Monthly Archives: June 2011

Baby Envy

I had a friend the other day ask me when I was going to start thinking about baby #2. The better question would have been when haven’t I been thinking about baby #2. All it took was for my post-birth stitches to heal and I was already planning for the next one.

Most new parents love the you-me-and-baby-makes-three stage, to the point that it’s a little hard to quite picture life with a second child. And it is awesome. You’re in this sort of beautiful baby bubble. But for whatever reason, my husband and I so want to be on the accelerated kid plan. Maybe it’s that we feel like we were a little late to the whole baby party (what were we waiting for anyway?) or maybe it’s because my husband was an only child and dreams of nothing less than a houseful of kids. Or maybe we just realize time is really no longer on our side. I mean, you start doing the math on how long it can take to get pregnant, how long you are pregnant (I’m of the 10-month philosophy), and how long before you sort of have things under control once baby has arrived and it’s like a two-year minimum for every kid, on average. And as painful as it may be to admit, we’re not getting any younger.

Of course making good on the promise of a second wee one is a physical impossibility for my husband and me right now. Short of a miracle–but I’m not really holding out for an act of god in this case, although in writing this I’m wondering if I should get our company prayer group praying for it–you kind of have to be in the same place for just a tiny bit of time.

This reality, of course, almost makes me want a #2 even more than I did before. And if that didn’t, the recent second baby wave among a number of my friends would do it. I’m especially fascinated, if not the slightest bit jealous, of the friends whose first babies are still little–like a year or 18 months old–and they are due again within a couple months. Are these wonderful ladies ridiculous fertile or did they use some crazy technique to shift into high-gear baby making?

Some people would say that I’m crazy; with my so-called hectic life, I need two babies in diapers like a hole in the head. True, but I still want them. And honestly, my first baby is so not meant to be an only child. Just watching him interact with other kids, I know he really wants a sibling, too.

But there are always some reservations about a #2. Most moms I know worry most about being able to love the second as much as the first. In my head that totally makes sense that so many mommies feel that way. I mean, moms have been so singularly focused on baby #1 that it’s hard to imagine having the bandwidth to be able to give that kind of love and attention to a second without somehow shafting the first. But I don’t really have that fear.

My biggest fear is about the getting pregnant with #2. Baby #1 was a whoops of sorts, so I didn’t have to stress about getting pregnant because it happened without us really planning for it. But with how eager we are to have a second, it makes me worry that our hopes will put nutty undue stress on the trying. And the last thing I want to be when thinking about a new baby is frustrated.

But I feel for mommies who don’t know that their hearts are infinitely expandable. I don’t know where I read it or heard it, but at some point it sunk in to me that when people have more children, their love is never divided; instead, it’s multiplied. I just love that idea.

While my time to multiply isn’t now, that little realization keeps me looking forward to the days when (hopefully) I won’t be able to hold all of my kids in my arms at one time. And in the meantime, I’m content to be insanely happy, even if the tiniest bit envious, for my mommy friends who are on the road to becoming mommies for the second time.

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I’m Not Stupid, I’m Just Still Pregtarded

Last week, work took me to San Francisco for a housing trade show. (This is also why I went radio silent on my posts.) In my pre-mommy days, I used to absolutely love, love, love these types of trade shows because I could work them like no other. I had nearly every minute of my waking hours programmed with meetings with new and long-time sources. It made for some really long days, but I would come home with a boatload of story ideas and a fat stack of business cards, each name and company affiliate already committed to memory by the time my plane landed back in D.C.

But that was then and this is now. And now, my mommy brain doesn’t work like that. It can neither process nor retain anywhere near the volume of information that it used to just a year ago.

