(Continuation of Accurate, But Still )
“It’s Dada! It’s DADA!!!!!!! I see Dada!”
— Nora, every time she sees Charlie Brown.
(Continuation of Accurate, But Still )
“It’s Dada! It’s DADA!!!!!!! I see Dada!”
— Nora, every time she sees Charlie Brown.
“It’s Mama! It’s MAMA!!!!!!! I see Mama!”
— Nora, every time she sees Eeyore.
Therapist: “Feelings are like the weather, in that they–.”
Me: “–can kill you.”
Therapist: “And how did that make you feel?”
Therapist: “Elaborate on that. Be more descriptive of the feeling.”
Me: “Shitty…like, the way a piece of shit on the ground probably feels.”
So the other day I was telling my single-and-fed-up-with-dating friend the story below, and she responded, “You should write about this, because based on your blog, I never would have guessed that you and Eric experienced anything but the smoothest sailing from first date to marriage.”
I was horrified by the fact that I was inadvertently giving public credence to the bullshit notion that good, solid relationships are and should be easy, so I think it only fair to my
plethora of readers two readers mom that I set the record straight.
Eric and I have had our fair share of little roadblocks along the way, but my favorite roadblock, if we’re ranking roadblocks (and who doesn’t?), is when
we I first said “I love you.”
It went a little something like this:
Me: “I love you.”
Me: “I said I LOVE YOU. Say something!”
Me: “Ummm….DO YOU LOVE ME TOO?”
(Side note: this was not the first time I had told a guy I loved him and didn’t hear it back, but it WAS the first time I told a guy I loved him and MEANT IT and didn’t hear it back– so needless to say, this hurt more.)
So after Eric pulled the real-life equivalent of a Homer Simpson bush-melt, I realized I was not getting an “I love you” back– which, quite frankly, surprised me because according to Eric this is the celeb version of us as a couple:
Which is Eric’s hilarious, self-deprecating way of saying “I married up” (people DO tell me I look like that actress, btw, but only when I brush my hair. So never.)
And while I don’t disagree that he married up (I’m great), he needs to give himself more credit with his celeb doppelgänger, which is only Danny Devito in height, but clearly Daniel Berger in all other features (minus being good at golf):
But I digress.
The point of this is to say that I was kind of like, “Wait– YOU don’t love ME?!” First of all, I was
desperate openminded enough to look past the fact that your dating app photo was taken 200 feet away, head to the side, wearing sunglasses and a hat, forcing me to be like trying to figure out whether or not you were a mutant (you weren’t ).
And THEN I even looked past the fact that you lied about your height by an ENTIRE inch, which is such a trite internet-dating-jew-move. Lucky for you, on our first date, I was
too drunk to notice once again openminded.
All this, and YOU don’t love ME?!
But yeah. He couldn’t say the words.
So I did what any rational, mature, 33-year-old woman would do and kicked him the fuck out of my apartment. I told him that if he didn’t love me, I didn’t want to look at his ass face, which I think we can all agree is a good way of persuading someone on the do-I-love-you fence to hop on over with enthusiastic ardor.
Ok, no, jk, I wasn’t that harsh about it (out loud), but I did think he needed to take some space to sort out his feelings, since he claimed he was “confused” and “scared” (I think those were his words. I don’t know guys I’ve spent the past year wiping drool and cleaning poop. Nora’s, not mine. Nora’s and mine? Point is, my brain has atrophied.).
In Eric’s defense, he had only recently gotten out of a years-long relationship, and it had left him with some emotional baggage– the kind of baggage you think is totally compact and manageable but then you reach your gate and the attendant scoffs because there’s no way in hell that tattered, 400-pound Samsonite is fitting in the overhead compartment.
So I asked him to go home and take some time to think through his feelings and “unconfuse” himself, an idea he decided he hated the second he left my apartment.
