Back to School Anxiety

THE END IS NEAR!!! I can see the light! School starts this week!

One could interpret that in two very different ways:

busPositive: “Hooray! I survived summer break without a visit from DCFS or jail time! There is light at the end of this never-ending tunnel! Is that bus headlights coming toward me?? *Sniiiifffff* I smell diesel! Hallelujah!!!”

 

Negative: “I’m dying! The Four Horsemen are coming! That light is so beautiful…but why do I see my ancestors beckoning me to come hither? Yep. The non-stop fighting and complaining of the inmates has finally killed me.”

First Born and Young Son go back to school on Wednesday. (Meaning Tuesday is Supply Drop-off/Meet the Teacher day, and we all know how much I loathe THAT day.)

But even more stressful than that is the fact that First Born starts middle school this year. I know he’s looking forward to some aspects of it, like feeling grown-up and having more independence. But I can tell that the reality of it has been starting to sink in over the past few weeks. Let’s just say he’s been far from a joy to live with lately. I need to remind myself that this isn’t all toxic pre-teen hormones making him surly and short-tempered. All. The. Time. A lot of it is anxiety oozing out of him in the form of asshole-ish behavior.

I remember when I started junior high 35 years ago (ugh!) I was terrified. The entire summer before I was sick with fear, dread and so much anxiety that I had trouble sleeping and was nauseated most of the time. My teacher the year before had drilled into us how hard and different junior high was going to be, she made it seem like we were going to be going directly to college instead of 7th grade. We were going to have insane amounts of homework heaped upon us, expectations of us would be exponentially more difficult, we’d only have four minutes to change classes and they would be located 3 miles apart (don’t even think about going to your locker or the bathroom)…and worst of all, we would have to change and shower in front of our peers for gym class!

But after the first few days, I found out that my teacher was basically full of crap, and junior high wasn’t nearly as bad as she had made it out to be. Sure, it was a change and a little confusing at first, but it was a good thing. I wasn’t stuck in the same classroom with the same idiots and same cranky teacher day after day, hour after hour. I began feeling more grown up and started gaining a bit of confidence…which was immediately snuffed out by hellacious adolescent peers who still live in my nightmares to this day. (That’s a post for another time.) Best of all, we did not have to shower after gym class. We all quickly learned how to do strange contortions with our clothing so that the least amount of skin and underwear showed, doused ourselves with Wild Musk perfume and and Tickle deodorant and called it a day.

Is there a pedagogical reason why some teachers put the fear of God into their students to prepare them for the rigors of the next step in their schooling? I get that students need to understand that expectations will be higher and things will be different than what they are used to. But so often what is lost in translation for the student is that all the work they have been doing and the skills their teachers have been teaching them are what makes them prepared for the next step. Instead, so many (like in my case) are left feeling overwhelmed and terrified that they aren’t ready and are going to fail miserably.

I get it. When I get frustrated when First Born’s immaturity peaks out sometimes, I find myself saying things like, “You need to get more organized and on top of things! In sixth grade you won’t have your teacher holding your hand all the time! BE RESPONSIBLE!” Instead of getting him to shape up, I’m sure I’m just adding fuel to the fire of his anxiety of not feeling ready, mature or smart enough. Don’t get me wrong. I know this is going to be a big change for him and there are going to be some pretty big potholes along the way. But I need to keep my anxiety in check so I don’t add to his.

So next time he’s acting like a total beast and feel like ripping his head off and using it as a bowling ball, I need to remind myself to pull him in for a hug instead of yelling. Maybe it will help to ease the anxiety for both of us.

To my fellow parents sending their kids back to school: congratulations! You made it through another summer! And to those teachers going back to the grind and craziness of the classroom, good luck, God speed…and have mercy on my inmates! Just remember: I am their mother, and they can’t help a lot of it.

 

 

Pausing for the Funeral Procession

Yesterday as I was driving through town to take the inmates to their eye doctor appointments, a funeral procession came to the intersection where I was stopped. I pulled over and waited for them all to pass.

