The Lies I Tell

My kids love hearing all about how “when they were babies”.  They often ask at bedtime for me to tell them the story of the day they were born. I snuggle up next to them and tell them each a beautiful story of how one day, after being in my tummy for a long time, they said “It’s time to come out!” and started kicking my belly.  Mommy & daddy headed to the hospital and the doctor took them out and we all were so happy! They both were pink round chunky little turkeys and they giggled as soon as we saw them.  Then, they cuddled up next to us for the rest of the day and cooed and smiled as all of our family came to meet them for the first time.   They were perfect and the cutest little things I had ever seen.  I tell them both that each day they were brought into this world were both the best day of my life.  The thing is, the only good thing that actually happened on either of those days for me was that we added them to our family. Each time I tell this story, I’m telling them a long, concocted LIE.  Truth be told, I love the fact that they were born, but I hate both of the days that they entered this world.

My youngest child turned three this week. At thirteen months apart, I’m now living with a full fledged three and four year old. They aren’t toddlers anymore, they aren’t babies. They’re preschoolers. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

Their birthdays are always a mix of emotions for me; happy to celebrate a milestone for them and yet both their births were both such terrifying experiences  for me that I actually ended up having a panic attack the morning of my now three year old’s birthday. I started thinking what exactly was going on at this moment three years ago and as I then thought about my experience giving birth to my four year old (which was equally as chilling). I could feel my chest start to constrict and my body become clammy.  My breathing became short little breaths and my eyes were getting blurry. Sobbing, I called my mother, who helped me calm down.

I’ve written about this before, but the long and short of it is that  my first child was two weeks late.  After 31 hours of labor, I ended up with a horrendous emergency c-section.  My first act towards my sweet newborn baby was to push him away my because I was in the midst of the mother load of all panic attacks imaginable on the operating table. Instead of giving him a kiss, I literally pushed him away.  My experience resulted in me being drugged up for the entire first day he was born. He ended up in the NICU 24 hours later, due to irregular breathing.  In retrospect, I was so drugged up that first day that I realized I didn’t even attempt to feed him.  I had no maternal instincts. I didn’t even want to hold him, out of fear I’d drop him.  This fat 10 pound baby was probably starving, which caused him to hyperventilate. I failed him.  I waived my right as a post- op patient and joined my first baby in the NICU; sleeping in a chair in his room while recovering from major surgery and an exhausting and harrowing few days.

My husband and I were inexperienced and it’s so easy now to say what we should have done. We should have asked the nurses to feed him some formula, we should have had me transported separately to the hospital where the NICU was so that I was being taken care of as well as he. We should have never let this happen.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

With my second, the delivery went surprisingly well, but what followed did not. I couldn’t see over the sheet they put between mother and baby, but I could see my husband’s ashen face. My child was blue, the color of the summer sky before a torrential rainstorm begins. He was not healthy and he wasn’t crying. He wasn’t a chunky, pink fat baby. He was struggling to stay alive.  Something was very, very wrong.

brewingStormIceland

He was later diagnosed with a genetic issue: Respiratory Distress Disorder. Simply, if you can imagine blowing up a balloon, it’s tough at first, but then gets easier the bigger the balloon gets. He was born without the hormone that covers the lungs to help them expand. He was fighting to breathe, and we are lucky he didn’t end up with brain damage due to lack of oxygen. He was whisked out of the operating room before I could see him.  Meanwhile, I was in the midst of massive hemorrhaging. I had five nurses attending to me in recovery and I didn’t care… all I could think about was my baby who I couldn’t see or even help.

I was questioned humiliating questions by the NICU rep for the hospital in front of my husband, mother and mother in law ( while still hemorrhaging and basically spread eagle in my hospital bed.

  • Did I engage in illicit drugs during my pregnancy?
  • Did I smoke cigarettes while pregnant?
  • Did I drink alcohol while pregnant?

The answers were all  NO, but I could read between the lines : What did I do to cause this?  The weight of the guilt I felt was like holding up a 1,000lb rock above my head.  I couldn’t help it.   The first time I saw my sweet little baby, he was in a contraption that looked like a glass coffin to transfer him to the NICU.  He was sedated and all I could do was reach my hand into a little hole in this glass coffin and tell him I loved him.  It was four days before I was able to hold that precious peanut. These four days felt like four lifetimes.

Life is crazy. Life is hard. I am so thankful that they are both thriving, healthy children now, and I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I know people that may have had the perfect delivery but ended up with a child much more seriously sick than mine. I know people who have watched a child of theirs go through pediatric cancer treatments. In no way am I comparing my experience to anyone else’s, but mine is all I know. My story is all I can tell.

