Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Saying Goodbye to Aunt Flo

Here we are, the day before my hysterectomy.  I am exhausted. (That is irrelevant to the post, it is just an observation.)

"You will wish you did it years ago."
"You will not regret making this decision."
"You will never miss having a period."

All phrases that I have heard from people about hysterectomies.
And I actually believe they are true. I am certain that never having a period will be amazing.  I have always had issues with my menstrual cycle and have had more then one doctor suggest I get a hysterectomy.  But I just couldn't do it... 

 Because of damn Oprah.

Years ago I saw an episode where a mom talked about all of her children being killed in a car accident and how horrible it was. (It really was one of the saddest episodes ever.) She said there was a moment that she didn't know who she was anymore. She was no longer a Mother. 

I bawled my eyes out listening to her story. Knowing the title Mother is my favorite title. For me, it is better than Sister, Daughter, Friend, Woman, or any of the job titles I have ever had. It is special because of the children who call me Mom.  My three unique kids are the reason I answer to  that awe inspiring name. 

The woman on Oprah continued to say how she was later able to get pregnant and have more children. I don't believe the children were a replacement for the ones that died, or could possibly ever fill that hole. But they were a gift, a second chance at love and family, and to continue to be a Mom.

I know it is irrational to worry that this will happen to me. I know it sounds creepy and insensitive when people think of replacing one lost child with another.  But sometimes I have irrational fears. Sometimes I am afraid of the things I can't control. 

I have always had at least some control over my uterus.  Sure, it has caused quite a bit of discomfort and pain for the past few years. But for as disruptive and painful as it has been, I always knew that it was there. Just in case my crazy irrational fears came true.

But the problem with many of my irrational fears, they seem to be something else entirely. 

I absolutely LOVE my kids. More than I ever imagined I could. Way past the limits that I thought were possible. I could write a whole post dedicated to how amazing and brilliant they each are. And for the individual happiness and joy they bring to my life. I could fill books and libraries with the love I have for them. They are absolutely irreplaceable. 

If something happened, I couldn't replace them. I wouldn't even want to try. 

My irrational fear, that forces me to keep a uterus "just in case" (that clearly hates me and is trying to self destruct at this very moment)  isn't about replacing them. It is about the fear of replacing me. Who would I become without my family? 

For some ridiculous reason, I think holding on to my uterus is the security blanket protection against the loss of my family. And ultimately, the loss of who I am.  

My doctor recommends I get a hysterectomy. He knows that it is ruining my quality of life. He knows that after any given period the horrible cramps will come back, and each time they have gotten much  worse, and can land my back in the ER. He knows I shouldn't have to spend a week out of the month on pain meds, missing soccer games, and snuggles because I can't stand up.  He knows it is time to let go. 

And I can finally agree with him.
In order to let go, and have the hysterectomy, I have to let go of those fears. I have to trust that everything will be alright, that my kids will be safe with me forever, that I won't have to face what the woman on Oprah had to face. And I have to accept that even if tragedy happens, I will always be able to find myself. And I will always carry the titles that have meant something to me. As much as I love being a mom, I am also more than a mom. I am so many things, and I have so much more to become. 

 I am honestly very grateful for my uterus, that was healthy enough to carry and protect my 3 babies when they were in utero, but I am ready to be done with it. 

And now it is off to the surgeon to say my final good byes to "Aunt Flo". 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Feminism 101

I have never been described as a feminist. And I never would have considered myself one. I grew up with a bit of a negative connotation surrounding feminism.  I think it was associated with some extreme behavior, that doesn't necessarily match the cause. But in recent years, that has changed quite a bit. I haven't burned any bras yet, but I am noticing more and more the injustices that women face. And I am trying to learn how to combat those injustices for myself and my daughters.  When Macie says she likes "Boy Legos" I try to remind her that Legos are for everyone, whether they are "Super Heroes" or "Elf Princesses".  And when Riley talks about growing up to be a teacher, I remind her that she could also be an engineer. These are like the kiddy pool issues of feminism. The most basic ideals of equality, and I feel like I am just now learning them, as an adult. I often joke that I am "new to this whole feminist thing" and I need some help learning what I am doing. Even just learning how to recognize the sexist things going on around me, many of which I have grown up believing were acceptable.

Blake is playing baseball this Spring.  He has played soccer for a few years, and to JT's utter happiness, has decided to try baseball. (Quick Mommy Brag Moment: He is really good! I shouldn't be surprised, a love of baseball runs in both of our families, but I am still so proud of him.) His first baseball practice was a few weeks ago. JT would have loved to have taken him to his first practice, but he was working late in the ER that night. So I took him to practice, and let the girls play on the toys at the park.  (This is basically our lives right now, the girls playing at various parks while Blake is at soccer or baseball. They both decided to take this season off from sports.)

