I’m not an overly emotional person. The first time I was pregnant (and miscarried), I knew before I ever tested, mostly because I cried when someone got voted off American Idol. This morning I cried listening to NPR cover the Penn State students response to Joe Paterno’s death. That’s not me.
Except it is right now.
I am an emotional basketcase. Drop off this morning was awful. I got an email from Kellen’s teacher on Friday basically telling me it was time to let go. She has no idea. So instead of being able to actually get my child into school and settled, I literally dropped him at the door. I didn’t even hug him, which I feel awful about. He was screaming at the door, screaming in the hall, screaming, screaming, screaming. I tried to calm him down before we went to class. I gave him his marble. He just stood there screaming, “Hold me.” He’s almost three and a half for god’s sake. And he still wants to be held all the time. I don’t want to be mad at him. I’m not, really. But I am tired. I’m so tired of the emotional toll his battles take on me, day in and day out. I don’t know what he needs, and as a mother that just makes me feel shitty. I guess the good news is that his developmental screening is scheduled for next week.
To add to the stress of being seven and a half months pregnant (and getting close to the point in my pregnancy when my house burned down) and having a child who cries all the time, Dan wasn’t excused from jury duty. Some guy was excused because he has a night job and would be too tired, but my husband having a stressed out wife, a three year old, and a new business can serve just fine. I’m sure he will be utterly attentive. It’s not a small trial either. It’s a big deal. And if he serves, there is a remote possibility that he could miss our child being born. Yeah. I’ve learned though if the odds are one in a million that something will happen, I’m that one.
I honestly want to sit in a corner and cry. Who am I kidding? I currently have the conference room door shut and am blogging with tears in my eyes. I am so spent. And yet we have a new baby coming, a baby who will require even more of me. I don’t have any idea how I’m going to handle this.
I swear parenting this kid is like riding a roller coaster.
Yesterday I promised Kellen an ice cream cone after school. And when I reminded him, he excitedly got into the car and didn’t do his normal melt down freak out all the way home. We happily rode to McDonalds, where I learned that a small cone is FIFTY cents. Seriously, who knew you could even buy food for $0.50 anymore. He ate the ice cream cone as we drove home and seemed content all the way there. It’s just such a small part of my day, and yet it makes such a huge difference in how the rest of the night goes.
I won’t say that Kellen didn’t cry or whine last night, but it wasn’t constant. It wasn’t so bad that we all wanted to hide under pillows and cry until the night was over. Kellen played with toys. I didn’t have to watch four episodes of Mickey Mouse just to calm him down. He was HAPPY. These are the moments I want for my son, the moments I cherish and hold onto because I just don’t know how long they will last.
What changed? Well, I don’t know exactly. I do know that his ears started draining, so it’s possible that he wasn’t feeling good… or couldn’t hear. And that would certainly explain a temporary shift in attitude and behavior. But happiness is the temporary state, not discontentedness. Was it the ice cream cone? Again, maybe. And that will only last for so long, partly because I hate the idea of food bribes as a frequent behavior modification tool. (And OMG, how much did that last sentence sound academic and not like a mom??)
He was actually so happy last night that he couldn’t fall asleep. It was almost surreal.
And he even woke up happy, that was until I mentioned he had to go to school.
He whined a bit and cried some. I realized, though, that I can handle his meltdowns when they are sandwiched between compliant and happy hours. I can’t deal with the seven or eight hour frustration battles.
Even the marbles worked today. I told Kellen several times that he couldn’t put the marble in his jar until after I left and Ms. Emily told him it was ok. When we got to his classroom, he was so excited about putting the marble in the jar, he pushed me toward the door and told me I had to leave. It was brilliant. I wanted to cry out of joy instead of the usual frustration. He still waved at me from the window and blew kisses and crossed his arms over his heart and made me want to run in and just tell him how much I loved him and how proud I was. But I didn’t. I waved back and pulled out of the parking lot. And I sighed. This is how it’s supposed to be. And this is what I strive for as a mom. Harmony. Happiness. Joy. Even if it’s just briefly.
