A Post-Partum Post

A Post-Partum Post

We are seven weeks into this whole mothering thing, and things are going well for this family of three. I figured I’d eventually write about my labor and delivery experience, but that’s not what happened when I sat down at my computer today.

Throughout my pregnancy, all I heard were stories about traumatic birth experiences from my friends and random women in restaurants and cashiers at the grocery store… For reasons I don’t understand, women everywhere are dying to tell you about their 92 hour labor and their emergency c-section. Plus, I had dozens of labor scenes from movies and TV shows playing in my head, each one featuring some actress in absolute agony, begging for someone to put her out of her misery. knocked_up_birthI was incredibly anxious about giving birth, but to my surprise, the entire experience was straightforward and I had very little real pain. Before you egg my house, let me say that I know I’m incredibly lucky to have had this experience. I know it’s not the norm, especially for a first baby. I had a relatively short labor, which started at around 3 AM when I woke up and noticed my water was breaking, and ended with me holding baby Carrie at 5:21 PM the exact same day. I had good drugs, and family support, and an awesome nurse, and… well, I really just don’t have much else to say about my labor and delivery. It was seamless.


But I do have a lot to say about what happened when we got home. I regret to inform all of you that most of this post won’t be terribly funny, which, let’s face it, is no way to live. I’ll get back to my usual brand of blogging soon. It’s just important that I share this incredibly bizarre and trying experience, on the off chance that it helps someone else.

Let me start by saying that I knew coming home with a newborn was going to be a real challenge. In addition to the labor horror stories from friends and cashiers everywhere, I’d also hear a lot about how the real work begins when you get home. How you don’t get any sleep and your hormones are out of whack. How breastfeeding can be a challenge. How all of the obstacles are completely worth it, though, because you can also stare down at the incredible life you created and take comfort in her perfection, blah blah blah. I’d heard it all, and I thought I was prepared. I’d been tired before. I’d had challenges and overcome them before. I’d definitely dealt with hormones before. I was ready to get on with it.

The day after that gorgeous textbook delivery of mine, and the entire first week of Carrie’s life, I marveled at now normal I felt. I was tired from being up all night with my baby, but I was still me. Although Carrie wasn’t latching when I tried to feed her, I was producing a lot of milk, and I was happy that I was able to pump and feed her breastmilk with plenty extra to freeze for later. I was also a little relieved, because I had been certain I’d be a hormonal mess after having a baby. But what I didn’t realize was that there can be a bit of a waiting period between having a baby and starting to feel “off.”

Exactly one week after Carrie was born, I started to feel more anxious than usual, and I felt a fog of depression settle over me. I started to cry easily, and more often. I was pumping every three hours, and spent up to four hours of each day attached to a machine, or cleaning its parts for the next use, or labeling and storing extra milk, or checking to see if Carrie was ready to latch yet (she never was, so it was a frustrating exercise each time). Every day was a groggy cycle of feeding, pumping, cleaning, changing diapers, snatching two hour stretches of sleep whenever possible, tidying up the house, and trying my best to entertain the scores of well-wishers who kept coming over. I needed to use every bit of energy I had to put on my best face until they left. I didn’t feel like I was bonding with my baby much at all. I asked my OBGYN to up my dosage of antidepressants, and hoped that it wouldn’t last more than a few weeks.

One day, through my fog, I somehow managed to notice a pattern. I suddenly realized that I felt the worst when I was pumping. I figured the negative association with pumping was probably due to the tedium of being so reliant upon a machine, so many times every day, unable to leave the house for more than a couple hours without being uncomfortable, but when I really thought about it, I realized I was feeling an actual emotional shift when I was pumping. With one Google search of “depression while pumping,” I found out about D-MER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex). IMG_8097

I learned that in nursing mothers, a hormone called prolactin is responsible for continued milk production, and it peaks at the beginning of a feeding. I learned that dopamine can inhibit the release of prolactin, so the body is smart enough to naturally suppress dopamine a little during nursing or pumping. Occasionally, though, this doesn’t work as intended and a woman’s dopamine levels plummet each time her body releases milk (lets down). This rare physiological glitch in brain chemistry causes the woman to feel a wave of negative emotion every time her milk lets down, which can be several times in one feeding or pumping session. I started to pay more attention to my emotions when I pumped, and realized I was indeed getting an obvious wave of gloom and doom, just before producing milk. I had been so exhausted and overwhelmed that it took me a few days to figure out that what I thought was prolonged baby blues was actually D-MER.

