Having a hell of a time

Sorry, dear readers, that I’ve been so reclusive lately. I haven’t had the energy or passion to document anything that’s going on in our lives right now, mostly because so much of what’s going on right now is a total suckfest. Prepare for a doozy of a post.

I thought I was taking it all in stride, but on New Year’s Day, I really had a meltdown and all of the very large feelings I didn’t realize existed came pouring out in a tsunami of emotion, tears and snot. A friend once compared keeping one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity a secret to trying to shove a beach ball deep underwater. There’s always resistance and the harder you push, the likelier it is that the ball will eject upwards out of the water. Emotions are a lot like that. If we don’t tend to them, they’re going to find a way out, and it never seems to be at a very convenient time.

On January 1, one of my only days off, K confirmed plans with his parents and grandma, which seemed a lot more extensive than anything he’d previously communicated to me. For some reason, this very fact was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Until this moment, I didn’t realize how exhausted and resentful I was of having to work almost every single day during the holiday season while K enjoyed regularly scheduled time off with pay.  I hadn’t realized how overwhelmed I had become by how the frenzied pace of my work and personal life.  I was surprisingly unaware of the layers of emotion that had built up, given so many challenges I had recently faced and would soon be facing. Until it all came out. It involved a lot of yelling, ranting, weeping, and then an energy depletion induced nap. Afterwards, I opted not to attend the family gathering, allowed K to handle it solo like he could have done at any time during his vacation instead of on my only day off, and stayed home to assemble some IKEA furniture for the nursery. Sometimes, dear readers, focusing on inane tasks when I’m overwhelmed allows me to feel like I have some semblance of control.

Besides the recent loss of my only surviving grandparent, a growing, hectic list of tasks in my work and personal lives, and resentment about not having time to appropriately care for myself, I did something very challenging and emotionally draining this week. Cal (short for Calypso), our orange tabby who was previously misdiagnosed as being severely constipated but actually had a terrible abdominal tumor, was facing a rapid decline in his health and quality of life. He began uncontrollably urinating blood (and it wasn’t an infection), seemed significantly weaker, likely due to anemia, and was losing weight at an astonishing and heartbreaking rate. I knew that we needed to make the decision to say goodbye and it happened a lot sooner than I had ever imagined. On Wednesday afternoon, I came home from work and spent as much quality time with Cal as I could, which mostly involved me holding him and violently weeping while he purred. He has never been a fairly cuddly cat, so I think he knew that the end was near. When it was time to pick K up and drive to the new veterinarian’s office, Cal fought me as hard as he could as I put him into his carrier. Seeing his fighting spirit made the experience even more awful than it was, but I still feel like I made the right decision. He, like his human mama, was stubborn and probably would have fought to stay here long after was humane for him to remain here. The vet’s office was really great. They were all really empathetic and took us to a room that was outfitted with a snuggly, hand knit blanket and an ample supply of Kleenex. When it was time, Calypso curled up in my arms, his sweet head resting on my arm, and purred his way out of this world. It was beautiful and terrible all wrapped up into one experience. It seems ridiculously obvious to mention how extremely devastated I am about this loss.

As joyful as I am about the impending arrival of our little one, I am starting to realize just how ridiculously sucky it is to be a non-gestational parent. When you’re carrying your baby-to-be, there’s an ever-visible reminder to others to empathize with your journey – how exhausting it is to grow a human and carry its growing frame inside your own, all of the other not-so-pleasant physical symptoms that accompany the experience. I’m finding as a NGP, no one seems to empathize with all of my sacrifices of time and energy to offset all of the things my partner typically handles, or the physical symptoms I’m experiencing as a result of the pregnancy hormones in my environment. I am willingly, lovingly and patiently (trying my best, at least) doing this work, which I see as my contributions toward building this family, but I’ve recently realized how resentful I’ve become by how little my contributions are acknowledged or considered by others, K included. I feel a bit lost and uncared for right now, and it’s making all of the rest of my challenges feel extraordinarily raw.

How the hell am I supposed to turn this around and get back on the joy train when I feel like I’m in such a pit right now? While listening to The Takeaway on NPR the other day, one listener contributed on the subject of optimism: “Sometimes you have to encourage the hell out of it.” Well, world, I’m certainly open to suggestions.

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9 thoughts on “Having a hell of a time

  1. That’s a lot to be happening at once. Just losing Calypso, even without having to make the decision to help Calypso in this loving and permanent way, would be enough to justify a meltdown and some alone time. It is hard to be a trouper when everyone around you takes for granted kinds of leisure and kinds of work. N. had a meltdown yesterday because I have been sick, barely able to take care of myself, let alone our significant animal related chores, or housework, or financial stuff, and she’s had to pull it together by herself while also dealing with financial and other work related decisions. Plus she was worried about possible health problems for the baby if my illness got more severe. Feeling that all this juggling will only get worse when the baby arrives just put her over the top with worry and stress.

    She was also worried about having this meltdown now before the shit has really hit the fan (i.e., before the baby is actually here), but I think it’s good, because we get to practice how to sort it out before we actually have to figure out how, say, to get a sick baby to the doctor while also juggling work (since she’s self-employed, taking a sick or personal day is really disruptive) and other issues. So I think it’s good that you had your freak out now, because it put you in touch with what was submerged, and now you and K. can consciously sort through it. There will be more issues related to being the NGP, and hopefully you will have a good community of new parents to commiserate with. One thing that might be a pleasant way to shake things up is when the baby arrives. People have already been surprised about me, not N., being the gestator, and so I hope to let people run with their assumptions that N. is the birth mama. (Ha, nothing could go wrong with that, eh?!)

