Category Archives: pregnancy

A Map of Motherhood

One of the things I love most about being a journalist and editor has really nothing to do with writing. It’s about taking data and figuring out how to present it visually to create clarity, impact, and fun. In the business, we call all these charts, tables, timelines, graphs, flow charts, and anything else that slightly resembles a drawing of some sort infographics. They are critical to good journalism and story telling for two reasons: they provide a secondary point of entry into any story and they keep readers engaged with visual stimulation. But good infographics can be hard to come by because it takes a certain amount of skill to process a lot of information, prioritize it, simplify it, and add some creativity to the presentation. Needless to say, I appreciate a good infographic when I see it.

My absolute favorite infographer (and no, I don’t know if that’s a real word) is Jessica Hagy, who runs a blog called Indexed. All her posts are pictures of little line drawings she does on 3×5 cards. But even in this crude graphic form, she manages to pack her images with intelligence, depth, humor, wisdom, and often irony. Admittedly there are times when I struggle to “get” them. But even so, I think it’s pure genius. Just check these samples out:

Fun, right? So when I saw one of my favorite mommy bloggers, Pregnant Chicken, was featuring charts in today’s posts, I got excited. The post was all about how dumb a mommy-to-be (or a plain ole mommy) ends up feeling every time she goes to a doctor for something because typically one of two things happens:

  1. The doctor thinks she is nuts because whatever symptoms they are exhibiting are seriously no big deal, or
  2. The doctor thinks she is nuts because she didn’t get her butt into the office sooner because what’s wrong is a bad situation

So, Pregnant Chicken offered these perspectives on the experience, as both a mommy-to-be and new mommy:

Well said. I’ll remember this at my next appointment.

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Filed under health, hospital, moms, pregnancy, writing

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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Filed under babies, birthing, family, first year, infants, maternity, newbie parents, 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

Wine with a Side of Baby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under babies, daily life, health, infants, mommy care, moms, newborns, pregnancy

The Incredible Shrinking Uterus

My OBGYN is a little different from what you’d imagine most mommies-to-be would want in a doctor. I like him because he’s to the point, thorough, and pretty chill. I can’t stand doctors who end up scaring their patients by outlining every possible (even if unlikely) health scenario. But he doesn’t make small talk, he’s not particularly warm or fuzzy, and he doesn’t really do drama. And he’s definitely not funny.

Except during this last visit.

I went in to see him for my new mommy check up. Basically, this happens around six weeks after birth and is a chance for the doc to make sure everything had returned to normal, or at least as normal as possible. (Remember, giving birth is like having a grenade go off in your underwear.)

So, similar to a routine visit, the doc did a physical exam to see how things were coming along. The stitched area appeared fully healed and nothing was abnormally smooshy on the inside, so he moved on to checking my uterus.

Now, the uterus is basically a giant muscle that holds the baby in place during pregnancy. The contractions leading up to child birth are basically the uterus flexing, pushing the baby out. At any rate, during pregnancy, the doctor is always checking to see where the top of your uterus–the fundus–is to make sure the baby’s growing at the right rate. It starts out below your belly button and by the time you’re into month nine, it seems like it’s snuggled in between your rib cages.

It's How Big?

Post birth, the doctor checks to make sure it’s gone back to its original size. Now, original size is small. Really small. I didn’t realize how small it was until my doctor held up his thumb and his forefinger to show me.

But the part that I was really get stuck on was my doctor. He just seemed so amazed at the fact that the uterus basically shriveled up like a raisin in less than six weeks. I think he even referred to the process as “cool.” And he kept holding up his fingers to show me just how little it was. Throughout my whole pregnancy I hadn’t seem him this excited about anything. It was hard to believe after all the pregnant women he’s dealt with over the course of his career that he’d still be amused by a shrinking uterus. (Men are kind of all the same, aren’t they?)

With my uterus snapped back into shape, I scored an A on my post birth exam. So, my doc gave me the green light on the gym and sex (in that order, as if one leads to the other) and sent me packing with a birth control prescription and reassurance that post-baby sex will get better. What a way to end on a high note.

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Filed under birthing, mommy care, moms, natural childbirth, post-partum, post-pregnancy, pregnancy

In Defense of the Epidural

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a couple weeks now. The issue of whether to go natural (or not) when it comes to childbirth is a very controversial subject, one about which many people are very passionate. But I find that there’s a lot of misinformation, on both sides of the issue, so it’s for that reason that I think it’s only fair that I share my story.

