Motherhood and Other Indignities

I am immersed in motherhood so fully that I don’t know who I am outside of yoga pants and debating whether or not my Keurig needs to be replaced by an environmentally friendly French Press. Apparently I’m a budding hipster, which is a lifestyle that emerged sometime while I was in the diaper aisle at Target.

I digress.

All of my news comes from Facebook and my social interactions come in key strokes, forgive me.

I had a date night with my husband three, maybe four days ago (who’s counting and who cares?) and I managed to make my awkward hermit status completely well-known in a buzzing restaurant. I stood out as the weird lady who smiles a lot and holds eye contact way too long from the moment I walked in.

The hostess gave us a sweet, standard greeting and I basically thought we were best friends. (I don’t get out much). I managed to remember most of my manners but at one point during a very personal conversation with my husband I caught myself spelling out the word C-O-N-D-O-M-S. We were in a discussion about our best birth control options since our new baby’s birth. The restaurant was obviously the most appropriate place to discuss this. So there I was sitting six inches from another table of grown up diners spelling out the word condoms as if I were sitting in a room full of four year olds.

Pssst, they can spell. And they can hear you.

A few weeks earlier I had suffered the indignity of a postpartum checkup. After being weighed (the worst) and put on a paper wrapped slab in my birthday suit, the Midwife who delivered my baby came in and we had a nice chat. She brought in a new Midwife in Training to sit in on our visit and she told me that I would never hold my pee again, so I made a mental note to look up Transvaginal Mesh. (I jest). Actually she did something far worse. She gave me the excruciatingly embarrassing talk about kegels.

Being that I wasn’t born yesterday I know what those are, but I sat and dumbly smiled and nodded along with her as if I was hearing this information for the first time, because, how do you interrupt that conversation anyway?

The Midwife is all “great, so now you know how, let’s practice!”

I’m like, “what? Where are my pants, is this for real?”

But again, being all compromised and naked I kind of just give in. She’s just done a pretty thorough exam anyway so now we’re going to have to get married and she may as well just get this over with.

She seriously, actually, totally, completely took a gloved finger or two and stuck them in that holy place and told me to squeeze. “You know, like if you’re stopping the flow when you pee!”

Am I dead? Is this happening? I am such a pushover.

And so, I squeeze.

And she says, “Are you doing it yet? Can you do it?”

Is she for real? I AM doing it! She can’t tell?

And I say, “Oh, I’m doing it, apparently those muscles are really weak or something.”

And she says “Well now you know how so if you practice it will make a BIG difference.”

And just like that, after three children and one remaining shred of dignity, it vaporized.

I’m so glad I did that with an audience. I hope the Midwife in Training learned a lot that day. I know I did. And there’s no way I will ever be able to practice a Kegel without wandering down that long lane of uncomfortable memories.

And that takes me back to the public conversation I had on a rare date with my husband about our birth control options in our postpartum lives. I’m quite keen to stay off of pills, patches, rings, IUD’s and other forms of tampering with my shipwrecked body. I chose to bring this up in public. Why? Because when you have children you become accustomed to having all of your discussions out in the open. You can’t escape your audience, ever. They follow you to the bathroom and they sneak into your bed at night. The most private place to discuss anything these days is right out in the open.

So enjoy the steak neighbors. The cauliflower puree is divine. Also, karate is on Tuesday, my mom wants to take the kids for a night, the big kid has diarrhea, the middle one isn’t ready to potty train yet, and my boobs are basically ready to blow milk all over your table. Do you like yoga pants? Wanna hang out?

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Hard Lines and Hand Holding

At ten past four in the afternoon I made a strong attempt to place my four week old daughter in her baby swing and cook dinner while my older boys played at the table where my visiting grandmother was folding our laundry.

I raced into the kitchen to pull together enough ingredients to make a passable dish called “meatloaf’” and found myself standing at the kitchen island looking at life clutter. Bills I keep forgetting to pay sitting right next to the check book and the pen that I intend to use and still manage to forget about day after day.

My toddler runs past holding an armload of legos falling behind him one at a time in a deadly trail on the floor. I am now cooking in a booby trap and the mission has gone from making a quick meal to keeping my toddler alive while I make anything edible over heat.

I’ve succeeded in retrieving hamburger from the fridge and sautéing half an onion while my mind wanders to my marriage and my husband. We have so much, and we have each other but I wonder in those brief seconds if I’ll ever see him again. See him in the sunlight as it glares in our bedroom window as two optimistic and childfree people sleeping in on a Sunday. I’m not entirely sure if we’ll pass a hump in our life stage of having a lot of very small humans and have new and exciting things to talk about. If his job and my child rearing will be all that we are.  What if this is all that there is and what if that’s really completely okay?

I made a book for my husband as a stocking stuffer this Christmas. It was just a silly little composition book made of recycled materials containing about a hundred blank pages. I did my solemn best to fill those pages with things I love about him and appreciate him for. He still hasn’t read it. He knows it’s there, he gets the gesture and yet he still hasn’t found the time to read it.

There’s some hurt feelings harboring in me and my eyes did mist over when he confessed he hadn’t read it but I stifled the tears before they could brew and steep into a fight. A gift is meant to be opened by the recipient when and if they choose. I have to hope he won’t forget about it the way we forget doctor visits and the obligations that pile up on our countertops, eventually making their way into the trash can.

He’s not life clutter and we are not meant to eventually make our way into a recycling bin.

Three children have been brought into this home and our stories intersect around them and work. Attention to anything else takes planning and consideration. I had a conversation with my husband yesterday about how I want to hold his hand but our hands are always full. Then I took an introspective look at how I became a shrew who constantly wants to know what he’s thinking. We look like a real life Rom-Com starring a realistically overweight postpartum version of Katherine Hiegel and a busy, handsome husband who comes home to chunky under mixed meatloaf. We even have my grandma starring as Alice from the Brady Bunch.

Time is cruel and harshens up the softness we carried in our youth, turning into rough lines that get deeper and deeper with age, with stress and with children.

Romance is putting on our jackets and mittens and taking a walk down the driveway every Monday night to bring the trash to the curb. You gotta make your own breaks. Chips are down…or something.

