My married friends LJ and NS visited from North Carolina this weekend. (To clarify, I mean married to each other, not just generally married. Whatever that would mean. Hello, semantic corner I've painted myself into. Upshot: they are husband and wife.)
If you're a parent, what were your expectations when you had your child/children? And for those of us who aren't yet parents... what should we do to manage our expectations?
For the next two weeks, the main floor of my home is divided into three sectors. Daisy occupies Sector One, which is comprised of the bedrooms and bathroom. Moose reigns supreme in Sector Two, the living room and dining room. And Chloe has possession of Sector Three, the kitchen sector, which includes the doggy door. (Although she's not allowed to use it at the moment, so that's not as much of a bonus as it could be.)
So, I went out of town and my dogs got in a fight and now Daisy has a surgically repaired lower eyelid and Chloe… well, Chloe happened to get bit right on a fatty tumor she’s been cultivating, so she’s currently at the vet recovering from having the whole thing removed, since, hey, there was a big gash there anyway, might as well make it a little bigger and take this baby out!
All while Moose obliviously looks around grinning and going “What? What’s going on? What’d I miss?”
Seriously, does it never end? It’s not like today was such a GREAT day to start with. It SO wasn’t. Not even close. Ugh to the extreme.
All of which led to a discussion with my friend CA about numbness.
Personally, I’m a fan. Of emotional numbness, I mean, not numbness of the extremities. That I don’t enjoy even a little. But emotional numbness serves a vital purpose in my life. It’s far better than loneliness, for example, which is crippling and unpleasant. It’s miles above fury, which makes my neck get all shakey, and everyone knows that’s just not attractive. It beats the hell out of regret. And sadness. And disappointment, and all the other emotions that make me want to eat bad things and not answer the phone and curl up on the couch for marathon sessions of Masterpiece Mystery. (Oh, Poirot, how I love thee...)
Numbness, on the other hand, is the equivalent of being a functioning alcoholic. Are you miserable (drunk)? Sure! But that doesn’t mean you can’t get out of bed and give the dogs their pills (8 at last count, not including two varieties of drops and an ointment) and shower and put on make-up and go to work and actually do work and talk to other humans and maybe manage a couple of laughs and eat healthy and exercise and do all the things that non-miserable people do on a daily basis.
And eventually the numbness fades and the goodness comes back. For the most part. There are some things I’m just long-term numb about. Singledom. My mom’s Alzheimer’s. Not that being perpetually single is the equivalent of a disease that attacks your brain cells. But, as much as I’m trying to see the bright side of my solitude lately… well, I’m doing my best. Some things just are what they are. And numbness makes those things bearable.
What does numbness help you get through? And just to be clear, I’m not talking about depression, which is a totally different thing and should be treated very seriously. If you’re depressed, get thee to a doctor-y! Make haste! (I'm being glib, but I mean it. If you're depressed, get your ass to a shrink.) But if you just need to muddle through something, does numbness come in handy for you?
P.S. Tomorrow I promise to be happier.
I've updated the Starfish Envy Resource Page!
I’m from the Midwest. Kansas City, Missouri, specifically. Which some people probably think of as the south and others probably think of as Kansas. It’s neither, though it’s close enough to both to shout across the yard.
As a child, I had a pediatrician and a dentist. Eventually my pediatrician fell away, and I added a gynecologist to the crew. That was pretty much it as far as my health team went.
Now I live in L.A. I have
a general practitioner an internist, a gynecologist, a dentist, a trainer (whom I view as a
health professional), a Pilates instructor (also a health professional, IMO),
an acupuncturist, and a currently off-again dietician. Also off-again is my therapist, though I reserve the right to call her at
the drop of a mental health hat.
How am I not the healthiest person in the universe?