Full disclosure: I am not a childbirth expert. My experience is limited to one wee baby, so you can just take my story for what it is: one first-timer’s account.

I was pretty ambivalent about what kind of birth I wanted. I never wrote a birth plan (it seemed to me like an unrealistic way to try to micromanage a birth) and I didn’t do a ton of research about the whole birthing process (I basically took a three-hour crash course).

My whole take on the birth experience was just to let it happen and not plan too much. If I felt like I could do it without help from any drugs, then great. And if I couldn’t stand the pain, there was a solution for that. I figured that was the best attitude to have since I had nothing tangible in the way of experience to go on. About the only thing I cared about is that I didn’t go to the hospital too early; I couldn’t bear the thought of being sent home for some reason. I just wanted to stay at home as long as I could stand it because I’d be free to move and walk around as I saw fit and I could eat (yes, I know that’s random, but the thought of going like 12 hours with nothing but ice chips sounded bad to me).

I was very intrigued by the idea of a natural childbirth. I mean, it makes sense that you might be wont to introduce a drug into your system out of consideration for the baby, even though an epidural is a local anesthetic, which means it doesn’t circulate through your internal system into the baby’s.

I also was very impressed by the people who’d been able to manage a natural childbirth; they really had the strength, endurance, and tenacity to make it happen. I liked the idea of possessing those qualities myself.

But just how badly did it hurt?

When you ask most moms how much it hurt, they usually say something along the lines of, “Oh, it was really painful, but it’s all worth it in the end.” Okay, that was a fair response, but it didn’t tell me squat; I wanted to know exactly how much it hurt. So, I turned to the men.

The first husband I asked about his wife’s au naturel birth, gave me a super detailed play-by-play. In fact, it was more like a dissection of the whole event. The thing that most stuck with me about his account was how he described the blood just running down his wife’s legs as she was trying various standing positions. (I think at the time he was pretty horrified, and maybe even scared, as well, if the truth be told.)

The second husband that weighed in on the subject gave me these words of advice: “Don’t be afraid of the epidural.” After unleashing a litany of expletives on him and her mother as her labor progressed, he said that his wife only told him to “eff off” once after she got her epidural. (That seemed like a plus.)

Well, I’m going to tell you that labor hurts a lot. Like a lot a lot. My  labor first began around 1:30am. Those early labor contractions were manageable; they were really more uncomfortable than anything. They were just enough to make it impossible to get back to sleep. So, at about 4:30am, I got up. By 8:00am, the pain had jumped up a few notches. I found myself needing to get up an walk around my dining room table a few times until the contractions subsided.

Around 11:00am or so, I decided I needed to get in the shower because the contractions had ratched up in intensity yet again. (A hot shower totally provides relief but it’s rather short lived.)

By 1:30pm, I was having big enough contractions that I decided to call my doctor because I was starting to think that I should maybe go to the hospital. He asked me whether I thought I should go immediately or whether I could hold out a little bit. I said I could hang on for a bit, but I wasn’t sure how much longer.

Then he told me that this could be false labor, so not to panic if they sent me home. At that point, I was thinking, “Oh my god, if this is false labor I am in big trouble for the real thing.” It was hurting so much that I was starting to feel nauseous. (My mom, incidentally, looked and me and told me the doc was crazy because I was most certainly in labor.)

I took one more hot shower just before 3:00pm, and then I told my mom I thought I needed to go to the hospital. The contractions were seriously severe at this point. I remember sitting in the hospital admissions trying to give the woman my information and having to pause nearly after every word to wait for for the contraction to subside.

By 4:30pm, I was in the delivery room with the nurse telling me I was about 5cm dilated. She asked me what the pain was like and pointed me to a chart that went from 0 to 10, with zero being no pain and 10 being extreme pain. My contractions were coming in anywhere from an 8 to a 10, depending on the contraction.

So, by 6:30pm, I was done. I ordered the epidural.

That wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience either, just so you know, if you’re considering. Chances are that the anesthesiologist will stick the giant needle in your back at just the time when you have a level 10 contraction, which is exactly what happened to me. But I just kept doing the yoga-style belly breathing that I had been doing to get through my really tough contractions and got through the epidural as well, despite the weird but short-lived shooting pains that I had going from my butt down the back of my legs to my knees.

