No man is an island (but all women kind of are)

In a lot of ways, I’ve always existed just slightly on the fringe of what I’d call the rest of the world.

That’s not to say I’m a loner; I’ve had friends, sure, but I’m often the person who’s more of the friend you bump into, not the friend you call to deliberately meet up with. I’m extremely introverted, meaning I’m often in my own head rather than in the present. I also have a strange obsession with being right (ha), so I have a habit of falling down the rabbit hole of tedium and minutiae – particularly when it comes to grammar and language – which not everyone finds as fascinating as I do. I like to call it job security, but in a lot of ways being interested in the things no one else cares about is, gasp!, isolating.

In fact, I have a tendency to take on challenges that others aren’t interested in, or don’t want to try. In my relatively short career post-college, the majority of my jobs have been the only one of their kind at that company. Even my position now, which I job share and therefore actually DO have a counterpart, is somewhat isolating in its ubiquity. We work across all clients, making us simultaneously members of every team and of no team.

But at work, I like being one-of-a-kind. It leaves me as the go-to person for answers (see aforementioned obsession with being right) and gives me the autonomy and authority to act as I deem necessary, mostly because there’s really no one else to consult. There’s a freedom to being on your own in this way; I can pop in and out of projects, leave my mark and then move on to the next.

At home, though, those same qualities that look like drive and ambition at work can lead to my taking on way more than I can chew. And because of that inability to let go, to delegate, to work as a team, I wind up feeling like I’m doing it all alone.

Because I am. Because I’m a crazy person.

Because god forbid, something gets done in a way different than how I would do it.

The funny thing is – I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.

As women, as mothers, as wives, we’re told we can have it all, but the underlying sentiment is that we have to have it all. We have to be the best wife, mother, daughter, employee, sister, friend and so on. That we have to figure it out. That if we just put our minds to it, we can totally handle it all.

But that’s just it. We’re putting our minds to everything  keeping track of the things that keep the house running – and doing it all alone.

It’s not that the men of the world aren’t stepping up – they absolutely are, and my husband is a prime example – but if I can be so bold as to generalize, the women of the world are still handling so much of the unseen work that it’s absolutely beating us down. (Check out this article on Time that explains it so much better than I could.)

And instead of finding solidarity, support or camaraderie in our always-connected social era, we find comparison and self-loathing for any and all of our shortcomings. We see Insta-edited versions of the lives our friends and family live and wonder, why can’t I do that? Why can’t I handle it like she can?

Why am I the only one who just, simply, can’t?

Personally, I very much do not have it all together. On any given day, there’s a pile of dishes in my sink, laundry getting wrinkled in baskets on the floor and a kid going off to daycare with blueberry stains under his fingernails. My mind races between the work I need to do, the money I need to spend (or save, and for what and how much) and the questions I need to remember for the doctor’s appointment coming up at the end of the month.

It never ends. And the more I tack onto my mental to-do list, the more I feel like I’m falling behind in the endless and solitary pursuit of perfection. The ever-elusive “all.”

So with that, I say, can we all agree to just cut the bullshit here and now?

Maybe if we all quit pretending we have it all, we could all feel a little better about not having it all.

Who really wants it all anyway? That just sounds like more to clean.

Keep your clichés and give me coffee.

Can I get real with you for a second?

This mom business is freakin’ hard.

Everyone tells you it’s tough, but it’s worth it. That your life will change in so many ways, but that ultimately, becoming a parent was the best thing they ever did.

I’ll agree, but I’m also calling bullshit.

I’m calling bullshit because they say it’s hard, but they don’t tell you how. They say it’s tiring, that you won’t sleep, but they don’t tell you what eight months (or a year, or two) of broken sleep really looks like. They sugar coat and gloss over the hard parts, making cliché comments like “the days are long but the years are short” and “don’t blink, you’ll miss it.”

But I wouldn’t do that to you.

Let me preface this by saying I love my kid. He really is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I wouldn’t give him up for anything in the world (most of the time). Watching him grow and change over the last few months has me in awe, wishing time would both speed up so he can learn more and slow down so he can be small forever. So in some ways, I agree with all those isn’t-parenting-the-best-thing-evarrr people.

But if I’m being completely honest, I’ve been completely blindsided by how hard it was going to be.