But while I was waiting there, multiple cars went around me and continued on their way, either oblivious to, not caring about or annoyed with the somber string of cars with their flashing lights. It saddened me and made me angry.

Later I went home and looked up the law on what you are supposed to do when you come upon a funeral procession. You are not allowed to cut through or cut off a funeral procession, nor should you honk (one would think this should go without saying.) But you are not required to pull over as a funeral procession goes by, it is merely a custom that so many seem to forget more and more often.

While I had somewhere to be and things to do, it was still important for me to take the time to acknowledge the mourners passing by. Even though I did not know the person in the hearse or their loved ones following behind, I took the time to respect their grief. This was not a trundling, never-ending train carrying lumber or coal from point A to point B. No, this was a long line of people accompanying their loved one to his or her final resting place. A few minutes of my time to respectfully pause and bear witness to the loss these people were suffering really seemed the least I could do.

This was a good reminder for me though. How many times have I impatiently waited in line while lost in thought with all the little things I need to get done, plan dinner, get who when and where, instead of bothering to have a nice chat with a fellow shopper who could use a kind word in that moment? How often have I wasted time scrolling through Facebook to keep up with what friends are doing instead of actually calling them to meet for coffee to really see how their life is? How many times have I obsessively read news article after news article, yet never seem to do enough with my outrage over the treatment of my fellow humans near and far.

We all need to be reminded to pause

…To pause and notice what is going on around us.
…To pause and care more for our family and friends.
…To pause and ask ourselves, “Am I doing enough, loving enough, giving enough?”
…To pause and really appreciate the amazing gifts we have been given in our lives
…To pause to just breathe and take it all in.

Perhaps if we all pause in our daily lives, our world can become a kinder, gentler place while we are still in it, before we become the one in the hearse, or become the mourners following behind.

Our Kid’s First Cell Phone Contract

Cell phones weren’t available to the public when I was a kid. If we wanted to communicate with our friends, we had a few options: walk or bike over to their house and actually talk in person, pass notes in school (the more intricately folded, the better) or call them on a telephone (a.k.a “landline”). We didn’t have a touch-tone phone until I was in fifth grade. Rotary-phone-c1983Until then we had a rotary phones in fashionable avocado green and goldenrod to coordinate with our decor. For those of you who are too young to remember such an archaic device, here’s how to use a rotary phone:

  1. Pick up the receiver (that’s the thing you hold to your head to talk and listen.)
  2. Insert your index finger into the little hole that corresponds to the number you want to dial.
  3. With finger still in hole, slide dial around to the right until you reach the little metal stop.
  4. Remove finger and allow dial to return to its normal position.
  5. Repeat this process until all numbers have been dialed. If you make a mistake, hang up and start over. If the phone number you are dialing has lots of zeros and nines, then it sucks to be you.
  6. I won’t even get into the intricacies of the curled up cord that kept you tethered to the phone base.

When I was in middle school, I finally got my parents to agree to let me have a phone in my bedroom! But I was never as cool as some of my bougie friends who had a “teen line” of their own. No. I had to share our family’s line and hope no one picked up and listened to my conversation or needed me to hang up so they could use the phone or receive a call.

492327-motorola-flare-1995It wasn’t until I was out of college that I had my first cell phone. Texting wasn’t a thing until about ten years later, and then you had to us the number key pad with the corresponding letters below each number. So 444*55566688833*99966688 translated into, “I love you.” Jeez.

So fast forward to present day. First Born Male Child has been begging for a cell phone of his own for a couple years. “But all of my friends have them!” Okay. Maybe not all, but quite a few even as early as 3rd and 4th grade! 

“What exactly do you think you’d be doing with a phone, First Born? Who is it that you desperately need to be in communication with? What are the occasions you have in life that would require you to have one?”

“I don’t know! But I’m sure I’d find some! You guys are so mean!”

Yes. Yes we are. Now I get it that for some families it’s necessary, for those with kids in multiple extra-curricular activities or kids of divorced parents etc. But for First Born, there really hasn’t been much need. 

