Becoming Mother

A book and a blog for first-time mothers

Tag: humor

Week 10: The Baby Weight

You know how you feel when you wake up one morning and you see an enormous zit right in the center of your chin?

You think, Ick. This isn’t how I look.

Maybe you meet someone for the first time on this day that you have this huge zit on your face, you end up thinking, Oh, please don’t think this is the way that I always look. I usually look a lot better than this.

When you’re in the bathroom washing your hands and you look up in the mirror, you think, No… That’s not really me.

That’s how I feel about the baby weight.

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***

At two months postpartum, the uterus is done shrinking. You’ve lost the baby, the placenta, and all the excess fluids. And what remains is officially “the baby weight.”

In this pregnancy, I gained 45 pounds.

Pregnancy books will reassure you not to worry. A lot of women lose up to 25 pounds in the first few weeks!

Ha. Ha.

I’m only down 23 pounds.

Wait… Wait…

Damn it.

Trust me, it doesn’t feel so stupendous when you’re still carrying around another 22 extra pounds.

***

The first pounds are always the easiest.

After the birth, I was already down 12 pounds.

At two weeks postpartum, my body went into flush-the-system-out mode and I started shedding pound after pound. Sure, it was mostly water weight, but God, it felt good every other day to look down and see my weight another pound closer to my pre-pregnancy weight.

This is awesome, I thought. Keep on going!

Then at four weeks postpartum, my weight stabilized. I started walking 30 to 40 minutes every day and I enjoyed that. It improved my mood, for sure, but it didn’t do much for dropping more weight.

Then, at five weeks postpartum, I noticed that most of my maternity pants weren’t fitting very well anymore.  (Okay, one pair of leggings got a huge snag in them and I had to throw those ones away, but nevertheless.)

A good sign, I thought.

So I went to Macy’s and grabbed a few pairs of black stretchy athletic pants. Sweatpants? Perhaps. Yoga pants? Sure. Running pants? I was open to it. Whatever made me feel like I somewhat possessed an inkling of the figure that I had before this pregnancy.

Now, you have to remember, I had no idea what size I was anymore. I hadn’t worn anything but maternity leggings, yoga pants, pajama pants, and dresses for the past six months.

Staring at the sizes, I thought, Okay, be liberal here. Get a size above what you think you are. 

So I did. And I got the size above that one.

I pulled on the smaller size first. When the waistband hit my thighs, I thought, Oh, sweet Jesus…

I should have stopped there, but I thought, Go ahead and see if the second larger size fits.

Another bad idea. I got them up over my hips, but really, who was I kidding? My entire midsection was shaped like a shitake mushroom.

Defeated, I went back out and picked up the next larger size.

At least they’re on clearance. And I’ll be able to use my 20% off coupon that I got in the mail.

“Sorry,” the cashier said, “You can only use that offer on sale and clearance items.”

“Isn’t this a clearance item?” I asked

“Oh, actually this is a Last Chance item.”

“Oh good God,” I said.

“I know, it takes a while to know the different kinds of sales.”

“Yeah, I don’t speak Macy’s.”

“Will you be using your Macy’s card today?”

“Sure.”

After I swipe my card, I see a screen of available offers come up. Oh! There’s the 20% off one!

“Look at that!” I point it out to her.

“Oh, yeah, that won’t work,” she says as she folds my pants and puts them in a bag.

“Why is it being offered to me if it doesn’t work?”

“I mean, you can try, but it won’t work on this item.”

I try. It doesn’t work.

“Well, that’s just cruel,” I say.

“Yeah…” she agrees. “I keep telling them they need to fix that glitch.”

***

I’ve lost the baby weight before.

Okay, all but the last five pounds. But still.

I remember that it took until ten months postpartum for my thyroid to stop going completely bonkers and for all the cardio kickboxing and portion controlling to finally eat away at that stubborn extra layer week after week after week.

I remember telling my husband that I wish I had been kinder to myself at two months postpartum, when it felt like I should just stop caring. The rationale went something like this: You’re not getting much sleep, but at least you can look forward to eating all day.

Another part of me cared tremendously about seizing opportunities to return to my pre-pregnancy physical condition. And when I fell short of my own expectations, I would get upset at myself.

Today, the rational side of my brain tells me, Your body is amazing. You just sustained another life for three-quarters of a year. You gave birth to a healthy baby (without tearing!) and lost 23 pounds in eight weeks. Give yourself a break. 

***

It is hard to keep this all in perspective, but I try.

I tell myself that people don’t usually stare at the big ol’ zit. While we think they’re looking at all our flaws, they’re usually looking at the whole package of who we are. Smile. Confidence. Congeniality.

In the meantime, I’m doing the daily work of exercise and portion control. It’s hard. Especially when I need to get up at 4:00 a.m. to exercise. And all my exercise clothes are tight. And I’ve gone two weeks without any change in weight or inches.

The truth is, exercise improves my mood. So even if I don’t lose weight, I know I’ll keep doing this.

But I’ll still have to acquire a transitional work wardrobe while I’m dropping the weight.

And that means a lot of time in fitting rooms, learning to love myself through this.

