Monday, January 28, 2013

My father in law

Yesterday morning B's dad Jim lost his nearly 6 year battle with lung cancer and passed away.  

Jim really stepped into a "dad" role for me when my own parents douched out and disappeared. I talked to him on the phone for hours when I was buying our house. We planned a family vacation to Italy/greece together by sending each other about a million emails (me and him did most of the actual planning) and he gave me lots of career advice when I was on the job market. 

I haven't written much if anything about Jim here, because I knew Jim read my blog.  Unlike my real parents, he wanted to know everything I was going through- he signed up on facebook to keep up with his family, and would read my blog regularly. Every once in a while when I would be feeling particularly bad about how my parents were acting, and would write a blog post about it, an email from Jim would show up in my inbox- "Hey, I read your post and I wanted to remind you that me and B's mom are here for you guys if you need anything."  He would also leave nice comments on my facebook posts.

Here's a story that is iconic of Jim: In 2009 we took a trip to Europe. On our stop in ancient Olympia Jim wanted to come and see the ruins, but he was on an oxygen machine and we had to leave him to rest at the entrace while we did the tour because he was too tired to walk around after the walk to the entrance. When we came back he had a new BFF- a friend he had made who also couldn't handle the walk. Jim already knew his whole life story.  That was typical Jim.

Jim stopped cancer treatment last November because it was no longer working. For christmas we got him a framed picture of our first ultrasound (his first grandchild), and had been planning to send him updates. We never got a chance to mail out the second ultrasound pictures, but we were able to text them to his phone right before they sedated him and put him on a ventilator on that was one of the last things he saw.

The whole time I knew him he was dying; he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer about 3 months before I ever met him.  But instead of sitting around moping about the things he couldn't do, or the fatal illness he had been diagnosed with, he went out and traveled the world (literally he's been on at least 15 cruises at least in the last 5 years) and was always chatting up strangers and making friends with everyone. He was my role model of what a happy person and loving parent is like. I am so disappointed and sad that my children will not get to know him.

On the other hand, I'm so happy I got to spend as much time with him as I did, and that I got a chance to know him and love him.  He got to come to our wedding (He won't be at B's sisters wedding in October), we had that amazing trip to Europe together that I will never forget, several thanksgiving and christmases, and I'm so happy he at least got a chance to find out that I was pregnant and he would be having his first grandchild before he passed.

In lieu of prayers, B asks that you donate to cancer research, and register as an organ donor.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mother issues continued

Since getting pregnant I feel like my issues with my mother have gotten worse. Not in terms of our actual relationship with each other, but in terms of how much I think about my mom on a daily basis and feel hurt by it.

Since I told my parents I was pregnant about a month and a half ago, I have heard from my father several times. He's sent me many emails and has even called a couple of times since then (which is more frequent than he usually calls).  I sent him and my mother emails with pictures of the two ultrasounds I've gotten and he wrote back right away saying things like "Wow that is so amazing, you can see the face, it looks like you and B!!"  And wonderfully, he hasn't brought up religion in any of those communications.

I haven't heard a word from my mother, not even a response to the two emails I sent her with pictures of the ultrasounds, even after she said she would write back to my email (when I talked to her to tell her I was pregnant). And while I shouldn't have been surprised by this, since even though we have supposedly "reconciled" my mother still never initiates any contact with me and hasn't...well basically ever, I am still hurt by this.

Recently, elsewhere, someone posted a link about narcissistic mothers.  It has a list of 33 questions about your mother and "yes" answers indicate narcissistic traits. I answered yes to 25 of the questions.  And since then I've been reading a lot about narcissistic mothers, and so many things perfectly describe my mom. The way she was so focused on outward appearances constantly, the way she seemed to have one personality when she was home and an entirely different personality when in public, even the concept of the "golden child" vs. the "Scapegoat" perfectly describes me and my brother (I have an OTD brother who lived at home openly OTD, driving to work on shabbas, etc, until age 28. I was told to find another place to live after college because I was OTD even though I would never break shabbas or any rules in front of my parents.  He got a car from my parents and monetary help from my parents to this day, didn't work until he was done with college, I was told when I 16 that if I want to have any new clothes or do anything fun I should go get a job and have worked since then, and I've never owned a car except the one that came with my husband. As a child I had a very heavy chore load while he did basically nothing because "I'm older so I have more responsibilities" even though he's less than a year and a half younger than me).

According to what I've been reading there are two types of narcisstic mothers- the engulfing type (who doesn't let you have your own life) and the ignoring type (who only pays attention to you insofar as how you reflect on them in public).  I think my mom is the latter. 

Here's a description: Ignoring Parents: are Narcissistic Parents who don't actually care much about their children. Unlike Engulfing Parents, an Ignoring Parent sees the boundary between themselves and their child, and has no interest in their child.

This can be extremely confusing and bewildering as the child grows to feel unloved, uncared for, hindering future relationships for this child. Often, an Ignoring Parent doesn't even bother helping a child with physical cleanliness, teaching hygiene, or helping with school work.

