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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

2002

There was a teacher strike my senior year of high school.  I was a senior, my brother, a year behind me however we commiserated in history and science classes together, and my sister in eighth grade doing things that middle schoolers do and that the rest of us trying to survive them.  I don’t really talk much about this experience, not because it fills me with rage or sadness that my year was ruined.  It wasn’t.  I’m not filled with bitter feelings towards my teachers because I didn’t graduate until June 22nd.  Those people are the reason I have any capabilities that I have today and I am wholeheartedly grateful for them.  Mostly I don’t talk about the strike of my senior year because I don’t honestly remember much about it which speaks volumes about the long term impact it had on me.

Our strike happened near the end of September in 2002.  I believe it would have happened earlier in the year, but appearances would not have looked good striking over the one year anniversary of September 11th.  As I said, I don’t remember many details of what led up to the walk out, but even if I had heard the specifics of the ongoing talks or the breakdown of talks, I would not have understood what was going on (yes, even at 18).  I may have been what one would call a self-absorbed teenager.  I’ll admit that while I walked and talked as a newly minted adult, I was certainly too wrapped up in my world to really be bothered with such silly things as other people’s struggles.  No, unfortunately, I was mostly concerned with how what was happening around me affected me.  I’m not exactly proud of that, but I do not really think that is much different than the life trajectory of most kids, adolescents, or young adults.

I did not really ‘get it’ because I wasn’t trying to ‘get it’.  I was busy having a self-centered life with my new drivers license, a job, my friends, and planning on what I wanted to do next.  I don’t think I would have understood what was going on and I don’t think my parents could have helped me at the time because while they are the smartest people I know, they are not teachers.  I don’t think they really began seeing this profession more clearly until I went into it and I was the first teacher on both sides of my family.  Even if teachers had explained it to me, I would have filtered it through my own filter that would have altered the message.  Now I know that the only folks who know what is really going on are the adults on either side of the bargaining table.

I did feel mad and frustrated at the time.  I wish I had been more mature to understand and be understanding of what my teachers were trying to say with their actions.  But the truth is I thought they were being selfish because I was being selfish.  I wanted a “normal” year.  I wanted to have a “normal” summer before college.  I told myself that I deserved those things.  Now I know I deserve a great education, and I got that even if the last year did not look as I had pictured it.  Now I know that every teacher is putting in more than they are getting, and I’m mad at myself for not thanking them enough when I had the chance.  Now I know that I had everything I could have wanted and needed that year including a band trip to Washington D.C. thanks to the tireless work of Mr. J, a once in a lifetime musical tour to Hawaii with G., dances, proms, senior sports nights and awards ceremonies with my classmates and friends.

Yes, I may have had school on Christmas Eve, but it was one day.  Yes, I may have had no break from January 1 until June 22, but honestly I am a better, more disciplined worker and human thanks to that experience.  I had the chance during the strike in October to work with students who needed a place to go during their parents’ workdays at the YMCA, and I learned that year that being with kids, teaching them, having fun and silly times with them was what I wanted to spend my life doing.

There are things that happen during our lives that we maybe don’t understand when they are happening.  Maybe we don’t ‘get it’ after they have happened until we’ve done our homework and really contemplated what happened.  Maybe we never really get it at all.  I am now a teacher, but I still don’t have a full picture of what happened in 2002, but I know now what life is like as a teacher.  I can tell you about the teacher I know that knitted hats and gloves for over a hundred kindergarten students every year.  I can tell you about the teacher that visits parents houses just to ask them if everything is okay and if there is anything she can do to help.  I can tell you about the hours and hours that my coworkers spend arduously designing and delivering great lessons and inspiring future leaders and great humans.  I can say that the last thing they want to do is leave their post and their charges in the hopes to get other adults to show up at the negotiating table.