I didn’t expect the stress and anxiety I would have after he was born, leaving me incapable of focusing on anything else, 24/7, for at least, like, eight weeks.

I didn’t expect that the lack of sleep would leave me short-tempered and hotheaded (yes, mom, even more so than normal), picking fights with a husband who is genuinely doing his best to help.

I didn’t expect that eight months later, I’d still be struggling to get dishes done, or clothes put away, or any number of things that responsible adults are supposed to be capable of doing.

Having Franklin has been simultaneously unifying and isolating, giving me something in common with the millions of parents out there, but making me feel like I’m alone in my seeming ineptitude. Surely everyone can’t have a house this messy? Surely other people somehow manage to adult better than this? Am I the only person who doesn’t know what the hell their kid is crying about?

If not, if it’s really this hard for everyone, WHY DOESN’T ANYONE TELL YOU THAT?!

Granted, my kid is alive, healthy and happy. And my dogs are alive and reasonably happy with their new, lower status on the totem pole (and extremely happy with the fact that Franklin has started solid foods). But really — is everyone else just pretending that they’re good at this?

Because I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty damned inadequate sometimes.

Sure, my Instagram is filled with his smiling, adorable face, because he smiles a lot and is generally happy.

But it’s also because pausing to take a picture when he’s screaming his head off mid-diaper change is a bit impractical.

And because damn it, if I’m working this hard, you better believe I’m gonna show him off.

Part of me knows that the good stuff, the really good stuff everyone talks about, is yet to come. That he’s developing into a tiny little person that will eventually do more than need held up, picked up and stopped from eating dog food. And that one day, I’ll look back on this time with my well-earned, rose-colored lenses, and tell some struggling mama I see at the store to cherish it, because the time goes too fast.

But right now? Right now I’m just keeping my head above water, dodging the two-week-high pile of laundry in my bedroom and ignoring the stack of dishes in my sink because the tiny little human who owns my entire heart wants up.

Or down.

Or up again.

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Sigh.

My goodness, I love this boy.

I suppose everything else really can wait.

4-month check-in: Coming out of the fog

Somehow, some way, my baby boy turned 4 months old this week. I figure that means it’s time for a check-in.

Since the last update – or really, the first update – so much has changed. Franklin is sleeping well (usually), growing (constantly) and changing (every day). I’m back at work (yay/boo) and Franklin is in daycare (boo/yay), and we’re settling into a bit of a routine (sort of).

Yes. Everything has a caveat and every day is different, but I’m happy to say we’re mostly out of the newborn fog and he’s starting to really show us his personality.

And oh, what a personality he has.

Aside from when his mean mom and dad make him go get his shots (like yesterday – sorry dude), Franklin is typically a happy, chill baby. He has a big, gummy grin that I just absolutely cannot get enough of.

And of course, those EYES.

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It’s that bright eyed, smiling – and giggling – little face that has brought me around the corner from “OH MY GOD WHAT DID WE DO” to “OH MY GOD, LOOK WHAT WE DID!”

So what’s so different?

He smiles. He chatters. He responds. He giggles. He interacts.

Basically, he’s realized there are more ways to get our attention than simply wailing like a banshee.

Of course, it’s still not all puppies and rainbows. He still cries for no reason at times. He still wants to be held – a lot – making getting anything accomplished around the house a near impossibility. I’ve managed to come down with the stomach flu twice, which is miserable when you have to care for and be solely responsible for feeding a small human.

But it feels worth it.

The rough nights of sleep are usually followed by a good night.

The early morning wake-ups are met with a smiling, cooing baby who is completely thrilled to see my face, hovering drowsily over his crib.

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The constant need to be held is a reminder that he needs me and loves me, and that being his mom is my most important job right now.

I feel like the days aren’t simply flying by in a mindless blur, and I hesitate to say I even feel a bit human again.

Of course, I still wonder if we’re doing it right, but I spend less and less time fretting over the little things and find myself trusting my gut without checking 45 websites to make sure I’m right.

I mean hey, I’ve kept him alive this long, right? I must not be so bad at this mom gig.

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Welcome to the world, Franklin

I’ve been trying to write this post for almost more than two weeks. Story of a new mom’s life, I guess.

