March 22nd, 2016
Last year, my sister Melissa (a two-time hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor) got a chest X-ray for a particularly nasty cough, and her doctor saw a spot she didn’t like. She suggested Melissa go to Sloan Kettering to have her oncologist check it out, which sent Melissa into a major panic spiral. She called me right away, told me she was certain her cancer was back, then sent me this text late that night:
“You should never go off your meds Erin. Maybe this is all happening so you understand how awful it is to always wonder when it’s going to come back. You are so lucky you take a pill to keep it away. I wish I could!”
The spot turned out to be nothing—the oncologist took one look at the slide, knew it was scar tissue, and told Melissa not to worry. Still, it was a reality check. And a reminder that once you’ve received the call where your life comes screeching to a halt, you’re never quite the same. You get a whiff that something could be wrong and your mind immediately skips to “shit’s gonna hit the fan” mode because you’ve lost the ability to not assume the worst. Because the worst has happened before. In our case, more than once. I’ve tried to retrain my brain but it isn’t so easy.
As you know, I went off my life-saving cancer medication despite Melissa’s plea. Last November I joined Sloan Kettering’s discontinuation trial to see if my remission will hold without treatment. I have been off Gleevec for four months—and am now in the exact place Melissa warned me about: Wondering if my cancer will come back. I’m particularly concerned since my last two blood tests were slightly positive (very slightly, which you can read about).
Am I lying awake at night obsessing about the results or cataloging all the what-ifs and worst-case-scenarios? Not at all. Trust me, I already did that while I was weighing the pros and cons of joining the trial in the first place. Good times. As a writer, I often find myself thinking in headlines—usually the click-bait kind you see splashed across your homepage. The ones I drafted during my decision-making process: “Cancer survivor makes risky decision that costs her remission, possibly her life.” OR “Mom of three dies of cancer…because she ‘didn’t feel like’ taking her medication anymore.” (I was writing a lot for Yahoo! at that time, what can I say?) I imagined my friends and family reading about me and it was almost too much to take. But that’s not where my head is now, I promise.
Once I’d done all the research and officially joined the trial, I quieted those melodramatic voices. Truly, deeply, I do not feel like I’m putting my life in danger here. Nor do my doctors. As I said in a previous post, I don’t want my cancer to come back simply because I like how I feel off my medication and I don’t want to have to go back on it. But, of course, it’s more than that. It’s about feeling like a failure. Crazy, right? Well it’s not just about my own need to succeed, it’s that I don’t want to let down other CML patients who have been following my journey, hopeful that they may someday be able to enjoy a treatment-free remission. And I don’t want to let down all of you, the people who have been rooting for me for so many years. I put myself and my story out there in a major way and I don’t want to disappoint, or to look like a fool for trying. Even if the headline is a benign “No biggie, back on your pills you go” it will make me feel like I couldn’t hack it. Ridiculous, I know, but it is a biggie to me.
And then there’s this: For the past decade or so, as test after test came back undetectable, I’ve felt like I don’t really have cancer. No one can find it! And if it starts to really come back, even though we can control it again no problem, it will be a reminder that I do have cancer, and, hey dipshit, cancer is serious so stay on your damn medication this time, OK?
My father, who was an air traffic controller in the 80s, always told me to “make a decision and make it work.” I have taken that advice on so many occasions. And I thought about it a lot when weighing the risks of stopping my medication. I made the decision and I have absolutely no regrets. But in this case “making it work” is out of my control and for a control freak like me, that just may be the scariest thing of all.
March 15th, 2016
I stopped putting any kind of sweetener in my coffee when I was 20 years old but it wasn’t for health reasons. It’s because I was too hot. Seriously. It was the summer of 1999—I was living in New York City and interning at Playboy magazine. BEST SUMMER EVER but also one of the hottest on record (we’re using my records here—I’m not actually looking it up). Anyway, I lived with three other students in an apartment on Gramercy Park South—right next to the National Arts Club. The Playboy offices were on Fifth and 57th—nearly 40 blocks away—but I usually walked to work because it was easier than learning how to use public transportation. Also, it seemed too hot to go underground.
Every morning on my way uptown, I’d pick up a large coffee from a little deli a few blocks north of my apartment. I liked my coffee with skim milk and sugar and at this place they put the milk in for you. But you had to do the sugar yourself on a tiny table with other sweaty people sweetening their coffees. Seems simple enough and yet that one extra step turned me into a literal hot mess—and this is before the term hot mess even existed. After a few thick, 80-degree days of fumbling around with my work bag, my shoe bag, my sunglasses, a steaming cup of coffee, my still-wet hair stuck to the sweat already dripping down my neck, I just said %&*@ it and stopped putting the sugar in**. And I never looked back. I had intended to look back but once I got used to the unsweetened stuff—it happened quickly—I completely lost my taste for sugary drinks. 17 years later, I still just put a splash of milk (whole now) in my coffee and nothing else. Thank you, Playboy!
I’m sharing this anecdote with you as an intro to the news about Splenda (I could have just said SPLENDA IS GONNA KILL YOU! like some other blogs but dropping in that I used to work at Playboy seemed way more fun). The Splenda news, which you may have already seen: In a recent study, researchers found that the sweetener (in high doses) caused leukemia in mice. Given my history with that particular disease I was particularly disturbed. I have family members who can’t live without Splenda and I’d like them to do just that—live…without it. More testing has to be done, of course, and Splenda is fighting back saying their chemically-made sweetener is totally fine, of course, but…I’m dubious. This is not the first time Splenda has been called out and it probably won’t be the last.
