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Mentoring Mondays Teaching you to be a Lady while you teach me to be a Dad. By-the-minute journal entry of Maddie and I earlier this week.
12:17 AM: I’m on whiskey-number 4 and whiskey-number 5 is looking pretty good right about now. Sure it’s late and I need to be up around 6:30 AM but what the hell?! Taking care of a baby isn’t too hard. She sleeps mostly anyway. Might as well enjoy the night.
12:42 AM: Whiskey-number 5 was just great. Here’s to whiskey-number 6 and getting all nostalgic over old music videos on Youtube.
01:29 AM: Bryan Adams is the most underrated songwriter of all time. I’m sure of it. Hang on, I’m going to call my ex-girlfriend, scream “bitch,” and then hang up.
01:31 AM: Alcohol made me forget about cell phones and their built-in caller id. This will be embarrassing tomorrow.
02:17 AM: ….must…sleep….room…spinning….
06:57 AM: Baby crying. Head splitting. Momentarily try to think of child abuse statutes in my home state but my head hurts too much. Baby still crying. Must do something…
06:58 AM: Pacifiers RULE!
06:59 AM: Pacifiers SUCK! They only work for a minute when she’s hungry.
07:04 AM: Holding Maddie while feeding her. She’s so damn cute, I momentarily forget about my mental-threat of child abuse. Being a Dad ROCKS!
07:14 AM: Maddie just threw up all over me. Being a Dad BLOWS!
07:15 AM: After cleaning up myself and Maddie, she smiles at me and coos. Decide that Maddie can live a bit longer.
09:23 AM: Maddie falls asleep in my arms while we are chilling on the couch. She’s so beautiful and precious. I feel lucky to be alive and am grateful for her and all that I have.
11:35 AM: Maddie cuts a fart that would put the Blazing Saddles campfire scene to shame. I momentarily marvel at the awesomeness of my daughter.
11:36 AM: I check her diaper after the above mentioned fart. Oh. My. God. Screw that, there IS no god. Nothing that foul can come out of something so small and cute.
11:38 AM: Diaper changed and I am forever changed. I now understand battle-hardened Marines and their thousand-yard-stares. They saw it all and came back from the brinks. So did I.
12:04 PM: I get hungry and decide to make a sandwich.
12:05 PM: Every time I walk away Maddie starts crying. As soon as I walk in to where she can see me, she stops crying and smiles. Too cute. But I am hungry. Back to sandwich.
12:08 PM: After four minutes of back and forth from the kitchen to the living room and still unable to construct a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I slowly come to the realization that I’m being schooled by a three-month old. I am shamed. Maddie keeps smiling.
01:17 PM: Maddie goes down for her nap and I hop on the internet to check my chances of spontaneous combustion.
01:18 PM: Outlook not good for spontaneous combustion.
02:19 PM: The wife calls and says we need more diapers. I tell her that she’d better go and get them. She asks me “what?!” I say “nothing, dear. What size?” The wife then reminds me that this is Minnesota and that it’s cold out and that I need to put Maddie in her bunting. I tell her that that is not an appropriate verb to use about our daughter. She says “I said ‘bunting’ you idiot! With a ‘b’ and not a ‘c!’” A quick check from Google confirms this. Again, I am shamed. And apparently a pervert.
02:24 PM: I finally get Maddie into her bunting. Spend a moment marveling at how ridiculous she looks. She looks like Ralphie from A Christmas Story. She looks like something Lewis Carroll would’ve dreamt of while on copious amounts of acid.
03:30 PM: In the past half-hour I’ve managed to feed Maddie, change her, take a shower and get dressed for work. Spend the next seven minutes making sure Maddie doesn’t throw up on my pants or shirt.
03:34 PM: Epic FAIL. Must find clean shirt. Hmm. The one on floor next to the laundry basket doesn’t smell too bad…
03:37 PM: The wife comes home and I leave thirty seconds later.
03:44 PM: Creeping onto the highway at twenty miles per hour, I try to remember what my wife looks like. But in my mind all I can see is Maddie.
04:46 PM: Pull into the parking lot of Best Buy to start my shift. I am beyond tired.
06:32 PM: A customer seems upset that we don’t carry the type of guitar strings he wants. I resist the urge to grab him by the shirt and scream “Hey man! It’s no big deal! They’re just guitar strings! You wanna know what happened to me today?! I got shit on, pissed on and puked on and I’m here smiling. You, you’re all bent out of shape over guitar strings!” But I say none of this.
07:11 PM: Even after all the above-mentioned events of the day, I find that I miss Maddie. I sneak out to call the wife to inquire about the baby. All is fine.
10:36 PM: Done with work. My whole body hurts. I’m so tired that even my hair hurts. I stagger to my Mazda and drive home.
11:11 PM: Home. The wife is asleep on the couch with Maddie resting belly-down on her chest. It is easily the most beautiful scene I will witness all year.
