We Are All Jerks Sometimes

I can be a real jerk sometimes.

At least, that is how I see me.

I know it about myself.

There are so many situations that cause me anxiety, and when I feel anxious, I look down, I avoid eye contact, I become short, and I try to hurry my way through the experience. It appears rude. It is always uncomfortable.

Yes, I can be a real jerk sometimes.

Saint Daddy somehow sees beyond that. I do not know how. Maybe it is because he can be a real jerk sometimes too, and I see passed that. Maybe every relationship is just two people who can find a way to see passed the jerk in their partner.

It is not that I need to be in my comfort zone at all times. It is merely a matter of emotional safety. I need teammates.

I talk about it that way too. “Thanks for being on my team.”

I grew up surrounded by people, yet I often felt alone. My two older sisters had each other. My two younger brothers had each other. And me? I had myself. Quintessential middle child.

It was okay most of the time, but I knew it was discussed. I knew my sisters talked about ways to leave the house without taking me with them. I knew I was not particularly wanted with the older girls. They had a friend who was in my grade but my sister’s age. I went with my sisters to her house, a few blocks away from home. When I arrived, the friend said I was “too young” to play with them. My sisters did not defend me, and I walked home, acutely aware of the sting of rejection.

Growing up, I often felt teamless.

As an adult, my older sisters are assuredly on my team. No outsider would be allowed to tell them to not pick me.

I know it is not the case for everyone, but there is something about my siblings. We live our own lives in very different ways, but we are always on each other’s teams.

That is not what this post is about, though. This post is about me being a jerk. Because I am sometimes.

When I first met my in-laws at the tender age of sixteen, I was in full jerk mode. (As were they, but that is another story for another day.) I was anxious. I did not know what to say. I was short and weirdly sarcastic. I was a jerk.

That is what my anxiety makes of me.

I am thoroughly convinced that, based solely on those early interactions, my mother in law decided not to like me until Sunshine was born. I felt like a part of her hoped that I would one day disappear, a part she might not have acknowledged but was definitely there. Sunshine changed things because Sunshine was tangible evidence of the roots that Saint Daddy and I had grown.

The thing about my jerk status is that, once I feel comfortable, I am a friend worth having. I am loyal, loving, and supportive. I am giving and kind and helpful. I love deeply and without fail. I would do anything for those who are truly my friends. I would do anything for my teammates.

This is my apology for being a jerk sometimes. I am. I know I am. I crawl inside myself and let my mind tell me who to be and how to act and that person I become is not friendly or open or relaxed. I am not my best self.

This is my apology for seeming standoffish.

In the third grade, a fellow student apologized for throwing his pencil across the room. He had done it before; he would do it again.

Our teacher told him, “You’re only truly sorry if you’re going to try not to do it again.”

I am sorry, and I am trying.

But it is difficult.

So if you catch me being a jerk, know that I know I am doing it. Know that as it is happening, I wish it was not. Know that there is a battle within me at times. Know that sometimes I win and sometimes I lose, but I am trying.

After all, I think we can all be jerks sometimes.

Have You Found Your Thing?

When Sunshine was less than a year old, a coworker stopped me in the hallway to comment on how quickly I had lost weight.

“I cannot believe how good you look for having an infant. I never looked that good again after having kids. But look at you!”

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ve been running again.”

She said, and I will never forget this comment, “I just don’t see how you can do it. You’re away from her all day. Don’t you think you should be spending that time with her instead?”

She had taken off from work when her children were little, she said. You cannot get that time back with them, she said. Maybe you should reconsider, she said. You have your whole life to get fit again, she said.

But for me, running is not just about fitness.

I was never fit growing up. I was the pudgy one of my parents’ older children. I was not athletic. I wore the same sizes as my older sister until we hit puberty, and then, I was a size or two larger. I did not enjoy sweating or being outside or sunshine. I was a homebody through and through.  In undergrad, I put on the freshman twenty-five without any issues. I loved food and sitting around watching reruns while I drank a Coke and ate salt and vinegar potato chips or graham crackers smothered in gobs of creamy Jif.

There was no shame in my emotional eating game.

I did not become active until sophomore year. I had a horrendous roommate, and the rec center on campus gave me somewhere to go. I worked out and discovered cottage cheese and egg white omelets and portion control.

Saint Daddy and I did not see each other for six weeks that spring because of how our spring breaks lined up and he did not have a car and I could not drive. He called me one afternoon, wanting to see my new room after I had finally convinced res life to let me move out of that situation, and when he walked into my room with a cherry gelati from Rita’s in his hand and his roommate trailing behind him, he thought I had given up eating altogether.

I did not. I was eating well and working out. Food was still delicious, but it was more fresh fruit than processed carbs.

My fitness level fluctuated a lot over the next few years.

I took up running about a year after Saint Daddy and I got married. My doctor prescribed me an antidepressant and told me that I should limit my caffeine intake and take up exercise and see if the combination of the three helped curtail my daily panic attacks. He said, “The trick with exercise is to find something that works for you. That something is not what works for everyone. But you have to find your thing and love it. Then it’ll become part of your life.”

One day, I had off from work and Saint Daddy did not. I put on my sneakers, a pair of New Balance that my dad had gotten me during a BOGO event four years before that day, and walked to the park near our home. I ran two laps on the path around the park, and I went home.

Two days later, I did it again. But I did it faster. Without even trying. I thought, “I wonder how fast I could do that…” Two days later, I did it as fast as I could. I impressed myself. I did not know how far I had run, but I knew I had run.

Shortly thereafter, I looked up a Couch to 5K program, and set out to impress myself some more.

I did give up caffeine. I have been caffeine free since 2010, no easy feat for a full-time working mom with multiples. If I have more caffeine than the amount in a small cup of decaf coffee, I suffer from heart palpitations, chest pains, and nausea. Another doctor said it is an intolerance. Sometimes, I call it an allergy because people understand that term better.

And I ran.

I have been running since 2010. I am pretty good at it. I cannot run very fast. I cannot run very far. But I run with heart. That is what makes me good at it. I am a runner. The kind of runner that gets irritated by the term “jogger.”  I have been properly fitted. I have opinions on running brands. I actually use the treadmill in my basement. I rarely miss a run.

When Sunshine was born in 2013, I went back to running.

It was not only to get my body back. It was to get myself back.

When I run, my only competition is the person I thought I was. The person I thought I was did not run at all or could only run for a quarter of a mile at a time or could not run better than a twelve minute mile or did not have the endurance for a 5K. She certainly could not run a half marathon.

But I am not the person that I thought I was.

And running has helped my mental health immensely. Because I am constantly beating that person that I thought I was, I know that I am strong and capable.

Is it perfect? No. I run three times a week. I used to run four times a week. But I still have panic attacks. I still wake up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts. We still sit on the aisle at the theater. I still hate driving. Running does not cure my anxiety.

But it helps me to remember that I am the one in control of it.

I often think about that conversation with my former coworker. I have since switched jobs. I have moved on. I will likely never see her again. We are not friends on any social media platforms.

But I think of her. I think of what she represents.

This is my love letter mommas everywhere.

Find your thing.

