Tag Archives: breastfeeding

Let’s Call A Truce For International Women’s Day!

It’s International Women’s Day, but you’d hardly know it from the way endless arguments about women’s choices keep exploding the internet.

In fact, many women are on strike today, which will undoubtedly receive ample criticism in the days to come.

Why? Because we keep shaming each other like it’s an Olympic event. Both the left and right accuse recent women’s marchers of showing their privilege, Adele fans are fighting with Beyonce fans, and Emma Watson made everyone clutch their pearls at her topless Vanity Fair cover, many demanding that she hand in her feminist card.

And the mommy wars haven’t stopped either….


Hey, we all have to make tough choices in our lives, each involving unique hardships and challenges. So instead of fighting, I’d like to take a moment today to appreciate all the other women out there. Especially the ones who are typically at war:

Child-free Women

You guys are bucking the trend, facing criticism from everyone who believes any “normal” woman’s primary focus should be on having children. You’re changing ancient stereotypes about women being walking uteri while creating more independence and career opportunities for future women everywhere.

old maid.jpg
If only you had the right lipstick…

We don’t ALL need to have kids, and I thank you for bearing with those of us who are trying desperately to calm ours down at the restaurant or grocery store. Your taxes help pay for the next generation’s education too, so I thank you for being team players who are contributing to the group at large.


Plus, there didn’t used to be many options for women who didn’t want to focus on being moms, and that’s unfair. Our wages were pitiful, we were locked out of many career tracks, and were eventually viewed as old maids trying our best to scrape together something resembling a life after clearly being unable to land a man.

Thank you so much for helping to change this.

Single Moms

You guys have it ROUGH. You’ve got the pro-life crowd demanding you see every pregnancy through, regardless of circumstance, while experts demand you leave dysfunctional relationships or marriages, and then your morality is considered questionable after following everyone’s advice.

I have a hard enough time raising kids with a supportive partner, so I can’t imagine dealing with a screaming kid for hours, day after day, all by yourself… no one to shoulder the burden for a bit, while you regain your sanity. I honesty don’t know how you do it, but I’m impressed as hell that you keep it together the way you do.

Stay-At-Home Moms

Kids are a nearly-endless pool of energy and irrational desires. It’s DRAINING to take care of kids all day, Sisyphean at times… you slave over meals they refuse to eat or even throw on the floor. You clean out bodies and butts that get dirty five minutes later. You spend hours trying to either figure out why they won’t stop yelling, dumping out every jar in the house, or trying to stick silverware in the light sockets, only to relive the cycle again and again.

Trying to keep a house with little kids in it clean is like trying to file a huge stack of papers in front of high-powered fans. You can spend the entire day on your feet: chasing kids, putting out high-priority fires, and never getting a break, only to feel like you’ve accomplished nothing at the end of it.

And meanwhile, everyone’s rolling their eyes about how you’ve probably been eating bon-bons and watching soap operas all day, while assuming you’d undoubtedly be doing something more important (i.e. better paid) if you had the skills for it. It’s tough to be a SAHM in a society that equates work with identity, but you’re still doing important work. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have to pay other people to it.

Working Moms

You guys are troopers, taking on a full work week during the day, then spending your evenings raising your kids. While SAHM’s don’t always get to take breaks, they do get some control over their own schedules, whereas you’re locked into a sunrise-to-sunset grind from the moment your alarm first starts screaming.

The American workplace doesn’t accommodate parenthood nearly as well as the rest of the developed world. You weren’t necessarily given much maternity leave, if any at all, and may have a brutal time reconciling your work schedule with the needs of your family without either shortchanging your kids or damaging your upward mobility. It’s a constant tightrope walk.

Meanwhile, you’re being shamed about letting strangers raise your kids, as if it were always a choice. Keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table is probably a higher priority, right?

And even if it is a choice, what’s wrong with being invested in your career? Maybe you’ve worked long and hard to get where you are and didn’t stop caring about it the moment you had a baby. Why doesn’t anyone question working fathers like this?

