mirror bookends

My baby is already six-months-old. I’m trying hard not to resort to tropes of “Stay Small!” and “Stop Growing!” because, obviously, a growing and thriving infant is a healthy happy baby; but, in truth, my mind is boggled when I really think about how fast time has gone by. Not that I want it to slow down, but, it is causing a bit of mental whiplash to me.

H and E are bookends to each other. My two boys, six years apart, and in between I have changed so much as a person, and especially as a mother. At night, when my older two kids are slumbering away and I’m curled on the couch with H nestled in my arms, I wish the me-seven-years-ago could witness the happiness, the ease one can have taking care of a new baby.

Because MeBefore parented the exact opposite from MeNow.

MeBefore parented nervously. MeBefore worried incessantly about ‘bad habits’, especially in regards to sleep behavior. MeBefore slept trained baby E at four-months-old and sobbed in my husband’s arms as I listened to him wail, thinking “this is what’s best for him”.

MeBefore googled everything, from poop color to rashes to the best toys. I knew E’s age down to the week number and day- I remember in group discussion boards writing, “Ok, so E is 16 weeks and 3 days old, is it too early to start solid foods?”

Above all, MeBefore worried way too much about what other people thought, their opinions, and how my mothering would stack up compared to anyone else.

MeNow, with the experiences of raising both E and L, knows you can’t spoil a newborn. And it’s pretty hard to spoil a baby under the age of one, too. MeNow follows my instincts, not what I read online or what other people tell me. This confidence allows me to enjoy the small moments, the snuggles and cuddles and just being with H so much more. In turn, H is an easy, happy, flexible baby.

On the flip side of this bookend, some of the obsessions I had with parenting the “right way” with E have slacked in regards to H. For example, a few weeks ago I read a book exclusively to H. He was awake and the other kids were out of the room, so I picked up a baby board book, and started reading. The poor kid’s eyes bulged with joy. He kicked and cooed and reacted as if the book were a dose of Molly and he was raving at a cool Brooklyn dance club.

I realized at that moment, I’d rarely read just to him. Like, ever. Sure, he’s there when I read to L or E, but he’s sort of just in the room or environment. Basically all I did with baby E was read to him. Poor H obviously loved and appreciated me reading solely to him. I regret the reality that H is often toted around as a baby accessory as I chase the older kids around, and since I wear him in a carrier or wrap he literally becomes an accessory on my person. I know his big baby brain is absorbing all the stimulus and he’s learning just by being with us, but that one on one attention is something I need to strive to give him.

Also, I have a hard time remembering how many months old he is, let alone the week number.

I think I’m getting all introspective because H is the last baby. I look at him, trying to remember to savor every moment, but then L starts screaming from the other room or E demands a snack and before I know it I have to put H down on the ground to go solve the crises of the older kids. I guess what I’m trying to say is, even though I’m a better mother now than before, I also am aware H is facing a much more distracted and harried mother so maybe I shouldn’t feel too sorry for E and his clueless mother of MeBefore.

This six-month milestone is a big one, and I know six months from now I’ll have a walking toddler in H, who will throw fits and have opinions and my baby will no longer be a baby anymore.

 

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Hey, Mama, Stop taking bathroom selfies and read me a book, why don’t ya?

 

what we can learn from #aprilthegiraffe

I tuned into the live feed of April, the expecting giraffe, out of curiosity over a week ago. It really worked as a distraction from writing in here, plus I kept reading “breaking news” about it. I searched through the Facebook and once the stream was set-up, found myself somehow calmed by April’s presence.

She’s just a giraffe, in a pen, pacing around. Every once and a while she lifts her tail to poop, and you think— “oooh is this it?” and of course it’s not. She seems to eat a lot. It’s a silent feed so that adds to the zen magic of April. Watching this beautiful creature walking in clockwise circles around the pen (every time I watch her she’s pacing clockwise, not sure if that’s accurate 100% of the time or not) is hypnotizing. Plus, there’s the added bonus of her possibly giving birth at any moment.

So, I tune in now and again, not in any obsessive way, but just to have it on. When I first watched it through the Facebook, the comments were running aside the feed, live and quick.

One should never read public posts like this. It just depresses you. The grammar, the idiocy of people (who tend to be the loudest) and just the misinformation. But, like I said, the video is a quiet still camera shot of a giraffe in a pen, so I read along with the other 90 thousand people watching April and what they all had to say.

“OMG have the baby already”

“That poor giraffe why isn’t the baby here?”

“She seems in pain”

“When are they gonna have the c-section already”

Pretty much all comments had one of those themes.

