I wasn’t a very confident child, but there was one thing I knew I was amazing at: I could unlock a Magic Eye painting in seconds. The random series of dots and waves quickly became a dog or a boat or the Eiffel Tower, I yelled it out, and I was queen for the day. I’ll let you take a moment to be wowed.
The early years of parenting are a lot like those paintings, though I’m horse-transport slow at unlocking the mysteries of the baby. And what’s worse, when everything is waves and dots, I tend to Google and freak out when the answer is usually: wait. Just wait and it’ll all become clear. It’ll work itself out. Weaning, for example. After wondering and searching and posting about how to do it, it’s happening pretty naturally. Food – kind of working itself out. Sleep – I know I’m lucky here, and please don’t throw tomatoes, but it’s also working at the moment. This will probably be the case for a few more days, and then everything will change again. A new, confusing painting will be up and I’ll be back on the Google train, wondering why he’s not saying words yet or why his left eye looks like that or…
When you become a parent, you join a community of people who have all gone through/are going through the same things, but not exactly. It’s the most universal individual experience I’ve encountered. And it’s helpful to remember that. Everyone has their own set of Magic Eye paintings.
(I’m sure the person who came up with those paintings knew they would be used as a metaphor in many of these “can’t-see-the-trees-for-the-forest” situations, but please excuse the tired use. I just wanted to remember how nice it felt to be really good at something.)
While I was pregnant, breastfeeding seemed like a pretty cool thing. I didn’t really think much about it, except to plan on doing it for about a year. I wasn’t going to be one of those crazy people who do it until the kid is taller than boob height, but I wanted to give my kid as much of the good stuff as possible.
A year sounds hilarious to me now.
I hear women say how beautiful/wonderful/magical breastfeeding is. I hear the words coming out of their mouths, but I don’t understand them. For me, breastfeeding is just a thing. It’s no more magical than changing his diaper. Actually, it’s less, because he can’t smile when his mouth is full. And he loves getting on that changing table.
Let’s run down my situation:
- I haven’t had plugged ducts or mastitis. Breastfeeding is not a painful experience for me.
- Mixon has had no trouble latching on (this was the only thing I was worried about pre-baby).
- I work from home.
Those all add up to a perfect, lovely breastfeeding situation. But my boobs had other ideas. Milk production. That’s my issue. My B-sized boobs can’t keep up with a dude who frequently enjoys 9 oz. meals.
It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that he needed more, but after multiple tear-stained pediatrician visits and a downward trajectory on the growth chart, I’m happy to be supplementing with formula and pumped milk.
Breastfeeding is a sacrifice. It’s another three, six, 12, 24 months of someone else using your body. So many liberal mamas are pro-choice, but militant about breastfeeding, and I think there’s a contradiction there.
I tried everything to increase my milk supply. The forums and the LLL and the Kellymom.coms made it sound so easy. I fed on demand, spent my life pumping, bought the expensive herbal pills, and ate the oatmeal (I’m still doing all of the above, by the way). When I’d think about supplementing, I’d see the NO, DANGER, DO NOT ENTER posts about how it would kill my milk supply completely. When Mixon’s ex-pediatrician looked at me condescendingly and said “formula isn’t poison, you know,” I wanted to punch her in the face. OBVIOUSLY it isn’t poison, lady, but it tasted like failure.
The truth is, the supplementing has been liberating for me. I can actually go out without stressing that I need to be there to feed him or get home to pump as soon as I can or my milk supply willgoawayandnevercomebackandmybabywillhatemeforeverand…
I still have some stupid hope. I’m wondering if he’ll want less when he starts solids – maybe then I’ll be enough for him. (SEE this language? I’m like a scorned woman.) I’m wondering if he’s just catching up on growth spurts he missed and will even out at some point.
