Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Girl With The Curls

(Disclaimer--this post is written just before having to go back for a one year cranio check up, so melancholy abounds)
Lis has been doing this new thing where she will only go to sleep if you lay her down in her crib, with Lambie stuck under her arm, and then rhythmically rub her back in circles. I did that for a half an hour, and I watched her eyelids slowly droop, fluttering open and shut, and then shutting. Her breathing steadying, and she twitched for a bit, just like she always does, and just like Vor always does. They’re sleep twitchers, the both of them.

I brushed my hand over her head, letting my fingers drift over her slightly ginger curls.

It was so, so, so hard for me to become a parent. I don’t mean physically—that was all, Hey, Ireland, Guinness, whoa, pregnancy test! I know that’s hard for some people to hear—I have many friends who have suffered fertility problems. I thought I would be one of them, given my, um, female issues. I wasn’t. I mean it was hard emotionally. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a parent. I sure as hell didn’t want to be pregnant. I like alone time. I can be selfish with my time and my emotional energy.

Sure enough, the first few months of Lis’s life were hard. I felt drained, unimportant, vacant, and invisible. I loved her fiercely, but it was an instinctive, protective love—not a love from shared experience or happiness. I loved her because I loved, because she was my baby who needed hugs and smiles and care and protecting. I loved her because of her need, not because of mine.

Surgery made it all harder. I was really just coming out of whatever depressive episode I had been in when she was diagnosed. I was terrified of losing her and of losing my mind if I lost her. Something like that can really screw with your ability to become closer to your baby—fear and terror are burdens, or walls, or something that just stand in the way.

I have no idea when it all shifted. I just know that it did. I know that the instinctive, reactive, hormonal love I had for infant Lis at birth and the months afterwards pales in comparison to the love I have for my daughter Lis, my daughter with a sparkling personality, a mischievous smile, and a quick and ready hug.

After getting Lis to sleep, I came downstairs and confessed to Vor that I had a crying jag in the daycare parking lot that day. I had seen an ambulance whipping towards Lis’s daycare, and I thought it turned into her parking lot. It hadn’t—it was next door. But suddenly, in a flash, I was back in surgery, looking a freshly Lis who was pale and grey, and looked—well, it’s a cliché, but she looked like death warmed over. I started crying again as I told Vor about it. He hugged me close, and I know he’s had some bad moments lately too. It’s that time of year, and every.damn.thing. seems to remind us of her surgery.

There was a time when Lis had no curls—in fact, she was basically hairless. Just when her hair started coming in, it was shaved off for surgery. When it came back in was ginger! and curly! There was a time when it was hard for me to feel anything other than instinctive and protective towards Lis. Then, just when things were shifting, and I was enjoying her, the world came crashing down. But Humpty-Dumpty was put back together again, the world righted itself, the stars aligned, and whatever ever other stupid metaphor you can imagine and oh, how the hell did this end up getting related to her HAIR? and things returned to normal.
See, I’m not saying that I never loved. I’m saying it was different. When my love came back or changed or SOMETHING, it had color and texture, instead of black and white and flat, like before.

I’m not managing to say what I really am thinking. Let’s try this another way.

I was right about myself and my fears about being a parent. I was not right that it would last forever. I’m sure it would have changed on its own—smiles, hugs, and talking would all have shifted that instinctual love into “real” love. I don’t know when that change would have happened. I know that because of her surgery, I have a tangible, real understanding of the fear of possibly losing your child, not just an imagined fear. I know facing that situation made me face things about myself and the way I handle emotional closeness, fear of loss, grief, and crisis management. I know that having a completely dependent, helpless child undergo this horrible thing made me literally say that I would do anything to take her place. I would have. I would have rather they cracked my skull open than hers.

Oh, hell, I’m still not saying it right.

It boils down to this: while it was natural to love Lis as an infant, it was not easy or “normal” for me. It was a need based love, and it hurt. Now, it is easy as running my hands through her curls while she sleeps. Before, I was afraid of losing her; now I would fight with every fiber of my being to keep her healthy and well. That may seem like the same thing, but trust me, it isn’t. One has to do with fear and terror and protectiveness; the other has to do with love.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Separately Spinning All At Once

Because I only have a few minutes, and because I feel like this is the way my brain works now, I give you thoughts in parts and partitions:

Work: I need a way to eliminate distractions at work so that I am able to more easily focus on long tedious tasks. I'm used to the litigation pace, where I work on something for 45 minutes, then I'm onto the next thing, etc. Now that I am in research/speaking/policy/writing with a side dish of litigation, my tasks are extensive and the projects take weeks, even months, and in the case of our publication, years. I'm not used to working this way anymore. I need help staying engaged and focused. Thoughts so far: Create a schedule a week in advance that is general but varied, so that I know at 10:30, I switch from A to B. I tried it one week and it was an utter failure, because one of my litigation cases blew up resulting in a full day hearing that has a second full day hearing next week. Maybe I should try again, but as long as I have firecrackers in my schedule in the form of hotly contested cases, I don' t know if it's workable. Second thought: putting my phone on "do not disturb" and returning phone calls at 9am, noon, and 4pm. Suggestions? HALP.

