Category Archives: Baby

After this, everything changes….

So last week I had my first OB/GYN appointment– technically, the first one I’ve ever had in my life, because the gal who delivered Maren was actually a family practice doctor, and then she was actually a first year resident (nothing against residents, but you should really tell your high-risk first time moms that you may or may not be able to actually be present at the BIG EVENT because of a very nasty rotation schedule. Just sayin).

Anyway– I’ve been having lots of anxiety about this whole process because of my terrible labor and birth experience last time. Usually, in this kind of situation I armor myself with research and get my book-learnin’ on and walk in guns blazing. But, for some reason, this time I’ve chosen the head-in-the-sand approach. I don’t even want to think about what’s about to happen to my body– and probably it’s because last time I did all the research and had the birth plan typed up, and my doctors were all “Oh, now isn’t that just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?” While reaching for the epidural, forceps, and scalpel.

So at this first appointment, I told my doctor all of this. I told her that I was absolutely terrified for many reasons— my terrible experience last time, PLUS the fact that I have no idea when I got pregnant this time… so who knows what I could have been exposing the little nugget too. Those mistletoe martinis I greatly enjoyed over Christmas will now always be tainted by green shades of guilt.

She was very nice, very understanding, and did all kinds of checking and clucking and reassuring. She asked me about my tattoos, which is always nice from a doctor, and was interested in hearing Maren’s entire birth story start to finish– which is great because I like telling it and it’s four days long.

Then we did the exam, and I did a lot of staring at the ceiling and pretending that the lower half of my body belonged to someone else and the top half of my body was reclining on a beach. The ‘little pinch’ always makes me wonder if these doctors have ever had these exams themselves. Because if I pinched my husband like that, like, say, because he wasn’t wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day– especially DOWN THERE– I’m pretty sure I’d be in time out for a long time. And St. Patrick’s Day would be banished from our household. And possibly also the month of March.

Anyway– as she was feeling around down there, she told me that everything looked great, but that she was thinking I was probably only about eight weeks along.

I stared at her like she was speaking Klingon.

“But I had a positive pregnancy test more than eight weeks ago.” I said.

“Well, there’s a couple options here– and the most likely one is that I’m wrong.” She said straight out, which I really, really liked– there is no type of person on the planet that I detest more than someone who can’t admit that they have the propensity for wrongness.

We scheduled an ultrasound for the next week, and I went home to stew.

I figured that there were three real possibilities here. One, as she said, was that she was wrong. Second, maybe I WAS pregnant, miscarried, and then immediately got pregnant again– because that is TOTALLY something that would happen to me.

OR….. of course….. maybe this baby had stopped growing. So maybe I was about to get very bad news.

Part of Minnesota Adrienne’s new job is to be brave. I just read a book where the mom told the little boy that “Scared is what you’re feeling, but brave is what you’re doing.” And so the little boy started trying to be ‘scave.’ That is my new job now, because Mitch’s new job is a lot more demanding than his old one. It’s harder for him to come to appointments then it used to be, and it’s not as easy for him to come home early if I need him too. So I went to this appointment alone, trying to stay calm, and knowing that I might have to go home to my toddler and hide my sad and scaredness for the rest of the night till Mitch got home.

I laid down on the table and the Chatty Cathy ultrasound tech put the wand on me and pressed some buttons on her machine. Then she froze the screen and said, “Okay, you can get up and pee.”

I couldn’t look at her. If any of you have had an ultrasound before, you know how awful that sounded to me– I thought the ultrasound was over, they were letting me excuse myself for a moment and calling my doctor, and that was it.

I looked back at the screen and said, shakily, “Is….. is that heartbeat?” And pointed at the little flicker of beautiful in the middle of my baby’s chest.

“Oh, God, yes, I’m sorry!” She said. “Yes, their heart is beating just fine, beautifully! I just see that your bladder is very full, and you’re far enough along that we don’t need it to be that full, if you want to be more comfortable.”

I wonder sometimes what it is like to have this kind of job– where you have to deal with emotional crazy women all day long. Women who know that if it’s BAD news, you can’t say anything. I’ll bet that if that was my job, all I would do is find happy good things to say and I would chatter away the whole time.

And I cried, just like with Maren. The heartbeat was winking at me, a little miracle that biology has never been able to make plain to me. Mitch and I had a good night a few months ago and now there is a HEART BEATING.

I went to the bathroom, fought the urge to call Mitch, and went back and laid down. She put her wand on my tummy and I knew that I was looking at legs. And parts.