I mean, I had a whole, 28-days later “mombie” theme all planned out when I started writing this at the 4 week mark. It was pretty sweet, as you can imagine. But since little dude is now almost more than 6 weeks old, it loses its luster a bit.

Seriously. See those strikethroughs? This is taking forever to finish.

Eso si que es.

So here I am, finally getting a chance to tell you all about the crazy little whirlwind that started November 22, 2015.

The short version: Franklin Marcus Manet was born at 11:28 a.m., kicking and screaming and perfectly healthy.

And so, I’ve spent the better part of the last 5.5 weeks two months solidly on the couch, under the influence of a heady cocktail of baby snuggles and spit up, topped with a dose of sleep deprivation for good measure.

I’ve lost all concept of time. Honestly, the only real reason I know it’s been that long is because Christmas already happened, and by nature of the fact that he arrived before Thanksgiving, that puts us at over a month. The days – OK, weeks – have flown by, and here I am, about to start 2016 as a mom.

Weird.

But let’s back up a bit. I’m going to commit little dude’s birth story to the internet, so if you don’t want to read about how he arrived, skip to the bottom.

Now, for the long version…

***

I woke up in the middle of the night on November 22. Not entirely unusual for someone who’s 9.5 months pregnant, but things got real pretty quickly.

2:30 a.m.: Wake up to pee (shocker, right?) and notice what feels like gas pains – oh, the many joys of pregnancy – until I realized they were coming and going in waves, about every 2-3 minutes.

3:00 a.m.: Wake up Darrell and tell him I think something might be happening. He’s confused as to how I don’t know for sure. I tell him to get a shower just in case.

6:30 a.m.: Contractions still aren’t that painful, but since they’re still coming around every 2 minutes or so, we decide to head to the hospital. Pack the bags, load the car and we’re off.

7:30 a.m.: We’ve arrived at the hospital and checked into Labor and Delivery Triage. The nurse gets me hooked up to the monitors and while we can see some contractions, they’re minor at this point. She checks and I’m only 80% effaced and 1-2 cm dilated.

Crap.

She said she’d come back and check again in about an hour, so we hung out in the triage room. Contractions were picking up in intensity but were still pretty tolerable, so I was afraid I wasn’t progressing and we’d get sent home.

8:30 a.m.: Nurse comes back to check and I’ve progressed to a 2, 2.5 cm and fully effaced. She said it was definitely real labor but that being a first time mom, it could take a while. She encouraged me to walk the halls and see if we couldn’t get things moving a bit.

So we walked.

9:30 a.m.: After an hour doing laps (and getting more painful contractions) we go back to the nurse and she checks me again. 3 cm. At this point she asks if I’m wanting an epidural and I tell her I’d like to go natural if possible. She was excited for me to do it and said that getting from 2 to 5 cm was the worst part … once I got to 5, she’d expect me to go a centimeter an hour.

We start walking again, this time needing to pause and really work through each contraction. A random physician walked by me when I was doubled over in the hall and asked if I was OK.

Dude, you’re in the labor and delivery wing. What do you think I’m doing here? Carry on.

10:20 a.m.: These contractions have GOT to be moving things along, so we go back to the nurse to check again. She says I’m 4, 4.5 cm and it’s time to check into labor and delivery.

Waiting for them to set up the room was torture, and I was starting to seriously reconsider getting that epidural. She’d said a cm/hour after 5, right? I can’t take 5 more hours of this! I started asking questions – when would I have to decide, what would I need to do, etc. if I wanted the epidural. They said they’d have to call in the on-call OB if I wanted it because she’d have to approve it first, and that they’d only call her if I said I did.

I told them I’d check for progress one more time, and decide. Mentally I’m prepared to hear things stalled and I’m still a 5, and if so, I’m getting all the drugs.

11:00-ish: I finally get into the bed, get hooked up to the monitors and they check again. 7 cm with bulging waters.

Scratch that. Water breaks. Time to call in the OB … and no time for the epidural.

The doctor arrives and checks again – I’m 9.5. She tells me to let her know when I feel the urge to push.

Um. Right now. Pretty sure I was actually already pushing, but yeah.

NOW.

The contractions were pretty much right on top of each other and I could barely breathe. In fact, I apparently turned blue and needed oxygen, but they coached me through and a few minutes later…

11:28 a.m.: Franklin Marcus Manet was born, kicking and screaming and perfectly healthy.

