Category Archives: emotions

Keeping Up with the Alpha Moms

As I was flipping through the local paper this evening, I came across a reprint of an article from the Chicago Tribune, called “High-stress Motherhood.” Given my recent crisis of confidence in believing that I can actually succeed at being a working mom, I decided this article was probably meant for me.

I am totally mom Alice Domar, who so perfectly describes what it’s like trying to balance job demands with child demands:

“When you’re at work you feel guilty that you’re not at home, and if you go home at 5 or 6 p.m. to pick up the kids from day care, you feel guilty you’re not at work—or you do what I do: You have your Blackberry in hand, and every time you get to a stoplight, you check your email.”

I totally always feel like I’m running to just keep up, which makes wonder how only 40% of working moms report feeling rushed, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. What do the other 60% of them do for a living that doesn’t seem to make significant demands or add a certain level of stress to life?

Don’t get me wrong; I like my job and I like being busy. I find what I do both challenging and interesting. But while there are good days where everything feels under control, there are those other days, which usually end (at least for me) in some sort of mommy meltdown, a glass of chardonnay, and a call to my mom. At that point, I can hardly count myself one of those moms who report that they are happy despite their frazzled lifestyles. In fact, it usually takes me a couple of days to get over that this-is-too-much-for-any-sane-person feeling.

I fully acknowledge that I add a certain degree of undue pressure on myself. That’s just in my DNA; I have never really done anything half ass. Anything that I consider worth doing, I do to the best of my ability. But this article made me consider this:

As biology nudges the modern mom into the traditional position of comforter-in-chief, she starts to contend with the dazzlingly high domestic standards promoted by everyone from Martha Stewart, to HGTV to your friendly neighborhood alpha mom.

First, I just have to say that the term “alpha mom” is really funny to me, hence the title reference. But that aside,  maybe women, and especially working moms, are unknowingly being set up to try and fulfill unreal expectations. While husbands and moms definitely help share the burden of doing it all, they aren’t the teams of people that go into making every Martha Stewart or HGTV project a success.

But even though we may recognize that fact, it doesn’t necessarily stop us from wanting it all or striving for it. Does a reality check ever really kick in? Or do we as moms just live feeling inadequate in perpetuity? Gosh I hope not.

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Filed under daily life, depression, emotions, family, infants, mommy care, moms, stay-at-home moms, working mom

When Your Kid Quits You Cold Turkey

Baby is going to turn one next week. It’s definitely cause for celebration, but part of me has been wishing it wouldn’t come so soon. I’ve been doing okay as a baby momma, but I don’t know about a toddler momma.

Aside from the bittersweet-ness of such milestones and my somewhat irrational fear of being unable to handle the challenges of a toddler, one of the things that I’ve been stressing about in hitting the 12-month mark is what to do about breastfeeding. Stop or keep going?

I never really pictured myself as a breastfeeding mommy. And I’d venture a guess that most of my family and friends are still shocked that I’ve lasted this long. I started out just wanting to make it to three months. Then three became six, six became nine, and all of a sudden I’m at the end of the year and still breastfeeding.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking more and more that I’m done. Not to mention that my husband is pretty much just weirded out by the idea of breastfeeding any longer; at 9 months, he thought baby looked too big and strangely out of place in my arms for a feeding. But more than that, I’ve been feeling like I want a little bit more of my life back. I’m tired of staying up an extra half hour at night (or worse, getting up a half hour early) to pump, traveling with a cooler, and always feeling self-conscious when nursing in public.

But I was also feeling a little sad and perhaps even guilty about stopping. Breastfeeding is not only such a healthy thing for the baby, but it’s such a special bond between baby and mommy. Nursing forces you to take the time to slow down and hold your baby close. And you can’t do that without always seeing your baby for the special little jewel that he (or she) is.

Turns out my anxiety over this was perhaps a little overblown because for as much as I was weighing my choices, I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Last Friday baby up and decided he didn’t want to nurse and that was it. Dumped. Kicked to the curb. Dropped like a bad habit. For however many ways there are to say it, he was over me.

