Wednesday, May 25, 2011

This blog has moved!

This page should now automatically redirect you to my blog at Parents.com, but if for some reason it doesn't, please click here.

See you there!

Monday, May 16, 2011

DMD... finally.

I graduated from dental school yesterday. I'm a real doctor now. (Well, as much of a real doctor as a dentist can be. If someone has a heart attack, you should probably still call 911.)

I finally got to put on that cap and gown and cross the stage to have someone drape me in that lilac hood.

And I was so proud to stand next to my friends and my colleagues while I was granted that degree that I have wanted and worked towards for so long.

I had so much support, yesterday and always... my family who has loved and supported me through 22 long years of schooling, and finally got to watch me complete my doctorate...

One of my best friends Lauren and her husband Dan, who drove six hours to sit through a very long day of speeches, just to be there for me while I got my degree...

And of course Caroline. Who was my biggest motivation throughout the second half of this really difficult program. My mom handed her to me as I marched out of the convention center with the other graduates, and I carried her through the receiving line of faculty and VIPs, in her little lilac dress. She put her arms around my neck and laid her head on my shoulder and I whispered to her that mommy was a dentist now, that I did it for her. She said "Mommy dentist? Happy 'wation, mommy." (Which I assume meant "graduation", and my mother taught her to say.)

She is only two, but I think she is proud of me. I know, for sure, that I am proud of myself.

Allow me a moment of what I hope is more pride than conceit... I have been through so much over the past year and there were so many times when I wanted to lie down and quit or give up. But I did not. I kept going and I didn't just finish this program, I did well, and I stayed true to myself and the things that I always knew that I wanted. I hope I have set an example for my daughter when she is old enough to understand what I did for myself and for her.

And I hope that if you read this and you are a mother, or a single mother, like me, and you are in school or are thinking about going back... that you believe that it's not what so many of my classmates say, that they don't know how I could ever do it when I had someone else's life to put before my own. She was not an obstacle to this achievement, but my biggest motivator and the single most important reason that I never lost sight of my goal.

I once was afraid that because I got pregnant halfway through school, my career was over. But it wasn't that way. I can have both. Now I have my DMD, and I have my daughter. I am so happy, proud and content. There is nothing more that I need.

And to everyone who has ever asked me how I could do it with her, I guess I would say that the real question is, how could I ever have done it without her?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

So close, I can taste it

My graduation from dental school is almost here. Countdown: T minus 4 days.

There were times when I never thought this day would come. I know people say stuff like that all the time, but really, there were a lot of bad times when I never thought this day would come.

So much has happened since I started dental school back in 2006. Engaged, married, pregnant, Caroline's birth, my year off, separation, divorce. But my trainwreck of a personal life aside, I passed all those classes, took all those exams, cared for all those patients, finished all those requirements, passed all those boards.

I finished my requirements a few weeks ago, and last week I tied up all the loose ends, transferring my patients to third-year students and completing all my paperwork. I cleaned out my desk and brought home all the piles of dental stuff in my lockers. (It sat there in boxes on my living room floor for a few days... burs and fake teeth and impression material and spatulas and wax and drills and dental instruments... before I finally found the space to stash it all away.) I did my exit counseling for my loans (and man, was that ever depressing), squared up with the prosthetic lab and the bursar and the record room. Signed out, officially. No more responsibilities to the school. Ever.

It made me feel sadder than I expected it to. Don't get me wrong, that entire program was immensely stressful, and I am glad to finally have gotten through it. But I guess I'm a nostalgic kind of person and I will miss all the people that I will never see again. Of course I'm starting there as a resident at the end of June, so I'll be right back in the same space, but most of the people won't be there. I was originally pretty upset about switching classes, but I really, really like my "new" class, and I will miss them.

Regardless, I'm still so excited for Sunday that I could jump up and down and scream. I've been wearing my cap, gown, and hood around my apartment for the past entire week. (Which is normal.)

My degree. Doctor Julia, DMD. It is so close, I can taste it. It is something that no one will ever be able to take away from me.

Monday, May 9, 2011

For MY mother, on our day.

I am a mom, so I guess Mother's Day is for me too, but really, I talk incessantly enough about myself without using a holiday as an excuse to do it even more. So, this post is for my own mother.

I don't think you can truly appreciate your mother and everything she did for you until you are a mother yourself. At least this has been the case for me. We have certainly had our disagreements over the years. I went through the typical teenage girl stage where my mom and I were constantly at each others' throats. But I think that now, especially having my own daughter, I've reached the point in my life where I can declare without a doubt, and I hold this truth to be self-evident because this is totally at least as important as anything written in the Declaration of Independence: your mother is always right.

What's that? You want specific examples? Well, I suppose I can think of a few...

There are ways to settle a fight over a toy that do not involve biting. Forget what those mean sixth-grade girls say because they don't matter and you are beautiful. You don't have to work quite so hard at every little thing-- not everything has to be absolutely perfect, and happiness is more important than perfection. You should get along better with your brother because even if he's annoying you right now, your relationship will matter to you down the road more than you know. Your father is not always right, but he still deserves your respect. And the ultimate kicker: You are so young, what's the rush to get married?... just enjoy being engaged for awhile and see how things go.

At some point in time, I rolled my eyes at each and every one of these statements, ignored them, and without fail I suffered the consequences. Some of them led to overly dramatic screaming-fights ending in tears and the slamming of bedroom doors (mine, not hers). But I can look back without a doubt and declare unashamedly that in each of these circumstances, my mom knew what was best, and she always was looking out for me, even if it made her unpopular with my teenage self at the time.

And ah, the one about marriage, didn't I eat my words with that one... But I can proudly say that I came right out with it and was not embarrassed, when I told my mom I was filing for divorce: you were right. I was too young. I should have listened.

My mom always stuck to her guns, and I can only hope that I do the same when my turn inevitably comes with my own daughter. She hasn't always lived her life exactly in the way that I want to live mine (I mean really, who has?), but the bottom line is this: she is a strong woman and whatever strength I have, I owe it to her and my father and the way they raised me.

Since I've become a single mother, I've become closer than ever to my mom. She always has my back and does so much for me and for Caroline. I rarely even have to ask. She is always there for us, no matter how much help I need.

I love you, Mom. Caroline and I are so lucky to have you.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hurricane Caroline

I consider myself to be pretty capable when it comes to caring for Caroline alone, so I try not to write posts like this, but tonight it really can't be helped. Buckle up, buttercups. This evening was rough.

Caroline has been sick and so I was up with her for most of last night. I went home after school today and laid down to take a nap, because she was supposed to be with Tyler tonight. The second I fell asleep, the phone rang. It was Tyler, saying that he was bringing her here instead because she wasn't feeling well and wanted to go home. I stumbled out of bed and answered the door. He handed her to me, accused me of loving the fact that she only wants to be with me, and stormed off. Caroline and I looked at each other for a minute and then I shook the sleep out of my eyes and told her we were going to the store to get medicine.

I dragged the poor sick kid out in the rain to pick up a filter for her humidifier and medicine and chicken soup. Got her home and set up with the soup. She wouldn't eat, wouldn't drink, wouldn't do anything but scream and beg to be held. I picked her up and carried her around, still screaming, while trying to run a bath for her and dose her with medicine and set up the humidifier and wade through the piles of laundry and toys that were covering my floors. This went on for about a half hour and by the end of it, I was near tears as well, and my arms were really tired from carrying her, and she was still howling. And I don't do well at all, running on no sleep.

I got mad. At Tyler. Which is totally stupid. But I was just mad that he thought I wanted to do all this alone, that I was happy about it all. I'm not. I want them to have a relationship and I don't want all of this responsibility to fall on my shoulders, every single time. I set the screaming Caroline down on the couch, gritted my teeth, squeezed my eyes shut, pressed my hands over my ears, took a deep breath, and counted to ten. (Moms. Single or otherwise. You've been right there with me. Don't deny it!) Then I got a grip and got to business.

