Monthly Archives: May 2010

The Post-Birth Bomb Squad

It’s been five days since my husband and I brought 8-pound, 6-ounce little baby boy home and it’s taken me that long to figure out how I can keep the wee one happy (read: full and sleepy) and work on the computer. I now measure the time it takes to create a blog post in feedings rather than minutes or hours.

These past few days have been filled with wonder (I still can’t believe he came from me) and joy (I crack up every time I see him smile); they’ve also been a reminder that I couldn’t be doing this alone. For as much as having three moms (including me) in the house at the same time is two moms too many in a lot of ways (particularly for my husband), I would be a total mess otherwise. And so would baby Aleksi; there would no doubt be a lot more screaming coming from his direction.

I was prepared for being tired beyond belief. I was anticipating the pinches, pulls, and other discomforts that come with breast feeding. But I was in no way, shape, or form aware of the intense amount of post-birth pain I would be in.

Mommies-to-be are probably wondering just how much pain I’m talking about. Does not being able to sit down in a chair without pain sound like a lot? How about the fact that I know my wee one cries longer than he should when he wakes up at night because I can’t move from a fully reclined position to a sitting upright position or even a standing position with any sort of expediency. It usually requires a few grunts to accompany a series of small maneuvers and adjustments that eventually get me to my desired position.

I’m just curious as to why none of the baby books talk about momma’s recovery in any more detail than (1) sleep when the baby sleeps and (2) make sure you eat nutritious stuff and more of it since you’ll be burning an extra 500 or so calories if you are breastfeeding.

All that’s great advice, but it seems a bit shallow when I’m wondering how I would ever manage doing anything more than just feeding and diapering the wee one without at least one person as full-time help. I can’t walk with any degree of ease, so I can’t imagine feeding myself, doing laundry, taking the trash out, or walking the dog–none of which are optional activities in my house.

I have made mention of this surprising fact of post-birth life to a number of mommy-friends. One friend said to me, “Yeah, I meant to tell you about the whole grenade going off down there, but I didn’t want to scare you.” So, for all the mommies-to-be in my life, consider yourself warned. You’ll get through it, but it’s definitely not going to be pretty or painless.

I remember when I was pregnant I worried about the dreaded episiotomy. It just seemed so wrong. I had one friend who said it was the better way to go because it was clean and simple and, therefore, could be sewed back up lickety split. Another friend believed tearing was the more efficient way to go because the skin tears would naturally fit back together and heal more effectively. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t make one goddamn bit of difference because, at the end of the day, you’ve got stitches holding together some of your most delicate parts. How many ways can you say ouch.

Needless to say, there’s blood and there’s pain. Never a good combination in my book. So, here’s my short list of mother’s little post-birth helpers, thanks to the kind nurses at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C.:

  • Mesh underoos.I’m not sure these even qualify as lingerie, but I

    Mother's Little Helper #1

    really thought these hospital-provided stretchy, mesh boyshorts were a godsend. I had optimistically packed a bunch of my own cotton underoos–ones that I felt comfortable knowing that I would chuck them as I left the hospital–but I never got out of these hospital beauties. They were so lightweight and totally breathable–and chuckable. There’s a lot of bleeding the first few days.

  • The ice-pack maxi pad.I’m so not kidding. This was my most

    Mother's Little Helper #2

    favorite thing in the hospital, as it provided the most singular relief even if it wasn’t exactly absorbent. The docs all said it was only effective in the first 24 hours, but I’ll tell you that I was begging my most sympathetic nurses to constantly bring me more of them. I was literally trying to build a stockpile of them to take home. I have two left now and I’m trying to ration them out. Sad, but true. And let me tell you that whatever homemade substitute you come up with will pale in comparison to these bad boys. So my advice is to start squirreling these away as soon as you can.

