Monthly Archives: April 2011

Is Your Marriage Babyproofed?

I recently ran across the article, “So Cute, So Hard on the Marriage,” in The Wall Street Journal. It was all about how about two-third of married couples find the quality of their relationship go down the tubes within three years of having their first baby.

I don’t know about you, but I was surprised to read that stat. I even took the poll that went with the article to see what real people had to say. (Results below.) Out of the 63% of people who responded who actually had children, roughly half said that having kids hurt their marriage. So, if I got this right, first comes love, then comes marriage and the baby carriage, and then all hell breaks loose.

But even more interesting to me was this insight:

Men and women experience the deterioration differently: Mothers’ satisfaction in their marriages plummets immediately; for men, the slide is delayed a few months. Hormonal changes, the physical demands of childbirth and nursing, and an abrupt shift from the working world to being at home with an infant may explain that, says Renay Bradley, the director of research and programming at the Relationship Research Institute.

So, I tried to think back over what has almost been a year since baby arrived and think if my husband and I went through any of this. Honestly, I don’t think so. At least not yet. But statistically speaking, we’ve still got two years to go until we’re out of the danger period.

Part of me thinks we didn’t (so far) because, first, I went back to work, so I didn’t have that whole stuck-at-home-with-baby feeling that I imagine all stay-at-home moms have to feel at some point another. Second, with my husband’s job, he was gone for a big chunk of this first year. So, we didn’t have to fight about who was going to be getting up at 3am to feed the baby because it was always going to be me; not only was I breastfeeding but he wasn’t even around.

But playing a single parent even when you technically aren’t one certainly has stresses that could create similar rifts in a marriage. For me, there are days where I’ve found myself in full mommy meltdown. On those days it seems like everything is out to get me–from the baby to the dog to the house to my job to our finances. (Yes, I have cried several times on the phone to my mother and even once to my dad.)  And I’m not going to lie, I have cursed my husband up and down for things like not being around to help me fix the tire on the stroller or never putting his tools back in the right place so I can find a stupid screwdriver.

But being apart at stressful times like that might actually be a good thing in our case. I can curse him up and down in moments like that and not even have to try and say it under my breath. Subsequently, he never hears it, so he doesn’t feel compelled to roll his eyes or say something snippy back, which of course would set me off and voilà, voilà, voilà, we’re in a fight. By the time we get a chance to connect, I’m mostly put back together and can actually have a decent, constructive conversation about whatever it is that’s stressing me out.

I also think one thing that my husband does that really helps our relationship is not pull a father-knows-best and question my decisions. Although he doesn’t like how much he’s had to be away, he gets that I’m the primary caregiver in this scenario, so I have executive decision making authority. He trusts that I have our family’s best interest in mind in every decision, from what time baby needs to go to bed to how often the cleaning lady should come. Relinquishing control to that extent is probably really hard for some people, husband or wife. But he’s found a way to that place and I think we’re better for it.

In fact, I have been so impressed with his ability to not be so controlling that I’ve found myself similarly letting go. I don’t worry about how he, or his mother, or the nanny, or anyone else who’d fall in the category of friend or family does things when it comes to the baby. I’m okay with the fact that I diaper differently than my husband, that my mom prefers to bathe the baby in the kitchen sink over an infant tub, or that my nanny doesn’t mix rice cereal with his food like I do. Seeing how my husband trusts that I’ll take care of things the best way I know how has made me not sweat the small stuff that can seem like big stuff to a newbie mom. I just look at it that anyone who is going to be that close to my baby has his best interest at heart, so I just leave it at that.

The other thing my husband and I also have both gotten very good at doing that has taken a lot of stress off our post-baby life  is accepting that our lives are so jammed up with obligations and responsibilities that we have to outsource some functions. The alternative is not pretty. Whereas pre-baby we would’ve never hired someone to till up the garden or even clean the house, we do now. Yes, we acknowledge that these are things we are capable of doing, but it’s also about time. That whole business concept about the time value of money certainly has currency in post-baby family life.

Point in case: It takes my cleaning lady less than five hours to clean our house; pre-baby, when Ian and I would clean, it would take the two of us the whole day. So, for $100 a week, I get five hours of uninterrupted time to go to the gym, walk the dog, or spend time with my son–all things that I would prefer to be doing over scrubbing the floors. That to me is a good value. I come home feeling better about myself and then my house is all put back together and clean and sanity is restored all around.

That’s probably a good segue into the whole topic of money, which after who gets up for 3am feedings, is like the No. 2 source of fights for married-with-baby couples, according to the article. As weird as it may sound, for us, having a baby has made us much more fiscally responsible. We really don’t have any more bills than we had before, but because we’re home more and out at bars less, we’re more on top of them. And because they’re not piling up all the time, there’s less end-of-the-month stress to transfer money from different accounts to make sure there’s enough in the right account to take care of everything.

Not only that, but it turns out that staying home is a lot cheaper than going out, even if it’s not quite as exciting. (We might be the only parents who actually saved more money after we had a baby than before.)

But when I think about what having a baby has done for us, it’s hard not to see it as strengthening our relationship rather than tearing it apart. Maybe it’s just that whatever the chemistry is between my husband and I, it’s of the sort that we get into trouble when we are not focused on a shared goal. The worst years of our relationship have definitely been when we were just kind of going with the flow, not specifically living with a purpose; alternatively, the best years of our lives have been when we were focused on achieving something together. We do better as a couple when things are hard than when life is easy. I think it’s because neither of us can accept losing or giving up, so when there’s a challenge, we kind of let go of the petty stuff and get down to working as a team to, as they say, get ‘er done.

And if a baby isn’t a challenge, I don’t know what is. But because of that, I think our bundle of joy has brought us closer than I could have ever imagined. Post baby, I feel like we are so much more grateful of each other and more appreciative of all the skills and talents the other possesses and less focused on the shortcomings. It’s like our baby is a mirror, reflecting–and reminding us of–the good and amazing parts of each other that are sometimes so easy to overlook in the daily grind.

Maybe this all sounds a little too “perfect” to be believable. But I can assure you, like most every couple, we’ve experienced some seriously dark days over the course of our relationship. But these you-and-me-and-baby-makes-three days are not any of them.

Just add baby

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Filed under babies, babyproofing, daddy care, daily life, infants, marriage, mommy care, parenting, post-pregnancy, relationships

Bananas for Baby Boutiques

I’m obsessed with baby boutiques. I can’t bear to walk past one and not go in, even if you can tell by the window display that it’s a not-so-good one. In fact, I think my new dream job is owning and running a successful (that being a key word) baby boutique in some charming town or neighborhood–and I have zero retail experience.

But all the same, I like to look at the way different owners stock, merchandise, and decorate. I make mental notes and file them away in my head for the next time I’ll need a fun and creative idea or solution of my own. And do I need to mention how off-the-charts cute some of the outfits are? Beautiful fabrics, sweet stitching detail, unique and modern designs.

But the one thing I notice over and over again is that even in the most beautiful or unusual baby boutiques, you’d better hope you’re shopping for a little girl because your selection of cute stuff is going to be more limited for little boys. I guess in a way I can see why; sweet dresses in gorgeous patterns with ribbons, lace, or other dainty details are by their nature more magnetic than say a pair of overalls or a jumper. But all the same, it seems as though mommies should be able to choose from something more than cargo pants and jeans for their little bundles of boys.

So, when I go into baby shops, I play a little game with myself and go in search of the cutest or cleverest outfit I can find for a little boy. If I find more than one, I consider it the measure of an exceptional baby shop. So, here’s what I dug up during my last trip to South Carolina, where I got a chance to pop into some shops in both Charleston and Beaufort.

sugar snap pea/charleston, s.c.
When it comes to baby boutiques, it’s all about the window display. And the one at sugar snap pea worked it’s charm and instantly pulled me and my mother-in-law inside. And if that didn’t do it, I fell in love with the “Stroller Parking” sign next to two parking meters painted on the wall.

The way I would describe the shop would be to say that if you’re a mommy who loves the aden + anais brand, you know the company that makes all those very sheer, breathable muslim baby sleepers and swaddlers, you’d fall

Romper by Feather Baby

in love with this store. You could feel good about buying anything in the store because not only was it cute but nearly everything in there, from the bath towels to the wooden toys, had some sustainable twist.

Of course, none of this stuff comes cheap, as is the case in most baby boutiques. However, I decided if I was going to splurge and make a purchase, I probably would’ve chosen something from the selection of either Egg Baby or Feather Baby lines. I’m naturally drawn to bold prints, so I like the graphic nature of the clothing and I love that it is oh so soft as well.

T-shirt by Egg Baby

But the thing I think I like best is that while the clothes are what I would call cool and hip, they are age appropriate designs. That’s sort of a big thing for me because in my book, babies are supposed to look like babies, not Mini Mes.

The one drawback is that, unfortunately, the Egg Baby Web site does none of its clothing justice, as what I saw (and pawed) in the store was much more interesting than what they’re advertising online.

kids on king/charleston, s.c.
I would imagine that this is one of the go-to places in Charleston to get more formal clothes for wee ones who might be making a guest appearance at a wedding or fancy holiday party. I could hardly believe the selection of seersucker suits and shorts, linen rompers, retro baby bubble suits, and the like. The store also carried the requisite knee socks and saddle shoes. Of course these are all things my husband made me swear that I would never make our kid wear but that I am now eying given that my sister is getting married in August. (Lucky for me that this place ships!)

Once again, the shop’s Web site doesn’t do its inventory much justice, but I

Shortalls by Bailey Boys (side 1)

just want to make a note of one particularly clever outfit that I came across as I was fingering the racks. Given my love of stripes, dots, and checks, I was immediately drawn to a few racks of gingham shortalls, all from a variety of companies–Zuccini, Glorimont, Bailey Boys, etc. They came in a whole bunch of colors and had sweet embroidered designs on them–crabs, sailboats, trains, etc. I picked one up only to love it more when I realized it was reversible.

For someone who travels a lot with a baby and , therefore, agonizes over every thing that goes into the suitcase, a two-in-one outfit is pure genius. Not only is it space conscious, but it also makes that

Shortalls by Bailey Boys (side 2)

$50+ price tag seem more palatable knowing it’s really two outfits and not just one for the price.

My favorite was definitely the green gingham check with the trains that reversed to a red gingham check with a submarine by the Bailey Boys. I’m not sure you how trains and subs go together, but either side would be so adorable on a baby boy that I guess it doesn’t matter.

doodlebugs/ beaufort, s.c.
This was an unexpected stop during a coffee-and-bagel break in downtown Beaufort, but I’m glad I went in because the shop had some cute things, especially for girls. In fact, there wasn’t a lot I wouldn’t have bought if I had a little girl. But the selection for baby boys was narrow to say the least. At one point, I pulled out a cute t-shirt with cars on it and was looking for something to go with it, such as some shorts or a light sweater. My choices were rainbow or rainbow. I even asked the salesgirl if she thought the items were a little too un-boyish in her opinion. “I wouldn’t buy that for a boy, I don’t think. Especially the cardigan,” she say. Okay, then, I won’t.

But as I was walking out of the store, a small triangle of green gingham caught my eye and I walked over to it. There I found an adorable shortall–or romper or jon jon or jumper or whatever else anyone calls it–with a small alligator embroidered on the chest and two big green button along the beltline, almost sailor style. The tag said it was a Baxter and Beatrice product, but I’ve had a hard time locating it online. But for as much as I loved it, the largest size they had was 12 months and that just won’t do for baby; he’s just growing too fast.

So, while my boutique browsing led to no purchases, it was fun to look and see what’s out there. And it was good to find out that I have a few go-to sources if baby needs that seersucker suit and saddle shoes for the wedding after all.