Because I’ve had a daughter, and because I’m an avid reader of STFU, Parents, I am familiar with ultrasounds– not that I’m an expert– but I can kind of reason things out. I must have had a look of dawning comprehension on my face, because the ultrasound tech said, very quickly,

“Um… if we can determine the gender, do you want to know?”

And I knew.

“Is that…. that’s a boy.” I said, and she laughed, and said:

“Your little girl is going to have a brother.”

And he moved, and turned his little face so it was facing the wand, and I could see the mask of my husband’s face staring back at me. Maren had it too, and when she was born she looked so much like her Dad that I used to put them next to each other all the time just so I could look at them. I wanted to put my hands around my belly and tell him– I see you….

Mitch is thrilled. I’m thrilled. Maren’s thrilled, even though we’re pretty sure she doesn’t know what it really means. Every other thought I have these days contains the words, “My son” in them. I close my eyes and picture my husband as a little boy– bright blond hair, huge rosy cheeks, and a huge gap toothed grin. So, basically how he looks now. Only slightly smaller. I keep thinking about my own brother, who was my best friend growing up, and my hero today. I am building that for Maren right now.

Obviously, what ended up being was that my doctor and I were both wrong. As it turns out, I’m more like 15-16 weeks along, further than either my doctor or I thought. I’m trying not to worry about any sushi or alcohol consumed before I knew I was pregnant, and trying instead to focus on the fact that almost half my second pregnancy is over. This is real life.

My official due date is August 25th.

Giddyup.

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March 8, 2012 · 9:44 am

Well, Internet, I think I am finally ready to have a child. Which is great, considering my daughter is almost two.

Something incredible has been going on here in Casa de Maren. The life of craziness– of late night classes, homework, and stress over deadlines is behind us. The much-less-stressful time of no income, Maren being away from me all day, and constantly being scrutinized, is on the downward slope.

And instead of being scared of our future– like we have been for the last several years– Mitch and I have found ourselves in a very weird place. You see, we’re eyes-wide-shut types. We live in this moment, right now– looking at each other and grinning. Pretending that in all the world, there is only this moment, only us, and nothing else can get in here and hurt us– because we love each other too much.

But now, we’ve opened our eyes– and we noticed something…. the world doesn’t look so bad. The future is looking pretty good. In fact… it’s almost a sure bet. We’re going to be okay.

Which has caused this most uncomfortable sensation for me.

Internet: I have a terrible case of the baby crazies.

Everywhere I go, women are having babies! Okay, okay– so I haven’t gone into my neighborhood coffee shop and discovered a woman with her feet up in stirrups JUST yet…. but trust me, it’s coming!

I remember when Maren was a baby, one of my friends told me that she really wanted to get pregnant.

“Okay,” I scoffed, in that I-know-everything sarcastic voice that only New Moms can really master. “Just be sure that you’re ready, you know? Because everything changes. Everything. Just as simple as wanting to run out for a cup of coffee is completely different now.”

“I know,” She said, “But isn’t that okay? I mean, do you really care about that?”

I stared at her like she was speaking Russian. I also, simultaneously, wanted to slap her.

“DID YOU NOT HEAR WHAT I JUST SAID TO YOU?” I wanted to scream. “It’s Saturday morning, it’s nine AM, you’re just waking up and stretching, and you think to yourself, Oh, Hey, you know what? A hazelnut latte and a cinnamon scone sound ABSOLUTELY FREAKING DELIGHTFUL. And so you get up, you put pants on, and you go and GET SOME. JUST LIKE THAT. But once you have a baby, you’re up at FIVE– IF you went to bed at all, the coffee you’re drinking is Folgers, and you made it yesterday– you hope– and now you’re microwaving it because you are ready to KILL someone for the caffeine under their fingernails, and you don’t even have time to DRINK it because the Light-Of-Your-Life is screaming at you because she’s hungry, thirsty, wet, pooped on, vomited on, or some combination of all of them. And if I sound really upset it’s because I AM.”

And then I probably would have dissolved into sobs.

I don’t want to scare you. I have always loved my daughter. But when you aren’t planning on having a baby, and then you spend most of your pregnancy feeling sorry for yourself, the transition to really truly loving motherhood is just really hard, even if you love your baby.

Recently, I’ve found myself in that cozy little space that most other moms are always talking about. I rush home at night so that I can be with her. I love looking at her. I have found myself, very recently, putting a paper bag on my head and waving my arms around in order to get her to giggle.

I hate that she’s growing up, but love how much she’s learning. I all ready know that no person who comes into her life will be good enough for her.

I want another baby. Actually, I think I might want another three babies.

I used to always say that becoming a mom didn’t mean that I had to end who I used to be. I think that’s kind of how I coped with the sudden change: the idea that I could still be me– just only sometimes. Most of the time, I was Maren’s Mom.

