Pregnancy

Diagnosis: Murder Veins

This summer, Andy and I will be celebrating 15 years of togetherness with a Jamaican vacation. Also this summer, we’ll lose Andy’s good, employer-sponsored health insurance. Armed with these two pieces of information, I booked myself for a consultation at a vein clinic. You know, one of those places that will laser away your unsightly leg veins and maybe make insurance pay for it. Motivation: Look good in a swimsuit. And maybe stop ruining wedding photos with my my renegade legs.

I’ve long wondered what’s to be done about the state of my veins. They’re pretty impressive, and there’s a family history of women getting their veins “stripped” in Ye Olde Olden Days. I don’t know what that entails and I refuse to Google it, because ew. I haven’t worn shorts since 9th grade, and even then it was with opaque, mustard-yellow tights, because I know what looks good. Mini skirts have been out of the question, mostly because the last time I could get away with wearing them, I probably thought they were sinful. (I might still think they’re sinful.)

Neither my puritanical upbringing nor my feminist conversion give much allowance for vanity. Blow-dryers? I don’t understand them. Eyelash curler? Forbidden. Exercise? Never touch the stuff. Teeth-whitening strips? Fuck you. I classified fixing varicose veins the same way I think about getting a breast lift: Maybe a good tax write-off if I decide to go into professional stripping, but otherwise not easily justifiable. They still bothered me, but not enough for me to take any particular action. For years, my doctors would say things to the tune of, “Holy shit! Look at your fucking legs!” And I’d say, “Yes, doctor, what’s to be done?” Responses were as follows:

  1. “Insurance won’t cover it until you’re out of your childbearing years, because the veins will just come right back when you get pregnant.”
  2. “I can write you a referral to a specialist once you’ve decided not to have any [/more] children and/or gotten an IUD.”
  3. “Now that you’re done having kids and you got this IUD, lose some weight. That might help.”
  4. “Good job on losing that weight! Tough luck on those veins, though. This is just what happens when you have a baby.”
  5. “Have you tried compression tights? They’re fun for summer!”
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Advice I support, in theory. In practice, let’s go see a doctor.

But recently, the vanity kicked in, and damnit, I want to wear a sinful miniskirt on a Jamaican beach without feeling like my legs are ruining everyone else’s vacation. Off to the vein specialist!

My doctor, a man with 30 years of experience as a cardiac surgeon and, most recently, 10 years specializing in vein repair, looked at my legs and whispered to himself, “Wow.”

“If you’re saying ‘wow,’ I feel pretty special.”

He assured me that I am special. And more pressingly, so are my monstrous veins. Insurance will cover it immediately. If my insurance company resists, he says, all he would have to do is send them a picture of my legs to prove that “this is no joke.” If I don’t get the valves in my veins repaired, a blood clot is imminent. Because of where the failed valves are located, that clot will be very dangerous, likely moving into the heart. Oh, and P.S., you’re supposed to take care of your veins before you get pregnant, you silly goose.

I … see.

Of all the health shit I’ve dealt with up to this point, my goddamn varicose veins — that like four doctors told me to cover with self-tanner and stop whining about —  were going to be the thing that orphaned my child? Are you fucking kidding me?

I go in for four surgeries (outpatient, minor, using lasers) next week, with a phlebotomy (gross-sounding, not going to Google it) likely to follow two weeks later.

Good thing I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I want to look good in a goddamn swimsuit.

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Top 11 Hipster Baby Names of 2014 Probably

It’s still a little early for the Social Security Administration to release its list of the top baby names of 2014, but it’s never too early for Hipster Mother to release the list of the top hipster baby names of 2014. These aren’t based on any official data; these are just what I think you should have named your baby this year.

11. Kerrigold

You just can’t get enough of that unsalted butter. You might not stick with the Paleo thing, but this simple luxury will be with you for the next 18 years, at least. You call her Kerri or Goldie for short.

10. Milliner

You’re bringing classic hats back in a big way. If it’s a girl, you call her Millie. For boys, go with Mill.

9. Isis

You spend a lot of time talking about how actually she’s named after the Egyptian goddess of health, marriage, and motherhood; friend to artisans, sinners, and slaves. Or maybe you’re just trying to get an early start on your kid’s SEO. Either way, it’s a bold choice.

