Friday, March 15, 2013

My Pancreas is a Dick

It's a little late in the pregnancy to be diagnosed, but it's true.  I have gestational diabetes.  Sigh.  Despite the fact that I'm a nurse, I don't know what this means yet.  I know that GD lends to larger babies.  I know that I will have to find a diet soda that I can live with.  I know that I won't be able to sit down with a whole sleeve of Thin Mints like I planned.  I know that my pregnancy is no longer a normal pregnancy and that I likely won't be allowed to go past my due date.  I know that I will have to eat small and frequent meals and avoid carbs and sugars.  I know that I will have to get past my hatred of sugar substitutes.  I know that I will have to check my blood sugar multiple times a day and that if I can't control it with diet, I'll be placed on an oral anti-diabetic.  I know that checking your blood sugar hurts. I know that I have no idea what I'll eat and that I have a hard enough time feeding myself now with no restrictions on my diet.  I know that my husband is good at this kind of stuff and that he'll help me.  I know that he'll also drive me crazy by telling me what I can't eat.  I know that I've shed a few tears over this, but the big cry is probably coming.  I also know that the ICU patient who lost her baby at 32 weeks would switch places with me in a heartbeat so I should suck it up and be thankful I still have a healthy baby growing inside of me.

And still, I'm mourning.  I'm mourning the loss of my healthy body.  I'm mourning the loss of ice cream and M&M's.  I'm mourning the loss of my freedom to eat whatever I want.  I'm mourning the fact that I no longer have chocolate as a legitimate coping mechanism.  I'm mourning the loss of the near perfect pregnancy that I had up until now.  I'm worried that this makes my chances of an intervention-free natural delivery less likely.  This makes me less likely to want to be pregnant again in the future.  It makes my thoughts of possibly being a surrogate less than ideal.

I realize that having GD for one pregnancy, doesn't mean I'll have it for others.  Apparently, my mom only had it for one of her four pregnancies.  I know that it does make it much more likely that I'll have it with subsequent pregnancies and that I'll develop type II diabetes later in life.  Despite the fact that I'm not hugely overweight, I'm fairly active and I have no family history of diabetes, I'm now at risk for being a diabetic forever.  If I get pregnant again in the future, I'll be screened for it much earlier and thus have much longer to deal with the consequences.

I'm resentful that this happens after it took so long to get pregnant in the first place.  I'm resentful that I waited until later in life and if I had kids sooner, I may not have had this happen.  I feel guilty for feeling resentful instead of just being happy that I have a healthy baby.

I've never before had to face a health problem that had real and serious consequences that demanded immediate life change.  I don't like this.  I don't like it one bit.  I cried while making a healthy snack last night, serious tears and sobs while spreading peanut butter on a whole wheat English muffin.  It was a tasty snack, but I cried anyway.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Comparison Between Two Fourth Birthday Parties

I've spent this Saturday afternoon and last Saturday afternoon at fourth birthday parties for two different children.  Last week was my boyfriend's daughter.  This week was my niece.  There were worlds of differences between these parties and only one of them was enjoyable for me.

Last week, there were many kids at the party.  They were loud and boisterous and had a great time.  The parents were older, late twenties/thirties, and attentive to their kids.  The kids played together and with the adults.  Some of the adults drank beer and played rock band.  There was good conversation about intelligent topics and a general family-friendly feel.  Each set of parents was responsible for their kid, but everyone kept an eye out in general.  It was laid back and enjoyable.  I wasn't bothered by the experienced mothers talking to me about being pregnant.  It turned out to be a great conversation starter and made me feel comfortable in the group.  Oh, and there were 3 poly couples at this party and 2 additional poly people that were there "solo", only in the sense that they were not accompanied by a primary partner as the couples were.  I'd say that made maybe 1/3-1/2 of the attendees poly.