Breastfeeding Moms

bf.jpgEven though it sounds like the most natural thing in the world, breastfeeding can be incredibly challenging. The technique is tricky to master, it HURTS for the first few weeks, and it’s very easy to get discouraged and give up.

It also takes an enormous amount of time. You have to breastfeed babies every couple of hours, which makes it tough to do much else. Doing so in public makes many people uncomfortable, which means you’re either living under house arrest for the better part of a year, or suffering lots of uncomfortable stares from people who find it disgusting.

But experts now recommend it as the healthiest way to feed your infant, so you’re working hard to do right by your kid. Good luck, and keep your chin up.

Formula-feeding Moms

food-drink-world_of_cow-cowtoons-forumla_milks-baby_formula-cow-01238016_low.jpgSince experts now strongly encourage breastfeeding, moms who use formula also face loads of social disapproval, even the unspoken suggestion that they’re lazy or don’t care about their baby’s health.

And that’s an incredibly painful judgment, especially if you really wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t build up enough milk or had a baby with latching issues. Beyond that, there’s a good chance you had to go straight back to work, which makes it exponentially harder.

Pumping enough milk takes more time than I can imagine being available to you at a full-time job, even with breaks, and women who try are looked down upon by their coworkers. It’s also much tougher to produce milk for a machine than a baby. Many moms smell their baby’s clothing or look at baby pictures when they try because the right mindset helps. I have the deepest respect for any working moms who manage it at all.

It’s easy to feel like a failure when you feed your baby formula, but don’t. Many, many generations of healthy babies were raised on formula and your kids will be absolutely  fine.

Liberal Moms

It’s a bad time right now for liberals in America. Our side lost, and the entire government is packed with members of the other team.

And now we’re fighting amongst ourselves as we scramble to understand how it all happened. There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on, many calling another subgroup the weak link in the chain as we splinter into warring factions. Was it racism? Was it elitism? Was it the failure to focus on the economy or the failure to do what we were doing even harder?

I don’t know, but I hope we don’t cannibalize ourselves in the process. We’ve got to keep our heads in the game, guys. That win margin was awfully narrow.

Conservative Moms

I may not be on your team, but I’m friends with many of your teammates.

In other words, we may not back the same horse, but we often have similar values. I think most of us want to live in a world where people don’t fear for their safety, where they can be productive and take care of their families, and where our kids can grow up with a good education and ample opportunity.

We both want less crime, fewer unwanted pregnancies, healthy people, and a healthy economy where we can live comfortably after putting in a hard day’s work.

We both want these things, even if we have different ideas about how we can get there. Maybe it’s naive, but I’m really hoping we can both learn to start talking to each other instead of demonizing the other side. I think we’ve probably got more in common than we realize, because it’s usually the extremists taking up all the air in the room.

Besides, we’ve kind of been forced to pick teams in the grand Super Bowl that is American politics. I’ll bet most Americans aren’t 100 % strict adherents to EVERY last position and theory spouted off by their political camp.  Most are probably more moderate than that, which means we have some common ground to logically hash out some of these issues.

In short, I think we’d all do well to recognize that while we face some hardships, everyone else has hardships of their own. We’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got, so maybe we could put down our arms and try to understand someone else’s perspective, while giving ourselves a break at the same time.








Bridget Makes it Through an Entire Exercise Class Without Screaming

Bridget holds it together.
Bridget holds it together.

Today is a banner day. It’s the day Bridget made it through an entire exercise class without screaming.

I’ve been taking her to work out with me at Herself Moms, in Roseville (there is also a Sacramento studio). I also took Brontë until she started crawling around so wildly that it was no longer feasible, and she still remembers it fondly.

I highly recommend it. When you have a newborn at home, you really need to get out of the house. I know, I know… you’re absolutely exhausted and it feels like going to an exercise class might be the final Jenga piece that tumbles the entire structure, but trust me. It’s good for you.