An embarrassing case in point: I was standing with a long-time source/friend when another source happened upon us and stopped to say hello for a few minutes. I immediately recognized this person and was actually glad I had run into him by chance, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember his name. And it wasn’t like I had only met him once or only talked on the phone with him. No, this was someone I saw fairly frequently over the years at events like this and while his face was more than familiar, I was drawing an absolute blank when it came to his name. After chatting for 10 or 15 minutes, he left and my friend said to me, “Who was that?” All I could say was, “I don’t know; I can’t remember.” I spit out like five facts about this person and his company, but the one really important piece of information–his name–was not in the list. My friend looked at me with disbelief, and said, “You carried on a conversation that long and you don’t know him?”

I tried to explain that I did know the person, but it’s really hard to convince anyone that you know someone when you can’t conjure up a name. So, I just came clean and said that ever since I had baby, my brain hadn’t worked quite right.

Pregnant women always talk about pregnancy brain, so when I was a mommy-to-be, I was completely prepared when I started spacing out on stuff all the time. I chalked it up to the fact that your brain can’t function at full capacity when you are growing another human inside of you. In fact, I used to call it “placenta brain.” (Although someone recently had one better; he said his wife became what he called “pregtarded.” Love that.) But I had no idea that it would be more or less permanent.

Now, being unable to remember sources is so not a good thing when you’re a journalist. And realizing that’s where I am made me wonder whether I’ll ever really be as good at my job as I used to be.

This question also got me thinking about all those stories you hear about working women who get passed over for promotions after they have kids. My initial reaction to those stories always was: “That’s so unfair!” But could it be possible that placenta brain rather than management bias was more to blame in some of those cases? I mean, how realistic is it to earn a promotion on past performance when going forward you’ve got very real limitations on how much time and effort you can put in?

It sounds awful to suggest that, but when I really look deep, I can’t say for sure that my job performance post-baby has not suffered in some way. I mean, some days I feel like I’ve still got it. But other days, it feels like I’m running just to keep up. (And then there are still other days where I think I might be sucking at both my job and being a mommy.)

And then it sort of occurs to me that maybe why some of these women get so ticked off at not advancing in their careers post baby is because they’ve been getting the shaft all along. Maybe pre-baby they were killing themselves to be a superstar, with the hope that someday all their hard work will pay off in a big promotion. And then baby comes and they realize that someday is today. They know it’s impossible to keep up their pre-baby pace–working moms just can’t stay until 10pm working every night anymore–and they’ve also got some perspective on what’s reasonable when it comes to work versus what’s possible given the realities of babies’ needs. Working at break-neck speed just doesn’t pencil without some real advancement; these women need more incentive to make dealing with the BS of an office worth spending time away from their babies.

But now that my brain won’t go back to working right–I’m convinced that once you go pregtarded, you can never go back–it’s hard to see how I will be as smart, fast, or competitive (my company’s internal tagline) as I used to be. Although I’m sure, in reality, my brain is probably functioning at the same pre-baby voltage, I know its power is being divided to more outlets, reducing it’s end capacity. So, while it’s a relief to know that I haven’t just spontaneously lost a bunch of brain cells, it’s a little depressing to consider that I maybe have peaked in my career given the amount of stuff–spouse, baby, pets, house, job and all the detours that come along with them–I have to process on a daily basis.

The good news, then, is while I may not be as driven and strategic as I once was thanks to my plaguing case of placenta brain, the one work aspect that does improve post baby is efficiency. It is an upside to realize that even if I’m doing less great work, I’m getting more of it done in a shorter amount of time.

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Filed under babies, daily life, first year, parenting, post-pregnancy, pregnancy, stay-at-home moms, working mom

Dads on Duty

Today is Father’s Day and being as we’re a military family, I can’t help but think about all the military dads (and boy do we know a lot of them) who didn’t get to spend today with the people who most love and adore them–their kids.

Every day I am lucky enough to be able to see my baby’s smiles, hear the patter of his hands and knees as he crawls across the floor, make him giggle, and hold him close at night. How far away those simple pleasures must seem to those deployed dads when they are in places where it can often be hard to see the good in things or people. I bet some days a diaper blow out or two sounds way better than anything they’ve got to deal with.

