Monthly Archives: October 2010

Wine with a Side of Baby

I ran across this article the other day on MSNBC.com: A Few Drinks During Pregnancy May Be OK?

I’m not sure why the editors added the question mark, as there didn’t seem to be much uncertainty in the information; the article reported on the results of a British medical study of 11,000+ babies that showed light alcohol consumption during pregnancy had zero adverse effect on the babies. Here’s the bottom line:

“The findings of this paper and our previous work suggest that, up to the age of 5 years, there is no increased risk of poor socioemotional or cognitive developmental outcomes in children born to mothers who drank not more than 1 or 2 units of alcohol per week during pregnancy,” said the authors, who were led by Yvonne Kelly of the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London.

Finally, my friends can stop lying. (You know who you are.)

I admit it. I enjoyed a few glasses of wine while pregnant. Not every night and not more than a glass (maybe a glass and a half if my husband was pouring). And for some reason, I always went for red. Maybe it was because the flavors were more intense, so I felt like I was getting more bang for the ballon.

For me, those glasses were heaven. They were the perfect punctuation to a long day of work or the best side dish to a really nice dinner. Because my consumption was limited, I savored every small sip, never appreciating the goodness of wine as much as then. Taking the time to really enjoy every swallow totally helped me slow my mind and body down and, as anyone close to me during my pregnancy can attest, I definitely needed to unwind occasionally.

Most of the time I never really felt guilty about enjoying the odd glass of vino. I’d gotten the blessing from several medical professionals who basically said as long as I felt good, there wasn’t a big issue with a few bouche-fulls of Burgundy or Bordeaux from time to time. So, whether I was in the privacy of my own home or out for a nice dinner with my husband or clients, I wouldn’t hesitate to have a little splash poured into my glass.

But it’s funny how my attitude changed once I got bigger. I felt perfectly comfortable having a glass of my favorite Pinot Noir when I looked like I just couldn’t keep my hand out of the cookie jar. But once I had a full fledged basketball for a belly, I felt very self-conscious, like people, from the waitress to my mother, were judging me, labeling me a bad mom before I officially became one. The irony of course being that at the end of the pregnancy, baby’s mostly just packing on pounds and exercising his systems for life outside the womb, so there’s not too much you can screw up developmentally at that point.

So, after reading this piece and wishing I could have carried around a copy in my purse when I was preggers to counter any sly looks or snide remarks (real or imagined), I say cheers to all mommies-to-be. You’ve got a lot to celebrate, so don’t beat yourself up over a couple sips of Shiraz.

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Growing Up Foodie

Food, glorious, food. That pretty much sums up my take on eating.

Food is completely at the center of my family life. It’s not only what most of us spend our free time doing–we garden, we read food magazines and Web sites, and we watch foodie TV shows like “Iron Chef”–but it’s the reason we get together. From backyard barbecues and fish frys to Thanskgiving and Sunday dinners, bring the food and the family will show up. The act of designing, preparing, cooking, presenting, and sharing  a meal is our most comfortable expression of love.

So, given the starring role food plays in my family’s life, you can imagine how ecstatic I was when I took baby to the doctor for his four-month check up and he said I could start introducing solids–rice cereal, oatmeal, and a first fruit and veggie. Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Now, it might seem a little early, if you believe a lot of what you read. Lots of expert sources say to refrain from introducing solids until six months of age. But I really felt baby was ready. He’d more than doubled his birth weight–he’s pushing 18 pounds already–and if that rule of thumb wasn’t enough, he was definitely starting to get very interested in whatever I was eating. I caught him eyeballing an apple a few weeks ago with such desire that I held the gnawed-on core up to his face so he could smell it, if not get a little taste on his lips.

So, it was with much glee that I hit the solid food aisle in Target for baby’s first meal. What was it going to be? Plain old rice cereal? Oatmeal with bananas? Rice cereal with fruits? I wanted to buy them all, but I settled on two boxes–one big one of the plain old rice cereal and a smaller one of oatmeal with bananas.

