Monday, July 17, 2017

The novella explaining why my URL has changed

Greetings world! For the vast majority of the 5 of you reading this, you haven't read anything I've written in a long while, because Emily's blog mysteriously disappeared from the internet for a while, and you've only just now been redirected to this sort-of-new-spot.  What gives, right?

Well, let me tell you about the perfect concatenation of contretemps; the blows that knocked me down and from which I did not get back up again with any haste.  

Like many, many of you, I ended 2016 on a low.  I kind of wished I could toss most of the year in the rubbish bin like so many wadded up pieces and paper and declare a do-over.  I was not in the most irrepressible state of being.  Then it was revealed to me that there was an error with my account with the company through which i had purchased my domain, and due to the nature of the error, I never received any email notifications about the problem.  My account was locked and blocked and the only way I could (ever) unlock it was to remember a 4 digit pin I had selected almost 8 years ago.  I have learned to safeguard such information much better since then, but there was no retrieving that information from the cryptogram of my mom brain.  Every time we guessed my account got more locked.

So my domains all lapsed.  And I SHOULD have gotten right on top of re-registering them with a new account.  That would have been the reasonable, rational way to handle this problem.  But this was not a reasonable or rational problem for me.  This was all of karma conspiring to swallow my only (and neglected) means of self-expression down a slimy abyss.  It was my voice shrinking to oblivion. `This hit at the end of a many-month dry spell of tightening our belts, and at the beginning of the quagmire of antepartum/antenatal depression.  There was nothing reasonable or rational about this problem in the hormonal lady's brain.

And so "resolve domain issue" sat on my to-do lists for months, looming larger and meaner and darker and heavier all the time.  Until I finally began to peak through the fog and start to think goal-oriented thoughts again.  So I started bugging my tech-saviest little brother to come hold my hand, because I knew I would deflate at the first difficulty if I were on my own.  For him, no big deal.

We finally got our ducks in a row this week, and as I had expected in my pessimistic little prego-heart, two of my 3 domains had been snatched up by people who do that sort of thing, hoping that someone will be desperate enough to get them back that they can be extorted.  As of right now, I am not feeling THAT determined.  So at present, my badly neglected domains are as follows: is now is now
(after the rhyme)
and, lucky for me, remained available.  

I realize that blows to bits any RSS following I may have ever had, but at least the things I muster the gumption to write are accessible on the internet again.  It's a start. 

So, welcome to the new domain.  I, for one, am terribly relieved to be here. I've been writing while I've been offline - so for those who want to catch up.  It's all here. 

Friday, July 07, 2017

let me unpack my baggage.

The inertia of antepartum/antenatal depression has sat deep with me for a long time now.  Come the birth of this baby in November/December, I will have lived with it for 54 months - over 4 1/2 solid years of my life.  As with any other kind of depression, it's impossible to adequately explain to someone who hasn't dealt with a swift and inexplicable identity warp.  Suddenly I'm not myself.  I become this whole other person, who is certainly less likable from the inside and must be reproachable from the outside.  My malaise and my self loathing feed each other ravenously, and I slink further and further inside my exhausted discontent, and look forward to delivery, and to feeling human again.

Years ago Stephmodo talked about how she lost friends during pregnancies, and I feel like this is a good way to frame the fact that I haven't been able to maintain friendships through mine.  I feel like such a worthless leech, that it's easier to just disappear.  Unfortunately this has the effect of shrinking one's support system when one most needs it and is thus super self-defeating.  Lesson learned, but challenge not overcome.  I am one of the more isolated and lonely adults I know. (For at least a dozen reasons).  For every time a desperate prayer for help or companionship is answered, there are hundreds of times they go unanswered.  Me and my bootstraps, we are intimate.

I don't know how to describe what it feels like to be so sick and drained that the effort it takes to care and intervene on matters that matter becomes too much.  You know how the world stops when you get a severe stomach bug?  And when you start to function a few days later there are pieces to pick up?  The world can't stop for 8-10 months at a time, especially with kids to parent.  So you drag your sorry behind through the muck of hours and weeks, mostly stumbling through it and stopping at the bare minimum bar to gulp for air and regroup and try to get your heart rate down and stop seeing stars.  The discouragement that comes from being such a shell of one's self breeds rabid and dogged self-loathing.  I am old and dog-eared enough to be a proponent of being kind to one's self, but I have not managed to clear this hurdle. There are very real consequences to such subpar parenting, housekeeping, and wife-ing, and I live with them and I see them and I hate them.

