Sunday, August 23, 2015

Almost Kicked Out of Childbirth Class + Lessons Learned on Packing for the Hospital

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was so "prepared" that I put together a 3-ring binder of information and references. I took every class and did every tour recommended. Some were helpful, some...not so much.

During a childbirth education class, there were hours spent when the preggo women in the room were instructed to try out the many different positions that might be recommended during labor.

"Go ahead and try this one...get comfortable...make sure your partner knows his/her role."

That first line of instruction had me staring blankly at my husband. That one line of direction felt too close to a common pregnancy statement that I loathe which is when the non-pregnant person makes the statement "We are pregnant." No, we are most certainly not.

To tell me that I need to find a position that's "comfortable" (relative to pushing a human out of my body) and to make sure my partner has a role. Not happening. Here's my partners role: Worship me, care for me, tolerate me and don't repeat back to me (or anyone...ever) anything I said or did that wasn't AMAZING during labor. That's my partners role.

So everyone is on a ball or on their hands and knees and partners are rubbing shoulders, holding hair, etc. I looked at my husband while I unenthusiastically sat on a yoga ball and said "Don't touch me." The teacher overheard me, as did several nearby participants. Apparently I wasn't being productive.

"We really need you to take this seriously or we'll have to ask you to leave."

"I am taking this seriously. I seriously don't want him to touch me while I'm in labor."

We stared at each other, the teacher knowing better than to mess with a pregnant woman with a strong POV. We broke for lunch. My husband and I didn't return to the class.

With that in mind, it's then no surprise that when I read "What to Pack for the Hospital" on the What to Expect website, that I laughed. And laughed. And laughed a bit more. It's not that it's funny, and in fact I offer my apologies to those offended by my reaction to the list, but if you know'll understand.

  • "Pen and pad for taking notes, or the What to Expect Pregnancy Organizer"
    • No. I'm not taking notes. Someone else can take notes, but what I want to remember is that women who have gone before me swear that I'll forget everything that happens. (exception being the amazing moment when you meet your child) 
  • "Your birth plan (several copies, so all staff, on all shifts, can get one)"
    • Unless you go for a natural, non-medicated birth, isn't the plan DRUGS + evicting "tenant" upon conclusion of his/her 40-week stay?
  • "Stopwatch to time contractions"
    • Aren't you in the hospital? Pretty sure they've got this one covered for you.
  • "Massage oils or lotions"
    • Ah yes, oh how I want to be massaged while in labor. The thought of having my husband gingerly massage me as if to relieve the pain and anxiety that a human is about to walk out of my V...pass. Do. Not. Touch. Me.
  • "A tennis ball or plastic rolling pin — both make excellent back rub tools — or an actual massager."
    • How about "a tennis ball for throwing at everyone who tells you to "bear down" and yet can't actually describe to you what that means.
    • A rolling pin to use as a weapon for anyone who tries to give you a back rub.
  • "Your favorite pillow"
    • This is just mean. Yes, pack your favorite pillow and then leave it at the hospital. You won't be getting any good sleep for weeks.
  • "If you have long hair, a clip or scrunchie to keep it out of your face"
    • If you care about your hair, something is wrong.
  • "Snacks for during labor (your own snacks will be limited, and must be approved by your practitioner; your partner should pack sandwiches and nutritious nibbles so he doesn't have to leave your side to find something to eat)"
    • Oh, that's right. I'll be fasting as part of the "magic" of birthing a baby and with contractions forcing me to double over in pain, I'll make you a sandwich, honey. Yeah, let me get right on that.

On a serious note, there are some great things on the list, so if you are preparing for a trip to the hospital, do check it out. However, as noted above, there's also some sh*t you don't need to bring.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Mommy Scale

I've recently had a series of candid conversations with moms about what our lives are really like and how it feels to work outside the home and feel present when in the home. The thread that ties all of these conversations together is that we all have degrees of awareness that we need to let go of some of the many things we feel we must do and yet we can't quite let go of anything.

