Life

No One Told Me: Babies as Social Currency

I would never profess to be a parenting expert and I also have never expected any of the parents in my life to know it all. They know a lot thanks to experience and have given me some great advice (in fact, I was just given an interesting tidbit about rice water today,) but there have definitely been things about having a child that no one told me. Every day I come across a little something new and unexpected. One of the things that has caught me out of nowhere lately is that babies are social currency.

Going out in public I’m not an unfriendly person, but I’m also not the person who will just start up conversations with strangers. Unless I’m on vacation. Especially in Las Vegas. And then I end up in a lot of random Instagram selfies with strangers. #truestory No, I’m friendly but I keep to myself. My mother was the chatty person and I didn’t inherit that trait. However, since having J I have had countless conversations in public. At first I thought that my baby was just a great conversation starter. People see cute kid, they comment, I comment back, life is good. It’s more than that, though. We are far, far beyond passing comment. I’m having full-on conversations with strangers now.

It starts simply enough. Someone sees the car seat or me fumbling with something in the diaper bag, they come over and comment about how cute my baby is. It’s true, J is cute. He also has a full head of jet black hair that is striking and adorable on a seven-week-old. The hair almost always leads to questions about said hair and how much heartburn I had to have endured while pregnant. Before I know it, I’m talking to some random woman in Target about parenting and being a new mom and usually walk away with advice, a hug, and in a couple of instances a new Facebook friend.

Fourteen years in this city and I’ve made more social contacts in the last two months than in the entirety of those previous fourteen years. It’s amazing. Forget Linkedin and Facebook. Babies are the new network. Or, rather, have always been the big social network. I’m just finally getting my special invite code and honestly? It’s kind of awesome. Thanks for improving my social life, J.

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Life

Holy cats I’m a mom.

No one told me it would be this easy and no one told me it would be this hard. My son, JC, is officially one month old. His one month should have been his birthday, but my precious first born has never played by my rules and thus came into this world early, my little turkey turned pumpkin spice. If I really take a clear-eyed look at this whole adventure to now I could have seen all of this coming, the simplicity and the challenge, the nothing going to plan but everything sort of working out in the process. I probably could have predicted this, but that’s the problem with clear-eyed anything at this point: I’m tired. I actually got to the point of tiredness where I was slurring my words more than even that one time in college where I was so drunk I couldn’t feel anything from the nose down (true story for another day). Clear-eyed isn’t my thing right now.

What is my thing is noticing, with a mix of surprise and dismay, that all of the stories I’ve been told about how difficult pregnancy, motherhood, etc. is haven’t been completely accurate and the anecdotes about how somethings are easy and joyful are also faulty. I’m figuring out, one off kilter day at a time, just how unique this adventure is for each woman who undertakes it and just how similar the trail at the same time. I think it’s Johnson and Johnson that has the slogan of “a baby changes everything.” While I was pregnant those commercials made me cry, sometimes just a little bit of tears running down my face and others the full on ugly cry. Now, I’m not sure how accurate it is even if the commercials still make me cry. A lot has changed, but at the same time I still feel very much the same. Just…more.

Becoming pregnant with JC was not on my agenda for 2016. I’ve always wanted to be a mother, but with how 2015 ended for me all that I really wanted was to try to find balance again. Losing your mother, no matter how somewhat expected it is, will really knock you off center. Turns out so will an unplanned (but very welcome!) pregnancy. Right now, with JC sleeping peacefully in his baby glider after being very fussy all day I’m starting to take stock of things. My house has been turned upside down and I am still trying to sort through the gifts we received for his baby shower (which happened when he was one week old) and the various other things people have passed forward to us (like that amazing glider that is saving my life at this moment.) Everything is the same, but nothing is the same. What I do know is that I’m learning a lot and while I’m a very new mom, I want to share some of what I’m learning and what this crazy adventure is turning into for me.

Holy crap. I’m a mom now. Hold on to your hats, folks.

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House and Home, Life

Tiny baby laundry and minimalism

This past weekend I started doing baby laundry. We have been very, very fortunate in that a few of our friends are parents of boys who have outgrown a lot of clothing and other baby supplies. This means that we have been able to accumulate a good collection of things for baby Jack in a variety of sizes and seasons. Our little guy is going to want for very little in the way of clothing for awhile. I sat down on Saturday and went through the piles, organizing things by size in an attempt to get a sense of what we have and any gaps in what we need.

