Monday, September 26, 2016

Chapter 34.5

In which our hero makes a potentially life-altering decision.

Is this what parenthood is?  Today is my first day in a job that is, as far as I can tell, a step down in every way except that it will provide the consistency my employment has lacked for the last five years.  I am starting as an assistant manager of some kind at a student apartment complex in Davis.  This is essentially the job I had 9 years ago that inspired me to go after my PhD in economics.  It was a smaller property, but I was the manager, so step up?  Step down?
It feels like a step down, like a sacrifice.  Like something I should be ashamed of.  Like moving back in time, like I am erasing the last nine years of my life....big years, by the way.

Years in which I fell in love, got married, got divorced, fell in love, got pregnant, realized my dream of becoming an Economics professor and loved every painful second of it, lost and regained my sanity, became a subject expert on Native American voting rights, experienced a pile of death and life and found strength in myself that I thought could only be reached through the worst conditions necessitating survival.  And thrived.  And now...

And now I am back.  In Davis, the town I went to high school in.  Doing the job I did when I was 25 years old.  Sort of.  It seems like the smart choice, though, because there is a baby coming, and babies need things like money and food and health insurance and consistency.  But I can't shake the feeling that I am letting go of a piece of myself, a piece of myself that makes me strong and proud.

And I don't even know if I'm supposed to be here today.  All I know is everyone around me is happy for me, congratulating me, and inside I am screaming, "NO!  This has to be some kind of mistake!  Can't you all see how wrong and backwards this is?!"  And no one can hear me.

Monday, July 18, 2016

99,999 miles

Credit to my wonderful Aunt Melanie for this idea, because I apparently *needed* a reason to write.

Today, on the way to work, my car hit the 99,999 mile mark.  This is not terribly remarkable, because I bought the dang thing with 89,000 miles on it, but it felt like an opportunity to mark time, to plant a flag and state proudly "this is where I am; that is where I was and that is where I am going."

I thought I would hit the marker on Saturday, when I drove into downtown LA for 10+ hours of extra work to try to make some extra cash because I am still, somehow, at the ripe age of 34, a broke-ass graduate student.  It didn't, likely in no small part due to the fact that I was so fried after a full day of troubleshooting minor technical glitches and listening with fake enthusiasm to an introductory seminar for MBA students that I drove straight home, untemped by even the slightest detour.  Yesterday me, who had tried to make dinner plans with friends in the city?  She was an insane masochist with no concept of the finite nature of energy.

And I didn't hit it on Sunday for similar reasons.  working all day Saturday had left me drained, so I vowed to stay in bed and relax while watching tv shows on Amazon Prime.  And fell back asleep.  And ate pasta in bed, and eventually decided that it was exactly what a pregnant lady would do after working 6 day straight.  take one damn day off and do nothing.  So I didn't leave my house all day Sunday.

In a sense, my Sunday is an apt metaphor for my general feelings of late; mobilized; stuck somewhere between self care and self pity, avoiding a potential stream of thoughts threatening to overwhelm my mind at any moment.  A lot of avoidance.  In part because I am scared.

And there's this thing i do when I'm scared where I let fear sort of wash over and color everything else in life.  I'm afraid of my dissertation, of completing my degree, so now I am also afraid of my baby's development, of what kind of relationship I am in, of what my choices have been and are going to be...general fear washes and paralyzes.
Fun times.

In my experience, the first and best step in mitigating all of this fear and avoidance is simply sitting quitetly, thinking, talking with trusted friends, and letting the thing most terrifying, my thoughts or my success, just happen.  It's never as bad as the anticipation of it is. 

Which, if I were to try to tie this all together and wrap it up, is the whole point.  Life, death, change, growth, age, development, shock, fear, and shit are all inevitable.  Life and things rarely go as planned.  But the clock keeps ticking, and we strive to make better choices int eh moment, because in actuality that is all we have; our choices in the moment.  So I have been slacking off?  So what.  That was yesterday.  Today is pregnant with potential, and filled with moments for me to make the most of.  Chock full of potential.  The clock hasn't ticked over yet, and I am still at 99,999 miles, 16 weeks, 8 years, and 34 years, depending on what we're counting.  Life is good.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


There's this feeling that arises when one is on the brink of a major life shift; a feeling of urgency colored with anticipation.  Like I want everything to happen all at once, so that I can be in the middle of it already, but the magnitude of the change makes me hope I can delay any real change indefinitely.
In this case, this change can neither be rushed nor delayed; I have it on good authority that a health pregnancy takes about 40 weeks, and there's no way around that.

