Midlife Mom


Old dear in the breakfast room at the hotel:  Oh, he’s so cute!  Is he your only grandchild?

Me: My mother seems to think so!

Old dear:  Awww…. (as she wanders away)

 

Sigh.  Note to self: snappy comebacks wasted on the hard of hearing.

Most of the time gratitude is my companion and sometimes it is my gentle reminder.  When being a mother is hard, I think of how hard it was not being a mother.  The hardest part, well, who knows what was the hardest part?  But it was often hard not knowing if I would ever get there.

I have a friend who used to say, when we were both single, that she wished she could just get a postcard saying “He’s not coming.”  So she could adjust her life accordingly and stop wondering when she would meet The Guy She Was Going to Marry.

Infertility felt like that.  The waiting would have been easier had I known it was just the waiting, as opposed to the first years of It’s Never Going to Happen.  Obviously It did happen, twice; I am married and a mother.

I have walled myself in with gratitude, which I have always thought was a healthy thing to do, maybe a form of emotional hygiene or good discipline or something.  I want to complain? Can’t go there.  I have to remember to be grateful.  I want to be sad and fearful that I won’t be able to have another?  I can’t go there either.  I have one, after all, and many do not.   Just not being able to “go there” can be helpful sometimes.  Today it is biting me in the ass.

I’m on a trip that I stupidly thought would be fun, accompanying my husband to his college reunion.  His friends are lovely.  The town where his college is, his hometown, is grim, to me; but I’ve been here many times.  I was stupid to think this would be fun because my husband is busy and I have care of our toddler a lot.  I also didn’t anticipate that our son would be less of a good traveler this trip than others.  So after a day of him screaming and refusing to nap, then screaming and refusing to go to bed, he’s up screaming at 4:45.

When I am this tired and frustrated, I have so much rage in me that it’s scary.  Sometimes a child grows and suddenly can put his own coat on, or say “all done” or walk across the parking lot and the change is wonderful.  But when he suddenly can’t go to sleep like he usually does, I am driven crazy.  We’re going in the wrong direction.   I am so close to the boiling point right now.  The bargains I have made – that I would be as good a wife as I could, and cheerfully make this reunion possible for my husband, that I will understand that he needs 9-11 hours of sleep a night even if I never get that… that I will stay calm and loving to my child no matter what … seem ridiculous and unfair.

But gratitude says I can never complain about having a child, because when I was infertile it was unbearable, and, I thought, selfish.  Yeah, sweetie, you’re tired. You never have any time to yourself. How’d you like to have, oh, your whole life to yourself, with no kids at all, ever?  And that’s all valid, and hopefully it has kept me from complaining, and being the gasoline poured into somebody’s gaping wound.

But oh fuck, I am so frustrated and tired.  Having to keep him quiet is just the last straw.  Suddenly gratitude is just a bitch snarling at me to keep it buttoned up and that’s not helping.

It gets better.  I spent yesterday afternoon with cousins and family members.  When I was almost asleep last night my husband started talking about how Z’s husband just knew it was going to be a girl and I realized that Z is pregnant and I hadn’t been told.  This is no big deal; my husband rarely knows anything that I don’t know, so it doesn’t occur to him to tell me.  And Z was probably keeping things discreet since X was there, and X has recently lost a baby.  And my husband’s mother is a deaf as a post.  So communication is not exactly happening.

But oh, that was a blast from the past.  Even though finding out someone was pregnant used to hurt like crazy, finding out when someone was pregnant after everybody else knew was worse.  For me, this is because not being able to get pregnant felt like I didn’t belong.  And not being able to manufacture even fake joy when someone else was pregnant made it clear that I didn’t belong.  And not being told at all, whether on purpose or by accident, really shoves me outside the circle and nails the door shut.  Whether any of it is true or not, that is how it feels.

