April 29, 2008

Resentment overload

Posted in The musings of Erin at 12:26 pm by Erin

One of the reasons that things have been so stressful and tense around my house is that J and I aren’t doing so well lately.  I don’t normally write about my marriage, but it’s been getting more difficult since we have two kids, so it feels appropriate to write about it right now.  Also, I almost hijacked DD’s comment box and thought I would just write here instead.

There’s a lot of resentment between us lately, and much of it is NOT new.  Very little of it, in fact.  It’s mostly not adoption-related, but having another child has brought it back to light.  Most of it stems from the fact that, at least in my opinion, J doesn’t seem to realize how much I do for our family.  I know that he has an opinion and that it varies from mine, but he can get his own blog if he wants to say anything about it!  This one is mine and therefore, my opinion gets posted.

We have an extremely unequal distribution of household responsibilities.  We both work full-time, at least during the academic year.  During that time, he is responsible for doing the dishes/loading and emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming, taking out the trash and recycling, mowing the lawn, helping with laundry, paying the bills, and (of course) taking care of the kids.  I am responsible for grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning the house and bathrooms, doing most of the laundry, clothes/other things shopping for everyone except him, keeping things straight for school, meals other than dinner for both of the kids, and (of course) taking care of the kids.  On the surface, it doesn’t look too bad, though his chores are much more once-a-week while mine are mostly daily.  If it really worked out that way, it wouldn’t be that bad.  I am definitely responsible for a whole lot more than he is on a day-to-day basis, but I could handle that.

Instead, in the last week, I have run and emptied the dishwasher 4 times.  J has done it once, and washed five wooden spoons and some steak knives.  I have washed 7 loads of laundry and folded 5 of them.  J folded the other two.  I have paid the bills for the last 3 months.  I have taken out the trash and recycling 4 out of the last 5 times.  I have also been the only one home with the kids between work and their bedtime 8 times out of the last 11 weeknights.  (One of the 3 that he was home includes last night when he got home after bathtime.  K was already in jammies and P was putting his on.  J managed to read them stories and sit in their room until K fell asleep.)  I have also dealt with Passover, doctors’ appointments, making appointments for K to get physical therapy, P’s teacher appreciation week projects, playdates, the need for an exterminator to get rid of carpenter bees, and major cleaning in the house because I just couldn’t stand living in such disarray anymore.

Did I mention that finals start this week?  In the last two weeks, I’ve given 5 tests (3 of them final exams) and received 60+ papers that all have to be graded.  I’ve got additional review sessions to hold.  I’ve got two final exams to write, and grades for my 100+ students to calculated.

J is working hard, I do know that.  His attorney associate quit with no notice about a week after we got back from Ethiopia, and he’s struggling to keep up with the law firm.  He can’t afford to hire a new attorney right now because he hired a new paralegal right before the associate quit, and it takes a while before a new employee starts making enough money to pay for him/herself.  So he’s doing the work of 2 attorneys, including a lot more driving for court appearances that his associate used to do.  He’s double-booked in court on several dates for that reason. 

I know he’s stressed and busy, but I am exhausted and feeling like the single parent of two active little boys.  I do everything lately.  Last week, J took a look around the house and said "We’ll have to do some cleaning this weekend."  Sure, let’s do that.  He’s good with cleaning when he actually does it.  Instead, he played video games half the weekend.  He did no cleaning–except the one dishwasher run (that I emptied) and the few dishes.  He also didn’t spend much time with the boys.  On Sunday, I asked him to throw in some laundry while I held a review session.  He was then going to bring the boys over to me and he would go into work while I took them to dinner with friends of ours and then back home.  Did he throw in any laundry?  No.  Did he even keep an eye on the kids?  Oh, apparently.  He knew that K had gotten into the game cabinet and pulled out every game containing cards, and thrown them all around the family room.  He just didn’t bother to do anything about it.  I came home to a house in even bigger disarray than the one that I’d left, which was nearly impossible–or so I’d thought.

