All I need now are the mom jeans

Hey, you know when you’re sitting around the breakfast table, or maybe it’s Thanksgiving dinner, and everyone is talking and having a good time and someone mentions that great new movie they just saw and suddenly your mom goes…

“Oh yeah, it stars that good-lookin’ fella; Peter Dunphy.”

And everyone laughs. Oh, poor, silly mom. It’s Patrick Dempsey. Geez.

Only the thing is, it’s no laughing matter. Celebrity Name Dyslexia is a real disease. And it affects millions of parents each year. I should know. My own mother has suffered from it for years.

And then, just the other day, this happened with my husband:

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Oh sure, I had a good chuckle at the expense of my husband. I mean, he’s older than me so it didn’t come as too much of a surprise that he would start suffering from CND waaaaay before I did. Besides, it was likely to never even affect me. I was too young. Too hip. I used to be on the entertainment beat for a newspaper, for crying out loud.

But then…then…(ragged breath)…this happened this morning:

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Celebrity Name Dyslexia is real, kids. And it’s horrifying. So, let’s all do our part to raise awareness about this terrible disease that cripples the street cred of parents all over the world. Let’s organize a 5K or a charity concert. Maybe we could even get someone famous to host. Like, say, Selena Gonzalez.

Or Liam Hemmingway.

Or Liam’s big brother, Thor.

Or that singer Della who has that hit song “Hey.”

Today I will be a good mom

Today I will be a good mom.

Today, when my 9-week-old baby wakes up screaming at 4 a.m., I will not roll out of bed cursing under my breath like a sailor with Tourette’s. I will not wake up looking like a swamp demon because I was too tired the night before to take off my makeup. And I most definitely will not rant to her as she poops all over my hand about how I bet Duchess Kate doesn’t have to deal with this kind of crap with HER daughter.

No, today, I will wake up like friggin’ Cinderella, happy and chipper and oozing peaceful serenity while tiny birds help me put on my robe. I will be fresh-faced and wrinkle-free because of my elaborate nighttime skin care routine I do every night without fail. And as I change her diaper, I will sing a beautiful rendition of “Close To You” while staring deeply into her eyes.

Because today I will be a good mom.

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Today, when my toddler wakes up and eats two bites of his cereal before pouring the rest of the bowl on his head while looking me dead in the eye, I will not scream “are you freaking kidding me right now?” loud enough for all the neighbors to hear. I will not then take him out to the backyard and spray him down with the garden hose because I am too lazy to give him a bath.

Oh no, today I will calmly and rationally explain to him why we don’t do that and then I’ll have him help me clean up the mess. Then we will have a bath-time that looks straight out of a Johnson & Johnson commercial before we go out to the porch hand-in-hand to blow bubbles.

Oh yes, today, I will be a good mom.

Today, when my kid asks me for the 37th time if he can watch an episode of “Little Einsteins,” I will not sigh and sarcastically say “all the Einsteins died, you can never watch them again,” triggering an epic tantrum.

Instead, I will tell him calmly for the 37th time that he cannot because he’s already watched five episodes and too much TV rots the brain. (And I should know. I’ve watched a thousand hours of “Shameless” while breastfeeding his sister in the middle of the night and I can no longer speak in full sentences).

Today, when the baby won’t stop crying even though she’s been changed, fed, burped and rocked, I will not slink off to the kitchen, holding her wailing body in one hand and stress eating an entire wheel of cheese with my other. Today, when my son is yelling at me at the top of his lungs because I won’t give him a cookie, I will not yell back at him “WHY ARE YOU YELLING!?! STOP YELLING!” at the top of my lungs.

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Today, no matter what, I will be a good mom.

Today on our walk, I will not lose my patience when he stops to pick up every single leaf on the ground. In the middle of September. In New England.

No, today, I will live in the moment! I will force myself to slow down and marvel at the simple joys childhood brings! Even if those joys means it takes two friggin’ hours to walk a fourth of a mile!

Today I will be the BEST MOM IN THE WORLD!!!

And then, today, when both kids are crying hysterically and the dog is barking nonstop and dinner is burning on the stove and everyone is hungry and both diapers are filled to bursting and I still have emails to return and a deadline to meet and the house looks like it should be on an episode of “Hoarders” and I haven’t peed since 6 a.m., I will not belt out a primal scream while standing in the middle of the dining room and then run and hide in the bathroom so I can cry hysterically in private. I will not verbally assault my husband with a laundry list of every single thing that drove me insane today as soon as his keys hit the lock to the front door and he stands there bewildered, briefcase hanging limply at his side. And I will not rush through the oh-so-elaborate bedtime ritual that takes roughly 40 hours to complete because if I have to be a mom for one more second I WILL DIE.

Oh no.

No.

Today I will be a good mom.

And tomorrow? Well, tomorrow everyone is grounded and I’m having wine at lunch.

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When the bedtime ritual gets out of hand

The one great thing about humans? We can get used to almost anything.

The one terrible thing about humans? We can get used to almost anything.

And nowhere does this become more evident than when you become a parent. Even the most absurd daily rituals become normalized if you do them enough times. Which is how you find yourself doing things like spending 45 minutes making toast until it is “the right color.”

It’s also how I came to dread night-night time.

I’m not even sure how he did it. I suspect it’s because my toddler is secretly a wizard (which would also explain how he always manages to convince me he needs both his dessert and mine).

It started out so simple. Butt. Bottle. Burp.

Boom.

Done.

Set the kid down and Army crawl out of the nursery before he catches you trying to escape. Then bust out the grown-up juice and “Game of Thrones.”

The best part of all was that my husband usually did the entire production himself since I answered the 4 a.m. “screeching murdered eagle” wake-up call.

But then my baby got older. And it started evolving into a two-person job. Book. Butt. Jammies. Sippy Cup. A verse of “You Are My Sunshine” followed by three more verses because it’s impossible to resist the combo of big, brown eyes boring into your soul and the phrase “More pease, Momma?”

However, it didn’t evolve into the behemoth it is today until we did the traumatic switchover to the (cue dramatic music) TODDLER BED.*

And now? Well, now the whole production starts an entire hour before actual “night-night.”

First is the milk. And I’m not being cute when I say he really milks this part. The clever little imp finally figured out he won’t go night-night until it’s all gone. So he drinks it slower than I had previously thought was humanly possible.

Then comes story-time, which is continually interrupted by an intense negotiation of just how many books are acceptable. I say three. He says 9,037. Every single night he somehow manages to make me feel like I’m impeding his mental and emotional growth by denying him the power of the written word. Like I’m some nefarious medieval lord plotting to make sure my serfs never discover someone invented the printing press.

Then comes the clean-up. Considering he spent the whole day putting the entire contents of our house into the living room, this is by far the most labor intensive part of the ritual. And yes, I am that mean Mommy who makes her 2-year-old clean up his messes. If he can dump 4.5 tons of itty bitty cars on my floor, he can pick them all back up. Hell, I’d make my 2-month-old do it too but that lazy bum is still claiming workman’s comp due to “inability to hold her head up.”

That’s the youth of America for you.

Of course, my husband and I help him. If we didn’t, he’d still be cleaning up the Great Puzzle Piece Dumping Bonanza from July.

Then comes the whole putting his entire collection of 832 stuffed animals onto his tiny bed followed by digging through this ridiculous pile to find Mr. Doody, who was sucked to the bottom of the heap like Jon Snow at the Battle of the Bastards.

There’s the brushing of the teeth, which used to take 90 seconds but now takes 9 minutes because he has to do it himself.

There’s the last diaper change (usually preceded by a half-hearted attempt at “going potty,” which is really just him sitting on a tiny musical plastic toilet while we bribe him with M&M’s and while he wills his body to explode before ever surrendering and actually releasing any pee-pee or poopy).

Then comes “Ribbet,” a game my husband invented, where they pretend to be frogs jumping super high and I pretend not to lose my mind because JUST GO TO FREAKING SLEEP ALREADY.

We then must pull down all the blinds and turn on the fan. DON’T YOU DARE FORGET. May God have mercy on your soul if you forget.

Then come the lullabies. Plural. It started with the aforementioned “You Are My Sunshine.” Now the set list also includes several rounds of “Where Is Thumbkin?” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and usually a request for the moon song, followed by this argument:

TODDLER: Moon song?

ME: I don’t know the moon song, baby.

TODDLER: Please, Momma. Moon song?

ME: I’d sing it if I knew what song you were talking about, sweets.

TODDLER: MOON SONG! MOON SOOOOOOOOONG!

ME: *sings* “I see a bad moon rising…”

TODDLER: No, not that one.

ME: Son of a …

Then comes the “oh crap, we forgot Beep-Beep and Woobie.” Followed by the search for Beep-Beep and Woobie. Followed by a giant swig from the flask I’ve taken to hiding in my nursing bra.

And finally, AT LAST, is hugs and kisses, a last desperate request to watch “just one more ‘Little Einsteins’?” which is swiftly denied and then lights out.

