In the last few months, I’ve started getting the You guys thinking about having a third? comment more frequently. Maybe because several of our friends have just had their third–or fourth–baby.
This is it.
The baby has finally started sleeping a glorious, GLORIOUS, twelve hours at night straight, partially thanks to the four nights of Crying It Out that I stomached. Nothing worse than listening to your baby screaming at full volume for 40 minutes while you paw silently at the door, on the verge of tears yourself.
He’s okay. My God, he had seven, SEVEN!, bottles today. He’s not hungry.
He’s okay. He’s 6 1/2 months old.
He’s okay. He’s 22 pounds. 22 POUNDS! He’s a Monster Baby, for the love of God.
He’s not going to die.
He’s just really, really pissed.
He’s got the eat-sleep association.
You’re not a bad mother.
Oh God… Will he EVER stop crying? Is this damaging his vocal cords?
Repeat that several more times on the first night.
But he did. By the fourth night, Done.
(Can I just say, sure, you love your baby. But man, you REALLY, REALLY love your baby when he doesn’t bother you from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.)
Two is enough.
In the first two weeks postpartum, I went over the numbers in my head and made a list of reasons for or against having a third child. Yeah, yeah. We said we’d only have two, but LOOK AT THIS FACE!!!Oh my God. Babies are incredible. I could totally do this again.
But then, we’d be looking at a minivan.
And I’d be 37? 38? 39? And pregnant? I remember how I felt being 35 and pregnant. I don’t think it’s going to get any easier. This body has been through enough. (And you’re welcome, Offspring.)
And another three years of full time-daycare ($33,000 total at today’s rate)?
I think it was the cost of daycare that was really the deciding factor.
We were talking the other night about just how much “free time” we had before children.
I mean, duh, right? Of course we had more time. In some ways, it was great. Coming home from work and relaxing. Nice. It was “the life.”
Of course, we did other things. I wrote a novel. Doug volunteered extensively for our church, cooking meals for 100-200 people weekly. We hung out with friends. A lot. And it was fantastic. We went out to eat. We entertained.
We also worked more than our fair share at our jobs. I worked about 50-60 hours per week at four (yes, four) jobs. Doug often worked more than his required 40.
But from my perspective now, I look back and think, God, imagine what we could have accomplished for this YouTube channel if we had started doing this before we had kids.
But that was years before YouTube’s currently capabilities and reach.
So here we are.
Instead of having a third baby, we have a YouTube channel.
It’s got his hands and my eyes.
It really is a combination of all of our talents together in one creative outlet.
I was sitting on the couch the other day, working on my laptop, and I pulled my legs up to the cushion and crossed them and thought…
Whoa… Been a while since I’ve been able to do that.
Six months postpartum and 28 pounds lighter–and just now starting to realize that I’m starting to really move past the physical limitations that pregnancy put on my whole body.
From the second trimester until now (October 2016-August 2017), I haven’t felt comfortable with/haven’t been able to…
lie on my stomach (duh)
lie on my back (heavy uterus on my spine)
hunch forward (it cut off my air supply)
sit with legs crossed (belly in the way)
sit with legs closed (again, the belly)
sit much, period (weight of belly would pull me forward)
stand in place for a period of time (low back pain)
Now, think about your day. Think about how much time you spent in any of these positions.
Now, take that time away and replace it with either walking or lying on your side. Because that’s how I basically existed for most of Week 40 and 41.
41 weeks, 3 days
I remember in that last trimester being horrified that my boobs were literally resting on my belly.
And worse, my belly was resting on my thighs.
From my neck to my knees, I just felt like pure belly.
I did not find this reassuring or comforting or magical or any other variation of positive.
I just felt e-nor-mous.
Now that I’m six months postpartum, I’m starting to regain a lot of my old physical self. I can do kickboxing for an hour and running for forty-five minutes. My legs and feet aren’t so swollen that I don’t recognize my legs.
And, hey, I can pee. Normally.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been about a whole year of altered peeing.
