Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New life & Lost lives

Four years ago my grandfather asked me when I was going to give him a great-grandchild. I told him babies weren't on my bucket-list. When he pressed me to settle down and have children (You're 40 now!) I told him I'd raised two sisters, two step sisters, and two parents--that I was done. We'd had that same exchange on a few previous occasions, but this time he nodded to himself. He seemed to accept what I was saying. I don't know that I was his favorite grandchild, but I was his first grandchild.  I think that I was the only one of his grand-daughters who stayed in touch, and he always seemed to blame himself for my determination to be an "old maid."

He's been gone three years now, and I think he'd be so thrilled to know that I'm settled-down with a good man and that I'm having a baby. I miss him, and I'm sad my son will never know his great-grandfather, a man I loved and respected and was privileged to care for in the final days of his fight with cancer.

My sister Tammy died 4 years ago. She always wanted a family. She married young and bought a house with a white picket fence and then learned that she couldn't have kids. Like me, she was diagnosed with PCOS. The loss of that dream of living happily ever after changed her. She lived "family life" vicariously through our other sister and her children, but it wasn't enough. In her last days she was very sad that she'd never had a child. It seemed to be her one real regret. I think if she'd had a child she would have fought harder to live. I wish she was here to share the miracle of this pregnancy with. I think she would have loved being an Auntie again. And I'm sure she would have driven me just as nuts as she did our sister Terri, with all of her opinions about how to raise our children.

My uncle Jan would be thrilled, too. We had a special connection, Jan and me, and know he'd be happy, too. He'd probably be pressing me to get married, but that's ok. He learned to respect my life-style choices even as he considered me a sinner. It's hard to believe he's been gone for 15 months already. The time has just flown by.

So much of my family has passed away.  So many loved ones that I wish I could introduce my son to when he arrives. I feel sad about that, but try not to let it settle too deeply on me. That last thing I want to do is plunge into some sort of depression that will be difficult to shake.

A new life is entering the world soon. There is no replacing the ones who have passed away before him, but I'll tell him stories about Big Jan and Grandpa Hank and Auntie Tam and he'll know them in his own way. That's the beauty of language and memory. We're immortal as long as we're remembered.

Monday, March 26, 2012


I hobbled through life for many years as an emotional cripple. I loved with everything I was capable of, and sometimes it was enough. And sometimes it was not. But in those days, it was the best I could do. And in those days, I was aware of my emotional disability, and I was grateful that I could not have children.

In my early 30's everything changed. I wanted to grow. I wanted to become more fully me. I just didn't know how. Well, that isn't quite right. I knew that in order to effect meaningful change in my life, I needed to develop new, adult coping mechanisms. I just didn't know how to do that. I looked to the people in my life to learn how and made a very poor choice, landing myself in a same-sex relationship with a friend-turned-lover that was both physically and emotionally abusive.

And within months for embarking on that relationship, people I loved started dying. Four people in two years: my grandmother, my mother, my mother-figure, and a good friend. I went from an emotional cripple to an emotional quadraplegic. I couldn't cope. I understood the grieving process intellectually, but didn't know how to walk the path. Paralyzed, I huddled in on myself for a couple of years waiting for something, anything to change. And then it did. The woman I was involved with finally realized what I'd known after 6 months into our relationship, and broke things off.

Within two months I was in therapy. Something in me found the resolve to seek professional help. I wanted to understand myself, understand why I'd chosen an abusive relationship with a woman when I'd never tolerated anything of the sort from a man. And I wanted those adult coping mechanisms, damnit!

Therapy was the hardest thing I've ever done. It was 18 months of shoveling shit out of the barn in my head. Many times I wanted to quit, but I didn't, because I knew that if I stopped, I'd never start up again. It was just that painful.

But oh so worth it.

When I went in to my first appointment I told my therapist that I wanted help developing new coping mechanisms for today and tomorrow, and that I didn't want to revisit things deep in the past. I was very adamant about that. I was also very wrong.

In order to develop adult coping mechanisms, I needed to recognize the genesis of the ones that weren't working for me. And in order to determine why I'd chosen to remain in an abusive relationship with a woman, I needed to understand my relationship with my mother and how it shaped me, emotionally.

For years I'd blamed my being an emotional cripple on my father, a Viet Nam Vet whom I'd never liked even as a toddler, and who was physically, mentally and emotionally abusive all through my childhood. And while, certainly, his style of "fathering" was damaging, it was my mother's "mothering" skills, or lack thereof, which shaped my emotional landscape.