What do these “negative emotions” feel like, you might be wondering. The experience can be quite intense for some women, and a very mild discomfort for others. For me, each time I pumped, I felt like I had just learned that my house had burned down, with all of my loved ones inside, and it was all my fault. The worst despairing, self-loathing, homesick feeling I have ever felt. (Yikes. See? Told you this wouldn’t be a very funny one. Maybe I can tell a joke at the end to make up for it.) This feeling would last maybe 30 seconds, fade away as quickly as it came, and then with each let down I would have similar, less intense waves of bad feelings until I was finished pumping. Sometimes I would be feeling generally optimistic, but as soon as I’d get hooked up to my pump I would suddenly be unable to stop crying until I was finished. (Okay, definitely going to have to tell a joke at the end).

I saw a psychologist who specializes in perinatal mood disorders, and she agreed that what I was probably experiencing was D-MER. I was relieved that what was happening had a name, and I started reading articles and blog posts on D-MER to try to find out how I could manage it. I learned that there’s really not much you can do, if this happens to you. Excellent news, right? Some women report that it becomes less horrible as time goes on, but no one is sure why this is the case for some women and not others. Mostly, you’re just screwed. I read dozens of blogs and forums discussing D-MER and I saw again and again that women just “toughed it out” until their children were weaned at 6, 9, or 12 months old. I seriously couldn’t find any instances of a woman admitting that she was miserable, giving up breastfeeding, and feeling better. Not one. I felt like I couldn’t give up, either… after all, I continued to produce milk like a champ. I couldn’t bear the thought of putting my daughter on formula when I was making plenty of food for her, even if I felt bad a few times each day. My psychologist and I agreed I would continue to pump for one more week, monitoring my symptoms, and make a decision about whether to continue.

It was a nice thought. I lasted three more days, and then called it quits.

Flash forward to today: Carrie has been on formula since four weeks old and she is doing great. I am no longer pumping, and thanks to about ten different old wives’ tale remedies (sage tea, peppermint, cabbage leaves, ritualistic chanting, burnt offerings) I successfully went through the painful process of drying up my milk supply. Once I was able to stop pumping completely, I felt instantly better. I felt like myself again. I started to enjoy Carrie so much more. The moral of this story is that I was a better mother and partner because I chose to take care of myself. IMG_5041

I have found that D-MER is not something that many people know about, even doctors or therapists or lactation consultants, because it’s not a common problem. I was prepared for the usual breastfeeding problems, like milk production troubles, latching issues, forceful letdowns, the inability to monitor milk intake, and so on, but I had never known such a thing as D-MER was possible. When I’d done research and read that so many women soldiered on and continued to breastfeed through their D-MER discomfort, I had felt immense pressure to do the same. I regret that I allowed myself to feel that pressure, and I regret the guilt I felt when I realized I couldn’t bear to continue pumping. So, let me be one of the first to say it: It’s okay to attend to your own mental health by giving up breastfeeding. Your baby will be just fine. Better, probably, because she has a healthy and happy parent caring for her.

And now, here is a joke:

A baby’s laugh is one of the most beautiful things you will ever hear.

Unless it is 3 a.m., you’re home alone, and you don’t have a baby.

And one to grow on:

What did the buffalo say to his baby boy when paternity leave was over?


What it Was Like to Grow a Human

What it Was Like to Grow a Human

It’s been a few months since I posted, but that’s because I was busy cooking up a person.

“Hey there. You come here often?”

You must be thinking, “wow, Carrie is by far the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen, but you were just sitting there gestating this whole time. You couldn’t come up with anything to write about?” But it takes a lot of a person’s focus to procure stretchy pants, and then even stretchier pants. And it’s no piece of cake, choosing which baby forehead thermometer to register for. Obviously you need to read all 52,781 Amazon reviews to be absolutely certain that it won’t turn your baby against you forever.

So I figure why not type up a new post now, when I get about half the sleep I’m used to getting? I know I cheated all six of my fans with the lack of “being pregnant is so crazy, you guys!” posts. I am disappointed in myself, truly. It was a rich opportunity for me to entertain you, and I failed. But let me try to ease the pain by offering a comprehensive pregnancy post to sum up the last several months of my life. Bonus: practical pregnancy advice is included, free of charge. Donations are of course welcome.

First Trimester (weeks 1-12…ish)

This trimester was the hardest of the three, in my opinion. And it makes sense, looking back on it. Only your closest friends and family members know you’re pregnant, so you just come across as someone with a really bad hangover at all social gatherings. And you feel like someone with a really bad hangover at all social gatherings… oh, and also all day long.

