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Why I Climb

17 Jun

I haven’t blogged or written in FOR-EVAH, but this is an occasion where I feel the need to sit down and let my fingers do the walking… on my keyboard…. errrh. Ehem. (25 points to those who are old enough to know that reference!)

I have read a lot of powerful and personal stories from women, over the past 6 months, about their harrowing journeys with postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders.  The worst of the worst–postpartum psychosis–is a hell I can’t even imagine and I know several women that had it. My experience doesn’t even come close to that.  I didn’t hear voices, I didn’t have delusions, and I didn’t have to check on the baby 25 times a night to see if she was ok. Actually, on the contrary, I hardly ever checked on her. The rational part of my brain told me that she was fine, and the tiny little messed up part said, “if she’s not breathing, she’s already dead so I might as well sleep.”

So many stories I have read and heard about this year have to do with incomprehension, denial, shame and fear. A common thread among women who experience perinatal mood disorders is that they either do not believe they need help or are scared to admit it. Only 15% of women who need help seek and receive help.

I was one of those 15%. My story is not about over coming shame or stigma. My story is about a lack of awareness and  the inadequate mental health resources for women’s maternal mental health.

I tried for a long time to get pregnant with Beatrice. I went to GREAT LENGTHS with drugs and fertility treatments, ultimately deciding to do an IVF cycle.  IVF is no joke and not for the faint hearted.  I had to take my needles and medicine on a plane. My husband had to give me a shot in the butt at precisely 9pm at my sister in laws wedding, and then I had to take a town car back to Baltimore to be at the clinic by 8 am for bloodwork.

I was thrilled when I heard I was pregnant.  I was excited, scared, and then… I was sick.  Up until that point, I had never felt so sick in my life (until 2 years later when I got pregnant with Bea’s brother… another story. Ugh.)  So, it didn’t take long into my pregnancy to start not liking the whole thing.

“Oh my gosh but its so worth it in the end.” If I heard that once I heard it 50 times. Shut. Up. Please.

But the 2nd and third trimester were pretty good. Once the illness subsided I was more excited.  I was REALLY excited when we knew it was a girl.  We decorated her room, bought clothes, and did all the things parents do when they are expecting their first child. I kept hearing how wonderful being a parent was going to be.  Why did no one tell me?

I had Beatrice via a c-section on September 2nd, 2010.  I was disappointed we ended up with a c-section, but my body wasn’t cooperating. I was tired and in pain.  The OR is not the most warm and cozy place to have a baby, but my rational brain (again) said… women do this here every day.

I heard her cry. Check. I heard them confirm it was a girl. Check. “Can I see her? When can I see her? I want to see her face?” They brought her to me and I saw the sweetest little face I’d ever seen. It was like I had known her all along.

She nursed for a bit and then the nurses carried her off.  I went back to my room and begged for food and ginger ale. Then I tried to sleep. And they were back again in a few hours. I tried nursing again.  The next day I was sore and tired and trying to heal from surgery that, had I not been delivering a baby,  would have placed me on strict bed rest and limited mobility. But they kept coming in. Visitors. Doctors. The damn photographer lady. Nurses.  Checking the baby, checking the baby, checking the baby. Pressing on my stomach.  At my request, the lactation ladies and nurses helped me many times but she was losing weight. We tried the syringe thingy.  I finally gave her a bottle on her 3rd day. That night I woke up crying. I didn’t know why.

The morning we left I was a mess. I begged my mom to come straight home with us, instead of that evening as she said she would. I came home with her and didn’t know what to do. Clean? Do laundry? sleep? Eat? Write thank you notes? Call people? That night she cried ALL. NIGHT. LONG. My husband and mom were up with her for a while and she fell asleep in my arms in the bed at 4:30 am. Bob tried to move her to the pack n play and I said no. I wasn’t about to move an inch. I think she was hungry. The next day at the pediatricians office she had lost even more weight and my pediatrician said I needed to nurse every two hours. “But what about at night?”  Every two hours. What?