Its healthy to get out and be with other people. Classes like these are also designed to help get you back into shape after pregnancy without injuring you (cause squeezing a watermelon out of your body takes a toll). You get emotional support from other women who know exactly what you’re going through, and this place is even pro-breastfeeding. Seriously pro-breastfeeding. I mean, if your baby cries, you can whip your boob out and feed your baby without anyone batting an eye.

Some moms even hang around afterwards to nurse their babies in a circle while talking about whatever issues they are having. I get the feeling tribal women used to do this and it helped them emotionally handle the rigors of parenting. Now, we too often end up isolated at home, dealing with the stress by ourselves.

But possibly the best thing about this place is that if your baby throws a fit, it’s okay. You’re in a room with lots of newborns that periodically throw fits, so you don’t have to be embarrassed by or feel self-conscious about your baby acting up. Mamas constantly stop their exercise routine to nurse, change, comfort, or walk around the room their babies.

That being said, Bridget was special. Julie, the owner (who is a lot of fun), has seen a lot of babies in her line of work, and she said Bridget was one of the most temperamental babies she had ever seen. I think it was two weeks before I got to exercise much at all.

But she slowly got used to it, and today… she made it through an entire class without screaming. I couldn’t be happier. I’m also much more sore than usual, having had to actually do proper exercise this time.

I had to take a picture to capture her moment of triumph. Bridget may look like she’s relaxing, but she’s also working out. She’s doing a plank and modified cobra while skillfully working an acupressure point on her thumb.

How To Sleep Like a Baby

This is what people mean when they say
Rare photo of Bridget both proverbially and literally, sleeping like a baby.

It’s easy. Wake up every hour and scream your fool head off. Done and done.

We have all been hoodwinked by the phrase “sleeping like a baby.”

It’s supposed to mean falling asleep quickly, sleeping soundly without stirring, and waking up fully refreshed. It refers to the glorious sleep of the innocents… The complete slumber that only those untroubled by doubts, fears, and guilty consciences can enjoy.

If you are one of the rare parents with an infant who passes out quickly and sleeps soundly for hours, congratulations. You are living the dream. Also, I hate you guys.

For the rest of us, a newborn means that you probably won’t get a proper night’s rest for at least several months, if not several years. We have all heard the jokes about how tired new parents are, but none of these jokes prepare you for the slow psychic deterioration that comes from waking up every hour, night after night, to deal with a hysterical infant.

Sleep deprivation is a recognized torture technique. This means people will turn on their allies, confess to heinous crimes, and give up the bomb location when their sleep is screwed with enough. When you’re a new parent, this happens to you… You want food? You want cash? You want me to drive you around the neighborhood in my jammies at 3 in the morning? Sure. Let’s do it, just stop… screaming…

Captured terrorists have nothing on new parents.

When Brontë was an infant, John and I would have to draw our sleepy butts out of bed, put her in her stroller at 2 or 4 in the morning, and painfully walk her around the block to get her to quit yelling. Nothing else worked. One time, a neighbor (and an experienced parent) who was watching us go about our 4 AM zombie crawl, gave us a knowing look and reassured us that “It gets better.”

That felt so good to hear at the time. And he was right, it does.  You just have to make it through this rough stage without jumping out the building and running away while maniacally laughing.

How to do that? Unfortunately, different things work for different kids. Brontë needed to be cuddled or walked around outside, whereas we discovered that Bridget couldn’t sleep unless she was put into her own room with the lights out.

On the subject of infant sleep: you are supposed to wake the baby up every couple of hours (three at the most) to eat.  The importance of doing this is drilled into your head, over and over, because babies have small bellies that digest food quickly (especially breastfed babies).

My advice? Don’t do that shit. You’re just training your baby to wake up every two hours.

I know it’s what the experts tell us, but instead of slowly unraveling what remains of our collective sanity, why don’t we apply a little rudimentary logic to this concept?

Think about it for a minute. Do you think cavewomen had alarms for waking up their offspring every two hours? When you peel back all the layers of abstract thinking, we are still animals, and animals have very strong survival instincts. If hungry enough, they will eat anything (even each other). Do you really believe we would sleep through starving to death?