I put Dora the Explorer on my laptop for Caroline to watch and stuck a binky in her mouth. (Judge me for the binky and die, betches.) I really try to avoid putting TV on to keep her busy, but this was an emergency for real, and anyway I suppose Dora is somewhat educational, even if she is super annoying and always wearing that little belly shirt, I mean what is up with that? There are kids watching, girlfriend, you think you could tone it down a little? I mean we get it, you're cute and all, we get it, but it's kind of inappropriate, no? Anyway did I mention I haven't slept, and where was I?

Oh right. So I put Dora on and whipped into supersinglemommy mode. Cleaned the place up at lightning speed, set up the humidifier in her room and closed the door, ran a steam bath, set up everything to put her to bed, and measured out her meds. Grabbed Caroline off the couch, turned off that annoying chick Dora, bathed her (uh, Caroline, not Dora), dosed her with meds, brushed her teeth, read her a book, rocked her, and laid her down in her crib. Oh, and collapsed myself onto the couch.

Now she's coughing up a storm in her bed but at least she's asleep and not crying, so the rest of my evening includes plans for a hot shower, a glass of wine, some mindless TV, and early to bed because I'm pretty sure I'll be up all night again.

I mean. Whatever. I can do the single mom thing. I've been doing it a long time now, starting from way back during my marriage. But when the plans change and you throw a very sick and very loudly screaming inconsolable toddler in there, things fall apart for me a little bit. It's okay though. I got this. We moms are tough. Right?

Monday, May 2, 2011

If she sleeps safer tonight

So, this is hardly breaking news, but Osama bin Laden was killed. I don't really do the political thing on my blog (or in life), but I think my feelings about this event are different than they would be if I did not have a child. And so it belongs here.

People are celebrating in the streets. I don't feel that way. If I feel anything, it's more a sense of relief that a person who has that little respect for human life is no longer present in the world that my daughter will grow up in. Quiet satisfaction, maybe, that justice has been done. And it isn't that I don't remember that day in September as clearly as anyone else, sitting there in high school English class, glued to the TV screen with everyone else in silent horror. But I think that actually celebrating anyone's death is wrong and makes all of us less as a society, not more.

I don't want my daughter to learn that any human life is worth less than another. I don't want her to ever believe that it's okay to par-tay because someone else is dead. I don't think it makes our country any greater just because we managed to find and kill some dirtbag mass-murderer. But all the same...

I might not be celebrating, but I'm glad that he's gone. After I heard the news, I went into Caroline's room and leaned over her crib and put my hand on her head and looked at her while she was sleeping, and I felt relieved. I won't rejoice in violence or anyone's death, no matter who they were or what they did. I just won't. But if she sleeps safer tonight, then I won't say I'm sorry for it either.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"I stay here with mommy"

We have a problem.

Caroline doesn't ever want to go see Tyler anymore. He says that once she gets there, they have a great time, and I believe him. But I can't for the life of me get her to go to him when I drop her off at his place. The only way she will go is if he picks her up from daycare and I'm not there.

Yesterday, I was supposed to take her to him for an overnight visit. I told her we were going to daddy's house and she completely freaked. "No! I no want to go to daddy's! I no like daddy! I no like daddy! I want to go home! I stay here with mommy!" She has done this before and then once I got down there, she clung to me and refused to go with him. So I called Tyler and told him about it, and we decided that she would stay with me.

First of all, I'm sure she doesn't actually dislike him. She may not know him very well, because they don't see each other very often. He hasn't been nearly as present in her life as I have (and I'm not just talking about since he moved out), and she's only two. Of course she's going to prefer the parent who she spends 90-95% of her time with. But I know that it breaks his heart. How could it not?

It's hard for me to watch and must be even harder for him to hear. No one wants to hear your child say they don't like you. Especially a two year old who doesn't yet know how to lie.

Still, I don't know what to do. Neither of us wants to force her to go-- that seems cruel and counterproductive. But it will become a vicious cycle if she spends less and less time with him, and they grow further and further apart. So far, all we have come up with is to have Tyler always pick her up from daycare. But she's supposed to go with him for two periods of two weeks each this summer, while he's in North Dakota from the end of May through early September, and I worry about how that will go if she doesn't even want to be away from me for one night.

To be brutally honest, since that's kind of my specialty, the fact that she clearly prefers me makes me feel almost... triumphant. That's not too terrible to say, I hope. I'm only human. I've spent her entire short life devoting myself to her and raising her, while he has been mostly absent, and I am almost relieved to see that that fact hasn't escaped her. And I can't help but think, honestly, what does he expect? You can't spend that little time with a two year old and then be shocked when she doesn't know you that well. She calls you "daddy" because she thinks that's what your name is. She doesn't know what "daddy" is supposed to mean-- you are supposed to teach her that.

But, I have to stop myself from thinking those things, because again, it's all about what's best for her, and she needs him too... and he needs her. I want them to have as full of a relationship as possible, for all of our sakes. Including my own. Because it's hard enough to just be mom. I don't want to have to be dad, too.

I just don't know how to fix it.

Monday, April 25, 2011


It's springtime!

We had the longest winter ever in New England this year (no really, ever) and so the arrival of spring this year is extra awesome. I don't remember ever having so much snow. Let me tell you, all those snowstorms were a huge pain in the ass for a single mom of a toddler who does not own a shovel. I kept telling myself not to buy one because then it wouldn't snow again just to spite me... and it kept snowing... and snowing... and snowing. I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry. I take full responsibility for all the snow.

I remember hearing on the news at one point that there were concerns that soon there'd be nowhere left to put all the snow once they took it off the roads. That all the empty spaces were completely full. And I thought to myself, that's how I feel. Exhausted, depleted, overwhelmed. No room to put anything else. Enough already.

So I sure am glad that this winter is over. It's warm, it's sunny (okay, sometimes it's sunny, I mean this is still New England we're talking about here), and it's a new beginning.

Caroline and I had an unexpected bonus weekend together for Easter this past week, and we spent it doing happy, hopeful springtime things:

Dyeing Easter eggs...

I told one friend that dyeing real eggs with a two-year-old is like teaching a horse to do dentistry, and I stand by that statement. (I mean sure she has opposable thumbs and all but the fine motor skills aren't quite there yet.) But it was still a lot of fun.

Having Easter dinner at a friend's house, and hunting for eggs...

"Mom!! There are crackers in these eggs!!"

Just goofing around in our pajamas...

And planting a garden on our porch. Caroline provided the artwork for the labels...

And she was very enthusiastic about planting the seeds. I finally had to pull her away and convince her that the seeds were sleeping now so we had to leave them alone.

The finished product: we ended up planting sweet basil, cilantro, oregano, parsley, mixed flowers, and cosmos. All of which require full sun, which is definitely not ever happening on my middle-floor porch, but we'll see how it goes.

I think this label is actually quite an excellent rendering of mixed flowers.

Ah, springtime. Nice weather, longer days, more playground time, new beginnings. My divorce is final, I'm graduating in three weeks, I'm starting a new job. I'm pretty excited about it all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Prayer for my daughter

I'm not religious. I guess if I'm anything, I'm agnostic with a couple sprinkles of atheism, if that's possible. So please forgive my use of prayer as a literary device, but the sentiment holds true.

Caroline woke up early this morning, around 5:30. Her canines are coming in and she's been in pain lately, so rather than wait for her to fall back asleep, I brought her into my bed. I dozed off for a little while and woke up about an hour later to find her snuggled up against my chest, fast asleep. I lay there looking at her for a little while. She's only two, so of course she looks pretty innocent all the time, but little kids have a way of looking so perfectly angelic while they sleep...

Lately, my friends have been even crazier than usual, which is saying something. All of the crazy around me (and within me) makes me worry about raising a little girl. While I won't go into detail out of respect for people's privacy, I will say this regarding my own daughter.

