Irony

December 19, 2010

Sometimes you open a can of worms not realizing that someone else is about to open a barrel of snakes. Which means, your can of worms doesn't cause the uproar you thought it would.

But then when the barrel of snakes is opened, you sort of wish you were just dealing with your can of worms. Because the snakes are full of venom that gets into old wounds and creates a few new ones--both for yourself and for everyone involved.

I apologize for the bizarre analogy, but it's a tough time for me and my family right now. And, as usual, I'm not at liberty to provide details on the situation. But I will say that it involves my parents, myself, and my brother, and the people who touch us: our spouses and children. It also involves a lot of grief. My nerves have been stretched tighter than a guitar string for over a week now. Sometimes I nearly break down and cry. My mother-in-law called today to say she would be leaving tomorrow to come visit us for Christmas, and I nearly blanked out completely. I just sat there on the phone sputtering, trying to make my mind function. Really? It's already less than a week until Christmas?

What am I going to do?

I've been sitting around the house in a stupor for days. I've wanted to write, but felt too overwhelmed to make the effort. I've tried to keep up the housework, but I feel like it's pointless and that I get nowhere. Part of the reason is that the living room is in the early stages of being remodeled. There's drop cloths taped to the floor and not a piece of furniture anywhere. It's my baby's first Christmas, and I don't even have a tree to put gifts under. I feel like no matter what I do, the house will never be clean because I don't have the space right now to organize things the way I want them. There are also mountains of opened mail on the desk by the back door. I've tried to sort the pile, but it never seems to go away. I just want to scream.

A breakthrough, though: the other day on the phone, my mom asked me if I thought I had gotten enough counseling for certain things that had happened to me in the past--things that my mother hasn't wanted to acknowledge. I've been waiting over 10 years to hear that question, and I thought I might never hear it. I told her no, but maybe now would be a good time to seek out a counselor and talk about those things. We'll see what happens with this barrel of snakes.

Knots

December 8, 2010

So my contact lenses are not in a landfill after all. It seems my husband packed them in a box with the electronic devices from our office, along with my expensive sunglasses. Which was good, because a few days after finding them, we left for another trip to TN to visit family again, and I wasn't keen on wearing my glasses the whole time. But that wasn't the end of the blowups for me. After a couple of days in TN, I finally let out all the frustration at my husband that I had been holding in and told him exactly how I felt about his actions and attitude. My husband is truly a great man. He took my words to heart, and we've been closer ever since. A night alone in Nashville at a 4-star hotel didn't hurt either. We left the baby with my parents and just got away for a little bit. It was like a second honeymoon...definitely the best thing we've done for our marriage in a long time.

Unfortunately, the dreaded Can O' Worms got opened the day before we left TN, and my brother heard the big secret...just two weeks before he is to leave for Navy boot camp, which leaves him almost no time to process the information. Not good. He is stressing, which means I am stressing. But I keep telling myself that I refuse to feel bad about him knowing. I did not create this secret; I am merely its victim. At the same time, my mind and my gut are in knots. What if the secret gets out, and the whole situation blows up in my face? It could be a cold Christmas, indeed.

Angry Again

November 9, 2010

I should have been asleep three hours ago. I know I'm going to wake up so exhausted in the morning to deal with my 9-month-old son, and I'm going to be miserable most of the day. That's how it always happens when I stay up late.

But I'm sooo freaking angry right now, too angry to sleep. You see, I've torn my house apart looking for the year's supply of contact lenses I just purchased a month ago, and I can't find them ANYWHERE. I can't find them because my husband packed them when we were moving from the apartment. He doesn't remember seeing them, or what box or bag (if any) he put them in. The same goes for the really nice Oakley sunglasses I also just purchased. And the brackets that attach some of the shelves to our set of bookcases. And I'm not sure he cares.

I'm also not sure he listens. For his occasional requests to "Talk to me; talk to me," I don't think he remembers a word I say. The last time we moved (from SC to VA), I complained about his packing methods--which are, shove everything into a box or Rubbermaid container and move it. No labeling or organization involved. Then he spends the next two weeks asking ME where everything is since I'm the one who has to put most of it away. This time, he moved some of our stuff in trash bags. I warned him that doing so could cause confusion about what was actually our possessions and what was trash. So I'm now convinced that my contact lenses and sunglasses are taking up space in a local landfill, because there's no trace of them anywhere in this house.

I'm so sick of always trying to be the better person. I try to work on my personal flaws, but the effort doesn't appear to be reciprocated, and I'm tired. He sees that I'm unhappy and asks what he can do to make it better. I've got an answer: listen when I say shit and act accordingly. And while you're at it, act like you give a damn.

Old World Suburbia

November 1, 2010

At last, after three weeks of moving and settling in, my life has reached a state near enough normalcy to write. For a moment there, I didn't think I would survive. Here's how the move went down:

Since we were moving only six miles, my husband decided to save a few hundred bucks and borrow a friend's pickup truck for the move instead of renting a moving truck. This translated into three days of many small trips between the house and the apartment. Not bad, except I'm slow at packing and the apartment had collected lots of piddling items that didn't seem to go together in any box. Not that it mattered to my husband, who threw them together into boxes anyway...and didn't label them. Then, he spent the next two weeks asking me where everything was. We still haven't found my $100 sunglasses that I bought a month ago. Yep, he packed them. Somewhere.

Three days before we had to relinquish the apartment, my husband informs me that he has duty the day before we have to be out, which means he won't be able to help with the last two days of moving and cleaning. It's all up to me. And I'm in therapy for my back. The nerve pain in my leg has flared up so bad at this point I can hardly stand. I have William to take care of, too, and his response to the move is to cry and whine constantly. During the whole ordeal, I had thoughts of "I'm not going to make it." And then I did. I pulled it out somehow, and turned over a spotlessly clean apartment with hours to spare. Some nights I fell into bed so stiff that I could hardly move, but I managed to get the last of our stuff over to the new house. And now, we're never moving again.

Last night, we handed out candy for Halloween in our new neighborhood, and some of the neighbors came over and introduced themselves. They're all a few years older than me and my husband, but nice. At the same time, I got a vibe that this neighborhood might be secretly hosting its own version of Desperate Housewives. Two of the women were drinking wine while escorting their children around the neighborhood, and one of them looked like she was on her third glass. Not to judge, but most of the people I know don't get hammered while outside with their kids.

The elderly gentleman to our right has a lawn that hasn't been seen since the Garden of Eden. It's greener than most golf courses. I wonder if he shoots people who walk on it.

The family to our left appears to own five cars, at least one with huge chrome rims on the tires.

Things could get interesting around here.

Lonely

October 7, 2010

This will not be an uplifting post full of optimism.

This will not be a brave attempt to put a smiling face on a cloudy thought.

I am lonely. In the midst of all the stress and craziness that has been my life for the past three months, my loneliness has become blindingly, achingly apparent. Aside from my husband, I have no kindred spirit with which to connect. I absolutely hate when my husband asks if I would like to get out or take up a social activity, because I'm embarrassed to admit even to him--even though he already knows--that I have no one to go out with. So when he asks, I just mutter something, or say "I'll think about it," and end up staying at home. Like a hermit.

The last good friend I made was two years ago when I lived in South Carolina. She was around my age and had some education. When we got together, we talked for hours. But she struggled very hard with depression, so she rarely went out. Heck, sometimes she rarely got out of bed before mid-afternoon. And then my husband found reason to despise her husband, so hanging out became too awkward. The situation deteriorated further when she and her husband became influenced by some hardcore Christian fundamentalist doctrine--the same kind my husband and I had been trying to get away from for the past few years. Needless to say, the friendship dissolved like bubbles in a pond.

When it comes to making friends, I seriously wonder if I'm just too picky. Is it too much to ask that I have someone close to my age? Married? Educated--or, at least, intelligent? Funny? Interesting? Emotionally stable? Ambitious? Loyal? Heck, if I could just find someone who hit four out of the eight, I might consider the search a success. But it seems I always end up with the dysfunctional ones, or the ones that are too soon 1,000 miles away.

Ah, so much of the world is lonely.

Querying

October 4, 2010

I queried nine agents last night to represent my first novel, and I think my eyes might bleed. Querying agents is probably the most stressful thing an author ever does. You can cry reading passages of your novel, then as soon as you sit down to query, it seems everything you have ever written is utter, boring dreck. You think, "Who in their right mind would accept this?" You want to suddenly hurl your manuscript into the nearest bonfire, forever away from the eyes of the literary world, except that manuscript represents five years of work and a potential advance large enough to pay off your student loans. And your husband would kill you for throwing it out.

So you write a query. And rewrite it. And rewrite it again. You send it out while agonizing over every single word. Literary agents are notoriously picky. I read their blogs, so I know. Does my query have too many adverbs? Is my bio a turn-off? Should I have spent less space describing the plot and more space on how the book fits into the literary genre?

If I spent the next two months perfecting my query, I still wouldn't have answers to these questions. The only test of its quality is to subject it to the rigid scrutiny of people who hold all my pitiful hopes in their dry, meaty hands. If it fails, I'll tweak it further and start the whole miserable process over again--just to find someone who will love my novel enough to bring it into existence.

Strain

September 29, 2010

So I'm finally ready to talk about my physical strain.

It seems I'm suffering from a problem that has hit a few decades early: degeneration of the spine. One of the disks in my lower back is bulging out slightly, which is getting uncomfortable and putting pressure on the nerves that run into my left leg. When I walk or stand for long periods of time, a burning pain and numbness begins a few inches above my ankle and spreads up my leg and down into my foot. It has become somewhat limiting in the past few weeks, especially because I fear going hiking with my husband. I don't want to get a mile down a trail and be unable to get back.

