A couple days ago, I posted on an online HR forum asking if Human Resources sounded like a good career path for me. I mentioned my diagnosis, age and issues with working in the past, and then asked the participants what it’s like to work in the field.
The responses varied from negative and discouraging to more positive job reviews and experiences. One person bitterly complained that the work is stressful, and you get blamed for everything (“Office scapegoat” was the term they used). Another gave a fairly expected response that it depends where you work and what your responsibilities are, some people are more tailored to specific HR jobs than others. Another commented actively discouraging me and anyone else who has ADHD from working in the field, as it requires constant multitasking, the ability to stay calm under pressure, discipline and good working memory. Admittedly, this comment made me feel a bit down, because those skills aren’t just important for human resource positions, but pretty much any job out there, and this has caused havoc on my self-esteem. Luckily, however, I also heard from someone also diagnosed with ADHD who works in HR and loves it! They have found tricks like One Note to help them keep track of things and have been employed for eight years.
Despite the varied responses, I am glad that I am asking people in HR to give honest feedback about their job satisfaction and stability. Ten years ago when I quit the aforementioned government job, I didn’t research graphic design or bother talk to people in the field. I met a lady at work, who was a designer and retiring soon, and it gave me the idea of eventually taking her job as a sort of lateral move out of the mailroom. Combine that with a quarter life crisis, and I jumped into a completely different field head first. Dumb, I know. But what’s done is done, and I did pick up some good stuff while in design and art school.
One advantage of studying Human Resources Management, however, is that it does enable you to take as many or few courses as you want, completely online, unlike graphic design or art school, which required full-time commitment and putting everything else on-hold. I’ve already completed one class, and am taking the summer to consider if I want to take more courses in the fall. However, despite the greater ease of access, it’s still not an easy decision to make. Classes still cost time and money, and will require focus and effort to complete.
What’s difficult too is the fact that sometimes you don’t really know how much you want or can do something until you’ve actually done it. Last night, I was hemming and hawing about it to my husband while getting ready for bed. I repeated the same frustration and insecurities, negative experiences and sometimes crippling job anxiety that I’ve complained about a thousand times. He said the same words of encouragement, but followed with: “You should make a decision”.
Last night, I had the same dream that I’ve been experiencing for awhile now: I’m back at my old job, except this time, I get a do-over, a chance to correct the mistakes I made while in said job. I’ve had variations of this dream, but basically I interact with the same coworkers and perform my duties.
This old job of mine was in the government and I had it ten years ago. I worked hard to get it, but then a few years in, started to feel a deep sense of dissatisfaction. The job was low-level and I wasn’t exactly encouraged to get more training or learn new skills. My boss wanted to keep me doing only what I was hired to do, even if that meant having literally nothing to do sometimes. So during one of these slow periods, I started to think about studying graphic design, even though I knew nothing about it. I just wanted to be an artist and thought graphic design was a good compromise. (Oh the naivite of youth!) This was also when the Conservative Party was in power, and then Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was savagely cutting public service jobs. I took this as my cue to leave and swapped with someone getting the ax, took the severance package and left. And ten years later, still regret it and wished I had stayed until forced to leave when we moved to Guelph for my husband’s job.
My attitude in my mid-20s was also frankly pretty bad, and when the novelty of this job started to wear off, so did my enthusiasm and positivity. The work became repetitive and annoying, and I stupidly resisted the new technology of performing my duties and complained about it too much! My negative or toxic coworkers got under my skin, and I fought with them, which made things worse. The woman training me insulted me one day, and rather than just thinking that she was a jerk and finding a diplomatic way of telling her she was rude, I stabbed her in the back. Looking back, I honestly can’t help but cringe. Back stabbing and hurting people, even if they deserve it, just isn’t me and I hate my immaturity at that time.
