I’m Contributing to a Book – What the Hell?

So, this isn’t exactly an official blog post, but I finally can share the news: I’ve been asked to contribute to a book project.  While in its very early stages, the book is “Becoming Mother: Narratives of How One Becomes Two,” by Sharon Tjaden-Glass. You can view the project on the blog: www.becomingmotherblog.wordpress.com and see my contribution: http://becomingmotherblog.wordpress.com/other-true-stories/bailey-how-could-i-be-a-mom/. I’ll be featured in the “Other True Stories” section.

This may just be that first small step into a writing career. What the Hell?

Another Injury – What the Hell?

My boys are not delicate flowers. If they were, I’d be very concerned because I was a tomboy and I don’t really know how to do quiet games and sit still for long periods of time. Unless it’s to read a book, but I’m usually scribbling furiously in the margins or taking notes or highlighting or writing as I read, so that doesn’t really count. Anyway, because of their rough-and-tumble natures, my boys look like they’ve been in some sort of horrible accident. At any given time, I can find a bruise, a brush burn, or a scab with little effort.

I’m starting to worry, because as they grow older and bolder, their injuries are becoming larger and much more noticeable. My immediate family at least has learned to stop asking, “Oh, honey, what did you do?” and start asking, “What did you do this time?” And, bless my pediatrician because he looks them over and says he’s glad we are so active and outdoors so often at our house. I haven’t had to worry about a call from CYS yet, thank goodness.

But, I am noticing that the boys are starting to be more daring in their escapades. The five year old is climbing trees and jumping out of his clubhouse, which is attached to the swing set. He won’t yet jump off a swing, but I’m sure that’s going to happen soon. He is running and jumping into the swimming pool, going down the slide into the water, and, just recently, flipping off the diving board. Most of these activities are harmless and there is always a throng of people ready and waiting to catch him, ask him if he’s okay, or pick him up if he falls a little too hard. He has more bruises and scrapes to prove his bravery, but I don’t make it a point to tell him that they are badges of honor; though, I know at some point in his little boyhood another rough-and-tumble kid will tell him that’s what they are. I don’t curb all of the flipping and running and jumping, but I’m certainly not going to make it a show of honor yet.

The two year old’s latest trick is to jump off the love seat and land on one of our bean bags. We now are on our second set of bean bags because the first set is as flat as pancakes from the big kid’s shenanigans. We use them as buffers along our hearth, and it’s a system that is working well so far. The problem with the little guy’s jumping routine is that he sometimes doesn’t jump out far enough from the love seat, and I’m afraid he’s going to hurt his leg. Last night, though, he was launching himself so far that I used a second beanbag as a “safety net.” I was having heart palpitations because my baby is turning into an acrobat before my very eyes, and I wasn’t ready for his bravery to kick in yet.  Chalk it up to yet another way he’s growing up that Mommy isn’t ready for. When he slid down the indoor slide right into his brother’s head while I was picking up toys (I really can’t take my eyes off them for a second at this point), there were a few tears but no blood. I felt better because the big kid wanted me to rub his noggin and check his head, and the little guy wanted my husband, his Nuk, and his Lovey.

I guess these boys are growing out of their Sesame Street toys and Little People play sets. We are moving on to tumbling mats and trampolines soon, I fear.

I will patch up the skinned knees and put Aloe on the brush burns for as long as they want me to. I will hug them and hold them when they get a little too wild. I will warn them to “Be careful,” even though I know I should save my breath. I’ll willingly offer them comfort after a tumbling accident as long as I can. But, when the day comes that they don’t come running to me with an injury, I will not be able to handle it. Somebody will have to give me a hug because all I’ll be able to think is, “What the Hell?”

My Baby Doesn’t Want Me – What the Hell?

It happened the other day.  We were grocery shopping, and he started to get very agitated and kick his legs.  I asked him what was wrong, and he said, “Mama move.  Daddy push.”  I wasn’t allowed within three feet of the cart handle.  Then, we went out for lunch.  I tried to get him out of the car.  He thrashed around and said, “No!  Daddy get me out.”  My baby doesn’t want me anymore.

This may not seem like that big of a deal.  It’s normal for a boy to want to be with his dad.  He doesn’t see his dad as much as he sees me because of my husband’s hours, so I expect him to run to the door as soon as he hears his dad’s truck hit the gravel on our driveway and yell, “Daddy hooooome!  HI, DADDY!  HI, DADDY!”  There are nights when he sits in his own chair for two whole minutes before he has to be on his dad’s lap to eat supper.  It’s like he can’t get close enough to my husband sometimes.  I think it’s adorable (and, there seriously is nothing sexier about my husband than when he’s balancing our two year old on his lap, cutting meat into tiny bites, and trying to eat his own supper all at the same time), and every time that I see my husband sharing these moments with our boys I know that I picked the right man with whom to have these amazing boys.

