Thursday, April 2, 2015

Embracing It

I went back to work.

It took over a year from my baby’s birth to go back and then another few months for my practice to hit its stride, but now I am officially working.

I love it.

I love getting dressed in actual outfits. I love putting on makeup and blow-drying my hair. I love using my brain and knowing that I am really and truly good at what I do. It feels effortless and smooth and I have no doubt about my role or my identity. Basically, I missed it. It’s good for me.


It started with one day of work and built to two. Now I’m looking at two and a half days. Two and a half days he spends with a nanny.

I’ve also started horseback riding again. The one thing I’ve always done that is completely impractical and expensive and unnecessary but oh-so-much for me, all me. And I feel SO damn good afterwards. So every Monday morning I drag myself out of bed before my baby wakes and go ride a horse. Then I go to work. I don’t get home that day until dinner time. He is always so happy to see me. Not upset, not traumatized, just more like “Hey mom! Want to sit down and have dinner with me?”

But then the other day I had to schedule a dentist appointment. And I started to freak out about the damn dentist appointment. But when should I schedule it? Should I take time away from work so I don’t miss more time away from O? Or should I schedule it on a non-work day so I don’t have to rearrange work scheduling? But then that’s another day I will miss time with him and then… Well you get it.

I sit and I count the hours away from him and I agonize about what each one traces into my identity as a mother. The guilt pierces into me and I feel it in my side when I am proud of my work or happy on the back of a horse. As I was driving home the other day, guilty because I stayed a few extra minutes to write a case note instead of rushing home, I realized…all of these hours away from him – the appointments, the activities, the job – all of them are hours that I spending building up an identity that does not involve my son.

Let me say that again. Those hours contribute to my identity away from my son.

In this land of attachment parenting and Pinterst mothering, that sentence might give you pause. But, as I was driving along the road, realizing that these hours away are literally and emotionally separating me from my baby, I suddenly didn’t feel guilty or sad, but instead I felt happy. I mean, isn’t that the point? At some point, all of us have to choose to start rebuilding another identity that is not “Mother.” So, with hair appointments, dentist appointments, exercise routines, hobbies, even having occasional sex with your husband….whatever it is…isn’t it only expected that at some point we take back some of our selves that doesn’t Belong to the Baby?

I’m not saying anything shocking here. In fact, I sound a bit like a feminist supporter of formula feeding in the ‘50s. But I think somehow, when I quit my job and moved to this land of upper-middle-class Suburbia, I also moved into a circle of women who happily put their own Identities in a box for safe keeping. I have met so many Women Who Used To Be. This Woman Used to Be a Scientist. This Woman Used to Be a Zoologist. This Woman Used to Be…a Psychologist.

After quitting my job, I embraced this. I saw it as a privilege. A privilege to stay home and be with my son. Which it IS. It is for me because it’s a choice. But I always was quick to say “I’m on an extended maternity leave from life,” because I wasn’t quite comfortable with my job as “just” a Stay at Home Mom.

Truth is, I’m not very good at being a Stay at Home Mom. Even on days when I do alright, I’m still pretty shitty at it. Today? Today I managed to do laundry, reorganize the bathroom, meet with a potential petsitter, read books with O, have a dance party with O, make lunch for all three of us, make dinner from scratch, clean the kitchen AND water the flowers. But. But I also found a washing machine full of molding laundry. Ignored the baby clothes needing to be put away. Didn’t take O on any “fun outings” or plan any “educational activities.” And honestly? I was bored out of my mind. I hate hate hate housework. I couldn’t wait for B to get off work so I could have a beer and sit and read a book.

So, yeah. I guess what I’m saying is, rebuilding a bit of Me that is outside of Mother is… know, even as I write this, I feel compelled to stop and write a long paragraph about how much I love O and about how it’s not that I want time away from him it’s just…but stop. Really stop. Why do I have to rationalize this or explain it? It’s 100% acceptable to want to have a part of me that is not about him.

And so, here I am, almost a year and a half after giving birth, start to reshape Me. Allowing myself to be someone separate from him. And trying my hardest to embrace that and not feel the stupid Pinterst-coated guilt.

