Life

Motherhood: Three Months In

My son, J., is three months old today. When I look back at the photos taken of him during those first minutes and days I am amazed at how much he is different and yet the same. Those big eyes of his are still the biggest things on his face, but they are now closely rivalled by his smile. His thick mop of unruly hair is still a thick mop of unruly hair, but now the curls that used to vanish with a sweep of the comb are holding out a little longer. He still loves bathtime, but he’s kicking out of his tub these days. I am still every bit as besotted with him as I was in the moments after my c-section and am every day grateful that I get to be his mom.

But motherhood isn’t exactly what I thought it would be. My maternity leave flew by and if I am able to swallow down the guilt long enough to admit it, I was glad to go back to work. Not having my full income (I had been working with a combination of savings, vacation time, holiday pay, and a generous gift from my father) was an incredible amount of stress. I’m still not past the anxiety and I find myself going over my budget and accounts literally every single day. I live in fear of the day that I will actually have to put J. in daycare, though right now we are incredibly fortunate that a family friend is able to watch him for the one day each week I need care. I’m also still struggling with the professional sacrifice I made to minimize that daycare need. Switching from what was my “dream job” to go back into the office I left for said dream job has been hard. That isn’t to say my new role isn’t satisfying or that I am unhappy; it’s just that there is something difficult in letting go of something you love.

I had expected that by three months in I’d have some sort of flow. I wasn’t expecting miracles, mind you. I didn’t think I’d have a perfectly clean house and wear a full face of makeup every day, but it has surprised me that more days than not I don’t get out of my pajamas and I have literally gone a full week without a shower. J.’s room is only half decorated and, due largely in part to his reflux issues causing him to sleep in his swing, that room is as much storage as it is a baby’s room. I still haven’t sent out thank you cards for the incredible and generous gifts my son has received. In a couple of instances I haven’t even unpacked them. The baby doesn’t have a routine (we’re letting him sort of drive the bus until he figures out what his sleep/wake looks like) and as a result neither do I. Those first few days out of the hospital I was up bright and early, but these days? Well, last Thursday J. and I were in bed until noon.

My body is another thing I hadn’t expected to still be getting used to. As a plus sized woman I knew going into it that my body would be different at the end. I didn’t have any expectations that I’d have the baby and walk out of the hospital a supermodel. That I have lost over fifty pounds since delivery has been a surprise to me, but so have the other changes. The never-ending period. The random infections. The strange ghost pains in my abdomen, no doubt nerves awakening even now from my c-section. And even though I’m thinner the shape of my body has changed, partly from looser skin and partly simply just from the element of change. I don’t know how to dress this new body on the off chance I actually get to put on real pants. Some days I don’t even care.

Perhaps most surprising of all, though, has been just how raw my emotions are even now when I think about my own mother. Not having her hurts more now than it did before. There is so much she’s missing. There’s so much I’m missing getting to ask her.

But despite all the broken illusions and the unexpectedly uncharted territory there is one thing that I know for sure: despite all the times I’ve lost my patience only to break down crying in the bathroom at 3am and despite all the times I’ve had no clue what I’m doing and wondered why I got into this, I wake up every day to the grins of the world’s cutest little boy and I am humbled that I’m the person who gets to be his mother. Three months in there is one thing I know for sure: I regret nothing.

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Life

Back to Work

I’m back at work today. Maternity leave is over. I walked out of my apartment this morning and left my tiny son in the care of a close family friend and while I know he is safe, loved, and cared for I’m all kinds of a mess. Even if I’m doing a good job of not being one. It’s really weird to go from spending every single day being a mommy to devoting hours to being what you were before you were a mommy. I’ve tried to combat some of the weirdness by dressing a little nicer for work, putting on my makeup, and of course flipping through photos on my phone as I count the hours until I can head home (after a Target detour — our microwave decided to bite it yesterday) and snuggle my little guy.

But even though I am having separation anxiety and just want to go see my baby, I don’t exactly feel guilty about leaving him. That sounds really awful, but I promise it’s not. The big reason for that is because of how I’m going back to work. I changed my schedule so that even though I am going back to work I’m not putting him in daycare. I’m also spreading my work week over the weekends so that I’m with him during the week so very little changes for him except for more quality time with his daddy while I’m at work on the weekends. What I hope from this is that not only does my son get the best of me, but also that it shows him that I’m willing to make changes and sacrifices and work hard to make his life good. I hope to teach him about hard work and working to balance.

…I’m still counting down the seconds until I can get home to snuggle my boy.

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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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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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