Run or dance or draw or take bubble baths or go out for a drink with your friends.

Find your thing that helps you feel like a person. Find your thing that allows you to feel strong and capable and brilliant. Find your thing that helps you to see the good in yourself and in the world.

No one asks Saint Daddy how he can stand to be away from our children for an hour or two each week so that he can go to the gym. No one wonders how he manages to stay in shape or read or write or tutor or sleep or eat.

Mommas of the world are not required to explain to anyone why they need time for themselves.

That coworker was right. Sunshine was only a baby for a little bit. She is very much a kid now. But giving up my thirty minutes of sanity three times a week was not going to slow down that time. It was also not going to make me a better mother.

I believed then, and I believe now, that I am a better mother because I know what my thing is. I am more present when I am with my children than I would be otherwise. I feel happier because I have taken care of me. Running is how I take care of me.

Never let naysayers tell you that you should not have something for yourself just because you have babies. You do not deserve that guilt or that anxiety.

And for me, comments like that do fuel my anxiety. Now, I can look back and see that giant grain of salt. But in the moment, with my infant at home and me missing her dreadfully all day, I allowed that thought to consume me. It was unfair of her to make something simple into something so sinister. Saint Daddy understood. I understood. Sunshine was thriving. That was all that mattered.

And, mommas and daddies, taking that time for you does not make you any less of a loving parent. If anything, it makes you that much more capable of being exactly what your children need.

Have you found your thing?

Turns Out… There’s Not All That Much To Complain About

Social media causes me so many conflicting emotions.

I actually met some of my closest friends there. When I lived hours from my family, I used it to share my life quickly and effectively. I announced my second pregnancy to groups of my cousins via Facebook Messenger so that their first time learning about it would not be when I posted a public announcement. My extended family is close and having my cousins find out that I was carrying twins at the same time as the girl who sat behind me in freshman comp would not have been very fair to our relationships.

Social media allows connections that can overcome great distances.

I am glad it exists. Truly.

I am also glad it did not exist when I was a teenager. I am so happy that my Timehop cannot show me what fifteen year old me was up to. No one needs to see that. And fifteen year old me would never have understood the responsibility that comes with social media. Fifteen year old me would not believe that the internet never forgets, that screenshots last, and that not everyone who smiles is your friend. In this case, not every like is a positive connection.

But the thing with social media is… Well… It sucks.

Like… It really, really, really sucks.

It especially sucks because of my anxiety. Social media is not good for my anxiety.

There are two reasons for this. I am aware of them. I know what they are.

The first is the one I talk about more. When I deal with exceptionally high levels of anxiety, the keep me awake at night for days on end kind of anxiety, I log out of Facebook. Sometimes, if my anxiety has consumed me too much, I deactivate altogether.

I do not announce this. I just go. My best friend and oldest sister are usually the first to notice. I do not do it to get anyone’s attention. In fact, with few exceptions, I would prefer not to be contacted about it. Deleting Facebook seems like such a show of my inability to keep it together. I do not need anyone to know I am falling apart. I would tell them if I wanted to.

And why?

Social media, especially Facebook, is crammed with so much negativity. Some people simply love to complain. It seems to be all that they do online. While I am glad that they feel they have an outlet for their thoughts, when mine are spiraling, I cannot handle theirs too. I am in Facebook groups that have a steady stream of complaint threads. I ignore them because I cannot be weighed down with all that is wrong in the world.

I absorb a lot of what I read. I am deeply affected by it. Too much personal negativity becomes my own personal negativity.

And it is not only personal negativity, but news article after news article comes up on my newsfeed filled with the worst that the world has to offer. It seems that people are most likely to share articles about children being raped or beaten or murdered than anything else. I do not understand the compulsion to share that horror with the world. I know it happens. I do not need to know it happened again. I want to hold my babies and cry and promise them that I will do whatever I can to make sure that they are not one of those stories that people share because they feel compelled to share the ugliest side of the world day in and day out.

When I am already anxious, when my world is spinning out of control, these stories affect me so much more.

The first reason I hate social media is the negativity.

When I leave and my sister or my best friend notices and reaches out to me, I always say, “I needed a break from the negativity. I am trying to remain positive. Facebook does not help. Maybe in a week.”

But there is another thing. Something that I talked about with a colleague last week.

She recently recommended that I follow a particular account on Instagram. The account was that of a woman rocking her role in a similar position as mine. Like… Rocking it.

I followed her and then another like her and then a third and suddenly, I was knee-deep in follow requests for people who figured I was also sharing how I rock at what I do.

And I do rock at what I do. I am passionate about it. That is half the rocking.

But I do not post much about work on Instagram. Only occasionally. As I do here.

I made a separate account for these follows and follow requests. I began sharing how I rock too.

Last week, I was speaking with that original coworker, and I told her about the separate account.

“I figured that I could keep it all in one place as well as share what I’m doing too. I don’t need these random people seeing all the pictures of my kids, but I love what I’m seeing. Also, having a separate account lets me choose not to see their posts when I’m feeling down about myself.”

Because we all know that social media is filled with hyper-inflation of the ego. While some people breathe negativity, others only share their 110% moments.

The fact of the matter is that not every moment could be 110% for anyone. It is impossible. The truth is that we all have ups and downs and in-betweens, but social media is not really a true depiction of that.

I have mental illness. What that means for me is that I can know something is true, but I cannot make myself feel that truth.

Feeling the truth is what I struggle with.

So even though those rockstar Instagram accounts are filled with brilliance and wonder, I know that those account owners are not like that at every moment of every day.

But I cannot feel that knowledge when my anxiety is rising.

I need to be able to avoid people who are too awesome when I feel like my life is in shambles. It is too difficult not to compare lives, especially when I cannot feel the truth of its being unrealistic.

So what is someone to do when she loves social media because of the way it connects her to her friends, her family, and people who rock at what she does every day but who also has a mental illness that causes her to dwell so much on her negativity that she cannot even begin to handle the negativity or exuberance of others?

(Wow… That was one sentence. Crazy!)

What does she do?

She shuts it down.

She picks up a journal. She does better for herself.

When my anxiety is out of control, I need to think about what is positive in my own life. I need to let go of my own negativity. Social media will not help me do that.

I have a gratitude journal. I recently picked it back up again after a very long hiatus.

I keep my gratitude journal next to my bed. Every night before bed, the last thing that I do before laying down is write in my gratitude journal a short list of things that I am thankful for from that day.

Sometimes, there is repetition between days. I am almost always happy for quiet time spent with Saint Daddy after Sunshine, Grumpy, and Sleepy finally go to sleep at night. Sometimes, I feel gratitude for something large, like the fact that I come home to my family every night. Sometimes, it is something small, like that someone held the door open for me on my way into work that morning.

I use it to forget the negative that happened. At the end of the day, I do not want my final thoughts to be of the guy who cut me off or that Sleepy peed out of his diaper during his nap again. I want to think of the happy parts of my day.

It is not foolproof. Nothing I do is going to cure my mental illness. I know that. I understand it. But my gratitude journal helps me do something important. It helps me to remember that, even when it is really bad, there is something beautiful in every day.