The sauté pan needs attention and the hamburger is still waiting to go into a pan and be seasoned with something. My baby girl starts to whine from her swing in the other room. We are now down to seconds before I have to shut down this whole dinner operation to breastfeed the upset newborn.

Rather than throw my hands up in Monday/dinner/motherhood frustration and cry over a Chinese takeout menu, I ask my grandmother to cook dinner while I take my time to sit down and nurse the baby. Of course the toddler wanders into the room to demand in nonverbal grunts that I read to him while I nurse. He is shortly followed by his four year old brother who becomes instantly jealous of all of the babies on my lap and chooses to do some insane yelling show off act requiring all of our attention.

I am constantly acutely aware of the Bose noise cancelling headphones that I did not get for Christmas.

All these kids want is me. And here I am stuck feeling like I am not enough for any of them.

Somehow though something always gives and there is always enough.

Some Sunday the light will burn into our windows stinging my eyes awake and my husband won’t complain about his job or waking up with the kids and I will appreciate the gift even more because I’ve been through the passage of time, worn the lines and waded through the life clutter without landing in the recycling bin.

*update: my husband reports he has read the book I made him and it really did cheer him up. Little victories feel big.
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Bringing Home Delilah and Postpartum truthiness

The snow was falling hard and fast. It was a heavy, wet snow that we typically get here in New England, and we are accustomed to several inches of snowfall. This being the first storm, being on Thanksgiving eve, with me 39 weeks pregnant, we were leaving nothing to chance.

Powerlines and tree branches were snapping as we packed our hospital bags with toothbrushes and cell phone chargers. We had at least half a foot of unplowed snow to bust through to get to the hospital and my contractions were 17 minutes apart.

We jumped into my husbands truck with glorious 4 wheel drive and skidded out onto the road to make “early” headway to the birthing center.

My contractions were four minutes apart after only half an hour of driving and checking in.

Two hours of ouchholymotherofgodwhatinthefuckishappeningtomybodygetthebabyoutnow and we met our beautiful baby girl.

It was a lot of swearing, the nurse asked me to tone it down and I was all “no way motherfuckers, I don’t have any drugs, you are going to let me swear.”

We relaxed in the hospital and the nurses helped us change diapers and burp the gas out of the baby so I could sleep and breastfeed Delilah. We ate Thanksgiving dinner at the hospital in our room, which turned out to be perfect and mellow. The staff was not the least bit annoyed to have to take care of me on Thanksgiving, which I appreciate.

We stayed for 48 hours and then were released, bringing baby Delilah and a bundle of new baby nerves with us.

To my absolute joy Delilah did nothing but sleep for a bunch of hours. She didn’t even poop the first day she came home. She was nursing like a champ and my milk production was through the roof. She was my dream child.

I’ve spent the last five days at home in a hazy postpartum state. I cried all day yesterday for the hell of it. My body and my hormones are trying to make sense of things, and sometimes it just results in a good hard cry.

I’ve had my Grandma here helping with food and cleaning and my husband stayed home for half of the week to assist with the older boys. When my husband goes back to work tomorrow I’ll probably be reduced to another pile of tears and ashes.

My nipples are taking the abuse of feeding the newborn with a lazy latch. All of my babies had a lazy latch and I crack and bleed and feel abused and used up. My poor vagina was ripped open like a Christmas present and I gingerly bathe my battered body and dab shea butter on my boobs when everyone is sleeping at night.  My kids put Christian Grey to shame and make him look like a total pansy.

My belly now holds the remnants of Chinese takeout and zero life. No kicks and jabs. My postpartum body is flabby and loose and I don’t care. There’s a little freedom to having sprung life from your loins and you’re allowed to look a little fat. Plus, it’s the holidays, we all feel a little fat. I get to cover it up in a cozy sweater and forget about it until April.  Plus, nobody has a muffin top if they buy the right yoga pants.

Viva la cookies!

My bladder is perhaps the most mixed up organ of all. It was used to going pee every five minutes, regardless if there was a toilet or not. Now I no longer feel the urge to pee and instead get a cramp in my abdomen that alerts me to use the potty. I can hold it for hours baby. Yeah, I’m bragging.

It’s physically been a relief. Since expelling the fruit of my womb I am no longer swollen and sweaty. I can take three steps without a pee leak, I can eat a normal amount of food instead of the metric shit ton I was shoveling in during pregnancy. My varicose veins are already starting to flatten out. Goodbye vulvar support hose.

My stitches hurt, but hey, you can’t win ‘em all.

My kids are adjusting as expected to our new baby. We brought her home over Thanksgiving break so we all bonded for a few days (read, my four year old drove me bat shit and I’m so glad he has school today). My toddler thinks the real baby is a doll and I have to protect her accordingly, otherwise he’d smash his toys into her and step on her head. Delilah never leaves my protective custody during the toddlers waking hours, making him insanely jealous so I hold him too and risk busting a stitch. My four year old now acts two. And he’s being a nasty little shit who needs attention but seeks it like a desperate chick in a failing relationship. He whines and begs and throws things. I placate him with ice cream and TV.

Hey, I’m not trying to win any parenting awards or get a reality show; I’m just trying to survive.

Perfection and expectation can suck it. It’s cold outside, we have a new baby and we are all regressing rather well here.

I haven’t moved our Elf on Shelf for three days, but I did buy him a cute sweater to make up for it.

Oh well.

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Ordinary, Boring, Mom Stuff (A Play by Play)

An ordinary day in the life of an average mom who forgets her phone, never replies to people in a timely fashion, forgets the Karate uniform and has approximately three hundred places to be and things to do. Sometimes I wonder how I survive, sometimes I feel genuine gratitude that the problems are small but mostly life is just happening while I’m busy cleaning coffee and Listerine off of the floor.

This was my day.

5 am: Wake up to pee again and struggle to fall back asleep. Get a charley horse and contemplate getting up to beat my legs with a stick to make them numb. Pregnancy is awful. Fall back into fitful sleep while making ten mental to-do lists.

7:45 am: Husband turns on lights, wakes me up and demands that I help him take care of the kids. Fine, but only if I have to. I begrudge everyone for ten minutes while I wipe the sleep off of my eyes and my brain.

