pregnancy

Dear New Mom

| On Parenthood

Dear New Mom,

You don’t have to apologize. So, stop right now.

You’re in the mama circle now. That means you get to fall off the face of the earth, complain, cry, ask for help, or not return phone calls and texts, and we’ll still be here. We’re crying and complaining about our kids too, so no judgement.

However, if anyone complains while they are “helping you out” even if that person is another parent, politely ask them to leave. You don’t need that shit.

Speaking of help, people are going to want to help you. Let them. They won’t fold your clothes the right way, they’ll put the groceries in the wrong place, and the dishes they just washed may still have food on them, but who cares? Let them help you. You can’t do everything. And you’ll send yourself to the crazy place if you try. Let them feed you, let them take the baby so you can poop, even if the baby cries the whole time. You need to poop.

Breastfeeding is hard. If you are struggling, it’s because you’re human. It’s okay. And just because you’re human and your body was designed to do this, doesn’t mean it will come naturally. Ask for help. There are a lot of options and it’s okay to try all of them. In the end, you need to feed your baby. So, feed your baby. And whatever your decision (tube feeding, pumping, formula, breast milk sharing, half breast milk/half formula, taking domperidon, using magic pixie dust), it’s okay.

If anyone tells you to just relax, you can absolutely shove a pencil in their eye. Just kidding. Don’t do that. But it’s okay if you want to.

Oh yeah, and it’s okay to walk away. It’s okay to put your baby in a safe space and go in the other room to scream or cry or poop or just breathe. They’ll be fine for a few minutes. And you’ll feel a tiny bit better. Sometimes your baby, toddler, or kid is going to be a complete a-hole. You’ll want to send them back. Sometimes he or she will be dazzling, hilarious, or super sweet. Those moments make it worth it.

You’re going to miss being alone. You’re going to miss long brunches with friends, sleeping until noon, solo adventures, and all the yoga. You’ll wonder what you used to do with all that freaking time. Non-parents will complain about not having enough time for this or that. Just smile and nod. They have no idea.

You’ll squeeze an amazing amount of to-dos into nap time. Or you’ll stare at the TV. Or sleep. Whatever. These moments are golden. They are yours to do with as you please. You can “reflect” on life or write your five-year plan in your head on the way from here to there. Seriously. You’ll be in survival mode for awhile. So, take your vitamins, hydrate, and breathe. You’ll get through this.

It’s okay to love being a working mom. It may mean you can’t have play-dates at 2pm at the children’s museum, which also means you may miss out on a few mom friendships. You can connect with moms online and your kid will make friends at daycare. If being a working mom is good for your wellbeing, THAT’S good for your baby. Win-win.

And it’s okay if working is not for you. If you want to be home all day with your kid and have the means to do it, DO IT.

Either way, do not waste your time feeling guilty. There is plenty of that in your future; don’t waste your energy on this one thing. Choosing to work or not work is not a choice between being a good parent or a bad one, being a present parent or an absent one. It’s a choice you make for your family.

While we’re talking about work, let me add there is no such thing as balance. For us or them. As long as they have a basic structure to their day, lots of love, and boundaries, you’re doing great. Some days you’ll OD on TV. Don’t worry. And some days you’ll spend hours outside exploring. Same thing with us adults. Some days you suck at everything and pay your bills late and cry three times. And some days you are on fire, multi-tasking the shit out of your day.

No one is asking you to do anything more than your best. But the best you can give depends on what’s going on in your life. If you have the flu, are sleep deprived, or going through some major life upheaval, your “best” is not the same as it is when life is calm and flowing like honey. The “best” your child is asking of you is based on a sliding scale according to what you can afford. You do the best you can in any given moment and that is good enough.

I read somewhere that it’s better to give them 100% of you 50% of the time, than 50% of you 100% of the time. I think Magda Gerber said that. In any event, that one little piece of wisdom really helps me keep perspective and stay present when I am with my kiddo.

This may be exactly what you wanted. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe you didn’t want any of this. Maybe you love the crap out of your baby, but you don’t totally love being a mom. We are complex creatures, and as such can hold space for both emotions. Or maybe you wanted to be a mom, but the universe handed you a really complicated, unfair, and all-around shitty situation.

I got a lot of advice when I got pregnant. And then I got more when Judah was born. The one thing that stood out and remained mostly true was this: it gets better. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better, but it will get better. (Even if this isn’t true all the time, I like to pretend it is.)

And I’m standing on the sidelines cheering you on. Some moms may not agree with all of your choices. But who cares? They’re not your baby’s mama. Screw them. If you’re doing the best you can (and you are doing the best you can), you’re doing great. Keep being awesome and you’ll raise an awesome human.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Love,

Me


This letter was written for every mother who needs to read it. (So, feel free to share it with the new mom in your life.) But most of all, I wrote it for myself. I will become a mother all over again in October of this year. I’m very excited. But I’m also very nervous. So, I put all the words of encouragement I usually share with other moms in this one letter. In October I’ll read it again. And again. And again, until it sticks and I truly believe, despite all the screw ups, I’m doing great and raising two awesome humans.

*Black and white photo by Tanya Alexis

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My Body – Roadmap of a Life Well-Lived

| On Living Well

Angel Wings Tattoo

I once heard a woman call her tattoos – and she had many of them – a roadmap of her life. She admitted that the artwork she had done in her youth was not necessarily what she’d have done again. Some might call her earlier tattoos cliché; some might even be embarrassed by them. But she wasn’t.