To give you an incredibly non-personal and hypothetical example that absolutely did not happen to me specifically, spending a warm summer day lounging by a pool with good friends who are all drinking refreshing cocktails used to be awesome pre-pregnancy but is a living nightmare in your first trimester. Or so I’d imagine. If that were ever to happen to someone. (To my four fans who were there that day we lounged by the pool and you drank refreshing cocktails: of course you being drunk was amazing, and not at all close to super annoying.) Readers, I’m sorry if you’re looking forward to having kids someday and you bought into that whole “oh, giving up alcohol for a few months was a small price to pay to have this little bundle of joy!” myth. I did too. It’s all a lie. Being tired, bloated, nauseous, and sober, especially when everyone else is having a blast, kind of sucks.

Me at all first trimester gatherings

What helped get me through: taking a lot of “naps” (AKA hiding in a quiet room to play Candy Crush and feel sorry for myself. See brooding monkey photo for a visual) and Unisom Sleep Tabs. These are available over the counter and while they’re marketed as a mild sleep aid, these puppies should actually be called “Unisom Keep You From Barfing Tabs.” No idea how they work, but they’re incredible. I took one each night before bed, and in addition to helping me sleep well, it kept my nausea at bay until about mid-afternoon the next day, at which time I’d typically start to try to think of something I could stomach for dinner, be grossed out by every available food option, and cry bitter, sober tears of self-pity.

Second Trimester (weeks 13-27ish)

…But then things got less terrible! Honestly, I felt pretty good during my second trimester. You are starting to look pregnant, so people offer warm, knowing smiles as they rush to open the door for you. You finally feel somewhat energized and have a healthy appetite, after weeks of feeling like you have the worst jet lag of your life. You get all the perks of being obviously pregnant without yet feeling like a beached whale. And (if you’re comfortable with it and your doctor says it’s okay) you can even have a glass of wine or a beer here and there, if you want! I’d recommend doing this in the privacy of your own home, where no Sanctimommies can glare at you.

What helped me get through: Pretending to still be nauseous for a while in front of Matt so I could get away with eating chips and candy a lot (“ugh, nothing sounds good to me except this king sized thing of Reese’s cups I bought at the store today in case nothing else sounded good later!”).

Do you think she knows that’s not her real baby she’s holding?

Third Trimester (weeks 28-40… I only made it to 38!)

I was prepared for the worst by my Mom friends who were miserable throughout their third trimesters, but I found that there were big payoffs for the discomfort that didn’t exist in the first trimester. For example, if you think people are nice to you in the second trimester then they’re really nice to you in the third, which is good, because there’s no way you could bend over to pick up that king sized thing of Reese’s cups you just dropped in the candy aisle. You also get to feel your baby wiggle around a lot, which is one of the most amazing and bizarre things I’ve ever experienced. You also get to have parties thrown in your honor where you eat cake and get presents which, for the most part, you chose in advance! Sure, there are also a ton of weird things happening to your body. Heartburn from eating plain toast. Carpal tunnel pain. Needing to pee every ten minutes. Oh, and the times when your baby head butts you in the cervix, making you gasp audibly in the candy aisle and causing other shoppers to have sudden, panicked visions of driving a pregnant stranger to the hospital.

What helped me get through: Craploads of Tums, and a Snoogle pregnancy pillow. The Snoogle is a long, C-shaped pillow that you can wrap around you when you sleep to help relieve pressure on your hips and give you something to prop your (now fairly giant) belly on. Readers, if you’re pregnant, get one. Seriously, look how happy this woman is:


And there you have it, the highlight reel of my pregnancy! In coming posts I plan to share more about my labor and Carrie’s arrival, and I definitely have some thoughts on being a new mom… which, as far as I can tell, is about 85% guilt/exhaustion, 10% awe at the lovely creature you can’t believe you made, and 5% pure joy at being reunited with alcohol at last.

How We Got Here, Vol. 2

How We Got Here, Vol. 2

Buckle up, because this is a long one!

So, as discussed in Vol. 1, Matt and I decided we wanted to have a baby. It was such a delicious secret, deciding that we’d surprise everyone we know with the shocking news: We’re pregnant! No one would see this coming. I immediately got to work, researching the steps I needed to take to successfully get myself knocked up.