I’m not going to lie. My feelings were hurt.

I couldn’t believe that this was the end of breastfeeding road for baby and me. I tried for two days after that to get baby to nurse–unsuccessfully as it turned out. Baby was not going back on his decision no matter how tired, hungry, or upset he got in those two days. (I have to admit I admire his conviction.)

Maybe part of him knew that I was feeling ready, so he just decided to make things easy for me. I like thinking that, that we have been so in synch with each other that we were actually growing and changing together. But it’s also hard not to view it as a critical first step in his independence.

I keep thinking about something I read somewhere recently about how parental love is the only relationship where loving means growing apart rather than together. I wish I knew the exact quote because it’s so true. Being a parent means loving your kid enough to give them the skills and strength to go out and do their own thing. How simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking is that irony?

And that’s why I can still manage to shed a couple of tears over the fact that I’m no longer a breastfeeding mommy, even though I was ready to quit in the first place.

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Filed under babies, bottle feeding, breastfeeding, daily life, emotions, feeding, first year, formula, infants, lactation, moms, nursing, parenting

Counting My Christmas Blessings

It’s been a good long time since I had one of those overwhelmed-by-emotions new-mommy moments. Maybe my hormones have finally found some semblance of balance (it has been six months) or maybe I’ve been just too darn busy to entertain them for any longer than a nanosecond. But last night I sort of felt the need to invite them back in.

My husband was late getting home, so I was alone in getting baby ready for bed. I gave him a bath and put him in his super soft fleece pajamas before settling the two of us into the wooden rocking chair (yes, I’m old school) next to his crib. Normally, I would read to him as he nursed himself to sleep, but last night I decided to just listen to the Christmas music that was playing downstairs and rock.

Oh Boy, Oh Joy

At one point I looked down to find that baby had drifted off to sleep. I ran my hand across the top of his head, smoothing his hair back into place. I then took my fingertip and traced the outline of his eyebrow, the bridge of his nose, and finally the little curve at the back of his neck. I don’t know what it was about this last little detail, but it triggered a sort of double helix of emotion–sadness and joy, wrapped tight around each other.

See, baby is named after my brother, who we lost in 2000. It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade already because I don’t miss him any less today than the day he died. In some ways I think I might miss him more because I know now all the things that he’s missed since he’s been gone. He officially died from complications following a liver transplant. However, the real underlying problem was that he had a very rare genetic immune disorder, a disease that has plagued my family genes for generations, passed uniquely from mother to son. For a long time, I feared that burying sons would be a family tradition.

But by the grace of god, it turns out that I am not a carrier of this awful  disease. So, as I sat there, looking at him by only the light of the lamp in the corner, the reality of this very simple thought really set in on me: I am not going to lose him.

He will never have to know the fear or the pain that my brother (and actually my uncle, too) knew. Or develop the courage, the tenacity, or even the wit to be able to deal with it all. He will not have to take it one day at a time, making the most out of every enjoyable moment.

This is not to say that he’s got a carte-blanche on life. But god willing, this will be the biggest, baddest bullet he’ll ever have to dodge. At the very least, it means that whatever happens as his life rolls out before him, this will not clip it short. And for all the new fears you develop the day you become a mommy, it’s such a giant relief to have at least one scientifically put to rest.

So, as I take stock of my baby just days before his first Christmas, I see so many blessings wrapped up in this happy, healthy (and hefty) little boy that I know it’ll take me a lifetime to count them all.

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Filed under babies, daily life, emotions, family, hormones, infants, mommy care, moms, post-partum

Grandstanding for Grandma

I just got back from my second solo flight with baby in as many weeks. We did pretty well, considering this last one was fraught with my typical travel drama. This round included arriving at the airport at 5:15am only to find out that someone–it’s still not clear to me whether it was Travelocity or Delta’s mistake–canceled the reservation on my ticket when I had to cancel my husband’s ticket. So glad I got up at 3:45am for that.

