Slightly Insane Mom

"All mothers are slightly insane." –J.D. Salinger

Archive for the ‘Being Mom’ Category

February 13th, 2017 by Molly

To Mischief, on the Occasion of your Fourth Birthday

Dear Mischief,

When your brother and sister were born, I diligently wrote out their “birth stories”–the epic tales of woe and womanhood that defined me as Mother. They were easy to write and I derived a lot of pleasure from them. But when you were born, it was different. One year, passed, then two, three. I couldn’t talk about your birth. Sure, I could tell people the basic details, but to describe what it was like to be there? The words just wouldn’t come.

In ten years, you may read this and think I’m tragically lame, but I cried on the way to our front door today after dropping you off at preschool. The idea that you’re off in the world without me for 2.5 hours on your birthday seems almost unbearable. I cried because I think I’m finally ready to tell you how you were born.

The first thing you need to know is that I had a rare genetic condition that affects less than 1% of the pregnant population. This condition is called ICP, short for Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy. The details are unimportant, but basically, it makes a pregnant mother’s liver go nuts and attack the baby. Long and short of it is, you (and to a lesser extent, I) were in danger from the second I was diagnosed at 31 weeks pregnant.

After my diagnosis, things went into overdrive. For the next three weeks, I saw my Obstetrician weekly, a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist weekly, and twice a week I went to the hospital for ultrasounds and nonstress tests (and no, I’ve never understood the name of that test. I was stressed, you were stressed. Shouldn’t it be a stress test?). You became a lazy baby, rarely moving. During the nonstress tests, the nurses would make me move from side to side, drink juice, jiggle my belly, all in the hopes of getting you to respond. I got steroid shots in my posterior to help your lungs develop. I scheduled an elective c-section for 36 weeks. The doctors didn’t think you would survive an induction, so we chose the safest route. But you had other plans.

At 34 weeks, I was lying in bed, beached whale style, lamenting to Daddy that I just had a bad feeling about things. I felt guilty. My liver, MY liver, was causing all of this stress on you. My own body, the thing that was supposed to be your safe harbor until you came into the world, was pushing you out into stormy seas. The guilt was immense.

At around 7:30 you stopped moving. At 11:30 we went to the hospital, where they hooked me up to the monitors and called my doctor. I spent eight hours not feeling you move, and watching the monitors for signs that you were still with me. Your heart rate would be steady, then suddenly drop. Back up, steady, drop. Over and over again for eight hours. My doctor came in at 7:30 and said, “The baby has to come out now.” I called Grandma M and Grandpa B, and Daddy called Grandma L. We asked them to pray. I messaged my friend LA and told her what was happening, and asked her if she would ask our friends to pray. I’m not sure I even believe in God, but at that point I needed all the help I could get.

They wheeled me back toward the operating room, and at that point they split us up–I was wheeled into the OR, and Daddy was taken to put on a sterile gown. They kept Daddy out of the room while they put the spinal in my back, and oh, how I wish he were there. Not for the spinal. I had had epidurals before. I knew what to expect. They had me sit up and bend forward over my giant belly. A nurse held me while the doctor placed the spinal. That part was fine. But as this was going on, another nurse said, “I can’t find the heartbeat.” And time stopped. There was no pain in my back. There were no bright operating lights. There were no people bustling around. It was just me and the nameless nurse, who held me and smoothed my hair while I sobbed on her shoulder over my baby who was gone. Because at that point I felt so sure I had lost you. So sure I was no longer your port in the storm. I held onto one speck of hope, one tiny bit, so that I could look positive when Daddy came back in.

And so I tried. I told him I was ready. I told him I was excited to meet our baby.

The doctors cut me open and pulled you out with brutal speed. I saw a brief flash of your bluish-purple body as you were quickly ushered over to a bed and half a dozen doctors and nurses surrounded you. After a minute, I heard the most
beautiful sound I will ever hear–your first cry. Tiny, like a new kitten. They let Daddy hold you briefly so I could see you, and I got to touch your perfect face and hold your perfect hand, and then you were gone, whisked away to the NICU.

