Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I miss my husband

There. I said it. I miss my husband. No, he's not away on some weeks-long business trip or stuck in Manhattan due to any apocalypse-esque hurricane. Nope, he's only about 20 miles away and for some reason that 20 miles feels like 200.

I guess I should preface this with the good news: J got a new job! Mostly thanks to me, since I'm the one that forwarded him the listing online when I saw it (and was slightly obsessed with him moving up the ladder to a higher paying, more prestigious position). Okay, I suppose it also helped that he went to an ivy league school and gained great experience at the law firm he was currently with, but I like to think that my emailing him the posting kicked off all this good news (however delusional that may be). After an initial call to come interview and another month or so of interviews later, J was offered the job, which he promptly accepted. Score!

In a nutshell this job is everything we wished for while he was in law school. Tony street address in one of the best buildings in the city's financial district. Marble lobby with gilded sculptures leering down at all who enter. An office on one of the top floors. A view of Coit Tower and the Transamerica Pyramid from J's window. Big clients and complex legal work. More money than I ever dreamed of having at age 30. After years of uncertainty thanks to the effects of a terrible economy on the legal profession, we -- or I should say he -- had finally joined the big leagues.

For those who've followed my blog over the last few years, you'd think this is all I ever wanted. Frankly, it was. But as is the case with my rose-colored lenses, I tend to only look at "how cool" a situation can be without measuring the negatives as well. Stuck in the path of a historical hurricane? Color me jealous. Lost in the wilderness for three days? At least you lived to tell about it. You were there when Lincoln was shot? Not only would I envy you, I'd also quietly sign up for more theater ticket reminders just in case.

So of course when J got the formal job offer, I was beyond thrilled. We celebrated with cigars and a bottle of Blue Label and stayed up all night talking about how different our lives were going to be now that he had this job. What I didn't consider was that every positive difference also comes with a negative one. I was blind to the the yin and yang until he started work last Monday.

It's only been over a week and I already feel like he's had this job for ages. How could I have thought this was all I ever wanted? Stupid, stupid me. I'm lucky now if he gets home before 8pm, and even when he does it doesn't matter because he's so exhausted from waking up early that all he wants to do is eat dinner and go to bed. He loves his new job so much that he often loses track of time in the office and only notices it's late when I call him and remind him that the sun is coming up in a couple hours (okay, it hasn't gotten to that point yet, but you get the point).

Only having dinner together once in the last seven business days is not all I ever wanted. Watching Anderson Cooper 360 every evening with Ava as my conversational companion is not quite the tradeoff I'd envisioned once J had a Big Law job. Handing Ava over to J when he gets home so I can do some things for myself like, oh I don't know, take a shower, tends to quell any quality time we can spend together throughout the week. I just want my husband back, but I guess this is the tradeoff. If I really want the lifestyle I've always dreamed of, then I've got to give something up...no matter how much it sucks.

So what's more worth it: time or money? I miss our time together but I can't complain about the money, so I don't argue about his long work hours because I know he's simply providing for his family. How else will we be able to do all the things we want to do, like eventually buy a bigger home, travel the world, make real estate investments, (hopefully) retire early, etc. etc.? Does that mean my silence has been bought? Slightly disturbing when thought about this way.

Of course J knows how I feel, but at the same time we're both realistic and know that it's better to work harder younger and enjoy money later than it is to work harder older and not have the time (or mobility) to enjoy it in your geriatric years. Over waffles on Sunday, I told J that I completely understand why he has to work so hard right now. I really do. I am, after all, the person who sparked all this off by emailing him that job posting. I wanted it so bad I could taste it. And as much as I miss him, I'm inspired by his work ethic and commitment to his craft. But at the same time I know myself and I know I can't do this forever. Thankfully he understood, and visions of me in my 70s waiting for him to retire while I lounge lakeside and alone on the banks of Como quickly dissipated.

For now I'll just have to take it day to day and hope it gets easier. At least he changed jobs at a time when caring for Ava on my own isn't as harrowing as it initially was (the thought of him making this transition when we first had her would have been mortifying, to say the least). And because he's in the city now, it gives me more of an excuse to head in and have lunch or dinner with him when I can.

