Knowing Each Other’s Heart

If there were any one thing I regret as a blogger, it is that by the time I sit down to convey what happens during our couples counseling sessions, I’m just too emotionally drained to do a decent job. I think it is valuable to record them here, both for myself and for those who may not have the resources available to see a counselor themselves, so I muddle through, but I never feel I’m doing them justice. I’m sorry if these posts aren’t very insightful or well written, but I do think it’s important to put them out there, despite their shortcomings.

Last week our appointment mainly dealt with the fallout of our missed month of TTC. We also got some homework to do for this week’s appointment (usually we don’t go every week but this month’s schedule was weird). The homework mainly had to do with our reasons for having another child. We were both supposed to list our fears and reasons for wanting another baby.

Mi.Vida went first, relaying his fears. Interestingly (to me) Mi.Vida’s biggest fears center around TTC. He’s worried it’s going to be difficult for me again and that–as he’s already stretched so thin–he won’t have enough support to give me when I’m floundering. He also worries that prescribed sex will make him resentful. He fears the whole ordeal will be as brutal and heart wrenching as it was the first time. I don’t blame him for his concerns. They are all very valid and understandable, especially given what we went through the first time. I wasn’t surprised to hear his fears but it was still powerful to acknowledge them. I hope I can remember them as we move forward and do whatever I can to make this a positive experience for him.

My fears were more based in the challenges of TTC, possible loss, pregnancy and infancy all while managing a toddler. Basically I’m worried about how I’ll navigate all the difficulties of trying to conceive, dealing with a loss (if we have one), the exhaustion, nausea and discomfort of a pregnancy and then the sleep deprivation and hormonal swings (not to mention breastfeeding struggles) of the newborn months, all with an energetic toddler in tow. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to manage it all, especially not while I’m working full time. It just seems like too much. And after watching our relationship crumble under the weight of one child, I’m terrified of what two will do to us. I worry for Mi.Vida’s happiness and my own sanity.

Next we presented the reasons why we do want to have another child. Mi.Vida’s were all expressed with heartfelt sincerity and I appreciated them very much. He mentioned how much he loves being a father, how he appreciates the challenges of parenthood even if they sometimes feel overwhelming; while he misses the lazy carefree existence of life without kids he also values all he accomplishes as a father. He says he loves the connection he has with Isa and looks forward to nurturing a similarly fulfilling relationship with another child. He also says, for all its nuanced complexities, that parenthood has brought us closer together and he wants to build our family knowing that we, as a couple, will grow too.

I have to admit, every single one of Mi.Vida’s reasons for having another child surprised me and not just because they were so thoughtful and well articulated. I didn’t realize how much he valued fatherhood and its challenges. I didn’t realize how much joy he took in his relationship with our daughter. I didn’t know much he really, truly loved his new role as dad. And I definitely didn’t recognize his belief that we have become stronger through all of this. Hearing his reasons was a eyeopening indeed.

In the wake of Mi.Vida’s reasons for wanting another child, mine felt incredible pragmatic. I want Isa to have a sibling, and I hope they will be close as my sister and I were. I want to have another child, experience the connection I have Isa with someone else. I want to know what it’s like to love someone else like I love her, to have that bond with two people instead of just one. I want to experience pregnancy and child birth again (well, really just those precious hours after childbirth would be fine). I also hope to learn more about myself by parenting another child; the lessons Isa teaches me are more relevant and profound than any others I’ve ever learned. I also want to see who we, together, can bring into the world. I know we are so lucky to be able to have biological children–a mixture of the two of us–and I want to meet another person that is borne of our love and commitment to each other, almost more so since it’s become so hard won.

Sharing our pro and con lists for having another child was a powerful exercise. I think for the first time we really understand where the other person is coming from. I hope that knowing each other’s hearts will help us moving forward, that we will be able to show each other more empathy and compassion, that we will be able to give each other more support. I also hope it will aid us having more faith in ourselves as a couple, in believing we can do this, despite the struggles we’ll surely face.

The unbridled joy of a truly open heart

I was really tired today. I almost didn’t go to yoga. I thought of a whole slew of reasons why I might not go, gave myself tons of possible excuses for bowing out.

When I got home from work I cleaned up the kitchen and then tried to take a nap. I might have gotten twenty minutes, I’m not sure. I was still so exhausted and wasn’t sure if I wanted to go but Wednesday nights are yoga nights and I felt the routine of it seeping in. I signed up online for class. I told Mi.Vida to be home by 6pm. I started putting on my clothes while Isa took a bath and before I knew it I was walking to class.


Yoga tonight was great. The pace of the class was prefect for me. I felt strong even though I was obviously challenged. I remember thinking multiple times that I was so glad I had come.

