Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Little Homie

I don't know if I'm supposed to say this, you know because you're not supposed to be friends with your kids but the world is a significantly less lonely place now that Ellis is in it. Everything means something now. Even the most insignificant things mean something because they're not insignificant to her.

Before Ellis came I was subject to multiple existential crises a year, wherein I would lay on my bed, stare at the ceiling, avoid all my obligations because I couldn't remember why I was obligated to them, drink a lot of wine and smoke cigarettes because cigarettes and existential crises go well together. I have to say that ever since I met Ellis, I have been existentially sound. It's not that I'm living for her, it's just that I really want to hang out with her for as long as possible. Hopefully she'll be changing my diaper when I'm 105. Seriously though, if she needed to hire someone to change my diaper, I would totally understand. At any rate, even on the most dismal of days, when she has flung poo at my face I still find very substantial reasons to exist. It's like through her, I'm rediscovering the entire universe again, thinking about things that I haven't thought about in decades (mostly because I thought I had everything figured out). What am I going to tell her when she asks me, "Mommy, what is God?" Or "Mommy, how do faxes work?" I have no friggin' idea!

I think we choose our parents. I have no scientific data to back this up so don't ask me for details, I just think we do. Our parents really determine so much of our trajectory, so I freak out a little when I think that Ellis chose me. It seems odd considering I wasn't thinking about having a baby at all. I always wanted children, but there was nothing about my behavior that was edging me toward that reality. I just sort of assumed it would happen someday. Low and behold.

The hardest part for me is that my reality doesn't at all resemble the picture I had in my head all these years. What I'm learning though, from all the parents who have embarked on this crazy odyssey before or alongside me is that nothing works out the way we think it will. Children are such brilliant teachers of this. I know "shit-show" is a relative term but that's what I am. I have no idea what I'm doing, 97% of time I'm shooting from the hip and hoping I'm not causing permanent psychological complications (it would be great if she didn't have to attend therapy until her 30s when she finds herself staring at the ceiling wondering what she's doing with her life). One of my favorite psychologists, when asked what her advice to new parents would be, said, "Keep them alive until they're 25." (p.s. 25 is significant because we now know that our frontal lobes, the parts of our brains that give us the ability to make sound decisions, does not actually finish developing until about the age 25.) While I plan on doing a hell of lot more than just keeping Ellis alive, this does take the pressure off a bit.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Oh Anxiety, you pesky thing you.

I feel like I'm constantly walking the line between faith and fear. Yesterday I found out about a high school friend who was murdered on a beach in the Caribbean. I tell you, every time I think I'm getting a handle on my post-partum/post-accident anxiety, I find out about an innocent girl getting stabbed in the neck while on vacation. It's hard not to stay up until midnight tossing scenario after scenario around in my head, especially with a beautiful, completely innocent and vulnerable child sleeping next to me. How can I send her into this world knowing what horrific things can happen and at the same time how can I not wake up everyday and greet this world with the enthusiasm that is a part of my every cell? I don't want my daughter to be afraid of the night. I don't want her to watch her back every time she steps out of her home. I want her to be brave and confident, strong and outspoken. I want her to see the world and love deeply and all the while stay safe and sound and untouched by hands of anger.

I never thought much about death until I had a child. Now I cling to this life with tremendous fervency. I don't want to miss a single second with her and it brings me to my knees to think of anything happening to her. Every parent feels this way and every person who has been through something like Aaron's accident knows that our rational minds do not dwell in the aftermath of trauma.

I have worked with trauma survivors since before I knew I was working with trauma survivors and it has helped to know what I know, to have the training I do, to at least recognize what's happening with me but it doesn't make it any easier to pull myself out of the quickly spinning drain of panicky thinking. How do we reconcile that the world is a dangerous and dark place but also a wonderful and amazing place? How is that battle won? Maybe we all live in a nice bubble of denial that is burst every so often and then carefully constructed again. My sister-in-law told me after Ellis was born, and I'm going to butcher this quote but the gist was, "When we have children, our hearts forever roam this world outside of us." I can not allow the fear to shadow the joy of being a parent. What a terminally intense ride this is.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ode to my A cups

It's unfortunate that my brother just starting following this blog as this post is all about how much I miss my small boobs. Sorry.