And I can relate to it.

Two of my three kids came over a week “past due”. Being “past due” in pregnancy is hard, but, having everyone you know comment on it just piles on the stress. I had complete strangers sending me pitiful looks of sympathy at the end of my last two pregnancies. “Oh – you poor thing!” they’d say. “Waiting for updates!” I’d read online. And the absolute worst: “You haven’t popped yet?”

We live in an “on demand” society and it’s totally ok for a woman t0 schedule an elective induction at 39 weeks pregnant because they are “sick of being pregnant”. Somehow, the idea of a due date has led us all to believe anything past said due date is automatically overdue, a term that brings up images of rancid food, moldy dairy and at the very least, a super grumpy librarian charging you late fees.

I watched a video the manager of Animal Adventure Park, the home of April, posted this morning. He seemed tired and annoyed as he patiently explained they had only estimates of when exactly April conceived, and also that she was fine, just pregnant, they weren’t causing her harm or the baby harm by letting nature take her course. And watching April on the live stream, you can tell, the beast is happy. She doesn’t seem bothered by her late-term pregnancy at all.

My pregnancy days are past now, so I don’t have to worry about dodging “whens the little sucker coming already?” comments from everyone ever again, but I will make a valient effort to not bug my friends and family over their upcoming due dates. We need to take a page from April and her caretakers and just let nature be. Baby giraffe will come when it’s ready, and maybe I’ll be lucky enough to see it happen live.

Expecting mothers, be they humans or giraffes, deserve patience and kindness during the last days of pregnancy, not constant reminders of how “miserable” they must be. Pregnancy is tough enough without all the opinions from the peanut gallery.

my valentine day vbac birth story

In celebration of my daughter’s second birthday, I am sharing her birth story. Birth stories are among my favorite blog posts to read, as each birth is unique. I plan to share my other two kid’s birth stories near their birthdays this year as well.

Two years ago, I found myself on my back with many strangers staring at my naked bottom. This scene, with the bright lights shining on my nether regions, was my dream. I wanted and ached for that moment for the entire previous forty-one weeks of my pregnancy, bordering on obsession. It was in my second hour of pushing and feeling like all I worked for, dreamed for, was out of reach.

Having everyone yell encouragement at me kept me up, but things were not seeming to work in my favor …

But let’s backtrack, go to to the beginning.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew two things. The baby’s gender would remain a mystery until birth, and I wanted to birth this baby the old-fashioned way, out of my cooch: a Vaginal-Birth-After-Caesarian, or VBAC for short. Most of my peers and even some family members thought I was insane. People questioned the safety, the legality of it. But determined, I pressed on.

[if you have any questions about VBACs I suggest you look into vbacfacts.com or join a VBAC support group on FB. I could go into a tirade here about why VBACs are safe and reasonable but this is a birth story post]

To achieve this goal I chose a midwife group with a high VBAC success rate (anywhere between 85-90%!) and focused on my goal. I read VBAC stories from Facebook feeds whenever I logged on, I listened to hypnobirthing nightly, I saw a chiropractor. My husband’s cousin, who is a dear friend to me, offered her skills as a motivated natural birth advocate / doula-in-training for the birth.

I lived and breathed and stressed and prayed and worried about it. Probably more than was needed.

The motivation behind this stemmed from my first son’s birth. When I had him by c-section in 2010, I didn’t really question his arrival. Much. I was overwhelmed in general: a new mom, a new wife, living in a new city, trying to breastfeed and figure out what I wanted my life to look like as a new mom and wife – I didn’t have time to process or really think about what happened at his birth.

But, four years later, with fresh eyes, looking back I realized how plum wrong his entire birth was. I’ll share the entire story on his upcoming 7th birthday, but it’s fair to say I was never given a fair chance at a vaginal birth with him. Even my post-op report didn’t list a concrete reason for the section.

So, I just wanted a chance. I wanted a do-over of the entire “birthing experience”.

My parents flew in a few days before the baby’s due date of 2/7. They were with us, walking throughout NYC, walking the mall, trying to walk the darn baby out. Baby still hadn’t come after about a week, and my parents were planning on flying home when they came down with the flu, which grounded them even longer. I had the guilt of them spending a ton of money on a hotel room and food and airfare, waiting for a baby who apparently wanted to stay in my womb forever. I questioned why I didn’t just schedule a section. Surely that would have been easier.

A testament to them is they never once questioned my desire for the VBAC, never pressured me to just “schedule a surgery” for their sake.