So it is, that other than the "break" I gave myself after Bunny was born to complete my Masters program, I have next to nothing to show for myself for the last 11+ years of my life.  I have yo-yoed between living in this perma-slump and doing damage control from it, and have not managed much of a momentum forward.

The point of all this being, I cannot go on gestating indefinitely. This really needed to be the last time.  My older children need some memories of a functional mother. And some better parenting, before they take flight. Wanting and needing to be done is not just me not wanting to do it again, or not enjoying hard things.  This is weighing the needs of all of our family members and finding that there's a limit to how much incapacitated mom everyone else can survive.

Plus prioritizing self-care, and treating myself like an actual human (one worth loving) seems like a good idea if I want to survive the coming teenage years.

But now I'm stuck without the closure I hoped for if I take that leap and close this chapter.  How many more baby boys would I have to have to get to a bookending girl?  If the largest concern was a peer for Bunny, how far apart in age would they end up anyway (defeating that purpose).  I can't help feeling (though is it just sour grapes?) that if God didn't want Vera to have a sister this time, he must not want her to have one at all (which decimates me) and I could try to the ends of the earth to birth one, but I would only bankrupt and alienate my family.

The best thing I can do is accept and adjust and roll. Not there yet, but headed that direction.

All while hopped up on hormones and nausea and anemic malaise.  Can't fail, that.  Bootstraps, bootstraps, bootstraps.

In which I discover that gender disappointment is diagnosable and has a name

When we found out Squishy (the Duke) was a boy, I was totally thrown by how gutted I was.  The (distinct) impression I was basing my life on since 2009 was one of 4 boys and 2 girls.  Still outnumbered, but still a mother of girls.  It felt like a compromise and I shook mental/spiritual hands with it and moved forward.

It meant about 4 more pregnancies than I really wanted to live through, but I learned after Sir O was born that it was possible to feel like it was worth it, once it was over.  And at the point I got pregnant with Squishy (the Duke) (pregnancy #5) I had 3 boys and 1 girl, so if I was 'expecting' one more of each, it didn't much matter which, right?  Only every time you have more of one gender/sex, your actual statistical odds of having more of that gender/sex increase.  So to find out I was having a boy then meant the chance of that last girl coming got slimmer.  So I struggled. I floundered, I surprised myself at how unnerved I was.

(I will interrupt myself here to aside that I am fully aware that being capable of birthing healthy children is a blessing.  Like really, really, really, shamefully aware.  It's a thought that beats me up about every 5 minutes of my life like a playground bully and threatens to punch me in the face every time I have a less-than-grateful feeling (over which I have really very little control.) Like so many things in life, it is possible to live with seemingly contradictory truths here.  Cognitive dissonance is my permanent roommate.  For life.  Get comfy with it. I cannot find a way around it.)

I have been saying since before this pregnancy that it REALLY needs to be my last one.  As much as I've become a pro at rolling with punches and lowering the bar, the bar is at rock bottom.  For the sake of my older children, I really need to be able to step up and parent more whole-heartedly.  Which is nigh unto impossible to do when one is mired in the pseudo-food-poisoning knockout known as the first half of my pregnancies, or the depressed and anemic quagmire known as the second half of my pregnancies.  Despite my apparent fertility, I am not a seamless baby making machine.  Every pregnancy kills me a little, in the very most literal sense. By my estimation it takes me 2 years postpartum to recover fully, which means I have recovered fully all of 1 time in the midst of 6 pregnancies.  My body and my mind are quite literally worn out, and to keep doing this would without a doubt shorten my lifespan significantly, to say nothing of the implications for my quality of life.

SO it has been, and has felt like a very real, very valid and valuable sacrifice on my behalf to try to live up to that 6 child impression from 8 years ago.  I felt like I was expressing my faith by cooperating with it when it was so hard for me.

Today ultrasound # 6 showed boy #5.  Not only that, but the ultrasound tech said, "that's a boy all day long..." just to let me know that there was not an iota of room for doubt.

Remembering how the rug had been pulled out from under me last time, I had been trying to prepare for this possibility for months.  I had never once allowed myself a verbal expression of a hope for a girl.  Despite the dozens of inquiries about my preference (because what else do you talk about with a sick pregnant lady?) I had firmly stuck to my "you can't have a baby because you want a boy or a girl, you have to just want a baby" mantra.

