Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Baby's Gender: to Know or Not to Know

This is not a post to say, "Do whatever you want." Because you will anyway. Good.

This is a post to say:

Don't find out. Leave baby's gender a mystery until you meet him or her. It may seem like an eternity to wait now, but you have the rest of your baby's precious life to know all about him or her. Gender is a scapegoat characteristic, the only biological thing about your baby that you can pin personality traits on. It's like a cheat sheet.
If baby's a girl, she'll be:
(see, you're already thinking sweet, beautiful, lovely)
If baby's a boy, he'll be:
(cue thinking strong, handsome, funny)

And those are just where you start. But the thing about babies, and people in general, is that you can't know these things yet. You can't know what your baby's personality will be until you meet him or her and your wonderful baby reveals all these things to you in the course of his or her life.

So maybe finding out the gender will make you feel more in control, like you can plan your baby's personality, but really, you can't. It's best to let go of that illusion now. Welcome your baby as a mystery to be unraveled as you get to know each other.

I'm sure knowing the gender doesn't take any of the wonder out of a birth experience. It's such an amazing thing that really nothing can diminish. But for me, seeing my little girl's tiny lady parts was better than hearing from an ultrasound tech, "It's a girl." (My husband was supposed to announce the gender, but he was too in awe to do it straight away, so I saw before I heard those words.)

And for your second child, people say that knowing the sex makes it easier to plan. Life is different when you are already parents. I say this now, but I do not want to know with our next children. I want to meet them when I meet them, in all their red, gooey, screaming glory.

Your babies' lives are going to go too fast as it is. Don't rush it before they're even born. Think about it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

10 Things Every Pumping Mother Knows

1. Baby sleeping through the night is an amazing (and awful) thing.

2. Nursing bra pads are way too expensive.

3. Cloth nursing bra pads don't do shit.

4. Breastmilk baby poop is the best kind of baby poop.

5. Pumps are audible on the other end of the telephone. (Yes, hello? I'd like to accomplish 343,423,342 things while I'm sitting here pumping.)

6. Getting 5 ounces out of one boob in the morning is an amazing feeling.

7. Your boobs can easily be two cup sizes apart, depending on where baby last fed.

8. Laying down on your stomach is not fun in the morning. Oh, you thought that'd be good again after 9 months of abstaining while pregnant? Nah.

9. "Pump and dump" is bullshit. You're never going to get a good buzz on again. Ever. Remember when your bestie said, "I can't wait til we can drink wine together again like we used to!" Yeah, sorry.

10. It's all worth it, cause you're feeding baby (the good shit!) for free and getting little slices of privacy three times a day.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The 6 Steps to Cleaning Your Breast Pump Parts in Public

1. Make sure lots and lots of men are in the area. This is especially important, so that they can stare down the plastic horns that fit over your nipples, imagining where they go. Although they probably aren't looking at or imagining anything, you totally think they are and therefore try to hunch over said horns while rinsing them.

2. If you're relegated to a women's restroom, master the awkward look-up from what you're doing while other women emerge from the stalls to wash their hands. Say "Hi" as a reflex, not loud enough for them to hear so that they only see your lips open for a second and wonder what the hell is wrong with you.

3. The first few times, use special breast pump soap and a bottle brush. Scrub that shit somethin fierce. Then spend the next few minutes drying the parts off with several paper towels. Then realize you're putting way too much work into this.

4. Now that you've mastered #s 1, 2 and 3, you can move on to not using soap at all, rinsing the parts quickly in the hottest water you can stand, rubbing them and drying at the same time with just one paper towel and still getting them hella clean.

5. The best step of all: You stop giving a fuck who sees your boob horns.

6. This is really the best step: You linger long enough and smile at the women walking past, long enough for them to say, on several occasions, "Oh, I remember those days." And their smiles will make you feel better about the awkwardness that is being milked three times a day. You'll realize that those moms who have been there are really thinking, "Great job. What you're doing is really important for your baby." You might even talk long enough to tell them how your baby is doing.

