Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Makings of a Hyper Competitive Parent

I was visiting with  a girlfriend-slash-mother-of-a-six-month-old this past weekend; it was the first time since baby was born that I had a chance to think about the kind of parent I am going to be. Up until that conversation, I’d been so focused on just covering the basics–feeding and clothing baby–that I hadn’t really thought too much about the art of parenting.

What got me thinking further into the future than the next feeding was my friend telling me about getting together with her friends who have a baby daughter about the same age as her son. The friends’ daughter was already sitting up by herself whereas my friend’s son was still in tripod mode, using his arms to steady himself. That small difference was making my friend wonder if perhaps her beautiful baby boy was a bit behind the power curve.

Now, from everything I’ve read and heard, baby girls progress faster than boys from–well, pretty much throughout life. I reminded my friend of this, but she still seemed genuinely concerned about her son’s development even as she recognized that there was little to really worry about.

“I never thought I’d be one of those competitive parents,” she said. “But I find myself looking at ways to help him progress.”

This was a rather eye-brow-raising statement to me, as my friend is–and has been for ages–probably the most chill and laid back chick I know. She never sweats the small stuff and always sees a rational solution in any situation. And yet here she was semi stressing over the development performance of a six-month-old.

What did that say about me and what I was going to be like six months down the road?

I am high strung, hot headed, and half baked to my friend’s calm, cool, and collected. Moreover, I am totally guilty of holding myself to sometimes unachievable standards.

With all that said, I don’t know that there’s much hope that I can avoid falling into a category other than hyper competitive parent. Not only do I sort of come pre-programmed that way, but I feel like I’m already being conditioned to rate baby against his peers.

I think back to baby’s two-week check-up. First, the nurse made note of the fact that baby kept his hands open, fingers outstretched; most babies that age keep their hands balled up in fists, she said. It was unusual that he was doing that so young, she had said.

As sad as it is to say, I felt a little surge of pride when she said that. It was like some little third-party validation that he was as special as his momma thought he was.

Then our doctor gave me three printouts of how baby measured up against most kids by head size, weight, and length. I remember feeling kind of happy looking at his weight and length; he seemed to be in the top of the class.

It was a different story when it came to head size. I mean, I thought his head was big; it’s still mind blowing to me that his head actually made it out of me. But according to the doctor’s measurements, his head only ranked in the 47th percentile. In other words, his head was smaller than average.

My kid has a pea head.

My brother would say it’s to be expected. He always said I had a pea head and a pencil neck, so maybe it’s genetic. But I was sort of disappointed to hear that. As irrational as it sounds, it sort of made me feel like maybe because my kid’s head was on the small side, he might be less than brilliant.

I know that makes no real sense, but the fact that I even entertained this kind of internal dialogue after getting handed the printouts of baby’s basics is like a yellow flashing light to me. Caution: hyper competitive parent up ahead.

I hope to god I don’t evolve into that kind of parent, but at the same time, I can recognize how easily I could fall into that parenting trap. I could totally become one of those super competitive (and therefore super demanding) parents, even if I didn’t brag about my kid to anyone who would listen. I wouldn’t have to vocalize anything; all I would need to do is think it to be able to classify myself as a competitive parental unit.

So, how do you stop yourself from turning into the kind of parent you never said you’d be?

I just don’t know. Part of me just says keep taking a few steps back to look at the bigger picture and that will keep reality in check. (Easier said than done, to be sure.) However, another part of me wonders if there’s anything you can do. Maybe all parents–or at least ones that actually care about their kids–have a competitive streak, even if they’re successful at keeping it mostly hidden.

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Filed under child development, daily life, newbie parents, newborns, parenting

Gypsy Truck Diaries

So most of you have figured out by now through my posts that I’ve ditched the 90+ degree heat wave in D.C. for a summer at the River at my parents’ house.

In some ways, I can’t believe I just said that. I’m actually living with my parents and I’m in my 30s. I’m just glad it’s summer and I’m on maternity leave or I would’ve hit a personal low.

At any rate, getting here was a total project. I have to thank my very good friend Lesley for being such a trooper. She’s been an amazing friend through my pregnancy and beyond. You know you’ve got a friend when she’ll come for the weekend to help you clean out your basement or pack up your car and make the day-long drive to your parents’ with you.

Neither were easy feats to accomplish, but the latter is really worth spending some time on, especially for the benefit of newbie parents who no doubt will grossly underestimate the amount of baby gear is required for a weekend trip much less on that would last several months.

We have what would qualify as a large car; it’s a Toyota 4-Runner. However, I had known packing up the hubbie, myself, baby, the Doberman, and two cats for a summer at the River was going to be a challenge even with an SUV, so I had convinced my parents to buy the hubbie a roof rack for his birthday.

But as Lesley and I sat in my house the night before the big journey with all the bags and boxes and contraptions, I wondered if it was all going to fit, even with the roof rack.

Baby got me up around 6am-ish, so I was up and showered by 6:30am or so. Lesley wasn’t far behind me; I think she was up and in the shower by 7am. I swear we were maneuvering the obstacle course that way my backyard by 8am, at the very latest.

Construction on the deck in our backyard had begun the day before, so we had a deck frame and no stairs leading to our backyard. It was a bit of a balancing act to get to ground level. You either had to do a bit of a balance beam routine along a long board and then jump down to the grass or sort of lower yourself down to the ground from the door and then climb over one of the main supports a few feet away. It wasn’t pretty either way, but it seemed like the more sensible option versus a fairly long trip down the seriously steep stair in the front of our house. Plus, with the car in the back, it felt a bit more secure. This was D.C. after all; I don’t trust anything not to walk away on its own.