Yes, I know, of course, the basics of how these things happen. No one who’s ever seen 16 and Pregnant can claim that getting pregnant is an advanced science, in most cases. But my knowledge of the logistics of ovulation was severely lacking, my friends. I was honestly a little embarrassed as I learned about how to time everything, how eggs get where they need to go, and what happens to them from that point. How could all of this be stuff I didn’t know anything about? One day, I was explaining some concept to Matt, probably something gross about cervical mucous, and he said, “It’s really embarrassing that I don’t know about any of this.” I felt blissful relief, and said, “Well, you should really be ashamed of yourself.”

I didn’t pay much attention in health class, but I’m pretty sure this is how it all starts
I was one of those teenagers who had miserable cycles every month. I won’t get into the gory details, but we’re talking incredible pain and side effects. My mom took me to the OBGYN when I was fifteen and I’ve been on some type of birth control pill or device, on and off, ever since. So it had been years since I truly experienced the curse as the gods intended me to suffer through it. I knew it would be a painful couple of months, as we tried for a baby.

Armed with knowledge, we got busy, and kept our baby-making a secret. No success in months one, two, or three. No big deal! I knew from my obsessive internet scouring that this was perfectly normal. Then, no success in months four, five, or six. By that point, a few close friends knew of our plan to have a baby (mostly because I am the worst at keeping my own secrets). Most of our friends acted as an amazing support system, cheering for us and letting us vent when we needed to, without constantly asking how everything was going. I had a couple of friends who would always say things like, “You just have to relax and it will happen when you least expect it!” Let me let you in on a little secret… when you’re exerting this much effort in careful planning and timing, there is no tricking yourself out of expecting it.

Maybe I need to interrupt myself here and remind you, gentle readers, that I am not a “hey, let’s kick back and see what happens” kind of girl. I’d love to be that girl, but I’m more the “hey, so I am following all the rules, and this isn’t working, and oh god what’s wrong with me and I can’t stand this for much longer” type of girl. (Matt is soooo lucky.) But seriously, this whole process was immensely frustrating. It felt like a cruel joke. We’d taken forever to decide we wanted this thing to be a part of our lives, and now it seemed like we might not ever get it.

After eight or nine months, I talked in-depth with my OBGYN about my fears. She had such a great attitude about all my stress. She said, “I know all the books tell you to try for a full year before you seek any fertility treatment, but I think you should have some tests if it’s stressing you out. And by the way, the people who keep telling you to ‘just relax’ are full of it. Science doesn’t work that way.”

Matt then provided a specimen (I love that word. So needlessly mysterious) for testing. The specimen, ladies and gents, was a modern day marvel. Matt’s swimmers were not only athletic and healthy, there were so damn many of them. As in, he had millions more of those little suckers than most men his age have. The doctor literally giggled as she told me the results. Needless to say, this became an instant source of jokes for Matt. (Me: “We need to leave in an hour, okay?” Matt: “Oh, don’t you worry, I’ll be ready. Great swimmers.”) I’m expecting him to get tired of these jokes any day now. Aaaany day now.

What Matt’s swimmers probably look like inside my fallopian tubes
So, we knew Matt most likely wasn’t the problem. Something was going on with me. We were incredibly fortunate to have an amazing fertility clinic ten minutes’ drive from our house, so we made an appointment and met Dr. Katz. After looking (and raising his eyebrows) at the numbers from Matt’s specimen, he suggested that we try a couple of non-invasive approaches involving fertility drugs and careful timing.

After a few months of this, Dr. Katz told me that he suspected I had endometriosis, due to my continued lack of pregnancy, my history of painful periods, and the normal test results from both Matt and myself (meaning they were able to rule out several common culprits of infertility). Endometriosis is a crazy condition involving uterine tissue that grows outside of the uterus, and oh by the way, nobody knows for sure why it happens. Dr. Katz believed that I had mild endometriosis that was turning my uterus into a hostile chamber of death for any of Matt’s Michael Phelpses who dared to enter. (Honestly, I was not surprised at this theory. Of course I would have a uterus that’s in a terrible mood for no reason, and visitors would want to leave as soon as possible.)

And so, I had my first ever surgery a few weeks later, for Dr. Katz to stick a little camera through my belly button (I know… yikes) and poke around to see if there was any evidence of endometriosis. He said that if he came across any scar tissue, he’d go ahead and try to remove it. This would hopefully render my uterus slightly less disagreeable, and more prone to growing a baby. He warned us that there was a chance he would find nothing wrong in there, which would mean we’d keep exploring other causes of infertility, and he also warned us that there was a chance he’d find some seriously scary endometriosis he couldn’t do much to fix, which would make me an instant candidate for in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

Lucky for us, he just found some scar tissue, and he treated it. Endometriosis is (for some reason… they seriously know so little about this whole thing) kept at bay when you’re pregnant or on birth control, but it will come back after a few months of normal, unmedicated, non-pregnant cycles. So we didn’t waste much time before going right to an intrauterine insemination (IUI). Which is basically a nurse coming at you with a fancy turkey baster.

