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Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Moving Ahead But I Still Look Back

Oh, hi. Fancy seeing you here. I thought you stopped coming by and yet here you are. I'm glad you're here. You mean a lot to me. Most of the time I feel like I'm typing away in my quiet little corner of the Internets but every now and again I'll get a glimpse of how invested some of you are in my sweet family and I'm just blown away. So thanks for being here. It makes me feel a little less lonely, an emotion with which I am all too well acquainted with lately.

The messages and comments so many of you have left here and sent on Facebook (go ahead and friend me over there, I'm there even when not here) have meant a lot. I'm always surprised when someone takes the time to send me a few words of encouragement and some of y'all have really great advice. Certain words of yours, sentences, philosophies on life and love and all the rest of it all, have stuck with me and helped light the way through some pretty dark times these past few months.

I know I haven't written much here lately, mostly because I don't know what to write. I'm not interested in blow by blow blogging of all the nonsense that inevitably goes down when a couple decides to separate. Years from now, when all the tumultuous feelings of right now have faded, anything I've written will seem silly and hurtful. And during a separation/divorce, when certain feelings are so ephemeral, writing about anything is particularly risky.

What I'm saying is I think writing about specifics would hurt more than help so you won't read any of that here. Maybe some generalities about adjusting to my new life, otherwise - nada. I know, so disappointing for you! Positivity is so boring. Believe me, I watch The Real Housewives of New York for a reason and it ain't for positivity. But yeah, you will never read anything about this whole thing I wouldn't want my children to read in twenty years. And twenty years from now all they need to know is we tried our hardest but when we began to feel like us being together was more detrimental to them than us being apart we made the decision to separate, take a break and try to gain a little perspective.

Which brings us to here. Now. I don't know what this blog means to me anymore. I have no illusions about any of it like I may have in the past. I just need a place to write what I want to write whether it's hard truths I'm realizing in my life, funny stories or just photos of my kids... Other than that, I don't know. I'm not interested in being something I'm not which probably means no sponsored posts unless I really, really, really dig the thing... Just no more bullshit. I started the blog to write.

Lots of huge changes coming up and I totally plan to keep you posted. Additionally, as many of you are aware, was down for some time while they switched servers or whatever they've been up to over there but they're back up now with a new site design (still somewhat under construction) but you can read my latest post, How My Baby Is Wise Beyond His Months, over there if you like.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for caring.

Charlie Boy

Pretty much every day is a bad hair day for Charlie. He has this small tuft of hair that refuses to comply with water or even heed the direction of the all powerful mama spit licked on a hand and smoothed onto hair.

This kid... Oh, this kid. What a damn joy.

Charles In Charge: The Birth Story Part I

To say that giving birth naturally in my home is the greatest thing I've ever done and likely will ever do isn't really an exaggeration. Unless I lift a car off someone in the next couple decades or otherwise save a life in similar dramatic fashion, giving birth to Charlie in our living room is a highlight.

Not only was it miraculous because it brought me my son, the third love of my life, but it taught me a lot about what I'm capable of if I let go of fear, follow my heart and mind and allow my determination to lead the way.

The decision to give birth at home wasn't conscious, it was the result of all I have learned over the past several years (while writing for a major parenting website) and, once pregnant, just seemed like the obvious course of action. I had, of course, watched The Business of Being Born and studied articles like this one in the NY Times called American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World, but out of all that what sticks in my mind the most is a small incident that occurred when I was giving birth to Violet.

There I was, lying on my back, legs spread to the high heavens that surely exist above LDS hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah when the door to my room whipped open and a janitor strode in, looked directly at my, uh, blossoming flower, grabbed the trash basket, dumped it into the larger bin on the janitor cart, put it back on the floor and exited the room.

Oh, hi, janitor. This is my vagina. Vagina, that's the janitor.

It's not a huge deal. Especially when one is in the throes of transition and attempting to push a human from one's lady business. But the situation, to me, is indicative of what giving birth in a hospital is like. Although both our first two children were born in hospitals and we very much enjoyed the experiences, I tend to think it's because we didn't really know better. The janitor crashing my daughter's birth is a small example of the larger problem I see with hospital births. Giving birth didn't feel sacred or respected, as every childbirth should, I felt like cattle. Ushered from one high price room to the next, a fleet of nurses poking and prodding me at all hours, laughing at my shy desire to attempt to give birth without an epidural. "Nobody wins a medal for a natural childbirth, honey."

I was not in control of the greatest moments of my life. I was at the mercy of strangers who were at the mercy of ridiculous hospital policies created to avoid a society that has become insanely litigious. And a lot of the things they end up forcing on you aren't even policies, just standard procedures that you can turn down, you just don't know you can.

You have to be strapped to all this equipment at all times!

You don't. Intermittent monitoring is just as effective and with all the monitoring you're forced to lie down and stay pretty still which means all you can really focus on is your contractions. I gotta move around, baby!

You must not eat anything but ice chips or popsicles!

Total bullshit. Want a sandwich? Eat a fucking sandwich. You wouldn't tell someone to run a marathon but skip breakfast, would you? Yeah, there is some concern that if you need a c-section you could aspirate on vomit after being intubated but as Medical News Today notes, in modern obstetric practice most doctors are using regional anesthesia as opposed to general anesthesia thereby avoiding intubation and the risk of aspiration. Bottom line? Eat those Doritos if they get you through the next two contractions, sister friend.

Get on your back to give birth and then push until the veins in your face explode and paint the walls in blood and even then they'll all still be screaming PUUUUSH at you.

