The Twins’ Birth Story Part 2

Argh, I hate pumping. But here I am once again, pumping milk because… can’t bring the babies to my office.

So, where was I in the birth saga? Oh right, at 35 weeks. Well, after a hospital stay for no reason, I went back to work on Tuesday, and tried to resume Life as Usual. But I kept having contractions and getting even more pregnant, so every day it was even less fun to try to sit at a desk than the day before (except that one day with the full body relentless itching. That day was a special hell.) A few days later, my OB reported that I hadn’t dilated any further, and asked me to consider induction at 37 weeks.

IMG_6950

Too much pregnant, you guys. No sir.

M and I really wrestled with this one. Induction didn’t seem necessary at all. But doctors tend to intervene with twins at 38 weeks anyway, and I was so uncomfortable by then that I could not think straight. I put off answering the doctor for a while. And then I finally conceded. Friday, February 12 we’d induce. Turns out, the doc just sorta threw that suggestion out there for fun, because he in no way expected me to hold out that long.

Surprise!

Also, he had a vacation planned starting February 13, and wanted to pull out the twins before that. Not my favorite reason for getting pitocin. So, M and I were expected to be at the hospital by 5AM on Friday, but the hospital told us not to leave to come in until we got a call.

Waiting For a Room

M and I busied ourselves that morning by driving to get breakfast sandwiches, waiting outside the drive through until it opened. By 7, no call had yet come, so we called them.

Turns out most of the women in Harris County had descended on the hospital Thursday night, and there was no room at the inn. We were put in line to wait for a room along with the other potential inductions. And we waited. All day… we waited. Finally we set up the Scrabble set to try to distract ourselves, and the phone rang. 13 hours after our original appointment it was finally go time.

Alas for me, my OB had finished his shift and was officially on vacation. And my doula had been available that morning, but not overnight. Suddenly there wasn’t really any reason to induce me, but between the nervous anticipation of the 35 weeks’ hospital stay and our Friday wait, we couldn’t psychologically handle the idea of turning around and going home again.

Mostly Monitors

I was started on such a small amount of pitocin that nothing really happened. It turned out that the hospital staff was basically trying to hold back any progress until the morning shift came back on duty. So began the overnight torture with baby monitors– the same problems as the last time. 2 IVs in my hands, one pulse monitor, and two non-wireless baby monitors. Those stupid things pinched and poked and slid around. And every two minutes or less a nurse would come in to fiddle with them in the hopes that they’d stay on. But they didn’t, and I crankily looked through lowered eyelids at the girls who were tugging and pressing and leaving welts all over my abdomen.

When it became clear that this was going to be a slow delivery, M ducked out to go get us some Chipotle. I wasn’t supposed to be eating anything, of course, so we began this ridiculous ritual of pretending my burrito was his every time someone walked in. Except, I would be chewing and dropping beans down my “pretty pushers” gown (I loved that thing because it covered my butt. Just saying.)

M and I tried to continue our Scrabble game, and at first I was kicking his ass, but with every interruption to wrangle my monitors, and every uptake in the pitocin, I got a bit worse at it. I eventually stalled on the longest turn ever, which was me sitting in front of the same letters for an hour, trying to remember English.

L, the doula-in-training arrived.. My actual doula never did show up to any of my birthing scenes. L, M, and I were like: “Here we go again…” Mostly we were hoping not to sit around all night trying to entertain each other. Alas.

This time I was given even less freedom than during the 35-week scare. I was told sternly not to take the monitors off, and therefore could not walk far or get into the tub. I could stand next to my bed rocking back and forth.

I don’t remember if anyone else slept. I know I didn’t. I remember turning the nature channel on the in-room TV. ( It was basically a slow-mo video with new age music playing over it. ) And all the beeping of monitors, and watching the heart rates and unimpressive contractions. I just remembered that I turned on the Republican Debates for a while, because I thought the intellectual pain would distract from my physical ouchies.

Pro tip: Never look at Donald Trump or Ted Cruz while in labor.

The Action Begins

At 6AM some nurses with a slightly better monitor-placement-technique arrived. And then they cranked my pitocin, and the party really got started. I was breathing through the contractions easily for a while, pacing around as I did. But then they told me they wanted to break my water, so I hopped back up on the table (Haha.. hopped. I had around 13 lbs of baby in me, 2 placentas, and two bags of water… I hadn’t hopped in months.)

I actually kind of thought the water being broken felt good- it was like a warm bowl of water being poured on my legs. But then shit got really real- so much pitocin, and so much #**(*#$w8#$%#% pain. I think I was finally fully dilated? M can perhaps correct me on the sequence of events.

At first I was like: “clearly I can do this, because I am a badass.” But the pain rapidly began ramping up. I tried yoga breathing, and all of the relaxation techniques I hadn’t learned in the childbirthing classes I hadn’t taken.

Pitocin contractions are kind of … something else, and I was miserably covered in monitors and IV lines already. I remember the pain being so intense that after initially thinking I could “mind over matter” anything, I got to a place where I could not handle it. I had been told that I really needed to get an epidural, because the likelihood of C-section delivery is so high with twins, and at that moment I was like “okay, I am more than ready to cave. Bring on the giant spine needle”.

I actually don’t really remember the interval of time between then and when the anesthesiologist arrived. I do remember thinking I was going to black out from the pain, and I do remember he had the same name as one of the twins. Martin had to leave, because apparently husbands have fainted watching this procedure happen, and if anyone startles the anesthesiologist while he inserts the needle, I might not have working legs anymore.

So, a nurse and I sat on the bed and I let them numb my back, then did my best to answer questions about whether I could feel anything (I can’t ##(*(# tell! My whole body feels like it’s being ripped in two right now, sir!)  I moaned and whimpered, and slumped over as he worked his magic. And gradually, gradually the pain let up and my cognitive function returned to me.

I actually felt good enough to play Scrabble again.

Time to Push

Alas, I needed to be pushing. M. came back in to cheer me on, and “not my doctor” and a nurse came to hold my legs. Most of you ladies know the drill… breathing and pushing, breathing and pushing. F’s head was poking down, so they got a scalp monitor on him. But unfortunately, I didn’t manage to push out any babies despite my efforts. Narrow pelvis and all. I did feel like I almost caused a vein to burst in my temples though.

The doc said that because C2 was expected to be enormous, that if I did manage to get F out, I’d still probably wind up in a C-section. Worst of both worlds, basically. M and I had everyone leave the room so we could deliberate.

We decided to stop pushing.

Maybe if the babies had been ready to come out on their own and hadn’t been induced, it could have been avoided. Who knows.

There were so many C-sections happening that night (Mmmm hmmm ….) that because we weren’t an emergency, we had to wait. So we did, chatting and watching the television and marveling over the magic of epidurals.

Somewhere in here, M’s brother showed up with some chicken sandwiches and fries. We basically were like “L’s about to go into the operating room. Can’t talk now. Love you!”

It turned out I had to start out in the OR by myself. M couldn’t be there while they got set up, for some reason. As I was wheeled away from him on my bed, I wanted so badly to reach out to him. I wanted his hand in mine. I didn’t want to be taken away all by myself.

C-Section Land

The OR was the brightest room I’ve ever been in, but for some reason I was intensely drowsy. What had I been given? I kept closing my eyes, then opening them to strain and try to see M. Another anesthesiologist began working on ensuring that my entire abdomen was numb. And the requisite large curtain was placed just below my chest.

Poke poke. “Can you feel that?” “Okay, tell me when you can feel me touching your torso.” He gave me a shot in my right arm, and then my left. I still don’t know what those things were. It’s possible he explained them while I floated in and out of drowsiness. I listened to the nurses and doctors talk about their Valentines Day date plans (it was late Feb. 13th).

Finally M appeared- from my perspective, seemingly out of nowhere. He was next to me, holding my hand. I squeezed it as hard as I could, so the doctors couldn’t take him away again. Then everything gets a bit blurry. I remember feeling something under my tongue all of a sudden, and being told not to swallow it. Then I swallowed it. M says it was some sort of medication that gives you short term memory loss. (What??) I promptly began throwing up. Then the violent shaking started. I couldn’t keep that under control, and understand that it was a kind of hormonal shock.

Someone showed me one of the babies- F, I guess? Then he was whisked away. Another baby was shown to me… little baby C2. Nurses were huddling all around them, and I was too out of it to know if that was a bad thing. Someone told me they were both in great shape, and then I don’t really recall how I got to the recovery room. And how it was almost midnight.

Okay, Recovery

M passed out on the cot next to me, completely exhausted. But now I was awake because I couldn’t control the shaking, and I was the thirstiest I’d ever been in my life. Maybe due to blood loss? But I didn’t know then what I know now- that I’d been hemorrhaging in the OR. And the docs had to take my uterus out of my body, dump me sideways to get all the fluid inside me out, and then patch up the ol’ uterus.

Oh, and stitch me up.

I wasn’t allowed to have anything to drink, because I could do serious damage to myself if I coughed, sneezed, choked, or threw up. But after pleading with the nurse for an hour, she finally let me have some ice chips. I sat there for hours on my cot, sucking on one ice cube after another and wondering how I could get the fountain drink in M’s bag over to me to drink from. If I could have reached it, I’d have downed the whole thing. I was desperate and obsessed. The nurse would poke her head in and ask if I needed anything. I repeated the same refrain:

“Can I have water?”
“Can I have ice?”

I was sure the babies were just being examined, and that they’d be out of the doctors’ clutches and in my arms in no time.

My room

We were waiting for a hospital room, the room I’d be camped out in for the next four days while I recovered. But the hospital was so crowded full of women popping out babies (or having them surgically removed), that we waited in recovery for hours, until a room could be found. The benefit of the overcrowding was that I landed the extra-pricey recovery suite that the hospital shows off on tours. And I didn’t have to pay extra! There was a whole sitting area with a sofa and television– ideal for those times when visitors wanted to pop by, but I was sleeping.

I was completely beside myself with exhaustion now, but still too thirsty and twitchy to sleep. I actually don’t remember anything before getting to have that first cup of water, so urgent was my desire to drink. It was then that I learned that the twins were in the NICU, but not with any major problems. F was 6 lbs 1 oz, and C2 was 6 lbs 13 oz (not the behemoth he was expected to be). C2 was just having issues with reflux and losing oxygen saturation in his blood when he tried to eat. F was having blood sugar issues.

I still hadn’t really seen them. But after downing cup after cup of water, I was determined to go. Except I finally passed out- fell asleep would be understating it.

I woke up in a lot of pain, with a nurse feeding me pills. I couldn’t sit up. I couldn’t roll over. A lactation consultant was there, encouraging me to try out the breast pump and get some colostrum for the twins. We hooked it up… and… I felt like the world’s best mama, because that stuff started coming out in full force (by colostrum standards, that is). Everyone praised me, as though I had done it on purpose. I think that was the last time I was a gold star milk cow. At least during that early period I was still able to maintain my fantasy that I’d feed the babies solely by tandem breast feeding them- and love it. (Snort.)

Babies! Babies!

M went down to the NICU to visit the twins a couple of times before I made it down there. I was so excited, but it was a production to get me out of that bed. Rolling out of it didn’t really work, and trying to pull me up was excruciating. I couldn’t walk, so we needed to somehow pour me into a wheelchair. Every move I made seemed to engage my ab muscles, and caused me to grit my teeth in pain- and that was with plenty of Vicodin (I know so little about drugs that it wasn’t until about a month later that I realized Hydrocodone was the generic name for Vicodin. But I digress.)

The twins actually had their own room, which was lovely (I mean, for a NICU situation). I can still hear the sounds of the monitors in my ears if I think about it, and the feeling of standing by their isolette watching their little chests rise and fall. I remember nursing Freddie for the first time, and honestly, I’ve been lucky with the twins because they both generally latch on effortlessly and well. I’ve been unlucky that their birth coincided with a stressful life period (maybe more about that later, if I can figure out how to talk about it) and that it affected my milk supply.

I got pretty engorged during that time in the hospital because of my inability to make it down to nurse as much as I wanted… the lactation consultants were very proactive at Texas Children’s though… although I could have done without one of them hand-milking me for an hour that one time. I haven’t hand expressed milk but one time since then- with twins there’s usually not an oversupply, so the one time was when I’d had a bunch of “I’m stressed out” wine and forgot to bring the infernal pump home from work.

Anyway, this is getting long and rambly now so I’ll end it. Twins came home after 6 (F) and 7 (C2) days in the NICU, and we’ve been home living our chaotic and constipated lives since then. Oh, yeah, and I forgot how to pee after the C-section, but that’s another story.

 

 

 

 

The Twins’ Birth Story: Part 1

Part 1: 

Our story begins at 35 weeks pregnant and already extremely over it. I couldn’t sit down comfortably for very long, couldn’t stand comfortably, and waddled when I tried to walk. M and I knew that the writing was on the wall for our having date time, so as we enjoyed a leisurely Sunday morning sipping coffee on our patio and chatting, I mentioned that I would love to visit the ocean together. M suggested we head to Kemah, a mysterious beachy-tourist town in Texas that I’d never been to. During the hour long drive there, I felt a little stiff and a bit extra achy, but assumed it was just more random side effects of being that pregnant. It wasn’t until M dropped me off to search for parking that I realized that something different was happening.

I hadn’t noticed any Braxton-Hicks contractions during my pregnancy, and I really didn’t know what a contraction felt like. But I started trying to time these weird sensations I was having- and I was so very inaccurate (as it turned out). After a minute of making weird faces, I texted M to get his butt back to me and not worry about parking, as I didn’t think we’d be staying.

We actually managed to dart over to the end of a pier before driving back into Houston to the hospital. Standing and looking at the waves with my love, I felt calm- but also like I might drop a watermelon from between my legs at any time. Off we went.

On the hospital admitting floor, I was surprised to find that I was 4cm dilated, and definitely contracting- part of me had kind of thought that I was being a hypochondriac. But no, I was promptly admitted. I felt a little bit better about nearly falling on the floor while trying to check in, and circling the “ARHGDHDGJHDGJHG” face on the pain scale. I got a wheelchair ride to the laborin’ floor. 

We texted the doula, but she was sick and said she’d send an assistant. L turned out to be an early 20-something, sweet girl- not quite the birth expert I’d paid for. But I digress. At least she brought lavender oil and heat packs- those made life nicer. 

I’ve never had so many people shove their hands up in my stuff before-  repeated checking to see if I was dilating any further had me wanting to kick a couple of the residents. Not everyone is equally good at those checks. I’m looking at you- short-haired female resident! 

But the main issue was the fetal monitors. I had been hoping to walk around, sit on a birthing ball, take baths, etc. But because there were two babies, I had to have two full sets of monitors on me, and neither were the wireless kind (those apparently can’t be used if you need two of them). I was tethered to the bed, and could only pace a bit nearby unless I wanted to break rules and take off the monitors. When the nurses put a separate pulse monitor on me, I nearly punted one of them. Oh, and I nearly forgot- I hadn’t had the bacteria test thing done yet (because: only at 35 weeks), so I had to have an IV on me pumping me with antibiotics just in case. Y’know, so I didn’t give crotch-monkeys to the babies. 

(Honestly, Baby A was so far down that nobody seemed able to get the monitor to stay on him anyway. The constant poking and prodding and rearranging the monitors was the worst part of the whole thing.)

M and I tried to watch episodes of The Great British Baking Show on iPhone between my contractions, because that was about all my poor brain could handle. The assistant doula napped on the window seat while Not A Lot happened. 

Somewhere in the middle of this, M’s mom arrived with our hospital bags- just in time for me to get another dilation check. I kinda flustered a bit about the idea of having family members see my “business”, so M wound up encouraging her to leave. She offered to pick up my little geriatric dog Mei from our house, and dog sit her- and then she cleared out so I could wave my bits in the doctors’ faces in relative peace. 

But I  wasn’t getting any more dilated, just hungrier and more fatigued. Eventually, I was allowed to take a break from the monitors to get in the bath tub- which had lovely jets, but a nonfunctioning drain. I shoved my heel into it and tried to, y’know, earth mama my twins out into the world. 

Doc made another appearance and told me that it seemed like my contractions had stalled and, indeed, not much was happening. This was the first time I heard that I might be discharged, and I was like “Really? I have to do this again in the future? I have to go back to work tomorrow?” 

When Doc finally made the call that I would be going back home, M went and got us McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches- because that was what was open in the medical center at 4am. Until recently, I hadn’t been to McDonald’s in more than a decade. That morning, it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. 

So we went home. We didn’t go to work that day- we dozed on the couch and decompressed a bit, and grumbled and fussed. We didn’t see any more action for two whole weeks. 

Continued in Part 2! 

My crazy morning

Hello again, after so very long. I have so much to update. Here’s the short and dirty version:

M and I got married. I became a stepmom to A+C. We bought a house. I got pregnant. We had the twins, C2+F.

So I overslept this morning because I was just feeling worn out- hit the snooze until seven, and then bolted upright in a panic, because I needed to drive the twins to their aunt’s and then get myself to work. I really, really wanted to nurse the twins, but they weren’t screaming so I focused on getting myself ready and out the door. Coffee. Pumping supplies for work. Glance at the twins’ bag, hoping it was filled with the right things. A bagel for me. No time to shower. Twins in the carseats, and go! Around then my boobs started leaking like crazy. Fine, nursing pads. Keep driving. Thinking about how the reason I am doing the morning dropoff is because I have a doctor’s appointment this afternoon, and this means I will only have four hours at work today. Whether that’s enough to meet a deadline or not, I don’t know. But I am definitely behind on work this week (and I have work to do!) because I leave at 4 to pick up the twins every day- it takes me about 3 hours, round trip, thanks to the Houston flooding, and the beast that is the Sam Houston Tollway/290 circuit.

I finally make it to work around 9:30, but I have to go to the bathroom so badly I’d considered pulling over while driving. My boobs start to leak again. I am getting Skype messages from co-workers asking for things, but I need to pump before I do anything, so I don’t even sit down at my desk. I just run for the pumping room, fumbling with the parts while milk drips onto my laptop and the table, and runs down my chest.

I sit. I breathe. I wish I’d had time to shower and spend some snuggling time with the babies. Happy Thursday.

 

Very long time, no blog

I haven’t blogged here in forever- it’s been close to a year, actually. And now I am finding the urge to write all of a sudden, because I am in a difficult place, professionally. And my professional identity has been my entire life’s project for so long. I feel really stuck. Ok, so what’s on my mind? It’s time for a serious update.

I just moved out of J and my house, and am mourning that a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I felt really isolated in that space a lot of the time, but I also had decorated it, and I had a lot of room to breathe there. I moved to a townhouse that would be the perfect size for just me, but I have a roommate (because I needed to save money and I didn’t like living alone in my old house).

So far it’s a bit difficult- she doesn’t like how many books I have and is really bossy about decor. I can’t tell what she thinks of me, honestly. I feel like we’ve had a few near-arguments, and she mentioned that she didn’t think we’d bond (which hurt my feelings). I was really unhappy about this move, and even keeping in mind that it’s a transitional place, it’s hard to be here. Everything about it feels like a giant compromise – my old dogs need to be carried up and down the steep wooden staircase, and cry whenever I even run upstairs for something simple and leave them behind. There’s nowhere to sit outside but the parking lot. My bathroom is so small that I can barely close the door and sit on the toilet at the same time. It’s honestly hard. I can’t wait until the next time I have a house again, a home again. In the meantime, I kinda didn’t even want to unpack.

Honestly, I feel like I am back in Japan again, spatial limitations-wise. But without the control over my space.

More important though is that I graduated. I finished my Ph.D. I am a Dr. And I am waiting to hear on a lecturer position at a nearby university (read: not tenure-track). I want to stay in the Houston area, and I’m not sure about this whole academic thing as a result. Yes, I am staying in Houston for love. But love is important.

I just don’t know whether to take this lecturer position, if offered, or take a corporate job. I feel so burnt out on academia. But I don’t know if that’s just me feeling defeated by my current life circumstances, or what. I don’t know what to do. I feel like I keep trying to work through my current depression by talking the ears off of everyone around me about this. I don’t know that it’s resolvable by any means other than somehow getting a signal from the universe / divine intervention. I don’t know if I made a terrible mistake getting my PhD.

More later. It’s time for bed.

I Can’t Avoid This Any Longer

I’m sorry blog, you’ve been so neglected. I have been rather quiet actually, and not wanting to share what’s in my little bubble as I mull it over. I went back and read everything I’ve written so far this year, and I seem to keep circling around the same themes.

The big thing I’m battling is how my entire world view changed after things with J ended. I spent nearly 35 years of my life obsessively working (on establishing an academic career, if you’re new to this blog), and not really feeling that happy about it, but driven to find happiness through it somehow eventually. I grew up feeling like people were unreliable, and happiness had to come solely from the things one did independently to make one’s own life better and even impressive (to others). I kept people at a distance, even J because I never did trust him after a really rocky start to our relationship. We never established a core foundation of trust. I trusted him more than anyone else in the world, and I still couldn’t tell him some of my fundamental truths.

When I was with J, I never thought about “family”, and now it’s all I can think about. It is the motif of 2014 for me. Is it wrong to devote myself to the pursuit and establishment of family with the same intensity as I do my academic work? The same determination and drive? Semi-relatedly, I’ve been asking a lot of questions of women I know about this whole “biological clock” notion- it’s really interesting to me. It seems to be contingent on being around a person that the body senses is right. Plenty of women I’ve spoken to have said that around one partner they never felt the desire to have kids, and then when they met someone new it went into overdrive. Someone told me just last night, that her body said to her: “I don’t care one bit about logic or planning. You need to make this happen with this guy [now her husband] however you can.”

I wonder if this is something women often feel, but don’t talk about because they’re afraid of being judged (mostly by other women!) and because we all want to be seen as rational actors.

I’ve been having so much trouble working because work makes me actively sad at the moment, and I haven’t gotten to the bottom of why yet. Is it that I’ve sacrificed so much to get here? Is it that for too long I repressed my feelings through work and I now need to deal with my feelings before I -can- work?

I’ve been quiet on here about my boyfriend, M, too, because it’s only been 6 weeks and I don’t really want to jinx it, or publicize it too soon. I mean, I was wrong in the past, and it’s a certain amount embarrassing. But this one feels 180 degrees different from those experiences. In the past, I experienced a lot of doubts, and needed to do a lot of mental juggling to make things feel like they fit. I thought that my incapacity to relax or really speak about my feelings and experiences to those guys honestly was due to something about my compromised mental health. As it turns out, meeting the right person is a game changer. This new relationship is different from my marriage, from any of the dating experiences I’ve had. In this case, all of instincts tell me without reservation that this is right. (I just stared out the window for about ten minutes after writing that.) Yeah. I don’t know why I don’t have any doubts about him. But I don’t. Not a one- apart from the complication that me applying for jobs around the world and him needing to stay here introduces. But that’s not about him, that’s about circumstances.

On Creating the Life I Want

My life right now is governed by fear. A fear that is impacting everything- my sleep, my capacity to get work done, my interactions with others.

I was writing a letter to an old friend who also recently went through a divorce, and I found myself typing this:

“I am SO hard on myself. But think about going through a divorce after 16 years, and having no experience of being an independent adult. Then combine moving back to the US, moving to a city where you know essentially nobody and have no support system. Alone. Into the house in which you lived with your spouse. While dealing with PTSD, and an anxiety disorder. And trying to write a dissertation (no life structure), apply for competitive jobs/post-docs/fellowships and graduate.”

I think I write things like that to people as a reminder to myself that my anger at myself for feeling sad and lonely is unwarranted. I also do it because I hope that it will prompt someone else to tell me I am strong, because I NEED to hear that. Or maybe it’ll prompt someone to save me, because I am so tired from trying to prop myself up.

***
I was in a bar on Friday in my yoga clothes. I was nursing a beer, and consciously forcing myself to breathe in and out, slowly. I was terrified. I felt like I couldn’t go home, because the solitariness of the space would torment me the way it does as I write this. First the sadness, then the despair. I couldn’t go home. So I sat, with my eyes darting quickly left and right, thinking “how did it come to this?” and asking myself:

“L, what do you WANT? What do you want your life to look like?”

That was an easy question to answer.

“But within the realm of current feasibility, what can I do to move towards a life that is more like what I want?” That’s what I need to figure out.

The bartender smiled at me curiously. I smiled back. I like that bar, but I feel like I always bring my dopey-sad eyes to it.

***
I have been keeping it under wraps, because I’ve been wrong in the past, and because this feels almost too good, but I met someone. Someone whose divorce situation resembles mine to an uncanny degree, who I can talk to with such comfort that it makes my heart hurt. But his marriage resulted in two kids, and they are of course his first priority (as an amazing dad and person). So I can sometimes only see him 1-2 evenings a week. This would be painless if I was in
any situation other than the one I am in right now. One of feeling like I need a babysitter until my new housemate moves in.

So I am still wrestling with all of my stuff. And actually, it gets hardest when I’ve met someone I like and I can’t see them that often, because I stop being able to use online dating sites as a way to distract myself. (Even when trying not to date, I find myself sneaking on.)

And right now my fear and sadness are keeping me from being able to do my academic work. But I must work. And even though he knows more about what’s really going on with me than anyone I’ve dated since this all started, I’m still scared of driving M. away. His family is in Houston, so he’s not gone off the rails as far. He has a local support system, and his kids. Meanwhile, my phobia of being alone raises my anxiety to the point where I get sick.

All of that aside, he makes me realize the difference between actual compatibility and just wanting something to fit.

(Ed. note: I was trying to be good about the dating thing but he reached out to me and I HAD to meet another person in their mid-30s who’d just left a 16-year relationship/marriage. It’s not exactly common, and hearing how much our experiences overlap has been so good for me. So if nothing else, it’s been phenomenal to talk to M.)

Free Falling

I’m sitting here on the sofa with the dogs snoring around me. It’s Friday night, the 4th of July. I have two books on the armrest: ビデオカメラでいこう by one of my fieldwork collaborators and heroes, and Ranciēre’s “The Emancipated Spectator”. I was reading and making homemade tomato sauce. Mostly, I was trying to ignore the ache that rose in my chest as soon as my housemate said he was going out.

But I’ve made progress.
I could have gone out tonight too, and I didn’t. I listened to the voice of my soul, which said that I am exhausted from almost nonstop manic socializing. I have been deliberately keeping myself from being still. It all catches up to me when I do.
But here I sit, deliberately courting it. What’s in there? I am asking? No really, let me see it…

I’ve been ignoring my inner voice for so long, because the emotional pain was too intense.
***
I was driving on Allen Parkway the other day as the sun was setting. This was before I got my car stereo replaced, and I was tired of trying to tune my iPhone through the radio adapter. I turned my own music library off, and turned on the actual radio- just in time to hear Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” start up.

That’s a song I’m sure many of us know almost by heart. It reminds me of warm days on the way to summer camp, listening to the radio in the camp van. I repeatedly got in trouble in that van for being too wild, for riling the younger kids up. When I eventually applied to be a counselor, the van driver made a point of saying that I was unsuitable. I wasn’t detached enough from the kids.

But I digress.

I started to sing along. “And I’m free. Free fallllllllin.”
I sing the chorus a couple of times at the absolute top of my lungs, so loudly that it occurs to me the drivers nearby might be able to hear. But I keep singing. And as the chorus starts again I, who am not prone to such things, find my eyes filling with spontaneous tears. I cry and sing at the top of my lungs.

***
I am sitting in Austin’s Graffiti Park on a perfect night, swinging my blue-tights clad legs over the ledge of a broken building. To my right is the kind of boy I only fantasized was real. A recent Philosophy Ph.D grad. He gets all of my theoretical references, but we both descend into juvenile humor just as often. We talk easily. I want to kiss him, but he’s moving to DC for a postdoc, and he doesn’t want to get involved with anyone now. He has a sly, cocky smile and unruly blonde hair. I love how his whole face lights up when he laughs.

Suddenly, sitting so close to the edge gives me a panic attack. I’m not afraid of heights, but I am afraid. I am afraid that every time I meet a boy like him, he’ll be moving to DC, and I won’t be.

When I text him later that I’d wanted to kiss him, he tells me he wanted to kiss me too.