8. Monsanto

But you’re kinda winking at it, you know?

7. Marzipan

Like the character from Homestar Runner, and like the delicious almond paste that’s the star of any box of See’s candies.

6. Steven

With a “v” instead of a “ph,” it’s like your hand slipped on the keyboard while you were trying to name your son “Seven.” But it didn’t slip. You planned this, just like you planned the pregnancy.

5. Burgundy

Because you like a fine wine and early modern European history.

4. Schrödinger

A shortened form of “Schrödinger’s Fetus,” the original nickname for your child from the weeks when you felt like you might be pregnant but it was still too early to take a pregnancy test.

3. Asterisk

A name for a girl or a boy. Either way, they get to sign their name with a tiny star for life.

2. Harbinger

You call him “Bing” for short.

1. Helvetica

Right? This is a great name for a baby. Use it in good health.

6 Death-Bed Regrets

Last night, somewhere in the space between asleep and awake (but trending towards asleep), I had A Moment. It was a little like reliving the minutes before my C-section, when the anesthesiologist and nurse had a little bit of a freakout about how much my blood pressure was dropping after the epidural. I vaguely remember them addressing it, but mostly I was bewildered & living outside of that reality, until I started wondering why the anesthesiologist was rubbing my forehead. It seemed a little familiar for a man who seemed so clinical just a few minutes ago. Then I realized it was Andy, and that he was by my side because they were about to slice a baby out of me, and my forehead was one of the few places he was allowed to touch me. Everything was fine, and the whole affair proceeded without complication, but those few minutes were surreal, and probably as close as I’ve come to experiencing the existential exit ramp.

So. last night, as I was falling asleep, I unintentionally revisited that mental space. I stayed up too late reading a magazine and then watching the new episode of Bob’s Burgers, so I was over-tired without being anxious about it. It’s a different mental space than being overtired because your toddler is teething, though that was the underpinning. I waded into out-of-body territory, as though I were in the hospital and on my way out. In a flash, I had a vision of my List of Regrets, presented to me with lucidity upon last night’s imagined impending death. I now share them with you, that we may all live better.

1. I never made an appointment at Aveda to get that bikini wax.I know winter is upon us and there’s no tropical vacation in sight, but before I died, I wanted to become the kind of women who got bikini waxes on the regular.
2. I haven’t finished the Advent calendar. I started it and hung it on the wall, but I haven’t written the numbers on the postcards yet, or affixed ornaments to 21 out of 24 pins. If I’d died last night, Charlie would grow up not knowing what the hell that thing is on the wall that he’s been looking at all childhood long. Andy’s certainly not going to finish it; he doesn’t have my vision!
3. I didn’t lose those 7 pounds. In seven pounds, I can check off the “overweight” box on medical forms rather than the “fatty-fatty-no-friends” box. It’s weird that they have that box on medical forms. I should probably find a new doctor.
4. I haven’t folded the laundry. If I die today, I’ll never know what it feels like to have all the laundry clean, folded, and put away, with all the clothes Charlie has outgrown successfully donated to needy babies.
5. I never got my master’s. This seems less daunting than finishing the laundry, though, so my hope is that I’ll actually do this at some point.
6. I’m not caught up on my magazines. That stack of Real Simple and American Theatre isn’t going to read itself. Oh God, I hadn’t even considered the complimentary subscription to various parenting magazines that started arriving in the mail once I started purchasing pregnancy tests on the regular. (Seriously, I have no idea where that came from, or how Similac knew to send me a sampler pack. Big Data, amirite?)

And sure, depending on how long I get to hang out on my death bed on my way out, I might also really regret never seeing Paris, not getting to meet my grandchildren, and not living to see the day that we commute in flying cars. But after having a faux-near-death moment of clarity last night, I know what’s really important.

Here’s the half-completed Advent calendar. Feel the regret with me.

