Using his name

We had a boy name picked out during our first pregnancy. When we didn’t need it we kept it filed away, just in case, and when we found out our second child would be a boy, we immediately knew we’d use that name.

Of course everyone has been asking if we have a name picked out and we haven’t felt the need to keep it secret. So now every knows. And the thing is, everyone is already using it to refer to our unborn son.

And I have to admit, that makes me nervous.

I mostly call this baby-to-be Little Man or Baby Brother. Ben calls him Regalito. But everyone else refers to him by his name and so I’ve started thinking of him with that name as well. Sometimes I even call him that.

The thing is, using the name we intend to give him scares me… because what if something happens to him and then we can never use that name again? I guess in my mind we had that name ready for him, and hadn’t really given it to him yet, and if something happened to him, we could give him some other name and keep this boy’s name for another son… a living son.

Maybe that is horrible and insensitive. I don’t know. Maybe it was just one of the ways I coped.

Except now that coping mechanism has been stripped away. So many people use my son’s name that I could never give him any other, even if he were taken away from us. And that scares me for some reason I can’t quite articulate.

I try to tell myself that nothing will happen, or that if it does, I’ll ultimately be thankful we gave our son this name we so love. I even remind myself that if something happens to our son, we will most likely not have another child, so “saving” his name would be like wasting it; giving it to a dead son is better than giving it to no son at all.

I’m sorry, I know this is morbid, and possibly comes across as unfeeling. More than anything it’s inspired by fear, a very real fear that I consciously fight back every single day. More than anything I just want October to come, so my baby boy can join us safely. I still harbor so much terror that he will just silently pass away inside me, and I won’t know until it’s too late.

I know I have zero reason to believe this will happen to me, to him, to us. I suppose I’ve been profoundly scarred by each and every loss of a sibling; their stories haunt my family building experience in ways I don’t really understand. My mother was marked by loss and I, through association, was marked as well.

Truly, I’m doing a good job keeping the fear at bay. It may not seem that way when I write a post like this one, but I am not wallowing in anxiety or panic. Every once in a while I just need to voice these unspoken fears, to help get them out, to take away their power. So that I can more fully enjoy every moment of this incredibly miracle.

So that I can call my son by his name, the one we intend to give him, no matter what place he hold’s in our lives and hearts.

I love you Monito*.

Plummeting

My temperature plummeted today, which means my hormones levels are readjusting themselves at an alarming rate, which means there is a biological reason for me feeling as out of control as I do. At least that is what I keep telling myself.

This cycle was a total mindfuck. I’m not saying that to complain, I’m just stating a fact. I really truly thought I was pregnant, so much so that even after all the BFNs I still held out hope. And yet this morning I wasn’t surprised to the see the low temp. And yet I was still a little devastated. Hope is an endlessly tiring thing.

I have come to an important conclusion in the past few days: Depression and being home with a toddler do not mix well. They can be a panic inducing combination. The summer, something I used to look forward to with such enthusiasm, is suddenly an infinite stretch of time I can’t fathom surviving. And it’s not that I don’t want to be with my daughter, I do, but this depression, and the anxiety that comes with it, are making it hard for me to see what’s real and what’s not. I keep telling myself that I can get through this, and when I’m in the middle of the days it is doable, but the mornings, the waking up and the getting out of bed, is so hard. I find myself hyperventilating a little, just at the thought of it. I’m fairly certain Mi.Vida thinks I’ve lost my mind.

But being outside, and being with Isa (when she’s not melting down), do good things for me. I’m hoping that, as I move away from this mindfuck of a cycle, as I move toward the next try, as I start my writing classes, as I visit my friends, as I spend time in the sun, as I invest small moments in myself, as I read some good books, as I just slow down and take stock, I will get better. And if I don’t by my birthday, I will take more concrete steps to remedy this situation. I don’t deserve to be this miserable. I deserve to enjoy the life I have, and I will do what I need to do to achieve that.

