What Moms Without Kids With Allergies Should Know About Kids With Allergies

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I could start this with: Dear Sister, Dear friend, Dear Me-4-years-ago,

I know what’s it like to be on both sides of the food allergy coin. I lived as a mom oblivious to other children with allergies. I had 3 glorious years of motherhood without a fear of food. My son could and would eat just about anything! Then I was thrust into the world of food allergies almost overnight. I’ve heard it compared to letting your child play near the edge of a canyon – constantly anxious that she might fall off the edge. You never know when danger will catch you off guard. It’s scary. Manageable, but scary.

I wish I had known better about how to deal with food when I was around friends and family with food allergies. I didn’t know I was being careless. But, honestly, I had no idea how to be better about it. So, I thought I’d offer some advice. Here are a few practical ways you can serve and love moms and their food allergy kids:

1. If you aren’t sure about a child’s allergies and you’re planning a party or playdate, just ask. (They’ll probably beat you to it anyway, but it’s nice to know you care.)

2. Don’t be offended if I’m at your house and I ask to check labels. Even if you think it’s safe, it helps me be completely sure! It’s not that I don’t trust you. Well, yeah, it is. But I barely even trust myself when it comes to my child’s safety.

3. If I ask your child to wash his hands or face, it’s not because I think your kid is dirty. I’m worried about what they just ate and if it will end up on my child. I probably have a pack of wipes available if you need one!

4. Don’t think I’m a creeper if I follow your child around picking up their crumbs.

5. Don’t assume I think you’re a bad parent if I ask you to have your child eat at the table and not in my playroom. I don’t care what your kid does at home, but I need to protect my daughter’s space.

6. If you’re serving snacks, keep the bags and put each item in its own bowl. Cross-contamination can make even the most basic snack unsafe. This is HUGE and it’s so EASY.

7. Don’t be offended if I show up with snacks for my own kid. And don’t feel like you have to always provide safe things, although the gesture is appreciated.

8. Sometimes I pick up kids’ cups and put them up high to protect my child. Teaching my child to be careful takes time and spills happen.

9. Don’t feel bad if my child has a reaction at your house. It happens more often than you think and I come prepared. It’s not your fault. But the follow up calls later are a sweet gesture to remind me that you care.

10. I’m more comfortable having play dates at my house or outside, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like your home. Bonus: this gets you out of clean up duty, too.

11. If you see my kid with food or drink that you aren’t sure it’s hers, feel free to take it and ask me. I’m happy when I see others protecting her, even if it was a safe food.

12. If I hurl myself across a room yelling “No!” please don’t assume I’m a crazy mom. Remember, my child’s safety is my first priority.

13. When planning events that involve food, please call me ahead of time so I can help keep it safe and still be able to attend. I feel bad for my daughter when everyone else gets cupcakes and cookies and I only brought her fruit.

14. Impromptu lunch and dinners out are almost impossible. If you want to invite us, lets make it a plan before we head out.

15. You can (almost) always be safe with fresh fruit.

16. If you send in treats to school for holidays, ask the teacher if there are any allergies. I throw out more than half of the things she brings home from friends. It means a lot when there are a few things she can enjoy.

17. If your child makes friends with a child with food allergies at school, try to send in snacks and lunch items that are safe so they can always sit together.

18. If you spend a lot of time with a kid with food allergies, ask about their allergy action plan and how to use an epinephrine injector. You never know if you might have to use one someday.

Thanks for helping protect other kids. It means the world to allergy moms and their children.

*My child has milk, egg, and peanut allergies. This is my perspective only! Other moms might have stronger opinions on what they will allow near their child so always check with each mom individually.

Related: The time I almost killed my child

Mom in Perpetual Motion

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I am a mom in perpetual motion. From the moment I open my eyes every morning until I eventually lay my head down at night, I never stop moving.

The lists of things to be done are long, never ending, never finished.

Wake up the kids, feed the kids, grab coffee myself…try to breathe.

Hurry up, we can’t be late!

Where are your shoes? Where is your backpack? What do you mean you don’t want to wear a jacket today?

Hurry, hurry! Never stop hurrying!

Do two things, three things, four things at once whenever possible. It’s the only way to get it all done.

Focus here, no there. Everywhere. Nowhere.

Drink more coffee; turn on the computer; get to work. Watch the clock.

Hurry, hurry, can’t be late! Pick up this kid, then the other. Check the backpacks, sign the agendas.

Help with homework. Wonder, was homework this hard when I was a kid? Thankfully the teenager can help her little brother with math! Remember when 2×2=4? Yeah, let me tell you about Common Core Math!

We’re moving again, never stop moving. Always in a rush. Eat your dinner, just a couple bites. While they eat, I’m loading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, wiping down the counter…

Never. Stop. Moving.

Can you put your backpack away? Find your shoes so the morning will be smoother. What do you mean you don’t know where they are?