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Hot for Democracy

It’s Charlie’s first election! Or second, if we count the fact that I got knocked up the weekend before the 2012 election. I then proceeded to have more coffee and cigarettes on Election Day than I’d had in the previous six months (which is to say, one cigarette and one metric buttload of coffee) as Andy & I were manning headquarters for my cousin’s congressional campaign. Then about 10 days later, we had a nice campaign wrap dinner, wherein I had more sushi and whiskey than I’d had in the previous year. Then the next day, I felt a little weird (read: sore in the boobs), and two pregnancy tests later I was on the metro to Andy’s workplace to share the good news (while freaking out about how much raw fish I’d had 12 hours earlier).
Charlie was due on Andy’s 36th birthday, which, according to math, means that Andy’s existence is attributable to Carter-Mondale Election Fever. We’re not a family with a ton of traditions, but I hope I get a grandchild in the summer of 2049. Ugh, I’ll be so old. But my bionic spine, flying car, and adorable grandchild will keep me feeling young.

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Shutting It Down

Last week, in what proved to be the second-most excruciating doctor’s appointment of my life*, I had an IUD inserted. So now, if you FaceTime with me, you no longer need to start the conversation with, “You look off; you’re not pregnant again, are you?**” Because the answer is no, no I’m not.

I dragged my feet on this, because it sounded like something that would hurt. But it’s the most reliable form of birth control that won’t mess up my attempts to continue breast feeding, and my doctor was pretty emphatic that there ought to be absolutely no room for accidental pregnancies for at least 14 months after having Charlie sliced out of me. We’ve found that living with an infant and Andy’s dad is highly effective birth control, but I’ve been urged to come up with a more formal solution. I talked to my doctor about making an appointment.

“Is this the kind of thing that I need to schedule Andy to come with me to hold my hand and drive me home?”

“No, it’s 15 minutes in the office, no big deal. It can be pretty painful for women who’ve never had a child, but since you’ve already had a whole entire baby in your uterus, having a little piece of flexible plastic inserted won’t really even register.”

Okay. It still sounds like it will suck, but I make the appointment and come in a few days later.

“Just a heads up, I’m still pretty nervous about the potential pain.”

“Nothing to worry about. You’ll feel a little pinch at the beginning, and I’ll let you know when that’s about to happen, and there might be some cramping at the end. But for most women who’ve had a baby it’s just a little uncomfortable is all.”

“Hooray!”

“Now, you never dilated before your C-section, correct?”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“Okay, so you might feel more of a sting at the beginning. But no big deal.”

We get moving. Just a little uncomfortable at first.

“So, your cervix is really small, so this might be a little uncomfortable.”

Ow.

“Hmm.”

Ow. Ow ow fuck fuck fuck.

“You’ve never had surgery on your cervix before, right?”

“Right.” Ow fuck fuck fuck.

“Hmm. Interesting… Oh wait, here we go. Here’s the part where you might feel a pinch.”

I scream.

“Okay, we’re through the cervix.”

“Okay… I still feel the pinch, is that okay?”

“Yes, you’ll feel that until we’re done.” I am at this point I think I’m about two minutes into a 15-minute procedure, but it’s hard to say, because time has lost all shape and meaning. I start to panic a little. “Okay, here’s the part where you might feel some cramping.”

…And here’s where I start sobbing uncontrollably, and don’t stop until well after we’re done. I can’t imagine that the pain will ever stop, or that it’s possible that I’ll survive it without dying, and I’m going to die with the indignity of being sans culottes with my feet in stirrups, without my husband here holding my hand, and I’ll never see my son again.

“You’re doing great.”

I sob harder.

“All done! Tissue?”

I wipe the dripping mascara off my face, blow my nose, and apologize for sobbing.

“You did a really great job. When I had my IUD inserted, I almost passed out.”

Awesome.

If I has known what I was in for, I’d not have done this. Hand jobs only until menopause, and I told my doctor as much. She said if the cramps didn’t go away (because they kept going even after we finished) to call her.

I clearly deserved a burger and a milk shake before going home, and I was for sure not right back to the office like I’d hoped. But, Bobby’s Burger Palace does not mix well with bodily trauma, and I came very, very close to not making it home in time to get to the bathroom. This was made all the more suspenseful by my inability to make my very slow strides any greater than six inches long. It was a lengthy voyage home. But I didn’t poop my pants, so the victory was mine.