And then we did savasana.

That’s when it happened.

During savasana, or the final resting pose, I had what can only be described as a transcendental experience. I was lying there, focusing on my breath, when an intense feeling of joy and gratitude overcame me. The only way I can describe it is to say that my heart felt truly open, fully and completely so. I suddenly saw everything in my life and was overwhelmed by the bounty of it, by all that I had, by the limitless love I had the great honor of sharing with others. Everything in my life seemed absolutely perfect, just as it was, my family, my daughter, my partner, my parents, my job, my apartment – things I generally complain about seemed faultless, utterly perfect. My apartment wasn’t small or moldy or cramped or messy but warm, inviting, bright and safe. I literally could not conjure one negative thought about it.

As I sat longer and longer with this open heart, and realized it wasn’t vanishing as quickly as it came, I started testing other people and things that I was generally disgruntled about. The woman at my work whose political views chaff and who got pregnant on the first month trying, both times and who gets to had free child care from her in laws for the last five years, the one I can’t really stand? When I thought about her all I felt was love and an intense desire for her continued happiness. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced. It was like she was a different person in my eyes.

This experience couldn’t have lasted more than five minutes but I feel like it transformed my life. To know that opening my heart in that way is possible, and to know how good it feels, has changed me. I came home and immediately sat down to write about it because I never want to forget how incredible this experience was or how momentous it seemed to be. I need to remember that a path towards that kind of awareness, either via yoga or mindfulness meditation or something else, is a path worth journeying.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Thoughtful Thursdays: The feminine engine that could

Our relationship has a dynamic. All relationships do, I guess. Our dynamic has stayed pretty consistent over the almost six years we’ve been together. It is multifaceted and not easily described. Perhaps its impossible to catalogue with words, and that’s okay. I only hope to touch on one aspect that seems to define us more glaringly than the rest.

I’m a Type A personality. I have always been a planner. I create goals in my mind and I work toward and, generally, achieve them. I need to be proactive. Even when I was TTC and the final outcome was 99% out of my control, I clung to what little influence I did have, following a TCM diet, going to acupuncture, taking Chinese herbs, practicing yoga, abstaining from caffeine and alcohol completely and downing insane amounts of supplements. When I’m not sure about something I research it. I read self-help books and follow their advice. I read parenting books and practice their strategies. I am a get-‘er-done kind of girl.

My partner is less that way. At least, in some areas of his life he is less that way. Despite being a Type B-Z personality (what other personality qualifying letters are there besides A?) he managed get into a very competitive top University of California only to then be accepted at a well respected New York law school. After passing the bar he was offered a job with a large firm and did very well for himself there. He even followed through on the popularly conceived but rarely carried out plan of staying to pay off his high-interest student loans before finding a more socially conscious position in the non-profit sector. And if that weren’t enough, he co-founded an organization (now in it’s sixth year) that champions indie music through a popular website. So yeah, he is an incredibly motivated, intelligent and capable individual.

That is why I’m always surprised that I seem to be the sole engine driving our family unit forward.

To be fair I’m the engine driving our family towards the life I had envisioned for myself. That life happens to be the one our culture deems acceptable – idyllic even – so it would be easy for me to argue that I’m pushing us in the “right” direction. The reality is I respect other possible directions as well, including the direction Mi.Vida originally thought his life would take – one without kids. I just knew, in my heart of hearts, that a life without kids would not work for me so I pushed us towards one with kids.

I say I pushed us towards a certain life but sometimes I feel like I dragged Mi.Vida there against his will. Sometimes I feel guilty when things are challenging for us, like it’s my fault that we’re struggling in our new roles as parents because I forced these roles on us. Of course my partner is an adult and he made all the decisions that led us to parenthood along with me (or so my therapist assures me) but he also made those decisions because I wanted this life. If it weren’t for me, we definitely wouldn’t have a daughter and he wouldn’t be struggling to maintain his identity and nurture his passions. If it weren’t for me, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

To be honest, if it weren’t for me I don’t even know if we’d be living together. Probably we would, but I can’t be sure. I doubt we would have talked about marriage if I hadn’t started hinting at it and sans my scheming we probably wouldn’t have become domestic partner in our city (we chose a symbolic domestic partnership in San Francisco when gay marriage was deemed unconstitutional in California; we did not feel comfortable entering into what had become a discriminatory institution). I feel like every major step we’ve taken as a couple has been initiated, planned for and followed through by yours truly.

