Ruby and I flew to Albany. We met with Doctor Kotlow, who was incredibly warm and welcoming. He said that my story was the same story he’d heard hundreds of times over. There is something wrong with my baby, and no one can figure out what it is.
He did a quick evaluation on Ruby’s mouth, and pointed out immediately how incredibly tied she was, both lip and tongue. He made me watch a video on the procedure, and then he took her away to revise her ties. I sat there with tears pouring down my face, fearful and teetering on the brink of regret. I had just enough time to snap a picture of Ruby’s pacifier sitting alone on her blanket, posted it to Instagram, and she was already back. She was snuffling from having cried, and her face was a little red, but she seemed perfectly fine. I wouldn’t have guessed that she’d just had a laser revision done in her mouth.
Dr Kotlow handed me my baby and said, “Go ahead and nurse. I’ll give you guys a few minutes.”
I sat down and offered her the breast. She latched immediately, and nursed. She just nursed. There was no familiar pinching feeling, no frustration or pull-back. She didn’t unlatch after a few seconds and cry. She just nursed while I sat there and cried and cried. I was triumphant in my mother-heart. I knew I was not wrong.
Now, if this were a movie, it would cut to some romantic, dreamy music and text would roll explaining that Mandy and Ruby happily nursed for the rest of their days as a breastfeeding dyad, and that Ruby self-weaned on her own around the age of three or four. You might even shed a tear, wistful and delightfully happy that everything turned out exactly how it should.
Instead, Ruby nursed well for about a day and a half. The healing and stretching process was a little rigorous, but she handled it well, and healed quickly. I think, in retrospect, that her behaviors and associations around breastfeeding were just too much for me to overcome. I didn’t know how. Possibly, she was unable to get past my INCREDIBLY strong emotions on the matter. Whatever it was, we still struggled. And we never quite got it right.
It was around that time that our savings started to run a little low, and Brock still didn’t have a job. We were tossing around ideas for companies that he could start, or odd jobs that he could be doing for money, but it seemed like he was missing the most important component: initiative. He didn’t have any drive, desire or passion. He was incredibly content just sitting and playing WOW. In my heart of hearts, I tried my best to continue to be loving, supporting and encouraging, but my patience was running out. There was more than a little part of me that blamed Brock for me having to go back to work at six weeks, which compounded our nursing problems, and now we were running out of money. I felt like I was under an incredible amount of pressure from all sides and angles.
Then, at the end of June, our air conditioner died.
It was hitting 100 degrees outside, and well above 85 in our house. We were uncomfortable, and trying to figure out places that we could go that had air conditioning. Restaurants, the mall, and Laura’s house were in pretty constant rotation while we awaited a repair that we couldn’t afford. When the repair man came to the house, he was met by Brock, who walked him through as they chatted. I wasn’t present for this encounter, but Brock relates something along the lines of, “Oh your house is great. We would love a house like this. How much would you charge if you were to rent it? Would you be willing to rent it? We could move in immediately.” *generous approximation of a conversation that is probably not realistic at all.*
When Brock and I spoke next, he proposed that we let them move in as renters so we wouldn’t lose the house. I was hesitant, but figured it might be a good stopover while we navigated Brock getting a job. He spoke with his parents, and they agreed to let us move in to their basement for the as-yet-undetermined future. We packed up our things, and stored everything in the attic above their garage, save our clothes, Brock’s computer and some toys. Everything else, Brock’s parents already had. The basement had three bedrooms and a living room, as well as a full bathroom; so logistically speaking, we would only have to “share” space with Jane and Ted when in the kitchen.
We moved our things over the course of a few days, and then I repainted our house – the one we’d just left. The whole house. Myself. I got the carpets cleaned, and scrubbed the crap out of everything. Myself. And while I was somewhat excited about the prospect of having more help with the kids, and the financial pressure being lifted, I also knew that relationships could become very strained, very quickly in close quarters living conditions. Both Ted and Jane still worked full-time, so evenings and weekends seemed like they would bear the brunt of it… and I worked weekends.
Living at the lake with Jane and Ted was a strange mix of beauty and disaster. We had a beautiful home that I loved. We had the water. We had family around us. We LOVED being there… but communication ended up being a really weak point, and everyone built up frustrations that were never voiced. Brock was deep within his own personal struggle that included his confidence and self-worth. I was feeling incredibly angry, all of the time. Angry that no one was helping me. Angry that I was looking for a second job to try to help us financially. Angry that I was doing the lions share of the cooking, and no one was helping with the cleaning, and that everyone always seemed to be upset at me because the house was always a mess, and the kids were always being kids, and on every single front I felt like I was failing, being failed, isolated, and just plain angry.
