My routine is weird, great, and hard.

My routine is weird.  I suppose there is the potential for feeling isolated any time one is in a situation unlike the one faced by those around her.  No matter how good the situation is, there is a quiet loneliness.  It is isolating because it is very specific.  For those of us, like me, who like to feel we are part of something – a group, a cohort, etc., its challenging.  I commute in the afternoons.  I am with Maia in the mornings.  When I work, in the evenings, I am working in 2 different offices.  Maia goes to bed at 8:30/9pm and wakes up around 9am, which is different from a lot of babies, but works for us, because I can put her to bed after I get home.  I guess when you have a family, that is how things go – you create the life that serves you and your loved ones. No one else will do it quite the same way.  Others listen.  They say “Oh that sounds great” or “Oh that sounds hard.”  It is both.  I guess that is just life.

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Maia is doing amazing things now.  She is beginning to know her colors.  She almost says “car” and says “eye” very clearly and points, sticking her finger into the eyes of new friends.  She started walking about a month ago (at 16 months) and now LOVES walking – returning her shakers and toys at the library, walking circles around the car after we get home.  She likes to kiss and feed her favorite stuffed animals, Bunny and Bear.  I am so proud of her and thrilled every day to be her mom.

It is hard, but not the way life used to be hard before Zoloft.  It is normal-hard.  Very doable-hard.  Even in the hard and lonely parts, I love my life.  Yes, it is a bit isolating because no one else has quite the same thing going on.  It’s a weird feeling, hard to pin down and articulate.  I guess that is what we moms have in common – we are all isolated in our own circumstances.  From the time you get pregnant, you are the only one with your specific circumstances. No one else is on the same schedule, then no one else has the same pregnancy or birth experience.  No one else negotiates the same family life or work-life as you.  It requires bravery, and a strong sense of self.  We must hold fast to our identity, our priorities.  We must share what we can with others, lean on each other, and be leaned on.  We must keep close the people who, though they can’t live our lives, get us, understand us.  I am so thankful for my husband, my parents, my dear friends who are beside me – not with me every moment, not living my life, but living with me.

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Uncomfortably Personal Book Reviews, Part I: How to Party with an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings

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The title caught my eye while I was looking for some novel about a mystery on the Appalachian Trail.  “How to Party with an Infant.” Sounds like a debaucherous, inappropriate good time, I thought.  It wasn’t what I expected.  Before the halfway point I almost abandoned it, unsure if I wanted to experience the emotional acuity and moral depravity of the main character’s flirtations with a married man, Henry, a father in her playgroup.  Then I realized: I was judging her.  As moms do to other moms.  Not for her parenting ability, which I had no reason to doubt, but for this flirtation, which, as I read each word, I feared it would burst into an affair on the next page. This realization (of my own judgy-ness) was a turning point for me, and I also realized that, damn, this book is f*&@ing awesome.  I stopped judging and instead began to empathize with Mele, and I couldn’t blame her for wanting male attention while she debates whether to attend the wedding of her ex, the father of her toddler.  I felt the heartbreak with her when, upon telling her lover she was pregnant, he responds with, “I’m kind of already engaged.”

I have had my heart broken, after emotionally investing every ounce of it, and though my circumstances were very different, I know the horror of discovering that you were simply a diversion in someone else’s love story, an understudy when you thought you were the female lead.  It is, if not the worst, one of the worst things I have ever felt.  For me, I was a college junior – I suffered, but recovered.  For Mele, she was pregnant with his child, a higher stakes investment.   The novel drops us into her story as she prepares for her daughter to serve as flower girl in the wedding, striving to show a dignified face as she watches. I guess I can’t blame her for seeking male attention in a less than ideal place. Henry, the playgroup dad, seems decent enough, but his circumstances are far from ideal.  Sure, his marriage is in the process of ending, but these conditions are not optimal for development of a lasting relationship between mature adults.

It is easy for me to judge.  I have been coupled with my husband since I was 23, and I can only imagine how difficult it is to be a single parent.