It’s not about me

Last Friday was Mi.Vida’s self imposed deadline to talk to his boss about getting a more significant raise to accompany his very significant promotion and significantly augmented responsibilities. You may remember that Mi.Vida was given this promotion at the beginning of the calendar year. For almost five months he’s talked about asking for a raise but not actually done it. We’ve established in our counseling sessions that Mi.Vida has (mild) disordered anxiety about confronting his boss for a raise, though when I ask if he wants to see Sara, our counselor (not her real name), by himself, he says he doesn’t need to. From what I understand, Mi.Vida has spent the last five months not asking his boss for a raise for various reasons: he doesn’t think he’ll get one, he wants to leave anyway so he doesn’t see the point, it would be better if his direct boss were there to support him (she was on leave for a while), he’d rather avoid the conflict, he’s anxious about it.

As last week wore on, I had a feeling Mi.Vida wasn’t going to talk to his boss about the raise. At first I felt frustrated and betrayed but as the day loomed closer I realized Mi.Vida’s reluctance to ask for a raise has nothing to do with me. In couples counseling he promised himself, in front of me and Sara, he would talk to his boss, but he never promised me. His failure to do so is not a betrayal of our trust or his love for me, it has everything to do with him and his issues. And with that realization, a deep understanding washed over me: so many of the issues between Mi.Vida and I don’t involve me. They are HIS issues and they have little to do with our relationship. It’s an incredibly freeing realization. It’s also terrifying.

It makes sense that I made all this stuff about me. I mean, it seems, for all intents and purposes that these issues are about me, or us, because they directly affect our family. How much money Mi.Vida makes, how happy he is at his job, the standard of living we hope to achieve, these are all very important to our family as a whole, but they aren’t integral issues to our relationship. They are Mi.Vida’s issues, that he has to figure out for himself. For months I’ve thought that the answers to these questions were wrapped up in me and his feelings for me, but they aren’t. Mi.Vida needs to think about these things for himself.

Why is he not asking his boss for a raise, really? Is the anxiety of the actual moment really paralyzing for him? Is he ambivalent because he doesn’t want to be there? Is he reluctant to ask for more money, or look for a new job (there has been glacial progress on that front for the past year as well) because he doesn’t really want to make more money? What standard of living does Mi.Vida hope to achieve? What sacrifices is he willing to make in his professional life to achieve that standard of living? These are the questions Sara asked him to consider before our next appointment.

In the past I would have believed his answer to any of those questions was a reflection of how he felt about me and our relationship. If he LOVED me he would want what was best for us. If he really wanted to be a part of our family, he would make that work. Of course, in my mind, what was “best” for us and what would make it “work” were what I wanted for our family, or followed the compromises I was willing to make. But Mi.Vida’s answers to those questions are about who he is fundamentally as a person. It’s not about me. At least, the actual answers are. The only thing that concerns me is the steps he wants to make after he’s figured out the answers.

Mi.Vida has a lot of soul searching to do to figure out what he wants in life. Right now he is paralyzed, by a belief that there is no job out there that could provide him the money he needs to support his family AND the fulfillment he hopes to achieve personally. Basically he thinks he can be happy making not enough money or miserable making too much but that there is nothing in between. I know how he feels, I feel the same way. It’s a hard wall to come up against. But just as my struggles with this issue aren’t, at their core, about him or our relationship, neither are his about me.

This morning I tripped on a box of law books that have been sitting in our hallway for over three years. For THREE YEARS I have asked Mi.Vida to get rid of those stupid law books. Every time I give up and say I’m just going to do it, he swears he’ll do it himself. But then he doesn’t. For the past three years I’ve seen those law books (every time I pass them in our narrow hall) as a reminder of Mi.Vida’s shortcomings, as a reminder of how, even when he knows something is important to me, he still doesn’t follow through. Today I tripped over those law books and started my same internal monologue.

But then I stopped myself. Those law books aren’t about me. I tried to make them about me by asking him over and over to move them, but they aren’t about me. They are about Mi.Vida and what motivates him to follow through and do something. That box of books is never an issue for Mi.Vida, he doesn’t have to move it away from the wall and sweep around and under it once a week. He doesn’t have to find places for all the other crap that doesn’t fit in our house. He hasn’t moved those books not because he doesn’t love me or doesn’t care about me but because he doesn’t care about those books. They are constantly overshadowed by the millions of other things that are more important for him to do.

Mi.Vida and I are different people. I can’t determine what I would do in a situation and then use that same expectation to judge why he is or isn’t doing something in the way I would do it. And I can’t see all his decisions as a reflection on how he feels about me. That is not an accurate representation of things.

