Thursday, July 6, 2017

Yearning For Another; Being Happy As Things Are


Well, it happened. My son is about to turn 6 years old, and I finally got enough space from the nightmare of postpartum depression that I want to have another child. Part of it is the biological clock ticking. I just turned 29 this week. I always planned on stopping having children at 30, but as I approach it I'm coming to realize that I'm still not quite ready, and probably won't be for another 5-6 years. Following my predictable pattern of torturing-myself-about-things-I-want-that-I-can't-have-right-now, I have been having a hard time with this. Ash is going back to school this fall. His current plan is to complete his bachelor's at UNCA and then apply for graduate school (Doctor of Physical Therapy).

This will take 5 years total if everything goes according to plan. After that he will get a job and I will be released as the sole breadwinner. Until then, I am the sole breadwinner. We cannot afford to pay for childcare on my salary alone. At all. Unless we cut EVERYTHING including leaving the house ever, which I don't think is a healthy, sustainable option. So that means I have to wait. I have to wait at least 5 whole years to have another baby. I have to wait until I'm pushing 35. I have to wait until my husband can work full time. I have to wait until there's a 10 year age gap between my kids.

Anything worth having in life is worth waiting for and worth working for. But that doesn't change how much it hurts. So, I decided to share with you my inner dialogue; I'm hoping it can help those of you who are in a similar place:

I want to have a baby. More than anything else.

Ok, so have one! 

Well... it's more complicated than that. 

Why? If you want it literally more than anything else, it should be easy to sacrifice anything to get it. 

Ok. I guess I want some things more than I want a baby. Or rather, I need some things more than I want a baby. 

I need to be mentally healthy and free from anxiety and depression. I need a healthy marriage. I need that much more than I need another child... and especially if I do have another one. 

Can you have those two things AND have a baby right now?

I'm not sure. 

Ok, let's think through it. 

Oh, um... ok. Well, I have a full-time job and I can't leave it. 

You can go on maternity leave. 

OK. Well, I live in the United States, so it's going to be unpaid leave beyond 6 weeks. So I'd need to find childcare full time after that. 

Alright. How much does childcare cost in your area? 

*Looks it up* Holy burrito! That ain't gonna work. 

Ok. What about family or friends who could do it for less? 

*Puzzles, asks, schemes* Nope. 

What if you worked from home for a couple of months after the baby was born?

That's possible, but I work in support so I need to be able to answer the phones. I can't imagine nursing and caring for a baby while home alone AND working full-time hours, including phone calls where the baby would be miraculously quiet. 

Ok. What about an in-home care situation? Isn't that much cheaper? 

*Asks locals* Wow! Yes, much cheaper. Like half the price. 

Ok. Can that price fit into your budget?

*Calculates*. Uh, yes but just barely. I mean... not realistically. Only if we have zero unexpected expenses and have no car trouble and stopped saving for retirement. Bummer. 

Can Ash take a break from school to stay home with the baby? 

*Talks to Ash at length* No. He is really eager to finish his degree as soon as possible since he's already in his 30's. We can't go much longer as a one-income family and he needs to get done and get a job, pronto. 

And he made another good point, which is that part of what caused the PPD last time was having the bread winner responsibility AND being the sleep-deprived mommy. That wouldn't go away if he was a stay-at-home parent. I would be up all night with the baby and then back at work each morning. The stress of that would make preserving mental health really difficult. 

When I think about finding outside care for a 6-week-old baby, I feel immense heartbreak. That does not sound like what I want at all. I don't think I can do that. 

Bummer. 

Ok, so I wait until Ash is done with school. ... so Luca will be 10 years old when he finally gets a sibling? They will be practically part of different generations. Will they have anything in common? Will they even know each other? 

You can't know the answers to those questions. It will be different from what you grew up with, in good and bad ways that you cannot possibly know until you're living it. 

*Talks with Ash* Ash is an only child and he says he would rather have a sibling ten years younger than him than have no sibling at all. Ok. That's a convincing argument. Alright! So, what to do for the next 5 years? Well... I can make sure Luca and his cousin Redford (and his new cousin Moishe inherited through marriage) all know and love each other and grow up being close. 

