June 2009

Posted by AVM

I have a confession.  I resent my husband.  Actually, let me take that back.  I resent all men, my husband just happened to be born a man of no fault of his own.  My reason for this gripe stems from maternity leave and my career.  It’s rarely a question when a couple has a child about who is going to be the one to take extended leave.  It’s the woman.  My husband and I both work full time, both put in years of schooling and working our way up ladders to get where we are in our careers today.  My career means as much to me as his does to him.  Please don’t misread this, I am thrilled to be able to be home and bond with my newborn for three months.  THRILLED and lucky – I know many women wish they had the luxury to do this.  However, if the universe were listening to my wants and desires, it would have timed this pregnancy to deliver this baby at the end of May.  As a development professional in a school, the summer, when the students and parents are away, is our slow time – and the perfect time for me to be away from the office.  However, you can’t control it all, and after three months of trying, I am instead having this baby at the end of August – thus, entering our busiest time of year.  In fact, my first day back at work will be the Monday before Thanksgiving.  The optics are just bad, bad, bad. While I’m on leave, amidst the diapers and bottles and adjustment, I will also be worrying about what’s happening at the office.  I am incredibly blessed to work with a team of outstanding women, most of whom have children at all ages and stages, and have been where I am.

I rarely hear men grappling with this dilemma.  And I resent that.  Do I need this added layer of guilt on top of everything else? After suffering all the pains and trials of pregnancy?  I’ll take it, I guess.  Left with no other choice, I guess I’ll take it.

Just once, I’d like to see the tables turned.  Just for kicks, you know? In my imagined world, men are the ones who have morning sickness and back pain.  They’re getting kicked in the bladder and the ribs.  They need to wear flip flops in October because their ankles and feet make it impossible to fit into their regular shoes.  I want to see men waddling down the street, nine months pregnant, pulling down their shirt that inadequately covers their stretch-mark-laden bellies.  I am trying to imagine my own husband, who complains for hours about a hangnail, screaming for an epidural.  And he would be screaming, trust me.  And let’s not even go there about how men would handle actually getting a baby out of their loins.  After all this, to then take a career hit?  I imagine the population would be steadily on the decline, don’t you?


Posted by Duff

There is a huge relief that comes with validation. That makes you feel like maybe you weren’t crazy when you had to have your mom come over to help you deal with your second newborn’s unending cries and insomnia. Or that there was good reason to sink to the floor in frustration when you can’t go to the bathroom without it starting a revolution in the bouncy seat.

Thank you, Dr. McLean.

Yep, despite the odds, Atticus has colic. Ya-hoo.

Three formulas, reflux medication, the whole rigamarole of soothing methods. Let’s face it. The kid wants to be held all day, all night, mostly with a bottle in his mouth, please. Oftentimes even that falls short. We have tried every binky on the market, swaddling, womb sounds, shushing, rocking, burping, and what I used to try on The Dervish that sometimes worked – sobbing alongside her. (Expletive).

Yesterday I was opening our first can of hypoallergenic formula and saw on the cover “Fast colic relief.” And I actually laughed. At least someone was willing to admit defeat. No one would ever use the c-word when it came to The Dervish, and it made me want to scream louder than she did. Did they not SEE the elephant in the room? Did they think I couldn’t take it?

If there is any good to be gained from colic, it’s that once you’ve experienced it, you’ll be far more supportive of anyone else who does. You will offer to come over and listen to the baby cry so his/her parents can shower or eor walk around the block with free hands and listen to the ringing in their ears.

Thank you, mom.

I will tell you, I had a premonition when The Dervish was an infant and we asked our former pediatrician’who feared owning up to the c-word) if this could happen to two children in a row. She, who had said time was the only cure, said, “It happened with both of mine.” And I saw the scar tissue on her nerves in that statement. As if someone clapped too loudly in her presence I’d have to scrape her off the ceiling.

The good news is, Atticus seems to want things to be different. Has whole moments of serenity, between 7:10 and 7:15 am. He will get older. He will find something he likes. Even if right now it’s not carriers that get me hands-free or any of the many other recommended cures.