Week 5: The Hospital Bill Arrives (A.K.A. Why You Can’t Shop for Health Care)

One of the major talking points of Republicans about their plans for replacing the Affordable Care Act is that…

“It will encourage Americans to shop around for their health care.”

To which I say…

Bullshit.

“Shopping around” for health care isn’t a thing in the United States.

You cannot shop around when you don’t know the prices ahead of time.

I mean… Duh.

(You also cannot shop around if there is only one hospital in your area, as is true for all Americans who live far from larger cities.)

If we’re “consumers” of health care, shouldn’t we have the same amount of information that we have when we are consumers of cars or computers, or even breakfast cereal?

But we don’t.

We often don’t know how much our health care costs until we tear open the bill that finally comes to our mailbox weeks later.

Surprise!

***

Before we had this baby, I tried to figure out about how much it was going to cost us out-of-pocket.

You know. For budgeting.

For planning our Flexible Spending Accounts.

You know. Because we want to be responsible. Because we want to make sure we’ve saved enough money to cover our health care costs.

We’re not in poor health. We don’t have pre-existing conditions. We’re fairly young. We’re gainfully employed.

Republicans should love us. Any plan put forth by them should definitely benefit us right? We’re kind of what they had in mind for good American health care “consumers.”

But the truth is you can’t blame “consumers” for the complicated mess that is the health insurance industry, nor can you blame them for the high costs of health care. You can’t tell Americans to just save their money and choose wisely.

I tried that approach and it didn’t work. Not because I didn’t try hard enough, but because the system is not designed to be transparent to patients.

The patients are an afterthought.

***

Our health insurance provider had some estimates for the costs of giving birth in the two main hospitals where I live. These costs were based on their negotiated rates for medical procedures with those hospitals.

But they were just estimates.

So I called the hospital’s pricing line, staffed by the billing department, for a more precise answer.

Ha. Ha.

First, no one picked up the line. It went straight to voicemail. Over and over again.

So I left a message.

Someone called me back the next day.

When I asked the billing department’s representative about specific prices for having a baby at their hospital, he said that he couldn’t give me any prices.

The pricing line. Couldn’t give me any prices.

So I got specific. I told him that I would be giving birth in the birthing center that is attached to the hospital, where I would be rooming in with my baby 24/7. So we wouldn’t be using the nursery. Would we be charged a fee for the nursery? I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because it’s available to you.”

“So how much will the nursery cost us?”

“I can’t quote you a price on that. It all depends on your insurance and how long you stay.”

“But don’t you have average prices for average stays? Anything?”

“We have a price sheet you can look at, but it’s not going to be inclusive of all of your expenses.”

“I’ll take whatever you have,” I said.

So he referred me to this pricing list, published on the hospital’s website. Why he didn’t give this to me at the beginning of the phone call, I’ll never know.

hospital-claim-2

Indeed, these charges showed up on my insurance claim for the birth.

hospital-claim_ink_ink_li

But so did this mysterious $3500 charge. And a boatload of other charges that are all labeled “Ancillaries” and have no identifying characteristics other than a medical code that only medical transcribers can interpret.

hospital-claim-3_ink_li

I mean, really. Don’t I deserve a little more information than this? If we’re going to pay $1800, I’d kind of like to know what it pays for.

So I wait for the hospital bill to show up. Maybe they have more information than my health insurance company.

Not really.

IMG_20170306_134632

From this bill, I can see that the ambiguous $1850 charge on my insurance claim is actually for the “Recovery Room.” But the other charges?

Who can tell?

The underlying message here is,

Please just accept this price. Your insurance company and the hospital have already decided on a negotiated rate and it’s really just best that you accept this price, pay it, and move on. See how expensive this birth was? You’re lucky that your insurance company is paying so much. So just suck it up and pay. There’s no free lunch, Friend.

***

I’m not the only one who has a problem with this.

“Childbirth is the number one reason why people go to the hospital,” reports Vox’s Johnny Harris in this well-researched video on this very topic. He finds that prices for uncomplicated deliveries in the United States vary from $1189 to $11,986.

I have to admit, I am slightly jealous that their out-of-pocket expenses were only $841.

But who am I kidding? Many, many Americans now have deductibles as high as $6000 now, making my $1000 deductible seem enviable.

The truth is that knowing the costs of this birth would have been helpful for me and my husband, but it didn’t break our bank. We earn enough money jointly that we can absorb a financial blow like this.

But what about the millions of Americans who can’t save $5000 to have a baby in a hospital?

What about those Americans who are “too rich” to qualify for Medicaid, but not rich enough to afford any kind of useful health insurance plan? One that doesn’t deter people from seeing the doctor simply because of the cost?

So politicians, quit telling people that they should learn how to make wise choices so they can save for their health care costs.

And quit telling people that they should “shop around” for their health care costs. 

Not only is it demeaning, but often it is completely impossible.

Postpartum Levels of Sleep Deprivation

*In the fashion of the “DEFense readiness CONdition

DEFCON 5

When: Immediately post-birth – Day 5 or Day 6

Description: You’ve just labored for God knows how long, so you’re already physically exhausted. But you are riding on a hormonal high because your baby is out and in your arms. At first, you believe that you will be able to rest as soon as everyone leaves your hospital room.

Only, they don’t ever really leave. For very long, at least. So what you end up with are minuscule catnaps that amount to no real rest. You close your eyes and try to drift off, but your brain doesn’t really power down.

You pray that once you return home, you’ll be able to sleep. But then, new stressors await you at home, no matter how many people are there to help out. Your life is in flux. The baby warps the fabric of time and space and requires your concerted attention for figuring out how to move through the day in order to keep everyone alive.

And then you’re processing the birth experience, remembering everything that happened. The horrible. The beautiful. The painful. The moments you never, ever want to forget but are already slowly falling through the cracks in your memory.

Then, there are your plummeting postpartum hormones. Your constant need to mop out all the fluids pouring out of you. The postpartum hunger as your body prepares to breastfeed. The afterbirth cramps that continue to pulse in waves.

All of this adds to your mounting anxiety and despair that you will literally never power down again. Although you desperately close your eyes and tell yourself, This is it. Everyone is taking care of everything. I can sleep—You still don’t sleep.

Your mind wants to fall asleep, but your body won’t follow suit.

DEFCON 4

When: Days 7-14

Description: You sleep in one-hour increments around the clock, totaling about 5 hours. You do not reach restorative, REM sleep, but the sleep is deep enough for your brain to put a period to the last segment of time that you were awake. It’s not that you never find the opportunity to sleep. Your body just physically won’t completely let go of consciousness for whatever reason.

Your need for round-the-clock self-care continues, along with your round-the-clock eating which coincides with your baby’s feedings. Your postpartum hormones are still swinging up and down, making you unpredictably emotional.

Sometimes, you just need to cry at 2:00 a.m.

Every time you wake up from a one-hour nap, you feel that you’ve taken a few steps away from full-on psychosis. But after a few hours, when you hear yourself talking, you think, Is that me? Did I say that? Do I sound weird to other people?

You cannot make decisions and you hope no one asks you to do so. Your cognitive processing is at an all-time low. Your head feels warm and fuzzy.

Stupid things make you laugh.

You utter the words, “Oh, sweet, sweet exhaustion.”

DEFCON 3

When: Day 15 – Whenever the baby has only one night feeding.

Description: Small 1-2 hour chunks of sleep at night + 2 naps, totaling 5-6 hours.

You are doing two or three night feedings each night, but it feels like six. Up and down. Up and down. Up, up, up. And down.

But there’s a good side. This is the first time you really achieve restorative, REM-sleep. You begin to dream regularly again, although sometimes you wish you didn’t. Nightmares of losing your baby or discovering your child dead in his crib haunt you.

This is also where chronic sleep deprivation sets in. When you wake up from a good chunk of sleep, you feel restored. It’s deceptive. You feel like you can do anything. Grocery shopping! Daycare drop off! Make my own breakfast! Yes, I can do it all!

But by the sixth hour that you are awake, you are completely spent. This time, your body wants to sleep, but your mind doesn’t. That familiar warm, fuzzy feeling in your head returns and you feel your eyes start to involuntarily close. It happens at predictable intervals, too, because all the sleeping in one-hour increments has trained your body to power down with or without your permission.

1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. is when you feel it. Like clockwork.

1:00 p.m. is not so bad because the baby usually wants to sleep.

But 7:00 p.m. opens a previously hidden door to hell.

Everyone is home now. It’s dinner time. Maybe you have to cook. (Or maybe you just assemble salads and sandwiches, like I usually do.) The daily dishes mount in the sink. The mail comes in. The baby is in the prime “witching hours” of fussiness. He cries, but won’t really eat. He’s asleep, then awake 10 minutes later. Then, asleep. Awake. Crying. Refuses the pacifier. All you want to do is slink away from everyone, miraculously unnoticed and unneeded and bed down in your dark room with the cool sheets to soothe the building heat in your head.

God forbid, one of you gets sick.

That’s when the shit really hits the fan.

DEFCON 2

When: Transitional period of one nightly feeding/waking – no nightly feedings/wakings

Description: This is arguably the most frustrating period of sleep deprivation, simply because you’ve had a taste of the good nights. At this level, you have a bit of an expectation that you will fall asleep and stay asleep for a good six or seven hours. Sure, you’re not technically as sleep deprived as you were during DEFCON 3. But after several days of solid sleep, you begin to believe that your baby has finally dropped the night wakings.

And then it happens. The old familiar 2:00 a.m. wail.

Devastation.

DEFCON 1

When: Whenever your baby has no more nightly feedings or wakings

Description: Besides occasional nights when your child is teething or sick, your child is sleeping through the night and so are you. You begin to forget the horrible sensations of being sleep deprived. Sure, you remember that you hated it, but you truly start to forget the actual sensations of constant sleep deprivation. Sometimes, you tiptoe into your child’s room to watch him sleep so peacefully.

You actually miss waking up in the middle of the night to comfort him.

And then you start thinking…

Hey, maybe we’ll have another?

Nature has a sick, sick sense of humor.

sleep deprivation.jpg

On Using the Snotsucker: A Letter to My Colleague

nosefrida_inaction

Last weekend, one of my colleagues became a father for the first time. Thinking we had plenty of time, our work planned to have a baby shower for them today. Well, life happens, and his wife gave birth a full three weeks before her due date.

