The Time I Almost Got a Lot Lizard for a Mommy

After my parents split up, my Dad wasn’t all that eager to jump back into the dating pool. For a while, he was content just hanging out with friends and drinking his beer. He had three kids to manage. It wasn’t until a few years after the divorce that I even saw him interested in anyone. A woman named Donna, introduced through a mutual friend of the family. She seemed nice enough, and I noticed my father talking to her more than he usually talked to people.

After one night of visiting, we came home. As I was brushing my teeth, he stood in the doorway of the bathroom.

“What do you think of Donna?” he asked. I shrugged.

“She seems okay.”

“What would you think if I asked her out on a date?”

“I think that would be okay,” I answered earnestly. “Mom has a boyfriend. There’s no reason you shouldn’t go out with people, too.”

Dad nodded and nothing more was said of the subject.

A week or so later, Dad came home late at night, looking annoyed. I asked him what was wrong.

“Have you ever heard of a Lot Lizard?”

I had not.

So, earlier that evening, my father was over at mutual family friend’s house. So was Donna. Donna and Dad were visiting, he asked her out. They made a plan to go out that weekend. At the end of the evening, Donna needs a ride home, Dad offers said ride. Donna accepts.

As they are driving, Donna asks my father to drop her off at a truck stop that they are coming upon, and just leave her there. Dad is confused.

“I need to make some money tonight.” Explains Donna. Dad is still confused.

Upon further questioning, Donna explains that she provides company to lonely truck drivers for a nominal fee.

Dad noped right out of that. The planned date never happened. Dad never spoke to Donna again. He may have been an alcoholic, but even he had standards.

Dad and I had stopped by Mutual Family Friend some time later, and the old bat had the nerve to chastise my father for being stuck up and too good to date Donna.

“Some people have to make money the only way they know how!” She reasoned.

Dad argued that she could wash dishes or something that didn’t involve sucking some guy off. Dad may have had standards, but he still spoke bluntly.

And thus ended my close encounter with having a new Mommy who was a Lot Lizard.

 

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Sun Rises and Clean Slates

I really, really don’t like working on weekends.

Oh sure, I knew that when I became a nurse, I should expect to work holidays and weekends. Expect I am going to miss out on stuff because of what I do. That being said, I really, really hate working weekends. I hate getting up early, I hate being away from my husband, and I hate being away from my daughter. There’s one thing I don’t hate, however, is the drive to work.

We live in a rural area. Not podunk country, we’re 15 minutes away from all the creature conveniences of city life. No, we’re rural enough that we have a big-assed propane tank by our house, and a septic tank buried somewhere in front of it. Our place is nestled in the slow rolling hills of our county, the beauty of the nature surrounding us only matched with the crappiness of the cellular signal. Driving out of our “neighborhood”, you climb a big hill, and upon cresting, you can see for miles. You can see the city in the far off distance, the activity of the airport, the little McMansions dotted across the countryside, the trees, the fields waiting for their crops to be planted.

On those Sunday mornings I am driving to work, I also get to see the sun rise when I crest that hill, painting the land with its oranges and pinks while it waits for the rest of the world to wake up. It takes my breath away every single time.

I love going on cruises. Logtar, not so much. He asks my why I love it, and I really don’t have one singular answer. There’s a lot of things I don’t like about it: the crowds, the seemingly inflexible schedule, the crowds, the rude passengers. But probably one of my most favorite things is pulling into port.

Usually, ships arrive at their port early, early in the morning, while everyone is sleeping. So, when you wake up, boom, you’re there! Excitement builds as everyone gets ready for their island adventure.

For me, I tend to wake up right about the time the ship nears the port. I wake up on my own, I don’t know why. I step out onto the balcony and watch as we drift slowly towards our stop. The island coming closer and closer. The only sounds you hear is the splashing of the water as the ship navigates its position towards the dock, you may hear the squeal of a seagull or two. The air is fresh and salty. The temperature is just right. You feel a slight breeze on your face. Meanwhile, you’re a little closer to the island, and from your elevated vantage point, you can take a better look. The dark of night ebbing slowly, like a wave good-bye to an old friend. No people milling around. No cars. Virtually no activity. The sun makes its sleepy debut, and your pupils begin to dilate in delight of the beautiful pastels of the sun rise. You are witnessing the world, still asleep, on the cusp of waking up. You are witness to a brand new day, full of endless possibility. Your day is a blank slate, and you have the ability to make your own adventure in this new place. Small worries melt away as you realize just how awesome your life is. You lean over the balcony rail, and look up and down the side of the ship, seeing a few others doing the same thing you are doing, with the same look of peace and contentment on their face.

