3/31/08

Birth Story

I saw Ricki Lake on the Rachael Ray Show a while back discussing her new documentary, “The Business of Being Born.” I haven’t seen it yet, but I went to the web site to find out more. You can submit your birth story to be included in an upcoming book. Even though I wrote a brief recap when Miles was born, I decided, why not share the whole sordid story? You lucky readers, you.

So you might recall that during my first prenatal visit, my ob/gyn looked at my chart, saw that I was a vegetarian and did yoga, and said, “You might do well with HypnoBirthing.” Hypno-what?! I thought. She explained that it was a method of childbirth preparation, like Lamaze or Bradley.

And that’s how, with visions of patchouli and Birkenstocks dancing in our heads, my perfectly normal husband and I found ourselves in somebody’s living room practicing massage techniques and visualization, listening to nature sounds, and learning a whole new vocabulary. Instead of contractions, HypnoBirthing refers to “waves of energy.” Your water doesn’t break; your “membranes rupture.” It’s a kinder, gentler approach to birth, we learned. Your body knows what to do if you and all those doctors just stay out of the way and let it.

So my due date came and went. I tried everything to jumpstart labor, but nothing happened. Then my ob/gyn quit and my doula went on vacation. Fortunately, it was a group practice and my doula had a back-up. Still, I was getting more anxious by the day.

Finally, reluctantly, I allowed my doctor to schedule an induction. I was almost 42 weeks pregnant. Then, the day before I was to be induced, I woke up with contractions. Hallelujah! Per our HypnoBirthing instruction, I labored at home as long as possible. I rolled around on a birthing ball. Took a warm bath. Walked around the block a few times. When I couldn’t take it any more and my contractions were 4 minutes apart, we headed to the hospital at about 6 p.m. I was proud of myself for holding out as long as I had.

Well, guess what? I was a measly 1 ½ cm dilated!! A while later, they started me on a Pitocin drip. The doctors explained that active labor is technically defined as contractions plus dilation, and I appeared to only be experiencing the first part. They didn’t cover THAT scenario in HypnoBirthing class!

By this time, my doula was back from vacation. She arrived with homemade cookies, massaged my back during contractions, and brought me water. She and my husband slept on hospital chairs while I lay on the bed wishing the baby would hurry up already.

Sometime during the night I requested an epidural. I was exhausted and in pain. The brusque anesthesiologist administered my epidural like he was performing an oil change. It gave me some relief, but I continued to feel pain in the lower left part of my abdomen. Another thing I’d never learned: there can be “pockets” where the epidural doesn’t work.

My doula left to take her kids to school. Time passed ever so slowly. Then I started feeling the urge to push. I was 10 cm at last! We called the doula and told her to come back to the hospital. I was in labor for so long that several shifts of doctors and nurses had come and gone. I couldn’t even keep track of all the people who were in the room. Thank God for my doula, who was a calm, soothing presence throughout it all.

At some point, a pair of midwives came in. One said, “What’s that frown for? We’re having a baby here!” I wanted to punch her. The other said, “No, no, honey. That’s not effective pushing. You’re doing it wrong.” I cried and possibly cursed. My doula said, “Tuck your chin and hold your breath.” Her advice helped.

Then the baby got stuck. “You’re going to have to push harder,” they told me. I was crying and exhausted. It was close to noon. “I can’t do this any more,” I sobbed. My husband and the doula held my hands. “Yes, you can. You’re doing great,” they said.

The doctors went and got a suction cup that they jammed on the baby’s head to pull it out. Later, my husband said that was the scariest thing he’d ever seen. They kept trying; it wasn’t working. Then, someone leaned over and said to me, “We’re going to get another doctor to try the forceps. If that doesn’t work, we’re looking at a C-section.”

Screw that, I remember thinking. Another push, and the baby was out. It was covered in meconium (that means it had pooped in the womb), so a team of nurses and pediatricians swooped in to make sure the baby got cleaned up and could breathe. “What did we have?” we asked. “Oh,” said the nurse, clearly startled. “It’s a boy. See?”