Once the piles were made and I started to do the laundry I found myself having a little bit of a panic attack. Up to this point my anxiety has come from financial concerns, largely things like having enough money for maternity leave, to get all of the things we will need, to pay for day care, etc. This time, however, I was freaking out over stuff. I haven’t gotten everything washed and put away and already just one size of Jack’s little outfits takes up the entire chest of drawers that was supposed to hold all of this things. Then I looked around the room trying to figure out various options for where I could add additional storage and realized that I, as an adult person, have far too many things.  It made me think about how I want my son to view life and the world and if I want him to be mired down in the accumulation of things.

I don’t.

My mother was a bit of a hoarder. She had a lot of things, a lot of collections, and she didn’t get rid of much. Since her passing it has been a great deal of work and effort on the part of my father to sort through her things and decide what to keep and what to move on. I’ve been starting to do some of that myself with things I held onto only because Mom felt like I should. Now that I’m expecting my own child, though, I don’t want to have a lot of stuff. I want to trim down, keep what matters and what is needed, and make sure that there is always room. Being able to effectively have a clean house is a perk. So as I work my way through tiny baby laundry I find myself thinking about how to streamline my life. The next several weeks are pretty much back-to-back busy, with house guests, a trip to New Orleans, my brother’s wedding shower, a makeup gig, and probably my own baby shower. I may have only one or two weekends to dig in and clear things out. I’m still working on my plan, but I know for sure that I want it done. Fewer things, more time, more family time.

Funny how it takes a little thing to make you realize the importance of the little things.

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Life

Ignorance not bliss.

I’m not generally someone who goes around looking for themes to aspects and experiences in my life, but I’m definitely starting to think that my pregnancy has a distinct theme. That theme is ignorance. This isn’t to say that I’m stupid or unprepared. I’m just having what I am starting to suspect is the experience of every expectant mama, particularly those who are a little older like myself and tend to be among the last of her social group to have kids. I have been around babies and children for years, but when it comes to my own I have no idea what I’m doing. Or what’s going on half of the time.

For starters, the entire early genetic testing has been kind of a disaster. Because I am of what is considered “advanced maternal age” (which is cute terminology for over the age of 35) it was strong suggested that I do the Panorama test. Panorama is one of what is called a non-invasive prenatal test, or NIPT. These tests are newer (Panorama became available in 2013) and examines cell-free fetal DNA in the mother’s bloodstream to determine risk for certain chromosomal abnormalities (such as Down or Edward’s Syndrome) and can also determine the baby’s sex as early as the first trimester. The idea of not only having some peace of mind, but knowing what my baby was early was pretty tempting. Most insurance companies cover the test. Mine did not (the parent lab for Panorama, Natera, is out of my insurance network) but having some answers early was just enough. I let them do the blood work for the text on my second appointment, at about thirteen weeks.

The test failed. Not enough fetal DNA to test, likely because in addition to being older I’m also a plus size woman. We waited a month and tested again. That’s when ignorance and confusion started to take hold. Now, up to this point I’d had some mixed experience getting my various test results. There is a LOT of blood work involved in pregnancy. I’m still not fully certain of what all they test for, but I kept getting automated calls telling me that my “specimen” was normal. I would have to call to get clarification, play some phone tag, annoy a nurse, then get my answers. I had already been doing this for a few weeks on things when the second Panorama test popped up that they needed more information. What did they need? Good question. No one could tell me. It was like I was magically expected to know. Then they were able to get results and send them to the doctor, but then the doctor’s office claimed they had no results. This went on and on until finally I’m told I’m meeting with a genetic counselor immediately following my anatomy scan.

It's a baby foot! So cute.

It’s a baby foot! So cute.

Anatomy scan went so well. We got to see the baby and find out that it’s a boy! And that everything looked fine, come back in a month for a second scan (a perk of being plus sized and old I guess) then were sent to the counselor. The counselor then proceeded to insist that everything was not fine and that we need to do ANOTHER test because two failed Panorama tests are doom and gloom. The fact that redraw tests don’t always work in plus size mamas seemed lost on her and to be honest the quad screen is a fairly normal test so I decided to do it. The results are apparently in. I got a message about it. And now it’s back to phone tag to find out what the heck is going on with my child (I’m pretty sure he’s fine.)

