Category Archives: post-pregnancy

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

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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Filed under family, feeding, first year, hospital, infants, mommy care, newbie parents, newborns, post-pregnancy

My First Mother’s Day

I had a friend yesterday wish me a happy first Mothers Day. My first reaction was, this isn’t my first Mothers Day. And then I remembered that I was just very (very) pregnant last year at this time.

But how interesting that in my head I had already switched from just being

A year ago things were good...

me to being mom before baby had even arrived. I mean, it’s hard to just feel like you when you’re pregnant but when you’re pregnant for the first time you don’t know exactly how your life is going to change.

It’s hard to capture the extent of those changes because, on the one hand, life changes super drastically and then  you sort of get into the groove as a new parent, so the changes don’t seem as huge anymore. And then there are the moments you’re never sure how you lived without.

Last night I watched the Ed Burns movie The Groomsmen. While there’s definitely a reason its an instant download on Netflix, there were some good laughs and a few sort of deep reflections. The story line is simple–the main character, Paulie, played by Ed Burns, is freaking out days before he’s marrying his already-pregnant girlfriend, played by Brittany Murphy–so there are lots of good, fairly humorous “guy” scenes and dialogue exchanges.

But for all the cheap laughs, there are also some pretty insightful moments that held up like mirrors to things I have experienced. For example, there’s a scene where Paulie and his girlfriend get into an argument after he sets up the crib because she also wants him to paint and he doesn’t want to. That leads to a whole meltdown where she finally yells at him that it would be nice if he would just once bring her flowers, make her breakfast in bed, or give her a foot massage because she takes care of everything else.

That scene played out a number of times between my husband and I during my pregnancy, as he tried to squeeze as much into the last of our “free” time and all I wanted was to slow down and enjoy the fun of expecting baby.

But this whole concept of so-called free time before and after baby  is worth a visit. My husband and I have always been a couple constantly on the go, and post-baby, that really hasn’t stopped. We don’t go out as much at night any more, but our days our definitely very full. In fact, I’m not sure when I’ve ever been busier than now.

But the amazing part is how productive I have become. Part of it is the not

...but they are even better now

going out as much at night, which gives me a pretty big block of time after baby is in bed to do everything from pay bills, clean, and of course write. And the not going out as much at night means I get up earlier on the weekends–Saturdays and Sundays tend to feel a lot like any other day of the week–which gives me some hours in the morning to do things with baby whereas I would’ve normally been sleeping in or otherwise having a lazy morning.

It’s like this other scene in The Groomsmen where Paulie is talking to his friend Dez about his fears about becoming a father and losing his freedom. Dez, who has a couple of kids, says to him, “What were you doing with your free time anyway? You were watching TV.” And that’s really it. The free time that I had pre-baby was really just a lot of wasted time.

And while being busy means that I often find myself fairly exhausted at the end of the day, I like it. I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish for a day to sleep until noon uninterrupted or an afternoon spent at a bar watching football without keeping track of my babysitting tab, but, for the most part, I feel like I contribute more to the world now than I ever did before.

The responsibility of having a baby is sometimes meltdown-worthy, but for me, having a baby was like adding a rudder to my life. I have direction every day; my goal is to make baby’s day the best day possible so that he can sleep happy. Sometimes I fall short in that goal, but lucky for me I get a chance to get up and try again the next day. So, tomorrow I’m going to celebrate Mother’s Day by just being a mom. In my book, there’s no better way to spend my day than doing that.

So, here’s wishing every mom the best kind of Mothers Day–one spent with her kids.

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Filed under babies, daily life, family, first year, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, photos, post-pregnancy

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

Tit for Toque

Nothing says hilarious like a boob hat. Seriously check this out from Etsy. Thank you Pregnant Chicken for pointing tit out.

As if you couldn't miss them...

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Filed under babies, breastfeeding, infants, lactation, moms, newborns, nursing, post-pregnancy

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

The White Gold Rush

We’re nearing the end of World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, so I figured it’s probably an appropriate show of support to post an update on how my own babe-to-boob experience is going. If it’s any indication, we now refer to breastmilk as white gold.

I’ve passed the two-month mark and as you might guess from my lack of recent posts on the subject, no news is good news. It was a bit stressful in the beginning because quite simply I didn’t know what I was doing. But it wasn’t too long–maybe a couple weeks–before I hit a stride that I was comfortable with.