Not exactly a double life– mostly because of the crippling guilt. The few times that I crept away (usually during finals week) to sink slowly into a soy hazelnut latte with extra whipped cream, and the world’s biggest and freshest chocolate chip cookie staring back at me, all I did was think about what was happening back home. Sometimes, even if I was just in the next room I was missing her so much.

Now, I’m so jealous of all those Moms who got it right away– who understood immediately– that being their Baby’s Mama was the best thing that they could do for the world.

I feel that I’ve tipped my hand a bit. Moms aren’t supposed to admit that they had a hard time with the whole Mom business. I hope I’m not the only one. And I hope, if there are others, that they found themselves in this wonderful place, too. Grinning at their baby, their partner, and the next fifty years.

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Having a toddler is like having a hang-over: You know that good times have been had, and good times are more-to-come…. you’ve just got to ride out the bad parts…

I realized that I haven’t written a lot about Maren lately.

 

She is hale and hearty, thank you. She said her first sentence last week. She ran into my room, begged me to lift her up into my bed, and after our good morning hug she looked around and said, “Where’s Daddy?”

She’s very fascinated with the parts of her body. She points to her eyes, her chin, her cheeks, her mouth, her nose, her ears, and her toes, and makes you name them all. Then she will run around the room pointing to various people’s parts and making them identify them as well. Her favorite thing to do is solemnly show people her belly button. This is like a baby-handshake, because the recipient is supposed to reciprocate. This has caused many an awkward situation among strangers and friends alike.

She also really likes to kiss. She always has, but her kisses were basically just pressing her face against yours. Now she really has the pucker and the smack sound down. She kisses everything. She sleeps with Mr. Frog or Mr. Flower, depending on her mood, and in the morning she is all kisses for them, and for us, and she wants us to kiss them and doesn’t understand me when I tell her quite plainly that Mr. Frog smells like a giant foot.

She loves Mitch and I best, but her best friend other than us, in the whole wide world, is her Grandpa Steve. Grandpa Steve is Mitch’s Dad, so Maren only sees him a few times a year, but she has started asking for him. We have some of our wedding photos hanging near our dinner table, and Maren will point to one and say, “Gan-pa.”

🙂

She used to be afraid of dogs, but she isn’t anymore…. which means she’s pretty much not afraid of anything. Which you would think is really great, only I’m married to the adult equivalent of that, and its actually quite stressful. Zero Fear = Zero Caution.

I’ve been feeling a little mushy lately about parenting. On Monday, Maren starts back at daycare full time, and it will be the first time in her entire life that she isn’t with Mitch, one of our few babysitters, or myself. When she was at daycare before, she was across the freaking hall. I could literally look up from one of my art projects and look right into her classroom.

Something I never realized when I was a kid is that our parents decisions are always about us, even when we don’t realize it. I remember being pissed when my Dad had to miss one of my musicals, because he was picking his boss up from the airport. But now I realize how important it is to have a job, to create a secure place for our children and the ability to take care of things as they arise. I hate that I have to put Maren into daycare so that Mitch and I can work. But, obviously, the alternative is that we don’t have jobs. And that doesn’t make any sense at all (at least, not for us. For other couples that are able to work it out to avoid daycare… I am so effing jealous you have no idea).

And it’s not just about work! I used to get mad at my parents when they would go out with their friends, or out with each other. I felt like we should all be together all the time. But now…. I feel so so guilty when I go out with one of my girlfriends, or schedule myself an extra long bath with a book… but I know that its so necessary. Without that time, I wouldn’t be a very good Mom. Because I would be a crazy lady. For real. The plaster in the walls would start looking appetizing, and Maren’s stuffed animals would become my best friends. Scary.

When we were on vacation, we would take the boat out on the lake with Mitch’s brother’s family and his parents. I wasn’t raised around boats or water, so the whole boat thing still kind of scares me, so putting my baby in the middle of that can be terrifying. Everyone has been very gracious to me about this. Last year, Maren hated the boat, but this year she kind of loved it. But she still wanted me to hold on to her whenever the boat was moving. I started to kind of love that– the one time of day when my toddler isn’t squirming to be let down, or trying to push me away, or collapsing into giggles because she thinks we’re playing a game. She just wanted me to hold her and keep her safe.

Now that we got through major humps 1 and 2 (having a baby, finishing school….) we’re contemplating our next move. I think that our lives six months from now will look vastly different than it looks now. In fact, when I close my eyes I can’t see anything, because everything is so up in the air.

