Puke-tastic Wednesday

 

Sad sack in penguin jammies.  

I’ve been picking up some legal work lately and it’s been taking up a lot of my spare time.  Which is to say, the moments that I am not utterly needed by one or both of my children, I sit down to draft a motion or two.  I love being able to contribute financially, even though it’s not a whole lot.  I like being able to keep my resume honest, and to exercise my brain a bit.  But I do not care for being stretched so thin some days that I am not good at, or pleased about, the too many tasks at hand.

It’s not that I never have time to work.  I do, though it means forgoing all hobbies and most relaxation.  The main issue is that the work of a caretaker is totally unpredictable and allows for no putting off.  The inferior design of our offspring does not end with their chillingly floppy necks at birth, or the fact that as infants passing what is essentially high-pressure poop water requires strained grunts. Children also lack snooze buttons. And child who is hungry, tired, hurt, or sick needed you five minutes ago.

Today was Edie’s last day of school for the week.  She attends Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  I miss her in a way, but truly life with her at home all day everyday was unmanageable.  And I love having some time alone with the shiny new baby.  This is only her third week at school, and despite its notable challenges, school has been a good thing.  And though it’s only her third week, I’ve gotten real used to this set-up.  Playing lawyer while Eli sleeps, and when he wakes, cuddles and luxurious stroller walks through my neighborhood, basking in the company of a child who has not yet learned to fill the air with “Mama, mom, mommy. What’s that? Where is that guy going? Are we going to a friend’s house? Where’s dad? What did you say? Mom? Mommy? Mama?!”  It’s all been working out pretty well.

So I was less than pleased when Ms. Preschool Teacher called me this morning less than an hour after Edie was dropped off to tell me that Edie seemed sick.  I knew that I had sent the kid to school with some minor sniffles.  I did.  And I had some hesitation.  But another human child defect is that their noses run like 50% of the time.  This obviously has a lot to do with the fact that they spend a great deal of time acquiring every germ in a five-mile radius.  Don’t put that in your mouth!you will beg.  And then they will put it in their mouths, and look at you with dead eyes, as the bacteria which once coated the floor-Lego at Target gets transferred to their bloodstream.  But it wasn’t the sniffles that earned me this phone call.  It was projectile vomit.  I wanted to pick up my daughter immediately, of course.  But more than that, I wanted to rewind back to the happy place where I was drinking coffee, wrapping up two projects, and contemplating one of those lovely unhurried days where you clean your house with a song in your heart – instead of as fast as you can so you can retain some dignity when the visitors arrive.

When I came up to the door, Edie was there, dazed and pukey. “Mama, I did vomit.”  The teacher warned me that there was vomit on her shoes.  And on the sweater she’d warn.  This was in addition to the clearly visible vomit all up and down the child’s shirt and pants.  And it was just a warm-up for the heart breaking and disgusting day we were about to have.  Suffice it to say that the mini steam cleaner we bought paid for itself many times over. But the thing is, though super sad and nauseous Edie needed 100% of me 100% of the time, Eli needed 100% of me about 33% of the time, and then work needed me sometime.  But sometime today.  Because outside of my personal Groundhog Day vortex, there are deadlines.

There was a magical moment when Eli was sleeping and Edie, in spite of her best efforts, drifted off for about twenty minutes.  I was able to return the work call that I’d gotten earlier while I was driving home with a screeching three-month old and a pitifully sick and sad two year old.  Watching that call come in, avoiding even touching the phone lest I accidentally answer it (and almost certainly turn it onto speakerphone instantly), makes me feel like an imposter.

There were less magical moments, like when I was rubbing Edie’s back as she let loose into a bucket and Eli woke up, screaming himself into a sweaty rage as he waited to be rescued.  I did manage to finish everything I needed to as my alter ego, Lawyer Lady.  And I was glad to be here for Edie, to wipe her face and to answer her question “why am I sick, mom?” over and over again.