But last week the Warden and I finally bit the bullet and got a smartphone for First Born Male Child. We were reluctant to do it, but with him starting middle school in the fall, it seemed to be time. He is starting to be involved in more activities where he gets dropped off and picked up. And honestly, we didn’t want him to start being socially ostracized for not having one so he could communicate with his friends when not in school. (I know. First world problems.)

Our hesitation was multi-fold: Was he ready for the responsibility that came with having his own phone? Could we be confident he wouldn’t likely lose or break it? Most importantly, was he able to use it in a responsible and safe manner in this crazy digital age? That last one keeps us up at night. (Well maybe just me, because the Warden falls asleep the minute his head hits the pillow and is out cold for the night. But that’s a whole blog post of its own for another day.)

After a lot of discussion, we came up with a contract between First Born and us to clearly outline expectations for proper use of the new smartphone. It includes the hours he may use it, which types of apps can be installed, how it will be monitored by us and the consequences of improper usage, as well as our expectations we have of his overall behavior that allows him the privilege of having his own cell phone. (I’ve included a link for a PDF version of our contract in case you want to check it out or even use it for your kids.)

GENERIC CONTRACT FOR MOBILE PHONE USE

I am sure those of you with legal backgrounds are cringing at the gaping loopholes and poor legal syntax it contains, but it’s a starting point and something we can refer him to when he pushes his luck with proper use. “Oh. You think Mom and Dad are snooping in your business too much? Please refer to point number five. Sorry. You signed it pal.”

As much joy as it often gives me to stifle First Born’s fun in life, our main goal in developing a contract was to keep him safe and to teach him responsibility and consequences.

I’m sure he’ll find plenty of ways to work around and push the limits of the contract, and knowing him, he’ll even seek legal advice to prove his point. Just remember this, lawyers: he’s still paying off a toilet and is broke, so unless you’re looking for some pro bono work, I’d advise you to tell him to pound sand if he asks for your expertise.

 

 

 

There’s No Crying in Baseball

This summer Young Son started expressing an interest in baseball, so I signed him up for a beginner camp through our park district. I figured it would ease him into the basics and that if he did really like it, I’d sign him up for a league. I’ve learned my lesson on this front — inevitably if I would have signed him up for an 8-week league with practices twice a week for an hour and half or more, he would immediately have decided that he loathed it. Then both of us would have been miserable, because I’d have to drag his whiney, complaining butt to practice each time. He’d be all surly in the outfield and I’d sullenly watch from the scalding hot bleachers. He’d want to quit, but of course I wouldn’t let him, even though deep down I really wouldn’t mind.

But lo and behold, Young Son has really been liking baseball. This week they had an actual “game” rather than just drills and practice. Each player got a turn at bat while all the boys scattered in the outfield, baseball gloves dangling at their side, waiting for a ball to come to them. Inevitably whenever a ball would actually come hobbling their way, they would just stand there and wait for it to arrive at their feet or watch it go rolling by until this one scrappy little kid would finally run up, field it and chase the batter around the bases trying to tag him. There was no throwing to second or tagging the man out at third base. No, that would have caused even more pandemonium.

It was finally time for Young Son’s turn at bat. He tried to look all serious and cool, and I pointwas just waiting for him to shoulder his bat and point at the fences. But he didn’t and hunkered down in his lefty batting position. On the first pitch, it was a swing about three seconds late. As he got ready for the second pitch, I yelled, “Grip it and rip it, pal!” And guess what?! He got a decent hit!

“Way to go Young Son!” I hollered. But instead of running for first base, he just stood there.

“RUN!” all of the moms yelled. He looked startled (probably still in shock), set his bat down and trotted towards first. “RUN FASTER!!!” I called. Finally another kid got the ball and started chasing after him with it in his outstretched hand. But then as Young Son was coming up on third, that scrappy little kid snatched away the ball and sprinted after Young Son. Alas, there was no hope and he tagged him out. Oh well. 

This week was the last session of his camp and fifteen minutes before they were to wrap things up, the coach said, “Okay kids! Now we’re going to have a game with the parents!”

Wait. What? “Did he just say there’s going to be a game with the parents?!”

“He sure did,” said another mom who was as thrilled as I was.