I dropped Kellen off this morning, the same way I do every morning. He’s been at some sort of daycare or preschool at least part-time since he was about fifteen months old. And the routine is always the same.
I try to say “good-bye.” Kellen screams and latches onto my neck begging me to stay.
I have tried everything to make the morning transition smoother. I’ve dropped him off kicking and screaming while I race out the door. I’ve stayed to calm him down before leaving (which does work THAT day but doesn’t make a dent in the subsequent transitions). I’ve switched schools. I’ve tried to find more engaging activities. His friends at school try to invite him to play with them when he gets there, at which point he proceeds to yell at them. This week we’re trying to have him earn marbles for a new Matchbox car. Nothing, NOTHING, seems to work.
Look, I have no problem with my kid crying. I put him in his room when he is irrational. I let him cry it out when he wouldn’t sleep. But this is different. He isn’t crying because he’s mad. I’m not fully certain the reason for his crying, but through story telling I have been able to get from him that he misses me and is afraid something will happen to me. That’s a totally different kind of crying.
He also tells us everyday that he doesn’t like school. I don’t understand. I loved school. Kellen is very much like me, and so I expected him to like school too. But he doesn’t seem to. Again, we aren’t exactly sure why he feels this way despite trying to get him to explain. What I do know is that Kellen’s reaction to being dropped off everyday differs vastly from that of his peers, who, even though they occasionally are upset at drop-off, don’t melt down every damn day.
This brings me to a larger issue, one that I haven’t been sure how to write about. Kellen is different from other kids. In some ways, he’s good different. But in a lot of ways, that difference has created a lot of stress for our family, especially Kellen. Honestly, we don’t know what is going on. The pediatrician asked us to schedule a longer developmental appointment to talk about the ways in which Kellen’s intellectual and emotional development create disharmony for him (and us). Or maybe he’s just a really difficult kid.
I’ve spent the last week writing down everything I remember about his development. I used to read neuropsych evaluations almost everyday. I know child development; I know assessments. The intellectual development part is easy. And the informal assessments I can give him are fun for both of us. Can he copy a 5 or 6 pattern block tower? No problem, though he gets mad if I don’t have the same colors to make it match exactly. Can he remember four or five digits? Yes, though he can’t remember our phone number, so we aren’t up to seven digit recall. But the emotional development piece, that is much more difficult to objectively describe. And writing it down makes me want to cry. I want to understand what is wrong with my son. It’s more than just being three. Some days he cries or whines for seven or eight hours straight. There are very few things that seem to make him genuinely happy or content. And I am exhausted.
I know his emotional state is directly tied into his drop-off at school. It’s why I started crying when his teacher told me to just drop him off and leave and then said, “Time to stop lingering” as though I was some inappropriately attached mother who just couldn’t handle watching her child cry for ten minutes. No, that’s not why I stay. I stay because I worry that Kellen feels abandoned, that he is afraid. I stay because I know if I can get him calm and engaged in an activity, he will allow me to leave and will have a better day. I stay because the last thing I want for my child is for him to dislike school. He needs the stimulation. I need the break. And yet… sometimes I wonder if I’m really doing the right thing. I know there are no easy fixes, even if the pediatrician can give us insight into his discontentedness. I just want my son to be happy. Don’t we all want that for our children?
It’s a little more than two months until my due date. Kellen was born at 38 weeks, and I’m hoping for the same with this baby, mostly because I am already really uncomfortable. But for me, the end of pregnancy is tied in emotionally with far more than the anticipation of new life.
For me, there is so much fear.