But still, even after five years of marriage, I have this sense of urgency with him and our relationship. It's that butterflies-in-your-tummy, I-can't-get-enough-of-you urgency that makes you do crazy things when you're dating a boy you love, like stay up late talking all night on the phone, make out like teenagers in the rain, or drive for hours just to see him for a quick visit. It's a drug, that urgency, and for some reason I still feel it with J, which makes him working like this all the more harder for me to stomach. But paper covers rock and dollars cover wife, so again I shouldn't complain.

Regardless, I still (and always will) miss him.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The baby blues

Tuesday officially marked my baby's two-month birthday. By the way, her name is Ava.

Ava celebrated this momentous occasion by sleeping through most of the day, only opening her eyes and squeaking or crying when she wanted to be fed (right now she doesn't ask for much). For the first time in eight weeks, I finally -- finally! -- have time to sit down and write something, which I really should have been doing from Day 1, but all other excuses aside, I've been so busy with Ava that I often can't remember what day it is, much less how to even begin recording my thoughts on this whole process online or getting back to writing the book. While time, or the lack thereof, was a factor keeping me from blogging, I have to be honest and say that I was also scared to start writing about it all. Especially that first month of having her. Why? Because it wasn't the idyllic situation that I always envisioned having a baby would be like.

I felt that if I admitted this through words it would make me a bad person (and an equally bad mother). Something like Joan Crawford's character in Mommy Dearest, minus all that wire hanger business. By week 4 or 5, I literally felt like I was going insane. Of course I love Ava to death, but those first few weeks were so foreign to me. It felt like I was tossed into a maelstrom of transition that I wasn't prepared for, what with the sleepless nights, uncomfortable healing "down there," and the stress of hearing a tiny baby emit hours of bloodcurdling cries and an inability to understand what it is they actually want after diapers are changed and tummies are fed.

The frosting on the cake for me was my detachment from the situation. I felt like I wanted to turn in on myself and disappear. Sometimes I felt like she was a stranger when I'd hold her. Other times I felt like she didn't love me because she didn't recognize me as her mother (which is stupid, really, since at that age she couldn't recognize a zucchini, much less her own mother). Often I'd resent her -- for needing so much of me that I had nothing left over for myself. Terrible to say, right? And I feel guilty for even writing it now, although I've since come to grips with most of this. I'd cry for no reason, missing my "old" life even though I was happy to say goodbye to it up until the day we brought her home. I'd be so pissed at J, sometimes even resentful of him, for giving me this new life and being able to leave every day for work while I had to suffer through it alone. I hated how my post-baby body looked and missed the old times where I could actually feel my core and use it for good posture.

Every day was an up/down confluence of emotions, going from extremely sad to (once in a while) very happy. I felt like I was stuck in someone else's life, taking care of this baby that I had no connection with. I was scared that I felt any of this, even though I'd read about it in popular baby books and heard from endless television doctors that this was "normal." Well, it might be considered normal but it didn't feel normal to me. Normal moms were put together and organized, loved their new lives as mothers and got pure satisfaction from their babies. I felt sad and resentful, terribly absent-minded and mentally scattered, like my brain was in a fog. The worst part was that I didn't want to talk to anyone about it. J was the only one who knew what I was going through. I felt guilty for feeling the way I did and that I'd somehow be a failure if I admitted any of it out loud to close friends or family, which made me feel more isolated because I didn't feel I could be honest with anyone, sometimes not even myself. This would just feed into my sadness, which would make me feel even more isolated and...well, you get the cyclical point.

So at my six-week postpartum checkup with my doctor (you know, that awkward office visit where doctors pretend everyone alludes to sex as "intercourse" and they let you know whether you can or can't have it yet), they made me take a written postpartum test. On this test I had to circle answers in multiple choice form and apparently I couldn't hide my sadness enough because my doctor told me I had borderline postpartum depression.

My first thought was: "Great, I'm officially a statistic," because though I'd read about postpartum depression I didn't think I'd actually ever get it. It was one of those scary things you hear about and hope to never experience, like foreclosures or herpes. Other people might get those things, but those type of people serve as cautionary tales. My second thought was "Jesus, if I'm borderline, I cringe to think what full-blown postpartum depression is." After all, I was always a happy-go-lucky girl, easily finding humor in even the worst situations. That girl is still in me, but now I just need to work at maintaining her. My third thought was: "How the hell do I get better?" I didn't like feeling blue all the time.

