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Post-weaning Blues

Several months ago, I stopped nursing baby C for a number of reasons but primarily because it was growing increasingly difficult and stressful to try to fit my pumping schedule into my full-time work schedule. I was able to breastfeed C through his first 10 months of life and it’s honestly one of my proudest accomplishments thus far, but the weaning process brought with it some unexpectedly dark days.

For months, I had been eagerly anticipating all of the wonderful things that could happen once I finally stopped breastfeeding: No longer having to drag myself out of bed at 2:00 AM to pump, the freedom of being able to eat meals without referring to the food guide pyramid taped to my fridge, finally being able to indulge in a glass of Riesling at dinner, and of course, reuniting with my beloved Keurig and enjoying guilt-free sips of Wolfgang Puck’s Hawaiian Hazelnut coffee each and every morning. Woo hoo! I simply could.not.wait!

I was totally unprepared for the adverse effect that weaning would have on my emotional well-being which I attribute to my temporary hormonal imbalance. Although I don’t believe that I actually suffered from full-blown Postpartum Depression (PPD), almost a year after my child was born, I experienced many of the symptoms of late onset PPD, including a sudden sense of emptiness, chronic low-level anxiety that I had never felt before, and persistent feelings of guilt and regret. I became very critical of decisions that I had made in the past (things that I now see as inconsequential) and worried that they might have detrimental effects on my son’s future. In general, I grew intensely worried about the baby. I am an overprotective mama by nature so this just brought me to an extreme. I felt like I had to protect him from every little person, place, or thing that we encountered.

Many of the medical professionals that you see right after childbirth, from your OB to your child’s pediatrician, inquire in one way or another about whether you are experiencing any symptoms of PPD. All eyes seem to be on you watching like a hawk for any possible signs. But after several months postpartum, assuming you show no signs of distress, everyone seems to stop asking about it.

In general, there seems to be very little awareness about late onset PPD and very little information available to the parenting community about the possibility of developing it after weaning. I chat with some of my most experienced mommy friends on a daily basis and have never heard any of them talk about this going through this before. I read about 8 pregnancy books when I was expecting (yes, I tend to overdo it) and don’t recall reading about this once. Surprisingly, even a Google search doesn’t yield much information from reliable sources on the topic.

For me, just being able to identify and have a label for what was going on in my body/brain was enormously helpful. I talked about how I was feeling with my hubby so that he could lend extra support and I felt comfortable confiding in my very best friend who I knew would never pass judgment. I made a concerted effort to try to occupy my mind with exciting short-term projects such as planning C’s birthday party and work-related events. After a few months, my hormones seemed to have leveled themselves out and thankfully things have gone back to normal.  

In writing about this, I’m not hoping to gain sympathy, attention, or anything of the sort. I’m just hoping that perhaps someday this post might be informative or helpful to another new mama going through a similar experience.

Has anyone else dealt with symptoms of late onset postpartum depression after weaning?

Ridding my life of guilt and regret

Finish each day Emerson quote

 

I wish I could be one of those people who lives life without any regrets, who makes decisions in a carefree manner and never looks back. I know several people who live life this way (or at least claim to) and I envy that they are able to do this. But I’m most definitely not one of those people. I labor over most decisions, big and small, and even after spending hours deliberating and carefully weighing the pros and cons, I often still look back afterwards and wish I could change the choices I’ve made.

After some introspection, I’ve realized that a recurring theme in my adult life has been grappling with regret and guilt. (Psychologists will probably tell you that these are actually two very distinct things, but in my mind they always go hand-in-hand and I honestly don’t think much about the distinction between them.) The interesting thing is that I have not actually done anything in life that is particularly regrettable. Sure, we’ve all made mistakes here and there, but in general I know that I am a good person, a normal law-abiding citizen who has not committed any serious moral transgressions.

My regret and guilt center around things in my past that range from only somewhat significant issues to admittedly completely insignificant issues. I tend to perseverate on these issues for days, sometimes even weeks. I think about them when I’m out on a long run, when I’m driving to work, when I’m in the shower, when I’m trying to fall asleep.

I regret saying so many things I shouldn’t have said. 

I regret behaving so selfishly during my college years.

Every time I am reminded of Cornell’s suicide rate, I regret not reaching out to that grown man who I saw alone and bawling during finals.

I regret not finishing my Ph.D. despite having a 4.0 GPA and being awarded the program’s coveted multi-year assistantship.

I regret that my parents spent so much money on a wedding dress that I only wore for a few hours.

I regret that I planned a daytime wedding instead of an evening wedding when there was absolutely no reason to do so.

I regret that on my trip to Hong Kong, I didn’t visit the mountain where my father grew up. Who knows if I’ll ever get another chance to go back.

I regret getting induced. I sometimes think that my son’s birth story wouldn’t have ended in a c-section if I had just let nature take its course instead of succumbing to pressure from my doctor.

I regret that I didn’t feed my newborn son formula sooner. I realize now that he was practically starving those first few days in the hospital before my breastmilk came in.

There are so many more thoughts of regret and guilt that run through my head, and some of my regrets are still so palpable that it would actually bother me to put them into words. I think you get the point though. I realize that in the grand scheme of things, most of these are not very serious regrets. I understand that there are many people in this world who have concerns far more significant than mine. Regardless, these regrets are real to me and some of them occupy my thoughts on a daily basis for weeks at a time.

I have not always been this way. I was a really happy-go-lucky kid and even teen, all the way up through my college years (just ask my college roommate). I made decisions on a whim, often at the last minute, and rarely looked back. Sometimes I wonder how my personality could be so different now. Perhaps it’s because I was more selfish back then and I didn’t care as much about how my actions affected others, or perhaps it’s because the decisions I made were never about anything serious so there were no long-term consequences. People rarely regret choosing soccer camp over track camp or enrolling in AP Bio over AP English.

Regardless of how or why I have become this way, I’ve come to realize that these guilty feelings are not only unproductive, but they are preventing me from enjoying the present and appreciating the many wonderful things in my life. At times, I wonder if becoming consumed by these regrets could even be causing me psychological damage. So, I’ve decided that it’s really time to get things under control.

The following are strategies I’ve identified to alleviate myself of the regret and guilt. I’ve found them to be really helpful and thought that perhaps these strategies might be helpful to my fellow chronic regretters out there.

-          Talk it out. Sharing your concerns with a sister or trusted friend can have enormous psychological benefits. Sometimes just putting your feelings into words can be healing.

-          Apologize. If your regret centers around something that you did or said to another person, apologize to that person. You may find that they aren’t even thinking about the incident anymore or have forgotten about it entirely.

-          Confidence in you. Have confidence in your past decisions and realize that you did what you did for a reason, even if that reason isn’t apparent to you right now.

-          Fuhgeddaboudit. If you can’t do anything to change the situation anymore, realize that it’s pointless to regret it. Guilt does not serve any purpose other than to make you terribly unhappy. Remind yourself that focusing too much on this past decision or situation is preventing you from enjoying life in the present.

-          Make a change. If you CAN still do something to change the situation, stop wasting time feeling guilty and instead use that time to work on changing the things that are troubling you. You might not be able to change what happened in the past, but you might still be able to change the final outcome.

-          Learn from the past. Use your regrets as learning experiences that will motivate you to do better in the future.

-          Put things in perspective. Reflect on how serious your “problem” really is in the grand scheme of things. If you find that it’s really not that big of a deal after all, then be grateful that this is your biggest concern and that you are not faced with more serious problems.

Do you have any regrets in life, big or small? Do you ever find yourself thinking about them weeks, months, or years after the fact?

 

9 Things I Wish I Knew Before My C-Section

I learned yesterday that one of my fave CILs (cousin-in-laws) is scheduled to deliver her first child via c-section in two weeks. Immediately, I wanted to compile a list of things to tell her beforehand so that she would be better prepared than I was. These are some of the things I wish someone had told me before my own c-section:

1)       Arm restraints. They might strap your arms down for the surgery. This freaked me out a little, but I think I would have been fine with it if I had known beforehand that it was going to happen. Just know that this is a possibility, although I hear they don’t always do this.

2)       “The Shakes”. You might get “the shakes” during surgery. I couldn’t control my upper body when I was lying on the O.R. table, and I was really worried the entire time that I was going to jerk my body and seriously mess something up as they were “working on me”. My anesthesiologist told me that this was a normal reaction to the anesthesia and not to worry.

3)       Nausea. You might feel nauseous at some point during the c-section. I felt okay until the moment they took the baby out, and then nausea hit me hard. I told the anesthesiologist and he gave me an anti-nausea medication that provided almost immediate relief. 

4)       Cough pillow. If you have to cough or sneeze post-surgery, hold a pillow firmly across your incision with both hands while you cough or sneeze (to add counter pressure). My hospital provided a special “cough pillow” for me, but I’m not sure if all do. If you are not near a pillow when you feel a cough or sneeze coming on, use your hands to gently hold your tummy near the incision.

5)       High-waisted bottoms. When you pack for the hospital, be sure to bring PJ bottoms or sweats that are loose-fitting and high-waisted. You want to make sure that the waistband will not hit you at the bikini line (like many low-rise styles do). Bring something that you can hike up well over your hips and can be worn granny-style. An alternative is packing a nightgown, if that’s your style.

6)       Don’t try to be a hero. Don’t forget that you will have just gone through major abdominal surgery and you probably shouldn’t try to be a hero by forgoing the pain meds. The hospital I went to allowed us to self-administer our pain medication so I tried to take the least amount possible because I was concerned about how it would affect the baby through my breast milk (even though they told us it was safe, I still didn’t feel comfortable). I later learned from one of the nurses that it’s important to stay on top of your pain meds because once you get behind, it takes longer to get relief when you begin taking your meds again. I learned this the hard way.

7)       Post-surgery shower. I was really squeamish about taking that first post-surgery shower. Prior to my c-section, I had never even had an IV before so I didn’t know what to expect and I was worried that the soapy water touching my new wound would sting like a mutha. Rest assured that it doesn’t hurt or sting. They cut a lot of nerve endings when they do the c-section so the area will be somewhat numb for quite some time.  Be careful not to scrub the incision area. Just let warm water run over it and pat dry with a towel.

8)       Soap on a Rope. Buy some soap on a rope, my friend! This might be my most important piece of advice. Trust me, as hard as you try not to, you WILL drop that bar of soap in the shower, and you will NOT be able to easily bend over and pick it up.

9)       Don’t Overdo it. After about 4 weeks you may feel like you’re back to your old self again, but don’t overdo it. Baby yourself for a little while longer and let others pamper you. Otherwise you will be very sore around your incision site at night. Trust me. I also learned this the hard way.

So those are the 9 things I wish someone had told me before my c-section. You might be wondering why I didn’t just make this list “10 Things I Wish I Knew Before My C-Section,” but I only had nine things to say and I think it’d be super annoying to add another point just to round out my list.

To all my c-section sistas out there, what have I missed? Is there anything else you wish you knew before you had your c-section?  

Disclaimer: I am not a medical expert (obviously). This is merely a personal account of my c-section experience.

Why I’m Hoping for a Girl Next Time

When I was pregnant, I secretly hoped for a boy. It was partly because my husband was very vocal about the fact that he wanted a Mini-Me and I wanted him to be happy and I was also probably influenced by Chinese culture’s strong preference for baby boys.

At our 18 week ultrasound, I was thrilled when we found out that we were having a boy. At each subsequent ultrasound up through our last one at week 39, I asked the techs to confirm that it was a boy because I just couldn’t believe that something I had wanted so badly had actually come true.

But for my next child I’m hoping—praying– for a girl.

Don’t get me wrong. We love everything about having a baby boy. My husband enjoys rough-and-tumble play with his boy and loves that he will not have to worry about all those things that Dads of teenage girls worry about. I love traditionally boyish nursery themes, picking out outfits in all shades of blue (my favorite color), and above all else, the special bond that develops between a mother and son.

But I really grappled with the decision to circumcise my son and just could not bear having to make the decision to circumcise another child. We had no religious reasons for having him circumcised, and culturally, we were torn. Circumcision seems to be the norm in the US, but my family is from an area where circumcision is fairly uncommon. And the thought that I would be knowingly inflicting pain on my helpless baby was beyond excruciating. 

I started to feel like I was the only person who was struggling with this decision. Of all the couples expecting a boy in our childbirth class, we were the only ones who were uncertain. All of the others seemed to think it was a no-brainer. Of course they were going to do it.

My husband felt strongly that his son should be circumcised, but we both knew that it was primarily my decision and this was not a decision that I took lightly. I read paper after paper on the issue, sought the advice of trusted medical professionals, and surveyed my mama friends, trying to gain some perspective and guidance. Still, I remained undecided for a long time and endured several sleepless nights.

A comment that I heard often during this information gathering process was that my son would not remember the pain afterwards. That was not a comfort to me. Regardless of whether he would remember it, knowing that I would be inflicting pain on my child at any point in time was something I was really not comfortable with.

I read about the group in San Francisco seeking to ban circumcision, which they believe is a form of genital mutilation. Their hope is that circumcision would be prohibited among males under the age of 18 and that the practice would become a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail.

I also read the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Circumcision Policy Statement published in 1999, hoping it would help me make my decision. No such luck, even after three reads. The AAP acknowledges that while there are potential medical benefits to circumcision, the data are insufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision.

For those of you also struggling with this decision, the following are excerpts from the paper that I found most useful:

  • According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 64.1% of male infants were circumcised in the United States during 1995. 
  • Penile problems may develop in both circumcised and uncircumcised males. In one study, circumcised infant boys had a significantly higher risk of penile problems than did uncircumcised boys, whereas, after infancy, the rate of penile problems was significantly higher in older uncircumcised boys. 
  • There are anecdotal reports that penile sensation and sexual satisfaction are decreased for circumcised males. 
  • Should circumcision become necessary after the newborn period because problems have developed, general anesthesia is often used and requires a more formal surgical procedure necessitating hemostasis and suturing of skin edges. 
  • There is considerable evidence that newborns who are circumcised without analgesia experience pain and physiologic stress. Analgesia is safe and effective in reducing the procedural pain associated with circumcision and, therefore, adequate analgesia should be provided if neonatal circumcision is performed. 
  • All studies that have examined the association between UTI and circumcision status show an increased risk of UTI in uncircumcised males, with the greatest risk in infants younger than 1 year of age. Initial retrospective studies suggested that uncircumcised male infants were 10 to 20 times more likely to develop UTI than were circumcised male infants. 
  • Reports of several case series have noted a strong association between uncircumcised status and increased risk for penile cancer; however, there have been few rigorous hypothesis-testing investigations. Although the risk of developing penile cancer in an uncircumcised man compared with a circumcised man is increased more than threefold, it is difficult to estimate accurately the magnitude of this risk based on existing studies. 
  • Studies suggest that circumcised males may be less at risk for syphilis than are uncircumcised males. In addition, there is a substantial body of evidence that links noncircumcision in men with risk for HIV infection… There does appear to be a plausible biologic explanation for this association in that the mucous surface of the uncircumcised penis allows for viral attachment to lymphoid cells at or near the surface of the mucous membrane, as well as an increased likelihood of minor abrasions resulting in increased HIV access to target tissues.

 A 2010 review article in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine seems to make the case for neonatal circumcision. The article states that since 2005, three randomized trials have evaluated male circumcision for prevention of sexually transmitted infections. The trials found that circumcision decreases HIV acquisition by 53% to 60%, herpes simplex virus type 2 acquisition by 28% to 34%, and HPV prevalence by 32% to 35% in men. Genital ulcer disease was also reduced. This review urges the AAP to fully reflect the long-term health benefits of male circumcision.  

After taking all of this into account, I was persuaded by research which suggests that there are potential medical benefits to circumcision, particularly with regard to preventing STIs.  I suspected that if I didn’t choose to circumcise my son at birth, he may wish to be circumcised later in life, which would require a much more involved, painful surgical procedure and a difficult healing process.  I had read absolutely horrifying stories of parents who circumcised their children after the newborn period and knew that I would not want my child to experience even worse pain later in life. And I worried that if we didn’t have him circumcised, my adolescent son might be ridiculed or develop body image issues for a decision that I had made.

I eventually recognized that I actually wanted my child to be circumcised; I just didn’t want him to have to endure the painful process of being circumcised. And I realized it was not my decision alone to make. I had to take into account my husband’s strong feelings on the matter.

In the end, Baby C was circumcised.

I cried – actually, I bawled — when they rolled baby C’s bassinet away for the circumcision. It was HEARTWRENCHING, probably the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced knowing that I was allowing my child to be taken away for a painful procedure.  I felt like someone had ripped out my heart and ran it through a meat grinder. Honestly, I would have preferred that. It still pains me now to think back on it.

While I am relieved that my son is circumcised, I’m not sure that I have it in me to make this decision a second time. But could I really have one son circumcised and not his brother?

Disclaimer: I am not a medical expert. This is merely a personal account of our family’s circumcision decision.

A Cornell Legend Comes True

Cornelliana legend says that about 60% of Cornell students marry other Cornellians (although according to Uncle Ezra, in reality, the number is closer to 8%). During Orientation Week at Cornell, I remember reading about this legend in the Student Handbook, but the thought never occurred to me that I might meet my future husband there.

I had met Jack briefly at a friend’s apartment one random Friday night during my junior year, but honestly didn’t think much of the encounter. You meet a lot of people everyday in college, especially when you go to a school as big as Cornell.

A few days later, I was driving through campus during a terrible (but fairly typical) Ithaca snowstorm. Who knows why I thought it was a good idea to drive through campus in my little Passat during white-out conditions! I obviously lacked good judgment during my college years.

As I tried to drive up a hill near the Engineering Quad, my car got stuck in the snow. I tried every trick I knew to get my car to move, but it simply would not budge. There I was stuck in the middle of the road with not a single person in sight. How was that even possible at a school that big in the middle of the afternoon?

Of course, the cell phone that my Dad had given me just for emergency situations like this had a dead battery. And the only person I would’ve called, my housemate, Josh, wouldn’t be done with his shift at the Statler (Hotel School) until the wee hours of the morning anyhow. I sat in my car thinking that someone HAD to come along eventually and hoping another car wouldn’t plow into me while I waited. There was literally not a single person in sight in any direction. Just as I was about to break out into hives and have a full-on panic attack, I spotted a person walking towards me. I remember wondering if I’d be bold enough to ask a stranger for help and then thinking, Wait… I think I know this guy!” It was Jack.

After I awkwardly flagged him down, he got my car unstuck with so little effort it made me feel foolish. I forget where I was going that day, but I never got there. Jack safely drove me back to my apartment, and we’ve been best friends ever since. Five years of marriage and one beautiful baby boy later, I now know that there are some upsides to those grueling Ithaca winters.

