is it too late to apologize?

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The me on the left (childless, circa 2010) says sorry to the me on the right and to all the other mamas out there for being judgy and not helpful.

Ah, perspective. Don’t you just love it when it comes around to bite you in the ass? When one of my closest friends had a baby the year before we did, I was genuinely confused by her new mom attitude. I, of course, understood that having a newborn was hard, but didn’t things level off after awhile? After several failed attempts to get her out to different social events, I remember how hurt I felt when she said something to me along the lines of, “You just won’t get it until you’ve had a baby yourself.” Well folks, I’m reporting to you now from the trenches of early motherhood – no, I would not have gotten it, even if she had spent hours (not that any mother has that much extra time) explaining to me what she was going through.

To all of my friends who became mothers before me – I’m sorry for the not helpful (but well-intentioned) things childless me said and did. This post is for you. Thank you for still being my friend.

I’m sorry I said you should disrupt your baby’s napping schedule and routine because coming to our house to see us and all of our friends is important

No. In no world is coming to a house party worth disrupting baby’s nap and daily routine just as you’re starting to get into the swing of things. Nap schedules, I’ve learned, are part wishful thinking, part superstitious voodoo magic, and essentially up to whatever the baby feels like doing that day. If yesterday baby had the perfect nap day, you can bet that I am going to do everything exactly the same today in an attempt to replicate that one perfect day. And you know what I didn’t do yesterday? Go to a house party.

And yes, friends will always be important, but if you’re looking for me to just come out and say it – my priorities have changed. I will always love my friends, I will always lean on them and count on them for their support, but my world, at least for now, revolves almost entirely around the tiny human that holds my heart in her hands.

I’m also sorry that when you attempted to explain some version of the above to me, my response was to tell you (magnanimously, may I add) that baby could sleep in our guest room.

Nope, the baby is not going to just nod off to sleep without her blackout curtains, 2 sound machines, sleep sack, crib, lovey, and just right ambient temperature. Nice try though.

I’m sorry for all the times I was annoyed you couldn’t hold a normal conversation with me.

This used to be one of my pet peeves: I’d be talking to a mom friend and as I chattered on about this or that, I’d see her eyes slide away from mine and to her child. “Uh huh,” she’d say in response to whatever I’d just said, as she checked for the millionth time in a 5 minute span that her kid was okay.

Now I know that if my child is in the room, you should expect at worst 30% of my attention, at best 90%, because there will always be a part of me that isn’t paying attention to you and is instead focused in on my kid, no matter how juicy the gossip you’re sharing is. Now one of my favorite pastimes is trying to have a conversation with an equally distracted mom, both of us attempting to juggle a conversation, a glass of wine, and our squirming children.

I’m sorry I didn’t acknowledge and celebrate what an absolute BEAST and sheer force of power and strength you are each and every time I saw you.

No matter how you did it – medicated, unmedicated, c-section, in a tub in your living room – labor and delivery is hard, scary, and unpredictable. And before that, you gestated that baby in your womb and experienced the bizarre feeling of your body becoming distinctly not your own and unrecognizable to you. Then, when that baby finally came into the world, you operated on less sleep than you probably ever had in your entire life – not to mention the crazy levels of hormones coursing through your veins – and then likely attempted to suction that child onto your breast to provide sustenance for her with just your body. All while still recovering from the physical trauma of this little person’s exit from said body.

Why this level of badassary doesn’t get daily recognition and praise from the masses I’ll never understand.

I am deeply sorry and regretful that I secretly judged you when you expressed your desire to be a stay at home mom.

This is definitely one that I could not wrap my mind around before having a baby. Why would any feminist woman, highly educated, working on her career for practically a decade or more EVER want to give up (or even pause for a year or more) all that she’s built to stay at home with her baby? I am actually very ashamed that this used to be my attitude, and that I so discounted the value of the work a mother puts in when she is with her child full-time. As I’ve shared in the past, I still struggle from time to time with the label of SAHM, and a lot of it stems from my own misconception that work that pays monetarily has more value.

I get to be the main influence and caretaker in Emmy’s life. I am present for her 100% during such an incredible and fleeting time of her early life. I am beyond lucky that we are able to provide this for her – and for me, this has been the most fulfilling period I’ve ever experienced in my life. Also – this work is hard. Harder than any job I’ve ever held, with so much more at stake than a company or manager could ever inspire me to care about in the corporate world. I am so very sorry for ever thinking that making the decision to stay at home is anything less than an amazing opportunity for any woman or man.