Now the weather… The month of May started out a little on the chilly side, but it was heating up fast as the days ticked by. And on the morning of our big pack-up, the D.C. weather didn’t disappoint. It was sunny and steamy–a two shower before noon kind of day.

Between lugging the stuff outside, making sure baby was (sort of) happy (he definitely screamed a lot that morning), and strapping it down (damn those ratchet straps), it took us four hours–four hours!–to pack the car. And when I say pack the car, I don’t mean pack my stuff. That was done. It took four hours to make sure all of my bags, boxes, bins, and stuff (including live animals) fit into the car.

Truth be told, we probably could have done it in three and a half hours, but two friends stopped by to give us a sweet send off, complete with yummy pastries that were scarfed down within a few blocks of home after we finally set sail. So, in my mind, that extra half hour was totally worth a buttery, flaky, dark-chocolate pain au chocolat.

At one point during the packing session, I was sure the stuff wasn’t going to fit. Lesley and I were standing there with the bouncer seat, turning it every which way and trying to flatten it to figure out how we could shove it in the overflowing car.

Finally we made it work, and the pack job was complete. The cats were in the car, panting in the heat; there was a small space carved out for the dog; the pack ‘n’ play, my bag of clothes, and the stroller were seemingly secure on the roof; and nothing appeared to be threatening to topple over onto the car seat in the backseat.

It was a freaking gypsy truck. All that was missing were the tambourines. Check it out.

Damn Bouncer Seat

Roof Rack Saves the Day

Poor Joey

Even the Kid Was Crammed In

But everything was in the truck and we were off. Nothing appeared to be ready to fly off the roof, so all was right in the world.

Until it started raining.

I had considered throwing a tarp over everything on the roof when we were packing up, but given that the ratchet straps nearly got the better of us (yes, they can go on upside down), I figured I’d skip the tarp and save our sanity.

And at first, I wasn’t too worried. It was only sprinkling. The stroller and pack ‘n’ play would dry out just fine, and my clothes were in a military-grade, water-resistant tactical bag. But whether the bag could keep out the torrential downpour we encountered in York, Pa., that lasted through Scranton, Pa., was another question.

Amazingly enough, when I pulled into my parents’ driveway, my stuff was pretty much dry. (Darn good tactical bag, if you ask me.)

But even more impressive was the fact that I had made it from D.C. to my parents’ house in about 8.5 hours. I’d say that the whole trip in the gypsy truck took only about a half hour to 45 minutes longer than usual. Not bad considering the roof ornaments and the fact that we were transporting three animals–well, four if you count the breastfeeding baby.

But we made it–many thanks again to a friend who definitely earned her stripes–and couldn’t be happier. And good thing, too, because I don’t think I have the heart to try and pack the truck up again. It might take me all summer to figure out how to do it again.

My advice to soon-to-be parents is simple: Get yourself a roof rack or roof-top carrier. You’ll need it.

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Filed under daily life, newbie parents, newborns, organizing

In Defense of the Epidural

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a couple weeks now. The issue of whether to go natural (or not) when it comes to childbirth is a very controversial subject, one about which many people are very passionate. But I find that there’s a lot of misinformation, on both sides of the issue, so it’s for that reason that I think it’s only fair that I share my story.

Full disclosure: I am not a childbirth expert. My experience is limited to one wee baby, so you can just take my story for what it is: one first-timer’s account.

I was pretty ambivalent about what kind of birth I wanted. I never wrote a birth plan (it seemed to me like an unrealistic way to try to micromanage a birth) and I didn’t do a ton of research about the whole birthing process (I basically took a three-hour crash course).

My whole take on the birth experience was just to let it happen and not plan too much. If I felt like I could do it without help from any drugs, then great. And if I couldn’t stand the pain, there was a solution for that. I figured that was the best attitude to have since I had nothing tangible in the way of experience to go on. About the only thing I cared about is that I didn’t go to the hospital too early; I couldn’t bear the thought of being sent home for some reason. I just wanted to stay at home as long as I could stand it because I’d be free to move and walk around as I saw fit and I could eat (yes, I know that’s random, but the thought of going like 12 hours with nothing but ice chips sounded bad to me).

I was very intrigued by the idea of a natural childbirth. I mean, it makes sense that you might be wont to introduce a drug into your system out of consideration for the baby, even though an epidural is a local anesthetic, which means it doesn’t circulate through your internal system into the baby’s.

I also was very impressed by the people who’d been able to manage a natural childbirth; they really had the strength, endurance, and tenacity to make it happen. I liked the idea of possessing those qualities myself.

But just how badly did it hurt?

When you ask most moms how much it hurt, they usually say something along the lines of, “Oh, it was really painful, but it’s all worth it in the end.” Okay, that was a fair response, but it didn’t tell me squat; I wanted to know exactly how much it hurt. So, I turned to the men.

The first husband I asked about his wife’s au naturel birth, gave me a super detailed play-by-play. In fact, it was more like a dissection of the whole event. The thing that most stuck with me about his account was how he described the blood just running down his wife’s legs as she was trying various standing positions. (I think at the time he was pretty horrified, and maybe even scared, as well, if the truth be told.)

The second husband that weighed in on the subject gave me these words of advice: “Don’t be afraid of the epidural.” After unleashing a litany of expletives on him and her mother as her labor progressed, he said that his wife only told him to “eff off” once after she got her epidural. (That seemed like a plus.)

Well, I’m going to tell you that labor hurts a lot. Like a lot a lot. My  labor first began around 1:30am. Those early labor contractions were manageable; they were really more uncomfortable than anything. They were just enough to make it impossible to get back to sleep. So, at about 4:30am, I got up. By 8:00am, the pain had jumped up a few notches. I found myself needing to get up an walk around my dining room table a few times until the contractions subsided.

