Tag Archives: post-partum

Match Dot Mom

Back in my swingin’ single days, I used to spend all week waiting for the weekend to kick off with Friday night happy hour. Although I think it really should be called happy hours since many weeks I found myself still lugging my work bag around town at 1am on a Friday night. As a mommy now, obviously things have changed. But I still look forward to Fridays, but mostly because that’s the day I meet with my French mommy group. It’s a far cry from the happy hours I used to have, but it still is one of my happiest hour and a halfs every week.

But finding the right mommy group is hardly easy, as many of my mommy friends can attest. In fact, when I think about it, it’s kind of like dating all over again.

The ideal is to find a group of educated women who have laid-back personalities and a sense of humor, varied but complementary interests,  keep to a similar schedule, live relatively close to you, and, of course, have (at least) a kid around the same age as yours. It’s a tall order by any standards. I’m not sure I had as many requirements when looking for my last boyfriend. (Thank god my husband found me first.)

But where do mommies go to meet other mommies? The options are somewhat finite:

But let’s get real… chances are you’re looking for a mommy group because you don’t work at the moment, don’t go to church (or at least aren’t active in the community), don’t get to the gym as often as you’d like to admit, don’t have time for volunteer activities, and don’t want to shell out anywhere near $70/month for a membership to a baby club. And if you had friends with babies who lived in your neighborhood, you’d already be hanging out with them.

I lucked out and found a mommy group on the Internet, through http://www.meetup.com. (I totally get why people Internet date now and would admittedly be going down that road if I was single, as it’s an efficient and economical way to meet people.) I had to give on some of the said requirements–I drive roughly 40 minutes (although it’s probably less than 10 miles from my house) to get there–but the French connection outweighed the distance.

I think I lucked out, too, in that I’m sort of an inaugural member of the group. I found out about the group and was able to show up for the first meeting, and that likely made all the difference. It’s so much easier to try something new when everyone is new at it. I definitely think it would be much harder to jump into a very established group.

With that said, I always look forward to seeing if there are any new people at our weekly meetings and even if it’s a bit awkward and forced, I feel like my group’s organizers really try to make everyone feel welcome. But I can tell almost immediately who is never going to come back. In our group’s case, it’s usually someone who realizes the second she walks into the room that her French language skills maybe aren’t as good as she remembered them being in college.

But even as one of the regulars, more or less, I still find myself trying way harder than usual to have these women like me. I literally get up a half hour early, so I can spend extra time on my hair and make-up. I also spend an abnormally long time (for me) deciding what I’m going to wear; I always feel like I want to look fresh and chic and not the strung out and underdone that I usually am. I even stress a little over what baby is going to wear.

That’s when I know this is so like dating. Only minus the drinks and the free dinner.

And perhaps that’s why I find mommy groups, at least the one I’m in, a little awkward. Basically we sit around and watch each others’ kids play and make small talk about breastfeeding, nap schedules, and our husbands’ jobs. We don’t even have coffee or donuts, which makes me think that maybe I should bring some next time. Then again, everyone is currently thin, so maybe that wouldn’t go over so well, if it became a regular thing.

Maybe this whole blind-date, first-date feeling lasts for so long when getting to know other mommies because everyone sort of knows that they either (a) would never have crossed paths or (b) never become friends, if there weren’t babies in the picture. That fact is just sort of the Barney in the room. No wonder so many of my mommy friends who have tried some mommy groups have never gone back to them; that’s kind of a hard thing to get over if the chemistry just isn’t right. And seriously, when you have an infant, who has time to make an effort to spend time with women they don’t necessarily like?

But for as awkward as it can be during some of our meetings, I’m so glad that I’ve stuck with the group. Of course, I love getting the chance to practice my French, but every week, I get to know the women, at least the regulars, a little better and I like them not just a little but a lot more every week.

I just hope they feel the same way about me. I don’t want to have to try to pick up another mommy group any time soon.

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Filed under babies, bilingual baby, child development, daily life, foreign language, infants, mom style, mommy care, moms, parenting, play time

The Making of a Mortifying Mom Makeover

Usually when you see the word makeover, you assume there will be an improvement, that you’ll come out looking better than you did before. I fear that with my last trip to the beauty salon the opposite has happened. And I wish I had someone else to blame.