Please follow the story as it develops. Even if the leukemia stuff turns out to be a false alarm, maybe use it to rethink what you put into your daily drink—and to read labels more closely. Splenda (and other sugar substitutes) can be found in A LOT of processed foods and drinks, marketed as “healthy” or “low calorie.” As with most things in life, if something sounds too good to be true—a chemically-made sugar substitute, zero-calorie anything—it probably is. The good news: if you like your coffee or tea sweet there are many great natural options. Now that I’m off Gleevec I’m taking a closer look at everything I put into my body and will be writing more about that here. You’ve been warned
**This was pre iced-coffee craze otherwise I would have stayed cool by ordering an iced latte and still sweetening it–probably switching to Splenda at some point and probably would have had leukemia by now. Oh wait….
P.S. Working at Playboy was the best experience ever ever ever. Ask me about it sometime!
March 2nd, 2016
As many of you know, I’ve been off my life-saving cancer medication since November. You can read all about that decision—and why I’m not nuts—in the feature I wrote for Dr. Oz’s The Good Life magazine. Quick recap: I’m enrolled in Sloan Kettering’s discontinuation trial for chronic myelogenous leukemia patients who’ve achieved a deep and lasting remission on Gleevec or other Gleevec-like drugs. Researchers believe that certain patients, like me, may be able to maintain longterm remission without popping their daily pills, achieving what they call “treatment-free remission.” Will we be cured? Well…that’s tough to say. With CML there is likely always going to be some cancer cells lingering. But the thinking is that whatever low levels remain will be too weak to rise up. Or possibly (and I find this fascinating) that our immune systems have kicked in and will control any resistant leukemia, like a vaccine.
Here’s how Michael Mauro, my beloved doctor of 14 years and the one heading up the trial at Sloan, explains it: “CML at diagnosis is like a fast car with a full tank of gas right at your doorstep and it just wants to go. CML in deep molecular remission is the hull of that car with no engine and no gas and it’s far away. You might be able to see it but with time you realize it’s not going to go anywhere.”
The problem is when you see cancer, even if it’s not going to bother you, it still bothers you. Particularly when you’re not taking your medication anymore. I’ve been off for three months now and, as part of the trial protocol, have had three major blood tests. The first one came back negative. Wahoo! The last two came back ever-so-slightly positive. Dr. Mauro and I mostly communicate over text and email—and sometimes just in emojis . It’s a shorthand we’ve developed over years of him relaying near-constant test results that never required explanation. Because they were always negative. When my phone rang and his number popped up last month and again last week, I knew it meant there was explanation needed. My heart sank, of course. And, full disclosure, I cried when he said, “so, it wasn’t undetectable….” “Undetectable” is the gold standard for CML patients—it means, quite literally, that they couldn’t detect the cancer. Fuller disclosure: I also said a few internal F-words. But wait—before you feel bad for me or worry about me (please don’t!), the news isn’t bad! In the words of Biggie Smalls, I went from negative to positive and it’s still all good. Seriously.
The positives we’re talking about are .001 in January and .0008 in February. I realize those numbers will only really mean something to my CML friends, but anyone can see they are super low. And way below the point where I would get kicked out of the trial and have to start Gleevec again. (That number is .1, which, P.S., is still way below any danger zone.) And, as you can see, the number went down from January to February. That said, it could go back up next month and still mean nothing. Here’s the thing that’s hard to grasp: It is entirely normal for CML patients in a deep, safe remission to fluctuate from positive to negative, sort of skipping along that undetectable line like a stone on the surface of the water. I haven’t told many people about my results because, as you can see, all of this is way too hard to say in a Facebook post—and if not explained correctly would set off alarm bells that don’t need to be rung.
Dr. Mauro is not worried. He says I do not have to worry. Am I not worrying? I’m trying my best. His explanation helps: “The numbers are so low they wouldn’t even be detectable on most tests in the U.S. You are a victim of really good technology!” As part of the trial, we’re shipping my blood sample to Seattle where it’s being run on the most sensitive equipment out there—meaning it’s able to find those residual cells where other tests couldn’t. These numbers don’t mean my cancer is coming back, it means on those given days with those given samples, the test succeeded in finding some leukemia. Leukemia that has always been there.
Does it mean I’m in the clear for good? No. Could those residual cells still stage a come back? Sure. Anyone who’s dealt with cancer knows that anything is possible. But here’s the important thing: I’m not concerned about my cancer coming back because I fear we won’t be able to get it under control. That is really far outside the realm of possibility, I promise. As all of the other stoppage trials have proven, if my cancer gets above that .1 threshold and I have to go back on Gleevec, it will work again and I will be fine. I’m going to repeat that for my mom: I will be fine. I’m mostly anxious about those numbers creeping up because I don’t want to have to start taking my pills again. Because I LOVE being off treatment. I’ll elaborate on that in another post but it boils down to the fact that I feel better physically and mentally and emotionally. Who wouldn’t want to hang on to that? My next blood test is in three weeks and I am hopeful. Truly. Yes, seeing those numbers has been annoying but hopefully that’s all they are. That damn hollowed-out jalopy sitting on the horizon trying to freak me out. I’m not going to let it. You shouldn’t either.
January 28th, 2015
When your kids experience their first snow day, it’s pretty special. You hunker down and get pumped right along with them. No school! Let’s eat everything in sight! Where are the sleds?! Yay for cozy family time! It brings you back to when you were little and snow days were a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence, not part of the Common Core curriculum like they seem to be now. My kids are so used to school being canceled that if there’s more than a dusting when they wake up they just assume–and start demanding hot cocoa. And when the novelty has worn off as it has in my family (we’re on our third in a row here on Long Island) you may go through what I like to call the five stages of a snow day…
1. Denial. “They’re definitely going to have school tomorrow, right?” you ask your spouse the night before, even as the weather people use words like “nightmarish,” “treacherous,” and “do not go out unless you have to” to describe the morning commute. You check The Weather Channel incessantly. You look to Jim Cantore for some sign that it’s all going to blow right past you. As the snow starts dumping down, you see cars slide around in front of your house and think, “well, the bus could definitely handle that hill. I mean, why would they cancel school?”