  • Squirt bottle.I sort of laughed when the nurse brought me this

    Mother's Little Helper #3

    squirt bottle and told me it was going to be my best friend. I still think the icepack maxi pads were tops on my list, but the squirt bottle definitely isn’t far behind. Basically you fill it with warm/hot water and sort of hose yourself down with it every time you use the bathroom. (Also just a quick fyi, you might find that your needs to use the potty can come on unexpectedly post-birth, especially if you had an epidural, which requires a catheter.) The warm water promotes tissue healing and you feel cleaner and there’s less pain.

So, there’s my list of the essential items any mommy-to-be might want to know about to help her first few days at home be much more comfortable so you can better enjoy your sweet, little bundle of joy.

Of course, there are a few other products that can also help. I also took 600mg of ibuprofen every six hours for the pain, which definitely helped, and was a decent fan of the sitz bath. For those of you, who like me don’t spend much time in hospitals, a sitz bath is basically this tub thing that you fill with hot water and place on the toilet bowl before soaking your arse in it. My docs recommended using it two to four times a day for about 15 minutes each time. Between the feedings, diapering, and sleeping, I’m lucky to squeeze in one or two times a day. But I found it helps.

The nurses also gave me some generic pain relief spray that I could use up to four times a day. Honestly, I use it, but I don’t think it’s really all that effective.

At any rate, I hope this post isn’t discouraging to mommies-to-be out there; these are just tips to help you in the very short term. There’s a lot of pain, but as everyone has probably told you, it’s all worth it in the end because you’ll leave the hospital with your bundle of joy, who will need you and love you in ways you can’t imagine.


Filed under birthing, hospital, mommy care, moms, newbie parents

Maternity a la Mode

As you probably have guessed by my lack of posts over the past few days, Baby P finally arrived!

On May 26 at 00:14 in the morning, our bundle of boy was born. Dad missed the big debut by a short 15 minutes–my apologies to anyone who was driving on I-95N on the 25th between 8pm and midnight–so grandma got to cut the cord. But dad still got to hold him before his first bath, so everything worked out ok, as things tend to do when you worry about them.

I had planned for my first post post-birth to be about my stay at the hospital, but I happened to run across this article that my friend Emili Vesilind recently wrote for the LA Times on maternity wear. Emili was one of a small group of seriously talented journalists that I spent a lot of time with when I was getting my master’s degree in magazine, online, and print journalism at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Emili was always fashion forward and has been able to carve out a very successful career as a fashion journalist. Of course, since she’s expecting her own little bundle of boy very soon, she’s turned a trendy eye toward maternity fashions. Her latest article on the subject, “The Birth of Fashion,” (love the title) talks about how designers have said move over to maternity wardrobe staples like muumuus, replacing them with stylish alternatives like skinny jeans, boyfriend sweaters, leggings, and wrap dresses.

Personally, I was a big fan of the three-quarter length sleeve ruched t-shirt throughout my pregnancy. I had one in solid gray, a pink and maroon stripe, a light gray and dark gray stripe, and in solid red. I always felt good when I put them on because the ruching along the seams at the waist was flattering no matter how far along you were. When I had just the beginnings of the baby belly, it made me look round and not just paunchy. And then later when I had graduated to the baby bulge, the plaits expanded to make room for what turned out to be an 8 lb. baby.

At any rate, here’s an excerpt from the piece:

Ask any woman older than 50 what she wore during pregnancy and she will inevitably bring up the bows — the oversized, cartoonish ribbons that adorned much of the maternity wear of the last century.

“You see pictures of women pregnant in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and they were basically dressed like children,” said Shannon DiPadova, owner of online maternity boutique Due Maternity ( “Let’s just say, there were a lot of Peter Pan collars.”

Or, as designer Liz Lange, who helped de-bow maternity wear with her long-standing Target collection, puts it, “Fashion and pregnancy simply weren’t a compatible pair.”

How times have changed. In the last few years, the maternity market has undergone a dramatic face-lift. Thanks to the ongoing tabloid obsession with Hollywood’s “baby bumps” and the slow-but-steady proliferation of fashion-forward maternity lines, being pregnant — and looking on-trend throughout the nine months — couldn’t be more in vogue.