Working consistently since those days has been a struggle; Between the pandemic and my son’s multiple therapies and workshops, plus the gaps in my resume, getting rehired somewhere else has been tough. However, even though I still have thoughts of regret and annoying dreams, I really should remember to take a step back and think about the lessons learned. Not reacting emotionally to every situation is something I’m still working on, as is learning not to take other peoples beliefs or attitudes personally. It’s also important to know that it is up to me, not my manager, how far I go in my career. If I don’t learn new skills during work hours, I can certainly learn them on my own time, and leave if a better opportunity comes along or if I’m not being encouraged to become a more valuable employee. Further, if I do quit in the future, I should try and leave on the best terms possible and avoid burning more bridges or playing office politics. While in this government job, I also began looking into starting a family, but put it off, which I also deeply regret. But that can be another lesson of taking the initiative on things if I feel that strongly about it, and given it proper thought. When you’re in your 20s, you think you have all the time in the world, and it’s not until you wake up on your 40th birthday and realize that you really don’t and life goes by fast! Some experiences, like having babies, frankly are easier when you’re younger; Your body is in better condition and you have more energy. I’m at the age now where unless I get a full 8 hours, I am full-on zombie for the rest of the day!
So if anyone is reading this and you also major big life regrets, try to think about them objectively and what you can learn from the experience, and put it into practice every day that you have left. We all make mistakes, but it’s how we change and grow from these errors that really counts!
Awhile ago, I mentioned my son’s issue with regurgitating. Basically, I practically lived in vomit all January with him regurgitating his food multiple times a day. I took him to a gastroenterologist and feeding specialist, carefully portioned out his food, rationed his water, gave him chew toys and tried to stop him from bouncing around too much after eating. And for awhile, it seemed to work and the food stayed down. And like a total idiot, I told specialists that it was “Getting better”.
But for some unknown reason, over the past couple weeks, he is regressing back to how he was, and I am right back to where I was, angrily scrubbing food stains off my carpets and his car seat, while trying unsuccessfully to hold back tears. Why is he doing this? He is non-verbal so I can’t ask him or try to explain why bringing up food will eventually destroy your teeth and esophogus, not can I give him better alternatives. It fucking sucks!
My husband and I have had endless conversations about it as well as tossed around theories: He does it because he’s anxious and it’s soothing or because he’s bored or because he wants to taste his food again (yuck!) It kind of throws me back to my kid’s baby days when he wouldn’t stop screaming and we would run around in circles trying to figure out what the hell is wrong. But it’s just SO tough when you expect things to get better in such a crucial area, only to end up back where you started, with still no answers or solutions. I can’t leave him alone for two minutes without coming back to see his breakfast/lunch/dinner in liquid form all over the floor!
For anyone reading this: I know this post is “gross” and maybe you stopped and closed this window after the first sentence, but after mental breakdown after mental breakdown, and crying to my parents, husband, social worker, specialists, I need a place to vent. I’ve asked other autism parents, and most have never dealt with this issue, they’ve had other problems definitely, but not regurgitation. Some have suggested not to “react”, just clean it up, that he’s doing it for attention. However, it doesn’t seem to make a difference how I react, he will still do it. This morning, after the second time, I told him “No! Bad” and put him in his room. Punishment was suggested by my friend, and since his toys are literally everywhere except his bedroom, I put him in there. Do I think this strategy will work? Doubtful, but I’ve done everything else!
So that’s what we’ve been dealing with lately, I feel helpless and alone and wish I didn’t resent my child when he does this, because he has been improving in other areas, but I can’t help it. I am working on trying to stay calm when it happens and not let it throw me into the depths of despair like in January, but it is just so discouraging and worrying: Will he still be doing this next year? What about ten years from now? Will we have to have his teeth removed due to damage? What about his digestive tract?
If you’re a parent and you don’t have these kinds of worries or other even more serious health concerns about your child, consider yourself lucky!
