What to Expect Give Away

Like most expecting moms, finding out I was pregnant sparked a spectrum of emotions.  The weight of the responsibility for developing a new life was heavy on my shoulders.  I would like to think I’m pretty together, but it’s hard to feel in control when you’re treading in new waters and absolutely everyone you meet is giving you conflicting advice!  When I asked questions there were times when my doc and my midwife would give differing opinions; my yoga teacher had another stance; my mother and my friends even more variations of thought.  When I didn’t ask questions, these same people and many many others (several of whom were strangers essentially) piped in with endless unsolicited advice.  “You should never eat deli meat but the instances of listeria aren’t that common and the chances are low that anything would happen so I would go ahead and eat a deli sandwich if you’re craving one.” Gee, thanks.

There are a *lot* of pregnancy guides out there, but the one I went out and bought was What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  I was glad I did.  The book wasn’t super preachy or judgmental; it gave the facts on the more tangible elements of pregnancy (what to expect at a given check up, milestones that my developing baby was reaching week to week) and tips on what foods to avoid or how to approach planning and preparing safe meals.  Food and nutrition, for me, were topics of particular interest.  I suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and have to avoid most dairy and wheat products.  I bought What to Expect: Eating Well When You’re Expecting; in discussions with my doc,  drawing on the overview of how to tailor your diet for certain needs in the main book and the specific guidance in the Eating Well guide, I felt confident I was meeting the needs of my growing little one and myself.

That is only one area in which the book provide guidance.  So of course, right before my due date, I bought What to Expect the First Year. Now that my little peanut is 9 months old, I am gearing up for the terrible twos by reading What to Expect the Second Year.

Note the placement of resource material

I’m excited that WhattoExpect.com has partnered up with me to host a give away some great resources! Over the next few weeks you can enter to win a copy of:

  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting
  • What to Expect the First Year
  • What to Expect the Second Year

To enter, you must follow Domesticurious on facebook or twitter and leave a comment here saying which book you (or someone you know) would like. Please include your email so I can get in touch.

You can cross post on your own blog, or share a brief story in your comment about how any of the books in this series were useful for you!

I’ll be in touch with the lucky winners Friday July 13th!

My New Life As A Painter

A week or so ago a friend asked if I’d like to take a painting class with her at the Paint Bar.  The premise behind this place is brilliant; for a reasonable price you get a canvass, paints, brushes, and a fun instructor who walks you through a given painting.  They have beer, wine and snacks on sale, and you do a little painting, drink a little wine and chat with your friends.

This particular night the painting was “Funky Wine Bottles”.  The “funky” painting style champions creativity over precision.  This really suits my artistic stylings, which are not what you would call precise. My friend R (everydayom.com) and I found our zen painting and drinking wine.  At first it felt weird to be out at night.  I vaguely remembered what life was like when I used to spend nights out of the house; its amazing how quickly new parents forget their old lives and get wrapped up in the new life at home.  It was the perfect first foray back into social life.  It was a diverse crowd of people, no heavy drinking and the evening ended around 10.  All in all a great experience.  I got to get out a bit, spend time with a friend, feel a little more human and less like a shut-in, and I left with a fun painting that now graces the wall of my kitchen.

My Masterpiece

 

My New Body and Self

I understood during my pregnancy that my body was shared, and I took that very seriously, but I looked forward to giving birth so that my body would return to me.  It will return to me someday, I guess, but it didn’t happen after the birth, and it will likely always be somewhat changed from the experience.  I had been in good health throughout my pregnancy so my concerns were frivolous; my desires to be self sufficient insofar as tying my own shoes, or eating whatever I chose.  I can’t speak for someone who experiences a vaginal birth; but my experience coming back from a c-section has been a challenge.

I was expecting to have a vaginal birth, and I was also secretly expecting to be up and about and feeling only slightly sore in the days following.  In actuality, we’re four months out and although I’m tying my own shoes again I’m certainly not back to my old self.  I’m looser around the middle than ever before, not to mention scarred.  My ab muscles are soft and it’s difficult to suck them in.  There is a numbness around the scar that is disconcerting.  I’m fairly certain my hips are wider than they were before.  I’m heavier than I’ve ever been and yet, in comparison to being pregnant I feel oddly empty.  Not emotionally, but physically, for obvious reasons.  At the same time, my arms and shoulders are muscular and strong from lugging my 15 pounder all around.  Pregnant women tend to have beautiful, thick hair and strong nails from the vitamins.  After A was born my nails have become more brittle and my hair has thinned a little.  My back and hips are slightly broader set than before I was pregnant.  My feet have grown a little.  These are things that may not go back the way they were.