During the past two years, my husband has been gone a lot for military-related activities. He missed out on a lot of my pregnancy, a lot of the new baby lovefest, and a lot of baby’s firsts. It’s definitely been frustrating for him at times even though it doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. I mean, missing out on birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions is pretty much in a soldier’s job description.

But despite all that he’s missed out on in the name of duty, he has still managed to grow so much as a dad. He lives more deliberately, with a greater sense of purpose. He’s simplified his needs and reshuffled his priorities. He’s learned to celebrate some of the littler things in life. And his emotional range has expanded to include new varieties of joy, pride, and heartache. In some ways, you might say he’s become a better person. All because of baby.

He never needed to change for me, but it’s been interesting to watch his transformation. It’s clear that he’s had an idea in his head of what kind of dad he wants to be and has been working very hard to deliver on that despite the challenges and limitations that come part and parcel with being a soldier. And for that, I am grateful.

So, with that said, my thoughts go out to all the military dads who inevitably had a pretty lonely today, as well as their families who miss them so much. Here’s to their ability to be as good of dads on the home front as soldiers in the field. Happy Father’s Day!

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Best Birthday Ever (Almost)

My sweet bundle of boy is definitely more of a boy and less of a bundle now that he’s turned a year old. I have been a bad baby momma and not been terribly on the ball in getting any images of this major milestone up to share. So, I’m hoping this post will rectify that situation.

I had debated not doing a party of any sort for the wee one–just a little cupcake and candle action at dinner with me and Mimi, perhaps–but then I gave in. I realized that if hubby was able to be around for baby’s big day, he would most certainly have made a much bigger deal of it than I was planning. So, I really decided to have the party for him and less than baby because he was missing it, if that makes any sense at all.

At any rate, I am so glad I did, although it was a lot of work for just a couple of hours. That’s about as long as any of the mommas could stay, as babies would begin early stages of meltdown at around the 90  minute mark. And meltdown was definitely the word of the day, given the temps of 90+ degrees. (Thanks to all the moms and kids who came and sweated with us to celebrate a very special first birthday!)

Baby was well prepared for the event. We had done some pre-birthday cupcake tasting (which was good because neither Mimi nor I remembered to give him one at his party–whoops!) and also given him a long overdue haircut. He also got a new outfit to let everyone know it was his big day, although that got dirty and thrown into the laundry before the party even began. (He was less of a fan of costume No. 2.) But he totally enjoyed seeing all his little buddies crawling and toddling around with him, turning my living room and back deck into a Gymboree session. And then once the last guests left, we finally opened presents  (there had been way too much going on during the party to tackle that fun) and spent the rest of the afternoon beating the heat with cold drinks, popsicles, and sprinkles from the hose.

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Needless to say, it was a near perfect day. The only thing missing was dad. But that just means next year’s baby birthday bash is bound to be better than ever because he’ll be in charge of planning it.

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My Babycham Babe

As a mom, I’m often so busy going about the stuff of my life that I don’t really think about what I must look like while I’m doing it. It’s only ever so often that I get a chance to step outside myself for just a second to see what other people see. When those, shall we say, opportunities, arise, it’s a coin toss as to whether I get a second to be proud of myself because, hey, I’m doing okay, or be utterly mortified.

Life presented me with one of those moments today. I took baby onto one of the local military bases to get get his scheduled check up. Since the clinic was right next to the commissary, the on-post grocery store, I decided I should stock up on a few eats for the weekend. The post exchange was about a block down the road, so I then decided to stop there to pick up a few random items–children’s vitamins and anti-wrinkle cream. (That right there says a lot.) The gas station was another block down, so I decided I should fill up the truck because gas was $0.11 cheaper on post. And the Class Six, the post liquor store, was next to the gas station, so I decided that I should probably stock up on a few summer beverages to get me through this nice heat wave we’re having. I was imagining that there would be nothing better after a long day of hard work to cool off with a delicious vodka tonic later that evening.

