Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dailies 1/29

More Reading

We are all growing up.

Westley came home from school on Monday with a report card. It came in a somewhat official-looking envelope, with an official-looking letter attached to it. This is also his first week of "real" Aikido classes, where they do the same warm-ups the adults do, and train in pairs, and sit in a line (instead of holding hands in a circle). My little kid is a big kid.

Mini Crane

Ivy has more words than I even realized. "Can I have that?" used to be "Dat-dat?" Yesterday she was sitting at the table, coloring with markers, and when she couldn't reach the thing she wanted, it was "I ha' dat?" (She was back to "dat-dat" by evening, but still.) "Boo" is still "spoon/boots/poop/book," but now it's also "boost," as in "I need a boost, so I can sit in a real chair and not a highchair because I'm a big kid now ha ha ha!"


Rob and I have successfully refinanced our house, and we're scrambling to pay for the new roof that went on it last week. The refinance was contingent upon the old roof being OK, and when it was so not OK, we had to replace it. This meant wiping out our savings and our financial safety net. Which is a million times scarier to me than having a baby ever was.

As I wait for all the payments to go through so I can start reworking our budget from scratch, I remind myself we're doing with our "rainy day" funds what we're supposed to do: we're keeping the rain off us (literally, this time). This all makes good financial sense in the long run, and we're in it for the long run.

But part of me is still screaming, "I can't! I don't want to! It's too scary!"

All I ever wanted when I was a child was to be a grown-up. And now that I'm firmly planted in adulthood, I'm extremely ambivalent about it.

My birthday was a few weeks ago (we celebrated without a lot of fanfare because we were busy navigating this whole refinance/new roof situation), and since then growing up has seemed like a faces/vase painting. Sometimes survey my settled home life, my changing passions, the lines in my face that hang on after a smile, and think, "Well, I am 31..." Other times, I feel like things are just getting started.

Westley is so grown-up, getting (excellent!) report cards, joining the ranks of the big kids, but still little enough to need help putting his socks on so they're not ridiculously crooked. Ivy is getting all the molars, but still only has six teeth in her mouth. Our savings are non-existent, but only for a little while. I'm glad to be here most of the time, but still pretty freaked out by it all. I'm only 31.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Matter of Choice

Last fall, I was late—in the female sense of the word.

My periods have been atomic-clock-regular since I was 12 years old. When the starred date on the calendar came and went with no sign of blood, I was certain something was up.

For the next week and a half, I waited, worried, worry-waited. Every evening, when my period still hadn't come, Rob and I repeated the same serious conversation. Some of the points were more serious than others:

Nine months from now, Ivy won't even be two.
I survived postpartum depression twice. I don't want to go there again.
We would have to get a new car.
My chronic pain is the worst it's been in a long time.
Would we have to get a new house, too?
I could have died in the operating room after Ivy was born.

I almost died...

My pregnancy with Ivy was full of worry, but also a lot of happiness. If I were pregnant again, there would be little, if any joy. Rob and I would both spend the whole pregnancy (and birth) worrying. Not to mention that even if we could somehow know for certain, by magic, that everything would be perfect, we had already decided to stop at two children. We are done.

Despite Rob's and my mutual "doneness," I half-believed that if I had somehow gotten pregnant while trying so hard not to conceive, it must be a sign. Perhaps I was supposed to be a mother of three children in the big, cosmic sense.

But when I thought about having another baby, all I could picture was a person in a white coat walking into the room where Rob was waiting, telling him that his wife was dead.

Every night, for a week and a half, I came to the same liberating, heartbreaking conclusion. There was no choice to make.

* * *

The language surrounding abortion is awful.

I say I'm pro-life. I'm not religious. I'm a nerd who reads about human reproduction for fun. I use the "pro-life" label because I believe that life begins at conception, and that each fetus is a unique individual. And because I think of a fetus as "a human life" (though not necessarily a person in the legal sense), I acknowledge that abortion ends a human life. And I'm at peace with that.

The pro-life movement doesn't want you to be at peace with that. Because doing so means acknowledging that a woman's life matters, too. She is a unique individual with fingerprints and a beating heart, who is capable of feeling pain. Her physical, mental, and emotional health are real, and deserve to be protected.

So I'm pro-life-ish. I believe that my philosophical stance that each embryo is a sacred, soul-snowflake of love from the Universe has nothing to do with when, how, why, and with whom another person does or does not have a baby. Especially when it comes to lawmaking. But they don't make a bumper sticker for that.

I'm Pro-Life and I Vote...Pro-Choice.

* * *

Since I'm interested in all things related to reproductive health, I decided alleviate some of the worry-while-waiting by researching my only real choice: procedures, history, statistics. I discovered something fascinating: most women who get abortions already have at least one child.