But the truth of the matter is that the moment Squishy was revealed to be a boy, the words that popped into my head were "well, I guess the girl will have to come next."  As hard as that day was (and it was hard, and I cried then too), there was still an open, if unlikely door.

Today, as hard as I tried to avoid repeating that struggle, the door appears to have actually closed.  And it's totally eclipsed the struggle I had last time.  This time, it actually feels like someone died.

Do you have any idea how much shame lies inherent in feeling like you've miscarried when you're actually carrying a perfectly healthy baby?  To be swallowed by these huge and awful and unexpected feelings and to be shocked and horrified by them?  The compounding, complex awful emotions that swallow you whole, and you rock violently from one to the other?

So today has been a relentless ride on waves and undertows of sorrow.

That daughter, that I hoped would give me the peace of mind that my journey through rough pregnancies was an acceptable and complete offering to God, is gone.  She doesn't exist.

That impression of my completed family, on which I based my willingness to go through the most excruciating months (accumulating to years) of my life, is shattered, is false.

My faith in God is stout enough that I'm not totally thrown overboard, but I'm shaken.  This is the 3rd such experience in 4 years that has left me totally upended regarding my relationship to and interpretation of divine influence in my life.  Today I totally get the idolic interpretations of deity as capricious characters willing to play cruel games with men and women's lives.  (Looking at you, Aries) In the thick of it, as things are happening that just can't be made to not hurt, it's the only easy way to make sense of the pain.  God has betrayed me, made a fool of me, let me make a fool of myself.  I know all those feelings will sort out over time, and that it's even possible that I'll arrive at a place where having only one daughter will make sense to me.  You know, before I die.  But today I'm not banking on it.

So today, as I quickly realized that Mr Renn is good for many things, but he's not much good for emotions so complicated that you can't even talk about them out loud because you cry so hard, I found through the wonder of the internet, that I am not the first person to ride in this horrid boat.  It's so common that it has a name and is considered a consistent and relatively common factor in postpartum and antenatal depression.  Gender disappointment is common enough to be shortened to an acronym: GD.

Unfortunately for me, the majority of discussions around it revolve around parents of only a single gender (i.e. mothers of all boys) and don't address the huge heaviness I feel about my failure to give Bunny a sister.

I know it was pinning all my hopes on the agency of others, but I had hoped to give all of my children, through siblings close enough in age, a support system of people who'd be going through similar stages of life through adolescence, adulthood, and hopefully to sustain them once I'm gone someday.  While Bunny can still have a great relationship with her brothers, they will experience life and the world differently than she will.  While I have hope that the world will continue to treat women better in her lifetime, there will be a difference.  She may have stellar relationships with sisters-in-law someday, but she may not.  She will not have a sister who will have shared the quirky family background and know her from the ground up.  It's something I would have given blood and guts to have provided for her.  And I tried.  But it's not happening.  It's a huge, heavy thing to grieve.  She may be fine, this may not be something that even matters to her.  But I've been lonely for a sister my entire life.  ( I got a sister when I was 13, we lived in the same household less than 5 years, and we've never yet been in similar stages of life, so we'll see if we get closer as we age).  Having someone to reach out to who was already permanently invested in me would have made a world of difference in my life thus far, and I'm not charismatic enough to have filled that void with friends or mentors. So this is a grief I feel for Bunny's future that is far heavier than my own personal disappointment in not getting to have a group of girls to do girly things with.  (Though that's real too.)

So yes, there's this nonexistent girl who's lived in my head for 8 years, who was going to signify so many things for me.  My girls were going to take care of each other.  My family was going to feel peacefully complete.  I was going to get to have "girls" and amidst the ferality of our wild boy house, we were going to put on plays and have high tea and wear aprons and watch foreign films .  Poof.  Gone.

So yeah, nobody died, but it's a grief like someone did.

It's not like there's nothing to salvage here.  I have to start the really painful process of peeling off charred skin and evaluating the carnage beneath to evaluate what can be saved.  What's actually not necessarily incompatible with my real life?  Where can I graft?

I tried to look up ways to enjoy being a mother of boys, and I didn't get the kind of answers I was hoping for.  The advice this kind of search gets you is to find the beauty in their wild, forgiving, fiercely alive ways.  And I've been playing that game for years now.  I've got to figure out which of my "girls" daydreams can be transplanted into my real life where there's a "strong-willed girl surrounded by a grundle of boys with wildly different temperaments".  There can still be baking, and if I can get my health and stamina under me, there could still be plays (probably with more gore), and I can share Hedgehog in the Fog with all of them.  It will just take more work than I was planning on.  And I will have to learn to go with the flow of their personalities and interests, which is a fact of parenting regardless of boys or girls.