Since I began my journal again, I have been falling asleep more quickly. I am telling my brain to let go of self-doubt and to focus on what went well each day.

It helps me see my days in a positive light and to remember that it is not always bad.

There is not really all that much to complain about.

It Is All Sunshine’s Fault

Almost every mother I know will tell you that her first child was an angel. Her first child lulled her into complacency. Her first child somehow convinced her that parenting was easy. She could do anything. Her first child did not yell or climb or throw things.

There are exceptions, of course. My best friend’s first was difficult from birth. She has had plenty of rough moments with him.

But, for the most part, moms agree that baby number one was a breeze.

That is certainly the case here.

Sunshine arrived on the scene two weeks late after a rather uneventful pregnancy. She cried at night if she was not in her swing for the first six weeks, but once she overcame that six week growth spurt, she slept on her back in Saint Daddy’s grandmother’s cradle next to my side of the bed. I could easily reach her there for her middle of the night nursing sessions, which we were both pros at by six weeks. She nursed once or twice a night, and I placed her fresh diapered and full bellied into her cradle where she slept happily until her tummy told her it was time for more noms.

At three months old, I transferred her to her crib in the nursery, which adjoined our room. I expected a fight, but she accepted it beautifully. She hit all of her milestones at a delightfully average rate that caused me not even the slightest concern. She grew on her growth curve; she took to solids right at six months. I did not think too hard. It seemed natural and fitting and completely intuitive.

She did not require baby proofing. She was not a climber. Sunshine did not put random things in her mouth. We put a baby gate up to keep her in the living room and made sure she could not pull items out of the entertainment center, which would cause us more work. But she was not destructive. She did not like messes.

Sunshine was pure bliss.

I told people that Sunshine most assuredly was not completely human. She was too easy, too good-natured, too smart to be completely of this world. At least half of her was alien. It was the only explanation.

In deciding to have a second baby, Saint Daddy and I knew that we were pressing our luck. It seemed unlikely that our second child would be as calm as Sunshine. We referred to this hypothetical child as Sunshine’s Little Brother or even, sometimes, by the name we would eventually bestow upon Sleepy. We knew that Little Brother or Sleepy would rock our world.

When people would ask me if we planned a second child (a question I will always loathe), I would tell them that we were trying to decide if it was worth tempting fate. There was no way we could possibly get two little aliens, nature and nurture be damned.

But of course, I always knew that, if I was having one child, I would be having two. It is not that I see anything wrong with only children, but being raised with so many siblings, I knew that I wanted my children to always have each other in the way that I always have my siblings. We would press our luck. We would see what happened. We would try anyway.

And we did.

But then there were two flickering heartbeats inside two little seahorses.

We never would have had three children. No matter what, at the end of that second pregnancy, one of us was getting “fixed.” That was the agreement. But God wanted Saint Daddy and I to have three babies. That is why he sent us twins. We would not have had a third otherwise. He knew it.

Ideally, as Saint Daddy said, exactly one of them would be a boy. But if he had to choose two of the same sex, he wanted two girls. Saint Daddy makes such a wonderful little girl daddy. Worst case scenario, we would have two boys on our hands. Worst case.

And then, we did.

Our sons were nothing like Sunshine from the first day. We struggled in the hospital with nursing. Sleepy was too sleepy to care about eating. Grumpy was a gassy baby and needed extra care. They woke frequently and at random intervals. Saint Daddy and I separately considered running away. It was a very difficult time for us.

I turned to pumping, which strained us further at the beginning. I spent hours of each day with my breast pump. Saint Daddy took on a lot of the burden.

Then they needed solids earlier than I would have liked. Grumpy reacted poorly to foods, but I could not figure out which ones. Our world was a blur and time was meaningless, and it took too long to figure out. They did not sit up until almost the age that Sunshine was when she started to crawl. They crawled quickly enough after that, but they did not walk until much later than she did, late enough that the doctor began to worry me about it.

Their language development is right on target. But one thing the pediatrician does not measure is their capacity for destruction. Sunshine ripped exactly one book in her first two years of life. Grumpy and Sleepy destroyed two books this week. And by destroyed, I do not mean ripped a page. I mean that they bent them open and stomped on them until their spines cracked and their pages fell out.

They rip apart toys. They throw. They break. They slammed a toy into the television, destroying pixels in the lower left hand corner. Grumpy has been to the hospital for stitches. Sleepy terrorizes the dog.

They are watched, but they are sneaky and unstoppable sometimes.

My best friend often tells me that Sunshine did not prepare us for human children. Nope.

Sunshine might be part alien, but our sons are one hundred percent human.

They are destruction and danger and tears.

Sometimes, I feel incapable of knowing what they need or what they will do next. I love them and hug them and try to teach them, but I know that I have my work cut out for me. Sunshine gave me such a beautiful feeling of complacency. Nothing could get me down when I was only Sunshine’s mother.

But Grumpy and Sleepy are why we cannot have nice things. They are the reason that my China cabinet’s drawers are on the dining room table and why Saint Daddy had to put a lock on the sliding door that leads to his office. They are the reason why we own giant gates and hid our movie collection. Grumpy and Sleepy are why Sunshine’s crayons, which she draws with nearly daily, are put away in another room so they cannot eat them or break them or, now that they have the dexterity with which to do so, color on my walls with them. They are why I do not sit comfortably on my couch in the evenings so as not to tempt them to higher heights.

Right now, Sleepy and Grumpy are throwing toy cars at each other’s heads in the living room. I have already learned that there is not anything worth doing about it. One of them may get hurt, and I will comfort him if he does. But I will also say, “Maybe you will learn not to participate in those sorts of shenanigans in the future.”

Then again, what do I know? I thought parenting would be a breeze.

And it is all Sunshine’s fault.

The Case of the Missing Library Book

I hate feeling like a nuisance.

My brain regularly tells me that I am a nuisance to people, and I go out of my way to not actually be one.

Yesterday, I had to be a nuisance.

Sunshine is doing really well at school. She loves going and she is learning so much already. She has been able to identify letters for a couple of years, but her ability to recognize letter sounds has exploded in the last month. Her teacher is going awesome things with her already.

She is a little overwhelmed by the long days. Sunshine’s only experience outside of our home were 2.5 hour days of preschool, three days a week, the year she was three. We allowed her a mental health day on Friday to reset and recharge. Kids need mental health days too.

But Sunshine has been flustered by one thing. She has not been permitted to take out a library book since the very first day that they visited the library.

Sunshine was really excited about library class. I took her to the public library for the first time when she was barely three and it became a regular event for us that summer.

When she climbed into her carseat at the end of that school day, she told me all about library. They got a tour, she picked a book, and she brought it home.

“I picked the Grinch, but they must’ve known I already have it, so they gave me a cat book instead. I like cats too.”

That’s wonderful, baby. You love cats! And you don’t need the Grinch book. We already have it.

That night, I read her library book with her. In it, a cat named Chester goes to the library and learns how to properly care for the books. I found it an apt choice for her first book from her school’s library.

After reading the book, I told Sunshine to put it in her backpack so that it was ready for the next day she had library class.