Home: As in, the actual house itself. We did some serious landscaping in the front over Memorial day weekend. We originally wanted to get someone to come do a plan for us and then build it (we are doing major work in the backyard) but we realized that (1) Vor is an engineer; (2) I am creative and good with designs, including some limited experience with landscape designs; (3) We really enjoyed our landscaping work before; (4) landscaping companies around here are really slow to respond, and we are standing here, ready to support their business, and their are still not responding. So! We took measurements (we being Vor), we translated the measurements onto paper in scale (we being Vor), then we came up with designs (we being me). I really like what we came up with; it's simple, and should be "easy" (read: still hard labor), and it will give us the privacy we are looking for. Also, we are thinking about painting one of our largest rooms, and putting new doors on a few rooms/entryways in our house. All of this is DIY, because that's how we roll around here. It makes the dog crazy. He hates it. He hates us. He hates the vacuum cleaner. He hates moving furniture. He hates change. Until we feed him, then it's all love, love, love. As I type, our mulch is being delivered, so we need to mulch. My vegetable garden is really starting to rock out--tons of lettuce, carrots, squash, beans, tomatoes. I let Lis "plant" one whole garden (I have two garden circles), and she randomly threw all kinds of seeds everywhere. It's amazing. I can't wait to see what actually comes up--so far, squash of all kinds, beans, carrots, onions, beets, raddish, a tomato plant, and one random iceberg lettuce head that I just harvested today. Lis wins at gardening.

Lis and family: Lis has her one year craniosynostosis check up coming up next week. I am considerably more relaxed about it than last time, when I was worried about the chance of another surgery. As much as I love Riley Children's Hospital and am eternally grateful to them, I hate going there and smelling all the smells that bring the memories flooding back. We are going to zoo Saturday, and I am SO EXCITED. They have an aquarium, and I'm pretty sure Lis is going to have her toddler mind blown by it ("FFFFSSSSSHHHHHH"= fish). Vor has been having a good summer at work so far, not too crazy, nice and steady. My brother is officially deployed, and I received many pictures of his goodbye to wife and family that made me cry. My sister in law promptly booked tickets to come see us in October, and I need to pick a time to go see her. I'm just trying not to think about it right now. I need to start sending care packages to him.

Me, myself, and I: I went back on Weight Watchers. I've been at the gym regularly. I've been taking the dog on "runs", which consist more of fast walking and some light jogging and lots of arm swinging. I'm thinking about doing a 5K in the fall, so I should start training now. I've lost a little weight, but more importantly, I have so much more energy and I am sleeping better. So, the weight will come off when it does, but I am not exhausted and out of breath all the time. I bought big girl makeup instead of wet and wild high school crap, I got a massage for my birthday, and I make a point of discarding clothes that aren't flattering or too old and getting a new (carefully thought out) item every one in awhile.

So! There you go. My brain, in parts, all whirling at once.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Nought But Shame and Bitterness

Regret is a heavy word in the back of your throat, and when you force it forward, it leaves a bitter taste on your tongue. You don't want to have regret. They tell you live so that you will have no regret. It's a shameful thing to have to admit to regret.

It lingers.

You dream of it, of things past, of the choices you could have made. It haunts you, and you find yourself thinking about what you could have done differently. You are thinking about one things, and suddenly, it starts to push forward in your mind, and you try to do anything to distract yourself from the memory that is not quite there yet, but you know is coming. It always comes anyway, caring not a bit for your distractions efforts.

Of course I have regrets. I've made choices, and sometimes, I chose wrongly. Everyone does; there are always regrets.

There are the silly regrets. The pie I made for Father's Day? I regret having a second piece.

There are the day to day regrets that I can change--not fix, but I can do better tomorrow. I got testy with Vor today, because he was out in the yard, painting the deck, and I was on Lis patrol all day. She wore me down quickly, and I got agitated with her, and with him. I tried to do better for the rest of the night, but I regret losing my temper.

There are the wistful regrets--the things that you wish you could change, but the decision or action wasn't something you really had control over in the first place. For the most part, for me, this involves my family dynamics. I regret my complicated feelings for them, but those feelings are of my making.

Right now, I am experience a bone deep regret over a thing I feel like was mostly in my control. My brother deploys tomorrow. Why have I not called him every single day since I first knew of the deployment date? Why have I not tried to build an even stronger relationship? Why have I not sent him an email, just because? Why did I let these chances slip by?

I see all the chances and opportunities laid out before me, stretching long, etched in bitter writing. When Lis had her diagnosis and her surgery, I cried desperately, all the time. But this is the first time I've felt those stinging tears you hear people write about. They sting because they are bitter, made of my poisonous choices, things I could have changed or done or said and didn't.

I know this deployment is more dangerous than all the rest.  It's the locations, it's his rank, it's his job description, it's the timing of the war, and it's everything all in one.

It lingers.

I cannot change those choices.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Hang On

Wait! Stop! Hang on! (Imagine me throwing up my hands, palm out)

Yes, I realize we are well into June and I've been silent. In my defense:

1. May 30 was the 1 year anniversary of finding out about Lis's craniosynostosis and I had FEEEEEEELINGS about it.

2. I had multiple hearings everyday for 2 weeks, greatly impeding my ability to work on our publication, so I've been working on that at night.

3. I presented at a conference this weekend on social media, so I've been prepping for that delight.

4. Tomorrow is the biggest, nastiest, most publicized hearing of my career thus far.

5. Lis discovered her ability to fling herself to the ground and engage in a good old fashioned tantrum.

So! Let me survive tomorrow, then I have THOUGHTS and FEEEEEELINGS for you.