That sounds great! 

Yes, it does. And I can use all my time and energy for things I could not do if I had a baby. I can help others I know who have babies. I can be creative and start all those sewing projects I want to do. 

Yeah! Take a quilting class! Compose music! Go see live theater! 

YEAH! Also, I've been gaining weight lately so I'd like to get back on track with diet and exercise. 

Man, that's so important. It's important now for your quality of life, and it's especially important if you're going to have a baby or two as a woman 35+. 

Ah yes. Because of the increased risk, and the lack of possibility for another home birth in this area, I'd like to be as healthy as humanly possible if I get pregnant again. 

OK. Get to work. 

OK! I'm going to use the next 5 years to become the best possible me, so I can be a healthy, happy, financially responsible parent to my children. 

THAT'S THE SPIRIT! 

Oh no. 

...what? 

What if five years comes and something has happened? What if I have health problems and the window for baby-having has closed? What if Ash changes his mind and doesn't want to have a baby? What if he has trouble finding a job that pays well? What if I hate being a stay at home mom? What if I hate being a working mom again? What if I... 

Stop. You're "What ifing". It's good to be prepared for the future, but the future is literally full of INFINITE possibilities. You can't possibly prepare for all of them, so stop trying. 

But what if these next couple of years are my last chance to get what I really want more than anything else? What if I blow this opportunity trying to have my cake and eat it too? Am I being stupid by waiting and possibly missing my chance?

You don't know that it's your last chance. What if your house burns down and you get cancer and WWIII breaks out? You. Can't. Control. Everything. Life throws things at you and you just DEAL with them, because you have no other choice. You've already decided that having a baby now is NOT what you want more than anything, because what you really want more than anything is to not get PPD again. Waiting 5 years is actually your best chance at creating the circumstances in which having a baby would be different than it was last time. Less hellish. More enjoyable. 

Right. My goal isn't just to be a mother again... it's to be a good mother. I wouldn't want to do it again if it was like last time. I want to be a GREAT mother who loves her children and enjoys having a baby. And to give myself the best chance at that, I need to wait. 

Right. 

Right. 

...but.... 

*Facepalm* what now?

If I accidentally got pregnant right now, we could deal with it. We could make it work. We would have to make it work, and so we would. 

True. You would spend the next 5 years doing your best to survive new parenthood while also working full time. You would love your child but have to leave them 5 days per week. Things would be so tight financially that you would be unprepared for emergencies. Your kids would love each other and you would love them. You would not have a spare dime to spend on physical therapy, couples therapy, or a babysitter so you would have to cross your fingers that you wouldn't need help. 

Yeah. That really does not sound super great. I could do it if I had to, but it seems really stupid to choose it on purpose. It's one thing to have stress thrust upon you, it's quite another to do something so stressful on purpose. 

It wouldn't be the most responsible choice. 

Yes. It would be like last time... I had a baby because I wanted one, and I was not ready in so many ways. To be a great mother, I need to make the choices that are best for my existing children and future children. That would include not trying to have a baby right now. It would be a bit selfish to get pregnant right now only because I want it, without any thought to what kind of quality of life we would all have. I think it's much more responsible to prioritize my mental health first and having a baby second. 

I think so. 

I think so too. 

Ok. So, the next 5 years... get in great shape. Build healthy eating habits. Be creative and use my excess energy. And if five years come and the stars don't align... I've got my husband and my son and my creative pursuits. Not the same as having two beautiful children, but still a wonderful and amazing life full of things to be extremely grateful for. 

Nice. Add that to your list of things to accomplish in the next 5 years. Be grateful for what you have. Let your gratitude live alongside your desires for the future. Let it be stronger than anything else.

Yeah. I know that when I'm experiencing gratitude for what I have, life is really really good. Even when I don't have what I want. Even sometimes when I don't have what I need! So no matter what happens, I need to make that a priority. 

Being grateful for what I have is not denying that I want something else. It's just choosing to be happy while I want something else. 

I think that would be wise.

