The Struggle

I’ve been having a hard slog of it lately, feeling wound so tight over both personal things and all of the awful crap going on in the country. Too busy to de-stress. Too tired to do more than merely survive. All while attempting to be a good mother and create and earn a living. So I’ve gone within for a while. Again. It seems to come in cycles.

Some day, I will have energy again to fight the good fight, but I only hope that day comes in time. Because I feel like a tool of the power structure right now, and I really don’t like it. But the barrel is scraped dry and needs to be re-filled.

It shouldn’t be hard to be decent human beings. We could all be living a life of abundance and compassion and love, but we are so far from that version of ourselves, it is sad. Very very sad.

 

Becoming Myself Again

I am finally beginning to feel like I am reclaiming myself after the birth of my daughter. With both my children, the first few years of sleep deprivation and wanting/needing to spend time with them over everything else, I had this disconnection from myself. My children were the center of my world, and everything else, even frequently my creative work, just kind of went on autopilot. A necessary sacrifice, and truthfully, when I finally reclaimed myself when my son reached about 2.5 years old, my inner growth the following year more than made up for the pause I took. And my life is about ready to push play again, and even though I am still sleep deprived and still learning self-care again, I feel ready.

Despite feeling on pause for the past couple of years, I have learnt so much about myself. I have tested the absolute limits of my physical and mental strength when I worked myself sick two years ago and had such a slow recovery. I have finally grasped the notion of true care. I have made decisions regarding my work in the future in that I have no interest in doing “bargain” quality work for lower pay but prefer to do the very top quality and detail work and be recompensed fairly for it. That is something I had a hard time with in the past, especially working for nonprofits. I have learned to truly listen and hold space for people. And I have continued questioning and studying, although much of what I have been doing has been internal rather than external. Maybe that is the biggest lesson I’ve had… learning to keep silent not because I have to but because I can learn more in the silence sometimes than in shouting my views out. Comes back to that notion of being an active listener. All very important lessons, but it is now time to step out of the blurry haze of newborn and toddler parenting and into the steadier tread of helping to raise decent human beings and reclaim my sense of self again. I’m very interested to see where my creativity and personal growth leads me. And hopefully you all will be interested too.

Back at Work with Baby

I started back to work on Monday. I only took 8 weeks this time because I couldn’t afford to do a month unpaid (for my non-US readers who don’t know, the United States “maternity leave” is a joke – you get 6 weeks of disability for vaginal delivery and 8 weeks for cesarean, and disability is less than $200 a week). My work gave me two weeks of maternity leave, on top of the disability, and came up with an extra project for me to do now that I’m back to make up the difference in my salary, which is great and more than my previous employer did for me, and I have the flexibility of being able to work from home and make up hours as convenient and I get to bring the baby with me as much as I need to, which will be all the time at least through the end of the year.

But I’m exhausted. Trying to do it all is physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting. I’m getting about 2 hours less sleep than I have been and I’m not able to rest while nursing at work like I do at home. Monday was tough on both the baby and I, Tuesday was good, yesterday was tough again, and today is good again. I had hoped to get a break and get some me-time and extra work done in the evenings after my son goes to bed, now that the baby is taking one bottle a day from my husband, but she needed me both Monday and Wednesday night as she’s transitioning to being out of the house all day and teething at the same time. Monday I was holding her, too tired to even cry even though I felt like I needed to, and last night I just accepted it – after screaming her head off for the entire 30 minutes I was putting my son to bed, she immediately calmed when I took her from my husband, then I tried passing her back to him ten minutes later and she went off again (he feels really bad about it), so we took a bath together, she and I, and then I just held her and read the rest of the evening.

It is harder than I thought, but every time I want to whine, I just remind myself how much better I have it than so many. I get to make the choice of having my baby with me, I have a supportive husband and family, the company I work for is transitioning to being even more supportive of it’s employees and trying to avoid us all overworking quite as much as we’ve been in the past. So I feel like an ingrate when it doesn’t seem like enough. The hardest thing for me, I think, is now that my son is in school all day and I don’t get home sometimes until 5:30PM, I feel like I get maybe 15 minutes before bath time and then our 30 min at bedtime for stories and cuddles and that’s it, and it’s not enough time for me. And I look at all the projects I want to do around the house (we still haven’t even finished unpacking) and all the creative projects I want to do for myself, and I have to remind myself that an infant is hard enough to take care of all by itself and everything else will come in due time. I have to continually let myself off the hook or else the tension starts building too high.

On the plus side, I’m feeling good about getting back in the swing at work now. Things are getting organized, we’re in the planning stages that I really like to be a part of, and there are some really fun projects coming up for me, as long as I let myself have fun with them and not stress out. And I’ll soon lose all the baby weight I gained (already more than halfway there) because of all the manual labor I’m doing on top of wearing the baby for hours every day. There will be days that I know I’ll barely be holding things together, that I feel like all the threads are starting to unravel, but it’s all worth it. At least, I hope so.