2. Anger. You get the robocall at 5 a.m. And then the email. And then the text. Why the $^*&# do they do this? Despite your best attempt at number one, you and everyone else knew they were going to call it so why couldn’t they have done so at a human hour? Your brain scrolls through the list of all the things you will not get accomplished today and your heart begins to race.
3. Bargaining. Your kids wake up at 7 a.m. and immediately want to go outside. But it’s 8 degrees and blowing like a sonofabitch out there. You negotiate. You make up chores. You have your seven-year-old feed your one-year-old so you can go to the bathroom alone, but then your five-year-old storms in asking if she can have a cookie for breakfast (because her brother already did). You let them play Doc McStuffins with all the BandAids in the house while you get breakfast made and immediately regret it. You beg them to entertain themselves but it’s a losing battle because it says right there in the kid code of snow day conduct: “you will not be able to entertain yourselves for more than 30 seconds at a time alldaylong.” You hear yourself say things like, “I will give you a cookie as soon as you brush your teeth.”
4. Depression. It’s only 11 a.m. but your kids are already bored. You find a video they made on the iPad made up entirely of different words for poop, including that one and you feel like a terrible mother. After bundling them up to play outside, they last 10 minutes before one of them bangs on the door in boogery tears and the other turns a scary shade of frostbite. They’ve built forts using all the blankets and couch cushions in the house and decorated your entire kitchen with stick-figure art. You’ve stepped on Legos and Barbie limbs and an old grilled cheese the baby found, sampled then discarded. They do not want to watch TV, despite the fact that you spent $5.99 to rent The Boxtrolls. They start fighting over things like who saw the bigger icicle out the window. They ask questions like, “Mom, can you die when you’re in heaven?” and “I know how baby’s come out but how do they get in?!” and, the most disturbing: “How do you spell sexy?” You’ve cleaned your kitchen for the eighth time but now it’s time for lunch. You start to feel trapped. You wonder if spring will ever come. You think about Global Warming and fear you might cry.
5. Acceptance. You catch your seven-year-old watching a show called “Pit Bulls and Parolees” on Animal Planet and realize it’s game over. Screw it, you are officially not getting any work done today and the house is going to remain a total sty. You have a dance party with your kids to inappropriate Top 40 music and remain unfazed when your five-year-old busts out every word to Shake it Off (you’re also not stressing about the fact that you kind of love a Taylor Swift song). Let’s make banana bread! Oh, the hot chocolate spilled all over the floor?! It’s OK, it’s a snow day! Yes, I want to build a snowman. Yes, we can go sledding at the golf course even though there are four million people there and it’s still only 9 degrees. Yes, to cookies for lunch. How about a side of ice cream? You text photos of the fun to your mom friends with captions like “is it happy hour yet?” You are in the trenches and you’re going with it. You might even break out the damn Easy Bake Oven you’d been considering returning to the North Pole.
And then, at five o’clock, the bonus stage kicks in, the one you’ve been waiting for all day: Intoxication. If you’ve made it this far without pouring yourself something adult, now’s the time. And if they’ve already canceled school for tomorrow, make it a double.
*A VERSION OF THIS WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED LAST YEAR ON YAHOO SHINE, WHICH SADLY NO LONGER EXISTS. THANKS TO THE BLIZZARD OF THE CENTURY, I DECIDED TO REPOST HERE.
August 26th, 2014
Earlier this summer I wrote a feature for the August issue of Redbook on how not to sabotage your vacation. One of the main saboteurs, of course, is staying too connected to our devices. In the piece I covered how to avoid getting sucked into work emails and tricks for honoring your out-of-office status but also the importance of taking in the scenery not just tweeting photos of it. One of the experts I spoke with—Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D, a psychologist at Stanford University and author of The Willpower Instinct—felt strongly about not having a camera in hand the whole trip. “Part of the joy of a vacation will be savoring it later on so taking pictures is OK but limit it,” she said. “People mis-experience things by trying to document them.”
And here’s her kicker: If you’re truly looking to disconnect, don’t post photos publicly right away. “Give yourself an embargo on your photos and share them when you get home,” she said. “Then it’s part of the savoring experience instead of interfering with the direct experience.” She added that you don’t want to be scrolling through your phone at night to see if people liked your sunset selfie. “That’s a pretty toxic process,” she said. Especially if how many likes you got—or didn’t get—will affect your mood.
Don’t get me wrong, I like being connected. I like social media. I am not a facebook hater. If you’re reading this you likely follow me so you know I am an avid oversharer. I post vacation photos and I enjoy looking at friends’ vacation photos. But since I’d done all this research and wrote a story about it I figured I should actually take the advice I was spewing. So last week while I was on vacation with my family I didn’t share anything on social media. The place we stayed—out on the North Fork of Long Island—had wonky wifi and no cell service so that encouraged me, too. And you know what? It was pretty freeing to leave my phone in the room most days and to never say to my husband “Do you like this photo? Should I post it?”
It’s hard to resist hitting share, I get it. Especially when we sit in our offices day in and day out seeing shots of our friends with their toes in the water and their asses in the sand. We scroll through the requisite “feeties” (see mine above, which I took for the sole purpose of this post) and drool at the food-and-umbrella drink shots. When we’re finally in our own heavenly locale, we want our moment in the sun. Of course that competitive, braggy mindset is not why you should be posting things on facebook in the first place. McGonigal mentioned research showing that if you engage in social media with that intention it actually makes people like you less (there’s a beach in France that has banned selfies for that reason).
I am certainly not accusing any of my friends (or myself) of this type of motivation. And I know there are plenty of people who post quickly and never think twice again, typos be damned. That said, I do have some overthinking tendencies when it comes to what I post and the point of the vacation was to think less so this little experiment was perfect for me. Does it mean I’ll never upload another shot from vacation again? Heck no. Does it mean I don’t want to see your ass-in-the-sand photos? Definitely not! Keep ‘em coming! It makes me happy–not a hater–to see beautiful locales pop up in my newsfeed. But it was a pretty cool experience for me to be off the social media grid for a while.