“Goddamnit! I did not sign up for this crap!” I moaned as we all slunk off to the outfield, muttering profanities under our breath while plastering fake smiles of enthusiasm on our faces for our Babe Ruth wannabes.

“So Nurse Ratched, what’s the big deal? It’s just a kid’s game,” you say.

Well, all the excruciating memories of my miserable time in gym class during middle school came flooding back. I wanted to cry. I could practically feel the hinder binder coming on that those nasty shorts we had to wear always gave me. The humiliation and anxiety the bi-annual bent arm hang testing gave me nearly put me in the hospital each year. I know it may come as a shock to some of you, but I’m not exactly athletically gifted. Sports have never been my thing. The thought of letting other team members down due to my lack of skill mortifies me. Basically my goal was just to fly under the radar and hope that no one noticed my existence.

catch-e1561907348364.jpgWhere was I? Oh. Young Son’s baseball game. I stood there sweating in the outfield as the sun blazed down and my anxiety ratcheted up. “Please don’t hit the ball my way, please don’t hit the ball my way,” I chanted in my head. I did not want to have to chase after a rogue grounder in my flip flops and then have to chase a kid. Gina Davis I was not.

So of course the first punk hits one right toward me! Crap! I went trotting after it and had to make the choice: do I go running after the kid and tag him out and be that asshole parent, or do I pretend to be even more pathetic than I already am and fumble the ball or pull a hammy or something? Either way I was going to look like an idiot. I ended up meeting him at second and let him take the base, and then I managed to throw the ball back to the coach and it actually reached him. (whew!)

Eventually it was the parents’ turn to bat. We all shuffled over to the dug out and rock/paper/scissored who would have to bat first. The coach actually got the tee out for us. I’m still not sure how to take that. Was he being kind and trying to save us an ounce of humiliation, or did he really think we were really that pathetic? Clearly the boys thought we were total losers, because one jerk snarkily shouted, “Okay guys. Let’s take it easy on them. We gotta respect our elders.” I flipped him off (in my head) and had visions of me hitting a pop fly that would bop him right on his smart-mouthed nugget.

lineupWhile all the miserable moms were lined up, sullenly sweltering in the dugout, the token dad of the group was standing off to the side in the shade of a tree. Oh hell no. “Hey! No fair! If we have to suffer, so do you!” I called.

He laughed and said, “Nah. I’m just waiting here to go last so I can clean up after ya’ll.” All the moms groaned, rolled our eyes and mentally flipped him off too. That just answered which kid was his.

The spunky grandma among us was up at bat, and she sent the tee flying instead of the ball with her enthusiasm. Of course this sent all the prepubescent boys into gales of laughter. The coach scolded them, “Seriously guys? Everyone here is learning. Knock it off!” Luckily with her next try she had a good hit and that shut them up.

I was up next. Deep breaths. “Please don’t let me whiff it…please don’t let me whiff it…” I stepped up to the tee, kept my eye on the ball and got a hit, sending it bouncing between first and second! I ran for first and I must have surprised them more than I surprised myself. They were fumbling around for the ball and running into one another like a bunch of miniature Keystone Cops, so I safely made it to first base.

The next mom hit one right to the smart-ass kid who happened to be standing right where I needed to run. He managed to pick up the ball. Our eyes locked. I gave him one of my fiercest mom glares and made a run for it, dodged around him and made it to second base. HA! In my hubris, I thought it would be good to make a run for third. He was hot on my tail and I kept waiting for him to nail me in the back with the ball. I ran for my life screaming, “I…DO…NOT…FEEL…PRETTY!!!!” I made it to third! I’d learned my lesson and stayed.

Douchey Dad was up and of course he nailed one right to the fences. As obnoxious as it was, I was relieved that the game was finally over. I high tailed it off the field and looked for Warrior Princess. lebronI looked over and there she and her new found friend were doing a LeBron James style chalk toss with the dirt. Excellent. This was going to make bath time even more fun. (Did you like that sports reference I made there? Okay, so it’s the wrong sport, but still.)