He likes the vaccuum, but The Dervish is afraid of it. The flarking irony off which will be especially funny when this phase of our family’s story has passed.

I know I sound like a whiner. Please keep in mind that I think of the following when I walk away from Atticus to get perspective (usually while peeing or trying to eat against my natural drive to soothe him).

We have two healthy children. Some aren’t able to have any, or they aren’t healthy. Thank you, powers that be.

We have a boy and a girl. Which many consider the ideal – though I was glad I didn’t get to choose.

Babies aren’t babies forever, and we knew going in that we had babies to have children, not infants, and especially not newborns.

The Dervish is already a spectacular big sister.

I’m even grateful to have experienced both vaginal birth and a c-section, because I’m all about gaining life experience.

Except we already experienced colic once, so the only positive thing I can say about it this time is that once I admitted it to myself, and today, when my new pediatrician copped to the diagnosis AND acted like he genuinely felt my disillusion, it felt not so  ‘not so bad’ that I ever want to experience it again, but at least like I’m not lunatic for feeling so unraveled as a second time parent.

So. Next time someone tells you their baby has colic, you could say you’re sorry. Or, that it sucks and it will pass. Or you might ask what you can do. But you will be the best friend ever in the world if you force your way into her home with an agenda of how you plan to offer some relief.

And also, tell her she doesn’t have a muffin top. But feel free to bring some muffins.

Posted by Fitz

Last week, I got a scary peek into the future – namely, adolescence.  My sweet Bean, who showers me with “huggies” and “kishes” throughout the day and night, engaged me in the following conversation:

Bean: “Beanie cuppycake.  Eat.”

Me: “Yes, Beanie will share a cupcake with Mimi after we change your diaper!”

Bean: “Share.  Cuppycake.  Yummy, yummy!”

Me: “Can Mommy share the cupcake, too?”

Bean: “No.”

Me: “Well, what will Mommy eat?”

Bean: “Poopies.”

Crumbs' Artie Lange Cupcake

Crumbs' Artie Lange Cupcake

OK, have you stopped laughing yet?

I know – or at least, am telling myself – that this was a perfectly innocent comment, coming from a girl who has months to go before her second birthday.  She was in no way telling me that I should actually eat poopies, but instead was telling me that I would have to find something else to snack on – there was no way I was getting in the mix with her, Mimi, and the cupcake.  I can’t blame her – the cupcake was from Crumbs – but a teensy little part of me got a little nervous. 

What if The Bean, the light of my life, hates me when she’s a teenager?  I can handle the normal fights about clothes and boyfriends and going to the mall too often, but I couldn’t handle it if we were a mother/daughter combo that truly cannot get along.  I love her so much, and I so want to have an open, loving relationship with her at all stages of our lives – like the one I have with my mom.

As a parent, I’ve found myself constantly on high alert.  Am I saying the right thing to The Bean when under pressure?  Am I kind enough, generous enough, stern enough, strict enough?  Despite this one incident, I’ve worked hard to try to focus on the day to day of my behavior rather than thinking too far into the future (a sure recipe for a Haagen-Dasz freakout).  I hope beyond hope that the baby steps I take with my daughter will help both of us get on the path to a relationship that is strong, meaningful, FUN, and based on mutual respect.  I’m the only one trying to get us there right now, and that’s the way it should be with a small child.  When The Bean can play a part, though, I’m hoping she chooses to do so.  I’ll certainly buy her a cupcake or two for her effort.

Posted by AVM

On Friday, my best friend and I took our daughters to the Bronx Zoo.  Growing up 15 minutes away, I have been to the Bronx Zoo many times and have fantastic memories of my parents taking my sister and me through the House of Birds, seeing the zebra, screaming in the Reptile House, you name it.

