Knowing Our Limits: What Not to Say to Each Other

IMG_0811There’s this thing women seem to have started saying to each other when we come up against something we’ve decided we won’t put up with, whether because we shouldn’t or because we can’t. When we say we’ve learned we have more needs than we wanted to admit, or that we’ve learned the boundaries of how much we can give unrequited, or that we’ve found the outer reaches of our self-esteem and self-respect, we tell each other: “At least you know that about yourself now.”

I’m not sure if this is really a Thing That People Say since I’m not living in a western country and am not as embedded in American culture anymore, but it’s been said to me on multiple occasions by very different women. And it’s been said in the exact same way, so I can only imagine that it didn’t just pop up out of nowhere.

It sounds like such a lovely, enlightened sentiment too. “At least you know that about yourself.” Because increased self-awareness is a good thing, a thing we strive for right? So learning more about yourself can only be a positive contribution to heightened consciousness. Right?

Except in each circumstance, it felt the opposite. It felt like such a patronizing thing to say. As in, “Oh you’re not as giving as you once thought you were? How sad. But hey, at least you know that about YOU.” Like, “Oh, you failed that exam, but hey, at least you tried, and that’s cool. I still got an A.”

There’s a thing that activists do where they try to out-activist other activists. When you’re committed to a cause, there is intense pressure to prove how committed you are: to do more in support of it, to identify with it more, and the peer pressure pushes people to be more extreme and uncompromising. Sometimes this manifests itself in beliefs and political stances. Sometimes it manifests itself in what initially would be a positive trait: giving, kindness, forgiveness…until you push so hard you get burnout.

Moms do this to each other too. However committed you are to a certain belief or behavior is exactly as committed as one should be. Anyone doing less or differently is less of a mother, anyone doing more is just crazy. Right?

Of course not. But we do this to each other.

Until you realize you are actually tired, stressed out, angrier than you should be, and maybe you do need to take better care of yourself in the ways that matter to YOU and fit in with YOUR lifestyle.

So if a friend of mine tells me she needs weekly spa treatments to feel human again after working full-time, mothering X number of kids, pursuing/finishing a degree, running a business, or frankly, with some of my friends, doing all of the above, or if she tells me she realizes she needs to demand a little more from others in order to keep herself afloat, I hope I never say, “At least you know that about yourself now.”

I hope I have the presence of mind to tell her something more like, “It’s not a bad thing to discover we all have boundaries.” Having boundaries is not something to feel guilty about, and it’s not something only certain people have. Everyone has them. Knowing where they are just means you can more efficiently find out in what areas you need to protect yourself and in what areas you can more freely give. Just because there is an outer limit to how generous you can be in certain circumstances does not mean you are not a generous person. Having a limit to kindness does not mean you are not kind. Having a limit to your selflessness does not make you selfish. Asking for the things you need is not being unreasonable. It’s just the smart way to ensure you can perform your best, whether as a wife, a mom, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a boss, an employee, or a warrior.

It took me many years to understand this, but I finally now get this saying, “You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.” Fill yourself up first. When we are full, we can give so much more to everyone else.

Suddenly Mom

_1080072

When I make a connection with an individual student at SOLD and know we have a shared hobby or that I can expose them to more wide and varied experiences related to their interests, I like to try to invite them to spend a weekend with us in Chiang Mai, where I can encourage their passion and give them a glimpse into the wider world out there. There is one such boy I’ve known since he was about 13, who has always had the biggest heart, loves to eat and loves to make people laugh, but who has also had a very hard family life. He seemed to be falling by the way side over the past year, so I extended an invite to him to come visit us for a weekend and we would go do fun things together.

I didn’t hear anything for a while. Then I got an email on Wednesday night, followed by a phone call Thursday morning saying that yes, he wants to come, he’ll be here on Friday, and by the way, his family says I can keep him; they don’t want him to come back.

I literally started crying for him when I got off the phone. Of course he could come stay with us – but for how long? I wondered. My mama heart wanted to wrap him up and take him in immediately, but my brain that has seen the trials and burdens placed on at-risk kids knew this was no simple question. To really help him, we have to be all in. Otherwise, we’re just another source of instability and confusion in his life. Was I about to adopt a (now) 16-year-old boy with attachment issues, a smoking habit, and spotty school attendance record on little more than a days’ notice? Who also was raised in a different culture and speaks a different language? It was unlikely it would come to something so permanent, but I had to be prepared for the possibility that there would be at least an extended stay.

