Three Months of Crazy

So, I haven’t updated in a while. Here’s a list of some of the things that have happened since my last update:

  • Buddy got an ear infection.
  • Buddy got ANOTHER ear infection.
  • We evacuated our home due to poor air quality from a local wildfire — the largest wildfire in LA County history.
  • We went to Florida to visit my family, and introduce Buddy to his uncles, aunts, cousins, and extended family.
  • I had a birthday, spent with my family in FL
  • J turned 40!!!!
  • We took a side trip from Florida to Atlanta for a baby-free long weekend for J’s 40th birthday, leaving Buddy with his grandparents in FL.
  • Buddy got another ear infection.
  • I threw a surprise 40th Star Wars movie screening in our backyard for J. It was awesome. Buddy slept the whole time!
  • Buddy had his first surgery to have tubes placed in his ears to prevent further ear infections. He was a champ. Mom was an anxious mess.
  • I got food poisoning at Thanksgiving dinner and was admitted into the emergency room on Black Friday.
  • We were evacuated from our home for five days LAST WEEK by the police due to a large, impending wildfire that threatened our home. (So grateful to have generous friends who didn’t hesitate to take in three adults, one baby, and two pups for an indefinite amount of time!).

I’m tired.

But I promise more posts very soon!

Tiny World Traveler

When I was pregnant, a lot of people felt the need to tell me and J that we could say goodbye to our love of travel. Once we had a kid, it would all be over for the foreseeable future.

Also, when I was pregnant, J and I bought tickets to a concert in Vienna, Austria for around the time the baby would be just under six months old. Because, fuck it, adventure!

A little backstory: J is a huge fan of Robbie Williams, who is one of the biggest international pop stars, selling out stadiums all over the world — except in the United States. For whatever reason, America just never really caught the Robbie train. Over the years, it became a tradition for J and his mom, whom he was very close with, to travel abroad together whenever Robbie toured to catch a show and see a different city for each tour. (Just to be clear, they didn’t follow each tour around the globe like Deadheads, they saw ONE show on each tour, every few years).  Together, they traveled to places like Manchester and Milan and it was an incredible mother/son adventure. They had the kind of relationship I hope to have with my son someday.

When J’s mom passed away a little over two years ago, we were planning our wedding. We were obviously heartbroken to lose her, and even more crushed that she wouldn’t be there — at least not physically — for our wedding day, and for all of the still-to-come milestones, including the birth of our future child.

When we found out we were pregnant, the doctor told us that our due date was March 2 — exactly two years from the day J’s mom passed.

So, when I was in my third trimester of a very healthy pregnancy, and we found out that Robbie Williams was launching another world tour, there was no question. This would be a great tribute to my late mother-in-law, and J was excited to share the Robbie/travel experience with me and our son. Full circle.

We picked a date closer to the end of the tour, so that the baby would be old enough to travel, and we picked a city we both had never been to — Vienna. And then we got excited.

After the baby was born, we went back and forth a few times about whether the trip was a realistic idea. The plane tickets (which we were waiting to purchase until we were sure) were not exactly cheap, and we had no idea what to expect traveling internationally with an infant. Also, there was the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. These are scary times, y’all. Ultimately, we decided we had to go, and so we got our little guy’s passport (there is nothing cuter than a baby passport photo), bought him a pair of noise canceling headphones, and booked our tickets.

I’m not gonna lie — I was nervous as fuck about the plane ride. 12 hours in the air with a baby who had never flown before. We’ve all been on planes with a screaming baby. I reaaaaaally didn’t want that to be MY baby.

We planned ahead, and booked the bulkhead seats on the airplane, and reserved the airline’s hanging bassinet, that gets mounted onto the bulkhead wall. Seriously, whoever came up with this idea is a genius.

We were advised by every friend, family member, doctor, and mom blog to feed the baby on takeoff and landing, to help with the pressure in his ears. Well, let me tell you this — those noise canceling headphones? A MIRACLE. We put them on his head as we were taxiing and he was asleep before we started our ascent, and slept through takeoff completely.

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Don’t worry, he was properly strapped in when we actually took off!

Between the miracle headphones and the bassinet, he slept for about half of the 12-hour flight. The other times, he was a joy! He played a little, looked at his favorite soft book a little, and ate a lot. Honestly, I couldn’t believe our luck. The hardest part of the whole flight was having to change a poop diaper in the teeny airplane bathroom, but there was a fold-down changing table and we made it work!

