Apr 172012

Exactly one year ago… and precisely one week late… my life changed forever.  Ok, well it actually changed forever exactly 41 weeks + 52 weeks ago…what is that… 93? I’m tired.  And why do people with babies insist on counting time in weeks?  But  then again, exactly 93 weeks ago, I didn’t know that it had changed yet, so does it count?  So maybe it was 93 – 4.5 weeks (that’s math I can’t do right now) ago, when I found out I was pregnant that my life changed forever.  Hmmmm…  Is it the moment of conception, of realization or of admission into the world that changes your life?

Anyway, I digress…

I had a fairly easy labor and delivery… considering that it was labor and delivery (for those of you who have not had the opportunity to squeeze a human being through your body, past your internal organs and out a hole that somehow is just never big enough… I’ll spare you the grisly details.  I’ll tell you when you are older, or perhaps when I am drunk.) Then the magic moment came when my daughter sprung forth… actually she sort of oozed forth… from my loins.  The nurse immediately placed this sweet, tiny (albeit screaming) baby on my chest and I finally stared into her beautiful blue eyes and felt… really fucking tired.  I was expecting to feel fireworks, or a sparkly magical connection, or at least somewhat like a mother.  I didn’t.  What I felt was definitely joy, but it was tempered with disbelief and pure exhaustion.

I felt as though I were outside of my body, looking down at myself.  Looking down at a mom who had an ecstatic husband and the most beautiful baby in the world, but who didn’t know what to do with it all.  I felt numb.  And because I felt numb, I felt fear.  What if I didn’t love my baby as much as I should?  What if I wasn’t cut out to be a mom? What if I had postpartum depression? What if this whole thing was a mistake? And because I felt fear, I also felt guilt.  I guess that was when I should have known that I was truly a mom.

For those of you who are judging me right now, try to give me a break.  God knows I didn’t give myself one. But let’s take an honest look at the situation.  When you give birth to a baby, you top off the most tiring and uncomfortable ten months of your life  (TEN MONTHS, NOT NINE. 40 weeks. Do the math) with the final month of total discomfort and pure exhaustion (it’s really hard to sleep when you have to pee all the time, every appendage is swollen to 3 times its normal size, and you have a baby doing zumba in your belly all night, every night).  The good news is that all of this leads up to the most physically demanding thing you have ever done, which, besides being a marathon of huffing, puffing, pushing and tearing (sorry),  almost always involves not sleeping for at least 24 hours.  Then, right away you get to start the toughest job you’ll ever have, working for the most demanding boss in the world.  I mean, if any other job required working around the clock, sleeping for only single hour stretches, and taking care of every single solitary need for a thankless boss prone to total meltdowns… the unions would be all over that shit.  I mean, I was up all night without sleeping, going through a very painful as well as physically and mentally demanding journey,  when suddenly this creature who has been in my belly for 10 months is laying on my chest, greedily searching for my boob as I lay there helpless as a rag doll.  So yes, I was tired.  And no, I didn’t have the immediate and earth-shattering connection I expected.

For those of you still judging me… go ahead.  I truly hope that you had or will have an immediate connection with your son or daughter.  Some people do.  But not everyone.  And not me.

What I can say is that as the day wore on, I started to come down from the high induced by extreme exhaustion, physical pain, drugs for that pain, the euphoria of finally seeing my baby, and the intense fear that comes from knowing that you are now 100% responsible for someone’s life… and that someone happens to be the most important person in the world.  And as I started to emerge from my fog, I started to submerge into my daughter.  The less I thought about the birth itself, the more I started to appreciate the miracle of it. I spent a lot of time examining the tiny little girl who was now semi-attached to my breast.  I studied her tiny hands… so much like mine but so very, very small.  The detail that went into making those hands in miniature was insane.  The tiny white crescent on her fingernails, no bigger than a swipe of a pencil.  The wrinkly little fingers, with a fingerprint 100% her own.  Her perfect little mouth.  Her teeny little nose.  Her big eyes, staring up at me as if they could see directly into my soul. And most amazing of all was her personality… even at birth, already more individual than her fingerprint.