The New Arrival

I gave birth to my 2nd child last Sunday. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, even compared to my first delivery, but also amazing. The midwife had me reach down at the end and help guide my daughter out to lift her directly onto me, which actually is something I never imagined doing but a memory that I’ll cherish until I die.

This week, I’ve been mostly confined upstairs to recuperate, getting food delivered to me, sleeping and cuddling the baby and playing board games with my son as I’m up to it and reading a lot. I briefly went out a couple of days ago for the first doctor’s appointment, and it took so much out of me that I started crying as soon as I sat down in the car. I’m feeling much better today, and I’m hoping to get to slowly start making my way downstairs next week, and if this heat ever breaks, to start getting out for slow walks with my family. Because while the rest has been necessary, I also feel the hint of stir-crazy starting to make itself known. Healing myself is the most important step, though, so I have the energy to later do what I want to do.

My mother and husband have been wonderful this week taking care of me and the children, my in-laws who came in to watch my son while we were delivering left us stocked up with food and even made an effort to buy more organic/whole foods than they’ve ever done for us before, my father is coming next week to get some work done on our house and finally install our water filter, my doula has been out several times to do whatever we need done, and I have offers for next week as well of help from other people. It’s amazing how family and friends will come together to help when it’s needed, and even when you don’t know that you necessarily need it.

My doula said she sees one more daughter for me, but we’re done for the time being. It wouldn’t be fiscally or socially responsible for us at this point to have more. Maybe I’ll wind up with a surprise pregnancy later in life or something, though if I do, I hope I’m still physically strong enough to deliver without interventions.

Anyway, I love watching my daughter grow day by day. She’s already so strong she is nearly flipping herself over, she started doing half smiles within the first 24 hours in response to certain voices, and there is something comforting about being able to fulfill someone’s emotional needs just by being physically close to them.  I imagine that I’ll feel “touched out” on occasion, as I did experience that with my son, but for now, as I type one handed with a newborn sprawled across my chest, I’m just enjoying it.

 

“Don’t You Just Love Being Pregnant?!”

I am wary of women who love feeling pregnant, much in the same way as I am wary of those who are able to orgasm during labor. Tons of respect toward both groups, but also a sense of “what the heck is wrong with you?”.

While I experience some moments of pleasure in feeling the children I carry move within me, and while many aspects of the process are interesting because I find our bodies fascinating in what they can accomplish, the process of being pregnant is not one I greatly enjoy. My first pregnancy, I had huge patches of itchy, scaly psoriasis flare-ups covering my abdomen and back and hands, and terrible bloody noses all winter from the inflammation I was suffering. This pregnancy, I’ve been very short towards my loved ones without meaning to be, suffered several months of an almost robotic-like absence of emotions, and because my job is so physically demanding, have had some pretty bad aches and pains throughout. And my not-yet-arrived daughter has been incredibly active the entire time, which can lead to some not quite pleasant sensations. Not to mention the typical pregnancy issues that I’ll spare you all. And I consider that I’ve had it easy compared to many of my friends.

But pregnancy is a means to an end. A cute and cuddly end. So I will deal with being short of breath and tired and cranky, and thankfully my husband is so far putting up with me being so as well. I was talking with my son about how I couldn’t do certain things now because the baby has gotten so big, and he said “Mommy will be back to normal soon” and I laughed and responded “I sure hope so, sweetie,” while thinking that ‘normal’ is a relative term for me. For now, I feel like an overripe piece of fruit, ready to burst at any moment, and dealing as best I can.

Anyway, I know I haven’t been posting much here lately, and I don’t know if that will change going forward into this first year of being a mom of two and still trying to create good projects. But I’ll make the effort when I can. And as I slowly start returning to what passes for normal for me, I will do what I can to grow this site a bit more.

Renewed and Refreshed

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On Saturday, I made the two hour trek with my 3 1/2 year old son to my aunt-in-law’s cottage on Lake Ontario for a clambake (the same cottage we stay at in our annual New Year artist/writer retreat). As soon as we got there and started in on our greetings, my son started saying “I want to go see the water! Go see the water?”, and I told him that we had to finish saying hello to people first. After the round of hellos were through, hand in hand, the two of us ran to the deck overlooking the water, wind in our faces, laughing and shrieking at the cold. Then we stood on the deck, watching the water, though I was torn between finding solace in the waves and just watching my son watch the water. Then he was off, running, me at his heels until he reached out his hand for me again, and we went to the neighbor’s deck, which sits lower to the water and he had explored this past 4th of July. And again, we both just watched the waves and felt the wind and grinned at each other. We bundled up later and spent more time by the water.

It was one of those absolutely perfect moments that life hands to you at times, that indelibly imprints in your mind and lets you replay it like a movie. I don’t talk a lot here about my son (beyond complaining about him keeping me up at night) or my views on motherhood, but it is such a profound joy to me. Every day that I get to spend watching him grow further into himself, every moment he slows me down and lets me see the world through his eyes, every time his sweet smile makes my heart feel so full that it should overflow but somehow it doesn’t, it gives everything else in my life such profound meaning.