At this point, I have to tell you, I hated everything about being a parent. By day FIVE. My nipples were sore and forming scabs.  I tried to rest but people kept calling and coming over. At night time I could’t fall asleep because I was frozen with anxiety that she would wake up at any minute. I cried all the time. People would ask how I was doing, and I would answer honestly “Not good.”  No one usually expected that answer. Bob would give Bea a bottle overnight and after a few more days her weight stabilized. I went back and forth between bottle feeding and nursing.  I hated nursing. I hated pumping even more. I called my pediatricians office three times to ask how to wean her off without too much pain (sobbing through the phone). But every time I’d say I was done, my boobs would hurt and I’d say “just one more.”

“Oh but its so worth it in the end.”

“They are only this little once, cherish it while you can.” No, you f**king cherish it. I wasn’t eating. I was hardly sleeping. I hated hearing her cry. I just wanted quiet. I wanted to run away. I wanted to just go sit in a cool movie theater for three hours and eat popcorn. I was chained to this child, who was just a thing.  My body was no longer mine. My time was no longer mine. My boobs were no longer mine. I missed my husband. We were so tired we barely had normal conversations. One time, after a particularly painful nursing session (scabs people… scabs and blood) I was crying to my mom “I just want to give up.” She said, its ok you don’t have to breastfeed. I said “No, I want to give up being a mom. I don’t like it. I don’t want to do it.”

I cried when my mom finally went home after a week (home being 20 minutes away).

Somewhere in the beginning of that second week, I knew I needed relief. Not much time passed in between crying spurts. I was still nursing, but we were also supplementing with formula. I was STILL having to feed her every 2-3 hours but between 12-6 I was instructed not to wake her to feed anymore. Have you ever spent a LOT of money on something, only to get it home and totally hate it? Or, as a kid, see a toy on TV, only once you saw it in person be totally let down?  This is what parenting was for me.  I regretted my decision to have a baby. After all that trying and all the effort we went to, I was convinced this was a mistake. Huge. Mistake. One day, while out for a walk with her, there was a bus coming down the road. I thought, just for a brief second, how tragic and awful it would be if the bus hit the stroller. But then at least I would get to sleep tonight, I said to myself.

My rational brain said that she would grow up one day and sleep longer stretches, but I did not know how I could survive in the meantime. I knew these kinds of intrusive thoughts didn’t mean I was crazy or that I would hurt my baby, but instead were a sign my brain was not working on all cylinders. I knew I was depressed and needed help. I went onto my insurers website and looked up psychiatrists that treated post partum depression.  Three of the numbers were disconnected or no longer in service. One of the doctors had moved on from the practice. The other didn’t have a time slot for me for another month.

In the meantime I had scheduled a check up with my OB, prior to my 6 week scheduled check up.  I told her I thought I was depressed.  She prescribed me 50mg of zoloft and told me to find a therapist or psychiatrist or both.

I had great friends at the time (still do) who were very supportive and checked in on me. One of them happened to be a psychiatric resident at Georgetown. She asked her boss if she had any referrals for me in Baltimore. She did. I called. They did not take insurance. It was uber expensive. They could see me in a couple of weeks. Bob and I decided the cost was not a deterrent since this was my health we were talking about.

My intake appointment was with the director of the clinic. We talked for two hours.  I hesitated when I referred to Beatrice as my daughter. It still felt so weird. I was given a higher dose of zoloft and referred to a therapist.

I continued to be beguiled by how shocked people were that I was not happy to have a baby.  I was brutally honest when I spoke to people.  I did not understand why a) no one told me how hard it was to have a newborn and b) why no one was anywhere near as concerned about me as they were about the baby.  Some people understood. Most did not.  And then the childless people who would squeal and say how cute she was and how they wanted one.  “Take her,” I would say.  OH hahahahaha.  No, really.

When Bea was about four months old, my therapist told me she was going on medical leave and referred me to another therapist.  I made one appointment with him. I left feeling like it was a waste of time. I emailed my old therapist and said “I appreciate your referral but I feel like maybe I am doing well enough that I don’t need to continue with him.”  She wrote back and said “I think so too.”

So, here I was, someone who was trying to get help.  I KNEW what was going on. I knew I needed medication and to talk to someone to feel like everything was going to be ok. So I reached out. And I got jack squat at every turn. Had my friend not been a doctor, I am not sure how different my story would have been. Had we not been able to afford the $1100 appointment fee (you read that right), what would I have done? Seen some random dude who was treating drug addicts and doing marriage counseling right after he saw me? Gone to someone who didn’t know the research about SSRIs and breastfeeding?