At first, it was frequent peeing because of hormones.
Then, it was frequent peeing because of more amniotic fluid.
Then, it was frequent peeing because, geesh, my bladder was completely smooshed under the weight of the baby.
And then, it was my organs moving back into their original places and my brain readjusting my expectations of how long I can go between peeing and then being amazed when, wow, I haven’t peed in two hours and I’m still okay! And, look at that!, I didn’t pee myself when I sneezed!
At six months postpartum, a woman’s body (particularly hormones) start returning to pre-pregnancy levels, making it much easier to shed the baby weight. I’ve started to really notice this in the last three weeks. While it took me 5 weeks to lose 1 pound when I was between three and four months postpartum, I’ve now started to drop about 1 pound every two weeks.
Because what I felt in labor had been deeply spiritual. In my first labor, I sensed God’s presence, but not in a physical way. What I experienced was beyond my physical senses.
But this time… I had seen things.
I had actually physically felt things that I couldn’t explain.
I knew that a blog post would become buried in this website over time. That’s not the way that I wanted to share this experience with an audience. I wanted something more permanent. Something more discover-able and more available to as many people as possible.
So I published a short Kindle book, called Why Your Middle Name is Jacob: A Birth Story.
From August 3-7, I will be giving away free copies, so I encourage you to download your copy today and share with anyone whom you think would be interested in it.
Important: You don’t need a Kindle device to read the book.
As long as you have an Amazon account, you can read this book. Just go to Amazon’s website, log in, find the book, put it in your cart, and checkout (for free). Then choose “Your Account,” and then select “Your Content and Devices.” You will see the book there and you can read it in your web browser.
Included in this e-book are six additional essays that I wrote in the early postpartum period, curated and compiled for a larger audience.
The World is Good Because it is Bad: A Letter to My Unborn Child
These Holy Hours
Week 6: A Great Time to Return to Work
Week 7: And Now My Watch Is Ended
Is There Room in Motherhood for Feminism?
Kindle Direct Publishing only allows me to give away free copies of a title every 90 days. Please take advantage of this free promotional period while you can. After August 7th, the book will be available for $2.99.
If you download a copy, please review it on Amazon.
As an independent author, I rely on you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on my work.
(I shouldn’t have to, but I know how quickly the mind jumps to conclusions…)
I think breastfeeding is awesome.
My love of formula feeding in no way diminishes your breastfeeding experience.
Infant feeding isn’t a zero-sum issue.
(And by the way, when did it become one?)
Formula feeding, one week old
As I’ve written about extensively in my book and in other blog posts, breastfeeding was so much worse than childbirth for me. (And I gave birth without drugs).
With my first baby, I was overcome with feelings of guilt (This shit might actually keep her brain from developing as much as it would if I were breastfeeding…) and shame (If I were a better mother, I would have kept pumping, even just a little bit. Every little bit helps.)
In my mind, I wasn’t allowed to openly love formula feeding. Proclaiming how much I loved formula feeding would have been akin to saying that I didn’t particularly care about the health of my child.
That’s what I thought.
When I try to trace back where those thoughts came from, I realize how much of my own insinuations were responsible for the guilt and shame that I felt. I read four or five credible books about breastfeeding when I was pregnant. (The Breastfeeding Book by Martha and William Sears was particularly good.) My takeaway from this and the other books was that, as long as I stuck with breastfeeding, my chances of success were very, very high.
I just needed to buckle down and commit to the process.
Because, let’s face it, breastfeeding is better for me and the baby.
I LOVED THIS MESSAGE.
Because if there’s one thing my friends and family know about me, it’s that I CAN BUCKLE DOWN AND COMMIT like no other.
I’m like a dog with a bone when I move something to the top of the priority list.
And in those first weeks after my first child was born…
Let’s just say, Ruff, ruff.
There’s a difference between loving the way that you feed your child and doing it simply because you hate the alternative.
I had to learn this the hard way with my first child.
Because, I confess, I didn’t love formula feeding her.