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Those headphones really kept him calm!

Once we (finally) got to our hotel, we were exhausted. Between the long flight and the time change, we were all but zombies at this point. We got to the hotel at around 12:30 p.m. local time and discovered that because check-in wasn’t until 2:00, our room was not ready. Thankfully, there was a restaurant in the lobby, so we hunkered down and filled our bellies. The baby started to get fussy in his car seat/stroller, and when I picked him up, it was clear to anyone with a nose that he had a gift for us in his diaper. What became more evident when I looked at him, was that this was a full-on blowout. Like, poop coming THROUGH the pajamas.

I took him to the lobby restroom to find that there was no changing table in sight. Just a single (thankfully deep) sink, with a little bit of counter space on either side. I rolled up my sleeves, literally, and took a deep breath. I put down a disposable changing pad (like one of those wee-wee pads for small dogs) and started to peel off his shitty pjs. It was a fucking poop apocalypse. It was all up his back and down his legs and I wiped him down the best I could and then stuck him in the sink for an impromptu bath.

Finally, I got him all cleaned up, and we got our room keys at last, and went upstairs and napped SO HARD.

The rest of the trip was actually wonderful. Buddy slept pretty decently considering the time change and the strange room. It was waaaaay hotter in Vienna than we had expected, even though we checked the weather every day leading up to the trip. Because of the heat, we didn’t get to do quite as much sightseeing as we had hoped, because the poor kid (and his parents, tbh) just melted in the heat.

When J and I were on our honeymoon in Paris, we got tattoos of a quote from A Moveable Feast, which Hemingway wrote about his years in the city, to commemorate the occasion. So naturally, we decided we had to get tattoos in Vienna to commemorate our first trip as a family.

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Yes, I got the miracle headphones tattooed on my body. It may seem trivial, but the significance of the image goes a little deeper for me. On the surface level, the headphones were the first thing we bought for Buddy (not his real name, but how I will be referring to him going forward) when we decided to take a risk and fly 6,000 miles with a baby for a concert (and boy, did he look cute in them). But beyond that, for me it signifies a lot of things: the love that J and I have of music and how this whole adventure started because of a connection to music, and also, something that I haven’t written much about (but plan to soon) is the fact that my son was born with a significant hearing loss, but still responds to certain music and sound cues beyond our expectations, which is pretty extraordinary. It is my hope that music will always be something that he has a passion for and finds meaning in.

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Even though his headphones are cordless, I added one with an “R” in the tangle, for his name.

Our plan all along was to bring the baby to the concert. We had gotten the A-ok from our pediatrician, ENT, and a hearing specialist, as long as we used the magic headphones to protect him. However, as the day of the show got closer, J and I started having second thoughts. First of all, it was a stadium show, which meant being outside all night, and it was crazy hot in Vienna, even at night. Also, I was very quickly reminded when we arrived that everyone in Europe still smokes — so I was worried about him being in a hot, crowded, smoky stadium. I was worried about myself for the same reasons, if I’m being honest. Finally, our tickets were for the front of stage standing section — which while amazing for us, might be a little crowded for a baby.

Well, divine intervention kicked in and we found out the day of the show, when we walked over to the stadium (our hotel was a 5-minute walk away!) to pick up our tickets at will-call, that they would not allow the baby into the show anyway. Luckily, we had booked a hotel that had a babysitting service. Or so we thought. We got back to the hotel at about 2 p.m. to discover that our hotel did not, in fact, have that service. So now we are hours away from the concert that we traveled thousands of miles for, the experience that meant the world to my husband (and to me that he wanted to share it with me) — and we had no plan for our little man.

We tried to get a room at the other hotel within walking distance that DID have the babysitting service, but they were all booked up. We tried finding a sitter through an online nanny service, but my stomach couldn’t handle the idea of a random stranger staying in our hotel room with our baby. Finally, I remembered that a good friend of mine who grew up in Germany had recently been to Vienna visiting friends. I sent her a message and prayed that she would see it in time, not knowing what time zone she was currently in. Luckily, she got the message and started calling friends to see if someone she knew and trusted would be willing to come hang with our Buddy for a few hours, and in a last-minute miracle, the college-aged daughter of some English-speaking friends who lived in the area was willing and able to help us out. Just to be clear, this was someone my friend knew personally and vouched for. She got to the hotel just as the doors were opening to the show, and we talked her through his feeding schedule and bedtime routine, made sure we all had each other’s numbers in our phones, and went to the show, trying not to worry all night.

