The new arrival

advanved maternal age, babies, boys, change, first pregnancy, first time dads, first time moms, motherhood

Where. To. Start.

The fact that I’m writing this while leaning over the kitchen counter soaking my nipples in warm salt water?
Or that the 17 day old baby boy is sleeping and I have maybe 2 precious hours to get myself back to feeling like a person?
Or that after 60 hours in labor I ended up having a c-section and the whole ordeal had me PTSD crying almost every day for a week after?
Or that I finally saw my incision, slightly crooked and cut longer on the right side than the left because his little shoulder was lodged in a weird way on my right side, and felt like some science experiment?

No one told me that having a newborn would reduce my being to a pure physical vessel…my only purpose to feed and care for a helpless being. Or that caring for a newborn is a one way street, giving everything to this little life who cares not that you have layers of stitches crossing the bikini line, or that your mammary glands are freaking out, swollen and sore, or that your uterus is shrinking and cramping, that there will be vicodin and stool softeners and more people wondering about your gastrointestinal functions than you ever thought possible, that you would replay the events of your labor over and over again with your husband and cry over the pain and trauma of it all, that he will see and do things for you that you never imagined (involving blood and vomit and maxi pads and helping you walk and do ANYTHING).

But I was warned how wonderful it would be, how I would fall in love like never before, how all the pain would go away once that little babe was in my arms.

Readers, moms to be, new moms, professional moms…I have to say this wasn’t 100% true for me. It is there. It comes and goes. It is profoundly present when he smiles in his slumber, when his little fuzzy head nuzzles into my neck and he falls asleep, cooing and making the sweetest sounds, when he sees my face now or hears my voice and I think I can truly see some sort of recognition, when I’ve learned what soothes him and can calm those cries with a song, or a rocking chair session, or my milk. Still, it’s a liiiiittle more like a blind date than love at first sight…we are getting to know each other. Sussing out what we are in store for us with this union. Learning what we can tolerate, let go of, give, what we love about each other, what doesn’t work. There’s the fear of commitment and enormous responability mixed with an eternal love that can’t be explained.

And remember how afraid I was of losing my relationship with my husband? Well I’ve never loved him more. Our household has been a constant (and VERY welcome) stream of help and family and visitors, so we haven’t had a lot of alone time, but holy moley…he has become the head of our household, a caretaker like I’ve never seen, and although we were committed to co-sleeping, we now start the baby in a bassinet and the half hour we have together, in bed, side by side, has become one of the best parts of my day.

The baby was feed and changed and asleep last night at 10pm, my husband’s mom was in town and we were feeling ambitious, so we decided to surprise my husband and show up at his work. When he saw us, his family, he teared up.

Because it’s finally hitting us. This is our family. We are family.

I looked up “family” and the defintion is pretty sterile:
: a group of people who are related to each other

: a person’s children

: a group of related people including people who lived in the past

I suppose this cardboard definition is necessary and the best dictionary.com can do with the “traditional” sense of the word. But what a shame. If you are reading this, you probably understand how little justice these definitions do the word.

I am formimg my own definition and will share it soon as I learn more from this little boy and the big man in my life. It’s bubbling inside me, this deep feeling of awe and confusion and love and sense of forever…

The Time I Painted the Living Room in My Underwear, and Other Stories about Marriage and Pregnancy

31 weeks pregnant, advanved maternal age, boys, change, first pregnancy, husbands, pregnancy, third trimester

That’s going to be the title of my memoir.

I want to hear from men about going through this pregnancy process. From finding out, to really grasping the concept, the fears, what it’s like to be on the outside looking at this woman who is carrying your child.

Had an interesting few days with my husband this last week. We’ve been trying to not go more than a week without seeing each other, and the long distance will thankfully soon be coming to end. The last time I was in town, we were the cliché couple at the Sherwin Williams store pouring over paint chips, trying to decide the merits of choosing “accessible beige” over “canvas beige”. The guy behind the counter assumed we were home owners, and gave a true chuckle when he heard that no, just a couple of dumb renters, expecting a baby, who signed a lease too soon and are moving into a fixer-upper.