So because motherhood is the ultimate quest for efficiency, I decided if I was at the Class Six, I should just stock up because I wasn’t sure when I was going to be on post again. So, into the cart went the bottle of vodka. I turned the aisle and a box of Coronas looked really good given the 98 degree temps outside. And I might as well stock up on some refreshing white wine; all I had in the house was some red plus my mother-in-law is coming to town and she only drinks white. So, into my cart went 12 bottles of white wine. (There’s a 10% discount when you buy a case of wine.)

So, as I’m checking out I see a young soldier and his dad stocking up for what was clearly a graduation party. And I hear the dad say, “Look, at that cute baby.”

In that second, I turned to take in the scene. Yup, I was that woman who had her infant in a liquor store with a cart full of booze at 10:30am. And thus why today my kid is the Babycham Babe.

Babycham mascot

(As an aside, for anyone who doesn’t recognize the Babycham reference, here’s your Mad Men trivia. It was a light sparkling perry, essentially a hard cider made from pears and named after a Jamaican dancehall artist, that was marketed and sold in England in the 1960s and 1970s. The thing that is notable about the lively cocktail is that it’s really the first adult beverage marketed specifically to women.)

But to get back to the story…

I was completely embarrassed as I was waiting in the checkout line. And of course, my kid was babbling away, smiling at people, being totally cute, and otherwise drawing lots of attention to the fact that I was “that” mother. I half debated casually mentioning to the cashier that I was planning on having a barbecue this weekend so I wouldn’t feel so awkward and look so conspicuous. But I knew I couldn’t lie well enough to make the story believable.

In all reality, there was nothing wrong with what I did. I’m sure I wasn’t the only mother to drag her kids into the liquor store that day. I mean, when you’re on your own to run all the household errands, there’s no way to avoid taking your kid into the liquor store with you whenever it is that you have time to actually make the stop.

But I definitely get a totally awkward feeling whenever I buy booze with baby. I feel like every cashier is looking at my purchase and thinking, “Man, she probably needs that bottle of wine after the day she’s had. That kid must be a handful.” In reality, the exact opposite is true. Things are usually rather under control by 7pm every night and there’s little I like doing more than sitting out on my back deck with my glass of wine, throwing the ball for the dog and watching the lightning bugs come out. I feel like I can breathe again after what inevitably was a busy and somewhat stressful day.

But that awkward feeling is the exact reason I often buy box o’wine. Some of my friends think I’m crazy, but there are a lot of pluses to box o’wine. (And I’m seriously not alone; there’s even a Facebook page for people who feel similarly.)

First, it’s really come a long way from my college Franzia days. It’s actually not that bad. Maybe I wouldn’t serve it for a dinner party, but for me, when I’m by myself, it definitely will suffice.

But the second reason is probably the real reason I buy it. Unless I get a chance to get on post to get to the Class Six to do some bulk buying, most of my booze purchases are done at Target, as I’m swinging to pick up more diapers, Swiffer pads, and Milk Bone Minis. (My life in six words or less.) And most often I’m on foot, so I’m limited by the size of the basket underneath my stroller as to what I can buy and get home.

In a typical Target box o’wine, there are supposedly four bottles. So, one cardboard cube will not only last me quite a while, but it fits conveniently under my stroller, is a heck of a lot lighter than four glass bottles, and also elicits none of the telltale clanking around that four bottles make as I’m wheeling through Target at 10:00am.

And of course, the box o’wine is a safer alternative to glass bottles. Point in case was my experience today. After the major effort I made to stock up on pretty much any kind of booze that our current heatwave may make me thirst for, I found my dreams of a refreshing vodka tonic this evening completely shattered. Literally. As I was unloading the car, the bag with the vodka broke, dropping the yet-to-be-opened bottle right onto my patio stone, and smashing it into a gazillion blue slivers of glass. Luckily I had stocked up on wine because when life gave me chards, I still had chardonnay.

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Filed under babies, booze, daily life, shopping

Becoming a Fashion Forward (Or At Least Not So Behind) Momma

This post on a friend’s Facebook page about Diane von Furstenburg collaborating with Gap to produce some limited-edition GapKids must-haves for wee ones reminded me of a post I have been meaning to write for some time.

