Creating a New Community

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Categories Attitude, Community, Loneliness, MoM Groups, Mommy Issues, Other people, Perspective, Relationships, School-AgeTags , , , , , , , , , 10 Comments

This is a story of failure.

Nearly two years ago, in August 2011, I learned that my family would be moving to El Paso, TX from greater Austin, where I’d lived for a decade, where my kids were born, and where my job was. My husband at the time was a soldier, and the Army had issued him PCS orders to Ft Bliss.

Being an Army wife made me an near-expert in military acronyms. PCS stands for permanent change of station, as opposed to deployment to a combat zone, which is considered temporary… even though many deployments are longer than a soldier’s stay at their “permanent” posting. My favourite acronym? POV, for personally owned vehicle, or what you or I would call “car.”

We’d known there was a chance we’d have to move shortly after he returned from Afghanistan in July 2011. My husband’s entire unit, with a handful of exceptions, would be moving to Ft Bliss, El Paso. Right until the day he got orders, he was assured that he was in that handful that would get to stay at Ft Hood, near(ish) Austin. I was the rare Army wife who got to stay put for years. Two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan and a PCS to Korea, and my soldier had kept coming back to Ft Hood. I assumed we’d just stay again and registered the kids for kindergarten.

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Once we learned we had to move, we had two weeks. We ended up moving the day before the girlies would have started kindergarten with two of the other kids on our street. My employers agreed to let me keep my job. That’s right. They. Let. Me. Keep. My. Job. I was moving 600 miles and one time zone away, and they said, “Sure, Sadia. Keep doing what you’re doing, except from your new house instead of in the office. And we’ll keep paying you what we pay you.” Now that, my friends, is how you support military families.

I put my most positive face on the move. It would be an adventure. We would build a new community after relocating. We would learn all about the culture of the Borderlands. I would finally have my chance to learn Spanish. My commute would go from an hour+ each way to run-a-brush-through-my-hair. I made sure I had plenty of mommy cards and business cards in my wallet.

I tried to make friends at my daughters’ school. The only person who bit was one German army wife. I tried to make friends at the girls’ dance studio. I made one friend the whole year I was there. I joined the local professional choir, and made two deep friendships that I suspect will last the rest of my life. I tried to join the local mothers of multiples group, but it had been inactive for years. I considered starting one myself, but none of the twin moms I ran into ever reciprocated the interest in developing a relationship. My daughters, too, tried to make friends, but my notes to parents inviting their kids for playdates or dinners were never answered. With the exception of the elderly couple next door, people on my street didn’t talk to each other. I was deeply grateful to a friend of my husband’s from their time together in Korea. He, his wife and their two sons were almost the entirety of our social network.

I’m sure there were a lot of reasons that I wasn’t able to find my niche. The other Army wives didn’t have careers. The other career moms didn’t, for the most part, speak English, and my attempts to morph my French and Italian into Spanish didn’t cut it. I didn’t really end up having that much time to find a place for myself in El Paso. In February 2012, my husband informed that our marriage had ended. It took 90 days to get divorced and another 60 to find, purchase and move to a new home back in greater Austin. J, M and I were residents of El Paso for a total of 359 days.

We didn’t move back to the same neighbourhood in which we’d lived before. Actually, we’re not even in the same Central Texan suburb. We have an enormous network of amazing people from the last time we lived in the area, but we’ve also managed to develop that community within our new neighbourhood and school that I was desperately seeking in El Paso.

Our first playdate at M and J’s new school was initiated by the other mom, not me. As it turns out, she was a twin mom, but hadn’t realized that my girls were twins too. My daughters’ Girl Scout troop leader and I have become good friends, and I’ll be co-leading the troop with her next year. She offered to carpool my kids and watch them in the afternoon for an entire week so they could attend Girl Scout camp with her daughter without my having to miss work. I hit it off with a mother whose daughter is M’s good friend and, as luck would have it, she’ll be my daughters’ teacher next year. When I called her on Tuesday last week to chat, she asked if my girls could play hooky from summer camp to spend the next day with her. All three girls had a blast, and their future teacher got a baseline on their reading and math abilities so that she can be ready to challenge them in second grade. Sunday morning, I got a text from the neighbour two doors down, asking whether her daughter could spend part of the day with us while mom finished up a paper for a summer course she’s taking for her nursing degree. We moved here 315 days ago.

I don’t know what the difference was between our El Paso experience and the one here in Central Texas. Perhaps my loneliness was obvious, despite my attempts to hide it. Maybe I was just too desperate in El Paso for people to want to befriend me. I’m certainly more confident on my home turf. Perhaps my social cues are that of a Central Texan and not of an El Pasoan. Maybe it’s that Austin is a college town and many of us, perhaps the majority, are transplants from elsewhere who have had to start over here.

I really thought that the girls and I had personalities perfectly suited to the Army lifestyle. We’re all intensely outgoing, able to start up a conversation with just about anyone. We’re all comfortable trying to learn new languages… me more than the girlies and J more than M, but still far more adventurous than the average American. I thought it would be easy to connect with new people, no matter where we were. If all else failed, I’d find my tribe among local moms of multiples.

What I found, though, was that moving from Austin to El Paso at age 32 was just like moving from the United Kingdom to Bangladesh at age 8. I couldn’t find my footing. I couldn’t find my sense of home. No matter how hard I tried or how long I stayed, I was always a foreigner. I tried to normalize things for the kids in El Paso, but I was desperately unhappy. As I’ve said many a time, my happiness at returning home was far greater than my sadness at getting divorced. Pathetic, huh?