Today...  ah, well, today was a different story.  I am thankful to have the opportunity to vent about this on my anonymous blog as it is directly insulting to my family.  Oh, where do I start?  First of all, I intentionally show up late as I've learned that it helps to minimize the amount of time I feel awkward and stressed.  I can blend into the crowd right away and hide.  The weather was nice and everyone was in the back yard as I arrived.  I come in through the gate and I am instantly bombarded with small children who want to pet the dog I brought to visit with my niece.  Soon, I a have my first awkward encounter.  My ex-step-father is standing in the doorway to the house, completely filling it and just standing there.  I have to ask him to move so I can put my gift inside.  I no longer speak to this man except at occasions like this.  I say no more than I must to get by socially.  Several years ago, he threatened me vaguely over the phone and I ended all relations with him at that time.  I will not reconnect.  I don't hold a grudge, but I don't need that in my life.  At these events, I walk a fine line of communication that sends a clear signal of what I am willing to give.

The party gradually filters inside and I take stock of the attendees.  The kids are mostly younger than my niece with a much younger set of parents.  Many of them want to talk to me about being pregnant.  I have little interest in this, but I try to be conscious of my age-bias and attempt to be friendly.  One of them says to me, "I just hate how tiny you are!"  I reply, "Thank you?" This mother would prove to be a real piece of work by the end of the party and that was my first taste of her personality.  Actually, let's go ahead and talk about Miss Thing for a moment.  She is approximately 20-21 years old.  She has 3 children, the two oldest are 10 months apart and probably about 2 and 3 years old, both boys.  The youngest was a baby girl, maybe 6 -8 months old who spend most of the time I saw her in the car seat.  The boys were eating candy the entire time.  She kept telling them, "No more candy" while doing nothing to stop them.  She didn't take away the candy they had.  She didn't put the candy out of reach.  Her words were empty and without consequence.  Eventually, she put the baby in the car seat and propped up a bottle for her, never checking back to see how she did with it.  I watched her lose the nipple and quickly maneuver it back into her mouth.  Good kid.  Near me, one of the toddler boys grabbed a bottle of beer and took a big swig.  Across the room, someone notices and hollers out, "Hey, that little boy has a beer!"  Miss Thing takes the beer away and says, "You can't have that!  A sip is okay, but not a whole drink!"

WHAT.  What?  WHAT!  what.

Can someone please explain to me why a 2 year old needs to know what beer tastes like and why you are announcing at a party that you allow your toddlers the occasional alcoholic drink?  He was clearly not put off by the taste so I doubt this was the first time.  This was when I decided that I really didn't like her.  The party was wrapping up now and some people leave.  I've noticed that one of the young moms has had her little girl, who is at crawling age, on her lap or within arms reach the entire time and I decide that I can have a nice conversation with her.  While this is going on, people start lighting up cigarettes in the house.  From now until the time I leave the party, there are at least 2 cigarettes burning in the room with me.  No one asks.  No one politely goes to the basement to smoke or outside where it's not even cold.  Funny thing is, the male smokers did not smoke around me.  It was only women and mothers themselves.  Really?  I send my brother across the room to retrieve my hoodie from the direct line of contamination.  This is when I start planning my escape, but I had waited too long.

Soon, everyone disappears downstairs to partake in a different sort of smoke.  Apparently, a child turning 4 is an occasion suitable for illegal drug use.  (I am not opposed to the use of certain illegal drugs, but I have issues with being left responsible for other people's children while they use.  I also have this crazy idea that maybe it's not a good idea at a child's birthday party.)  I am left upstairs with the one responsible young parent, my teenage brother and everyone's kids.  No one asked me to watch them.  No one asked me if I minded.  I'm 33 weeks pregnant and suddenly responsible for a small day care.  Car Seat Baby was placed in front of the TV and the candy-coated toddler boys were left to wander.  I stopped my niece from giving the baby small choking hazards and from weaving a balloon string through the toys of the baby's car seat.  I got to practice my mom voice on the Candy Twins when they attempted to wander upstairs.  They listened.  I chatted with Responsible Young Mom and did the minimum necessary to keep these children alive.  I really wanted to bathe the Candy Twins.  Their candy coated skin had attracted circles of dirt on their faces and hands.  They were filthy.  Eventually, everyone returns to the main floor and I start making moves towards the door.