I just hated the alternative of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding made me absolutely miserable. It brought me no joy. It only brought physical and emotional pain. Feelings of inadequacy and resentment. And days and days of being awake for 22 out of 24 hours (and that brings you to the brink of psychosis, let me tell you).
So I quietly switched to formula feeding when my daughter was 12 days old. Every time, someone saw us feeding her tiny bottles of formula, the mental tape of guilt and shame ran its course in my mind.
I bit my lip and hoped no one would say anything.
Most people didn’t.
But some did.
And then I was prepared with my boilerplate speech that grew increasingly awkward as I tried to figure out on-the-fly if this audience really needed to know the shape of my nipples or the amount of milk that I was producing. (Does anyone really need to know that?)
It was agonizing.
But this post isn’t supposed to be about how hard breastfeeding was for me.
It’s supposed to be about how awesome formula feeding has been for me.
I’ll admit, I didn’t automatically switch to loving formula feeding after having my second baby simply because I had done it before.
But once I realized the absolute deluge of work that having a second child heaped upon us, I was ALL ABOUT FORMULA FEEDING.
With no grandparents living nearby to constantly stop by and help out, we bear the full load by ourselves. (Read: full-time jobs, daycare drop-off/pick-up, hours of housecleaning every day, lawn mowing (a HUGE yard), shopping, doctor visits, dentist visits, blah, blah, blah…)
So trying to breastfeed when my body wasn’t cooperating?
Breastfeeding even if my body were cooperating would have been a challenge.
I think the only way I would be breastfeeding right now is if…
1) I truly loved the experience of breastfeeding
2) I could hire outside help to pick up my share of the household chores.
Barring those two crucial factors, breastfeeding would just not happen.
Because now, the day is doubly full of responsibilities.
Now, there are no simply no free moments to wade through the quagmire of the Internet and second guess everything that I’m doing and compare this product and that product and this method and that method.
I no longer run Google searches like “infant formula obesity” or “does formula cause diarrhea?” or “comparison of intelligence breastfed and formula fed” or “mother child bonding only breastfeeding?” And then get sidetracked into a discussion board where self-righteous and insecure young mothers tear each other apart.
So unh-uh. Ain’t nobody got time for that any more.
If you’ve gotten this far, perhaps you want some specific reasons that I love formula feeding.
Here are my top reasons, in order of importance to me.
I know exactly how much my baby has eaten (This always helped put my mind at ease in those early weeks when your baby is trying to regain their birth weight.)
I know exactly what ingredients my baby has eaten.
I don’t have to worry about how my diet affects my baby. (After ten months of pregnancy, this is a huge relief, I can tell you.)
My body starts to feel like it belongs to me again, much sooner.
I can more easily share night feeding responsibilities.
I don’t have to pump at night or at work, just to keep my milk supply up.
Actually, just, I DON’T HAVE TO PUMP. (Those machines are like a form of torture, I swear to God. And of course, they were invented by a dude.)
I don’t have to scrape the bottom of my soul for the willpower to endure a baby’s incessant need to nurse all day, for several days–just to get my baby through a growth spurt.
I can get a babysitter and leave the house–without wondering how soon I’ll need to pump or nurse before my boobs explode.
I will never run out of food for my baby–even if my body isn’t cooperating (a statement of middle-class privilege, I acknowledge. Although… so are a lot of these reasons…)
If I get sick, I can take time to recover without having a baby attached to me all hours of the day.
I can exercise without worrying about diminishing my milk supply.
Actually, I can just live life without worrying about diminishing my milk supply.
I only spend 2 hours per day feeding my child (20 minutes X 5-6 feedings), rather than 4.5 hours per day (45 minutes X 5-6 feedings–that was about the fastest I could ever nurse).
I didn’t have to worry about whether my baby would take a bottle at daycare.
I don’t have to confront the frustrating situation of wondering if some nut job is going to find my breastfeeding “inappropriate.” (IT’S NOT. GET OVER IT.)