Once home, I immediately put baby into his bouncer chair and I busted out a bib for its inaugural dirtying. While some mommy-friends suggested putting some cereal in a bottle at first, I decided to live a little dangerously and opt for a first spoon feeding.

Here’s the first-hand account of how it went:

It was so fun! And I couldn’t believe how quickly he caught on. After three feeding attempts, he pretty much got it (you’ll see clips from five feeding frenzies in the video). It was such an exciting moment that I found myself cheering, rather loudly as it would seem from the unedited versions of the video, when baby would take a big swallow or (better yet) actually grab my hand and try to pull the spoon into his mouth on his own.

I’ve never felt better about making a bigger deal out of a smaller thing.

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The Bad Son

Of course as a mother, I’m totally biased when it comes to my kid. Every day longer that I know him, the more I love him. And at this point–aside from the dirty diapers and the spit-up–what is there not to love? He’s not all that complicated–he likes food, sleep, and clean underoos.

But what happens if he grows up and I don’t like who he is?

In some ways, I know that’s an impossible scenario. Parents–at least the halfway decent ones–come programmed to always love their kids. No matter the mistakes they make and the disappointments that follow, there’s a reason it’s called unconditional love. But some kids just end up sort of rotten, no matter the quality of parents or the enormity of their efforts, and I fear for that.

It’s no doubt quite premature to be stressing about this sort of thing. I have a happy baby, with the emphasis on baby. But I had an encounter not too long ago that got me thinking about the what ifs  of my sweet baby turning into a monster.

Late in the summer, I had a visit from my childhood babysitter. She stopped by to oogle over baby just as she had oogled over my brother and myself when we were wee ones. This babysitter is a lovely, lovely woman. She and her husband ran a daycare out of their home for decades and it seemed like everyone with whom I went to elementary school had spent a good chunk of time at their house, from playing on the jungle gym in the backyard in the spring to building snow forts in their side yard in the winter.

This is a woman who adores children. And children adore her, too. All the kids who went her house have wonderful shared memories of tomato soup lunches, homemade Play-Doh afternoons, garage sales where every kid got 50 cents to make purchases, and personalized cookies for every holiday.

But after all the years that I’ve known her, I saw a lone spot of darkness in her demeanor during the afternoon she visited. My mother and I had asked about her two children and their children. My longtime sitter raved on and on about how well her daughter was doing, but when it came to her son, she just sort of kept to the less-than-glamorous facts about his current situation, which admittedly was troubling.

Finally she said, “Sometimes I just don’t like him.”

I was so stunned that she said that. This wonderful woman, who had so much love in her heart for so many kids for so many years, had reached some sort of limit. It was hard to imagine that someone like her, who also was exceptionally religious, could just be exhausted like that. I mean, it’s not like she had shut him out of her life. No, not at all. She was supporting him emotionally and even financially. And she clearly did so out of love, but there was also a very tangible sense of obligation. I could tell there was little pleasure in helping him, ostensibly because his needs were never ending; it was almost as if she felt like he was undeserving of her support and yet resigned, as a mother, to continue being a crutch or a handout or whatever role she was playing in his drama.

“It’s so strange,” she said later. “Two kids, who grew up the same way, in the same house, and they’re just totally different.”

With that, I knew she also felt guilty, like somehow she had failed her son. But how? It was a question that she must have often asked herself and yet found no tangible answer.

Although this little exchange was such a small part of our otherwise happy conversation, it scared me. I’ve always wanted to believe that nurture could win out over nature, but this situation suggested that the opposite was more likely to be true. Even if I could come in strong on the nurturing side of things, I now have serious doubts that it would be enough to even help course correct if my wee one started to head into trouble. I don’t have half the heart, the patience, and the discipline that this woman possesses.

So, what do I do if my baby evolves into a boy (and then a man) that I don’t particularly like? I could say that I could set limits, but I’ve never seen a parent who’s been able to successfully do so. Most parents talk the talk about tough love, but few walk the walk, despite what they tell their friends at cocktail parties.

I think I’m probably better off just saying a few novenas and hoping for the best.

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