At one point, my niece's grandmother  visits my side of the room with a lit cigarette hanging from her mouth.  She's putting my niece's coat on and asks me to zip it so she doesn't have to "bend over and get smoke in the baby's face".  I was too polite to say, "What about my face, bitch?  I can't walk up a flight of stairs without stopping halfway and you are polluting my air." and was content to know that I would be leaving very soon.  I grabbed my stuff, leashed the dog (who I had been watching more closely than Miss Thing had been watching her children) and started saying my goodbyes.  Then I see why my niece was being prepared for going outside.  Miss Thing's Baby Daddy has arrived with a toddler sized Spongebob Squarepants bounce house.  It inflated quickly.  I quickly note that it is not staked down and that there is a fair amount of breeze.  I turn to my mother who is drunk and high.

"You know those things are supposed to be staked down?  I've seen some horrible videos on the Internet of them flying through the air with children inside of them."

"Brazen, You are scaring me!"

"It's pretty breezy out here.  I'm leaving before I have to do CPR on any kids." And with that, I took my leave of the situation and washed my hands of all responsibility for other people's children.

Two birthday parties.  One thrown and attended by practicers of a "radical" lifestyle.  One thrown by my sister and attended by her other young mother friends.  One was a loving and safe environment for children and enjoyed by adults alike.  One was a hot mess that stressed me out for fear of the safety of children and blatant irresponsibility of most of the parents there.  There were exactly 3 adults at that party that had any right to be trusted with a child.  Only one of them was actually a parent and she needs new friends.  Just another reason why I've become a firm believer in building a family of choice.  My family of chance is cray cray.  Now if you'll excuse me, I feel like I need a flipping nap after all of that!  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Poly: Year One Analysis

These are some things I've learned over the last year.  They might not apply to everyone, but they are things that caught us by surprise.  Think of this as a list of where we went wrong and what I learned.

Unrealistic Expectations
When we were monogamous, we fell into this trap of believing that our commitment to each other was the only thing holding us back from relationships with others.  My husband had his crushes.  I had feelings toward male friends that I just knew would be reciprocated if things were different.  I had it in my head that me and my choice to be married was the only thing keeping me from exploring other relationships and my sexuality.  This was a silly fallacy that was quickly disproven.  My husband was shot down by crush after crush.  I was gently let down by my friend.  We had to remember that there are other factors outside of our relationship that we cannot control and that, as obvious as it should have been, there was not an army of potential lovers just waiting for permission to fuck us or love us.  Surely every new open couple goes into this with some level of unrealistic expectations, at least the ones that, like us, have been in a monogamous microcosm with strict guards against the outside world and a stunted emotional maturity when it comes to dating.  We had a lot to learn and one of them was the following bullet point.

Preparation for Outside Influences
Opening your relationship means more than sex and acceptance of emotions for others, it means opening yourself up to rejection.  Your relationship may be damaged by the unpredictable actions of others.  We were unprepared to weather this storm.  For my poly experiences, my emotions were not very negatively affected.  I have had mostly positive experiences.  My husband, however, has experienced a fair amount of rejection and one devastating break up that eventually resolved into a not-dramatic FWB relationship.  Again, being in a monogamous microcosm of two, you forget that other people can have a devastating effect on your confidence.  Just being emotionally available puts you at risk for rejection and you will get rejected in some form or another.  Other people are wildcards and they may turn out to be well adjusted, kind and not-crazy.  They may also turn out to be uncontrollable forces of destruction and ping about your life causing damage you never knew you were vulnerable to. Sometimes you can pick these people out right away and avoid a lot of drama.  If your partner lets them in, you have to weather the storm and be there for the one you love.  You also have to accept that you can't fix everything for your partner when something goes wrong.  This is going to sound really depressing, but your love might not be enough any more.  Or, as my boyfriend approximately said on this subject, it can be hard to accept that you are no longer the emotional center of your partner's life.