Wow. That’s about all I have to say about the epidural. Once it took full effect–I could tell by the fact that when the nurse propped up my left leg it immediately flopped to the side–I said to my mom, “I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this.”

I literally could not feel anything;  it was like my butt was a giant cinder block. There was absolutely no pain or even sense of contraction. And contrary to popular myths, the epidural didn’t slow down my labor. In fact, my contractions intensified and sped up.

But what was amazing about the epidural was that I could totally relax. In fact, I turned on the boob tube, watched a few episodes of The Office, and took a nap. Around 10pm or so, I woke up and the nurse told me to get ready because I was going to need to start to push.

It was a weird feeling to try to push when you can’t feel anything from your waist down, but I just focused my mind on tightening my abs down through my pelvic floor (it’s similar to pushing out a big poo) and I was doing it. I breathed like I would during a weight training exercise, with a big inhale followed by a long exhale as I worked the muscles. And voila, a little after midnight, we had a kicking, screaming baby on our hands.

So, when I look back, my birth experience was really not stressful at all. And I wasn’t totally wiped either. I mean, I was tired, but I felt pretty good overall. And I like that I was feeling rather peaceful and at ease when baby was born. I think that’s an appropriate way to welcome him to this world.

In saying all this, I don’t want to seem like I am unsupportive of people who choose to go au naturel. I think mommies-to-be should do what’s comfortable for them. I just share my story for those soon-to-be mommies who maybe are considering the epidural but are feeling a little guilty about admitting it.

I feel like there’s so much pressure these days to go natural that some moms are scared of saying in advance of the birth that they may want an epidural. (Conversely, I think it’s probably true that the medical field isn’t super supportive of many of the natural birthing techniques. I also think many mommies aren’t all that well educated about this type of birth.)

But with all that said, I think the term “natural” childbirth is really a misnomer; it’s really just a medicine-free birth. I don’t like the implication that a birth with pain medication is un-natural. I’m pretty sure that I’m just as much a mom as someone who did the whole 24-hour labor without meds; I just chose to not have any pain. (And when I say no pain, I mean literally none. Not even for the crowning.)

So, at the end of the day, it’s all about choice. I’m just here to share my story and provide reassurance that i f you go for the pain meds (1) you are still a good mom and (2) baby will be fine. I don’t see any reason to think that a baby will have more problems with an epidural than with nothing. Complications can pop up any time, without warning, whether you’ve got the best doctor at your side or you’re giving birth in a bathtub at home. Any day, anything can happen. So, don’t stress yourself out about what you “should” do and just do what makes you most comfortable.

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Filed under birthing, delivery, epidural, hospital, natural childbirth, newbie parents, newborns, pregnancy

Baby Daddy Drama

Over the past week I’ve found myself watching a lot of crap TV. I guess that’s what happens when you combine a new mommy with hungry baby and cable television. You see all sorts of stuff at all hours of the day, from documentaries on Benjamin Franklin to reality series like Basketball Wives.

I’ve been particularly obsessed with this show on Vh1 called Dad Camp. The premise of the show is that six soon-to-be baby daddies (and their pregnant teen partners) go through an intense parenting course to learn to become respectable fathers. As part of the coursework, they not only get graded on how well they complete child care exercises (installing a car seat or comforting a crying baby, for example) but they also have to go through therapy with their baby mommas (and sometimes baby mommas’ mommas).

Part of the entertainment of the show is that these dads-to-be are complete disasters. Immature, irresponsible, angry, clueless, and most often jobless, it’s surprising that any of these miscreants would even show up to a show like this, where they are expected to submit to a behavioral overhaul. Point in case is the guy who calls his girlfriend that she’s a “stage five clinger” (bad). Or the guy who makes out with another girl the first night the couple is at Dad Camp (worse).

But for all the daddy drama on the show, the whole idea of dad camp is completely intriguing to me.

For as excited as my husband was about the idea of us having a crumb cruncher to call our own, there were times in my pregnancy where I had to wonder if my husband had any idea of what bringing up baby actually meant.

