A Happy Anniversary

Each year, Dan and I take turns planning our anniversary. Last year it was his turn to plan, which was good, considering I was four days postpartum and in no position to plan… anything. We did it lower than low key, at home, while my mom took Sweet Pea out to dinner. We were “alone” with days-old Lady Bug, doing our best to make our kitchen feel like a very special place. I wore my best pajamas, and I might have even traded my glasses for contacts. Dan picked up a box of miniature artisanal cupcakes in flavors like lavender-basil and macchiato. They were only partly smushed on his bike ride home. We drank Prosecco. We toasted to four years of marriage. We had no idea what this year would be. I think it’s better that we didn’t know.

After the fancy cupcakes, there was upheaval.

There were long days, as I recovered from the birth in my bed, while Dan took Sweet Pea all the places I wanted to be instead; the park, the library, the farmer’s market. When I was ready to put on a real outfit, the first place I went was the doctor, then immediately to the hospital for an MRI. I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. The right half of my face was paralyzed. I was scared and sad. There was no way to know whether it would get better, whether it would fully resolve, and how long all of this would take. A year later, it’s a lot better, but not back to normal, and I’m starting to accept that I might never see my old face in the mirror again. Obsessive Google searching confirmed the best thing to do was to rest. Except I had a fussy baby who was an awful sleeper, and a toddler to take care of. My face looked like a creepy Halloween mask. I felt ugly, anxious, and self-conscious.

Sweet Pea was thrilled to have a real live baby doll in her new sister. I felt like I was supposed to be thrilled, which I sometimes was, but mostly I was overwhelmed. Lady Bug always had something going on; thrush, reflux, eczema, congestion that made me leap out of bed in the middle of the night when I heard what sounded like her drowning in her own secretions. It felt like everyone needed me, all the time. I was giving kisses, hugs, snuggles, breastmilk, sippy cups, potty treats, breastmilk, warnings not to touch the baby’s head, special creams, probiotic powders, homeopathic drops, prescription lotions, final drinks of water, final-final drinks of water, and more breastmilk, all day long.

Much of my free time was given to acupuncture and physical therapy, in my dogged, if not entirely fruitful pursuit to get my face back to normal. Trips to the park were pushed off till tomorrow while I shushed the kids or hid in my room on the phone with doctors offices, pharmacies, and the insurance company for Lady Bug. Entire mornings and afternoons were taken up by trips to the doctor, the naturopath, the dermatologist, the allergist, the craniosacral therapist, and the anthroposophic physician (yes that’s really a thing). She was diagnosed with allergies; severe, potentially life-threatening allergies to eggs, milk, peanuts, and tree nuts. Another chunk of my time was devoted to searching Pinterest for dinner ideas that would accommodate our new diet.

Many days, after the kids were down, I have had to fight the urge to collapse, myself.

I thought I had done the whole “Who am I now that I’m a mom?” thing after having our first child, so this year has felt like a sneak-attack. This must be how my three year-old feels when the baby destroys the tower she so carefully constructed. Her whole body convulses in great, heaving sobs, as she cries, “She ruined my tower, Mama. I have to start over. “ I know, honey. I know. It’s exhausting to have to start over from the very beginning and create something new.

It was my turn to plan our anniversary this time. I leaned on Dan a lot this year. I’ve complained, I’ve cried, I’ve yelled, I’ve vented, and he has listened. I have been mean, sarcastic, and critical. I’ve been apologetic and he’s been forgiving. He read an earlier draft of this post and felt I was being overly hard on myself and that it is only fair to mention that I, not he, was the one to wake up with the baby two to three times a night, every night, until about two months ago. See, he’s really nice like that.

I started scheming months in advance and surprised him with an overnight getaway for our anniversary. When I asked him if he had any idea what I had up my sleeve, he told me he wasn’t even thinking about it. “I’m just trying to get through the week, ” he said. Our favorite babysitter was available and willing.  Our dear friends had a beautiful, empty home with an impossibly gorgeous mountain view and a hot tub, which they were happy to let us use. A fabulous local restaurant delivered a delicious meal that accommodated all of my many restrictions, along with a wine pairing.