One of the worst feelings is that of not being successful in any of the many roles I play. Not feeling like I'm on top of my game at work, not present at all the times when my kids want or need me, not spending time with my husband because there's laundry to do and lunches to make, and then of course never getting around to actually putting the laundry away once folded and questioning the quality of the lunch I packed. Heaven forbid I then indulge all my neurosis and think about what the teachers will think of the lunch that I packed. Dare I wonder how its contents compares to that of the other lunches? Should I check out Pinterest and look for creative new ways to make lunches? STOP. I just have to stop.

My reality is that the list of things to do at home grows at the same rate as my work aspirations and where does that leave me? Mommy purgatory. And I want out.

I don't think this feeling is about the need to "Lean In" so much as it is about stopping to think about what I haven't really thought about since before I first became a parent (you know...those golden moments of pregnancy when you paint an idyllic picture of the type of mother you'll be?). Well, it's real. It's happening. It's time to sincerely ask myself, "What kind of parent do I want to be and what lessons do I want to teach my kids about my role and contributions to our family?"

It's too easy to move on autopilot that I haven't stopped to think about the mother I want to be to my children. Of course loving, nurturing, patient, fun, silly, engaged, and all of those things. But in terms of my children's perception of me as a provider, what does that look like? What will they come to value and what do I want them to value?

After stressing about lunches for my son and the batch cooking for the week, my older and wiser brother forced me to realize that I'm stressing about the wrong things.

"Reece, who makes your lunch?" he asked my son.

"Can we go play in the basement?" Reece replied.

My brother turned to me and said, "you're worrying about something Reece gives no thought to. Not that it's not important, but maybe try to think about what Reece most needs and you'll feel better about being present because you'll be on top of what he's looking for from you."

Light bulb.

It was in that moment that I realized I have defined my role as mother based on my own criteria of responsibilities that I believe fall to mothers and those things are not specific to the ages of my children, but rather very traditional and stereotypical things like laundry, lunches, snacks, art projects, preparing things for school. As I write this I'm thinking, "I'm a feminist for crying out loud and I've gone all 50s on what I think my role should be?!" This is why I have needed to stop and think about my role as a mother.

What I have come to realize is that I'm defining my successes and failures as a mother based on a scale that I've designed. A scale that for some reason I have set to measure the same things year after year, never changing and yet with each passing day/month/year, I watch the needs of my children change.

I haven't thought about the people I'm in the relationship with - my kids - and tried to put myself in their shoes at four and one years old and thought about what they want in a mommy. They aren't going to comprehend the value of my career and what it might mean to them later in life. So why am I fixated on trying to measure my successes on this scale that doesn't match their needs? My kids want their favorite shirts and snacks and toys, but there's no doubt the asks for those things come after the #1 ask of having me spend more time with them playing, reading, cuddling.

It's just like any relationship. What I think I should handle as a wife are the very things my husband would deem as "second tier" wants and needs. He would be happier ordering takeout if it meant we could hangout longer vs. me making dinner and cleaning dishes while he watched a movie alone.

So why, if the recipe is so simple. If the need is so basic. If all they want is time, why and how is it so hard to find? It's because of that damn scale. That scale I created. The scale that I resist changing because it feels like I'm lowering the bar or somehow failing by recognizing the need to change the way I measure myself. That scale that just forced me to realize I've been working against myself for the past four years. That scale that I thought kept me on track, but in fact derailed me.

So I come back to the great question of what kind of mother do I want to be and how will I feel good about the mom that I am? Perhaps before I measure myself, I should ask the people I'm measuring for to create the scale and I should consider their needs regularly to help me define and constantly redefine the role. Of all the things I think I "should" be doing, bottom line is that what my kids want most is for me to simply be present.

So hello Pinterest fails because I'll be making those creative projects with my kids and most likely, the messier the better. Farewell to trying to be a SuperMom who gets everything right.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sh*t People Really Say to You When You're Pregnant

Today marks the beginning of my 24th week of pregnancy and also the second time someone has asked if I'm sure I'm not having twins. Assholes.

