A Farewell Letter to my Pre-baby Body

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Not a scary vein in sight...

As published in Romper.

Dear Pre-Baby Body,

I took you for granted, pre-baby body. I poked and prodded you and stuffed you with junk food, and every time, without fail, you’d bounce back like a Slinky. But after kids, my body is about as pliable as twice kiln-fired clay. It bloats. It sags. It pooches. It stays poochy. A 9-pound human form filling one’s abdominal cavity has a way of causing permanent change, in a way that a dorm meal could never hope to do.

I thought you’d always be here. I figured you’d never get wrinkles, or sag in weird places, or get bulges. You’ve never been super-skinny, or super-fit, and you never had a taut butt; most of the time, it was so flat that I was constantly at risk of flashing my butt crack out of the top of my sagging jeans. Nonetheless, I thought you’d always be there for me, with your smooth if not less than perfect form.

In high school, everything hurt me: boys, school, mean girls. But nothing affected you. You held firm, even with my regular diet of Cherry Coke, individual pizzas and Skittles. I barely exercised. If laziness was a sport in high school, I probably would’ve gotten a varsity letter. But still, my weight and my waistline remained untouched.

In college, I practically lived on cafeteria slop, alcohol and Cheez-Its. I’d beat you up night after night. I gained weight and lost it again. You got mad at me. You even made me sick sometimes. But I always bounced back. You always forgave me.

Then I got pregnant, and you disappeared. So I’d like to send you off with this goodbye letter.

Before I got pregnant, I could jump without wetting my pants. Hell, I could even run. I never had to worry about peeing myself while laughing at a funny movie, because you were oh so wonderfully un-leaky. But those days are gone now.

Before I had my babies, my breasts didn’t so much hang as sit firmly on my chest. There wasn’t a prominent blue boob vein to be seen. The nipples weren’t the least bit purple or stretched out or cracked, and they pointed straight out instead of down.

Of course, once I got pregnant, my nipples turned purple within the first few months and they never fully returned to their pre-baby state. So thanks for that, body.

Remember, pre-baby body, how I used to groom you so lovingly? I’d start by treating you to a long, steamy shower, with every delicious-smelling body product imaginable. Then I would shave your legs, using real shaving cream instead of lather from a pube-covered bar of soap. And speaking of pubes, remember how we used to trim and then shave those, too?

I took you for granted, pre-baby body. I poked and prodded you and stuffed you with junk food, and every time, without fail, you’d bounce back like a Slinky.

These days, of course, I’m a lot more busy. I have kids. Long, leisurely, grooming-filled showers are a thing of the past. If I shave my underarms every few days, that’s pretty much as good as it gets. I hope you don’t mind, body, but after all, it is winter. We can totally rock leg hair and no one will notice, right? And if man buns could become a trend, why couldn’t long pubic hair? Pubic buns, anyone?

Remember, too, pre-baby body, how I used to give us pedicures every couple of weeks? Our toes were always so adorable. I still have that oversized makeup bag full of nail polishes I used to use, only now those polishes are pretty crusty and don’t see much use.

My bones ache. I’m tired, and not the kind of tired that sleeping until noon on a Saturday can fix. I’m tired to my core. Sleeping in will Never. Happen. Again.

Nothing is the same since you left, pre-baby body, but I don’t miss you. You see, my purple nipples have fed and comforted each of my children on countless long nights. That fat bulge on my hip makes a perfect baby seat. My hair doesn’t need to smell like coconut conditioner, because it smells like me and that’s comforting to my kids. And my feet aren’t cute, but they still do a passable job stepping around Legos on the floor.

Goodbye forever, pre-baby body. You’ve served me well, but I don’t need you anymore.

Fondly,

Samantha

My Confession: Parenthood is Terrifying

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She’s a cute little scary beast….

 

As published in Romper.