My doctor's answer was simple. "Prozac," she said, suggesting it like taking Prozac was as common as chewing gum.

"I'd really rather not," I said. After all, she had just said I was borderline, not full-blown, and I refused to believe that medication was the only way to happiness again. At least not in my circumstance. 

"It would only be for a month or two. Three tops. Then you can stop taking it," she said.

I think the look on my face, a look made of two-parts confusion and one-part fear with just a dash of skepticism, said it all. "Okay, but is there anything else I could do besides take pills?" I asked. Visions of me losing my mind and moving to L.A. to be a failed actress with my anti-depressants instantly surfaced, because clearly -- to me, at least -- anything related to pills has to be lifted from the pages of a Jacqueline Susann novel. Yes, my limited knowledge of prescription drugs pretty much centers around Valley of the Dolls.

She asked if I used to work out, and through my haze I did actually find this funny since there's nothing I loathe more than working out, except maybe men who wear athletic sneakers. I told her I used to walk a lot, but this wasn't so much for working out as it was a good excuse to get out of the house and listen to my iShuffle. Nevertheless, it was still some form of physical activity that didn't include getting off and on the couch according to Bravo's TV show lineup.

"You could try walking again," she said, and then went on to tell me how endorphins play a part in us humans being happy. "...But when I see you at our next appointment, let me know how it's going and whether you want to start Prozac," she added (endorphins aside). Jesus, I thought, this lady was really pushing the meds. I thanked her and said I'd think it over between now and our next appointment, but the truth was I wanted no part in Prozac.

So I started walking. Even when Ava cried or acted fussy for hours on end and it probably would have been easier to stay at home in my PJs with her and zone out on some Real Housewives episode, I'd get dressed, pack her up in her stroller and we'd stroll the neighborhood together. She'd fall asleep while I (quietly) rocked out to Lady Gaga and miraculously I started to feel better. Just a little. At about week 6, I decided it was time for her and I to get out into the world more, past the confines of our neighborhood. I know this doesn't seem like much, especially since the old Crystal went out into the world every day, but with a baby, the world kind of feels like a new place. Taking your baby out into it for the first time is terrifying. What if she cries while I'm shopping? I'd think. How or where will I change her diaper if she needs to be changed? What if I can't get the carseat properly put in the car? What if I run of out of bottled milk while we're out and she has a fit? (I'm not one to whip out the boob in public. I just. Can't.)

Slowly we'd go out more, running an errand here and there. I got the hang of snapping her carseat in and out of its base in my car. I grew more sure of myself unpacking and packing her stroller into our trunk. If she'd start to cry in a store, I became more adept at understanding what she'd want. Pretty soon us going out became like second nature to me and the blues I had slowly began to fade.

Then one day she decided to smile for the first time and it was like sunshine peeking through my gray cloudy haze. All of a sudden something connected between us, with that smile of hers, and I couldn't help but smile back. That smile told me that she finally recognized who I was, that all this hard work was paying off. I smiled back at her and it was all over. Since then she smiles almost every time she sees me and in the last week or so she's started babbling and trying her hardest to mimic sounds I make. They're all nonsensical sounds, but it makes me so much happier to feel like we're somewhat communicating with one another. If you had told me this the first couple weeks of her being home I wouldn't have believed it -- how would a smile or babbling make me happy? But it just does. Maybe it's this instinctual thing hardwired into my mother gene. Who knows.

As much as I love the babbles, I also knew I needed to make friends with other moms in my area, which would motivate me to get out even more. So I did. Right now I'm part of two mom groups in my town and while I still routinely have out-of-body experiences when four or five of us walk down a street with our strollers (I never thought I'd be one of those women), it's nice spending time with people who are going through the same thing as me. I don't connect with all of them equally but unlike clubs for books or movies, babies seem like a true commonality you can bond over.

So in the end I am doing better (thank God) and this whole "being a mother" thing seems to get slightly easier every day. I still don't always have the time to eat breakfast or lunch, and there are days I want to bang my head a few times against my brick fireplace because I've been holding her for 4+ hours and I'm tired and hungry and my arm feels like it's going to fall off, yet I can't put her down or else she'll start wailing. But then there are days where I can see what people mean when they say it's "all worth it." Those are usually the days where she'll look up at me with those baby blues and give me a big toothless grin. Just a simple, silent grin. And on those days it feels like my heart smiles.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin