The other day at my local breastfeeding mom’s group, G, the lactation consultant, said to me, “I think it’s wonderful how you manage to have such a good attitude, with all the problems your little boy has been going through. You’re always smiling, and I never hear you complain.”
Her words made me pause. Not so much because I feel like I am the person she was describing, but because 1) she only knows about a portion of the things I have been dealing with these last several months; and 2) her perception of me is just one more bit of evidence proving how reserved I can be.
Because truth is? — I am not always smiling. And I do complain, a lot sometimes. But I only complain in certain situations, and with certain people.
What I wanted to say to G, but didn’t, was, “My life is completely crazy right now. Did you know that the street I live on is called ‘Little Crazy Street’? It’s true. We just moved there this year, and I want to laugh every time I see that street sign. Or throw things at it; I’m not sure which.”
I wanted to say, “Here’s what’s actually happening in my life right now. You already know about Little Guy’s health problems… The months of bloody diapers, all the things (dairy, soy, eggs, wheat, corn, peanuts, strawberries) I’ve eliminated from my diet in order to stop irritating his digestive system when he breastfeeds, the difficult ten days we experienced when I had to feed him formula and he fought the bottle. Not to mention his submucosal cleft palate, his perpetual congestion, his crooked jaw and neck, and the way he isn’t gaining weight like he should be.
“Apart from those things, I have a dog at home with a nasal tumor who is having a really hard time adjusting to having to breath through her mouth. She is so sleep deprived that I’ve seen her half fall asleep while on her feet and stumble into furniture. I’ve come really close to asking her vet if it’s time for us to make the big decision about her. I spend a lot of my waking time wondering how to make that decision, and when.
“My spouse, J (who by the way is transgender and is planning to start hormones soon, but that’s sort of a small aside in my life right now) is having a really hard time adjusting to parenthood. She helps out at home; that’s not the problem. We also love each other and our relationship is still strong. But, I’ve seen her cry twice recently. I’ve never seen her cry before, in the almost-decade I’ve known her. That’s how unhappy she is. I want to make things better for her, but I can’t. Everybody says the first year home with a baby is the hardest, and that ‘it gets easier,’ but sometimes I wonder… Will it, for her?
“I am still in this weird limbo with my thesis. I guess I can be glad that I am making some progress on it, but progress is so incredibly slow. I’m lucky to put in a couple hours a day on it. It’s my own damn fault I’m slow (c’mon, I’m writing a blog post now), but to tell the truth, I hate my project. I’ve pretty nearly hated it since the beginning, and I am not exactly seeing how I am going to apply all the stuff I studied during my master’s coursework. Natural Resources is not a great career path for people with families. It’s hard to find permanent work, and field work almost inevitably involves long stretches of time away from home. J has a field job right now, and has been gone from Monday to Friday a lot of weeks. I’m basically a military spouse, doing the single parent thing with my kid on most days. And J? Last week she worked 60 hours in 5 days, then came home and helped out with mundane things like chores and babysitting. Is it surprising I’ve seen her cry?
“And back to that whole career thing, what on earth am I going to do with myself to earn some money for the family? Believe it or not, I would love to stay home with our little guy for a while longer. We might be able to make that happen for a little while, but it’s hard to say how long. We’re currently living from paycheck to paycheck, and this worries me, considering both J and I are in our mid-thirties and should be saving something up for the future. For retirement maybe? A house? Maybe not a house. Anyway. I have no idea what kind of work I am going to look for, when I start looking for work. I’m a little afraid I’ll end up working some dead-end thing that pays $10 or $12 an hour at best and is little better than the service industry jobs I worked when I was still in school. I’m afraid nobody will hire me for anything better. I’m also scared to put my little guy into day care, where other people will raise him and spend time with him for most of his waking hours. And by the way, when did the 9-to-5 work day become 8-to-5?
“And what’s it going to be like if I have to go back to work and my sick dog is still alive? Will we leave her at home all day by herself? Put her into doggie daycare? Will doggie daycare take a dog that sneezes blood? What will Ziggy think when I abandon her that much more during the day? My attention is already so diverted by Little Guy, and I really want to make Ziggy’s last days easy for her. Why is society in general so cold-hearted when it comes to dogs? Everybody loves cute dog pictures on Facebook, but how many people actually take care to give their pets a good life? Because I sure see a lot of lonely dogs in yards. WTF, world.”
These are the things I want to say when G complements me on my attitude. But even though it’s hard to bite my tongue, I don’t say those things. Because I’m just reserved that way, I guess. And because, well, I don’t want to overwhelm her with my problems.
But I am definitely not a saint. More like, a little crazy. Just like the street sign says.