Our counselor (who I swear is pregnant and not telling us, and it’s really starting to make me mad) is going to be gone for two weeks. After that we’re supposed to get together again, the three of us, and see where we are. Then we both need some individual sessions and hopefully, by the end of the summer, we’ll have a general direction mapped out. And while there is a part of me that feels incredible frustration that it’s taking us so long to get wherever we are going, another part of me is grateful we’re at least trying. Hopefully, some day, this will all be resolved and the effort we’re spending now will feel so worth it.

But the trudging through of it is hard. And I’m tired. And I can’t wrap my head around the fact that we seem to have made so little progress while also coming so far. The whole thing feels like a constant contradiction.

Missing my meds

I want to preface this post by saying this is a sensitive subject. I welcome your thoughts and advice but not your judgement. Please be gentle.

This week has been hard for me, and not just because Wednesday decided to up and take a shit all over my life. No, there is something much deeper conspiring against me this week. Namely, I stopped taking my meds.

I’ve been on and off medication for depression, anxiety and, most recently, ADD, for the better part of my adult life. I can definitely live without medication–there are times I’ve even thrived without medication–but eventually I always seem to go back, usually for depression and anxiety.

I started taking medication for ADD in my late twenties. I had finally been off my depression meds for an extended period of time but was still having a really hard time managing my life. I had been teaching for about three years and struggled greatly with a lot of aspects of my job. I was feeling overwhelmed and incapable and it was making me intensely unhappy. My therapist was actually the one who recommended I look more closely at my self-diagnosis of ADD and had me talk to my psychiatrist about whether I might actually have it and what I could do about it. After much deliberation (I was very hesitant to go on medication to manage my ADD as I’d functioned, albeit poorly, with it my whole life) I decided to try something my sister had found helpful. The truth is I never could have imagine how much it would change my life.

The meds did help with my ADD, and for that I am grateful. A friend recently asked what it’s like when I’m not on my meds. It’s kind of hard to explain but basically I live my life waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m constantly worried that I’m forgetting something of primary importance, that I’m not at an appointment I’ve scheduled or that I’ve left something I need at home. I’m CONSTANTLY checking my purse for my wallet or my pocket for my phone. I spend every moment nervous that I’ve lost something or forgotten something or that I’m just messing something up somehow. I feel this way because a lot of the time I am fucking shit up, big time.

Maybe a better way to describe it is like this. When I’m driving the affects are amplified. I constantly worry that I’m breaking the law somehow. When the light turns green I don’t go unless someone else goes, because I’m worried I’m looking at the wrong light or just not paying attention enough to know when to go. I’m constantly assuming I’m going to get in an accident because I’ll be too distracted to notice something I should just see. That is what driving is like–it’s terrifying. And it’s kind of what the rest of my life feels like.

So yeah, it’s nice not to feel that way all the time. It’s nice to know that I’m at a stop sign when I’m at a stop sign and a traffic light when I’m at a traffic light and not worrying that I might be confusing the two somehow.

My meds help me with that feeling of being out of control, but they also do something else, something even more significant. My ADD medication cured me of my eating issues, which had plagued me my entire life.

Basically my ADD medication suppresses my appetite. When I take it I don’t get very hungry. I still eat well, I still want to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner. But I NEVER think about food when I’m not hungry and I ALWAYS feel satiated after a reasonable serving of food. My medication keeps me from wanting to snack and prevents me from overeating. When I take my ADD medication I a very healthy relationship with food. I eat what I want, when I want it. I never feel deprived and I never think about food. It’s incredible. After a decade of struggling with food, my weight and body image, my ADD medication handed me my life back. No one thing has so singlehandedly improved my quality of life.

The thing is, it also makes me feel like a fraud. I will admit, there have been times I’ve contemplated going off my medication because I feel my life is stress-free enough that I could manage without it, but I haven’t gone off it soley because I LOVE my relationship with food when I’m on it. I love how it makes me feel. And I don’t want to stop taking it.

I can’t tell you the arguments I’ve had with myself about this. On the one hand I don’t believe in taking medication just because. I have never taken an anti-depression or anti-anxiety medication without first thoroughly researching the positives and negatives, understanding the side effects and feeling very clear that it is necessary for my overall health. On the other hand I believe in living medication-free whenever possible. I believe as a country we are overmedicated and I don’t want to participate in that culture of “fixing with prescriptions.” I KNOW I can manage without my ADD medication. I also know it radically improves the quality of my life.