Reason #1 I miss my A cups: Big boobs make me look fat. We're approaching a year since I gave birth for 36 hours. The midwives by the way will argue that I was only in labor for 12 hours but they only consider "active" labor, the part where you are considering killing yourself, as actual "labor." The layperson counts labor as the the moment when you realize that all the bitching you did for the last 9 months pales in comparison to the pain you are feeling right now and you would do anything to go back to being fat, hot and bloated. So, for the record I was in labor for 36 hours and it's almost been a year since that 36 hours commenced and I have about 15 pounds left to lose. So, my big boobs and my extra 15 pounds make me look fat but from my vantage point it's my boobs not everything else that appear stout. I'm sure the guy walking behind would beg to differ but his opinion doesn't matter.

Reason #2 I miss my A cups: I have to wear a bra. Bra's in my opinion are for the unlucky women whose breasts actually move when they walk. Before I got pregnant, my boobs stuck nicely to my chest. They got a little out of hand near Aunt Flo's visit but besides that I could usually get away with wearing a tank top, Brazilian stylie. Now, I'm so inundated with fabric on my chest I feel like I'm being buried alive. I have taken to wearing tank tops with shelf bras, is that what they call these things, which is slightly better but I do sometimes look down and think, shit, I need to be making some scrambled eggs with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth in my single-wide with faux palm trees on my faux lawn.

Reason #3 I miss my A cups: There is yet another reason for me not to work out. What is that reason you may ask? Another layer of clothing, that's what. Before I could take off in a sprint and barely notice, now any physical activity outside of watering my bougainvillea requires an actual sports bra, not the training bra I used to wear, but an actual sports bra, which is essentially a one-inch thick tarp wrapped tightly around my chest cavity. Highly uncomfortable and a bitch to get on and off.

Reason #4 I miss my A cups: Children grab at my breasts. Notice how I said "children" and not Ellis. Yes, children, strange children who I don't know want me to nurse them and I find that highly disturbing. Sometimes they will walk up to me, put their little dirty hands into my white-trash shelf-bra tank top and pull down as if to free my large milky breasts from their minimum security prison. While I appreciate their unbridled survival tactics, I do not appreciate the looks their mothers give me. Hey, whatever, I can't help it if your kid can smell my milk from a quarter mile away. Control your child.

The good news is that whatever delusional fantasies I was harboring about getting a boob job when I'm rich and famous have officially been put to rest. Paying for this burden is just plain idiotic. I'll have my eyes lasered instead.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Car Seat

Oh my dear god, seriously how do people that are not very smart figure things like car seat installation out?! I am not a genius, well sometimes I am, but mostly I'm not and yet I am smarter than your average Jane and YET this new car seat of Ellis' may be proof that I'm actually a nitwit. In the past I have never read instruction manuals. B O R I N G. And dumb! And B O R I N G and usually more confusing than just getting in there and figuring it out. This has worked for me 85% of the time. I can't really do that this time though because this isn't a universal remote control I'm trying to figure out here, it's my child's only protection from my unbridled road rage. This is serious! I have already opened a beer because this manual is fucking rocket surgery and where are the ADD meds when you need them? So again, it begs the question, how in the hell does anyone with an average to below average IQ and/or a 15 year old mom-to-be figure stuff like this out? Maybe I'm a big dummy and everyone has just been being nice this whole time because I am so clearly a dummy and you all feel sorry for me, "Oh look, how cute, she's writing a blog." Whatever the case may be, I'm hoping Aaron in all of his obtuse, male, spatial awareness, thing-ama-jiggy brilliance will be able to figure it out. I'll keep you posted. Side note: the car seat is bad ass! It looks like a Indy-500 driver's seat. Ellis is big pimpin' now!