And then you smile and not much else matters. Never mind the men.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

10 Unexpected Ways Motherhood Changed Me

I'm following Mandy's lead over at Words by the Glass (she's hilarious, by the way. Check her out:

1. I'll just get this one out of the way. Allowing yourself to (gasp!) poop at the office, or in public, doesn't seem so weird. You've shit on a table, in front of your partner and probably at least two other people, some of them strangers. So going in a toilet, a designated and sanitary place for the stuff, is no big. In fact, you're so happy to just be regular again, you welcome it. Pay the others in the restroom no mind. Although if you find yourself wearing plain-Jane shoes to work to disguise your under-stall self during your morning poo, I won’t blame you.

2. I allow myself to be more selfish with my time. I leave work on time so that I can pick my daughter up. My time now is really my daughter's time. (“Me” time isn’t a thing yet. And I accept that it may never be.)

3. Relaxing has a completely different meaning. Any time baby is not crying is relax time. Chores have become muscle memory, the lifting in and out of the crib, the motion of my hands as I change a diaper. But fear not, expectant moms: just because it’s routine doesn’t mean it’s boring. No, baby will mix things up with a poop on the wall, pee on your pillowcase and more bodily fluids EVERYWHERE. And somehow, giving your baby a bath can be relaxing. Until she pees in the tub.

4. I'm back on coffee. I say "on" because it’s totally a drug. It takes the edge off. Of mornings. Coffee is my new wine. Except that wine is still my wine.

5. I'm a safer driver. Not that I was that crazy-town before, but just consider me a constant at-least-five-over driver. I now find myself yelling at other drivers and scorning them from my window, saying to myself, "There are precious children around you!" and the old cliche my mother used to yell at me, "You may not value your life, but I do." This paragraph could also start with “I’m turning into my mother.”

6. I'm more generous. All relationships are more precious to me. I recently made two—yes, two!—cookie cakes for my brother-in-law's birthday. Before you start patting me on the back, I did really want some cookie cake myself. But I also iced and decorated them with a somewhat-sloppy birthday message to dress them up for the occasion. I really did want to show that I cared and give a little of my time and money (you know, I wouldn't normally splurge for decorating icing).

7. I think I'm nicer. There are people that I just can't stand sometimes. You know, the people who are too cheery, or too witty, or smart or funny. The people who you just can't stand because there's nothing you can't stand about them.
I think I try to understand them more, empathize more, tell myself that just because they're super-fucking-nice all the time doesn't mean they're hiding some deep dark secrets. I take niceness at face value now, because there just isn't enough of it in the world and I want more of it for my daughter.

8. I am also a monster she-beast. Let me tell you, I'm not always proud. A recent shameful moment: My husband's grandma started tickling my daughter's feet while she breastfed. My daughter, startled, lost the breast and cried. Before I had a second to think, I shot eye-daggers at this sweet woman who sends us hand-made cards for our anniversary, birthdays, Christmas, everything. I asked, "What are you doing?!" and immediately realized my anger was kind of inappropriate. It only took me another second to calm back down and get my baby back on the breast. But you mess with my daughter's feeding? I WILL SLAY YOU.

9. Which leads me to this: I have a new capability to experience so many emotions at such high intensities at the same time, it leaves me dizzy and wondering why I didn't buy the waterproof mascara. So much love, fear, anger, fatigue, protectiveness, hopelessness, beauty, excitement, nostalgia, wanting time to stand still for real. Wanting more babies but wanting this one, just this one, to stay little forever but also grow up to be President. It's really insane, guys.