In retrospect, it’s pretty remarkable that of the nearly 20,000 people in Cornell’s student population, Jack was the one person walking through that part of campus that afternoon. I’d like to think it was fate. Either that or he was stalking me…

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

A Different Kind of Mommy Guilt


“A
mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” -Tenneva Jordan

When I was a kid, maybe about 12, I remember coming across this quote in the newspaper, probably the Globe, thinking that the mother described was just like my mom. I remember cutting it out to show her because I couldn’t believe that someone had so perfectly captured her essence in words, her approach to raising my sister and I, and the role she has assumed in our family. Selfless provider. Loving. Caring. Self-sacrificing. All without a second thought or a single complaint.

Even from a young age, I recognized that my mom is an exceptional mother. After reading the quote, however, I wondered if perhaps all mothers were as self-sacrificing as mine, but over the years, as I’ve gotten to know other people’s mothers I’m certain that not everyone is lucky enough to have the kind of mom that I have. Not even close.

I have always had a really close relationship with my mom. As an immigrant from Hong Kong, with her own family far away, she has worked so diligently and sacrificed so much to give us happy childhood memories and the types of life experiences that most people only dream of. A working mom with a demanding career, she somehow always found time to be at my soccer games, take me to piano lessons, and help me with my chemistry homework late at night.

She has always been there to support us, absorbing our troubles, anxieties, and disappointments like a sponge. I can’t tell you how many times she’s sat at the foot of my bed with a warm washcloth to wipe away my tears. She has instilled confidence in us when we’ve questioned ourselves, assuaged our fears and anxieties, found the silver lining in disappointing news, and eased us through difficult life transitions. And she did all of these things even when we were at times less-than-perfect children, when we threw tantrums, when we behaved like self-absorbed teenagers, when we let our tempers get the best of us. The term “unconditional love” does not even begin to describe it.

In my 31 years, I’ve only ever seen my Mom lose her temper about three times, if that. As a mom myself, I understand now more than ever how incredible that is. Even when we were at our worst, and would selfishly take our frustrations out on her, she would never get angry. She used to gently remind us, “Just remember, you’ll be sorry when I’m gone…” The words worked like magic. The painful realization that she might someday not be around was enough to stop us from misbehaving. That’s all she had to say, and we would behave like angels from that point on.

These days, I’ve managed to keep the fist-pounding, arm-flailing tantrums to a minimum. But even now, ashamed as I am to admit it, I do lose my temper occasionally and she bears the brunt of it.

Last weekend, at a family Chinese New Year Dinner, I yelled at my mother which in retrospect I recognize was for no good reason. I was holding baby CJ, who was fussing and flailing, on my lap while I was trying to enjoy a bite to eat along with everyone else. As I brought the food up to my mouth, the baby quickly turned his head towards it and his pudgy little face came a little too close for comfort to my fork. I pulled it away in time. But my mom, sitting next to me, gasped one of those loud, heart-stopping, alarming-to-a-baby gasps. And after a brief delay, in classic social referencing style, he started crying.

Without thinking, I snapped at her, “Can you NOT do that?”

It wasn’t technically “yelling” and probably does not seem like a big deal to most of you, but I felt horrible afterwards, especially after seeing how defeated she looked. She doesn’t have to say, “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone…” anymore because those words are now engrained in me and the thought almost automatic. As soon as the words left my mouth, I regretted it and was consumed by guilt for a long time afterwards. For the rest of the evening, I kept thinking about it and talking about it to my husband. He couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just apologize and let it go.

After replaying the incident in my head, I realize that I snapped at her because I felt her gasp was a criticism of what I had done and I knew she was right. I used poor judgment trying to multitask while holding the baby. I was annoyed with myself for creating the potentially dangerous situation. In my harried, sleep-deprived state, I took it out on my mother who was only expressing concern.

Of course, I called her twice afterwards to say that I was sorry. And of course, she told me it was okay, that she used to snap at her mom, too, but that her mom always knew she loved her. This anecdote just made me feel ten times more guilty. Her mom is no longer around and my mom can’t tell her she’s sorry anymore.