We were greeted by a few of the teammates and their Dads.  One of the dads is kind of a tough guy. He has a thick Chicago accent, and when his 7 year old son bragged that he gets to drink beer his dad clapped him on the back and said "What did you expect?  He's Irish!" We still don't know if that is true or not. But as the season has gone on, they have turned out to be a really friendly group. Blake joined a few weeks late, so the team had already had a few practices without us.  They seemed to be pretty familiar with each other by then. However, I did not know anything else about them or the coach on the first night of practice.

As practice got under way the coach needed help, so I grabbed my glove and got out on the field. The tough guy dad came out to help, along with the coach's teenage son. And the four of us lined the kids up to practice throwing and catching.  Blake was doing awesome, especially for his first practice ever, and the team and coach were all impressed with us playing catch.  I am not a great baseball player, but I have always been thankful that my Dad taught me the basics, and the techniques.  I noticed, a little farther down the field, the coach's son was struggling. He was playing catch with the coach's teenage son, who was growing irritated with how poorly the little brother was doing.  At one point the teenager yelled out to the little brother "C'mon you are playing terrible! Quit throwing like a girl!" That is a phrase I have heard a million times. I almost didn't even notice it. In fact, I always took that phrase to mean you are stepping with your throwing arm... a mistake every child makes when they are learning to throw a baseball. But when that boy said it, I did notice, because I am a girl, throwing just as well as tough guy dad, to my son. I glanced around quickly to make sure my daughters were still on the toys and didn't hear him say that.  But a few minutes later he said it again. "You are throwing like a girl!"  This time it really stung.  I realized, that even to a kiddy pool feminist, this was not acceptable. This teenage boy was using the word "girl" as a derogatory term. Name calling. But instead of stupid, or weak, or uncoordinated he chose the word girl.  As if there are not plenty of girls that can throw a baseball harder than many boys.  This boy was using the word "girl" to shame his little brother, knowing that it is worse to be called a girl than anything else.  I was horrified. I hoped that the coach or one of the dads would say something. But no one did. I realized it would have to be me.

When I am in a situation like that, I get all panicked. If JT is around, I will often default to him, explaining "I don't do well with confrontation. I get mad, and then people think I am a real bitch! You say something!" But JT wasn't around. I pictured myself confronting the teenager. But how would I do it? How do you call out someone's kid, right in front of them and the whole team? What would I even say? "It hurts my feelings when you use the word 'girl' as a put-down." Would I get all emotional and cry? Everyone knows that once a girl cries she loses all of her power.  Would I try too hard to be tough and end up sounding angry? Or worse, crazy? After all, I am standing next to tough guy dad with a beer drinking 7 year old. What would they think? It is our first practice, would I be embarrassing Blake? What if they think I am a b****?!

With my head spinning, and checking again to make sure my little girls were still on the toys, I resolved to wait for him to say it again. Then I would go over and politely pull the teenager aside and quietly explain why that phrase is so offensive. I would be careful to not humiliate him, and to be discreet, so that the coach and tough dad wouldn't notice. I would be very nice, so that Blake wouldn't be known as the kid with the crazy mom. I would probably even be apologetic about the whole thing. And I would just explain that I have daughters near by, and how it makes them feel.

I took a deep breath, collected myself and before I even realized it, practice was over. The boys were all running off the field, my girls were coming back from the playground, and I had missed my chance. I couldn't tell if I was relieved or disappointed. I was numb.

That night, after I tucked my kids in bed, and finally sat down to collect my thoughts, I realized I was definitely disappointed. Disappointed in myself.

For those of you who don't need the kiddy pool, and are comfortably doing laps in the full length pool, you are probably disappointed as well.  And if you are a true feminist, the deep end, high dive, life guard style feminist, you were able to see the million things I missed.  You could have taken a red pen to this post and covered the page circling rookie mistakes. But for me, I didn't even realize how many things were wrong with this picture until I began retelling it to JT.

I didn't realize how much sexist commentary was in my head. I was afraid of being confrontational, or coming across like a crazy b****.  As I explained the whole scenario to JT I realized that he has never had to worry about someone thinking he is (or calling him) that type of profanity.  If JT stands up for himself or for his children, he is just being a strong guy. He isn't afraid of the label he will get. He doesn't need to be. He also doesn't have to worry about his emotions getting in the way, and being brushed off with an excuse like "it's probably just PMS".  The entire dialog that went on inside my head had been sexist.  It was all concerns that JT has never had to worry about, and fears he has never had. But the internal struggle I felt has been felt by most women. Those same doubts have discouraged many of us from doing things we want to do, and saying things we need to say. And even after all that, I still failed to stand up for myself.