I have spent hours in the last couple of days just straightening up our house, and I haven’t even gotten into major cleaning yet.  Have I gotten all 5 sets of tests graded?  Nope.  What about grading those papers?  Uh uh.  Surely, I’ve at least got my finals written?  Hardly.

There was a time while I was cleaning up the cards that I thought "You know, if I were single, I’d still have to do all of this–but at least I wouldn’t be feeling such anger and resentment while I did it."  I hate that a thought like that could even enter my mind.  I hate that it’s not the first time I’ve thought something like that.  And I hate that when I tell it to J, he rolls his eyes and says that I’m being melodramatic.

About two weeks ago, I told him that I felt on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  I now have almost 100% of the household responsibilities and the vast majority of the childcare responsibilities.  I said I’d expected that we’d have a lot more equal time with the kids when K came home, because I figured that we’d have two parents and two kids; instead, it’s usually me with the kids while he plays on the weekends.  I told him that I really resent the time when he says that he needs time for himself and therefore he doesn’t take care of his own responsibilities.  I told him that I find it very, very selfish that he considers his own needs without thinking that his need for time puts more pressure on me.  It’s not like we can get along without clean dishes if he doesn’t feel like doing them, or without the bills being paid if he doesn’t feel like going through the pile of them.  It means that I have to do them instead of him. 

He said he hadn’t looked at it that way, that he was sorry and would try harder.  Nothing’s changed since then.  But I hadn’t believed it anyway because I’ve heard it all before.  We’ve had this same "discussion" many, many times in the past. 

When we were first married, J was in law school while I had an 8-5 job that required nothing of me after I left each day.  Naturally, I took on all of the household responsibilities except the dishes.  Then again, there were only 2 of us (and our dogs) and we lived in a little 2 bedroom apartment with one bathroom and one combined living/dining room.  It wasn’t exactly difficult to clean it while watching Sunday football.  The next year, I started graduate school.  Aside from school work, J was working at a law firm part-time and I was doing research.  But I was still doing nearly all of the housework–the only thing that changed from the previous year was that we’d moved into a little house and J had lawn-mowing and trash/recycling responsibilities.  Very little changed after P was born, and very little has changed after K was adopted.  We’ve had this discussion MANY times in the past.  Nothing has changed and nothing will change.

I really resent his need for "me" time when I’m not getting any.  I resent the fact that he comes home after the kids are in bed a lot of nights, and then plays video games until he goes to bed; meanwhile, I’m grading or writing lectures as soon as the kids are in bed, or else doing things around the house.  I resent that he doesn’t take 30 minutes to clean something in the evenings and THEN play video games for 2 hours.  I resent that he doesn’t realize that his need for "me" time cuts into my need for "sleep" and other optional pursuits.

I hate that I resent that he gets to spend time doing something other than business work or household work or taking care of the kids.  And I hate that I resent the time that he spends with the kids is doing "fun" things.  Yesterday, I handled school bags, breakfast, dinner (actually, a friend brought dinner and it was SO welcome!), cleaning up of toys, bathtime, and getting them into jammies.  J got to read stories and cuddle before bed.  

I don’t even get drives to and from work to think for myself, since P is in the car and is a bit of a chatterbox.  I can’t tell you the last time I had time to not only think but do a project.  I have material for a bathroom curtain and a curtain for the boys’ room that I bought 6 months ago and haven’t had time to make yet.  There are some video game that I enjoy playing, but I haven’t had time to play them.  I do read.  If I didn’t read fast, though, it would take me a month to finish a book because I spend so little time doing it.

It’s just going to get worse over the summer, and with less realization on J’s part.  He seems to think that taking care of the kids all day is no big deal.  He didn’t think having one was difficult and hasn’t been on his own with both kids for more than 3 hours awake yet, so it’s been easy for him.  He thinks that’s what would be like if he were to do it all day.  Admittedly, that may be because when he takes care of the kids for a few hours he does nothing else…note the card incident above.  He doesn’t have to also manage cooking, cleaning, running errands, etc.  He doesn’t…

He just doesn’t.  And I do.  And I don’t know what to do about it.