Anyway, pro-tip: If anyone’s all, “Oh, you should just get an IUD, it’s no big thing once you’ve had a baby and then you don’t have to remember to take a pill. It’s the best!,” you can tell them to go straight to hell as you fill your handbag with condoms. Condoms that you’ll never use anyway, because you live with an infant. And maybe also with your father-in-law.

* The honor of the most excruciating appointment was four days earlier, when a small piece my clitoris was sliced off and biopsied. Everything came back negative. But still, fuck that day.
** An unfortunate word choice from my mother-in-law, who is a legitimately lovely and supportive person. I in fact looked off because I was still beat from the encounter listed in the previous footnote.

Miscarriage-aversary

St. Patrick’s Day ranks among my favorite holidays, mostly because I really enjoy having a corned beef dinner. (For a good read on why this is a food to eat today, here’s an article from Smithsonian Magazine that you can wave in the face of anyone who gets up in your business about corned beef having no place at a St. Patrick’s Day feast.) Me and Charlie have been listening to a combination of my “Fiddledee-Diddledee” playlist and iTunes Radio’s “St. Patrick’s Day Party” station all weekend. I’ve had a Guinness. It continues to rank among my favorite feast days in spite of it being Miscarriage-aversary.

On Saint Patrick’s Day of 2007, Andy came up the stairs of his grandmother’s house to let me know the corned beef dinner was ready, and found me crying in the hallway. I was pretty sure I was having a miscarriage. I hadn’t thought myself to be pregnant, but was a couple months into a new birth control that would have kept me from having a period most months, so it was hard to tell. And since I was on birth control, I had no reason to think that the two months of morning sickness was anything other than stress or plague. By the time I figured out that a pregnancy gone sideways was even a possibility and got my act together enough to go to the doctor, I wasn’t pregnant [anymore]. In describing the scenario under which I believed myself to have miscarried to the emergency nurse’s line and then to the doctors who happened to be available to see me, the reaction was either, “Don’t be dumb; you’re on birth control so you can’t be pregnant” or “Well yeah, dummy, you didn’t follow the SECRET directions to the birth control that everyone should know about, so OF COURSE you got pregnant and had a miscarriage.” (Stated directions: Use a backup method for first week of taking pills. SECRET directions: Use a backup method for a month.) I still don’t know for certain if I was ever pregnant; I just know in retrospect that I had the symptoms of first trimester pregnancy and an early miscarriage. Every time a new doctor asks for medical history and has me state my number of previous pregnancies, I have to weave them this tale in order for them to decide on their own whether to put “0” or “1” in the box.

For me, I had to just decide that it was a thing that happened, so that I would have something solid to grieve. For a variety of reasons, it seemed highly likely that it would be the only time I would ever be pregnant, so for years, and still today, I grieve the loss of this child. It felt more right than grieving over the eternal absence of a child or pregnancy, which I had started doing shortly before this event. It was hard to talk about or to gain support from most people besides a very close few, because it was hard to describe what happened. When I would tell people, they wouldn’t totally know how to react. A couple days in, a good friend recommended that I tell my mother, since this is just the sort of thing we have mothers for. My mom, I think in trying to lighten my mood, went with, “Well you said you didn’t want kids, so I don’t even know why you’re upset.” Ten days later, Andy and I moved to the East Coast as planned.

Having Charlie almost erases this grief. I carried it with me daily until Andy and I decided to try to have kids and my OB handed me a fistful of pre-natal vitamins. I don’t know if I should continue to carry it with me for the sake of the 6-year-old I may not have in my home, or if I should just release it, because I probably/maybe/perhaps was never even pregnant until Charlie happened. There’s probably not a right answer. For a variety of reasons, my identity as an adult is built upon grief and loss. If I let go of those things, I’ll lose what I believe to be a valuable part of myself. I suspect though that there’s a process of alchemy replacing grief with resilience, and I will be the better for it.
This St. Patrick’s Day, I will remember the empty space in my womb, regardless of how it came to be. And I will have some corned beef and Guinness, because both of those things are delicious. And I will listen to Colm Wilkenson sing “Whisky in the Jar” on repeat, because it’s the greatest thing ever.