I don’t either. A hungry baby will happily wake up and tell you all about it (or, not so happily). Shaking a perfectly content sleeping baby awake every two hours to cram food down its mouth is madness. A week of trying to do this crap nearly broke me, so I let it go, and both of my babies turned out just fine.

Of course, if you have a special situation (like a dangerously thin baby), this advice may not apply to you. But I’m guessing that supplementing with formula is a better option for fixing a dangerously thin baby than constantly waking him or her up, anyway.

My other piece of advice to new parents? Hang in there. It gets better.

Bridget’s First Food and the Rice Cereal Conspiracy

I KNOW you're not gonna feed me gruel, right?
You’re not gonna feed me gruel, right?

My husband and I think it may be time to start supplementing Bridget’s breastmilk with solid food.

She has dropped a couple of hints lately about being ready for it, mostly with her copious drooling, frantic limb gyration and screaming whenever she smells or sees solid food.

It’s almost as though she were trying to tell us something…

I can no longer keep up with her food demands, at any rate. She nurses so much that I swear you can watch all the hydration leave my body as though you were looking at time lapse photography of a body in the desert.

She needs more.

I take the selection of my baby’s first food very seriously. Call it superstition, over-analysis, or just a personal quirk, but I’m convinced that whatever food babies first taste will set the tone for their future appetite. It becomes the default baseline against which they will compare all other foods.

Bearing that in mind, I’m reluctant to give babies rice cereal even though it’s the national standard. There’s nothing wrong with rice cereal, except it’s tasteless.

Rice cereal is bland. Put your taste buds into a coma bland. What if babies eat all this rice cereal then think that’s how food is supposed to taste?

If babies get used to rice cereal, maybe anything smacking of flavor will intimidate them and suddenly you have a lifetime uphill battle of cramming vegetables and interesting cheeses down their throats? You’ll say, “Here Sweetie, have some steak with roasted garlic,” but they’ll just be screaming for more freakin’ graham crackers.

Is that what you want, rice cereal!?

Again,  I’m not saying rice cereal is unhealthy, just that people are strangely convinced that it’s an absolute necessity for infants. After doing a little research, it turns out that there’s a historical basis for this belief, one that no longer applies.

Apparently, infant formula didn’t used to have enough iron in it. Rice cereal is fortified with iron. So back when practically every kid was formula fed, the ones who ate rice cereal were healthier.

Nowadays, infant formula has enough iron in it, yet we maintain this lingering cultural notion that babies NEED rice cereal. They don’t.

Even Paula Druckerman is convinced. She devoted an entire book to figuring out why French kids eat what Americans consider strictly “grown-up food,” without fuss. In Bringing Up Bebe, Druckerman wrote about how difficult it was to find rice cereal in France, since French parents don’t use it, ultimately finding some imported from Germany.

I had to wonder, while reading her book, why she remained utterly convinced that her babies needed rice cereal after living in a country packed with healthy children who never ate it. Some cultural beliefs are truly entrenched.

She never addressed this question, but did mention that French families start infants off with pureed vegetables when transitioning to food. You have to wonder if this makes any difference in what kids like to eat later on.

People, especially children, tend to like food they are used to. They are highly suspicious of food they consider “weird.”

In America, we talk a lot about adult food versus kid food. We feed children “kid food” for the first decade of their lives (grilled cheese, french fries, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, etc.).

Then after getting children used to bland concoctions, we start throwing all these adult vegetables and gourmet foods at them, nagging for them to at least try a bite.

This can’t be necessary. How long has our culture even had a special industry of “kid foods?” Were kids in, say 1820, refusing to eat because no one had a box of dinosaur nuggets?

I decided to skip the rice cereal.

The first thing I did with my firstborn, Brontë, was dip her hands into grapefruit juice, which she sampled  with curiosity and intensity. I then gave her pineapple, since it’s the kind of sweet and sour combo I thought might get her past a future sweet & bland preference.

From there, we gave Brontë samples of most the foods my husband and I ate for dinner. Sometimes she rejected a food at first (like avocados), but ended up liking it after trying them a couple of times. I found it was better to keep an open mind about what she might like than automatically give her what we assume kids like.

So far, so good.

For Bridget, our younger daughter, we decided to start her with a Summer in Athens salad from Opa Opa in Sacramento. It’s a Greek salad containing cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, and olive oil.

I figured my kids are half made of this food, so they might enjoy it.

When I was pregnant, I had terrible morning sickness and after some desperate, hungry experimentation, I found that Greek food sat well. We used to frequent Opa Opa so I could get a decent meal.

The owner, bless him, is an absolute doll. I was obviously pregnant at the time and don’t know whether Greek culture values the importance of feeding pregnant women, or if he was personally a saint, but he would offer me delicious additions all the time.

“You like lamb?” he asked me once, while eyeing my Gyro. “Let me bring you something.”

He walked off for a few minutes then came back with a slab of lamb and mashed potatoes. “This is all roasted lamb,” he explained. “These are garlic mashed potatoes. Lots of fresh roasted garlic mashed right into the potatoes. Just made them.”

Then he would beam as I tore into the new plate of food like only a ravenous pregnant woman can.

I don’t know if the owner of Opa Opa is married or whether his wife had children and what kind of table-bending extravaganza he presented her with throughout her pregnancy, but I’m certain she was well fed.

So, being completely loyal to this restaurant, we brought Bridget to Opa Opa and ordered a Summer in Athens salad for her first meal. It went against everything the rice cereal enthusiasts would advise.

I fished out a vinaigrette-soaked, feta dusted slice of cucumber and presented it to Bridget. My husband and I watched with great anticipation.

Grabbing the cucumber in her tiny fist, Bridget glanced at it briefly, trying to focus, before tentatively nibbling. Her eyes lit up, she let out a squeal, then she made angry cartoon eyebrows in an upside-down “V” shape before attacking the cucumber like she had to kill it first.

Good baby. That’s how we eat.

The Hungriest 6-Month-Old There Ever Was

She is temporarily satisfied and docile.
Temporarily satisfied and docile.

Seems like it was only yesterday that I couldn’t see my own feet, yet Bridget is already six months old. She is growing like a weed.

John and I were both only children, so this whole sibling thing is a novel experience for us. One thing we are discovering is how different every child is. There are so many theories about how environment affects child development that it’s easy to believe that parenting choices have consistent results.  You can easily fall into the trap of believing there is one “right” way to discipline, or to reassure your child, for example, because you had positive results when you tried it.

Yet Bridget has a distinct personality, already different from that of her big sister Brontë.So far, Bridget is much calmer, much less temperamental than her big sister in every way except one… she flies into a biting, scratching, screaming jackal-baby whenever she is hungry, and Bridget is much hungrier than you would ever think possible for someone who probably has a stomach the size of a crabapple.

Though I am still breastfeeding her as much as possible, her demands have far outstripped my supply at this point and I have the angry-baby welts, scratches, and bite marks from chin to bellybutton to prove it. It feels like I’m nursing a jackal. I’m pumping every chance I get in a mad attempt to increase said supply, and most of my free time is literally being eaten up by a frantic dash to get more food into my crazed infant. Our Vitamix is well used, these days, as every spare fruit and vegetable, grain and nut butter is blended into supplemental food smoothies we try to stuff down her gullet before she takes a match and burns the house down to the ground.

She will easily knock back ten ounces of milk in a sitting, then scream for more. I have made her drinks involving, say, a couple bananas, a few tablespoons of almond butter, some ground oatmeal, a couple cups of coconut water. I’ll think… This will definitely do the trick. She’s going to be absolutely stuffed… then watch the concoction disappear in under five minutes before she breaks into shrieking fits while clawing at my face. It’s not only exhausting, but baffling… WHERE IS SHE PUTTING IT? THE FOOD IS BIGGER THAN HER BODY!