Last week I saw the acupuncturist for the first time. She gave me some herbs to take daily, assigned me a couple books to read, which I promptly ordered from Amazon, told me to get a basal body temperature thermometer, and to sign up on fertilityfriend.com where I am to record EVERYTHING from first-thing-in-the-morning temperature to things we won’t talk about in polite company. And, finally, to write down every single thing I eat or drink for seven days. This on top of taking my blood pressure five times a day for my regular doctor. (My blood pressure, by the way, is mostly fabulous—as long as I don’t have a doctor’s appointment.)
And I’m not even trying to get pregnant yet. This is all prep work.
Sigh. Long, deep sigh.
But here’s the great thing. As complicated as it is to juggle my job and my life and the multitude of things that have to be done to give me the best shot at conceiving quickly and healthily, all of these doctor-types help me to gain focus. I like having concrete steps to take and clear instructions to follow. It appeals to my Virgo nature.
Plus, I like these women. (I’m just realizing now that they’re all
women. How cool is that?) My acupuncturist is smart and
compassionate and nice. My
gynecologist is, too—in a fast-talking way. And although my
GP internist is new, she seems terrific.
Whatever happens as I move forward, right now I feel like my fertility and I are in good hands.
I get a lot of comments and emails “encouraging” me to “think about adoption.” I must admit, I find them a little irksome. Y’know. Irksome as in ‘Do I weigh in on your reproductive choices?’ (And then I remind myself that I made this a public discussion by writing about it on the internet.) And irksome as in ‘Yeah, and why would you assume that I haven’t?’ (And then I remind myself that most people who read this blog don’t actually know me, and the odds are excellent that few people have scoured the archives for me-thinking-about-adoption moments, which might be hard to find anyway, since I’ve been leaning toward insemination almost as long as this blog has been in existence. Which is not long.)
Most of all, though, I do truly believe that, for the most part, the comments come from hearts that are one hundred percent in the absolute right place.
Still. I just want to say, once and for all: I get it. I have thought about adoption. A lot. For a long time. As in, years. I’ve got stacks of books on the subject, and I’ve actually read most of them. A couple of years ago, I spent a day at a Department of Children and Family Services orientation on adopting from the foster care system. Three years ago, I spent time at an orphanage in Ethiopia, where I met a little girl, and I tried to adopt her. Although she was in an orphanage, she had a father, and he wouldn’t relinquish her. I am not capable of talking about it without crying. Still, as recently as a couple of months ago, I had a three-hour meeting with an adoption attorney who handles domestic adoptions. I know single women and men and couples who have adopted or are in the process of adopting, both domestically and internationally. I think adoption is terrific. The odds are good that I will adopt at some point in the future. But it doesn't feel right for me right now.
Right now, I’m going to try to get pregnant. I understand that this is a selfish decision. It is exactly as selfish as when a married woman decides to get pregnant. It is also equally understandable. I would like to try to use my body for what it was made for. I would like to experience the one thing that I can do that a man can’t. I refuse to miss out on the most basic and fundamental human experience available to me… if I don’t have to.
Now, it is entirely possible that, at thirty-eight, I won’t be able to get pregnant. I may have waited too long (thinking about adoption, ironically).
But, for better or worse, I am going to try. Okay? Okay.
I love my dogs. I love them so much that Number 4 on my What If List is “What if it turns out I like dogs more than kids?”
This is a serious question. I mean, what if it turns out I like DOGS MORE THAN KIDS???
Because I like my dogs a lot. I like that Daisy’s head smells like rosemary. I like that Chloe is Moose’s mother hen. I like that Moose is a big goofball. (Okay, I have to admit that I accidentally typed ‘Moose is a big god,’ which is a Freudian typing slip if ever I’ve seen one.) I like that Daisy sleeps stretched out next to me—and I mean all the way next to me, underarm to ankles. I like that Chloe snores, and that Moose never barks unless absolutely necessary. My dogs are fun, and smart (two of them, anyway), and sweet (except Daisy with cats), and well-behaved (in my own mind), and TOTALLY LOVE ME. Which is not to say that Moose can’t be kind of a shit, but he’s young. And he has bad hips—well, one bad hip, after ten thousand dollars of surgeries and seven months of twice weekly physical therapy. That I paid for. With blood.