Of course, there is always a little bit of crying at this point, but in general I stop sobbing fairly quickly and am free to spend the rest of my evening joyfully passed out in exhaustion in the doorway to my own bedroom.

*A story for another time

Love is a battlefield, indeed

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Have you hugged your nurse today?

She couldn’t have been much more than 100 pounds. Just super petite. Tiny even. This was made even more apparent when compared to my extremely rotund and bloated figure. So when she said “lean your head against my chest and squeeze my hands when the pain hits,” I laughed. And then laughed again. And then the laughter walked right up to the border of hysterical, mostly because Dolph Lundgren’s voice saying “I must break you” in Rocky IV kept running through my head.

But then the pain hit. I gasped and squeezed as hard as I could as the world’s largest epidural needle penetrated where no needle had ever dared penetrate before. And suddenly, Nurse Itty McLittle turned into a rock made of steel and Ryan Reynold’s abs.

Yet her voice suddenly took on the soothing murmur of a grandmother comforting a toddler with a boo-boo knee.

“You’re doing great. It’s almost over. Almost there. You’re doing fantastic, Momma.”

That’s when it hit me. No matter what happened from here on out with the birth of my first child, I was in very good hands. The very good, freakishly strong hands of a caring nurse.

And for the first time in a long time, I felt like I was going to get through this in one piece.

Bringing a life into this world, and the aftermath of that birth, whether you did it the old-fashioned way or via a cesarean, is absolutely brutal. We’re not supposed to admit this, of course. Not in our society. Oh no. Women are supposed to have an 8-pound human exit their body and then continue on their day as if nothing happened (and God help you if you aren’t back to your pre-pregnancy weight the second they cut that umbilical cord). Nevermind that your body has been stretched to the limit physically, mentally and emotionally. Nevermind that you haven’t slept, haven’t ate, haven’t been able to take a pain-free breath. Nevermind that when you tell the lactation specialist, with giant crocodile tears in your eyes, that there is a large amount of blood in your breastmilk when you pump, and her response is “oh, don’t worry, the blood won’t hurt the baby,” and your response is “that wasn’t my concern.” No. Nevermind all that.

It’s time to get over it. You’re a mom now.

I mean, it’s not like you’re a man with cold. Back to work, lady.

Part of the blame for this falls on our society in general, which has made it clear time and time again that we don’t necessarily value mothers or what they do. But another big chunk is simply that when you have a baby, everything becomes about the baby. You, your partner, your parents, your in-laws. All of your collective concern is on the baby. It is tiny. It is fragile. And even though you’ve only known it for 30 seconds, you all love it with such devotion that you would die if anything happened to it.

They’re miracles. Our own personal miracles.

How can a bloody and broken and stretched and exhausted mom body compare to that?

It can’t. Except when it came to the nurses. They’re the ones who saw me. In all the chaos, they saw me. They saw my bloody, broken, stretched, exhausted body and they took care of me.

They, for lack of a better word, mommed me.

This was especially apparent with my second baby. Because when you are a mom, it doesn’t matter if you have another child’s head emerging from your vagina at that exact moment. Your toddler will still ask you to get him some juice.

So when, after getting someone else a cup of juice no less than 1,672 times, someone asks you if YOU’D like some juice? It’s enough to make a crazy hormonal, homicidally sleep-deprived new mom cry tears of joy.

Of course, none of this is to discount what my husband and my mom and my mother-in-law did for me during this time. All three went above and beyond to take care of me, the baby, my older son, my ridiculously needy, neurotic dog and our quirky home with its weird windows and very vocal refrigerator.

I also had a fantastic doctor who got me from Point A to Point “Get This Thing The Hell Out Of Me” with grace and humor and competence.

But it was the nurses, oftentimes working quietly in the background, that need to have the spotlight shined on them.

So many of us new mothers feel we can’t complain or even acknowledge the amount of pain we are in because the gift we get in return is so much greater. And that’s where the nurses swoop in with their invisible superhero capes. They take care of us without us ever having to ask. They know we need tender, loving care even if we don’t.

It takes a special kind of person to be a nurse, I think. The kind of person who you can meet and within 90 seconds has you comfortable enough with them that you let them help you pee. The kind of person who makes you feel like you are their only patient, when in reality they are overworked, underpaid and haven’t had time to go to the bathroom themselves since 8 a.m.

I realize that for my nurses I was likely just another patient that day. But to me, they made all the difference. Their smiles, their gentle hands, their patience, their laughter, their reassurances, their ability to answer my god-awfully stupid first-time parent questions without a single eyeroll. They are how I survived those utterly terrifying first days of motherhood.