Unfortunately, you won’t really get it unless/until you are in the shoes of a teacher.  And that may not change your feelings of what happens if a strike occurs in your school, for your child, your friend, your neighbor.  Your feelings are valid and appropriate, and it’s okay to talk about them.  It’s okay to talk with your parents, your friends, your neighbors about what is going on.  It’s important to ask questions and understand the many sides to the events that are happening.  Knowing more is always better than knowing less.  It’s okay to feel hurt, sad, mad, or confused.  Be open, however to what someone else is feeling.   We can a shoulder for someone who may be having a harder journey.  At some point, however, this will be a memory, the feelings will fade away and hopefully some new understanding will come out of the chaos.  I graduated on June 22nd, 2003 because of a strike between teachers who deserved better than they were being offered.  Teachers who were told they didn’t deserve what the district could provide.  I am glad they stood up for themselves then, it makes me feel strong enough to do so for myself and my colleagues today.

Monday, April 2, 2018

State of Our Boobs

In the lunchroom, many conversations happen that tend towards the edge of curious (see the 4th grade team's obsession with the "Dark Web")  to downright weird or alarming (I'm looking at you fear of drowning in a car conversation).  Truthfully it is far better than some teacher lunchrooms where you sit through an endless barrage of bemoaning student choices/personalities, however, I wonder if we may seem off our rockers to the occasional substitute or block student who wanders over to our table.

This past week the table was outnumbered with ladies as two of our fourth grade teammates took early Easter vacations to warmer parts of the globe.  So naturally we talked about our children which led to talking about boobs and sustaining the lives of our children.  I think we ended up in this topic because one of my currently BF coworkers was looking forward to the long break where she didn't have to pump/BF on any given schedule.  She is a badass for many reasons, not the least of which is that she is BF her baby boy and working full time and raising her toddler as well.

Before going to much further down my own personal experiences with breastfeeding, let me say to any woman or man who stumbled onto this page, these thoughts are my own personal experiences and do not at all resemble opinions for any other living person out there.  Some advice, you will read so many things; SO MANY THINGS, telling you what you should or shouldn't be doing.  I read them too, sometimes at 2am when nobody should be reading things, especially sleep deprived, especially with a squalling infant who won't budge in the sleeping direction.  Almost none of those things are written be the people that actually matter in the feeding my child conversation (just a reminder-those people are you).

I found it helpful to confide deeply in my spouse during my boob journey and it would be a much better world if men realized how grateful they should be that (1) some mother possibly sustained their life early on with their boobs, (2) boobs are almost magical in their ability to produce what a baby needs during the phase they need it however that magic doesn't make the process any less work, (3) boobs are sexy and curvy and cool in a fashion sense, but the price for that is they are a nuisance when it comes to having mobility in life, work, fashion, comfort, and independence after having children.  So men, all one of you who is probably my husband, take a moment to say a kind word of praise to the woman in your life who grew your baby and is working (or fighting) with her body to continue to provide sustenance for that child.  If your baby mama would not or could not breast feed, praise her for that too because too often we are not celebrating all the different choices that are available when raising children.  We're all doing it, we ought to celebrate our efforts.

Along with PAG, I was able to easily talk to my mother and my doctor about the issues I faced.  Even before the babes were born, I remember mom showing up with a box that I called the boob box and if I were to pay it forward to any mum planning on breastfeeding, a boob box is a must.  It had things I had never even heard of before the babes, but was well versed in after my breastfeeding journey.

Lactation specialists and other moms are helpful as well, however, there is a problem when adding more voices and choices.  It's kind of like the wedding dress shopping problem when you start to all see the same thing over and over again and it gets too hard to think what is right for you.  A couple key people are great and it is important to remember that your voice and needs are the most important here.  Your baby is going to be great no matter what you choose because you are making that choice out of love.  Your baby deserves to have a happy, healthy mama, so you do you and be proud of the choices you make.

Saying all that, I was not tight with my breastfeeding experience.  To be truthful, as we are nearly four months post the end of my breastfeeding journey, I feel like parental amnesia has set in to erase some of the early weeks of struggle an pain.