I don’t know why, but it seems like as soon as women find out they are pregnant, they start making some other changes. As if packing on an average of 40 lbs and trading in a tight tummy for a beach ball isn’t drastic enough. Some quit smoking or commit to eating healthier, but the vast majority make the biggest changes to one thing: their hair.

For as many women who stop coloring their hair–I was not one of them thanks to my hairdresser’s preference for organic dye–even more opt for the proverbial chop. I count myself among the throngs there. I just felt like I couldn’t deal with the longer locks and went for what I thought was a very sleek, chic bob. In retrospect, it might have been the beginning of a mom do. By the time my super straight locks hit my shoulders, my fear was full fledged: My haircut could be best described as “soccer mom.”

So, recently I figured I might try to put some style back into my hairstyle. I wanted to go back long again. That was going to take some time, so I needed something to change up the look in the meantime.

Now, I haven’t had bangs since the seventh grade, when I had a severe case of the fuglies–a bad bob, bad bangs, big glasses, and blemishes. All that was missing were the braces. (Those came later). Apparently all that had slipped my mind because as I sat down in the salon chair, I told my hairstylist to start cutting bangs.

The Look I Was Going For

Now, in my head, I was going for a fresh, edgy, urban mom look. I was thinking heavy, blunt bangs à la Zooey Deschanel. Cute, right? Instead I think I made a Katie Holmes-degree mistake, ending up with a do that probably makes me look a decade older than I

The Look I May Have Ended Up With

really am. On a good day they might look a little like Sandra Bullock’s Golden Globe bangs, oh which incidentally landed her on at least one Hollywood insider’s worst dressed list.

The biggest problem is that my super straight bangs–at least I got the blunt part right–keep splitting, leaving the fringe looking piece-y, dare I say stringy a lot of the time. And no amount of hair drying or brushing seems to consistently solve this problem. Plus, I didn’t realize just how fast my hair grows, so a week goes by and the ends of my bangs are literally obstructing my vision.

My husband says that he thinks my bangs will look better when my hair grows out more. That’s pretty much how I know they are as bad as I think they are. So, the next question is what to do about them. Do I stay committed to them, but get more cut to add some heft to them? Or do I just leave them as is and hope that all the hair that felt out postpartum will grow back soon enough and fill out the fringe? Or do I just say “uncle” and start growing them out (again)?

Decisions, decisions. And to think all this deliberation when the most exciting places I go are the gym and the grocery store.

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Filed under daily life, mom style, mommy care, moms, working mom

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

Things They Are a Changin’ (Sort of)

I was on the phone with my college roommate the other day–it had been an embarrassingly long time since we had last talked–when she asked me what the biggest change was for me post baby. It seemed like such a simple question, but I really was at a loss for a good answer. Where do you even start to answer that?

Sure, there are a lot of things that are different. My pant size and my cup size for sure. But those are minor and (hopefully) temporary. But the other big changes are that we really can’t do things on a whim (sure, let’s swing by so-and-so’s barbecue on our way out) or change plans midstream (you want to meet at what bar instead?). We haven’t really had any big nights on the town or those days where you’re on the boat or at a baseball game at 1pm and then next thing you know it’s midnight and you’re in a bar and haven’t eaten dinner. (I’m ridiculously afraid of what I’ll feel like the morning after.)

But it’s not like we’ve been holed up in our house for the past three months either. We go out for coffee, lunch, and dinner several times a week (sometimes even all three in a day). We go out for walks, yoga class, and boat rides. We’ve visited friends, gone to happy hour, taken in a couple concerts, and also entertained at our house. So, in that way, we’re still pretty much the same.

Maybe the biggest change is that we’re just going a little slower day to day. Whereas maybe we used to do six activities a day (a walk, coffee, boat ride, happy hour, dinner, drinks), we now do one, two, or maybe three. (Some days just getting the baby and ourselves cleaned up seems like a big deal.) So maybe baby has just made us Sarah and Ian light.

My husband probably wouldn’t like to think of ourselves as slowing down–he’s a pedal-to-the-metal kind of guy–but we definitely are easing off the gas in a lot of ways. And I think it’s making us saner.

It’s impossible to rush with a baby. And consequently we overcommit and overextend ourselves less, which means less stress and craziness. The little things that seemed to get blown out of proportion (you forgot what? you didn’t take care of what?) remain more in perspective and more manageable when you’re not speeding through your life.

