Catching Up, Part 5

October 31, 2017

Another occurrence during my hiatus is that our family had an au pair, for half a year. It was supposed to be a full year but it, uh, did not go well. Nope.

Major, unforeseen personality failings on her part were the problem, plus those failings were a dead-on conflict with Burrito’s personality quirks. It did not. go. well.

I’ve known people who are thrilled with having an au pair. When it’s good, it’s wonderful. But when it’s bad, it’s a nightmare. Even when you fire her, often for days, or weeks she’s still stuck in your house. While you and your children hide in your bedroom all day, too paralyzed by the possibility of seeing her that you can’t go to your own kitchen so you just wait a few hours to eat until she leaves the house. See? Nightmare.

All of that caused me to step back from work and double down on parenting. You wouldn’t have found me volunteering in the classroom before the au pair, because I had work to do. After she left, I was in the classroom every week all semester, twice a week actually, because, you know, twins.

I also became a fierce mama bear… at one point, I thought she had physically injured Burrito. She in fact hadn’t physically abused anyone (only verbal abuse), but when I thought she had, I snapped into a mode I’ve never shown before. Fierce. I didn’t like that any of us had to go through that, but I like what I became.

It also reminded me that, as longtime readers will recall, I have remarkably bad judgment when it comes to hiring nannies (at least this time I didn’t have to call the police). Thankfully, especially after this experience, we’re now past the stage where we need nannies. In fact, we’re not far from being past babysitters.

It also reminded me that 18 to 23 year olds often don’t have the best judgment themselves. Au pairs are by definition young, but even when we sought nannies years ago, I’ve never wanted an older person. Older people do things the way they already know how; younger people can be molded to my (admittedly opinionated) way of doing things.

You know who’s older/mature and does things exactly the way I like? Me.

So despite my philosophical feminist beliefs that women with young children should be able to work as much as they want and should be facilitated in pursuing their career ambitions, I scaled back so that I can leave the office by 3 every day. I put my career in holding pattern mode rather than advancement mode. And unless I have an imminent deadline, I don’t work on the weekends or after school while they’re awake.

If I only had a kid like Tamale, it might be fine to still have nannies or au pairs or after school programs, because she likes everyone and everything. But Burrito doesn’t mesh well with, frankly, most other people.

When they were in preschool, the children made little holiday ornaments with their wishes. Instead of wishing for a baby sister or a light saber or a puppy like other kids, the wish that Burrito had his teacher write on his little ornament was, “I wish to spend more time with my mom.” It took me a few years, but now he gets his wish.



Catching Up, Part 4

October 28, 2017

So the biggest effect of the concussion? Jealousy. All-consuming, up all night in fight or flight mode, total personality change jealousy. Anger, also, but mostly jealousy. Magnifying glasses and fine-toothed combs and dirty bombs trying to find evidence that my jealousy was justified. After more than a decade and a half of jealousy-free marriage, I was consumed.

Until one day I wasn’t.

The weirdest thing about this personality change is that it took me some time to figure out that it was related to the concussion. I’d been without concussion symptoms for several weeks, and except for the jealousy I still felt like myself. Once I put it together, ohhhhh, that’s where that came from.

Yet another thing I didn’t know about concussions to add to the long list in Part 2. I didn’t know that symptoms could be delayed by weeks, and I didn’t know that it could change a major personality trait even though most of the rest of you was exactly the same.


Catching Up, Part 3

October 26, 2017

(continuing from last post) When my headaches and wooziness went away a few days after the accident, I thought that was the end of it.

Then we went on a long, exciting trip. I was totally fine the whole time. Absolutely fine. Truly.

Then we came home. Fine for a couple of days.

Then I developed a total personality shift. It still felt like me, and cognitively I was totally all there, so it didn’t occur to me for quite a while that it might be related to the concussion. I also didn’t know that concussive symptoms can have delays of weeks or even months. (How do I know so little about concussions?) Without knowing about delayed symptoms being a possibility, how could I possibly have linked the two?