So to all the nurses out there, I want to thank you for seeing me. And I want you to know that I see you and all you do.

I see you.

And while I’ll forever be grateful to my wonderful and highly skilled doctor for bringing my children into this world, I’ll forever be grateful to every nurse who graced my hospital room door for bringing me back to life.

Honesty is the best policy… until it isn’t

 

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Who did I just give birth to?

Numbers are a funny thing, ain’t they?

It all starts with a One who wants to be a Two. So the One finds another One and charms him with her awkward sexual puns and beer drinking prowess. Then, after awhile, the Ones spend a whole bunch of money on ridiculous things like purple tulle and officially become a Two.

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And together, the two of you will build a whole world together.

Eventually, you two will decide, probably drunkenly, to go from a family of two to a family of three. And when you do that, the entire world you built is set on fire and decimated with bombs and then drop-kicked into a black hole by an 8-pound human. Everything changes. Everything. Your house, your habits, your hygiene. Especially your hygiene. Oh…oh, the hygiene. It all becomes almost unrecognizable there for a bit.

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And yet, when you go from a family of three to a family of four, the only thing that really changes is the volume.

Everything is now just permanently set on loud. The baby is always crying. Loudly. The dog is always barking. Loudly. The toddler (tiny dictator) is always demanding a tee-tee (cookie). Loudly (and repeatedly).

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And the grown-ups are always yelling at each other in an effort to be heard over the cacophony, but yelling in that very particular parental way that says “I’m trying to avoid having an edge to my voice so as to not provoke a fight but I’m going insane and there is totally an edge to my voice.”

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Of course, it’s all worth it (modern parenthood requires I say that). But no, really, it is (and that). Every time you look down into the gorgeous, big-eyed face your lady parts made, you realize you’d do anything for them. You’d walk across fire for them! You’d die for them! You’d get into a 20-minute argument over why M&M’s are not an acceptable lunch and then LOSE that argument, all for your love of them.

But here’s the funny thing. When your kids are really young, you don’t actually know them that well. You’d kill for them, and yet, you honestly don’t know that much about who they are as a person. I mean, you know things like how much they poop and that “Little Einsteins” puts them in a trance-like state for 23 minutes and that if they eat an onion, even the smallest, barely-perceptible-to-the-human-eye piece of an onion, they’ll DIE. But that’s just surface stuff.

Of course, that all changes as they get older. Soon they are able to tell you all their hopes and dreams and fears and favorite Sesame Street characters and long, rambling, pointless stories about a rocketship that has no discernible beginning, middle or end.

But in the beginning (and I might get my Mom Card revoked for saying this) they really aren’t that interesting. Newborns are beautiful and squishy and eternally cuddly and smell amazing and are surprisingly strong. But it’s not like the little critters are known for their sparkling conversation and dazzling wit.

For example, here is what I definitively know about my newborn daughter:

  1. She’s a champion long distance pooper. If that wall in the nursery wasn’t there, I’m pretty sure she’d shatter the world record (if such a record actually exists…and it really should).
  2. She does not care that my nipple is attached to the rest of my body.
  3. She makes hilarious faces when she farts (that I’ve dubbed the Popeye, the Chris Farley and, my personal favorite, the one reserved for the really big farts, the Surprised Wombat).

Oh sure, people are always attributing personality traits to her, myself included. According to the doctor, she’s tall for her age, so naturally she’s going to be an athlete. She loves to eat, which obviously translates into a hunger for life and adventure. Her hair grows in a Mohawk shape so she’s also clearly a feminist punk rock star.

We do this because otherwise we’d have to admit that during the first month of their life, our precious little angels are really just glorified drooling meatbags (shout-out to my friend Elaina for that fantastic description that I just blatantly stole).

It’s not just with my daughter, either. All this upheaval in our lives has also made me realize I don’t know my toddler nearly as well as I thought I did. For example, I was previously unaware that his favorite method of protest to any big change is a hunger strike. I also didn’t know that it truly doesn’t bother him to sit in a highchair for three hours staring at me over a plate of uneaten spaghetti.

Nor did I know that he is not, in fact, a big fan of babies. (However, he has gone from poking his sister with a stick to petting her like a dog, so…progress, I guess).

Yet, I still love these tiny strangers with a depth and fierceness I didn’t know was possible. And hey, let’s be honest. What do these kids really know about me so far? To the one I am merely Milk-Giver at this point. And to the other, I transformed from Momma, The Greatest Human Being In The World into The Betrayer Who Brought Home The Screaming Hairless Puppy.

Luckily, we have the rest of our lives to get to know each other.