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April 26, 2008

Oh no, I’m perpetuating stereotypes!

Posted in The musings of Erin at 8:43 pm by Erin

I just got an e-mail from a friend of mine.  We were in graduate school together when I was in South Carolina; we moved to Atlanta and they moved to Ohio, but we’ve stayed in touch and gotten together a couple of times over the years since then.  The pertinent parts are below:

"There’s something I want to share with you that I haven’t told anyone else.  I don’t know if you remember this or not, but when you were staying with us in Columbia for [a friend’s baby shower], you said something to me that I’ll never forget, and that I used as fantastic advice for myself.  You said that you and J had been trying to have a baby and had been having trouble, and then you went on that cruise and said you weren’t going to think about it at all, you were just going to go and relax and not worry about a thing, and apparently that did the trick!   

C and I had been trying for a while, and I’d been tracking my cycles with my morning temperature as a means of birth control for quite some time (ie, years), so that when and if we were ready to have kids, we’d be 100% ready.  I knew things were ‘working right’ for me and everything based on that, and I know how biology works, so I thought I was golden.  Well, guess what?  sigh.  It took a lot longer than I thought.  I bought ovulation test kits and everything to make sure my temperature thing was working right, and to make sure my body was doing what I thought it was (yes, all were). 

Work and life were so stressful though, and not conceiving after I’d struggled with that decision for so many years and finally, really, made that decision and wanted it, was stressing me out even more.  So then, I remembered what you said that time back in Columbia.  And I decided to just chill.

I called January my "relax" month.  And since I’m on the thinner side, I also called January "project weight gain" hahaha in case that was causing any problems.  We didn’t do any house projects, work slowed down the first time in about 8 months (and only month since then actually), I learned how to crochet so I could sit on the couch and watch all the DVDs we hadn’t seen yet and not feel guilty about just doing nothing 🙂

It worked!!  January was the month for me."

Oh no.  I actually told someone that I "just relaxed" and it worked.  Oh no, no, no.

First, let me say that I am absolutely thrilled for this friend.  She is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, wonderful with children, and I know that they’ll be wonderful parents to their own child.  There was no jealousy when I got her e-mail–only happiness for her mixed with a horror that, at one time, I told someone that relaxing on a cruise was what finally got me pregnant.

I’m sure I must have told her about the almost 18 months of trying, the 3 cycles on Clomid that were useless, the bloodwork and HSG (during and after which I almost passed out), the switch to a second RE and several months’ wait for the appointment, the SA for J, the diagnosis of PCOS, and several months on Metformin by then.  Or not.  The time that she’s talking about was when P was just over 2 months old.  At the time, I don’t think I was so willing to talk about infertility.  Plus, I genuinely believed that we’d solved the "problem" and we wouldn’t ever have trouble again in the future.  I was even back on birth control pills by then.  Hahahahaha!  Man, we really could have used the money I wasted on the co-pays back then, too.

Anyway, I’m not sure where I’m going with this.  It’s one of those things that I can see myself joking about, but I don’t know that I was ever really serious–just that I didn’t really know how to talk about it back then.

Admittedly, we haven’t been on a cruise since then–and we haven’t gotten pregnant since then, either.  Coincidence?  Who knows.

Argh, I am such an idiot.

April 17, 2008

I’ll see your chicks and raise you one

Posted in Pure weirdness at 6:21 pm by Erin

DD may have baby chicks, but does she have a possum who crawled into her trashcan and gave birth?

Possum1_2 Possum2

I didn’t think so.

April 12, 2008

The truth behind the first month at home

Posted in The musings of Erin at 9:28 pm by Erin

Having K–it’s really, really, REALLY hard sometimes.  There are so many complicating factors right now, and there’s really no way to talk about just a part of it–so that’s my way of warning you that this is probably going to be a really long post, and not always PC.  I’ll probably try to split it up, maybe when I just get tired (it’s almost 11:30 on Saturday night and P had a friend sleep over last night, so no one got much sleep).