    Will you qualify for parental leave? I hope you will be able to take to heart some of the advice on pregnancy blogs and in books for pregnant people, and do some good stress relieving stuff for yourself, with or without K. You know that being the NGP is still lots of work and emotions, even if other people don’t, so I think you should claim it.

  2. I have never been in your shoes, but first off I’m sending **hugs** to you. Having been pregnant twice I want to say thank you. Thank you for all you are doing and sacraficing of yourself for your baby, and your husband. It seems unending right now, and in some ways the rest of your life will consist of sacrifices for your child, but at the same time it will be less compared to now and you will also have a beautiful child to look at by then to make you smile and remember why you do it. Your post reminded me just how much my spouse went unappreciated, neglected, and in some ways abused (not in the drastic way most people would think of when I use that word). I know my situation is different in some ways because I was the pregnant one and my husband wasn’t, and as a heterosexual couple there are aspects to your situation that I am sure I can’t fully understand even though I would like to, but as they say I’d have to walk a mile in your shoes to fully understand. Just know that your feelings are normal, and no matter what you are well on your way to becoming a wonderful mama! I don’t think the non gestational parent gets enough credit or appreciation or credit in all they do, pregnancy is not easy. People always talk about how wonderful it is and then they eventually talk about the not so fun parts about BEING pregnant, they never really talk about the difficulties of the role of the spouse. Thank you again for being a wonderful support to K and your growing little Falco, I know how much a simple thank you can mean, and I hope that I could help you feel a little better and don’t worry your joy will not only come back, but you will be filled with an immeasurable amount of joy that you never could have imagined existed within you once you meet your beautiful baby for the first time. From reading your blog it’s clear you are a truly loving and giving person and that’s how I know you will make a wonderful mother, so don’t ever doubt yourself. 😉
    Sincerely a fellow cloth diapering co-op mama a.k.a. Rebekah Jean Gables

  3. I’m so sorry about Calypso!!! 😦 I know that broke your heart to have to say goodbye so fast. We started to see a therapist recently because both of us were becoming resentful of the other for different things. Like John was resentful that I get to stay home with the baby, and I was resentful that he wanted alone/friend time without us after he gets off work: In my mind, I’d been waiting to spend time with him all day, and been with the baby all day by myself and need a break. In his mind, I’d been sitting at home having fun with the baby all day while he worked. It’s easy to throw things out of perspective when you’re doing 2 completely different (yet both very important)things daily.

  4. I’m a big believer that a solid NGP meltdown (or two. or more.) is essential preparation pre-baby. Being NGP is a lot of work, pretty much invisible, and I don’t know about you, but I often worried I was seen as whining and not being “supportive enough” of A if I said how I was actually doing (which, well, didn’t really stop me). I do think dads in fertile straight families (i.e. as “normal” as it gets) also face a version of this — lack of direct support, the struggles they do have, and the work they are doing, are minimized as paling in comparison to what their pregnant partner is going through. This comes up around birth also. Jokes about how useless dads are at birth completely drive me nuts…but now I’m getting a little off topic. The thing about a meltdown is it gets you and K communicating, may give you a kick in the pants to reach out for more direct support and make sure your “stuff” is getting airtime, and you need practice at all of that before falco comes. (and, I’ll echo a question above — what is your leave situation? You should be entitled to FMLA even w/out 2nd parent adoption, but you probably already know that (?))

  5. I’m so sorry about your loss. Losing a pet is always difficult. To me my pets are members of my family and I can tell you feel the same way. I’m glad you got some quality time with Cal before you had to say goodbye. Sending you lots of love. I agree with the above – simply having to say goodbye to Cal alone is worthy of a breakdown let alone everything else you have going on. I hope you can take some time to yourself to let yourself feel and do what you need to do to feel better. I find a pity party is always a good idea as long as you set a time limit on it. As well as just venting – and blogging is a perfect place for all of that.

    I know I myself get so wrapped up in my own world of hormones and baby stuff that it is so easy to forget my partner and his sacrifices and contributions in this. I know I need to appreciate him more because you partners put up with way too much of our crap during pregnancy – and y’all take it like champs. I can tell from your blogs that you are such an amazing person, partner and parent already. Take time for yourself and take care of yourself because you deserve it.

  6. Sorry to hear about Cal–that’s a lot of emotion to be managing on top of everything else. I do empathize as a fellow NGP and would strongly recommend carving out some time and money for someone else to care for you and your house before (and again after!) the baby is born. We hired a housecleaner to do a deep clean of our apartment right before Clem arrived, which was awesome, and I also splurged (okay, there might have been a gift certificate involved) on a massage about a month pre-due-date. The other thing that Lime did was create a bucket list of sorts for our life as a family of two. Nothing dramatic or babymoon-like, just restaurants she wanted to go to and outings to take, but she made sure that some of my favorite places were on the list too. Maybe you could start one of those for you and K!

    FWIW, now that the baby is here I’ve resolved not to feel guilty about taking downtime during nursing sessions (our apartment is too small for me to do dishes or clean while that’s happening) and it’s been nice. But I still recommend coming up with a date plan and a friend/sitter who will keep you honest, by which I of course mean on it, once Falco arrives on the scene.

    Good luck and good work to you!

  7. First off, I’m sorry for the loss of Cal.

    I feel ya on the inane tasks = some semblance of sanity. I don’t know what it’s like to be the NGP but I know my wife definitely had a hard time on more than one occasion, sometimes not so much because of the outside world but because of my own needs (and demands and entitled feelings).

    Your contributions, while maybe not always recognized, are so so important. One way that I like to think I helped C get some of the credit was by actively giving her credit in conversations with family and friends. Like if someone mentioned that I was doing great considering how hot it was, I would note how that was because I was able to relax so much since C took on so many of the household tasks.

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