I have never properly bonded with any of my babies before birth, and sometimes even then it's taken a day or two.  The ultrasound has always helped though, to make them seem more human to me.  I was alarmed when that didn't happen today.  This boy baby didn't feel any more a person for having seen him and his parts move.  I'm attributing that to the ultrasound tech showing and announcing his boy-ness before even sharing his profile with me.  I had to put up my "I'm totally cool with this" guard right off the bat, which stifled my vulnerability and bonding mojo.

The other clincher is the weird, societal anathema of being pestered to make a public announcement of some sort of "gender reveal."  This would have been easy if it'd been a girl.  Tada!  Our family is complete and makes sense and everyone is excited and happy and aren't we cute?  Pop a confetti-filled balloon and call it a day.

But this is my real life and nothing in my real life lends itself to being cute or making sense.

So instead I have confused children who thankfully didn't take it too hard, but aren't the least bit excited, and a self/pregnant lady whose hormones aren't helping her out as she hasn't been able to talk without weeping bitterly for 16 hours now.  And Mr Renn, trying to manage us all and trying to minimize my ocean of emotions into a single palatable sentence so he doesn't have to think about it too long, and wishing to God that his wife could just function again because he's so tired of living that second shift that every working mother knows but never gets to chuck.   We are not the stuff of viral instagram feeds.

And here I am (it's 3 am now), sitting forlorn at the bottom of the barrel, hoping that when the sun comes up tomorrow I am able to function better than today (despite not sleeping) and that I can find some bootstraps.

I am absolutely certain that I will get over this, but I'm also certain that it will take me some time.  This is why we did this today.  I knew that I would need time to adjust, and the kids would need time to adjust and that we needed to get that adjusting out of the way before there was an actual baby in our faces.  This because I locked myself in the bathroom and cried for hours when my 3rd brother in a row was born (when I was 8) and I didn't want my kids having that experience on what I hope is a very happy day for our family.

Anyway, where is the value in writing this all down and posting it in a public-ish place?  Well #1: I need to be work things out in my own head and #2: It would have been valuable for me to find a post like this today.  I found a few that helped a bit, but felt like most of what I found excluded the possibility of a mother who already had children of each sex/gender experiencing this intense whiplashing ride. And most people who mentioned religion/God at all seemed oblivious to the possibility of feeling a little abandoned by/peeved at Him.

Thankfully my best preparation for today was reading (and almost finishing) ReReading Job years ago, wherein I discovered that A) extolling the patience of Job totally misses the point and that B) God would rather have my honest messy struggle than my pious martyrdom.  So I'm comfortable talking to God about how I honestly feel today.  I have trust that those feelings aren't permanent.  I feel comfortable being honest that I felt them.  My identity isn't every emotion I experience.  I can recognize them, try to honor and learn from them, and then let them go.

I am not a horrible person or a bad mother because I am dealing with grief today.  I have lots to be thankful for and I know it and I know that will be the long shot take away from this stage in my life.  But at this apogee, we have grief to deal with and expectations to adjust and that takes time and work.  We will do the work and the time will pass and I will outlast pregnancy and life will take on color and buoyancy again.  I will adore my untamed children and I will find renewed energy for teaching them how to stay fully alive in a world that expects manners and conformity.  I will feed and teach and cloth them and read to them and pray for them.

And God will laugh, as He does.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Deeper Dog Days

Last Pregnant Summer
Last Pregnant Summer
Last Pregnant Summer

I am bored to tears of my own broken records, but it's been rough.  My kids who have historically gotten along pretty well have become prone to teasing and bickering, and there are just no breaks for the tired pregnant lady.  So far this summer everyone's home all the time, minus two weeks of swimming lessons, which gave some structure, but not much that I could call "breaks."

I did break down and buy a $30 inflatable pool, which has been good for giving kids something to do, but has not done a thing to reduce the fighting.

I'm sure I'm not done evolving, but I am so much more able to let life roll like water off a duck's back than I would have been 5-10 years ago.

This morning the baby (who got pseudonynm-ed the Duke, but I call him Squishy in real life), pooped in the tub, and I just sang a song about how it's not an emergency if it doesn't require an ER visit while I cleaned it up.  It's extra work, it's exhausting, but there's no resources in me to turn it into drama.