The challenge, then, becomes filling the time remaining with productive and precious experiences.  There are two ravenous horses pulling the cart that is my life; one clomps ahead, urging me to work, pack, write, read, prepare, prepare, prepare.  The other matches the first's pace, instead insisting I savor, that time is dwindling, that things will never be the same again.  Never again!   And they are both right, and they both send me straight to Netflix to engage in practiced avoidance while I re-watch episodes of Jessica Jones and 30 Rock over and over.

Realistically, none of this is really that new.  There are always events that seem larger than life, too big to focus on something as mundane as a literature review.  And so I keep scheduling time to sit in front of my trusty laptop, waiting for the motivation to come...inching closer to actually completing work.  Today, instead of Netflix, I started writing something!  That's better than nothing!

The other thing I keep thinking of is something I like to call event-hangover.  I get it all the time; birthdays, weddings, vacations, dinner parties.  Planning for a big thing, something you are excited about, can take up so much energy and lead to so much anticipation, it can be hard to stay afloat in the quick recession to normalcy that follows.  I am sure some of that will still pop up, but the reality of this life event is that now it is forever.  I am going to be a mom forever, Bruce is going to be a dad forever, to my baby, to our baby, we are going to be a family, bound to each other, in a new city, on a new joined adventure. 

So, there's that.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Timing is something...

When you are an unmarried student with hundreds of thousands of dollars of grad school debt and five roommates, people tend to ask you if your recently announced pregnancy was 'planned'.

Which is fair, I suppose.  And the answer is complicated.  Faced with an unsure completion date, a precarious and unknowable job market, and an equally precarious biological clock, I thought I would hedge my bets and go for broke!  I have a partner I love and trust, and want to start a family with, and a handful of friends who either already have school-aged children or are struggling with infertility, so I figure I would just go for it.  We started trying with the assumption that it would take a while, and the belief that there is no 'right' time to have a baby.

And then instantly got pregnant.

So planned might be strong language, but this wasn't unexpected, just slightly ahead of schedule.  Now I find myself feverishly mapping out time tables in my mind, reading the blog posts of other women in similar positions (who all, somehow, manage to be further along than I am...), and breaking into a cold sweat while imagining the sleep deprivation of academia coupled with the sleep deprivation of motherhood.  It's been a fun time to experience hormone fluctuations.

The thing I notice, when I read about the experience of others, is the same problem I have with most of the available narratives academia offers up; they all come from a position of unacknowledged privilege.  None of these women are worried about how they are going to pay rent while finishing their dis and caring for their pregnancy or baby.  The biggest secret I should have known about academia rears it's ugly head again; this game works best if money isn't an issue for you.  Poor folks need not apply.

But.  I use that calm rational voice I hope will someday work on my kid, and repeat my mantra in my head, "There's no such thing as a perfect time; Everything happens for a reason; Everything will work out in the end; You are a survivor, and have done more with less".  It works, about 45% of the time.  The rest of the time I try to push that anxious energy into productivity, writing disjointed sections of an almost due lit review or a new revision of my modest c.v.  Sometimes I take the time to do what some women write they wish they'd done, and enjoy my pregnancy.  I read articles about prenatal care and early childhood development (almost as much fun as poverty trap formulation!), and try to take it easy, let my body just be pregnant.  And wonder in the back of my head if the women I read about only became successful because they sacrificed these tiny luxuries.

I constantly assure myself there are no right answers, and that I am making the best choices I can in the moment, the same choices that led me to be a successful adjunct with a fantastic relationship and research areas I actually care about, and have presented at several conferences on.  So the next part can't be all bad.

I tell myself that there is no rule or firm definition for what constitutes a good life, and I have to trust I will find it, now with a tiny hand held in mine.  I remind myself all the times I worried that this would never happen, and marvel at how quickly I moved from fearing I'd never be pregnant to resenting the inconvenient timing.  So I try to shut up, get back to work, and be grateful.

