We have been frequenting our local dive coffee shop since we moved into our house six years ago. We’ve walked there to grab our lattes and bacon, egg and cheeses before we had kids, during both pregnancies and with the little ones in their strollers countless times. It’s got a cool Seattle-like vibe and we feel hip and townie when we go there. This place is delicious, dingy and disgusting all at once. I guess we were due.
My husband, the big girl and I got food poisoning on Sunday night. Fortunately, she got it the least and most thankfully, the little one was spared because she had refused to eat with us there that morning. Our new family taste tester took one bite and spit out the sandwich with an adamant “NO!” The rest of us thought nothing of it and continued to eat the sandwiches not knowing how sick we would be only hours later.
It started at 2am when the big girl came in and said her tummy was “hot” then proceeded to throw up. At this time, my husband got sick too. I figured they had just picked up a virus at swim class that morning (the only place they’d been without me this weekend). Mine didn’t hit until around noon when the big girl was starting to feel better. Luckily, my parents had just returned from their vacation and were able to come over with chicken soup and popsicles and to watch the girls while we slept and got sick for the remainder of the day.
This is only the second time I’ve ever seen my husband come home early from work (yes, he put in a half day even feeling as miserable as he was). While I was lying there, I was thinking about how this discomfort was even worse than any moment of my recovery from either of my surgeries, of late. Instead, I was reminded of how I felt when I was pregnant. During those first trimesters, the morning sickness was overwhelmingly uncomfortable and after yesterday, I don’t know that I can do it again. I’m always trying to find a way to get my husband to understand what those first 16-18 weeks feels like. Usually I go the hangover route, “Think about your worst hangover and then think about it lasting for four months.” We’ve rarely had the chance to go out hard enough to get a hangover since they were born, so that wasn’t really working. I seized this opportunity. “Hey, you know how shitty you feel right now?” “Yeah,” he croaked. “That’s how I felt carrying both of our kids.” “Wow, that really sucks.” Finally, he gets it and that’s all I needed. That moment of empathy, the fact that the baby didn’t get sick at all, that the big girl had a relatively mild case, and that I now weigh what I did on my wedding day are all the silver linings of this unfortunate event. There always seems to be at least one.
I should add contortionist to my resume. You know those hysterical images of desperate parents lying in their child’s crib? You wonder how they get in there and laugh because the child is sprawled out in the tiny space while an adult is curled up around them in an unnatural position. That’s me and it’s already been me three times tonight (and it’s not yet 1am). I’ve been meaning to email the crib manufacturer and let them know they can increase the weight limit on the crib’s fact sheet.
The little one has recently had her fifth ear infection of the season. I’m fairly positive that she’s working on number six right now as it’s been one sleepless night after the next (the latest reason for my crib co-sleeping). She’s been tossing and turning, waking up crying and seemingly in pain all throughout the night. While it scares me to imagine her having surgery, she’s exhibiting the same exact behavior as the big girl did before she got tubes in her ears and her adenoid removed last year. Now, my big one (who had never slept a full night prior to her surgery) is a great sleeper. That procedure made all the difference for her and my husband and I hope it will help the little one, too. We will get the expert opinion next week when she has her consultation with the ENT.
Herein lies my internal conflict, as always, between what’s best for her, what’s best for us, and the unknown. The sceptic in me wonders if the doctor will say she’s in a gray area (as he did with the older one) and advise us to give it a shot, but without saying she definitely needs it. I abhor gray areas. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were only black and white certainties in life? It seems drastic to say, “Sure, doc, let’s try it and put our 20 month old under anesthesia, under the knife, and have her endure the recovery and potential complications just so we can all sleep and so she doesn’t have to take antibiotics every two weeks?” It feels selfish on some level. (Mom-guilt, will you ever just let me be?) I know that she needs her sleep to function and thrive, grow and learn. She’s so smart and has a great temperament even on such little slumber that it’s hard to tell if it’s truly holding her back, behaviorally or developmentally. I know that it’s holding me back though.