May she always know what she is worth, regardless of whether or not there is a man in her bed telling her so. May she never rationalize abusive behavior out of fear of being alone. May she make the hard choices that she knows in her heart are the right ones. May she love her own company enough that she cherishes her time spent by herself. May she be strong and secure enough that she does not need anyone else to make her feel whole and complete.

May she never settle.

And may I have the foresight and wisdom to raise her as a stronger woman than I will ever be.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On blogging.

A blog post about blogging. It's so meta.

I've been blogging for almost three years. For the first year to 18 months, no one knew about my blog except Tyler, and the girls in the "community" on the Nest, which is where I started blogging. Shortly after I moved to blogger, I told a few of my close friends at school about it. Now, a lot of people I know in real life know about it. My friends read it, Tyler's friends read it, and judging from my sitemeter, a crapton of people have linked to it from Facebook and read it now too. Soon a lot of other people will read it too, when I move to Parents. And my full name will be listed there as the author.

Which is fine. I'm a pretty private person in real life, and there's a lot of really personal stuff on this blog, but I put it on the internet; I put it out there. I don't post anything I wouldn't tell anyone if they asked. People are welcome to read about my life, whether I know them in person or not.

Still, it's weird to think about. This is like my diary, or something. I've always used it as a place to write about my struggles and for introspection. Recently, writing about my divorce brought me a lot of peace when few other things did. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about people I see every day reading about it, but I guess what's done is done and anyway it's ended up pretty well for me. My friends say they love my writing and even though I know they'd say that even if it were shit garbage, because they're awesome, it makes me feel more confident. So I keep writing.

I wrote once that blogging is like therapy for me. It's still true. I don't know why, but when I click that "publish post" button and whatever I've written gets sent off into the internet, for friends or classmates or ex-husband's new girlfriends or fellow moms or random internet people to read... I feel better. It's cathartic. It's therapeutic. I sure do need that, regardless of any nasty comments I may get in return. (I try to ignore those, although I do always publish them.)

So I'll keep writing, and I try not to let anything affect what I choose to write about. If I have some crazy shitshow going on, which let's face it I usually do, I'm going to write about it regardless of whether I have to walk in to school and face 20 people who may or may not have read about it on my blog.

So, fellow bloggers who read this-- do you keep your blog secret from people you know in real life? Why or why not?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Miss Independent

My friends tell me that I give really good advice. When they say this, they are always very careful to also say that this is true only when whatever I am giving advice on doesn't have anything to do with me. They are absolutely right. (Clearly, because my personal life is a giant heap of ridiculous disaster, most of the time.)

So lately I've been trying to give myself advice as though I am another person. You know, try to see things in my life from an outside perspective. It doesn't usually work very well because I'm pretty stubborn even when it comes to listening to myself but lately, Tyler and I have been fighting so much that I thought I'd give it a shot. Without going into brutal detail about who did what and who said what, here's what I told myself:

You have got to stop being a crazy person. That's all you can control here-- you can't do anything about his craziness, only yours. Your mutual craziness is why you got the hell outta there and you need to just stop engaging him in it. You're divorced, you're nothing to each other besides coparents, time to drop it and move on. You can't leave someone for being a douchebag and then act all surprised when they turn out to be a douchebag. Just limit communication as much as possible until the storm passes, and continue to live your own separate life in a way that makes you happy and fulfilled.

So I actually listened to myself and thank goodness for that, because my stress level has seriously been through the effing roof, you guys.

On the topic of moving on, now that I'm not very busy with school (I'm basically just waiting for graduation), I've decided to focus on my apartment. I had wanted to move closer to school for my residency, but I can't afford to break my lease, so I'm just going to change things up a little. I'll post about it when it's all done, but the point is, I realized that I couldn't get anything done without some tools, and Tyler had of course taken his toolbox with him. So I went out and bought myself a toolkit, because I'm an independent woman now and can fix things myself, damn it.

A pink toolkit.

It's got a bunch of pink tools and some hardware stuff in it. Actually, the hardware is basically a bunch of hooks and nails for hanging pictures. As if hanging pictures is all a woman would ever use tools for. Which is actually precisely why I bought it but let's not go splitting hairs here.

So now I have tools, which is pretty badass. I also got some stepstools to keep around the apartment, because I'm so short that I can't reach anything in most of my cabinets and closets. I'm pretty much set now. (Side note: you know that getting divorced was the right thing to do when you can basically replace your ex's contributions to your life in their entirety by buying a toolkit and a couple stepstools, just sayin'. Oops, that was bitchy, wasn't it. I should go back and read my own advice again.)

Caroline is pretty psyched about the toolkit too. She keeps asking to see 'mommy's tools", so I taught her the names of them all and she does pretty well remembering them. Well, she keeps calling the hammer a "hamburgler" but you know, she'll get there. Another independent woman in the making!

(P.S.- in preparation for my move to Parents.com, I've set up a Facebook fan page for the blog-- if you want to, you can follow it by clicking "like" in the box in the right-hand column over there, or go to http://www.facebook.com/unexpectedly.expecting and do it there. To be honest, I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with a fan page but I am sure I will get it figured out. And it's gonna be awesome.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Check it out!

As I've mentioned before, lots of changes are coming to my blog in the next month or so. All my content is moving to Parents.com. I also had Natalie from Eight Days Designs make a custom illustration of Caroline and me for the header of the new blog...

How cute is that?! I love it! Note the white coat. If only I were that hot in real life.

I just wanted to share it because I'm so excited for all the changes that are coming up, and because I love the illustration so much.

Back with a "real" post soon...

Monday, April 11, 2011

My future's so bright, I gotta wear shades

I had a really, really good weekend. For no particular reason at all. It was just one of those times when life is good and everything seems like it's worked out the way I originally wanted it to, back when I first decided to leave Tyler.

I got together with some old friends on Friday night, friends who I hadn't talked to since the split. Tyler had told me they didn't want to see me and that they had said all kinds of various awful things about me, and I believed him so I never made contact. But we did finally get together and had so much fun. I hadn't really realized how much of a weight it had been on my shoulders, the loss of these good friends and thinking that they hated me. My relationship with Tyler hasn't been so great lately, and when you constantly hear all kinds of terrible things about yourself, it's hard not to start believing it on some level. It was just a huge relief to know that even our mutual friends still love and support me, and understand why I did what I did.

After that, I walked around with a smile all weekend. Caroline was in a great mood and we did all kinds of fun things, like playground trips and shopping with my mom and making huge finger-painting messes.

I even actually enjoyed a classmate's bridal shower that we went to on Sunday. I have always hated those things, more so lately than before, for obvious reasons. My standard gift is a blender so that if their marriage goes to hell, then at least they can make margaritas and get drunk. (They'll thank me later. I told a friend that and he disgustedly told me that I was so hopeful and optimistic, I should give speeches around the country.) But Caroline and I had a good time. And I even gave the bride a pizza stone and some cooling racks. No blender this time.

I don't know what it is that changed. I feel really good about the way things are going for me. I'm done with my school requirements-- I'm graduating next month. And I wanted this exact life so badly... just living alone peacefully with my daughter, making her and my friends my priority, not always wishing for someone to come home (or leave again). Just wanting what I have, not what I don't have.

I occasionally hear my upstairs neighbors fighting and screaming at each other, and I shudder and remember how things used to be, how they could have continued forever. Then I stop listening, and I give a kiss to the happy little girl playing with puzzles on the floor, and I turn my back on the past and face the future instead. With a smile.

Life is so good. I am so lucky to have what I have.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Be there

I think I have always been clear that I left Tyler because he was not the husband I needed him to be, not because he wasn't the father Caroline needed him to be.

I still feel that way, in general-- he wants to be her father and present in her life. But it seems to me to be a common occurrence for noncustodial parents to have a slow decline in their visitation time that they choose to take, and our situation is no exception. Tyler's job requires him to travel a lot, and certain things can't be helped. But as time passes and we settle in to our separate lives, the time he spends with her is less and less. This is meant to be a statement of fact and not a criticism of his parenting.