Let's Be Friends

I was talking to Aaron the other night and I admitted to him that I think I have a hard time making friends. I didn't used to or maybe it was just easier when you're younger because it's sort of like sink or swim. School is ripe full of friendship possibilities, from K to Master's program. Undergraduate is particularly fertile ground because you're drunk for three quarters of it, inhibitions down, "Hi, I'm Dorothy, let's be friends," check. I'm horrible at it now and I partly blame my craptastic choice in careers, social work, i.e., traumatize the shit out of myself everyday work. It doesn't make for a very bubbly personality.

And what am I supposed to talk about with my new friends? Can't talk about work, for legal reasons and also because it's pretty much the biggest buzz kill on the planet. I talk a lot about my kid, I used to talk a lot about my dogs before I had a kid. I also used to talk a lot about boys but once you decide on one, the conversation lacks a certain amount of luster, "Oh, me and Aaron? Yeah, we're good. You know, whatever."

So, I think I have low friend self-esteem and I'm so fucking busy the idea of having a beer with someone new literally scares the crap out of me. What if I resort to writing a to-do list in the middle of our first conversation? What if I drink too many beers because I'm away from my child for the first time in 20 months (including pregnancy mind you). What if I have nothing at all to say except, "I'm tired."

I did make one new friend fairly recently. It's a great story really. She dated my ex-boyfriend and then dated his best friend who happened to be friends with Aaron and they happen to be skiing on the day that I met Aaron so I was introduced to Aaron by my ex-boyfriend's best friend and ex-girlfriend, who is now my home girl. See, that's the kind of friend making that makes sense to me. It's serendipitous. It's fate. Shit, we had people telling us that we shouldn't be friends because we dated the same guy, which by the way makes zero fucking sense but whatevs. So against all odds we have come together and we both happen to enjoy hoppy beers, white wine in the summer and she loves my baby. Soon she will be adopting a baby and that will be awesome because then Ellis won't be the only baby in the bar. Bar/restaurants OKAY! Don't freak out.

So Aaron told me that I need to get over my shit and start making friends. Which I will do, as soon as I figure out how to juggle being a full-time mom, a full-time executive and a full-time scaredy cat.


When I got home yesterday afternoon the house was about 85 degrees. Why? Because I left the frigging burner on ALL DAY. I really hope my dad doesn't read this because we are living in a house that he owns and he would be so pissed to hear that I nearly burned the place down. This would not have been the first fire I started. When I was 10 I started my dad's other house on fire and then at 16 I started my mom's house on fire. Thank god I ended up with a fire fighter. Are you kidding me?! Just to be clear, I did not start a fire yesterday but I could tell by the heat in the house that it was close and so all night long and into the morning I have been thanking the universe for this get out of jail free card. I don't even want to think about what could have happened. My head is clearly not screwed on correctly. Dad, if you're reading this, there are now strategically placed post-its around the house reminding me not to burn the house down. Cheers.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bread and Cheese

For as long as I can remember I have talked incredible amounts of shit about women who "accidentally" get pregnant. I thought on several occasions, actually more times than I can count, "Okay, some teenagers might not know where babies come from so they have an excuse (I guess) but by the time you're in your mid to late twenties and certainly by the time you're in your thirties it can't be too big of a surprise that unprotected sex causes a baby." Yes, I was that person and for being a bleeding heart liberal I am pretty darn traditional when it comes to baby making. I promised myself up and down, for exactly 32 years that I would never put the carriage before the marriage. Well, I am that thirty something woman who accidentally got pregnant. I found out on December 19, 2010 in my boyfriend's parent's bathroom. They had met me once. It was kind of awkward. I kept looking at the pee stick. First I laughed, then I cried for about four days. And yes, I was SHOCKED. And yes, I know where babies come from.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant I wanted the baby more than I could fathom. I didn't understand why but from a place that I didn't know existed I loved this being inside me more than I had loved anything before. When I told Aaron he hugged me instantly and said out loud three times, "It's going to be great!" I was relieved that he didn't put me on a plane back to New Mexico, pee stick in hand.