For me, that meant going against everything I’d read and introducing a bottle early–like within the first week of bringing baby home. I felt kind of guilty about it for some crazy reason, but it wasn’t too long before I realized that pumping and bottling totally enhanced the quality of life for me with the wee one. I felt more mobile–all I needed was my mini cooler pack full of breast milk and I was good to go. And it felt like I got more free time (if there is such a thing once you have a kid) in between feedings where I could get essential tasks like paying bills, doing laundry, and getting myself together done.

The best I can figure on that one is that baby eats more from a bottle in a single sitting than from the boob and, therefore, sleeps a bit longer. In fact, I credit the two 4 0z. bottles that baby downs around 9pm every night for getting him to sleeping through the night. (As an aside, that’s been so wonderful. So wonderful that I’m afraid that it’s too good to be true. The thought of going backwards is really depressing.)

Now, just to clarify, I’m not pumping exclusively, although I’m fascinated by the couple of mommies who I know who’ve gone that route. (Sometimes pumping  feels so time consuming.) I still nurse, but only for a few–usually two or three–feedings a day. The rest of baby’s feedings are given by bottle because they’re given on the go, anywhere from a park bench to a parking lot. (Turns out having a baby hasn’t slowed me down much; I just carry more luggage.)

But the one thing that comes with pumping is a heightened sense of how precious whatever expressed milk you have is. The first time you open up the mini cooler to find out the top to one of your bottles wasn’t screwed on tightly sucks, plain and simple. You feel so cheated because you worked so hard to produce that milk and it’s gone but baby didn’t benefit from it. (You get the same feeling when you have to pump and dump, only it’s worse because you feel intentionally wasteful.)

And there’s always this worry that you won’t have enough bottles to keep baby satisfied while you’re running around doing your thing. That’s a real concern if grandma is babysitting, but it’s really not that big of a deal if you’re busy with baby; after all, you can still nurse at any time, even if you’d prefer not to in public. In the case of a wailing baby emergency, it’s nice that you’ve got that option.

For newbie moms considering going this route, here are a few things that I’ve learned that have totally helped me out:

  • Start early. So-called nipple confusion, the idea that baby will never take the breast once the bottle is introduced, is largely a farce. However, there is now more evidence that mommies can wait too long to introduce an artificial nipple, making for a rough go down the road. For me, I introduced the bottle very early and have found that my wee one goes from breast to bottle seemlessly.
  • Go slow flow.Milk comes out faster from a bottle than the boob, so you probably want to go with a slow-flow nipple that’s made especially for newborns. The slower flow best simulates breastfeeding, forcing the wee one to suck pretty hard. Not only is this good for developing the mouth muscles and reducing dribbles, but it helps babies switch from breast to bottle a little easier. However, you really

    Baby's Favorite Bottles

    need to check out the packages to make sure you’ve got the right nipple. For example, I use Avent bottles. (I love them, by the way; they’re PBA free, reasonably priced, and you can buy a converter kit that works with just about any pump, allowing you to pump directly into the bottle from which you’ll feed.) The newborn nipple is labeled with a 0+ versus a stage 1 nipple, which is good for 0 to 3 months. I’ve noticed similar labeling issues with other bottle manufacturers.

  • Pump en primero. This is by far the best piece of advice I can give pumping mommies–pump before you nurse not after. I had started experimenting with this technique when a friend of mine mentioned it as a great way of building up a milk supply, especially when returning to work. When I pumped after a feeding, I was able to get out maybe a couple of ounces per boob after what felt like forever. When I pump before I nurse, I end up with double that stored up in about the same amount of time. And baby’s not suffering for it. Turns out that babies are impressive little suckers and are able to out milk a breast pump. And if I was ever in doubt, I could check for a mini milk moustache on baby when nursing. (He never disappointed.)

Those are by far the best tips I can give any mommies going for the bottle in the near term, but I saw a few more in the article “Breast & Bottle” in the August issue of Parenting. Check it out here.

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Filed under bottle feeding, breastfeeding, child development, daily life, infants, lactation, moms, newbie parents, newborns, nursing, parenting, post-partum, post-pregnancy