Archive | July, 2018

Getting My Mama Playwright On

28 Jul

2018 Twitter Image_Work of ChildrenI didn’t exactly kickline into my role as a stay-at-home mom of two. I’d always dreamed of being a mom in the same way other little kids exclaim they want to be a MOVIE STAR!!! or a FIREFIGHTER!!! when they grow up, but where a career or self-fulfillment fell in all this, I never daydreamed about; I just knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a mother. Still, when my first daughter was born, I was very fortunate to work largely from home with fairly flexible hours thanks to an exorbitant amount of help from my mother who babysat when I needed to be in the office or at a client meeting. But with my second — it was dark days at home, less my income.

It was a total slap in the face and I felt completely blindsided.

The irony wasn’t lost on me, with my lists upon lists of projects I wanted to pursue, do, photograph, explore and write. As soon as I started to freelance from home during the daylight hours instead of being confined to a desk working my 9-5, I had a baby. And then bam, a second.

I careened into a dark place.

Married With Style

Any mother of two knows what I’m talking about. When you bring the first one home, you walk on eggshells and read everything. SO MUCH HELP is offered, almost forced. There are meal trains, visitors, babysitters, and check-ins. With two? Shortly after Caroline arrived, I overheard some family talking and one older, very experienced mom quipped: Well, they knew what they were getting themselves into. They know what happens when you have sex!

After Caroline, when people asked how life with two was going, I would joke that it was touch and go for a while, but that eventually they break you. And then suddenly, once you’ve stop fighting it, you can almost, just barely function again. Ta dah: you’ve figured out life with two. Barely functional. That is your new normal. That’s your operational “Go” zone.

I mean… it’s no wonder people stopped visiting.

[In all of this, I do want to be very clear — I LOVE being a mother and I love MOST of the time I get to be home with my children. I feel beyond blessed and grateful that my husband and I have prioritized giving our children at least one parent home, recognizing the monetary sacrifices we make as a family in order to make it possible. But that’s not to say that even that works out “equally.” Enter: the rage.]

It was more than just Postpartum Depression. It was more than “the mental load,” although that was certainly a huge part. It was even more than just the utter shock of how much more work just one more kid is and the indignation and betrayal of other mothers not going around waving their arms at the singleton moms, screaming: LISTEN!! YOU NEED TO KNOW!!! YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT YOU’RE IN FOR. NO, YOU REALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND.

If I had to put my finger on it, my mental state is where it is today because of the huge injustice of this unpaid, undervalued, highly invisible yet “oh so important” WORK of raising children. 

The monotonous exhaustion of bathing, feeding, teaching, entertaining, dressing and just keeping alive, two little human beings, paired with all the pressure that US MOMS (my fellow women at arms! my ladies!) are all putting on one another, jabbing at each other to be acknowledged that we are, in fact, getting it right; that we’re succeeding in our efforts to guide these little beings, be it with breast milk or formula or soy or nut free, or whatever the fuck we are using because we must; all this heroic effort and warring is absolutely blasted apart when asked “So are you working?” shortly after the birth of my second.

EVERY GODDAMN SECOND OF EVERY DAY, lady.

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I’ve felt a lot of rage since about January, but it wasn’t until the spring when I finally pinpointed where it was coming from and began to devise an outlet. I’d put it in a play.

I’ve always loved film and music, but specifically, musicals. The Les Mis original Broadway cast recording left such an impression on me as a kid, that even today, I gravitate toward soundtracks in most of my music collection. [Also, strong female vocalists.] So when I said play, what I really meant was a musical. Are you still reading? OK good.

I’m envisioning a Rent-type ensemble vibe with multiple storylines. I want to cover ALL of the experiences moms are having. Or as many as possible. The guilt if you’re working. The pressure if you’re not. The obnoxious comments at the playground about attachment parenting or babywearing, or sleep training and co-sleeping. I’ll never forget being told that “breastfeeding past four months is for the mother” by a more senior mother who’d bottle-fed back in her day, just after mentioning I was still exclusively nursing my barely five month old. But I also want to talk about how lauded we are for all this important work we’re doing (oh hang on, not really!) and how rewarded we are with leave time and support (again, nope! just kidding). It’s not right and it’s not OK.

Really, what I want is to shine a big, fat, spectacular Broadway spotlight on what is going on RIGHT NOW in the mothering world, because Tina Fey may have covered the Mean Girls of high school, but sometimes I feel like some of my mom friends and I are just the mean girls who grew up and had babies. And what about the wanna-be-mothers out there who don’t have babies (or even boyfriends — or girlfriends!) — yet. My neighbor Alyce was as much a mother as anyone who carried her own babies, but she was never blessed with her own children. Or who lost babies. Or those trying to conceive. Or the happily childless, sick of being asked when they’re having kids. What about “mothers” who are actually fathers?

