Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Home after the Holidays

We traveled nearly 600 miles in 5 days. Traffic was awful for parts of it -- we spent nearly 20 hours in the car. We saw about 50 people -- family, friends, and friends of family. Through it all, Little Man was great. We got a lot of compliments on his disposition. Such a sweet, easy baby. So surprisingly fearless with strangers and pets.  He warmed hearts with his big smiles, laughed at the antics of all the pets, and rarely fussed. He just needed down-time with The Momma once in a while.

M met the rest of my family, namely my step-sisters and their children. We also spent some time with my sister, which was much less tense than it could have been given the hell she put us all through the past couple of years. It looks like, at 40, she's finally getting herself together. He also met my mother's brother, and the rest of Annette's family. Her large Portuguese family :) But then, he's got a large family, himself, and I'll get to meet all of them in a few weeks, so I guess we're even.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Road to Truly Happy

I've known M a long time. Since 1998. He came to my attention because he's a brilliant puzzle-solver, and he was the first to solve a quest in an online game I co-created... a quest that had gone unsolved for 3 years. Technically, he's a brilliant gamer, and truth be told, in my 15+ years of watching over that particular game, I never saw anyone play it better. He was so good people assumed he cheated somehow, myself included, until I checked the logs. I could see his various attempts, the trial and error prior to success, and I recognized in him someone who understood the game on multiple-levels: as a coder, as a puzzle-solver, as a role-player. In was an enviable understanding, one that spawned enmity in some who also played the game.

In 2003, he and my partner had a falling-out in-game, and she was such a royal bitch to him that I felt sorry for him. I took an interest in this person who unwittingly brought upon himself the ire of an often irrational woman -- a woman who rarely interacted with men online long enough to get so upset with them. When I queried him as to what had happened, he impressed me by saying that gentlemen don't kiss-and-tell, so I would have to ask her. When I asked her, she became very upset and defensive. I figured she'd done something she shouldn't have and was worried I'd find out, so I let it be. Our relationship had been over for quite some time -- I was just waiting for her to realize it and break things off, since she had quite a victim complex and I didn't want to play into it by breaking things off with her myself.

Meanwhile, the more I learned about M, the more I liked him, and by mid-2004 we were good friends. He was a rather solitary sort of boy-man who seemed reasonably content with his life. He had moved to the US from Canada and put his wunderkind skills to use in Silicon Valley to great financial and professional success. He liked his online and console games, his weekly Dungeons & Dragons night, played pool regularly, and dated a bit here and there. He sometimes asked for advice with regards to women, and I was honest with him: women want to feel heard, and they want to feel like someone is on their side. If you can convince a woman that you're listening and you're on her side, you're in. I also acknowledged that women play games, that it's socialized into us at a very young age, and that while women often defy logic, we're not completely irrational. The key to understanding us is understanding that we're consistent within a particular moment, as it appears to us, rather than across time.  In other words, we're generally unpredictable (or as men prefer to say "crazy") -- our behavior cannot be modeled or systematized reliably, so don't bother.

Over time he realized that I wasn't like most women -- I could program (in whatever limited capacity, especially compared to him) and think critically, I was smart enough to catch him and call him on his shit, and most importantly, I didn't flip out when he called me on mine. He was also fascinated by my lifestyle once S and I went our separate ways and I started dating and living life on my own terms again. We developed a mutual respect and admiration for each other, and supported each other through personal and professional ups and downs. I often described my life using terms like "awesome" and "incredible" and "fulfilling". He used words like "good" and "ok." He was rarely unhappy, I noticed, but he was also rarely truly happy.

Until recently. Fast forward 8 years and it's wonderful to see the changes in him. He's finally chosen where he wants to be (US rather than Canada) which means he's finally put down roots in a place that feels like 'home'. He's happy with how his career is going. But most of all, he's just thrilled to be a daddy. Now that Little Man is more independent of me and becoming more of his own person, it's amazing how the two of them have bonded. It is wonderful to see how much fun M has with him, and how much joy he takes in just being with his son. It helps that Little Man is so transparently joyful around his father.

Earlier today M purred as I massaged his shoulder with one hand and cradled a sleeping Little Man in the other. His face was smooth and a smile hovered on his mouth. I commented to him that the past couple of months he's been happier than I've ever known him. He sighed contentedly in response. It is important to me that the people I love be happy -- their happiness is integral to my own. M is truly, deeply happy, and it feels good knowing my part in it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Living in the 1950's

Some days I feel like I'm living someone else's idea of a dream life, something out of the 1950's.

I live in a house with a white picket fence in front. Yes, really. It's a beautiful mid-century home. I can say this without prejudice because the appraiser who came by yesterday complimented us on it. It's not in the most desirable area of town (if it was, it would have cost 3x as much) but I happen to love the diversity, friendliness, and walkability of the neighborhood (91 on WalkScore.com). The weather is about as perfect as you can get (not too hot, not too cold), I can garden to my heart's content, and the backyard is completely private.

I have a beautiful little boy, a little boy who appeared like magic in my womb after 20 years of angst-free infertility. Babies were never on my bucket list, but if they had been, I would have wished for one like Little Man. He's an easy, happy baby, one who even tries to smile through his tears when he's in pain from gas that won't pass. I'm madly in love with him, and occasionally struggle with the fear that something will happen to him, probably because I've become so intimate with loss in recent years.

I have the love of a good man -- a brilliant, funny, kind man -- who is an excellent breadwinner. We had a couple of lean years during his start-up days but these days we're fortunate enough not to have any financial worries. In many ways our relationship looks very traditional: He goes to work and I stay at home, keeping house and baking gingerbread cookies, greeting him at the door with the baby in my arms and the puppy-cat at my feet. I balance him out, balance his intensity and introversion, and he seeks my opinions and usually heeds my advice. We take care of each other, and it just so happens that we're following traditional gender roles -- for now.