When I first heard the results of the doctor's diagnosis, I was devastated. It's not cancer by any means, but...I'm only 27! What will this mean when I'm 40? Fifty? What if I lift something heavy (like my child) and further injure my back? Will I need surgery? Or will I simply become limited even further?

But since I've had some time to think about it, I'm ok. Still unhappy and a little scared, but ok. The doctor has put me on medication for inflammation, and I'll call my insurance to schedule some physical therapy next week. If these two things can help me, maybe my life can get back to normal.

I Haven't Fallen Off...

September 27, 2010

...I just haven't had the mind to get on.

My husband and I are set to close on our house Thursday. So far, I've only packed two boxes and one Rubbermaid container with books. I could easily pack another six boxes with books. I think we have more books in this apartment than we do anything else. They're taking over EVERYTHING! They're stacked on my husband's dresser. They're piled in the top of William's closet. Books coming out of every nook and crevice.

I need more boxes. And about three more bookshelves for the new house.

I'm excited about the move, but I've had a tough time coping with stress this past week. Part of my struggle has had to do with William. He recently went through another stage of growth and development, and this one was a little rough for him. He whined almost constantly. The slightest bump on the head sent him screaming. He didn't want to be held, put down, or left alone. Nothing made him happy. Now, thankfully, he seems to be better, but for a few days there I considered throwing myself through the apartment window to escape him.

Because of all this, I went into another "blanking out" phase several days ago. I've discovered this is how I function: periods of high efficiency and productivity followed by periods of almost brain-dead behavior. Since realizing this, I've been able to channel my energy more effectively. For instance, I spent much of my recent "blank out" working on my second novel. (I have about 15 pages now.)

I've also been able to manage my time and behavior better this time so I can still fulfill my responsibilities. If I know I need time to relax or escape, I take it. In exchange, I set deadlines for meeting my obligations so I won't procrastinate indefinitely. So far, it's working. I just hope I can keep it up. I still need to pick out paint colors for the house!

Bittersweet

September 15, 2010

After all the frustration my husband and I have suffered while trying to purchase our first home, it finally appears that we will succeed. A few weeks ago, we put in a bid for a beautiful 1940's house in the historic district of our city, not far from the shipyard where my husband's ship is stationed. After much haggling over the contract and a few bumps in the process, everything is set to go through. The house passed inspection and is being appraised today. All that is left is to sign the final papers, which should happen at the end of this month. One of my joys lately has been dreaming about that house and all the room William will have to play in it.

He needs more room. He is crawling much faster, pulling up to low surfaces, and getting into everything. Watching him has become exhausting. I've had to remove him countless times from electrical wires (which he LOVES to play with), fish fuzz and rug fibers out of his mouth, and comfort him from all the times he's fallen or crawled head-first into the coffee table. I'm pretty much confined to the living room while my husband is at work, unable to let William out of my sight for more than a handful of seconds. A designated play area just for him would be a godsend.

But there is a cloud hanging over me as we prepare to transition to our wonderful new home. I finally saw my doctor concerning the physical strain I have been suffering, and the news is not good. I do not have all of the information yet, so I do not know how serious my condition is or what my treatment will be. But the initial diagnosis has me pretty devastated. There's a reason I feel like I'm 27 going on 80--it's because, in a way, I am. That's all I feel comfortable saying. For now, I'm just waiting until I can get more answers, which should happen in two weeks--and trying to keep my head together.

Unexpected

September 1, 2010

Somewhere in my city tonight is a man named Deo Cosita. It supposedly means "little man who honors God." I don't think that's his real name.

Today is his 62nd birthday. He is homeless and nearly blind. He walked around town for hours today before finding someone who would speak to him.

He is a former Marine. His service is the cause of his blindness. Agent Orange is eating away at his sight.

Deo doesn't stand on street corners. He doesn't have a cardboard sign. He isn't panhandling in parking lots. He just wants someone--anyone--to see him as a fellow human being.

He asked me to pray for him. So this is my prayer:

Dear God,
Please watch over Deo Cosita.
Let him prosper and meet with kindness.
Give him hope for the future. And remind
all those who passed him by
that there but by your grace go we.

Amen.

The Wonder of Discovery

August 30, 2010

I finally put my finger on what is so special about being a mom. It's seeing my child discover his world and his abilities.

Every day I place my son on the floor, and he crawls toward the first thing that catches his interest. It may be something he played with the day before, but he wants to check it out again. He claws at it. He waves it. He puts it in his mouth. He pushes it across the carpet. The whole time, I can see his little mind working behind his eyes, trying to grasp the definition and purpose of said object. He pulls himself up to the bottom shelf of my bookcase, and he positively beams at his tiny accomplishment. I push new foods into his mouth, looking for his reaction to an unfamiliar taste. It's a wondrous time.

I believe it's the excitement of discovery that makes life full and worthwhile. It's the source of butterflies when a young couple falls in love. It's the rush I feel when traveling to a new destination. It's why parents take their children to zoos, amusement parks, and space camp. It's why people get such a thrill out of giving and receiving gifts. Experiencing something for the first time is special, but it is even more special to create a first experience for a child, spouse, or friend.

I imagine this is the main reason so many parents struggle with raising disabled children--for them, discovery is limited. Depending on their disability, they may never feel the sense of pride at learning to walk on their own, the thrill of competing with their peers, or the pleasure of falling in love. Having the burden of caring for an especially dependent child minus the reward of seeing him or her develop and discover in normal ways, I imagine, must be crippling for those parents. My heart goes out to them.

Yes, parenthood is still mundane at times. Scrubbing plum stains out of my baby's clothes isn't the most stimulating task. I'm still looking forward to going back to work full-time after I earn my teaching license. But at the moment, watching my little boy learn and grow in these little ways makes the days go by just fine. And I am thankful.

P.S. I hope you like the new blog design. Let me know what you think!

Shock

August 27, 2010

(This is going to get sticky.)

Two days ago, my best friend told me that she's in love with a woman. This wasn't completely out of the blue, so I can't say I was totally surprised. But when I read the words--so emphatically expressed--in black and white, I felt like I had been stabbed in the gut.

Part of me doesn't think she's really gay. I've known her for 10 years, and up until the past year or so, she's always been interested in men. She had at least two major crushes on guys when she was in college. I have no idea what to think now.

My friend is in the ministry. She wants to become ordained. She just graduated from seminary after spending three years there beyond college. But if she decides to publicly pursue a homosexual relationship, the church will never ordain her. She may even lose her current job. Everything she has worked for will be for nothing--not to mention that her mom will be crushed at the prospect of never having a grandchild. I would feel better about supporting my friend through this if I believed this was more than the result of social influence.

I feel like I'm in an awkward position now. First of all, my father has been a pentecostal minister for most of his adult life. You can imagine what his views on homosexuality are, and he considers my friend like a second daughter to him. I can just picture his disappointment, as well as my becoming at odds with my parents over my choice to support her.

The situation is made more awkward for me because of my personal feelings on the subject. I openly admit here that I'm not totally comfortable with the idea of homosexuality. That does not mean I'm homophobic. I gladly befriend gays, hug them, hang out with them, and genuinely listen when they talk about their lives and loves. If a gay person confessed that she found me attractive, I would not be offended or repulsed. I would even vote for their right to marry. But I'm not 100% convinced that homosexuality is a natural, inherent attraction. Maybe it is, but I can't convince myself.

I know admitting this is dangerous. I know that dozens of people will argue otherwise. They may even provide scientific evidence to suggest that it is. Trust me, I've heard all the arguments. But all that can do is change my mental understanding of what it means to be homosexual. It cannot change how I feel about it. Maybe that's because I live as a heterosexual woman and, therefore, will never truly understand what it means to be gay.

All I know is that I love my friend and will support her in whatever she chooses to do. I can only imagine what she is feeling right now--facing the possibility that she is different from what she always thought she was, that many of her friends and family may reject her, that she may have to choose between her convictions and her career. I just wish I knew for sure that this is the right thing for her. I'm also afraid that one day she'll ask me what my true feelings are, and that will be the end of our friendship. I'm willing to meet her halfway on this. I just hope she'll agree to meet me on the other side. I want to be there.

Thanks for reading...and understanding.

Murphy's Law

August 23, 2010

Sick, exhausted, heartbroken: those are the words that describe me today. The house hunt isn't going well. We made an offer on a charming little house on a quiet cul-de-sac just one street over from a city park. The way the sun streamed into the lush backyard was simply idyllic. But the owners refused to negotiate with us, so we had to take our money elsewhere.

A couple of days ago, we found another house: a historic home with large bedrooms and stunning wood floors. My husband fell in love, as did I. We also met the owner, who told us she was very motivated to sell and had just dropped the price by $12,000. So we made an offer. As we waited to hear from our agent, my husband insisted on celebrating with Chinese take-out. It seemed like a sure thing. Then our agent called: our offer was fair, but the owner had just revealed there was asbestos in the house that must be removed before the deal can go through. The cost and time to remove it may put our purchase out of reach. We were devastated.

What started as a fun and exciting process has turned into a demoralizing drudgery.

Now we may have to start searching for a home a third time, despite having looked at 30 houses in the past 3 weeks. The problem is that we're running out of options. And three days ago I submitted our "intent to vacate" to the apartment property manager. If our apartment sells in the next 57 days, we will have to move whether we have a house or not.

Furthermore, I've been dealing with all of this--including shopping for houses and signing contracts--while sick with a cold.

In a way, though, I'm not surprised. After everything I've experienced in the past three years, I've come to accept that nothing is ever simple. I'm actually shocked when any process goes smoothly. I'm convinced there will always be a snag, or a hidden concession, or a major hangup down the line. Every time we have moved, I've been sick. Every time we go on vacation to visit family, there's tension. Every time I think I have myself sorted out, another issue pops up. I'm 27 going on 80 at this point. I could use more effective ways of dealing with stress.

