May 6, 2017

Hello? Is this thing on?

Hello! Wow. I know it's been months. I'm so out of practice now this feels weird. We are okay, things have just been hard for us recently and this blog was one of the things I had to let go of for a while.

It's nothing major (and for that I am grateful), just lots of little things together over and over that have worn us down. I've wanted to talk about it. I wrote posts sharing everything in detail that turned into extensive novels. I wrote short posts with brief highlights that rang hollow. I couldn't pull the trigger to post any of them because I felt like we were still in the middle of the storm.

Are we on the other side now? I don't know. I would like to think so. It's spring! The air is sweet, the sun is bright, the skies are blue. It's a time of new beginnings.

I've decided to share the medium version, which is still lengthy because it's really just a long list of little things piled on top of the other, turning our life into an uphill climb.

It started over a year ago in March when Mike was moved to a new position in a different work location. At the time we thought it was short term and we wanted Oliver to have continuity with his preschool, so we decided to keep him in the daycare close to where Mike used to work. The commute has been brutal with this move - what used to be 40 minutes (an hour on a bad day) became 2+ hours each way for Mike. He's away for 12+ hours most days... gone are the glory days of early dinners with long evening walks or easy weeknight trips to the pool in the summer. He also has a supervisor who equates planned vacation time, illness and personal days as lost revenue and discourages taking time off. Even when your wife is having a baby. Like more than 2 days of paternity leave is letting clients down.

We dealt with it, got help from our wonderful family and just moved forward. We juggled two kids and a crazy schedule. I was overwhelmed sometimes - exhausted by two kids or lonely when it was just me and the baby at home for long hours on my maternity leave. Georgia became significantly more high maintenance in her old age with both her care routine and cleaning up after her. She's still with us, mostly healthy (some arthritis issues) and making us crazy, ruining our carpets and requiring the world's most expensive dog food and pill regime.

I went back to work, Matthew went to part time daycare and we had to then adjust to our new normal of two working parents with two kids. My family has been wonderfully supportive and helpful, but any time we felt we finally had a handle on things, something new would come up, another ball to juggle. Oliver had to have his tonsils out and had an unrelated health scare (which turned out to be fine). The crazy just kept getting crazier, but all we could do was keep going.

Starting in mid September, Matthew was sick all the time. At first it was bad colds one on top of the other. Then he had the RSV, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, double ear infection with burst ear drum and dehydration that landed him in the hospital for 4 days. And after that it didn't stop. This winter he was sick every week that he went to daycare. Matthew ended up in the hospital a second time. The kids brought home three tummy bugs, an enterovirus, croup, the human metapneumovirus that turned into double pneumonia, a double ear infection and also a sinus infection for both boys. We discovered Matthew can't tolerate oral antibiotics. Both boys had the flu this year (despite the flu shot) and when I caught it, it was so severe that I ended up in the hospital too (my fever was so high they had to check for things like meningitis). We were in the doctor's office almost every week, sometimes several times in a week. A good week was just when everyone was nursing a cold. It just didn't stop.

I'm lucky that my job allowed me to have a flexible schedule and work from home a lot, but at the same time it was also stressful to be burning the candle at both ends, juggling sick kids and a full time job, finishing up work late at night all the time. Always trying not to fall behind, always worrying. It felt never ending.

This winter I was also diagnosed with postpartum anxiety. Nobody ever wants to talk about this stuff because there's a stigma around mental health, but really there shouldn't be. It's brain chemistry, hormones, mixed signals and neurons misfiring. I have a hard time talking about it, but I don't want to. This week was the world maternal mental health day - in honor of that, I'm being brave and sharing here because no one should have to live with constant worry and stress, it's treatable and it happens to lots of women. I've been getting treatment and I'm slowly feeling better. A lot of anxiety has been tied to my kid's health and with the rough winter we've had, it's been a slow process - but I'm getting better.

On top of all this - we've hit a point in our house where things we've done are starting to break down after 7 years. The kitchen faucet broke. The attic fan broke. The dining room light wiring stopped working. The driveway gate is falling apart. The raised garden beds are rotting. The kids and dog have destroyed our couch. Georgia is ruining our carpets. Then the bathtub drain is completely messed up and we've been told our options are to replace our tub (so it will work with a modern replacement drain system), or they can literally break our tub as a temporary solution. Both are astronomically expensive in a year with double daycare and medical bills and car repairs and geriatric dog vet care so we've been living with it. And all this is on top of the improvements that we want to make or will need to make in the future. We've adapted to super fast showers, dining in the dark, washing dishes with low water pressure, the upstairs being hotter in the summer, fumbling with a broken gate, sitting on a broken and stained couch, steaming the carpets with a steamer. But at the end of a bad day sometimes I just want an hour to myself to take a long hot shower and relax with a glass of wine and a good book on the couch... and often if I get some free time I end up spending it cleaning up yet another dog accident off the carpet. Things piled onto each other to the point where I'd be in tears from frustration, stress and worry... it just felt unrelenting.

We've been making positive changes to make our lives easier. At the recommendation of our pediatrician we pulled Matthew out of daycare to give his system a break back in March. My dad retired part time recently and he and my stepmom are helping us watch Matthew during the week and we've also hired a part time nanny to cover the gaps. I get to go to the office again and be with adults and work during normal hours. Mike is taking active steps to find a job position closer to home and shorten his commute. Oliver goes to kindergarten this fall and only has 2 more months of preschool and then we can decide if we want him home with the nanny or do the summer program at the school. A lot of this winter has been trying to keep our heads above water and I'm hoping we're finally at a point where we can relax a little.

I wish I had shared this sooner, but it kept slipping away from me. I have unfinished posts from January. Unpublished posts from February. Revisions in March and April. All about this. But I just wasn't ready to jump back in here. Hard things are often hard to talk about right?

I think I've also been hesitant to share because my feelings are raw and complicated and I'm worried that sharing might be construed as complaining. Being in the hospital with Matthew gave me some serious perspective on how lucky we are, on how healthy my kids really are. I met families that would not get to go home with a happy ending. It has left me with so many mixed feelings - I feel incredibly grateful and even a little guilty, I feel embarrassed that I'm not stronger to handle these minor things so easily, I feel deep sadness and sorrow for the families who have really sick children, I am scared from the realization of how fragile life is. I am frustrated with my neural pathways for not being able to determine what's a real emergency and what's an inconvenience.

I'm hopeful things are finally settling down. We had a healthy month in April and it felt like a whole new world. Things are still busy and complicated, but it feels more manageable when I'm not worrying all the time. Even when things were at their hardest, there were many bright spots. We have two boys that are more wonderful than I could have ever imagined or hoped for. Our life is good, even when it's rough.

I'm hoping I can finally return to this space now. I don't know how regularly I'll be able to post, but we'll see how things go.

1 comment:

  1. Good to hear from you - no matter what's been happening. Wow, I will be praying for you and yours. The recurrent illnesses are scary. I remember in high school getting sick continually and wondering if I'd ever get well again. But . . . we do. I hope you are all on the upswing now and enjoy a beautiful spring and summer. I know you usually do a lot of fun things, and maybe you can get away to the Cape again. Take care, and be well!