I get this exact same feeling on those Sunday mornings when I am driving to work.

It’s so easy to get caught up in worldly events. It’s even easier to fall into despair because it seems hope is a luxury that few can afford. I’ve fallen prey to it just as easily. In my early morning commute, I wondered why I just don’t feel this way all the time. The answer is easy…you just simply forget to.

How hard would it be to wake up every day with a sense of wonder? Instead of worrying about what may or may not happen at work, instead be excited that you have another day to be master of your life. To spend with family and friends. To finally make plans to do something you have been putting off. To make a difference. To have an adventure, no matter how big or how small. How difficult would it be to get out of bed thinking about all the cool stuff you have in your life, versus what is missing? What a challenge would it be to wake up with the singular thought, “MY LIFE IS AWESOME!” Instead of waking up and just going through the same motions you do everyday, and not take notice because you think what you do is unremarkable.

Attitude is everything, and you can have one everyday. Everyone has the choice: will it be a good one or a  bad one? Why wait until an early morning sunset on vacation or just driving in your car to have an epiphany on how great your life is? Appreciate ALL THE THINGS. Your hot (or iced) cup of coffee. That your husband gets out of bed, and makes a beeline for your side to give you a kiss good morning. That your baby always smiles when she sees you. That your husband is always excited to see you.

When you start thinking of all the good things, and start approaching each day like a blank slate, more and more you feel that amazing lift that comes when you crest a hill and see the whole world laying before you. Before too long, you will agree…that your life is awesome.

Now, go out there and have your adventure!

Getting Out: Crabs in a Bucket

When fishermen catch a bunch of crabs, it is not unusual for them to keep the crabs in a bucket and not have a lid on it. Common sense would tell you that this is a dumb idea because the crabs would just climb out of the bucket. However, the fishermen know that this is probably not going to happen because if one crab tries to climb out, the other crabs will grab onto the would-be escapee and pull it down in an effort to pull themselves out. No one escapes, and at the end of the day, they go on to end up on someone’s dinner plate.

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The general idea is that the mob mentality can keep a person from forging ahead and doing better for themselves. “If I can’t do it, neither can you!”

This analogy is a perfect example of trying to get out of the cycle of poverty. Even if you strip away the systems in place that keep people in poverty (welfare, cost of education, etc), it doesn’t consider that one of the biggest hurdles of breaking the cycle are the ones closest to you: friends and family.

You hear about this peppered through the pages of the news: people who win the lottery, professional athletes. I don’t have to look much further than my own personal experiences. I grew up poor, my whole family did. My father’s family is a never-ending cycle of it, and only recently have some of my generation or newer are getting out of the pot. I’ve heard the crab in the pot attitudes echoing throughout my entire life.

  • Cousin marries, they acquire a couple of modest rental properties and during the summers have their own fireworks stand. (She thinks she’s too good to spend time with us since she has money.)
  • Aunt remarries a guy who works hard at a steady job. He’s a hard worker. He eats out whenever he wants, has a hobby of rebuilding classic cars and going to car shows, and drives a newer truck. (She married a high-roller, and now she’s thinks her shit doesn’t stink.)
  • People that live in nice houses and have swimming pools are automatically assholes.

I even experienced this directly. I received a settlement after a bad car accident. A family member assumed I would give him half because he happened to be in the car with me when it happened (he was uninjured). When I told the family member that the settlement was for medical bills and the rest would be applied to nursing school, I was accused of being greedy and putting money over family. That family member was living with me at the time, and decided to stop paying their share of the rent because they felt I didn’t need the money.

Another example being that my chosen career path pays well. While it does not put me into a wealthy category, it certainly offers security, good benefits, and not worrying about things like broken down cars, food in the fridge, and clothes on my back. Instead of being happy, family members have replied bitterly, “Must be nice to not have to worry!”

As far as crabs in a barrel? I’ve experienced that, too. I kept “loaning”money to a family member who was always short on their house payment. “If we miss this payment, we will get foreclosed on, and our kids will be out on the streets.” I found out the hard lesson that loans to family members weren’t really loans at all, but viewed as some sort of  profit-sharing between family members that did well and those who couldn’t manage their money. I almost ended up losing my house because I was funneling so much money to help other family members, that I was neglecting my own needs.

Just like crabs in a barrel.

