Sunday, October 4, 2009

before and after

Oliver Robin - 10/4/08

Oliver Robin - 10/4/09

10/4/08: I woke up early to pop a valium on an empty stomach. I headed to my doctors office, with all my hopes and dreams sitting in a petri dish in the room next door, waiting for fate to decide their next step. I was full of optimism and fear and couldn't sleep for the excitement.

10/4/09: I woke up early to play with my darling ,darling son (who doesn't know that normal people don't get up on a Sunday while it's still dark out). We headed to Starbucks to help the morning pass and he smiled at every stranger that crossed his path. Instead of my hopes and dreams residing in a petri dish, they lay on the floor beside me (and rolled from back to tummy for the first time just moments ago!). I am full of optimism and fear and still can't sleep. But how wonderful is it to have that cluster of cells lay in my lap and gaze at me, his mommy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

but if you try sometimes, you just might find...

"I don't want to hear about it unless there's blood."

This was a common refrain in my house growing up, and not one my mother denies 25 years later. My brother and I would argue and fight and come a certain age we were expected to resolve the situation ourselves. We didn't, of course, but we knew that whining to mom for every injury (emotional or otherwise) wasn't an option. While she was an involved, caring and compassionate parent she also believed in the value of teaching children to handle themselves, even from a very young age.

My brother has taken this theory to the extreme, allowing his children freedoms that are shocking to me. I question his decisions (although not usually to his face) and what they have meant for his growing and developing boys. His kids have no bedtime, no naptime, no routine at all. At 3 years old my nephew can regularly be found up and about at midnight (or later). He doesn't eat anything that's green (including all vegetables, unless you count macaroni and cheese as a vegetable, which I don't). I wish he lived a more structured life and as an outsider I think they needs less independence, but "unless there's blood" has stuck with my brother like dirty gum in hair.

With these models in mind I expected to be quite a laid back parent, one who sees the worth in crying it out and yet a mother who knows the importance of routine and boundaries. Perhaps I'm cruel but I've always found my eyes independantly roll when people say they can't bear to hear their babies cry, that moving them from their room into the nursery was almost too much to handle. I never said never when looking at parenting philosophies, but I was quite certain that I wouldn't allow my baby to decide my parenting style for me - that my lifelong beliefs would win out over a stubborn child's unwillingness to nap.

And then I had MY baby.

I won't lie - the night I moved him to his own room I slept like a baby. And so did he. I refused to put a monitor in the room, knowing that his noisy sleeping, grunts, moans and kicking legs would crackle through the speaker at me as though he were in bed with me. And not in a good way. No, I put him in his crib, the nursery right next to our room, and closed the door. And I only heard him when he cried. Silence, glorious silence and the first decent hours sleep in 5 weeks. (Not nights' sleep, mind you. No, not yet.)

So my parenting beliefs stand strong. Meanwhile my parenting techniques have evolved into something the pre-parent me wouldn't recognize.

I gave birth to a spirited baby. A baby with desires and the voice to get them met. A no doubt gifted child, but one who shares those gifts by screaming. I call him "high needs" sometimes, following the label Dr. Sears (inventor of the dreaded "attachment parent" banner) coined, but I don't believe it. Because to be "high needs" implies that somehow, some way those needs may be met, and try as I might my baby is un-meetable, unless the need he's expressing is for a stiff brandy. (I haven't yet tried to meet that need, although some night I might see how such a drink manages my own deeply unfufilled needs.)

We've tried to manage any physical discomfort he may have. Prevacid was step one, a drug which made him more miserable if anything. Cutting out dairy and caffeine made me depressed and didn't seem to help him either. The chiropractor didn't hurt (although our bank account hasn't recovered) but found our darling child well-aligned yet still maligned. Probiotics have helped - they helped him poop. He no longer screams as he gears up for a "movement", but he hasn't stopped screaming once he's done. Some days I'm certain his issue is a physical one, but there are times when I think he's just a scared little boy, hesitant to accept my constant reassurance. I tell him in the quiet of his overnight feedings that I love him, will always love him and will never abandon him (unless he becomes a republican), but he doesn't seem to believe me.

I spent the first 10 weeks of his life fighting him, confused and angry that he wasn't who I thought he'd be. He doesn't respond to the things babies are supposed to respond to. He doesn't warn me with fussing - he's either (occassionally) happy or explicitly not. He is a baby of extremes, not inbetweens. I tried to make him fit my mold, adapt to my parenting style to no avail. After being told that crying wouldn't kill him I decided to finally put him down to take a shower, and when I returned to him (still screaming) I found that his soft-spot had caved in from the hysteria that 15 minutes on his own had brought about.