I hardly know where to begin.  Part of me wishes that I’d documented more of our first month home through my blog or other writing; another part of me knows that was just asking too much on top of actually being home with K; and a third part of me doesn’t particularly want to think about a whole lot of it. 

As it turned out, the times when I did see friends, K seemed perfectly happy.  I was constantly getting comments–from family, from friends, even from his pediatrician–about how attached he already seemed to be.  I agreed a lot at first, until I realized what it was…then I kept agreeing because I didn’t know how to admit what was really going on.

It wasn’t really attachment–it was grief and desperation and terrified fear that I would leave him.  How could I admit that my child wanted me with him constantly because he was so scared that we weren’t coming back if we were out of sight?  How could I admit that I knew that I was making it worse because I went back to work less than 72 hours after we got home from Ethiopia?  My beautiful, sweet-natured little boy was jet-lagged, scared…and I just left him in the care of people he didn’t know, who speak a different language, and without being able to adequately assure him that I really WOULD be back.

K has a very, very shrill scream.  It is different than his normal cry, but we didn’t know that at the time because it was all we ever heard when he was upset.  We just thought it was how he cried.  The big problem is that it’s at a frequency and volume that physically hurts my ears.  Not just annoys me, but hurts so badly that I often simply handed him to J while he was screaming because I couldn’t take it anymore.

Who does that?  Who says "Gee, I know you are scared and want me right now–but I can’t deal with the way you cry, and so I’m giving you to Daddy and going in the other room" to their new child?  But I was so tempted–SO tempted–to just put my hands over my ears and yell at him to just shut up that I felt like it was the best alternative.  He would do it for 45 minutes or more at bedtime or naptime, even though we would sit by his crib and hold his hand or rub his back, and take him out every few minutes to cuddle him and reassure him that we were there.  We tried to have him sleep with us, but he was more scared of our waterbed than he was in his crib.

The day that I sat with him for a nap for an hour and 15 minutes, listening to him cry and trying as best I could to soothe him, when he finally fell asleep out of exhaustion but woke up only 20 minutes later and started crying again…I don’t know how I made it through that day.  J wasn’t home that afternoon, as he was trying to catch up work from while we were in Ethiopia (the attorney who worked for him quit with no notice a week after we got back, which almost doubled J’s workload).  P was in quiet time in the playroom but needed some one-on-one time with me that I had promised him as soon as his brother fell asleep.  There is only so much patience that can be displayed by a 4-year old, and about the last 30 minutes of the hour and 15 minutes were both K screaming and P whining and begging for me to spend some time with him.

I know I have friends that I could have called, who would have come to help, but how do you admit that you can’t handle your children?  That you desperately need one minute, just ONE MINUTE, of peace to get your mindset back.  And what would they have done?  They couldn’t have sat with K, as it wouldn’t have helped him calm down.  They couldn’t have helped with P, since all he wanted was some time with me.

There are times, many of them after we first got back, almost none now, when I wish we hadn’t done this, when I have no idea what we were thinking when we decided to adopt a toddler.  When I don’t want K around.  When I resent him for changing our little family so much.  It’s easier to write that now that I don’t feel them on an almost-hourly basis; how could I possibly have admitted that there were days when K would cry and my first thought was "I don’t care…cry all you want"?

Fake-it-’til-you-make-it.  The fact that I’ve used that attitude many times in the past probably saved us.  I’m a pro at it.  Even when I thought I would run away if K didn’t stop screaming, I would pick him up and cuddle him, smile at him, tell him I love him.  I would do everything I could, even if what I could do was to hand him to J and go hide my head in a pillow.  Even if my brain was rebelling at the thought of hearing one more sound or feeling his little body fight mine as I tried to hold him, I still did what I could. 

