No One Says “I want a two year old.” Now I know why.

Everybody loves babies. Babies are cute, they smell nice, and they don’t move too much. My babies were snuggly and although they didn’t sleep well/ever they were so cuddly and beautiful that it was okay to be completely sleep deprived.

Then they started to grow. Now we have these two monstrous two year olds.

I’ve literally never met someone who has said “I want a two year old.” It’s always, “I want a baby”. But when you get a baby you eventually get a two year old, or in my case, two of them.

Now the wonderful part of having two year olds is they still mostly smell good. In my case they are still cuddle bugs. They say the cutest things like, “Got Mama,” as they squeeze my cheeks together and nuzzle my nose with theirs. They yell “Babe” when they can’t find my wife because they know it will make me laugh when they call her the name I call her. And they say it more like “Bayy” and try to mimic my voice. They are starting to sing songs and they point out the moon and the stars and the sun as if seeing them for the first time making me appreciate the things I take for granted. They also look at me like I am their entire world and I treasure those moments because I know in just a fleeting few years they will push me away when I try to kiss them. They will prefer their friends over me, and I know there will be a time when we cuddle up for the last time and that literally brings me to tears.

But the flip side of the heaven of two year olds is the Hell. The wanting to scream as I say things like “Don’t…bite, hit, lick, pull, follow, yell at, run into, run over, glue, color on, paint….your brother,” “Don’t slam the door,” “Don’t open the door,” “Throw that away,” “Pick that up off the floor,” “If you….do anything ever again….you will go to timeout,” “Don’t dance in front of the fireplace,” “Don’t push him in front of the fireplace,” “Why did we buy a house with a damn fireplace?” “Don’t put your foot in that…” shit.

Then you try and get them to say something and they won’t, then you swear in front of them when you drop a piece of firewood on your toe and of course they say “Shit.” Like perfectly enunciated. And yes I had a broken toe. Then the boys talked about “Mama’s boo boo” for the entire six weeks it took to heal.

Getting them out the door is a total shitshow. My wife says “It’s like herding cats.” And it really is. I’m always talking to them, always asking them to do stuff, and always trying to allow them to grow in their independence but seriously you can’t get your shoe on without my help and we are running late so give me the damn shoe.

They test my patience and my ability to not swear on a minute by minute basis. I go to work in psychiatry and my job is literally easier than my two year old twin boys. They are both so smart and they both totally try and play me. And sometimes it works.

I started to really pay attention to the new mom’s who come see me in my practice. Not just the fresh postpartum mom’s but the toddler Mom’s. For anyone who is a butch lesbian, when you see another butch lesbian there’s usually this head nod of acknowledgement. It always kind of irritates me because my wife gets the head nod and I never do, and I’m like hi over here, I’m also married to a woman but because I have long hair and cleavage I don’t get the recognition…anyway. When I have a client who is a toddler mom, not even twins but maybe a 3 year old and a 1 year old or something like that, and then I tell her I have twin two year olds….we have that moment. That, “Gotchya girl.” Like we are in the battlefield together and we know what it is really like down there in the trenches.

I’ve had Mom’s break down in front of me hysterical because they feel like failures because they yelled at their kids and they get so mad at them sometimes they want to hit them (they don’t hit them) and they look so ashamed and so sad and full of self loathing when they tell me these confessions through tears. That’s usually when I disclose I have two year olds. That I too know the pain of toddlers. That our society lives on Facebook and pretty images that mom’s should be these superheroes who never lose our shit, when in reality it would be weird if toddlers didn’t bring you to the brink of insanity at least once a day.

I reassure my clients (of course after a thorough assessment that they actually are not a danger to others) that actually what they are experiencing is normal. That it certainly doesn’t feel good, and they may need a medication trial, or at the least therapy, but that toddlers push us in ways we couldn’t possibly have imagined. That toddlers can literally make us feel bipolar because we are so in love with them one second and the next we are hauling them off to time-out about to watch an epic tantrum.

No one wants two year olds. Because two year olds start to make shit real. They start to be little people who make us feel in ways we never imagined we would or could.