I didn’t post and I didn’t look at anyone else’s posts for six days straight which allowed me to be completely present with my family. This was especially helpful since having three kids on vacation requires a lot of presence (and patience). I’ll be the first to admit that I’m sometimes distracted by my device and the second I look down at my phone, all hell breaks loose. Or all three swarm around me like gnats. But as long as I’m engaged with them or looking in their general direction, my kids tend to be cool. Cooler than they would be if I were examining my bathing suit photos for cellulite or scrolling through ALS bucket challenge videos. At the very least, this taught me to be more mindful of my technology use and for that I’m grateful. And now, stay tuned for a ton of vacation photos that will feel really old since they were taken last week….
August 12th, 2014
You may have noticed some chatter about “the end of summer.” My friends in the south have already sent their kids back to school and posted the requisite first-day photos on facebook. That crazy Halloween catalog arrived last week (yes, Nora wants to be Elsa). Pottery Barn is so desperate for me to buy monogrammed backpacks for my kids that they email me three times a day. I suppose it all makes sense since it is mid-August but here on the north shore of beautiful Long Island (and in my semi-delusional mind) we are still in the thick of the lazy days. With no end in sight if I shut my eyes really tight.
There are many years, I’ll admit, when I am big-time ready for September to get here. Last year I wrote an ode to the end of the summer with versus like: “Goodbye oppressive heat and goodbye grilled processed meat. Goodbye crickets, goodbye sand. And goodbye to the ice cream man who I really can’t stand.” But this year is different. There are some obvious reasons: We’ve had gorgeous weather—not too hot, not too humid, very little rain (I’ve rocked the glorious flip-flops-shorts-hooded sweatshirt combo many nights) and the simple fact that I’m not pregnant. But there’s also been some special seasonal stuff that I want to highlight here—many have links, so check them out before it’s too late! Here goes…
Paddle boarding, sunsets, swimming (in the ocean, the sound, the bay, the pool), staying too late at the beach, Swallow restaurant: Hate the name, love the food (and the chef). They serve only small plates and they’re all delish. My recent order: skate wing with chorizo, clams in curry broth and pork buns—wow! Next: Eating outside on my new deck. We have a pretty small kitchen which we eventually want to redo but in the meantime, we put a deck off of it which has transformed our living space and made dining al fresco a daily occurrence. Iced lattes (I run on Dunkin, not Starbucks in case you’re wondering). Skinny Pop Popcorn. I buy the jumbo bags at Costco and always have it close at hand. Sometimes I dip it in hummus. I know you can eat popcorn in the fall too but this is a new snack obsession–and great for the beach–so I’m including here.
Watching Nora learn how to dive, watching Alex reel in big fish—then happily cook and eat them. Watching both of them boogie board in the ocean, watching Molly eat sand (really, I’ve come to adore it). Robert Moses. Despite living only 40 minutes from this gorgeous south shore beach, this is the first summer we’ve frequented it as a family. And thanks to a surfer friend’s tip, we know where to go to avoid the crowds. We’ve even taken our paddle board and paddled in the ocean waves which is intense but amazing.
My Havaianas. Spin classes at Breakaway Fitness. More on that place soon but nothing rights the ship better than an hour of fun jams and sweating so much I have to clean the floor after. I’m in love. Running on the road (instead of a treadmill) and shamelessly listening to Katy Perry. Running longer distances than I thought I could—or would ever want to do.
Greenport, NY. I went out there for a girls’ weekend in July; heading out there again with the fam. We have a reservation at North Fork Table and Inn for dinner one night (sans kids) and I can’t wait. Never been! I also want to try to get back to The Frisky Oyster (um, also sans kids since they don’t allow them!) and to Bedell Cellars for some wine tasting and live music. We’ll see…
American Ninja Warrior. The bar is set pretty low when it comes to summer TV and I rarely tube out but I can’t help watching those crazy people try to summit mount wanttohockalugey or whatever it’s called. I did also binge watch season 1 of Below Deck on Bravo and it is the best thing I’ve experienced in a long, long time. And by best I mean it’s trash but the really good kind. Mazzar Grill, a new middle-eastern kebab takeout place that makes everything fresh to order and everything I’ve tried is fantastic. The Purple Elephant, Kerber’s Farm (check out my friend’s story on them—then definitely check them out before they stop serving their delish lobster rolls and roasted corn), drinks at Prime (what can I say, I’m like a fly to the light with that place).
My garden, of course, which has provided us with an abundance of fresh and delicious produce for the past few months (created by the fabulous Elizabeth Rexer Leonard of Earl’s Kitchen Gardens). The highlights: Enough garlic to get us through fall and zucchini the size of baseball bats because I always forget to harvest them before they get huge. This zucchini bread, which is about the unhealthiest thing you can do to a zucchini but man is a treat.
The Northport Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. I go because Imperial Empanadas (my brother-in-law’s company) is there. I stay because of the view of the harbor and the laid back vibe and Nina’s Fresh Batch Granola (I get the pistachio golden raisin), Blind Bat Brewery and pickles, which the kids get on sticks to snack on while we’re perusing the goods.
OK, I do realize that the majority of this list seems to be food related. First, I don’t go out to eat that much but when I do I make it count and the places above are the places I go. Second, there is lots of exercise and fresh air sprinkled in throughout, I swear! I have also worked a ton the past few months (for Redbook, Glamour, Dr. Oz’s The Good Life and the no-longer-with-us Yahoo Shine, which I feel kind of lost without) but that’s not what this post is about. Or what this summer has been about! Hope yours has been lovely too and that you plan to see it through to the bitter end like me. Which, PS, isn’t technically until September 21 so we really do have time to pack in more good times. Enjoy!