The physical changes are difficult to get accustomed to.  I’m tired of wearing maternity jeans, but don’t fit into my old pre-pregnancy pants.  I bought one pair of khakis that I fit into in the hopes that I’ll only wear them for a few months until I can fit back into my old clothes.  Realistically, it took me 10 months to put on 15 pounds and it may take just as long to take them off, but I don’t want to invest in a new, bigger wardrobe.

Realistically, my body is still shared.  I don’t know why I had this idea that he would be born and my body would return to me.  I’m breast feeding him, so I’m still careful about my diet and only drink occasionally after he has gone to sleep.  When he is scared or wakes up upset, he wants me.  He is a cuddle bug, and we spend a lot of time snuggling.  He sleeps more deeply when he is held, and somehow knows to wake up when I try to put him down.  He prefers to be held with his head nestled in to my neck while I’m standing up, and gets agitated when I sit down.  My whole physical being is dictated by this little guy.  My body is not my own, and I’m starting to see that it is shared in an entirely new way that will last long after the physical separation.

It would be easy to get lost in the frustration of the changes.  I can’t imagine what it must be like for women who suffer from postpartum depression; the standard baby blues and hormones are  enough to deal with!  The day after A was born I was feeling achy and sore.  I hoped a shower would make me feel better, so L took A on a walk and I went about washing my hair.  I dropped the cap to my body wash and couldn’t bend over to pick it back up.  The sense of uselessness was overwhelming.  Here I was, no longer pregnant, and I still couldn’t bend over to pick things up.  I still needed to rely on L for minor things.  The loss of independence was humiliating, and I lost it.  That emotional episode was fueled by the pain medication, hormones and exhaustion, and yet it was also a revelation that parenthood in the long term is a loss of independence.  I’m beginning to really appreciate the magnitude of what it is to be a mother and all the fears and hopes that parents experience on behalf of their children.  The physical attachment, I’m beginning to realize, is the easy part.  There is no going back to my old body or my old self; pregnancy is a transformative experience that only begins to prepare you for the changes you’ll make once you are a parent.  I don’t mourn the loss of my independence anymore; I appreciate my body for what it was able to accomplish and I celebrate the changes it has undergone to get to that end.  I accept my limitations and forgive them.  My focus has shifted more towards the awesome realization that there is no going back.

The Anatomy of a Nickname

We didn’t know what A’s gender was before he was born.  Not finding out the gender these days is almost anti-establishment.  We had a number of people, from all ages, who were amazed that we could wait that long to find out, or upset that they had to wait that long to find out.  ”But what will we buy for the shower?” Well, as we had hoped, everyone bought things off our gender-neutral registry and it all worked out fine.  Like most people in that situation, we realized pretty early on that any time we referred to the baby as “he” or “she” people read into it.  ”Oh, do you think it’s a girl?”; “Did you find out the sex?”; “Do you really want a boy?”.  L gave the baby the non-specific nickname of “Little Snuggles”, which stuck through out the pregnancy, and I still call him Snuggles.  It suits him.  He’s this little butterball with big doe eyes, a broad smile and a love for curling up into my arms and falling asleep.

My Little Snuggles

 

When he arrived, L started calling him Boo Boo.  That evolved into Boobs (which was very short-lived), then Bubba, Bubs, Bubby, and back to Boo Boo.

I like affectionate nicknames, but I have never really seen the point in giving someone one legal name when they only go by a different nickname.  Why name your child Alexander when that name will only be used on his social security card?  I know lots of people feel differently and absolutely love choosing a name because of the nicknames it comes along with.  We chose A’s name because it is uncommon but no so unusual that it will be burdensome to him.  It’s a beautiful name, and short.  Only six letters.  No typical nicknames associated.  And then, to my surprise, my mother-in-law comes up with one!  I was surprised by my reaction to her changing around his name.  Not because I don’t like nicknames, but more because I gave my son a beautiful name that suits him, and this wasn’t it.  But then my fiance started using it, and other family members, and finally, without thinking about it, I used it.  And it has grown on me.  I’m realizing that you give your child a name, but he will make it his.  Once he forms relationships with other people it’s really out of your hands; his grandparents will give him one nickname, his father another.  His friends will call him by his last name.  He may chose eventually to go by some other, completely new variation at some point.  But to me, he is my Little Snuggles.