I was me, except I wasn’t. Impulsive in word and deed. Doing things I wouldn’t normally do. For example, one day I declared that I no longer gave any fucks. We happened to be going out with some acquaintances (unrelated to the concussion), and during our evening out I drank and drank and drank and drank and drank and drank. Six, I think — but the count could be off, because, you know, drunk. Six isn’t insane except that I’m not allowed to drink because of one of RA medicines, which in combination with alcohol can cause liver damage. Except for that night, I haven’t had any alcohol at all since RA started, because I am prudent and an obedient patient. Usually.

Six also wouldn’t be insane except that even when I was allowed to drink, I really barely ever did. In my whole life the number of times I’ve been drunk is in the single digits. Most of my pre-RA adult life, I had a single drink maybe once or twice a year.

I declared to the acquaintances that I wasn’t allowed to drink, but that I was “ALL OUT OF FUCKS TO GIVE” (triumphant swig). Cue excited wooing at the table. Except that were not in the kind of bar where anyone shouts or woos. We were at a bar where grownups act like grownups and calmly sip their fancy $17 drinks. Wooooooo! OUT! OF! FUCKS!

That is not me. That has never been me. Even when I was young enough to act like that, I didn’t.

Unfortunately, that woooo night wasn’t the biggest personality shift.

Another cliffhanger? Yes. I told you the first day I returned that I’d be writing in short, consistent bursts.


Catching Up, Part 2

October 25, 2017

One of the biggest things that’s happened since I saw you last was a car accident.

Headed to work one morning on icy roads (very rare in this city), I was sitting waiting at a red light. A car going too fast skidded on the ice. Even before he started to skid, in slow motion in my mind I could see the trajectory. Then he started to skid and I knew that I was trapped, that he was coming right for me and I didn’t have time to do anything to stop it.

He hit me head on. While I was sitting at a red light. Talk about being easy to prove fault to the insurance companies.

My bumper was cracked, but you couldn’t even see it from some angles, and no other damage to my car. It was the teeniest, tiniest car accident. Seemed like not a big deal. We exchanged insurance info and went on our way. Staying in the same spot where someone else might possibly skid into me seemed unwise.

By the time I got to my parking lot a couple of blocks away, I was a little woozy. But well enough to call the insurance company.

By the time I finished the call and walked into the building, I was very woozy.

I sat for an hour at an annual performance review. The reviewer offered to reschedule for a day when I wasn’t woozy, but I was already there.

Then I decided I should go home and lie down. So I did. As the day progressed, not only was I super woozy, but my neck was seizing up.

The next day I drove myself to the chiropractor. She said, “You have whiplash, plus a closed head injury.” I did not realize that a closed head injury is a concussion. I did not realize I should not be driving myself around. I did not realize I should have gone to the emergency room immediately after the accident. I did not realize I should not have gone to bed when I was woozy the day before, even though throughout my childhood whenever I’d bump my head my mother refused to let me sleep in case it was a concussion… because I did not know I had a concussion.

My neck took many, many months of chiropractor, acupuncture, and massage visits to go remotely back to normal.

The car was fixed a couple of months later, on the other guy’s insurance company’s dime.

The concussion was back to normal in a few days.

Except that it wasn’t.

Another cliffhanger for you. Tune in tomorrow.


Catching Up, Part 1

October 24, 2017

Before we get to the present, a couple of events have happened in the 3.5 years since I disappeared that you should know about.

Work went from bad to worse, to worse than that, to ok, to worse, to fine but weird, to sometimes good, to mostly good.

Because of that, I ran out of fucks to give. I practiced my old Zen non-attachment on my career, which disengaged me but also made it infinitely less painful. Disrespected in a way that has actual impact on me? What else is new, I’ve lost count. Cut out of projects despite being more qualified than anyone else? Just like last time. Huge pay cut? As long as I still have health insurance. Nice new boss fired in major scandal for things I’m pretty sure she didn’t do? Awful, but doesn’t really affect me. A further pay cut? I don’t care if I work here, really, I mean it.