Around 11:00am or so, I decided I needed to get in the shower because the contractions had ratched up in intensity yet again. (A hot shower totally provides relief but it’s rather short lived.)

By 1:30pm, I was having big enough contractions that I decided to call my doctor because I was starting to think that I should maybe go to the hospital. He asked me whether I thought I should go immediately or whether I could hold out a little bit. I said I could hang on for a bit, but I wasn’t sure how much longer.

Then he told me that this could be false labor, so not to panic if they sent me home. At that point, I was thinking, “Oh my god, if this is false labor I am in big trouble for the real thing.” It was hurting so much that I was starting to feel nauseous. (My mom, incidentally, looked and me and told me the doc was crazy because I was most certainly in labor.)

I took one more hot shower just before 3:00pm, and then I told my mom I thought I needed to go to the hospital. The contractions were seriously severe at this point. I remember sitting in the hospital admissions trying to give the woman my information and having to pause nearly after every word to wait for for the contraction to subside.

By 4:30pm, I was in the delivery room with the nurse telling me I was about 5cm dilated. She asked me what the pain was like and pointed me to a chart that went from 0 to 10, with zero being no pain and 10 being extreme pain. My contractions were coming in anywhere from an 8 to a 10, depending on the contraction.

So, by 6:30pm, I was done. I ordered the epidural.

That wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience either, just so you know, if you’re considering. Chances are that the anesthesiologist will stick the giant needle in your back at just the time when you have a level 10 contraction, which is exactly what happened to me. But I just kept doing the yoga-style belly breathing that I had been doing to get through my really tough contractions and got through the epidural as well, despite the weird but short-lived shooting pains that I had going from my butt down the back of my legs to my knees.

Wow. That’s about all I have to say about the epidural. Once it took full effect–I could tell by the fact that when the nurse propped up my left leg it immediately flopped to the side–I said to my mom, “I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this.”

I literally could not feel anything;  it was like my butt was a giant cinder block. There was absolutely no pain or even sense of contraction. And contrary to popular myths, the epidural didn’t slow down my labor. In fact, my contractions intensified and sped up.

But what was amazing about the epidural was that I could totally relax. In fact, I turned on the boob tube, watched a few episodes of The Office, and took a nap. Around 10pm or so, I woke up and the nurse told me to get ready because I was going to need to start to push.

It was a weird feeling to try to push when you can’t feel anything from your waist down, but I just focused my mind on tightening my abs down through my pelvic floor (it’s similar to pushing out a big poo) and I was doing it. I breathed like I would during a weight training exercise, with a big inhale followed by a long exhale as I worked the muscles. And voila, a little after midnight, we had a kicking, screaming baby on our hands.

So, when I look back, my birth experience was really not stressful at all. And I wasn’t totally wiped either. I mean, I was tired, but I felt pretty good overall. And I like that I was feeling rather peaceful and at ease when baby was born. I think that’s an appropriate way to welcome him to this world.

In saying all this, I don’t want to seem like I am unsupportive of people who choose to go au naturel. I think mommies-to-be should do what’s comfortable for them. I just share my story for those soon-to-be mommies who maybe are considering the epidural but are feeling a little guilty about admitting it.

I feel like there’s so much pressure these days to go natural that some moms are scared of saying in advance of the birth that they may want an epidural. (Conversely, I think it’s probably true that the medical field isn’t super supportive of many of the natural birthing techniques. I also think many mommies aren’t all that well educated about this type of birth.)

But with all that said, I think the term “natural” childbirth is really a misnomer; it’s really just a medicine-free birth. I don’t like the implication that a birth with pain medication is un-natural. I’m pretty sure that I’m just as much a mom as someone who did the whole 24-hour labor without meds; I just chose to not have any pain. (And when I say no pain, I mean literally none. Not even for the crowning.)

So, at the end of the day, it’s all about choice. I’m just here to share my story and provide reassurance that i f you go for the pain meds (1) you are still a good mom and (2) baby will be fine. I don’t see any reason to think that a baby will have more problems with an epidural than with nothing. Complications can pop up any time, without warning, whether you’ve got the best doctor at your side or you’re giving birth in a bathtub at home. Any day, anything can happen. So, don’t stress yourself out about what you “should” do and just do what makes you most comfortable.

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Filed under birthing, delivery, epidural, hospital, natural childbirth, newbie parents, newborns, pregnancy

A New Addiction

There are some things that are easy to say that you’d never do as a parent. And then you become one.

The first thing I did a 180 on was baby’s bed. I had been adamant that baby was going to be sleeping in one of two places–the lovely crib I had put together or the super pack ‘n’ play that had nearly gotten the better of me during its assembly. I wasn’t interested in a cradle or bassinet and the idea of a co-sleeper contraption wasn’t particularly appealing to me either. Babies belong in their own beds not mine.

At least that was my thinking right up until the first night we had baby at home.

My husband and I were sleeping on our pull-out couch; not only were both our mothers staying with us, but with how bad I was feeling, it was easier to get to the bathroom and the freezer (my need for ice packs was serious). Baby was supposed to doze in the pack ‘n’ play next to us. Then came that first midnight feeding.

Move over, daddy, make room for baby.

Part of it was sheer laziness. I was in pain and didn’t want to even roll to my side much less try and get up from a reclining position to a standing position and walk to the pack ‘n’ play (it was a whopping three steps away). And part of it was exhaustion. I was so tired that I could barely keep one eye open while feeding.

But I think the biggest driver was that I just didn’t want to be away from him. I’d gotten so used to having him with me 24/7 in utero that it was really hard to even be three steps away. I needed to feel his warm little body, hear his whisper of a breath, and smell his baby smell.