The other part of me sees him freaking out with joy every time he sees a bottle and screaming at my boob, dreams of enjoying more than one glass of wine, and really loves the idea of never seeing the pump again. This part of me thinks that maybe six months is a good time to stop the madness. At least I won’t have any issues with weaning…
There are bajillions of women like me, and I think the tide is starting to shift. I’m hoping we’ll fall somewhere between the ’80s formula-heads and the present-day breastfeed-or-die crowd. I’m calling it third-wave mothering.
Third-wave feminism is less about fighting against something and more about empowering women to make their own choices without limitations (made possible with the work of the first- and second-wavers, of course). I think we’re there with breastfeeding. Third-wave mothers don’t have to shout about how amazing breastfeeding is, we know. Now we can make our own decisions based on that knowledge. Yes, there are still battles to be fought on the breastfeeding front – nursing in public, for one (I’m looking at you, Delta) – but I think it’s time to take a step and make sure we’re not shaming women for making the choice that’s best for them. I understand the need for ‘breast is best’, but we need to remember that there is, often, a person attached to that breast.
Third-wave mothering, third-wave parenting, is parenting free from judgement. Just because something is right for my baby doesn’t mean it’s right for yours. I’m writing this with one hand and Mixon is reading along as I feed him formula from a bottle.
Just like third-wave feminism pulled back from the second wave fear of women who stay at home, I hope third-wave parenting will pull back on the fear of formula. I’ll say it again – nursing is a sacrifice. You’re allowing someone else to control your body – the same someone who did it for 10 months, btw – and that should always be a choice.
Now that I’m in the get-this-kid-outta-me stage of pregnancy, I’ve noticed that a few things have changed:
1. When people ask me how I’m feeling, I no longer automatically respond “Great!”
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this, but MY BACK HURTS.
2. I’m really ready for this thing to happen.
I thought I’d be more nervous than I am, but honestly the only thing on my mind is something that you will all laugh at. I will most likely laugh at it, too, in a few weeks. Basically, I’m wondering if I’ll actually know when I’m going into labor. I have no idea what a contraction feels like. But even if I somehow get through the early stages unaware, at some point, I’ll know. As my Hypnobabies workbook wisely states: “If you see an arm or a leg coming out of you, call 911 immediately.”
So used to it that I no longer react like a normal person when I feel a fly on me. I think I could probably let a spider walk down my entire arm before I realized there was something wrong. I’ve relinquished control over my body.
4. I can no longer shriek when I do feel said bugs.
It’s summer, and my house is old, so there are a lot of creatures crawling around in the house. I’m ok with spiders (though they don’t seem to be doing a damn thing about the flies in my house), but wasps, moths, and (shudder) palmetto bugs are cause for a shriek or two. In the past few days, my husband has responded with a frantic “WHAT?! WHAT?!” when these yelps slip out of me. He thinks it’s time. That’s when I have to explain to him that it’s bug time, not baby time, and would he please get rid of the carcass on the floor? It’s so hard to bend over.
5. My fingers hurt
Is this what carpal tunnel is? I’ve seen that on the list of lovely pregnancy side effects, but it’s not like a debilitating pain or anything, they just feel like I’ve been clutching something tightly for a long time. It’s more weird than painful.
6. The prospect of tripping is terrifying
I may have almost tripped on my run on Monday and it may have freaked me out a bit. I used the indoor track this morning and will probably stay there for the duration, even though I have to run the hamster wheel 12.5 times just to complete one mile. Still, there aren’t as many manhole covers and sidewalk cracks to deal with.
7. I keep dropping things
Maybe this is a part of the not-really-carpal-tunnel or maybe it’s just because I’m clumsy, but I’m blaming Ziggy for the grapes and cookies I keep dropping.
8. Nesting is a thing
I scoffed when my friends asked if I was vacuuming couches yet, but this nesting thing is real. No, I haven’t resorted to cleaning, unless you count obsessive laundry, but I have gone on a decorating rampage. We went years with nothing on the walls, but for some reason I really want to put pictures up. And, of course, there are other side effects. When I was unpacking the box that went untouched at our last place, pulling old photos out, I cried. Thanks, Ziggy.