My mother was adopted. It's something she never got over, that very fundamental abandonment, and the onotological angst (Who am I? Why am I?) haunted her. She was herself an emotional cripple. She wanted closeness but feared it. She pulled with one hand and pushed with the other. She married to get away from her evangelical parents, and children were an accidental by-product of that choice. She didn't want children, and she didn't want motherhood. She hated keeping house and by the time I was five I was doing dishes and laundry, dressing my younger sisters, changing diapers, etc. I feared her temper. I kicked her once and she told me if I did it again, she'd break my leg. I believed her. She actually chased after me with a bullwhip once. When I was injured, I was afraid to go to her for care, because she was so impersonal and rough. But she had a wonderful voice and she told good stories and sometimes she was warm and loving. My best memories are of her playing with my hair.

She and my father fought, often violently, and after really bad fights one of them would disappear for a few days. But one day -- one day she went away and didn't come back.

And that was what crippled me.

See, children don't understand the world, but as children, we do try, and we make the best sense of it we can. In the absence of explanations that make sense to us, we connect the dots and come to our own conclusions. We make up our own meanings, our own stories, and we live inside them.

From a child's perspective, a mother is someone who loves you always, no matter what, and will always be there. From a child's perspective, when Mommy leaves you, it's because there is something wrong with you. When my mother left, my sisters and I made it mean that we were unlovable and unworthy -- that there was something wrong with us, something so wrong that even Mommy couldn't stand to be our mother. We internalized it and forgot the story we'd made up. We lived it.

And I took up the mantle of mothering. I thought that it was my fault that my sisters didn't have a mother anymore, so I took it on, as best I could. As best as any nine-year-old could. My father re-married and I took on my step-sisters, too, since their mother, like my father, was all too eager to offload parenting responsibilities so they could go play.

I became an enabler, a rescuer, a fixer. I became controlling and manipulative.  I craved peace and harmony, and to my young eyes, the familiar, the status quo, was the closest I could come to that.  I developed skills and coping mechanisms designed to perpetuate those conditions. It was a comfortable, if miserable existence. In therapy, I learned to call it what it was, neurosis. Jung said that neurosis is "the suffering of the soul which has not discovered its meaning" and that pretty much says it all.

So in the course of therapy, I discovered the story I'd made up about the little girl who was unworthy of her mother's love, and I learned to comfort my inner child and nurture her (instead of everyone else). I let go of my strangle-hold on my old ways of being and opened up to learning new tools and ways of being. I worked out my mommy-issues and my daddy-issues and took ownership of my life, my relationships, my emotions, thoughts, and attitudes. I fully inhabit me.

I'm emotionally and psychologically adult now. I am capable of loving and being loved without building barriers to protect myself from fears of loss and abandonment. I've buried three more family members in as many years and come through those experiences feeling enriched, and at times, transformed.

My biggest challenge so far has been dealing with my youngest sister, whose mental illness and refusal to accept the help and care she needs had challenged the limits of my ability to cope. Today she's in an institutional setting, the enforced structure of which seems to be giving her the basis she needs to examine and rebuild her life.

I'm facing a new challenge soon, the challenge of mothering my son, and I feel confident that I am up to it.  Finally, at 44, I think I'm grown-up enough to be a good parent, to raise a child without fear of perpetuating the emotional and psychological issues that have plagued my family. And what a tremendous feeling it is!

Friday, March 23, 2012


A good night's sleep has become elusive. I'm up every couple of hours, lately with breast pain. There's nothing quite like waking up to the sound of your own moans. Even with my pain tolerance it's difficult to deal with, so I'm taking a couple of Tylenol most nights.

I'm starting to feel a bit anxious about breastfeeding -- and hoping the pain doesn't get much worse. I've had one hysterical-crying jag over terrible nipple pain and it really freaked M out. Poor dear. Even when I was in horrible pain from the infection and septicemia and the 8inch incision that had to close without stitches, I didn't express as much pain. Could be that septic experience "broke" my pain threshold, or could be that I'm just in that much pain. It's subjective, so what matters is -- it hurts!

The baby is getting bigger and he's a wiggle-worm.  Last night M finally got to feel him moving around. Most of the time when M touches my belly the baby stops moving, but not this time. Maybe it's getting crowded in there?

Bigger baby means more internal pressure, which means I wake up more often with a need to shift positions. Which isn't easy anymore. Rolling over involves abdominal muscles that I just don't have the usual control over, so once I've rolled onto my back I feel like a turtle on it's back, trying to turn over. I'm considering trying rolling onto my belly/hands-and-knees and then laying on my other side from that position. Or maybe getting out of bed and then laying back down on the desired side. The nice thing about having a bed to myself is I can do that without disturbing anyone.