 

 

 

 

Breaking The Cycle

I’m a fan of the show “Biggest Loser”; I enjoy watching the transformation of these people both physically and emotionally over the course of the program.  The best part, in my mind, is watching them grow in confidence.  I really hate that they vote people off the show; I think everyone should stay until the end and benefit from the competition and working with the trainers.  I’m fascinated and saddened by their personal stories, too; the former athlete or soldier gives in to an injury and stops working out but continues to eat as if they were training, or the mom is so focused on the happiness of her kids that she doesn’t give any thought to her own well being.

While I’m not super skinny I’ve always been in good shape and I’ve never been over weight.  Before I was pregnant I had 5ish lbs I was interested in losing and had gotten into jogging to make that happen.  During my first trimester I was so exhausted that I slowly but surely gave up the cardio in favor of regular prenatal yoga classes.  Once my second trimester hit I kept up the yoga and walked regularly but I felt like a bottomless pit of hunger.  One second I’d feel fine and the next I’d feel ravenous and light headed from hunger.  There were a couple of weeks over the course of my pregnancy where A was going through a growth spurt and I was waking up multiple times a night to eat a bowl of cereal or whatever I could find.  For the most part I made good choices; I ate a lot of veggies, fresh fruit and yogurt, but there were certainly increasingly frequent slices of pizza, pieces of candy or bowls of ice cream.  By the time I was at my biggest, I had gained 15lbs above and beyond the 6lbs of baby.  I refuse to think this is all fat; surely I weigh less after I’ve nursed him?  But it’s hard to tell what is extra weight and what is puffiness around the c-section incision.  My hips are a little wider than they were before, but some of that is that my pelvis is broader than it was before.  And then yes, there is the unavoidable extra weight that just needs to come off.

Yesterday was Christmas and we were going to my mother in law’s house for lunch.  After we opened presents and ate breakfast I gave A a bath and put him in his special first Christmas outfit.  And then it happened.  The thought ran through my mind that it didn’t really matter what I wear because everyone will be looking at the baby.  Isn’t this what some of the Biggest Loser contestants told themselves?  Or the people nominated for What Not to Wear?  I realized how easy it would be to claim that because we just had a baby it was understandable that I’m 15lbs over weight, and as such will wear yoga pants to Christmas dinner, and then in turn how that could spiral into 30, 40, 50+ lbs overweight and wearing yoga pants everyday.  It scared me.  I’m still wearing my maternity jeans and on occasion have worn a long sweater over leggings in the hopes this would divert attention from my midsection “until I get my body back”.  Now, let’s be realistic; I’m not chastising myself for not having it back already, I’m just recognizing that I’m at a cross roads filled with pit falls and sensitivities, and I need to get myself on the right track and away from the leggings!

My Little Love

My little boy sleeps all swaddled up like a baby burrito.  He hates the act of being swaddled, but he sleeps better all wrapped up.  A wakes up 3 or 4 times a night to eat, and each time it starts off with a soft “eh, eh, eh” as he sleepily struggles with the wrap, then grows into a more frantic groaning as he tries to free one arm and then the next.  Even when he naps without the swaddle my baby wakes up like a lion.  He has never woken up gently.  He’s an active sleeper, too.  He grunts, groans, snorts and coughs his way through the night.  Then, once he’s out of but, there is a symphony of snorts and groans as he stretches and arches his body, finally free from his swaddled chains.

This (very early) morning, he managed to work one arm out through the swaddle.  I heard him starting to fuss so I scooped him up and helped him latch on.  As he nurses, his free arm sleepily strokes my side, and his grunts turn from agitated to hums of calm satisfaction.  A doesn’t mind eating from a bottle and he is usually good about sleeping on his own, but it is evident in him tone that he much prefers things this way, nestled in and cozy with his mum.  I love these quiet moments between us where he is content and quiet.  I love the way his soft, chubby hand rubs my side and arm; a quiet recognition of his appreciation for me.  The days when he won’t want to hold my hand anymore or even the thought of a disagreement between us seems so remote.

