I like to follow rules.

I wasn't always this way.  In fact, when I was younger....I liked to push the limits of rules....not break them really.....just stretch them.  I think I had a reputation for being less serious than other girls I went to school with.  Not as good of a student (Bs at a very competitive school for over achievers) and someone who wasn't as responsible as my peers.  I was forgetful.  My parents were divorced and had split custody.  I found it hard to keep track of which house I had left things at.  At times I felt unsettled always moving back and forth.  I had some difficulty concentrating.  I was more interested in sports, my social life and boys, than in school. 

At a certain point in my life though, rules became very important to me.  I liked studying knowing that I would do well as a result.  I like having a routine.  I like being on time.  I like knowing that if I add this ingredient to that one, it will end up tasting good.  I am a homebody, even when traveling.  I like to pick a place to go and go back over and over until I know the people who live there.  I am uncomfortable with change.  It takes me a while to get comfortable with new people, new routines, new places.  I like knowing the rules.

When I was single, I had heard about "The Rules".  When I followed them, things went well.  When I didn't follow them, there was more drama and confusion.  Ted advised me early on in our relationship that he liked when women followed the rules, which I have always found funny.  He basically told me to play hard to get.  I think I did a pretty good job.  He doesn't think I did.  Oh well - we ended up together regardless.  I must have done something right.

As I've mentioned, I have gained and lost the same 10-15 pounds throughout my adult life.  I have always found it easy to lose the weight by just following the simple rules of eat less, exercise more.  It makes me feel like I am in control.  I like writing down what I've eaten and making sure I stay in the recommended range for weight loss.  I like seeing the change on the scale each week.

For the last three months (even longer), I had been following these rules like a champ (until about a week ago) and nothing happened at all.  And, it wouldn't be such a big deal - I mean, I don't know if I would be so upset about it if the circumstances of my life were different or if I were a different person altogether.  But, considering who I am and what I have been through, I feel like there is nothing that I have control over and it has me in a bit of a tailspin.

As a mother to Max, I followed all of the rules.  I took prenatal vitamins every day.  I exercised throughout my pregnancy.  I breastfed (and it was no joke since my job was not really in an office - I was pumping while driving from appointment to appointment - co-workers teased me for pumping all of the time - it was fine with me - I knew that it was important that I follow the rules!).  I researched day cares vs. nannies and then visited many day cares.  I chose the one that I truly thought would be best for him.  I made his food - rarely gave him anything from a jar.  I read every book under the sun about babies and learned that he had to sleep on his back, in a baby safe crib, no co-sleeping, in a sleep sack and 70 degrees - so that is what we did at home.  I was VERY careful.  Max was the most precious and important responsibility in my life.  I took his care very seriously.  And he died. 

I am hard on myself.  I worry that there was something I missed.  I wonder if I know the complete story of what happened.  I feel the need to KNOW what the missing piece of his story is.  How does a child just stop breathing?  It wasn't even a"classic" SIDS case in that I am told Maxie wasn't sleeping when he stopped breathing.  My head spins and spins and spins....I don't understand any of it.  To say that the uncertainty and lack of control makes me uncomfortable, is putting it very mildly.  This is beyond my worst nightmare - every part of it. 

When I tell people about my diet and how I am failing, they suggest that I exercise or stop eating carbs or try to track my foods.  I am doing all of those things.  I didn't eat carbs for three months.  I tracked every morsel of food.  I exercise every night.  I know that nobody (except Ted) believes me.  There must be something I am doing wrong.  And this is SO SMALL in comparison to the challenges of my life but it is a metaphor I guess.  Or maybe it is one small thing that I would like to feel I have control of in my world that often feels very out of control.