Why, you  may wonder, would someone almost go into foreclosure to help a family member? Guilt. It is the guilt of getting out, and leaving family members behind. This guilt starts at an early age. When you are poor, you don’t have anything but your family. This idea is drilled into you, that the family is all you have, and you must keep it intact at all costs. This mentality, while seemingly noble, is what not only keeps poor people poor, it also guards secrets that should not be kept in the dark, like molestation. All fueled by the guilt that consumes you and prevents you from fighting to get out of that damn bucket.

Some would argue that there is honor in such blind loyalty to family. Looking at it now, it looks more like insanity.

I have a cousin, who has a niece, and she will be the first in her family to attend university. Not just any university. A big one. She is the oldest of 6 kids, and she has known poverty for her entire life. While her Dad has been encouraging, and an Aunt who has been her biggest cheerleader, her brothers and sisters seem to be disinterested in doing better for themselves, and a mother that thinks panhandling and prostitution is a perfectly acceptable way of making money. I would think about her a lot, knowing just how hard she would have to work, and how difficult it would be to maintain focus.

“At this stage in your life, the decisions you make will affect the rest of your life. Move cautiously, be smart, and never lose focus,” I told her.

As I write this, she is home, pregnant with the father of the baby having seemingly abandoned her, and slim to no chance she will be returning to college. No job skills other than working at a Subway, no solid support system. Another crab, almost out, now pulled back into the bucket. The cycle of poverty ensured for the next generation.

I hate that goddamn bucket.

A Life Gone Sideways

“Your father put a gun to his head tonight.”

Twenty-three years ago, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on what I wanted with my life. After graduation, I had moved to KC at my oldest cousin’s invitation to work and save some money before I started college. I decided to take a year off before I was going to start at Northwest Missouri and work towards a teaching degree. (I believe they call that time a “gap year”now.) To make money, I was working as a CNA at the nursing home my cousin worked at, working the 11pm to 7am shift.

The shift started out typically enough. I got my cart and was filling the ice bucket for the evening fresh ice water pass when I looked down the hall and saw my cousin standing at the desk. It wasn’t unusual for her to stop by on her nights off because she was bored and would often come to visit. A nurse at the desk pointed down the hall, and my cousin made her way to me. She did not smile.

“I need to talk to you.”She said, and motioned for me to follow her. We ended up in the large shower room. It was then that she said those words.

“You’re father put a gun to his head tonight.”

Out of all the ways she could have given me the news, twenty-three years later, I still wonder what on earth possessed her to say it that way. Bold. Harsh. Real.

My world started spinning. I felt like a giant hole had appeared, and was pulling me inside. My eyes locked with my cousin’s, looking for any type of anchor to keep from being sucked into despair.

None of it made any sense to me, and yet all the pieces fit into place.

My relationship with my father had been tenuous since I had moved out earlier in the summer. We lived in a minute town, the kind you read about where people go and they never leave. But I wanted more in life than what that town could offer me. Someplace bigger. A fresh start where I wasn’t known as the daughter of the town drunk. A place of opportunity. My cousin offered that, and I eagerly took her up on it. My father, on the other hand, saw no merits of my move, and looked at it as the ultimate act of betrayal. He refused to speak to me again after that. When I would call home, I would speak to my brothers, and even my father’s girlfriend at the time. During those calls, my father would suddenly have something to do away from the phone. I never gave up, though.

The silent treatment ended in mid-November when my step-Grandpa passed. Not a bio-dad to my father, but treated my father a lot better than his own dad ever did. (My bio-grandfather was a colossal dick.) Dad finally started talking to me again, mostly about Grandpa Verle. For the week or so that followed, we talked almost every night. He almost always was drunk. He hated his job, working at some factory that made campers or something. He was having problems with his girlfriend. He was bickering with his own brothers and sisters. Truth be told, there were some who were pretty toxic to be around. I tried to be encouraging, as much as an 18-year-old can be.

The last time I spoke with him was twenty-three years ago, today. He called to tell me that his girlfriend took her kids and moved out earlier that evening. He asked me if I had seen or heard anything about another woman he used to date. I said I hadn’t, but I would see if she still lived in our old hometown. That seemed to cheer him up. We talked about him and my brothers moving back to Missouri. I don’t remember what else we talked about, but I do remember the last words I said.

“Don’t do anything stupid.”

A few hours later, he did just that.

To this day, I still don’t have the full details, but what I know is this: After his girlfriend left, my father proceeded to go on a drunken bender. Around 9pm or so, he started playing with one of his guns and going on one of drunken, paranoid rants. This was not unusual for him, I remember him doing it when I was very young and we still lived in Colorado. My brothers and I eventually learned to steer clear of him when he was in one of these moods. In the living room, where the event took place, were my father and my two younger brothers. One was 14, and the other one had just turned 16 that same day. My father said something, to which only my brothers know and will not tell me, and then he shot himself with a .22, behind the right ear.