Of course I have to stop when I’m trying to get pregnant, when I am pregnant and when I’m breastfeeding. Last time, after taking it for almost two years, I was off it for two and half. As soon as I was completely done breastfeeding Isa at eight months, I asked to go back on.

Interestingly, I don’t remember food being a big issue when I was trying to get pregnant, and I actually lost weight while we were trying. I’m pretty sure that had to do with the fact that I was on a strict TCM diet and was cutting out most processed foods, including grains. When people don’t eat bread and pasta they generally keep the weight off. Of course, when I was pregnant I gained 50 pounds. I wonder if that was because I was finally allowed to eat whatever I wanted and I didn’t have my meds to keep my appetite in check. At the time I thought it was Zoloft but I don’t really know.

Now I’m back off my meds. It’s been a hard week, not just because I’m hungry ALL THE TIME (that goes away after a few weeks) but also because I’m easily distracted and feeling generally on edge. I’m also asking myself all sorts of questions about what my long term plan is going to be vis-a-vis my medication. I can’t take it forever. And if I don’t, I need to reexamine my relationship with food, a relationship that has been so unhealthy as to make me contemplate suicide.

In the meantime I can distract myself from thoughts of food with my preoccupation with getting pregnant. It’s a short term solution, but I’ll take it.

Trying to Conceive When You Already Have

Yesterday I had my first TTC-related panic attack. At least the first one in a while. It came out of nowhere, I don’t remember even thinking about TTC before it happened but suddenly I was drenched in a cold sweat, absolutely sure that our attempts to have another baby would be fraught with struggle and loss. I felt sure I wouldn’t buckle under the weight of whatever was in store.

When I relayed all this to Mi.Vida later that night, during our 10 minute check in, he held me close and assured me that we’d be okay, that we are strong, that we can get through anything.

And besides, we have Isa, as if that were that.

It’s true. We do have Isa. And while I can tell having her means something different for him than it does for me, I wonder how she will change things this time around. What will it be like to try to conceive when I already have. Will it be easier? Harder? Less nerve wracking? More difficult to manage? The truth is I’m not sure, at this point, on the eve of our TTC start date, I can only guess.

In some ways I reckon it will be a better, more positive experience. I want that very much and am going to put a huge amount of effort into assuring that I handle things more positively. Our first attempt at TTC was wrought with anxiety and conflict; it exacted a considerable amount of damage on our relationship, damage we’re just now repairing. Much of the negativity surrounding our first TTC experience originated with me and I intend to do everything I can to approach this situation differently.

I can already feel that some things are different. There is no longer that wild, untamed dread roiling inside me, I am no longer paralyzed by the fear that I will never be a mother. That fear, harbored my entire life, grew exponentially in the years leading up to our attempt at TTC until it became an uncontrollable force, frantic and furious, unyielding, wrecking devastation on my mental health and my relationship. There are few things I’m more ashamed of than the ways in which I let that fear overtake me. I was wholly consumed and what was left of me was only a shell of who I really was, of the woman my partner loved.

That fear is gone and, as you can imagine, the effect is remarkable. Surely this experience will be better if only for that. With that wild, uncontainable beast at bay, I have faith I can manage my trepidation and dominate my doubt.

Yes, being a mother will help my cause greatly, as I assume will the actual act of mothering. My previous months TTC were exacerbated by my irascible impatience. I had been ready to start mothering for years and any further delay was more than I could bare. Now I have a daughter on which to dote and I hope that her presence will serve as a distraction, taming my once irrepressible impatience.

I also must admit that having my daughter has taught me that motherhood is not all rainbows and unicorn flatulence. And while I can’t accurately fathom how challenging caring for two children will be, I’m aware of the fact that it will be exponentially harder than I’m expecting it to be. Reminding myself of the ordeals we are sure to face with two children will probably do as much to temper my impatience as my daughter will be.

Yes, I believe for me, this experience will be different from the first. The fact that I was able to handle pushing our TTC date back by six months without totally losing my mind (as I would have done the first time around) is a testament to how things have changed. With my desperation subjugated and my impatience muted, I hope to weather the storm of TTC with considerably more style and grace. In fact, I hope not to look on it as inclement weather at all.