Target Misfires

I like places like Target in principle; who doesn’t want one stop shopping and good deals?  In reality, though, I find big box stores a frustrating experience.  I was at a Target a few weeks ago with my baby.  When I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I had a hard time finding staff to help me.  To be clear, I could find staff, but no one was helpful.  The teenage girls I found seemed more concerned with catching up on each other’s weekend then answering my question.  When I went through the check out aisle A had decided he had had enough of being in the baby carrier and started to fuss.  Unfortunately, I also noticed that a hinge was broken on the hamper I was buying, so in the interest of time I asked that it be removed from my purchase so I could get the baby moving.  Instead, the woman at the check out counter insisted that she call someone in the back and have them bring a new one out.  Over A’s cries I told her that I’d only like it if they could bring it out quickly, and she assured me they would as she finished ringing me up.  Then I waited for 15 minutes with a screaming baby while other shoppers glared at me until someone brought the hamper out to me.

I was disappointed by Target last year when it came out that the company was talking a good game on equal rights of gay employees while quietly funding a political fund that was backed by a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate who opposed gay rights.  Again, today, I’m disappointed in Target’s stance on human rights; a new Facebook campaign has been launched in response to the apparent harassment of a woman trying to breast feed in a Houston location by Target employees.  The fact that they “tried to embarrass” the woman from her “exhibitionism” is appalling to me as a breast feeding mother.  Even though it is legally protected, I’m not someone who feels personally comfortable breast feeding in public.  I have a modesty curtain that I use even in my new moms group.  I can’t even imagine how vulnerable I would have felt, trying to comfort my child while dealing with ignorant people objectifying me.  I have really only nursed A in public when I have a friend with me; safety in numbers makes you feel less vulnerable I suppose. That said, if A was hungry and something needed to be done, his needs trump my discomfort.

Just yesterday my fiance, A and I stopped by a Cheesecake Factory around 3pm for a snack.  L and I were famished; he is on vacation and we had had a late breakfast and no lunch.  I had nursed A before we went out, but he was a little fussy once we sat down at our booth.  L asked if I had packed a bottle and I said no, but that if need be I had my breast feeding curtain and would nurse him.  L looked dubious, but being in a large, mostly empty space with dim lighting would be discrete enough for me.  In the end, A was very happy playing with his links and didn’t nurse until we were back at home, but I felt a little annoyed that my fiance was put off by the idea of breast feeding in a public place.

I can appreciate that some people find breast feeding off-putting; breast feeding has gone in and out of vogue with American women over the years, and the percentages of babies breast fed are no where near what the CDC would like them to be.  Women tend to be discrete, myself included, to the extent that I’ll go in another room if we have people over.  Perhaps if we took the stigma out of this healthy, important process in the home, we could start to take the stigma out of it in public?  Given all we know about the importance of breast feeding and the lack of women doing it, you would like that big box stores that cater to families would find it in their interest, if not as a part of their values then at least as a business model, to reach out to the mom community.  You would think in the total 222,420,000 square feet of Target stores there would be space for a small customer privacy room.

Cute And Sassy Mom On The Go

After three months of wearing yoga pants and cleaning spit up out of my long, dry hair, I decided to spend a day out for myself.  L had been pushing me from the start to spend a little time out of the house without A, but I was hesitant for several reasons.  Recovering from a c-section is hard work, pumping enough for A while I am out is challenging, and I really miss him when we’re apart.  My motivation to finally do it was threefold; I really want L and A to spend some good bonding time alone together, I want L to have a good appreciation of what it is like to be alone with him for a substantial amount of time, and I am tired of looking like the troll that lives under the bridge.

The more I think about spending time alone, the longer my list of things I’d like to do becomes.  I kiss my boys good bye and head off to drop my engagement ring at the jeweler’s to be sized.  L proposed in the heat of the summer when I was 9 months pregnant.  In the past three months my fingers have shrunk back down to their normal size, and my ring was uncomfortably loose.  That done, I walk down to the salon for a hair cut.  The split ends were out numbering the healthy strands.  I was feeling the need for a serious change to jog me out of my frumpy life.  I asked my stylist to chop off 5 inches and turn me into a cute and sassy mom on the go.  I knew if it was short enough not to put into a pony or a bun it would force me to keep it somewhat styled and fun.

