Even before our son was born, my husband and I knew he was the last piece of our family puzzle. We had extensive discussions throughout the three years since we'd decided to have our first child. Should we just have one? Mike had always imagined two. I was just finding myself again, now that our daughter was older and more independent. Mike was enjoying fatherhood, and probably secretly hoped for a son. I'd never imagined having children at all. Then I couldn't imagine life without Ella. But two seemed too risky. A financial burden we could live without. An emotional stress I wasn't sure I could handle. A drain on time I didn't have. Yet, as Ella began to differentiate herself from me and explore her independence, I found myself missing the mother-child bond we'd had when she was just an infant. Parenting a toddler, and then a preschooler, is light-years away from mothering a baby. I missed nursing, cradling my baby in my arms for hours each day. Ella seemed lonely in the house with us. She wanted, maybe even needed, to connect with someone closer to her in age. Did she need a sibling? Maybe, maybe not. At the end of the day, we decided for her, and ten months later, she had a baby brother to bestow her undying affection on.
Now that there are two of them, "Elizaben" has become Elizabeth and Benjamin. And our family is complete. So our lengthy discussions turned to birth control after Benjamin was born. Would Mike get a vasectomy? Would I get my tubes tied? I didn't want to be on hormonal birth control ever again, after realizing in my 30s that my 20s had sucked in part because I had been on the pill for an entire decade. Hormonal birth control was an uphill battle to find the right pill, one that didn't make me feel like a raging lunatic or suicidal maniac, that didn't make me want to eat my way to 200 lbs, that didn't increase my changes of getting a migraine every day for two weeks out of every month. Yet when I started talking to my midwife about permanent options, it boiled down to two: vasectomy or tubal ligation. Because vasectomy is a 15-minute office procedure and tubal ligation is major surgery, it's the preferred permanent method. However, my feminist self told me that since my body was the one that could get pregnant, my body was the one that needed to be protected, not my husband's.
So I looked into other options. Essure was a non-surgical permanent option for women, but my midwife recommended we wait a year before choosing anything permanent. So before we made any irreversible changes, we all thought it best to try something that would work in the meantime. The choice became hormonal vs. non-hormonal IUD. None of the doctors I spoke to seemed to recommend the non-hormonal IUD, which could cause heavier-than-normal periods and cramping. Having suffered that on my own hormones until I was 20, I was definitely not going that route. So I decided to give the Mirena a try. After a few months of really annoying (according to my midwife) random spotting, supposedly, many women don't even get a period at all. That sounded good to me, so I buried my discomfort with the whole foreign-object-in-body thing and made an appointment.
The whole procedure took less than five minutes and didn't hurt a bit. I was pleasantly surprised that aside from a little bit of cramping for two days after, things seemed fine. After waiting the requisite amount of time to actually use the thing as birth control, we tried it out and...things felt...different. Without going into specifics, let's just say I knew it was there. In case you haven't checked out Mirena's images lately, and without getting too graphic, I'll just say that although the IUD is an "intra-uterine device," it has threads that are left outside the cervix. I had been aware of all this after asking numerous friends who'd taken the plunge before me, except for one thing: I was supposed to check the threads once a month. Myself. To make sure they were still there. Which means they are actually quite noticeable.
But, I digress. Because even though the whole foreign-object-in-the-body thing was bothering me, that's not why I started to freak out a week after I got the IUD. In fact, I had started to freak out before I even realized the cause. It started with headaches. Not just any headache, but migraine headache. Migraine headache that wouldn't go away, not with Excedrin PM, cold compress, or even Percocet. If taking Relpax or Frova didn't require an appointment with the neurologist, I would have tried that and failed as well. Because these were headaches I knew all too well. They were the same headaches I'd suffered through my 20s. The uphill battle. Headaches, unexplainable irritability, and, this time, anxiety attacks as well. Despite the lack of research, I'd seen enough anecdotal evidence to convince me: hormones are a shit-show waiting to happen to some people, and I was one of them.
Which is why, when I go back to see my midwife next week, instead of checking on the IUD, she'll be removing it. Hopefully, this will solve the headache problem. As for the irritability and anxiety--well, if those continue, then there's probably a good reason for both.
When we were expecting our first child, we swore if the baby was a girl that we would avoid dressing her in pink. We purposely didn't find out the baby's sex so that we wouldn't be inundated with gender-specific clothing, toys, and books. We wanted to raise our child without buying into the stereotypes: girls play with dolls, while boys play with trains. Girls wear pink, while boys wear blue. Girls want to grow up to be princesses, while boys want to be superheroes.
This worked, for a little while. We styled our baby in graphic tees and camo shorts. Her first pair of walking shoes were red- and-white checkered Vans. She had more cars, trains, trucks, and buses than she had dolls.
Then, she began to have opinions. As she got older and began choosing toys out of the bin, she would go for the baby dolls over the trucks. She began to forego the train for the shopping cart. She wanted to play with the princess puzzle, not the rainforest one. She wanted to wear the sparkly Mary Janes instead of the Vans. And she wanted to wear pink. Dresses. Jewelry. High heels. And then, there was The Princess Party. For her 3rd birthday, we celebrated in Chicago with a "Ladies Luncheon."
And, back home we celebrated on her actual birthday with The Little Mermaid.
And, because it was cute and because grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends (and yes, even parents) enjoy hearing the squeals of delight that are elicited by the opening of presents containing baby's new favorite things, she began receiving more dolls, princesses, dresses, and frilly pink tutus than we knew what to do with.
As Ella got older and began watching parent-approved shows and movies (and began being influenced by other kids' interests), she began to fall under the spell of the likes of Ariel and Belle and Tiana, the Frog Princess. At first, we were amused. Then, we were relieved at how easy it was to get an hour or two to ourselves...so we introduced The Swan Princess. Then, it was Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. Then Rapunzel. And along with every movie came the "action" figure, and then her friends, and then her "things." Before we knew it, she was dressing like her favorite princess--a different one each day, thanks to the trunksful of velour dresses, crowns, and jewelry she got for two consecutive Christmases.
But then, just as we were becoming disgusted with ourselves for allowing her to be brainwashed into thinking all girls needed to find a prince to marry and live happily ever after, the tide began to turn. Mike got her a skateboard for her 4th birthday, albeit with bright pink wheels. Her godmother, Amy, introduced her to roller derby, even christening her with her own derby name.
She was just as interested in playing with tools as she was tulle.
She enjoyed swimming, and running, and jumping, and climbing, and biking, and kayaking.
And then, she surprised us all when she announced what she wanted to be when she grew up: a paleontologist. For weeks, all she wanted to listen to was "I Am a Paleontologist" by They Might Be Giants. Every time we got in the car, she wanted to hear the story of "Dr. von Wahlde, Paleontologist." She pretended to go on digs for fossils. She loved the dinosaur exhibit at the Peabody Museum. And she had a birthday party complete with dinosaur cupcakes, inflatable dinosaurs, fossils, dinosaur tattoos, and miniature dinosaurs.
Today, she alternates between telling us she wants to be a paleontologist princess and a paleontologist mom. Her princesses live next to the Playmobil volcano under the shadow of the Triceratops and T-rex who live there too. And somehow, they all just get along. So, I guess Disney hasn't cornered the market on little girls, after all.