They held the baby out to me. He had the biggest, darkest eyes I’d ever seen. In that moment, I didn’t care that all my plans for a calm, easy birth had gone out the window hours and hours and hours before. I had my baby at last. I was a mom.

LINK O’ THE WEEK: If you can’t get enough birth stories or want to post your own, Sarcastic Mom has a Birth Story Carnival going on. Sounds like there should be rides and cotton candy, doesn’t it?

3/24/08

It’s a Boy Thing

I’ve come to the shocking realization that … I am the mother of a boy. I know, you’re thinking I’m a little slow if it’s taken me 22 mos. to realize this. Somehow, though, the full ramifications only sank in this weekend.

It started when I went shopping for an Easter outfit for Miles. First I went to Macy’s since they were having a sale. If by sale you mean 40% off tacky polyester suits that were $89 (!!) to begin with. The few cute things I could find only went up to size 24 mos. It might have fit him on Easter, but I don’t buy one-time-only outfits. This isn’t the Oscars, people.

So then I went to Target, Old Navy, Marshall’s, Baby Gap, The Children’s Place, Gymboree, even Janie & Jack, although I am morally opposed to paying $50 or more for an item of clothing made from less than a yard of fabric. (OK, for ANY item of clothing besides a wedding dress!! I’m cheap, what can I say?) But everywhere I went, I was faced with the same couple racks of boring khakis, button-down shirts, blazers, and sweater vests. If I wanted to dress my baby like a 35-year-old stockbroker, I’d have no problem finding clothes for him.

And yet, the stores virtually overflowed with adorable spring-colored frocks for little girls. Pink and brown polka dots! Yellow and green flowers! Lilac and peach ruffles! Adorable Mary-Janes! Stripey tights! Tiny purses and bows and ribbons galore! The more I shopped, the more depressed I got. Finally, on my third trip to the mall, I broke down and bought a cute but overpriced sweater vest and a striped shirt (both on sale). Miles wore them with pants and shoes he already owned. And he’s going to wear them again to a family wedding.

On Easter, I noticed that half the boys at church were dressed identically in navy blue blazers and khakis. The others wore sweater vests and button-down shirts. But I noticed something else about the boys. During the children’s story time, the pastor had all the kids sit in a circle. He started a story, then each kid had to add to it. The girls all made up tales about cute farm animals and playground games. Then it was the boys’ turn and suddenly the story took a turn for the worse: “Then the lion jumped out and ate the bunny!” “And then he pulled down his underwear!” “And then the tree crashed to the ground and killed everybody!” A mom standing next to me rolled her eyes and said, “Boys will be boys.”

Later that day, my brother, his wife, and their 15-mo-old daughter came over. (My niece, Chloe, was wearing an adorable spring dress and leggings, BTW.) Chloe would be quietly enjoying a ride on the Pooh car, and Miles would come barreling up on his motorcycle and yell, “CRASH!!” Chloe would pick up a ball and carry it around; Miles would spike it off someone’s head. (To be fair, so would his dad.) Chloe would place some toys inside the toy watering can; Miles would use it as a hammer. All the while, Chloe played quietly while Miles hollered and growled and babbled away.

But you know, it’s not the clothes or the bathroom humor or the roughhousing that worries me about having a boy. It’s that he might grow up and leave me one day. I can’t help but notice that when girls grow up, they tend to be closer and more involved with their families. Whereas boys grow up and fly the coop. And when they get interested in family again, it’s usually their wife’s family. So the thought that I might someday only see Miles on Easter and Christmas and every other Thanksgiving makes me very, very sad. Even if he grows up to be a successful, sweater-vest-wearing stockbroker.

LAUGH O’ THE WEEK: Have you guys seen this? Things I’ve Learned from My Boys (Honest and Not Kidding).

3/18/08

Yes I Do, No I Don’t

Miles: “Peanut butter! Peanut butter!”
Me: “You want a peanut butter sandwich?”
Miles: “OK.”
Me (after making sandwich): “Here you go, sweetie.”
Miles: “No peanut butter! Yogurt! YO-GURRRT!!”