My pregnancy did not go as planned. I had envisioned lots of prenatal yoga, a cute belly to compliment by toned legs and arms, and that glow that people so often lie about. I was sick for 15 weeks and the only thing that assuaged my nausea was bread and cheese. I'm serious, I wasn't just using pregnancy as an excuse to eat a bread only diet. If I had it my way I would have had a martini only diet but I settled for bread. I think I enjoyed a two week window during my second trimester where I wasn't sick, bloated or exhausted. I vaguely recall going to the gym once or twice during that time. It didn't take long though before my body fully rejected the experience and my blood pressure shot up, my feet took on Hobit like characteristics, my vision went haywire and I was in out of the doc's office every other day. Don't get me wrong, I am absolutely an over-utilizer of the health care system, hey, I have insurance and I'm paying out the wazoo so I'm going to the doctor whenever I damn well please. So, all the attention I recieved during my ridiculous pregnancy was a slight comfort. Still, pregnancy remains my top three worst experiences of my life. Sorry, no hearts and stars here. It fucking sucked.

I mention all this because Ellis is soon to be one and I'm feeling a little nostalgic. I honestly can not believe we made it to this point. There were so many times when I was sure I would die or Aaron would kill me or we would both die in a freak diaper changing accident. We ended up doing a bang up job. Turns out love and instinct really do save the day.


My sister-in-law is in town, or my sister-not-law as Aaron and I have yet to wed, more on that later. I always wanted a sister, except when friends have tried to borrow clothes, then I've been really happy that I don't have sisters and that none of my brothers are cross dressers. Get your own clothes. These are mine and I don't want someone thinking you had taste good enough to buy something that is actually mine. I know, I'm horrible at sharing and I'm 33 so that probably won't change.

At any rate, when it comes to sister-not-laws, I hit the goldmine. This is shocking for two reasons: 1. I have been a heinous capital B capital I capital TCH to many of my brother's girlfriends. I thought for sure I had some bad karma coming my way, and 2. As much as I love women and support women and want us all to be happy and do well and stick together and take over the world, I have not had the best nor easiest experience with women as a whole. I can count on one hand the women I trust completely. We women folk are hard on each other and by far my most painful heartaches have come from a girlfriend's betrayal. We cut the deepest.
So, imagine my surprise when I met his sisters, who by the way, make me feel comfortable just by walking in the room as they, like me, are 6 foot and blond (this is apparently not rare in the Midwest). They're beautiful, smart, terribly witty, and they roam this planet with an unwavering moral compass that is woefully askew in so many of the women I have met in my life. Like I said, goldmine. This week I am getting drunk on sisterly love.

The Accident

There is so much more to Aaron than what happened on December 11, 2011, but to know Aaron now you need to know about the accident.

In the early morning hours of December 11, 2011, Aaron was hit by a car. The person who hit him slowed down, rolled down her window and asked, "Is he breathing?" When the witness, who by all accounts saved Aaron's life said, "Yes," the driver sped away. I don't waste time thinking about the person who hit him. I imagine her as a mother, kids at home, a lot to lose. She didn't mean to hurt him. He had a collapsed lung, and he had hit his head, he was unconscious and his body was systematically shutting down. When the ambulance arrived, he had begun to die. His stay was short at our local hospital. They knew quickly that he needed to go to Albuquerque. There was some doubt that he would survive the flight.

The phone rang around 2 am. It was Aaron. I answered, slightly annoyed that he wasn't home yet. Ellis was asleep next to me. She was 3 months old. "Hello?" "Miss Forbes?" My heart sunk. This isn't Aaron I thought. Shit. Shit. No. My voice was shaking, "Yeah?" "This is Under-Sheriff Romero. Aaron has been in an accident." All the air left my lungs. I gasped for something, no oxygen came. "No. Um. No. What? No. This isn't happening. We just had a baby." "Yes Ma'am. I'm sorry. Aaron was just flown to UNM Hospital in Albuquerque." I knew what that meant. If they send you to Albuquerque you're in bad shape. "What?" I responded, my entire body was shaking so violently I woke Ellis. She cried. She was startled. I held her and attempted to steady my voice "What? No. Is he okay? What happened? Is he okay?" "Um, Ma'am, I am not a medical professional but you need to get to Albuquerque as soon as possible. It's not good."