Remember how I wrote about that whole ankle surgery nightmare, a few months back? Well. Just a couple of weeks after Matt had his surgery, I woke him up at 6:00 AM, demanded that he give me another of his prized specimens in a cup, asked him to carry the cup in his pocket to keep it safe and warm, and then drove him over to the fertility clinic where he had to hobble in on crutches, and sign a bunch of papers promising that the sample was in fact his own. It was seriously an impressive feat. The staff at the clinic then took a couple of hours to wash the specimen, weed out any of the slackers (“as if any of them are slackers.” – Matt), and then I went back in to have the swimmers inserted directly into my uterus by way of a small plastic tube. Once all the nurses had taken the time to express their amazement at my husband’s latest specimen, of course (seriously happened).

So in doing the IUI, we bypassed a lot of potential pitfalls in ensuring that plenty of good, strong Olympian sperm got into my uterus. After the procedure, the nurse told me to stay on my back and relax for a few minutes, and then cheerfully reminded me that “this has a 20% chance of working. Good luck!”

Selfie I took from the exam room during IUI
I’d been through so many of the dreaded two week waits (TWWs) by this time. The TWW is the time between when you go through the motions of trying to conceive (either naturally or á la turkey basting) and the time when you expect to get your period. It’s basically two straight weeks of trying to learn how to be “kick back and see what happens” girl. But this TWW was by far the most agonizing. I reminded myself that while 20% was not a great statistic, it was certainly the best chance at getting pregnant that I’d had so far. And that was something.

At 11 days post ovulation, rather than the prescribed 14 (way too early to be sure anything would show up, but potentially early enough that something could show up), I took a pregnancy test. And for just a moment, before tears blurred my eyes too much for me to be able to see anything, I saw a shadow of a second pink line. Having seen dozens of pregnancy tests with just the one glaring, definitive pink line, I knew the second one was there right away. I ran into Matt’s office and brandished the test in front of his face. He very reasonably took it out of his face, since it was in essence a piece of plastic covered in urine, and squinted skeptically at it before gently saying, “Honey, I’m not sure there’s anything there.” But I knew there was a second line.

IMG_2418 2
Matt still can’t see the second line.

Two days later, I triumphantly presented Matt with a digital test I’d just taken. And with a completely straight face, just to make me laugh, he pretended to squint questioningly at the bold “PREGNANT” that had appeared on the screen.

A lot had to happen after we decided we wanted to create a tiny human of our very own, in order for me to look down tonight and find myself 23 weeks pregnant with a feisty little girl kicking the hell out of me. That 16 month process was unbelievably stressful, and yet I know that many couples have a far longer, rougher road than we did. If you’re on a similar road right now, please consider making use of these three pieces of free advice from me:

1) Each month when you get your period, and you realize another month is shot to hell, make “shot” the theme of the night. I recommend vodka. Allow yourself the pity party, and then get back to work.

2) Don’t wait the recommended year to seek fertility treatment. Give it the ol’ college try, and once it starts to get to you, go talk to someone.

3) Consider sharing your struggles with close friends or family members. Sure, it’s awesome to surprise everyone with pregnancy news, but it’s also awesome when people know what you’re going through. And if they try to tell you to “just relax,” be patient with them. They really just have no idea how you feel.

Well, friends, that’s about it. That’s how we got here. It’s been a wild ride so far. Stay tuned… More pregnancy shenanigans coming your way soon. ❤

How We Got Here, Vol. 1

How We Got Here, Vol. 1

As I sit and stare, glassy-eyed, at a detailed listing for a pair of gently used baby sandals on the moms’ consignment group I’ve recently joined on Facebook, I wonder how I got to this place.

Three years ago or so, anyone who knew me would be able to tell you that I never wanted kids. I don’t particularly care for most children. They always seem to be very sticky and unpredictable, characteristics I prefer to experience in things like ice cream cones. In fact, when I started dating my husband Matt, I was pleased to set his mind at ease when I learned he did not want kids. “Oh, don’t you worry about me! I don’t want any either! Gross!” For years, I was annoyed when anyone who heard about my decision gave me a knowing look and cajoled me with, “Just wait. You’ll change your mind!” And lots of people did this. I’d show them! I’d have dogs, and cats, and I’d travel, and I’d enjoy date nights with Matt every night of the week, and I’d live happily ever after.