Not everyone has a friend that is a psychiatrist or a doctor. Not everyone has great insurance or can afford big out of pocket costs. So, if, for me, someone who had those things, who knew she needed help and wasn’t afraid to ask for it, it was a difficult process to navigate, what about the other moms? What about the moms who think they are abnormal and afraid to speak up? Or the ones that don’t even know where to begin to look for help? What about the families and support systems who tell them they just need to “put on a smile and be thankful for each moment”? What about the women who don’t realize this can happen DURING pregnancy? Or the ones who are too afraid to speak up for fear they are in danger of having their children taken away?

We need awareness. We need education.  Yes.  But once every mom is aware….once every mom is educated… and once they begin to reach out for help….

Where will they go?????????

If only 15% of us are seeking treatment, what will happen when that number reaches 25%, 30%, 50%?  We need resources. We need pediatricians, OBs and General Practitioners who understand the research and statistics.  We need LCSW’s, therapists, counselors and psychiatrists to receive special training in this area. We need screening and follow up on hospital discharge.  We need warriors on the front line, talking to policy makers about all of this. We need a place to ask questions. We need to connect with other moms and know we are not alone.

This is Why I Climb.

Please help us help the mommies. Donate to our fundraiser to help Postpartum Progress reduce stigma, raise awareness and be a peer resource for mothers dealing with perinatal mood disorders.

#warriorhons

I did it again….

23 Jul

I found this old blog in my draft pile from NOVEMBER 2013.  I don’t know why I didn’t publish it.  Maybe it was hitting too close to home.  I am glad I saved it.  I remember this day well…

___________________________________________________________

Well I did it again.  Another blog post.  Well, yes, but that’s not what I’m referring to.   Today, while sleepily walking through the soda aisle at Safeway, trying to find Ginger Ale in a can for my daughter, who threw up at 4:30 am, I found myself silently wishing I could trade places with someone that did not have children.

There.  I said it.  I’m awful.  I know.

I have been down this road a few times this year.  First, for some God awful reason, my children keep getting stomach bugs.  Why not colds? Seriously, why not.  No, its always the stomach bug, and I think, if I am counting properly, this is our third time around since January.  Sick kids always suck, but the stomach bug is the ninja of all bugs, and inevitably it goes from one kid to the other and then to me and/or Bob.  So, if we are keeping track: second worst thing ever is a sick kid, worst thing ever is a sick kid plus a sick parent. Oh and worst, worst thing infinity is sick parents and two sick kids.  Been there.

Then, as many of you know, I weathered more difficulties with Post Partum Depression this winter after having Gus.

“Oh the second one is soooo much easier!” they said.

“Your recovery will be so quick!” they said.

“You will wonder why you thought it was so hard the first time!”

“Breastfeeding will be a breeze this time around,” I heard.  Umm, no. Actually everything was fucking hard as shit, much harder than it was when I had Bea and further complicated by the fact that I now had a two year old and then got it in my head that it would be a much better experience with the second.  I should have known better. **Disclaimer: Every kid is different, if you are pregnant with or thinking of having #2, he/ she may very well be easier than your first.  Just wasn’t the case for me.

So, back to Safeway.  I had been up since 4:30 (or 5:30 or whatever you want to call it since the clocks “fell” back), I was exhausted, downtrodden, hungry and I had a headache.  I was getting Ginger Ale, popsicles and a few other things.  And then…they walked by.

That couple.  You know them.  They were about 26 or 27. They were in their workout clothes. Probably just came from the gym.  She was wearing tight yoga pants, long hair in a pony tail, hot pink Nikes and weighed about 110 pounds.  He was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, sneakers and clearly hadn’t shaved.  That familiar feeling waved over me as they passed me by (with their little basket–pffft).  Somewhere between envy and indignation that voice in my head said, “Man, you guys don’t know how good you have it.”

And let me tell you, that feeling–that feeling RIGHT there–is the kind of feeling that every mom has had at one point or another.  I don’t care who you are.  Sometimes we feel it with a side of wistful remembrance. Sometimes with a little jealousy. And sometimes with desperation–as in, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE build me a time machine so I can be you again for just one day!  That feeling of being trapped; of wanting to break away but not being able to.  Not that I wanted to go anywhere, but the principle of the fact that I was stuck in the house with these people, waiting for my insides to twist as it became my turn for the black death…. well, that feeling could easily have turned into resentfulness.  It’s a defeatist, useless way to think, but sometimes you have a bad day and your mind wanders over to that place.  Women with PPD or depression tend to do that to themselves. It’s called catastrophic thinking.