And trying not to erase these words before I hit Publish.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I Should Be Sleeping

Something is off tonight. I’ve been tired all day and can’t claw up out of the daze. That type of tired that makes you angry. Angry at your exhaustion that has become a part of you. Angry that everyone, including you, just accepts it.

I woke up this morning from a dream about childbirth. Not about my birth experience with O, but about a birth that hasn’t happened yet. It was emotional and terrifying and beautiful. It shook me. I wanted to think about it and process it. But I was so tired. And my beautiful little toddler woke up next to me, probably from dreams of toy cars and strawberries, and asked me for a sip of water.

The day was a Normal Day. Those have been hiding from me lately. Our house has been a revolving door for visiting family members since O’s 1st Birthday in October. I literally can count less days of not having company than I can count when it’s just the three of us. So today was just us. O and I went on an outing, met with friends. We came home, played, went for a walk. Usual, typical things. It felt good.

But something is off. I feel heavy. Like there is something in the back of my mind I forgot to worry about. B and I actually managed to have really good sex tonight (with the help of some great wine) for the first time in a long time. I felt close to him and happy. But still. I feel that heaviness.

I’m not sure where this post is going or why I’m sharing such dreary thoughts after not writing in so long, but I guess, where else to put these thoughts? Plus, I miss writing and I have lofty goals to write more (ha, ha). So, what’s the point of this post? I guess, just saying hello and to all of you out there having an Off Day....know that you’re not alone.

Here’s to waking up tomorrow with dreams of toy cars and strawberries.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hallmark Truths

The baby is sleeping. The house mutters the sounds of evening. My husband's slightly dirty feet are propped tiredly on the couch. The dogs wander aimlessly and settle in heaps of quiet. I sip my wine.



The dishwasher is half loaded. The family room is strewn with dog bones, train tracks, tiny loafers, and a miniature radio flyer. A giant teddy bear slumps in defeat next to some building blocks and a soccer ball. Tissues that were used to wipe a tiny nose sit in a discarded pile screaming to be thrown away.

I wonder if I should get up. Clean something. Straighten something. Have a meaningful conversation with my husband for the first time all day. Pet my dogs who are brushed aside in importance by a ball of running, laughing, demanding toddler. I contemplate opening a second bottle of wine. The dregs of the week-old bottle on the kitchen counter aren't quite satisfying enough.

I picture a Hallmark aisle of greeting cards. My imaginary hands open a pastel card. Italic letters say, "My Life is Full." I have no idea where this image comes from. What kind of greeting card would this be? But the cheesy, sappy words float through my head all day long.

I sit in my backyard, watching the leaves in the sunlight. My eyes are eased by the brilliant green grass and the patches of lavendar across stone. I take a sip of my coffee. Then I jump up, remembering. I chase this little being across the grass. Rescuing him from a million life-threatening "almosts." I corral the dogs in their puppyhood. I try to be creative with my son, when I really just want to read a book without interruption. I think, My Life is Full.

It's dinner time. I try to feed him healthy, delicious food and fail miserably and give him graham crackers and cheese. I eat my own food without tasting it and remember three hour meals where each bite is savored and discussed. I am amazed by his tiny hand balancing food on a tiny spoon. I catch my husband's eye. We don't really talk to each other. After the meal, I rinse the tray and think about dirty dishes. My Life is Full.

Bedtime. Little hands. Little mouth. Touching. Sucking. Entwined with me. I am mixed with overwhelming love and a burst of tenderness and the desire to escape into a moment of separation. I sing, I soothe him. I sit in the darkness and touch his hair. I want to scream in exasperation at the unfairness of mothers whose babies go to sleep without an hour long ordeal. He sleeps. I sit with him for a few more minutes. Just because. My Life is Full.

And now here I sit. I think I will open up that new bottle of wine. There is a tiny shovel sitting next to me, incongruous on the living room carpet, speckled with bits of sand. The room smells thick. That soccer ball, the one next to the teddy bear? He kicked it around the house today while we followed in amazement. And so, I am tired. But. My mental greeting card got it right. My Life is So Goddamn Full.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The "Art" of Weaning

Nursing. Breastfeeding. Feeding your baby from your body.