The drive from Taos to Albuquerque is about two and a half hours. We drove fast. I sat in the back next to Ellis' car seat. I watched her sleep and I prayed. I prayed and I begged. I cried and I sat up straight and told myself, "Ok, ok. I'm OK. It's going to be OK." Then I cried and I begged. I stared at Ellis and I thought, "How will I tell her about her dad. What can I possibly say that will make her understand how good of a man he is." I talked to Aaron's mom, dad and sister. We cried together. Somewhere near Santa Fe something shifted and I sat up and I announced, "I think he's going to be ok." Soon after, I got a call from his uncle. He was with Aaron. He was holding his hand. At the very least, if Aaron left us, he was not alone.

A million questions bombarded my mind. Will he live? Will he walk? Will he know who I am? Will he be able to wipe his own ass? Will he be able to fight fire? Will he be brain dead? Will he be angry and impulsive and a drunk like so many traumatic brain injury survivors? Will he remember Ellis? Will he be Aaron? Uncle Paul wrote me a text, "He squeezed my hand and wiggled his toes." He was coming to, he was not brain dead and he was not a paraplegic.

When we got to the hospital I prepared myself for the worst. Maybe he would be missing half his face. I didn't care. His room was all glass. He had many doctors and nurses tending to him. He was seizing. His heart rate would spike and then drop. Spike, drop. He was in restraints. He was fighting. This was good. He's fighting. I went to him. I held his hand. He was bloody and swollen. I said his name. He squeezed my hand. My knees collapsed.

Aaron was on full life support for four days. When he came to he asked for a pen and paper. He scribbled, "I'm sorry." Then he proceeded to tell us about the house he was building, the fish he caught, and the big buck that got away. It didn't make much sense but he could talk and swallow and ask for more Gatorade.

He moved to a lower level of care and then eventually to a neurological rehab. He was away from us for a couple months and when he came home he was still in a lot of pain, he couldn't do much, and he was clearly not himself yet. Every week though, he made pronounced improvements. Sometimes I catch myself forgetting that the accident ever happened but then some days the accident dances so close to me its hard to catch my breath.

There is a lot more to say about what happened in those months. A lot of grace fell upon our family and I have been forever changed by the tragedy of it as well as the miraculousness. There was life before "the accident" and now there is this life.


I can't focus my thoughts. Ellis has a fever, Aaron is freshly home from a fire, my annual report is due for work on Friday and today I was tasked with laying off three employees. I've never laid anyone off before. Never looked at someone and said, "Sorry, the economy is in the shitter and you're the collateral damage. Hope you got some savings." As it turns out I'm not a good ax woman. I cry maybe just a little bit more than the person I'm laying off.

When I was younger my favorite movie was Big Business, you know, Lily Tomlin, Bette Midler. I liked Bette Midler's character, the non-hick version of her. The one everyone was terrified of. As a child I would walk around the house in my plastic high heals with a stack of construction paper practicing her lines, "The most fiscally prudent action at this point is to take an aggressive posture and divest ourselves of Hollow-o-Made..." I know, my parents were concerned too. I liked the power suits, the excessive use of elevators, the limos that drove them from high rise to high rise. Maybe on some unconscious level I admired the power. I was just a kid.

I know layoffs are a reality right now. These layoffs though, are too close to home. These are my friends losing their jobs and they're in their 50's and 60's. No retirement. Not a lot of savings. It's not right and it's not okay but it's big business. My heart is heavy tonight.