I love being a family. I love my little baby, even though she isn’t so little anymore. There’s a selfish little Mommy part of me that wants her to always come to me when she’s scared, and always let me hold her tight and protect her. But then there’s the saner heads Mommy, who knows that at some point she will always have times when she’s scared, and she won’t always be able to come to me. Maybe she’ll be one of those ladies that I’m always jealous of, who have it all together, who just seem fearless and confident and to hell with you all.

Or maybe she’ll be like me. And when she gets scared, she’ll cling to the people she loves, and tell them, “It’s okay. The boat goes so fast, and the water is rough sometimes– but isn’t this so much fun?” Until she starts to believe it herself.

 

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Wherein My Uterus Makes a Rather Awkward Re-Emergence Into Daily Discussion

So you remember way back when– back in those wild, reckless days– when Mitch and I got married, got tattoos (tatti? tattae?), when on a drinking tour of northwestern Minnesota (read: sat in our cabin and drank a lot)? And then remember how like, four days after that, we found out we were pregnant?

AND THEN do you remember how that pregnancy was awful and terrible and I cried a lot and had to be reminded to shower and brush my teeth, but still somehow got my act together and decided– hey– okay– okay– I guess– okay.

And THEN remember how the baby came, and she was beautiful, and then didn’t sleep for a year?

Well, apparently we forgot about all of that, because we decided to try to get pregnant this fall. Whenever I tell my other mom-friends this, I get one of two reactions. Either they are just SO EXCITED because Maren is just SO ADORABLE they can’t wait to see another one just like her. Or they look at me and say, “Have you lost your mind? Do you REMEMBER labor? THREE DAYS OF LABOR, ADRIENNE. DO YOU REMEMBER THAT?”

I know. I have no defense.

So way back in February, I gave my left butt cheek the very good news that he (yes. My ass is man. Just ask every guy who’s ever checked me out.) had been granted a reprieve, and there would be no stabbing for a very long time. To celebrate, I ordered myself and my ass some ovulation checker-ma-jigs, and then sat back and waited for the little red flag that it was GO TIME.

Except…. no dice. It’s been months now, and I’m not even spotting. NOT EVEN. Its as if, after ten years of my uterus and I having a fantastic relationship, just because of this one little argument that I had with her (I guess my uterus is a woman), she’s decided she’s not speaking to me. Which is kind of shitty, considering that this argument is stemmed from the fact that I got pregnant unexpectedly, which I think most sources would say is her department.

Anyway.

So I went to the doctor, which I detest doing anyway, and asked her what was wrong. She gave me one of her doctor looks and then told me that she’s not surprised that we’re having trouble. Given my current condition (read: fat. Huge fat.) she said she’d be surprised if I could get pregnant at all.

Guys, has anyone ever said something like that to you before? I mean, what kind of fuckery is this? We spend our entire adolescence and early adulthood doing EVERYTHING WE CAN to AVOID pregnancy, and then we decide we WANT to get pregnant and there’s suddenly a complication? IS THIS REAL LIFE?

And so, Internet, I come to you grieving. It seems as though I am going to have to undergo one of those Dr-Phil-esque lifestyle changes, wherein I have to eat cardboard and tell everyone, “NO REALLY, it tastes SOOOOO good!” and whenever I think about ice cream I have to stick my finger in an outlet. And don’t get me started on exercise.

I’m on vacation this week at the cabin (back at the scene of the crime) and I am under orders from my Doctor to NOT get pregnant until I’ve lost fifty pounds. FIFTY POUNDS GUYS. THE METRIC EQUIVALENT TO ONE LINDSAY LOHAN. So, since most of my plans for this week are now useless (ahem), I guess I’ll be spending the time getting my head on straight to get my body ready to become Kingdom of Baby. Which means, probably, lots of drinking and crying. Great material for blogging, no?

 

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A Few Notes About My Summer (AKA: Childhood Obesity–This is Why…)

When I came home for the summer, my yowling fourteen month old in tow, I had a few goals in mind. I wanted to Maren to spend at least two hours a day outside. I wanted to take her on one outing a week, to somewhere fun and different. I wanted to be sure that she would get a variety of foods into her belly, lots of water, and limit the sugar.

We take the childhood obesity epidemic pretty seriously in our house. Mitch and I are both overweight, and fight with it daily. Although Maren has always been average for her height and weight, we know that if she learns from our habits, she will be fighting the same battles that we’ve been fighting for most of our adult life.

Now that we’ve been home for about three months, managing the challenges and realities of most people in my neighborhood– in which most families are below the federal poverty level– I am starting to understand why obesity has become an epidemic.

1) Where to Play?

