Thursday, May 27, 2010

Extreme Motherhood: ER Edition

As a Phobic Mom, I have carefully confined myself to the minor leagues of motherhood. As in, I generally do not put myself in situations where a meltdown or vomiting binge would be catastrophic and/or situations where the amount of work I will have to put in exceeds the amount of entertainment Charlotte will get out. For instance, a trip to a nearby park with age appropriate equipment is OK; a trip to Disneyland is absolutely out of the question for another decade. I go to the grocery store alone (or we just eat chicken nuggets, which I buy once a year, in bulk, at Costco). I go to a church with a nursery (you could say I go to church FOR the nursery). I get on planes rarely, and only after drinking. I go out to eat NEVER. I do this not only because I am phobic and lazy, but because I find that Charlotte never appreciates the effort that goes into outings. Her grandmother and I took her to the National Aquarium in Baltimore a few weeks ago, and apparently, the reason we drove for over an hour, paid $20 for parking, paid another $50 to get in, and painfully carried all 30 lbs of her around for 4 hours (because those sadists don't allow strollers) was so she could say, "Go Home!" every 10 minutes. The most fun she had all day was going through her grandmother's purse at the dolphin tank. Which she could have done AT HOME, for free, and without causing me to rupture a disc. So that is where we mostly stay. Eventually, she starts climbing the walls and loses interest in all 539,221 of her toys, and I am forced to take her out of the house, but I consider this a fairly desperate measure.

Given that I think leaving the vicinity of my home is a major ordeal, a trip to the Emergency Room tests the outer limits of human survival in my mind, something akin to the Bataan Death March or being stranded on a deserted island with nothing but a volleyball and an ice skate. I have lived in fear and trembling of just such an occurrence ever since Charlotte was born. But, despite having quit breast feeding, Charlotte has been shockingly healthy, and I went over two years without having to experience the terror.

Last week, my luck ran out. In a big way. Not only did I have to take my child to the ER, I had to take her in the middle of the night. While my husband was overseas (probably on purpose). And I was pregnant. And I had a hang nail. Charlotte had been getting progressively more congested as the day went on, but she was desperately clinging to my legs and eating her chicken nuggets just like normal. By evening, her breathing was pretty loud, so I called her doctor, who asked me some questions and listened to her on the phone and said she thought she'd be OK. So I put her to bed and put on a movie. I went in to check her before I went to sleep, and she sounded kind of like Darth Vader. So I called the doctor's line, the nurse listened to her on the phone and told me to take her to the ER. Now, I must be the worst mother in the world, because my first thought was not, OMG I hope she's going to be OK but, OMG How am I going to survive a trip to the ER in the middle of the night, by myself, pregnant, and with this hangnail? I just knew it was going to destroy her sleep schedule and probably deny me of rest until she was in kindergarten. In my defense, my experience is that American medical professionals are some of the most cautious people in the world so that they don't get sued. My ex-OB (the one I fired for being a crazy Nazi) had me leave work and rush immediately to the hospital when I was 8 months pregnant with Charlotte for what turned out to be gas. So I was a little skeptical of the ER verdict. But what is a mom to do? Can you really afford to call their bluff? I imagined having to call Kevin in Turkey to tell him his baby girl had died because I just didn't have the strength for a visit to the ER. So I got Charlotte into the car and took her in. All by myself, pregnant, and with a hangnail. I felt an instant, spiritual connection to Angelina Jolie.

I will not detail every horror of what followed, but let me just pass on a very important lesson learned. If you have to take your child to the ER in the middle of the night, NEVER EVER assume that just because said child is supposedly deathly ill and would ordinarily be sleeping, they will do so at the ER, rendering toys and other entertainments unnecessary. This would be a tremendous error in judgment. If you make this mistake, you will almost certainly end up in what could be the next TV reality show, where the producers put you and a surprisingly lively small child in a small, sterile room with nothing but a pair of latex gloves, a vomit tray, and a few cotton balls, plus a bunch of other dangerous and/or breakable stuff, and challenge you to entertain the child for 4 hours straight. If you manage to stay calm and emerge with most of your hair still on your head, you win a trip back to your own bed. At 3 am. Still alone, still pregnant. At least you got the hangnail treated while you were there (which will cost your insurance company $439).