The coach handed out medals to each of the boys for participating. Hell. Where were the medals for the moms? I would have gladly accepted a Starbucks gift card instead though. But the look of joy and excitement on Young Son’s face made up for it. He came running over, “Mom! That was so much fun!” He was beaming with pride.

Next week he’ll be spending a few days with his cousins, who are basically baseball prodigies. He is beyond excited to absorb some of their talent and learn from the masters while he’s there. I’m sure by the time he comes home, he’ll be ready for the big leagues.

This experience has reminded me that as a parent, I cannot let my anxieties become my children’s too. It’s my job to let them experience life, to try new things, to fail, to succeed and to hopefully become the best versions of themselves. Maybe they can teach me to let go of some of my anxiety in the process. I just hope that doesn’t involve me having to play organized sports anymore.

 

 

 

 

One Person’s Trash is Another Person’s Treasure

First Born Male Child has been hard at work at his brand of crazy, and once again he’s pulled in his best buddy, Jiminy Cricket. If you don’t recall, Jiminy is First Born’s voice of reason and sanity. This time they went dumpster diving. Well, more like First Born decided to scavenge our neighborhood’s trash the night before garbage day.

On their first trip they scored a sliding screen door. Why? First Born thought he was being helpful, because ours is getting worn and wonky and needs to be replaced. (Add that to my infinite list of crap to get fixed.) And how did he haul this to our house? On top of his head so that the screen is all pulled out and stretched and the frame is further warped. Yes. So now this gem sits in my garage. I give him credit for his heart being in the right place at least.

The second trip was a far bigger score. First Born and Jiminy came running in the house all hot and sweaty, “Mom! I just got a playhouse someone was actually throwing out! You gotta see this!”

I let out a tired sigh, “What are you talking about??” I was picturing a dollhouse of some sort. Oh no. That would have been far too boring.

Behold: The House.

IMG_20190618_082454746

I went to the front yard, “What?!? What are you planning on doing with this thing?! Where are you going to put it?!?” I yelled.

“I’m going to put in my room and make it into a fort and reading nook!!”

No you’re not! How on earth are you planning on getting it upstairs?!” I pictured the path of dirt and destruction that he would leave in his wake — you know, more than his usual. I didn’t want to even think about the various insects and vermin that are probably inhabiting it.

“But…!!!”

“No.” I stood firm.

“But Mom! I hauled it all the way here! You better not put it out with the garbage!”

“Well, it’s not going in your room,” I said firmly. “Maybe you could put it in the backyard with all the other junk you have back there.” It’s getting to the point where I wouldn’t be shocked to find a car up on blocks with a family of raccoons living in it.

Fine!” he huffed. “But look! Isn’t this thing cool?! The doorbell still works!”

In the meantime, Warrior Princess was beside herself with glee and immediately began testing it out. She went in, slammed the door, declared it hers and officially banned her brothers from entering. This did not go over well with her big brother.

“No way! This is my fort! I did all the work getting it here!” he bemoaned.

Before the fighting really started, I just turned around and went in the house. Let First Born figure out how to evict his four year old squatter.

Then I started thinking, “Wait. Where exactly did he get this from? And how did he really get it here?”

Later when he came inside, I asked him and he casually said, “I dragged it from the cul-de-sac down the street.”

“You mean the one just down the block about 10 houses down?” I asked?

“No. The one over by Jiminy’s house.”

What?! You didn’t cut through and drag it through people’s yards did you?!” I pictured destroyed lawns and trampled landscaping. I was horrified.

“No, we stayed on the sidewalk except for when we crossed the street,” he assured me. That meant he hauled it nearly a quarter mile and up a hill. Then I started thinking about all the neighbors who probably captured it all on their Ring doorbell and security cameras. Awesome.

And then it hit me, “Wait. You made Jiminy help you?!”

“Well, yeah. He just kept saying, ‘This isn’t weird, it’s normal. This isn’t weird, it’s normal,’ the whole way. He was trying to get himself to believe it.” Poor Jiminy. Talk about a loyal friend, though.