We got off to a rocky start. I cried. I hated it. I dreaded it. I didn't think I'd make it. But I got through it. (For those of you still in those difficult first weeks, I wrote a post about the things that helped me in the beginning). After I made it through the first six weeks, I set my goal at a year. But inwardly I knew I'd be ok with going only six months. At six months, I laughed at the idea of stopping right when we had a beautiful rhythm and I was in love with the ease and simplicity of breastfeeding (as a stay at home those of you who pump, I applaud you!). So I confirmed that I would breastfeed for a year. Then I would take a year off to "have my body back," before planning the second pregnancy.

Great. Wonderful. Now here we are. I have a one-year-old who still nurses day and night. It's time...right?

I'm going back to work for just two days a week. Whether I want to think about it or not, even those two days a week bring up the clear question of weaning. Weaning your baby is such a complicated thing. The meaning it has for each mother is intimate and unique to her. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it's private and should not be questioned. The why behind your choice to wean belongs to you. So, then, why do I not know my own feelings on this?

I used to crave the moment when I would have my "body back to myself." I always used that phrase. Like there was some part of my body I had given up. I don't feel that way anymore. Instead I feel that when I wean I am giving up a part of my body that is connected to him. A shared part of me.

But the coincidence of this with me going back to work is symbolic. Because being a stay at home mom has changed me. When I wrote a post about the Old Me, there was some wistfulness and yearning for that person. Have I simply buried her? Does she deserve a voice in this too? If I wean him, will I have a whiff of the old freedom that came with being a separate individual?

As always, I am a "middle ground" kinda girl. My plan in this is to night-wean sometime in the next month (yes, we co-sleep and he still nurses through the night) and to continue following his lead during the day. Already he is decreasing his day nursing to the point that my breasts are full and painful by the end of the day. He usually nurses before nap and before bedtime and maybe once in the late afternoon. Am I okay with that amount for another...six months? Another year? Maybe.

But then I think about our trip planned to Paso and Napa this January and I wonder, "Do I want to do that trip as a nursing mom? Where I weigh every drop of wine against my analytical, guilty conscience? Or do I want to do that trip as a separated person?"

I know at this stage that whatever choice I make will be okay for him. Is it good for him to continue getting breastmilk in the second year? Sure. But is it necessary? No, not really. He'll be fine physically and emotionally if I wean him. So then, this decision is not a rational one, but a relational, emotional decision. It's about me. It's about him. It's about us.

As I re-read this post all I see are rational, analytical words. Wasted words. Because I'm no closer to knowing what I want. So. I guess we will just see where this next stage takes us. And slowly, oh so slowly, begin to separate.

Any advice? Thoughts? When did you wean? What is your nursing goal? What will be your goal?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Here We Are, One Year Later

We made it to one year.

For the past 365 days I have been thinking about his First Year of life. I have thought in terms of weeks, months and This Year. But I haven't thought beyond today. I just wanted to get this far. Because, honestly, when he was born, getting through this first year seemed insurmountable. I couldn't imagine being an accomplished mother to this walking, laughing, joking, one-year-old toddler boy.

But here we are.

This post could be about Owen and all the marvelous things he can do. Because he is - marvelous. And he does a lot of amazing things. But that's not what this post is about.

Or it could be about his party and all of the adorable and creative touches I put into it. And it was - beautiful and perfect. I am so proud of him and the party and all that it symbolized. But that's not what this post is about either.

This post even could be about me and how I've changed as a woman and a mother and a human being. Because I have - he has changed me in so many deep and intrinsic ways. But this post is not even about that.

Instead this post is about those first few moments of his life. Because the way he was brought into this world was so traumatic, so intense, that I can feel the memory gripping my muscles as I write this. I spent today telling him how loved he is and how excited I was to meet him one year ago. And then I nursed my baby to sleep and kissed him good night and whispered Happy Birthday. Thirty minutes later, at 8:39, was the exact moment of his birth one year ago. And I felt myself rushed back to that moment. The moments before when I was absolutely sure I was going to die. The doctors and nurses yelling, my husband crying, me feeling oddly detached and just a strange acceptance. And then...the doctor cutting me, his heartbeat dropping, the unbearable pain of the vacuum being forced in...and then the amazing, shocking feeling of him sliding out of me.