After some introspection, I’ve realized that my guilt over this interaction stems from my underlying anxieties about the future. As we get older and our parents age, we begin to realize that our parents will not be around forever. When I was younger, I used to wish in some ways that I would die before my parents so that I wouldn’t have to live without them. But being sandwiched between my role as a daughter and a mother now certainly changes how I think about that. Nonetheless, I am nearly paralyzed with fear when I think about the inevitable truth that someday my parents will be gone. I sit here with glassy eyes, a sunken heart, and a knot in my stomach from just typing out those words.

Breaking Up With a Friend: The Phase Out


I recently went through a pretty serious break-up. This one didn’t involve your typical break-up routines. No angry shouting matches, no tearful goodbyes, no couples counseling, and no changes in relationship status on FB.

Before all you gossipers get too excited, I should clarify one thing. Yes, I’m still married. No, I did not leave my husband. This post has nothing to do with him.

I’m talking about breaking up with a friend. A pretty close friend in this case. Someone who has been there through much of my adult life, through boyfriends and break-ups, through successes and failures, and through major life transitions.

But over the past few years, I’ve left every get together with this friend (let’s call her “Brooke” since this blog is only semi-anonymous) incredibly irritated by the rude and offensive things that she’s said. I could provide outrageous examples that would leave your mouth agape with disbelief. She has always been known to have a very competitive personality, but it had never been directed at me, until recently. As we transitioned into our adult lives, her obsession with competing with everyone in everything eventually seeped its way into our friendship and her desire to “one-up” me dominated every one of our conversations.

Competition implies a contest in which one party clearly wins and comes out on top of everyone else. It does not allow for both parties to root for one another, but instead encourages rivalry between opposing teams. In my opinion, these conditions have no place in a true friendship.

Friends are supposed to be there to provide guidance, support, encouragement, and happiness. What’s the point of maintaining a friendship in which you can’t feel comfortable just being yourself? Are you really friends if you are just putting on airs around one another? Who says friendships have to last forever?

I’ve been grappling with the decision of what to do with our friendship for a while now. But after repeated offenses, Brooke’s competitive behavior became too obnoxious to bear. If she had just done one or two things wrong, I could see the value in talking it over and trying to make amends. But the problem seems to be a chronic one which keeps recurring despite my best efforts to discourage her from behaving this way. I don’t believe that I should have to bother with someone who is no longer good for me or who may even be doing me psychological damage. I decided it was time to cut her from the team.

Middle School Judy would have ended this friendship in a dramatic fashion, sending a nasty letter about how annoyed I was by her tacky ways and closing by telling her to have a nice life (handwritten on wide-ruled paper neatly folded up into a secret note square, of course). Adult Judy adopted a more subtle approach. I call it the Friendship Phase Out.

Perhaps there are others of you out there faced with a similar problem of how to let go of a toxic friend so I thought I’d share my approach.

Group get-togethers: Instead of one-on-one get togethers, I only got together with Brooke at parties or group outings. This way, I only had to experience her in small doses and I could pawn her off on other people. In my experience, she would never dare say in group settings the things she says to me alone as she’s aware that certain statements are just plain socially unacceptable.

Blame it on being busy: Work, baby, travel, classes, taking care of my old Aunt Gerdie, whatever. Point is: I was busy, reeeeally busy, too busy to hang out. Like ever.

Trial Separation: I took a trial separation period to cool down and get over my initial annoyance and resentment. I used this break to determine if I truly wanted to end this friendship for good.

Downgrade the friendship: I didn’t want to drop her like a hot potato as this was a phase out that I was hoping would create as few waves as possible. I attempted to gradually downgrade our friendship from close friend to casual acquaintance by limiting my exposure to her as much as possible.

Keep your distance: I stopped initiating contact. I stopped emailing and calling. I gave her the good, old-fashioned silent treatment. When she called, I let it go to voicemail. When she emailed, I didn’t reply. When she emailed again asking why I hadn’t yet replied, I provided only one-word responses.