Seeing the zoo through my Lovey’s eyes was an incredible experience.  It was her first visit, and she made the most of it.  We made our way through many of the exhibits, but her two favorite were by far the Butterfly House and the Children’s Zoo.  We stepped into the balmy Butterfly House to literally thousands of brilliant, fluttery, butterflies whirling around us.  Lovey immediately put her finger out and said (and repeated a few dozen times), “Mommy?  I need one on my finger!”  The bright wings fluttered around her, flirting, but never landing, and she took it in stride.  As we left the exhibit, she said, “I loved that, Mommy!”  I loved it too, Lovey.  I loved watching you.

Onward to the Children’s Zoo – the zoo within the zoo for the littlest guests in the park.  We walked into the area and I instantly panicked when I saw the goats, sheep, and alpacas that were eating little pellets out of kids’ hands.  I thought, “Ewww.  Alpaca lips and goat germs.  Gross.”  Not Lovey.  She jumped right in.  Against my instincts, I bought her some food for the beasts and off she went – fearless as always.  As her mother stood and worried that her little daughter would get nipped by sheep teeth and contract some odd, incurable disease (yes, I’m that mom), Lovey did not hesitate to hold her hand right up to the animals’ hungry mouths.  And away they chomped.

Whose child is this?  I never considered myself a “joiner.”  Even now, before I really try something, I need to be relatively comfortable, weighing the risks and benefits.  I like a sure thing.  Lovey takes risks, and I’m so happy she does.  All truly successful people do.  My job is to not break her of that (while still keeping her safe).  I have a lot to learn from my daughter.  At the end of our outing, as we made our way to the parking lot, Lovey was fast asleep in her stroller, exhausted from a day of discovery.   I can’t wait to take her back.

Posted by Duff

It’s the middle of the night, and I’ve awakened on schedule for Atticus, only he is still sleeping. For four hours.  There  just might be a light at the end of the newborn tunnel. I may be able to put a coherent thought together before my maternity leave ends. Maybe. If I can just sleep while the baby sleeps.

Obviously I haven’t done so yet, because it’s pre-dawn, he’s asleep, and I’m still awake.

I’m thinking back to when Atticus was still MC, when my husband’s colleague said, “Two is not one,” and how he wasn’t at all specific. And since I know so many moms about to add Number Two to their families, I thought they, and you, deserved to know what that means in the day to day.

Exhibit A:

My husband has gone for his first run in two weeks, and I am alone, for the first time, with a 3 year old and a 3 week old. They have simultaneous bowel movements, require help getting cleaned up, and instantly get hungry at the same time. Neither is willing to concede to the other being priority. Tears, all around. When my husband gets back, I am sweating more than he is. He was only gone for 30 minutes.

Exhibit B:

We are in the process of potty training The Dervish. As part of the process, we flush all poop, even diaper-borne, to instill the proper associations. Only, the toilet clogs. Whatever, I think. I’ll tackle that lovely job after I get The Dervish down for a nap. (My husband is on the couch trying to co-nap with Atticus). The Dervish then informs me that her bed is all wet. I assume a diaper mishap, but sleep-deprived me had handed her a sippy cup without a stopper, and voila. She dutifully stands by the foot of the bed as I change the sheets and despite the disturbance, she takes a nap on her dry sheets. And I am free to spend quality time with a plunger while everyone else in my house sleeps.

Exhibit C:

It’s the middle of the night, Atticus awakens. Then I hear The Dervish making an unholy sound. I find her kneeling, delirious, over a pillow, having sweated out a high fever and now cushioning herself against a deep cough, which turn out to be bronchitis. As I administer medication and comfort, Atticus screams his wee head off for a fresh diaper and bottle. On this night, I am sole caregiver, struggling to help them both while keeping them separate to keep Atticus safe from infection. I would cry, but there is no time.

Exhibit D:

Without provocation, The Dervish rewrites “This Little Piggy” to include all members of our immediate family. Daddy goes to market. Mommy stays home. The Dervish has roast beef. Luckily, no one is punished with none. And Atticus goes wee wee wee all the way home.

She has accepted him as one of us, in five weeks has not questioned it. Has not asked me to put the baby down even when it means I can’t play as interactively because he wants to be held during all daylight hours. I could just squish her with appreciation.

Exhibit D is why people have kids, and have more than one. Exhibits A, B and C are the stuff of future holiday dinner anecdotes, fodder for buzzed summer picnic exchanges of parenting war stories, and blog posts.