There were ups and downs, and there came a point at which, after taking him grocery shopping to make sure we had on hand whatever snacks, drinks, and breakfast items he preferred, and he immediately went upstairs and closed himself in his room while I boosted Cy on my hip and put the groceries away, where I really, really felt like a mom. More than anything I’ve ever encountered before, having a toddler on my hip and a moody teenager upstairs while I sorted groceries, made me suddenly feel like I have definitely become a capital M Mom.

There was a lot of uncertainty over the weekend, but mostly I just wanted to give him a respite from whatever was happening at home. At the end of the weekend, he decided to go back home with an invitation to return if he ever chooses to. I don’t know what the future holds for him, but I told him I thought he was brave for even coming to us in the first place. It’s a huge step to try to make a change in your life, when you have no idea where you’re headed or what the future will bring. He retreated from it in the end, but he did try.

The Hunt for a Nanny Part IV: the Liaison

_1080069If you’ve been following our saga in finding a nanny (catch up on Part I, Part 2, and Part 3 here), I first want to thank everyone for their support and commiseration with the whole process, and for validating my instincts. It’s definitely nice to know I’m not alone in this, or crazy for having maybe high or specific expectations.

Anyway, thankfully, I really haven’t been alone in this process — I’ve found an amazing and important advocate in the agency who put us in touch with our nanny in the first place. The owner and founder, Kristi, came for a house visit yesterday and I shared my concerns with her. Not only was she sympathetic and understanding, she was also incredibly practical. She brought a Thai assistant with her, and together, they had a private conversation with our nanny to give her a chance to share her own concerns and perspective and to provide a safe place where they could more clearly outline what I’m looking for and hoping for.

I can’t even begin to tell you what an immediate and effective difference it made. After Kristi left, I took Pii On and Cy out for a long walk, in which I could spend time showing her more of Cy’s interests, explain his efforts to communicate, and let her get used to our dynamic. By the end of an hour, he was able to play with her for extended periods. I got things done that have been sitting on my to-do list, eating away at my nerves for weeks. He began to look for her. He was happy. He had a fantastic day, and so did we.

There are still a couple of small wrinkles to iron out, like maybe she could nip it with the unsolicited parenting advice, and she’s so raring to go with him she gets a little pushy, and I’m hoping she’ll learn to trust me that things will go much better with Cy if I fill him up with food and mama time first before going to play. But these are comparatively such tiny things, and definitely fixable, and the huge difference in just one day is plenty of hope to go on to give these other things a pass and have faith that it will all turn into one well-oiled machine soon enough. And major kudos to Pii On for being so flexible and willing to hear critique and act on it.

It seems like such a little thing: a little fracture in communication and understanding, but it could have easily and quickly destroyed the relationship, and the simple addition of a friendly liaison to act as an advocate for the relationship, to make sure both sides are happy and well-understood. But such a huge impact. It makes me think, especially when there’s a big class, language, or cultural divide, or even the simple divide created by trying to be polite, there are so many relationships that can be cut off too quickly, or jobs too quickly lost, despite best intentions on both sides. Having an agent bridge the gap is so incredibly valuable, and I’m so thankful for ours.

If you’re ever in Chiang Mai and are in need of a housekeeper or nanny, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with Kristi, from Bliss.

Little by Little

The Hunt for a Nanny Part 3: Pii On

couchCyBack in November, I contacted an agency that helps place maebaans (a term used for housekeepers and nannies), requesting someone who could help out with Cy for a few hours a day. After two months without any luck finding anyone (it turns out maebaans only want full-time work and they don’t want to drive more than 10 minutes to get there), I agreed to having someone come full time, with the idea being that she would also take care of the house.

Enter Pii On. She sounded great on paper (speaks English, has her own transportation, 7 years experience working with a foundation for kids), and she seemed bright and happy during the interview.

The agency provides a 2-day training session for the maebaans, after which there would be a 30-day trial period. Since we needed help immediately, we agreed to have her come help us finish unpacking, clean, and shadow me with Cy for 2 weeks until the next available training session, after which the trial period would officially begin.

We’ve just had the first 2 weeks with her and the first week went amazing. She did to this house in just a few days what would have taken me months to accomplish. She didn’t wait for direction; she just saw what needed to be done and did it. She goes above and beyond duty: she shows up early and leaves late, and though we provide her lunch every day, she never eats it until we’ve eaten first, even when sometimes I don’t get a chance to eat until closer to 2 or 3 pm. I couldn’t thank her enough for the load she lifted off my shoulders. I was really able to focus on being with Cy, without being torn in a million directions with other responsibilities.

