Thursday, May 31, 2012

on labels and doctor visits

For some reason which I haven't really figured out yet, I'm totally resistant to allowing myself to be labeled. Except relationship labels - those are fine (wife, mother, daughter etc). When it comes down to occupation, parental style - basically everything thing else - I resist madly and try to prove myself outside the label. For example: I've been a... stay at home mom... (yep,  I just used those words) for almost three months now. If someone asks me what I do, I pause, searching my brain for an appropriate answer, and say something like, "nothing" or "hang out with my kid." Not that I actually do nothing but... I can't say it.

As a new mother, the worst label this year was "a first time mother" - and every time someone said, "oh it's okay - you're just a new mom" or "all first time mom's go through this..." I'd internally berate myself for having failed the name game. At my three-day postpartum check up at the hospital, the nurse told me "you're acting just like a third time mom" and I literally wrote it down in my journal (which I've yet to write in again!) and underlined it with pride. No better compliment!

And yet.

When my kid gets sick, I throw it all out the window and act just like the first time mom I really am. I'd be willing to bet that her medical records probably have a sticky note attached to them - NEUROTIC NEW MOM! After all, the pediatrician doesn't know me outside my relationship with the clinic, and all she knows is that I call literally every.single.time Ellie gets sick.

And of course, like any good for profit business, they always tell me that I'd better bring her in, "just so they can take a look at her." :) (in fairness, I really do like and respect the pediatrician office we go to). And so far, with one (minor) exception, she's been diagnosed with a virus every time.

We've probably spent at least a thousand dollars this year on my new mom habit. We've even had one bill labeled "fussy infant" under Reason For Visit. We spent one night in the ER, visited urgent care, and gone to the pediatrician more times than I can count. Just so I can be told everything that I already know, which I've read on every website which google will generate while I search her symptoms in the middle of the night looking for the magical diagnosis or cure. And yet we go in anyway, because in the back of my mind I think, "but.. what if...?" And when we leave, I tell myself that next time she gets sick, I'll behave a little more rationally. And then next time she gets sick, she goes right ahead and comes up with a new symptom or new pattern to her sickness and it all starts over again.

This week was no exception. Out of nowhere on Monday night she spiked a fever of 102.6. In the middle of the night she was burning up at 104, and by the next day, even with tylenol, it was measuring 103.6. I tried my hardest, really I did, to not call the pediatrician, but by Wednesday I caved and in we went. And guess what she has? A virus.

Of course, I've been warned that with viruses like this one, it's quite possible she'll sprout a little rash over her torso, so I've been on spot watch all day. And sure enough, tiny little red dots have appeared little by little over the course of the day. It's normal. It's benign. They won't hurt her and it's just the virus running it's course. I know this, but tonight I find myself thinking, "maybe tomorrow I should just call.."

Sigh. I'm not immune to First Time Mama label after all, not in the slightest.

baby girl doesn't feel so hot

she's trying to escape the doctor's office

rough night = morning snuggles with dad-dad

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

on body image

I caught myself in the mirror this morning as I was hurriedly rushing out the door for a pediatrician appointment and realized that, no doubt about it, I was looking back at a mom. I was wearing grey, ever so slightly too short yoga pants, a black tshirt for easy nursing access, a black open cardigan and black flats. My hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail (definitely not washed this morning), my makeup was lightly done - certainly not enough to hide the bags under my eyes (yeah, a trip to the pedi's office means baby is sick, therefore not sleeping...) and glasses. And, to be perfectly honest, I liked who, and what, I saw.

And that's my struggle right now: allowing myself to like this watered down, less put together and much more laid back version of myself. Allowing myself to appreciate this new medium of who I am while reminding myself to walk the line between having let myself go entirely (please stop me if I head in that direction, whoever is reading this!) and releasing the inhibitions that would previously have kept me from not only going out looking like I do most of the time now - but the ones that would keep me from embracing this as who I am, and loving myself through this change.

(I came across a picture yesterday of my best friend and I in our early 20's lounging by the pool. We were tan, blonde and thin - having not birthed a total of three babies between the two of us (that's about 30 collective months of pregnancy) and nursed for a collective total of 38+ months. Sadly, I wasn't able to appreciate it back then, and I certainly didn't treat myself with the respect I deserved).