It’s improved–he has an actual cry that we’ve learned to distinguish from his scream.  There’s a lot more to write and fill in the pieces, because it’s hardly been a sudden change from the hopelessness that I was feeling within a week of coming home (and included my ILs visit, which I will write more about another time) to the type of day that we had today, during which a friend at synagogue mentioned just how much he’s changed since we’ve come home.  But I have to finish this up sometime, and I really want to write about yesterday.

Yesterday was a really tough morning that simultaneously gave me some hope that we are turning a corner.  I normally spend all day on Fridays with K since I have no classes.  We were having friends over last night for dinner, and then their older son slept over–he and P are in the same class and are good friends.  My plan for the morning was to get the house clean and buy a mattress for P’s new bed, so that his room would be set up for that night.  K was having none of it.  He was…fretful.  He wasn’t crying but he wasn’t happy.  He wasn’t quite whining, but he was clingy and didn’t want to be held.  We were in the bedroom that he and P share, and I was trying to get it all set up but couldn’t with him grabbing onto my legs while refusing to let me hold him.

Finally, he started crying and I picked him up for the 80th time.  He immediately started fighting, but cried louder when I put him down.  And something clicked in me.  I remembered reading about holding techniques during grieving, and thought about what might have triggered it that day.  When P’s bed came in the other day, we moved around everything in their bedroom.  His crib moved, the room looks entirely different now.  Suddenly, his comforting bedroom was new and different.  Everything had changed again.

I know I won’t always be able to figure it out, but it might not even matter.  Somehow it clicked that he was actually grieving and not just crabby, as I’d previously thought.

I sat with him on my lap, and he screamed and fought me for a while.  Then he stopped fighting, and his screaming changed into crying, and he clung to me while he sobbed for almost 30 minutes.  I talked a little about how I knew it was so scary and new, but mostly I just held and said I loved him and was there for him.  We cuddled for a little while longer afterwards and he was starting to smile again.  I turned him around to give him a toy, and he started to scream again.  We repeated the whole thing–I held onto him and he fought and screamed, then he clung and cried.

An hour has never seemed so long.  It was painful.  It hurt my ears.  It hurt my heart.  When he started screaming the second time, I wasn’t sure I could do it all again right away.  But I was the only one home with him and I think that I somehow clued into the right way to deal with that problem, at that time.

He was exhausted afterwards.  I put him into his crib for a nap and he started crying again–but it was somehow so obvious that that crying was different than what we’d just gone through, that I knew he was OK with me sitting next to him and rubbing his back or his hand.  He fell asleep within 10 minutes and was out for almost 2 hours.

It was intense.  It was difficult.  And it has already made a huge difference in both of our attitudes and behaviors.  He’s just a little boy.  He’s gone through so much in his not-even 17 months.  He’s very, very much younger than 17 months emotionally and I’d forgotten that.

All of the reading that we did, all of the preparation?  Most of it flew out of our heads when K was actually in our family.  It all made so much sense before we had him home but once he was there, we felt completely adrift.  I think it’s coming back now, and I’m feeling more hopeful.  I know there’s a long way to go, but I do really feel more hopeful now.

At dinner tonight, I watched my boys eating their red beans and rice.  K had it everywhere, and P started laughing at him.  That made K start laughing, which made J and I start laughing.  The whole family laughing together–this is why we needed K in our family.  He’s brought us more opportunities to smile and laugh, and make more memories to treasure forever.

I’ll just stop while I’m only a little behind

Posted in The musings of Erin at 3:40 pm by Erin

Feeling a little overwhelmed and posting about it–OK.

Making IRL friends feel sad and guilty, when they had no clue that I needed help–not OK.

I’ve taken down the last post.

April 8, 2008

Another first for K

Posted in Adventures o' K at 10:26 am by Erin

One that we would have been perfectly happy to skip.