I saw that book in her bag every morning when I put her lunch into it and every afternoon when I checked her take-home folder. That was the case until library day rolled around again.

Then the book disappeared, but Sunshine did not have a new book.

Didn’t you want a new book today?

“They wouldn’t let me get a new book because I didn’t bring back my first one. It must’ve been lost.”

Did you take it out of your backpack sometime today?

“I gave it to the aide. She must’ve lost it. I couldn’t get a book.”

Sunshine’s disappointment was evident. She loves books. She loves libraries. And I know she could not have loved watching her new friends select books when she could not.

I told her that I was sure it would be figured out before next library day. Maybe the aide set it in the wrong pile. She had plenty of books at home.

I try to project a calm outlook about these sorts of things. I do not want to overreact, especially in front of Sunshine or her brothers.

It’ll be fine, baby. They’ll figure it out.

But on the next library day, Sunshine still did not come home with a book. This is when I talked to Saint Daddy about it.

It doesn’t make any sense, I said. She carried that book back and forth to school for two weeks. What do they mean that she never returned it?

“I’ll email her teacher.”

Here is where my nuisance idea comes in. Teachers are busy. I know how busy they are. They have hundreds of things to deal with every day. They make countless decisions. They are responsible for so much every single moment of their day. There is so much to think about. Their jobs are difficult.

The last thing I would want to do is give Sunshine’s teacher one more thing to think about.

But on the same token, Sunshine did return her book. She did not deserve to be punished for not doing so.

Thank you.

Sunshine’s teacher said that she had borrowed How the Grinch Stole Christmas and never returned it.

I picked Sunshine up from school a few days later, and her teacher met me in the office to discuss the case of the missing library book.

I told her that Sunshine had mentioned thinking she had borrowed “the Grinch,” but that the school must have known she already owned it and sent her home with another book instead. She did not bring home “the Grinch.”

Her teacher offered to email all of the parents to see if maybe their child accidentally brought home Sunshine’s book.

A week passed.

The librarian sent an email to Saint Daddy and me. Sunshine owes this book.

Saint Daddy said I would explain what I believed happened.

I became a little flustered. I felt like a nuisance. It is one book. Should I just offer to pay for it so Sunshine can get books again? Is that the right thing to do? But what if another kid does have Sunshine’s book? Can it be located?

I told the story, a little more briefly than I did above. I hit send.

My cheeks flushed.

I know this probably seems like such a small thing to become so agitated over. I sent that email at the end of my lunch hour, and when I went to my next meeting, someone asked me if I was having a bad day.

No. Not really. I was just nervous. What if I was accused of lying? What if what I said made no sense? What if it does not help? What if Sunshine never takes home another library book from school again? What if the mistakes of adults result in punishing my child?

I needed closure for that event.

With anxiety, even small things can incite large responses. And the best way for my responses to end quickly is closure. The wait for that closure is filled with a million what-ifs. Waiting means my brain begins to wander. My waiting brain has too much of an opportunity to destroy me.

I needed a response. I needed it quickly. I needed Saint Daddy to say something to me.

By the end of my meeting, the librarian let me know that the book Sunshine brought home was on the shelf. She said she knew who checked it out and that she would check with his family to see if they had Sunshine’s book. However, she was clearing Sunshine’s account. Sunshine would definitely be coming home with a book on her next library day.

Even now, writing this, more than twenty-four hours after it happened, I am realizing how minor this whole event was. It was a non-event. Emailing about this issue was entirely appropriate.

I know that.

However, anxiety often means putting more stock into an event than it deserves. Anxiety means that I think other people think about me in the same obsessive way I think about myself or in the exact opposite way.

Saint Daddy recently told me that I sometimes operate in extremes.

That is true. I do.

That is my anxiety. That is what anxiety does for me.

I do not imagine that it works exactly the same way for everyone, but that is how anxiety affects me.

I have begun working on my awareness of that. I am trying to find my equilibrium. I am trying to remind myself that sending an email is not that big of a deal. Not in the grand scheme of things.

I am glad that Saint Daddy and I solved the case of the Missing library book.

Sunshine deserves a library day. It was worth being a little bit of a nuisance to do that for her.

Fighting the Sunday Blues

This weekend was perfectly lovely.

Saturday was rainy, but Saint Daddy and I took our babies for ice cream at our favorite Creamery anyway. I spent much of the day organizing the kids’ clothes, pulling out summer clothes and washing sweaters and jackets that had been stored in boxes given to us by generous friends.

Sunday found us at the same farm where we got ice cream, enjoying a hay ride and pumpkin picking. Grumpy was surprisingly not the grumpy gus at the pumpkin patch. Sleepy screamed his head off every time Saint Daddy set him down. It all made sense when he promptly fell asleep in the car. Classic Sleepy. We bought butternut squash at the farm, and I can smell the delicious soup I am making with it simmering in the kitchen as I type this.

We are all coming down from colds that Sunshine picked up at school. Her cold took us to her pediatrician on Friday after school for a quick ear check after she complained of echos. It is hard to say how serious that complaint was as she is currently obsessed with the notion of being “absent.” Sunshine loves school, but she has never been absent and she is hoping that someday soon Saint Daddy or I will give her the go-ahead to stay home.

I spent the last week on a major project at work, and I needed this weekend. Not that I do not need most weekends, but between the cold and the stress at work, I needed this one.

I have enjoyed my weekend. Ice cream, pumpkin picking, family time, a six mile long run, and a half-nap this afternoon? What more could I ask for?

It is almost five o’clock on a Sunday, though, and I am feeling the Sunday Blues right now.

There is tension in the back of my neck. It is pulsing up through my head. My eyes hurt from the pressure. I feel a little nauseated. I am more tired than I should be.

I am anticipating the rise in pressure that will occur from the moment I walk out of my door tomorrow morning and will continue with small increases and decreases until the moment I walk back into it on Friday afternoon, toting Sunshine’s nap supplies and a another week worth of stories.

I hate the Sunday Blues.

I researched this one too. According to Monster, 76% of Americans say that they experience unusually high levels of anxiety as the day progresses on Sundays.

76%!

That means that I am in great company on Sundays as I focus more on what the upcoming week will bring my way instead of what I have in front of me.

It is unfair to today.

I have expressed that sentiment in my blog before. Anxiety is not fair to my present. I wish I could control it.

My family deserves a mother who can pay attention to today instead of sitting her wondering what will be in my email tomorrow morning.

I am not required to check my professional email at home. I stopped doing so shortly after Sunshine was born. I received an email from a client on Thanksgiving, which I responded to. The client emailed me again during dinner and I ignored it, clearing the notification. She emailed me again the following day, also not a work day, and her email was filled with hostility. She wanted to know why I was not prioritizing her and told me she would be contacting my boss.

I immediately removed the email app from my phone and decided to wait to see what other feelings she had on Monday when I returned to work. I knew my boss would not have demanded that I respond to her email on the holiday, and it was wrong of her to bully me.

That was five years ago. I have only occasionally checked my work email at home since then and I have often regretted it. Work is for work. Home is for my family.

I did not prioritize that client. Not at home.

At home, I prioritize motherhood.