This novel reminds me that many people become parents in circumstances much less ideal than my own.  Parenting is f*@$ing hard, that I do know. It is hard because, as we raise our babies and toddlers, we are also responsible for parenting and protecting our own inner-adolescent. Does anyone ever really feel like an actual adult?

By the end, I was rooting for Mele and Henry.  Any book that can make me feel this depth of empathy is something gorgeous.  Vignettes featuring the stories of other playgroup parents are spun together within Mele’s story.  Each character is brilliantly created and as real as can be.  This book is not a memoir, but almost could be, because Mele and her friends feel so authentic and raw.

I can’t wait to put every book in the library by Hemmings on hold to hoard.  Don’t you dare beat me to it…

 

 

Library Books

I don’t sleep through the night lately (even though my baby does), but I do read books now, so that is something.  This last batch I picked up, quickly, from the Sterling library after storytime. I was in a hurry, and I was standing by the B shelf in the biography session (which also contains memoirs).  I will often pick up a book, start reading it, and abandon it if I’m not hooked.  These three I followed through to the end. Actually — I do have one more chapter of “Navel Gazing” to read, but I WILL read it, and you will be able to find these three gems at the Loudoun Public Library shortly. (Or, if you are so inclined, please support the writers by buying them — I’ve included links).

Memoirs are my favorite genre of book.  My favorites deliver a heavy dose of both humor and heart.  And if the writer is a bit dysfunctional in some way (drugs/alcohol, family, unhealthy habits of some kind) I enjoy it even more. My favorite author is Augusten Burroughs, who ticks all the boxes and delivers without fail.  These aren’t quite of his caliber (in my very humble opinion), but I enjoyed reading all three.

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Navel Gazing by Michael Ian Black

Great for anyone who has young-ish kids and feels 40 going on 75.  Black discusses his mother’s declining health, his efforts to become a runner (but running mostly sucks), fleeting suicidal thoughts, and his dysfunctional family members with a good dose of humor and and levity.

Sample: “Whatever failings she believes herself to have, Mom has always told us she loves us…I took being loved for granted, and I think any success I have in my life is at least partly attributable to that simple statement.”  (p. 56).

I hope my daughter will feel the same.

Are You My Mother?  by Alison Bechdel

Within the genre of memoirs, I love the sub-genre of graphic memoirs; comics about serious topics such as breast cancer and bipolar disorder which also make me laugh.  Alison Bechdel goes in depth analyzing her relationship with her mother and chronicling her time in therapy.  She also brings in lessons from the great psychoanalysts placing her own story in a historical/philosophical context.

Here’s a sample, which I find quite relatable:

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by Alison Bechdel, p. 85 (if she wants me to take this down, I will).

MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche

It’s hard to make friends as an adult, y’all.  My closest friends are from high school, and the majority of them have left the area.  Northern Virginia is a pain to drive in, and so, over the past… several years… I have made a conscious effort to make friends who live very close by.  AND, now that I am a mom, I am also making a conscious effort to make friends with other moms who have children the same age as Maia.  I am not terribly outgoing, so it is not easy for me.  But hey, the more I do it, the better I’m getting at it.

Rachel, who is a married 20-something, spends a year meeting over 50 prospective BFFs in Chicago.  Her search sounds incredibly exhausting — In the past 10 years I have not done nearly as much searching as she did in a year.  The book is fun, and though she is in a different stage of life than I am, I can relate.  She shares a lot of research on the nature of friendship, and shares her frustrations along the way.  For something a little lighter, pick this up.

Sample: “Teenagers spend nearly 33 percent of their time with friends, but that number drops to less than 10 percent for adults… Because when we’re not busy, we’re tired.” p.72

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Have YOU read any good books lately?  Please share.  Because until I learn to sleep as well as my baby does, I’ll be up reading…

Due Dates are Garbage

While I am sure this is not true for everyone, for me, and many women I know, baby due dates are garbage.*  While I like the idea of them, and I understand that they make it easier for our medical providers to quickly categorize us and place our pregnancies on their timeline, I don’t think it does ANYTHING for us, the expectant mothers. I was pregnant with my first baby in 2017, along with two of my high school friends and ALL 3 of us were at least 10 days late.  We are completely healthy and fairly “normal” except for some odd personality quirks.  For me, I stopped working ON my due date, June 24th, and then spent an insanely long week and a half getting acupuncture, taking walks in the mall and in my neighborhood, and doing many of the f*^&ing crazy things they tell you to do to try to induce labor until Maia was finally born on July 6th.