Last Thursday while I was dropping off my son at daycare, one of the teachers came up to me and said that she and two students had contracted COVID. “Fuck,” I cursed, as quietly as possible so none of the kids could hear. “Yeah, that’s what we said!” another teacher laughed. So, the next day, Good Friday, we dug out our rapid tests and the results were negative. We had plans to go visit my parents and Hubby’s parents, so we figured we dodged the bullet.
Then came Saturday, my throat was scratchy and Sam was visibly sick and tired, and slept most of the day. I felt it coming, like a tidal wave, and sure enough, on Monday, once we were all back home, it crashed down on us. Fatigue, coughing fits, sore throat and muscles, stuffy nose, the works! Hubby tested himself and it came back positive, then I tested myself and it was also positive. So we are now isolating until next Friday. No daycare, no shopping trips, no socializing. Just a lot of water and cough drops.
Today is day 4, and I am honestly starting to feel better though. I had a terrible chest infection for two weeks earlier, so am pretty tired of coughing and barking, but I was actually able to cook and clean today, so that’s good. My kid is also back to his regular sensory seeking, rambunctious self, pacing around, and playing with his toys. He’s driving me nuts while I make meals, but that’s not unusual.
Anyways, I know this isn’t a super exciting post, but figured I should write something. COVID has been lurking around like a boogeyman for two years, and we’ve been lucky enough to evade it until now. It certainly sucks, and I wouldn’t want to contract it unvaccinated, which has also been a source of frustration for me, since there STILL aren’t any vaccines for children under 5. Parents have pretty much just been told to sacrifice our mental health for two years in revolving lockdowns and after that, all you hear is that the trials aren’t going well or they don’t know if kids need two or three shots. It’s scary, exhausting and frustrating and ANOTHER thing I did not anticipate when I began this journey of starting a family. But I guess most people didn’t anticipate this pandemic, it really hasn’t been easy, and it’s honestly brought out the worst in some people. There have been several times where I just really, really hated humanity. People just seemed so stupid, selfish and ignorant, only doing what they wanted and not thinking about how it will affect others and the environment. It’s for these reasons the pandemic started and continues to move through our communities.
However, I have since moved a bit away from that kind of all-consuming misanthropy. Sure, some people are awful, but I’m not really interested in fighting with morons or scumbags anymore, or paying them any kind of attention really. Plus, there really are so many good people in the world, it’s just the shitty ones that draw headlines and a stronger emotional reaction. Being in a pandemic has been stressful enough, so it’s made me realize the importance of focusing on good people and what makes you happy.
I was perusing Youtube the other day when I came across a Refinery29 interview with Anita Sarkeesian. Sarkeesian, for those who don’t know, started a feminist channel in 2009 criticizing videogame depictions of women and visible minorities. She, along with other women in the industry, complained of sexism and misogyny in games as well as unfair and discriminatory employment practices within many of these studios. What they got for their probably very legitimate concerns was a veritable clusterfuck of online harrassment, rape and death threats and doxxing.
I remember hearing about all of this back then, but wasn’t quite as aware of what exactly transpired. Hearing her talk about it years later now, though, all I could really think was “Seriously WTF?? All of that vitriol for having an opinion on the internet? And on videogames of all things?” (Honestly, this was probably also my reaction back in 2009)
Now I have a somewhat indirect long history with videogames and pretty much grew up with a revolving door of new platforms, starting with Atari and Super Nintendo in the 80s and 90s. We also had a Gameboy, but I don’t think it got as much attention. My brother was obsessed with videogames, playing for hours and practically screaming in frustration if his character died. When I moved out of my parents place to shack up with my partner, the systems changed from Xbox to the Wii to now with an XBox One.
However, it is worth mentioning how, in all that time, from the very basic 8-bit Atari games to the sublime RPGs of today, much games have diversified both in content, storyline and characters. Back in the day, characters tended to be pretty one-dimensional, but now you can select your hero’s gender, skin colour, age, weight, makeup and even tattoos. Hell, in some games, you don’t even play as a human being. Of course this is due to the hard work and talent of artists and developers, but I can’t help but think that maybe it’s also thanks to the opinions of Sarkeesian and other fans of the medium. They loved gaming, but felt like there wasn’t as much control over how they were being represented in these products. What started out as more of a “boys club”, has since bloomed into a medium for everyone.