The daughter needs to get to dance class, the son needs to get to karate. Everyone hurry to the car, and off we go.

On the move again!

Drop one kid off, hurry to the next place, drop the other kid off, run errands while they’re busy. Where is my list?

Pick up the first kid, then the second, and we’re back home again.

Yes, you do need a shower.

Yes, you do have to wash your hair.

Hurry, your sister is waiting to get in the bathroom.

Do you need a snack? Okay, I’m tucking you in!

It’s finally starting to quiet down. The noise of the day is winding down, and I am running out of steam, but I am still not finished for the day! Check the laundry, empty the dishwasher, and make sure we have milk. Don’t forget to set up the coffee pot!

Even as I lay my head down at night, my brain is still in perpetual motion. Making tomorrow’s to-do list, adding to the top the things from today’s list that didn’t get done.

There’s always tomorrow.

10 Reasons It’s Awesome Having Twins

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1. The 2 for 1 deal. I did not enjoy pregnancy and counted down the days until it was over and I could shed the 75, yes 75 pounds that I gained and feel like I had some control over my body again. Having twins is incredibly hard, but knowing I’m not going to be pregnant again (or at least for a very, very long time) is a big plus.

2. The attention. Being pregnant with (and being a mom to) twins, you feel like a celebrity.When they’re babies, everyone you walk by will enthusiastically exclaim, “Is it twiiiiiins?!?!” The answer to this question is so painfully obvious that some could find it annoying, however when you are stuck in the house with twin babies feeling like you have absolutely no idea what you are doing day after day after day, any human interaction feels like a win. Especially one where you play the rock star.

3. Loving your husband even more. A dad of twins is essentially a second mom. At 3AM when you are each semi-awake with the twins and are both covered in equal amounts of milk, poop, drool and probably your own tears, you realize wow, I love this guy even more than the day he was tearing up the dance floor to “Take me Home Tonight” at our wedding.

4. Photos Opps. I mean, hello?

5. Double the milestones. So far raising twins has been hard. Like harder than running a marathon hard (I have run a marathon and trust me this is wayyy harder. Some days I honestly feel like I would enjoy running 26.2 miles over caring for twins). But of course, there are moments that make everything worth it. First smiles, rolls, steps, hugs, words. And the greatest part is, if you miss the chance to catch one of these spectacular moments on camera, you have a second chance with the other kid usually only days away!

6. Best Buds. I have not experienced this one yet (even though people keep telling me they will be “instant playmates!”) since right now they mostly try to grab, bite, knock each other over and cause general harm to one another. But I’m ready and waiting for the day that they play peacefully together while I sit on the couch and watch anything on Bravo while drinking a hot coffee.

7. The Ultimate Excuse. Can’t fit into any of your pre-pregnancy clothes 18 months later? Does your stomach look like road map that a tractor drove over? Haven’t so much as looked at your husband in 3 days? Having take out for dinner 5 nights in a row? Don’t want to go to that wedding shower? Ignore all phone calls? Cancel plans last minute? It’s fine, you have twins!

8. The Twin Bond. My guys just started talking a lot, and in the morning they wake up saying, “Hi brubber!” from crib to crib. Holy cuteness. I mean, come on! I melt.

9. The Kindness of Others. I live in the northeast which is not known for being the friendliest of places. (Hello, did you hear about the winter we just had?!) That being said, it’s humbling how much family, friends, and strangers are willing to help when it comes to twins. And we’ll take it.

10. Endless Entertainment. Twins are Expensive with a capital E. But the good news? There’s no need to pay for expenses like cable TV or movies at theaters. Who can beat this?

 Related Post: The General Public on Twins

 

Parenting To The Lowest Common Denominator

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My daughter is almost six, though she will correct you immediately that she is “five and three-quarters” if she hears you say that because she is precise, and detail-oriented, and very much her father’s daughter in that way.

But she is my daughter, too.

A daughter that I was petrified of having, and then elated that I was having – all because of a very tumultuous past I have with my own mother.  And becausewhile my experience with my mother may be unique, I realize that anyone who is the daughter of a mother or the mother of a daughter has a bond that is fraught with all the complications that have been written about, talked about, and psychoanalyzed long before Freud ever uttered the words “Electra Complex”.

All of this, while walking that tightrope of parenting that that cautions against becoming one of the many stereotypically “wrong” types of mother. You can’t be a “Helicopter” mom or too much of a “Free-Range” mom, and the “Tiger” mom is too overbearing yet the “Best Friend” mom is too permissive.

I just want to be her mom – yet I feel that I have failed her to a certain extent in successfully figuring out who exactly that is, and how exactly to execute that role successfully.

Because I am also someone else’s mom.

When she was born, I became a mommy. Sixteen months later, when her little brother was born and we found out that he’d had a stroke in utero – eventually resulting in multiple diagnoses that included Cerebral Palsy and Autism  – I became a Special Needs mommy.