I think so too. I kind of feel like I'm going all in on a poker game. I either win it all or I leave empty handed. If everything is good to go in five years I get exactly what I want... and if not, the window has closed so I can't even have a consolation-prize version of what I want. 

But it's not really like that... by waiting, you're making it possible to have what you TRULY want. And if you don't get it, you also get to walk away from the poker table with an arm full of chips. You win either way. 

That's true. I certainly wouldn't call my life now "walking away empty handed". My life is full and wonderful. 

That's how gratitude works. Even when you don't get what you want, you feel full. 

Wow. That's really nice. 

And nobody can ever take that from you. 






Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Everything is back on track... except my stupid brain.

Last year was a rift in the time stream. We jumped into alternate realities for a little while. I feel like a whole year disappeared... like I was 17 again and I went away to summer camp and I just got back. A little disorientation, a lot of pain, and a lot of growth for everyone. Somehow, Trump became a major presidential nominee in the process, so I'm sorry for the disturbance of space time that might have caused this. Ash and I are back on track, having bought a beautiful home together. Luca starts at an amazing new school soon. We got a cat.

Despite all of these wonderful things, I've been giving myself a really hard time lately. Mostly about financial stuff. We're doing ok. We're breaking even and we've got a small nest egg for emergencies. But I want to be able to give my kid everything. I want to be able to pay for him to go to college in cash, like my parents did for me. I want to be able to retire and live above the poverty line. I want to triple my charitable giving. But all of the pressure that I put on myself is diminishing my quality of life right now. And there is so much to enjoy and be thankful for. I know I will look back on this time one day and wish I had slowed down and enjoyed it, instedly of constantly asking what I can do to make it better.

I am an overachiever, whose achievements are truncated by the very anxiety that propels me forward. I'm hitting the gas pedal and the breaks at the same time, and I'm almost out of gas, and I'm yelling at the poor car to go faster.

I've stopped exercising and I've stopped making sure I prioritize sleep. Those two things alone are enough, but I also started drinking coffee (which has always made me feel terrible). I know exactly what I need to do. Now, I just have to love myself enough to do it.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Summer 2015: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

This was the best and worst summer of my life so far.

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Opening up to the impermanence of life has been enormously freeing. Without false hope and attachment and fear of change, life is a whole hell of a lot better. To the point where, for the first time in my life, I am experiencing zero mental illness. I didn't think that would ever be possible. Just a little over three years ago, I was standing on a bridge over 147, wondering how long my baby would survive if I jumped and left his stroller in the shade. I thought, maybe I'll wait until he's old enough to hold a sippy cup, so he won't get dehydrated. That's when I got help.

Since moving to Asheville, I've continued to be a warrior on a self help quest. I've started doing Ashtanga yoga at least three days per week. On Saturdays I go to Contact Improv and on Sundays I go to Ecstatic Dance Church. I dance and cuddle and breathe and sweat my crazy out.

I also get a lot of love from a lot of incredible new people in my life. My network of meaningful relationships has doubled. No, tripled! I went from feeling incredibly lonely and isolated to having multiple things on my calendar every day. The abundance of life is overwhelming. I almost forget I'm sad, sometimes.

Alyssa and Redford moved in with Luca and I. We have an incredible little family together. The boys love each other so much, it's almost too much for my heart to bear to witness. And having two sister wives (HA!) raising two kids feel balanced and nourishing. I love my job. I love the mountains.

I love myself. I love life.




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Alyssa + Redford

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Luca + Redford

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Me + Jared + Christine

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Jared + Tikva (photo by Mark Hyatt)

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Tay + Rick (photo by Mark Hyatt)

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Tikva + Me
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Jonah + Me


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Brian + Me



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Luca + Me

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Mother's Belly

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A mother’s belly is soft
from all the love it holds, 
almost to bursting.
And in the world, you try to suck her dry.
You clench the breast that fed you.

Be kind to her,
and she will ignite with your touch.
Enveloped in utter bliss
you will die and be grateful 
to have tasted light and love. 