Under the Bus

August 16, 2010

I feel like I haven't slept in a week. Probably because I haven't...much.

The past two times my husband has been on duty, I've stayed up until one and two in the morning. Something about turning out the light in a big empty bedroom just isn't appealing. On top of that, William has woken up a few times in the night on more than one occasion, which has robbed me of sleep. Then on the one night I seemed set for uninterrupted rest, the fire alarm in our apartment malfunctioned, sending us outside at 3:30 a.m. to escape the deafening noise. Now we've just made an offer to buy a house, and I keep tossing with restless dreams about everything that could go wrong.

My husband and I appear to be reconnecting--probably because house hunting has put us back on the same page--but not all is entirely well with me. William is becoming increasingly more active and mobile. I recently spent an entire day removing every electrical cord in the living area from William's mouth four times over. (The drill has been as follows: remove child from problem area, place child in a central location near toys, sit down for five minutes, get up, remove child from another problem area, repeat ad nauseum.) Naps are getting shorter and feedings are becoming messier. Thank God he's happy and manageable most of the time, or I'd lose it. I love my son dearly and don't regret becoming a mother, but I realize now that I'm not meant to have a house full of children.

There are other things weighing on my mind that I'm not ready to share. But I will say that one of the reasons William's care has become a little troublesome is because of a physical strain I am experiencing. It has me very concerned. Hopefully, I'll be able to see a doctor soon...and maybe get some sleep, too.

Thanks for reading.

Connections

August 11, 2010

I don't know what's going on with my marriage.

I feel like I'm having a tough time connecting with my husband. We cuddle, we kiss, we say "I love you"--we talk about our days and what is happening with our son--but there seems to be an awkward silence between us.

We used to have so much in common. We could talk for hours about books, politics, our dreams and goals.... Now my husband could care less about politics. We stopped reading the same books well over a year ago. And we've rehashed our dreams and goals so much that discussing them yet again sometimes feels like a stab in the eye.

I sort of snapped at my husband a few days ago. He asked if I was ok for about the sixth time that day. I said yes. But the truth is, I don't really know.

My soul is empty but my mind is full. I have tons of mental energy and nowhere to put it, yet I move around the house as if I'm stuck in a bog. The simplest tasks seem to take forever to complete. I'm slow at everything these days. And it makes me crazy.

I want to talk to my husband, but what do I say? We've acknowledged before that we aren't quite on the same page like we were before marriage. So what is there to say? "Be present in mind as well as body?" Because it seems he's out to lunch as well.

To All the Young Ladies

August 5, 2010

On my recent vacation to Tennessee to visit family, I had the pleasure of visiting some long-time friends. This particular group of friends is a married couple with five teen-aged children, one of whom is completely smitten with her first boyfriend. (Boy, do I remember those days!) Of course, I had William in tow, so the conversation turned to perspectives on motherhood. The girls wanted to know the best and worst of raising a child from a new mother and an outsider, and I was happy to oblige.

Becoming a mother changes your lifestyle, your body, your perspective, your priorities, and your marriage. Any pre-child goals and ambitions are not necessarily put out of reach by having a child, but they become much harder to achieve. Your time is no longer your own to use as you please. Be prepared for interrupted phone calls, TV shows, and movies.

Not only is parenthood an adjustment for the mother, but for the father as well (when he's in the picture). So while you're dealing with fluctuating hormones, increased demands on your energy, intensifying emotions and an uncertain future, he's struggling to cope with your evolution and discover his role as a parent. On top of that, both of you will have different ideas of what childcare is. It takes a strong, committed couple to successfully negotiate the chaos.

Being a mother is a full-time job. There are no days or hours off. Even if you get a babysitter for a day, you're still on call in case something goes wrong. Even if you don't get a call, you're wondering whether your child is well, protected, and behaving. If your child wakes up crying in the middle of the night, you're getting up to comfort him or her.

Even when both parents are in the picture, babies are most dependent upon their mothers for their comfort and care. As a mother, you will be most intuitive to your baby's needs and, therefore, will most likely seize the responsibility for meeting them.

Motherhood, while rewarding, is dirty. Prepare to scrub runny poo out of carpet and puke out of your car's upholstery. When your baby begins teething, your most interesting accessories will end up wet and slimy with drool as everything goes into the baby's mouth. You'll end up canceling shopping trips because your child spit up on his, or your, last change of clean clothes.

There are no trophies or awards in parenthood. No one is going to hand you the "Patient Mother of the Year" award for enduring a three-hour scream fest. Your child will be years old before you hear a genuinely thoughtful "thank-you" for all the work you have done to care for him or her.

Having a child just to have someone to love you is a huge mistake. Young babies can't reciprocate love. They don't know what it is. For the first month of their lives, they can't even smile on purpose. Again, your child will be years old before he or she can say "I love you."

In short, motherhood is tough. All the magazines of celebrities toting around their offspring would have young women believe that motherhood is a glamorous situation. It is not. Babies are not accessories; they are completely helpless, totally dependent individuals who require constant care and attention. Nothing on earth can fully prepare you for the physical and emotional wringer of motherhood.

Why do I say this? Because young women need to see the whole picture. My advice: consider motherhood very carefully before taking that leap. Once you hear the words "You're pregnant", life changes forever, even if you choose abortion or adoption. If you have ambitions--like traveling or attending college--do some of those things first. I did, and I now have those memories to look back on and feel good about. They have made me a more well-rounded person, which has helped me to remain stable as a mother. They are memories I will share with my child when he is older.

Do I regret motherhood? Absolutely not. When my baby smiles, the sun shines in my world. But I'm thankful for every opportunity I took early in adulthood to pursue my dreams before William came along: time to work, to establish my marriage, to discover more about who I am.

And now, I'm looking to the future. I have more goals that I have yet to reach. That's why, for now, becoming a mother for a second time is on hold.

Sad

July 25, 2010

I thought I was becoming a mother again.

I didn't say anything to anyone. Not even to my husband. I just noted that my cycle was late. I wasn't sure how late at first: a week? Two weeks? I just knew it was off. Way off.

I retreated back into that quiet space inside of me where I used to go when William was still in the womb, where I contemplated the unfolding complexities of my life and emotions, and just waited. And listened.

I secretly purchased a pregnancy test and waited to use it until first thing the next morning. I sneaked out of the bedroom and into the spare bathroom while my husband showered for work, too anxious to wait for him to leave. My stomach knotted as I read the directions. I don't know if I'm ready.

I take the test and wait for the results. One blue line. Not pregnant. My cycle began the same day.

I expected to feel relieved, and in a way, I do. William requires so much from me right now that another pregnancy would put me in a stressful position. But I'm also sad. For a moment I expected to feel life springing up in me again, the little kicks and nudges, and the excitement and anticipation of preparing to greet a new little person--full of smiles and wonder. All those emotions rushed through me as I tore the wrapping off the pregnancy test, and then drained out of me as I read the results. Not pregnant.

When did life get so complicated? And why do I feel betrayed?

Why I'm Angry

July 20, 2010

I've done much soul-searching to try to get at the root of my anger. For the past few months, I haven't really understood my anger. Sure, I could recall instances in my life that have made me angry, but I'd eventually conclude that I was over the hurt and had forgiven all parties involved.

But now I'm not so sure. I mean, in 99% of those instances, I feel like I have forgiven all to the best of my ability. But the anger is still there, ready to spring up without a moment's notice. And today, I'm going to be brutally honest and tell you, dear readers, why I'm angry.

I'm angry because for nearly 20 years, I've felt forced to live in silence about a wrong I suffered during my childhood. I'm angry at my parents who have basically pretended, in the years since I've told them, that said wrong did not occur and have discouraged me from talking about it. I'm angry that they did not offer to take me to counseling, even though they knew I was hurting. I'm especially angry at my mother, who once implied that the wrong was not what I had said it was.

I'm angry that I've had to bear the weight of this wrong almost entirely on my own. I'm angry that there has been, up to this point, no safe forum for me to discuss this wrong, even in counseling. I'm angry at the law that says certain wrongs discussed with a counselor have to be reported to the authorities. I don't want to report anything; I just want to deal with my issues! I'm angry that no one seems to understand that.

I'm angry at the nasty, manipulative bastard who turned my best friend in high school against me to the point that she hasn't spoken to me in years. I'm angry that I never stood up to him and allowed him to treat me and my other friends like crap on his shoe. Just thinking about this guy makes me want to put my fist through a wall. A concrete wall.

I'm angry because I feel like I'm the only person in the world making an effort to heal, change, and forgive. I'm angry that I feel obligated to change while others remain the same sticks-in-the-mud they've always been. I'm angry at the times I should have stood up for myself and didn't.

I'm angry because I have to raise a child in a world that's full of evil, injustice, lies, ignorance, and violence. I'm angry at all the selfish pricks who take advantage of the innocent every day.

I'm angry because I don't feel I have a right to be angry. After all, others live in situations far worse than mine.

I'm angry because I don't have the kind of control over life that I want to have. I just want to wake up one day and be the right person, full of grace and serenity, but that doesn't happen most of the time. Sometimes I roll out of bed just to realize that I'm back to square one. That makes me angry, too.

I'm angry that I'm 27 and still dealing with some of these issues. I'm afraid I'll still be dealing with them when I'm 37. Fear angers me, and I'm afraid I'll always be angry. I pray to God that won't be the case.

Thanks for reading.