Part of the disconnect I trace to my husband’s personality. He’s a natural-born extrovert with a sharp wit, a combination that often makes it seem like he doesn’t take much seriously. The other part is that he has been wrapped up in some intense training for the past 14 months, which has kept him a little out of the loop in terms of the day-to-day stuff at home. And then there’s the fact that he’s an only child, so he hasn’t gotten much , if any, practice with babies. (Not that I really know what the hell I’m doing either.)

So, thinking that we (but really more him) needed a crash course in all things babies (I was the one reading the baby books, after all), I signed us up for the birthing class taught by Juliana Parker of Birth-n-Babies. Then on second thought, I also signed us up for her breastfeeding class.

But for as much as we felt like we got our money’s worth out of the classes, I still felt like sometimes he didn’t “get” it. He was definitely excited, but it was like he had no concrete idea of what life was going to be like when our wee one arrived. And it was freaking me out.

Here’s an example: We were invited to a wedding in Hawaii in December. My husband really wanted to go (so did I), especially since I’d never been there. Plus, we had airline vouchers that we could use to book the flight, which was a bonus. But I was stressing over what to do with the baby. We couldn’t drop him off with the grandparents, so what to do? Do we try to upgrade our seats to business class and keep the baby on our lap? Or do I just book a third seat in coach for the bambino?

These are the things that stress mommies like me out, but dad had nothing to say other than to roll his eyes when I told him how expensive flights to Hawaii were (it is Hawaii, after all, it wasn’t going to be cheap). And then he made the fatal mistake of saying, “Does the baby really need his own seat?” (The flight from D.C. to Honolulu is how long?) I won’t share with you my reaction to that.

There were a few other moments like that in the later part of my pregnancy where it was clear that he had no idea how life was going to change. And if I had known about a sleep-away daddy camp, I would’ve had him on the first bus.

Unsure if what I was seeing in my husband was an anomaly or not, I’ve asked a few friends if their husbands were similarly as infuriatingly clueless the first baby around. I’m sure that there are exceptions, but my conclusion is that it’s totally a guy thing.

I talked to a therapist friend of mine about this phenomenon. Her professional take on it was that while mommies-to-be and newbie mommies are so acutely aware of baby–baby is top of mind 24/7–for many newbie daddies, it continues to sort of be “all about them” for awhile even as mommies are doing the hard work of carrying the next generation. And when it’s not, they can sort of act out. They get frustrated, irritated, annoyed, pouty, and sulky about all the things that they suddenly can’t do (or, alternatively, all the things that they now have to do that they don’t want to do) now that baby is in full focus.

So, I asked my therapist friend how long this sort of alternate reality lasts. When do the daddy instincts kick in in full, putting them on the same page as mommies?

Month four. That was her professional opinion as to when men, in general, really start to bond with baby and grow fully into the daddy role. Why month four? She says it’s because by month four baby has started to really respond and interact. Baby smiles, giggles, recognizes the ‘rents, etc.–and dads really connect with that. Those outward expressions serve almost as mini validations of their role and importance in the life of the wee one.

Her theory makes a lot of sense to me, but I wish, as mommies, we didn’t have to wait so long sometimes. And even though I realize that this is part of a natural progression, I still wish there was a baby boot camp that normal first-time dads could go off to for some pre-baby training. I’m talking not only car seat installation and crib construction, but diapering, burping, swaddling, and round-the-clock feedings. If nothing more, it would hopefully give newbie dads a little perspective on everything moms have been stressing about for months while hardly any of it has been more than a fleeting thought in dads’ minds.

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Filed under birthing, daddy care, daily life, education, mommy care, nesting, newbie parents, post-partum, post-pregnancy, pregnancy, Uncategorized

To Hell with the Hormones

One of my dearest friends was kind enough to give me a call the other day to find out how I was doing. The hubster had gone back into the field and my mom and other house guests had returned to their homes and normal lives. My house was finally empty and I was alone with baby, so she thought I might be feeling rather down in the dumps.

It was pretty good timing on her part because I had been thinking a lot about the so-called “baby blues” that I had heard so much about during my stay in the hospital. (The nurses had even sent me home with an informational pamphlet.) I was wondering if I was going to get them, what was it going to feel like, and would I recognize that I was in fact enduring my very own blue period.

