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Monday, August 20th, 2012
My first cousin was killed in a freak accident. Yeah, I know this isn’t a great way to start off a blog post. But I don’t know what else to do or how to write about it. He was 44. A great dad to two sons, ages 12 and 13. His mom, my Aunt Nancy, my Baba Yaga, is “my person.” She is perhaps the one I am closest to in the world. In a mother-sister-best friend kind of way. No one will ever understand our connection. And that’s okay. We kind of like it that way.
In 2007, Nancy and I went down to Florida for what we called “Rehab Tour 2007.” My mom had been in a drunken blackout for a year. Crack, alcohol and god knows what else. There were dog feces everywhere. There were three huge talking birds with feathers and sh-t covering every surface. There was a dead rat embedded in the carpet. And this is just the quick summary. It was too much for us to tackle alone.
We went to the bank, pulled out as much cash as we could, then picked up day workers and begged them to clear out her place. Even the refrigerator and stove went. We hired cleaning ladies who worked side by side with us, pouring buckets of bleach on the walls. We went to thrift stores and bought replacement furniture. Nancy had just survived Hurricane Katrina and we kept saying, “Pretend we are helping Katrina victims.” It made it more of an out-of-body experience.
That mantra and some amazing martini’s got us through.
At one point I said to Nancy, “If we can tackle Mount Mom, why don’t we climb Mt. Kilimanjaro?” A friend had suggested the trip to me the week before. Nancy said she’d think about it.
After three days of hard labor, we picked up my mom from rehab. We took her shopping for groceries; we put together a “schedule” for her to follow; we went to AA meetings (I loved them so much, I briefly wished I was an alcoholic). But as we said goodbye, neither of us were that optimistic.
Ten days later she got on her scooter, went to the liquor store and bought a bottle of vodka. She was hopeless.
But Nancy and I had each other. Even though our mission ultimately failed, we felt invincible for what we had done. The Mountain was now calling.
Fast forward six weeks. We are in Tanzania, caked in mud, trekking up the Shira route. For 7 days we battle rain, wind, snow, sleet and bitter temperatures. Nancy is 64 years old and has lived at sea level most of her life. Our guides call her “Super Mama.” I could tell on summit day they were skeptical if she would make it. But on March 7, 2007, she was the first to reach the summit. At 19,343 feet we stood on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, arms in the air, touching the wind. We knew we could do anything. Or so we thought…
But burying your son isn’t supposed to be part of that equation.
Justin was so proud of her for climbing that mountain. He, too, had his mom’s sense of adventure and determination. He was a kindred spirit in that way. Words can’t describe the loss. Healing–even acceptance–seems like an insurmountable mountain to climb. But carry-on we must. What choice do we have?
Mothers aren’t supposed to bury their sons. Children aren’t supposed to bury their fathers.
We hurt. We grieve. It’s the price you pay for having loved so hard.
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AA, addict, adventure, alcohol, Baba Yaga, climbing, crack, death, drugs, drunken blackout, freak accident, funeral, Hurricane Katrina, Mt. Kilimanjaro, summit | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Losing a Parent, Mom Situations
Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
Before Phil and I had kids, we used to joke that with our combined genes we shouldn’t procreate. Depression runs on both sides. Autism runs on his. Bipolar and addiction are strong on mine. And we both suffer from mild depression/anxiety ourselves. But despite these “bad genes,” what we really meant was we didn’t want kids. It was our excuse to remain selfish over selfless.
Thank god we changed our minds, because being selfless is far more gratifying. Plus, we have still retained plenty of our selfish lifestyle. We do date nights. But instead of coming home to an empty house, we get to kiss our babies while they sleep. There is nothing finer. We still take trips–we just take them with us. And frankly it’s far more fun. We still hike. Only now we each have a baby on our back (probably a better workout anyway). The things Fia sees in nature and her delight in something as simple as a spider web makes it far more interesting. But I digress. That’s not the point of this post.
In a recent interview, Sarah Silverman said she doesn’t want to have children for fear of passing on the depressive/mentally ill gene. Some called her brave and responsible for this. I call it ridiculous. An article in Time pointed out, rightfully so, that, “the same genes that can cause depression may also encourage the sensitivity and sensibility that gives Silverman her creative talent.”
I caused a decent amount of controversy when I wrote about my decision to stay on antidepressants while pregnant. Some called me selfish. Others said I shouldn’t procreate. But far more people came to my defense. Many were relieved to find they weren’t alone in their decision to do the same. Plus, studies show the drugs I am/was on had no greater chance of causing birth defects than pregnant women who don’t take anything.
I hope Fia and Emmett don’t struggle from depression or addiction. If they do though, I have the resources and information to get them proper help. I also believe that raising a child in a loving, stable, and nurturing environment counts for something. In my early formative years, my home was all that. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that things got a little ugly. Even so, I still turned out fine (I think). I contribute to society (I think). In fact, I have often said I’m grateful for the hardships I experienced. It made me the person I am today.
I have no doubt my kids will make this world a better place. They already have. Whether they end up suffering from a “bad gene” is beside the point.