When faced with a dented head (which apparently can happen, but jesus christ - could there be a more blatant way to show me I've failed as a parent?) I had no choice but to face reality. This little blob was not one to be controlled. He wasn't going to be molded. I wasn't going to wait until there was blood to hear about it, I was going to hear about everything, all the time, whether I wanted to or not. I wasn't going to shape him into the baby I thought I'd have. He was going to shape me into the mother he needed to have. And he has.

I sit now with my baby on my chest. He's napping contentedly, not waking as I continually bend to kiss his head. But he's napping only because he's in a wrap, strapped to my body. He's napping only because I gave him the 20 minute wind-down of bouncing, walking, patting, shushing that he requires. He's napping because I have decided to follow his cues, even if that means that I don't use his naptime for a shower and chores - like I would if he would nap, even for a moment, in his bed. I have realized (after he told me...repeatedly) that getting him to nap in any way I can is more important than how he naps or where.

He will have moments in a swing or on a playmat when he seems content. Moments. And those are good moments, but they are so so quick and he is so so vocal when the moment has passed. If he spends 3 minutes quiet and happy while doing an activity I deem said activity a full-on success, even if that success is never to be repeated. He will have moments in our arms or our laps when he seems content. Moments. And again, those are good moments, but they are so so quick and he is so so vocal when the moment has passed. If one position keeps him quiet and happy for 5 minutes it is deemed a winning position - even if it is likely never to do the trick again. But I have learned to seek those moments, not hope they will happen on their own. Because he has told me and I have (finally) listened that his happiness won't come easily. But that it will be worth it.

I have finally accepted that I must parent the child I have, not the one I expected to have. And my child will not accept the hands-off, independent parent I wanted to give him. He needs more. And he deserves it.

I still believe that telling a kid "I don't want to hear about it unless there's blood" is ok. I know that I was in no way damaged or distant because of it. I still think I will cry it out if needed, but I also know that it might not work for my child. That he might not have enough tears to cry out his fears. I am not an attachment parent because I think it's better or right or more. I am an attachment parent because it's the only option my son has given me.

I thought I would teach my baby about the world he lives in and the people he meets. I thought I would set the course of our lives. But now I know that he's the one calling the shots - not because he's manipulative or bad, but because he knows what he needs more than I do. So I will keep giving (but no doubt keep trying to drive the bus occassionally) and keep listening while he teaches. I just hope that I can see for myself when he's telling me what he wants, rather than what he needs. And I hope I will have kept enough of myself to tell him to relax, calm down, and only tell me about it when there's blood.

Friday, July 31, 2009

conflict resolution

Evenings are long. In some ways longer than the day that preceded them. You would imagine that having an extra set of hands would make things easier; having a set of ears that can understand you might make things less lonely, but this life isn't that predictable. Parenthood can be surprising. During the day you find that what you're doing either works or it doesn't. He's in a "good" mood. Or he isn't. But whatever the hours bring you, it's up to you to deal with them. You keep pushing, looking for distractions and celebrate the quiet moments, and when the screaming starts it's up to you. But in the evenings those extra hands sit so close, the extra ears hear him as well and so every difficult moment left to you seems to be a moment which *could* be handled by someone else. He has hard days too so you respect his need for down time as much as you crave your own. You share the burdens (because the witching hour is even more witchy with a baby who tends to be quite bitchy), but find yourself resenting the work that is left in your hands. I don't break down in the mornings and have only once cried during the day. It's the evenings, when calm and freedom is so close but so so far, that leave me cold.

But the nights.

My brother told me when I'd been a parent for just a week (and jaundice kept the little one sleeping) that I should forever make daddy take a night shift every night. My husband might have to work in the morning, but his job is easier than mine, he said. (My brother got the snip last year so felt safe to reveal this, most closely guarded secret of fatherhood.) But my nephews were formula fed, so night shifts were up for grabs. My son (after a month of exclusively pumping) has taken to breastfeeding like he's taken to crying. His latch is improper, he drools half the milk, but he clearly enjoys my breasts as much as any man ever has. So the night shifts all fall to me. And I'm glad for it.

