Swim Suit Season

Tis the season for sunshine and swimming. But before I get to enjoy summer, I need a new bathing suit. It’s been years since I purchased a new one and figured this season’s bright colors would be a nice refresher to my wardrobe as I enjoy splash-splashing.

That’s all? You don’t want to try on more, Jared asked on a recent afternoon as we took turns holding Baby Girl and trying on suits.

No. I remember why I hate bathing suit shopping. It always make me feel fat and now my boobs are down to my knees, I told him.

Last summer, of course, I was pregnant and was so happy to be cooled down that I didn’t care what I looked like as I luxuriated in the river or soaked my feet in the kiddie pool.

Since having Baby Girl, I thought I was making headway on maintaining a positive body image and found myself cheering on women posting scathing comments about the new “dad bod” and women who share images of their stretch-marked selves.

When shopping, though, I realized I’m not as comfortable in my own skin as I thought I had become.

Do you want to go anywhere else, Jared asked.

No. I just want to go home. I’m exhausted and now I feel fat, I said.

You’re not, he said. Remember, you’re still breastfeeding Baby Girl. You make milk. That’s your super power.

Stop it. You’re going to make me cry.

Are you laughing?

No. I’m totally crying, I said, wiping tears off my face.

But I didn’t feel fat anymore.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

As I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, I see picture after picture of smiling babies and children.

That is not the picture I have to post. Instead, it is of an 8-month-old screaming so vehemently that we left church early and scurried home.

Normally, I would have fed her at church and she would have calmed down and I would have had a chance to hear part of the sermon.

At the risk of sounding petulant, today, a day to celebrate me, I wore a dress I can’t breastfeed in just because it makes me feel pretty. I knew I was taking a chance, but I fed her before we left and church is only an hour and a half.

Baby Girl missed nap, too.

Hence, the combination of factors that led to a hysterically upset child and me, alternately laughing and crying, walking home as quickly as possible as people out and about curiously watched the spectacle that was us.

As soon as we walked into our house, the tears stopped. She ate and fell asleep cradled in my arms. Peaceful and beautiful.

THIS is motherhood.

Hectic, demanding, frustrating, emotionally and physically exhausting.

And then a moment of tranquility as she sleeps. And then a moment when her smile makes my heart burst. And then a moment of determination when I think I can’t give any more of myself and I do and am rewarded with another of her smiles that gives a piece back to me.

THIS is motherhood.

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Changing tables … and laps and tailgates

This. Is. Beautiful.

IMG_3140

 

Baby Girl wasn’t with me on this particular outing, but she’s been with me many times when there was not such a nice option.

Sometimes, even if a changing table is available, it’s so dirty or rickety that we opt not to use it anyway. Often, Jared’s or my legs are the changing table and she’s had her diaper changed in a middle school hallway, on a ski lodge table, on toilets, on gym bleachers, in dressing rooms, in between sinks on wide counters, on top of a cooler, on the car hood, on the tailgate, and on old faithful — the back of the car.

So when I saw this I did a happy dance.

I may or may not have poked my nose in the men’s room, but suffice it to say that they have a similar version.

Other public places take note: men’s restrooms should have changing tables too. Let’s reward them for being involved by making it a little easier on them!

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Heartbreaking work

 

Welcome back to work! How are you doing? my coworkers asked.

I tried to put on a brave face, but I still cried.

Brokenhearted is how I had described how I felt about going back to work to Jared.

While working as a reporter fulfills me, motherhood is me.

But if I stay home, I give up an enjoyable career I spent years building, and once Baby Girl goes to school I won’t be content at home. In the meantime I won’t be contributing to the household income. I already took four-and-a-half months off for maternity leave.

But am I being selfish by not taking the chance that I would find a similar job later? Am I shortchanging Baby Girl at a time when she needs me most?

Just as much as I want to be with her, though, I want to show her how she can do anything and the value of meaningful work. I want her to shape the world and not be hindered by guilt for having priorities in addition to having a family.

I won’t lie to her, though. Having priorities in addition to the priority of family is gut wrenching.