Avoid confrontation: I am trying my hardest to have the phase out go completely unnoticed, but I suspect that Brooke will eventually ask what’s up and I probably won’t be able to brush it off. If that happens, I think it’ll be fine to acknowledge the issue, but I don’t want to get into heated, involved discussions because that would suggest that I want to salvage the relationship which I don’t. The point is the relationship is no longer working for me. I don’t want to fight. I just want to move on.

Don’t involve others: I tried my hardest not to talk to our mutual friends about my reasons for initiating the phase out. We’re all adults. I didn’t want to influence their relationships with her; however, several of her other friends have already come to the same conclusion as I did and I believe their friendships with her will suffer a similar fate.

Don’t burn bridges: Part of me wants to point out the serious insecurities underlying Brooke’s need to compete with everyone all the time, but I have held my tongue. Some words you can never take back. What’s the point of doing irreparable damage?

Don’t issue a final goodbye: Even though I’m fairly certain I’m done with Brooke for good, I want to be careful not to issue a dramatic final goodbye. You never know what might happen in the future. Maybe once she loses all her friends due to her competitiveness, she’ll transform back into the friend I once knew.

Has anyone else dealt with letting go of a toxic friend?

C-Section Remorse

 

Throughout my pregnancy, I never considered the possibility that I would have a C-section. Who knows where I got this idea, but I just figured a C-section was what “other people had”, people with complications during pregnancy which I didn’t have. I only skimmed the chapters on C-section in my pregnancy books and we paid little to no attention to the C-section video in our prepared childbirth class. 

On D-day, I reached 9 cm. in no time. My OB and nurses all commented on the remarkable rate of progress. But hours and hours passed and I could not get to full dilation. My OB felt “a section” was necessary, but in our stressed and exhausted state, everything that she said was a bit of a blur. Arrest of dilation, failure to progress, baby’s size, possible cervical swelling, etc. Since I was not keen on the idea of having a C-section, we waited a little while longer and even tried pushing, but to no avail. Finally, my OB scared the bejesus out of us by telling us that I could “bleed out” if we tried to have a vaginal delivery and we could be putting the baby at risk.

Needless to say, I had a C-section.

In the months following my son’s birth, I was riddled with guilt and filled with remorse over the C-section. I wish I had asked more questions. I wish I hadn’t let the OB pressure us into having the section. Since the baby wasn’t in distress, I felt like I should have been able to labor longer. Aren’t there plenty of birth stories in which the mothers were in labor for a ridiculously long time?

My reasons for not wanting the C-section were not superficial. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want a scar. Trust me, there are plenty of other things about my body that aren’t perfect so I wasn’t too focused on that. It was that I somehow felt robbed of the true childbirth experience. I felt that I missed out on a sort of rite of passage into motherhood by not suffering through a vaginal delivery. I wanted to prove to myself that I was strong enough to endure what many consider to be the worst pain, all for the sake of my child, but I never got that chance.

I was disappointed that the first few days postpartum were not as I had planned. I couldn’t jump up when the baby cried and pick him up the way I had expected to. I couldn’t walk him to sleep. I couldn’t nurse him without help. I felt like this interfered with my ability to bond with my baby in those early days.

For weeks following CJ’s birth, I questioned whether I really needed a C-section. After speaking with my OB and reading her postoperative report, I felt even more strongly that it was unnecessary. The baby was not in any distress and my OB herself admitted that she wanted me to have the baby “before her shift ended.” I wondered whether I would have been able to have a natural delivery if we had just waited and labored longer. I speculated that perhaps my OB was motivated to do the C-section for financial reasons and/or due to her own impatience. What irks me most is that her decision did not just affect this birth but likely my next as well.

It has been four months and I think I have finally come to terms with what happened. It’s easier to accept when I think about the possibility that something could have happened to the baby if we had attempted a regular delivery.  It’s been helpful to talk to others who have also experienced these same feelings of remorse. In the end, I have a healthy baby boy and that is all that matters to me. It goes without saying that he has been worth it all… But I will definitely be switching OBs.