I was pumped about the opportunity to feed my children, and overwhelmed with how to do so with twins.  There are tons of resources, and I consulted many to see what advice and necessities for BF my boys.  I had absolutely nothing against bottle-feeding, but knew that I wanted to try BF and had the arbitrary goal in my head of feeding the boys for a year.  Where that number came from, I have no idea, but it made sense and many moms I know were able to do this if not go past to several months after this.  It was kind of the same feeling I had about the vaginal birth thing; I wanted to at least be given the opportunity to try because it felt like I could or at least I should be physically/mentally able to for whatever reason.

During my pregnancy, I was a big reader of any parenting advice book, pamphlet, blog that would lead me to having a plan for post-preggo life.  Let me just say that plans are great and everything, but when they don't pan out as intended, it is just best to be gentle with yourself and go with the flow (I know this but rarely am so easy on myself.  It is part of my anxiety that I am working on everyday).

I attended a breastfeeding class offered at our local hospital and was excited about learning all of the support the Family Birthing Center offered and would continue after babies' births.  The woman teaching the class is an angel who had just come back from her own maternity leave and was so easy going about questions and concerns that I had.  She ended up being one of the evening nurses we had during our stay after my c-section and I was so glad because things did not start as easy as I thought they would, or I should say painless.

I can recite over and over that breastfeeding should not be a painful experience, however, I did not have such an easy time, especially at the beginning.  I don't know if it was the twins thing, I don't know if it has something to do with my boobs or my nipples, but my babies' mouths and my ladies did not click and rarely co-exsisted nicely.  Bilbo and Wall-E latched fine, all of the lactation specialists came to make sure that was going well, and my milk came in not like a cute little milk truck, but more like a milk tractor trailer.  I am sure it is a different feeling for every woman, but it honestly felt like I had rocks coming out from my armpits down across the sides of my boobs to my nipples.

I tried not to be stressed those first few times co-feeding the boys, but I was so sore, so tired, and traumatized from the surgery, that every encounter after that felt like it was life or death.  I was worried my boys were too small, both babies were being monitored and toe-pricked for glucose levels, we went to feeding them every two hours for Bilbo who was on a glucose pump and Wall-E who was being watched for jaundice.  The girls felt raw within the first couple of feedings, and good Lord, there is no pain on earth like nipple pain (or at least I thought until I had mastitis the first of three times).  My nurses were so amazing, they brought me ointment, cooling gels, warm washcloths, and kind words of support and encouragement.  I ordered all of the gels (seriously all of the gels, there are some still in my refrigerator) while I was in the hospital and researched the best nipple balm I could find (yup-some in my bathroom cupboard), and was determined to the point of stubbornness that I would be able to get past the two-week period that everyone said was challenging without giving up.

We went home on track still making it work and feeding the boys every three hours.  I learned to set my alarm clock for 9pm, 12am, 3am, and 6am and hoped we could get the babies both fed, laid back down, and sleep a smidge before having to repeat all of that again in the dark.  During the day there was a lot of laying on the couch with sleeping babies while we watched TV between feeding sessions.  Sometimes babies could be laid down in their pack-in-play for naps while I showered or rotated laundry (but never both, because seriously, we can't have it all).  I felt we were eating alright.

And then we went to the pediatrician for the first time two days after getting home.  He has since grown on us, but those first couple of encounters were not my favorites and the Dr. did not win any supportive points as he expressed concern that the babies were born early (they were exactly 38 weeks), they were small (they were born 5+ and 6+ pounds), and that he was concerned about their size.  I heard "wah, wah, wah, your babies are too small, wah, wah, wah, your babies need to eat more, wah, wah, wah, you need to breastfeed your children better." No, those are not the things he said, however, new mamas are fragile and probably should hire an interpreter to help them communicating with other humans for the first few weeks.