 You can’t make this stuff up.

Posted by Fitz

I have a terrible confession to make. 

In my naievete as a married woman sans children, I used to think that stay at home moms had it easy.  They could play all day, make healthy food, work out, get things like Christmas Cards done before December 22nd, and nurture their marriage beyond belief.  Why wouldn’t they be able to do these things?  They didn’t go to work every day, after all.  They weren’t pressured to meet unrealistic deadlines, or deal with performance problems, or manage the politics that pervade any corporate environment.  Right?  Right??

Wrong!  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  My year as a stay at home mom was a strong contender for the hardest year of my life.  The job never ends, your client is as unpredictable as the weather, and you put constant pressure on yourself to measure up to some ideal that is likely unattainable.   Oh, and let’s not forget the things I mentioned above:

  • Stay at home moms might not have to “go” to work every day, but they are AT work from the minute their eyes open until the minute they close.  There’s no break-taking unless you get lucky at naptime, no office gossip, and no slacking off if you’re particularly tired.   
  • Your whole day is sometimes consumed with dealing with performance problems – and it’s not a one-and-done conversation, it’s an entire performance of “Please don’t throw your food on the floor” and “We don’t eat the Play-Doh” that could very well have  multiple encores.
  • Managing politics?  Sure, they’re bad enough in the workplace, but try the playground.  The other moms are constantly checking each other out:  Who’s wearing what?  Who’s disciplining their child that way?  Who hasn’t been to Weight Watchers recently?   Who is feeding their kids the multi-colored Goldfish or non-organic cheese or – gasp! – a COOKIE? 

I admire stay at home moms more than I admire anyone else at the current moment. They are my version of super heroes.  I’m not ashamed to say that I’m not cut out for the job, and I love to work, so that’s the best for me.  But wow, to have the strength, patience, and fortitude of a stay at home mom?  I wouldn’t mind a little bit of that!

Posted by AVM

This week, I received a friend request on Facebook from a woman I went to high school with whom I had not thought about in at least 15 years.  I remember her vividly, though – especially the fact that she had a particularly miserable high school experience.  She transferred to our school from Greece during a time in her life when no one wants to stand out and be different.  She was bright – at the top of our class in no time, but her cultural differences made her stand out.  Her parents didn’t allow her to shave her legs, and so she was forced to wear these nude opaque stockings – even in the heat – in an attempt to make her legs unnoticeable.  She was Greek Orthodox and wasn’t familiar with the common traditions attending our Catholic school.  These details are just two examples and the tip of the iceberg for her, and teenagers are cruel.  At this point, “different” wasn’t exotic.  It drew a line in the sand, unfortunately for all of us.

There are so many people I know who just hated that time in their lives.  Personally, I would start over on the first day of 9th grade all over again.  I had a wonderful high school experience filled with friends, first love, great teachers, creativity, learning and fun – sure, there were bumps in the road, but overall those were some of the best years of my life.   Those years shaped me and gave me confidence for what challenges presented themselves in college and beyond.

I am already – 11 years ahead of time – panicking that my daughter is going to hate high school,  have no friends, and be a social outcast.  How do we give her the tools to be strong, to be true to who she is, and to understand that it’s ok not to be the most popular girl in school?  How do we foster her self esteem to be intact enough so that she’ll navigate those years and come out unscathed on the other side?  We’ll figure it out as we go, I guess.  I certainly can’t map it all out right now, but I’m adding it to the list of things to worry about (along with the fear of her being – ahem -“too” popular).  I am slowly realizing that you just can’t control it all.

The good news is that the follow-up to my long lost classmate’s story is a great one.  After I accepted her request, I immediately visited her Facebook profile.  Upon graduation from high school, she attended Georgetown and then went on to Oxford where she earned a law degree.  She is now living in a gorgeous flat in Paris with her extremely handsome fiance and looking very chic in her Manolo Blahniks.  “Good for you,” I thought when I saw it .  I smiled at her success. Good living is the best revenge.

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