You Look Good...For Being A Mom

“You Look Good…for having two kids”

For being a mom. For having kids. Much like a rapid-fire disclaimer during an ad for a potentially life-saving drug. Your disease may be cured, but you may lose all your hair, be at risk for a heart attack or stroke, and FYI death could come sooner than planned. But hey, your excessive flatulence will be gone forever, one way or another!

Here’s the thing. I don’t want to look good for having a baby, or having had two kids. I don’t want to be gleefully described as a yummy mummy, MILF, or hot mama.

I just want to look good. Period.

Do I expect to look the same as I did before kids? Of course not. I just grew, literally and figuratively. A human being. Inside my body. I can sense the slightest change in breathing, anticipate the call of hunger, and survive on a torturously small amount of sleep. I’m basically super-woman.

But yes, that comes at a price. And I’m happy to pay it. I know things don’t go back to where they were before. I’m not lamenting the loss of my perky bosom (well, okay maybe), the tautness of my tummy (definitely), and the appearance of stretch marks that I just couldn’t avoid the second time around. Ok, wait. Maybe I am lamenting all of those things, but sort-of passively. They’re all signs of the miracle of childbirth, which is a blessing I don’t take lightly.

But as much as I may appreciate the compliment, that last part always gets me. I look good, for being a mom. I look good, for having had a few kids. I look good…but is it a reminder that I used to look better?

Do you mean I look good for having gone through 10 months of gaining weight in disproportionate amounts all over my body, and consequent months of shrinking in an equally disproportionate manner, ending up like some sort of lumpy “dry-clean only” sweater that was mistakenly put in the wash?

Hmm…that’s actually pretty amazing.

To be honest, I do feel like I look better. I love the curves that motherhood gave me, even if it also gave me 10 extra pounds that, much like unwanted houseguests, keep coming back after I’ve shooed them away.

If it isn’t exactly a reminder, is it a lower expectation? Do we cease to become women once we become mothers, and are therefore not fully expected to hold the beauty or shape we once did? All while we simultaneously marvel at the ability of celebrities to “bounce back” after giving birth, then look down at our own sagging skin and vow to hit the gym at least 4 times this week (or you know, reach for another chocolate bar…po-tay-to, poh-tah-to).  

It’s funny to talk about beauty standards, considering we only discuss how unattainable women’s beauty standards are. And I’m certainly not encouraging adding more to our list! It’s simply an observation. Once motherhood level is achieved, is it assumed that we will let it all go to shit, forever? Sure, there’s a few months where living in our pajamas and rocking un-brushed teeth might be de rigeur, but you know, eventually we want to look a little more like ourselves. Like the women we used to recognize, even though we are now much, much better, in my opinion.  

Is there really no in-between? You either look good, or you look good for being a mom. Now that I’ve thought it through, maybe it’s a title I should wear proudly, considering everything my body’s gone through. Because it doesn’t end with the pregnancy.

Oh no, there’s recovery, which is as traumatic for your body, the sleepless nights for months (or years) which contribute to puffy eyes, raging hormones (which vary far greatly from the type we experienced before having kids – now it’s more Adult acne and less Adult film), and of course, the uncanny ability for your child to need you just as you’re about to eat...you’ll eat later. Probably another bar of chocolate, or a handful of *organic* fish-shaped crackers, scavenged from the baby’s high chair. Or maybe you won’t eat all day, and then you’ll inhale an entire pizza at 9.30p.m. (I call that the New Mom Food Pyramid). 

Am I saying that if you see me out and about, don’t dare compliment me for fear that I’ll throw it back in your face? Hell-to-the-NO! On the contrary, I’ve never met a compliment I didn’t like, even the ones that have disclaimers.

Stretchy skin…check.

Cellulite…check.

Dark circles…check.

Safari striped tummy…check.

All in all, I look good.

For being a mom, I mean. 