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Not too shabby, our tickets.

The show was incredible, even if we were checking our phones pretty much all night. When we got back to the hotel, Buddy was sound asleep and looking peaceful and happy.

Buddy did so well on our travels, that we even got to take a little side trip. We took a 2.5-hour train ride to Salzburg so that I could nerd out at some of the filming locations from The Sound of Music. I got to see the actual house that the real Von Trapp family lived in, and the gardens where the “Do-Re-Mi” scenes were filmed before the heat took it’s toll on us all and we got a train back to Vienna.

On the way back to L.A., my wonder boy slept for 10 of the 12 hours in the air. Honestly, who could ask for more?

IMG_3722Finally, to the people who told us we would never travel again…I’ll let my son respond to that sentiment in this, my favorite photo from our trip:

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Tell ’em, son.

 

 

 

Who Needs Sleep?

Clearly not my son.

He was doing so well. Three months ago, I was BRAGGING about how my 3-month-old baby was sleeping nine hours at night without waking up. It’s my fault. I got too cocky. At around four and a half months, he started to wake up several times during the night. “Don’t worry, it’s just a sleep regression, he’s right on target” and “It will go back to normal in a week or two,” I kept hearing from doctors, friends, and even my therapist.

LIES.

He’s now six and a half months old and the sleep situation has gotten even worse. Chaos is the best way to describe it. J and I are in survival mode at this point. We’ve tried a routine, we’ve thrown out the routine, we’ve changed his bed situation, nothing helps.

Right now, aside from whatever “sleep regression” he’s going through, there’s like a perfect storm of things this poor little guy is dealing with that are exacerbating the situation, so I can’t really get mad at my tiny terrorist — it’s just frustrating. Here’s a little bit of the mixed bag he’s dealing with:

  1. Teething. The kid has been showing signs of teething for THREE MONTHS now and has no teeth to show for it. UGH.
  2. Ear infections. Somehow, he managed to get two ear infections, one in each ear, which makes lying down extremely painful due to the pressure.
  3. Tummy trouble. The little guy had a bad reaction to something we gave him at the recommendation of the phone nurse at our pediatrician’s office (don’t get me started), and it’s taking a while to get it out of his system.

So, right now, everything is terrible. Last night we were up until almost 3:30 a.m. with a screaming baby. When I say screaming, I don’t mean crying loudly — I mean screaming like someone was holding a flame to his feet. But he’s like Jekyl and Hyde — one minute he’s screaming like he’s being tortured and then the next minute, I’m holding him and he’s smiling and blowing raspberries. It’s infuriating and adorable at the same time.

We have his 6.5 month checkup with his pediatrician on Wednesday, and hopefully the cocktail of meds we’ve been giving him will have helped clear up his ear infections and tummy issues. And these damned teeth better show themselves soon, or I’m gonna lose my shit.

/rant.

Finding the Balance

So, yeah. I haven’t written in a while, even though there has been A LOT to write about. Between working full time, still trying to spend as much waking time with J and the little guy, and occasionally eat a hot meal, it hasn’t left much time for writing. More accurately, it hasn’t left much energy for writing. Any remaining time I have after baby goes to sleep has been reserved for watching celebrity game shows and hanging out on the couch with my husband.

But I’m really trying to make a comeback. I am trying to find that balance between work life, mom life, and taking time for me. Last week I even went to the gym for the first time since I got pregnant. It was rough. I peeled myself out of my warm, comfy bed at 6AM on a weekday and left a sleeping J and baby and went to the gym BEFORE work, knowing that J would be getting our little buddy ready for daycare and taking him in on his way to work. The actual working out part was just as rough — I got on that treadmill and had a very slow start because i’m incredibly out of shape right now, which is fair because you know, I had two major abdominal surgeries in the last 6 months, and haven’t done any heavy cardio in over a year. But even though it was a slow start, it was a start, and i’m going to try to go twice this week. And then maybe three times the next week, but who knows. All I know is that I’m ready to start trying again.

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I’m not looking to lose a shit-ton of weight, or have the body that I had on my wedding day — my body is forever changed after carrying my baby and having an emergency c-section. I’m just trying to be a little healthier and more active, to feel like my old self again. And to be fair, my old self was kind of lazy, so I’m halfway there.