Parenthood is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. It’s also knee-knockingly, heart-poundingly, sweating-until-my-shirt-is-soaked-throughterrifying. Expecting my first baby, my head was in a cloud of all the possible names we could choose and the cute little onesies we had to look forward to. I didn’t know then what I know now. I didn’t know the thing no one tells you at your baby shower, the thing no one warns you about as they’re wheeling you to the delivery room. The thing no one says until you say it out loud, alone, in your first real minute to breathe: that parenthood is scary.

It’s scary for so many reasons. Because kids are so vulnerable. Because the world is full of bad people doing bad things, and you can’t stop them. Because, why is your kid making that weird nose when he breathes? Because you love them so, so much. Like so many expectant moms, I was admonished by well-meaning more experienced moms to enjoy my sleep while I could because the baby would keep me awake due to constant nighttime feedings and fussing. I imagined some sort of cute little colicky doll, like those crying dolls you took home in home economics class in middle school to “experience” parenthood. Instead of returning this doll at the end of the class, I reasoned, I’d trade in my fussy newborn after a few months for a sweet infant who slept like a dream. My worries would be behind me. It would be all over-sized hair bows and charmingly posed family photos from then on.

Wrong. Sure, I was fortunate that both of my kids were relatively good sleepers, even as newborns. But my days of restful sleep were behind me, because I’d be constantly listening for my kids’ little voices yelling “Mommy!” down the hall in the middle of the night. Somehow, my husband could sleep through their midnight noises but I could probably hear them sigh if they were spending the night at the North Pole.

I didn’t know then what I know now: that your babies are always your babies, and parenthood is scary.

Even now, all these years later, before heading to bed, no matter how tired I am, I check on my kids to make sure they’re covered with their blankets and sleeping soundly. But not so soundly that they’re dead or something. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ll have to drive to my kids’ houses at night when they’re grown and living on their own to make sure they’re still breathing.

As a parent, I have new appreciation for what my siblings and I put my mom through. How we stayed out until 2 a.m. as teenagers, not knowing or caring that she always stayed awake until she saw our car headlights reflect on her bedroom window as we pulled into the driveway. I didn’t know then what I know now: that your babies are always your babies, and parenthood is scary.

My husband and I are solely responsible for our children’s well-being. Every choice we make about where to live, about where they’ll go to school, about whether to feed them cereal or waffles for breakfast, is crafting the blueprint for their lives. There’s no one telling us how to parent or enforcing our good parenting. It’s terrifying that there’s really no one to fall back on but ourselves when it comes to parenting.

As a former newspaper reporter assigned to the crime and courts beat, I considered myself pretty thick-skinned and unflappable. But that was before I had kids.When I lose my temper and curse at my husband in front of my kids, that’s no longer just damaging my relationship with my husband. That’s setting a bad example for my kids. I have to choose each day to be a good example. Sure, I have the freedom to be a terrible parent, but the responsibility to be a good one. that responsibility is daunting and terrifying.
 

We parents generally don’t receive much training for parenthood. With the exception of child development, teaching majors, or veteran babysitters, there’s little in the way of formal parenthood education. We have to learn parenting as we go, with maybe a little help from parenting books and articles we don’t have time to read. But no matter the knowledge we glean from the articles we scarf down through stolen moments in the bathroom or because we stayed up too late and will definitely regret doing so the next morning, one thing remains: Parenthood is scary.

And of course, this is a big world and there’s bound to be bad news coming in from somewhere at any given time. As a former newspaper reporter assigned to the crime and courts beat, I considered myself pretty thick-skinned and unflappable. But that was before I had kids. Once I did have kids, someone could practically mention the word “kid” and I’d dissolve into a bucket of tears. As a parent, every kid is your kid. Every tragic news story involving a child makes you think about your own child, and how the thought of anything awful happening to them would shatter your life beyond repair.