We live in an apartment complex where it is a rule– written in our lease– that we cannot walk or play in the grass. We’ve lived here for two years, and through observation I think I’ve discovered why these rules exist. If no one tramples the grass, it takes a lot less to maintain it– that’s one. Number two: they spray some chemicals on this grass. They show up wearing rubber gloves and masks, and spray the ground where my little baby walks on her way to the car. They don’t give us any notice about when they are going to spray or WHAT they are spraying– so I assume that the clause in our lease is to protect them legally in case someone gets sick.

So, if we want to play outside, I have a few choices. Within walking distance there are two parks. One is so old-school and run down that I was afraid to go there without Mitch– not because I’m afraid of the neighborhood, I’m afraid of the equipment. A few weeks into the summer, the city came and removed all the equipment, leaving a big muddy hole.

The other park is about a mile and a half away, which I can walk in about twenty minutes with Maren in the stroller. This poses its own difficulties– such as: where does Mommy go potty? What if it starts raining right when we get there?

There are several parks that are just a short drive away, but therein lies a secondary problem.

Parks aren’t really designed for toddlers, even ultra-genius toddlers like Maren. It’s always scary to take her alone– do I follow her up the equipment, or do I stay on the ground to catch her at the bottom of the slide? And then there’s the issue of other kids– seven year old boys are not exactly what I would call considerate. Maren has taken many a tumble as the result of a wild game of Power Rangers. Often, the boys will say “EXCUSE ME!” As they rush past and knock her over. One boy even took her hand away from the railing so that he could pass her, and she toddled nervously on the bridge and– thank goodness– sat down on her bottom with a resounding thud. Mitch has had to stop several kids from going down the slide while she is still on it. And ONE time I saw red when a little girl PUSHED Maren down the slide. Maren ended up going down on her face, getting a nice rug burn on her forehead.

Besides ALL of those complications– the trip in an of itself is a hassle. Have you seen the inside of a diaper bag? It’s intense. A trip to the park is fantastic on a Saturday morning or a boring Thursday– but when this is your only outlet to playing outside it leaves a lot to be desired.

2) I’d LOVE to go to a grocery store and buy some nice fresh fruits and veggies– where shall I go?

My particular apartment complex is lucky in that we have a No Frills about six blocks away. If I had to walk to get groceries for a few days (like most women in my neighborhood do), I could put Maren in the stroller and be fine. But if I didn’t own a stroller (or had more than one kid) it would be a pretty difficult trip. I saw a man walking down the street with a baby in a stroller and FOUR other kids clustered around him headed towards a busy city street. It gave me palpitations just thinking about it. In the meantime, there are three convenience stores within a few blocks. So if I have to walk, have more than one kid, don’t own a stroller, or any combination of those factors, the convenience stores with their gas-station food are going to look at LOT more appealing than walking all the way to a grocery store. And that’s just MY neighborhood– if you drive a few blocks east or north, there isn’t another grocery store for quite a ways.

3) Good food costs money, my friends.

Last year, our big thing was feeding Maren organic food. We were able to afford this for about six months, and then Mitch’s student loans came due and we had to pull back to regular groceries. More recently we’ve had some financial difficulties, and so we’ve had to cut back on our grocery budget even more so– and I can tell you from experience that buying a box of Little Debbie snack cakes is a LOT cheaper than buying a pound of grapes, and the cakes will last longer. Sure, I know it isn’t as good for my kid– but what choice do I have? When you’re poor, grocery shopping is a lot of choices, and I know that for this week we could either buy fresh grapes or we could buy a box of cereal. Granted, cereal isn’t bad (depending on the type), but the grapes would have been better. The cereal has a longer shelf-life and will provide more meals…. so it’s not really a question.

I am writing this blog post in response to this news article:

http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/07/13/should-parents-lose-custody-of-obese-children/?hpt=hp_bn6

which suggests that parents should lose custody of their children if their children are obese.

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days, and most of my thoughts have centered around just how obese a kid would need to be before I would consider it child abuse. And even then, I think you’d have to find that the parents are either incompetent or are knowingly negligent. But, in most cases, I think what you are going to find is that these parents are desperately poor and doing the best they can, and feel that feeding their kid in general trumps feeding their kid healthy food.

You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. Most of the families I know in this neighborhood live paycheck to paycheck and make too much money to be considered for welfare (for a family my size your gross income would be $1800 or less to be considered for food stamps, medicaid, or child care subsidy). But they have so many bills– rent, utilities, phone, and yes, car payments, credit cards, and student loans– that they don’t have any disposable income. The only small sliver of their budget that they can control is their grocery budget– and in a lot of cases, it gets smaller and smaller every month.

So, as a society, our response to that is to rip their children away from them? Children they love and have every intention of doing their best to provide for them, but just can’t.