This is obviously a good thing, but after learning about her experiences, and other womens, it just seems kind of mind boggling how much hatred they received. Guys would set up other channels for the express purpose of relentlessly attacking Sarkeesian, and it’s just really pathetic. For them, these games are sacred and how dare anyone criticize them, especially some feminist? It’s like they believed that any woman who complained about rescuing princesses or a female character’s lack of clothing had the power to take their entertainment away, like some kind of nagging parental figure. And after scrolling through the comments in this Refinery video, I see they still haven’t forgiven her these imagined transgressions as they lob baseless accusations and lack any basic understanding as to why online harrassment is awful and just how damn embarrassing the whole thing was.
At the end of the day, she was just posting her opinion, same as pretty much everyone else online these days (including yours truly). You don’t have to like it or agree and have the ability to click on the millions of other talking heads discussing pop culture. “There’s too much political correctness,” her detractors will argue, or “Progressiveness/Liberalism ruins everything”, but there are still lots of games where the protagonist is a straight, white man. The Witcher, for example, is one of my favourite games, and revolves around a hunky, practically albino guy as he slays monsters and bags babes. (Sarkeesian may or may not like it, but I find The Witcher really fun and love it’s lore, which is based on Polish fantasy novels) These gamers are now spoiled for choice in exactly how they want to spend their free-time, and honestly haven’t lost anything. The only person who did lose is Sarkeesian, who suffered and evidentally still suffers deeply pesonal attacks and threats simply for having a point of view. She wasn’t promoting hatred of certain groups or encouraging ignorance or misinformation, like plenty of other people online, just stating her thoughts on entertainment. The a-holes who relentlessly attacked her were never charged or felt any kind of actual repercussions, which is appalling. Games may have changed, but some of the people who play them, unfortunately haven’t, and it’s high time that the ones who harrass and threaten be rooted out of the community and face the real world consequences of their actions.
Back in the “good ‘ol days” when I lived in Ottawa and hung out with the local blogging community, anonymity was a big deal. Most of the bloggers used fake names and tried to keep their online presence on the DL from family and coworkers. It’s kind of strange and surreal to think about it now though, because pretty much most of these people are probably now on Facebook, sharing their personal thoughts and experiences on there for everyone and advertisers to see. And I’m no better, as I have certainly overshared at times, probably more than most. Social media is a weird addiction, and while I try and use it to just share artwork and hopefully gain more customers or at least brighten peoples day, it’s a bit too easy to get too personal on there sometimes.
Why am I talking about it on here? Well, after hitting publish on my last blog post, I was feeling some renewed confidence and decided to state on Facebook that I started blogging again. This is hardly going to garner the same enthusiastic response as a pregnancy or engagement announcement or even a cute pet photo, but I’m still glad I did it. I’m still a “bit” shy about coming out of the blog closet, so I told my friends to contact me and I’ll PM them the link. So maybe those old blog habits die hard. It’s kind of silly considering that it’s pretty obvious who I am on here though. It has my real name along with some of my artwork, so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who I am. And I guess that’s kind of the point; I’m just kind of done with making up a pretend name and using some non-identifying picture that I found online. (Not that I’m judging others for doing that, I mean maybe they had some very good reasons for staying hidden, and just needed a place to vent. I get it)
So rather than overshare on Facebook, I’ll overshare on here, LOL. No, in all seriousness, that’s not the purpose of this blog. It’s honestly a place for me to talk about my personal experiences, but hopefully in a more well-thought out way than the one or two sentences often spouted on social media. As someone who is diagnosed with ADHD and has a neurodivergent family, it’s kind of empowering to have a place away from Zuckerberg Inc., to talk honestly about such issues. North American culture has finally progressed enough to where people can talk openly about their mental health struggles and it is such a wonderful thing that I would love to be apart of, particularly as someone who did not grow up with this priviledge in school, with friends or even in my own family sometimes. But I want to do it my own way, with more control over content and presentation than social media can provide. ADHD or other neurodivergent stuff isn’t the only topic I’ll discuss, but I do like to think of it as the main impetus for this domain’s existence.