Dilemma

July 19, 2010

So it's been a solid seven months since I stopped taking Prozac, and I don't really miss it. Sure, it was nice having even moods, but I felt a little too even...like a Stepford wife or something. What I hated most about the medicine was that it affected my desire for intimacy--as in, made it non-existent. And since sex, in my mind, is one of life's purest joys, I knew my days on the meds were numbered from the beginning.

Joys are necessary for sanity.

But I've wondered a few times since giving up the meds if I should ask a doctor about resuming them, or maybe trying some different ones. I don't think my depression is constant, but when it hits, it can be severe. I'm not lying in bed all day or crying uncontrollably, but I either feel spaced out and unmotivated OR angry and unstable. The angry/unstable episodes are the worst. That's when I think about hurting myself. I'll also catch myself clenching my teeth at minor frustrations both real and imagined. And I want to throw things.

The scary part is, I can still function through all of that. The chaos in my head just plays in the background while I cook, play with my son, and carry on civilized conversations with my husband. My husband can usually tell I'm frustrated, but I don't think he knows how bad it gets sometimes.

So I don't know what to do. To be honest, I don't know how to begin to classify my depression. As I said, I think I tend to function pretty well most of the time, even during a depressive episode. But that's exactly what scares me. It scares me that I can be so calm and gracious on the surface, but feel so disturbed underneath it all. My fear is that someday I'll fail to keep it under control, my anger will burst through the floodgates, and I'll just snap.

The "blah" episodes have me worried, too, in that they can last a while and I accomplish very little. I have no idea how productive I could be if I didn't have these times when I seem to almost totally blank out. During one of these episodes, I can barely carry on a conversation. I'm easily distracted, and concentrating for any length of time is nearly impossible. I forget words and the names of things. I fear tasks that require real effort (i.e., anything above housework), so I procrastinate. Badly. And once I'm in the rut, getting out is hard. I have to make a real, determined effort to become productive again on a level I find acceptable.

However, I don't just want to go back on meds. I believe if I could just understand what goes on in my head sometimes--and why--and how these episodes start, then I could be a little more proactive in dealing with them. The best I do now is to stay active and motivated as much as possible, and try not to dwell on negative thoughts when they start running through my brain.

Finding Faith

July 8, 2010

As you know, I'm currently out of town to visit family. I just finished seeing immediate family in Tennessee, and now I'm visiting my husband's extended family in Colorado. It's been a nice trip despite William having a meltdown on our last flight. The poor little guy had had too much excitement.

One nice thing I've been able to do on my trip is attend church. Going to church may not seem like a big deal, but for the past three years I've been trying to figure out just where I stand when it comes to my religious beliefs. I grew up being lectured in the 12-step program of Christianity: read Bible every day, pray every day, memorize scripture, go to church every Sunday, speak in tongues, witness to everyone, etc., etc. And I soon discovered that I couldn't follow all the steps at the same time all the time. It just wasn't me. So I kept messing up. And following the program didn't always ensure that one grew in moral character. Some of the prickliest people I have met are ones that wear the facade best (although, some of the best people I have met do, too).

And then, nearly all at once, the proverbial rug got snatched from beneath me. Between the time my father-in-law became disabled and passed away, the pastor my home church had loved and supported for eight years betrayed the church and left us devastated. I was so crushed, I didn't think I would ever recover. At the same time, my husband began to question the existence of God. Never in a million years did I think such a thing would happen. I approached the marriage altar thinking I was marrying a solid Christian man, the kind I had dreamed about all my life. Needless to say, I suddenly felt betrayed by life itself.

So, for the past three years, I've been sitting around and thinking, "Where does this leave me?" In some ways, I think I'm still trying to answer that question. On the one hand, I still believe in God--still love Him. On the other hand, I refuse to toss all logic and the essence of my personality to the wind just to live up to some man-made Christian ideal. I suppose all this self-searching is an attempt to find some solid middle ground where I can be confident in what I believe and how I live. I'm close, but not there yet.

I was surprised, because when I walked into my home church two Sundays ago, I didn't expect to feel anything. Yet I felt myself being drawn to the front for prayer at the end of the service. As I stood praying with the new pastor, I saw a vision of myself as the biblical "Woman at the Well" with Jesus holding a pitcher of water to my lips, saying, "Drink, daughter, for you are thirsty."

Thinking

June 24, 2010

So, my husband and I are talking about having another child.

I feel like I have another child in me, another little person waiting to meet me...waiting to add another dimension to my life.

But it's not that easy. We want the second child close in age to our current baby, which means trying for conception right away. That means putting off graduate school yet another year, and higher childcare expenses for when I finally do start school. Also, the pain and frustration of my first pregnancy is still fresh in my memory. I vomited every single day from week six to week 20, and then twice a week after that until William was born. My libido and energy were practically non-existent the whole nine months. I spent my last month in nearly constant pain. Recovery from the childbirth took weeks.

Also, having a child is always a gamble. My husband and I are blessed to have a healthy, pleasant baby. But we might not be so lucky next time. The next baby could be colicky, hyper, or just plain difficult to manage--or, God forbid, have a disability.

Then there's handling the pregnancy and new baby with William around. I saw a young mother in the local Target parking lot lose her grip on a double stroller (which then went rolling into traffic) because she was busy wrangling three toddlers, and I thought: I know how she feels. When William was born, I felt like I needed two extra hands to be able to juggle everything: baby, bottle, burpcloth, blanket, remote control, cooking spoon.... Sometimes you succeed, and sometimes the stroller goes rolling off into traffic. Sometimes you leave the house without enough formula. Sometimes you spend half an hour searching for an important item you had in your hand just five minutes before and you can't imagine WHERE IN GOD'S GREEN WORLD you might have put it, and then you eventually discover that it was in plain sight all along, or in the refrigerator. And it's your purse.

And yet...there's this other little person calling to me from the void, saying "I'm here, Mommy. Come get me." There's an image of two little ones running to the door to greet their father, home from work, at the end of the day. There's the promise of laughter and discovery between siblings, of crayon drawings on the refrigerator, of school, graduation, weddings, and grandchildren. So maybe the complications multiply with a second child, but what about the joys? I'm not sure I want to miss out.


I'll keep you posted.

Quicksand

June 10, 2010

I'm still distracted. Every time I experience high levels of stress (such as a month ago when I was car shopping), I go through a time immediately afterward when I can't accomplish--or don't feel like accomplishing--anything. For me, that's been the past three weeks. I bought a video game a couple of weeks ago and completely vegged out in front of it for hours a day. Now it feels like I'm swimming in quicksand again. I just don't want to face anything.

One reason for my stress is that I'm planning a trip to TN to visit my family. This time, however, I'll be traveling alone with the baby. My husband has to work, so he can't come with us. And we're going by plane. Yes, I'll be THAT mother on the plane. I just hope to heaven that Will doesn't decide to scream the whole way.

Of course I'll be happy to see my family as always, but, as usual, there will probably be some type of drama or tension. Right now, my brother's two teenage sisters-in-law are living with him because their mom moved across the state and didn't want to take the girls out of their current school. However, she has given my brother and his wife next to nothing to support those girls, so after nearly eight months of raising teenagers, my brother is pretty much broke. Oh, did I mention he's turning 21 in July? Yeah, that sounds fair: a 20-year-old raising a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old on a waiter's salary while the girls' mother parties with her new boyfriend in another city. Sorry, I'm just a tad bitter about it. Every time I think about that situation, I want to reinstate public floggings. The type of advantage that woman is taking of my brother and his family is practically criminal.

And despite the discussion my husband and I had in December about revealing my darkest secret to my brother (see my post "Can O' Worms"), it has yet to be done. At first, I was glad about it. But while commenting on a relevant discussion thread somewhere on the Internet, I realized that, in all good conscience, I should probably reveal said secret after all. I'm sorry I can't reveal more about this secret to you, dear readers. Some things in my life are too sensitive and private even for this blog. I'm just hoping all goes well on this trip despite what drama may (and probably will) occur.

Self Image

May 26, 2010

I've been feeling a little self-conscious about my body lately. (I'll admit, it's easy to talk about celebrating one's body when you're normally a size 6.) Pregnancy definitely did a number on me. Despite rubbing lotion on my belly nearly every day, I still ended up with a crazy amount of stretch marks. I've got love handles for miles. And I'm avoiding form-fitting shirts like the plague for fear that my mushy muffin top will be unleashed upon an unsuspecting public. Most of the time I can still feel good about myself, but lately I've felt deeply frustrated at my altered appearance.

But there's at least one person who doesn't see all those flaws: my son. He looks at me like I'm the most beautiful person he's ever seen. When I walk by, his admiring gaze follows me wherever I go. When I go to his crib every morning, his eyes light up. He has a special smile just for me. And my singing voice, far from refined or beautiful, always calms him when he cries. I've never known a human love that was so unconditional--or an adoration so pure and free from bias.

I once told another blogger that children make us face the worst in ourselves. But they also reveal the best in us, too. They show us what we can be, and what we should aspire to. I hope to always be the beautiful woman my son sees, both inside and out. I know it's too much to hope that he'll always look at me this way, so I will treasure the moment while I can.

And do some sit-ups.

Driven to Distraction

May 16, 2010

Well, I finally did it. I found a car I love! It's a silver 2007 Ford Fusion with black leather seats. It is SWEET beyond belief. Every time I climb in, I feel like a queen. Now if I could just figure out how to mount the baby mirror in the back seat....

I haven't been blogging much because, aside from car shopping, I'm making some much-needed changes to my first manuscript. So far, I've added about four pages of material, and I'm only up to page 70 or so in the tweaking process. After this, I'll print off two copies or so and begin querying literary agents again. I just about have my query perfected, too. The problem with this process is that it takes FOR-EV-ER!