So I panicked with his words in my head, and PAG and I rearranged the feeding schedule to get some nutrition in the babies every two hours.  We were told to use an SNS to supplement Bilbo's nutrition because of the extra help he had needed in the hospital and his smaller stature.  I don't know about you, but my experiences with the SNS suggest that the device is created by the devil.  It is a tiny tube that you dangle from your shoulder and slide into the baby's mouth as they are nursing.  They get extra food that slips in from a bottle attached and hanging on your shoulder.  Sounds simple, right?! Well you try tandem nursing two babies and getting the device all set up and in place without falling and then get the babies latched but with enough room in their mouth to slip in a noodle sized tube that bends and wiggles out and drips all over just to piss you off.  No lie, I threw the thing more times than it actually worked, but I would cry every time because I was sure my baby would starve without the SNS.

This is about when I started pumping regularly in between feedings.  Yes, feed, pump, enjoy ten or so minutes of nothing being attached to my boobs, then repeat.  I don't know what I expected with pumping, but I knew my coworkers had pumped at work, so how exciting could it really be.  Not exciting, terrible, just terrible.  I had never felt so alone and less human and more like a cow in my whole life.  Like is this why Darth Vader is so angry, because his body is part machine (and that is how Amanda ruined Darth Vader for fan boys everywhere!).  It hurt with or without nipple balm; it felt as though I was producing droplets and not ounces, but after just feeding two infants, and with the stress of the two hour schedule, who is surprised.  And the business with set up and clean up is just shenanigans.  I would later learn to love my hand pump that I had gotten at the hospital but by then I was on the downhill slide of my breastfeeding career.

About a month into breastfeeding, during one late night, I began running a fever.  I could tell because I would go for about a half hour of feeling all of the layers were not enough to make me warm even when it was the beginning of July to kicking off all of the covers and still feeling like I was going to sweat until I died of dehydration.  I was not supposed to be running any fever post surgery so we called my PCP and got in right away.  My Dr. seemed unsure what was the cause until I asked if it could be from breastfeeding my babies.  I told him that I had noticed a little open cut on my left nipple and that morning my boob was feeling heavier and harder.  He asked to see, and there was what looked like the worst sunburn on the underside of Lefty.  It had not been there getting ready to go to the Dr.'s office.  This was the mysterious mastitis I had heard about which is discussed only briefly when being told about the wonders that are breastfeeding joys.  Nobody likes to talk about how you'll hate everyone (malaise), you'll feel like throwing up and not eating ever (nausea), and you'll have seriously flu achy feelings in your boobs.  The cure, rest (HA), more breastfeeding and pumping on the affected side (did you not see how my tiny carnivorous dinosaur babies have murdered Lefty?), and antibiotics (but only certain ones because you are still breastfeeding).

That was the first time of three going through mastitis.  I must have been prone because I had it later on the right side and then again on the left.  I got so used to showing up at the doctors and showing them the girls that honestly if they asked to see them I probably wouldn't think twice (seriously, pregnancy and parenthood do weird things to your sense of bodily privacy).

It was the second time I had done the mastitis that PAG and I decided to alter our expectations for breastfeeding and planned to supplement with formula and take turns feeding babies.  I had struggled through the first eight weeks of my babies' lives beating myself up over breastfeeding.  I felt pain all of the time, I felt guilty I wasn't enjoying this part of motherhood as I thought I was supposed to, and I thought I was failing so many people with my struggles: my children, my husband, my mother, my pediatrician, my lactation specialists.

We made the change to PAG doing a bottle with one baby while I breastfed the other, and I started treatment for PPD/PPA to support me.  It was the best decision.  As I said, having a great man to share the load of parenthood is so critical.  We also let the babies sleep longer at night and they let us know when they needed to eat.  This gave us all longer sleeps so we weren't as sleep deprived and raw.

I still had one more bout with mastitis to go through, but the switch to bottle and boob were what we needed, especially going into the return to work phase.  I had wanted to be a super mom like my coworkers who pumped at work, but I just couldn't.  I have too much on my plate at school and couldn't do either job, pumping or working to the best of my abilities, so I chose school.  We decided to send our kids to daycare with the formula they provided.  It was another best choice because weaning them was not arduous and emotional for them.

