Thursday, June 27, 2013

Growing Pains

I open my computer and I try to write.  I sit and stare at the blinking cursor, I cower away, I come back.  I wait.  Nothing strikes.  Whoever said that writing was as simple as sitting down at the typewriter and opening a vein had it all wrong.  I've done both, so I know.  Opening veins is way, way easier.  Thoughts crowd around, a jumbled mass of things that sound like nothing more than complaints, petty grievances that raise my blood pressure, piss me off, and then are gone.  Being around other people is exhausting, I didn't even go to my classmate's celebratory end of the year party Tuesday night, after the 79 of us all slogged through ten months of classes together.  I didn't go, despite being invited, and then I turn away from photos of the fun because my heart hurts from feeling left out.

I grow my plants with a vengeance.  I can do this, I can be good at this.  It's 90 degrees, I'm pouring sweat, and I don't care.  I pull all the weeds, even the tiny ones.  I fertilize carefully, I water with an attention most people reserve for walking a tightrope.  My mind clears, I don't have to talk to anyone or be happy or cheerful or compassionate while I'm doing this.  This is my territory, these plants are my babies.  It's such a simple, straightforward process - dig, plant, tend with care, and look, something amazing happens.  The garden's timeline of weeks and months relieves my frantic soul, while I tell myself that ten years from now, I will smile at my anxious incompetent current self and think nothing of all the things that scare me now.

I don't have to be anyone special for him.  It's such a relief.  He tells me he's proud of me for getting honors and we leave it at that.  I want to hear about how he saved thousands of frogs from the stagnant pool they're emptying at the apartment complex he's working on in Georgia this week.  I want to hear about this because it's not the jumble of anxiety and exhaustion that is clouding the inside of my brain.  I go with him to look at a house he might move into, and I plan where the nursery might go, a few years from now.  I show him where I'll plant the garden, he tugs my ponytail and says with a smile, "Okay."  That's it.  I lean into him and I don't have to do anything more.

I talk to a midwife on the phone this morning about attending some home births this summer.  She asks where I'm doing my community health rotation and when I tell her she laughs, and says, "I remember doing community health.  We called it community hell for a reason.  Good luck!"  I go pull more weeds and stroke my one growing hot pepper until the tightness in my throat clears and my eyes are no longer leaking.

I sleep in his bed because the air conditioning is too good to pass up and the bed feels cavernous without him and the inside of my head is a mess again and it still would be easier to pour from my wrists than it is to figure out what I'm trying to say.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Things I Find

CT has some pretty beaches, if you know where to look.

And some wicked thunderstorms, that result in rainbows like this.
I have one more test.  One more test before my academics for the first year are kind of over - I say kind of because for most of July I'll be working (for free) as a nurse with the VNA nearby and doing some kind of massive, currently undefined project that counts very much for a grade.  But my last test is on Tuesday so I'm just trying to focus on that for right now.  In between studying, I'm planning all sorts of things to do with the 21 pounds of strawberries H. and I picked this weekend.  Rough life, I'm telling you.

An excerpt from a book I very much want to read, about becoming a nurse.

I need feminism because old man patients have groped me and I knew enough not to tell anyone.

I think it's obvious what side of the debate I'm on, but decide for yourself.

Big news in the land of diabetes research.

I don't ever want to forget Newtown (careful, this one made me cry).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Worn Out

I am so tired.

It runs through my head, it's a permanent state of being by now.  People say hi, how are you, I say fine, good, thanks, how are you?  I don't say, I'm tired, I'm just so, so tired.

I wake up feeling uneasy, like I've just been unceremoniously returned to this bed and this body in order to wake up and get on with the day.  Part of me lingers in wherever I was before and I spend all day trying to remember it.  Some nights I am unconscious in seconds, only surfacing as the sun creeps through the window the next day, my hand reaches out, searching because I can't remember if I'm in his bed with him or in my bed alone.

Other nights I fall asleep, I dream vivid ghastly dreams of being alone in the delivery room, everyone has left and it's just me.  The woman grunts and I tell her not to push, just breathe, I don't want her to tear and I'm scared, I'm so scared.  I reach out and catch the squirrel she has just delivered instead of a baby and I almost drop it because it is like looking inside of Hell and wanting to scoop out your eyes rather than remember what you've seen.  The mother reaches down and cuddles the animal with its wet fur and beady eyes and I turn, vomit, start to scream and wake up.