10. I'm almost child-like in the way I make new mom friends. My mother used to tell me about how I was so outgoing as a child. I'd walk up to kids anywhere and say "Hi, I'm Liz. Wanna be my friend?" Then came puberty and the awkwardness of middle school that never really went away.
And now, as a mom, I’m more like a kid. I went to the baby group at my hospital, and loved it. I talk to other moms to know that I’m not the only one sucking snot out of a baby's nose in my "spare time." Or checking out diaper sales. Or pumping three times a day at work. Plus, we all have the whole labor story-thing over which to bond with other new moms.
We all occasionally have to wipe poop off of the walls.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Introducing Melanie, Mom and Photographer and Hopefully Guest Blogger

I took a leap today and gave a family member the address of this blog. Uh-oh. So, special shout-out to my wonderful and talented sister, Melanie, who took the amazing photo you see at the top of the page. (You can check out her photography here.)

I'm fairly certain I'm going to be able to rope her into guest blogging here.* She's a new(ish) mom, too, with a 20-month-old and a little baby bun in the oven, due out this December.
She sends me pictures of the photos she's working on editing on the regular, and they're beautiful and make me feel things.

Since I can't ask her how I look every morning before I put all hundred and fifty pounds of this out into the world, I thought I'd ask her to at least look at the blog and tell me what she thinks. I was nervous about this. It's always tough to show your writing to people closest to you.

But because I opened this up to her and finally spilled the URL, I was able to ask her, "What do I have to offer? Why would people want to read me?" And she reassured that my "personality" and "daily adventures" would be enough to keep you coming back for more. I'm not so sure about that. I know you don't have a lot of time on your hands. I know you need better than that.

So I'm working on it. But I feel good, and you should, too. Really, everyone's story is worth telling and worth hearing. And how would I ever know if I don't tell it?

Thank god for sisters.

*Hoping that publicly announcing this will guilt/shame/insertemotionhere her into doing so.

P.S.: I originally ended the post here, but thought I'd tell you more about my sister. She's the yin to my yang. We are complete opposites in a lot of ways. She takes photos, I write. She's brunette, I'm blonde, she's tall and thin, I'm average and curvy, she loves salty foods, I've got one of the biggest sweet tooths you'll ever see.
But we're the same where it matters: we're both storytellers, she through photos, I through words. We're both moms and family is always #1 to us. Mostly we get along. We don't often talk about the line we drew down the bedroom wall we shared as kids, dividing our shared room. She's awesome and bitchy and sweet and smart. You'll love her.

Monday, June 2, 2014

(Very) New Nursing Moms: Your Boobs Will Get More Normal

I swear. They may look like something out of Playboy right now, and they may leak constantly, requiring you to waste way too much good money on something as stupid as nursing pads, but they'll get better.

They'll look less Dolly Parton and more you. Not that there's anything wrong with Dolly. I mean, who doesn't love Dolly? Joleeeeeene JoleeeeeEEEeeene.

They'll feel less like bags of sand a la Steve Carrell's character in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and more like the old boobs you know and love.

The overnight leaking will go away, as will the sweating, and the bleeding. You'll have much better control over both baby's and your own bodily fluids soon. Just get through these first few weeks. Lean on whomever you can. Ask close visitors to bring you nursing camis in lieu of flowers. Freezer meals in lieu of cards. And trust me, don't even try cooking without a bra and nursing pads on. Not even for a second to pop in on the kitchen and make sure the water's not boiling over. You'll be boiling over.

Take a long bath if you can, use cooling gel packs if you have to, but do try to enjoy the time you spend nursing if you're at all able. There will be a night before too long when you try to put your screaming baby on your breast and she'll refuse. She'll cry harder than before you tried at all. And she'll suck on her hands and give you all the signs that she's hungry and there's nothing she wants from your breast. She'll want the bottle and she'll calm down when she has it, nursing herself to that peaceful dreamland without as much of your help; without that very physical connection with you.

All this is to say that last night my baby wanted the bottle over the breast, for the first time. It was hard not to feel sad about it. But at least my body's getting a little more "normal," whatever that is now.