You're An Asshole

You probably think that’s a bit much. Like OK Meg maybe I drive a bit aggressively, but asshole? Come on man that’s got me all triggered.

Not only are you an asshole, but I bet you are almost every day and I can prove it. Spoiler alert, so am I.

Disagree? Let me tell you a little story.

A while back there was a woman sitting in McDonald’s, zoned out staring at her phone. Lost in the endless scrolling, totally tuned out to the fact that her kid was in full disruptive mode harassing people. And I mean harassing. Climbing on benches and talking to everyone, asking annoying questions, throwing McNugget’s in the air. This chick just sat there clueless and the whole restaurant stared with their judgey eyes.

We’ve all seen that mom at the park or in the store. We purse our lips and clutch our pearls and post some stupid shit about technology ruining lives (even though we’re all guilty).

Now what if I told you that the reason that mom tuned out was that she was worried she was bleeding through her pad. What if I told you she was nervous about standing up because it might run down her leg.

What if I told you that she wasn’t sure how to take her young son into the bathroom because he’d ask questions about what he saw.

What if I told you that young mother was in the process of miscarrying a baby.

What if I told you that mama was me.

My son was four years old at the time and we had gone to a city four hours away to get an ultrasound. I was about 12 weeks along, or should have been I guess.

My husband was working away but he came down for the appointment. I remember sitting in that room with the big screen on the wall, waiting to see that silhouette. Tiny feet. Baby hands.

That little pulsing heartbeat.

I remember being so excited to tell my kid check it out! That’s your baby brother or sister on the screen! Sweet right? Isn’t that awesome?

I remember the ultrasound technician not making eye contact with me.

I remember looking up and not seeing anything that looked like a baby.

I remember a little blob that floated motionless. Silent.

The room was silent.

I said ‘that isn’t right, is it?’. And ‘no’, she shook her head, ‘it wasn’t’.

Leaving the office felt like a bad dream. It felt like floating or watching someone else’s life. Like the freaking twilight zone. I stood in the elevator as my four year old asked questions about why the baby didn’t move. In the back of my mind I heard my husband explain to him that sometimes babies don’t quite develop like they should. They don’t always make it. That’s how nature works son, maybe we’ll have better luck next time.

The texts came from friends and family.

‘How was the appointment?’

Telling everyone about what happened rivaled the actual loss for the shittiest part of this experience. Made doubly awful by the fact that we’d announced our pregnancy on social media and now had to explain to all those people why we wouldn’t be bringing a baby home. Anyone who’s experienced a loss can tell you that in a fucked up way you feel like you’ve failed and let everyone down. Expecting a baby is a family affair and they were all so goddamn excited. And now what. Now what? You have to tell them and disappoint them and hear pity in their voices and see sadness in their eyes.

My husband went back to work that night. What the hell I was supposed to do now.

They don’t give you a pamphlet when your baby dies.

They don’t sit you down and tell you that you will bleed more than you thought humanly possible. 

They don’t tell you that the pain will feel like childbirth. That you will have contractions and ‘expel’ the fetus. They don’t tell you that you will feel dizzy and sick and lightheaded and worry that you might die.

I remember sitting in the bathroom worrying that I’d get blood stains on my sisters white tile grout.

The morning after I lost that baby I had to drive four hours home with my son by myself.

That’s when I pulled into McDonald’s, sat down on a bench, and tried to keep it together just long enough to buy a Happy Meal and get to the bathroom.  

The people that saw me that day saw me on the worst day of my life.

When you go out in public and a woman seems distracted. Or a person looks frustrated. Try to remember that might be the lowest point in their lives, too.

Maybe that lady wore pajamas to the store because her husband just died.

Maybe that guy cut you off in traffic because he just took his kid off life support.

Maybe you aren’t the center of the goddamn universe, and how their actions affect you is completely overshadowed by whatever they’re dealing with at that moment.  

Be. Freaking. Kind.

You have no idea what kind of shit people are going through, and some of it is unimaginable. Some of it would take your breath away. Have you ever wondered why a person is homeless or why they look a hot mess? Can you imagine losing your entire family or getting your ass kicked by someone you love? Losing your house in a fire or being the sole survivor of a car accident?

The tragedy and overwhelming circumstances of this world know no bounds, there are human beings out there just trying to survive. So please, please be kind. It’s something I never really understood until I did, and that day I was made aware of just how profoundly lacking in compassion we are.

Remember that, when you’re out in the world.

Remember that when you’re talking shit about someone you call a friend. Remember it when you gossip. Remember it when you aren’t a nice person and you know damn well you should be.

I shake my head when I see anti-bullying campaigns and memes about how mean kids are. Not because I don’t agree with those things but because they learn that behavior from us.