Anyway, while my parents were absolutely miserable with the flu in their hotel room, I went to my 41-week check up on 2/13 at 8:30 am. I had been timing contractions since the previous night, and they felt legitimate. I didn’t really know what “legitimate” meant because with my son I never felt a single, real, natural contraction. I was giddy with excitement: I’d get checked there, and an ultrasound. I was confidant I’d be at a 3 or 4 when they checked me.

We did the ultrasound first, and the technician was very quiet. When I finally asked what was going on, she told me I had no amniotic fluid. I inquired how much I had, and she said, “Zero”. The OB on duty and midwife conversed and told me to get undressed for a cervix check.

She checked me and I was a “barely one” with a “floppy cervix” (whatever that means!). Crestfallen, I asked what was going to happen. She told me I’d have the baby that day, and to make my way to the hospital. I wouldn’t need to go to triage, I’d be admitted right away.

Thus began the rollercoaster.

My spirits dropped. Going to the hospital and getting admitted and induced was never my plan. I knew, statistically, my chances of a RCS (repeat c-section) rose with each medical intervention. The so-called contractions I was feeling obviously were false contractions.

We went home, got stuff together, figured out childcare arrangements for our son, called Alex (the cousin/doula) and I had one last big meal at Burger King. We were admitted around noon. The nurses were in good moods, praising and cheering for my upcoming TOLAC (Trial of Labor after Cesarean). That was nice.

The midwife-on-duty told me we could try a few tactics since I was still feeling contractions. She offered a foley balloon or bulb, or Pitocin. Pitocin is what lead to my c-section with E, so I was adamant to avoid it at all costs, especially early on. I chose the balloon.

The hospital is a training hospital so I let a student midwife try to put it in. They all told me I was so tough during it- she didn’t know what she was doing at all and I kept thinking her botching it was helping me dilate more.With the foley balloon in place, I started to pace and sway through the contractions.

Because of hospital policy, I had to stay connected to a monitor the entire labor. There was a long wire that reached about 6-8 feet and they provided a fitness ball to labor with. My movements were only slightly restricted. I felt like I handled the contractions best by rocking through them, leaning against my husband. The contractions were getting very strong, and after a couple of hours the balloon fell out and I was at a 4.

Progress!

The staff left us alone most of the time. We played relaxing music, the lights were low, and the three of us had our own little bubble of birthing going on.

A few hours later they checked me and I hadn’t progressed. My spirits sunk low. Being a VBAC I knew the OB’s scrutinized every hour that passed without progress. I knew the time bomb ticked away, bringing me closer to the operating room. The midwife offered Pitocin again or told me to try nipple stimulation. I opted for the nipple stimulation.

This kicked up the contractions. Every contraction lasted about 2 minutes, and between them, I’d squeeze my nipples. I ended up with sore thumbs and gnarly red patches from the hours of repeated squeezing. We’d see the new contraction coming on in the monitor, and I’d grab onto my husband and start slow dancing through it. Both of us had achey hips for days after the birth from so much pacing and swaying.

My pain increased and with every new contraction, I felt confident the baby was that much closer to birth. I focused on positivity and good vibes. Several hours passed, and in the dead hours of the night, they checked me again. I’d made it to a 6. It was Valentine’s Day, around 3am, over 16 hours since admittance. But, still, positive progress.

We went on.

Around 6am they checked and I hadn’t progressed. Mentally and physically exhausted with chapped nipples, we decided to rest. I laid down, Alex left to take care of her baby at home, my husband napped too. My contractions slowed down to barely anything and I tried sleeping.

Around 8am on the 14th I started nipple stimulation again. 2 hours later, no progress.

They gave me two choices: Pitocin or section. I agreed to Pitocin only with an epidural, so we had to wait for the anesthesiologist to come in. They kicked everyone out of the room and I can say without a doubt I’d never felt so terrified. The entire previous 24 hours weighed down on me at that moment, the highs and lows of wanting something so bad and feeling like nothing I did helped at all. The Doctor was not friendly, he had zero compassion administrating the epidural, but there was a saint of a nurse who held my hands and then eventually all my weight as I sobbed into her. I gave up at this moment and thought there was no way the day would end the way I dreamed.

Between the pitocin and epidural, around 9am I slept. They woke me up around 1030 and I still hadn’t progressed. Alex was still gone, and my husband and I decided to watch TV. I checked out, completely. They told me I had until noon to progress and since I’d been stuck at a 6 for hours, I just didn’t care anymore.I cried and tried to accept all my hard work was gone. I imagined telling everyone I didn’t do it, the VBAC, and the smug knowing looks they’d give me. I thought of my poor sick parents, stuck here and unable to see the baby because of my selfish desire.