My youngest brother fell apart. My other brother went to his father and elevated his head while yelling at the youngest to call 911. Shortly after the call, the sheriff’s deputy, who lived just down the road, ran into the house with her gun drawn. Apparently, they thought something very different happened. After she ascertained what had really occurred, EMS arrived. My father was rushed to the nearest hospital, and then life-flighted to a Wichita trauma center where he was placed on life-support.

At the time, my father was not married. Nor did he have an appointed DPOA. Because of that, all medical decisions were then the responsibility of his oldest, living kin. Me.

I don’t remember much about the drive to Wichita, other than it was just me and my cousin. I remember crying when I saw my brothers sleeping in the waiting room because they had grown a bit since I last saw them. I remember the doctor and one of the nurses sitting with me in a conference room and telling me that tests concluded that my father had no brain activity and that he would not recover. I remember talking to my brothers about what the doctor said, and I remember that an 18-year-old, a 16-year-old, and a 14-year-old decided that our father would have never wanted to live on life support and that we should let him go. I remember how vile my aunt was to me when I told her of our decision. I remember that aunt giving me the bag full of personal effects he had on him, but not before taking all the money out of his wallet before she did. I remember telling the nurse of our decision. I remember the family that chose to stay, standing around his bed in the ICU as the staff turned off the respirator. I remember holding his hand. I remember he lived on his own for just over an hour before his heart stopped beating. I remember my eyes being unable to produce any more tears because I had cried so much. I remember telling my aunt that I was taking my brothers home with me and she threatened to call the police for kidnapping if I did. I remember inviting her to do so because I knew the law would be on my side.

I don’t remember the drive home. I don’t remember the events leading up to the funeral.

We opted for a graveside service. He was buried in jeans and button-down “cowboy shirt”. His usual fashion choice when “dressing up”was required. Old friends came from hours away to pay their respects. A Nazarene minister gave the sermon, but I couldn’t tell you a word of what he said. I remember his three children sitting in the in the chairs in front of the simple, wooden casket, hands of the family behind us resting on our shoulders. I remember that none of his children cried, while the rest of the family sobbed.

After the funeral, we went to his house, packed up what we could, and drove back to KC.

Then, life went on.

I never did go to college to  be a teacher. After my Dad died, something inside me just sort of went sideways. Eventually, I made it through nursing school and now I take care of cancer patients. During nursing school, I was assigned a patient who, after making a lifetime of bad choices, decided to kill himself with an electric carving knife. He was unsuccessful and landed in the ICU where I was doing my clinicals. The man’s daughter, a wide-eyed, 18-year-old blond, had been called. In that moment, in caring for him, and watching her without getting swamped in my old grief, I felt like things had come full circle, and I knew that nursing was right thing for me to do at the time. Like a calling.

My brothers and I never talked about that day. Years later, I found out that my vile aunt went to the Kansas Bureau of Investigations reported that she was certain one my brothers pulled the trigger that night; there was no way her brother would have done that to himself. (If she had known him as well as I did, she would have known this to be patently false.) I also learned that as a result, my brothers were interrogated by the KBI to the point my youngest brother mentally broke. The investigation ruled the accusations were unfounded, and only succeeded to inflict further scarring upon two teenage boys. I never spoke to my vile aunt again, and when I saw her recently, her mind was too far gone to even recognize me. At that point, I let my anger go because unleashing it, or keeping it bottled, would have both been pointless.

There are certain universal truths about suicide that people don’t understand unless they have been exposed to it. One being that suicide only transfers the pain of the one person who died, to the rest of the living. Another truth is that it stays with you always. Here it is, twenty-three years later, and I still have moments where the grief is fresh as a new cut.

I once read an article from a woman whose father killed himself. She likened life to being a can of white paint, and that all our experiences are like little drops of color sprinkled in. Yellow for the times you are happy. Blue for the times you are sad. Green for those times you are most at peace. Suicide comes along and tosses a big blob of red right into the can, and if you mix the paint, you soon have a can of mauve colored paint. That is what suicide does. It taints everything, and you are constantly being reminded of it. I know I was and still am. It was there when I graduated college. When I got married. When I gave birth to my little girl. When she first smiled. Or said her first word. Or took her first step. It’s in the sadness I feel when I know that my father should have been there for those things. It’s in the anger that I feel that he made the horrible choice that surrendered being part of those things. It’s in the guilt I felt when I thought of my brothers having to witness that alone, and see them struggle because of it. Or the guilt that I felt when I wondered if things would have been different had I not left him after I graduated high school.