Being low on sleep makes me a bit cranky, and more than a little scattered. Combine that with all the hormonal pregnancy-brain stuff and I'm hardly recognizing myself these days. I can't seem to stay on top of commitments and appointments and whatnot. I've even called-off M's birthday party this weekend because I'm so tired that the thought of entertaining a large group of people for a few hours makes me want to cry.

But aside from the sleep deficit (which I'm sure I'll be getting used to once the baby comes) and the tender breasts, I'm feeling good. I'm learning to respect the limits of my body, so no more of those charlie-horse type cramps from over-exerting. I think that all the dietary supplements I'm taking are really helping support my health -- I haven't been sick in ages. Even the knee pain I experienced earlier in the pregnancy is gone, thankfully.

Eight more weeks. I can do eight more weeks of this. I think ;)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

5 reasons why we shouldn't pass legislation to protect people from sinning

These are the top 5 reasons I can think of as to why we should not pass legislation to protect people from sinning:

1) What is "sin" is subjective.  Depending on your religious or cultural background, one person's sin is another person's divine mandate. When trying to legislate against what one group considers a sin, it is very likely that you're interfering with another person's religious and/or civil liberties.
2) People who believe something is a sin still commit those sins. Some say it is a matter of degrees -- of whether something is a mortal, moral, priestly, venial or civil sin -- that determines whether they choose to "sin" or not. When you introduce shades of gray and give yourself permission to determine for yourself what sins you will and will not commit, it is hypocritical to then enforce your interpretations on others.

3) It makes for Big Brother Government. Laws that regulate what people can and cannot do with their bodies because it is "sinful" effectively puts the Government in your homes, your bedrooms, your doctor's office, lawyer's office, and in some cases, in your daughter's / wife's / mother's vagina.  It gives government the power to take subjective grey areas and render them into black-and-white absolutes. It gives the government the authority to interfere with your civil liberties under the grounds of "protecting you from yourself."

4) In what ways is all this anti-sin / anti-sexual / anti-woman legislation put forward by Evangelicals any different from the Taliban and Sharia law? I understand that the Evangelicals and the Taliban are trying to preserve their beliefs and ways of life -- but they're doing so at the cost of women's control over their own lives, bodies, mental health, etc.

5) If God gave Mankind the power to choose to sin or not to sin, who are we to interfere with God's Will?  According to Scripture, God knew that Adam and Eve would misuse their power to choose. Yet God chose to give them that power, creating them "sufficient to have stood, though free to fall." If God is the ultimate authority, then why are Evangelicals undermining that authority by trying to strip others of their God-given right to self-determination?

Years ago, in my High School Civics class, my instructor said something that has stuck with me: "The best measure of a law is the possible abuse of that law." He went on to explain that people propose laws with the best intentions in mind, but rarely consider the possible undesirable outcomes when those laws are used in unintended ways.  

It is with that in mind that I opposed the Patriot Act and the expansion and renewal of that Act. Privacy and civil liberties have been eroded in order to save us from "terrorism." It is also with that in mind that I oppose all of the legislation out there that erodes women's rights to self-determination under the auspices of saving them from the "sin" of abortion.

The trans-vaginal ultrasound bills that have been circulated and passed and the Legislator's "just close your eyes" response fails to address the invasiveness of the ultrasound wand. A woman can't "just close her legs" when a technician tries to put the wand up her vagina -- not if she wants an abortion, anyway.  We're giving government the authority to force women to submit to procedures they don't want under the auspices of preventing her from committing the "sin" of abortion.  Not so long ago government had the authority to sterilize the mentally retarded and people in mental institutions because people thought it was wrong for them to reproduce and because they didn't want to deal with the reality of the sexual abuse that went on in those institutions which the pregnancies were evidence of. In just the same way, elements of our society are trying to prevent abortions from occurring while refusing to address the ugly societal realities of why women are wanting abortions in the first place.

And this legislation that gives doctors immunity from lawsuits if they lie to women about medical conditions that might result in a woman choosing to terminate the pregnancy sets a dangerous precedent. What next?  It's ok for a doctor to lie to a patient's family if it prevents them following through with Grandma's medical directive to pull the plug on life support? It's ok for lawyers to lie to clients about the instructions in a living will or medical directive they just drafted regarding life support? 

This is a slippery slope we really don't want to go down.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mid-march: 10 weeks left, max.

It's been a busy March so far.

All the the work we planned to do to the exterior of the house has been accelerated from "sometime this summer" to "before the baby comes."

The landscapers completed the re-sod of the front yard and they planted two of the three flowering cherry trees for us. It looks spectacular, and was completed just in time for this week's downpour.