So, when my friend asked me how I was doing, I really didn’t know how to answer. I mean, did I miss my husband? Of course. It was definitely heartbreaking to see him leave; he only got five days with his newborn son before he had to go back for training. Was I sad to see my mom go home? Absolutely. I can’t hardly put words to how much she did for me and baby during her time with us.

To me, that didn’t really sound like baby blues kind of stuff. That just sounded like life. Who doesn’t miss her mom or her husband when they aren’t near–new baby or otherwise? But even if I wasn’t technically suffering from the big, bad baby blues, I definitely wasn’t feel exactly emotionally stable.

I held a pretty even keel during my pregnancy. I was definitely more emotional every time my husband came home and then had to leave again; it can be sometimes overwhelming to be managing your family’s life–from your career to the house to the finances to the construction work we were having done to the dog–by yourself. Fortunately, I had a plain vanilla type of pregnancy, so I felt good and had few issues, so dealing with all that other stuff on my own was actually possible, even if less than desirable.

But in the days following baby’s arrival, I found myself getting super emotional at random times.

One night I was sitting on my front porch, enjoying a beautiful evening and a nice glass of wine and I totally got weepy just thinking about how amazing the stars were and how much I enjoyed my life.

Guaranteed Tear Jerker

Another evening, I got the waterworks flowing after I stupidly started leafing through the nursery staple, Guess How Much I Love You. (I strongly advise new mommies to hold off on reading that childhood favorite for awhile. I’ve opened the damn book three times and dissolved into soggy mess every time, so I’m thinking I need to wait until the hormones even out before I try that again.)

And then just the other night, I was watching Grey’s Anatomy and one of the doctor’s had to put another doctor’s dog down. I was a total mess watching the episode. I just kept thinking about how sick my own pup had been just a few weeks before–five days in doggy ICU was stressful to say the least–and how scared I had been that we were going to lose him.

So, I start telling my friend that what I was getting emotional about was not really baby-related stuff. I was finding myself getting worked up over bigger, darker thoughts. For example, I kept thinking about the fact that one day I was going to lose my mom. That thought would just pop up unexpectedly in my head and even if I didn’t spend much time entertaining it, it would have me so upset.

I was sort of embarrassed to be saying any of this out loud, even if it was to my best friend, but I felt better  when she told me she totally understood. “You’re literally just in awe of the miracle of life,” she said.

I have always hated that term–“miracle of life”–but I think she may have hit on something very real. Suddenly you have this perfect little baby in your arms and your sort of have these feelings of amazement and wonder colliding with a crushing sense of responsibility. And you also realize that your mom felt this way about you and you feel grateful to have her as your mom and guilty that you weren’t less of a pain in the ass. It’s a perfect storm of emotions.

But I think the thing that really “gets” to me is coming to grips with a basic fact of life: Nothing lasts forever. As exciting as it is to watch, anticipate, and enjoy the baby growing and changing, there’s no getting around the reality that every day is one less day we have. We’re all getting older and eventually our time will be up. Our mom’s won’t be with us forever and we’re not going to be with our kids forever, either. That sort of face-to-face with mortality is proving rather hard to digest for this newbie mommy.

“You probably don’t want to hear this,” said my friend. “But that feeling takes awhile to go away.”

Her daughter is two and she says she’s just feeling like she’s getting past that whole we’re-all-going-to-die-someday realization now.

Great. So much to look forward to.

So, knowing that all these feelings are (1) normal and (2) not going anywhere soon, even if their rapid onset and intensity calm down as my hormones get back in line, I’ve decided to ban certain tear-jerking items from my life until my hormones gone on hiatus:

  • Sentimental children’s books. I’ve moved books such as the classic Guess How Much I Love You or Billy Crystal’s I Already Know I Love You to the bottom of the pile of books in my nursery.
  • High drama TV shows. No medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy or House or any of the other rip off shows and no crime or mystery shows, particularly (and sadly) Law and Order SVU.
  • Anything with animals. I basically do everything I can to avoid Animal Planet in general and any shows in particular that showcase authorities removing animals from disgusting homes.
  • Sappy movies. Chick flicks definitely got me through my pregnancy, but I’m not even going near anything with any sad undertones. Topping my list of do-not-sees for fear of flooding are P.S. I Love You, Family Stone, Steel Magnolias, My Sister’s Keeper, My Life, The Notebook… you get the idea.