The two of us went away together this weekend on a four-day road trip we have both been eagerly looking forward to.  Watching her run free, being able to say “Yes, we can go on that ferryboat” because I’m not worried about her trying to throw herself overboard, or “Yes, we can go down all of those big waterslides” because she is big enough and her brother wasn’t there to get upset that he couldn’t go, or “Yes, we can play Skee Ball and Air Hockey at the arcade” because I wasn’t concerned that she might send those wooden balls or plastic pucks flying into the heads of other unsuspecting game-playing patrons, well, it made me realize something with a jolt that felt very much like a figurative slap in the face.

As she stood on the deck of the very same ferryboat I had sailed on during a childhood field trip, as I watched her take it all in – waving to the people parasailing on the lake, eyes twinkling as she listened to the boat playing cheerful tunes on its calliope, face upturned to the sunshine – it hit me.

“We have been parenting to the lowest common denominator.” I told my husband later that night.

We have held her back when it was unsafe or unwise to push him forward.  I have been unable to let go of the vigilance I need to hold onto as his mother and find a way to let loose and sometimes just be her mommy.  It is an occupational hazard among the medical, sensory, and therapy-heavy day-to-day life we are currently living.  If I loosen my stronghold on control, on looking out, on keeping watch, on making sure and double-checking, there’s no saying what might happen. Temporarily loosening my grip on on small hands turns into darting out into busy parking lots, and running downhill becomes a buckled knee or twisted ankle and a trip to the Emergency Room.  Saying “yes” to her, often means saying “no” to him - or forcing him to watch from the sidelines.  Saying “no” to both seems easier – more fair – though I am now seeing that it is the former rather than the latter.

She is cautious, shy, naturally anxious, sensitive and introverted.  She is fine with her father and I going out at night for the occasional dinner with friends or to work events, but worries about what time we’ll be home.  She is happy to play “school” or “camp” or “house” in her room for hours – often preferring long stretches of time by herself. She simmers in her emotions quietly, trying to push them down, worried that if she allows herself to fully feel them, they will somehow wrench themselves from her control and overpower her.  She is afraid that she will not get them back somehow.

She lashes out, then weeps as she apologizes for it.  Afterwards, she relegates herself to her room, emerging a short time later with a picture she’s drawn of you holding hands with her under a blue sky and a bright yellow sun with the words “I em Sorrie” or “I wul be beddur” written beneath in her preschooler’s scrawl.

It is heartbreaking to watch her inborn tendencies towards empathy clash with the developmentally-appropriate Id of an almost-Kindergartner. Having a brother with a potpourri of Special Needs only complicates things further. I look at her and just know that she is shouldering the self-imposed burden of feeling like she has to hold it all together at all times as she watches her little brother constantly coming apart at the seams. 

A version of a line from one of my favorite songs always reminds me of the two of them and describes them in relation to each other perfectly.

She is a china shop…and he is a bull.

He is hearty and she is delicate. He is impetuous where she is cautious.  She walks the perimeter and observes while he makes a beeline for the center of the room.  He will scream when you introduce yourself as she is hides behind me.  I need to give her permission to fly and I need to reign him in.

So how do I find a way to loosen my grip without letting go entirely? How to I find the switch within that allows me to tell my perpetual inner-lifeguard that it’s alright to go off-duty for a little while? How do I parent two completely different children with two very different sets of needs simultaneously and successfully – and safely?

We have indeed been parenting to the lowest common denominator. And that worked – for a time.  Until it didn’t add up anymore. Until the calculated risks that always seemed too high for him, have morphed into a price she is paying for all of the caution we’ve exercised. Until I saw her this weekend, until my eyes were opened up to the limitations we’ve been putting on her.

And she lost it a few times this weekend. She freaked out, lashed out, cried out. Same as it always is when her fears or insecurities or anxiety overtake her.  But something was different in me.  Instead of clenching up, usually already exhausted from holding on too-tightly to them both, my shoulders were down and I wore an expression of calm.  I crouched down, held her hand, and looked her in the eye.

“Hey, it’s okay to be mad, or sad, or frustrated,” I told her. “You can let it out. I’ll still be here when it’s over. There’s nothing you can say or do that will make me love you any less. I’m not going anywhere.”

And it did pass. And she looked up at me and smiled her shy smile and I squeezed her hand.  And we didn’t talk about it because we didn’t have to. And I had the energy and the time and the patience to wait it out this weekend, to really see her.  And now that my eyes have been opened, I know I can’t go back.  I owe her that.

There will be no more parenting to the lowest common denominator.

She is one quarter of this family.  She is one half of our children.  She is a whole person.

And she counts.

Kindergarten Blues

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A new school year is upon us, and this year I get to enjoy the smell of a box of brand new crayons. My first-born fruit of my loins will be starting kindergarten this year, and thus begins such a bittersweet time.