The DREADistry

“Have you created your registry yet?” asked every mother I came across. At the mere mention of the registry, my eyes would glaze over and my brain would start to slowly dissolve. And my blood pressure would rise. Equal parts boredom and stress. “I, um, no, not yet, but I will…”

And then I had to battle my pregnancy brain with actual practical thought, all the while joining forces against my husband's attempts to buy...nothing. 

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Labor Part Un: Dodgy Dim Sum?

I always imagined my pre-hospital beauty ritual and labor to be thus: Luxurious shower, washed hair dried to cascading curl perfection, expertly applied "I just got out of bed" makeup, fabulous  "I'm-about-to-give-birth-yet-I-look-so-amazing-it's-really-not-that-hard" outfit, Loubis (obvi), and simple yet tastefully large diamond studs. I stop to pick up the already perfectly packed hospital bag, which is always ready by the front door, and click-clack down the street to New York Presbyterian Hospital, where I'm already 9 centimeters dilated and don't feel the need for drugs. After a brief session of pushing, with my husband holding my hand and the light perspiration on my brow gleaming attractively, our little Prince/Princess slides out, cooing. Andy and I share this moment of joy with a smile and an "I love you!" before being surrounded by family (of course I have time to reapply my Benetint lip balm first). The baby latches on to my breast and nurses happily, sleeping most of the day. By the time I'm back in the suite, I am able to get up and see my Size 2 figure (that post-partum deflation won't happen to ME!), and hold court by my bedside, in beautiful Natori silk pajamas, receiving well-wishers throughout the stay.

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Mirror mirror on the wall...

After you give birth, you feel untouchable.  Like you have achieved the most challenging of tasks, climbed the highest of mountains.  As I was being wheeled from the delivery ward to the rooms, I felt like a victorious Rocky Balboa.  My brain threw up her gangsta colors and shouted “I just added to the Earth’s population, bitches! What did YOU do today?!”

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Weekend Edit: Let Them be warm! Early-winter coats for all stages

I don't know about where you are, but it is unseasonably warm in New York right now. We probably have another month before the puffers come out (but don't worry, I'll be picking the best 3 soon!) There are so many clothes that can accommodate a baby bump, but coats can be a little trickier, and a lot less stylish. Usually I love to mix high-end with high-street, but I make an exception for outerwear and shoes. So this weekend's edit is all about my top-three early-winter investment pieces for every trimester...and as with all good buys, they will be fabulous on you for years to come! 

1st Trimester: CARVEN - Oversize blush coat, $1050 at Nordstrom

Carven is simply my favourite outerwear label these days, with their effortless and timeless cuts in soft and flattering colors. This coat is perfect to conceal your changing shape while still accentuating that soon-to-be-gone (sob!) waistline! And to be honest, I would wear this in my second trimester as well, adjusting the belt to fit above my bump! SO Betty Draper! Somebody hand me a martini and my pearls. 

2nd Trimester: MAJE, GATITO Swing Coat w/ fur-edged hood, $1010 at Maje

A little more street-chic than the first coat, swing coats are an excellent silhouette choice for the second trimester, keeping it's shape no matter how large you are in these vital months.  

Perfect to accomodate that growing baby bump and still look chic! 

3rd Trimester: Stella McCartney, Draped Knitted Blanket Coat, $1065 (on sale) from Net-a-Porter

When you're in the final stages of pregnancy, it's so hard to find a coat that flatters and fits! That's why I love everything about this blanket coat. It's voluminous and warm, and drapes easily over a giant bump! I also just adore the taupe-grey coloring. 

The best part about all of these is that they are all really versatile (my number one criteria for buying just about anything) and will look just as great when you're going through the post-preggo droop (womp, womp!) as they will when you're in full bloom! What do you think? 

House rules

Yesterday, I told of how we moved the baby into our bedroom.  This comes with a new set of master suite rules:

1.) If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown...let it mellow

You heard me right.