Well, it just goes to show what First Born can accomplish when he’s determined. Truth be told, the house is actually in pretty good condition, save for the mud, grass and the possible black mold between the walls.

Dear Husband came home later that evening and asked, “Do I even want to know why there’s a house in our garage?”

“First Born garbage picked it,” I said.

“Of course he did,” and he shook his head and went upstairs to change. Yes. Because this is a totally normal occurrence at the Pediatric Psych Ward.

So if you’re looking for a place to stay when you’re in the area, Warrior Princess is now renting her new “apartment” out on Airbnb. It’s a steal.

 

What I DON’T Want for Mother’s Day

Dearest Husband,

In case you haven’t noticed, Mother’s Day is coming up. (It’s Sunday, May 12th in case you’ve been living in a hole, and that better not give you license to make snide comments about my housekeeping habits.) Inevitably you will ask me what I want. *Groan* Really? Can’t you be just a little bit creative? Fine. While anything in a little blue box wrapped up with a white bow is always appreciated, it’s not necessarily things that I want — It’s more experiences that will bring me joy.

Now wait a hot minute! Before you crank out some lame coupon book from the inmates with free hugs and doing the dishes and other malarkey and call it a day, listen to me. Granted, I’m all about hugs and getting out of doing the dishes, but why do I have to go dig out a coupon book any time I would like these things done? And most likely when I do actually find said coupon book, I’m going to end up getting attitude or eye-rolling and that just sucks the fun out of it all.

Instead, my love, I give you what Nurse Ratched does NOT want for Mother’s Day:

  1. Breakfast in bed: Hell to the no. I know it seems all decadent and fancy, but NO. Here’s what will happen: fighting, spills, crumbs and an enormous mess in the kitchen for me to clean up. All things I loathe. You know as well as I do, the inmates will fight over who gets to push the toaster button and burn my toast, what kind of jam I want, who gets to pour the OJ and bring up the tray. I will hear all of this fighting nonsense from my cozy bed, and it will cancel out any “sleeping in” or “relaxing” it was supposed to provide. And then they will inevitably drip coffee or juice all the way up the stairs and down the hall. Then when they deliver the tray, still fighting, they will set it down and proceed to jump on the bed, spilling everything all over. Then they will eat the breakfast for me and make crumbs. Oh goody. Now I get to change the sheets and wash all of the bedding. And how about they just don’t touch my food period — I’ve seen how those animals “wash” their hands. Gross. I’m not going to even go into the epic mess they will have left in the kitchen for me.
    Instead, how about this, Dear Husband: Wake up a bit early (and not after hitting snooze 4 times, because that’s gonna get you throat punched by yours truly.) Quietly go downstairs and make coffee. While it’s brewing, quietly wake up the inmates and hustle them out to the car, then bring a piping hot carafe of coffee and set it quietly on my bedside table whilst I slumber. Then take the inmates out for breakfast. Please be gone for at least three hours. Take them to the park, the zoo, the movies…ANYTHING! I just want a few hours in the house to myself with nothing that needs to get done, except for me to sleep, drink coffee, mess around on my phone and take a long, uninterrupted shower. And if the inmates were a bunch of jerks the whole time you were gone, I don’t want to hear about it. Plaster a fake smile on your face and pretend it was more fun than should be allowed by law. Don’t harsh my mellow with tales of hateful behavior.
  2. Gift Certificate for a spa getaway: Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the idea of a spa getaway. But by giving me a gift certificate, you’ve basically just created more work for me, and the less likely it’s gonna happen. I’m the one who will have to schedule it, make reservations, find a sitter and make decisions on where to go and what to do. You know. Do the all the stuff I do every day for everyone?? By the time it gets around to actually going to the spa, half the joy has been canceled out by having to arrange it all.
    Instead, my intelligent and resourceful Husband, do a little research and do the planning for me! You have access to my calendar (which has everyone’s whereabouts every single minute of the day) and to my contacts with all the best babysitters if needed. Set it up. Block off my calendar, book the spa services (massage, facial and mani/pedi please) and just tell me where I need to be when. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about the whole idea!
  3. Mother’s Day brunch: Nope. Hard pass. I know you’re thinking, “But that way you won’t have to cook and you can have a nice meal!” True, but the thought of going to a crowded nice restaurant with the surly inmates in tow is giving me hives just thinking about it. You know First Born will be devouring every dessert in sight while picking on Young Son who will be grumpy if there is not a sufficient flow of breakfast meats. Warrior Princess will most likely be the best behaved of the group, but she can be a wild card. Keep this whole idea for when they are grown up and no longer living with us. It will be far more pleasant for all involved.
    Instead, pick up some nice carry out and bring it home. Serve it on paper plates, I don’t care. Just so long as I don’t have to clean it up! You chose the place and what to order and take care of the details. Having one day a year without having to plan what goes into everyone’s stomach and then clean up afterward is a dream come true.