Coping with the Initial Excitement
We are warned about the potential consequences of NRE.  We are not necessarily warned about the NPE: New Poly Energy.  We both went a little crazy with our new freedom and excitement over a new lifestyle.  We told a lot of people.  We didn't always tell them the right way.  We told a lot of coworkers and we were lucky that this didn't backfire.

Becoming poly opened up the world for me in a new way, but I moved faster than my skills developed.  I felt like a teenager again and, at times, acted like one.  I made selfish moves.  I got swept up in the excitement of a new venture.  I was overconfident in some ways, and especially vulnerable in others.  I was emotionally immature and I've learned a lot about myself, other people, relationships (new and old) and dating.

Outside Sharing
This is an issue specific to our relationship.  I'm an open book.  I'm probably too open at times, as evidenced by this blog.  I'm certain that behind my back, I have been described as an over-sharer.  My husband keeps his cards close to his chest.  Busting open our Monogamous Microcosm (I'm coining that.  It's a phrase now.  I capitalized it, see?) made us feel vulnerable to outside criticism in a way that we hadn't dealt with before.  We both felt a certain amount of pressure to be a part of a fringe community that is critical of newcomers.  Yes, you are, Poly Community.  There's a lot of criticism of new poly people and how we handle things out there in the blog-o-sphere and the literature.  There's a lot of "you're doing it wrong" and we didn't want to be labeled as volatile new people and risky dates.  This is still a thing we're working on.  In fact, as I typed this paragraph, he walked in the door, noticed I was blogging and commented that he prefers to pretend this blog doesn't exist.

On the Subject of the Poly Community...
Additional note about the "your doing it wrong" vibe often directed at new poly people:  If you are a new poly person reading this, screw that.  Do what is right for your relationship.  I made some definite mistakes because I felt like I had to strive for this ideal put forth in poly circles.  That's crazy.  As my favorite nursing instructor used to say, "There are many roads to China."  Find one that works for you, don't feel pressured to follow the one that everyone says is right.  If something is making your partner uncomfortable, pull back and focus on that until they are comfortable again.  If you need a hierarchy to organize your relationships and make them function, then use a hierarchy.  If you need rules to feel safe, then use rules, just don't use rules to shut down communication.  If your partner tells you they need something and the new-poly-pressure tells you they shouldn't need that...  what the hell are you doing?  Give your partner what they need.  Don't get sucked into this idea that people are poly or they aren't.  Do what needs to be done to make it work for you.  I was skeptical of new-poly criticisms in the beginning and I still allowed for their influence to sneak into my psyche and I made mistakes that hurt my partner.  Don't get caught up in the idealism.  Find what works for you.  And it's okay to admit that things aren't perfect.  Guess what?  All relationships have problems.  Poly or not.  This is okay.

All this said, the individuals that I've met in my local poly community do not inflict this kind of pressured idealism.  This is more of a general feel on the Internet that we both became sensitive to.  In fact, the people I've spent time with in the local community have been nothing but warm and welcoming and supportive.  However, that's something I think we can all do a little better with.

Handling Jealousy: Your Mileage May Vary
Jealousy and insecurity are big ugly monsters when you are new to this lifestyle.  They are usually easily banished from the Monogamous Microcosm by following a few simple rules.  When you open your defenses and let them in, you have to cope.  We assumed that I would be the one to have a more difficult time with jealousy as I was the one of the two of us that had jealous upsets in the realm of monogamy.  My husband never felt jealous, but perhaps this is because he was never challenged to feel jealous.  Both of us were completely emotionally unprepared for how destructive this would be for us.  Poly literature acknowledges this difficulty, and gives you tools to deal with it, but nothing can really prepare you to be open to a new and terrifying emotion you probably haven't felt for years, if you've ever felt it at all.  From my first nuclear meltdown, I realized I could not predict how I would react.  Not only was I dealing with jealousy when my husband was sleeping with others, I had so quickly gotten involved in another relationship, I was also dealing with jealousy and insecurity in the new relationship.  This was new territory and it took time to navigate.  For the most part, my experiences with jealousy have become less intense over time.  I still have a weird little hang up about new sexual partners of my partners that I haven't completely unpacked, but as my security has grown and I've experienced this over and over, my negative responses have become easier to cope with.