I’m filled with grief for the once-in-a-lifetime moments I likely won’t experience and I’m jealous that Baby Girl will look to someone else to soothe her discomforts and for guidance.

My heart seizes in my chest every time I leave for work and I blink away tears caused by uncertainty about my decision and just plain missing her.

I’ll try to focus on the positives, like a supportive husband, a flexible workplace, coworkers who also are friends, a job about which I am passionate, and knowing that my sister-in-law loves Baby Girl and is happy to spend the day with her.

And I’ll hope fervently that those are enough to stop my heart from breaking anymore.

 

 

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Early bird groceries

Are you OK, Jared asked.

Yes, I’ve been awake since 3:44 a.m., I said.

My body had gotten more than four hours of sleep and was tricked into thinking that was enough.

Welcome to motherhood, Jared said, laughing.

Yeah, yeah. Since I’m up, I’m going to run to the grocery store, I said.

Are you sure you want to go now, Jared asked. It’s 5:30.

Yep, I said. Saves me from bundling up Baby Girl to do it later (there was a wind chill warning in effect). I’ll be back before you go to work.

Have fun on your outing, he said. Hurry home.

Gee, thanks, I thought.

At the store I found everything I needed to make my new stuffing recipe for an early Thanksgiving dinner with friends that night.

Then this …

We don’t sell alcohol before 8, the clerk said.

What, I asked, dismayed.

Don’t look at me, she said. It’s state law.

So much for the white wine part of the recipe.

I slogged back to the car, some groceries in tow, and checked my phone only to read: “She’s awake and hungry. Hurry home.”

You see, we can’t get Baby Girl to take a bottle, which means I can only be gone for a few minutes at a time unless she takes an epic nap.

Are you OK, Jared asked for the second time in an hour when I got home.

No, I said, holding back tears. I couldn’t buy wine for my recipe and now I have to go shopping again later.

It’s alright, babe, he consoled me. Just don’t use the wine.

No, I have to use the wine. It’s part of the recipe. It gets all the good bits into the sauce, I explained. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t sell me wine before 8. It’s not like I was going on a bender.

Well, you look like you could use a drink now, Jared said as he left to shower.

About a half hour later he returned to the kitchen, still dripping water.

How long before you would start looking for me, he asked.

Huh, I said.

I fell asleep in the shower, he said. Luckily I leaned against the wall instead of falling over.

Welcome to fatherhood, I quipped, and it’s only 7.

**Let it be noted that I did get wine later in the day because Baby Girl and I ventured out to help my sister-in-law make lefse. Let it also be noted that I realize — now — that just using a different recipe would have made the most sense. In my defense, it was 5:30 in the morning.

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How do you change a diaper?

What happens when you ask fourth-graders to write down directions for changing baby diapers?

Turns out, quite a bit of humor and a surprising amount of wisdom.

The gist in Jared’s students’ essays was the same. Take off the old diaper, wipe the baby’s bum and put on a new diaper.

One student didn’t get too far into describing the steps, but her intro summed up the reason behind actually changing diapers nicely.

“If you want to (or more likely have to) change a diaper, here’s how and the various situations I have encountered,” she wrote.

“Well for beginners you always need wipes by you and another diaper,” one student began her directions.

Those wipes apparently come in handy when you “wipe the baby’s bottom to get off the gross stuff that I’m not naming,” according to another student.

One kid must think I can do two things at once, because he wrote: “You tear the diaper off and plug your nose at the same time.”

Keep plugging your nose until the baby’s bottom is wiped clean and the old diaper thrown away, he advised.

After changing the diaper, “go have fun with your baby until it makes another stinky explosion,” another student wrote.

There were some gems in the essays, too.

Not like this one: “Grab a roll of toilet paper wrap it around the baby butty and staple the toilet paper together.”

But like these:

“Softly wipe the baby’s toosh clean do not rub too hard or it might hurt the baby.”

Also be gentle with the tabs. “Be careful though because the strap can rip off pretty easily.”