A mother’s belly is hard;
it pulls the salt from your wounds. 
And if you come near enough,
it will engulf you 
and you will cry beneath her.

Be true with her
and she will let you near.
No matter how hard you try,
you cannot hold all of her. 
But she can hold all of you. 

A mother’s belly is a cave. 
A feathering of stone,
rippled by the hours of burden,
traveled only by the bravest
and the meekest. 

Be here with her
and she will guide you.
A vessel almost painless,
this water colored temptress
needs only your attention, undivided. 

A mother’s belly is a well;
you cannot see the bottom.
Look, if you dare.
She will look back,
and she will anchor you, in her gaze. 

Be strong with her
and she will lead you down
to a falling, healing place.
Trade in your arms for branches, 

and be welcomed home at last.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What's it like being a social sciences major?

So, a lot of people don't even know what the social sciences are or what people study in that field, and that's a real shame! Some people even go as far as thinking nobody does ANYTHING in those departments, just because nobody makes TV shows about those kinds of jobs. But I can assure you potential college majors in the social sciences (and the parents of these students) that there is some really fascinating and important work being done in these fields.

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On the first day of Anth 101, many students are told that we "make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange." But what the heck does that mean, exactly??

Just take a look at some of these paper titles of an undergrad at UNC Asheville, who majored in Sociology with a concentration in Anthropology. I'm sure it will be clear as day what kinds of insights are gained through this work, once you get a sense for the ground that is covered:



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So there you have it. I'm sure you now have a much better idea now of why we social science students spend hours and hours pouring over books that have titles that make absolutely no sense until you read the entire thing.... or why we are comparing notes on what our professors said last week in lecture and still scratching our heads, even though we don't have to do a lot of math or anything.

Every lecture we leave the building either feeling like:


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... or feeling like:

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And even sometimes like this:

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And forgive us if all of your conversations with us end like this:

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We ponder about the patrilineal patriarchy and its preposterousness!
We contemplate the acculturation of cultural relativism!
We think about the legitimacy of linguistic lineages!
We study animism and its assimilations through archeological accumulations!
We diagnose differential access and the discrimination that dictates its dispersal!

That's what we do, in the social sciences.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Is YOUR relationship healthy?

There is plenty of research out there on what is an ideal, healthy relationship. There is plenty of information available on what is an unhealthy relationship, as well. But, in the real world full of gray areas and ambiguity, what does an actual, happy relationship look like? I know hardly any people who fit neatly into either of those two extremes of "bad" or "good" partnerships.

I hear all kinds of things that seem contradictory:

"Couples who are happy rarely ever fight!"
"It's normal and healthy for couples to fight!"

"Happy couples know each other because they talk all the time!"
"Couples who are happy know what the other is thinking without having to say it!"

"Opposites attract!"
"Happy couples are a lot alike!"

So, I was curious. I got curious enough to make a survey and ask my Facebook friends to tell me what their happy relationships are really, actually like. Most of my sample is therefore white and middle class, but as a fellow white-middle-class-er, I'm mostly interested in my own culture's perceptions of partnership satisfaction (at this point).

I asked participants to self select based on only two criteria: the relationship must have lasted at least 2 years, and they must consider it to be a "healthy" relationship. I asked for at least two years of time together, because I wanted to get only couples who were out of the honeymoon phase. I also hoped to end up with only couples who had lived together for some time, though I didn't ask that.

The questions were thought up by me. Most were based on what I personally think is an indicator for a healthy relationship, though some were thrown in because OTHER people told me they were supposed to be indicators, and I wanted to see if they were right.


 General Feelings About The Relationship:

1 how's it going

 Wow!! 75% of happy couples are thinking about how great their relationship is MULTIPLE times per week. That means their relationship is likely on their mind a lot in general. This makes sense, because you'd expect it to be a priority in their lives if it's doing well.

93% of happy couples only worry about the status of their relationship a couple of times per year, or less. That seems really high to me. But hey, I didn't say you'd get eaten by a dragon if you lied, so there's that.

We can conclude from this that it may be a red flag if you often think that things aren't going well in your relationship.