There was nothing low-key about our fifth anniversary. We were really alone this time. There was a delicious meal on a tranquil patio with a stunning view on a warm, clear summer night. We took an after dinner walk. We stargazed and danced in the street to the faint sound of “Come On Eileen” that wafted through the otherwise silent neighborhood streets, coming from a party on someone’s lawn.

We took our time getting up in the morning. Meaning, at 6:40 I rubbed sleep from my eyes while Dan was in the kitchen, doing last night’s dishes. We took a meandering walk in the morning sunshine on nearby trails. We took a dip in the hot tub. We took only 45 minutes to get from the hot tub to the shower to the car… I thought that I had a severe life malfunction that prevented me from getting out the door in an efficient manner but I realized it’s not a malfunction, it’s just a baby and a toddler. We had a leisurely brunch at one of our favorite places. There was abundant coffee and I drank it while it was still hot. There was conversation about important things and not much at all. There were humorous remarks and references to old jokes we’ve shared.

And, there was us. Beneath the chaos and the rubble and all the harsh words born out of frustration, sleep deprivation, and as Dan likes to say, resource contention, there is still us. I think we’re going to be ok, assymetrical faces, life threatening allergies, and sleepless nights notwithstanding. What a happy anniversary it is.

Happy Anniversary

Lies I Told Myself About Baby #2… Guest Posting at In the Powder Room!

I know one thing about babies: They are mysterious. I learned this when my two-year-old was a baby, but I buried this nugget of truth in the recesses of my brain, which is disorganized to begin with. I can barely remember where I put my phone.

I sailed through my second pregnancy, blissfully unaware of what was to come. My carefree life had already been obliterated with the birth of our first child. We’d barely notice the addition of a mere eight to ten pounds worth of additional human in our household. This was what I told myself, along with a few other handy lies.

Click here to read the rest at In the Powder Room. If you haven’t been there before, it’s a website filled with hilarious, snarky articles, and I am beyond excited to be part of it. Yahoo!!!

Read me In the Powder Room!

An update: pregnancy, the home birth book and definitely not feeling blessed

Remember when I was really excited about my home birth book project? And how I didn’t say anything about it for a while, and then I was consumed with Listen To Your Mother, and then I was obsessing about why, at this stage of my pregnancy, I can’t just wear a damn two piece swimsuit at the pool, (or wear anything anywhere for that matter) without being a spectacle…

Right. For much of that time, I was busy coming up with reasons excuses not to work on the book. Like, I was too busy with Listen To Your Mother, and then I was feeling uncreative and tired, which was (mostly) justifiable because of it being so late in my pregnancy, and then I was feeling just totally uninspired about the whole project and I was thinking the whole idea was stupid and I shouldn’t even pursue it, even though I have done a fair bit of work on it thus far.

And then something awesome happened, which I never mentioned here or on any social media because I am really fed up with the hashtag #blessed or anything that might resemble it. This New York Times article says it better than I ever could. Or if you’re not going to click over there, this pretty much sums it up:

…calling something “blessed” has become the go-to term for those who want to boast about an accomplishment while pretending to be humble, fish for a compliment, acknowledge a success (without sounding too conceited), or purposely elicit envy.

(But you should really click on that article, if only to read the hilarious tweet about the bacon.

What happened was, Dan insisted that I put Sweet Pea in daycare all five days last week so that I could get more rest as my due date was approaching (it’s today).  Normally she goes two days a week, which I consider a luxury. I felt horribly guilty about the idea of putting her in daycare all five days… Not because she hates it (she loves it), not because of the expense (well, not entirely, but somewhat), and not because I would miss spending time with her (I spend plenty of time with her). Mostly because I feel being her mom is my only job right now (I haven’t taken a shift at the hospital in a while) and I felt like a fraud, taking time off from my responsibilities.

But then Dan texted the daycare people and got Sweet Pea in on the extra days and it didn’t matter that I felt like I didn’t deserve a whole week to myself. It was happening, either way. Even with a daily nap/lie down/episode of Breaking Bad along with time to check off items on my to do list, lunches with friends, and errands, I still had a lot of time on my hands. There was no reason not to pick up where I left off with my book.

I reached out to a home birth Facebook group, requesting interviews. I emailed people I had been meaning to email for weeks. I expected nothing. After all, people are busy and I’m no one important. But an amazing thing happened. I got responses to my requests. People wanted to talk to me! Lots of people wanted to talk to me! And after they talked to me, they told their friends and they emailed to tell me they want to talk to me, too.