June 26th, 2014
My friend, who has three little kids, recently found out that the reason her once-regular sitter hasn’t been available many Saturday nights lately is because she’s also been—wait for it—stripping. Once I picked my jaw up off the ground I jokingly asked if her husband ran into the babysitter at a strip club while there entertaining clients or something. That would have been amazing. But the revelation was a far less made-for-the-movies moment (and no, her husband does not frequent strip clubs). It happened when my friend had gotten home from dinner and was asking the babysitter about her plans for the following weekend. The sitter hedged a little and then came out with it: she’d been working in a high-end strip club. As a hostess? Nope. As a bare-it (almost) all dancer. I know my friend pays well but apparently not as well as the sweaty, drunk businessmen with wads of bills in their hands. Yowza.
My first question: Does she have an amazing body? Apparently she’s thin as a rail and not at all voluptuous as you might expect someone who strips to be. Interesting. My second: Are you going to keep using her? The sitter wasn’t full-time or even working very regular lately but my friend liked her and her kids liked her and she was reliable. They trusted her. Now they’re a little conflicted as it seems that perhaps she isn’t the best decision-maker. I don’t want to offend anyone so I’m trying to tread lightly here but I understand why you wouldn’t necessarily want someone who takes her clothes off for money hanging around your house and your kids. (And your husband, but that’s another post for another time…). Strip clubs aren’t the most savory of places and someone who’s rubbing elbows and other body parts with horny dudes isn’t the person I’d want watching my children. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies with characters who strip but what if one of her customers was stalking her and came to the house?!
But then again, good help is really hard to find and when Friday night rolls around and mom and dad need a break, sometimes we lower our standards. That said, just because this person is stripping doesn’t mean she’s a bad or unsavory person at all. Plus, my friend already has an established relationship with this person. It’s not like she showed up looking for a babysitting job and listed “stripper” on the top of her resumé. I have two sitters I absolutely adore and if either of them started stripping I might be inclined to keep them on. But first I’d offer them a raise so they didn’t feel compelled to take off their clothes. You hear that, Jenny and Jamiee?! Please don’t strip! Come to me first! I know you should judge the person and not the profession but when kids are involved and suddenly you’re talking nakedness and groping men, I’m just not sure I’d be comfortable. And I’m curious to hear what you would do in this case. Would you continue to have her babysit? Is it prude and judgmental to not want someone who strips to watch your kids? Keep in mind this is not someone who used to strip, this is a person currently doing it. Let’s discuss!
November 21st, 2013
Since so many of you have asked. And since you know I want to tell (warning: it’s long and unedited!)
On Saturday, November 16 at 10:56 p.m. I gave birth to my daughter, Molly Kate Ruddy. I was just hours shy of being 41 weeks pregnant, something I hadn’t expected at all. With my first two kids, I went into labor on their due dates and gave birth the next day. I was thinking the same might happen this time. I had been really afraid of going early because I wasn’t prepared so obviously I jinxed myself. Saturday the 9th and Sunday the 10th came and went without so much as a cramp.
Every night over the next week Nick and I had a last hurrah dinner with our kids. My hospital bag taunted me from the bench in my room. I started answering texts and emails and calls with, “nope, not in labor.” On Wednesday the 13th I had a biophysical and sonogram to check on the baby. She looked great and my fluid was good so my doctor was on board to let me forge on as planned (I did not want to be induced as I really wanted a drug-free birth). For the next few days I walked—outside, on the treadmill, at the mall—I ate spicy food, I nested, I spent a lot of time at the new Target near my house. I tried everything (yes, even that). It was a really strange week. I was bored, frustrated, confused and I couldn’t think about anything else. (I wrote this post about it.)
On Thursday, I went for yet another long walk with a friend. Later that night, Nick and I took the kids to a great dinner at a yummy local Italian restaurant and I ordered eggplant rollatini (not something I would normally eat but I’d heard eggplant could do the trick and I was getting desperate). I took one bite and I swear I had a contraction. We had an awesome dinner (yet another perfect last hurrah for our family of four), and that night things got started. Slowly. I had contractions throughout the night. They were strong enough that I had to sit up and occasionally get out of bed and onto the exercise ball, but not really painful or regular. I thought for sure when I woke up in the morning I’d be in full-blown labor. I was not. My sister, Meghan, who was my labor coach/confidant just as I’d been for her back in March (she had a 30-hour drug-free labor and delivery and was a total champ) came over and we went for a walk. Nada. So Nick, Nora and I went to Target to return some of my “where-the-eff-is-this-baby, I’m-just-gonna-buy-stupid-stuff” purchases then Nora and I went to a playdate with friends. All the while I was cramping but nothing bad at all. If I didn’t know I was in early labor I would have just thought I had a stomachache. I came home, put Nora down for a nap and showered. And I blew out my hair, just in case… (I blew out my hair almost every day that week—it gave me something to do and, yes, I’m a little vain).
To be honest, at this point I was starting to get worried. I wanted the baby out. I wanted to meet her and know that she was OK. And I was anxious about giving birth (one way to get more anxious about something is to put it off for a week). I started to feel like I couldn’t trust my body. Fortunately, one of my oldest and dearest friends is a doula who I was texting with during this time and she kept sending me positive, “your-body-knows-what-to-do” notes. Friday night the kids slept at my parents’ house because we thought we might be going to the hospital in the middle of the night. Nick and I dropped them off and picked up pizza (sure I was in early labor but a girl’s gotta eat). We watched a little TV and I got into bed around 8:30. At this point I’d barely slept in two days and with labor imminent (I’d hoped) I wanted some rest. But of course that night things ramped up again and I was hopping in and out of bed all night to walk through contractions and go to the bathroom and sit on the exercise ball. (My sister, Meghan, loved laboring on the exercise ball…I found it aiight but I was willing to try anything to keep me going). At around 3 a.m. the contractions slowed down and I fell asleep.