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Filed under baby blues, birthing, depression, emotions, mommy care, post-partum, post-pregnancy, pregnancy

Maternity a la Mode

As you probably have guessed by my lack of posts over the past few days, Baby P finally arrived!

On May 26 at 00:14 in the morning, our bundle of boy was born. Dad missed the big debut by a short 15 minutes–my apologies to anyone who was driving on I-95N on the 25th between 8pm and midnight–so grandma got to cut the cord. But dad still got to hold him before his first bath, so everything worked out ok, as things tend to do when you worry about them.

I had planned for my first post post-birth to be about my stay at the hospital, but I happened to run across this article that my friend Emili Vesilind recently wrote for the LA Times on maternity wear. Emili was one of a small group of seriously talented journalists that I spent a lot of time with when I was getting my master’s degree in magazine, online, and print journalism at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Emili was always fashion forward and has been able to carve out a very successful career as a fashion journalist. Of course, since she’s expecting her own little bundle of boy very soon, she’s turned a trendy eye toward maternity fashions. Her latest article on the subject, “The Birth of Fashion,” (love the title) talks about how designers have said move over to maternity wardrobe staples like muumuus, replacing them with stylish alternatives like skinny jeans, boyfriend sweaters, leggings, and wrap dresses.

Personally, I was a big fan of the three-quarter length sleeve ruched t-shirt throughout my pregnancy. I had one in solid gray, a pink and maroon stripe, a light gray and dark gray stripe, and in solid red. I always felt good when I put them on because the ruching along the seams at the waist was flattering no matter how far along you were. When I had just the beginnings of the baby belly, it made me look round and not just paunchy. And then later when I had graduated to the baby bulge, the plaits expanded to make room for what turned out to be an 8 lb. baby.

At any rate, here’s an excerpt from the piece:

Ask any woman older than 50 what she wore during pregnancy and she will inevitably bring up the bows — the oversized, cartoonish ribbons that adorned much of the maternity wear of the last century.

“You see pictures of women pregnant in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and they were basically dressed like children,” said Shannon DiPadova, owner of online maternity boutique Due Maternity (duematernity.com). “Let’s just say, there were a lot of Peter Pan collars.”

Or, as designer Liz Lange, who helped de-bow maternity wear with her long-standing Target collection, puts it, “Fashion and pregnancy simply weren’t a compatible pair.”

How times have changed. In the last few years, the maternity market has undergone a dramatic face-lift. Thanks to the ongoing tabloid obsession with Hollywood’s “baby bumps” and the slow-but-steady proliferation of fashion-forward maternity lines, being pregnant — and looking on-trend throughout the nine months — couldn’t be more in vogue.

You can read the whole piece here. Enjoy!

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Isn’t My Nest Feathered Enough?

With my due date now a four-day-old memory, I’ve been doing the best that I can to keep busy enough to get my mind off of the one thing everyone in my family’s itching to know: When is this baby going to arrive?

I’d like to say that I’ve been able to use some of this extra time awaiting Baby P’s debut doing the one thing that nearly every young mom has strongly urged me to do–stock up on sleep. Unfortunately, for as much as I’m trying to heed their advice, the sandman keeps shortchanging me. The best I did was a nap yesterday afternoon, which ran a surprising four hours long despite the sounds of my neighbor weed-whacking his lawn to Latin carnival music floating in through my window. But the reality is that I’ve been spending my so-called “free” time doing more cleaning and organizing.

Now, I thought I had done a pretty good job already. My nesting instincts definitely kicked in pretty hardcore around month six. Our kitchen remodel was finally complete, so I was able to move pretty fast from organizing my cupboards and putting away my nice dishes, which had been in boxes for the past year and a half, to finding a cleaning lady to come once a week (god bless Joselyn); installing a new closet organization system for our master-bedroom (Container Store and Elfa, you rock); re-planting about half of our front garden; hiring a carpenter to complete a set of built-in shelves in my living room (thank you, Scott); throwing out about half of the stuff in our basement before sealing the walls and floors (thank you, Lesley); and decorating the nursery.

But if there’s one thing that my mom’s really good at it’s getting to that expert level of organization. If it were up to her, about a third of my stuff would be sitting in garbage bags in my alley this morning waiting for the 7am garbage pick-up, another third would be in a box marked “Free” on the sidewalk in front of my front stairs, and the remaining third would be either folded neatly in a drawer or shoved in a plastic bin to be stored in the basement.