8 am: Husband scrambles eggs, kids watch cartoons and mom packs lunch.

8:15 am: Breakfast battle ensues. Force remote out of kids hands, make them sit down to eat and listen to a string of complaints about how much one kid hates eggs/French toast/cereal/life (in general, not just the cereal brand).

8:20 am: Get shoes on and jackets/backpacks gathered.

8:30 am: No seriously, hurry up and get your damn shoes on, we’re already late. Why does it take you ten minutes to put on crocs? Your fingers are nimble, you can do better.

8:31 am: Baby screams as daddy drives away to school drop off and work. “DADA DADA DADA!”

8:35 am: “DADA!”

8:40 am: Make coffee. Shit, are we seriously out of coffee? Why am I the only one who buys stuff for this house anyways? Clearly, I’m unreliable.

8:45 am: Baby is in the kitchen being eerily quiet. Turn the corner to find that the baby found a K Cup under the counter but instead of saving it for me, he has chewed through the foil and we are now seeing what the insides of a K Cup look like all over the floors.

9 am: Done cleaning the floor, done cleaning the baby. Time for some TV with “Kelly and Michael”.

9:05 am: Baby toddles in with his favorite book, the same one we read fifty times every morning. There goes any chance I had of not beating my head into a wall this morning.

9:30 am: Hey baby, I’m all done reading that book now. Maybe you need some independent play time so mom can wash her face and brush her teeth. I go into the bathroom, followed by a whiney baby saying “up up up up up” while he waves his frantic little hands and starts to cry. Pick baby up and attempt to do the face/tooth washing one-handed, but become frustrated and decide to put the baby down. The baby then climbs the counter, reaches the shelf, pulls down every bottle and gets one open before I can even bend or wrangle.

9:45 am: Clean giant puddle of Listerine off of the bathroom floor and clean the baby, again.

10 am: Attempt to put the baby down for a nap. Spend twenty minutes getting punched in the face while captain adorable tries to fall asleep.

Oh what luck!

10:20 am: Whew, the kid is sleeping.  Tenderly tip toe out of the room like I’m diffusing a bomb. Success! This feels like spring break. Only now instead of doing Jello shots I get to dig out a bra to wear and unload the dishes. Same thing.

10:30 am: Dishes done, attempt at finding a bra is futile so I opt for a nursing tank top. I’m pregnant so nobody actually cares that my boobs are sad looking and in need of some support. Yoga pants, check.

10:45 am: Organize a few of the things the kids destroyed this morning and try to find the baby’s shoes while also folding laundry.

11 am: I realize time is flying and I need to sit down now if I’m going to get to sit down at all for the rest of the day. The TV sounds good right now. I flip through boring, relentless and mind-numbing morning shows starring some musical guest that released their first album twenty years ago and the View is now their big “come back” platform.  I text husband, “we’re out of coffee. I guess someone is going to have to die today” and spend ten minutes entertaining day dreams that he’s running out to get me coffee. He’s not, obviously.

11:30 am: The baby is whining upstairs in the crib. I waddle up the stairs to go pick him up. I waddle back down the stairs holding him. I feed him some grapes and milk, pull out his shoes and get him ready to go to school pick up.

12 pm: School pick up. The nightmare portion of the day. The school is situated at the top of a huge hill in the woods that I trudge up while holding the baby’s hand in mine. The baby gets distracted by every stick he sees on the grass and twenty minutes later, we reach our destination. The kids are waiting outside on the playground for pick up, and by waiting I mean running around and/or hiding from their parents. I finally find my child among the many and begin the process of gathering the things he scattered all over the school. I stuff the things I recognize as mine into the little backpack and spend ten minutes telling my kids that we’re leaving in two more minutes. Half an hour later…

12:30 pm: Exhausted pregnant lady on the verge of screaming is now hauling two kids and a backpack down a steep hill towards the minivan. It’s the new walk of shame.

12:40 pm: The kids are buckled in, the things are gathered and I’m only having moderate contractions. Oh, I forgot to sign the kid out of school for the twentieth day in a row. Whatever, at this point I’m going to pretend I never knew a sign out sheet existed and just play dumb. I need a coffee from a drive thru window and I need it now.

12:45 pm: From the backseat, “waaah mommy, why are you getting coffee? I wanna gooooo hoooome! Waaah!” I successfully resist the urge to yell profanities at the small children in the backseat. I chug my coffee in twenty record-breaking seconds and immediately my blood pressure returns to normal.

1 pm: Pick up my grandma and get on her case about her meds again, make sure she calls her pharmacy, chase the baby away from all of the dangerous and unbaby-proofed stuff in the house. Drive everyone to my house to pick up the phone that I just realized I left behind. The kids have a doctor appointment at 2:30 so if I play my cards right we’ll only be five minutes late instead of thirty.

1:30 pm: Everyone is unloading into my house, the baby runs away. Chase him down the driveway at top waddle speed. Get lured into pouring cups of juice, cutting up grapes and breaking up fights over cheese sticks and toys.

2:30 pm: Oh shit. The doctor! Somehow in the melee I forgot the doctor. Everybody get in the car, now! There’s no time for shoes or jackets! Just go!

2:35 pm: Arrive at doctor with half of our clothing, but still only five minutes late. We burst into the waiting room, panting. It’s a shot visit, so I pull out all of the stops and promise a trip for toys and chocolate after our shots.

2:40 pm: Every surface of the waiting room has been sufficiently touched or licked by my kids. If we didn’t have measles and Ebola before, we do now. They call us in. They have a nasal spray option for the four year old. Thank god almighty that this day is not a total wash.

2:55 pm: My screaming toddler recovers from his shots, we put away all of the office toys that the kids destroyed and we all emerge from the office sporting new puppy stickers that should say: “I survived”.

3 pm: Walpharm. We stop at the drugstore so the kids can pick out the toys that I stupidly promised them while I wait in line for my own flu shot. I might be signing up for a staph infection, but whatever, just give me the shot so my kids can buy all of these monster trucks and chocolates and get out of your store. My grandma realizes she wants a flu shot too. Double that wait time then. Better hurry up pharmacist, I can’t hold back these kids from wrecking your store down to the studs.