But for as sweet and special as these moments with the wee one in the wee hours were, I still kind of felt like I was doing something bad by renegging on my original position on baby’s sleep habits.

Some of it was probably the gazillion pamphlets on SIDS that had been given to me by my OBGYN, the nurses at the hospital, the military doctor we saw two weeks after baby was born, etc. The rules were pretty simple: always lie baby on his back, don’t smoke around baby, don’t use a lot of excess bedding (bumpers, comforters,  and sleep positioners are a no-no), and never, ever, ever let baby sleep in bed with you.

So, yes, I felt some amount of guilt that perhaps I was jeopardizing my baby by having him near me at night, even though our risk profile for SIDS is probably zero.

But the other thing that was making me feel guilty was that I felt like I was paving the path to a very bad habit.

I remember when my husband and I were crib shopping. We were at Ikea and I was trying to convince him that we should buy this cute blue crib. He didn’t want to buy it because he felt that it looked cheap and he didn’t want to put his kid in something that would fall apart. I argued that cribs were essentially disposable furniture anyway–the kid would either destroy itor we’d want something different for the next kid–so why spend an arm and a leg on one.

As we were discussing, a man came through with a five-year-old and a two-year-old in his arms. Seeing an opportunity to throw some informed opinion behind his argument, my husband asked this man to weigh in on the crib debate. Would our soon-to-be-born infant be comfortable and safe in a crib that cost $130?

“Would you put your kid to sleep in that?” my husband asked him, pointing to the crib I liked.

The guy kind of gave us a tired but bemused smile–like he’d been there and lost that battle before–and told us he didn’t really know that much about cribs for newborns.

“Our babies slept in the bed with us,” he said.

“This one still does,” he added, nodding toward the babe in his arms.

“How old is he?” I asked.

“Two,” he said with a heavy sigh.

I’d venture a guess that if I ran into the same guy in a year, baby would still be sleeping in his bed.

I totally can see how it happens. Not only is there comfort in having my perfect little one close by my side, but I swear that baby sleeps better (and therefore I get more sleep) when he’s in bed with me. And with hubbie in training for the moment, there’s plenty of room for baby and me.

However, I’m trying to go cold turkey on the co-sleeping because I don’t want to end up with a teenager in my bed. I’m through week three and baby is sleeping in his own bed–the pack ‘n’ play shoved in the corner of my bedroom at my parents’ house–every night. Well, almost always. I still can’t resist pulling him into bed with me after his 6am-ish feeding. Those few hours of sleep are absolutely blissful.

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Filed under birthing, co-sleeping, daily life, moms, newbie parents, newborns

Hitting the Wall

Today I lied in bed for 10 hours. I probably would’ve stayed there longer had the window washers not been milling around outside. I wish I could say that I slept that whole time, but I think if I back out the half-conscious feedings, my roundtrip to dreamland probably maxed out around seven hours. I still feel exhausted, but those sweet seven or so hours were enough to make me feel like I can go another day, another week, maybe even a month.

Yesterday I wasn’t so sure.

In the three-plus weeks since Baby P graced this world, I’ve been working off this time schedule:

8am-ish Get up, shove a granola bar and glass of lemonade down my throat, turn on the TV, gather dirty laundry from the night, make the bed, and maybe check e-mail, if time allows.

9am-ish Feed and change baby and once he starts to nod off, put him in his crib and hope to god that he stays asleep for awhile.

10am-ish Shower and get dressed. Maybe try to pump.

11:30am to noon-ish Feed and change baby, sometimes giving him a bottle of expressed milk in hopes that he will stay asleep for the next couple hours so I can throw him in his stroller and get a walk in. If not, I stay home and basically just hold him, maybe watching some TV or working on the computer, while he sleeps.

2pm-ish Feed and change baby. Hope like hell he’ll stay asleep in his crib, so I can finish laundry and maybe get some food–usually pretzel sticks with Heluva Good horseradish and bacon dip and/or a chocolate chip cookie–into me.

4pm-ish Feed and change baby. Basically collapse on the couch with wee one on my chest. Sometimes I don’t sleep but make phone calls, work on the computer, or  do housework instead.

7pm-ish Wake up from nap, feed and change baby.

8pm-ish Think about getting some dinner, maybe walk over to my parents’ house in hopes that my mom has made extra food. (Otherwise, it’s a ham and cheese sandwich with some sort of salad, maybe more pretzels and/or a cookie.) She usually tells  me baby is hungry, so I give him about 3 ounces by bottle. She then gives him another 2 ounces because she’s convinced he’s still hungry. (He usually throws up on her after that.)

9pm-ish Baby finally conks out. I finish my dinner and the glass of wine I poured sometime between 7pm and 8pm.

10:30pm to 11pm-ish I go back to my quarters. Baby is usually still in a food coma, so I either leave him in his bouncer seat (or even car seat sometimes, depending on what I did that afternoon) or put him in his crib. I spent the next hour or so pumping and washing and sterilizing all the bottles, nipples, and other pumping accoutrement that I have dirtied during the day.

Midnight I collapse into bed.

1:30am to 3am-ish Baby wakes up demanding to be fed and changed and I oblige. (It’s amazing how much can be done with one eye open.)

4:30am to 6am-ish Baby’s up again, so I feed and change him. I usually don’t risk putting him back in his crib again for fear that he’ll be restless, so I let him fall asleep with me for the next couple hours before I’m up again.

So, that’s pretty much the schedule.

But the problems–the ones that can only be fixed with 10 hours of lying in bed–happen when baby doesn’t stay on schedule. What got me finding my wall yesterday was that the the night before last, baby got up at 3am for a feeding as usual. However, getting him back to sleep was a major challenge.