The second week went okay…but a few odd things started to crop up. I noticed that though she said she speaks English I actually haven’t heard this happen, which is okay, but will complicate Cy being able to understand her. Her listening skills aren’t that great, which I think is because she sometimes has an idea in her head about what she thinks you’re saying instead of hearing what you’re actually saying. Occasionally she makes some comments that are vaguely offensive, but given my non-perfect Thai, I can’t really tell if she means to insult or if she’s kind of just tactless. And though she’s generally super conscientious, there are times like when I needed to stop by the grocery store after taking her and Cy to play at a playground, and she decided, without asking, to make a stop at the bank, which was okay except that her errand didn’t go well and ended up taking a really long time and involved going to a different bank–at which point, if I personally was in that situation, on my boss’s time, I would have either asked permission first or given up and gone on my own time–and ended up leaving me standing in the hot sun with a tired and cranky Cy, wondering what the heck was going on.

And I’ve been trying to give her time to play with Cy so they can get used to each other so that she can take him for a couple of hours a day, but things just haven’t been going smoothly. I kind of feel like she isn’t super interested in hanging out with Cy. She does play with him a bit, but she seems more interested in doling out unsolicited parenting advice to me than in finding out who Cy is as a person. And this past week, it has felt to me like she kind of hides upstairs, taking care of the most minute details, down to ironing our underwear, instead of hanging out with Cy and me.

BUT it could be that I’m not as inviting as I should be and that my reservedness is subtly sabotaging her ability to connect with him and me. It’s just, she’s got a bit of a salty personality that I find it not so easy to get along with. I think the little oddities have gotten my guard up, and I’m a bit turned off by the way she talks sometimes. The thing is, in Thai, when you speak in a low class way, it comes across as offensive–much more so than in English–but is that her fault, if that’s maybe the way she was raised or the only way she knows how to speak?

This wouldn’t be such an issue if she was just an employee because in many ways she’s a great worker. But as a maebaan, she is going to be more than that. She is being invited into many of the most private parts of our lives. Our whole house & home are open to her, as is Cy, and if I bring her with me when I go on trips to Chiang Rai for SOLD, then I’m going to be spending a LOT of time with her. More than an employee, she would be part of the family. And I wonder, if I don’t fully like her, will I ever fully trust her? It’s a question separate from how trustworthy she actually is; it’s about my capacities and limitations as a person too.

I’m trying to be self-aware about this, and in this 30-day trial period, I’m going to try my hardest to lower my guard and invite her in as much as possible and see what she does with it. Maybe this is just one more of those opportunities for me to grow and learn. We’ll see how it goes.

**If you missed them, you can read The Hunt for a Nanny Part I here and Part 2 here.



Moments I’ll Miss

_1070777

They say the time goes by so fast and that you’ll miss these baby years. Since I like to learn from the experience of others I’ve been very intentional about soaking up every milestone and every phase, even the ones that are hard and that I wish would pass by faster because I know I only get one chance to be his mom and I don’t want to have regrets. So for the most part I’ve found the joys of each stage of his growth thus far and welcomed each new one without much wistfulness or nostalgia for the ones that have passed.

But there’s one thing I know I will miss when it goes. One thing that imparts that beautiful ache more than any other. One thing I already miss even as I enjoy it.

It’s the moment when we see each other and I smile real big and open my arms real wide….and he lights up. He blisses out and he comes running, delighted to see me, over the moon that I am happy to see him. It fills me up and breaks my heart that the simple fact that I love him means so much.

He won’t always come running.  One day my love will embarrass him even if he secretly appreciates it. To be a mother is to celebrate fullness with full awareness of impending loss. This is one of the moments I’ll miss.

::

My kitchen is on The Kitchn! Check out Part 1: a tour and Part 2: on why I shipped plates of the kitchen tour!

Little by Little

Momma Chat: There and Back Again

_1070738
I might be doing a number on the trust I’ve built up between me and Cy because now as he enters toddlerhood, I’m having a hard time not laughing at his frustrations. When he cannot get his toy car to balance just so on top of the stack of four toy cars beneath it, when he cannot get a large plastic box to fit inside a small cup, or when he cannot lift the object that happens to be three times his size, I struggle to keep a straight face as I calmly acknowledge, “Yes baby, I know, that can be so annoying.”

Yesterday he got so mad that he had to bend down to pick up his toy car that he yelled and bent down to swipe it away.

….

_1070736

 

We’ve been having a great time on mama & Cy adventures traveling around lately. Bangkok was such a refreshing change of scenery for both of us (though parts of it–like riding the BTS (sky train)–might have been a bit overstimulating for Cy, so it’s good it was a short trip), that we came back with renewed energy and enjoyment in our every day.