Anyway, as I kept walking in the grocery store, I made a conscious effort to stop myself from going down that road.  I asked myself, What is this girl going to do for the rest of the day, and how great is it, REALLY?

Well, it was Sunday.  So chances are, she and the boy were going to go home, shower and head off to their local watering hole to watch football.  They will meet other single friends there and some couples, too.  They will drink a good amount of beer, eat some wings and probably be home by 9:00.  Maybe they live together, maybe not. Maybe he spends the night, maybe not.

She will wake up tomorrow a little groggy because she had too much Miller Lite and shame herself for ordering the wings AND the burger (must hit gym hard tonight, she thinks). She will go to work and talk to her coworkers about her weekend.  She and the boy exchange a few texts and emails.   Maybe they are talking about what to do for dinner.  If they don’t live together, they are planning their next get together.  Who’s house will they sleep at?  Who’s friends will they hang out with?  If they do live together she might say she’s making something for dinner tonight (fair assumption since they were at the grocery store today).

I should pause the story for a moment and admit that I overheard the girl telling the checkout guy that they had been together three-and-a-half years.  No ring.  So this was obviously a committed relationship.  Ok. Unpause.

She probably has a pretty good job, but is at a point in her career where she is ready for a bigger challenge.  She may go back to school. She may have decided that she is in the wrong line of work.  She might be perfectly happy where she is, but she knows in the next year or two, she needs to go somewhere: Up, over or out.

She is happy, yes.  She is free. She is independent.  She is strong.  But, she is also that same girl that stares at my babies with googly lovey-dovey eyes when she sees them at the grocery store (on that rare occasion I let them out of their cages that I keep in the basement).  She walks by the wedding magazines at the checkout aisle and has to steel herself from staring too long at the cover.  I have to remind myself that I have what SHE wants… not the other way around.

Now, now… before all the single ladies, feminists and DINKS start yelling and posting nasty comments, allow me to explain.   I am not saying that a woman’s entire life is spent in pursuit of a husband and children.  I am not saying that you are not ‘complete’ without these things.  Nor am I saying that a woman isn’t truly happy until she achieves this stage in life.  On the contrary.  I loved my 20s.  But I knew I wanted to find a partner for life and have children one day, and there aren’t many young women that don’t want to have a family, too, eventually.  Note I said FAMILY.  It doesn’t have to mean a husband and/or kids.  It can be one or the other or neither (I have several friends with same-sex partners and dogs that are quite content, thankyouverymuch).  But most all of us want a family of our own in some capacity or another.

True, this young woman really doesn’t know how good she has it: sleeping in, ab muscles that still touch, the ability to go away for the weekend at a moments notice and the luxury of going out to eat whenever and wherever her wallet will allow.  But, she wants to have a family one day.  She has love within her that she knows is meant to go around.  She is tired of wondering if he is “the one.”   She already knows what shape diamond she wants in her engagement ring.  She wants to hear her babies giggle in her ear and smell their heads until they are too big to let her.

I walked out of the grocery store today and reminded myself that I live with no regrets, and have enjoyed and learned from every stage in my life.  I reminded myself that one day I will be called on to help guide my own children through their own life decisions.  And I reminded myself that I would much rather know what I am missing than fear that I somehow missed out.

…and I also reminded myself that my kids will have kids of their own one day and I will laugh at them.

 

 

How to get Kicked out of Your Mommy Group

26 Jul

My playgroup friends and I were having a discussion recently about the topics that come up on a local listserv we all belong to. There seems to be a rotation of hot-button issues that come up every so often and are always sure to stir up strong reactions.  I often wonder if the poster realizes what a hot, messy shit storm he or she (usually a she) is about to start when they innocently ask a new mom question about breastfeeding, sleeping, pacifiers, behavior, eating, food choices, education and the like.

It usually goes something like this:

“My pediatrician/ mother/ friend/ nanny told me that Baby is having a reaction to cows milk/ formula/ a food/ my boob/ our shampoo/ sleeping next to me/ public education/ our pet/ our water supply/a recent vaccination/  his daycare/ his crib and I’m wondering if anyone has any advice on alternatives?”