Medical ignorance. Yep.

I’m pretty solidly certain my son is fine so we decided to tell family and friends at some July 4th celebrations that we are expecting a little boy and what we have chosen to name him. That’s when ignorance part two showed up. Nearly every person we have talked to has asked the same question “so what do you need for the baby?”

Cue the deer-in-headlights face.

I have no damn idea what we need for the baby. We found a great Royals onesie and a shark play suit that I couldn’t resist. We have a few things people have given us. That counts, right? And everyone has an opinion! On everything! I mentioned that I plan to continue to adventure once little man is here and everyone just laughs at me, like “oh silly girl your days of adventure are over!” Really? Because I’m pretty sure I can take a baby on vacation and that it’d make a pretty sweet scrapbook to hand over to him someday to show all the cool stuff we did together. But it’s all left me thinking that I have no idea what I’m doing. Can you just wing it with a baby?

So that’s where I’m at: no clue what’s going on medically, not sure what I even need or if I’m supposed to know what I need, eating as much cake as I can find because right now I want cake. It’s a crazy adventure and right now, I’m not exactly having the most awesome time. My son, though? He’s amazing. I’m pretty excited for him, even if it means I’m ignorant right now.

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Life

New Essentials Part One: Face

We had our first regular appointment with the OB yesterday, and I just had my first “I wish someone would have told me about this” moment. I had no idea I was going to end up being a human pincushion! It’s all for a good cause, of course, but I’m going to definitely have to sit down and write about the experience.

Today, though, I’m focusing on the essentials that have been getting me out the door in the morning looking semi-human since my beloved coffee isn’t something I can’t drink a pot at a time anymore. What does a reduced amount of coffee look like for a beanaholic like me? It does not look cute! I’m so exhausted most mornings that a full face of makeup is not happening. I’m lucky I have the energy to wash my hair. To combat this I’ve figured out some simple things that have really helped me and I’m going to be sharing them, starting today with makeup.

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Here are my out the door fast essentials for makeup. First (at least in regards to the photo), let’s start with the blush. That is MAC’s Mountain High. It was part of the Diana Ross collection, which unfortunately means it’s not available currently, but a somewhat similar color (on my skin tone) is Blush All Day. Since being pregnant skin behaves differently and some colors react in ways I hadn’t expected. Thus far this is the only blush I have found that gives me a good flush without pulling red or irritating my skin. It, and the Blush All Day, are very pigmented so a little goes a lot way. The eyeliner is Bobbi Brown Long Wear Eye Pencil in Mahogany. I can’t tell you how much I love this eyeliner. It’s smooth and creamy so it applies easily, but it doesn’t smudge once it sets and I can put it on at six in the morning and still look good by bedtime. Considering that I cry easy lately this is great. Next to that is what has been rocking my brows lately, Bobbi Brown’s Long-Wear Brow Gel. It’s a natural-looking product that perfectly defines my brow and stays there. I could sleep in my brows and they’d be perfect, and since I nap a lot now, too, I have. I’m currently using the shade Blonde. Rounding out my Bobbi Brown arsenal is the Skin Weightless Powder Foundation in Sand. Buildable, long-wearing, smooth, and not flat-looking on my skin this stuff is the bomb dot com. It’s just enough. Last but not least is Urban Decay’s Naked Skin One and Done. It’s sort of a tinted moisturizer and perfecter and I recently switched into it because my skin has been extra sensitive lately and, at the moment, it is the only foundation-like product not causing me to itch. It doesn’t give a lot of coverage, but it does a great job on redness and generally smoothing out the skin. It makes a great primer of sorts for my Bobbi Brown powder and while I am looking forward to the day I can wear my stick foundation again, this may just have earned a place in my rotation forever.

What products get you out the door in the morning? And for you mamas or soon-to-be mamas, what are your best essentials? I need all the help I can get so let me know in comments!

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Life

Where have you been all my life?