I’m sure I could go on…
I write this post specifically for mothers who are formula feeding.
Because I know what it’s like to be sitting in a group of moms and overhear someone refer to infant formula as “garbage.” Or hear another mom say, “Well, if that’s how you want to feed your baby…”
It ain’t fun.
And, if you were raised to be “ladylike” like me, you didn’t stand up for yourself. (Instead, you just pretended that you didn’t hear… and then complained about it later to an accepting audience as a means to let off steam. Being female is a bitch, isn’t it?)
What I want to say to you is this:
There will be sooo many times in motherhood when you can’t please everyone, no matter what you do.
This truth hit home hard just a month ago when another daycare mom who was considering withdrawing her baby (who had started just weeks earlier) called our daycare center a “dirty”, “expensive,” “baby factory.” (Expensive, sure, but dirty? Uh, have you been to other daycare centers???) After I told her that I liked our daycare, she said,
“Huh. I just thought my baby deserved better. But you’re fine with this, right?”
Ick. I couldn’t get out of the conversation fast enough.
Trust me. There will always be someone who will try to make you feel badly about how you’re raising your kids. No matter what you’re doing.
And if you need even more assurance that everything’s going to be okay, here’s Adam explaining why baby formula isn’t poison.
Press on, moms.
There will always be someone who is sure you’re not doing the best that you can. (And for some reason, it’s their responsibility to let you know about it.)
What if I told you that my first thought when I heard him crying in the night wasn’t, You poor thing, are you okay?
What if I told you it wasn’t my second thought? Or even my tenth thought?
It was probably more like my thirtieth thought.
After, Oh my God, what is your problem?
After, Look, we’re not doing this all night. We’re just not. I’m serious.
After, What the f**!?! Go to sleep!
After, I swear to God, if you wake up one more time after I put you down, I’m going to make you scream it out.
After, Why tonight? Really? You could have done this any other night. But now? Really.
After, I’m serious. I’m so f***ing serious.
And on and on.
After eight times of rocking him to sleep and trying to transfer him to the crib over the course of an hour, I relented. I let go of the plan that I was going to get up at 5:00 a.m. to exercise. I let go of the plan that I would even get one hour of sleep before work started.
I just let it all go and embraced the exhaustion.
If I was going to be tired, I didn’t also have to be stressed and resentful the whole day about being tired.
So when I handed the baby over to my husband at 5:45 that morning, I didn’t yell or swear. I just told him what the night had been like and asked him to stay home with the baby while I took the three-year-old to daycare.
Grocery shopping? Okay. I’ll do it. And I’ll pick her up from daycare. I said.
And would you stay home with the baby while I go to work? I asked.
I showered. I made my coffee and drank it while I put on enough make-up to cover up the night. Then I dressed my daughter while she was still waking up and still like a wet noodle. Then, I coaxed her into eating her vitamins and drinking her milk. I put her lunch and my lunch together and made formula for the baby.
I loaded F’s lunch bag, her backpack, my work bag, my lunch bag (but not H’s bottle bag or H’s diaper bag since he was staying home). (If you’re keeping track, it’s usually six bags in and out of the car. Seven on Mondays and Fridays.)
I drove fifteen minutes south to her daycare.
Then I drove twenty-five minutes north to work.
I got off the Interstate with another car.
We both followed the same route until it was clear we were both going to the same university. We parked next to each other. I looked over and saw that the driver was a guy, probably my age. He sprang out of his car holding only a set of keys.
Just. A. Set. Of. Keys.
I saw very plainly in that split second what it takes for me to get to work now versus what it took for me to get to work before I had children.
Now, the morning is a whole orchestrated production. A delicate ballet of exercise, showers, wake-up calls, second wake-up calls, third wake-up calls, Oh-my-God-get-out-of-bed-already! wake-up calls, vitamins, lunch bags, baby bottles, Get-your-shoes-on, Go-potty, Get-your-shoes-on, diapers, Are-your-shoes-on, teeth/hair-brushing, For-the-love-of-God-get-your-shoes-on!, breakfasts, carseats, strollers, kisses, conversations with teachers, punctuated with a deep, satisfying sigh that yes, finally *I* can go to work now.
