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!