Anemia and low blood pressure are back with a vengeance.  I get short of breath and dizzy just standing up.

So, in that state of "I can't think of anything more unpleasant than trying to find clothes that won't hurt to wear and spending my energy getting into them," I indulged in some long-term planning in my pajamas this morning.  It was a really rough, loosely shaped 7-8 year plan.  But I'm giddy about it.

Because if I can make it to the other, more human, side of a last pregnancy, I can go on being human and having ambitions and goals without ever being T-boned by a pregnancy again.  6 pregnancies have pretty well decimated the last 12 years of my life, as far as personal goals, dreams, and ambitions go.  I do not manage to have them, let alone foster them, while pregnant.  So, is that worth it?  Well, I wouldn't ever change anything to un-have any of my kids.  I absolutely would make different choices to re-prioritize my education and goals way back in the days of being a newlywed though.  If, for example, I had insisted on prioritizing my own goals as a newlywed, I could have completed a masters degree instead of working a soul-sucking desk job for 2.5 years.  That would have left me eligible to apply for a PhD program while Renn was in Dental school.  For most of that we would have had one 1 kid, which is hard, but consider that now I'm having to manage 6 kids if I go back for a doctorate.  Doesn't compare.

It was dumb, fear-based decision making that led to 4 of the roughest years of my life, holed up in a cave of an apartment trying desperately not to atrophy beyond recognition.  Treating myself as nearly less-than-human and waiting for things to happen to me in order to start living.  Top that off with the skeletal and shrinking support system we had as a family at that time, and it was just unnecessarily rough. I would never advocate for anyone to replicate my path.

But, hey - I can still control/influence the future.  So sometimes I explore options and their timelines instead of adequately supervising my zoo.  It gives me just enough buoyancy to feel a flicker of hope and resiliency.  22-ish weeks to go.

Friday, June 02, 2017

corner turning

I'm trying to buffer unhealthy amounts of hours of internet consumption with a sliver of internet creation.  I know there is something healing and cathartic about creating that we can never get from consuming what others have created, so small and meager and haphazard as it may be, I am trying to come to this shell of a space and hammer something out.

I keep pushing myself too hard and then crashing.  It's really hard not to, "too hard" is still miles below my normal productivity threshold.  But all it takes is one afternoon of cleaning, or one rough night's sleep, or one harried morning trying to get everyone dressed and out the door to be somewhere, and I am knocked horizontal in a hurry.  I'm so over it.

After this week, there are two weeks of June promising to be rather intense.  I worry about how I will manage my energy through it.  The kids start swimming lessons, Vera has rehearsals for her ballet recital, all the accoutrements of Art City Days (and deciding what matters enough to the kids to make outings worth it), and the Hidden Garden Tour and Parade of Homes both start.  (These would be the obvious things to drop, but I look forward to them all year.)

I'm trying to feel some energy about something/anything in my house, but interior projects are on hold (unless you count installing and painting trim in the basement, which project Mr Renn has taken 100% ownership of and I am only a spectator.)  All current house funds are being channelled into both a new heater/AC unit and replacing out rotting back deck (and hopefully covering the enormous hill of dirt in the back yard that makes keeping a clean house im.poss.i.ble.)  While one of these projects is slightly more fun than the other, neither one is poised to involve me much.

There are things I'd like to tackle, most of which would involve squeezing spare hundreds of dollars out of a tight budget and massively inconveniencing my family.  We've been brainstorming a makeover for the kids' bathroom, and can't decide how extensive to make it.  The whole massive open-concept living area/entry needs a paint job like 3 years ago, and every time I look at my giant orange oak kitchen I can't believe I still haven't found a way to make it less orangey.

Living in a house that devours all our spare funds and rarely manages to reward us back with something visible, it's frustrating.  I'd love to make loads of progress and have had the house looking like a new person within a year of moving in... but I have to be kind to myself.  Instead I've finished grad school and a thesis, had 1 baby, had a rough postpartum year, and then started a new baby.  I have got, at some point, to come to terms with how debilitated I am by pregnancy and learn how to be completely ok with accomplishing nearly nothing during the 4+ trimesters of it.  I have a lot of kids, so that's a good chunk of my marriage accounted for with nothingness. Someday I'll be human again.

Even ambitious again.

Even a move and a shaker again.

It could happen.
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