There is something about the quiet of the night. Something about the dark. Sitting on the couch at 1am, scanning the channels for something other than infomercials with a drowsy baby drooling your milk onto your underwear doesn't sound romantic, but it is then that I love being a mom. It is then that I *feel* like a mom, instead of some imposter, some inexperienced child without the tools or the ability to parent. At 1am he smells so good (even when he smells of vomit, which he does regardless of the number of baths). At 1am he looks so sweet, even though his eyes are steadily becoming more chihuahua like by the day (just like his mommy). At 1am I am thankful and happy and powerful, even though I know that my sleep reserves are actively draining. At 1am it's just he an I, and it's beautiful.

But then this morning, after feeding him at 4am, I drove to my mother's house. She's leaving (on a jet plane) and needed an early morning ride to the airport. I am up anyway (I'm always up these days) so I volunteered, but expected to feel tired, annoyed. I climbed in the car, having brushed my teeth (a better start to the day than most these past 2 months) and back my car on to my dark, quiet street. Even at 4am the Houston air was hot, but I rolled down the window (and turned up the air) and drove the curvy road to my mother. And it was exhilarating.

Being alone in the car, driving freely with no cars and no baby to slow me down made me realize how much I miss being alone. I had just smelled my baby's sleepy head, breathed deeply to appreciate fully how lucky I was, had just reveled in our 4am feeding. But given 15 minutes in a car, 15 minutes when I wasn't checking my son in the rearview mirror, I was delighted. I was free.

I cherished those moments like I cherished my nighttime feedings and I wonder what that means. But then I recall that just weeks ago I wasn't cherishing anything, wasn't enjoying much, and I'm thankful. Thankful that I'm finding time (at 1am) to be thankful.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

stranger danger

"He did really well!"

"He is absolutely passed out cold!"

"You wouldn't believe it - he smiled at me! He smiled and then he GIGGLED!"

"It was a really bad night, huh? He was really awful, wasn't he?"

Word for word, I heard each of these statements over the past 24 hours, all about my son. My son, who for some unknown reason is hellbent on making me a liar AND making me literally insane from sleep deprivation.

I don't hesitate to tell people how irritable he can be. I am honest about his reflux, his screaming, his unwillingness to sleep. I almost never smile and nod when people tell me to enjoy this time - I tell them honestly that it's hard to see that through the noise and exhaustion, that I'm not proud but I'm counting the hours until he grows a bit and becomes more comfortable with his existence. So when these people meet him they are expecting a difficult baby. A screaming baby. Rosemary's Baby. But he nearly always disappoints. He will sleep in their arms for hours on end ("he is absolutely passed out cold!"), remain relatively calm and collected during a funeral ("he did really well!") and when babysat for the first time, sleep for 3 consectutive hours waking only to eat, smile and giggle (his first ever) at his grandmother (a woman who just last week told my nephew over and over that he was her favorite grandson. In front of me.).

These people, after seeing my delightful son, must think I'm delusional; weak. At best they think I'm a liar - making up or exaggerating my baby's bad behavior. And at worst a lousy parent - a mother who is unable to calm and comfort her own child when everyone else can.

I was at a store, buying nursing bras in an attempt to contain my enormous, milk filled breasts, and not surprisingly O. opened up. He shouted those obscenities at me, as he is prone to do. I tried to calm him, tried rocking him, singing to him, bargaining with him, but he wasn't having it. He was just in one of those moods. And so I attempted to get fitted for my bra, buy it and leave as quickly as humanly possible, hoping that the car ride home would soothe him. But before I had a chance to rush out of the store the woman who was fitting me bent down close to my baby's ear, shushed him and had him quiet in moments. I stood there with my naked, vein covered breasts dangling and sagging, breasts with giant target nipples and a map of stretch marks spanning their engorged surface, breasts that signify my motherhood - I stood there half naked and watched as a stranger comforted my child more quickly than I ever had.

And later that week my husband held his son, criss-crossing the living room, shushing frantically as the baby screamed. Our housekeeper, who comes every 2 weeks to scrub my floors, approached him, smiled and asked if she could hold him. Within moments he was silent. Until she handed him back.