This was the low point.

Alex arrived in the room around 11 and immediately turned the TV off. I argued with her, telling her the induction wasn’t working, and I was just waiting to see what would happen. I told her I had to admit the section was coming.

She slapped some sense into me. She told me it wasn’t over yet. She asked me to give it just one more hour, with concentration, just one more hour to see what would happen. She wanted me to listen to more hypnobirthing tracks, these insanely slow vocalizations with elevator music in the background. I’d listened to them for hours and I think I laughed at her suggesting it again.

But I consented.

Because of the epidural,  I could feel the contractions coming on, a dull pain, but obviously, they were nothing compared to what I’d endured over the previous 24 hours. So I really, really focused on the birthing tracks, on visualizing my body opening up. As each contraction lasted for 1-2 minutes, I would spend every second “in the moment”.

Around 11:30 a nurse in scrubs, with a hairnet covering came in to check my wristband. I could tell she worked in the OR. They were prepping for a section. But I was so in the zone I didn’t let it rattle me. I kept focus.

At noon the midwife came in- the third midwife on duty since we’d been admitted. I felt like she was checking me only out of courtesy, I could tell she had a pre-planned speech about “not enough progress” to give me to soften the c-section blow. She put her fingers in me and looked surprised.

“You are at a 9!”

Those three centimeters I’d progressed felt like miles. I couldn’t belive it. Once again the labor swung in a new direction. Suddenly, it was a real possibility again – I had another chance.

They gave me a few more hours to fully dilate, and I started “practice pushing” at 3 pm.

I pushed for two hours.

I started to doubt myself again.

It had been so long. And I’d read many TOLAC stories in which the mom made it to pushing, only to be brought in for a section after hours of pushing. I worked so hard that I developed a fever -which I knew meant the baby would be in the NICU for 48 hours. But I kept on.

I could hardly believe it when they turned those bright lights on – when they had me feel down to feel the babies slimy, slippery head. The midwife told me the baby was bald, which let me know I’d nearly done it. I had allowed a student midwife, and two nursing students in the room to watch the birth, and all the NICU staff there as well.

But, I did it. I pushed the baby out, to an audience of well over ten people. My husband yelled out, “It’s a girl!” and they whisked her way immediately – she aspirated meconium. I remember crying, throwing myself back in victory, just repeating over and over, “I did it!”. I could hardly believe it. I’d done the VBAC, and it was a girl!

I heard L’s weak first cry and they let me hold her for the briefest few seconds, for a photo, before her transfer to the NICU. The room emptied out and the midwife stitched me up.

I was frustrated at the wait between the delivery and when I was allowed to move from my room, it probably only took 2 hours, but I wanted my baby. I felt great, physically, and because of breastfeeding issues I had had with my oldest son I wanted to feed L asap. But I had to wait for the epidural to fade so I could walk.

I rode on a euphoric high for the next several days. The midwife on duty my second day at the hospital told me my notes said they thought for sure I’d be a post-op paitent, but I’d somehow pulled through. This news just added to my pride. I felt amazing, couldn’t believe how much easier the recovery from a vaginal birth was compared with that of a c-section.  My 41-week gestation baby was eight-and-a-half pounds and stuck out in the NICU, and we were discharged after 48 hours.

Looking back, I know the success of my VBAC is mainly due to the support system I had. The midwives were amazing. They gave me every chance to succeed. Having my husband and cousin there supporting me helped push me through the long difficult emotional toll the labor caused. I also have to thank my daughter. Had her heart rate dropped, or had she shown any signs of distress, they would have called for the section. It’s like she was a major supporter of me too throughout it all, even without any amniotic fluid and all those hours of labor.

So, that is the story of my Valentine’s VBAC. I know it is long, but I remember devouring posts just as long in my preparation for birth so I hope it helps someone out there. I had every card stacked against me at one point: no amniotic fluid and no progression for something like 7 hours, but because of the awesome staff, I was able to continue. Planning for my daughters birth taught me why birth matters, aspects of our broken medical system, and also taught me a lot about myself.

If you are even questioning whether or not you want to try for a VBAC, I highly suggest you do. Each c-section is progressively more risky, yet each successive VBAC is slightly safer. My experience was well worth the stress, pressure and drama of the delivery. image3image4

motherhood calling

I was in the zone forty minutes into an “overtime” hour-long workout at the gym. It was my favorite instructor, Amanda, my gym woman-crush (and based on the over packed class, I am not alone in admiring her) and after the day before’s dancing extravaganza it was my happy place.