At one of my baby showers (one of the only blessings that come with divorced families), a nice friend gave me this book called Baby Steps: A Little Handbook for Happy Parenting. Rule No. 3 in the book was: Yes, the baby will dress better than you for awhile.

I remember laughing at reading that at first. But then something happened and I almost took it as a challenge.

I have never been really concerned with fashion. Sure, I want to look good. But for years, I have been a believer in basics. Accessorize black, white, gray, or tan with some fun earrings, funky jewelry, and/or cute shoes and you are all good. It makes perfectly logical sense except that what you don’t realize (especially when on a budget) is that, year to year, your clothes never change–and quite possibly neither do you. I started to realize this in college when, as a joke, my roommate outlined my wardrobe–a black long-sleeve turtleneck for winter, a black short-sleeve turtleneck for spring, and a black sleeveless turtleneck for summer.

Point taken. And while in my post-graduate years, I took this all into consideration, I’m not really sure I made many significant strides. I actually hated skinny jeans until I realized that they were way easier to tuck into riding-style boots, which is one trend I absolutely adored. (Still do.) But cargo skinnies? No way. Gladiator sandals? Definitely a little too bold. Flat t-straps were okay, but the big-heeled version seemed a little excessive. And fancy shorts? Not a chance. Who  (other than celebrities) can get away with wearing silk shorts out to a bar or club anyway?

I still cared about looking current, but I didn’t really care about being trendy. In fact, I was willing to forgo trends for my own style comfort. But then came baby.

Ever since my little bundle of boy arrived, I’ve been so more interested in what clothes I’m wearing than I ever was. (Ever.) I don’t need expensive, designer duds, but suddenly I do want things that at least look trendy even if they come from Target. I will admit that one of the first things I bought for fun once I lost my baby weight was a pair of gray skinny cargo pants. (A lesson in never say never.)

But I’ve bought also sorts of crazy stuff in the past year because it was hot, cool, trendy, or fun. (By definition that would mean it also would totally qualify as impractical as a new mom. I think I might be taking “Pregnant in Heels” to a new level.) Yes, I actually bought a gorgeous pair of grey suede, over-the-knee, chunk-heeled boots this past fall. I don’t doubt that I made a statement when I wore them to my first French mommy group.

Similarly my last two shoe purchases for summer were as follows (the one on the left is Nine West and the on the right is Franco Sarto):

These gladiators were made for strollin'...

Not the greatest picture, but also arguably not the greatest selection, if you are talking about heel height versus functionality when it comes to lugging car seats or diaper bags or chasing children around. But, at the time, I felt that I needed (and deserved) them, so I bought them. (I still feel justified.)

I mentioned this sudden new-found interest or commitment or whatever you can call it in fashion–or at least trends, because who am I kidding, I don’t dare spend my husband’s hard-earned deployment money on essentially a label–to a couple of other mommy friends recently and found I wasn’t alone. Many of them were feeling the same, like they needed to make an extra effort to look good anytime they went somewhere other than the grocery store or gym. Showering was no longer just enough; we needed to have the whole package together. It’s like a passive-aggressive refusal among new moms to fit the stereotypical image of a new mom.

I say this, but I certainly don’t mean that women like me are trying to forget or hide that we are moms. I mean, we’re all cool with being a mom and having a lifestyle as a mom. I think the question is, do we need to wear t-shirts, khaki shorts, and flip flops or sneakers (or worse, Crocs) everyday? Hells no!

The only unfortunate part to this new sense of fashion daring for mommies like me is that we don’t have all that many places to go. The options are seriously limited–grocery store, Target, gym, church, work, and anything else pretty much is extra effort that may or may not require a babysitter. So while I’m buying these cute wardrobe goodies, I’m not really putting them through their courses for a night out on the town or anything. (In this sense, I actually look forward to meetings at the office because it means that I can get semi dressed up.)