*Sigh*  Poor Mom. She has no idea what questions like this to do the seasoned mothers on the other end of this message, just dying to opine on why what they did with their child was best, or what new research they uncovered from a study in the UK.   Of course, this is a broad generalization.  Most moms offer good, sound advice and keep their judgements to themselves.  But there are always a select few that start violently typing away, ready to explode with self-righteous indignancy.

Because of the latest crop of posts, I was inspired to develop a sure fire way for you moms to alienate your other mom friends.  Whether you are just tired of hanging around with them, or just feel like totally effing with someone that day, these are guaranteed to get you kicked out of your playgroup!  Trying just one or two is likely to get you a raised eyebrow here and there.  Three or four will get people whispering about you after you leave.  But if you incorporate at least five of these in the same playgroup, you are happily on your way to being black balled, and free to seek out other like-minded and enlightened moms such as yourself.

  1. “Why in the world would anyone use formula?  I mean, its absolute POISON.  Have you seen the ingredients in it?  Any mother that uses formula obviously hasn’t tried hard enough to breastfeed and doesn’t care about their baby. ”  Follow that up with a casual “I am planning on breastfeeding until Bobby is at LEAST three years old,” and you are instantly the judgemental hippie in the group.  Well done.
  2. “I just read an article in Canadian World Health weekly that said vaccinations are directly related to autism.  I have decided since everyone here is vaccinated, we are in no danger.  I’ve asked my pediatrician to send all of our health paperwork to my new Shaman, who will be my spiritual health advisor from now on.”  Throw on a dash of petchouli before you come to playgroup that day and you have nailed it.
  3. “What do you mean you still use a pacifier?  Don’t you know that hinders speech development and will cause buck teeth?  Get rid of that thing now!”
  4. Announce this just as one of your weary-eyed, sleep deprived mom friends is on her third cup of coffee, lamenting about how difficult its been to get her infant to sleep consistently “You should just let him sleep with you. Johnny still sleeps in our bed.  Its because letting a child cry is cruel and unusual. Studies have shown that children who are left alone to cry in their cribs develop psychological disorders in adulthood.  I don’t understand how any parent can willingly sleep train a child or Ferberize or whatever.  Its getting a little cramped now that he is four, but we make do.”
  5. And while that mom is pouring milk or cream into her coffee… “We’ve just decided to switch Julia to Almond milk.  Do you know we are the only species on Earth that drinks ANOTHER animal’s milk?  Our digestive systems were not made for that.  And soy milk causes cancer.  That’s what my Shaman told me.  If you’re feeding your toddler the right things anyway, he or she won’t even need the fat from Cow’s milk.”
  6. “My sister in Manhattan only got 8 weeks of maternity leave.  Can you IMAGINE? She has a nanny coming to take care of her baby. I mean, I give her credit.  I think its great that she is confident enough in herself as a woman to allow someone else to raise her child.  It must be so hard.  I don’t think I could ever do it.  We’ve had to cut back on a lot, but in the end, Brady’s well-being is what matters.”  Say this to the mom who is about to go back to work full-time and you have earned yourself a spot in the Bitch Hall of Fame!
  7. “Our public education system is so grossly out of touch with what our children need.  Sending your child to a public school is like sending them off to a germ factory.  And who can afford private school?  The Catholics all have an agenda.  What other choices do we have besides home schooling?  Socialization, shmocialization.  Look at the Japanese! They don’t care about socialization.  There is a reason their kids are way ahead of ours in all major subjects.”  Ooh, you’ve managed to insult three separate groups at once in this one–nice work.  And way to add insult to your country.
  8. After one mom talks about a late night run to the pharmacy to get Tylenol to bring a fever down: “Oh my God, you should try these homeopathic pills that I have.  I’ll give you some for next time.  They don’t have any dyes or carcinogens like Tylenol or other brand name drugs. Our children these days are over-medicated anyway.”  See: vaccination advice above.
  9. To the hostess:  “Wow, what kind of vacuum do you guys have?   You practically got up all the pet hair from the carpet!  Toby’s allergies are barely acting up, it must be a nice one. ” Conspicuously pull out the Nasal Spray and administer to child.
  10. And finally… “Are these carrots organic?”