I revised my goal of one year to six months.  We were starting to incorporate solid foods at five months and they were so happy eating all of the food.  At five months I researched painless ways to wean and landed on using cabbage leaves during the day to ease the engorgement and pain as my boobs were screaming, "think of your children!" (trust me, you think it's crazy, but my boobs had lots to say all throughout this adventure).  I enjoyed so much my last feeds with my kids, because I knew I had done my job as a mother, and done it the best I could (she typed as she got teary eyed just reflecting).  I was thankful we were done with BF when the RSV Christmas occurred because it was terrible being apart from either baby enough without dealing with my boobs' feelings at the same time.

There are times I miss it and as my babies approach one, I wonder what it would have been like to have made it this far like women I know have been able to do.  But, as I said above, my journey was mine and the choices I made were the ones that were right for me.  I'm thankful for the experience it was even as the memories blur and fade.  I'm thankful for the people who had kind words of support along the way.  And I'm thankful that my boobs have this story and this accomplishment, because, no joke, they are champions.  Get those girls a medal.



Saturday, March 17, 2018

The IVF Chronicles: Prelims to Preggo-hood


Bilbo and Wall-E have now been out longer than they have been in if that can possibly be believed.  That saying of the days being years and the years being days is spot on; it is a cruel yet amazing truth that our babies have grown and become people as rapidly as they have.  Seeing my coworker's new baby boy at a few weeks old and B&T's sweet baby girl at three months reminds me how tiny yet fragile they felt when they were below fifteen pounds.  The new baby smell is so nice and those first sounds are so sweet;  I do get the butterflies in my uterus feeling their tiny fingers and hearing their little coos, but I am reminded that those early days I felt very fragile and vulnerable and affected by their every cry and overwhelmed with all of their possible needs that I could not translate.  I know they are forming bonds and learning to make sense of their "people" and how to make their wishes known in ways other than squalling, but I remember it feeling like slow goings as we went through it.

I think back to those beginnings and am blessed to know how lucky PG and I were going through our preggo journey.  We learned a lot a long the way, and I now understand so much more about my own lady hormones than I ever thought I wanted to know.  Due to life circumstances, we were never going to have children the fun and sexy way, bummer I know (especially for you readers who thought you were going to get the 50 Shades treatment of my love life).  We discussed with our doctors the options, and they were confident IVF was our only option to potentially have our own biological children.  I should have written more down as we went through it, but honestly, then and still now, I feel like I am grasping at the strings of my balloons of responsibilities and constantly have this feeling like some are slipping away.  So here I am beginning to jot some of my thoughts on the development of our preggo adventures, and maybe if you are going through your own infertility struggles or twin preggo journey, there are some anecdotes here to laugh at or at least give you one more person to connect to on your way.

Prelims to Preggo-hood

PG and I were put on the IVF path by our urologist, Dr. J.  As part of the UPMC Magee team, we knew were going to see a quality doctor, and he really was knowledgeable, but he had not really a sparkling personality, but definitely a memorable one.  I have learned throughout this whole business that medical professionals need that ability to banter and bond when dealing with people at their most vulnerable or with sensitive subjects (you know, the ones involving body parts that would make my fourth graders giggle).  I learned that these professionals have a level of comfort with body parts that is admirable, yet to the lay-nonmedical person, alarming.  Dr. J. was no different, but was very matter of fact and supportive in what we were trying to do and how we could reach our parental goals.  He had the coolness of an all-state athlete who did not need to remind you of how talented he was and if he were an instrument player, I have no doubt he would have been a trumpet player with his NBD attitude about overcoming obstacles.

We were able to ask questions about alternative options and he gave us the honest odds of the likelihood of conception without the highest level of Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART).  The numbers were not good (like for some reason below seven percent chance not good sticks in my head), and he told us straight up that we would probably waste a lot of time and money going through those options and not just jumping into the deep end.

I am not a fan of facing odds and numbers.  I don't feel the rush of possibility when the PowerBall comes around with its super mega-millions because I have never felt like a beat the odds kind of person (we'll revisit this later-turns out I was incorrect about my preggo-potential).  I like making confident, calculated decisions.  I like knowing that I have the capability to control variables and therefore outcomes. So naturally, I wanted to have a kid where the possibilities were endless and there would be no control any more!  And we were going to have to do so in the most foreign to us way possible, where the odds were daunting and the cost financial and emotional high.  