Things are a lot better now. I saw a therapist at the encouragement of my husband. Up until that point, I never talked about what happened. Only a few people in my closest circle knew. Talking about it hurt too much, and in some weird way, I felt like it was a secret to be kept. A source of shame. That I could bear it alone without crumbling was something I was oddly proud of.

Yesterday, I was watching a documentary about a UFC fighter named Cat Zingano. The story goes into how her estranged husband killed himself. She later fights Ronda Rousey, who is also the child of a parent suicide, and she wants to talk to her mom, to know how she got through it. What did she do to help her daughter get through it? It got me thinking. What would have been useful to me when it happened? What things did I need to hear to help me move on?

I wish someone would have told me that it wasn’t my fault. That was probably the most important. I remember for a long time after, I kept thinking if I would have been there, I could have stopped it. Or I should have picked up on it that last time I talked to him. I should have done something.

I wish someone would have told me that I didn’t “allow this to happen”. You can’t control what another person does. If they truly want to harm themselves, it’s going to happen. You might be lucky and intervene at the right time once, but if they mean to do it, they will try again. And they will be smarter about covering their tracks. The signs are never there if you are not looking for them. Hindsight is not the same as foresight.

I wish someone would have told me that it was okay to grieve for him, and given me a safe space to do so. He was my dad, after all. And no matter what kind of a life he lived, or mistakes he made, at the end of the day, he was my dad. The loss was just as acute as anyone who would have lost their parent by natural causes. Crying doesn’t make you weak, and it doesn’t make you less of a person. Showing vulnerability is not something to be ashamed of.

I wish someone would have told me that I made the right choice. I could logically explain to myself that it was, but in the back of my brain, I wondered “what if…” It wasn’t until I finished nursing school and worked in the field a while before I truly understood what everything meant.

I wish someone would have told me that by him doing what he did, it didn’t mean that he loved me any less. My father did love his kids. The problem was that he didn’t love himself.

And finally, I wish someone would have told me that just because this awful thing happened to me, didn’t mean I was a broken person. This permeated any and all relationships I had. My self-worth took a major hit, and the caliber of the guys I dated reflected that. It made me aloof. Unapproachable. I also didn’t care for myself as much as I should have because I didn’t feel I was worth the effort.

So, here we are now. Twenty-three years later. Like I said, things are better now. I’ve certainly changed a lot. Friends often say I am more at peace. Less angry. More hopeful. I have my own little family, and in its own way, rights the wrongs of my childhood. How much of this will I tell my daughter? I suppose if the information is relevant, I will tell her. But I will also tell her of the good person her Grandpa was before his demons became too much for him to bear.

There is no use in keeping my father’s suicide a secret any longer. They say the truth shall set you free, and they are right. Putting it out into the universe frees up more space in my life for things that are good. Remembering the good stuff he did when he was alive is far more worthy of remembrance than how he died.

To Boob or Not to Boob…

Breastfeeding. It’s the new-old hotness for all new moms. Back in the day, breastfeeding had a negative stigma. Formula was all the rage. It had everything a baby needed, just add water! Only dirt poor women who couldn’t afford formula breastfed. It almost became a third-world concept. I don’t know a lot of people my age that were breastfed, but then again, it’s not something I go asking about during dinner parties.

I don’t claim to be an authority on breastfeeding, although there are thousands of professional and amateur experts on the matter. I only have my own experience to go on. Mommies are just going to have to make up their own damn mind. If you can’t make up your mind, I’m sure there is a sanctimommy somewhere close that will make up your mind for you.

So, when I was pregnant, I understood breastfeeding on a basic, almost neanderthal level: Boob + Baby = Happily Fed Baby. I didn’t remember a whole lot about it from my nursing school days, so I signed up for a class about it offered at ACME Hospital. It was free, and only demanded a few hours one Saturday morning.

(Log, deciding that this was something he didn’t need a lot of info about, opted not to go. Regret would set in later when I told him about all the naked boobs they had in the video.)

I can’t say that I felt enlightened after the class was over, but I did feel a little more comfortable with the idea. After all, breastfeeding is the only way to go to be a successful mom, right?? If you are don’t breastfeeding your baby, they will grow into sick adults that have the intellect of a Republican Presidential candidate. Right??  Truth be told, I probably felt more pressure after the class than before it.