Of course, not all the pressure is gone. While I am unequivocally a mother, I don’t consider my family complete. I want very much to have two children and I’ll admit there is an age gap I consider desirable. Even if I succeed in evicting these qualifiers from my mind, I will see them all around me. Almost every child that Isa teeters up to at the playground will have a waddling mother in tow. I will be reading of other bloggers completing their families in much the way I hope mine will be completed. Despite my best efforts comparisons will be made, months will be counted, and panic will begin to creep in.

Honestly, the months of timed sex and BBT charts stacking themselves up indefinitely isn’t want sets my teeth on edge – the thing that sends me reeling is contemplating another loss. Because the truth is, losing another pregnancy is something I’m not sure I can handle, at least not with any measure of competency. And if I’m thrown by pregnancy loss into the immeasurable depths of despair, it’s not just my partner that suffers, buy my daughter as well. The idea that I might not be able, or willing, to care for my daughter during a time, or multiple times, of loss, is truly terrifying. And when the fear of TTC comes over me, it’s the fear of loss that is able to sink it’s teeth in and not let go.

Uncertainty is something I strive (and fail) to accept in my life. The first time we were TTC the uncertainty of the outcome overwhelmed me. My entire identity was at stake and not knowing what would happen took me to the brink and I thought many times of just stepping over the edge. Trying to have a second child I feel faced with less uncertainty, but uncertainty all the same. I’m no longer unsure I’ll ever be a mother. I am not as distrustful of my body’s ability to carry and birth a child. But I’m still not sure I will have the second child my heart so desperately craves. The shape and size of my family is yet to be determined. And of course the path I will journey to reach that family is completely unknown. My trepidation is understandable, especially considering the journey of my mother, and those of other women in this community, that I look to as guides. I just have to keep reminding myself that my story has not been written and if I spend my time filling the blank pages with tragedies that haven’t happened, I’m only setting myself up for unnecessary suffering. Life’s filled wth enough hardship already, there is no need to conjure misfortune when it hasn’t happened yet.

So I will wait. And wonder. And hope. And keep taking my B6 vitamins.

Ten minute check-in

Today was couples counseling. Things are good between Mi.Vida and I so we spend couples counseling creating preemptive strategies to deal with issues in the future. One issue that I’m already worried about is my growing anxiety about TTC. I want so badly for this go around to be a positive experience, one not mired in my fears, obsessions and worries. I so want this to be different than the last time.

I was doing pretty well keeping all my crazy shit at bay and then this 21 day cycle showed up and sparked all manner of obsessive anxiety, which I attempted to tame by compulsively researching natural remedies for my short cycles and even shorter luteal phase. I spent most of Friday night researching B6, Vitex and natural progesterone cream. By the time I went to bed my head was spinning and I could barely congratulate myself on not actually ordering any of the products I’d viewed.

One of the symptoms of my anxiety is to worry obsessively over that which I can’t control. TTC and pregnancy are HUGE triggers for me; they are situations over which I have no control despite being deeply invested in the result. The way I combat this is to exert control over the few things I can – by regulating my diet, taking supplements, getting exercise and charting my temps. But I don’t want to do those things this time. I don’t want to let TTC take over my life. That is why I don’t want to write about it much here and why I don’t want to bring it up constantly with Mi.Vida. Not only does it make him miserable but it fans the flames of my anxiety instead of squelch them.

Mi.Vida and I talked about this today in counseling. He was actually thoughtful enough to bring it up first, mentioning that he realized I was feeling stressed but that I wasn’t bringing it up with him. He also assured me that he wanted to be there for me, no matter what. I appreciated that so much, but also explained that I wanted to be more positive and hoped to find a way to bring up TTC only in productive ways.

With our counselor’s guidance we agreed that every day we’d check in about TTC related things for ten minutes. Before I bring up my issues I will make it clear if I’m looking for support or advice. I will then spend ten minutes, and only ten minutes, going over whatever is on my mind. In this way we can tackle these issues together without them overwhelming our relationship. It will also help me to reign in my wildly obsessive thoughts and hone in on or two concerns that are most important. Hopefully it will focus my thoughts more productively.