He texted me from my lobby saying something along the lines of “This sucks. I don’t want to go home. I want to be with you,” and I replied with something along the lines of “Tough shit, dickwad.”
Or maybe I just said, “I know, I’m sorry, but I think you need some space to think about what you want from this relationship.” Like I said, details are hazy these days (grand…pa….SHARK do do do do do do….).
Bottom line is that clearly I was hurt and embarrassed, although embarrassment was really secondary to the hurt, because I think when you truly love someone, you’re able to put your ego aside. Plus, like any woman who has spent more than 5 years online dating in NYC, I had lost every last modicum of shame.
So Eric went home and called one of his guy friends for advice. Now this could have gone very poorly. Don’t get me wrong, Eric’s guy friends are some of the greatest people I’ve ever met, but I would only take advice from a select zero of them. Thankfully, Eric chose the arguably most normal of the bunch, who immediately told him, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Stop being such a pussy.”
The next morning, I went for an 18-mile run at 4:00am on a workday, because I was training for a marathon and also because I am insane.
I blasted Adele’s “Hello” on repeat, screaming the lyrics as loudly as possible in order to prevent myself from crying over the fact that this dude clearly didn’t love me. What I quickly learned is that you don’t play Adele when you’re trying to NOT cry. You’d think after 18 years battling clinical depression I would have curated the optimal soundtrack for emotional soothing, but no, I still play Dave Matthew’s “Grey Street” when I’m feeling hopeless as fuck, which (spoiler alert!) doesn’t help.
I arrived back at my apartment around 6:45am, snot-nosed, bleary-eyed, nauseous, and sweating profusely. I smelled like a prepubescent boy’s gym sock. So it was the perfect time to encounter Eric, the man I was hoping would fall in love with me, standing right there at my front door. He was holding a bouquet of
bodega flowers fresh, long-stemmed roses and waiting to deliver a 10 minute speech about his feelings for me.
I tried to pay attention to all the reasons he loved me (something about how I’m a good listener?) but could only really focus on the fact that I was sweating from all holes and going to be late for work.
Regardless, I was elated. I finished half-listening and gave him a kiss that surely tasted like regurgitated PowerGel, hopped in the shower, and arrived at work 5 minutes late, still sweating.
But giddy as fuck.
My co-teacher took one look at me and asked what was happening with my face, and I had to explain that this is what it looks like when I’m experiencing a happiness that isn’t induced by four coffees or a bottle of Wellbutrin. She was thrilled for me, and we spent the morning re-hashing the details of the story while our 4th graders
ran amok? fell asleep? stole supplies? full blown Lord of the Flies murdered each other? There’s really no way to know worked independently.
So I just realized this story is less of an “All relationships have roadblocks and that’s ok and normal so just work through them and have faith” story and more of a “Nice job bullying your boyfriend into professing his love for you!” story but either way ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL GUYS.
Because two years later we made this:
So hang in there, single ladies.
I go to pick up a couple medications at CVS, and a male pharmacist is ringing me up…
Pharmacist (to Nora): “Hi cutie!” (then, to me) “Are you breastfeeding?”
Me (taken aback): “Excuse me? Um, NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS?!?”
Pharmacist: “Oh, I….”
Me: “JESUS. Why do men– or anyone for that matter– think it’s ok to ask a woman that? I really don’t understand. It’s completely inappropriate. Honestly, shame on you. And I say that on behalf of all women.”
Pharmacist: “I’m required by law to ask you that before handing you this medication.”
(10 second awkward silence)
Me: “Please still give me the drugs.”
So last I left you, Nora was doing great but sporting a somewhat funky-looking cyst on the corner of her left eyebrow, at one of the sling surgery incision sites (there are four such sites, two on each eyebrow. The other three sites are completely fine and healed, barely visible). Here’s a diagram of the situation on her left eye, for visual learners:
As mentioned previously, the cyst does not seem to bother her at all (except when we have to clean/medicate it), but the problem with leaving it be is that it is constantly opening and reforming, and every time that happens, it runs the risk of becoming infected. That would be crappy for many reasons. I don’t think I need to explain them.
