Sunday, May 24, 2009

SO Glad I Don't Have Eight Kids! (But Wish I Already Had Two.)

Or seven, or six, or five, or four, or three. And quite honestly, I'm deeply ambivalent about whether I even want two. I'm truly happy with my one amazing daughter. I used to want two or three. I even thought maybe four. But then I became a mother, and parenting was no longer theoretical, it was my life, and it was SO much harder than I had expected. I quickly revised my ideal number to two.

About a year after the Little One was born, I very suddenly and desperately wanted another one. This is apparently very common. Something about surviving that first year with your firstborn and becoming incredibly nostalgic and wanting to do it all over again. And I thought it would be good if my kids were close in age. Good for us, to get through the tough stages faster, and good for them, to improve the chances that they could be friends as well as siblings.

When she was about 20 months old, we had an "oops" moment and conceived. It was a welcome "oops" pregnancy, as we were planning to try for another child soon thereafter. We were excited, and I was determined not to be as anxious this time around. Our first pregnancy had ended quickly in an early miscarriage, and though this is very common (not to mention something we might not have even known about in the days before the early home pregnancy tests), it was devastating for us. From the moment we knew we had conceived the Little One we became exceedingly anxious. And though I enjoyed the pregnancy overall, the anxiety definitely put a damper on the whole experience. So this time, I wasn't going to give in.

As the first weeks went on, the Hubster was doing pretty well in keeping the anxiety at bay as well. He was calm and supportive and reassuring that all would be well. As for me, my only concession to worry was to occasionally say "I only want to see that little heartbeat and then I'll be fine." We were out of town around week 8, so our second appointment was pushed ahead to somewhere between weeks 9 and 10. My wonderfully understanding OB had promised an ultrasound at this appointment, to help reassure us, so we knew we would be able to see our little peanut. I was excited about the appointment, eager to receive that reassurance.

In a way, though intellectually I knew it didn't work like this, I felt that if I didn't worry, everything would be fine. Magical thinking, I guess. So I worked hard at keeping the anxiety at bay, and I was certain that everything would be fine. When the OB couldn't find the heartbeat with the Doppler, something he said he could usually do with someone as slender as I was at the time, I didn't feel any panic or dread. I completely believed him when he said everything was probably just fine. And he had promised an ultrasound to check things out anyway, and I didn't want to miss out on that. So in a way I was absurdly relieved that he couldn't find it, because I was afraid that if he did, he wouldn't order the ultrasound. Can you believe that? I was RELIEVED. I didn't WANT him to find it. I wanted to see the peanut. It didn't even occur to me to begin to get nervous.

We went down the hall to the room where they do the ultrasounds, and the tech soon had me ready to go. She soon found the peanut, and began pointing out the features of the "sac" and "fetal pole," all familiar to us as second-time expectant parents. I still didn't see anything wrong. I was just waiting for her to find the little pulsing light that would signify the peanut's heartbeat. I knew it would be there somewhere. It had to be. But then she suddenly said, "I'm sorry, I don't see a heartbeat," and began to shut off the equipment. Just. like. that.

I stared at her, stunned, as the Hubster squeezed my hand. My eyes sprouted tears before I even knew I would cry. I wanted to yell at her, to shout, "KEEP LOOKING! It has to be there! Keep looking, please!!!" She had to be wrong. The moment had become surreal.

(Ultrasound techs out there? Do us a favor. Take the moments to KEEP LOOKING. You know it's over, you know you're not going to find it. But the patient is not the image, the patient is a woman on the table, with her partner or other loved one by her side, and she needs you to at least pretend to keep looking. Let her see that it isn't there. Don't stop so abruptly. Because it will take us a few moments to catch up with you, and we need to see it for ourselves.)

We went back to the exam room, where the OB expressed condolences for the loss and talked to us about how to proceed. The evidence showed that the peanut had probably died around seven and a half to eight weeks, which meant that my body wasn't miscarrying as it should have. I didn't even know how to process that information. I was sort of relieved that I hadn't begun to bleed at home, for I knew how awful that was, but I felt sick to think that I had been walking around for possibly as long as two weeks without knowing what had happened inside of me. How did I not know? The OB offered two options: wait a bit to see if my the miscarriage would happen naturally, or have a D&C. I chose the latter.

Before they wheeled me in for the procedure I asked my OB one more time if he was sure it was over. We wanted to believe that they had been wrong. He took a moment to sit and explain everything, detailing the evidence from the ultrasound. He also told me that he was a man of faith and that there was no way he would be doing this if he had any doubt. I'm not a religious person, so my physician's faith had never been of concern to me in my medical care (and to tell you the truth, I don't really want my physician relying too much on God's will, just in case it makes him/her not fight as fiercely for my life in a critical moment!), but I did find this reassuring in this moment.

