No One Prepared Me

No one prepares you for parenthood.

It’s not their fault. It’s impossible to prepare someone for it.

I was told, countless times, that having a child would change my life. That having a child would be exhausting. That having a child would be unimaginably difficult. That having a child would bring more joy, and devastation, than anything else ever had or would.

I listened. I nodded. I thought to myself, of course it will be difficult! I get that!

No one can prepare you for the sleep deprivation you face when your baby is a newborn. No one can prepare you for the tears you will shed as you attempt to take care of a small, helpless, being on two hours of scattered sleep over the previous four nights.

I listened to advice. I nodded. I smiled. I get it. I know having a baby is hard, I thought.

No one can prepare you for how quickly your baby will learn to crawl. And then walk. No one can prepare you for the fear that will race through your spine as you see your baby take their first nasty fall.

Over and over people warned me that these things would happen. I listened. I understood. Babies fall. They hurt themselves. They crawl, they walk, and then they run.

No one can possibly prepare you for the joy that you will feel with that the first smile, the first giggle, the first “mama” that comes through their little mouth. “It’s the most amazing feeling in the world!” I heard them say. I listened. I knew that it would be.

Everyone told me that two would be worse than one, and that three would be harder than two. I get it! Three is hard, blah blah blah. Three year olds will fight you to to the death, they told me.

No one can prepare you for the guilt you will feel as you attempt to raise that fighter of a three year old. The awful feeling of knowing you are doing the right thing only to have your child exclaim, “I hate you!” through tears.

I was told it would come. I expected it to come. I get it!, I thought, of course he won’t mean it!

Everyone told me that it would be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, the hardest thing I will ever do. I thought, I get it.

No one prepares you for the laughter. No one can prepare you for how much joy you will take out of the silly things they say. “We weren’t very close,” Alex told me when I asked if he missed one of his daycare friends who had started preschool.

No one can prepare you for how much joy you feel for your child. How what they do is the most amazing thing any child has ever done. How what they say is funnier than another child saying the exact same thing. How when they say they love you it gets stored away forever, and how when they say they hate you it also does.

No one can prepare you for parenthood.

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Do Goodery

During my second year of college my cat died. I found out when I called my mom to catch up. I was sitting outside of a coffee shop, on the side of the street, and I just started bawling. Most people ignored me, probably assuming it was the polite thing to do; however, an older woman approached me and asked me if I was okay. Before I answered, she handed me a tissue and said, “I don’t know what you are going through right now, but I promise things will get better.” She returned a few minutes later with a chocolate chip cookie from the coffee shop and a big smile. She handed me the cookie and left, without saying a word.

I have no idea who that woman was. I never saw her again, and I will likely never find out who she is. These past few weeks I’ve been thinking about that woman, and what a difference she made in my life that one day years ago.

For weeks now I have wanted to share what my day will be like tomorrow.

I have been in classes, taking tests, writing papers, and completing 180 hours of clinical at a hospital. Life is busy, but for weeks now I have looked forward to tomorrow. It has helped me get through some long, long, days.

Tomorrow I am going to get together with six really amazing women and spend the day doing nice things. We are giving away all sorts of fun stuff with the premise that by doing something good for someone they will then turn around and do something good for someone else. It’s contagious, you know. Small acts of kindness can go a long way, and we plan on spreading a lot of kindness.

Thanks to 77Kids, an American Eagle Brand (did you know they are based in Pittsburgh? Gotta love ’em!), and TheMotherhood we are going to have this amazing opportunity to partake in hours worth of shenanigans.

I am so unbelievably excited to have this opportunity, especially because I get to share it with these lovely ladies:

Michelle of Burgh Baby
Dina of Fries on Top??
Firemom of Stop, Drop and Blog
Gina of My very last nerve’
Laura of With love from Pittsburgh
Virginia of That’s Church

I know you’re jealous. I would be too.

If you are in or around Pittsburgh, we will be at the Carnegie Science Center starting at 11am tomorrow. Come join the fun! Come enjoy being the recipient of some do goodery, and do some goodery of your own. Even if you can’t come, do something good tomorrow. You never know what your one act of kindness can mean to someone.

While I am being compensated for my time, this is not a sponsored post. Plus, I would do it regardless of compensation. 77Kids is awesome, and what could be more fun than spending the day making people happy?

The Plague

The Plague came, and good grief I wish the last little lingering fight it has would just leave.