Timing is just chance most of the time, and we can't control the things that appear on the path before us.  So I keep walking forward. 

And I miss coffee.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

My Best and Worst, right now

I have a friend who is a very dedicated mom to two lovely children, and she has this tradition of asking her children what their 'high' and 'low' of the day, are as a way to encapsulate the day's activities, and release gratitude and resentment.
I think.  I just think it's cute.

So, here are my current perceptions on the high and low of pregnancy:
  • Making it through the noon-slow-down with zero caffeine.  WTF.
  • So, is this lower back soreness going to persist?  Or get worse...
  • My train of thought now runs on it's own schedule, often in the wrong direction
  • I miss red wine, dirty martinis, and coffee
  • I have always wanted/needed an excuse to snack constantly!
  • Drinking so much water is making my skin look great; you mean I could have been doing this all along?!?
  • Superb excuse to be in bed with dinner and netflix by8 pm.
  • Braggin about being everyone's go-to designated driver is making me feel *very* important
  • So much fruit and so many avocados!  delicious!

All jokes aside, so far it has been a pretty easy process, and I'm increasingly excited for the next steps.  My man and I have long conversations about morals and how we want to raise our family, what kind of people we want to send into the world, and it makes me more optimistic, in general.

Who knew planning for a future made you give a crap about it?

Monday, May 09, 2016

Today, I am Adulting. Super Hard.

So, I have been an adult for a while.  I mean, I have owned and wrecked several cars.  Rented houses, apartments, vacation rentals, and even more cars.  I have filed my own tax return for years, and I manage (poorly) my old 401k.  I'm finishing up my Phd in Economics, and I am divorced.  All super duper adult shit.

But this month started the journey down an even more adult road.  More adult than multivitamins.  Now, I'm going to be a parent.  Some dude jacked me, and now his sperm is growing in my stomach.

So, that's pretty adult, right?    Maybe not all the way adult, though.  I am still renting a room, working as a 'student worker' and 'research assistant', and I do still wear my pizza onsie around the house when it's cold out.  I still need hep with my financial planning, and I am still, technically, a student. 
But now, all those things are still true, plus I have a human gestating in my once-believed to be barren uterus. 
So, I guess lesson one for those learning from me, is get yourself checked out.  I was told over and over that ovulation strips were an easy way to test for true fertility, but I was too afraid.  Luckily this not entirely planned yet still intentional pregnancy is fully in keeping with mine and my partner's world view; it will happen when it's meant to. 
So now, here I am, embarking on one of the most adult parts of mammalian life while still living like a 24 year old.  There is a lot to figure out; where to live, how to work, how to finish my dissertation, what to name it, what to do with my recently arrived case of wine from an online wine club that looked cool a few weeks ago...I've got stuff on my mind!
my guy and I are figuring it out, though, step by step.  And it really does matter; so far through this process, one of the best things has been being able to rely on my guy as a stand up, take charge, figure things out in a calm and compromising way.  It's the best, and as much as things like career, money, and what the crap my body will look like in 10 months keep swirling in my head, he keeps my feet on the ground and my face smiling.
So far, it's been a pretty easy gig (knock on wood...someone knock on wood!! Don't tempt fate, for the love of god, someone knock on wood!!!).  No morning sickness, a little drool, and some cramping and gas.  Oh, yeah, and my usually generous boobs are now in full-time PMS mode, meaning they are giant, swollen, and sore.  But, other than that I can't complain.  I'm taking stock of all the non-elastic clothing in my closet, and planning for the future.
Right now my biggest fear is the pregnancy punishment.  Third wave feminism be damned, we still live in a world where women can be seen as weak or unfocused for letting themselves get knocked up, especially in the competitive world of academia.  Seriously, folks, does it really have to be that competitive?! I am resolved, as a result of those fears, to keep this pregnancy under wraps and off the books for school and work for as long as possible.  Call me fat, just don't confirm my pregnancy!
For those keeping track, I am either in my 6th or 8th week, depending on when you count, because I truly don't remember the first day of my last period.  But I have a doctors appointment lined up, and I should have some clarification soon!

Next Stop: Elastic waist band pants!