And I did! For a while.

This child looks like it might try to touch me

One ordinary night, a couple of years ago, Matt took an Ambien and settled in for a peaceful eight hours of rest. Because that’s the typical result of his taking Ambien, maybe nine times out of ten. But occasionally, before he falls asleep, he gets… weird. The Ambien kicks in, and rather than drifting off to dream of guitars and Squidbillies, he wants to talk about weird things for several minutes before he passes out. He never remembers anything he’s said, the following day. (Side note: This is why I never have to worry about Matt having an affair. Or really being deceptive in any imaginable way. I have access to inexpensive and effective truth serum, around three times each month.) His transition from total lucidity to being completely out of his senses can be quite subtle. He will usually say something vaguely nonsensical, which tips me off. Examples of things he might say: 

1. “I need to search for flights to Japan.”

2. “Can you explain how electricity works, but better than the way I already know?

3. “I know you think my feet are weird but I’m just so used to them. So is my mom.”

On this particular night, Matt explained to me that he wanted us to have a baby as soon as possible. Then, he calmly informed me that he’d be happy to “go in and rip that IUD right out of there.” Then he fell asleep, practically mid-sentence. I sat there, mouth agape, my usual pre-bedtime game of Candy Crush instantly abandoned. Sure, I recognized the telltale signs of an Ambien kick, but I was still floored.

The next day at work, I felt a little out of sorts. I tried to remind myself that Matt had no idea what he was saying. I finally got so agitated that I called Matt and told him I was coming by his office at lunchtime to talk. When I arrived, I solemnly recounted everything that he’d said the night before. “Do you secretly want a baby and you’re not telling me?!” I demanded. Matt just laughed. “No! Listen! Everything is fine! It’s just baby fever!” Oh…. was that all this was? What a relief! That was a close one. I decided to immediately put it out of my mind.

Matt would occasionally contract what he called baby fever, a temporary malady causing him to wish he had a baby of his very own for a period of time ranging from one hour to several weeks in duration. The baby fever would eventually break, returning him to a comfortably anti-baby stance and leaving him with little memory of his baby-craving delirium. Luckily, I had always seemed to be immune to this virus, preferring to hold babies for no more than five minutes at a time (and that only happened when the mother of the creature looked at me expectantly, as though I’d obviously want to hold it, which I didn’t, but then of course I felt like I had to). 

Baby fever
Baby fever at its worst. This person is screaming violently into her hankie because she is so sad about wanting a baby

Inexplicably, once the Ambien incident happened, despite my intentions to ignore it all, I started to get baby fever too. All the classic symptoms. I started to think a little about what that Matt/Courtney person might be like. Some things would be almost a given… High forehead. Sensitive. Sarcastic. But would he be musical like Matt? Would she enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer like me? Would her feet be weird like Matt’s? Could I teach him to love all felines, big and small? And I began to wish I could get to know that little being. I realized that, for the first time, I had so much love for another person, Matt, that I was curious to experience the full depths of what our life together could become. Yes, I know it sounds very dramatic and vaguely churchy and makes you want to roll your eyes. But it’s what happened. Suddenly, I felt fine with the prospect of hanging out with this particular nonexistent child, even knowing he or she would definitely get sticky frequently. 

We eventually decided to go for it (more on that in Vol. 2). Over time, Matt and I talked about other reasons we might want a kid. Our families would be elated, we had good stable jobs, and so forth. But I’m proud to say that my future child was ultimately the product of her father’s drug-addled ramblings. We’re off to a great start. 😍

Using Keanu Reeves for Marriage Equality

Using Keanu Reeves for Marriage Equality

I have been woefully neglectful of this blog, which was my favorite project for several weeks earlier in the year. I was struggling to decide on source material for the longest time in recent weeks, but finally I decided, hey, calm yourself down already. When there’s something worth writing about, you’ll write about it. Oh, and plus I have been busy secretly growing a human baby for months now. I mean, that is if you consider constant nausea, exhaustion, and crying jags “busy,” and I do. More about the human baby in a later post. Tonight, I need to address something far more pressing. I need to talk about marriage equality.