I wasn’t at peak performance on Friday, May 12th, but I pulled through. I recovered.
Thankfully, most nights have not been like that lately. Most nights, he sleeps through the night. Sometimes, he has a night feeding. And then he goes back to sleep.
And by the way, don’t ask if someone’s baby is sleeping through the night.
Unless you know them pretty well.
It’s just not good manners. I mean, really, it’s not a great topic for small talk. The only way that question is small talk is if the answer is clearly “yes.” And the likelihood of that is… meh…
A more likely situation is that you send the parent into a fury of jealousy as they imagine you sleeping on a billowy, undisturbed cloud of silence for eight, God, maybe even twelve! extravagant hours. Only to wake up to the luxury of you strolling to your bathroom and taking a hot, steamy, uninterrupted shower, and then magically emerging from the bathroom, just moments later, completely dressed to the nines and made completely over, from your hair down to your nails. And, lo, breakfast is already made. And it’s cinnamon rolls and waffles and bacon and sausage and the most delicious coffee you’ve ever had in your entire life–all 0 calories! And the only thing that you have to do is climb into your brand-new Mercedes and drive to work in completely, inexplicably empty roads and highways until you are work. Where everything is already done. And the only thing you need to do is drink more coffee and catch up on House of Cards, which you still haven’t gotten to see one blessed moment of and it’s driving you crazy (even though the reviews for Season 5 aren’t very good). But still. You binge. All. Day. Long.
Jealousy makes you crazy.
Do you really want to drive the person crazy?
Getting through the tough nights without completely losing your mind is an exercise in long-term thinking.
It’s easy to think, I really can’t do this again. I’m going insane. No. I’m not doing it. I refuse. He’ll just have to scream it out tonight.
It takes some effort to reshape your thoughts into,
It’s not always going to be like this.
There will be an end to this.
You’ll live. Oh, you’ll be tired. Way tired. But you’ll live.
Some women tear up as they leave their children at daycare for the first time.
I practically skip inside.
Grin from ear to ear.
I. LOVE. DAYCARE.
Last Monday was Henry’s first day of daycare. Another daycare mom saw me taking him inside and asked if it was his first day. After I nodded, she jumped out of her van and gave me the biggest hug and said, “Isn’t it great!”
“YESSS!!!” I yelled.
“With the first one, you’re bawling about it and then the second, you’re just like ‘have fun!'”
She gets it.
It’s true. The first time we started daycare was much more involved and made me a little nervous. We spent about 20 minutes going through the list of critical bits of information that the infant teacher needed to know to feed, change, and soothe our baby to sleep.
She likes to be rocked to sleep while being held sideways. Like this. And try to put her down 90 minutes after she wakes up. We haven’t started solids yet. How do you heat the bottle for her? She likes it just lukewarm. Not too warm. If she starts crying and she’s not tired, she might be wet. Sometimes. Just check. You’re going to check every hour or so, right? Okay. She’s really pretty easy to take care of.
But after two days, I’m pretty sure we thought daycare was a Gift from God. (Thank you, Ms. Cathy!)
It was like, Wait… We just drop the baby off at 7:00 a.m. and we don’t have to be back until 6:00 p.m. at the latest????
Here’s some money.
Here’s lots of money.
I love you. Here’s some cookies.
Do you like Panera? I got you a gift card. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Thank you so much. You’re wonderful.
Daycare pretty much taught our daughter about hand-washing, drinking from a cup, and sitting in a chair for meals. They helped us potty train her. They taught her how to sit in a circle for storytime, how to cut with scissors, how to hold a crayon, and how to fingerpaint. They provided an atmosphere full of dress-up clothes, kid’s kitchens, and books, books, books. (We didn’t have to buy any of it! And I’m not responsible for cleaning up the toys!) They taught her how to walk in a line and take turns. They showed her that a room can be stunningly decorated with the artwork of little hands.