Out of the Loop and totally off topic

4 Jan

I must apologize for not writing much in the month of December. Bob and I decided to put our house on the market, Christmas came quicker than I could imagine, and the whole family spent the better part of two weeks back and forth between colds and one hell of a stomach bug.

I wish I had wonderful news to write about. I don’t. But I have to get this out.  Fertility brings life, and life brings death, and I’ve got death on the brain.  An acquaintance of mine, and the Godmother of my best friend’s son, suddenly passed away last week.  Claire. She was 35. She had an 8 year old boy and 5 year old girl. Heart attack apparently.

My brain needs some good news.  I need fairies, rainbows, marshmallows, hearts, sparkles and ribbons.

This is the second young person that I know that has left us way too soon this year. First, it was my friend Brooke. I met Brooke  through a mutual friend back in 2002 and ended up dating her brother for the better part of a year.

I suppose I’m lucky that in both cases I wasn’t super close to either of the deceased, but close enough that it shook me each time.

Brooke lived at home. She was 33. She came home from work with a splitting headache and went to bed. Her mother woke up later that evening to the sound of Brooke throwing up in bed. By the time she got to her bedroom, she was non responsive. Brain hemorrhage. She was gone like *that.*

In contemplating Brooke’s passing, I immediately felt for her parents. I guess it was lucky (?) that she wasn’t married or had children, because that would mean a few more broken-hearted souls in this world, but one can also argue that it’s a tragedy that she never had the chance to experience those things. At least that’s what I imagine her mother would feel.

Sometimes I catch myself looking at Bea, or playing with her, kissing her, dressing her… and I think “this was Brooke’s Mom 32 years ago.” She had joy and smiles and all the hope in the world for her daughter. She couldn’t wait to see her grow up, become a woman and have children of her own. She wanted nothing more than for her to be happy for all her waking moments. She was giving her kisses just like I’m giving Bea right now, having no idea how short her daughter’s life would be.

I have to tell you, it scares me. Stuff like that gives me a gut-wrenching, agonizingly painful fear. This is why I’m horrible in grief situations. I’m horrible at funerals, viewings and times of sorrow. You know why? Because to admit and speak about how sad the situation is means admitting that its something that can (and in the case of dying, will) happen to me. It’s just a matter of when. So I use humor and try to change the subject. If you’ve ever found me less than supportive in a time of need, this is why. I need to brush past the ugly stuff and move on or I’ll spiral into despair with you.

And then the news about Claire. A heart attack. Random. In this case, I didn’t think of Claire’s parents as I did with Brooke. I thought of her daughter, who will never get to share her prom, her graduation, her wedding day, her first child with her mother. And I think of Claire, who now has to miss out on so much. In the same room, kissing Bea at the very same moment, was Claire, kissing her daughter, worrying over her health, cutting up her Thanksgiving turkey. And now… she’s gone. And I look at Bea and think, “I don’t want you to live a day without me, and I don’t want to live a day without you.” But eventually, one of us will have to.

So, I’m scared of dying. I’m scared of Bea dying. I am scared of Bob dying.  The thought that my daughter has to eventually leave this earth is painfully devastating to me.  Even if it happens when I’m well below the ground… I get teary eyed at the thought of her missing out the way Brooke did… and even moreso when I imagine me missing out the way Claire did. But what can I do?  Here is where the common sense Carrie tells the crazy emotional Carrie to get it together.

What could Brooke and Claire have done to prevent their deaths? The answer is likely nothing. Short of getting a complete body scan every week since birth, there was nothing they could have done to prevent their passing. Scarier, even yet, but at the same time comforting.

Connor is understandably upset about his Godmother dying suddenly.  His mother told him that she is in heaven. I really, really want to believe that both Brooke and Claire are in Heaven.  But it scares me that maybe they’re not.  There are a ton of religions in this world that all believe different things… is it possible none of us is right?  Or all of us?  Or just one of us?  Hell, I’m not even very religious, where does that leave me?   So, yes, the long and short of it is: I’m scared of dying, because I don’t know if it means I’ll ever see Bea again.

This has to be scary for Connor, and for Claire’s children, if its scary for a grown up like me.  So, setting aside the question of what happens when we die, what would sensible Carrie say?  If Connor, or Bea, or Claire’s children came to me and asked if I was going to die soon, or when they were going to die, what would I say without being a complete phony??