But being brave wasn't the only way that I failed that night.  I thought I needed to be an example to my daughters. I was so afraid that they might hear that phrase and realize that, to many people, being a girl is being less than. I was afraid that they would believe that a girl could never throw as well as a boy, and is deserving of that phrase. I was afraid they would doubt themselves and wonder if what they are, girls, was something to be ashamed of.  The whole time that I was worrying about my daughters, who were happily giggling on the swings well out of earshot, I was playing catch with my son.

The last person I let down that night was my son. He was the one hearing "you throw like a girl". He was the one subconsciously discovering that girl = less than.  He didn't notice that I didn't stick up for girls, because neither did anyone else.  I did not even consider the damage it was doing to him, or the beer drinking 7 year old, or the boy being called a girl, or the rest of the team. In reality, boys are the ones most likely to grow up to perpetuate these stereotypes and sexist comments.  It isn't just my daughters that need to see a feminist (albeit the kiddy pool novice that I am) role model, and it isn't just women that need to stand up and be the feminist role model.  I let my son down that night, and so did every dad on the field.

Since then, I have talked to Blake about it. I have tried to make amends for my failings. But I still feel sick to my stomach that I didn't do anything in that moment. I still feel mad at the weak, scared, degraded woman freaking out in my head that night. But mostly I am sad that I wasn't braver. Some day, I want to swim in the deep end. I want my daughters to run for President, or stay home with their kids if they want, or be whatever they dream. I want Blake to see women as equals, worth fighting for and defending. I know that the best chance they have is if they see the example of a brave woman. And I really want that brave woman to be me.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Failure is the New Success

I've been hearing  quite a bit about failure the last few years. The more that I learn about successful people, the more that I learn about failure.  I've read about Albert Einstein being expelled from school, Steven Spielberg being rejected 3 times from the USC School of Film, Meryl Streep being "too ugly" to be cast in a film as a young actress , and Thomas Edison making 1000 attempts at the lightbulb before getting it right. These stories have all surprised me and I am so impressed that these people continued on, even in the face of such negativity.

What gives these people this type of resilience? To hear "no", and keep going? And how do I develop this attribute? I feel like I am the complete opposite. When the going gets tough... I give up and grab a Diet Coke. I could give a long list of the things that I have attempted and failed at, and then walked away.   I'm not talking about realizing something just isn't for me. Like quitting softball after 5th grade because I realized that little league right field is for the kids that are afraid of the ball and prefer to pick dandelions. That was a good sport to walk away from.  But I am talking about the things that I really thought were for me. Like acting, writing, being famous, running a marathon, getting a degree, the list goes on and on. I have made attempts at all of these things, and then given up at the first sign of defeat.  How do I learn the resilience and strength to never give up? Or is it too late?

And if it is too late for me, how do I teach it to my children?

Riley and I had our first real run in with failure this week.  (*side note* I have been reading about overcoming shame, it's kind of an obsession. So in the vein of being authentic, let me say that knowing others might read this is sending me into a shame whirlwind. Sharing this is really difficult for me. But I'm taking a deep breath, and putting my fingers on the keyboard.)

To set the story up, you need to know that Riley plays the violin. She has been playing for a few years now, and is really getting good.  I'm not a musician (because playing the piano was hard, so, of course, I quit) so it is difficult trying to figure out the balance of attempting to raise one. What is too hard? What is not hard enough?  Blake's cello teacher suggested a challenge to play for 100 days in a row and getting a prize at the end. She said she has seen major improvement in her students when they do this. So we adopted the idea. JT and the kids set the rules; they need to each play 30 minutes a day (preferably 15 in the morning and 15 in the evening... music friends, is this right? I can't get their teachers to be more specific!) for 100 days in a row. This has meant bringing instruments on vacation, or staying up late some nights to squeeze it in.  I've been so impressed with their dedication.
But a few days ago we hit a pretty big bump.  Riley was arguing with me about her practice. (I needed her to practice in her bedroom so that Macie could practice her piano in the music room. P.S. "music room" is the fancy way of saying the Dining room that I turned into a ping pong room, that also happens to be the piano room. But doesn't "music room" so sound much fancier? )  Sometimes Riley can get really caught up in getting the last word, or arguing for argument's sake. (If my Dad read my blog he would be laughing out loud enjoying the justice) I was getting so frustrated with her. It was already way past her bedtime, she should have practiced in the afternoon, and now she was refusing to play her violin in her room?! After the argument continued for way too long I told her "That's it! You have lost your chance to play today. Go to bed. You just lost your 100 days!"