You can read the whole piece here. Enjoy!

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Filed under maternity, maternity fashions, pregnancy

Isn’t My Nest Feathered Enough?

With my due date now a four-day-old memory, I’ve been doing the best that I can to keep busy enough to get my mind off of the one thing everyone in my family’s itching to know: When is this baby going to arrive?

I’d like to say that I’ve been able to use some of this extra time awaiting Baby P’s debut doing the one thing that nearly every young mom has strongly urged me to do–stock up on sleep. Unfortunately, for as much as I’m trying to heed their advice, the sandman keeps shortchanging me. The best I did was a nap yesterday afternoon, which ran a surprising four hours long despite the sounds of my neighbor weed-whacking his lawn to Latin carnival music floating in through my window. But the reality is that I’ve been spending my so-called “free” time doing more cleaning and organizing.

Now, I thought I had done a pretty good job already. My nesting instincts definitely kicked in pretty hardcore around month six. Our kitchen remodel was finally complete, so I was able to move pretty fast from organizing my cupboards and putting away my nice dishes, which had been in boxes for the past year and a half, to finding a cleaning lady to come once a week (god bless Joselyn); installing a new closet organization system for our master-bedroom (Container Store and Elfa, you rock); re-planting about half of our front garden; hiring a carpenter to complete a set of built-in shelves in my living room (thank you, Scott); throwing out about half of the stuff in our basement before sealing the walls and floors (thank you, Lesley); and decorating the nursery.

But if there’s one thing that my mom’s really good at it’s getting to that expert level of organization. If it were up to her, about a third of my stuff would be sitting in garbage bags in my alley this morning waiting for the 7am garbage pick-up, another third would be in a box marked “Free” on the sidewalk in front of my front stairs, and the remaining third would be either folded neatly in a drawer or shoved in a plastic bin to be stored in the basement.

Although she really just naturally doesn’t mess around when it comes to getting organized, it feels like it’s in overdrive, which makes me think grandma-to-bes also have a certain nesting urge that rivals many mommas-t0-be’s own instincts. Take my mother for example. In the week that she’s been in town, she’s checked these items off the to-do list:

  • Organized all the silverware, cooking utensils, and junk in my kitchen drawers (again Container Store is the best)
  • Steam cleaned all my living room furniture and rug
  • Scrubbed my porch
  • Hung pictures/artwork
  • Purchased a new dining room rug
  • Put together a new laundry sorter and laundry butler/organization system
  • Re-organized my linen closet
  • Helped me sort through/get rid of a ton of old papers

And, if you can believe it, we’ve still got a to-do list for today that includes some additional organizing in my bedroom and the basement and a quick trip out to the grocery store to stock up on some provisions–assuming we don’t need to take a detour to the hospital, which is totally possible, even likely, at this point.

But I really wish someone would have included this tidbit of information about grandmas’ nesting instincts in any of the gazillion pregnancy books out there, especially the basic how-to-have-a-baby manuals like What to Expect When You Are Expecting, which is by the way, a fantastic book for mommies-to-be like me who just want facts and not a lot more. Because it’s just not my mom. My mother-in-law also exhibited some of this behavior. She came for a five-day stay last month and spent at least a couple days of washing baby clothes and then ironing them before putting them into dust-free plastic bins, which were organized by size.

The other thing that I wish I’d realized before now is that the nesting instinct spikes very close to labor. According to this Web site:

“The nesting instinct generally kicks in around the fifth month of pregnancy, however it can also occur much earlier or much later. Many women acutely experience the nesting instinct in the final days of their pregnancy, and this can often be a sign that labor and delivery is close at hand.”

I had no idea. I thought it was something that kicked in somewhere in the second trimester–thus the suddenly urgent need to wash baseboards–and sort of held steady before tapering off close to delivery as you get everything just-so in the nursery. (By the way, that whole baseboard thing is no joke or exaggeration. I was in my half-bath just this morning and happened to glance down and had the thought that I should really take a sponge to the baseboards in there again.)