I’m not big on welfare, I’ll be honest. I’m a lot more into education than hand-outs, and I think that the system has become so overworked that they are no longer able to perform the function that they were originally set up for. The focus should be on keeping the family together, not on punishing the parents (and the child) because of either ignorance of nutrition or inability to provide.

In some circles I’ve heard it said that feeding a kid healthy food is just as unhealthy as starving a child, and of course if a child was starving we would remove them from the home. I think that’s really bogus. I think that we’re taking a lazy way out here– it’s a lot easier to tell if a kid is being fed unhealthy food because you can SEE IT. It’s a lot harder to tell if a kid is being under-nourished. By shifting focus from a real problem (aka: child neglect) and trying to point the spotlight on, yes, a major problem that happens to be a hot topic right now, I think that health officials and social services are just trying to make their jobs a little easier.

Lets talk about some real solutions that might have a chance to actually FIX the childhood obesity problem, shall we?

1) Provide child nutrition classes as part of lamaze and make it a requirement to receive food stamps. YES– there will be people who bring deaf ears to these trainings. But for every one of those people there are another two who want to do the very best they can for their babies. I have a degree in child development and still learned a TON when I read a book about making my own baby food, and Maren was a super healthy baby and it saved us a TON of money. There will be people who want to know what they can do and how they can do better. We need to reach out to them.

2) Make it easier for people who do not drive to get fresh produce. Does anyone have a van? Could we start driving into the inner city so people can buy fruits and vegetables? Could this be a program associated with the food pantry, so that if you receive non-perishable items they can be taken out into the poorest parts of town? What happens to fresh fruit in grocery stores when it gets to its expiration date? Can we get that food and do something with it?

3) MAKE YOUR CITY WALKABLE AND PLAYABLE. It’s a lot easier to take your kid outside if its free, easily accessible, and not a headache. When you’re all ready down on your luck, it becomes very easy to just throw up your hands and give up. We need to make it easier for these people to get what they need. PLUS– it’s HOT. The city pool in my town costs $5 for me to go– which is outside of my budget if we want to go more than once or twice a week. So on the hottest days, we stay home.

4) Make physical education in schools an actual priority. In two districts in my metro area, kids get two PE classes a week that last twenty minutes a piece. It’s just not enough.

5) Kids who have to eat school lunches are getting filled full of nastiness. School lunches should be healthy– if you think the kids won’t eat it, guess what? They have to if there isn’t another option. No kid will let themselves starve. Promise. Once I was at a school and thought they were serving mashed potatoes– they were having green beans, but there was so much butter on the top that it looked like potatoes. You should see the ‘fresh’ bananas that kids are being served every day. Also, did you know that according to the USDA potatoes count as both a vegetable AND a starch? So you could have potatoes three or four times a week and NO other vegetable and that’s totally okay according to the government. We need to fight for policy such that the people who provide school lunches do their very best to provide healthy food. I’m looking at you, USDA.

6) We need to empower parents so that they realize that it’s okay to tell their kid no. Maren loves her some Sesame Street. She could watch Sesame Street all day long. I used to use Sesame Street so that I could make dinner without the baby trying to crawl in the oven, or so that I could get ready in the morning without her trying to fall in the toilet. She is now in the habit of walking over to the TV and crying until Elmo appears. I have to put my foot down and tell her no, and MAKE her go play. It isn’t fun or easy. There are many times that I give in. And there are many times when I really really really want to give in. Parents feel like bad parents when their kid cries at them– that’s a fact. There should be more resources for parents to know that it’s okay. Maren will not be traumatized because I limited her face time with Guy Smiley.

Again…. to echo my earlier post about child abuse—- we have to get better at this, people.

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The One Where I Finally Discuss My Daughter’s Bowel Movements AKA: The Blog Post that Sends Maren to Therapy

Internet, Maren has a GNARLY diaper rash. And I’ve seen some bad rashes before– rashes that make you want to cry for the kid but you don’t because you’re afraid that the slightest splash of salty tears on their behind might cause them to go into convulsions. Maren’s is not quite to that stage yet. It’s at the place where everytime you change her diaper, you swear you hear something strange, so you lean in closer and realize– what the hell? Can this be happening?– that her ass is LAUGHING AT YOU. MOCKING your soothing attempts, with a very distinct “Up MINE? Oh no, dear lady– Up YOURS” attitude.

You may recall that we started out putting Maren in cloth diapers. For an entire year, we lived in the blissful ignorance that comes with cloth diapers, because Maren never had a single diaper rash. Not a one. There was one time– ONE time– when her skin got slightly red. All I had to do was think about applying aquaphor and the rash was gone. I swear, cloth diapers were MAGICAL.