Baby would fall asleep mid gulp, so I’d wait for a few minutes before moving him every so slowly back over to his crib. I’d put him down and jump back into bed, quickly flipping off the light. Not three minutes later, he’d be fussing–the kind of fussing that if you just wait and see what happens it usually ends in screaming. So, on went the light and my glasses, so I could pick him up and start all over again. That went on for an hour and a half (it usually only takes about a half hour to 45 minutes to feed and change), by the end of which I literally was pleading with him to go to sleep. (It didn’t work.) Finally, I tucked him in close to me in the bed and he eventually settled down.

Only to wake up at 6am again, marking the official start to my day.

It’s funny how you can sort of deal with an insane schedule, as long as it stays a schedule. But when baby goes off script, it totally messes you up. I feel much better this morning than I did yesterday evening–boy, was I dragging–but I can definitely tell I’ve got a 4pm nap with my name on it.

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Filed under boys, breastfeeding, daily life, moms, newbie parents, post-partum, post-pregnancy

Baby Daddy Drama

Over the past week I’ve found myself watching a lot of crap TV. I guess that’s what happens when you combine a new mommy with hungry baby and cable television. You see all sorts of stuff at all hours of the day, from documentaries on Benjamin Franklin to reality series like Basketball Wives.

I’ve been particularly obsessed with this show on Vh1 called Dad Camp. The premise of the show is that six soon-to-be baby daddies (and their pregnant teen partners) go through an intense parenting course to learn to become respectable fathers. As part of the coursework, they not only get graded on how well they complete child care exercises (installing a car seat or comforting a crying baby, for example) but they also have to go through therapy with their baby mommas (and sometimes baby mommas’ mommas).

Part of the entertainment of the show is that these dads-to-be are complete disasters. Immature, irresponsible, angry, clueless, and most often jobless, it’s surprising that any of these miscreants would even show up to a show like this, where they are expected to submit to a behavioral overhaul. Point in case is the guy who calls his girlfriend that she’s a “stage five clinger” (bad). Or the guy who makes out with another girl the first night the couple is at Dad Camp (worse).

But for all the daddy drama on the show, the whole idea of dad camp is completely intriguing to me.

For as excited as my husband was about the idea of us having a crumb cruncher to call our own, there were times in my pregnancy where I had to wonder if my husband had any idea of what bringing up baby actually meant.

Part of the disconnect I trace to my husband’s personality. He’s a natural-born extrovert with a sharp wit, a combination that often makes it seem like he doesn’t take much seriously. The other part is that he has been wrapped up in some intense training for the past 14 months, which has kept him a little out of the loop in terms of the day-to-day stuff at home. And then there’s the fact that he’s an only child, so he hasn’t gotten much , if any, practice with babies. (Not that I really know what the hell I’m doing either.)

So, thinking that we (but really more him) needed a crash course in all things babies (I was the one reading the baby books, after all), I signed us up for the birthing class taught by Juliana Parker of Birth-n-Babies. Then on second thought, I also signed us up for her breastfeeding class.

But for as much as we felt like we got our money’s worth out of the classes, I still felt like sometimes he didn’t “get” it. He was definitely excited, but it was like he had no concrete idea of what life was going to be like when our wee one arrived. And it was freaking me out.

Here’s an example: We were invited to a wedding in Hawaii in December. My husband really wanted to go (so did I), especially since I’d never been there. Plus, we had airline vouchers that we could use to book the flight, which was a bonus. But I was stressing over what to do with the baby. We couldn’t drop him off with the grandparents, so what to do? Do we try to upgrade our seats to business class and keep the baby on our lap? Or do I just book a third seat in coach for the bambino?

These are the things that stress mommies like me out, but dad had nothing to say other than to roll his eyes when I told him how expensive flights to Hawaii were (it is Hawaii, after all, it wasn’t going to be cheap). And then he made the fatal mistake of saying, “Does the baby really need his own seat?” (The flight from D.C. to Honolulu is how long?) I won’t share with you my reaction to that.

There were a few other moments like that in the later part of my pregnancy where it was clear that he had no idea how life was going to change. And if I had known about a sleep-away daddy camp, I would’ve had him on the first bus.

Unsure if what I was seeing in my husband was an anomaly or not, I’ve asked a few friends if their husbands were similarly as infuriatingly clueless the first baby around. I’m sure that there are exceptions, but my conclusion is that it’s totally a guy thing.

I talked to a therapist friend of mine about this phenomenon. Her professional take on it was that while mommies-to-be and newbie mommies are so acutely aware of baby–baby is top of mind 24/7–for many newbie daddies, it continues to sort of be “all about them” for awhile even as mommies are doing the hard work of carrying the next generation. And when it’s not, they can sort of act out. They get frustrated, irritated, annoyed, pouty, and sulky about all the things that they suddenly can’t do (or, alternatively, all the things that they now have to do that they don’t want to do) now that baby is in full focus.

So, I asked my therapist friend how long this sort of alternate reality lasts. When do the daddy instincts kick in in full, putting them on the same page as mommies?

Month four. That was her professional opinion as to when men, in general, really start to bond with baby and grow fully into the daddy role. Why month four? She says it’s because by month four baby has started to really respond and interact. Baby smiles, giggles, recognizes the ‘rents, etc.–and dads really connect with that. Those outward expressions serve almost as mini validations of their role and importance in the life of the wee one.