So, just as an exercise, I decided to chart my nesting instinct intensity. I looked back over the past 41 weeks and thought about when I started to get really serious about getting stuff done.

As you can see from the chart above, there was some ebbing and flowing of my nesting instinct intensity. Contributing to the spike very early on in my pregnancy, before I even knew I was pregnant, in fact, was the kitchen remodel. I spent a lot of time stressing over the design of the kitchen and the product selections, racking up one major meltdown brought on by an out-of-ink fax machine that had me running to a local gas station to use their fax machine so I could save $1,500 on cabinets. In retrospect, my anxiety and all-over-the-place emotions (not to mention bad skin and bigger boobs) should’ve been an indication that something was up.

But that really didn’t get confirmed until I was in the 13 to 14 week mark. The news that Baby P was on the way definitely kick started some nesting instincts anew. The next big bump came after my 20 week sonogram when it was confirmed that baby was indeed a boy. (Good to know my maternal instincts weren’t completely off.) The news got my brain turning over some nursery theme ideas.

I hit another new peak around 27 weeks or so, when I spent the better part of my vacation in Chamonix, France, on the Internet, researching childcare options (still haven’t found one) and building my baby registry.

Things started going off the charts after 30 weeks. I wanted all my big house projects to be wrapped up by May 1 on the off-chance that Baby P would arrive early. (Good thing that didn’t happen because we wouldn’t have been ready.) As my husband can attest, I was pretty much a slave driver, insisting that we spend every waking hour on the weekends doing one of three things–cleaning, organizing, or throwing away. (He was not exactly happy about this.)

But by May 15th, I was feeling pretty great as I washed and folded a few newborn onesies, rolling them neatly and placing them in small plastic bins that I decided to use as drawer organizers. I had already stocked up on newborn diapers and wipes, as well as some breastfeeding relief products that friends had recommended. I was ready.

Or so I thought. But it’s amazing how a motivated mom can light a mommy-to-be’s nesting fire once again. I guess no nest can be over feathered.


Filed under due date, moms, nesting, organizing, pregnancy

Past My Expiration Date

I’m officially two days past due. And I’m not complaining. I’m just noting it for the record.

I’m perfectly content being past due. Part of it is that I’m mostly comfortable and it’s not ridiculously hot and muggy (and miserable) like it can be in D.C. this time of year. Another part of it is that I can no longer imagine myself “un-pregnant,” although I’m pretty sure I had a lot less cellulite. Being past due just makes me more curious as to when exactly we’re actually going to meet the crumb-cruncher.

I sort of wish we’d done a poll among family and friends. I would’ve already been out my money. I really thought Baby P was going to be right on time because 21 had already been a lucky number for me and his official due date was May 21. It never occurred to me that he might be early until two friends with due dates a week to a week and a half after mine had their babies before me. So, if I could resubmit my bid to my imaginary poll, I’m going to say that I think I’m going to go into labor on Thursday (the 27th) and yet-to-be-named Baby P will officially arrive on Friday.

And it’s not just because it’s my induction date, even though it is.

What Baby Pienik is waiting for

Remembering that the L&D nurse who ran the birthing crash course my husband and I took not too long ago had mentioned that the old wives’ tale about more babies being born during full moons was actually true, from her experience at least, I looked up the current moon phases. Wouldn’t you know it–the next full moon isn’t until Thursday, May 27.

Coincidence? Maybe. But I won’t be surprised if it’s not.

Of course, there’s an even better reason for Baby P to arrive Thursday or Friday: My husband will be out of his field exercise. He’s been so worried about missing the birth, so no doubt he will be racing up 95N at speeds I don’t even want to know about as soon as his team is released. (I’m just hoping he remembers to pack the car with all of his stuff before he goes tear-assing out of Fayetteville.)

Of course, my underdeveloped mommy instincts could be totally off and baby may decide to debut any time before now and then, even though I don’t think he will.