I guess I expected the apartment to be painted when I returned this week. I mean, if I were there, I would’ve had that stuff slapped on the walls in probably 48 hours. My nesting pistons are firing on full steam. I want to see progress: the nursery looking like a place for a baby and not the break room for the camera crew for Sesame Street, our pictures on the walls, everything in its place so we know what doesn’t have a place, a plant or two – some life, some evidence that a family lives in this space, not a frat house on holiday, or Cindy Lou’s home in Whoville with one little ornament rolling around a bare wood floor.

Long story short, that’s not what I saw. Not much had been done, and my husband, the man I love dearly, was in a bad place. He looked like hell (for him…and he’s really good looking). This man that I adore is a creature who needs routine. Getting sleep, working out, eating well…this magic combo bodes well for the rest of his daily life. Substituting sleep for the internet, working out for post-shift beers and a cigarette, and mornings to work on our home for catching up on zzzzzs as the dull gray cloud of an approaching winter starts to set on Chicago…not. good.

I cried. Like, holding my face in my hands cried. Used words I’ve never said to him like “disappointed”. And I suddenly felt more like a mom than a partner, more like a “Wife” than his love. It was shocking…his inertia, this paralysis, this depression…when we have so much to do. The next day, while he was at work, in an act of rebellion and the fire to get things done while my body still feels pretty normal, I painted the entire living room and kitchen, trim, windows, crown molding, edges, two coats…everything. In four hours. He had been adamant that I not paint because of the fumes, but thanks to VOC-free paint (yeah!), my only obstacle was not having any crappy clothes/shoes to wear and not being able to fit into my husband’s pants. So…

October 29, 2014 became the day I was literally barefoot and pregnant, on a ladder, painting the living room in my underwear.

I had tea the next morning with a friend of ours who listened to what I had observed and with total confidence declared “He’s so scared.” And I started to feel bad for the things he had done that maybe I didn’t acknowledge enough. All these questions started flooding in about expectation, and being so focused on myself that I wonder how much I’ve allowed for his experience to enter into our joint equation, and wondering why he wasn’t as eager to make a home for us, with the same urgency that I feel, and on and on and on…

I read this article today that came across my facebook feed, and the headline was “The Three Sexiest Words a Man Can Say”. Those words were: “I got this”. Those words were exactly the ones I wanted to hear, to feel the result of…but here’s the thing: I feel guilty about that.

I’m a woman who has always fended for herself. I have all these female role models in my family who GET. IT. DONE. when stuff needs to be done, who do not hesitate, who move, act, and are always part of the solution. It’s in my DNA to solve problems, to crave results, to keep trying answers until the problem is solved. I cannot rest until all the little boxes are checked off the list. And I should be fine with me being me, and my husband, who doesn’t move at that same pace, being him. Right? And yet the only message I kept hearing in my little, sad head was “if he really loved me…”

There has to be something to this. Now of course I know plenty of men who’ve been heroes all through this crazy 9 month gestation (according to their wives). And I’m married to a great guy. A great partner. But something is there, some resistance, some inability to even put a paintbrush to a wall that symbolizes something much bigger. I want to talk about it. I don’t want to just wish he was the man in the article that says the three words every woman wants to hear. I don’t want to hear my sister say that he needs to strap on a pair and be all about me and the baby (oh, she was staying with us…adding a little public flair to his shortcomings). I want to know how I can help, what’s really going on. Because the men standing on the sidelines of pregnancy are going through something deep, knowing that it’s “the woman’s time”, and that they aren’t allowed to be tired, or stressed, or this or that, because all their “dude you’re a dad” books tell them it’s nothing compared to what their pregnant partner is going through…

Ugh. I don’t know. I haven’t read too much about this. There is definitely lots of internet space filled with women who have really terrible partners who are totally MIA, and straight up a-holes. And of course lots of pinterest perfect husbands who arrive home after a long day work with the perfect treat and gift certificate to a spa. But I haven’t found the women with great husbands who are struggling with fear, who maybe aren’t living up to the expectations set up in the baby books and blog posts.

Looking forward to coming out the other side of this and reporting back.