A healthy (8 pound!) baby girl.

Our work is still hosting a shower for them today. And frankly, my hat is off to these new parents if they actually show up to this shower when their baby is not even one week old yet.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend.

Still, I wanted to do something nice for them, beyond the typical baby registry items. So I emailed my colleague and asked him what they still needed. He requested some diapers, size 3, for the future. I got those.

But what else?

What else could I get them that would actually be something they would really need as first-time parents?

Then it came to me.

The Nosefrida.

A.K.A. “The Snotsucker”

nosefrida

But such a gift would require some explanation.

So here is the letter that I wrote to go along with my colleague’s gift.

***

Colleague,

Okay, so listen.

Your baby is going to get sick.

Maybe (hopefully) not right away. But she will get sick. And it’s going to suck. Big time. Not just because it hurts to see your kid in pain, but also because you don’t get any sleep if your kid doesn’t get any sleep.

And your kid can’t sleep if she’s so congested with thick mucus that she keeps coughing. And bonus, she can’t blow her nose either.

So with that in mind, I’m presenting you with several items that can help you get through a bad cold. Not all colds will require this level of care. But—God forbid—if she gets RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), getting out that thick mucus could save you from a trip to Children’s Medical Center (and the hefty bill that goes along with that.)

Looking at the Nosefrida (A.K.A. “The Snotsucker”), I know what you might be thinking.

Ain’t no way I’m doing that to my kid! Sick! That’s sooo gross! Forget it!

I thought that, too. And hey, I completely understand the repulsion that drives you to arrive at that decision. In fact, go ahead and continue to think that. You are totally justified in thinking that. It seems rational. It makes sense now.

You’re thinking, I hate snot! You don’t understand. I really have a gag reflex. I’ll puke all over my kid at the very thought of sucking snot out of my kid’s nose!

Yes, I know how you’re feeling. Go ahead and continue to feel that way.

As long as your child is healthy.

But when it’s 2:00 a.m. and your kid has been coughing and coughing and coughing… And you know she’s not going to get better unless she sleeps… And you are out of your mind without sleep… You’ll try anything.

So when you’re ready to “try anything,” here’s what you do.

  • Get your wife. You will need two people to do this.
  • One of you holds your daughter’s head in place. She’s not going to like this at first.
  • The other person sprays the saline mist into each nostril. Be prepared. Your daughter is going to cough. And if she’s a hefty cougher, she might take it too far and actually puke. It probably won’t happen. But better to be prepared.
  • Get the Nosefrida. Make sure the blue spongy filter is in place.
  • Put the light blue end of the Nosefrida up to your baby’s nostrils. Pin the other nostril closed with your finger.
  • Put the red part of the Nosefrida into your mouth.
  • Suck in air. As hard as you can. If you need to empty the gunk in the blue tube into the sink before doing the other side, do that.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Wipe your baby’s nose with a Boogie Wipe. They will keep her nose from getting too raw.

wipes

  • Evaluate if you need to repeat. Listen to her to determine if her breathing is less rattling.
  • Comfort her back to sleep in whatever way works for her.
  • If you have a humidifier (and I recommend you get one), turn it on close enough to where she sleeps so her breathing passages don’t get too dry. This is especially useful in the winter.

So there are my tips for getting through that first awful cold. Like I said, not every cold is going to require this level of care. But some do. And having things on hand to help you get through it will make life a lot easier.

One last little truth. Even though taking care of a baby can be tough, the love that you have for your child numbs you to how hard it really is. You’ll get through it.

Wishing you both all the very best,

Sharon

(P.S. Here is my cell phone number in case you need clarification on what to do.)

Global Billing: Wait, You Want Me to Pay Before the Baby is Born?

Let’s imagine that I need knee surgery.

Let’s say the total estimated expenses for my knee surgery are $20,000.

I have “fairly good” health insurance (at least these days…) so I will pay my $1000 deductible and then 20% of the total costs as co-insurance, which is $4000. And of course, we’ll be paying with our credit card which has a 10% APR (because who has $5200 in their savings account anymore?)

When will I pay for these costs? After I have the knee surgery, right?

Ah, but then the surgeon says, “Yeah, we’re going to need you to pay for the procedure in full, at least a month before your scheduled surgery.”

Wait, what?

Seriously?

And this is becoming a standard practice for obstetricians now. Take a look at these discussion forums, in which mothers talk about the different variations of this wonderful billing protocol called “global billing.”

In some cases, you may have the added bonus of paying two deductibles if your baby was conceived in one calendar year, but born in the next. (Which, by the way, is anyone who conceives a baby from April-December.)

(And in case you’re wondering, it’s also terribly expensive to not have a baby. When I miscarried last year, our out-of-pocket expenses were $1500 for a D&C.)

Global billing can be useful. It simplifies all the billing involved in prenatal care by bundling all the prenatal visits and the obstetrician’s fees for delivery into one big package.

When I had my first child, that obstetrician also practiced global billing, but she didn’t send me a bill until all the services were performed. Then, we got a big, fat $3000 bill about a month after our daughter was born.