Motherhood is one of the most important tasks I will ever undertake. Being a wife is as well. Saint Daddy, Sunshine, Grumpy, and Sleepy are vastly more important than anything that will happen at work. Everything at work can wait when it is their turn to have me.

Which is why I hate the Sunday Blues. Because the Sunday Blues take my brain away from them.

Anxiety is largely just fear of the future. I am afraid of what might happen this week. I have a plan in place for the week. I know what I will be doing, what my meetings are, what I need to accomplish. I know I am good at my job. I will have a great week. I almost always do, even if I am handling a particularly stressful project.

But, much like driving, I cannot predict everything. Sometimes, things fall apart without warning. Sometimes, I get so focused on my thing that I ignore the periphery and that periphery might be burning because I accidentally left a candle burning.

I do not have a solid solution to the Sunday Blues right now. I am working on it.

Some Sundays are better than others. Actually, some Sundays I do not feel it at all. Usually, Sundays are only particularly bad when the previous week was stressful. I believe it is my brain’s way of saying “I can’t go through all of that again.”

I am trying, though.

I am focusing on Grumpy and Sleepy running around the living room after their nap. I am enjoying Sunshine sitting next to me and watching a Halloween cooking show with me. She loves Halloween because she loves spooky stuff. “Except spiders. Those are yucky!”

I am thinking about how good that soup is going to taste after the garlic and apples and onions all had a chance to really mingle with the squash.

Tomorrow will come. I will face tomorrow then.

Right now, it is time to enjoy what remains of Sunday.

An Anxious Love Story

I am a little jealous of people who can remember meeting their spouses. I know there are a billion stories of people meeting the person they would spend their lives with. Some of them are funny, some sad, some awkward, but all very real.

I do not have that story. I lost it somewhere along the line.

Saint Daddy and I met in the seventh grade lunch line. Sometimes, I think I remember it, but I cannot be sure it was him that I remember. I was new to the school. He had been in the district since kindergarten. I met over a hundred people that same day. And unfortunately for Saint Daddy and for me, I cannot remember him in the sea of other faces.

When I ask him about it, he says he remembers. And sometimes, he acts as if he knew, at that moment, that I was someone to him. He is pretty mushy sometimes.

The first real memories I have of Saint Daddy came in ninth grade. He and I had Spanish together, and in my mind, he was “the weird kid in my Spanish class.” When he tells this story, he says I was the weird kid. I, however, was not the one who brought green food coloring to tortilla making day in order to make green eggs and ham.

About a year later, my best friend at the time told me that she had a crush on Saint Daddy, and since I knew him mostly as the weird kid in Spanish, I gave her a quizzical look. She yelled at me for judging her and said she wished she had never told me anything. We were not friends much longer, and the year Sunshine was born, she was convicted of murdering her son. That is not really part of today’s story, though.

At the end of sophomore year, Saint Daddy and I spent much of our school’s Memorial Day picnic together. He told someone I was his girlfriend, and I laughed at him.

Junior year, Saint Daddy’s friend group and my friend group began mixing. We spent Saturday nights together bowling or hanging out in someone’s house. When my almost junior prom date spread rumors about me and I cancelled on him, I asked Saint Daddy to go with me instead. He said that he was not interested in dances with friends. Around the same time, when a mutual friend refused to drive three miles to pick me up so I could join the group, Saint Daddy came over himself. He said that picking me up was always going to be worth the drive.

In June of that year, we pretended to get married in our mutual friend’s living room. I had found the veil attached to a plastic tiara her mother had worn to her bachelorette party, and I demanded that a groom step up to marry me. Saint Daddy obliged. A week later, we went to see a movie at the drive-in theater and Saint Daddy said he had to be close to me because I was his wife.

I went away to astronomy camp that summer. While there, I told my roommate all about Saint Daddy. I did not think I liked him as anything more than a friend in my group, but maybe I did. When I went on vacation with my parents, I bought him a souvenir. I am not sure I ever gave it to him, but I remember seeing something and feeling it would be a nice gift for him.

By the beginning of senior year, it seemed that Saint Daddy and I dating was more a matter of when than if. A friend of ours confessed to me that she liked him but she knew he liked me, and she said, “You can have him if you want him. Do you want him?”

Saint Daddy and I would laugh about that conversation later.

Before we began dating, I knew Saint Daddy was right for me. I had a feeling, a premonition, something deep within me told me to take a chance I had never taken before. I had never dated previously because I was not willing to put myself out there. I did not want to risk the hurt. But something within me told me that I needed to this time. I knew that Saint Daddy was always going to be worth it.

We shared our first kiss late one October night. Saint Daddy had his Cinderella license and an 11:00 curfew, and I can tell you, with certainty, that it was 11:38 when we shared that first kiss. We were standing in front of a friend’s house, all of our friends were pretending not to be watching, and it was magical.

Saint Daddy was my first boyfriend, but he was not my first kiss. And let me tell you, something about that kiss… It lingered with me for days.

Saint Daddy saw my first anxious episode less than six months later. He had already told me that he was going to marry me. He had picked out the date. We were about to graduate from high school and head off to different colleges, and my brain said that there was no way that we would ever make it to that wedding date, more than five years later.

High school relationships are not meant to last.

Someone just told me that the other day actually. “It’s cute that they’re dating, but I told [my daughter] that she shouldn’t plan to marry him. High school relationships are supposed to end. High school sweethearts almost always get divorced.”

I am not sure where she gets her data, and I hope she is not saying those words in that way to her daughter.

So my brain told me that Saint Daddy and I could not make it. It was impossible. It robbed me of sleep. I mourned the loss of our relationship. I cried over it. I missed him, even though he was still mine.

I walked to his house in the middle of the night. It was a four mile walk, and I had assumed that I would feel better long before I got there. I did not. I knocked on his window and cried. He held me, but I felt like I could not tell him why I had come. I worried that if I spoke the words out loud that it would make them true. I could not imagine losing him. He meant so much to me.

Saint Daddy tried to feed me, but I could not eat. I felt a little better when the sun came up, but I would spend the next month or so filled with anxiety and unable to say the words to him that would have freed me. I was too scared, our relationship was too new, I loved him, I needed him, and I did not want to destroy us with my thoughts.

Looking back, I know that what I chose to do was more destructive than honesty ever would have been, but anxiety does not allow me to think clearly. Anxiety ruled me.

Sometimes, it still does.

Saint Daddy prayed for me one night. He came over after work, and I fell asleep watching television with him next to me. I heard him pray for me and for us. He loved me so much.

That was almost fifteen years ago.

Saint Daddy and I made it to that wedding date. Actually, we got married one day before his chosen date. He had chosen a Sunday because it was our anniversary. We got married on the Saturday preceding it. That was nine years ago.

Saint Daddy, as is clear from his name, is a saint. He is so much more to me than I could ever put into words. He is my favorite person. He is my best friend. More than that, Saint Daddy is the solid ground on which I stand and the warm pillow where I lay my head each night. He is within every breath that I take. He does not complete me necessarily, but he complements my soul. He understands my truest essence.