Giving birth on your back is solely for the benefit of the doctor. It's the best position for him to get up in there. However, lying on your back not only reduces the size of the pelvis significantly, but it puts pressure on the vena cava, which reduces blood flow to the baby and your lower body. So, unless this position feels best to you, do your own thing, sister. Squat, on all fours, whatever rocks your world. I gave birth on my side and back, kind of like I was sliding into home plate.

We're going to tell you when to push because we know better than you!

There is a video of me giving birth to Henry that shows me pushing so hard at the behest of a doctor and nurses you think my head is going to pop off my neck and explode, cartoon-style. So unnecessary! Newsflash! Your body knows what it's doing! Just like when you avail yourself of the facilities after a large dinner, you'll know when to push! In fact, pushing so hard can make you tear more and is just generally not a good idea, even according to the World Health Organization which also, by the way, agrees with me about restricting food during labor and also calls constant electronic fetal monitoring a "practice which is frequently used inappropriately."

Wake up! I need to take your vitals!

More hospital policy crap. For the love of Christ, lady! I just gave birth and I'll be going home with a fussy newborn soon, LET ME SLEEP.

Here is a $50 Ibuprofin for your pain.

Seriously. Read this article. It will blow your mind.

You're NOT going to breastfeed? Shouldn't you at least try, for your baby's sake?

I've written about this enough on Babble so I'm not going to go into it here. Yeah, "breast is best" until it isn't. And for many women, it isn't. If it isn't best for mom it isn't best for baby, The End. Stop bullying and respect every new mother's choice.

All of the above, coupled with the fact that, after two induced labors and subsequent epidurals, I had an overwhelming desire to experience going into labor and childbirth naturally as millions of women before me have, I determined that a midwife and a home birth was the way forward.

Uncomfortably Numb

At 5 she is old enough to articulate the fact that she wishes Dad were sleeping at home at night.

At 5 she isn't old enough to comprehend the complex logistics of the two adults she loves most in the world deciding to separate and so, for now, she thinks he goes off to write or "work" as we often call this crazy-ass thing we do on the Internets.

Dad's going to work. Really it's no different from dads who leave the home every day for 8 or 10 hours to work. But it is different.

He still drives them to or from pre-school, stopping at the park on the way home, is often at the house to fix breakfast after they wake up or make their dinner in the evenings before reading a couple stories or watching some cartoons. Either way, her blunt questions and our evasive responses are heartbreaking.

Mostly I feel numb, though. Long stretches of numb interspersed with grenades of pain. I watch my life unfold in much the same way I observe tragic news stories about strangers. That's so sad, I think and then I move on.

Onward and upward. Or sideways. Just so long as I'm moving. Gotta keep moving. The baby is crying, the kids are watching me.

I think about the sadness but I can't stay there. He's always been better about acknowledging emotions. I can't bring myself to let the sadness infiltrate insides that I have under lock and key and booby trap and anything else that will help keep my emotions in check so I can hold this whole thing together. It can be and often is confused with being unemotional. But last week a therapist told me I'm a very emotional person I just hide it well. I think that's what she said. I can't be sure because I was busy nodding indifferently while avoiding her hawk eyes.

During the worst of the labor with Charlie I envisioned myself swimming underwater in the ocean. Aqua everywhere, the surface - a kaleidoscope of blurry shapes and colors - flickering far above me, schools of crazy looking fish darting past; silvers, blues, yellows and greens flashing in the sunlight filtering weakly down from above, seaweed dancing erotically, and my heavy, exhausted body floating along feeling so fine, so free. I was aware of the pain but it was almost like it was happening to another person, I could hear Serge and the midwife talking but they sounded far away, like listening to neighbors' muffled voices through a shared wall.

I feel that way a lot now but it isn't the peaceful escape it was during labor, it's a heavy numbness that comes on quick; a morphine injection to the upper arm. When I can't think another thought, when my chest cavity feels like it's imploding around my fractured heart I feel myself sinking underwater. Everything is muted except for my thoughts which are loud, so loud.

There is no way around these things I'm experiencing. No shortcut, no avoiding. I've spent a long time avoiding so many emotions that they're clogging my insides and now I'm choking on them as I puke it all out.

But at night, as the wind howls around my windows, my newborn son makes his clicking insect sounds and the dogs snore, I stare at the ceiling and acknowledge that mingling with all the pain is relief.

We are two angry people whose jagged edges have rubbed each other so raw we're hemorrhaging.

"Stop interrupting me," I hiss at him when he steps on my sentences, anxious to make his own point without listening to mine.

"You're a mean person," he shouts at my back when I turn away from a conversation I can't continue to have, the same conversation we've been having for months.

"Would we have even gotten married if we really got to know each other?"

"That doesn't matter now. We've been married for ten years."

"It shouldn't be this hard."

"Marriage is hard. Life is hard. Deal with it."

"But it shouldn't be this hard, should it?"

"Stop talking so loud, the kids will hear you!"

"I can't have this conversation anymore. I just can't."

"I just need space, I don't even know who I am anymore when I'm not reacting to you. My personality has become one big reaction to you."

"I don't even know how to answer that..."

How Mama Got Her Groove Back

Writing about weight loss on the Internet is tricky, at best. When it’s baby weight you’re talking about getting rid of you can pretty much bet you’re going to piss off someone. Either you’re trying too hard to lose weight because you should love your body as it is, stretch marks and all, or somebody doesn’t like what you’re doing to lose weight or you’re lying about how you lost weight or you’ve lost so much weight you shouldn’t lose anymore and you’re fat-shaming anyone bigger than you – a veritable minefield of controversy ripe for the Internet masses to detonate. Here’s the thing. This is my story. That’s all it can be. I’m just throwing it to the Internet winds and maybe some of it resonates with somebody and that’s great.

To continue reading and check out the first full-body photo of me in all my postpartum glory, click on over to Babble.
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