That was exciting.

money

***

With this pregnancy, our estimated out-of-pocket expenses begin at about $1400, just for prenatal visits and delivery.

And then there’s that lovely line in the letter explaining that they would like to start immediately collecting payment for all of these services… at my next appointment.

At 23 weeks.

Oh, and…

“These fees are to be paid in full by the 35th week of your pregnancy.”

Their administrative assistant delicately told me that these expenses would not include the hospital costs or ultrasounds.

So let’s add those expenses here:

  • One ultrasound at 20 weeks. (about $300)
  • Any non-stress tests.
  • My hospital bed for 2 days: $1720 (20% of $8600)
  • My baby’s bed in the nursery for 2 days: $1120 (20% of $5600)

Even if I don’t use it. That’s right. Even if I room-in the whole time, I will be paying for the availability of the nursery bed. Ha!

  • Anesthesiology fees, if I have that.
  • That newborn hearing test machine that will roll into my room and seem like a good idea. ($400. Not covered by insurance).

I mean, really. What other medical procedures do physicians require to be paid for in full before you have them done?

And by the way, I really hate referring to birth as a medical procedure. I did all the work until the baby came out. I humbly acknowledge how many people were required to pick up the aftermath of the birth and take care of me during recovery, but I was the one doing the “medical procedure” for the first 34 hours.

Maybe I should be paid. Ha!

When I told my husband about all of this, his response was, “They aren’t getting a dime until after January 1st!”

You know, when next year’s FSA accounts go into effect.

You know, after the baby is born.

The good news is the hospital’s billing department is agreeing to let us start paying after January 1st. Nice of them, huh?

But really, isn’t it a bit strange that we have to request this?

Week 20: The Answer is No.

No, we’re not finding out.

Why?

I love surprises.

That is all.

Terrifying Moments in Parenting: In Random Order

Labor

When you hit the beginning of the transition stage of labor and think, Oh. So this is what it’s like to be torn in half.

Three Years Old

When you walk into the garage and see your child in the driver’s seat of your car. And you have a manual drive car.

When your child slips out of the house at bedtime while you’re watching TV in another room. And wanders around outside of the house, looking for the other parent.

When your friend looks into your child’s playroom and asks, “Should she be allowed to have that?”

One Year Old

When your toddling child grabs the edge of the tablecloth to pull herself up, and all the dinner dishes nearly land on top of her.

When your child wakes up in the middle of the night, shrieking hysterically, vomiting, and struggling to breathe. Later at the hospital, they tell you, it’s okay, it’s just croup and you think, Are you f–ing kidding me? Just croup? I was praying to gods in universes beyond human comprehension!

Two Years Old

When your child stretches overhead, reaching for whatever is on the countertop. And it’s a knife.

When your child drops your hand and darts away from you in the parking lot of a grocery store on a busy Sunday afternoon.

When you see your child walking down the stairs, holding a long blanket that she is about to trip over and fall all, the, way, down.

When your child succeeds in falling all, the, way, down, the stairs.

6 Months Old

When your child makes a choking sound in those first weeks of trying solids and you wonder if you could really perform the CPR technique you learned when you were 34 weeks pregnant.

When you run to the other room to get something and when you return, you see that your buckled-in baby on the changing table has actually flipped to her stomach.

Newborn

When your child nearly falls out of your hands while you’re giving her slippery football-of-a-body a bath.

When you realize it has been four hours since your child last ate. And you haven’t heard a sound.

When you get out of your car at Target and realize, holy shit, the car seat didn’t latch into the base.

When you’ve tried everything, literally everything, and nothing makes her stop crying. And you think, Oh my God. I really cannot do this. I’m not cut out to be a parent and now I have a baby. What am I going to do now?

When you realize that they were all right: You really do love this child more than you love yourself.

And then your imagination glimpses upon the possibility of your child dying before you.

And the utter emptiness that she would leave behind.

And you wonder: How could someone who just moved into your life leave behind a hole so large?

It defies everything that you’ve learned about love.

It makes you wonder, what else is possible?

Mother's_Love

My Child is Desensitizing Me to Horror Movies

I’m sleeping in bed. I sleep on my side because the second trimester.

As I’m lying there in the dark stillness of the night, a teeny, tiny voice whispers directly into my ear.

“Hi.”

Yeah. It’s as creepy as it sounds.

SleepTightMain

This has happened to me about six times in the past week. The first time I jumped out of my skin. What the hell!

It was my daughter. Of course it was my daughter. Who else would it be? But it took a moment to get my bearings.

Her excuses for being awake at 1:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m. have been varied and numerous.

“I… I… I… I want to go downstairs.”

“I… I… I… I’m hungry.”

“You sleeping, Mommy?”

“I… I… I… I want to watch Dora.”

“I’m ready, Mommy.”

“I… need to go poop.”

“I… need a new diaper.”

For some background, she almost never gets up in the middle of the night. And this is the first time that she has rationales for being awake. I would probably find them more humorous if I weren’t four months pregnant, already waking up three times a night to pee. (Maybe I’ll switch to diapers?). Combined with her shenanigans–which she always seems to bring to me, never to her father–her nighttime calling cards are becoming frustrating.