I wonder if this particular dynamic, that of the woman driving the relationships to each milestone (moving in, marriage, children) is common. While I’m sure that some men think about marriage and kids before their partners do, most women I know report a similar lack of initiative on their man’s part, at least at the outset. In fact, it seems the general difference between men lies in the degree of enthusiasm they eventually muster as they prepare to take the plunge.

I have to admit, I’m left wondering why that is. Why do men seem so content to just let their relationships drift on the current of life? Why do they so frequently lack initiative when it comes to securing their relationships and building their families? Since its inception, men have primarily driven the course of human history; they’ve proven they can get things done. Why are they so uninspired to do so on the home front?

I know I’m making broad claims and sweeping generalizations here and I recognize that I’m speaking with only a certain subset of women in mind. Certainly many women have no desire to achieve the goals of marriage or children (I know this well as my sister is one of them) and I’m not trying to ignore them here. My point is not so much that women steer relationships, it’s that men generally don’t take up the reins. And I’m the first to admit I’ve done NO RESEARCH to support my thesis. Still, I’d venture to guess that most women reading this are nodding their head at least a little, recognizing pieces of their own dynamic in this narrative.

Now I turn to you, dear reader. Are you, in fact, nodding your head with varying degrees of vigor or are you shaking it vehemently, poised to put me in my place? Do you think it is generally a feminine engine that drives relationships? Or are they powered, and steered, by both partners equally? Do you think there is something inherent in the female psyche that pushes some of us to achieve the milestones our society has come to expect? Or is it a more complicated combination of traditional women’s roles and cultural assumptions?

Confessional Fridays: There is no cure-all

As you may have guessed my partner and I have been confronting some difficult financial realities of late. Our professional fulfillment and personal happiness are deeply entrenched in these financial uncertainties. Recently we have embarked on myriad troublesome and labyrinthine conversations and unlike in the past, we tend to walk away feeling more hopeless than when we began.

When were TTC and even the year before, when I was impatiently waiting for Mi.Vida to be “ready,” I was sure that once we had a baby everything would be different. I was convinced that this “different” meant better, infinitely so. I would feel whole. I would be “fully realized” (thank you for this Sarah) as the mother I was always meant to be.

When we suffered our loss I lingered in a very dark place. That summer was spent in great physical and emotional turmoil as my body contended with the havoc wreaked by methotrexate and my heart tried to grapple with a cavernous emptiness and complete absence of hope. There were times during those months when I thought we wouldn’t get through it, that even if I managed to survive our relationship wouldn’t.

Then I got pregnant and miraculously stayed that way. I thought that if my daughter were born healthy all would be right in the world. I would finally be fully realized and ultimately fulfilled. I would have arrived, happy and whole, at the doorstep of my life.

Well, she was born healthy and I was happy. In fact I was elated; my joy was immense and unencumbered. I had arrived at my life and it was wonderful. My daughter really was the cure-all I had assumed she would be.

Now, a year later, I realize it’s not that simple. While my daughter’s presence does bring me unbridled joy I recognize she’s not the cure-all I had once imagined. She did help me fully realize myself at the core of my being but her healing powers do not extend to all facets of my life. Her happy, healthy presence is not, in and of itself, enough to nurture my relationship. It can’t afford me, or my partner, professional fulfillment. She can’t deem obsolete the financial expectations or obligations that threatened to crush us. She cannot be the glue holding our lives, and our relationship, together.

Of course if she were sick or, God forbid no longer with us, I would feel differently. Of course then she would be the glue and her absence would cause everything to crumble. But she is not sick and we have no reason to believe she won’t be with us for a long time (and I refuse to live my life always assuming that she might suddenly be gone from it) and so I have to take stock in what I feel to be true in this time and place – that right now, we are not happy. Right now, her simple presence is not enough to make everything alright. That having had her, and being made the mother of a living child, did not infuse my life with simplistic perfection.

I don’t know if, for saying this, I should be demonized as the worst kind of mother or admonished for my naiveté. Are my readers thinking, of course she should be enough? If she were mine she’d be enough. Or are they shaking their heads with the hint of a smile on their lips wondering, how could she think a child would fix things? They sit atop relationship’s foundation, testing its stability. They don’t strengthen the infrastructure, making it more sound.

The truth is we thought it would be easier. We thought we could make it work. We didn’t anticipate these challenges. We didn’t foresee the financial realities. We failed to forecast the urgent current of our dreams or the devastating consequences of their apparent impossibility. We weren’t honest with ourselves about how much we would want and how little we’d be able to have. We miscalculated and now we’re paying dearly for it.

This didn’t happen because we had our daughter. This happened in spite of it. We thought, I thought, that once she was here all the rest of it would fall away. All the troublesome “other” would be rendered inconsequential by her mere existence. She was everything, any obstacle would whither in her awesome presence. But they don’t and they won’t and we’re left grasping for answers when none seem acceptable.