Here’s who I don’t think should procreate: Abusive, neglectful people. I believe they will become abusive, neglectful parents. I’ll add lazy and inept to the list. And those who have more kids than they can afford who keep procreating because they’re probably too lazy or inept to use birth control. But a smart, witty, compassionate person who happens to suffer from mental illness, like Sarah Silverman? I bet she’d make a great mom and raise interesting, well-adjusted kids. There are plenty of reasons to not have biological children. And plenty of good, noble reasons to adopt. Or to just stay childless. But don’t make it because of a mental gene. There are far better excuses one could come up with.
Photo of Human Body via Shutterstock
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addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, autism, bipolar, depression, drug addiction, drugs, gene, gene pool, pregnancy, pregnant, procreate, Sarah Silverman, selfish, taking antidepressants when pregnant | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Losing a Parent, Mom Situations, Must Read
Thursday, June 7th, 2012
A year ago today my mom died. I woke up this morning not sure how to feel. Glad she is out of her pain? Glad she is no longer a burden to me? Relieved that her tragic life ended so peacefully? And yet, I’m sad. It’s hard to know how to feel when your heart is so full of conflict. From my tween years on, she was an addict. For three decades I simultaneously loved, hated and worried about her. Months went by with no communication. Years went by where I didn’t see her. But towards the end, we were all with her. I was able to whisper my final goodbyes.
In those last days she and I made a pact. We would communicate through lilacs. When Phil and I moved to LA, I realized lilacs don’t grow as abundantly here. But a few weeks ago, we went to the Descanso Gardens. I knew she would be waiting.
Phil played with Fia while I walked privately with Emmett.
I carried him up to the purple blossoms.
“Hi Mom. This is Emmett,” I whispered.
She reached out to us. I felt her smile. I felt her. God she would love him. She would be so happy that I had a son. She always talked about how my brother, her firstborn, was such an easy, good baby. How instant that love was. Mom, I know what you mean! I have so much to tell you.
But as I start to think about what could be, I know in my heart what could never have been. Tethered to tubes in the hospital for a year, free of illicit drugs and alcohol, I got glimpses of the mom I had in the early years. I’ve written about it before–how she was the best of them. That is, before the demons took over.
So on this day, I feel a conflict between my head and my heart. Between what I know and how I feel. I say to the good mom, I wish you were here. To hold him. To smell him. To hug me. I say to the tormented mom, May you rest in peace.
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addict, addiction, alcohol, bipolar, death, drugs, grief, illicit drugs, lilacs, losing a mom, Losing a Parent, mortality | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Losing a Parent, Mom Situations, Must Read
Thursday, November 17th, 2011
Everyone loves a good labor story. Here’s mine. It’s why I have scheduled a c-section for Baby #2:
When you’re pregnant with your first baby, you have 9 months to obsess about your pregnancy and labor. When you’re pregnant with subsequent babies you don’t even have time to obsess about your teeth.
With Fia, I did all the prenatal yoga classes. All sorts of hippy dippy breathing exercises, visualization, chanting. All in preparation for labor.
Long walks with girlfriends would include hours of discussion on whether or not we’d have a doula, a birth plan and most importantly, the epidural. Most of us would say we were going to try and go natural. We’d throw out random dilation numbers. “I think I’ll take an epidural, but only after I dialate to a 7,” or “I am bringing my giant yoga ball to bounce on so I can work through the pain.” As if I/we knew… True virgin births we were.
Then one day I went for my OB check up. I was asking him what he thought about doula’s, birth plans, etc. He just laughed and said something that stuck with me:
“I think women spend a lot more time and money on the 48 hours of labor instead of focusing on the first weeks and months of being a mom. That is much harder than actually having a baby. ”
He was absolutely right. I stopped researching doula’s and began researching life after baby. I stopped obsessing over the epidural. I began to nest.
Then my due date came and went. Which leads me to part 2 of my story. And why I’m going for the Big-C on January 25th.
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childbirth, dialate, doula, drugs, drugs and pregnancy, epidural, having a baby, labor, newborn, pregnancy | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Moving Mid Pregnancy, Must Read
Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
Just a quick follow up to my follow up (follow that?) on taking Antidepressants When Pregnant. I met a second time with this amazing Reproductive Psychiatrist from NYU. In talking to her, I explained how even though she and many other widely respected doctors have told me the facts, I still easily freak myself out about my decision to stay on my meds. Most of my doubt and angst is directly related to Google. She suggested this website as a great go-to resource that states THE FACTS on just about any type of drug, drink, herbal concoction—even hair dye–that has been studied in relation to pregnancy. She explained it’s not a fear-mongering site, (like many of them are), so stop googling to save your sanity!
It’s called otispregnancy.org.
Now I will admit, the whole alcohol intake thing on Otis did scare me a bit, because I do have the occasional glass of wine. However, like the study states, they don’t know how much alcohol is too much, thus the reason to abstain completely. They refer to heavy/regular drinking, so I guess that depends on your definition of “regular”. For me, at my doctor’s approval, it’s maybe a glass of wine every week or two–if I feel like it (I often don’t. Well, actually, yes I do). But logically, I think many of us would agree that a glass here and there or an occasional beer is not going to harm a baby. Hmmm…I feel another controversial blog post brewing (thought this subject has been debated to death!) Let me stew on this for a bit! Cheers!
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alcohol, antidepressants, antidepressants while pregnant, anxiety, depression, drink, drinking, drugs, drugs and pregnancy, medication, medicine, meds while pregnant, pregnancy, taking antidepressants when pregnant | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations