Saturday, February 27, 2010

Let Him Be - A Retrospective (#1 Son Part Two)

Before I continue to tell you the details of how the mysterious chiseled chin stranger became my baby daddy, I thought it important to give you a retrospective of #1Son's life thus far.

He was always happy, cool, gentle of spirit, quiet by nature but powerful in voice (some of which he hasn't fully discovered).

Poor child suffered early on with a clueless single mom who had free reign to dress him as I wished.  He is terrified of these photos but I hope he understands, none of this was his fault. He was a victim of my need to surround myself with "awwwww, ain't he cute" moments. I didn't realize how devastating this could have been to his manly development. Thank goodness he made it through without any lingering effects or propensities to dress in bow ties.

I took him out in public like this:
Clearly, I had some sort of disturbing fascination with all things Orville Redebacherish.  

I'm sorry little buddy.  I didn't know, really I didn't. But gosh darn, awwwwww, ain't he cute?

Back to the story.  I seem to always be ahead of the trends, like the Barbara Mandel song inferring she was country when country wasn't cool.  I had a baby daddy before baby daddy's were all the rage. The young man from the bar became my boyfriend. We hung out in my sparse apartment because it was generally clean. This was a sharp contrast to his sparse apartment which was generally disgusting, like you're afraid to use the restroom kind of dirty. But the guy was cool, quietly intellectual, musically inspiring and sensitive. He listened to me and cared about the random thoughts of an early twenties mess of a girl.

I suppose it was effortless for him to listen to me when he was equally as troubled and unsure of the direction his life would take. He was also easily taken advantage of in the sense that he didn't bother to ask me if I had birth control measures in place.  I'm sure he assumed I did. He never saw it coming or had any notion that at that time in my life, I was singularly focused on having a baby and he was to be the lucky sperm donor.

When I informed him of my pregnancy after three months of dating, I couched it in a way to clearly give him the option of staying or leaving, with a subtly, ever so deftly implied preference for him to go. We had only been "playing" real life for those three months, like when you were little and you pretended to have a job and babies.  He wasn't ready to be ushered away from that superficial world, kicking and screaming into a life of real responsibility. I knew it wasn't in his plan and I was grateful that he let go without much fuss or fight.

With pressure from his ragingly oppressive mother, he did enter back into our lives after #1Son was born. We even attempted a reconciliation of our relationship but it was not meant to be. I had the inner stirrings of my now well honed mother bear instincts manifesting in me and he still wasn't quite ready to be a dad, outside of his vague impersonation.  I didn't ask for money, I didn't ask for help in any way really.  All I asked was that he be all in or all out. I didn't want to raise my child with a half committed father figure skipping in and out at his leisure.  The final decision was mutually transparent.  Baby daddy out.

Believe it or not, I consider him one of the good guys. Like a parent who gives up their child for adoption because they want a better life for them, he did the right thing by me. He knew I had it under control and he was afraid he would mess something up. He gave me this child who carries his gentle traits, musical ear, tall stature, wicked sense of humor and even the interesting facial structure and chiseled chin that drew me to him from the beginning.  

(To be continued......)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gemini Heart Series - Soul Sisters

I am often asked what is it like to raise identical twins. It's a loaded question for me, which generally ends with me asking the asker if they have time to pull up a chair and let me fill them in on the copious notes I have taken throughout the clinically controlled, scientifically documented nature vs. nurture experiment known as raising twins. It is nothing short of fascinating to watch them at their best and at their worst. 

As such, I've decided to feature a regular post here at Stalking Sunsets and by regular I mean when something happens to warrant a post or when the mood strikes me.  This is a case of the former. I feel it is indeed warranted to share; ultimately because I want these girls to have a record of the years that will eventually cloud with age and clutter of the adult female mind, but also because it's damn good stuff.

I suppose it goes without saying, identical twins have a bond like no other. I didn't fully understand the depth of the bond until I watched helplessly as the older twin (by four minutes) endured the sight of her little sister screaming from the pain of a ruptured appendix, surgery, complications, nausea, tenderness, etc. Everyone was focused on the one in pain but looking back, I believe the experience was actually more difficult for the one who had to watch. It was as if she felt the pain, the uncertainty and the fear deep within her soul.

She would later write in her journal, "Once my sister was in the hosbidell and it was very hard for me watching them poke her, lisaning to the screaming and crying but every day I would go to the hosbidell, after school of course because she is my sister, my one and only twin sister".

One day during her hospital stay, my daughter was asked by one of my friends if she thought it was hard on her sister to see her in pain.  She answered the question by telling a story:

Well it's kinda like this. There was this one time when the ice cream truck came down the street and we all grabbed our money and ran out the door just in time to catch him.  After we bought our ice cream, a whole crowd turned around to walk away and somebody bumped my sister, causing her ice cream to drop on top of all the gravel along the curb.  It was ruined and there was nothing we could do about it because the ice cream truck was already too far gone. You know how that would make you feel, right? If everybody else had ice cream and you didn't, it would make you want to cry.

To which my friend replied, did it make you cry? And with a slight nod of her head we understood exactly how deeply her sister must have been affected by this horrible "hosbidell" experience. It made us, sitting their on her bed, want to cry for them both.

When they were once again reunited at home, this is how they slept together that first night back. To call it a bond seems trite and cliche. It is more like a deeply entrenched connection where they are literally one half of the same soul.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir and Me

I am still somewhat new to blogging and as such, I consider my blog a work in progress. I am hungry to learn more, to study the nuances and components of a good blog and to endeavor to make my blog appealing to my audience. Very early on, I came across an intriguing, if not addicting blog called, “Ask and Ye Shall Receive”. The domain name gives away the premise as does the cartoon character of the grim reaper residing in the corner. If you ask, you need to be prepared to suffer the consequences because they are located at “”

The writing is magnificent; they are free to be brutally honest, wickedly blunt and constructively critical. It all works because the people they are tearing apart have asked for it. Countless bloggers dare to put themselves under this microscope of harsh scrutiny in spite of reading the disclaimers essentially telling them to bend over and grab their ankles. They ask anyway.

I’m fairly certain I must have had a few glasses of wine when I submitted my blogging for their flogging. What WAS I thinking?

It has been months since I did it. I have read all their reviews since and I had pretty much given up, thinking it must not have made the cut, thank God. I was breathing easily; imaging my impetuousness had not gotten me into trouble after all. Then it showed up – the notice that I had asked and I had received.

With my heart firmly settled in my throat, I clicked over and read the review, prepared by Madame Bellicose herself. I didn’t get shuttled off to a guest writer; I was to take my spanking from the mistress of doom, the blog’s proprietor. They have a rating system ranging from a “flaming finger” (the worst) to “four stars – I fucking love you”, (the best). Obviously, being the competitive person I am, I wanted nothing less that the full four fucking love.

Essentially, you could say I got a good review – three stars are not too shabby. She liked my writing, thought I was talented but she couldn’t go all the way with me because we differed too much in taste. Plus, my background was perceived as too busy with fairies and such. My intent to create chaos amidst the calm of a sunset was distracting. It made it difficult to read and my words were certainly worth reading. Enough said, fairies gone.

At first I didn’t recognize the person she was describing. I’m no feminist; I’m a delicate, southern lady, thank you very much. Then I read through some of my posts and I saw it. It is there, a thread that ties the entire purpose of my blog together.

It’s my blog and as all bloggers know, we start a blog for ourselves but ultimately we want others to follow us, to buy what we’re selling, to get the essence of our voice and to connect with us. I feel perhaps I was chosen to tell the stories of my life involving a lot of “Mr. Whatevers” to inspire women, to make them laugh and cry but most importantly to make them think.

I have just begun to peel off the layers of my life and as I explore the meaning of it all, I shall not walk through the valley alone. For you see, it is not just my plan to be a positive influence to women, it is my life to be constantly influenced by the positive women who inhabit it. That’s who I am. If that’s being a feminist then clear me a spot at the table.

Monday, February 8, 2010

From Worthless to Wonderful - Warrior Princess - Part Four

Throughout our hospital odyssey I was often startled by the vivid illustrations contrasting wonderful and worthless. It seemed to be the lesson I was supposed to take away from the experience.  Well, that and to make sure I visit the kids at their dad's house if I ever hear of them being sick again.

The appendix itself is worthless, it's true what they say, we really don't need it. Being able to walk away from this with a healthy happy girl is wonderful. She was tested in a way most grown women won't confront until they are in active labor. At one point, I worked with her on the same breathing I used during childbirth. Check that off her list, we know she can handle pain. Maybe it's because she's still a bit fragile but she seems to have come out of this with a slightly more gentle spirit and of course, our bond has been sealed forever.

People in the medical profession can be wonderful or worthless, just depends upon the luck of the draw when you are hospitalized.  We were fortunate to have one of the best surgeon's on call that night. He came without a personality but who gives a shit when he cut open my baby and fixed her. He could mutate into Mr. Hyde and I wouldn't give a flying fuck.

The juxtaposition between the nursing staff was often times difficult to comprehend. How can you have one dear, precious soul who volunteers to work extra shifts just to be able to stay longer with her and others who callously rip off band aids and threaten to remove and re-install the IV just because she didn't like the way it looked. We both bonded with the caring nurse in a way that she will remain a part of our lives. She loves being a nurse and I thank God she found her calling.  Wonderful

Then there's the narcissist, Mr. Sunshine, who gave new meaning to the term worthless during the ordeal. As I mentioned earlier, he would pop in and out, never calling to see if we needed anything from home. During the worst of times, we were out of clean panties and socks, the back of her head had become knotted with five or six large nests of matted hair. I had asked him to bring clean clothes, a hairbrush, some detangler, and a toothbrush for her but the next time he arrived, he had forgotten to bring it. Worthless.

I suppose he forgot because he only came to the hospital that day to conduct a business meeting down in the cafeteria.  Just when I thought nothing could shock me anymore, he had apparently been telling everyone how his daughter was in the hospital and he was spending every moment there. When a client suggested they meet there out of convenience for him, he had to scramble to get to the hospital. I wondered sometimes if he really thought he was living the experience. I was keeping him up to date after all. Worthless.

There was one occasion when I was busy with our patient in the restroom while friends had come to visit and he happened to be there.  I could hear through the door as he told stories of the horrendous night we had, the throwing up, the pain, the lack of sleep. He told it as if he had been there. Worthless.

The next night he showed up again unannounced and did his usual routine, checking on the Princess, daddy loves you, blah, blah, blah - then planting himself in a chair to read a book, magazine or newspaper. I hadn't expected him that night and I knew ZenBoyfriend was on the way to bring me some supplies I had requested from the drug store. I felt obligated to let him know as the two of them had not yet met face to face. He reacted with little to no expression, not even looking up from his book.  Five minutes later, I saw him walk up to the mirror, fix his hair, tuck in his shirt and adjust his pants just right.  Then he pulled up a chair and sat at our daughter's bedside without one single piece of reading material.  Priceless.

Contrast the narcissist to the outpouring of love from our friends. He's Mr. Church Every Sunday yet not one visit from a church member was to be had. Not one gift, card or call from any of his friends or his fiance. His mom helped out with the other kids as much as she could but one day she called me to ask me about a fitness program she was thinking of buying and oh, by the way, how is my granddaughter doing. On the other hand, we were literally inundated with special attention from our friends. Wonderful.

How do you know when you are truly loved? You know when your boyfriend gently kisses you on the top of your head fully aware you haven't showered in two days.  You know when your daughter finds strength in your eyes without a single word and you know when you wake up each day comforted by selfless acts of kindness like the one received in that plain, brown manila envelope.

I had been sending daily email updates to a large group of friends, teachers, girl scout leaders and people in my office. I had spoken of the difficulty with getting my "Warrior Princess" to endure those painful walks.  That day, I opened the anonymous gift and found a note which said, "I know this is a little makeshift but hopefully it well help a little during your walks".  She hadn't had time to finish it off with perfectly creased seams and the edges were still rough cut but it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Her very own shiny, glittery, purple and green Warrior Princess cape.

That's when I lost it.  My baby was sleeping so I let it come. All the emotion I was holding inside came to the surface and exploded into a deluge of tears.  It was an outpouring of the worthless pain, fear and bitterness, the shock of almost losing my daughter mixed with goosebumps and an almost dizzying elation knowing the worst was behind us and I (we), myself and my little family, were truly loved.

With her cape on, she held her head a little higher, wanted her hair brushed out nicely and walked further than she had ever walked. She passed through the doors that had always stopped us before because she wanted everyone to see her. No other word comes to mind except....wonderful.

First day with Cape:

To Here, Going Home:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Moving Mountains Moving Bowels - Warrior Princess - Part Three

I stood in horror as I watched her wrench her guts into that plastic bin. I knew it must have been incredibly painful to heave while her tummy was still tender and vulnerable from the operation. But what the hell is she is throwing up?  The nurses came immediately. They helped clean her up and put her back in bed, insisting it wasn't blood I had seen.  Then why is it red?  She has had nothing but rice and toast and apple juice today.  How could it be red?

They pressed further, I must be missing something.  Oh my God, it was the watermelon.  I had begged the nurses to give her watermelon in spite of the fact it wasn't on the approved list of clear, bland foods. It's a fruit, I had implored, it practically dissolves in your mouth for Christ's sake AND she loves it, she will eat it.  Please nurse Ratchet please, let her have some watermelon I had begged earlier that afternoon. Oh shit, fuck, damn.  Did the watermelon cause this?

This was the preamble to the worst that was yet to come. I had showered.  I was innocuous to the idea of complications.  I felt clean and invigorated. We got through the pee - we had this thing well in hand and I was planning to sleep the sleep of angels that night.  But clearly I fell victim to one of the world's classic blunders: never get involved a land war in Asia, never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line and never believe you are going to be okay based upon one good day post-op.

We spent that night with her shrieking in pain beyond the forbearance of a ruptured appendix, beyond the inconvenience and uncertainty of surgery and beyond the agony of that first walk or that first pee. It was a guttural, visceral cry for help, immediately followed by heaving a vile, brownish-black-unnatural looking substance, wiping her own mouth because I couldn't do it just right, then falling back to sleep for approximately 53 minutes, then repeat.

It was a wretched reiteration - pain, vomit, wipe, sleep.  At some point in the middle of the night, her body decided to reject at both ends, causing the nurses to perform the infamous act of cleaning up a patient and changing their sheets without moving them out of the bed. It was astonishing. I watched but I'm still not exactly clear as to how they did it.

At approximately 3:00am, I asked the night shift nurse if they could give her something to ease the nausea.  She said they did have options available but they required the surgeon's approval and they were tentative about waking him in the middle of the night unless it was an emergency.  Excuse me?  Exactly what the fuck do we have to do here to constitute an emergency?  I told her I was prepared to go all Shirley MacLaine on her ass, running up and down the corridors, screaming for someone to give my daughter something to ease her pain.  With that, she made the call, I know she did because I stood and watched her. Still, somehow we didn't receive any relief until the next morning.

We were visited by His Royal Highness, the surgeon, and his faithful minion a/k/a Physician's Assistant, Beth. The Warrior Princess was kind enough to provide them with a live demonstration of our evening's activities. They suspected an ileus was afoot, which loosely translated meant her bowels had stopped moving. I have always wondered why they call poo a bowel movement. Your intestinal track is sorta like a giant conveyor belt, it should be constantly moving in a squishing sort of motion. You can hear the movement through the stethoscope.  If it stops moving, gas gets trapped up there, which loosely translated means farts ARE good. My mama was wrong.

We were told it could take anywhere from one to three days for things to start moving again. This was not uncommon due to the amount of infection she had in her belly. It was her body's way of fighting back by simply shutting down the systems and saying, "I've had enough of this shit......literally". Thankfully, she was back on track late the next day. You thought I was happy when she finally peed, imagine how elated I was to hear her rip off that first big fart.

Speaking of big farts, her dad had been maintaining a low profile, popping in and out when convenient.  This was okay because I preferred him gone. He felt like wasted space to me, space that could have been filled with our friends who were bringing in anything and everything we needed. Everyday we received balloons, flowers, cards, visits, cookie baskets and stuffed animals. The nurses all commented on how amazing it was. It was these expressions of love that kept me going, kept me strong, allowed me to forge ahead without showing my emotional cards, which were stacked with fear, bitterness, shock and an overwhelming, despondent, grief-stricken sadness.

The next day, as healing progress was finally availing itself to us, I received an unmarked brown manila envelope, the contents of which brought my emotional house of cards tumbling down around me. I ran to the restroom down the hall and collapsed into a heap on the floor, crying, screaming and shaking for the next thirty minutes.

(To be continued.....) 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Warrior Princess Takes a Pee - Part Two

The surgery was finished. We arrived in her hospital room around 2am on Tuesday. For the rest of the day, she was made comfortable with various forms of narcotics. The surgeon had said her belly was a mess. He had operated laparoscopically, using three small instruments through tiny incisions. He admitted he did the best he could but was not able to guarantee she was out of the woods. There was simply too much infection for him to be sure he took care of it all.

We were told we could be there up to a week to keep her on an antibiotic drip. This would be the only way to ensure her recovery. Even with those words, I don’t think it had really resonated with me just how sick this little girl really was.

On Wednesday morning, she was allowed to come off the clear liquids and have a bite to eat. The nurses were required to get her up and moving so we faced our first walk together. She got to the door of her room and said okay that’s it, then promptly turned around and headed back to bed. She was as drugged up as anyone could be, enjoying a veritable cocktail of heavy pain killers; yet, the agony of those first few walks were clearly registering on her face.

She didn’t want any of it. She didn’t want to walk, she didn’t want an IV needle sticking out of her arm, she didn’t want to get poked every day to draw her blood nor did she want to be told she had to use the restroom or face having a catheter reinserted. It hurt to go, it burned like hell. The walk didn’t hurt as much as the simple act of going pee-pee did. She didn't want to do anything but in her own words, "run from this awful place screaming". Yet she always managed to find a way to do everything asked of her. Making up and letting me know her rules as we went along.

She would delicately get out of bed, using my hand to pull herself up while insisting I not pull with my arm. As difficult as it was, as much as I wanted to not only pull her but to give her every bit of strength I had, I perfected the ability to extend my arm to her without pulling. Once up, she would slowly walk to the restroom, sit down, then immediately clench up so tight, it was impossible for her to go. The urge was there, her bladder was full but her natural defenses and instincts were not letting her go through that much pain. We would sit there together, me squatting on the side of the shower, facing her. Our eyes locked on each other as if we were having a staring contest. Sometimes she would let me encourage her but mostly she shushed me when I tried to speak. She was drawing from her inner strength; my words were nothing but useless distractions.

After 15 to 20 minutes, she would ask to go back to bed. The moment she laid down, the urge would come and up we would go again. This went on for a few hours. Up, sit, stare, down. Up, sit, stare, down. As the night drew to a close, the nurses brought in a machine which was able to give us an accurate measurement of the contents of her bladder and they issued the ultimatum. She goes or we go in and get it.

With courage true to her Warrior Princess spirit, she was able to override her protective instincts and endure the painful burning, emptying her bladder with a little moan and a tight squeeze of my hand but not a single tear. She maintained her stoic little frowny-face, cleaned herself up and walked back to the bed as if nothing big had really happened.

Meanwhile I am internally dancing, twirling, jumping up and down and shouting for joy all inside my head. It was our victory. We did it! Nothing was going to stop us now. This little girl is amazingly strong. This child of mine was revealing her character to me and I knew she was going to be okay.

With that, I was relieved enough to think of other things, such as the fact that I hadn't showered or brushed my teeth since Monday morning. I was comfortable sneaking away for a quick shower while Mr. Sunshine sat with her. I returned in an hour and found her standing just inside the door of her room, throwing up in one of those plastic buckets…..something that looked very much like blood.

(To be continued…..)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mama Bear, The Warrior Princess and the Narcissist - Part One

I come to you today from a place far, far away from the comfort of zen. Fuck zen.  I am steeped in anger, seething with a fury that can only be likened to that of a mother bear, charging at that which threatens her cubs. I am in full stride, mouth dripping, teeth bared - my enemy identified. 

My muscles are tense as they lunge toward this predator. I cannot be stopped. I can climb faster and jump higher with my claws curled and sharpened to afflict torture and dispense suffering upon this vile menace.

I instinctively desire nothing more than to wrap my jowls around the neck of this beast of prey, picking up his helpless body and shaking it until it is limp and lifeless. I am growing dizzy from the taste of the kill. But I stop short of taking his life. For I want him to eventually perish from that which ultimately brings the demise of all who linger in their own reflection. He will be his own undoing. As with the 16th century painting of Narcissus from Greek mythology, attributed to Caravaggio, shown above. He will face his own nemesis and he will perish; not in a physical sense but in the worst way possible for a narcissistic man. He will fail.