The pressure to breastfeed is almost borderline ridiculous. I don’t think I ever experienced so much stress since boards. After I had Lil G, my job was to present her boob, and her job was to suck. Turns out, we both were not very good at our responsibilities. Lil G tried to suck my nipple off, to a boob that wasn’t producing much milk. Meanwhile, I’m on a floor where the walls are literally covered with pictures of breastfeeding women from around the globe! There’s even posters in my room in both English and Spanish preaching the merits of breastfeeding. I felt like an absolute failure, and Lil G was barely 24 hours old.

They even had the lactation consultant come in and help. So, this woman I just met, is manhandling my boob, while trying to show me what a successful latch is. All that comes out is a few droplets of precious colostrum, which I am told is all the baby needs. But Lil G’s cries makes me think she’s still hungry.

My milk finally decides to show up 3 days later, but it’s not smooth sailing. My nipples look like bleeding meatballs, and pain that comes with every 2 hour feeding is immense. We bust out the pump to save my anguish and Lil G from having to drink pink milk. Lil G is getting a little nourishment, but she is still loosing weight.

I met with the lactation specialist at my pediatrician’s office. She brought out the Boppy pillow and we had many meetings about being a champion breastfeeder. I’d say that I didn’t get the hang of it until week three. For my lactation specialist, breastfeeding was the ONLY option. I even asked about supplementing with formula, and she strongly vetoed the idea. I even got “the look” for asking.

My pediatrician, however, was a bit more sympathetic. She didn’t subscribe to the Exclusive Boob Club, knowing that every mom is unique in her experience. Some can do it, some can’t, and both are perfectly fine options. She made me feel like less of a failure.

Before birth, my plan was to breastfeed Lil G for at least a year. A full year of my life as a food source. It’s funny how life happens. I threw in the towel, along with the breast pump, at the 3 month mark. At 2 months, Lil G went on a combination of formula and breast milk, with me pumping as much supplemental reserves as I could. I returned to work after 12 weeks, and I knew I realistically couldn’t continue breastfeeding. I barely got a lunch break as it was, how was I going to squeeze in a couple 15 minute pumping sessions???

The switch to formula was seamless. Formula readily available, plus I have a small reserve on hand for sick days when Lil G plays “Pass the Binky” with her daycare cohorts and catches the Germ of the Day.

When I decided to stop pumping, I remember feeling anxiety, and a sense of loss. Which was stupid, but a feeling nonetheless. I had already bonded with my baby, more time on boob was not going to enhance it. She was developing like a normal baby. She was healthy and strong. It wasn’t until I packed away some clothes that she had outgrown that I realized it wasn’t the breastfeeding I would miss, but it was the passing of a milestone that I was mourning. She was growing up. I was experiencing “The Last..”

I don’t begrudge the Mommies who still breastfeed, that is their choice as much as my choice to stop was mine to make. I just wish the pressure wasn’t there. From pre-birth, to birth and recovery, and the months that follow…the pressure is everywhere. From the specialists, both real and imagined. From sanctimommies that look at you like you are some dimwit when you bust out the formula. Screw that noise! My Lil G is happy and healthy, and I wouldn’t change a damn thing about it. Besides, that singular sharp tooth she has sprouted has made me grateful that she is now bottle-fed.

Anyone who judges me for it, will probably get boob-punched.

The Things New Moms Don’t Talk About

Being a new mom, I tend to read a lot of articles about babies. Not that I am looking for instruction, but more to see if other people have experienced what I have experienced. Some articles are helpful. Some…not so much. Like the story about the mom who’s 3 month old died during their first day in a daycare. I happened to read that the night before Lil G was to go to her first day in daycare.

One article I read, spoke of the secrets that new mothers don’t talk about. One of which stuck out was the myth that moms experience an outpouring of love the second the baby pops out of the birth canal. I can’t speak for all moms, but this simply wasn’t the case for me. Oh, I love her now with a love that defies any description. I would do anything for her, but it took me a while to get there.

When I delivered my baby, I didn’t feel a rush of anything, unless you refer to the placenta and all the leftovers from the birthing process. When she cried, I didn’t feel some emotional release, or some magical bond that suddenly appeared, stretching across the room from me to her tiny body. I didn’t feel the ache in my breast that told me that suddenly, this child should attach to it.

They handed me this tiny, pink being. Head full of the softest hair. I stared down at her, taking in her little features, amazed that I just expelled this from my body. That this was the final product of 9 months of wait and worry.