Seriously, there are much better uses for one's time than writing books--not for J. K. Rowling, obviously, but for everybody else, absolutely. Getting published is like winning the lottery after busting your brains for 2+ years to buy the ticket--and then you must collect the money from the Italian Mafia. I'm not joking. It's THAT difficult. I could get near the end of this process only to discover that I've written a story no one wants to buy or read. My 260-page manuscript could end up on a shelf, unpublished, collecting dust for the next two decades. But for now, I can't think those kinds of thoughts. I've only queried 10 agents. Some writers wallpaper their bedrooms with rejection letters before they find someone who is interested in representing their work. That's the kind of effort I need to give.

The baby? Well, he's fine. He's been a bit fussy since getting his first vaccine shots. I think, though, that he's getting bored with playing on the floor all day. If I take him out for a walk in the stroller or bring him along in the car to run errands, he's a perfect angel. If I put him on his activity mat, he's fussing after an hour--not great for writing and studying. But I guess I didn't have him to help me with my writing, now did I?

Really, I can't remember why I had him...but I'm glad I did. His smiles make my days a little brighter. And now I'm thinking, maybe I should have another?

?!?

Speaking of babies, I'd like to say congratulations to my friends, Jessica and William, on the birth of their first child, a beautiful little girl. My husband and I met Jess and Will in South Carolina nearly two years ago, and Jess became my first follower on this blog. I know they are thrilled to be new parents!

Learning to Laugh

May 7, 2010

Sorry if it seems I've abandoned my post lately. The past ten days have been unreal. First, my husband sold his truck--which is kind of a good thing because I now get to choose a mid-sized car to haul William around in. I've spent all week test driving cars WITH LEATHER SEATS! However, the day my husband cleaned out his truck for the sale, he dragged into the apartment two large saws and three Rubbermaid storage bins full of stuff he had been storing in his truck. I flipped out, especially when he suggested using the nursery closet to store the tools.

I've got news for you, buddy. I just organized the nursery closet, and it's packed to the ceiling. Good luck.

Fortunately, he managed to fit it all into his closet instead. I'm just frustrated that this place is about to burst at the seams.

Next, the TV went out. Yes, the beautiful 42" HD 1080p TV that we shelled out a thousand bucks for 18 months ago DIED. Also, the warranty has expired, and to fix the problem will cost the same amount as buying a new one. I'm not happy about missing new episodes of The Biggest Loser. I'm also not happy about spending another small fortune to replace a TV that should have lasted for years.

Know what else died this week? The childhood pet my brother and I shared: a giant tabby cat appropriately named Mr. Big. He had been a part of our family for 14 years. Two days ago, our mother accidentally ran him over in the driveway. This occurred on the same day I took William to the pediatrician, where he received his first vaccine shots. My heart broke when I heard him scream from the pain. I think I would have hurt less had the nurse instead jabbed the needle straight into my breastbone, Pulp Fiction style.

When my husband arrived home the afternoon of the flat cat/poked baby fiasco, I recounted to him William's painful day, then tearfully filled him in on the details of Mr. Big's demise. He snorted, then started laughing. Which, of course, made me laugh, too. Call it the absurdity of death.

My husband's thought was that Mr. Big had had enough of being old and living with my parents, and had decided to hasten his journey to the big litter box in the sky. We joked about the cat lying in wait for the car to back down the driveway, looking for the right opportunity to throw himself under the tires. Granted, it wasn't a bad way to go for the old fellow. Animals don't die gracefully from old age; it's a horrific process that can take days or even weeks. Mr. Big shuffled off this mortal coil in five minutes.

My depression has been bad recently, so learning to laugh at these little situations helps. I'm also teaching William to laugh. Babies can't laugh at birth; the ability is a developmental milestone that comes around the time they learn to coo. I've been on pins and needles for weeks waiting to hear Will's first real laugh. It finally came about two weeks ago when I bounced him on my knee. If I could bottle up the feeling that sound evokes within me and sell it, I swear I'd be a millionaire within a week. It's more healing than Prozac and more addictive than crack. But while Will smiles in spades, his laugh is still rare. Every day when I see his eyes shine a little brighter, I hope for the connections in his brain that will allow him to laugh long and loud, and thus shed a ray of light into my darker days.

In the meantime, I've started a second novel. This one is a fantasy. But don't fret; I haven't given up on getting the first one published. I'm taking a short "time out" to perfect my query and make some small corrections on the manuscript. Trust me: when I finally snag a publishing contract, laughing won't be hard to do at this house.

When Fears May Cease to Be

April 30, 2010

I have fears. I fear that my husband or son will be the victim of a fatal accident. I fear a stranger may try to hurt my son. I fear my son may hurt himself by one day running out into the street or jumping off a balcony. I fear that if such an accident took him from me, I would go completely mad and have to be committed.

Those are the irrational fears. When they surface, I deal with them in the following manner:

1. Count the facts. (My husband and son are strong and healthy. I don't have to worry about Will jumping off a balcony yet because he can't walk. Most accidents that occur in the home or at work are not fatal. My brother was a total spaz growing up and never met with a serious accident. Mental hospitals have nice padded rooms and visiting hours.)

2. Remind myself to focus on one day at a time. Sometimes I get so caught up in worrying about the future that the unpleasant scenarios of an entire decade pass through my head before I remember that the future isn't here yet.

Then there's this question: how do I raise my son into the person he should become when I'm not that person half the time?

I realize now that I was seriously depressed during my high school years, and had I gotten help back then, I could have been a little better off now. Unfortunately, my parents didn't believe in psychiatry or secular counseling back then. If you needed counseling, you went to see a pastor or a designated church counselor--someone who knew you and your family and saw you every week at services. I don't think those people could have handled anything I had to say. And the last thing I needed was for someone to quote two scriptures and try to "pray the Devil out" of me.

Don't get me wrong: I love scripture. Scripture has helped me many times when I have studied it myself. Prayer can also be very healing. But many Christian counselors view depression as a purely spiritual problem, and their approach to dealing with it can inflict major guilt on the person being counseled. After a while, you just don't want to tell them anything serious to avoid the feeling of being totally defective.

I think I'm going to need to seek counseling again after all, even if it means seeing that primary care physician I don't like. This time, I want a psychologist instead of a psychiatrist. All my last psychiatrist cared about was how my medication was working. I also don't want to go back on medication unless I absolutely need to. It does help in a way, but I just don't feel like myself when I'm on it, even with the tiny dose I had. I want someone to talk to, who can put things into perspective for me. Dealing with depression, for me, means facing it head-on--not turning my brain chemistry off.

Despair

April 27, 2010

I haven't written lately because I've been angry again. Yes, again. Over some retarded nonsense. A few days ago I completed my slide down into the utter darkness of depression. I've been sitting around wanting to cry, wanting to smash things, wanting to go completely insane. I've even come close to losing patience with William.

My husband says I should call my doctor. Well, I don't want to! My primary care physician is an idiot. She prescribed me Tylenol for numbness in my leg and heartburn medication for an upset stomach. What's up with that??? If you don't know what's wrong, just say so. Don't prescribe useless medication that I have to get filled while my baby screams his head off in the waiting area.

Anyway...the retarded nonsense...

A few weeks ago, I reached out to an old high school friend on Facebook. We haven't really spoken or seen each other in years, and I wanted to catch up with him. So I sent him a message saying, "Wish we could talk." His response: "Is everything ok?" Yeah, sure, why wouldn't it be? Well, that was the end of that. No other response.

I didn't let it get to me at first. After all, I'm sure he's busy. But then...why would he only talk to me if something was amiss? And then it hit me: he must think I'm a charity case.

Oh, boy. Talk about putting a treasured friendship in a different light. My anger is still palpable.

I'll admit, I chased this guy in high school. He was intelligent, respectful, warm and friendly--and more than anything at the time I wanted to date someone who would treat me right. However, nothing more than friendship ever resulted between us, though I always suspected that he liked me at least a little back then.

None of that matters now, though. I mean, we're talking ten years ago! We're now both happily married and far more settled. What does he think I'm going to do? Hit on him? As if!

I considered writing him an email in which I explain what was going on in my head back in high school and apologize for, if ever, making him uncomfortable. But then I thought, what's the point? What difference would it make, if any? He's obviously not interested in communicating with me, so why put myself out there like that?

Instead, I did this: I deleted him from my Facebook friends list. I think doing that has made me feel a little better, mainly because it is different from what I would normally do.

I thought about the situation like this: if he was uncomfortable with talking to me at any point in our "friendship", he should have just told me so. To let me keep believing that we were friends if he was really just "being nice" to me was a pathetic, cowardly, and cruel thing to do.

I know some people might say that my view of the situation is short-sighted or mistaken. But I have nothing else to go on. And taking him off my friends list is better than writing an emotionally charged, potentially embarrassing email. If he sees that he's been dropped from my friends list and feels concerned about it, he can email me.

I wish stuff like this didn't bother me at all.

The Downhill Slide

April 19, 2010

It started yesterday. Maybe it was when I looked in the mirror and was suddenly disgusted by the extra ten pounds hanging off my hips. Maybe it was when I looked into the closet and realized I was tired of wearing the same five shirts and one pair of jeans over and over because I'm stuck in limbo between maternity wear and my "skinny" clothes. Maybe it was when I treated myself to lunch and a movie and felt pathetic for not having a friend to go with me. Or maybe it was when my husband went out to get dinner at Taco Bell and came back with someone else's order, the cheapest item on the menu, sans tomatoes.

You've got to be kidding, right???

The terrible thing about depression is that you can be happily skipping along one minute and...BOOM! Suddenly, your parade is getting rained on. Everything becomes a major annoyance: bills, obligations, phone calls, personal hygiene. You want to stomp, and scream, and go to bed, and not get up.

For a very long time.