The only reason you would look at someone who is pregnant and ask if she is having twins is because you're shocked by the size of her belly, boobs, swollen feet, hands, face, or any other apendage that you can't help but have swell when pregnant.  

Asking someone if they are carrying twins is like asking an overweight person if they want to rethink the dessert they just ordered because surely they've already had enough to eat. You just don't. You just wouldn't. You just shouldn't.

What is it about pregnancy that makes people feel like they have carte blanche to say whatever comes to mind and to put their hands on a woman's belly? Why would anyone want to touch a strangers stomach or think that it's appropriate in the slightest? Why not cop a feel of my huge boobs while you're at it because any hand on any part of my body is bizarre, might as well make it interesting, too.

As a mother of two already, I know that going through pregnancy and entering parenthood does bond you with other parents. A friend with whom you've never talked about sex, you can't help but discuss things like episiotomes (note: if you don't know what that is already, do yourself a favor and do not Google it) and nipple ointments. It's just some very real sh*t and you need people with whom you can keep it real. But what you don't need, is a total stranger judging you or scaring you with horror stories of pregnancy, labor and delivery.

As any mother knows, there are things about pregnancy, labor and delivery, and post-birth that you don't even share with other soon to be mothers, no matter how close you are to the person. You know that it's better left unsaid, but that you'll be there for the friend when they turn to you and say, "How come you never told me about [insert one of so many disgusting things]."

With so many women in the world and women who have had children, how is it that so many people don't know the etiquette associated with engaging with someone who is pregnant? My public service is to share some of the rules with you.

  1. Do NOT comment on the size of a pregnant woman (this includes asking if she's having multiples)
  2. If I tell you I don't know the sex of the baby, do NOT then ask "What position were you in when you conceived?" True story. Someone asked. Apparently my answer could have confirmed for this total stranger the sex of my child. Super.
  3. Don't ask a future mother if she's ready for parenthood. No one is ever ready. 
  4. Under no circumstance, other than a mother wearing a t-shirt that reads "Please touch my belly," should you approach a woman's stomach with your hand out to cup the bump.
  5. When dining with a pregnant friend, do not be alarmed if she's insulted that the waiter removed her wine glass from the table. Even if it's a good choice not to drink, we don't want anyone telling us we can't.
  6. Do not ask me about my choice of having or not having an epidural or my chioce of breastfeeding or formula feeding my child. Both are ripe with judgement.
  7. Do not respond in any way other than delight if someone reveals to you the name they've chosen for their unborn child.
  8. Don't ever say, "Was this planned or is this an "oops" baby?"
  9. Let's do away with the old wives tale that you can tell if a woman is carrying a girl because baby girls steal their mother's good looks. When spoken out loud, this is how this sounds, "Yikes. You look rough. Pregnancy acne, swollen ankles, dull hair. You must be having a girl and she already hates you."
  10. And the most sensitive question that I think all people should avoid asking anyone who is pregnant, "Are you going to stop working so you can raise your kids?" Super personal, likely complicated and never easy to answer. A legit question that to the unknowing person may not feel loaded, but it is. Trust me.
Here are two great videos that further capture some of the things people say to those who are preggo....

Thursday, June 4, 2015

But I Can't Get Pregnant! Or So They Said....

"Congratulations," my doctor says in a cautious tone not knowing if it's joy or terror filling my heart.  Truth be told, it's first terror and then joy. And the look on my face clearly reflected my feelings.

"Is this a surprise? What kind of birth control were you using?," she then asks.

Not hard questions and yet I just sat there, staring at her, suddenly more aware of my nausea than ever. Or is that the terror? 

Feeling as if I now look like a I feel --- ghostly white and ready to vomit --- in perhaps the most matter-of-fact tone in which I've ever uttered any words, I replied. "Birth control? I was relying on the fact that I CAN'T GET PREGNANT! My infertility was my birth control." My doctor just looked at me and wisely responded, "Well, apparently you're now fertile."

Who needs birth control when you've been told that you can't naturally conceive?! Apparently I do. Britney Spears' "Oops I Did it Again" popped into my head and more than it was I ironic I just felt old. (I swear I was cool when Britney first came on the scene. But now I'm knocked up...again...and making a Brit Brit reference and yes, I just referred to her as Brit Brit).

