Life With Kids

I don’t typically do list posts but I’ve been itching to do a post and lists are easier than formal paragraphs. So, here goes.

Things I’ve learned about life with kids. In no particular order.

  1. You will be judged on everything. Things you never thought you could possibly be judged on. The less personal you take it, the better.
  2. Find a hobby. Even if you’ve dreamed about being a mother your whole life sometime between four and 14 months postpartum you want to be more than just a mother. Having a hobby helps this feeling of loss.
  3. At some point you will feel like your partner is doing it wrong. Let them do it wrong. You probably can get the baby to stop crying in half the time. But in nine months you will want your partner to be able to get the baby to stop crying without you.
  4. Some days your child has seven hours of screen time. Other days you bake cookies and picnic at the park. Everything in moderation.
  5. Because you are an adult and contributing member of society, your parents (or in-laws) will feel like they did it right. And you are doing it wrong. Regardless of the fact that times have changed and we know more (car seats, sleeping positions, brain development) they will still have an opinion on your parenting.
  6. They will also magically forget that when you were a toddler you were an asshole. They will ask you things like “why won’t he listen to me?” (the 2.5 year old.) “Well, because he is 2.5 and needs to be told things three thousand times.”
  7. It doesn’t matter how much you love your partner before kids, there is a reason marital satisfaction decreases after kids. It’s hard. Sometimes you just co-exist. “That won’t happen to us.” It will. And that’s cool. Just do something about it.
  8. Having your baby “fit into you life” is much easier in theory than reality. Betsy and I wanted to see Chicago on a business trip. We planned to have a day in Chicago before flying out in the evening. Noa was done napping, Atticus would nap in the carrier. Ha, nice try moms. Mid-July, 100+ temps, Lollapalooza, a delayed flight, arrived home at 3AM. Maybe we’re just not that family.
  9. Co-sleeping might not be for everyone, but damn it feels good to snuggle a sleeping child.
  10. The best prep for a child is a Boxer.
  11. Never ask a moms group for parenting advice. Made that mistake once. A mother told me that if I just screamed in my child’s face the behavior would stop. Also, don’t google shit. Trust your gut. Or ask a well trusted friend.
  12. Parenting feels super overrated for the first 6 months.
  13. Your partner will constantly surprise you with random shit they can do, like braid your daughter’s hair.
  14. And finally, if you’re in the pre-kid stage, relish in how good of a parent you are now. We should all get “Best Parent” award because we pop those babies out. Because let’s face it, we’re all way better parents before we had kids.

The Slump

‘When you pick a partner, you pick a story.’ Esther Perel.

If you haven’t listened to the podcast, “Where Should We Begin?” You should. It’s a couples therapy session with Esther Perel and it’s fantastic. It’s real and raw and worth the listen. Plus, it’s not specific to straight couples.

A couple weeks ago Betsy and I stayed up past 11PM chatting about life. It felt like we were back in the early days of dating. Fully engaged in the conversation. Granted the topics were different. Beyond our ideals of marriage and children. Because I was a way better mom before I had kids.

One kid was easy. Correction, one kid seemed easy after the second kid showed up. One was actually really hard. It’s amazing how we can simultaneously love what we have and grieve what we lost. Feeling deeply fulfilled from the family ‘cuddle puddle’, to wishing one was back in college tied to nothing. One, two, ten, the number doesn’t change the new identity of parent. And the identity shift is the plot twist. The daily obstacles, the new vocabulary.

Betsy and I, we’re in the thick of it. And without intentional acts of love the domestic consumes all. Laundry and bills and attempting to get health insurance figured out. Oh, and teaching Noa why ‘asshole’ isn’t an appropriate word to use.

I hit this period beyond the initial phase of postpartum chaos where I wonder about the path I’m on. Where life feels really hard. And I contemplate all the paths that would have been easier? Better? Just different? I know this not to be true. But the Instagram posts of other couples sure make it feel that way. Don’t get me wrong, I know Instagram pics are not what I should be comparing my life to. But I get sucked into the furniture ideas and cute puppies and it’s hard not to miss the smitten couples and perfect children.

Luckily, and through much self evaluation, I can recognize when the slump is coming. Although recognizing and appropriate coping are two different things. You’d think after three very intentioned kids I would figure out how to avoid this slump?