I’m not a perfect Mom. I lose my shit. I swear. I listen to Eminem in the car when I just can’t take one more round of Let it Go. But even if I never said I wanted a two year old I’m so glad I have them. I am completely head over heels for my boys. They are making me a better person. They make me more aware of my anger and cues for when I am getting worked up. They make me practice patience. So much patience I could choke on it. They make me stop and look at the moon. They make me say “I’m sorry” and give big hugs when I freak out and I know I’m wrong because it was my fault for running late not theirs. They’ve made me better at time management. They’ve made me figure out how to communicate differently because going head on was not working and just hurting us all. They make me learn how to set age appropriate boundaries and consequences and follow through on them.

I thought having newborns made me love in a new way, little did I know what toddlerhood had in store for me. They exploit all my vulnerabilities without intention. They see books and movies with Dad’s and being married to a woman I wonder what they are thinking about. Are they already starting to wonder about not having a Dad? Does it even enter their heads?

No one asks for toddlers, and I certainly wouldn’t wish two of them on anyone. But on the flip side they are making me a better woman and honestly a better psychiatric provider. I am so much more empathetic to mom’s of toddlers. I get it. I give them space to feel like a bad mom and reinforce to them that they actually are not bad mom’s. They are just human trying to navigate this incredible journey of parenthood.

I’ll end with this. Our kids are always watching us, learning from us, becoming us. I will never be sorry or regret hugging them too much or cuddling too much. I will never regret the time I spend with them now and the bonds we are forging together. Toddlers have the ability to make you face and embrace love, anger, frustration, patience, and every other good and bad part of yourself. Enjoy the journey because it is all too short.

Signs and Guns and my sons.

You ever see that movie Signs with Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix? I always thought of it like the story of an individual family during the movie Independence Day. Independence Day shows the big picture and the people in charge. Signs shows the struggle of one family to survive the invasion. I always feel that after a mass shooting the media is Independence Day and what is not shown are the individual struggles of every survivor.

I remember at the time of Sandy Hook I worked on an inpatient psychiatric unit in a hospital. I remember the day of the mass shooting texting my former co-workers at the children’s hospital. The worst part of that day was hearing from my friends that they were fine, that there were no survivors, so there were no hospital visits by injured children. They all died.

The months after Sandy Hook saw a decline in state psychiatric beds, a decline in state psychiatric funding, and gun legislation crafted by legislators who unfortunately know nothing about mental health.

This is a law that came out of Sandy Hook. Any one who signs in “voluntarily” for a psychiatric inpatient admission in the state of Connecticut has to give up their gun permit for a certain amount of time if they have one, and cannot apply for a pistol permit should they desire to for a certain period of time. Any person who is committed “involuntarily” as in “committed on a physicians emergency certificate” is not placed on this database and is able to apply for a pistol permit without an issue. Now those of us that work in mental health know, that people who are committed involuntarily are often more a risk to society than those who are voluntarily seeking the help. We also know how this puts up a barrier for suicidal firemen and policemen who would otherwise seek psychiatric care voluntarily. When this legislation was passed we had some meetings ┬áto discuss it and there was not one among us who felt this law made any sense. It also was not made clear who would actually enforce it.

So that backwards piece of legislation came out of the state government that had bore witness to the death of children. Babies.

Adam Lanza’s guns were his mothers. She had no contact with mental health. So it would not have prevented Sandy Hook in any way shape or form.

When I worked inpatient psychiatry I did a project about mass shooters. I studied 28 mass shootings perpetrated in schools in the United States. I can tell you they all had one thing in common- easy and open access to guns. From what I could find they also all had at least one contact with mental health care. In one interview it is near impossible to get a teenager to open up to you. I know from experience. It takes time. It also takes a teenager who is scared of the thoughts they are having to disclose them.

Depending on mental health care providers to identify any potential mass shooter is not realistic. Often these kids do not stick in treatment, and the APA put out a statement that basically said, We suck at predicting violence.

The other common vein I found among the ones I reviewed was that they all had spoken of committing a mass shooting at school or on social media at one point before the shooting.