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Filed under babies, baby boutiques, baby clothes, baby gear, infants, shopping

A Lesson in Babyproofing

Yes, I am alive, although you probably couldn’t tell from my lack of posts. I’ve just been insanely busy with a big annual project for work. It’s one of the projects that you feel like you’ve accomplished something after all is said and done but the getting there isn’t pretty. So, at any rate, whatever time I’ve had over the past two weeks has been spent on that rather than writing, cleaning my house, walking my dog, or paying my bills. But I’m getting caught up.

Of course to this stress, overload, and near chaos, you’ve got to add drama. You know, the kind of thing you never see coming, but once it hits it totally derails you, because Lord knows you’re just hanging on by a thread as it is. My black swan left me sitting at the emergency vet at midnight on a Friday night with an estimated bill for $7,000.

The day started spiraling out of control around 5pm. My dad and his friend had stopped into town on their way back from Florida, so we thought it would be fun to drive out to Annapolis for soft shell crab. I decided we should throw the dog in the truck with us since the alternative was leaving him in his crate, where he would no doubt howl for much of the day, pissed that we left him alone. But because it had rained for most of the afternoon, he wasn’t able to get out of the car for a nice stroll around town.

Needless to say, when we got back home, he was a crazy dog. Between little exercise and new people in the house, he was almost literally climbing the walls. So, I went into turbo treat mode, doing some training exercises with him to keep him occupied.

After about 30 minutes of him doing a great job lying down and staying while I fed the baby, I released him with my usual, “OK!” Once off command, he just lost it, doing laps around the house and jumping on my house guess. But I figured he’d chill after a few minutes. So, I went to the fridge, took out some snacks, put them on the counter, and looked over to see the dog standing under the baby chair. Curious to know what the baby dropped that he was now scarfing down, I walked over and grabbed his nose, opening his mouth. I looked inside to find nada. Weird, I though, I could have sworn he looked like he was eating something.

And then I saw them. My kid’s feet. No shoes.

Are you kidding me? was my first thought. There’s no way the dog could have in all of 30 seconds gotten both moccasins off and eaten them. Or could there? A quick scan around the room showed no evidence of any shredded baby bootie.

Nowali no more!

So, what to do. I was pretty confident the dog had swallowed the darn things whole. I mean, he had eaten baby socks before. And fortunately they had passed, as I found them in the backyard during a morning poop patrol. But these were more like shoes than socks; they had a soft leather sole, for god’s sake. I had my doubts about whether that could get squeezed out the other end in one piece.

And given my drama with my lovely Joey, who went to doggy heaven after failing to recover from surgery–he had an intestinal blockage after ingesting stuffing from a toy–I was so not ready to go through that with Zus. I was not going to wait it out to see if he could pass two booties because I had serious doubts if it was doggily possible. So, I called the vet and explained to the front desk attendant what had happened. She told me to bring Zus in and they would induce vomiting; usually if it has been less than 4 hours since the object was ingested, the vomiting gets it out.

Four hours? He ate the booties 45 minutes ago, so we’re golden, I thought. So, Zus and I arrive at the vet and they take him to the back to give him morphine to induce vomiting. From my private waiting room, I can hear him vomit and all the vet techs cheer. The vet on duty comes in to tell me that the crisis was averted; he vomited up the bootie.

But what about the other one, I asked.

Uh oh. Four more vomit inductions later and no second bootie. The vet came back in and told me we had two options:

  1. We could send a scope down his esophagus with a claw thing on the end to try and retrieve the bootie carnival game style, or
  2. We could do surgery to remove the object

The scope sounded good to me right up until the vet said that sometimes the scope is unsuccessful, so the dog ends up needing surgery anyway–and oh by the way, the estimate for that option was $7,000. If knowing that my dog was sick wasn’t enough to make me cry, hearing that was.