I’d like to think that if she started sleeping through the night, that I would be a better Mom. A more energetic, fun, patient person who would be more productive, more interesting, more creative… just more. My husband and I both suffered from frequent ear infections as kids. Our big girl obviously did too. Immature eustacian tubes is a genetic thing (like everything else, it seems). I wish we knew that there would be a nearly 90% chance that the little one would not suffer from ear infections anymore if she has this surgical procedure. That would make it a no-brainer like it was when we got my BRCA1 results. I knew that the double mastectomy was my best bet. Are tubes and an adenoidectomy her best bet? Will they get her off the many antibiotics she’s had to take over and over? Will they ensure her hearing is at an optimal level? Will she sleep through the mother-fucking night for the first time in her life? Is it cloudy outside? Where’s my lucky star? I have a wish to make!
This past weekend was a whirlwind. A break from reality that made me appreciate mine more than I had anticipated. On Friday, I flew to Miami for a bachelorette weekend celebrating one of my oldest friends. First, I overslept. This is almost comical since I get such little sleep to begin with and feel as though I’m up at all hours anyway. I should have known this would happen though, waking up early (and not just in the middle of the night for a crying child) has never been easy for me.
When I told my husband that my flight left at 7am, he said, “So what’s your backup flight?” It takes an hour to drive to the airport. I had set two alarms, each for 4-something. I didn’t hear them, but instead awoke at 5:25am when the friend whose house I was supposed to be at already to carpool with was calling me to say, “Where the fuck are you? I’m leaving!” By 5:35am, I was out the door and driving myself to the airport, having told her I was so sorry and I’d try to meet her on the plane. Luckily at that time of day, there’s no traffic. As I sped into the entrance of the airport, I thought I had made excellent time. So did the cop who pulled me over.
Since I was already feeling anxious about a) probably missing my flight, b) making my 4-month-pregnant friend rush to catch the flight, and c) my fear of flying, it didn’t take much to get the waterworks flowing. As the officer approached my car, I handed him my license with a shaky hand and tears streaming down my cheeks. He took pity on me and let me go. Thank you, officer! I booked it through the airport (mentally thanking my surgeon for the excellent support and feeling awesome that my boobs no longer bounce as I run), skipped ahead at security and made it to the gate. I’m pretty sure I was the very last person allowed on the aircraft, because as I approached the ticket counter at the gate, the attendant greeted me by name handing me my ticket with a roll of the eyes and a sarcastic smile. Fortunately for me, my friend was kind and didn’t read me the riot act that I had been expecting. She was just laughing at the ridiculousness of the trip already and we hadn’t even made it to the male stripper part of the weekend.
A weekend like this could have made me feel one of two ways. I could have gone Thelma and Louise style and after getting the little taste of freedom from my usual life of diapers, bath-times, and bottles, called my husband and said, “I need a few more days… and by days, I mean years. Call me when they get their period.” But for me, it went the total opposite way. Yes, I really enjoyed having a moment to dip in the ocean by myself, have lengthy, uninterrupted conversations with friends, and read something that had nothing to do with a curious monkey or a princess (unless you count Kate Middleton’s pregnancy diet). However, after 48 hours, I wanted my husband and my girls back. It was wonderful to have the chance to get away with my girlfriends, but going to get cupcakes with my girls today was just as much fun!
Like everyone else, I find it hard to move on after tragedy strikes. It took me a long time to write anything here after Newtown. Now the victims of the explosions at the Boston Marathon have been added to the list of people in my heart and thoughts. Aside from my sympathy for the families of those who were taken and for those who are now struggling to overcome injuries sustained or even fighting to survive, I feel scared and angry. Why is this happening again? Why does this happen so often? Is there anything we can do to stop it?
Again, I feel helpless. What can I really do to help on a broader scale? While I often get caught up feeling that I am not making a difference and by being a stay at home Mom, I’m not helping my community, my town, my state, my country; I realize now that that’s not entirely true.
It’s frightening to think that whoever is responsible for this heinous act of terrorism was one day a child. As I reminded my daughters to be nice to one another yesterday (a thousand times a day, it seems), it dawned on me; this is my contribution to the world. Instilling the right values in my kids who will then go on and do the same for their children and so on, this is my job. It is important. It will be effectual. No matter what I accomplish in future careers, this is the most important thing I will ever do.