Physically, I recovered quickly (the whole D&C was a breeze actually), but emotionally it took me some time to feel better, as it does for everyone. Some days were tougher than expected. My birthday was bad (the baby's due date), Christmas was slightly melancholy (we "should" have had two kids), and when my birthday came around again I felt a little blue realizing that the baby would have been a year old already.

We had put pregnancy plans on hold for awhile after the D&C, but tried again last summer, trying to time it for early this summer. We're now debating whether to try this summer. The Hubster wants another child, the Little One keeps talking about a baby sister, but I'm feeling more ambivalent than ever. Things are finally falling into place. My career is about to be properly launched. The Little One is entering her final year of preschool. We're out of diapers, pull-ups, and even those nighttime underpants. The sippy cups are gone. We sold the stroller, high chair, and pack-n-play months ago. I'm turning 42. I'm feeling beyond this stage of having babies and taking care of an infant, a toddler, a three-year-old. I had a ROUGH postpartum period, for months, and really don't want to experience that kind of thing ever again. It took two years to really feel like myself again, and three years to completely recover my mental sharpness. And above all, we are a happy little family. Why mess with perfection?

And yet... I'm feeling a little bit of melancholy to realize that this will be the last year of preschool, that a year from now I won't be the mommy of a very small child anymore. I can't yet part with the baby and toddler clothes stored in my garage. I'm old enough that I can't really change my mind in a few years. (Yes, I know that maybe I physically COULD, but I have no interest in pregnancy after a certain point. I barely have interest in it now.)

I didn't really intend to tell this whole story today. I was sitting here trying to think of something to write, staring at an episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8 on the t.v. (big marathon this weekend in preparation for the juicy season premiere tomorrow night ... stop judging me, you KNOW you're gonna watch it), taking in yet another scene of a roomful of screaming children and feeling intensely grateful that my house is never filled with such a cacophony, so I started to write about that. Posts sometimes have a mind of their own.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Serious Laziness

That's what's going on around here... nothin' but laziness. But I'm not very good at it anymore somehow. I puttered around yesterday for hours trying to begin various activities but couldn't get anything started. The office redesign took all of my energy, but also resulted in chaos in nearly every other room because I had piled all of the junk from the office in the dining room and laundry room and tore apart two closets to get all of the books out. On Monday I had so much energy that I figured I would spend the rest of the week doing the closets and other rooms. HA! I seemed to have forgotten that I am nearly 42, not 24, and the old girl tuckers out more quickly now. Particularly at the end of the academic year, when I'm just fried.

Somewhere around 4:00 I finally settled into my favorite chair and opened a book (Appetite for Life, a fantastic biography of Julia Child, which is a dense but delicious book that I started reading about three summers ago and am finally about to finish). And I realized that this was precisely what I should have done hours before, when I first felt the utter torpidity take over my being.

We (and when I say "we," I mean my husband) finished the day by grilling thick salmon fillets. (FYI for spelling freaks like me: In the previous sentence I first typed filet, but it looked wrong, and so I googled both words and discovered that filet and fillet are actually interchangeable.) We devoured them with copious amounts of risotto and a bit of salad and bread, and collapsed onto the couch to watch the latest episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey (yo!).

So what will today bring? Will I have the energy to tackle a closet or clean the clutter on my dining room table? Or will I give up and sit my butt down in my reading chair and finish that book? Stay tuned for the exciting developments...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Staycation

I’ve put myself on vacation this week. We aren’t going anywhere, so it isn’t a real vacation, but I needed a way to ensure that I wouldn’t even open my work email for an entire week. (Even though it's summer break and I'm technically on leave for three months, I usually check email daily and reply to any queries from students, colleagues, administration, etc.). I enabled the vacation auto-reply feature on Friday afternoon and have not checked it since. I was tempted to check it this morning, just to see what’s in there (no doubt students complaining about grades), but resisted the impulse.

I have needed to get things in serious order in this house for ages, and I promised myself to do just that first thing this summer. We’ve begun with a redesign of our home office space, which doubles as a guest room. It’s never looked quite right, and neither of us liked to spend much time in there, so now that the rest of the house is pretty much finished it’s time to tackle it. We put in two bookcases, bought a new bedset for the guest bed, and cleared all of the junk out. Now I’m populating the bookcases, freeing our books from the closet shelf exile they’ve endured since we moved here (in 2006!). Then I’ll have to tackle the dreaded office closet, into which every miscellaneous item has been shoved for those same three years. Gulp. This is going to take courage. And endurance. Wish me luck.