3:30 pm: Home sweet home. Fifty dollars’ worth of monster trucks, Halloween candy and batteries later, we are unloading at our house. The kids rope me into pouring milk, getting granola bars and making me help them find that one little lost thing that they have to have right this minute. The thing I haven’t seen in six months that I probably gave away. That thing.

4 pm: I slump down on the floor while the kids play. I’m convinced that I can close my eyes while they play together. But that’s not going to happen because their version of playing together is actually just them fighting over toys and me putting the toys on top of the fridge. So that’s pretty relaxing.

4:30 pm: Today is make-up day at Karate. Riiiight. Shoes back on, back out the door. I forgot the uniform. But my husband saves the day because he knew I would forget the uniform again and he pre-emptively grabbed it on his way to work so he could meet us there all prepared. I make my grandma stay with the toddler as her penance for being my blood relative.

5 pm: We’re hungry and tired but damnit if we don’t get into that karate dojo and high kick with the best of them. Of course that didn’t happen. My kid spent the entire class crawling on the floor when he should have been standing, chewing on his karate belt and managing to misinterpret every direction his instructors gave him. Oh well. Mom ran out of shits to give when she woke up this morning and the toddler ate her coffee.

6 pm: Home! Karate uniform changed, dinner is on the stove and the kids are killing each other. There’s a loud boom and someone is screaming. I halfway care enough to peek at the damage. As expected the toddler is screaming on the floor. My husband takes over dinner so that I can play with the kids in a last ditch effort to keep them alive. We play…phone. The baby loves to pretend everything is a phone. So for way too long we sit at the table holding non-phone objects and repeat “hello, hello, hello” into them as if they are real. This is stimulating stuff.

6:30 pm: Dinner! We all sit down to eat. I immediately start stuffing my face, my preschooler throws a tantrum because dinner is spaghetti and not hot dogs or happy meals, my toddler smashes his food into his face and my husbands’ eyes roll straight out of his head and onto the floor. My grandma thanks god that she’s hard of hearing and we all dig deep, deep down inside of our patience reserves to ensure that nobody snaps. Ah, family.

7 pm: The baby announces from his booster seat that it’s “bath time” and demands to get down by just pointing and screaming. Husband does the baths, grandma does the dishes and mama does…the sitting. Because, pregnant.

7:30 pm: the kids are in Pajamas, reading stories with mama who’s just trying not to cry or fall asleep.

8 pm: Close the door to the kids bedroom. Breathe a heavy sigh of relief. It’s time to drive Grandma home.

8:30 pm: Get home and stress eat six thousand calories of Halloween candy, hide the evidence in the garbage can and take a shower. Discover one of my kids clogged the drain with play dough. Oh my god.

Life as a mom isn’t glamorous and it isn’t exciting, but it’s really, really busy. We have nothing to prove to people who don’t see our worth, but we do more than we know for the people who depend on us. Take a look at your day, is it any wonder you’re exhausted? You’re awesome moms. You’re doing it all, and you’re doing your best, even though it feels like a mess and it ends with a headache.

I never did find my actual phone and I’m sure there are a hundred messages waiting for me. Sadly I couldn’t check them on the toddlers toy phone. There’s a pile of letters I had to send out today, and yesterday and the day before and I still haven’t done it. Tomorrow is another day for that.

I cannot wait for my 5 am charley horse.

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The Selfish Pregnant Woman

When it comes to baby showers there are a few different camps that people fall into. The first one being my camp. I’m ring leading this camp by not only continuing to have babies well past the socially acceptable limit, but also by having a baby shower for every single baby that takes up nest in my apparently cozy uterus.

The next camp is being led by people like my grandmother. The camp, “well in my day you got one shower and that was it. Everything is so different today!”

The other camp is the “I don’t really care how many showers you have if there’s cake and wine” camp.

The perception of women who host multiple showers is that they are greedy and looking for attention. We should already have everything we need and stop asking people to fund our offspring.

It’s true, the swings and cribs and the car seat are all big and expensive items that you will probably only ask for one time and you will probably only ever be gifted one time. Nobody wants to keep milking loved ones for brand new stuff for each baby, mostly because we’re not all spoiled Kardashians. What our camp does want is some attention. Some positive juju flowing to our growing bellies and the often forgotten chance to talk to our friends and family about ourselves and our pregnancies without always focusing on the older child. Yes, you heard me right, we do want to feel selfish.

Mothers aren’t granted endless opportunities to take time for themselves, and mothers with more than one older child are usually forgotten about in the trenches, covered in mud or chocolate and left to fend for their pregnant-selves while the pack carries on without them.

The baby shower slows down the spinning. Anyone who comes to your baby shower is subjected to caring about you and your new baby and yes, damnit, that feels good. It’s not about bathtubs and monitors; it’s about taking precious time and feeling a little bit of the emotional gravity that having a new baby carries, playing a fun game and remembering that people do love you. Every pregnant woman who selflessly walks the earth for nearly ten months while giving life to an unseen and unknown child deserves to be showered. No pregnant woman left behind. And left behind is exactly how I was starting to feel.

The world moves fast. New jobs, promotions, weddings and divorces are happening in a constant flow in the lives of everyone. Schedules are a mess of soccer games, ballet and “oh shit, I forgot his karate uniform again!”

A baby shower feels like one more obligation, setting up, cooking, showing up, and buying a gift all sits on a to do list like just “one more thing”, one more obstruction in a weekend plan. One more stop on the way to field hockey.

In the end, for a woman who has had two showers, two babies and understands obligations, it means so much more that her friends and family took the time to show up. The act of showing up is the one that means the most. Being there, being a team, rallying around to watch someone swoon over a pink or blue onesie is the kind of support that lacks in a quickly turning world, but carries through into a greater feeling of support and community.

Everyone deserves that.  As selfish as it is.

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Babies are delicious. Here’s proof!

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A diaper cake that I brought home and stared at in my kitchen while I ate leftover cake. It’s that adorable.

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I’ve been swooning over all of my beautiful things. These in particular were handmade by friends. Something handmade counts as two gifts, the time it took to make and the act of giving it itself.