I had no idea.

I had no idea.

I want to go back and shake myself and say, Savor this. Take this all in. Look at him. Hold in. No, don't put him down even for an instant. Enjoy these first few days with him. Just the three of you, alone in that hospital room. That quiet sanctuary where you spent the first few moments with him. Because I didn't understand. I was overwhelmed, traumatized, literally in shock and shaking from the the trauma of his birth. And that makes me angry with myself for not fully savoring every second of the resounding emotion of his newborn-ness. I miss it. I want to go back and relive it.

But how could I know? How could I know that this little tiny, beautiful baby with those deep eyes would become... everything? How could I know what a year with him would do to me? How could I understand in a hospital room filled with bright lights what motherhood really is? I just...didn't know.

And so here I am, at the anniversary of his birth, remembering. Paying homage to that moment. Being grateful for the blood and the pain and the emotion that was put forth so he could come out of me and into this world. Because I didn't get it then. I didn't understand.

But now I do.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Day In Our Life

I've wanted to do one of these for awhile. Not sure why, because I don't know if anyone else really cares about the minute details of my day, but I always enjoy reading about others', so I decided it would be fun to try it out. I chose a day when we were home all day, nothing special planned, so you could get a sense of what it's like in the glamorous life of staying home with Owen. So here goes:

6:38 - The puppies downstairs wake up all three of us an hour before Owen usually gets up. In desperation, I tried to nurse Owen back to sleep. Failure. I lie in bed while Owen plays with the cat, in complete denial that I need to get up.

7:01 - I give up. Get out of bed.

7:10 - After getting myself dressed, I carry Owen downstairs to his room and change his diaper. He screams and fights me. I give him one of the letters from his name train, which he throws on the ground. This must be why his train now only says "Ow." I put his pjs back on over his clean diaper. Then I realize we have a playdate at our house today, so the house needs to be clean. Damn.

7:14 - I plop myself onto the couch in the playroom while Owen "plays Xbox" and I check FB. I'm probably winning some Lazy Mother of the Year Award here, but I figure he's up an hour early, so what the hell.

7:36 - I peel myself off the couch and give Owen some breakfast in his high chair while I frantically clean the kitchen.

7:47- Owen is done with his blueberry waffles and bananas, so I give him a fruit puree pouch so I can quickly finish up the kitchen. Again, really Desperate Parenting here. Owen, who isn't hungry any more and doesn't like pouches, makes modern art on his high chair tray.

8:01 - I start in on folding the three loads of laundry dumped all over the couch. Owen plays happily by himself. I am repeatedly interrupted to rescue the 8 week old puppy from the 4 month old puppy. The cat cries incessantly for no reason at all.

8:13 - I give River (the bigger puppy) a bone that smells awfully like a dead animal to keep her from tormenting tiny puppy and stop stealing all of Owen's toys. I give Owen a quick hug, then contemplate giving up on the damn laundry. Cat still crying for no reason.

8:16 - I am distracted by sheer adorableness as Owen tries to catch sunbeams on the wood floor.

8:20 - Owen is fussy and bored. Probably because he got up too damn early! I ask him if he wants to fold laundry. He declines by arching his back and falling to the floor.

8:21 - B comes out and gives me the tiny puppy (Red) in exchange for taking Owen. I take Red outside to go potty, then finish laundry super quick while B has O. I briefly feel excited, then discouraged when I realize I now have to put all of the folded laundry away.

8:26 - I bring the puppy in from outside. Immediately River starts harassing him. I am ravenously hungry, so I make B and I some breakfast while he plays with Owen in the office.

8:40 - I take Owen into his nursery to play while I eat my toast. Owen immediately steals some of mommy's toast. I watch him pull a piece out of his mouth, look at it, then put it back in. I wish this were acceptable behavior for adults.

8:44 - my mom calls on the phone.

8:50 - 2nd poopy diaper of the day. I finally get the baby dressed. He cries whole time in extreme protest.