I was given a 0% chance of getting pregnant on my own with my first child. Couldn't happen. With IUI my chances increased to 15%.  Two years later I returned to the doctor who again confirmed that I would not be able to conceive without assistance, but for various reasons my odds were now just 5% with IUI.  I'm the lucky winner and I know that to be true...I won with odds of 15% and 5% and now here I am pregnant against all odds.  Sincerely, I'm grateful and not taking it for granted, but it's honestly as shocking as coming home and finding that my two children turned into dogs while I was at work. 

The hard and definitive decision to not have any more children was no longer the decision my husband and I made.  Not only was the sense of control we thought we had over our lives rattled, but with this baby, we will be outnumbered and that's just not good. Not good at all. We are a man-on-man defense and man-on-man offense kind of family. Play to your strengths and we do. Our strength is being man-on-man. Not anymore.

Last year, or maybe the year prior, there was a quiz promoted all over Facebook where based on a few questions, you were told how many children you should have. My quiz result was two.

Because every question - the medical, mystical and practical - can be answered through a Google search, I began searching "having three children." Source alone, a blog titled "Scary Mommy," I clicked on her piece about having three kids. It was the best bit of empathy I have had since finding out I was pregnant - "... Everyone asks if it’s your first and when you say it’s your third, they laugh hysterically and walk away."  

Regardless of the roller coaster ride to come, the way I see it is that I'm already buckled in with two, so really, isn't one more just like adding a few upside down turns?

According to Scary Mommy, it's not quite like that, but it is a guaranteed ride.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Is About More than Moms. Thank you to All My Ladies!

Today is one of my favorite days and not because it's a Hallmark holiday added to the list of so many other "holidays." I genuinely embrace the sentiment of today and am grateful for a day that reminds me to say the thank-yous to the amazing women who keep me inspired to do better than just put one foot in front of the other.

When I think about the women in my life today, it's not just the other mothers that I want to thank. You don't have to be a mom to be mothering, caring, loving, supportive, tough, kind and part of someones village. You do, however, have to have the patience of saint to tolerate all the kid and parenting stories that you could otherwise live without. So for me, today honors those women, in addition to my fellow moms.

Parenting is much like a team sport and perhaps it's more so that than the product of a village. On the team, you have people who help you play to your strengths and those who force you to acknowledge your weaknesses. There are those who have your back and those who leave you to fend for yourself, mostly because they know you can. Just you don't know you can. And as we have heard, felt, experienced (cue the brilliant Similac video parenting is a competitive sport. Why us women think keeping other women down is sport is absurd, but Mommy Wars is the parenting version of Mean Girls.

But today, on Mother's Day, it's the one out of 365 days when we have a level playing field. Today is the day when every player gets a ribbon (gasp! insert judgement about whether or not all participants should receive prizes even if they don't win). See how easy it is to judge EVERYTHING? Well let's not. For this one day.

Ladies, we can make it through one day when we only acknowledge that every single parent out there has had sleepless nights, faced tantrums, cried over spilled breast milk, not been able to get a stroller to collapse or maybe not been able to get a car seat out of a car, peed with a child on your lap, forgotten a wallet and not realized until the grocery store cashier tells you what you owe, faced a diaper blow-out in public and kissed boo boos among many, many, so so many other things.

And for those who aren't parents but are part of the team, today is the day when I give thanks to you for keeping me honest and keeping it real. For reminding me of all the declarative statements I made about parenting before becoming a parent. For not allowing me to ramble (too much) about my kids, but for indulging me when you know I need to talk, share, brag, vent. For giving me advice woman to woman and reminding me that who I am in any relationship is the same person I should be in my role as a mom.

Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

46 Reasons Why My Three Year Old Might Be Freaking Out

This is not original content and I thank Jason Good for creating this painfully accurate list of 46 reasons why a child might be freaking out.

If you can imagine the response/reaction of an 18-month old, not a three year old, you have entered my life.