I hate that.  I am perfectly happy for my relative.  She wants kids, she is pregnant, that is all good.  My “secondary infertility” is well underway, of course.  I want another baby and when someone else is having a baby, particularly a second baby, I feel the pang.  But it’s not, nor should it be, a big feeling.  We have just started working on #2, and while “working on” a baby is obviously a big long project for us when it isn’t for lots of people, and I have gotten used to what our “working on” looks like.  There are advantages to our kind of work.  “oooohooooo…. this woman’s work…”

But then the pretzel kicks in, and it’s painful.  The pretzel is all the ways I have decided I must and must not feel, by virtue of being ever grateful, and not being annoying like other fertile people were when I had no kids and no hope.  These are the rules of the pretzel.

1) never complain about how hard it is, because someone (in my head) will say, rightly, “well you wanted kids, nobody told you it was going to be easy” or “why’d you go to so much trouble to get them if you can’t cut it?”  Never complain because those who have no kids and want them will hate you for it.

2) never complain about how hard it is, because someone in my head will say “well what do you expect?  you’re 47 and you’ll be ___ when you get pregnant and you’ll be ___ when the baby is born and you’ll be ___ when the baby is ___ and by the way your husband is so old he’ll probably die at the worst possible time leaving you to do it ALLLLL ALLOOOOONE………..”  I don’t know who this bitch in my head is, but she hates me.  Actually, I do know who she is, and couldn’t you just cry?  She is me.

3) and that means why should I want a second?  I clearly can’t handle even one.

4) never complain about wanting a second because I should be glad I have one, and many can’t even try for another.

The pretzel, obviously, denies logic.  Which is it?  Am I scared to have another, or am I sad that I can’t?  How can I be scared of something I may never get?  how can I be sad about the lack of something I am scared of?  Obviously the answer is “yes.”

Yes to everything.  Yes I’m scared, yes I want, yes I don’t have, yes she does.  Yes I’m better off, yes I’m worse off.  Yes I feel it all, the ugly all of it, and Ican’t pretzel myself. I’m a big lump of dough going in every direction. Yes.

So I’m, I don’t know, 12 days or something into my antidepressants. The short version is, I love it!  From the first day I felt more energetic.  Sometimes I feel caffeinated, which I like.  Supposedly the caffeinated feeling will smooth out after a while.  Just like what my friends said at the beginning of the Magic Mushroom trip in college where we ended up going to New York on a whim with no money and I cried for a whole day when it was over.  “Just listen to Bob Marley, man, everything… is gonna be all right…”

Whoa.  Where was I.

I was at the smaller dose for the first week and then doubled it starting last Tuesday.  I still had some blue feelings and black moods here and there, but it was the end of my cycle, and it’s not like I’m supposed to turn into Happy Robot Girl anyway.

I feel a lot more like “myself” and I had been forgetting who that was.  I’ve been back to my therapist, i.e., regular non-drug work-out-your-life healthcare provider, not the shrink who just tweaks my meds.  When she first told me I would benefit from the medicine to help me have the strength to work out the next bunch of painful life crap in therapy, I couldn’t see what painful life crap there was to work out.  Now I see it clearly and I went in there with sleeves rolled up.

Looking back, I can see why I didn’t feel like I was depressed.  I’ve actually been leaking like a balloon, slowly, through the infertility years.  Then I was pregnant, and we moved, and so much was different that I didn’t have anything to compare anything to.  Now I’m having little memories.  When I was working out with my trainer, i.e., the only truly challenging workout of my week, I was remembering how it felt when I was really fit and loved the sprint at the end of the run or standing to climb a steep hill on my bike.   I remember being sassy and fun with my friends instead of just wondering if they even like me anymore.  I remember being confident, and not apologetic, and being creative, and brave.  I know I’ve been brave just to slog through some of the stuff I did in the last year, even while I am also one of the luckiest 46-year olds who ever lived.

I’m also kinda angry.  You know that guy in the old movie “Network,” who throws up his window and yells “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” ?  That guy was in his first week of antidepressants.

The particular drug that I am on kicks ass, for me.  I am perky in the daytime but I still sleep at night… in the completely crappy way that I sleep.  I think the shrink was pleased that we could choose from drugs without having to worry about ruining my sleep like some drugs do.  Mine was pre-broken.