Does this paint me as ungrateful? It must. I don’t suppose my insistence that I’m not would convince you otherwise. I will however assure you that I’m not, in any way, ungrateful. Naive, possibly ignorant, but not ungrateful. My daughter is my heart beating outside of my body. She is the sunshine of my soul. I am only confessing that even in the presence of her sunshine there are shadows. Her light cannot render innocuous all hardship, though it’s attempts to do so are impressive.

We will get through this. I have faith in that. We will prevail but we may do so at great cost to ourselves and our relationship. While I think we will come out on the other side I don’t suspect we will do so unscathed or stronger. This journey will take its toll and I can only hope that the scarring is not so extensive as to deliver us unrecognizable to the next chapter of our lives.

Confessional Fridays: The State of my House (and Life)

I know most bloggers are doing a big end of the year post today. Maybe I should be too, but I can’t seem to think of anything clever to say. Besides, today is Confessional Fridays, and I’ve decided that I want Confessional Fridays to be as real as they can be. I want to be embarrassed by what I post here. I want to make sure that what happens here is brutally honest. So today, I will talk about, using words and pictures, the state of my house. This will easily segue into a discussion on the state of my life. I might even find a way to tie it all up into a nice, good-bye 2010, hello new year, post.

My house is a wreck right now. AN. ABSOLUTE. WRECK. We came home from our vacation to a clean, orderly apartment and in less than 24 hours we had thoroughly destroyed it. Some of this was (is) unpacking clutter. Some can be attributed to holiday loot that has not yet found a home. But most of it is just the sad state of my home. I am a messy, messy person and my house reflects that. Usually I can keep things manageable, but right now they are anything but.

My life seems to be paralleling the state of my house. I don’t know if the messiness of my house reflects the craziness of my life, or if my life feels inherently crazy when there is no sane space to come home to. Maybe it’s both. But right now they both feel a little overwhelming. I also feel too lazy to deal with either.

Now, this would not be a true Confessional Fridays post without a me really taking responsibility for the disaster that is my livings space. So here goes. Here is actual photo documentation of what I’ve allowed my house to become (sorry the first set of shots are so yellow, Hipstamatic put some weird lens on that I didn’t know about and I was too lazy to go around and take the shots again).

This is the playroom portion of the playroom/office. As you can see the Linking Letters have not been put away and books are strewn all about. A common occurrence in these parts.

The office portion of the playroom/office. At least it’s my part of the office portion. It’s actually much messier than it looks in the picture. Those are dirty sports bras on the chair (from a power walk I did days ago) and the pile in front of the chair is things my partner cleaned off the kitchen table that I need to put away. I realize the desk didn’t make it into the shot, and I wish it had. My desk is a total disaster.

This poor corner of my kitchen is housing the empty bucket for Isa’s cloth diapers, a Costco sized bag of dirty sheets, a bag of freshly laundered cloth diapers and the two huge pots I bought to strip diapers (that I’ve only used once in two months). There is also a HUGE Nordstrom bag full of recyclables and a stack of boxes that are also destine for the big blue bin downstairs.

Ah the living room. Notice the TV tray with last night’s dinner dishes still on it. I would also like to draw your attention to the myriad junk lying on the floor. That pillow on the couch smells like mildew and I can’t decide if I should just throw it out or try to salvage it. The throw is coming off the glider (put there to protect it from projectile (and any other form of) vomit). One good thing: the two remote controls are still sitting on the couch and have not yet been consumed by the cushions.

The running stroller, effectively blocking the front door and holding us captive in the case of any kind of emergency.

And now the for grand finale.

Now for the really bad stuff.

Now for my bedroom.

(Man, this is so embarrassing.)

I might as well start with worst of it. If you can’t tell what the following photo is depicting, well, that is pretty much how it feels in real life too. You see these many piles when you walk into my room and look left. That bottom drawer houses my nursing apparel and is perpetually open (to be fair, it easily and frequently jams if I close it all the way). Other things found in this shot: two backpacks; the grocery bag I used as a carryon when I came home from St. Louis; a bag of Christmas presents (to me) from the in-laws; a plastic bag with my shoes; my Ugg slippers (LOVE!); Isa’s diaper bag (which is sitting on top of an open suitcase overflowing with clothes); and myriad onsies, bras, underwear and other apparel littering the floor.

Close up on the HUGE piece of luggage I have still not unpacked. Not only have I not unpacked it, but I’ve been piling stuff in it since we got home. I have to win this battle by tomorrow morning, or I miss my chance to return it to my in-laws. I will not miss that chance. Behind the suitcase is the overflowing laundry hamper. I really need to do colors.