UPDATE: It took me ALL DAY just to organize the books and get them in the shelves. I would never have believed it would take that long. Of course it could have been the completely obsessive way I organized them by type, size, and color before putting them in. And then the fact that the kidlet insisted on placing each and every one (at least she followed my instructions, so I didn't have to re-do). But we had fun with it, and I put on some old tunes (cassette tapes I found in the closet) and we danced and sang like lunatics. (I haven't done that in ages, and discovered that a 4-year-old is your best companion for such antics.)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Every Day Can Be Saturday for the Next 3 Months

Yes, that's right beyotches, the finals and papers are evaluated, the grades are submitted, and I am FREEEEEE for three whole months. Not that I won't work, but it will be on my time. Also on my dime, since we aren't paid in the summer, but who cares? We saved all year long, so we're set.

Around lunchtime today I found myself feeling a bit anxious, as Saturday was slipping away too quickly already. But then I remembered... I am in the time of the endless weekend, the perk that makes being generally underpaid (relative to the investment of time and money getting the Ph.D.) well worth it. This, my friends, is a big part of why we get into academia. It isn't the only reason, of course. I truly adore the teaching and research and writing and can't imagine doing anything else. And I'll be enjoying it even more now that I have the security of entering the tenure-track (and at a university that seems likely to weather the tough economy).

But I digress. The point is that my summer has begun, and that makes Kaza want to SQUEEE!!! That does mean that I'll have to come up with things to blog about. I gave the dusty old blog a bit of a cleaning and a new look. It's not exactly a makeover, but it was time for a change and I've wanted to go 3-column for ages. Let me know what you think.

As for me, I spent the last two hours playing with the kidlet: Barbies, Dora dolls, beauty parlor, and "big sister/little sister" (that's a new one she came up with today). She had a blast and was delighted that mommy was finished with her work and could play with her for so long. I'm completely exhausted and I have a headache from that high-pitched voice she uses for every doll (what is up with that?). I have earned my martini, my friends, and I'm going to go shake one up rightthisminute.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mama's Day!!!

I am having the most wonderful Mother's Day yet. They've all been great, but this year has been idyllic. They let me sleep until I wanted to get up (I made it all the way to 9:30, which is hilarious considering I was still capable of sleeping past noon before I had the Little One, even at age 35!). They fed me orange rolls and coffee. The Little One gave me the most beautiful handmade cards a 4-year-old has ever made (I know some of you might want to challenge me on this, but it's simply true). She gave me tons of hugs all day long and continued to make drawings. She and her daddy let me watch chick t.v. and read my book. Her daddy popped the champagne for me (real champagne, Perrier-Jouet!) at 5:00, and I've had two glasses already. (Mmmmmm.) He is now making me salsa, and after the Little One goes to bed (she falls asleep early on no-nap days like this) he'll make me fish tacos, I'll drink yet more delicious champagne, and we'll watch a movie together (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, my request). It's pretty much perfect.

This age is so great. At 4, she's so amazing, so capable, so helpful, so much fun, and my only complaint is that she sometimes gets too chatty. But she's such a good girl that if we tell her we need her to stoptalkingconstantlyforawhile, she gamely occupies herself with a quieter task or goes into her room to continue the chatter to her dolls and stuffed animals. She was really into making this a great Mother's Day for me, and I have loved every moment. I'm soaking it up, because I know it won't always be this way.

I must say though that my heart is with those in our mommyblogger family who have experienced devastating losses lately. I only just found out about two such events, and my heart is a bit heavy for them today. It must be really difficult. As it must be for those of you who have lost your own mothers. Or for those who long to be mothers but aren't yet, or wanted to but never could. I know it isn't a happy day for everyone.

To all of my fellow mommybloggers... Happy Mother's Day to each of you!

Friday, May 8, 2009

I Can Smell Summer...

Oh yeah baby, summer is so close I can smell it! The summer break from university teaching, that is. In the last two days I have graded 120 exams and 240 homework assignments. No, I am NOT finished with my grading. But that was the worst of it. All that remains is the grading for my two upper division courses, which means many long papers to read, but those actually aren't as difficult as what I've just completed. So I'm celebrating tonight with a bottle of bubbly that the hubster brought home tonight.

This means that I am just days away from freedom. Oh sure, I need to keep working on my own writing and research, but that's NOTHING compared to the pressures of the academic year. It is, in fact, what we eggheads live for. The time to pursue our intellectual interests with no other distractions.

This also gives us time to enjoy our families. And the ability to truly do so. When I awoke the morning after giving my last in-class final, I felt the pressure lift from me. I actually felt lighter. And I was able to be patient with my daughter all day long. Even while I was grading exams. It was then that I realized that there is a stress that I feel in the teaching year, a constant push at my back. What is it about teaching? I suppose it is the performativity of it, and the fact that you alone are in charge of your courses, so the pressure is entirely upon you to keep it going and sustain that energy for 15 long weeks.

So I am ready to bask in the freedom of summer. And this summer is going to be sweeter than any other, knowing that in the fall I will begin my first tenure-track position. It's been a long journey to get to this point. I plan to enjoy every moment. (And you know this also means that soon I'll have the time to get back into blog posting/commenting/reading... squee!!!)