I was always so surprised to find how helpful everyone was, upon seeing a mama alone with a baby. Everywhere we went, people gave us their seats, plied Cy with treats and goodies and friendly faces, and offered their help.

We went to this cafe, with this amazing window:
_1070712I had heard it was open from 6 am to midnight and served breakfast all day, so I went to get us some breakfast to bring back to share with Toby at the hotel. It was a 10 minute BTS ride, plus a 20-minute walk in the Thai heat, so by the time we arrived, I was sweating and Cy was grumpy. I hoped to pick up pastries, but it turns out the breakfast they serve is continental and all the good stuff on their menu is for lunch and dinner. After a bit of confusing back and forth, I settled on some Thai larb burgers, but the staff, knowing I had been looking for pastries, found a few for us and tossed them in for free.

Amazing generous things like that, all the time.

Then we went to Doi Mon Jam, a scenic mountain area in northern Thailand, with views like this:

doimonjamand it was full of sight-seers and tourists…and everybody was coming up and trying to take pictures of Cy.

Now, normally, when people want to take a picture of Cy or hold him, they do this polite thing called “asking permission.” Not so here. People would sneak up on Cy while he was busy climbing rocks or poking at flowers, and without even asking me, they would swoop in and grab him and hold him up to their face while they yelled at their friends to “quick, quick, take a picture!” with Cy squirming and squawking to be let go or given to me.

WHO DOES THAT?

And not just a handful of weird tourists. I’m talking almost everybody there. It’s like children aren’t actual human beings but rather novel public commodities that anyone can just help themselves to. Not to mention it’s a bit nerve wracking for a mom to just stand there as random strangers literally snatch your child from right in front of you.

It’s so funny; the world of cultural differences from right within a single country.

_1070775

Anyway, one other benefit of living here is how cheap it is to get hired help, and Toby and I have hit a wall where we really need to carve out a few hours a week to ourselves (some time for us as individuals, and some time for us a couple) because we really haven’t been doing that. And we’re running ourselves ragged. We really need help.

So we’ve caved and started looking for a part-time nanny to help out for a few hours a few days a week. I interviewed one today and discovered I have no idea how to interview nannies. (What do you even ask? Um…are all the kids in your care still alive? Check, ok good to go!)

We’ve made Cy the priority up until this point, and we’ve tried to keep up with the other things that are important to us, but bit by bit they’ve slipped away and we need to remedy that. There are priorities besides Cy (and a basic functioning household), and though I’m sure it will always be a balancing act, we need to make sure we make our priorities our priorities too._1070776

Thing I Love About Cy: When we go outside to play, he has developed a habit of reaching down to touch the pavement and say, “Haw?” to check to see if the ground is hot and therefore he needs shoes. And when he really gets his groove on, he shakes his head back and forth to the beat of his inner drum.

 

Momma Chat: The Fun Really Starts at the End of the Fourth Trimester

_1070392

Having a 10-month-old (almost 11-month old!) baby is the most fun ever. I mean, obviously, there’s been lots of fun times up until now, but suddenly almost overnight it seems, Cy became just stoked on life.

_1070395

This photo is just begging for a caption.

They say “9 months in the womb, and 9 months out of the womb” for a baby to really develop, and in Cy’s case it was totally true. All the battles and worries of the early days just one by one resolved themselves (regardless and possibly in spite of many of my efforts). The sleep drama ended, he weaned himself off pacifiers, the swaddle, almost all sleep aids (only nursing left), and is even now starting to request solid food instead of breast milk for some meals. (If I could talk to my earlier mom self, I would tell her to stop worrying so damn much. But then I know she probably wouldn’t listen anyway.)

_1070398

He’s curious, engaged, loving, and fun. I wish I could tell you about all the times he’s made us laugh with his funny faces, perfectly timed declarative noises, and exuberant display of personality.

And he can suddenly do so much more now: standing strong on his own; climbing up AND down the stairs (and furniture); saying a few words like Mama, dog, mam-mam (a Thai word for food), house, and ball; understanding simple directions; helping me brush his teeth; or peeling fruit to help Mama infuse her iced tea.

_1070399

He has this game he likes to play, where he’ll grab a few items (like a couple of his toy cars), and he’ll sit by a ledge or shelf or the threshold of a door and, one by one, place the items on the shelf, and take one down, and place another one. Like organizing, but by the guide of principles only he knows. I wonder what he is thinking while he does this, but then, as I describe this now it occurs to me: perhaps he’s just copying Mama, as she goes about the house sorting items by some generally indiscernible whim.