The conclusions I drew from my research was to limit people’s access to guns and for teachers and students to report every time they hear or see a threat of a mass shooting. I can tell you from experience mental health providers have very little power in these situations. Meaning we have no ability to report a vague threat or an instinct that we feel someone is a danger to others. Unless a specific target is identified we cannot tell any one anything. Our mental healthcare system is set up to be reactive not preventative. And every time we do an assessment we are saying in that moment the person is not a danger to self or others. We are not saying they will never be a danger to self or others.

The frequency of mass shootings and the violence our children face and the ineptitude of our legislators to pass anything of substance terrifies me.

In the year 2018 we have a president who is rolling back every advance we have made socially and environmentally. We have children still dying. Senators and members of the GOP also being shot. And I find myself googling “bulletproof vests for children” and guess what they exist. They even have bulletproof inserts for children’s backpacks. I feel like I’m being punk’d I feel like lifetimes should see progress yet all mine has seen are declines.

Legislation that is meaningless is Independence Day. Me purchasing bulletproof vests for my sons to wear to kindergarten is Signs. Footage of news anchors in tears as they report another mass shooting of children is Independence Day. Me hugging my kids and kissing them and walking out with tears in my eyes every day that I leave them at daycare worrying that this will be the last time I see them alive is Signs.

To all the people out there trying to figure out to survive each day with your children. You are not alone.

 

 

 

 

Remembering the dark days of IVF

For those of you who don’t know what Clomid is it’s a hormone. It makes eggs grow on women’s ovaries and provides a more favorable chance of pregnancy with IUI’s.

Clomid threw me into a deep depression. It was not only the third failed IUI attempt but I am very sensitive to hormones so down I went. I entered December feeling God awful. I saw my therapist who I hadn’t seen for over a year and I remember just sobbing. He was taken aback because that isn’t me. He told me to see a psychiatrist, he was worried I was actually deeply depressed and needed anti-depressants. I saw a psychiatrist. He told me I was moderate to severely depressed and needed an anti-depressant. He also talked about health care professionals not taking care of themselves, and that I may need an IOP or something. I was working on an inpatient psychiatric unit at the time, and there was no way I was going to an IOP with patients of mine.

I took one dose of Lexapro and felt even worse. It threw me into a fog for a day, and I was like Fuck this. I booked a cruise for my thirtieth birthday which was in January, and met with our fertility doctor. We decided we would proceed with IVF starting in February after my cruise.

I went on the cruise with two of my best friends. One of whom was actually working on the cruise ship. Yes we went for free. Yes knowing an officer on a cruise ship is freaking amazing. The head Chef made me grilled lobster on my birthday and sent a cake to our cabin and a bottle of very good champagne. I jumped off a pier into the Gulf of Mexico on my birthday. I drank a lot of tequila and a lot of champagne and thought I was going to die the following day. I didn’t though.

I came home refreshed. I forced myself to go the gym every day before, during, and after the cruise. I kicked myself out of my depression and put on my game face for IVF. I needed it. IVF kicked my ass.

And it all started in February that year. 2015. Started with shots. So many shots. I was allergic to the first one- and my conversation with my fertility doctor went like this, “So the Lupron gives me hives, and is extremely painful to inject.” I showed him the hives. They were big, red, and painful. He looked at them. “Okay, so we really need you to take this though. So just maybe take Benadryl or something.” I had to inject the Lupron into my hive laden body for three full weeks. After the first week I added some growth hormone which was wicked expensive and I treated like liquid gold. After that we added another one. I don’t even remember now. I just know at one point it was three shots a day, two pills, continuous hives, bruises, and hormonal craziness.

The Progesterone was an intramuscular injection- it was really thick and kind of a lot of liquid, and could only be injected into my butt. I was on that daily for a full three months and I stopped it early because my butt could not take it anymore. It got to the point where I cried every day when it was given to me. Not full on sobs, but tears coming out of my eyes.

This is an aside- I administer Vivitrol as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. It’s usually to young guys who are drug addicts to prevent relapse. It’s a big needle, thick, only can go into the butt, and is once a month. They all bitch about it, they all say I have no idea how much it hurts, and many of them have literal panic attacks and insist on laying down to have it injected and literally whine the whole time. In my head every single time I’m like, “Dude. You don’t even know.”