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These were designed by shower guests. They did an amazing job. One of the artists was my six year old niece. Like I’m ever going to forget that memory.

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Pregnancy; The Toughest Mudder

I am eight months pregnant. If you’ve been following along, you know it’s my third baby. If you’re new here, hi! I’m eight months pregnant with my third baby! I feel overdue for some good whine. Buckle in, it’s go time.

Now that the baby bump is obviously more than bloat from a ham sandwich, I’m getting comments from the public, whereas previously I was really just getting cautious glances towards my middle. I could read the look on people’s faces; “whoa, maybe she’s pregnant or maybe she’s getting fat”. I know that it’s hard to tell. Having two back-to-back pregnancies has done wonders for my body. Wondrous triumphs in swelling, bloating and weight gain. Is there a Nobel Prize for maternal sacrifices in pregnancy? No? Well work on it then. My chins need validation.

I now have to wear ankle boots or spring for “wide calf” knee high leather boots because my legs are like expanding tree trunks and my leather boots don’t even zip up my calf. Not that my old shoes matter anymore since my feet grow a half size with every pregnancy, and no, they don’t “shrink back down”.  I started having kids in a comfortable size nine; I’ve worked my way up to an eleven. If I had a red nose I could make it official and just be a clown. I wonder how much their shoes cost.

Talk about first world problems.

Also, all of the maternity clothes that I salvaged from my last pregnancy are a full size too small, because I still had twenty pounds to lose from my last adorable baby bump when I started growing this one. I am far too cheap to buy any more maternity clothes, so I wear long tank tops under too-tight maternity tops and huge yoga pants that I roll all the way up my belly. I look like Winnie the Pooh, except with yoga pants. I’m Winnie the Poohs’ soccer mom.

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I digress, let’s travel back to the comments I get.

When I’m out shopping with my kids at Target or the grocery store my toddler is usually running away from me and my three year old is usually crying for fruit snacks. It’s times like these that some smart ass decides to chime in;

“Oh boy. You’re busy. Your hands sure are full.”

YEP. They sure are. Glad you noticed. Now kindly get the fuck out of my way unless you have something awesome to say, like; “Oh boy, you’re a rock star! You look amazing! All those kids and you’re still so put together! I didn’t even notice the sweat on your upper lip!” Or maybe lying isn’t your thing so you could, I don’t know, grab a bag of groceries and put it in my car for me if you absolutely cannot abstain from making an asinine remark you kind stranger, you.

Or my favorite comment ever, and I think it came from a friend, not a stranger but with my pregnancy brain firing on one busted piston I wouldn’t honestly remember if my own mom said it. It’s a doozy nonetheless.

“Well at least you can’t get pregnant while you’re pregnant!”

What? Do you think I’m having any sex right now? Yes, my two young children sleep effortlessly through the night and my energy stores are so high that by nights end I am RARING to go. I don’t even care that the nature of the statement is super personal, because it’s that ridiculous.

Imagine me, sitting in bed sweating after a two hour bedtime battle with two kids under four, with my feet propped up on a pillow, laying on my left side while putting away a whole box of pop tarts. Move over, Angelina Jolie’s leg, there’s a new sex symbol in town.

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This pregnancy experience is not much different or more spectacular than my previous pregnancies. I know the drill; it’s all pretty standard text book stuff. Sciatic pain, pelvic pain, thigh pain, Charlie horses all night long, constipation, lots of swelling, peeing my pants more than Lisa Rina does in her new depends campaign, and my varicose veins continue to spread and ache.

The only new and newsworthy item is the varicose vein that has spread into my groin. My doctors warned me this could happen from the beginning, and there’s no real preventative care. You just get to suffer until you’re ready for this contraption to aid the swelling and discomfort.

vulvar support

I’m like pregnant batman, but unfortunately the chic purple leotard is not included. Neither is my cape.

I walk around with searing, pulling pain in my crotch all day long. I expect this is what it feels like when men get a nut-punch. Maybe that should be its own book, “What To Expect When You’re Punched In The Nuts”. The pain is the only reason I signed up for something called “vulvar maternity support”.

This pregnancy also comes with the demands and care of two other little kids. It’s less than ideal relaxation.

With my first pregnancy I slept all the livelong day. And everyone around me was super supportive of my naps. These days I try and put my head on a pillow and someone screams for yogurt, or spills yogurt, or falls off of a chair. (Seriously kids, knock it off. Mom’s tired.)

People used to ask me how I was feeling: “oh wow, look at you, you’re glowing. How do you feel?” but now that I’m on baby number three the general public is like “whatever, you obviously love having pregnancy cankles and vulvar support, otherwise you would quit getting knocked up.”

Not only am I not getting offered a free seat when I’m out in public, but if there is a seat available, my kids steal it from me anyways.

It stands to reason that the more kids you have the less sympathy and compassion people have for you. I can basically hear people’s looks when I grunt from a ligament pulling, or moan from a dull back ache. (It’s like I have ESPN or something.) I suspect people are thinking; “toughen up. If you can’t handle it then maybe you shouldn’t have gotten pregnant”.

Maybe I’m putting my own issues onto other people, or maybe people can be jerks. I know from experience because I used to be a jerk too.  Until one day, it was me who needed the support and encouragement and found it nowhere.

I feel like a social leper. Pregnancy isn’t airborne (thank God) but people steer clear of me like I am something to fear. “Crikey, there’s the rare breed who dared to have more than two kids, avert your eyes before she asks you to babysit”.

Having more than two kids makes you ripe for a public shunning. Even though after one baby is born the world cannot wait for baby number two. If there’s one thing almost all women have experienced it’s the pressure to procreate to appease others.

Before your stitches even heal your family is begging you to get pregnant again, but you shouldn’t fall for that shtick unless they are seriously considering buying the house next door, baby sitting weekly and helping you run out for diapers and milk twice a week. You should also take into consideration the gender of your first born. Because everyone expects you to miraculously produce one child of each gender and be “complete” in your procreational success. If your second child is not the preferred opposite gender of the first born, you will inevitably be asked if you will “keep trying”.

You probably should take off your sock and stuff it into the mouth of the person asking you that question. For they are now dead to you, you do not need them, move on.

