I started blogging several months ago in an attempt to share my mental health story, thoughts on parenting, and being a two mom family. And then it dwindled. I struggled to post blogs that weren’t funny enough, or thoughtful enough. I obsess (ha) over each sentence and paragraph.
I slept in until 10AM today. Not because I’m bored, rather, I had/have two kids with extremely high fevers awake in the middle of the night. And a baby that still has an early morning feed. I’m tired. Cal hit four months and stopped sleeping, so did we. He would wake up every one to two hours for a nosh. My brain was fuzzy most days. Plus work, laundry, mothering, wife-ing, it’s a lot. Writing just wasn’t happening. The ideas were there, just not coming out. I thought I was tired with my first. That was like a late night college cram session tired. This was an anxiety before bed tired because I knew how little sleep I would get.
Three is hard. Specifically, when they are all crying simultaneously for NO.GOOD.REASON. Then I take a deep breath, practice some mindfulness and gently deal with each one’s feelings. Oh wait, no I don’t. I take an anti-anxiety and put the T.V. on. I only have one tool in my box when I’ve had four hours of interrupted sleep. Meds.
But we’re turning a corner. Cal is sleeping better. Noa seems to tolerate Atticus slightly more each day. And Atticus, well, is Atticus. Hopefully, the words will come. Not just in thought but for others to read.
One of the most common questions people ask me is if I am done having kids (as if three kids in four years isn’t enough.) The simple answer is yes. Although the reason behind the answer is less simple.
I had a rough start to motherhood. But Cal is a dream baby and I have looked at Betsy and said, “maybe one more.”
Although I would (almost) be open to having more kids, I don’t think I could handle it mentally, emotionally, or financially. Having kids in a same sex relationship isn’t easy. There is no “trying” or “not trying” whenever we feel like it. It takes money and planning. Our world revolved around it, literally. Waiting for ovulation. Picking up tanks of sperm. Being in proximity to a provider that could perform the procedure on the ideal day. Two weeks of waiting to test if it worked. Let downs when it didn’t. Thousands of dollars a month spent on sperm, and ultrasounds and blood work. One cc of sperm, or about the size of a kidney bean, costs $400-$1000. And that’s one attempt.
There is no trying while on vacation. Or “not putting any thought into it.” Or “if it happens, it happens.” Or “there is always next month.” Those sayings don’t exist in our world. ‘Next month’ means another cost the size of a mortgage payment. And missed work for doctors appointments.
When I got pregnant with Cal, there was a deep sense of relief knowing he was my last. I was ready to move on from constantly obsessing about being pregnant, about worrying if the baby was healthy, about childbirth, and the dread of the postpartum body. I was done planning my month around sperm pickups and IUIs.
Hi blog world. I’m hijacking mamaintrovert to go on a little rant. Your normal programming regarding motherhood and anxiety will resume shortly.
As you may have gathered, Jordann and I do a lot of projects. She has a lot of ideas. And I have a lot of patience. After moving in October, her idea list went a little crazy. So began the process of personalizing every square inch of our new home. But here’s the thing: I’m not one of those partners that is given a Pinterest picture and then agrees to go build said project. No. I make her help. Which leads me to my rant. I do NOT build all of this crap by myself. Stop giving me credit for it!
Exhibit A: Atticus’ wainscoting.
Why, yes. This was a Pinterest find. Thanks Pinterest. This project took us weeks. A lot of late night cutting and measuring and trying to find ways for the kids to help. Okay, Jordann did less miter saw cutting on this particular project because she was carrying life. But she rocked the jig saw and hammered in just as many nails as I did. And man, does that woman know how to wield a caulk gun. And yet, every time someone comes over and sees the amazing work WE did they look me square in the eyes and say, “Wow Betsy! Good job! It looks amazing!” Every. Single. Person. Then I get to say, “Actually, Jordann did just as much work on this as I did. She deserves just as much credit.”