So, the answer I would really give my friend about what’s changed is: not much. We’re just taking a little more time to enjoy the things we already love to do.

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Filed under babies, daily life, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, parenting

Bye, Bye, Baby

This summer has been one full of firsts for my husband and me. The latest first for us was leaving baby for the first time for an adult night out.

I don’t know when most newbie parents first have their first night away from baby–whether it be for a dinner and movie or a night on the town–but my impression is that we’re on the leading edge of that learning curve at two months into life with baby.

Our night out was exactly that–a night spent outside, sitting around a fire by lake with my brother and sister and their spouses. We had been at a family barbecue when my aunt out of the blue offered to take baby home so we could stay and hang out. (I have one of those patchwork divorced families where everyone is spread out all over the place and consequently it’s rare that so many of us siblings are all in the same place at the same time.)

Maybe it was the beautiful sunset that was brewing or the promise of a cooler full of cold beers, but I think it took maybe 30 seconds of deliberation between my husband and I before we had the car seat and kid strapped in the care with her, grandma, and my dad.

As they backed out of the driveway, my husband and I could see baby’s

You're Seriously Leaving Me?

round little face through the backseat window. He was giving us this look that made we want to open the door and run my finger down the side of his face. It looked similar to this photo. His little brow was furrowed, his mouth was in a pensive line, and his blue eyes were open wide, looking slightly confused. My heart tightened a little seeing that look.

We stood waving as they drove away.

“I didn’t like that at all,” my husband said.

As we grabbed our beverage of choice and picked our spots by the fire, my sister-in-law says, “I can’t believe you did that. I’m impressed.” My siblings had been watching the whole farewell scene, more or less in disbelief. Apparently we made it look easy.

I started to wonder if we were weird. Were we somehow deficient in the parenting department because we were able to let our two-month-old baby go in the name of a good fire and good conversation?

But I looked at this decision as the right one a few different ways. First, we weren’t leaving baby with a stranger; he was with family. Second, we weren’t going to be out all night. (Although I will say 2am came amazingly quick–too quick, in fact–when you’re having fun catching up.) Third, he wasn’t likely to be a pain. He had two full bottles, clean diapers, and a change of clothes, so chances were that he was just going to eat, poop, and pass out for the evening.

But there was something else that made me feel like it was okay to send baby packing for the evening. It was the feeling like I needed to share him. I find him so beautiful, so wonderful, so perfect that when someone offers to hold him, change him, feed him, or, in this case, watch him for a few hours, I have a hard time saying no. I want them to share in the wonderful feelings that I get when he’s close by experiencing those little moments–a snuggle against your neck or a little snooze on your chest–for themselves. And I figure the more I share him, the more he’ll be loved; that’s one of my biggest hopes for the wee one, that he’ll be as adored as he deserves.

But sometimes I wonder if my willingness to share will be confused for something else. My paranoia makes me hesitate for a second every time I give my wee one over to another pair of hands; I worry people think I’m a bad or negligent mother. But I’m not about to stop sharing–I think babies are good for the soul–but I wish every goodbye to baby didn’t feel like such a milestone.

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Filed under daily life, infants, moms, newbie parents, parenting, post-partum, post-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

Growing Pains

I’d always thought of growing pains as something that kids experience as their bodies and brains stretch, but I’m starting to think they’re more something that parents go through as they watch the whole process.

This occurred to me the other day when I got a message from a friend who is a mommy-to-be. Turns out that her baby boy is likely to arrive a couple weeks early, so he’s probably going to be a little tinier than she and her husband were expecting and she wanted to take me up on my offer to give her some of the newborn outfits that baby already has outgrown.

A Box Full of Memories

Of course I was thrilled to help, even if it was as simple as throwing a bunch of onesies into a box and mailing them to her. But as I was putting the box together, I found myself getting a little verklempt.

Blame it on the baby blues (damn those hormones once again!), but it was somehow really sad to be packing away these little, itty bitty outfits. I found myself taking extra care in folding them, lingering a little longer on the ones that I thought looked really cute on baby. I ran my fingers one last time over the embroidered designs and pulled some of the snaps together for old times’ sake. I may have even put a couple up to my face and taken a deep breath, as if I was never going to smell baby smell again.