Another important lesson that I've mentioned in a previous post is that jealousy cannot be banished with compersion.  You can feel compersion and jealousy at the the same time.  Compersion does become stronger as jealousy fades, but the two emotions can coexist.  You can feel happy for your partner and still hurt and feel insecure.  Don't expect to handle jealousy by making yourself feel more compersive.  It didn't work for me.

Know Your Resources
Know your resources.  Things are likely to get tough at times, as they will be in any relationship.  Don't wait for them to get bad.  Seek out your resources for emotional help.  Know your friends that will be accepting.  Know how you can obtain counseling and don't be afraid to use it.  We could have saved ourselves a lot of fighting and broken household objects if we had sought out counseling sooner.  We happen to have a limited number of free sessions available through our employers.  So far, counseling has cost us nothing monetarily.  If you have a similar program available to you, be aware of it and don't be afraid to use it.  If your family is a source of strength in your life, use them when you need to.  As I mentioned in my previous post, my dad's myriad of bad relationships lead to him giving me solid advice to fix mine.

Be Honest About the Flaws in Your Relationship
We started out thinking we were so very awesome.  I mean, we had a great marriage.  We talked things out, we rarely fought and when we did we worked it out.  We enjoy spending time together.  When I think back to our wedding, I get nothing but happy feelings.  When I look at the pictures of our wedding, I see how much we love each other and how excited we were to show that to the world.  We knew we could do this.  We could weather any storm.  We had easily survived things that makes other couples crumble.  We went into it with the right attitude, we wanted the other to have a richer and fuller life and the freedom to explore other people, emotionally and physically.

Instead of patting ourselves on the back for how awesome we were, we should have sat down and seriously analyzed what wasn't perfect about our marriage.  Becoming poly opened up a whole new emotional minefield that blew up some hidden and ugly truths that we were unprepared to deal with.  I didn't exactly realize this until we started seeing the marriage counselor.  We were happy, but we were not the epitome of perfect marriage and conflict resolution that we thought we were.  It turns out that our Monogamous Microcosm was protecting us from a lot of emotional work that we needed to be successfully poly.  Going forward, I will be more aware of this and focus on fixing things inside first.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Poly: Year One Summary

It has been long about a year since the husband and I opened our marriage.  We've come a long way.  I suppose I'll start this by summarizing our journey over the last year.

We started out with talking and reading.  We read books and talked about them.  We talked about who we wanted to sleep with and how we might handle that.  We talked about things we had held back on telling the other for fear of jealousy.  For example, my husband admitted to multiple crushes on many women that he's had throughout our relationship.  I admitted to having feelings for a close male friend.  We became closer in many ways during this time and it gave us confidence in the strength of our relationship going forward.

The turning point from hypothetical to action for me came after meeting a large group of local poly folk.  After realizing that there are people who make this work and that they are not crazy, it became a real possibility for me.  We continued to negotiate and eventually put up the profiles on OkCupid.

Then things started to get really exciting. We kind of lost ourselves in it for a while.  We told a lot of people what we were up to, carefully choosing the ones that we knew would be open minded.  We lost a friend who couldn't handle the idea.  Most of our friends were supportive.  We started to meet people and get excited.  He was encouraging me to sleep with someone and move things forward.

Then I met my boyfriend.  Of course, he didn't become my boyfriend for a few more months, but we slept together on the second date and the NRE behavior started after the first.  We texted in a ridiculous flurry.  We flirted and got to know each other.  I wasn't out to find a relationship.  I wanted to be a slut! Silly me, falling for the first new penis I see in 7 years.  There was still some other dating going on, but it became a little too time consuming for me to continue to seek out new partners.  Eventually, we put the title on things and I settled into having two relationships.