But I do still work there. I love my actual work so much… when the bullshit doesn’t get in the way. The bullshit was getting in the way almost constantly for a couple of years, but now it almost never does (though I still watch my back with almost everyone). The proportion of lovable work to pay-the-bills work has decreased, but I am tremendous at both. I have gotten a little better at making time to work on things that benefit me long-term; I have a long way to go to prioritizing it the way that I should, but getting there.

tl;dr I hate my job, I love my work.

The Return

October 23, 2017

Well, I’m back.

First, my deepest apologies for disappearing from the face of the earth for 3 1/2 years. Seriously. Really, truly. And for not even checking my blog email so that friends’ expressions of concern received no reply. Some of you checked in on me through Lori just to know that I was okay, thanks to Lori for that, and sorry to all of you for not answering directly.

There have been so many times I thought of posting about something, because now, even 8 years after the birth of Burrito and Tamale (8! unfathomable!), infertility comes up in my life all. the. time.

I have periodically lurked on the blogs of some of you. The death of Google Reader was really the beginning of the end of my ability to keep track of my bloggy friends.

As for my abrupt end to blogging, I was indeed very busy trying to juggle work and then-4-year olds and managing RA, but my last blog post exactly coincided with my medication starting to fail in April 2014. That medication worked great for a year and a half, then it suddenly didn’t, at all. Not as bad as the first onset of RA with not being able to stand or do anything whatsoever with my hands, but bad enough that I quit my beloved twice weekly yoga because I couldn’t support weight on my wrists, that I couldn’t turn doorknobs, that I couldn’t pick up children, that I sometimes couldn’t hold a fork to eat.

The replacement medicine worked a little better but never well enough — there were fewer eat-with-my-hands days but far from zero. Worse, the side effects were debilitating: I never had a migraine in my life until that second medication, then developed several per week. Blogging is tough when you can barely use your hands and can’t see straight. (After switching off that medication in 2016, I haven’t had a migraine since.)

After a couple of years of white-knuckling it (get it? knuckles?) I switched doctors from the one with the worst bedside manner in history who believed that I’d never achieve full functioning (How do I know that? Because I heard him dictate it into his note in the next room. Asshole.) to a doctor with outstanding bedside manner who is resolved to get me to a point where I can function, and who switched my medication from the ineffective yet migraine-inducing one to one that has no side effects for me and works pretty well. Well enough that I’m afraid to switch again, lest a new medication have some other horrible side effect. My joints are far from perfect, but most days I can do what I need to do. It might bother me, but I function, and people can’t tell. And there are even days when I almost forget I have RA.

Once I could finally both reliably type and see straight, too much time had passed, and it felt overwhelming to come back to an inbox full of worried messages, and I had both too much to say but so much that I couldn’t say. I finally understood what many people had been saying about not being able to tell others’ infertility stories for them. “I interacted with this person and here’s the deal with their infertility that I found interesting but which has nothing to do with me” is not a reasonable long-term blog format.

But I’m back, and I’m going to post more often (certainly more often than once every 3 1/2 years, but also more often than I did before). About infertility, yes, because it still comes up constantly, and because it deeply affects my current life, more right now than it has in years. But also about other things, about me. Frankly, disclosing about myself is very much not my strong suit in real life, and I’m even worse at expressing the deep emotions rather than only the cerebral aspects, but perhaps in expressing real emotion in blog format, I can get better at doing so in my non-blog life too.

Brevity is also not my strong suit as you have just seen, but moving forward I will try to break things down into shorter posts rather than my usual magnum opus style, fewer shorter blog posts rather than occasional huge posts. At least I’ll try.

Why now? There have been some big recent events which have spurred me to come back, finally, after all this time. You’ll hear about those in subsequent posts. Cliffhanger!

It’s so good to be back, and it’s so good to have someone to talk to again. I’ve missed you. And, even if my babies are nowhere near babies anymore, I’ve missed the Baby Smiling version of me.