I have days that I wish I worked.  But I don’t have any days where I wish I wasn’t here with these kids.  A break now and again?  Absolutely.  Armed with my steam cleaner, though, I feel really lucky.

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Things I Hope Are Funny One Day: Googling "family therapist" before 9 a.m.

Apparently, every one of your dear friends and family members assuring you that your daughter will be a good pupil is not a force strong enough to make it so.  I got word yesterday from Edie’s preschool teacher that Edie is being less than cooperative.  I’m not shocked.  But I am disappointed. And exhausted.  I’d noticed the teacher’s demeanor go from sunny to stoney over the last few days, but, you know, she’s a young gal about the town.  Could be boyfriend troubles? Or her shoes are too tight?  No.  It’s my kid.  Word is, Edie won’t nap and so she’s over-tired and thus she’s hell on wheels in class.  I’m not sure what to do, but I know that there is a waiting list a mile long to get into this school so something better change fast.

So, she refuses to nap at school. But how do you get a child with supernatural no-sleep abilities to sleep? THIS IS NOT RHETORICAL. I REALLY REALLY WANT TO KNOW!!!  Edie stayed awake through international travel at 18 months, she could skip naps for the entire day by a few weeks of age if she did not have access to perfect quiet, my boobs, and her own bed.  When we took her to the US from Germany at 11 months, she slept so frighteningly little during the entirety of our stay that when we finally returned home, she had lost her voice from crying and her first night back went to sleep and didn’t wake up but to nurse once for EIGHTEEN HOURS. These days, to make up for her nap deficit, I am racing to make dinner early, so we can get her wound down, and then in bed, at 7 pm.  But best laid plans are not enough, and she still keeps herself up until nearly 10.  We are trying. so. hard.  Even Will, the calmest, most loving man and dad I know, cannot keep his cool anymore.

A big part of me is beating myself up.  I know I have not been the mom that she needs.  But a small part of me thinks that this has been unreasonably hard.  Her brother is three months old.  She is two and a half.  News flash, child: your long term memory can no longer reach a point before your brother’s existence!  She spends the day alternating between hysterical (and I mean hysterical – sounds I have never heard that manifest just utter confusion and dispair) crying, flagrant disobendience, and heart-breaking clinginess – “mommy, are you happy?” “mommy, can I hug you” “mommy, are you tired? You’re not sad, mommy. You are just tired.”

And while I typed, I got the second call from preschool.  Come and get her.  Nothing is working.  The class can’t function with Edie going on like this.  Her brother is waking up now, and I should put him in the car seat and race there.  But I don’t know what to do once I get her.  I’ll go in a minute. I will.  But I am scared of the day ahead.

I think I need to talk to someone about this.  I don’t think Edie needs help from someone else.  She needs help from me.  But I need some new tools.  Because I am at a loss and losing more of both of our sanity each day.  Full time three month old, part time legal work from home, a nearly expelled from preschool two year old, and now some therapy.  Next up: Santeria. 

Oh my Edie.  You are my most sensitive, special, wonderful little girl.  Let’s get it together, hon.  My heart is breaking.  Mom’s coming now.

Take my furbabies. Please.

You can’t squeeze blood from a stone, dog.  You just can’t.
Hey there! Are you a parent of one or more young children?  Got yourself a dog, too?  Then I know a little secret: You hate your dog.  “Hate” is, of course, a very strong word.  And quite reductive.  But I think you’ll find if you make a long list of all the things you feel for your dog, and then weigh them out, selecting the one that resonates strongest with your inner most feelings, you’re going to land on hate.  (And you are going to want to sum it up, because believe that with the endless boring kid stories that you subject the world to, no one wants to hear more than one word about your dog.)  You see, hate does not imply indifference; you can’t hate what you don’t care a lot about, and so it allows for bursts of pity, remorse, and even love.  But, yeah, you hate your dog.