Well-meaning friends and strangers make suggestions, some which we discard (maybe he's cold?) and some which we cling to in the hopes of finding a solution - Prevacid, The Happiest Baby on the Block, chiropractic care. "Have you tried having him sleep in his swing?" He wakes the minute his butt hits the cushion. "Have you tried sleeping him in his bouncer?" He won't even settle enough to belt him in. Some ideas work...for awhile. The white noise was great for a week - it calmed him, helped him sleep, helped him stay asleep - and then, like Star Trek's Borg he adapted, his cries blasting through the ocean sounds. Getting close to his ear and singing a long, lone, off-key tone quieted him for 2 weeks, but I believe it was only because it amused him to see his parents look like escaped mental patients as they "ahhhhhhhed" endlessly. But when the novelty wore off for him, so did the effectiveness. For 3 days last week I thought we'd found the solution to having him sleep at night. Putting him in his own room, swaddled, on the wedged sleep positioner with the white noise humming gave me 3 nights of progressively longer and deeper sleep. I started looking forward to bedtime and woke nearly refreshed after only 3 feedings in the night. And then he became immune. Immune in such a violent turnaround that last night he did not sleep for more than 5 minutes at a time until 5:35 am. When he slept a whopping 45.

I have proposed the idea that he hates our house, half joking, half serious. I know I'm grasping at straws, begging for an explanation for his behavior. Hoping it's this house he hates and not it's inhabitants. But when he coos at grocery checkers and scowls at me it's hard not to assume the worst. That I've failed at parenthood before I've even had a chance to succeed. That my child, who I love, whose puke-covered head I sniff contentedly, who I feed from my own body for hours each day, that my child would rather spend his time with anyone but me.

They say you can't spoil a newborn, that they aren't even able to form lasting preferences. But after 8 weeks with my baby I am not so sure. I don't have to ask him to know who he prefers. Unless I'm topless and he's suckling it appears obvious that he prefers everyone over me.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

the other side

Each morning I awake - well rested, sun shining - to the sound of birds chirping merrily in the flowering tree outside my window. I tiptoe into my darling son's room to find him laying quietly, bright-eyed in his crib. I greet him hello in a sing-song voice and he grins that sloppy grin that eats through my heart, right into my soul. Together we sit in the glider as he eats breakfast, pausing in his sucking occassionally to smile up at me from my breast as I sing sweet lullabies to him. Before long my husband comes in quietly, bearing a cup of herbal tea and hot buttered toast so that I too can have breakfast before starting my day. He gazes down at the glowing face of his son, greets him with a "hello sport!" and puts his arm around me, proud of me. We kiss softly over our child, the baby we made together, and know that this is what we've been waiting for. Exactly this.

Or maybe not so much.

I never idealized family life in the way that I think some infertiles (and plenty of fertiles) do. I knew that baby-raisin' would involve a lot of bodily fluids, not a lot of sleep and a fair amount of crying, on everyone's part. I actually worried quite regularly through my pregnancy that I would birth this baby and find that I hated motherhood. I hated babysitting (oh, the crying!) so why would parenting be any different? While I was (and am) irritated by smug mothers making smug comments like "sleep now - you'll never sleep again!", if a mom shared with me the honest difficulties of raising her child I would listen with empathy rather than moral outrage. "Well at least you have a baby!" was rarely my response to a mom being realistic about the stress of her profession.

But I understand that not everyone feels that way. I don't blame you if after your third failed IVF (or first failed Clomid cycle) you have little patience for someone on the other side complaining about the hardships of motherhood. We are all in our own places, dealing in our own ways, and if irritation at a complaining new mom is how you cope, I hope it helps you cope well. Staying sane in the face of infertility is a daily battle. Trust me, I know.

And so I feel like I must warn you that to those of you fighting those fights this blog might not seem like a friendly place anymore. Because I have to tell you - being a mom is HARD. No. Really. Like, harder than you could ever imagine considering the job duties of a mother of a newborn basically include feed baby, change baby, stop baby from putting poison in mouth, repeat. Oprah isn't bullshitting when she says "it's the hardest job there is" (although how does she know???). And if I've ever needed a place to vent and cry and whine, this is the time. I don't want to alienate anyone (anyone who is still here after an unforgiveable 6 month blog sabbatical) and I truly feel for every one of you still fighting the hard fight. But let me tell you, caring for a screaming, hysterical, dare I say colicky newborn is a fight too. I would absolutely rather have my hands full than empty, and even when that little lobster baby (bright red from the endless crying) is shouting in my face, seeming to tell me how much he hates me, I am grateful for the opportunity to raise him. But seriously. He is LOUD. Dude.