After I was moved to my room, and I convinced my husband that he would be best served going home to sleep instead of trying to sleep on the shitty fold-out chair the hospital had, I sat in my equally uncomfortable bed. The nurse had parked Lil G alongside me, in her own little bed. I simply stared at this baby that shared my DNA. And stared. And stared. Equal parts shock and curiosity. I would be leaving the hospital in a couple of days, and I would have to take her with me. I knew nothing about babies, and caring for babies, and what the hell was I thinking that I could this?

Occasionally, she would open her eyes and stare at me, a blurry face to newborn eyes. She seemed ambivalent about me, and I didn’t know how I felt about that either.

Soon, we go home, and still find myself just staring at this baby. Still shocked that she is mine. Curious about who she is. But did I love her? I only met her a few days prior. I knew she was mine, and I had to take care of her. I didn’t really feel anything beyond a sense of duty. Then, I felt like I was a shitty mom. After all, I had heard countless times at how moms were overcome with so much love the minute their baby was born. I felt broken, like something was wrong with me. Had I made a mistake? Was I not Mommy material after all?

As time went on, I grew to like her. She was cute. Had a cute little cry. Tiny hands and feet. I liked the way she curled against my body when she snuggled. I liked the way she smelled. How soft her hair felt when it brushed against my cheek  or how her skin felt when I kissed her. The way she would look at me with a quizzical look when I would feed her. It was almost like she felt the same way I did. I know I belong to you. I know you are important. Let’s just see how this plays out.

Then one evening, weeks later, I was holding her while sitting on the couch. We stared at each other, which is what we often did, and then it happened. We finally recognized each other. She smiled. There you are, Mommy! I love you!

I smiled back and fell hopelessly in love with her.

My daughter.

The Arrival of Lil G!

As of tomorrow, I will have been a Mom for three whole weeks.

Three weeks ago, Log and I took our friend, Kant out to dinner for her 40th birthday. She chose Fogo de Chao, which was great because we love that place. And so we ate, like the carnivores we are. Top of the food chain! By the end of dinner, I thought my water had broke, so we all went to the hospital so I could get checked out.

Turns out, my water had not broken. And those pains I started feeling? Just cramps. The docs checked me out, announced I was dilated to 3, then sent me home with instructions to drink lots of water, do a lot of walking (to alleviate the cramps), and call if something more interesting happens…like actual labor. We got home around 11:30pm. I was supremely disappointed. Log is convinced that I am not going to deliver before our scheduled induction for the following Thursday.

We went to bed, and around midnight, I started having stronger “cramps”. I got zero sleep that night because I kept having “cramps”. Sometimes, Log would wake up (when I was more noisy and whiny) and rub my back. By morning, my “cramps” were roughly 30 minutes apart.

So, I spent the morning laying in bed, occasionally making a trip to the bathroom, which was also uncomfortable. My “cramps” getting stronger, and closer together. I called one of my close friends, who is a doula, and she thought my “cramps” sounded more like contractions (which I thought the whole time). I called the OB triage desk and explained recent events, and the nurse told me to come in.

We arrive at the hospital at 3pm, and I am whisked away to the OB floor from the ER because the ER wants nothing to do with pregnant ladies. Back into triage, into the same bed I occupied the night before. Am exam reveals that I am now dilated to a 6, and I am in active labor. Would I like an epidural?

Does a bear shit in the woods??

Back in the day, when I was a newly minted pregnant lady, and reading about all the crap you can read about in terms of labor and birth, I thought I would just hold off on an epidural unless I absolutely had to have one. That was before I actually experienced the joy of back labor. Now, I’m not a candyass when it comes to pain. I’ve had numerous knee surgeries. For lack of a better phrase, I have a high pain threshold. That being said, back labor had me almost begging for death. The description is beyond words. When a contraction would hit, I could not form complete thoughts, much less complete sentences. Instead, I started thinking in colors, and my brain went to pristine white. Another thing is that you hear a lot of women say, “You forget the pain.” You know what?  Those women can piss off. I will never forget how bad that hurt, for the rest of my days.

An hour or so into triage, and I am finally taken back onto the floor to my own room. It’s a newly renovated delivery room. ACME hospital redid all the delivery rooms, and they are very posh. Flat screen television (which I never turned on). Big, spacious shower (which I never used). Fancy crown molding and aesthetically pleasing decor (which I never admired). Like birthing your baby at the Marriott. More on this later.