It was almost heartbreaking to think that even though he’s still a wee one, he’s never going to be that small again. In the matter of a few weeks, he’d grown so much. He suddenly had a past.

And then it hit me that I have a lifetime of more moments like this. My baby isn’t always going to be a baby. He’s going to be big, and then bigger, and then really big and then suddenly he’s going to be a man and then an old man. And it feels like it’s going to go by so fast that it might be easy to miss something.

When I was growing up, I don’t remember seeing parents–or at least moms–hysterical all the time over their kids. Of course, I’m sure I saw a parent or two shed a couple of quiet tears on the first day of kindergarten or at high school graduation. But with how I felt folding those oh-so-soft onesies and footie pajamas, I think I might find a reason to get misty every day (or at least every other day).

Every day he’s going to learn something new, develop more personality, become a little more independent, and leave a deeper imprint on the world around him. And for as wonderful as that growth is to watch, I know part of me will be wishing there was a big pause button I could push so I could hold on just a minute longer to the really special moments that I know we’ll have.

No wonder my grandmother always carried a Kleenex in her sleeve. There are tear-worthy moments to be had every day.

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

The Itsy Bitsy, Teeny Weeny Bikini Challenge

It’s no secret that new mommies come with new curves. But somehow it never is anything but shocking when it happens to you. One morning a few days after giving birth you wake up and you look like you could be a B-list porn star.

It’s totally weird–and a bit painful–at first. My body had totally outgrown my expectations; one day I found myself standing in front of the nursing bra selection at Target hardly believing that I could actually be searching for a D cup. (Incidentally, a 34D might be the hardest size to find on a rack. I’m not sure if its because its a popular size or a freak size, but I’ve been in four Targets and found only two bras in that flavor.) I couldn’t believe I’d reached that far into the alphabet.

But then things sort of feel like they’re under control. There’s no pain and no tightness or fullness. I was once again comfortable in my own skin–so comfortable in fact that I sort of assumed I had shrunk a half a cup size or so.

All I needed to remind me that I was dead wrong was to try on a bathing suit.

But I was feeling good enough, or rather the weather was just hot enough–it was nearing 90 degrees over the holiday weekend–that I thought maybe I’d expose my pale flab-flesh to the sun in the name of cooling off.

Well, if I thought my nursing boobs were big, trying on bikini tops confirmed they were giant. Now, I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but in this case the more that I had wasn’t exactly better. I tried on one top after another–I had five bathing suits on hand and then I tried one of my sister’s–only to get more and more disappointed.

If I wasn’t falling out the top, I was hanging out the bottom. Bandeau tops looked like a strip of electrical tape across my chest. Triangle tops screamed bad boob job. V-necklines were a little too plunging. There was no way I was going out in public wearing any of that; it would be horrifying to children and small animals.

I needed a solution or I was going to miss out on one of the best boating weekends of the summer.

I had a sports bra in hand as my last best option–the big, thick tan lines that I’d undoubtedly end up were not exactly appealing but neither was the possibility of being ticketed for indecent exposure–when I had an idea. Maybe one of my nursing tank tops might be able to do double duty. After all, it was hot pink and matched a set of bathing suit bottoms that I seemed to still be able to wear. So, it was settled. Nursing tank meet bathing suit and voila! I had a tankini.

Most people would probably tell me to just enjoy my new-found–and hard to miss–curves. I mean, from padded push-ups to surgical enhancement, lots of women shell out beaucoup bucks to end up with this kind of rack. But it’s hard to feel like me when I feel like I’ve got twins on a trampoline on my chest.  I guess the whole swimsuit session was a reminder that even though I’m feeling pretty back to normal, my body’s still got a mind of its own.

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Filed under breastfeeding, daily life, mommy care, moms, nursing, 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

Gypsy Truck Diaries

So most of you have figured out by now through my posts that I’ve ditched the 90+ degree heat wave in D.C. for a summer at the River at my parents’ house.

In some ways, I can’t believe I just said that. I’m actually living with my parents and I’m in my 30s. I’m just glad it’s summer and I’m on maternity leave or I would’ve hit a personal low.

At any rate, getting here was a total project. I have to thank my very good friend Lesley for being such a trooper. She’s been an amazing friend through my pregnancy and beyond. You know you’ve got a friend when she’ll come for the weekend to help you clean out your basement or pack up your car and make the day-long drive to your parents’ with you.