Again, I thought things would progress quickly when I woke up. They did not. Meghan came over again, we walked, I ate some toast with peanut butter. I felt fine. I was having mild contractions but nothing I couldn’t talk through. And they were far apart and totally irregular. So we decided to go to the kids’ soccer games. I stood on the sidelines for about an hour, chatted with the other parents, had a few mild contractions and enjoyed the gorgeous day. At this point my mother-in-law arrived from Michigan, a total Godsend. Now we not only had my parents on call, we had my mother-in-law staying with us. That afternoon I just lied around resting, watched a shitload of The Good Wife on Hulu (I just started the series and it was a good distraction) and having mild contractions. I took another hour-long walk with my sister. There was a full moon and she had me pose for a picture in front of it. We agreed it was a good day to have a baby. But it did not seem like she was coming any time soon….
They tell you to wait until contractions get close together—5 to 8 minutes—last about a minute and are intense enough that you can’t talk through them. Then you know you’re really in labor and you can go to the hospital. Well mine never got to that point. So when it came time to order dinner, I wanted in. (I was also ravenous from being in labor for what was now going on 48 hours). I stayed up in my room and ate a pretty big bowl of plain pasta, some nuts, some plain popcorn and cheese and crackers (I was seriously hungry). If I had been laboring in the hospital at this point I would have been on a strict ice-chip diet…another reason I wanted to stay at home as long as possible. I knew I might regret eating a lot of not-so-bland food (the pasta had garlic and olive oil) but I also had no idea when I would be having the baby and I needed the energy. In between bites I’d have contractions (and I’d pause The Good Wife so as not to miss anything). As far as labors go it was quite lovely.
I spent a little extra time saying goodnight to the kids that night and then retreated back to my room. At 8:30 I had the first contraction that took my breath away. “Intense” I scribbled next to the time on the little green post-it note I’d been half-heartedly recording things on. From there I had a few more intense contractions on and off, but still about 10 minutes apart. Meghan was at a restaurant with friends and asked me if she should come over (she didn’t want to go to dinner at all but I insisted). I hesitated. “Not sure,” my text read. “I’m pretty relaxed right now lying in bed. Just enjoy dinner and text me on your way home.” At 9:43 p.m. she checked in and I wrote: “Thinking maybe I should go in. Contractions are really painful. But still only about 10 minutes apart.” When she got here, we pulled everything together pretty quickly and headed to the hospital. At this point I still had no idea how far along I was. I suspected I might be close but I’d suspected that before and been wrong. I told Meghan and Nick that if I was only three centimeters, I may not make it. I was exhausted mentally and physically. When we pulled up in front of the ER (we had to go in that way since it was nighttime), I had a super strong contraction. But then I walked in and got myself registered. On the way up in the wheelchair (I really wanted to walk but they wouldn’t let me), I jumped out and had another. In between contractions, I was talking and walking—though I was definitely in the this-is-for-real zone.
The nurse who greeted us in labor and delivery immediately recognized us from seven months ago when our roles were reversed and we were doing the same thing with Meghan. She brought us into a room, I got undressed, went to the bathroom and had a swig of Gatorade (behind the nurse’s back since it’s not allowed). I had one more intense contraction during which Meghan told me to try to relax my shoulders (she had been very good about encouraging me to open up and stay relaxed and all that stuff). “I’m past the zen shit,” I said, “I’m gonna need to curse at this point.” (And I did.) The doctor on call came in and we chatted for a sec while the nurse set me up on the bed with the monitor to check the baby’s heartbeat (my beloved doc, who pretty much guaranteed he’d be there to deliver me had to be at a conference that day and was at that point driving through the Queens Midtown Tunnel). I felt a really strong contraction coming on, called Nick, squeezed his hand and…my water broke. I kind of freaked out because when that happened, I also felt the urge to push. Like for real. “OMG, what was that,” I said, “And I think I need to push, I think the baby is here,” I hadn’t even been checked yet! I had just walked in! They rolled me over, the doc felt my cervix and said there was a tiny rim left so not to push but we’d get ready.
Anyone who’s given birth this way knows that when you feel the urge to push there is almost no way to stop from pushing. But I had literally just read the part in The Birth Partner about why you don’t want to push if there’s still any cervix left undilated (it can swell the cervix and stall labor, among other things…no thanks). So the super awesome nurse looked at me and got me focused and helped me breathe through them. For two super-intense contractions I just breathed and resisted the overwhelming urge to push. It was torture, literally the hardest part of my whole experience. I dare say, the only real hard part. (Meghan and I later said we suspect that the reason they didn’t want me to push is not that I wasn’t ready but that they weren’t ready…which I totally understand seeing as I had just got there). While the nurse was getting me to focus and relax and bring my legs back and breathe, the doc was furiously arranging things so she could catch the baby. On the third contraction I begged to push, someone grabbed my legs, I took a deep breath and the baby was out in two pushes. As soon as I could push I felt great. I mean, it didn’t feel good but it felt like what I was supposed to be doing and I knew she was right there and it was seriously that easy. Two pushes. (I deserve this, by the way…I pushed Alex out for two and half hours!).
The second she was out and on my chest, all the pressure and discomfort was gone. That’s the coolest thing about a drug-free birth. You literally feel fine the second the baby is out. Also, I didn’t tear at all, which made a big difference. Huge difference with recovery. The whole room (it was just the doc, the awesome nurse, Meg, Nick and me) was stunned. We laughed. The doctor, who was great, texted my doc and said it was a drive-by birth. She also had me sign the consent form that I wanted to have my baby there. We laughed again! The nurse said she couldn’t believe how I walked in so nonchalantly she would never have thought I was about to give birth. She said it was 15 minutes from the moment I got into the delivery room to the moment the baby was out. I was shocked, too. I wanted to think I was close but after being a week late and laboring so mildly for two days, I knew anything was possible. And I didn’t want to jinx myself. Nick, who had lugged in the exercise ball and coconut water (fortunately I never had to drink that—yuck) and Gatorade and snacks, said: “Well, that was anticlimactic.” And it was. We seriously thought we were heading in so we could begin the tough part. But it was over. And it was so not that bad (the hardest part: those two contractions when I couldn’t push). We hung out in that room for over an hour. My mom and mother-in-law and sister, Melissa, came up, we chatted, we laughed at how shocked we still were, we took pictures. I nursed the baby so she could get some colostrum (I’m going back on my Gleevec this week so I won’t be breastfeeding). I got up and peed and put back on my regular clothes and we headed down the hall to maternity. And that was that.