Her theory makes a lot of sense to me, but I wish, as mommies, we didn’t have to wait so long sometimes. And even though I realize that this is part of a natural progression, I still wish there was a baby boot camp that normal first-time dads could go off to for some pre-baby training. I’m talking not only car seat installation and crib construction, but diapering, burping, swaddling, and round-the-clock feedings. If nothing more, it would hopefully give newbie dads a little perspective on everything moms have been stressing about for months while hardly any of it has been more than a fleeting thought in dads’ minds.

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Filed under birthing, daddy care, daily life, education, mommy care, nesting, newbie parents, post-partum, post-pregnancy, pregnancy, Uncategorized

Hip Hope Hooray!

A few days ago I was taking stock of my post-pregnancy body, wondering when I was going to feel and look like the real me. Every day I seem to be getting closer to what I once was, although I was noticing that my mommy hips didn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. (You can read the full post here.)

The remedy I was looking for didn’t seem to be a postpartum wrap or even a girdle. I needed something that would somehow coax my hips back into their pre-pregnancy position rather than just hold in the flabby front section.

I thought my search was going to be long and perhaps even fruitless. But as I was cruising the aisles at Target a day or so ago, I came across what appeared to be my perfect solution. Check it out:

Official Hipster Uniform

These bad boys are sort of like spandex workout shorts with an extra elastic band at the waist. According to the tag, this Hanes brand “sculpting band thigh slimmer” garment (in “firm shaping” strength) offers the following:

  • wide band provides tummy control & rear definition
  • firm control for maximum shaping
  • sleek silhouette that sculpts & contours all over

Again, the focus seems to be on taming an incorrigible midsection, but I think this garment’s biggest selling point is that the super-strength elastic band is wide enough so it comes down over your hips. So, it keeps the mid-drift pulled in while applying some elastic pressure to the hips–it’s a veritable two-in-one. Almost as versatile as a reversible jacket. (Just kidding.)

I’m sure other people wouldn’t mind wearing them under their clothes during the day, but I am a little uncomfortable with all those layers, so I’m only wriggling into these things under the cover of night. My new “pajamas” aren’t exactly sexy, but they pair nicely with the oversized, ratty t-shirt that I’ve been wearing. (Can you tell my husband’s not home?)

It’s too early to tell if they’re working as I so want them to, but I’m on the case. Stay tuned to find out if these magical mystery pants give my hips hope that they’ll return to their natural state.

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To Hell with the Hormones

One of my dearest friends was kind enough to give me a call the other day to find out how I was doing. The hubster had gone back into the field and my mom and other house guests had returned to their homes and normal lives. My house was finally empty and I was alone with baby, so she thought I might be feeling rather down in the dumps.

It was pretty good timing on her part because I had been thinking a lot about the so-called “baby blues” that I had heard so much about during my stay in the hospital. (The nurses had even sent me home with an informational pamphlet.) I was wondering if I was going to get them, what was it going to feel like, and would I recognize that I was in fact enduring my very own blue period.

So, when my friend asked me how I was doing, I really didn’t know how to answer. I mean, did I miss my husband? Of course. It was definitely heartbreaking to see him leave; he only got five days with his newborn son before he had to go back for training. Was I sad to see my mom go home? Absolutely. I can’t hardly put words to how much she did for me and baby during her time with us.

To me, that didn’t really sound like baby blues kind of stuff. That just sounded like life. Who doesn’t miss her mom or her husband when they aren’t near–new baby or otherwise? But even if I wasn’t technically suffering from the big, bad baby blues, I definitely wasn’t feel exactly emotionally stable.

I held a pretty even keel during my pregnancy. I was definitely more emotional every time my husband came home and then had to leave again; it can be sometimes overwhelming to be managing your family’s life–from your career to the house to the finances to the construction work we were having done to the dog–by yourself. Fortunately, I had a plain vanilla type of pregnancy, so I felt good and had few issues, so dealing with all that other stuff on my own was actually possible, even if less than desirable.

But in the days following baby’s arrival, I found myself getting super emotional at random times.

One night I was sitting on my front porch, enjoying a beautiful evening and a nice glass of wine and I totally got weepy just thinking about how amazing the stars were and how much I enjoyed my life.

Guaranteed Tear Jerker

Another evening, I got the waterworks flowing after I stupidly started leafing through the nursery staple, Guess How Much I Love You. (I strongly advise new mommies to hold off on reading that childhood favorite for awhile. I’ve opened the damn book three times and dissolved into soggy mess every time, so I’m thinking I need to wait until the hormones even out before I try that again.)

And then just the other night, I was watching Grey’s Anatomy and one of the doctor’s had to put another doctor’s dog down. I was a total mess watching the episode. I just kept thinking about how sick my own pup had been just a few weeks before–five days in doggy ICU was stressful to say the least–and how scared I had been that we were going to lose him.

So, I start telling my friend that what I was getting emotional about was not really baby-related stuff. I was finding myself getting worked up over bigger, darker thoughts. For example, I kept thinking about the fact that one day I was going to lose my mom. That thought would just pop up unexpectedly in my head and even if I didn’t spend much time entertaining it, it would have me so upset.

I was sort of embarrassed to be saying any of this out loud, even if it was to my best friend, but I felt better  when she told me she totally understood. “You’re literally just in awe of the miracle of life,” she said.

I have always hated that term–“miracle of life”–but I think she may have hit on something very real. Suddenly you have this perfect little baby in your arms and your sort of have these feelings of amazement and wonder colliding with a crushing sense of responsibility. And you also realize that your mom felt this way about you and you feel grateful to have her as your mom and guilty that you weren’t less of a pain in the ass. It’s a perfect storm of emotions.