My husband Matt is rarely annoyed with or upset at me. I know. It’s really astounding  that I can hardly annoy him at all. He takes great joy in finding ways to annoy and upset me, though, because it is really easy to do. I’m a naturally high-strung and emotional person, and, despite years of trying to project a demeanor of general calm and hoping that one day my friends will start to consistently say, “Courtney? Oh man, that girl is so laid back. I have never met anyone who goes with the flow as well as she does,” it’s who I am. I’m just what they call easily rattled. Matt takes great joy in seeking out the things that I’m sensitive about and exploiting them for his own amusement, but I don’t get to return the favor very often. Ruffling his feathers is my Mount Everest. I am determined to succeed. But I’m not very athletic.

Actual footage of me trying to make my husband hate me

So when I find things that get under Matt’s skin, I like to really latch on and make the most of them. Inevitably, being a more emotionally stable and less reactive person, he figures out ways to avoid being irritated by whatever The Thing is. Therefore, when I strike gold, I try to enjoy it while it lasts. For example, for a while The Thing was that I thought Bruno Mars was overrated. I hated that stupid grenade song, and the one about how he should have brought her flowers and held her hand and all those other dumb things he says. I just didn’t like the music, and Matt refused to allow this opinion. Bruno Mars was a fantastic pop singer and I was wrong and he couldn’t bear to hear me talk about this, and so I talked about it a lot.*

Then, more recently, it was that I thought one of his current favorite bands, Big Wreck, sounded like Christian rock music.** As a former devout Baptist growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s, I felt qualified to make this declaration. As a guitarist and student of music for his entire life, Matt thought I was way off-base and lost his mind anytime I mentioned Big Wreck praising their lord and savior. Now, I’m sad to say, making up fake Jesus lyrics to Big Wreck’s songs no longer has the same effect. Just this very minute, I asked him which of Big Wreck’s songs he thinks is the most “Jesusy” so I could link to it in my blog, to see if he would get upset, and he gritted his teeth and then he gave me suggestions. It’s like he just stopped caring what I think, like some kind of emotionally intelligent wizard.**

Luckily, I have found something new.

I have always known who Keanu Reeves is, in general. That guy from The Matrix and some other stuff. In my late teens, I went to the movies to see the rom-com Something’s Gotta Give, with Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, and that guy from The Matrix. And even in my youthful state, lacking in critical thinking abilities and general life skills, I could see that the guy’s acting sucked. He was stiff, overly articulate, and generally unpleasant to watch. To be fair, I never really had a strong opinion about him either way, or at least not until I learned how much Matt likes him.

I mean, you can’t just put a guy in a black turtleneck, sit him next to a powerhouse actor, and expect him to be interesting

The other night we were trying to decide what to watch and we stumbled upon The Lake House with Keanu and Sandra Bullock. Matt loves a rom-com, and I was game since I immediately sniffed out his vulnerability to Keanu-related remarks. All it took was one comment about how that guy sucks, and I knew I was on to something. So I worked hard to comment on poor Keanu’s sub-par acting chops as often as possible, throughout the movie. Matt was enraged! Success. He tried to counteract my attack with his own comments, but he was no match for me because I think he also secretly knows Keanu sucks. We had several exchanges like this:

Me: Oh here we go. That guy from The Matrix is trying to muster up emotion again. I wish Sandy would show up and put me out of my misery.

Matt: What?! Look at that guy. What an actor. Look at those quality tears.

Me: They had to hire a guy to stand right nearby with eye drops. Or there’s some person hiding under that table plucking his leg hairs.

You probably missed him because he’s so boring and lame, but Keanu’s over there, to the right.

At a certain point in the movie, Matt announced that we would watch Speed next, so I could see Keanu at “his finest.” When The Lake House finally ended an eternity later, and Speed started, I pretended not to see Keanu in the first few scenes he was in, which had the desired effect:

Matt: Look at that guy! He’s ready to fight! How can you not like Keanu?! Seriously!

Me: Who? Oh, he’s there? Which one is he again?

Friends, it was a glorious night. The moral of this story is not how much Keanu Reeves blows. It is to encourage you all to seek out that which makes your marriage irritation equitable, and hold on to your power for as long as is humanly possible, until its last dying breath. Stay the course. Don’t get discouraged if you try several different ways to irritate and you fail. You will find The Thing. And don’t forget to resurrect the most successful irritations weeks, months, and even years later when your partner least expects to have to deal with your annoying ass.

*I’ll admit that since Uptown Funk and 24k Magic I can no longer say “Bruno Mars is overrated” and sleep at night. That guy is amazing.