An infusion of Mr. Roger’s humanity and kindness and love is missing among all of us and I feel like a hard look at what we all go through to shepherd our babies through infancy and into childhood, and hopefully, adulthood, through the lens of a play, with hilarious music and lyrics is something that will speak to a lot of us. Because it takes a village.

To start, I’m just compiling as many of the “mom” stories I can, so if you have one you’d like to share, please email me!

To start, I’m starting toward my beginning, with my first real lactation consultant visit.

My First Lactation Consultant Experience

Me: [broken down, exhausted, dejected, feeling like I’m failing as a mother because nursing isn’t coming easily; nipples are raw and bloody. Worn out from battling at the hospital where they were pushing formula which I had been persuaded was more or less poison]

Me: “Lactation consultant” is a very medicalized-sounding term for someone who is a mix between a fairy godmother, Mary Poppins, and a lifelong dairy farm hand.

I remember when I met mine for the first time in my home, one day after we brought Emilia home. She radiated wisdom and calm. The LC, not the baby. As if it was a prerequisite of the job, she was buxom and busty, with ruddy cheeks and milk maid coloring. She was the great aunt everyone has who could bake the prizewinning pie and birth a baby in the barn in the same day.

Everything I’d read and thought I knew was wrong, because she knew everything. She was only just a little holier than thou about it. More indignant that the poor baby had to suffer because she wasn’t there yet. But we would all be OK.

My baby was NOT a “lazy nurser with a lazy tongue” as the hospital lactation consultant had declared. She was a BABY.

Oh wise Lactation Consultant, TEACH ME, [I silently begged].

[I’m topless, with a nursing pillow or boppy or whatever the fuck it’s called, strapped around my waist. Oh that’s right, the “My Breast Friend.” Sending a silent fuck you to whoever came up with that product name. May you silently choke to death on the buckle of that wretched product. And it was great, don’t get me wrong, I LOVED that thing. But along with my nursing tops, that was happily tossed into the fire to burn the day my daughter finally weaned at 1 year, 11 months.]

Lactation Consultant: OK, why don’t we start by having you show me where you nurse.

ME: [Settles onto the couch and prop my daughter into the “football hold” as taught in the hospital.] This is the only position I can bear the pain in. [My daugher latches and I wince.]

More to come — would love to hear what you think so far about any of this. 

Also, an older post I wrote about my my impression of Life With Two Kids.

And finally, I just want to send out a special THANK YOU to my friends Staci and Grace who immediately got behind me when I ventured to tell them about this entire endeavor. No snarky laughing or tongue biting; just unabashed enthusiasm and support. It means more to me than you know. I know this is crazy. MWAH! Love you guys.

And finally, to my friend Shawna, for pointing my attention to the original “Mental Load” cartoon and article which was really the impetus for turning the tide of my rage. Without that, which helped me slowly uncover part of what was at the heart of my indignation and frustration, and our texts throughout the winter and spring about a lot of stupidity that surrounds us in our daily “Mom” lives, I would probably have driven my car into a tree by now. Love you!

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Caroline at 13 months

20 Jul

4th of July, 2018

The oppressive heat of late July rendered the kids and I housebound, with all the air conditioners blasting. It’s been challenging since I go stir-crazy if I can’t get fresh air before 9 AM every morning. Also, Caroline may be in the middle of transitioning from two naps to one. She’s 13 months right now and for a little over a week, has taken to arching her head back, throwing herself against the sides of her crib when we try to put her to bed at night (or back to sleep when she wakes to nurse). The piercing cries that follow after a head slam into the sides of her wooden crib (it’s like she aims for just above the bumpers) attack every mama nerve in my body. The worst part is not being able to anticipate when she will angrily react like this (and harm herself) so I’ve felt on edge day and night for a week.

Brian finally called her pediatrician just to check-in today and he confirmed that she’s likely frustrated and probably ready to move to one nap. [Groan] It’s not the best news, but it does open up mornings to us again. Our daily schedule up until now had been very consistent:

Bedtime Schedule for our 3-year-old and 1-year-old

  • 6:30-7 AM: girls wake up
  • 9:00 AM: Caroline naps
  • 2 PM: Both girls nap
  • 8:00-8:30 PM: Both girls off to bed
  • 1 or 3 AM: Caroline often wakes to nurse somewhere in this timeframe.