Beep Beep’m, Beep Beep, No.

In some ways, having a baby has empowered me to see myself as a real live adult, maybe for the first time. In other ways, having a baby has empowered me to be terrified about life in new and exciting ways. This is a post about the latter.

When I was about four months pregnant with Charlie, I crashed the damned car on the way home from a doctor’s appointment. Not real bad, but I think the cause of it was, at least partially, pregnancy side effects. I was super tired and hurty and non-fine-motor-skills-having. So, let’s low-speed crash into another car because I’m in the wrong lane.

As such, I avoided driving like the plague through the remainder of my pregnancy, except for the occasion of a couple non-metro-accessible things I had to get to. After I had a C-section, I had to wait until I was largely recovered and off pain pills to be cleared to drive again, which added another eight weeks or so. And after that, if I needed to get somewhere, it would likely be with an infant in the car, which sounds dangerous.

"Why are we taking public transportation from Hyattsville to Fairfax, Mom?" "Because the car is terrifying, son."

“Why are we taking public transportation from Hyattsville to Fairfax, Mom?”
“Because the car is terrifying, son.”

So basically, I’ve spooked myself out of driving. I think I’ve done it twice in the last year. This Saturday I thought about going to Trader Joe’s (a schlep!) to get some vegetables and other non-disgusting groceries. Then I downgraded my ambition to the much closer, much pricier Yes! Organic Market. Then I pushed the plan back to Sunday morning. Then Sunday afternoon. Then Sunday night. Then never.

Even if Charlie’s not in the car, I can’t just go around dying in car crashes all the time, because I’ve got cats and husbands and infants who count on me to not be dead. If you’re the one driving me, no problem, but I can’t be trusted not to get us all into another low-speed collision.
So that’s the story of how I got knocked up and became a shut-in, except for when I take Charlie on cross-country flights. Airplanes and the subway systems of unknown cities with a stroller and baby and luggage? No problem. Drive 1.1 miles to the market? Fuck no.

What else is terrifying now? I don’t go to the basement anymore either (which contains the couch and television). All those stairs.

So if you need me, I’ll be in my room sitting on my bed until I die of natural causes or have to go to work in a few hours, whichever comes first.

15 Items on My Baby Registry Do-Over

Right before Charlie was born, a few people asked if we needed anything and what they could get us as a baby gift. We couldn’t come up with anything; it seemed we’d planned for every possible eventuality. I was sure there was stuff I was missing, but that I wouldn’t know what it was until I needed it. So, for those of you who may be in the same position, here are some things we’ve had rush-shipped to the house since Charlie was born (plus a couple things I’m still yearning for):
  1. Wipes Warmer: I thought these were just for the babies of rich assholes who were looking for more things to buy. Not so! It turns out that when you put a cold wipe on a newborn’s wang, he’s pretty sure you’re trying to murder him. Or at least re-circumcise him. And when the poo and pee are flying wildly, there’s no time to rub a wipe between your hands until it warms. 
  2. Burp cloths. A jillionty of them. Thick, high-quality ones. I think we’d registered for and acquired five cloths total. I thought this would be more than enough, what with the advent of the automated washing machine and all. Not so! Many days, Charlie will saturate nine of these with barf. We’ve bought several extra sets of these and acquired more second-hand, and have also thrown baby blankets dish towels into the equation, because we still can’t wash them fast enough. 
  3. Nursing tops, nursing dresses, and nursing pajamas. It hadn’t occurred to me that I’d have to get half-naked in most of my outfits if I wanted to feed my baby. I hadn’t worn a shirt that showed any cleavage since 2001, but it turns out that wearing a low-cut blouse is far more modest than lifting your whole dress over your head when nursing or pumping time comes around. 
  4. Bottle-drying racks. We don’t have a dishwasher, so I needed a setup on the counter for the cleanly care of pumping and feeding supplies. Also, if you don’t have a dishwasher, all that shit is supposed to be sanitized in boiling water for 10 minutes after EACH USE to prevent illness from contaminated milk. And this is after you thoroughly wash with dish soap and rinse with warm water. I have sanitized Charlie’s feeding supplies exactly five times since he was born.
  5. A dishwasher. See #4. 
  6. A diaper pail (specifically the Munchkin). Because cloth diapers were the worst idea we’d ever had. 
  7. Disposable diapers. Because cloth diapers were the worst idea we’d ever had. 
  8. A nice hamper. To put the barfy items into directly. The broken, plastic laundry basket I’m currently using doesn’t match the decor, but it keeps the bodily fluids from staining the floor. 
  9. Another swaddle sack from Aden & Anais. We got one at a shower, and of the eleventy jillion swaddling devices we purchased or otherwise acquired before Charlie was born, this was the only one we had the wherewithal to get him in and out of for feedings in the middle of the night. Also, they were the only ones lightweight enough for swaddling an infant born on a muggy, hot-as-balls, late July morning in D.C.