Good thing there was an article in this month’s Parenting magazine about why toddlers contradict themselves, or I would’ve thought Miles was just being a huge pain in the butt. Well, he is, but at least it’s developmental.

These days, EVERYTHING is a battle with him. He’ll say he wants to go for a walk in the stroller. Then he has a fit when I try to strap him in. Then when I let him out, he goes sprinting for the street. When I say, “You can either get in the stroller or hold my hand” he sits down on the sidewalk and cries. Can you see why we haven’t been leaving the house much?

Even at home, though, the struggles continue. Some days he won’t sit in his highchair or let me put his socks on, or he insists on having two spoons at mealtime. Some things, I let go. Fine. Go nuts with the plastic cutlery! But in other cases it’s not so easy.

Take his dairy addiction, for example. Miles loves nothing more than cheese, yogurt, and above all, milk. He starts asking for milk the moment he wakes up. If I dare, say, go to the bathroom before heading downstairs to get his milk, he pitches a fit. If I forget his milk at meals, he wails, “Milk! Miiiilk!” like someone who’s being torn from their lover’s arms.

And too much milk is not a good thing. First, it fills him up so he doesn’t eat any actual food. Second, it causes him, um, “gastrointestinal distress,” which leads to nasty diapers for Mom and nasty diaper rash for him. I have explained all this to him calmly and rationally. And yet he persists in demanding dairy products around the clock. I once let him whine and cry for 30 straight minutes before I gave in. I’m not made of stone, people!! (His dad, on the other hand, has no problems tuning out his son. And what do you know, Miles stops whining around him. Why doesn’t that approach work for moms?!)

Miles isn’t the only walking contradiction around here lately, though. I also go back and forth daily, even hourly. On the one hand, I’m having a harder time than ever with my beloved offspring. (Not helped by the fact that C. is gone most of the week now. 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. is too damn long a day for one parent!) On the other hand, when he’s not having milk meltdowns, Miles is cuter and more fun than ever.

I try to remind myself of the cute stuff he does, such as: calling oatmeal “eat-meal”; saying “I love Mama, I love Dada, I love baths”; hugging the dog; pretending his pasta is a rocket ship; and laughing hysterically when someone jumps out from behind a door and startles him.

Yes, he’s a funny kid. No, he’s not easy. Yes, I love him dearly. No, I do not miss him when his dad takes him out on weekends. I just hope they’re not going to Dairy Queen.

LAUGH O’ THE WEEK: My SIL sent me a funny e-mail about a 15-step program to see if you’re ready to have kids. An excerpt: “Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems. 1) Buy an octopus and a small bag made out of loose mesh. 2) Attempt to put the octopus into the bag so that none of the arms hang out. Repeat all morning.”

3/14/08

Diary of a Frustrated Writer

People, today I’m going to give you a glimpse behind the curtain here at Diary of a New Mom. Not that you asked … but I’ve decided to drop the cloak of semi-anonymity for a moment and tell you just how and why I choose to write about my sub-par cooking, my son’s tantrums, and my husband’s dirty socks week after week for all to read.

I am a freelance writer by trade. Depending on how you look at it, that either means that I have a problem with authority and can’t hold down a regular job, or that I’m an entrepreneurial creative type who believes in life beyond a cubicle. Guess which version I prefer? 😉

It makes me laugh when people remark on the instability of my profession. “What about health insurance and a steady paycheck?” they ask. To that I reply, “Dude, I worked for two magazines that folded, a dot-com that tanked, and a media company that reorganized my entire department out of our jobs. Does that sound stable to you?” Believe me, the freelance life is rock-solid in comparison.

It also makes me laugh when people say, “Lucky you! Freelance writing is the perfect job for a mom.” As if long hours on the computer and phone mesh seamlessly with tending to the every need of a tiny, helpless human being all day. We work from home! In our pajamas! We don’t need childcare! So the thinking goes. As any work-from-home mom knows, that’s a load of horse puckey. (This blogger debunks some other freelance myths.)