I don’t really ask for much for myself, as a stay at home mom who goes days without a break when hubby is out earning a living for us. I like to savor a cup of coffee in the morning, I like to take a little time to write in here, read the paper, read a book. I can delay taking a shower a few days if I have to. But – lately – I’ve needed my gym fix. Those 45-odd minutes are what cleanses my mind, makes me feel good. Just something I do just for me 5 days a week.

Anyway, the sweat was pouring out of me, seeping through my tee-shirt. My face red as a Christmas stocking and my breath labored … in the zone completely … and my phone rings. Then the buzz of a text comes through. I stop the front/back kicks we were doing, read, “Come to babysitting, H won’t stop crying”.

Mommy mode clicked on instantly, and I scanned the room. Sixty-odd women, all doing front back kicks, all within five feet of each other. There was no sneaking across the room. I had to navigate out of a class that looked like a scene from Mulan, where she’s training with all the other Kung Fu fighters. I snaked my way through the front, along the mirror, muttering sorry as I went. One poor lady had to stop her groove so I could pass, but other than that I don’t believe I disturbed anyone.

The babysitting room is a madhouse. It’s Christmas break so everyone is dumping their kids off for mini-mental breaks. The sitter apologizes over the cry of about five babies, and my ear picks out H’s wail instantly. Of course, L attached herself to me the moment I walk in. I learned a few weeks back they don’t allow breastfeeding in the sitting room, so I take H and L to the ladies locker room, like before.

My heart rate was still way elevated and the poor little bugger could barely latch on due to the slippery sweat all over me, but once we settled in and I had a letdown, the mental let down hit me too. Yes, I got a good 40 minutes in, but I envied the women in the class whose music I could hear thumping through the walls. They were there, and I was back in Mom Mode. My fitness indulgence ended just like that.

Isn’t that parenting though?

After H was satisfied the class was still in full swing, but L wasn’t going to let me out of her sights again. She screamed as I carried her into the babysitting room, she screamed when I put H in his seat. I bundled her on my back in the Tula just to assure her I wasn’t abandoning her again.

I got to navigate the class once more, to put my equipment away and gather my personal items, but this time they were on their backs doing the ab portion of the day. Feeling ridiculous I weaved through the yogamats with L snuggled up against my back, willing myself not to make eye contact with anyone.

By the time I get all the kids out the door the class was just ending.

I felt a curious mix of emotions. I felt like I was cheating myself out of a great workout, even though I’d put in my all for 40 minutes. I felt like my kids were once again butting into my personal desires and needs, and then felt that mom guilt of feeling bad for those moments of resentment. Most of all, I just felt like a Mom, loading them all up in our car, telling E there was no way we’d go to McDonalds for lunch, trying to shove a pacifier in H’s mouth sightless from the front seat before putting the car in drive. It was like, the fantasy of the gym ended in the most abrupt way and reality butted itself in before I was ready.

Even now, a day later, I’m still peeved that I could have had an extra 20 minutes with everyone in the room, I could have left the class with everyone. But, that’s life. Kids, toddlers, and especially newborns are not predictable and they have a way of reminding you that your time means nothing to them. It’s just the way it is and rather than complain, I will look at it as one of those moments that are fleeting and one day I’m sure I’ll wish my kids still needed me so much I couldn’t even get through an hour-long class.

 

tales of breastfeeding in, *gasp*, public

I breastfeed H on demand. Sometimes H wants to eat every two hours, sometimes every three or four. He’ll take his time on the boob on occasion, but generally, it’s less than ten minutes. Any woman who’s breastfed knows you are on-call 24/7 to your baby, but your breasts also grow minds of their own. There’s nothing like holding plank position during an intense gym class and feeling the spiky tingles of a let-down at the mere thought of your baby.

I have a complicated relationship with breastfeeding in public. Put me in an airport waiting area and I’ll whip my nipple out at the first whimper of my baby’s cry, no issue. But if I’m at the public library, a place I frequent often, surrounded by moms I know only by sight, I feel ashamed and do my best to hide what I’m doing.

I found myself parked near and off-ramp of Grand Central Parkway, in Queens, this past weekend. L was asleep, E was bouncing around in the backseat of our Outback. I watched the traffic creep by as I fed H, and felt extremely grateful for the ease of breastfeeding. At that moment, I loved the fact my milk was there and ready for whenever H was hungry. Perfect temperature, no bottles no water no powder needed.

This was a breastfeeding-in-public highlight.