When you end up with two kids of the same gender and a third baby on the way you might hear this; “well if you have three you have to have four otherwise the balance will be off”.

Say what now, crazy? Who’s balance will be off? Yours. Your balance will be off permanently because I am going to shin-kick some sense into you if you ever say that again.

I need a village. It takes one to raise a child I hear, and I have three kids to raise.  So I probably need a Quiverfull cult with the Duggars at the helm to come and rescue me, rub my feet and tell me I’m pretty.

I is smart. I is kind. I is important.

My stomach has a brain growing inside of it. Let’s try and embrace that for the next few weeks while I embrace the hell out of some pop tarts in my judgment-free bed.

And when you see me at Target wrangling my kids and waddling as fast as I can with shortened breath, you can say “hey lady, good job”.

And that’ll do.

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The Completely Unspecial Unspectacular Birthday

“Mom, who drew on your belly?”

Now, my son is only three so it would have been inappropriate to throw him out of the window when he picked up my shirt and took a long look at my big, pregnant belly.

Instead I said, “nobody son. People just get those when their skin stretches out, like when they’re having babies.”

My husband thought the appropriate and helpful comment to contribute was “kiddo, do you even know how many babies were in that belly?”

Him, I could throw out of a window. My endless drip-supply of love for my husband keeps me in check. Or something.

There’s a je ne sais quoi to this “extra” baby. The surprise has worn off, and been replaced by exhaustion, fatigue and general “I don’t give a fuck-ery”. I’ve been too busy to really notice that tomorrow is my birthday and I’ll be another year older, meanwhile I’m still staring directly at the calendar reading the words “soccer practice”, “baby shower”, “sons’ birthday party”, “anniversary” and Halloween, while I try to remember which date I have a doctor’s appointment and whether or not I double booked it with the kids vaccinations.

Another year, another month full of obligations and responsibilities. I have adapted to my reality, and made the appropriate adjustments, the house isn’t some neatly organized photo out of “Real Simple” magazine, but with systems in place I’m starting to figure out how to be happy in this new role I’ve created for myself of “never ending baby maker”. And making time for my couch is pretty high on the priority list these days.

Last October the Fifth I turned thirty. I was happy to wave my nostalgic goodbye at the mistakes of my past and move into “thirties adulthood” with a prepared sense of purpose. It seemed like a milestone, my husband planned a surprise party for me, and he sent me out shopping while he took care of the kids and put out some food, and gathered our friends. It was a sweet gesture, it was appropriate, and it was miles apart from previous birthdays in my past.

In my twenties my husband and I would take weekends off together to celebrate my birthday, and we would travel to different cities, see bands, go out to bars and waste money like a couple of youngsters with the freedom to not care.

Even with one child in our quiver, we found a way to get a sitter, take a trip and party into my twenty-ninth year.

What I wouldn’t give now for one ounce of that excited feeling and the energy to nail one thrilling day, to bottle it up and dispense it as needed. Every time I think about tomorrow, I feel heavy. The pregnancy is like a weighted blanket, I’m never allowed to forget about the responsibility that I carry, both physically and metaphorically.

My life is not about me anymore. Whether I find it fulfilling or annoying (depending on the day) is of no consequence, and I’ve developed a healthy ambivalence towards the mundane tasks of waking up and changing clothes and brushing teeth, only to end the day putting the kids to bed with the same book, and the same nightly routine.

When a day pops up that is supposed to be “special” it suddenly feels like pressure to do. Do something, be different, be who you want, do what you want; this is the day that counts. The weighted blanket sags a little heavier over my body and my will to take a nap strengthens.

What I want and what I need have become the same huddled mass of tangible things from China that can be purchased in a breezy two-hundred dollar trip to Target on a Monday night.

Special would be the clock learning to stand still while I accomplish putting away the shoes that my kids constantly grow out of. Special would be my back pain clearing up and giving me the movement and ability to fend for myself that I had a year ago. Special would be a late night, with s’mores that won’t go straight to my thighs and wine with a smooth finish and cozy sweaters and peace and quiet.

The reality is rain, mosquitoes and the ever present shadow of motherhood that keeps me from fitting into cozy sweaters in adorable, imagined settings.

Reality is annoyance, it’s sweat on your upper lip and forgetting to wear deodorant.

It’s bad breath and farting in front of your spouse. (I don’t do that)

It’s getting comfortable with a bag of Reese’s that you’ll regret tomorrow while you surf a hundred channels for one decent thing to watch.

I think I know what I’ll be doing for my birthday. And I think thirty-one is going to be just as imperfect, busy and muddled it should be. With stretch marks and uncomfortable conversations.

kids and leaves

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Dyeing To Be Frugal

I have a weird obsession with changing my hair. It’s weird because I’ve lived in the same town my whole life, I travel to the same places every year and I shop at the same three stores every week. Variety and change are not my typical seasoning. It’s a bonafide obsession because the second I get used to the way my hair looks I am driven to change it and make it different. It’s impulsive, and I am consumed by the itch to cut it off or color it. It’s the same feeling that makes bored teenagers do really stupid stuff on YouTube.

As a lady who has spent a war-sized debt on trips to the hair salon, I know that box colors are basically a sin and somewhere out in fiction land Elle Woods; attorney at law, is dying on the inside (see what I did there?) to know that today I caved and bought the box of bleach from the shelf at WalDrug.

I was pretty certain that I was buying a big box of mistake. With my toddler scream-flailing under my arm in a desperate attempt to gain freedom from his ball and chain of a mother, I “swiftly” bent down, grabbed a box of “champagne, caramel, honey wheat” whatever and made way for the register quickly enough that I couldn’t hesitate or rethink my hasty decision. (Or lose control of my toddler and be forced to let him be adopted by the nice staff at WalPharm).

“That’ll be $17.48”, the cashier said.

Holy crap, it’s under twenty bucks for a box of bleach and here I am going to the salon every few months and spending over a hundred and fifty dollars on highlights? Not to mention the begging I have to do to pass my kids off for an afternoon while I sweat it out under a smock. I’m a chump. On the other hand, this project could fail terribly and I’d be walking around with a frizzy, orange, clown ‘fro and be begging my stylist to take me back immediately and make me whole again.