I’m also going to try to write here more often. There’s probably gonna be a surge of new posts in the coming days/weeks, because there’s been a lot going on in the past few weeks and I want to get it all down while it’s still fresh in my memory — from our first transatlantic flight/vacation with a 5-month-old to a fire evacuation to baby’s first worrisome sickness, it’s been a hell of a few weeks. So don’t give up on me just yet and stay tuned…I’m just getting started.

Has It Been 18 Weeks Already?

So, tomorrow is my first day back at work and away from my baby. I’m trying to be ok with this, but it’s hard. It’s really, really hard.

Just to be clear — I love my job. Even on the worst day, I can say that I just really like my job but had a rough day. I love the people I work with, the company culture, and being able to be productive and creative all day. All of that means a lot to me, and it took me a long time to get to a place where I can make a living with my writing. That’s huge.

But you know what else it took me a long time to do? Become a mom. And all of the platitudes and cliches about motherhood are feeling pretty fucking real right now. I can’t believe how much I love this little human. Like, I’m kind of obsessed with him. In the past month, he’s really started to smile a lot and it makes my heart explode into a million tiny pieces every time I see his ridiculously adorable dimples and that goofy grin looking up at me.

I don’t want to lose that. In my head, I know that he’s not going to forget me or love me any less, but try telling that to every other part of me.

I’ve also been campaigning REALLY hard for him to laugh for the past few weeks, but he’s such a tough audience. He’s so close to laughing — we even got an ALMOST giggle tonight. I am going to be devastated if I miss his first laugh. For the next few weeks, he’ll be home with my mom, who is still in town, and I’ve gotta say, Nana is pretty funny.

I’ve been struggling a lot in with anxiety and guilt leading up to my return to work, even though I’ve never judged any other mom I know for going back to work. Why can’t I give myself the same break I give everyone else?

Jesus, this post is all over the place, but so am I right now.

It’s going to be really hard to leave him tomorrow morning. I’m not worried for his well-being at all — he’s gonna be with my mom, who did a pretty great job raising me and my brothers. I’m worried for mine. First of all, the fact that I am still healing from my gallbladder surgery 11 days ago and am still pretty sore (and am still not allowed to pick up my baby!) is a bit of a concern. But mostly, I’m concerned about being so overwhelmed with guilt and anxiety that I won’t even be able to be present at work and then I’ll bring all of that stress and bad energy home for the two hours I’ll be able to spend with my boy before he goes off to sleep, and rinse, repeat every day.

Thankfully I have an incredibly supportive partner, an amazing mother who is making the transition a lot easier (and then in three weeks she’ll be gone and I’ll have to deal with leaving him in daycare – a whole other ball of anxiety just waiting around the corner), and the amazing community of working moms at BuzzFeed to lean on.

Now I’m gonna go eat some vegan “ice cream” because I still can’t have any dairy or fat in my post-gallbladder surgery diet and try not to stay up all night crying/freaking out.

And yes, I’m starting therapy on Tuesday.

On Mothers and Sons, And Missing A Friend On His 40th Birthday

I’ve been thinking a lot today about my friend Alex. And I’ve been thinking even more about his mother. Today would have been Alex’s 40th birthday, but he passed away 13 years ago very unexpectedly. It’s almost impossible to me that so much time has passed. The day we buried him was my 26th birthday. I will be 39 in October.

Everyone who met Alex loved him. He was charming as hell, with a devilish smile and heart of pure, solid gold. He was funny, and brilliant, and an incredibly talented musician and actor. He was effortlessly cool, and devastatingly handsome. Above all of this, he was one of the kindest souls I’ve ever known. He graduated from our high school a year before me and went off to a college I hadn’t heard of before, Emerson College in Boston. When it was time for me to start looking at schools, I knew I wanted to get out of Miami and head to the Northeast, so I went to visit some schools in Boston. One of those stops, naturally, was to visit Alex at Emerson. He had only been there a few months and already he had a close-knit group of friends and everywhere we went, people were glad to see him. I wasn’t surprised in the least. A year later, I arrived for my first year at Emerson, and although Alex wasn’t a student there anymore, I was welcomed by those same friends he introduced me to on that weekend college tour.

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Babies in Boston, 1995.

I have a lot of great memories of Alex, from high school to that summer in Boston when I lived in a giant rental house with him and five other guy friends from high school, to eventually a bunch of us migrating to New York in our early twenties. I also remember so clearly the very last time I saw him. It was early Fall of 2004 in Brooklyn. I had just come back from a six-month national tour (back in my previous life as a working actor in New York), and Alex’s band was playing a gig at a local bar/venue. There we were, living our dreams in New York, surrounded by this amazing community that we had built when we were just kids in Miami. It was the closest thing to magic I’d ever experienced.