A few weeks ago I was in a similar situation, three kids, one of them starving and needing my boob, but we were in Target. L was seated in the cart, pointing at all the toys and candy she wants me to buy, E trying to help by pushing the cart, but really causing me more anxiety as I’m always afraid he’ll run down some poor old ladies Achilles heel.

There’s not a lot of “sit down” areas in Target, and I hate causing a scene. That video circulating a few months back of a woman breastfeeding at the Starbucks in Target and getting harassed floated to the top of my mind. I didn’t want that same situation to happen, and besides, I was about as far away from the Starbucks as I could be in the massive store.

So, I found an empty shelf area, sat down, angled the cart to block us, and fed H. My son kept pushing the cart back and forth and L started getting antsy. I looked down at H and willed him to eat faster than normal. My knees were up practically to my ears. Several people passed us by and I felt like I was doing something illicit, something wrong. Not my finest ten minutes.

Breastfeeding in public lowlight.

Then, today. At the gym, in a class, I kept watching my phone waiting for the text to ring through- “please pick up Holden from babysitting”. I’m sure the instructor was annoyed by me constantly checking the phone, but I knew at any minute he could decide he needed to eat. Class ends and I walk to the babysitting room, to see the sitter holding H, and he’s screaming a scream I’ve never heard come from him before. H is pretty lucky in that he rarely gets to the point of crying like this; so it rattled me to hear the pitch so desperate, so piercing. The sitter assured me he “just started crying like this” but I’m not so sure.

I asked if I could feed him in the room, but the sitter informed me the policy required me to nurse in the ladies locker room.

Insert eye roll here.

I had my screaming newborn in my arms, and my nearly two-year-old pulling on my pant leg, wanting to leave the nursery. I knew I couldn’t exit the room without her. My husband was still working out downstairs. My number one priority was feeding H, so I steered L out of the room and told the sitter I’d be back to gather all our stuff once H ate.

L sprinted – okay, her little toddler legs don’t allow for much sprinting, but she certainly hoofed it as quickly as possible for our usual exit down the stairs. Since she’s still little I had no way to coax her with words towards the locker room. I tried grabbing her hand, but she pulled it away. So, I scooped her up under one arm, around her midsection, with H in my other arm trying to nurse on my shoulder and screaming, and headed towards the locker room.

Multiple women offered help, but by this point, I had tunnel vision and needed to put H on my breast as soon as possible. His hunger and tears were making me want to cry as well.

I sat down on a bench against the wall, pulled down my two sports bras (a lovely bonus of breastfeeding and exercise is larger than life, heavy boobies, that require extra support) and H latched like he hadn’t eaten in days. L happily flirted with all the old ladies from the class, and I tried avoiding eye contact with anyone. Each person who entered the locker room looked briefly at me, and I could see what I was doing register in their faces as they uncomfortably looked away.

Another Breastfeeding-in-public lowlight.

Sometimes I just don’t want to breastfeed in public, and even though some women #freethenipple, for me it just depends on my mood. I will feed my baby when he needs it, but my own stress level rising affects him too because newborns are mood barometers and if I’m uncomfortable he gets that way too. And I know it’s all in my own head. I hate using breastfeeding covers because they are too hot, cumbersome, and the baby doesn’t like them either, but I at the same time don’t want anyone to watch me. I realize I’m making way to much of an issue of this, and if someone really has a problem with me feeding my baby in public the issue is on them, not me, but — I’m a people pleaser. Always have been. I am more afraid of confrontation than an average person.

Once H is a bit bigger I can feed him while wearing him and this nursing in public issue will cease. After three kids, I’m pretty sure my uneasy feelings will not change. So, I’ll just have to suck it up when I’m out and continue to try and time my outings around the last time H ate. As with everything with raising kids, these situations are fleeting and only temporary. And if I ever find myself in a Target and see some poor mama crouching on a shelf, I will smile at her and give her a thumbs up, because I too have been there.

most authentic

Staring into my newborn’s eyes after a morning feeding, he gave me one of his big grins. Joy lights out from his entire face and like it’s designed to, it gives me peace, my heart grows bigger, and it as they say, “makes it all worth it”.

The smile of a newborn, the smile of a newborn staring you directly in the eye, this smile is one of the purest forms of smiling. There is no game behind it. Just like everything else in a newborn’s life, there is no filter. Newborns are true to themselves in everything they do at all times. They are the most authentic humans at all times; as they absorb this alien world they react with no thought at all.