11:22 PM: I make a light dinner, careful to not make too much noise and sit down to eat. As I sit down the wife stirs and opens her eyes, sees me and smiles. Now I remember what my wife looks like. She looks like love and joy. I remind myself that I am very lucky.
12:17 AM: We put Maddie into her crib gently as to not disturb her slumber. She’s a sleeping angel with light red hair, big blue eyes and a mouth that can’t help but smile. The wife gives me a hug and a kiss and thanks me for taking such good care of our baby. Shucks Ma’am. T’was nothing.
According to Time Magazine (http://www.time.com/time/
Adam's Mom and I have always gotten along famously--even better than they get along themselves. Near the end of the pregnancy, she and I talked every day, and I think we both enjoyed the companionship. But something seemed to change once Maddie was born. A list of events on both our plates made for a stressful concoction, and in the end resulted in Adam and I feeling overwhelmed, asking (politely) for some space, and her feelings being hurt. Since then, there has been a disconnect between she and I, and sometimes I feel as if Adam is keeping two cats separated in opposite corners so they don't hiss at each other. Or maybe my imagination is getting the best of me.
“In [Cambridge University psychologist Terri Apter's] study [of in-law tension], two-thirds of women said they felt their mothers-in-law were jealous of their relationships with the sons, while two-thirds of mothers-in-law said they felt excluded by their sons' wives.” (I hope that's not the case with my MIL.) I think whatever rifts we experience with our MILs stem from the intense bond each of us feel for our children. That fire that churns within us when we feel someone challenges our comfort zone, within which our parenting skills, relationship adroitness, and love for it all lie.
You can't pick your family. But even when we're at odds, we love those crazy goons. What I do find comfort in is this: even at our worst odds, there is one link--one truth--that forever bonds us: the love, and willingness to do anything, for our children. In that, if nothing else, we can look at each other and share a genuine smile.
And then we turn on ourselves. “What did I do wrong? What did I not say enough? Do enough? If I just would have…he would still be here.” But that's not true. From the caring, empathetic lot of us, no one is responsible for another taking their own life. It's not because of anything we did or didn't do. It's not even happenstance. It was their intentional choice. To the angry: their cowardly choice. To the hurt: their selfish choice. To the confused: a choice that will never make sense. He chose to forsake the love around him. My mother always said, “You can't change another. You can only hope to influence them.” That is our responsibility: to do our best to impact others' lives in a positive way, and hope our good-doings rub off on them. That they are then inspired to pay it forward to others, and do right by themselves. It is not fair for us to blame ourselves for others' poor and permanent choices because we, in the end, have no control over their choices. Also, blaming ourselves absolves them of responsibility for what they've done. The problem is when they see suicide as an option, and every new suicide promotes that idea. The problem is when they don't value themselves enough to say, “The pain isn't worth my life.”
In certain situations, there is one (or a few) people who clearly hold blame for making those lost feel so distraught that they felt they had no other choice. These people don't deserve pity. Instead, they deserve the burden of guilt and shame that they now carry. May it haunt them the rest of their lives. In situations like these, it is our (the caring, empathetic lot of us) responsibility to stand up for the bullied, abused, and neglected; to defend them against the hateful and the ignorant; to provide a loving escape from the hurt. Those who did not do so also bear partial blame. A man must take responsibility for his actions. So if a man hangs himself, he himself is to blame. But the man who stands by and makes no attempt to intervene is just as much to blame. Those among us who offered shelter to our loved ones are not among those men.
To those who bullied and abused the ones we mourn: your insecurities, ignorance, and intolerance have made you even more despicable than you already were. There is now and forever blood on your hands.
To those who are left in the wake of suicide: you did all you could. You were there for them. It is not your fault they chose not to reach out for help.
To those hurting we have yet to lose: giving up is not the answer. Although the pain is heavy, lift up your head. Open your eyes and see those around you who love you. Below are some links and a hotline for help. They exist solely to help you, but you have to click the link; you have to make the call. All is not lost; hope and the future lies in the arms of your friends and family. Living is the ultimate revenge.
1-800-273-talk (24/7 365 hotline)http://helpguide.org/mental/
Baby, I'm Blue Well, it happened. I have the baby blues. At least once a day, something makes me want to cry my eyes out: giving up my cat Daisy because I can't adequately care for her anymore with the new baby; saying bye to the boys, Amber, and Zaq when they were here to visit (before they decided to move back home); listening to “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontange and dancing with Maddie. Undoubtedly, my drop in hormones after delivery is playing a huge part in this. I read that while pregnant, a woman will produce more estrogen than she will her entire life otherwise. Once pregnancy is over, that estrogen level falls off the proverbial cliff. As a result, your hair falls out in chunks, your skin looks like crap, and you take an emotional roller-coaster ride. Check, check, and…check.