Baby held his cool through it all, minus a 15 minute scream fest on the tarmac in D.C. while the plane  was stuck in runway gridlock. I swear everyone was glaring at me as the minutes ticked by so unbearably slowly. I rocked him, I burped him, I tried to feed a bottle to him, I held him up to the window, I turned him on his tummy–I did everything I possibly could to get him to stop screaming. I finally had to whip out the boob, which is something that I never do in public–much less in front of a captive airplane audience–if I can possibly avoid it. Thankfully the larger woman in the seat next to me was able to scoot over to the aisle seat after the man sitting next to her bolted to the first available free seat one row over, so there was some discretion.

But even though we got to South Carolina a few hours later than expected, we got there without major incident. Grandma Linda and Great Grandma Pat were there to meet us, which was fantastic considering what a challenge it is to wheel a suitcase as you’re pushing a stroller and carrying what feels like the world’s largest diaper bag. Not to mention that I’ve pretty much worn the wheels off my Snap ‘n’ Go, so it actually takes some muscle power to maneuver it.

The weekend went by fast–too fast, as it would seem–but it was fun. We saw the family, did some shopping, had a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner, and even stayed up until 1:30am having girl talk over a bottle of wine (okay, so it was two). But the best part for me was watching Ian’s mom just love on baby.

She’s been basically biting her tongue since the day we got married about having kids. She’s wanted nothing more in the past decade than to be a grandma. In fact, when we asked her what she wanted baby to call her, she didn’t even think about it. No need for a nickname that would sound young, energetic, even stylish. It was Grandma. End of discussion.

Of course, baby was at his very cutest the whole weekend so she would just go ga-ga over him, reveling in his every mood and movement. But I think the moment she loved the absolute most was most unexpected.

We were out Christmas shopping and randomly my mother-in-law says we have to go into PetSmart; they were having an adoption fair and she wanted to see the dogs. I should probably note that she (a) has a dog and (b) volunteers at a dog shelter, so she’s a dog lover through and through. I think she was also trying to tell us something about moving on from Joey.

There were probably 20 dogs there hoping to find a new owner, including eight Burmese Mountain-Beagle mix puppies that were oh-so adorable. So, there was a lot of barking. I was a little worried that the noise might scare baby; he generally gives a little jump when there are sudden noises like the doorbell or the phone ringing.

But not that day, not my kid. And fortunately, I happened to have my Flipcam hanging out in the bottom of my purse, along with some receipts, crumbs, and a random curtain tie back. (Don’t ask.) Baby heard the barking and just cracked up. Why? No idea. But it was funny enough that it kept us yelling out, “Ruff, ruff!” or “Grrr, grrr,” at every dull moment during the weekend. Check it out:

As I said, I was lucky enough to have my Flipcam on hand to catch this moment for posterity, or at least for the amusement of grandma. I highly recommend anyone who has kids should get this thing. It’s cheap, small, seriously simple to operate, and you won’t over do the whole video thing. It’s just perfect for any spur-of-the-moment grandstanding for grandma.

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Filed under babies, daily life, emotions, family, grandparents, infants, newbie parents, travel

Shot Through the Heart (And Thigh)

Baby recently went in for his two-month shots. I think there were five of them all together. One three-in-one vaccination that went into one chubby thigh, two single-dose shots into the other chubby thigh, and then one kinder, gentler vaccination administered orally. As to be expected, there was a lot of crying and screaming. Fortunately none of it was from me.

I seriously worried that I might rain a few fat drops down the old cheeks watching the wee one scream bloody murder. Especially when the nurse started telling my husband that she used to be really bad at administering shots to babies. She used to work in geriatrics but then switched to pediatrics; but we weren’t supposed to worry because she was really good at it now. Wow, comforting.

Although that conversation was less than assuring to my husband and me, I will say she was a pro. I couldn’t believe how unbelievable fast she had the shots over and done with. (Guess that comes with practice.) So fast, in fact, that baby almost didn’t know what happened. The shots went in and there was this second of pregnant silence before his little round face just crumpled in on itself and turned red and he let out a cry that pretty much said, “Moooommmm! Why did you do that to me?”