But at the very least, or shall I say latest, there’s a lot of comfort in knowing that whether its the full moon or the pitocin, Baby P will be here by Friday. (I still think he’s going to come on his own all the same.)

Now, the whole induction thing…

Unlike a number of women I know, I’m not against the idea of an induction. Judging from the number of sympathetic and empathetic notes and comments I’ve gotten from friends and family (and even strangers) as there’s still no news of Baby P’s arrival, being past due for most women is really sort of stressful. There’s the anxiousness, the exhaustion, the anticipation, the worry, the lost sense of control–and we haven’t even gotten to the physical discomforts that leave some women only able to sleep in a recliner. I guess that’s why the woman at the grocery checkout counter didn’t blink an eye when she asked me when I was due and I said yesterday and handed her a bottle of chardonnay to scan. (It was for my mom, I swear.)

But what’s sort of blown my mind about the whole thing is how early my doctor started talking about it. It was like May 1 and he was rattling on about how he doesn’t like his patients to go more than a week past their due dates (he might be a merciful man after all), so how did I feel about Friday, May 28 for an induction. Well, I was fine with it, if he didn’t mind giving up the start to a holiday weekend, and into my charts went the date May 28 with a big circle.

The other surprise (so far) about the induction process is that there’s not only a sort of reservation policy but a waiting list. Yes, that’s right. There’s someone who calls you–I’ll call her an induction hostess–and says that your doctor has submitted your paperwork for an induction, tells you where you are on the wait list (I’m #6),  assures you that the list moves fast, and then gives you a rundown of when you need to show up at the hospital. I was expecting to be on a wait list for childcare but not to give birth.

But I guess that’s the way things get done and babies get born in DC.

Photo credit: NASA


Filed under due date, inductions, pregnancy

Picture This

I’m one day past my expiration, I mean due, date, so I guess I have to write about something other than Baby Pienik’s birth weight and length.

I have a list of things that I’d never thought I’d do but I ended up doing. On that list are things like bungee jumping and marrying a “Drummie.” (That’s what we called the military guys who were stationed at Fort Drum, near where I grew up. Well, I added something new to that list the other day, and although it’s not nearly as adventuresome as some of the other things on my list, I’m glad I did it: I got belly photos taken.

I never thought I would sign up for something like maternity photos because I never really put myself in that spiritual momma category. You know the kind of mommies-to-be that I’m talking about. The ones who  believe pregnant bodies are always beautiful, only subscribe natural childbirth methods, and breastfeed until their kids are almost three. More power to these mommas, but that’s just not me.

In fact, I’ve always been sort of horrified at some of the ways people try to chronicle their pregnancies. Take belly casts for example. Basically how it works is mommy-to-be slathers herself and her round belly up with a casting mix–paper mache or plaster or whatever–lets it dry and ends up with a mold of her body that can then be decorated and (theoretically) turned into art. I don’t remember how I ran across this phenom, but I was so intrigued–and sometimes flabbergasted–by the end results that I do know I spent a good afternoon at work (it was a slow news day) surfing the Web to see if I could find a good execution. I did find a couple–mostly ones where the mold had been dipped in bronze–but generally the results were, shall we say, less than sophisticated. No offense intended to those mommies-to-be who tried it out; I just think I would’ve been a bit disappointed with the end result, if mine  turned out something like this (and quite frankly there are definitely scarier ones out there):

Or this:

Again, apologies if you’re a mommy-to-be who went down this road. Like I said, it’s just not for me.

So, needless to say, maternity photos, particularly bare-naked belly ones, sort of fell in this category for me. That is, until I had dinner with one of my oldest, dearest friends about a month ago. I had stopped by her house to pick up some maternity clothes–she had a huge selection of really cute stuff appropriate for pretty much any season that she so generously offered to let me borrow. We were sitting in her kitchen, eating Chinese food and drinking diet soda, when somehow we got on the topic of pregnancy regrets. Topping her list was that she didn’t have more pictures of herself pregnant.