The path outside of our house is so laden with gravel every time I push Ellis in her stroller I feel like I'm competing in the stroller X-games. It doesn't help that Ellis is, as a stranger at the park described her yesterday, "a tank." Who knew 10 months of breast milk and some fruit puree could produce such substantial thighs. I like to count the sections of her appendages by the way. It's a source of pride for me.

The primary reasons for walking Ellis in her stroller are to get her to sleep, which works five out of ten times, to get my ass to fit in my jeans again, so far I'm squeezing into my fat jeans, and to walk our two hounds, Nina and Jaco. Our HOA does not allow dogs to be without a leash and unfortunately my flagrant non-compliance does not allow for them to be on a leash so every walk we takes provides for a rather substantial adrenaline rush. Our HOA manager is sneaky. I could take him if I had to but he is at least 75 so I figure a fistfight is out of the question. He drives a golf-cart and smokes like brush fire. My heart races like a crack-addict every time I hear the squish of the gravel around the corner. "Is it Frank?" I think nervously. Or worse yet, is it a small child on their bike who my dogs will scare the cheerios out of. Or worst still, is it that angry lesbian lady who was bit by a dog in 1975 and who has clearly not recovered emotionally from the incident. She, by the way, stages quite the scene when we do cross paths. Luckily I have become adept at recognizing her particular form of gravel squishing. She runs, which pretty much distinguishes her from the golf cart and every other neighbor who runs only if something is chasing them.

In Northern New Mexico, there is something known as the "Mi Jito" complex, wherein, your Mi Jito, aka, your baby/child/grandchild, or in my case dogs, can do no wrong. They'll bark at you, they'll chase you and should the stars align, they'll also poop in your yard. It's not personal and in my opinion its what dogs do, and mine in particular do it quite well.


I don't actually have a lot of respect for therapists who rely heavily on a person's diagnosis. I attended a meeting on Friday with a bunch of therapists and one of them referred to one of their client's as "my borderline." Gross. I gave her a dirty look, don't worry. I don't think any of us can be boiled down to some code in a book. It can be a helpful tool for us mental health practitioners but if it's all you see in a person, it's time to take a break. That being said, I completely and whole heartily participate in self-diagnosis. Whatever ethical qualms I might reserve for diagnosing other people, I completely disregard for myself. I am my diagnosis of the day. Today: I am OCD. I contemplated putting half of our belongings on the street with a big "free" sign. I refrained. I did loan one of our couches to my brother, which transformed our living room space and appeased my inner serial killer long enough to cook a half-ass dinner for myself and Ellis. Scratch that, Ellis ate string cheese and an apricot. I ate shrimp with cocktail sauce. And I lied about "cooking." Nothing we ate actually required heat. Anyway, I suppose its good that I have a little OCD going on, as I do have a crawling infant (Ellis) who, like the bazillion children before her, feels more comfortable if she can put everything in her mouth. If I'm going to be totally honest, the OCD thing isn't particular to today. I have to admit that having a child has turned me into somewhat of a neat freak. Or to be more specific, a freak. I'm obsessed with organizing. I buy a lot of bins. I contemplated buying a microscope so I could assess our germ population. I disinfect the house a lot. I spray things with Lysol, which side note, I didn't even know Lysol existed. It is very handy for people with my condition. Alright, let it be known that if someone who really had OCD came into my house they would probably request a hazmat suit, but by my usual standards this place has never been so clean. Sometimes I wonder if I will always maintain a certain level of chaos in my environment. Sort of like how people who really want to lose weight always manage to sabotage themselves so they keep those last 10 pounds. Those last 10 pounds that have become a friend, an antagonistic friend, but a friend nonetheless. And sort of like those people who keep dating the same asshole or assholette because the idea of a functional relationship seems so unbearably bland. If I could just accept that I have no clue what I'm doing when it comes to organizing my shit into bins I could move on, let my angst go and just be like all those other moms who have accepted that their immaculate apartments of their 20's are a thing of the past. It's the diaper decade now honey. Own it.