I literally have tears in my eyes typing this because I remember so much pain during that time period and so much hope but so much fear. I remember feeling so fortunate but also so scared working in a hospital. I had to let people in on my secret. They knew I was gone a lot in the mornings (at appointments), one resident walked in on a nurse giving me my injections one day when it got to the point that I couldn’t self inject anymore. He was super awkward but super nice but I also felt the need to explain I wasn’t getting shot up with anything illegal. People knew. They were all supportive and friendly, but it was still scary.

As a society we don’t encourage women, especially lesbians, to talk about their fertility journey. Because of fear. Fear of discrimination, fear of miscarriage, fear of so many things. This time of year for the last two years has been hard but also empowering because I remember the fear, the pain, but then I see my two sons and I’m like fuck yeah. I made you both.

My last digression and comment to this blabber is after the pain and after the hives went away and the bruises on my belly and butt went away I was seven weeks pregnant. I started bleeding. I thought I was having a miscarriage. We already knew it was twins. We went for an ultrasound on a Sunday morning with my fertility doctor. He turned the camera toward me, and I saw them there, two little beating hearts. He showed us the big dark thing on the right side of them both- there was a large blood clot. He told me almost under his breath, “One wouldn’t have been enough, the blood clot is so big, it would have taken one out, you needed two.”

One year before I saw a psychic. She did a medium reading. She told me my Grandpa kept saying, “One’s not enough.” She literally said that phrase about ten times. So when we had to decide if “One egg will be enough or if you want to do two…” I immediately said two. We had to do two. Then, at seven weeks, I knew why.

I don’t regret the pain. I don’t regret the depression. I certainly don’t regret having two. I remember that ultrasound vividly because it was like all the pain and all the shit from the last year came full circle. Came back to a chance meeting with a psychic that changed the course of my life.

To anyone going through their own infertility journey- stay strong. Go on a cruise. See a psychic. Put on your game face. It’s not easy and it’s the opposite of feeling good. But that moment when it all comes together in the end is worth it.

Co-sleeping, Vaccines, Circumcision, Formula…and every other Mom Shame.

Back in those glorious pre-baby days I thought I knew a lot about kids. I worked as a pediatric nurse. I was asked parenting advice almost daily in my job. I listened to other nurses I worked with who were moms and I learned and I gave the best advice I could at the time.

I certainly recall having some of my own thoughts about parenting though. Including being sort of judgmental about co-sleeping families, very judgmental about families who were anti-vaccines, and having zero opinion about breastfeeding other than I didn’t need to see it happening as frequently as I did working in pediatrics.

I joined a few mom groups on Facebook after I had the boys. I had a lot of time sitting on the couch or bed with two babies breastfeeding and then sleeping on me. I spent a lot of time on my phone. They also didn’t sleep, ever, other than on us, so I was looking for some magical answer online for this horrible period of time with no sleep and aching nipples. What I found were sometimes caustic and judgmental mom’s/women who would literally tear each other down for asking a simple question about whether they should co-sleep or which formula to use or when to give baby cereal or should I do a delayed vaccination schedule…etc. I quickly exited these horrible spaces. I have to say the only group where I didn’t get disgusted by drama was a lesbian mom’s group that I am still a member of.

Somewhere in my sleep deprived brain I thought, women have been doing this Mom thing with less than my wife and I have for centuries. We got this.

That’s not to say I didn’t want support. I did. But I got it from my friends and family who were not going to judge our decisions. And sure enough we have two healthy and happy two years who could give two flying fucks about when we started them on cereals and if it was rice or oatmeal.

So here’s what I learned.