It took another 12 hours before I could even sit up to be able to be wheeled to the NICU to visit you. You were so tiny and precious, and hooked up to more machines and instruments than I knew existed for tiny babies. So many moms I’ve seen talk about how disappointed they were that they didn’t get to hold their baby immediately after birth. I had to wait 12 hours to see my baby, and I got to touch you through a hole in the incubator wall. Life lesson: recognize your blessings when they come. I touched you for a moment, then swooned, the stress of the surgery and the difficulty of sitting upright after major surgery proving just too much for me. I wouldn’t see you again until the following morning.

The next two weeks were a lot of hard work, Mischief. Mommy and Daddy took turns going to the hospital to see you, and staying at home to take care of Sunshine and Snowflake. We learned the special ways to hold you and feed you, such a tiny, weak little creature you were. And you spent two weeks hooked up to tubes and machines to make you well enough to come home with us, which you finally did at your gestational age of 36 weeks. (To this day, Mischief, I take your age and subtract 6 weeks to figure out how old you “really” are. I think I’ll probably be doing that when you’re in college.)

And then you came home. Mommy healed up, with no lasting effects from the ICP. You have some issues. You walk a little goofy, and your speech was delayed, and you have some sensory processing problems. You just got glasses because your eyes don’t focus well, but darned if you aren’t the cutest thing ever with them on.

So there’s your story, my love. Only four years late. If you ever doubt how much Mommy loves you, just read this. You’ll know, my son.

October 30th, 2014 by Molly

Party Planning Hell: A Scary Halloween Tale, Mom-Style

Against my better judgment, I volunteered to be a party mom for Sunshine’s class Halloween party. The first indication I had that this event was Not Your Mother’s Halloween Party was the email from the “Party Planning Committee Chair,” notifying me that I was to attend the Official Halloween Party Planning Meeting in the Cafeteria on Some Date I Don’t Remember Because I Have Three Kids.

Now, let me preface this whole thing with a little reminiscence. Do you remember classroom Halloween parties in the 80s? You wore your costume to school. A basic Level 1 costume was some sort of polyester getup your parents bought at Walgreens. It included a mask with tiny slits to see and even tinier slits to breathe. Level 2 involved full face paint, probably containing some variety of carcinogens, and possibly fake teeth. Level 3, the Gold Level, was the Homemade By Moms Who Could Actually Sew costume, the Costume That Also Involves an Elaborate Hairdo Sprayed with Rave or AquaNet, or the Costume Constructed from Cardboard and Spray Paint Made By a Dad with Engineering Skills. (There were also a few kids with “participation ribbon” costumes. You know, the ones who phoned it in with a “hobo” costume with a flannel shirt and a bandana on a stick, or a “bum” costume with a trash bag with holes cut out for the arm and neck holes.) But I digress. At your typical 80s Halloween party, there was some candy, donated by generous parents or broke teachers. You may have sat at your desk and eaten candy, and may have done a Halloween-themed crossword or word search (run off on the Ditto machine, of course). And then you went home and Trick or Treated without your parents, after dark, then came home and ate yourself into a candy coma. Ah, the memories!

But I digress. Back to the Party Planning Meeting. The cafeteria was organized with each group of classroom moms at their own table. Our table was set with a folder containing several documents outlining the party planning policies and procedures. Sunshine’s class had 5 moms signed up for the party planning committee. Me, Samantha, Danielle, Angela, and Becky. After waiting 10 minutes past the Official Start Time of the meeting, Becky was a no-show, so the rest of us plowed ahead. The instructions in our folder told us that the party would be 2 hours long. The children are not allowed to wear their costumes to school, of course. Back in the 80s, before No Child Left Untested, we didn’t know how distracting those padded He-Man chests and pointy witch hats were. Now we know better, so we make the children change into their costumes at school. So, 15 minutes for getting dressed. 30 minutes for the Costume Parade around the track outside. Which leaves one hour, 15 minutes left, to be divided into 15 minute time slots, all of which need to be detailed on the Party Schedule Sheet, which must be approved in advance by the teacher.