Plus no one needs a cyst permanently sitting on their face. Life is hard enough.
In a last-ditch effort to get rid of the cyst (we’d already tried various topical steroids and antibiotics, to no avail), the surgeon prescribed an oral antibiotic. He hoped that this would do the trick– if not, it would mean that it’s the silicone sling itself causing the chronic irritation, and so it (the sling) would have to be removed.
So Nora took the oral antibiotic and the cyst went away and we all lived happily ever after because LIFE IS RAINBOWS AND BUTTERFLIES AND UNICORNS THE END!!!!!
Bwahahahahahahahahh jk guys. But you knew that.
You’re on MY blog, not [insert name of someone I’d hate]’s blog.
Life never gets tied up in a neat little bow, so here we are at the next boulder in the road. Get out your chisel. (Is that what one uses to break through a boulder? Listen I’m not outdoorsy nor have I ever used a tool).
The cyst remains. And while we’ve grown so used to it that we’ve considered giving it a name, starting a college fund and raising it as our own, the doctor feels it needs to go. And the only way to do that is to remove the sling (you know, the one holding her eyelid up).
So we have another surgery scheduled for Monday. Yes, this Monday. July 22nd. Because some people go to The Hamptons in the summer, but honestly we prefer the bright florescent lights of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Day Surgery Division.
Same doctor. Same hospital. Same general anesthesia. Same
crippling anxiety thought spirals of hell positive attitude leading up to it.
The doctor seems hopeful that because there are two slings in the eyelid (refer to professional diagram above), the inner sling will be sufficient in keeping the lid up. If the lid DOES droop, to the point where it could affect vision, he will be able to discern that mid-surgery, and we will then have the option of putting in a replacement sling in a slightly different location (all this can be done in that same surgery). The downside to this is that Nora will then have three incision sites in that one brow. And, of course, the chance of another cyst-like reaction at the new incision site.
The good news, again, is that the surgeon seems confident that the one remaining sling will suffice (especially since this was the better, less droopy eye to begin with), and that removing the troublesome sling is not going to affect the cosmetics, or her vision, at all (then why did he put it there in the first place? Standard procedure? Slightly better chance of symmetry with the other eye? IDK guys I guess I missed the day they taught that in the medical school that I didn’t go to). Furthermore, he feels that if he DID have to put in a replacement sling, the likelihood of a cyst forming again is small, especially since the other three incisions healed so nicely.
His confidence seems promising, and the odds do seem to be in our favor– however, this is only the THIRD time in his TWENTY YEAR career that he has had to remove a sling, so I’d say my faith in odds right now is akin to my faith in Eric’s hair-regrowth shampoo.
Thankfully, Eric remains positive and hopeful (regarding both the surgery and his hair), so I don’t have to. This is a marriage strategy and not an accident. It’s written in our ketubah: “In sickness, and in health, Emily will constantly assume the worst and Eric will keep the entire ship afloat by himself, so help him God. He’ll also get Emily iced coffee and egg salad and never comment on how much she’s sweating.” It’s all there in Hebrew.
So that’s where we are. One of the four silicone slings will be removed on Monday. The surgery is slated to take 120 minutes, from prep to finish. I will eat my feelings next to the hospital’s frozen yogurt machine, which likely still has my chicken-nugget-greased fingerprints on it from February. Eric will wander around introducing himself to various dogs.
Nora, I assume, will handle it better than both of us, because she’s still zero years old and life is just a series of eating, pooping, and maniacally swaying to Queen:
And I’m sure all this hardship will make Nora stronger, and it will all work out in the end, just like it did for Freddie Mercury.