While the previous messes do not necessarily represent the status quo, these next shots are of spots that always look as bad as they are being portrayed today. They are perpetually on my list of “things to conquer” but by default they always win, because I’m constantly raising the white flag of surrender. Someday I’ll hit each of these spots with a sneak attack. Some day.

This particular corner includes a box under a hanging clothes organizer. That box contains all manner of socks, bras, the pads to push-up bras (that I take out because my tatas are huge), knee and ankle braces (????), picture frames, lingerie (that hasn’t been worn in over a year), tights, leggings (almost all still in their packaging) and possibly dozens of things I don’t know about. I haven’t actually used anything from that box in at least three years, though I have searched it a handful of times. You’ll also notice the red backpack on the floor. This is full of emergency supplies. I love my father-in-law and I love that he’s thinking of us, but! I’m sure you already noticed that two drawers are slightly ajar – these ones do NOT jam when closed correctly.

This is that same, corner, just panned out some. That is my purse on the floor, which I don’t use regularly any more and so I don’t know what to do with it. I use it when I’m at work, but not when I’m with Isa. I don’t even know what is next to it. I probably wouldn’t know if I went into my room right now and checked.

Ah the top of my dresser. Always reminiscent of a disaster site of some kind. Can you find: Birthday Bear. Four disposable diapers (from our trip). The AT&T bag from my iPhone (purchased over a month ago). The tupperware where we keep quarters (and is ominously empty right now). A UCBerkeley 101 board book. Folded money. My Stop Overshopping Workbook (I really need to dust that off). Empty quarter roll sleeves? A knocked over pictures frame.

There are still one or two more photos I could share but I think you get the point. My house is a total disaster area right now. That is a fact. I have a lot of work to do in the new year.

But I welcome it.

The truth is I would only be writing a post about the mess that is my daily existence today, on the last day of 2010, if I weren’t in a really, really good place in my life right now. I feel like I’ve finally arrived at the person I’ve always wanted to be. Through the decade that was my late teens and early to mid-twenties I went through some very dark times. I battled depression and food/body issues that threatened to cripple me. Throughout those dark days I wrote in many journals and a constant topic in those entries were about how I was meant to be a mother and I’d be much happier when I blossomed into the adult I was to become. Of course, I wrote those entries terrified that I’d never find a partner to share my life with (Mi.Vida was my first real relationship and I met him when I was almost 25). I was also fearful that I’d never get pregnant or get pregnant only to lose my babies, like my mother had so many times. Still, despite my paralyzing fear that I’d never get here, I knew, just knew deep in my heart, that this was the part of my life I was meant to live. This was the part that would inherently make me happy.

And it has.

There are still rough parts. I still struggle with my finances and worry about how we’ll pay all our bills. I still agonize over all the parts of my daughter’s life that I’m missing while I’m at work. I still fret over how to let Mi.Vida know that he is still a huge priority in my life even though his needs are many times pushed to the back of the line, behind cloth diapers, laundry, grading papers, doing dishes and just plain needing to sleep. I don’t want to say that this life is always easy, because it’s not. But I do want to express how grateful I am for everything I have. How fulfilled I feel with the life I lead. How hopeful I am for the future.

I know that every woman who reads my blog is in a different place in their life. Some are cautiously cradling the hope of a fledgling pregnancy, others are optimistically awaiting a child they’ve nourished for many months. Some have just welcomed their child into the world and others have had weeks and months to become acquainted. Some are embracing the miracle of adoption and still others are embarking on fresh cycles, hoping that a new protocol will bring them what they want, what they need. And some are just hoping against hope that 2011 will be their year, even though they don’t yet know what it will bring them. I also know that some women, too many women, are carrying new grief, and that the new year seems more difficult than they can comprehend.

Please know that I hold each and every one of you close to my heart and I hope with every fiber of my being that this new year makes all of your wishes come true, even if right now that feels impossible.

Happy New Year.


Today Mi.Vida sent me the following email. He’s still sick and I’ve been picking up the slack for two weeks now, while finishing my grad school project and returning to work. Needless to say, I’ve been a bit harried and I think he could tell I needed a little propping up. Still, I never expected this amazing, incredibly thoughtful note.

Thank you.

For everything that you do for our family.

For being tireless and unfailing despite the million things you have to do.

For working to better yourself, your job, and your family.

For caring so much and encouraging me to be the best that I can.

For being understanding.

For your patience.

For your sense of humor.

For your tolerance.

For giving me an amazing, wonderful daughter who I love with all of my heart.

For being you.