Peter mentioned the other day that I've been making disparaging remarks lately about my body and my looks. Immediately, I felt badly about that, because the truth is that despite all the "flaws" that I've got going on, I have found that for the first time in my life I love my body. It's changed from the way it used to be (and oh, how I now appreciate what I used to have!) but it's so much better for what it's accomplished. I grew a living human. I've continued to nourish her for 12+ months. The wrinkles on my face and bags around my eyes are the result of some pretty empowering experiences. I'm only 28, but when I look at my own hands, I see my mom's from when I was young. And I think I've resisted fully appreciating and loving these new parts of me because, according to airbrushed magazines, blogs, etc, this is imperfection and should be improved upon. And while I can and should work out and take care of myself for my health's sake, I'm really only referring to the emotional aspect of self-appreciation.

Because here's the thing: I'm someone's role model now. I am the biggest influence in someone's life now, and this person - my daughter - is the image of utter perfection. And I'm her mother and primary teacher. She looks to me first for approval and for guidance, and I'll be damned if the way I talk or negative thoughts about my body or appearance influence her thinking about herself. If she comes to think that she is anything less than perfect, or thinking that her physical looks need to be improved upon because I failed to set a healthy example, then I will have failed her, and I cannot let that happen.

So, I will allow myself to appreciate who I am today and what I look like. I will tell myself that I'm beautiful and I will believe it. I will treat my body with the kindness that it deserves and for so long the consideration it lacked because of what my body has done for me.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

a hodgepodge of thoughts

Recently, I was told that I should bite the bullet and write a really great controversial post to drum up some discussion and set the internets ablazin'. While I love the thought of stirring the pot (naturally!) my brain seems to be running thisclose to empty these days. Of course, the mini-glass of wine I just drank doesn't help matters.

And so, in no particular order, I share my evening thoughts with you all.

  • I've doubled down on my cooking efforts lately and have been rewarded by some awesome dinners lately (if I do say so myself). Tonight was Three Cup Chicken (delicious Chinese stir-fry), last night was the best turkey meatballs I've ever made and the night before that was homemade pizza with pureed butternut squash, Gorgonzola cheese, prosciutto and topped with arugula. Delicious. 
  • While my husband has been enjoying these culinary efforts, my daughter's new favorite game is to SLAM AS HARD AS POSSIBLE whatever we're eating into her place mat, then shove the food to the floor as FAST AS POSSIBLE. When we tell her "no" she cries, then does it again and smiles. Did I mention she's a full-fledged toddler now? 
  • Speaking of her toddling - this new habit of getting into everything and sticking anything that looks SHINY or DANGEROUS or SHARP or possibly ALIVE or GERM INFESTED into her mouth is growing old, quickly. I'm told this phase lasts years and she might not grow out of it until middle school. Okay - not middle school, but honestly at this rate, even another 3 months of this might as well be 12 years. 
  • Speaking of annoying habits of said toddler, I have yet to mention on the blog (but will soon - fear not!) that we've been undergoing a kitchen remodel the last month or so. All of a sudden our kitchen has gone from stuck in the mid-80's to modern and sleek and pretty. Of course, the very last thing that will be done with this remodel is installation of cabinet handles which means that Ellie has been enjoying for weeks now opening all the cabinet doors and reaching for whatever she can and sticking it in her mouth. Dried beans, raisins, nuts, etc. You know - all those great foods which are obviously not at all dangerous for a toddler to mouth. Handles can't come fast enough, followed quickly by the ever so fashionable safety locks which will knock the beauty of the cabinets down a notch but will let me breathe a little easier
  • Of course, said toddler is still the absolute sweetest and most lovable girl in the world and despite only being at the beginning of what I fear is going to be a pretty challenging phase, I'm having so much fun with her right now. If only she'd sleep reliably through the night. 
  • Knowing her, and knowing my luck, once she sleeps through the night reliably will probably be the same week I give birth (NOT PREGNANT!) to her little sibling, and then the cycle will start over
  • Speaking of her little sibling (NOT PREGNANT!), I'm both terrified and exhilarated at the thought that if we wanted to, we could do this all over again with a new and littler person. Honestly, when I think about having a second baby, I simultaneously feel nauseous and overwhelmed at how much love would exist in our home. If one baby brings us this much happiness and love, how cool would/will two be? 
  • OMG!! (yep, just said that). A commercial for the summer Olympics was just on TV! If you know me at all, you know I'm obsessed - OBSESSED - with the Olympics. Cannot wait. Go World! 
  • Speaking of fitness (you know, Olympics = athletics = me).... I've decided that now that I can no longer use the excuse "I had a baby this year" I need to lose 10 pounds for good and tighten up my stretched out belly. Seriously though - my back hurts so badly every night, I know a little ab work would do me wonders. So I've committed to this and we'll see how well I do...
  • Peter's on vacation next week. Either we're in for some good quality family fun, or he's going to high tail it out of the house once he realizes that hanging with Ellie 24/7 is not exactly "relaxing" or an effective way of clearing his mind. 
With that, I'll bid you all goodnight and hopefully I'll be back before too long with better and more substantial things to say. :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Our Birthday Girl

We welcomed the big ONE with open arms and happy hearts. I'd thought that this would be very bittersweet for me, and for the entire, well, year, I was dreading May 16, 2012. However, by the time her actual birthday came around, I found myself almost inexplicably happy, and realized a secret I'd never known about birthdays: it's really more for the parents than anyone else. A happy, joyous day to celebrate our offspring and how they came into the world. 