My little Sunshine is a spunky spirited child whose antics delight me and simultaneously drive me to drink. She was the baby I couldn’t leave at the gym daycare for more than 15 minutes because she screamed and clawed to try and reattach herself to my hip. I spent more time trying to squeeze into my yoga pants than I did actually swishing around on the elliptical machine. Every day I would get paged to come get my screaming child. Every day.

I cancelled my gym membership and vowed to hit the treadmill once again when she started preschool. Then I blinked, and it was time to enroll her. At this point she was 2, and I’d spent 821 days tending to her every need. This momma needed a break. I cleared my schedule the first day of school and planned to wait in the library. I knew they’d need me to come back to class and talk her down off her screaming ledge.

I hyped it up the whole way to school telling her how much fun she was going to have with all the new toys and friends. There was no way this little thing in the backseat even knew what I was babbling about, but I had to try. I needed a break.

As I posed her for a picture outside the church doors I got a little lump in my throat. Maybe she wouldn’t scream for so long. Maybe she’d just cry a little and calm down after 15 minutes. I just wanted her first day to go well. I didn’t have time to think about the fact that this was her first step away from me.

She didn’t cry the first day. In fact I had to chase her into the classroom to get a goodbye kiss. That feeling of dread, that mommy guilt that was tugging on my heart telling me not to leave her and that she needed me just faded away. I was happy that she was happy.

Two days without my 2-year-old turned into three days without my 3-year-old, and as another year passed I found myself surfing job boards longing for the day that I’d go back to work full-time in a real big person office with big people chairs and quiet lunches. The terrible twos were nothing compared to the tyrannical threes, and I found myself just surviving motherhood one day at a time.

There were so many days that I looked around my filthy house and wished I had 5 minutes of peace. The sass that came out of my 3-year-old’s mouth was atrocious and I had to remind myself that screaming at her would only teach her to scream. Instead I’d scream in my closet with the door shut and long for a shower without an audience.

Then the time came I realized my own mother was a dirty liar. She said 2 and 3 were really hard, but when they turn 4 they’re angels. That advice stunk worse than my 1-year-old’s diapers. Turns out 4 wasn’t really much better than 3. It was battle after battle, day in and day out. She didn’t want to wear anything purple, and only wanted to wear things with cats. She wasn’t wearing those shoes because the buckle was too tight. Then it was too loose. Then it was too tight.

Every. Single. Day.

I spent more hours than I’d like to admit letting her watch marathons of Ruby Gloom on Netflix while I poured over job boards looking for freelance work. I yearned to be back in the land of rational people who were okay with anything other than chicken nuggets and boogers at lunch and who didn’t wear jam as an accessory.

I scoffed at my friends who said they weren’t ready to send their kids to all-day kindergarten. I boasted that my kid was going to love it since she loves preschool so much. I tried to hide the fact that I was the one looking forward to a full day of productivity.

Then I blinked again. And as I registered my spunky sassy little girl for kindergarten I got another lump in my throat. What if she doesn’t cry? What if I can’t even catch her to give her a goodbye kiss? This magnificent and wonderful little creature that I created and spent 1,898 days with is taking another step away from me. Our special time together is over. And now I can’t help but long for those days of jam smeared kisses. I regret the Netflix marathons and I know that I must savor these last few weeks that I have her all to myself.

It’s heartbreaking, and wonderful and terrifying all at once. And I know that all I can do when I drop her off and the tears well up in my eyes is just try not to blink.

Related post: 6 Things I Learned as a Kindergarten Room Mom

4 Ways Kids Can Keep You in Shape

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Lower Body Strengthening:
1. Give your toddler a bowl with some Cheerios in it. DO NOT put on a lid.
2. Check your Facebook for 7.2 seconds.
3. Look around. Has your toddler spilled every last one? If no, repeat previous step. If yes, pry the empty bowl out of your toddler’s hand.
4. Is he crying even though there was no food left? Yes? Good. Now pick up each Cheerio by squatting rather than bending or sitting on the floor. Try to pick them all up before your toddler’s crying has reached total meltdown level.
Level up: When this exercise becomes too easy, increase the intensity by letting the dog in. Race her to all the cereal.

Cardio:
1. Allow your preschool age children to play “theater” with their stuffed animals on the stairs. Make sure they have all 1,622 animals their grandmother has bought them.
2. Send said preschoolers upstairs with one old, broken toy that no one has played with in months, but for some reason now they both NEED that exact toy or their faith in the fairness of the universe will be forever lost. Lace up your sneakers; Before you finish, someone should be injured and/or wailing.
3. Now run up the stairs as quickly as you can, being careful to avoid the strategically placed horde of stuffed animals. Intervene with preschoolers.
4. By the time you get back to the bottom of the stairs, the fight will have recommenced. Repeat previous step until you are ready to throw away every toy they have ever owned.
Level up: Re-install those old baby gates at the bottom and top of the stairs. This will not only test your physical strength, but also your will to live.