    For a few weeks actually, she’s been adding a bonus wake-up around 4 AM, which has been pretty miserable for Brian, who usually handles it. It’s definitely one of the tougher wakeups to put her back down for. When sleep issues crop up in young kids, we’ve been educated well enough by now to know that we need to assess everything: routines, nutrition, development, etc. I’ve noticed that if Caroline hasn’t nursed a lot during the day, we see more wakeups or she’lll err closer to midnight if she’s gone to bed a bit earlier and we’ve been noisy outside her room as we’re preparing for bed. We both tend to go to sleep late, around midnight, and wake with the girls. I honestly don’t know how we function. It’s so exhausting the first year.


Cognitively, I know there is a lot going on with her too. In the last week, she’s been communicating in big ways — she points excitedly at whatever she wants us to look at or play with with her, she understands simple directions like NoStop, and bring me the book and will follow various commands. Can I have a kiss, can I have a hug, can you blow kissesput the hat on your head, and can you touch your toes are just a few of my favorite questions to ask her. She’s known “clap,” and “wave” for a while, but those are still some of my favorites.

We could work on signing more with her. She knows “milk” and “all done” but I vaguely recall that Emilia had a few more signs in her repertoire by now; I could be wrong. I don’t stress too much over recording things for comparison, child to child, because I don’t want to foster competition between my kids (in my mind or in theirs).

They’re truly wonderful sisters to one another though. I’m operating on intuition as far as how I encourage the development of their bond, but a lot of the time, I feel a little sneaky for wielding it to my advantage. For example, if I want Emilia to take a nap and she’s resisting, I’ll stage talk to Caroline about how important rest is to her body and brain can grow. Then to Emilia, I’ll say something like, “you’re SUCH a good role model! Caroline is such a great sleeper because you must have taught her what she needs to know! Thank you!” It’s a lot of play acting on my part, communication, and engagement with both kids. Emilia has been such a great helper with baby proofing too; she’s often the one hunting down the covers to markers and other small choking hazards and bringing it to my attention with a furrowed brow and a censuring, “MAMA. LOOK. [holds up a tiny dollhouse teacup.] This is NOT SAFE for Caroline. Please take care of this so she does NOT choke.” I mean… love her. Love her. Love her.

Part of Caroline’s bedtime routine includes turning on her sound machine herself and then flipping off the light switch. We also have pushed a “lovey” on her to reinforce the routine even further. We refer to this bunny blanket thing as “so soft” and it always makes me laugh at the way she dive bombs her head the second I pick it up and say, “So SOFT!” as she nuzzles into the softness. I have to move my face out of the way fast or she’ll crack my nose with her skull. Happened to me more than once so I’ve learned!

Physically, she climbs up stairs, can seat herself at the art table and can safely dismount from our bed, Emilia’s bed and the couch. With a lot of reinforcement over the last week since she started doing this, she lays on her belly then wiggles feet first down the side until her feet touch the floor. She’s also become quite adept at using both a fork and spoon. We’re certainly not pushing these things on her so much as answering her curiosity with teaching. She sees her sister doing things and wants in on the fun; at dinner, she takes my fork and tries to stab her own food. Actually, she was doing this as early as the 4th of July. I thought Brian’s Nana was going to have heart failure because I didn’t want to keep fighting Caroline — she insisted on using a full size fork herself. Since about May, she’s been mimicking when I push my sunglasses up onto my head, but that’s an old favorite she’s still into now.

Her favorite book is Peekaboo Kisses. She loves to unfold the flaps herself and pat the various textures. One time, in the spirit of learning, I took her foot and rubbed it on the different furs and feather pages and from then on, at each page turn I’d feel her leg flicker in anticipation as we turned the pages and lifted each flap. Then she’d delicately lift her little foot up onto the fur and laugh hysterically as she rubbed the texture with her bare foot.

If I had to name my absolute favorite thing about Caroline right now, it’s how affectionate she is. She throws her entire back into her snuggles when we’re all in bed together, launching herself like a snuggling puppy into Brian or me or Emilia. She’ll also back her butt up and plop herself down in my lap if I’m sitting cross legged on the floor. Usually with a book. Finally, if I’ve been our to the grocery store or the gym or somewhere, or Brian is returning home from work at night, she absolutely BEELINES for us at the door, waving her arms and excitedly saying: “ga, ga, ga.” She was saying both ma ma ma and da da da just before her birthday, but seems to have reverted to this new sound for just about everything exciting. She especially loves to squawk it when we see our neighbor’s dog.

As far as adventures in her 13th month, we celebrated the 4th of July with family in CT and ventured up to Maine for a day trip to see all our favorite spots, one of which was the arcade I played at when I was a kid. They LOVED it. It’s probably the greatest pleasure of being a parent, watching your children experience the fun stuff for the first time. It’s probably my favorite, at least. Caroline is an excellent traveller too, so I’m excited to see what the next few months hold for us as far as adventures.