If nothing else, this detour taught me where home was.

Sadia is the mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full-time as a business analyst. She co-parents at a distance with her soldier ex-husband and his teacher wife. She decided to retire her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school in order to better protect their privacy, and was delighted to have the opportunity to keep a foot in the blogosphere through HDYDI. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Belly Up

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Categories Medical, Mommy IssuesTags , , , , , , , , 13 Comments

Alright gals, I did it. After two years of agonizing over the appearance of my belly, I finally got the gumption to go to the plastic surgeon. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t actually have anything done. But I took the first step with a consultation. And let me tell you, it was fifty bucks well spent.

First off, if you have the ambition of making a crap-load of money during your time here on earth, become a plastic surgeon. I stepped into this guys’ office, and I felt like I was at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Super deluxe…and I live in Austin, Texas, where you can go to a five star restaurant in jeans and a tank top (and don’t forget your cowboy hat!). When I got a look at his fees; let’s just say he makes somewhere in the range of $1,500 an hour. Not bad!

I was oddly comfortable waiting for Dr. 78735 in the plush terry robe and g-string scrubs, although it would have been nicer if they had offered me a glass of wine and a pedi while I waited. He entered the room and after brief introductions, asked me what I was interested in. Huh – isn’t that what you’re supposed to tell me? I admitted that I was a total neophyte and meekly stated a tummy tuck and a boob job. He asked if I wanted both a breast augmentation and lift. I answered with a blank look. After some discussion over the technicalities of each procedure (more blank looks), it was time to disrobe (eegads!).

The unveiling wasn’t that bad. I was diagnosed with a large umbilical hernia (which my insurance would cover – whoopee!), major diastasis (above and below and all around the tap that my Be Bo has become), stretched-out skin and, of course, stretch marks. He pronounced that I would need a full tummy tuck to correct everything. He’d try and use my existing c-section scar and then cut a smiley face to each hip bone, a general surgeon would come in and fix the hernia, he would pull my ab muscles back into place, and then stretch my skin downwards to get rid of all the unsightliness. All of the skin and stretch marks from my belly button down would be gone (as in cut out forever), and the stretch marks above my BB would be much less visible because they would be, um, really stretched. Lovely.

As for the boobs, he said I wouldn’t need a lift. After 13 months of breastfeeding two babies, imagine that! At least there was some good news to this visit. But he said an augmentation would “restore the look and fullness” to my deflated mom boobs. He said silicone was the only way to go, because it feels the most like breast tissue. I nodded and tried to mask another blank look.

We sat back down and talked more technicalities of the actual surgery. It’d last about 4 hours, I would need at least one overnight in the hospital (he recommended two), and a pain pump was the way to go (kind of like an epidural for the stomach). The kicker was when I heard about the recovery time. The boob job was hardly anything. The tummy tuck? Six weeks. Yes, you heard me. Six weeks of lifting no more than 10 pounds. With twin two year olds, one of whom attaches himself to me as if he wants to be back in utero, good luck on that one!

After the consultation, I had the pleasure of posing in my g-string scrubs for some pictures. With mirrors and umbrella lights in each corner and a pretty, skinny young thing taking the pictures – let’s just say it was a humbling experience. She took about ten photos, and to add insult to injury, made me step on the scale. They program this whole experience just right, because then I was ushered into a room to view before and after pics. All I can say is AMAZING! I couldn’t believe my eyes. And I loved seeing bellies that looked far worse then mine looking gorgeous after a tummy tuck.

A lovely lady in her 50s entered the room with lots of paperwork and walked me through the process and the expenses. Pretty amusing that she went into all of the details of surgery and recovery, as if I had already signed on, before going over the itemized estimate. Nice to know I have the option of spending my second night of recovery not in the hospital, but at the beautiful Barton Creek Resort where I would have nurses waiting on me and lymphatic massage therapists at my disposal. And then I saw the only piece of paper that mattered. All in all, even with insurance covering the hernia portion, a tummy tuck and boob job would cost…

$14,000. Yes, you saw that right.

She pulled out the doctor’s schedule and asked me what time frame I was looking at. I answered her with an unabashed blank look. I managed to ask if there was any “wiggle” room in the estimate (the negotiator that I am). She said if I removed the second night at the hospital and got rid of the pain pump, that could bring it down $750. Oh, and the $50 consultation charge would be deducted from the cost. Wow. Great.

Now that it’s been a few weeks, I’ve decided against the boob job. After some quick research, I learned that boob jobs have at most a ten year life span. So once you get one, you can plan on getting another every ten years until you have no more money left. Not my cup of tea. Plus, the silicone that was recommended has a lot more maintenance. Like MRIs every few years to check for leaks. With saline, if it pops, you know it. All of the above I wish to never experience in my lifetime (nothing against boob jobs, though!). So I plan on calling them back and getting a new estimate for just the tummy tuck. Not because I’m going to get one anytime soon, but just so I know how much I need to save over the next five years. Amidst a downward spiraling economy.

Belly be damned, I do plan on getting you fixed eventually. But for now, it’s you and me, belly. No matter how ugly you are, we’re in it for the long haul.

You can read my other post on post-partum ugliness here. And to be totally jealous of one HDYDI mama who has a killer and unscathed post-partum belly, read here.

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