The entire house became a boiling pot of negative emotions.
Just barely scabbed over hurts were picked at frequently because, even though Brock was not working (and not looking for jobs, and not truly functioning as a grown adult human) he still wanted me to have sex with him – often. What I figured out, eventually, was that ‘no’ was never truly an option for me, because he would just continue to pester me until I said yes. It was easier and faster to just get it over with than to bother saying no. I started to dread spending evenings with him. I wasn’t feeling emotionally invested in our relationship – truth be told, I was just angry at him all the time. I knew that I loved him and that he was the father of my children, but I was definitely not “in love” with him anymore. I wasn’t even sure if I liked him.
I didn’t want to have sex. I wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want to be touched, or convinced, or begged. But, I was also afraid of porn returning, so I never said no for more than a day or two. At this point in our relationship, we were still having sex several times a week, and I didn’t want any of it. I became INCREDIBLY resentful towards sex, and Brock and the whole situation.
In December, exactly a year from the day Brock quit his job at the printing company, he was hired by Lowe’s. It was a one-off, a lucky shot, an incredible twist of fate. He ran into an old high school buddy who was working at Lowe’s and said he should apply to be a developer – a programmer. So Brock put in an application, and went in for his interview. As told by Brock, there was a panel of interviewers, and one gentleman who was the lead of IT. He said all of the people in the interview panel seemed to like him EXCEPT that one guy that was in charge of the IT team. When he came home, he was incredibly defeated. He knew he didn’t have the job. One more nail in the coffin, one more blow to his sense of self.
The following day, Brock received a call from HR at Lowe’s: he was right, he did not get the programming job. However, he was told, everyone really liked him and felt like he had great potential as a ‘Business Analyst.’ She told him to look up the position, read about it, and see if it was something that would interest him. He looked into it and decided to give it a go, and just like that, he was hired. He had a job.
HE HAD A JOB.
I think we both felt like the having of a job was going to fix all of our problems. Or most of them. It didn’t, at all. I was still very angry and resentful. It felt like it was coming far too late. The damage had already been done. The situation and living with Brock’s parents and that pressure-cooker intensity meant that I was so far beyond my ability to cope, that I just shut myself down and withdrew.
The next several months were a blur of challenge. I continued working, Brock settled in at his new job, and struggle was constantly bubbling blow the surface. Ronan was officially diagnosed with Apraxia, and began twice weekly speech therapy. They also wanted us to take him to occupational therapy for sensory issues. I had to pump three times a day for Ruby, who was still only 9, 10, 11 months old. I was actively looking for houses to move out into, with or without Brock. He was happy at his parents, and felt great about saving money, and didn’t want to leave – he didn’t seem to recognize how I was feeling, and how stressful it was for me that our kids made terrible mess, and I didn’t have the strength or space to keep it clean, and that the mess and noise and frustration was also wearing down on his mom and dad.
In March, I reached a fever-pitch. I just wanted out. I was in the depth of my lowest depression, and couldn’t imagine moving forward. I wanted it to be over – all of it. The final straw was when I sat down at Brock’s computer one day, and on a whim, hit ‘ctrl-z’ to see if anything happened. I watched in horror as porn was “undeleted” from his computer. I sat there in stunned silence. I couldn’t believe that, after all of what we had been through, and all of the sex that I continued to have even though I didn’t want to… he was back to porn again.
My heart was crushed, but my resolve turned to steel.
That night, after the kids were in bed, I sat him on the couch and confronted him. I told him that I had found porn again, and that I didn’t even care. I told him that I loved him, but that I wasn’t in love with him. I told him that I didn’t like him anymore. I didn’t know that it could ever be fixed. I told him that I wanted a divorce, and that I was leaving. The kids and I were going to go to Canada, and we would figure things out from there. I told him that I’d already purchased the tickets. We were leaving in April.
I expected him to fall apart. Honestly, I expected him to break down crying, and beg me to stay. I waited for him to promise me that things would be different. He didn’t. He just apologized. He told me he was sorry for everything. And he told me that he understood.
We talked very kindly for a while. I was blown away by how… adult… he was handling things. And then he asked me if I would make love to him one last time. Our last time. I don’t know why (because I had been so absolutely repulsed by it for the last several months) I don’t know why I said yes… but I did. And we did.
Two weeks later, and exactly two weeks before my trip to Canada, a pregnancy test turned positive.
To be continued…
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