But freelancing does have its perks, one of them being flexibility. I can decide what assignments to take on and when, and as long as I meet my deadlines, no one cares if I do my work at 9 a.m. or 9 p.m. Here’s the thing, though: to use a non-vegetarian metaphor, you only eat what you kill as a freelancer. I have to FIND the work before I can do it. I have to SELL the story before I get paid for it. And that, people, is the hard part.

I spent the early part of my career writing about anything and everything — North Carolina’s Woolly Worm Festival, Baltimore’s best lawyers, feng shui, low-carb bagels, you name it. As I honed my journalism skills, I discovered I enjoyed writing first-person stories. Real life is endlessly fascinating to me, and whose life do I know better than my own? So I started publishing some personal essays. I wrote about wedding planning nightmares, life as a broke newlywed, my tendency to faint at the doctor’s, and even about my belly button. (Coming soon to a newsstand near you!)

Well, guess what? EVERYONE wants to write about themselves. EVERYONE thinks their life is fascinating. And almost everyone thinks they can write. That means publications are bombarded by a gajillion submissions from writers and would-be writers. Some don’t even care if they get paid; being published is enough.

Editors have told me, “This is great, but we already have tons of essays awaiting publication” or “We only buy a few essays a year,” or (usually from web sites), “We don’t pay for essays since our users provide content for free.” Right. That produces such gems as this, from an article on a popular parenting web site on how to keep your toddler from running off in public:

my son is 2 and half got a harness it looks like a horse and not curl looking he likes it i only let him see it when i am goign to use it .i tell him he giving his horsey a ride.

Sometimes freelancing is like dating gone wrong. An editor of a national parenting magazine once commissioned an essay, which I spent weeks writing. When I sent it in she gushed, “This is a winner! We may be able to get it in the next issue.” Several follow-ups later, I got: “We’ve decided to pass.” I told myself it’s not me, it’s her.

So last year I thought, “Why don’t I just write a book?” You know, because that’s so much easier. 😉 At a writers’ conference, I met a publisher who was interested in a book based on this blog. JOY!! I racked up 50+ hours of babysitting time putting together a book proposal. Her response? “Thanks, but no thanks.”

I kept sending it out, only to hear, “There are too many pregnancy and parenting books out there already.” Or, “Books about an everyday person’s experience don’t sell.” With everyone from Jenny McCarthy to Brooke Shields penning parenting books these days, writers need to be celebrities in their own right just to get a book deal. (Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, like those girls who wrote “The Nanny Diaries.”)

Anyway, I’ve channeled my frustration with the publishing world into my current labor of love — this blog. That’s right, dear readers. I am using my God-given talents and years of journalism experience … to write about my life every time I feel like it for the enjoyment of the universe at large. For nothing more than the pleasure of self-expression and some positive comments. Which I love, so keep ’em coming. 🙂 Take that, editors!!

BTW, it’s my professional opinion that much of the funniest, cleverest, most relevant writing these days is not found on the bestseller shelf, but right here in the blogosphere by YOU, my fellow bloggers. Let’s keep up the good work!

PRESS O’ THE WEEK: Check out my interview on 5MinutesforMom.com.

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Speaking of Jenny McCarthy, she and Leah Remini and Chelsea Handler are hilarious at IntheMotherhood.com, where they star in “webisodes” based on stories viewers have submitted (for free!!).

3/11/08

Notes for Newlyweds

My cousin is getting married next month, and I was asked to write down some advice on marriage for the bride and groom. People did this for us when we got married and while I wouldn’t say it was the most helpful advice ever (let the little stuff go?!), it was entertaining and I enjoyed reading what people had to say.

First, let me just tell you how hard it was to dig back into my addled mommy brain for some memories of our marriage pre-baby. Even though it was barely 2 years ago, it feels like another lifetime. I hate to admit it, but I’ve become one of those annoying people who says things like, “You think picking up your husband’s dirty socks is a pain? Just wait till you’re dealing with a bazillion dirty baby socks and onesies per day!!” Helpful, right? Just what a newlywed wants to hear.