Enormous appetite aside, Bridget appears to be extremely healthy. She is growing rapidly and gets high marks from our pediatrician (knock on wood!). She just eats… A LOT.  After every meal, I mash up whatever Brontë leaves on her plate and feed it to her baby sister. Then I mash up whatever I leave, then whatever John leaves. Then I usually duck into the kitchen to forage for more Bridget chow…

I swear this kid is going to eat us out of house and home.

My Cousin Finds a Hilarious Way to Be Obscenely Decent

My cousin likes to knit, and since I’m about to have a baby and plan to breastfeed, she sent me a picture of this pattern:

What an awesome way to, umm, not offend anyone.
What an awesome way to, umm, not offend anyone.

So, with all the debates about breastfeeding and public decency going around, someone thought of a way to simultaneously cover it up more yet make it appear more obscene. You gotta admire the creativity. My favorite part is the variations for different skin tones, to make sure mommas can be properly color matched.

I’m the kind of mom that looks for privacy when I breastfeed (I really appreciate nice lactation rooms). Failing that, I throw a scarf up over my baby’s head so no one can see anything (I support mothers who don’t, however, because some babies won’t put up with scarves and just yank them off).  That being said, I obviously do not have the guts to rock something like this, but think it’s hilarious, just the same.

Lessons Learned from Kitten-Rearing

Pile of aunts and nieces
Pile of aunts and nieces

Growing up, my family kept a lot of dogs and cats. Our pets, especially the kitties, would have litters and litters of babies, year after year. This wouldn’t really fly these days, since we are constantly reminded of the duty to spay and neuter, but my folks were just a couple generations away from farmers who viewed the animal breeding cycle as part and parcel of the natural world.

To their credit, my folks always either found homes for the puppies and kittens or kept them around. Constant exposure to baby animals was a Wonderland palace of lollipops and unicorns in my childhood. I learned how to help an animal in labor, how to rescue kittens in distress (with, say, umbilical cords wrapped around their necks) and watched momma cats raise kittens, again and again. I played with baby kittens and puppies for hours upon hours upon weeks…

Watching momma cats work their magic gave me an interesting perspective on childrearing that I have been applying to my own baby (for better or worse). It was a given that I would breastfeed, for example, since that’s just what momma animals DO. It doesn’t seem awkward when you have been watching it since childhood, and my farmer great grandparents always declared breastfeeding “the way it should be” in contrast to my grandmother and mother, who had babies in the 50’s and 70’s, respectively, when formula-feeding was advertised as the responsible way to go.

It also led to some interesting behavior in the delivery room. Fresh from the hormone-drenching lake of delivery, I felt attuned to the natural rhythms of life… the nurses, however, must have thought I’d gone feral. In the recovery room, I built a pillow fort around the bed in which I stayed naked, with my baby, under the covers for days. As much as the nurses wanted me to bundle the newborn up and put her in the plastic tray for the night, I was far too deep in a sea of instinctive hormones for that nonsense.

One of the nurses would passive-aggressively crank the thermostat up every time I growled at her, refusing to dress my daughter up (as though our sweaty pile wasn’t warm enough). A different nurse approved, however, saying she didn’t understand why moms bother to get dressed at all instead of bundling up with their babies as I was doing. I also received high marks from the granola lactation consultant they brought in.

The lactation consultant was a hippie from Nevada City with swinging turquoise  earrings and long silver hair. She was upbeat, full of energy, and untroubled by my naked swaddling. She was like a frank-but-chipper hippie fairy godmother, and thought nothing of grabbing my boobies for a full inspection, declaring them “good breastfeeding boobs” due to my lack of inverted nipples (I was a little taken aback but reminded myself that she deals with boobs all day long).

She gave me great tips on breastfeeding and showed me how to “hand-express.” She seemed rather suspicious of pumping machines, consistent with her overall crunchy approach, though I have to disagree with her on this point. In case any prospective breastfeeding mothers are on the fence, you can hand-express in a pinch, but I believe that manual expressing on a regular basis will leave your boobies feeling like they’ve gone through a meat-grinder.