Neither were easy feats to accomplish, but the latter is really worth spending some time on, especially for the benefit of newbie parents who no doubt will grossly underestimate the amount of baby gear is required for a weekend trip much less on that would last several months.

We have what would qualify as a large car; it’s a Toyota 4-Runner. However, I had known packing up the hubbie, myself, baby, the Doberman, and two cats for a summer at the River was going to be a challenge even with an SUV, so I had convinced my parents to buy the hubbie a roof rack for his birthday.

But as Lesley and I sat in my house the night before the big journey with all the bags and boxes and contraptions, I wondered if it was all going to fit, even with the roof rack.

Baby got me up around 6am-ish, so I was up and showered by 6:30am or so. Lesley wasn’t far behind me; I think she was up and in the shower by 7am. I swear we were maneuvering the obstacle course that way my backyard by 8am, at the very latest.

Construction on the deck in our backyard had begun the day before, so we had a deck frame and no stairs leading to our backyard. It was a bit of a balancing act to get to ground level. You either had to do a bit of a balance beam routine along a long board and then jump down to the grass or sort of lower yourself down to the ground from the door and then climb over one of the main supports a few feet away. It wasn’t pretty either way, but it seemed like the more sensible option versus a fairly long trip down the seriously steep stair in the front of our house. Plus, with the car in the back, it felt a bit more secure. This was D.C. after all; I don’t trust anything not to walk away on its own.

Now the weather… The month of May started out a little on the chilly side, but it was heating up fast as the days ticked by. And on the morning of our big pack-up, the D.C. weather didn’t disappoint. It was sunny and steamy–a two shower before noon kind of day.

Between lugging the stuff outside, making sure baby was (sort of) happy (he definitely screamed a lot that morning), and strapping it down (damn those ratchet straps), it took us four hours–four hours!–to pack the car. And when I say pack the car, I don’t mean pack my stuff. That was done. It took four hours to make sure all of my bags, boxes, bins, and stuff (including live animals) fit into the car.

Truth be told, we probably could have done it in three and a half hours, but two friends stopped by to give us a sweet send off, complete with yummy pastries that were scarfed down within a few blocks of home after we finally set sail. So, in my mind, that extra half hour was totally worth a buttery, flaky, dark-chocolate pain au chocolat.

At one point during the packing session, I was sure the stuff wasn’t going to fit. Lesley and I were standing there with the bouncer seat, turning it every which way and trying to flatten it to figure out how we could shove it in the overflowing car.

Finally we made it work, and the pack job was complete. The cats were in the car, panting in the heat; there was a small space carved out for the dog; the pack ‘n’ play, my bag of clothes, and the stroller were seemingly secure on the roof; and nothing appeared to be threatening to topple over onto the car seat in the backseat.

It was a freaking gypsy truck. All that was missing were the tambourines. Check it out.

Damn Bouncer Seat

Roof Rack Saves the Day

Poor Joey

Even the Kid Was Crammed In

But everything was in the truck and we were off. Nothing appeared to be ready to fly off the roof, so all was right in the world.

Until it started raining.

I had considered throwing a tarp over everything on the roof when we were packing up, but given that the ratchet straps nearly got the better of us (yes, they can go on upside down), I figured I’d skip the tarp and save our sanity.

And at first, I wasn’t too worried. It was only sprinkling. The stroller and pack ‘n’ play would dry out just fine, and my clothes were in a military-grade, water-resistant tactical bag. But whether the bag could keep out the torrential downpour we encountered in York, Pa., that lasted through Scranton, Pa., was another question.

Amazingly enough, when I pulled into my parents’ driveway, my stuff was pretty much dry. (Darn good tactical bag, if you ask me.)

But even more impressive was the fact that I had made it from D.C. to my parents’ house in about 8.5 hours. I’d say that the whole trip in the gypsy truck took only about a half hour to 45 minutes longer than usual. Not bad considering the roof ornaments and the fact that we were transporting three animals–well, four if you count the breastfeeding baby.

But we made it–many thanks again to a friend who definitely earned her stripes–and couldn’t be happier. And good thing, too, because I don’t think I have the heart to try and pack the truck up again. It might take me all summer to figure out how to do it again.

My advice to soon-to-be parents is simple: Get yourself a roof rack or roof-top carrier. You’ll need it.

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