My environmental science professor at school insisted we practice sustainable human waste disposal, best remembered by her mantra "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down."

If it's brown and the flush is going to disturb the baby's ridiculously short sleep cycle, let that thing disintegrate. You are in trouble if you flush it down.  Just think of the good you're doing for the New York City Waste Management system.

I might also insist you drink coffee only in the mornings. And forget about fiber after 3pm.

2.) Starlight, Star bright...

We will never sleep in true darkness again.

That adorable little star nightlight that was originally in the nursery?  It's plugged into our wall now. I need it so I don’t accidentally step on my glasses or Hudson. Excuse me while I wake up every 2-3 hours.

If you happen to be up in the night, don't even think about turning on the bathroom light.  Use your phone to guide you to safety and to light your passage back to bed.

In fact, no water after 8pm.

3.) Feeling Hot hot hot...

No air conditioning.

The baby might be too cold.  I know I'm the one who likes to sleep through all seasons with the air on, so this is actually worse for me. Now I only have the sounds of garbage trucks and sirens to fall asleep to, without the soothing roar of the AC.

It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. And I'm going to still keep my thick Harrods duvet on the bed, thanks.

4.) So I creak, creak, yeah…

No bed creaking.

Once in bed, you have a few minutes to find a comfy position for the night. When you're there and you're cozy, if you could just stay that way until morning, that would be greaaaaat.

Keep in mind my husband is 6'4" and 240 lbs. There is no delicate turning of the midsection for him. When he changes positions in his sleep, the dog and I are both involuntarily bounced around until Andy's rotation is complete. We end up in totally different spots as a result, yet we manage to just stay there.

If Hudson can learn to turn quietly, we all can.

5.) No sighing loudly.

I’m sorry you feel neglected.

I know you do, but your excessively loud sighs don’t really make me feel bad for you.  They just make me want to “Shhhh!” you but I can’t, because we dare not talk.

6.) No talking.

See above.  If you need me, text me, or write a note on your iPhone notepad and show me, or wait until morning.

7.) No coughing.

Ok – have a sip of water before bed.  Put the glass down quietly and nobody gets hurt.

8.) No naughtiness.

This is obvious.  We’re not going to be doing anything for a few years.  Go back to sighing.

It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To...

(you would cry too if it happened to you!)

OHMYGOD,OHMYGOD,OHMYGOD!

Get your mind out of the gutter! Did you forget my new Pope-y motto “Only for procreation, Not for recreation?”

OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD!

I don’t think I can do this anymore!  This baby hasn’t stopped crying for the past two hours.  I don’t know what’s wrong.  Why couldn’t he have started this when my house was still full of people?!  My mum just left, Andy has gone to visit his parents, and I’m alone with this tiny creature that just refuses to be happy.

I’ve tried everything.  Rocking him gently, swinging him from side to side (maybe I swung too fast?), jigging him up and down, throwing him in the air (am I even allowed to do that?), and the pacifier, which has been thrown to the ground and washed more times than I care to count today.

And the nursing.

And the baby bjorn.

I’m so tired.

In walks Andy, fresh from a lovely afternoon with his family, outside of the apartment and away from anything remotely baby related.  And the first thing he does is lament his “exhausting” day.

What???

He must not have seen me.  I’m over here, the one with the crumbling face, smudged glasses (de rigueur these days), and look of desperation in my eyes.  The same eyes currently throwing daggers at him and trying SO HARD not to get angry.  Because he really didn’t do anything.  Except for leaving me here.  And then having the gall to complain about his day.

I want to throw the baby at him.  And I do just that, as I grab some foil-wrapped goodness from the take-out bag he brought me.  I can’t even bring myself to leave the kitchen (where I was, due to the drop-wash-repeat pacifier cycle we were going through).  Also, he's with the baby on the sofa now and I have no desire to be anywhere nearby.  I perch on the lid of my garbage can (Thanks, Simple Human for making such sturdy products), and season my sandwich with large, salty tears.