Sometimes, she doesn’t go to bed right away. Sometimes, she needs to sing herself to sleep with a rousing rendition of “Ten in the Bed.”

While my husband is sawing logs through the whole thing of course. (How do guys do it? I’m so very jealous…)

I think it’s a growth spurt and it will be over soon.

In the meantime, I’m glad I haven’t screamed in her face in terror yet.

Week 13: Welcome, Muffin Top

I saw this image on Pinterest and couldn’t help myself.

I believe I’m at the “Welcome, Muffin Top” stage.

stages of pregnancy

In my first pregnancy, I didn’t reach this stage until about 20 weeks. I was kind of proud about that. Hey, look everyone! I’ve only gained 10 pounds so far! And I’m not really showing much at all.

Occasionally, I’d find myself in a conversation with another mom.  A smirk would cross her face and she’d say something like, “It’s because it’s your first. You show a lot earlier with your second.”

Those words haunt me.

As I dressed for work at nine weeks pregnant, I thought, Oh… That’s a little tight.

At ten weeks, I thought, Hmmm… Think I’ll need to dress strategically.  I wore larger pants that I had stashed away from those months when I was losing baby weight last time. I wore well-placed cardigans at work.

At eleven weeks, I realized that my profile had actually changed. I tried to suck it in. Ha!

In my default state, I have some floppy abs above my belly button, but it’s normally no big deal. I don’t do mid-riffs and I exercise enough so that I can still wear fitted dress shirts comfortably. Exercise has helped, but it has never made the flobby abs go away.

At twelve weeks, my uterus has just compressed my floppy abs, much like a push-up bra. Only, this shape isn’t very appealing. To be clear, I’m not talking about a rounded, pregnant belly. That’s not what this looks like.

This is more like a two-hump muffin-top.

This past Sunday, I put on a boxy, long tunic and some black leggings. I looked in the mirror and thought, Come on. You still have a bit of a figure left. Enjoy it while you can. It’s not time to completely lose your waist.

So I put on a black, chunky belt over the tunic. Kind of like this one:

belt

I thought it looked okay. It brought my hips back into view and I thought, Yeah. We’ll go with this.

That was until I sat down.

I sat on the couch and felt self-conscious about the way my boobs and my two-hump pregnancy bump crowded around the cinch point.

Then, my daughter turned to look at me. Her eyes zeroed in on the belt. She couldn’t look away.

“You, you, you…” she started pointing.

Oh, God, she’s even stuttering. Here it comes. The moment my daughter says something that makes me feel humiliated.

“You, you…. You got your seat belt on, Mommy?”

Oh, sweet child of mine.

Another Word for “Vacation”

We took our first family vacation last week. We had been putting it off because traveling with an infant… No. Because traveling with a toddler… No.

But she’s like this whole little person now. A walking, talking, opinionated person. She tells us what she thinks about (usually Clifford and Dora). She tells us when she needs to go to the bathroom (miracle of miracles). She’ll be in preschool by the end of the summer.

And it had been a while since we’ve been able to catch up with our Virginia/DC friends.

So we planned a two-leg journey to take place over the span of one week. We would set out from our home in Dayton, Ohio to spend three days deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains and three days in the heart of Washington DC.

From the suburbs, to the country, to the city, moving along the range of total seclusion to total immersion.

If you’re a parent reading this blog, you understand that to combine children with the concept of “vacation” actually negates the whole concept. You know there will probably be no sleeping in. Someone will probably get sick. You’ll need to reorganize the whole landscape of how-things-are-done in order to get the kids through the day. So we really need a different word for “vacation with children.”

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What follows are a few highlights from this “vacation.”

***

Highlight # 1: Rude Awakenings

From my perspective, the first night in Virginia was the nadir of our vacation. Doug discovered the mattresses in both rooms of the cabin were Tempur-Pedic mattresses, which unbeknownst to me, he is allergic to?

To add to our great luck, our daughter also showed signs of labored breathing after sleeping on it for an hour.

So both my husband and daughter slept in the main room of the cabin while I star-fished on the king sized mattress all to myself.

You’d think that I’d sleep quite well, but no.

Felicity coughed off and on the entire night. Allergies? A cold? It didn’t really matter. Then, she fell off the love seat/ottoman combo in the middle of the night followed by a tiny harmph! Then, she needed help falling asleep again. Now fully awake, I stayed up and submitted a post to Huffington Post (maybe this is the one the magic one that sticks?). I finally drifted off at 4:00 a.m.–only to be woken up at 5:30 by Felicity saying, “I want to watch Clifford.”

The good news is that I’m married to a great guy. And when I told him how little sleep I had gotten that night, he said he’d take her on a drive this afternoon so I could take a nap.

That’s love.

***

Highlight # 2: A Visit to our Friends’ Farm

On our first day, we visited our friends who got married a week before us ten years ago.

They have six children. Six. Yeah.

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Felicity sits among the oldest five children.

They are a lovely family, really. They live in the middle-of-nowhere Virginia and they love it. Their children are a well-behaved, curious bunch and for our daughter, it was love at first sight. They surrounded her with games of “flying” from an overturned bucket onto the sofa and walked her around the yard where “Apple” (a lamb who thought herself a human) pranced in chaotic circles that occasionally sent a group of young chickens skittering.