Yoga:
1. During rush hour, put kids in the minivan, being sure to buckle them close enough so that they can reach each other.
2. Hand them each a few toys. Find the nearest traffic jam, and get your van right in the middle of it. Do not turn on any movies or the Frozen soundtrack for your children. They should be very bored.
3. After you’ve been inching along for about fifteen minutes, your children will either begin fighting, dropping toys, and/or requesting snacks and drinks. Wait five more minutes after this begins.
4. When you can’t tolerate one more minute of whining/yelling/crying, make sure you are firmly stuck in traffic, at a standstill, and start trying to appease your children. When a toy is dropped, contort your body while keeping your foot on the brake and retrieve said toy. Try to locate the stray Ziploc bag of Goldfish you saw under the passenger seat without unbuckling your seatbelt. Separate your fighting children with your right arm while keeping your left hand on the steering wheel.
Level up: To attain maximum mental benefit, bring along your spouse. Challenge yourself to keep a Zen-like state of mind while you complete these exercises and listen to the lecture you’re receiving about distracted driving.

Core Strength:
1. Approximately twenty minutes before nap-time, load up your three year old and go to the grocery store. Make sure you have a long list of necessities to acquire.
2. Ask your child whether she would prefer to walk or ride in the cart. Whichever she chooses, tell her she must do the opposite. When she falls to the ground in a pile of angry dead weight, lift her, and try to wrestle her into the cart, keeping your core muscles tight. Maneuver her flailing feet into those tiny holes while preventing her smashing her face into the side of the cart.
3. When it is time to leave, rouse her from her half-sleep in the cart, and lift her back into the car seat while using one leg to keep the cart from rolling down the lot and into the pristine Mercedes two spaces down.
Level up: Bring along your school-age child and allow him to push one of those horrible kid-size carts. Complete the above exercises while preventing your older child from injuring yourself or defenseless elderly women with said cart.

The next time you’re rockin your “good” yoga pants and someone notices your svelte new figure, just channel Gwyneth and say “Really?!? I never get to the gym. Just keeping up with my precious snowflakes is all I need to stay fit.”

You’re welcome.

6 Things I Wish I’d Known About Having a C-Section

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My first son was delivered via c-section at 35 weeks after an ultrasound revealed he ceased growing due to placenta previa. I knew early on in my pregnancy that it was a possibility I wouldn’t be able to deliver vaginally, but being in denial, I never bothered to ask what the recovery process was life if I did indeed go under the knife.

I figured, by comparison to pushing a baby out and getting ripped from the rooter to the tooter, a c-section would be a cake walk.

Sitting in my OB’s office, hearing that I was heading over to surgery and would have a baby by happy hour, I was scared and ill-prepared.  I didn’t know what I was in for, exactly. I just figured they’d wheel me in, I’d lay there like a corpse, and then hours later I’d be sitting up in bed, holding a baby, looking glowing and happy in an adorable robe like Rachel in Friends.

Sucker.

This is, after all, major surgery. I mean, my husband saw my intestines being pulled out, for crying out loud. If that doesn’t buy you a night out by yourself when the baby is older, I don’t know what will.

If you’re thinking that a c-section is a possibility for your next birth, perhaps my ignorance can spare you a few headaches and worry. Here are some things I learned:

1. The operating room is as cold as the polar ice caps and the stuff they put in your IV only makes it worse. With my first c-section I was shaking so much I was convinced the anesthesiologist would miss his target with the spinal block and I’d come out of surgery a paraplegic. I had absolutely no idea my body was capable of shimming that fast. Watch out, Shakira, those hips don’t lie. They’re scared shitless.

2. Think you won’t feel a thing? Think again. While you won’t feel them cutting or feel pain, no one told me I’d feel all this tremendous pulling as they pried my son out of my body cavity. My OB warned me “Okay, you might feel some slight pressure.” Slight? This is not a flu shot, people. I don’t call the sensation of someone yanking a bowling ball out of my loins a slight sensation.

3. Don’t say no to drugs. They get you pretty doped up in surgery and at first I willingly took the hard core pain meds they give me. But at around 28 hrs post surgery I felt pretty good and though “Nah, I’ll skip meds this shift.” Bad idea.  Worst idea I’ve ever had. You’re not only dealing with the pain of getting your insides ripped open and sewn back together, but you’ve also being visited post-delivery cramping because the baby isn’t paying rent anymore. They tell you to stay one step ahead of the pain. I prefer to be a football field ahead.

4. Your ability to laugh like a normal human being will be put on hold. Ditto for sneezing, pooping and coughing.  The advice is to hold a pillow over your incision if you need to perform any of these actions, and though it may help a tiny bit, you’ll still find yourself making modifications. Your sneezes will become the tiny, restrained kind that only Disney Princesses can attain. While in the hospital with my son, my husband cracked a hilarious remark that caused my body to produce such a high-pitched hyena snicker that the nurses went running to call the psych ward.