So for those of you who may continue reading (if I do, in fact, continue writing) please know that you aren't likely to ever see anything like that first paragraph here again. First off because to "awake in the morning" implies that one slept the night before. And to greet my son in his crib would mean that he's slept there, even once, for even a moment. (Although I did greet him there yesterday after I had to put him in it, leave the room and close the door to escape his sobs and hopefully get a grip on my own. But he wasn't smiling when I returned a few minutes (and a hysterical phone call to my husband) later. Not exactly. Spewing obscenities more profane than any profanity I or the entire US Navy have uttered is more accurate.) And the smiles that melt my heart and soul? Maybe someday, but so far we're still in the accidental gas smile stage. Although occassionally I will glimpse a grin while he sleeps, presumably because he is dreaming a sweet dream of murdering me. (Because how could somebody possibly shout like that all.the.time at someone they didn't despise to the core of their being?)

Being a parent is nothing like babysitting (which, have I mentioned I hated?). There is no one to rescue you at the end of the night. As a matter of fact, the night is when things get really interesting. When the baby sleeps (if the baby sleeps) you aren't able to invite your boyfriend over for a makeout session. No, that's when you frantically try to brush your teeth (and on a good day your hair too!) before the screaming starts again. And you don't get paid - not even a meager $2 an hour. It's exhausting. It's endless. It's nothing like babysitting at all.

It's a million, squillion, gillion times better.

Even with a reflux baby, a baby who constantly vomits your milk back at you in a mucousy mess and is hungry again moments later, even then there is the love. Instead of being annoyed by the incessant screaming (which you wish more than anything would end), you're tortured by it. Wondering what you could possibly do to make this poor, helpless creature feel better; what you could do to make him realize that being alive isn't really that awful. You ache because he aches. And as painful as that sounds, it's also beautiful. Having not just an obligation but a deep desire to set yourself aside for the one you love. And there are moments - even with a baby who makes Morrissey look chipper - when your heart melts at the beauty of your baby. When he opens his eyes so wide, as if to tell you "yes, mommy - I will never sleep again!" you can't help but adore his little chihuahua face. When you kiss his little lips and he opens his mouth in reflex you can't help but glow, deluding yourself that he is kissing you back. And when your husband tries to calm him by sitting in the glider, rocking slowly and singing him off-key Beatles songs instead of nursery rhymes you remember why you fought so hard in the first place.

So let me tell you (and not in a smug, obnoxious way): Parenthood is hard. It's blindingly terrifying and sometimes soul crushing. Parenthood is hard and it is LOUD. But it is worth it. It's so worth it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I sat in the wheelchair, leaving the room that had become almost cocoon-like for me in the past 4 days. It was a room I hadn't once left since having entered it. A room that saw both immense highs and dark moments. A room in which I'd gotten to know my husband in a way I'd never known him; gotten to know a new part of myself. It was a room of so many firsts, that small little room. And I wonder now how those 4 plain walls could've contained so much uncertainty, delight, love, terror. Leaving that room, seeing a hallway through which I'd undoubtedly been before but had no recollection of, I couldn't imagine ever having existed in any other room before. And in some ways I hadn't, not the person I was now, because that was the room where I became a mother.

Holding my son in my arms as I was wheeled out of that room was surreal. Passing through that hallway that I felt I'd never seen before. Getting on an elevator, with a nurse standing behind me and my husband beside me, the 3 of us beaming while the fourth slept (deceptively) peacefully in my arms. As people got on and off the elevator as it descended from the 24th floor they smiled, cooed and sometimes asked for the details of how and when we became a family. I never thought I'd describe a ride in a lift as "beautiful" but it was. And I wept.

Four days prior, when I last entered that elevator, I had no idea that I would leave it a changed woman. I expected to be told that my bleeding was the result of my placenta previa and that I was to be on bedrest until my scheduled c-section in 11 days time. When I was hooked up to the monitors and saw that those little cramps I felt periodically were actually contractions, coming in surprisingly regular time, I thought I might be stuck in the hospital until the blessed event. But I didn't expect that event to come in 9 hours - the soonest the doctor on call could come deliver my Memorial Day baby. I didn't know enough to savor the movie we'd seen that night (sadly, Terminator 4) or the car ride to the hospital, during which I was mostly annoyed that I wasn't in bed. And my husband didn't know to pack a hospital bag that contained more than 2 cans of Sprite, 4 bags of chips and a book he'd been reading. But before we knew what was happening I was being wheeled through double doors into the sterile room in which my son would be born, mercifully screaming and pink, 7 lbs 4 oz at 36 weeks.