Dramatic, I know.  But so true.

I used to equate the sweet sounds of a newborn crying with the mewling of a tiny, adorable kitten.  No matter how tired I was in the night, once I heard those cries, I would jump up out of bed and happily cradle his swaddled little form and kiss the top of his soft, silky head.

But I was seriously unprepared for these mid-afternoon cryscapades.  After this experience, I understand how stressful it is to hear a constantly crying baby screeching in your ear.  How do these Teen Moms do it?!  How are they mentally mature enough to understand not to take it personally?  Are they better than I am?

All I can say is thank God they made me watch the “Don’t Shake the Baby” video before I left the hospital.  I can understand how frustrated, sleep deprived parents who just don’t know what to do anymore, can make the mistake of taking out their exhaustion on a baby that seems to have a personal vendetta against them.  I thought we had at least 14 years before that happened.

I may have kind of yelled at the baby.

Hence the tears.  Utter guilt for being upset at this small, sweet darling, remorse for feeling angry at him, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. This is really, really difficult.

And cue the peanut gallery.  “Ohhh…he’s colicky.”

Shut the fuck up.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that to justify and generalize the state of a baby crying and in discomfort. In fact, if I ever say “Ohh he’s colicky” to you, you have permission to slap the words out of mouth. If course, he could be colicky. But I am soooo tired of calmly explaining “Actually, I believe colic is defined as a period of crying spanning more then three hours a day, three days or more a week. This is not what we were dealing with. So there!“ It doesn’t do anything to make me feel better, and the offensive person doesn’t get it anyway. They just give me that sideways, pouty face smiley-look that screams “Poor thing, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about! Not everything can be learned from a book. With experience, you just know.”

Oh, if I ever give you that look, you know what to do by now. Slap me.

He didn’t have colic. Thank god for that. My heart goes out to all parents who deal with a colicky baby. I see you, in the elevator of my building. With your under-eye bags, pushing the stroller back and forth as if by reflex, on your way to a much-deserved Starbucks run. What our baby had was a mixture of gas, acid reflux, and general discomfort. It lasted awhile, and he cried a lot. Some called it colic. His pediatrician told me to have those people call her (Love you, Dr. Kercher!)

He grew out of it soon enough and returned to being the sweet little vampire baby we knew.

I would venture to say that most parents go through something like this, when they try and try but their baby won’t stop crying. What we need is empathy, not pity! Tell us how you went through it, offer to take him for 5 minutes so we can pee and cry, or just be quiet and stay close in case we need you to wash a pacifier.

The only thing to do in this situation? Check off all the boxes (diaper, hunger, gas, temperature) and remember to find pleasure in the hundreds of little joys in your new life.

Andy had brought me 6 yummy, calorific treats.  And I still had 5 left.

Silver linings, people, silver linings.

pump it up!

I don’t know why Breast Milk isn’t publicly traded.

We have Gold, Orange Juice, Cattle, why not human milk?!  It’s waaay more valuable than Gold.

And yes, I did just capitalize Breast Milk.  It’s that freaking important.  I’ve long envied those who could either produce such a plentiful amount that it seemed as though they were meant to be Brad & Angie’s nursemaids (btw what is UP with having so many kids and going back to your figure in 6 days?  The adopted ones aside, that’s still like 3 or 4 kids, right?!), or those that just couldn’t make enough / didn’t want to nurse, and went straight to formula.  What freedom!  Oh, to be able to pull out your booby on demand, or to pull out that tiny bottle of Similac, anywhere, anytime.

But what about the plight of the mommy who wants to nurse, but also needs the convenience of a bottle?  Why, breast pumps, of course!