5. Think your intestinal tract was screwed up when you were pregnant? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. With my son, I didn’t take a dump for seven days. SEVEN. POOPLESS. DAYS. Mass quantities of fiber didn’t get things moving along. Five days after delivery I finally got the urge and 50 sweaty minutes later, I came up empty. It was as if the kids climbed up the ladder of the high dive, tip-toed out to the edge of the board, took one look down and said “No way in hell, lady” then made the slow, shameful climb back down. Arm yourself with some goodies like apricot nectar and prune juice.  Think “retirement home beverages”.

6. The area around your scar will never, ever, ever get feelings back. The skin around my incisions still has very few nerve endings, four years after my last c-section. That area will still get itches that I can’t scratch, but I power on, digging at it like a meth addict. I have high hopes I might regain sensation, but at this point, I have as much chance as Lindsay Lohan staying out of jail.

Yet, despite knowing all this, after my first born, I still had another baby via cesarean. Being prepared for what was to come definitely helped ease my jitters. That, and sneaking a case of prune juice in my overnight bag.

10 Things You Should Know About Babies

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10 Things You Should Know About Babies When I was pregnant with my first child, ten years and a million sleepless nights ago, I went about pregnancy the same way I had gone about my college courses: by reading everything I could get my hands on, studying notes, attending classes, and joining message boards. I was always a great student — and definitely an overachiever — and now I intended to get an A-plus in Motherhood 101. I diligently attended my birthing classes, toured the hospital, and dragged my husband to the breastfeeding prep class. I washed all the bodysuits and the gowns in hypoallergenic, dye- and scent-free detergent. I practiced my kegels. Then, I had a baby. And, like postpartum women everywhere, I found myself in my bed, body fluids oozing from far and near, stitches in places I didn’t know I had, my breasts growing at an exponential and alarming rate, my hormones crashing down around me, and all I could think was, “Nobody told me about this. There was no chapter that said anything about this!” “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” The answer is simple: because I didn’t want to hear it. The truth is, when I was pregnant, I only wanted to talk about pregnancy and childbirth and strollers and Diaper Genies. No one told me that birth was only, literally, the beginning. I can’t blame a universal motherhood conspiracy, though; I would not have listened. Here are ten things I wish someone had told me — and I wish that I had heard: 1. The first time you see or hold your baby, you might not hear angel choirs in the distance. You might have a doctor still halfway up your body stitching you, or a nurse pumping your stomach to help you deliver your placenta. You might be in a lot of pain. You might be more exhausted than you have ever been in your whole life. It’s okay if you don’t hear the angels. There will be time to have those magic moments with your new baby. 2. After you deliver, your first trip to the bathroom will be an event. Don’t be embarrassed to let someone help you there; do not risk passing out alone. Be prepared that this is only the beginning of your loss of dignity as a mother. After all, you will have years ahead of you during which you will not be able to visit the potty alone. Might as well start now. 3. Breastfeeding is hard. It takes a little while to get used to the “holds” and find the one that works best for you and your likely hysterically screaming newborn. Whether you are doing it right or not, breastfeeding hurts at the beginning. Sometimes a lot. My nipples cracked and bled with my first baby. Engorgement was scary and extremely uncomfortable. My breasts radiated heat and actually pulsed. But my lactation consultant was my knight in lanolin-coated shining armor, and after the first two weeks, breastfeeding became more comfortable and much more manageable. Also: if breastfeeding is not for you or if it just doesn’t work out, that is — REALLY — fine. In the end, the way you feed your baby is inconsequential compared to the way you love your baby. 4. On your fourth day postpartum, you will most likely cry. A lot. This is usually when your hormones crash. This is the day when you will be certain that your life is over, that your partner is a jerk, and that you cannot do anything right. You’ll cry just because. You’re allowed. (BUT — if you continue to cry and continue to feel down, seek help pronto.) 5. If at all possible, do not put on real clothes for at least two weeks. Once you get out of your pajamas, people start expecting you to be competent. Wear clean, fresh pajamas if you must, but stay in our pajamas unless you want to cook and clean and entertain visitors along with the bleeding, oozing, leaking, and caring for another human life parts of the first two weeks. 6. Babies don’t always sleep. This is not the result of Something You Did Because You Are Already a Failure as a Parent. These same babies will, eventually, sleep. Promise. You cannot ruin them for life. Other parents will tell you their babies are sleeping. I promise you they are a) stretching the truth, b) defining “sleep” differently than you do, c) still due for sleep disruptions, or d) flat-out lying. You will face these same alternate versions of parental realities again when you talk to other parents about potty-training and reading further down the road. Seriously, babies are as different as adults. Some sleep better than others. But they all struggle sometimes. Your child will sleep sooner or later. 7. Don’t let anyone make you think you don’t know your own baby best, and don’t let anyone make you think you’re not doing a good job. There is no one right way to parent and there are many ways to be a good parent. Related: You don’t have to do what your mom, mother-in-law, or grandmother did. Listen to your gut. 8. Find support — neighborhood groups, breastfeeding groups, hospital new mom groups, whatever you can find. Networking with other new mothers can be a crucial lifeline, even if you go back to work after your maternity leave. Having a newborn is like going off to college for the first time — you need to find other newbie freshmen so you can all be clueless together. 9. Don’t be a martyr. Kids don’t visit martyrs for the holidays when they grow up. Hire someone or beg your friends to come and hold the baby while you shower and nap sometimes. It’s not easy to adjust to being a mom. One day, you are a person just taking care of yourself; the next day, you can’t button your shirt straight. Don’t be afraid to say, “This is hard,” or “this sucks!” It is hard and it does suck sometimes. That doesn’t mean you aren’t 110% grateful for the blessing of a baby or completely in love with your child. 10. Take lots of pictures (and get in them), because you won’t remember much of this later. Trust me. More than anything, I wish someone had told me this: The first year of your first time being a mother is like nothing you will ever experience again, no matter how many children you have. Every day is a miracle. Every day is a journey. Every day might seem like it lasts 100 hours. There are lights at the end of every tunnel, but you won’t know it. You will never again feel like you are getting an A-plus. You will be forever changed. At some point, you will realize that “nobody ever told you” because some things you have to experience for yourself; There’s no book or class or even little old lady in the grocery store who can tell you what to really expect when you’re expecting. Related post: 26 Reasons I’ve Cried Since Having a Baby