I have tons of memories from my childhood of time with my dad- playing games together, him telling me and my brother stories before we went to bed, going on adventures every weekend (without my mom).  I don't have memories like this with my mother. Mostly because these types of things never happened with my mother- even though my dad worked like 70+ hours a week and my mom was a stay at home mom.  My strongest memory of my mother is the iconic position she had for most of my childhood - sitting on the couch with her nose buried in a book, not paying attention to the kids.  I felt like I struggled in childhood with hygiene issues because my parents never taught me certain things, and that I experimented a lot with how to take care of myself until I found things that worked for me, because I never had any guidance.

Once when I was around 3 years old and my brother was 2 years old, we were upstairs watching sesame street on tv by ourselves. And my brother climbed up on the window seat and pushed the screen out of the open window and fell out of the window. This is one of my earliest memories. My brother was perfectly fine (he landed on a bush) and my mom later loved to tell the story about how I came downstairs to where my mother was sitting on the couch reading, and said to my mom "D fell out the window" in a matter of fact voice.

But looking back...why were a 2 year old and a 3 year old sitting in front of a tv with no supervision on an entirely different floor of the house from my mother, while she was downstairs reading? Is that normal? I mean I don't have kids yet, but that seems a little young...why couldn't she be reading in the same room as the kids?  Why do I have so many memories of hanging with my brother at a very very young age and entertaining each other, alone, without my mom around?

Someone recently posted on facebook asking about childhood memories of being sick. Well my childhood memory of being sick is that every time i was home sick, I would sit in my parent's bed and watch all 3 star wars movies, or all 3 Indiana Jones movies. What I don't have any childhood memories of re: being sick is my mom. I mean I'm sure she was in the house since she was a stay at home mom, but it seemed her solution to me being home sick was to park me in front of a tv and go on doing her thing (usually curling up on the couch with a book). I remember having to get out of bed to get my own drinks/food/etc when I was sick.

Anyway these are all small things by themselves, but when taken together I just see a pattern of feeling like my mom was preoccupied with other things and that i was in charge of taking care of myself.

Thinking back, I almost think all the issues I had in high school re: fighting with my parents constantly might be related to this. Before high school I felt I was constantly ignored, while my brother, the "Golden child" got all the attention.  I got good grades and he didn't, and he got into trouble a lot at school while I never did (before high school).  Then in high school I stopped caring about my grades/stopped getting good grades, and started getting intro trouble in HS constantly.  Now I'm sure a lot of that was normal teenage rebellion/finding myself stuff, but looking back I think a part of me just wanted my mom to pay attention to me the way she paid attention to my brother, and I had this idea in my head that breaking the rules would get me more attention.

Realizing how much this stuff still affects me now makes me scared to become a parent...there is so much power to screw up your kid's head. Like take B- whenever B gets really depressed about something/feels bad about himself he said "I'm useless, I'm just completely useless."  Recently while hanging out with B's dad, his dad was telling a story about some fight they had when B was a teenager and said something like "B was being useless and I got really mad, etc"  And look- that's the exact same word B uses to describe himself when he feels bad about himself. 

My mom had lots of favorite expression as a kid that haunt me.  One is "I may have to love you but I don't have to like you."  She said that countless times to me as a teen and young 20 something, pretty much up until the time we stopped talking for several years. This was the only time she ever told me she loved me too- it was always followed by "but I don't have to like you." WTF is that? What that says to me is "I don't like you or love you (cause who loves people they don't like?) and I like pointing that out"  And you know what? I'm 75% convinced that the reason it was SO EASY for my mom to disown me and not talk to me for years on end whene I got married to B, was because she never liked OR loved me to begin with, and this was just a convenient excuse to cut me out of her life.

So where does this leave me now? I don't think my mom is going to magically change to be a warm loving person who gives a crap about me. And I definitely do not want to emulate her behavior subconsciously with my own child. And what I really don't want is to go on feeling bad about my mother. I already feel she has too much power over me.  I haven't even talked to her in over a month, and yet I woke up at 5am feeling bad about her today, and I think about her way too much in general. I want to move on from these issues because I feel they are holding me back, and I feel it's very important to have my mental shit together as much as possible re: my mother, before becoming a mother myself.

After checking around the internet I got a book from the library with the sappy title of "Will I ever be good enough? Healing the daughters of Narcissistic mothers." I read the book last weekend and there were lots of points in there that made me tear up a bit because they so accurately describe how I feel, and explain all these weird things I do and all my weird self esteem issues (like never becoming friends with people at the same "Rank" at work, always becoming friends with people at a lower "Rank" because I never feel like I'm good enough to be friends with people at the same level as me...).