My mom has always told me, “There are only three things you have to be in life… kind, kind, kind.” This is the number one value I have walked away with and that I will ensure my children live by, as well. It ‘s incredibly simple, but it really isn’t always easy. If they live by this law and practice this with their friends, maybe their friends will want to live by it too. Maybe these kids will spread this kindness around them and there will be less hate and fewer acts of hatred.
Writing in this space offers me the chance to figuratively stand on my soapbox and orate my innermost thoughts, wishes and hopes for myself, my family, and the world around us. This introspection has taught me so much and allowed me to shine a spotlight on every aspect of my life, thinking deeply in a way I have never taken the time to do before. I understand so much more of what my parents were trying to say to us, I’m glad I was secretly listening.
I’ve been in a state of disillusion… for 31 years. I’ve just now realized that I can’t really do everything. I suppose it’s a testament to my parents and the way that they raised us. (I’m fairly certain my siblings feel the same way.) We think we can do anything we set our minds to. We’ve never been told otherwise and we’ve always been encouraged to, at least, try. With that amazing support, I have always thought that I can do it all. Alas, my body is telling me otherwise.
Two weeks post-op, I am now green-lighted to lift a gallon of milk. Yeah, great, my youngest weighs 24 pounds and likes to be held constantly. A gallon of milk is about 8.5 pounds. Big difference. (My big girl who is about 34 pounds has been very understanding is still waiting patiently for me to pick her up.) I figured that this restrictive guideline was really meant for the majority of post-mastectomy reconstruction patients, meaning: not 31 year olds. Aside from my dissected pectoral muscles, I’m really quite strong and somewhat fit. So I shrugged off the warnings and figured that it didn’t really apply to me.
As always, I was half right and half wrong. Yes, I can physically, and safely, pick up the little one. But after a day or so of doing it over and over now, I am so sore. Tylenol definitely helps and while I do not like to complain about it, I still aim to give you the ultimate truths here (whether I like to admit them to myself or not). I am not super-human. (Although, my brother did use that term to describe both of us yesterday, but he was also trying to invest me in whatever he was talking about. Flattery gets you everywhere.) It’s not easy to admit my shortcomings, but as usual, I’m humbled by this process and find the clarity of introspection somewhat freeing. However, I don’t think this new realization will stop me from believing I will be on time somewhere in 10 minutes when it actually takes me 15 to drive there. (I may not be super-human, but I still might have super powers. I just have to set my mind to trying.)
Last night was our first night without the sleepover help of my Mom. I am so relieved that I was able to pick the little one up and get her back to bed in her crib by myself. Just shy of two week’s post-op (which was the original recommendation my doctor gave me for lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk), I am able to lift the 24 pound munchkin without a problem. While I don’t quite feel super-human, I am proud of myself. Yes, I’m sore, but being able to rock and cuddle my little girl (especially while she’s sick… again) is a huge relief.
This morning was also our first morning back to our usual routine, just me and my gals. After my husband went to work, I got us all ready, dressed, and out the door. We were actually early to drop off the big girl at school, which doesn’t even happen on my healthiest, strongest days. My mother-in-law is going to come over later to help me this afternoon and at bedtime. That will be so helpful in easing us into the transition towards independence.
I was kind of terrified to be on our own and wondering how it would go. I have been so lucky that my parents and my mother-in-law have been there for us to help with the girls, the house, the everyday details that were taken for granted before. What would I have done without them? I wish everyone that has to go through something like this has as much love and support as I have had from them. They are truly amazing!!!
I keep feeling guilty about the next surgery. Do I really need lipo and nipples? Is this a truly necessary part of this? Do I have to put myself and my whole family through another one of these things? And so soon?
I have tentatively scheduled this next procedure for the end of next month. One part of me thinks it’s like a band-aid, let’s just rip it off and get it over with already. The other part of me is pretty stoked about having a bikini ready body for the summer. And this is probably why I’m feeling guilty and selfish.
Yes, I want the lipo. I don’t like my saddlebags, I’d much rather relocate them to my upper breast area. While I’m really very happy with how my boobs look even 10 days post-op, there is a significant amount of rippling along the décolletage area of my chest. It’s noticeable and not something that I’m prepared to live with forever. The fat transfer will smooth all of that out and make my boobs look more natural. Not to mention, it will make my thighs look way better, too. And there it is again, every time I think of that fabulous silver lining, I feel guilty.