I definitely heeded this one: “DO NOT throw it away in the garbage can in your house or else it will smell very, very BAD!”

The best piece of advice, though: “After that you put the dirty wipes back in the diaper and fold the diaper up and throw it away.”

Ah, Jared said in amazement. Did you know to do that? That sounds smart.

I didn’t know that – but am storing the nugget of wisdom for August.

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Sometimes a girl just needs her mom

For the past five months I have felt like a girl again as I struggle to find clarity in the uncertainty that being pregnant brings.

Am I ingesting enough vitamins? Will Bob be healthy even if I don’t always sleep on my left side and occasionally eat French fries? Will my water break when my husband is busy in a harvest field on the Hi-Line and unreachable by phone? If I haven’t felt Bob kick yet does that mean something’s wrong? Will labor hurt as much as everyone says? What do I do with Bob at home? How do I raise a kind, functioning human being? As much as I love my job, will I want to be home with Bob more? How will my husband and I adjust to the new family dynamic?

So it was with great joy I spent the past 12 days with my mother who flew out to rub my belly bump, make sure I’m exercising and eating right, and assure me that if she could raise three kids I can manage one.

When I returned to the house after dropping her off at the airport for her return flight I curled up in my husband’s arms and broke into tears.

Are you alright, Jared asked.

Yes, I just miss mom already, I said.

Is that all, he asked.

Yes, I managed to say between sniffles while Jared patiently waited for the something else he knew I was holding back.

I’m scared, I said. Having mom here was comforting.

I’m scared, too. I have no idea how to raise babies, Jared said. But I’m willing to learn.

His comment reminded me of a conversation with mom during her visit. I admitted I was in more than a bit of denial that our lives are about to irrevocably change and unsure about everything. I often feel selfish and ungrateful for the precious gift that is Bob because I’m scared and anxious instead of blissful and overjoyed.

None of that matters, mom said.

Just love him.

 

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An unsolicited review of Tina Fey’s “Bossypants”

I recently finished reading the book “Bossypants” by Tina Fey. My sweet-and-salty husband saw it on the bookshelves and got it for me. It’s hilarious.

It’s been a long time since I laughed out loud while reading a book, but Fey – a comedienne and former writer for Saturday Night Live, and current 30 Rock cast member – turns nearly every sentence of her memoirs into a joke. Even the book jacket is funny.

She writes about being a kid, being a mom, being a boss, meeting Sarah Palin, working in show biz and other stuff – but, in my (admittedly too-serious) opinion, too little about being a mom. Maybe she was trying to avoid being filed away in the “mommy” genre, maybe she just didn’t want to expose her family to too much public scrutiny, but I would have liked to have read a little bit more about Tina Fey, the mom.

Besides, we moms can use all the humor we can get.

Have you read the book? What didja think? Make you laugh?

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Mother’s Day laughter and tears

First, the laughter – an editorial cartoon – then the tears – from the latest column by syndicated columnist Connie Schultz.

Mother's Day 2011

Hey, Mom: When Will I Stop Missing You?

By CONNIE SCHULTZ

If I could snap my fingers and travel back in time, I’d be 11-year-old me standing on third base in the field behind our house, cupping my hands around my mouth and yelling for Mom to hit me home.

My mother, like most mothers, was all about coming through for her kids.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Fewer women are having children, and those that are have fewer children

The Census Bureau occasionally sends out statistical updates ahead of major holidays and official months, such as Women’s History Month in March.

The latest update shows that of the 157.2 million women in the United States at last count, 82.8 million of them are mothers. This means women and moms far outnumber men and dads in the U.S. There are 153.2 million men in this country, and only 67.8 million fathers.

Looking at the trends over time, the Census Bureau homed in on women age 40 to 44, and found that 82 percent of these women had given birth at some time in their lives, with the average number of children coming in at 1.9 (I’ll round that up to two for sanity’s sake).

This is a marked decrease from the year 1976, when the Census Bureau first started tracking these numbers. Thirty five years ago, 90 percent of women in this age group had given birth, and they had an average 3.1 children.

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