Alex came down with something about three weeks ago: fever, nasty cough, “thwoat huwts!”, constantly running nose. He seemed to recover pretty well, only to come down with another something nasty yesterday.

During his cough, I came down with the same thing. Fever (up to 102.6, high but nothing serious at all), sniffly, hacking up a lung, and busy answering the dreaded question: “Do you have Swine Flu?!”

I don’t actually know the answer to that. It’s possible it was Swine Flu, and it’s possible it was just a flu, and it’s also possible it was just a nasty, nasty, cold that then turned into a sinus infection. (And oh my god sinus infections are awful! This was my first, and it’s still hanging around, though it’s not causing me any pain at this point. Phew!) Regardless, Alex was fine after that illness, and I’m fine. And chances are if you catch it, you’ll be fine.

But here’s the thing: The flu kills people. Every year. Especially babies, young children, the elderly and anyone who has other conditions that put them in a compromised health status. And this current flu? Is hurting otherwise perfectly healthy individuals.

While it may not hurt you, it does hurt others. So if you are telling yourself, “I don’t need to get vaccinated against the flu. I probably won’t get it, and if I do it’s not a big deal!” you are right…kind of. But the thing about immunizations that most people seem to not understand: it’s not only about you. It’s about protecting others.

The more people that don’t get the flu, the more people won’t die from it. By preventing yourself (and your family) from getting it, you are also preventing the people you come in contact with from getting it. By immunizing yourself, you are protecting people who are unable to get vaccinated and who could become deathly ill. You are protecting the people who, for whatever reason, the immunization did not work on.

It’s not only about you, it’s about others. If you have the ability to get vaccinated, you should do it. Or at least think about what not getting vaccinated means: it means you may get sick, which means you may have to take time off of work, pay for medicine, find someone to watch your kids while you are struggling with a fever; it means you will probably get someone else in your life sick; it means you may carry around the illness and give it to someone who couldn’t be protected from it and could end up in the hospital because of it.

Yes, I am pro-vaccine. Absolutely, unapologetically, pro-vaccine. It is a choice that each person must make for themselves, and I would neither force a vaccine on someone nor judge them harshly for choosing not to get a vaccine. But this year, with this flu, we are going to see a lot of people die. More than the seasonal flu, and more “healthy” people than usual. Earlier this week, there were multiple people in the ICU (at the hospital I work in) with the H1N1 flu, one of whom was 6 months pregnant and in a coma.

Yesterday, we took Alex to the pediatrician because he was having trouble breathing. The night before, he had a runny nose and a cough. In the morning, he was still coughing, and it’s possible he had a slight fever. By the time he woke up from his nap at daycare, he was wheezing, using his whole body to take in shallow breaths, and was in clear distress. He’s an otherwise healthy kid, but whatever he managed to catch in the last few days? Made him unable to breath. It’s possible it wasn’t a flu, but if it was something that could have been prevented? Well…a sigh is all I have for that.

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Disadvantaged?

I have received a few e-mails from Pitt regarding scholarships and grants that are available for disadvantaged students. One of them is a scholarship for nearly ten thousand dollars, and another is a nursing grant of an unknown amount. For both, a short essay is required explaining why I should be considered for these scholarships.

The term “disadvantaged” is not a term I like to use. The connotations are enough to turn me off from using that word to describe myself, and then when I look back on my life I don’t think I was disadvantaged. I had a great childhood! I had a mother who loved me, took care of me, treated me well. I had extended family who visited and who I was able to spend time with. I always had a home, food in my stomach, clothes on my back. I went to private school! I attended a wonderful liberal arts, private, college.

But am I technically disadvantaged? Yes. Growing up, I didn’t have money. My mother lost her job, her life savings, her retirement, and her mental health. We lived on her social security disability, which is not exactly a comfortable amount of money. When some of my friends were getting cars for their sixteenth birthdays, I was shopping at the thrift store with my mom for winter clothes.

But. But. Here I am. I’m comfortable, happy, well-educated. I had a mother who fought for me to have the advantages I had: private school, financial aid, scholarships. I do not look at myself as disadvantaged. But. Here I am, going back to school full time. Living on one income, with immense debt. School debt, life expenses debt, debt out the wazoo. A huge personal loan to pay for Alex to attend daycare while I go back to school full time for a year.