I feel a responsibility as a parent to not only take good care of my kids, but of myself as well. My two children are depending on me to stay in good health so I can look out for them. Just as our kids are at the center of mine and my husband’s world, we’re at the center of theirs. It’s scary to think about something happening to one or both of us. Who would take care of our kids? Who would make sure they’re tucked in at night and breathing? It’s scary that we have to give our kids the freedom to experience heartbreak from a not-so-nice “friend” at school. It’s scary that life is full of lessons they’ll have to learn by themselves, on their own, firsthand.

I feel that parenthood is totally overwhelming and we’re ill-prepared for it. There’s no denying it. Still, we trudge through as we have for centuries. And yet the human race continues and even thrives. We’re obviously doing something right. Maybe our anxiety about parenting is what keeps us on our toes and ensures we give our best effort to raising the next generation.

As a parent in my own right, I’ve learned to embrace the unknown. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I can do my best to take care of myself and my family today. I can love my kids so much that watching the news hurts, but still trust that they’ll turn out all right. Because for me, parenthood is worth every nail-biting, knee-knocking, armpit-sweating moment.

Five Reasons Pregnancy Sucks (And One Way It Doesn’t)

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If only the average pregnant belly was this cute….

Pregnancy sucks.

Many of us women feel this way, but there’s still a stigma in admitting it. It’s more easily digestible to say we love pregnancy. That we’re so in awe of the new life growing inside of us that we didn’t notice our cankles and Jolly Green Giant feet. That we’re a bundle of pure glowing light. Or something like that.

But why can’t we be simultaneously grateful for and in awe of the life we’re creating, while also loathing nearly every second of the process?

Here are five ways reasons a typical pregnancy sucks, and one important reason it doesn’t:

  1. We feel terrible.  We get that positive pregnancy test we’ve been waiting for, and we’re excited and nervous. I feel fine, we think. Maybe I’ll escape that dreaded morning sickness. If it does happen, I’ll just have a little ginger candy and some peppermint tea and be fine. Ha! Then six weeks rolls around and we get hit by a gravel-loaded truck of awfulness. Awfulness that is not limited to mornings and might very well last the whole nine months. We’re so sick we can barely function, yet we must somehow drag ourselves to work if we are employed, and carry out our other obligations, like caring for older children and chores. We can’t exactly call out pregnant every day, even though we feel plenty sick enough to. And nothing says fun like wrestling a hyper toddler into pajamas when we just want to go to bed and sleep for a year.
  2. We have “pregnancy brain”. You know that fuzzy-brained feeling we get after staying awake all night? When we can’t remember how to spell “the”? Welcome to pregnancy brain. No sleep deprivation necessary. Although, we probably won’t be sleeping much, either. It’s like every ounce of our body, including our brain, is preoccupied with making this baby, and there’s not an ounce of brain juice left for us. Just try to figure out how much to tip that server at the restaurant. No calculator allowed. I dare you.
  3. Our body is not our own. Pregnancy feels like an alien is living inside of us. A very angry alien that’s not permitted the small pleasures of sushi or wine. Our favorite pumpkin scented candle will suddenly disgust us. If indigestion never bothered us before, Tums will suddenly become one of our most important food groups. We can’t even eat lunch meat that we don’t nuke to bits in the microwave. Lunch meat. We not only can’t sleep on our stomach or our back, there’s a certain side that’s better to sleep on. Sweet dreams. Then of course, there’s the way that a baby moving in our abdomen literally looks and feels like an alien in there. An alien with no qualms about head-butting our bladder. Here’s hoping we don’t mind wetting our pants.
  4. Our bodies change permanently. There’s a reason for “mom jeans”. They’re designed to fit “mom bodies”. Our nipples might darken during pregnancy, our boobs will sag a little more, and they’ll never quite return to their pre-pregnancy state. Our stomach will be softer and protrude more after the baby’s born. Our hips might just “feel” different. Things move and shift. Exercise will help, but those “tiger stripes” as stretch marks are now optimistically referred to, might be here to stay.
  5. Pregnancy results in childbirth. That baby has to come out somehow, and the childbirth process will probably be incredibly painful. We can sugarcoat it all we want, an eight pound human coming out of the birth canal is going to hurt. Sure, there’s pain relief, but our labor might progress too quickly for an epidural. Or we (maybe you, not me!) might bravely decide against one. Women have been birthing babies forever, but our ancient ancestors probably fended off bears with their primal childbirth screams.