I never feel that comfortable dispensing advice, though. It makes it seem like I’m some kind of authority and that my way is the right way. When really, it’s just what’s worked for me. And actually, I prefer telling people what NOT to do. Why shouldn’t someone learn from my mistakes? For instance, just because your child likes banana muffins doesn’t mean you should spend all afternoon whipping up 2 dozen healthy broccoli and cheese muffins. Because they will smell like feet and go straight in the trash. Your husband won’t even choke one down. Just something I’ve learned.

But that little anecdote wouldn’t look too nice in a scrapbook now, would it? So I’m forced to come up with something a little more, um, Hallmark in nature. Let’s see …

I actually think I might have a clue when it comes to marriage. C. and I have been through some stuff, that’s for sure. Namely, him losing his job right after our wedding and right after we’d bought a house and being out of work for over a year. Yep, that sucked. And having a baby was no picnic, either. There were some hormone-fueled scenes I’d rather not remember, some days when sleep-deprivation got the better of us. Like that one time in the middle of the night when I priced plane tickets for me and the baby. (As if I could have run away carrying all that baby gear myself!)

But we got through it. And we still love each other, even more than we did all those carefree child-free years ago. What’s our “secret”? Well, marrying the right person is one. Finding someone who makes you laugh is key. And someone who is supportive of you and wants the same things (like kids, and democracy, for instance).

In all seriousness, I think my advice to the newlyweds is to constantly remind your spouse that you love and appreciate them. No one ever gets sick of hearing, “I love you.” C. and I try to thank each other regularly for cooking dinner or doing something especially nice (say, cleaning out the car or changing a poopy diaper when it’s not your “turn”). That little stuff goes a long way, in my opinion. And, no, even after 4+ years of marriage, I don’t let everything go. Leaving your dirty socks lying around is just GROSS, people!!

TIP O’ THE WEEK: It may be standard practice now, but I just love when people include an e-mail address to RSVP to an invitation. Especially with time zones and long distance rates, it’s so much easier for me to find time to zip off an e-mail than make a phone call. Emily Post be damned!

3/7/08

Freegans and Freebies

As a kid growing up in the ’70s, I thought my parents were weird. My dad wore Birkenstocks and my mom did yoga and carried canvas tote bags instead of a purse. (Still does.) We baked our own bread and reused plastic bags. And now, what do you know? Everyone’s all about organic everything and saving the environment. My parents weren’t weird, they were just ahead of their time! (Somewhere, they’re gloating.)

The thing about trends is, someone’s always gotta take it up a notch. I was catching up on some Tivo’ed episodes of Oprah the other night and caught her show on “freegans.” Huh? Wikipedia defines “freeganism” as “an anti-consumerism lifestyle whereby people employ alternative living strategies based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.”

Translation: they get their food from dumpsters. Or at least that’s the part Oprah focused on.

No, not gross, moldy, half-eaten food. Packaged stuff like frozen pizza and sealed bags of organic broccoli that grocery stores throw away because it’s nearing its expiration date or is slightly bruised. Most of the stuff they showed looked better than what’s currently in my fridge. Stores can’t give it to homeless shelters because of regulations and lawsuits. So they chuck it. And these freegans — who, BTW, usually have perfectly good jobs and homes — rescue it from the dumpster and serve it up for dinner. OK. I’m as frugal and Earth-friendly as the next gal, but that’s taking it a little far, no?

I’m not above supermarket freebies, though, which is how Miles and I found ourselves at Whole Foods this morning with my friend T. and her son. They have this kids’ club thing where they read some stories, give the kids bunny ears and a bag, and then send them off to collect free samples in each department. As T. said, it’s like trick-or-treating for groceries.

In the dairy section, they gave the kids a piece of string cheese. At the deli, it was some applesauce. At the bakery, it was a mini cupcake. In the produce section, we couldn’t find anyone, so we helped ourselves to an organic banana. Meanwhile, Miles was running amuck in the store, fueled by frosting. I turned my back for a second and he was gone. GONE. A very surprised-looking employee walked him out from behind the customer service desk a minute later.

