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Monday, August 28, 2006

Dressing up the smart girl

Tonight I cashed in some chips and had some girl time out with Therapist Friend. I put on a form-fitting, stain-free shirt, some cute and forgiving gouchoes, and sexy dance shoes. I styled my hair, brushed on a little eye shadow, and lacqured up my lips. I even put on a necklace, knowing that no tiny hands would be groping at my neck.

As I waited for Therapist Friend to come take me out into an adult world of coctails and dinners that don't include a cup of complimentary crayons, I dashed upstairs to get my glasses. This isn't the first time I've done this--it's just the first time I noticed. When I go out to get in touch with the other me that used to live in an adult world of socialization and libations, I wear my glasses--my sassy, I-work-and-am-cute-and-smart glasses. I used to wear them daily when I had a real job to go to that required that I could read small print and type several words minute while talking on the telephone. But now, in addition to helping me read the small print on the menu, they make a statement. They say that I know how to talk about stuff that has nothing to do with matchbox cars and the cool new stroller that I just bought on eBay. They've become the accessory that says I'm smart.

And apartently others think so too. Therapist Friend and I had barely scooted up onto our bar stools when two guys came over to settle a bet: Was I the designer that they met at a friend's party just a couple of weeks before? Nope. Not me. But it was very flattering to think I had done such a good job camoflaging my post-partum self as to be mistaken for a party-attending designer. I confessed that I was a writer and not a designer, but never mentioned that I was a mom. That will have to take backseat to my sassy glasses-wearing alter-ego.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I am powerful: I am woman

It was terrifying. It was exhausting. It was by far the most powerful thing I have ever done. It was one of the most normal things in the world.

I laughed. I sobbed. I doubted. I rocked back and forth. I growled. I screamed. I swore. I sang Johnny Cash's Ring Of Fire between contractions. But mostly, I trusted my body. I gave birth--without drugs.

The female body is amazing.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The sicko lactation diet

Okay, here's the real reason I breastfeed: I can eat lots of food and still lose weight. But that's not all. I can use the breast pump in lieu of exercise. For example, this morning while Baby in Chief was asleep I pumped five ounces. Five ounces equals 100 calories. I don't think there is any other way on the planet I could burn 100 calories in about five minutes. Perfect. Now where's my chocolate croissant?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

More than a mom: my eternal link to me

On many days it seems that I am not much more than a maker of food, a cleaner of spills, a organizer of activities. And under all that mundane, there is just not much left. It's so easy to forget that there is a real live person under those necessities who has needs and wants and desires and interests and passions. Or at least a real live person who used to have those things.

So where is that person now? I know she's in there somewhere, and hanging onto that person is essential to remaining sane. Photographer friend told me that her link to her former self is going out and talking shop with other grown-ups, maybe only mentioning her two daughters in passing. Because in that circle, they aren't the glue. They aren't the most important thing, or only thing defining her or connecting her to those other adults. Don't get me wrong, the kid connection is hugely important and the women I have met through my kids have saved my life.

But being a mom isn't the be all, end all. I think that having a newborn has made that much more difficult for me to remember. It seems that having another baby has pushed me farther away from myself because I am nurturer and protector and everything to this new puny human. My wants, my needs, my passions are virtually nonexistent because of this other incredibly important person who I love dearly.

Still, I know the old me is in there and I'm staying connected every once in a while. My link is dancing. I loved going dancing when I was in high school (I met Father in Chief in a roundabout way though a very cheesy club in Western New York called the Yellow Jaguar back in 1989), I loved it in college (Venus de Milo, Avalon, TT The Bears, and others in Boston--especially because my college sweetheart was in a band and I was one of the most dedicated fans), and here and there in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 10 years. Most recently at the Little Fox Theatre while my three-week-old baby was home with FIC.

Dancing reminds me that I'm still me, even if I smell like spoiled milk and you can see my breast pads under my shirt. I'll probably out there shaking my groove-thang when I'm 75--and for those few hours I'll feel like I'm timeless, ageless, and childless. I know that dancing isn't the be all, end all either. And it's not more important than my kids. But we all need something fun once in a while just for us.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Knocked up at the prom

What includes a black stretch limo, a high school year book show and tell, oodles of tell-all girl talk, gabs of glittery eye shadow, and 80s pop superstar Rick Springfield? It wasn't a high school prom. Nope. It was the Second Chance Prom--a local-radio-station-sponsored event in San Jose on June 10. I was a mere eight months pregnant.

Don't know what your high school was like, but a ripened-fruit like me was not an unusual sight when I actually was in high school way back when. There were probably 20 babies born to classmates during the four years I spent at Lockport High School. And who knows how many other pregnancies no one knew about.