But, now that our son chooses his dad over me every single time, I’m starting to feel those pangs of knowing that he’s growing up.  Our baby is our last baby, and he’s not such a baby anymore.  He fell down the other day but didn’t come running to me for a hug and a Mommy Kiss.  I don’t baby our boys and I don’t make a fuss every time they fall down, but he fell hard, and that’s usually when he needs me.  Not that time.  I had to grip the armrest of the couch to stop myself from going over to him and forcing him to hug me, just to make myself feel better.  Hug me, dammit!  Don’t you know you’re still supposed to NEED me?

I never wanted more than two children.  And, when we weren’t even sure if we’d be able to have one child, I thought two seemed like an impossible dream.  Now that it’s a reality, two really is a good number.  It makes dining out in booths made for four just perfect.  It makes traveling in the car much simpler.  It cuts down on Disney World hotel rates, from what I’ve heard.  At this point, I don’t know if we’re EVER going to make it to Disney, but that’s a subject for another post.  With two kids, they can’t gang up on my husband and me.  My husband bathes one while I put clothes away with the other one, and I get jammies on one while my husband bathes the remaining one.  Two-on-two works for pillow fights and dodgeball and waterballoon fights and everything else we do on our crazy nights together.  So, having two kids works perfectly…

… until the two kids grow up and there aren’t any more babies left.  For the past five years, there’s been a baby who wants and needs his Mama.  When the bigger one started to need me less, the second one appeared.  I always had someone to snuggle, someone to hold, someone to kiss and hug and mother.  The pain of the bigger one always wanting to be with my mom and even proposing moving into my parents’ house so he doesn’t have to say goodbye to them was less severe because I knew our baby still loved me most.  And now he doesn’t.  What the Hell?

(Connect with me @baileyshawley or share this post on Facebook so your friends can see what you’ve been reading.)

It’s a Miracle! – What the Hell?

We had just finished building our new home and finally moved out of my parents’ home – some day, when I have the energy, the Building a House and Avoiding a Divorce series will be featured on this blog; for now, just know that my husband, our then nine-month-old son, and I moved in with my parents for 16 months while we built our home. Our firstborn was in a bedroom more than ten feet away from our own bedroom for the first time in his life, and the empty bedroom waiting for our second child was two steps away. My husband and I hadn’t been focused on much other than the new house for months, so it was a breath of fresh air to be able to walk through our new home in the buff, flirt with each other without being under the gaze of my parents (I still like to think that my dad thinks I’ve only had sex twice – once to produce each son), and be a little loud in our intimate moments. So, when September and then October rolled around and I was starting to feel queasy and rundown with horrific headaches, a friend of mine suggested that I take a pregnancy test. She jokingly asked if I were late, because she knew that with my PCOS, there was no telling when I was late or if I were menstruating at all until I started craving copious quantities of chocolate. (In case you missed it, read The Fertility Roller Coaster – What the Hell? for more information.)

I bought a new box of pregnancy tests but wasn’t hopeful at all. You don’t undergo months of fertility treatments for the first baby and then expect to miraculously conceive a child the second time around. In fact, I had mentioned to my OBGYN a couple of months earlier at my annual appointment that I hoped to see him sooner, rather than later, to start the ultrasound/medicine routine again, and he said to let him know when we were ready to start trying again. Nobody said we would be able to conceive without the divine intervention of Clomid and hCG, and while we weren’t doing anything to prevent a pregnancy in those first few weeks of finally being in our own home, we certainly weren’t actively trying to get pregnant.

I just remember that I felt funny, and I was asking my family doctor about being tested for diabetes and thyroid issues. He said to give it a couple of weeks and come in if I weren’t feeling better, since we had just had a huge life change and lots of stress. I decided that I would just take a pregnancy test to rule it out, so I could give him that information when and if I did have to go in for an appointment.

The first time I had taken home pregnancy tests, I nervously paced the bathroom floor of our starter home, crying, and praying for those three minutes to pass a little more quickly than a great-great grandfather snail idly strolling through the garden in October. I wouldn’t let myself look at the test until a few seconds after the three minutes had passed, just to be sure it “took” before I looked at it. This time, I didn’t time it and went about my early-morning routine because I never dreamed I’d be pregnant.

Then, I looked at the stick. There were two distinct lines. In fact, they were two of the darkest lines I had ever seen in all of my pregnancy testing days.  The first time around, I had taken pregnancy tests once a day for two weeks after my first result because I just couldn’t believe it was true, even AFTER a blood test confirmed it. But, this time the lines were distinct. And staring back at me. What the Hell?