Where he was clingy and fussy before, he’s now growing in independence and sense of self. It’s like he was a baby bird cooped up, often squawking, in the nest, and then suddenly he stood up, peeped over the edge of the nest, and discovered he could unfold his wings. He’s been taking off ever since.

_1070401

Before Cy was born, I used to ask Toby or my parents what they looked forward to most about Cy. To answer that question myself, I always imagined reading together, taking trips to the zoo, baking cookies for him and listening to him talk. I couldn’t wait to hear what he would say. Now, I realize what I really was looking forward to was having a relationship with my son. I was looking forward to loving him.

I loved him from the beginning, and every moment since, but it started as a little seed of awe and wonder. And out from that planted seed came one tiny, thin little vine sprouting, pushing through the mud and dirt and rain, finding the sunshine. Somehow, without my knowing or noticing, it’s become this multi-petaled flower, with new dimensions continually unfolding and unfolding, getting deeper, denser, and fuller…and I know it’s only just begun.

Such purple prose, I know. But I don’t know how else to put it. The more I get to know this little guy, the bigger he grows my heart.

Thing I Love About Cy Today: The way he waves goodbye–by reaching out and grasping.

_1070400

CHECK BACK HERE ON FRIDAY FOR MY BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!

Momma Chat

Wine, muchly needed

Wine, muchly needed

So…last week was HARD. The kind of hard you’re not sure you’ll survive until well after you’ve already come out of the haze that the hard was. It started with Cy having some issues with gassiness, then escalated into Mama’s got a case of mastitis….add in hot & cold compresses, vigorous boob massages, painful inflammation, feeding every 2 hours, and no sleep longer than 30 minutes at a time for 5 days straight…You get lots of tears. Lots and lots of tears. Most of them mine. The real irony was, just before that week hit, I had hit a sweet spot with Cy where I felt we’d found a groove, I could read his cues most of the time, and that I was finally healed from the c-section.

Lesson #1: As soon as you think you’ve got this, prepare for it all to prove you wrong.

Turns out what I really needed was a course of antibiotics, sleep, and friends. I can’t begin to describe how deep into Crazy Town I was last week, but between my family and friends, I managed not to get totally lost. It was in a (tear-filled) Skype session with an amazing friend and mama that I found some clarity. She shared a bit of wisdom that her cousin had once shared with her:

I never have a perfect day.

That may not sound very comforting on the face of it, but to the straight-A student who doesn’t grade on a curve, it was blessed relief. Lesson #2: Adjust your expectations. Because, yeah, maybe my boob is a little bit broken right now, but you know what? It’s still producing plenty of milk for my baby, who is happy and healthy, and full of smiles for his mama. And that IS what matters. I can’t say the day has gone totally smoothly, but I can say we learned a new game to play together. I can say I might have figured out how to get him to sleep in his bouncy chair so I don’t have to carry him to sleep. I can say that we had that really sweet moment when I booped him on the nose and he gave me the biggest grin.

I can say I got a really good nap. And I can say that when I got up to leave the room, he followed me with his eyes.

(I used to freak out when he would spit up a bunch all over while my boobs were leaking down my clothes and onto the floor. Now I keep a towel on the floor that I can push around with my foot, and call that a job done well enough.)

_1050653

 

And here’s Lesson #3: Mamas need other mamas. There was no advice on the internet, no book, no single anecdote or time-worn wisdom that saved me. It was other mamas. My own, my friends…others who’ve walked the path before me, who could tell me that the only way to get through this is to go through it, but that I WOULD indeed emerge out the other side.

Cy is 6 weeks old today and I tell myself we’re in the homestretch of the hardest of the hard. And honestly, as hard as last week was, there is SO MUCH love. And, thanks to Cy’s dad, a lot of laughs too. On this motherhood trip, I may make occasional visits to Crazy Town, but I am so lucky to have people in my life who make sure I don’t stay there.

Including this little one:

_1050652Thing I Love About Cy Today: I love that a really satisfying poop totally makes him smile.

 

Playing the Waiting Game–in Life, Marriage, and Motherhood

Strung out on a line

Strung out on a line

When I was in college, the largely unspoken, but prevailing belief seemed to be that smart, strong women could have plenty of fun dating around, but would want to get their degree and all their career ducks in a row before settling down. For some, random hookups were the mode de jour; for others, dating was one long stream of bad men. Only a few had really long relationships. And motherhood? That was for way later, if at all. Pregnancy would practically mean the end of your life. Taking birth control was the only smart choice.