I selfishly can’t help but feel like I got handed the short stick both times. I was robbed of the first few weeks of my child’s life. I have no pictures of their first few moments. I have no happy pictures of us as a family on either day.  I have very few happy memories of their birthdays.  I wasn’t given the opportunity to create an immediate bond and connection with either child, and both experiences were so intense that four years later, I’m still suffering from PTSD.  I’m angry because this has partly effected our plans for any future children. I’m angry that I missed out on so much.  I’m angry that things were so much harder than I had ever planned on them being.  I’m angry over the amount of helplessness I felt in both situations. I’m angry with myself for feeling any of this at all.

I still Care

I’m hoping that one of these days, I’ll have told them each my fake version of the day they were born so many times that it will start to slowly sink into my brain; memories of the truth washed away, only to be replaced with my fairy tale that I have made up.  I lie and tell myself time heals all wounds, and one day, this will all be a distant memory.  I can only hope that this is true.

stronger

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Evolution

I believe that we are all always a work in progress. Who I am today is not who I thought I would’ve ended up being 25 years ago … and I’m sure in 25 years, I’ll be saying the same thing. We’re always evolving. At seven years old, I thought I’d be Punky Brewster.Punky lived in a city, wore the coolest clothes and had a happy disposition, despite her parents abandoning her and moving into an apartment with an old man. I considered asking my parents to change my name to Punky many times but decided I didn’t have the wardrobe to pull off the pull Punky effect and let it go.

Around this same time I had a mild (ok massive) obsession with Macgyver.

Good ole’ Mac was on every Monday night and you can bet I did NOT miss an episode. Possibly my first adolescent crush (without me even realizing at the time), but more importantly, Macgyver knew how to do EVERYTHING. He had genius level intellect and as a secret agent, and could literally save himself and “Macgyver” himself out of an impossible situation with a single paperclip. His name alone is not only considered a verb but a noun now.

v. 1. To use ingenuity to fix or remedy a problem using only the tools available at hand. 2. To jury-rig 

n. Someone who can regularly cobble together solutions to problems using only the tools available at hand.

Simply, he was the coolest guy around… and for you die-hard fans, you’d know his real name is Angus.

In junior high, I probably most identified with Jessie Spano from Saved by the Bell.

I’d love to say I was Kelly Kapowski, but I had just moved from NYC to a small coastal town in little Rhode Island and was the new kid in town. I was certainly not the most popular, but I had a lot of friends. I considered myself to be middle of the road and friendly with most everyone. Jessie was super studious and somewhat dorky. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow her fashion sense, as I spent most of 7th & 8th grade wearing orange lipstick and 90’s grunge flannel shirts, worshiping  Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains & Nirvana, but my work ethic at school and her goody two shoes attitude most closely resembled Jessie, despite my musical interests.

In high school, I idolized the movie Reality Bites and thought about how my life would turn out after I graduated high school and college. Life seemed so complicated but free. The best scene out of this movie is the end, with the best U2 song in existence in my opinion (All I want is You).  I would have used this song as my wedding song. But it was simply way too long. Ethan Hawk had the greasiest hair, was a grunge looser and yet I couldn’t help falling in love with him.

College was filled with a weekly roommate screening of Sex and the City

I identified with every character in some way or form. Carrie Bradshaw, being the main character, was the obvious choice to connect with. She was fashionable, living a somewhat fabulous life in NYC but she wasn’t perfect. She cheated on good guys (when she broke up with Aiden, my heart literally broke). Looking back, she was incredibly selfish for her age while simultaneously being a hopeless romantic, and she spoke to every woman of my generation. Life isn’t perfect, but despite all the drama going on in that series, the main point was that friends should come first and don’t diss them for some douche bag guy. I’ve made that mistake a few times more than I’d like to admit and have regretted it tremendously.

My latest idol has been this chick.

Claire Underwood from House of Cards is one Badass Bitch. She knows what she wants and she gets it. She isn’t the most likable character at times but she has an agenda and you have to respect that. She takes no bullshit. She gets shit done.  She’s also scary though. In real life, I respect the “real” Robin Wright over her character (You can read more if you click on her  link)- she is beautiful, intelligent and she’s one of the few examples lately of the short list of women who have broken the glass ceiling. She recently re-negotiated her contract to be paid the same as her costar, Kevin Spacy.  (Plus, her haircut is amazing; something I’d never be able to pull off.)

To quote:

“It was a perfect paradigm. There are very few films or TV shows where the male, the patriarch, and the matriarch are equal. And they are in ‘House of Cards,’” said Wright, who had been talking about the problem of equal pay for women more generally.