I remember sinking to the floor – very dramatically, like in those chick flicks I secretly watched on late weeknights when my husband worked his previous sales job until the store closed – and thinking, “It’s a miracle!  WHAT THE HELL?!?”

(Connect with me @baileyshawley or share this post on Facebook so your friends can see what you’ve been reading.)

The Fertility Roller Coaster – What the Hell?

This post was inspired by questions and comments I’ve been receiving from astute readers who have picked up on some of my wording in posts about our boys. Yes, our first son is the product of fertility treatments. I am not a medical professional or an expert on polycystic ovary syndrome; I’m just a girl who needed the loving care of her OBGYN to be able to realize her dream of having biological children. We rode the fertility roller coaster for nearly two years before getting those precious two lines on the stick. This post could never capture what those two years were like, but it does capture some of the raw emotions and motivation for staying on that hellish ride as long as we did. In the most trying moments of being parents, my husband and I lock eyes and smile; we are beyond blessed to have these boys, and we never forget it.

I had wanted to be a mother from the first time I held a Cabbage Patch Kid. My friends and I used to put the “babies” up under our shirts, take turns lying down on the bed while the other friend pulled the baby out from under our shirt, and rock and carry those dolls until they were cruddy and crusty. I remember having the knock-off Barbie that came with both a maternity shirt and a regular shirt and two babies that you could put up under her shirt, too. I never got into babysitting because I didn’t care too much for other people’s children, at least not those that I wasn’t related to, but I bought a rocking chair when I was sixteen and would sit and rock and dream about the boy I would meet that would become the daddy of a baby that I could rock in that same chair.

Then my first ovarian cyst ruptured. We didn’t know what happened; I was fine one minute and then passed out in my parents’ hallway the next. I had never felt so much pain in my life, but the pain didn’t seem to be in the correct spot for it to be appendicitis. My mom rushed me to a hospital and the doctor kept grilling me about the possibility of being pregnant. Nope. Hadn’t met that boy yet – you know, the one I dreamt about while rocking lazily in the chair. I had my first ultrasound that night, and little did I know that I would later become an expert in reading those ultrasounds. That was an unpleasant experience, which may become the subject of a What the Hell? at some point, but for now, those gory details are best left to the imagination.

Anyway, one year and one day later, my second ovarian cyst ruptured and I was scared to death. I was seventeen years old, seeing my OBGYN for the umpteenth time in my short reproductive life, and asking whether or not I’d be able to have children. Now, this man is a saint in our family because he has seen my grandmother through both ovarian and breast cancer, and we already had developed a very trusting relationship. He grabbed my hands in his cold, fleshy ones (why are OBGYN’s hands always so damn cold?), looked me square in the eye, and said we’d worry about that when the time came. My heart sank. This man always had been straightforward with me, and that was the first time I ever had heard a vague answer from him. I was scared. And sad. Those dream babies already were slipping away, and I hadn’t even finished high school or met my future husband.

Fast-forward to college graduate, wife, and homeowner who had desperately talked her reluctant husband into trying to start a family. I’m sitting in the same OBGYN’s office because I had been off birth control and trying to get pregnant for a year, and I wasn’t even menstruating. Trying so bravely to hold back the tears, I asked him that same old question I had been asking once a year for ten years: Do you think I can have children? And then hearing that tired answer: We’ll see when the time comes. The time had, in fact, come.

I wasn’t menstruating. I wasn’t ovulating. Nothing about my stupid lady parts was working. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and I had to take medication to menstruate, then I had to take medication to help stimulate ovulation, and then I had to get an injection to help the egg to mature and actually release. I was having ultrasounds twice a week. My school nurse give me the shot, my husband’s aunt gave me the shot, and nurses in my OBGYN’s office gave me the shot. The drug was damn near impossible to find. I remember sitting in a restaurant with my mother, a phonebook between us, calling every pharmacy in a 50-mile radius. More than once. I was a holy mess of hormones and anxiety and I wasn’t even to the heavy-duty drugs yet.

When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I started ordering the nursery necessities. I think I worried my mother and my husband; this had Lifetime movie written all over it. I painted the walls, I ironed and hung curtains, I measured and decorated with wall hangings, and I sat in that damn rocking chair holding a teddy bear, crying my heart out. Every night while my husband was at work, I sat in that chair, asking God for a baby. I tried reasoning with Him because it wasn’t fair that He had instilled such a maternal instinct in me that my friends had teased me about being the “mother” of the group because I always had the tissues and the lip balm, and my middle-school students called me “Mom” because I always had tampons and cough drops and Band-Aids in my desk. Begging Him to give us just one baby and I would be happy.