It’s tiring, it’s hard, and I’m especially spoiled with baby H as he’s easily the easiest baby I’ve had, but you have to admire this brief little period of their lives.

pig barn

I grew up in a rural area and as a right of passage, of course, held a 4-H membership card for about eight years. I raised all sorts of farm animals and the county fair generally seemed the pinnacle event of every year of my childhood.

If you’ve been to a fair with livestock you know what the pig barn situation smells like. It’s the most overwhelming stench of stink you’ve ever experienced. You want to puke before you’re fully under the rafters. But the funny thing every kid learns, by the time you are done walking through it you can hardly remember what it first smelled like.

I’ve reached that phase of motherhood. Bodily fluids and excrement no longer bug me out. L threw up on the carpet two days ago. What used to result in me, myself, gagging, ended in me deftly dabbing it one handed while holding H in the other arm.

Yesterday on the walk home from school E – suddenly, out of no where- cried, “Can I run home? I gotta GO”. So I watched his skinny little frame run down the street and after I dropped the stroller off in the garage, coaxed L out of it and made my way up the front steps I hear him screaming…. I calm as ever asked, “What happened?” and he cried, “It went on my pants!”

Now, poop usually is “the thing” I can’t stand, but my primary concern was dealing with the shame and embarrassment E clearly felt. My heart went out to him. How awful it is at six years old to poop your pants. So I got the littles in as quick as I could, and I helped him clean up himself and the toilet seat (thank you world for Clorox wipes).

Just now, I’m in bed and H is in his six week growth spurt so he nursed for a bit longer than he should have and as I was holding him in the crook of my arm, he spit up a warm amount of fluid directly down my cleavage line. Yes I’m tired and sleep deprived, but I barely noticed the smell or the “ick” factor and mostly concentrated on getting him to go back to sleep.

I guess I’ve learned to close off my nostrils when I know a gross thing is coming. I’m an expert at instantly breathing through the mouth, before my mind can fully comprehend the nastiness I must clean up. Cloth diapering is obviously helping me with this sudden toughness regarding the gross. It’s just like the swine barn from my youth; I’m literally surrounded by feces and vomit and I’m all like, “What smell dear?” when my husband comes home.

routines

Deep into the “newborn” stage, everyone always stresses the importance of routine. My kids do well with a routine, but I also try not to make anything cemented as far as scheduling around it goes. Life is flexible and I want easy-going kids.

Within myself, I’m trying to develop some sort of daily routine. I feel a constant competition with “the other mothers” in trying to make my home, my life, my kids, myself organized, smart and healthy. It’s easy to appear a certain way, but I actually want to adopt and really really be as envy-worthy of the glossiest blog and instagram Mom out there.

I’ll never reach this ideal but we all need goals.

Our life is further complicated by my husbands profession. Back when I was a flight attendant, he and I called ourselves “part time spouses and parents”. We switched off duties of homing-and-raising our son together, sometimes passing each other for just a few minutes before the other one flew off for work.

So, anyway, routines. My husband has his own way of doing things; and right now he’s on his first long stretch away from home since H was born. He spoiled me the past month. Sleeping in, food ready when I awoke, the pot of coffee steaming – waking up like a princess. He bustled in and out of the house with the two older kids, library programs, school drop-offs and pick-ups and he’d even take them out of my hair when he went to the gym.

This is day two of six days without him, and my morning schedule looks something like this:

4am-          H wakes up. Feed him, fall asleep with him on the boob.

4:30 am-   Move H to side-car co-sleeper

5:30 am-   L is crying. Stumble out of bed, go to her room, pick up pacifier that’s on the ground, tell her it’s not time to wake up yet.

6am-ish- E crawls into bed with me.

6:30am-   E is gone, H is hungry again, L is making increasingly louder noises on the monitor. I put H on my boob, and hear the clink of a spoon on a bowl and know E helped himself to Cheerios-and-milk so he’s good.

6:45am-   H is done eating, E is still eating his self-served breakfast, and I can hear L is playing in her crib. Time to scroll through the Facebook.

7:25am-   L is crying now. I drag myself out of bed. H is sleeping. E is playing in the living room. We turn on “Good Day NY”, the Fox channels morning show. Greg & Roseanna are my friends and we get through the morning together.

7:30am-   After changing a poopy diaper and rinsing it off in the toilet, L & I make our way to the kitchen. I pour her her cereal, start the coffee maker, and pull out the overnight oats I made the night before. It’s Wednesday so that means I still have 3-4 sections of the NY Times Sunday Paper to read through.

7:32am-   H is crying. I go get him, change him, swaddle him, put him in the swing.