The book basically says that the way to heal from mothers like this is to a) accept the fact that they aren't going to change, accept their limitations, and try to come to an understanding of why they are the way they are b) let yourself feel bad if you feel bad about things, let yourself grieve the mother you never had and the childhood you never had because if you repress your feelings about it and don't feel bad about it you'll never get over it c)start working to get over feelings of not being good enough that are based on your childhood

So I'm working on step one with a little bit of step 2. This weekend I called my grandmother (mom's mom) to tell her I was pregnant, and that really reminded me that my mom has her own narcissistic mother who probably taught her to act the way she does. That's scary because I see the inter-generational transmission of bad mothering that I don't want to continue, but it also helps me understand my mom a bit more. And the book also helped me understand my grandmother too- when I told her I was pregnant she was like "Ok" no congrats, no "bsh'aa tova" no nothing, and then instantly changed the subject to ask whether I had gotten a new job, since the last time I had talked to her like 6 months ago, I had mentioned that I was going to apply for a couple of jobs this year to see if I could move to a better university.  I told her the truth, that I didn't get a different job this year (I only applied to 4 and they were all top 20 universities, so a reach) but that I'm happy with my job now so I'm in a good place- if I get something better I can move, but either way I'll be happy. And she kept asking more about jobs and moving to a better university (not that the university I work at is "bad" by any means, but it sure ain't Harvard) even when I tried to change the subject back to the fact that I was pregnant.

Why change the subject to that? Well after thinking about it I can only conclude that my grandmother loves to brag about my academic achievements to her friends (which she does, the last time I saw her at my cousins' wedding she was going around introducing me to people as her granddaughter who was about to be a professor) but she can't brag about me having a kid because my husband isn't jewish and/or she has so many great grandchildren from my charedi cousins (8) that she doesn't care about more at this point. She only cares about the stuff she can use to make herself look better to her friends. And where does *she* get this from? Well her own mother died when she was 14, and she then had to basically raise her little brothers because she was the only girl and her father assigned all housework and childcare to her after her mom died. I can see how that would mess you up. 

Meanwhile, I see no indication that my grandmother cares about me as a person, anymore than I see my mother cares about me as a person.  Even before we stopped talking for several years, my mother never really wanted to hear about anything about my life and gave the distinct impression that she disapproved of anything I wanted to talk about- the only thing she wanted to hear about was my academic achievements and whether or not I was losing weight/going to the gym. She has always focused a LOT on my weight, ever since I went through puberty and stopped being a skinny bean pole kid. Appearances and achievements, but what about getting to know me as a person? I don't think she knows me at all.

I'm not really sure how to conclude this blog post other than to say these are things that have been on my mind, and I would like to move on from them, but for now I am in this "Processing my thoughts and emotions regarding this stuff" phase which it seems I have to go through in order to move on. Or at least I'm hoping that moving on will be the end result, that I will accept my mother's limitations and stop feeling so damn disappointed all the time because she's not being the mom she never was and is probably incapable of being.

Meanwhile, resolved to never use expressions like "I may have to love you but I don't have to like you" to my kids. Resolved to tell them I love them on a regular basis without it being followed by a snarky followup. Resolved to get to know them and their unique personality and not bury my nose in my laptop all night long the way my mom buried her nose in a book. Resolved to act more like my dad and less like my mom.

Also, I'm thinking I might want to learn more about quilting and make my baby a quilt from me, since my mom doesn't seem to be offering to make me one even though she's made dozens over the years for various other people...I guess those are only important when she wants to impress other people, not when her own daughter is having a baby. But why sit around being disappointed about her, why not just make the damn quilt myself? I found a link to an online tutorial for a simple-ish pattern here and it doesn't look too hard, although the person didn't really include info on how to do the back of the quilt...but I'm sure I can find info on that too. I don't know, maybe it's a ridiculous idea, and i may never actually do it, but something I'm contemplating...

Meanwhile today I am officially 14 weeks pregnant, which means as of today I am officially out of the first trimester and into the second! We recently did another ultrasound and got even cooler pictures in 3d. It was so awesome, we saw the baby jumping around and flipping over. At one point the baby flipped over so it's back was turned to us and it looked just like B does when he turns over in his sleep.  Much more exciting than the first ultrasound when it just looked like a peanut with a heartbeat. Baby was also tested for downs/trisomy stuff and it was all negative, yay! :)  I sometimes think I can feel the baby move now, but I'm not entirely sure. I'm not showing a crazy bump or anything, but I'm definitely getting wider, and I can't button my regular jeans anymore.  Unfortunately my daily throwing up has not gotten better but I'm hoping it will soon...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Top 5 things people say when they find out you are pregnant

5. Are you going to have the baby circumcised? (so far not my parents, but my inlaws and 2 colleagues, one of whom was disappointed cause they wanted to see a bris)

4. Some sort of weird thing about baby genitals (did you know some girls get a mini period when they are first born due to their mom's hormones, and that baby boys get erections? I do now!)

3. How they don't want to have kids (especially common among older women, they seem to repeat this 4 or 5 times and get very defensive about it. It's cool if you don't want to have kids ladies! I'm not judging you!)

2. Are you taking prenatal vitamins? (Way too common a question and one I'm starting to find incredibly patronizing)

1. Horrifying birth story of them/their partner/their kids/etc. (yesterday's involved seeing intestines during c-section and how walking into his ex's c section was like "walking into a science fiction story")