So, here I am, living in my 1950's home, living a 1950's life (minus the Valium). I even wear my grandmother's 1950's aprons sometimes. And I'm acutely aware that this is what my sister Tammy wanted. She wanted the house with the white picket fence and the babies and puppies. The "normal" Leave It To Beaver life we never knew as children. But she, like me, was infertile, and learning that changed her life. She gave up on her dream and pursued something wildly different, and though she succeeded beyond expectations, she was never truly happy with her life.

Me, I'm happy. Probably because I haven't given up on anything. Put some things on hold because of the baby, perhaps, but I don't feel like I'm making any unreasonable sacrifices. The thing I miss most is solitude, and upon reflection, I realize this is something I am giving up on -- for now.

This isn't the life I'd imagined for myself -- that life was a little house on the coast or in the mountains near a body of water, with lots of time to mediate and to read and write, and lots of friends visiting. A quiet life with opportunity for solitude but not lonely. I enjoy my own company too much to ever be lonely.

No, this isn't the life I'd imagined for myself -- but its the perfect life for me, because it's where I am and where I choose to be. Even if it does look a bit like the 1950's ;)

I'm blessed, and I know it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Relationship after baby

I was prepared for our relationship to change as a result of Little Man's arrival, and things have changed. Not really for better or worse. They're just different.

I knew our relationship was pretty solid -- it was a major factor in my choice to proceed with a high-risk unplanned pregnancy at age 43 -- but it's proving even more solid than I'd thought. Or perhaps it's that having a baby together has gelled things for us even further. It feels good. Feels right. We're relaxed and happy with each other most of the time, and that impacts Little Man. He's a very easy, happy, loving baby. In the past month, as the baby has gotten a little more independent of me, M has really stepped up his game. He takes Little Man off my hands and has learned to distinguish between a fussy baby that he can console, and one who can only be consoled by mommy. I actually got to spend an hour digging in the garden this weekend, putting arabian jasmine and hibiscus in the ground, and digging up and transplanting a bird of paradise, some fountain grass, lavender, and rosemary. I got dirt under my fingernails and sweat in my eyes and it felt good!

I really like the relationship I have with Little Man's father. He's a good man, a kind and appreciative man. His biggest complaint about me is that I don't give him enough opportunity to do things for me. His second biggest complaint is that I'm not back to normal emotionally. I know that he was looking forward to having me "back" once the baby was born, and I did warn him that I'd still be under the influence of hormones while I'm lactating, but, well, I'm just not as unflappable as I was before-baby, and that is hard on him.  There are moments when he really irritates the hell out of me. Most of the time I know it's about me -- know that he is who he is and if something he does irritates me, that's about me, not him. It's not his nature to deliberately try to piss me off, and sometimes... sometimes I have to remind myself of that. Just like I remind him not to take my irritability personally. Being over-tired and hormonal does strange things to people, and all we can do is try to keep our heads and be compassionate with each other in the aftermath of any heated exchanges.

He's still my best friend, M is. I enjoy his company. He makes me laugh. I can talk with him about just about anything. He's communicative about his unmet needs, which keeps baby-related resentments to a minimum. He's incredibly supportive. He's always asking me what he can do for me, how he can help me achieve my goals. I'm incredibly grateful that he is such a strong breadwinner that he can support our family on his income alone -- in the Bay Area, which is so incredibly expensive to live in. And in exchange, I do my best to be frugal. He is often exasperated by my frugality, so he doesn't give me a hard time when I do spend money. I've done really well with regards to spending on the baby -- scored a lot of great stuff on Craig's List. I actually just bought the first item of baby clothes at a store last week -- an outfit for family photos next month.

Before the photos, we're going on a trip to Puerto Vallarta. I wanted to get some experience with airports and flying with the baby before heading off to Canada to meet M's family at Christmas time. When he asked where I wanted to go, I told him a quick hop to Las Vegas, or LA, or maybe San Diego for a night or two. He knows I don't care for Vegas or LA, and he wasn't interested in San Diego, so he suggested Hawaii. I love Hawaii, particularly the Big Island, but for a first time flight with a 5 month old, a 5 hour trip is daunting. However, given that we do have a passport for Little Man already, that opened up the possibility of flying south, to Mexico. Cabo San Lucas was our first thought, but then a friend suggested the more tropical Puerto Vallerta, which is just a 3.5 hour flight from SFO. Given that we were in Bali just a year ago, I've definitely got what we need for the tropics -- including SPF 50 for the baby.

As for Little Man, he's developing quite well. He's not the butter-ball people expect breastmilk-fed babies to be, though he does have a little roll on each of his thighs. He's sitting up under his own power most of the time -- until he loses interest in being upright, and then he falls over like a puppet. He's started taking control of his bottle from me when he doesn't like how I'm holding it, and as long as it's not too full, he can feed himself. Now that I've finally gotten rid of laryngitis and am talking to him more, he's more talkative -- doing his baby babble. I am amazed by how his dexterity improves daily. His strong little legs support him very well when I've got them shoulder-width apart, and his balance is improving enough that he can stand unsupported for about 5 seconds at a time. He's a cheerful baby, charming people with his big grins, and is rarely fussy or cranky in public. I took him into San Francisco to meet up with Jem and her daughter Rosie for lunch and a museum tour and he did great the whole trip -- including both legs of the BART ride.

Life is good. Not at all what I expected for myself at this age. But good. I'm blessed, and I know it.