But, the thing I want to apologize most profusely for is this – it is absolutely none of my business, nor my place to have an opinion, about what works best for anyone’s family but my own.

For some women, working outside of the home makes them a better mother, or they wish they could stay home, but can’t. Some SAHMs knew since they were young that this is what they wanted to do, and some are like me, who hadn’t considered it before experiencing motherhood for themselves, but are so grateful to find themselves able to be with their kids full-time.

So, for all the badass mamas out there, you deserve daily hero worship for all that you’ve done and continue to do – whether you are juggling a desk job and your household, or spending your days running to doctor’s appointments and doing endless loads of laundry. The old, childless me sends a sincere apology for all of my past blunders and ignorance, of which there are many more instances than what I’ve written above. This work is hard, and it only gets harder when the people around us, intentionally or not, make us feel like less for doing what we know is best for our babies, or think, mistakenly, that they get to have an opinion about the decisions we’ve made for our families. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – we are exactly who and what our babies need. We just need to spend more time trusting and listening to the inner beast that birthed this baby into the world in the first place.

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the day we met Emmy.

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Happy birth day, little one.

Emmy arrived two weeks early and an entirely different astrological sign than we had anticipated.

It was a little after 1am when I woke because I had apparently peed my pants. I was at that glorious point in pregnancy where I was getting up every hour or so to pee at night, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to imagine my bladder had decided to skip the part where it woke me up. I went back to bed after cleaning myself up, only to be jolted back upright when I realized it was happening again – only I definitely did not need to pee. While our labor and delivery classes had assured us that water breaking would be nothing like how it’s depicted in the movies, what they hadn’t mentioned is it can be continuous small gushes, happening minutes apart. After a failed hope that maybe if I went back to sleep this would all be a dream, I poked Alex in the back and told him my water broke. “Are you kidding?,” he said.

It was about 2am when I felt my first contraction. Alex and I were throwing things into a suitcase (because we hadn’t packed our hospital bag yet), and I said to Alex, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad! I can totally handle contractions!” (#famouslastwords) We agreed to wait as long as possible before heading to the hospital, mostly because we didn’t want our first child (aka, our dog), Riley, to be left home alone in the middle of the night. So, we decided to go back to sleep for as long as we could. Alex fell asleep instantly. Seriously. One minute he was talking to me, the next he was snoring, so I did my best to follow suit. Around 4am the contractions were getting more intense and I started timing them. By 5am, I gave up on attempting sleep, and decided to send work emails in between increasingly intense contractions (the messages I got back from my colleagues are definitely some of my all time favorite email exchanges).

I’ll be honest, at this point, I was in pretty terrible pain. The contractions did not feel like anything I had imagined – it was like someone was trying to bend me backwards over their knee and break my spine in half. By 6am I was on my hands and knees in the kitchen, trying any position I could to attempt to alleviate some of the pain and pressure. But, I knew I had to hold out – our doggy daycare didn’t open until 7am.

An hour moves so slowly when it’s bisected by contractions. When the clock finally read 6:30a, I told Alex I was ready to head to the hospital. By 7:30a, we were admitted, and 3cm dilated. Our labor and delivery nurse, Jocelyn, took one look at me and asked if I would like to get an epidural. Now, I always knew I could never be a crunchy mom primarily because of my outlook on drugs – which is, yes please! (And if you don’t know what a crunchy mom is, good for you.) Before I knew what contractions felt like, I had written in my birth plan I would wait to get my epidural until I was at least 6cm dilated because they sometimes slow down the progression of labor. I told Jocelyn to screw my birth plan and to please put me in line for the drugs.

Oh, the sweet, sweet relief of that epidural! I have never held so still in my life as when they were inserting that needle into my spine, even as I felt the peak of a contraction rack my body. But 30 minutes later, with my entire bottom half numb, and a button in my hand to press whenever I wanted more drugs, I finally got some sleep.

The rest of the late morning and early afternoon was just waiting, napping, and Alex visiting the hospital cafeteria and surfing Reddit on his phone. Jocelyn came in and out of the room, checking my progress and delivering giant pitchers of ice cold juice. I remember the stillness of our room, the soft hum of the medical equipment, the curtains drawn so I could nod in and out of sleep, Alex sitting just an arm’s length away. Our final moments as a family of two. Around 3p, Jocelyn checked on me and asked, “Are you having a sensation like you need to poo?” Apparently, I was fully dilated.