Some nights I float in the between place, neither awake nor asleep, for hours.  As the birds start to chirp, my body finally gives up and I sink into sleep for forty-five minutes.  The alarm rings and I want to cry.

What day is it?  What time am I supposed to wake up?  Where am I?

It takes me whole minutes to find the answers to these questions.  I feel like I'm trying to pluck them out of the air - elusive, like catching dandelion fluff to make a wish.  You open your hand, sure you had it, but there's nothing there.

Am I the same person I was when I started this?  
Does anyone here even know me at all?  
Do I know who I am anymore?  
I don't remember.  
I'm so, so tired.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Rose By Any Other Name...

Edit: I wrote this last night after a loooong day of babysitting that reminded me a little too much of so many issues about which I stayed completely silent when I was a nanny, mostly out of fear that I would be fired if my bosses were to happen upon this blog and read what I'd said.  Reading it over today, good golly, I sound pissed.  I'm much calmer now (really).  But I still think these are valid issues.  So I'm going to post it, and I hope you all can read it knowing that most of my memories of nannying are extremely fond and that I absolutely think that when moms need help, they should get it (and be honest about it).

Recently, I've read a few things about moms (and parents, more generally) needing help.  And how that is okay (I would agree) and nothing to be ashamed of (again, right on).  It seems to rise like a rallying battle cry from some - certainly not all - mothers, particularly those who are home raising their children or who do work for money from home while raising their children.  I have no inherent problem with this.  You want to know what the very last thing I tell my postpartum patients when they're being discharged from the hospital with their brand new baby?  Not, "Put them on their back to sleep."  Not even, "You can do this!"  I tell them, "Don't be afraid to ask for, and accept help.  Don't try to do this all alone."  

But here's my beef with the whole thing - if you are hiring someone to watch your children, paying someone money to come to your house several days a week, for set hours at a time, leaving them in charge and trusting them with the health and safety of your child, if that is what you are doing, then you are not hiring a "babysitter."  You are not hiring "help."  You have not found a new "friend" for either yourself or your child(ren).  You are not "lucky to have such a sweet girl to come by sometimes."  (By the way, these are all exact quotes from people I, or people I know, have worked for.)  You have hired a NANNY.  You have hired someone whose job, perhaps career, it is to take care of your kids.  And guess what - if you chose right, she (or he) takes that job extremely seriously, and it is nothing short of a slap in the face to call it anything less than exactly what it is.

I haven't been a nanny in almost exactly a year now, and I don't miss it.  But when I did do it, it was my job.  It paid my bills.  It allowed me to live independently, to support myself, and to live in two very large and very expensive cities and not be evicted or go hungry.  And because it was my job, and it was that important to me, I took those jobs damn seriously.  I read child development books.  I asked my mom for advice.  I practiced patience, and I chose my words carefully with my charges, and I enforced consistency and responsibility and built them a solid foundation upon which to grow.  I also loved them, and even though I didn't get paid to do that, I did it anyway because how could I not?  I poured my heart and soul into raising all those kids and when people ask me what I did before Yale, I tell them I was a nanny.  I enunciate it clearly and repeat myself when they ask me, incredulously, if that's really what I did, and I don't give a shit if the person asking worked for a Fortune 500 company for two years before grad school while I was changing diapers and pushing swings.  

And one last thing - if, from what I have read on numerous posts written by mothers both about the need for help and about things that have nothing to do with that, if in fact, motherhood is hard, and staying at home is hard, and we can all agree that raising babies is hard freaking work, then guess what - it's not just hard for you.  It's hard for the person you hire, and acting like it's a walk in the park for your special "friend" or that it's something I did to amuse myself before getting back to my real and glamorous life when I left your house at 7 PM is also a slap in the face.  It's just as frustrating for me as it is for you when your baby throws their dinner on the floor.  It's just as much work for me to do three loads of laundry while entertaining two sick children as it would be for you.  Yeah, I got good at it.  But it wasn't easy.  And I bit my tongue hard enough to draw blood on more than one occasion, listening to the things my bosses would say ("How are you able to do it all?" someone would ask them, while I sorted laundry in the basement, their voices clear as day through the furnace ducts.  "Oh, you know.  It just all comes together somehow!"  Somehow?  ME.  I was the "somehow.") - and why?  To appease some awful sense of guilt?  Or to make themselves feel better?  Listen, if you need help then you need help!  Own it!  If it's truly nothing to be ashamed of, and we're all raising the battle cry about not trying to go it alone, then give the person who helps you the respect they deserve by telling it exactly like it is.