Crawling Towards Ecstasy

My baby girl started to crawl this week. She is seven and a half months old, and this is the first in a very long line of milestones in which she will assert her independence. One day, she will set out on her own in this world and this is one of the beginning steps in that journey.

As she took her that first independent venture across the living room floor, leaves were falling outside. The yellow tree in front of our house was bright yellow, the leaves like falling sunshine. It set our house and front yard aglow, cast the colors of fall throughout our little house.

Fall has always been a nostalgic time of year for me. Kids leave behind the freedom of summer for books and winter coats. We carve pumpkins and then turkeys. We start to think about picking out the perfect tree to decorate. The baseball season gives way to October payoffs, and the I think of my grandma, whose hope sprung eternal, but never saw the Cubs play in the World Series. The flowers wilt, the cold rain seeps into our skin and bones, and we turn inward. We close our windows. We draw our shades earlier and earlier in the evening.

With the pride I feel at my little girl’s strength and independence, I can’t help but feel a lump in my throat. My first summer as a mother is coming to a close and I think about the summers we will have together. The few summers of my life that I will have with her as a little girl.

I see my sweet little girl crawling toward her future. Toward my own. And I feel my heart fill up, overflow, and break.


What to Expect After You’ve Expected

During pregnancy there is so much information available. If you want. In fact, there is often too much information, from anecdotal stories, to Web sites and a legion of books all telling you what you should and should not do or expect or not expect while pregnant and shortly thereafter.

In conference with my friends, I’ve summed up the 5 things that, thankfully, they passed along to me and I learned along the way:

1. Breast feeding is not a given. After five lactation consultants, we hired the best in town and it still didn’t work for us. All of the nurses and lactation consultants in the hospital told us that breast feeding is a confidence game. Well, if you haven’t met me, I am one determined lady and wouldn’t say that “confidence” is something I lack. The best thing our lactation consultant told me was, “breast feeding is something babies do. Moms set it up, but babies need to actually do the work.” My little lady wasn’t down for the job, so we had to move on. If you experience any difficulties or know of someone who does, contact a Lactation Consultant in your town. 

2. Hire a doula. Really. I can’t say enough about this. A doula is a birth coach that is solely there for you and your partner to have the best birth experience possible. Ideally, your doula will meet with you a few times prior to your birth to talk about your birth plan and get to know you and your family. Hannah was a life-saver during our 44-hour labor and delivery because she allowed us to focus on ourselves and the baby. Neither of us had ever had a baby, so we had no idea what to expect. We were tired, so she would help me while C took a nap or got something to eat. She helped me stay focused while I had to make decisions I didn’t want to, like when to agree to Pitocin and an epidural. She helped us stay strong, and after the delivery directed me to Adria and made sure we transitioned home well. There are doulas everywhere. Even if you’ve had a baby before, are working with a midwife or are having a scheduled c-section, I cannot speak highly enough of this service.

3. You have a voice in the delivery room. One of the benefits of working with Hannah was that her practice had classes that were really helpful. One of the best things one of her partners said was “you are a consumer. You have a voice.” I had never thought of that before, but from that position I crafted my birth plan tailored to what was right for our family. And this kept me strong in the delivery room when the fresh-from-medical-school resident kept insisting on checking me. Panting through insane Pitocin-induced contractions, I insisted I didn’t need to be checked and outlined for him the reasons why. When he pushed back for no reason, I asserted myself through gritted teeth. He walked away, never to be seen again and the two nurses in the room praised me for speaking up for what I wanted.

4. After the baby is born, the pain is not gone. I’m not talking about the fact that your privates might have exploded or the trecherous thought of going to the bathroom again, I’m talking about what they do to your stomach. Shortly after you deliver, the nurses will push on your stomach to make sure your uterus is returning to its normal size, which it does freakishly fast. You think, “oh, no biggie.” But ay, carumba, this hurts! Depending upon your care and stay in the hospital, or even at home for a birth, your stomach will be pushed on about three or four times. Each time, ask for a partner’s hand, squeeze it and use your breathing techniques. All I’m saying is that it really, really hurts.

5. Uh, we have a “new mom” mess. So, here’s the real kicker. The one thing that will let you know if you have good, honest friends is if they’ve told you this: After you have a baby, you bleed. Like, stucked pig bleeding. Like, they put you in mesh underwear and kayak-sized “maternity” care and even this needs to be attended to every hour. The nurses will check this, before or after they press on your stomach and you will see that after you become a mom, you lose all sense of privacy. And that’s OK. But back to the bleeding. It’s like A LOT. If it gets messy in the hospital, which it can, they call it a “new mom” mess. It can also last, to varying degrees, for up to 6 weeks. Take all of the items home with you, including the mesh underwear and make sure you have major backup at home, or your husband will run to Walgreen’s at some odd hour, but will thankfully return with some Recharge, Us Weekly and flowers.

There is, of course, so much more. Above all, make sure you have a few soft shoulders to land on. I called my mom and friends at all hours, cried in frustration on friends’ couches and also laughed with them at diaper blow-outs and other mishaps.

All of the planning, hoping and dreaming is in some ways a movie in our minds. The movie we create about what we think having a baby is like is just that, a movie. But what we get in return is better than fiction.

– MD

The Weighting Game

Breast feeding. Vaccinations. Work/life balance. Childcare. Cloth versus disposal diapers. BPA. All hot topics amongst the childbearing set. Add to that weight gain and loss, from pregnancy to post-partum.

Each woman I know talks about pregnancy weight with a mixture of fear and glee. Fear as you see numbers on a scale you never imagined and glee at eating a little more than you ever thought possible. Stories about never owning maternity clothes or who shows earlier are traded like cards. It is a tough scale to balance on, with one hand wondering how a being mere ounces can make you gain weight and on the other, loving your growing form. Rumors of people only gaining 15 pounds are laughed at and brave people admit they gained upwards of 60, 70 pounds per pregnancy, no matter your assumptions of their previous size.

Women share stories about how big they get. Or don’t get. Numbers equaling a middle schooler are tossed around, or odd stories of someone who gained so little they walked out of the hospital in pre-pregnancy jeans. You can thank genes for that. I remember thinking around month 7 that I looked a little like Chris Farley and my ankles were so swollen my husband’s thumb prints from nightly foot massages stayed visible for far too long.

My personal weakness while pregnant? Lemon freezies with fresh fruit from Culver’s. I didn’t go overboard, but didn’t hold back. “When else can you eat Cheetos and not have anyone stare at you?” said my friend, E.

After stories about gaining weight come stories about how fast someone gets it off. Again, stories of women who lost it all when they had the baby, or weighed less than before the baby. It’s all something pregnant women are anxious about – when will my bottom parts feel normal again and when will the pooch disappear? I have good news and bad news, ladies. You can figure this out on your own.

The Baby Weight Gain Game doesn’t end even post-partum. There’s the excuse of “I just had a baby,” or “I’m making milk,” that leads to no budges on the scale. We moan amongst our female friends about stomach skin that doesn’t look right anymore, angry, red stretch marks or a chest that will always require the help of underwire and padding. [Note: if you have never been pregnant and are a woman, take a photo of your chest RIGHT NOW. Consider it a quaint historical relic to admire once you’ve had a baby.]

Many of us trudge along, working on getting back to shape, while balancing work, child(ren), friends, life and personal time. What I notice on this path is that I’m kinder to myself as I work on the numbers going down. I made a pledge amongst our female friends that we won’t say negative statements, even in jest, about our bodies in front of our children, and I’m also giving myself more time and yes, more permission, to wait out this weight game. After all, my insides grew a baby and my privates pushed one out. What have you done today?

– MD

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