No, I’m kidding. Obviously. I DO believe this will all be fine, I’m just sorry my sweet little tater tot has to go through this. AGAIN. I’m not necessarily confident that this is the last time we will deal with this issue, but I AM confident we’ll be able to look back one day and this will all seem like a distant memory and a minor roadblock. I know that day will come, because, no matter how hard life has been at any point, and no matter how hopeless things have seemed at any given moment, a good dose of distance and perspective has always made the value of the struggle seem crystal clear.
But right now it’s surgery-anticipation mode, so I’m sorry, I’m just not there yet. But I will be.
And until then, I’ll cope in same way any other loving, caring, fiercely devoted mother would.
That she is not in fact a robot will never cease to take me by surprise:
Me: “So yeah, sometimes all the ‘what ifs’ really paralyze me, in terms of all the bad things that could possibly happen to Nora.”
Therapist: “Of course. As parents, we will always feel that to a degree.”
Me: “Wait– YOU’RE a PARENT?”
Therapist: “Yes, to a 13-year-old daughter….”
Me: “You have a DAUGHTER?!”
Therapist: “…and a 9 year old daughter.”
Me: “You have TWO daughters??!!”
Therapist: “Yes, so I know that feeling….”
Me: “You have FEELINGS?”
Therapist: “…. of being so scared for your child, you forget how to breathe air.”
Me: “You BREATHE AIR?!”
(A continuation/update of Nora Left Eye Lopes )
Yesterday I received an email from a reader asking me about the progress of Nora’s ptosis, and it dawned on me that I never actually posted an update on the blog. I’ve kept friends informed through Facebook, but hearing from this woman (who also has a baby with congenital ptosis) made me realize that I owe an update to blog readers as well. I am always hopeful that my experiences can help and provide information/insight for others, so here’s the spiel (I tried my damndest to keep it short but, choice of husband aside, I’m pretty bad at keeping things short. Ba-dum ching! ):
Soon after my last (and also first) blog post about Nora’s ptosis, we had our next ophthalmologist appointment. The diagnosis up until that point was “mild” ptosis in her right eye that was (so far) not impacting her vision or development. We were told to patch her left eye in order to force her to use the right one, with the purpose of maintaining vision in that eye and preventing Amblyopia, aka “lazy eye.” This patching phase is when she earned her “Nora Left Eye Lopes” nickname. Because, I mean, just look at this photo and tell me she is not one badass bitch:
You can’t, right? I know.
So yeah. We left that first appointment thinking this was a relatively minor issue that we’d just have to watch, and if down the line we wanted to consider surgery for cosmetic purposes, that would be an option. Thankfully, the ptosis was not severe, and surgery was not something we needed to even have on our radar yet.
So imagine my surprise when I took Nora to the next appointment (Eric was traveling for work) and was told that, in fact, BOTH eyes had ptosis (I kind of already suspected this, but also kind of talked myself out of it and chalked it up to my BFF, Paranoia, rearing her ugly persistent head). The doctor classified the right eye as “severe” and the left as “moderate.” No “mildness” about it. While Nora’s vision was thus far intact, the extreme head-tilting she had to do in order to see would likely start to affect her physical development.
Surgery was recommended.
The good thing is that even though this was not at all what I expected to hear, I remained totally calm. I listened to the doctor’s words and stayed completely composed, because instinct kicked in and I knew I had to be strong for my baby girl.
I cried like a little bitch.
The recommended surgery was Bilateral Frontalis Sling, where an internal silicon sling is inserted to connect the lid muscles to the eyebrow muscle, so the brow muscle can lift the lids for her. Using silicon as the material for the sling is usually only a temporary solution– as a baby’s face grows, the silicon does not grow with it, and therefore the lids typically start to droop again after a period of time. An alternative material to silicon is a thigh tendon (aka “fascia lata”), taken from the child’s leg through a very small incision. This is typically a more permanent solution, as the tendon will grow with the child’s face. It also has the added benefit of not being a foreign object in the body, and therefore infection or rejection is unlikely. Unfortunately, the tendon can not be used until about 3-4 years of age, because it is not developed enough before then. So our only option at this point was silicon.