7:40am-  As I make my way back to the kitchen, L is standing in her high chair. Done eating. I pick her up, wipe her off and let her run. Coffee is done so I pour myself some, sit down.

7:41am-   E comes in kitchen. He’s hungry for second breakfast. I slice him his English Muffin.

7:43am-   L comes waddling into kitchen, crying, needs snuggles. We go read a book in the living room.

8am-         E is watching train videos on YouTube, L is coloring, I sit down. I read a few opinion articles from the Times and sip my coffee.

8:10am-    H is hungry. I go to the couch and we nurse.

8:15am-    E needs his lunch made. I put it together as quickly as I can. H is on couch and his anger is growing. He misses the nipple.

8:20am-   Suck suck suck. I sip sip sip my coffee and watch my buddies Greg and Roseanna tease each other about their high school prom dates.

8:30am-   E gets restless. Starts his count-down-to-school. Every minute gets an update, “It’s 8:32 mommy! Almost time for school!”. It’s tiring to hear but I need the reminders. He knows his mommy well.

8:35am-   I ask E to get L’s socks and shoes. This is new today. He gets them and actually puts them on her feet. I now have a new chore for him.

8:40am-   I put H in the ring sling, we go outside, I strap L in the stroller, we head off for school.

8:45am-    Say hi to our crossing guard friend. Drop E off.

8:50am-    Pick up our dog, Sadie, and continue on with morning walk.

9:30am-    Home for morning. Start a load of laundry. Sip my cold coffee outside on the porch, watching L play with flower petals. H is still sleeping in the ring sling. I take pictures of Lu crawling all over, and selfies of me and H.

It’s hectic in the morning but I like it.

Now it’s nap time. I’m going to watch “The Wire” and snuggle w/ H as L should stay asleep for at least another hour.

the art of holding one’s tongue (or fingers)

I am a member of many “Birth Month” Mom Groups – groups made up entirely of women expecting a baby the same month you are. Groups vary in size; most of the ones I’m a part of have about a hundred or so other women in them. They are often secret so they stay private.

Going through the pregnancy/ early newborn stage as a member of these groups is so helpful. Especially for first time moms. Any question you have is answered by many other women who have similar issues or feelings. You get close. You share intimate details. It’s an online-sisterhood and I find the relationships and intimacy addicting.

This go-round with H I felt like an old-bag “been there done that”. It’s my third child, my most recent pregnancy was only about a year before, and it was my second time being an active member of these types of groups. There is always a whining mom, a mom with drama (usually relationship related), a mom with serious health conditions, a mom who is a know-it-all, a mom who forces her viewpoints on the other women.

I’d like to think I’m an accepting of all viewpoints type of presence online. Supportive and positive to everyone. I cheer their victories, and I boo their hard times with them. I’m politically correct. I should be a damn Facebook Group Senator.

But I’ve experienced some pretty varied births, and went through major hurdles to breastfeed my first born. I’ve had a c-section, I’ve had an induced birth with an epidural, and I’ve had a 100% medication free birth. I know what to look for in choosing an actual VBAC supportive doctor or midwife. I know that just “trusting” your OB because they are an OB doesn’t mean you’ll have the birth outcome you want. I almost feel like I can pinpoint the women who will end up with an “emergency” c-section just based on how they describe their upcoming inductions etc. I have very strong opinions of this type of thing just from my own experiences.

But where do you cross that line? That line of saying – “watch out”. I’m also in VBAC support groups and I have no issue telling it like it is to women looking for advice or help; but to a fragile, impressionable first-time mom, I don’t want to cross a line that can’t be uncrossed.

Especially when it comes to breastfeeding. It’s fucking hard at first. It can hurt if you don’t do it right. It takes an insane amount of self-confidence to know that your baby IS getting enough milk and your body IS capable of doing it. If you aren’t 100% dedicated to breastfeeding, at any moment you’ll give into the allure of “topping” the baby off with formula (especially if you are sleep deprived). I’m not saying all supplementing ends with a breastfeeding relationship severed, but it can.

But how am I supposed to tell a new mom, oftentimes recovering from serious surgery, to just “trust herself” and that her baby waking up every 1.5 hours is normal and just to get over it? I can’t do it. So, instead, I complain to my husband about it. Or type it up in here.

I wish I knew then (circa 2010, the birth of my first) what I knew now. Experience is everything. I won’t be some “mama hen” to these ladies online, and really, what I ought to do is just log-off and forget about it; but, in a strange way I “know” and “care” about these women. So I just fret about it from afar, behind the keys of my keyboard.