We let Felicity take it all in. Doug made breakfast. I sat with the mother, Leslie, and we talked about our families and houses. She pointed out how much work her husband, Brian, had finished on their house, a farmhouse built in 1907.

“It causes me a lot of anxiety,” she laughed. “But it has come a long way.” She pointed out where he had taken out walls, installed the new kitchen sink and appliances. As the youngest girl, the newest member of the I-can-walk club, toddled around the dining area, I felt dizzy thinking about all of the work involved in raising six kids and taking care of a house, not to mention renovating it.

We talked lightly of politics, too. Although their political leanings are decidedly more conservative, we all shared common ground that this election year is completely bonkers.

***

Highlight # 3: A Bath and a Book

I took a luxurious 1 1/2 hour nap that afternoon, followed by a long bath in this amazing tub, the window open so the breeze could sweep in every now and then.

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And yes, I was reading the second book in the Games of Thrones series. Ah… A true escape.

***

Our cabin was located about 30 minutes from any major town where you could buy things like milk and paper towels. It was far enough away from anything that you couldn’t hear any traffic. At all.

As we sat around the fire pit, it struck me just how vacant the air was of any unnatural noise. No traffic. No planes. No whirring, churning, clanking, clinking, or anything else that has become the background noise of my daily life. And in the absence of all of that white noise, I could finally hear the sound of the leaves in the trees. Crickets and robins. A woodpecker a mile away. The quiet whispers of blades of grass, kissed by the wind.

I thought about the people who lived on this land a hundred years ago. Two hundred years ago. Three hundred years ago. How much closer their existence directly depended on the earth.

I thought about how the goal of their whole lives was simply to live. To excel was to help their children reach adulthood. As those goals have become more easily achievable, we’ve begun to wade out into the ocean of human possibility. To our waists, our chests, our necks.

It can drown us if we’re not careful.

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***

This wasn’t the first time that we stayed at this cabin.

Our first visit was in 2008 after a week-long vacation on Topsail Island, North Carolina with Doug’s brothers, their wives, and their kids. Instead of doing the whole trip back in one day, we stopped in Virginia and stayed at these newly opened cabins.

The heat of the August sun seemed to summon forth the scent of cabin’s pine walls. We opened the windows and the breeze sailed through. I sat on the porch with a cup of hot tea (Sweets, how can you drink hot tea in the summer?) and looked out on the treetops of the surrounding forest of Indian Valley, Virginia.

Ahhh…

Our second visit was in March 2009. With seven of our friends, we pooled our resources and planned our own version of Iron Chef, over the course of three days, preceded of course by enormous breakfasts. Unfortunately, this meant visiting multiple local stores (all of them tiny since we were miles from larger cities), which also meant clearing out all their milk, eggs, and bacon, as well as whatever vegetables and meat they had on hand. We ate like glutinous royalty for three days.

When we signed the guest book, we made acronyms out of the letters of our first names.

Mine was: “Should Hiring Always Rely On Nepotism?”

Doug’s was less creative: “Dawesome, Oawesome, Uawesome, Gawesome.”

***

Highlight # 4: A Stunning View

Before we left the Blue Ridge Mountains, Doug drove Felicity and me to the top of the hill behind our friends’ farmhouse to get some pictures. The view was stunning.

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Hilltop 1

“Fine. Don’t look at the camera.”

 

***

Because my husband is my husband, he decided to get his car detailed before we went on vacation. Our friend, Debbie, asked me why. I shrugged.

“Because Doug is Doug.”

What I didn’t know at that time was that he would also insist that we get the car washed before we entered DC.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I’m not bringing a dirty car into our nation’s capitol.”

Honest to God, that’s what he said.

Well, then…

(Doug desires that you know that he didn’t get his car detailed, just “washed.” And he wants you to know that he didn’t want his car looking like it had been through backwoods Virginia.)

***

Highlight # 5: Re-aligning Space Expectations

On Wednesday, we relocated to Washington, D.C., where we stayed in an apartment listed on Airbnb. Best decision ever. Two hundred dollars per day bought us a 600 square-foot garden level apartment in the heart of Capitol Hill.

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capitol hill apartment

capitol hill apartment 2

The thing that always jars me when I travel to big cities (Boston, New York, D.C., Paris, London) is how tiny the living spaces are compared to my suburban Ohio standards. At least, according to how much I can afford to pay. Everything shrinks. The space around the sink shrinks. The counter space shrinks. The space between the television and the sofa shrinks. The dining area shrinks.

It makes me feel… a little wasteful. I’m usually a very resource-conscious person, but readjusting my size expectations on trips like this helps me to realign my expectations.

After we watched John Oliver’s latest episode of Last Week Tonight, I looked around the apartment and said, “How much do you think a place like this goes for?”

Doug grimaced. “Yeah, I was curious too, so I looked.”

“Yeah?”

“This location, this size… about $450,000.”

Well, then.

***

Highlight # 6: Remembering Why We’re Not Big-City Folk

“Would you ever want to move out to D.C.?” our friends, Greg and Susan, asked as our kids play in the Building Zone area of the National Building Museum.