After the show, Alex and I caught up outside on the sidewalk. There was that perfect feeling in the air, when the long, hot NYC summer started surrender into the cool night breezes of early Autumn. It was the kind of night songs are written about and indie NYC meet-cute movie scenes are made of. We talked for a little while, and then I had to go. I don’t remember why now. What I do remember is that before I left, we shared a giant bear hug, and the last words we said to each other were:

Him: “I love you, kid!”

Me: “I love you, too!”

I am so grateful for that. A couple of weeks later, he was gone.

I think about his mom a lot. In the years following his death, we’ve actually become pretty close. When I’m in Miami, I always make a point to see her, and sometimes I even stay at her house. This October, I’ll be taking J and our little man to meet her and have a sleepover and I can’t wait.

Alex was her only child. As I write this, my little boy, my only child, is in his swing a few feet away from me. I cannot fathom what it must feel like to lose a child, at any age. It’s not fair, and it never will be. Mothers are not supposed to outlive their children.

Alex’s mom lives her life with such grace and bravery, and I marvel at her strength.

Today would have been Alex’s 40th birthday. Tomorrow is my son’s four-month birthday. I know that nothing in this world is guaranteed or permanent, so I’m just going to love him with all of my might every day and live in gratitude for every moment.

Once again, I’m living in the magic. Thanks for the reminder, Ruiz.

 

 

Who Needs A Gallbladder Anyway?

Taking care of an infant is hard. Taking care of an infant when you are in constant pain or discomfort is even harder.

One night, almost three months ago, when my baby was only about a month old, I went to bed with a bit of soreness in my back. A couple of hours later, I couldn’t sleep because the pain in my back had gotten so intense. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand, I tried lying on the floor and nothing helped. I took a hot shower to try to alleviate some of the pain, and when I got out of the shower, I promptly vomited. The rest of the night was a mix of back pain and urgent and frequent trips to the bathroom. I had no idea what was happening, and poor J was trying to take care of me and a fussy newborn. I was up all night and the next day I felt sore and exhausted, but mostly ok. So, I brushed it off as a bad night and focused my energy on the small, helpless human that needed my undivided attention all day.

And then two weeks later, it happened again. Back pain and stomach issues all night. J thought it might be a post-pregnancy onset of a severe and sudden lactose intolerance. I eat a lot of cheese and I drink a lot of milk, always have. He figured the back pain might be trapped gas. I took gas pills, I cut out dairy, and then it happened again — this time in the middle of Target, while out with J and the baby. Thank goodness J was there.

Finally, I went to see my doctor and he ran some labs, and ordered some ultrasounds of my abdomen and side/back area. It turns out I have pancreatitis, caused by gallstones. After talking to my primary care physician, J, and a surgeon, we came to the conclusion that the next best step would be to have my gallbladder removed.

Actually getting a diagnosis and making a plan of action helped relieve me of the anxiety I was feeling about not being able to take care of my son and give him the attention and energy he needs. I have lived with chronic pain for a long time due to endometriosis, and while certain medications have helped, adding another unknown onset of symptoms was really starting to freak me out.  There’s only so many heating pads I can have on various parts of my body at once.

The only problem now was that the surgeon didn’t have any available slots for me for another month.

Tomorrow is the big day. FINALLY. For the past month, I have been on a very restricted diet — which hasn’t been too much of a struggle since my appetite has diminished quite a bit because of the discomfort of an inflamed pancreas and gallstones. The “episodes” have become more frequent (although a little less intense). J has been an absolute hero, working full time, picking up the slack when I have nothing left to give, and taking care of me when I’m not feeling well (which is a lot). Thankfully, my mom flew in yesterday to help us with the baby while I’m recovering.

I’m nervous about the surgery. Even though I know it’s a fairly common procedure, and J will be there the whole time, it’s still surgery. I’m having an organ removed from my body. Not to mention that I just had a major surgery less than four months ago, when a human was surgically removed from my body. Most of all though, I’m just looking forward to feeling like myself again, after the recovery period. It will be nice to not be afraid to spend a day out and about with my baby, worried that I might have an attack in the middle of a store or the park and not be able to handle it.

Oh, and did I mention that I am scheduled to return to work in less than two weeks? No big deal.