And oh so important… They introduced her to the concept of sharing.
They used the classroom to teach rules. They modeled politeness and respect for others. They reinforced the lesson that actions have consequences.
This does not make me sad.
It doesn’t make me feel like I’m not doing my job as a mother.
I don’t regret sending my kids to daycare.
I wholeheartedly embrace it. I even embrace it to the tune of half of my salary.
On the surface, it’s easy to see why some moms love daycare as much as I do. It gives women a break from the role of being a mother.
This is huge.
Mothers in particular are constantly carrying around a mental list of things to do that just grows longer and heavier with each child.
Daycare allows them to put some of that down.
And pick something else up.
But my love of daycare goes beyond that.
Daycare, I believe, is an expression of feminism.
For those of you who are completely turned off by the term “feminism”, stay with me for a minute. Because that word gets a bad wrap in some circles. Feminism doesn’t mean “man-hating” or “female victimization.” (I do not blame men individually for the culture and structure of our society. I blame patriarchy.)
Feminism is about sharing power. It’s about making sure that everyone has a voice. It’s about making sure that when important decisions are made about policy (both in government and business), the people who are making those decisions don’t all come from the same background (White. Male. Native-born. Able-bodied. English-speaking.).
Millienials are the first generation to kind of get feminism. Not all of them do, but from my anecdotal observations, it seems like some of the assumptions that we had about gender and power are finally not assumptions anymore.
One of our former teenage babysitters told us that when she was catcalled in the school hallway, she turned around, went up to the guy, and told him in very clear terms,
“You don’t treat me that way!”
When I was growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, we were taught in school to imagine our futures. What would we like to be when we grew up? Doctors, astronauts, teachers? Athletes? Superheroes? Dinosaurs? Robots? We were encouraged to let our imaginations run wild.
Like many women in their 30s, I truly do not ever remember an adult — teacher, parent, or family friend — telling me that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do. No one told me that I was expected to get married and have kids right away. (Although my grandmother did ask me when I turned 18 if I was interested in any good boys…)
I was like many of my female friends. In high school, we all worked hard and earned good grades.
We went to college.
We got good grades there, too.
Maybe we went to graduate school.
And we got good grades there, too.
We followed the rules. We were doing fine.
We got jobs. We didn’t negotiate salary (because that’s not what good girls do, even though they should, we just couldn’t imagine drawing a line in the sand. That’s not who we are.)
And then we had children.
And everyone looked at us and said, “Are you going to stay home or return to work?”
No one asked our partners if they were going to stay home.
And there you have it.
The message is clear. It’s your baby.
It doesn’t provide any economic benefit to this company. It’s even costing us productivity. Make up your mind. Do you want to work here or not? Six weeks is a lot of time for you to be gone. You don’t want to make that kid dependent on you anyway, do you?
What about all the things that I could be now that I’m an adult?
Was it all just empty promises, fueled by good intentions and a dream of equality?
Because, I’m here to tell you, access to affordable (!!!) quality daycare is critical for keeping women’s voices at the table. (Side note: The United States was a hair’s breadth away from free universal preschool for all in the 1970s. Here’s what happened to that awesome, bipartisan bill.)
The tide is turning, though.
Almost all of the dads that I know assume as much responsibility for their kids’ lives as their mothers do. When they take care of their kids, they’re not “babysitting.”
I mean… duh.
They’re being dads.
When they take their kids to the grocery store, it’s not some miraculous event that comes around only once every few years.
My husband knows how to swaddle a baby better than I do. He was the one who made the baby food and showed me how to make smooth formula without all the clumps. He can change a diaper in the dark and he’s even yelled at me for making too much noise while he’s trying to put the baby to sleep.
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.
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!
I’m only down 23 pounds.
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?”
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.