(Cut me some slack—I got him when he was three days old. I’m a sucker. He’s very cute. Hey, have you looked into those big brown eyes?)
Anyway. The point is, I won’t know until I have a kid if, in fact, I like dogs better. Because other people’s kids are not like your own kids. I can’t really use how I feel about WP’s soon-to-be son as a gauge of how I will feel about a child that is actually mine. Not that WP’s kid won’t be great, mind you. I’m sure he’ll be cute and brilliant and funny and all those wonderful things you want your kid to be. But will he be as insanely adorable as Moose? The jury’s still out.
Now, everyone says that you don’t love your pets as much as your children, and I’m sure that’s true. But I’m not talking about love. I’m talking about like. There’s a fairly enormous difference. I love at least three people I frankly don’t like all that much. I’m guessing you do too.
So what do you do if you don’t like your child? That’s a bit of a humdinger, really. Obviously I hope that I will like my child/children very much-- in fact, I expect that I will.
But what if I don’t?
(Top Dog is Chloe, then Daisy, and below is Moose, in the hydrotherapy tank with P, his favorite person in the whole world. Including me.)
Every now and then I have a Take Care of Me Day. No errands. No onerous phone calls. No laundry. No tub scrubbing. No paperwork. No picking up dog poop. Nothing, in short, that I don’t thoroughly enjoy.
(Take Care of Me, of course, is stolen from Kit De Luca's famous line in "Pretty Woman." And by Kit De Luca, obviously I mean Laura San Giacomo, who brilliantly portrayed Kit De Luca, prostitute extraordinaire and best friend of Vivian/Julia Roberts. Because, y'know, Kit De Luca is not a real person. To anyone but me. Sigh. I love that movie.)
Saturday was a serious Take Care of Me Day. (And well deserved, mind you.) First, I took a class on “Being a Buddhist”— three hours of listening to a very engaging Buddhist monk talk about everything from the Four Noble Truths (three of which I remember) to meditation (insight and tranquility) to the difference between being a Buddhist and practicing Buddhism. I don’t know if I’m going to be a Buddhist or not, but I’m seriously considering practicing. Which, come to think of it, would be a wonderful way to Take Care of Me all the time, without having to set aside a day for it...
Then I got a hair cut. Is there anything better than zoning out while someone combs and cuts and combs and fluffs and blow dries and brushes your hair? No, I say. No. I didn’t even turn on my Kindle. I just sat there and closed my eyes and let it be awesome.
And then I went to dinner with several women from my local Single Mothers by Choice group. I’ve never met anyone who’s done what I’m planning to do. In some ways, it was a huge relief. I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly, but every woman there was totally different from the woman next to her. Somehow knowing that there isn’t a mold to fit into lifted a burden I wasn’t even aware of carrying. And then it was exciting that all of these very different, smart, interesting, beautiful women had been brought together by this huge, scary, wonderful thing that they’re all doing. I’m now even more excited to be a Tryer, not just a Thinker.
Now, there are many things that I would do on a Take Care of Me Day that other people wouldn’t enjoy in the slightest. Sorting, for example. I LOVE a good sorting session. Pulling things out of drawers and closets, sorting them into piles for Good Will and Trash (and, of course, Keep). I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from sorting and clearing. And not just because I find things I’d totally forgotten I had. (Apparently at some point, I bought Photoshop. Huh.) But also because I like the idea that there’s someone out there who will be thrilled to have a brand new (well, two years old) Photoshop program that’s never even been taken out of the box. Now if only I could find someone who wanted all of my keepsake t-shirts from high school... Anyone want a twenty year old t-shirt with "SAVE OUR SENIOR ROOM!!!" on it? Anyone?
What do you do to Take Care of You? Are there things you love to do that others might think are a total drag?