**I still don’t like Big Wreck. And I sleep really well feeling this way.

Funereal Fat Jokes

Funereal Fat Jokes

My grandmother died in December. The day after my birthday, and a week before Christmas. She succumbed to an aggressive form of leukemia, and her decline was too swift and too ugly. I have always been close to her, and have always admired her charm (that Virginia accent was one in a million). I sure do miss her. More than that, I miss knowing she’s not far away.


Her memorial service was held on a gloomy winter’s night, right after the holidays, which might be the single most depressing time of the year. We were all feeling pretty low. (Nanny, seriously, couldn’t you have passed away in the spring? Birds chirping? No? You liked the idea of the drama that comes with a gloomy winter’s night? Fair enough.) My friends, I discovered something new about myself that night. Something I didn’t know. Was it my own personal inner strength? Was it the bittersweet retrieval of my grandmother’s voice in my memory, telling me to be strong? Alas, no. What I discovered was that I make fat jokes about my husband when I’m in an uncomfortable situation. 

It started when we arrived at the family homestead in Winston-Salem to get dressed for the service. As Matt brought his suit inside, I announced to the entire room of family members, “I guess Matt had better go see if that thing still fits! But I don’t know what we’ll do if it doesn’t! Haha!”

My family jokes around a lot, so this wasn’t immediately spotted as a completely inappropriate comment. We all laughed, and Matt glanced at me quizzically and went to put on the suit. When we got in the car to head to the funeral home, he said, “what was with the suit comment?” I said, “what suit comment?” He repeated it. I said, “Did I say that? Oh man. I’m sorry. I don’t know where that came from.” 

We began greeting friends and family, and I did it again.

Obscure Third Cousin: So this is your new husband!

Me (cheerfully): Yep! 

OTC (Smiles and holds my hand, saying nothing):

Me: …We were worried he wouldn’t fit into his suit!

When Obscure Third Cousin moved along, Matt gave me an incredulous “WTF?” look, because the only thing more fun than spending an evening at your wife’s grandmother’s funeral is to be called fat at the same time. I threw my hands up and said, “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what’s happening.” I was genuinely astonished at my compulsive need to comment on Matt’s dietary failings at my grandmother’s memorial. I finally started explaining it to people in an attempt to stop doing it, succeeding only in making it much worse.

Some Woman Who Can’t Believe How Grown-up I Am: It’s really nice to see you again!

Me: Nice to see you too. That’s my husband over there. I keep making jokes about his weight. I don’t know why. 

Some Woman: …

Me: …So thanks for coming. 

I am not a spiritual person, but part of me took comfort in imagining Nanny’s laughter at this uncontrollable humiliation of my poor husband. She’d have said to Matt, “Don’t pay any attention. You have the prettiest legs,” which she’d said to him more than once before. I know she would have loved it. She would have appreciated the humor on a gloomy winter’s night.

Open Letter to an Ungrateful Bug

Open Letter to an Ungrateful Bug

Yesterday I awoke to a small itchy bump on my leg, and since the only things I’m allergic to are each of my husband’s weird toes, which I always keep at a safe distance, I know it was you.

Sure, you think you have me figured out, Bug. You think you were justified in biting me while I lay defenseless in a deep slumber, because I’m like a jillion times bigger than you and you wanted, just this one time, to fight back against the human population who’s always smushing you or screaming when you come near. You felt unappreciated and unloved. This was your way of spitting in my food, wasn’t it? Well, prepare to feel ashamed of yourself.

What you probably looked like fleeing the scene

The very day before you bit me, I saved two of your people from imminent death. I lifted a very heavy and inconveniently-located window for a flailing moth, saving her from an inevitable mauling from one of the several tiny jungle cats dwelling within my home. Yeah, that was me you heard about on your coffee break at work. Then, I used the precarious slide-a-piece-of-mail-under-a-cup routine to rescue a scary-looking fellow who obviously belonged to a family of stinging pestilent gangsters, even though I was worried he might have a knife. Seriously, I was slaying it in Candy Crush and I could have easily ignored both of those creatures. Did I? No. I saved them. And still, you attacked me. 

I’m left to wonder… is there really no system among you bug-types, to allow you to communicate when a kind stranger saves one of you? Isn’t there some kind of list you keep within your community so you avoid biting the good guys? I thought you were supposed to be supremely organized and efficient. Oh wait, maybe that’s just ants and bees. Not whatever kind of sneaky-ass nighttime beast you are. You are a coward, and you are misinformed. And also your mother doesn’t love you.

I hope you someday have the internet and will read this, which I realize is extremely unlikely… because your vicious little heart is made of stone.

Not Fondly,