As you are embarking on your own tiny-human adventures, a critical component when getting involved in any getting preggo ambitions, you will need people who are convinced that every challenge is conquerable and are willing to cheer you through plan A, B, C and D in your efforts to get to the finish line (or the starting line depending on how you view the successful birth of your child/children).  PG and I needed the team of people we had both medical and non-medical who checked in on us, offered us advice, and gave us emotional support when we most needed it.

Dr. J. was one of those folks who offered us some of our earliest advice when we consulted him about where he recommended we look for IVF services and his combination of professionalism, coolness, and caring stick with me as what we needed at that stage of our journey.  He directed us to Reproductive Health Services out of Monroeville and we fully had faith that he was giving us the best advice.  Trust and faith are big pieces to this reproductive puzzle and we trusted him with this recommendation.  And now we have two couch climbing, belly laughing bubs thanks to his early guidance.

As mentioned, this is the beginning of a series of reflections on our preggo adventures where hopefully I accurately recall and give proper credit to the folks who helped us in our journey and how we managed to handle the transition from married couple to married couple with two bopping boys.  I'll look next time at the "holy crap-what do all of these letters stand for and you really want to take my blood again?!" of IVF.      

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Keeping Them Safe

I practiced for my own death today.  I scrambled to turn off the lights, but did our obligatory hall sweep to snag any straggling students who needed a safe haven from a hypothetical gunman.  My room is the first classroom inside past the main building doors, so as I am doing my hall sweep, I know in my head that were this not a drill, I would be dead.  I hid behind my desk with my co-teacher trying not to worry about the unthinkable, but after Florida and so many others, how does one not?  



It's the worst to fear going to your place of work and think that if the worst happens, all of the drills are not going to stop the bullets from coming.  Going into college to become a teacher of tiny people, I didn't plan on it being a high risk job.  I figured some bloody noses, days of germiness and puke, and the curmudgeonly family member here and there were as exciting as it gets.  But with every terrible, totally preventable tragedy that hits the headlines, I stop and wonder could it happen here.  And now as a parent, the thought makes me feel that much more helpless not just for my students, but for my children.

There were moments late in my pregnancy that I was afraid to get in my car and drive home.  I live in deer country and despite my love of animals have learned to hate their presense and proclivity for spontaneous road bouncing.  I am not a bad driver, but I worried that every time I got in the car, the worst was going to happen.  I wanted to keep my babies inside me forever near those last weeks because how could I protect them when there were so many chances for danger to manifest?

The arrival of the babies did not help ease this anxiety I felt as it was painful, scary, and traumatizing in ways I wasn't really prepared for.  I remember the tears running down my face as they rushed me to my emergency c-section, worried we were all going to die as they cut me open.  I never want my babies to be that scared or that sad or that worried.  However, one can't really live in a bubble and experience all of the highs of life without the potential of also enduring the lows.  So for a while I felt stuck in how to move forward and live and show my babies that this life is worth living for.

Today's news headlines cause such an ache in my heart.  I listen to the radio news in the morning and mourn when I hear about a young man swallowed up by the opium crisis.  He was someone's son, someone's brother, someone's friend.

There are things that we can be doing.  Phone calls made to representatives to demand action, marches and walk outs participated in to show that hate and pride will not stomp out the rights of children to attend school (and teachers to work) in safe places where they can worry about antonyms and algorithms and not lockdown procedures.  It is easy to feel stuck; I know I was in that place.  But I want a world where I am not agonizing about the dangers and hurt my babies will face.  I want a country that accepts that letting gun fanatics block sensible gun control legislation is why so many peoples' babies have been senselessly murdered.  I want to do my job of creating a caring and nurturing next generation that realizes that mistakes can be learned from and that they can stand up for good, rather than hiding under cabinets and waiting for our deaths.  