For nine months I had been hoping to have a drug-free, empowered birth (one that felt like I was calling the shots, whatever those shots happened to be). It couldn’t have gone better and I am so happy that I listened to my body and let things unfold at their own (super slow) pace. It was my third birth experience and by far the best. And the easiest. I am so grateful to my sister, Meghan, who was so present and patient and a source of great comfort for me through the entire pregnancy but especially at the end. The birth only wound up lasting a few minutes but I was glad she got to be there for it!
Molly Kate is now five days old. She and I are both doing great. I have no pain, which is amazing (with Alex I had to do the sitz bath and sit on a donut for nearly six weeks!). I honestly have to remind myself I just gave birth so I don’t overdo it. Fortunately, my mother-in-law is still here so I have lots of help. I can’t imagine doing this without her (she’s snuggling the baby as I type this and will feed her while I take a quick nap—heaven). I am a lucky girl.
Thank you to everyone who has followed along with my pregnancy, sent prayers and well wishes and support. I truly feel the love and we are so so so happy Molly is finally here. Finally! Oh, and the best part about the birth experience: I never have to do it again!!! (I actually said that moments after she came out—I may have had a great experience this time but make no mistake, giving birth is hard work and I am done. Snip, snip!)
August 19th, 2013
As you guys have probably realized, I haven’t been posting much on my site lately. I apologize. I should be. I want to be. I miss it. But with my new gig blogging for Yahoo Shine and a crazy/wild/fun summer with my crazy/wild/fun kids, plus work (check out my latest feature in this month’s Glamour), plus being seven-and-half-months pregnant and thus kind of lazy, I just haven’t. I’m going to remedy that. Starting today. Because, well, you guys are nicer to me than the people who read my other blog and (cue the pathetic statement): I miss having people like me.
Some of you probably saw the Yahoo homepage on Friday (photo above). They occasionally pick up my Shine posts and promote them with provocative, clickable titles. If you logged on Friday or Saturday you were likely met with a photo of me and Nora. This is a big deal. A compliment. Good for the blog. Great for my numbers, etc. But, well, the more people who see your posts, the more who are going to dislike it. And tell you exactly how and how much they dislike it. And a lot of people (i.e. millions) use the Yahoo homepage. The post in question was a silly little rant I wrote last week about wanting to change Nora’s name a few days after giving birth. It was not meant to be news or life-changing or even all that compelling. It was an unfiltered peek inside my mom brain, which is what I generally give readers. Because I think it’s relatable. And entertaining. And that’s my job. I am not a news reporter, I am not covering world events, I am not trying to shape opinions. I’ll be the first to admit that most of what I write could fall under the hashtag “first world problems.” I love that I get to write about this stuff. And I like to read this stuff. I know others do, too. Lord knows there are enough stories out there about war and disaster and crooked politicians. And effing celebrities.
But last week’s post pissed people off. At one point 14,785 people had logged in to say how much they hated it. 14, 785 comments! They were mad that it wasn’t news. They wanted their two minutes back. They thought I was a lunatic. Some said I shouldn’t procreate or I should go on meds. Those particular comments mostly made me laugh. These people don’t know me, they don’t read my other, more substantial work, they don’t “get” what I do and how I write. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a tad unsettling. It’s embarrassing to admit this but I care what others (even strangers) think of me. I want them to like me. Or to at least not hate me because of a 200-word blog post. I want them to understand where I’m coming from. But that’s not the way it works when you write a blog. And I know this.
I’ve been blogging for almost eight years now. When I wrote my Life with Cancer blog for Glamour, I had one troll in particular who really hated me and wrote awful things. Unprintable things. Not just meanish comments like the people on Yahoo post (mostly the “get a life” and “why am I reading this drivel” variety), but hard-core, crazy-stalkerish stuff. That was bad. When I blogged for Parenting, people were generally cool and we had a real dialogue—unless I talked about my not breastfeeding or showed a picture of Nora’s car seat with twisted seat belts and then they were ruthless. The thing is, I love blogging for Yahoo Shine. It’s huge. By far the biggest platform I’ve had. I think the site (which has always been my homepage) is well-run and easy to navigate. And I hope my posts make the homepage again! But there has definitely been a learning curve when it comes to the sheer volume of comments and not letting them get to me. And I just wanted to acknowledge that here. Because a lot of people have asked. Over the past few months I’ve been getting texts and emails and calls from friends and acquaintances and fellow bloggers wondering how I handle it. “OMG, I can’t believe what people are writing, are you OK?” was the latest message from a friend, just a few minutes ago. You guys are generally concerned about me and I appreciate it!
The truth: I don’t love the negative comments (who would?) but it comes with the territory. I signed up for this. And even though I’m not supposed to read them, I do. Sometimes it makes me feel bad. Or get angry. I hate when people misunderstand me or twist my words. I obsess about it to Nick, who is great at talking me off a ledge. And my editors are totally lovely and supportive as well. Ultimately I (try to) just laugh it off but it does wear on me a bit. I’m not looking for sympathy. This is what I do and I get paid to do it. And I know how lucky I am to have the opportunity to spew my “first world problems.” I just wanted to open up about it here and say thanks for the support–and thanks for following me at Yahoo! I am working hard at growing a thicker skin, which I really should have by this point. In the meantime, I’ll be posting on my personal site more often…where I can control the comments
Hope you’re all enjoying your summer. Be back soon! Erin
June 14th, 2013
In honor of father’s day, I’m posting this essay about my dear old dad and my husband—and how my allegiance to both is sometimes tested when it comes to matters of the home (improvement).