So, I am as settled into my birthing room as much as I can be, and three anesthesiologists waltz in sometime later. And by sometime, I mean almost 2 hours later. I don’t know what the hell took them so long. Did they not hear me screaming from the hallway?? Did they not want to get the epidural in quickly so I would shut up?? Anyway, Larry, Darryl, and Darrel arrive and educate me all about the epidural. Larry is apparently the more experienced of the three, and he assigns the lesser experienced Darryl to actually put in the epidural. Darrel apparently is just observing. The nurse decides to check my cervix before they start, and I am now dilated to an 8. Contractions are roughly 4 minutes apart.

I am made to sit on the side of the bed for the epidural, and am told to relax. Apparently, Larry has never experienced contractions before, because if he did, he would know better than to tell a laboring woman to “relax”. Larry will never know how close he came to dying that day.  Meanwhile, I am trying to power through as Darryl fumbles his way around my spinal column. Towards then end, I get a contraction that comes with the overwhelming need to push. Just as Darryl finishes, I announce this new development to the nurse, who has me lay on my back again for another cervical check. Now dilated to 10. For those not familiar with cervical dilation…the chart doesn’t go to 11. In layman’s terms, my normally mini-donut-sized cervix is stretched to the size of a bagel.

But Lil G has not dropped into position for her birthday, and I am propped up into what I call the Pretty Princess Chair position. Meanwhile, I’m pushing my epidural button like it’s Raid Night in World of Warcraft. In minutes, I can no longer feel anything below the waist. Then, I realize that I’m hungry, and I am given food. All the sugar free strawberry jello I could possibly want! I’d been jonesing for an orange popsicle, but they apparently ran out. Log also takes this time to relax. My Mom stops by.

About 7:35pm, my OB doctor shows up to deliver my daughter. My cervix is open for business, but the Pretty Princess Chair position did not encourage Lil G to move down the line. It is announced that I am going to do some “practice pushing” to 1) Practice pushing and 2) Maybe help Lil G drop some. I am put on my back, feet in stirrups, and I push. Lil G drops two stations. Practice pushing is officially over.

My OB assumes her place front and center. Log is to my right. Mom is sitting off to the side in the cheerleading section. Word gets out, and every Tom, Dick, and Harry show up in my room. I had said no students so this wouldn’t happen, but instead I get everyone else who is not a student. At this point, half of Kansas City now knows if the carpet matches the drapes because they are all in the birthing room.

And so the real pushing starts. In 7 contractions, and however many pushes I can get within those 7 contractions, Lil G makes her big debut. A faint little cry, and she is whisked away to the waiting gaggle of nurses in the corner. I would have liked immediate baby-on-chest placement, but that didn’t happen. I tell Log to follow the baby and not let her out of his sight. Meanwhile, I am directed for the equally exciting placenta delivery. Oooohhh.

Finally, I get to hold my baby. My tiny, wiggly, baby. The thing that has made me miserable and bloated for the last month of my pregnancy, made manifest. I stare at her in stunned silence. This beautiful creature, that is part me, part my husband, is now here. My Mommy-Baby time is brief, because they take Lil G away to do some more newborn stuff.

Remember that part about birthing in a Marriott. Well, about that…

I don’t know how other hospitals do it. Some hospitals, where their labor and delivery is their cash cow, has really pulled out all the stops. Whirlpool tubs. Family areas in the birthing room. Giving birth at those places is like going to a spa, but in the end you get maybe an episiotomy and an infant to take home. I have heard that some do it the same way as ACME Hospital…which is not a spa experience. I birthed in Posh Room, and the minute I could walk (albeit with assistance), I was plopped in a wheelchair and wheeled to the other end of the unit, which sadly had not been updated, to a basic hospital room. If you were lucky, you got a rocking chair in your room. Talk about Bait and Switch! They had a fold-out for the Dad to sleep in, but it was akin to sleeping on a concrete block, so I sent Log home to sleep in a comfy bed.

Two days later, I was discharged from ACME Hospital, but not before watching their education videos for new parents that were filmed in the 80’s and targeting parents with an IQ of bread. One video was about SIDS, which is what any parent wants to watch. A video of approximately 10 minutes. The first 8 minutes featuring bad violin music and families talking about their SIDS experience, the last minute and a half from the “expert”, telling me to always put the baby on her back. One of the other video was something called Purple Cry. The general idea, spaced in a 15 minute video, is this: Babies cry, don’t shake them. Very informative, assholes!

All the articles and classes and unsolicited advice could not prepare me for everything I have felt since that day. There’s a lot of information out there for new parents, the learning curve cannot be imagined. Even the experts can agree on the same thing whether it’s breastfeeding, or which diapers to use. Log and I have just decided to do what is right for us and for Lil G.