Certainly a ripply décolletage would not be becoming and if I didn’t have kids, I wouldn’t hesitate to go forth. They seem to be the game-changers in all of my decisions (and most often, for the better). They’ve proved so resilient thus far, hopefully one more surgery won’t be such a big deal for them and for the incredible support system they are (and I am) so lucky to have.
Before I was a Mom, I don’t think I really pushed myself, physically. I have never aspired to be an athlete. I don’t dream of completing a marathon and if I’m being totally honest, I have never dreamed of even running a mile. When we had to do it in phys ed in high school, I walked the mile and was always last. I was totally fine with that.
While I still don’t dream of running… ever, I do feel the need to push myself now. I want to hold my kids. Who knew that that would be over-doing it, physically. I’m not supposed to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for the first two weeks post-op. So I’ve been good and haven’t lifted the girls, but I can’t stop the motherly instincts that make me reach out and catch them when they fall. This happens a lot (or maybe I just flinch a lot, ask my older brothers who used to roll over laughing every time… “made ya flinch!”). These sporadic physical moments make me sore. Not sore enough to need pain meds and not sore enough to stop interacting with them, thank goodness.
I feel mostly back to myself now about 9 days after surgery, just maybe a little more tired than I was before. My surgeon advised me to really “pack ’em in” when I start lifting the little ones again. He has told me to wear a bra with excellent support for at least the next 6 weeks. Day and night, underwire during the day and compression bra at night. None of this is ideal, but it sure as hell beats the alternative. As always, I will heed the warnings, follow directions, and wait until Wednesday to lift the babes.
When the big girl asks me about my “boo-boos”, I’m not quite sure if she’s referring to my breasts or my scars or if they’re now one in the same to her. So far, it hasn’t been a problem to show her inside my shirt. The scars are covered by thin white strips and the clear plastic that keeps them in place. I can shower with them on and tomorrow my surgeon will take them off, unveiling fresh wounds.
I had shielded the girls from my scars directly after my last surgery knowing that the initial gruesome imagery would likely freak them out. Now that they are used to seeing Mommy with lines across her boobs instead of nipples, this won’t be much of a shock. However, seeing an incision just one week post-op is a very different sight to behold. So I plan to exercise modesty once more, at least for a little while.
Last night, while my mother was putting the little one to sleep and after my mother-in-law had bathed the big girl and lifted her out of the tub (what I would do without the support of these amazing women, I have no idea!), the big one asked if I would put her to bed. On our way into her room she asked me, “Mommy, what’s going to happen to your boo-boos?” I replied, “They’re going to heal.” Ten minutes later, after she was dressed in her jammies and in her bed, she looked up at me and said, “Where are your boo-boos going in high-heels?” I think she’s going to be relieved to see my scars again in lieu of the visual she apparently has… of my breasts walking away in high heels. Oh, how I love my little fashionista!
You know that feeling you get when there’s something foreign stuck in you and you just don’t want it there anymore? (No, I’m not referring to your semester abroad). Whether it’s a piece of your dinner stuck in between your teeth, a splinter in your foot, or the child you carried for the last nine months, you just need it out already! That’s how I feel about drains.
After my first surgery, I recounted the awful sensation of having drains ripped from my body. I had four after the double mastectomy. Two pairs that stayed in me for 8 days and 11 days, respectively. This time, I only had two and they came out today (4 days post-op). I won’t soon forget the pain that I felt when those first two sets were removed, so I was incredibly anxious heading into today’s appointment. Anxious, but eager. I wanted them out!
I doped up in preparation, taking a Percocet and a Zofran (to avoid carsickness… I can’t drive for 10 days so my favorite chauffeur, Dad, drove me. Prompt service, door to door, very good rates.). I was even more nervous knowing that my surgeon wasn’t in the office today and that his young nurse would be taking the drains out. As she took the dressings off around the drain sites, I quizzed her on how many times she’d done this. “So, you’ve done a billion of these, right?” “A billion is a lot,” she responded. Touché. I bore down and braced myself for the pain. Amazingly, it did not hurt at all!! I was so relieved. This was not like my previous experiences with birthing drains or children. I cannot wait to sleep drain-free tonight!