Luckily, through the amazingness of social media (Facebook gets a bad rap but I’ve already nominated Mark Zuckerberg for a Nobel Prize), we were able to locate and be connected with one of the top doctors in the country for this kind of surgery: Dr. William Katowitz at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). During our consultation with him, he agreed that Nora’s case was severe, and surgery was scheduled for February 21, just a few days shy of her 6-month birthday.
The nice thing about waiting for a surgery date to arrive is NOTHING.
THERE IS NO NICE THING.
I thought I was handling the anxiety of the approaching date well, but in hindsight I was just channeling my anxiety into other aspects of my life. It was anxiety just the same. I didn’t eat well, sleep well, or think well for months. Wine through a straw helped. Until it inevitably didn’t.
Finally, the date arrived. We drove to Philly the night before, stayed at a hotel, and arrived at CHOP around 8am the next day. Here’s a visual summary of surgery day:
Nora was a brave (re: oblivious) little saggy-cheeked champ, Eric befriended every dog he came across, I ate my feelings/smiled so I didn’t cry, and then I sang to Nora post-surgery and mentally transported myself to a place where I wasn’t staring at my bloodied, swollen, groggy, whimpering child.
Seeing her after surgery was terrible. It was a long car ride back to NYC. I sat in the back with her, but covered her car seat with a light blanket as she slept, because I couldn’t bear to see the evidence of what we had elected to do to her. Yes, it was medically advised and yes, it would probably be better for her in the long run, but in that moment all I could think was “I caused her this pain.”
Well, no worries, because as it turns out, my daughter is a fucking warrior.
We got home and she slept through most of the night, waking only once for a bottle because, due to the anesthesia, she hadn’t eaten in about 24 hours. After a 3am feed she went right back to bed and, I shit you not, woke up like this:
Happy as a goddamn clam.
For real, WHO MADE THIS CHILD?! It seems that somehow, despite the fact that I carried and birthed her, she inherited zero of my DNA. Because if it were me, I’d be handling the situation with exactly this much grace:
As you can somewhat see in the photos of Nora above, the surgeon tied the sling at four separate incision sites, two on each brow. He then put in a temporary stitch on the bottom of each eye, for the purpose of keeping her eyes cinched tight post-op, in order to prevent her from scratching a cornea.
Two days after surgery, we returned to CHOP and he removed the temporary stitch. The results took my breath away (it was at this point I realized I hadn’t, in fact, breathed in 2 months):
Nora instantly stopped tilting her head back, and we were able to see, for the first time, just how beautifully blue her eyes are. I praised Jesus. Yeah, I’m jewish, but still. This felt like a moment for Jesus to be involved. Allah, Buddha, whoever Wiccans worship– everyone was welcome at this prayer party.
Since then, Nora’s eyes have “settled” a bit, which is to be expected with this surgery:
As far as I’m concerned, her eyes now look typically-developing. Yes, sometimes her right eye still looks “droopier,” especially when she’s tired. And yes, there’s still a little bit of a “sleepiness” to them, but it’s so minor I’m pretty sure I’m the only one perceiving it. She sometimes sleeps with her eyes a bit open, which we were warned was a possible side effect, but it has not had any consequences other than to kinda creep us out.
So all in all, a huge success with virtually no complications!!!!!!
Not how my life works.
About 3 months after surgery, Nora woke up with a swollen eye, and one of the suture sites on her brow looked irritated. We went to the opthamologist and they gave us some cream and didn’t seem too concerned. Weeks later, the irritation had only gotten worse. We went back to the surgeon at CHOP.
It turns out that a small cyst has developed, a minor and fairly common healing complication. The cyst varies in its appearance, and every so often it pops, draining some pus and blood (I know, gross– but this is actually a good thing). Some days, it looks like nothing more than a small little scab on her brow. Other days, it takes on a life of its own.