At that point, I hadn’t really considered that I might miss being pregnant once baby arrived. But it makes sense. For the better part of a year, your wee one is always with you, experiencing whatever ups and downs your day may bring. Every little flip or turn or wiggle or kick is a quiet, private reminder that you are never alone–and you grow to count on it. Or at least I have.

So, I thought to myself maybe I should just go ahead and do it. If I hated them, I wouldn’t have to show them to anyone. But if they turned out great–or even just good–then what a great gift for my husband, who has pretty much missed the better part of my pregnancy because he’s been doing military training in North Carolina for the past year. And what a fun gift for the new grandparents.

I won’t bore you with the logistics of how I found Jessi Ringer–if you’re really curious ask me and I’ll tell you–but I basically took a look at her Web site, 5 Rings Photo, and thought, “Hey, this could work.” The added bonus was that I needed it done quickly–I had already hit the nine month mark, and was worried that I’d miss my opportunity if baby decided to debut early.

When Jessi showed up at my house at 7am, I was nervous–about what to wear, how I looked, how the photos were going to turn out. I didn’t really know what kind of maternity shots I wanted. Fun or reflective? Bold or sweet? Cute or sexy? She was so flexible, so we tried a whole bunch of different outfits, styles, backgrounds, etc. And I’m very pleased with the results. I’d say about the only regret is that I didn’t get better sleep the night before. I can tell I’m tired in the photos, but I’ll get over it.

Feel free to check out Jessi’s highlight reel here. I’ll post more samples once I get the actual photo files. In the meantime, I’ll share this one with you.

Me, baby, and Joey


Filed under maternity, newbie parents, photos

It’s Go Time

Today is May 21 and it’s my official due date. This is my (and to give credit where credit’s due, my husband’s) first baby. About all we know about him at this point is this:

  • He’s a boy (as you might’ve guessed)
  • He’s been a very good womb baby (I have never really been uncomfortable much less sick during my pregnancy)
  • He’s got happy feet (I call them power moves)
  • He’s more of a night owl (takes after his dad already, I guess)

Funny that you can know so little and yet so much about the little guy without knowing some of the more basic stuff, like the color of his eyes.

At any rate, with Baby Pienik’s arrival expected today (although I don’t believe it), it seemed like an appropriate date to officially launch this blog.

I’ve always wanted to start a blog. Sort of seemed like a no brainer given what I do, which is write for a living. (I am an editor for a trade publication called Big Builder, which is all about the business of high-volume home building.) But even though I report and write all the time, I’ve had a pretty big mental block about setting up a personal blog. I think a big part of it was that I didn’t really feel passionate about anything enough to make time to research, report, think, and write about it on my own time.

Until now.

And that’s sort of the ironic part. Most of my friends would classify me as more the “un-mommy” type. My husband (you’ll hear lots about him later, I’m sure) and I have staked out what I think is a pretty modern life for ourselves. We are downtown dwellers who spent the bulk of our time (and honestly probably money) doing all the fun stuff in life–going out (a lot), traveling, and imbibing (a lot lot). I didn’t grow up with younger siblings and I didn’t really enjoy babysitting as teenager, so my experience with children, particularly babies, was, shall we say, limited. My husband used to joke that the way I held babies was from an arm’s length away.

But as my maman always said, it’s different when you have your own. Or at least almost have your own.

So, I’ve decided to use my maternity leave to launch this writing project. Maybe it’s just a part of my nesting process, something that for a writer goes along with washing the baseboards, organizing onesies by size, and stocking up on more newborn diapers than you probably need. But for whatever the reason that I’ve finally gotten motivated enough to start this thing, I hope this project does three things:

  • Lets the wee one know how special we think he is
  • Allows our complicated, fragmented, and totally awesome families and friends to share in our baby adventures
  • Provides some support, reassurance, and some good laughs to other newbie parents like us who are wondering how they can be good parents without moving to the suburbs

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Filed under boys, due date, newbie parents