For bonus points, if I can get through the day without having to touch any bodily fluid — pee, poop, puke, blood, sweat, tears — I will be a happy girl. Better yet, if they are involved, clean it up, shove the inmates in the tub and toss in a load of laundry while you’re at it.

I know all of this sounds very demanding and selfish, and I guess it is. But if you truly want to give me a wonderful Mother’s Day, give me a day off of being a mother. The best gift I’ve ever received has been the family we’ve created together. I’d just like one day off from it. Most importantly, just acknowledge that you all appreciate what I do and how much I love you all. That’s the best present of all.

The Scariest Moment of Truth

For some irrational reason, as a mom it’s always easiest to put your own needs on the back burner while you attend to everyone else. Kids get the new wardrobes, the best piece of pie and are always up-to-date on their dental visits, vaccinations and so on. I’m the one with the 5 year old underwear, the grilled cheese that got overdone on one side, and when was the last time I went to the doctor for a check-up other than when I was pregnant? Ummm. Well… Yeah. It was time to get a mammogram.
Last week I finally mommed up and went in for the big squish. After having birthed three babies, it wasn’t the worst form of having people all up in my personal space, but it was probably right up there. But as with childbirth, you pretty much get to the point where modesty with medical professionals is long gone. Just because this is my blog and I write about “inappropriate” things, I’ll share with you my experience. Some of you will appreciate it, some may be educated by it and others mortified. Whichever it is, you’re welcome.