Exhibit B: Chicken Run
Yes, I love the chickens. We all know how much I love the chickens. If you are unsure of my love for those little peckers, refer to blog post #3. However, the chicken run was not my idea. Again, thanks Pinterest. Jordann comes to me and says, “I think we should build a 12 foot long chicken run.” (Side note: If Jordann approaches you and starts a sentence with ‘I think’ turn around and walk away. No good can come from it. I think we should stripe the walls. I think we should build a chicken run. I think we should sew Halloween costumes this year. Just run. I digress.) To which I say, “Knock yourself out babe. You know where the hammer is.” Upon completion of chicken condominium, Every. Single. Person looks at me and says (can you guess?) “Wow Betsy! Good job! It looks amazing!” No people. You see the picture of Jordann painting? You know how much painting I did? Zero percent. I’m not great at math, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a lot. You know how many of those boards I measured and cut with our miter saw? Zero. I handed her boards and played lovely assistant. I built the walls, she did the roof. I stapled the front of half of the chicken wire. She did the back half. She rocked that pneumatic stapled gun just as well as I did. “Actually, Jordann did just as much work on this as I did.” Rinse and repeat.
Yes. My hair is short. Yes. I like power tools. Yes. I shop in the men’s department. But does that mean that I am the only one in this house capable of building something? NO! People, I am way too lazy to do this shit on my own. PLEASE stop giving me all the credit for all of the projects. If it wasn’t for Jordann (and bloody Pinterest!) our walls would be white and our chickens would still be potential hawk food. Can someone please explain to me why we are still stuck in gender roles when there’s only one gender in the house?! Seriously, next time a project is completed in our house (which on average is every other day) turn to Jordann and say, “Wow Jordann! Great job! It looks amazing!” And then she’ll probably say, “Thanks. Betsy didn’t do shit.”
Over the summer Betsy and I took the kids to one of those play water parks. We also invited some friends who are expecting their first child soon. Now, I don’t normally bring toys to these places because there’s nothing worse than twenty toddlers that don’t understand sharing attempting to share. It’s meltdown station. But this park is different, it has a cool waterfall that can keep Atticus entertained for days. So, we made the terrible mistake of bringing a few boats to let the kids float them off the waterfall. The kids took the boats out to the waterfall and were happily playing. Meanwhile, another child began playing with one of the toy boats. Noa saw this and decided it was not okay. She promptly removed the toy from the child and returned it to our blanket. We explained to Noa the importance of sharing and told her to give the boat back to the kid because she wasn’t using it. Yeah, I know, she doesn’t give a shit.
We resumed chatting with our friends and I expressed my anxiety over them having a child. I think I actually told them, “I’m kind of nervous about you having kids because I’m afraid I’m going to judge you.”
Let me explain, I wouldn’t consider myself a super judge-y mom. I don’t care how you had your baby: epidural, no epidural, C-section. You want to breastfeed until your kid is five? Go for it. Banning sugar for the first 10 years? Cool. Only dressing your kid in white onesies for the first year? I might suggest a jacket in the winter.
As a very honest friend once said, ‘I was the best parent, until I had kids.’
And I was. I was going to be the mom that had a newborn that ‘slept through the night.’ The one year old that had never experienced ‘screen time.’ The toddler that didn’t scream over broken cheese. Oh yeah, and then I woke up and realized parenting is hard. Like, sleep deprived, postpartum anxiety, who told me this was a good idea, hard. And the things we are judging other moms about have little influence over the character of their children.
I love being a mom. I know every parent loves their kids, but not every parent loves parenting. But I genuinely like my kids. They’re funny and sweet and typically super rad to be around. I had three in four years that should say enough.
They are formula fed, sugar eating, TV watching, co-sleeping kids.
But I intervene when my kid won’t share. I show up daily to teach them how to be good humans. I read with them and we talk about our feelings. We do ‘family hugs.’ They help us build chicken coops. We go on nature walks and treasure hunts. These are the things that have an influence on the character of my children. (Side note, although it probably doesn’t effect your children, you’re a shitty parent if you won’t change your kids shitty diaper. Your partner dislikes it equally as much as you. It’s the first red flag you’re going to suck at parenting. End rant.)
Back to my concern about my friends having kids. Kids add a whole new dynamic to a friendship. We all have our beliefs and parenting approaches. And not liking someone’s kid can break a friendship. It’s like the friend that marries someone that you don’t really like but they’re happy so you try to support it. Five years later the friendship has fizzled away. Now imagine that felling with someone’s child. If you don’t like your kids being around their kids, it probably won’t last.
Every time one of our close friends announce they are expecting, I think to myself, please don’t be the righteous parent. Just be the parent that intervenes when your kid is being a brat, that doesn’t expect someone else to do the parenting. Show up and your kids will be fine.
Recently, a fellow blogger wrote a post about how to feel better about your body post-baby. I agree with her, wearing clothes that fit make a huge difference. And yet, I just can’t get myself there.