I know it bothers him that she has a stronger attachment to me. It hurts him that she does not ask for him when he isn't around. He talks to me about it, about his hopes that they will have a bond someday when she is older, and I simply don't know what to say.

I think a lot about this question: how much responsibility do I bear for his relationship with her? On the surface it seems like it is really not my concern or my burden to carry, and I know that is the view a lot of custodial parents take. But I can't quite bring myself to feel that way. I am her mother. It's any mother's job to raise her child in the best circumstances she can. What's best for Caroline? To grow up having as full of a relationship with both her parents as possible, regardless of personal differences between he and I. So I feel that I should share in the responsibility of how much time they spend together. "It's not on you", people tell me. But I'm her primary caretaker and when it comes to looking out for her best interests, it is on me.

So I ask him, and remind him, weekly, when he's going to take her. The weekends are consistent enough, but four days out of thirty does not a parent-child bond make. I don't know. I certainly have enough on my plate without keeping on top of him to take his visitation, but like I said I feel some responsibility to try to maintain their relationship with some consistency.

Then he talks to me about his sadness over their declining connection. I feel bad for him, and I feel somewhat guilty because I am the one who initiated our split, which led to him spending even less time with her than he used to. But what can I say? Be there. I know it's hard for him when he lives a half an hour away, and he's trying to build a new life, and seeing her probably reminds him of all he used to have and lost. But all he can do is be there. Hope for a relationship in the future is not enough. She is important now, I say. She needs you now. Be there. Even if it makes you sad, even if it pulls you back in to the misery of everything that went wrong between us.

Be there. Not for me. For her.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Salt in the wound

If you're recently divorced, here's a little tip from me to you: don't get a new laptop.

Why, you ask? Because you'll be forced to transfer all your old pictures to your new computer.

I had an impulse to just shove them all in one folder and transfer the whole thing at once, but I didn't. I looked through them all. Yeah, I maybe just indulged in a little bit of emotional wrist-cutting. It's okay. I just checked, and I'm still all in one piece.

Yesterday was my 27th birthday. I struggle a little bit with the milestone days, still. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. They're not fun. I think I need to go through a full divorced year-- get in a full cycle of life, before I can really feel whole and complete as a single mother, and not flinch when certain numbers come up on the calendar. It's okay, though. I'm doing all right.

Seven years... they don't just disappear with a couple of signatures. But it's good to remember that it wasn't all bad, that there were good times. I don't want to pretend they didn't happen.

And I know that even happier ones are coming. For all of us.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


My feelings about being alone are complicated.

When I was married, I was alone a lot. Tyler would travel at least once a month, and was gone all summer, every summer. We didn't usually talk on the phone while he was gone. Emails, once in awhile... that was all. I hated it-- because we were married. I wasn't supposed to be alone. I was bitter and I resented that I always had to care for Caroline alone.

He would eventually come home, and there was always a period of... adjustment. Our apartment is small, and it seemed so much smaller with this big other person suddenly in it all the time. I would be used to my quiet evenings of doing whatever I wanted, and he would come back and intrude on those. We would annoy each other. He would retreat into his work, sit on his laptop. And I would be lonely again... except we'd be sitting in the same room. I would wish that he would go away again.

Maybe I just wasn't very good at being married.

Now I'm alone for real, and I'm supposed to be alone. I have to admit that I really enjoy it. I like keeping my apartment, my space, exactly the way I want it. I like putting Caroline to bed and spending my evenings getting ready for the next day, relaxing, chatting with friends if I want to or just being quiet and not having to cater to anyone if I don't feel like it. On the evenings and weekends she is with Tyler, I spend time getting work done at school or out socializing with friends. I thought I would get lonely eventually, but I really haven't. I've built this new life where I've become closer to my friends and my parents and my child, and I don't miss having that husband, that partner. This is surprising to me. I'm more of a loner than I thought I was. The realization is almost a relief.

I have zero desire to go looking for a new partner. I have zero desire to accept any of the offers I get from any of the men I meet or know, and I am not trying to be conceited but simply stating a fact when I say that I have had many. I am just not interested; I am content. I've never been single like this, and now that I am, it's kind of addicting. There's no drama, no anger, no uncertainty, no expectations, no disappointment.

Long-term, who knows? Maybe I will get lonely. Or bored. Maybe I'll meet someone who makes me want to change the way I live. Sometimes I ask myself if I want to live like this forever, and I cannot come up with an answer. I don't know yet. Maybe I do. But right now I am in no rush to change anything-- I'm just... living. I don't think I have ever been able to say that about my life before. I've always been missing something, wanting something else. It's such a strange feeling, to be content, to be at peace.

I think I'm onto something, here, for me. And I certainly don't want to change it anytime soon.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

So, I have a confession

Ah, internet. You and I are pretty tight these days. (That's what she said.) Let me confess something to you.

I try not to do too many trainwrecky stereotypical just-divorced type things. You know, like stay out too late and drink too much with my girlfriends on weekends I don't have Caroline... or make out with a very cute younger man... not that I've done either of those things, ever. Anyway it's not like he wasn't legal or something, gawd. But on occasion, you just have to do something crazy. This weekend was one of those times.

I went and got my nose pierced.

To be fair, it wasn't that spur-of-the-moment. I've toyed with the idea of getting one since college, but never had the balls to go for it. I figured, now's the time, right? I found a place that looked clean and had this hip art-gallery vibe to it, and walked right in there and got a needle stuck through my nostril. Ten minutes later I was back on the street with this thing in my nose, walking past a psychiatrist's office back to my car and thinking that the shrink would possibly have been a better call at that juncture? But hey, whatever. Seize the day, bitches.

And I kind of... love it. I think I'll love it even more when I can take the initial stud out and put a teeny little sparkle in there. I'm turning 27 next week, I'm divorced, I have a child, and yesterday I woke up and I just really, really needed to get my nose pierced.

So I just went ahead and did it. It's funny how a tiny piece of metal can make me feel like a whole new (and totally badass) me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I think she's gonna make it.

So, I don't write too much about Caroline lately. It's all, me me me, blah blah blah, divorce divorce divorce. Let's talk about her today.

She's an awesome little kid. I worry so much about how all this has affected and will affect her, but really, she's doing great. She has this hilarious belly laugh that she busts out all the time, regardless of whether or not anything is actually funny.

She talks constantly, always narrating everything around her. I call her Captain Obvious. I go to get her in the morning, and after she dances a happy dance around the crib (just because I walked into the room and she hasn't seen me in like, hours), she names everything in the room and instructs me on exactly how to prepare for the day. "Mommy's here. Caroline's here. Blanket. Crib. Pooh Bear. Change diaper now. I peed. Dry diaper now. Okay zip jammies. Now get cereal. Bowl. Spoon. Pour milk. Top on. TOP ON MOMMY. TOP ON-- Okay put milk away. Get in highchair. Eat cereal." She's like one of those circular breathers... you know, those coworkers who never stop talking and you can't figure it out, but you suspect that somehow words are still coming out even while they are breathing in. Except unlike with coworkers, I freaking love it when this kid does it. Even at 6 am.

She also has so much empathy for other people... for a two-year-old, anyway. I am constantly amazed and touched by it. I've been pretty sick with bronchitis for about two weeks now. I was lying on the couch watching her play with her dolls, and she came over and said "Get up Mommy." I said "Caro, Mommy doesn't feel well today. Mommy's sick." She stared at me for a minute and then leaned over and rubbed my back and said "Mommy sick. I rub the back." She's also seen me use my inhalers so much lately that whenever I have a coughing fit, she runs and gets them for me and tries to push them into my mouth. Maybe she'll be a rich doctor and I'll totally have it made. She is gonna put me in such a bitchin' nursing home when I'm old and decrepit.

She has so much personality for such a little person. I love her fiercely, with my whole heart.

So... I think she's gonna be okay. I already see so much promise, so much intelligence and kindness and just plain old awesomeness in her, and she's still so little. I know that her family is technically "broken", and her mom is awfully busy with all the craziness of dental school and single motherhood in general. But you know, I think she's gonna make it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Enough for now.