But, alas, no. It comes. It sticks around for awhile. I text my doctor crying and asking for confirmation that I am not fucking my children up completely. She says I’m not. I trust her. And then, slowly, it fades. And I realize that my life is pretty damn near perfect.

A Rant From the Wife #3

I recently finished John Green’s newest book Turtle’s All The Way Down. It is, among other things, about a teenage girl, Aza, that suffers from Anxiety and OCD in the form of intrusive thoughts. (Sound familiar? If not, please refer to previous blog posts written by the original creator of this blog.) One of the things that I found most interesting about this book is not just Aza’s narrative of her mental health frustrations, but the way her friends and mother deal with it. At one point, her best friend tells her that it is “exhausting” being her friend. Her mother is constantly checking in on her anxiety levels. It got me thinking; “What are some appropriate ways that we (the non-anxious) can help those we love who experience any sort of mental health struggle?” I have come up with a strategic list of six things that might help you be the supportive friend, partner, parent, or child of someone you know that could use a little support.

*Disclaimer: The list might not actually help. It’s just the list that helps me. Please remember that every person is an individual.

1: NEVER ASSUME YOU KNOW WHAT THEY NEED.

One of the things that never works is telling someone in the throws of a mental health crisis, “Hey, just stop thinking that.” It’s not that easy. Trust me, if they could, they would. Also, saying things like “Why don’t you go lay down?” or “Have you taken your medication?” or “Let’s do something to distract you.” Are usually ineffective. Laying down to be alone with one’s thoughts can be just as terrifying as being with people. Their medication is none of your damn business (except for when it is). And distractions usually don’t work.

2: SOMETIMES, YOU NEED TO ASSUME YOU KNOW WHAT THEY NEED.

HA! I see the look on your face. “But you just said don’t assume!” I know. Confusing right. So is mental health. Here are some times that making assumptions might help. 1 – If you know the person well enough to know their triggers, avoid the triggers. For Jordann, if she doesn’t get enough sleep, her anxiety spikes. So I give her opportunities to sleep if it’s been a particularly rough week of sleep.  2 – If they haven’t been meeting their basic needs, encourage them to do so. Sometimes, a snack helps. Sometimes, sleep helps. Sometimes, physical touch helps. (Sometimes, none of these help.) Sometimes, a distraction does help. Going outside has a million benefits for everyone. As does physical movement, like a nice walk. The key to step two is that you have to REALLY know the person you’re trying to help. And don’t be offended when your efforts are denied.

3: REMEMBER THAT IT’S HARDER FOR THEM THAN IT IS FOR YOU.

You know what’s really hard? Being a constant support for someone with a mental illness. You know what’s harder than that? Having a fucking mental illness!! If at any point you think, “Ugh! This is so hard! Woe is me!” then take a step back, take a deep breath, and get over yourself.

4: HAVE AN OUTLET

On that note, it’s important for you to have an outlet too. Because it really is hard to constantly be on call to support as needed. Or to always be a little concerned about how the person you love feels. But it’s not their job to make you feel better about their mental health. So find someone else to talk to. Maybe a friend. Maybe a therapist.Someone who won’t judge. Maybe someone that gets it, but it’s not a requirement.

5: FIND WAYS TO EDUCATE YOURSELF

I like the podcast The Hilarious World of Depression. Real people telling their stories in a very relatable way that helps me understand what others might experience. Some simple Google magic could help too. It’s important to remember that no two people are alike. Just because two people have OCD, it doesn’t mean they experience it in the same way. Whatever you learn or hear is a starting point or a reference point. It’s not the law and it’s not set in stone.

6: ALWAYS BE THERE

Taking into consideration that all of the other points are extremely contradictory, this is the most difficult. The most important part of this is to talk to your person. Find out what they need. Don’t do it in a moment of crisis. That shit never works. That’s as bad as me trying to come up with a plan to sleep train our kids at 3:00 in the morning. Come up with a game plan. Ask them how they want you to respond or react. Ask them what their triggers are. Ask them what would help them when they’re really struggling. And then, in the throws of really bad day, remember that there is a very strong chance that none of it will help at all. And that’s okay. They know you’re still there.