So I feel I am now at least in qualifying position for the upper echelons of motherhood. Although I think they only let breast feeders in there.

Charlotte is fine, by the way, and I am also recovering.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Getting things off my chest

OK, you were warned, you knew it was coming, and you almost certainly will be offended. This is the official anti-breast feeding tirade. The good news is the culture is on your side, not mine. I am a horrible mother, who has doomed her child to poor health and below average intelligence. You are Mother Teresa. So you win from the outset. But I have a blog, and this is America, so deal with it.

I hate breast feeding. It is the #1 reason why Charlotte was almost an only child. It is the #1 reason why I am angry at Eve (and God. I know she screwed up, but this is really a bridge too far.). When I see other women breast feeding, I have a deep, down, visceral, primal urge to run screaming into a nearby forest or maybe even a freeway. When I think of torture, I think of breast feeding. When I think of hell, yep, breast feeding. If heaven includes breast feeding, I'm relocating. If I found out Kim Jong Il disapproved of breast feeding, I'd probably move to Pyongyang and consider marrying him. There are many reasons why I hate breast feeding that are too graphic for this blog, but I will say that, in addition to being painful and exhausting, it made me feel like an animal and resent the hell out of my child. And my husband. How convenient that, even though he just yearns to do it, he is unable to get up five times a night so a screaming baby can suck the life out of him. As a a feminist of sorts, I have a real problem with that.

If I am truthful, however, a big reason why I hate breast feeding is that I sucked at it, pun intended, and as much as I milk (wow, on a roll here) the self-deprecating routine for its comic value, I am actually not that accustomed to failure. But I was definitely a failure at this. My breast feeding efforts ended with tearful pleas to Kevin in the Babies R Us parking lot to flee with me to West Virginia and let his mother raise our child, a nervous breakdown in the pediatrician's office, and our lactation consultant's pitying verdict that "maybe this isn't going to work out for you." When the lactation consultant is telling you to quit, you know you are a disaster. It was certainly all I needed to hear. I got me some formula, some sleep, and suddenly, I was reborn. I loved my husband again, didn't start crying every time my daughter woke up, and wore a real bra. It was liberation, baby. But I still felt like a failure. When I went to the mom's group at my church, which is a virtual breast feeding society, I imagined the other women looking down on me from behind their matching Hooter Hiders as I brought out the only bottle of formula most of them will ever see in their lives. (Rationally, I know they probably weren't looking down on me because they are all better people than that, and I know that because some of them read this blog. And, of course, they all breast feed.).

Naturally, I became a militant opponent of breast feeding, because when you have failed at something, the only reasonable thing to do is attack and belittle that which has defeated you. But I probably would be much tamer in my opinions if breast feeding advocates weren't so nazi-like in theirs. The insane lengths these people go to to convince women they MUST breast feed their child at all costs sends me into equally hyperbolic rage. Some of them even argue that adoptive mothers should take hormones so they can nurse their adopted children (which obliterates a major argument in favor of adoption in my view). They distort scientific facts, which are that breast feeding offers only marginal improvements in health and intelligence, findings that in fact cannot be submitted to a classic double blind scientific study and cannot account for individual, genetic differences even among siblings. For instance, my child, who barely got any breast milk at all, has thrown up twice in her life (once when I accidentally gagged her with a toothbrush), whereas my friend's son, who was exclusively breast fed for at least six months, is constantly ill. In addition, formula now contains DHA (the intelligence link) and other fortifications that replicate many of breast milk's benefits; a recent study actually found that premature infants fared better on fortified formula than on breast milk itself.