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    Charlie in his beloved monkey-sack, fairly fresh from the hospital

  10. A couple of sleep sacks. These are different from swaddling devices. It turns out you’re only supposed to actually swaddle your baby for a couple months, and then there’s a 10-month window where it’s neither safe for them to have their arms bounds nor safe for them to use blankets. So these, sometimes billed as “wearable blankets,” help keep your baby from freezing to death during cold, winter nights. We currently only have one that fits him, and he peed on it this morning, which means that I HAVE to to a load of laundry as book ends to today’s 12-ish hour work day. As such, I’ve ordered a couple from Gilt.com, and in 10-14 business days I’ll no longer have this problem. 
  11. One of those sitty-uppy pillow things. You know the ones. I hadn’t even thought about their existence since 1985 (when my Aunt Shannon had a brown corduroy one in her room, facing her Yoda poster and the concertina on the shelf. . . It’s possible that being a hipster runs in the family. Or, more likely, we’re genuine nerds but everyone thinks we’re kind of winking at it.) Then the Target by my house had them in their “go to college and outfit your dorm with all this cheap stuff” section. My options were bright red or black, since we’re pretty close to the University of Maryland, and those are the colors it’s advised you don whilst you fear the turtle. So, bright red. I think they were designed with the notion that your only piece of furniture is your bed, but that you still need somewhere to write that five-paragraph essay comparing and contrasting Romeo and Brutus. It also makes for a comfy spot for the 3 a.m. feedings, and you don’t have to get out of bed. 
  12. A pumping bra. Because otherwise you have to use both hands to pump, and if your nose starts itching at the beginning of your session, you have to get your husband to scratch it for you or else just deal with it for the next 25 minutes. I am highly pleased with this functional and stylish number from PumpEase.
  13. A second pumping bra, so that I could was the first one more frequently than once every never.
  14. 1000 gallons of baby laundry detergent from The Laundress. Because if you wash clothes in an unscented detergent like Dreft, the whole load comes out of the dryer smelling like baby vom and old towel.
  15. 1000 gallons of pale ale. Because Mommy needs a drink. 

5 Myths About New Motherhood

1. You’ll never shower again. 
False. I shower twice a day now. Know why? Because I want to get the vomit off my chest, the pee out of my belly button, & the lochia out of my snizz. Charlie doesn’t love it when I shower, but he can deal.
Charlie knows the importance of a strong cup of coffee in the morning. (Photo by Andy Langsdorf.)

Charlie knows the importance of a strong cup of coffee in the morning. (Photo by Andy Langsdorf.)