But I think the thing that really “gets” to me is coming to grips with a basic fact of life: Nothing lasts forever. As exciting as it is to watch, anticipate, and enjoy the baby growing and changing, there’s no getting around the reality that every day is one less day we have. We’re all getting older and eventually our time will be up. Our mom’s won’t be with us forever and we’re not going to be with our kids forever, either. That sort of face-to-face with mortality is proving rather hard to digest for this newbie mommy.

“You probably don’t want to hear this,” said my friend. “But that feeling takes awhile to go away.”

Her daughter is two and she says she’s just feeling like she’s getting past that whole we’re-all-going-to-die-someday realization now.

Great. So much to look forward to.

So, knowing that all these feelings are (1) normal and (2) not going anywhere soon, even if their rapid onset and intensity calm down as my hormones get back in line, I’ve decided to ban certain tear-jerking items from my life until my hormones gone on hiatus:

  • Sentimental children’s books. I’ve moved books such as the classic Guess How Much I Love You or Billy Crystal’s I Already Know I Love You to the bottom of the pile of books in my nursery.
  • High drama TV shows. No medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy or House or any of the other rip off shows and no crime or mystery shows, particularly (and sadly) Law and Order SVU.
  • Anything with animals. I basically do everything I can to avoid Animal Planet in general and any shows in particular that showcase authorities removing animals from disgusting homes.
  • Sappy movies. Chick flicks definitely got me through my pregnancy, but I’m not even going near anything with any sad undertones. Topping my list of do-not-sees for fear of flooding are P.S. I Love You, Family Stone, Steel Magnolias, My Sister’s Keeper, My Life, The Notebook… you get the idea.

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Filed under baby blues, birthing, depression, emotions, mommy care, post-partum, post-pregnancy, pregnancy

These Hips Don’t Lie

Figuring out your post-baby body takes patience, something I generally run short on. So, for the past three weeks, every day I take a look at myself to find out what, if anything, has changed while I was sleeping–well, maybe not sleeping but rather napping. I guess that’s a more appropriate term for the two- to three-hour bouts of rest that I get.

So, as best as I can tell, there’s little that has totally gone back to normal. Bladder control has resumed, which is definitely something to be really excited about. I’m no longer sprinting to the restroom at the first inkling of the thought that I might have to pee.

But there’s still a lot that’s a work in progress.

For example, the random, red, itchy bumps that sometimes graced my cheeks during pregnancy still make an occasional appearance. My hair continues to fall out, even though I continue to take my vitamins and fish oil pills. I thought for sure the vitamins would prevent the big shed, but apparently not. I have no idea when that might subside, but I’m hoping the shedding doesn’t develop into a bald spot like my hair dresser told me she developed after her son was born. (Ironic, isn’t it?)

My boobs still have a mind of their own post baby, but it seems like they might be close to finding an equilibrium, which no doubt will mean less engorgement and, therefore, less tightness and pain. (Literally, your boobs get so full sometimes that they are hard to the touch. Yet another thing I hadn’t realized would happen.) And the patch job that I got post birth is still an issue. There’s still some bleeding and slight discomfort, but I will say that I don’t need ice pack maxi pads anymore and my ibuprofen intake is way down. I don’t need either daily anymore, so I’m taking that as a sign that I’m definitely on the mend. (Thank, god.)

So, it’s my mid-section that I’m obsessing about most these days. I was really worried when I first came home from the hospital because I had this jiggly paunch for a belly. The rest of me was normal, but my tummy was definitely puffy. The puffiness has gone down–it’s true what they say about breastfeeding helping the body contract–so now I’m left with a belly that just looks like it’s never seen a sit-up. It’s not big or round, really, it’s just, well, flabby looking.

Describing your middle as flabby doesn’t sound all that good, but in a way, I can deal with that because the  way my tummy looks and feels, it seems like it’s something that a few thousand sit-ups could fix. I feel like I could almost start doing a few–and I stress a few because literally I have no core strength right now–now, but the doctors recommended no exercise for six weeks post birth, so I guess I should probably hold off for at least a little bit longer before attempting my first sit up. It will no doubt be a major feat. Maybe I should video it for kicks.

But what I find most depressing about the post-birth bod is my hips. Everything else seems to be shrinking, even if it’s at a pace that’s at odds with my impatience, but these haunches seem perfectly content to remain as open as the day Baby Aleksi was born. So, for as much as I thought I had nothing to wear when I was nine-months preggers, I have even less now. I am not exaggerating when I say I have three pairs of pants–well, technically a pair of khaki pants, a pair of khaki capris, and a pair of khaki shorts–that fit. Now that the belly is fading, my maternity clothes are falling off me, but none of my un-pregger pants fit.

And I’m so not exaggerating when I say none of my normal pants fit. (I’m sorry, but yoga pants don’t count. For as much as I love them, I can’t wear yoga pants to dinner.( Even my slouchy jeans or cargo capris, which used to be my “comfortable” clothes–you know, the pants you put on when you’re going for cute rather than sexy–won’t button.

So, my big worry is that I’m going to have to chuck all the pants in my closet and start over–as a bigger person.

My best friend assures me that the body will go back to normal. She said she had put all her pants into a garbage bag for the Goodwill after her daughter was born. But she forgot about them and about six months later found the bag and tried on all the pants again, only to find that everything was now loose.

I’d love to believe this is true, but I also think my friend might be a freak of nature. Another good friend of mine sort of confirmed my fears, telling me that although the body gets closer to normal, it’s never really the same.

With that not being the answer I really wanted to hear, I’m now considering my options. My mom keeps telling me that it’s only been three weeks and I need to give it some time, blah, blah, blah. But it seems as though there’s got to be something I can do to help things move in the direction–smaller–that I want them to move.