The delivery room unfolded like an origami crane – lights came down from the ceiling, a table materialized and nurses unpacked sheets and metal instruments. My OBGYN appeared by my side having just rushed from Northridge to be at my delivery. “It’s time to push,” she said. With my OBGYN holding one leg, and Alex holding the other, I wondered if there was some way to pump the brakes a little here. Could we rewind a few months? I was completely unprepared for this – for the moment I would be transformed into a mother.

My memory of actually delivering Emmy is spotty, coming in and out like scenes from an action movie trailer. I’m pushing, and then I’m waiting. I’m looking at a terrified Alex who is doing his best to smile encouragingly at me, alternating between holding my hand and my leg in between contractions. A nurse is asking me if I want to touch the baby’s head as she’s crowning (I said yes, and immediately regretted it because it was so much grosser than I thought it would be). And then suddenly – a release.

She’s here.

They put Emmy on my chest, she is mewling and wriggling, shocked by the sudden experience of life outside of my body. The nurses are suctioning gunk out of her mouth and nose, wiping her down on top of me. Alex and I both remember noticing with some alarm how much hair covered her arms and shoulders. I remember how slimy and tiny her body felt on my chest. Alex remembers cutting her umbilical cord and being surprised by how much pressure he needed to apply.

This is a day I thought was etched into my brain forever, but even 6 months down the line, I’m finding it harder and harder to recall the details of those first few moments of Emmy’s life. The older she gets, the more the little things from that day escape me, replaced now by new memories of her laughter, or the way her face lights up and her tongue sticks out when she smiles. But I know I’ll always remember meeting Alex’s eyes for the first time after Emmy’s birth, both of us still in disbelief and smiling from ear to ear, completely bonded and transformed forever by the new Aries in our lives.

to Emmy, at six months old

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Easy, breezy, beautiful baby girl.

Dear Emmy,

Today you have been in our world for six whole months. On one hand, I can’t believe I’ve only known you for six months, on the other – I can hardly remember how I lived my life before you. I won’t pretend that all of it has been it easy, but I can tell you that every challenge, every heartache, and every minute of lost sleep has been worth it to get to know you.

I wish I could put into words how much motherhood – how much you – have transformed me; how my life and priorities have rearranged themselves around you, how my view of the world has changed now that you are in it. Becoming your mother has made me feel stronger than I’ve ever felt in my life, but also incredibly exposed. I am constantly battling my insecurities, weaknesses, all of my faults and failings, striving to be the best mother I can be for you, and frequently feeling that I’m falling short. I’m working on that though, and I hope someday I can be the role model in self-confidence you will need when facing down your own doubts and fears.

In the mornings your dad gets you out of bed and feeds you your first bottle of the day. You two have these precious mornings to spend together until he leaves for work – both of us framed in the doorway, waving as he drives away. We spend our days together playing on your play mat, or running errands to get out of the house. Sometimes I put a blanket out in the backyard, and we soak in the sunshine while you work on your tummy time and Riley rolls around in the grass next to us. Our daily victories are small but mighty – like getting your pants on in the first try, or avoiding a diaper blow out. We end each day with bath time and songs, and your smile that lights up your face while we (you) splash water everywhere. Then after you’ve gone to bed, your dad and I look at photos of you on our phones, missing you already and looking forward to starting the next day with you. I feel lucky every day to be living this life, to be able to be so present in these first months of your life.

I think a lot lately about wanting to protect you, especially as you grow up and become more aware of the world. I’m not entirely sure how I’ll explain why there seems to be so much hate and anger at every turn, so much pain and disaster. And I wonder what event will shape your young view of the world the way that 9/11 shaped mine as a teenager. I’m thankful we have a few more years before you begin to ask and want to untangle these issues, because honestly, I’m pretty new at this mom thing still, and I’m still struggling to understand the “whys” of the world myself.

So, my darling Emmy, maybe someday you’ll read this letter and roll your eyes because I’m so corny and embarrassing. And then maybe later down the road, if you decide to become a mother yourself, you’ll go back and read it again. You’ll see how I describe myself at the beginning of motherhood and compare it to the mom that you know. Perhaps you’ll marvel at how this can be the same person, separated simply by time and experience. And then, I hope you will look at your own child and be struck with sudden understanding – this is how much I love you, this is how much you have shaped my life, this is how you made me the person I am today.

Love you forever,

Mom

my life in ounces, aka my time as an exclusive pumper.

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Goodbye breastmilk.