8:57- I step in puppy poop on the floor and then almost fall on water River spilled from her water dish while going to clean up the poop. I drop Owen with B for a second so I can run to the bathroom. I realize this downstairs bathroom is out of toilet paper. I hear Owen fussing through the door. Grrr...woke up too early!

9:10 - We go play in the playroom. Exciting games like, "Let's take the necklace on and off over and over again!" Owen and River then play nicely together with a cat toy. I am amazed to see that Owen can correctly point to "Mickey's eyes" and "Mickey's nose" at least 80% of the time. He is a genius!

9:41 - I decide to give up on our one-nap schedule and take Owen up for an early "first nap" because he is so fussy.

9:54 - After a brief nursing session, Owen seems completely revived by breastmilk and boobtime. Give up on naptime. Back to playroom. The puppies are playing nicely together for once.

10:11 - The highlight of my sister arrives with Starbucks! No pic. I drank it.

10:30 - The dog trainer from the Invisible Fence company shows up to train River on "How Not To Be Shocked By the Invisible Fence."

11:15 - I contact my business partner and make final decisions about our logo and business cards. Yay!

11:30 The mail arrives. I unpack one of Owen's birthday presents. He notices, points, and says "Ooooo!!" I crumble, and give him his present a month early. I cry watching him play with such a grown up toy. A toy that is for his 1st birthday. A toy I picked out for him and he is now obsessed with.

11:50 - Ok, damnit, it's nap time. I have to wrestle the toy away from him. All out tantrum ensues.

12:00 - I turn on soft music, get in bed with him, and read him stories while we cuddle. The tantrum moment turned into a sweet moment. He is asleep ten minutes later.

1:27 - I waste the whole nap time on relaxing things like eating lunch, playing on my phone, and reading my book. I feel happy and content and the cat sits and purrs on my feet. In other words, I get nothing done.

2:00 - Owen wakes up. I put him in his highchair and feed him lunch while I frantically (again) finish cleaning.

2:30 - Mom friend and her baby arrive for playdate.

4:09 - Guests leave and Owen goes to socialize with his daddy and auntie in the office.

4:28 - Snack time.

4:54 - It's cooled off enough to go outside. Owen, River and I go out and enjoy the backyard. We play with the water table, play with sticks, and all around get dirty. I vacillate between feeling so happy my son is playing in nature and being on alert for all possible dangers (snakes! sharp rocks! little rocks to eat!).

5:26 - Our furniture gets delivered from Ethan Allen!

5:57 - Owen briefly nurses. He's really ready to drop feedings.

6:10 - I start chopping garlic for dinner.

6:15 - B comes out and asks if I want to go on a walk. We load up baby and puppies for a short neighborhood walk.

6:42 - Back to chopping veggies.

7:10 - Dinner time. Owen avoids everything but fruit. As usual.

7:36 - B takes Owen for a bath. The pets are fed, dinner is put away, I have nothing to do but relax.

8:03 - I nurse Owen in his nursery.

8:15 - He's asleep.

8:29 - The best part of my evening. I have a big glass of wine, Grey's Anatomy, a bag of candy corn, puppy in lap, and a husband to cuddle with. Heaven.

10:00 - I get into bed to put this blog post together.

10:41 - Good night!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Just A Kid

Before I had a baby I had all sorts of thoughts about parenthood that I would never say out loud. Things like, "Oh well, she's just a stay at home mom..." or "He's just a kid, nothing special..." I didn't mean anything hurtful, I just didn't put a whole lot of stock into pictures of other people's kids or the importance of "little things," like a toddler learning how to run. No big deal if your children just learned how to do a cute little dance....'Cus you know, he's "just a kid."

I knew I would love my child and I knew I would love being a mom. But I had NO idea how much it would take my silly, stupid little thoughts and crush them into a million pieces. There is no such thing as "just a kid." Because for every kid, there is a mom. A mom who loves the curve of his neck. A mom who watches him sleep. A mom who devours every little thought he has. He cannot possibly be "just a kid." He is so much more. His eyelashes tell her stories. His smiles gift her his happiness. His tiny hands paint beauty into her tired face. His nonchalance as he plops into her lap teaches her contented stillness.

This is not "just a kid." At least, not to her.