I hope this helps. And if it doesn’t, sorry you just read this super long post and got nothing from it. At the very least, read Turtles. It was a great book.

That Wasn’t In My Birth Plan

I love a good birth story. In fact, I’m obsessed with my own. Ask me about any of my births and you better have some time to listen. They were amazing, mostly.

There is so much emotion in birthing a child. We plan for it to go one way and it often goes another. It can be extremely cathartic if it goes right. And highly traumatic if it goes wrong. To the point that there is a workshop for women to process their birth stories.

I’ve had three babies all with unique birth stories. My last happened to come without an epidural. And when I tell people this, the response is as if I’m somehow better than the mom that got an epidural or had a c-section.

“Wow, that’s amazing. Did it hurt?”

Yes, it hurt. It felt like every bone in my body was breaking at the same time. In fact, the pain was so intense I basically disconnected from my body. And there was vomit. No poop, but vomit.

We love judging moms and this is just one more way we do it. We’ve somehow forgotten that not everyone has the exact same birth experience. I’ve seen women pop out a baby in a few hours and shrug when asked if it hurt. How? I don’t know. Clearly, my huge hips aren’t doing their job.

Likewise, we’ve somehow made it a societal norm for moms to feel like they have to justify why they got an epidural.

Cue any birth story involving an epidural and it involves an apologizing explanation:

“I was in labor for 47 hours and couldn’t take it anymore.”

“My labor stalled and they said the epidural might help me relax and get it going again.”

You don’t have to justify it. How about you got an epidural because it turns out childbirth is way more painful than we can imagine? Why is that not enough?

Most of us plan to try without an epidural. Why? I have no fucking idea.

Perhaps it’s because our moms did it. Yeah, my mom also got her cavities filled without any anesthesia and I wouldn’t voluntarily do that either. Or perhaps it’s because ‘woman have been pushing out babies for thousands of years without epidurals. We were made for it.’ We were also made to invent new technologies and use them.

You know what’s way better than an epidural free birth? A birth that you get to decide what’s best for you. And a doctor or midwife that supports you.

A brief aside that, yes, midwives will support your choice of getting an epidural. Seriously consider a midwife, I got to catch Noa. Betsy caught Atticus. I’m not really sure how Cal came out aside from quickly and painfully.

If you’re like me, and one of the many moms that had an epidural, the next time someone asks about it your response can be, “Hell yeah I got an epidural. I birthed a child and I’m a badass for it.”

Point being, if you get an epidural you sure as fuck shouldn’t have to apologize for it.

The Lucky One

Photo Credit: True Mama Photography

One of the ways I deal with my anxiety is by picking up new hobbies. I’ve dabbled in various hobbies through the years. I crocheted for a week post Noa’s birth. I started a blog several years ago but it faded after a few months. I bake, but this one causes some serious weight gain. I sew. (This one I’ve stuck with.)

Recently, I picked up the hobby of furniture painting. If you’ve read my blog you know I dove head first into it. I was collecting pieces from all over town. And started a little side business. It is currently consuming our entire garage but I’m not solely to blame. Betsy found a few pieces she wanted to redo.

However, whenever I tell people about my new hobby the first response is, ‘Wow, you’re so lucky to have Betsy supporting you with that.’ In my mind it isn’t ‘luck.’ Why is it that people see having a supportive partner as ‘lucky?’ This isn’t about luck. It’s about picking a partner that allows you to be who you are.

Pre-bab(ies) we have lots of hobbies. And then we become a mother for the first time and it’s easy to get lost in that identity. So much energy is consumed learning to care for that child, we forget who we were before. I remember feeling lost in who I was beyond a mother. Eventually I started getting back into reading, writing and other creative outlets. And I had Betsy there to support me all the way.

But I’ve never felt lucky to have support for a passion/hobby from Betsy. In my mind, it’s what we do in a partnership. We encourage our partners to follow their passion. Sometimes that means packing three cake pans when you’re traveling (right, Chelsea?) Or perhaps it’s editing a blog post. In this case, it’s learning how to rebuild a dresser leg.

When people tell me how lucky I am to have Betsy supporting my passions I’m often tempted to respond with, ‘No, you just chose the wrong partner.’

(A note from Betsy: Jordann crocheted for ONE DAY. Not a week. Don’t let her fool you into thinking she had a weeks worth of commitment on that one.)