When I arrived at the hospital they checked me in, had me gown-up and showed me to the special waiting room with other women who were also anticipating the fun to begin. You don’t really make eye contact when you walk in — it’s not like a spa lounge where you’re looking forward to a relaxing massage, a facial and some essential oils. No, these women weren’t thrilled about being there either, and I stopped to think that some of them may be there because they’ve already been through some dark times. I pushed that thought far out of my mind. Puppies and kittens…
They finally called my name and I was ushered back to a dimly lit room with The Machine humming away menacingly on the other side of the room. (Puppies and kittens…) The tech asked me some medical history questions, noticed my age and said, “I’ve been doing this the same amount of time as you’ve been alive.” Oh good. This wasn’t her first rodeo.
Then she lead me over to The Machine, and I had to stand in front of it like my dance partner in gym class when we were going to learn the waltz. “Now come closer and put your hand here.” Then she unceremoniously heaved my boob up on this cold platform like a slab of meat at the butcher shop. (I was officially not feeling pretty at that moment.) Then the fun really began as she hit the gas pedal at her foot and a clear plastic plate came down and smooshed the top of my meat sack until my chuck roast looked like flank steak. “Uhh. You can stop now!” It actually wasn’t so much painful as uncomfortable and really, really weird.
The tech repositioned me in other various contortions, took the images she needed and was done. In my case, since I was having a diagnostic mammogram done (just to be safe) it was followed up by an ultrasound. It was just like getting an ultrasound when I was pregnant, but sadly I didn’t get to look in excited anticipation at my sweet cherub dancing around in my uterus. Then things got a bit scary when she highlighted an area she saw and took a measurement of a blob — and it wasn’t to see if my baby’s head was growing at the proper rate. I thought, “Okay. Don’t panic yet.”
After she was done, the radiologist looked at the images and came into the room. He told me there was a spot that could just be a cyst or a benign fibroadenoma, but he wanted to be sure and have a biopsy done just to be safe. “Usually two times out of three it’s nothing.” (Did he realize that’s only 66.6%? Not exactly awesome odds if I were a betting type of person.)
I was led into another room and a nurse asked me some more medical questions, explained the procedure to me and looked at her schedule. Conveniently there was an opening the next day at 9:15 AM, otherwise it would be the following Thursday. I decided to get it over with scheduled it for the next day. She agreed that was a good choice. What did that mean? Did she know something they weren’t telling me? It was probably nothing…
I asked her if I could drive myself after the procedure or if I needed my husband to drive me. She said it was up to me, but as long as I didn’t have a history of fainting it would be okay. “But I’d bring my husband if I were you. He needs to support you.” Uhhh…I just thought this was a simple biopsy. Then I thought about my husband’s absolute loathing of hospitals and decided to just go on my own instead of having to worry about him stoically simmering in the waiting room. I’m a tough mother after all, you know.
The next morning I got up, poured myself a well-deserved cup of coffee and savored the last moments of calm in my house before I had to roust the inmates. Then my friend called my cell from my driveway, “Is First Born not going to early band this morning?” I looked down at the time. ARGH!! I totally forgot! How could I forget about band, even after we’d arranged carpool the evening before??! I guess I was a bit more preoccupied with the procedure than I even let on to myself. I apologized and woke up the inmates and got their day started.
I shoved them on their respective busses after the usual excessive morning drama and headed over to the hospital. I figured I may as well be early for once in my life. Of course they were not on time, and they took me back for my procedure a half hour late. Figures. I went through the whole gowning process again and was led into the room. As I was lying there being prepped, the nurse brought over the consent form on a clip board for me to sign in my prone position. “I’m sorry this is sort of awkward to write like this,” she says.
I gesture to my boob hanging out with a spotlight shining on it. “Uhh, like this whole deal isn’t awkward?? Signing something while lying down is nothing.” Polite laughter.
They explained the procedure once again. The doctor numbed the area, the ultrasound tech confirmed the location and he jabbed a needle in, fired it like a staple gun a few times to take the samples and he was done. It didn’t hurt at all. He informed me that the pathology will be back early next week, and I’d get a call from them.
The nurse held pressure on the site and asked me how I was doing. “I’m fine. That was no big deal at all.” She seemed slightly surprised and continued to hold pressure on the site. It got awkward. Finally she put an ice pack on it and took me over to another office to wait for the follow-up mammogram to be sure the marker they placed showed up. (Yes. You read that right. Another mammogram.)
The nurse was the most adorable pregnant woman you ever saw. She was the type that looked like she had a basketball shoved under her scrubs. I found out she was due any day, and I was astounded how she was still vertical and on her feet all day long. She was going to be a first time mom, and it was nice to talk with someone at the most exciting time in her life — so full of hope and anticipation, with a tinge of nervousness. For her, motherhood was still a perfectly blissful thing, and her happiness was contagious. As I write this, I’m wondering if she’s had her baby yet and if she’s spending hours and hours just staring at the miracle that has just come into her life. I hope it’s perfect.

It was a long wait over the weekend, and I sort of felt like Schrödinger’s cat. Is it malignant? Benign? It felt like both. Meow. Luckily to keep my mind off of it, I got to travel to a family wedding with my mom and Warrior Princess (with no stinky boys!) It felt like a girls’ weekend, and it was rejuvenating to be able to finally spend some time away with my mom. Times like these are when a girl really needs her mom, because she’s the only one who can make you feel better. Being at a wedding filled with love and happiness helped too.
Finally the call came: it was a benign fibroadenoma. It’s an odd feeling, when you’ve been preparing yourself for bad news and then it comes out just fine. I stopped to think about all the other women who didn’t receive such great news from their doctor, and it was extremely sobering. Yet another thing in my life I need to be more grateful for.

So long story not so short, I’m fine. It’s been a good wake-up call to be more on top of my wellbeing. Maybe this has helped someone else get up the courage to do something that’s not so pleasant but very needed. You can do it. Mom up.