And to a freshly painted apartment 🙂

Cows

advanved maternal age, boys, first pregnancy, in-laws, motherhood, pregnancy, third trimester

So my sister has a new boyfriend. He’s great. I like them together. She’s happy around him and I think they challenge each other in all the right ways.

The boyfriend has a father. Who might be a hoot. In all the right ways…or not.

I met father o’ boyfriend in a coffee shop last week. I was NOT prepared to see anyone I knew. You know those days? When you just run out the door and hope there’s maybe a crumb of concealor somewhere in your bag, or on the steering wheel (I sometimes do my make up in the car…but NO MORE!), and you tell yourself that maybe you’ve pulled off the messy top bun with the glamour of Gisele? It was one of those mornings. I ran in the coffee shop my sis works at to grab a delicious cup of decaf joe, and there they were.

The mom reminded me of a tall Nancy Regan, with a polished, beautiful first lady air about her. The dad was in full out Packer gear, and didn’t have much to say. He grew up on a farm in Central WI, and I looked like the Wrecks of Hesperus, so I didn’t blame him for the stone cold expression on his face. Maybe he was imagining that his son could reproduce with my sister, and genetically, their offspring could come out looking like my hot mess of a self.

Of course the convo turned to my pregnancy, and the awkward talk of where it was going to happen and how I was feeling about birth, and  if I was taking Lamaze and yadayada. Talk that’s maybe a little personal for strangers, and I always get a tad self-conscious, like I have to apologize for doing Bradley Method and going au natural.

Then, out of nowhere, pops pops in. And delivers a monologue of advice and observations. Some gems that are seared into my memory:

“You know cows lay down while they labor and when they are about to give birth, they stand.”

“Cows moan, and moo, and below for hours and hours.”

“You know some cultures they would dig a hole in the ground and (*insert a spitting sort of sound*) squat and have their baby right in that hole.”

“I’ve seen dogs, cats, cows, give birth tons of times.”

And my fav:

“Child birth is the hardest thing you will ever do in your entire life.”

I think I laughed a lot, in effort to help the new boyfriend not look so mortified as he hung on to his mom’s chair for dear life. There was some joke as we said goodbye about me only being able to think of cows now when I deliver, and I think I may have hahahahagreedhahaha through my ohmygodohmygodsmile.

Good to know a midwestern farmer sees all mammals as equal: bovine, human, canine…and that he feels my labor pains. From the farm belt to your ears ladies!

Congratulations! It’s a ….

boys, girls, pregnancy

BOY!

I really hate to admit this, but when I found out we were having a boy, my initial instinct was fear (ohmygod what do I do with a little boy? Boy body parts? A little penis and scrotum? Foreskin??? Or do we circumcise? Who will do the sex talk? What if we walk in on him in a…private moment with one of his socks? What about homecoming/prom/wedding dress shopping and going out for lunch and periods and hormonal acne, and watching SEX IN THE CITY reruns and all the things I know how handle?)…

And I hate to admit even more, that, after the initial “holy shit” reaction, a wave of relief started to settle in. I realized I’d never have to worry about her being catcalled, or apologize for her breasts, her butt, or her beauty. I won’t watch her leave for a date or college and pray to god she doesn’t get raped, or roofied, or have her abuse filmed for public Facebook consumption. My heart will never have to break, thinking of her getting a whistle or humiliating comment from some disgusting dude and still give him a smile because she actually feels sorry for HIM (ok, maybe this is me projecting my personal experience). I won’t have to wonder if she’ll ever have sex with someone she doesn’t really want to have sex with because just doing it, and getting it over with would be easier than to keep saying no a million times and she’s already tried locking the door to her bedroom which he still managed to muscle his way open, and after all, it’s her roommate, and he’s strong and very drunk and she doesn’t want to make things awkward in the apartment the next day (yep, you guessed it, me projecting my own life again). I won’t see her watch with empathy, or BE, her near-40 friends, single and scared, desperate for children, trying IVF after IVF, freezing their eggs, or being told it was too late to even put their few little follicles on ice.