Choices, choices. Do the less invasive procedure that may not work and end up basically sinking a good chunk of the money we had saved for a basement renovation into the dog or do the surgery and take the lumps to the bank account earlier and get over with. (I had asked about the likelihood of him passing it or vomiting it up on his own later. Needless to say I felt like a total jerk for asking that after she responded, “It’s not likely. We’ve got a dog dying in the back right now from that now.”)

I opted for the scope and hoped for the best, although I definitely let out a few whimpers on my drive home. I couldn’t believe I was back at the emergency vet with my puppy–again. I was pissed at myself for letting my kid have shoes on. I mean, I don’t let him wear socks because the dog steals them, but I’ve never had a problem with the shoes before; they stay on very well–or at least they had. And I was scared that I was going to lose another great dog.

Fortunately the gods were smiling on me because the scope proved successful and the bootie was fished out of the dog’s stomach sans problème. But the whole experience taught me something about babyproofing–sometimes you need to babyproof the baby. So, babies go barefoot or they don’t go at all in this house. Good thing summer’s just around the corner.

Doggone Dog!

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Filed under babies, baby shoes, babyproofing, infants, pets

Doing the Diaper Dip

One of the fun things we did with baby–at least for Mimi and me–during our trip to Chamonix was take baby to bébé nageurs swim class at the local aquatic center. Basically it was a Saturday morning free swim deal where parents (or grandparents) could take their babies and diapers would be welcome in the pool.

This wasn’t the first time baby had been swimming. He went three times last summer–twice in the River and once in the Lake–but it was definitely his first time in a pool. For as much as I thought he would be squealing nonstop in the water (he absolutely loves splashing in the tub, sink, or any other vessel of water), I’m not sure that he really loved it–despite the fact that the pool was heated for the comfort of the bébé nageurs.

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Part of the problem was definitely that he was tired; the jetlag was still kicking his dimpled butt. Part of it may have been that it was sensory overload. There were a ton of babies (and parents and grandparents), all moving in a gazillion directions; lots of shrieking toddlers jumping and splashing; tons of really brightly colored toys and mats floating all around; and even a big fountain shooting up from the middle of the pool.

But part of it also was me. Turns out there’s an art to baby swims.

I only learned that after one of the swim coaches (can they even be called that at this stage?) bee lined for my mom, baby, and me. At this point, I had taken baby out of this cool floatie thing–basically it was a thin mat cut in the shape of a fish with a hole in the middle where you stick the kid–and was just sort of holding him on my hip as I walked around the pool. Baby wasn’t unhappy, but he wasn’t splashing like a madman either. So, the swim coach came over and asked if I was familiar with le système de portage. The what?

I mean, I speak French, so I get what it means: a carrying or transportation system. But what was wrong with the way I was carrying my baby? That’s the way I carry him all the time.

But I listened as he explained in that very explicative French way that the proper way to have a nine-month-old baby in the pool was to put my hands under his bottom so that he was sitting in my palms, extend my arms out in front of me, and then begin to walk through the water. He then pointed out that I should pretty much make sure baby was submerged in the water pretty much up to his shoulders so he wouldn’t get cold.

Ok, so I was a little skeptical that there was a huge difference between what I was doing and what he was telling me to do, but I was polite and did as he recommended. Wow, what a difference. Baby went from just sort of being chill in the water–content but not excited–to really moving his arms and legs around, splashing and carrying on.

The guy went on to explain to me that when you hold babies on your hip in the water like you would do on land, they sort of go into a set position and don’t really have a lot of wiggle room. But by basically pushing them out in front of you–they don’t fall over, amazingly enough–they have the freedom to fully ambulate and interact with the water.

I’ll admit that I kind of felt stupid because I had sort of gone, “yeah, yeah, yeah,” to the swim coach and it turned out that he really knew what he was talking about. No wonder every baby in pool (except Aleksi) was just having the time of his or her little life. Their moms weren’t so ignorant as to the correct système de portage. But once I was clued in, everyone–baby included–had more fun.

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