The first 15-minute time slot is obviously devoted to the Nutritious Snack That Isn’t Candy. Our committee chose an oh-so-Pinterest-worthy snack: Banana “ghosts” with tangerine “pumpkins,” a whimsical and healthy morsel found on a cooking website for moms with too much time on their hands (See below.) The ghosts and pumpkins will be served with a side of pretzels. The remaining four 15-minute time slots are devoted to “stations,” in which the kids will participate in Festive Themed Activities. Our stations include a Pumpkin Ring Toss (good for building hand-eye coordination), a Cauldron Game (sensory activity!), and a toilet paper mummy game (look at those gross motor skills!). I will be at the helm of the craft station.



Now, I am not crafty by any stretch of the imagination. Crafty moms are able to bring in a box of toilet paper rolls (which they are ALWAYS saving JUST IN CASE a craft opportunity should arise), bottle caps, and glue dots and have the kids create 3-story haunted houses. Uncrafty moms such as myself go on Oriental Trading (and for log’s sake, WHEN is this company going to change it’s name to something less racist?), spend $50, and end up with a bunch of shit for the kids to string into necklaces. But hey, fine motor skill development!

So we fill out our Party Schedule Sheet, plus our Snack Sheet which details all food being served, to cross-reference with any possible food allergies.

Then there is the list of supplies. I was in charge of creating the supply donation list on VolunteerSpot, a completely ingenious website designed to guilt parents into donating stuff to their kids’ classrooms. This website is fantastic. You input the specific supplies and quantities you need for the party. In our case, the list includes things like “Set of 30 small plastic Halloween-themed toys–3 quantity” and “24 pack mini bottled water–2 quantity.” And–here is the genius part–the list gets emailed to all the parents, and when they log on, they can see what needs to be donated, and also who donated what. So what happens is, Billy’s mom will log on and see that Sally’s mom has already signed up for 2 sets of party favors. Not to be outdone, Billy’s mom will sign up to donate all the paper goods. I’ve often logged onto the site and had the following conversation with myself: “I hope I can donate the plates and napkins. Oh damn, Nicole’s mom got those already, that cow. Alright, how about I do a bag of chocolate chips. Wait, Marissa’s mom is sending in two sets of favors, I can’t JUST do a bag of chocolate chips, I’ll look like an asshole. Okay, chocolate chips, and two sets of favors…” and so on.

One week after the meeting: The official party schedule is approved by the teacher. A crisis arises: one of the children is gluten-intolerant. Gluten-free pretzels are added to the supply list.

October 25, 6 days before the party. Sunshine and I do a test run of the craft. The plastic stretchy cord I ordered doesn’t tie into knots. I add a trip to the craft store onto my to-do list.

October 29, two days before the party. Samantha sends the group an email. “Finally heard from Becky. Turns out she just had a baby, so she won’t be able to make it, but she’ll send in some treats.” Well, what the fuck, Becky? Party committee sign-ups were in September. Did being 8 months pregnant somehow slip your mind when you were signing up for an event taking place on October 31st? And “treats”? Those aren’t preapproved, Becky. Get it together. I respond to the group, asking who is going to cover the pumpkin ring toss. *crickets*

October 30, day before the party. I’m doing the craft station. Danielle wants to run the TP mummy station. Samantha is all over the Cauldron game. I sent an email to the group. “Still looking for someone to do the pumpkin ring toss.” No reply. Earth to Angela! Hellooooo, Angela! If the kids end up standing there, woefully unoccupied and unstimulated for 15 full minutes, THAT SHIT’S ON YOU, ANGELA.