Music to Mommy's Ears

I probably will sound like a terrible mother to say that there was something so incredibly cute about the sheer shock on his face before he opened his mouth wide to let out that wail. I think I may have even smiled a secret little smile as I picked him up and hugged him tight to me.  (I can’t believe I’m even admitting to this on the Internet.)

Baby had only shed two real tears before that day. One was when I accidentally clipped the alligator clip that tethers his pacifier to him to the skin on his chest. (Oops.) Number two was when the dog jumped up on the bed as I was changing baby and in the way that 90-pound dogs can be sweet, accidentally smashed baby on the head. (Double oops.)

I hate saying it, but there is something about seeing baby cry his first tears that can bring a little smile to my face. Part of it is knowing that these moments are temporary; no permanent damage has been done. But the other part of it is seeing such raw, innocent emotion. When a baby cries, it’s a simple cause and effect. Baby got pinched, knocked, or pricked and it hurt, so that means there are tears. How simple and beautiful is that?

It’s no longer like that for adults. I can’t speak for all mommies or daddies, but I would venture a guess that the vast majority of things that make most adults cry at this point in life have nothing to do with physical pain. Tears come from four main sources: disappointment, frustration, humiliation, and sadness. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go back to just crying when you just hurt yourself?

So, I think that’s why I can smile as I hold my wee one when he wails, clinging on to my shoulder. At this point in his short life, I can kiss the boo-boos away. It won’t be like that for forever, so I better enjoy it now.

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Filed under babies, daily life, emotions, hospital, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, parenting, post-pregnancy

Look at the Baby, Look at the Baby

My husband and I never get sick of the movie Old School. We’ve seen it a gazillion times and still get a kick out of all the awesome one-liners. One Vince Vaughn zinger that my husband and I particularly find hilarious has taken on a totally new meaning for us post Baby Aleksi’s arrival.

Watching, Judging

The quote to which I’m referring comes from the wedding scene, where Beanie (Vince Vaughn) tries to talk Frank (Will Farrell) out of getting married.

Frank: “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Beanie: “Why don’t you give that six months. You don’t think that’s gonna change. I got a wife, kids. Do I sound like a happy guy to you Frankie? There’s my wife. Now, see that: always smiling, hi honey, judging, watching. Look at the baby, look at the baby!”

(Better yet, listen to the actual movie quote here.)

For me, there’s something insanely hilarious about that last line: “Look at the baby, look at the baby!” Pre baby, my husband and I would whisper that line to each other every time we were around a baby that everyone else was oohing and ahhing over. We always giggled at our little inside joke; “baby” was barely in our vocabulary.

Not only am I now living that quote, but I’m totally one of “those” parents.

Nearly every morning, I spend probably a good 15 minutes just lying in bed, staring at the baby, memorizing every little curve of his face. I’m not really thinking about anything; I’m just looking, looking, looking, as if something in his round, little face could have changed overnight.

And it’s just not me and it’s just not the mornings.

I’ve caught my husband doing the same. He puts his face right up to the baby’s and just stays there until he’s got his fix. Sometimes he even calls me over so I can stare with him. (Ok, I admit it; I do that, too.)

Same thing when I’m having dinner with my parents. The baby moves or makes a peep (or even just sits there), and conversation at the table stalls out and we all just stare at him. I’m half surprised that our mouths don’t drop open and drool starts falling out.

What is it about babies that makes grown people do this?

Babies are definitely cute, but it’s something more and it’s definitely deep and it’s definitely profound. It’s like there’s something in us that recognizes that this is a new, fresh life, one so full of possibility, that forces us into a temporary state of awe.

Or maybe it’s that something in us recognizes that this little person is one of us, that he (or she) belongs to us, with us. So, we get a little glimpse of how big our responsibility is to this wee one. Maybe it’s our sense of how big the job is and how small we are that gives us reason to pause. We need a moment to see how much it’ll be worth it.