Anyways, if you’re from my Facebook friend list, welcome and I hope you enjoy my writing. As I brush the dust off and clear out the cobwebs, please excuse any grammatical or spelling mistakes. Sometimes in my haste to publish, I forget to do a good job of editing beforehand. But I do hope you enjoy your stay and come back to read more. Everyone needs a place to express themselves, and blogging is a great way to do it!
Sorry I couldn’t resist naming the somewhat dramatic title of this post after the 80s Depeche Mode song I listened to this morning. I think Dave Gahan is singing about having a temper or being moody, but DM tend to let people have their own interpretations of their songs. In any event, I choose to think that it is about dealing with emotions, particularly negative ones like anger or depression.
Yesterday was, frankly, a shit day. I have been suffering from a lung infection for the past two weeks, haven’t slept without cold medicine that whole time and it just felt like my household was caving in one me. My kid was screaming and whining, my dog was demanding food ASAP, my lungs are (still) on fire and I was feeling the rage bubbling up. Plus, that previous blog post brought me right back to that terrible and humiliating year of school, which made me consider deleting the post and this whole blog, despite my enjoyment of casual writing. So I hit the roof and screamed at my dog, who promptly scrambled out of the kitchen.*
Of course being sick and tired and dealing with sometimes stressful dependents wasn’t the only reason I lost my temper. We are also just at the beginning of getting treatment for my son’s autism after finally getting a diagnosis. Believe me when I tell you that it is a gut wrenching and emotionally trying experience, but I’ll save that story for another day. It’s just a heavy weight to carry around.
Luckily, my husband was there to fill in and has always got my back. He knew I was frazzled and told me to go lie down, which I did because I needed a break. After feeding our son and the dog, he came up to our bedroom and we talked about it. It really helped, and I do the same for him when he’s feeling angry, but I’m really tired of feeling so out of control sometimes. I like to think of myself as a fairly rational and logical person, but I am also FAR too sensitive and empathetic at times. I readily absorb any and all negativity and take it all personally and it completely distracts me from the work at hand. When things go wrong, I automatically assume people all think I’m an idiot and panic, angry and frustrated. This tendency probably stems from past negative experiences of bullying and exclusion. I never really learned how to cope effectively with stress or difficult people or situations, and would simply retreat into the bubble of my own imagination or hobbies. It is likely a very ADHD trait, and the main reason why I have struggled so much in terms of employment. My listening and concentration skills have dramatically improved over the past few years, but emotional regulation and stress management still remain challenging for me.
Knowing is half the battle, and I’m kind of grateful to have this kind of self awareness of my flaws and challenges. Many people go through life with negative thinking patterns or misguided beliefs, they blame society or the government or some other imagined nefarious outside force for their struggles. Given how unfair life can be, and how much some people suffer due to reasons beyond their control, it is certainly an understandable thing to do. But it’s also incredibly important to recognize how much power your attitude and outlook has on your reality. Getting angry and bitter is to be expected when shit hits the fan, but staying there will do nothing but waste any potential for improving your situation.