Last weekend I was at a baby shower and I mentioned the hip issue to a woman who had a baby boy about a year ago. She looks amazing–like so un-mom like. If she didn’t have a wee one climbing up and down her side like a little monkey, I would’ve never thought that she had had a kid about a year ago. And that’s what I’m talking about. I’m not planning on getting a mini van or high-waisted jeans any time soon, so I’d rather go without the wide hips as well as I foray into mommyhood.

So, I asked what her secret was and she said she wore a post-partum belly wrap and then a girdle in the months following her son’s birth. And she swore that both helped her return to her pre-pregnancy size. (Alternatively, she said her mom used to wrap herself in Vaseline and Saran wrap following the birth of her kids and that seemed to work.)

I don’t know that I’m about to try the Vaseline and Saran combo–I’m still not sure if you’re supposed to put clothes on top of that–but I’m very intrigued by the post-partum wrap and girdle concepts. So, I’ve been looking at some online to see if I think getting back to what I was is worth the amount of money that these contraptions cost.

Honestly, I love the promise. Basically, both of these items hold you in. The wrap basically goes around your belly and velcros shut while the girdle you pull on like underoos. The idea is to train your body to hold itself tighter, making you smaller.

But my reservation, particularly when you look at enough $70 price tags, is that these items seem to target the belly area when I’m in need of some hip repair. I’m fairly confident that I can tighten my belly up with some basic ab exercises. So, am I going to feel ripped off if I buy one of these things?

My gut–no pun intended–says yes. So, the question is whether there are products on the market that can essentially pull my hips back together?

For now, I can’t come up with anything better than just buying a really good pair of spandex shorts or one of those Bella bands, you know, those elastic bands that pregnant women in denial use to get a few more miles out of their regular jeans before they officially graduate to maternity clothes. But I’m not sure that either one of those solution is going to fit the bill, so I’m on the hunt for an alternative solution, one that will save my pants. I really don’t want to have to throw them all away. That would be a very sad day.

So, for the moment, I’m just rocking out to Shakira until I find a solution. Have a listen and enjoy! Hips Don’t Lie by Shakira feat. Wycleff Jean

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Filed under birthing, maternity, maternity fashions, mommy care, moms, newborns, post-pregnancy

Friday Night Highlights

Well, we made it. Baby P and I have survived our first five days on our own. Momma didn’t cry once and baby only really had two major meltdowns, which were not only completely understandable but also confined to the privacy of our own car. I consider that a major accomplishment these days–one more than deserving of the two Miller Hi Lifes I treated myself to during mommy-and-me happy hour on Friday.

What the week lacked in excitement at the beginning certainly made up for it by the end of the week.

Thursday I was up at 5:15am so I could get myself and baby ready to go by 6:30pm, so our housemate could drive me out to the Toyota dealership to pick up a loaner car. (I swear I am the only person who can drop a car off to have one repair done and two weeks later, the car is still in the shop.) We got home and I needed to go to the bank, so I decided since it was so beautiful out that I would take the wee one out in the stroller.

The bank experience was such a breeze that I decided to take a spin through Target since it was across the street to pick up a few Father’s Day cards and see if I couldn’t find a cute tankini to cover up the post-partum paunch this summer. (I was unsuccessful at finding a new bathing suit and yet somehow I still spent $80 on stuff that all fit in the basket under the stroller–how is that possible?) We made it home just in time to meet the contractor who’s building us a deck next week before jumping in the car to go to the hair salon. I know what you’re thinking, and, yes, it was an emergency. You know it’s bad when you are talking to your neighbors on your front porch and one of the ladies says, “Looks like you’ve gotten some gray hairs since you became a mommy.” (True story.)

Friday was just as hectic. I took what I would call the scenic tour of Ft. Myer as I drove up and down the same stretch of road looking first for the clinic and second for a parking spot. Baby’s two-week check up went very well–he’s up to 9.3lbs already, if you can believe it–but we had an abominable wait at the pharmacy/dispensary thanks to a computer system failure that had me on edge for more than an hour. Not only was I expecting the baby’s eyes to pop open at any second and his mouth start opening and closing like an expectant baby bird waiting for something delicious–this would’ve been bad because I hadn’t totally screwed the top on the bottle I stuck in my purse and ended up with a bag full of breast milk–but it’d been three hours without nursing or pumping and my boobs were hard as rocks. I was so uncomfortable and in need of instant relief that I ended up having my first public display of breastfeeding in the Andrew Rader Clinic parking lot. (Obviously not a highlight of the day.)

From there, it was off to the Toyota dealership to pick up my car. (I loved seeing that not only did the mechanics burn up my driver’s seat while trying to repair my broken sunroof, but they also did a number on the steering wheel.) I got home in just enough time to do a quick pump before running like mad over to our condo to show it to a prospective new tenant. (She took it! One less thing to stress about over the summer.)

Throughout all this running around both days, baby did fantastic. He pretty much slept everywhere we went. The trick was loading him up with a lot of ounces of milk a good 15 to 30 minutes before I needed to be somewhere, so he’d slip into a nice food coma for a few hours at a time, allowing me to take care of business. The bottle was much more effective in getting these kinds of results, thanks to the faster flow nipple. Just taking down an extra ounce kept him sleepy and happy for just the amount of time that I needed.

We did have one major meltdown each day, both times when we were on our way back home. Poor thing was no doubt starving and so ready to get out of his car seat by 5pm. I know I was. With all my errands, I hadn’t had time to feed myself. Both days ended with me shoving about 8 eight Oreo cookies in my face before making a nice nest for baby and me in front of the TV for the night. Not exactly the kind of Friday night I’ve been accustomed to having during my seven years in D.C., but one that I felt pretty darn good about. I may be able to do this whole parenting juggling act after all.

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