This boy can walk alone at night and not worry about being raped, or harassed, or taken advantage of. He won’t post youtube videos asking strangers if he’s pretty or not. He won’t have to ever worry about “asking for it”, or drinking too much, or think he owes someone something for buying him dinner, or wonder why he can’t wear exercise pants (have you heard about this Billings, MT school and the yoga pant rule? I have lived in yoga pants my ENTIRE pregnancy…who knew I was inadvertently revving up the devil’s engine, creating lustful thoughts that men just can’t control? I blame Lululemon and Obama). He won’t have to worry about getting pregnant before he wants to, or even think about going through maze of deciding what to do with an unplanned pregnancy, or if birth control is regulated by someone’s moral compass other than his own. He won’t have to deal with the pressure of being told his eggs are getting old or figure out or how to navigate making money, his career, and being a good mom. We just need to teach him to be respectful of humanity, to love, to support everyone’s struggle, to do the right thing, to have no tolerance for injustice and prejudice, to listen…and most importantly, not abuse, rape, or kill anyone.

I’ve lost three jobs in the past few weeks because I’m pregnant. Yes, this is technically illegal (and hard to prove), and I don’t necessarily blame those who could’ve hired me (I’m looking at you whiskey promotional company. You…I get. One doesn’t usually associate distilled spirits with the miracle of life and abstinence from single malt tastiness), but they were opportunities I would’ve easily bagged if I wasn’t oozing nesting instincts and sporting an obvious baby bump. One was a commercial job for a mattress company. Production cast me off my headshot, liked that I was pregnant (“pregnant women need a good night sleep too!” he said), and they were even considering casting my real husband to play my TV husband. A nice chunk of change to stroll around the showroom and smile like picking out a mattress was the must exciting thing in the world. But the “client” said she didn’t like that I was pregnant. Not the look they were going for. The other opportunity was an audition for a major network TV show. The character I would’ve played would only be seen from the neck up because she’s pinned under a rotor, teetering on the brink of death. But what happened? Pregnancy: discovered, audition: canceled.

C’est la vie, right? Or…is it?

We’ve made so much progress, in such a short amount of time. And yet, it’s hard not to feel like something is slipping backward. We hear elected officials talk about “legitimate rape” who think the female reproductive system has a way of “shutting down”, others who say that life begins two weeks before conception, but have no issue with the bajillion little sperm left in countless socks, tissues and bathroom drains all around America, who have said that some girls “rape so easy”. How do I bring up a boy in this culture?

The responsibility of raising a child is enormous (so enormous I don’t even KNOW yet). Yes there are the basic needs, and schooling, and being a role model…but there’s now this hyper societal awareness, this microscope, this social experiment we’re all in called THE INTERNET, crazy bi-polar politics, a “war on women”, a total freaking out on a liberal assault of religious freedoms, a mind boggling movement of restriction, and buttoning up, and instilling fear, and putting sexuality away, the mixing of church and state…there are so many ways to be sneaky, to feel alone, shallow, unwanted, unloved, to not truly communicate but hide, shut down, get a gun (or guns), dominate, humiliate, assert power, talk shit, bully, control. How do we raise healthy, compassionate kids in this culture?

It’s always the generation before that waxes nostalgic on the childhood they had, and I find myself thinking about the freedom…the getting on my bike and just riding around the neighborhood, the walking to and from school by myself as a 1st grader, eating food and not being afraid of where it came from, what it was sprayed with, fed, injected with, filled with, or if it was genetically modified, bringing treats to school and no one even knowing what the word “gluten” meant, the drills we did were for a tornado, not a young troubled white kid with a high capacity assault rifle…

And don’t even get me started on the blazing, drought-infested inferno and/or polar vortex that my son might have to live in while our hots get hotter and our storms become more violent, or how the only animals he might be able to see will be behind bars…environmental stuff scares the bejeeeezzzzzzus out of me.

Somewhere down the line, I’m going to write a blog post entitled “10 ways to deal with an existential crisis whilst pregnant” when I have a little more distance from these fears. Because fear, while something I need to share here, doesn’t do anything but move in a spiral. It does not move us forward, and if I’m going to write about the fear, I need to write about the solution.

How do you move past fear?