This may seem obvious, but think about it: if you're in an unhealthy relationship and are thinking to yourself several times per week that things aren't going as well as you'd like... and you ALSO think that this is NORMAL and EVERYONE feels this way, this frequently.... you might not accurately assess your own relationship, and you might fail to work on important things (or you might continue with a relationship that is clearly not working out).

Disagreements:

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Half of happy couples almost never have "bad" fights. The ones who do only have a couple every year... with a few spitfires seeming to marry other spitfires, over in the monthly category ;)

This is a big one. People often say that fighting is normal, and it is. But, just because something is normal... does that make it ok? And what exactly is "fighting" anyways? If most couples are NOT happy, then who cares how often the average couple is fighting? My happy couples seem to be pretty mild mannered.

And what about those disagreements that DON'T go nuclear, but DO get addressed? Well, my survey seems to say that disagreements are certainly frequent enough. But they're not every day, and usually not even every week, for most happy couples.

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The research says happy couples have five good interactions for every negative one (that seems low to me, but compared to couples headed for divorce who have one bad for every one good... sounds pretty good!).

Getting The Good Stuff:

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How often are happy couples affectionate with each other? ALL THE DAMN TIME.

There's already plenty of polling on sex, so I didn't include it in mine. Happy couples have sex on average 2-3 times per week, and all couples have sex on average of 1-2 times per week. But, those surveys don't ask if it's GOOD sex, so I'm wondering... if these couples REALLY enjoy each other's physical company, they'd be voluntarily doing stuff that is not The Sex, right? Right. So keep touching each other, you naughty monkeys. 

Communication:

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Conclusion? Happy couples talk about finances regularly.... and they rarely disagree about it. I think this gets filed under basic compatibility. If you don't have the same ideas about finances, your day-to-day life is going to be pretty rough as you try to come to compromises constantly, or if you're under stress because one spouse is bad with money, etc.

But what about raising kids? Arguably the most stressful job of all time?


7 child rearing

Happy couples talk about child-rearing regularly. 79% of them almost never disagree about it, or only fight about it a couple of times per year. That's funny, because 67% of couples say they are less happy together after having kids. (Which is a question I didn't ask- how did having kids affect your relationship?) But that's a poll of ALL couples, not just the ones that identify as happy. So, perhaps raising kids is a lot easier if you've got a strong partner by your side. Makes sense.

(Don't ask me why the options above are out of order, I'm not sure what happened...)

Ok, how about talking about your feelings? Love is a feeling. We are with people because we love them, so I assume people talk about those feelings, or they wouldn't have known the other person loved them and then they wouldn't be together. Right? Right.

header 4 share feelings

73% of happy couples talk about their emotions at least a few times per week. This is one of those things I hear about a lot, from friends in unhealthy relationships. They have NO idea what the other person is thinking and feeling.

One thing I forgot to ask with this question is.... who's sharing? Is just one person opening up, or are BOTH people equally open with their thoughts and feelings? I'm assuming that the next question addressed this, at least in part.

Equality:

My theory is that you need ALL PEOPLE INVOLVED in a relationship to be equally involved, otherwise it's just one person pulling a bolder uphill, while the other person is sitting on top of it saying "Pull harder! I'm pushing as hard as I can back here!"

And my numbers support my theory.

8 hard work


Most happy couples are working equally hard to keep that relationship healthy. Good relationships are hard work! But, it's always worth it when the other person is equally committed. 

DRAMA:

Drama is when things get.... well, dramatic. You have a couple of real life movie moments, and you find yourself thinking, "who would watch this movie??"


9 drama

Unsurprisingly, most happy relationships are pretty drama-free. But every once in a while, they may need a good kick in the arse.

Thank you to the 55 happy couples who contributed (one was me)! And if you're reading this and thinking "Well, shit, I don't think we're quite there yet", then good luck to you on your journey... whether you decide to cut and run or buckle down and give it the ol' college try (just make sure your partner is trying, too!). And I hope these survey results can help point you in the right direction so you know where to concentrate your energy,  and so you know what is actually reasonable to expect of your partner and of yourself.