As I talk to people, I am learning so much. I am learning about all the different ways a home birth can look, including not just the birth itself, but also the prenatal and postpartum care. I am learning what questions I might not need to ask and what questions I ought to be asking. I am learning how to be a better listener and I am learning how to phrase my questions to get the richest answers. I learned that if my i phone isn’t on airplane mode and a call comes in during an interview, it will erase everything that I recorded on using my i recorder app. I learned that my cordless phone only holds a charge for so long and I learned that transcription is a b*tch and paying someone else to do it is usually about $1/minute of audio.

I learned all over again what a patient listener Dan is because there is so much to obsess over when you embark on a project like this. I learned (for the millionth time in my life) that starting is the hardest part and how easy it is to confuse fear with a legitimate reason for not moving forward.

I’m learning that people are excited about my book. I’m re-discovering how excited I am about my book.

Meanwhile I’m sort of ambivalent about the baby. Is that horrible to say? I’m in a groove with this book project and as much as I don’t want to be pregnant anymore, and I’m not scared or nervous about actually giving birth, I’m not excited about it either. I know it’s going to hurt and I know it’s going to be hard. If it’s anything like Sweet Pea’s birth it will also be transformative and awesome but it’s hard to get excited about that. I don’t exactly feel like transforming right now, other than I’d like to be able to put on my strappy sandals independently.

PS If you would like to know a bit more about the book or be interviewed for it, go here. Thanks!

I Felt Like a Good Mom Until I Read This

After reading “Bringing Up Bebe”  by Pamela Druckerman, I tried to do everything the French way.  I was optimistic that I could parent more like a French person, which was the goal, because the French way is obviously the best way. “One best way? What kind of horseshit did this book sell you?” you might be wondering. Certainly there cannot be one way for each parent to guide their precious, perfectly, uniquely made offspring. We each must forge our own path in this beautiful journey of parenting, no? No.
Definitely non.

Image courtesy of Target.com

French children eat vegetables, and they sleep through the night by 2-3 months of age.  French mothers are serene as pregnant women, they get skinny very shortly after childbirth, and they are granted free, government funded post-partum coochie therapy to ensure the timely return of a vigorous sex life. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You really need to read this book. The French, in many regards, have a cultural bias that lends itself to parenting methods that have enviable results.  This is why I tried the SuperMaman approach.

At first I felt so Euro, so cosmopolitan, so… French. Then I started to feel like a posieur.  SuperMaman lasted about two weeks. I quit the charade when my failings made me feel like a total losieur. According to the book, as a French wannabe, I’d been messing things up since day one.

The French  are not scared of what they can and can’t eat or what they can and can’t do during pregnancy. They just stay chill. I was totally on board with this during my pregnancy. Until about 25 weeks, which was the week I taught a spin class, swam with Masters, mulched and watered the entire front yard, and ended up in the hospital, praying I would not have to spend the remainder of my pregnancy on bedrest (I did not have to, thankfully). My upcoming trip to Mexico was cancelled, (pre-term labor in a third world country, anyone?), and I was careful from that point on, to avoid overdoing it. And when I forgot to take it easy, my hemhorroids reminded me. No one could tell me what I had done wrong, but I suspect I was guilty of not being sufficiently anxious about the pregnancy. One thing the book didn’t mention was what the heck do French pregnant women do at night if they aren’t scouring Baby Center for medical information to ease their worries.
Fail #1: Pregnancy Problems

I had failed my child (and myself) during the newborn months because I didn’t straight up tell her I was putting her down for the night and she better not expect to see my face until the morning. The French tell their babies everything, assuming they can understand. I am on board with this, but when Sweet Pea was a newborn I would say things like “I love you” and “I’m changing your diaper now.” I never thought to say, “See you in eight hours.”