The trouble is none of us had any idea how difficult it could be to find a good partner after college. When you join the work force, you enter a pool of widely varied, but highly limited options. There’s usually a huge age range—which makes finding unmarried age-mates more difficult, and when you spend the vast majority of your life in one office, meeting people outside that milieu gets incredibly hard. If there aren’t any suitable mates among your coworkers (and let’s not even get into in all the potential trials of an office relationship), you can be hard-pressed to find the time or place to even meet anyone else new.

I remember when I was a teenager, I used to dream that I’d go to college, get a fancy career started, find an awesome apartment in a big city, and then find my future husband, whom I’d marry, preferably around the age of 28. After a couple years of marriage, we’d have our first child, probably when I was around the age of 30. Thirty sounded like a good child-bearing age. That still would give me a couple of years to have my second child at 32 or so, and be done well before that fertility drop-off at 35.

I assumed getting pregnant was easy because all you hear, when you’re young, is about the girls who got pregnant even though they only had unprotected sex “that one time.”

I don’t know if it’s by luck or by choice, but I never had a string of bad men or bad relationships. Sure, I dated a jerk or two and a few guys who, though nice, weren’t going to captivate me long-term. But those were always obvious from the start and I never was one to stick around with a losing bet (I distinctly remember one relationship that had a shelf-life of “Four Tuesdays”—my best friend from college will get this reference; there were lots of fun, crazy memories from that episode in our lives). My relationships either lasted a few weeks or a few years—the long ones, even the ones that didn’t work out, were great while they lasted, and important learning experiences in preparation for marriage.

It turns out, I met my husband in college—though neither of us was anywhere near ready for marriage at the time. But we fell in love, probably to both our surprises, and we stuck around each other, even though “not ready” was a big light flashing above both our heads. Toby took a year to travel the world after he graduated college, and in the interim, we had both grown a lot. By the time he came back, I knew I was ready to think about marriage, even if we weren’t anywhere near ready to marry each other. We loved each other; we knew that much. I probably broke a slew of dating rules by doing this, but I told him, in no uncertain terms, that if we were going to be together, it would be with an eye towards marriage. Though we both knew there were no guarantees in this trial run, I wasn’t going to waste time with someone who was only in it “just for now.”

Luckily for me, he was on the same page, more or less, and the years following were a steady learning experience in which we tried out what marriage might look like, what commitment meant, and what it would mean to devote ourselves to another. By the time he proposed to me, I was 26 and we were ready. We had grown into marriage together. We had become ready together. When we did exchange vows, I had just turned 28.

But marriage isn’t the only odyssey one embarks on—there’s also parenthood. Having just gotten married, I wasn’t in any rush to have a child. There was my doctorate to finish and a career to start. Toby was only just getting his career off the ground, and a job in the tech industry at that time seemed volatile and uncertain. We lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment and had other dreams too, namely involving travel. Maybe living abroad for a while. There was still adventure to be had and a baby seemed more like a huge complication and intense responsibility than the next inevitable step in our life progression. The biological clock had started ticking, but I ignored the bell toll.

Though I had heard that fertility decreases with age, I still assumed it would be easy enough to get pregnant. I did have one friend who was trying to get pregnant and had started fertility treatments. She warned me getting pregnant could take time. I heard, but didn’t hear.

When I turned 30, I finished my doctorate and we made plans to move to Thailand. Work with The SOLD Project was already lined up; all I had to do was get to northern Thailand. We were leaving everything we knew behind. That wasn’t the time to start thinking about babies.

After we got settled in Thailand, and Toby’s work situation seemed solid, I was getting integrated at SOLD and halfway through writing a manuscript, I began to listen more carefully to that biological clock. I went off the pill slightly before entirely ready, thinking it would take a few months for the pill’s effects to clear my system, so that, fingers crossed, I might be 100% ready when it did.

Then, I didn’t get pregnant. Our jobs got even better, visitors came and went, we had grown into life in Thailand…I still didn’t get pregnant. My best friend from college was also enduring her own trial of fertility problems, and my best friend from grad school had suffered miscarriages, and another friend was going through a divorce…so by this time, I was really hearing it: Yes, it can be freaking hard to get pregnant. We traveled to Hong Kong and saw more of Asia. I still didn’t get pregnant. We spent a month in Europe, I didn’t get pregnant. We went back to the U.S. for a month…if I didn’t get pregnant soon, we’d have to think about fertility treatments. I didn’t even want to know what that cost would look like. My mother and sister had both had miscarriages before being able to carry a child to term. My cousin is 40 and still unable to get a baby to take, despite almost a decade of treatments. I knew that even if I did get pregnant, it might not work on the first try, and I had to steel myself for that possibility.