And so our saga begins.  Yes, I bought the ultra-expensive top-of-the-range hands-free Medela.  It may even have Bluetooth somewhere.  But wow is pumping a pain in the ass.  It’s stressful, uncomfortable, and highly traumatic for the guys to witness.  Andy would wince every time he’d inadvertently stumble in to me pumping away.  How do you think I felt?!  If you’re thinking “but you’re used to it” I will literally burst through this screen and rip you to shreds.

It’s enough that I’m sagging from everywhere post-delivery, but now there’s a contraption that will make me feel even more like a cow?

Yay, science?

My mother told me about the manual pumps of yesteryear.  I picture something similar to a spinning wheel, where bedraggled mommy has to floor the pedal in order to pump (through a wooden cone?)  I don’t know.  It sounds awfully splintery.  Or is it a rubber cone you attach to your breast and squeeze the bulb at the other end (like the old car horns in cartoons)?  I know manual pumps are still available, I don’t care.  I have enough nightmares about my robotic double-pump, thanks.  And I have never used that “hands-free” strap.  That pump is heavy and I’m not convinced of the strap’s anti-gravity properties.

Growing up on nightmare stories of saggy boobs, I’m always terrified of breasts that will sag later.  So I developed a highly-scientific method to pumping.  I would attach that sucker (how horrible is it that it’s an actual sucker?), holding it up by the bottle, and at the same time pull up my shoulder, so that I was uncomfortable but at least defying gravity.

And I would also squeeze.

I don’t know what the squeezing did.  I like to think it helped move the milk along.  Or that it just held me in one place so that the weight of the pump didn’t bring me down, man.

I never knew or bothered to research how best to pump.  I didn’t know it should be on a schedule.  I would only pump when I knew I had to miss a feed, or before bed, in the hopes that someone else would feed the baby at 2.00am (Please?  Someone?  Anyone?)

I’d pump in front of the TV, while we watched The Borgias at night, with my mom raising the volume and my dad studiously ignoring me, sitting as far away as possible even though I had my nursing cover on.  There’s no mistaking that noise though.  When my brother came to visit the baby, he slept on the sofa (and The Borgias marathon didn’t pause for his sleep either).  One night he woke from his jet-lagged slumber only to demand what the HELL that sound was?!

Sorry.  It’s me.  If I don’t have a baby attached to me, I have a mini-Transformer attached to me.  It’s awesome.

I’ve pumped in the back of a packed car of friends, on the way to a weekend getaway.  I was wearing a rather voluminous blouse.  The kind you start buying while pregnant and never stop wearing.  Pumping in front of my friend and her husband felt kind of awkward, but you know, it had to be done.  My first weekend away from the baby ever, and I still had to wake up twice a night to relieve my uncomfortable boobs with that pump.

Unfortunately I tried to store all my pumped milk from that trip in small Medela ziplocs, which I then put inside a Veuve Clicquot champagne bottle cooler.  The price of desperation and poor planning.  The milk was TOTALLY ruined by the time I got back.  Yes, I may have tried to pass it off to the baby anyway, hoping his evolving palate wasn’t that discerning.

It was.

I think I shed a tear as I watched all that watery, weird off-white breast milk pour down the drain.  Was it even worth going away?!

There comes a point in pumping, when your boobs are parched.  You can hear the whir, whir of the pump but instead of watching streams whiz down into the bottle, you only see droplets.

Droplets!

Then we get to the ungraceful part (Oh, you thought we were there already?  No.)  That moment when you know you’re as dry as can be, but you don’t stop.  The aim of the game is to eke out enough milk to hit that 6oz. mark.  The unbelievable part is when you finally concede that nothing else is coming out, so you detach and perilously shake your boobs over the rim of the funnel, savoring the plink of every last, hard-won drop, as it hits the tiny little reservoir of milk below.  Six...Ounces...Or...Bust.

Phew, I’m exhausted.  We haven’t even gotten to the Nursing portion of our program.  Next week.  I’m off to lovingly gaze at the gallon of whole milk in my refrigerator now that my nursing days are done, and perhaps tighten my bra straps a bit.