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I had a moment last week where I totally broke down. After a day of irritability to the extreme — everyone and everything was making me cranky — I lay in my bed and sobbed until the tears ran dry. There really was no one reason for it; more of an accumulation of things from of a really hard, really long month. I just felt done.

Immediately after returning to school after winter break, Owen came down with a horrible cough. He would be unable to catch his breath and as a result, he would throw up. In the kitchen, on the couch, in his bed. It lasted a week, and despite my best efforts to sanitize every thing he touched/looked at, it wasn’t long before I started to feel run down. Without getting TOO whiny about it, my cold turned into a sinus infection that completely and totally put me out of commission. I’m not exaggerating when I say I would rather give birth than have a sinus infection. Especially when you can’t take any good drugs. At the height of it, I parented from the couch, moving only to put on another movie for the boys or go in search of some snacks for them. They ate pancakes for dinner twice in a row because the thought of getting up to make an actual meal was exhausting. Despite all the help he gave when he could, Michael had to work. No way around it. So it was just me and the kids and oh yeah, a polar vortex that kept us housebound and closed school more times than I could count. To say we were going stir crazy was an understatement. Ryan came down with his own version of the cold sometime in the middle of this. I’m really, truly done with kid snot. Really.

In total, at least one of us — mostly me — were sick for an entire month. It wasn’t until last week when I was finally able to take a strong breath, smell things and taste my food. It took a toll on us. As a mother, I felt like a failure. I was tired, grumpy, yelling. We did nothing fun. The boys fought and wrestled and yelled. Ryan climbed things and threw cars at his brother. Owen was defiant and pushed boundaries and yelled no all day long.

For a month, all I felt was guilt. I felt guilty when I sighed with relief after dropping Owen off at school, guilt for looking forward to nap time and bedtime like it was Christmas day. Guilt over the amount of television they were watching. (SO MUCH TV.) I felt guilty for not even smiling when Michael came in the door because I was just too burnt out. I was stretched thin and began to panic. If I feel this way now, how am I going to feel come June? Another baby, another little person with needs. That straw broke the camel’s back, and the tears came.

I woke up the following morning feeling better. Nothing was resolved, but it felt like a new day. A day where I could make a change. Now that I was healthy, it was time to work on my behavior and how I was relating to and dealing with the kids. The yelling, it needs to change. Look, I’m not naive. Sometimes I’m going to yell. Sometimes it will be warranted and hello, it’s part of life. But I don’t have to yell as much as I have been.

In my quest to Do Better, I stumbled across this post and it stopped me in my tracks. If you have a three-year old, you should look at that. Especially a three-and-a-half-year old. The behaviors listed are Owen to a tee right now, and made me feel SO much better. It’s not just him. It’s not just me. We’re all dealing with a crazy child at this age. Some of the less desirable traits (and don’t get me wrong, there’s some awesome stuff going on with him too. But, that’s now what this post is about. Ha!) that stood out to me were:

Three and a Half Years:

“Turbulent, troubled period of disequilibrium, the simples event or occasion can elicit total rebellion

New- found verbal ability “I’ll cut you in pieces!” and lots of whining

May refuse to do things a lot, or howl and scream, or say a lot of “I can’t” I won’t” kinds of things

Demanding, bossy, turbulent, troubled but mainly due to emotional insecurity

Mother-child relationship difficult but may also cling to mother

May refuse to take part in daily routine – may do better with almost anyone than Mother”

Oh yeah. That’s Owen right now. Throw in an equally strong willed 19-month old who is in a whiny stage, and you have a recipe for a crazy mother.

The follow-up piece to that post discussed dealing with those behaviors, and a big part of it was about how the parent handles it. I read this passage, teared up (of course), and the light bulb was turned on.

Which, of course, does not always mean that your child will “behave”.  Many attached parents feel like failures when their children hit three or so, as the child’s sense of self and an increased need for boundaries start to come out. As a parent, you cannot count it as a “good day” if your child doesn’t cry or melt-down or not have a temper tantrum… You can count it as a “good day” if you were calm, if you helped to de-escalate the situation, if you held it together. And even then, please be easy with yourself!  Living with small children can be challenging!  This is about the path your child is taking as he or she grows and becomes their own person, this is not about you versus them. – The Parenting Passageway 

So that’s where I stand today. I am determined to be a better mom. My poor little first pancake, Owen. I’m sorry I have to make the mistakes on you, buddy. You are blazing the parenting trail for me. Every day with you is something new and I want you to know I’m trying my best. Together we will make it through this crazy year — and all the crazy years that are to come. I love you, kiddo. So very much.