Since I stopped pumping around Emmy’s 16th week, she has gotten one, precious, 4 ounce bag of breastmilk a day. Today, she will drink the last bag. I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. It feels like there ought to be some kind of ceremony to commemorate the moment – like maybe it would finally be appropriate to light my breast pump on fire?

When it became clear that breastfeeding was not going to work out for us, I switched over to exclusively pumping breastmilk and stopped putting Emmy to the breast. In theory, I loved the idea – no more stressing out about whether or not the baby had eaten enough, or second-guessing whether her latch was correct – I would bottle feed my breastmilk and know exactly how much she was getting each time. The OCD side of me rejoiced. But, exclusive pumping is HARD WORK. You’re making a choice to become a human cow, attached to a machine for what amounts to a few hours of each day, staring, transfixed, at the weird shape your boobs become when they get pulled into the plastic flanges. Oh, also, you still have to take care of a newborn who, I assure you, does not care that it’s been four hours and you have to pump for 15-20 minutes to ensure the sanctity of your already tiny supply.

I was always an underproducer, and at my best, I was pumping about 12 ounces a day. But, in order to get those ounces, I was pumping every four hours, around the clock, day and night. Emmy already needed around 25 ounces at the time, her appetite increasing what felt like daily, but still, I continued pumping for those 12 ounces of liquid gold. Each day was a blur of zipping into my pumping bra, washing and washing endless pump parts, recording how many ounces I did or didn’t produce that day, and oftentimes holding Emmy in my arms above the working pump because she needed to be held and I needed to pump.

I knew at the volume I was producing it didn’t make sense to pump forever, so I decided to freeze a 4 ounce bag every day with the dream that maybe I could provide her this tiny amount of breastmilk daily until she was 6 months old. It was an arbitrary goal, but it became my obsession. I looked forward to bagging those 4 ounces at the end of each day, writing in the date and “4 OZ” where the bag asked for volume with an immense amount of pride.

When Emmy was about 12 weeks old, I was in bad shape. My breasts had been stinging and aching for a few weeks and I was desperately uncomfortable. I cringed every time I attached myself to the pump (which was a lot), but kept telling myself I needed to do this for Emmy. I convinced myself that pain was a totally normal part of exclusive pumping, and continued on, patting myself on the back for persevering. I finally admitted that something was wrong when my chest exploded into red, angry splotches. The doctor told me I had been suffering from either thrush (a yeast infection on your boobs) or a bacterial skin infection of some kind – likely a combo of the two, and why had I waited so long to come in? I was immediately put on medication and a healthy dose of reality.

What the hell was I doing?

From that point on, I stopped recording how many ounces I pumped in a day. I returned my hospital grade pump and shifted to only using my hand pump – a longer process, but definitely a less stressful experience for me mentally. I started skipping night pumps and letting myself sleep for 5-6 hour stretches that matched my baby’s sleep. I refocused on the reason why I stopped breastfeeding in the first place – a healthy mom is more important to my daughter’s wellbeing than a few extra ounces of breastmilk a day.

I made it as an exclusive pumper until Emmy was about 16 weeks old. I knew I didn’t have enough in the freezer to make it to Emmy’s 6 month, but it was time to put away the pump, and time to admit everything was going to be okay even if we didn’t make it to my arbitrary goal. I could tell my supply was dipping again and Emmy was so much more alert lately…The ounces just weren’t worth it anymore, I realized.

I’m pretty sure I’ll never know if Emmy getting 4 ounces of breastmilk a day for an additional 7 weeks will make a significant difference in her life. As I’m finding with a lot of aspects of parenting, ultimately this was more about me than it was about her. I felt, and sometimes still feel, shame in not being able to breastfeed her, so I put myself through hell to prove – what? That I love her? That I am enough? I’m still not quite sure, and I might need the distance of a few more months to really unpack that period and what I felt I needed to put myself through. But today, as I pour out her last bag of breastmilk, I can at least say that while this isn’t what I envisioned motherhood to look like, this is what it looks like for us, and we are better for it.

 

a letter to myself at 5 weeks postpartum.

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Emmy at 5 weeks versus Emmy at 5 months.

Hey there,

I know, it’s pretty ballsy of me to be writing to you – I mean, I only have 17 weeks of motherhood on you, so I must be feeling pretty good about myself. I know it’s hard to imagine right now, in the thick of the fourth trimester, but things are going to get better. That Benjamin Button-looking, string bean blob in front of you is going to become a tiny person – and seriously, the day she first smiles at you on purpose – all double chins and pink gums – everything else will disappear.