Of course, we own a home for the first time, so it could be that, but I spent 2 hours on Sunday putting CONTACT PAPER on three drawers for Ziggy. That has to be wrong. I would never do something like that.
By the end of the process, my back hurt so badly and I was so done with wood and paper and sticky things that the third drawer looks like a collage.
The nesting thing has also been creeping into my spending habits. I used to shop Amazon for books and DVDs. Now, I buy coat racks and baby stuff. At the top of my wishlist right now – an over-the-counter towel rack and a spoon rest. See also: silverware and a lawn mower. And at the end of the list? The first things I added when I was young and interested in things:
Just got back from a weekend trip to New York full of family and craziness and fun. My Great Aunt (who was like my grandmother growing up) turned 90, I ran a race and had a joint surprise baby/wedding shower with my (new) sister-in-law, and (sorry, the best part of the weekend…)I watched my brother get married to said new sister
During this trip, I experienced both a high and a low of pregnancy. The high was, obviously, the shower. I got to spend some time with people I love (and I spent surprisingly little time stressing about how gross I looked) and I brought some adorable and generous presents home. I didn’t sleep well during my trip, and I had run a race in Central Park that morning, so when the party was through, so was I. DOA.
My parents, sister (!), and I left the party with our load and headed over to Queens in a cab. They finally got there an hour and a half and $75 later, the majority of that time/money spent in traffic on 1st Ave. I do not miss living in the city.
They lost me around 57th street, when I decided to split off from them and go straight to my friend’s house where I was staying (my brother’s house was full of the rest of the fam). I was stupid tired, and I couldn’t imagine going back to my brother’s, spending time with the family, and then heading to a second location. I got out of the cab and called my husband for a little walk-and-talk (he was stuck at home working). Then I thought… you know, I could pee.
I hadn’t thought about it until then, because I had peed about 10-15 minutes before we left. No big deal, I walked confidently to the Banana Republic down the block and tried the door. Locked. It was a Sunday, and it was after 8pm. Apparently, on 5th ave, that means no access, closed, denied.
I kept walking. Surely, there was something open. Gap – nope, Container Store – nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. At this point, I couldn’t hear anything my husband was saying. My brain was too loud: PEE PEE PEE.
Finally, my loins rejoiced. A Duane Reade. I ran inside. And yelled “BATHROOM!” at the cashier. She said “one minute” and that was it: a tiny drop of pee escaped into my pants. “I DON’T HAVE A MINUTE! I’M PREGNANT!” I shrieked, but it kept coming. Another drop, and another, then a trickle. She moved fast, thank Cashier, so I avoided a puddle. The rest of the warrior pee went to its rightful place inside of the toilet. But it was enough. I had peed my pants.
At this point I realize I’m still on the phone with my husband. Yes. He virtually witnessed this experience. Lucky guy.
After a few minutes of willing this not to have happened, I finished up in the bathroom and began my search for pants. I started in Duane Reade, looking for something, anything… pajama pants, clown pants. I almost went with leggings, but it was a little cold and I’m a little chicken. Oh well, I figured, I’ll just find another store.
Of course, you’re all smarter than I am, so you know why I was not, in the end, able to find pants. Sunday, now 9pm, and you guessed it, even fewer stores were open. So, I rationalized. I was wearing a longish jacket and happened to have my jeans on, so the problem wasn’t an in-your-face one. The subway ride was relatively short, and I could just stand (so no one would have to sit in my pee later). Besides, it’s New York. People pee everywhere.
So, yes, I was totally grossed out and spent Monday peeing every chance I got just in case, but I’m not that embarrassed. I’ve had so few issues with this pregnancy that it was (sort of) nice to experience something that was an actual thing associated with pregnancy. Sure, I’ve had heartburn a few times, but that was nothing. I survived fucking WARRIOR PEE. I would say I’ve earned my first pregnancy badge.