He knows me. The other night, I could not sleep. I woke in the morning and told Daddy that I had a terrible night, and he knew exactly what thoughts had kept me up.

One time, a relative told me that she looks at our relationship and sees that a happy marriage and mental illness can coexist. Saint Daddy loves me despite my demons. He battles them with me even when they do not make any sense to him.

The key to our success on that front has been communication. That first episode may very well have been the worst he ever saw me through, and it was so bad because I could not tell him why I felt the way that I did. As time moved on, I shared my burdens and he helped me carry them.

I have done the same for him.

Saint Daddy knows my triggers and my coping mechanisms. He can tell from the look on my face when I need air or a touch. He understands that I need silence and water and a moment to think myself down.

Neither Saint Daddy nor I are perfect angels. We have both hurt each other over the years in ways we lived to regret. Most of that hurt came from the way we were handling our respective mental illnesses. But Saint Daddy and I choose each other. We do it every single day. First and foremost, I am on his side and he is on mine. Ultimately, we are both happy people.

It is possible to love someone with mental illness. We both do it every day.

I will never remember how our love story began, but it will always be my favorite. It is a story of love and laughter. It is a story of determination and perseverance. It is a story filled with joy and hope.

One time, a random match on a cell phone game messaged me to ask if I was single. I was not. I was married. He said, “Happily?” Yes, thank you very much.

I may be a messy person, but I am happily in love with my best friend.

Blogception: Blogging About My Blog

I began my blogging journey five weeks ago. I had a story to tell about Sunshine beginning school, and I wanted a place to tell it.

I am glad that I found my place. Since I began this blog, I have received many messages from people telling me that they understand, they feel it too, and they want to share in their own way.

I have had requests to forward certain posts on to others because they know people who might need to see my words. People have told me that I made them cry real tears for various reasons. My baby sister set a screenshot of a paragraph from one of my posts as her phone’s background. She told me that she shared my post with her counselor. She said, “This is my family. This is who we are.”

I have been complimented on my style and supported during my journey. I have opened my heart up to people who knew me and yet did not know me. I have shared myself with the internet, which is no small undertaking.

I have been honest. My stories have all been my truth.

Yes, I am glad that I started this blog, that I have bared my soul, that I have made connections to people who fight long and hard. Tired people who needed to know that there are other tired people.

I write about my anxiety.

It is how I process my thoughts and find my balance. I have been writing about my anxiety since I was a teen. Even before I had named my anxiety, I journaled about it. I have notebooks still stashed at home filled with my fears and concerns and off-balance thoughts.

As a teenager, I had a Xanga account where I wrote and felt connections with other people who understood.

Writing about my anxiety here has been cathartic. It has been medicinal. It has been terrifying.

My anxiety blog causes me anxiety.

There are clients at my work. People who should only know me as a professional. I accept that, I acknowledge that, and I am grateful for that. I had a dream a few weeks ago that one of my clients found my anxiety blog and shared it widely. I woke in a panic, convinced that I had crossed boundaries I never would have wanted to cross. I checked to be sure that my very public blog did not in anyway contain my very private name.

I write stories about my feelings regarding certain events that, because they are tinged with the darkness of my mental illness, skew toward the negative. I say that people I know did or said little things that hurt me in ways they could not have known or expected. It is not their fault. I do not ascribe malicious intent to these events, conversations, or behaviors, but I write about them to highlight how seemingly small activities can trigger my anxiety. I then worry that people involved in those experiences will become enraged that I was honest about my own self in regard to my reaction to them. I worry that I will spark their negative self-talk. I worry that I am making it harder for someone else.

I worry that I might be too open and that someone might decide to use my words against me. I worry that I may secretly be derided for the way I have experienced certain facets of my life.

I worry that people will change who they are around me simply because I have professed anxious feelings in regards to certain minutiae.

I worry that my mother will read my blog and think I have tainted my childhood because she might cling to a specific sentence and miss the whole. She might see the tree and miss the forest.

I worry that someone might think I am lying.

My Imposter Syndrome has told me that someone might think I am making all of this up for attention and that I do not suffer as I claim to.

I worry that, when I link my posts to my Facebook page, that no one will read it or, worse, that someone, anyone, might be annoyed by another one of my posts.

Yes, my anxiety blog causes me anxiety.

My second blog post was an introductory post. I wanted to share a little about my family. Someone commented on my post critiquing my style, giving me unsolicited advice on how to improve, and telling me that I was alienating my readers. She told me to show and not tell my experiences. She said I was not revealing enough. That I should be more open and honest with my readers.

I was very gracious in my response to her, but I stood with my phone in my hand feeling a little dumbstruck.

I disagreed with her rationale. I did not see what she saw. And then, I thought, what kind of person goes to a blog about anxiety and tells the author how to write it better?

I must assume that the answer to that is “someone without anxiety.”

So, even as I write now, I am feeling anxious in case she reads this and has more critical comments to support her position.

She will probably never come back. I am sure she stumbled on my blog, said her peace, and went back into the ether, promptly forgetting her commentary. Or maybe even feeling as though she did me a favor.

I would like to thank her, though. She did do something for me, but not exactly what she thought she did.

She made me remember that part of what makes my journey difficult is that not everyone understands it. Sometimes, I am surprised by the notion that not everyone overanalyzes themselves in the way I do. Sometimes, I find it hard to believe that not everyone focuses on everyone else’s darker motives.

The truth is that not everyone has darker motives. They simply act and do without focusing on the little details because their brains do not call upon them to obsess in the way that mine does.

So while I share stories where I might feel slighted, that woman who commented on my blog with her critical eye provides some evidence that the slight is not always intentional.

I love people. I really do. I work hard to focus on the good in people. I believe that most people act in ways that they think are kind and honest and helpful to the best of their abilities.

It is my anxiety that disagrees with me.

It will always be difficult to explain the fact that I can know something completely but that my brain still needs to be convinced.

I know my blog is worthwhile, but sometimes, I have to convince my brain of that.

Luckily for me, I have received so much support for my written words that I have felt bolstered in my endeavors.

So here I am, once again, deciding to do something when my anxiety casts doubts on it.

I want to thank those of you who have read my posts. Any of them. I want to thank those of you who have reached out to me about them. Ever. I want to thank those of you who have commented on my posts. Here or anywhere I have shared them.

And I want to thank the woman who critiqued my second post.

Every moment is a lesson, and I love learning.

Twin Fears

Two years ago today, I went for an early ultrasound. A dating ultrasound. Standard practice. I had one with both of my pregnancies.

Sunshine’s was at 5+0 weeks. She was just a fluttering lump of cells, nothing discernable. But her heart was beating, and it was magical.

My second one was at 7+1. I was far more sick the second time than I was the first time. I could not find ways to quell my nausea.

I bloated quickly. If it is possible to begin showing at conception, then that is what I was doing. My BFFL said my face looked different at just six weeks. She knew it was a boy based on my face alone. My best friend knew I was pregnant before I told her because I looked “five pounds heavier” mere weeks after conception.

Sunshine said it was twins. I will never forget that. When Saint Daddy and I told her about my pregnancy, just shy of the five week mark, she said it was not a boy or a girl but both. Two babies, she said.