There is definitely a reasonable argument for breast feeding. The argument that kept me at it for as long as I did was that breast feeding helps you lose your baby weight (you may recall I gained 50 lbs, so I was DESPERATE. But I did find Weight Watchers is a much less painful route, however). I also don't doubt that breast feeding has health benefits, that makes intuitive sense (then again, so do beets, and I'll die young before I eat a bunch of those). For another thing, it costs less. If you use formula, it's probably for the best your kid turns out dumber, because you're not going to be able to afford Harvard after shelling out for Enfamil anyway. If the economy really goes apocalyptic, I'm stockpiling formula, not gold. I would certainly sell some organs and throw in my soul for free for a can. And we could probably erase the national deficit by forcing mothers on welfare to breast feed. I don't know if they grind up diamonds and put it in there or what, but that stuff be pricey. Moving on...I don't really buy the intelligence argument; if you are dumb, you can breast feed your kid til they are 25 and they will probably still be dumb (and certainly my formula-fed child is a genius, I don't think there's any doubt about that). But let's say it makes kids smarter. If that's the case, breast feeding advocates would be wise to keep that to themselves in this competitive, information-based economy. The more formula-fed kids there are, the greater chance their kids will become President of the United States.

But they don't keep it to themselves, and they don't make the reasonable argument that breast feeding has some benefits and some (deranged) women actually enjoy it, but formula these days is pretty awesome, too, and if you are facing a choice between mental illness and Similac, your child is better off every time if you go with the latter. Not a big deal, ladies, not a big deal. Instead they opt for a slightly less relaxed line: You are irrevocably and forever harming your child if you give them the poison the evil, money-grubbing formula companies are doling out, in addition to bringing emotional damage to your relationship with your child, and therefore you should endure any hardship you may encounter--to include a starving infant, nipples oozing with puss, human slavery, excruciating pain, depression, an impaired sex life, hell on earth--to make it work. And I don't really appreciate that. Being a mother is hard enough.

The logical conclusion to this tirade would be to courageously declare that I, Holly, am taking a principled stand, based on my firmly held convictions, and will not even attempt to breast feed my new baby, knowing that it will once again end in disaster. That would be the logical conclusion. But human beings, and especially guilt-ridden mothers who have been brow-beaten by the evil Breast feeding Brigade, are not entirely logical. Come December, I'll likely have a baby's head in my palm, desperately stuffing flesh into its mouth like some kind of sado-masochistic chef. I shudder at the thought. But you mark my words, I am quitting at the VERY FIRST sign of trouble. Take THAT, La Leche League.

PS Please respect my property and do not leave me pro breast feeding sermons in the comments section. They will be deleted. And I may never speak to you again. Just kidding, but barely.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Phobic Mom goes back for more

Conventional wisdom says that you never, ever announce a pregnancy before the 13th week because of the high chance of miscarriage, and sadly, I have a few friends who have experienced that first hand recently. When I was pregnant with Charlotte, I had every intention of honoring this cardinal rule. In reality, I think I made it to week 7 or 8. Not only am I terrible at keeping my thoughts and experiences to myself (as I think is obvious), I am also very vain and love to complain (equally obvious). Given that I felt and looked like crap by week 7 or 8, with a face full of zits and an extra 10 pounds and counting, the entire world just had to be informed that I was NOT fat nor going insane, I was just pregnant. Given that I packed on about 15 lbs in the first trimester, I was soon informing everyone I met, total strangers, and even the odd squirrel of this fact within 5 seconds of encountering them.

For those who secretly tut-tut at me for complaining so much about being a mother, it will come as a tremendous surprise to hear that I have a sequel in the works. And once again, I am announcing early, so as to squeeze every last opportunity for whining out of this pregnancy and to excuse myself early on for what looks to be another massive weight gain. I certainly had to announce this before my husband's 20th high school reunion in a few weeks, at which his ex-girlfriend will be present, and she can NOT be allowed to think that I am even a little fat. And I am not fat, I am pregnant (OK, so I am a little bit fat). Please do not congratulate me, all I had to do was quit using birth control and repeatedly sleep with a very hot man.