“I was looking at statistics and Claire Underwood’s character was more popular than [Frank’s] for a period of time. So I capitalized on that moment. I was like, ‘You better pay me or I’m going to go public,’” Wright said with her trademark blinding-white grin. “And they did.”

Good for her.

I met my husband after college. He is 11yrs older than me; and in a former life while I was watching all these TV shows, he was riding his motorcycle all around the country. He’s seen more than I have. He earned a business degree and has 10 times the amount of financial knowledge than I do. He is an intelligent man.  Talk to him for five minutes and he’ll prove my point. He is a former State Trooper and comes from a wonderful family. He was a single bachelor with no one to be responsible for but himself.  Once I showed up on the scene, I changed that. Our kids have changed us the most-today,  we see little of our old lifestyle that we used to live. We’re mostly ok with that- one day they’ll be gone and we will miss this time in their lives.

I doubt my husband has ever watched Saved by the Bell, Sex and the City or Punky Brewster– yet we make it work. We come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives on life in general. There are times that we’re not on the same page about things. We’ve both brought past baggage into this relationship; but hasn’t everyone?

Since having children, while I’d love to say I’m Claire Underwood or Carrie Bradshaw, I’ve developed into a crazy mix of MOM.

Bev from Meet the Goldbergs, idolizes her children- to the point of over suffocating them. I’m not that mom, but at the same time. I’d do anything for them. They are my life and while they drive me insane sometimes, my love for them has never wavered.

I’m glad I never turned into Punky Brewster or any of those other idols I held dear in my younger years. I’m still a little sad I never married Macgyver, but if you’ve seen a recent picture of him lately, You’d probably be ok with losing good ole’ Mac as well. I’m married to my the love of my life, and coincidentally- he is somewhat of his own Macgyver. Physically, he can fix almost anything out of nothing and mentally, he challenges me to be a better person everyday.

For now, I’ll be smothering those babies I have, because at the end of the day; family is all that we have left, and is all that is important.

She

I am fierce. I am strong. I am a woman and you better not fuck with me.

I am the little girl who you never really let be a little girl. You expected too much, cared too little, and let me figure things out on my own the hard way- more often than you should have. I’m the same girl who grew up quickly and left you in the dust the first chance I had. You taught me a lot. The most important lesson I learned from you was to be anything but you and to make sure that I show my own children that I love them unconditionally with every breath that I take. They do not, and will not have the same experiences that I did. I will give my kids more than you ever gave to me, and it isn’t going to cost me a penny. 

I’m the friend who was young and stupid. I put boyfriends on a higher pedestal than my friends and wasted a lot of time with the wrong guys. I lost a lot of loyal girlfriends who were better to me than I was to them.

I am that girl you talked down to. I’m the one you lied to, the one you pretended to love and the one you threw away. I’m the one who is better off now that you aren’t in my life anymore. I am a stronger and wiser person for those experiences. 

I’m the one who picked up some bad habits along the way.  I got rid of some, kept others, and have come to peace with living with the last bits for the time being. I’m a work in progress. I feed my kids better food than I feed myself, put their needs ahead of mine, go to bed too late, have an infinite love of wine and spend too much time worrying about things that are beyond my control. 

I am a happy person. I am loved by my family and friends and I have a kickass, handsome husband. He isn’t perfect, but far from perfect am I, and he seems to love me anyway. I hit the jackpot.   

I am angry. I am loud, annoying, hormonal and obnoxious. I am passionate, relentless, raging and primal. I love with all that I have.  I stand up for myself, and I am an advocate for those who do not have a voice of their own. I have made it my mission to do all that I can do to leave this world a better place than when I entered it. 

I’m the one who has been told that I’m lucky enough to own a  #womancard. My entire life, I’ve been told to dress appropriately, to smile, to keep my mouth shut. I have been expected to be lady in the streets and a freak between the sheets. I’ve been forced to spend an arm and a leg on tampons, maxi pads, make-up and hair removal products all while being made to be a magician and make a dollar bill out of .79 cents. 

I am She.

Who is She?  She is a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a spouse and a partner. She is single and she is divorced. She is a friend, coworker, aunt, niece and the chick standing next to you in line at the grocery store.  She is me. She is you.  She is exhausted and she is scared. She is doing the best damn job she can right now and deserves your respect. She is a sexy motherfucker.  She gives her all and expects nothing less in return; and she deserves it, and so much more.

Everyday She plays the role of Superwoman and no one even notices. Give your girl a high five next time you see her. She deserves it.