It turn out that it was only when we no longer had a stream of life and travel plans that, after more than a year and a half off the pill, I got pregnant. I’m turning 33 next week, and my dreams of having two kids are now looking more like I’ll be blessed to have one. I’m okay with that, and even saying this, I want it to be clear that I’m not complaining. I doubt I’d make different choices even if I had the chance. I love the years Toby and I have had together, and I think the stability we’ve built and the life experiences we’ve had, having had that time, will only serve our child better.

But I feel incredibly lucky. I feel like it’s only partly our choices, and mostly by chance that things have worked out for us (so far—I don’t want to jinx this!). I look at women I know who’ve been trying for years and years to get pregnant, or friends who’ve suffered miscarriages, or others who still can’t find a life partner, and I know how easily it could have gone a different way.

It’s a myth we tell ourselves when we’re young that we can somehow control life and when and how it happens to us. We make plans for what sounds like a good age to marry, and to have children…and these days, that “perfect age” is getting later and later. Instead of right after college, many push it off to their late 20s. Some women, realistic about demands certain careers make, push it off into their 30s, or even later. We don’t factor in the potential for complications. When we make our timelines, we don’t consider the possibility of divorce. We don’t consider the possibility of infertility.

Though I did get married at 28, the truth is I met the man I would marry when I was 20. It took us 8 years to get where we needed to be. If I hadn’t taken my feelings for him seriously way back then, when I still felt I had other life goals to meet first, or vice versa with him for me, who knows where either of us might be? Maybe we would have found other people to love. Maybe there is such a thing as soul mates, and we really are the only ones for each other. Who can really say? Meanwhile, people perpetuate this fear that marriage really hampers one’s freedom and independence. We’ve found this to be entirely untrue for us. Marriage has given us each a strong foundation from which we can both fly—both separately, and together. It’s made us stronger than we would have been alone.

We tell ourselves, when we’re young, that to be real strong, smart women, we have to put education and career before absolutely everything else. The truth is, life goals can exist side by side. You don’t have to put your ducks in a row…sometimes, you just kind of herd them along together. The trend now is to stave off marriage and family until you’ve lived your life first. What makes for “the right time” is an incredibly personal decision and it varies widely from person to person, but I do think we women do ourselves a disservice when we don’t make clear to each other that there are potential tradeoffs when we put off childbearing; that while you’re busy living your life, it can become increasingly harder (and harder than we think it will be) to be able to bear life. We underestimate how fragile life can be, and how uncertain fertility is. We all popped our birth control pills every day for years, each of us never knowing if we’d be the one who’d get pregnant on the first try, the one who would need years of fertility treatments, or the one who couldn’t get pregnant at all.

We can’t control when life happens to us, but we can be honest and informed about the consequences of our choices, and we can listen carefully to our inner guides about who is right for us and when we’re ready. From an employer’s perspective, there’s never a good time for a woman to get pregnant. But your life is your own. External deadlines matter little compared to the timeline we feel ticking along inside.

*   *   *

This post was inspired by this one, “26 and Already Pregnant,” by Kate from Eat The Damn Cake. If you’re interested in more fun facts about delayed marriage and child-rearing, check out this post, “The Sweet Spot for Tying the Knot,” by Susan Walsh at Hooking Up Smart.

Random Friday Musings

I was planning to write a Books to Savor post sharing a good read I’d come across recently, and I may still get to that later today, but in the meantime, I’m in the mood to share some random things going on in my brain bucket today.

Here they are, in no particular order…

dot_hoodie1

- Our little Dot is a pretty dang obedient dog and a sweetheart…except in one area. She is nearly uncontrollable when it comes to barking at the neighbors, gardeners, and any other being that commits the grave sin of existing anywhere near our house without express permission. Because our house is rented, we can’t fence her in properly so she’s free to wander, which was fine when we didn’t have neighbors. But after the flooding in Bangkok prompted people to start moving up to Chiang Mai, we suddenly have neighbors. Neighbors who like to have visitors. So you can imagine how many times a day we have to yell at her and chase after her. Dot doesn’t respond well to negative reinforcement. It only makes her more stubborn and recalcitrant (or worse, she gives us this look like we’ve totally failed her), which makes it really difficult to teach her NOT to bark because it’s kind of ridiculous to only be able to praise a dog when it doesn’t bark.