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Well let’s see. ‘Round here we’ve covered poop. And boobs, right? So why not talk about periods too. Or rather, a lack of one.

I’ve yet to get my first postpartum period. There’s a likelihood that I won’t for a while and it’s not like I’m in any rush to get it. NOT having my period for almost 16 months was not bad at all. Nope, didn’t miss it. But for the past few weeks I’ve just felt…off. Moody, tired, emotional. Enough that Michael asked if I could possibly be pregnant. (I’m not.) Sure, there’s always that slight possibility that you can get pregnant before getting a period while breastfeeding (I mean, you would have to ovulate first), but it’s pretty rare.

I kind of just disregarded how I was feeling until the last three days when all of the sudden my stomach started doing this horrible clenching thing. It initially felt higher up, like in the belly, but has moved down my pelvis enough to make me try to think back all those years ago to periods before going on the pill.

I cannot for the life of me remember if I used to get cramps; if this is what it felt like, but if this is my body gearing up for that monthly loveliness, I say NO. Couldn’t we just skip over this classic PMS symptom? I mean, really. Really?

I did some Googling and have found no real good descriptions of what the first postpartum period is like (anyone?), but I did read I could experience symptoms for months (MONTHS????) before actually getting it. Women? Short end of the reproductive stick, am I right?

My sister asked if I was prepared if it did come, and that got me thinking that maybe I should dig around in the closet and see if there are any lone tampons floating around. Just in case.

UGHHHH.

Of course, if it’s not my impending period, then I am clearly dying.

Obviously.

Ten years ago, I started taking a daily hormone that would prevent me from getting pregnant.

I took it daily, faithfully, for 10 whole years. First it was one for a long time. Then it made me nuts. So then it was another, which gave me breakthrough bleeding. Then another, then finally another.

Four kinds of birth control pills in 10 years with possible effects like weight gain, spotting, mood swings, potential blood clotting…and jeesh, wasn’t THAT fun. Ever notice how women tend to get the short end of the stick when it comes to reproductive organs and the means to not get pregnant? Just saying.

Tuesday, I took my very last pill. No more hormones.

Now before you start jumping around crying “baby!”, don’t, because no pill doesn’t necessarily mean baby, nor does it necessarily mean no baby, it just means that for the first time in 10 years I am not personally preventing a pregnancy by taking a hormone that prevents me from ovulating. (And if you start crying “baby”, I’ll be all “Baby? Where? I want to see it! Can I hold it? Please?!””) 

It was a decision I came to on my own, discussed with my husband, and went forward with. Because after 10 years —  I wanted to give my body a break. I wanted to see what my cycle looks like without the pill and get my body to an artificial hormone-free place.

I’m a little nervous to see how it’s going to work out, because for 10 years I could track my period to almost the hour and knew exactly when I would be weepy, when I would want to eat my weight in chocolate, and when I could kiss it goodbye for another month.

Now, I have no idea.

Will my cycle be 28 days? Will it be 35? Will I gain weight? Lose it? Break out? Have hyena-style mood swings that have my husband hiding behind the couch? (He’s pretty tall. I think I’d find him. He cannot hide.)

To help me understand what it will be like, I recently read the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. The book focuses mostly on natural birth control and pregnancy achievement, but was such an eye-opener to what really goes on during your cycle, that I’d recommend it to any woman as a reference. Parts of it are a little hippy-dippy, but the main message is very informative.

One thing the book teaches is to accurartely chart your cycle, and explains the myth that many women do not have the 28-day cycle that many of us think we have. If you are in fact trying to get pregnant, it’s key to know how long your cycle is so you don’t miss your ovulation.

The cycle charting is a little overwhelming at first, but once I read through it a few times it made a lot of sense. Yesterday I began charting to see how my first month pill-free will be. This should also help prevent a white pants, didn’t know I was getting my period, situation that I haven’t had since summer camp, age 14. And they were shorts, not pants. Still…ugh.

Sunday will come and go without the start of a new pack. I’m excited, I’m nervous…and I’m really hoping I don’t eat my weight in chocolate.

Again.

** Edited to add: Going off the pill does not exactly mean we’re trying to get pregnant yet. I mean, it’s not off the table, but there is such a thing as birth control for men, you know! Also, my use of the book is to track my cycle only, which involves taking my basal body temperature each morning. The book teaches how you could use it as a natural birth control, but I personally think that’s a bit too risky.

Also, if we do decide to jump on the baby train soon, I’m not planning on using cycle tracking, at least not at first, to get pregnant immediately. I’d like to keep some romance in there and not be dependant on my body temperature and cervical fluid, oh baby, baby.