We are a society of assholes.

Just pick up a People magazine or watch reality TV. We are ruthless with our criticism and have the audacity to act surprised when kids mimic our behavior.

Shame on us.

If we want to raise kids that aren’t bullies we need to damn well start at home. We need to stop talking shit about our friends and Googling pictures of celebrity’s ass dimples.

You want to raise nice kids? Stop affiliating yourself with people who don’t care. Stop being a person that doesn’t care. If you wouldn’t want it said about you then you sure don’t get to say it about anyone else. Don’t laugh at other peoples expense. Stop tolerating the intolerable. Don’t judge people when you’re out in public.

Be fiercely loyal. Be unfaltering compassionate.

Be. Freaking. Kind.

First to yourself. Then to others.

Maybe then the world won’t feel like such a messed up place.

A Failing Grade: Women's Health Issues

It was a few months after the birth of my second son when I noticed my state of mind was steadily deteriorating. Things that would normally not concern me became problems, sometimes huge problems. I was losing sleep, becoming upset over nothing, and having trouble controlling my anxiety. 

Women's Health Issues

I made an appointment with my doctor after having some recurrent, pervasive thoughts about my son drowning or being hit by a car. Sort of normal fears I guess, except I was worried I would drown him by accident, or that I wouldn't put him in the car seat and that I'd run him over. Less 'normal' fears, by my estimate. It was a difficult conversation to have, like 'hey I can't control my own brain, what can we do about it?'. 

My doctor was thoughtful and empathetic, and we decided that medication and more frequent exercise would be a good course of action. A place to start. Months later I'm fortunate enough to say that I've overcome my postpartum anxiety and have been weaned off medication. I'm happy to be past that time, but man I'm glad I got help when I needed it. 

Since experiencing my own postpartum issues I've spoken to various other women about their post-baby struggles, and I began to notice an overall theme.

No one is talking about it. Openly at least. Sure behind closed doors or with family, but publicly? Hell no. And it isn't just postpartum anxiety and depression that we aren't talking about, there is an entire slough of women's health issues that just aren't discussed. Miscarriage, infertility, menstrual issues. We can't even sit through a goddamn tampon commercial without squirming uncomfortably, so what does that say about our societal concern for the health of women?

It says a lot. And overall it says we're doing a pretty shitty job of supporting women with problems that tend to go unspoken.

I know this might come as a shock to some, but our vaginas don't just show up when someone wants to have sex with them or when we're having a baby. They are part of our physical being and they require care and consideration like any other aspect of our health. The fact that talking about a period still makes most people squeamish is worth noting. It speaks volumes. A grown ass woman feels the need to carry a purse to the bathroom to hide the fact that's she's menstruating, but no one cares when guys talk about their penises because it's funny and acceptable and normal. Start talking about vaginas however and everyone is grossed the fuck out. Funny how no one is grossed out when they're in bed together. 

When I got the news that my second pregnancy had ended in a missed miscarriage, do you know what the doctor told me? Go home and make an appointment with your family doctor.

That's it.

She looked at me with the 'oh you poor thing' pity face on and sent me home to figure it out on my own. There wasn't a resource for information or a pamphlet on what to expect. So I went home and talked to my friends that had also experienced miscarriage and prepared myself for the physical aftermath (because let me tell you it's an AFTERMATH) all by my damn self. And the terrible part is I didn't even KNOW half of my friends that had miscarried until I miscarried, because they weren't talking about it either.

Since we'd announced our pregnancy publicly already I had a lot of feedback in terms of 'oh that must have been hard since everyone knew'. 

What? It was hard because people knew? No. It was hard because I lost a fucking baby. And in fact people knowing about it and my ability to be open through the process is probably what saved me from rocking slowly in my closet with a bottle of Grey Goose (I grieve expensively, apparently). 

We don't talk about pregnancy before twelve weeks because something 'might' happen. We don't talk about miscarriage and pregnancy loss because there's a tiny part of us that's ashamed, and society is doing a fucking terrible job of alleviating that shame by telling us we shouldn't talk about what we're going through. Saying we need to keep quiet is validating that we SHOULD be ashamed; that postpartum issues and pregnancy loss needs to be swept under the carpet and whispered about because it isn't 'appropriate' to discuss.

Well fuck your appropriate. As women we deal with an incredible array of health issues due to the fact that we literally create other people. Our bodies are designed to manufacture human life (and sometimes they can't, which is another issue worthy of discussion) and that comes with a whole host of complications, and it's our job culturally to support women if they're dealing with those complications. And yeah, they're scary and uncomfortable and graphic and emotional but the ONLY THING worse than going though them yourself is going through them alone.