 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

How We Got Here-Choosing Parenthood

I once explained to my grandmother that I was not looking to get married or have any children.  This was a teenage pipe dream I had at about 16 when my boyfriends had been lackluster and the prospects were not inspiring.  I told her that instead, I intended to build or buy an enormous house with at least twenty rooms, one of which would house a one lane swimming pool (because I obviously thought that ambition would last forever 🤣).  I could see myself, Richie Rich-style, just chilling my days away playing in all of my rooms solo or with dogs, because that's what introverts dream about; not some lavish wedding reception with people looking at me or planning on babies that would rely on me for their existance.  This was around the time I thought I'd make a good lawyer too because I enjoyed arguing (but honestly what teenager isn't?!) and hadn't figured out that I actually liked some people and enjoyed my hometown so much that I might actually stay there one day and have a family of my own to share it with.  So that was my first life plan.


Fast forward about ten years and the child prospect hadn't improved much.  As far as boyfriends went, I up and married a high school sweetheart who turned out to be more teeth decaying sweet and not long lasting as that marriage crashed and burned a year in thanks to epic and unforgivable infidelity.  I had thought children were a part of that long term plan (I am a big planner as you might have noticed, both short term and long term, and so I said you know what, let's have some kids and see how I enjoy years of not knowing what will happen), but not until we both had #realjobs and a home of some kind nailed down.  Well, Mr. Can't Love Just One Person blew that idea up, and I wandered into my mid twenties experiencing a quarter life crisis that I had not anticipated.

So, heart hurt and feeling professionally stuck after several years of substitute teaching, I was blessed when I met a man who could help me heal my heart and be the partner I didn't realize I needed.  We courted and discussed various marrying challenges that were certain to come our way.  We discussed the obstacles of overcoming first marriage failures, our age difference, whether to have a mattress on the floor or not, and whether or not we saw kids as part of that future.  My mama-hormones were not feeling ready for a while, probably in no small part to still needing to feel settled in this marriage and pursuing some kind of full time job-ness.  That all fell into place not without its bumps as I had the job but then experienced the fun of being furloughed, or laid-off, as the school district closed a building.

I think part of getting ready for parenthood for me was going through these tough changes that would make me more heart-strong, more patient, more understanding and ready for tiny humans who needed that woman and not the one I was at 16 or 26.  I needed to experience other joys and trials before I could do this and do it in any way well or confidently (not that it ever feels well or confident-but as I look back at these first eight months, I realize I'm not doing too bad).  Learning and reflecting is not just a part of my profession, but really a part of my DNA and personality, so I'd like to think that I have taken a good part of my life to learn how to be a good parent, and hopefully, now that the real work is required, I am ready, come what may.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Choosing to Snuggle

It was a glorious, GLORIOUS night where the boys slept from 8pm to 4am earlier this week.  Seriously, those who have not gone months where the longest sleep stretch is three hours cannot process the amount of crazy that starts to accumulate and how regular brain function begins to deteriorate with the deprivation.  I felt so human and jazzed for the day, and thankful that baby-sleep gods had looked down on the husband and me and threw us a one night bone.

Bilbo, boppy, and baby snuggles.

So, it was a bit of a bummer that last night we were back to the 11pm, 1am, 3am, 4am bottle relay that we have pushed ourselves through for 800 months.  The only difference between last night and the previous many was that I had banked some sleep the night before and struggled with falling and staying asleep rather than waking up to tend to my children.  When you know you are probably going to be needed and on call for baby fetching and feeding at 11pm, the needing to fall asleep in an efficient, expedient manner is a matter of maintaining sanity.  So I was unhappy with my wakefulness when all I needed was a bit of unconsciousness to get me through the regular nightly routine.