But for a variety of reasons, they just weren’t cost effective anymore, so right around when she turned one we switched to disposables.

Friends. There has never been a louder *headdesk* in this house. Because probably ten minutes after we decided to do this, Maren had double-ear infection, respiratory infection, and staph infection(s) ALLLL in one weekend. So her doctor put her on two– TWO– antibiotics that we have to give her three times a day. Any non-parents around? Anyone thinking about getting pregnant? Then you may not know that antibiotics=diarrhea. And not just “Oh, poor baby” diarrhea. The screaming-yellow-shits diarrhea. SCREAMING.

So this Rash has taken up residence on Maren’s behind. And Maren’s a trooper, man. I’ve never met a happier kid. But even she has started to complain about the constant owie-ness that is now accompanying her every day life.

So I made Mitch call the doctor on Friday, and this is what we were told:

-Mix Aquaphor and Maalox, and apply that with every other diaper change.

-On the opposite diaper change, apply Lotrimin (LOTRIMIN. USED FOR ATHLETE’S FOOT)

-Give her a bath once a day with baking soda in it

-Use your hair dryer on a low setting to be sure to get her good and dry

-Do not use wipes. Use wash cloths instead.

Seriously. Sometimes I think doctors say things just to see if we’ll do it.

And also, good fellows, do you know what? Maalox, aquaphor, and lotrimin do not actually just arrive at your doorstep volunteering to help out. Nay, you have to go to a store and purchase them. And they’re not cheap. I can very confidently say that my daughter has the most well-tended ass in the country right now.

So we’ve been following this regimen for two days with no change. Tonight I commented that I think that all of this craziness is really just keeping it from getting any worse, but not really doing anything to make it better.

So tonight I pulled out one of those Mom-tricks: you know, the things that no one has ever actually told you to do, but that for some reason you just think is going to work. I took Maren’s pants off and let her go commando for about an hour. At first I had her locked in the kitchen, but she peed almost immediately so I figured it was safe to let her loose in the apartment for another thirty minutes or so.

We were playing in the living room awhile later, reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear  for the millionth time, arguing about which character is the best one. I like the red bird, but Maren is pretty partial to the blue horse. Suddenly, Maren stood up and ran into the kitchen, turned around and said something in her THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT voice, and pointed at her lady bits.

I laughed and commented to Mitch, “I think she’s telling me she has to go potty.” He chuckled– because, after all, Maren is 13 months old. Kids that age don’t even know what potty is. They don’t even know they have something going on down there, other than toes that alternatively taste good or smell bad, and you never know which it will be, so you better check ALL THE TIME.

“Maren,” I said, dripping with irony, “If you’re going to go potty, go in there on the linoleum.”

And guys, guess what.

She totally squatted right there, and WENT.

While I was still working on rolling my jaw back to its hinge, she calmly stood back up, did a little wiggle, and came back into the living room. Mitch and I scrambled– he cleaned her up while I cleaned up the dook– and insanity ruled for a few moments in my brain. This was her FIRST POTTY TRAINING EXPERIENCE. AND I LAUGHED AT HER! <— Was the first thought

GASP! I TOLD her to GO in the Kitchen! How am I ever going to get her to NOT go in the kitchen? <— Was the second, and perhaps more pressing, thought.

So there you go, Internet. Over here in the Adult Onset Reality House, we like to keep things really natural and organic. We’re okay if Maren remains unpotty trained for awhile longer… we just may need to add a litter box.

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Mommy-Guilt and Jenga

I went back to school on purpose.

I say that to myself a lot, teeth gritted, eyes closed, fists clenched, usually while taking a shaky breath and trying to clear my head of all the build-up from the day so that I can fall asleep.

Obviously, no one goes back to school accidentally. It’s not like they find themselves on campus, schedule in hand, and think, “Oh wow, well I guess I’m going to school now.” Usually there’s a little bit of forethought and premeditation involved, and there definitely was in my case.

But my Now Self is still, sometimes, a little pissed at my Back-Then Self. And my Back-Then Self has to remind my Now Self that the one she should REALLY be filing formal complaints with is my WayBack Self, you know, the one who didn’t finish college the first time around. And my WayBack Self fights back with familiar phrases– you didn’t like your current major (or the one before that), you had some major funding issues, if you’d finished on time you never would have met Mitch, and so forth.

So since I can’t really demand any public apologies from anyone, all I have left to do is just be frustrated with my schedule, my lack of sleep, my time away from my baby, and just try to be thankful that at least I live in a time and place where I am able to go back to school. Some women don’t have that opportunity at all, ever in their lifetime– and I get to do it after having a baby. So really I should like, wake up every morning and greet the sun with shouts of glory and gratitude for the fact that on this day, I get to study math methods.