We were so happy all day long. We woke her up with balloons and a chorus of Happy Birthday, to which she exclaimed "bl-ooo!" (of course, that's Balloon in Ellie-speak). We had breakfast of french toast and bacon and enjoyed Peter delaying his departure for work by 45 minutes so we could soak in our happy morning. By 3pm, Ellie and I were waiting in front of Peter's office to pick him up, so we could high-tail it to the nearby park (with some super cool splash fountains to play in) and toast our party cups of champagne at exactly 3:38. We shared a cupcake and splashed in the fountain and probably had more fun as a family than we've ever had before. Seriously, it was idyllic. 

Then we braved traffic to go out to dinner at a certain bird-themed kid friendly burger joint (I had thought that it would be good to go somewhere where our little one-year old could throw her food and make as much noise as she wanted....silly me...). The place was packed, despite it being before 6 on a weeknight, so we quickly stuffed ourselves with bottomless fries and burgers with our family before calling it a night early (before the free birthday dessert. sigh.). 

All in all, a perfect day to celebrate our girl.

And, because one birthday celebration isn't enough, on Saturday we threw her another party, this time complete with close friends and more family. We kept it simple and small and had a great time with perfect weather. My only real request be that we have lots of balloons for our girl. Thanks to Kelli for taking so many great shots of our day - I will forever be grateful for them!

chocolate frosting covered toddler + white pants = dumb mama
All in all, it's true what everyone has been saying since the moment she's been born. It really does go so fast. :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Second Year

At 3:38 this afternoon, Peter and I will hold hands and smile as we welcome the second year of Eleanor's life. We will smother her in kisses and sing Happy Birthday to her for the umpteenth time today, and marvel in awe at the little girl who is now ONE.

This year has been the most exhilarating, sweetest, rewarding, exhausting, challenging, cutest and incredible year of our life. From a 7 lb 7.7 oz sweet tiny baby, we now have a girl who laughs, runs, dances, talks and brings such joy to everyone she meets. She is most certainly the joy of our life.

Today, we will celebrate her in all the best ways we can think of. There will be balloons and sunshine, walks in the park, french toast and bacon, cupcakes and champagne, ice cream and more balloons, and of course - a never ending stream of hugs and kisses for our birthday girl.

Happy birthday Eleanor Carolyn. You are so, so loved by so many, and your daddy and I love you more than we thought humanly possible. Here's to a hundred more birthdays, a long happy and healthy lifetime, and never doubting for even one second that you can do anything, be anybody and go anywhere you imagine!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

High Standards

I came across this article this morning which fit nicely in with some thoughts which I'd been mulling around in my head. Bear with me as I sort this out...

Here's the article, titled, "Let's get on board with paid leave". The author highlights the hypocrisy of our country in yet another way - our politicians and leaders (and, for that matter, pretty much everyone in America) agree and espouse the virtue of strong families, yet our country (unlike the vast majority - maybe all - of other developed countries) doesn't guarantee paid work leave for new mother's (let alone father's, but this article focuses on mother's). When you consider lower income workers, the likelihood of her employer providing paid leave is almost non existent. Of course, these lowest income earners are the ones who can least afford to take advantage of federal family and medical leave act, leaving these women with virtually no choice but to go back to work as soon as possible.

I won't even discuss the ramifications of new mother's immediately going to back to work on breastfeeding, as that would require quite a few more posts - but let's just all agree two things: 1) breastfed babies cost less on society and families both in their infancy (I've read on average a breastfed baby costs $600 less in medical bills the first year) and their entire lives, and 2) success rates of breastfeeding depends heavily on the relationship established between mother and baby during the first few days (and weeks) of baby's life.