At that first ultrasound, at 7+1, I was nervous. I think every expectant momma in the first weeks feels that. She knows she is pregnant. She saw the test change before her eyes. She felt the early symptoms, but she had no real proof that a baby was coming.

I refer to it as pregnancy limbo. The momma knows, but she has little to show for the knowledge and she does not really want to tell anyone. So she is walking around with a big anxious secret, unsure of what the future might hold.

I once tried to explain that to Saint Daddy, but he did not quite grasp what I was saying. Mommas know it. I am sure.

Saint Daddy and Sunshine came with me for that ultrasound. Saint Daddy rarely missed any of my appointments. He is quite proud of being at all but one for Sunshine. The second time, he missed a few more. In his defense, I had a lot of appointments the second time. No one can blame him for missing a few.

We went back into the ultrasound room. The tech was very nice. She asked me some questions about how I was feeling. She assured me that the intense all-day nausea, the exhaustion, and the discomfort were all excellent signs of a healthy pregnancy. We would know soon enough, she said, just how healthy it was.

When I laid down on the table, I never imagined what I would see. Pregnancy limbo involves a fear that there might be nothing to see whenever an ultrasound occurs. Pregnancy limbo is a scary time. I prepared myself for the worst possibility. I steeled myself for it. I could never be ready for that devastating news, but I refused to be blindsided by the possibility of it.

Miraculously, I never had to use that preparation. I am lucky, I am grateful, and I am blessed.

What I did not truly prepare myself for was Sunshine’s guess that there were two babies in my belly.

I had laughed about it. I had told my best friend about it. I had told my BFFL about it. They laughed with me. “Could you imagine?” “Where would you put a second one?”

So I laid down on the table, I lifted my shirt up, and I waited.

The tech put jelly on my lower abdomen and she pressed the wand against me. The screen in front of Saint Daddy, Sunshine, and me remained black. She would not turn it on if she had bad news. I knew it. I held my breath. I prayed to God that it would be okay. That the baby would be okay.

We had already been calling the baby our Seahorse. That is what that ball of cells becomes next, a seahorse. Come on, little seahorse, be there. We want to see you.

I am sure it was only a minute, but it felt longer. But then, she turned on the screen. I let the air out of my lungs. That screen turning on meant our seahorse was growing, its heart was beating, the pregnancy was going well.

The tech told us all about our seahorse: the heartbeat, the size, he was measuring on schedule. It was exactly as expected.

“And then, this one.”

And she flipped her wrist ever so slightly up, and suddenly, there were two seahorses on the screen.

If you saw me tell this story in person, I would not be shy about the language I used at that moment. In the interest of keeping this a little more PG, however, suffice it to say, I dropped the f-bomb. Not angrily. It was in complete surprise. HOLY FRIGGING POOP! I said. Only not quite that way. IT’S TWINS! IT’S TWINS! SUNSHINE WAS RIGHT! IT’S TWINS! SHE SAID IT WAS TWINS AND IT IS TWINS! HOLY FRIGGING POOP!

I am sure everyone within a mile of that room heard my exclamations.

I laughed and I cried at the same time. It was so many thoughts and feelings at the same time.

The first thing I heard outside of my head was Saint Daddy. “We’re going to have to get a new car, aren’t we?”

I spent three days in a mystified stupor. I wanted to tell the world, but I was terrified.

I remained terrified throughout my twin pregnancy. I was prepared to carry a singleton. I had done it before. We could afford a second child. We bought the perfect car and perfect house for a family of four about a year beforehand.

I am a planner. It is one way I tackle my anxiety. I had planned this pregnancy. We had planned for Saint Daddy to begin working outside of the home again within a couple of years. We had planned. We had planned. We had planned.

We did not plan for twins, and I was terrified.

My mom carried twins once. Just briefly. Between two ultrasounds, one twin disappeared. This was completely normal. Six months later, the remaining twin arrived healthy and thriving. That remaining twin was me. And here I was carrying twins myself, and I worried about the possibility that I would face a similar story.

One of my colleagues learned that I was having twins, and she stopped me outside of an office to tell me about how she had lost a twin and survived. She wanted to reassure me that one healthy baby was worth the sadness.

But the second there were two seahorses, I wanted two healthy babies. I wanted two healthy babies in a way I had never expected to want them, and I was terrified that one would be taken from me.

I was selective about whom I told about the pregnancy. When my cousin texted me a congrats around ten weeks, I cried. I wanted another ultrasound before people knew. My mom called to apologize for telling her sisters. She did not realize how I was struggling. She made a mistake, but she was too excited not to share.

I prayed.

After a reassuring thirteen week ultrasound, I felt comfortable going public. The chances of losing either baby after the first trimester were slim. I never stopped worrying about it, but I breathed more easily.

Then I worried about pre-term labor. I read that gaining weight quickly could help prevent that from happening. I needed to build up my fat stores before my stomach ran out of space and I ended up eating less than I needed to support the three of us each day. Twenty-five pounds by twenty weeks was a daunting task. I had gained only three pounds in as much time with Sunshine.

But I did it.

It was one way to handle my fears. To feel like I had some sort of control.

I worried about bed rest. Saint Daddy and I could not afford three children, and an extended maternity leave was not going to help matters. I needed to work as long as possible.

I needed to rest. I needed to stay off my feet. I needed to lower my stress. And I needed to stay pregnant.

I had to give up running, one of my coping mechanisms, early in my pregnancy. Doctor’s orders. I needed to stop picking up Sunshine and carrying her. Doctor’s orders.

I needed to attend many appointments, miss work, take frequent breaks.

Then, Grumpy was breach. I would have to have a C-section. I had a beautiful natural delivery with Sunshine. It was all I wanted.

Part of my desire to have a natural delivery was because of my squeamishness in regards to the human body. IVs make me lightheaded. I do poorly with them.

However, no matter how I delivered my twins, I would need an IV. They would want me ready for immediate surgery. Twins meant considering a lot more “just in case” scenarios. Even if A and B are both head down, my doctors would want me ready for an emergent cesarean. It was not unheard of for a Baby B to flip around as soon as room became available.

I would also have to deliver in the OR, even if both babies came vaginally. The OR is big enough for the team of medical professionals needed for twin deliveries. It is big enough for two babies to come at the same time.

That was nerve-wracking enough for me.

But then, Grumpy was breach and a C-section was guaranteed. And not only would I definitely need an IV, but I would definitely need a spinal and I would definitely be having abdominal surgery while wide awake and I would definitely be strapped to a table and I would definitely have a panic attack while all of that was happening. That was a definite.

I was horrified.

My entire pregnancy came with fear. Fear that there was nothing. Fear that I would lose one. Fear that they would come early. Fear that I would panic on the table.

I was afraid.

The only fear that was actually realized was the last one. I did panic on the table. But my anesthesiologist recognized what was happening and she gave me something to lower my adrenaline-fueled response.

I lived in constant fear. I could not even talk about most of my fears.

I was happy. I was excited. I wanted to meet my sons. But I was terrified.