Hospitalization.*

On Sunday morning, K woke up around 2:30 a.m. needing a change. J changed him and was sitting with him to help him fall asleep again. I went in because J hadn’t gotten much sleep yet and I figured that I would let him go back to bed. I realized that K was wheezing a bit and sounded congested, and thought that I’d take him downstairs to sit upright for a while.

The wheezing and congestion got worse pretty quickly and by 2:50 a.m., I’d put in a call to our pediatrician’s office, which places calls through the local hospital’s nurses line. They called back at about 3:10–if they’d taken another 5 minutes, I would have already been getting into the car. The nurse asked a bunch of questions, listened to K breathing over the phone, and asked us to bring him in to the ER. I got dressed and brought him to the children’s hospital ER (J stayed home with P).

We were taken back within 20 minutes and they gave him a breathing treatment soon thereafter. His breathing got quite a bit better but not entirely, so then there were some oral steroids. And then another breathing treatment. And then a chest X-ray.

He was still wheezing a bit and wasn’t maintaining his oxygen levels above 90% by this point, so they decided to get him on oxygen and admit him. Let me tell you, trying to get a nasal cannula onto a 16 month old and keep it on him is challenging at the best, impossible at the worst! But it brought his oxygen levels right up, thankfully.

We were into a room at around 8 a.m. He stayed on the oxygen and got breathing treatments when he started wheezing, about every 2-3 hours at first, then every 3-4 hours. He was off oxygen and getting treatments every 4 hours by evening; they would have let us go home that night but for our insurance company. They decided that they wouldn’t pay for a home nebulizer until Monday. If we left the hospital Sunday, we would have to go home without it and the doctors there weren’t comfortable with us doing that.

The insurance company’s decision to pay for an extra night in the hospital rather than paying for the nebulizer that day (even though they paid for it yesterday) makes no sense to me. None. But as it turns out, he got a bit worse again that night and we were doing treatments every 2-3 hours and back on oxygen again for the first half of the night.

By late morning, he was off oxygen and maintaining his levels, only getting treatments every 4 hours again, and they said he sounded great and we could go. It was 6 p.m. before I left the hospital, with both K and P in tow–along with a nebulizer, spacer, our bags, and several prescriptions (don’t ask how I made it out to the car). What took so long, I have no idea, but we were very glad to finally get home. I have no idea what P was doing in the backseat as we drove but it had K just giggling away–such a sweet sound after a couple of scary days!

We’re doing nebulizer treatments every 4 hours right now, and he’s still on oral steroids. They’re not calling it asthma just yet, as it was only the one episode. For now it’s just reactive airway disorder with associated hypoxia. If it keeps happening, it’ll be re-classified asthma.

He has absolutely no history of any breathing difficulties, and the doctors at the hospital did annoy me a bit about that. I said that we have a pretty complete medical history on him (as much as could possibly be expected) and there’s nothing in there about any breathing trouble, nor has he had any trouble in the month that we’ve had him home. I kept getting the impression that they thought that we’d been lied to about his history. I’m sure we weren’t–I have asthma and it’s certainly not something that would have kept us from adopting a child–but the way they kept phrasing things gave me the impression that they didn’t believe it.

Anyway, he’s home now and doing OK.  It was quite scary and exhausting for all of us.  J brought P to the hospital on Sunday morning and, as they were walking in, P said "I miss my K."  It was a little frightening for him to see his little brother with a tube in his nose, wires on his chest, and another wire on his toe.  But we’re prepared in case it happens again and, if we’re lucky, it won’t.**

**********************************************************************

*This is exactly a cut-and-paste from my family blog, so if you’ve already read it there, there’s nothing really new except the last paragraph here.

**I apologize for not writing recently.  I’ve been maintaining a "people before things" attitude.  I used to get quite a lot of work done while P was in school when I didn’t have classes, but now I’m with K during that time.  That means that the work (lectures, grading, etc) has to get done after the kids go to bed and blogging***, which used to be done during that time, doesn’t get done nearly as often. 

***Case in point, my Bloglines says something like 335 new messages.  I’m scared of it.