Fortunately, much like the dude above, Nora is blissfully unaware of its presence and, in terms of cosmetics, gives a total of zero fucks. Ah, to be no years old.
It isn’t causing her any harm or discomfort, aside from when we have to put hot compresses on it, squeeze it a bit, and apply the cream. That, she does not care for (#grossunderstatement).
The doctors seem hopeful that the cyst will eventually resolve itself and fully drain on its own. I’m not so sure. It continues to fill, pop, scab, and then the process begins all over again. If it doesn’t improve soon, we will have to consider surgery as an option.
I know– another surgery?! Whhhhhhyyyyyyyyy? Especially for such a minor thing that only seems to be a cosmetic issue at this point?
Well the problem is, the more the cyst opens, the more likely it is to get infected– and if it DOES get infected, and THEN the surgeon goes in to remove it, there is a much higher chance that he might have to remove the sling, too. And if that were the case, we’d have to wait for the cyst surgery to heal, and then do ANOTHER sling surgery. Granted, this is a worst-case scenario, but the fact that it’s even in the realm of scenarios makes me want to ugly cry, Kardashian style.
So nothing’s perfect. Which falls under the category of “duh.”
But overall, we are so grateful for the surgery and the results, despite the non-perfection. Nora can see. People no longer look at her and wonder if something is “wrong” with her (you might think that’s me being cray, but I actually had a former student’s parent, pre-surgery, ask me exactly that– “Is she ok? Is something wrong with her?” It was the first time in my life that I considered murder as a viable conflict resolution tactic.)
Nora is now completely thriving in all areas of development, and she’s just the happiest little rope-a-dope. I mean look how thrilled she is about a banana that I bought on the street for 15 cents:
And yes she’s eating that banana naked because do you really expect me to feed AND clothe her? What am I, a wizard?
So that’s where we are in our ptosis journey. We have the possibility of cyst-removal surgery, as well as the eventual possibility of fascia lata sling surgery to replace the silicon sling a few years down the line. All that being said, Nora is happy, healthy, and thriving– we are thrilled with our decision to surgically treat her eyes, and have never looked back (
no pun intended).
A huge thank you to ALL those who have supported us along the way (and there have been so SO many of you). The brightest, most silverest (back off, spellcheck) lining of this whole experience has been a renewed faith in the human spirit. Anyone who thought they might be able to help, did. We were connected with the best doctors, given the most helpful advice, sent the sweetest gifts, notes and kind words. There is simply no way to accurately express my gratitude, so in lieu of the perfect words, please accept this photo of Nora making the world’s most absurd face:
(are YOU exhausted? I am)
Speaking with a new mom I met in our building, who has a son around Nora’s age, I mention that as much as I’m completely in love with my daughter, I’ve definitely had some bumps along the way in adjusting to motherhood.
Her: “Ugh, I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with postpartum depression.”
Me: “Oh, you’re very sweet and I appreciate that so much, but I actually, very fortunately, have NOT had to deal with postpartum depression.”
Her: “Oh, my bad! I just thought from what you were saying…it sounded like a postpartum depression type thing.”
Me: “Oh, no. I actually was very nervous I’d have postpartum depression because I’m definitely at risk. But surprisingly I didn’t. What I’m talking about is just like normal parenthood transition stuff, you know?”
Me: “Maybe you DON’T know…”
Her: “I don’t know, I guess I just haven’t found the transition difficult at all. It’s really only brought me joy.”
Me: “Wow, that’s awesome. You’ve really never been totally overwhelmed? Or anxious about the huge responsibility of raising a human? Or even just like ‘AHHHH I miss my old life!?'”
Her: “Honestly, no. I love every second of it. Is that weird?”
Me: “I mean no, it’s amazing! Good for you. ENJOY IT!”
You lying cunt.