In Game of Thrones, the Night’s Watch is a group of monk-like men who devote themselves to defending the icy wall that separates the Realm from demonic Whitewalkers. In their oaths, they make this pledge:
Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.
Being a mother of a newborn is a bit like being a Brother of the Night’s Watch.
Not completely. But a bit.
It’s sold to you as important, noble, and life-changing work. And it feels like this for a time, while it’s still fresh and new.
But after a time, you feel like you actually have a lot in common with the Brothers of the Night’s Watch, sent to the end of the world, isolated, doing the work that must be done, the work that safeguards and ensures that humanity goes on, but that no one else will do.
At one time, you looked forward to the night hours that other mothers had once told you were so dear and precious. They talked about those hours as if they had been part adventure, part battle, and part romance.
But then, you find yourself standing in the midst of this long-awaited dream, bleary-eyed, weary, frustrated, resentful, and just downright sad.
And in that moment, it feels like you have been duped. It feels like you have fallen for a grand prank, as if you’ve been traveling toward some oasis, only to find that once you got there, there was nothing but sand to drink and no one to share your frustration with but the stars.
I imagine that it’s a lot like how Jon Snow felt when he realized that the other men who were travelling to the Wall with him were criminals who were being sent there as punishment.
So fueled by your euphoric and powerful love for your child, this feeling that you’ve been doing incredibly important, albeit invisible work, transforms into something quite different.
Loneliness. Singularity. A feeling of forgottenness.
While everyone else has moved on with their lives, there you are. Ever rocking. Ever feeding. Ever diapering and holding. Traveling in a repetitive loop of time. Frozen.
It weighs so heavy on you.
It feels like it will never end.
It feels like this will forever be the rhythm of your life.
When we came home with the baby just six weeks ago, I called those hours between midnight and 6:00 a.m. “The Night Watch.” They were the hours when it was only me and him. My husband and daughter were sound asleep. So was my mother, who had come to help us in those first few weeks.
And then there was me and Henry.
And six hours.
And three feedings.
For about a week, the Night Watch had three feedings, around 1:00, 3:00, and 5:00 a.m. And then it shortened to two feedings, around midnight and 3:00 a.m.
Last week, as Henry turned six weeks old, it shortened even more. We noticed that he would sleep for five and a half hours in one stretch, usually between 11:30 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.
This was exciting. Because it opened the possibility of me being able to seriously regain some sleep. My husband and I agreed to share the responsibility for the two feedings. Since I’m much better in the morning and he’s better at night, I took the early morning feeding and he took the late night feeding.
A few days passed like this.
It was sooo great.
In bed at 9:00 p.m. Up at 5:00 a.m.
And I got so much stuff done.
Between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., depending on when Henry would wake up to eat, I could (usually) accomplish the following, always in a different order.
Exercise (low-impact kickboxing or walking)
Packing Felicity’s lunch
Feeding/changing Henry, putting him back to sleep
Getting Felicity dressed/ fed/ dropped off at daycare
Wake up Doug
And then it occurred to me.
And now my watch is ended.
There will still be those awful nights of teething and illness when he can’t sleep more than a few minutes at a time. And sometimes, his sleep will be messed up and he’ll want to eat at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.
But for the most part, it’s over.
There is no more Night Watch for me.
Just like that.
And now, I can hardly remember how long those hours were. My memory tells me that I felt so tired and heavy. I remember pulling myself out of sleep and moving through the night, bare feet on the cold tiles of the kitchen floor, digging my hands into the pockets of my robe. Pouring the formula into a bottle, microwaving it (which you should never do… right?), and then trudging back up the stairs (had I actually walked down them? I can’t even remember…).
But the sensations are gone. I cannot recreate them.
And so, those tired moments have become uncoupled from the exact cause of what made them so difficult: the actual feelings of utter exhaustion.
What was once so horrible in the moment has already become a fond memory.
One, I’m sure, I’ll recall next year with longing and misty eyes.
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…
“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.
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.
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.
Indeed, these charges showed up on my insurance claim for the birth.
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.
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.
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.