As fun as this little adventure was, I couldn’t bear trying to do my grocery shopping on top of it. Guess your consumeristic plan backfired, Whole Foods. Or Whole Paycheck, as one friend likes to call it. Wouldn’t you know, it’s located right next to Fourbucks — um, Starbucks. Convenient, eh? Last week T. bought ingredients for an organic veggie lasagna that came to $35. For that price, she could’ve paid a babysitter AND gone out to lunch!!

As we were leaving, I passed an employee tearing the covers off stacks of magazines to make room for the next month’s issues. “Are you throwing those out?” I asked. “Can I take some?” He reluctantly handed over a copy of Natural Health. Damn. If that’s what they’re throwing away inside, maybe I should’ve checked the dumpster on my way out.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Gleaned from the pages of my free magazine: dark chocolate is a natural cough suppressant. Who knew?

3/4/08

Month 22: If I Wanted Your Advice…

Lots of new moms have stories about being accosted by nosy strangers giving them unsolicited advice about how to care for their babies. Like, “That baby should be wearing a hat!” or “Your baby’s hungry/tired/cold.” As if they know anything at all about your baby and you’re too stupid to consider those options. Some moms suggest snappy comebacks like, “Oh, really? You mean you have to FEED them?”

In the interest of spreading around some good mom karma, I would like to report that I have never been the victim of such obnoxious “advice.” In fact, I have been pleasantly surprised by just how kind and supportive most people have been to me as a new mom. I’ve had people hold doors open for my stroller, smile understandingly when my baby screamed his head off in public, and even hold my baby while I threw up on a plane. If that’s not the height of kindness, I don’t know what is.

Then again, there was that time at the library. First, let me set the scene: I had this book I’d checked out months ago. I’d renewed it the maximum number of times because I could never find time to read it. I had already racked up enough late fees that I could’ve purchased the book in hardback. But I could never seem to get to the library to return it. Miles was in the stage where he would only tolerate being strapped into the carseat for limited periods of time. If you let him out, chances were exceedingly slim that you’d ever get him back in again.

I asked my husband to return the book for me. It floated around in his car for awhile, where it threatened to be lost forever among the Red Bull cans and gum wrappers. Finally I snatched it back and swore that I would return it that week, come hell or high water.

So. Miles and I were on the way back from Stroller Strides. I had already stopped at Trader Joe’s, thereby using up my one carseat transfer for the day. We were driving by the library, where there happened to be a parking spot out front. I’d just leave Miles in the car for a second and dash over to the book drop — a few yards away and in full view of the car.

I did feel a little nervous about carjackers or a sudden heat wave, but I decided to take my chances. Wouldn’t you know it? Just as I approached the book drop slot, an older woman with a tote bag full of back issues of Martha Stewart Living strolls up — and proceeds to return them ONE AT A TIME!! I could feel my blood starting to boil. Finally, I chucked in my book and ran back to the car. (Real time elapsed: approximately 7 seconds. Felt like: an ETERNITY.)

A woman was standing on the sidewalk smoking a cigarette. “That your car?” she called. I opened the door. “You can get a citation for that, you know. Leaving a baby in the car like that. I work at the court house, and they give out citations for that.”

Oh. No. She. Didn’t. This is NOT the day to mess with me, lady. Do you have any IDEA how hard it was for me to run this one damn errand?? In a fit of rage, I imagined pummeling her with overdue library books. It took all my self-restraint to keep my mouth shut, get in the car, and drive away.

However, except for that one incident … and some unhelpfulness in the airport security line … and some dirty looks when my son has run amuck in the mall … I have found people to be overwhelmingly supportive of new moms. If you have not been so lucky, maybe together we can come up with some snappy comebacks. Like when someone scolds you for not putting a hat on your baby, telling that person just where they can stuff their hat.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Some libraries, like mine, let you renew your books online. Even more helpful would be a drive-thru book drop.

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