And four days later, as I was pushed through the automatic doors and out into the rest of the world I was overcome with my good fortune. Overcome with deja vu of sorts, as I heard the nurse (as though speaking long distance through a tube) talking merrily of the excitement yet to come. Because it was nearly 3 years prior when I was last pushed by a nurse out of that very same hospital, those very same doors, having been sedated in another sterile room and having "birthed" my twins. I cried that time, as the nurse told me I could try again soon. And I cried this time, overwhelmed by the journey I had taken in those 3 years, overwhelmed by the poetry of leaving those same doors, perhaps in the same wheelchair, but with my son in my arms instead of just my heart.

Five and a half weeks have passed since I became a mother. Some days it feels easier than that first day and some days so so much harder. Sometimes I can't believe he's been here more than 5 weeks already and sometimes I feel he's always been here. It's been heavier and harder than I could've imagined, but there are moments of lightness when I know we will all make it and be better for having each other. And through it all there's the love, blinding and breathtaking. Love for my son and my husband. Love for *my* family.

and so with pride (and exhaustion) I finally introduce to you my Oliver Robin. Born at 36 weeks exactly, weighing 7 pounds 4 oz and measuring 19 1/2". My big boy. My big, handsome, stubborn, delightful and bewildering boy. A boy named to honor siblings we will never know (siblings who were the size of olives when they left) and the Brazilian soccer player (Robinho) after who he was inexplicably nicknamed just 4 weeks after his conception. A boy who looks like his father and screams like his mother and yet is so completely and uniquely him.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Women have body issues. It's just a fact. Every single one of us has something: that hair that appears on our chin, never noticed until it's 3 inches long, dark and disturbingly pubic in nature; the cellulite that formed on our thighs before we could legally drink; the weight we carry in our asses or our bellies or our thighs or our tits, always wishing we were carrying it in any other spot. Tall, thin, gorgeous women feel gangly and their limbs unwieldy (or so I'm told). Short women feel dumpy, frumpy and often lumpy. And regardless of how much they pay for that perfect, sassy haircut that everyone loves, every woman on earth has issues with their hair. I'm sure of it.

I am not immune. I definitely have my issues. My mother and (ex)stepfather found it amusing at 14 to talk about how big my ass was. "You could show movies on that thing!" It wasn't cruel - you don't make it in our family without withstanding merciless teasing - but I don't think they realized how formative those years are, how delicate self-esteem is at that age, and so I still, at more than twice that age, feel self conscious about my bottom. Thank god my husband is an ass man.

But all things considered I have a fairly healthy bodily self-image. I gained more than 20 pounds between meeting my husband and marrying him. I didn't love the weight, but I did love eating and laziness and therefore was never driven to do anything about the growing waistline and never resisted the increase in pants size. I have on numerous occasions gone from nipple-obscuring-length hair to a Winonna-esque pixie with one snip of the scissors. Just 2 weeks after losing my twins I walked into a hairdresser I'd never seen and told him to give me a drastic change - whatever he wanted, just something different. Hair grows back, this I know, and I treat it as such. I've watched my boobs go from B-cups to Cs and enjoyed the change, and was equally unfazed when those Cs shriveled to As, simply taking up the banner of small chested women everywhere. My body is simply that: a body. It isn't me and I'm not it.

That is, apparently, until that body no longer belonged to just me. Now that I'm being inhabited by another being (eek!) I'm finding that changes I expected to embrace are sometimes difficult to take. I love my belly. I embrace my belly. Even when the baby was the size of a poppy seed, but my abdomen was so bloated I looked like a stereotypical Ethiopian child, I loved my belly. But the first time I glanced in the mirror and noticed that my pert, perky boobs were suddenly looking sad and forlorn - literally downcast - I felt a surprising sting. I had known that motherhood would bring changes and that the breasts I'd recognized would be lost forever, but I expected those changes to happen while breastfeeding or after weaning. I didn't know that staring at my tits at 12w I would be shocked by how matronly they'd become. And it's an image I still haven't adjusted to.