But that won’t happen for awhile yet.

The pediatrician recently delivered the news to you that Emmy hasn’t been gaining the weight she should have been, and now you cry every time you have to supplement feed her formula. You also cry while you’re working your butt off, feeding her on one boob, pumping on the other, swapping, then bottle feeding her back whatever was pumped, and then putting her down so you can pump both boobs for another 10 minutes. Alex is back to work now too, so its just you, Emmy, and our dog, Riley. And everyone is looking to you to love them and know what to do next.

No one ever said that motherhood was going to be easy, but for sure, no one ever told us it was going to be THIS hard, this early.

Spoiler alert: breastfeeding isn’t going to work out for us. We’ll see two lactation consultants and we’ll take all the fenugreek, Boobie Bars, lactation treats and Mother’s Milk tea that can be safely consumed. We’ll also refuse to see anyone for a week so we can take a “nursing vacation” – we’ll sit on the couch, demand feed Emmy and finish season one of Big Little Lies in two days, surrounded by empty bags of pretzels and plantain chips. We’ll get up at 2am and use our hospital grade pump to power pump for an hour, over and over again. We’ll get acupuncture, hoping that those little needles will open up whatever blocked qi is screwing our milk supply. We’re going to do it all, and, unfortunately, we’re going to be really mean to ourselves every step of the way.

There are more dark days than you realized there would be this early on – and strangely, they are all related to what Emmy is eating. There are some days when you feel yourself tipping over the precipice, and all you can think about is how you’ve already let your baby down. Over and over again, those dark thoughts come back until you don’t even hear them anymore, they are just part of your daily mantra: I am not enough, I am a disappointment.

But I’m here to tell you that we make it through. That Emmy, yes, she is formula-fed, but she is thriving – and so are you. You love being a mother, and Emmy loves being your kid – her face lights up and her legs kick with joy whenever she sees you. Someday, you will actually look forward to bottle-feeding Emmy, because she will use both hands to hold your fingers as you feed her, and she will look up at you and smile, milk running down her chubby cheeks and into the folds that make up her neck. There’s going to come a day where you’ll wonder why you wasted so many of those early, precious, Benjamin Button days wrecking yourself over breastfeeding.

But all of that won’t happen for awhile yet.

So in the meantime, I hope you’ll try to be kinder to yourself and remember – you are all that this baby needs. You were meant to be her mother, and you deserve a little grace too.

Hang in there champ – and see you in 17 weeks.

Love and kisses,
Future You

how a wrinkled blanket became my first metaphor for motherhood.

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How Emmy really feels about these monthly pictures.
Emmy is 5 months old today. So, as with the past 4 times she turned a month older, I got her dressed in her cutest outfit, arranged her monthly milestone blanket on the rug in her nursery, and proceeded to take about 1000 photos of her while shaking a toy above her head and using my highest pitch voice and best nonsense words to try and elicit a giggle or smile from her.

 

If you had asked me before I became a mother if I would be doing monthly photos of my kid, I would most definitely have said no. Not because I have anything against them, but more because the idea of getting myself together enough to actually remember to do something like this on a monthly basis would seem absurd to me even before a tiny human was depending on me to keep them alive. Honestly, its a good month when I remember to give our dog her flea medicine on the right day (the 17th of every month, reminders welcome).

 

So, when I received the milestone blanket from coworkers as a gift, I told myself I would at least do the first month as a courtesy. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon on Emmy’s one month before I even realized what day it was. It was also the first time I actually opened the milestone blanket – and found out it was a wrinkly muslin square.

 

Friends, I was at a crossroads: do I bust out the ironing board and iron the thing? MacGyver a way to hang it from the ceiling and steam it? Do I just say screw it, shove it back into the closet, and pretend like I never received it in the first place? Or, horror of horrors, do I use it as is, all wrinkles and uneven edges, Emmy’s striped rug peeking out around the borders, and allow everyone to see that I do not have any of this cute mom stuff handled?

 

I’m very proud to say that we’re on the fifth monthly picture and I have absolutely no intention of ironing the damn blanket. If being a mother for five months has taught me anything, it’s that life is guaranteed to be imperfect, that there are very, very few things I am actually in control of, and that embracing these facts are part of motherhood, wrinkles and all. I’ve also found that I look forward to these monthly photos with Emmy and taking the time to acknowledge and commemorate that we both made it another month wiser, both a little pudgier, and very much loving every moment we have together.