2. You will feel more tired than you’ve ever felt in your entire life. 

False. Maybe this is true for Andy, but at night I find it much more bearable to wake up with a crying infant every three hours than to wake with pregnancy-induced hip pain every 15 minutes. Comparatively, I feel downright energetic. Oh, and I’ve also started drinking coffee again for the first time in several years. Lots of it. That probably has something to do with my comparatively boundless energy. (I’m not supposed to have caffeine because it exacerbates the chronic pelvic pain I experience as a result of interstitial cystitis. But the pain is currently a small price to pay for that delicious, delicious latte.)
3. You will never have sex again. 
. . I can see where you would think that. I’ve got vomit on my chest & caffeine-induced pelvic pain, after all. Not to mention a crying infant in our room, a live-in father-in-law in the other rooms, and a baby monitor that feeds audio to both of Andy’s parents’ iPhones. All the baby books say it’s just as meaningful to hold hands during these magical days of early parenthood. So we’ll get right on that hand-holding and let you know how it goes.
4. Labor will be the worst, but as soon as you see that new baby, you’ll be instantly overcome with a wave of love like you’ve never experienced before and you will forget the whole last nine months of pain. 
Maybe. This one’s tricky. The instant, overwhelming love happens for lots of new moms (& new dads), but it’s often discussed in hushed tones that sometimes the banana-pants level of love can take some time to develop. Days, weeks, or months even. Anecdotally, it seems like the harder the delivery, the longer it takes to feel the motherly love that’s supposed to be instantaneous. Fortunately, I had a couple of new-mom friends who were willing to be honest with me about this, because even though I’d read that it doesn’t always click right away, I’d probably have felt like an asshole if I hadn’t heard about it first-hand from a couple of women who I know to be caring mothers. I expected a strong emotional response when they showed me Charlie for the first time, but I was mostly bewildered in the first moments, and into the first couple days. “Say, that’s a sharp looking baby. Hmm? He’s mine to keep? Well I’ll be darned.” I loved Charlie in a way since before I was even pregnant. But when I saw him for the first time, I wanted it to be the overwhelming rush of incomprehensible love I’d been promised by some. Instead, it was tempered by the feeling that stuck with me through pregnancy: That I should love him & take care of him, but not get TOO attached, in case something goes awry & he doesn’t make it. The love grows with every day, as I feel more secure in the idea that I get to keep him. I still half expect Sibley Memorial to call and say that I’m overdue on my baby rental, and that I’ll start incurring daily late fees if I don’t return Baby Charles to the front desk by midnight.  Also, no chance I’m ever forgetting what a pain in the ass pregnancy was.
5. Having a newborn is way harder than you could ever possibly imagine. 
False. This is likely largely due to the fact that Charlie is a top-shelf baby, but I imagined it was going to be waaaay harder. Not that it’s easy by any stretch of the imagination, but Andy & I had both expected a living hell, with the payoff of eventually having a  friendly and respectable adult child who comes over for dinner every Thursday night. Andy and I have been together for 12 years, and we pushed back the baby-having largely because we thought we didn’t have it in us. I was fairly obsessive in my pre-baby research, sure that I would be ill-prepared for every moment in our new child’s life. It turns out that we’re actually pretty good at it. Since we brought him back from the hospital, I haven’t yet looked at him and thought, “I can’t do this.” I have thought other things, like “How is it possible that this volume of [barf/pee/poop] lived in your body?,” “How much wine am I allowed to have between feedings before you get drunk? All the wine?,” and “Oh my God, I’ve had to pee for the last two hours and I’m never going to get to and this will be how I die.” But I’ve never yet felt like I can’t pull this off, and pull it off well. I have no idea if that feeling will stick once he starts crawling, walking, talking, asking where babies come from, struggling with hygiene, hanging out with nogoodnicks, dating, applying for college, majoring in Bro Studies and/or voting Republican, but I’ll cross those bridges when I come to them.
I can probably bust some more myths for you later, but those are enough words for now.

Baby’s First Cold-Blooded Murder

A Breastfeeding Story

As everyone and their mom has already told you, breastfeeding takes some getting used to, and it doesn’t work for all women. There are those who market breastfeeding as a beautiful moral imperative (as well as those who would prefer that we put our disgusting lady-boobs away for feeding, and not take them back out until they’re sexy lady-boobs for sexy times), but those people are the worst. Breastfeeding is clearly the best nutrition for babies if it works out. And if it doesn’t work out, formula is way better than letting our babies get dehydrated or starve to death because we’re afraid of being perceived as lazy failures.

That said, I was pretty determined to breastfeed, because I didn’t want to be perceived as a lazy failure. I had a good milk supply pretty quickly (and damned well better have, since I’d been leaking colostrum since I was 20 weeks pregnant), so I’d hoped it wouldn’t be too trying for me.