I’m 11 weeks today, and while that’s not exactly a milestone, I realized that I’ve already learned some stuff. Tomorrow is my first appointment with the midwives and I assume that will be a big info dump, but today, I’m thinking about what I’ve learned on my own, in real life and virtual.
1. The “I’m pregnant” reaction usually comes with squeals
No matter who someone is to you, if you tell them you’re pregnant, they will be truly, sincerely happy for you. There are also usually hugs and questions about how you’re feeling. As someone who doesn’t love the spotlight, I don’t usually go for this, but sometimes a wide grin and a high-pitched shriek makes the bloating worth it. It’s like I just won an award or published a book, but there’s no hint of that “I could have done that” resentment.
2. “Best ever” blog posts are designed to pull in readers
… and they’re not all that helpful. I feel cheap after I click on a post to read “the best parenting advice” or “how to make sure your child is a perfect angel 24/7.” Unless the tongue is fully inside of the cheek, I don’t need to read these things.
3. It’s okay that I’m already showing
It took a few weeks before I decided that the bulge in my stomach was NOT just a brownie bump. There’s a Ziggy in there. The thing is, the more I show, the more I eat. My weird brain has given myself permission to splurge. And it’s not usually on the good stuff. I still haven’t gotten my taste back for salads, though I did force one last night after reading this study that showed pregnant women who eat greens tend to have not-as-picky eaters.
4. Arguing is hard when you’re pregnant
It’s tricky to decipher what I’m saying vs. what Ziggy is saying, and this makes arguments at home extra-special fun. Neither of us is sure if it’s something real that we’re fighting about or if we’re just going around in estrogen-fueled circles. The husband doesn’t know whether to fight back or let me have it, and if it’s the latter, how does he approach it?
Both of us are rational and logical, so hubs feels like I’ve gone off the reservation. What makes it harder is that I’m suddenly willing to blame things on my pregnancy, something I’ve always tried not to do with my period. But hey, I’m creating a PERSON here!
5. Tired. I will not stop being tired.
6. I finally know what “sawing logs” means
Speaking of sleep, my husband has suddenly started snoring like a phone vibrating on a table. It’s SO LOUD. I thought I was the one who was supposed to snore. But it’s okay, because even though [number 5], Ziggy’s not letting me sleep as much as I used to. As I’ve said before, I believe he/she is preparing me for the worst, which I know is yet to come.
7. The nesting thing is a real thing
I’ve started making cookies. A lot. This could also be a part of my willingness to eat. I just discovered these “healthy” banana chocolate PB cookies that make me feel like I’m drowning in chocolate. I will be making another batch today.
8. I smell different
Namely, my sweat is… sweatier, somehow. Running clothes aren’t lasting as long as they once did. In other words, I’m gross.
9. I am very lucky so far
I have yet to throw up and the nausea is very limited. From what I’ve read, this makes me very lucky. People hate me, and I don’t care. I just hope this doesn’t mean something’s going to bite me later on. (always the optimist)
10. I’m excited, terrified, and curious
I simultaneously cannot wait until September and know that I will be terrified when we get there. I haven’t counted weeks this faithfully since springtime during high school. I look forward to every Wednesday, because it’s another week closer to Ziggy. Quite a pleasant way to mark the passage of time.
But also: I have to push THAT out of THERE? And then I’m responsible for an entire PERSON?
And: I can’t wait to meet that person!
Will it be a girl or a boy? Will it have my nose? What will it be like to hold it?
I really have to pee.
Obviously, I still have a terrifying amount of things to learn, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. It’ll be fun to learn some of this from a little human that I created, though.
[Quick house update: we had our offer accepted on a great 1920s bungalow in East Nashville. The timing is perfect, so let’s hope we make it to closing! Here’s our maybe-house…]