Unfortunately, I don't have that luxury. Hardly ever do I have it, and certainly not today. William is counting on me, so I must work through it. The guest bathroom needs cleaning, and the nursery could use some organization. Maybe I'll do that. Accomplishing something tangible, even something small, usually helps.

Alone Again

April 17, 2010

Saturday. That's usually my day to escape for a couple of hours. It's the day I take beading classes at my local bead supplier while hubby watches the little one. Even if I've learned a particular technique before, the class is still fun. I get uninterrupted time to work on a project and great conversation with other women. Granted, they're always 20+ years my senior, but I almost prefer it that way. Older women generally have great life stories to tell.

Today, however, my husband is on duty, so no beading class for me. And William is driving me nuts.

I think the little man is teething. He's so young, though, that I can't give him anything for the pain. So I've spent the past three days listening to him fuss. And fuss. And fuss.

I'm going out of my mind.

It's not that the fussing is so disruptive. I can handle being interrupted during a beading or writing project. It's just that consoling Will is becoming increasingly difficult. I pick him up, he fidgets. I give him my finger or a toy to teethe on, he fusses. I put him down, he cries. And I have trouble telling the difference between his signals for teething and hunger. Sometimes he's screaming before I realize, "Hey, I should get the little bugger a bottle."

Why couldn't I have had just a couple more months of peace?

When I do get a quiet moment beyond the time I spend beading and pacifying Will, I continue looking into grad school. I've decided that I will apply next year in order to qualify for scholarships and additional grant money. Depending on how much aid I can pull down, I may be able to go to school for free. It's looking likely, anyway. I'll also be around the house a little longer to experience some of William's developmental milestones--like when he finally cuts that first tooth.

I'm a little nervous, though, about how much grad school might demand of me. I won't be overloaded with classes, but essays might be a different story. I'm also planning to do the thesis option in case I want a Ph.D. later on. That means TONS of writing and research...and less time for beading and blogging. *Sigh*

As we laid in bed the other night, my husband and I joked (somewhat seriously) about how the demands of grad school might affect our already-limited time together. I suggested that we may have to pencil in some intimacy in my weekly planner between my essays and Will's diaper changes.

No doubt, it's gonna be a wild ride.

Fleeting

April 14, 2010

Only two months ago was William a tiny bundle in his bassinet. Only three weeks ago did he require only formula for a meal. Only a week ago was he happily sucking at my breast.

I know why parents say children grow up so fast. They develop so quickly in the first year, going from tiny, helpless beings to walking, talking people.

I realize these moments with my son as an infant are fleeting. Already has his skin lost that incredible velvety softness it had when he was first born. He's outgrown half of the adorable outfits I received at my baby shower, going from newborn diapers to size twos in the blink of an eye. Today I kiss his soft, little head; who knows when it will be obscured by thick hair? His toothless grins melt my heart, but for how long? He's already teething.

Will I be able to recall these joys years from now? Will I remember the way he gazed into my face as I held him to my breast? Will I remember his first smile? Will I always have the memory of his softness and his sweet baby smell? I can hope.

Perhaps, however, some situations should be fleeting. My husband and I finally managed to work through the tension in our relationship. We once talked late into the night recently, and it was like having my best friend back. Now we're trying to spend more time together, even if it's just cuddling right before sleep. It's tough, though, with William in the picture and all the hobbies I have going. Plus, my husband's superiors ended up assigning his crew duty every other day after all. Not cool. Hopefully, the new schedule won't last long.

Speaking of Dissertations...

April 8, 2010

At last, I've finally made up my mind. I've decided to pursue a Master's degree in English. What did it, you ask? I found a graduate program through Old Dominion University that specializes in English composition. It also offers a certification for people who want to teach writing. It's absolutely perfect for me.

Now the real fun begins. If I want to start this fall, I need to submit my application, get letters of recommendation, take the GRE (Graduate Readiness Exam) and request my transcripts before June 1. If I can accomplish all of that in time and get accepted, then I have to start looking for childcare for William. The thought of leaving him in another's care, even to start this exciting phase of my life, is distressing. I know no one will care for him like I do. My husband informed me a few nights ago that he's taking me out to dinner for Mother's Day, sans baby, and he's arranging the childcare. I nearly freaked. But I know the day I leave William with a sitter must come eventually, and it will be good for me.

*Sigh*



He's just too precious.



The day is coming: tumbles, falls, bumps on the head, nightmares. I just want to be there for him. He cries, and I want to cry, too. But we both need to grow beyond each other. And I want him to know that I did everything in my power to fulfil my dreams and reach my full potential.

In Celebration of Spring

April 3, 2010

There's nothing like gorgeous weather to lift one's mood. The weather here has been so beautiful that I decided to celebrate with a poem I wrote when I was in college. Enjoy!


Spring Dissertation

Allow me to digress...
Lie, and wait, and attempt to digest
The spring in me, the time by
Which I would fling dandelions at the sky.
Study a plot while I repose--
Not Moliere, but new grass
Softer than pillows.
Research Picasso's method in cloud formation
And still relinquish compilation
For something slightly less awesome:
Showering in loose cherry blossoms.


Thanks for reading!

Inadequate

March 31, 2010

Inadequacy. The foil of perfectionism.

I was born a perfectionist. The toys on my dresser had to be lined up just so in the visually appealing order of my choice. Underwear on the left, socks on the right. Dinner napkins folded so that the edges lined up exactly--even paper ones. Every bubble on my standardized tests filled with just the right shade of lead, all the way to the edge without going over. I drove my less uptight friends crazy. And they drove me crazy in turn.

These days, I'm not quite so anal. I leave the bed unmade and clothes on the floor--although, the bed covers have to be straightened and distributed evenly at bedtime if I am to sleep well.

I guess I'm still a perfectionist at heart, which isn't such a bad gig. Perfectionism drove me to study hard in school, to meet every failure and criticism with a "try harder" attitude. Perfectionism means I take on a project and strive to do it better than anyone else. It's when I can't that feelings of inadequacy creep in.

Desperate to sell the piles of beaded jewelry that I've made that are now taking over the house, I started my own online store at Etsy.com. (You can see it at http://beadgenius.etsy.com.) I took special care to photograph each piece on a black velvet neck form, making sure the pictures turned out just right. I wrote good descriptions. Then I visited other jewelry stores on Etsy and almost immediately regretted opening my shop. Their pictures were magazine quality, their designs better, their prices lower, and with free shipping! I was devastated.

The status of my novel is bothering me as well. Still no word from half the agents I've queried. A copy of my manuscript still sits at my mother's house, practically untouched. After asking me every other week when I would finish it, my mom isn't going to read it, my greatest accomplishment aside from earning my B.A. (I know I said it was ok, but I'm upset! What do you expect? What do you want me to say?!)

My best friend said she would call me this past Saturday. She didn't. I don't even think she realized she forgot.

I haven't done squat in the house in the past few days, except to finish some jewelry and set up my store. It's like I'm swimming in quicksand, unable to get anywhere with anything. I feel like nothing I do is good enough to succeed. How do I fix it? I don't know.

Crash

March 26, 2010

I should be sleeping. I'm exhausted, and William is actually content at the moment. Talk about a tough week. Last weekend, William went from eating every three hours to crying for food every two hours and less. I'd finish feeding him, put him down to play, and he'd be crying again within a half hour. So, my husband and I decided to start him on rice cereal. Now instead of crying every two hours, William sometimes takes two hours to feed! Up until last night, I hadn't touched my beads in nearly a week.

I sometimes hate being a Navy wife. I often feel alone, and I'm responsible for so much. This crew my husband is on isn't helping matters any. He came home a couple of weeks ago and said his section might be assigned duty every six days instead of four, which meant he would only be away one night a week instead of two. Then he came home this week and said his section will probably be assigned duty every other day, which meant he'd be home only three nights a week. Now the word is he'll stay on the four-day duty rotation, but he has to work an extra two hours a day. Needless to say, I'm feeling a bit jerked around at this point.

I still haven't heard from half of the literary agents I have queried so far. All the other responses have been "no". I'm not feeling very hopeful about my chances. After bugging me to finish the manuscript, my mom isn't going to read it. Neither is my husband. In fact, I'm not sure anyone is reading it right now. If my family doesn't want to read it, why would anyone else? Maybe I should go the way of Rowling and Paolini and write the next blockbuster YA fantasy series.

I could use a better week.

A Song for William

March 21, 2010

May you reach the heights of happiness that I have never reached,
And your breast contain the fire of every sermon ever preached.

May you come to smell the roses that ever smelled so sweet,
And if you chance into the rain, find courage to go out again.

May your hands find the sand and build a castle great,
Never leaving the best of you to either chance or fate.

May the song of the nightingale come neither too late nor too low,
And let every lover's kiss be genuine and slow.

May you always approach the knocks of life with gentle manly grace,
And never turn away when the sun is on your face.

An Old Flame

March 20, 2010

Ah, yes. Twenty-seven. Three years away from 30.

In the midst of discovering the joys of motherhood, this thought has haunted me.

I thought I'd be so much more accomplished by now. Forget sipping lattes in Europe. I've yet to start my career--whatever that might be.

I've gone back and forth on career choices for ages: lawyer, psychologist, English teacher, full-time novelist. Every time I think I'm close to a final decision, the process starts all over again. My husband would have gone insane by now listening to me change my mind over and over, except he does the exact same thing. *Sigh*

I need to bite the bullet at some point. It just seems so final, and what if I don't like it?

I really wish I had my old tutoring job back. It didn't pay as well as I hoped it could, but helping students to develop such an important skill as writing really excited me. And I miss my colleagues.