“I mean, it’s expensive,” I shrugged. “But if I got a decent-paying job, we could probably make it financially, still… I’m just at a point in my life when I understand that what makes me happiest is to have the strong social support network around me. We’d be leaving our friends. A lot of our family. All the people that we know.”

Doug chimed in and added that we could never afford to have a place in this area with as many possibilities for having a yard.

“Not to mention all the meat-processing and woodworking that goes on in our house.”

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And you thought I was kidding…

“And then, there’s the commute to work,” I added. “It’s twenty-five minutes in Dayton. In rush hour. Which lasts about one hour.”

It’s a lovely fantasy to imagine living “the high life” in an upscale part of a big city. But I know that I’m always happier just visiting. I’m too much of a Midwestern gal to be comfortable in a city where I’m constantly caught between feeling unworthy around the rich folk and feeling spoiled around the poor folk.

***

Highlight #7 : Running around the National Mall

On Thursday morning, I checked the weather. Fifty-two degrees, but no rain. I slid my tennis shoes on and pushed the butterflies down in my stomach.

I was going to run around the National Mall.

Okay, I reasoned with myself, Maybe you won’t make it the whole way. But just do as much as you can.

I started at the corner of 4th Street and C Street and turned down Maryland Avenue NE. I started with a slow jog, just to warm up. It wasn’t raining, but a constant mist permeated the air, matting down my hair. I don’t usually get allergies, but something was causing my left eye to water.

Within the first half mile, I saw a building come into view.

Oh, wow. That’s the Supreme Court.

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I kept going to the Capitol Building, passing by information kiosks and police officers at their posts.

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I took note of all the other runners out there with me. Men, women, young, old. There was this whole running culture out here chugging up and down the National Mall.

Oh my God, it occurred to me. I’m part of a running culture. How did that happen so fast?

It took longer than I thought to get to Washington Monument, and I checked my progress. About 3 miles. I looked ahead to the Lincoln Memorial and thought, Ah, what the hell.

And I swear to God, in that last stretch of track leading to Lincoln Memorial, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” came up on Pandora. My left eye still watering, the mist dampening my ponytail, I picked up the pace.

My love is alive, way down in my heart, although we are miles apart.

If you ever need, a helping hand, I’ll be there on the double, just as fast as I can.

I ran up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, completely giddy with myself. I threw up my arms in victory at the top and gave a thumbs-up to a pair of Japanese tourists. With my heart rate at 178, I slowly made my way down the steps and looked out across the Mall.

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Oh my God. The realization started to sink in. It’s another three miles back to the apartment.

I tried not to think about it too much. Thinking too much is always my weakness. So instead of measuring the way home in miles, I measured it in songs.

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***

Highlight # 8: Seeing What Her Daycare Teachers See, Every Day, All Day

Kids are always changing, that much is certain. So in this week-long vacation, here is what we learned about our daughter’s current development.

  • Her maximum walking time is about three blocks. Then, you need to alternate carrying and walking.
  • She has developed a more sophisticated way of saying, No. It’s “I don’t want to!”
  • She has a new imaginary friend, Nemo the Fish. She loses him all the time, but he magically ends up in either my hand or Doug’s. All the time. You should never pretend to eat Nemo. The consequences are devastating. At least for a whole minute.
  • She loves to say, “Okay? Okay.” Kind of like, Permission? Granted.
  • Her vocabulary is sharpening, but continues to provide endless amusement with phrases like, “No, I don’t want eat a muffin-man!”
  • She actually remembers what I read to her. One night, I read out of a kid’s flower encyclopedia (her choice, not mine). The next day, she stared out the car window and wistfully called out for “Jack-in-the-Pulpit.”
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Jack-in-the-Pulpit flower (Wikipedia)

Yeah.

***

We had to choose between ending our vacation at Jefferson Memorial with the sun going down. Or staying at our friends’ house, talking about nothing in particular.

We stayed with our friends.

Because that’s the kind of people we are.

Because that’s how we’re raising our daughter to be.

***

Highlight # 9: Bending the Rules on Screen Time… For the Sake of Sanity

We are kind of staunchly opposed to training our daughter to expect to always be entertained. Read: buying a car with an already installed DVD player. Too tempting to resist the urge to turn on a video every time we’re in the car.

Instead, we packed the car with books, stuffed animals, and doodling/drawing materials.

We survived the first six-hour leg of the journey to Virginia without DVDs. And the next five-hour leg to D.C. But when we hit the five-hour wall during the eight-hour trek home (complete with Felicity pulling at the car seats straps and reeling into a wailing I-don’t-want-to-sit-car!!), we went to what Doug calls “Defcon Dora.”

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Sometimes, it feels good to be flexible.

***

This wasn’t like any vacation I ever had before. My mind was rarely completely at ease. Sometimes I didn’t sleep well. We didn’t plan each and every meal, although as foodies, it’s tempting. It wouldn’t have allowed us to remain flexible. And when you’re with a toddler and it’s raining and you’ve got another six blocks to go, you just need to pick a place and eat.

I’m not sure when we’ll be able to resume vacations that actually feel like a true break from all responsibility.

But in the meantime, these trips give us the time and space to lay down our other roles and just be…

A family.

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