And why wouldn’t you?  Your life is filled with doing disgusting things for children who you would walk through fire for.  Your reward is little sleep, no social life, and the psychological torture that any peace you may happen upon can and often will be ripped out from under you at any moment, day or night.  So when your dog, say, walks around the house vomiting at the exact moment you were going to sit down to shovel in a meal during the twenty minutes of reprieve that you were only probably going to get anyways on account of the children, it is not blasé indifference that you feel.  It’s hateful rage.  Because what you do for your kids, you just do.  You may have moments of feeling overwhelmed, but you soldier on.  Your dogs become so very… optional.  But you opted for them.  And now they’re yours.  And they are river-dancing on your last nerve with their smelly, flea-riddled, veterinarian bill inducing antics.

While I still love them on sporadic occasion, I used to love them full-time.  Loved, loved my dogs.  I was far more likely to attend a function if it was dog-friendly.  I chose restaurants in walking distance with patios so that our dog could sit at our feet while we dined.  They made me laugh, slept in my bed when my husband was out of town, and were on my mind frequently when I was apart for them.  Now, I knew that I wanted kids one day, and I don’t thinkI ever had any true delusions that my dogs would somehow stay equal in my eyes.  Any thoughts I had like that I at least had the sense to keep to myself, because the rational me knew it wasn’t so.  But what I couldn’t and didn’t see was how the similar work of pet ownership – though vastly less demanding – would so frequently require sanity that I simply did not have to offer.

As a disclaimer, I walk my dogs daily.  When we go out of town, we get an in-house dog sitter.  Their kibble is of the finest caliber.  And my kid loves them, which wins them many a bonus point.  But not a day goes by when the burden of their existence does not give me pause, and there are many days when I want them to take a long doggy walk off a short doggy pier.  There is currently a pile of puke in the EXACT CENTER of the floor underneath my large and heavy bed.  I spent a goodly amount of time with a Swiffer, roll of paper towel, and an arsenal of cleaners, yet I know it is only 90% clean.  I have to live with that fact until my husband and I make time to move the bed and scrub the floor.  And yet I can turn my head and see the vile perpetrator of this act lounging her smelly self on my never-to-be-really-clean sofa, just resting up for the next time she can steal food that I beg her to drop because I know it will make her sick and then it does make her sick.  *Shudder*

If you have dogs and no kids, and you one day want kids, I understand that you will not agree with me.  And that is fine.  Because I don’t need you to believe that I am right.  The thing is, I am right.  But I won’t ever say “I told you so.”  There are so many lessons that you’ve got to learn yourself.  So feel free to give me a call when you are ready to admit that you hate your dog.