It was worth having to stay up late Friday and Sunday night working to be able to do the trip, to go to the water’s edge and have this time with my son. All I could think as we ran to the water was Please don’t let him ever lose the joy of running full into the wind and loving the water. I hope he keeps it into adulthood as I have. As a seemingly inherited trait, there are far worse ones he could have.

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The Gender Bias Swings Both Ways

I’ve had a post (or several) brewing for over a month now about women verses men and female sexuality and feminine strength and all kinds of fun stuff like that, brought about from catching snippets regarding various issues, and I plan on beginning to tackle that next week.  But I realized earlier this week that the bias goes both ways, and that males get a fair bit of shaming and belittling, often in much more subtle ways.  So before I get all “I am Woman”, I wanted to muse on the male bias.  As the mother of a male, it is important to me to see what I am up against.

So what incident brought this male bias to my attention?  Some news article?  A piece of celebrity gossip? No. It was watching an episode of Leapfrog with my son – specifically Math Adventure to the Moon.  Let me say that my son has learned SO much from watching the Leapfrog series and playing with the toys.  He’s not even three yet, and he can count to 100 and read/spell over 50 words, in part because of these shows.  Thanks to Math Adventure to the Moon, he can also now count by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s.  But as we rewatched the show together, something bothered me.  The main characters are twin brother and sister – Tad and Lily.  They get to go in a rocket ship, and they are each allowed to bring ten items (an introduction to counting).  Tad goes first, and he brings, among other things, a trophy, a toy dump truck, a framed picture of his older brother, and a baseball glove.  Lily, when it’s her turn, brings a jar for collecting specimens in space, a magnifying glass, the first aid kit, and a lunchbox with food.  Without any dialogue, the makers slip a nudge and a wink in about how dumb boys are.  It is absolutely done on purpose and completely insidious.  If not for his sister, Tad would be screwed in space.

That got me thinking about all the stupid sitcoms in recent decades where the dumb but lovable manchild is matched against an attractive but shrew of a wife.  How hilarious.  Or not.  But it is an easy script formula and it sells, so why worry about it?  Because the message it sends out is one that is bad for both men and women.  For men, it says I can’t do anything right.  For women, it says I have to do everything on my own.  And really, those emotions are the crux of most relationship problems that I hear about personally.

Oh, and for you men out there who live alone and manage to dress and feed and bathe yourselves on a daily basis, my hat is off.  Because evidently in our society, that is so against the norm.  And if you are somehow caring for children or pets all by yourself, well, you are practically mythical creatures!

Bottom line is that we can’t afford to keep stereotypes as the norm.  People are individuals, every relationship dynamic is a little different from the next, and every interaction we have with another is an opportunity to change and grow.  So why do we indoctrinate such thinking into our culture?  Human nature?  I don’t know.

“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”

It always frustrates me to hear people say: I wish I could do ________ but I don’t have the time.  If you really want to do something, then you carve out the time.  I find it especially frustrating hearing it from people who don’t really have that much call on their time when I am desperate for time to create.  I wish I could suck up the wasted time from other people and use it for my own purposes.  Between working a full-time job on a split shift with my husband to keep our son out of daycare, caring for said son in the evening, and juggling the many pulls on my creative soul, I horde my minutes of creation like a dragon hovering over it’s treasure.  Thus I get cranky and tend to say to those people: “You can create.  It’s hard to start, but put down the T.V. remote, don’t play that video game, give up your poker night every other week and sit down and create.  OR do all those things and bring the creative work with you.”  Yes, I was the dork in undergrad that would bring her homework with her to midnight bowling, and in grad school, I brought school reading and sketching homework to work on during the Super Bowl party (I was only interested in the food and the commercials anyway).  You can do anything you set your mind to it.  The trick is being willing to do the work involved.

That being said, my soft deadline for releasing my first written offerings (a novella and an illustrated poetry collection) keeps getting pushed out.  I’ve set myself the very modest goal of writing 250 words a day, and my novella is inching closer to completion, but there are days when motherhood gets in the way of even that modest goal.  We’ve had teething, a growth spurt, more teething, a bout of Hand Foot Mouth disease, more teething, travelling across time zones throwing off our sleep schedules, and now a run of what I’m dubbing “travel plague” leaving my poor 17 month old with horrible intestinal issues.  Throw into the mix a handful of commissions over the past couple of months that HAVE to come before any other creative work, and the release date keeps getting pushed back.  I’m starting to get frustrated, especially on the evenings that I have no time for any creative release at all, but I keep inching and crawling forward.  The work will get done.  It won’t be done as fast as I want it to be, and I refuse to rush and release subpar work, but it will get done.

I create because I have to, because I feel empty inside and get very emotional when I don’t.  It’s how I connect to the Universe.  If you want to create, seize your opportunities as they come and create.  Your brain and soul will thank you.  And if you are one who says “I don’t have the time”, admit to yourself that you can always make time and that there are deeper issues that are blocking you from fulfilling your desires.