From those moments in the hospital, when I should have been resting but couldn’t for the fear and excitement I felt, and from every moment afterward, my love has grown.  So my daughter and I might not have had fireworks right away, but as I have come to find out, we had something better.  We had a spark, just enough to catch fire.  Every single day it burns brighter than the last.  And this fiery love and my daughter herself have illuminated my life in ways I never thought possible.

Thank you my darling Lyla for not giving up on me that day.  And thank you for filling my life with more joy, more laughter and more poop… than I ever imagined.

Feb 022012

Since my post on breastfeeding got such a big response, and I know that it is something that a lot of women love but also struggle with, I thought I would let you all in on something that really helped get me through.  If you are a wino like me (and I can honestly say that I need my glass of wine more after becoming a mother than I ever did before,) these Milkscreen test strips are a godsend.  You know the rule, “Wait at least two hours for every one drink before breastfeeding.” And usually one drink is sufficient.  But for parties, bbqs, mimosa brunch, or just a random Tues when one just isn’t enough, these genius strips will tell you in three minutes whether your little one is getting bottle or boob.  Dip the strip in your milk or squeeze a couple of drops on it (go for distance and it’s a fun party trick)  and wait a few minutes.  The strip’s color will tell you if your milk is safe.  It’s like a litmus test for wino moms!!  Brilliant.  Go ahead and judge me and my wine if you want, but I think this is a lot more responsible than just guessing (although not as responsible as actually not drinking but I never pretended to be perfect.)

Of course, I don’t have to tell you that getting totally shit-faced and taking care of your baby is NEVER a good idea (babies need to be taken care of by an adult who is not swaying and babbling like a toddler.) And as a general rule, if you feel tipsy at all, then your milk likely also has notes of blackberry, pepper and aged french oak, and shouldn’t be served. But if you don’t feel drunk but are still worried about any lingering alcohol that could harm your baby, these should give you peace of mind.  Cheers!

Jan 202012

After nine months of having a small human almost permanently attached to my breast (a feat I haven’t accomplished since college,) I am finally weaning my daughter from the boob.  Now I am going to work on weaning my husband back ON the boob, since I think he has come to fear my milk torpedoes… but that’s a story for a whole different blog.  Aaaaaanyway, while moving from the breast to the bottle is freeing in many ways – no more worrying about which medicines I can take or how many glasses of wine I can drink, or trying to discreetly cover up my moneymakers while nursing in public with a daughter who seems intent on giving the world a free show (you’re welcome Los Angeles)– I also feel a little sad about it.

Breastfeeding is truly an incredible thing.  It is amazing that a woman’s body can produce the only real sustenance that a growing baby needs for her first year. It is also a very intimate bonding time between a mother and child, and selfishly, a role that only a mother can provide. And it makes me a bit sad to give all this up.  But not only do I feel sad about ending my adventures in breastfeeding, I feel guilty.  When my husband politely asked what exactly is in the formula we are feeding our daughter (a valid question,) I snapped back, “Idunnoandstopmakingmefeelguilty.Whydon’tyoubreastfeedherifyouaresoworriedabout it??!!”  Over-sensitive much?

But it’s not entirely my hyperactive hormones’ fault.  Doctors, nurses, parents, friends and most of society make you feel like you are a horrible person, akin to a mass murder of baby kittens, if you don’t breastfeed your baby.  Now, I know that “Breast is Best.”  I know that breast milk builds your babies immune system and fights off illness and guarantees them either a Nobel prize or an Oscar. I know that there are about 8 million, 42 hundred thousand ingredients in breast milk and only 5 in formula.  I know all of this, and it’s why I chose to breastfeed my daughter.  But I also know that every person is different.  Some women cannot breastfeed – they don’t make enough milk or they get mastitis or have a variety of other reasons why their bodies simply say no.  Some women have multiple babies at once or their bodies stop producing when they go back to work. For some, breastfeeding simply doesn’t work with their lifestyles.

I know that this is a very sensitive subject, and I am not in way encouraging women to NOT breastfeed their babies.  It is a remarkable and beautiful thing, if you can do it.  What I am encouraging women to do is to support one another, no matter what our choices are.  Parenthood is hard enough, and mothers do enough self-flagellating without having to bear the judgment of everyone else. Offer other mothers your support, help, and advice…not criticism.  And most of all, tell them if they’ve forgotten to put their boob away after nursing. (It happens)