Let’s go back. Growing up I was never skinny. I had large breasts and was overweight. Although, this never interfered with my confidence. I never lacked self esteem. I never deprived myself of food in an attempt to be “skinny.” Rather the opposite, I was quite confident in myself. After meeting Betsy, and after many years of neck and back pain, I decided to have breast reduction surgery. It was the best decision I ever made. Not only for my back but I felt like I was finally in MY body. I had been working out prior to surgery and not long after recovery I was 35 pounds lighter. I loved my size and worked hard to maintain a healthy weight.
When I got pregnant with Noa I was not overly concerned about the weight gain. I wasn’t going to binge during pregnancy because I knew how difficult it would be to lose the weight. So I ate like I did pre-pregnancy (except the daily chocolate milkshakes) and was fine. After Noa was born I lost 24 of the 28 pounds within the first two weeks. This was probably due to my severe postpartum OCD or it’s just easier to lose the weight after the first kid.
Nine short months into my motherhood journey I got pregnant with Atticus. I was slightly over my pre- Noa weight but still unconcerned. Atticus was born and again the weight came off rather easily. I was back to within 10 pounds of my pre-Noa weight within the first couple months.
And then came pregnancy number three. More weight gain and a higher starting point. By the time Cal was born I weighed more than I ever had. I was obsessed with every pound I gained past my heaviest weight. And although I have lost half of the weight I gained with him I cannot get past my daily anxiety of being this size.
I was once this size and didn’t care. I looked in the mirror and thought, “damn you look good.” Until I was within normal weight. Now I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. “You birthed a human” can only get you so far. Not only that, I birthed THREE! humans in three and a half years. And still no change in how I see my body. Yeah, it’s strong, and grows babies, and beautifully birthed all three but those self-validations are still not enough to get me over my morning hump of anxiety-ridden outfit picking.
I want to add here that I don’t let Noa (or any of my kids) see how I feel. When I get on the scale and they are around we talk all about how strong our bodies are and all the cool things we can do with them. Noa sees me loving my body, even if it’s only on the outside.
And Betsy, oh how I love this woman. Three kids later and she loves me more everyday. She’s always validating my concerns and strongly encouraging of my gym attendance and healthy eating. The stretch marks and new shape don’t even cross her mind. You’re probably thinking, ‘Yes they do, she just doesn’t say anything’ but trust me, sleep and chicken safety are about the only things she thinks about when not attending to children.
Society tells us that we need to be skinny, while simultaneously encouraging us to rebel against that message. That we should love our postpartum body with the stretch marks and extra skin because ‘you grew a human and created life.’
Which brings me to another point, it’s not just the weight. It’s that your body is a whole new shape. Even if you get back down to your pre-baby weight the shape just isn’t the same. It’s not the old you, it’s a whole new you. And it’s really hard to accept a new you when you can’t anticipate it.
And I have three kids. I don’t have the disposable income to remake a wardrobe. Or the emotional capacity to go shopping for one. For now, I’ll stick with the daily anxiety about what to wear (they make a pill for that.)
If you’re one of the many women in the postpartum phase and you’re not loving your body, you’re not alone. Even with a partner that thinks you’re the sexiest person alive, even with frequent self validation about the miraculous thing you just accomplished, even if you workout daily and eat healthily (or maybe not) accepting this new body is hard.
I’d like to offer some powerful words of wisdom like telling you that those women you see on Facebook are probably also struggling. Or the ones that lose the weight right away are rare and most of us don’t. Or you’re going to end up loving your new body. But I’m not sure any of those are true. What is true is that there is at least one other momma who also isn’t so sure how to accept this new body of hers, despite its amazingness.
Coming out is a tough thing. There is often a lot of build up, thousands of scenarios made up in your head and hopefully a giant much ado about nothing. There is the big coming out to friends and family and lots of little ones to follow. I didn’t realize this in the beginning. When I got married, others just assumed it was to a man, and I let them.
Until I had kids. Now I come out daily. I’ll be in Costco and tell Noa to go find ‘Mama.’ Some nearby individual will politely interject, ‘Oh, you’re not her mom?’
‘Yes, I’m her mom. But she is lucky enough to have two.’
Noa will then explain that she has a ‘Mama’ and a ‘Mommy.’ Duh.
Or someone will ask, ‘Who did they get such blue eyes from?’ Clearly noticing I don’t have blue eyes. ‘My wife.’