Women's health issues aren't shameful or disgusting or 'best kept in private'. This shroud of secrecy can be isolating and debilitating for new mothers and non mothers alike. No one should have to suffer serious mental illness or loss on their own; it isn't about 'handling' it. It's about providing support to one of our most important resources, and that's our mothers and our daughters. We are so often caregivers and supporters ourselves, I think it's time that our community returned the favour. 

Life After Birth - Now What the F#ck Do I Do?

Parenting and Motherhood Goals

For the better part of our youth the path is clear: go to school, get a job, find a partner, buy a house, get married, have kids. Maybe a few things trade places or you skip one or two, but the gist is 'here's what you do when you grow up'. The next step is usually obviously in focus; it's easier to accomplish goals that are clearly defined. 

So I did all that shit. And I did it with gusto. Found a great career I enjoyed, a husband that was loving beyond compare, we bought the house, we planned the wedding, we got knocked up. It was all so fucking exciting because the milestones were huge and everyone cared about them. People asked you about the wedding venue and the dress and then they asked you about honeymoons and ultrasounds and names and genders and birth plans. You and your spouse are a focal point and soon you have tiny focal points of your own.

So you give birth. The baby arrives. You work together (hopefully) to raise said baby and then you move on to the next familial milestone which is generally a sibling or two. You conceive (if you're lucky). You give birth again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

But now. Now you're married. You have kids. You either had (or still have) a career that's moderately satisfying but certainly isn't new, or exciting. All of a sudden those steps, those socially predetermined goals, have all come and gone. What's next on the list? Retirement? Thirty fucking years from now? What the hell am I supposed to do in between now and the early bird special?

It hit me hard. The realization that all of a sudden I felt an overwhelming lack of direction, a lack of significance. Was my life really only about child rearing? Should we have another baby? Does it make sense to have a baby just for the sake of setting a goal or having a plan? I felt like my steady march forward had become a meandering, circular stumble. I felt lost in the midst of what I can only explain as an existential crisis. 

It occurred to me while rolling all this around in my brain that this is a fairly common time for people to get divorced for the exact reasons I mentioned above. There's an overwhelming desire for newness and I can see how one would try to extrapolate that newness from an alternate partner. However, that wasn't the path for me. I was fully aware of the issue I was facing and also aware that my marriage wasn't part of the problem. Sure we'd been together for what sometimes felt like (sorry babe) a million years, but I'd much rather be staring at his junk every morning than some other dude's. 

So, to placate my desire to do big things with my life I sat down to try and figure out what exactly I WAS doing, even if it was little. What I discovered was life changing for me.

For many of us stay at home (or work at home, or not-the-primary-breadwinning) parents, we feel our role is supportive to our partners. They go to work, we hold down the fort. Right?

Wrong.

Our partners go to work in support of US. In support of our families. In support of giving our children the best possible environment in which to thrive. I'm the one with the most responsibility and arguably the most important role in the family; that of the caretaker of our children. Although my job might involve changing diapers instead of budget meetings it is no less commendable. 

All of a sudden I realized that my job as a stay at home parent was full of potential, not only for the growth of my children, but for my own personal growth as well. Because of my role as a mother I was also able to launch a successful business I could do from home. Because of my role as a mother I could take an hour every day to work out. I could have coffee with a friend. It allowed me flexibility that those in a structured workplace simply didn't have. I might not live the most glamorous life, but I do have freedom. I have freedom and I have my kids. What more could I ask for?

I decided that in order for me to avoid feeling the pitfalls of my perceived lifestyle mediocrity, I would set goals for myself that gave me the opportunity to feel excitement again. Over the years those goals have included bikini competitions, photo shoots, weight lifting goals, writing goals, small business goals, home improvement goals, organizational goals, relationship goals, and financial goals. 

I saw the world in a completely different way when I realized my possibilities were literally endless. I saw my at-home business grow to six figures, we paid off debt, I was stronger than ever, and our family flourished. All of this because I decided to shift focus from what my lifestyle didn't provide to what it did. And what a difference it made.

Now on the weeks that I previously thought were mundane, I find joy. I don't just care for my home, I do it well. I don't just care for my kids, I do it well. I give it the time and attention it deserves and I take pride in it because I'm good at it goddammit, and that's exciting to me. 

There are still days that end in tears and cranky kids and wine and fucking chaos, but there is also drive and focus mixed in there. My job as a caregiver might not be as exciting as peeing on a pregnancy test or planning a wedding, but it is every bit as interesting and even more critical to the success of my family. 

Your kids are the ultimate life test. How they function as adults will be largely in part to how you raised them and the character you instilled. Don't get lost in the longevity and strain of it like I did; see it for what it is. The most important, most exciting, most challenging, most fulfilling job on the planet.