I'm not an idiot - I knew the numbers on the scale would grow, that my baby wasn't healthy if they didn't. But I didn't expect to flinch when seeing that growth flashing obnoxiously on the scale below me. Had I known this I would've given my OB a fully-clothed, shoe-wearing, post-pasta-eating pre-pregnancy weight by which she could track my gains. Never would I have provided her with my at-home weight, which has always been taken first thing in the morning, after peeing, before eating, butt-ass naked. Because when I hear her say I've gained X pounds I have to restrain myself from pointing out that my shoes must account for at least 3 of those.

And when my mother told me, at 17w, that I was starting to waddle? Well, I don't care how steely your self-esteem, no one gets past the word "waddle" without cringing.

I thought I would be different; I thought I was an earth-mother. I expected to embrace bodily changes like the changing of the season. I thought I'd be proud of pregnancy acne and feel womanly in my spreading hips, but even I can't revel in nipples the size of dinner plates (regardless of the fact that come June they will serve as just that). I love my baby and I genuinely love being pregnant. But I've come to realize that you'd have to be a saint to love your stretch marks.

Oh god...stretch marks. I'd better learn to embrace my new reality or it's going to be a long 5 months...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

sins of the father

I've been told my entire life that I look exactly like my mother. (Well, except that one time when I was about 12 and went for an exceptionally bold and very short haircut and was mistaken by one of my dad's oldest friends for my brother. Oh, the scarring, how it is permanent.) I realize that my mom has always been a very attractive woman, even now at 54 keeping in great shape and never without lipstick just a shade too bright. And yet I've always found myself slightly doubting of our physical similarities, regardless of how blatant they are.

However, when looking at baby pictures of the two of us I am happy to acknowledge that we're nearly identical. Full lips, big, smiling eyes, a self confidence that's obvious even from toddler-hood. I see those faces, nearly indistinguishable, and see girls full of promise and joy and I don't deny that we were similar not only in bone structure but in outlook. Obvious innocence. A clear belief that the world was ours to discover. And so I am forced to conclude that my reluctance to accept the undeniable family resemblance has nothing to do with my disbelief or unwillingness to see the similarities, but rather my fear that the similarities run much deeper than our full pink lips.

My mom is a bold woman, determined, outspoken. I've admired her strength through 2 divorces, both of which were abusive (in different ways). I respect her insistence on speaking her mind and I commend her determination to stick it out once she makes up her mind. But sometimes, in speaking of those divorces (one to my father - a terrible husband but a great dad) she appears as a martyr. I can't help but see that when she speaks her mind she does so in a way that often disregards how the listener will receive that message - believing that sharing her opinion is more important than preserving the feelings of those she looks down upon from her pulpit. And her determination is sometimes just thinly veiled stubbornness; a refusal to accept her own faults and mistakes.

And I know that I too carry each of those strengths and every one of those burdens in my own gut. I can feel them. They're so heavy.

I believe that more often than not women find themselves wanting daughters (and men, sons) either because of or in spite of their own maternal relationships. It's usually clear that the new mom is intent on duplicating her own relationship with her own daughter or on wiping the slate clean and fixing the mistakes she feels she suffered at her own mother's hands. My mom, desperate for a girl when I was in utero, obviously had some perceived wrongs to right - she's told me as much growing up, priding herself on how different she was with me. But I hear her complaints about her mother and I feel as though a mirror is being held just inches from my own nose. But she would never see it. Never admit it.

I too have always wanted a daughter. Always. Always. But in all my soul searching, regardless of how deeply I've dug, I haven't been able to determine whether I hope to correct the mistakes she clearly made or whether I yearn for a similarly passionate and deep relationship with my own child. Simply stated, at 30 years old I still do not know if I love my mother or loathe her. But I've always known that I too, want the opportunity to have my daughter ask herself that same question someday, painful though I'm sure it would be for me to hear. It's a conflict that runs deep in many a woman's soul, I'm certain.

And so the universe has taken pity on me. Removed from the picture any fears of reliving the sins that were thrust upon me. The universe has, it appears, given my baby a penis.

I expected in that moment, when the pointy part was clear and we heard the ultrasound tech say "it's a boy!" to feel disappointment. I prepared myself for the inevitablity that I would need to adjust to the fact that I was looking at soccer balls rather than debutante balls. But I surprised myself when at those words I felt nothing but pride, joy and excitement about the little man growing in my womb. The world wasn't closed on me in that moment, my options weren't limited. I became a mom with a son who I loved.

In that moment I realized that my relationship with my mother isn't perfect. It's not ideal and it won't ever be. But it is full and it is fiery. It is enough.