite Color?: Cerulean.

9. Do you have any pets?: Not anymore. We’ve had cats and dogs (and even a very short-lived fish), but I really am not an animal person. 

10. Favorite Perfume?: I don’t wear perfume because it gives me a headache, but I do use a DoTerra roll-on called “Past Tense,” which I like a lot.

11. Favorite Holiday?: Christmas ❤

12. Are you married?: Going on 7 years now!

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October 23, 2010 – Bernalillo, NM

13. Have you ever been out of the country, if so how many times?: Twice. First time was in 2000. I traveled to Guatemala for a week-long service trip. The second time was in 2012 when my wife, her friend, and I went to our first international Pride event in Vancouver, BC.

14. Do you speak any other language?: I speak English, obviously, and I also speak a tiny bit of Spanish. However, I read and comprehend others speaking Spanish much better than I speak it myself.

15. How many siblings do you have?: Three biological and 13 in laws! My wife, C, is the youngest of seven children. 

16. What is your favorite shop?: Powell’s Books- a whole city block of books in Portland, OR!

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Mommy reading to Olivia in the coffee shop at Powell’s. Don’t mind the chocolate chip cookie residue on Olivia’s lips. lol!

17. Favorite restaurant?: Our “Cheers” is a little hole in the wall called Provecho in downtown Vancouver, WA.

18. When was the last time you cried?: Day before yesterday when a former FB friend passed me a note about something I’d written that really touched her heart. You just never know who you might impact with your story.

19. Favorite Blog?: My own! Ha ha 🙂

20. Favorite Movie?: Easy. Beaches. Best movie of all time.

21. Favorite TV shows?: We don’t have cable and mostly only watch shows Olivia wants to watch these days, but I have a special place in my heart for HGTV – especially Fixer Upper.

22. PC or Mac?: Not even a question. Mac all day every day.

23. What phone do you have?: Apple 6s. Have you ever thought about how it sounds like you are saying “success” when you say “6s?” I’ve been wondering if that was intentional on Apple’s part.

24. How tall are you?: 5’5″ on a good day

25. Can you cook?: I’m decent with a recipe, but I really don’t like cooking. I’d much rather curl up on the couch with a book and take-out.

 

Easter 2017

Remember when I promised you a flood of adorable Easter pictures?

No?

Well, sorry, ’cause here they come!

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Our Easter weekend 2017 started with a trip to the mall to visit Mr. E.B. himself. Olivia has been terrified of this big scary dude in years past, but this year she was totally down to cuddle next to him. All we had to promise was a basket-full of candy! lol.

Btw, this dress she is wearing was picked out by her Mommy (C), Olivia picked out the shoes, and I picked out the cute-as-a-button ruffled bobby socks. Note as well the purse and fairy wand. Miss O insisted on bringing those along as well, naturally.

That night (Saturday) we also colored eggs with our nieces and one nephew, but I didn’t get any pictures because we were having too much fun.

However! on Easter day I got a ton of great pictures- both at church and at my folks’ house afterward. Ready or not, here they come!

This is my sister (right) and I goofing off while our kids hunted for eggs after church. She is Mom to Yo-Yo (4), Baby Bear (6), and Little Red Hen (2), and is 5 years my junior. People constantly confuse us for twins, though. I don’t know…I think I look a lot older than her, but maybe not.

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Here’s another ADORABLE shot of our sweet little muffin. My mom got lucky enough to capture this one. I mean, she almost never poses for me in such a cute way. Grandmas have the special touch, I guess.

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Case in point. When I try to get her to smile for a picture its a total fail every time. Ha! I think we still look pretty cute, though. I love my little family ❤

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This “Little Monkey” (1) is the youngest grandchild of my parents and son to my older brother and his wife. Here he’s trying to fit his squishy butt into a toy barber chair the Easter bunny brought for his cousin, Little Red Hen. 

And finally…the freaking cutest picture of the whole day…

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Ya-Ya and Yo-Yo hugging it out in the tree fort in MeMe and PaPa’s back yard.

Life is so good, y’all.

Happy Belated Easter!