Although she really just naturally doesn’t mess around when it comes to getting organized, it feels like it’s in overdrive, which makes me think grandma-to-bes also have a certain nesting urge that rivals many mommas-t0-be’s own instincts. Take my mother for example. In the week that she’s been in town, she’s checked these items off the to-do list:

  • Organized all the silverware, cooking utensils, and junk in my kitchen drawers (again Container Store is the best)
  • Steam cleaned all my living room furniture and rug
  • Scrubbed my porch
  • Hung pictures/artwork
  • Purchased a new dining room rug
  • Put together a new laundry sorter and laundry butler/organization system
  • Re-organized my linen closet
  • Helped me sort through/get rid of a ton of old papers

And, if you can believe it, we’ve still got a to-do list for today that includes some additional organizing in my bedroom and the basement and a quick trip out to the grocery store to stock up on some provisions–assuming we don’t need to take a detour to the hospital, which is totally possible, even likely, at this point.

But I really wish someone would have included this tidbit of information about grandmas’ nesting instincts in any of the gazillion pregnancy books out there, especially the basic how-to-have-a-baby manuals like What to Expect When You Are Expecting, which is by the way, a fantastic book for mommies-to-be like me who just want facts and not a lot more. Because it’s just not my mom. My mother-in-law also exhibited some of this behavior. She came for a five-day stay last month and spent at least a couple days of washing baby clothes and then ironing them before putting them into dust-free plastic bins, which were organized by size.

The other thing that I wish I’d realized before now is that the nesting instinct spikes very close to labor. According to this Web site:

“The nesting instinct generally kicks in around the fifth month of pregnancy, however it can also occur much earlier or much later. Many women acutely experience the nesting instinct in the final days of their pregnancy, and this can often be a sign that labor and delivery is close at hand.”

I had no idea. I thought it was something that kicked in somewhere in the second trimester–thus the suddenly urgent need to wash baseboards–and sort of held steady before tapering off close to delivery as you get everything just-so in the nursery. (By the way, that whole baseboard thing is no joke or exaggeration. I was in my half-bath just this morning and happened to glance down and had the thought that I should really take a sponge to the baseboards in there again.)

So, just as an exercise, I decided to chart my nesting instinct intensity. I looked back over the past 41 weeks and thought about when I started to get really serious about getting stuff done.

As you can see from the chart above, there was some ebbing and flowing of my nesting instinct intensity. Contributing to the spike very early on in my pregnancy, before I even knew I was pregnant, in fact, was the kitchen remodel. I spent a lot of time stressing over the design of the kitchen and the product selections, racking up one major meltdown brought on by an out-of-ink fax machine that had me running to a local gas station to use their fax machine so I could save $1,500 on cabinets. In retrospect, my anxiety and all-over-the-place emotions (not to mention bad skin and bigger boobs) should’ve been an indication that something was up.

But that really didn’t get confirmed until I was in the 13 to 14 week mark. The news that Baby P was on the way definitely kick started some nesting instincts anew. The next big bump came after my 20 week sonogram when it was confirmed that baby was indeed a boy. (Good to know my maternal instincts weren’t completely off.) The news got my brain turning over some nursery theme ideas.

I hit another new peak around 27 weeks or so, when I spent the better part of my vacation in Chamonix, France, on the Internet, researching childcare options (still haven’t found one) and building my baby registry.

Things started going off the charts after 30 weeks. I wanted all my big house projects to be wrapped up by May 1 on the off-chance that Baby P would arrive early. (Good thing that didn’t happen because we wouldn’t have been ready.) As my husband can attest, I was pretty much a slave driver, insisting that we spend every waking hour on the weekends doing one of three things–cleaning, organizing, or throwing away. (He was not exactly happy about this.)

But by May 15th, I was feeling pretty great as I washed and folded a few newborn onesies, rolling them neatly and placing them in small plastic bins that I decided to use as drawer organizers. I had already stocked up on newborn diapers and wipes, as well as some breastfeeding relief products that friends had recommended. I was ready.

Or so I thought. But it’s amazing how a motivated mom can light a mommy-to-be’s nesting fire once again. I guess no nest can be over feathered.

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Filed under due date, moms, nesting, organizing, pregnancy