She said they told her personal history. They acted as a roadmap reminding her of where she had been. She had no regrets. How could she? Each patch of ink represented a time and place in her past, just one of the many steps that brought her to the present. And the present was pretty good.

This got me thinking about our bodies in the same way (more…)

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Just Have Fun

| On Parenthood

Just Have Fun!It seems the universe is sending me a very clear message: take the stick out of your butt and relax, already. It’s time to have fun.

For months I have been reading childbirth books, asking experts and moms for advice, and watching the best of what YouTube has to offer. I’ve been collecting data and anecdotal experience. I’ve taken classes, watched DVDs, and listened to books on tape. All this in hopes of creating the perfect birth experience for myself and my baby.

Of all the experts who have weighed in, no one has ever said to me what my doctor said to me today. (more…)

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Raising a Good Man

| On Parenthood

Raising a Good Man

 

I’m having a boy.

When I found out I was about 12 weeks pregnant. As soon as I heard the news, I was giddy. I was stupid, can’t-smack-that-smile-off-my-face happy. I was more happy than when I found out I was pregnant. I could barely think straight. I left my office and paced the sidewalks outside, thinking a boy, a boy, oh my freaking gosh, a boy.

It actually had nothing to do with his gender. I felt pure joy just because. Because the little sea monkey in my belly suddenly had a gender, and with it an identity. A gender made him a person in my mind. It made me a mother in a way simply being pregnant hadn’t.

So, yeah. A boy. Not long after I learned of his gender, I began to think about all the things that exist in a boy’s world: circumcision, peeing standing up, hiding gross things in pockets, farting, etc. Then my mind shot ahead to a teenage boy’s world: penis, penis, penis, etc. His life path would be unique to his experience as a boy-man – an experience completely foreign to me and not just a little bit scary.

Riding this mental wave, I thought of all the shitty boys I’ve ever known, and all the shitty things I’ve ever witnessed boys do, and all the shitty things boys have said (to me). It got me real nervous about having a boy. I mean, there are a lot of boys (and men) out there doing shitty things.

I am mystified by the world of boy. I’ve spent my life tip-toeing in, making surprise entrances, or allowing myself to be seduced into the world of boy. I’m fine hanging out there but I don’t want to stay there for very long. Don’t get me wrong, I adore boys, but I can’t pretend to get them. And sometimes (and I know I’m not alone when I say this) I just don’t feel safe around them.

It got me thinking, if I could avoid gendering my child, I may be able to raise the kind of man I do feel safe around – the kind of man who is respectful of women and not afraid to call himself a feminist. The kind of man who doesn’t exist solely in boy world, but glides between genders with aplomb. Like Prince.

So, I let my family know I would not dress my baby in overtly boyish clothes. No footballs, no soccer balls, and nothing that says “All Star.” He will have an array of toys to choose from. Sure, he can have cars and trucks, but he will also have dolls and kitchenware to play with.

On these things I am still firm. Yet, since telling my family all about this gender neutralish fantasy I hoped to raise my kid in, I realized a gender-neutral world does not guarantee he will grow up to be a good man who wields his powers to help others.

Does giving him a doll to play with make him more sensitive? Maybe, but maybe not. His life experience will be defined by his gender (whether he identifies with it or not). For sure. But when I think of all the good men out there – and I have been blessed to know a few really good ones – I realize that raising a good man goes beyond gender.

 

Raising a Good Man

 

I think it boils down to this: compassion, empathy, and vulnerability.

Embracing these three qualities is not reserved for one gender or another. These are things I would aim to instill in my child, girl or boy. The traits I admire in a man are the same things I admire in a woman. The people I look up to most in the world show strength of character, the ability to show kindness to a stranger, and the confidence to own their flaws while taking healthy risks.

I think raising a good man is really raising a good person. Because good people don’t objectify others. They don’t want to hurt, dominate, or belittle others. Good people see strength in differences and seek unification instead of opposition. Good people stand up for what is right in the world and become a part of the solution. Good people is what I hope our son becomes.

While I still intend to raise him in a somewhat gender neutral world, I don’t think this is what will make him a good person. It may help. But I think the most powerful thing I can do for him is lead by example and be the kind of good person I hope he becomes.

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Big Bellies and Bikinis

| On Parenthood, Uncategorized

Pema Body QuoteLast weekend, at 35 weeks pregnant I pranced around a public pool in a bikini and it was grand. But sharing bare skin with the sun hasn’t always been top on my list of things I love. This has been a journey 25 years in the making.

When I was in middle school my family got a pool.  I’m sure my parents imagined that my sister and I would splash around from sunrise to sunset, that our summers would be filled with pool parties and sun-kissed adventures. My sister’s childhood movie may be filled with such wonderful water memories. But not mine. (more…)

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Plot Twists, Intrigue, and Being Very, Very Wrong

| On Living Well

Kathryn Schulz QuoteA few nights ago, around 7pm I parked my car at a meter, put money in the meter, looked right at a TOW AWAY sign that read, No Parking 2pm-4am, and walked right on to my destination. In my mind the sign read, No Parking 2am-4pm. I was wrong.

In her TED Talk, Kathryn Schulz speaks about the nature of making mistakes. She has made a career of studying mistakes and why, when given clues and facts, we still end up on the wrong side of right.  In fact, she calls herself a “wrongologist.” With such an official title, it’s no surprise that she hits on a few big truths in her talk.  (Would you expect any less from TED?) (more…)

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