But at this prom--this Second Chance Prom--I was proud of my blossoming belly. Sure my massive middle left me a little off-kilter and my left foot was still sore from my falling-down-the-stairs incident in May, but I danced and laughed and revisited my youth for a few hours. It was by far the best baby party ever, the best prom ever. There were no annoying jocks or popular kids to avoid, there were no curfews, no parents to lie to about where we were headed afterwards, and no boyfriends trying to score--that mission had been accomplished at least twice since this was my second pregnancy. That night, those couple of hours were about me and my girlfriends connecting, not necessarily as moms, but as friends. We forgot about laundry and dishes and diapers and husbands. And we remembered how to laugh and reminded ourselves that we need to do stuff like this more often.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

...and then my milk let-down

Baby in Chief is almost four weeks old, and I recently started using the breast pump so that Father in Chief could help out with those gruesome middle-of-the-night feedings. I'd been avoiding the pump because I had used it so frequently when Toddler in Chief was nursing--to establish my milk supply when he was born and hospitalized for the first three weeks of his life, to always have milk to offer after every feeding at the breast (because breastfeeding is hard work and was sometimes too exhausting for TIC when he was brand new), for the two weeks he was hospitalized for his second heart operation, for the six weeks he was on a non-fat diet after his surgery, for relief from engorged breasts, or just a night out.

I was standing in the kitchen assembling the pump and the freshly boiled assorted accessories when I had a funny little reminder about how my body remembers the milk let down. Most women get that when their baby cries or they think about nursing. Not me. I just need to see an assembled breast pump.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Permission granted!

Okay, so I'm alive again and I feel ready to write and to live and to just be. It's been months since I have felt this way and I wasn't sure if I ever would again after my son's long and difficult hospitalization earlier this year. My life had temporarily ended and I wasn't sure it would ever begin again.

But it has. I'm smiley. I'm cheerful. I'm happy to have my life back.

For a long time, I didn't think I was capable of writing anymore. I didn't think it was worthy of my efforts because it wasn't as profound as the experiences we'd had in the hospital. It didn't seem that I should allow myself the joy of writing because I didn't think I deserved to be happy, to have joy, to laugh, to live for anything other than my son.

Then my son started getting stronger and healthier, and had become his cheerful, car-obsessed self. And that was a relief. And then I had another son. Having a healthy baby is a totally different experience. I don't worry when he cries. I don't fret about every sound and wonder if every moment is our last. I marvel as his body without scars and think how strange it looks--so clean, so smooth, so uniform in color, so free of pain.

It's as if I have permission to continue living. So I've taken the liberty of writing about some very un-profound things--preschool, post-pregnacy clothing. Because I can.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sign me up, Scotty!

I've never been a huge fan of sending little kids to preschool or having them enrolled in too many structured activities. There is so much to learn in everyday life and soon enough they will be locked into routines and schedules and structure.

But now I have a brand new baby. And that seems to change everything--especially my attitude.

Toddler in Chief has been participating in a Spanish "transitional" preschool at a friend's house for two hours twice a week. This started several weeks before the arrival of Baby in Chief. I figured since it's at a friend's house, it's no big deal. He'll be with buddies from his playgroup in a familiar setting. It's like a playdate without me there. And maybe he'll pick up a few Spanish words along the way. He'll get used to having another adult in charge without me there. He'll have some special playtime with friends. I'll have some alone time with BIC.

But it doesn't seem that two hours twice a week is enough.

So now I'm going to have to hunker down and find a real program for him. I'm thinking three days a week for three hours a day sounds like a nice break, ahem, I mean a good amount of time for him to be out there learning new things in a new and positive environment without me.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The unflattering in-betweens

They say nine months on, nine months off. But surely it would be nicer if it only took labor and birth to burn off all those calories and be back in our pre-pregnancy clothes. I remember thinking that there were several stages of pregnancy clothing--one for when none of the regular clothes fit, one for the cute-and-six-months-pregnant phase, and the hello-I'm-about-to-pop-the-seems-on-this-dress look. But postpartum has wardrobe issues of it's own.

My kiddo is just three weeks old and I'm totally frustrated with myself. And it's not even my weight that bothers me. Sure I'm a little rounder, a little softer, and more voluptuous thanks to nursing, and I'm okay with it. What was driving me crazy was the fact that I'm in a terrible in-between stage for clothing. My pregnancy clothes looked ridiculous and my non-pregnancy clothes were sizes too small. There was simply nothing to wear.

That left me in sweat pants and bulky T-shirts. As if the lovely things that happen to our bodies postpartum aren't bad enough--the crazy hormones, the bleeding, the night sweats, the sleep deprivation, the leaky boobs, the hair loss. It would be nice if I could at least be wearing cute clothing. Frumpiness is simply not acceptable. So I took steps. I went shopping for this unflattering in-between stage.

If we don't feel good--and who does with a three-week-old baby?--we need to at least feel like we look good. We need to have an illusion to grasp onto to convince ourselves that we feel good. Restaurant-owner friend told me that it's not how to feel, it's how you look. And I think that if you feel like you look good, it improves how you feel.

I've only had these new in-between clothes for a few days now and so far my attitude has improved immensely. Imagine what a little more reliable sleep would do...