Another quick tip for new moms: because of Obama’s healthcare reforms, you are entitled to a free breast pumping machine. It isn’t the best version on the market, but they are pricy and I definitely recommend having one around.

There’s something about having a baby that reminds you how despite all of civilization’s progress–the cubicles, the cars, the smartphones–we are all still cave men on the biological level. In many ways, I am no different than a momma cat with her kitten (though thankfully, one of the exceptions is my ability to obtain baby wipes).

One valuable lesson I learned from raising hordes of kittens is the more you pet and hold a kitten the tamer it will be. And so, I hold and kiss and snuggle and carry around my daughter all the time, every day, convinced she will be a more secure, happy kid after getting so much human contact. I think Attachment Parenting folks are spot on about the contact thing (though I question their recommendation to let children co-sleep for years, just because parents do eventually need a break).

The other day in Momma-Baby exercise class, I was getting strange looks for raspberry-ing my daughter’s belly. I guess there is a range of how much contact is considered “normal” and I am on one extreme end. On the other, there is a mom who slathers her hands in antibacterial slime before and after she touches her infant, every time. Her son farted one day in class and she turned beet red, saying “I’m so sorry, I’m mortified!” I know she means well, but have to wonder whether her concern about germs isn’t more damaging than helpful. I wonder if her son is going to grow up deathly afraid of gas or touching anything, or if he will bounce to the opposite extreme, farting in rebellious protest (Freud coined the term “anal retentive,” which caught on in popular usage, but I think it’s a shame that his counter-term, the “anal explosive,” seems to have been forgotten) .

Germs appear inevitable to me. You don’t want to expose your child to ebola, obviously, but germs are absolutely everywhere and a little exposure is probably good for growing immune systems. The baby is going to crawl in the floor, chew on everything he or she finds… antibacterial hand wash feels like a losing battle under the circumstances.

Pictured above is some of my extended family piling up with Brontë and her new cousin, born a few months before her. I love photos like this–just a big, sweaty, happy family.

What Pregnancy Really Feels Like; Horrified In Breastfeeding Class

Photo credit: Siddy Lam (Creative Commons) And you thought nipple piercings were
Photo credit: Siddy Lam (Creative Commons)
And you thought nipple piercings were “cool”

Most of what people believe about pregnancy comes from seeing it on TV, including women.

Yes, it feels like women should have all these natural motherly instincts allowing them to float through pregnancy changes with a serene glow. But the reality is more like puberty, when your face starts breaking out, you find weird hairs all over the place, and don’t understand all the crazy shit happening to your body.

They sure make it seem nice on television. Some women gets a double line on her pregnancy test and starts cheering, she finds a cute way to tell her husband and they bond over it, then she spends the next 9 months looking like a skinny woman with a little pillow under her shirt.

That’s because she is a skinny woman with a pillow under her shirt. She’s a Hollywood actress who is still dieting, working out, and has a team of makeup artists and trainers helping her look hot while they slip a little maternity pillow under her shirt.

She’s just pretending to be pregnant, which means she acts giddy and pretends to have a couple quirky food cravings before *oops* her water breaks and she is rushed off to the hospital by her goofy, flustered husband for the exciting delivery, after which she will walk out all slim and hot and carrying a cute little baby.

The reality, for most women, is somewhat different. And it ain’t pretty. Most pregnant woman I know start blowing up like a slowly-inflating parade balloon. They are constantly nauseous, tired, and crabby (at least I am). Stretch marks can cover you all the way down to your thighs, and weird stuff I never knew about can happen. Like “pregnancy masks.” Have you heard of these?

Pregnancy masks are weird patches of darker skin that can appear on your forehead, cheeks, and chin. I have a little bit of it on my forehead. It looks like a few big freckles or age spots and I’m not thrilled about it, though I should be grateful because some women get it all over their face. I also have a weird dark line running from my belly button down, which apparently happens because of pregnancy hormones and is supposed to go away eventually.