And if she told me no, I would know that I deserved it because I bought that dirty box of hair color.

I have to buckle down on my budget, and it’s boot season. It’s boots or salon highlights this month. Mama can’t cobble her own leather, so at home highlights it is.

For added situational drama, my toddler has recently ceased sleeping due to teething. (On the behalf of parents everywhere I’d like to interject: Fuck You Molars.)

I knew fully that I would be bleaching my hair while simultaneously chasing my toddler and keeping him from falling off of furniture. That’s the twenty dollar, hair color in a box experience for you. No sweet receptionist is serving me tea or water today.

My husband took our preschooler off to school this morning, and I went to work immediately. I’m pretty sure errrbody knows that highlights take eons, and I have only three hours. Tick tock, time’s wasting.

I put on the funny little shower cap that comes with the box, it’s a plastic bonnet, a la great grandma, and it has tiny holes in it that you pull your hair through. With what you ask? What do you pull your hair through those holes with? A knitting needle. Or at least it looks like one.

Prepare to meet your maker, frugal lady. Stabbing yourself in the head with a knitting needle approximately a hundred times and pulling your hair out with it is just as fun as it sounds.

About one hour and four hundred tears later, I had pulled all of the hairs I could handle through those tiny hat holes. And I did it while catching my toddler eating toothpaste, losing a pair of my earrings, opening up a water bottle and dumping it out in the kitchen, then crying because he was wet, then following me back into the bathroom and opening up a bottle of mouthwash and dumping that out on the floor. Mmm, minty fresh toddler spirit.

I take tiny tot out into the kitchen, and fetch him some milk and snacks to hopefully keep him sitting for the next stage.

Mixing the bleach.

I read the directions pretty darn well, because I’m no scientist and I really needed to dummy-proof this part. The box had six different packets in it, six. I had to figure out what I was mixing with; what I was conditioning with and what I was toning with. Who knew that Hairdressers are also chemists?

Alright, frugal pretend chemist, let’s apply this creamy eye-stinging mixture to your raw and beaten scalp!

On went the cream, saturating all of the strands I had pulled through the hat holes. Just in time for the toddler to start screaming because his milk was gone. But this could be good, I might be able to get the baby to sleep while I marinate in bleach fumes.

So I covered my ‘do with the extra plastic bonnet they give you, making sure not to bleach the baby, and I hauled my little one upstairs to go “night-night”.

I basically rocked that kid for an hour, trying desperately to get him to sleep while I was certain my hair was falling out of my head in snowy-white chunks.

After a lot of typical struggle, involving me getting kicked, punched, scratched and yelled at in angry toddlerese, I had the baby asleep in his crib and I was able to sneak out and check the damage on my head.

To my shock, after a full hour of tingling bleach on my hair, it was still pink. Pink? Well that shit just won’t do because I can’t pass for a thirty year old rock star in maternity leggings, no matter how hard I try.

I decided to play it by ear, according to the directions my hair should be in a pile on the floor by now, but it seemed to be holding up, despite my great attempt at murdering it.

In ten minute increments I checked, and rechecked my hair until I was certain it looked more peachy than pink. I convinced myself that I could pull off peach colored hair, because by now I had to be at school pick up in half an hour, so even if it was pink I was going to have to work it, cover girl.

After a rinse and a confusing shampoo with two more packets from the box, I was ready to blow dry this hot mess out and see the damage up close and personal.

I was shocked at the result.

I managed to pull it off.

With mouthwash on my feet, a missing pair of earrings and a toddler with a belly full of “berry blast” Thomas toothpaste, I had created salon quality highlights.

Let’s just use the term “salon quality” loosely. The hair looked good, I was spared an orange, frizzy afro but in no way would I compare what I did to what a salon would do.

I guessed, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. I had poured chemicals on my bird-pecked scalp. I wasn’t sure if I’d end up in tears and I probably gave both of my babies learning disabilities, all in the name of my vain and uncontrollable urge to constantly change my hair.

I am however going to take pride in this accomplishment, because every craft I have made from Pinterest has failed, every attempt I have ever made at sewing something has ended in my fingers bleeding and nothing gained. But this, this I nailed.

And I probably will never, ever try to nail it again.

HAIRUpdate: A reader has politely explained to me that you do not actually use a knitting needle to stab your head. They provide you with a crochet hook. Tomato, tomatoe, it’s still the devil.

 

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I’ll Show You Mine: A Learning Moment For Mom

Three is such an adorable age, full of wonder and curiosity. Life is such an adventure when you’re little. You play touch and go with everything and everyone around you, poking and scratching the boundaries like a scab, and sometimes crossing those boundaries. Sometimes just to see what happens when you do, other times crossing the boundary without even realizing it.

The latest and most obvious boundary as we tentatively baby-step towards age four is all about potty language and defining limits with humor. What’s funny, what’s naughty? Where’s the difference? Does mom think I’m funny if I tell a poop joke at the dinner table? No? Well how about the third time, because everything gets funnier after the third time.

What if an older kid gets to say that word that mommy says is naughty? Does that mean I can say it too? It sounds funny coming from another kid, maybe mom was wrong.

I’ve been waiting for the day when my sons brand new school would be calling my cell phone to tell me all about the hilarious poopy-head jokes my charming kid has been delivering. And it looks like I’ll still get to wait for that dreaded call, because the conversation I had at school pick-up today was a little more embarrassing and a little less language related.

To her credit, my son has a completely understanding preschool teacher who has probably seen all of the crazy that these tykes can think up, dream up and throw up.

She very gracefully came up to me on the playground and casually dropped in with a conversation about my sons’ new bestie, a little girl.

It seems they’ve been getting really close lately. In fact they feel so completely comfortable with one another that they decided to start a conversation about butts.

And then, like little frat boys, the adorable tykes started having a butt competition. And everyone knows the only way to settle a butt-off is to take off your pants and compare butts. Regardless of whether or not you’re in a class of fully clothed peers. Because three is a magical age.

So the teacher had a really patient talk with the kids about body parts and boy parts and girl parts and how usually, school is not the appropriate place for a pants-off dance-off.

