Sunday, February 20, 2022

Welcome To The Shitshow


I have not had a moment to breathe (and I mean that in the mindfulness way, not the autonomic nervous system way, obviously) much less blog since my last post. Life has been insane. 

Where to begin? How about with my toddler’s roller-coaster of health concerns? First, there was that persnickety cold that lasted almost two weeks, turning her into a pint-sized (albeit much cuter) version of Slimer. On the same day the prolific boogers finally dried up, we had a “Did she just swallow a sticker?” incident that landed us in the emergency room. Whether or not she actually ate a foreign object is unknown (stickers don’t show up on X-rays, as I’ve since learned), but the next morning, she was struck down with diarrhea of a severity I’ve never seen in my many days as a mom. (I guess there’s a first time for every disgusting thing under the sun.)

“Viral diarrhea is very common in toddlers,” the ER nurse who answered my anxious call at 3:30 a.m. informed me. Given the slew of foul-smelling, sludgy diapers, it was hard to believe she didn’t need to be seen by a doctor. But the nurse seemed to think this was totally “normal” as far as diarrhea goes.

“It will resolve on its own in five to 14 days,” she said.

FIVE TO 14 DAYS?! ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME.

It took six days for the diarrhea to dissipate, and when her system righted itself, guess what? She came home from Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) with a runny nose. And thus began yet another round of incessant mucus, choking, and sleeping issues (for her) and nervous breakdown-level stress (for me).

We had just been ready to try weaning her off bottles, too, but now she’s even more attached to them than ever. They comfort her. They’re like pacifiers, with beverage benefits. She even asks for formula now by name (and if I skimp on the powdered stuff, she figures it out; she takes a sip and asks for more).

Speaking of formula, just as we were finishing off the last of a nine-can batch I purchased last month, I happened upon a formula recall notice on CNN. Guess which kind of formula is apparently sickening babies and even killed a little one? Yup, our formula. Similac-fucking-Advance. And according to the serial number, the can we were almost done with is included in the recall (as, I would assume, were our previous eight cans). Thanks for the fucking heads-up, Similac.

(I really should stop swearing. My toddler can say phrases now and she repeats everything that comes out of our mouths.)

Meanwhile, childcare has continued to be a big fucking thorn in my side. Seriously, how do families do this?! To have full-time childcare for both of my littles would deplete almost all of my income, so we're trying out every possible alternative.

The (exorbitantly priced) nanny service I contracted with became increasingly difficult to work with. While they found an amazing student nanny, she was only available for four weeks until she had to go back to college. Then they placed a “granny nanny” with us who coughed all over my newborn for 10 minutes until I sent her packing. They overcharged me on more than one occasion and tried to bully me into taking on nannies who didn’t have newborn experience. So we parted ways.

After posting ads on three different childcare-finder sites, getting little response, and being ghosted by those who did respond, I started to wonder whether the “working mom” thing was actually an urban myth. (Again: how does anybody do this?!) Then I found a daycare that didn’t make my heart hurt (just my wallet, ha) and off my 2-month-old went, with her labeled bottles and Ziploc baggy-ed backup clothes and a blanket that gets washed once a week. Now, I’m lucky if I get half-an-hour of face time with her a day because she’s hardly ever home (and when she is, my toddler is commandeering my attention). Sometimes I wonder if she even knows I’m her mom.

To add insult to injury, my period returned like clockwork at three months postpartum, with PMS in full force, cramps and bloating and acne and all. Oh, the irony, given that after the birth of my toddler, Aunt Flo had to be summoned by medication to even trickle back into existence six months postpartum because I was in such a hurry to get pregnant again. (If only I could go back and talk some sense into myself. It’s hard to believe one can be as na├»ve as I was at the ripe old age of 39, but there you have it.)

And now that I'm cycling again (not the spinning kind, though I am also doing that while my toddler’s brain rots watching too much Elmo's World), another conundrum: what to do about birth control? Given that sex is happening only once a week (yet another item on my to-do list that I dread and about which I am resentful, story for never because I'm a coward) and that the past three years have basically proven again and again that my husband and I are reproductively challenged, is contraception even necessary? He thinks not, but wouldn’t it be just like life to throw me a fucking curveball in the form of an unplanned pregnancy? And as impossible as parenting feels right now, you better believe that if I got pregnant again, I don’t think I could make a decision to stop a baby’s heartbeat.

I’m not taking any chances. So, I hauled my toddler off to Target and we picked out some very nice condoms. (Just kidding. I bought the cheapest kind. Since when did rubbers get so expensive?!) When I informed my husband, he moped and moaned about how he doesn’t like how they feel. Normally, I’d agree, but I’m not really into sex right now anyway, so it’s the same “meh” level of sensation to me either way. When he realized I was serious about the condoms, he said he’d rather get another vasectomy than use them. To which I said, “I’m not asking you to go through that again, but if you want to do it, fine. Until that happens, though, we’re either using them or not having sex.” (Honestly, I’d prefer the latter. He chose the former. Grr.)

Why don’t I want to have sex? Oh, I don't know. Maybe because I'm fucking exhausted.

Sometimes I am so tired I can’t remember basic demographics about myself or my children. Sometimes I am so tired I get dizzy. Sometimes I am so tired I could cry. And sometimes I am so tired, I can’t even cry.

My body aches from lugging 28 pounds of toddler around all day. My brain is foggy. I often can’t finish a sentence before forgetting what I was about to say or getting distracted by someone’s needs. “Me time” is a distant memory. I’ve given up on meditation. There are days I don’t even get a chance to brush my teeth until after lunch, which often doesn’t happen until 3 p.m. because I’m busy taking care of everyone else. (Oh! And don’t forget the house, which is a major attention whore. Its latest tantrum came in the form of a broken ignitor on the furnace. It happened right at bedtime, requiring emergency service. So, yeah, hemorrhaging money in addition to menstrual blood!)

I don’t remember parenting ever being this hard the first time around. Have I forgotten? Or was I not paying attention? Did I have that much more help? Is life in 2022 that much harder than it was in 2002, when I first became a mom? (Yes. Let’s blame the internet.)

Also new: feeling angry at the patriarchy. And not in that performative, white feminist kind of way. I mean in that, “Holy shit, not only is the system not set up to support mothers, it’s actively working against us” kind of way.

And I don’t mean to complain (though I know the previous 1,300 words would indicate otherwise). I just mean to say, “Wow, this hard. Why doesn’t anyone talk about how fucking hard this is?”

Maybe they do talk. I’m just not privy to those conversations.

Besides, a better question would be: “How do we change it?” But we’re probably all too fucking exhausted to do anything about it. I know I am.

Sometimes I pray, “God, just give me the strength to get through the day…and then tomorrow…and then the next day…” and then I stop because even the near future feels insurmountable.

Of course there are many beautiful moments in my days, too, like the way the baby is smiling now and will even laugh a little if I sing to her in a certain way. Or how, when my toddler is eating in her highchair and sees me running around frantically, she’ll insist, “Mommy, sit down!” And I know that in the blink of an eye they’ll both all of a sudden be so big they won’t want to sit with or talk to or even acknowledge me. 

Yes, it is a shitshow. But I should consider myself lucky to have a front-row seat.

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