Accepting the fact that I may never be the mother I had always wanted to be was not an option; yet, I told my husband that he might want to leave me because I couldn’t bear a child. He said he married me, not our future children, but I felt guilty and somehow like less of a woman because I couldn’t get pregnant.

Then the bomb dropped. I couldn’t even get an injection one month because the cysts were so large I was in danger of having a ruptured ovary. I broke down in the doctor’s office and the poor nurse had no idea how to console me. I wrote the check for the office visit with blurred vision and apologized for handing the receptionist a soggy check. I sat in the lobby and cried until people getting out of the elevator had looks of true concern on their faces.

That was a very dark “What the Hell?” I knew of infertile women who had been trying to conceive for years. At that point, we were sixteen months into the fertility treatments.   I knew there were women who were undergoing IVF who were losing embryos monthly. I knew there were women whose husbands were giving them shots in their stomachs and who were even administering their own injections. I knew there were women desperately seeking surrogates. And, I was sitting in the lobby crying my eyes out and feeling guilt, pity, and defeat… but mostly feeling empty inside.

This went on for months before something felt different. I left that office after my OBGYN was the one to give me the injection. It was the one and only time he administered it himself, and I remember he patted my hip and said, “This one will work.”

I was staring at four positive home pregnancy tests two weeks later. What the Hell?

(Connect with me @baileyshawley or share this post on Facebook so your friends can see what you’ve been reading.)

So Different – What the Hell?

I love our boys. I cannot remember life without trucks, cars, Ninja Turtles, Thomas the Tank Engine, and dirt. I was so thrilled just to be blessed with two pregnancies that I didn’t even worry about whether we would need to buy pink or blue until I realized the second time around that it would be important to determine the sex of the baby; I either would need to hire movers to come and haul out all of the clothes and toys I had stashed away after our first son was born so I could begin making room for dresses and tutus, or I would need to start laundering the ungodly amounts of onesies I had hoarded. (Okay, I don’t really know what I would have needed if we had had a daughter, but judging from friends with daughters, I would be in a pink princessy haze right about now.) But, I was thrilled to learn that baby #2 also was a boy. I have a boy. I know how to do this. We won’t need to buy clothes or toys ever again!

Boy, was I wrong! Baby #2 entered this world a bruiser and hasn’t slowed down yet. A full two pounds heavier than his older brother at birth, our younger son has been his own man since we first laid eyes on him. And, of course, he didn’t fit into many of the clothes I had ready and waiting for him. Size wasn’t the only difference. He had squawked so loudly when he made his grand entrance that nurses came to make sure everything was okay. He spent his time in the hospital crying in such a unique way that the other families in the maternity ward knew right away that it was that “big baby.” Baby #1 only cried in the hospital when we tried to bathe him and put him in his car seat for the first time. Oh, isn’t he cute? That’s THE cutest cry we’ve ever heard. You know, silly first-time parents think that even the crying is adorable. And that first poopy diaper? Precious!

By the second time around, though, you think you know what you’re in for. You’re expecting to not sleep ever again, only wear clothes doused in spit-up and drool and God-only-knows-what-else, and never clean your house again. You know how to measure formula in the middle of the night without any lights on and not spill a single drop while bouncing a screaming baby and praying that he’s not really waking up the entire neighborhood. Car seats and high chairs and strollers and Pack ‘N Plays that once seemed like you needed a degree in rocket science if you ever had any hope of using them correctly are now operated with one hand.   I got this!

And then we realized this tiny creature was getting to be evermore different from our first tiny creature. This one had a little giggle instead of a deep belly laugh. This one loved tummy time instead of screaming like a banshee if we even attempted to put him on his belly. This one only puked every time he ate sweet potatoes instead of every time he ate. Every. Time. This one did an adorable Army belly crawl instead of refusing to crawl until he was up on his hands and knees like the poster child for infant mobility. This one loves to take naps and asks for “Night, night time” instead of forcing you to drive up your gas bills and put hundreds of miles on your car just for a fifteen-minute reprieve. This one is fiercely independent and stubborn instead of letting you talk logically and show him how to do things. This one throws the most unholy tantrums you’ve ever seen, complete with kicking, thrashing, hitting, screaming, crying, and banging his head on the floor. Wait. What the Hell?