So, I'm getting a lot of comments and emails asking me about reconciliation. Don't think that this hasn't been the topic of much conversation between Tyler and I lately, because it has...

But there's a lot of stuff that has happened between us over the past year. Too much to reconcile, for the moment. We've always had trouble seeing eye to eye, but there is one thing we agree on at this point in our relationship: there is too much pain, too many open wounds, for us to move forward as partners right now.

We also agree that at some point down the road, once we have healed, we would both be open to entering counseling again and rebuilding our family. But not right now... we know our limits.

I took apart our family. We are divorced. I knew what I was doing and I would not have done it without a damn good reason. Those reasons are still there and they are still valid... the hard choice is still the right one. And while sometimes, I think we both get caught up in the fantasy of repairing it all and living happily ever after... I know I am young, but I have lived enough to know that this life isn't a fairy tale and that the two of us are only human.

Someone asked me what happened after I melted down in front of Tyler the other day. I will tell you. He stood there and stared at me and Caroline as we both sobbed. He tried to take her from me so that she wouldn't see me breaking down, but she clung to me and would not let him. Other than that? He watched. He did not reach out to me. He did not comfort me.

I think this is a sign of two things. First of all, that too much has happened between us for him to take one more step toward me, and I cannot blame him for that. And secondly... that is just Tyler. That was just one of our many problems... he is an unemotional guy and does not deal well with any display of feelings (good or bad). It made me remember those basic incompatibilities that led the two of us to where we are today. For whatever reason, he cannot reach out, and that makes me more upset, and the cycle repeats and drives us further apart, and we are both miserable. I ended things so that that unhealthy pattern wouldn't continue... among other unhealthy patterns, of course.

To him, I am emotionally unstable and overly demanding. To me, he abandoned his family for his career and treated his wife like a piece of furniture. Neither of us can live that way, and really, who's to say either of us is wrong?

I'd like to see where it goes, but deep down I know that he is still him and I am still me. Someday, we agree, after time passes and after the healing... it is possible. Nothing is off the table. Only for now, it's all too much.

So. Enough. We move forward, he and I. We both have to let go. For now.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Big news!

Big blog news, that is.

I'm excited to announce that I'm officially going to be blogging for Parents.com! All of my content from Unexpectedly Expecting will be moved to my own page within their site, and I'll be posting there several times a week. The change should happen within the next month or two, and I'll of course link the new site from here (once it is up) so that you can follow me there.

It won't change what I'm writing about-- it'll be the same blog, just more frequent posts and at a different location. I'm so psyched! Thanks everyone, for being my readers, motivating me to keep blogging, and helping create this awesome opportunity for me. I love you all!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I have led a pretty privileged life. Middle-class white girl from the Connecticut suburbs, expensive private college, dental school. I never had too much reason to feel pain, aside from the occasional teenage heartbreak. Until my divorce.

I don't know why it has taken me so long to hit me so hard that we will never be a family again. But that simple, cold fact is, for some reason, causing me so much pain these days, far more than when we separated, far more than the days leading up to the official divorce. It hurts more than any number of physical injuries I've ever had, more than the appendectomy I had when I was 15, more than childbirth with a non-working epidural. I have never felt such pain in my life, and I never hope to again. It weighs on me, it suffocates me. It makes me feel like I'm being buried alive.

The problem, the reason it hurts more now, is this: We took time apart. We got divorced. We detached, to some degree. And now we spend time together again, like a family, every day since he's been back from Arizona. And it's normal, and it's fun, and Caroline is so happy, and it's...

Killing me.

What did I do? I tore our family apart. I burned it to the ground and walked away and refused to even glance over my shoulder. Was this entire journey for nothing? I feel like I can't think, like nothing I write is making any sense. What was the purpose of this incredibly painful year? To give us our freedom from a relationship that was poisonous for both of us? Or to serve as some kind of catharsis, so that our family could be reborn without all the anger and pain and conflict?

Why is this even an issue? I walked away without a second thought, back in September. Why am I grieving like this now? This afternoon he was here and I couldn't take it anymore, and I completely melted down. I swore I'd never cry in front of him again. Yet there I was, crying the ugly cry, sobbing as I sat on the floor and my child screamed with her arms locked around my neck because she doesn't understand why mommy is so sad.

I have never felt such pain. I don't know how to make it stop. I thought getting divorced would do it.

It hasn't.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I spent some time with Tyler yesterday.

I'm technically on my spring break, although it hasn't been much of one since I've been seeing a couple of my patients and also developed a nasty case of bronchitis. Anyway, Tyler was back from his trip so I picked Caroline up early from daycare and brought her down to his place and we took her to the beach to collect seashells, which she loves to do. And we talked, and spent the evening together, and didn't fight.

These days, I struggle more when we don't fight than when we do. It is so hard not to see this other life where we repair everything that went wrong and fall in love again and live happily ever after. I am afraid to see that life because once I get things in my head, it is really hard for me to un-see them, and I just put a whole lot of people through a whole lot of pain to win my freedom from a dysfunctional relationship.

It doesn't help that whenever I go to his place, just being in the house he lives in causes me so much pain. We had rented this house and were supposed to move there together last September. We were so excited to have more space and more light and live in an actual house instead of an apartment complex. But then everything happened, and I couldn't, and so he moved there alone. Every time I'm in that house, I feel like I'm being physically crushed by all of our memories that were supposed to be made there.

In general, since the official day of the divorce, I haven't felt like I thought I would. I thought it would feel like relief. And it does, a little bit... but mostly it feels like regret. For all the things we could have changed and worked on, long ago, but didn't.

And Tyler?

I don't really know what goes on in his head these days. I didn't ever really know back then, either, and that was part of the problem. But I do know that he didn't get that job in Denver, the one he was working so hard to get, the main reason he took all of those trips that left me and Caroline alone without him. And I'd imagine that feels something like regret too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Control freak

I have control issues. This is one of a long, long list of my faults.

I'm a planner, and I like to have complete control over everything around me. I have struggled a lot over the past three years or so because things in my life haven't gone how I expected or wanted them to. My divorce, of course, and taking a year off from school after I went into preterm labor while pregnant with Caroline. And I love my daughter more than life itself, but getting pregnant against your will while you are actively practicing birth control is (in my opinion) one of the biggest losses of control of all.

When I found out I was pregnant, one of the things that upset me the most was that I felt that I was stuck in my marriage now that we were going to have a child. I was already at the point when I knew I shouldn't have married him in the first place and that it wouldn't last forever.

I stayed in that place, numb, and sort of treading water, until I finally made the decision to file for divorce at the end of last summer. And it was such a relief, mostly because... I was taking back control over my life. Throughout our marriage, Tyler went wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted, regardless of my protests, and eventually I just watched him leave us without speaking up because I knew I had no say in any of it. Eventually I shook myself awake and said, No. This isn't what I want from my life. And it was such a thrill to have my control back.

He had had all the power during our marriage, and so when I took control of our divorce, I was sort of drunk on my power. I filed the papers. I kept our apartment. I refused him over and over when he asked if we could work it out, if he could have more chances. I did all the research and set up the court dates and figured everything out, and got the whole thing taken care of as efficiently as possible. Because that's just what I do, whether I'm scheduling patients, planning a wedding, getting ready for a baby, planning a vacation, or getting through a divorce.

Now that the dust has settled, I feel somewhat at a loss. I took control of my life again... but where am I? I'm 26, divorced, a single mother. And while I certainly prefer that to the situation I was in, it isn't how I wanted my life to go and it's not how I wanted to create my family. I doubt that many little girls dream of being single mothers when they grow up.

And now another control issue comes up, a big one-- this other woman in my daughter's life. I did some Facebook stalking and let's just say I'm not exactly thrilled at the person he's chosen. I'm not thrilled he's chosen to introduce anyone at all to her this soon after our divorce. But I have no control over any of that. I have to just breathe and let it go. And that's really, really tough.