As a young, unmarried, mother, I suppose I am “disadvantaged.” I haven’t had any income since 2007, and that income was from my job in college. Even though Zach has a perfectly reasonable income, we struggle every week to pay our debts on time while still keeping food in the house and gas in the car. I still don’t like that word, though. We are fine, not disadvantaged.

But, I’m still going to apply for these scholarships.

And I hope that Alex never has to apply for these types of scholarships. More importantly, even if he does, I hope that as an adult he looks back on his life and thinks, I wasn’t disadvantaged, even if maybe, according to some, he was.

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The Little Things

I have come to accept that over the course of the next year I will miss some firsts. And I am in the process of accepting that that is okay. I don’t need to witness the first everything. Instead, I will focus on the adorable, wonderful, frustrating, awesome, silly, things that Alex does now, even if they aren’t brand new. Even if I wasn’t the first to see, or notice.

Take, for example, Alex’s use of “a piece of.”

It all started with his birthday cake. “Alex, do you want a piece of birthday cake?”

“Yeah! A piece of birfday cake!”

Then, for the rest of that day he would ask for a piece of birthday cake. Then, for the entirety of the next few days he would ask for a piece of birthday cake. Then, he would ask for a piece of anything.

“A piece of a yogurt?”
“A piece of milk?”
“A piece of orange juice?”
“A piece of blueberries?”
“A piece of medicine?”

He’s also mastered the understanding of half. He knows when something is broken in half, he sometimes fusses when things break in half, and he has even demanded that I cut things in half. “Cut it in half!” “No! No break in half!”

A few weeks ago, he asked me to cut his milk in half. He was not terribly understanding when I explained to him that I wasn’t able to cut his milk.

It’s the little things that will keep me going this year:

The fact that Alex finally (sometimes) says “Thank You,” even if it comes out as one big word: “Tankoooo!”

The fact that Alex almost always says “Bless you” when someone sneezes. Even himself. He reminds us all to be polite.

The fact that Alex continues to call Batman “Fatman.”

The fact that Alex runs up to me on the days I am able to pick him up from daycare, yelling, “Mommy!” while waving his arms enthusiastically and immediately asking to be picked up for a big hug and kiss.

The fact that Alex loves to build things. He asks regularly to “build a tower? Build a house? Build a tunnel?”

The fact that Alex tells us directly when he doesn’t like something. “NO WIKE IT!” (His “L” sound is still a struggle.)

I take these little moments and remember them throughout my long days at school. When a patient asks me about my life, which so far every one has, I share the little stories of my son with them. It’s amazing what a difference the silly little anecdotes can make for my sanity and for the comfort of someone in pain. I even had a patient tell me, “no wike it!” when I asked how their lunch was that day; a big smile formed across their face.

These little moments have not been well documented in photo form lately. I haven’t touched my camera in two weeks. But I keep these moments in my head, and here in written form. I may end up missing out on a few weeks of Alex’s growth in photos here and there, but I will do my best to keep up with his life here. Even if it means taking ten minutes out of my weekend studying, because I’d rather miss a question on an exam than forget that when Alex was 2 years old he was obsessed with Caillou, screamed, “NO WIKE IT!” and gave the sweetest kisses.

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

I have been sitting on this post for months. I’m worried that it is not going to come across the way that I want it to. I’m not angry, just thoughtful. Sometimes it’s hard to get a point across correctly, so I can only hope that the people who read my blog know me well enough to know that this is just me sharing some thoughts.

Over and over again I’ve been told how lucky I am to have had a son so young. I’m not too young to be totally inept, and I’m not too old to be, well, old, I guess. And there is certainly a lot to be said for having a child at 21.

When Alex graduates from high school, I’ll be 40. Forty. That means I’ll still have so much time left to live without a kid running around my house. (Unless, of course, there is another baby in my future.)

But it’s not easy being a 23 year old mom.

When people see me with Alex, they often mistake me for his babysitter. Once I have explained that I’m actually his mother, thankyouverymuch, I get this look from them. This look that says “Oh…you got knocked up and decided to keep the baby. Wow.” or the look that says, “Sorry to hear that another teenager wound up pregnant.” I wasn’t a teenager, but even if I had been, the judgement is harsh. Because “teenage mom” is never said it a positive way.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a “normal” aged mom. Honestly, I don’t even know what that means. I can’t say that I think it would be easier to be, say, 28, 32, 38, in my situation. I can’t say it would be harder, either. All I know is that it is never easy. Parenthood is not a breeze. It’s not supposed to be easy.