Co-sleeping- didn’t work for us. Works for some people. If we had one baby it may have worked. But two was too many. They also LOVED to nurse. If my boobs were around they wanted to be on them. Being in my own bed was sometimes the only break I got from nursing in those first eighteen weeks. I’ve had some clients over time ask me abashedly about their child usually between ages 5-10 who is still co-sleeping. They can barely make eye contact as they wait for me to pass judgement. I ask three questions- Are you sleeping? Is your kid sleeping? Is it affecting your marriage? If the answers are yes, yes, and no, then I smile and say carry on. Then they worry that their kid is too old to be co-sleeping, and I’ve come to reply “Do you hear of any twenty year olds who still co-sleep?” They usually laugh. “No you don’t. Look it’s your bed, if you’re ready to make the transition the start working toward it. If not, just do what’s best for your family.” They all visibly relax. Who am I to tell someone how to be attached to their kid? Who are we as a society to tell a family how to create warmth and an emotionally secure attachment between parent and child?

Next topic. Vaccines. I’m not going to get into a debate on here. Your body, your decisions. I’m going to talk about one vaccine in particular. Tdap. Also known as Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis. Most of the vaccinations sound like something foreign and distant because we haven’t seen them in my generation. Perhaps chickenpox will be like that for my kids (because of the vaccine for it…). But I’ve seen pertussis up close and personal and it’s not pretty. I’ve never seen measles, mumps, rubella, (probably because of the vaccine) I have seen patients with hepatitis and meningitis and pertussis. All three of these illnesses are ones that I would literally do anything to have my child avoid.

Here’s the story- I worked in the pediatric emergency department for roughly 6-7 years. In that time I took care of maybe 5 babies under the age of 12 weeks who ended up with a positive pertussis. One died. Now that’s not a lot. But I can tell you I wouldn’t want to be the mom of that one. Because the illness and the death is horrendous.

The coughing, the tiring out, the skin color, the suffering. It’s a horrible illness to witness. I have memories of caring for babies with it for only 3-5 hours who were then admitted. I can’t imagine being parent to a child with pertussis and watching them suffer for days, and potentially die. I got a TdAP shot when I was pregnant, even though I was up to date on it, and I did not let anyone in my home while the boys were under 12 weeks if they had not been vaccinated. Yes I was that crazy mom. But it’s because I literally saw a baby die from it. The risk is very real to me and I would never wish it on anyone. So yes, live and let live, and if you don’t “believe” in vaccines fine, whatever. But know the vaccinations are protecting us from real and deadly illnesses- well I’ll vouch for the Tdap vaccine at the very least. My last side note about this is that most private colleges will not admit kids without a full vaccination history. I went to Yale for my masters and they said either provide proof or don’t come. So eventually, if your kid wants to go to a private college, they may end up needing them down the road anyway because with a private university there is no religious waiver.

Circumcision- ugh. So tough. Permanently altering a child’s body. Again this is a personal decision and one we made based off my wife’s and my background in healthcare and bad cases we had witnessed. That’s all I’m going to say about it because I don’t feel strongly one way or the other.

Formula- it’s not going to kill your baby if you can’t breastfeed. Let go of the mom shame and the mom guilt and if you don’t want to breastfeed or you just can’t physically do it, just give them formula. Seriously. I did breastfeed twins for a year and honestly my first year would have been much happier and less stressful if I hadn’t.

These are all hot button issues. I feel very strongly since becoming a mom that I DO NOT have the “right” answers. But I have the answers that worked for my family which may not work for other families. I think my biggest issue would be with anti-vaxxer’s if they haven’t given their kid the Tdap. But otherwise do what’s right for you. Don’t let anyone shame you into a decision that doesn’t feel right for you. Struggling with these decisions is not a bad thing, it means you care about your kids and you want to do what’s best. I would suggest all Mom’s just keep your mouths shut about your decisions in these areas because if you say what you are going to do you are going to hear about a hundred differences of opinions and some of them will be shaming and judgmental. That shouldn’t be the way but it is right now. Instead seek out your own tribe of non-judgmental women. They exist, I promise, but you may not find them on Facebook. Go to Mom support groups in your community, don’t isolate yourself, and know that being a Mom is hard but if you are reading this and remembering or experiencing the struggle of difficult life or medical decisions for your child then you are doing the right thing. Decisions for our children shouldn’t be made lightly or without serious thought. But once made, they also shouldn’t be shamed by others for not being the decisions they would have made.