I honestly can't believe I am submitting myself to this again. My last pregnancy was "healthy" but nonetheless a misery--12 weeks of 24-hour nausea, depression, rapid weight gain, total exhaustion, and viral acne followed by raging sciatica and more weight gain, culminating in about 50 pounds total and including enough excess amniotic fluid to allow me to petition NASA for planetary status and subsequently drown several medical professionals when my water broke in the hospital (thank GOD it was in the hospital, we had no flood insurance at the time). And that was the easy part. I will write more on my experience with breast feeding (oh, you know I will write more on breast feeding, one of my goals in life is to stamp out the barbaric practice. Kidding, sort of), but for now I will say I am still deeply scarred, as evidenced by the angry tirade I went on at a recent dinner party in conversation with the pregnant hostess. Between that and the store-bought pie I brought, I think I am definitely in danger of expulsion from that supper club.

This time out is going accordingly. I thought I had evaded the nausea, because it set in a few weeks after I tested positive vs. a few minutes after I tested positive. But it definitely arrived. Cruelly and strangely enough, my impulse when feeling nauseous is to graze on fatty foods, and when you pair that with barely having enough energy to put on deodorant, it's not a pretty picture. Fortunately, I lost extra weight after my last baby so I am starting from a lower basement. But a whale is a whale, and still in danger of being harpooned so its blubber can be turned into soap and heating oil, whether it weighs 500 lbs or 510 lbs. The main difference this time is that I already have a Weight Watchers membership and The Obama is president, so there is hope. And change. But first there is obesity, I don't think even The Obama can help me out there. Maybe Michelle can, with that nice vegetable garden she has going. Except that I can't stand the concept of a vegetable right now. So there you go.

So consider yourselves warned. Things are about to get ugly. Or rather, uglier.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Some signs you are a Phobic Mom

I usually don't live my life in imitation of Jeff Foxworthy, but I'm low on creative energies (and all other kinds) so i'll do a cheesy-easy-cop-out post. Besides, some very deranged people out there might be lying awake at night wondering what a Phobic Mom is exactly. So here are some indicators/warnings that you, too, might be a Phobic Mom.

1. You don't understand how and why people take their small children on vacation. In fact, you believe it is impossible to take small children on vacation because once small children are present, it ceases to be a vacation.
2. You don't understand how and why people have more than two children. You don't know how they have more than one, but you vaguely understand why (so the older one will one day leave you alone).
3. You don't understand how and why people breastfeed their children beyond two weeks, which, by your calculations, is the exact moment when social pressure is defeated by exhaustion, clinical depression, a strong desire to get in the car and drive to Utah, and a generalized desire to reclaim one's humanity.
4. People often compliment you on your "honesty," which is a nice way of saying you whine a lot.
5. You are completely incapable of putting your daughter's hair in a ponytail despite playing with dolls for over a decade.
6. People express shock and a degree of horror when you tell them you plan to have another child.
7. You are the only mother in America that bathes her child once a week and believe whole heartedly in the power of the Wet Wipe.
8. You brush your child's teeth once a day, if that, because they are all going to fall out anyway.
9. You cannot imagine any scenario, other than global apocalypse, in which you would allow your child to sleep in your bed.
10. You cannot imagine any scenario, including global apocalypse, in which you would enjoy being pregnant.
11. You cannot imagine any scenario in which you would have organic milk delivered from a local farm, unless a global apocalypse shut off all other sources.
12. You support your child's chicken nugget habit because it means you don't need to cook.
13, You work to support your daycare addiction.
14. You eat your child's leftovers for your meals because it's just easier that way.
15. You would rather die a slow, painful death that lasts 20 years than homeschool your children. Because it's kind of the same thing in your view.
16. . You really really love your child but you really really can't wait until they are at least 5 and can watch an entire TV show without involving you. And despite everyone telling you otherwise, you won't miss "these precious early years." Really.

If 4 or more of the above descriptors sound like you, you are probably a Phobic Mom and need immediate help. Unfortunately, there is none....so....