Eli’s Birth Story

 The last days of my pregnancy were filled with more calm relaxation than anticipation, even though I didn’t go into labor until six days after my due date.  During that week, my oldest, two and a half year old Edie, started a month-long summer parent’s day out program.  It was her first preschool experience and although it was only two days a week, I was nervous that because its start date coincided so closely with my due date, Edie would feel pushed out and displaced.  But the baby gave us an extra week during which Edie not only adjusted to school but emerged as teacher’s pet. Not to mention that this bonus week gave me my first two Edie-free days at home ever that were not filled by studying for the Tennessee bar.  The first day she was in school, I walked the dogs, rested, cleaned and organized.  The second day, house eerily clean and organized, I was able to go to the gym and get a new haircut.  This haircut was apparently a major departure because when I arrived in Edie’s class to pick her up, she stood next to her teacher, squinted at me and said “Is that you, Rachael?”.  Very funny, my little comedian. 
Later that evening there was a dinner for the neighborhood moms club I’m in.  I hadn’t rsvp’d for it, given that I thought I’d be home with a tiny baby on that date.  But in a fit of the closest thing to bachelorette-dom that I imagined I would be feeling for quite awhile, I decided to attend.  So after my day of a workout without having to leave a teary-eyed child in YMCA daycare, an hour alone in a salon, a nice dinner sans kids with my whale-like self somehow squeezed into what was never meant to be a littleblack dress, and at least ten different moms at the dinner commanding my unborn child to be born already, contractions started as I walked to my car around 10 p.m. that night. 
I didn’t tell my husband at first when I got home because they were gentle enough that I thought they could fade away.  But after we went to bed, they were strong and regular enough for me to feel certain that baby was on the way.  So I rolled over and told him I was having contractions, but nothing urgent, so go back to sleep and I’d text Susie, my midwife, to let her know.  He heard “go back to sleep” loud and clear.  Sleep didn’t find me that night, but I was able to rest and to stay in bed until about 6 a.m.  I felt happy and excited, but also determined to let these early contractions pass through me without counting the seconds between each one or letting my mind run amok.  Though the birth of my daughter was a healthy and in general a lovely experience, it was long and draining.  Like many first timers, I let my adrenaline get the best of me from the first contraction and in retrospect I believe that clenching anxiety gummed up the works.
Around 6 or 7 in the morning, I called my midwife, Susie.  We had a regular check-up scheduled for that afternoon at 1:30 p.m. but we decided that she should stop by earlier.  For weeks, maybe months, Edie had often danced around me yelling out “Susie! Susie! Come get out Tummy Baby!”, just sort of shouting it into the wind, hoping that this alleged baby brother or sister would finally make an appearance.  It seemed like today would be that day – though I didn’t tell Edie that Tummy Baby seemed imminent.  I did not want to get her all worked up and her well-being was my only nagging concern.  We don’t have any family in or near Nashville, so we were counting on my mother-in-law driving in from northern Indiana as fast as she could.  Set to arrive at our house about noon, Will and I had a lot of time to kill with Edie, and a lot of contractions to disguise as mommy playing the brand new freeze ‘n’ breathe game.  It became obvious that having Edie around wasn’t doing much good for anyone, so I called our dear friend Carolyn who rearranged her morning so that she could watch Edie for a few hours.  Will dropped Edie off and told me that she went in without so much as a peep about her mom’s absence.  This was among the first of many leaps in independence that Edie would make surrounding her brother’s entrance into this world.  And it made me feel that intense mix of grief, pride, and joy that I never knew until I became a mother.
My morning at home was rather calm, all things considered.  Susie came by at 10, and confirmed that things seemed to be progressing well.  I was about 4 cm dilated, contractions were regular but still manageable.  Because she had another appointment in the neighborhood, Susie left for awhile, ready to return when I needed her.  For his part, Will was there for whatever I needed but he let it slip that maybe he wouldn’t hate a trip to the gym.  I asked him to keep his phone on and told him to get going; I could certainly appreciate the anxiety he was feeling with our world about to get turned upside down again.  I think we both needed a moment alone.  For my part, I started off pacing up and down my hallway to get the contractions going stronger, but eventually found myself swinging on our back patio on a fairly mild Tennessee summer morning.
Will picked Edie up on his way back.  We gave her lunch and then – in a move that truly solidifies my status as a control freak – I rocked Edie to sleep for her nap, singing lullabies through no less than four contractions.  I wanted so badly to hang on to the final threads of normalcy and my obsession with Edie getting enough sleep could not be quelled even by active labor.