There was another incident on an elevator once where a woman said, ‘Wow, she looks so much like both of you, which I know isn’t possible.’ Cue awkward silence and a quick elevator escape.
And then there was the time Betsy spent 10 minutes with the Century Link salesman and he finally said, “Is your husband here?” Because she’s just a wife.
Until now the kids haven’t known any different. We have several lesbian friends, one with kids, and we change most stories to read “Mama and a Mommy”. In Noa’s world, most people have two moms. Except her cousins.
Noa started preschool today. And we are the only two mom family in the school. The token same sex couple, doing our part to bring diversity to the school. When I introduce myself to other parents and say, ‘Noa is my daughter that’s her other mom, Betsy’ I hold my breath for the response.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not worried about my ability to raise healthy kids in a same sex family. Science tells us these kids do the same, if not better than heterosexual families. She has two moms in a healthy, loving home. But I do suddenly feel a strong need to expose her to more same sex families. For her to make friends with other kids with two moms or two dads. Just because she doesn’t have any classmates with same sex parents, she’s not alone.
I have my theory on why kids from same sex parents do, the same if not better than heterosexual’s kids. One, they’re wanted. Which isn’t to say heterosexual couple’s kids aren’t wanted. But you don’t hear about the gay men on the corner having an ‘oops’ baby. These rascals are one hundred percent planned out and wanted.
But more importantly, we don’t follow heteronormative roles. Betsy cooks and cleans. I manage the money. We both work and stay home. We build shit, like wainscoting and a chicken coop. Because gender roles are so outdated.
And yet I worry about her being in preschool. About making friends and telling them she has two moms. I’m sure it will be harder for me than it is for her. I mean she currently thinks that wearing underwear is what makes someone a girl and wearing diapers makes you a boy. In her world it is.
Eventually she’s going to realize her books actually say ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy.’ That having two moms isn’t the standard, although it is super cool. I hope that Betsy and I can teach her that when asked about her dad she isn’t afraid to tell them about her two moms.
Since I’ve known Betsy she’s always been a somewhat active person. However, after every hard workout she always comes home with a slight cough. She’ll make a comment that she needs to get checked for asthma while I remind her that anyone who works out hard typically has a minor cough that follows.
Fast forward several years and she is asked to have a TB test done for one of the agencies we work for. She goes to her primary care doctor and gets the serum put in her arm and is asked to return two days later to have it checked.
Two days pass and as she is leaving the house I notice the giant red spot on her arm. The following conversation ensures.
Me: “Hey, I think your TB test is positive.”
Betsy: “It’s fine, I’ve had this before.
Me: “Betsy, you have a giant, bumpy, red spot on your arm. I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to look like that.”
Betsy: “No, it will be fine. I’m not worried.”
Out the door she goes and 45 minutes later I get a call from her. “Yeah, so my TB test is positive. I have to go get chest X-rays and go on some medication that’s going to make my pee look like Tang for three months.” Um, cool!
Although my first reaction was slight worry the doctor assured us this happened more frequently than we realize. It is apparently considered latent TB and is very common in people that work with populations from Mexico and Asia. She is now required to have chest X-rays done every couple of years to check for anything strange.
Although now every time she works out and gets her cough she looks at me and says, “Hey, Babe I think my Tuberculosis is acting up.”
I’m an introvert. I mean, one can clearly assume this from the blog title. It often surprises some of my newer friends or colleagues when I share this with them. “But you can start a conversation with anyone.” It’s true, but I think part of that is manners. We all learned how to fake being an extrovert in school. However, once I got to college I realized I would rather spend on weekends reading a new book then going out to a bar or club. In conversation, I typically ask the questions and keep it very superficial about me. Unless you ask my birth stories, then you better grab a chair. I share those with everyone.
I could barely handle my wedding because I was the center of attention. We eloped so I could avoid a wedding. But even after the elopement my wife was set on a formal wedding. I obliged and panic attacked my way to, and through, the day.
People wear me out. I will eat lunch in my car during an all day workshop or job just so I don’t have to interact with anyone.
I leave most large parties without saying goodbye to anyone. Betsy tells me I’m rude. I tell her my heart races a hundred miles an hour thinking about the goodbye, let alone doing it.
I dread singing happy birthday to anyone in a large group. Restaurant happy birthdays are the worst. A group of waiters singing to someone at my table while various patrons watch or participate, cue bathroom escape and sweating.
If I see someone I know in a store I will probably go out of my way to avoid them. Nothing against them, I just don’t have the energy to maintain a conversation without being rude.