When To Let Go

Five years ago Betsy and I went on the journey to have children. We decided before we even started that three was our magic number. We weren’t going to ‘see how the first one went.’ We wanted three and we wanted them close in age. And we did. Three in four years, you’d think this next decision would come easy.

As I mentioned in my previous post the picking of a donor is no easy task. At least it wasn’t for us. From day one we wanted the same donor for all our kids. Which required a stock at the local sperm bank. Unless one gets pregnant using fresh sperm, they’re paying for storage at a bank. We were lucky and got pregnant rather easy. We have an excessive number of vials, now stored at the bank. Now the question becomes do we continue to pay for sperm storage for our frozen vials? Three kids, done. The answer should be easy.

But it isn’t, there is a visceral connection to the frozen sperm. My three amazing children were made with it. And yet we’re done having kids. But do I want to make that decision so final? It’s non-reversible. There is no surgery to undo it.

So, do I continue to pay the $400 annual storage fee? Or put the money elsewhere knowing I can’t change my mind? Will it ever be an easy decision? Another small crux in the life of same-sex parents.

Donor Obsession

One of the first questions anyone asks lesbian parents is about the donor.

“Do you know the donor?”

“Do they all have the same donor?”

“How did you pick a donor?”

“Will they meet the donor?”

I can’t speak for all lesbian moms but I can tell you that, to most, this drives us crazy. People are obsessed with the genes of our children.

For Betsy and I, we share very little about our donor to most people. For a long time, we didn’t even tell people whose eggs we used. Yes, I carried. But the gestational mom isn’t always the genetically related mom.

Picking a donor was a deeply personal and challenging decision. Do we use a known or anonymous? If known, how known? Someone we see often? Someone we know distantly? Or anonymous? Which sperm bank? What traits are important? So many questions to work through.

And the cost. It’s amazing how expensive those little swimmers (that often end up on a sheet) cost! How many vials do we buy? What if we run out after our first kid? Then our kids will have different donors. Does that matter? Do we ask our donor to go back and donate again?

We have a small inner circle of people that know the details of how we got our sperm. Although I’m somewhat open about sharing the information with other gay couples, especially those trying to conceive, I’m much less open with most others, including our immediate family.

Most days it doesn’t cross my mind that Betsy is not genetically related to our children. When you raise a child, any child, the genes become irrelevant. That is until a curious outsider quickly reminds you with an obtrusive question. ‘Remember how one of you isn’t related to your child? Let me ask you a bunch of questions about that?’ Hmmm, how about we don’t.

I get it. When it’s not a one plus one equation we want to know more. We’re curious humans. But your simple question doesn’t come with a simple answer. And it potentially invokes a myriad of feelings to the one you’re asking. These decisions don’t come easy. Next time, before you start your ‘Can I just ask you something, it’s fine if you don’t want to answer…’ question, perhaps you should go with, ‘You have a beautiful family’ instead.

A Rant From the Wife #2

“To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in heath, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”

Where in here does it say anything about supporting your partners most recent crazy hobby?! Nowhere. And yet, here I am. Inspecting, haggling over, purchasing, storing, and painting furniture. You see, Jordann started a new hobby: blogging. Oh wait, that was her first new hobby. Then she started a new new hobby: furniture refinishing.

Two dressers, two coffee tables, four end tables (usefulness to be determined), one big ass dresser to be repurposed as something else to hold a lot of crap, one rocking chair, one “accent chair” (whatever the hell that is), two entryway tables, and one dining room table with four accompanying chairs. The furniture aisle at Target? NO!!! The contents of my garage/living room/basement. All to be refinished and/or painted. She even calls the right side of our garage “the shop”. AKA: storage unit.

I’m sorry. I’m failing to see where I signed up for this. Maybe it falls into the “for worse” category? Or maybe “in sickness.” I can tell you one thing, it’s about to fit into the “death do us part” line real quick. Look, the stuff she’s (we’ve) actually finished looks great. But the amount of furniture that keeps showing up far exceeds the amount of furniture being sold. It’s like our house has become the island of misfit furniture. But alas, what else is this woman going to do with all of free time?


Something’s Gotta Give

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.

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Photo Credit: True Mama Photography

More Kids?

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.

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