About the food thing.  I am feeling a little bit guilty about how much this helps with the food thing.  It could be that without the depression and the shame that I sometimes feel spreading through my body like a dark bloom, maybe I’m just having a Normal Relationship With Food.  Hi, Food.  I’m Normal.  Nice to meet you.  This means that I still ate all the M&Ms out of the Halloween candy… and by the way, I don’t know why they call it “Fun Size.”  It’s no fun opening 200 of those things.

But I didn’t eat all the Snickers, and the Twix, eh.  Come get ’em, I could care less.

Anyway, normal for me still leaves plenty of room for emotional eating and all that. But I seem to have access to a “pause” button where I can stop and think “well, maybe it’s NOT a good idea to eat all the Snickers while reading a book so that I don’t even remember consuming 1900 calories in 15 minutes, and I’m actually noticing that I’m really full, so maybe I won’t.”  It’s not miraculous, it’s just: possible.

I’m also just not as hungry, and sometimes not hungry at all.  I’ve skipped some dinners. Again, I’m thinking it could be that this is what normal hunger is like when you take away all the Food Craziness, and I’ve had a few times of being really busy and, yes, forgetting to eat.  I’ve always heard that you should eat bigger meals early in the day and around here we sometimes achieve that, and dinner is just an afterthought.  I’m conflicted about this, because when Daniel is older I really hope to have those family dinners that are going to cure everything from bad grades to athlete’s foot and keep the kids off drugs and make us all taller and more beautiful.  If the studies are true.  But if I’m not hungry, I will have to learn to just eat a little bit.  HA HA HA well anything is possible.

The best part of this is that I can glimpse the real prize, which is knowing how to just be.  Not needing to be thinner or more successful to just like and accept myself.  If I can get rid of the dark stain on my soul, that will be what the ADs are really for, and it will be something I’ve never felt before.

I had to take the vacuum to be fixed.  I need the vacuum.  I park right in front of the Sew ‘n’ Vac, which is a tiny place with a tiny parking lot right out front.  I cannot hold the baby and the vacuum.  The only ultrasafe way that I can think of to do this is to take the baby out, put him in the stroller, take the vacuum out of the car, somehow push the crappy yard-sale stroller with one hand without it lurching off to the right (or left), somehow get the door of the Sew ‘n’ Vac open which means put the vacuum down, open the door, get the stroller through, leave the stroller, go back for the vacuum, drag all to the register.

Which is ridiculous.

So.  I parked so close to the front door that I could hardly open my car door, took out the vacuum, locked the car with baby snug in carseat, hurried in with vacuum, (distance from car to cash register: 15 feet) barked my name and phone number at the normally chatty Sew ‘n’ Vac guy, threw the vacuum down and ran back to the car.  Total time away from the car: 39 seconds.

Is that so bad?  Keep in mind that I live in a very small town, half the people here don’t even lock their cars, there are no stores around (the Sew ‘n’ Vac sits alone on a little piece of land near a busy intersection), and I could see my car the entire time I was in the store. And the temperature was about 40.  I feel like a criminal, but people, I need my vacuum.

Am I so bad?  Discuss.

This is a repeat of my trunk or treating rant from last year.

If you aren’t aware, trunk-or-treating is an event, often organized by churches, where adults station themselves next to their cars in a big parking lot, and the kids walk up to your open trunk to say “trick or treat” for their candy.  The kids love it because, as one said in a recent newspaper article, “you can go around a gazillion times and get lots more candy!”  The churches organized it to make Halloween more of a “family event” – it wasn’t, before? – and in some cases, to discourage costumes that were too devil-ish or reflective of other bad influences.  In some cases I have heard of Biblical character costumes being enforced or encouraged.

Sigh.  I’m as saved as any other Christian but come on.  Running around a parking lot in broad daylight, yelling “trick or treat” which doesn’t even make sense anymore, dressed like the Apostle Paul?  What could be more lame?

Aside from suppressing the important creativity and make-believe aspect of Halloween, the saddest things about this, to me, are the other reasons adults cite for the trunk-or-treat trend.  The little dears don’t have to 1) walk as far as they would, going house-to-house; and 2) they don’t have to “go to a stranger’s home.”