7 pounds, 1 ounce of absolute perfection.

***

Life has been a complete blur around here, but I suppose that’s life as a new mom. My ability to publish a blog in any reasonable amount of time is hiding somewhere, probably along with my ability to finish a hot cup of coffee or to put on anything other than pajamas when I get dressed in the morning.

Of course it’s worth it, to see the little guy we’ve brought into the world growing like crazy. We waited so long and went through so much in the process, sometimes it’s hard to believe he’s actually here.

But I’m not going to pretend like it’s all sunshine and rainbows. The truth is becoming a mom is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Nothing could have prepared me for the emotional and physical struggles I’ve gone through over the past few weeks.

Physically, I recovered from the delivery pretty easily, with the exception of feeling nauseated for the first 2-3 weeks post partum. I’d never heard of post-partum nausea (until I Googled it, of course), but apparently it’s a thing and it felt like I was back in the first trimester all over again, but worse. I am so incredibly happy that part is over.

Emotionally, it’s been a roller coaster. Blame the hormones or the sleep deprivation (or more likely, both), but the first 3 weeks had me oscillating between confident new mom and anxiety-ridden mess, many times a day, every single day. Everyone talks about how hard it is, but there was really no way to prepare for how very seriously hard it is.

It’s like your first day at a new job, doing something you’ve never done before, and getting no feedback whatsoever that you’re doing it right. With your mind telling you you’re doing everything wrong.

On no sleep.

Every day. And every night.

And your only coworker has no idea what they’re doing either.

I still have my moments, but for the most part, the anxiety has been replaced by an incredible amount of love toward this little guy who depends on us so much.

I’m still stressed and over tired, sure, but I look at his face and know we’re falling into a new normal. I’m gaining confidence every day and he’s growing more and more into a person with a personality, giving actual feedback as best he can.

I mean, he SMILES. Actually smiles at us now.

And it might just be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.

Welcome to the world, Franklin. I can’t wait to see the mark you leave on it.

Meagan White Photo - Ally & Franklin

Photo courtesy of Meagan White Photo. She rocks. Check her out and see more of Franklin’s newborn shoot here

October 15th – Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

As most of you already know, last year was a rollercoaster for us as we tried to grow our family.

I shared in September the news that we’d lost our second pregnancy and in November, that the loss had been determined a partial-molar pregnancy, putting us on hold for a minimum of three months. After a third loss in January, we decided to see a specialist to determine if there was a genetic or other underlying cause for these repeat losses.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of a million tests later, we found … nothing.

Finding nothing wrong gave us no answers, but it did give us the go ahead to continue trying on our own and, in March, we discovered we were expecting the son who’s been growing inside of me for the past 34 weeks.

This November, almost a year to the day of our first estimated due date, we’ll get to meet him.

We’ll get to meet the child who has softened the grief we’d felt so sharply all last year.

But today, October 15, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, a day for all families to remember their children gone too soon, either through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, still birth or as an infant. It’s something that affects so many families, and yet very few people speak about it openly.

Since first sharing with you about our losses, dozens of friends and family have opened up to me about their stories, too. People have reached out with condolences, questions and sympathies, and even gratitude for starting the conversation – proving that pregnancy loss is something that happens to so many, while so few feel comfortable talking about it.

That’s why today is so important.

While all of October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, this day in particular is set aside for remembering those we’ve lost. At 7 p.m., families around the world will light candles in their memory, keeping them lit for an hour to create a Wave of Light around the globe.

Once again, Darrell and I will be one of those families, remembering ours as well as those of our friends and family.

For us, the passage of time and the impending arrival of our son have made this year much less melancholy.

For others, the grief is still very real.

Let today remind us that we don’t have to suffer that grief alone.

A “Damn Fine” scholarship essay

When I first started thinking about freelancing, I did what anyone would do and researched the absolute crap out of how to be a freelancer. I searched for information on rates and how to set them, clients and how to find them, and deadlines and how to meet them. One great resource I stumbled across all those months ago was the blog at Men with Pens, a website copy and design company up in Canada.

Lucky for me, I check back in on that blog from time to time and found out that James Chartrand, the owner/founder, runs a writing workshop of sorts called Damn Fine Words. Even luckier for me (I hope), she offers a scholarship to this course. Because let’s face it, I don’t have the money to put into MORE schooling. To apply for this scholarship, I am (you guessed it!) writing this blog post! Wish me luck, will ya?