We (as a country) have set up our new mother's with impossibly high standards. Have a baby - and do it while you're fairly young and fertile, lest you need any artificial assistance getting pregnant - but push aside the massive physiological, hormonal and emotional changes which occur and get back to work as soon as possible. Even if you had massive abdominal surgery and are trying to recover in two hour sleep increments, or lost a significant amount of blood, or even just had a normal delivery - pushing a baby out of your body is no small feat and DOES require quite a bit of healing! We won't subsidize your leave (gracious! you mean my taxpayer dollars are going to work to keep lazy women at home longer just so she can "bond with her baby?"), but will encourage you to breastfeed (remember, "breast is best!") for the first year. But, oh, you say you want to pump in a private, locked room? Goodness, aren't you greedy! Nope, I think the restroom will have to suffice to meet your pumping needs. Sorry if that's humiliating at best, not to mention disgusting and unsanitary. Oh, but don't forget - by breastfeeding, you'll probably experience a long-term income drop and your earning potential will decrease (remember - you're competing with those evil, formula feeding mom's for the same jobs - and those mom's don't take three 20 minute breaks a day to pump...). This will keep you in the bottom of the working hierarchy, and if you find yourself earning less than daycare (bad mom! you're sending your baby to... daycare??) costs (highly likely actually), you'll face a brand new double edge sword. Quit and find yourself needing government assistance and we'll once again call you lazy and require you get back to doing "real work". Quit and become a Stay at Home Mom (ie, you have a partner who can keep your family afloat) and we'll praise the work you'll be doing is the most valuable work you could do.

Oh, but, please do have that baby, as we really would like to add to the human race, and recognize the importance of families, etc...

And can we talk about weight loss? We'd like you to get back to your "pre-baby body" as soon as possible.  But, ignore your doctors orders and start working out right away? We'll ridicule you behind your back. Revel in the baby weight and take your time? We'll call you fat and lazy. Oh and can we also agree now to hold you accountable for the weight you gain? Heaven forbid you're in the public eye also - then we'll have "top doctors" go on reputable balanced "news networks" to publicly announce that you've gained too much weight and are putting your baby at risk already. Shame on you, bad mom.

So, here I step in and question: What's a mother to do? What can we, as women, DO to not only highlight these massive hypocrisies and impossible standards we've been given, and enact real, tangible change in our country? I believe change begins with grassroots efforts, and the first piece of that is talking about it. For real. Let's quit attacking one another and start supporting women, supporting families and beginning the dialogue. Then? Hopefully, the sky is the limit... or at least that glass ceiling we're facing....

(PS, Happy *sunny!* Sunday!)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

on birth and such

I've been thinking a lot lately about birth. This shouldn't come as a surprise though, seeing as not only how I've spent my last two weekends in an intensive birth doula skills training workshop, but am coming up on the one year anniversary of the time I gave birth (aka, Eleanor's birthday). I've thought about her birth every single day since that day, May 16th of last year, but as we've headed into the month of May once again, I am consumed with thoughts of birth. To say that day was pivotal, or transformational, is an understatement at best. I'm sure for all mothers the day they become a mother - however that may be - has an equally monumental impact on their life. Knowing that, and knowing how many women in the world and throughout history have become mothers, it's amazing to fathom the depth of maternal instincts and love our world has experienced since it's own birth.

It seems obvious, but studies have found the day a woman gives birth is practically imprinted in her long term memory, as though at any moment she can rewind her life like a DVD and press play on that moment and relive it in crystal clarity.

My sister came for the birth of my girl last year on May 5th. The anniversary of that date is coming up quickly too. She stayed, thinking (as we all did!) that I was about to spontaneously combust at any moment, and slept for 11 nights on my couch. I think in the chaos of giving birth and all that surrounded the culmination of her stay on our couch I didn't properly recognize her own sacrifice and thank her - from the very bottom of my heart - for all she did for us during those 11 days. (not to mention putting up with my oh-so-cranky state of being...). So, thanks Big Sis, and we love you. I'm SO glad that the first face Eleanor saw besides her daddy and mama (and the doctor and myriad of random nurses and NICU specialists) was yours. Her auntie is forever imprinted in her life thanks to that (and I'm pretty sure vice versa).

I don't want to wax poetically too much today though. My last couple posts have been a bit more serious, and - it was pointed out - especially lacking in pictures of our El. :) Plus, she's slightly sickly and/or just teething, which means sleep around here has been minimal to say the least, so I really don't have the energy. So, here ya go, faithful readers... I give you photographic proof of the cuteness that's graced our house for the last several weeks. 
so happy peddling books in her pushcart!

Good Morning World!

Not sure what to caption, but this sure does capture her rapidly changing toddler mood....

Helping Grandma Jeanie with her walker

One of my favorite pictures ever. My tiny dancer...

bath. Nuff said

Happy girl, happy mama


through the iphone cover...

faceplant on kitty!