A friend of mine with an infant warned me how much breastfeeding hurts. She said her friends had given her the same warning, but she didn’t fully understand the gravity of the situation until she tried it for herself.
“Seriously,” she said, “My nipples looked like they’d been in a bar fight.”
I took that under advisement, though I still kind of thought it would be fine. And it was FINE. It was not any better than fine. People talk frequently about the magical endorphins that are released when you breastfeed, which help you bond with your baby & generally feel magical; that sounded nice. I thought it may balance out the bar-fight factor. Turned out I wouldn’t personally feel any of these breastfeeding-induced endorphins until just a few days ago, and even then, it’s a wave of calm melancholy rather than the euphoric motherliness I’d been promised.

In my favor in the early days, though, was that in addition to my ready milk supply, Charlie had a strong latch from the get-go. He does, however, have a lower lip that tends to curl inward a bit when he latches. This, combined with some mystery X factor, made getting him enough food a real challenge in the beginning.

At 9 lbs. 7 oz., he was a pretty giant baby. I hadn’t previously understood that the risks of having a giant baby go beyond the fact that they don’t come out of your vagina easily and that someone may end up cutting them out of you at the last second. Oh, and blood sugar stuff; that’s a thing too. Apparently it’s also difficult for them to keep an appropriate amount of weight on in the early goings. As such, at two days old, Charlie had pretty low blood sugar and had lost 8.4% of his body weight. At 10%, you start getting into failure to thrive territory, & they have to hook the baby up to an IV and such. The solution to both issues was to try to get him to eat more. In this process, I think we worked with six lactation specialists in the three days we were in the hospital, and Charlie’s blood sugar quickly leveled out. His weight was only slowly going back up, which still meant we could take him home on time, but that we needed to take him to the doctor every two days until it was clear that he would regain his birth weight. We were told at the hospital that we could supplement with formula, but also that to keep my supply up I should continue to attempt to breastfeed like a madwoman. So I attempted to breastfeed like a madwoman. I should note that, by the time we left the hospital, my nipples looked like they’d been in a bar fight.

My first day home, I was in bed, dutifully breastfeeding Charlie. Things were going well; he had a solid latch & seemed to be getting into a good rhythm. Then, without warning, and while continuing to suck at full force, he whipped his head back & popped his mouth off of my nipple. It hurt like fuck. I dutifully latched him back on immediately, & started sobbing. Because it hurt like fuck. Also because I’d just had a baby and was recovering from surgery and was really tired. But mostly because it hurt like fuck. My mother-in-law was staying with us to help me get around and to help with the baby, but because there’s not a ton you can do to help someone breastfeed, it just meant that I had an audience for this particularly low moment. (For the record, I’m glad she came out to visit & she was very helpful.) When Charlie stopped eating a couple minutes later & came unlatched in a more natural fashion, there was blood all over his face. Turned out when he’d popped off me earlier, he’d damn near taken my nipple off with him. Since it was an alarming sight, I got out my camera so I could show a picture to his pediatrician at his upcoming appointment. How much blood should an infant drink in a given day? All the blood?

Of course, as I took this photo, Charlie briefly smiled for the camera, making this his official “Baby’s First Smile” picture. He looks like a maniac who just killed a man in cold blood and ate his bones. Adorbs.

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Andy cropped out the bleeding nipple in the foreground, so now it’s less funny but keeps pictures of my boobs off the Internet.

 

Feeding has gotten much easier. Charlie often seems so wise and with it, but every once in a while he’ll get so hungry he tries to nurse on Andy’s face, or he’ll have my nipple directly under his nose but be rooting so frantically that he’ll not be able to find it and latch; it’s in those moments that I’m reminded that he’s still just an idiot baby. (No judgement; he’s 7 weeks old. He’s allowed to be an idiot baby.) He still frequently pulls his signature move of sucking as hard as he can before whipping his head back with full force, but my nips are now older & wiser, and are thus prepared for such things. He gained all his weight back in about 10 days, and is now a bit over 13 pounds. He’s 24.5 inches long, which means he’s in about the 94th percentile for weight and the 97th percentile for height. And he has a shockingly non-giant head, considering the noggins of his parents.

Moral of the story: Breastfeeding is a super-magical bonding experience between mother and baby, and you should feel riddled with guilt if it doesn’t work out perfectly, & you should probably consider putting your kid up for adoption.