Soon afterward, Susie returned and my mother-in-law arrived.  Though we were all quiet as mice, Edie could not be fooled even in her sleep. She uncannily woke up less than half an hour after I got her down.  But Edie’s short nap was just as well, because it was getting pretty clear that this baby was going to arrive in the near future. I was not mobile at this point, but Edie came in my room to say hello to me and then got her real thrill when she saw that Grandma Sally was here to play.  As I lay on my bed while folks scampered around in the house, Edie cried out and then I heard her dad say that she’d gotten a splinter.  Edie and Susie had gotten very close throughout my prenatal care, and upon hearing her cry Susie tried to make a pit stop to help her little friend out.  I truly didn’t mean to steal the show from Edie’s splinter, but I began to groan in my room and Susie decided to abandon splinter duty for now and instead focus on getting her assistant, Cindy, here.  Edie and her grandma left to go play at nearby Ugly Mugs café.
Susie examined me again and I was at 8 cm at around 1 p.m.  Now the endorphins were flowing and I was rendered totally drunk with that surreal birthing sleepiness.  The bed hadn’t been prepared, the birth tub hadn’t been filled, Susie hadn’t changed into her scrubs, and I was still wearing my sun dress.  But this baby was coming.  My labor was getting intense at this point and I was getting close to the transition phase.  Being in active labor in the middle of the day was a totally different experience than my first time, when I labored throughout the night and gave birth near sunrise.  This time, I was much more able to be fully present and not just exhausted and overwhelmed.  At this point, it was all very primal.  I felt like an animal that had wandered off to lay down in a field to give birth.  When my water broke, I muttered “Oooh. That was my water.” sounding not at all unlike Eeyore.   The intelligence of the process was a lot clearer to me than the first time, and Susie’s reassurance and quiet support kept me at ease.
Before it was time to push, Susie and Cindy offered the birth tub to me, saying it was really my last chance to move.  I shot that offer down immediately.  I don’t curse, have negative feelings toward people, or even shout that much while giving birth.  But I have very strong opinions on being touched or moved.  My loving husband tried to rub my shoulders and was told something like “I love you. Thank you. But you must stop.”  At this juncture, moving was not an option for me.  Susie did manage to get me to roll onto my side, though I whined a bit about even this amount of jostling.  
Once I was in a good position, it was time to push.  I was left almost entirely to myself during this process, which for me was perfect.  A few directions, suggestions, and words of encouragement, but mostly it was just me and baby.  I tried with everything I had to stay with the contractions – not to shirk away and just wait until they passed.  But instead to connect with the baby, focusing on this new person who I finally got to meet.  As we got toward the final pushes, Susie and Cindy laughed about the head of hair my kid had.  And though I don’t think I would’ve believed this before it happened, I was relieved to feel the crowning begin because I knew we were so close to being done, and I knew that I could muster up the final effort to help my baby out.  There was a short spell of odd quiet when the baby was first out, which I later learned was because his rather short umbilical cord was partially wrapped around him so that it took a bit of wiggling to get him into my arms.  But within a few moments, Will told me that we had a son – just as he’d been the one to tell me that we had a daughter.  And then I got that little boy in my arms.  As soon as he saw me he let out a short but powerful cry, and then settled on my chest.  It was 3:43 p.m. and we had our son, who we named Eli Robert.
It is hard to find words for what I felt when my son was placed in my arms.  When Edie was born, I loved her completely but I was so scared.  It took me time to set aside my fear of being needed so completely by this helpless human being and learn to revel in the experience.  But with Eli, though I had apprehensions about managing life with two kids, I was ready for him.  Finally meeting him was like standing under a waterfall, just totally consumed with gratitude and bliss. 
Edie came home shortly after the afterbirth was out.  Instead of bounding in like usual, she came into the bedroom cautiously; my sensitive girl could no doubt tell how sacred this moment was.  And I was in heaven in my own bed, with Eli in my arms, Will at my side, and now my first born there with us.  Edie absolutely glowed as she leaned in to inspect and kiss this tiny boy, as we told her “This is Tummy Baby, Edes. His name is Eli.”  For days she marveled in that fact – “You don’t have a Tummy Baby anymore, mom.  Eli is Tummy Baby!”
Evening was upon us, so Will ordered some pizzas and Susie and Cindy stayed for dinner.  I felt well enough to sit on the couch with Eli, close to my family and birth team who were having a little pizza party.  We took some more pictures.  I thanked Susie and Cindy again and again, though never enough, for seeing us though Eli’s birth.  Will put Edie to sleep that night, which was a first – he’d never done so with me in the house.  She complained for a moment, but quickly relented and was even asleep at a decent hour.   My quiet Eli had roused a few times to nurse but was generally in a peaceful slumber on his birthday.  And I even got a few hours of sleep that first night, mostly with Eli dozing on my chest as I lay propped up on a pillow, or with him curled up against my side.  If I could’ve frozen time, I would have, just for a bit, to savor those moments before all of the endless small things in life add back up and cloud what’s real and important.