If we’re having friends over and one of them asks last minute to bring a friend that I don’t know, I wonder if it’s too late to cancel. Surly they must understand how much stress this causes an introvert? Nope, they’re here. Cool, I think my kid needs me.
Kids, they are the best excuse for an introvert. You can use kids as an excuse for anything. Nope, can’t come to your party. No sitter. Sorry I disappeared to the car without saying goodbye, Atticus was having a meltdown. Excuse me while I go put my kid down for bed, 45 minutes later Betsy comes to look for me. I just couldn’t bring myself to come back down.
Except birthdays. Three times a year I have to endure the anxiety that comes with my children being sung to for their birthday.
A year ago I read the book ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ by Susan Cain. It completely changed how I saw myself and other introverts. I’m much less hard on myself when I don’t want to be social and go out. Or when I exit a party without saying goodbye. And I’m trying to get better at being honest with others in my reason for not attending a social event. Although telling someone you can’t come to a gathering because being social requires too much energy doesn’t always go over well. I may just stick with the kids excuse.
Atticus, our two year old has ‘long’ hair for a boy. We love it! It is thick and luxurious and beautifully blonde. Sometimes we put it in a man bun. He looks like a beach bum. But these days he is liking it down. We are often asked when we are going to cut it. We thought about it for a little while but can’t bring ourselves to do it.
Regardless of what he wears, he gets called ‘she’ or ‘her.’ What’s her name? How old is she? Even with a shirt that says ‘I’m a boy’ he’s still called a girl because of the long hair. Most of the time he is in truck or train shirt. I’m not saying girls can’t wear truck and train shirts, but most people view these as ‘boys’ clothes. It doesn’t bother me, and more often than not, we are entertained by it. We gently correct, “Actually, he’s a boy and his name is Atticus.”
Last week we were out to dinner with Betsy’s family. Uncle Jake was holding Atticus. A server walked by and said to Atticus, “Hi, Princess!” Without skipping a beat, Atticus responded with, “Hi!” and a fantastic hand-wave.
A couple of years into my mental health journey I was listening to NPR and heard this interview by Andrew Solomon. He was talking about the prevalence of peri-natal depression and anxiety. One of the things he mentioned was that most of the women experiencing depression and seeking help are so afraid to tell their husbands that they text (instead of call) their therapist because they don’t want their husband or partner to overhear them on the phone. What the fuck? I mean, really? Women have so much shame about how they are feeling they cannot tell the person they are creating a child with.
In a typical healthy marriage if you are sick with any physical ailment most likely you’re going to tell your partner. Your partner is going to suggest some type of antidote to treat the condition. Except when it’s a mental health problem then we keep it a secret, hope it goes away, or are told, “can’t you just not think that way?” Obviously, if I could just turn it off (‘like a light switch’- name the musical) I would. You think I want to feel this way?
With each of my subsequent pregnancies I took an anti-depressant for OCD and later in the pregnancy anti-anxieties. I did EXTENSIVE research about the safety of these meds while pregnant. I have OCD, of course I researched the shit out of it. I spoke to midwives, OBs, Perinatologists, and my PCP. I read research studies. Don’t get me wrong, if you can avoid meds while pregnant, great! But not all of us can. And my need for medication was not going to stop me having kids if I wasn’t putting the fetus at risk.
I remember one particular encounter with my perinatologist (they are the doctors that work with high risk babies.) I was asking, repeatedly, about my use of a benzo later in the pregnancy. She assured me it was safe. I mentioned my experience with my first pregnancy and how it came to me using meds while pregnant. Betsy, briefly explained her role in the whole process and the perinatologist commented to Betsy, “You should give a talk on how to recognize signs in your partner and how to be a better support for those struggling.” She proceeded to tell us about how many women don’t have a supportive partner. They live in fear and shame about telling their partner if they don’t feel absolute love for their new baby.
Part of the reason I was able to get my mental health crisis under control so quickly was because I was completely honest about what I was experiencing with Betsy and my parents. During my first week of therapy the therapist suggested Betsy not be part of the sessions because it might influence what I shared. I instead she was involved knowing that I would not be able to tell her alone what I was thinking and feeling. She needed to know and I was willing to tell the therapist with her present.
Betsy, and the rest of my support network (few knew the severity of my situation) were amazing. But this isn’t the norm. Lying to our partners and trying to get through it alone is the norm. And it should not have to be that way.