So, why do I want to attend this class, and how will it impact my business success?

As a relative newbie in the freelance copywriting business, I have this nagging feeling that I’m not good enough, relative to my peers and competitors. I’ve been lucky in the sense that I’ve gotten a decent amount of referral business, but I still feel uncomfortable pitching new, unknown clients. In order for my business to truly be successful, I’m going to need to reach outside that comfort zone of friends and former coworkers, finding new clients and drudging up new business. I know that if I had the confidence to pitch new clients, I could continue to grow and develop my business into something that can be sustainable over the long term.

To get that confidence, I know I need to become a better writer. Building a better portfolio, posting more consistently to my blog, providing better work to current clients — everything it takes to be successful in this business can only be helped by becoming a damn fine writer. I would say I’m an OK-to-good writer when it comes to creating content for others; give me a prompt, an idea or a deadline, and you’ll get yourself some copy. But writing for myself? Creating regular, high-quality content for my blog in order to attract new clients? I’m definitely lacking in that department.

I mean, let’s consider for a second that I’m posting this here, instead of over at my business page. I’m hesitant to create content there until I’m ready to do so on a more consistent schedule. Maybe that’s letting great be the enemy of good, but I just haven’t taken the leap.

And ultimately, it would be helpful to my bottom line if I could be a better writer who writes more quickly — time is money, after all. If I could develop better habits, both organizational and creative habits, I know my business would benefit. I spend a lot more time thinking about writing than I do actually putting pen to paper (err, finger to keyboard?), and that’s a habit I’d like to break. I would love to take this course and learn some cut and dried strategies for becoming a better, more efficient writer.

As a copywriter, it’s my job to make the businesses I work with sound damn good to their target audiences. Taking the Damn Fine Words class and building my abilities, confidence and efficiency will certainly help me be successful in doing so.

The secrets women keep (and why it’s not doing any of us any good)

Stereotypes say we talk; we gossip, we blab, we were born with a voice. And yet sometimes, it seems we shut up about the things we should really be talking about.

I’m here to tell you, staying silent isn’t doing us any favors.

This week, my husband and I found out we’d lost our pregnancy at eight weeks. Unfortunately, this is the second time we’ve heard similar news — it was an echo of a heartbreak we’d already suffered in April.

This Friday, I went through surgery for the second time, closing the door on our second attempt at creating a family.

Two people, hoping and trying for a child, now 10 months into the process and starting over.

Sadly, this happens more often than most people know. An estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, but for whatever reason, we women feel the need to suffer these losses in silence.

Etiquette tells us to wait until you’re in the “safe zone” of the second trimester before sharing your happy news, should anything bad happen. But even that safety zone is a myth; too many women have suffered the devastation of a second trimester loss. The real truth is that we’re afraid to suffer those first trimester losses in the eyes of others. We’re operating under the understanding that early losses are to be mourned as a family or just as a couple, not shared with others.

It’s like we’re afraid it says something about our womanhood, about our ability to be a mother. In reality, early term miscarriages are rarely caused by any fault of the mother, but are rather an unfortunately consequence of a chromosomal abnormality. But even though miscarriage could be as common as 1 in 4 pregnancies, keeping silent means keeping each other alone in our suffering. No one talks about it, so it’s hard to know exactly how common it really is. People all around the world are putting on a brave face because they feel as though it’s not their right to burden others with their bad news.

But a burden shared is a burden lightened, and we’d all be better off remembering that. In fact, we’d all be better off remembering that:

Not all childless couples want to be that way.

Not all women who get pregnant get to bring home their child.

That just because she’s pretending everything is OK doesn’t mean it is.

That when you ask someone when they’re going to have kids, you may be speaking to someone who’s grieving on the inside.

I consider myself lucky in that I have family members who understand all too well what I’m going through. And it can work both ways: I know that discussing our first loss with my mother brought her some closure after nearly 29 years of not truly understanding her own loss. Nothing makes it easier, but knowing I’m not alone helps me continue to hope for a happy ending.

I think if we could all be a little more honest about how hard building a family can be, maybe we’d all feel a little less alone.

 

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Please be kind to each other.