When Alex wakes up at 6am, which he inevitably does, my brain hurts. My body hurts. I’m only 23! I’m supposed to be staying up late and sleeping in.

I only know two other people within a year of me who have children. And I only “know” them still because of Facebook.

While every other one of my friends is out partying on Friday and Saturday nights, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, and then sleeping in as late as they want the next day, I’m home with a toddler. While they are working office hours or irregular hours, coming home to an empty apartment or even back to their parent’s house, I am working 24/7. While every other one of my friends gets a break, some alone time, some peace and quiet, I don’t. While they are taking classes, drinking, shopping whenever they feel like it, I’m busy chasing a toddler around or thinking about whoever is chasing him around if I’m not with him. And that’s okay. I love my toddler. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s just not easy. It is not “easier” to be the mom of a toddler because I’m “young.” It’s still exhausting, and often very lonely. As the only person my age with a kid, my social life is very limited and very different than I had ever imagined it would be at 23.

Maybe my age gives me the advantage of having more energy to chase him around day after day. But I still don’t have the ability to function on too little sleep. And I don’t have the ability to be nice every time someone judges me for being a young mom. And I certainly have not grown out of my “it’s all about me” phase yet.

That phase. You know the one. It’s called being a teenager. It’s called being horribly selfish. I was a teenager a mere 5 years ago. And it takes a while to become less selfish.

It requires a lot of energy to be selfless. We all knows this. I don’t know if, as we age, we become better at this, but from my experience we do. I certainly am better able to be selfless with Alex now than I would have been, say, 5 years ago.

But maybe it’s even harder to be selfless as an “older” mom. Maybe years of being able to live as an adult, single or married, without kids, makes the idea of having to suddenly put your life on hold for a child harder. Or maybe at that point it’s easier because, in theory, you are ready for it.

When it comes right down to it, who is to decide what is “easier” or “harder” anyway? Is it harder being a stay at home mom or a work out of home mom? Is it harder being a mom as a student, or being a mom who can’t find a job? Is it harder being a teen mom, or a mom in her 50’s? 

I do my best not to judge any mother. While I don’t always succeed, it is important for me, as a mom who is judged all the time, to recognize that every mom has struggles and every parent has different beliefs in how to raise children. If I see a mom hit a kid, I have trouble not judging because it is against my own personal beliefs on how to raise children. But I try to step back, and remember that they are doing the best they can. And that they are probably in turn judging me for buying my son a snack nearly every time we go out shopping together.

I guess at the end of the day the grass is always greener on the other side. But at the end of the day, we are still living in grass. And it’s beautiful.

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There Goes My Brain

I don’t know exactly when in my surgery they removed part of my brain, but they obviously did. I can’t form a coherent thought these days, and seem to be stumbling over nothing again and again.

Today, while Alex was in daycare as I continue my recovery from surgery, I decided I would clean. Me, the person who hates all things related to cleaning, decided that instead of, you know, recovering, I would clean my bathroom and study and do eighty bajillion loads of laundry. No brain I has.

As I start pulling things out of my bathroom something falls. From the sky. I swear, I have no idea where something would have fallen from when I wasn’t even reaching up high. It was nail polish. I have not worn nail polish in years. Where did this come from? Obviously, the sky. And, of course, it broke in half. The bottom half of the nail polish bottle landed smack dab in the toilet and the top landed on the floor right by the toilet.

Needless to say, I was not amused. And I ended up with a pink hand.

Clearly, the girl who doesn’t wear nail polish has no need for nail polish remover. Fortunately, it all came off of the toilet and floor with just a little elbow grease. Unfortunately for my hand, scrubbing didn’t work so well.

Now, I suppose I shouldn’t just blame this on the surgeon. He probably didn’t remove part of my brain and unless scientists are missing the true function of the gallbladder there is no reason I should have lost any cognitive ability. Really, it’s just that I’m clumsy. Always, inevitably, undoubtably, invariably, clumsy. I drop things, spill things, accidentally hurl things across the room, burn things, smack things (and people), trip over things (and nothing). So this nail polish incident was just a little more pink than my usual clumsiness.

I hope Alex doesn’t have my same clumsiness genes, because with his love of climbing things? That could be bad.

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On second thought, I hope he outgrows my clumsiness genes.

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