So what have I learned?...

You cannot base your happiness in life on things you can't control. That's a recipe for being miserable. You have to find a way to anchor yourself with things you can change if you need to. I was talking to my shrink about my control freakness and my rage over everything that happened with Tyler, and she told me not to fight the anger, but to just experience it for what it is, acknowledge it and the reasons for it, and let it pass through me. That sounds like some pretty hippie shit, I'm sure, but it made a lot of sense to me and I have found it to be very useful advice.

So that's what I'm doing. Yes, it all makes me angry and frustrated and it feels unfair and I want to rage against it sometimes. But like the saying goes, I just hope for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Monday, March 7, 2011

That which angers you, controls you

My new mantra. Well, not so new. My mantra since August 27, 2010, the "date of separation".

Tyler often infuriates me. I won't go into detail, but I will say that I don't think I've ever felt as angry and helpless about anything in my life as I have about the events that led up to and followed our separation. The problem with divorce (okay, one of the problems) is that once both of you realize that it's over, it can be like no-holds-barred cagefighting. Because you have nothing to lose, and you both know exactly how to swing to hurt the other person the most.

I want to write about something and I don't want it to come off as me bitching about Tyler, because I reallllly try to avoid doing that in "public", though I'm not sure how to avoid that particular slant... I guess I'll try to just focus on my own feelings about it rather than his actions. So here goes.

He was leaving to go traveling somewhere for awhile and asked if he could come by to see Caroline on Sunday before he left. I agreed. He'd been there a couple minutes and then he told me he had a significant other he was bringing around Caroline. At first he made it sound like she was just a hookup. I asked him to leave. He said he would go and went to give Caroline a hug goodbye. She cried and ran to me and buried her face in my chest. He came over and tried to take her and she screamed "No!!!" He kept reaching for her so I said angrily, "She said NO." He turned around and left.

Not my proudest moment. Nor his.

We continued text-fighting about this for some time and then he told me that the girl wasn't just a hookup, that they had been dating since September and that he was taking her with him to visit his parents the next day. At first this made me feel better, because I don't want random people coming in and out of Caroline's life, and I would rather have it be someone he is serious about. But the more I thought about it, the worse I felt. Are you ready for this? I'm about to get ugly... but honest... whether it's logical or fair or not.

I was married to him for three lonely and miserable years. He left me to raise our child alone while he went off and traveled the world and focused on his career. He doesn't get to be happy this soon. He doesn't get to go play house with some girl and my daughter, who I have raised and cared for and put my heart and soul and entire existence into. He never takes his full amount of visitation and now I feel that it's because he's been spending time with this girlfriend instead of his child. He can't even take the measly 48 hours he spends with Caroline every two weeks and just spend it with her... he's got to bring this girlfriend around then, too? It's no wonder they don't have a bond. And who does she think she is, that she can push herself into our child's life not two weeks after her parents get divorced, with all the upheavals this poor kid has had in the past six months?

But you know what it is, really? I'm afraid. The thought of another woman playing mommy to my child makes me physically sick. I know that Caroline spends 90% of her time with me, and she always has, and our bond is strong, and that fear isn't rational. But I can't help it. That mommy instinct is out of control and I have never felt such rage towards someone I don't even know.

She is my daughter. She will never be yours. Back off.

That's how I feel. It must look so ridiculous and illogical from the outside but on the inside... that's all there is, and I can't seem to make it go away. For me, this is the most painful part of the entire divorce. Him, I was prepared to lose... I wanted to lose... but not her...

But I've got to get it under control. That which angers you, controls you. That which angers you, controls you. I need to write it 1000 times, like I'm in detention or something. I chant it to myself as I walk around school. I will get through this. Just like I've gotten through everything else.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

10 things I'd rather do than endure an extended public tantrum.

Moms of toddlers, you know what I'm talking about. Right? Not just any tantrum, but the total and complete Public Meltdown.

It starts out innocently enough. You suggest that your toddler sit in the front of the cart so that she doesn't end up as shopping-cart-roadkill in the cereal aisle. She says "no mama. No want to. I walk." You explain (uselessly) that logically this makes no sense and pick her up and she starts shrieking and flailing around. You switch to your firm-mommy tone of voice and she switches to full-on, 10 billion-decibel screams. By this time everyone in the store is staring at you, shaking their heads, and judging for you for either ignoring the screaming and not quieting your child, or for whatever method you have chosen to discipline your child (you can't win either way, of course). Once the screaming passes the three-minute mark you realize it. There's no going back. This shopping trip can't be salvaged. You wave the white flag and retreat to the car. Obviously, your toddler will refuse to be stuffed into the carseat, and will probably kick you in the face repeatedly if you try, but at least it's a little less public out there in the parking lot. And the screaming is less echo-ey. Forget it, you think to yourself. Groceries? Eff 'em. I'd rather starve.

Without further ado, the top 10 things I'd rather do than deal with an extended public tantrum:

  1. Extract one of my own teeth, Hangover-style.
  2. Repeat the first two years of medical school.
  3. Read If you Give a Pig a Pancake 47,349 times in a row.
  4. Go without my iPhone for an entire week. Okay, a day. Okay, an hour. That's bad enough. Let's not get carried away, here.
  5. Shop for a bikini in the dead of winter when I'm flabbier and paler than a beached beluga whale.
  6. Re-take the NERB.
  7. Go on one of those dates that are so boring you have get out of it by texting a friend under the table to call you immediately with an "emergency".
  8. Spend an entire day running around clinic wearing 4-inch heels.
  9. Get my eyelids pierced.
  10. Clean my entire bathroom using only my toothbrush. And then brush my teeth with it.
There you have it. For real. I do love the toddler years, but man, those public meltdowns are brutal.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Most stressful week ever: done and done.

Can we talk about everything that went down last week for a sec?

Divorce on Tuesday. Court-ordered parenting class (with Tyler, my brand new ex-husband, mind you) on Wednesday. Clinical licensing exam on Friday. Most stressful week of my life. Ever.

Okay, we talked about it.

Just kidding, I'm totally not done. We've talked about the divorce, and we've talked about the parenting class (although truly, it sucks exponentially more when you have to sit right next to the guy you just divorced the day before). But I was so stressed out about this licensing exam that I didn't even want to write about it here because I didn't want to have to explain it if I failed.

So, I don't know if I've ever explained how dental board exams work. Prepare yourself for something incredibly boring... or just skip this paragraph. There are national boards-- we take part 1 of those after second year, and part 2 of those towards the end of fourth year (which takes two days). I've passed all of those. Then I had to take the regional licensing exam, the Northeast Regional Board (NERB), which has five parts-- the root canal and crown/bridge sections (passed), the diagnostic skills exam (passed, I'm 99% sure), and the patient-based restorative and periodontal sections, which happened last Friday. The two most stressful parts. And thank-you-lord-I-passed. With, ahem, not to brag, but 100%, bitches.

It was a total and complete shitshow and by far the most stressful day of the week. Or of my life. Whichever was longer (it was a toss-up). There's just all this paperwork and rules and specifications, and they bring in these outside board examiners, and you have to send your patients down the hall to a different clinic to have your work graded so that it's all anonymous. My scaling and root planing patient went well, and so did my anterior filling patient, and then it came time for the posterior filling. They said my patient's cavity was too small and denied it. This is when the shit hit the fan for me.

My patient was all "oh it's totally fine because I didn't really want to get this done and blah blah and yesterday took awhile and blah" and I was all GET OUT!!! The clock is running and I need to find a backup patient!! GET OUT!! I practically shoved her out the door and ran across the hall, all crazy-like, to try to find a backup. Found one and retook her x-rays-- twice, because she moved... filled out all her paperwork... ignored all her complaining about having to sit for the exam. Dragged her back across the hall and sent her to the exam station to have her cavity approved. By this time, I was an hour behind schedule. I got her numb, got the rubber dam on, and she reached up and ripped it off. Three times. Finally I told my assistant to hold her hands down and forced the dam on and prepped the cavity in, no joke, ten minutes flat. Pushed her out of the room to the exam station. When she came back, I put the filling in and carved it and pulled the dam out and checked her bite in probably about eight minutes. Pushed her out to the exam station. She came back. PASSED. Somehow, with 100%.