MY FATHER, THE HANDYMAN
I’m hiding in my master bathroom, whispering into the phone while my husband, Nick, stands on our bed, tools in hand, light fixture dangling from the ceiling. “I think he shut off the electricity but I’m not sure,” I say. “Oh my God, Dad, what if he didn’t?!” This is not an uncommon scene. You see my father is an expert handyman and my husband, while increasingly handy, is still new to the whole DIY, home-ownership thing. The problem: I’m a 35-year-old mother of two who’s been married for nearly eight years. My loyalty should lie with my husband…and yet I still find myself dialing my dad behind Nick’s back when I hear the toolbox open. It’s just hard to have complete faith in him when what hangs in the balance is a home I love—one we’ll be living in until the end of time since we bought it about a week before the housing bubble burst. And when it comes to home improvement (and not getting yourself electrocuted), my father really does know best.
The smell of sawdust and spackle were as much a part of my childhood as Barbie, Ken and the Keatons. I don’t think a day went by without seeing a screwdriver in my father’s hand. His basement workshop overflowed with fascinating things like plumb lines and levels and nuts and washers in every size you could imagine. I remember going down there in my nightgown after dinner and watching him work, hands pressed over my ears to dull the piercing whir of the buzz saw. I always hoped he’d ask me to pass him something and hoped even harder that I could remember the difference between, say, a Phillips head and a flathead. Little girls are supposed to think their dads can do anything, but mine really could. He’d make us wooden airplanes we’d spray paint gold and stools with our names carved into them so we could reach the sink to brush our teeth. When my parents bought our house in the 70s it was a one-bedroom ranch. Today it’s got two stories, five bedrooms and lots of cool personal touches (like a living room made completely out of wood reclaimed from a Pennsylvania barn). And my dad was there for every floorboard, every shingle, every nail. It went through so many transformations that I don’t even recognize the house in that photo above. I think my mother loved the fact that there was nothing my father couldn’t do himself, but I know she not-so-secretly loathed it, too (a repairman, while costly, usually finishes a job swiftly and completely, doesn’t leave his tools strewn all over the kitchen and rarely drops a %*&! or a $#!@ in front of the children).
It’s no surprise that when my husband, Nick, and I bought our first house, my dad was involved from the moment before we signed the contract (“you don’t need to hire an inspector, I can do the inspecting” he insisted). Obviously, we leaned on him and, often, like when our kitchen sink was mysteriously and ever…so…slowly…leaking, he saves the day. And he loves it. I know because any time my sisters call him to save their day (we all now live within a six-minute radius of my parents), he will casually work it into conversation: “So, did you hear we finally got the toilet fixed at Melissa’s?” or “You gotta go by Meghan’s and see the shoe molding we put it.” He lives for this stuff. And he’s really good at it. He is one of those renaissance men who has literally worn every hat there is—from cabinet maker to air traffic controller to techie business owner. And many, many things in between.
But of course any good story needs conflict and there is some of that, too. (Cue the whispered phone conversations whenever Nick tackles a job without consulting my dad.) Nick is smart and self made and not keen on asking others for help, something I clearly don’t suffer from. Especially since, deep down, I still believe my dad knows pretty much everything (poor Nick). But, my father believes that his way is the right way and never approves of calling a real expert (he didn’t speak to me for a few days after I had actual fence people put in our fence.) And he often leaves his jobs only 90 percent complete mumbling, “you can touch up around the molding” or “just put a little phenoseal on it” as he walks out the door. And he brings a work ethic and level of intensity that is not for the faint of heart. There may be cursing. There may be yelling. There won’t be breaks. And he expects an assistant (this used to be one of his daughters, now it’s a son in law) to stand next to him at all times. All of this forces a delicate balancing act for his three daughters, who adore our father but also our husbands—and our autonomy.
Still, in the six years we’ve been in our house, Nick has developed a real passion for home improvement, which my dad respects beyond words. Nick recently refinished our kitchen table and every time my dad is over, he marvels at what a good job Nick did (he also marvels to me at what a mediocre job Nick did patching the hole in our ceiling so it’s not like he’s losing his edge or anything). I’m often caught in the middle of the two men in my life, defending Nick to my dad “Eh, it doesn’t have to be perfect!” and my dad to Nick, “Babe, he just wants to help.” But the truth is, Nick has learned a lot from my dad. And I know he appreciates the guidance (and the tools and nifty gadgets he gets for every holiday) and, when needed, the helping hand. There’s been a slow passing of the blowtorch and it’s awesome to see. Some dads connect over baseball or golf or Cuban cigars. While my father loves all of those things too, it’s when he’s working with his hands, fixing, improving, doing that he’s at his best. The fact that he’s willing to share that with the next generation truly is a gift. And we need to soak it up. As hard as it is to think about, my dad won’t always be around to run over and tighten a faucet or put up some drywall. Any time I think about cutting him out of a project we’re doing, I think of this. Sure, my dad is always going to think he can do it better—and maybe he always will—but I know it gives him great peace of mind and pride to know he’s teaching the next generation the joy (and the responsibility) of DIYing.
For my part, I’ve learned to let Nick do things his way before reaching for the phone. At first it was about keeping the peace with my husband, who I adore, but now it’s because I just don’t have to. All the years watching my dad in action have paid off. Nick has become really good at plowing through the never-ending, to-do/fix/upgrade list that comes with home ownership. Or maybe it’s that he’s so hell bent on not having his father-in-law up in his grill that he’s willed himself to succeed. Either way, I’m not complaining. Especially since, so far, no one’s been electrocuted.
Happy Father’s Day to all the DIY dads out there (and the ones who call for professional help!). Bottom line: I’m a very lucky girl to have two super handy men in my life. Guess I better make a nice dinner for them on Sunday! Also, a bit of exciting news: On Monday I will be starting as the parenting blogger for Yahoo Shine. Stay tuned for links and more!