Maybe I’ll feel differently when my own perfect, adorable, exquisitely vulnerable child is in this position.  But right now I’m really sad about it.  And kind of annoyed.  First of all, the evangelical churches who love the trunk-or-treating thing are the same churches where you will be urged to spread the gospel, and in order to do so, one must mingle with “the lost.”  We hear encouraging stories about people who organized neighborhood potlucks and soup nights and block parties.  Love your neighbor.  Who is your neighbor (no thanks to Mr. Rogers).  Well, along comes Halloween, perfect opportunity to meet the neighbors, but no.  We must trunk-or-treat instead, and mingle with Our Own Kind.

Second, do the kids really need MORE candy?  Do we really want them to walk a much shorter distance for it?  Or is it more convenient for us, less walking for US.

When I was a kid, our Halloween was an all-day event, loosely organized by our neighborhood grownups, that included a costume parade and prizes in categories like “prettiest” (I never won this one) or “most original” costume (much more my style).  The creativity part was important, long before the candy part kicked in.  But it wasn’t so much about candy, it was about adventure, and it was all about the neighborhood.

I remember trick or treating as a kid, the accompanying parent retreating ever farther into the yard as we got older. We always went after dark, or what was the point?  The really little kids went in the daylight and we pitied them.  I remember the thrill of fear as we approached the doors of our neighbors who we barely knew.  I remember peeking curiously into their houses, smelling their unfamiliar cooking smells, and how fun it was when these stern grownups actually talked to us about how scary we were! how cute we were! and how they couldn’t even tell who we were and maybe we really were two witches and a dog and a robot.

Our parents were on guard.  Someone we knew was given an apple with a razor blade in it, at least that’s what we were told, and our parents had to go through all our candy when the night was over.  As it turns out, documented Halloween poisonings are rare or possibly nonexistent. But we were careful.  We knew full well you didn’t go into anybody’s house, and we had to make sure we could walk in our costumes and see out of our masks.

I know that era is over.  It was half over when I was a kid.  We never “tricked” anybody.  We heard about soaping windows or egging houses but it was always the stuff of legend and we never did it. Ditto bobbing for apples.  I know that we roamed a suburban neighborhood with a freedom that today’s kids rarely have, and that even a sealed bag of M&Ms can be tampered with.  But still, I am sad.  As usual, this reworking of Halloween threatens to get rid of the important stuff – the visiting of neighbors, the important fantasy and creativity elements of dress-up, the flirtation with scariness and fear within safe boundaries – and keeps the least important part: candy.

I’m sure in a few years the practicality of trunk-or-treat will wear down my resistance and I’ll be right there with my own munchkin(s), enjoying the convenience, hobnobbing with all the friends I will have made by then.  But I also hope that evil, dangerous, secular trick-or-treating hangs in there as well.

I need some.  I have some, of course, but … I really need some.

Last night I went to a wedding and there were only two couples there that I knew well.  Both of the women have children via IVF and have had subsequent adventures with attempts to conceive more children, via more IVFs.   I got in a little bit of conversation with them that wasn’t nearly enough.  We talked a bit about religious people criticizing us for doing IVF, what to do with “leftover” frozen embryos, our birth stories, and parenting in general.

The everyday friends and conversations I have now are great, but they’re not as perfect a fit as these battle-tested women are.  I guess that’s why, when we went to find our assigned tables, I almost cried when I found out I was seated away from them.  The rest of the wedding flew by, and we had to leave way earlier than I wanted to, because of picking up the baby from the babysitter and the baby wakes up at 6 am and yadda yadda.

I feel so sad today.  Squeezed between the time pressures of parenting and the relative scarcity of post-infertility parents, or over-40 moms, my chances of deep and specific female friendship featuring that particular element are not looking good.  At least, they are not looking easy.

I guess I thought I’d leave that element behind and happily bond with fertile women as though we are the same.  Maybe some people do.  I’ve never been one of those “leave the past / never look back”  kind of people.  It’s healthy to move on but it’s also healthy to accept that past experiences, including wounds, are part of me.