Here goes:

  • Everyone dies eventually
  • For most of us, it will be when we are old, and have lived a long life, passing peacefully in our sleep.
  • For some, it will be sooner.   We don’t know what our fates are.
  • So, we do the best that we can to prevent the most obvious things: We wear helmets and seatbelts.  We get regular check ups.  We don’t smoke.  We eat our vegetables.  We wear sunscreen.  We look both ways before crossing the street.   We get our cholesterol checked.  We exercise and try not to become obese.  We don’t run with scissors.
  • Beyond these measures, there isn’t much we can do.  So do we wrap ourselves and our loved ones in bubble wrap and bathe in hand sanitizer every day?  Do we stay locked up in the house out of fear?  I suppose we could, and I’m sure some do.  But that’s not much of a life.
  • If it is your time, its your time (Heaven or not, I do believe this).   And you can’t change that.
  • What you can change is how full your days and nights are between now and that time.
  • So… laugh.  Treat others with kindness.  Worry about yourself, your friends and your family.  If everyone took care of their family and friends, this world would be a better place.  Think of how few homeless and lonely souls there would be.
  • Try new things (yes, kids, this means new FOOD too).  You’ll never be sorry that you tried something, but you darn sure will regret not trying it.  Most opportunities have small windows.
  • Treat yourself right.  In the end, you are your best advocate and caretaker.
  • Try to change someone’s life for the better.
  • Smile often.  You don’t know what sort of day someone else is having, and a kind smile or gesture could mean the world to them.
  • Love unabashedly.
  • Take at least one dance lesson in your life.
  • Don’t apologize for speaking your mind; just learn how to do it without insulting people.
  • Give.
  • Be smart with your money.  Start saving early and don’t carry debt other than student loans, a mortgage and one car payment (preferably not all at the same time).
  • Surround yourself with people that think differently.  You’re only seeing a part of the world if you are with like-minded people all the time.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

This is what I would honestly say to someone who asked me about death.  So this is what I have to tell myself, while I’m feeling scared and unsure of what lay ahead.   I can’t do anything but make each day a good one.  There will be bad days, sure… but they make the good ones all the more.

I went to Claire’s viewing yesterday.  I didn’t want to go at first.  But I did.  I’m glad I did.  I got to say goodbye to Claire and show her husband that we’re all in his corner.  If it were me, I would want to feel surrounded at a time like this.  And then I came home and gave Bea a big fat kiss and a smile.

I picked a helluva time to start a blog

10 Sep

For all of my life I’ve fancied myself a writer.  Why am I just now starting a blog? Who am I blogging to?  Is this is a journal or something for public view?  I don’t know.  I got a wild hair up my butt this evening and decided I needed to start. Tonight.

So, in the time its taken me to get this all set up, my eyes have grown tired.  Its 9:22–I have a baby, yes, this is late for me.  Plus, I have like 3 chapters left of The Help, and I’m dying to finish.

See, while I’m a good writer–no, I’m a great writer– I lack patience.  Its just easier to say the thoughts in my head while driving in the car or talk to myself in the shower or have good conversation with a friend on the phone or at dinner.  Even thought I’m a pretty fast typer.  I’ve had people in AWE of my typing speed, actually (best class I ever took in high school).   It still doesn’t compare with the speed of my mouth.

Aha, see therein lies the problem.  When I say things outloud, sometimes my mouth gets ahead of my brain.  Oh, former bosses and co-workers, you’ve been privvy to that bit of information for quite a while now.  So, if I can write down my thoughts and pause in between to find just the right words, maybe they’ll be better reflected upon when read 10 years from now.

I guess that brings me to the point of this blog.  Beatrice, my daughter, just turned one.  I can’t express in one entry how this has changed my life, made me a better person and deposited wisdom untold into my brain.   So, I want to be able to look back on these times as we watch her grow.  I want a record for HER to have when I’m long gone.  And, assuming the machines don’t turn against us, I’m going to have faith in the fact that somewhere in cyberspace my words are safe.  My memories are safe.

So, this so far isn’t very impressive as far as first posts go, but I make a promise to myself, and to Bea, to do better tomorrow.   Sooooo tired.

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