She explained it all to me with just a hint of a grin and a “hey, it’s natural and they’re just curious kids”.

To which I could only reply; “well all of that curiosity is really baffling since he never gives me a minute in the bathroom alone.”

Because I’m mature like that, and I’m also already pretty mortified so why not go the extra mile? Go big or go home, they say.

I had a little laugh, I made sure to tell my son to talk to mommy when he has body questions loud enough so that his teacher heard me, and then to fully humiliate both of us I reiterated that “school is not the place to get naked, unless you have to potty”.

My little kid avoided eye contact with me for five full minutes and asked me to stop talking.

So I did, because I totally freaking get that.

Damn if I didn’t try and play it cool, and be the progressive “there’s no shame in your body” type of mom, but apparently we weren’t going to have that kind of conversation today.

Boundary tested, son.

I’m so not ready for this stuff.

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I Can’t Keep Calm, I’m a Mom

It’s just a little shit fit. No big deal.

Every weekend my husband is home from work. Every weekend I make sure and take my three year old out for some big kid time with mom, the baby doesn’t tag along and the big kid is free to drink his own smoothies and run at the park without his little brother getting in the way. It always ultimately helps the family bond.

Our favorite smoothie place is this super expensive local food Co-op. Think Whole Foods but small and locally owned. Lots of body odor and six dollar cups of kale juice flying around in that place. They sell little handmade and fair trade wares from around the world. Today they had scarves. My son had spent our whole walk together complaining that he was cold, and me being the mother of the year figured he would warm up from the movement of walking. Such was not the case, and he saw the scarves on our way to order a smoothie and he lit up like Christmas morning.

“Oooh! Soft scarves mommy! They’re warm! I want one to keep me warm!”

The scarves are super pretty and I’d wear it anyway. Plus my mom guilt was making my brain painfully throb because I didn’t bring him a jacket.

“Well kiddo, let’s pick out one that mommy likes. That blue one is pure silk and I can’t clean silk.”

“But I want THIS ONE mommy!”

“No, no babe, let’s pick out one of these other pretty ones.”

“NO! NO! NO!”

What proceeded was a series of shrill screams, with lots of unintelligible words. The ones I understood were “NO MOMMY I WANT THE BLUE ONE. GIVE ME THE BLUE ONE! AHHHH! WAHHH!”

I mom-reflexed and my fight or flight response kicked in. I picked him up, held him close, glued my eyes onto the sliding doors that led to the outdoors and focused like a drone on getting him out of there without being accosted by peaceful-parenting gurus full of kale juice, quinoa and happy thoughts who would likely suggest that I “keep calm and try offering him a distraction” or some other nonsense.

Nope, just get us out of here while I skillfully avoid eye contact with any moving objects.

The kid needs to have his tantrum but he damn well doesn’t need to do it next to the seven dollar chicken salad with the eyes of the world’s wealthiest grocery shoppers watching.

We took our show on the road, across the street to a bench by a river. How serene, I thought, this will be very calming for him. Except he’s three, and babbling brooks do nothing to thwart the ongoing screams and begging. For a minute I was afraid he looked like he was being kidnapped by me. I waffled between fear and heart-swallowing mommy guilt when he started yelling, “I’ll behave mommy, please buy me the scarf, I’m so cold!”

Yeah, that stabbed like a dagger.

He’s freezing even though it’s sixty-five degrees and everyone knows that he’s crying because I am obviously an awful mom. I stare at the ground, too afraid of what I might see in strangers’ eyes if I dared to look around me.

I let him keep crying, and crying. And yelling and yelling.  I’m calmly suggesting that he be quiet and stop screaming so we can talk. Reason, yes, kids are famous for having the ability to reason, especially when deep in the throes of emotional soap opera tumult.

When nothing else works to end his screams, I pull out my cell phone and call daddy at home.

“Dear husband, tell me what to do about this fine mess.”

He can hear our son screaming through the phone. I tell him it’s been ten minutes of this and it shows no signs of stopping. I’m getting really tired of watching this tantrum burn down and I’m sure our audience is really sick of our shit too. Just judging by the way the benches next to us started to really clear out.

With my husband on the phone talking me down before I cry and collapse in defeat, I decide to pry his little fingers off of the bench that he’s been white knuckling while he screams in my face. I pull him to me and haul him up over my huge belly. The baby sister I’m cooking starts to kick her brothers legs in protest and my back is totally starting to give out, but we have to move. We have to get closer to home and away from this store before someone calls the cops on the pregnant woman in mid-kidnap.

All I can do is heft this sobbing kid like a sack of loud-ass potatoes and try to get home.

At a cross walk I set him down while we wait for a turn to cross. This ignites a whole new shit storm in him. He does not want to be put down he wants to be held like NOW, however I do not want to go into labor on Main Street.

I manage to coerce him two more blocks through his sobs and screams to the next bench. So we sit and I call my husband, again.

“This is it, we can’t go any further. Can you come get us?”

And while I rub his little back, his sobs die down. The sun comes out from behind the clouds and warms up our little bench. He starts to drift off to sleep.

Moments later the minivan of salvation pulls up and we are finally done. I am so done.

Torn between guilt and anger I let the tantrum go. There are no repercussions or time outs because twenty minutes of public screaming has broken my thin resolve and his.

The tantrum has extinguished and in its place is relief and gratitude for the strength of the people around us that day, because nobody paid our stand-off much attention. The general public fanned away from the child drama and kept their cool. The cops never showed up, nobody ever stopped us or intercepted. Nobody tried to offer advice, and truthfully when a child is having his fit there is no advice, comment or condolence that will help the immediate circumstance.

Not even a heavy sigh or suggestion of disappointment came from the crowd.

The most supportive and understanding gift I received was silence from the passerby. What helped the most was having the people around pretend that nothing was happening. I was the mom who looked awful, enormously pregnant, stressed out and ready to cry. My child was being the monster child that people complain about in airports and shopping malls; I was an easy target for judgment or an ill-timed “it gets better”.

It doesn’t get better anyway. It’s life and it’s always a challenge.

I’ve at least learned why moms throughout history have always insisted that their kids “bring a jacket”.

I have arrived.

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