For a whole chunk of my adult life, I have met and spoken to a number of therapists or social workers. Some were helpful, some were absolute knobs who were very UN-helpful and made me feel worse, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that ultimately it is up to me to take control of my mental and physical health. No amount of crying or complaining to a therapist, my mother or my husband will change my toxic habits or thinking patterns. Before I got sick, I had plans to grab the sour grapes that I carry around-Past negative experiences, lack of career anxiety and insecurity, my son’s diagnosis, my age, etc-and smash them into some good freakin’ wine; I signed up for a gym membership, started creating a new diet plan, created some paintings and began to consider career options related to HR, like becoming a career counselor. But then I got sick and it all seemed to be put on pause. You might think ‘So what? Colds happen’ and you’d be right. But life hasn’t exactly been “normal” for the past two years of living in a pandemic. It has been a jarring merry-go-round of starts and stops, over and over. Frankly, it’s enough to drive anyone batty. On Saturday, I was prescribed antibiotics and an inhaler and did two at-home covid tests that were hopefully accurate as they showed up negative, but this sickness has forced me to spend a lot of time overthinking, as I was too tired to do anything else.
Given this rough period, I suppose, it’s no wonder I lost my shit in the kitchen yesterday. But the medication is slowly working and I do feel a bit better, even if I still cough regularly. I’m 41 and don’t have a career, my kid is neurodivergent (like me and my husband!), I struggle with regrets and wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life and if I’ll ever feel competent or genuinely happy again, and of course there is the ever present threat of covid.
Yesterday was a bad day, and more will come, as that’s life, but my reaction to them will hopefully change. We all carry heavy emotional burdens of things beyond our control, but we don’t need to let them control our reactions to more minor stresses or inconveniences. Having emotions can be a great thing, but they have dominated my life for too long. It’s time to learn how to put out fires calmly. It will be difficult and take work, and there will be bad days, but I know I can do it.
*And yes after getting angry with my dog, I immediately felt guilty afterwards and apologized, giving her lots of pats, which she appreciated. She really is a good girl and I should be more patient with her.*
I had a job interview for an executive assistant role recently and about halfway through the phone conversation, the interviewer asked: “What is the biggest mistake of your life?” or something to that effect. My first thought was ‘Woah, that’s a pretty heavy question for an initial screening interview’. And yeah, it really isn’t a standard question that most interviewers ask for an office role. Very weird.
I rambled out some answer about “Wishing I had taken professional development or office admin courses sooner”, because honestly what the hell was I supposed to say: “Biggest mistake? Well, how much time have you got?” or “My adult life has been mostly spent struggling with undiagnosed ADHD”?
I mentioned graphic design and art school were mentioned as “positive learning experiences” and tried to relate their usefulness to the job posting. She said her daughter wants to be an “artist”, or more specifically a painter, and she mentioned that she was pushing her to study graphic design instead. Because designers make money and artists starve right?
That was my line of thinking about 10 years ago when I quit an unrewarding, but stable government job to pursue design. I knew nothing about Adobe programs, typography or formatting, and my first year was a serious wake up call, as I spent hours relentlessly trying to convince myself that this was ‘What I wanted to do’. But it wasn’t until my second year when I changed schools that I realized that I kinda hated graphic design and wished I had my old job back. The new teachers weren’t impressed by anything really, and sneered at most of the projects that not only myself, but many others turned in. One exception being the guy who was seated next to me, who had previously studied animation at Sheridan College and was treated like a kind of design messiah. People regularly came by and raved about how “great” he was, and when they saw me looking at them, muttered: “Uh oh you too.” ) I had nothing in common with the people there and the work I turned in was apparently garbage. I got called into “meetings” with the teachers who told me that if my work didn’t improve, I would need to leave. So yeah it sucked. Sucked big time. After finals, I cried in a stairwell and realized that it was time to make a change, so I decided to study Studio Art at the University of Guelph.
And so begun my adventure in art school, something I had always wanted to do, but studied psychology instead after graduating high school. U of G, for those who don’t know, focuses primarily on “conceptual” art, ie. the weird stuff that flies over most peoples heads. I made a giant cardboard Swiss Army knife (Ugh, I hated that damn project!) in Sculpture 1, filmed a video of myself dragging a horseshoe down the street in a multimedia class, painted mold on a wall and partook in numerous hallway discussions dissecting someone’s choice of colours, brush marks, etc. I’m a representational artist who loves classical and realist art, which was largely considered “outdated” at U of G. The concept was what was important, not so much what it looked like. I still don’t agree with this, but tried to wedge open the doors of my mind a bit and honestly had fun getting “weird.”