Our first check-in is in a couple of minutes. We’ll see how it goes.

Two losses

A lot could be said about this weekend – about what transpired between Mi.Vida and I, both in and out of couples counseling. Part of me wants to get it all out there, but a much bigger part of me is so beaten down and tired, I just don’t think I can. Instead I’ll just explain where I am, at the end of all of it.

Actually, first I should explain where we are, as a couple. It’s been decided, with the guidance of our counselor S, that in one to two years, if we feel we’re more stable both financially and as a couple, we’ll talk about trying to have another baby. This means Isa will be 4-5 years old when her sibling is born, if we’re lucky enough to conceive again quickly and carry a second baby to term.

For the first part of the weekend, before that plan was described out loud but when I sense we were headed there, what I felt was disappointment – sheer and utter disappointment. And I felt like a failure. Having a family has always been my number one aspiration. I never cared much what job I’d have – I literally picked the one I thought was most compatible with motherhood – and I had no grand expectations of where I’d call home some day. The only thing I cared about, ever, was having a family. And it turns out, I suck at that. For some reason we are no good at having a family. For some reason we struggle against it so completely that the idea of having another child is scarier than it is amazing. For some reason we’ve had to pay someone to help us figure out that we literally cannot do it. Do you know how that feels? To know the one thing you’ve always wanted, the only thing you’ve always wanted, is within your grasp and yet unattainable? That you’ve somehow failed at the only thing you ever really wanted to do? I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s utterly and completely devastating.

I am mourning the very essence of a dream I had. I’m mourning a life in which I motherhood is something that brings me unbridled joy and happiness. I’m mourning the experience of parenthood bringing us closer together instead of driving us farther apart. I’m saying goodbye to any hope that this would feel good and right and easy. Because obviously it’s not any of those things, not for us.

I thought this was what made me so upset about the decisions we made this weekend, but later I realized there was something else I felt I’d lost. Something equally as upsetting. As I tried to wrap my mind around trying again not in one and half months as we’d planned, but in one to two years, I became despondent. This feelings was more than just letting go of the size and shape of the family I’d always hoped to have, this was much more profound.

My first attempt at TTC was a complete and utter cluster fuck. I spent over a year wanting to get started with it but finding myself in a partnership that wasn’t there yet. By the time we were “ready” I was a nervous wreck. That entire year was fueled by anxiety and fear. Worry that I’d never carry a healthy pregnancy. Fear that my child would die before I’d ever get to hold her. My year of trying was largely a negative experience and my pregnancy was marred by intense anxiety. How I handled both situations is one of the great regrets of my life.

Thinking ahead to TTC #2 I felt so hopeful. Starting when we were going to, I felt no pressure to get pregnant quickly and the thought of losses didn’t feel so overwhelming. We had time, we’d probably achieve a healthy pregnancy again, it was going to be different. Having carried a healthy baby to term gave me so much more confidence in my body than I had before. My story was no longer just my mother’s, now it was mine as well, and my story contained happiness and joy. There was no reason to believe it wouldn’t have those things again. This time we were going to do it right. This time we were going to do it without costly treatments and timed and charted sex. This time was going to make up for the mess I made last time. It felt so positive for me, for us. This time was going to bring us closer together, was going to overwrite the mess I made last time, was going to heal us somehow.

Now all of that is gone. If we wait 1-2 years I’ll be in the exact same place I was before, anxious to get started and fearful of what might happen. Every month that we don’t get pregnant will be agony. The possibility of loss will loom, ever present, in my mind. The fact that I’ll quickly be reaching “advanced maternal age” will be sitting, restless, in the background. Everything positive I hoped to experience with the conception, and pregnancy, of my second child has been lost. The thing I most looked forward to in life, carrying a child, will again be an anxiety ridden experience. This is the loss I’m mourning. This is the loss that makes me heart ache in ways I can’t explain.

But I know I don’t have to explain it. I know you all know how much all this hurts. I know I was one of the lucky ones to even have the chance at a positive TTC experience. I know this. And for some reason it makes it all the harder to let it go. Like I’m letting you all down some how. Just like I have by squandering my chance to have a happy family that rejoices in parenthood.

Basically, I’ve just fucked everything up. And I’m so profoundly sorry.