At 34 weeks, my house burned down. As I try to finish up Baby Boy #2′s room, there are so many nagging thoughts. And most of them center around the question, “Why bother?” I know the odds of losing my house in a natural disaster in the next two months is so remote as to be ridiculous to even think about. And yet… and yet if I had thought it would happen when I was pregnant with Kellen, I would have been just as ridiculous. It happened anyway. I’ve tried to get more excited about the nursery, have tried to make this experience make up, in a way, for the one I was robbed of. I do think the moment I actually get to bring my baby HOME from the hospital will be a very special moment, one I’ve waited over three years for. It’s an odd pull, this fear and excitement.
But even more, I am afraid of what my body will do after the baby. Six weeks after Kellen’s birth, my face went paralyzed. In my sick, twisted thoughts I’ve hoped that if it happened again it would be the other side of my face so that maybe they would even out a little better. Even though I know the Bell’s Palsy was a result of the undiganosed Lyme, there is still a chance it could happen again, maybe related to Lyme, maybe not. It’s a vulnerable time for a mother’s immune system. I will be excited for that first smile, but I will be even more excited if, this time, I get to smile back.
I am so ready for it to be March. And yet, a small part of me is scared, scared for what the end of pregnancy has meant for me. Those events are not related to pregnancy at all. But for me, pregnancy is what ties me to those moments. And the fear and what-ifs are inextricably linked to the birth of my sons. Excitement and fear.
I am not a good pregnant person. Seriously. Even with Kellen, which was a relatively easy pregnancy… well, until that one thing… I didn’t really like being pregnant all that much. I don’t know if it was the morning sickness that lasted all nine months and could only be stopped by having Dan make me a high protein breakfast in bed, which made traveling almost impossible and made living out of a hotel when my house was gone even more awful. Or maybe it was the not being able to breathe from about 18 weeks on and having to make sure I didn’t have pregnancy-induced asthma (which I’m sure was made all the better by the inhaled fiberglass shards!). I loved the anticipation and the planning and the nursery decorating. Well, until that one thing kind of ruined all of that. You can see how maybe my memories of pregnancy are all kinds of fucked up. I can’t look at pregnancy without also viewing it through the lens of a woman whose home burned down a month before her son’s birth. And as it gets closer to a month before this son’s birth, I certainly have some emotional issues that probably should be addressed by a therapist… if I had the time to do so.
But it’s not just the mental crap that makes this so hard. The physical toll of pregnancy is really hard on me. I knew that pregnancy would be a risk for me. It’s why we considered surrogacy. Even if the Lyme stayed away and didn’t flare up too much (which, thankfully it hasn’t too much), there was still the fact that my body has been through a LOT in the last three years trying to heal from toxic bacteria and toxic medication. I started feeling so much better after the hyperbaric chamber. And maybe that’s why I got pregnant so easily (oops!) when it hadn’t been all that easy the first time around. And then there was the nausea and the lack of appetite and the fact that I ballooned up almost immediately after seeing a second line. And then all of the illness this fall. I got a cold, and the stomach flu, and another cold, and another stomach flu, and…
AND now I’m itching like crazy.
They don’t think I have PUPPS because I have no rash, and the itching didn’t follow the normal course of a PUPPS itch. We’ve checked my liver and bile salts. We are running a follow up test, and I’m just waiting, waiting for results, waiting to see if it gets worse, waiting because it’s actually a little scary for the baby if it’s the source of itching. And of course I don’t want anything to be wrong, but, oh my god, the itching at night is just awful, and at least they could give me medicine (benedryl hasn’t helped so far).
I don’t even know how many months I am. In my seventh month I think. I know how many weeks I am and, more importantly, how many I have left. Seven if the itching is related to bile salt levels. Eight if I deliver at 37 weeks. Nine if I deliver at 38 weeks like Kellen. Nine and a half if I deliver on the full moon. And too damn many if I go past then.
There’s a reason I haven’t blogged much about being pregnant. I’m just not a good pregnant person, and I don’t want to whine too much on the internet (except maybe in my Twitter stream!).