Oh, yes. The tantrums. We didn’t have these before. We don’t know how to handle this. We don’t know if we need to buy him a helmet, put him in a padded room, or start looking for an expensive therapist. Mother of God, how does one child create such noise and mass confusion? What could possibly cause him this much stress and frustration? The trains aren’t staying connected when he pushes them across the floor. He can’t find the milk cup that is two inches from his hand. His mother stood up and walked to the bathroom when she should have been pushing the truck. It’s Wednesday and the sun is shining. He doesn’t need a reason. He just loses it. And then we want to lose it.

It’s funny how two children from the same parents can be so different. We haven’t changed our parenting style, and he certainly didn’t learn this from his older brother. The only logical conclusion I’ve been able to reach is that we got the wrong baby at the hospital. I just don’t know which one is the wrong one: the sweet, sensitive child or the impatient, irrational child. Either way, we are stuck with this tantrum-throwing beast that we love with all of our hearts and who causes his older brother to look at him, shake his head, and mutter, “Oh, that kid,” while I look at him and think, “What the hell?”

(Connect with me @baileyshawley or share this post on Facebook so your friends can see what you’ve been reading.)

No More Kisses – What the Hell?

Our five year old is one of the most sensitive kids we have ever met.  Seriously.  When a kid we don’t even know falls down at the playground with a thud, he is the first to ask him whether he is okay; I’ve seen him get to these potentially-hurt kids faster than their own mothers and fathers.  He worries when his younger brother is upset, hurt, or just having a screaming fit in general. He also knows that hugs and kisses from his own mother can heal any ailment from embarrassment to scraped knees to moments of anger and frustration, and he frequently seeks out comfort in those quick motherly acts of love.

So, imagine my utter shock and confusion when, at that most sacred of parent-child times, bedtime, my five-year-old baby looked at me and said, “Mommy.  Do you have to kiss me all of the time?”  WHAT THE HELL?

Why, yes, son I do.  It’s not really within my control.  You see, I love you so much that I want to hug and kiss every chance I get.  You were my first baby; the one we weren’t sure we were ever going to be blessed with.  You already have grown taller than I was prepared for in five short years and smarter than I let myself hope you would be.  You have lost all of your baby fat and can do so many amazing things that I don’t recognize you as that baby anymore, until I really take the time to look into your eyes.  So, yes, you have to endure dozens of hugs and kisses each day.  Actually, you should be happy that I keep my signs of affection in check as well as I do, considering the fact that you have one of the two cutest little boy faces I have ever seen and your cheeks are irresistible to your Mama.

In actuality, my heart broke as I answered: “No, honey.  I don’t have to kiss you so much if it bothers you.  How about if I try to keep it to three kisses a day?”

He nodded in agreement, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he had just broken my heart into a bazillion tiny pieces, and I wanted to hug him and kiss him to make myself feel better.  He’s damn cute, after all!

But, I had to try to look at it from his point of view.  He lives with a mother who can’t stop giving him quick pecks on the cheek, a younger brother who imitates his every move and phrase, and a dad who antagonizes him with pillow fights and hide-and-go-seek-even-though-you-don’t-know-we’re-playing-yet-so-I’m-really-just-scaring-you on a near-daily basis.  He’s probably yearning for personal space.  Oh, and he may be feeling as though I still consider him my baby because I might just be guilty of singing an original song to him every night about still being my baby.  Oops.

The real pain was not inflicted by his request, because, all things considered, it makes sense.  The real pain was in the fact that his request made me come face-to-face with the ugly truth that he is growing up.  I can try to deny it by still buying the cute clothes from our favorite children’s clothing store even though he is getting too small for their “Baby Boy” line.  I still can cut his meat and twirl his spaghetti and pour his juice into a cup with the mandatory straw included, but I have to admit that he is growing taller and leaner and more independent on a daily basis.

What the Hell?  Who are you and what have you done with my baby?

And then I remember how he looks at me and reads a word on the television screen while he’s picking up a toy that the two-year-old hellion just threw at him, and I realize that I love “five.”  (I remember an episode of The Cosby Show where Rudy is upset that she’s so much younger than the rest of the clan, and she’s in the backyard with Clair complaining about being so little, and by the end of that special mother-daughter time, she’s cheering: “Yay, five!”)  He’s a great helper, he enjoys helping me cook, he swims so well that I don’t feel like a lifeguard on duty 24/7 at the pool, he’s asking deep questions, he’s making us laugh with his wit and humor and *gasp* sarcasm, and I love him now more than ever.

So, I may have to come to terms with the fact that my first baby is five already.  But, he’s going to have to deal with the fact that I will still kiss him.  Whenever I want to.  And in public.  Maybe I’m just providing him with material for his own “What the Hell?” moments.

(Connect with me @baileyshawley or share this post on Facebook so your friends can see what you’ve been reading.)