The son of a bitch almost killed our youngest daughter.

As is typical of his patterns of behavior, he was either too busy investing all of his time and energy into his new business venture or two unaware and imbecilic to notice the youngest of our seven-year old twins was suffering from more than your average stomach flu. I suspect it was a combination of both. Narcissistic people tend to believe nothing bad, really bad shit like a ruptured appendix, will ever happen to them. She had been throwing up for three days, then became listless, refusing to get out of bed for the next three days. She had pain and she told him about it.

He dropped her off to me Monday afternoon of last week. He said nothing about her pain.  He simply said she is still weak from being sick. She went straight for my couch. I could tell she had to gingerly position herself to lie down and I noticed her flinching from the pain. By this time, her appendix had ruptured. The deadly toxins were already spilling into her abdominal cavity.

I sat down at her feet and rubbed her legs prompting her to scream at me for touching her.  This is the same child who has some sort of built in magnetic feature where the moment I stop moving, the very second I sit down, she is immediately on top of me. She has always required more loving, cuddling, tender touching than any of my other children. All of my mommy senses were now in full alert. I asked her to show me where she was hurting. When she pointed to the lower part of her right side, almost at the crease where her stomach reaches the top of her thigh, I knew this was not the fallout from a bout with a bug.

I called Mr. Sunshine to ask about the leg pain. He said he hadn't really noticed anything but he did think perhaps she might have a bladder infection because it had been hurting her when she went to the bathroom. This would have been a nice piece of information to share with me earlier when he dropped her off.

A quick call to the doctor advised me to take her to the emergency room. Mr. Sunshine was busy, letting me know he could come pick us up in an hour. By this time, my baby girl, whom I now and forever shall refer to as The Warrior Princess, could not sit up, stand or walk. When he arrived, he insisted we go to the after-hours clinic instead of the hospital. He stood firm on his belief this could be nothing more than a really bad bladder infection. The clinic was on the way to the hospital so I agreed to let them take a look at her.

Ten minutes later, we were on our way to the hospital.

When we received the diagnosis and were told she would need immediate surgery, she had already endured nine examinations. Each one beginning with the same incessant, redundant questions and ending with pressing on her belly forcing her to scream from the intensity of the discomfort. She had been poked by the urgent care nurse, the hospital triage tech, the hospital triage nurse, the ER nurse, the ER doctor, a new ER nurse that just had to see for herself, the surgeon, the surgeon's PA and finally, the surgery nurse.

Just before being wheeled off for a CAT scan, a young medical student walked in and asked to take the medical information and give her an exam.  He had a look of fear on his face indicative of this being his very first time to do so.  He began by asking the same questions we had already answered during the previous nine interviews.  He frequently checked his handy pocket notebook to make sure he wasn't forgetting anything. I was holding it together, maintaining my trademark calm in the midst of a storm persona, when he informed her he was about to poke on her belly again.

At that moment the calm broke, the dam burst open and mama bear looked him straight in the eye and said, "you touch her belly and you will lose that finger Doogie". I then explained that nine times was enough and there would be no more pressing, prodding or poking on her because ten pokes is gonna get you a prize; namely, you will be the lucky recipient of everything I am currently holding inside and it won't be pretty.

He very quietly said he would make a note to the record that parent refused the exam and he left the room as quickly as he could.

They took her away and operated on her mess of a belly for well over an hour. The surgeon said she would not have made it much longer with all the internal draining. When she was in recovery, we came to see her. She had taken one of her favorite stuffed animals into surgery with her. He came out wearing his own surgical cap,which the Anesthesiologist had taken the time to cut holes for his floppy ears. This is what we saw.

I took the first deep breath of the night, feeling as if we had made it. We could rest easy now. She would be going home tomorrow and would be back to herself in short order. I did not realize, the worst was yet to come.

There were serious complications in store. The narcissist would virtually abandon us while he went about his life and I was to spend the next full week at her side teaching her how to be strong but instead learning the strength of a woman was already there. She would be the one teaching me.

(To be continued.....)

Also, look for the continuation of the #1Son series soon!