Tomorrow it all goes down. I will show up wearing an embarrassingly Oriental-Trading-Style crafted necklace, box of supplies in tow. There will be Mirth. There may even be Merriment. Somebody will forget to donate their assigned supplies. Somebody else will send in overly ambitious and show-offy goody bags so they can claim their Mother of the Year trophy. And at the end, we battle-worn Party Moms will go home, pop a Xanax, sigh a little for the lost Halloweens of our youths, and comfort-eat a few fun-size Snickers before heading out to Trick or Treat with our broods.

And then it will be time for people to sign up for the Winter Holiday Party. I expect you to pull your weight this time, Becky.


October 12th, 2014 by Molly

Droppin’ It Like It’s Hot

At the start of fall, I decided to go back to school. Not because I fancied a change of career. Not because our finances dictated that I find employment urgently. And not because I missed my former life as an editor and educator. Mostly, I went back to school out of guilt.

I stepped away from the cubicle when I was 5 months pregnant with Little Miss Sunshine. At the time, I was thrilled with my decision, and looking forward to spending day in and day out with my baby girl. But now, eight years later, the shine has worn off. Don’t get me wrong—I’m intensely grateful and gratified to stay at home with my kids. But I do miss the daily adult interaction, as well as the ability to make it through a day without getting snot on my shoulder and pre-chewed graham cracker slime on my pants.

Ultimately, though, the decision to go back to school was made out of guilt: the giant, heavy, soul-sucking burden that all moms carry with them to some extent or another.

Are you a working mom? Look at all those milestones you’ve missed! Did you stop pumping breastmilk—every 2 hours in the supply closet next to the post-its, or on 5-minute breaks between classes, or in the airport lounge praying it would stay cold enough on the flight to that important meeting—because it was just a little too hard? You should have kept that up longer. Hey, why aren’t you at the oh-so-inconvenient 10 AM meeting of the PTA at your kid’s school? And how come you didn’t have time to hand-make the peanut-gluten-dairy-egg-HFCS-rBGH-BPA-free treats for your preschooler’s Earth Day party? Only losers send in pre-packaged snacks, you know.

But hey, stay-at-home moms! You should feel bad, too. Look at that degree you worked so hard for, collecting dust there. You’re not contributing any income to the family! If your kids don’t get to go to Disney World this year, you have no one but yourself to blame. Look at this house! This is supposed to be YOUR DOMAIN, and it’s a wreck! And what are you going to do about that resume? The last employment year on there started with a 2 and had two zeroes in the middle! The working world is passing you by, sister, and there you are like a booger-shouldered schmuck, watching it sail right past. What a shame.

And that’s why I went back to school. Because my resume was dusty and my brain was filled with cobwebs and my heart was filled with the crushing burden of wondering if my family was floundering because of me.

So I paid lots of money and I did lots of work, and two months later… I am still filled with soul-sucking, heart-crushing guilt, but now it’s because I realized that I’ve spent every weekend of the past two months studying, and naptimes studying, and my kids didn’t get to pick apples or go on hayrides or run through corn mazes or other sources of Fall Mirth and Merriment.

The struggle. It is so real.

John Belushi in Animal House

“Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

I dropped one class, hoping that would make things more manageable. It helped a little. But not enough. Because what I realized was that I wasn’t working my ass off out of any burning desire to go back into that particular career field. I was doing it because I didn’t know what else to do. I started thinking about the hours I was spending each week on studying to go back to a career that I wasn’t all that passionate about, and realizing that if I devoted those hours toward stuff I actually CARED about, maybe my life would feel a little less overwhelming.

Before I made my final decision, I decided to talk to my stepmom, whose advice I value highly. “The thing is,” I explained, “I’m just not that passionate about it.”

“Say no more!” she exclaimed. “I would drop that like a hot potato!”

And that confirmed it. Tomorrow I will call the registrar’s office and add “college dropout” to my list of accomplishments or foibles, however you want to look at it. And maybe this week I’ll take my kids to the park to enjoy the weather. It is, after all, fall.