I was relieved to know I wasn't a freak for contemplating abortion after having carried two pregnancies to term. How had I not known about this statistic before?

It makes sense, of course. Women who already have a child know what a colossal responsibility it is to raise a human being. But the idea of mothers getting abortions doesn't mesh well with our cultural narrative about abortion—specifically, the kinds of women who get them—or our collective fantasy of motherhood. The story is: "once you've had a child, you'll understand." The baby is born, magic happens, and suddenly you're so awash in maternal instinct that you'll gladly welcome even an unplanned pregnancy as another blessing.

There is something hugely unsettling—for both the pro-choice and pro-life movements—in the idea that a woman could know the reality of growing, birthing, and raising children, and decide to have an abortion.

* * *

When I finally started to bleed, I felt like I had dodged a bullet. I wouldn't have to go to my OB-GYN as an abortion patient instead of an expectant mother. There would be no recovery time to worry about.

Unavoidable, however, was facing myself as a pro-life, feminist mother. I had to imagine choosing my life.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Sweet 16 Months


Ivy will be 17 months old tomorrow, and I just realized I never wrote about her at 16 months (or 15 months...or maybe any month after she turned one because I guess even now, talking about a child's age in months still sounds so odd to me).

1st Haircut

Sixteen months gets a special mention. It has been the most magical, difficult, adorable, impossible month yet. Eighteen month olds are "supposed" to be this kind of handful, so maybe Ivy is just a little ahead of herself. Or maybe, since she's been intense all along, her intensity just had a growth spurt.

Ivy throws temper tantrums like I've never experienced. A few months ago, she would express her disappointment by slooowly lying down on the floor on her back—she was so very careful not to bonk her head while pitching a fit. Now, thrashes and writhes so forcefully I worry she'll hurt herself. She throws her head back and arches her back and SCREAMS. This is how she confronts all kinds of disappointments. Getting her diaper changed. Being put into her car seat. Not being allowed to grab something hot and/or sharp off the kitchen counter. Having to wear a shirt.



But she's also the sweetest ray of sunshine. The sweetest. She says a million adorable things (which I will list out when I'm not so tired from having tortured her all day with car seats and clothing and fire safety), and gives hugs that rival even Rob's big bear hugs. And if I ask, "Can I have a kiss?" she comes at me with a big, open-mouthed smile.


These past four weeks have given me some of my worst moments with Ivy. On more than one occasion, I've looked at her and wondered, Who ARE you? But as tired and crazy as I feel watching her (and trying to assist her with whatever her oh-so-intense journey is), I continue to fall in love with her every day.

Ivy makes everything more challenging. But something about her also makes me feel like I'm up for the challenge.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Dailies 1/6


The year changed over again, and I keep waiting for something profound about that to spring to mind, but it hasn't yet. So far, I'm just moving right along, inching towards the feeling-doing-being better thing we're all after.

We un-Christmased the house a few days ago, and something about having to sweep up so many fallen needles (New Year's Resolution: water the Christmas tree once in a while) made me go a little nesting-mad. It was the cue to CLEAN ALL THE THINGS.

So I organized several closets, and got to work on putting the garage back in order. I also de-pinkified Ivy's daytime wardrobe, with the exception of one sparkly pony shirt that reminds me of my beautiful, horse-loving friends. I even got out the power screwdriver and fixed a rickety hook in the bathroom that's been bothering me for years. Years. It took nine seconds to fix. (New Year's Resolution: fix the nine-second things sooner.)

The children both looked absolutely huge to me today. Westley is right on the verge of not fitting in the bathtub any more when he stretches out. He bounded off the school bus (it was first day back after winter break) radiating a grown-up confidence that's shining out of him more and more. It's odd that he only turned six a month ago. Ivy is all leg muscle and energy. She runs, she dances, she sings. She tries to jump—exclaiming, "yump!"—and it's so cute I can't breathe.

They're both so beautiful and both going through such awful phases at the moment. It's one of those paradoxes of parenthood: my children are the most beautiful, miraculous beings of light I've ever come in contact with...who can be such little shitheads I wish the goblins would come and take them away, right now! If you ask Westley to put his socks in the hamper, he throws up his hands and moans as though he's been sentenced to 90 days' hard labor. This morning Ivy fought me over lying down to get her diapers changed for almost an hour. (New Year's Resolution: master the art of the standing-toddler diaper change.)

Today was my first day back to "normal" (Rob at work, Westley in school), and the difference in end-of-day exhaustion parenting solo for 10 hours versus having another adult at home is massive. This year, maybe I'll get my energy to catch up to my life.