Of course, childbirth is also the reason we endure pregnancy, which leads us to the very important reason pregnancy doesn’t suck.

  1. Pregnancy results in babies. For those of us who choose to bear children and are fortunate enough to be able to become pregnant and carry these pregnancies to term, pregnancy leads us to our babies. When we’re in the throes of morning sickness, it’s easy to take our eyes off the prize at the end of the exhausting, uncomfortable journey. Before our babies are born, it’s difficult to fathom the enormous impact they will have on our lives or how completely we’ll fall in love with that little stranger. With one whiff of new baby smell and the kiss of a soft, chubby cheek, we’re forced to admit the annoying cliche rings true. It really is all worth it.

Why Our Kids Deserve Our Time Now, Not In “Just A Minute!”

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Mom! Mom! Mom! Mooooommmmmm! Look. I’m a Ninja Turtle.

“I’ll be there in just a minute!” I yell to my preschooler for the 50th time today.

He wants to show me his Lego creation. A slight variation on the one I already got up twice in the last 10 minutes to see.

I summon all the enthusiasm I can muster on a Tuesday afternoon and go look at what he built. Again. It looks like the ruins of a house that’s been in an earthquake. At least a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. One that caused massive structural damage and resulted in Lego people stuck to the crumbling roof of their house.

“It’s awesome!” I say.

See, I’ve learned it’s important to be present for our kids now, not when it’s convenient, because it’s never convenient. Even though we’re tired. Even though we’re busy. Even though there’s 100 things we’d rather do than look at a Lego house for the millionth time or watch his Ninja Turtle and dino puppet routine again.

Fighting the urge to tell my son “just a minute” is something I wrestle with everyday. Of course, there are many situations where it’s unavoidable. I’m cooking dinner and can’t leave it alone. Ha! Just kidding. I don’t cook. OK, my husband is cooking dinner and he can’t leave the water  boiling unsupervised. Or I’m in the middle of an important phone call.

Kids having to occasionally wait for our attention teaches them patience. But it’s too easy to brush them aside over and over again for our convenience. Because we’re in the middle of a TV show. Because we’re cleaning the bathrooms. Because we’re just not in the mood.

No one tells you at your baby shower when they hand you the adorably gift-wrapped onesies that kids are exhausting. They don’t say “little Katie is going to have massive poop blow-outs that will probably ruin all these precious outfits I’m giving you. And when she’s done pooping, she’s going to want all of your attention. And then more of it after that.”

No one tells you that as your kids get older, they only get more demanding of your attention.

That they often try to get your attention in the least-appealing ways possible.  Like screeching really loud. Or yelling inappropriate things. Or hitting. Of course, ignoring the more positive calls for attention just make these negative ones worse and more rampant.

No one tells you “kids are annoying”. But they are. They’re super cute and squishy, but they also grate on your nerves. Hearing “Mooooooommmmm!” over and over isn’t exactly easy listening.

It’s so tempting to tell our kids “just a minute”. But when we do that, inevitably something truly important pops up that we have to take care of. And that minute with our kids is lost forever.

Maybe we just lost the chance to see that slightly altered Lego house for the zillionth time. But maybe we missed the chance to demonstrate our support of their creativity. Maybe we lost the opportunity to have our kid legitimately beat us at Zingo and gain some much-needed self confidence. Maybe we lost the chance to snuggle and tickle and tell jokes, if even for a few minutes in between laundry loads.

Minutes turn into hours and hours turn into days. Let’s give our kids the best of our days.