Tomorrow I officially enter my second trimester. That’s pretty exciting, though I’m not quite sure what to expect. I’m fairly certain the ohcrapIdon’tthinkIcandothis anxiety is going to get any better, though I am trying to accept that being one of forty million Americans with anxiety means that being anxious and pregnant is normal. I’ve read the hormonal side effects and the nausea gets better and I am definitely looking forward to that. This past week I’ve been hit with some massive “night nausea” I am in no hurry to experience again. It’s kind of funny; for all we as human beings know about pregnancy it is ultimately very uncharted water once you find yourself in it.

I will just keep reminding myself that I’m growing a human and that might be a superpower.

What’s not a superpower? Back pain. You see, I love bed. Oh how I love bed. I’m a terrible sleeper and always have been, but I have always loved bed. One of my favorite things to do is to tuck myself into a next of pillows, bundle myself into a blanket, burrito-style, and just be in my bed. Up until a few years ago I found this to be the most relaxing thing in the world. Then, I injured my back. A few slipped discs, some arthritis, and a pretty crappy mattress later, my nest of pillows and happiness was something I could only handle for a few hours at a clip before searing pain took over my lower back, forcing me awake. I’ve learned to cope with it (more pillows, stretching, learning to not loathe being awake at four in the morning, sleeping upright on the couch,) but now that I’m pregnant, my body has been giving the middle finger to my coping mechanisms. I’m not even really showing at this point, but lying on my stomach is rapidly becoming impossible. I’d read online that special body pillows for pregnant women often help improve sleep so I figured why not? Off to buybuy Baby I went.

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Image credit: buy buy Baby. THIS PILLOW IS LIFE.

Holy crap buybuy Baby is overwhelming. Eventually I might talk about how I almost lost my crap in a rocking chair in that store, but right now I want to talk about the miracle I found there. I bought the Boppy Slipcovered Total Body Pillow. Yes, I flinched at the $60 price tag but a) it was a pillow for my nest and b) the lure of a reasonable night’s sleep was great. I brought my pricey body pillow home, unpacked it with the speed of a child at Christmas, and then counted down until bedtime so I could use it.  It took a little bit of adjusting and shifting (mostly the rest of my pillow nest, honestly) before I found the sweet spot, layered on my blankets and drifted off.

I still woke up at 4am. My brain has been programed to that time after four years of back pain and I admittedly had a pretty rough night with the nausea, but when I stretched out and put my feet to the floor? I had no back pain. None, zero, zip. I was a little stiff, but I wasn’t in pain. Had to be a fluke, right? I curled up the next night, drifted off, this time sleeping until 5am, and again no pain.

WHERE HAS THIS PILLOW BEEN MY WHOLE LIFE?

This may be the single greatest thing I have ever purchased in my life. Every woman needs this, not just pregnant ones. Hell, some men may even need it. This pillow is a miracle! I also just discovered that I can twist it up and sit up in bed with it. Sitting up! In bed! I might actually get to read in bed again! This pillow is a damn miracle. I am never sleeping without it again.

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Life

Here’s looking at you, Kid.

It’s said that the only thing constant in life is change and, boy, is that the truth. A few weeks ago, right before my trip to Southern California, my life changed in a way that resets normal.

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I’m pregnant, due right around Thanksgiving. In the weeks since I found out and the days since the sonogram made it all real, I’ve been trying to process how I feel. This baby changes so much for me. It’s lead my family to have to confront its biases (my fiance is black, I’m white,) while leading me to explore my grief over losing my mother. Sunday, my first mother’s day without my mom was also my first mother’s day as a mom (to-be). It was a difficult and beautiful balance for me, sadness and excitement. I really wish I had my mother to call and ask some of the random questions that wake me up at 2 am. This whole process is going to be bittersweet: my mother’s birthday was in November, too.

This isn’t going to turn into a mommy blog. I don’t pretend to have any expertise or great ideas or insight on this process. I’m still finding the balance between life as I know it and how to shift into life as it’s going to be. I’m going to screw up a lot. Right now? I’m not doing so great with the whole drinking enough water part of things and my baby registry is kind of a disaster. I’m just going to keep writing about my journey. We just have a new stop now.

What I do know? My mom always called me Kid and I loved it. I’m passing that on to my baby. I’m so excited to be your mom, Kid. I hope I make my you and my mom proud.

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