So since I can't commute all the way to South Carolina, I've done the next best thing: I've started a blog so I can tutor through the Web. You can check it out at http://gn-guide.blogspot.com. The "gn" stands for Grammar Nazi. You know it.

Don't worry, though. I'll still be posting here as well. Thanks for reading.

The Following Game

March 12, 2010

I've recently noticed that I've acquired new followers. Welcome to my blog! I'm so happy to have you.

Last week, however, I experienced a case of disappearing followers. I logged in one day to 42 followers. Next day, 41. Day after, 42. Day after that, 41. I was perplexed until I realized that people were finding me through an old post I had put up in the community "coffee shop" nearly a year ago, asking if anyone blogged about depression. It also dawned upon me that these fellow bloggers had joined my blog expecting me to follow theirs in return.

Oh, dear. I guess I should explain myself.

When I started this blog nearly a year ago, I was indeed interested in finding other bloggers who wrote about their struggles with depression. My hope was to network with others and possibly make some friends. In a way, I was successful. I found a few good blogs to join that were interesting and insightful. Occasionally I still find and follow great blogs. Just the other day, in fact, I began following "She Became a Butterfly," the blog of a young mother like myself who deals with depression on a daily basis.

However, I refuse to participate in the following game. First of all, If I followed people's blogs just to get them to follow me, I'd have hundreds of blogs on my dashboard crowding out the few I really want to read.

Second, most people don't understand that I'm extremely picky when it comes to following any sort of blog, no matter what the topic. Grammatical correctness is HUGE with me. There's only so much I'm willing to tolerate as far as impediments to understanding the blog's content, and lack of punctuation is one barrier I can't get around. I can stomach the occasional run-on sentence, but run-on paragraphs are O-U-T. (If you have more than four lines of text with only one period, you are wrong!) I've spent so much time working as a writing tutor that when I read jacked-up paragraphs, my brain spends more time correcting the errors than processing the content, which turns what should be pleasurable reading into an exercise in futility. It drives me absolutely nuts.

A blog's content also has to be on the up-and-up before I will follow it. Good blogs that deal with depression are hard to come by in my opinion. In this case I make a distinction between depression and teenage angst. If you're experiencing irrational feelings of sadness and guilt, great. If you're just whining because you think everyone in high school hates you, tough. Complaining is to be expected on depression blogs, but endless whining makes me homicidal. Poorly written emo poetry does, too. Don't just talk about your feelings--talk about how you are dealing with them, how you are growing (or hope to grow) as a person. I'm looking for writing that shows some sort of emotional maturity--or at least a little personality.

And I still pass up on decent blogs all the time just because they don't really interest me. Maybe the content is a little too fluffy or too bland--maybe the writing style just doesn't appeal to me. That's ok. People pass over my blog all the time for the exact same reasons. I don't hold it against them. After all, variety is the spice of life.

If you're following my blog, thank you. If I'm following your blog, feel free to feel flattered. :-)

Baby Love (and Other Things)

March 10, 2010

I get it now. I understand why so many women think motherhood is the greatest situation in the universe. Ok, so it still isn't everything to me. I confessed to my best friend early in my pregnancy that I always thought I'd be touring Europe and sipping lattes in French cafes at this point in my life. And that's not my only constraint: I'm forced to cram writing and beading projects in between feedings, laundry, and housework. But I get it.

The lightbulb blinked on about a week ago when I realized that William and I had finally settled into a pleasant routine. He was nursing fairly well and had started responding to me with smiles and coos. It was one of those moments when he looked at me with a joyous smile that my heart melted like butter in the sun. He cannot comprehend love, but he can somehow sense that he is loved--and that astounds me.

This week, he has started compulsively grasping objects that come within his reach. As soon as I pick him up, he grabs a fistful of my shirt and clings to me. The sensation sends me soaring to the heights of motherly love.

When my husband and I first talked of having a child, we didn't think there was room in our lives for a little one. Now it feels as if William has filled a gaping hole in our home that we didn't know existed. Many women say they cannot imagine their lives without their children; the same is true for me, except it seems that William has always existed somewhere. His expressions and noises seem familiar to me somehow, beyond the short six weeks that I've known him. It's both lovely and frightening--frightening because I've never felt this attached to anyone. Anyone. And if that attachment were severed...I don't even want to think about it.

At the same time, I'm realizing just how tough marriage can be. The commitment I made to "better or worse" is getting a real workout these days. Don't get me wrong: my husband is still a wonderful man. He came home yesterday and cleaned the kitchen, swept the entryway, and changed the litter box--all without me asking him to do so. He just seems different, especially since William's birth.

When I first started dating my husband, there was a sweetness about him--an inner glow. This glow was composed of a playfulness, a peace, a desire to dream. Now that sweetness appears to be smothered by anger or boredom or...something. I want to believe that sweetness is still inside of him somewhere, but it's been so long since I've seen it...I almost fear the worst.

I've thought about him lately--thought to myself "Is this still the person I married?" and "Shall this, too, pass?" And then he picks up William from his play mat and spends nearly an hour exchanging coos and smiles with him, and my hope returns.

Thanks for reading.

Winding Down

March 5, 2010

Sorry, dear readers, to leave you in the lurch. The past few days have been insane. I've cleaned and reorganized the nursery and living room, purchased several pieces of furniture, and finished an advanced beading project--all while nursing my son and changing diapers. I sat down to write at least twice before and then realized I was too exhausted to put two words together. So here I am a week later.

I finally managed to work out my feelings with my husband, though it got worse before it got better. Last weekend we went to breakfast at IHOP and talked things out. The rest of the day went beautifully, and by evening I was glowing. Then...well, my husband (unintentionally) did something I respectfully asked him not to do, and the consequences of said act resulted in him waking the baby about two hours after I had put him to bed. I ended up having to get out of bed three times to soothe the little one. By the time I got him back to sleep, it was 1 a.m. Had I been any more furious, I'd have foamed at the mouth. (I don't take missing out on precious sleep very lightly.)

So we had to work that out as well. And we succeeded in short order, and the home situation has been good ever since. Moping (on his part) and stewing (on my part) have ceased, intimacy has returned, and my hair remains attached to my head.

And I'm still off my Prozac. Ha-ha!

Working Through

February 24, 2010

Right now I'm sitting in a hot bath while my husband tends the little one. Yes, you heard right: I'm in the bath. Don't ask how I'm typing this in the bath. Just know that I'm in no danger of electrocution...I think.

I've spent most of today trying to catch up on my obligations. For those of you who don't know me well or haven't guessed yet, I'm generally a terrible procrastinator. The occasional bout of depression doesn't help that, either. Or my irrational paranoia of making phone calls. Oh, I can dial family and friends for casual chats just fine--it's calling the doctor's office or the DMV that gives me pause. I'll almost always put off business calls for as long as possible. How bad is my procrastination in this area? Well, I haven't seen a dentist in at least five years....

(Go ahead and say, "Yikes!" I won't be offended.)

But this year I unintentionally made a New Years resolution to tie up all my loose ends. That meant saying "no" to new projects, like translating a Japanese technical manual into English for a friend. It was a paid project, too. I just knew I wouldn't finish it, no matter how much he paid me per page. And taking on that project would have kept me from completing my novel and sending out the last dozen "Thank You" cards to friends who had purchased baby gifts for William. In November. Thankfully, I've wrapped up those two things and have moved on to searching for literary agents to represent my novel. So far I've queried 10 agents and received 3 rejections. (Getting published is a long and bitter process.)

In the meantime, I'm trying to talk out my feelings with my husband, which appears to work for about two days before I'm back to square one. He came home briefly this evening in an edgy mood, which sent my ever-tenuous mood plunging straight into the gutter. He recovered his good humor about 10 minutes later and went back to being his affectionate self, while I spent the next few hours stewing in silence and being irked by his little attentions. In my mind it's just not fair! I'm in a war with my psyche and my biology (and losing), I'm not exactly thrilled by the sight of my post-pregnancy body in the mirror, I can't fully satisfy anyone under this roof no matter what I do, I'm overwhelmed by the guilt of it all and crazy with frustration, and it seems I can't get my husband to truly understand any of this no matter how I explain it.

Sometimes I feel so angry I could just smash things.

And every time a cat walks on me in the middle of the night, or William spits up on a fresh change of clothes, or I watch my husband compulsively scrub and reorganize the kitchen for the FIFTH time when he STILL hasn't cleaned our bathroom like he offered to do TWO WEEKS AND SEVERAL SHAVES AGO, I feel my anger growing. Yet I don't feel free to express my anger, so I keep it to myself.

I know it's not healthy.

Out of My Head

February 22, 2010

Sometimes I could just hate myself. See, I heard that becoming parents can be a challenge for a married couple, but...you know...the stuff I heard was mostly generic: "Oh, you'll want to be with the baby all the time, and your husband will feel like he's getting less attention, but it's all good," etc., etc. What I didn't hear was that these postpartum hormones would drive me batsh*t insane.

Seriously, I could yank my hair out.

Now I've done some tough things in my short life: Army bootcamp, college, two out-of-state moves within two years, wrote a novel. But all that pales in comparison to what I'm currently experiencing.

Yes, my poor husband feels neglected. It's no wonder. The baby absorbs nearly all of my time and energy. During the day, he must be fed every three hours. I spend at least a half hour nursing him, then another 15 minutes giving him a bottle. Then comes a diaper change. Then comes whatever else needs to be done: laundry, dinner, a hot bath so I can have some time to myself without every living creature in the house vying for my attention. Even after a good day, I usually crawl into bed feeling raw and jittery.