I've got to say, getting through all of these tests makes me feel really good about myself. Not just because they are critical to actually practicing the career for which I've been training for so long, but because it reminds me that even though my personal life is kind of crazy, I am holding it together professionally. I mean really... let's recap. We got engaged in 2006, married in 2007, I got pregnant in 2008, had Caroline in 2009, separated in 2010, and got divorced in 2011. We went through the entire life cycle of a marriage all during the time I was in dental school. Nice to meet you, my name is Julia von Trainwreck. But hey! I can drill the heck out of some teeth, that's for damn sure.

Anyway, I'm glad that week is over. I went home on Friday, popped an Excedrin, poured a glass of wine, grabbed a trashy gossip mag, lit some candles, and sank into a hot bubble bath up to my chin. It's my go-to relaxation routine. (Although admittedly slightly less so when you look up and there's a cartoon frog face staring at you from the end of your safety faucet cover and, for some unknown reason, a can of green Play Doh sitting on the side of your tub.)

So, I got through the most stressful week of my life, and it all went as well as I could have hoped. And I'm proud of myself for that!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"How do you do it all?"

I get this question a lot. I wish I were half as heroic as some people seem to think I am. Just because I am a single mom in dental school doesn't mean I have it all together... lots of things fall by the wayside because I am so busy and pulled in so many different directions. My flaws: dear internet, let me show you them.

Exhibit A: my desk at school. Unfortunately this is its natural state. Okay, fine, it's actually a little less messy than usual. Yes, those calendars on the bulletin board are from December.

Exhibit B: my car. The check engine light has been on since last May. A piece of it fell off while I was driving down the highway a couple weeks ago. (It was making a strange noise which stopped as soon as that piece fell off, so I assumed it was for the best.) The oil hasn't been changed since... well... I guess Tyler changed it last. That means it's been... longer than recommended. I've had one headlight out for at least three months. In my defense, I did try to change the headlight, but I couldn't get the cover off so I gave up and figured that one headlight was better than none. Plus it makes my car look totally badass.

Exhibit C: my utilities. Paying the bills was always Tyler's job. Sometimes I forget to pay a bill until whatever it is I'm not paying for gets shut off. To be fair, this is a very effective reminder technique. Well played, cable company. Well played.

Oh no. Now that I've started listing my irresponsibilities, I can't stop. Sometimes I put meat in the fridge to defrost and forget about it for a couple weeks. Sometimes I put off taking out the trash until the smell forces me to do it. I have incomplete audits on some of my patients' charts that were due last October. I have a strange aversion to writing papers for oral surgery and so I haven't fulfilled a single oral surgery requirement since 2008. Sometimes I keep my Netflix DVDs for 3 weeks at a time because I forget that I have them. AHHH!! Can't stop!!

My point is. I don't do it all. It only looks like I do.

Now please share all of your similar stories in the comments below, to make me feel better. And if you have no similar stories and you actually do "do it all", please refrain from saying so.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Irretrievable breakdown

So. I got divorced today.

It was kind of an out-of-body experience. Very surreal. We went to the courthouse for our hearing with all of our paperwork. Waited for the family court to open at 9am. Bickered a little bit about who knows what. Tyler made some comment about the next poor sucker who has to deal with me and I told him that maybe we just shouldn't talk if he was going to insist on making this worse than it had to be. Not a fantastic start to the day... but then, what exactly would constitute a fantastic start to the day you get divorced?

Anyway. We talked to a family relations officer for about 45 minutes, and she got all of our paperwork in order. Changed a couple of things in our parenting plan, most notably changing joint physical custody to primary physical custody for me, and increasing my child support a little bit. I forget what else we talked about. I couldn't really focus. I was mostly sitting there staring at this woman thinking that she must have the worst job in the whole entire world, and that's saying something coming from a dentist, don't you think?

Then we went before the judge. We stood together in front of a table and they swore us in. The thought passed through my mind that we were standing together in a room with wood-paneled walls in front of a man with a beard just like on our wedding day, and I desperately tried to squash it. The judge asked me a lot of questions, because I was the plaintiff. He went through our agreement with us and asked us if we agreed to everything and if we understood.

He asked me to raise my right hand and swear that I believed that our agreement was in the best interest of my child. I flinched. I could feel the tears coming up behind my eyes but I swallowed hard and did what he said. I spread my hands on the table in front of me and stared at them while he asked the same of Tyler.

He asked me if I wanted my birth name back, and I said yes.

Then he restated the terms of our agreement, said "I find this marriage dissolved on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown" and wished us luck.

That was it. We left the courtroom. Waiting for the elevator, Tyler said "Well that wasn't as painful as I thought it would be." I didn't answer or look at him. I started crying in an elevator for the second time since this whole thing went down and then we were standing outside. I said, "I'm so sorry for everything." He said he was too. Then we left. And that was it.

I couldn't shake this feeling, the entire time, that although the people we dealt with at the courthouse were very nice, they were looking at us and thinking that we were so young, and that we had a child. And judging us. Really, I'm to the point where I don't much care who judges me for getting divorced anymore, but it's the implication that I'm doing wrong by my child that bothers me. I mean, I'll be the first to tell you that I don't know the right way to raise a child. I don't. But I do know a couple of wrong ways. And staying with a man I don't love and can't get along with, out of some misguided sense of duty... that's a wrong way. And I can't do it. I won't.

I was in a weird place for the rest of the day. I couldn't figure out how to feel. I thought I'd be thrilled and relieved... I definitely wasn't that. I think it will take awhile to sink in. And it was all so official and cold and legal and draining that I just felt sort of numb. I texted my friends to tell them that it was final. (One of them sent me an email not more than five minutes later asking for my shoe size because I'm a bridesmaid in her wedding... really? Can we not hold off on the wedding-talk until I've been divorced for longer than 45 minutes? I told her "Whatever size is appropriate for the bridesmaid who gets the drunkest and bangs the hottest groomsman.")

At the end of the day, I got home from clinic and there was a letter for me from the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (how very official of them) informing me that I had passed my national boards.

And then I felt better. I have a job, I have the qualifications to start said job, I'm good at what I do, I can support my child. I have great friends. Caroline is awesome and hilarious and she's going to grow up in a peaceful and happy home. Just because today was painful doesn't mean I did the wrong thing. It just means that I didn't take any of these decisions lightly.

I've got my eye on the prize, and the prize is... happiness. For all three of us. Together, apart, or somewhere in between.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Same team

I don't think I took enough time to mourn the loss of my marriage. I know this because overall, as time passes, I feel sadder about it rather than more at peace. Honestly, I am a crier. But I really hardly did any crying over my divorce at all. Tyler, I know, did a lot of crying... and I feel awful about that. In the beginning, he told me, he would wake up in the middle of the night crying, or with his eyelashes stuck together with dried tears.

I've cried twice. That's it.

The first time was during one of our divorce counseling sessions that we went to in order to try to rebuild the pieces of our marriage into some kind of coparenting relationship. We were going through some of the issues that had brought us to that point. One major one was my postpartum depression and post-NICU PTSD, and Tyler's reaction to it. I was trying to articulate how it damaged me when he insisted that I just get over the whole NICU ordeal, that it was in the past. I tried to explain that it was something that had marked me as a mother, that had changed how I see my child. The counselor jumped on that and asked, "How? How do you see her?" And I cried. The really bad kind of crying, where you look away and desperately try to stop but tears keep pouring down your face. I must have sat there for five minutes, silently crying and unable to speak, until finally I croaked out, "It made me feel like she could be taken from me at any time."