The punishment fit the crime. (I struggled with that one for awhile, thinking I had over reacted, but have come to the conclusion that it was appropriate.) For refusing to play in her room, she was giving up her opportunity to play at all.

Did I mention it was Day 84?

The night ended with more fighting, and both of us in tears.

Now, I am terrified. I've been talking to JT about possible solutions.

Do I really make her start all over? That sounds horrible! If she has to start back at Day 1 will she think this is all too much work and just give up? Will she be so discouraged that she won't set goals like this anymore? Will I ruin her career in music? (Ok, maybe I am exaggerating here. But honestly, I'm freaking out.)

Or do I let her make it up? Play twice as long every day? Add on another 20 days? Find some way to not completely derail her. But if I do this, am I just teaching her that I don't hold to my word? Am I teaching her that I will always cave in? That failure is too scary, so I will give her a way out?

The question is: Is it merciful and compassionate to let her make it up? Or is it just me being afraid to let my child fail? (And feel some of the blame for her failure.)

I'm scared that it is the latter. I never learned how to fail. I'm still terrified of it as an adult. I don't know how or when to let her fail. But everything I know of success teaches me that it is necessary.

I can't believe I am going to ask this...

(That shame whirlwind is kicking back in, the fear of putting this out there for other people to comment. And asking for help, even though I am not sure I want the whole world judging my parenting.)

What should I do?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Throw Up

(This is another Blog Post that I wrote years ago, and forgot to Publish. I was probably waiting to have JT proofread it, and then forgot all about it. So if there are grammatical errors, just ignore them, because I am not going to wait for him to proofread it and forget about it a second time!)

JT is out of town on a hike with a friend.  So it is only fitting that today be the day that Macie eats a Chocolate Granola Bar and then throws it up all over the carpet.  I thought it was just because she was upset about losing her favorite Kitty "Boom Boom"  and was so overwhelmed that she threw up.  (It wouldn't be the first time.)  If I had realized it was flu bug I would not have put her in the car to drive around for an hour dropping off invitations for Riley's Birthday Party.  I would not have done that because my worst fear is a child throwing up in the car.

(Correction, my worst fear is actually a house fire.)

So, I guess, my Second Worst Fear is my child throwing up in the car.

Having worked for 4 years in an Emergency Room seeing all kinds of disgusting stuff (by the way,  I am encouraging him to write a blog about all of the insane things he has seen on the night shift in the ER: crazy!) JT is pretty much immune to throw up and most other bodily functions that make me want to cry.  So he is in charge of all throw up.  What?  I am underutilizing a guy studying to be a Physician's Assistant?  Yeah, maybe.

It is only fitting (with my luck) that JT would be out of town when the flu bug hit our house.  And that I would be naive enough to put a child in a car seat that has thrown up earlier that day!

And even though I said my Second Worst Fear is car throw up- I might be wrong.

It might be multiple throw up.

You see, even though I scrubbed the carpets and pulled the car seat (Why did I have to buy a Britax Car Seat?  Yeah, they are suppose to be the safest seat for my offspring, but they are a nightmare to take apart!) out of the car to disinfect and scrub down, I am still not in the clear.

My Third Worst Fear is that it will spread to one of my other two kids (who are now sleeping soundly in the same bedroom as The Puker).  I am in a constant state of paranoia.  I am throwing away toothbrushes right and left.  I am firing up the incinerator to dispose of any clothes we wore, looked at, or even thought about today that could now be contaminated.  I have scrubbed my own hands raw with antibacterial soap.  And I have reflected on everything we have eaten today and the possible ramifications of those choices!

Once the Throw Up Fear sets in (I guess it is called Emetophobia, I learned that from my Unicorn friend Josh when I read his blog about throw up, and then cried myself to sleep in fear) there is no controlling it.

If JT was here, to be cleaning it all up, he would also be quarantined.  The poor guy.  When he is sick (or even if he comes in contact with throw up, that I am aware of) I am freaked out about him touching me or even breathing near me.  ( I already have a weird, irrational, obsessive fear of breathing other people's air, so this just amplifies my insanity.) I might even quarantine myself.

But he isn't here. Tonight, it is just me, The Puker, and fear... I don't think any of us will be sleeping.