4 Reasons We Become Slacker Moms

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little-girl-first-day-of-school Image via Shutterstock

The kiddos have been back in school for a week, maybe two or three, and so far you are killing it mom-wise. You’ve got your act totally together, and all systems are running smooth as buttah! You are a ‘night before packing, clothes laying out, shoes by the door, on time, dinner planning, lunch prepping, hot breakfast cooking, reading 20 minutes before bed every night’ school mom ninja right now. You are up before dawn, skipping through the house like Mary Poppins on Red Bull. What you are now achieving before 7AM would make a West Point cadet shiver. You have set up homework stations, backpack stations, and sports equipment stations. If you are homeschooling, your curriculum calendar is a color coded, expertly sequentialized, portfolio freaking masterpiece of educational pedagogy perfection. Rejoice moms! It is early fall and our organizational badass cups runneth over!

Unfortunately, somewhere, somehow, and sometime soon it is gonna go to pot. Total crap. Our once highly functioning school systems will collapse quicker than a sleep derived new mom after two glasses of wine.

This hit me yesterday when I was packing my little guy’s lunches. They were food magazine cover worthy, nutritionally balanced, damn pieces of Bento art. Why then, somewhere around late April, am I scouring through cupboards looking for anything that resembles food and begrudgingly stuffing it into lunch boxes? How do school routines go from happy to hellacious?

Stuff happens. Life happens. And then we hit the wall hard, collectively falling off the high achieving school mom wagon. Here are the four reasons we become slacker moms:

1. After school activities, and sports practices. Right now, you are in the honeymoon period of the school year. All of the fun, with none of the work. Sports leagues may not have started, your kids may not have had any homework, and after school clubs and activities have yet to take over your calendar. But when they do, watch out, because your lazy afternoons and family dinners together are out the window. Bedtimes get later, patience grows thinner, and well meaning efforts to prepare for the following school day are all but lost when you find yourself passed out on the couch at 9:15. We’ve all read that kids should not become over-scheduled, that they should enjoy free play every afternoon, and we should all strive to live more simple daily lives. I hear ya, and in a non-competitive dream world that would work. But here’s the thing, I have teenagers, and I have seen college applications, scholarship applications, and honor society applications. Guess what they all have in common? About three blank pages to write about all the teams you are a captain of, all the clubs you are the president of, all the hobbies you are an elite talent at, and all the non-profits you are the chairman of. And all this by roughly age 16. I would love to tell the colleges my sons are applying to that they are boys of great character, and everyday they helped their mom make dinner, do laundry, care for a home and younger siblings. Unfortunately, that’s not really gonna cut it. So for now we run around every afternoon like maniacs, playing this and that, attending meetings for this and that, volunteering here and there… and on and on and on. And our once perfectly planned out days turn very sour.

2. The Holidays. Somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when our already tight schedules are invaded with cookie swaps, company Christmas parties, and obligatory family celebrations, we lose some school zest. Honest to goodness holiday fatigue sets in, and digs its teeth into our school routines. Kids start forgetting things, dinners get skipped, we accidentally sleep in, and we can’t catch our breath or catch up with our days. How is it the busiest time of year ends up being in, well, the busiest time of year? When we finally come out at the other end in early January, and jump back into the school year, we feel behind before we even start. That school alarm clock chirping has long since lost its turn on.