Reading blogs is great and saved me when the infertility was all there was.  But now it feels so sad.  I know there are women like me out there, but they aren’t here. And obviously parenting after infertility isn’t the only thing… but it’s important whether I want it to be or not. I so miss the days of being twentysomething, where the girl down the hall in your dorm who wears your jeans size or likes your favorite singer is your perfect match and you can throw yourself into bestfriendship in one afternoon during the first week of school.

Obviously, as my friend needs grow more specific, the bond is more satisfying.  Relationships are more complicated and richer as we get older.  But right now they just feel few and far between and I’m reminded of the bleak feeling I had during my single years.  How could the right person be out there when it had been a desert for so long?

I haven’t let myself hope for a BFF for many years.  I think, in my head, that a best friend is definitely possible.  But forever?  That’s pretty difficult.  Whenever I get a good thing going with a best girlfriend, something messes with it.  If you’re both single, somebody gets a boyfriend or gets married.  If you’re both fat, somebody loses weight.  I have friends like that where we still click and still love each other, but the status change divides us whether we want it to or not.  If you get through all that, somebody has a baby.  Some friendships make the cut through all that but as we all know, many do not; or they lose their shiny BF status and become just less important friends.

I was surprised at myself last night.  Loneliness welled up in me in ways I did not expect.  I have a great life and have made a surprising number of friends in the 10 months we’ve been in our new home.   And being a mom who is a little different from the other moms is way the hell better than not being a mom at all.  But still…

Is it scary, or flattering, that when I Google things like "over 40 mom" I get so much porn?  Hot moms over 40, naked moms over 40 etc. 

HA now I've drawn porn-seeking Googlers to this joyless, porn-free site.  Sucks to get a bunch of irrelevant garbage in your Google search, doesn't it?

I have not much else to report.  After all the election excitement I'm feeling the letdown.  Later fall in East Tennessee is just as beautiful as early fall.  Ho hum.  My days are a mix of sickness, boredom, intermittent fear, wondering how I'm supposed to breathe at 9 months if it's this hard now, feeling like I'm at 26 weeks forever, reading crunchy granola birthing books, and occasionally weeping with joy and gratitude.

The biggest news I can come up with is that I tried the papaya enzymes for heartburn and they work really well.  There is, of course, a bunch of scary s*** out there about how green papaya can be a contraceptive and cause all kinds of terrible things, but ripe papaya is fine.  God must think that is hysterically funny but I am not amused. 

The heartburn is really impressive.  The best time for me to have dinner is at about 2 p.m., and sometimes that's also the earliest time I feel like eating anything.  I also have developed a loud, uncontrollable drunk hiccup that confirms my friend C's assertion that in pregnancy there is "no dignity."  I accidentally ripped a loud, basso profundo burp in church yesterday – fortunately before the service had started.  Sigh.

We took a trip to the cloth diaper store over the weekend and that was fun and enlightening.  The new cloth diapers are not like the old square pieces of cloth that have to be folded and safety-pinned and don't look like they would work at all (our poor mothers!).  The new diapers are contoured like the plastic disposables, have attached waterproof outer parts, and go on with velcro.  They're fabulous and horribly expensive.  It will cost about $700 to get us up and running with enough diapers so that I only have to do laundry every 1.5 days, but then after that (theoretically) we're sort of done buying diapers and can spend the rest of what we would have spent on disposables to pay the water / electric bill for all that laundering. 

They come in "boy colors" and "girl colors" and honestly, do people really care what color the baby is wearing on his behind?  He'll have clothes on over them too, which I'm sure will be relentlessly plaid and patterned with trucks, trains, and lizards, based on what I see in the stores. I guess if I'm wheeling him around and countless grocery store busybodies say "what a pretty little girl! Isn't she precious?" I might get annoyed… but I'll probably be too busy cringing, my shoulders up around my ears, waiting for some nasty comment about my age.

The diaper store lady gave us a thorough introduction to the different products, which all have names like Fuzzy Bunz and Happy Heinies.  She is fabulous: she has triplets, and also runs the diaper store which includes a thriving online business, and so I can hardly complain about washing a few diapers for my one baby.  At least not around her

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