But its hard.

Have you ever played Jenga? You wait for your turn. You see a piece, and for some reason you commit to it. You wiggle, you hold your breath, and your other hand waits on the other side for the piece to slide free, so that you can place it on top of the wobbly tower. You and this piece are in it together now. If the puzzle holds, then you’ve survived to play again, choose a new piece, and go through it all again. If the puzzle falls, you build, trying to make it stronger. You start again, with new knowledge about structural integrity.

Life is like that. I learned a lot from growing up around  women who had a tendency to get stuck. They would complain and cry and say that they were painted into a corner– and I would always be angry at their complacency. So you’re painted into a corner, I would think, the only reason you can’t just walk yourself out of it is because you’re afraid to get paint on your shoes.

I haven’t always made the best decisions. But I try not to spend a lot of time worrying about it, because the more time that passes, the more those bad decisions are diminished by the onslaught of other bad decisions, and the knowledge of bad decisions yet to come. Like Jenga. If you let yourself get consumed by that one time that you were the first player to go and still somehow managed to knock the tower over, you might never play again. And that would be too bad. Because Jenga can be a lot of fun.

Parenting is scary, because– no matter what your track record for good and bad decision making used to be– you are now responsible for making all the choices for another human being for a very long time. And one of the first major decisions that I made for her, before she was even born, was that I was going back to school. Sometimes Mama wouldn’t be around. Sometimes Mama would be very busy. Very busy. Sometimes Mama would be stressed.

So far I’ve been lucky– selfishly lucky– I got to see her stand up for the first time. I heard her first word (A delighted “Daddy!” when Mitch got home from work). She took her first steps to me, a few days before Christmas. She throws her arms around me everytime she sees me.

But…. there are sad times too. One Saturday morning, I had to go to class very early, and when Mitch went in to wake her up she kept looking over his shoulder. He realized she was looking for me, and walked her through the whole apartment, and eventually she realized that I wasn’t there.

I know that she probably won’t consciously remember a time when Mom wasn’t around very much. But I also know that somewhere, deep down, the knowledge will be embedded. And it can kind of go two ways…. maybe she’ll grow up to be resentful, suspicious, and insecure. She’ll wonder what was so important that I had to be gone up to four nights a week, why she had to go to daycare when I was taking care of other people’s kids all day long. Maybe, when we have a new baby, long after I’ve graduated, she’ll resent the new baby because Mama got to spend a lot more time with him/her. Maybe, even if it is never really addressed, there will always be a little wedge between us all because of the time I’ve spent away from my family.

Or… maybe she’ll grow up to be independent, strong, and admire what our family went through when she was so small. Maybe, if she is ever struggling in school, she’ll remind herself how hard it was for me, for all of us, to do it the hard way.

Or maybe none of this will effect her at all. Her earliest memories will be after I graduate. She’ll remember me being home for every bedtime. She’ll remember going to plays and dance classes and hockey practice, and she even though, somewhere deep under her skin, she’ll know that she went through this with us, it won’t have even the slightest effect on her whatsoever.

Making decisions is, I think, what separates a child from an adult. Autonomy is the ultimate goal of childhood, after all. I think that a lot of adults are just scared to death to make decisions. I blame Dr. Phil. We see so many hours of television where they’re telling us: it’s my mom’s FAULT that I’m like this, it’s my parent’s FAULT that this happened, because of my mom, because bla bla bla. So we end up just terrified– every night I ask myself, “Welp…. how’d I screw up my kid today?”

But what can I do? Would I feel more or less guilty, in ten years, if I didn’t go back to school? Would Maren have a better or worse life, in ten years, if I chose something else?

Whenever anyone asks me how I make decisions– how I can be SURE…. I tell them this:

I’m not. I never am. You just have to make the best choice you can– a choice that you can live with– and then you have to commit to it. Plan your attack, hold your breath, and make your move. If the puzzle falls, build it again, but stronger this time. With a better knowledge of structural integrity. Next time, maybe you’ll make a different choice. Or maybe you’ll make the same choice– but you’ll have a different angle, more information, trust your steady hand a little better. The best decision I ever made in my life was to give a man who’d wronged me another chance– against my instincts and the advice of almost anyone I knew. And I’d make that decision again, and I do, every day.

There are bad decisions and good decisions. There are impossible choices. As a parent, there are so many difficult choices its unreal. But you can’t let that paralyze you. The puzzle falls, you play again.

The real crime, the real mistake, I think, is not to play.

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Filed under Baby, Let's Be Besties, Occasionally, I Am Just Me