Today I decided that if there is a next time, I will simply, for my own sanity, add at least 1 week to my due date. Sure, I’ll continue to tell my OB their date when I go to appointments, but for ME, I will put a different date on my own personal and professional calendar.  That way, I won’t bring my life to a grinding halt and have nothing to do except wait and agonize.  For other women in this situation (you know who you are and you have inspired me to write this), I truly hope you are not agonizing.  There are things I did do during that week and a half that I truly enjoyed and look back upon fondly.  For you, if you need some ideas of how to spend your time, here is a list of those:

-I visited Kathy and her 2 kids during the day and played board games.

-I visited my cousins’ kids and my aunt and went to the pool.

-Brian and I went out to dinner and enjoyed delicious food with Car and Ben and stayed out as late as WE wanted to.

-I had a fabulous 4th of July with food, matchstick houses, and fireworks at my Aunt and Uncle’s house.

-I took quiet morning and evening walks around my neighborhood.

-I took power walks around the mall during the hot daytime hours, and enjoyed some unencumbered, purposeless browsing in the Yankee Candle store and Spencer Gifts. Also treated myself to bubble tea, Auntie Anne’s pretzels, and fancy watermelon mint lemonade from the food court Chick-fil-a.

-And finally, most importantly, I took EPIC and WONDERFUL long naps.  (SIGH… oh they were so wonderful…).

You will be fine, and so will your babies.  This is just a moment of slow-ness before a new life begins.  Your baby’s new life, yes, but also a new life for you.

Peace and Love.

*This is mostly a rant, so please take it all with a grain of salt.

The New Normal

Things I love about The New Normal (besides MY BABY, obviously…)

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-For the past 6+ months I have only set morning alarms to go to the airport (Baby saves me time AND has a practical function!). Relatedly, no need to keep phone in the bedroom.

-Not worried about my hair, make-up, outfit, etc. because all allotted prep time is used to get baby ready.

-Learning that I don’t hate “cooking”/puttering in the kitchen (making baby food with new food processor is fun and makes me feel crafty!).

-Also, am no longer afraid of cooking sweet potato and squash.

-Enjoying shows like The Great British Baking Show, Queer Eye, Wild Wild Country and Schitt’s Creek on Netflix while nursing.

-Have an excuse to regularly visit the local library (for storytime!).

-Have practical reason to create and sing random songs around the house (providing baby with language and stimulation, instead of just being weird).

-Easy conversations with other parents/strangers about the baby.  “Oh, I see you have a kid… me too!… blah blah blah etc.”

-Creating my own yoga sequences to fit my needs. (Teacher training coming in handy!)

-Savoring my commute by catching up with friends on the phone or listening to One Bad Mother.

-Strollers are a great way to carry all your crap around the farmers market.

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-Always have an excuse to leave, or stay home in the first place.

-Having enhanced appreciation and admiration for friends with kids, and relating to them on a new level.

Mom Jeans

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Yesterday in an ultimate act of self-love, I bought myself some Mom jeans. I had been wearing the same 2 pairs of maternity pants and one pair of cotton lounge pants any time I had to leave the house. When exercising I had been wearing select pairs of yoga pants that were big enough not to become completely see-through when stretched over my butt. The plan was NOT to buy any new clothes to flatter my post-partum body, because I would be back into my old clothes soon enough.  Plus, if I was stuck wearing the same pants over and over, that would give me extra incentive to work out.