I’ve switched up my diaper bag style as well.  Walking around town with a 15lb baby, a purse and a diaper bag had been making me feel like a pack mule, so I transfered to one giant tote for my wallet, phone, diapers and all.  This was a super on sale purchase from the Kate Spade outlet so I’m feeling stylish and organized.

After my refreshing hair cut I was off to get a mani-pedi (my new fav Essie polish “Smokin’ Hot”), an eyebrow wax and sushi with a friend.  By the time I got home I was still tired, but there no more spit up in my hair and I was looking and feeling more like my former self.  And best of all, I missed L and A and couldn’t wait to give them kisses.  For his part, A was a little confused by this woman who looked and smelled a little different, but excited nonetheless.  My boys had an awesome day together, and we all felt excited to come back together.

 

My Beautiful Baby Boy

I can’t describe how I feel about my new little guy, but I’ll try.  He’s beautiful and healthy.  The word that comes closest is ‘awestruck’; he’s something I dreamed about as a little girl, talked about with my fiance, and now, out of nowhere, he is here.  We created this living and breathing being, and he wouldn’t be here without us.  He has gotten so big and he is learning new things all the time.  In the three months that he has been here, he has gained 8.5lbs, over twice his birth weight.  He recognizes our voices and smiles at us.  He coos in response to my questions.  I feel so lucky to have a bright and healthy little boy.

My little turkey on Thanksgiving

Because we’re together all the time it’s hard for me to notice some of the smaller changes.  During Thanksgiving we were surrounded by family members clamoring for time with him.  It was so nice to share the responsibility of being with him with others, but I also got the chance to miss him.  Being away from him made me realize how much I love our time together and how much I love snuggling with him.

All the cliches about new parenthood are so true; it is the hardest job you’ll ever love and he is my new best friend.  L and I are tired, and we would love a good night’s rest, but I wouldn’t begrudge my little guy middle of the night feedings and snuggles.  I can’t imagine what it will be like when he is older and doesn’t want to hold my hand.  He has just discovered that he can manipulate his hands and has started to grasp my fingers.

The experience of carrying a healthy baby has given me newfound pride in myself.  I ate healthfully and exercised, but it is humbling to know that your body knows what to do and does it without thinking.  The experience also brought out the best in my fiance.  L was so caring and supportive.  He was always willing to rub my back or my feet.  He prepared food and cleaned up after me.  He patiently waited to feel the baby kick and was so excited to meet him.  During labor he kept his calm, talked me through it and did everything I asked of him.

Having a baby has given me pride in my body and brought out the best in my fiance.  I’m so excited to be a mom and I can’t wait to see what he will learn and do next!

Baby friendly spots

We have taken A with us out to brunches and lunches, but no dinners thus far.  I find that off hours for meals are quieter in restaurants and so easier to negotiate a stroller through restaurants and easier to find a quiet corner where it won’t matter if the baby is a little fussy.

As residents of downtown Boston, we are challenged in that a lot of older spots don’t have access for strollers given the narrow spaces and stairs.  We are regulars at the Back Bay Social Club; the food is delicious but it is also spacious enough that we can always find a free corner where we can put the stroller and not worry about disturbing other patrons.  We’ve also found Atlantic Fish, Wagamama, and Aquitaine to be accommodating, relatively easy to get into and delicious.  We’re also regulars at the Corner Tavern, but only on days we have A in the baby carrier because the only way in is down a flight of stairs.

I’ve been impressed by the number of places that reach out to the new parent set.  I’m a huge fan of Isis Parenting‘s classes.  A and I do mommy-baby yoga there every week, and we had a great experience in our Great Beginnings class.  We also tried Stroller Strides, which was really fun.

Two great local theaters offer matinees of new releases for people with babies in tow; they don’t turn the lights off and the sound is turned down and baby noises of all kinds are welcome at Box Office Babies at the Coolidge Corner Theatre or Baby Friendly Matinees at the Somerville Theatre.

New moms groups and resources abound, too.  Boston Mamas is an awesome local resource, as is Garden Moms.

Has anyone else found other great local resources or baby friendly activities?  A and I would love to join new activities or find new ways to connect with other young families!