When I tell people that I did everything right with Maxie, I am sure that there is some skepticism.  I don't even believe it myself, which is why I go over it and over it again and again.  I have found little mistakes that I made when I really inspect.  I made his bottles with tap water.  I really believed that tap water was safe.  I used fabric softener.  I've heard it may not be safe.  I never thought one minute about the fact that I froze breast milk and then defrosted it to use in making purees and then sometimes froze those purees.  My pediatrician tells me that wouldn't kill a baby but I just don't know.  I don't even know exactly how he slept when he wasn't in my care.  I have to be more perfect.  I cannot allow myself to slip at all.  How can anyone BE SO perfect?!  I wonder if the people who knew me in my younger days just assume that this happened because I was so imperfect.  Not like it matters what they think.....I guess.

When I let myself slip, things go crazy.  I ate and drank like everyone else while Sharon was here - I gained 6 pounds.  I don't even know how to approach losing them since NOTHING I do seems to matter anyway.  It is a living metaphor for the lack of control in my life.  A life that I spent years putting into perfect order.  There seems to be nothing left of the control and order I once knew.

Sometimes I think Maxie's life would have turned out exactly the same if I'd fed him fruit roll ups.  Nothing I did mattered at all.  Even though a friend pointed out recently that it did.  It mattered that I took good care of him because that was part of the foundation for our love.  It was important as his mother that I took good care of him, even if he is gone.  It is important that I do the best job I can so that at least I know I've done all I can.

I continue to follow the rules even though I don't know if they make a difference.  When I don't follow a rule, I am very aware of my rule breaking.  I feel like a total rebel when I let Mo watch TV or put in a fabric softening sheet with our towels.  Sometimes what I really wish I could do is let go.  Somehow I'd even fabricated the fantasy that if I stopped counting calories for a week, maybe I'd drop some weight.  Gaining six pounds just confirms to me that I cannot win.  I am overwhelmed with my failures.  Just overwhelmed.  Sometimes finding it hard to take a step back, collect my composure and get on with starting from scratch.  I am back to four months ago with my diet after one week.  We are back with Mo to where we left off with Maxie after almost two years.  I am EXHAUSTED. 


Jayden's Mommy said...

Abby, you have always said to me to be gentle. I lost 2 lbs doing the diet and exercising the first month. I did eat more than recommended but I exercise like a lunatic almost burning 800 to 1000 calories a day. Then I just couldn't do it I been overwhelm with sadness. And now I have gain 6 lbs in the past 8 weeks it seems completely unfair since i feel like I eat just as much as everyone else. I have always follow the rules and Jayden was in our care. In our watch. I read every book in the market about parenting. I went over all the advice available . Up to this day I don't understand. But I appreciate this post so much because I know that when I was in high school and college I broke the rules sometimes, I was a honor student but I believe in having fun. I wonder if people think I broke some rule and that's why my baby is gone? It doesn't matter but I know Jared and I were both there in the same house looking at the video monitor we had follow all the rules; and our perfect baby is gone. Much love to you and thanks for writing.

Taryn said...

It is hard to continue to follow the rules, when the rules don't follow the rules. We have some pretty basic expectations of the results we *should* expect if we follow the rules...but then, sometimes, we find out the rules defy our greatest efforts. It’s incredibly unjust and unfair. It makes it really hard to say that there are ANY rules in life, or to take any too seriously when you've seen the rules be 'broken' in such an earth-shattering way, like loosing your cherished, well-cared for, healthy, happy baby. Maybe there aren't many 'rules' after all. That said, I think that LOVE is a rule that never fails...and you follow that to a T with your boys. Max knows you love and adore him with your whole being, and it’s clear Mo knows the same thing. You are a natural at following the best, most important rule of all, and at the end of the day, I think that's what matters most. That is what will actually MATTER and make a difference when all is said and done. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. All the other rules? Meh, they are debatable.

(I have to say though, I am impressed with your hard work and determination to keep those's so frustrating and disheartening, and sometimes even heartbreaking, when they don't pay back the way we expect them to. You deserve a whole heap of recognition for fastidiously taking care of physical-self these past four (4!) months! I wish I could muster that kind of determination most days. Props!).