But I buy the clothes anyway, despite some of its impracticality–I also recently bought a black, silk tulip skirt, which totally qualifies–because it’s really the only way I feel connected to the normal world. I’m so busy chasing, cleaning, feeding, bathing, and putting to bed that I barely have time to turn on the TV or answer e-mails, much less keep up with the all the latest happenings from around the globe. (That totally sucks, especially for a journalist by trade, to be constantly behind the power curve when it comes to knowing what’s going on in the world.) So, wearing something that looks sort of trendy is almost like a last stretch to stay connected with everything around me.

Maybe it sounds completely shallow. And maybe it is. But I completely feel more human and more together as an urban momma when I’m pushing my stroller wearing gladiator wedge sandals.

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Filed under babies, baby clothes, daily life, fashion and style, infants, maternity fashions, mom style, mommy care

Mommy Meals on Wheels

Get in my belly!

Because I took both a birthing class and a breastfeeding class with Juliana Parker of Birth ‘n’ Babies, I am still on her e-mail list. Most of the time her updates are on new classes or deals on Madela products, which at this junction I’m over. However, this last Web announcement completely caught my eye:

HOME COOKED MEALS AFTER THE BIRTH OF YOUR BABY, WITH A SICK BABY OR DURING A FAMILY EMERGENCY!

Successful individuals will tell you that the key to success is knowing your strengths and weaknesses… and when the going gets tough, the tough ask for help!  Having a baby, having a sick baby or dealing with a family emergency can be exhausting!  This wonderful program is offered to you exclusively by Childbirth-n-Babies.  We coordinate your friends, neighbors, relatives and members of your community to help you out!  Remember, people WANT to help!  Volunteers are not paid because they are worthless, they are not paid because they are priceless!!

Maybe I’m totally out of the loop, but I’ve never heard of such a service. Fortunately, my mom was able to come down after baby’s birth to take care of the feeding me and whoever else’s mouth happened to be around. But I sure do have a lot of friends who didn’t have that luxury, as they sorted out the chaos of a new baby without much, if any, support. How great would it be to know that not only dinner is control, but it’s also likely to be something at least slightly healthier (and probably much more delicious) than delivery pizza or Chinese food?

But more interesting is how this thing works. So, if you’re an expectant mommy (or dad), you send an e-mail to meals@childbirth-n-babies.com about 2 weeks before your due date. You supply the organizers with the following info: name, delivery address, number of people in household, dietary restrictions,  2 preferred delivery time windows, and a list of names and e-mail addresses of friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors who would be happy to help you out when you need it.

Then you just contact Birth ‘n’ Babies, when your wee one(s) arrive and the organizers will contact the folks on your list, as well as other kind-hearted, meal-making saints in your area who like to volunteer their time and groceries to help out new mommies, to sort out a meal schedule. Once that happens, you receive a link to an online schedule that will let you know when you can expect some good eats to show up. Of course, you’ll have to fend for yourself some of the time, but just knowing there are days you won’t have to deal with feeding yourself is awesome.

I just think this is such a cool concept. I mean, I feel like when you’re an expectant mommy, especially the first time around, so many people tell you not to hesitate ask for help. You know that they mean it, but most of the time, you never really take advantage of their generosity. Maybe it just feels too weird to ask for help. But this is the perfect way to really take them up on their super kind offer to help without doing all the organizing yourself. (Like you have time for that with a newborn, a sick baby, or an emergency on your hands.) You just put them on this list and when you’re ready for some help, someone is already on standby.

And it’s totally free! That’s even better in my book. Although I would imagine it wouldn’t hurt to pay the favor forward and, once the household is back under control, volunteer to whip up a few lasagnas or other goodies of your own to offer other newbie moms.

Although I’m not going to be expecting another baby any time soon, I’m so tempted to volunteer just to see how this thing works. Sounds good in concept, but I wonder if reality is a different story. Either way, I give Birth ‘n’ Babies props for getting creative for D.C. area moms.

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