It’s hard to get completely mad at her because it comes from a protective instinct and she’s only doing what she thinks is her job. But since I got pregnant, her protective instinct has been elevated from day job to High Calling, which is both sweet and utterly obnoxious. So after trying every other thing we could think of or find through copious online research, we’ve decided to try a shock collar on her. It makes me feel incredibly guilty and worried, especially given her usual response to negative reinforcement and I really didn’t want to break her relationship of trust with us. But…after just a few days with it, I have to say…

IT WORKS.

Toby has worked carefully with her in using it and keeps it on the lowest possible setting, so that it’s more a sensation than an actual jolt. But the part I really appreciate about it is that you can press a button, via remote control, to emit a little warning beep before resorting to the shock. He only had to use the shock on her twice before she learned to stop barking, come right back to us and sit down, at which point we envelop her in praise and treats. Now that little warning beep is pretty much all she needs to get her to stop barking and come home. And she doesn’t seem to be exhibiting any signs of feeling upset or hurt by us or the collar (maybe because it’s done by remote control, so the connection isn’t clear to her?). So as long as the warning beep is all it takes to get her to obey when we tell her to stop barking and come home, I think I can slowly get behind using this thing, though I still hope there might be a day we won’t have to use it at all.

dot_hoodie2

- Sometimes, I get really tired of how debate is handled with political stuff. Almost every day in my Facebook feed, there is something about how people are shooting people up in America and we need to do something about keeping slaughter machines out of the hands of crazy folk and why do we only care about people dying when it’s a bomb and not a gun AND/OR something about how we need to cling to our guns and freedoms, and clearly not having an AK-47 = tyranny, and because one person managed to use a gun successfully it’s a good idea for everyone to have easy access to them. The media, which exists to sell itself (and these days, doesn’t even pretend to care more about sharing real policy information than entertainment), THRIVES on this kind of conflict, pushing wedges where really there aren’t any. The truth is, on most policy issues, most people are pretty moderate (which, turns out is kind of a reasonable place to be, hey?). But the way we talk about these issues is like two echo chambers existing side by side, rather than actually communicating. Which is really sad because it makes it impossible to advance the conversation. I’m tired of hearing the same old drumbeats on either side. I’m tired of people painting each other as crazy and stupid when they clearly haven’t listened to what the other really wants. And here’s a hint: you’re not listening to people if you’re spending the entire time trying to figure out how to prove that they’re wrong and you’re smarter.

Here’s two things I wish people would think about more. 1) If you think the answer to a policy problem (especially a controversial one) is really fucking simple, then you’re probably not looking at it carefully enough. 2) You’re not contributing to an effective solution if you can’t hear or address the concerns of those who disagree with you. Be opinionated all you want. Having strong opinions is good. Being engaged in the world around you is good. But it’s still not actually helpful to assume your opinion is the only one worth having and to only want to hear other people tell you that you’re right.

The really worrisome part is that perpetuating these divisions make people really, REALLY angry, and I fear that not only does it not contribute to good policy, but that it makes people really hate each other, dehumanize each other, and makes it seem okay to be more violent with each other, so that it is no longer possible to reach each other with words. People begin see no other recourse than weaponry.

_TMK2977

- Something else I’ve been thinking about lately is that it can be a challenge learning how to adjust to a parent who is aging. I think part of growing up is dealing with the disillusionment that comes when you realize your beloved parent isn’t quite the superhero you thought they were when you were 5, but alongside that comes the beautiful part of getting to know them as they are, which can make you love them more deeply and more expansively, and can add wonderful new dimensions to the relationship.

Sometimes, though, it is a challenge when you’re confronted with a parent whose age has turned them into someone they didn’t use to be, especially if some qualities you admired have been replaced by something you don’t. I recently realized that, when you factor in time with a relationship, part of loving someone means letting go of them as they once were and finding love and acceptance for who they are now. Sometimes, the change is so drastic you have to find new ways to connect with them, demonstrate love, and support and encourage them. It’s like you almost have to build a new relationship. It’s not easy. But realizing that brought me a long way closer to making it okay.

_NTE9965

- Today I’m baking 5-minute artisan bread. The dough has been resting in the fridge for two days, and I’m anxious to see how it turns out. I’ve made it a few times before, but for some unknown reason (changes in humidity/weather? different flour used?), it comes out differently every single time. So it’s like a surprise every time. We’ll see how well it works today!

So that should probably have made up three posts instead of one. Thanks for indulging me! Tell me, what’s been on your mind lately?

Related Posts with Thumbnails