The update to the small strip alongside the driveway where we keep the garbage bins is almost complete. It's been a DIY project to remove the bark mulch and soil and replace it with pavers and pond pebbles. I gave myself a couple of charlie-horse level cramps in my low abdomen from hauling the .5 cubic foot bags of rocks around, thus putting an end to most of my lifting -- which is why the project isn't completely done yet. I took some bamboo fencing and built a frame around it (I love power tools), put it on wheels, and now we have a movable screen to camouflage the garbage bins. I just need to paint the frame white once it stops raining and the wood dries.

I also have some hosta, ferns, and astilbe to plant in the beds out front, but with 4 days of non-stop rain, I've not gotten around to it yet.

Meanwhile, the plum tree is almost done blooming, the peach tree has the most amazing pink-flamingo flowers, and two of the three flowering cherries are in bloom. The fuzzy, thumb-sized wisteria buds have become beautiful purple flower clusters, and the Impatiens sodenii (Poor Man's Rhododendron--what a stupid name for a gorgeous plant) that I dug up and divided two weeks ago is incredibly happy with the new locations. M and I also dug up and divided a whole bank of Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus) into about 100 plants. We used a half-dozen on our property, planted another 15 or so on the parking strips in the neighborhood, gave some away to neighbors, and let the landscaper (who looked longingly at the divisions) have the rest. They are such beautiful, zero-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants.

One of my cats has been sick for a week, a pet-food allergy I think, and I accidentally gave him the wrong kind of anti-histamine, which resulted in a very expensive over-night stay at the animal hospital a few blocks away.

I've had my follow-up ultrasound for the baby -- he's right on target size-wise for his age, thankfully, so my working to keep my weight down (just 4# gained so far!) isn't affecting his growth.

I've also done 24 hour urine collection for toxemia testing. I'm doing the kick counts now that I'm past the 28 week mark, and in a month I'll start doing the daily pee-on-a-stick test for toxemia. The last blood sugar test for gestational diabetes was great, but I'm due for a new one, as well as some blood-work. I'll probably get that done Monday.

Moving around is a lot less graceful, and I wasn't terribly graceful to begin with. I'm not quite ponderous, but getting there. Just rolling from one side to another in bed often results in little pains and moans. I can feel pulling sensations deep inside me as muscles stretch and ligaments loosen. For the most part my hair, nails, and skin are great, except where my skin is doing weird things. My breasts are filling in, and though they are hurting less right now, my nipples still seem to catch fire at random moments day and night. Standing, I cannot see my toes anymore. When I start feeling especially thwarted or limited, I just remind myself I've got 10 weeks left.

Tomorrow is St Patrick's day, and then a week later we'll have a birthday party for M. His father is coming to visit for a couple of weeks and hopefully the rain will let up so the two of them can tackle some of the outdoor projects that need to be done in the back yard area.

April is going to be busy with getting things ready for the baby inside the house. We've started getting baby gifts already, which is awesome! Baby shower in April, as well as most of the classes to prep me for childbirth and nursing. Oh, and we're looking at buying an investment (rental) property before the baby comes, so things probably will be intense right up to the moment the baby comes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Adding Omega-3's to my prenatal supplement regime

So I'm taking prenatal vitamins, and extra folic acid, vitamin D, and calcium -- everything my nutritionist recommended. This week, after doing some reading, I've added DHA & EPA Omega-3 fatty acid tablets.

Dr. Sears from our baby book says: "DHA is the most important brain-building nutrient at all ages, especially during pregnancy and the pre-school years when the child's brain is growing the fastest."

Right now our son's brain is developing rapidly and I'd like to give him all the advantages I can. DHA supplements are being recommended for women during Third Trimester and breastfeeding. Studies show that children of women who took supplements during third trimester and breastfeeding have IQs 10 points higher than control subjects, have better attention spans, etc. It also seems that taking DHA helps reduce postpartum depression.

It is difficult to get DHA via dietary means when I'm pregnant and breastfeeding because the best sources of DHA (Omega-3 fatty acids) are oily fishes and organ meats -- things most women avoid during pregnancy because of the bio-accumulation of toxins like mercury and PCBs in the big fish and animal organs. I've all but eliminated tuna from my diet, and while I still have salmon and cod on occasion, it's not enough.

I used to take fish oil capsules a few years ago, but I found the fishy aftertaste and the fish-burps unbearable. And with supplements made from fish oil, I'm still concerned about toxins. Fortunately, I found an alternative: DHA from the same place that fish get it. Algae.

I'll keep taking it for the next 6 months or so.