Also, I didn’t know about “The Pause” which is apparently de rigueur among the French. When bebe begins to cry, French parents wait about five minutes before going to check on him. Because the parents do not rush in, the baby learns to self-soothe very quickly.  In no time, they learn to put themselves back to sleep when they wake up in the middle of the night. I could totally tune out the sound of a baby crying for five minutes.  Someone else’s baby, that is.  Listen to my own baby cry for five minutes? I’d rather peel my fingernails off.
Fail #2: Sleep problems

So I couldn’t undo the damage I had already done in the sleep department, but at least I could work on developing my toddler’s palette. The French expose their children to all kinds of vegetables multiple times. If the kid doesn’t like broccoli the first time, or the fifth time, or the fifteenth time, there’s always the thirtieth time. French restaurants don’t have kids menus because French kids eat everything. I am all for exposing Sweet Pea to different foods as many times as it takes for her to acquire the taste for them. But I also want her to eat a solid meal.  Since I already messed up the sleep thing, if I give her a lot of vegetables for which her desire is questionable, I can be reasonably sure that she will wake up hungry in the middle of the night, which is fun for nobody.  So if she wants two scrambled eggs, that’s what this American mom is cooking.
Fail #3: Food problems

I would have loved to be back at my pre-pregnancy weight within three months. I would also love a pet unicorn. Losing weight fast is hard. It takes work. You have to be committed. You know what else is hard, takes work, and requires an assload of commitment? Mothering a newborn.  I didn’t have the energy to watch my diet in the first few months. Also, I was scared that if I dropped too much weight, my milk would dry up. Not that this was a huge risk, but I ate plenty of ice cream just to be on the safe side.
Fail #4:Baby Weight Problems

I think it’s awesome that the French culture values sex enough that they pay for postpartum pelvic floor therapy. I think sex is a vital part of a healthy marriage, and that sexuality is an important part of being human. I wish Americans, as a culture, were not so repressed.  But all the therapy in the world would not be able to return the natural lube that breastfeeding hormones stole from me. According to the book, breastfeeding is not very popular in France. I wonder if that’s partly because of the collateral damage it can do in the boudoir.
Fail #5: Sex problems

This was by no means a comprehensive review of the book, and you should know that even though it made me feel kind of bad, I couldn’t put it down. I’m not sure what that says about me.

I definitely recommend it. It was well-written, from the perspective of a funny, intelligent American journalist living and raising small children in Paris. “Bringing Up Bebe” exposed a lot of the cultural biases I wasn’t totally aware of (think fish in water). It also made me think about how a culture’s values permeate all aspects of that culture, including attitudes and practices regarding parenting.

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My Bucket List

My bucket list includes….
(I feel like I am getting naked a little bit here, but here goes). 
-Get paid to write. There, I said it (again).

-Qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. I know, I know, I would actually have to run another marathon to make this one happen, but my last one was in 2011 and I ran a 3:46 and that was only six minutes away. I know I can do it. I just can’t get all jazzed about marathon training right now because what I’d rather do is…. 

-Have at least one more baby.  Working on this one but having just weaned, I still haven’t gotten my period. As in, haven’t seen it since April 2011. I’m starting to miss the little sucker.

-Get out of the habit of pressing the Snooze button. Dudes, I only pressed it twice this morning. I am writing this before the crack of 7am. Yes I am amazing, thank you.

-Create a reservoir of patience that I will draw on whenever someone (specifically, my husband) annoys me. Not that he is an annoying person. He is a beautiful person, I am just a total b*tch sometimes. Need to start meditating. Seriously, just five minutes a day I think would help me develop this patient mind muscle.

-Visit Australia Totally do-able, but maybe not in this decade. I even have a friend there!

-Stop being the worst backseat driver in the world. I’m actually about to begin treatment for this. (Yes,there is treatment for being the most annoying wife, ever). Seriously, I have issues. I caught them from my patients. Honest to god, my problems began when I started working with people who were permanently disabled and in chronic pain due to auto accidents. I went from to mildly annoying to practically impossible in a few short years, as I became increasingly more terrified of.. I can’t even write it, I’m that anxious and superstitious.

-Visit Florida’s Gulf Coast. This definitely could happen in the next five years.

-Try every sandwich on the menu at Dish. I’m getting closer with every sandwich. I just need to keep pushing. 

This post was brought to you by the Finish The Sentence Friday link up. 
Please visit the FTSF hosts, Stephanie at Mommy For Real, Janine at Janine’s Confessions of  Mommyholic, Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine,  and Dawn at Dawn’s Disaster.
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