Meanwhile, the husband has not had the same happy experience that I have had.  He also lost a friend, one of few long term male friends that he had and someone he enjoyed working on creative endeavors with.  He went into the dating world wanting to find a girlfriend.  He ended up a slut, nearly quadrupling his lifetime sex partners in the first year of being open!  This has been fun for him, but not ideal.  The emotional impact of casual sex and dating has been costly.  I can now admit that I was so caught up in the positive impact on my life that I overlooked a lot of the negative impact on my husband.  I made mistakes.  Then I got pregnant.  Finally!  After 2 years of trying to conceive and starting to think it wasn't going to happen, there was a really dark line in the window that usually remained empty despite my staring and wishing.  Unfortunately, the pregnancy appeared at time my husband was attempting to renegotiate the terms of our marriage, including being poly and starting a family.  Things got rough between us.  Things got nasty.  We talked about ending our marriage.  On several occasions we told the other to leave or threatened to leave.  I haven't been completely forthcoming with a lot of this ugliness here as it was extremely difficult and I had no idea how things were going to turn out.  I didn't want my marriage to end and the embarrassment of "new poly problems" was an extra stress we didn't need.

Finally, when things had gotten so bad that I didn't think we could save them, we sought out counseling.  I had low expectations for it's effectiveness.  I feared my husband wouldn't go.  I feared he wouldn't like the counselor.  I feared that things were just over and there was no way back from our hurt feelings and pain.  I thought we were broken.  I thought he was broken.  I was wrong.  After one session, things improved between us.  They were certainly not perfect, but our house was not the war zone it once was.  I stopped making plans for a future as a single mom and I started focusing on fixing our marriage.  After just 4 sessions with our marriage counselor, we have new tools that we didn't know we needed.  We still have a long way to go.  We are still learning how to be together under new terms.  We still have the impending huge life change of having a baby and all the doubts and fears that come with that, but we are also happy to be around each other.  We enjoy each others company again.  We are more accepting of the other's flaws and better able to resolve conflict.  I love my husband, deeply and truly, and I'm so glad we're fixing things.

By the way, throughout all of this, my boyfriend has been pretty darn awesome.  He has been nothing but supportive.  He has given me a shoulder to cry on and evenings of respite when my home was not a comfortable place.  He has maintained his commitment to me despite my life becoming a bit of a mess.  He gave me a place of comfort and security during a difficult time without it being a threat to my marriage.  He's been tolerant of my moments of insecurity in the new relationship.  He's a good friend and a good lover.  I'm fortunate to have him in my life.  Finding someone with a shared sexual chemistry is difficulty enough.  Finding that person after a month of OkC dating and having them be not crazy and an awesome person... what are the odds?  My experience with poly could have been much different without him.  I love him and I feel good about loving him.

And while I'm being all sappy and appreciative of men that I love in my life, I also need to mention my father.  My dad knows about the open relationship.  Intellectually, he gets it, but knows that it would never work for him in his current marriage.  My dad's relationship history includes 2 divorces, lots of cheating and being cheated on, and lots of general ugliness leading up to his current marriage of 10 years.  I went to him when I was desperate and scared and crying at work and I didn't think my marriage was able to be saved or maybe even worth being saved.  He told me not to give up yet.  He encouraged the route of counseling.  He acknowledged that things may not work out, but he gave me the strength I needed to make the saving throw when I was ready to throw in the towel.  On several occasions he helped me to see things from my husband's point of view in a way I hadn't been able to see on my own.  My dad's experience in failed relationships helped to save mine.  His acceptance of our chosen lifestyle allowed him to advise me without assumptions clouding his judgment.

So, how do I feel about becoming poly after a year?  Grateful, more than anything.  I'm grateful to have the kind of partner that would even allow the possibility of an open relationship.  I'm grateful to have had good experiences with the poly world.  I'm grateful that we were able to find the resources for help when we needed it.  I'm grateful that we're going forward in our lives.  I feel like my life is richer with poly as a part of it.  With the impending kid, I'm glad that we will have adult distractions available to us.   Despite the stress it added, I don't regret becoming poly.  I still feel like it's worth working for and I'll continue to work for it.  That said, stay tuned for a follow up post detailing what I've learned after one year.