My boys were born at 38+0. I had a textbook pregnancy. I went on modified bedrest at 33+1. We passed all of the tests with flying colors. My delivery was perfect. My recovery went well.

My sons are amazing. They are perfect and beautiful. I love them with all of my heart and soul.

They were worth every fear, every tear, every moment spent in prayer.

I would never choose a life free of fear if it meant a life free of them. They have taught me so much about myself in the two years since I first saw them on that screen, my tiny flickering seahorses.

I am lucky to know them, to love them, to have them.

The end of my pregnancy was not the end of my twin fears. I am sure I will have new fears cropping up all of the time.

But my sons? They will always be worth it.

I Did It For Grumpy

I am not fascinated by the human body. When people share the intricacies of the human heart on social media, I block the page from which it originated. I am squeamish and squirmy about blood, cuts, wounds, holes in the body. I recognize that the human body is beautiful. A miracle. It is amazing what our bodies can do. I am the awe of the process of bringing new people into the world. Having twins made that even more pronounced. A single human being can create two lives simultaneously. Wow! Just… Wow!

But I do not want to watch it.

This squeamishness is why I waited until Sunshine asked me to before getting my ears pierced. The very idea of sticking pretty metal through holes in my body? No, thank you.

Hospitals make me uncomfortable. They smell of my anxiety. Something about the air in a hospital. It seems unnatural. I tense up as soon as I smell it.

Yesterday, I experienced both of these events together, and I did it all for Grumpy.

Grumpy and Sleepy recently learned how to climb onto the couch. Sunshine was not a climber. I recently told my best friend that Sunshine only learned to climb onto the couch six months ago. Slight hyperbole. But really, she was not a climber.

Sleepy is a climber, and Grumpy? He likes to do what Sleepy does.

The boys both love climbing onto the couch and sitting there like big boys. Saint Daddy and I say that they like being “Kings of the Castle.”

Yesterday, Grumpy climbed onto the couch while I watched America’s Got Talent on Hulu and painted Sunshine’s toes. I snapped a picture of him, looking adorable as King of the Castle. Saint Daddy came home from the gym. Sleepy was wandering around the dining room with a ball, saying, “ball, ball, ball.” Saint Daddy entered the kitchen, and Grumpy fell off the side of the couch.

He had fallen before, but this was different.

He screamed. Not cried. Screamed.

I jumped up. Saint Daddy called, “What was that?”

I picked up Grumpy, and there was blood dripping from near his mouth. I took him to Saint Daddy for a look. I knew me, and looking would make my woozy. I would have to sit down. I would need cold water and five minutes, and Grumpy needed love. He did not need to be patient.

Saint Daddy said there was too much blood. He did not know where it was coming from, so I took Grumpy to the entryway to assess him in better light.

The bleeding was coming from the bottom of his cheek, near his mouth, not his tongue. I worried he had bit off part of his tongue. But this was external.

Saint Daddy looked again.

There was a hole in Grumpy’s cheek and something was inside the hole. One of us needed to take Grumpy to the hospital.

And suddenly, I had Grumpy in the car, covered in blood, only half a water bottle of water, no dinner for either of us, my cell phone at less than 20%, and on our way to the hospital.

Two of my big stressors. Wounds and hospitals.

Motherhood.

I held Grumpy in the waiting room while a kind older woman asked solicitous questions about him. She hoped he was okay. She would pray for us.

When we went back to be admitted by a nurse, Grumpy panicked. He was in pain. He did not know what was going on, and I know he was starving. The oxygen monitor was a nuisance, he refused to settle long enough to be weighed, and he screamed bloody murder when the nurse put a hospital bracelet on his leg.

I tried to comfort him but he did not know how to hold his head. He wanted his thumb, but it hurt to put it in his mouth.

We went back to a room to wait. My cell battery drained, and I switched to power save mode, hoping it would last well enough to keep Saint Daddy updated. I texted my best friend and my oldest sister. I wished we had a book or a toy for Grumpy to focus on.

I tried to keep us both calm.

I was being calm for him.

Yesterday, I talked to a coworker about how it is easier to put my anxiety aside when I have to do it for someone else. Even something as simple as ordering garlic knots after we already ordered. I could do it for her, but I could not have done it for me. No worries, I’ll do it for you.

No worries, Grumpy, I will do it for you.

I sang to him. Twinkle, twinkle little star… I explained to him that we were in the hospital and that the people there all have one thing in common. They all want to help other people not feel pain. And they were going to help him not feel pain. I tried not to look at his injury. I tried not to cry.

The PA came in with an assistant. I laid Grumpy on the bed, and she cleaned his face. I had to hold his arms over his head while he screamed and cried and writhed. I felt helpless. I could not stop it. It had to be done, but I hated it. I saw his injury up close. Two clear punctures.

I began to feel light-headed. I quelled my nausea.

The PA said that there was something in the wound. She asked what did it, and I told her that he had a toy dinosaur in his hand when he fell. She was mystified that parts of the dinosaur could be in Grumpy’s face, but she would get it out.

She said she needed a scalpel to clean the wound better.

Here is another example of his need outweighing my anxiety.

I said, “I won’t be able to watch that.”

She said, “You can wait in the waiting room.”

I said, “No, I can’t do that either. He’s my baby, and I’m going to be here with him.”

Grumpy and I waited again. When the PA came back, she brought a nurse to help hold Grumpy and a papoose to secure his arms and legs.

She numbed his face and used a scalpel to clean his wound. I looked into his eyes the entire time.

“Mommy’s here, baby. I’m not going anywhere. I’m right here. I’m so sorry, baby. I wish I could stop it, but I can’t. I love you. You’re doing such a great job. You’re being so brave. Almost done.”

It felt like it lasted forever as the PA removed the dinosaur and stitched his two punctures. The nurse brought him a freeze pop and a stuffed cat, and he was discharged.

We stopped at CVS to pick up Grumpy’s antibiotic and something for Grumpy to eat, since we both missed dinner and I wanted him in bed as soon as possible. He saw a display of toy cars, and I let him choose one. A white convertible with blue stripes. I bought him Fruit Loops and let him munch on those as we waited for his prescription.

Grumpy became immediately attached to both the car and the Fruit Loops.

We arrived home to great fanfare. Everyone was still awake. I gave Grumpy a wipe down to remove any blood, got him changed, and put him in bed.

Saint Daddy and I decided to use the baby monitor for the first time in six months in case Grumpy needed us. He whimpered in his sleep a few times, but he did not need us.

Babies are strong and brave and resilient. Grumpy is a tough guy.

My mother’s heart was hurting. I am so glad Grumpy is okay. It could have been much worse. But I wish it had never happened. I wish I could have prevented it.

I am mad at me, and I will never get the sight of his tiny distressed eyes reaching out to me from that hospital bed while I stood feet away. They searched for me, they begged me, and I felt helpless to do anything for him.

My anxiety makes everything about last night the stuff of my nightmares. Blood and wounds and hospitals. Not enough water, being alone, nothing to occupy my brain.

But I did it for Grumpy.

My anxiety is no match for the love I have for my son.

I hope to never have to relive that experience again, but with three children that seems unlikely. However, I will do what I must for my babies, my own issues be damned!