Or maybe it’s just that we see ourselves in these round faces and curious eyes. And in seeing our reflections, we feel so much less alone or insignificant in the world. We know this little person is glad to see to see us, will look up to us, will love us and so the longer we look, the better we feel about ourselves.

Then again, maybe it’s none of these things that drive us to linger a little longer on a pair of lovely lashes or bright eyes, a button nose or a pouty mouth. And maybe it really doesn’t matter. Just look at the baby.

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Filed under baby blues, daily life, emotions, hormones, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, post-partum, post-pregnancy

Not So Hot on the Hormones

I have written before about hormones–the ones that make you sappy, weepy, and hysterical. But it turns out the hormonal changes that happen after you have a baby can have as many physical side-effects as emotional.

Up until a few weeks ago, the only hormonal changes I was experiencing was resulting in tears and more tears. But an e-mail from a mommy-friend warned me that there could be more to come. She wrote:

“SWEATING… do you have that? Hot flashes from the hormones leaving your body? I was in shock and had no idea what was going on in the hospital until they explained that one to me. Nothing worse than getting up after only an hour of sleep in the middle of the night AND being drenched!”

So, I never got the night sweats right after giving birth, but mysteriously about a few weeks after giving birth I started to smell differently. And by differently, I mean not good. My normal smell was altered and no amount of deodorant seemed to tame it.

At first I thought it was just something my hyper sensitive nose could detect. However, my mom confirmed that others indeed could smell the new, pungent me. I had gone for a walk with baby and then picked her up. It was warm out, but not outrageously hot. We got into the car and I said, “I stink.” She replied, “You do.”

Wow. How’s that for honesty?

Sadly I thought, “Hey, that’s better than night sweats.” (Those came later.) But the other really weird thing was a skin rash.

After another walk with baby (maybe it was the same one where my mom confirmed that I, indeed, did stink–I can’t remember), I got in the car. I took a quick look in the mirror–my neck had been a little itchy–only to find a wild-looking red rash, very much akin to a heat rash.

Now, I’ve had heat rash before. It was a sunny day when I took my walk, but the sun at the River (we’re near Canada for god’s sake) in June had nothing on the sun in the Dominican Republic in March the last time I got heat rash.

I popped a Benadryl and just wrote it off as a one-time thing; I really hadn’t been exposed to a lot of sun of late.

Then it happened again. And again.

So, this is weird. I’m a person who tans, damn it.

A few days ago, I mentioned this skin irritation to a dermatologist friend. She immediately fingered, as I suspected, the sun as the culprit. Other than popping a Benadryl here and there or lubing up with anti-itch cream, her prescription was to get out in the sun. Weird that a dermatologist would prescribe that.

But the worst were the mosquitoes.

It was one of those perfect River nights, complete with to-die-for sunset and my family decided we should enjoy a glass of wine on our limestone terrace. Sounds absolutely perfect, right?

Under Attack

So, I nestled into one of the super comfy faux-wicker chairs. Baby was asleep so I was ready to savor a glass of some delicious chardonnay. I took one sip, only to be interrupted by a buzzing mosquito.

Okay, that’s annoying.

But what do you say when you’re swarmed?

I’m so not joking. Within three minutes of sitting down, mosquitoes were everywhere. Buzzing around my face, pricking me through my leggings, biting me on the bottoms of my feet.

“It’s because you’re lactating,” my mom said.

Okay, I’ll accept that. Breast milk is after all super sweet and sticky. But I was still under attack.

My step-dad busted out the bug spray and I sprayed myself down with some kind of DEET without hardly a second thought about bug spray on baby. (It’s so worth the view, I assure you.)

These damn bugs were immune. They were swarming around me.

I was totally squirming, covering baby so he didn’t get hit, and trying to fend off attacks.

But, it was too much and they overcame me. I gave up and sat myself and baby on the couch in the living room, happy to just yell through the screen door while my parents offered them up for sacrifice.

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Filed under birthing, daily life, delivery, emotions, hormones, lactation, mommy care, moms, newbie parents, newborns, nursing, post-partum, post-pregnancy