May you be grateful that none of these things ring true or may you, too, be grateful that Jason Good knows your pain!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Milestones. Pregnancy is the New Wedding

Becoming a parent is a life milestone that you're supposed to come at with excitement, joy, love, and even promise of a better tomorrow. Sounds a lot to me like how a person is expected to enter marriage. So to me, this means pregnancy is like an engagement - a time to adjust to and begin accepting the imminent life changes that each life milestone will bring.

During a pregnancy and engagement, you spend months reading books, looking at magazines and trolling Pinterest and the Internet for information and ideas.  You see smiling faces, read stories about things you vow you'll never try or do, and get some ideas/tips for how to tackle the endless list of all the "best" things you can do to have the happiest baby/wedding - not only on the block - but that anyone you know has ever seen.

So there you are, drowning in information and realizing that you have a lot of choices to make. Choices that seem daunting -- white, off white, ecru? -- swing or bouncer? -- and you become emotionally invested in these decisions as if these are the things that are going to define your wedding or parenting experience. It feels very real as these are some of the first choices you're making as a wife or parent.

You make your choices and feel proud about what you've created -- a dream wedding/a dream nursery -- and you wait anxiously for the day to arrive when you get to enjoy your creation. You are showered by friends and family and listen patiently as free advice is poured upon you, as are stories that fill your heart and stories that break your heart. You look at your "village people" and aren't quite entirely sure why you'll need an entire village to thrive in life, but the most consistent free advice you've received is that you need a village. Trust me, you do. And if you don't have a village, I promise that any close friend will lend you theirs. It's like a smoker who will always share cigarettes...Someone who has a village and knows its value will share theirs with a person who doesn't have one.

The day has come. As you walk down the aisle (or are wheeled into labor and delivery) you are keenly aware that this moment will define you. Your identity will be altered by adding a non-paying role to your resume --- that of wife or mother. (The roles aren't non-paying because they aren't worthy of a paycheck, but rather that there's not a price tag you can put on either one).

You're now a mother. You're now a wife. In both circumstances you're now responsible for another human being. And you suddenly think, How did I get here?

As a parent, you may be one of the lucky ones who coast into motherhood with ease. Leaving the house is easy, breast feeding is a cinch, and your baby naturally falls into a great sleep routine. For the majority of mothers, though, the transition is hard. Like on your wedding day, as a new mother, when something goes awry, it feels like the day is ruined. You are finally ready to leave the house with the baby, but that day the baby won't nap, won't eat, had a total diaper blowout right after being strapped into the car seat. You aren't able to leave the house and you suddenly feel like a failure. But what you really need to do is make a new plan and accept that this is parenthood -- starving for predictability and routine, but living with constant change.

It's something brides hear all the time when something at a wedding goes awry -- "No one knows that something is missing or didn't go as planned...only you know because you planned it." It's true. A dance, toast, bouquet toss or cake cutting happened out of order and you feel like the event was a failure. It wasn't. It isn't. It doesn't mean you aren't entitled to feel disappointed, but it does mean that it was nothing more than a missed moment that only you know was missed. And that, my friend, is a life long lesson. Letting go of things you can't change and not internalizing things that don't define you. And as for those fears about whether or not people liked your dress, hair and make-up, venue, flowers, cake, band or DJ, first dance, food, etc.... Guess what? People just want you to be happy and they want to have a good time. The people in your village are the people who should be at your wedding. And no one in your village shows up to judge.

Throughout parenthood, much like on your wedding day, you may feel like people are judging -- "OMG, look at her kid throw that tantrum! I would never allow my child to act that way."  But the reality is that no one is judging you or your child. They may be glad it's not their child, but they aren't judging a crying kid. That would be like judging a dog that pees on a fire hydrant. It's part of the great cliches in life. Embrace them. It will make life a lot easier. And if someone does give you that all-knowing glance or stare, simply say, "And I've bet you've never heard a baby cry." and flash a shit eating grin.

There will come a day when you look back on your pregnancy or engagement and realize how little you knew about what was ahead. And it's in that moment when you'll realize just how far you've come.