The counselor looked at Tyler and said, "now maybe you understand a little better, the reasons behind her objections to you taking Caroline to North Dakota for several weeks at a time." Tyler didn't answer. He was crying too. After we left that session, we stood together in the elevator, tears still running down my face, and Tyler said "I wish we would have done this counseling a long time ago."

So did I. But it was just too late.

The second time I cried for my divorce, for my marriage, was last night. It came on suddenly. I had been moping around, thinking about our upcoming court date, and walked into my room (formerly our room) to go to bed. I saw our wedding rings sitting on my dresser. I picked them up and sat on the edge of my bed (formerly our bed) and stared at them in my hand. Thought about what they were supposed to stand for, what we let slip away, what we lost. And I cried.

I think that what I am grieving for is not so much the loss of him, but the death of the dream. The family we were supposed to be. We were supposed to be partners, parents, teammates. "Same team!" I used to scream at him when we would fight. "Same team!!"

We still have to be a team, though. Just a different kind. As they said in my parenting class, if you have kids, divorce doesn't ever mean a relationship is over-- it just becomes a new type of relationship. Even though we failed at staying partners, we are tied together for life, by Caroline. At times I find that almost comforting, in a twisted kind of way.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Signed, sealed, delivered

Tyler and I met up today at my school library to finish and sign our divorce papers, and to do our taxes.

The whole thing is bizarre. I don't know how to articulate the feeling of sitting next to someone you used to be so close to, doing boring "married" chores like filing taxes, and then calmly writing out the sentences that describe how you plan to take apart your family.

"That said child shall reside with Mother. That Father shall have parenting time set forth from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, every other weekend..."

"That the Parents shall have the right to parenting time during each of the following Holidays and Special Days in alternating years..."

"That all major medical decisions and general welfare shall be made by the prior consent of both parties or further order of the Court..."

"The Parents are restrained and enjoined from attempting to coerce said child into false and negative beliefs about, negative or abusive behavior toward, or attempt to alienate said child from the other Parent..."

There were some arguments... some tense moments. But we wrote the parenting plan. We filled out all the forms. We signed it all. We made copies. And then we talked, in the car on the way back from the library.

Tyler told me that one of his friends said that it was no wonder our marriage didn't work, because I was in love with the idea of Tyler rather than ever being in love with Tyler himself. While I don't agree that it all fell apart because of me and only me, I do agree with that statement. That is kind of how I am in general. I like the idea of things... the way things sound. The reality is never so appealing. I liked the wedding part of marriage-- the anticipation, the big party, the pretty dresses, the flowers, the romantic vows... and then I hated the reality of married life, probably mostly because I married someone I had no business being with in the first place...

And that's what I told him. That I thought we fell apart because, like most marriages that end in divorce, we never should have been together at all. He nodded and we were both quiet for a long time. Then we talked about what we would have done differently, what we would do differently next time. If we'd ever be good friends. How it was better that Caroline was so young when all of this went down, so that she doesn't have to remember the bitterness and will only know us as coparents rather than as two angry people tied together in a miserable marriage.

Then he said, "I've got to hand it to you." I didn't know what he meant, and I said so. He said that he would never have asked me to end it, that he would have kept struggling and trying to make it work, that he would have rationalized things and lived with them. That it takes courage to put an end to a marriage when it isn't working out.

Even though it was me who filed, and he was dead set against it at first, I think that he was just as unhappy with me as I was with him.

So, the papers are signed, and we have court on Tuesday. Tyler hasn't yet taken his court-ordered parenting class, so I don't know if the judge will finalize the divorce, but regardless-- we've agreed on everything, and it's all down on paper. Signed, sealed, delivered. And ironically, that's the song that was playing as we walked into our wedding reception, holding hands and smiling, just three and a half short years ago.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"That class should be held in a spa"

I had to go to the first part of my court-ordered divorce parenting class yesterday. Boy, was that fun. I mean a real fucking blast. I can't think of anything else I'd rather do with half a day than sit in a classroom that smells like cigarettes and Axe body spray with a bunch of depressed soon-to-be divorced parents while we all talk about how badly we're gonna mess up our kids by getting divorced and watch pop psychology videos that had to have been made circa 1975.

I got so miserable during the class that I desperately took out my phone and started texting friends right in front of the instructor. Luckily my friends are downright hilarious and made me giggle despite all the gloom and doom around me. "Hey, maybe you can find a date for the formal there?" "Omg... why do they have to make divorce so trashy? That class should be held in a spa."

First we had to introduce ourselves and say one positive thing about our kid(s). And I shit you not, this one lady said about her 12-year-old, "she loves body piercings". I'm sorry. What? There are so many things wrong with this that I don't even know where to begin. She's 12? And loves body piercings? And you view this as a positive thing? And not only a positive thing, but THAT is what pops into your mind to say when you have to sum up your daughter in a single sentence to 15 strangers?

This is what I'm dealing with, people. This is what I'm dealing with.

Then we had to do this exercise where we all called out emotions that kids feel when their parents tell them that they are getting divorced, and the instructor wrote them all on the board. She was writing all kinds of things like "depression, anger, fear, anxiety, guilt, sadness" and now I'm not trying to say that those aren't all true because I have no doubt that they are, but I felt I had to step in at this point. I raised my hand and said "what about relief? I mean if there is a lot of conflict in the house, sometimes it's better for parents to split up. Isn't that why we're all here?" Everyone stared at me blankly and then nodded and then smiled.

The instructor did not write it on the board.

In all seriousness, it was beneficial, I guess, to talk about divorce from the child's point of view. Caroline is not old enough to understand what is going on-- Tyler hasn't really lived with us since he left for his trip to South Africa before the summer, which was in June, and she was only 16 months old at the time. She'll grow up not knowing anything other than her parents not being together. But I'm sure some of the emotions will be the same when she realizes exactly what that means.

Other messages from the class were things that I already knew and try my best to live by, like not speaking negatively of the other parent in front of the child, keeping schedules consistent, not using the child to hurt the other parent, etc. Always good to reinforce that.

Anyway, I suffered through three long hours of yet another way for the state to make money, I mean parenting class, and then drove like a bat out of hell to get to my 1:00 patient on time. Who then did not show up. Such is life as a dental student. I have to go to the other half of the class next Wednesday, which is the day after our divorce is hopefully finalized. Please GOD let it be finalized on Tuesday. I don't want to deal with this legal business anymore. I'd rather have a 12-year-old daughter whose most positive attribute is an obsession with body piercings.

Well... maybe I wouldn't go that far.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Valentine's Day and eff it.

Valentine's Day is a blast when you are getting divorced.

I know you think I'm being sarcastic because when am I NOT sarcastic but I'm actually not kidding. Today was pretty awesome.

If you're on Facebook, which I assume you are if you are reading a blog, you've probably seen all the billions of Valentine's Day statuses about how much "I loooooove my husband!" and "Tra la la la my boyfriend is the BESTEST!!" and lots of random hearts and squiggly lines and pictures of flowers and gifts and shit. Those annoyed the crap out of me even when I was married, but this year I find them especially grating. So I copied and pasted the one I saw most frequently:

"To celebrate Valentine's Day change profile pic to you & your spouse or significant other.. & state how long you've been together &/or how many years married"

And added:

"Started dating 06/04... engaged 08/06... married 09/07... divorced... NEXT WEEK, BETCHES!!!" And changed my profile pic to a wedding pic. In which I was vogueing and looked fab and half Tyler's nose was cut off.

Juvenile? Yup. Immature? Mmmhmm. Totally. Do I care? Not even a little bit. Normally I'd roll my eyes and label people who post shit like that as bitter drama queens, but today I just felt like hitting back a little and it felt awesome.

Luckily most people who are friends with me get my kind of humor and so it was, ah... an extremely popular status, hahaha. Judging from my friend count, it got me deleted by a couple people, but that's cool. Much easier than weeding them out myself. Because eff it, man. If society is going to rub their happiness in my face, I'm going to rub mine right back in theirs. Except mine has to do with finally getting divorced, and in my opinion, that's fucking hilarious on Valentine's Day.