I gained a little weight from pregnancy, which was to be expected. I mean, we're talking like eight pounds (after baby, fluid, etc.), so I feel guilty even being self-conscious about it. But I still feel two feet tall inside when I'm standing in front of the mirror. Growing up, the only battle I didn't face was weight. I had glasses, braces, acne, bad style, and greasy hair. But I never had to deal with wanting to be thinner (guess the forces that be felt I had enough on my plate). So, now that the glasses make me look smart instead of dorky, the braces are gone, the acne is under control, and I use the right shampoo, I guess it's my turn to go through the body image battle of trying to lose this baby weight. For me, it's not the quantity of pounds, but the size around that I care about. I just want Adam to still be attracted to me, look good naked, and fit into my non-maternity clothes. One down, two to go.
On that note: yep, still wearing maternity pants. They were bearable while pregnant. I mean, what other option does a girl have when your belly turns the corner before you do? But now that mother and baby are two instead of one, I want that non-elastic waistline like I wanted that Slurpee during my second trimester. Currently, I am able to (literally) squeeze my butt into one pair of pre-pregnancy pants, but can't button or zip them up so I wear them with my belly band. I can't wear them for too long, however, because they cut into my lower stomach. Ouch! Funny what we women will do for fashion. *rolls eyes* Aunt Amber and I have a date to replace my wardrobe when she gets back home. I dream about this every free minute of every day, much like how a child looks forward to Christmas morning.
I'm also looking forward to our shopping trip because it will be the first bona fide mommy time I will have had baby-free since her birth. I'm on a limited maternity leave, so I want to spend as much time with her as possible. But the flip-side to that is I don't get out much. I'm lucky if I remember to brush my teeth. It leaves me yearning for social interaction outside of our tiny apartment, and dare I wish for some alcohol too? I'm jealous of my husband's “daddy time:” going for a beer after work with friends, working on his book, etc. (To be fair: Adam doesn't get nearly as much “daddy-time” as he needs, or would like to.) My “mommy-time” consists of memorizing the structure of a balance sheet, or as my teacher refers to it: “death by power point.” I love my baby, but I miss my friend now more than ever. Thank god she's moving home.
Post partum is like one minute you're enjoying the view from the summit you've climbed to and feeling proud of the accomplishment. Then the next minute you blink and find yourself at the bottom of the canyon between that mountain and the one next to it. Not for one minute do I regret getting pregnant, but in a way I am mourning the death of the old me--the individual me--all the while reveling in the joy that is being a parent. Everything I do and say now affects her: directly or indirectly. I am forever a different person.
Is being a different person the reason I've done things I said I wouldn't do as a parent? For example, using a pacifier before six weeks, or co-sleeping. Have I done them? Yes. How do I feel about that? Mixed. I constantly question whether I'm making the right decision. It doesn't feel wrong, but to not follow the baby book's instructions doesn't make me feel like I'm getting an A+ in parenting either. What I keep coming back to is what I've heard and read many places: you're going to get bombarded with advice on how to rear your child, and it can be confusing and overwhelming. (1) There is nothing wrong with trial and error, and (2) listen to your baby and go with your instincts. I have a feeling I'll be doing that even into her teen years.
She let one go, and I congratulated her on her efforts as I usually do. “Nice one!” I laughed. I laugh because they're so loud and rumbling that they startle you. They might startle her too, because she always makes the Cupie doll face afterwards.
I have heard stories of other parents getting pooped, peed, and projectile vomited on, so I always wait a few minutes after a poop to ensure she's finished her business before I go in to clean up. Ithought I was pretty smart. Well, she apparently found a way around my efforts to make sure I was initiated properly into the inner parent circle.
Maddie was sitting up, snuggled into a corner I'd made with my chest, arm, and leg. We had been reading a book, so I finished the page and pulled her away from her cozy nook. To my horror, the seedy liquid breast milk stool had exploded up the back of her diaper, defying gravity and soaking the back of her onesie and my pants. Uggh. So, I cleaned her up, then set her in her crib to allow myself a little freedom to clean up myself. After changing pants, I treated all affected textiles with stain remover and washed my hands. My mind replaying the shit monster attack, and feeling like a terrible mother for letting her sit in it for the (literally) 90 seconds it took to finish the story page, I turned the corner into the bedroom.
To my surprise, there was Maddie in her crib unaffected by the experience. I could tell she was not as traumatized by the shit monster as I was because she was hungry. I could tell she was hungry because she was mouthing her Sing and Sooth Seahorse. Not mouthing it just anywhere, but directly on the nose. It looked like she was planting a passionate kiss on the plush toy. And as quickly as the shit monster had struck to rattle my parenting confidence, it vanished in the joy of being the mom of such a silly, sweet child.
Thank you Madeline--for reminding me that there will be hiccups and that they are okay. Whatever happens is a trip we will experience together, and being caught off-guard doesn't mean I'm a bad parent. Love, Mom.