After receiving all the required credits and getting an “Honors Equivalency” in Studio Art, which doesn’t come with a grad ceremony or diploma since I already had a bachelors in the aforementioned psychology, I left U of G. Unfortunately, despite enjoying myself a lot more and making new friends, studio art doesn’t really lend itself to a practical career. Sure you could try and get your work into galleries, but unless your work gets collected by rich people, it is pretty much impossible to make a living off it. In fact, I’m not even convinced that those who are big stars in the art world make enough to live comfortably, as a lot of money gets taken up by auction houses, galleries and art traders. I think grants are the main option, but those can be hard to come by. Of course this wasn’t a surprise for me, but it is still a shame. After all that time and money spent, I realized that maybe I should’ve just gone to Sheridan like the “design messiah” I sat next to in my second year of graphic design. Illustration, specifically, probably would’ve been the best path for me when I was a starry eyed, hyper and clueless19-year-old. Illustrators aren’t exactly making bank either nowadays, but they’re probably doing marginally better than many of the conceptual artists fighting to get their work into galleries.
But back to the title of this post and the point of what I am trying to write: If you are an artist, don’t blindly go into graphic design thinking it will be a great way to earn money and express yourself at the same time, because it’s not. Design is about the “client” and tends to lend itself more to people who are talented in software and marketing more than artistic pursuits. You will spend hours obsessing over the minute differences in fonts and how to sell other peoples products. (Assuming of course you graduate from college first. There were plenty of other people in my classes who were pushed out of the program too!) I’m sure some artists excel in design and I envy them, but it’s really naive to think that design and traditional art are interchangeable. So if you want to go to art school to learn traditional painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, etc, go to art school, but just be prepared for some pretty out there stuff and the fact that you won’t make much money. Personally, I do wish that I had done things differently in my 20s and 30s in terms of education, but I was lucky at least to try design and art school and I think they have made me a better artist and hopefully employee again someday!
One thing I was not prepared for was the intensity of baby craziness post-partum. After surviving the first year, my reproductive instincts just kind of grew from a whisper to a booming roar! But this obnoxious pang seems to forget how much one kid drains you, mentally and physically, and as much as I hate to say it, the older you are, the faster you feel your limits. I was 37 going on 38 when I had my son, and am now 41. The sad and unfair reality is when you’re thinking about having a kid, age definitely matters and it matters sooner than you’d think! I was 36 when my husband and I started trying, but we were having no luck. After seeing my doctor, we were referred to a godawful fertility specialist, who looked half asleep most of the time. After a cycle of invasive and annoying tests, she rudely told me: “You’re 36, that’s too old”. I pushed back with “Yeah, but celebrities have kids in their 40s.” Her reply: “They probably use donated eggs or gestational carriers”.