But the worst of it is in my head. I don't want to get too close to my husband most of the time because I'm irrationally convinced that all he wants is sex...like he's just waiting to pounce the moment my body is completely healed. To be honest, I've never felt more sexless in my life. As much as I desire physical intimacy, the pain of childbirth is still fresh in my memory and I don't know how to shake it off. On top of that, I've become more critical--even downright suspicious--of my husband. I have thoughts like, How could he NOT notice that the absorbent pad was missing from the cloth diaper when he put it on the baby? and Why is he making a face when all I asked him to do is bring me a glass of water? At times I have felt cold and angry toward him for no clear reason at all. It's terrible and makes me feel guilty. At the same time, I also feel stingy and frustrated. Why should I give him pleasure when I cannot have any for myself? How is that fair?

And what's worse is how the baby makes me feel. He's all I can think about sometimes. I have to fight the urge to check his breathing in the middle of the night. I walk around fearing the hell that would descend upon my life if I lost him somehow. At the same time, imagining the future conjures up scenes of the constant messes that I will have to clean in the course of raising him.

But that's not all, folks. In her desperate bid for attention, my cat Ling has taken to randomly licking me and the living room walls! I can only pray the paint isn't toxic.

I may need therapy...again.

Craziness!

February 12, 2010





So now that my novel is officially complete, I've been seeking out literary agents to represent it. I emailed four yesterday and plan to email six more within the next few days. Ever tried writing a professional query with a baby screaming in the background? Not fun. It took all day. I should hear something back from the agents within a month...if I hear anything at all. If I don't hear anything, the process begins again with another 10 agents. Oh, goody.

In the meantime, I'm preparing for my mother to arrive tomorrow. I'm really excited about her visit: this is the first time she'll get to hold her grandson, and I will surprise her with a copy of my manuscript. The apartment, however, is a mess, and I want to clean house like I want a needle in my eye.

Just another day in paradise! :-)

Super Sunday

February 9, 2010

So, the Saints won the Super Bowl. Even if you cheered for the Colts, I'm not sure you could come away too disappointed with that result. Those guys on the Saints team were so excited to win. People in New Orleans were dancing in the streets. It was a night to remember.

Especially for me. First of all, I managed to blow half a jar of cheese sauce all over the inside of the microwave while making nachos for the game. It was probably the most epic mess I've ever made and took all of the third quarter to clean up. Second, I finished my novel.

Yeah, you heard me.

Fifty-nine thousand words and 259 pages. It is finished at last!

I suppose at the moment I typed the words "The End" I could have been more excited. I always imagined myself leaping from my chair and doing a sort of "endzone" dance while screaming incoherently. But at the moment of truth, I felt incredibly calm. I actually felt more excited about it yesterday when I took the manuscript to Office Depot to have it printed and bound. Seeing it in hard copy took my breath away. (I mean, it's over half a ream of paper!)

Now I just have to find a publisher. Maybe I'll save my endzone dance for that.

I thought long and hard about whom I would dedicate my novel to. There's my husband who is always encouraging me to reach my goals...my best friend, whom I consider my writing partner-in-crime...my mother, who is my biggest motivator...my mother-in-law, who deeply admires my writing...and my high school mentor, who is probably my most avid fan. There are so many people who have inspired me to reach this point, and whom I can't thank enough for all their support.

But in the end, only one possibility made sense to me: dedicate it to my newborn son. After all, my progeny will ultimately inherit my legacy and the result of all my accomplishments. And I believe it was the act of following through on my pregnancy and bringing him into the world that inspired me to follow through on completing my novel.

Yet I couldn't leave out all the others who helped me through the bulk of the project. So my dedication is thus:

To my son, and all those who have believed in me.

And now my son requires a feeding. Thanks for reading.

Motherhood

February 2, 2010

It's week three of my new life as a mother, and it feels like month three. Don't take that the wrong way. What I mean is that being a new mother is such an intense experience...it feels like 10 minutes crammed into one.

Of course, you could attribute some negativity to that first statement. Motherhood isn't exactly the dewey-eyed daydream that so many women claim it to be. I mean, darn it, I want to check my email, finish some writing projects, create a new piece of jewelry...not just sit and hold a fussy baby all day! When you have a 9 lb. son who can't support his own head in your arms, you can't do much of anything--including reach the TV remote. And then there's the forays into public that have become five times lengthier and more complicated than before: dress me, dress the baby, put baby in stroller, wheel stroller to car, take car seat out of stroller, put baby in car, put stroller in trunk, drive to destination, take stroller out of trunk...you get the idea. (I'd lament this loss of freedom more if I weren't so ecstatic to just be able to bend at the waist again. I'll gladly take raising a child for the next 18 years as long as I can tie my own shoes.)

At the same time, I wouldn't exactly define motherhood as "life interrupted." It's more like "life expanded." I look into my baby's slate-gray eyes and I love him though he is incapable of comprehending love, let alone having done anything deserving of it. I have never loved my husband more intensely than I have while watching him hold and kiss our son. Also, while gazing at my baby, I realize I have brought a unique life into the world--not having just knit together a body but a mind and a soul as well, using pieces of myself. The magnitude of that feeling...of responsibility, of ultimate creative power...is indescribable.

Of course, it's a weighty feeling. And it can get crowded out mopping up little rivers of regurgitated formula and washing load after load of soiled baby blankets. I get through the dirty and mundane parts of the job by taking one day at a time...and reminding myself that there's more to life than having a clean domicile. There's growing, succeeding, becoming stronger and more confident...which is what motherhood is helping me to do.

After two weeks of effort, I have finally gotten my son to nurse regularly. I've been off my Prozac for the past month, and things are looking up.

Body Be

January 26, 2010

What the hell? I thought to myself yesterday as I prepared to check out at the craft store, baby William in tow. On the checkout rack was a popular tabloid with the headline "Best Winter Beach Bodies" and a photo of a famous actress and her family strolling the shoreline of some tropical paradise. Really? Have we honestly reached this point in our culture, where women are expected to obsess over their body image all year round?

Oh, right. Silly me.

But that wasn't the worst offender of the day. At the grocery store, another magazine devoted to exploring the alleged intricacies of the never-ending "Bradjennelina" lust triangle trumpeted news of Jennifer Aniston's new "Revenge Body" designed to snag Brad Pitt and turn Angelina Jolie green with envy...as if Brad's just sitting around waiting to throw his affections to the woman who can produce the tightest buns.

(It's far likelier that he's a despicable shmuck who has figured out that he can play two women all he wants and get away with it...or that the media is making up the whole thing. But I digress....)

Revenge body? Ok, I'll admit that there might be such a thing. After all, what woman hasn't dreamed of showing up to her high school reunion looking far more fabulous than she did in the 10th grade just to stick it to every guy who ever rejected her? But the implication that an attractive, talented woman would pour all of her energy into producing a lovely body just to catch the eye of a man with flighty intentions is disturbing, disgusting, and just plain wrong in my book. And how many women buy into this load of horse hockey!

Granted, I'm no Jennifer Aniston, especially since just giving birth. I have stretch marks on my thighs and loose skin hanging from my belly. But I still have reason to like my body. It is mine, after all. And as my husband pointed out, that patch of loose skin is incredibly soft.

There's too much in society that forces women to feel bad about themselves: we're told that we're not sexy enough, smart enough, successful enough, feminine enough, adequate mothers. But women were never meant to be shoehorned into a narrowly defined ideal type. We are much stronger and much more valuable than that.

If you are a woman, take a moment today to celebrate your body, no matter what kind of body you have. Turn a deaf ear to a culture of "revenge bodies" and "winter beach bodies" and know that you are beautiful in your own way.

Broken Milk Dreams

January 20, 2010

"April, are you ok? April? April?"

I couldn't answer my husband because I was sobbing...for about the fourth time this week.

See, I can't get my son to breastfeed. And it's not for a lack of trying. I worked for two hours with a lactation consultant at the hospital after my son's birth to ensure he could latch on properly. I nursed him despite nipples so sore that I'd yelp and writhe at his first suck. Everyone assured me, though, that the pain would subside with consistent effort and that I'd soon be enjoying the benefits of nourishing my baby.

About a day after leaving the hospital, however, the feeding situation rapidly deteriorated. William began fussing at my breast, fighting my attempts to feed him. Getting him to latch on soon took 20 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour. His whimpers turned to blood-curdling screams. In desperation, I finally agreed to my mother-in-law's suggestion to start supplementing William's diet with formula. The next day, at William's 48-hour hospital weigh-in, I learned that William had lost 11% of his birth weight since leaving the hospital--and if he didn't gain some of it back in 24 hours, he would have to be admitted. So per the pediatrician's orders, I started giving William formula at every meal. William then refused to take my breast at all.

I haven't quite given up yet. I went to the store a couple of nights ago and purchased an electric pump. But the results have been less than encouraging. An hour of pumping so far yields about half a teaspoon of nutritious milk...milk that I know is far more gentler on my son's stomach than formula. Seeing him spit up formula tells me that I've failed at one of the most natural acts in the universe, and it's like a dagger through my heart every time.

I nearly cried at William's weigh-in watching another woman breastfeed her newborn in the hospital waiting room, knowing that such a thing was impossible for me and my baby.

My husband reassures me that it's no big deal. And in a way, he's right: as long as William is eating something and gaining weight, he'll be fine and healthy. But for me, being unable to produce for my baby enough milk--a special gift from my body--is akin to how I think a man might feel if he were told that he's impotent. It hurts in a deep way.

When I was pregnant, my daydream about nursing resembled something like a passage from one of my favorite books, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. In this particular passage, the protagonist's wife, Olan, sits in the doorway of her home, nursing her firstborn son. Her husband describes her milk as being so plentiful that it flows out, rich and white, onto the dark soil of the fields. The imagery of this passage has always stayed with me, even when I first read The Good Earth in the eighth grade. Right now, I can only pray that my daydream might still become a reality. Pray with me, friends.