3. Sick kids. The only thing more detrimental to a great school routine than a sick kid, is two sick kids. Then another, and another, and then a sick parent. In early winter when cold and flu season slaps everyone in the face, and for weeks at a time at least one family member in the house is wearing their pajamas 24/7, school days and daily routines take a beating. We spend the short dark days of the new year shuffling around and barely hanging on to any type of school routine. We may even start to be thinking of warmer days and that most craved week of the year…..

4. Spring Break. Ahhhh…seven days, and a magical slice of sunshine landing at just the right time. After cold months and weeks and weeks without a single school day off, we finally catch a breather. And we get just a tiny but sweet taste of the outdoors, of staying up late and getting up even later, and of resting our minds and bodies. Which makes the period of time between spring break and the end of the school year the roughest time of all. We are treading water those last two months. We are no longer organized and ready for school mornings, we are never prepared for the evenings, and we are just begging for all of it to be OVER already because we are done!

Remember just a few months ago chanting ‘BRING ON SUMMER?” Yeah, me too. Then a few weeks ago we were all whining, “Is it time for them to go back to school yet?” Yep, I was. For now, this first month of fall, I still have my act together. Shoes are lined up at the door, and backpacks are organized nicely. Homework hasn’t been missed, and I’m still signing forms and slips happily and on time. I know what sports practice day it is, and I have all the proper equipment ready, and the pantry and fridge are well stocked.

I give myself to around early February before it all goes bad, and I inevitably send a kid to school with breath mints for lunch, the wrong uniform on, a very overdue permission slip, and late homework. Then we will have cereal for dinner, and I will totally forget to pick up a kid from a sports practice, we will all be wearing dirty clothes, we will have lost one backpack, three lunch boxes, four school books, and a set of golf clubs. (Seriously, how do you misplace golf clubs? ) At some point I will lose my purse, my phone, my sanity, and my patience. Finally, there will be that school morning, where by the time we get to drop off, everyone in the car will be crying, including me.

How many days until summer?

Related post: The Extra-Curricular Crackdown

10 Things You Can’t Do In Public While Pregnant (But Totally Want To)

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pissed-off-womanImage via Shutterstock

When you’re pregnant, there are myriad things you wish you could just up and do no matter where you are and whom you’re with — things you probably do in the privacy of your own home without reserve. The thing is, you can’t in public. I mean, you could, but you’d either no longer have any friends or get arrested, and nobody wants that. Here are just a few of them:

1. Ice your vagina. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only pregnant person who’s had swollen labes and excruciating pelvic pain for the majority of the third trimester. Add to that a previous c-section incision or two and you’re talking a serious case of Super Snatchitis. Life would be so much easier if you could just excuse yourself to the frozen food aisle and apply a Lean Cuisine to your crotch without judgment.

2. Scream, “I JUST WANNA SHIT! IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?” from the stall of a public restroom. Not even upon reaching dangerously toxic levels of concrete-esque excrement in your bowels is this ever a good idea.

3. Whip your boobies out to apply a soothing cream or salve. Where my fellow sistas with the saucer-sized areolas and chafey nips at, hmm? You know what I’m talking about.

4. Apply hemorrhoid cream during a staff meeting. It’s just not sanitary.

5. Walk around naked. Even the largest of maternity wear can be so restrictive. There’s nothing more comfortable or freeing than letting it all – and I DO mean IT ALL  hang loose.

6. Fart audibly. Of course you’re still farting; you’re just doing it as quietly and discreetly as possible. Only in fairy tales can you let those juicy ones fly and still be invited back to the neighbor’s next dinner party.

7. Give up on grooming. This is totes something you can get away with in small amounts, but I wouldn’t recommend giving it up cold turkey. Chances are you want your friends and partner to still be there when the baby’s born. Here’s how to know if you’ve let it go too far: When the doctor starts performing your routine exams in a Hazmat suit, it’s time to break out the soap, brush, and razor.

8. Eat other people’s food when hungry. Yes, pregnancy hunger can strike without warning, and yes, it’s one bitch of a whore. Even still, it’s not advisable to pick from the plates of patrons in area restaurants or rip items off the grocery store shelves and tear into them like a rabid honey badger.

9. Ask complete strangers to evaluate the viscosity of your vaginal discharge. Is it pee, vaggie juice, or amniotic fluid? Your concern is understandable, but it’s probably best to leave inspection of your panty paste to your doctor or spouse.

10. Hump your hubby on the breakfast bar at Big Boy. If you’re one of the lucky* ones to be blessed with a raging libido during baby baking, you know the urge to sex it up is both frequent and emergent. Still can’t fornicate on the fondue**.

*or unlucky; depends on how you look at it

**just kidding; they don’t have fondue at Big Boy!

Related post: 10 Things Never to Say to a Pregnant Woman