You never see this kind of stuff on TV pregnancies. Your body starts freaking out in bizarre ways, and your mind… your mind is doused in all kinds of weird hormones. Every mother I’ve talked to has admitted that at some point during the pregnancy, she totally, irrationally, went off on her husband or boyfriend. Some started throwing things.

My theory is that nature is just making us extra fierce to protect our young, like momma bears. Still, I am not yet naturally falling into a serene sense of motherhood. There are moments where I’m incredibly excited about having the baby, of course, and am blown away to see her on ultra sounds. You also get incredibly sentimental, so I’m prone to cry at ridiculous moments like whenever a touching commercial comes on or I see a onsie.

But other times, I feel like my body has been invaded by aliens. There is a little being inside me, eating my food, drinking my drinks, rolling around hiccuping, and that’s… weird. The fact that I’m female doesn’t mean it isn’t still strange to me.

At this point, the baby is bouncing around my insides and keeps kicking me in this one spot that is starting to make the left side of my ribcage feel like it’s swimming in ground hamburger meat. I’m getting fatter and fatter, to the point where some punk-ass nurse told me I should take up jogging. I don’t even understand how pregnant women can jog, since every time I take a hard step, it feels like I was just kicked in the crotch. I realize there are pregnant Superwomen out there running marathons in their eighth month, but am convinced they are alien plants. I also no longer buy that “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” show on TLC.

My poor husband has been exiled to the couch because it’s super hard to sleep when you are this uncomfortable and I have to contort into bizarre positions that take up the entire bed and involve about 13 pillows. I also make him tie my shoes now so I won’t trip when bending over and roll around helplessly like an obese flipped-over turtle. If I’m going about my day and something falls on the floor… well, it’s as good as dead to me now.

The combination of physical discomfort and cocktail of pregnancy hormones has completely sapped my patience at this point, and I mostly spend my days reading, napping, and trying not to overreact. My thoughts ricochet from wanting this pregnancy to be over with already to abject fear of looming childbirth and worrying about how I have no experience taking care of babies.

Luckily, Kaiser (our insurance) offers a bunch of free classes about labor, epidurals, infant care and breastfeeding. My husband and I signed up for every last one of them. It’s a real confidence builder for new parents who are panicked about what they have gotten themselves into. We have learned a lot of interesting things… like the fact that the baby will probably pee and crap ten or so times a day. What!?

This evening we took a class on breastfeeding, which I plan to try. I highly, highly recommend that anyone interested in breastfeeding take a class like this, because it’s not as instinctive as you would expect. For instance, we leaned that you probably won’t have milk for a couple days, just a few drops of a nutrient-rich liquid called “colostrum” that will nourish the baby well enough until the rest of your milk shows up. Lots of women panic, thinking they don’t have enough milk and the baby will starve, but it’s all a normal part of the process.

Beyond the useful information, there was also a question and answer session. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff people asked. You just can’t make some of this up.

Many of these questions just proved my point that, despite what you might expect, women don’t naturally, intuitively, understand motherhood either. We are pretty far from our animal ancestors at this point, and have to learn a lot on the job.

For example, I was pretty horrified that the Kaiser breastfeeding instructor had to explain to the class that our boobs already have holes in them and so there’s no need to make any for the milk to come out. More than one woman (MORE THAN ONE) assumed their boobies would have to be punctured at some point. I really hope no one tries this at home.

An entertaining and related concern was whether having your nipples pierced means the milk will shoot out in all directions, sprinkler-style.

The final winner was the vegan woman who was concerned that her baby wouldn’t be vegan if it drank milk. I don’t want to get into a debate about the ethics of raising a vegan infant, but I assume this woman was an outlier… Is she worried that breastfeeding is cannibalism? I’d like to think she doesn’t represent how a typical vegan would tackle the issue.

Argh… At least we are feeling a little more confident. Now, let’s get this baby born so I can get my sarcasm levels recalibrated.