After much research, I learned that while she was definitely wrong about women practically being barren by 36-years-old, fertility definitely declines with age and pretty much drops off a cliff after 45. But as luck would have it, after leaving that terrible doctor, I got pregnant. It took six more months, but we did it. Pregnancy was full of nausea and fatigue, but honestly it was really amazing. And once he was out, I felt empty, hollow. Labour, birth and the fourth trimester were a nightmare, but your body just kind of forgets all that after awhile, and it convinces your brain that junior needs a sibling. Broaching the subject with my mother results in a worried look and “I don’t think that’s a good idea”, or “You’ll resent them”, and with my mother-in-law repeating “One’s enough”, in a tone less like an opinion, and more like a command. Hell, even my freakin’ hairdresser said “You seem pretty busy already”. I have a few friends who are also older moms who say I should go for it, but they admittedly had one later in life after their first was already grown up. Not a newborn and toddler. And when I talk to people about it, deep down, I hear a voice that says it’s over. When I was pregnant, I had a fortune telling reading done with a crystal. (Yes, I know, fortune telling is bullshit, but just indulge me ok?) The crystal swung back and forth apparently indicating ‘boy’, but only once. When I go to childrens play centres, I’m the oldest mom there, and watch glumly and resentfully as people in their 20s and early 30s bring in babies and toddlers. So it looks like the universe is completely against me having a second, which is weird feeling like I no longer have any say in my uterus. Just going to keep shedding those eggs until menopause and that’s it, all that potential wasted. Every month that goes by thinking: ‘Other people were smarter, they started sooner’, and kicking myself again for my ridiculous life choices. Of course, we’re lucky that we even got one, because not everyone can say that, but it’s just hard feeling like such a big decision has already been made for you and there’s nothing you can do to change it.
But are people with more kids happier? I mean really? Perhaps some genuinely are, but juggling multiple children definitely looks more exhausting. When I’ve visited peoples houses who have more than one, the space is pretty much overtaken by kids stuff and their chaos. The moms stretched and pulled in multiple directions, while they joke about “needing wine” and complain about lack of sleep. Don’t get me wrong, our house is a mess too, but it’s source is singular and after dropping him off at daycare, my house transforms mostly back into a place that has adults living in it. (Well except for all the videogames, and stuff from my and my husband’s childhood, *cough cough*) It MUST also be said that waiting until my husband had a good job was a good idea, and that kind of financial stability is a big advantage that many of those who got pregnant pregnant sooner don’t enjoy. Six years sooner would’ve probably been ideal, but I’m not even sure if my partner was completely done with school, articling and paying his dues at that point anyways! Plus, I got the harebrained idea to quit my government job to go to study graphic design, followed by art school. I learned a lot, except how to regularly make money, but that’s a story for another day.
I guess the point in all of this is that my partner and I lived and had full experiences-both good and bad-and grew up before we had a child and maybe we were fortunte to have that opportunity. It IS harder in many ways to be an older parent, but perhaps I should be grateful that I enjoyed that freedom of self-exploration while I was young.
When my son was a baby we had to feed him every two hours and when he ate, he ATE, panicked and ravenous, like we were starving him or something. He practically inhaled breast milk and formula, and when we weren’t feeding him, we were cleaning and sterilizing the breast pump equipment 24/7. It was brutal and my boobs were like two throbbing orbs that leaked all the time. I would’ve loved to breast feed him and burn the milking machine, but every time I tried, he would scream all day. So the dairy business was up and running until about six months.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, he still spat up alot and when he started eating solids, would also bring up his meals and chew on them. We tried Ranitidine (before it was recalled) and anti-gas medicine, and even hoped he would eventually grow out of it, but at 3, he’s still spitting up. I will put him to bed for a nap and, two hours later discover a Monty Python Meaning of Life-type barf explosion in his bedroom. We’ve tried cutting down his intake of food and water and eliminating or reducing suspected triggers, but nothing really works!
In November, I had a meeting with a pediatrician and two OTs about it, along with hopefully someday getting an autism diagnosis, but it’s been crickets ever since. To be fair, he did get some bloodwork done and will be meeting a gastroenterologist in April, but I really don’t know what the frick to do in the meantime. He is also super picky, which makes things even more difficult. My husband thinks he has something called “rumination syndrome”, and the doctor seemed to agree. What’s also difficult is that he is non-verbal, so I honestly have no idea how to teach him how to chew and swallow food properly. We are on an occupational therapy waitlist, but not sure when that will happen. Guess I should just be grateful for that gastro appointment in April eh?
Anyways, the point of this post is not to gross you out, but just to vent my frustration. Learning how to cope with my son’s autism has been difficult, but I’ve gotten some support from other parents and suggestions. However, rumination syndrome is not as common it seems, and I have no idea how to fix it.