Wall-E and Bilbo, one and a half months.
By the time we got to the 4:15 wake up and bottle feed of the early morning, I had been thinking to myself that maybe I should just haul my ass out of bed and get my day going early.  Perhaps I could get the dog's morning needs addressed and put away dishes or get a load of laundry started.  However, as I was laying in my bed feeding Bilbo and feeling his body tucked into my side and armpit, I realized that by pushing myself to clean, organize, and clean, I am forgoing time that is fleeting with my babies.  I was reminiscing earlier this week about last January when the husband and I were starting to feel the flutters and bubbles that were baby movements in my belly.  It's sad to think that what seemed like such a long time going through it is over and how the same issue of time slipping too quickly will happen as my boys grow.


Wall-E and Bilbo, party animals.
As much as I feel the impulse to declutter, clean, and straighten the things as a way of managing my anxiety and wanting to make my house feel cozy, functional, and a place I can relax in rather than feel fret-y about, I want to be with my husband, and I want to be with my children because this time will be gone before I know it.  I want my babies to grow and be happy and become amazing kids who later grow into amazing people, so I need to realize what/who is the most important even in the times where I could be working on my never ending to-do list.  At the end of the day, there will always be something I could be working on, but at this point, I am learning that I'd rather snuggle with my husband and babies while I have the time to enjoy it.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Be Gentle

Some days are just rough ones.  This day was one of them.  I have never known exhaustion to the level that I do now as a parent.  There must be a word for what happens when you have only had like five complete REM cycles in the past seven (plus the end of my pregnancy where I was up and uncomfortable all of the time) months.

The look of our bed throughout the night; often one or more babies , post-bottle catching the sweet sleep we so so are longing for.
For the most part we have had luck with babies who are willing to fall asleep without too much pomp and circumstance.  We bathe, read, eat and then they are generally conked by 8/8:30pm, with us following quickly behind.  We have been testing this with staying up little bits later here and there, sometimes reading, sometimes playing a stupid phone game, sometimes even watching an episode or maybe just half, of television.  I know this daring of time to bite us in the face would come back to get us one of these nights, and last night it did.

We had a highly stimulating day yesterday, traveling to Pittsburgh to participate in the Women's March.  I was thrilled to see my godmother, who is a badass queen of a lady who had not yet met the boys, so it was like a combination of all of my favorite things and people.  There were quite a crew of marchers for the walk downtown from the Courthouse to Market Square.  Lots of noise, speeches, cheering and booing to keep the fellas up when they might otherwise be napping.  That paired with being off our normal eating routine, I think built up a perfect storm of sleeplessness that they later rained down on all of us.

We saw them by chance crossing the street amongst hundreds of people, because the world is awesome sometimes.
It started with Baby B at 11pm, quickly followed by Baby A.  Normally when both boys are fed, we are able to slip them back into cribs for at least some chunk of the evening-not last night.  The guys were not having anything to do with sleeping by themselves, however, they were not pleased with their positioning in our bed and felt quite comfortable to vocalize their frustration through screams.

Had this been a Friday or Saturday night, I might have not been as brittle and frustrated as I was on a Sunday night going into a long stressful work week.  The PPD/PPA rears its ugly, scary-images head when I feel weak and tired and worn thin.  I made a hurtful comment to my wonderful husband that I deeply regret, causing him frustration and sadness which I never want, because he is in this 100%.  We are both slogging through the ups and downs of double-baby parenting together and he is there for me over and beyond anything I could have imagined.

I followed up my rough outlook on humanity at school having little to no patients with me kiddos.  Granted they bring their own baggage to the table that is exhausting emotionally and mentally, but if parenthood, especially the unglamorous, not-so fun side of parenting and working on the least amount of rest as possible branch of parenthood has taught me anything it is to take care of each other.  Be kind and gentle because we are each fragile and raw and working through this unpredictable stage working with the tools we have and are capable of summoning.  We don't always have the right words or the strength to make the best choices, but we can at least acknowledge that we are doing the best we can with what we are given to manage at any given moment.  So be gentle, show more grace and understanding and patience, and give hugs and listen because there are so many feelings in this business and Swiss cheese, non sleep brain just jumbles them up and makes everyone feel worse than they already do.  And when someone offers to watch one or both or all of your children for the evening or afternoon so you can catch some zzzz's, take it; you never know when you will get your next eight hours.  Happy resting.