You know what sucks about being a woman? Mood swings. Specifically, mood swings the week before your period. I think part of it stems from the fact that I’ve been trying really, REALLY hard to eat well in preparation of Vegas and it just so happens that this time every month all I want it a chocolate covered doughnut followed by a bag of crunchy Cheetos. Gross? Yes. But oh so satisfying.

Well, I didn’t have the doughnut. And I certainly haven’t had any Cheetos. Nope. I’ve had yogurt. And blueberries. And…yeah.

Michael took the day off yesterday and I was so happy to have him home with me. We had a really nice afternoon of walking with the dog and going to Starbucks, but come 4 o’clock my mood had severely shifted.

I was cranky. And weepy. And everything he did annoyed me so much that all I wanted was for him to “GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE!” Which of course he wouldn’t…because he knows that this side of me pops up once a month. And he thinks it’s funny to wrestle me until he’s got me pinned and then try and stick his fingers in my nose and ears. Boys.

After an hour of this (and one good no-reason cry while I made dinner), I was normal again. Hormones…what the hell?

Another reason I was cranky was that the gray sky threatened rain all day. And rain would mean no fireworks. I LOVE fireworks. There’s something about a band blasting patriotic music while the entire town gathers to watch the sky light up that really moves me. And I wanted my fireworks, damn it!

As per tradition, Jen came over and as the rain started to fall, the three of donned our rain jackets and umbrellas and started to walk to the center of town. As we walked, the rain got heavier and heavier and by the time we arrived we had to huddle under a tree to avoid becoming completely drenched.

Soon after we arrived, an announcement was made saying they were waiting for a window of opportunity to start the show. It took 45 minutes for that window to appear. Forty-five minutes of squishy flip-flops, damp pants and wet faces for the sky to clear and a spectacular fireworks display to start.

I stood in the middle of the field, stray raindrops sliding down my cheeks and felt like a little kid as light and color exploded over my head. It was perfect.

Turned out to be a nice Fourth of July after all.

Update: OK, I caved. I’m sharing a brownie with my boss. SHARING!

Michael’s birthday is tomorrow and he is so difficult. The man wants nothing. I went all out at Christmas and have pretty much exhausted my creative options, but I still managed to figure out something I know he will like. But I can’t tell you what it is because he reads this. I’m such a tease, I know.

I am taking him out for dinner tomorrow (he didn’t know that either, but he does now. Surprise, baby!) and later we will meet up with friends at one of our favorite bars. It should be a good time.

Sunday we are getting together with our friends who just had their second baby and I cannot wait to snack on some chubby baby thighs. And after that…to His Mother’s we go for a birthday dinner. This will be the first interaction we’ve had since the Talk and I’m not especially looking forward to it.

The grandmother is making an effort. She called me yesterday to tell me she had dropped a chocolate bar in the mail slot for me. I’ll take that as a peace offering.

Speaking of chocolate, a word to the wise: grocery shopping while hungry and hormonal will result in one thing. Brownies. Double chocolate chunk brownies, to be exact. They smelled so good while they were baking and I may have had a little piece with breakfast. I will completely ignore my thighs protests as I scarf it down during lunch.

As for the hair situation, I have decided to embrace it. When faced with rain, there is no winning. The half-poof plus headband look is actually working today. Yippee!

I’m hormonal this week. The good thing is I did the shopping before in preparation because I knew if I went this week, I would return with Entenmann’s chocolate covered donuts probably crunchy Cheese Doodles. Because those are my two weaknesses this time each month. So while it’s a good thing that I didn’t buy them, I’m not going to lie. I’m craving them big time.

But my hormones did get the best of me last night. I cried during the news. There was a piece about soldiers going off to war and leaving their families. It was so sad to watch them kiss their husbands/wives/fiances/significant others goodbye while tears streamed down their faces. I was seriously moved, but was holding it together. Until Michael looked over at me and said, “I love you, baby.”

Then I lost it.

So really, it’s his fault.

I’m heading home to New York this afternoon to see my family. I’m really looking forward to it.

Have a great weekend!

Thank goodness it’s only once a month that I deal with this serious dilemma: do I eat the donut, the gummy bears or the crunchy cheetos? Because I? Want all of them. Any other week I would be dry heaving at the thought of consuming all of that and would really rather eat an apple. But not this week.

Calorie-wise the gummy bears are the way to go. But my hormones do not care about calories. My thighs may protest, but my hormones? They’re saying donut. With sprinkles.

I probably shouldn’t tell you I’ve already had chinese food today.

I’m not going to tell you if I choose the donut or the gummy bears.

Because there is a chance I may have already eaten the gummy bears.