The incentive is there.  Yes, I want to hit the yoga studio every day and sweat so much it runs down into my eyes.  It’s not going to happen with a baby.  I am doing yoga as often as I can (and usually a few times a week – yay!) but even with my space heater, I can’t create the same tapas that I used to feel in the studio.  I have tried doing my old Jackie Warner iron-pumping video, but there is little joy for me in that.  I just started visiting a workout studio, Studio Pink Fit, where I can bring Maia in the stroller and place her next to me while I do trampoline, Pilates, barre, and weight workouts, and so far, I have been 3 times.  It’s easily the best cardio I’ve had in over a year, but making it to class with baby at a time that fits our schedule involves so many logistics that I don’t think it’s likely that I’ll make it more than 1-2x a week.  Still, I know all of these habits and options are a great start.

I’ve realized that my pre-pregnancy body and level of fitness were a source of pride for me.  Prior to getting pregnant, I maintained my body by spending a lot of time enjoying healthy habits and activities that I loved.  In the past 7 months I have been nursing, working part-time, and putting my family first, and I think I have been fairly realistic about my expectations and compassionate toward myself.  But yesterday, after a ho-hum yoga practice in the basement, I tried on my old work pants (which I have hidden in the basement closet) and THEY DIDN’T EVEN MAKE IT HALFWAY UP MY THIGHS.

So that’s why, if you had been at Target yesterday around 5pm, you would have found Brian walking the aisles wearing Maia while I tried on a pile of jeans.  I had had it.  And I decided I wanted on pair of pants that I could wear to feel like a normal person – not sweats, not maternity pants, not yoga pants, not work pants.  Just me pants.  Why?  Because I honestly feel pretty ok about the shape I’m in.  And everyone keeps telling my how great I look and how tiny I am.  Yes, I used to be RIDICULOUSLY F&%$-ING TINY and RIDICULOUSLY F&%$-ING  fit, so I don’t think of myself as being tiny, cute or fit right now.  But it is time for a paradigm shift.

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From this angle you can totally tell how awesome my jeans are.

We all know the frequently trumpeted wisdom: “You are your own harshest critic.”  It is impossible for me to hear too often.  We judge ourselves more harshly than we would judge anyone else, and more harshly than anyone else judges us.  People keep telling me how great I look and you know what?  It’s time for me to start believing them.  Start listening to the yay-sayers.  And sorry to be gross, but I have to remind myself AGAIN that my body grew a baby and continues to create food for one.  So maybe it is carrying around a little extra insulation, and maybe my pelvis has just gotten wider, and maybe one day the time will come for me to throw away all those tiny pants.  But today, I built as much heat as I could in a 50 minute basement yoga practice and it brought me joy. Then I came upstairs and read to my baby and put her down for a nap.  And now I am sitting here wearing my jeans that fit extremely well and are extremely comfortable.  And I feel like me.  Not old-me, not new-me.  Now-me.

Working Moms: This Isn’t Easy

Surely that’s no surprise to you, and it’s not a surprise to me either.  I am only working part-time, and even I feel the pressure, the pulling.  On one end, my career, on the other, my baby.  I love them both, but there is no contest.  Baby wins every time.  Fortunately, it’s not such a clear-cut choice. I can do both, see!  I do fine.  My baby is healthy and happy.  I am maintaining a good reputation at work.

It is a wonderful thing that in our society, women can theoretically do whatever they want.  We can have a career and a family.  In practice, this is not easy for me or, likely, for anyone.  Every day the pulling happens.  I could just drop the career and stay with the baby, but realistically, I don’t think that would work for me.  Since it’s not necessary financially, going full time at work doesn’t feel like an option that I could live with either.  I am lucky.  I have the best of both worlds, in theory.  And I am very fortunate to have a partner who is equitably sharing in the parenting responsibilities.

I have co-workers who are young and hungry, and when I skip a course or a meeting, I feel sad.  My skills may not advance as quickly as theirs.  They don’t have babies, or they make different choices—I understand this.  I am comfortable with my choices.

I cannot be amazing all the time, although I want to be.  But I am doing my best with my commitments, my skills, abilities and capacities, and there are certain things that I am not willing to compromise.

I repeatedly tell myself all these things.

Our sweet baby brings us so much joy.  I wouldn’t change anything.  This is simply a lament.  With all that we take on, there are pieces we must let go.  Life is a balancing act, now more than ever.